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.

 

June

June 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Know What America’s Leading C.E.O.s Really Think of Donald Trump, Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, June 24, 2024 (print ed.).jeffrey sonnenfeld Dr. Sonnenfeld, right, is the president of the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute.

Recent headlines suggest that our nation’s business leaders are embracing the presidential candidate Donald Trump. His campaign would have you believe that our nation’s top chief executives are returning to support Mr. Trump for president, touting declarations of support from some prominent financiers like Steve Schwarzman and David Sacks.

trump 2024That is far from the truth. They didn’t flock to him before, and they certainly aren’t flocking to him now. Mr. Trump continues to suffer from the lowest level of corporate support in the history of the Republican Party.

I know this because I work with roughly 1,000 chief executives a year, running a school for them, which I started 35 years ago, and I speak with business leaders almost every day. Our surveys show that 60 to 70 percent of them are registered Republicans.

The reality is that the top corporate leaders working today, like many Americans, aren’t entirely comfortable with either Mr. Trump or President Biden. But they largely like — or at least can tolerate — one of them. They truly fear the other.

If you want the most telling data point on corporate America’s lack of enthusiasm for Mr. Trump, look where they are investing their money.

Not a single Fortune 100 chief executive has donated to the candidate so far this year, which indicates a major break from overwhelming business and executive support for Republican presidential candidates dating back over a century, to the days of Taft and stretching through Coolidge and the Bushes, all of whom had dozens of major company heads donating to their campaigns.

Mr. Trump secured the White House partly by tapping into the anticorporate, populist messaging of Bernie Sanders, who was then a candidate, a move that Mr. Trump discussed with me when I met him in 2015. The strategy might have won voters but did little to enhance Mr. Trump’s image with the business community. And while a number of chief executives tried to work with Mr. Trump as they would with any incumbent president and many celebrated his move to cut the corporate tax rate, wariness persisted.

Several chief executives resented Mr. Trump’s personal attacks on businesses through divide-and-conquer tactics, meddling and pitting competitors against each other publicly. Scores of them rushed to distance themselves from Mr. Trump’s more provocative stances, resigning en masse from his business advisory councils in 2017 after he equated antiracism activists with white supremacists. Dozens of them openly called for Mr. Trump’s impeachment in 2021 after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

June 23

 

ramin setoodeh collage

ny times logoNew York Times, New Book Paints Trump as Wounded, Forgetful and Hung Up on Hollywood, Shawn McCreesh, June 23, 2024 (print ed.). In the dark months following the Jan. 6 attack, Donald J. Trump opened up to an entertainment journalist, revealing his fixation with celebrity, acceptance and the TV show that made him.

It was May 2021, and Donald J. Trump was wounded. Four months earlier, his supporters had ransacked the Capitol. He had departed Washington, disgraced, defeated and twice impeached. His party had abandoned him, however temporarily, and he’d been kicked off his social media accounts. He holed up inside Trump Tower and stewed.

An entertainment journalist named Ramin Setoodeh came knocking. He told Mr. Trump he wanted to write a book, not about the unpleasantness of the previous four years, but about that prelapsarian period before Mr. Trump entered politics. Then, he was merely the star of “The Apprentice,” the reality TV show that aired on NBC beginning in 2004 and “changed television,” as Mr. Setoodeh put it to the former president.

Mr. Trump was sold. He granted the reporter several long, recorded interviews. “He was at his lowest then,” Mr. Setoodeh, 42, said over lunch in Manhattan’s West Village on Friday. “I think talking about ‘The Apprentice’ allowed him to feel comfort.”

Mr. Trump became so excited about the book that he offered to promote it at his rallies, saying that the merchants who follow his traveling roadshow would help peddle it. “You’ll sell 10,000 books at one rally,” he told Mr. Setoodeh. “Let’s see how this works out.”

 

A promotional photo of Donald J. Trump and his sons standing stern-faced at the head of a table covered in a map of Manhattan, as various celebrities gesture and mug around it with the Season 12 cast of “The Apprentice” in 2012 (NBC Photo by Mitchell Haaseth).

A promotional photo of Donald J. Trump and his sons standing stern-faced at the head of a table covered in a map of Manhattan, as various celebrities gesture and mug around it with the Season 12 cast of “The Apprentice” in 2012 (NBC Photo by Mitchell Haaseth).

Not well, as it turns out — at least for Mr. Trump. “Apprentice in Wonderland,” published Tuesday, depicts its subject as a lonely and sometimes dotty man, longing for the days when he was still accepted by his fellow celebrities, even as he seems to crave political power.

One minute he’s bragging that Joan Rivers voted for him in 2016 (she died in 2014); the next he’s excusing himself to go deal with “the whole thing with the Afghanistan,” as he told Mr. Setoodeh, who happened to be interviewing him the week President Biden was pulling U.S. troops out of the country. It was unclear what Mr. Trump meant.

Mr. Setoodeh spent three afternoons at Trump Tower and one at Mar-a-Lago, and interviewed Mr. Trump twice on the phone. His final visit was in November of last year. He came away believing Mr. Trump, now 78, was declining, he said.

“Trump was certainly much sharper when he was in his 60s hosting ‘The Apprentice,’ and he did struggle with short-term memory,” Mr. Setoodeh said. When the author showed up for his second interview, the former president did not appear to remember giving a first, Mr. Setoodeh said, although just under three months had passed.

“President Trump was aware of who this individual was throughout the interview process, but this ‘writer’ is a nobody and insignificant, so of course he never made an impression,” said Mr. Trump’s spokesperson Steven Cheung, adding that Mr. Setoodeh “has now chosen to allow Trump Derangement Syndrome to rot his brain like so many other losers whose entire existence revolves around President Trump.”

On social media, the campaign has gone on the attack, threatening to release audio clips of Mr. Setoodeh’s interviews with Mr. Trump in which the journalist talked favorably about his legacy as an entertainer.

 

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Mr. Setoodeh said Mr. Trump was much happier discussing “The Apprentice” (shown above in a promotional photo) than anything having to do with his presidency. “He compares himself to Clint Eastwood and Marlon Brando, and sees himself in a lot of ways as an actor and a famous person,” said Mr. Setoodeh. The 45th president gossiped about Khloe Kardashian (“I never got along great with Khloe. Khloe was arrested for drunk driving, did you know that?”); the disgraced former head of CBS, Leslie Moonves (“Now he sits at the Bel-Air club and nobody cares”); Bette Midler (“I had her in my apartment and now she says the nastiest things”); Dennis Rodman (“A pretty cool cat in many ways … Kim Jong-un really liked him, legit”); and Taylor Swift (“I find her very beautiful. I think she’s liberal. Probably doesn’t like Trump”).

“I was really surprised by how much he was still fixated on celebrity culture and how much celebrity still means to him,” Mr. Setoodeh said. He noted that Mr. Trump became “most excited” talking about his theory that famous people living in Beverly Hills vote for him but won’t admit it.

“What is the advantage of having secret voters in Beverly Hills?” Mr. Setoodeh wondered. “Wouldn’t you want secret voters in Ohio or Pennsylvania? But he wants secret voters in Beverly Hills because he associates that with show business, and that’s the most important thing for him.”

RawStory, Trump taunted Jewish employees with jokes about Nazi ovens: Ex-Trump Org VP, Tom Boggioni, June 23, 2024. Trump taunted Jewish employees with jokes about Nazi ovens: Ex-Trump Org VP.

raw story logo squareDuring an appearance on MSNBC on Sunday morning, a former executive vice president of the Trump Organization revealed that her former boss thought it was funny to make jokes about the Nazi ovens around Jewish employees.

President Donald Trump officialSpeaking with host Ali Velshi, attorney Barbara Res, who worked for the former president for years before reportedly leaving because she refused to tolerate his "explosive moods" any longer, was asked if the "weird rants" he has been going on lately are something new.

After stating, he was "a little saner" back then occasionally"he would make ridiculous remarks" that unnerved people, she then provided a startling example.

In one case, she recalled his taunting of Jewish executives.

Citing his frequent mentions of fictional cannibal Hannibal Lecter, she recalled, "Like it was funny that Hannibal Lecter ate people and reminded me of a time when we had just hired a residential manager, a German guy, and he [Trump] was bragging amongst executives about how great the guy was and he was a real gentleman and so neat and clean and then he looked at a couple of our executives whohappen to be Jewish, and he said 'Watch out for this guy, he sort of remembers the ovens,' and then smiled."

One Year Ago:

 

donald trump ivanka bed kissRaw Story, Ex-staffer describes Trump fantasizing about sex with Ivanka, Adam Nichols, June 28, 2023. Ex-staffer describes Trump fantasizing about sex with Ivanka.

raw story logo squareFormer President Donald Trump made sexual comments about his daughter Ivanka, below right, that were so lewd he was rebuked by his Chief of Staff, former Trump official Miles Taylor writes in a new book.

The comments are used by Taylor to highlight almost daily instances of sexism in the Trump White House that were so bad one senior female official told the writer, “This is not a healthy workplace for women.

"He's a pervert, he's difficult to deal with," Taylor told Newsweek. "This is still the same man and, incredibly, we're considering electing him to the presidency again."

He added, “He's setting a very vile tone within the Republican Party, and in a sense has normalized pretty derisive views towards women in general.”

Trump was found liable of sexual abuse in a recent civil trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Biden and Trump, a Debate Rematch With Even Greater Risks and Rewards, Lisa Lerer, Shane Goldmacher, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman, June 23, 2024. On Thursday, President Biden and Donald Trump will take part in the earliest presidential debate ever. Any potential missteps could linger.

The debate between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump this week will be the highest-stakes moment of their rematch, plunging two presidents into an extraordinarily early confrontation before a divided and angry nation.

For Mr. Biden, the debate in Atlanta offers an opportunity to remind voters of the chaos of his predecessor’s leadership, his criminal convictions and to warn of an even darker future should he win a second term. For Mr. Trump, it’s a chance to make his case that America has grown more expensive, weaker and more dangerous under his successor.

But the face-off on Thursday also poses significant risks for the two men — both of them the oldest candidates ever to compete in a presidential race — who have been locked in a contentious rivalry defined by mutual hatred for more than four years. That animosity heightens the evening’s unpredictability. A notable misstep — a physical stumble, a mental lapse or a barrage of too-personal insults — could reverberate for months, because of the unusually long period until they meet again for the second debate in September.

“This is a big inflection point,” said Karl Rove, a leading Republican strategist who guided George W. Bush’s two successful presidential runs. “Can Biden be consistently cogent, causing people to say, ‘Well, maybe the old guy is up to it?’ And is Trump going to be sufficiently restrained that people say, ‘You know what, it really is about us, not about him?’”

This presidential debate will be the earliest in the nation’s history and notably different from those familiar to many Americans. Hosted by CNN rather than a nonpartisan commission, it will be simulcast on more than five networks, without a live audience and without opening statements. Each candidate will have two minutes to answer questions, followed by one-minute rebuttals and responses to the rebuttals, and their microphones will be muted when it is not their turn to speak.

The two men are taking strikingly different approaches to their preparation. Mr. Biden hunkered down with his aides at Camp David for formal debate sessions, with the part of Mr. Trump expected to be played by Bob Bauer, the president’s personal attorney. The former president is taking a looser approach but is participating in more “policy sessions” than he held in 2020.

Mr. Trump’s advisers hope the former president keeps his attention on the issues that are widely seen as Mr. Biden’s biggest vulnerabilities — inflation and immigration — and is not baited into exchanges over his false claims about a stolen 2020 election and a justice system he claims is rigged against him.

Mr. Biden’s team sees an opportunity to focus Democratic and independent voters, and even some moderate Republicans, on how much more radical a second Trump administration might be than the first. Yet they are also preparing for Mr. Trump to deliver a more disciplined performance than in the first debate of 2020, when he had a chaotic showing that was likened to a “dumpster fire.”

 

djt solo no credit nyc court

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump cranks up false, inflammatory messages to rake in campaign cash, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf, June 23, 2024 (print ed.). Fundraising experts say the solicitations are aggressive even by the standards of Trump’s frequently hyperbolic language. President Biden’s campaign condemned the messages as laying the groundwork for more violence.

The fundraising pitch from Donald Trump was neither accurate nor subtle.

It read: “1 MONTH UNTIL ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE! THEY WANT TO SENTENCE ME TO DEATH.”

djt maga hatThe message blasted out to his supporters was a reference to the former president’s sentencing scheduled for July 11, when he faces fines or possible jail time after being convicted on 34 charges of business fraud in connection with hush money paid to an adult-film star. A death sentence is not under consideration in the case. Neither is a “GUILLOTINE,” as another fundraising pitch suggested last week.

trump 2024The incendiary emails are part of a concerted strategy that has allowed the campaign to erase a financial lead that President Biden’s campaign had opened up in recent months, according to people close to the former president who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak for the campaign. But experts in small-dollar fundraising say the solicitations are aggressive even by the standards of Trump’s frequently hyperbolic and inflammatory language.

“I think those are clearly an escalation over and above some incredibly heated rhetoric and some irresponsible rhetoric we’ve seen over time,” said Matthew Hindman, a professor at George Washington University who studies digital emails. “The fact that those messages continue to be sent out tell us about something. The rhetoric has been driven by user response and user donations. If this extreme rhetoric continues to generate funds, it’s going to be rewarded with an even more extreme response next time.”

The Biden campaign condemned the messages as laying the groundwork for more violence. “Convicted felon Donald Trump is so obsessed with his own election loss that he’s become unhinged,” spokeswoman Sarafina Chitika said. “The American people have had enough of Trump’s dangerous rhetoric.”

Campaign finance records filed Thursday showed the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and an allied super PAC raised $171 million in May. The surge left Trump and the RNC with more cash on hand than Biden and the Democratic National Committee, the reports showed.

June 22

 

 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, Bragg Asks Judge to Extend Trump’s Gag Order, Citing Deluge of Threats, Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek, June 22, 2024 (print ed.). Donald J. Trump claims the order has unfairly restricted his free speech rights ahead of his sentencing on 34 felony counts. He has nonetheless attacked the judge, prosecutor and justice system.

Manhattan prosecutors said Friday that a judge should keep in place major elements of the gag order imposed on Donald J. Trump before his criminal trial, citing dozens of threats that have been made against officials connected to the case.

The gag order, issued before the trial began in mid-April, bars Mr. Trump from attacking witnesses, jurors, court staff and relatives of the judge who presided over the trial, Juan M. Merchan, among others.

Since his conviction late last month on 34 felony counts, Mr. Trump’s calls for the order to be lifted have only grown louder. But in a 19-page filing on Friday, prosecutors argued that while Justice Merchan no longer needed to enforce the portion of the order relating to witnesses, he should leave its other provisions in place ahead of Mr. Trump’s sentencing on July 11.

While the gag order does not prohibit Mr. Trump from criticizing Justice Merchan or Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who brought the case, it does preclude attacks on prosecutors and their relatives, including Mr. Bragg’s.

And on Friday, prosecutors said those protections from Mr. Trump’s public attacks remained necessary to protect the integrity of an ongoing criminal proceeding.

The New York Police Department has logged 56 “actionable threats” against Mr. Bragg, his family, and employees at the district attorney’s office since early April, according to an affidavit provided with the filing.

Such threats, evidently made by supporters of Mr. Trump, included a post disclosing the home address of one of Mr. Bragg’s employees, and bomb threats made on the first day of the trial targeting two people involved in the case.

Prosecutors said the threats were “directly connected to defendant’s dangerous rhetoric,” and cited several examples, including a post that depicted cross hairs “on people involved in this case.”

Others were homicidal messages directed at Mr. Bragg or his employees, including, “We will kill you all,” “You are dead” and “Your life is done.” Four of the threats were referred for further investigation, according to the police affidavit.

The 56 threats, prosecutors said, did not include hundreds of harassing emails and phone calls received by Mr. Bragg’s office, which the police are “not tracking as threat cases.”

All told, prosecutors argued that the threats “overwhelmingly outweighed” the “expressive interest” of Mr. Trump, especially considering that he had yet to be sentenced.

 

Defendant Donald Trump, center, with defense attorney Todd Blanche, at right, at the New York City state courthouse for his trial on election interference charges relating to hush money payments adult film star Stormy Daniels (Pool photo May 7, 2024).

Defendant Donald Trump, center, with defense attorney Todd Blanche, at right, at the New York City state courthouse for his trial on election interference charges relating to hush money payments adult film star Stormy Daniels (Pool photo May 7, 2024).

During his seven-week trial, Mr. Trump, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee, repeatedly attacked Mr. Bragg and Justice Merchan. He was also cited 10 times for violating his gag order with online postings and comments excoriating jurors or witnesses.

The violations led Justice Merchan to impose a $10,000 fine and threaten Mr. Trump with jail time.

Mr. Trump’s vitriol flared again on Friday morning, before the district attorney’s filing, with a post on his Truth Social account.

“I DID NOTHING WRONG on the D.A. Alvin Bragg case, it was only because my name is TRUMP that they went after me,” he wrote, citing an article in The Wall Street Journal.

June 20

 

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

 The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Something’s Rotten About the Justices Taking So Long on Trump’s Immunity Case, Leah Litman (a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, a host of the “Strict Scrutiny” podcast and a former clerk to the Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy), June 20, 2024 (print ed.).

For those looking for the hidden hand of politics in what the Supreme Court does, there’s plenty of reason for suspicion on Donald Trump’s as-yet-undecided immunity case given its urgency. There are, of course, explanations that have nothing to do with politics for why a ruling still hasn’t been issued. But the reasons to think something is rotten at the court are impossible to ignore.

supreme court graphicOn Feb. 28, the justices agreed to hear Mr. Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges that he plotted to subvert the 2020 election. The court scheduled oral arguments in the case for the end of April. That eight-week interval is much quicker than the ordinary Supreme Court briefing process, which usually extends for at least 10 weeks. But it’s considerably more drawn out than the schedule the court established earlier this year on a challenge from Colorado after that state took Mr. Trump off its presidential primary ballot. The court agreed to hear arguments on the case a mere month after accepting it and issued its decision less than a month after the argument. Mr. Trump prevailed, 9-0.

Nearly two months have passed since the justices heard lawyers for the former president and for the special counsel’s office argue the immunity case. The court is dominated by conservatives nominated by Republican presidents. Every passing day further delays a potential trial on charges related to Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in office after losing the 2020 election and his role in the events that led to the storming of the Capitol; indeed, at this point, even if the court rules that Mr. Trump has limited or no immunity, it is unlikely a verdict will be delivered before the election.

June 18


Real estate developer Fred C.Trump, Sr. with his son and heir, Donald J. Trump, the future U.S. president.

Real estate developer Fred C.Trump, Sr. with his son and heir, Donald J. Trump, the future U.S. president.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Gaping holes in the Trump family history point to three generations of spies against Americawayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books, widely published commentator and former Navy intelligence officer, June 18, 2024. Three generation of Trumps do not pass the smell test when it comes to espionage. WMR's series on the anti-American perfidy of the Trump family continues. Stay tuned.

wayne madesen report logoThere is an ample amount of evidentiary and circumstantial information found in contemporaneous news reports and archival records that point to the Trump family conducting espionage for hostile foreign powers for at least three generations. This malfeasance extends from Frederick Trump, who bore the telltale signs of having been an agent for Imperial Germany in New York City during World War I, to Fred C. Trump, Sr., whose dalliance with far-right causes in New York before and during World War II strongly matches the profile of a Nazi agent, and, finally, to Donald Trump, whose reckless handling of America's most classified information may have ended up in the hands of Russia, China, and other nations hostile to the United States.

Frederick, the patriarch of the Trump family, and his son, Fred Trump, Sr., found in New York a city that was home to a large German community. Among its ranks were German-born and first generation German-Americans who remained steadfastly supportive of their fatherland. Frederick immigrated to America in 1885 at the age of 16 not so much because he wanted to share in the liberty and rights afforded to all American citizens and residents but to avoid mandatory conscription in his native Germany and to have a chance to strike it rich.

Avoiding the German military draft was capped off with Frederick making money in the restaurant, bar, hotel, and prostitution business in British Columbia during the Yukon Gold Rush of the late 1890s. It is clear that Frederick, a wealthy man at the turn of the century, did not want to remain in America. With his newly-found wealth, Frederick returned to his native Kallstadt in Germany, where he married Elisabeth Christ. With a Bavarian government arrest warrant hanging over his head for being a draft dodger, Frederick decided to return to the States with his new bride to The Bronx, where he applied for a U.S. passport as an insurance policy to avoid arrest in Germany. Returning to Germany with his homesick wife and American-born daughter, Frederick deposited in a German bank 80,000 marks, $641,438 in today's money.

In 1904, the Bavarian government determined that Frederick was a draft dodger and ordered him deported back to the United States. Frederick appealed the decision and the Trump family history, written later by John W. Walter, Frederick's grandson and an executive of the Trump Organization who also served as the "official historian" of the Trump family, claims that Frederick, his wife, and daughter ultimately settled in Woodhaven, Queens, where Frederick began buying land. Thus began the Trump real estate empire. Oddly, Frederick began branching out into other occupations rather than live off his sizable wealth and new real estate business in Queens.

Other recent columns:

  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The Ukraine Peace Conference: a new Western tactic is required, Wayne Madsen, June 17, 2024.
  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The diplomacy of 1919 and 1920 should be employed against Putin, Wayne Madsen, June 17, 2024.
  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Putin's "election surprise" -- an attack on NATO a real threat, Wayne Madsen, June 13, 2024
    Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Election manipulation is a game NATO should not permit Putin to play, Wayne Madsen, June 13, 2024.
  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:  WMR Special Study: The New European Parliament, Wayne Madsen, June 11, 2024

June 16

 

Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris applauds Donald Trump (Reuters photo by Jonathan Ernst).

Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris applauds Donald Trump (Reuters photo by Jonathan Ernst).

Daily Beast, Trump’s Spiritual Adviser Quasi-Confesses to Molesting 12-Year-Old Girl, Corbin Bolies, June 16, 2024. HOLY MOLY. The senior pastor of megachurch Gateway Church said he engaged in “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a “young lady”—without noting the alleged victim was 12.

daily beast logoThe pastor of one of the country’s largest churches—and who Donald Trump once named as a spiritual adviser—has admitted to “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a woman who says he sexually abused her when she was just 12 years old.

On Friday, Cindy Clemishire told The Wartburg Watch, a religious watchdog blog, that Robert Morris, the pastor of Texas’ Gateway Church, asked her to come into his room when he stayed with her family for Christmas in 1982. She was 12 and he was 20 at thetime. She said Morris molested her and then ordered her not to say anything about his behavior “because it will ruin everything.” The abuse continued for years before Clemishire confided in a close friend, prompting Morris’ wife to find out and Morris to step down from the ministry, according to the report.

He eventually returned to the church and founded Gateway Church in 2000, turning it into one of the country’s largest megachurches with an estimated weekly attendance of 100,000, according to the church. He serves as its senior pastor, prompting Trump to name him to a spiritual advisory board in 2016.

After Clemishire came forward, Morris acknowledged the claims in a statement to The Christian Post, admitting he engaged in “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a “young lady,” refusing to acknowledge Clemishire’s age at the time.

The video player is currently playing an ad.

“It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong,” he said.

He claimed that, with the blessing of the girl’s father and church elders, he returned to ministry two years after the abuse was reported. “I asked their forgiveness, and they graciously forgave me,” Morris said.

June 18

 


Real estate developer Fred C.Trump, Sr. with his son and heir, Donald J. Trump, the future U.S. president.

Real estate developer Fred C.Trump, Sr. with his son and heir, Donald J. Trump, the future U.S. president.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Gaping holes in the Trump family history point to three generations of spies against Americawayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books, widely published commentator and former Navy intelligence officer, June 18, 2024. Three generation of Trumps do not pass the smell test when it comes to espionage. WMR's series on the anti-American perfidy of the Trump family continues. Stay tuned.

wayne madesen report logoThere is an ample amount of evidentiary and circumstantial information found in contemporaneous news reports and archival records that point to the Trump family conducting espionage for hostile foreign powers for at least three generations. This malfeasance extends from Frederick Trump, who bore the telltale signs of having been an agent for Imperial Germany in New York City during World War I, to Fred C. Trump, Sr., whose dalliance with far-right causes in New York before and during World War II strongly matches the profile of a Nazi agent, and, finally, to Donald Trump, whose reckless handling of America's most classified information may have ended up in the hands of Russia, China, and other nations hostile to the United States.

Frederick, the patriarch of the Trump family, and his son, Fred Trump, Sr., found in New York a city that was home to a large German community. Among its ranks were German-born and first generation German-Americans who remained steadfastly supportive of their fatherland. Frederick immigrated to America in 1885 at the age of 16 not so much because he wanted to share in the liberty and rights afforded to all American citizens and residents but to avoid mandatory conscription in his native Germany and to have a chance to strike it rich.

Avoiding the German military draft was capped off with Frederick making money in the restaurant, bar, hotel, and prostitution business in British Columbia during the Yukon Gold Rush of the late 1890s. It is clear that Frederick, a wealthy man at the turn of the century, did not want to remain in America. With his newly-found wealth, Frederick returned to his native Kallstadt in Germany, where he married Elisabeth Christ. With a Bavarian government arrest warrant hanging over his head for being a draft dodger, Frederick decided to return to the States with his new bride to The Bronx, where he applied for a U.S. passport as an insurance policy to avoid arrest in Germany. Returning to Germany with his homesick wife and American-born daughter, Frederick deposited in a German bank 80,000 marks, $641,438 in today's money.

In 1904, the Bavarian government determined that Frederick was a draft dodger and ordered him deported back to the United States. Frederick appealed the decision and the Trump family history, written later by John W. Walter, Frederick's grandson and an executive of the Trump Organization who also served as the "official historian" of the Trump family, claims that Frederick, his wife, and daughter ultimately settled in Woodhaven, Queens, where Frederick began buying land. Thus began the Trump real estate empire. Oddly, Frederick began branching out into other occupations rather than live off his sizable wealth and new real estate business in Queens.

Other recent columns:

  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The Ukraine Peace Conference: a new Western tactic is required, Wayne Madsen, June 17, 2024.
  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The diplomacy of 1919 and 1920 should be employed against Putin, Wayne Madsen, June 17, 2024.
  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Putin's "election surprise" -- an attack on NATO a real threat, Wayne Madsen, June 13, 2024
    Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Election manipulation is a game NATO should not permit Putin to play, Wayne Madsen, June 13, 2024.
  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:  WMR Special Study: The New European Parliament, Wayne Madsen, June 11, 2024

June 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Chilling Reason You May Never See the New Trump Movie, Michelle Goldberg, right, June 14, 2024. This week I michelle goldberg thumbfinally got to see “The Apprentice,” an absorbing, disturbing movie about the relationship between the red-baiting mob lawyer Roy Cohn and a young Donald Trump.

The film, which was received with an extended standing ovation and mostly appreciative reviews when it premiered at Cannes last month, is a classic story of a mentor and his protégé, chronicling how Trump first learned from and later surpassed his brutal, Machiavellian fixer.

Its performances are extraordinary. The “Succession” star Jeremy Strong captures both Cohn’s reptilian menace and, eventually, his pathos, as he’s wasted by AIDS but, closeted to the end, refuses to admit it. Just as impressive is Sebastian Stan, who makes Trump legible as a human being rather than the grotesque hyperobject we all know today.

Unfortunately, you may not get a chance to anytime soon, at least in the United States. Distributors have bought the rights to “The Apprentice” in Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and many other countries. But the filmmakers have yet to secure a deal to release it here, either in theaters or on streaming services.

Negotiations are ongoing, and domestic distribution could still come together. Yet the possibility that American audiences won’t be able to see “The Apprentice” isn’t just frustrating. It’s frightening, because it suggests that Trump and his supporters have already intimidated some media companies, which seem to be pre-emptively capitulating to him.

It’s common to read about movies that are shown in most of the world but not released in, say, Russia or, more often, China. Should “The Apprentice” end up widely available globally but not, for political reasons, in the United States, it will be a sign of democratic decay, as well as an augur of greater self-censorship to come. After all, if anxiety about enraging Trump is already shaping what you can and cannot watch, it’s probably bound to get even worse if he actually returns to power.

ny times logoNew York Times, Expletive-Laden Rants Part of Fauci’s ‘Complicated’ Relationship With Trump, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, June 14, 2024. In a new book, Dr. Anthony Fauci recounts a career advising seven presidents. The chapter about Donald Trump is titled “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not.”

anthony fauci on call memoirThree months into the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, shown at right on the cover of his new memoir, was at home in northwest Washington when he answered his cellphone to President Donald J. Trump screaming at him in an expletive-laden rant. He had incurred the president’s wrath by remarking that the vaccines under development might not provide long-lasting immunity.

That was the day, June 3, 2020, “that I first experienced the brunt of the president’s rage,” Dr. Fauci writes in his forthcoming autobiography.

Dr. Fauci has long been circumspect in describing his feelings toward Mr. Trump. But in the book, “On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service,” he writes with candor about their relationship, which he describes as “complicated.”

In a chapter entitled “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” Dr. Fauci described how Mr. Trump repeatedly told him he “loved” him while at the same time excoriating him with tirades flecked with four-letter words.

“The president was irate, saying that I could not keep doing this to him,” Dr. Fauci wrote. “He said he loved me, but the country was in trouble, and I was making it worse. He added that the stock market went up only 600 points in response to the positive Phase 1 vaccine news, and it should have gone up 1,000 points, and so I cost the country ‘one trillion dollars.’” (The president added an expletive.)

“I have a pretty thick skin,” Dr. Fauci added, “but getting yelled at by the president of the United States, no matter how much he tells you that he loves you, is not fun.”

The book, which will be released on June 18, traces the arc of Dr. Fauci’s life, from his boyhood in Brooklyn as a son of first-generation Italian Americans (his father was a pharmacist, and the family lived above the “Fauci Pharmacy”) through his 54-year career at the National Institutes of Health, 38 of them as the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It is 450 pages long, and Dr. Fauci devotes about 70 of them to the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, when Mr. Trump was in office. His criticisms of Mr. Trump and his White House are at times blunt and at other times oblique, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions.

Dr. Fauci served under seven presidents, shepherding the nation through infectious disease threats including AIDS, swine flu, anthrax and Ebola. But the coronavirus pandemic turned him into a polarizing public figure and a target of Republicans, particularly Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters.

During a tense hearing this month before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, Dr. Fauci forcefully denied Republican allegations that he had helped fund research that started the pandemic or had covered up the possibility that it originated in a laboratory. He called the accusations “absolutely false and simply preposterous.”

In Dr. Fauci’s telling, the Trump White House was different than any other he had experienced, not least because of its passing relationship with the truth. Mr. Trump, he wrote, “shocked me on Day 1 of his presidency, with his disregard of facts such as the size of the crowd at his inauguration” and his “aggressive disrespect for the press.”

June 13

 

djt todd blanche court pen

Donald Trump is shown in a file photo with his counsel Todd Blanche, right, outside the New York City courtroom where a state jury found him guilty of 34 felony counts on May 30, 2024.

Politico, Trump’s private demand to Johnson: Help overturn my conviction, Rachael Bade, June 13, 2024. As the former president heads to Capitol Hill, he is privately seeking legislative revenge.

politico CustomDonald Trump makes his first visit to Capitol Hill since leaving the presidency Thursday morning, meeting with Republican lawmakers in what is being billed as a resolutely forward-looking session focused on a potential 2025 legislative agenda.

In fact, Trump has bigger, more immediate legislative priorities.

mike johnson oHe has been obsessed in recent weeks with harnessing the powers of Congress to fight on his own behalf and go to war against the Democrats he accuses of “weaponizing” the justice system against him.

It’s a campaign he orchestrated in the days after his May 31 conviction on 34 felony counts in New York, starting with a phone call to the man he wanted to lead it: Speaker Mike Johnson, right.

U.S. House logoTrump was still angry when he made the call, according to those who have heard accounts of it from Johnson, dropping frequent F-bombs as he spoke with the soft-spoken and pious GOP leader.

“We have to overturn this,” Trump insisted.

djt maga hatJohnson sympathized with Trump’s frustration. He’d been among the first batch of Republican lawmakers to appear alongside Trump at the Manhattan trial. He’d been harping on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case and the alleged broader abuse of the justice system since before he took the gavel.

The speaker didn’t really need to be convinced, one person familiar with the conversation said: Johnson, a former attorney himself,already believed the House had a role to play in addressing Trump’s predicament. The two have since spoken on the subject multiple times.

Politico, Inside the room during Trump's visit with House Republican, Olivia Beavers, June 13, 2024. He asked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene if she was "being nice to" Speaker Johnson, according to a person at the private meeting off the Hill.

politico CustomOutside the private club just steps from the Capitol where Donald Trump met with House Republicans on Thursday, protesters hollered invective at GOP lawmakers who entered. Inside the room, the mood was downright jovial.

What else we’re following:

  • djt maga hatTrump offered an olive branch to the House Republicans who voted to impeach him
  • Trump's private, low-key jab at the House Freedom Caucus chief
  • What Trump told the House GOP about policy: Not a lot

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Returns to Washington With Renewed Grip on the G.O.P., Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, June 13, 2024.  Donald Trump will meet today with senators, House members and chief executives as his party’s wary establishment begins to accept his possible return.

Donald J. Trump flew into Washington last summer in a state of misery. He was there for his criminal arraignment, and he told associates afterward that the city was disgusting. He could feel Washington’s hostility, aides said.

Today, he returns to the nation’s capital under much different circumstances — to flex his dominance over a political and business establishment that has been forced to come to terms with him.

The former president is now the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee against President Biden, after vanquishing several primary rivals, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in recent months and rallying a wide range of Republicans behind him in denouncing his recent criminal conviction in Manhattan as evidence of a weaponized justice system.

Mr. Trump’s scheduled meetings with lawmakers — including Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader who denounced him on the Senate floor weeks after the violent attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021 — are the starkest examples of how an establishment that still hates him has accepted his potential return to office. After years of hoping that someone else could step up to lead their party, that establishment is gradually submitting to the reality of the 2024 campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election 2024: Why scientists fear a second Trump term, and what they are doing about it, Maxine Joselow and Scott Dance, Maxine Joselow and Scott Dance, June 13, 2024 (print ed.). Several federal agencies are working to safeguard research, including climate science, from future political meddling.

When the union representing nearly half of Environmental Protection Agency employees approved a new contract with the federal government this month, it included an unusual provision that had nothing to do with pay, benefits or workplace flexibility: protections from political meddling into their work.
Sign up for the Climate Coach newsletter and get advice for life on our changing planet, in your inbox every Tuesday.

The protections, which ensure workers can report any meddling without fear of “retribution, reprisal, or retaliation,” are “a way for us to get in front of a second Trump administration and protect our workers,” said Marie Owens Powell, an EPA gas station storage tank inspector and president of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 238.

The agreement signals the extent to which career employees and Biden administration officials are racing to foil any efforts to interfere with climate science or weaken environmental agencies should former president Donald Trump win a second term. Trump and his allies, in contrast, argue that bloated federal agencies have hurt economic development nationwide and that the Biden administration has prioritized climate science at the expense of other priorities.

June 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump, worried that a running mate could create unwanted distractions, tightened his list to loyal campaigners, Michael C. Bender, June 12, 2024 (print ed.). Discipline, experience and risk aversion are not traits typically associated with Donald Trump’s political brand. But his search for those values in a running mate has helped him narrow the field, for now, to a top tier of contenders, people in his orbit tell me.

Trump has an unusual amount of freedom with this choice. He believes voters will cast their ballots based on the top of the ticket, so he needn’t pick someone from a battleground state to help win it. People already know him, so he doesn’t need someone to woo a particular constituency, as Mike Pence did with evangelicals in 2016. But he worries that a running mate can create unwanted distractions. As a result, Trump has tightened his V.P. list to dependable and loyal campaigners.

Still, the search hasn’t escaped his freewheeling style. Advisers say he keeps injecting new contenders into the mix and pressuring his campaign for an announcement during the Republican Party’s convention next month. He wants a good show, preceded by lots of buzz. To generate it, his team has requested personal information and other vetting documents from a far broader list of Republicans than the few candidates he has shown the most interest in.

June 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump loyalist pushes ‘post-constitutional’ vision for second term, Beth Reinhard, June 9, 2024 (print ed.). Russ Vought, the former president’s budget director, is laying the groundwork for a broad expansion of presidential powers.

A battle-tested D.C. bureaucrat and self-described Christian nationalist is drawing up detailed plans for a sweeping expansion of russell vought opresidential power in a second Trump administration. Russ Vought, who served as the former president’s budget chief (and who is shown at right in an official photo from that time), calls his political strategy for razing long-standing guardrails “radical constitutionalism.”

He has helped craft proposals for Donald Trump to deploy the military to quash civil unrest, seize more control over the Justice Department and assert the power to withhold congressional appropriations — and that’s just on Trump’s first day back in office.

Vought, 48, is poised to steer this agenda from an influential perch in the White House, potentially as Trump’s chief of staff, according to some people involved in discussions about a second term who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

Since Trump left office, Vought has led the Center for Renewing America, part of a network of conservative advocacy groups staffed by former and potentially future Trump administration officials. Vought’s rise is a reminder that if Trump is reelected, he has said he will surround himself with loyalists eager to carry out his wishes, even if they violate traditional norms against executive overreach.

“We are living in a post-Constitutional time,” Vought wrote in a seminal 2022 essay, which argued that the left has corrupted the nation’s laws and institutions. Last week, after a jury convicted Trump of falsifying business records, Vought tweeted: “Do not tell me that we are living under the Constitution.”

Vought aims to harness what he calls the “woke and weaponized” bureaucracy that stymied the former president by stocking federal agencies with hardcore disciples who would wage culture wars on abortion and immigration. The proposals championed by Vought and other Trump allies to fundamentally reset the balance of power would represent a historic shift — one they see as a needed corrective.

 

Kamala Harris Munich Security Conference 2 16 2024

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hush-Money Trial: ‘Cheaters Don’t Like Getting Caught’: Harris Blasts Trump in Michigan, Jazmine Ulloa, June 9, 2024 (print ed.). Vice President Kamala Harris (shown above in a file photo) argues that Donald J. Trump’s guilty verdict should disqualify him from the presidency.

In one of her first campaign appearances since former President Donald J. Trump was convicted of falsifying business records, Vice President Kamala Harris sharply criticized him on Saturday as a “cheater” who believes himself above the law and argued that he should be disqualified for the presidency.

biden harris 2024 logo oMs. Harris, who headlined a state Democratic Party dinner in downtown Detroit, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s false claims that his trial, like the 2020 presidential election, was “rigged” and defended the judicial process behind his felony conviction.

The speech on Saturday evening capped a day of campaigning across Michigan, a crucial battleground state. Ms. Harris was accompanied by the actress Octavia Spencer, attending a fund-raiser in Ann Arbor and stopping at a Black-owned bookstore in Ypsilanti.

In Detroit, the vice president opened her speech with remarks about the war in Gaza. As she tried to describe the Biden administration’s monthslong efforts to negotiate a cease-fire deal, a protester stood up and shouted at her and was quickly removed from the ballroom. Ms. Harris’s response was stern: “I value and respect your voice, but I’m speaking right now.”
She then continued her speech. “We have been working every day to bring an end to this conflict in a way that ensures Israel is secure, brings home all hostages, ends ongoing suffering for Palestinian people and ensures that Palestinians can enjoy their right to self-determination, dignity and freedom,” she said. “As President Biden said last week, it is time for this war to end.”

Turning back to the election, Ms. Harris, the former top prosecutor of California, accused Mr. Trump of attacking “the foundations of our justice system.” She said that the former president was convicted by a jury of 12 Americans who were selected in part by his defense team, and that his lawyers had a chance to present their side of the evidence.

“You know why he complains? Because the reality is cheaters don’t like getting caught,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The event took place in a battleground with heightened stakes. President Biden won Michigan’s primary in February, 81 percent to 13 percent, prevailing over a movement that urged Democrats to vote “uncommitted” on the ballot in protest of his support for Israel. But more than 100,000 voters took that stance against him, among them progressives, young people and many in the state’s large and politically active Arab American community. Mr. Biden’s campaign has also been seeking to shore up its support among Black voters in cities like Detroit.

Mr. Trump won Michigan by nearly 11,000 votes in 2016, and lost it to Mr. Biden by more than 150,000 votes in his 2020 re-election bid. Mr. Trump focused on the voting in Michigan in his efforts to subvert the 2020 election.

June 7

 

djt solo no credit nyc court

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: If Elected, Donald Trump Would Face Few Hurdles to Prosecuting Rivals, Adam Liptak, June 7, 2024 (print ed.). His promise to do so challenges longstanding norms. The election could hinge in part on what kind of justice system the country believes it has and wants.

Former President Donald J. Trump says he is prepared to prosecute his political enemies if he is elected this fall. Simply making those threats, legal experts said, does real damage to the rule of law.

But if he is already challenging bedrock norms about the justice system as a candidate, Mr. Trump, if he wins the presidency again, would gain immense authority to actually carry out the kinds of legal retribution he has been promoting.

The Justice Department is part of the executive branch, and he will be its boss. He will be able to tell its officials to investigate and prosecute his rivals, and Mr. Trump, who has made no secret of his desire to purge the federal bureaucracy of those found insufficiently loyal to his agenda, will be able to fire those who refuse.

While the department has traditionally had substantial independence, that is only because presidents have granted it. If the legal system resists political prosecutions in a second Trump term, it will be largely because judges and jurors reject them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Orders Bannon to Surrender for Prison Term by July 1, Alan Feuer and Aishvarya Kavi, June 7, 2024 (print ed.).  The outspoken Trump ally was convicted two years ago of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee. He faces a four-month sentence.

A federal judge on Thursday told Stephen K. Bannon, a longtime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, to surrender by July 1 to start serving a four-month prison term imposed on him for disobeying a subpoena to give testimony to the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

But the judge, Carl J. Nichols, said that Mr. Bannon could delay beginning his sentence if a federal appeals court granted him more time to challenge his conviction.

After Mr. Bannon was sentenced in October 2022 on contempt of Congress charges, Judge Nichols allowed him to remain free while he appealed. Last month, Mr. Bannon lost the first round of that challenge as a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in Washington decided that his guilty verdict on charges of ignoring the House committee’s demand for his testimony was proper.

Lawyers for Mr. Bannon have promised to ask the full appeals court to reconsider the panel’s ruling. Judge Nichols said that Mr. Bannon would have to start serving his sentence in less than four weeks unless the full appeals court takes the case and issues its own ruling to pause the sentence from being enforced.

Another former aide to Mr. Trump is already serving a prison term for refusing to take part in the House committee’s wide-ranging investigation into Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in power after losing the 2020 election.

In March, Peter Navarro, who once worked as a trade adviser to Mr. Trump, reported to federal prison in Miami to begin serving his own four-month prison stint after a jury found him guilty of contempt of Congress for ignoring one of the committee’s subpoenas.

Mr. Bannon’s legal travails are likely to continue after — or even during — his stint in prison.

A few months after he was found guilty of contempt of Congress in Washington, state prosecutors in Manhattan accused him of misusing money he helped raise for a group backing Mr. Trump’s border wall. In his final hours in office in 2021, Mr. Trump pardoned Mr. Bannon in a separate federal case that focused on similar accusations.

Mr. Bannon’s fraud trial is scheduled to take place later this year in the same Manhattan courthouse where Mr. Trump was recently convicted himself on charges of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal that threatened his 2016 run for the presidency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Election updates: Donald Trump courted tech elites in a rare return to San Francisco, Neil Vigdor, June 7, 2024. Donald J. Trump made his most direct pitch yet to the Silicon Valley elite on Thursday evening, telling a group of entrepreneurs in San Francisco that if he were to lose in November, many of them would feel so unsafe that they would need to leave the United States.

Speaking inside a $20 million home on a street sometimes called “Billionaire’s Row” in one of the country’s most iconic liberal cities, Mr. Trump regaled the crowd with his typical bravado for about an hour. Some of his remarks were aimed at winning over the roughly 70 attendees, who largely came from the tech or cryptocurrency industries, according to people at the event.

June 6

ny times logoNew York Times, It Was Legal Boilerplate. Trump Made It Sound Like a Threat to His Life, Alan Feuer, June 6, 2024 (print ed.). The former president’s lies about the F.B.I. being prepared to kill him during the search of Mar-a-Lago took his attacks on the justice system and the rule of law to another level.

On the day before the F.B.I. obtained a search warrant almost two years ago to look for classified materials at former President Donald J. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, one of the agents on the case sent a reassuring email to his bosses.

“The F.B.I. intends for the execution of the warrant to be handled in a professional, low key manner,” he wrote, “and to be mindful of the optics of the search.”

And that’s more or less what happened when 30 agents and two federal prosecutors entered the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach estate, at 8:59 a.m. on Aug. 8, 2022. Over the next 10 hours, according to court papers, there was little drama as they hauled away a trove of boxes containing highly sensitive state secrets in three vans and a rented Ryder box truck.

Two years later, Mr. Trump has tried to flip the facts about that search entirely on their head, in particular by twisting the meaning of boilerplate instructions to the agents about limits on their use of lethal force.

Even though the court-authorized warrant was executed while he was more than 1,000 miles away in the New York area, the former president in recent weeks has repeatedly promoted the blatantly false narrative that the agents had shown up that day prepared to kill him, when the instructions in fact laid out strict conditions intended to minimize any use of deadly force.

“It’s just been revealed that Biden’s DOJ was authorized to use DEADLY FORCE for their DESPICABLE raid in Mar-a-Lago,” Mr. Trump wrote in a fund-raising email last month.

“Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger,” the email said.

Mr. Trump’s baseless statements about the search are among the starkest examples of the ways in which he has sought to gain political advantage by attacking the criminal justice system and the rule of law itself.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The G.O.P. Push for Post-Verdict Payback: ‘Fight Fire With Fire,’ Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Charlie Savage, June 6, 2024 (print ed.). Republicans in and out of government, like Steve Bannon, are pushing to prosecute Democrats as legal retribution for Donald Trump’s felony conviction.

Republican allies of Donald J. Trump are calling for revenge prosecutions and other retaliatory measures against Democrats in response to his felony conviction in New York.

Within hours of a jury finding Mr. Trump guilty last week, the anger congealed into demands for action. Since then, prominent G.O.P. leaders in and out of government have demanded that elected Republicans use every available instrument of power against Democrats, including targeted investigations and prosecutions.

The intensity of anger and open desire for using the criminal justice system against Democrats after the verdict surpasses anything seen before in Mr. Trump’s tumultuous years in national politics. What is different now is the range of Republicans who are saying retaliation is necessary and who are no longer cloaking their intent with euphemisms.

Stephen Miller, a former senior adviser to Mr. Trump who still helps guide his thinking on policy, blared out a directive on Fox News after a jury found Mr. Trump guilty of falsifying financial records to cover up a 2016 campaign hush-money payment to a porn actress. Mr. Miller posed a series of questions to Republicans at every level, including local district attorneys.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump again suggested prosecuting his political opponents, saying it might “have to happen to them,” Nicholas Nehamas, June 6, 2024 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump again suggested his political opponents could face prosecution on Tuesday, saying in an interview with Newsmax that it might “have to happen to them” following his conviction by a jury in New York.

“You know, it’s a very terrible thing. It’s a terrible precedent for our country. Does that mean the next president does it to them? That’s really the question,” Mr. Trump said in response to a question from the host, Greg Kelly, about whether the conviction could help him politically.

President Biden plans to confront former President Donald J. Trump over abortion and reproductive rights at their debate this month, his campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a call today with reporters about Republican efforts to limit contraception. “This is another example of the extremism that Donald Trump is going to have to answer for on the debate stage in Atlanta in three weeks,” she said.

With former President Donald J. Trump’s organization in full attack mode, former Gov. Larry Hogan’s path to the Senate in Maryland is getting considerably narrower.

Mr. Hogan, a popular Republican in a strongly Democratic state and prized Senate recruit, has never tried to hide his disdain for Mr. Trump, the former president and presumptive nominee. But when he urged “all Americans to respect the verdict” just before guilt was rendered against Mr. Trump last week in Manhattan, the Trump team decided the former president’s interests outweighed the Republican Party’s push to regain control of the Senate.

 

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 who were indicted are shown below.

fulton county jail

ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Appeals Court Stays Most Proceedings in Trump Election Case, Richard Fausset, June 6, 2024 (print ed.). The order means the prosecution of Donald J. Trump in Georgia is effectively frozen, at least through the presidential election.

georgia mapThe Georgia Court of Appeals on Wednesday stayed the criminal election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump until an appellate panel could resolve the matter of whether District Attorney Fani T. Willis of Fulton County should be disqualified from prosecuting the case based on a conflict of interest.

In a one-page order, the court stated that any movement at the trial-court level pertaining to Mr. Trump and eight other defendants who have appealed a ruling allowing Ms. Willis to remain on the case was “stayed pending the outcome of these appeals.”

Earlier this week, the appellate court set a tentative date for oral argument of Oct. 4. Legal experts expect the appeals will take months to resolve.

June 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘Lock Her Up’ Was Not Just a Slogan, President Trump before a bank of microphones, Michelle Goldberg, below right, June 4, 2024 (print ed.).michelle goldberg thumb A truism of the Trump era is that every accusation is a confession. When Donald Trump hurls wild charges at his opponents, he is telegraphing what he plans to do to them, pre-emptively justifying the breaking of laws and norms by casting himself as the victim of the very misdeeds he’s going to commit.

That is how we should understand Trump’s ranting in the wake of his 34 felony convictions last week. After he was found guilty, he told reporters gathered outside the courthouse, “This was done by the Biden administration in order to wound or hurt an opponent.”

It’s tedious to fact-check such claims — the MAGA movement doesn’t care what’s true and what’s not — but President Biden had nothing to do with the state case brought by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney. And as if to underline Biden’s refusal to interfere in Justice Department decisions, the federal prosecution of the president’s son Hunter Biden began this week. In spinning this fantasy about Biden, Trump is telegraphing that, should he return to the White House, he will try to use the Justice Department in exactly the way he’s pretending it was used against him. When the former president compares himself to the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died earlier this year in an Arctic prison colony, he’s giving himself permission to act like Vladimir Putin.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.Y.P.D. Moves to Revoke Trump’s License to Carry a Gun, Lola Fadulu and William K. Rashbaum, June 6, 2024 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump had a concealed carry license and had three pistols.

The Police Department is seeking to revoke former President Donald J. Trump’s license to carry a concealed weapon after his conviction in his New York hush-money case, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Mr. Trump had a concealed carry permit in New York and had three pistols registered under the permit, the people said. Two of them were turned over to the Police Department’s License Division around the time Mr. Trump was charged in April 2023 with 34 counts of falsifying business records, according to the people with knowledge of the matter. The third pistol had already been legally transferred to Florida. It is unclear whether it is still in Mr. Trump’s possession.

Under federal law and state law in New York and Florida, people with felony convictions are barred from possessing a firearm.

The Police Department will complete an investigation that is likely to lead to the revocation of Mr. Trump’s concealed carry permit, according to the people with knowledge of the matter. Mr. Trump has the right to file a challenge to the move.

June 3

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Donald Trump Calls On The Supreme Court To Prevent His Sentencing, Aaron Parnas, ICE logoJune 3, 2024. The Supreme Court cannot prevent Trump's upcoming sentencing absent something highly unusual occuring.

mtn meidas touch networkLate last night, Donald Trump posted on his Truth Social and, for the first time, called on the United States Supreme Court to act to prevent his upcoming July 11th sentencing in New York City. Previously, Trump was convicted on all thirty-four felony charges related to his election interference scheme and he currently faces up to four years in New York state prison.

Ahead of his sentencing, which could see him serve some jail time, Trump is flailing, actively lobbying the Supreme Court to prevent his sentencing from moving forward. It should be noted that Trump's team has not filed any emergency request before the Supreme Court, so as it currently stands, the Court has no jurisdiction to take action.

In the same post, Trump also argued that the sentencing date, which is four days before the Republican National Convention, is not proper. But, if Trump recalls, his own attorneys did not object to this sentencing date following his conviction in the courtroom last week. If Trump had any issues with the date, he should take it up with his own counsel who helped choose that date.

June 1

 

djt todd blanche court pen

Donald Trump is shown in a file photo with his counsel Todd Blanche, right, outside the New York City courtroom where a state jury found him guilty of 34 felony counts on May 30, 2024.

Letters from an American, Commentary: May 31, 2024 [Trump Verdicts], Heather Cox Richardson, Historian and best-selling author, right, May heather cox richardson31, 2024. Today felt as if there was a collective inward breath as people tried to figure out what yesterday’s jury verdict means for the upcoming 2024 election. The jury decided that former president Trump created fraudulent business records in order to illegally influence the 2016 election.

Since the verdict, Trump and his supporters have worked very hard to spin the conviction as a good thing for his campaign, but those arguments sound like a desperate attempt to shape a narrative that is spinning out of their control. Newspapers all over the country bore the word “GUILTY” in their headlines today.

At stake for Trump is the Republican presidential nomination. Getting it would pave his way to the presidency, which offers him financial gain and the ability to short-circuit the federal prosecutions that observers say are even tighter cases than the state case in which a jury quickly and unanimously found him guilty yesterday. Not getting it leaves Trump and the MAGA supporters who helped him try to steal the 2020 presidential election at the mercy of the American justice system.

After last night’s verdict, Trump went to the cameras and tried to establish that the nomination remains his, asserting that voters would vindicate him on November 5. But this morning, as he followed up last night’s comments, he did himself no favors. He billed the event as a “press conference,” but delivered what Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times described as “a rambling and misleading speech,” so full of grievance and unhinged that the networks except the Fox News Channel cut away from it as he attacked trial witnesses, called Judge Merchan “the devil,” and falsely accused President Joe Biden of pushing his prosecution. He took no questions from the press.

Today the Trump campaign told reporters it raised $34.8 million from small-dollar donors in the hours after the guilty verdict, but observers pointed out there was no reason to believe those numbers based on statements from Trump’s campaign. Meanwhile, Trump advisor Stephen Miller shouted on the Fox News Channel that every Republican secretary of state, state attorney general, donor, member of Congress must use their power “RIGHT NOW” to “beat these Communists!”

 

djt solo no credit nyc court

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Verdict Confirms How Far the Former Master of New York City Has Fallen, Jesse McKinley and Maggie Haberman, June 1, 2024. Donald Trump was for decades a creature of New York. But in recent years, the city that helped make him seems more eager to break him.

New York City was once Donald J. Trump’s playground, the place where he made his name and then plastered it everywhere he could.

Now, the city that helped make him rich and famous has become his battleground. And Mr. Trump keeps losing.

His conviction this week was the third and heaviest blow the former president has been dealt in his erstwhile hometown this year — a series of challenges to his ego, his bottom line, and now, perhaps, his freedom.

His felony conviction on Thursday, delivered by a jury of 12 Manhattan residents, brought with it the possibility that he could eventually be imprisoned in New York, a far cry from the image he spent decades cultivating as a real estate mogul and man about town.

In February, Mr. Trump endured another humiliation: a judgment of more than $450 million in a civil fraud case brought by the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, for overvaluing his net worth. The ruling undermined a central element of his public identity as a brilliant businessman.

And in January, another jury in Manhattan ordered the former president to pay $83.3 million for defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll, whom Mr. Trump had already been found liable for sexually abusing in a changing room at Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s.

Taken as a whole, the three cases have steadily chipped away at the persona Mr. Trump built across his decades in New York City, even as most polls show him continuing to lead this fall’s presidential race.

Election results from 2016 and 2020 in Manhattan, where Mr. Trump lost badly, suggest he wore out his welcome there some time ago. On Friday, as the latest big blow sunk in, some New Yorkers seemed to suggest they were happy he had relocated to Florida.

Mr. Trump, at a Trump Tower news conference on Friday, criticized the 34-felony verdict sharply and said that he planned to appeal. But he also seemed to acknowledge that the charges he had been convicted of — falsifying business records — hit at the heart of his image as a master of financial dealings.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: Tump’s post-conviction behavior could affect sentencing, and other takeaways, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, June 1, 2024. On the morning after Donald Trump was found guilty in his hush money trial, he took risks that could impact his sentencing, scheduled for July 11.

ICE logoFormer president Donald Trump began his new life Friday as a felon, defeated and angry but nevertheless defiant — vowing he will find vindication at the polls.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee held a news conference at Trump Tower, declaring the trial at which he was found guilty of falsifying business records was rigged and unfair. “This is the crime that I committed that I’m supposed to go to jail for,” he said.

A defendant like none other in U.S. history, Trump spent the morning after his conviction publicly denouncing the judge, a key trial witness and the criminal justice system — a highly risky gambit for a man who has his sentencing hearing on July 11.

Here are some key takeaways from the verdict and what comes next.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden blasts Trump for ‘reckless’ attacks on trial that convicted him, Toluse Olorunnipa, June 1, 2024 (print ed.). The former president, who has been attacking his trial as “rigged,” continued his assault Friday.

joe biden resized oPresident Biden (shown in an official photo) spoke in defense of the American justice system Friday, blasting former president Donald Trump for attacking the case that resulted in a guilty verdict a day earlier, when Trump was convicted of falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to an adult-film actress.

“It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, and it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict,” Biden said from the White House, his first remarks since Trump was convicted by a Manhattan jury Thursday. “The justice system should be respected, and we should never allow anyone to tear it down.”

Earlier Friday, Trump had railed again against the trial, attacking the judge, prosecutors and witnesses. He asserted without evidence that Biden was behind the prosecution — which was led by a state-level district attorney — and claimed that “we’re living in a fascist state.”

A day earlier, emerging from the courthouse after the verdict, Trump had complained that the trial was “rigged” and a “disgrace.”

The dueling media messages by the two top 2024 contenders came at an unprecedented moment in presidential history. On Thursday, a New York jury found Trump guilty on 34 counts, making him the first former president to be convicted of felonies.

The former president has attacked the legal system, including New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, throughout the process. On Friday, responding to the convictions, Trump made several false or misleading claims during a wide-ranging news conference, resurfacing his long-standing grievances.

He also contended that holding the trial in Manhattan, where most voters are liberal Democrats, prevented him from getting a fair hearing.

“This is a scam. This is a rigged trial,” Trump said, blasting the judge as a “devil” who had conflicts of interest. “It shouldn’t have been in that venue. We shouldn’t have had that judge.”

Biden, who announced unscheduled remarks Friday to address the war in Gaza, used the first portion of that speech to talk briefly about Trump’s conviction, using the kind of direct language that he has avoided thus far in an effort to shield himself from claims of political intervention in the case.

“The American principle that no one is above the law was reaffirmed,” Biden said, pointing out that a unanimous jury found Trump guilty and that it was a state case, not a federal case led by his administration.

The president also sought to cast Trump’s claims about a rigged and biased trial as out of step with his own view of the U.S. justice system as a pillar of the nation’s democracy.

 

 

 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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The jurors just rendered a verdict on Bragg’s critics, too, Colbert I. King, right, June 1, 2024 (print ed.). It turns out the colbert king newestManhattan district attorney knew what he was doing all along.

From the moment he brought a criminal case against former president Donald Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was himself put on trial in the court of the commentariat, who condescendingly concluded that Bragg’s legal case was weaker than water. Bragg was all but found guilty before the first witness was called.

To no surprise, Trump brought his own case against Bragg, calling the 34 felony count indictment a case of “political persecution” and denouncing Bragg as a “thug” and a “degenerate psychopath.” Trump also unleashed his attack dogs, with sycophantic Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) calling Trump’s indictment a “shocking and dangerous day for the rule of law in America” and “one of the most irresponsible decisions in American history by any prosecutor.” Graham predicted Trump would win in court.

That was to be expected from Trump and his MAGA followers. But they drew succor from members of the commentariat, on both left and right, who dismissed Bragg’s legal case against Trump as flimsy and tangled.

david french cropped“Underwhelmed” was the pronouncement of David French, right, of the New York Times, who elaborated: “It’s not because of the facts. It’s because of the law.” John Bolton, the former Trump national security adviser turned ardent Trump critic said “this is even weaker than I feared it would be, and I think it’s easily subject to being dismissed or a quick acquittal for Trump.”

And on and on. Manhattan’s first Black district attorney, Bragg was widely painted as an ambitious Democrat who sought the national stage to take down a former GOP president, but who, legally speaking, was in over his head.

That was essentially the narrative until late afternoon on Thursday, when 12 Manhattan jurors spoke. After watching five weeks of trial, and sorting through mounds of evidence and witness testimony, they found Trump guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to an adult-film actress.

Here is some of what I found helpful to keep in mind as the case played out: That Bragg, born and raised in Harlem, attended Trinity, an elite private school on New York City’s West Side, before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a juris doctor degree from Harvard Law.

That Bragg possessed copious skills and experience with public corruption and white-collar crime. That Bragg, as Manhattan district attorney, had secured the conviction of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization chief financial officer, on 15 felony counts. That he had won a six-count indictment against Trump’s former strategist Stephen K. Bannon on money laundering and conspiracy charges in a case that has yet to go to trial. And that with the New York State attorney general’s office, Bragg oversaw the investigation against the Trump Foundation that was dissolved by court order to resolve claims of misuse of charitable funds.

Bragg wasn’t some street lawyer sticking his nose into white-collar business. He had the bona fides, wisdom and top staff support to fashion a legal strategy and reasoning that could win the first prosecution of a former U.S. president in our nation’s history. An impartial jury affirmed. Will the commentariat?

 

djt biden resized smiles

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s guilty verdict sharpens the two big questions of this election, Dan Balz, June 1, 2024. Voters will have to decide whether Biden or Trump poses the bigger threat to the future of the country, and which candidate will make their lives better than they are today.

Almost nothing has been normal about this election, and now, above all, is the sobering reality that one of the two likely major candidates for president will run as a felon convicted on 34 counts by a Manhattan jury. No former president has ever been so judged nor sought the nation’s highest office with such a badge of dishonor.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosNearly as striking is the degree to which the hierarchy of the Republican Party — and presumably tens of millions of ordinary citizens who follow its lead — have rallied behind Trump in questioning and in many cases condemning a judicial system that has been a pillar of American democracy. Measured responses about the jury’s work have been the exception rather than the rule.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and his allies believe that criminal convictions will work in his favor, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, June 1, 2024. The former president plans to use the New York hush money case to drive up support and portray himself as the victim of politically motivated charges.

Donald Trump’s campaign took flight in the spring of 2023 for the least expected reason: A New York prosecutor indicted him for secretly paying an adult-film actress to hide an alleged adulterous tryst from voters.

djt maga hatRather than recoil, Republicans showered his campaign with fundraising, attention and rising poll numbers. Even his most bitter party rivals — including former vice president Mike Pence — united behind Trump’s claims of political persecution, which soon became the central selling point of his primary campaign. His own advisers were surprised at the overwhelming support.

Now, one year and 34 felony convictions later, Trump finds himself using the same playbook against the jury’s decision in that same case — to raise money, attract media attention and unite his party.

 

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 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, Trump Has Few Ways to Overturn His Conviction as a New York Felon, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Jonah E. Bromwich, June 1, 2024. New York appellate courts rarely overturn a jury decision without evidence of serious errors. The judge in Donald Trump’s case closed off many avenues.

“This is long from over,” Donald J. Trump, the former president and current felon, declared on Thursday, moments after a Manhattan jury convicted him on 34 counts of falsifying records to cover up a sex scandal.

Mr. Trump, the first American president to be branded a criminal, is banking on the jury not having the final word on his legal fate or his political fortunes. He will now appeal, both to a higher court and the American people, seeking to contain the fallout as he campaigns for the White House.

But even if the former — and possibly future — president persuades voters to toss his conviction aside, the appellate courts might not be so sympathetic.

Although Mr. Trump proclaimed at a news conference on Friday that he had plenty of ammunition to overturn what he called “this scam,” several legal experts cast doubt on his chances of success, and noted that the case could take years to snake through the courts.

And so, after a five-year investigation and a seven-week trial, Mr. Trump’s New York legal odyssey is only beginning, all but ensuring he will still be a felon when voters head to the polls in November.

The former president’s supporters are calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, though that is highly unlikely. In a more likely appeal to a New York court, Mr. Trump would have avenues to attack the conviction, the experts said, but far fewer than he has claimed. The experts noted that the judge, whose rulings helped shape the case, stripped some of the prosecution’s most precarious arguments and evidence from the trial.

juan merchan djt

The appeal will be a referendum on the judge, Juan M. Merchan, above left, who steered the trial through political and legal minefields even as Mr. Trump hurled invective at him and his family. Justice Merchan, a no-nonsense former prosecutor, said that he was keenly aware “and protective of” Mr. Trump’s rights, including his right to “defend himself against political attacks.”

Mark Zauderer, a veteran New York litigator who sits on a committee that screens applicants for the same court that will hear Mr. Trump’s appeal, said that Justice Merchan avoided pitfalls that often doom convictions.

 

djt todd blanche court pen

Donald Trump is shown in a file photo with his counsel Todd Blanche, right, outside the New York City courtroom where a state jury found him guilty of 34 felony counts on May 30, 2024.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Dow Has Best Day of Year After MAGA Predicts Trump Conviction Crash, Troy Matthews, June 1, 2024.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its best day of the year, one day after Donald Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts in the N.Y criminal election interference case, despite Fox's prediction his conviction would lead to a massive crash.

mtn meidas touch networkThe market skyrocketed 574.84 points (1.51%) Friday to close at 38,686.32, after reaching a high of 38,719.43 on the day. The S&P 500 also had a huge day, soaring 42.03 points (0.80%) to close at 5,277.51. All this despite Fox's prediction that the stock market would crash following Trump's felony conviction in New York. Analysts on Fox Business predicted a 1,000 point drop, or "at least a 2% drop."

MAGA economic theory, that the stock market would mirror Trump's triumphs and trials, has been unfounded for years. Trump famously predicted that if he lost to Biden in 2020 there would "be a crash like we've never seen."

The Dow Jones has been continuously breaking records under Biden, and hit 40,000 points for the first time ever on May 16th of this year. Trump has also repeatedly claimed that the success of the stock market under Biden is due to investor excitement about his potential return to the White House.

That doesn't seem to track with the single-day boom the day after the disgraced ex-president became a convicted felon.

 

May

May 31

 

djt solo no credit nyc court

4 Criminal Cases and, Now, a Conviction

Trump Guilty on 34 Counts in Hush-Money Trial

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Had Good Fortune So Far With His Four Cases. Then Came a Verdict, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, May 31, 2024 (print ed.). Until the jury’s decision on Thursday, the four criminal cases that threatened Donald Trump’s freedom were stumbling along, pleasing his advisers.

Donald J. Trump’s run of luck in his criminal cases has expired.

Before the conviction on Thursday in Manhattan, the former president had drawn what some of his closest advisers regarded as a defense lawyer’s equivalent of an inside straight: something close to perfection. Mr. Trump had lost civil cases with costly damages, but the four criminal cases that threatened his freedom were stumbling along so badly that his advisers were often incredulous at his good fortune.

In the Florida case in which he was charged with obstruction of justice and unlawfully holding onto classified documents, a Trump-nominated judge had spent so much time puzzling over minor issues that the trial would almost certainly be delayed beyond the presidential election in November.

In the Georgia case, the prosecutor who had charged Mr. Trump as part of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election was caught in a romantic affair with the man she had hired to help her prosecute Mr. Trump.

And with the federal charges over his efforts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, the Supreme Court has significantly narrowed the chances of a trial before the election, having taken up the presidential immunity arguments put forth by Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

His streak ended minutes after 5 p.m. on Thursday, as 12 jurors found Mr. Trump guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal that could have imperiled his 2016 presidential campaign.

As the verdict was announced by the jury foreman, there was almost no reaction from Mr. Trump’s two rows of friends, family and aides. Mr. Trump sat slack and glum at the defense table. On the bench behind him, his son Eric shook his head from side to side. The courtroom was silent as the foreman repeatedly announced, “Guilty. Guilty.”

When Mr. Trump got up to leave court, his face looked as if he’d been punched in the solar plexus. As he entered the aisle of the courtroom, he reached for Eric Trump’s hand and they clasped their hands together. The former president left with an entourage that included his longtime friend, the real-estate investor Steve Witkoff. “He is my dear friend,” Mr. Witkoff said later. “I stand with him.”

Mr. Trump exited the courthouse in his motorcade, smiling out the window at his fans as he typically does. But days of predictions from his allies that the case would end in a hung jury or even in an acquittal did not come to pass.

ny times logoNew York Times, Will It Matter? Searching for Clues in the Polls About a Trump Conviction, Nate Cohn, May 31, 2024 (print ed.). He may not lose support at all, but recent backing from young and nonwhite voters might be likelier to fade.

For almost a decade, Donald J. Trump has done, said and survived things that would have doomed any other politician.

He even saw his support increase after four sets of criminal indictments last year — including the charges for falsifying business records that he was ultimately found guilty of Thursday.

biden harris 2024 logo oThe polls cannot tell us how voters will respond to the unprecedented verdict. Most voters weren’t even paying close attention to the trial, and asking voters about hypotheticals is always fraught. With his track record of political resilience, there’s surely little reason to expect his loyal MAGA base to suddenly collapse after a guilty verdict — or even imprisonment. It’s possible he won’t lose any support at all.

But in a close election in a closely divided country, any losses could be pivotal. While Mr. Trump has survived many controversies, he has also suffered a political penalty for his conduct. He did lose re-election, after all. And this cycle, there is one reason to wonder whether Mr. Trump might now be more vulnerable: He depends on the support of many young and nonwhite voters who haven’t voted for him in the past, and who might not prove as loyal as those who have stood by his side from the start.

 

djt todd blanche court pen

Donald Trump is shown in a file photo with his counsel Todd Blanche, right, outside the New York City courtroom where a state jury found him guilty of 34 felony counts on May 30, 2024.

TRUMP GUILTY!

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Donald Trump is now a convicted felon, Ron Filipkowski, May 30, 2024. Donald John Trump became the first American former president to be convicted a crime today. He was convicted on all 34 counts.

After a month long trial, the jury of 12 people returned their verdict after deliberating for a day and a half. .

The jury found that Trump orchestrated a scheme to "catch and kill" stories that were about to be published on a affair he had with Playboy model Karen McDougal and a sexual encounter with porn actress Stormy Daniels, and laundered the payoff through his attorney "fixer" Michael Cohen. Trump's CFO Allen Weisselberg then devised the plan at Trump's direction to reimburse Cohen for the hush money payments with fraudulent invoices, and AMI's purchase of the McDougal story and the payoff to Daniels were deemed campaign finance violations.

ICE logoWhat impact this verdict will have on the 2024 election is unknown because we are in uncharted waters. Several polls have been done showing roughly one-third of Americans may change their vote if he was found guilty, which would be a devastating number, but polls have been highly unreliable lately.

It is also unclear whether Trump will be sentenced to jail, probation, or some combination of both. People with no prior convictions on these kinds of charges typically are not sentenced to jail if they accept responsibility and plead guilty, but Trump did the opposite of that. He was defiant, trashed the judge and witnesses, and repeatedly violated court orders. These are all aggravating factors.

juan merchan djtThe other question is, to what extent will Judge Merchan, shown above left, consider politics in his decision on a sentence? Incarcerating a former president is something that no judge will take lightly. He has Secret Service protection, is the Republican nominee for president, and has tens of millions of rabid supporters. Merchan also mentioned several times, including in his orders on gag violations, that he is well aware of the politics of the situation and is trying to balance competing interests. No matter what Merchan does, many millions of American will be angry about his decision and he seems to fully understand that.

Trump will also certainly appeal this conviction, but whether Merchan will agree to "stay" the start of any sentence imposed is entirely discretionary. He can postpone it until after the appeal - as Steve Bannon's judge did, or he can decide not to like the judge in Peter Navarro's case. Generally, the standard is whether the court finds that there is a serious debatable issue on a question of law or whether the appeal is entirely frivolous. In this case there are some novel legal issues, so there is a very good chance Trump's sentence will be stayed pending appeal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blasts ‘rigged, disgraceful’ trial after jury finds him guilty, Patrick Svitek, May 31, 2024 (print ed.). “The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people,” Trump said of the coming presidential election. He later insisted he did nothing wrong, calling himself a “very innocent man.”

Former president Donald Trump on Thursday railed against a “rigged, disgraceful trial” after a jury found him guilty of all 34 counts in his hush money trial in New York.

“The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people,” Trump said, speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, “and they know what happened here, and everybody knows what happened here.”

Trump insisted he did nothing wrong, calling himself a “very innocent man.”

Trump’s sentencing was set for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin in Milwaukee. Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee against President Biden in November’s rematch of the 2020 presidential election.

Before speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Trump sat in court and frowned as he looked at the jurors while they each confirmed that they agreed with the verdict. He adjusted his tie and stood as they filed out. Trump and the jurors averted their gazes from one another.

Top Republicans responded swiftly — and fiercely — to the verdict.

washington post logoWashington Post, Will Trump go to jail? Can he be president? What’s next after guilty verdict? David Nakamura and Aaron Blake, May 31, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump was convicted Thursday on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in his New York state hush money case, becoming the first former U.S. president to be tried and found guilty of a crime.

The 12-person jury unanimously agreed on the verdict after deliberating for two days, finding that Trump falsified records to cover up $130,000 in payments before the 2016 election to an adult-film actress to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s presidential race.

“MY CIVIL RIGHTS HAVE BEEN TOTALLY VIOLATED WITH THIS HIGHLY POLITICAL, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AND ELECTION INTERFERING WITCH HUNT,” Trump said in one of his last posts on his Truth Social network before the verdict was announced. “OUR FAILING NATION IS BEING LAUGHED AT ALL OVER THE WORLD!”

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan will set a sentencing date, which legal experts said is likely to be 2-3 months after the verdict. Trump is required to report to the New York City Department of Probation for an interview about his background, his mental health and the circumstances of his case that will be used to help compile a presentencing report.

“Today is a shameful day in American history,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a statement. “Democrats cheered as they convicted the leader of the opposing party on ridiculous charges, predicated on the testimony of a disbarred, convicted felon. This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one.”

Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. quickly responded to the verdict on social media, calling it “such bulls---.”

“Guilty on all counts,” Trump Jr. said on X. “The Democrats have succeeded in their years long attempt to turn America into a third-world s---hole. November 5 is our last chance to save it.”

Trump, who was required to remain inside the courthouse throughout jury deliberations, spent the two-day period railing against the case on social media.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s felon status won’t disqualify him. Only we can do that, Eugene Robinson, right, May 31, 2024 (print ed.). But eugene robinson headshot Customthe courts were never going to keep Trump from reclaiming the White House.

Now that he is the first former president to become a convicted felon, Trump will attempt to become the first convicted felon to be elected president. Just a decade ago, it was unthinkable that someone found guilty of a serious crime could win the Republican presidential nomination — but that will happen, barring some plot twist. And it was wholly outside the realm of possibility that such a person could actually win the nation’s highest office — but that might happen, too, according to the polls.

Some analysts have even argued that the spectacle of Trump’s trial makes him more likely to defeat President Biden in November. Trump has spent the past two years loudly complaining of being persecuted by Democrats using a “weaponized” justice system as their bludgeon. Maybe this message, amplified by Trump’s GOP allies and supplicants, has generated sympathy for Trump among voters who have come to see him as a victim. Maybe his loud claims of “election interference” are working.

Or maybe not.

 

May 30

 

 

djt solo no credit nyc court

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates Donald Trump found guilty in N.Y. hush money trial, Staff Report, May 30, 2024. Donald Trump was found guilty of falsifying business records to cover up a 2016 hush money payment. Trump, who was charged with 34 counts in New York, is the first former president convicted of a crime. Sentencing was scheduled for July 11. Follow live updates here. 

 

djt todd blanche court pen

Donald Trump is shown in a file photo with his counsel Todd Blanche, right, outside the New York City courtroom where a state jury found him guilty of 34 felony counts on May 30, 2024.

TRUMP GUILTY!

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Donald Trump is now a convicted felon, Ron Filipkowski, May 30, 2024. Donald John Trump became the first American former president to be convicted a crime today. He was convicted on all 34 counts.

After a month long trial, the jury of 12 people returned their verdict after deliberating for a day and a half. .

The jury found that Trump orchestrated a scheme to "catch and kill" stories that were about to be published on a affair he had with Playboy model Karen McDougal and a sexual encounter with porn actress Stormy Daniels, and laundered the payoff through his attorney "fixer" Michael Cohen. Trump's CFO Allen Weisselberg then devised the plan at Trump's direction to reimburse Cohen for the hush money payments with fraudulent invoices, and AMI's purchase of the McDougal story and the payoff to Daniels were deemed campaign finance violations.

ICE logoWhat impact this verdict will have on the 2024 election is unknown because we are in uncharted waters. Several polls have been done showing roughly one-third of Americans may change their vote if he was found guilty, which would be a devastating number, but polls have been highly unreliable lately.

It is also unclear whether Trump will be sentenced to jail, probation, or some combination of both. People with no prior convictions on these kinds of charges typically are not sentenced to jail if they accept responsibility and plead guilty, but Trump did the opposite of that. He was defiant, trashed the judge and witnesses, and repeatedly violated court orders. These are all aggravating factors.

juan merchan djtThe other question is, to what extent will Judge Merchan, shown above left, consider politics in his decision on a sentence? Incarcerating a former president is something that no judge will take lightly. He has Secret Service protection, is the Republican nominee for president, and has tens of millions of rabid supporters. Merchan also mentioned several times, including in his orders on gag violations, that he is well aware of the politics of the situation and is trying to balance competing interests. No matter what Merchan does, many millions of American will be angry about his decision and he seems to fully understand that.

Trump will also certainly appeal this conviction, but whether Merchan will agree to "stay" the start of any sentence imposed is entirely discretionary. He can postpone it until after the appeal - as Steve Bannon's judge did, or he can decide not to like the judge in Peter Navarro's case. Generally, the standard is whether the court finds that there is a serious debatable issue on a question of law or whether the appeal is entirely frivolous. In this case there are some novel legal issues, so there is a very good chance Trump's sentence will be stayed pending appeal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blasts ‘rigged, disgraceful’ trial after jury finds him guilty, Patrick Svitek, May 30, 2024. “The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people,” Trump said of the coming presidential election. He later insisted he did nothing wrong, calling himself a “very innocent man.”

Former president Donald Trump on Thursday railed against a “rigged, disgraceful trial” after a jury found him guilty of all 34 counts in his hush money trial in New York.

“The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people,” Trump said, speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, “and they know what happened here, and everybody knows what happened here.”

Trump insisted he did nothing wrong, calling himself a “very innocent man.”

Trump’s sentencing was set for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin in Milwaukee. Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee against President Biden in November’s rematch of the 2020 presidential election.

Before speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Trump sat in court and frowned as he looked at the jurors while they each confirmed that they agreed with the verdict. He adjusted his tie and stood as they filed out. Trump and the jurors averted their gazes from one another.

Top Republicans responded swiftly — and fiercely — to the verdict.

washington post logoWashington Post, Will Trump go to jail? Can he be president? What’s next after guilty verdict? David Nakamura and Aaron Blake, May 30, 2024. Donald Trump was convicted Thursday on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in his New York state hush money case, becoming the first former U.S. president to be tried and found guilty of a crime.

The 12-person jury unanimously agreed on the verdict after deliberating for two days, finding that Trump falsified records to cover up $130,000 in payments before the 2016 election to an adult-film actress to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s presidential race.

“MY CIVIL RIGHTS HAVE BEEN TOTALLY VIOLATED WITH THIS HIGHLY POLITICAL, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AND ELECTION INTERFERING WITCH HUNT,” Trump said in one of his last posts on his Truth Social network before the verdict was announced. “OUR FAILING NATION IS BEING LAUGHED AT ALL OVER THE WORLD!”

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan will set a sentencing date, which legal experts said is likely to be 2-3 months after the verdict. Trump is required to report to the New York City Department of Probation for an interview about his background, his mental health and the circumstances of his case that will be used to help compile a presentencing report.

“Today is a shameful day in American history,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a statement. “Democrats cheered as they convicted the leader of the opposing party on ridiculous charges, predicated on the testimony of a disbarred, convicted felon. This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one.”

Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. quickly responded to the verdict on social media, calling it “such bulls---.”

“Guilty on all counts,” Trump Jr. said on X. “The Democrats have succeeded in their years long attempt to turn America into a third-world s---hole. November 5 is our last chance to save it.”

Trump, who was required to remain inside the courthouse throughout jury deliberations, spent the two-day period railing against the case on social media.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s felon status won’t disqualify him. Only we can do that, Eugene Robinson, May 30, 2024. But the courts were never going to keep Trump from reclaiming the White House.

Now that he is the first former president to become a convicted felon, Trump will attempt to become the first convicted felon to be elected president. Just a decade ago, it was unthinkable that someone found guilty of a serious crime could win the Republican presidential nomination — but that will happen, barring some plot twist. And it was wholly outside the realm of possibility that such a person could actually win the nation’s highest office — but that might happen, too, according to the polls.

Some analysts have even argued that the spectacle of Trump’s trial makes him more likely to defeat President Biden in November. Trump has spent the past two years loudly complaining of being persecuted by Democrats using a “weaponized” justice system as their bludgeon. Maybe this message, amplified by Trump’s GOP allies and supplicants, has generated sympathy for Trump among voters who have come to see him as a victim. Maybe his loud claims of “election interference” are working.

Or maybe not.

 

May 29

 

Defendant Donald Trump, center, with defense attorney Todd Blanche, at right, at the New York City state courthouse for his trial on election interference charges relating to hush money payments adult film star Stormy Daniels (Pool photo May 7, 2024).

Defendant Donald Trump, center, with defense attorney Todd Blanche, at right, at the New York City state courthouse for his trial on election interference charges relating to hush money payments adult film star Stormy Daniels (Pool photo May 7, 2024).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Prosecutor Portrays Trump’s Actions as a Fraud on the American People, Staff Reports, May 29, 2024 (print ed.). In closing arguments of the criminal trial of Donald J. Trump, a prosecutor said the case centered on “a conspiracy and a coverup” related to hush money paid to a porn star. A Trump lawyer earlier called for a “very quick and easy” verdict. Jurors could begin deliberating by Wednesday.

A prosecutor in the criminal case against Donald J. Trump suggested on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had engaged in a fraud against the American people on the eve of the 2016 election by silencing a porn star’s account of a sexual encounter with him. The prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, told jurors in his closing argument that the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels was part of a conspiracy that “could very well be what got President Trump elected.”

Prosecutors say Mr. Trump falsified business records to conceal his reimbursement of his onetime fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who testified that he was acting on orders from Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen, who became the prosecution’s star witness, testified that Mr. Trump confirmed the plan to reimburse him during an Oval Office meeting.

The defense’s summation: Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, called Mr. Cohen “the greatest liar of all time” in his closing argument and said there was “not a shred of evidence” that Mr. Trump had plotted to falsify records. He also argued that there was nothing false about the documents because Mr. Cohen had in fact performed legal work — and suggested that Mr. Trump had little reason to pay attention to them in any case, because he was the “leader of the free world” at the time.

But Mr. Blanche’s argument was at times perplexing. He sometimes called extra attention to elements of the prosecution’s case and repeatedly emphasized Mr. Cohen’s position as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer even as he was impugning his character. He also played down prosecutors’ contention that Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen and the longtime publisher of The National Enquirer had engaged in a criminal conspiracy to suppress negative stories about Mr. Trump in order to protect his candidacy.

“Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy,” he said. Here’s a recap of the defense’s closing argument.

Biden trolls Trump: During Mr. Blanche’s closing argument, President Biden’s campaign held a news conference outside the courthouse with the actor Robert De Niro and two former Capitol Police officers. It was the most direct reference Mr. Biden’s campaign has made to Mr. Trump’s legal troubles after mostly sticking to sly insinuations. Read about the news conference.

Here’s what to know:

  • The charges: Mr. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Mr. Cohen testified that Mr. Trump had ordered him to “take care of” Ms. Daniels’s account in the waning days of the 2016 campaign because he feared she would derail his candidacy if she went public. Prosecutors say Mr. Trump faked business records to conceal the repayment of Mr. Cohen by listing them as legal fees. Mr. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and also says he never had sex with Ms. Daniels. Here’s a refresher on the case.
  • What happens next: The closing arguments could spill into Wednesday. After both sides have summarized their cases for the jury, the judge, Juan M. Merchan, will instruct jurors on the relevant law before they begin deliberations — which could take anywhere from a few hours to weeks. If convicted, Mr. Trump faces up to four years in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Leans Into an Outlaw Image as His Criminal Trial Concludes, Maggie Haberman and Jonah E. Bromwich, May 29, 2024 (print ed.). Preparing for a potential verdict in Manhattan, Donald Trump has increasingly aligned himself with fellow defendants and people convicted of crimes.

Over the past week, Donald J. Trump rallied alongside two rap artists accused of conspiracy to commit murder. He promised to commute the sentence of a notorious internet drug dealer. And he appeared backstage with another rap artist who has pleaded guilty to assault for punching a female fan.

As Mr. Trump awaits the conclusion of his Manhattan trial — closing arguments are set for Tuesday and a verdict could arrive as soon as this week — he used a weeklong break from court to align himself with defendants and convicted criminals charged by the same system with which he is at war.

The appearances fit neatly into Mr. Trump’s 2024 campaign, during which he has said he is likely to pardon those prosecuted for storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and lent his voice to a recording of the national anthem by a choir of Jan. 6 inmates.

There was a time when so much confirmed and alleged criminality would be too much to tolerate for supporters of a candidate for president, an office with a sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. That might have been especially true in the case of a candidate who has been indicted four times and stands accused of rank disregard for the law.

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump makes sweeping promises to donors on audacious fundraising tour, Josh Dawsey, May 29, 2024 (print ed.). By tying donation requests to pledges of tax cuts and other policies, Trump is testing the boundaries of federal campaign finance laws.

When Donald Trump met some of the country’s top donors at a luxurious New York hotel earlier this month, he told the group that a businessman had recently offered $1 million to his presidential effort and wanted to have lunch.

“I’m not having lunch,” Trump said he responded, according to donors who attended. “You’ve got to make it $25 million.”

Another businessman, he said, had traditionally given $2 million to $3 million to Republicans. Instead, he said he told the donor that he wanted a $25 million or $50 million contribution or he would not be “very happy.”

As he closed his pitch at the Pierre Hotel, Trump explained to the group why it was in their interest to cut large checks. If he was not put back in office, taxes would go up for them under President Biden, who vows to let Trump-era tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations expire at the end of 2025.

 

djt solo no credit nyc courtPolitico, DC’s liberal bent does not amount to inherent bias against Jan. 6 defendants, appeals court rules, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, May 29, 2024 (print ed.). The three-judge panel included two of Donald Trump’s appointees.

politico CustomWashington, D.C.’s left-leaning politics has no bearing on its residents’ ability to be fair jurors in trials of those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Two former President Donald Trump appointees from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals joined an appointee of former President Barack Obama in a unanimous three-judge ruling that turned down arguments from lawyers for former New York City Police Officer Thomas Webster that Washington jurors were too biased to sit on cases related to the riot.

“The political inclinations of a populace writ large say nothing about an individual’s ability to serve impartially in adjudicating the criminal conduct of an individual,” Obama appointee Patricia Millett wrote in a decision joined by Trump appointees Greg Katsas and Neomi Rao.

The ruling is a ringing rejection of Trump and his allies’ longstanding claims that fair trials are impossible in cities with Democratic-leaning populations. Trump himself is, of course, currently on trial in deep-blue Manhattan, where he was held in contempt for violating a gag order after he claimed that his jury there is “95 percent Democrats.”

Tuesday’s decision from the D.C. Circuit is also an endorsement of courtroom processes intended to screen potential jurors for bias before trials begin. And it could give a boost to the stalled effort to try Trump on charges that he attempted to subvert the 2020 election and helped foment the riot that Webster joined.

Many of the more than 150 Jan. 6 defendants who have gone to trial have argued for a change of venue on the basis of political bias of the jury pool or lingering anger over the events of Jan. 6. However, federal judges in Washington have uniformly rejected those challenges, responding that the process for questioning potential jurors was sufficient to weed out potential bias.

In the wake of his indictment last August on charges he led a conspiracy aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election, Trump repeatedly echoed the claims that a Washington jury would be hopelessly unfair to him because the city voted 92 percent for Biden and only 5 percent for him in that contest. (Judges have repeatedly noted that this statistic omits the 30 percent of D.C. residents who did not vote but would be included in the jury pool).

“No way I can get a fair trial, or even close to a fair trial, in Washington, D.C.,” Trump wrote on his social media site shortly after he was charged last summer. “There are many reasons for this, but just one is that I am calling for a federal takeover of this filthy and crime ridden embarrassment to our nation.”

Politico, Judge Cannon rebukes Trump prosecutors over gag order request, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, May 29, 2024 (print ed.). In a court order, the judge again faulted the special counsel for failing to provide ‘courtesy’ to Trump lawyers.

politico CustomThe judge overseeing the criminal case against Donald Trump for hoarding classified documents at his Florida home has again chided special counsel Jack Smith’s team for its tactics — this time over a request for an order preventing Trump from repeating baseless claims that FBI agents carrying out a search at Mar-a-Lago last year were authorized to kill him.

aileen cannonU.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, right, turned down the gag order request Tuesday as she delivered another sharp warning to prosecutors that they need to make more concerted efforts at dialogue with Trump’s counsel before bringing disputes to the court.

“The Court finds the Special Counsel’s pro forma ‘conferral’ [with the defense] to be wholly lacking in substance and professional courtesy,” wrote Cannon, a Trump appointee. “It should go without saying that meaningful conferral is not a perfunctory exercise.”

Cannon didn’t rule out granting the request in the future, but she said prosecutors would need to to further engage with Trump’s side over the issue before she will take it up again. She also questioned Smith’s claim of urgency to file the gag order request, noting that prosecutors filed it on a “non-emergency” basis. It was submitted on the Friday evening before the Memorial Day weekend, leading Trump lawyers to complain that they were being rushed into responding.

In addition, Cannon appeared to fault Smith’s attorneys for skewing how they described the stance that Trump’s lawyers had taken on the proposed gag order. The judge suggested prosecutors had relegated Trump’s response to “editorialized footnotes,” rather than just reciting it neutrally to the court. She directed both sides to provide her with more details in the future on their attempts to work out such disputes and to do so “in objective terms.”

While the judge seemed piqued by the prosecutors’ actions, she turned down a request from Trump’s defense to impose sanctions on the prosecution for allegedly defying court rules and her previous orders. However, Cannon said that was possible if her rulings aren’t obeyed.

“Failure to comply with these requirements may result in sanctions,” the judge wrote in the brief order posted to the south Florida federal court’s online docket Tuesday morning.

A spokesperson for Smith declined to comment on the judge’s order.

Prosecutors have indicated they needed to move quickly with the gag request because of a series of inflammatory public statements by Trump claiming that FBI officials had given the OK to kill him during the court-ordered raid at Mar-a-Lago in May 2022. The claim stems from the inclusion of a policy on use of deadly force included in the operations plan given to agents prior to the search.

Current and former FBI officials have said the policy is standard, included in virtually all such operations plans, and intended to limit the use of force — not broaden it. In addition, they’ve noted that the operation was coordinated with the Secret Service, which is responsible for guarding Trump and his residences, and that it was intentionally scheduled at a time when Trump was out of town.

Prosecutors argued that Trump’s assertions were endangering the lives of FBI agents who took part in the search.

Cannon, the judge who delivered the brush back to Smith’s prosecutors Tuesday, has a prickly relationship with those attorneys. They often seem to bristle at her willingness to entertain some of Trump’s arguments and have signaled some impatience at the slow pace of the case, which was brought against Trump last June and presently has no scheduled trial date.

Last week, at a hearing in Cannon’s Fort Pierce, Florida, courtroom, the judge urged prosecutor David Harbach to “just calm down” as he argued against claims of prosecutorial misconduct leveled in the case.

It’s unclear whether prosecutors expected the filing of the gag request on Friday would immediately deter Trump from making similar statements. If so, it was unsuccessful: Trump’s campaign issued several fundraising emails over the weekend, including one that said President Joe Biden “authorized deadly force on my home.”

May 28

 

juan merchan djtMeidas Touch Network, Commentary: ‘Highly Inappropriate’: Judge Hits Trump Lawyer Over ‘Outrageous’ Remark, Aaron Parnas, May 28, 2024. 
Merchan, above left, referenced Blanche's history as a federal prosecutor.

mtn meidas touch networkThis morning, at the conclusion of Todd Blanche's closing argument in Donald Trump's election interference criminal trial, Blanche told that jury that they should think twice before "sending a man to prison." Blanche, during his closing argument, tried to play on the emotions of the jury by noting that a guilty verdict could lead to a prison sentence for Donald Trump.

The issue? Punishment is a matter for the judge, not the jury to decide. The jury's role is to determine guilty or innocence, not to prescribe punishment. As a result, Blanche's comment was inappropriate, and Justice Merchan quickly acknowledged that Blanche overstepped.

After the jury left the courtroom, and before lawyers departed, Justice Merchan stated that Blanche's statement was "outrageous" and "highly inappropriate," referencing his past history as a federal prosecutor.

"You know that making a comment like that is highly inappropriate. It's simply not allowed," said Justice Merchan. "I think that was outrageous, Mr Blanche. Someone who has been a prosecutor as long as you should know. It's hard for me to imagine how that was accidental in any way."

As a result, the District Attorney sought a curative instruction on the comment, and Justice Merchan agreed to give a curative instruction to a jury after lunch.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Robert De Niro Slams Donald Trump Outside of Courthouse, Aaron Parnas, May 28, 2024. De Niro is holding a press conference as closing arguments are ongoing inside Trump's election interference criminal trial

mtn meidas touch networkThis morning, actor Robert De Niro slammed Donald Trump during a press conference outside of the Manhattan courthouse where closing arguments are currently ongoing in Trump's election interference criminal trial. De Niro was joined by the Biden Campaign's communication director and former Capitol Police Officers Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone

De Niro began his remarks by blasting Trump as a 'clown':

"Donald Trump doesn’t belong in my city. We New Yorkers used to tolerate him when he was just another grubby real estate hustler masquerading as a big shot. A two-bit playboy lying his way into the tabloids. He’s a clown. But this person can’t run the country. That does not work, and we all know that."

De Niro went on to discuss the crime rates under Trump versus under President Biden, especially the murder rate in New York City:

"It's no surprise that the murder rate and other violent crimes peaked under Trump and are now falling under Biden. And now Trump is promising to use our own military to attack U.S. citizens. That's the tyrant he's telling us he'll be. And believe me, he means it."

He concluded his remarks by speaking about Trump's actions leading up to and on January 6, 2021, stating that Trump "left destruction in its wake"

"On January 6, Trump rallied an angry mob to threaten democracy, leaving death and destruction in its wake. That's why I needed to be involved in the Biden-Harris ad. Because it reminds us that Trump will use violence against anyone who stands in the way of his megalomania and greed. But it's a coward's violence. Do you think Trump ever threw a punch himself or took one? This guy who ran and hid in the White House bunker when there were protesters outside? He directs the mob to do his dirty work for him."

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump told donors he will crush pro-Palestinian protests, deport demonstrators, Josh Dawsey, Karen DeYoung and Marianne LeVine, May 28, 2024 (print ed.). The former president has publicly waffled on the Israel-Gaza war. But he told wealthy donors he supports Israel’s right to continue “its war on terror.”

Former president Donald Trump promised to crush pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses, telling a roomful of donors — a group that he joked included “98 percent of my Jewish friends” — that he would expel student demonstrators from the United States, according to participants in the roundtable event with him in New York.

“One thing I do is, any student that protests, I throw them out of the country. You know, there are a lot of foreign students. As soon as they hear that, they’re going to behave,” Trump said on May 14, according to donors at the event.

When one of the donors complained that many of the students and professors protesting on campuses could one day hold positions of power in the United States, Trump called the demonstrators part of a “radical revolution” that he vowed to defeat. He praised the New York Police Department for clearing the campus at Columbia University and said other cities needed to follow suit, saying “it has to be stopped now.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Why a Star Witness Never Testified at Trump’s Trial, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, May 28, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s lawyers are expected to highlight the absence of Allen Weisselberg, Mr. Trump’s former finance chief. But he is in jail, serving time for perjury.

allen weisselberg croppedProsecutors never called Mr. Weisselberg to testify, because, although he knows the truth, he has not always told it. He is serving time in the Rikers Island jail complex after pleading guilty to perjury in an unrelated civil case involving Mr. Trump, the man he served for nearly half a century.

May 28

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump makes sweeping promises to donors on audacious fundraising tour, Josh Dawsey, May 28, 2024. By tying donation requests to pledges of tax cuts and other policies, Trump is testing the boundaries of federal campaign finance laws.

When Donald Trump met some of the country’s top donors at a luxurious New York hotel earlier this month, he told the group that a businessman had recently offered $1 million to his presidential effort and wanted to have lunch.

“I’m not having lunch,” Trump said he responded, according to donors who attended. “You’ve got to make it $25 million.”

Another businessman, he said, had traditionally given $2 million to $3 million to Republicans. Instead, he said he told the donor that he wanted a $25 million or $50 million contribution or he would not be “very happy.”

As he closed his pitch at the Pierre Hotel, Trump explained to the group why it was in their interest to cut large checks. If he was not put back in office, taxes would go up for them under President Biden, who vows to let Trump-era tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations expire at the end of 2025.

May 26

 

Defendant Donald Trump, center, with defense attorney Todd Blanche, at right, at the New York City state courthouse for his trial on election interference charges relating to hush money payments adult film star Stormy Daniels (Pool photo May 7, 2024).

Defendant Donald Trump, center, with defense attorney Todd Blanche, at right, at the New York City state courthouse for his trial on election interference charges relating to hush money payments adult film star Stormy Daniels (Pool photo May 7, 2024).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Post-Verdict Playbook: Anger and Retribution, Regardless of Outcome, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman
May 26, 2024. Donald Trump has a history of attacking investigators, blaming President Biden and seeking vengeance on those who cross him.

The verdict in former President Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial remains a mystery, at least for a few more days. Less of a mystery is what Mr. Trump will say and do after it is announced — whatever the outcome might be.

If the past is any guide, even with a full acquittal, Mr. Trump will be angry and vengeful, and will direct attacks against everyone he perceives to be responsible for the Manhattan district attorney’s prosecution. He will continue to level the attacks publicly, at rallies and on Truth Social, and privately encourage his House Republican allies to subpoena his Democratic enemies.

The pattern is firmly established: After Mr. Trump escaped impeachment twice and survived a special counsel investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III into ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia, he immediately went into revenge mode — complaining about the injustices he was forced to endure and urging his allies to investigate the investigators.

“Regardless of the outcome, the playbook is the same,” said Alyssa Farah Griffin, Mr. Trump’s former White House communications director, who began working for him shortly after his first impeachment trial but has since become a sharp critic of her former boss. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump told Libertarians to nominate him. He then mocked them when they booed him, Michael Gold and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, May 26, 2024 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump’s appearance before the Libertarian Party on Saturday was without modern precedent: the presumptive nominee of one party addressing the convention of another.

Early in his speech at the Libertarian Party’s national convention on Saturday, Donald J. Trump told the party’s delegates bluntly that they should nominate him as its candidate for president. He was vigorously booed.

When the jeers died down, Mr. Trump, visibly frustrated with the rowdy reception he had received ever since taking the stage, dug in and went a step further, seeming to insult the very group that had invited him.

“Only do that if you want to win,” he said of nominating him. “If you want to lose, don’t do that. Keep getting your three percent every four years.”

The boos began anew, only louder.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump loudly heckled at Libertarian National Convention, Meryl Kornfield, May 26, 2024 (print ed.). “Maybe you don’t want to win,” Trump said to a loud chorus of boos from the crowd. “Keep getting your 3 percent every four years.”

Former president Donald Trump encountered an unusually tough crowd at the Libertarian National Convention on Saturday night as the audience loudly booed him and used noisemakers to drown out his speech.

The first current or former president to speak at the third-party’s convention, Trump made several major promises to libertarians in the crowded, rowdy room, including assuring the audience that he would appoint a libertarian to his Cabinet if elected in November. But the presumptive Republican nominee also taunted the third party that has typically garnered around 1 to 3 percent of the vote in presidential races, saying they should nominate him if they want to win.

“Maybe you don’t want to win,” Trump said to a loud chorus of boos from the crowd. “Keep getting your 3 percent every four years.”

The raucous event for the former president marked a sharp departure from the typical celebratory atmosphere at such Trump campaign gatherings, normally full of thousands of supporters who travel from other states to see the former president while laughing and clapping to their favorite, often biting punchlines. Trump is said to derive energy from these trademark rallies and reacts to any disruption by threatening to have that person or people removed.

He is unaccustomed to dealing with a divided audience, such as the one on Saturday night — some of which didn’t seem to want him there.

“I don’t think it is a good idea for the party to invite candidates who can take our voters,” Illinois Libertarian voter Gavin Hanson said. “I don’t think he got any voters from that.”

 

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, Prosecutors Seek to Bar Trump From Attacking F.B.I. Agents in Documents Case, Alan Feuer, May 25, 2024 (print ed.). The prosecutors said the former president had made “grossly misleading” assertions about the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago that could endanger the agents involved.

Justice Department log circularFederal prosecutors on Friday night asked the judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case to bar him from making any statements that might endanger law enforcement agents involved in the proceedings.

Prosecutors tendered the request after Mr. Trump made what they described as “grossly misleading” assertions about the F.B.I.’s August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida. This week, the former president falsely suggested that the F.B.I. had been authorized to shoot him when agents discovered more than 100 classified documents while executing a court-approved search warrant there.

In a social media post on Tuesday, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that President Biden “authorized the FBI to use deadly (lethal) force” during the search.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chase Oliver nominated as Libertarian presidential candidate, Meryl Kornfield, May 26, 2024 (print ed.). The nomination 2024 Libertarian Party Presidential nominee Chase Oliver, shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore.came after seven rounds of voting over a long, contentious day as factions of the party feuded over the process and party leadership positions.

Chase Oliver, right, a candidate for the Georgia Senate election in 2022 shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore, won the presidentialnomination late Sunday night for the Libertarian Party, the third-largest political party.

 

Donald J. Trump built Trump Tower in the early 1980s — “his golden time,” as one supporter put it (New York Times photo by Don Hogan Charles).Donald J. Trump, right, built Trump Tower in the early 1980s — “his golden time,” as one supporter put it (New York Times photo by Don Hogan Charles).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Legal Troubles News Analysis: How Donald Trump Still Lives in the 1980s, Maggie Haberman, May 26, 2024 (print ed.). The greed-is-good era was the last time his preferred public image was intact, and he’s been returning there as he sits through his criminal trial in Manhattan.

When his criminal trial finishes for the day, Donald J. Trump typically returns to the marble-and-gold triplex atop Trump Tower, the high rise he built in the early 1980s and used to establish a public image as a master builder.

It is the silver lining for Mr. Trump, as he spends his first sustained period of time in Manhattan since he moved to Washington in 2017. He passes the days in a dingy courtroom downtown, where he faces 34 felonies, listening to people from his old life describe him as a depraved liar who sullied the White House. At the end of it all, he could be sent to prison.

But in the evenings, people who have spoken to him say, he has been enjoying being back in the penthouse apartment that he moved into four decades ago. He still considers it home — and a permanent reminder of the easiest period of his life.

That period was the greed-is-good era in which Mr. Trump sold himself nationally as a titan of industry, despite a relatively small, and local, real estate portfolio. He had just built a glittering tower on Fifth Avenue, infuriating elites and demanding a tax break from the city. And it is the era he alludes to constantly, referring to 1980s cultural touchstones, including the news show “60 Minutes,” Time magazine and celebrities like the boxer Mike Tyson.

May 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump’s Pattern of Sowing Election Doubt Intensifies in 2024, Karen Yourish and Charlie Smart, May 24, 2024 (interactive). A false, familiar claim by the former president — that the contest in which he’s participating is “rigged” — has reached a fever pitch in this cycle.

Former President Donald J. Trump has baselessly and publicly cast doubt about the fairness of the 2024 election about once a day, on average, since he announced his candidacy for president, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

Though the tactic is familiar — Mr. Trump raised the specter of a “rigged” election in the 2016 and 2020 cycles, too — his attempts to undermine the 2024 contest are a significant escalation.

Mr. Trump first raised questions about the 2016 election in August of that year, about 100 days before the election.

Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election had historic consequences. The so-called “Big Lie” — Mr. Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him — led to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the United States Capitol and two of four criminal indictments against Mr. Trump, as well as his second impeachment.

But Mr. Trump had planted seeds of doubt among his followers long before Election Day, essentially setting up a no-lose future for himself: Either he would prevail, or the election would be rigged.

He has never given up that framing, which no evidence supports, even well after the end of his presidency. And as he seeks to return to the White House, the same claim has become the backbone of his campaign.

Long before announcing his candidacy, Mr. Trump and his supporters had been falsely claiming that President Biden was “weaponizing” the Justice Department to target him. But it took until March of last year for Mr. Trump to settle on a new accusation: that the multiple legal challenges related to Mr. Trump’s business and political activities constituted a “new way of cheating” in order to “interfere” in the 2024 election. He has made versions of that accusation more than 350 times.

 

djt indicted proof

Associated Press via Politico, Prosecutors seek to bar Trump in classified files case from statements endangering law enforcement, ap logoStaff Report, May 24, 2024. The request follows a false claim by Trump earlier this week that FBI agents who searched his home were “authorized to shoot me.”

aileen cannonFederal prosecutors on Friday asked the judge overseeing the classified documents case against Donald Trump to bar the former president from public statements that “pose a significant, imminent, and foreseeable danger to law enforcement agents” participating in the prosecution.

politico CustomThe request to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, right, follows a false claim by Trump earlier this week that the FBI agents who searched his home in August 2022 were “authorized to shoot me” and were “locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.”

He was referring to the disclosure in a court document that was made public that the FBI, during the search, followed a standard use-of-force policy that prohibits the use of deadly force except when the officer conducting the search has a reasonable belief that the “subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”

FBI logoThe policy is routine and meant to limit the use of force during searches. Prosecutors noted that the search was intentionally conducted when Trump and his family were away and was coordinated with the Secret Service. No force was used.

“The Government’s request is necessary because of several intentionally false and inflammatory statements recently made by Trump that distort the circumstances under which the Federal Bureau of Investigation planned and executed the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago,” prosecutors on special counsel Jack Smith’s team wrote in asking that Cannon make a restriction on Trump’s statements a condition of his release pending trial.

“Those statements create a grossly misleading impression about the intentions and conduct of federal law enforcement agents — falsely suggesting that they were complicit in a plot to assassinate him — and expose those agents, some of whom will be witnesses at trial, to the risk of threats, violence, and harassment,” they added.

An attorney for Trump didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment Friday night.

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).

Defense lawyers have objected to the government’s motion, prosecutors wrote.

Trump faces dozens of felony counts accusing him of illegally hoarding at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, classified documents that he took with him after he left the White House in 2021, and then obstructing the FBI’s efforts to get them back. He has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing.

Trump faces four criminal cases as he seeks to reclaim the White House, but outside of the ongoing New York hush money prosecution, it’s not clear that any of the other three will reach trial before the election.

merrick garlandAsked Thursday at an unrelated event about the claim that the FBI intended to use force against Trump, Attorney General Merrick Garland, right, said: “That allegation is false, and it is extremely dangerous. The document that is being referred to in the allegation is the Justice Department’s standard policy limiting the use of force. As the FBI advises, it is part of the standard operations plan for searches. And in fact, it was even used in a consensual search of President Biden’s home.”

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Conway: Judge Cannon's Response to Gag Order Could Cause Her Removal, Acyn (Senior Digital Editor), May 24, 2024. ‘She's really on the spot here.’

mtn meidas touch networkRenowned attorney George Conway, right, warned that if Judge Aileen Cannon failed to act on a motion to impose a gag order on Donald Trump igeorge conway twittern the classified documents case, Special Counsel Jack Smith might use it an opportunity to have her removed from the case.

May 22

Former President Donald Trump and attorneys Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles attend his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13, 2024, in New York City (Pool photo by Steven Hirsch).

ny times logoNew York Times, Defense Rests in Trump Trial; Jury Deliberations Are Expected Next Week, Matthew Haag, May 22, 2024 (print ed.). The jury in the criminal case has been dismissed until closing arguments. Donald Trump’s lawyers wrapped up their case without calling him to the stand.

Lawyers defending Donald J. Trump in his Manhattan criminal trial rested their case on Tuesday after calling just two witnesses — neither of them the former president — setting the stage for closing arguments next week. The judge overseeing the case said those summations would take place in a week, and he hoped that the jury of 12 New Yorkers could begin deciding Mr. Trump’s guilt or innocence the day after that.

The two sides returned to the courtroom on Tuesday afternoon — without the jury — to hash out a crucial, if complicated, matter: the instructions jurors will receive before deliberating on the 34 felony counts against Mr. Trump. Prosecutors say he falsified business records related to a $130,000 hush-money payment his onetime fixer, Michael D. Cohen, made to a porn star on the eve of the 2016 election.

Here’s what to know about the trial:

  • Instructing the jury: The next turn of the trial is far less dramatic than the weeks of vivid testimony that preceded it, but it’s vitally important. The instructions that jurors receive serve as a road map to help them apply the law to the facts they have gleaned from witnesses, documents and other evidence. Read about the two sides’ dueling visions for jury instructions.
  • Key testimony: The final witness was Robert Costello, who was once an informal legal adviser to Mr. Cohen. Prosecutors sought to portray him as having actually acted as an agent of Mr. Trump, trying to keep Mr. Cohen from cooperating with investigators following a 2018 raid by federal agents.

Mr. Cohen had testified that he was wary of Mr. Costello, who he said was close with Mr. Trump’s lawyer at the time, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Among the emails prosecutors displayed for the jury on Tuesday was one in which Mr. Costello told his law partner, “Our issue is to get Cohen on the right page without giving him the appearance that we are following instructions from Giuliani or the president.”

Mr. Costello had been expected to attack the credibility of Mr. Cohen, but after he first took the stand on Monday, attention quickly turned to Mr. Costello himself, when prosecutors objected to a question and Mr. Costello protested the situation under his breath.

Justice Merchan rebuked him, later reminding him that the judge was the only person who could strike testimony from the record. “Are you staring me down?” the judge demanded before clearing the courtroom of the jury, reporters and other onlookers — but not Mr. Trump’s allies.

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, How Donald Trump’s Financial Future Became Tied to Trump Media, Matthew Goldstein and David Yaffe-Bellany, May 22, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Trump has treated the company that runs his social network Truth Social as a low-cost sideshow. Now a big portion of his wealth hinges on its success.

At Mar-a-Lago on a Wednesday evening last month, Donald J. Trump mingled with partygoers, greeting his supporters and making small talk. The country star Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the U.S.A.,” and the former president’s oldest son, Donald Jr., gave a speech.

The elder Mr. Trump was presiding over a cocktail reception for about 150 guests to celebrate the public debut of Trump Media & Technology Group, the parent company of his social media app, Truth Social. Trump Media’s share price had soared in its first day of trading, adding billions of dollars to Mr. Trump’s wealth.

But the party was far from lavish. Guests munched on cookies emblazoned with the letters DJT, the company’s stock symbol. They were invited via the free Paperless Post app and told they couldn’t bring a plus one, according to a copy of the invitation.

Mr. Trump was not shy about the frugality. A benefit of Truth Social, he told guests, is that it is “not very expensive to run.”

From the moment Trump Media was founded in 2021, Mr. Trump has treated it as a low-cost, low-effort venture. While he once served as chief executive and owns nearly 65 percent of the company, he has been only marginally involved in its day-to-day operations, mostly posting on Truth Social and delegating the business to others. At times, he considered working on competing ventures, according to court filings, corporate records, and five former employees and others familiar with the company.

Mr. Trump now finds himself in a strange position, with his financial future hinging on an endeavor that he sometimes seemed indifferent toward. Trump Media’s Wall Street debut in March turned Mr. Trump’s stake into a more than $5 billion bonanza. It has tripled his net worth, providing a potential monetary lifeline as he runs for president and grapples with steep legal bills tied to the civil and criminal cases against him.

Yet his newfound fortune is precarious. For years, Trump Media, founded by two former contestants of “The Apprentice,” was entangled in a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry and an insider-trading investigation. It has no products beyond Truth Social, which has a small audience and generated $770,000 in revenue in the first three months of the year while losing $328 million. Still, it has a market valuation greater than $7 billion.

“It’s one of the most obvious worthless stocks I have ever seen,’’ said Alan Jagolinzer, an accounting professor at the University of Cambridge in England.

Meidas Touch Network, ‘CLEAR THE COURTROOM!’: Judge Erupts After Trump Defense Witness Goes Off-The-Rails, Brett Meiselas, May 20, 2024. Legal observers knew Robert Costello's appearance on the stand would be a disaster. They didn't know it would be this bad.

mtn meidas touch networkTrump's lawyer Todd Blanche just LOST ALL CREDIBILITY before the jury when a stunt he pulled on Friday SPECTACULARLY BACKFIRED as the prosecution found over the weekend VIDEO PROOF THAT TRUMP AND HIS BODYGUARD WERE together AT THE MOMENT THAT MICHAEL COHEN phoned Trump and the bodyguard to tell them THE STORMY DANIELS pay off happened! Michael Popok explains this CHECKMATE by the prosecution and how it bolsters Cohen’s testimony.

robert costello screenshot cnnJustice Juan Merchan sharply admonished Robert Costello, above, a surprise witness called by Donald Trump’s defense team, in a fiery moment in court on Monday. Costello, a lawyer with a contentious history involving Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, inappropriate behavior on the stand sparked a heated exchange that could be described as a devastating self-inflicted error made by the defense team.

The courtroom was abuzz with anticipation as Trump’s defense team summoned Costello. His controversial background and connections with key figures like Rudy Giuliani and Cohen had already stirred considerable interest. Before Costello took the stand, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger requested a sidebar discussion with the judge, resulting in the jury being asked to step out temporarily.

Hoffinger argued that Costello’s testimony should be limited to addressing specific questions Cohen previously claimed he couldn’t recall regarding his interactions with Costello. Hoffinger highlighted Cohen’s admission that he had lied to Costello out of fear that information would reach Trump. In response, Trump’s lawyer Todd Bove emphasized that the defense had provided ample notice of their intention to call Costello, insisting that his testimony was essential to understanding his and Cohen’s professional engagement.

Justice Merchan, however, expressed skepticism about the relevance and appropriateness of Costello’s testimony. “How can Costello testify as to how Cohen felt? Or to Cohen’s state of mind?” Merchan questioned, indicating he would not entertain arguments beyond the specific inconsistencies in Cohen’s statements.

Tensions escalated when Costello, seemingly frustrated by a sustained objection, muttered “Jeez” into the microphone, followed by an attempt to direct the court by saying “strike it.” This prompted a sharp rebuke from Justice Merchan. “What did you just say?” Merchan demanded, his tone conveying clear irritation. The gallery’s reaction was a mix of surprise and amusement, with some laughter breaking the courtroom's tense atmosphere. Upon hearing Costello’s inappropriate comments, some in the jury shook their heads.

Costello didn't stop there. During another objection, Costello dramatically blew a puff of air. Costello also angrily glared at Justice Merchan. Merchan confronted Costello directly, asking, “Are you staring me down right now?” The intensity in the judge’s voice was palpable. “Clear the courtroom!” he ordered.

Merchan’s patience wore thin as he addressed Costello directly. “Mr. Costello, I’d like to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom. As a witness on the stand, if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘Jeez,’ and you don’t say ‘strike it,’ because I’m the only one who can do that. And if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye,” Merchan sternly instructed, further chastising Costello for his apparent disrespect.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: GOP Leaders BLOW UP in House after Trump FACTS STATED, Ben Meiselas, May 22, 2024
mtn meidas touch networkMeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on Republican leaders in the House of Representatives enforcing a ruling against Democrats that they are not allowed to say anything negative about Donald Trump including mentioning his criminal and civil cases.

juan merchan djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Conservative media outlets have criticized the trial’s judge, while some liberal organizations have praised him, Santul Nerkar, May 22, 2024 (print ed.). Conservative media has been preoccupied for weeks with Justice Juan M. Merchan, above left, the New York judge presiding over the Manhattan criminal trial against former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Trump has long attacked Justice Merchan and his family in social media posts and on his campaign website. But Justice Merchan did not earn a starring role in conservative media until after he issued a formal gag order against the former president, forbidding attacks against various people involved in the trial, including jurors and witnesses.

Since then, right-wing commentators, most prominently on Fox News, have condemned the judge nearly daily in their coverage of the trial. They have painted Justice Merchan’s rulings as biased, decried small donations he made to Democrats in 2020 and suggested that his connection to his daughter, a Democratic political consultant, made him unfit to oversee the case.

Liberal outlets have focused less on Justice Merchan, instead centering their coverage of the trial on the charges against Mr. Trump and the figures in his orbit. But some smaller outlets have praised Justice Merchan for clamping down on Mr. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies were arraigned in the Arizona election interference case, Danny Hakim and Jack Healy, May 22, 2024 (print ed.). A total of 50 people, including former President Donald J. Trump, are now facing charges in four states related to efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost in 2020. Rudolph W. Giuliani and 10 other allies of Donald J. Trump were arraigned and entered not-guilty pleas on Tuesday in an Arizona criminal case that charges them with trying to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 presidential election.

Mr. Giuliani, who appeared virtually at his arraignment, was ordered by the court to appear in person within 30 days and pay a $10,000 appearance bond. Those conditions, which were not imposed on other defendants, came after prosecutors said Mr. Giuliani had taken numerous steps to evade their attempts to serve him with notice of his indictment.

During the hearing, Mr. Giuliani, formerly Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, called the indictment “a complete embarrassment to the American legal system.” A state prosecutor, Nicholas Klingerman, said that Mr. Giuliani “has shown no intent to comply with the legal process in Arizona for this case.”

A total of 50 people — including Mr. Trump, who has locked up the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential race — now face charges related to election interference in four states. A number of Trump allies have already pleaded guilty or reached cooperation agreements in cases in Georgia and Michigan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump’s lawyers accused prosecutors in the classified documents case of misconduct, Alan Feuer, May 22, 2024 (print ed.). Prosecutors vehemently denied the accusations in newly unsealed motions that show how the former president’s defense team has used often-baseless assertions to undercut the indictment.

For the past few months, federal prosecutors and lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump have been battling in secret over allegations of misconduct and politicization in how the government handled the investigation that led to an indictment accusing Mr. Trump of illegally holding on to classified documents after he left office.

The fight spilled into the public eye on Tuesday as the judge overseeing the case unsealed a pair of motions by Mr. Trump attacking the integrity of the inquiry and claiming that the special counsel, Jack Smith, had timed his charges to create maximum political damage.

The aggressive and often baseless filings by Mr. Trump’s lawyers amounted to a multipronged assault on the underpinnings of the classified documents case and were the sharpest articulation yet of an argument the former president has often raised on the campaign trail: that law enforcement has been weaponized against him in a series of overreaching and politically driven witch hunts.

The two filings, which were released with hundreds of pages of supporting documents, homed in on an array of investigative steps taken by the government that the defense has claimed were improper.

 

djt nikki haley Custom 2Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Nikki Haley Announces She Will Vote For Trump, Aaron Parnas, May 22, 2024. Despite calling him out for months and refusing to endorse him, Haley kisses the ring.

mtn meidas touch networkNikki Haley announced Wednesday, in her first public speaking engagement since dropping out of the Republican Presidential primary, that she will be voting for Donald Trump in November, despite refusing to endorse him after she dropped out.

In announcing her decision, Haley stated:

“Trump has not been perfect on these policies but Biden has been a catastrophe. So I will be voting for Trump.”

This is a stark departure from Nikki Haley's prior positions. Previously, when dropping out of the 2024 race, Haley stated that Trump had “to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him. And I hope he does that.”

It is unclear what Trump did since then to earn Haley's support, given the fact that Trump continues to peddle the Big Lie, attacks political opponents in his own party, and promotes one of the most radical agendas in modern day politics.

Trump has also done zero work to court Nikki Haley voters, and on the contrary, has downplayed their importance, telling the media he does not need their support. Former Trump aide Steve Bannon recently said on his podcast, "Screw Nikki Haley — we don’t need her endorsement."

During the primary campaign, Trump also attacked and mocked Nikki Haley's husband, who was serving overseas with the South Carolina Army National Guard in support of the United States Africa Command. “Where’s her husband? Oh, he’s away… What happened to her husband? Where is he? He’s gone,” Trump said at a campaign event in South Carolina, Haley's home state.

Haley responded, "Michael is deployed serving our country, something you know nothing about. Someone who continually disrespects the sacrifices of military families has no business being commander in chief."

A little over a week later, Haley told a crowd in Greenville, SC: "Many of the same politicians publicly embrace Trump, privately dread him. They know what a disaster he's been and will continue to be. They are just too afraid to say it out loud. I'm not afraid to say the hard truth out loud. I feel no need to kiss the ring."

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, How Donald Trump’s Financial Future Became Tied to Trump Media, Matthew Goldstein and David Yaffe-Bellany, May 22, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Trump has treated the company that runs his social network Truth Social as a low-cost sideshow. Now a big portion of his wealth hinges on its success.

At Mar-a-Lago on a Wednesday evening last month, Donald J. Trump mingled with partygoers, greeting his supporters and making small talk. The country star Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the U.S.A.,” and the former president’s oldest son, Donald Jr., gave a speech.

The elder Mr. Trump was presiding over a cocktail reception for about 150 guests to celebrate the public debut of Trump Media & Technology Group, the parent company of his social media app, Truth Social. Trump Media’s share price had soared in its first day of trading, adding billions of dollars to Mr. Trump’s wealth.

But the party was far from lavish. Guests munched on cookies emblazoned with the letters DJT, the company’s stock symbol. They were invited via the free Paperless Post app and told they couldn’t bring a plus one, according to a copy of the invitation.

Mr. Trump was not shy about the frugality. A benefit of Truth Social, he told guests, is that it is “not very expensive to run.”

From the moment Trump Media was founded in 2021, Mr. Trump has treated it as a low-cost, low-effort venture. While he once served as chief executive and owns nearly 65 percent of the company, he has been only marginally involved in its day-to-day operations, mostly posting on Truth Social and delegating the business to others. At times, he considered working on competing ventures, according to court filings, corporate records, and five former employees and others familiar with the company.

Mr. Trump now finds himself in a strange position, with his financial future hinging on an endeavor that he sometimes seemed indifferent toward. Trump Media’s Wall Street debut in March turned Mr. Trump’s stake into a more than $5 billion bonanza. It has tripled his net worth, providing a potential monetary lifeline as he runs for president and grapples with steep legal bills tied to the civil and criminal cases against him.

Yet his newfound fortune is precarious. For years, Trump Media, founded by two former contestants of “The Apprentice,” was entangled in a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry and an insider-trading investigation. It has no products beyond Truth Social, which has a small audience and generated $770,000 in revenue in the first three months of the year while losing $328 million. Still, it has a market valuation greater than $7 billion.

“It’s one of the most obvious worthless stocks I have ever seen,’’ said Alan Jagolinzer, an accounting professor at the University of Cambridge in England.

May 21

washington post logoWashington Post, Controversial Donald Trump movie ‘The Apprentice’ depicts him as rapist, Jada Yuan, May 21, 2024 (print ed.). A dark new biopic starring Sebastian Stan as a young Trump is the talk of Cannes.

Had a movie called “The Apprentice” about a young Donald Trump’s rise to power premiered in America — during an election year in which said protagonist is the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president — one imagines there might have been protests and police in riot gear.

Instead, this Monday evening at the Cannes Film Festival, the film received the usual reverential treatment: a gala audience in gowns and tuxedos and star Sebastian Stan posing for photos on the red carpet. (Jeremy Strong, who plays the ruthless lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn, is on Broadway; during the eight-minute standing ovation, Iranian Danish director Ali Abbasi held up a still photo of the actor in his dressing room with his fingers in a peace sign.)

The film follows Trump in his years as a New York real estate mogul, as he strikes up an almost filial relationship with Cohn (and then abandons him as Cohn contracts AIDS), and falls in and out of love with his first wife Ivana (Maria Bakalova of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”).

MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell: Trump defense's lone witness Robert Costello was 'utterly contemptuous,' May 21, 2024. MSNBC's Lawrence O’Donnell describes how Judge Juan Merchan had to clear the courtroom in Donald Trump’s criminal trial because of the “utterly contemptuous” behavior by witness Robert Costello.

May 20

 

Former President Donald Trump and attorneys Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles attend his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13, 2024, in New York City (Pool photo by Steven Hirsch).

Former President Donald Trump and attorneys Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles attend his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13, 2024, in New York City (Pool photo by Steven Hirsch).

Meidas Touch Network, ‘CLEAR THE COURTROOM!’: Judge Erupts After Trump Defense Witness Goes Off-The-Rails, Brett Meiselas, May 20, 2024. Legal observers knew Robert Costello's appearance on the stand would be a disaster. They didn't know it would be this bad.

mtn meidas touch networkTrump's lawyer Todd Blanche just LOST ALL CREDIBILITY before the jury when a stunt he pulled on Friday SPECTACULARLY BACKFIRED as the prosecution found over the weekend VIDEO PROOF THAT TRUMP AND HIS BODYGUARD WERE together AT THE MOMENT THAT MICHAEL COHEN phoned Trump and the bodyguard to tell them THE STORMY DANIELS pay off happened! Michael Popok explains this CHECKMATE by the prosecution and how it bolsters Cohen’s testimony.

robert costello screenshot cnnJustice Juan Merchan sharply admonished Robert Costello, above, a surprise witness called by Donald Trump’s defense team, in a fiery moment in court on Monday. Costello, a lawyer with a contentious history involving Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, inappropriate behavior on the stand sparked a heated exchange that could be described as a devastating self-inflicted error made by the defense team.

The courtroom was abuzz with anticipation as Trump’s defense team summoned Costello. His controversial background and connections with key figures like Rudy Giuliani and Cohen had already stirred considerable interest. Before Costello took the stand, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger requested a sidebar discussion with the judge, resulting in the jury being asked to step out temporarily.

Hoffinger argued that Costello’s testimony should be limited to addressing specific questions Cohen previously claimed he couldn’t recall regarding his interactions with Costello. Hoffinger highlighted Cohen’s admission that he had lied to Costello out of fear that information would reach Trump. In response, Trump’s lawyer Todd Bove emphasized that the defense had provided ample notice of their intention to call Costello, insisting that his testimony was essential to understanding his and Cohen’s professional engagement.

Justice Merchan, however, expressed skepticism about the relevance and appropriateness of Costello’s testimony. “How can Costello testify as to how Cohen felt? Or to Cohen’s state of mind?” Merchan questioned, indicating he would not entertain arguments beyond the specific inconsistencies in Cohen’s statements.

Tensions escalated when Costello, seemingly frustrated by a sustained objection, muttered “Jeez” into the microphone, followed by an attempt to direct the court by saying “strike it.” This prompted a sharp rebuke from Justice Merchan. “What did you just say?” Merchan demanded, his tone conveying clear irritation. The gallery’s reaction was a mix of surprise and amusement, with some laughter breaking the courtroom's tense atmosphere. Upon hearing Costello’s inappropriate comments, some in the jury shook their heads.

Costello didn't stop there. During another objection, Costello dramatically blew a puff of air. Costello also angrily glared at Justice Merchan. Merchan confronted Costello directly, asking, “Are you staring me down right now?” The intensity in the judge’s voice was palpable. “Clear the courtroom!” he ordered.

Merchan’s patience wore thin as he addressed Costello directly. “Mr. Costello, I’d like to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom. As a witness on the stand, if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘Jeez,’ and you don’t say ‘strike it,’ because I’m the only one who can do that. And if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye,” Merchan sternly instructed, further chastising Costello for his apparent disrespect.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge says closing arguments in Trump’s hush money trial will be next week, Staff Reports, May 20, 2024. Donald Trump’s trial on charges of falsifying business records entered its sixth week on Monday and is nearing its end. New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said closing arguments will be held next week.

The finale of Michael Cohen’s testimony is expected Monday morning. Trump’s attorneys sought to chip away at Cohen’s credibility last week, focusing on the former Trump lawyer’s history of lying and committing crimes. Prosecutors say Cohen’s testimony is corroborated by other witnesses and financial records.

Here’s what to know:

  • The court day began 45 minutes early Monday, at 8:45 instead of 9:30 a.m., so the judge could address scheduling and other matters with the lawyers before the jury was brought in.
  • The trial is not being televised. The Washington Post has reporters in the courtroom and media overflow room who are posting live updates.
  • Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records related to his reimbursement of Cohen for a hush money payment before the 2016 election to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleged that she had a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Poised to Conclude Trump Case as Trial Enters Final Days, Staff Reports, May 20, 2024. Monday’s court session will continue the cross-examination of Michael Cohen. Lawyers have been told to have their closing arguments ready by Tuesday.

Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial will enter its final phase on Monday with the prosecution poised to complete its case and the defense considering whether to call witnesses of its own.

It is the trial’s sixth week, and is expected to begin with the prosecution’s last and most important witness still on the stand. The witness, Michael D. Cohen, has already testified over the course of three days, telling jurors that in 2015 he entered a conspiracy to suppress information damaging to the presidential campaign of his then-boss, Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen, who was Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, suppressed one of those stories himself, paying $130,000 to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, just weeks before the election to bury her story of having had sex with Mr. Trump. After the election, Mr. Cohen testified, the president-elect approved a plan to reimburse him for the payment, knowing that the reimbursements would be classified as ordinary legal expenses.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has charged Mr. Trump with 34 felonies, arguing that what Mr. Cohen described was a crime: the falsification of business records.

Mr. Trump denies the sex and any wrongdoing. For two days, the defense has cross-examined Mr. Cohen about his past lies under oath, painting him as a mendacious rogue agent who is seeking revenge on Mr. Trump, the boss with whom he was once obsessed.

Once the cross-examination concludes Monday, each side will get another crack at Mr. Cohen. After the prosecution has an opportunity to question him again, so will the defense.

May 17

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Takeaways From Donald Trump’s Criminal Trial, Kate Christobek and Jesse McKinley, May 17, 2024 (print ed.). After a grueling day of cross-examination for Michael Cohen, the judge told lawyers to be ready to make closing arguments by Tuesday.

Michael D. Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer and current antagonist, faced a tough cross-examination on Thursday as the defense drilled into his past lies.

Mr. Cohen, once known as a hothead and a paid bully, did not explode as he did when testifying last fall at Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial. He seemed at times stressed under the searing questioning from Mr. Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche. In one dramatic moment, Mr. Blanche accused Mr. Cohen of inventing the content of a phone call just before the 2016 election that he testified was with Mr. Trump and in which they discussed a hush-money payment.

“That was a lie,” Mr. Blanche said, his voice rising.

Mr. Cohen is not done. After more than seven hours of cross-examination over two days, he will return to the stand Monday; the judge granted Mr. Trump a day off on Friday so he can attend his son Barron’s graduation.

The former president is charged with falsifying 34 business records related to the reimbursement of the $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 2006. Mr. Trump, 77, has denied the charges and having had sex with Ms. Daniels. If convicted, he could face prison or probation.

Here are five takeaways from Mr. Trump’s 18th day, and his fifth week, on trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s lawyer charges Michael Cohen lied to jury, Devlin Barrett, Rachel Weiner, Shayna Jacobs and Hannah Knowles, May 17, 2024 (print ed.). A confrontation between Michael Cohen and Trump lawyer Todd Blanche was the most anticipated moment in the trial, which is now speeding toward a conclusion.

The central witness against Donald Trump withstood a withering cross-examination Thursday from the former president’s defense lawyer, who accused Michael Cohen of lying as recently as two days ago to realize his dreams of revenge against his ex-boss.

The confrontation between Cohen and Trump lawyer Todd Blanche was the most anticipated moment in the month-long trial, which is now speeding toward a conclusion. Because the trial is off Friday, the jurors will have three days to weigh Cohen’s answers. His cross-examination will continue Monday morning, setting the stage for closing arguments next week.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan told the lawyers that he would try to make sure those arguments don’t stretch out over more than one day, but he warned that they might because of scheduling demands of the jurors and other logistics issues.

 juan merchan djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Ethics Panel Cautions Judge in Trump Trial Over Political Donations, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, May 17, 2024. Justice Juan M. Merchan, above left, the judge overseeing Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, donated modest amounts to Democratic groups in 2020.

A state ethics panel quietly dismissed a complaint last summer against the New York judge presiding over the criminal trial of Donald J. Trump, issuing a warning over small donations the judge had made to groups supporting Democrats, including the campaign of Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The judge, Juan M. Merchan, donated a total of $35 to the groups in 2020, including a $15 donation earmarked for the Biden campaign, and $10 to a group called “Stop Republicans.”

Political contributions of any kind are prohibited under state judicial ethics rules.

“Justice Merchan said the complaint, from more than a year ago, was dismissed in July with a caution,” the spokesman for the court system, Al Baker, said in a statement.

A caution does not include any penalty, but it can be considered in any future cases reviewed by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct. A letter outlining the caution was not released because of the commission’s rules, and Justice Merchan did not make the letter available.

“The Commission on Judicial Conduct is governed by a confidentiality statute and cannot comment on nonpublic dispositions,” said Robert Tembeckjian, the commission’s administrator.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rule 1 to Be Trump’s Running Mate: Defend Him, but Don’t Steal the Show, Michael C. Bender and Jesse McKinley, May 18, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s search is in its early stages, but he is said to be leaning toward options who can help the ticket without seizing his precious spotlight.

The cavalry of Republican vice-presidential contenders and other party officials inside the courthouse for Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial was so large one day this week that the group initially had trouble arranging themselves in the two rows set aside for guests of the defense team.

Wedged into their seats, they were immediately confronted with testimony accusing their party’s leader — who was trying to inoculate his 2016 presidential campaign from political damage — of writing checks for bogus legal expenses to hide hush-money payments to a porn star.

None of the conservatives in the courtroom flinched or raised an eyebrow, including Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, both of whom are said to be under consideration for Mr. Trump’s running mate.

Instead, their stoic, protective presence underscored the biggest political quandary facing ambitious Republicans who want Mr. Trump to pick them for vice president: how to fiercely defend him without stealing any of his precious spotlight.

The prize for puzzling out the best approach could be a spot near the top of every ballot in the country this fall.

“He always wants killers out there fighting for him,” said Barry Bennett, a Republican strategist who advised Mr. Trump’s first presidential campaign. “But he also needs someone with experience and skills who can help shape his message, massage it and make it stronger.”

 

 

Former President Donald Trump and attorneys Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles attend his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13, 2024, in New York City (Pool photo by Steven Hirsch).

Former President Donald Trump and attorneys Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles attend his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13, 2024, in New York City (Pool photo by Steven Hirsch).

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Takeaways From Donald Trump’s Criminal Trial, Kate Christobek and Jesse McKinley, May 17, 2024 (print ed.). After a grueling day of cross-examination for Michael Cohen, the judge told lawyers to be ready to make closing arguments by Tuesday.

Michael D. Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer and current antagonist, faced a tough cross-examination on Thursday as the defense drilled into his past lies.

Mr. Cohen, once known as a hothead and a paid bully, did not explode as he did when testifying last fall at Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial. He seemed at times stressed under the searing questioning from Mr. Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche. In one dramatic moment, Mr. Blanche accused Mr. Cohen of inventing the content of a phone call just before the 2016 election that he testified was with Mr. Trump and in which they discussed a hush-money payment.

“That was a lie,” Mr. Blanche said, his voice rising.

Mr. Cohen is not done. After more than seven hours of cross-examination over two days, he will return to the stand Monday; the judge granted Mr. Trump a day off on Friday so he can attend his son Barron’s graduation.

The former president is charged with falsifying 34 business records related to the reimbursement of the $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 2006. Mr. Trump, 77, has denied the charges and having had sex with Ms. Daniels. If convicted, he could face prison or probation.

Here are five takeaways from Mr. Trump’s 18th day, and his fifth week, on trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s lawyer charges Michael Cohen lied to jury, Devlin Barrett, Rachel Weiner, Shayna Jacobs and Hannah Knowles, May 17, 2024 (print ed.). A confrontation between Michael Cohen and Trump lawyer Todd Blanche was the most anticipated moment in the trial, which is now speeding toward a conclusion.

The central witness against Donald Trump withstood a withering cross-examination Thursday from the former president’s defense lawyer, who accused Michael Cohen of lying as recently as two days ago to realize his dreams of revenge against his ex-boss.

The confrontation between Cohen and Trump lawyer Todd Blanche was the most anticipated moment in the month-long trial, which is now speeding toward a conclusion. Because the trial is off Friday, the jurors will have three days to weigh Cohen’s answers. His cross-examination will continue Monday morning, setting the stage for closing arguments next week.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan told the lawyers that he would try to make sure those arguments don’t stretch out over more than one day, but he warned that they might because of scheduling demands of the jurors and other logistics issues.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump will speak at a fund-raiser in Minnesota, a politically divided state he came close to winning in 2016, Jonathan Weisman, May 17, 2024. The Trump campaign says it can broaden the electoral battlefield with a play for Minnesota, but the state has disappointed Republicans for decades.

trump 2024In his winning run for the presidency in 2016, Donald J. Trump came tantalizingly close to taking Minnesota, falling just 1.5 percentage points shy of Hillary Clinton in a state that seemingly loves to break Republican hearts.

On Friday, the former president will be back, speaking at a fund-raising dinner for the Minnesota Republican Party in St. Paul that is open only to paying guests and invited media. Whether the visit is a feint to draw Democratic dollars to the state or a true effort to expand the electoral map, only the Trump campaign knows.

But it is a moment to look at the stark divisions in a state where the urban and rural political and social gulf is particularly vast.

“Nobody lives this stronger than I do,” said Representative Angie Craig, a Democrat whose swing district, maybe the last in the state, runs from the southern edges of Minneapolis and St. Paul into rural areas southeast of the cities. “Look, I was on the ballot in 2016 when Trump first ran. He won my district, and I lost my race. We’re all going to have to work really, really hard this year.”

Minnesota has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Richard M. Nixon won the state in 1972. But Mr. Trump’s share of the vote actually rose from 2016, when he won 44.9 percent and Ms. Clinton took 46.4 percent, to 2020, when the former president won 45.3 percent and President Biden won 52.4 percent.

Representative Dean Phillips, a Democrat who represents the affluent, educated suburbs west of Minneapolis that for years voted Republican, then switched to him, said he had been surprised by the number of constituents he has spoken to who are ready to vote for Mr. Trump. Mr. Phillips challenged Mr. Biden for the Democratic nomination and got nowhere. Now he wants to see the president re-elected.

May 16

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen during tense cross-examination: ‘Yes, I would like to see’ Trump convicted, Shayna Jacobs, Rachel Weiner, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, May 16, 2024 (print ed.). In cross-examination, Trump’s current lawyer tries to destroy the credibility of his former lawyer.

Michael Cohen, the key witness against Donald Trump, conceded under cross-examination Tuesday that he would like to see the former president become a felon and that he feels compelled to go online almost every day to attack the man he once idolized.
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On Cohen’s second day of testimony at Manhattan criminal court, the former Trump lawyer faced off against Todd Blanche, Trump’s current lawyer. Blanche quickly tried to put Cohen on the defensive with questions aimed at showing that he was “obsessed” with Trump and is now consumed with a quest for revenge, and that means his account of Trump falsifying business records cannot be trusted.

“Yes, I would like to see” Trump convicted, Cohen said early in the cross-examination, before adding, “I would like to see accountability; it’s not for me, it’s for this jury or this court.”

Blanche, the defense lawyer, quickly interjected that he wasn’t asking about accountability; he wanted to know if Cohen felt he had a personal stake in seeing Trump convicted.

“Sure,” Cohen replied matter-of-factly.

The much-anticipated cross-examination came after prosecutors spent Tuesday morning questioning Cohen, who said he broke campaign finance laws “on behalf of Mr. Trump.”

Trump is on trial fighting 34 counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors say he miscategorized repayments to Cohen for $130,000 in hush money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election — a deal meant to keep the public from learning about Daniels’s claims of sex with Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Former Prosecutor on the ‘Incredibly Strong Case’ Against Trump, Andrew Weissmann and Patrick andrew weissmann croppedHealy, Produced by Jillian Weinberger, May 16, 2024. Donald Trump’s onetime fixer Michael Cohen takes the stand again Thursday in the hush-money trial of his old boss. In this interview, Andrew Weissman, right, a law professor and former prosecutor, argues that Mr. Trump’s lawyers are dropping the ball in building an alternative narrative.

Below is a lightly edited transcript of the audio piece. To listen to this piece, click the play button below.

Andrew Weissman is a law professor and former prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation of Donald Trump.

Healy: You’ve been in the courtroom this week. Take us all into the courtroom. Who is the most interesting to watch for you? The witness on the stand, the jury, the judge or Trump?

 

 

juan merchan djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen’s Cross-Examination Continues as Trump Trial Enters Homestretch, Michael Wilson, May 16, 2024.  Defense lawyers for Donald Trump tried to sully the testimony of Michael Cohen, who once was his lawyer and now is his nemesis.

The eagerly anticipated cross-examination of Michael D. Cohen resumed Thursday morning, a crucial opportunity for the defense to poke holes in his testimony and perhaps trip up or provoke the state’s key witness. The questioning of Mr. Cohen, who was Donald J. Trump’s former fixer, is the beginning of the end of the trial, which began April 15 and could conclude before Memorial Day weekend.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche came out swinging, suggesting that Mr. Cohen had referred to him personally on social media with a vulgarity. Mr. Blanche went on to ask about Mr. Cohen’s longtime habit of talking to reporters, his ignoring requests from prosecutors to stop speaking and his vitriol toward Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen, who puts out podcasts and TikTok videos, has suggested that Mr. Trump belongs in a cage like an “animal” and referred to him as a “Cheeto-dusted cartoon villain.”

In court, Mr. Cohen responded calmly and matter-of-factly, avoiding any outbursts or gaffes that could hurt his credibility.

Mr. Cohen testified that Mr. Trump directed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels, a porn star, to suppress her account of a sexual rendezvous with the former president in a Lake Tahoe, Nev., hotel in 2006.

With no testimony scheduled for Friday, and Mr. Cohen expected to be the prosecution’s final witness, closing arguments in the case could begin as soon as Monday. The defense has not ruled out the possibility of Mr. Trump’s testifying, but that would seem to be a long shot, and would open him up to his own potentially damaging cross-examination.

May 15

djt michael cohen disloyal

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Says Trump Approved Hush-Money Payments at White House Meeting, Michael Wilson, Jonah E. Bromwich and Maggie Haberman, May 15, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s ex-fixer, described a key element of the case against the former president, who is accused of faking business records.

Michael D. Cohen, the key witness in the case against Donald J. Trump, returned to the stand on Tuesday morning, a day after he testified that Mr. Trump had ordered him to make a hush-money payment to a porn star and then approved a plan to reimburse him.

We’re continuing to see the series of documents that prosecutors say are false, and continuing to think about yesterday’s testimony. When Cohen was describing the January meeting with Allen Weisselberg, he testified that Trump had heard Weisselberg say that the monthly payments would be a retainer for legal services. It is that single line from a witness — the word “yes” — that most directly attaches Trump to the alleged crimes.

Prosecutors could wrap up their questions soon, giving lawyers for Mr. Trump their chance to chip at the credibility and composure of a historically combative New Yorker, and to suggest there are holes in his account of the $130,000 payment. Mr. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to the reimbursement, one for each document involved: 11 checks, 11 invoices and 12 ledger entries.

May 15

djt michael cohen disloyal

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Says Trump Approved Hush-Money Payments at White House Meeting, Michael Wilson, Jonah E. Bromwich and Maggie Haberman, May 15, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s ex-fixer, described a key element of the case against the former president, who is accused of faking business records.

Michael D. Cohen, the key witness in the case against Donald J. Trump, returned to the stand on Tuesday morning, a day after he testified that Mr. Trump had ordered him to make a hush-money payment to a porn star and then approved a plan to reimburse him.

We’re continuing to see the series of documents that prosecutors say are false, and continuing to think about yesterday’s testimony. When Cohen was describing the January meeting with Allen Weisselberg, he testified that Trump had heard Weisselberg say that the monthly payments would be a retainer for legal services. It is that single line from a witness — the word “yes” — that most directly attaches Trump to the alleged crimes.

Prosecutors could wrap up their questions soon, giving lawyers for Mr. Trump their chance to chip at the credibility and composure of a historically combative New Yorker, and to suggest there are holes in his account of the $130,000 payment. Mr. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to the reimbursement, one for each document involved: 11 checks, 11 invoices and 12 ledger entries.

 

Former President Donald Trump and attorneys Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles attend his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13, 2024, in New York City (Pool photo by Steven Hirsch).

Former President Donald Trump and attorneys Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles attend his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13, 2024, in New York City (Pool photo by Steven Hirsch).

Politico Magazine, Opinion: Trump’s Lawyers Are Making Major Mistakes, Ankush Khardori, May 15, 2024 (print ed.). Trump has no one to blame but himself.

politico CustomAs Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan reaches a critical turning point, an amusing paradox has emerged. For once, Trump claims to be happy with his lawyers’ performance after a long history of fractious relationships with his attorneys. This might ordinarily be a welcome development for him — but the problem is that they are not doing a particularly good job defending him.

Put simply, Trump’s legal team has made several considerable, and at times baffling, missteps over the course of the trial that have increased the odds of a conviction.

Adding to the strangeness of all this is the fact that Trump’s defense team is probably the strongest group that he has assembled in any of his various legal proceedings to date. The principal lawyers are experienced criminal litigators who, as a group, are moderately to very well regarded among New York City’s white-collar bar.

At the moment, it’s impossible to know for sure how Trump will ultimately fare in the case. The trial is now likely to turn in large part on the jury’s assessment of Michael Cohen’s credibility, which has always been the central risk for prosecutors.

But it’s also clear that Trump’s lawyers are pursuing a flawed and risky strategy. Why? Most likely it’s not them, but him. Trump is the client, and he gets the final word on major decisions. So far as I can tell, this team has managed to stay on Trump’s good side by indulging — perhaps necessarily — his worst traits and instincts. It may be their downfall.

Most devastatingly, lead attorney Todd Blanche, in his opening statement, repeated Trump’s claim that he never had a sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels. That was followed by days of testimony last week that — if you believe Daniels’ very persuasive account — effectively demonstrated that a central plank of Trump’s defense is a lie and has been a lie for years, and that the jury cannot trust even Trump’s lead counsel to tell them the truth.

A bunch of Trump-supporting legal commentators have claimed that Daniels’ testimony was irrelevant to the case — a truly baffling interpretation of events given what actually happened. Prosecutors had no choice but to put Daniels on after Blanche affirmatively called her a liar in his opening statement, and they had to elicit considerable detail about the sexual encounter in order to establish her credibility in response to Blanche’s attack inside the courtroom and Trump’s years of attacks outside of it. Not only was that the appropriate way for the government to defend the integrity of its investigation and its witness, it was also an unmissable opportunity for them to tank the credibility of Trump’s entire legal defense.

Ankush Khardori is a senior writer for POLITICO Magazine and a former federal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, where he specialized in financial fraud and white-collar crime. 

May 12

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Trump May Owe $100 Million From Double-Dip Tax Breaks, Audit Shows, Russ Buettner and Paul Kiel, May 12, 2024 (print ed.). A previously unknown focus of an I.R.S. audit is a dubious accounting maneuver pro publica logothat effectively meant taking the same write-offs twice on a Chicago skyscraper. This article was published in partnership with ProPublica.

Former President Donald J. Trump used a dubious accounting maneuver to claim improper tax breaks from his troubled Chicago tower, according to an Internal Revenue Service inquiry uncovered by The New York Times and ProPublica. Losing a yearslong audit battle over the claim could mean a tax bill of more than $100 million.

Trump International ChicagoThe 92-story, glass-sheathed skyscraper, right, along the Chicago River is the tallest and, at least for now, the last major construction project by Mr. Trump. Through a combination of cost overruns and the bad luck of opening in the teeth of the Great Recession, it was also a vast money loser.

But when Mr. Trump sought to reap tax benefits from his losses, the I.R.S. has argued, he went too far andin effect wrote off the same losses twice.

irs logoThe first write-off came on Mr. Trump’s tax return for 2008. With sales lagging far behind projections, he claimed that his investment in the condo-hotel tower met the tax code definition of “worthless,” because his debt on the project meant he would never see a profit. That move resulted in Mr. Trump reporting losses as high as $651 million for the year, The Times and ProPublica found.

There is no indication the I.R.S. challenged that initial claim, though that lack of scrutiny surprised tax experts consulted for this article. But in 2010, Mr. Trump and his tax advisers sought to extract further benefits from the Chicago project, executing a maneuver that would draw years of inquiry from the I.R.S. First, he shifted the company that owned the tower into a new partnership. Because he controlled both companies, it was like moving coins from one pocket to another. Then he used the shift as justification to declare $168 million in additional losses over the next decade.

The issues around Mr. Trump’s case were novel enough that, during his presidency, the I.R.S. undertook a high-level legal review before pursuing it. The Times and ProPublica, in consultation with tax experts, calculated that the revision sought by the I.R.S. would create a new tax bill of more than $100 million, plus interest and potential penalties.

Mr. Trump’s tax records have been a matter of intense speculation since the 2016 presidential campaign, when he defied decades of precedent and refused to release his returns, citing a long-running audit. A first, partial revelation of the substance of the audit came in 2020, when The Times reported that the I.R.S. was disputing a $72.9 million tax refund that Mr. Trump had claimed starting in 2010. That refund, which appeared to be based on Mr. Trump’s reporting of vast losses from his long-failing casinos, equaled every dollar of federal income tax he had paid during his first flush of television riches, from 2005 through 2008, plus interest.

The reporting by The Times and ProPublica about the Chicago tower reveals a second component of Mr. Trump’s quarrel with the I.R.S. This account was pieced together from a collection of public documents, including filings from the New York attorney general’s suit against Mr. Trump in 2022, a passing reference to the audit in a congressional report that same year and an obscure 2019 I.R.S. memorandum that explored the legitimacy of the accounting maneuver. The memorandum did not identify Mr. Trump, but the documents, along with tax records previously obtained by The Times and additional reporting, indicated that the former president was the focus of the inquiry.

It is unclear how the audit battle has progressed since December 2022, when it was mentioned in the congressional report. Audits often drag on for years, and taxpayers have a right to appeal the I.R.S.’s conclusions. The case would typically become public only if Mr. Trump chose to challenge a ruling in court.

In response to questions for this article, Mr. Trump’s son Eric, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said: “This matter was settled years ago, only to be brought back to life once my father ran for office. We are confident in our position, which is supported by opinion letters from various tax experts, including the former general counsel of the I.R.S.”

An I.R.S. spokesman said federal law prohibited the agency from discussing private taxpayer information.

Russ Buettner of The New York Times has spent years reporting on the former president’s finances, including decades of his tax returns. Paul Kiel of ProPublica has reported on the I.R.S. and the ways the ultrawealthy avoid taxes since 2018 

May 11

 

Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on May 7, 2024. (Reuters pool photo by Sarah Yenesel)

Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on May 7, 2024. (Reuters pool photo by Sarah Yenesel)

washington post logoWashington Post, Witness testimony continues in Trump’s hush money trial, Staff Reports, May 11, 2024 (print ed.).  Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan continued Friday with more witnesses taking the stand. Madeleine Westerhout, Trump’s former White House assistant, finished her testimony, recalling that Trump worried about his family being hurt when the Stormy Daniels story emerged in 2018.

She was followed on the stand by phone company employees, who were asked about cellphone records, and a paralegal from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, who read through texts between Daniels’s manager and an editor at the National Enquirer.

The testimony was much less combative than what the jury heard the day before, when Daniels pushed back hard against efforts by Trump’s lawyer to undermine her credibility. Daniels, an adult-film actress, said she and Trump had sex in 2006, which he denies.

Key updates

  • Trump’s attorneys try to depict a different leader in the White House
  • Why the judge scolded Trump’s defense lawyer
  • Checks, not sex, and other key takeaways from Thursday

May 10

 

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: What Trump promised oil CEOs as he asked them to steer $1 billion to his campaign, Josh Dawsey and Maxine Joselow, May 10, 2024. Donald Trump has pledged to scrap President Biden’s policies on electric vehicles and wind energy, and other initiatives opposed by the fossil fuel industry.

As Donald Trump sat with some of the country’s top oil executives at his Mar-a-Lago Club last month, one executive complained about how they continued to face burdensome environmental regulations despite spending $400 million to lobby the Biden administration in the last year.

Trump’s response stunned several of the executives in the room overlooking the ocean: You all are wealthy enough, he said, that you should raise $1 billion to return me to the White House. At the dinner, he vowed to immediately reverse dozens of President Biden’s environmental rules and policies and stop new ones from being enacted, according to people with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.

Giving $1 billion would be a “deal,” Trump said, because of the taxation and regulation they would avoid thanks to him, according to the people.

Trump’s remarkably blunt and transactional pitch reveals how the former president is targeting the oil industry to finance his reelection bid. At the same time, he has turned to the industry to help shape his environmental agenda for a second term, including rollbacks of some of Biden’s signature achievements on clean energy and electric vehicles.

The contrast between the two candidates on climate policy could not be more stark. Biden has called global warming an “existential threat,” and over the last three years, his administration has finalized more than 100 new environmental regulations aimed at cutting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, restricting toxic chemicals, and conserving public lands and waters. In comparison, Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” and his administration weakened or wiped out more than 125 environmental rules and policies over four years.

paul manafort face nation

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort, poised to rejoin Trump world, aided Chinese media deal, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Beth Reinhard and Josh Dawsey, May 10, 2024. The former Trump campaign chairman, who’s likely to help manage this summer’s GOP convention (and who is shown in a file photo above), resumed consulting work after being pardoned in 2020.

After pleading guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice, Paul Manafort, the globe-trotting political consultant and former campaign chairman for Donald Trump, asked for leniency in his sentencing, telling a federal judge five years ago that he was nearly 70 years old, struggling with health concerns and remorseful for his actions.

The judge rejected his entreaties in the spring of 2019, ordering Manafort to remain behind bars for more than seven years. Less than two years later, however, Manafort’s criminal record was wiped clean when Trump pardoned him. He was among the dozens of allies, extended family members and former campaign staffers allowed to walk free.

With his freedom, Manafort hardly retired to a quiet home life. Instead, the longtime power broker — briefly brought low by the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — reengaged in international consulting, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post and people familiar with his activities who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

Manafort has been assisting an effort to launch a Netflix-like mobile streaming and entertainment platform in China that, according to corporate documents, has the endorsement of the Chinese government. In an email to The Post, Manafort said he was “not involved with China” and has “had nothing to do with China, including Chinese businesses, government, individuals, or anything else,” but acknowledged that he “was asked to make introductions to U.S. studios and potential U.S. partners in the venture.”

Manafort, now 75, also sought to advise political figures in Japan and South Korea, according to a person who was approached by party officials in those countries checking on the consultant’s reputation. Manafort has roamed widely, traveling to Guatemala last year on the invitation of a migrant advocacy group called Proyecto Guatemala Migrante. The group’s leader, Verónica Pimentel, said she and a colleague discussed Latin American politics and the Latino vote with Manafort and introduced him to a Guatemalan presidential candidate, Ricardo Sagastume, who confirmed the meeting.

Emails, documents and interviews fill in details of Manafort’s life and work between 2020, when he swapped prison for home confinement owing to the coronavirus pandemic and then landed a pardon from Trump, and this election cycle, as he prepares to reenter Trump’s orbit. Advisers say Trump is determined to hire Manafort, likely handing him a substantial role at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, because he appreciates that his onetime campaign chairman has remained loyal to him even while serving in prison.

 

juan merchan djt

washington post logoWashington Post, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan scolds Trump attorney, Marianne LeVine, May 10, 2024 (print ed.). In the lead-up to his ruling against a mistrial, the judge, shown in a file photo above left, observed that there were “many times when Ms. Necheles could have objected but didn’t.”

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan blamed Donald Trump’s attorney Susan Necheles in court Thursday for not sufficiently objecting in real time to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels’s detailed testimony this week — and again said Daniels’s testimony does not warrant a mistrial.

In the lead-up to his ruling against a mistrial, Merchan observed that there were “many times when Ms. Necheles could have objected but didn’t.” The judge acknowledged that he wished New York prosecutors hadn’t asked Daniels certain questions. But in a biting review of Necheles’s performance as Trump’s defense lawyer, Merchan cited one incident as a key example: Daniels’s allegation Tuesday that Trump did not use a condom when they had sex. Trump and his team have previously denied he had sex with Daniels.

“Why on earth she wouldn’t object to the mention of a condom, I don’t understand,” Merchan said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hush-Money Trial: Stormy Daniels Returns to the Stand, May 10, 2024 (print ed.). She testified in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial for about five hours on Tuesday and will return today, starting with questions by Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000 on the eve of the 2016 election to keep silent about a one-night sexual encounter she said she’d had with Donald J. Trump, is back on the witness stand in the former president’s criminal trial, facing more questions from his lawyers.

Ms. Daniels described on Tuesday — sometimes nervously, sometimes graphically and often quickly — a liaison in a Nevada hotel suite with Mr. Trump. Their meeting set off the yearslong chain of events that has resulted in the first criminal trial of an American president. Mr. Trump is charged with falsifying business records to cover up his reimbursement of Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer and personal fixer who made the hush-money payment.

Defense lawyers began a combative cross-examination of Ms. Daniels before the court took its weekly Wednesday break, suggesting she was a liar and accusing her of trying to make money off her story. They are expected to take issue with inconsistencies between her account and others she has given in the past, and her motivation for going public about the encounter.

Prosecutors questioned Ms. Daniels for several hours on Tuesday, asking her to recall how she met Mr. Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 2006 and his invitation for dinner that she said led to sex in his penthouse suite. She also described receiving the payment from Mr. Cohen a decade later in return for her silence.

The 34 felony counts against Mr. Trump stem from his repayment to Mr. Cohen after he became president, and the recording of the checks as “legal expenses” at the Trump Organization. Mr. Trump, 77, has denied the charges and says he did not have sex with Ms. Daniels, a porn star. If convicted, he could face prison or probation.

 A lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump during cross-examination attacked Stormy Daniels for trying to monetize her life story (Charly Triballeau photo via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images on May 9, 2024)

A lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump during cross-examination attacked Stormy Daniels, above, for trying to monetize her life story (Charly Triballeau photo via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images on May 9, 2024).

ny times logoNew York Times, Stormy Daniels as We Had Never Seen Her, Vanessa Friedman, May 10, 2024. During her time on the stand, Stormy Daniels was dressed for history — and a jury, our chief fashion critic writes.

There is a certain irony to the fact that the most consequential role Stormy Daniels, the adult entertainer at the heart of the Trump criminal trial, may ever play is taking place off screen. There are no cameras allowed in the courtroom where she is a crucial witness, as she tells her story of her sexual encounter with Mr. Trump and the hush-money payments and the nondisclosure agreement his fixer arranged to keep her silent.

That means that on Tuesday, the first day of her testimony, the watching world could catch only glimpses of her as she left State Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan. She was in all black, in a scoop-neck jumpsuit with cropped black trousers, chunky high-heel boots and a long shawl-like cardigan with a hood enveloping her now famous body. Her blond hair was caught up in the back with bits escaping to shield her face, and she was wearing black-frame glasses and little makeup.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump might not go to jail, but this trial is a close second, Dana Milbank, right, May 10, 2024. dana milbank newestThose wishing to attend the proceedings start to line up around 6 a.m. for the 9:30 a.m. trial, in the middle of a media bivouac of satellite trucks, stand-up platforms and acres of police barriers. Those admitted to the courtroom (one reporter per outlet) and the overflow room (where video and audio are piped in) can’t watch Trump’s rants in the hallway, just steps away, and those in the “pool” to watch Trump’s rants can’t watch the trial.

I expected to spend much of my year covering Trump this way, watching his trials in New York, D.C., Georgia and Florida. But suddenly, this trial — the least important of the four — looks like it will be the only one to get underway before the election.

In Florida on Tuesday, Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee and a thorough Trump partisan, postponed indefinitely his trial in the classified documents case. In Georgia on Wednesday, an appeals court agreed to hear an appeal from Trump that will almost certainly block the racketeering trial there from occurring this year. Last month, a Trump-friendly majority on the Supreme Court signaled that it would handle Trump’s sweeping immunity claims in such a way that will likely postpone his trial in the Jan. 6, 2021, case until after the election.
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For a candidate who moans nonstop about a “rigged” justice system, it looks more as though the deck is stacked in his favor. Yet Trump may be sorry when his time in court comes to an end in a couple of weeks. He will no longer be able to claim that his obligations in court keep him from the campaign trail (he tends to play golf on his days away from the trial anyway), and he won’t be able to complain about how he’s being persecuted by prosecutors and judges.

Prosecutors don’t announce the order of witnesses, as a precaution to keep Trump from attacking them. So after waiting for three hours Monday morning to secure a seat, I learned that I was in for a day of accounting testimony — important to the case, but deadly tedious.

May 9

 

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, Trump Hush-Money Trial: Stormy Daniels Returns to the Stand, May 9, 2024. She testified in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial for about five hours on Tuesday and will return today, starting with questions by Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000 on the eve of the 2016 election to keep silent about a one-night sexual encounter she said she’d had with Donald J. Trump, is back on the witness stand in the former president’s criminal trial, facing more questions from his lawyers.

Ms. Daniels, shown above in a file photo, described on Tuesday — sometimes nervously, sometimes graphically and often quickly — a liaison in a Nevada hotel suite with Mr. Trump. Their meeting set off the yearslong chain of events that has resulted in the first criminal trial of an American president. Mr. Trump is charged with falsifying business records to cover up his reimbursement of Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer and personal fixer who made the hush-money payment.

Defense lawyers began a combative cross-examination of Ms. Daniels before the court took its weekly Wednesday break, suggesting she was a liar and accusing her of trying to make money off her story. They are expected to take issue with inconsistencies between her account and others she has given in the past, and her motivation for going public about the encounter.

Prosecutors questioned Ms. Daniels for several hours on Tuesday, asking her to recall how she met Mr. Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 2006 and his invitation for dinner that she said led to sex in his penthouse suite. She also described receiving the payment from Mr. Cohen a decade later in return for her silence.

The 34 felony counts against Mr. Trump stem from his repayment to Mr. Cohen after he became president, and the recording of the checks as “legal expenses” at the Trump Organization. Mr. Trump, 77, has denied the charges and says he did not have sex with Ms. Daniels, a porn star. If convicted, he could face prison or probation.

Ms. Daniels is expected to be one of the last major witnesses for the prosecution, which began presenting witnesses more than three weeks ago. Other key players yet to testify include Mr. Cohen.

  • Here’s what else to know:
  • Three weeks of testimony: The case against Mr. Trump rests on financial documents and how they were recorded at the Trump Organization. Interspersed among dry testimony about records have been witnesses who discussed sex, scandal and hush-money deals. Read the highlights of past weeks here.
  • The Daniels-Trump timeline: They met in July 2006, but the lives of Ms. Daniels and Mr. Trump intersected over the next decade and beyond. Read a timeline of their relationship here.
  • Members of the public: Like all trials, the case against Mr. Trump in the Criminal Courts Building in Manhattan is open to the public. Those who attended on Tuesday said it was riveting to watch. Read more about what they saw in court.

 

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Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Another Stormy Day for Trump, Ron Filipkowski, May 9, 2024 Stormy Daniels continues her testimony.

mtn meidas touch networkAward-winning adult film actress Stormy Daniels continued her testimony today under cross-examination from Trump's attorney Susan Necheles, who continued to focus on inconsistencies in her previous statements after being paid for her silence from Donald Truth through Michael Cohen. Daniels was on the stand for most of the day on Tuesday, you can read a full recap of that here:

We also learned shortly before the trial started that Judge Merchan will no longer allow any photography in the courtroom for the remainder of the trial because one of the photographers took a photo of Trump from the aisle, which was not permitted, so we will miss out on the brief shots of Trump before testimony begins.
Vonshitzenpants

Trump added new members to his entourage today, including Fox host Jeanine Pirro, Newsmax host Greg Kelley, Andrew Giuliani, and Florida Senator Rick Scott. Kelly had to be ordered to sit down because he stood up as court began to perform a bow to Trump to make sure that Trump saw that he was there so he could get praised later by the cult leader.

Trump had a late night after he flew back to Mar-a-Lago on his off day from court to host the purchasers of his digital Trump NFT trading cards, before flying back to New York. His last social media post was at 2:20 AM where he called for Rupert Murdoch to fire former House Speaker Paul Ryan from their board.

Necheles resumed her cross-examination by continuing to press Daniels on whether she wanted money or wanted the story out to protect herself. Daniels continued to maintain that she wanted both, but primarily she wanted the story out. She then asked Daniels if she had a motive to "get Trump" because he was against gay marriage and legalized abortion. She denied that. She was asked if she was angry at Cohen after her payment was delayed and she acknowledged that she was.

Necheles then brought up part of their main defense - that Trump's motive to keep the story quiet was to protect his marriage and his "brand," not to help win the election. She then suggested that Stormy wanted to make even more money off her story after she received the money from Cohen by agreeing to a 60 Minutes interview and later a book deal where she received $800,000. Daniels said she did the interview for free and the book was about her life story not just about Trump. Necheles suggested that the only reason why anyone would buy her book was to read about the sex with Trump.

Stormy then said that she went on a strip club tour where the photo of her and Trump was used to advertise that. She said that was done by the promoter without her knowledge and was very upset that was used. Necheles also asked her if she made $200,000 for appearing on 'The Surreal Life' and she agreed that she had. Necheles then asked Stormy about two books she was currently writing and what they are about. She said one is about her husband and the other is a novel about a girl from New Orleans.

Necheles then asked Daniels about the tweet she wrote responding to someone calling her a "human toilet." She remarked that made her the best person to "flush the orange turd down the toilet." Necheles then said that she clearly was talking about Trump when she used "orange turd" and Daniels asked her why she would think that. Daniels says that she responds to hundreds of tweets attacking her online.
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Daniels was then asked if she celebrated Trump's indictment by holding a special sale of her merchandise. She said when he was indicted people asked her how they could support her and she told them by buying some of her stuff. She was also shown a tweet where she remarked that she was drinking champagne that day. Necheles then showed several of the items that Stormy was selling on her website, including a candle that was entitled, "Stormy, Saint of Indictments' to show that she was continuing to profit off this case.

Daniels then got a zinger in at Necheles when she asked her whether her job was to make sex appear real in her movies. Stormy responded that the sex in her movies was very real, and if she was going to write a sex scene for a movie she would've wrote a much better one than the sex she and Trump had.

Necheles then tried to discredit Daniels by pointing out that some minute details in her story may have been different over time. One example was that in a 2011 interview to InTouch magazine where she used the phrase "during dinner" when her testimony at trial was that she never got dinner and their encounter was "during dinnertime." She maintained that she never got dinner from Trump as she was promised and was still upset about that misrepresentation. She said the worst thing Trump did to her that night to coerce her into having sex was lie, but that she also felt intimidated because Trump was twice her size and his bodyguard was stationed outside the door.

Necheles also pointed out that Daniels testified at trial that Trump stood up from the bed in his boxers when she came out of the bathroom but never mentioned that he stood up in the 2011 interview. She also pointed out that Daniels never mentioned in the 2011 interview that Trump made the statement, "If you ever want to get out of that trailer park ..." when she testified to that at trial. Daniels explained that the interview with InTouch was only 15-20 minutes and they didn't ask about every minute detail. She said the interview "was an abbreviated version of the events."

Daniels was asked why she had sex with Trump. She said her own "insecurities" led her to go along with what was happening, and that he never threatened her or used physical force. She was asked if she truly believed that Trump was going to put her on the Apprentice after that and she said she did think that which is why she continued to keep in contact with him. Necheles pointed out that she took a selfie with a friend when she went to Trump Tower to talk about The Apprentice, suggesting that showed she wasn't afraid of Trump. (Since Daniels never said this was a sex assault case, there would be no reason for her to be afraid).

Daniels was then asked if Trump was the "biggest celebrity" at the golf tournament. Stormy said it depended on what someone was a fan of since there were actors, musicians, comedians, and athletes from various sports. She was asked if Trump had a big entourage of people following him around at the event and Stormy said that Trump pays people to follow him around to give himself an entourage.

Necheles then ended her cross-examination by attempting to get Daniels to agree with her that Michael Cohen wired her the money for the story. She said the money was wired to her by her attorney Keith Davidson. She was then asked if it was Cohen's money that was sent to her attorney, not Trump's, and she said she would have no way of knowing where the money came from that was sent to her attorney.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger then conducted redirect examination. She asked Stormy what she meant when she said she thought she would be safer if she told her story to other people after she was threatened. She said that it is less likely for someone to carry out a threat if everyone is watching, and part of the reason why she signed an NDA was so that it was documented if anything did happen on the likely reason why. She then reiterated that although that was her primary motivation for selling the story, she certainly was happy to also accept money in the process.

Hoffinger also pointed out a variety of things that Necheles omitted when she was using documents to try and show inconsistencies. She pointed out that the InTouch article contained a line that said, "This interview has been lightly edited" by the magazine, and that the defense lawyer never mentioned that during cross.

Hoffinger then showed Daniels and the jury some of the tweets from people that she was responding to when she made her posts online. One of them called her a "disgusting degenerate prostitute," and the other said, "Good luck walking down the streets after this." Stormy then said that those were tame compared to some others that she received and that she had to hire security at one point because she felt unsafe.

The prosecutor then noted that Daniels did not even testify in front of the grand jury that indicted Trump in this case, therefore she was not the reason why he was charged and it certainly wasn't her decision to bring the case against Trump it was the DA's office.

On re-cross, Necheles brought up the threatening tweets Daniels received and said that "these things happen" on social media, and Daniels said that was true. She then put up several cutting replies that Daniels made back to people saying nasty things to her, suggesting that she didn't seem that intimidated by the way she was replying. Daniels said that she was just defending herself from other people attacking her.

This article was compiled from excellent reporting from the courtroom from Anna Bower and Tyler McBrien from Lawfare, Inner City Press, Henry Rosoff, Adam Klasfeld, Jose Pagliery from Daily Beast, Hugo Lowell from Guardian,

Politico, Stormy Daniels spars with Trump lawyer during cross-examination in hush money trial, Staff Reports, May 9, 2024. In combative questioning, Trump's team suggested that Daniels was motivated by money and had fabricated her account of having sex with Trump.

politico CustomTrump lawyer Susan Necheles grilled Daniels on the details of her account of a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, her past insults of the former president — and even her claimed ability to communicate with the dead.

Jurors also heard today from several other witnesses, including a former White House aide.

Accompanying Trump to court this morning was Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who later launched verbal attacks that Trump himself is legally barred from making.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche said prosecutors have told him they do not intend to call Karen McDougal as a witness at trial. McDougal allegedly had an affair with Trump in the mid-2000s and received a hush money payment in 2016 to keep quiet about it.

A new bid by Trump to be partially released from the gag order in the hush money case fell flat today, as Justice Juan Merchan said there were ample reasons to keep the order in place even though one of the case’s most prominent witnesses — porn star Stormy Daniels — finished testifying this morning.

May 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Stormy Daniels testifies, Trump curses in an angry day in court, Devlin Barrett, Tom Jackman, Shayna Jacobs and Marianne LeVine, May 8, 2024 (print ed.). Judge expresses alarm at Trump’s cursing amid disturbing testimony about sex.

Stormy Daniels, shown above in a file photol, the adult-film actress at the center of Donald Trump’s hush money trial, testified Tuesday about a disturbing sexual encounter she says she had with him, leading to angry, profane muttering from the former president that alarmed the judge.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan called Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche to a sidebar during a midday break to say that Trump was “cursing audibly” and possibly intimidating Daniels, who had begun testifying, according to a trial transcript.

“I understand that your client is upset at this point,” Merchan said to the defense attorney, according to the transcript, “but he is cursing audibly and he is shaking his head visually and that’s contemptuous. It has the potential to intimidate the witness and the jury can see that.”

Blanche assured the judge he would speak to Trump.

“I am speaking to you here at the bench because I don’t want to embarrass him,” Merchan said. “You need to speak to him. I won’t tolerate that.”

The exchange punctuated a day of rage — sometimes whispered from the defense table, sometimes declared loudly by Daniels from the witness stand.

It was one of several surreal moments on the 13th day of the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president, including descriptions by Daniels of their alleged sexual encounter in 2006 that were so detailed that defense attorneys demanded a mistrial.

While Merchan rejected their request, Daniels at times seemed to be describing nonconsensual sex that could be considered highly prejudicial for the jury, which in turn could give Trump — the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — solid grounds to appeal if he is found guilty.

Trump is accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records for allegedly disguising financial transactions related to a $130,000 hush money payment made to Daniels in 2016 to keep her quiet about what she said happened between them. He has denied the charges and denied having sex with Daniels.

Speaking rapidly and often emphasizing her answers by pointing her finger in the air, Daniels insisted there was nothing about the years of bad blood between her and Trump that made her story untrue. Still, her dislike of the defendant was palpable in the courtroom.

Daniels described meeting Trump at a golf event in Lake Tahoe, Calif., and being invited to his hotel suite that night.

When she got there, she talked with the reality TV star for a couple of hours, but then to her surprise she emerged from the bathroom to find him wearing a T-shirt and boxers and posing on the bed, Daniels said.

“That’s when I had that moment when I felt like the room spun in full motion. And I felt the blood leave my hands and my feet, almost like if you stand up too fast,” she testified. Trump “stood up between me and the door, not in a threatening manner,” though she said she felt an imbalance of power, particularly with Trump’s security guard outside.

“I think I blacked out,” Daniels said, adding that there were many details she didn’t remember but insisting that she wasn’t drugged or drunk.

“Next thing I know I was on the bed,” she testified. “I was staring at the ceiling. I didn’t know how I got there.”

She said the encounter was brief.

Before Daniels testified, Trump’s lawyers had argued that it would be unfair to tell the jury salacious details about an alleged sexual encounter that is not part of the charges against him.

Merchan warned prosecutor Susan Hoffinger not to go into great detail about the alleged encounter, but the prosecutor elicited not only a lengthy description of a sexual experience that often did not sound consensual, but also a raft of other details, down to the brand of shampoo in his bathroom, Pert Plus.

Trump’s lawyers complained bitterly that Daniels’s account of a possible sex crime had hopelessly tainted the jury against him and asked for a mistrial.

“All of this has nothing to do with this case, is extraordinarily prejudicial and the only reason why the government asked those questions, besides pure embarrassment, is to inflame this jury to not look at the evidence that matters,” Blanche said.

Prosecutors said the jury needed to know the underlying details of Daniels’s alleged encounter with Trump to understand why he would be motivated to pay money to keep it quiet. And the specifics, they said, would boost her credibility after it has been attacked by Trump’s lawyers.

Merchan rejected the defense’s request for a mistrial, saying that while Daniels had talked too fast and gone into greater detail than he would like, that was partly the defense’s fault for not objecting more strenuously.

“There are some things that are probably better left unsaid,” Merchan said. “I think there were some things that I think the witness was a little difficult to control. … It was not easy.”

The judge defended his own role during the testimony, saying he had done “everything that I can possibly do to protect both sides.”

Before Daniels was brought back to testify, he instructed the prosecutor to speak to her and make it clear that she needed to speak slower, and only answer the questions she was asked.

 

 

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Old Goats with Jonathan Alter, Day 12: What Jail Would Be Like for Trump, Jonathan Alter, May 8, 2024. Plus, dull but extremely important testimony about business records.

jonathan alter headshotNo, this account is not about Stormy Daniels' dark, believable, entertaining testimony. You'll get the full story on that tomorrow.

Today (Day 12) was deadly boring in the courtroom — but also deadly for Trump’s defense, which had hoped in vain to prevent a mound of highly incriminating documentary material into evidence. By the end of the day, the former controller of the Trump Organization and current accounts receivable supervisor, both still on the reservation with their legal expenses paid by Trump, authenticated the checks, ledger entries, and invoices that make up the 34 counts of falsifying business records in the indictment.

But stultifying Day 12 began with high drama when Judge Merchan warned Trump that his 10th violation of the gag order would be his last or he’d be sanctioned with jail time.

Merchan told Trump that he was well aware that “you are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president as well” and that he understood that jailing Trump “would be disruptive to the proceedings.” The judge said he also worried about the court officers, corrections officers, Secret Service, and other law enforcement personnel who would be involved in Trump’s incarceration.

“The magnitude of that decision is not lost on me,” Merchan said. “But at the end of the day, I have a job to do.” Trump’s offenses, he noted calmly, represented “a direct attack on the rule of law, and I cannot allow that to continue.”

In March, I posted a column here that argued that the most appropriate punishment for the sociopath on the loose would be to make him pick up trash. I reprised my Old Goats argument yesterday in The New York Times, but by the end of the day, I was back to favoring incarceration.

My new courtroom friend, George Grasso, a former cop and retired city judge who attends court as a spectator, told me that the security requirements of having a former president outdoors for hours on end would be a nightmare for the Secret Service. It occurred to me that Trump, in an orange jumpsuit, would make him an easy target from a high building. It wouldn’t be so horrible if Trump accidentally choked on a pretzel, as George W. Bush once did, but someone harming him physically would be a bad thing for the country.

Society’s task is to bring Trump to justice and make sure he is not re-elected president, and if he can be disgraced and humiliated in the process, all the better. But we shouldn’t encourage or even hope for violence. That’s Trump, not us.

What we must do instead, as the judge noted, is stand up for the rule of law. In this case, that means jailing him if he opens his yap one more time to attack witnesses or the jury.

Where would he do his time? Until recently, it might have been at the huge jail next door, “The Tombs,” an infamous dungeon that made Rikers Island look like Mar-a-Lago. Unfortunately, the Tombs was razed last month, so the most likely place for Trump to spend a night or two is a holding cell on the 16th Floor of the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, one floor up from the courtroom.

While Trump would enjoy a “solitary” instead of sharing a larger cell with other inmates, the accommodations are satisfyingly unpleasant. The bed, if you could call it that, is narrow and hard, with the harshest blanket Trump has ever slept under and a sheet thread count one-tenth of his usual 500. Instead of a gold-plated commode like the ones that Trump enjoys at his many homes, the former commander-in-chief would find a low metal toilet, quite possibly missing a seat.

Thanks to the watchful presence of his Secret Service detail, Trump would likely be allowed to skip the standard practice of turning over his belt and shoelaces to avoid a suicide attempt, a procedure that did not help his friend and fellow man-on-the-make, Jeffrey Epstein. In this regard, Trump would be more fortunate than we reporters, who must take off our belts and watches to get through two metal detectors every time we enter the building. The first week of the trial, I decided to go belt-less, which makes my low-slung pants resemble those of the hand-cuffed defendants I’ve seen marched through the halls.

While it’s unlikely we would catch a glimpse of Trump in an orange jumpsuit, there’s always hope. In 1928, an enterprising photographer lied his way into the execution chamber with a camera tied to his toe and got a famous shot of Ruth Snyder in the Electric Chair.

For Trump, the most onerous part of his incarceration might be the disruption of his morning ritual. Trump said last month that it would be his “great honor” to be jailed by the judge, whom he routinely calls “crooked.” But some things are more important than honor—like hair. Absent his hairdresser and product, how would he show up in court the next day without the dreaded “bed head” for all the world to see?

Given that , I expect Trump will zip it for the next couple of weeks, though his lack of impulse control might kick in when Michael Cohen takes the stand.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hush-Money Trial: Recounted at Trial, the Story of a Tryst That Could Shape U.S. History, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, Maggie Haberman, Michael Rothfeld and Jonathan Swan, Updated May 8, 2024. Donald Trump came face-to-face with Stormy Daniels, the porn star at the center of his hush-money case, as she testified about their chance encounter.

When Donald J. Trump met Stormy Daniels, their flirtation seemed fleeting: He was a 60-year-old married mogul at the peak of reality television fame, and she was 27, a Louisiana native raised in poverty and headed to porn-film stardom.

But that chance encounter in Lake Tahoe, Nev., some two decades ago is now at the center of the first criminal trial of an American president, an unprecedented case that could shape the 2024 presidential race.

This week, Ms. Daniels has been on the witness stand telling her side of the story, often in explicit detail. She has already faced five hours of questioning, and after the trial’s midweek hiatus, she is expected to return on Thursday to undergo additional cross-examination from Mr. Trump’s legal team.

The charges against Mr. Trump stem from her story of sex with him during that 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, a story she was shopping a decade later, in the closing days of the presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 in hush money before Election Day, and the former president is accused of falsifying business records to cover up reimbursements for Mr. Cohen.

On Tuesday, Ms. Daniels’s fast-paced testimony lasted nearly five hours, during which she described an encounter with Mr. Trump, now 77, that he has long denied. Tension gripped the courtroom, her voluble testimony filling a heavy silence. She made jokes; they did not land.

After about a half-hour on the stand, she began to unspool intimate details about Mr. Trump, so much so that the judge balked at some of the testimony. He implied it was gratuitously vulgar, and the defense sought a mistrial.

Ms. Daniels said the future president had invited her to dinner inside his palatial Lake Tahoe hotel suite. He answered the door wearing silk pajamas. When he was rude, she playfully spanked him with a rolled-up magazine. And when she asked about his wife, he told her not to worry, saying that they didn’t even sleep in the same room — prompting Mr. Trump to shake his head in disgust and mutter “bullshit” to his lawyers, loud enough that it drew a private rebuke from the judge, who called it “contemptuous.”

Ms. Daniels then recounted the sex itself in graphic detail. It happened, she said, after she returned from the bathroom and found Mr. Trump in his boxer shorts and T-shirt. She tried to leave and he blocked her path, though not, she said, in a threatening manner. The sex was brief, she said, and although she never said no, there was a “power imbalance.”

“I was staring up at the ceiling, wondering how I got there,” she told the jury, adding that Mr. Trump did not wear a condom.

The testimony was an astonishing moment in American political history and a crowning spectacle in a trial full of them: a porn star, across from a former and potentially future president, telling the world what she was once paid to keep quiet about.

Ms. Daniels, 45, has told her story widely — to prosecutors, reporters, her friends, in a book — but never to jurors, and not with Mr. Trump in the room. Her appearance on the stand appeared to unnerve Mr. Trump as she aired his dirty laundry, under oath, in mortifying detail.

But Ms. Daniels’s story is not just a sordid kiss-and-tell tale; it spotlights what prosecutors say was Mr. Trump’s criminality. He is accused of engineering the false business records scheme to cover up all traces of their tryst: the hush money, the repayment to Mr. Cohen and, yes, the sex.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Judge denies mistrial request after Stormy Daniels details alleged sex with Trump, Shayna Jacobs and Marianne LeVine, May 8, 2024 (print ed.). A dinner with Donald Trump at his hotel room in 2006 was playful but also irritating because Trump was arrogant and kept trying to steal the conversation, Stormy Daniels testified.

Daniels, shown above in a file photo, told jurors that she had “had enough of his arrogance” as he repeatedly tried to “one-up” her. She said she asked him: “Are you always this rude? Are you always this arrogant and pompous?”

“You don’t even know how to have a conversation,” Daniels said she told Trump at dinner after meeting him at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.

“I said, ‘Someone should spank you,’” Daniels testified. “So he rolled up the magazine and dared me to do it, so he gave me to it, and I swatted him. Right on the butt.”

After that, she said, the conversation was improved. “He was much more polite.”

 Daniels described having a one-night stand with Donald Trump that at times sounded like nonconsensual sex — prompting a flurry of sidebar arguments interrupting her testimony.

“There was an imbalance of power for sure. He was bigger and blocking the way, but I was not threatened,” Daniels said, describing the moment when she entered a bedroom in Trump’s hotel suite in 2006 to find him posing on the bed.

“The next thing I know, I was on the bed, somehow on the opposite of the bed.” She said her bra was still on, but they were in the missionary position.

“Do you have a recollection of feeling something unusual?” prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked, before the judge stopped Daniels from answering that question.

“I was staring up at the ceiling, and I didn’t know how I got there,” Daniels said.

The account is similar to what Daniels described years earlier in her book, but the degree of detail was surprising, particularly given that Trump is not accused of any sex crimes.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records, but the jury has now heard details of him engaged in something akin to nonconsensual sex.

Daniels said she was not drunk or under the influence of drugs, but she described feeling strange and not having a grasp on the sequence of events.

Trump’s defense lawyers were clearly upset that Daniels kept offering details and opinions about the encounter far beyond the claim of the two having a sexual encounter — particularly since the testimony about that sex came after the judge had explicitly urged the prosecutor not to go into a lot of details in front of the jury.

Daniels testified Tuesday that she fully moved on from what she described as an unwanted sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006 as well as the elusive idea of being cast on “Celebrity Apprentice."

In the coming years, and after learning the TV gig involving Trump would not transpire, Daniels said her career picked up and she started a family.

“It was pretty awesome. I got a raise, a lot more movies, a lot more mainstream things [like] ‘40-Year-Old Virgin,’” Daniels said, naming a hit movie she had a cameo in.

“I got married, I had my daughter, I became a nationally-ranked equestrian with my horses,” Daniels said. “I bought a house and moved to Texas.”

Daniels said she stopped talking to Trump after a number of meetings during which he discussed her possible casting on his hit NBC show on which famous people try to win Trump’s approval in business situations.

She testified that In Touch magazine contacted her in 2011 offering her $15,000 for her story about Trump, which she said she participated in but the story never ran. It did appear, however, on a gossip website.

Daniels’s Trump story remained largely unknown for several years but resurfaced when Trump ran for president in 2016 and his payoff to Playboy model Karen McDougal was reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Justice Juan Merchan sent the jury home for the day. Adult-film actress Stormy Daniels has testified for the prosecution and faced a contentious cross-examination by Donald Trump’s lawyer. The defense says it will continue to cross-examine Daniels when testimony resumes Thursday.

Stormy Daniels testified Tuesday afternoon that her life was rattled by the release of a Wall Street Journal piece in January 2018 about her alleged affair with then-president Donald Trump and a subsequent nondisclosure agreement.

Daniels said that even though she ignored press requests for comment about the ordeal, she stayed quiet per the terms of her $130,000 hush money deal, and her lawyer released a statement suggesting that there had been no sexual situation.

In another testy back-and-forth with Trump lawyer Susan Necheles, Stormy Daniels angrily defended her social media jabs at the former president.

Necheles, seeking to show that the adult-film actress is out for revenge, cited an old tweet by Daniels in which she said “I don’t owe him s--- and I will never give that orange turd a dime.”

Daniels said she wrote that post “in retaliation for what he said about me, correct.”

For years, Trump has referred publicly to Daniels as “horseface.”

In a series of rapid-fire exchanges, Stormy Daniels denied an accusation that she falsified an account of a menacing man threatening her in a parking lot in 2011 if she talked about Donald Trump.

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles noted that Daniels and her then-lawyer Michael Avenatti went on “The View” with a sketch of the man she alleged threatened her.

At the time, Avenatti announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the man’s identification.

 

 

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, Georgia Court Will Hear Appeal of Ruling That Kept Prosecutor on Trump Case, Richard Fausset, May 9, 2024 (print ed.). The decision to hear the appeal reopens the possibility that Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, could be disqualified from prosecuting Donald Trump and 14 allies over efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

georgia mapThe Georgia Court of Appeals will hear an appeal of a ruling that allowed Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, to continue leading the prosecution of former President Donald J. Trump on charges related to election interference, the court announced on Wednesday.

The decision to hear the appeal, handed down by a three-judge panel, is likely to further delay the Georgia criminal case against Mr. Trump and 14 of his allies, making it less likely that the case will go to trial before the November election.

The terse three-sentence announcement reopens the possibility that Ms. Willis could be disqualified from the biggest case of her career, and one of the most significant state criminal cases in the nation’s history.

At issue is a romantic relationship she had with Nathan Wade, a lawyer she hired to handle the prosecution of Mr. Trump. Defense lawyers argued that the relationship amounted to an untenable conflict of interest, and that Ms. Willis and her entire office should be removed from the case.

But on March 15, Judge Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court ruled that Ms. Willis could keep the case if Mr. Wade stepped away from it. Mr. Wade resigned a few hours after judge issued his ruling.

Steven H. Sadow, the lead counsel for Mr. Trump in Georgia, said in a statement Wednesday that his client “looks forward to presenting interlocutory arguments to the Georgia Court of Appeals as to why the case should be dismissed and Fulton County D.A. Willis should be disqualified for her misconduct in this unjustified, unwarranted political persecution.”

A spokesman for Ms. Willis’s office declined to comment on the appeals court’s action.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump May Have Just Violated His Gag Order with Alina Habba’s Stormy Attacks, Brett Meiselas, May 8, 2024. Trump’s paid legal spokesperson attacked Stormy Daniels on Fox.

mtn meidas touch networkFollowing Stormy Daniels’s first appearance on the witness stand in Donald Trump’s criminal election interference trial in New York, Trump has potentially violated his gag order once again via his official legal spokesperson, Alina Habba, after she relentlessly attacked Stormy Daniels on a right-wing media platform Tuesday evening.

The crux of the matter lies in whether Habba’s actions constitute a breach of the gag order imposed on Trump. The essence of the gag order is to prevent parties involved in the case from making public statements that could influence the proceedings or prejudice the jury. While the gag order specifically covers Donald Trump and does not explicitly apply to Donald Trump’s attorneys, Habba was acting as Donald Trump’s paid spokesperson during her Tuesday night interview on Fox News. Habba is not an attorney on the actual defense team.

The gag order issued by Justice Merchan bars Donald Trump from “making or directing others to make public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding.” It can be reasonably construed that Donald Trump directed Habba to attack the witness, Stormy Daniels, due to the fact that she was acting as an official mouthpiece for Donald Trump. Habba’s title was even listed on the Hannity chyron, which read, “FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S LEGAL SPOKESWOMAN.”

During her Hannity appearance, Habba attacked Daniels as “not credible” and accused Daniels of perjuring herself on the stand with “salacious information that was frankly false.” Such statements from an official spokesperson should not be viewed by the Court as any different from an official press release or a social media post. If anything, what Habba is doing may even be worse.

Think about it: Donald Trump is technically paying to have his official spokesperson attempt to intimidate witnesses on primetime television. This seems to be precisely why there is language in the gag order preventing Trump from “directing others” to make public statements about a witness. When you pay a spokesperson, you are “directing them” to make statements on your behalf.

Per a video posted to Instagram, Alina Habba likely made these comments in a remote studio alongside Donald Trump's deputy communications chief, Margo Martin. One post of the two of them in this studio from Monday night featured the caption: "@TEAMTRUMP WORKING HARD DUSK TIL DAWN."

During a Fox appearance on April 30, Habba herself even acknowledged that the gag order would apply to her statements made on behalf of defendant Trump, throwing away any attempt to claim plausible deniability. "But then you have a judge who we've asked to recuse themselves for reasons that I can't speak to because of the gag order, as you know.

During that same appearance, Habba also said: "...because the gag order, I would have you remind the American people, is not just for the president. It was for the president and anyone in his control – campaign, anyone else. How are you supposed to operate?"

The broader implications of this episode extend beyond the confines of the courtroom. At stake is the integrity of the legal process and the principle of impartiality. The notion that a defendant could circumvent the restrictions of a gag order by outsourcing public attacks to a paid spokesperson would set a concerning precedent. It raises questions about the efficacy of gag orders in the age of media saturation and the ever-expanding influence of public figures and their representatives.

Moreover, Habba’s alleged transgression highlights the intricate dynamics between legal strategy, media manipulation, and public perception. In an era characterized by relentless media scrutiny and the weaponization of information, the lines between legal advocacy and public relations blur, often with contentious consequences.

Justice Merchan, after finding Donald Trump in contempt of court for the 10th time on Monday, warned defendant Trump that the “Court will have to consider a jail sanction” if Trump continued to violate the order, deeming fines to be ineffective at preventing Trump’s bad behavior. Time will tell if the Manhattan DA will raise this potential violation with the Court, and how the Court will act if they choose to do so.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The New York trial is wearing down Trump — and it shows, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 7, jennifer rubin new headshot2024.The news media used to monitor Twitter (now known as X) 24/7 to catch the latest utterance from four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump. These days, the press obsessively keeps tabs on Trump’s nap schedule in a Manhattan courtroom.

biden harris 2024 logo oPundits inside the courtroom chime in to inform Americans when he nods off. You can believe Trump’s sleepiness has become noticeable when Fox News propagandists try to cover for him by praising his naps.

Outside of MAGA-friendly media, observers are less sanguine about his dozing off. The Atlantic’s David A. Graham called Trump’s slumbers “worrisome.” He asked, “If Trump can’t manage to stay awake during a trial when his very freedom is on the line, what are the chances that he will be able to focus on the intricacies of a spiraling regional war, a trade policy, or any new crisis that might face him if he returns to the White House?” (One might ask the same of his unhinged rants, juvenile musing about Gettysburg and slurred speech: Is this a man ready to resume the presidency?)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Trial Updates: Trump again found in contempt for violating gag, threatened with jail, May 7, 2024 (print ed.). Trump Organization witness seems skeptical of Cohen’s legal ability; Direct examination of former Trump Organization senior vice president Jeffrey McConney is finished. Cross-examination has begun; Cohen got 1099 tax form for hush money reimbursement, witness says.

A judge ruled Monday that Donald Trump again violated his gag order in the New York hush money trial, and he warned that he would consider jailing the former president if the violations continue.

Donald Trump was threatened with jail for any future violations of a limited gag order imposed in his falsifying business records case.

juan merchan djt

“I find you in criminal contempt for the 10th time,” said Justice Juan Merchan, above left, who said he is concerned that Donald Trump has apparently not taken heed of his prior findings.

“Going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sentence. The last thing I want to do is put you in jail.”

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan made it clear to Trump that his 10th gag order violation — which he ruled on at the start of Monday’s court session — was going to be the last that would result in only a fine.

After the ruling, retired Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McConney testified until the lunch break.

With Donald Trump in court today are his son Eric Trump and a set of lawyers who are not on the case officially: Boris Epshteyn, Alina Habba and Alan Garten.

Last week, former longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks testified about campaign and White House efforts to keep a lid on scandalous stories about him. Before that, Trump’s defense suggested that he was the target of a shakedown attempt when his lawyer paid hush money to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Jurors just saw records showing that Michael Cohen’s reimbursements for paying off an adult-film actress in 2016 were treated as regular compensation as a contractor and that 1099 tax forms were generated to formally document the payments that way.

That categorization is a way for employers to report income that is paid to independent contractors and freelancers.

Politico, Trump's lawyers made a last-minute bid to limit Stormy Daniels' testimony about sex. It didn't work, Josh Gerstein and Ben Feuerherd, May 8, 2024 (print ed.). A prosecutor said Daniels will provide a "very basic" account of a sex act but will omit gratuitous details like "descriptions of genitalia."

politico CustomIt's safe to say virtually everyone in court today is awaiting Stormy Daniels' testimony. But first, we have a different witness: Prosecutors have just called Sally Franklin, a senior vice president and managing editor at publishing company Penguin RandomHouse.

Prosecutor Rebecca Mangold is asking Franklin a series of questions about books related to the former president published by an imprint of the company, including, “Trump: How to Get Rich.”
Ben Feuerherd

With Stormy Daniels expected on the stand later today, Trump's defense team made a last-minute bid to block the porn star from offering up lurid details of her claimed sexual encounter with Trump — an encounter that Trump maintains never happened.

Without getting specific, Trump lawyer Susan Necheles said such details would be “unduly prejudicial” to Trump.

“There’s just no need for these kinds of details here. There’s real questions about the credibility of this woman [but] ... this case is a case about books and records,” Necheles told Justice Juan Merchan before the jury was brought in.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said Daniels needs to be able to explain to the jury what she says happened in Trump’s hotel room at a California golf resort in 2006.

“Her testimony completes the story of the event that precipitated the payoff. The details of the encounter are important,” Hoffinger said.

The prosecutor said Daniels could “omit certain details that might be too salacious,” while still offering “general details of what occurred.”

“In terms of the sexual act, it will be just very basic. It’s not going to involve any descriptions of genitalia,” Hoffinger added.

Merchan acknowledged that Daniels has “credibility issues,” but ruled that she should be able to tell her story within the limits Hoffinger outlined.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: Judge indefinitely delays Trump’s classified documents trial in Florida, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, May 8, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s Florida trial for allegedly mishandling classified documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them has been pushed back indefinitely, U.S. District Judge Aileen M. aileen cannonCannon ruled Tuesday, increasing the chance that Trump’s New York criminal trial may be the only one to happen before the November election.

The judge, right, had originally set the trial date for late May and heard arguments on March 1 about when the trial should be — with Trump’s lawyers pushing to start after the presidential election, in which he is the presumptive Republican nominee, or no earlier than August.

Prosecutors urged Cannon to pick a date in early July.

But in her ruling, the judge said there are too many complicated legal rules and deadlines surrounding the use of classified evidence in public criminal trials that need to be considered before she finalizes a court date. She said she would schedule the trial date at a future time.

Cases that involve classified documents have to follow the rules and legal proceedings defined under the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA.

In her order Tuesday, Cannon set a number of new pre-trial deadlines that parties will have to meet. The latest deadline is a CIPA-related deadline for July 22 — which means the trial will not happen before then.

“The Court also determines that finalization of a trial date at this juncture—before resolution of the myriad and interconnected pre-trial and CIPA issues remaining and forthcoming—would be imprudent and inconsistent with the Court’s duty to fully and fairly consider the various pending pre-trial motions before the Court, critical CIPA issues, and additional pretrial and trial preparations necessary to present this case to a jury,” Cannon wrote.

Trump is the first former U.S. president to be charged with crimes. He faces four separate indictments as he campaigns for another term in the White House, an unprecedented test of the nation’s legal and political systems. The timing of each case — including a state trial in New York that began April 15 — has grown increasingly consequential as he draws closer to a general election rematch against President Biden. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

His D.C. federal trial for allegedly trying to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory is on hold while the Supreme Court weighs his claim that he is immune from prosecutions for actions he took as president. There is no trial date set yet in Georgia, where Trump is charged with a broad conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results in that state.

In Florida, Trump is charged with dozens of counts of mishandling classified information after his presidency ended and plotting with two aides to obstruct government efforts to recover the material from Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach home and private club. He has filed multiple motions seeking to dismiss the charges on a variety of claims.

Prosecutors have accused Trump of taking hundreds of classified documents with him when he left the White House. The Washington Post has previously reported that some of the material was related to nuclear secrets, Iran’s missile program and U.S. intelligence efforts in China.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Judge Cannon CAUGHT Taking Gifts and NOT DISCLOSING, Ben Meiselas, May 5, 2024. mtn meidas touch networkMeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on federal judge Aileen Cannon getting exposed by an NPR investigation for being gifted a lavish trip to Montana by wealthy right-wing activists and not disclosing it until NPR questioned her.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Criminal Trial Speeds Along, With Few Key Witnesses Remaining, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, May 7, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s trial is entering its third week of testimony, and Stormy Daniels, the porn star at the center of it, could soon take the stand.

Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan has reached the third week of testimony, and there are only a few key witnesses who have yet to take the stand.

There is Stormy Daniels, the porn star who accepted hush money in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign to keep silent about her story of having had sex with Mr. Trump a decade earlier. There is Michael D. Cohen, the Trump fixer who made that payment and is expected to be crucial for the prosecution. And there are several employees of the Trump family business, who helped the then-president reimburse Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Trump, the first American president to face criminal prosecution, is charged with 34 felonies related to those reimbursements: The Manhattan district attorney’s office says that he coordinated the falsification of documents related to the repayment.

The exact order of witnesses is unclear, but the trial is zipping along and the prosecution could wrap up in little more than two weeks. Ms. Daniels could testify as soon as this week, bringing her face to face with Mr. Trump, who for years has attacked her.

Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty and has denied that he had sex with Ms. Daniels. If convicted, he could face probation or as long as four years in prison. He will not testify as part of the prosecution’s case; it is unclear whether he will later take the stand in his own defense.

 

Former Trump White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, right, shown by a sketch artist with New York defendant Donald Trump and trial judge Juan Merchan on May 3, 2024.sketch 5 3 2024

Former Trump White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, right, shown by a sketch artist with New York defendant Donald Trump and trial judge Juan Merchan on May 3, 2024.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hope Hicks’s testimony: How Trump responded to the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape and other details, Leo Sands, May 7, 2024 (print ed.). Former top aide and spokeswoman for Donald Trump testified Friday about messaging strategy and the Stormy Daniels hush money payment.

Over more than two hours on the witness stand on Friday, Hope Hicks offered jurors at former president Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how his inner circle responded to negative media stories — particularly about his relationships with women.

New York prosecutors are seeking to build a case that Trump and his advisers were so worried about the potential political damage from such stories that they had a motive to try to quash them. Trump is charged with falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty.

Hicks, who was Trump’s spokeswoman and considered to be one of his most loyal former aides, grew emotional at times as she painted a picture of a man deeply involved in his campaign’s messaging strategy and concerned about scandalous stories landing in the public eye.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Pushes Back Critical Filing Deadline in Trump Documents Case, Alan Feuer, May 7, 2024 (print ed.). Judge Aileen Cannon did not immediately set a new date, but the delay increases the chance that the trial will not happen before the November election.

Reversing one of her own decisions, the federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case granted his request on Monday to postpone the deadline for a crucial court filing in the criminal proceeding, increasing the chance that any trial would be pushed past the November election.

The ruling by the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, was made in a bare-bones order that contained no factual or legal reasoning. It did not schedule a new deadline but erased the one she had set almost a month ago ordering Mr. Trump’s lawyers to file by Thursday a detailed list of the classified materials that they intend to introduce at the trial, which is set to take place at some point in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla.

That list is enormously consequential because, when filed, it will mark the first step in what will ultimately be a pitched battle between the defense and prosecution over what sorts of classified materials the jury will get to hear about at trial — a contested process, balancing issues of public access and national security, that could take months to complete.

Mr. Trump has relentlessly pursued a strategy of delaying all four of the criminal cases he is facing, and if he succeeds in delaying his trial on charges of mishandling classified documents until after the election, he could order his Justice Department to drop the matter altogether if he wins.

Judge Cannon’s postponement of the filing deadline was merely the latest example of her acceding to Mr. Trump’s attempts to delay the classified documents trial. Even though she held a hearing in Fort Pierce on March 1 specifically to change the current May 20 start of the trial, she has not yet selected a new date.

 

Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on May 7, 2024. (Reuters pool photo by Sarah Yenesel)

Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on May 7, 2024. (Reuters pool photo by Sarah Yenesel)

washington post logoWashington Post, Stormy Daniels testifies, Trump curses in an angry day in court, Devlin Barrett, Tom Jackman, Shayna Jacobs and Marianne LeVine, May 8, 2024 (print ed.). Judge expresses alarm at Trump’s cursing amid disturbing testimony about sex.

Stormy Daniels, shown above in a file photol, the adult-film actress at the center of Donald Trump’s hush money trial, testified Tuesday about a disturbing sexual encounter she says she had with him, leading to angry, profane muttering from the former president that alarmed the judge.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan called Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche to a sidebar during a midday break to say that Trump was “cursing audibly” and possibly intimidating Daniels, who had begun testifying, according to a trial transcript.

“I understand that your client is upset at this point,” Merchan said to the defense attorney, according to the transcript, “but he is cursing audibly and he is shaking his head visually and that’s contemptuous. It has the potential to intimidate the witness and the jury can see that.”

Blanche assured the judge he would speak to Trump.

“I am speaking to you here at the bench because I don’t want to embarrass him,” Merchan said. “You need to speak to him. I won’t tolerate that.”

The exchange punctuated a day of rage — sometimes whispered from the defense table, sometimes declared loudly by Daniels from the witness stand.

It was one of several surreal moments on the 13th day of the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president, including descriptions by Daniels of their alleged sexual encounter in 2006 that were so detailed that defense attorneys demanded a mistrial.

While Merchan rejected their request, Daniels at times seemed to be describing nonconsensual sex that could be considered highly prejudicial for the jury, which in turn could give Trump — the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — solid grounds to appeal if he is found guilty.

Trump is accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records for allegedly disguising financial transactions related to a $130,000 hush money payment made to Daniels in 2016 to keep her quiet about what she said happened between them. He has denied the charges and denied having sex with Daniels.

Speaking rapidly and often emphasizing her answers by pointing her finger in the air, Daniels insisted there was nothing about the years of bad blood between her and Trump that made her story untrue. Still, her dislike of the defendant was palpable in the courtroom.

Daniels described meeting Trump at a golf event in Lake Tahoe, Calif., and being invited to his hotel suite that night.

When she got there, she talked with the reality TV star for a couple of hours, but then to her surprise she emerged from the bathroom to find him wearing a T-shirt and boxers and posing on the bed, Daniels said.

“That’s when I had that moment when I felt like the room spun in full motion. And I felt the blood leave my hands and my feet, almost like if you stand up too fast,” she testified. Trump “stood up between me and the door, not in a threatening manner,” though she said she felt an imbalance of power, particularly with Trump’s security guard outside.

“I think I blacked out,” Daniels said, adding that there were many details she didn’t remember but insisting that she wasn’t drugged or drunk.

“Next thing I know I was on the bed,” she testified. “I was staring at the ceiling. I didn’t know how I got there.”

She said the encounter was brief.

Before Daniels testified, Trump’s lawyers had argued that it would be unfair to tell the jury salacious details about an alleged sexual encounter that is not part of the charges against him.

Merchan warned prosecutor Susan Hoffinger not to go into great detail about the alleged encounter, but the prosecutor elicited not only a lengthy description of a sexual experience that often did not sound consensual, but also a raft of other details, down to the brand of shampoo in his bathroom, Pert Plus.

Trump’s lawyers complained bitterly that Daniels’s account of a possible sex crime had hopelessly tainted the jury against him and asked for a mistrial.

“All of this has nothing to do with this case, is extraordinarily prejudicial and the only reason why the government asked those questions, besides pure embarrassment, is to inflame this jury to not look at the evidence that matters,” Blanche said.

Prosecutors said the jury needed to know the underlying details of Daniels’s alleged encounter with Trump to understand why he would be motivated to pay money to keep it quiet. And the specifics, they said, would boost her credibility after it has been attacked by Trump’s lawyers.

Merchan rejected the defense’s request for a mistrial, saying that while Daniels had talked too fast and gone into greater detail than he would like, that was partly the defense’s fault for not objecting more strenuously.

“There are some things that are probably better left unsaid,” Merchan said. “I think there were some things that I think the witness was a little difficult to control. … It was not easy.”

The judge defended his own role during the testimony, saying he had done “everything that I can possibly do to protect both sides.”

Before Daniels was brought back to testify, he instructed the prosecutor to speak to her and make it clear that she needed to speak slower, and only answer the questions she was asked.

May 4

 

djt todd blanche court pen

After Todd Blanche, the Trump lawyer (above right) on increasingly thin ice with his client, read Michael Cohen’s tweet calling Trump “Von ShitzInPantz,” you could hear stifled giggles in the courtroom. That turned into laughter — immediately shushed by the humorless court police — when the overhead video screens displayed a PhotoShopped fat Trump as a bright orange superhero named “Super Victim.”

Old Goats with Jonathan Alter, Trump Trial Commentary: Day Ten: Former lawyer for Stormy Daniels and Karen jonathan alter headshotMcDougal gets blisters on cross-examination, Jonathan Alter, right, May 4, 2024. Day 11, when Hope Hicks took the stand, was a terrible one for Donald Trump, but you will have to read about that tomorrow.

For now, I want to offer my take on Day 10, when I grew a tad concerned. Not worried or pessimistic; I still think the odds favor conviction. But the thought occurred to me during the lacerating cross-examination of Keith Davidson that it’s quite possible one or more members of the jury will decide to hang it.

The morning opened with Judge Juan Merchan’s second contempt hearing. On Thursday, the judge held Trump in contempt of court on nine of the ten counts offered by the prosecution. This time, Merchan is considering four violations of the gag order from the last two weeks, each featuring Trump trashing witnesses and the jury, a serious no-no in criminal trials.

One of my favorite recurring humiliations of Trump is that he must sit silently — without posting nasty rejoinders or changing the channel — while hatred and ridicule of him pour forth, almost always in the voice of his own attorneys. This happened during jury selection when defense lawyers convinced the judge to dismiss potential jurors who called Trump “the devil” or a “sociopath.” And we’ve now watched Trump endure two contempt hearings where his lawyers insisted that he wasn’t violating the gag order by replying to vicious attacks from Michael Cohen, the former Trump Organization attorney central to the hush money/election interference scheme.

Today, the defense did so with 500 pages of exhibits that they had sent to the judge, most consisting of Cohen going after Trump. Merchan, looking at his watch, only had the patience for a sampling.

After Todd Blanche, the Trump lawyer on increasingly thin ice with his client, read Cohen’s tweet calling Trump “Von ShitzInPantz,” you could hear stifled giggles in the courtroom. That turned into laughter — immediately shushed by the humorless court police — when the overhead video screens displayed a PhotoShopped fat Trump as a bright orange superhero named “Super Victim.” Orange was a theme. I especially enjoyed the image of Trump in an orange jumpsuit next to Nelson Mandela. (Trump recently dubbed himself a “modern-day” version of the anti-apartheid hero) and the line: “Keep messing with me Donald and I won’t send anything to your commissary.”

 

djt court pool

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Scandals Captivate the Courtroom, but the Case Hangs on Dry Details, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman May 4, 2024. Prosecutors started their criminal case against Donald Trump with eye-catching and lurid stories, but the heart of the matter is invoices and ledger entries.

Donald J. Trump is on trial for 34 felony counts of what could be the dullest sounding crime in New York’s penal code: falsifying business records.

Yet, across nine witnesses and two weeks of testimony, jurors have been treated to hours of mesmerizing courtroom theater.

There was talk of a sex scandal with a porn star, a surreptitious recording of a future president and the tearful testimony of a former confidante in the glare of the witness stand. There was even a celebrity roll call: Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan and the reality television star Tila Tequila were all name-checked this week, drawing chuckles in the Lower Manhattan courtroom.

The phrase “falsifying business records,” however, was not uttered to the jury during testimony. Not even once.

That striking omission underscores the prosecution’s strategy for the opening phase of testimony: Spotlight the sleaze, and soft-pedal the records. Although the defense has already taken a swipe at the approach, legal experts say it represents the prosecution’s best shot at winning the case, the first criminal trial of an American president.

In their opening statement, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office previewed the false records to the jurors, casting them as straightforward paper “lies” that covered up a hush-money payment to the porn star. But tying Mr. Trump to those records is hardly simple. Only one witness directly links Mr. Trump to falsifying the records, and that person, as the defense is fond of noting, is a convicted liar.

So the prosecution started with the strongest card in its hand, eliciting testimony about the sordid stories that Mr. Trump is accused of covering up. Prosecutors say he concealed them to shield his 2016 campaign from scandal, orchestrating an “illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of a presidential election.”

Mr. Trump is not charged with conspiracy, but New York law requires prosecutors to show that Mr. Trump falsified the records to conceal another crime. The purported election conspiracy, in all its lurid detail, would essentially establish his motive.

By foregrounding the conspiracy, prosecutors are captivating the jury while laying a foundation for evidence about the business records to emerge. As soon as next week, prosecutors are expected to begin connecting the dots between the smut and the substance.

The strategy carries risks, including that jurors could blame the prosecutors for subjecting them to a parade of filth. Two members of the jury are lawyers, the type of arbiters who might tune out what the defense calls “salacious” noise.

May 3

 

bf borgers logoMeidas Touch Network, Commentary: SEC Charges Auditing Firm for Trump Media with 'Massive' Fraud, Brett Meiselas, May 3, 2024. The auditor and its owner have agreed to a permanent suspension and $14 million in civil penalties.

 The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Trump Media auditing firm BF Borgers CPA and its owner mtn meidas touch networkBenjamin Borgers, right, with significant fraud, affecting over 1,500 SEC filings. Both parties have BF Borgersagreed to a permanent suspension from practicing as accountants before the SEC and to pay a combined $14 million in civil penalties, without admitting or denying the allegations. The SEC described BF Borgers as a "sham audit mill" for its deliberate and systemic failures to comply with audit standards, calling the scale of the firm's fraud "massive."

During the period in question, BF Borgers audited Trump Media, which later merged with Digital World Acquisition Corp to become publicly traded. Despite the merger, Trump Media's board decided to retain BF Borgers as their auditors for 2024. The SEC accused BF Borgers and Benjamin Borgers of falsely claiming compliance with audit standards, fabricating documents, and making false statements in audit reports.

The SEC's enforcement director criticized BF Borgers for causing significant risks to investors and markets by allowing non-compliant audits to be included in over 1,500 SEC filings. This action has raised concerns about the accuracy of financial information in reports issued by audited companies, including Trump Media.

As of the SEC's announcement, Trump Media's website still listed BF Borgers as their independent auditor, but a spokesperson stated that the company will seek new auditing partners in compliance with the SEC order. Following the news, Trump Media's share price experienced a 9% decline in trading.

May 1

 

djt time cover if he wins

djt biden resized smilesThe Hartmann Report, Commentary: Would "Dictator" Trump Kill his Rivals? Thom Hartmann, right, May 1, 2024. Trump has thom hartmannunleashed his inner psychopath and if he wins this election it’s going to get uglier here in America than most people today can imagine…

time logo ogTime Magazine reporter Eric Cortellessa spent hours interviewing Donald Trump, producing ashocking cover story this week. Converting one of his opening paragraphs into bullet points for readability, he summarized that Trump fully plans:

— “To carry out a deportation operation designed to remove more than 11 million people from the country, Trump told me, he would be willing to build migrant detention camps and deploy the U.S. military, both at the border and inland.
— “He would let red states monitor women’s pregnancies and prosecute those who violate abortion bans.
— “He would, at his personal discretion, withhold funds appropriated by Congress, according to top advisers.
— “He would be willing to fire a U.S. Attorney who doesn’t carry out his order to prosecute someone, breaking djt maga hatwith a tradition of independent law enforcement that dates from America’s founding.
— “He is weighing pardons for every one of his supporters accused of attacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, more than 800 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury.
— “He might not come to the aid of an attacked ally in Europe or Asia if he felt that country wasn’t paying enough for its own defense.
— “He would gut the U.S. civil service, deploy the National Guard to American cities as he sees fit, close the White House pandemic-preparedness office, and staff his Administration with acolytes who back his false assertion that the 2020 election was stolen.”

ICE logoWhile each and every one of Cortellessa’s points gleaned from Trump’s admissions and brags have the potential to transform America into a nation more closely resembling Russia or Saudi Arabia than anything seen here since the violence of the Confederacy, the reporter failed to ask Trump about his most troubling threat: to use assassination as a political weapon the way Putin and MBS do routinely.

Along those lines, CNN and the rest of America learned this past weekend that Bill Barr heard Trump repeatedly call for the murder of people he dislikes, but Barr says he thinks it’s all just bluster. Like that January 6th “bluster” that almost led to Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi ending up dead, and killed at least eight other individuals, including police officers.

Historians will tell you that dictators throughout history started just this same way, making vague threats to whip up their followers and engaging in “bluster.” And then, when the blood starts flowing, people realized, too late, that they should have been taking that all rhetoric seriously.

Killing his political rivals has been a theme with Donald Trump for years, and now that he’s promising to be a “dictator on day one” and to engage in “revenge” and “retribution” it’s past time to take him seriously.

Back in 2016, he bragged that he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and his followers would still vote for him.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Are Far-Right Insurrectionists Infiltrating the Pro-Ceasefire Protests As Part of the Run-seth abramson graphicUp to the November Political Violence Trump Just Hinted at in Time Magazine? Seth Abramson, left, professor, best-selling Trump biographer and attorney, May 1, 2024. On social media, whispers have become chatter, chatter a chorus of concern. Is some percentage of these Gaza protests attributable to MAGA stagecraft? The evidence of inorganic mass action is growing.

seth abramson proof logoIntroduction: Proof adamantly rejects the post-January 6 conspiracy theorizing of the insurrectionist far right—which, without evidence, said that the armed attack on the United States Capitol that day was both instigated and carried out by FBI agents—so we begin our consideration of the 2024 Gaza Protests by stating unequivocally that a great many of the protesters demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza War at scores of colleges and universities across America are indeed leftists.

Proof would even add that the overwhelming majority of them are leftists, but candidly—as this report shows—that would be journalistic overreach, as we simply don’t know anything about the majority of the protesters, let alone an “overwhelming” majority.

What we do know is this:

Supporters of Donald Trump have already begun to verbalize online their view that these protests, which have been largely nonviolent, are in fact terrifically violent; that these protests, which are animated first and foremost by a desire to save Gazan children from being killed in a conflict they have nothing to do with, is in fact a domestic terror operation; and that in view of these two false claims, MAGAs are entitled to engage in nationwide political violence if Trump loses this November because they would merely be doing the same as leftists are doing now.

Trump supporters in government are almost universally calling for aggressive law enforcement responses to these largely nonviolent protests, despite knowing that such aggressive responses often lead to violence that would not otherwise have occurred (and despite knowing that government suppression of protected speech is in many cases a free speech violation, which one would expect conservatives to know after years of them falsely calling a free speech issue non-government actors like Twitter engaging in content moderation under their publicly posted Terms of Service).

djt maga hatThe closer a demagogue is to real power in the Trumpist GOP—whether it be Governor Greg Abbott in Texas or Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, Republican Party leaders in Congress like Mike Johnson and Elise Stefanik or the hundreds of online influencers atop the MAGA “movement”—the more likely that person is to be advocating for actions in response to the campus protests that any public policy or law enforcement expert would tell you are far more likely to enflame the situation on college and university campuses in America than resolve them.

Trump just told Time magazine that he cannot promise that his supporters won’t get violent if he loses, and that he will not instruct them to remain peaceful. In fact, Trump, who has consistently said that if he doesn’t win the election handily it by definition was rigged against him, has made clear that the only guarantee of a peaceful transition in 2025 is a Trump victory. All this puts him in a precarious legal position, as he’s already under federal indictment over January 6 at the state and federal levels (and an unindicted co-conspirator in at least Michigan and Arizona so far) but has under six months to prepare his followers for the violence he’s now implicitly expecting of them; how can he incite another armed rebellion without facing new charges? In 2021, he and his followers justified January 6 by pointing to the 2020 George Floyd protests—a miniscule percentage of which became violent when they were infiltrated (per a Just Security report submitted into the congressional record) by organized crime, white supremacists, apolitical anarchists, and suspected 4chan trolls—and seem to be positioning themselves now to justify a second round of post-election violence using the Gaza protests. This means that Trump, his associates inside the Republican Party apparatus, and his rank-and-file followers all see a benefit in the Gaza protests turning violent.

A Supreme Court ruling just upheld the most serious abridgment of Freedom of Assembly in America in generations, though thankfully the decision for now only affects Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Under the new legal regime in these three red states, it only takes one far-right agitator infiltrating a left-wing protest for the leader(s) of that protest to face legal repercussions that could destroy their lives forever. This, despite the evidence that the far right has engaged in exactly these sorts of infiltrations this decade.

Unsurprisingly, this attack on the First Amendment garnered absolutely no complaints whatsoever from supposed far-right First Amendment “absolutists” like Elon Musk. So what does this have to do with the Gaza protests? Well, it means that at many of the campus protests—especially the several now ongoing in Texas and Louisiana—there is a significant potential benefit to far-right agitators who are able to successfully infiltrate the protests that goes well beyond just possible rhetorical cover for post-election violence in November and December of this year, as it also could extend to efforts to decimate the organized left in an election year through new lawsuits targeting left-leaning political organizers.

And it’s in the context of the items above that two further observations must be made:

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterWe don’t know how many American and Israeli Jews now saying that the campus protests are threatening them are supporters of Trump or his friend Benjamin Netanyahu, right. This is not to say that there haven’t been documented instances of antisemitism at some of the now-ongoing Gaza protests, as there certainly have been), but simply that we can’t ignore the context in which these protests are occurring: months of efforts by far-right billionaires to attack higher education through overheated claims of antisemitism against the nation’s top academic institutions, accompanied by a concerted effort by the far-right Likud Party in Israel (and the Trumpist GOP in America) to equate any complaint against the Netanyahu administration with not just antisemitism but terroristic antisemitism. Just recently, Netanyahu described young people in America exercising their constitutional right to free speech en masse as nothing more than the “horrific” actions of “antisemitic mobs” that have (and it’s not clear what he’s actually referring to here) “taken over leading universities [in America]” (emphasis added). Netanyahu went on to lie about what has been happening during these protests, describing a fanciful epidemic of physical “attacks” on Jewish students and faculty and using such an imaginary portrait of ongoing mass violence in America as grounds to compare America in 2024 to “1930s Germany.” Netanyahu calls these exercises of free speech “unconscionable” and demands that they be “stopped”, taking great care to excoriate presumptively left-leaning college administrators and praise presumptively right-leaning government “officials” for their response to the protests (he seems to refer to Governors Abbott and Youngkin particularly). And in his most shameful incitement of all, Netanyahu claimed that the student protesters broadly writ want to “kill Jews wherever they are.” That’s outrageous.

As the data below confirms, over 50% of those participating in the largest campus protests now ongoing have no affiliation with the campuses on which the protests are occurring. To be clear—and as is confirmed below with major-media sourcing—Proof is not saying that the majority of those who are participating in the Gaza protests aren’t students at the colleges and universities where the largest protests are occurring, Proof is saying (again, with the benefit of hard data) that a majority of those at these protests have no affiliation with the campuses on which these protests are occurring whatsoever. They aren’t students or faculty or staff or administrators or longstanding contractors or alumni; they are, in fact, totally anonymous. This means we know nothing about their backgrounds, their motivations, or, yes, even their political affiliations.

So there’s ample data and precedent to support the idea that some number of Trumpist agitators could be infiltrating these protests to discredit them, inflame them, direct them toward violence, build from inside them a supposed precedent for future far-right political violence, direct otherwise peaceful leftists toward actions that could put them out of commission during the upcoming political organizing season, and, above all else, seed within their ranks an utter hatred of President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party that we already know the Republican Party is angling for because it’s more or less all their leaders talk about anymore inside or outside of Washington.

 

juan merchan djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Contempt Fines and Hush-Money Details: 5 Takeaways From Trump’s Trial, Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek, May 1, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump was fined $9,000 for violating a gag order, and a lawyer testified about deals to silence two women who said they had trysts with Mr. Trump.

The third week of the criminal trial of Donald J. Trump began with a rebuke: The judge, Juan M. Merchan (shown above at left), held the former president in contempt and fined him $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order. He also threatened jail time if the violations continue.

That decision on Tuesday, triggered by Mr. Trump’s comments on social media about witnesses and others, preceded riveting testimony from a lawyer who had arranged a $130,000 hush-money payment to conceal a tryst between Mr. Trump and a porn star, Stormy Daniels, a sum paid weeks before the 2016 election.

keith davidson attorneyThe lawyer, Keith Davidson, right, also described an earlier deal to buy the silence of another woman, Karen McDougal, who said she’d had a longer-term affair with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump, 77, is charged with falsifying 34 business records to hide the payment to Ms. Daniels. He has denied the felony charges, and having had sex with Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal. He could face probation or prison if convicted.

Here are takeaways from the ninth day of Mr. Trump’s trial, the first prosecution of an American president:
A lawyer recounts two stories and two deals to bury them.

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtubeMr. Davidson, a Los Angeles lawyer, described in painstaking detail the pressured negotiations to pay off Ms. McDougal, left, in summer 2016, which played out in text messages with Dylan Howard, an editor at The National Enquirer. The tabloid had agreed to buy negative stories about Mr. Trump and then bury them.

Ms. McDougal was eventually paid $150,000 and promised other perks, a deal hashed out in sometimes jocular terms.

djt karen mcdougal blue dress

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happened at the Trump Trial on Tuesday: Lawyer for Stormy Daniels Exposes Seamy Underside of Celebrity, Michael Rothfeld, May 1, 2024 (print ed.). Keith Davidson, the lawyer who represented two women from Donald Trump’s past, testified in his criminal trial about the hush-money deals both received.

The tantalizing text message was sent by a lawyer for a former Playboy model (shown above) to the editor of The National Enquirer.

“I have blockbuster Trump story,” read the message sent in 2016 by the Los Angeles lawyer, Keith Davidson, right, who keith davidson attorneywas on the witness stand as prosecutors posted it Tuesday morning for jurors at Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial.

The editor, Dylan Howard, asked in response: “did he cheat.”

The texts were an evocative beginning to testimony that laid bare the seamy ways celebrity scandal is leveraged and sold. In this case, it was a deal negotiated by Mr. Davidson for Karen McDougal, the model, who wanted to rejuvenate her career by leveraging her story of a romantic affair with Mr. Trump. She has said the liaison began in 2006 after he was already married to his current wife, Melania.

The Enquirer’s parent company paid her $150,000 for the rights to that story, but never published it, using a tactic called “catch-and-kill.” The Enquirer’s publisher has previously testified that he used the method to suppress negative news about Mr. Trump during the 2016 election.

Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Davidson began to testify about his representation of Stormy Daniels, a porn star whose hush-money deal is at the center of the case. Ms. Daniels was paid $130,000 by Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, to remain silent about her account of sex with Mr. Trump, also in 2006.

The payments for both women were initially wired to Mr. Davidson, who no longer represents either.

The Daniels deal is at the center of this criminal trial, in which Mr. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up his repayment of the hush money to Mr. Cohen. He has denied wrongdoing, and said he did not have sex with Ms. Daniels or an affair with Ms. McDougal.

Mr. Davidson should be a useful witness to the Manhattan district attorney’s office because he was directly involved in both deals, which prosecutors have cast as the fruit of a conspiracy to sway the election.

Mr. Davidson said he had met Ms. McDougal when she was dating a friend, and she had approached him to help her in 2016. At that time, Mr. Trump had gained remarkable momentum in his efforts to secure the Republican nomination.

In his retainer, which jurors saw, Mr. Davidson promised to help her with “claims against Donald Trump and or assisting client in negotiating a confidentiality agreement and/or life rights related to interactions with Donald Trump,” along with possibly negotiating press opportunities about Mr. Trump.

Then jurors saw the raw and sometimes unsavory texts he had exchanged with Mr. Howard, the editor, as he tried to negotiate a deal for her.

In one, Mr. Davidson told Mr. Howard that Ms. McDougal’s story “should be told.” Mr. Howard responded, “I agree” — even though the Enquirer’s publisher had a secret deal to protect Mr. Trump from such stories and would not publish Ms. McDougal’s. Mr. Howard is in his native Australia and is not expected to testify. Prosecutors have indicated he is unable to travel because of an illness.

 

Longtime Trump aide Jason Miller, right, is accused in a civil suit of sexual harassment and other offenses against a campaign staffer he allegedly impregnated while he was married.jason miller djt

Longtime Trump aide Jason Miller, right, is accused in a civil suit of sexual harassment and other offenses against a campaign staffer he allegedly impregnated while he was married.

ny times logoNew York Times, Firm Defending Donald Trump Seeks to Leave a Long-Running Case, Ken Bensinger, May 1, 2024 (print ed.). The law firm, LaRocca Hornik, asked to withdraw from a suit by a former Trump campaign surrogate who said she was sidelined in 2016 after revealing her pregnancy.

A law firm that has long defended Donald J. Trump’s campaign and businesses from employment lawsuits has abruptly asked to withdraw from a yearslong case over what it calls an “irreparable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.”

The firm — LaRocca, Hornik, Greenberg, Rosen, Kittridge, Carlin and McPartland — has represented Mr. Trump’s political operation in numerous suits dating to his first presidential run, helping secure several settlements and dismissals and billing nearly $3 million in the process.

aj delgado 2016 youtubeBut late on Friday, it asked a federal magistrate judge to allow it to withdraw from a suit filed by a former campaign surrogate, A.J. Delgado, right, who says she was sidelined by the campaign in 2016 after revealing she was pregnant. The timing of the motion was notable, just two days after the same federal court had ordered the campaign to turn over in discovery all complaints of sexual harassment and gender or pregnancy discrimination from the 2016 and 2020 campaigns — materials that the defendants have long resisted handing over.

In the request, filed in federal court in Manhattan, the lead lawyer, Jared Blumetti, did not provide any details about the dispute, asking permission to “explain” the matter privately with the judge. Mr. Blumetti did not respond to a request for comment.

The apparent rupture with a long-trusted firm comes at a busy time, legally speaking, for the former president.

djt stormy daniels 2006He is in the third week of a criminal trial in a 2016 campaign sex scandal cover-up case involving the porn star Stormy Daniels, left, and is facing additional criminal charges in Georgia as well as in two separate sets of federal indictments. Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether Mr. Trump is absolutely immune from criminal charges for actions he took while in the White House. And he is appealing judgments totaling more than $500 million in two civil verdicts from last year.

It was not immediately clear whether LaRocca Hornik, which has its offices inside 40 Wall Street, a building in downtown Manhattan that is owned by Mr. Trump, intends to cut all ties with him. But such a break would hardly be new. In January, one of Mr. Trump’s defense lawyers, Joe Tacopina, said he would no longer represent him. Last year, at least four of his other lawyers, representing him in a variety of civil and criminal cases, stepped aside.

Ms. Delgado, who is representing herself in the matter, objected to the withdrawal in a filing Monday, arguing it should not be allowed until the discovery process has been completed and calling the request a “scheme to avoid compliance.”

Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker said that LaRocca Hornik would have to continue to represent the campaign for the time being and that she would schedule a conference with the law firm and the campaign to discuss the matter.

The firm has represented Mr. Trump’s business interests for at least a decade, defending Trump Model Management in a wage case filed in 2014, for example. It also represented the campaign in both of Mr. Trump’s previous runs for the White House and was paid $1.8 million between September 2016 and December 2020, Federal Election Commission records show. Since then, the former president’s super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., has paid LaRocca Hornik an additional $990,000, including a payment of $15,103.90 as recently as March 25.

In addition to the case filed by Ms. Delgado, the firm is still representing the campaign in a sexual discrimination and abuse lawsuit filed by Jessica Denson, a former Hispanic outreach coordinator for the 2016 campaign. The most recent filing in that suit, in a New York state court, was made on April 16 and makes no mention of a desire to end the legal relationship.

Ms. Delgado brought her suit against the campaign, as well as against the former advisers Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, in 2019, claiming sex and pregnancy discrimination.

While working for the campaign, she became pregnant by her supervisor, Jason Miller, a senior communications adviser and spokesman. When she revealed her pregnancy shortly after the 2016 election, her complaint said, she was relieved of most of her duties and “immediately and inexplicably stopped receiving emails and other communications.”

 

April 2024

April 28

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Has Never Sounded Like This, Charles Homans, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). No major U.S. presidential candidate has talked like Donald Trump now does at his rallies — not Richard Nixon, not George Wallace, not even himself.

Trump’s critics were right in 2016 to observe the grim novelty of his politics: their ideology of national pessimism, their open demagoguery and clear affinities with the far right, their blunt division of the country into us and them in a way that no major party’s presidential nominee had dared for decades. But Trump’s great accomplishment, one that was less visible from a distance but immediately apparent at his rallies, was the us that he conjured there: the way his supporters saw not only him but one another, and saw in themselves a movement.

That us is still there in Trump’s 2024 speeches. But it is not really the main character anymore. These speeches, and the events that surround them, are about them — what they have done to Trump, and what Trump intends to do in return.

As with everything about Trump, what was once revolutionary has become institutionalized. The insult-comic riffs and winding tours through the headlines are more constrained and repetitive now, his performer’s instincts duller than they once were. The brutalist building blocks of the prepared speech, its stock-photo celebrations of national triumphs (“We stand on the shoulders of American heroes who crossed the ocean, settled the continent, tamed the wilderness, laid down the railroads, raised up those great beautiful skyscrapers … ”) and lamentations of national decline, now stand out in clearer relief.

They build to a rhetorical climax that is echoed from one speech to the next. In Claremont, N.H., in November, he said:

"2024 is our final battle. With you at my side — and you’ve been at my side from the beginning — we will demolish the deep state. We’ll expel, we’re going to expel, those horrible, horrible warmongers from our government. They want to fight everybody. They want to kill people all over the place. Places we’ve never heard about before. Places that want to be left alone."

No major American presidential candidate has talked like this — not Richard Nixon, not George Wallace, not even Trump himself. Before November 2020, his speeches, for all their boundary crossings, stopped short of the language of “vermin” and “enemies within.”

When I asked the political historian Federico Finchelstein what he made of the speech, he replied bluntly: “This is how fascists campaign.” 

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Trial Could Bring a Rarity: Consequences for His Words, Maggie Haberman and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 28, 2024. Donald Trump has spent decades spewing thousands of words and contradicting himself. That tendency is working against him in his Manhattan criminal case.

“So that’s not true? That’s not true?”

The judge in control of Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial had just cut off the former president’s lawyer, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche had been in the midst of defending a social media post in which his client wrote that a statement that had been public for years “WAS JUST FOUND!”

Mr. Blanche had already acknowledged during the Tuesday hearing that Mr. Trump’s post was false. But the judge, Juan M. Merchan, wasn’t satisfied.

“I need to understand,” Justice Merchan said, glaring down at the lawyer from the bench, “what I am dealing with.”

The question of what is true — or at least what can be proven — is at the heart of any trial. But this particular defendant, accused by the Manhattan district attorney’s office of falsifying business records to conceal a sex scandal, has spent five decades spewing thousands and thousands of words, sometimes contradicting himself within minutes, sometimes within the same breath, with little concern for the consequences of what he said.

Mr. Trump has treated his own words as disposable commodities, intended for single use, and not necessarily indicative of any deeply held beliefs. And his tendency to pile phrases on top of one another has often worked to his benefit, amusing or engaging his supporters — sometimes spurring threats and even violence — while distracting, enraging or just plain disorienting his critics and adversaries.

If Mr. Blanche seemed unconcerned at the hearing that he was telling a criminal judge that his client had said something false, it may have been simply because the routine has become so familiar.

Mr. Trump’s career-long habit of a ready-fire-aim stream of consciousness — on social media, on television, to newspaper reporters, to rally attendees — can now be held against him by prosecutors and a judge who has genuine power over him.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to hold the former president in criminal contempt for violating a gag order that bars him from attacking witnesses, which they argued was necessary given that his previous attacks had “resulted in credible threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation.” Justice Merchan’s questioning of the truth of what Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social was one of several episodes that have brought into stark relief how talking constantly in public — which made Mr. Trump a tabloid fixture and then a reality-television star — has been working against him lately.

Eventually, the case could threaten not only Mr. Trump’s freedom but also the central tenets of a lifelong ethos ever-present in the former president’s patter: a convenient disregard for the truth, the blunt denial of anything damaging and a stubborn insistence that his adversaries are always acting in bad faith.

The consequences so far have been minimal. Prosecutors told the judge at the contempt hearing Tuesday that for now, they were not seeking jail time for comments that mostly targeted two key witnesses: Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer, and Ms. Daniels, the porn star who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump and whom Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 to keep silent weeks before the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump is less moved by threats of being fined. Still, when he faced a similar punishment in a civil fraud trial late last year, he slowed his attacks on a court official after the penalties mounted.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:  It's all about respect, not cults of personality or intolerance, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, April 28, 2024. Howard Stern and I are roughly the same age, We were both born in 1954 a few months apart. We also grew up in racially-mixed suburbia, he in Roosevelt, Long Island, myself in Levittown, New Jersey (later renamed Willingboro, its colonial era name).

wayne madesen report logoMy earliest teachers ingrained in me and my fellow students a healthy respect for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, as well as leaders like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and both Presidents Roosevelt. Seperate federal holidays were observed for Washington and Lincoln in February, which meant two days off from school. Our town's Fourth of July parades featured veterans of World War I.

Stern's very respectful interview of President Biden on his Sirius radio show might, at first, seem surprising for someone known as the once shockiest of shock jock deejays. It's not at all. Stern, myself, and most decent Americans around our age, recall the respect we and our parents had for our senior statesmen. That respect even trickled down to our governors. For Stern, it was Nelson Rockefeller of New York and for me, Governor Richard Hughes of New Jersey. As those of our age reached our teens and faced possible conscription into the Army for the meat grinder of Vietnam, the respect for presidents like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon rapidly declined into nothing but contempt. For LBJ and Tricky Dick, that disdain was richly deserved.

Now we are faced with another contemptuous candidate for president, the former occupier of the Oval Office who backed an insurrection and attempted coup against the United States. He is someone who has vowed to round up his political opponents and even have them executed -- that is, if we are to believe Donald Trump attorney John Sauer who argued for the ex-president's virtual total immunity from prosecution before the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is nothing wrong with showing respect to public servants like Biden, who first entered the U.S. Senate in 1973 following the tragic deaths of his wife and young daughter in a December 1972 pre-Christmas traffic accident in Wilmington, Delaware.

The respect we once paid to Ike and JFK had much to do with their wartime service. Kennedy, like Biden, suffered a personal tragedy when his and the First Lady's infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, died two days after birth on August 9, 1963. Franklin Roosevelt's coping with polio while commanding U.S. forces during World War II earned him the respect of the nation. We should be grateful that we have a senior and experienced statesman like Biden in office. It's sometimes hard to believe but FDR was only 63 when he died in office in 1945. Teddy Roosevelt was only 60 when he died 1919, the same age that Calvin Coolidge was when he died in 1933.

Many countries were able to rely on their senior statesmen, who, like Biden, stood up to save their nations in times of distress and turmoil. A war weary Winston Churchill, who was turned out of office in 1945, returned to Number 10 Downing Street in 1951 at the age of 77, the same age as Trump is today. The difference between an elder statesman like Churchill and a grifter like Trump is that Churchill's main goal in 1951 was to build 300,000 new houses per year for Britons, many of them veterans of World War. It would have never crossed Churchill's mind to refer to those who helped save Britain "losers and suckers." But that is the difference between an elder statesman like Churchill and low-life reprobates and scoundrels like Trump.

Elder statesmen who have given their all, including their lives in some cases, deserve respect and not disgusting insults from those who have never once in their miserable lives lent a helping hand to others. In order to steer India toward peaceful independence from Britain, Mahatma Gandhi, at the age of 78, embarked on a dangerous path of avoiding bloody inter-communal religious strife in his nascent nation. Gandhi paid for his selfless acts with his life, falling victim to gunfire from a Hindu nationalist extremist in 1948.

Another selfless act was displayed by the wartime leader of the Greek government-in-exile, George Papandreou. Elected prime minister in 1964 at the age of 76, Papandreou confronted the Greek military and King in an attempt to thwart their right-wing anti-constitutional subversive moves. Papandreou, who had served in Greek governments since 1923, was overthrown in a royalist-backed military coup in 1967. During his house arrest, Papandreou died at

There is no surprise that Trump supporters treat Biden with ageist contempt even though their cult leader, at the age of 77, constantly utters forth indecipherable babble and farts himself awake during his New York trial. There is a difference between Trump and other senior citizens who have served as leaders of their nations in times of stress and dysfunction. Trump is a carnival act who only lives for the spotlight and the grift. Biden, on the other hand, could have spent the rest of his life in Delaware, walking the beach and giving lectures to students at the University of Pennsylvania. Instead, he saw where Trump was taking the nation during a catastrophic pandemic. Biden will eventually be considered one of America's greatest presidents and future historians will rank him alongside FDR, Churchill, De Gaulle, Adenauer, and Mandela. Trump will co-exist in the history books with the names Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, and Kim Jong Un.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Supreme Court TIPS ITS HAT after Argument, Michael Popok, April 28, 2024. mtn meidas touch networkThere will be at least 5 or even 6 votes at the United States Supreme Court to give TRUMP IMMUNITY from at least some of the allegations and crimes in the Special Counsel’s DC Election interference case, and cause a delay that will prevent the case from being tried before November.

Michael Popok analyzes the oral argument, and, without blowing smoke or sunshine, gives you his best estimate of what the Court’s opinion is likely to look like when it’s issued in June.

April 27

 

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, In Trump’s Trial, the Defense Tries to Knock Down the Allegation of a Plot, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). As The National Enquirer’s former publisher returned to the stand, defense lawyers tried to discredit the idea there was a plan to protect Donald Trump.

david pecker croppedDavid Pecker, right, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, is set to return to the stand for a fourth day. Defense lawyers have tried to undercut his testimony about a conspiracy to bury negative stories and help elect Donald J. Trump.

The criminal trial of Donald J. Trump on Friday will feature the continued cross-examination of the prosecution’s first witness, David Pecker, as defense lawyers try to discredit the idea that there had been a plot to protect Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

On Thursday, Mr. Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, described his own involvement in the suppression of the stories of two women who claimed to have had sex with Mr. Trump: Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, the porn star whose 2016 hush-money payoff is at the root of the prosecution’s case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Number of Trump Allies Facing Election Interference Charges Keeps Growing, Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Prosecutors are sending a warning as Donald Trump and his supporters spread conspiracy theories: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Fifty-three people who tried to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election have now been criminally charged.

The indictments have been brought in four swing states that will be crucial to the upcoming election, most recently on kris mayes oWednesday in Arizona, where Kris Mayes, right, the Democratic attorney general, said that she could “not allow American democracy to be undermined.” The message she and other prosecutors are sending represents a warning as Mr. Trump and his supporters continue to spread election conspiracy theories ahead of another presidential contest: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Mr. Trump’s own legal complications are also growing. On Wednesday, he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in election interference investigations in both Arizona and Michigan. He has already been charged in Georgia while facing two federal prosecutions and a criminal trial in Manhattan related to hush money payments made to a porn star.

What’s more, Mr. Trump’s top legal strategist, Boris Epshteyn, was indicted in Arizona on Wednesday.

There remains a possibility that Mr. Trump’s aides and allies will be put on trial for manipulating an election on his behalf, while he is not. If he is re-elected president in November, the federal courts, or even Congress, could shield him from having to face trial in the Georgia election interference case, at least while he is in office, on the grounds that a president sitting in an Atlanta courtroom for weeks or months would be unable to carry out his constitutional duties.

He could also use his executive powers to halt the two federal cases against him.

“I assume, should these constitutional concerns about putting Trump on trial while president play out, there would be efforts to sever the other defendants, and no reason for the trials as to those defendants not to proceed,” said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Columbia University.

Democrats are leading all of the state prosecutions, though they have moved slowly. None of the cases are likely to come to trial before the election, a reality that has frustrated many on the left. While Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has been investigating since early 2021, her racketeering case has been slowed by its scope and complexity, and by efforts to disqualify her.

Ms. Willis brought charges last August against Mr. Trump and 18 of his allies and advisers, laying out a number of ways she said they had conspired to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss in the state.

Cases in Michigan and Nevada have focused solely on the Republicans whom the Trump campaign deployed as fake electors in those states. Having slates of people claiming to be electors for Mr. Trump was an integral part of the effort to keep him in office after his loss at the polls in 2020.

Ms. Mayes charged all 11 people who served as fake Arizona electors, and seven Trump advisers. Four of those advisers now face charges in both Georgia and Arizona: Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; Mike Roman, a former Trump campaign operative who played a leading role in the fake electors scheme; and John Eastman, a legal architect of the elector plan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Is another Trump coup case really necessary? Yes. Arizona matters, Jennifer Rubin, April 28, 2024. An Arizona grand jury last week indicted for conspiracy, fraud and forgery 11 phony electors plus seven associates and lawyers involved in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Trump was included as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Arizona follows Georgia, Michigan and Nevada in holding to account politicians who sought to replace Biden’s legitimate electors.

You might be asking: Do we really need all these Trump coup cases? Yes, and here are four major reasons.

 

Trump Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, upper left, and Jenna Ellis falsely claim election fraud at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Powell and Ellis have pleaded guilty to charges in Georgia regarding false claims.

Trump Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, upper left, and Jenna Ellis falsely claim election fraud at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Powell and Ellis have pleaded guilty to charges in Georgia regarding false claims.

Politico, Arizona grand jury indicts Meadows, Giuliani, other Trump allies for 2020 election interference, Kyle Cheney and Betsy ICE logoWoodruff Swan, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). The former president is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.

politico CustomAn Arizona grand jury has indicted 18 allies of Donald Trump for their efforts to subvert the 2020 election — including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Boris Epshteyn.

arizona mapThe indictment, which includes felony counts of conspiracy, fraud and forgery, also describes Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator.

“Defendants and unindicted coconspirators schemed to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency to keep Unindicted Coconspirator 1 in office against the will of Arizona’s voters,” the 58-page indictment reads.

djt maga hatThe names of seven of the defendants, including Meadows, Giuliani and Epshteyn, are redacted, but the document makes clear who they are by describing their roles. Others include attorneys John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Christina Bobb, as well as Trump 2020 campaign operative Mike Roman.

Ken Chesebro, an attorney who helped devise Trump’s post-election strategy, is described as “unindicted coconspirator 4.”

The only defendants whose names are visible in the version of the indictment released by the Arizona attorney general’s office Wednesday evening are the 11 Republicans who falsely posed as the state’s presidential electors despite Joe Biden’s narrow victory there. Among them: former Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, state senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern, and Arizona’s RNC committeeman Tyler Bowyer.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, has been helming the aggressive investigation. Though she initially appeared to be focused primarily on the false electors, in recent months it became clear that the scope of the probe was broader than previously understood and swept up prominent Trump allies at the national level.

Mayes is the fifth prosecutor to bring criminal charges over the sprawling, multi-state bid by Trump and his allies to upend the 2020 results. Special counsel Jack Smith has charged Trump with federal crimes for those efforts. Prosecutors in Georgia have charged Trump and many of his allies for their efforts to overturn the results in that state, including the fake electors plot. Prosecutors in Michigan and Nevada have also charged Republicans who posed as fake electors in those states.

Michigan prosecutors revealed Wednesday that Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in their own investigation as well. And many of the newly charged defendants in Arizona, including Meadows, Giuliani, Eastman and Ellis, were charged in the Georgia case. Ellis pleaded guilty in Georgia and avoided jail time, while Meadows, Giuliani and Eastman have pleaded not guilty.

The charges against Bobb are notable because she was recently elevated to a senior position at the Republican National Committee focused on “election integrity.”

Mayes was elected as Arizona’s attorney general in 2022, replacing a Republican. As a result, her probe of the 2020 election plot got off to a later start than those of her counterparts in other states, but it recently appeared to be gathering momentum, with numerous witnesses receiving subpoenas to appear before the grand jury, including several of the false electors. Hoffman, one of the state lawmakers to face charges, appeared before the grand jury on April 8 and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Mayes also subpoenaed several figures in Trump’s national orbit, including two Republican members of Congress, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, who played vocal roles in Trump’s bid to overturn the election. Neither Gosar nor Biggs, however, were considered targets of the probe, and they were not charged in the indictment.

April 26

 

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: Supreme Court seems poised to allow Trump Jan. 6 trial, but not immediately, Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Thursday appeared ready to reject Donald Trump’s sweeping claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election, but in a way that is likely to significantly delay his stalled federal trial in the nation’s capital.

In nearly three hours of oral argument, both conservative and liberal justices grappled with the historic significance of the case, which will set boundaries for presidential power in the future even as it impacts whether Trump will face trial in D.C. before this year’s presidential election — in which he is the likely Republican nominee.

Trump, who is already on trial this week in a separate New York case involving business records connected to a hush money payment, was known for breaking norms while in the White House. He faces two other criminal cases as well, and is the first former president to be indicted. But again and again on Thursday, members of the high court noted that their decision, expected by late June or early July, will not just affect him.

“We are writing a rule for the ages,” said Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

“This case has huge implications for the presidency, for the future of the presidency, for the future of the country,” added Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The court seemed unlikely to fully embrace either Trump’s broad claim of immunity or the special counsel’s position that former presidents have no guarantee of immunity for their official acts. Instead, a majority of justices seemed to be looking for a way to provide more narrow protections for a president’s core constitutional duties, with some of the conservative justices especially concerned about hampering the power of future presidents.

In contrast, the court’s three liberals emphasized that a president is not above the law. They seemed to reject the idea of immunity from prosecution, expressing fears about giving a president unbounded power to commit crimes from the White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: If Donald Trump loses the election this November, why would he not once again try to subvert that loss? Philip Bump, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). This is not a baseless question, certainly.

Both Trump’s critics and his supporters agree that Trump tried to prevent Joe Biden from taking office; they just disagree on the validity of that effort. Most Republicans — 62 percent in a December Washington Post-University of Maryland poll — believe there is solid evidence that the 2020 election was tainted by fraud, which is false. This belief undergirds the idea that Trump’s post-2020-election efforts were rooted in his fighting against an illegal effort to influence the presidency rather than being such an illegal effort.

That view still holds. The Pew Research Center published data Wednesday showing that about half of Republicans (and independents who lean Republican) think Trump did nothing wrong in trying to overturn his 2020 loss, with a fifth indicating they were “not sure” if he did anything wrong. That’s more than two-thirds of the party, claiming innocence or uncertainty. Americans overall (and Democrats/Democratic leaners overwhelmingly) think that Trump did something wrong or broke the law.

That Trump’s post-2020 actions are not seen by many in his base as a subversion of democracy is reflected in another question asked by Pew. Respondents were presented with a number of characteristics that might apply to Biden or Trump and asked how confident they were that the characteristics applied to the candidates.

Just more than a third of respondents said they were “extremely” or “very” confident that Biden respects America’s democratic values. Only a slightly lower percentage said the same of Trump. Among Biden supporters, confidence was higher: Three-quarters said they were confident in Biden’s respect for democracy. Among Trump supporters, two-thirds had similar confidence in their candidate.

There’s a level of abstraction here that’s important to recognize. Asking if a candidate you support respects democracy is a bit like asking if he is a good dude; you’re going to be inclined to say yes. Overlay the willingness of Republicans and Trump supporters to dismiss the idea that he did anything wrong after the 2020 election and you get equivalence with Biden — who has shown no similar inclination to set aside democratic determinations.

Pew asked another question that gets at the democracy issue more obliquely. How important is it, they asked respondents, for losing candidates to concede an election? Both supporters of Biden and Trump largely said that it was “very” or “somewhat” important. But while 77 percent of Biden supporters said it was very important (as did 60 percent of all respondents), fewer than half of Trump supporters agreed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The chief justice hated Trump appeals court decision, and other takeaways, Devlin Barrett and Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court spent hours Thursday morning debating former president Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for allegedly conspiring to undo the results of the 2020 election. The ruling, which could come in June, could do far more than chart the course of Trump’s case; it may forever alter the boundaries of presidential power.

“We’re writing a rule for the ages,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said.

The justices seemed to generally agree, in broad terms, that Trump does not have blanket immunity

john roberts oThe chief justice does not like the appeals court ruling on this issue. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. slammed the sweeping decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that denied Trump’s immunity claim. If a majority of the nine-justice panel agrees with him, that could push Trump’s trial well past the election.

Roberts, left, characterized the February decision reached by the appeals court as saying in essence that “a former president can be prosecuted because he’s being prosecuted.” He called that “circular” reasoning and added, “it concerns me.”

The chief justice then floated a proposal that could make the entire issue more complicated and time-consuming, rather than less.

“Now, you know how easy it is in many cases for a prosecutor to get a grand jury to bring an indictment,” Roberts said. “Why shouldn’t we either send it back to the Court of Appeals or issue an opinion making clear that that’s not the law?”

If the Supreme Court did send the question of presidential immunity back to the appeals court, that would probably eat up weeks or months — potentially opening a can of legal worms that could take a lot of time for judicial debate and decisions.

The Supreme Court ruling is considered hugely important to Trump’s political and legal chances, but conservative justices kept insisting they were more worried about all future White House officeholders than the specific fate of the 45th president.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said their ruling will have “huge implications” for the future of the presidency, and the country, adding: “I’m not as concerned about the here and now, I’m more concerned about the future.”

Kavanaugh said he was worried that the trend of prosecutors investigating presidents is only growing. “It’s not going to stop, it’s going to cycle back and be used against the current president and the next president and the next president after that,” he said.

The three liberal justices also focused much of their attention on the future implications of an immunity ruling — but they worried most that granting Trump protection in this case would subvert the very premise of the founding of the United States, to escape the tyranny of kings.

USA Today, Trump to receive 36 million additional shares of Truth Social parent company, worth $1.17 billion, Kinsey Crowley, April 26, 2024 (print ed.).usa today logo 5 Former President Donald Trump has met the requirement to receive up to 36 million additional shares of Trump Media, worth $1.17 billion at Tuesday's close.

The earnout bonus, a potential for a future windfall, if the company meets financial goals, is a provision in the merger agreement with Digital World Acquisition Corp., according to an SEC filing. It states Trump is entitled to the additional shares if the stock price stays above certain thresholds for 20 days out of any 30 trading days.

Trump already owned 60% of the company with 78.75 million shares. Even though the DJT stock price nosedived a few weeks after debuting on the stock market, it has stayed well above the $17.50 per share threshold in its 20 trading days. The lowest it has been since its March 26 debut is $22.84 per share on April 16.

The influx of more than a billion dollars to Trump's wealth comes as he sits trial in Manhattan for 34 counts of falsifying business records.

April 25

Meidas Touch Network, Judge Sets New Gag Order Hearing Same Day/Time as Trump Rally, Ron Filipkowski, April 25, 2024 mtn meidas touch networkDonald Trump continues to violate his gag order, and the Manhattan DA's office continues to file new motions to have him held in contempt.

In court today, the DA filed his latest violations, one of which occurred after he left the courthouse on Tuesday and the other in an interview attacking the jurors.

Judge Merchan signed the order and set the hearing for 2:00 PM next Wednesday. That is supposed to be an off day for the court, but the judge set this motion time so the trial will not be interrupted or delayed.

There's just one problem with that for Trump: He has two rallies scheduled for that afternoon, one in Michigan and one in Wisconsin.

Trump has complained bitterly that the trial is preventing him from campaigning. However, on his off day yesterday from the trial he played golf all day and did no campaigning. He did no campaigning this past weekend. However, once he realizes the schedule conflict he is likely going to lose his mind.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Trump’s Claim to ‘Absolute Immunity,’ Adam Liptak, April 25, 2024. The justices will consider today whether former President Trump must face trial on charges that he plotted to subvert the 2020 election.

The Supreme Court, in its last argument of the term, will consider on Thursday whether former President Donald J. Trump must face trial on charges that he plotted to subvert the 2020 election.

The court’s answer to that question will be a major statement on the scope of presidential power. Depending on its timing and content, the decision will also help determine whether Mr. Trump’s trial will start before the election, in time to let both jurors and voters evaluate the evidence that Jack Smith, the special counsel in the case, seeks to present.

Most legal experts do not expect Mr. Trump to prevail on his broadest arguments. But when and how he loses may turn out to be as important as whether he loses.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Immunity Case, Trump Can Lose in Ways That Amount to a Win, Adam Liptak, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). After the justices hear arguments on Thursday, how they decide may be just as important as what they decide.

Most legal experts say that former President Donald J. Trump will face deep skepticism at the Supreme Court on Thursday, when the justices will hear arguments on his claim that he is absolutely immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to subvert the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump would prefer to win, of course. But there are, from his perspective, at least two attractive ways to lose.

One involves the timing of the court’s decision, which has received substantial attention given the relatively leisurely pace it has set for itself in the case. Even if Mr. Trump eventually and categorically loses, each passing week makes it more challenging for Jack Smith, the special counsel in the case, to complete the trial before the election.

The other, which has received less consideration but is no less important, is the possibility that the court’s ruling, even if issued promptly, will inject additional legal complications into the case that will take time to sort out.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Case Testimony Expected to Turn to Hush-Money Deal With Porn Star, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, April 25, 2024. The former publisher of The National Enquirer will be back on the stand today and is likely to discuss the publication’s contact with Stormy Daniels.

Donald J. Trump faces a high-pressure day on Thursday as a crucial witness is expected to describe to the jury for the first time the hush-money payment at the center of the Manhattan criminal trial.

The witness, David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, will take the stand for a third day on Thursday, and this time is likely to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election.

Mr. Pecker, whose magazine had previously bought and buried two other salacious stories on Mr. Trump’s behalf, decided not to pay Ms. Daniels for her account of a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. Instead, Mr. Pecker is expected to explain how he and a top editor brought the story to Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who then paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case, has said that Mr. Pecker was one member of a conspiracy that also involved Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen. Mr. Pecker has supported that story, saying that the three men reached a secret agreement in 2015 in which The National Enquirer would promote positive stories about Mr. Trump and, importantly for the prosecution’s case, suppress negative ones.

Mr. Trump, the first American president to be criminally prosecuted, is charged with 34 felonies of falsifying business records related to the reimbursements to Mr. Cohen. If convicted, he could receive probation, or up to four years in prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-National Enquirer publisher continues testimony at Trump’s hush money trial, Staff Reports, April 25, 2024. Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York resumed Thursday morning, with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, his longtime friend, resuming his testimony.

Before Pecker began, prosecutors again asked the court to hold Trump in contempt of a gag order, citing additional statements he made the past two days.

Pecker has been the only witness to testify so far in this trial. During his testimony Tuesday, Pecker described how the Enquirer repeatedly aided Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign by quashing potentially damaging stories about him and publishing stories targeting his competitors.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified that Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen told him to negotiate the purchase of a former Playboy model’s story about an alleged affair with Trump, and that Trump would reimburse him.

Pecker said he sent his company’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, to work out a deal with the model, Karen McDougal. At the time, Pecker said, they didn’t have a purchase price.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified Thursday that in 2016, he spoke to Donald Trump directly about paying to shut down a former Playboy model’s tawdry story about a year-long affair with the then-candidate — potentially offering proof that Trump knew about efforts to silence women during his campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s about time to hold Trump in contempt, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 25, 2024. By the time Justice Juan jennifer rubin new headshotMerchan held Tuesday’s hearing in Donald Trump’s business records falsification case, the district attorney had accumulated 10 instances in which the four-times-indicted former president had violated the court’s order prohibiting him from threatening witnesses and jurors.

The question was not really whether Trump had violated the gag order, but what, if anything, was Merchan going to do to protect jurors, witnesses and the integrity of the court.

April 24

 

Donald Trump sits at a defendant’s table in a blue suit. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to get Justice Juan M. Merchan thrown off the case (Pool photo by Curtis Means).

Donald Trump sits at a defendant’s table in a blue suit. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to get Justice Juan M. Merchan thrown off the case (Pool photo by Curtis Means).

ny times logoNew York Times, Tabloid Publisher Testifies Trump Asked Him to ‘Help the Campaign,’ Staff Reports, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). The National Enquirer’s help for Donald Trump broke norms even in the tabloid world, David Pecker, the longtime publisher of The National Enquirer who prosecutors say took part in Donald Trump’s hush-money scheme, testified for a second day.

Tuesday’s session of Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial began with a heated clash between Justice Juan M. Merchan and Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer over a gag order. It ended with an insider’s look into a tabloid newspaper practice known as “catch and kill.”

Prosecutors said that Mr. Trump had “willfully and blatantly” violated a gag order barring him from attacking jurors and witnesses, among others. They said he had done so in comments outside the courtroom and online and should be found in contempt of court.

Mr. Trump’s top lawyer said in response that Mr. Trump was simply defending himself from political attacks. Justice Merchan did not rule, but he scolded the lawyer, Todd Blanche, saying, “you’re losing all credibility with the court.”

david pecker croppedA former ally of Mr. Trump, David Pecker, right, the ex-publisher of The National Enquirer, later testified to buying and burying unflattering stories about Mr. Trump during his 2016 run for president, an arrangement he called “highly, highly confidential.”

Mr. Trump, 77, faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to hide a payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, made to cover up a sex scandal that threatened to derail his campaign. Ms. Daniels, who may testify, has said that she and Mr. Trump had a brief sexual encounter in 2006, something the former president denies.

Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, the former president — and presumptive Republican nominee — could face probation or up to four years in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gag Order Hearing Is Heated as Judge Considers Citing Trump for Contempt, Alan Feuer, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). Justice Juan Merchan, overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal trial, warned the former president’s lawyer that he was losing credibility.

The judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s trial in Manhattan held a fiery hearing on Tuesday about whether to find Mr. Trump in criminal contempt for repeatedly violating the provisions of a gag order.

While the judge, Juan M. Merchan, did not issue an immediate ruling, he engaged in a heated back-and-forth with one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, scolding him for his failure to offer any facts in his defense of the former president.

“You’ve presented nothing,” Justice Merchan told the lawyer, Todd Blanche, adding soon after: “You’re losing all credibility with the court.”

Justice Merchan’s rebuke came moments after prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office had complained that Mr. Trump willfully violated the gag order by making 10 public statements on social media and on his campaign website that attacked two likely witnesses and the jury.

The prosecutors pointed to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Michael Cohen, a lawyer who had helped Mr. Trump arrange hush payments to a porn star to stop her from speaking about a sexual encounter she said she had had with Mr. Trump. The prosecutors also told Judge Merchan that a post Mr. Trump had made going after the woman, Stormy Daniels, violated the gag order.

Prosecutors flagged another post for Justice Merchan, saying it was even more troubling. In it, Mr. Trump had quoted a Fox News commentator, Jesse Watters, denigrating potential jurors in the case as “undercover liberal activists.”

Justice Merchan imposed the order on Mr. Trump in late March, barring him from public statements about any witnesses, prosecutors, jurors or court staff. But within a week, after Mr. Trump had found a loophole in the order and repeatedly attacked the judge’s daughter, Justice Merchan expanded it to cover the relatives of court staff members and relatives of lawyers working on the case.

Christopher Conroy, a prosecutor, told Justice Merchan on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had broken the order “repeatedly and hasn’t stopped.” Mr. Conroy added that the former president had made statements violating it even “right here in the hallway” outside the courtroom.

“He knows what he’s not allowed to do,” Mr. Conroy said of Mr. Trump, “and he does it anyhow.”

Mr. Blanche rejected that argument, telling the judge that Mr. Trump had never willfully violated the order. Mr. Blanche instead tried to paint his client’s statements as legitimate responses to “a barrage of political attacks.”

 

 Donald J. Trump with members of his defense team — Todd Blanche (left), Emil Bove and Susan Necheles — ahead of the start of jury selection last week (Pool photo by Jabin Botsford).

Donald J. Trump with members of his defense team — Todd Blanche (left), Emil Bove and Susan Necheles — ahead of the start of jury selection last week (Pool photo by Jabin Botsford).

ny times logoNew York Times, The National Enquirer’s help for Donald Trump broke norms even in the tabloid world, Jim Rutenberg, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). The National Enquirer was more than a friendly media outlet for Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. It was a powerful, national political weapon that was thrust into the service of a single candidate, in violation of campaign finance law.

The tabloid’s former publisher, David Pecker, testified nonchalantly on Tuesday about how the tabloid operated in tandem with the Trump campaign, “catching and killing” potentially damaging stories and running elaborate and false hit pieces on Mr. Trump’s opponents. But its practices were unusual even in the wild supermarket tabloid news game.

President Donald Trump officialBy the admission of The Enquirer’s own publisher — first made to federal prosecutors years ago during the prosecution of Mr. Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen — the tabloid was operating with the full intention of helping Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Under the First Amendment, newspapers are permitted to support candidates. But The Enquirer’s support went beyond journalism: The publication paid $150,000 for a story a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, was preparing to tell about an affair she said she had with the candidate. Then, it published nothing.

That sort of deal is not unusual in the tabloid news trade, even if it violates journalistic standards followed by mainstream American outlets like this one, which have rules against paying sources.

But before 2016, there had never been a known catch-and-kill deal to aid a presidential campaign. In that context, The Enquirer’s payment violated federal campaign laws prohibiting corporations from donating to presidential candidates — who are limited to receiving direct donations of $4,400 per person — and forbidding them to coordinate election-related spending with campaigns.

As The Enquirer’s parent company at the time, American Media, admitted in a “non-prosecution” deal with the federal government in 2018: “AMI knew that corporations such as AMI are subject to federal campaign finance laws, and that expenditures by corporations, made for purposes of influencing an election and in coordination with or at the request of a candidate or campaign, are unlawful.”

The deal helped secure Tuesday’s testimony.

fec logo black background Custom(The Federal Election Commission later hit The Enquirer’s parent company with fines of $187,000; Mr. Trump’s campaign escaped sanction.)

The Enquirer was also providing a hidden value to Mr. Trump: By giving over its cover to his political needs, Mr. Pecker gave him the equivalent of free advertising space at most major supermarket checkout lines in the country, where the tabloid had long ago secured prime placement.

One expert said at the time that such exposure could be worth as much as $3 million a month.

Worth potentially even more: The Enquirer’s agreement to keep from the checkout line not only Ms. McDougal’s story but the cache of Trump dirt it had in its own files — “tabloid gold” that would never see the light of day.

 

truth social logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump, who’s on the hook for millions in legal fees, is in line for a $1 billion windfall from Trump Media, Jason Karaian and Joe Rennison, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). The former president is in line for a windfall after the stock price of Trump Media hit performance targets in its first few weeks of trading, raising the value of his already sizable stake.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s already sizable stake in his social media company is set to jump by more than $1 billion, as he’s rewarded with additional shares in the parent of Truth Social — the result of its stock price staying high in recent weeks.

The windfall comes at a crucial time for Mr. Trump, who is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars of legal bills tied to the multiple cases against him. The presumptive Republican nominee for president is also ramping up his political campaign, with the boost to his net worth bolstering his image as a wealthy businessman, an important part of his pitch to voters.

Mr. Trump is already the largest shareholder of Trump Media & Technology Group with 79 million shares, a stake currently worth nearly $3 billion. He’s now due 36 million more shares under what is known as an “earnout,” additional stock that would push the value of his stake to over $4 billion.

Earnout shares, a feature of mergers, are designed to reward insiders if a company’s stock performs well for a set period after completing a deal. Trump Media merged with a public shell company last month and made its debut on the Nasdaq on March 26. The new shares would raise Mr. Trump’s stake to about 65 percent of the company.

An initial frenzy pushed the value of the company up to nearly $8 billion, but the share price has fluctuated wildly since then, falling by about half from its peak. Trump Media has been a popular target for short-sellers, who make money by betting on the decline of a company’s share price.

Despite the ups and downs, Trump Media’s share price has remained above the levels set as triggers for awarding extra shares to Mr. Trump and other shareholders. The shares are awarded in batches, based on whether the stock trades above $12.50, $15 and $17.50 for 20 out of any 30 days in its first two years as a public company. The stock, which closed at $35.50 per share on Monday, traded well above all three of those thresholds since the March debut, and on Tuesday was on track to meet the conditions of the earnout.

As with the other shares he owns, Mr. Trump is not yet allowed to trade them or use his stock as collateral. With the stock at its current price, Mr. Trump is required to wait 150 days, or until late August, before he can sell any of his stake, though the shares could be traded earlier if Trump Media’s board were to waive the restrictions.

The company filed to register millions of potential new shares last week, a routine procedure that nonetheless spooked investors.

April 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Allege ‘Criminal Conspiracy’ as Trump’s Trial Opens, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, April 23, 2024 (print ed.). Prosecutors in the first criminal trial of an American president began laying out their case for a jury of 12 New Yorkers on Monday, saying Donald J. Trump engaged in a conspiracy to cover up a sex scandal in order to get elected president in 2016.david pecker cropped

The first witness called was the tabloid publisher David Pecker, right, whom prosecutors described as one member of a three-man plot to conceal damaging stories — including a porn star’s account of a sexual tryst — as Mr. Trump mounted his bid for the presidency.

Mr. Pecker was on the stand for only a few minutes in the afternoon before court adjourned for the day. He described how his publication, The National Enquirer, paid for stories, a practice he called “checkbook journalism.” He is expected to return to the stand on Tuesday.

Matthew Colangelo, one of the prosecutors for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, told the jury in his opening statement that he case was about “a criminal conspiracy and a coverup,” describing how Mr. Trump, his longtime counsel Michael D. Cohen, and Mr. Pecker engaged in a strategy to “catch and kill” negative stories.

The lead lawyer for Mr. Trump, Todd Blanche, insisted in his opening statement that the former president had done nothing wrong. “President Trump is innocent,” he told the jury. “President Trump did not commit any crimes.”

The case centers on a $130,000 hush-money payment that Mr. Cohen made to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence as the 2016 campaign was winding down. Prosecutors say he was reimbursed by Mr. Trump, and Mr. Trump falsified business records to conceal his conduct.

Mr. Trump’s willingness to go to the trouble, Mr. Colangelo said, “shows just how important it was to him to hide the true nature of Cohen’s illegal payment to Ms. Daniels and the overall election conspiracy that they had launched.”

Mr. Cohen, who was an executive vice president at the Trump Organization and counsel to Mr. Trump, and Mr. Pecker are expected to be central witnesses.

Mr. Blanche attacked Mr. Cohen’s credibility, saying that his livelihood hinges on attacking the former president, and insisted that prosecutors were attempting to present perfectly legal activities, such as entering into nondisclosure agreements, in a negative light.

“I have a spoiler alert: There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election,” Mr. Blanche said. “It’s called democracy.”

He continued: “They put something sinister on this idea as if it were a crime. You’ll learn it’s not.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opening Statements in Trump’s Criminal Trial Begin, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, April 23, 2024 (print ed.). Manhattan prosecutors go first, giving a preview of the evidence against Donald Trump in the case, which involves a hush-money payment to a porn star.

The unprecedented case, which centers on Mr. Trump’s efforts to cover up a sex scandal involving a hush-money payment to a porn star, could reshape America’s political landscape and test the limits of the nation’s justice system.

Opening statements at a trial are like overtures: Both sides present a preview of what the jurors will hear from witnesses and what they will see in documentary evidence. They are tightly scripted performances in which lawyers seek to persuade and charm the jurors who will decide whether they win or lose their case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor: A tabloid pact led to Trump faking business records, Devlin Barrett, Shayna Jacobs, Tom Jackman and Hannah Knowles, April 23, 2024 (print ed.). A deal to quash stories about sex scandals and boost Donald Trump’s candidacy allegedly led to hush money crimes.

Donald Trump oversaw a “planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election,” which included hush money payments to an adult-film actress, prosecutors told a jury Monday in the opening salvo of the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

michael colangelo doj“It was election fraud, pure and simple,” Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo, above, told the jury inside a packed and heavily guarded courtroom, illustrating the sky-high stakes of a criminal trial in which the defendant is also the presumptive GOP nominee for president in the November election.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Trump denounced the case, and other legal battles he is fighting, with his usual bluster and vitriol against a system that he claims is targeting him unfairly for political reasons.

“I should be in Georgia now. I should be in Florida now,” Trump said.

Colangelo spent about 40 minutes Monday morning describing the evidence that he said would show Trump broke the law. The prosecutor’s delivery was calm and measured throughout — never raising his voice and keeping his hands in his suit pockets for much of the time he spoke.

Trump’s crimes, the prosecutor said, arose out of his secret election-year deal with the National Enquirer to squelch bad stories david pecker croppedabout his sex life — a conspiracy launched in a meeting between Trump, the tabloid’s then-CEO David Pecker, right, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-lawyer and fixer.

That pact ultimately led Cohen to arrange a $130,000 payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about an alleged sexual encounter she had with Trump years earlier, the prosecutor said.

Cohen is expected to testify that Trump purposely misrepresented reimbursements to Cohen to conceal what the money was for.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche countered when it was his turn to address the panel that the prosecutor’s case would collapse because it was built on Cohen’s lies.

“Unbeknownst to President Trump, in all the years that Mr. Cohen worked for him, Mr. Cohen was also a criminal,” Blanche said. “He cheated on his taxes, he lied to banks, he lied about side businesses.”

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, is the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump..

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: Key takeaways from the start of the trial; gag order hearing to kick off today’s proceedings, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, April 23, 2024 (print ed.). It’s been more than a year since Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Donald Trump on charges of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment during the 2016 election. And on Monday we had our first testimony. The freshly empaneled jury heard opening statements and — briefly — from the government’s first witness.

It was an extra short day in the Manhattan criminal courthouse. Court was supposed to adjourn at 2 p.m. for the Passover holiday. The judge ended up dismissing everyone at 12:30 so an alternate juror could address a health issue.

Here’s a very abbreviated primer to help you better understand the opening statements: (Read more about the case here.)

Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen paid adult-film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 ahead of the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an alleged tryst with Trump. Prosecutors say Trump later sent $420,000 to Cohen, which included reimbursement for the Daniels payment. Trump allegedly decided the payment should be recorded in his company’s internal documents as a legal retainer.

Prosecutors assert the payment was not actually a legal retainer and Trump falsified his business records to influence the results of the 2016 election because he did not want voters to know about the alleged relationship. The government says the payments violated state election laws and other laws, in part because they aimed to illegally help Trump influence the 2016 election.

Trump’s lawyers say the payments were legal and properly classified. Trump denies all wrongdoing.

Court will be back in session Tuesday with another abbreviated day. New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan will start without the jurors in the room, for a hearing on whether Trump has violated the court-issued gag order that bars him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors or family members of the judge and the Manhattan district attorney.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Trump’s Complicated Relationship With Law Enforcement, Maggie Haberman and Michael Gold, April 23, 2024 (print ed.). The former president has put forth a law-and-order candidacy while also criticizing the legal system when it comes to himself and making exceptions for his supporters.

On Jan. 19, 2021, as part of a series of pardons on his last full day in office, President Donald J. Trump commuted the sentence of a man who had spent almost 30 years of a life sentence in federal prison for what prosecutors said was his role in the murder of an undercover police officer in upstate New York.

The commutation went largely unnoticed as the country grappled with the aftermath of a pro-Trump mob’s attack on the Capitol, which included assaults on Capitol Police officers. Since then, Mr. Trump has referred to the rioters as “patriots” and “hostages,” and has criticized an officer who shot and killed a woman trying to breach a doorway near the House chamber.

And yet Mr. Trump, who is the first former president to face criminal indictment, has sought to portray himself as a champion of law enforcement, surrounding himself at events with a tableau of police officers and law-enforcement officials as he campaigns to return to the White House.

Mr. Trump has been endorsed by three police unions. He recently stood next to the Nassau County Police commissioner at a microphone outside a funeral home where he paid a condolence call at the wake for a slain New York Police officer, Jonathan Diller. Days later, Mr. Trump promised at a rally that he would pass a law for a mandatory death penalty for people who kill police officers.

“You’ll see the whole situation come to a halt,” Mr. Trump said of police deaths.

Mr. Trump often poses for photos with local police officers who are helping to guard his motorcades at various stops, including last week when he took pictures with officers at a campaign stop in Upper Manhattan on the second day of his criminal trial. His aides regularly post photos and videos of the encounters on social media, a montage intended to underscore a law-and-order image of the presumptive Republican nominee — who was also arraigned four times last year.

Even in the courthouse, Mr. Trump looks to display this affinity, when he enters the courtroom and warmly greets the court officers.

John Miller, a former senior official in two police departments and at the F.B.I., who is now the chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst at CNN, said the cultural bond between Mr. Trump and police officers stems from “police across the country” who “have felt increasingly abandoned and isolated, unsupported by their city councils, by their mayors, by their governors.”

He added, when “someone comes out unequivocally in support of law enforcement and understanding the challenges they face, it’s hard to resist because it’s increasingly rare today.”

Mr. Miller said President Biden also has a long history of supporting police work but added that statements that Mr. Biden made in the 2020 campaign were seen as less than unequivocally supportive of law enforcement. But for Mr. Trump, he said, a complicating factor is his support for people who rioted on Jan. 6 — some of whom assaulted police trying to restore order.

But Mr. Trump’s statements, actions and the images he presents stand in stark contrast to the way the former president, whose New York trial began in earnest with opening statements Monday and who is at the center of at least four separate criminal cases, talks about law enforcement in the context of the legal system that is seeking to convict him.

Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, described him as “endorsed and beloved by law enforcement across the country because his policies empowered them to do their jobs and helped them remove criminals from the streets.”

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Twitter Reacts to Trump Praising “the Boss” Kim Jong Un, J.D. Wolf, April 23, 2024. Trump continues to praise dictators, autocrats, and terrorists.

mtn meidas touch networkTwitter reacted to an uncovered clip of Trump praising North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un while speaking to his Truth Social investors and influencers at his Mar-a-Lago home. Trump called Kim Jong Un, “the boss,” and praised him as “a warrior,” “a tough guy,” and “a smart guy.”

Author Ruth Ben-Gait, who writes about fascism, authoritarians, propoganda, and democracy, commented:

“He admires NK because it is a criminal entity masquerading as a government. Cybercrime is a main state activity.”

Journalist Victoria Brownsworth noted that “Kim Jong Un starves his own people.”

Twitter user Sgt. Joker said:

“The Leader of the @GOP adores Kim Jong Un. That’s how far the Republican Party has descended into insanity.”

Twitter account Spiro’s Ghost remarked that such rhetoric would have been disqualifying for a Republican candidate to say.

Others pointed out that Trump has a history of praising dictators. Trump has indicated he wants to be one himself and his comments are part of his pattern praising authoritarians and terrorists who murder their political opponents and put their enemies in camps. This is the GOP’s presumptive nominee.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Chicago MAGA Activist Promoted by Trump Thinks Trump's Dad Was a Racist, J.D. Wolf, April 23, 2024. P Rae Easley thinks Charlie Kirk is racist and Trump should apologize to the “Central Park 5.”

mtn meidas touch networkOn Truth Social this weekend, Trump praised Chicago MAGA activist and radio personality P Rae Easley who went viral for comments at a city council meeting criticizing spending on migrants. Trump said, “We will put Chicago into the winning mix,” and indicated he would be calling Easley, implying she would be part of that plan.

Trump later posted Easley’s viral video comments. However, Trump’s newest viral sensation doesn’t see eye to eye with Trump on everything.

Trump should apologize to the "Central Park 5"

In social media posts uncovered by MeidasTouch, Easley said Trump should apologize to the now exonerated “Central Park 5.” You’ll get no argument here! Although Easley implied Trump was wrong, she said it has nothing to do with her efforts to turn Chicago Republican.

In a reply to a discussion about Trump’s racism from February, Easley admitted that Trump’s dad, Fred Trump, was racist. No argument here! Easley was reacting to a story about how Fred and his son Donald were sued for refusing to rent to Black tenants.

In several posts, Easley takes issue with Trump-ally Charlie Kirk. Easley said Kirk is “a racist,” but gives him credit for granting her access to a Blexit event at the White House with Trump.

In another post, Easley agreed with Roland Martin’s post quoting Trump advisor Pastor Darrell Scott accusing “Charlie Kirk of inspiring ‘Hitler youth.’” Easley still credited Kirk for the creation of “Black Chicago 4 Trump” due granting access to that Blexit event at the White House.

Easley also mocked Kirk for his comments fearing that Black pilots may not be qualified. Easley said Kirk is “scared out of his mind” when he sees a Black pilot.

In another February post, Easley reacted to a video of Kirk complaining about the number of Black people in television commercials and how white people face consequences for being racist toward them. Easley warned Trump that Kirk “is purposely trying to throw the race against you” and to “please get somebody to shut him up.”

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: DA's Opening Statement in Trump Trial, Ron Filipkowski, April 22, 2024. Lead counsel Michael Colangelo made the opening statement for the prosecution on the first day of Donald Trump's election interference trial in New York today. He was considered one of the top federal prosecutors in the US Department of Justice.

mtn meidas touch networkDA Alvin Bragg brought him into the office to lead this investigation and trial in 2022. Trump has often complained about Colangelo's reputation. Steve Bannon called him "a killer" who has been brought in by the DA to take him out.

Prior to the opening statement, there several issues that were addressed by Judge Merchan. One juror expressed a concern about the level of pretrial publicity. The judge briefly addressed the issue in chambers with the juror and lawyers and it was resolved with that person remaining on the jury. The judge also announced that they would break at 12:30 instead of 2:00 because one of the jurors had an important dentist appointment.

The judge then said that, although he previously ruled that the Access Hollywood tape could not be played to the jury, he will allow a complete transcript to be presented to the jury. He also ruled several damaging things would be admissible to cross-examine Trump if he decides to testify, including the findings by previous juries that he defamed E. Jean Carroll.

The first line of Colangelo's opening was, "This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover-up - Donald Trump corrupted the 2016 election." He said that it all began when Trump and Michael Cohen met with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker In August 2015 to suppress negative stories about Trump. He said that Trump gave Cohen $130,000 to pay Stormy Daniels to silence her. He covered up the payments by falsifying his business records.

Colangelo said that Trump's claim that the payments to Cohen were for legal services was a lie, and he falsified 34 separate invoices to cover up the fact that it was being done for election purposes. He said that Pecker served as the "eyes and ears" of the Trump campaign, keeping his eye out for stories that could hurt Trump so he could make him aware of them. This is what they called their "catch and kill" strategy. At the same time, Pecker was publishing positive stories about Trump is several different publications and running stories attacking his opponents.

Colangelo then gave several examples of stories they ran such as accusing Ted Cruz's father of being involved in the JFK assassination and Ben Carson of committing medical malpractice.

He then said that they carried out three separate "catch and kills":

1. A doorman for Trump was trying to sell a story that he had information that Trump fathered children with women. He was paid $30,000 and Pecker suppressed the story.

2. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal was shopping her story through her attorney that she had a year-long affair with Trump. Pecker paid her $150,000 and suppressed the story. However, Pecker later became upset about his because Trump wouldn't reimburse him.

3. The Stormy Daniels payment through Michael Cohen for $130,000 to cover up Trump's sexual encounter with the porn star.

Cohen then recorded a conversation with Trump about this and Colangelo said that tape will be played in court. He said Trump is on the tape saying they should pay in cash and label the payment "advisory services." However, Pecker's lawyer advised against taking the payment so it was never made. He said that they would present evidence in the form of a "flurry of text messages" and a "barrage of phone calls" to suppress the story.

Colangelo then talked about the Access Hollywood tape where he said Trump "bragged about sexual assault." Trump shook his head at that point in disagreement. He said that the Washington Post reporter who published the tape contacted Trump campaign advisor Hope Hicks. He said that the campaign went into crisis mode as several people withdrew their endorsements and the RNC even considered replacing Trump with a month to go before the election.

As the campaign was dealing with the Access Hollywood bombshell, Pecker contacted Michael Cohen one day after it was released and told them that they had a new problem. Stormy Daniels' lawyer Keith Davidson contacted him about Trump's sexual encounter with his porn star client. Trump told Cohen to try and stall the story until after the election, but Stormy wasn't fooled by Trump's ploy and threatened to go public immediately. Trump then told Cohen to pay her $130,000 to silence her.

Trump did not want to write a check for $130,000 directly to Cohen, so they arranged for Cohen to make the payment through a shell company called Essential Consultants, LLC so it would be harder to trace back to Trump. Cohen took out a home equity loan to get the money to pay Daniels. Colangelo argued that this was "election fraud, pure and simple."

After the election, Trump invited Pecker to the White House to thank him for all he did. Cohen then met with Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg to arrange how he was going to be reimbursed. Weisselberg made the arrangements for how Cohen would be compensated, Cohen would report everything on his taxes, and Trump signed off on the arrangement. Cohen then sent Trump Org a fake invoice 11 separate times for legal services and was paid by Trump as reimbursement for the Stormy Daniels payoff.

Colangelo then conceded that when the allegations about the payments to Stormy Daniels first became public, Cohen lied about it. He then was prosecuted and went to jail for his role in the payoffs to McDougal and Daniels, including tax fraud and lying to Congress.

This story was compiled based on excellent reporting from inside the courtroom from Inner City Press, Olivia Nuzzi from NY Mag, Adam Klasfeld, Erica Orden from Politico, and Anna Bower from Lawfare.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor: A tabloid pact led to Trump faking business records, Devlin Barrett, Shayna Jacobs, Tom Jackman and Hannah Knowles, April 23, 2024 (print ed.). A deal to quash stories about sex scandals and boost Donald Trump’s candidacy allegedly led to hush money crimes.

Donald Trump oversaw a “planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election,” which included hush money payments to an adult-film actress, prosecutors told a jury Monday in the opening salvo of the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

michael colangelo doj“It was election fraud, pure and simple,” Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo, above, told the jury inside a packed and heavily guarded courtroom, illustrating the sky-high stakes of a criminal trial in which the defendant is also the presumptive GOP nominee for president in the November election.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Trump denounced the case, and other legal battles he is fighting, with his usual bluster and vitriol against a system that he claims is targeting him unfairly for political reasons.

“I should be in Georgia now. I should be in Florida now,” Trump said.

Colangelo spent about 40 minutes Monday morning describing the evidence that he said would show Trump broke the law. The prosecutor’s delivery was calm and measured throughout — never raising his voice and keeping his hands in his suit pockets for much of the time he spoke.

Trump’s crimes, the prosecutor said, arose out of his secret election-year deal with the National Enquirer to squelch bad stories david pecker croppedabout his sex life — a conspiracy launched in a meeting between Trump, the tabloid’s then-CEO David Pecker, right, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-lawyer and fixer.

That pact ultimately led Cohen to arrange a $130,000 payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about an alleged sexual encounter she had with Trump years earlier, the prosecutor said.

Cohen is expected to testify that Trump purposely misrepresented reimbursements to Cohen to conceal what the money was for.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche countered when it was his turn to address the panel that the prosecutor’s case would collapse because it was built on Cohen’s lies.

“Unbeknownst to President Trump, in all the years that Mr. Cohen worked for him, Mr. Cohen was also a criminal,” Blanche said. “He cheated on his taxes, he lied to banks, he lied about side businesses.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Liz Cheney: The Supreme Court Should Rule Swiftly on Trump’s Immunity Claim, Liz Cheney, April 23, 2024 (print ed.). Ms. Cheney, a Republican shown on the cover of her memoir, is a former U.S. representative from Wyoming and was vice chairwoman of the Jan. 6 select committee in the House of Representatives.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Donald Trump’s arguments that he is immune from prosecution for his efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election. It is likely that all — or nearly all — of the justices will agree that a former president who attempted to seize power and remain in office illegally can be prosecuted. I suspect that some justices may also wish to clarify whether doctrines of presidential immunity might apply in other contexts — for example, to a president’s actions as commander in chief during a time of war. But the justices should also recognize the profoundly negative impact they may have if the court does not resolve these issues quickly and decisively.

If delay prevents this Trump case from being tried this year, the public may never hear critical and historic evidence developed before the grand jury, and our system may never hold the man most responsible for Jan. 6 to account.

The Jan. 6 House select committee’s hearings and final report in 2022 relied on testimony given by dozens of Republicans — including many who worked closely with Mr. Trump in the White House, in his Justice Department and on his 2020 presidential campaign. The special counsel Jack Smith’s election-related indictment of Mr. Trump relies on many of the same firsthand witnesses. Although the special counsel reached a number of the same conclusions as the select committee, the indictment is predicated on a separate and independent investigation. Evidence was developed and presented to a grand jury sitting in Washington, D.C.

The indictment and public reporting suggest that the special counsel was able to obtain key evidence our committee did not have. For example, it appears that the grand jury received evidence from witnesses such as Mark Meadows, a former Trump chief of staff, and Dan Scavino, a former Trump aide, both of whom refused to testify in our investigation. Public reporting also suggests that members of Mr. Trump’s Office of White House Counsel and other White House aides testified in full, without any limitations based on executive privilege, as did Vice President Mike Pence and his counsel.

The special counsel’s indictment lays out Mr. Trump’s detailed plan to overturn the 2020 election, including the corrupt use of fraudulent slates of electors in several states. According to the indictment, senior advisers in the White House, Justice Department and elsewhere repeatedly warned that Mr. Trump’s claims of election fraud were false and that his plans for Jan. 6 were illegal. Mr. Trump chose to ignore those warnings. (Remember what the White House lawyer Eric Herschmann told Mr. Trump’s alleged co-conspirator John Eastman on Jan. 7, 2021: “Get a great f’ing criminal defense lawyer. You’re gonna need it.”) There is little doubt that Mr. Trump’s closest advisers also gave the federal grand jury minute-to-minute accounts of his malicious conduct on Jan. 6, describing how they repeatedly begged the president to instruct the violent rioters to leave our Capitol and how Mr. Trump refused for several hours to do so as he watched the attack on television. This historic testimony about a former president’s conduct is likely to remain secret until the special counsel presents his case at trial.

As a criminal defendant, Mr. Trump has long had access to federal grand jury material relating to his Jan. 6 indictment and to all the testimony obtained by our select committee. He knows what all these witnesses have said under oath and understands the risks he faces at trial. That’s why he is doing everything possible to try to delay his Jan. 6 federal criminal trial until after the November election. If the trial is delayed past this fall and Mr. Trump wins re-election, he will surely fire the special counsel, order his Justice Department to drop all Jan. 6 cases and try to prevent key grand jury testimony from ever seeing the light of day.

I know how Mr. Trump’s delay tactics work. Our committee had to spend months litigating his privilege claims (in Trump v. Thompson) before we could gain access to White House records. Court records and public reporting suggest that the special counsel also invested considerable time defeating Mr. Trump’s claims of executive privilege, which were aimed at preventing key evidence from reaching the grand jury. All of this evidence should be presented in open court, so that the public can fully assess what Mr. Trump did on Jan. 6 and what a man capable of that type of depravity could do if again handed the awesome power of the presidency.

Early this year, a federal appeals court took less than a month after oral argument to issue its lengthy opinion on immunity. History shows that the Supreme Court can act just as quickly, when necessary. And the court should fashion its decision in a way that does not lead to further time-consuming appeals on presidential immunity. It cannot be that a president of the United States can attempt to steal an election and seize power but our justice system is incapable of bringing him to trial before the next election four years later.

Mr. Trump believes he can threaten and intimidate judges and their families, assert baseless legal defenses and thereby avoid accountability altogether. Through this conduct, he seeks to break our institutions. If Mr. Trump’s tactics prevent his Jan. 6 trial from proceeding in the ordinary course, he will also have succeeded in concealing critical evidence from the American people — evidence demonstrating his disregard for the rule of law, his cruelty on Jan. 6 and the deep flaws in character that make him unfit to serve as president. The Supreme Court should understand this reality and conclude without delay that no immunity applies here.

April 22

 

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, is the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump..

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, is the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Will a Mountain of Evidence Be Enough to Convict Trump? Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 22, 2024 (print ed.). Monday will see opening statements in the People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump. A conviction is far from assured.

In the official record, the case is known as the People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump, and, for now, the people have the stronger hand: They have insider witnesses, a favorable jury pool and a lurid set of facts about a presidential candidate, a payoff and a porn star.

On Monday, the prosecutors will formally introduce the case to 12 all-important jurors, embarking on the first prosecution of an American president. The trial, which could brand Mr. Trump a felon as he mounts another White House run, will reverberate throughout the nation and test the durability of the justice system that Mr. Trump attacks as no other defendant could.

Though the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, has assembled a mountain of evidence, a conviction is hardly assured. Over the next six weeks, Mr. Trump’s lawyers will seize on three apparent weak points: a key witness’s credibility, a president’s culpability and the case’s legal complexity.

Prosecutors will seek to maneuver around those vulnerabilities, dazzling the jury with a tale that mixes politics and sex, as they confront a shrewd defendant with a decades-long track record of skirting legal consequences. They will also seek to bolster the credibility of that key witness, Michael D. Cohen, a former fixer to Mr. Trump who previously pleaded guilty to federal crimes for paying the porn star, Stormy Daniels.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opening Statements in Trump’s Criminal Trial to Begin Today, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, April 22, 2024. Manhattan prosecutors will go first, giving a preview of the evidence against Donald Trump in the case, which involves a hush-money payment to a porn star.

The first criminal trial of an American president will debut on Monday for a jury of 12 New Yorkers, as prosecutors and defense lawyers deliver opening statements that provide dueling interpretations of the evidence against Donald J. Trump.

The unprecedented case, which centers on Mr. Trump’s efforts to cover up a sex scandal involving a hush-money payment to a porn star, could reshape America’s political landscape and test the limits of the nation’s justice system.

Opening statements at a trial are like overtures: Both sides present a preview of what the jurors will hear from witnesses and what they will see in documentary evidence. They are tightly scripted performances in which lawyers seek to persuade and charm the jurors who will decide whether they win or lose their case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Are Key Players in the Trump Manhattan Criminal Trial? Kate Christobek, Featured April 22, 2024. Donald J. Trump has become the first former U.S. president to face a criminal trial. Manhattan prosecutors charged him last year with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, accusing Mr. Trump of covering up a sex scandal with the porn star Stormy Daniels around the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has pleaded not guilty.

 

arthur engoron djt

Meidas Touch Network, Opinion: CON MAN Trump SCREWS HIMSELF with Bad Bond, Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok, April 22, 2024. Legal AF podcast anchors Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok debate/discuss: whether the judge [New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoran, shown above] will accept or reject Trump’s $175 million bond to stop collection on his $465 million civil fraud judgment.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The Top 25 Issues With Trump’s $175M Bond — All Listed Here — Do Not Include the Two New Ones That Have Arisen Just Hours Before a Hearing That Could Determine the Future of His Empire, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left, April 21, 2024. If the so-called Knight Bond is rejected by Judge Arthur Engoron on Monday, April 22, Trump’s real estate empire could begin its final collapse by the end of the month. But the bond appears to be DOA.

Introduction: Proof has offered the most extensive coverage of the Trump Bond Crisis-cum-Trump Bond War of any seth abramson proof logomedia outlet in the United States. The Bibliography below briefly summarizes the past coverage of this topic at Proof....

But now the Trump Bond War is coming to a head. The future of Donald Trump’s real estate empire—such as it is—will be determined in New York City on April 22, 2024, assuming Trump and his legal team were telling the truth when they submitted to Judge Arthur Engoron that no bank or insurance carrier in the world would loan any money to Trump for a civil bond other than Knight Specialty Insurance Company.

don hankey headshotThe CEO of that company, Don Hankey, right, is a Trump mega-donor who has bailed him out of at least two major financial jams in the past and (as the reports above confirm) has lied to the public from the start about his involvement in bonding Trump here.

These lies have had the effect of confirming that, right now, no one but Hankey would loan money to Trump.

So here are the latest details on the course of self-destruction that is clearly weighing on Trump every bit as much as his pending criminal trial in Manhattan—and perhaps more so. What we find in the discussion below are at least 25 major (and disqualifying) issues with the so-called Knight Bond, but also two more that Proof has exclusively uncovered, both of which may come to the fore in court tomorrow. They could also indicate far deeper issues with the Knight Bond than anyone had previously imagined.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has now summarized the problems with the Knight Bond in a 26-page filing that asks Judge Engoron to (a) reject it, (b) give Trump seven days to secure a new bond, and (c) order that, should he fail to do so, the New York Attorney General’s Office (hereafter “NYAG”) is authorized to begin its seizure of Trump’s New York properties in fulfillment of a nearly half-a-billion-dollar civil judgment against him, his kids, and the Trump Organization for their years and years of Fraud against both American banks and the United States federal government.

April 20

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hush-Money Trial: 5 Takeaways From the First Week of Donald Trump’s Criminal Trial, Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek, Updated April 20, 2024. A full jury was seated, a horrifying incident shook the court and opening statements were set to begin on Monday.

The first week of the criminal trial of Donald J. Trump ended with a disturbing jolt: a 37-year-old man set himself on fire outside the courthouse, an event that overshadowed the legal proceedings inside.

The news of the immolation rippled through the press corps just as the final members of Mr. Trump’s jury — including 12 seated jurors and six alternates — were being sworn in. Reporters rushed from the Lower Manhattan courtroom.

But the trial’s pace, which has been faster than expected, did not slack. After lunch, Justice Juan M. Merchan conducted a hearing to determine which questions prosecutors might ask Mr. Trump if he were to testify in his own defense.

Mr. Trump, 77, is charged with falsifying 34 business records in an attempt to cover up a payment to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress who has said they had a sexual encounter in 2006. Prosecutors have said he did so to better his chances of winning the election. He has denied the charges; the former president could face probation or prison if convicted.

Opening statements in the case are expected Monday.

April 19

 

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump..

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

Politico, Appeals court upholds conviction of GOP operative who steered Russian money to Trump camp, Kyle Cheney, April 19, 2024. Jesse Benton played leading roles in the presidential campaigns of Ron and Rand Paul and worked briefly as Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager.

politico CustomA federal appeals court on Friday upheld the conviction of veteran Republican campaign operative Jesse Benton for steering an illegal Russian contribution to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Benton, who played leading roles in the presidential campaigns of Ron and Rand Paul and worked briefly as Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, helped facilitate an improper $25,000 payment to the Trump camp and the Republican National Committee on behalf of Roman Vasilenko, a Russian national who had approached another GOP operative, Doug Wead, about his interest in meeting an American celebrity. When he was unable to get an audience with Oprah Winfrey, Steven Seagal or Jimmy Carter, the operative suggested Trump.

Benton then arranged for Vasilenko to attend a join Trump-RNC fundraiser in Philadelphia, where the Russian took a picture with the soon-to-be president. Vasilenko used the photos to burnish his reputation in Russia “including speaking on Russian TV about President-elect Trump and his attitudes toward Russia.”

Benton — who was pardoned by Trump in 2020 for other campaign finance crimes in the final weeks of Trump’s term — was convicted by a jury in late 2022 of six felonies related to the contribution and falsified campaign finance records. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, sentenced Benton to 18 months in prison, and records indicate he is due for release in June. Both Ron and Rand Paul — the former Texas representative and current Kentucky senator, respectively — wrote letters on Benton’s behalf at sentencing, decrying the impact that a jail sentence would have on his family.

In addition to his time working for Ron and Rand Paul, Benton managed McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign in Kentucky, helping the Senate minority leader stave off a primary challenge from his right. But Benton but left his role before the general election amid an investigation into campaign finance violations unrelated to his work for McConnell.

In his appeal, Benton argued that the government improperly charged him under a 20-year-old statute criminalizing the falsification of records to the government, rather than under campaign finance laws. But the appeals court rejected the argument.

“The government is free to exercise its discretion to prosecute under either or both statutes,” wrote Judge Karen Henderson, a George H.W. Bush appointee to the court, for a unanimous three-judge panel. The panel’s other judges, Florence Pan and Bradley Garcia, are both appointees of President Joe Biden.

Notably, the judges also ruled that McFadden did not make a mistake when he ruled that prosecutors could introduce evidence of Benton’s pardoned conviction for his earlier crimes. Though the ruling became moot when Benton opted not to take the stand, he argued that it was nevertheless an error by McFadden.

The appeals court, however, rejected that argument as well, noting that prosecutors are permitted to introduce evidence of other “bad acts” in trial under certain circumstances. And while Trump’s pardon of Benton could be seen as an “act of grace” by the outgoing president, Trump did not claim that Benton was actually innocent of the charges against him.

“Under the modern understanding of a Presidential pardon’s effect, it ‘does not blot out guilt’ or create a factual fiction that conviction never occurred,” Henderson wrote.

“[T]he face of Benton’s pardon makes no mention of rehabilitation or innocence,” the judge continued. “Benton places great weight on the accompanying White House press release but it is likewise silent as to Benton’s rehabilitation or innocence.”

April 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Demands a Cut of Donations From Campaigns That Use His Name, Chris Cameron, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The Trump campaign said that candidates using his brand should turn over at least 5 percent of donations and encouraged them to send more than the minimum.

trump 2024The presidential campaign of former President Donald J. Trump said in a letter to Republican vendors that candidates may use his name, image and likeness in campaign materials only if they send at least 5 percent of donations that they receive to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The move in effect imposes a tax on using the Trump brand for campaign purposes. Mr. Trump has sought to close a significant financial gap between him and President Biden, his Democratic rival. The Biden campaign and its political committees reported $192 million in cash on hand at the end of March, more than double the $93 million of Trump and the Republican Party.

djt maga hatDanielle Alvarez, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, said in a statement that “it is important to protect small-dollar donors from scammers that use the president’s name and likeness.”

In a letter this week signed by Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, who identified themselves as co-campaign managers, the campaign also said it was tightening control of campaign materials that use Mr. Trump’s name, prohibiting strident language that has become common in donor appeals such as “President Trump needs you” or “If you support President Trump, you’ll contribute now.”

The letter said the messaging guidelines were part of an effort “to treat our donors with the utmost respect.” After Mr. Trump appeared in court on Monday, the campaign sent a fund-raising pitch falsely claiming in all-capital letters that Mr. Trump had “just stormed out of Biden’s kangaroo court!” Mr. Trump had not actually stormed out of the Manhattan courthouse.


Donald Trump sits at a courtroom table between two lawyers, with court officers standing behind him. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers tried to tease out bias among the Manhattanites called for jury duty (Pool photo by Curtis Means via the New York Times on April 16, 2024).

Donald Trump sits at a courtroom table between two lawyers, with court officers standing behind him.
Donald J. Trump’s lawyers tried to tease out bias among the Manhattanites called for jury duty (Pool photo by Curtis Means via the New York Times on April 16, 2024).

April 15

 

Donald Trump sits at a defendant’s table in a blue suit. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to get Justice Juan M. Merchan thrown off the case (Pool photo by Curtis Means).

Donald Trump sits at a defendant’s table in a blue suit. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to get Justice Juan M. Merchan thrown off the case (Pool photo by Curtis Means).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Trial Is Poised to Begin, a Criminal Case Without Precedent, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, April 15, 2024. Donald J. Trump faces charges he faked business records to cover up a sex scandal before winning the presidency in 2016. It is the first criminal trial of a former president.

The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, has charged Mr. Trump with 34 felonies, accusing him of falsifying documents to conceal a sex scandal involving a porn star.

The case, one of four indictments facing the former president and presumptive Republican nominee, could reshape the political landscape ahead of Election Day.

Jury selection could last two weeks or more, and the trial may spill into June. Mr. Trump is expected to be in the courtroom for much of it.

The spectacle will be remarkable: a former president face-to-face with a part of his past that he has tried to bury. In 2016, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, paid $130,000 to the porn star, Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence about a story of having had sex with Mr. Trump a decade earlier.

Mr. Trump, who might take the witness stand in his own defense, has denied the sexual encounter. But prosecutors say that he falsified a series of documents to hide reimbursements to Mr. Cohen.

As Mr. Trump seeks to defend himself in court and on the campaign trail, he is likely to test the patience of the judge and the limits of the justice system. Already, the judge, Juan M. Merchan, has imposed a gag order, barring the former president from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and the judge’s family.

The 12 jurors, once selected, will have to judge Mr. Cohen’s story themselves: He is expected to be the prosecution’s star witness, confronting a boss he once idolized and now despises.

Jury selection will be crucial for both sides. Prosecutors have some advantage, as the jury pool is drawn from Manhattan, one of the most Democratic counties in America. Mr. Trump’s team will be looking for red needles in a blue haystack.

  • New York Times, Take a closer look at some of the most important players in the trial.
  • New York Times, Can Donald Trump still run for president if he is convicted?

washington post logoWashington Post, Small-time investors in Trump’s Truth Social reckon with stock collapse, Drew Harwell, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). Jerry Dean McLain first bet on former president Donald Trump’s Truth Social two years ago, buying into the Trump company’s planned merger partner, Digital World Acquisition, at $90 a share.

Over time, as the price changed, he kept buying, amassing hundreds of shares for $25,000 — pretty much his “whole nest egg,” he said.

That nest egg has lost about half its value in the past two weeks as Trump Media & Technology Group’s share price dropped from $66 after its public debut last month to $32 on Friday. But McLain, 71, who owns a tree-removal service outside Oklahoma City, said he’s not worried. If anything, he wants to buy more.

“I know good and well it’s in Trump’s hands, and he’s got plans,” he said. “I have no doubt it’s going to explode sometime.”

For shareholders like McLain, investing in Truth Social is less a business calculation than a statement of faith in the former president and the business traded under his initials, DJT.

Even the company’s plunging stock price — and the chance their investments could get mostly wiped out — doesn’t seem to have shaken that faith. The company has lost $3.5 billion in value since its public debut last month.

As a business, Trump Media has largely underwhelmed: The company lost $58 million last year on $4 million in revenue, less than the average Chick-fil-A franchise, even as it paid out millions in executive salaries, bonuses and stock.

And in two years, Truth Social has attracted a tiny fraction of the traffic other platforms see, according to estimates from the analytics firm Similarweb — one of the only ways to measure its performance, given that the company says it “does not currently, and may never, collect, monitor or report certain key operating metrics used by companies in similar industries.”

But for some Trump investors, the stock is a badge of honor — a way to show their devotion beyond buying Trump merchandise, visiting Trump golf courses or donating to Trump’s presidential campaign.

April 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Donald Trump’s Embrace of the Jan. 6 Rioters, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). The former president initially disavowed the attack on the Capitol, but he is now making it a centerpiece of his general election campaign.

ICE logoTwo days before former President Donald J. Trump was booked at an Atlanta jail on his fourth indictment, he held an event at his golf club in New Jersey for another group of people facing criminal charges: rioters accused of storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Standing next to a portrait of himself portrayed as James Bond, Mr. Trump told the defendants and their families that they had suffered greatly, but that all of that would change if he won another term.

“People who have been treated unfairly are going to be treated extremely, extremely fairly,” he said to a round of applause at the event last August in Bedminster, N.J. “What you’ve suffered is just ridiculous,” he added. “But it’s going to be OK.”

That private event was emblematic of how Mr. Trump has embraced dozens of Jan. 6 defendants and their relatives and highlights how he has sought to undermine law enforcement when it suits him, while he also puts forth a law-and-order campaign.

Recently, however, his celebrations of the Capitol riot and those who took part in it have become more public as he has promoted a revisionist history of the attack and placed it at the heart of his 2024 presidential campaign.

Despite the nearly 1,000 guilty pleas and convictions that have been secured in criminal cases stemming from Jan. 6, Mr. Trump has repeatedly described the rioters who broke into the Capitol as “hostages” and has started to open his campaign events with a recording of riot defendants singing the national anthem from their jail cells.

He has highlighted the work of the so-called Freedom Corner, a vigil of activists and rioters’ family members who have gathered nearly nightly for almost two years outside the jail in Washington where some of the most violent rioters are being held. This year, when it seemed as if Mr. Trump would go on trial in Washington on charges related to Jan. 6, his aides discussed the idea of him visiting that jail, according to a person familiar with the discussions who was not authorized to speak publicly. The plan was put off after the trial was delayed.

By doing all of this, Mr. Trump has risked radicalizing his most die-hard supporters even further, encouraging them to repeat events like those that unfolded on Jan. 6.

“It normalizes violence as a legitimate solution to political grievances,” said Robert Pape, a scholar at the University of Chicago who has studied American political violence in the wake of the Capitol attack. “And so it makes it more likely that politically angry people will resort to it.”

  • Justice Matters, There's one piece of evidence that will make that Manhattan jury convict Trump in a New York minute, Glenn Kirschner, April 14, 2024.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protests, Traffic, Crowds: Court Braces for a Trump Trial Like No Other, Jesse McKinley and Jonathan Swan, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Strict security measures — and plenty of headaches — are expected as the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president gets underway in Manhattan.

Manhattan’s Criminal Courts Building, at 100 Centre Street, is short on charm: circled in scaffolding, lit like an aging cafeteria and, in recent months, neighbor to a colossal pile of rubble, the remains of the Manhattan Detention Complex, which is being demolished.

Yet come Monday, it will be the pulsing center of a swirling mass of security measures, and likely headaches, as the first criminal trial of Donald J. Trump kicks off on its 15th floor.

Court and law enforcement personnel have been tight-lipped about the exact steps they are taking, but a court lawyer said at a hearing this week that preparations had been underway for months.

They will have plenty to contend with. Right-wing supporters of the former president have already announced plans to protest near the courthouse on Monday as jury selection begins, and cable news networks have promised wall-to-wall coverage of the case.

Security for Mr. Trump, who is being tried on charges that he falsified business records to cover up a hush-money payment to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election, will undoubtedly be high. Strict protective measures will also be in place for Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who brought the case, and Juan M. Merchan, the judge who is trying it.

Though Mr. Trump is required to be in court every day it is in session, he can ask the judge and prosecutors to excuse him if he wishes to be absent.

On the other hand, the former president also suggested on Friday that he would testify in the case, telling reporters that he would “tell the truth” and that prosecutors “have no case.” (Then again, Mr. Trump has promised to testify in previous cases only to waver and back out.)

But when Mr. Trump is at 100 Centre, his presence — and the media frenzy that surrounds it — could snarl traffic throughout Lower Manhattan, as well as anywhere his motorcade travels, including his route to court from his Midtown home at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

And Mr. Trump, who is again the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is also likely to spend time in campaign mode at 40 Wall Street, his office tower south of the courthouse, potentially adding even more challenges to keeping things moving in Manhattan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s immunity claims tell voters all they need to know about him, E.J. Dionne Jr., April 14, 2024. When a nation allows the outlandish to become routine and accepts dangerous claims as normal, it loses its moral compass and its capacity to sustain liberty.

So do not shrug off how significant it is that the Supreme Court will soon hear Donald Trump’s claim that presidents should enjoy absolute immunity from prosecution for illegal acts performed in office. How the court handles this case involving the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election — and how the country responds — are tests of the nation’s capacity for self-government under the rule of law.

One temptation to resist: Denigrating the case as just another instance of Trump’s willingness to litigate anything to delay his various trials until after November’s election. This fails to take seriously what this case tells us about how he would govern if he returns to power.

Trump is saying something no other presidential candidate has ever said: That the only way to be an effective president is to be willing to break the law. “A denial of criminal immunity would incapacitate every future President with de facto blackmail and extortion while in office, and condemn him to years of post-office trauma at the hands of political opponents,” his lawyers wrote in their brief. “That would be the end of the Presidency as we know it and would irreparably damage our Republic.”

Well. Let’s leave it to psychiatrists to determine what “post-office trauma” might be. The breathless subtext echoing throughout their brief is that it takes a criminal to be a good president. This has implications voters should take very seriously, including for national security.

In one of the most powerful amicus briefs filed with the court, a group of retired generals and admirals and former service secretaries warned that absolute immunity would “severely undermine the Commander-in-Chief’s legal and moral authority to lead the military forces, as it would signal that they but not he must obey the rule of law.” Think about that. “Under this theory, the President could, with impunity, direct his national security appointees to, in turn, direct members of the military to execute plainly unlawful orders.”

This would threaten the proper functioning of our military and also constitutional democracy. “Particularly in times like the present, when anti-democratic, authoritarian regimes are on the rise worldwide,” they write, “such a threat is intolerable and dangerous.”

April 13

djt wikipedia fraudsters

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Wikipedia finally gets something right, Wayne Madsen, left, April 13-14, 2024.  wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWhile WMR will continue to criticize the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia as the greatest source of disinformation since the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, we can point outthat it finally got something right. Wikipedia now lists Donald Trump as one of the most notorious fraudsters in history.

wayne madesen report logoAnd that is exactly how history and social studies teachers around the country should refer to him in their lesson plans.

Rather than compare Trump to all of the other presidents, who, compared to the grifter from Queens, were all honorable men -- including Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon -- Trump is better suited to be in the company of fellow fraudsters and swindlers like Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, and Charles Ponzi, the latter of Ponzi scheme infamy.

Trump's final con during his sordid career tops those performed by all of his fellow crooks. That was, of course, being elected President of the United States.

Although historians now agree that Donald Trump ranks as the worst president in history, when it comes to swindlers, grifters, and crooks, he ranks right up there with George Parker, the man who repeatedly "sold" the Brooklyn Bridge to the unwary, and "Crazy Eddie" Antar, the tri-state consumer electronics salesman who made famous the money laudering scheme nicknamed the "Panama pump."

Wikipedia describes fraudster Trump as follows: "Real-estate purchaser and hospitality venue operator found by a State of New York Supreme Court justice to have provided fraudulent statements of financial condition that vastly overstated his wealth. Victims included the Government of the United States, which relied on the documents when awarding Trump a contract to convert and operate the Old Post Office (Washington, DC) as a hotel, and borrowers and insurers who relied on the documents to provide favorable rates for which he was not actually entitled. The court ordered Trump's ill-gotten gains disgorged and placed a roughly $354 million judgment, plus interest, against him and his two adult sons."

Trump now finds himself in the company of such rogues as Madoff, whose grift totaled $17.179 billion; Scientology minister and Earthlink co-founder Reed Slatkin, who defrauded mostly other Scientologists of $593 million; Marc Dreier, who swindled $740 million mainly by selling fraudulent promissory notes; and Ponzi, who lent his name to later fraudulent investment schemes, including those concocted by Madoff and Trump, as well as by Shimon Hayut, aka Simon Leviev, who conned unwary investors of $100 million. Hayut was the focus of the Netflix series titled "The Tinder Swindler."

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump Violates Gag Order in NY Criminal Case With Attack on Michael Cohen, Brett Meiselas, April 13-14, 2024. A panicked Donald Trump continues to test the legal system as his first criminal trial approaches in Manhattan.

mtn meidas touch networkWith just days before his New York criminal trial, Donald Trump sent a flurry of panicked messages on his social media app, with one in particular clearly violating his gag order. The post attacked his former attorney, Michael Cohen, a key witness in the case.

 

stormy daniels djt

washington post logoWashington Post, The horse wars of Stormy Daniels, Peter Jamison, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Stormy Daniels is involved in a multimillion-dollar court battle and ensnared some of the top officials in the rarefied world of competitive English riding.

Stormy Daniels had decided to go public with her accusations.

“I’m taking a stand for those who don’t have a voice,” she announced in a long Facebook post. “My only regret is that I waited so long.”

It was December 2016 — more than a year before Daniels would break her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump. Her target was not a national political figure, but a Dallas-area horse trainer, Ellen Doughty, who Daniels claimed had mistreated her animals.

Doughty forcefully denied the allegations, which Daniels also published on a popular equestrian website. It was the opening salvo in a feud that has grown into a multimillion-dollar court battle and ensnared some of the top officials in the rarefied world of competitive English riding. Along the way, there have been four dead horses — one of which did not stay buried — and a trail of recriminations that can seem as endless as the plains of North Texas.

At the center is Daniels, a lifelong horse lover better known to millions of Americans as history’s most politically consequential adult-film actress. When Trump stands trial this month in New York on charges of falsifying business records to hide a hush money payment made in the fall of 2016 — the first criminal prosecution of a former American president — Daniels may be called as a key witness. Trump, who denies he had sex with Daniels, has pleaded not guilty, saying the payment was made to prevent “false and extortionist accusations.”

But the woman who was paid $130,000 to bury her account of a couple of minutes of sex in a Lake Tahoe hotel room has simultaneously been involved in another legal drama unfolding far from cable news studios and big-city courthouses.

The dispute, largely ignored in the avalanche of media attention devoted to Daniels over the past six years, offers a new vantage on one of the most polarizing figures of the Trump era. It highlights the extent to which the same dynamics that surround her on the national stage have followed her off it: questions about her motivations and credibility, the adulation of supporters who say she’s standing up for the truth, and a large amount of money at stake.

April 11

 Donald Trump sits at a defendant’s table in a blue suit. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to get Justice Juan M. Merchan thrown off the case (Pool photo by Curtis Means).

Donald Trump sits at a defendant’s table in a blue suit. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to get Justice Juan M. Merchan thrown off the case (Pool photo by Curtis Means).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Loses His Third Try in a Week to Delay Manhattan Trial, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess, Updated April 11, 2024  Donald J. Trump was turned down when he asked an appeals court — again — to stave off his prosecution on charges that he faked business records to cover up a sex scandal.

Lawyers for Donald J. Trump have spent this week seeking to stave off the former president’s trial on charges that he covered up a sex scandal.

They tried again Wednesday. Again, they failed.

In Mr. Trump’s latest last-minute bid to delay a trial that starts Monday, he filed a civil action in an appeals court against the judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan. It sought to delay the trial while the appeals court reconsidered several of the judge’s rulings.

A single appellate court judge, Ellen Gesmer, promptly rejected Mr. Trump’s request. Mr. Trump can now have his action heard by a full panel of five appellate court judges, but it would be nearly impossible for the court to act before the trial begins.

The episode underscored Mr. Trump’s increasing desperation to delay the trial, and his scattershot approach to doing so.

Stalling is one of the former president’s favorite legal strategies, in the Manhattan case and all his many legal entanglements. But even for Mr. Trump, it was an audacious move: taking legal action against a judge and burying an appeals court in long-shot delay tactics.

Politico, Siding with special counsel, Cannon agrees to keep witness identities secret, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, April 11, 2024 (print ed.). Despite sharp words for prosecutors, the Trump-appointed judge in the classified documents case said they presented evidence to justify the sealing.

politico CustomThe judge handling the classified documents case against Donald Trump has granted prosecutors’ request to delete the names of potential witnesses from public court filings, but turned down a more sweeping request that even their statements be kept under wraps.

Special counsel Jack Smith argued that the witnesses were likely to face threats and harassment if their identities were revealed, and that even making their accounts public could lead to their public identification.

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon accepted the general thrust of the prosecutors’ argument, but her 24-page ICE logoopinion is replete with criticism of Smith’s team for being slow to present their concerns in detail, for failing to comply with court policies and procedures and for not providing adequate justification for the the broad sealing of court records.

It’s the latest decision in which Cannon has sided with prosecutors in an opinion that is primarily critical of their tactics. And despite the result it’s yet another indication of tension between the Trump-appointed judge and Smith’s team, even as the decision will resolve a significant source of that tension: Cannon’s earlier ruling that appeared to permit defendants to reveal identifying information about potential trial witnesses.

Cannon’s opinion does not delve into the nature or degree of threat to witnesses, even as she concludes in vague terms that those concerns are sufficient to justify the bid to keep witness names secret at least until a trial. She noted that she had several legitimate reasons to deny Smith’s request but chose not to based on evidence he provided on the issue after her initial ruling.

“Although the Special Counsel’s request remains sweeping in nature as applied to all potential government witnesses without differentiation — and although the Court was unable to locate another high-profile case (in publicly available records) in which a court granted a broad-based pretrial request to seal the identities of all potential prosecution witnesses as sought here — the Court is satisfied that the Special Counsel has made an adequate showing on this issue — at least at this juncture pending final trial preparations,” wrote Cannon.

The judge said the prosecution’s request to keep the statements witnesses made secret was more problematic and unjustified because it would require closure of at least portion of hearings on pretrial motions, including a session set to take place on Friday in Fort Pierce, Florida.

“Based on the Court’s independent research, granting this request would be unprecedented: the Court cannot locate any case — high-profile or otherwise — in which a court has authorized anything remotely similar to the sweeping relief sought here,” Cannon wrote.

The judge emphasized that there is a strong presumption in favor of public access in connection with most court filings and proceedings — the Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to “a speedy and public trial.” Many of Smith’s claims continue to fall short of what would be needed to overcome that presumption.

“The Special Counsel has had multiple opportunities to provide factual and legal support for the contention that generalized witness- and jury-pool-influence concerns justify blanket sealing of all witness statements relied on in pre-trial motions,” she wrote. “None has been provided.”

At a court session on March 1, prosecutor David Harbach acknowledged that the government’s initial sealing request was not adequately explained or justified.

“We recognize that we could have done a better job of that initially, and so we’re owning that,” Harbach told Cannon, while insisting that prosecutors had now made a more detailed showing.

Cannon’s ruling could break a logjam in the case, with numerous motions piling up under seal and an unclear path toward hearings on those issues. Cannon complained at a court session last month that some of the motions were effectively stuck because of prosecutors’ secrecy requests.

Trump is charged with 32 counts of retaining classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving office — and then obstructing efforts by the government to reclaim them.

However, the case continues to face logistical hurdles, most significantly the fact that Trump is set to go on trial next week in a Manhattan courtroom on charges he falsified business records related to payments made during the 2016 campaign in an effort to prevent women from going public with their stories alleging sexual affairs with Trump.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump's 10th Attempt to Delay Trial Fails, Ron Filipkowski, April 10-11, 2024. For at least the 10th time, Donald Trump has tried and failed to delay his trial in New York on the the Stormy Daniels hush money case.

mtn meidas touch networkTrump has tried every excuse and trick in the book, filing motion after motion in the trial court then taking each one up to an appellate court. But every single effort has failed and he is going to have to face reality as he sits in court on Monday for the first criminal jury trial of his life.

djt maga hatThis is not like the civil case either, where Trump can drop in and drop out as he pleases. His appearance is mandatory, so he will have to be in the courtroom all day, every day, for as long as it takes with a judge he loathes.

This trial is going to be unlike any of his previous hearings - Judge Merchan is not going to tolerate his antics and histrionics. Also, there is a very serious possibility Trump could actually be sentenced to jail when this trial is over if he loses.

The fact that he was up until 2:00 AM rage posting on Truth Social then back at it at 6:30 AM this morning shows that he finally realizes he has to deal with this.

April 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Special counsel urges Supreme Court to reject Trump’s immunity claim, Ann E. Marimow, April 9, 2024 (print ed.). Special counsel Jack Smith on Monday urged the Supreme Court to reject Donald Trump’s “novel and sweeping” claim that he is immune from criminal prosecution on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“The President’s constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed does not entail a general right to violate them,” Smith said in his office’s main brief to the justices before the Supreme Court reviews the case on April 25, the final day of the court’s oral argument calendar for this term.

Trump’s D.C. prosecution for allegedly trying to block Joe Biden’s victory is on hold while the justices consider his immunity claim, and the high court’s ruling will determine whether and how quickly Trump faces trial.

The justices’ decision to take up Trump’s claim — rather than let stand an appeals court decision that he can be prosecuted — has drawn criticism for delaying the trial, which initially was scheduled to begin in early March.

Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee for president, has tried to push the D.C. trial and the other legal challenges he faces until after the general election rematch with Biden. If Trump is again elected president, he could appoint an attorney general who would seek to have the federal cases dropped.

The justices can rule on the immunity issue at any time after the April 25 argument, and are expected to do so before the term ends in late June or early July. That would push any trial at least into the second half of the summer or the fall.

In addition, the Supreme Court next week will review the validity of a law that has been used to charge hundreds of people with obstruction in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — and that is also a key element of the D.C. charges that Trump is facing.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump Shares "Trump Miracles" List, Comparison of Himself to Resurrected Jesus, J.D. Wolf, April 9, 2024. Trump's article: "Jesus Christ rose on Easter week. But this year, so did President Donald J. Trump."

mtn meidas touch networkTrump shared an article comparing himself and his "miracles" to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The article, posted to Truth Social, started by acknowledging the purpose of Easter week:

"What a week! We just concluded Easter Week- the holiest week in the Christian faith- to celebrate the day that Jesus Christ arose from the dead."

The article then began to compare Trump to Jesus being raised from the dead. Pro-Trump right wing host Wayne Allen Root, the author of the article, then said, "First I have to educate you on someone who rose to new heights of fame, wealth and political popularity this week- President Donald J. Trump."

Root surmised that perhaps his readers didn't notice Trump's triumph during Holy Week "with everything happening around a major American holiday and a busy news week." Newsflash... Easter is celebrated worldwide.

Root claims he's not comparing Trump to God or to Jesus, but does admit that he calls Trump "the Chosen One," explaining his belief that "Trump has been chosen by God to lead the battle of good vs evil in America." Root has previously called Trump a "walking miracle" for defeating the infamous Access Hollywood "pussy grabber" tape. Trump shared that article in August.

Trump's shared article then dove into a section on "Trump miracles." You read that correctly: "Trump's miracles." Root explains: "And the result of “being chosen by God” is what I call “the Trump Miracle.” It’s happening all around us. Here are a few Trump miracles during Easter week...

Trump's article: "Trump is, as I keep saying, “the Chosen One.” But what I mean by that phrase is simply that Trump has been chosen by God to lead the battle of good vs evil in America..."

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump’s Bid to Delay NY Criminal Trial Rejected by Appeals Court Judge, Brett Meiselas, April 9, 2024. Trump is barreling towards his first criminal trial in New York – and his desperate delay attempts are not working.

mtn meidas touch networkTrump faced yet another defeat in court as a New York appeals court judge rejected his desperate attempt to delay his impending criminal trial in Manhattan by seeking an interim stay. This ruling dealt another blow to Trump's efforts to postpone the trial, which is scheduled to commence next week.

Judge Cynthia S. Kern swiftly dismissed Trump’s motion to halt proceedings while he sought legal recourse against the Justice Juan Merchan. Trump's sought not only to postpone the trial but also to invalidate a gag order imposed by Justice Merchan, which prohibited Trump from targeting witnesses, prosecutors, and the judge's family.

During Tuesday's brief hearing, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office strongly advocated for upholding the gag order, emphasizing the serious repercussions of Trump’s verbal attacks. Steven Wu, representing the district attorney’s office, argued against delaying the trial while the court reviewed the gag order.

Despite Justice Kern’s ruling against Trump, he still has the option to present his plea before a full panel of five appellate court judges.

Trump now finds himself increasingly cornered, with this case representing just one of the legal challenges he faces. His persistent attempts to postpone trials until Election Day, possibly leveraging a return to the White House, remain a central aspect of his legal strategy across multiple jurisdictions. Trump has grown increasingly terrified in recent days as his first criminal trial approaches. In a panicked post made after midnight on his social media app, Donald Trump threatened to prosecute his political opponents as revenge should he win the election, writing "BIDEN TRIALS!!!"

April 8

 

Don Hankey, above, Chair of Knight Insurance Group, headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Everything We Were Told About the $175 Million Bond Donald Trump Got Was a Lie, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left, April 7-8, 2024. Here’s the truth—which breaking news reports revealed to America over just the last 72 hours.

Introduction: Across nine sprawling reports—see the Bibliography below in this Introduction—Proof has provided comprehensive coverage of the Trump Bond Crisis in the United States, on several occasions breaking news on this national security-implicating topic that subsequently appeared in major media. We’re now at a stage of the scandal Proof has seth abramson proof logodenominated the Trump Bond War, as law enforcement in the State of New York is contesting Donald Trump’s irregular bonding practices, and the consequences for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nominee could be both financial and political.arthur engoran horizontal

If Trump’s bond from Knight Specialty Insurance Company (under the guidance of CEO Don Hankey) is found to be legally or financially insufficient at a “show cause hearing” to be held before Judge Arthur Engoron (above) on April 22, it’s likely that Trump will have no choice but to stand and watch as New York Attorney General Letitia James, right, (who Trump regularly leticia james todd heisler nytcompares to an animal and smears with racist monikers) starts dismantling his real estate empire almost immediately—perhaps even within 24 hours of such a judgment.

Don Hankey’s ring of lending operations has been called the Trump Family’s “lender of last resort” by Rolling Stone, so if Hankey and the so-called “Knight Bond” are ruled ineligible in the Trump Family/Trump Organization civil fraud case it could mean both the end of Trump’s appeal in the case and the beginning of a stage in his decades-long history of corporate graft with which he has almost no experience: accountability.

Each day, more details are revealed not only about the myriad ways in which the Knight Bond is insufficient or potentially corrupt—even as it’s undoubtedly irregular (see the nine reports in the Bibliography below)—but also about the history don hankey headshotbetween Hankey, left, and his lending institutions and the Trump Family, including Jared Kushner.

For instance, almost no American news consumers will yet have seen this [as cited] 2016 report on Seeking Alpha about BOFI (AxosBank), whose largest investor is Trump’s newest lender (Hankey), which bank has repeatedly lent money to the Trump Family to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade.

Proof has previously expressed its concern, in reaction to the aforementioned Axos Whistleblower Case, that Trump’s new lender has a long history, via his involvement with Axos as its largest investor, with a digital operation that not only is the “lender of last resort” for the Trumps but also one that specifically does business with (a) foreign criminals, and (b) former leaders or public figures in three nations that Trump has attempted to collude with during his brief time as a politician in the United States: Russia, China, and Venezuela (as well as Kremlin assets in Ukraine, as discussed at great length in the 2020 national bestseller from the Proof Trilogy, Proof of Corruption).

The Seeking Alpha Report confirms Axos’s connections to all these countries in deals that look problematic on their face and consistent with the Axos Whistleblower Case.

Worse still, the Seeking Alpha Report limited itself almost entirely to deals done by Axos in one particular state: Florida, which has been Donald Trump’s home for years.

This nexus of a Don Hankey-funded operation, the Trump Family’s borrowing history, the State of Florida, and possible deals with criminals in Russia, Venezuela and China is genuinely terrifying in light of all the ways the Knight Bond is irregular and in view of all of the secrecy that still surrounds it.

With this in mind, Proof here itemizes, for free for the general public, the ways we’ve learned in just the last 72 hours that everything we were told about the Knight Bond was apparently a lie. [Extensive examples described but omitted from this Justice Integrity Project excerpt.]

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Judge STRENGTHENS GRIP over Trump before Trial, April 8, 2024. Ben Meiselas and mtn meidas touch networkMichael Popok debate/discuss on the Legal AF podcast: the “bond” nightmare that Trump has self-created, with an out-of-control bonding company owner, a bonding company that doesn’t have the cash assets to back the bond.

Also: the New York AG AND Judge calling for Trump and his crony’s bonding company to “prove” the bond in an upcoming evidentiary hearing. And, if Trump loses, will the NYAG immediately start collection efforts against him?

 

djt kiddie desk nov 30 2020

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Is Corporate America in Denial About Trump? Jonathan Mahler, April 7, 2024. Despite his populist promises, many bigwigs are keeping the faith that it couldn’t really happen here.

There was anxiety in the thin mountain air when the planet’s economic leaders gathered in January at Davos for the 54th meeting of the World Economic Forum. Donald Trump (shown above in a file photo at the White House on Nov. 30, 2020) had just trounced Nikki Haley in the Iowa caucuses, all but securing the Republican nomination for president. Haley was reliable, a known quantity. A resurgent Trump, on the other hand, was more worrying.

The Davos attendees needed reassurance, and Jamie Dimon, right, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, had jamie dimonsome to offer. In an interview with CNBC that made headlines around the world, Dimon praised Trump’s economic policies as president. “Be honest,” Dimon said, sitting against a backdrop of snow-dusted evergreens, dressed casually in a dark blazer and polo shirt. “He was kind of right about NATO, kind of right on immigration. He grew the economy quite well. Trade. Tax reform worked. He was right about some of China.” Asked which of the likely presidential candidates would be better for business, he opted not to pick a side.

“I will be prepared for both,” he said. “We will deal with both.”

Dimon presides over the largest and most profitable bank in the United States and has done so for nearly 20 years. Maybe more than any single individual, he stands in for the Wall Street establishment and, by extension, corporate America. With his comments at Davos, he seemed to be sending a message of good will to Trump on their behalf. But he also appeared to be trying to put his fellow globalists at ease, reassuring them that America, long a haven for investors fleeing risk in less-stable democracies, would remain a safe destination for their money in a second Trump administration.

But would it? As Dimon noted, for all Trump’s extreme rhetoric in the 2016 campaign — his threats to rip up America’s international trade agreements and his attacks on “globalization” and the “financial elite” — his presidency, like most presidencies, proved to be business-friendly.

But Trump and those around him are signaling that a second Trump administration would be very different.

Scholars who have spent their careers studying populist movements are not confused about what to expect. They have seen this sequence of events play out before, to disastrous effect not just on democracies but on businesses — and business leaders. If history offers any guide, they say, it’s that the Davos crowd should be a lot more concerned about a second Trump term.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Fund-Raiser Rakes In More Than $50.5 Million, Campaign Says, Michael Gold, April 7, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s campaign held the event at the home of the billionaire John Paulson, after a concerted effort to close the money gap with Democrats.

The event, hosted at the Palm Beach home of the hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson, follows a concerted effort by the Trump campaign to close the money gap with Democrats.

The reported total, which cannot be independently verified ahead of campaign finance filings in the coming months, is nearly double the $26 million that President Biden’s campaign said it raised last month at a celebrity-studded event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The money raised, according to the invitation, will be directed to the Trump 47 Committee, a shared fund-raising agreement among the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and roughly 40 state parties. Such joint accounts can take in checks of as much as $814,600.

Around 100 people were expected to attend the dinner, with a number of billionaires on the guest list.

Among the event’s co-chairs were familiar megadonors and Trump allies, including Rebekah Mercer, a major donor to Mr. Trump in 2016; Linda McMahon, a former Trump cabinet official; and Robert Bigelow, who backed Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in the Republican primary but in February donated $5 million to Mr. Trump’s super PAC.

Under the shared fund-raising agreement, the first $6,600 of any contribution will go to Mr. Trump’s campaign. The next $5,000 will go to his Save America PAC, the political account he has used to pay his legal bills. (That amount is the maximum contribution allowed to Save America under federal rules.) The R.N.C. will get the next $413,000, and then will come dozens of state parties.

The Biden campaign said earlier on Saturday that it, the Democratic Party and affiliated committees had raised more than $90 million in March, and that together they had $192 million on hand going into April. The Trump campaign said it and the Republican National Committee had raised $65.6 million in March, the former president’s best fund-raising month so far, and that they, along with their shared accounts, had $93.1 million on hand.

Adverse Comments

  • Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a statement that the Democratic fund-raising numbers stood in “stark contrast to Trump’s cash-strapped operation.” Mr. Biden’s totals were helped in part by the glamorous event in front of 5,000 donors at the storied Radio City Music Hall. Mr. Biden and two of his Democratic predecessors, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, were interviewed by the late-night host and comedian Stephen Colbert.
  • adam kinzinger twitterAdam Kinzinger, right (Slava Ukraini) 🇺🇸🇺🇦🇮🇱 (Former Republican Congressman from Illinois and Jan. 6 Committee member). @AdamKinzinger: "Insiders know this trick. Money is double counted… they include months back, and combining tons of accts including super pac etc. They will have struggling numbers after this, because they front and back loaded everything (and knowing trump, just plain lied). Don’t fret."

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How No Labels was thwarted — and a disaster for democracy was avoided, Jennifer Rubin, right, April jennifer rubin new headshot7, 2024. After months of attempting to recruit a third-party candidate for 2024 — and months of Democrats’ denunciations — the group No Labels announced it would have no ticket for this year’s presidential race.

President Biden’s campaign, the larger anti-MAGA coalition, and democracy defenders in the United States and around the world could not be more overjoyed. A significant threat to the campaign to defeat four-time indicted former president Donald Trump has been eliminated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump relies on a doctor who is a member of his golf club to vouch for his health, Michael Kranish, April 7, 2024 (print ed.). Former president has declined to release details about his own condition beyond a short letter from his physician, contrasting with Biden’s detailed report

As former president Donald Trump escalated his attacks on President Biden’s health and mental fitness last fall, Trump released the first updated report on his own condition in more than three years.

washington post logoWashington Post, RFK Jr. downplays Jan. 6 attack, says he wants a special counsel to review related cases, Azi Paybarah and Rachel Weiner, April 6, 2024 (print ed.). The independent presidential candidate said there is ‘little evidence of a true insurrection’ and falsely claimed no weapons were brought by rioters that day.

rfk jr mouth openRobert F. Kennedy Jr., left, the independent presidential candidate, said Friday that if he was elected, he would appoint a special counsel to investigate how prosecutors handled cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Kennedy also said Friday that there was “little evidence of a true insurrection” and falsely claimed that the protesters at the Capitol “carried no weapons.”

More than 1,000 people have been charged in the attack, including 10 on gun-related charges. Hundreds have been convicted and sentenced.

Kennedy later issued a second statement Friday night that said, “My understanding that none of the January 6 rioters who invaded the Capitol were carrying firearms was incorrect. Several have been convicted of carrying firearms into the Capitol building.”

“Others assaulted Capitol Police with pepper spray, bludgeons and other makeshift weapons,” he added.

The statement comes a day after a Kennedy campaign fundraising email referred to Jan. 6 defendants as “activists” who have been “stripped of their Constitutional liberties.” The campaign later retracted the email and said the communication, which claimed the defendants have been stripped of their rights, “does not reflect Mr. Kennedy’s views.”

Kennedy characterized the events of Jan. 6 as “a protest” that turned into “a riot.” But on Friday, he disputed calling what happened that January day an insurrection.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Milwaukee, Restaurants and Venues Worry of Seeing Limited R.N.C. Boost, Jonathan Weisman, April 8, 2024 (print ed.). In Chicago, venues are booking fast for the Democratic convention in August. But Milwaukee, host of the Republican convention, is wondering if customers will come.

Dan Jacobs, a contestant on the newest season of “Top Chef,” is having a national star turn with his soups, cheese treats and elevated snacks — and his open struggle with a rare degenerative disease.

But that publicity has not translated to a surge of prospective customers booking soirees at his Milwaukee restaurants, DanDan and EsterEv, ahead of the Republican National Convention, which is just three months away.

“We haven’t gotten one single inquiry, like nothing,” said the restaurateur. “That’s where I think everybody’s like, ‘What’s going on?’”

With the Republican convention slated to kick off in Milwaukee on July 15, some of the city’s biggest and most sought-after restaurants, concert halls and other venues are alarmed at how slowly the expected events around the gathering are taking shape.

Now, theories abound in Milwaukee about why bookings are off to such a slow start. Among them: turnover of convention staff after the presumptive nominee, former President Donald J. Trump, cleaned house at the Republican National Committee; a small city lacking event infrastructure; and a reluctance by would-be conventioneers to participate in an event showcasing Mr. Trump and his most ardent followers.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Inside Trump’s Bond War, Seth Abramson, left, investigative reporter, best-selling Trump biographer and atttorney, April 5-6, 2024. How Donald Trump has taken seth abramson graphicadvantage of the courts, the media, and his ties to fellow unscrupulous billionaires to emerge victorious in his ongoing appellate bond crisis—at least for now.

Yesterday, Trump’s $175 million bond was preliminarily rejected by the New York court system due to defects in its filing noted by Proof in its two most recent reports on the Trump Bond Crisis (see the Bibliography in Part II, below).

seth abramson proof logoTrump thereafter refiled his bond proposal, this time with a financial statement for his new lender, Knight Specialty Insurance Company of San Diego and Las Vegas (hereafter “Knight”), as well as a corrected listing for that company’s “attorney-in-fact.”

The next battle in which will, we now know, be held before Judge Arthur Engoron on April 22, 2024.

Politico, Russian talking points being heard on House floor, Ohio Republican says, David Cohen, April 8, 2024 (print ed.). “There are members of Congress today who still incorrectly say that this conflict between Russia and Ukraine is over NATO,” Rep. Mike Turner said.

politico CustomRep. Mike Turner agreed Sunday that some of his fellow members of Congress were parroting Russian propaganda in discussing the Russia-Ukraine war on the House floor.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the Ohio Republican said: “There are members of Congress today who still incorrectly say that this conflict between Russia and Ukraine is over NATO, which of course it is not. Vladimir Putin having made it very clear, both publicly and to his own population, that his view is that this is a conflict of a much broader claim of Russia to Eastern Europe, including claiming all of Ukrainian territories as Russian.”

Turner was responding to a question from host Jake Tapper about a statement by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) in an interview with Puck News’ Julia Ioffe that Russian propaganda had “infected” the Republican Party’s base.

“To the extent that this propaganda takes hold, it makes it more difficult for us to really see this as an authoritarian versus democracy battle, which is what it is,” Turner said.

Some House Republicans, most notably Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), have pushed to prevent Congress from approving more aid to Ukraine, with Greene threatening to hold a vote to remove House Speaker Mike Johnson should he hold a vote on Ukraine aid.

Turner, for his part, firmly supports more aid for Ukraine in its devastating 2-year-old war against Russia.

“We need to make certain that that we know that authoritarian regimes never stop when they start an aggression. Ukraine needs our help and assistance now,” he told Tapper.

Turner was also critical of President Joe Biden when it comes to his conduct of foreign policy.

“Frankly, it seems that almost President Biden has been asleep at the the wheel as he has not responded to the crisis as it’s unfolded,” Turner said of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war. He did commend CIA Director William Burns for his ongoing diplomatic efforts on that front.

“I put a great deal of faith in the work that he is doing,” Turner said of Burns.

The Guardian, Exclusive: Trump Media saved in 2022 by Russian-American under criminal investigation, Hugo Lowell, April 3, 2024. Trump’s social media company went public relying partly on loans from trust managed by person of interest to prosecutors.

Donald Trump’s social media company Trump Media managed to go public last week only after it had been kept afloat in 2022 by emergency loans provided in part by a Russian-American businessman under scrutiny in a federal insider-trading and money-laundering investigation.

The former US president stands to gain billions of dollars – his stake is currently valued at about $4bn – from the merger between Trump Media and Technology Group and the blank-check company Digital World Acquisition Corporation, which took the parent company of Truth Social public.

April 7

 

Don Hankey, above, Chair of Knight Insurance Group, headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Everything We Were Told About the $175 Million Bond Donald Trump Got Was a Lie, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left, April 7, 2024. Here’s the truth—which breaking news reports revealed to America over just the last 72 hours.

Introduction: Across nine sprawling reports—see the Bibliography below in this Introduction—Proof has provided comprehensive coverage of the Trump Bond Crisis in the United States, on several occasions breaking news on this national security-implicating topic that subsequently appeared in major media. We’re now at a stage of the scandal Proof has seth abramson proof logodenominated the Trump Bond War, as law enforcement in the State of New York is contesting Donald Trump’s irregular bonding practices, and the consequences for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nominee could be both financial and political.arthur engoran horizontal

If Trump’s bond from Knight Specialty Insurance Company (under the guidance of CEO Don Hankey) is found to be legally or financially insufficient at a “show cause hearing” to be held before Judge Arthur Engoron (above) on April 22, it’s likely that Trump will have no choice but to stand and watch as New York Attorney General Letitia James, right, (who Trump regularly leticia james todd heisler nytcompares to an animal and smears with racist monikers) starts dismantling his real estate empire almost immediately—perhaps even within 24 hours of such a judgment.

Don Hankey’s ring of lending operations has been called the Trump Family’s “lender of last resort” by Rolling Stone, so if Hankey and the so-called “Knight Bond” are ruled ineligible in the Trump Family/Trump Organization civil fraud case it could mean both the end of Trump’s appeal in the case and the beginning of a stage in his decades-long history of corporate graft with which he has almost no experience: accountability.

Each day, more details are revealed not only about the myriad ways in which the Knight Bond is insufficient or potentially corrupt—even as it’s undoubtedly irregular (see the nine reports in the Bibliography below)—but also about the history don hankey headshotbetween Hankey, left, and his lending institutions and the Trump Family, including Jared Kushner.

For instance, almost no American news consumers will yet have seen this [as cited] 2016 report on Seeking Alpha about BOFI (AxosBank), whose largest investor is Trump’s newest lender (Hankey), which bank has repeatedly lent money to the Trump Family to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade.

Proof has previously expressed its concern, in reaction to the aforementioned Axos Whistleblower Case, that Trump’s new lender has a long history, via his involvement with Axos as its largest investor, with a digital operation that not only is the “lender of last resort” for the Trumps but also one that specifically does business with (a) foreign criminals, and (b) former leaders or public figures in three nations that Trump has attempted to collude with during his brief time as a politician in the United States: Russia, China, and Venezuela (as well as Kremlin assets in Ukraine, as discussed at great length in the 2020 national bestseller from the Proof Trilogy, Proof of Corruption).

The Seeking Alpha Report confirms Axos’s connections to all these countries in deals that look problematic on their face and consistent with the Axos Whistleblower Case.

Worse still, the Seeking Alpha Report limited itself almost entirely to deals done by Axos in one particular state: Florida, which has been Donald Trump’s home for years.

This nexus of a Don Hankey-funded operation, the Trump Family’s borrowing history, the State of Florida, and possible deals with criminals in Russia, Venezuela and China is genuinely terrifying in light of all the ways the Knight Bond is irregular and in view of all of the secrecy that still surrounds it.

With this in mind, Proof here itemizes, for free for the general public, the ways we’ve learned in just the last 72 hours that everything we were told about the Knight Bond was apparently a lie. [Extensive examples described but omitted from this Justice Integrity Project excerpt.]

djt kiddie desk nov 30 2020

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Is Corporate America in Denial About Trump? Jonathan Mahler, April 7, 2024. Despite his populist promises, many bigwigs are keeping the faith that it couldn’t really happen here.

There was anxiety in the thin mountain air when the planet’s economic leaders gathered in January at Davos for the 54th meeting of the World Economic Forum. Donald Trump (shown above in a file photo at the White House on Nov. 30, 2020) had just trounced Nikki Haley in the Iowa caucuses, all but securing the Republican nomination for president. Haley was reliable, a known quantity. A resurgent Trump, on the other hand, was more worrying.

The Davos attendees needed reassurance, and Jamie Dimon, right, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, had jamie dimonsome to offer. In an interview with CNBC that made headlines around the world, Dimon praised Trump’s economic policies as president. “Be honest,” Dimon said, sitting against a backdrop of snow-dusted evergreens, dressed casually in a dark blazer and polo shirt. “He was kind of right about NATO, kind of right on immigration. He grew the economy quite well. Trade. Tax reform worked. He was right about some of China.” Asked which of the likely presidential candidates would be better for business, he opted not to pick a side.

“I will be prepared for both,” he said. “We will deal with both.”

Dimon presides over the largest and most profitable bank in the United States and has done so for nearly 20 years. Maybe more than any single individual, he stands in for the Wall Street establishment and, by extension, corporate America. With his comments at Davos, he seemed to be sending a message of good will to Trump on their behalf. But he also appeared to be trying to put his fellow globalists at ease, reassuring them that America, long a haven for investors fleeing risk in less-stable democracies, would remain a safe destination for their money in a second Trump administration.

But would it? As Dimon noted, for all Trump’s extreme rhetoric in the 2016 campaign — his threats to rip up America’s international trade agreements and his attacks on “globalization” and the “financial elite” — his presidency, like most presidencies, proved to be business-friendly.

But Trump and those around him are signaling that a second Trump administration would be very different.

Scholars who have spent their careers studying populist movements are not confused about what to expect. They have seen this sequence of events play out before, to disastrous effect not just on democracies but on businesses — and business leaders. If history offers any guide, they say, it’s that the Davos crowd should be a lot more concerned about a second Trump term.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Fund-Raiser Rakes In More Than $50.5 Million, Campaign Says, Michael Gold, April 7, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s campaign held the event at the home of the billionaire John Paulson, after a concerted effort to close the money gap with Democrats.

The event, hosted at the Palm Beach home of the hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson, follows a concerted effort by the Trump campaign to close the money gap with Democrats.

The reported total, which cannot be independently verified ahead of campaign finance filings in the coming months, is nearly double the $26 million that President Biden’s campaign said it raised last month at a celebrity-studded event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The money raised, according to the invitation, will be directed to the Trump 47 Committee, a shared fund-raising agreement among the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and roughly 40 state parties. Such joint accounts can take in checks of as much as $814,600.

Around 100 people were expected to attend the dinner, with a number of billionaires on the guest list.

Among the event’s co-chairs were familiar megadonors and Trump allies, including Rebekah Mercer, a major donor to Mr. Trump in 2016; Linda McMahon, a former Trump cabinet official; and Robert Bigelow, who backed Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in the Republican primary but in February donated $5 million to Mr. Trump’s super PAC.

Under the shared fund-raising agreement, the first $6,600 of any contribution will go to Mr. Trump’s campaign. The next $5,000 will go to his Save America PAC, the political account he has used to pay his legal bills. (That amount is the maximum contribution allowed to Save America under federal rules.) The R.N.C. will get the next $413,000, and then will come dozens of state parties.

The Biden campaign said earlier on Saturday that it, the Democratic Party and affiliated committees had raised more than $90 million in March, and that together they had $192 million on hand going into April. The Trump campaign said it and the Republican National Committee had raised $65.6 million in March, the former president’s best fund-raising month so far, and that they, along with their shared accounts, had $93.1 million on hand.

Adverse Comments

  • Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a statement that the Democratic fund-raising numbers stood in “stark contrast to Trump’s cash-strapped operation.” Mr. Biden’s totals were helped in part by the glamorous event in front of 5,000 donors at the storied Radio City Music Hall. Mr. Biden and two of his Democratic predecessors, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, were interviewed by the late-night host and comedian Stephen Colbert.
  • adam kinzinger twitterAdam Kinzinger, right (Slava Ukraini) 🇺🇸🇺🇦🇮🇱 (Former Republican Congressman from Illinois and Jan. 6 Committee member). @AdamKinzinger: "Insiders know this trick. Money is double counted… they include months back, and combining tons of accts including super pac etc. They will have struggling numbers after this, because they front and back loaded everything (and knowing trump, just plain lied). Don’t fret."

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How No Labels was thwarted — and a disaster for democracy was avoided, Jennifer Rubin, right, April jennifer rubin new headshot7, 2024. After months of attempting to recruit a third-party candidate for 2024 — and months of Democrats’ denunciations — the group No Labels announced it would have no ticket for this year’s presidential race.

President Biden’s campaign, the larger anti-MAGA coalition, and democracy defenders in the United States and around the world could not be more overjoyed. A significant threat to the campaign to defeat four-time indicted former president Donald Trump has been eliminated.

The Post reported on Thursday that No Labels was throwing in the towel because no candidate “emerged” with a “credible path to winning the White House.” The failure of any candidate to “emerge” was not for lack of trying on No Labels’ part. A slew of household names turned down the invitation to run, including Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), former Republican South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, former Republican North Carolina governor Pat McCrory and former Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Perhaps no single person played as great a role in discouraging a No Labels ticket than Matt Bennett, the co-founder and executive vice president for public affairs at the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way. I talked to Bennett over email about No Labels, and why it was so important to stop them. This conversation has been edited.

Was No Labels based on a false premise that voters needed some other choice?

They were not just saying they would be a place to park a protest vote, the way Jill Stein does. They were saying they were “in it to win it” — that they would defy history, polling and political physics to actually win as a third party. That was preposterous, as we pointed out many times, analyzing their polling, electoral map, etc. The question of whether voters would like another choice is quite different than whether they would actually choose a third party in November.

Then why was it a threat to Biden and therefore an aid to Trump and anti-democracy forces?

Trump can’t get above about 47 percent of the vote, so he can win only with the help of third parties, as he did in 2016. In 2020, when third parties were gone, he lost. This cycle, third parties help Trump the same way. He’s got a low ceiling but a solid floor — his voters don’t leave him.

Biden has a higher ceiling — plenty of folks who aren’t excited about him would choose him in a two-way race with Trump. But his floor is softer, and a small but meaningful group of voters who pollsters call the “double haters” might choose a third party if available.

What did Third Way do to get the word out?

Everything we did was in service to one goal: convincing credible candidates to decline the No Labels nomination if offered. We were the first to ring the alarm about this threat after they went public in September 2022. We assembled a broad coalition, from the far left to the center right. We issued dozens of analyses of their plans and claims. We convinced many of their allies to come out against their 2024 plan.

And as each potential candidate became public, we ran sustained campaigns of private persuasion from people in their personal and professional circles to convince them to decline. That started with Manchin and Larry Hogan, the first to emerge as No Labels prospects. But we continued this work with almost two dozen others as names emerged. And while we used mainstream and social media and even paid digital ads in this effort, we never directed it broadly at voters. Rather, our message was always aimed at the political classes and those around the candidates.

What would you say to No Labels supporters about voting for Biden?

Remember the election is a choice between a calm, rational moderate and a deeply malign, unstable would-be autocrat. Moreover, Biden’s character and policy choices track very closely to those No Labels claims to support. But whatever your view of Biden, this is not a referendum on his first term. Even if you are disappointed or worry about his age, you simply must vote for him if you care about responsible, centrist governing. Failing to vote — or throwing away your vote on another third party (Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Stein, etc.) — would be tantamount to voting for Trump. Pressure Biden to move to the center all you like, but do not be party to endangering our democracy by returning a madman to power.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump relies on a doctor who is a member of his golf club to vouch for his health, Michael Kranish
April 6, 2024. Former president has declined to release details about his own condition beyond a short letter from his physician, contrasting with Biden’s detailed report

As former president Donald Trump escalated his attacks on President Biden’s health and mental fitness last fall, Trump released the first updated report on his own condition in more than three years.

This assessment, however, stood in stark contrast to the relatively detailed reports released by the White House during his term. Instead of specifics like blood pressure and medications, the letter had just three paragraphs without specific numbers proclaiming that Trump was in “excellent health” and had “exceptional” cognitive ability. It did not disclose Trump’s weight.

And after relying on a longtime personal doctor and then two White House physicians who had attested to his well-being in office, Trump turned to an unknown on the national stage to provide this report: Bruce A. Aronwald, a 64-year-old osteopathic physician from New Jersey — and a longtime member of Trump’s Bedminster golf club.

April 5

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Inside Trump’s Bond War, Seth Abramson, left, investigative reporter, best-selling Trump biographer and atttorney, April 5, 2024. How Donald Trump has taken seth abramson graphicadvantage of the courts, the media, and his ties to fellow unscrupulous billionaires to emerge victorious in his ongoing appellate bond crisis—at least for now.

Yesterday, Trump’s $175 million bond was preliminarily rejected by the New York court system due to defects in its filing noted by Proof in its two most recent reports on the Trump Bond Crisis (see the Bibliography in Part II, below).

seth abramson proof logoTrump thereafter refiled his bond proposal, this time with a financial statement for his new lender, Knight Specialty Insurance Company of San Diego and Las Vegas (hereafter “Knight”), as well as a corrected listing for that company’s “attorney-in-fact.”

The refiling didn’t fully address the issues first raised by Proof on Tuesday: namely, (1) whether Knight was properly authorized to do business in New York state; (2) whether Knight is in fact adequately capitalized to handle a bond of this size; and (3) sufficient additional information about the Trump-Knight transaction (which is hereafter called the “Knight Bond”) to reassure both the court and the New York Attorney General’s Office (the “NYAG”) that Knight is an appropriate vehicle for a financial transaction of this size and scope. It should be noted—and this is shocking—that Knight has less cash on hand than the amount of the bond.

Then, just a few hours ago, the tale of the Knight Bond took a dramatic turn:

With the filing above, the NYAG asks Trump or Knight to file a motion with the court justifying the Knight Bond in view of the objections noted above, with the NYAG free to thereafter ask for a show cause hearing if its requested motion—which must be filed within ten days—is found insufficient by the NYAG. Normally, the “justification” of a surety requires it to reveal significant additional details about the bond deal it just struck, including exactly how it was paid for and collateralized. For reasons explored at length below, it’s evident that Knight won’t want to provide this information, nor will Trump, which makes the next step in the Trump Bond Crisis very hard to predict.

While these new developments pause the final determination of the sufficiency of the Knight Bond for at least a week and a half, the filing above also notes that if Trump or Knight fail to file a response within ten days, the NYAG will immediately begin seizing Trump properties pursuant to the $454 million judgment against the former president—and with that judgment already entered in two New York counties where Trump has assets (not just properties, but also bank accounts and valuable consumer goods), it’s entirely possible that Trump’s real estate empire will begin its collapse by Tax Day.

This is the first of Mr. Trump’s New York supersedeas (appellate) bonds to be contested by a government entity. The now-pending challenge has the effect, in the view of this publication, of elevating the month-old Trump Bond Crisis to the Trump Bond War.

The next battle in which will, we now know, be held before Judge Arthur Engoron on April 22, 2024.

 royce lamberth evelyn hockstein reuters

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge to backers of Jan. 6 rioter: Don’t condone political violence, Spencer S. Hsu, April 5, 2024 (print ed.). The move by U.S. Judge Royce C. Lamberth (shown in a Reuters photo by Evelyn Hochstein) is the latest in broad, public push by federal judges against Jan. 6 revisionism.

A Republican-appointed judge said he plans to send a written response to supporters of a Jan. 6 rioter who claimed that he did nothing wrong, warning the man’s friends and family members that justifying political violence risks further violence in a “vicious cycle” that “rots republics.”

In an unusual step, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth filed on the public docket the statement he prepared to sentence Taylor James Johnatakis to more than seven years in prison. Even more atypically, he said he would order his clerk to mail copies to 20 people who wrote letters supporting the defendant — the first time he had done so in his 37-year career — to explain his reasoning.

“January 6 must not become a precedent for further violence against political opponents or governmental institutions,” Lamberth wrote. “This is not normal. This cannot become normal. We as a community, we as a society, we as a country cannot condone the normalization of the January 6 Capitol riot.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump swindles his followers — again, Dana Milbank, right, April 5, 2024. Let’s say you’re an ardent dana milbank newestDonald Trump supporter and you decided to invest $100,000 of your retirement savings into Trump Media because your favorite former president says it’s a “highly successful” company.

Well, if you bought in during last week’s initial pubic offering at the peak of $79.38 a share, your $100,000 nest egg was worth only $57,000 this week when the stock hit a low of $45.26 after an April Fool’s Day crash — a 43 percent loss in just three trading days.

Not for the first time, Trump has played his supporters for suckers.

The skid came after Trump Media reported this week that it lost $58.2 million in 2023 on sales of just $4.1 million — which suggests that Trump Media is practically worthless. The shares are bound to collapse further unless some wealthy entity — Saudi Arabia? China? — buys shares to gain leverage over Trump, who can’t dump his own stake for six months.

Now comes word that, of course, Trump has filed a lawsuit against two of the company’s co-founders, both former contestants on “The Apprentice.” Trump Media’s lawsuit accuses them of “mismanagement,” saying they “failed spectacularly at every turn” and “made a series of reckless and wasteful decisions.”

Trump Media is sounding more and more like the Trump presidency.

 April 4

 

djt confidential markings

The warrant authorizing the search of former president Donald Trump’s home said agents were seeking documents possessed in violation of the Espionage Act.

washington post logoWashington Post, Special counsel fires back at Judge Cannon’s order that could disrupt case, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, April 4, 2024 (print ed.). Special counsel Jack Smith warned the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s classified documents case that she is pursuing a legal premise that “is wrong” and said he would probably appeal to a higher court if she rules that a federal records law can protect the former president from prosecution.

In a near-midnight legal filing, Smith’s office pushed back hard against an unusual instruction from U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, right — aileen cannonone that veteran national security lawyers and former judges have said badly misinterprets the Presidential Records Act and laws related to classified documents.

Smith’s filing represents the most stark and high-stakes confrontation yet between the judge and the prosecutor, illustrating the extent to which a ruling by Cannon that legitimizes the PRA as a defense could eviscerate the historic case. It sets up the possibility that a government appeal of such a ruling could delay the trial well beyond November’s presidential election, in which Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee.

Last month, Cannon ordered defense lawyers and prosecutors in the case to submit hypothetical jury instructions based on two different, and very much contested, readings of the PRA.

In response, Smith said Cannon was pursuing a “fundamentally flawed legal premise” that the law somehow overrides Section 793 of the Espionage Act, which Trump is accused of violating by stashing hundreds of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and private club, after his presidency ended.

“That legal premise is wrong, and a jury instruction for Section 793 that reflects that premise would distort the trial,” Smith wrote. The Presidential Records Act, he said, “should not play any role at trial at all.”

How Cannon, a Trump nominee who has been on the bench since late 2020, responds to Smith’s proverbial shot across the bow will be critical. If she rules against the prosecutor, he could appeal. If she retreats from the disputed legal premise, the issue could fade into the background as she decides a pretrial hearing schedule and sets a trial date.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Former Trump Lawyer Predicts Judge Cannon Will Be Removed From Case For 'Incompetence,' Troy Matthews, April 4, 2024. Ty Cobb torched Aileen Cannon over her handling of the classified documents case.

joe biden black background resized serious filemtn meidas touch networkFormer Trump White House Lawyer Ty Cobb told CNN's Erin Burnett he believes that Judge Aileen Cannon's repeated, blatantly intentional efforts to delay trial in the classified documents case in Florida will eventually get her booted off the case by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Her delays here are extraordinary I mean, as you highlighted as others highlighted, she hasn't even set a trial date, that's that's remarkable," Cobb told Burnett. "The current matter that the filing was geared to today with regard to her baffling perception that the Presidential Records Act somehow has any relationship at all to the Espionage Act is stunning."

"I think that Jack Smith, I think the filing today makes it plain that she has to rule. And if she doesn't rule under either scenario, they'll be in a position to take her up to the 11th Circuit. And I think 11th Circuit will likely take her off the case."

Cobb was referring to a filing from Special Counsel Jack Smith on Tuesday in response to a request made by Cannon that the government and Donald Trump submit a set of hypothetical jury instructions to two completely erroneous premises that lacked a fundamental understanding of the issues at center of the stolen documents case.

Smith's filing lays the groundwork to seek mandamus against Judge Cannon, which could ultimately end in Cannon getting kicked off the case.

"At this stage of the game, her incompetence is so gross that I think it clearly creates the perception of...partiality, and her attempt to put her thumb on the scale. So I think that should disqualify her," Cobb said.

 

jack smith 6 9 2023 cnnLegal Breakdown, Commentary: Jack Smith FINALLY lays groundwork to REMOVE corrupt Trump judge, Brian Tyler Cohen and Glenn aileen cannonKirschner, April 3-4, 2024. The Legal Breakdown episode 242: @GlennKirschner2 discusses Jack Smith laying the groundwork to finally remove corrupt Trump Judge Aileen Cannon, right, from the Florida case.

 

djt confidential markings

The warrant authorizing the search of former president Donald Trump’s home said agents were seeking documents possessed in violation of the Espionage Act.

washington post logoWashington Post, Special counsel fires back at Judge Cannon’s order that could disrupt case, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, April 4, 2024 (print ed.). Special counsel Jack Smith warned the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s classified documents case that she is pursuing a legal premise that “is wrong” and said he would probably appeal to a higher court if she rules that a federal records law can protect the former president from prosecution.

In a near-midnight legal filing, Smith’s office pushed back hard against an unusual instruction from U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, right — aileen cannonone that veteran national security lawyers and former judges have said badly misinterprets the Presidential Records Act and laws related to classified documents.

Smith’s filing represents the most stark and high-stakes confrontation yet between the judge and the prosecutor, illustrating the extent to which a ruling by Cannon that legitimizes the PRA as a defense could eviscerate the historic case. It sets up the possibility that a government appeal of such a ruling could delay the trial well beyond November’s presidential election, in which Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee.

Last month, Cannon ordered defense lawyers and prosecutors in the case to submit hypothetical jury instructions based on two different, and very much contested, readings of the PRA.

In response, Smith said Cannon was pursuing a “fundamentally flawed legal premise” that the law somehow overrides Section 793 of the Espionage Act, which Trump is accused of violating by stashing hundreds of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and private club, after his presidency ended.

“That legal premise is wrong, and a jury instruction for Section 793 that reflects that premise would distort the trial,” Smith wrote. The Presidential Records Act, he said, “should not play any role at trial at all.”

How Cannon, a Trump nominee who has been on the bench since late 2020, responds to Smith’s proverbial shot across the bow will be critical. If she rules against the prosecutor, he could appeal. If she retreats from the disputed legal premise, the issue could fade into the background as she decides a pretrial hearing schedule and sets a trial date.

 

juan merchan djtMeidas Touch Network, Commentary: Justice Merchan Denies Trump's Presidential Immunity Motion, Brett Meiselas, April 4, 2024 (print ed.). Justice Merchan, above left, emphasized that Trump's delay in filing the motion was unjustifiable and raised questions about the sincerity of his legal strategy.

Justice Juan M. Merchan has denied Donald Trump's motion for presidential immunity "in its entirety as untimely." The ruling comes as a blow to Trump's legal defense strategy and attempts to avoid going to trial in his criminal case in New York, where he faces charges of falsifying business records.

The case stems from an indictment filed against Trump on April 4, 2023, charging him with 34 counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, in violation of Penal Law 115.10.

In the decision, Justice Merchan highlighted the timeline of events leading up to Trump's motion and pointed out that Trump had ample opportunities to raise the defense of presidential immunity earlier in the proceedings. Trump had previously raised similar arguments in federal court regarding charges related to actions allegedly taken to interfere with the 2020 presidential election. However, those arguments were rejected by both the district court and the Court of Appeals.

ICE logoFurthermore, the court noted that Trump was aware of the prosecution's intention to introduce evidence related to his alleged "pressure campaign" against certain witnesses well before filing his motion for presidential immunity. Despite this awareness, Trump chose to delay raising the defense until a late stage in the proceedings, just 17 days before the scheduled trial date.

Justice Merchan emphasized that Trump's delay in filing the motion was unjustifiable and raised questions about the sincerity of his legal strategy. The court ruled that Trump's motion was untimely and declined to consider whether the doctrine of presidential immunity would preclude the introduction of evidence related to his official acts.

See you in court on the 15th of April, Donald.

ny times logoNew York Times, Frustrated Prosecutors Ask Trump Documents Judge to Act on Key Claim, Alan Feuer, April 4, 2024 (print ed.).The push for a decision on one of Donald Trump’s far-fetched claims is an unusual move in a case that Judge Aileen Cannon has allowed to become bogged down.

In an open display of frustration, federal prosecutors on Tuesday night told the judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case that a “fundamentally flawed” order she had issued was causing delays and asked her to quickly resolve a critical dispute about one of Mr. Trump’s defenses — leaving them time to appeal if needed.

The unusual and risky move by the prosecutors, contained in a 24-page filing, signaled their mounting impatience with the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, who has allowed the case to become bogged down in a logjam of unresolved issues and curious procedural requests. It was the most directly prosecutors have confronted Judge Cannon’s legal reasoning and unhurried pace, which have called into question whether a trial will take place before the election in November even though both sides say they could be ready for one by summer.

In their filing, prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, all but begged Judge Cannon to move the case along and make a binding decision about one of Mr. Trump’s most brazen claims: that he cannot be prosecuted for having taken home a trove of national security documents after leaving office because he transformed them into his own personal property under a law known as the Presidential Records Act.

The prosecutors derided that assertion as one “not based on any facts,” adding that it was a “justification that was concocted more than a year after” Mr. Trump left the White House.

“It would be pure fiction,” the prosecutors wrote, “to suggest that highly classified documents created by members of the intelligence community and military and presented to the president of the United States during his term in office were ‘purely private.’”

At a hearing last month in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., Judge Cannon herself expressed skepticism about Mr. Trump’s assertion, saying it was most likely not enough to dismiss the case before it went to trial.

But then within days, she made a surprising move, ordering the former president’s lawyers and Mr. Smith’s prosecutors to send her proposed jury instructions suggesting she was open to embracing the very same defense.

Her order sought language from both sides meant to help jurors understand how the Presidential Records Act might affect the accusation that Mr. Trump had taken “unauthorized possession” of the documents he removed from the White House. For Mr. Trump to be found guilty under the Espionage Act, the central statute in his indictment, prosecutors will have to prove that the former president was not authorized to hold on to more than 30 highly sensitive documents after he left office.

Judge Cannon’s order for jury instructions was odd on its face because such issues are usually hashed out on the eve of trial, and she has not set a trial date yet.

It was even stranger because by appearing to adopt Mr. Trump’s position on the Presidential Records Act, the judge seemed to be nudging any eventual jurors toward acquitting Mr. Trump or even leaving open the possibility that she herself could acquit the former president near the end of the proceeding by declaring that the government had failed to prove its case.

Hoping to forestall either situation, Mr. Smith’s prosecutors told Judge Cannon in their filing on Tuesday that the Presidential Records Act had nothing to do with the case and that the entire notion of submitting jury instructions based on it rested on a “fundamentally flawed legal premise.”

Instead, they asked her to decide the validity of the Presidential Records Act defense in a different way: by rejecting Mr. Trump’s motion to dismiss the case based on the same argument. That motion has been sitting on her desk for almost six weeks.

The prosecutors want Judge Cannon to take that course of action, because any decision she makes on the motion to dismiss can be challenged in an appeals court. But if the case is allowed to reach the jury, any ruling she might make acquitting Mr. Trump cannot be appealed.

Almost from the moment she was assigned the case in June, Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump in his waning days in office, has handled the proceeding in an unorthodox manner.

She has put off making several legal and logistical decisions. And she has spent time at hearings entertaining a series of unusual arguments by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that many federal judges would have rejected out of hand.

The legal gamesmanship she has encouraged over how to handle Mr. Trump’s Presidential Records Act defense is all the more bizarre because the argument itself is legally dubious.

The act was put in place after the Watergate scandal not to permit presidents to unilaterally designate government documents — let alone those containing sensitive state secrets — as their own personal property, but precisely for the opposite reason: to ensure that most records from a president’s time in office remain in the possession of the government.

Moreover, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have never said he officially designated the documents in question as his own. Rather, they have claimed that the designation can be inferred from the fact that he took them from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida, rather than sending them, as the government says he should have, to the National Archives.

The prosecutors told Judge Cannon in their filing that they interviewed numerous high-ranking White House officials during their investigation — including chiefs of staff, senior members of the White House Counsel’s Office, a national security adviser and top members of the National Security Council — and no one recalled Mr. Trump saying he had designated the records that ultimately wound up in the case as personal.

“To the contrary,” the prosecutors wrote, “every witness who was asked this question had never heard such a thing.”

The dispute about the Presidential Records Act is only one of the many questions that Judge Cannon has failed to resolve in the past few months. The delays could have a profound effect on the case: If it is pushed past the election and Mr. Trump wins, he could order his attorney general to simply dismiss the charges.

Judge Cannon has so far not issued a ruling on a request made in January by Mr. Trump’s lawyers for additional discovery material about the prosecution’s ties to the intelligence community and other national security officials. The lawyers want that information to bolster their claims that members of the so-called deep state conspired to bring the case against Mr. Trump in an effort to sink his political campaign.

The judge is also sitting on a nearly 2-month-old request by Mr. Smith to permit redactions to be made to several of Mr. Trump’s own filings to protect the identities of witnesses who might testify for the government at trial. And she is still considering a host of the former president’s pretrial motions to the dismiss the case.

Should they run out of patience altogether, prosecutors could at some point file a motion asking Judge Cannon to remove herself from the case. She would probably reject that effort, requiring the government to go over her head and make the same request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which sits above her.

Typically, recusal motions require prosecutors to point to flawed decisions. And so far, Judge Cannon has largely avoided making decisions, complicating any effort to get rid of her.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Donald Trump’s increasingly questionable bond could end up getting rejected, Bill Palmer, right, April 4-5, 2024. bill palmerWhen Donald Trump posted $175 million bond in his New York civil fraud verdict, but the bond company omitted key requireddetails about its own financial status, it suggested that there was more to it than met the eye. Who lays out $175 million but forgets to include the required paperwork?

bill palmer report logo headerIf it was enough to make you wonder if the bond company was hiding something, it turns out you’re not the only one. New York Attorney General Letitia James is now formally questioning the legitimacy of the bond, as she’s accusing the company of not even being allowed to post bonds in the state. Others have dug into the bond company’s finances, and are asserting that it simply doesn’t have the money to cover such a bond.

As is always the case in the legal system when the truth is in question, there will now be a process to determine whether the bond is indeed legitimate. The judge will ask Letitia James and the bond company to make their best legal arguments, and then the judge will sort it out. We don’t have to speculate about whether the bond is legitimate, because the judge will end up giving us a definitive answer.

But what if the bond does turn out to be illegitimate, and the courts disqualify it? That’s when things would get interesting. Trump would once again be on the hook to come up with a $175 million bond. And if the first bond he posted is indeed illegitimate, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to come up with a legitimate bond from anywhere else. In such case the courts would presumably allow Letitia James to begin the asset seizure process after all.

Again, the courts will determine whether or not the bond that Trump posted is legitimate. But from the start we pointed out that Trump wasn’t going to be able play games with his bond and get away with it. Letitia James isn’t some rube. The judge in the case is a straight shooter. If the bond isn’t legitimate, Trump will lose – and he’ll look even more foolish for having not been able to post a legitimate bond.

truth social logo

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, 2 Florida men plead guilty to insider trading charges related to Trump media firm, Staff Report, April 4, 2023 (print ed.). The brothers admitted making $22 million illegally after they were tipped off about plans to take the company public.

Two Florida brothers pleaded guilty Wednesday to insider trading charges, admitting making over $22 million illegally before the public announcement in 2021 that an acquisition firm was taking former President Donald Trump’s media company public.

politico CustomMichael and Gerald Shvartsman entered their pleas to a single count of securities fraud in Manhattan federal court, where Judge Lewis J. Liman set sentencing for July 17.

The men said that they knew they were committing a crime when they made trades in October 2021 through a New York broker.

“I’ve made a terrible mistake,” Gerald Shvartsman told the judge as he pleaded guilty. He added that it was “wrong and the mistake I will pay for dearly the rest of my life.”

His brother told the judge that he knew that his securities trades were wrong and illegal.

Justice Department log circularThe indictment against them did not in any way implicate Trump — who is again seeking the presidency this year — or Trump Media & Technology Group, which owns his Truth Social platform and began trading on the Nasdaq stock market on March 26. Trump has a 60 percent stake in the company.

According to the indictment, the men invested millions of dollars in the securities of the special purpose acquisition company Digital World Acquisition Corp. after they were tipped off that a potential target of DWAC and another acquisition company, Benessere Capital Acquisition Corp., was Trump Media.

Authorities said the defendants sold their securities for $22 million in profits once the news about the Trump Media business was made public.

At the time, Michael Shvartsman owned Rocket One Capital LLC, a venture capital firm, according to court papers.

According to court papers, the men shared their secrets with friends and employees, who also bought tens of thousands of units of securities ahead of the merger announcement with Trump Media & Technology Group. Typically, a special purpose acquisition company is formed with the intent to merge with a private company.

The merger and public trading of Trump Media & Technology Group was eagerly anticipated by Trump’s political supporters, who viewed the Truth Social platform as a worthy response to Trump’s temporary ejection from some social media platforms after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Michael Shvartsman, 53, of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, and his brother Gerald Shvartsman, 46, of Aventura, Florida, remain free on bail while they await their sentencings. They were both arrested last June.

Federal sentencing guidelines in plea letters signed by the men recommended that Michael Shvartsman receive about four years in prison and his brother spend at least three years behind bars. The deals also call for Michael Schvartsman to forfeit $18.2 million in profits and for his brother to relinquish $4.6 million.

April 3

Don Hankey, above, Chair of Knight Insurance Group, headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.

Los Angeles Times, Who is Don Hankey, the L.A. billionaire who financed Donald Trump’s appeal bond? Laurence Darmiento, April  3, 2024. When news broke that former president Donald Trump had managed to post a $175-million bond to prevent an asset seizure while he appeals a New York judgment that he lied about his wealth, a surprising figure turned out to be his rescuer.

los angeles times logoIt was none other than Los Angeles billionaire Don Hankey, 80, a hard-money lender who has made a fortune in financing vehicle sales to subprime borrowers — but has expanded far beyond that industry to other businesses where there is a sure profit to be made.

Why does the name Don Hankey (shown above) sound familiar?

One of his companies, Hankey Capital, extended loans totaling more than $100 million to developer Nile Niami several years ago to complete a Bel-Air mega-mansion dubbed “The One.” The developer first marketed the 105,000-square-foot home for $500 million but it fell into bankruptcy and two years ago was auctioned off for just $141 million to Richard Sahagian, founder of L.A. fast-fashion retailer Fashion Nova. The case is still working its way through bankruptcy, but Hankey said much of what his company is owed has been paid back.

Did Hankey make his fortune in real estate?

No. Hankey’s wealth has its foundation in Westlake Financial Services, one of the top providers of subprime auto loans to borrowers with bad credit. The lender has a reputation for aggressively tracking borrowers, calling them if they are even a day late. In 2015, Westlake and a subsidiary that makes personal loans backed by car titles were hit with fines and refunds totaling more than $48 million for using illegal tactics to collect on loans, such as making bogus threats to file criminal charges. The companies pledged to fix their debt collection practices. Hankey has said the goal is to stop loans from going bad, not repossess vehicles, which is costly.

Hankey also owns North Hollywood Toyota and has long diversified beyond making subprime vehicle loans. Westlake has made loans for elective surgery. Other Hankey Group companies include Midway Auto Group, which rents out exotic and other automobiles, and Knight Specialty Insurance Co., a Hankey insurer that underwrote Trump’s appeal bond. Forbes pegs his net worth at $7.4 billion.

Are there any previous connections between Hankey and Trump?

Hankey said he is an investor in Axos Bank, a San Diego institution that refinanced Trump Tower in 2022 for $100 million. Hankey said that he didn’t know of the refinancing until afterward and that selling Trump the bond was a business decision, though he acknowledged he is a Trump supporter. “I voted for Democrats in the past and I will support people who are business-friendly,” he said.

So how did he get involved with Trump’s bond deal?

Trump suffered a legal blow when a judge ruled in February that the former president and his company had for years exaggerated their wealth to obtain real estate loans on better terms — and must pay a financial penalty of $364 million, a figure that grew to more than $450 million with interest. Hankey said that he heard how Trump’s legal team was struggling to post such a large bond and he reached out a few days before it was reduced in size last month.

“We were on a conference call and discussing a bond for the approximate size of $460 million and news came on, and one of the people said ‘We were just informed that the bond was reduced to $175 million,’” Hankey recalled.

How did this deal come together?

Hankey said he was later contacted about obtaining a bond for the smaller sum and he agreed to provide it. “They first came up with a list of $140 million in [investment] bonds and said the rest would be in cash. We said the bonds were acceptable to us. They were quality institutional bonds. At the end of the day when they funded, they funded in all cash,” he said.

Hankey said there was more risk in underwriting the $460-million bond, but that could possibly have been completed too through a combination of cash, bonds and real estate as collateral. “I wasn’t comfortable, but I would have been happy to sit down and try to work it out. There would be a little more risk on my end, so maybe there would be a little more price involved,” he said.se Braces for Glare of Unprecedented Trial, Ben Protess, Jesse McKinley, Kate Juan Merchan (shown at right in a New York Times photo by Amer Gaber), a target of Donald Trump’s wrath, has years of experience on the Manhattan bench but will face a uniquely challenging defendant next week.Christobek and William K. Rashbaum, April 8, 2024. Juan Merchan (shown at right in a New York Times photo by Amer Gaber), a target of Donald Trump’s wrath, has years of experience on the Manhattan bench but will face a uniquely challenging defendant next week.

Inside a dreary Lower Manhattan courtroom on a recent Wednesday, Justice Juan M. Merchan convened a special session for people with mental health troubles who had landed in legal jeopardy. He calmly counseled them, praised any signs of progress and shook the hand of one man who, thanks to medication, had turned his life around.

But on April 15, a different type of criminal defendant will enter the same courtroom and test the judge’s equanimity: Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s trial on charges that he covered up a sex scandal before and after the 2016 presidential election will bring a weekslong maelstrom that no other judge in New York’s vast judiciary has ever experienced. It will be the first prosecution of a former U.S. president, a man who revels in attacking the legal system and its judges.

Since the Manhattan district attorney charged Mr. Trump last year, the former president has used campaign emails, social media invective and repetitive legal filings to attack the judge’s integrity and family. Last week, the former president demanded for a second time that Justice Merchan step aside, citing his daughter’s position at a Democratic consulting firm that worked for the 2020 Biden campaign.

Known as a no-nonsense, drama-averse jurist, Justice Merchan, 61, could reject the recusal request in the coming days, as he has so many of Mr. Trump’s last-ditch bids to delay the trial. The judge, who has already reprimanded Mr. Trump’s lawyers for arguments that he considered frivolous, has also issued a gag order to protect prosecutors, witnesses and his own family from Mr. Trump’s vitriol — and yet the former president has continued to post articles with pictures of the judge’s daughter.

The turmoil punctuates the former president’s yearslong assault on the judiciary, an antipathy that intensified with his political rise and mounting legal peril. Facing four criminal indictments in four different cities, he has demonized the judicial system, stoking anger in his base as he seeks to retake the White House as the presumptive Republican nominee this year.

Although Justice Merchan is a registered Democrat, records show he was previously a Republican, and people who know him described the judge as a moderate, law-and-order former prosecutor.

Two people close to Justice Merchan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the judge had privately expressed pain over the attacks on his daughter, but the people said that those attacks won’t compromise his ability to oversee the case. Other people who know the judge said that he will cast aside Mr. Trump’s drama — and exert control over the trial.

“It is Judge Merchan’s show,” said Jill Konviser, a retired judge who has known Justice Merchan for more than 15 years. While declining to discuss Justice Merchan’s personal feelings, she added: “He will do everything he can to, one, control his courtroom and two, ensure a fair trial for the defendant.”

Ms. Konviser acknowledged, however, that Mr. Trump is “not like every other defendant,” adding, “He’s the former president of the U.S., and he has chosen to make this process eminently more challenging.”

The former president often directs his harshest condemnations at judicial officials who are women or minorities, including Justice Merchan, who was born in Bogotá, Colombia, but raised primarily in Queens, as Mr. Trump was.

In 2016, Mr. Trump attacked Gonzalo P. Curiel, who was handling a fraud case involving Mr. Trump’s for-profit education venture, referring to him as “a Mexican judge” and demanding his recusal partly because of his heritage.

 

 

juan merchan djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Asks Trial Judge to Step Aside, Aiming Again at His Daughter, Ben Protess, April 3, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s lawyers argued that Juan Merchan, above left, should step aside because his daughter consults for Democratic candidates. The former president had furiously criticized her before a gag order.

Donald J. Trump, desperate to delay his criminal trial in Manhattan this month, has renewed a request for the judge overseeing the case to step aside, the latest twist in the former president’s attacks on the judge’s integrity — and family.

In a court filing made public Tuesday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued for a second time that the judge, Juan M. Merchan, has a conflict of interest because his daughter is a political consultant who has worked with Democratic candidates. The lawyers also claimed that her company, Authentic Campaigns, has used social media to deride Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and tout its connections to President Biden.

“The trial in this case will benefit Authentic financially by providing its clients more fodder for fund-raising, Authentic will make more money by assisting with those communications and your honor’s daughter will continue to earn money from these developments by virtue of her senior role at Authentic,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles, wrote in a letter to the judge. “Your honor has an interest in this case that warrants recusal.”

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case against Mr. Trump, fired back, noting that Justice Merchan had previously declined to recuse himself, citing a state advisory committee on judicial ethics. They argued that Mr. Trump had offered no new evidence, other than “a daisy chain of innuendos,” and said that he had made “multiple attenuated factual leaps here that undercut any direct connection between Authentic and this case.”

Mr. Trump’s latest effort to force out the judge — which, if granted, would delay the trial indefinitely — coincided with a barrage of attacks on the judge’s daughter, Loren Merchan. Mr. Trump last week targeted Ms. Merchan, claiming falsely that she had posted an image of him behind bars on social media.jack smith 6 9 2023 cnn

Legal Breakdown, Commentary: Jack Smith FINALLY lays groundwork to REMOVE corrupt Trump judge, Brian Tyler Cohen and Glenn aileen cannonKirschner, April 3-4, 2024. The Legal Breakdown episode 242: @GlennKirschner2 discusses Jack Smith laying the groundwork to finally remove corrupt Trump Judge Aileen Cannon, right, from the Florida case.

April 1

 

djt as chosen one

ny times logoNew York Times, The Church of Trump: How He’s Infusing Christianity Into His Movement, Michael C. Bender, April 1, 2024. Ending many of his rallies with a churchlike ritual and casting his prosecutions as persecution, the former president is demanding — and receiving — new levels of devotion from Republicans.

Long known for his improvised and volatile stage performances, former President Donald J. Trump now tends to finish his rallies on a solemn note.

Soft, reflective music fills the venue as a hush falls over the crowd. Mr. Trump’s tone turns reverent and somber, prompting some supporters to bow their heads or close their eyes. Others raise open palms in the air or murmur as if in prayer.

trump 2024In this moment, Mr. Trump’s audience is his congregation, and the former president their pastor as he delivers a roughly 15-minute finale that evokes an evangelical altar call, the emotional tradition that concludes some Christian services in which attendees come forward to commit to their savior.

“The great silent majority is rising like never before and under our leadership,” he recites from a teleprompter in a typical version of the script. “We will pray to God for our strength and for our liberty. We will pray for God and we will pray with God. We are one movement, one people, one family and one glorious nation under God.”

ICE logoThe meditative ritual might appear incongruent with the raucous epicenter of the nation’s conservative movement, but Mr. Trump’s political creed stands as one of the starkest examples of his effort to transform the Republican Party into a kind of Church of Trump. His insistence on absolute devotion and fealty can be seen at every level of the party, from Congress to the Republican National Committee to rank-and-file voters.

djt maga hatMr. Trump’s ability to turn his supporters’ passion into piety is crucial to understanding how he remains the undisputed Republican leader despite guiding his party to repeated political failures and while facing dozens of felony charges in four criminal cases. His success at portraying those prosecutions as persecutions — and warning, without merit, that his followers could be targeted next — has fueled enthusiasm for his candidacy and placed him, once again, in a position to capture the White House.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s advancing efforts to influence the U.S. election are raising alarms, Tiffany Hsu and Steven Lee Myers, April 1, 2024. China has adopted some of the same misinformation tactics that Russia used ahead of the 2016 election, researchers and government officials say.

Covert Chinese accounts are masquerading online as American supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, promoting conspiracy theories, stoking domestic divisions and attacking President Biden ahead of the election in November, according to researchers and government officials.

China FlagThe accounts signal a potential tactical shift in how Beijing aims to influence American politics, with more of a willingness to target specific candidates and parties, including Mr. Biden.

In an echo of Russia’s influence campaign before the 2016 election, China appears to be trying to harness partisan divisions to undermine the Biden administration’s policies, despite recent efforts by the two countries to lower the temperature in their relations.

djt maga hatSome of the Chinese accounts impersonate fervent Trump fans, including one on X that purported to be “a father, husband and son” who was “MAGA all the way!!” The accounts mocked Mr. Biden’s age and shared fake images of him in a prison jumpsuit, or claimed that Mr. Biden was a Satanist pedophile while promoting Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

“I’ve never seen anything along those lines at all before,” said Elise Thomas, a senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonprofit research organization that uncovered a small group of the fake accounts posing as Trump supporters.

Ms. Thomas and other researchers have linked the new activity to a long-running network of accounts connected with the Chinese government known as Spamouflage. Several of the accounts they detailed previously posted pro-Beijing content in Mandarin — only to resurface in recent months under the guise of real Americans writing in English.

In a separate project, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a research organization in Washington, identified 170 inauthentic pages and accounts on Facebook that have also pushed anti-American messages, including pointed attacks on Mr. Biden.

The effort has more successfully attracted actual users’ attention and become more difficult for researchers to identify than previous Chinese efforts to influence public opinion in the United States. Though researchers say the overall political tilt of the campaign remains unclear, it has raised the possibility that China’s government is calculating that a second Trump presidency, despite his sometimes hostile statements against the country, might be preferable to a second Biden term.

China’s activity has already raised alarms inside the American government.

In February, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that China was expanding its influence campaigns to “sow doubts about U.S. leadership, undermine democracy and extend Beijing’s influence.” The report expressed concern that Beijing could use increasingly sophisticated methods to try to influence the American election “to sideline critics of China.”

Ms. Thomas, who has studied China’s information operations for years, said the new effort suggested a more subtle and sophisticated approach than previous campaigns. It was the first time, she said, that she had encountered Chinese accounts posing so persuasively as Trump-supporting Americans while managing to attract genuine engagement.

“The worry has always been, what if one day they wake up and are effective?” she said. “Potentially, this could be the beginning of them waking up and being effective.”

Online disinformation experts are looking ahead to the months before the November election with growing anxiety.

Intelligence assessments show Russia using increasingly subtle influence tactics in the United States to spread its case for isolationism as its war against Ukraine continues. Mock news sites are targeting Americans with Russian propaganda.

 

 

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Republican-appointed judges raise alarm over Trump attacks on law, Spencer S. Hsu, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). Federal D.C. Judge Reggie B. Walton warned Trump’s attacks on hush-money trial judge and others could lead to violence. Reagan, Bush-appointed judges decry Jan. 6 revisionism, threats.

A Republican-appointed judge, right, denounced Donald Trump’s social media attacks against the judge presiding over the former president’s hush money trial in Manhattan and his daughter, calling them assaults on the rule of law that could lead to violence and tyranny.

reggie b walton“When judges are threatened, and particularly when their family is threatened, it’s something that’s wrong and should not happen,” U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in a live interview Thursday. He added, “It is very troubling because I think it is an attack on the rule of law.”

djt maga hatThe unusual media statement by a sitting federal judge came after Trump blasted New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan and his daughter, Loren Merchan, criticizing her affiliation with a digital marketing company that works with Democratic candidates and erroneously attributing to her a social media post showing Trump behind bars.

Walton, who was appointed by presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to courts in Washington in 1981 and 1991, said “any reasonable, thinking person” would appreciate the impact of Trump’s rhetoric on some followers, intentional or not. The judge recalled how a disgruntled litigant killed the son and wounded the husband of New Jersey federal Judge Esther Salas at her home in a 2020 shooting.

Since late 2020, as Trump began escalating his attacks on the judiciary, serious investigated threats against federal judges have more than doubled, from 224 in 2021 to 457 in 2023, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, as first reported by Reuters. Federal judges in Washington say at least half of trial judges handling cases arising from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have received a surge in threats and harassment, including death threats to their homes, with Trump’s election obstruction trial judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, placed under 24-hour protection.

“The rule of law can only be maintained if we have independent judicial officers who are able to do their job and ensure that the laws are in fact enforced and that the laws are applied equally to everybody who appears in our courthouse,” Walton told CNN. He was prompted to speak out of concern for the “future of our country and the future of democracy in our country,” Walton said, “because if we don’t have a viable court system that’s able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny.”

Walton’s remarks came as several federal judges in Washington appointed by Republican presidents have spoken with increasing urgency about Trump’s disregard for historical facts and alarmed at his increasingly graphic and at times violent description of defendants prosecuted in the Jan. 6 riot as “political prisoners” and “hostages” who did nothing wrong.

royce lamberth (Shown in a Reuters photo by Evelyn Hockstein)“In my 37 years on the bench, I cannot recall a time when such meritless justifications of criminal activity have gone mainstream,” U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth (shown above in a Reuters photo by Evelyn Hockstein) said in a January sentencing. “I have been dismayed to see distortions and outright falsehoods seep into the public consciousness.”

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan similarly told a group of Georgetown Law School students in January that false claims that riot defendants were acting like tourists or patriots were destructive rewriting of reality. “There’s a danger that is embedded now in our communities across the country,” Hogan said.

Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book

Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book "Disloyal" and an expected star witness at Trump's New York trial in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Potential Trump Witnesses Get Carrots. Michael Cohen Got the Stick, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump takes different approaches to those who may testify at his trials. He attacks some, like Mr. Cohen, publicly. Others he rewards for loyalty.

Donald J. Trump watched anxiously from the White House in April 2018 as news broke about federal agents searching the home of Michael D. Cohen, the man entrusted to conceal some of the president’s deepest secrets. After initially coming to Mr. Cohen’s defense, Mr. Trump washed his hands of his fixer within weeks, brushing aside Mr. Cohen’s feelers about a pardon and disavowing his legal bills.

Mr. Trump took a different tack when prosecutors shifted their scrutiny to Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump family’s longtime financial gatekeeper. Mr. Trump’s company paid Mr. Weisselberg’s legal bills and awarded him a $2 million severance, with a condition: He could not voluntarily cooperate with any law enforcement agency.

After Mr. Weisselberg signed the deal last year, Mr. Trump’s lawyers privately pressed him to testify in a civil fraud case filed against the former president, hoping the finance chief’s testimony would aid their defense, according to people with knowledge of the discussions, which have not previously been reported. But prosecutors say Mr. Weisselberg lied during his testimony, and this month he pleaded guilty to perjury.

The fixer and the moneyman both landed behind bars. But while Mr. Weisselberg remained loyal, refusing to implicate his boss, Mr. Cohen is poised to become a central witness for the Manhattan district attorney at Mr. Trump’s criminal trial next month, the first prosecution of a former U.S. president.

The contrasting cases of Mr. Cohen and Mr. Weisselberg — detailed in court records and interviews with 18 people directly involved in the cases, some of whom requested anonymity to discuss confidential conversations — demonstrate the power and peril of Mr. Trump’s tactics for avoiding a crisis like the one he now faces. The trial is the realization of Mr. Trump’s long-held fear that prosecutors would flip trusted aides into dangerous witnesses.

The former president, facing four indictments and several lawsuits while seeking to reclaim the White House, careens from one case to the next, seeking to exert control over witnesses. In screeds posted on his social media site, he mixes enticements with threats, praise with scorn, and when all else fails, he makes life miserable for anyone audacious enough to cross him.

Mr. Trump’s company praised Mr. Weisselberg as a “fine and honorable man,” but Mr. Cohen felt the brunt of the former president’s attacks. Mr. Trump has sued him, called him a “rat” and referred to him as “death.”

truth social logo

Wall Street Journal, Stock Market Today: S&P 500 Slips From Record to Kick Off New Quarter; Markets reopen after Easter holiday; Trump Media shares fall, Amrith Ramkumar, April 1, 2024. Shares in Donald Trump's social-media company are down about 23% in another day of volatile trading.

wsj logoThe business, Trump Media & Technology Group, is the parent of the former president's social-media platform, Truth Social, and trades under the ticker DJT after merging with a shell company.

On Monday, updated regulatory documents showed that a lock-up for Trump and other insiders for six months following Trump Media's debut as a listed company is still in place.

Business Insider, Commentary: Trump's coming stock bust, Emily Stewart, April 1, 2024. If you want to know how Trump Media will do, look at the right-wing SPACs that came before it.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosDonald Trump's newly public social-media company is not the next Nvidia — or Meta or Google or whatever has happened with X/Twitter.

The share price of Trump Media and Technology Group, trading under the stock ticker DJT (because of course it is),surged following the completion of its SPAC merger last week. A SPAC, or a special-purpose acquisition company, is a shell company — in this case, Digital World Acquisition — that goes public with the intention of buying an actual company later. For a while, TMTG's market cap was in the $9 billion range, making it more valuable than Etsy and Hasbro. That bumped up the former president's net worth to $7 billion, though not in a way he can immediately take advantage of. Unless the company's board says otherwise, Trump can't sell his shares for six months.

If I were Trump, though, I would cajole the board to speed up that lockup period so I could cash in. It seems, let's say, unlikely that his media company's stock price is going to stay so high forever. (It seems like investors agree — on Monday, after this story was first published, the stock tumbled by more than 25%.)

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For one thing, TMTG, which owns the conservative Twitter copycat Truth Social, makes basically nothing. According to a new financial filing from the company released on Monday, its total revenue was $4.1 million in 2023. Extrapolate that out, and the stock is trading at something like 2,000 times the company's annual revenue. That is, um, high. Apple, for example, trades at about seven times its total revenue. And given TMTG's paltry revenue, it actually lost $58 million last year.

Trump's company says it has bigger plans ahead, such as growing Truth Social and developing "one or more additional cutting-edge products and/or services" to complement Truth, including some sort of video-streaming situation that "provides a 'home' for cancelled content creators." What exactly this might look like, or how many people would flock to it, isn't clear.

Truth Social had an estimated 5 million monthly website visits in February of this year, according to third-party trackers, but the company isn't revealing exact metrics right now. By comparison, Facebook had 845 million monthly active users when it went public in 2012, and Twitter had 215 million when it IPO'd the following year. The long and the short of it is that TMTG is not a thriving business.

But maybe other social-media outlets, which are designed to appeal to the widest possible base, aren't the right comparison. Truth Social and any other business Trump Media and Technology Group spins up is pretty much guaranteed to appeal just to Trump fans.

Trump's media company isn't the first conservative outfit to go public via SPAC in recent years and try to make money off of right-leaning consumers and investors. Its predecessors have not done so hot. Rumble, a Peter Thiel-backed YouTube for the right, rose by some 40% on its first day of trading in September 2022 and has been hanging well below that ever since. Both Black Rifle Coffee, a Starbucks for Republicans, and Public Square, the GOP's supposed alternative to Amazon, have followed similar trajectories: a stock pop early on, then sitting under $10 ever since. None of them have achieved sustained profitability, though Black Rifle says it's on the path to it.

Wall Street Journal, Stock Market Today: S&P 500 Slips From Record to Kick Off New Quarter; Markets reopen after Easter holiday; Trump Media shares fall, Amrith Ramkumar, April 1, 2024. Shares in Donald Trump's social-media company are down about 23% in another day of volatile trading.

wsj logoThe business, Trump Media & Technology Group, is the parent of the former president's social-media platform, Truth Social, and trades under the ticker DJT after merging with a shell company.

On Monday, updated regulatory documents showed that a lock-up for Trump and other insiders for six months following Trump Media's debut as a listed company is still in place.

Business Insider, Commentary: Trump's coming stock bust, Emily Stewart, April 1, 2024. If you want to know how Trump Media will do, look at the right-wing SPACs that came before it.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosDonald Trump's newly public social-media company is not the next Nvidia — or Meta or Google or whatever has happened with X/Twitter.

The share price of Trump Media and Technology Group, trading under the stock ticker DJT (because of course it is),surged following the completion of its SPAC merger last week. A SPAC, or a special-purpose acquisition company, is a shell company — in this case, Digital World Acquisition — that goes public with the intention of buying an actual company later. For a while, TMTG's market cap was in the $9 billion range, making it more valuable than Etsy and Hasbro. That bumped up the former president's net worth to $7 billion, though not in a way he can immediately take advantage of. Unless the company's board says otherwise, Trump can't sell his shares for six months.

If I were Trump, though, I would cajole the board to speed up that lockup period so I could cash in. It seems, let's say, unlikely that his media company's stock price is going to stay so high forever. (It seems like investors agree — on Monday, after this story was first published, the stock tumbled by more than 25%.)

For one thing, TMTG, which owns the conservative Twitter copycat Truth Social, makes basically nothing. According to a new financial filing from the company released on Monday, its total revenue was $4.1 million in 2023. Extrapolate that out, and the stock is trading at something like 2,000 times the company's annual revenue. That is, um, high. Apple, for example, trades at about seven times its total revenue. And given TMTG's paltry revenue, it actually lost $58 million last year.

Trump's company says it has bigger plans ahead, such as growing Truth Social and developing "one or more additional cutting-edge products and/or services" to complement Truth, including some sort of video-streaming situation that "provides a 'home' for cancelled content creators." What exactly this might look like, or how many people would flock to it, isn't clear.

Truth Social had an estimated 5 million monthly website visits in February of this year, according to third-party trackers, but the company isn't revealing exact metrics right now. By comparison, Facebook had 845 million monthly active users when it went public in 2012, and Twitter had 215 million when it IPO'd the following year. The long and the short of it is that TMTG is not a thriving business.

But maybe other social-media outlets, which are designed to appeal to the widest possible base, aren't the right comparison. Truth Social and any other business Trump Media and Technology Group spins up is pretty much guaranteed to appeal just to Trump fans.

Trump's media company isn't the first conservative outfit to go public via SPAC in recent years and try to make money off of right-leaning consumers and investors. Its predecessors have not done so hot. Rumble, a Peter Thiel-backed YouTube for the right, rose by some 40% on its first day of trading in September 2022 and has been hanging well below that ever since. Both Black Rifle Coffee, a Starbucks for Republicans, and Public Square, the GOP's supposed alternative to Amazon, have followed similar trajectories: a stock pop early on, then sitting under $10 ever since. None of them have achieved sustained profitability, though Black Rifle says it's on the path to it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump, whose attacks have grown increasingly personal, shared a video with an image of a hog-tied President Biden, Chris Cameron, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). The social media post reflects the increasingly violent and personal attacks that Donald J. Trump has employed during the presidential campaign.

trump 2024Former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Friday to his social media website that features an image of President Biden with his hands and feet tied together.

Mr. Trump posted the video to Truth Social early Friday afternoon with a line that said it was filmed on Long Island on Thursday, when Mr. Trump attended the wake of a slain New York City police officer in Massapequa Park, N.Y. The video shows two moving trucks decorated with flags and decals supporting Mr. Trump. The tailgate of the second vehicle features the image of Mr. Biden.

Macabre imagery targeting Mr. Trump’s perceived enemies frequently circulates online among right-wing provocateurs and pro-Trump groups, and in some cases has been featured at conservative conferences. Photos of trucks featuring similar images of Mr. Biden tied up have been shared across social media, and online vendors sell vehicle stickers with the image.

Mr. Trump’s promotion of the video featuring the image reflects the increasingly caustic and personal attacks that he has directed against Mr. Biden — for example, in a speech this month he said that “everything Joe Biden touches turns to” filth, though he used an expletive — and it extends a record in which the former president features violent imagery on his social media accounts.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said “that picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway,” adding that “Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him.”

The video was still on Mr. Trump’s Truth Social page as of late Friday evening.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump has MELTDOWN as Things DON’T GO AS PLANNED, Ben Meiselas, April 1, politico Custom2024. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on a feeble and confused Donald Trump spending the Easter holiday spewing unhinged all-caps tirades attacking America and talking about himself while President Biden acted with class and digity.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Republicans texted and emailed their way into a money problem, Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Clara Ence Morse, April 1, 2024. Small-dollar donations to Donald Trump and the GOP are way down since 2019 and 2020. But the former president’s team says they see a turnaround.

In the years after Donald Trump lost the presidency to Joe Biden, Trump sent so many emails and text messages asking for money that Republican consultants warned his mailing lists could become useless. The former president’s friends told him that they were being asked for too much, too often, and Trump himself ordered aides at one point to slow the solicitations. Some of his fans, pockets emptied, mailed handwritten letters apologizing for not being able to give more.
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Now, as Trump and Biden prepare for a rematch, Trump’s vaunted small-dollar fundraising operation is not bringing in as much money as it once did.

In 2020, Trump and his fundraising committees raised a record $626.6 million from small-dollar donors, 35 percent more than Biden took in from that group.

But last year, Trump raised just $51 million from small donors, way down from the $119 million he registered in 2019 and only 18 percent more than Biden’s total. His small-dollar haul — which includes donations of $200 or less — was not nearly enough to offset Biden’s lead among major donors.

The Republican National Committee also raised much less money from small-dollar donors in 2023 than it had in 2019, contributing to budget problems for the party. Officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee were shocked by the low returns on their investment in the strategy ahead of the last midterm elections.

Trump advisers say that after a slow period, they are now raising $1 million a day online, and the campaign raised $10.6 million in donations last week from 280,000 digital donations. The multiple prosecutions he faces have re-energized his base, and his team expects that small-dollar fundraising numbers will spike ahead of his trial in New York next month.

Democrats and their allies also send plenty of fundraising emails, and some Democrats and their committees have seen their small-dollar fundraising fall in recent years, according to federal filings. Republicans also attribute that the downturn in small-dollar fundraising to the effects of inflation and many Americans’ fatigue with national politics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump attacks Biden over Easter coinciding with Transgender Day of Visibility, Amy B Wang, April 1, 2024. The former president and supporters invoke false claims in a political war of words. Donald Trump, his campaign and his allies invoked religion in a flurry of political grievances this weekend, including by attacking President Biden for acknowledging International Transgender Day of Visibility — which happened to fall this year on Easter Sunday — and by making false claims that Biden newly prohibited children from submitting religious egg designs to a White House Easter art contest.

The attacks follow Trump’s announcement that he is selling $60 Bibles, which attracted criticism from Democrats and some religious leaders. Trump fired off dozens of social media posts Sunday that targeted his political rivals and railed against his legal troubles.

The latest salvo began Friday, after the White House issued a proclamation recognizing Sunday as Transgender Day of Visibility and called on Americans to “join us in lifting up the lives and voices of transgender people throughout our Nation and to work toward eliminating violence and discrimination based on gender identity.”

The acknowledgment was not new. Since 2009, International Transgender Day of Visibility has been held annually on March 31, and the Biden administration has marked the day every year since Biden was elected. The date of Easter, meanwhile, changes from year to year, falling on the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the spring equinox.

Trump and Republicans, however, immediately cast the coincidence as an attack on Easter. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) accused the White House of having “betrayed the central tenet of Easter — which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“Banning sacred truth and tradition — while at the same time proclaiming Easter Sunday as ‘Transgender Day’ — is outrageous and abhorrent. The American people are taking note,” Johnson wrote in a post on X.

In a statement Saturday, Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt claimed that declaring Transgender Day of Visibility on Easter Sunday was “blasphemous” and called on Biden “to issue an apology to the millions of Catholics and Christians across America who believe tomorrow is for one celebration only — the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
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It is unclear why the statement distinguished between Catholics and Christians, since the former are Christians as well.

When asked Sunday, Leavitt did not address the issue but again repeated the false claim that Biden “chose” Easter to recognize Transgender Day of Visibility, even though it has fallen on March 31 since 2009. “The Biden Administration has spent years appeasing left-wing activists and disrespecting the Christian faith,” Leavitt said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Biden, a devout Catholic, speaks often about his faith and attends church every weekend. He is the second Catholic to be U.S. president. On Sunday morning, he issued a statement celebrating Easter observances.

“As we gather with loved ones, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice. We pray for one another and cherish the blessing of the dawn of new possibilities,” Biden said. “And with wars and conflict taking a toll on innocent lives around the world, we renew our commitment to work for peace, security, and dignity for all people.”
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Leavitt also blasted Biden for supposedly having “prohibited children from submitting religious egg designs for their Easter Art Event,” referring to a long-running Easter tradition in which children of National Guard members submit decorated eggs to be displayed at the White House.

The American Egg Board, which administers the contest, said rules dictating what is allowed in the Easter egg decorating contest have remained consistent for more than 45 years — including during the Trump administration. Contest guidelines state that eggs “must not include any questionable content, religious symbols, overtly religious themes, or partisan political statements.”

March

March 31

 

 

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Republican-appointed judges raise alarm over Trump attacks on law, Spencer S. Hsu, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). Federal D.C. Judge Reggie B. Walton warned Trump’s attacks on hush-money trial judge and others could lead to violence. Reagan, Bush-appointed judges decry Jan. 6 revisionism, threats.

A Republican-appointed judge, right, denounced Donald Trump’s social media attacks against the judge presiding over the former president’s hush money trial in Manhattan and his daughter, calling them assaults on the rule of law that could lead to violence and tyranny.

reggie b walton“When judges are threatened, and particularly when their family is threatened, it’s something that’s wrong and should not happen,” U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in a live interview Thursday. He added, “It is very troubling because I think it is an attack on the rule of law.”

djt maga hatThe unusual media statement by a sitting federal judge came after Trump blasted New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan and his daughter, Loren Merchan, criticizing her affiliation with a digital marketing company that works with Democratic candidates and erroneously attributing to her a social media post showing Trump behind bars.

Walton, who was appointed by presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to courts in Washington in 1981 and 1991, said “any reasonable, thinking person” would appreciate the impact of Trump’s rhetoric on some followers, intentional or not. The judge recalled how a disgruntled litigant killed the son and wounded the husband of New Jersey federal Judge Esther Salas at her home in a 2020 shooting.

Since late 2020, as Trump began escalating his attacks on the judiciary, serious investigated threats against federal judges have more than doubled, from 224 in 2021 to 457 in 2023, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, as first reported by Reuters. Federal judges in Washington say at least half of trial judges handling cases arising from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have received a surge in threats and harassment, including death threats to their homes, with Trump’s election obstruction trial judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, placed under 24-hour protection.

“The rule of law can only be maintained if we have independent judicial officers who are able to do their job and ensure that the laws are in fact enforced and that the laws are applied equally to everybody who appears in our courthouse,” Walton told CNN. He was prompted to speak out of concern for the “future of our country and the future of democracy in our country,” Walton said, “because if we don’t have a viable court system that’s able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny.”

Walton’s remarks came as several federal judges in Washington appointed by Republican presidents have spoken with increasing urgency about Trump’s disregard for historical facts and alarmed at his increasingly graphic and at times violent description of defendants prosecuted in the Jan. 6 riot as “political prisoners” and “hostages” who did nothing wrong.

royce lamberth (Shown in a Reuters photo by Evelyn Hockstein)“In my 37 years on the bench, I cannot recall a time when such meritless justifications of criminal activity have gone mainstream,” U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth (shown above in a Reuters photo by Evelyn Hockstein) said in a January sentencing. “I have been dismayed to see distortions and outright falsehoods seep into the public consciousness.”

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan similarly told a group of Georgetown Law School students in January that false claims that riot defendants were acting like tourists or patriots were destructive rewriting of reality. “There’s a danger that is embedded now in our communities across the country,” Hogan said.

Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book

Donald Trump is shown with his former counsel, Michael Cohen, right, author of a best-selling book "Disloyal" and an expected star witness at Trump's New York trial in April.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Potential Trump Witnesses Get Carrots. Michael Cohen Got the Stick, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump takes different approaches to those who may testify at his trials. He attacks some, like Mr. Cohen, publicly. Others he rewards for loyalty.

Donald J. Trump watched anxiously from the White House in April 2018 as news broke about federal agents searching the home of Michael D. Cohen, the man entrusted to conceal some of the president’s deepest secrets. After initially coming to Mr. Cohen’s defense, Mr. Trump washed his hands of his fixer within weeks, brushing aside Mr. Cohen’s feelers about a pardon and disavowing his legal bills.

Mr. Trump took a different tack when prosecutors shifted their scrutiny to Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump family’s longtime financial gatekeeper. Mr. Trump’s company paid Mr. Weisselberg’s legal bills and awarded him a $2 million severance, with a condition: He could not voluntarily cooperate with any law enforcement agency.

After Mr. Weisselberg signed the deal last year, Mr. Trump’s lawyers privately pressed him to testify in a civil fraud case filed against the former president, hoping the finance chief’s testimony would aid their defense, according to people with knowledge of the discussions, which have not previously been reported. But prosecutors say Mr. Weisselberg lied during his testimony, and this month he pleaded guilty to perjury.

The fixer and the moneyman both landed behind bars. But while Mr. Weisselberg remained loyal, refusing to implicate his boss, Mr. Cohen is poised to become a central witness for the Manhattan district attorney at Mr. Trump’s criminal trial next month, the first prosecution of a former U.S. president.

The contrasting cases of Mr. Cohen and Mr. Weisselberg — detailed in court records and interviews with 18 people directly involved in the cases, some of whom requested anonymity to discuss confidential conversations — demonstrate the power and peril of Mr. Trump’s tactics for avoiding a crisis like the one he now faces. The trial is the realization of Mr. Trump’s long-held fear that prosecutors would flip trusted aides into dangerous witnesses.

The former president, facing four indictments and several lawsuits while seeking to reclaim the White House, careens from one case to the next, seeking to exert control over witnesses. In screeds posted on his social media site, he mixes enticements with threats, praise with scorn, and when all else fails, he makes life miserable for anyone audacious enough to cross him.

Mr. Trump’s company praised Mr. Weisselberg as a “fine and honorable man,” but Mr. Cohen felt the brunt of the former president’s attacks. Mr. Trump has sued him, called him a “rat” and referred to him as “death.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump, whose attacks have grown increasingly personal, shared a video with an image of a hog-tied President Biden, Chris Cameron, March 31, 2024 (print ed.). The social media post reflects the increasingly violent and personal attacks that Donald J. Trump has employed during the presidential campaign.

trump 2024Former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Friday to his social media website that features an image of President Biden with his hands and feet tied together.

Mr. Trump posted the video to Truth Social early Friday afternoon with a line that said it was filmed on Long Island on Thursday, when Mr. Trump attended the wake of a slain New York City police officer in Massapequa Park, N.Y. The video shows two moving trucks decorated with flags and decals supporting Mr. Trump. The tailgate of the second vehicle features the image of Mr. Biden.

Macabre imagery targeting Mr. Trump’s perceived enemies frequently circulates online among right-wing provocateurs and pro-Trump groups, and in some cases has been featured at conservative conferences. Photos of trucks featuring similar images of Mr. Biden tied up have been shared across social media, and online vendors sell vehicle stickers with the image.

Mr. Trump’s promotion of the video featuring the image reflects the increasingly caustic and personal attacks that he has directed against Mr. Biden — for example, in a speech this month he said that “everything Joe Biden touches turns to” filth, though he used an expletive — and it extends a record in which the former president features violent imagery on his social media accounts.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said “that picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway,” adding that “Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him.”

The video was still on Mr. Trump’s Truth Social page as of late Friday evening.

March 27

truth social logony times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Legal Troubles: How Donald Trump Moved Money to Pay $100 Million in Legal Bills, Molly Cook Escobar, Albert Sun and Shane Goldmacher, March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Trump supporters poured money into his campaign to challenge his 2020 election loss. That money is now paying to defend him from his legal troubles.

Former President Donald J. Trump has spent more than $100 million since leaving office, on lawyers and other costs related to fending off various investigations, indictments and his coming criminal trials, according to a New York Times review of federal records.

The remarkable sum means that Mr. Trump has averaged more than $90,000 a day in legal-related costs for more than three years — none of it paid for with his own money.

Instead, the former president has relied almost entirely on donations made in an attempt to fight the results of the 2020 election.

Now, those accounts are nearly drained, and Mr. Trump faces a choice: begin to pay his own substantial legal fees or find another way to finance them.

Politico, ‘Assured failure’: Ex-White House lawyer provides new details of final days of Trump’s 2020 election gambitKyle Cheney,  March 27, 2024 (print ed.). Pat Philbin gave his first public testimony about the chaotic final days of the Trump presidency.

politico CustomDonald Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Pat Philbin, was nervous.

It was just a few days until Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress was slated to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, and Trump had suddenly resuscitated a plan to replace the leadership of the Justice Department with Jeffrey Clark, a little known DOJ official who Trump expected to mount a sweeping nationwide effort to help him remain in power.

So Philbin called Clark, a colleague from their days in private practice dating back to the 1990s and tried to talk him out of it.

“I tried to explain to him that it was a bad idea for multiple reasons,” Philbin recalled Tuesday at a long-delayed disbarment hearing for Clark. “He would be starting down a path of assured failure … If by some miracle somehow, it worked, there’d be riots in every major city in the country and it was not an outcome the country would accept.”

It was Philbin’s first public testimony about the chaotic final days of the Trump presidency since he left the White House. Though Philbin has spoken to both the Jan. 6 select committee and the federal grand jury that indicted Trump for his effort to seize a second term, no transcript or recording of his remarks has even been released.

Philbin’s description of his interactions with Clark shed new light on the frenzied effort by Trump to remake the Justice Department into a tool of his bid to cling to power despite losing the election — a remarkable new account more than three years after a mob of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol in his name. His testimony followed Richard Donoghue, a former acting deputy attorney general.

Together, the two men described a White House that had let down all guardrails, with conspiracy theories about election fraud reaching Trump, who was an eager recipient of even implausible claims of fraud. Clark, too, embraced some of those claims, they said.

March 26

ny times logo New York Times, Donald Trump’s social media company got a lofty valuation on its first trading day, Matthew Goldstein and Joe Rennison, March 26, 2024. Trump Media & Technology Group, fresh from a merger with a cash-rich shell company, started trading on the Nasdaq, adding billions of dollars to the former president’s wealth.

There’s a new high-flying stock on Wall Street that some investors are eagerly piling into. Its largest shareholder is former President Donald J. Trump.

His social media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, began trading on the Nasdaq on Tuesday, under the ticker DJT, and immediately surged in value, gaining 40 percent in early trading.

The biggest beneficiary of the market action is Mr. Trump, who owns about 60 percent of Trump Media’s shares. His stake in the company is worth more than $4 billion.

Before the merger, shares of the shell company — Digital World Acquisition Corporation — had long behaved as something of a proxy for investor sentiment about Mr. Trump. And that is likely to continue for the merged companies, especially as Mr. Trump remains in the headlines with pending trials and the presidential campaign.

By most traditional measures, Trump Media’s valuation is inordinately high. The company took in just $3.3 million in revenue during the first nine months of last year, all from advertising on Truth Social, and recorded a loss of $49 million.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: No One Is Above the Law, Except, Apparently, Donald Trump, Jamelle Bouie, right, March 26, 2024. As the jamelle bouieweek began, it looked as though Donald Trump would finally face consequences — or at least, a consequence — for his actions.

If you helped Trump try to overturn the results of the previous election, up to and including the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, then there’s a good chance you’ve had to face your day in court. One of Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, was ordered to pay nearly $150 million in damages relating to efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, while another Trump lawyer, Sidney Powell, pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor charges relating to the effort to manufacture evidence of voter fraud in the same state. And this is to say nothing of the hundreds of rioters who have been charged and sentenced in federal criminal court.

So far, however, Trump has gotten away scot free. Yes, he has been indicted in federal cases related to Jan. 6 and his handling of classified documents. But the Supreme Court has in effect delayed his trial until the fall as it considers the absurd (but no less serious) question of absolute presidential immunity for criminal conduct in office. The judge in the documents case, Aileen Cannon, can’t claim to be tackling a serious constitutional issue. She seems, instead, to be looking for any avenue that allows her to dismiss the charges against the former president, who nominated her to the federal bench in 2020.

The upshot of all of this is that whether Trump will ever face consequences may well depend on the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. If he wins, he’ll use his powers to pardon himself and escape legal scrutiny, at least in federal court. If he loses, then perhaps his luck will have finally run out.

March 24

 

 

 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, Two Major Legal Threats to Donald Trump Coincide on Monday, Maggie Haberman and Ben Protess, March 24, 2024. Mr. Trump could receive a trial date for his criminal hush-money case on the same day that he must provide a half-billion bond for a civil fraud judgment.

ICE logoDonald J. Trump is expected to spend his Monday morning in the courtroom of a New York judge who might soon preside over his criminal trial and, ultimately, throw him behind bars. And that’s not even the legal predicament that worries Mr. Trump most that day.

The hearing in his Manhattan criminal prosecution — in which he is accused of covering up a sex scandal to pave his way to the presidency — comes as he races to fend off a financial crisis arising from a $454 million judgment in another case. The New York attorney general, Letitia James, who brought that civil fraud suit against the former president and his family business, might begin to collect as soon as Monday.

To avoid a mortal threat to the Trump Organization, Mr. Trump must persuade another company to post a bond on his behalf, promising that it will cover the judgment if he loses a pending appeal and fails to pay. Yet Mr. Trump’s lawyers in court papers said that securing the bond would be a “practical impossibility,” because he would need to pledge some $550 million in cash and liquid investments as collateral to the bond company — an admission that laid bare the former president’s cash crunch.

Unless Mr. Trump strikes an 11th-hour deal, Ms. James could freeze his bank accounts, and begin the long and complicated process of seizing some of his properties. And barring Mr. Trump’s lawyers achieving an improbable legal triumph, the judge in his criminal case could set a trial date for as soon as next month.

The twin threats — on the same day, in the same town — crystallize two of Mr. Trump’s greatest and longest-held fears: a criminal conviction and a public perception that he does not have as much cash as he claims.

For decades, Mr. Trump employed a broad array of tactics to keep those fears at bay, learning from his well-connected father and his own ruthless lawyer and fixer, Roy M. Cohn. After fending off local and federal investigations, not to mention financial ruin, Mr. Trump came to believe that any problems could be solved by personal connections — and a whole lot of money.

“If Trump uses one thing to score the game, it has always been money,” said Jack O’Donnell, a former casino executive who worked for Mr. Trump in the early 1990s and wrote a tell-all book about him. “If he has more money than someone, he is winning and the other person is losing. And if someone has more money than Trump, he has the fear that someone will say he is losing to that person.”

Mr. Trump himself has also described the shame of becoming a criminal defendant four times over. Even as his advisers used the indictments to great effect in fund-raising and galvanizing his Republican base, the former president has conceded that the charges pained him.

“Nobody wants to be indicted,” Mr. Trump told reporters aboard his airplane in June. “I don’t care that my poll numbers went up by a lot. I don’t want to be indicted. I’ve never been indicted. I went through my whole life, now I get indicted every two months.”

It was a major shock for a man who, until then, had navigated a wary path around law enforcement scrutiny throughout his long public life.

March 22

 

truth social logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Media Merger Is Approved, Providing Fresh Source of Cash, Matthew Goldstein, March 22, 2024. The deal will pump money into Trump Media, which will allow Truth Social to keep operating. Mr. Trump’s personal stake in the company will be worth more than $3 billion on paper.

Former President Donald Trump stands at an outdoor podium with a large microphone, wearing a red hat that has "45-47" written on the side.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s social media company on Friday completed a long-awaited merger with a cash-rich shell company, raising Mr. Trump’s wealth by billions and potentially providing him a fresh source of cash to pay his mounting legal bills.

In approving the merger, shareholders of Digital World Acquisition Corporation will become shareholders of Trump Media & Technology Group, which will trade on the stock market under the stock symbol DJT. The deal will pump more than $300 million into Trump Media, which has all but exhausted its available cash and will allow Truth Social, the company’s flagship digital media platform, to keep operating.

Based on Digital World’s stock price of $44 a share just before the vote announcement, Trump Media will debut with a market value of more than $5 billion. That means Mr. Trump’s personal stake will be worth more than $3 billion.

Shares of Trump Media could begin trading under the new stock symbol as soon as next week.

The deal’s approval comes as Mr. Trump is facing a Monday deadline to cover a $454 million penalty in a civil fraud case in New York. He is restricted for six months from selling any of his shares or using them as collateral for a loan, although he could ask the board of the merged company to waive that rule for him.

Trump Media said in a statement before the vote that “the merger will enable Truth Social to enhance and expand our platform.

 

djt mike pence

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Told Pence Certifying Election Would Be ‘Career Killer,’ Valet Testified, Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman, March 22, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump warned Mike Pence against failing to overturn the 2020 election results, according to an account by the White House valet by his side on Jan. 6.

The threat from President Donald J. Trump to his vice president, Mike Pence, was clear and direct: If you defy my effort to overturn the 2020 election by certifying the results, your future in Republican politics is over.

“Mike, this is a political career killer if you do this,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Pence by phone on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, according to the White House valet who was with the president for much of the day and told Congress he had overheard the conversation.

The testimony of Mr. Trump’s valet, provided to the now-defunct House Jan. 6 Committee in 2022 but not previously released publicly, offers a rare firsthand look into the former president’s behavior in the hours before, during and after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol seeking to halt the certification of President Biden’s victory.

In the valet’s account, laid out in a transcript obtained by The New York Times, an agitated Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Pence to overturn the election and stewed about Mr. Pence’s refusal for hours after violence engulfed Congress. Told that a civilian had been shot outside the House chamber amid the mob attack, he recalled, Mr. Trump appeared unconcerned.

“I just remember seeing it in front of him,” the valet said of a note card Mr. Trump was given bearing news of the casualty as he watched the riot unfold on television. “I don’t remember how it got there or whatever. But there was no, like, reaction.”

As unflattering as portions of the aide’s testimony were to Mr. Trump, he did not confirm some of the more graphic and damning claims made by witnesses in front of the Jan. 6 committee.

For instance, the valet said he did not remember hearing Mr. Trump use vulgar language in describing his view that Mr. Pence was a coward, or agree with rioters who were chanting for Mr. Pence to be hanged. And he did recall hearing the president ask about contacting top officials on the possibility of dispatching the National Guard to Capitol Hill — though there is no indication that he ever followed through.

“Did you hear the president say that?” a staff investigator for the House Jan. 6 committee asked the valet, inquiring about reports that Mr. Trump had called Mr. Pence an expletive meant to refer to a wimp.

“I did not — no, sir,” the valet responded.

Mr. Trump himself has not disputed using that language, and Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff testified that Ms. Trump had told her that Mr. Trump had an “upsetting” conversation with Mr. Pence and that the president had accused him of cowardice, using “the ‘p’ word.” The valet also acknowledged that he wasn’t with the president at all times, and that he had left the Oval Office during a portion of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Pence.

March 21

 

 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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: New York judge’s ruling on evidence couldn’t have gone worse for Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 21, jennifer rubin new headshot2024. Four-time indicted former president Donald Trump suffered arguably his worst loss(es) in any criminal matter this week when, in his New York trial for alleged falsification of business records, Judge Juan M. Merchan ruled against him in virtually all of his motions to exclude evidence.

By contrast, the judge largely granted Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s motions to exclude evidence for trial that Trump believed might be exculpatory. That does not bode well for Trump’s chances to avoid conviction when the case goes to trial, likely in a few weeks.

Trump, for example, moved to exclude testimony of former fixer Michael Cohen on the grounds Cohen is “a liar.” The court rebuked this desperate move: “This Court has been unable to locate any treatise, statute, or holding from courts in this jurisdiction, or others, that support Defendant’s rationale that a prosecution witness should be kept off the witness stand because his credibility has been previously called into question.” Trump’s lawyers can cross-examine Cohen at trial.

Trump also tried to keep back evidence of his intent to influence the 2016 election (a material part of Bragg’s case) and his intent to defraud. Having already ruled on these issues, Merchan scolded Trump’s counsel: “Rearguing this Court’s prior rulings in this manner is procedurally and professionally inappropriate and a waste of this Court’s valuable resources.” These motions were denied.

Trump also wanted to exclude evidence regarding a meeting in which Cohen, Trump and David Pecker (onetime head of American Media Inc.) discussed the “catch and kill” scheme to keep evidence of Trump’s sexual transgressions from voters. Since this evidence is directly germane to the issue of Trump’s intent to defraud, this motion also failed.

Merchan rebuffed Trump’s attempt to block the testimony of two people with damaging stories to tell about him.

Likewise, the judge rejected Trump’s effort to exclude evidence including the “Access Hollywood” tape (the scandal that precipitated Trump’s effort to silence other women), Trump’s violation of federal campaign finance law (one rationale for elevating the crimes to felonies), Cohen’s guilty plea (although it cannot be used to prove Trump’s intent) and classification of the hush money as “promotional” expenses for AMI. Merchan also rejected Trump’s attempt to reargue that he and his organization were distinct entities.

Most important, Merchan refused to exclude more than 100 Trump statements since these can be classified as “admissions against interest.” Despite Trump’s plea, he will also allow in Allen Weisselberg’s notes, if the prosecutor shows they are business records.

In sum, the lion’s share of the evidence that Trump views as damaging will be heard by the jury. This underscores the quantity and strength of the facts that implicate Trump. It surely explains why he has been desperate to avoid trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Papers that delayed Trump’s N.Y. trial involve key witness Michael Cohen, Shayna Jacobs and Devlin Barrett, March 21, 2024. Latest legal fight in New York should not delay Donald Trump’s hush money trial past mid-April, prosecutor argues in court filing.

Manhattan prosecutors on Thursday defended their handling of evidence in Donald Trump’s hush money case, saying there was nothing particularly important or problematic in a large batch of documents that was recently given to the former president’s lawyers, prompting a delay in the trial of at least 20 days.

The new court filings from District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) come ahead of a Monday hearing in which Trump’s defense team will ask the judge overseeing the case to impose tough penalties on prosecutors for only recently turning over more than 100,000 pages of potential evidence — specifically, information gathered years earlier by federal agents and prosecutors about Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer and fixer who is a key witness in the case.

Bragg told New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan there was nothing in the material that should push the start of the trial past mid-April.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Media, launched after an insurrection, faces rebellion of its own, Drew Harwell, March 21, 2024. Three men with pivotal roles in founding Donald Trump’s firm and its proposed merger partner, Digital World Acquisition, are in court battles with the companies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bankruptcy is one way out of Trump’s financial jam. He doesn’t want to take it, Jonathan O'Connell and Josh Dawsey, March 21, 2024 (print ed.). People close to the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee say he is not considering bankruptcy, even though it could ease his immediate cash crunch.

As Donald Trump faces dwindling options to pay off a massive fine imposed as a result of losing a fraud case in New York, financial experts say filing for bankruptcy would provide one clear way out of his financial jam.
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But Trump is not considering that approach, partially out of concern that it could damage his campaign to recapture the White House from President Biden in November, according to four people close to the former president, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions about Trump’s finances. Even though bankruptcy could alleviate his immediate cash crunch, it also carries risks for a candidate who has marketed himself as a winning businessman — and whose greatest appeal to voters, some advisers say, is his financial success.

A bankruptcy filing by Trump personally or by one of his companies could delay for months or years the requirement that he pay the judgment of nearly half a billion dollars, which with interest is growing by more than $100,000 a day. A federal judge would be charged with the time-consuming task of determining how and when each of his creditors, including the state, would be paid. In the meantime, Trump could focus on his campaign and not the debt.

Trump does not have the cash to secure a bond that would delay enforcement of the $464 million judgment while he appeals, his lawyers say. No bonding company will accept real estate — which accounts for most of Trump’s wealth — as collateral. If no bond is posted by Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) could move to seize his assets, including bank accounts or properties such as Trump’s Manhattan office tower at 40 Wall Street.

“He’d rather have Letitia James show up with the sheriff at 40 Wall and make a huge stink about it than say he’s bankrupt,” one of the people close to Trump said. “He thinks about what is going to play politically well for him. Bankruptcy doesn’t play well for him, but having her try to take his properties might.”

 trump family robert elizabeth freddy donald maryanne left to right trump campaign

washington post logoWashington Post, Shadowing Trump’s attacks on mental fitness — his own father’s dementia, Michael Kranish, March 21, 2024 (print ed.). As Donald Trump accuses President Biden of being “cognitively impaired,” he avoids mention of his father’s Alzheimer’s disease — an experience that shaped Trump’s views of the condition.

Donald Trump invited his extended family to Mar-a-Lago in the mid-1990s. As the clan gathered at the palatial Florida estate, though, his father was badly struggling, according to Mary L. Trump, Donald’s niece.

fred trump donald trump

Fred Trump Sr., the pugnacious developer then in his late 80s (shown above in portraits from different periods), didn’t recognize two of his children at the party, recalled Mary L. Trump, who attended the gathering. And when he did recognize Donald, the family patriarch approached his son with a picture of a Cadillac that he wanted to buy — as if he needed his son’s permission.

The incident, Mary L. Trump said, left Donald Trump visibly upset at his father’s descent into dementia, which medical records show had been diagnosed several years earlier. Trump reflected his anguish in an interview around that time, with Playboy in 1997 reporting that seeing his father “addled with Alzheimer’s” had left him wondering “out loud about the senselessness of life.”

“Turning 50 does make you think about mortality, or immortality, or whatever,” Trump, who had recently reached that milestone, told the magazine. “It does hit you.”

Today, as the 77-year-old Trump seeks to return to the White House, he is still focused on the ravages of dementia — but this time he is using the condition as a political weapon, alleging without medical proof that President Biden, 81, is “cognitively impaired.” Those attacks follow a long pattern for the former president, who for years has bashed enemies as mentally frail while boasting in public about “acing” the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a basic test that flags signs of early dementia.

Trump regularly claims to have passed the test twice, but through a spokesman, his campaign declined to release his test results or to specify when he most recently took it. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.), the former White House physician, said in an interview this month that he administered it to Trump once, in January 2018. Trump in November released a three-paragraph letter in which Bruce Aronwald, a doctor of osteopathy, said that Trump’s health was excellent and that “cognitive exams were exceptional” but provided no details. Aronwald did not respond to a request for comment.

March 20

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Asks Supreme Court for Absolute Immunity on Election Charges, Adam Liptak, March 20, 2024 (print ed.). The court will hear arguments on April 25 over whether former presidents can be prosecuted for things they did while in office.

Former President Donald J. Trump urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to rule that he is absolutely immune from criminal charges stemming from his attempts to subvert the 2020 election.

“The president cannot function, and the presidency itself cannot retain its vital independence,” the brief said, “if the president faces criminal prosecution for official acts once he leaves office.”

The brief, Mr. Trump’s main submission to the justices before the case is argued on April 25, continued to press an expansive understanding of presidential immunity, one that it said was required by the very structure of the Constitution.

“The question of a former president’s criminal immunity presents grave constitutional questions that strike at the heart of the separation of power,” the brief said.

Legal experts said Mr. Trump was unlikely to prevail but added that how and when the court rejects his arguments will effectively determine whether and when Mr. Trump’s trial, which had been scheduled to start March 4, will proceed.

When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last month, it set what it called an expedited schedule. But it was not particularly fast, culminating in oral arguments some seven weeks later, on April 25. That delay represented a significant partial victory for Mr. Trump.

Even if the court then moves with considerable speed and issues a categorical decision against Mr. Trump within a month, the trial would most likely not start until at least the fall, well into the heart of the presidential campaign. If the court does not rule until late June or sends the case back to the lower courts for further consideration of the scope of any immunity, the trial might not take place until after the election.

If Mr. Trump prevails in the election, he could order the Justice Department to drop the charges.

When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, it said it would decide this question: “Whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

That sentence has been closely scrutinized. On the one hand, it seemed to exclude from consideration Mr. Trump’s argument that his acquittal at his second impeachment trial, on charges that he incited insurrection, blocked any prosecution on similar charges. (Fifty-seven senators voted against him, 10 shy of the two-thirds majority needed to convict.)

On the other hand, it appeared to leave open the possibility that the court might draw distinctions — or ask lower courts to — between official acts and private ones.

March 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Can’t Meet Full Bond in $454 Million Judgment, Lawyers Say, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman and Kate Christobek, March 19, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing that he faces “insurmountable difficulties” as he tries to raise cash for the civil fraud penalty.

Donald J. Trump’s lawyers disclosed on Monday that he had failed to secure a roughly half-billion dollar bond in his civil fraud case in New York, raising the prospect that the state could seek to freeze some of his bank accounts and seize some of his marquee properties.

The court filing, coming one week before the bond is due, suggested that the former president might soon face a financial crisis unless an appeals court comes to his rescue.

Mr. Trump has asked the appeals court to pause the $454 million judgment that a New York judge imposed on Mr. Trump in the fraud case last month, or accept a bond of only $100 million. Otherwise, the New York attorney general’s office, which brought the case, might soon move to collect from Mr. Trump.

Still, even if the higher court rejects his appeal, Mr. Trump is not entirely out of options. He might appeal to the state’s highest court, quickly sell an asset or seek help from a wealthy supporter.

Mr. Trump’s team has also left the door open to exploring a bankruptcy for corporate entities implicated in the case, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. That option, however, is politically fraught during a presidential race in which he is the presumptive Republican nominee, and for now it appears unlikely.

The judge in the civil fraud case, Arthur F. Engoron, levied the $454 million penalty and other punishments after concluding that Mr. Trump had fraudulently inflated his net worth to obtain favorable loans and other benefits. The case, brought by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, has posed a grave financial threat to Mr. Trump.

The former president has been unable to secure the full bond, his lawyers said in the court filing on Monday, calling it a “practical impossibility” despite “diligent efforts.” Those efforts included approaching about 30 companies that provide appeal bonds, and yet, the lawyers said, he has encountered “insurmountable difficulties.”

The company providing the bond would essentially promise to cover Mr. Trump’s judgment if he lost an appeal and failed to pay. In exchange, he would pledge cash and other liquid assets as collateral, and he would pay the company a fee as high as $20 million.

But Mr. Trump does not have enough liquidity to obtain the bond. The company would require Mr. Trump to pledge more than $550 million in cash and securities as collateral — a sum he simply does not have.

Although the former president boasts of his billions, his net worth is derived largely from the value of his real estate, which bond companies rarely accept as collateral. Mr. Trump has more than $350 million in cash, a recent New York Times analysis found, far short of what he needs.

He might have to post an appeal bond worth more than $454 million — possibly above $500 million, to reflect the interest he will owe — in order to prevent Ms. James from seizing his assets on March 25.

Under the law, Ms. James could have moved to collect from Mr. Trump as soon as Justice Engoron ruled, but she offered a 30-day grace period, until March 25. It is unclear whether she will provide Mr. Trump extra time or if she will move swiftly to collect. Nor is it clear whether the appellate court will rule on his plea for help before the deadline.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump accused Jews of hating Israel and their religion if they voted for Democrats, Chris Cameron, March 19, 2024 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump accused Jews who vote for Democrats of hating their religion and Israel, reviving and escalating a claim he made as president that Jewish Democrats were disloyal.

A few hours later, facing mounting criticism from Jewish groups, Mr. Trump’s campaign repeated his incendiary charge, declaring that “Trump is right,” and that the Democratic Party “has turned into a full-blown anti-Israel, antisemitic, pro-terrorist cabal.”

trump 2024Mr. Trump made his remarks in an interview published online on Monday with Sebastian Gorka, a former White House aide for Mr. Trump who now hosts a conservative talk radio program. Mr. Gorka asked Mr. Trump about criticism that prominent Democrats — including President Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader — had levied against Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing prime minister of Israel.

“I actually think they hate Israel,” Mr. Trump replied. Mr. Gorka agreed.

“Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion,” Mr. Trump added later. “They hate everything about Israel, and they should be ashamed of themselves because Israel will be destroyed.”

Democratic officials “hate Israel,” he said, because they want votes from people who are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, where more than 30,000 people have been killed in the war there.

“Don’t forget, when you see those Palestinian marches — even I am amazed at how many people are in those marches,” Mr. Trump said. “And guys like Schumer see that, and to him it’s votes. I think it’s votes more than anything else, because he was always pro-Israel. He’s very anti-Israel now.”

A White House spokesman described Mr. Trump’s comments as “vile and unhinged antisemitic rhetoric.”

“There is no justification for spreading toxic, false stereotypes that threaten fellow citizens,” said Andrew Bates, a deputy press secretary for Mr. Biden, adding that the Biden administration “will never give hate any safe harbor, including today.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League — a Jewish advocacy group — said that “accusing Jews of hating their religion because they might vote for a particular party is defamatory and patently false.”

Mr. Schumer called Mr. Trump’s remarks “highly partisan and hateful rants.”

“To make Israel a partisan issue only hurts Israel and the US-Israeli relationship,” Mr. Schumer said on social media, adding, “I am working in a bipartisan way to ensure the US-Israeli relationship sustains for generations to come, buoyed by peace in the Middle East.”

djt biden resized smiles

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Defends His Warning of a ‘Blood Bath for the Country,’ Maggie Astor, March 19, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump said his comments about a “blood bath” if he lost in November were a reference to the auto industry.

Former President Donald J. Trump on Monday sought to defend his declaration over the weekend that the country would face a “blood bath” if he lost in November, saying — as his campaign had previously — that he had been referring only to the auto industry.

“The Fake News Media, and their Democrat Partners in the destruction of our Nation, pretended to be shocked at my use of the word BLOODBATH, trump 2024even though they fully understood that I was simply referring to imports allowed by Crooked Joe Biden, which are killing the automobile industry,” he wrote on his social media platform.

He made the remarks in a speech in Ohio on Saturday, delivered on behalf of Bernie Moreno, whom he has endorsed in Tuesday’s RepublicanSenate primary. After vowing to impose tariffs on cars manufactured outside the United States, he then said: “Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a blood bath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a blood bath for the country.”

biden harris 2024 logoPresident Biden’s re-election campaign responded in a statement that Mr. Trump was “a loser who gets beat by over seven million votes and then, instead of appealing to a wider mainstream audience, doubles down on his threats of political violence.”

In the same speech, Mr. Trump called migrants “animals” and “not people, in my opinion”; described people convicted in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as “hostages”; and suggested that American democracy would end if he lost. “I don’t think you’re going to have another election, or certainly not an election that’s meaningful,” he said.

djt maga hatThe next morning, Fox News broadcast an interview with Mr. Trump in which he repeated his past assertions that migrants were “poisoning the blood” of the country.

Mr. Trump on Monday followed up his social media post defending his remarks with an all-caps message: “Our once great country is going down the drain. We are a nation in decline! Vote for Trump, what the hell do you have to lose?”

March 17

 

djt rally file Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, In a speech in Ohio, Donald Trump said some migrants were “not people” and predicted a “blood bath” if he lost, Anjali Huynh and Michael Gold, March 17, 2024 (print ed.). In a caustic and discursive speech in Ohio, former President Donald J. Trump (shown in a file photo) once again doubled down on a doomsday vision of the United States.

ICE logoFormer President Donald J. Trump, at an event on Saturday ostensibly meant to boost his preferred candidate in Ohio’s Republican Senate primary race, gave a freewheeling speech in which he used dehumanizing language to describe immigrants, maintained a steady stream of insults and vulgarities and predicted that the United States would never have another election if he did not win in November.

trump 2024With his general-election matchup against President Biden in clear view, Mr. Trump once more doubled down on the doomsday vision of the country that has animated his third presidential campaign and energized his base during the Republican primary.

The dark view resurfaced throughout his speech. While discussing the U.S. economy and its auto industry, Mr. Trump promised to place tariffs on cars manufactured abroad if he won in November. He added: “Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a blood bath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a blood bath for the country.”

For nearly 90 minutes outside the Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio, Mr. Trump (shown at left in a 2019 graphic portraying a similarly violent message) delivered a discursive speech, replete with attacks and djt execute spies graphiccaustic rhetoric. He noted several times that he was having difficulty reading the teleprompter.

ohio mapThe former president opened his speech by praising the people serving sentences in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. Mr. Trump, who faces criminal charges tied to his efforts to overturn his election loss, called them “hostages” and “unbelievable patriots,” commended their spirit and vowed to help them if elected in November. He also repeated his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, which have been discredited by a mountain of evidence.

If he did not win this year’s presidential election, Mr. Trump said, “I don’t think you’re going to have another election, or certainly not an election that’s meaningful.”

Mr. Trump also stoked fears about the influx of migrants coming into the United States at the southern border. As he did during his successful campaign in 2016, Mr. Trump used incendiary and dehumanizing language to cast many migrants as threats to American citizens.

djt maga hatHe asserted, without evidence, that other countries were emptying their prisons of “young people” and sending them across the border. “I don’t know if you call them ‘people,’ in some cases,” he said. “They’re not people, in my opinion.” He later referred to them as “animals.”

Border officials, including some who worked in the Trump administration, have said that most migrants who cross the border are members of vulnerable families fleeing violence and poverty, and available data does not support the idea that migrants are spurring increases in crime.

Mr. Trump mentioned Bernie Moreno, his preferred Senate candidate in Ohio and a former car dealer from Cleveland, only sparingly. Though he has Mr. Trump’s endorsement, Mr. Moreno, whose super PAC hosted Saturday’s event, has struggled to separate himself in a heated Republican primary contest to face Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, this fall. Mr. Trump was redirected from a planned trip to Arizona to appear with Mr. Moreno as a last-minute push.

Mr. Trump issued vulgar and derogatory remarks about a number of Democrats, including ones he often targets, like Mr. Biden and Fani Willis, the Atlanta prosecutor overseeing his criminal case in Georgia, as well as those widely viewed as prospective future presidential candidates, such as Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois.

Mr. Trump called Mr. Biden a “stupid president” several times and at one point referred to him as a “dumb son of a — ” before trailing off. He also compared Ms. Willis’s first name to a vulgarity, called Mr. Newsom “Gavin New-scum” and took jabs at Mr. Pritzker’s physical appearance.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Donald Trump’s Allies Are Winning the War Over Disinformation, Jim Rutenberg and Steven Lee Myers, March 17, 2024. They made a coordinated effort to block what they viewed as dangerous censorship of conservatives. They have prevailed.

In the wake of the riot on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, a groundswell built in Washington to rein in the onslaught of lies that had fueled the assault on the peaceful transfer of power.

djt maga hatSocial media companies suspended Donald J. Trump, then the president, and many of his allies from the platforms they had used to spread misinformation about his defeat and whip up the attempt to overturn it. The Biden administration, Democrats in Congress and even some Republicans sought to do more to hold the companies accountable. Academic researchers wrestled with how to strengthen efforts to monitor false posts.

Mr. Trump and his allies embarked instead on a counteroffensive, a coordinated effort to block what they viewed as a dangerous effort to censor conservatives.

They have unquestionably prevailed.

Waged in the courts, in Congress and in the seething precincts of the internet, that effort has eviscerated attempts to shield elections from disinformation in the social media era. It tapped into — and then, critics say, twisted — the fierce debate over free speech and the government’s role in policing content.

Projects that were once bipartisan, including one started by the Trump administration, have been recast as deep-state conspiracies to rig elections. Facing legal and political blowback, the Biden administration has largely abandoned moves that might be construed as stifling political speech.

While little noticed by most Americans, the effort has helped cut a path for Mr. Trump’s attempt to recapture the presidency. Disinformation about elections is once again coursing through news feeds, aiding Mr. Trump as he fuels his comeback with falsehoods about the 2020 election.

“The censorship cartel must be dismantled and destroyed, and it must happen immediately,” he thundered at the start of his 2024 campaign.

The counteroffensive was led by former Trump aides and allies who had also pushed to overturn the 2020 election. They include Stephen Miller, the White House policy adviser; the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, both Republicans; and lawmakers in Congress like Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, who since last year has led a House subcommittee to investigate what it calls “the weaponization of government.”

Those involved draw financial support from conservative donors who have backed groups that promoted lies about voting in 2020. They have worked alongside an eclectic cast of characters, including Elon Musk, the billionaire who bought Twitter and vowed to make it a bastion of free speech, and Mike Benz, a former Trump administration official who previously produced content for a social media account that trafficked in posts about “white ethnic displacement.” (More recently, Mr. Benz originated the false assertion that Taylor Swift was a “psychological operation” asset for the Pentagon.)

Three years after Mr. Trump’s posts about rigged voting machines and stuffed ballot boxes went viral, he and his allies have achieved a stunning reversal of online fortune. Social media platforms now provide fewer checks against the intentional spread of lies about elections.

“The people that benefit from the spread of disinformation have effectively silenced many of the people that would try to call them out,” said Kate Starbird, a professor at the University of Washington whose research on disinformation made her a target of the effort.

 

djt biden resized smiles

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s $53 Million February Haul Fuels Money Edge Over Trump, Nicholas Nehamas and Shane Goldmacher, March 17, 2024. As his opponent spends on legal bills, President Biden holds a significant cash-on-hand advantage over former President Trump.

President Biden’s re-election campaign said on Sunday that it had raised more than $53 million in February together with the Democratic Party, an influx of cash that is expected to widen the Democrats’ cash advantage in a general-election contest against former President Donald J. Trump.

biden harris 2024 logoMr. Biden, the Democratic Party and their shared accounts now have $155 million cash on hand — up from $130 million at the end of January, his campaign said. The campaign credited strong support from small-dollar donors for its February fund-raising.

So far in the race, Mr. Biden and the Democrats have built a substantial fund-raising advantage over Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee, which reported around $40 million in cash on hand between them at the end of January. The Trump campaign has not released its February fund-raising figures but has said it also had its strongest month among small donors — topping the $22.3 million raised last August. Mr. Trump and the R.N.C. formed a formal joint fund-raising account only last week.

“The fact that we have $155 million in cash on hand — which is 100 percent going to building out the campaign and focused on the six or seven states that are going to determine the outcome of this election — is just a huge competitive advantage,” Jeffrey Katzenberg, a co-chair of the Biden campaign, said in an interview.

Mr. Trump has been schmoozing with donors at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Palm Beach, Fla., trying to lessen the financial disparity he faces against Mr. Biden. The former president is also confronting the financial pressure of his legal bills, which are being paid by one of his political action committees.

Both campaigns must disclose details of their finances on March 20, with a more complete picture due on April 15.

In February, Mr. Biden’s campaign said it had received contributions from 469,000 different donors. More than 178,000 people have committed to making monthly donations — a considerable supply of renewable cash. The campaign said it had received especially strong responses to fund-raising emails focusing on Mr. Trump becoming the likely Republican nominee.

The new numbers cover the combined fund-raising of Mr. Biden’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Biden Victory Fund, a joint fund-raising committee between Mr. Biden and the D.N.C. The campaign did not break down how much each of those entities raised or how much cash they have on hand individually.

The figures do not include the funds that Mr. Biden pulled in after his State of the Union address on March 7. His campaign said it raised $10 million in the 24 hours after the speech, which served to kick-start Mr. Biden’s re-election effort.

Although Mr. Biden is out-raising Mr. Trump in this cycle, the $53 million he raised in February falls far short of the $86 million that Mr. Trump collected in February 2020, when he was an incumbent president seeking re-election.

Mr. Biden has spent heavily this month as the campaign has ratcheted up in intensity, investing $30 million in a six-week advertising campaign in key battleground states and hiring new staff members. He and Vice President Kamala Harris have also campaigned in several swing states since the State of the Union. Last week, Ms. Harris made a high-profile trip to an abortion clinic, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official known to do so — a visit that underscored how reproductive rights have become a driving issue for Democratic voters.

djt indicted proof

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Willis prevails in Georgia case, but her win is devastating, Ruth Marcus, March 17, 2024 (print ed.). If the judge’s ruling that Fani T. Willis can remain in charge of the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump was a win for the Fulton County district attorney, and it was, I shudder to imagine what a loss would look like.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee allows Willis to continue to lead the case, provided that Nathan Wade, the chief prosecutor with whom she had a romantic relationship, steps aside. That conclusion, grounded on the finding that their romantic and financial entanglement created “a significant appearance of impropriety,” seems like a sensible outcome.

Trump partisans will howl, but the evidence of the Willis-Wade affair did not rise to the level of requiring the disqualification of Willis and her entire office, or the consequent reassignment and potential shelving of the case against Trump and numerous co-defendants.

That said, McAfee’s findings were nothing short of humiliating for Willis, for whom he once worked. This episode leaves her reputation in tatters, and, as McAfee suggested in his ruling, holds open the possibility of sanctions by, among others, the Georgia State Ethics Commission and the state bar.

Friday’s opinion calls it straight down the middle. Willis will stay, but it is hard to imagine a more devastating win. 

March 16

 

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) Judge Scott McAfee is shown below..

 Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Says Fani Willis Can Stay on Trump Case If Ex-Boyfriend Withdraws, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, March 16, 2024 (print ed.). The Atlanta district attorney’s romantic relationship with the lead prosecutor she hired to oversee the case created an “appearance of impropriety,” the judge said, ruling that the prosecution can’t proceed unless he leaves or she steps aside.

Here’s what to know about the decision.

An Atlanta judge on Friday ruled that Fani T. Willis, the Fulton Country district attorney, could continue leading the prosecution of former President Donald J. Trump and his allies in Georgia, but only if her former romantic partner, Nathan J. Wade, withdraws from the case.

georgia mapThe ruling by Judge Scott McAfee of Fulton Superior Court cut a middle path between removing Ms. Willis for a conflict of interest, which defense lawyers had sought, and her full vindication. The judge sharply criticized her for engaging in a relationship with Mr. Wade, whom she hired as a special prosecutor on the case, calling it a “tremendous lapse in judgment.”

With delays mounting, the case is now unlikely to come to trial before the 2024 presidential election, when Mr. Trump is almost certain to be the Republican nominee.

Here are the details:

  • Judge McAfee said that disqualifying Ms. Willis, the elected district attorney, is not necessary when “a less drastic and sufficiently remedial option is available.” But he concluded that “the prosecution of this case cannot proceed until the State selects one of two options.” Either she can step aside, along with her office, or Wade can leave, allowing the case to proceed without further distraction.

fulton county jail

  • Although the decision is a setback for Mr. Trump and his 14 co-defendants (shown above, including others who have pled guilty), leaving in place the district attorney who has been pursuing the case for more than three years, Ms. Willis emerges from weeks of embarrassing hearings and headlines with a bruised reputation that could color the views of a future jury, making convictions more difficult.
  • Mr. Trump and his co-defendants could appeal the judge’s ruling, as could Ms. Willis, further delaying the proceedings and leaving the matter unresolved indefinitely. The state’s Republican-led Senate is also reviewing the conflict-of-interest accusations, and lawmakers have empowered a new oversight commission to investigate and potentially remove prosecutors.
  • Judge McAfee’s decision came two days after he quashed six charges in the case against Mr. Trump and his 14 co-defendants, including one related to a call that Mr. Trump made to pressure Georgia’s secretary of state in early January 2021. But he left intact the rest of the racketeering indictment, which initially included 41 counts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nathan Wade Resigns From Trump Case in Georgia After Judge’s Ruling, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, March 16, 2024 (print ed.). The romance between Mr. Wade and Fani Willis, the district attorney who hired him, created an “appearance of impropriety,” the judge said.

Nathan J. Wade has resigned from his role leading the investigation of Donald J. Trump, and Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, has accepted it, according to letters from the two prosecutors just released by the D.A.'s office.

In accepting Nathan Wade’s resignation from the Trump prosecution, Fani Willis writes in her letter: “I compliment you for the professionalism and dignity you have shown over the last 865 days, as you have endured threats against you and your family, as well as unjustified attacks in the media and in court on your reputation as a lawyer.”

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Is Confronting Perilous Cash Crunches, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, March 16, 2024. Former President Trump is facing converging financial challenges as he and the Republican Party navigate a shortfall against President Biden and the Democrats.

As many as three nights a week, Donald J. Trump has been hosting private dinners at Mar-a-Lago, schmoozing with some of the Republican Party’s biggest financiers as he races to address a sizable cash shortfall against President Biden.

There is no request for money from the attendees at these meals, which have included Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of Oracle, and Pepe Fanjul, the sugar magnate, according to people familiar with the sessions. But advisers to Mr. Trump’s campaign and his super PACs hope the charm offensive will eventually pay political and financial dividends.

One of the most pressing issues facing Mr. Trump is the financial disparity he and allied groups now face with Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party. Democrats have boasted of entering February with $130 million. The Trump operation did not release a full total, but his campaign account and the Republican National Committee had around $40 million.

Mr. Trump enters the general election ahead of Mr. Biden in public polls. But Mr. Biden has taken full advantage of one of the benefits of incumbency, both socking away cash and building out a political operation earlier than his challenger.

Despite years of professing massive wealth and boasting of his desire to “drain the swamp,” the deeply transactional former president is leaning yet again on the cash of others, turning Mar-a-Lago into a staging ground for billionaires and others with their own agendas. One potential leverage point with the biggest G.O.P. financiers is the package of tax cuts Mr. Trump signed into law in 2017. Many of those cuts expire at the end of 2025, and Mr. Biden has vowed not to extend them for the nation’s highest earners.

Money often winds up mattering less in presidential races than in down-ballot races. Voters pay attention to the candidates naturally, especially Mr. Trump, and the key states all wind up awash in advertising by the fall.

Yet recent presidential contests have been so excruciatingly close that everything has mattered, and Mr. Trump is preparing to face an especially large avalanche of Democratic spending this year. Just a single union this week announced plans to spend $200 million, ten times what the main Trump super PAC had on hand. A cash edge can help Democrats tilt or expand the battleground map in their favor.

 

 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, Trump Hush-Money Case: Judge Delays Trump’s Manhattan Trial Until at Least Mid-April, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum
March 16, 2024 (print ed.). The judge scheduled a hearing for March 25, the day the trial had been scheduled to begin, to consider Donald J. Trump’s request to further delay or dismiss the case.

A New York judge on Friday delayed Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan until at least mid-April, postponing the only one of Mr. Trump’s four criminal cases that appeared set to begin.

The delay — lasting 30 days from the judge’s Friday decision — stems from the recent disclosure of more than 100,000 pages of records that may have some bearing on the case. Citing the records, Mr. Trump’s lawyers sought a 90-day delay of the trial, while the Manhattan prosecutors that brought the case proposed a postponement of up to 30 days.

The prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, who accused the former president of covering up a sex scandal during and after his 2016 campaign, had said the extra time would allow Mr. Trump’s lawyers to review the records that recently emerged.

Mr. Trump, who recently clinched the Republican presidential nomination for the third time, was initially set to go on trial on March 25. Now, the judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan, will hold a hearing that day to determine whether the trial should be delayed further — and if so, for how long.

“There are significant questions of fact which this court must resolve,” the judge wrote, indicating that he wanted to clarify why it took so long for the records to emerge. Justice Merchan said he would “set the new trial date, if necessary,” after that hearing.

In a three-page letter order, he directed both sides to produce a “detailed timeline of the events” leading up to the recent disclosure of the records. He also sought their correspondence with the federal prosecutors who recently turned over the records, including letters, subpoenas, emails, notes and messages.

Over the last two weeks, Mr. Trump’s lawyers and the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, received the tens of thousands of pages of documents from the federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, who in 2018 investigated a hush-money payment at the center of the case against Mr. Trump. It is unclear whether any of the records contain new evidence, or other information relevant to the case.

March 15

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Court Delays Pile Up While the Presidential Race Gathers Speed, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, March 15, 2024 (print ed.). All four criminal cases against Donald Trump have become mired in issues that have pushed back the start of trials.

Donald Trump’s New York hush money case — the only one of his four criminal cases that looked as if it would soon go to trial — suddenly faced the likelihood of delay on Thursday when a big batch of potential new evidence abruptly became available.

The news of the likely postponement arrived as the former president was in federal court in Florida for a separate hearing in a different case — the one in which he stands accused of mishandling classified documents, which even now has no solid start date. The judge there rejected one of a multitude of motions from Mr. Trump to dismiss the case.

On Friday, a judge in Georgia ruled in yet another of the four cases on whether to disqualify the district attorney who charged Mr. Trump and a group of his allies with tampering with that state’s election results in 2020 — a decision that could be pivotal in determining whether the case goes to trial this year, or at all.

Justice Department log circularAnd in Washington, prosecutors and Mr. Trump’s lawyers are preparing for a showdown at the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments next month on his claim that he is immune from charges in the federal indictment that accuses him of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss. That case was originally supposed to go in front of a jury this month.

The most recent complications make clear how the justice system is struggling to balance fairness and speed against the backdrop of a calendar shaped by the presidential campaign. All four cases in recent weeks have, in one way or another, become further mired in procedural or substantive issues that have resulted in delays.

March 15

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

 

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).

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary and Opinion: Trump nominated a mobbed-up judge, Aileen Cannon; she's now slow-walking secrets theft case, wayne madesen report logowayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books and editor of the Wayne Madsen Report, is a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, March 15, 2024.

Judge Aileen "Loose" Cannon is mobbed up.

aileen cannonU.S. Judge Aileen Cannon, right, the right-wing Federalist Society member who Donald Trump nominated for the federal bench for the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Florida after he lost the 2020 election, is married to Josh Lorence, a former executive employee of the upscale burger restaurant BurgerFi. BurgerFi is owned by reputed Colombo crime family boss John Rosatti....

Among Trump's failed enterprises from his casino days in Atlantic City were Trump Golden Series and Trump Executive Series limousines. Twenty Trump luxury Cadillac limousines were provided from Dillinger Coach Works by Long Island Atlantic Auto Group dealer John Staluppi, an associate of Colombo crime boss Carmine "The Snake" Persico and a close friend of John Rosatti.

john rosattiBesides owning BurgerFi, Rosatti, left, who is worth an estimated $400 million, also owns Plaza Auto Mall in Brooklyn, New York, which has been accused of laundering contributions to a number of New York politicians. Rosatti and Staluppi own waterfront mansions in Palm Beach Gardens. It is not known whether Rosatti is a member of Trump's club in nearby Palm Beach, however Staluppi and his wife have been photographed together at the club.

According to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, Rosatti had been identified as an associate of the Colombo syndicate in 1980. Rosatti had pledged allegiance to the Colombo faction led by Victor “Little Vic” Orena. In 1993, Rosatti declined to provide Orena with cars from his Brooklyn car dealership to carry out mob hits. Later, Rosatti and Staluppi switched their allegiance from Oreno to the late longtime family boss Persico, who is shown in a 1986 photo below. Persico died in prison in 2019.

 

carmine the snake persico 1986With her family connections to Cuban expat terrorist groups, Mafia chieftains, mob hits, and possibly, Iran-Contra drug smuggling operations, Aileen Cannon is definitely not suited to be presiding over a trial in which Trump stands accused of violating the Espionage Act by stealing and then tossing around Mar-a-Lago some of America's top secrets on nuclear weapons, nuclear submarines, CIA sources, and U.S. intelligence's sophisticated methods for gathering intelligence.

March 10

 

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 civil suits against him in New York City on claims of sexual battery and defamation.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Politics Experts Said for Weeks That Trump Might Get Bonded By Kremlin Allies. Now It’s Happening—Causing a seth abramson graphicNational Security Crisis, Seth Abramson, left, March 10, 2024. seth abramson proof logoSo Why Is Media So Silent About the Greenberg Family? Former Russian bank co-owner Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, below right, is the father and former boss of new Trump financial patron Evan Greenberg, below left, whose Chubb Limited now hopes to back the nearly bankrupt criminal defendant to the tune of over $91 million dollars.

The biggest national security crisis since the Trump administration is being ignored by media—which instead hails a historically evan greenbergsuspicious, still-unapproved bond proposal by Trump as a legal victory.

maurice greenberg 2019As a journalist, you know a story is time-sensitive when there’s a deadline associated with it—for instance, a deadline of 11AM ET on the morning of Monday, March 11 for E. Jean Carroll and her attorney Roberta Kaplan to challenge a bond proposal issued by defendant Donald Trump on the last day he could have done so in one of the New York civil cases stemming from his rape of Carroll in the latter half of the 1990s.

As a journalist, you also know a story has national security implications when an implied question it provokes is whether the presumptive 2024 Republican Party nominee for President of the United States has been bought off—lock, stock, and barrel—by the Kremlin, a hostile foreign government that is at present invading Europe, threatening nuclear war, and engaging in a hot cyberwar with America.

Though not required, it does help—in assessing the urgency of a breaking news story—if journalists also receive direct warnings about the importance of a story by experts in relevant fields, which is why it’s so significant that this is exactly what happened (see below) with respect to the $91.63 million bond proposal Trump just issued in his New York City Defamation case.

And of course any capable journalist is also capable of seeing when a story is having an immediate impact. For instance, Donald Trump’s securing (if not yet posting) of the aforementioned bond caused him to immediately do something in public that he had not done for weeks: publicly defame his rape victim in exactly the way that had led to him losing the First Carroll Case in New York (a Sexual Abuse and Defamation case that led to a $5 million judgment against Trump) and the Second Carroll Case (this would be the one he’s now trying to get a supersedeas [appellate] bond approved for).

While Trump did also defame Carroll after the second civil judgment against him for defaming a woman he’d raped—this time a judgment for $83.3 Russian Flagmillion—in a February speech in Waterford Township in Michigan, that new act of Defamation, which could easily lead to a third suit against Trump by Carroll, was brief in comparison to the one his new bond proposal apparently prompted him to launch (reporting below by CNN): Should Donald Trump using a surety bond of questionable provenance as a jumping-off point to again defame a woman he raped have been foreseeable to major media?

ICE logoYes, absolutely. Warnings related to the national security implications of such a bond implicitly acknowledged, too, the awesome power and license and audacity gifted to Mr. Trump by any entity (such as, now, the insurance carrier Chubb) that underwrites his in-court or out-of-court conduct. Some of the warnings major media received about this bond—warnings major media is at this very moment ignoring to the detriment of not just E. Jean Carroll but all of the United States—are itemized below.

Proof thereafter does an exclusive “deep dive” into everything that’s wrong with Trump’s bond proposal. It’s a story that will shock you, as the entwined story of the Greenberg Family and the Trump Family is truly an astonishing one that at seemingly every stop points directly at Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

Related coverage:

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

March 9

 

maria butina gun over shoulders ap pavel ptsitsin

Convicted Kremlin spy Maria Butina, above, was a onetime associate of former Russian bank co-owner Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, belowright — the father and maurice greenberg 2019former boss of new Trump financial patron Evan Greenberg, whose Chubb Limited now hopes to back the nearly bankrupt criminal defendant to the tune of over $91 million dollars.

 

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 civil suits against him in New York City on claims of sexual battery and defamation.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The New Questions Federal Investigators Must Ask on An Emergency Basis About Trump’s Eleventh-Hour — Whose seth abramson graphicApparent Kremlin Connections Increase By the Hour, Seth Abramson, left, March 9, 2024. Authored by a former federal criminal investigator, this list gives the NYC federal court overseeing E. Jean Carroll case’s against Trump details on what’s gravely wrong about his proposed bond.

seth abramson proof logoIntroduction: Most major-media reporting on Donald Trump’s proposed $91.6 million supersedeas bond from Chubb, a large insurance carrier, emphasizes that Chubb’s CEO is a former Trump adviser, Evan Greenberg—and that Greenberg, left, who spent four years (2018 to 2022) working on the President Trump-created Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, almost evan greenbergcertainly signed off on the massive financial risk for Chubb that it stands on the cusp of assuming and objectively makes no business sense for the firm.

See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for examples of such coverage.

ICE logoPerhaps because Trump has so many other major professional milestones coming up—he’s likely to clinch the Republican Party presidential nomination this week; he goes to trial on 34 felonies in New York City in 16 days; and he faces a deadline to pay $454 million in yet another civil suit related to his tortious conduct in New York state on the very same day his criminal trial begins, March 25—or perhaps because Greenberg did the Russian Flagbare minimum we would expect of any American after the January 6 armed rebellion (as the Washington Post approvingly notes, but without the italics mindfully added by this author, Trump’s new lender “condemned efforts to keep Trump in power after the January 6 insurrection”), it seems that many in major media are ready to move on from Trump’s bizarre, eleventh-hour procuring of what indisputably is one of the strangest bond proposals in the history of civil litigation in the United States.

So before we address the additional major breaking news about this bond proposal in exhaustive detail—including revealing harrowing new details about its relationship to key past events involving Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin—some added background on what U.S. major media inexplicably isn’t telling its readers is required.

Trump’s Dodgy Bond Proposal Has Not Been Accepted By the Court

Nearly every major-media report this author could find on Trump’s bond falsely said that the bond had been “posted”—suggesting that it’s a done deal about which there is no purpose in media continuing to report. But in fact accepting the bond as already conclusively posted is exactly whatU.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan didn’t do.

In a strange juxtaposition, the New York Times simultaneously reports that Trump has “posted” bond and that Trump’s legal team has in fact merely “asked Judge Kaplan to approve the bond.” As an attorney as well as a journalist and a longtime journalism professor, this author can report that only the latter framing is accurate: while Trump has indeed secured a bond with an insurance carrier, he has not actually posted a bond.

This distinction is due, however, to a quirk of this particular case that the Times (again without any obvious explanation) somehow both reports on and fails to account for in its reporting. That is, the Times is correct to imply that an uncontested bond is usually reported on as “posted” as soon as it’s “secured”—which is the practice the Times has adopted here—but the problem is that Trump isn’t the conventional litigant, and as a result his second civil-suit loss to journalist E. Jean Carroll isn’t a typical legal defeat.

Trump has a long and well-documented history of lying to courts, lenders, and party opponents in civil cases—and for that reason Judge Kaplan, as the Times does correctly note, on Friday (yesterday) “gave [E. Jean] Carroll until 11AM [on] Monday to file any response to the proposed bond, and said that if she had any opposition to its form or amount, the judge would hold a hearing that afternoon [March 11] on the matter.”

This is an astounding development that could easily have led major-media coverage of Trump’s bond situation rather than, as was the case with the Times, getting relegated to the thirteenth paragraph of the relevant reporting. Why? Well, for several reasons:

As noted, it means Trump hasn’t “posted bond” in this historic case, and every headline claiming otherwise—which, sadly, is nearly all of them—is incorrect.

In fact, Trump has “proposed a bond” in his case, which means it is the duty of every major media outlet to report on whether his proposal is legally sound. By not accurately reporting on the major national news story in this way, some in media have abandoned their duty to professionally analyze Trump’s new bond proposal via research, legal analysis, and historic contextualization of the bond proposal within Trump’s astonishingly checkered legal and financial history.

The biggest open question in the United States this weekend is therefore whether E. Jean Carroll and her attorney Roberta Kaplan will challenge Trump’s proposal as they have been invited to do by Judge Kaplan (no relation). Because U.S. major media has fewer journalistic resources to bring to bear on weekends—for the obvious reason that employees are entitled to a weekend break—it’s convenient for media to pretend that this major weekend news story with significant national security implications isn’t happening at all. I can confirm, having been a working journalist for thirty years and having worked also as a journalism professor for many years (during which period the study of corporate media was one of my academic foci), the hope within American corporate media is likely that (a) Carroll won’t challenge the Trump bond proposal, making any work it could and should be doing this weekend seemingly moot, or (b) if she does challenge the proposal, most readers of major media won’t notice or care that major media launched its coverage of that stunningly significant story several days after it actually began.

lewis kaplanJudge Kaplan, left, almost certainly doesn’t regularly issue orders like the one he did yesterday, which makes the order itself worthy of discrete reporting rather than it being buried amongst a story that inaccurately claims Trump already “posted” bond (adding then, in the fine print, that Trump lawyer Alina Habba has merely “proposed” a bond). In my years of experience as a trial attorney, judges do not see a need to invite parties to object to bonds through written orders because that invitation is always tacit. Parties can always object via motion to any action taken by the party opposite if they believe it was for some reason legally infirm. The reasoning behind Judge Kaplan issuing his Friday order is therefore, more than likely, because he understands that Trump has a uniquely rich and sordid history of attempting to escape his debts via subterfuge.

For a federal court to implicitly acknowledge this with respect the presumptive Republican Party nominee for President of the United States isn’t just unprecedented and therefore astounding but could itself warrant a second discrete course of reporting from major media that we as American news consumers curiously aren’t getting this weekend. The effect of this non-reportage is obfuscation of the fact that the federal court system understands Donald Trump to be a scofflaw of highly irregular proportion and scope.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

 

katie britt 3 7 2024 cspan

ny times logoNew York Times, Britt Faces Accusations of Misleading on Border in State of the Union Response, Ken Bensinger, March 9, 2024. The Alabama senator, shown above in her nationwide address, used a story about sex trafficking to criticize the Biden administration’s border policies. But the events appear to have occurred in Mexico years ago.

In her rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union speech Thursday night, Senator Katie Britt, Republican of Alabama, told a story about a Mexican woman who was a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 12, laying blame at the feet of the current administration.

“President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace,” she said.

The story, while wrenching, was highly misleading.

Although Ms. Britt did not name the victim in her speech, she has previously shared the story of a woman who appears to be the same individual based on congressional testimony, news releases and news reports.

That woman, Karla Jacinto Romero, is a Mexican citizen who does not live in the United States and who has spoken frequently about her experiences of being forced into sexual slavery for four years. In 2023, Ms. Jacinto participated in an event near the Texas border with Mexico that was also attended by three senators, including Ms. Britt. In a video released shortly after that trip, Ms. Britt discussed Ms. Jacinto’s experiences.

In her speech Thursday, Ms. Britt talked about the harrowing story as part of a critique of President Biden’s border policies, saying that “we wouldn’t be OK with this happening in a third-world country.” She added that “this is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it.”

jonathan katzIn fact, as first reported by the independent journalist Jonathan Katz, above, on TikTok on Friday, Ms. Jacinto’s experiences did not happen in the United States. She has testified that she was kidnapped in Mexico City and that her shocking experience of being raped thousands of times took place entirely in Mexico. Moreover, she has said the kidnapping occurred in 2002 and she was rescued in 2006. Ms. Jacinto continues to live in Mexico and does not appear to have ever lived in the United States or to have sought asylum here.

In other words: None of this happened during President Biden’s administration, nor does it appear to have anything to do with his policies regarding the U.S. border with Mexico. But that didn’t stop the first-term senator from strongly implying that the president could have somehow prevented it from happening, using rhetoric that seemed calibrated to inflame public fears about immigration.

“We know that President Biden didn’t just create this border crisis,” she said. “He invited it.”

Ms. Jacinto did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Ms. Britt, Sean Ross, stood behind her speech.

“The story Senator Britt told was 100 percent correct,” he said in a statement. “And there are more innocent victims of that kind of disgusting, brutal trafficking by the cartels than ever before right now. The Biden administration’s policies — the policies in this country that the president falsely claims are humane — have empowered the cartels and acted as a magnet to a historic level of migrants making the dangerous journey to our border.”

He did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about what direct responsibility Mr. Biden had for what Ms. Jacinto experienced or what an anecdote about sex trafficking entirely within another country has to do with U.S. border policies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Katie Britt’s false linkage of a sex-trafficking case to Joe Biden, glenn kesslerGlenn Kessler, right, March 9, 2024.

“We know that President Biden didn’t just create this border crisis. He invited it with 94 executive actions in his first 100 days. When I took office, I took a different approach. I traveled to the Del Rio sector of Texas. That’s where I spoke to a woman who shared her story with me. She had been sex trafficked by the cartels starting at the age of 12. She told me not just that she was raped every day, but how many times a day she was raped. katie britt oThe cartels put her on a mattress in a shoe box of a room, and they sent men through that door over and over again for hours and hours on end. We wouldn’t be okay with this happening in a Third World country. This is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it. President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace.”

— Sen. Katie Boyd Britt (R-Ala.), right, in the Republican response to the State of the Union address, March 7

If you were watching Britt’s speech on Thursday night, you likely would have thought she was talking about a recent victim of sex trafficking who was abused in the United States and suffered because of President Biden’s policies.

If you did, you would have been wrong. Sean Ross, Britt’s communications director, confirmed that she was talking about Karla Jacinto Romero — who has testified before Congress about being forced to work in Mexican brothels from 2004 to 2008. (A viral TikTok by journalist Jonathan Katz first revealed that Britt was speaking about Romero.) In a phone conversation and a statement, Ross disputed that Britt’s language was misleading.

We disagree. Let’s take a look.

Britt’s account of Romero’s experience was a centerpiece of her rebuttal to Biden’s address. The way Britt sets up the story, there is no indication that she is talking about a woman who was working in brothels in Mexico during the George W. Bush administration. This is how the passage unfolds.

She first blames Biden for the surge of migrants at the border.

Then she says she visited the border shortly after she took office. That would be 2023.
At length, she details the story of an unnamed victim that she says she met on her trip. The implication is that the woman recently crossed the border — because of “sex trafficking by the cartels.”

She strongly suggests that her abuse took place in the United States: “We wouldn’t be okay with this happening in a Third World country. This is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it.”

She ends by reinforcing that such alleged trafficking is Biden’s fault: “President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace.”

But Biden has nothing to do with Romero’s story. As she testified nine years ago, her mother threw her out of her house at age 12 and she “fell prey to a professional pimp.” She says she then spent the next four years in brothels before a regular client helped her escape when she was 16 years old. There is no indication in her story that drug cartels were involved, though Britt said that in the State of the Union response and has made a similar claim on at least one other occasion. Romero was never trafficked to the United States; instead, she says many men who paid to have sex with her were “foreigners visiting my city looking to have sexual interactions with minors like me.”

In a YouTube video, Britt features images of her hugging Romero during her 2023 trip to the border. “If we as leaders of the greatest nation in the world are not fighting to protect the most vulnerable, we are not doing our job,” she said in the video. The implication again is that this happened on Biden’s watch.

When Donald Trump was president, he regularly decried human trafficking that he claimed was happening at the border, including that “thousands of young girls and women” were being smuggled across the border for prostitution. In 2019, we investigated that claim and found no evidence to support it. Most human trafficking prosecutions generally involve legal border crossings, visa fraud and travel into the United States on airplanes. Victim organizations say there are relatively few cases that involve forced kidnapping across the border. This might be one reason Britt regularly cites a case that happened long ago and did not involve crossing the border.

Ross, Britt’s spokesman, said that Romero’s story was indicative of trafficking that is now happening at the border and that should be clear from Britt’s framing in the speech.

He said the reference to a “Third World country” was generic and was not intended to refer to Mexico, which he said is not a Third World country. Third World is a dated Cold War-era term previously used to refer to poor or developing countries. Global South, indicating low income and high poverty, is a more common expression today. Mexico is considered part of the Global South, though it is also a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In a written statement, Ross said:

“The story Senator Britt told was 100% correct. And there are more innocent victims of that kind of disgusting, brutal trafficking by the cartels than ever before right now. The Biden administration’s policies — the policies in this country that the President falsely claims are humane — have empowered the cartels and acted as a magnet to a historic level of migrants making the dangerous journey to our border. Along that journey, children, women, and men are being subjected to gut-wrenching, heartbreaking horrors in our own backyard. And here at home, the Biden administration’s policies are leading to more and more suffering, including Americans being poisoned by fentanyl and being murdered. These human costs are real, and it’s past time for some on the left to stop pretending otherwise.”

The Pinocchio Test

In a high-profile speech like this, a politician should not mislead voters with emotionally charged language. Romero’s story is tragic and may be evocative of other Mexican girls trapped in the sex trade in that country. But she was not trafficked across the border — and her story has nothing to do with Biden. Britt’s failure to make that clear earns her Four Pinocchios.

ny times logoNew York Times, In the Republican response, Senator Katie Britt of Alabama delivered tonally jarring remarks, Michael C. Bender and Kayla Guo, Updated March 8, 2024. The Alabama senator, 42, who has been floated as a possible running mate for Donald Trump, gave a tonally jarring speech that toggled between strained cheerfulness and a fierce glare.

With a sunny, inviting smile, Senator Katie Britt of Alabama, shown above, welcomed Americans into her kitchen on Thursday night.

Many soon backed away nervously.

In the Republican Party’s official response to President Biden’s State of the Union address, Ms. Britt delivered a jarring speech that toggled between an increasingly strained cheerfulness and a fierce glare as she gave ominous warnings about illegal immigration.

Ms. Britt, 42, has been seen as a rising Republican star and floated as a possible running mate for former President Donald J. Trump. But in the biggest moment of her fledgling political career, she delivered a tonally uneven speech that was made more unusual by the setting of her own house in Montgomery, Ala., where she sat at her kitchen table and painted a dark picture of an America in decline.

“Our commander in chief is not in command,” Ms. Britt said. “The free world deserves better than a dithering and diminished leader.”

Her comments were in line with messages Republicans have increasingly used to criticize Mr. Biden at the start of the election year, but her 17-minute speech seemed likely to be remembered more for her disconcerting performance. She spoke in grim detail about a child victim of sex trafficking by drug cartels and the recent killing of a Georgia nursing student in which a Venezuelan migrant has been charged.

“That could’ve been my daughter,” Ms. Britt said. “It could’ve been yours.”

Previous State of the Union rebuttals have been delivered from behind a lectern in official settings, but Ms. Britt chose a domestic backdrop, trying to underscore her argument that Mr. Biden represents a threat to prosperity for American families.

But the scene seemed to confuse viewers on social media, where Ms. Britt was mocked by some for using a dramatic, breathy voice to deliver critiques of the president.

“Under his administration, families are worse off — our communities are less safe, and our country is less secure,” she said. “I just wish he understood what real families are facing around kitchen tables just like this one.”

Mr. Trump praised her speech.

“Katie Britt was a GREAT contrast to an Angry, and obviously very Disturbed, ‘President,’” he wrote on his social media site. “She was compassionate and caring, especially concerning Women and Women’s Issues. Her conversation on Migrant Crime was powerful and insightful. Great job Katie!”

 

March 6

ny times logoNew York Times, What Do Voters Remember of Trump’s Presidency? Jennifer Medina and Reid J. Epstein, March 6, 2024 (print ed.). Polling suggests Americans’ views of Donald Trump’s policies and his time in the White House have improved since he left office. Not all that long ago, many Americans committed hours a day to tracking then-President Donald J. Trump’s every move. And then, sometime after the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and before his first indictment, they largely stopped.

They are having trouble remembering it all again.

More than three years of distance from the daily onslaught has faded, changed — and in some cases, warped — Americans’ memories of events that at the time felt searing. Polling suggests voters’ views on Mr. Trump’s policies and his presidency have improved in the rearview mirror. In interviews, voters often have a hazy recall of one of the most tumultuous periods in modern politics. Social scientists say that’s unsurprising. In an era of hyper-partisanship, there’s little agreed-upon collective memory, even about events that played out in public.

But as Mr. Trump pursues a return to power, the question of what exactly voters remember has rarely been more important. While Mr. Trump is staking his campaign on a nostalgia for a time not so long ago, Mr. Biden’s campaign is counting on voters to refocus on Mr. Trump, hoping they will recall why they denied him a second term.

March 5

ny times logoNew York Times, The Looming Biden-Trump Rematch Hits a ‘Kickoff’ Moment, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, March 5, 2024 (print ed.). The campaigns of President Biden and former President Trump view this week, with Super Tuesday and the State of the Union, as a critical period.

biden harris 2024 logoPresident Biden’s advisers are eager for the coming general-election fight and counting on voters to start paying more attention to Donald J. Trump, with the president himself even proposing and dashing off videos to ridicule the things his Republican rival says.

trump 2024Mr. Trump is relishing the chance to contrast himself with Mr. Biden, as he did along the Texas-Mexico border last week, and trusting that Mr. Biden has the tougher job: convincing voters that their views of how the country is doing are wrong.

With the former president expected to rack up big wins on Super Tuesday and Mr. Biden preparing to deliver his State of the Union address on Thursday, this week is expected to clarify the coming choice for an American public that in many ways remains in disbelief that 2024 is headed toward a 2020 rematch.

Both campaigns see the coming days as a critical period that will set the tone and define the early contours of the presidential campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump poised to dominate ‘Super Tuesday’ as Haley makes last stand, Hannah Knowles and Marianne LeVine, March 5, 2024 (print ed.). Nikki Haley has pulled in significant, if losing, percentages of the vote in some contests, prompting debate about the implications for GOP success in November.

Donald Trump is poised to continue his march to the GOP presidential nomination on Tuesday, when 15 states will vote to award more than a third of the party’s delegates and test how quickly Republicans are coalescing behind the former president.
Cut through the 2024 election noise. Get The Campaign Moment newsletter.

Trump has decisively won all but one contest so far and is expected to make a clean sweep of “Super Tuesday,” a normally high-stakes moment in the primary calendar that the former president’s dominance has stripped of its suspense. But despite Trump’s near-incumbent status in the race, a significant, if losing, percentage of voters has opted for another candidate in several contests — underscoring some voters’ reservations and the potential general election challenges ahead. His last standing GOP challenger, Nikki Haley, has pointed to this trend as she has made a case for continuing her campaign.

In many ways, a rematch between President Biden and Trump is effectively underway, and observers and strategists expressed mixed views of what the margins in the GOP contests portend for Trump in November. The incumbent and his allies are ramping up criticism of Trump as a threat to democracy, abortion rights and other freedoms, while the ex-president has hammered Biden over immigration and the economy. Trump’s 91 criminal charges, which he has used as rallying cry in the primary, are also expected to factor into the fall campaign.

  • Biden: ‘I’m the only one who has ever beat him’
  • Donald Trump directed most of his fire at President Biden during his North Carolina rally

washington post logoWashington Post, Nikki Haley wins D.C. primary, her first victory in GOP nominating race, Staff Report, March 5, 2024 (print ed.). Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley won her first contest in the Republican presidential nomination race on Sunday after triumphing in D.C.’s primary. It is not likely to change the contest’s trajectory.

After three days of voting, polls in the Washington race closed at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday. Though only 19 delegates were at stake, Haley perhaps had her best chance of defeating Trump, as he performed poorly in the last competitive GOP presidential contest in 2016. That year, he lost the D.C. primary to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — a rare defeat for Trump in that GOP race.

With all the votes counted, Haley got 63 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Trump — and she won all of the delegates. In a statement, Haley campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas noted that the former U.N. ambassador is the first woman to win a Republican primary in U.S. history.

March 4

nikki haley nh uncredited

Politico, Haley says she’s no longer bound by RNC pledge to support party’s nominee, Kelly Garrity, March 4, 2024 (print ed.). The Republican presidential hopeful, shown above in a campaign photo, didn’t say whether she would endorse Trump.

politico CustomFormer South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is no longer promising she will support former President Donald Trump should he win the GOP nomination.

On Sunday, she further opened the door to the possibility that she won’t, saying she believes she is not beholden to the Republican National rnc logoCommittee pledge she took ahead of the primary debates, promising to support the party’s nominee — whoever that may be.

You’re “no longer bound by that pledge?” NBC’s Kristen Welker asked Haley during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“No, I think I’ll make what decision I want to make,” Haley replied, adding that it’s “not something I’m thinking about,” amid a whirlwind campaign swing through several Super Tuesday states as she looks to hang on in the GOP primary contest that Trump has so far dominated.

Trump, who declined to participate in any of the primary debates, did not sign the pledge. Since then, he’s moved to install allies — including top campaign aide Chris LaCivita and his daughter-in-law Lara Trump — atop the Republican National Committee.
Haley vows to stay in presidential race: 'I'm a woman of my word'

trump 2024While Haley has managed to win a small number of delegates in a primary contest that has come down to a match-up between her and Trump, the former president holds a runaway lead with 244 delegates to Haley’s 24. Trump has defeated Haley in every state, including her home state of South Carolina.

Though Haley has ramped up her attacks against Trump as the primary field has narrowed, she continues to say she is more concerned with winning the race herself than deciding who to back if she loses.

“I’m running against him because I don’t think he should be president,” she said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” last month. “The last thing on my mind is who I’m going to support. The only thing on my mind is how we’re going to win this.”

March 3 

Then President Obama, right, meets with then-Vice President Biden in June 2015.

Then President Obama, right, meets with then-Vice President Biden in June 2015.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The Real Reason Donald Trump Is Mixing Up Joe Biden and Barack Obama Isn’t His Dementia—It’s Something Much seth abramson graphicWorse, Seth Abramson, March 3-4, 2024. Trump critics—even some journalists—have called into question his mental state, as is warranted given his recent behavior. But his odd conduct regarding Obama has a very different origin.

seth abramson proof logoDonald Trump has exhibited confusion about who the current President of the United States is a number of times over the last few months—at least nine times, according to Forbes—which is a cause for concern, given the increasing number of medical professionals who say that Trump is now showing clear signs of dementia.

March 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says Little on Gaza, and Nothing About What He’d Do Differently, Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Michael Gold, March 2, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s hands-off approach to the conflict reflects the profound anti-interventionist shift he has brought about in Republican politics.

In the nearly five months since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, igniting the most divisive foreign policy crisis of the Biden presidency, Donald J. Trump has said noticeably little about the subject.

He criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, before quickly retreating to more standard expressions of support for the country. And he has made blustery claims that the invasion never would have happened had he been president. But his overall approach has been laissez-faire.

“So you have a war that’s going on, and you’re probably going to have to let this play out. You’re probably going to have to let it play out, because a lot of people are dying,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Univision a month after the attack. His main advice to Mr. Netanyahu and the Israelis, he said then, was to do a better job with “public relations,” because the Palestinians were “beating them at the public relations front.”

Mr. Trump’s hands-off approach to the bloody Middle East conflict reflects the profound anti-interventionist shift he has brought about in the Republican Party over the past eight years and has been colored by his feelings about Mr. Netanyahu, whom he may never forgive for congratulating President Biden for his 2020 victory.

 

“I didn’t get everything I wanted in that compromise bipartisan bill, but neither did anybody else,” President Biden said on Thursday as he visited the border, in Brownsville, Texas. “Compromise is part of the process. That’s how democracy works” (New York Times Photo by Kenny Holston).

“I didn’t get everything I wanted in that compromise bipartisan bill, but neither did anybody else,” President Biden said on Thursday, shown speaking with three U.S. border patrol agents as he visited the border, in Brownsville, Texas. “Compromise is part of the process. That’s how democracy works” (New York Times Photo by Kenny Holston).

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: How the Biden-Trump Border Visits Revealed a Deeper Divide, Shane Goldmacher, Updated March 1, 2024. Their approaches to immigration represent a test of voters’ appetite for the messiness of democracy, pitting the president’s belief in legislating against his rival’s pledge to be a “Day 1” dictator.

Even the participants in President Biden and Donald J. Trump’s overlapping visits to Texas on Thursday seemed to sense there was something remarkable about their near encounter along the southern border.

trump 2024Rarely do the current and former commanders in chief arrive on the same scene on the same day to present such sharply different approaches to an issue as intractable as immigration. Even rarer still was the reality that the two men are most likely hurtling toward a rematch in November.

“Today is a day of extraordinary contrast,” declared Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who had appeared alongside Mr. Trump.

biden harris 2024 logoBut the dueling border events were about something even more fundamental than immigration policy. They spoke to the competing visions of power and presidency that are at stake in 2024 — of autocracy and the value of democracy itself.

Perhaps the most surprising facet of the split screen was that Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden agreed on some of the basic contours of the border problem: that the current situation, with migrant crossings setting a new monthly record of nearly 250,000 in December, is unsustainable.

“It’s long past time to act,” Mr. Biden said.

texas mapWhere they disagreed, at least in part, was politically in how to go about fixing it. And their disparate answers represent a test of the American appetite for the systemic messiness of democracy: Mr. Biden’s intrinsic and institutional belief in legislating versus the “Day 1” promises of dictatorial enactment under Mr. Trump.

Mr. Biden says he would close the border, if only he could. Mr. Trump says Mr. Biden could close the border, if only he would.

“A very dangerous border — we’re going to take care of it,” Mr. Trump pledged on the tarmac upon his Texas arrival.

 

Donald J. Trump was joined in Eagle Pass, Texas, by the state’s governor, Greg Abbott. Mr. Trump compared the border crossings with a war (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).

Donald J. Trump was joined in Eagle Pass, Texas, by the state’s governor, Greg Abbott. Mr. Trump compared the border crossings with a war (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).

“What’s being proposed is more than a difference on immigration policy,” said Brendan Nyhan, professor of government at Dartmouth, who helped found a group that monitors American democracy. “The difference is between a president who is trying to address a complex policy issue through our political system and one who is promising quasi-authoritarian solutions.”

For his part, Mr. Biden made the case on Thursday that his hands had been tied by the failure of a bipartisan border package that had been negotiated on Capitol Hill. The legislation would have increased border spending, made asylum claims harder and stiffened fentanyl screening. It unraveled when Mr. Trump demanded its defeat.

 

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know About Trump’s Cash as He Faces Penalties of $537 Million, Susanne Craig and Benjamin Weiser, March 2, 2024 (print ed.). Donald J. Trump and his lawyers have bragged in public about his cash hoard. Court papers tell a different story.

This is a moment of financial truth for Donald J. Trump.

The former president, who has lost two recent civil cases, is under pressure to find enough cash to stave off enormous asset seizures while he appeals judgments against him totaling at least $537 million.

One, $454 million, was imposed by a New York State judge last month in Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial. The other, $83.3 million, was awarded in 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.January by a federal jury in a defamation case brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, right. (She won a jury verdict that he sexually attacked her three decades ago and then repeatedly defamed her).

alina habbaMr. Trump has long bragged he is a billionaire many times over. While much of his wealth is tied up in real estate, he testified under oath less than a year ago that he had “substantially in excess of $400 million in cash.” And after last month’s verdict, Alina Habba, left, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, said that he is worth “billions and billions and billions of dollars” and “happens to have a lot of cash.”

arthur engoran horizontal

But a filing Wednesday by Ms. Habba and other lawyers raised questions about just how liquid he actually is. They offered a New York appeals court a bond of only $100 million while he appeals. Mr. Trump’s lawyers said that to secure the full $454 million set by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, shown above, he would probably need to sell properties.

Unless the appeals court cuts him a break, in each case Mr. Trump would have to post cash or a bond in the full amount, plus an additional percentage to account for interest. If he fails, the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, who brought the fraud cause, has warned she will move quickly to seize some of his buildings.

Mr. Trump has been exaggerating his net worth for decades and his company, the Trump Organization, is privately held. That means it is not subject to the same scrutiny as public corporations like Apple or Microsoft.

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Legal Troubles: As Trump’s Criminal Trial Approaches, He May Be His Own Worst Enemy, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Kate Christobek and Ben Protess, March 2, 2024. In civil cases, Donald Trump has ordered attorneys around and insisted on testifying. The stakes will get higher on March 25, when his first criminal case begins.

Donald J. Trump was minutes away from being grilled under oath by the New York attorney general and he was itching to talk. To fend off the state’s fraud investigation, the former president insisted on answering every question, believing he alone knew what to say.

But his lawyer at the time, Ronald P. Fischetti, directed Mr. Trump to keep quiet.

He instructed the former president to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during the 2022 deposition with the attorney general, Letitia James, according to two people with knowledge of the discussion. Mr. Fischetti warned Mr. Trump that he was risking perjury charges, and that he would come to regret it.

Mr. Trump relented, but his legal problems were only just beginning. Over the past year, he was indicted four times and faced three civil trials. And as the former president’s first criminal trial approaches on March 25, it has become clear — as it was to Mr. Fischetti — that the single person who poses the greatest danger to Donald J. Trump may just be Donald J. Trump.

In two of the recent civil trials, the former president directed his lawyers to object at inopportune moments, ranted about the judges and even stormed out of the courtroom. He lost both trials and was ordered to pay more than half a billion dollars combined.

Now, a new team of lawyers is preparing to defend him in Manhattan, where prosecutors have accused Mr. Trump of covering up a potential sex scandal that could have swayed the outcome of the 2016 election. It is not only Mr. Trump’s first criminal trial, but the first time any former American president has faced prosecution. And how the legal team corrals Mr. Trump — or fails to — could determine whether he is also the first former president to be convicted.

“I would expect Trump to try to act up,” said Ty Cobb, a veteran lawyer who worked in the White House Counsel’s Office during the Trump administration and who has since been critical of the former president. He added: “He needs to be aggressively muzzled by the lawyers if he is to avoid offending the jury.”

This article is based on interviews with 14 people who have either represented Mr. Trump and his family or witnessed up close his outsize influence on his own legal strategy. The people, some of whom requested anonymity to speak freely about Mr. Trump, noted his extensive experience with civil cases, both defending and bringing them.

But there is a difference between civil and criminal trials, and between setting a broad strategy and grasping the nuances of argument and diplomacy that make for a successful defense.

Mr. Trump faces steep odds in his first criminal case, which was brought by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg. Mr. Trump’s belligerent courtroom antics might not resonate with a jury in Manhattan, where only about 12 percent of voters supported him in the 2020 election. And Mr. Bragg’s evidence is extensive, featuring documents, tape recordings and testimony from Mr. Trump’s onetime confidants.

To avoid conviction, his defense team, led by Todd Blanche and Susan R. Necheles, will have to be stellar. They will most likely argue that the evidence does not directly implicate Mr. Trump, and that the witnesses are liars.

Like Mr. Fischetti, who recently died, Mr. Blanche and Ms. Necheles are experienced criminal lawyers. But they will have to strike a tricky balance: appeasing their powerful and impulsive client without losing the jury or angering the judge, Juan M. Merchan.New York Times, Texas Has Never Seen a Fire This Big. This Is What We Know, March 2, 2024. The Smokehouse Creek fire started on Monday. Since then, it has burned more than a million acres in the Panhandle, much of which is cattle country.

 

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’s Legal Troubles: Judge Holds Off on Timing of Trump Classified Documents Trial, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Eileen Sullivan, March 2, 2024 (print ed.). The judge previously indicated she would push back the proceeding from the planned May start. Prosecutors want to begin in July, and Donald Trump in August.

A federal judge in Florida held a hearing on Friday to consider a new date for former President Donald J. Trump’s trial on charges of mishandling classified documents, but made no immediate decision about a choice that could have major consequences for both his legal and political future.

aileen cannonFour months ago, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, right, declared she was inclined to make some “reasonable adjustments” to the timing of the classified documents trial, which was originally scheduled to start on May 20 in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla. But by holding off on making a decision at the hearing on Friday, Judge Cannon further delayed resolving the question of how long the trial would be postponed.

In all of Mr. Trump’s criminal cases, the issue of timing has been paramount in a way that is unusual for most prosecutions. He is facing four separate indictments in four different cities, and proceedings have to be scheduled in relation to each other and against the busy backdrop of his presidential campaign.

Justice Department log circularThe daylong hearing in Fort Pierce reflected those intersecting complications as federal prosecutors and Mr. Trump’s lawyers sparred not only over the thorny legal issues involved in the case, but also over the separate complexities of taking Mr. Trump to trial as he runs for office and juggles his crowded legal calendar.

The former president attended the proceeding, appearing almost cheerful in a way that he has not during visits to other courtrooms. Jack Smith, the special counsel who has twice indicted Mr. Trump on federal charges, was also in attendance and the two men shot fleeting glances at one another, at one point appearing to lock eyes.

At Judge Cannon’s request, Mr. Trump’s lawyers and Mr. Smith’s prosecutors had sent her competing proposals about when the trial should begin on the night before the hearing was held.

The prosecutors, hewing to their long-held position of trying to conduct the trial before Election Day, had requested a date of July 8. But Mr. Trump’s legal team made an odd, double-barreled request, arguing that he could not get a fair trial until after the election but also suggesting a start date of Aug. 12, almost three months before voters would go to the polls.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers used a similar split-screen argument at the hearing itself, saying on the one hand that they could live with a trial date in August, but arguing on the other that trying Mr. Trump in the months before November was “completely unfair” to him and “the American people.”

But one of the prosecutors, Jay I. Bratt, referred to the defense’s proposed schedule as “fake dates” that were offered in “almost bad faith.” Mr. Bratt suggested that the defense’s true intention was to simply get a trial date on the books and then ask for further adjournments down the road.

Under questioning from Judge Cannon, Mr. Bratt, for the first time, publicly asserted that if a trial was conducted in September and October, the government would not be violating a Justice Department policy against holding proceedings too close to an election — a provision known as the “60-day rule.” He said that the policy forbade prosecutors from bringing new charges in the run-up to an election, but did not stop them from prosecuting an indictment that had already been filed.

On occasion during the hearing, Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump and has been on the bench for less than four years, seemed a bit uncomfortable with the arcane legal process for handling the highly classified materials at the heart of the case.

At one point, Mr. Bratt explained to her that the defense lawyers, in their proposed schedule, had unnecessarily requested a hearing to determine the “sufficiency” of a set of court papers they are poised to file that will detail the precise classified information they intend to present at trial.

“That’s not a thing,” he said.

At another point, Judge Cannon asked a second prosecutor, David Harbach, when the government intended to publish its list of trial witnesses. Generally, in high-profile or sensitive cases, witness lists are submitted under seal and remain out of view until a trial takes place.

Mr. Smith, in particular, seemed shocked by the question and sat up stiffly in the well of the courtroom, his eyes gone wide in apparent incredulity.

 

fulton county jail

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyer Argues ‘Appearance of Impropriety’ Is Enough to Disqualify Prosecutor, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, March 2, 2024 (print ed.). Lawyers for Donald Trump summed up their arguments about whether Fani Willis has a conflict of interest and should be disqualified from the Georgia case.

A judge in the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump heard final arguments on Friday on a motion to disqualify the prosecutor who brought the case, Fani T. Willis, on the ground that a romantic relationship she had with a subordinate created a conflict of interest.

michael romanWith a historic criminal case against a former president on the line, lawyers for Mr. Trump and his co-defendants took turns assailing Ms. Willis. John B. Merchant III, who represents the defendant Michael Roman, right, said that if the court finds the prosecutors’ romance did not create a conflict of interest, “public confidence in the system will be shot.”

But Adam Abbate, a prosecutor in Ms. Willis’s office, called the defense’s effort to disqualify Ms. Willis “a desperate attempt to remove a prosecutor from a case for absolutely no reason, other than harassment and embarrassment.”

georgia mapDefense lawyers on Friday repeatedly asserted that the bar for disqualification should be relatively low, arguing that even the appearance of a conflict of interest should lead to Ms. Willis’s removal from the case because her actions had undermined public confidence in it. The question of whether the defense needs to show an actual conflict or just an appearance of one could prove pivotal.

“We can demonstrate an appearance of a conflict of interest, and that is sufficient,” Mr. Merchant told the judge, Scott McAfee Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, right (Photo via Superior Court of Fulton County).of Fulton County Superior Court, right.

Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Steven H. Sadow, picked up the theme in his own remarks, arguing that “once you have the appearance of impropriety,” the law in Georgia is clear: “That’s enough to disqualify.”

Mr. Sadow focused his comments on a speech Ms. Willis made in January at a Black church in Atlanta, calling her remarks a “violation of professional rules of conduct.” Her speech, at Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, came shortly after the conflict-of-interest motion was filed.

Ms. Willis, who is Black, suggested in the speech that the scrutiny of her romantic relationship with the prosecutor she hired to run the Trump case, Nathan Wade, was racist. Some of those comments she described as part of a conversation she had with God.

Reactions To Supreme Court's Pro-Trump 'Immunity Claim' Delay

 

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

Hartmann Report, Opinion: Will the Most Corrupt Supreme Court in History Assist the Trump Coup? Thom Hartmann, right, Feb. 29, 2024. SCOTUS thom hartmannintroduced what will be at least a 130-day delay in Trump’s trial. They won’t even hear arguments until April 22. Democracy be damned...

At least four members of the most corrupt Supreme Court in American history have decided to help Trump delay his trial for trying to overthrow the government of the United States.

Just like in 2000, when five Republicans on the Court ignored Al Gore’s probable (later found to be definite) win in Florida to put Bush in the White House, today’s Court is doing as much as they can to help Trump win this November.

In a hail-Mary attempt to push his trials beyond the election, hoping he’d win with Putin’s help and could then pardon himself and gut the DOJ, Trump’s attorneys filed a claim that his efforts to overturn the 2020 election were “official acts” and that all presidents have “absolute immunity” while in office and for the rest of their lives thereafter.

Nobody took it seriously. Even the appeals court his bid first went to pointed out how absurd it was.

“Could a president who ordered SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival,” Judge Florence Pan, one of the appeals court judges, asked Trump’s lawyers, “[and not] be subject to criminal prosecution?”

The answer from Trump’s attorney D. John Sauer was that Trump can’t be prosecuted unless he’s first impeached, which, as noted, is absurd on its face. Under this logic, President Biden could today order Trump assassinated and dare Congress to impeach him for it.

But absurd is nothing new to the six bought-off Republicans on the Supreme Court.

As I laid out in detail in The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America, Republicans on the Court have, for almost a century, taken the side of autocracy over democracy, billionaires over workers, and corporations over consumers and the environment.

And now they’re doing everything they can to get Donald Trump back into office so Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito, both well into their seventies, can retire confident in the knowledge they’ll be replaced by rightwing judges chosen by the Federalist Society.

 

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.

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices set oral argument for week of April 20 on whether Donald Trump can be criminally prosecuted for acts he took while president, Ann E. Marimow, Feb. 29, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court will review Donald Trump’s unprecedented claim that he is shielded from prosecution for actions taken while in office, further delaying the former president’s D.C. trial on charges of conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to remain in power.

The justices set argument for the week of April 22 to consider a unanimous ruling from a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that rejected Trump’s sweeping assertion of immunity from prosecution.

Trump’s pretrial proceedings in D.C. will remain on hold until a ruling is issued, putting the Supreme Court in the politically fraught position of influencing the timing of a federal election-obstruction trial for the leading Republican presidential candidate.

The brief unsigned order issued Wednesday said the justices were not “expressing a view on the merits” of the case and would consider only the question of whether and to what extent a former president has "immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.

djt indicted proof

Trump faces four felony counts brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith in connection with what prosecutors allege was a plan to overturn Biden’s 2020 presidential victory: conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to obstruct the formal certification in Congress of President Biden’s victory, obstructing a congressional proceeding and conspiracy against rights — in this case, the right to vote.

He challenged the indictment, saying former presidents are immune from prosecution, at least for actions related to their official duties, unless first impeached and convicted by Congress. On Feb. 6, the D.C. Circuit delivered a forceful rebuke of that novel argument.

“We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a president has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results,” wrote the three judges, two nominated by Biden and the third by President George H.W. Bush.

Trump asked the Supreme Court to put the appeals court ruling on pause and give him time to seek rehearing by a full complement of D.C. Circuit judges. His lawyers argued that he should not be sidelined from the campaign trail by a months-long criminal trial, and said voters have the right to hear from Trump on the stump.

MSNBC, Andrew Weissmann: The Supreme Court has given Trump the win, Feb. 29, 2024. The Supreme Court on Wednesday laid out a hearing schedule on former President Donald Trump's claims of presidential immunity that raises significant doubts that the election interference case against him will go to trial before the 2024 election. Former Justice Department prosecutor Andrew Weissmann discusses.

Lawyers Defending American Democracy, Opinion: Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to hear the appeal of the presidential immunity claim is the ultimate example of the adage: justice delayed is justice denied, Staff Report, Feb. 29, 2024. Faith in the Supreme Court’s impartiality can only continue to plummet after this inexplicable action.

In a decision which surprised legal experts, the Supreme Court has scheduled its oral argument for late April, giving the gift of time to a criminal defendant who is the master of manipulating time to his advantage. The presidential immunity claim was found to be meritless by the district and appellate courts in meticulously reasoned opinions. Yet after taking more than two weeks to issue a one-page ruling taking the case, the Supreme Court gave an additional gift of seven more weeks until oral argument.

As former Judge Michael Luttig stated, the Court’s decision will likely not issue before the end of their term, throwing the timing of an actual trial before November into doubt.

Faith in the courts has also been undermined by the Alabama Supreme Court, which recently decided to allow a wrongful death claim to proceed for the accidental destruction of IVF test tubes. This ruling has created chaos within the state, and is impacting reproductive health care across the country.

The concurring opinion by Chief Justice Parker offered a glimpse of a future in which our courts rule based upon their religious beliefs, rather than principles of Constitutional law. LDAD board member and former Massachusetts Appeals Court Justice James McHugh wrote elegantly about this concurrence for The Fulcrum: Alabama, Religious Freedom and Frozen Embryos.

We know that accountability is a fundamental underpinning to the rule of law. We are pleased to share with you an interview of three LDAD board members conducted by Renee Knake Jefferson, an author and Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center, in her Substack column entitled Legal Ethics Roundup.

Merrick Garland, Biden's choice as Attorney General (White House file photo from 2021).

Merrick Garland, Biden's choice as Attorney General (White House file photo from 2021).

OpEd News, Opinion: Merrick Garland Must Go, Arlen Grossman, Feb. 29, 2024. President Joe Biden made a consequential and significant mistake when he appointed Merrick Garland to be Attorney General of the United States. Garland has turned out to be weak, clueless, and ineffective, to the point that his actions are currently endangering our very democracy.

At first Biden's appointment of Garland seemed sensible. Most of us remember when Senate Leader Mitch McConnell blocked President Obama's plans to put the moderate jurist on the Supreme Court, the seat eventually going to right-wing religious fanatic Amy Comey Barrett.

When Biden took office in 2021, he likely figured Merrick Garland would be acceptable to both parties, and would be objective, serious about the law, and could be counted on to do the right thing.

Merrick Garland turned out to be a major disappointment in so many ways. President Biden, reportedly, and most Democrats now are not happy with the A.G.'s decisions, and most people deem it unlikely he will return to head the Justice Department if Biden wins a second term.

But so much damage by Garland's inept performance as Attorney General has already been done. The worst was his foot-dragging in holding Donald Trump accountable for his many crimes and abuses of power while president.

By the time Garland appointed special prosecutor Jack Smith in November of 2021 to look into Trump's transgressions, almost two years after the January 6 insurrection, too much time was wasted. And everyone knows Trump is a master at delaying justice and avoiding accountability.

Garland's selection of Robert Hur, a Republican-leaning, Trump-appointed federal prosecutor, to look into President Biden's mishandling of official documents was a major mistake. Hur glossed over the potential crime and zeroed in on Biden's mental state, which was beyond the scope of his duties, and changed the narrative of the election to whether Biden is capable of performing his presidential duties. That he has performed his job so far quite capably has taken a back seat to concerns about his age.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Supreme Court order gives Trump’s long-shot immunity claim a boost, Ruth Marcus, right, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme ruth marcus twitter CustomCourt’s decision to hear Donald Trump’s audacious claim of presidential immunity from prosecution — with oral argument a leisurely seven weeks off — all but guarantees one of two terrible outcomes.

Either the former president’s trial on charges of attempting to subvert the 2020 election, a trial that was supposed to start next week, will now not take place until after the 2024 election, or it will be held in the final months before Election Day. The justices are not entirely responsible for this mess, but they have just made a bad situation far worse than it needed to be.

My beef isn’t with the court’s decision to hear the case — it’s with the outrageously lethargic timing. It would have been far better for the court to have taken up the issue back in December, when special counsel Jack Smith urged the justices to leapfrog the federal appeals court. Now, two and a half months have gone by. It took the justices two weeks after Trump sought their intervention to announce that they would hear the case. Worse, they set oral argument for the week of April 22, a delay that means a decision could easily take until May or even linger until the term finishes at the end of June.

Worst of all, especially given this timetable, the justices could have allowed trial preparations to go forward while the case was briefed, argued and decided. That would have prevented Trump from accomplishing what has been his aim all along: to use the immunity claim as a ploy to delay his trial until after the election.

Hopium Chronicles, Opinion: Democrats Really Like Their President, The Republican Party Is Splintering, Mitch's Dark Legacy, Simon Rosenberg, right, Feb. simon rosenberg twitter29, 2024. The Republican Party’s corruption of the judiciary is a central reason why illiberalism is on the rise here in America. We need to stop counting on or even paying attention to Trump’s trials and just go out and win the election with what we have, which is, in my view, more than enough to get it done this November.

Some have asked about Biden getting fewer votes in MI on Tuesday. Of course he did! Rs had a competitive primary and we didn’t. As I’ve been writing the story of Trump/GOP so far is one of weakness and struggle, not strength. Remember, since Dobbs, when we’ve had competitive elections, we just keep overperforming and they keep struggling. In MI, Biden broke 80%, Uncommitted disappointed, Dean Phillips is now officially defeated and Trump for the fourth straight state underperformed public polls. We had a good night. We are strong and united, they are weak and divided. In every way possible I would much rather be us than them as head deeper into 2024.

washington post logoWashington Post, What happens next after Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump immunity case, Spencer S. Hsu, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). Answers to questions you have about the prosecution of the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What the Supreme Court told us, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted certiorari to jennifer rubin new headshothear four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump’s claim that he has absolute immunity for official acts while he was in office. With oral argument set for April 22, the prospect for a trial on charges related to election interference and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection to be completed before the election wanes considerably.

One fascinating aspect is how the court defined the case.

The court determined that the only question to be addressed is whether a former president enjoys absolute “immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.” The language is telling in a number of respects.

Had the court entertained the possibility the answer would be yes (e.g., yes, he can order Seal Team Six to kill his enemies; yes, he can exile his opponent in his reelection bid), it would have had to address subsidiary questions such as “Was the president engaged in an official act?” or “What is the ambit of an official act?” Only if the answer is “no” — that is, affirming Judge Tanya S. Chutkan and the D.C. Circuit’s unanimous ruling — would there be no need for further inquiry. The presence of the single question tells us where the court is heading. 

Furthermore, if the court’s order is limited to considering official acts, then special counsel Jack Smith almost certainly could effectively argue that Trump’s attempt to overthrow an election for which he has no constitutional role must be deemed “unofficial” at the trial court level. That would allow Smith to proceed to trial. In other words, if the Supreme Court wanted to spare Trump, it simply would have asked, “Is a president immune from criminal prosecution?”

In addition, the court framed the question with regard to a “former president” only. Again, this sets up the case to disadvantage Trump. After all, saying a president cannot be prosecuted either during or after his presidency would make him a king. As lower courts have held, no court has remotely approached this conclusion. To hold that a president could never be held to account for his actions, no matter how egregious, no matter if he had left office, would create a single class of individuals — criminal ex-presidents — immune from the law. Though that might attract support from right-wing, authoritarian-friendly Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., it defies imagination that Trump could accumulate five votes for such an outrageous proposition.

Whether a trial could begin and finish before Election Day, we most certainly will have a decision addressing what is essentially his only defense: “I cannot be punished for official acts. Interfering with my own election was an official act. Therefore, I go free!” At the very least, if my analysis is correct, heading into an election, voters will know that this cannot possibly be the law. Voting for him would amount to allowing someone going to trial (or already on trial) for serious crimes to waltz into the White House.

Meanwhile, keep your eye out for a ruling on whether Trump is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Though the letter of the Constitution suggests he should be, few think that is what the court will hold, especially after an oral argument in which no justice seemed inclined to knock him off the ballot. How the court rules, however, now takes on major significance. If, for example, the Supreme Court does not dispute that Jan. 6 was an insurrection, it would leave unchallenged the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, the Maine secretary of state’s decision and the Jan. 6 House select committee’s conclusions that he did instigate an insurrection. Refusing to spare Trump from the conclusion of those bodies — and of the voters — would speak volumes about how the justices regard his conduct.

 

Mo

Hopium Chronicles, Opinion: Let's Thank Joe Biden, Dems Fighting Hard For The Senate, Moving On From The Trump Trials, Simon Rosenberg, right, March simon rosenberg twitter1, 2024. Moving On From The Trump Trials. Let’s Focus On His Crimes and The 2024 Election.

I think it’s been a core part of Trump’s strategy this year to get us to focus on the latest drama in the courts - this motion, that ruling, will he show? - and not on the crimes he’s committed or winning the 2024 election. It’s been a strategic diversion, and we need to stop playing along. Just as waiting for Mueller denied us time to talk about the underlining misdeeds and what we knew, the ESPN-like coverage of the wheels of sometimes justice turning is preventing us from focusing on more important things.

So, step 1. As I’ve been saying for some time, we should take these trials from the legal domain and bring them into the political one. We can and should be talking about what Trump did, not the trials. Here’s what we can and should be talking about:

  • Trump raped E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room, and is now an adjudicated rapist
  • He and his family oversaw one of the largest financial frauds in American history, and he now owes hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and penalties. He and Rudy together owe more than $700m for their various misdeeds, and his partners in his media company are now accusing him of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from them (see below - it’s incredible)
  • He stole America’s secrets, lied to the FBI about it, shared them with others and should already be in jail, in pre-trial detention, for the grave risk he poses to the country
  • He led a party-wide effort to overturn American democracy, led an armed attack on the Capital when all 435 Members were present, and has promised to end American democracy if he gets back into the Oval Office. Thousands of his associates have already been indicted, convicted or plead guilty to the insurrection, including dozens of Republican leaders in key battleground states across the US
  • He and his family have corruptly taken more money from foreign governments than any political family in American history
  • His campaign partnered with Russian intelligence in 2016 to corruptly win the election for him, and his party has once again partnered with Russian intelligence to smear Joe Biden and his family this year. Most of his top campaign officials from 2016 have been indicted and convicted for their illegal activities, including his initial National Security Advisor
  • From 2016 to today Donald Trump has sided with Putin in his effort to take Ukraine against the clear security interests of the United States and the Western alliance
  • He is singularly responsible for ending Roe, and stripping the rights and freedoms from more than half the population. And as we’ve learned in recent days ending Roe was only the beginning

Waiting for Mueller prevented us from talking to the American people about the facts we already knew about Trump’s rancid relationship with the Russian government. We should not repeat that consequential mistake again this year. We should talk incessantly with our fellow citizens about what is already known about him - that he is a rapist, an epic fraudster, a serial criminal, a traitor, an enemy of women, the most corrupt politician in American history, etc. All of this is enough to win the election with. We don’t need any more. Conditioning the discussion of these matters to the outcome of the criminal trials is what they want us to do. We don’t have to wait. Let’s talk about all this now. The American people deserve to know all this information before voting in 2024.

Step 2. We should move on from spending time reading about the motions, the daily machinations and use that time to talk about what’s above, and to increasingly focus on the elections themselves. They are here, now. It’s time to make winning the Presidency, flipping the House and keeping the Senate the central focus of our days. Can’t wait for Jack Smith any longer. We need to put our heads down, get to 55 and win all these elections in front of us. We should do more, wait for Jack Smith less.

 

djt biden resized smiles

ny times logoNew York Times, Voters Doubt Biden’s Leadership and Favor Trump, Times/Siena Poll Finds, Shane Goldmacher, March 2, 2024. The share of voters who strongly disapprove of President Biden’s performance reached 47 percent, higher than in Times/Siena polls at any point in his presidency. With eight months left until the election, Mr. Biden’s support lags behind Donald Trump’s in the national survey of registered voters.

President Biden is struggling to overcome doubts about his leadership inside his own party and broad dissatisfaction over the nation’s direction, leaving him trailing behind Donald J. Trump just as their general-election contest is about to begin, a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College has found.

djt maga hatWith eight months left until the November election, Mr. Biden’s 43 percent support lags behind Mr. Trump’s 48 percent in the national survey of registered voters.

Only one in four voters think the country is moving in the right direction. More than twice as many voters believe Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them as believe his policies have helped them. A majority of voters think the economy is in poor condition. And the share of voters who strongly disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of his job has reached 47 percent, higher than in Times/Siena polls at any point in his presidency.

The poll offers an array of warning signs for the president about weaknesses within the Democratic coalition, including among women, Black and Latino voters. So far, it is Mr. Trump who has better unified his party, even amid an ongoing primary contest.

Mr. Biden has marched through the early nominating states with only nominal opposition. But the poll showed that Democrats remain deeply divided about the prospect of Mr. Biden, the 81-year-old chief executive, leading the party again. About as many Democratic primary voters said Mr. Biden should not be the nominee in 2024 as said he should be — with opposition strongest among voters younger than 45 years old.

Mr. Trump’s ability to consolidate the Republican base better than Mr. Biden has unified the base of his own party shows up starkly in the current thinking of 2020 voters. Mr. Trump is winning 97 percent of those who say they voted for him four years ago, and virtually none of his past supporters said they are casting a ballot for Mr. Biden. In contrast, Mr. Biden is winning only 83 percent of his 2020 voters, with 10 percent saying they now back Mr. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, The big change between the 2020 and 2024 presidential races? President Biden’s unpopularity, Nate Cohn, March 2, 2024.  Let’s just say it: Joe Biden should be expected to win this election. He’s an incumbent president running for re-election with a reasonably healthy economy against an unpopular opponent accused of multiple federal crimes.

And yet President Biden is not winning, at least not now. Polls show him trailing in states worth well over 270 electoral votes, and this morning he lags Donald J. Trump in our newest New York Times/Siena College national poll by five percentage points among registered voters, 48 percent to 43 percent.

That’s the largest lead Mr. Trump has ever had in a Times/Siena national poll. In fact, it’s the largest lead Mr. Trump has held in a Times/Siena or Times/CBS poll since first running for president in 2015.

Why is President Biden losing? There are many possible reasons, including his age, the war in Gaza, the border and lingering concerns over inflation. But ultimately, they add up to something very simple: Mr. Biden is very unpopular. He’s so unpopular that he’s now even less popular than Mr. Trump, who remains every bit as unpopular as he was four years ago.

President Biden’s unpopularity has flipped the expected dynamic of this election. It has turned what looked like a seemingly predictable rematch into a race with no resemblance to the 2020 election, when Mr. Biden was a broadly appealing candidate who was acceptable to the ideologically diverse group of voters who disapproved of Mr. Trump.

Instead, many voters will apparently agonize between two candidates they dislike. It’s exactly what Democrats sought to avoid when they nominated Mr. Biden in 2020. It’s what Democrats largely avoided in the 2018 and 2022 midterm elections, when they mostly nominated acceptable candidates or ran incumbents against right-wing opponents. And it’s exactly what led to the election of Mr. Trump in 2016.

Overall, 19 percent of registered voters in the Times/Siena survey have an unfavorable view of both candidates — a group sometimes referred to as “double haters.” These voters say they backed Mr. Biden by a three-to-one margin among those who voted in 2020, but now he holds the support of less than half. Every vote counts, but these voters will undoubtedly be pivotal in deciding the November election.

The double haters might ultimately return to Mr. Biden’s side. There are still eight months left until November, and it’s not as if these voters like Mr. Trump. If they do come back to Mr. Biden, perhaps their return will have seemed inevitable in retrospect.

Hopium Chronicles, U.S. Political Commentary: Biden Breaks 80% in Michigan, Trump Continues To Struggle, Simon Rosenberg, right, Feb. 28, 2024 simon rosenberg twitterMarianne Williamson, who dropped out a month ago, beat Dean Phillips last night!

In Michigan, Biden Keeps Cruising, Trump Continues To Struggle - In my post yesterday, I argued that the opposition to Biden’s foreign policy inside the Democratic Party was very limited, but intense. And that’s what we saw last night. Biden broke 80%, and for all the hype Uncommitted got to a very modest 13%, just 2 points higher than Uncommitted got against Obama in 2012. Biden is very popular in the Democratic Party, and the opposition he has is very narrow and limited. But it’s there, and Biden world has work to do to bring everyone along, as all campaigns do. It’s doable work in my view, the work we have to do, well within the normal debates and dissensions that happen in these very large, big-tent parties we have in America. 

Let’s review some data. 100,000 people voted uncommitted in Michigan last night. About 100,000 Arab Americans voted for Biden in Michigan in 2020. Let’s assume that 50,000 of those people stay home this November. That’s a little less than 1% of the total vote this fall. Can we make it up other places? Can we work really hard to get number down? Yes and yes. I characterize what’s happening right now as more of a challenge to Biden than a threat. But we have work to do.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Trump wins Missouri caucuses, Staff Report, March 2, 2024. The former president was in line to gain more delegates. Donald Trump has won Missouri’s Republican caucuses, one of three events Saturday that will award delegates for the GOP presidential nomination.

trump 2024The former president, who is especially strong in caucuses, was adding to his delegate lead in Republican caucuses in Missouri as missouri mapwell as at a party convention in Michigan. Idaho was scheduled to hold its caucuses later Saturday. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, meanwhile, is still seeking her first win.

There are no Democratic contests Saturday.

politico CustomIn Missouri, the Republican Party held its presidential caucuses, offering state voters their only chance to weigh in on who should represent the party on the November presidential ballot.

Voters lined up outside a church in Columbia, home to the University of Missouri, before the doors opened.

“I don’t know what my role here will be, besides standing in a corner for Trump,” Columbia resident Carmen Christal said, adding that she’s “just looking forward to the experience of it.”

 

Brandon Fellows smoking marijuana in an office assigned to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Government Sentencing Memorandum filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia).

 Brandon Fellows smoking marijuana in an office assigned to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Government Sentencing Memorandum filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia).

washington post logoWashington Post, Defiant Jan. 6 rioter spars with judge at sentencing hearing, Salvador Rizzo, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). Brandon Fellows, 29, was sentenced to 3½ years in prison as an exasperated federal judge boomed, ‘It’s time for you to grow up!’

A tree cutter who smoked marijuana in a senator’s office during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was sentenced to 3½ years in prison Thursday after his strategy of interrupting and challenging the sentencing judge seemed to blow up in his face.

A jury in U.S. District Court in D.C. last year convicted Brandon Fellows, 29, of obstructing an official proceeding, entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct stemming from his 36-minute incursion into the Capitol with a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump. The riot delayed Congress’s official counting of electoral ballots, which showed Joe Biden had won the 2020 election.

Fellows, from Upstate New York, chose to represent himself through most of his legal proceedings and was found in contempt at his trial after calling trevor mcFadden CustomU.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden [a Trump appointee] a “modern-day Nazi” running a “kangaroo court.”

“In all my years as a judge, and before that as a litigator, I have never seen such contemptuous conduct,” McFadden said at Thursday’s sentencing, recalling that Fellows also made “lewd comments” to his probation officer, “outlandish accusations” against prosecutors and heckling remarks to the jury as the verdicts were being read.

“There is no grand conspiracy here against you,” the judge said as Fellows kept interrupting. “It’s time for you to grow up!”

Fellows, who is also a chimney repairman, was not charged with violent conduct, but prosecutors described him as a “cheerleader” for the riotous mob. He tried to prevent the FBI from finding him by wrapping his cellphone in foil and wiping his data. Fellows, they said, entered the Capitol through a broken window after attending Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse. 

He smoked pot in an office assigned to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), “paraded” through the Capitol crypt with other rioters, taunted law enforcement officers, posed for photographs on a Capitol Police motorcycle outside the building, and then raved about the attack in media interviews and social media posts, prosecutors said.

“He told the jury he was having a blast,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolina Nevin said Thursday. When the FBI caught up with him, she said, Fellows asked for a marker to write the word “liberty” on his forehead for his mug shot. He blamed police officers for their own injuries and showed no remorse for his actions, Nevin argued.

In a court filing Tuesday that he conceded was “rambling,” Fellows continued to assert that “the election was stolen, and we had and have a right to go in and throw the people out who made this happen.” At his sentencing, he gave a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation railing against “crazy people who say a man can get pregnant,” accusing prosecutors of telling lies and bemoaning the “minimum of 23,736 hours” he had spent in jail “being treated like a terrorist without any constitutional rights.”

A liberal activist who interrupted now-Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court in 2018 had gotten off with a much lighter sentence than he would get, Fellows argued.

“I did not think I committed any crimes,” he said, adding later, “Officers were letting people in … saying, ‘Treat this place with respect, guys,’ which seems pretty welcoming.” Outside the Capitol, people with bullhorns were claiming Vice President Mike Pence had already certified Biden’s election, although that turned out to be inaccurate, he said.

Judges are required by law to explain the reasoning behind the sentences they impose, and they seldom appreciate it when people in the courtroom add their own running commentary. As he began to announce the punishment, McFadden barely got three sentences out before earning his first jeer from the defendant.

The judge said Fellows and others who had smoked pot in the Capitol had treated it like a “frat house” and shown “utter disrespect for our first branch of government.”

“Just as they disrespect the American people,” Fellows interjected. The judge admonished him not to interrupt. Fellows chimed in again.

“Sir, sir! This is a really bad idea for you to continue to interrupt me,” an exasperated McFadden told him.

Fellows’s mother had written a letter to the court, McFadden said. Fellows protested that he had asked her not to. (She told the judge her son was a “challenging” individual.)

His grandmother submitted a letter — but “she knows nothing about this case!” Fellows declared. She thanked the judge for being “more than fair” throughout the proceedings.

Fellows argued that he thought he was allowed inside the Capitol for the riot — or, in his words, “an exciting museum tour with our supportive friends, the police” — because of a freewheeling romp he had taken at his home state’s civic mecca, the New York Capitol. “Not only can you go up and touch it, but two weeks, two or three weeks prior to January 6th, I had sex in a vehicle about 20 feet away from it,” he said at trial.

“I definitely remember that,” the judge deadpanned.

During a hearing via video before his trial began, Fellows wrote “kangaroo court” on a piece of paper and held it up to the screen, prosecutors said. While Fellows was on the witness stand at his trial in August, McFadden warned him “to answer leading questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and to avoid editorializing comments about the trial and the prosecutor’s questions,” according to an order the judge signed Aug. 30.

“While the jury rendered its verdict, he interrupted the foreperson and yelled over her, ‘This is how you radicalize people!’ When the Court thanked the jurors for their service, Fellows laughed, ‘Ha!’” prosecutors wrote in a filing.

The judge sentenced Fellows to 37 months in prison for his Jan. 6-related convictions and an additional five months for contempt related to his courtroom outbursts. Fellows convinced him throughout the legal proceedings that he had “oppositional defiance disorder,” as he claimed, the judge said.

“I shared nothing but the truth here, unlike the other party,” Fellows said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Deputy who claimed to help police sentenced in Jan. 6 attacks on officers, Spencer S. Hsu, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). Off-duty Tenn. sheriff’s deputy Ronald McAbee, who assaulted two police officers and dragged one down steps, was sentenced to 70 months in prison.

An off-duty Tennessee sheriff’s deputy who claimed he was helping police was sentenced Wednesday to nearly six years in prison for aggravated assaults against two officers in one of the most violent areas of the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot.

Ronald McAbee, 30, struck D.C. police officer Carter Moore twice in the face while wearing hard-knuckle gloves and a bulletproof vest with two patches that read “SHERIFF” and “III” (for the Three Percenters right-wing, anti-government movement).

Moore was trying to help a fallen D.C. police officer, Andrew Wayte, after a third officer had been dragged down the steps and beaten at the entrance of a bloodily fought-over tunnel at the Lower West Terrace at about 4:30 p.m. Video showed that McAbee, another rioter and police then grabbed hold of Wayte and began pulling in different directions “in a violent tug-of-war with Wayte’s defenseless body as the rope,” U.S. District Judge Rudy Contreras said at McAbee’s sentencing hearing in D.C.

 

Jan. 6 defendant Larry Brock, with helmet at top center (Win McNamee photo via Getty Images). Jan. 6 defendant Larry Brock, with helmet at top center (Win McNamee photo via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court ruling means over 100 Jan. 6 rioters may be resentenced, Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, March 2, 2024 (print ed.). More than 100 people convicted for participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol may have to be resentenced after a federal appeals court Friday overturned a sentencing enhancement used to help determine their punishments.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit came in the case of retired Air Force Lt. Col. Larry R. Brock Jr., who had appealed his felony conviction of obstructing the work of Congress that day. Former president Donald Trump faces the same charge.

The court, a panel of three Democratic appointees, did not overturn the conviction. But it said that a lower court judge erred in deciding that Brock should face a stiffer sentence for “substantial interference with the administration of justice,” ruling that the penalty does not apply to crimes committed at the Capitol.

At least 100 people convicted in connection with the Jan. 6 attack have had their punishments shaped by that enhancement, and they could now ask to be sentenced anew. That does not mean they would necessarily face lighter terms. Sentencing enhancements raise the suggested range of prison time that a judge must consider. But in D.C., judges have generally imposed penalties below those recommended ranges, and they have often said their punishments would be the same regardless of what enhancements they applied.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Asks for August Trial Date in Classified Documents Case, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). After previously seeking to have the proceeding postponed until after the election, Mr. Trump’s lawyers unexpectedly said he could live with a date over the summer.

For the past eight months, former President Donald J. Trump and his lawyers have used nearly every means at their disposal to delay his federal trial on charges of mishandling classified documents until after the election in November.

But in court papers filed on Thursday evening, the lawyers made an abrupt turnabout. In a filing to the judge overseeing the case, they repeated their complaints that Mr. Trump could not be tried fairly until the election was concluded, but then proposed a new date for the trial of Aug. 12, almost three months before Election Day and just weeks after the Republican convention to choose a party nominee.

It was not immediately clear what led to the sudden change of heart — or to the selection of Aug. 12 — especially given that the lawyers spent much of their filing to the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, claiming that the law, the Constitution and the Justice Department’s own policy manual frowned on the idea of taking “the presumptive Republican nominee” to trial at the height of his campaign for the White House.

One possibility was that the lawyers, by proposing to spend much of late summer and early fall in court on the classified documents case, were seeking to prevent the former president’s other federal trial — on charges of plotting to subvert the 2020 election — from being held before voters make their choice.

Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, also sent a letter on Thursday evening to Judge Cannon proposing a new date for the trial: July 8. That was in keeping with Mr. Smith’s long-held position of trying to put the documents case in front of a jury before November.

Judge Cannon had solicited the proposed new dates on the eve of a hearing she was set to hold on Friday in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., to reset the trial clock for the case. She has already indicated that she intends to push back the current start date of May 20, but it remains to be seen how much of a delay she will impose.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Why Trump’s effort to run out the clock in federal election case is working, Philip Bump, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). On Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced that it would consider Trump’s primary delay tactic: an argument that he had broad immunity for his actions because of his position. It’s an argument that’s been rejected multiple times in various venues previously and one that most independent observers view as invalid. The Supreme Court will probably (though by no means certainly) agree.

But, thanks to how this has unfolded, Trump’s 2020 actions will probably not be adjudicated by the time voters go to the polls in November — which may render the whole thing irrelevant.

washington post logoWashington Post, Illinois judge removes Trump from primary ballot, Patrick Svitek, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). The ruling is stayed until Friday to allow for appeal and also includes a stay tied to the pending Supreme Court case from Colorado.

illinois mapAn Illinois judge ruled Wednesday that former president Donald Trump should be removed from the state’s primary ballot because of the 14th Amendment ban on insurrectionists holding office.

Illinois became the third state where Trump has been kicked off the primary ballot, following Colorado and Maine. Both of those states’ rulings are on hold pending an appeal of the Colorado decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Tracie R. Porter immediately stayed her ruling until Friday, to give Trump time to appeal. The ruling also includes a stay if the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Anderson v. Griswold, the lawsuit at the heart of Colorado’s decision to remove the former president from its primary ballot.

Trump’s campaign blasted the ruling.

“This is an unconstitutional ruling that we will quickly appeal,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement.

Porter said in her ruling that the Illinois election board’s January decision to keep Trump on the ballot was “clearly erroneous.”

Supreme Court poised to allow Trump to remain on Colorado ballot

In each of the cases, Trump’s critics have argued he is ineligible to appear on the ballot based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars those who have “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. They have cited his conduct around the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol in the wake of his reelection loss.

Trump has argued Section 3 does not apply to him, while his campaign has expressed confidence the Supreme Court will side with them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Media co-founders sue company, alleging a scheme to dilute shares, Drew Harwell, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). The case could complicate a long-delayed bid by the owner of Truth Social to go public — and deliver former president Donald Trump a financial lifeline

The co-founders of former president Donald Trump’s media company filed a lawsuit Wednesday, claiming that Trump and other leaders had schemed to deprive them of a stake in the company that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
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The case could complicate a long-delayed bid by Trump Media & Technology Group, owner of the social network Truth Social, to merge with a special purpose acquisition company called Digital World Acquisition and become a publicly traded company.

That merger deal, which could value Trump’s stake in the company at more than $3 billion, would offer the former president a financial lifeline at a time when he is facing more than $454 million in penalties from a civil fraud judgment this month in New York.

Representatives for Trump, Trump Media and Digital World did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Andy Litinsky and Wes Moss, who met Trump as contestants on his reality show “The Apprentice,” pitched Trump on the idea of a Trump-branded tech start-up and social media platform in early 2021 after he lost the White House and was banned from Twitter, now called X.

Trump agreed to the deal and was given 90 percent of the company, according to a motion for expedited proceedings filed Wednesday in the Delaware Court of Chancery by the co-founders’ partnership, United Atlantic Ventures. The partnership took 8.6 percent, while an attorney on the deal, Bradford Cohen, was given the remaining 1.4 percent, the motion states.

UAV launched the Trump Media business, hired employees and raised funding while receiving no “fee or payment for its work,” the motion said. And though Litinsky and Moss left Trump Media that year amid a dispute with its current leadership, UAV retained its shares, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this month from Digital World.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He Might Have to Sell Properties to Pay $454 Million Penalty, Ben Protess and Kate Christobek, Feb. 29, 2024 (print ed.). Former President Trump, who is appealing the penalty in his civil fraud case, offered a bond of only $100 million to pause the judgment.

ICE logoDonald J. Trump offered a New York appeals court on Wednesday a bond of only $100 million to pause the more than $450 million judgment he faces in his civil fraud case, saying that he might need to sell some of his properties unless he gets relief.

It was a stunning acknowledgment that Mr. Trump, who is racing the clock to either secure a bond from a company or produce the full amount himself, lacks the resources to do so. Without a bond, the New York attorney general’s office, which brought the fraud case, could seek to collect from Mr. Trump at any moment.

djt maga hatIn a filing with the appeals court, Mr. Trump’s lawyers also asked to delay a wide range of other punishments that the trial judge in the fraud case, Arthur F. Engoron, levied in a decision this month. They include a prohibition on obtaining a loan from a New York bank for three years and a ban on running a company in the state during that same period.

One appellate court judge was hearing the request from Mr. Trump on Wednesday afternoon and was expected to issue a decision by the end of the day. If the judge were to grant the pause, it would be only temporary; Mr. Trump would still have to persuade a larger panel of appellate judges to keep the judgment on hold.

In seeking relief, Mr. Trump’s lawyers disclosed that he would be unable to secure a bond for the full $454 million, raising the prospect that he might soon default on the judgment if the appeals court denies his request.

Justice Engoron’s decision to bar Mr. Trump from obtaining new loans from New York banks further constrains his ability to either produce the money himself or have enough cash to pledge as collateral for a bond, they argued. Under New York law, a defendant also owes 9 percent interest to the plaintiff until the judgment is paid or the appeal resolved, meaning a full bond in this case might reach $500 million or more.

If the appeals court denies the request, Mr. Trump’s lawyers warned, he likely would have to sell some New York properties “under exigent circumstances,” in what would be a punishing blow to the former president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspicious Powder Found at Courthouse Where Trump Judge Has Offices, Claire Fahy, Feb. 29, 2024 (print ed.). An envelope containing white powder was found Wednesday morning at the New York State Supreme Courthouse in Lower Manhattan, officials said. The court building, at 60 Centre Street, contains offices belonging to Justice Arthur F. Engoron, the judge who oversaw former President Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial.

Police officers responded to a 911 call at 9:29 a.m. regarding the suspicious powder. A court officer had opened an envelope, and white powder fell onto his pants, the police said.

No injuries were reported, and the building was not evacuated. The police said that the Fire Department had responded to the discovery of the powder and that the investigation continued.

The officer declined medical attention, according to the Fire Department, as did another court officer who was exposed to the powder.

Justice Engoron and the Supreme Court building have been targets in the past. Last month, the Nassau County Police Department responded to a hoax bomb threat at the judge’s home on Long Island.

In December, a man set a small fire on the fourth floor of the courthouse that he then quickly extinguished. The Fire Department responded, and three floors of the building were evacuated, but no serious injuries were reported. It was unclear whether the fire was related to Mr. Trump’s trial.

djt maga hatOver the course of the 11-week civil fraud trial, which ended this month, Mr. Trump repeatedly attacked Justice Engoron on Truth Social, Mr. Trump’s website, and in statements he made in court. In November, Mr. Trump’s Republican allies also went after Justice Engoron publicly, with Representative Elise Stefanik of New York filing an ethics complaint accusing him of “inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance,” and Laura Loomer, a far-right activist close to the former president, repeatedly attacking the judge and his family on social media.

arthur engoron djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Is Racing Against Time to Find a Half-Billion Dollar Bond, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, Feb. 25, 2024 (print ed.). After losing two civil trials, the former president must find a bonding company that will vouch for him — or his real estate empire is threatened.

Donald J. Trump is on the clock.

The $454 million judgment that a New York judge imposed on Mr. Trump in his civil fraud case took effect on Friday, placing the former president in a precarious position.

Now, he must either come up with the money quickly or persuade a company to post a bond on his behalf, essentially vouching for him to the court with an I.O.U.

The bond is likely to be his best bet: Mr. Trump, who also faces an $83.3 million judgment in an unrelated defamation case, does not have enough cash on hand to do it all himself, according to a recent New York Times analysis of his finances. If Mr. Trump can find a bond company willing to do a deal this big, it will require him to pay the firm a fee as high as 3 percent of the judgment and to pledge collateral.

The bond would prevent the New York attorney general’s office, which brought the civil fraud case against Mr. Trump, from collecting the $454 million while Mr. Trump’s appeal is heard. Without it, the attorney general, Letitia James, is entitled to collect at any moment.

Ms. James is expected to allow Mr. Trump up to 30 days, but if he fails to secure a bond by March 25, and an appeals court denies him extra time, he has a lot to lose. The attorney general’s office could seek to seize some of Mr. Trump’s properties in New York, perhaps even a crown jewel like Trump Tower or 40 Wall Street.

“The attorney general is in the catbird seat and can make this a very unpleasant experience for Trump,” said Mark Zauderer, a partner at the law firm Dorf Nelson & Zauderer who is a veteran New York business litigator and has secured many appeal bonds.

As Mr. Trump races to secure a bond, here is what we know about this perilous new phase.
Why does Trump owe $454 Million?

Ms. James took Mr. Trump to trial last year, accusing him of orchestrating a conspiracy to inflate his net worth to receive favorable loans. This month, the judge Arthur F. Engoron ruled that Mr. Trump had done so and meted out several punishments.

The most severe was a $355 million penalty — $454,156,783.05 as of Friday afternoon, thanks to interest that continues to accrue. The judge said the sum accounted for Mr. Trump’s ill-gotten gains from the scheme.

ny times logoNew York Times, Key Witness in Georgia Hearing Says He Does Not Know When Relationship Began, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Feb. 28, 2024 (print ed.). A judge has brought the witness back to court as he weighs whether the prosecutors in Donald Trump’s case in Georgia have a disqualifying conflict of interest.

In a potential setback to former President Donald J. Trump and his co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case, a key witness testified on Tuesday that he had no knowledge of when a romantic relationship began between the two prosecutors leading the case.

Defense attorneys are seeking to disqualify Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, claiming that her romantic relationship with the lawyer she hired to run the case, Nathan Wade, has created an untenable conflict of interest.

Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade have said that the relationship began only after she hired him in November 2021. Mr. Trump’s lawyer has accused them of lying.

For weeks, the defense had suggested that the key witness, Terrence Bradley, the former divorce lawyer and law partner of Mr. Wade, could provide crucial testimony contradicting Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade. But Mr. Bradley testified in court on Tuesday that “I don’t know when the relationship started,” and that he “never witnessed anything.”

Lawyers for Mr. Trump and other defendants hammered at Mr. Bradley’s credibility on Tuesday, reading aloud text messages he wrote in January that appeared to suggest that he knew more about the prosecutors’ relationship than he was letting on. In text exchanges, Mr. Bradley told a defense lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, that the romance between the prosecutors had begun before Nov. 1, 2021, when Ms. Willis hired Mr. Wade.

“Do you think it happened before she hired him?” Ms. Merchant asked Mr. Bradley in one text exchange, which was entered into evidence. “Absolutely,” Mr. Bradley replied.

But on the stand on Tuesday, Mr. Bradley insisted that he had been only “speculating” about the relationship in those texts, and was not speaking from personal knowledge.

It was Mr. Bradley’s third time on the witness stand this month, in a series of hearings that have threatened to upend the prosecution of Mr. Trump and his allies for seeking to reverse the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. The defense team contends that the two prosecutors engaged in “self-dealing,” because Mr. Wade spent money on vacations that he took with Ms. Willis while he was being paid by her office.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Trump Criminal Case, Manhattan D.A. Asks for Gag Order Before Trial, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, Feb. 27, 2024 (print ed.). Lawyers for Alvin Bragg, the district attorney, are seeking to protect jurors and witnesses in the first criminal prosecution of a former president.

Manhattan prosecutors on Monday asked the judge overseeing their criminal case against Donald J. Trump to prohibit the former president from attacking witnesses or exposing jurors’ identities.

The requests, made in filings by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, noted Mr. Trump’s “longstanding history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and others involved in legal proceedings against him.”

In outlining a narrowly crafted gag order, the office hewed closely to the terms of a similar order upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington in another of Mr. Trump’s criminal cases.

The gag order in the Manhattan case, if the judge approves it, would bar Mr. Trump from “making or directing others to make” statements about witnesses concerning their role in the case. The district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, also asked that Mr. Trump be barred from commenting on prosecutors on the case — other than Mr. Bragg himself — as well as court staff members.

Although Mr. Bragg carved himself out of the gag order request, the district attorney has received the brunt of the attacks from Mr. Trump and his supporters. In an affidavit released Monday, the head of his security detail listed some of the worst of the dozens of attacks directed at Mr. Bragg last year, including racial slurs and death threats.

In a separate filing, Mr. Bragg placed a special emphasis on the protection of jurors. His prosecutors asked that Mr. Trump be barred from publicly revealing their identities. And although Mr. Trump and his legal team are allowed to know the jurors’ names, Mr. Bragg asked that their addresses be kept secret from the former president.

If the judge, Juan M. Merchan, accepts the restrictions, he would be just the latest judge to impose a gag order on the former president. There was an order in the Washington case, a federal case that involves accusations that Mr. Trump plotted to overturn the 2020 election. And the judge in Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial that recently concluded ordered Mr. Trump not to comment on court staff members.

In a federal trial in Florida in which Mr. Trump is accused of mishandling classified documents, the special counsel, Jack Smith, is also seeking to protect witnesses. The prosecutors have vehemently opposed an attempt by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to include the names of about 24 potential witnesses in a public filing, claiming that the witnesses could face harassment or intimidation. The prosecutors have even opened a separate criminal investigation of threats made on social media against one of the witnesses.

The Manhattan criminal case was the first of Mr. Trump’s four indictments to be filed and is scheduled to go to trial on March 25. Last year, the district attorney’s office accused Mr. Trump of 34 felonies, saying he had orchestrated a cover-up of a potential sex scandal with a porn star that could have hindered his 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers will be likely to oppose the gag order and could appeal it if Justice Merchan adopts it. A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Todd Blanche, declined to comment on the prosecutors’ proposal, saying that the defense’s court papers spoke for themselves.

In a separate motion filed on Monday, prosecutors provided something of a guide to their case, signaling that they hope to include other hush-money payoffs they say Mr. Trump orchestrated: one with a former Playboy model, and another involving a doorman who sought to sell an embarrassing story about Mr. Trump in 2015.

As they laid the groundwork to tell that expansive story, they asked Justice Merchan to allow them to introduce evidence from the 2016 presidential campaign, including the infamous “Access Hollywood” recording in which Mr. Trump boasts about groping women, as well as three public allegations of sexual assault made against him after the recording was released.

It is far from clear that Justice Merchan will grant those requests. Persuading him that allegations of sexual assault should be allowed could be particularly difficult, given that judges are supposed to carefully evaluate evidence that could unfairly harm a defendant in the eyes of the jury.

Prosecutors on Monday were more worried about the defendant harming jurors. In seeking to limit Mr. Trump from disclosing their names, the district attorney’s office cited recent instances of his attacking jury members, including in the 2020 trial of his associate Roger Stone. While still president, prosecutors noted, Mr. Trump had called the head of that jury “totally biased,” “tainted” and “DISGRACEFUL!”

ny times logoWashington Post, How Justice Engoron’s numbers add up for Trump’s penalty in the N.Y. fraud trial, Shayna Jacobs, Feb. 25, 2024. Donald Trump this month was ordered by a New York Supreme Court justice to pay a penalty of $354,868,768, plus interest that continues to accrue, because the former president and his company were found to have used false financial statements that deceived banks and insurance companies.

ny times logoNew York Times, A prominent Republican is seeking to shield the party from paying Donald Trump’s legal bills, Maggie Haberman, Feb. 25, 2024 (print ed.). A veteran Republican National Committee member has initiated a long-shot effort to prevent Donald J. Trump from taking over the party committee before he has enough delegates to become the presumptive presidential nominee in an effort to prevent the R.N.C. from paying his legal bills.

Henry Barbour, a committee member from Mississippi, has sponsored two resolutions, one that would require the committee to remain neutral in the primary and another that would assure it does not spend committee funds to assist Mr. Trump in his legal battles. The proposals, which would not be binding even if passed, come as Mr. Trump seeks to install new leadership in the organization, including Lara Trump, his daughter-in-law, who has said she would be open to the committee paying his legal bills.

The resolutions, which were first reported by The Dispatch, have come under fire from the Trump campaign.

“The primary is over, and it is the RNC’s sole responsibility to defeat Joe Biden and win back the White House,” said Chris LaCivita, a top Trump adviser who is expected to move into a top role at the R.N.C. “Efforts to delay that assist Joe Biden in the destruction of our nation. Republicans cannot stand on the sidelines and allow this to happen.”

The neutrality proposal is directly related to the primary: After the South Carolina primary, only four early states will have held contests. Mr. Trump has a fraction of the delegates he needs, and Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, is still running, although she has yet to win a state.

The other resolution has been more in the forefront of some R.N.C. members’ minds: It seeks to bar the committee from paying Mr. Trump’s legal fees as he faces four criminal indictments and two enormous civil lawsuits.

It seeks to codify that “the Republican National Committee should focus its spending on political efforts associated with winning elections and make clear from this point forward that the RNC’s financial resources are to be used to assist candidates across the country winning elections” this year and that the committee “will not pay the legal bills of any of our candidates for any federal or state office, but will focus our spending on efforts directly related to the 2024 election.”

Mr. Barbour, in an interview, conceded that neither resolution was likely to pass, given Mr. Trump’s strength in the party, but he said that sending a message was important.

 

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

In Georgia, a Push to Disqualify the Main Prosecutors, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim. A judge in Atlanta hears evidence about the defense’s claim of a disqualifying conflict of interest among the main prosecutors, shown above.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Georgia Lawyers Surface Phone Records in Effort to Remove Prosecutors, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Feb. 24, 2024 (print ed.). The lawyers presented an affidavit describing cellphone records they will likely use to try to prove the prosecutors lied about when they began a romantic relationship.

Lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump are continuing to press their argument that the lead prosecutors in the Georgia election interference case are lying about when their romantic relationship began, surfacing phone records on Friday that they will likely use to try to undercut the prosecutors’ testimony.

In a court filing that Ms. Willis’s office challenged later in the day, Mr. Trump’s lawyers in Atlanta presented an affidavit describing phone records obtained through a subpoena that they said showed “just under 12,000” calls and text messages between Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, and Nathan Wade, the lawyer she hired to help oversee the case, in the first 11 months of 2021.

The affidavit from Charles Mittelstadt, an investigator hired by Mr. Trump’s lawyers, also described cellphone location data that the lawyers said showed Mr. Wade’s phone, on at least 35 occasions, being connected “for an extended period” to a cell tower near a condominium where Ms. Willis was living.

The investigator said the data suggested that on two occasions, Mr. Wade was in the vicinity of Ms. Willis’s residence from late at night until dawn. One of those occasions was on the night of Sept. 11, 2021.

Ms. Willis’s office responded with its own filing on Friday night, saying that the records “do not prove that Special Prosecutor Wade was ever at any particular location or address.” The response also said that the phone records showed only that Mr. Wade “was located somewhere within a densely populated, multiple-mile radius where various residences, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other businesses are located.”

The district attorney’s office included copies of some of Ms. Willis’s emails and calendars that it said refuted specific claims made by Mr. Trump’s legal team about her whereabouts.

There is no dispute that Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis were in contact in 2021. They are longtime friends, and after Ms. Willis was elected district attorney in 2020, she appointed Mr. Wade to a hiring committee to screen applicants for jobs in the district attorney’s office. She also consulted with Mr. Wade on a number of issues, including strategic questions about big cases, after taking office in January 2021.

His advisory role extended into the period covered by the cellphone data that Mr. Trump’s new motion cites, Jan. 1, 2021 to Nov. 30, 2021. At a hearing in the case last week, former Gov. Roy Barnes of Georgia, an experienced trial lawyer, recalled that Ms. Willis and a team that included Mr. Wade met with him in October 2021 and asked if he wanted to take the job that Ms. Willis eventually gave to Mr. Wade.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Testimony in Atlanta, Fani Willis Receives Both Praise and Condemnation, Rick Rojas, Christian Boone and Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon, Feb. 18, 2024 (print ed.). With her testimony, the Fulton Country district attorney earned plaudits for standing firm under pressure and drew doubts about her judgment.

 

Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, testified in a hearing on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta (Pool photo by Alyssa Pointer).

 Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, testified in a hearing on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024,  at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta (Pool photo by Alyssa Pointer).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Fani Willis turns the tables on her attackers, Jennifer Rubin, right, Feb. 20, 2024. Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani jennifer rubin new headshotWillis took the stand last week under attack from Michael Roman, former henchman 0f four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump, and many in the media and legal community.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Dual Border Visits, Biden and Trump Try to Score Points at a Political Hot Spot, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Erica L. Green and Michael Gold, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). In South Texas, President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump each emphasized the urgency of securing the U.S.-Mexico border, but took sharply different approaches.

President Biden issued a political dare to his biggest rival, former President Donald J. Trump, as the men took dueling trips to the southern border in Texas on Thursday in an effort to leverage a dominant issue of the 2024 presidential campaign.

In remarks delivered some 300 miles away, Mr. Trump highlighted crimes committed by migrants in an attempt to portray Mr. Biden as a president plunging the nation into crime and disorder.

Mr. Biden, by contrast, focused on compromise, but he also baited his rival, using a bipartisan bill that fell apart in the Senate at Mr. Trump’s urging.

“Instead of telling members of Congress to block this legislation, join me,” Mr. Biden said of the bill that had been a breakthrough after years of paralysis on one of the nation’s most intractable issues.

Mr. Biden’s push to collaborate on what he called the “toughest” border legislation in decades shows how the Democratic Party has shifted to the right on this issue.

Here’s what else to know:

  • Mr. Biden arrived on Air Force One in Brownsville, Texas, a city in the Rio Grande Valley that has historically seen large influxes of migrants, and met with Border Patrol, law enforcement and asylum officers. He said it was “long past time” to fix the border and immigration system, and that message from Border Patrol agents and others involved in security was plain: They wanted more officers, more judges and more resources.
  • Mr. Biden also denounced Republicans for thwarting the bipartisan immigration bill — one that he championed and they themselves had demanded — that would have resulted in a crackdown at the border.
  • Mr. Trump spoke in Eagle Pass, which has become a common backdrop for politicians who want to show they are tough on immigration. He was met there by Gov. Greg Abbott and Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, the main union for Border Patrol agents, and began his remarks by commending Mr. Abbott on his efforts on the border. “The United States is being overrun,” Mr. Trump said, as he criticized Mr. Biden’s border policies and “what he has done to our country.”
  • Mr. Trump also focused on the death of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student found dead in Georgia, blaming it on Mr. Biden. The man charged with killing her is an immigrant from Venezuela who crossed the border illegally, and her death has become a political flashpoint.
  • Record numbers of migrants have crossed into the United States during the Biden administration, a surge that Mr. Trump and other Republicans have used to attack the president as weak on the border.
  • A Gallup poll released on Tuesday found that Americans are most likely to name immigration as the most important problem in the country.

ny times logoNew York Times, The U.S. Economy Is Surpassing Expectations. Immigration Is One Reason, Lydia DePillis, March 1, 2024 (print ed.). Immigrants aided the pandemic recovery and may be crucial to future needs. The challenge is processing newcomers and getting them where the jobs are.

The U.S. economic recovery from the pandemic has been stronger and more durable than many experts had expected, and a rebound in immigration is a big reason.

A resumption in visa processing in 2021 and 2022 jump-started employment, allowing foreign-born workers to fill some holes in the labor force that persisted across industries and locations after the pandemic shutdowns. Immigrants also address a longer-term need: replenishing the work force, a key to meeting labor demands as birthrates decline and older people retire.

Net migration in the year that ended July 1, 2023, reached the highest level since 2017. The foreign-born now make up 18.6 percent of the labor force, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that over the next 10 years, immigration will keep the number of working Americans from sinking. Balancing job seekers and opportunities is also critical to moderating wage inflation and keeping prices in check.

International instability, economic crises, war and natural disasters have brought a new surge of arrivals who could help close the still-elevated gap between labor demand and job candidates. But that potential economic dividend must contend with the incendiary politics, logistical hurdles and administrative backlogs that the surge has created.

Visits to Texas on Thursday by President Biden and his likely election opponent, former President Donald J. Trump, highlight the political tensions. Mr. Biden is seeking to address a border situation that he recently called “chaos,” and Mr. Trump has vowed to shut the door after record numbers crossed the border under the Biden administration.

Since the start of the 2022 fiscal year, about 116,000 have arrived as refugees, a status that comes with a federally funded resettlement network and immediate work eligibility. A few hundred thousand others who have arrived from Ukraine and Afghanistan are entitled to similar benefits.

But far more — about 5.5 million — have been apprehended at the borders and at airports and seaports. Not all are allowed to stay, but a vast majority of those who do receive little government assistance. People seeking asylum have faced long delays before they can work legally, and a busing campaign by Southern governors has concentrated them in a few cities that are struggling to absorb them.

Americans will get their first look at the likely presidential rematch coming this fall as President Biden and Donald J. Trump make dueling visits to the Texas border on Thursday, a rare convergence on the campaign trail that shows just how volatile and potent a political issue immigration has already become in the 2024 race.

trump 2024For Mr. Trump, the border is a familiar backdrop and represents almost the background music of his candidacy, as he warns of a nation slipping out of reach and an “invasion” he promises to stop. For Mr. Biden, immigration represents a top vulnerability as border crossings reached record highs in late 2023 and images of mass migration and its fallout have become fixtures on the news.

Republicans have long had an edge politically on the issue, with the G.O.P. advantage swelling even larger of late. In the fall of 2020, Mr. Trump was more trusted on immigration by a sizable 16 percentage points, according to NBC News polling at the time. That margin has more than doubled to 35 percentage points as of this January — the largest advantage either Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump had on any of the nine issues tested.

biden harris 2024 logoBut Biden allies believe the recent decision by Republican congressional leaders — at Mr. Trump’s urging — to abandon a potential bipartisan border deal has provided the party a rare opening to cut into that deficit. The package would have made asylum claims more difficult, expanded detention capacity, increased fentanyl screening and paid for more border officers.

Democrats hope they can draw attention to the package’s failure and contrast Mr. Biden’s pursuit of bipartisanship with Mr. Trump’s belligerence.

“Donald Trump doesn’t want a solution,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, a top Biden surrogate, in a call arranged by the Biden campaign before the Texas trip. “He wants a campaign slogan.”

 

The Hartmann Report, Opinion: Why Won’t Our Media Say Donald Trump is America's Modern-Day Benedict Arnold? Thom Hartmann, right, Feb. 28, 2024. thom hartmannDonald Trump needs money. Apparently, many of the documents Trump stole from the White House are still missing. Including the binder with raw intelligence about American spies in Moscow.

Are they his “get out of jail free” card?

It’s as if the media doesn’t want to confront the possibility that a former president and current candidate is actually a traitor. But consider the facts.

We are right now in the midst of the third presidential election featuring massive interference from Russian intelligence. Most recently, we found that they sent an agent to the FBI to claim that Biden had taken a bribe in Ukraine: James Comer and Jim Jordan have been running with it, trying to use this Russian disinformation to damage Biden in his run against Trump this fall.

Similarly, the 2020 and 2016 elections featured substantial and persistent interventions by Russian intelligence to help get and keep Trump elected. One of the first things Trump did when he became president in 2017 was to invite the Russian Foreign Minister and their ambassador to the US for a secret meeting in the White House, where he gave them a spy we and Israel ran in Syria.

He had dozens of private phone conversations with Putin while in the White House, for which no meaningful records exist, and at Helsinki took Putin’s side against American intelligence to lie about Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

He stole thousands of top-secret (and above) classified documents from the White House, transported them to Florida, and stored them in publicly-accessible locations at Mar-a-Lago. It’s the perfect way to hand off intelligence to agents of foreign governments without getting caught.

He lied to both the National Archives, the FBI, and the American people about them. And now apparently many are missing.

Did Trump sell them already? Does he now have an overseas account with the hundreds of millions he’ll need to pay off his judgements? Or is he planning to sell documents that the FBI hasn’t yet found?

Prosecutors say that roughly 48,000 people visited Mar-a-Lago between the time in 2021 when Trump brought those documents from Washington to Florida and May 2022, when the FBI finally recovered as many as they could find. Of those people, only 2,200 had any sort of identity verification done, and only 2,900 passed through magnetometers that may have detected spying or photographing equipment.

For example, a female Chinese national, Yujing Zhang, flew into the US and went to Mar-a-Lago.

When she was finally caught by the Secret Service (after having her photo taken with Trump the day before on his golf course), they discovered on her person four mobile phones, a laptop, an external hard drive, and a thumb drive that was later discovered to contain spyware. There were, back in her hotel room, an additional 9 USB drives, five SIM cards for burner phones, and a bug-tracking device that could identify hidden cameras and microphones.

She claims she’s just a tourist and is now back in China; nobody knows how much time she spent in any of the many publicly-available rooms where Trump had stored our nation’s most sensitive and secret documents, including those involving nuclear war and spying on Russia and China.

And there was the notorious Russian-speaking Ukrainian woman, Inna Yashchyshyn, who went by the pseudonym Anna de Rothschild (complete with fake passport) to gain entrance to Mar-a-Lago. She was photographed on the golf course with Trump and Lindsay Graham, before spending hours wandering around Mar-a-Lago doing nobody-knows-what.

As former CIA director John Brennan said:

“I’m sure Mar-a-Lago was being targeted by Russian intelligence and other intelligence services over the course of the last 18 or 20 months, and if they were able to get individuals into that facility, and access those rooms where those documents were and made copies of those documents, that’s what they would do.”

Most likely “Anna” and Yujing Zhang were among the least competent of the spies who visited Mar-a-Lago. The good ones we’ll probably never know about.

For example, because Trump thinks it’s “upper class” to have people working at his resort who have “European” accents, the bug-infested resort hired scores of young people from European countries, typically paying them between $11 and $12 an hour.

That would present another great opportunity for foreign governments to get their people installed there in ways that would give them plenty of time to peruse the secret documents Trump was keeping out in the open.

Most concerning, though, is a 10-inch-thick binder of raw intelligence and assessments of Russia’s efforts to help Trump become president in 2016, which included reports and details from American spies in Moscow. The binder is missing, and multiple American spies and people working for US intelligence have been murdered.

March 1

 

djt indicted proof

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’s Legal Troubles: Judge Holds Off on Timing of Trump Classified Documents Trial, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Eileen Sullivan, March 1, 2024. The judge previously indicated she would push back the proceeding from the planned May start. Prosecutors want to begin in July, and Donald Trump in August.

A federal judge in Florida held a hearing on Friday to consider a new date for former President Donald J. Trump’s trial on charges of mishandling classified documents, but made no immediate decision about a choice that could have major consequences for both his legal and political future.

aileen cannonFour months ago, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, right, declared she was inclined to make some “reasonable adjustments” to the timing of the classified documents trial, which was originally scheduled to start on May 20 in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla. But by holding off on making a decision at the hearing on Friday, Judge Cannon further delayed resolving the question of how long the trial would be postponed.

In all of Mr. Trump’s criminal cases, the issue of timing has been paramount in a way that is unusual for most prosecutions. He is facing four separate indictments in four different cities, and proceedings have to be scheduled in relation to each other and against the busy backdrop of his presidential campaign.

Justice Department log circularThe daylong hearing in Fort Pierce reflected those intersecting complications as federal prosecutors and Mr. Trump’s lawyers sparred not only over the thorny legal issues involved in the case, but also over the separate complexities of taking Mr. Trump to trial as he runs for office and juggles his crowded legal calendar.

The former president attended the proceeding, appearing almost cheerful in a way that he has not during visits to other courtrooms. Jack Smith, the special counsel who has twice indicted Mr. Trump on federal charges, was also in attendance and the two men shot fleeting glances at one another, at one point appearing to lock eyes.

At Judge Cannon’s request, Mr. Trump’s lawyers and Mr. Smith’s prosecutors had sent her competing proposals about when the trial should begin on the night before the hearing was held.

The prosecutors, hewing to their long-held position of trying to conduct the trial before Election Day, had requested a date of July 8. But Mr. Trump’s legal team made an odd, double-barreled request, arguing that he could not get a fair trial until after the election but also suggesting a start date of Aug. 12, almost three months before voters would go to the polls.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers used a similar split-screen argument at the hearing itself, saying on the one hand that they could live with a trial date in August, but arguing on the other that trying Mr. Trump in the months before November was “completely unfair” to him and “the American people.”

But one of the prosecutors, Jay I. Bratt, referred to the defense’s proposed schedule as “fake dates” that were offered in “almost bad faith.” Mr. Bratt suggested that the defense’s true intention was to simply get a trial date on the books and then ask for further adjournments down the road.

Under questioning from Judge Cannon, Mr. Bratt, for the first time, publicly asserted that if a trial was conducted in September and October, the government would not be violating a Justice Department policy against holding proceedings too close to an election — a provision known as the “60-day rule.” He said that the policy forbade prosecutors from bringing new charges in the run-up to an election, but did not stop them from prosecuting an indictment that had already been filed.

On occasion during the hearing, Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump and has been on the bench for less than four years, seemed a bit uncomfortable with the arcane legal process for handling the highly classified materials at the heart of the case.

At one point, Mr. Bratt explained to her that the defense lawyers, in their proposed schedule, had unnecessarily requested a hearing to determine the “sufficiency” of a set of court papers they are poised to file that will detail the precise classified information they intend to present at trial.

“That’s not a thing,” he said.

At another point, Judge Cannon asked a second prosecutor, David Harbach, when the government intended to publish its list of trial witnesses. Generally, in high-profile or sensitive cases, witness lists are submitted under seal and remain out of view until a trial takes place.

Mr. Smith, in particular, seemed shocked by the question and sat up stiffly in the well of the courtroom, his eyes gone wide in apparent incredulity.

 

fulton county jail

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyer Argues ‘Appearance of Impropriety’ Is Enough to Disqualify Prosecutor, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, March 1, 2024. Lawyers for Donald Trump summed up their arguments about whether Fani Willis has a conflict of interest and should be disqualified from the Georgia case.

A judge in the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump heard final arguments on Friday on a motion to disqualify the prosecutor who brought the case, Fani T. Willis, on the ground that a romantic relationship she had with a subordinate created a conflict of interest.

michael romanWith a historic criminal case against a former president on the line, lawyers for Mr. Trump and his co-defendants took turns assailing Ms. Willis. John B. Merchant III, who represents the defendant Michael Roman, right, said that if the court finds the prosecutors’ romance did not create a conflict of interest, “public confidence in the system will be shot.”

But Adam Abbate, a prosecutor in Ms. Willis’s office, called the defense’s effort to disqualify Ms. Willis “a desperate attempt to remove a prosecutor from a case for absolutely no reason, other than harassment and embarrassment.”

georgia mapDefense lawyers on Friday repeatedly asserted that the bar for disqualification should be relatively low, arguing that even the appearance of a conflict of interest should lead to Ms. Willis’s removal from the case because her actions had undermined public confidence in it. The question of whether the defense needs to show an actual conflict or just an appearance of one could prove pivotal.

“We can demonstrate an appearance of a conflict of interest, and that is sufficient,” Mr. Merchant told the judge, Scott McAfee Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, right (Photo via Superior Court of Fulton County).of Fulton County Superior Court, right.

Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Steven H. Sadow, picked up the theme in his own remarks, arguing that “once you have the appearance of impropriety,” the law in Georgia is clear: “That’s enough to disqualify.”

Mr. Sadow focused his comments on a speech Ms. Willis made in January at a Black church in Atlanta, calling her remarks a “violation of professional rules of conduct.” Her speech, at Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, came shortly after the conflict-of-interest motion was filed.

Ms. Willis, who is Black, suggested in the speech that the scrutiny of her romantic relationship with the prosecutor she hired to run the Trump case, Nathan Wade, was racist. Some of those comments she described as part of a conversation she had with God.

 

February 2024

Feb. 28

 

djt biden resized smiles

Hopium Chronicles, U.S. Political Commentary: Biden Breaks 80% in Michigan, Trump Continues To Struggle, Simon Rosenberg, right, Feb. 28, 2024 simon rosenberg twitterMarianne Williamson, who dropped out a month ago, beat Dean Phillips last night!

In Michigan, Biden Keeps Cruising, Trump Continues To Struggle - In my post yesterday, I argued that the opposition to Biden’s foreign policy inside the Democratic Party was very limited, but intense. And that’s what we saw last night. Biden broke 80%, and for all the hype Uncommitted got to a very modest 13%, just 2 points higher than Uncommitted got against Obama in 2012. Biden is very popular in the Democratic Party, and the opposition he has is very narrow and limited. But it’s there, and Biden world has work to do to bring everyone along, as all campaigns do. It’s doable work in my view, the work we have to do, well within the normal debates and dissensions that happen in these very large, big-tent parties we have in America. (Continued below).

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices set oral argument for week of April 20 on whether Donald Trump can be criminally prosecuted for acts he took while president, Ann E. Marimow, Feb. 28, 2024. The Supreme Court will review Donald Trump’s unprecedented claim that he is shielded from prosecution for actions taken while in office, further delaying the former president’s D.C. trial on charges of conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to remain in power.

The justices set argument for the week of April 22 to consider a unanimous ruling from a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that rejected Trump’s sweeping assertion of immunity from prosecution.

Trump’s pretrial proceedings in D.C. will remain on hold until a ruling is issued, putting the Supreme Court in the politically fraught position of influencing the timing of a federal election-obstruction trial for the leading Republican presidential candidate.

The brief unsigned order issued Wednesday said the justices were not “expressing a view on the merits” of the case and would consider only the question of whether and to what extent a former president has "immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.

djt indicted proof

Trump faces four felony counts brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith in connection with what prosecutors allege was a plan to overturn Biden’s 2020 presidential victory: conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to obstruct the formal certification in Congress of President Biden’s victory, obstructing a congressional proceeding and conspiracy against rights — in this case, the right to vote.

He challenged the indictment, saying former presidents are immune from prosecution, at least for actions related to their official duties, unless first impeached and convicted by Congress. On Feb. 6, the D.C. Circuit delivered a forceful rebuke of that novel argument.

“We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a president has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results,” wrote the three judges, two nominated by Biden and the third by President George H.W. Bush.

Trump asked the Supreme Court to put the appeals court ruling on pause and give him time to seek rehearing by a full complement of D.C. Circuit judges. His lawyers argued that he should not be sidelined from the campaign trail by a months-long criminal trial, and said voters have the right to hear from Trump on the stump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He Might Have to Sell Properties to Pay $454 Million Penalty, Ben Protess and Kate Christobek, Feb. 28, 2024. Former President Trump, who is appealing the penalty in his civil fraud case, offered a bond of only $100 million to pause the judgment.

ICE logoDonald J. Trump offered a New York appeals court on Wednesday a bond of only $100 million to pause the more than $450 million judgment he faces in his civil fraud case, saying that he might need to sell some of his properties unless he gets relief.

It was a stunning acknowledgment that Mr. Trump, who is racing the clock to either secure a bond from a company or produce the full amount himself, lacks the resources to do so. Without a bond, the New York attorney general’s office, which brought the fraud case, could seek to collect from Mr. Trump at any moment.

djt maga hatIn a filing with the appeals court, Mr. Trump’s lawyers also asked to delay a wide range of other punishments that the trial judge in the fraud case, Arthur F. Engoron, levied in a decision this month. They include a prohibition on obtaining a loan from a New York bank for three years and a ban on running a company in the state during that same period.

One appellate court judge was hearing the request from Mr. Trump on Wednesday afternoon and was expected to issue a decision by the end of the day. If the judge were to grant the pause, it would be only