Aftermath of the Trump Administration, June 2024

 

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Sunday, 2 June 2024:

 

A Felon in the Oval Office Would Test the American System. The system of checks and balances established in the Constitution was meant to hold wayward presidents accountable, but some wonder how it will work if the next president is already a felon. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Sunday, 2 June 2024: “The revolutionary hero Patrick Henry knew this day would come. He might not have anticipated all the particulars, such as the porn actress in the hotel room and the illicit payoff to keep her quiet. But he feared that eventually a criminal might occupy the presidency and use his powers to thwart anyone who sought to hold him accountable. ‘Away with your president,’ he declared, ‘we shall have a king.’ That was exactly what the founders sought to avoid, having thrown off the yoke of an all-powerful monarch. But as hard as they worked to establish checks and balances, the system they constructed to hold wayward presidents accountable ultimately has proved to be unsteady. Whatever rules Americans thought were in place are now being rewritten by Donald J. Trump, the once and perhaps future president who has already shattered many barriers and precedents. The notion that 34 felonies is not automatically disqualifying and a convicted criminal can be a viable candidate for commander in chief upends two and a half centuries of assumptions about American democracy. And it raises fundamental questions about the limits of power in a second term, should Mr. Trump be returned to office. If he wins, it means he will have survived two impeachments, four criminal indictments, civil judgments for sexual abuse and business fraud, and a felony conviction. Given that, it would be hard to imagine what institutional deterrents could discourage abuses or excesses. Moreover, the judiciary may not be the check on the executive branch that it has been in the past. If no other cases go to trial before the election, it could be another four years before the courts could even consider whether the newly elected president jeopardized national security or illegally sought to overturn the 2020 election, as he has been charged with doing. As it is, even before the election, the Supreme Court may grant Mr. Trump at least some measure of immunity. Mr. Trump would still have to operate within the constitutional system, analysts point out, but he has already shown a willingness to push its boundaries. When he was president, he claimed that the Constitution gave him ‘the right to do whatever I want.’ After leaving office, he advocated ‘termination’ of the Constitution to allow him to return to power right away without another election and vowed to dedicate a second term to ‘retribution.'”

Revenge: analysis of Trump posts shows relentless focus on punishing enemies. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington documents the former president’s threats against perceived political opponents. The Guardian, David Smith, Sunday, 2 June 2024: “A major study of Donald Trump’s social media posts has revealed the scale of the former US president’s ambitions to target Joe Biden, judges and other perceived political enemies if he returns to power. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew), a watchdog organisation, analysed more than 13,000 messages published by Trump on his Truth Social platform and found him vowing revenge, retaliation and retribution against his foes.”

 

Monday, 3 June 2024:

 

Multiple Trump Witnesses Have Received Significant Financial Benefits From His Businesses and Campaign. Witnesses in the various criminal cases against the former president have gotten pay raises, new jobs, and more. If any benefits were intended to influence testimony, that could be a crime. ProPublica, Robert Faturechi, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski, Monday, 3 June 2024: “Nine witnesses in the criminal cases against former President Donald Trump have received significant financial benefits, including large raises from his campaign, severance packages, new jobs, and a grant of shares and cash from Trump’s media company. The benefits have flowed from Trump’s businesses and campaign committees, according to a ProPublica analysis of public disclosures, court records and securities filings. One campaign aide had his average monthly pay double, from $26,000 to $53,500. Another employee got a $2 million severance package barring him from voluntarily cooperating with law enforcement. And one of the campaign’s top officials had her daughter hired onto the campaign staff, where she is now the fourth-highest-paid employee. These pay increases and other benefits often came at delicate moments in the legal proceedings against Trump. One aide who was given a plum position on the board of Trump’s social media company, for example, got the seat after he was subpoenaed but before he testified. Significant changes to a staffer’s work situation, such as bonuses, pay raises, firings or promotions, can be evidence of a crime if they come outside the normal course of business. To prove witness tampering, prosecutors would need to show that perks or punishments were intended to influence testimony. White-collar defense lawyers say the situation Trump finds himself in — in the dual role of defendant and boss of many of the people who are the primary witnesses to his alleged crimes — is not uncommon. Their standard advice is not to provide any unusual benefits or penalties to such employees. Ideally, decisions about employees slated to give evidence should be made by an independent body such as a board, not the boss who is under investigation.”

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Aftermath of the Trump Administration, May 2024

 

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For a newsletter about the history behind today’s politics, subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter, Letters from an American.

 

Wednesday, 1 May 2024:

 

Trump, Repeating 2020 Election Lies, Will Not Commit to Accepting 2024 Results, The New York Times, Michael Gold and Chris Cameron, Wednesday, 1 May 2024: “Former President Donald J. Trump told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday that he would not commit to accepting the results of the 2024 election, as he again repeated his lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him. ‘If everything’s honest, I’ll gladly accept the results. I don’t change on that,’ Mr. Trump said, according to The Journal Sentinel. ‘If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.’ In an interview with Time magazine published on Tuesday, he also dismissed questions about political violence in November by suggesting that his victory was inevitable. When pressed about what might happen should he lose, he said, ‘if we don’t win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election.’ Mr. Trump’s insistent and fraudulent claims that the 2020 election was unfair were at the heart of his efforts to overturn his loss to President Biden, and to the violent storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by a mob of supporters who believed his claims. Mr. Trump now faces dozens of felony charges in connection with those events.”

 

Thursday, 2 May 2024:

 

Jury Hears Tape of Trump and Michael Cohen Discussing Hush-Money Deal. The tape, played at the former president’s criminal trial, captured Michael Cohen telling Donald Trump about a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich and Jesse McKinley, Thursday, 2 May 2024: “Two voices reverberated in the courtroom. The first was loud, deep and unctuous, the second was casual — until money came up. They were discussing a deal made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence a woman who claimed to have had an extramarital affair with the Republican candidate. The first voice on the recording belonged to Michael D. Cohen, a former personal lawyer and fixer for Donald J. Trump. The second was the candidate himself, Mr. Trump, who on Thursday sat mutely as jurors heard his words. The Manhattan district attorney’s office used the tape, surreptitiously made by Mr. Cohen, to bring the trial’s two main characters together for the first time. The recording vividly captured how Mr. Cohen reported details of a key transaction to his then boss. On it, Mr. Cohen discusses a hush-money deal that the parent company of The National Enquirer made on Mr. Trump’s behalf with the former Playboy model Karen McDougal, as well as the question of how to deal with ‘the financing’ — that is, repaying — the supermarket tabloid’s publisher, David Pecker. ‘What financing?” Mr. Trump asked, suddenly snapping to attention. He then directed Mr. Cohen to ‘pay with cash.’ (Mr. Pecker, the jurors already know, was never repaid.) The existence of the recording, made by Mr. Cohen about two months before the election, was previously known. But it demonstrated for the jury the direct involvement of the future president in what prosecutors have said was a conspiracy to help him get elected.” See also, At Trump’s Trial, a Decade’s Worth of Celebrity Sleaze Is Exhumed. Donald Trump’s lawyers tried to paint Keith Davidson, the man who helped broker a hush-money payment for Stormy Daniels, as a specialist in extracting money from the famous. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Jonah E. Bromwich, Thursday, 2 May 2024: “An attempt to shake down the actor Charlie Sheen. Rumors that the Hollywood star Lindsay Lohan was in rehab. A lawsuit by Hulk Hogan, the former pro wrestler, against the gossip website Gawker for publishing a tape of him having sex. Testimony on Thursday at former President Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan dove deeply into the celebrity-obsessed digital media environment of the past fifteen years or so that helped fuel Mr. Trump’s rise to political prominence. The lurid tales were introduced to the jury largely through the witness Keith Davidson, a Los Angeles lawyer who specialized in getting money for clients who had dirt on famous people. In his testimony, particularly as he was cross-examined, Mr. Davidson and a defense lawyer, Emil Bove, together led the jurors on a whirlwind tour of several gossipy and tawdry deals he had a hand in…. The purpose of Mr. Bove’s interrogation appeared to be to suggest to the jury that Ms. McDougal and Ms. Daniels may have sought to extract their own payments from Mr. Trump. But making that point required Mr. Bove to drag Mr. Davidson through some old patches of mud.” See also, Live Coverage Including Five Takeaways: Jurors Hear Tape of Trump Discussing Deal With Playboy Model Karen McDougal. The recording, secretly made by Donald Trump’s longtime fixer, Michael Cohen, came at the end of a day of testimony detailing a separate hush-money deal with the porn star Stormy Daniels. The New York Times, Thursday, 2 May 2024. See also, Trump Hush Money Trial: Trump defense suggests he was shakedown target, not hush money schemer. During contentious questioning of Stormy Daniels lawyer Keith Davidson, Donald Trump’s lawyers portray their client as the victim in the case. The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Shayna Jacobs, and Mark Berman, Thursday, 2 May 2024: “Donald Trump’s defense team suggested Thursday that rather than orchestrating a hush money scheme, the former president was really the target of a shakedown attempt by unscrupulous entertainment figures who saw his 2016 presidential campaign as an opportunity for a quick payday. In the most contentious testimony yet in the criminal trial, Los Angeles lawyer Keith Davidson denied accusations that he flirted with extortion when he negotiated settlements with celebrities to keep potentially damaging stories out of the public eye. By accusing him, Trump’s lawyers displayed a key element of their defense strategy: getting jurors to focus on the lawyers and middlemen who negotiated hush money payments on Trump’s behalf in 2016, rather than the politician who — according to prosecutors — orchestrated the payments and allegedly falsified paperwork about one of them to try to separate it from his presidential campaign. The jury also heard a secretly recorded phone conversation between Davidson and Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which Cohen claimed Trump told him, ‘I hate the fact that we did it,’ in reference to the hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.” See also, Trump Trial takeaways: ‘When in doubt, steer clear.’ Donald Trump’s lawyers used tabloid stories to portray their client as a victim and argued he should be able to respond to political jokes against him. The Washington Post, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, Thursday, 2 May 2024: “Another day in Manhattan criminal court, with much more testimony about the messy, shady world of celebrities and tabloid media. But unlike the last week and a half, Donald Trump’s legal team tried to use the tabloid stories Thursday to go on offense, rather than play defense against the prosecutor’s allegations.” See also, Live coverage: Stormy Daniels’s lawyer completes testimony in Trump’s hush money trial, The Washington Post, 6 Live coverage contributors, Thursday, 2 May 2024. See also, Highlights from day 10 of the Trump hush money trial, Associated Press, Thursday, 2 May 2024.

 

Friday, 3 May 2024:

 

Hope Hicks Takes the Stand: 5 Takeaways From Trump’s Criminal Trial. In a riveted courtroom, Ms. Hicks, the former spokeswoman for Donald Trump, testified how she and her former boss managed one scandal after another. The New York Times, Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek, Friday, 3 May 2024: “Gasps were heard in the overflow courtroom when Hope Hicks was called as a witness on Friday in Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, an audible sign of the anticipation as Mr. Trump’s former press secretary and White House communications director took the stand. Her testimony ended the trial’s third week in dramatic fashion. In nearly three hours on the stand, Ms. Hicks described the impact on Mr. Trump’s campaign of the so-called ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, in which Mr. Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals. As soon as the tape was disclosed in October 2016, Ms. Hicks said, she knew it would be ‘a massive story.’ Taking the stand under a subpoena, Ms. Hicks said she was nervous, and at one point, early in the cross-examination, she broke down in tears.” See also, Live Coverage of Trump Trial: Hope Hicks Delivers Emotionally Gripping Testimony Before Trial Adjourns for Weekend, The New York Times, Friday, 3 May 2024: “The former Trump spokeswoman testified about his 2016 campaign’s damage-control efforts after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which the candidate spoke of groping women, became public. Prosecutors say it made Mr. Trump’s aides more eager to quash damaging stories, like Stormy Daniels’s account of an affair.” See also, Live coverage of Trump Hush Money Trial: Hope Hicks testimony ends; Trump hush money trial concludes for the week, The Washington Post, 6 Live coverage contributors, Friday, 3 May 2024: “Hope Hicks, a former top aide to then-President Donald Trump, ended her testimony Friday in his New York criminal trial for allegedly falsifying records related to a hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. Hicks said she was stunned by the ‘Access Hollywood’ video revealed by The Washington Post in 2016 and worried about what Trump’s recorded comments about grabbing women’s genitalia could mean for his campaign.”

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Aftermath of the Trump Administration, April 2024

 

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For a newsletter about the history behind today’s politics, subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter, Letters from an American.

 

Monday, 1 April 2024:

 

Gag Order Against Trump Is Expanded to Bar Attacks on Judge’s Family. Donald Trump had in recent days targeted the daughter of Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing his criminal trial in Manhattan, in blistering social media posts. The New York Times, Jesse McKinley, Ben Protess, and William K. Rashbaum, Monday, 1 April 2024: “The New York judge overseeing Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial later this month expanded a gag order on Monday to bar the former president from attacking the judge’s family members, who in recent days have become the target of Mr. Trump’s abuse. Justice Juan M. Merchan last week issued an order prohibiting Mr. Trump from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff, as well as their relatives. That order, however, did not cover Justice Merchan himself or the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, who brought the criminal case against the former president. And although the ruling issued on Monday still does not apply to the judge or the district attorney, Justice Merchan, granting a request from Mr. Bragg’s office, amended the gag order so that it does now cover their families. In his ruling, the judge cited recent attacks against his daughter, and rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that his statements were ‘core political speech.’ ‘This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,’ Justice Merchan wrote. ‘It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings, that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game’ for defendant’s vitriol.’ Mr. Bragg’s office had asked the judge to clarify that their relatives were included, calling such protection ‘amply warranted.’ Noting Mr. Trump’s track record of issuing ‘threatening and alarming remarks,’ Mr. Bragg’s office warned of ‘the harms that those family members have suffered.’” See also, Trump ramps up attacks on judges, sparking concerns as criminal trial nears. The judge overseeing the criminal trial that will start April 15 issued an expanded gag order late Monday in response to some of the former president’s rhetoric. The Washington Post, Marianne LeVine, Clara Ence Morse, and Shayna Jacobs, Monday, 1 April 2024: “Former president Donald Trump is ramping up efforts to disparage judges overseeing his criminal and civil cases — reprising a long-standing strategy as a high-profile trial draws near and prompting growing concerns from legal experts and an an expanded gag order late Monday. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s approach, part of a broader election-year attempt to portray the judicial system as weaponized against him, was evident in a slew of attacks over the weekend. Such broadsides, which Trump has often lobbed without evidence for his claims, have raised worries about the safety of judges and threaten to undermine faith in the court system, some legal experts said Monday. Trump’s personal attacks against the daughter of the New York judge overseeing a hush money case prompted the judge to expand an existing gag order to include his family and the district attorney’s family.” See also, Judge expands gag order in Trump hush money case to include family members of the court, CNN Politics, Kara Scannell, Lauren del Valle, and Jeremy Herb, Monday, 1 April 2024: “The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial expanded a recently imposed gag order to include family members of the court and family members of the Manhattan district attorney, according to a late Monday ruling. In the ruling, which comes after Trump leveled comments against Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter in recent days, the judge issued a warning that Trump’s rhetoric threatens to instill fear in those who might be involved in the proceedings for their loved ones. ‘The average observer, must now, after hearing defendant’s recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well,’ Merchan wrote. ‘Such concerns will undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself.’ ‘It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings. The threat is very real. Admonitions are not enough, nor is reliance on self-restraint,’ he said.”

Trump Gets Bond Deal to Ward Off $454 Million Judgment, for Now. The guarantee means that New York’s attorney general will not be able to pursue Donald Trump’s assets and bank accounts until Mr. Trump’s appeals are settled. The New York Times, Ben Protess, Monday, 1 April 2024: “Former President Donald J. Trump averted a financial disaster on Monday, reaching a deal that will spare him from paying a $454 million judgment in his civil fraud case while he appeals the penalty. The lifeline came in the form of a bond that will prevent New York’s attorney general, who brought the lawsuit that led to the judgment, from collecting the $454 million until Mr. Trump’s appeal is resolved. The attorney general, Letitia James, accused Mr. Trump of fraudulently inflating his net worth by as much as $2 billion, and a judge ruled in her favor. Mr. Trump secured the bond after an appeals court last week granted his request to lower the bond amount, setting it at $175 million and staving off a financial crisis for Mr. Trump. He otherwise would have had to post a bond for the full $454 million, which his lawyers declared a ‘practical impossibility.’ Had he failed to do so, Ms. James could have frozen his bank accounts.” See also, Trump posts $175M bond to keep New York authorities from seizing his property, The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Monday, 1 April 2024: “Donald Trump posted a $175 million bond on Monday to prevent New York authorities from seizing his assets, including properties such as Trump Tower, pending appeal of a civil fraud judgment against him of nearly a half-billion dollars. The former president’s posting of the bond was necessary to keep New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) from initiating legal steps to take over his properties. The bond arrangement was made with Knight Specialty Insurance Company, according to a court document. After a 10-week trial late last year, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron found Trump, the Trump Organization, Trump’s adult sons and two former executives liable in February for using illegal tactics to knowingly cheat business partners to increase the company’s profits and savings.” See also, Donald Trump has posted a $175 million bond to avert asset seizure as he appeals New York fraud penalty, Associated Press, Michael R. Sisak and Jennifer Peltz, Monday, 1 April 2024: “Donald Trump posted a $175 million bond on Monday in his New York civil fraud case, halting collection of the more than $454 million he owes and preventing the state from seizing his assets to satisfy the debt while he appeals, according to a court filing. A New York appellate court had given the former president 10 days to put up the money after a panel of judges agreed last month to slash the amount needed to stop the clock on enforcement. The bond Trump is posting with the court now is essentially a placeholder, meant to guarantee payment if the judgment is upheld. If that happens, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will have to pay the state the whole sum, which grows with daily interest. If Trump wins, he won’t have to pay the state anything and will get back the money he has put up now.”

The Church of Trump: How He’s Infusing Christianity Into His Movement. 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. The New York Times, Michael C. Bender, Monday, 1 April 2024: “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. In 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.’ The 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. Mr. 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.”

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Aftermath of the Trump Administration, March 2024

 

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For a newsletter about the history behind today’s politics, subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter, Letters from an American.

 

Friday, 1 March 2024:

 

Judge Aileen Cannon Makes No Immediate Decision on Timing of Trump Classified Documents Trial. Cannon previously indicated that she would push back the start of the proceeding from the initially planned date in May. Prosecutors want to begin in July, and the former president in August. The New York Times, Anan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 1 March 2024: “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. Four months ago, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, 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.” 

 

Saturday, 2 March 2024:

 

Times/Siena Poll Finds Voters Doubt Biden’s Leadership and Favor Trump. The share of voters who strongly disapprove of President Biden’s handling of his job has reached 47 percent, higher than in Times/Siena polls at any point in his presidency. The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher, Saturday, 2 March 2024: “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. With 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 thinks 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.”

 

Monday, 4 March 2024:

 

Trump Prevails in Supreme Court Challenge to His Eligibility. The justices ruled that the 14th Amendment did not allow Colorado to bar the former president from the state’s primary ballot. The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 4 March 2024: “The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that states may not bar former President Donald J. Trump from running for another term, rejecting a challenge from Colorado to his eligibility that threatened to upend the presidential race by taking him off ballots around the nation. Though the justices provided different reasons, the decision’s bottom line was unanimous. All the opinions focused on legal issues, and none took a position on whether Mr. Trump had engaged in insurrection, as Colorado courts had found. All the justices agreed that individual states may not bar candidates for the presidency under a constitutional provision, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, that prohibits insurrectionists from holding office. Four justices would have left it at that, with the court’s three liberal members expressing dismay at what they said was the stunning sweep of the majority’s approach. But the five-justice majority, in an unsigned opinion answering questions not directly before the court, ruled that Congress must act to give Section 3 force. ‘The Constitution makes Congress, rather than the states, responsible for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates,’ the majority wrote, adding that detailed federal legislation was required to determine who was disqualified under the provision. The decision was produced on a rushed schedule, landing the day before the Super Tuesday primaries in Colorado and around the nation. In a series of unusual moves, the court did not announce that it would issue an opinion until Sunday and did not take the bench to do so on Monday, instead simply posting the decision on its website. The decision was the court’s most important ruling concerning a presidential election since George W. Bush prevailed in Bush v. Gore in 2000.” See also, Highlights of the Supreme Court’s Opinions on Trump’s Ballot Eligibility. The main opinion was a joint ruling that was not signed by any particular justice. None of the opinions addressed whether Donald Trump engaged in insurrection. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Monday, 4 March 2024. See also, Supreme Court rejects Colorado ruling and keeps Trump on the ballot nationwide. While the decision was unanimous, the liberal justices wrote a sharp concurrence that accused the conservative majority of going further  than needed. The Washington Post, Ann E. Marimow, Monday, 4 March 2024: “The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously sided with former president Donald Trump, allowing the 2024 Republican presidential front-runner to remain on the election ballot and reversing a Colorado ruling that disqualified him from returning to office because of his conduct around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The justices said the Constitution does not permit a single state to disqualify a presidential candidate from national office. The court warned of disruption and a chaotic state-by-state patchwork if a candidate for nationwide office could be declared ineligible in some states, but not others, based on the same conduct…. The court’s decision to keep Trump on the ballot applies to other states with similar challenges to his candidacy and, for now, removes the Supreme Court from directly determining the path of the 2024 presidential election. While the decision was unanimous, the court’s three liberal justices also wrote separately, saying the conservative majority went too far and decided an issue that was not before the court in an attempt to ‘insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding office.’… The justices drew a clear distinction between state and national elections, writing that ‘States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency.’ Five of the six conservative justices then went further, writing that the disqualification clause can be enforced for national office only through federal legislation — not a federal court challenge or nonlegislative action by Congress. ‘Responsibility for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates rests with Congress and not the States,”’the majority said.” See also, 4 takeaways from the Supreme Court’s ruling on Trump and the 14th Amendment, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Monday, 4 March 2024. See also, Supreme Court restores Trump to ballot, rejecting state attempts to ban him over Capitol attack, Associated Press, Mark Sherman, Monday, 4 March 2024: “The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously restored Donald Trump to 2024 presidential primary ballots, rejecting state attempts to ban the Republican former president over the Capitol riot. The justices ruled a day before the Super Tuesday primaries that states cannot invoke a post-Civil War constitutional provision to keep presidential candidates from appearing on ballots. That power resides with Congress, the court wrote in an unsigned opinion.”

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Aftermath of the Trump Administration, February 2024

 

For independent global news, visit Democracy Now!

For a newsletter about the history behind today’s politics, subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter, Letters from an American.

 

Thursday, 1 February 2024:

 

Special counsel Jack Smith questioned witnesses about 2 rooms FBI didn’t search inside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Sources said the FBI missed the rooms in their search for classified documents. ABC News, Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin, Thursday, 1 February 2024: “Special counsel Jack Smith’s team has questioned several witnesses about a closet and a so-called ‘hidden room’ inside former President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago that the FBI didn’t check while searching the estate in August 2022, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. As described to ABC News, the line of questioning in several interviews ahead of Trump’s indictment last year on classified document charges suggests that — long after the FBI seized dozens of boxes and more than 100 documents marked classified from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate — Smith’s team was trying to determine if there might still be more classified documents there. According to sources, some investigators involved in the case came to later believe that the closet, which was locked on the day of the search, should have been opened and checked. As investigators would later learn, Trump allegedly had the closet’s lock changed while his attorney was in Mar-a-Lago’s basement, searching for classified documents in a storage room that he was told would have all such documents. Trump’s alleged efforts to conceal classified documents from both the FBI and his own attorney are a key part of Smith’s indictment against Trump in Florida.”

Allen H. Weisselberg, Trump’s Former Finance Chief, Is in Negotiations to Plead Guilty to Perjury. Weisselberg would admit to lying on the stand during the former president’s civil fraud trial, according to people familiar with the talks. The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich, and Ben Protess, Thursday, 1 February 2024: “Allen H. Weisselberg, a longtime lieutenant to Donald J. Trump, is negotiating a deal with Manhattan prosecutors that would require him to plead guilty to perjury, people with knowledge of the matter said. As part of the potential agreement with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Mr. Weisselberg would have to admit that he lied on the witness stand in Mr. Trump’s recent civil fraud trial, the people said. Mr. Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer at Mr. Trump’s family business, also would have to say that he lied under oath during an interview with the New York attorney general’s office, which brought the civil fraud case.”

 

Friday, 2 February 2024:

 

Fani Willis, Prosecutor in Trump Georgia Case, Admits Relationship With Colleague. Willis said her relationship with Nathan Wade did not begin until after she hired him and argued that it should not disqualify her. The New York Times, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Friday, 2 February 2024: “Fani T. Willis, the district attorney prosecuting the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump, acknowledged on Friday a ‘personal relationship’ with a prosecutor she hired to manage the case but argued that it was not a reason to disqualify her or her office from it. The admission came almost a month after allegations of an ‘improper, clandestine personal relationship’ between the two surfaced in a motion from one of Mr. Trump’s co-defendants. The motion seeks to disqualify both prosecutors and Ms. Willis’s entire office from handling the case — an effort that, if successful, would likely sow chaos for an unprecedented racketeering prosecution of a former president. ‘While the allegations raised in the various motions are salacious and garnered the media attention they were designed to obtain, none provide this Court with any basis upon which to order the relief they seek,’ Ms. Willis’s filing said, adding that her relationship with the prosecutor, Nathan J. Wade, ‘has never involved direct or indirect financial benefit’ to Ms. Willis. The filing included an affidavit from Mr. Wade asserting that the relationship started only after Mr. Wade had been hired.” See also, Fani Willis admits relationship with prosecutor on Trump Georgia case, The Washington Post, Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner, Friday, 2 February 2024: “Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) acknowledged that she had a personal relationship with an outside prosecutor she appointed to manage the election interference case against former president Donald Trump and his allies. But she denied claims that the relationship had tainted the proceedings. In a 176-page court filing on Friday, Willis called the claims against her ‘meritless’ and ‘salacious.’ She asked a judge to reject motions from Trump and other co-defendants that seek to disqualify her and her office from the case — and to do so without an evidentiary hearing. Willis denied claims of misconduct and said there was no evidence that the relationship between her and special prosecutor Nathan Wade had prejudiced the case. The filing included a sworn affidavit from Wade, who said there was ‘no personal relationship’ between him and Willis ‘prior to or at the time’ he was appointed. Wade’s affidavit said that in 2022 he and Willis ‘developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship.’ The filing did not say whether that personal relationship is ongoing. Wade also denied that his role had financially benefited Willis. Mike Roman, the Trump co-defendant who first leveled allegations of misconduct, accused Wade of paying for ‘lavish’ vacations with Willis. Wade said in his affidavit that the two had split travel expenses ‘equally.’ An attached exhibit includes receipts for airline tickets for a trip to Miami in December 2022 that Willis bought for herself and Wade.”

Judge Tanya Chutkan Scraps 4 March Trial Date for Trump Election Subversion Case. Chutkan removed the planned 4 March start from her calendar, formalizing a delay that had become increasingly likely in recent weeks. It remains unclear when the trial might start. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Friday, 2 February 2024: “The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election issued an order on Friday scrapping the March 4 trial date for the case. The order by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan was a formal confirmation of what had seemed fairly obvious for weeks. It came after she had made a series of hints that she was going to delay the trial as Mr. Trump pursues an effort to have the underlying charges tossed out with an argument that he enjoys complete immunity from prosecution. In her order, Judge Chutkan said that she would set a new date for the proceeding in Federal District Court in Washington ‘if and when’ Mr. Trump’s immunity claims are resolved. The immunity claims are now in front of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has been mulling the issue since oral arguments were heard on Jan. 9. The panel, which expressed skepticism about Mr. Trump’s position, has yet to return a decision after setting an extremely aggressive schedule for briefings to be filed. Judge Chutkan’s decision to delay the trial was the latest twist in an ongoing and often bitter struggle between Mr. Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, over the timing of the proceeding.” See also, After Speedy Start, Appeals Court Slows Down on Trump Immunity Decision. The implications have started coming into focus with the scrapping of March 4 as the start date for the former president’s federal trial on charges of trying to overturn the 2020 election. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, published on Saturday, 3 February 2024. See also, Trump’s D.C. trial removed from March calendar, clearing way for New York case. Administrative move comes as anticipation mounts over how – and when – an appeals court will decide former president’s claim of immunity from criminal prosecution. The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Friday, 2 February 2024: “Former president Donald Trump’s March 4 trial date on charges of plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election in D.C. has been taken off the calendar, a formal acknowledgment of what has long been anticipated — that his claim of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution would delay his trial while it remains on appeal.” See also, Federal judge in DC postpones Trump’s March trial on charges of plotting to overturn 2020 election, Associated Press, Eric Tucker, Friday, 2 February 2024: “A federal judge in Washington formally postponed Donald Trump’s March trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election as a key legal appeal from the former president remains unresolved in the courts. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Friday vacated the March 4 trial date in the case brought by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith but did not immediately set a new date. The move opens the door for a separate prosecution in New York, charging Trump in connection with hush money payments to a porn actor, to proceed first. That case has long been seen as arguably the least legally perilous of the four indictments Trump faces, with the alleged misconduct less grave than accusations of mishandling classified documents or plotting to subvert a presidential election. The postponement in Washington comes as a federal appeals court has yet to resolve a pending appeal from Trump arguing that he is immune from prosecution for actions he took in the White House. It is not clear when the three-judge panel might rule, but a ruling in favor of prosecutors that permits the case to move forward is expected to be appealed by the Trump team, likely resulting in additional delays.”

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Aftermath of the Trump Administration, January 2024

 

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Tuesday, 2 January 2024:

 

Trump Appeals Decision Barring Him From Maine Primary Ballot. The move attempts to overturn the decision which made Maine the second state to rule the former president ineligible for the primary ballot. The New York Times, Jenna Russell, Tuesday, 2 January 2024: “Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump filed an appeal on Tuesday seeking to overturn the ruling last week by Shenna Bellows, Maine’s secretary of state, to bar him from appearing on the state’s Republican primary ballot…. Maine became the second state to exclude Mr. Trump from its primary ballot on Dec. 28, when Ms. Bellows found him ineligible under the third section of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits people who have engaged in insurrection from holding office. Her decision followed a similar landmark finding in Colorado, where the state’s Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 19 that he could not appear on the ballot there.” See also, Trump appeals Maine’s decision to ban him from the primary ballot, The Washington Post, Patrick Marley, Tuesday, 2 January 2024: “Former president Donald Trump asked a judge Tuesday to reverse an attempt by Maine’s secretary of state to keep his name off the state’s primary ballot after she determined that he was an insurrectionist who is ineligible to hold the presidency again under the Constitution. Trump filed his appeal to Kennebec County Superior Court five days after Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) declared his name should not be on the ballot because of his actions before and after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. She put her ruling on hold while Trump pursues his appeal. Trump’s filing came as he prepared a separate appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court over a decision from Colorado’s top court that would keep him off the ballot in that state. Efforts to remove the former president from the ballot in other states are ongoing, increasing pressure on the Supreme Court to resolve the issue for the entire country. The cases hinge on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which says those who have sworn an oath to support the Constitution cannot hold office if they engage in insurrection. The measure — ratified in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War — was meant to prevent Confederates from returning to power. Trump’s opponents have seized on the provision to argue that he can’t hold office again because he urged supporters to ‘fight like hell’ at the Capitol as Congress was confirming Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.”

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Rules Texas Can Ban Emergency Abortions Despite Federal Guidance. The court affirmed a ruling that sided with the state on whether emergency rooms are required to perform emergency abortions. The New York Times, Jesus Jiménez, Tuesday, 2 January 2024: “Emergency room doctors in Texas are not required to perform emergency abortions despite federal guidance that requires hospitals to offer stabilizing care, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a ruling that sided with the State of Texas, which had sued the Biden administration, arguing that the federal guidance issued in 2022 was an overstep that would ‘force abortions.’ The appeal was heard by Judge Leslie H. Southwick, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, and judges Kurt Engelhardt and Cory Wilson, who were appointed by President Donald Trump. Judge Engelhardt wrote that the federal guidance does not mandate physicians to provide emergency abortions, adding that the guidance ‘does not mandate any specific type of medical treatment, let alone abortion.'” See also, Court rules Texas doctors do not need to perform emergency abortions, The Washington Post, Dan Diamond and Caroline Kitchener, Tuesday, 2 January 2024: “A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Texas hospitals and doctors are not obligated to perform abortions under a long-standing national emergency-care law, dealing a blow to the White House’s strategy to ensure access to the procedure after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in 2022. The federal law ‘does not mandate any specific type of medical treatment, let alone abortion,’ the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit concluded, faulting the Biden administration’s interpretation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA. The law ‘does not govern the practice of medicine,’ the court added.” See also, Federal appeals court rules emergency room doctors are not required to perform life-saving abortions. The Biden administration reminded hospitals of their obligation to perform life-saving abortions under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Texas sued, arguing it was an overstep that mandated abortions. The Texas Turbine, Eleanor Klibanoff, Tuesday, 2 January 2024: “Federal regulations do not require emergency rooms to perform life-saving abortions if it would run afoul of state law, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. After the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent hospitals guidance, reminding them of their obligation to offer stabilizing care, including medically necessary abortions, under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). ‘When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life of the pregnant person — or draws the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s emergency medical condition definition — that state law is preempted,’ the guidance said. Texas sued, saying this was tantamount to a ‘nationwide mandate that every hospital and emergency-room physician perform abortions.’ Several anti-abortion medical associations joined the lawsuit as well. Since summer 2022, all abortions have been banned in Texas, except to save the life of the pregnant patient. But doctors, and their patients with medically complex pregnancies, have struggled with implementing the medical exception, reportedly delaying or denying abortion care rather than risk up to life in prison and the loss of their license. At a hearing in November, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice said that while Texas law might not prohibit medically necessary abortions, the guidance was intended ‘to ensure that the care is offered when it is required under the statute.'”

How death threats get Republicans to fall in line behind Trump. The insidious way violence is changing US politics — and shaping the 2024 election. Vox, Zack Beauchamp, Tuesday, 2 January 2024: “Across the board and around the country, data reveals that threats against public officials have risen to unprecedented numbers — to the point where 83 percent of Americans are now concerned about risks of political violence in their country. The threats are coming from across the political spectrum, but the most important ones in this regard emanate from the MAGA faithful. Trump’s most fanatical followers have created a situation where challenging him carries not only political risks but also personal ones. Elected officials who dare defy the former president face serious threats to their well-being and to that of their families — raising the cost of taking an already difficult stand. As a result, the threat of violence is now a part of the American political system, to the point where Republican officials are — by their own admissions — changing the way they behave because they fear it.”

 

Wednesday, 3 January 2024:

 

Trump Asks Supreme Court to Keep Him on the Colorado Ballot. The petition came in response to a Colorado Supreme court ruling that the former president had engaged in insurrection and was ineligible to hold office under the 14th Amendment. The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Wednesday, 3 January 2024: “Former President Donald J. Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to keep him on the primary ballot in Colorado, appealing an explosive ruling from the state Supreme Court declaring him ineligible based on his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. That ruling, Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote, marked ‘the first time in the history of the United States that the judiciary has prevented voters from casting ballots for the leading major-party presidential candidate.’ Mr. Trump’s appeal adds to the growing pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to act, given the number of challenges to Mr. Trump’s eligibility and the need for a nationwide resolution of the question as the primaries approach.” See also, Trump asks the Supreme court to keep his name on the Colorado ballot. The former president, who is the 2024 Republican frontrunner, is also appealing a Maine official’s decision to bar him from that state’s ballot. The Washington Post, Patrick Marley and Ann E. Marimow, Wednesday, 3 January 2024: “Donald Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to ensure he can appear on primary ballots across the country by invalidating a ruling from Colorado’s top court that said Trump is ineligible to serve as president again. Last month, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that Trump engaged in an insurrection before and during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and as a result could not appear on the state’s primary ballot. It marked the first time a court said a candidate could be removed from the ballot based on a post-Civil War provision of the U.S. Constitution that bars insurrectionists from holding office.” See also, Trump asks US Supreme Court to overturn Colorado ruling barring him from ballot over January 6 attack on the US Capitol, Associated Press, Nicholas Riccardi, Wednesday, 3 January 2024: “Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling barring him from the Colorado ballot, setting up a high-stakes showdown over whether a constitutional provision prohibiting those who ‘engaged in insurrection’ will end his political career. Trump appealed a 4-3 ruling in December by the Colorado Supreme Court that marked the first time in history that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was used to bar a presidential contender from the ballot. The court found that Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol disqualified him under the clause. The provision has been used so sparingly in American history that the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on it.”

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Smithsonian Targeted D.C.’s Vulnerable to Build Its Brain Collection

Nicole Dungca and Claire Healy, The Washington Post, Smithsonian Targeted D.C.’s Vulnerable to Build Its Brain Collection, Thursday, 14 December 2023: “A 59-year-old Black woman died of epilepsy in October 1903 at the Washington Asylum Hospital, an institution that housed the District’s indigent. Almost five months later, tuberculosis killed a 21-month-old Black toddler at Children’s Hospital in D.C. The next month, an 11-year-old White boy died of a lung condition at Children’s. Upon their deaths, one of the Smithsonian Institution’s top anthropologists, Ales Hrdlicka, enlisted the local institutions and doctors to help him remove their brains to build a ‘racial brain collection.’ Hrdlicka, who sought brains and other body parts to prove now-debunked theories on racial differences, was taking advantage of the District’s most vulnerable residents, records show. The Smithsonian would eventually acquire more than 280 brains from around the world. More than a quarter — 74 — of the brains still held by the Smithsonian were from local people, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Of those, 48 were Black. At least 19 of the brains are described in documents as having been removed from fetuses, including one following an abortion. Seventeen came from children. Three were taken from people who died in the hospital that served the city’s almshouse. One was taken from a deaf and mute man…. In August, The Post published the most extensive accounting to date of the brains and more than 30,000 other body parts gathered largely at Hrdlicka’s direction, revealing that the institution’s National Museum of Natural History has not returned the vast majority of the remains in its possession, even though most appear to have been taken without consent.”

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The Judiciary Has Policed Itself for Decades. It Doesn’t Work.

Brett Murphy and Kirsten Berg, ProPublica, The Judiciary Has Policed Itself for Decades. It Doesn’t Work. The secretive Judicial Conference is tasked with self-governance. The group, led by the Supreme Court’s chief justice, has spent decades preserving perks, defending judges, and thwarting outside oversight. Wednesday, 13 December 2023: “For decades, judges have relied on a select group to make sure the judiciary adheres to the highest ethical standards: themselves. The Judicial Conference, a secretive, century-old council of federal judges led by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, oversees the ethics and financial disclosures for more than 1,700 federal judges, including the nine justices of the high court. Those financial disclosures, submitted yearly as a list of assets and gifts, are often the only window into whether judges with lifetime appointments have conflicts of interest as they rule on the country’s most consequential legal cases. The judiciary’s leaders argue that the conference has been an effective watchdog over America’s third branch of government. The conference’s authority plays an important role in judicial controversies and has been at the center of some defenses of the court following ProPublica’s reporting on possible ethical breaches. With its ‘sound structure of self-governance,’ Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2021, ‘the Judicial Conference has been an enduring success.’ In reality, the Judicial Conference has instead often protected, not policed, the judiciary, according to interviews and previously undisclosed internal documents. For decades, conference officials have repeatedly worked to preserve judges’ most coveted perks while thwarting congressional oversight and targeting ‘disloyal’ figures in the judiciary who argued for reforms.”

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Aftermath of the Trump Administration, December 2023

 

For independent global news, visit Democracy Now!

For a newsletter about the history behind today’s politics, subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter, Letters from an American.

 

Friday, 1 December 2023:

 

Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan Rejects Trump’s Claims That He Enjoys Absolute Immunity From Criminal Charges Accusing Him of Seeking to Reverse the 2020 Election. The ruling is likely to spark a series of appeals that the former president’s lawyers hope will push the trial on election interference charges past the 2024 election. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Friday, 1 December 2023: “A federal judge on Friday rejected claims by former President Donald J. Trump that he enjoyed absolute immunity from criminal charges accusing him of seeking to reverse the 2020 election, slapping down his argument that the indictment should be tossed out because it was based on actions he took while he was in office. The ruling by the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, was her first denying one of Mr. Trump’s many motions to dismiss the election interference case, which is set to go to trial in Federal District Court in Washington in about three months. It offered a sweeping condemnation of what Judge Chutkan called Mr. Trump’s attempts to ‘usurp the reins of government’ and cited foundational American texts like the Federalist Papers and George Washington’s farewell address. Mr. Trump’s lawyers had expected the immunity motion to fail. They have, in fact, been planning for weeks to use the defeat to begin a long-shot strategy to put off the impending trial. They intend to appeal Judge Chutkan’s ruling all the way to the Supreme Court if they can, hoping that even if they lose, their challenges will eat up time and keep the case from going in front of a jury until after the 2024 election…. The former president’s lawyers essentially claimed that all the steps he took to subvert the election he lost to President Biden were not crimes, but rather examples of performing his presidential duties to ensure the integrity of a race that he believed had been stolen from him. Judge Chutkan had little patience for such arguments, saying on Friday evening that neither the Constitution nor American history supported the contention that a former president enjoyed total immunity from prosecution. ‘Whatever immunities a sitting president may enjoy, the United States has only one chief executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong get-out-of-jail-free pass,’ Judge Chutkan wrote. ‘Former presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability. Defendant may be subject to federal investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction and punishment for any criminal acts undertaken while in office.’ She added, ‘Defendant’s four-year service as commander in chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens.'” See also, Federal judge Tanya Chutkan rejects Trump immunity claim in January 6 criminal prosecution. Chutkan’s ruling sets the clock ticking on whether the Supreme Court will agree and allow Trump to face federal trial in Washington before the 2024 election. The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hus and Rachel Weiner, Friday, 1 December 2023: “A federal judge on Friday rejected Donald Trump’s claim of ‘absolute immunity’ from criminal prosecution for actions taken while he was president, setting the stage for a legal battle over presidential power probably headed to the U.S. Supreme Court and starting the clock ticking on whether the justices will agree to allow him to face trial in Washington before the 2024 election. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan denied Trump’s request to toss out his four-count August indictment on charges of conspiring to defraud the federal government’s election process, to obstruct Congress’s certification of the vote on Jan. 6, 2021, and to disenfranchise American voters.” See also, Federal judge Tanya Chutkan rules that Trump is not immune from election-subversion prosecution. ‘A former President’s exposure to federal criminal liability is essential to fulfilling our constitutional promise of equal justice under the law,’ Chutkan ruled. Politico, Kyle Cheney, Friday, 1 December 2023: “Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for his attempt to subvert the 2020 election, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled Friday, concluding that his term as president does not serve as a shield against charges that he sought to defraud and disenfranchise millions of Americans. ‘Defendant’s four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens,’ Chutkan ruled in a 48-page opinion, sweeping aside Trump’s most intricate attempt to derail the case against him.”

Federal Appeals Court Rules That Civil Lawsuits Seeking to Hold Former President Donald Trump accountable For the Violence That Erupted at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Can Move Forward For Now. The court left open the possibility that the former president could still prevail in his effort to claim immunity from civil cases seeking to hold him accountable for the violence. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Friday, 1 December 2023: “A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that civil lawsuits seeking to hold former President Donald J. Trump accountable for the violence that erupted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, can move forward for now, rejecting a broad assertion of immunity that Mr. Trump’s legal team had invoked to try to get the cases dismissed. But the decision, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, left open the possibility that Mr. Trump could still prevail in his immunity claims after he makes further arguments as to why his fiery speech to supporters near the White House on Jan. 6 should be considered an official presidential act, rather than part of his re-election campaign. The Supreme Court has held that the Constitution gives presidents immunity from being sued over actions taken as part of their official duties, but not from suits based on private, unofficial acts. The civil cases brought against Mr. Trump have raised the question of which role he was playing at the rally he staged on Jan. 6, when he told supporters to “fight like hell” and urged them to march to the Capitol. Essentially, the appeals court ruled that at this stage of the case, that question has yet to be definitively answered. It said Mr. Trump must be given an opportunity to present factual evidence to rebut the plaintiffs’ claims that the rally was a campaign event — scrutinizing issues like whether campaign officials had organized it and campaign funds were used to pay for it.” See also, Federal Appeals Court rules Trump doesn’t have presidential immunity from civil lawsuits related to the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz and Holmes Lybrand, Friday, 1 December 2023: “Former President Donald Trump can be sued in civil lawsuits related to the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot in a long-awaited, consequential decision from the federal appeals court in Washington, DC. The decision will have significant implications for several cases against Trump in the Washington, DC, federal court related to the 2020 election. The decision arises out of lawsuits brought by Capitol Police officers and Democrats in Congress. The opinion, written by Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan, states that not everything a president does or says while in office is protected from liability.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson wrote foreword for book filled with conspiracy theories and homophobic insults, CNN Politics, Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, Friday, 1 December 2023: “Speaker of the House Mike Johnson wrote the foreword and publicly promoted a 2022 book that spread baseless and discredited conspiracy theories and used derogatory homophobic insults. Written by Scott McKay, a local Louisiana politics blogger, the book, ‘The Revivalist Manifesto,’ gives credence to unfounded conspiracy theories often embraced by the far-right – including the ‘Pizzagate’ hoax, which falsely claimed top Democratic officials were involved in a pedophile ring, among other conspiracies. The book also propagates baseless and inaccurate claims, implying that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was subjected to blackmail and connected to the disgraced underage sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.” See also, House Speaker Mike Johnson Wrote the Foreward for a Racist, Homophobic, Anti-Poor Book That Endorsed Pizzagate and Denigrated a Prisoner of War, Vanity Fair, Bess Levin, Friday, 1 December 2023: “With George Santos’s expulsion drama taking up all the attention in Congress this week, you might have forgotten that the new leader of the House, Mike Johnson, has a history of deeply homophobic remarks that have come out on a near-daily basis since he was elected, as well as equally shitty takes on things like abortionmass shootings, and democracy. But he does! And on a whole bunch of other stuff as well. CNN’s KFile reports that Johnson wrote the foreward for and then promoted a 2022 book written by Scott McKay called The Revivalist Manifesto, which: 1. Says poor voters are ‘unsophisticated and susceptible to government dependency’ and easy to manipulate with ‘Black Lives Matter defund the police pandering’; 2. Describes Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as the ‘queer choice’ for the Cabinet job, calls him ‘openly, and obnoxiously, gay,’ and refers to him as ‘Gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg’; 3. Claims the Biden administration purposely let undocumented immigrants into the US for voting purposes; 4. Says Barack Obama’s ‘chief selling point was that he was black’; 5. Writes of the debunked conspiracy theory that Democratic officials ran a pedophile ring out of a pizza shop: ‘The Pizzagate scandal was born, and though some of the most outlandish allegations made in it were clearly disproven, other elements were not; the whole thing just seemed to be dismissed as debunked, and no explanation was ever given”; 6. Suggests Supreme Court Chief justice John Roberts had ties to sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein; 7. Declares John McCain used five and a half years as a prisoner of war during Vietnam ‘as a political get-out-of-jail-free card.'”

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Terror on Repeat: A rare look at the devastation caused by AR-15 shootings

Silvia Foster-Frau, N. Kirkpatrick, and Arelis R. Hernández, The Washington Post, Terror on Repeat: A rare look at the devastation caused by AR-15 shootings, Thursday, 16 November 2023: “Mass shootings involving AR-15s have become a recurring American nightmare. The weapon, easy to operate and widely available, is now used more than any other in the country’s deadliest mass killings. Fired by the dozens or hundreds in rapid succession, bullets from AR-15s have blasted through classroom doors and walls. They have shredded theater seats and splintered wooden church pews. They have mangled human bodies and, in a matter of seconds, shattered the lives of people attending a concert, shopping on a Saturday afternoon, going out with friends and family, working in their offices and worshiping at church and synagogue. They have killed first-graders, teenagers, mothers, fathers and grandparents. But the full effects of the AR-15’s destructive force are rarely seen in public. The impact is often shielded by laws and court rulings that keep crime scene photos and records secret. Journalists do not typically have access to the sites of shootings to document them. Even when photographs are available, news organizations generally do not publish them, out of concern about potentially dehumanizing victims or retraumatizing their families. Now, drawing on an extensive review of photographs, videos and police investigative files from 11 mass killings between 2012 and 2023, The Washington Post is publishing the most comprehensive account to date of the repeating pattern of destruction wrought by the AR-15 — a weapon that was originally designed for military combat but has in recent years become one of the best-selling firearms on the U.S. market. This piece includes never-before-released pictures taken by law enforcement officials after shootings inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., in 2022, and the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., in 2017, that were obtained by The Post. It is also based on Post interviews with survivors and first responders from multiple shootings as well as transcripts of official testimony provided by law enforcement officials who were among the first to witness the carnage. Read a note here from the executive editor about how The Post decided what to publish and why. The review lays bare how the AR-15, a weapon that has soared in popularity over the past two decades as a beloved tool for hunting, target practice and self-defense, has also given assailants the power to instantly turn everyday American gathering places into zones of gruesome violence. This is an oral history told in three parts that follows the chronological order of a typical AR-15 mass shooting. It weaves together pictures, videos and the recollections of people who endured different tragedies but have similar stories to tell.”

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