Cup of Joe – March 24, 2023

The Manhattan DA plans to convene the grand jury investigating Donald Trump hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, NBC News reports. 

But that is not all the bad legal news for the former twice impeached one term loser of a President:

ABC News reported, citing sources familiar with the legal filings, that U.S. Judge Beryl Howell has determined Trump may have knowingly mislead his lawyers and “intentionally concealed” information about the classified materials he had in his possession after leaving the White House. Howell wrote on Friday that prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith’s office had presented enough compelling preliminary evidence “that the former president had committed criminal violations” for attorney-client privileges that at least two of his lawyers have cited to avoid testimony could potentially be revoked. 

The judge ordered that Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran must now comply with a grand jury subpoena for his testimony about his communications with Trump. Howell reportedly cited six separate areas of inquiry that Corcoran must now speak to after initially asserting attorney-client privilege over the comms. 

The judge also ordered that Corcoran must hand over some documents like handwritten notes that may be revealing of the alleged “criminal scheme” by Trump. 

Per ABC: “In reaching the so-called prima facie standard to pierce Corcoran’s privilege, Howell agreed prosecutors made a sufficient showing that on its face would appear to show Trump committed crimes. The judge made it clear that prosecutors would still need to meet a higher standard of evidence in order to seek charges against Trump, and more still to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals placed a temporary hold on Howell’s order and told both the Trump team and prosecutors to file new arguments within hours, giving Trump a deadline of midnight and Smith’s team a deadline of 6 a.m. Wednesday. The details of the filings remain sealed for now. 

The former guy’s team has publicly responded in Trumpian fashion, with his campaign issuing a statement that was really just a laundry list of all of Trump’s favorite lines of attack – leaks, fake news and never Trumpers. 

“Shame on Fake News ABC for broadcasting ILLEGALLY LEAKED false allegations from a Never Trump, now former chief judge, against the Trump legal team,” the campaign said, referencing the fact that Howell is an Obama appointee. 

“Prosecutors only attack lawyers when they have no case whatsoever,” the campaign added in a statement to Politico. “These leaks are happening because there is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump.”

And, as evidenced by the Trump White House clearing out its comms department after each disastrous scandal, accused people only attack leaks when they’re running out of defense strategies.

Yesterday morning, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals “has ruled that a lawyer for Donald Trump must provide notes, transcripts and other evidence to prosecutors investigating how classified documents remained at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home months after a subpoena to return all sensitive files,” the Washington Post reports.

“The panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a brief order Wednesday afternoon directing the parties ‘to comply with the district court’s March 17, 2023, order to produce documents’ and ending an emergency hold on a ruling last week by a lower-court judge.”

The Daily Beast reviews the legal ways Donald Trump could have paid hush money to Stormy Daniels. Stormy Daniels tweeted that her phone records are “gonna hurt” Donald Trump after she’d handed them over to her attorney.

Heather Cox Richardson: “Trump bought Daniels’s silence because he was willing to break laws in order to get elected. Then–Trump fixer Michael Cohen paid Daniels for her story in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. Cohen testified that he paid her through a shell company to keep Trump’s connection to the payment hidden. Then Trump reimbursed Cohen for ‘legal fees.’”

“That’s a problem with regard to business filings and tax fraud. It is also a problem for the campaign finance laws intended to protect clean elections. Cohen’s payment was a contribution to the Trump campaign because it was made ‘in order to influence the 2016 presidential election.’ The payment was intended to make sure voters didn’t hear another sex scandal in October 2016, just after the Access Hollywood tape came out in which Trump talked vulgarly about sexually assaulting women, when it might have hurt his chances at election. The $130,000 contribution was far above the individual limit of $2,700, and the Trump campaign did not disclose it.”

“This is not small potatoes. When the issue came to light, Cohen pleaded guilty for his role in the payments, and he was sentenced to three years in prison. Cohen testified that he made the payments at Trump’s direction.”

Politico: “For a Democratic Party that spent years battling with the former president and warning that his administration was ‘corrupt,’ this week could bring possible catharsis. Just don’t expect the issue to be front and center in Democrats’ messaging, either this week or anytime soon.”

Back in 2019, Donald Trump told friends and allies that he worried about the stain impeachment would leave on his legacy. But looking forward to the 2020 election, Trump also insisted it could help him get re-elected and help Republicans win back the House.  Of course, it did neither. Trump lost the presidential election and Republicans did not take control of the House. Interestingly, Trump also said at the time that impeachment is a “bad thing to have on your resume.”

Axios reported that these comments perfectly encapsulated how Trump felt about impeachment: He believed it could help him get re-elected and win back the House. But he didn’t want the history books recording him as an impeached president. Trump might say the same thing about possibly being indicted. It’s a terrible thing for your resume. But if you’re trying to spin a forthcoming indictment, you might as well attempt to claim it will help you politically.

In reality, it’s just never good to be indicted.

“All eyes are trained on the Federal Reserve as it prepares to announce another potential interest rate hike Wednesday afternoon – exactly 10 days after the Biden administration stepped in with dramatic emergency actions to contain the fallout from two bank failures,” CNN reports.

“Biden White House officials will be closely watching the highly anticipated rate decision – and monitoring every word of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s public comments – for any telling clues on how the central bank is processing what has emerged one of the most urgent economic crises of Joe Biden’s presidency.”

“The moment creates a complex, if carefully observed, dynamic for the administration’s top economic officials who have spent much of the last two weeks engaged in regular discussions and consultations with Powell and Fed officials as they’ve navigated rapid and acute risks to the banking system.”

The Fed stayed the course and raised interest rates by a quarter point as expected. Indeed, if it had not done so, it is possible that would have shown a lack of confidence in banks, beginning another run.

Politico: “After inflation rocketed upward last year, those pushing for higher minimum wages see a new opening to gain ground on raising worker pay.”

Intelligence sources told CBS News that there’s been a “significant increase” in threats and violent rhetoric online from domestic violent extremists as Donald Trump claimed he will be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury.

“Domestic violent extremists in online postings have warned that prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office would cross a red line if Trump is indicted and it would be met with more violence than the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the sources said. There have also been postings calling for civil war.”

Stephen Collinson: “Xi and Putin are united on a core foreign policy priority – discrediting and even dismantling a world order that they believe is built on Western hypocrisy and denies them due respect as great global powers. This resentment has festered in Putin’s mind ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, and he has tried for years to reshape the international system.”

“But according to Biden’s national security strategy, China is the only US competitor with ‘the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to’ reshape that order.”

David Ignatius: Here’s the real lesson from the showy Xi-Putin meeting.

Gov. Ron DeSantis reversed his stance on Ukraine, saying he believes Vladimir Putin is “a war criminal” who needs to be held “accountable” for invading the country, the New York Post reports.

He added that Russia is “basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons.”

Armed Russian jets have flown over a U.S. military garrison in Syria nearly every day in March, violating a four-year-old agreement between the U.S. and Russia and risking escalation, NBC News reports.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers that European countries should detain Vladimir Putin and turn him over to the International Criminal Court if the Russian president visits their countries, the Washington Post reports.

Punchbowl News: “The recent collapse of two large regional banks rattled global markets, raising concerns about financial stability during a precarious moment for the U.S. economy. Would this backdrop of uncertainty, we wondered, cause House Republicans to grow wary of launching a debt limit showdown?”

“From our conversations with top GOP lawmakers at the House Republican retreat this week in Orlando, the answer is a hard no.”

“Instead of expressing caution, senior GOP lawmakers are leaning into their plans to demand spending cuts in return for raising the nation’s borrowing limit.”

“In the summer of 2020, in full re-election mode and looking for new ways to punish China, President Donald Trump threatened to cut off TikTok from the phones of millions of Americans unless its parent company agreed to sell all of its U.S. operations to American owners. The effort collapsed,” the New York Times reports.

“Now, more than two years later, after lengthy studies of how Chinese authorities could use the app for everything from surveillance to information operations, the Biden administration is attempting a strikingly similar move. It is better organized, vetted by lawyers, and coordinated with new bills in Congress that appear to have considerable bipartisan support.”

“Yet making TikTok safe from Chinese exploitation — as a tool for Chinese officials to surveil Americans’ tastes and whereabouts, as an entry point into the phones that contain their whole lives and as a way to pump out disinformation — turns out to be harder than it looks.”

New Republic: Fear the wrath of the TikTok voter.

The DeSantis administration is moving to expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law to all grades. The initial law applied to kindergarten through 3rd grade. It will now expand to grades 4 through 12.

Associated Press: “Pence on Tuesday called for ‘common sense and compassionate solutions’ to reform entitlement programs and the nation’s debt burden, suggesting changes to Social Security and Medicare programs hurtling toward insolvency, particularly for younger generations, without naming specific recommendations.”

Frustrated by the books being removed from school libraries, a Utah parent says the Bible should be reviewed for being “one of the most sex-ridden books around,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Wrote the parent: “Incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape, and even infanticide. You’ll no doubt find that the Bible, under Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-1227, has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition.”

“China said it would strongly oppose any forced sale of TikTok, responding for the first time to a Biden administration demand that the video app divest itself from its Beijing-based parent ByteDance Ltd. or face a nationwide ban,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Politico: “Landing an agreement without exposing awkward internal divides may prove near-impossible. That’s because war powers are the rare topic that unite archconservatives with virtually every House Democrat in favor of repeal — while the majority of House Republicans, including many McCarthy allies, have opposed the idea of nixing the roughly 20-year Iraq War authorization.”

A judge in Wyoming blocked a state abortion ban that took effect this week, saying it ran afoul of a 2012 constitutional amendment voters approved that guarantees “each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions,” the Casper Tribune reports.

Lawmakers had declared in the new law that abortion is not health care, in an attempt to get around the amendment.

“Attorneys for five Proud Boys on trial on charges of seditious conspiracy said on Wednesday that the Justice Department had informed them that a witness one of them had been prepared to call as part of the defense this week has been a government informant since 2021,” Politico reports.

Associated Press: “The launch came less than an hour before the United States flew long-range B-1B bombers for joint training with South Korean warplanes as part of the allies’ biggest combined training in years, which the North has condemned s a rehearsal for a potential invasion.”

“I’m emancipated now.”— Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), quoted by the Los Angeles Times, on her life as a backbencher.

Federal prosecutors are demanding that lawmakers disgorge political donations from indicted FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and his employees, Semafor reports.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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