Cup of Joe – April 1, 2023

Donald Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud in an indictment by a Manhattan grand jury investigating hush money payments to a porn star, CNN reports.

Trump is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

“A New York judge will soon unseal criminal charges against Donald Trump related to a payment to a porn star. The alleged coverup that followed the payment is likely to be as important for the future of the case,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The Manhattan district attorney’s office could unveil any number of charges… But among the most likely charges is falsifying business records, according to legal experts. The charge by itself is a misdemeanor but can be converted into a felony if prosecutors prove records were falsified to commit or conceal another crime, such as a violation of campaign-finance rules.”

“Legal experts said any successful prosecution would likely require evidence establishing that Mr. Trump tried to hide the repayment to Mr. Cohen with false book entries.”

Peter Baker: “For the first time in American history, a former president of the United States has been indicted on criminal charges. It is worth pausing to repeat that: An American president has been indicted for a crime for the first time in history.”

“So many unthinkable firsts have occurred since Donald J. Trump was elected to the White House in 2016, so many inviolable lines have been crossed, so many unimaginable events have shocked the world that it is easy to lose sight of just how astonishing this particular moment really is.”

“For all of the focus on the tawdry details of the case or its novel legal theory or its political impact, the larger story is of a country heading down a road it has never traveled before, one fraught with profound consequences for the health of the world’s oldest democracy. For more than two centuries, presidents have been held on a pedestal, even the ones swathed in scandal, declared immune from prosecution while in office and, effectively, even afterward.”

“No longer. That taboo has been broken. A new precedent has been set. Will it tear the country apart, as some feared about putting a former president on trial after Watergate? Will it be seen by many at home and abroad as victor’s justice akin to developing nations where former leaders are imprisoned by their successors? Or will it become a moment of reckoning, a sign that even someone who was once the most powerful person on the planet is not above the law?”

“Manhattan prosecutors investigating Donald Trump’s role in paying hush-money to a porn star also have been examining a $150,000 payment to a former Playboy model who alleged that she had an affair with the former president, raising the prospect that Mr. Trump could face charges connected to the silencing of both women,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has been presenting a grand jury with evidence of Mr. Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels since January. In those proceedings, the people said, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors also have questioned grand-jury witnesses extensively about an earlier deal involving Karen McDougal, Playboy Magazine’s Playmate of the Year in 1998, who has said she began a 10-month relationship with Mr. Trump in 2006.”

“The extent of prosecutors’ interest in Ms. McDougal hasn’t been previously reported. Prosecutors could use any McDougal evidence either to bring charges directly related to the McDougal payment or to establish an alleged pattern of conduct by Mr. Trump, the people said. Participants in the deals with both women allege that Mr. Trump played a central role in both.”

Politico: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office asked for Donald Trump to surrender on Friday following a grand jury’s vote to indict the former president.”

“But lawyers for Trump rebuffed the request saying that the Secret Service, which provides security detail for the former president, needed more time to prepare.”

Washington Post: “Trump is expected to turn himself in and appear in court on Tuesday at 2:15 p.m.”

According to The Guardian, Trump has previously told those close to him that he wants to be handcuffed when appearing for the arraignment, believing it would be a greater show of strength.

The criminal indictment of Donald Trump by a Manhattan grand jury is the political story of the year. And it may be just the first of many more indictments over the coming months.

This is not a complicated case. Trump’s own Department of Justice proved that concealing the payment of “hush money” to Stormy Daniels was a crime. Using many of the same facts and witnesses heard by the Manhattan grand jury, Michael Cohen was convicted and sent to prison for the same offense.

New York City should not be portrayed as a “hostile” venue for putting Trump on trial. It’s the city where he lived and worked nearly his entire life. It’s his home town.

This indictment is not “good” for Trump. While it may galvanize the GOP base behind him in the short term, this case will prove to be a major headache for his campaign and for nearly every Republican running for office in 2024.

This is not a “small crime” as some commentators have tried to suggest. If we’re correct about the pending charges, Trump used illegal funds to silence Stormy Daniels just days after the Access Hollywood tape came out. He was doing so to win a presidential election, which he ultimately scratched out by just 70,000 votes across three critical swing states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It’s very possible that silencing this story helped Trump win the election.

Republicans coming to Trump’s defense so quickly may regret it once we learn the specific charges against him.

The gap between what’s good for Trump and what’s good for Republicans has never been wider.

Donald Trump, “who has spent his life ruthlessly maneuvering to get his way, now is at the mercy of a justice system he can’t bully — and, ultimately, in the hands of a Manhattan jury,” Axios reports.

Punchbowl News: “Unlike congressional investigations and the two impeachments that Trump faced, even his staunchest allies can’t shield him from this case. Trump’s fate rests with jurors who will hear arguments from both Manhattan prosecutors and the former president’s defense attorneys — if this ever goes to trial. So there’s very little Republicans can do at this point except make political speeches.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) warned Republican lawmakers on Friday that their efforts to conduct oversight into his investigation of Donald Trump represents a “dangerous usurpation” by Congress that could impinge upon the former president’s rights, The Hill reports.

Paul Rosenzweig: “To be sure, a determination by a judge that there is prima facie evidence to support a belief that an attorney and/or his client have engaged in criminal activity is not equivalent to the requirement for a criminal conviction of ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt.’ But it is, all the same, an astonishing statement about the state of the evidence that demonstrates the strength of the cases against Trump.”

“To put it simply, if there is sufficient evidence for a judge to find the crime-fraud exception applies, then there is likely enough evidence to support the presentation of an indictment to a grand jury. That prospect cannot give Trump any real comfort, but the slow, deliberate operation of the rule of law ought to comfort those who still think that rules should matter.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis called the indictment of Donald Trump “un-American,” CBS News reports.

He added: “Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda.”

Steve Vladeck: “The legal reality is decidedly to the contrary. If Trump is indicted in New York, both the U.S. Constitution and a federal statute dating to 1793 require DeSantis (or the governor of whatever state Trump is in at the time) to hand him over. And if DeSantis still refuses, a 1987 Supreme Court decision makes clear that federal courts can order him to comply.”

“Unlike in cases of international extradition, where treaties often leave significant room for political and diplomatic machinations and maneuvering, the law of interstate extradition is both clear and straightforward.”

“Fox News hosts and other conservative commentators fulminated Thursday night against the indictment of Donald Trump, portraying it as an act of political repression, calling for protests and predicting ‘unrest,’” the Washington Post reports.

Said Tucker Carlson: “It almost feels they’re pushing the population to react. We think they’re demoralized and passive, let’s see if they really are.’ At what point do we conclude they’re doing this in order to produce a reaction?”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) tried to mobilize Trump supporters to demonstrate in New York City on Tuesday, saying she’d be there: “We must protest the unconstitutional witch hunt!”

Republican leaders in Congress lamented the moment as a sad day in the annals of United States history. Conservative news outlets issued a call to action for the party’s base. One prominent supporter of Donald Trump suggested that the former president’s mug shot should double as a 2024 campaign poster,” the New York Times reports.

“Up and down the Republican Party, anger and accusations of injustice flowed from both backers and critics of the former president, even before the charges had been revealed. Many said Mr. Trump could benefit from a wave of sympathy from across the party, with a base of supporters likely to be energized by a belief that the justice system has been weaponized against him.”

“In some quarters, there was a darker reaction. On Fox News, the host Tucker Carlson said the ruling showed it was ‘probably not the best time to give up your AR-15s.’”

CNN: Potential 2024 GOP field responds to Trump indictment by attacking Bragg.

Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson: “It is a dark day for America when a former President is indicted on criminal charges. While the grand jury found credible facts to support the charges, it is important that the presumption of innocence follows Mr. Trump. We need to wait on the facts and for our American system of justice to work like it does for thousands of Americans every day. Finally, it is essential that the decision on America’s next President be made at the ballot box and not in the court system. Donald Trump should not be the next President, but that should be decided by the voters. “

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “appeared infuriated and on the verge of tears as he called on people to join in support of former President Donald Trump against his historic indictment,” the Washington Examiner reports.

Said Graham: “This is a moment in American history. This is the most dangerous decision by a prosecutor in the history of the country. He’s opened up Pandora’s box against the presidency itself. This is a danger to the presidency. This is turning the rule of law upside down to destroy a man who the Left fears.”

He added: “Do not let them get away with this. Vote. Show up at the ballot box. Give the man some money so he can fight.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday called a Manhattan grand jury’s decision to indict former President Trump an “outrage,” and declined to say if Trump should drop out of the 2024 race if he’s convicted, The Hill reports.

Said Pence: “The unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue is an outrage. And it appears to millions of Americans to be nothing more than a political prosecution that’s driven by a prosecutor who literally ran for office on a pledge to indict the former president.”

Stormy Daniels: “I have so many messages coming in that I can’t respond…also don’t want to spill my champagne… merch/autograph orders are pouring in, too! Thank you for that as well but allow a few extra days for shipment.”

New York Times: “Trump is at Mar-a-Lago absorbing this information, according to aides. It’s not clear what his next move will be.”

“Trump aides were caught off guard by this happening today, according to several people close to the former president. They had believed reports by some news outlets that the grand jury in Manhattan was not hearing the Trump case. Some advisers had been confident that there would be no movement until the end of April at the earliest and were looking at the political implications for Trump’s closest potential rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.”

Washington Post: Trump won’t answer question from reporter on turning himself in.

New York Times: “Mr. Trump and his aides were caught off guard by the timing, believing that any action by the grand jury was still weeks away and might not occur at all…”

“On Thursday evening, after the grand jury indicted him, Mr. Trump was angry but mainly focused on the political implications of the charges, not the legal consequences, according to people familiar with his thinking.”

“He seemed eager to project confidence and calm and was seen having a very public dinner with his wife, Melania, and her parents at the club at Mar-a-Lago.”

Politico: “For most people, getting indicted is a setback. From Donald Trump’s team, it’s viewed as an opportunity. Aides to the former president moved aggressively on Thursday to capitalize politically on news that a Manhattan grand jury had charged Trump — using it to fill their fundraising coffers, mobilize loyalists and further solidify his hold on his base of supporters in the GOP presidential primary.”

Washington Post: “One adviser said that while Trump would prefer not to be indicted, the former president planned to ‘milk it for all it’s worth politically,’ using the criminal charges to rally Republicans around him and his 2024 campaign, portray himself as a victim and fundraise.”

Donald Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina told NBC News there is “zero” chance that the former president will take a plea deal after being indicted by a Manhattan grand jury.

Said Tacopina: “President Trump will not take a plea deal in this case. It’s not going to happen.”

Tom Nichols: “Trump’s status as a former president has not shielded him from answering for his alleged crimes. The indictment itself is shot through with tension, because Trump is, in fact, a former president and a current leading presidential candidate—which underscores the ghastly reality that no matter how much we learn about this crass sociopath, millions of people voted for him twice and are still hoping that he will return to power in the White House.”

NBC News: “For Biden, there is little upside to speaking out or trying to capitalize on the development in the case, which involves a payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election his predecessor won. Biden entered office promising to respect prosecutors’ independence. Anything he said about Trump’s legal troubles would risk validating a Republican argument that he’s the mastermind of it all.”

“What Biden is doing instead is running a re-election campaign in everything but name. There’s no campaign manager yet, no TV ads, no re-election headquarters. For now, Biden doesn’t need them, allies say.”

Politico: “In a series of discussions, senior White House aides have debated how to respond to a possible charge. The answer never changed: say nothing. Avoid being accused of trying to influence a criminal justice matter. And why get in the way if an opponent might be self-destructing?”

“Shortly after the news broke Thursday, the White House said it would not be commenting.”

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his top lieutenants say they are actively preparing to move a party-line bill to raise the national debt limit if President Joe Biden continues to draw a firm line against talks with House Republicans to avoid the nation’s first-ever default,” CNN reports.

“The move would be a risky one. The GOP can only afford to lose four votes on any partisan plan, and thorny fiscal issues have long divided their party. House passage of a party-line bill would be difficult in the Democratic-led Senate where 60 votes would be needed to advance such a package.”

“What exactly is in the GOP plan – and how much of a debt ceiling increase they may seek – remains a point of internal discussion. But they say that they have identified roughly $4 trillion in budget cuts and savings, some of which were outlined in a letter that McCarthy sent to Biden earlier in the week.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) took a dig at President Biden’s age and offered to provide a “soft food” lunch if he agrees to meet on the debt limit, The Hill reports.

Said McCarthy: “He is making the decision that he wants to put the economy in jeopardy. I don’t know what more I can do and how easy — I would bring lunch to the White House. I would make it soft food if that’s what he wants. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to meet.”

“Finland won final approval on Thursday to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a major shift in the balance of power between the West and Russia that was set off by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

“A federal judge in Texas who once declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional issued a far-reaching ruling on Thursday that prevents the Biden administration from enforcing a provision of the law that provides patients with certain types of free preventive care, including screenings for cancer, depression, diabetes and HIV,” the New York Times reports.

“The decision, by Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas, applies nationwide. If it stands, it could have far-reaching implications for millions of Americans, and bring the United States back to the days before the 2010 health law known as Obamacare, when insurers were free to decide which preventive services they would cover.”

New York Times: “In Kentucky, Ohio, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia, Republicans have pushed this year to limit gun-free zones, remove background checks and roll back red-flag laws that seek to remove firearms from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Missouri last year enacted a measure that made it illegal for local law enforcement to cooperate with federal authorities in many gun investigations…”

“In 25 states, no permits are required to carry a handgun — nine more than in 2020.”

“The Biden administration on Friday plans to grant California the legal authority to require that half of all garbage trucks, tractor-trailers, cement mixers and other heavy vehicles sold in the state must be all-electric by 2035, an aggressive plan designed to clean up the worst polluters on the road,” the New York Times reports.

“Honduras has established diplomatic relations with China and formally cut ties with Taiwan, following through on a pledge this month to shift its official recognition to Beijing,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“With the loss of Honduras, Taiwan now has 13 diplomatic partners, most of them small states in Central America and the Pacific, with the Vatican its only official partner in Europe.”

New York Times: “Accounts of Mr. Jeffries’s history-making ascent have largely focused on his relative youth and his time as a House impeachment manager. But to fully understand how he claimed power and might wield it as the first person of color to lead a party in Congress, it is instructive to retrace the divergent experiences that fueled his rise from Brooklyn to Washington, as described in dozens of interviews with friends, allies and adversaries.”

“Call it the dual education of Hakeem Jeffries, a charismatic and enigmatic son of both Brooklyn and Big Law, who was shaped as much by hip-hop and the Black Baptist church as by the offices of corporate America where he handled high-stakes litigation.”

Important Context: “The Thiel Foundation, the nonprofit charity of billionaire and right-wing megadonor Peter Thiel, gave millions of dollars in 2021 to a secretive donor-advised fund that has funneled money into groups that spread Covid denial as well as hate groups, federal tax records reveal.”

Ron Brownstein: “After Eisenhower’s landmark victory over Taft in 1952, every Republican presidential nominee over the next six decades – a list that extended from Richard Nixon through Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney – identified more with the internationalist than isolationist wing of the party.”

“But Trump broke that streak when he won the nomination in 2016 behind a message of brusque economic nationalism and skepticism of international alliances. Now, the GOP appears on track for a 2024 nomination fight which may demonstrate that Trump’s rise has lastingly shifted the party’s balance of power on foreign policy – and ended the long era of GOP internationalism Eisenhower’s victory began.”

Politico: “It looked at the beginning of the year like Democrats would have an easier time confirming Biden picks, having gained a seat last fall after a historically lengthy run in a 50-50 Senate.”

“But this Congress has brought a host of new challenges despite that padded margin for Biden’s party. Two high-profile Biden administration hopefuls have withdrawn in the past month alone. The president’s Labor Department pick faces a tough road to confirmation. And the administration is in danger of a first: having to abandon a judicial nominee due to tepid Democratic support.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) “plans to return to the Senate the week of April 17 after more than a month of inpatient treatment for depression,” Politico reports.  “His return will be welcome news for Senate Democrats, who have a slim majority and have struggled to deal with absences over the last month.”

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

0 comments on “Cup of Joe – April 1, 2023

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: