Cup of Joe – April 5, 2023

Former President Donald Trump turned himself in at a courthouse in Manhattan to answer to criminal charges related to paying hush money to a porn star.

Donald Trump didn’t speak or respond to reporters as he walked in the courtroom for his arraignment.

Donal Trump pleaded not guilty in a packed Manhattan courtroom Tuesday to dozens of counts of falsifying business records and conspiracy for his alleged role in hush money payments to two women toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign, NBC News reports.

Donald Trump was charged Tuesday with 34 counts of business fraud. The charges were unsealed after his arraignment Tuesday afternoon. Trump is accused of knowingly participating in a $130,000 payment made by his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen to Daniels just days before the 2016 election to stop her from going public about a decade-old extramarital affair.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s Statement of Facts refers to another 2016 hush money payment of $150,000 to a second woman, who is assumed to be former Playboy model Karen McDougal, again to keep her quiet about an affair from 2006.

And perhaps the most shocking and unexpected, it also refers to a $30,000 payment from American Media Inc. (AMI), then-parent company of National Enquirer, to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about Trump having a child out of wedlock.

Donald Trump is scheduled to fly back to his Mar-a-Lago home after his arraignment on criminal charges. He plans to give remarks to the nation at 8:15 p.m. despite his advisers reportedly being concerned about a potential gag order from the judge that would prevent him from discussing the case.

A Trump campaign source told Semafor that they’re “preparing for every single scenario.”

New York Times: “One of them involved the National Enquirer, a longtime ally of Mr. Trump, paying $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman, who claimed to know that Mr. Trump fathered a child out of wedlock.”

“The tabloid made another payment to Karen McDougal, Playboy’s playmate of the year in 1998, who wanted to sell her story of an affair with Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign. She reached a $150,000 agreement with the National Enquirer, which bought the rights to her story to suppress it, a practice known as ‘catch and kill.’”

“The final payoff, which is the focus of the indictment, involved a $130,000 deal between Mr. Trump’s fixer, Michael D. Cohen, and a porn star in the final days of the campaign. The payment, which Mr. Cohen said he made at Mr. Trump’s direction, ensured the porn star, Stormy Daniels, would not go public with her story of a sexual liaison with Mr. Trump.”

A law enforcement official tells Rolling Stone that Donald Trump “was offered a chance to surrender quietly and be arraigned over Zoom. Instead, Trump opted for a midday, high-profile booking at the Manhattan courthouse.”

Said the official: “He wanted a perp walk, he wanted daylight hours. He wants to get out of the vehicle and walk up the stairs. This is a nightmare for Secret Service, but they can only strongly suggest — not order — that Trump enter through the secure tunnels. Trump wants to greet the crowd. This should be a surprise to no one — especially not his detail.”

New York Times: “The particulars of the indictment against former President Donald Trump have yet to be revealed, but the salient details are heaven-made for headlines and screen crawls: Sex. Porn star. Sex. Hush money. Sex.”

“Mr. Trump maintains his innocence in now-familiar fashion, framing himself as the righteous victim of “thugs and radical left monsters.” But the indictment’s salacious nature resurrects the Donald Trump who existed well before he became the 45th president — before his ubiquitous MAGA catchphrase, before his claims to be greater than Washington or Lincoln, before the two impeachments and one Capitol riot.”

“That would be the Donald Trump who liked to present himself as a player, extremely confident that his wealth and looks made him catnip to women. A man who could talk about threesomes with a radio shock jock, boldly stroll through a dressing area filled with pageant contestants, rate women on a 1-to-10 scale based on their physical appearance.”

New York Times: “Two tactics have been at the center of Donald J. Trump’s favored strategy in court cases for much of his adult life: attack and delay. And if the former president sticks to his well-worn legal playbook, they will be part of his approach to fighting the criminal charges now leveled against him.”

“In fact, his attacks against both the prosecutor and the judge in the case have already begun.”

“Former President Donald Trump has hired a top white-collar criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, Todd Blanche, as his lead counsel to handle the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal indictment of the former president,” Politico reports.

“Blanche, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, has previously represented Trump ally Paul Manafort as well as Igor Fruman, a onetime associate of Rudy Giuliani who pleaded guilty in a campaign finance case brought by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.”

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton was interviewed by Margaret Brennan on CBS News:

BRENNAN: So you agree that the Justice Department was weaponized under the Trump administration?

BOLTON: I can attest to it personally.

“I think it’s important to stress that in this case that involves hush-hush money to a porn star to cover up an affair that later involves cooking his company’s books, you have not heard a single Trump defender stand up and say, oh, that’s not the Donald Trump I know.”— Former National Security Adviser John Bolton, quoted by CBS News.

New York Times: “The next few days could be critical for Mr. Trump, and advisers have warned him that he could easily damage his own case… He wrote an especially incendiary post on his social media site, Truth Social, that featured a news article with a photo of Alvin Bragg on one side and Mr. Trump holding a baseball bat on the other.”

“It was eventually taken down, after pleading by advisers.”

Donald Trump spent his last few hours before being arrested Tuesday ranting on Truth Social, the Daily Beast reports.

He accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of leaking his indictment, called for Bragg to indict himself for some reason, and tried to turn the tables on his past—and likely future—opponent by saying that it is Joe Biden, and not him, who is guilty of obstruction.

Associated Press: “The spectacle that is sure to unfold will mark an unprecedented moment in American history that will demonstrate once again how dramatically Trump — who already held the distinction of being the first president to be impeached twice — has upended democratic norms.”

“But on a personal level, the indictment pierces the cloak of invincibility that seemed to follow Trump through his decades in business and in politics, as he faced allegations of fraud, collusion and sexual misconduct.”

In  case you’ve lost track, The Bulwark rounds up Donald Trump’s other legal problems:

First, there is the investigation by the Department of Justice into the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

Second, there is DOJ’s investigation of the effort to stymie the transfer of power following the 2020 election, including the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol…

Third is the investigation—led by Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia—into election fraud in that state, arising from Trump’s having asked the Georgia secretary of state to “find” enough votes to hand him an Electoral College win there.

Fourth is the set of investigations (some criminal, some civil) into Trump’s various corporate enterprises. The attorney general of New York state, Letitia James, and the district attorney of Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, have each been leading probes.

“Democrats, Trump insiders and legal experts all agree: The investigation into former President Trump’s handling of classified documents poses a far more dangerous threat to his freedom than the indictment in New York,” Axios reports.

“Investigators suspect that Trump personally examined some of the boxes containing classified material — apparently out of a desire to keep certain documents — after receiving a grand jury subpoena demanding they be returned.”

Multiple U.S. Secret Service agents connected to former President Donald Trump have been subpoenaed and are expected to testify before the Washington, D.C. grand jury likely on Friday, Fox News reports.

The grand jury appearances are related to the Special Counsel Jack Smith probe into the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

“Republicans are warning that the unprecedented indictment of former President Trump on multiple charges sets a dangerous precedent that will lower the bar for future political prosecutions while putting the nation on a precarious slippery slope,” The Hill reports.

Disney CEO Bob Iger fought back against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ actions against his company, telling Disney shareholders on Monday that recent actions by the state were “anti-business,” CNN reports.

Gov. Ron DeSantis requested “a thorough review and investigation” into an effort by the Walt Disney Company to limit state oversight of development at Disney World, the New York Times reports.  “Last year, Mr. DeSantis asked Florida lawmakers to terminate self-governing privileges that Disney World had held since 1967.”

“Before the new board was installed, however, the Disney-controlled one passed restrictive covenants and a development agreement that gave the company vast control over future construction in the district; the new board has limited say.”

A ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy passed the Florida Senate on Monday, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill that lets people carry guns without a permit and without any training, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

“Months since it took effect, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature law to censor books in Florida schools has found an unintended target: his own book,” the Daily Beast reports.

“In a clever bit of trolling, Florida Democrats are subjecting DeSantis’ new tome—The Courage To Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival—to the rules that he and GOP lawmakers established to weed out books with allegedly inappropriate content on race, sexuality, and gender from school libraries.”

Catherine Rampell: “How do you negotiate with someone who has no idea what they want?”

“That’s the challenge for President Biden as Republicans say he must (A) satisfy their fiscal demands before they’ll raise the debt limit; even though they (B) can’t decide what those demands actually are; and they (C) have zero credibility for delivering 218 House votes for whatever those demands eventually turn out to be.”

“Finland’s flag is being raised on Tuesday afternoon at NATO headquarters, a deeply symbolic moment marking the Nordic nation’s official welcome into the alliance and the shifting power calculations as the West strengthens its allegiances in response to the war in Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

“The head of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said Monday that there is ‘overwhelming’ support in the United States to continue supplying aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, despite vocal opposition from a hard-right faction of his own Republican Party,” the AP reports.

“Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio, the Republican chairman of the committee, which serves as the House’s main body for overseeing American intelligence organizations, spoke alongside three other GOP congressmen during a brief visit to Kyiv.”

Foreign Policy: Will U.S. support for Ukraine outlast Biden?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a “secret winter residence” defended by its own missile defense system, the Daily Beast reports.  It is supposedly owned by Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, but it is actually Putin’s mountain escape.

Politico: “The pressure on Republicans stems chiefly from the gap between their voters’ hopes and Washington reality — for example, Johnson said some of his constituents want them making indictments and arrests, which Congress doesn’t have the power to do. But Republicans also acknowledge some of their problems are self-inflicted as they face growing pains readjusting to the majority.”

“A day after Twitter was supposed to begin removing verified check marks from accounts that wouldn’t pay for the platform’s new subscription service, many verified accounts appear to have kept their check marks — except for The New York Times,” NBC News reports.

Tennessee House Republicans on Monday moved to expel three Democrats for “disorderly behavior” after the trio led protest chants for gun reform on the floor of the chamber in the wake of The Covenant School shooting that left three children and three adults dead, the Tennessean reports.

Donald Trump released a video last night echoing a theme from his 2016 campaign: “It’s very simple. They can’t buy me and they can’t control me and that scares them beyond belief.”  Trump then asks for contributions.

Donald Trump’s “fortune dropped from an estimated $3.2 billion last fall to $2.5 billion today,” Forbes reports. “The biggest reason? His social media business, once hyped to the moon, has come crashing down.”

 “The shape-shifting president of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, Europe’s longest-serving elected leader, lost a re-election bid on Sunday, according to provisional official results, raising hopes across the Balkans of a long-awaited end to a political era stamped by the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s,” the New York Times reports.

Ross Douthat: “The theory that in order to beat Trump, other Republicans need to deserve to beat him, and that in order to deserve to beat him they need to attack his character with appropriate moral dudgeon, is a satisfying idea but not at all a realistic one. It isn’t credible that Republican voters who have voted for Trump multiple times over, in full knowledge of his immense defects, will finally decide to buy into the moral case just because DeSantis or any other rival hammers it in some new and exciting way.”

“Instead the plausible line of attack against Trump in a Republican primary has always been on competence and execution, with his moral turpitude cast as a practical obstacle to getting things done.”

“In the years since Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman catapulted to power, it has been hard to find a controversy in the Middle East that doesn’t somehow involve the 37-year-old heir to the throne. Now he’s pivoting to his next audacious plan: Giving peace a chance,” the AP reports.

“The moves toward reaching a détente with Iran, reestablishing ties to Syria and ending the kingdom’s yearslong war in Yemen could extricate Prince Mohammed from some of the thorniest regional issues he faces.”

“Nebraska lawmakers haven’t passed a single bill this session,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh has filibustered on the floor of the state Legislature for more than a month. The Omaha native is intentionally delaying progress on every bill as she protests legislation that would ban gender-affirming surgeries and treatment for transgender Nebraskans under age 19.”

The manhunt for Roy McGrath — the former chief of staff to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) — ended Monday evening after authorities confronted him in Tennessee, the Baltimore Banner reports. The circumstances around the encounter were not immediately clear, but McGrath was said to be wounded.

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

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