All eyes on Manhattan
Good morning! It’s Tuesday, March 21, 2023. The 2024 elections are 595 days away.
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No Trump indictment expected today, despite his prediction
Today is the day former President Donald Trump said he would be arrested.
However, per NBC News, no developments are expected today in the Manhattan district attorney’s probe of the ex-president. The Manhattan grand jury is set to meet next on Wednesday, making that the next possible date an indictment could be filed.
Fox News has reported that the grand jury has another witness to interview on Wednesday, which could push an indictment until next week — but the situation is fluid and there have been several conflicting reports. All of them, though, agree that a Trump indictment is “likely,” which would be the first time a sitting or former U.S. president will have been charged with a crime.
At the request of Trump’s lawyers, the grand jury heard testimony on Monday from attorney Robert Costello, who sought to poke holes in the case against Trump. Former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen, who has repeatedly testified before the grand jury, was told to be available to possibly offer a rebuttal, but was never called to do so.
Asked if he believes he will be called to testify again, Cohen responded: “No, I think it’s all over.”
The case at hand
Trump is facing possible charges stemming from his role in paying $130,000 in hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. Daniels has alleged that she and Trump had an affair in 2006, which he has denied.
The 2016 payment was made by Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to resulting campaign finance violations. (Trump was famously named in that indictment as “Individual One.”) Trump later reimbursed Cohen.
If he is indicted, it would likely be on charges of falsifying business records: the reimbursement was recorded by the Trump Organization as a legal expense, which prosecutors would argue was not true. That charge is only a misdemeanor in New York; however, it can be elevated to a felony if it is proven that the falsification was done to conceal another crime. In this case, the second crime would likely be a campaign finance violation, under the theory that the payment was effectively a contribution to the Trump campaign but not reported as such.
Such a case would rely on a novel and untested legal theory, no matter if the underlying crime is a state or federal one (it would be unusual to charge a presidential candidate with a state election crime, but also unusual for a state crime and a federal crime to be paired together to charge someone with a felony). The case is further complicated by its expected reliance on testimony by Cohen, who has previously been convicted of lying to investigators in a separate case.
How would arresting a former president work?
Officials from the Secret Service, NYPD, and district attorney Alvin Bragg’s office met on Monday to discuss the logistics of how Trump would be arrested, if an indictment is to be filed.
“He would be finger printed and a mug shot would be taken, though he is not expected to be ‘perp-walked’ or paraded before the public in handcuffs,” according to Politico.
Whether Trump would be handcuffed at all would be up to Bragg, who is a Democrat. Trump’s lawyers have said the former president would turn himself in if indicted.
Secret Service agents would accompany Trump through the entire process.
More indictment updates.
DeSantis speaks. After days of pressure from Trumpworld to condemn the expected indictment, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis broke his silence on Monday. DeSantis accused Bragg of only going after Trump in service of a “political agenda” — but also made sure to repeatedly mention the allegations Trump was facing.
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” DeSantis said, drawing laughter from attendees in the room. “I just, I can’t speak to that.” (Trump responded by insinuating, without evidence, that DeSantis may soon face sexual misconduct allegations from a man.)
Law enforcement preparations. After Trump’s call for an indictment against him to be met with protests, law enforcement officials in New York, D.C., and Florida are beefing up security in preparation. Barricades were erected outside Bragg’s office on Monday; extra precautions are being taken at the Capitol as well.
According to CBS News, intelligence officials have detected a “significant increase” in threats against Bragg and other New York officials — although there are no signs yet of large, coordinated protests being planned.
Congressional response. A trio of House Republican committee chairs sent a letter to Bragg on Monday, requesting that he testify and provide documents about the Trump case. The lawmakers wrote that Bragg’s plans to charge Trump “plainly appears to be a politically motivated prosecutorial decision.”
Other Trump investigation updates.
Georgia. Per CNN, Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis is “considering bringing racketeering and conspiracy charges” in her investigation of the campaign by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 vote in Georgia.
Trump’s lawyers moved to hamper the probe on Monday, filing a motion to disqualify Willis from the investigation and quash any evidence gathered in the special grand jury probe she empaneled.
Classified documents. The Justice Department has been slowly intensifying its investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents. Last week, a federal judge sided with the DOJ, ordering a Trump lawyer to testify before the grand jury in the case — and even to hand over his notes to federal prosecutors.
At least two dozen people, from Mar-a-Lago servers to close Trump aides, have been subpoenaed in the inquiry, CNN reported.
Defamation. Former magazine writer E. Jean Carroll has accused Trump of defamation in two separate lawsuits, stemming from his denial of her allegation that he raped her in the 1990s.
The trial in one of the suits was delayed on Monday, but the other is set to begin in April 25 in New York; both Trump and Carroll are expected to testify.
January 6th. Six members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, were convicted on Monday in charges related to the January 6th attack. According to prosecutors, the January 6th investigation — already the biggest in history, with nearly 1,000 people charged — is only half done.
Veto: “President Joe Biden on Monday vetoed his first bill, blocking the repeal of a Labor Department rule that permitted retirement investing tied to environmental and social goals.” — Politico
Climate: “Earth is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next decade, and nations will need to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously beyond that level, according to a major new report released on Monday.” — New York Times
Judiciary: “One of President Joe Biden’s nominees to a federal appeals court has generated rare concern from some Democrats and outside groups over his signature on a legal brief defending a parental notification law in New Hampshire, injecting the issue of abortion into his confirmation fight from an unexpected flank.” — Associated Press
Recommended read: The Los Angeles Times follows Nancy Pelosi for a day in her new life as a rank-and-file member of Congress — as she serves effectively as a “national congresswoman,” with wide influence but few responsibilities.
In Pelosi’s words: “I’m emancipated now! Liberated! Freedom! Free at last!”
President Biden will deliver remarks at the White House Conservation in Action Summit and present the 2021 National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals.
- At the summit, Biden will announce that he is formally establishing two new national monuments — Kwa Ame in Nevada and Castner Range in Texas — protecting a combined 514,000 acres of public lands.
- At the awards ceremony, he will honor artists including Bruce Springsteen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gladys Knight, Mindy Kaling, and Vera Wang (full list) and authors including Walter Isaacson, Ann Patchett, Bryan Stevenson, Tara Westover, and Colson Whitehead (full list).
The Senate has one vote scheduled: a procedural vote to advance S.316, which would repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs) against Iraq.
- Although intended for the Gulf and Iraq Wars, both AUMFs have remained in effect after those conflicts ended — and been used by presidents of both parties to unilaterally authorize airstrikes around the globe. The repeal bill advanced past its last procedural hurdle in a bipartisan 68-27 vote last week.
The House will convene for a brief pro forma session. No votes or legislative business will be conducted.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases:
- Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc., which asks “whether federal trademark law applies to trademark infringement that takes place outside the United States,” per SCOTUSBlog.
- Coinbase, Inc. v. Bielski, which “involves the procedures for deciding whether a dispute should be resolved by a court or an arbitrator,” per SCOTUSBlog.
Before I go...
As you may have noticed in yesterday’s “Daybook,” there were some special guests at the White House yesterday: the cast of “Ted Lasso,” the uplifting Apple TV+ show that just kicked off its third season.
Jason Sudeikis, the “SNL” alum who plays the title character, and a gaggle of guest stars joined the White House briefing to discuss the importance of mental health. And he even took a question from “Trent Crimm, The Independent.”
The full video is here for any fellow fans of the show who might appreciate it:
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