Good morning! It’s Thursday, May 4, 2023. The 2024 elections are 551 days away. Read this newsletter in your browser.
The latest in the Biden, Trump investigations
It was exactly one month ago today that Donald Trump walked into a Manhattan courtroom and pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges, becoming the first indicted former president in U.S. history.
In the time since, the indictment has almost completely fallen out of the news cycle, while Trump’s support in the Republican presidential primary has only grown (now reaching above 50% in many polls).
But the Manhattan indictment is not, of course, the only active criminal probe Trump faces. Nor is it the only probe into a 2024 presidential candidate: as in the 2016 election, both of America’s leading presidential candidates are once again under Justice Department investigation.
There have been a bevy of developments lately in both the Biden and Trump investigations. Catch up on the latest here:
Bribery allegation: House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer (R-KY) issued a subpoena on Wednesday directing the FBI to turn over documents that allegedly describe an unspecified “criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national.”
- In a letter written with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Comer demanded FBI Director Christoper Wray produce unredacted versions of all FD-1023 forms — which are documents used by the FBI to memorialize interviews with confidential sources — that contain the word “Biden.”
- According to the two lawmakers, a whistleblower told Grassley that one of these FD-1023s “details an arrangement involving an exchange of money for policy decisions” by Biden, but the pair provided no further details about the accusation or any evidence to support the claim.
Hunter investigations: Justice Department prosecutors are nearing a decision on whether to criminally charge Biden’s son Hunter after a four-year investigation, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. Biden’s attorneys met with DOJ lawyers in Washington last week, a sign that the probe is coming to an end.
- Per NBC News, prosecutors are considering four potential charges against the younger Biden: two misdemeanor counts for failure to file taxes, a felony count of tax evasion, and a felony count for making a false statement related to a gun purchase. The investigation is being overseen by David Weiss, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware.
- Hunter Biden is also embroiled in an ongoing paternity case in Arkansas, where DNA tests have confirmed that he is the father of a four-year-old daughter. Biden appeared in court earlier this week to request a reduction in his child support payments to Lunden Roberts, the girl’s mother. Roberts, meanwhile, has asked the judge to hold Biden in contempt and send him to jail. More information about the younger Biden’s finances could emerge as part of the case.
Classified documents probe: House Oversight Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) released excerpts from the panel’s interview with Kathy Chung, the staff assistant who helped Biden pack up his vice presidential office.
- Chung testified that she was unaware that classified documents were among the papers she packed. She also rebutted Comer’s claims that Hunter Biden recommended her hiring specifically to move classified documents or that she has ties to China; Chung began working for Biden years before the packing process began, and hails from South Korea.
- In addition to the Oversight Committee investigation, Special Counsel Robert Hur is overseeing the Justice Department probe into Biden’s handling of classified documents.
Rape and defamation trial: The former president’s attorneys opted Wednesday not to mount a defense in the civil trial over columnist E. Jean Carroll’s claim that Trump raped her in a Manhattan dressing room in the 1990s.
- Trump’s lawyers had originally said they might call two defense witnesses: an expert who would try to rebut Carroll’s allegations, and Trump himself. But the expert witness developed “health issues” and Trump decided against testifying, so the ex-president’s legal team won’t offer any witnesses as part of the trial.
January 6th investigation: Special Counsel Jack Smith sat in on former Vice President Mike Pence’s five-hour testimony before a federal grand jury last week, CNN reported on Wednesday.
- It is the first time Smith has been known to personally attend a grand jury proceeding in his investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Classified documents probe: In Smith’s other Trump probe, investigating the ex-president’s handling of classified documents after leaving office, the special counsel has reportedly been asking questions about the Trump Organization’s response to a subpoena requesting Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage.
- Per CNN, longtime father-and-son Trump Organization executives Matthew Calamari Sr. and Matthew Calamari Jr. are set to testify before Smith’s other grand jury today, as part of a recent round of subpeonas to top Trump employees. Smith is reportedly trying to glean information about how the Trump Organization handled the security footage after receiving a DOJ subpoena for the tapes.
Hush money case: Trump’s criminal case in Manhattan, the one in which he faces an indictment for falsifying business records, will hold its second public hearing today.
- A judge will consider Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s request for a protective order barring Trump from publicly discussing the evidence against him he receives as part of the discovery process.
NYT lawsuit: A judge on Wednesday dismissed Trump’s $10 million lawsuit against the New York Times over its 2018 reporting on his taxes and ordered Trump to pay the paper’s legal fees. A related lawsuit against Mary Trump, the ex-president’s niece who was a source for the Times reporting, is ongoing.
More legal developments
A few other recent developments in various political investigations:
- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has claimed an owner-occupancy tax credit at two properties for years, a potential violation of Ohio tax laws. (NBC)
- A former FBI agent was charged Wednesday with illegally entering the Capitol on January 6th. (NYT)
- Billionaire Harlan Crow paid the private school tuition for Justice Clarence Thomas’ adopted son (ProPublica). Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined to recuse herself from a case involving her own book publisher (The Daily Wire).
In other news...
INTEREST RATES: “The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday it was raising its key federal funds rate to more than 5% — a 16-year high — as it continues its firefight against persistent inflation.” NBC
IN THE STATES: “New York has become the first state in the nation to pass a law banning natural gas and other fossil fuels in most new buildings, a move that could help reshape how Americans heat and cook in their homes in the coming decades.” WaPo
EDUCATION: “Scores in U.S. history and civics for eighth-graders are down across the U.S., according to recent results from the assessment known as the ‘Nation's Report Card.’ This year's history scores are the lowest recorded since the assessment began in 1994, and the new data mark the first-ever drop in civics.” NPR
Today in government...
White House: President Biden has nothing on his public schedule... VP Harris will hold a meeting with four AI CEOs and travel to Richmond, Virginia, for an event promoting small businesses.
Senate: The Senate will vote to confirm a district judge nominee, and to advance nominees to be Archivist of the United States and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
House: The House is on recess.
Supreme Court: The Supreme Court has nothing on its schedule.
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