Donald J. Trump: Leading U.S. presidential candidate/criminal and civil defendant
"Former president Donald Trump is adrift in a sea of legal jeopardy, which he will have to navigate through the Republican presidential-nomination campaign — tugging the GOP and the country along for the ride."
- Andrew C. McCarthy, NRO
"The extraordinary spectacle of a former president bidding for a non-consecutive second term while fighting off a flurry of legal investigations," writes Stephen Collison at CNN.com, "will highlight one of the unknowns of the quickly accelerating GOP primary – the extent to which the frontrunner's tangle of legal problems will drain time, energy and focus from his campaign.
"There is little evidence so far that Trump's voters care about his growing legal headaches. In fact, his indictment in the Manhattan case coincided with a rise in his primary poll numbers." (A new Monmouth poll finds a majority of Republican voters feel Trump would be their strongest nominee in the 2024 election.)
And the Manhattan indictment, where Trump is criminally charged with 34 counts of business fraud and is facing a March, 2024 trial – right in the middle of primary season - is only one of many potential criminal and civil cases facing the GOP's leading presidential candidate. For details, see below:
- "New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October
- "E. Jean Carroll sues Trump, wins $5 million judgment, sues him again for $10 million"
- "Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme, trial set for January, 2024"
- "Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overturn election"
- "Justice Department special counsel investigating Jan. 6 riot and much more"
- "Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago"
- "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March, 2024"
- And, at bottom of blog, "Calendar: Trump's trials, hearings, deadlines and the GOP primary"
CNN's Collinson concludes, "One criminal prosecution is onerous enough. Trump hasn't been charged in any of the other cases, but a multi-front defense in multiple cases would represent an extraordinary storm. And it would further disrupt the ex-president's capacity to dictate his political schedule and control his destiny."
Based on recent media reports, two current investigations pose the gravest new threats to the former president.
Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis has announced she will be issuing indictments in August and Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith appears to be wrapping up his investigation of Trump's decision to take top-secret government home with him after leaving the White House.
In Georgia, the special grand jury forewoman, Emily Kohrs, went on a media tour and reported that the special grand jury recommended indictments of multiple people on a range of charges. "It is not a short list," Kohrs said, admitting the special grand jury recommended more than a dozen indictments.
Asked whether the jurors had recommended indicting Trump, Kohrs gave a cryptic answer: "You're not going to be shocked. It's not rocket science," adding "you won't be too surprised."
Willis is expected to indict Trump for, among other things, his infamous phone call to the state's top election official asking him to "find" enough votes to overturn Biden's win in Georgia. (The Fulton County grand jury may also indict Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who allegedly led the charge in Georgia and other states to submit fake electoral college votes to Congress.
And Special counsel Smith is reportedly wrapping up his investigation into Trump's refusal to return classified documents after his election defeat. According to Bloomberg, possible criminal charges are expected "in the days or weeks after Memorial Day."
Trump-era Attorney General Bill Barr recently told CBS News, "It's very clear that he had no business having those documents. He was given a long time to send them back. And they were subpoenaed. And I've said all along that he wouldn't get in trouble, probably, just for taking them, just as Biden I don't think is going to get in trouble or Pence is not going to get in trouble.
"The problem," Barr continued, "is what did he do after the government asked for them back and subpoenaed them? And if there's any games being played there, he's going to be very exposed."
Ty Cobb, who served a Trump White House attorney from 2017 to 2018, predicted on CNN that Trump will be convicted and sent to prison for illegally handling classified documents. "Yes, I do think he will go to jail on it."
Blog updated June 3.
For daily updates, follow me on Twitter @Raygiles1
- New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October
- Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme, trial set for January, 2024
- Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March, 2024, plus Legal Analysis
- Partner, estate of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick blame Trump, followers for his death
- NAACP, Democrat House members file lawsuit for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol; Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence
- E. Jean Carroll sues Trump, wins $5 million judgment, sues him again for $10 million
- Trump and GOP face lawsuit claiming they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act
- Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riot
- Trump faces five separate lawsuits by Capitol and D.C. police for Jan. 6 riot
- Smartmatic sues Fox News for $2.7 billion
- Supreme Court will decide if Congress can see Trump's Washington D.C. hotel records
- Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overturn election
- House Select Committee completes investigation of Jan. 6 riot, forwards criminal referrals to DOJ; plus, Running Tally: Who cooperated and who did not; and 64 Days That Will Live in Infamy
Justice Department special counsel investigating Jan. 6 riot and much more
- Justice Department and states investigate GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes
- Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago
- Truth Social, Trump's go-to platform, struggles with investigations, money problems
- Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman all under investigation
Disposition of five Trump-related cases
- Dominion sues Fox News for $1.6 billion, settles for $787.5 million and admission of guilt
- Trump Organization found guilty on 17 counts of tax fraud, other crimes
- House committee sues, gets and then releases Trump's tax returns
- DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle case over misuse of Inaugural funds
- Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others; imposes $1 million fine on Trump and lawyer
Calendar: Trump's trials, hearings, deadlines and the GOP primary
List of news and commentary sources used in blog
New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October
The Latest: The actions of Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, are taking on increasing significance in New York Attorney General Letitia James' tax fraud lawsuit against the family business, Ewan Palmer at Newsweek reported May 15.
James is suing the former president, along with three of his children, Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and two senior executives at The Trump Organization for $250 million over allegations the real estate company inflated or undervalued the value of a number of assets for financial benefit.
Trump's eldest daughter has come under scrutiny as part of the case, including being singled out by James' office for her apparent failure to comply with proceedings.
In April, James' office wrote to New York Judge Arthur Engoron to intervene, saying the defendants in the Trump Organization hadn't handed over the necessary information and documents as part of the discovery process in a "timely and transparent fashion."
James' office told Engoron that among the "more significant issues" in the Trump family's insufficient response to the discovery process was an explanation in the "unexplained drop-off" in emails for Ivanka Trump between 2014 and 2017.
According to James' office, in the first nine months of 2014, Ivanka's volume of emails was an average of 1,218 emails per month. This figure fell to 299 emails in October 2014, with an average of 242 emails through December 2015. In 2016, Ivanka averaged just 37 emails per month, according to James' office.
"Not only have defendants failed to offer any substantive response to this inquiry, but there have been no documents produced by Ms. Trump," the attorney general's office told Judge Engoron in the April 25 letter.
In response, Engoron set the Trump family a deadline of May 12 to hand over all outstanding requested documents and communications as part of the discovery process, and a further May 15 deadline to submit a compliance affidavit to confirm under oath that they have complied with their legal obligations to hand over the requested information.
Ivanka Trump has become a key focus of James' lawsuit after the former president's eldest daughter took steps to distance herself from the rest of her family in the case. She also replaced the attorneys representing her in the suit.
In March, Ivanka asked for a delay in the civil trial in order to organize her defense separately, while arguing she was not involved in the allegations that form the crux of the case.
Background: The genesis of the New York Attorney General Letitia James' $250 million lawsuit against Donald Trump et al announced in September, 2022 began in 2006 when Trump had a one-night affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. Ten years later and one month before the 2016 presidential election, GOP candidate Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep her mouth shut about the affair.
The attorney general's initial investigation began in March 2019 after Cohen testified before Congress and detailed Trump's alleged fraud in New York State, claiming the Trump Organization had lied about the value of its assets in order to secure loans and insurance and to reduce its tax liability. (Blog editor's note: When James announced her office's $250 million lawsuit against Trump et al for fraud on Sept. 21, 2022, she credited Cohen's testimony for triggering the investigation.)
Early in the investigation, Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told the New York Times, "Everything was done in strict compliance with applicable law and under the advice of counsel and tax experts." He added, "All applicable taxes were paid and no party received any undue benefit."
The attorney general's office subsequently deposed Eric Trump, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, in October, 2020. The New York Times reported that during his deposition, Eric Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself in response to more than 500 questions. Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization, also pleaded the Fifth repeatedly during his Feb. 24, 2020 deposition.
On Jan. 18, 2022 James alleged in a court filing that Trump's business inflated the value of its properties and misstated his personal worth in representations to lenders, insurance brokers and other players in his real estate empire, the Washington Post reported.
Two examples: According to Insider, an apartment leased by Ivanka Trump from the Trump Organization was given a sky-high public valuation of $25 million but offered to her for purchase for $8.5 million.
The Times reported Trump claimed his triplex apartment spanned 30,000 square feet, giving it an eye-popping value of $327 million. In truth, the apartment was 10,996 square feet. "Mr. Trump's long-serving chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, later acknowledged to investigators that the company had overvalued the apartment by 'give or take' $200 million."
James alleged, "Thus far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit."
And then on Feb. 14 Trump's long-time accounting firm announced it had ended its relationship with the Trump Organization. USA Today reported the firm, Mazars, said that a decade of Trump Organization financial statements "should no longer be relied upon."
On April 25, the district attorney's office told a court that evidence uncovered in the investigation into the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, New York, and the Trump National Golf Club in L.A., "indicates that the Trump Organization submitted fraudulent or misleading valuations of conservation easements to the Internal Revenue Service."
Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump sat for questioning in the investigation - Ivanka on Aug. 3 and Don Jr. on July 28. Trump Jr. did not assert his Fifth Amendment rights. He denied any role in preparing the company's financial statements.
Former President Trump completed his court-ordered testimony on Aug. 10 - raising his right hand, swearing to tell the truth and then declining to answer most of the questions. He invoked the Fifth protecting himself from self-incrimination 440 times during the four-hour interview.
And then on Sept. 21, James filed the $250 million lawsuit against Trump, the Trump Organization, his three oldest children, and two top executives, Allan Weisselberg and Jeff McConney. James' statement reads, in part, "The lawsuit alleges that Donald Trump, with the help of his children Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things. From 2011-2021, Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization knowingly and intentionally created more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets on his annual Statements of Financial Condition to defraud financial institutions."
The potential civil penalties would destroy Trump's New York business. The lawsuit seeks to:
- Permanently bar Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York state;
- Bar Trump and the Trump Organization from entering into any New York state commercial real estate acquisitions for a period of five years;
- Bar Trump and the Trump Organization from applying for loans from any financial institution registered with the New York Department of Financial Services for a period of five years.
James said her office also sent criminal referrals on the case to both the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan and the IRS in Washington, D.C.
James office asked a judge to bar former President Trump from moving his businesses to a new holding company, CNBC reported Oct. 13. (On Sept. 21, the same day that Attorney General James sued Trump and the other defendants, her office saw that the Trump Organization had registered with New York's secretary of state a new company, called "Trump Organization II LLC." That new firm is incorporated in Delaware.) The request was spurred by concerns that the AG's office would have difficulty getting Trump to pay a fine, if he loses the suit, as a result of his assets being held by a company that is not named as a defendant in the case.
New York state Judge Arthur Engoron on Nov. 3 ordered an independent monitor be appointed to oversee the Trump Organization before the case by the state's attorney general against Trump's company goes to trial, Reuters reported. In October, James had asked the Manhattan-based judge to appoint a watchdog to halt "staggering" fraud at the company and keep the Trumps from transferring assets out of state.
Barbara Jones, a retired federal judge, was subsequently appointed to keep an eye on the company's future financial filings. Judge Engoron empowered Jones to monitor the company's new financial filings, including any submitted to banks, insurers, and tax authorities.
James' $250 million lawsuit against Trump and his children will go on trial October 2.
Trump returned to New York City April 13 to sit for a second deposition as part of New York Attorney General Letitia James' $250 million civil fraud lawsuit, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
According to reports, Trump testified for nearly seven hours. (The first time he testified - last Aug. 10 - he took the Fifth for most of the four-hour long interview.)
After Trump's second round of testimony, one of his lawyers said the former president had spent nearly seven hours "describing in detail his extraordinary business success and how the transactions at the center of this case were wildly profitable for the banks and for the Trump entities.
Ivanka Trump has hired her own counsel to represent her, Forbes reported April 26.
Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme, trial set for January, 2024
Former President Trump, the Trump Organization, and three of his adult children, Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, all suffered a legal setback in a federal appeals court on July 28, 2021 Law & Crime and Politico reported.
From Law & Crime: "For years the Trump family and its namesake entity have fought to keep a pyramid scheme lawsuit from being litigated in public. The Trump family's weapon of choice to keep those details under wraps was private and compelled arbitration clauses."
But in a 43-page opinion issued July 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the Trump family's request to settle the numerous complaints against them through arbitration.
"The truth or falsity of the plaintiffs' allegations is not before us," Circuit Judge Robert D. Sack wrote. "We neither express nor imply any views with respect to them. The only question before us is whether this case should be resolved before the district court or an arbitrator."
Asserting myriad claims including "racketeering" and conspiracy and fraud, several of the class action plaintiffs originally sued the Trumps in October 2018 alleging the defendants - by way of "videos, print and online media" - promoted and endorsed a multi-level marketing, or pyramid, scheme known as ACN Opportunity, LLC.
Trump endorsed the company in speeches and on his T.V. show, "The Celebrity Apprentice."
Those endorsements came, the anonymous plaintiffs allege, even though the Trumps failed to conduct due diligence about the likelihood of economic losses and the slim probability of commercial success from such schemes. Each of the plaintiffs produced evidence to show the vast majority of people who were convinced to become "Independent Business Owners" for ACN went on to suffer losses or earned minimal profits.
Instead, the plaintiffs claim the Trump family from 2005 to 2015 simply parroted ACN's allegedly untrue claims because they were being paid millions of dollars, payments that were not publicly disclosed at the time their endorsements were made. (The New York Times reported the multi-level marketing company paid former President Trump $8.8 million over 10 years.) The lawsuits also claim statements by the Trumps that they had conducted extensive due diligence and research concerning the business opportunity and had inside information and personal experience with ACN were untrue.
At first, the Trumps litigated the lawsuits in the court system and successfully batted away a few of the causes of action. After winning those victories, however, and failing to secure a motion to dismiss, the Trumps moved to have the remaining claims settled by secretive arbitration.
In April, 2021 a district court in New York City declined to allow the cases to be settled in arbitration. In May a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused to stay the decision pending appeal.
On Dec. 17, Bloomberg reported that unaired footage from Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" TV show is being reviewed by a team of lawyers in Los Angeles as part of the suit. A federal judge in New York City ordered the movie studio to make the footage available at a secure location, potentially ending a long-running battle that's still draped in secrecy. Lawyers for plaintiffs know what they're looking for: anything that shows Trump and his children knew they were duping would-be investors by leading them to ACN.
Donald Trump, Eric Trump and aide Hope Hicks were deposed in October, 2022. Plaintiff's attorney Robert Kaplan said in an email to Law & Crime on Nov. 4, "We look forward to moving forward expeditiously with expert discovery and class certification so that we can proceed to trial on the merits as soon as possible."
U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield has formally set a trial date in the case for Jan. 29, 2024.
Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March, 2024 plus Legal Analysis
The Latest: Ten months before Donald Trump is scheduled to stand trial in his historic New York City criminal case, Manhattan prosecutors are turning the former president's words against him in a tug of war over precisely where he will be tried, the Associated Press reported May 31.
Trump's lawyers have spent weeks angling to have the hush money trial moved to federal court. The Manhattan district attorney's office responded Tuesday that the case should remain in the state court where it originated, citing old Trump tweets that they say undermine his lawyers' jurisdictional challenge.
Trump's lawyers argue he can't be tried in state court because some of the alleged conduct occurred in 2017 while he was president, including checks he purportedly wrote while sitting in the Oval Office. They argue the case belongs in federal court because it "involves important federal questions" including alleged violations of federal election law.
The DA's office, in its response, pointed to tweets from 2018 in which Trump said he was paying Cohen a monthly retainer and that Cohen was being reimbursed for a $130,000 "private agreement" the lawyer made with porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from speaking about an alleged affair.
Trump tweeted that the payments had "nothing to do" with his campaign. Prosecutors also cited a statement in which Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer at the time, said the Daniels payment "was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect" Trump's family.
Ultimately it will be Manhattan federal judge Alvin Hellerstein who decides whether to seize control of the case or keep it in state court. likely after the two sides duke it out at a hearing on the issue June 27.
Trump's lawyers argue that he must be tried in federal court because, as commander-in-chief, he was a "federal officer." Colangelo contended that Trump's legal team hasn't satisfied any of three grounds for moving the case under that standard and questioned whether it would even apply to Trump.
Background: On Nov. 4, 2021 the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. convened a long-term grand jury to hear evidence about the Trump Organization's financial practices and potentially to vote on criminal charges, the Washington Post reported.
According to the Post, Trump's company sometimes valued its properties up to 30 times more than their value depending on who the numbers were provided to. For example, in 2013, the Trump Organization told county tax officials that its California golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes was worth $900,000. But in 2014, as the company was seeking a massive tax deduction through a conservation easement, it said the same property was worth at least $25 million.
According to the New York Times, in the early weeks of the tenure of Vance's replacement, Alvin Bragg, the new D.A. developed concerns about the strength of that case and decided to abandon the grand jury presentation.
In February, 2022 the two prosecutors heading the case, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned - which a source at the time said was an indication of frustration over the direction of the case.
Pomerantz said in his resignation letter that Trump was "guilty of numerous felony violations" and that it was "a grave failure of justice" not to hold him accountable, the New York Times reported March 23. Pomerantz asserted that he had a meritorious case against Trump on felony tax offenses that Bragg refused to charge. "His financial statements were false, and he has a long history of fabricating information relating to his personal finances and lying about his assets to banks, the national media, counterparties, and many others, including the American people," Pomerantz wrote in his resignation letter.
In his book published after resigning, Pomerantz described Trump "as a malignant narcissist, and perhaps even a megalomaniac who posed a real danger to the country."
The New York Times reported April 29, "When Mr. Bragg took office this year, he and several of his aides raised concerns about the strength of the case, questioning whether they could prove that Mr. Trump intended to break the law. Other prosecutors in the office had raised similar concerns, people with knowledge of the matter said. In the final months of Mr. Vance's tenure, three assistant district attorneys stopped working on the investigation, concerned about how rapidly it was proceeding and what they felt were gaps in the evidence against the former president."
(Blog editor's note: On March 30, 2023, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, the former chief assistant Manhattan District Attorney, said on MSNBC that the investigation is still active. Former special assistant district attorney in Manhattan, Catherine Christian, told MSNBC on April 5 the same thing.)
And then on Nov. 21, the New York Times reported, "The Manhattan district attorney's office has moved to jump-start its criminal investigation into Donald Trump, seeking to breathe new life into an inquiry that once seemed to have reached a dead end."
"The district attorney's office first examined the payment to the actress, Stormy Daniels, years ago before changing direction to scrutinize Mr. Trump's broader business practices. But Mr. Bragg and some of his deputies have recently indicated to associates, supporters and at least one lawyer involved in the matter that they are newly optimistic about building a case against Mr. Trump, the people said."
(ABC News reported that Trump, after announcing his candidacy for president in 2015, recruited his attorney, Michael Cohen, and tabloid executive David Pecker to work together to "suppress negative stories" by having Pecker, on behalf of the National Enquirer, procure exclusive rights to stories that might cast a negative light on Trump and then not publish them. Trump and Cohen would then reimburse Pecker's company, AMI. The group eventually paid-off two women and one man. Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and a doorman at Trump Tower who told a tall tale about Trump have an out-of-wedlock son.)
The New York Times reported Cohen, the former president's former "fixer," is talking again to the Manhattan D.A. "The questioning of the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, offered the clearest sign yet that the district attorney's office was ramping up its investigation into Mr. Trump's role in the $130,000 hush money deal. Mr. Cohen has said publicly that Mr. Trump directed him, in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, to buy the silence of Stephanie Clifford, the actress known as Stormy Daniels." (The payment to Daniels came three days after release of the infamous "Hollywood Access" tape in which Trump is heard bragging about the fact that, being a "star," he could sexually assault women with impunity. The payment to Daniels was allegedly seen as a necessity to protect Trump's chances of winning the 2016 election.)
Cohen went to prison in 2018 for, among other things, campaign finance violations. Cohen's campaign finance problems came from the check he got from Donald Trump to pay off Stormy Daniels. Trump (identified as "Individual-1" by the Justice Department in Cohen-related court filings) emerged legally unscathed and has denied that he directed Cohen to pay off Daniels, saying the payments did not come from his campaign and that he did not have an affair with Daniels while married to the now-former first lady, Melania.
NPR reported that Cohen told authorities he paid the Daniels the money and arranged to be reimbursed $420,000 by Trump's company to cover his taxes. The company recorded the payments to Cohen as legal fees, which could constitute a crime in New York.
On Jan. 30, 2023 the Manhattan district attorney's office began presenting evidence to a grand jury about Trump's role in paying hush money to porn star Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
One of the witnesses, David Pecker, was seen with his lawyer entering the building in Lower Manhattan where the grand jury is sitting. Pecker is the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with Daniels.
Daniels claims to have slept with Trump in 2006. In her memoir, Daniels described in graphic detail Trump's anatomy and the circumstances of their tryst. On Jan. 30, he again denied ever having an affair with Daniels.
One of Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina, appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" March 13 and said Trump has "no plans on participating" in the Manhattan grand jury. The lawyer, when asked if Trump directed Cohen to pay Daniels, replied, "Let's assume he did."
And then on March 30 Trump became the first former American president to be indicted on felony criminal charges after the Manhattan district attorney's office filed charges against him in connection with a $130,000 hush money payment weeks before the 2016 presidential campaign made to porn star Stormy Daniels, ABC News and the New York Times reported.
Cohen claims he made the payment at Trump's direction.
Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney's office say that Trump illegally falsified business records when his reimbursement of the funds to Cohen was logged in the Trump Organization's books as a "monthly retainer" for Cohen's legal services, ABC News reported.
Trump was arraigned, and the charges unsealed on April 4 in Manhattan Criminal Court. Trump plead "not guilty" to 34 felony charges. Bragg said that Trump was accused of "falsifying New York business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election."
Judge Juan Merchan has set March 25, 2024 as the trial date. The judge said no one associated with the case, including Trump, should schedule anything to interfere. "He cannot agree to any speaking engagements, appearances," Merchan said.
Charlie Savage at the New York Times commented on the charges the Manhattan District Attorney filed against former President Trump. Here is just a portion of his essay.
The unsealed indictment against former President Donald Trump laid out an unexpected accusation that bolstered what many legal experts have described as an otherwise risky and novel case: Prosecutors claim he falsified business records in part for a plan to deceive state tax authorities.
Accusing Trump of bookkeeping fraud to conceal campaign finance violations, many believed, could raise significant legal challenges. That accusation turned out to be a major part of Bragg's theory — but not all of it.
"Pundits have been speculating that Trump would be charged with lying about the hush-money payments to illegally affect an election, and that theory rests on controversial legal issues and could be hard to prove," said Rebecca Roiphe, a New York Law School professor and former state prosecutor.
"It turns out the indictment also includes a claim that Trump falsified records to commit a state tax crime," she continued. "That's a much simpler charge that avoids the potential pitfalls."
But bookkeeping fraud is normally a misdemeanor. For it to rise to a felony, prosecutors must show that a defendant intended to commit, aid or conceal a second crime — raising the question of what other crime Bragg would contend is involved.
Bragg suggested that prosecutors are putting forward multiple theories for the second crime, potentially giving judges and jurors alternative routes to finding that bookkeeping fraud was a felony.
As was widely predicted, he is pointing toward alleged violations of both federal and state elections laws. By doing so, he is in part plunging forward with a premise that has given pause to even some of Trump's toughest critics.
As a matter of legal process, to cite federal law raises the untested question of whether a state prosecutor can invoke a federal crime even though he lacks jurisdiction to charge that crime himself. Still, Article 175 (in New York State law) does not say that the second intended crime must be a state-law offense.
At a news conference, Bragg pointed to both state and federal election law. He cited a New York state election law that makes it a misdemeanor to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means, but did not explain why that law would apply to a presidential election. He also described a federal cap on campaign contributions without indicating why he had the authority to invoke a crime he could not himself charge.
Bragg also introduced yet another theory, accusing Trump of falsifying business records as a way to back up planned false claims to tax authorities.
"The participants also took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments made in furtherance of the scheme," Bragg wrote in the statement of facts that accompanied the indictment.
At one point, he seemed to suggest that a planned false statement to New York tax authorities was just an example of the ways by which Trump and Cohen purportedly violated the state law against conspiring to promote a candidate through unlawful means.
At another point Bragg seemed to put forward an alleged plan to lie to tax authorities — an intention to say Cohen had earned income for "legal services performed in 2017" to launder what was in reality a repayment — as a stand-alone offense.
In the courtroom, prosecutor Christopher Conroy accused Trump of causing the Trump Organization to create a series of false business records, adding that he "even mischaracterized for tax purposes the true nature of the payment."
"The reference to false tax filings may save the case from legal challenges that may arise if the felony charges are predicated only on federal and state election laws," said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University.
Indeed, a range of election law specialists expressed fresh doubt about whether Bragg could successfully use campaign finance laws alone to elevate the bookkeeping fraud charges to felonies. Among those skeptics were Richard L. Hasen, a UCLA legal scholar, and Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a longtime election lawyer for the Republican Party and a critic of Trump.
Postscript: "The bottom line is that it's murky," Hasen, an expert in election law, told Fortune. "And the district attorney did not offer a detailed legal analysis as to how they can do this, how they can get around these potential hurdles. And it could potentially tie up the case for a long time."
Partner, estate of Capitol Police Office Brian Sicknick blame Trump, followers for his death
The estate of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack, sued Donald Trump on Jan. 5, 2023 alleging the officer's death resulted from the former president's "incendiary" rhetoric and false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In a 47-page lawsuit, lawyers for Sicknick's estate said Trump "intentionally riled up the crowd and directed and encouraged a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol and attack those who opposed him." The lawsuit cited Trump's speech at the Ellipse earlier that day, in which he urged a crowd of supporters to "fight like hell" and march to the Capitol.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
The lawsuit also names as defendants two men convicted in connection with the Capitol attack: Julian Elie Khater, who admitted last year to deploying a chemical spray against Sicknick and other officers; and George Pierre Tanios, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from the Capitol attack. Khater and Tanios were sentenced on Jan. 27 to seven years in prison and time served, respectively.
NBC reported Sicknick's partner, Sandra Garza, is also a party to the suit and cites comments from the medical examiner that "all that transpired" on Jan. 6 "played a role in his condition." The suit seeks $10 million from Trump and $10 million each from Khater and Tanios.
The Wall Street Journal reported lawyers for Sicknick's estate are seeking damages for alleged wrongful death and conspiracy to violate civil rights from all the defendants, as well as claims for aiding and abetting an assault.
"The horrific events of January 6, 2021, including Officer Sicknick's tragic, wrongful death, were a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants' unlawful actions," the lawsuit said, referring to Trump, Khater and Tanios. "As such, the Defendants are responsible for the injury and destruction that followed."
Sicknick suffered two strokes after clashing with rioters.
The Wall Street Journal reported that in April 2021, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Washington determined that Sicknick died of a stroke and ruled the manner of his death as natural, using a term it said applied if "disease alone causes death." The office said that if a death is "hastened by an injury," it wouldn't consider the manner of death to be natural.
(According to AXIOS, medical examiner Francisco J. Diaz told the Washington Post after the autopsy that events at the Capitol on Jan. 6 "played a role in his condition.")
On March 2, 2023 Trump asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, Law 360 reported.
According to Law 360, Trump's legal team claims he has "absolute immunity" for actions taken while he was in office. "Officer Sicknick's death is a tragedy. That does not make it a tort for which President Trump is liable."
Department of Justice prosecutors told the D.C. Court that the former president is not immune from the lawsuit, Law 360 also reported.
NAACP, Democrat House members file lawsuit for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol; Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence
Attorneys for the NAACP filed the lawsuit against former President Trump on Feb. 16, 2021 alleging Trump incited the riot at the U.S. Capitol with his false claims about a "stolen" election. The lawsuit claims the riot amounted to a conspiracy under the 1871 Klan Act, which, in this case, outlaws interfering with a person's or persons civil rights by stopping the certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College win.
Also named in the suit is Trump's attorney during the post-election coup attempt, Rudy Giuliani, as well as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, two extremist groups that participated in the Jan. 6 riot.
Trump on Jan. 6, 2021 told the crowd to march to the Capitol to protest the certification. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong," Trump said. "We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."
Ten Democrat members of Congress added their names to the lawsuit on April 7. The amended lawsuit describes how each narrowly escaped the mob on Jan. 6 and how some still have nightmares and anxiety months later. The members joining the lawsuit are Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Karen Bass of California, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Hank Johnson Jr. of Georgia, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, Jerry Nadler of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Maxine Waters of California.
Trump attorney Jesse Binnall has asked U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of Washington, D.C. to toss out lawsuits filed by the NAACP, Eric Swalwell and two injured U.S. Capitol Police officers, citing the president's "absolute immunity" from the civil suit on separation-of-powers and free speech grounds.
On May 27, a lawyer representing the far-right Oath Keepers militia group also asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit, Law & Crime reported. In a 32-page motion to dismiss filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. attorney Kerry Lee Morgan argued that "No Oath Keeper entered the Capitol violently or otherwise and therefor nothing in the amended complaint reaches to any violent act to physically prevent the House from observing the Electoral proceedings," the motion states. (However, in November, 2022, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other charges stemming from a mob's attack on the U.S. Capitol.)
On Feb. 18, 2022 Judge Mehta rejected Trump's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, the New York Post reported. "The President's actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch," Mehta wrote in the opinion. "They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President's broad immunity are not present here."
In a court filing in Washington, D.C. on July 28, attorneys for former President Trump asked a judge to grant him total immunity against any civil lawsuits filed in conjunction with the Jan. 6th insurrection.
According to the Washington Examiner, in the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the former president is also asking the court to overturn the ruling made in February by Judge Mehta rejecting Trump's motion to dismiss.
And then on Dec. 7 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals debated whether Trump legally responsible for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Post reported.
The federal appeals court on Dec. 20 then asked the Justice Department to weigh in on whether former President Trump should be protected by absolute immunity in civil lawsuits brought against him for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, CNN reported.
(Blog editor's note: See "Trump faces five separate lawsuits" below for more on Trump's request and Judge Mehta's decisions.)
Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence
The Latest: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would consider pardoning former President Donald Trump and his supporters convicted in rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, if he is elected to the White House, UPI reported May 25.
"I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases, who are people who are victims of weaponization or political targeting, and we will be aggressive at issuing pardons. Now, some of these cases, some people may have a technical violation of the law," DeSantis told a rightwing AM radio program host.
"And if Trump, let's say, gets charged with federal offenses and you are the president of the United States," asked Clay Travis, "would you look at potentially pardoning Trump himself based on the evidence that might emerge of those charges?"
DeSantis replied that he'd look at defendants "on a case-by-case basis because I think you've got to make sure that there's a whole bunch of cases that don't necessarily get headlines."
DeSantis claimed that the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI "have been weaponized" and that federal agents are "going to school board meeting," though it was not immediately clear what the governor was commenting on.
Trump, in one of the first speeches of his 2024 presidential campaign, said earlier this year that he would treat convicted rioters "fairly" by issuing pardons for them, Forbes reported.
The former president also previously said that he would issue "full pardons with an apology to many."
At a CNN Town Hall on May 10, former President Trump defended his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, and said protesters who descended on Washington, D.C., that day had "love in their heart." He said he would pardon a "large portion" of those who have faced legal jeopardy.
Background: The attack on the Capitol Jan. 6 was the most violent mass action in Washington, D.C. since 1812, when British soldiers burned down the Capitol and other government buildings, including the president's home.
Gerald F. Seib of the Wall Street Journal reported the FBI's official website contains 17 videos of the violence at the Capitol that day, "some so gruesome they are age-restricted so young people can't see them."
However, during a phone interview March 25, 2021 on Fox News's "Ingraham Angle," former President Trump claimed, "(The crowd that invaded the capitol) was zero threat right from the start, it was zero threat" and the rioters had "great relationships" and were "hugging and kissing the police" throughout the siege. "A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in and they walked out."
Former Vice President Pence on June 3 said he saw it differently. "January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled, the Capitol was secured. And that same day we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States."
He added: "You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day."
Trump then called Fox News Maria Bartiromo's show July 11 and described for her the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters: "There was such love at that rally, you had over a million people, they were there for one reason, the rigged election, they felt the election was rigged. That's why they were there and they were peaceful people, these were great people, the crowd was unbelievable. And I mentioned the word love, the love in the air, I've never seen anything like it."
In the 28 months since a mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol, more than 1,020 people have now been charged and around 533 have pleaded guilty, the Department of Justice said April 6, 2023.
More than 100 face charges for entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon. According to Axios, 339 have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees, including 107 who face charges for using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer. 308 have been charged with corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding, or attempting to do so. 55 have been charged with conspiracy, including conspiracy to obstruct a congressional proceeding, conspiracy to obstruct law enforcement during a civil disorder, conspiracy to injure an officer or some combination of the three. 144 defendants have pleaded guilty to felonies, including 61 who pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement officers and four who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy.
Some of the protesters - with "love in the air" - include:
Hatchet Speed, a military veteran accused of telling an undercover FBI agent about a plan to "wipe out" the nation's Jewish population, was convicted of storming the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Biden's electoral victory.
- Scott Fairlamb, a New Jersey gym owner and former MMA fighter, pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
Douglas Jensen, 43, of Des Moines, Iowa led a mob of rioters chasing a Capitol Police officer up several flights of stairs. A jury found him guilty of five felonies and two misdemeanors. Jensen was sentenced to five years in prison.
Robert Sanford of Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, a retired firefighter, was caught-on-camera slinging the steel extinguisher at officers, striking two in the head. He was sentenced in April to four-years and four months in prison. Sanford also hurled obscenities and insults at the law enforcement officers on the Lower West Terrace, calling them "traitors."
Thomas Webster, a retired New York City Police Department officer, was convicted of several felonies for attacking a D.C. cop with a flag pole on Jan. 6 and then tackling the officer to the ground and attempting to rip off his gas mask. Webster was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
- A "pissed off" Howard Richardson of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for assaulting law enforcement officers with a Trump flag and joining a mob to use a giant Trump billboard as a battering ram when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
- Robert S. Palmer wore an American flag jacket and watched and cheered on the rioters before moving to the front and hurling a fire extinguisher, a plank and a long pole at police officers. He was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison.
- Kyle Toung, a Donald Trump fan who brought his teenage son along as he assaulted then-D.C. police officer Mike Fanone and another officer at the Capitol, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
- Albuquerque Cosper Head, who grabbed former Metropolitan Police Department officer Mike Fanone and dragged him into the mob, where he was grievously injured, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years behind bars.
- Kevin Creek, a 47-year-old former Marine, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for assaulting officers. Creek admitted to striking a D.C. police office, pushing a Capitol Police officer and kicking that same officer.
- Mark Mazza pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded firearm on US Capitol grounds and assaulting police officers with one of their own batons. Mazza told federal investigators he regretted not seeing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the riot and that they would "be here for another reason" if he had.
- Mark Ponder, a 56-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., attacked three police officers with poles and pleaded guilty to "assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon." He was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
- Guy Reffit, a Donald Trump fan from Texas who attempted to storm the U.S. Capitol while armed with a gun, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. He was convicted on five counts, including transport of a firearm in support of civil disorder.
- An off-duty Virginia police officer, Thomas Robertson, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. The judge said he was troubled by Robertson's conduct since his arrest - not only his stockpiling of guns but advocating violence.
E. Jean Carroll sues Trump, wins $5 million judgment, sues him again for $10 million
The Latest: Is the Department of Justice changing its policy of protecting Trump from liability for his actions as president in the E. Jean Carroll case?
In a recent letter to a federal judge, the Department of Justice wrote that it "presently lacks evidence" to determine whether to keep supporting former President Trump under the Westfall Act, the statute governing immunity for government employees, Law & Crime reported May 29.
Both former Attorney General Bill Barr and his successor Merrick Garland previously intervened on Trump's behalf on a narrow but critical question — whether the former president acted within the scope of his employment when – as president - he said E. Jean Carroll was not his "type."
The fact that Barr and Garland initially answered in the affirmative speaks to an institutional ethos inside the DOJ: Whether run under Democratic or Republican administrations, the Justice Department traditionally supports an expansive view of executive power, legal experts note.
If the courts ruled that Trump was acting as an employee when he allegedly defamed Carroll, her original lawsuit against him would be moot.
But much has changed since the Barr and Garland Justice Departments first backed Trump. Two appellate courts have clarified under what circumstances Trump would qualify for immunity, and perhaps more importantly, a federal jury found the former president liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll, awarding her $5 million.
Senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered the Justice Department to take a stand on the question — and the DOJ decidedly declined to do so.
Judge Kaplan previously rejected the DOJ's motion to intervene on Trump's behalf, but he was partially reversed by the Second Circuit on one question of immunity. The Second Circuit then asked the top appellate court in Washington, D.C., to resolve the question, but the D.C. Court of Appeals provided legal guidance, without a firm answer.
Explanation of two lawsuits:
Lawsuit #1 - This lawsuit was filed in 2019 after President Trump allegedly defamed Carroll. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on April 21 returned the case to the D.C. Court of Appeals for a decision on the question of whether Trump is protected from her allegation because he was President at the time he made the comment that Carroll was lying about the rape allegations and "not my type." The presiding judge in the district court in Washington, D.C. earlier had ruled Trump was not protected from the suit by his high office but did not make a decision on all the pending issues in the case. No trial date has been set. On May 22 Carroll amended the lawsuit - she is now seeking $10 million - after Trump again allegedly defamed her, this time days after a jury, in lawsuit #2, awarded her $5 million.
Lawsuit #2 - Long after leaving the White House, Trump attacked Carroll on Truth Social, calling her allegations "a hoax and a lie," triggering the defamation and sexual battery charges in Carroll's second lawsuit, which concluded May 9 with a Manhattan federal court jury awarding Carroll $5 million. See "Day-by-day trial notes" below.
Background: Former President Trump is being sued in federal court for defamation by writer/columnist E. Jean Carroll, who wrote in a 2019 magazine article that Trump raped her in the mid-1990s in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury New York department store.
Carroll filed her first lawsuit against Trump in November 2019 claiming then-President Trump defamed her when he told a reporter "she's not my type" and accused Carroll of lying "in order to increase book sales, carry out a political agenda, advance a conspiracy with the Democratic Party, and make money." President Trump also claimed he never had met Carroll. (As to his claims "she's not my type" and that he had never met Carroll, during his Oct. 19, 2022 deposition for the lawsuit, Trump was shown a photo of the two of them at a party years ago and mistook Carroll for his second wife, Marla Maples.)
On Jan. 9, 2020, a New York State Supreme Court judge denied President Trump's request to dismiss the defamation lawsuit. In a highly controversial move, the DOJ then stepped in to defend then-President Trump, claiming his denunciation of Carroll was part of his official duties and, therefore, the United States, and not President Trump, was the defendant in the case. But Carroll's attorneys argued that "only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted."
On Oct. 27 Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan turned down the government's bid to make the United States the defendant. Trump's comments concerned events that had occurred "several decades before he took office," Judge Kaplan ruled, and had "no relationship to the official business of the United States."
But in the final days of Trump's presidency in January 2021, the Justice Department appealed that decision in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, claiming the president of the United States "acts within the scope of his office when he responds to public critics."
And in a move that frustrated many Democrats, the Biden Justice Department argued in a brief filed June 7, 2021 that it should be permitted to substitute itself for former President Trump as the defendant in the lawsuit. Justice Department lawyers wrote in a brief to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, "This case does not concern whether Mr. Trump's response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll's allegations." Rather, the lawyers wrote, because they believe Trump was an employee of the government and that he acted "within the scope of employment," the department, rather than Trump personally, should serve as defendant in the case.
CNN reported the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on Sept. 27 opened the door to allowing the Justice Department to shield former President Trump for his conduct while president when they sent the case to the D.C. Court of Appeals to resolve the question: Was Trump a federal employee when he rebutted Carroll's story or was he acting purely on his own as a private citizen?
And then on Oct. 12, 2022 the now former president lashed out again at Carroll, this time on Truth Social. "E. Jean Carroll is not telling the truth, is a woman who I had nothing to do with, didn't know, and would have no interest in knowing her if I ever had the chance."
"She completely made up a story that I met her at the doors of this crowded New York City Department Store and, within minutes, 'swooned' her," Trump wrote, in an off-the-cuff euphemism for Carroll's accusations of rape. "It is a Hoax and a lie, just like all the other Hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years. And, while I am not supposed to say it, I will. This woman is not my type!"
CNN reported that Trump appeared Oct. 19 for a deposition as part of the original defamation lawsuit.
On Nov. 9, Bloomberg reported that Trump urged the District of Columbia's highest local court to adopt his argument that he was acting in the interests of the American people and within the boundaries of his official duties as president when he made allegedly defamatory remarks while denying a rape claim by Carroll.
President Biden's Justice Department sided with Trump, citing similar cases and the claim that his comments about Carroll were, in fact, made in his duties as president.
And then Trump was sued again - this time in state court - by Carroll on Thanksgiving Day, 2022, Reuters reported.
In a complaint filed in Manhattan, the former Elle magazine columnist also accused Trump of battery in the alleged encounter at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan.
Carroll, 78, brought the battery claim in her second lawsuit under New York's Adult Survivors Act, a new law giving sexual assault victims a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers, even if the abuse occurred long ago and statutes of limitations have expired. (The statute of limitations for most criminal offenses is decided by individual states. In New York, a law passed in May 2022 extended the five-year statute of limitations on civil rape cases under the reasoning that victims of sexual assault often needed more time to come forward.)
An earlier version of the same complaint, filed on Nov. 17, states the following:
"Trump's actions constitute sexual offenses as defined in Article 130 of the New York Penal Law, including but not limited to rape in the first degree (§ 130.35), rape in the third degree (§ 130.25), sexual abuse in the first degree (§ 130.65), sexual abuse in the third degree (§ 130.55), sexual misconduct (§ 130.20), and forcible touching (§ 130.52)."
On Dec. 1, Carroll's lawyers urged the District of Columbia's highest local court to reject the "troubling" position by Trump and the Justice Department in her original suit that elected officials are immune against defamation claims whenever they speak about matters of public concern, Bloomberg reported.
"Presidents are free to deny allegations of misconduct," Carroll's lawyers wrote in a brief. "But a White House job is not a promise of unlimited authority to brutalize victims of prior wrongdoing through vicious, personal, defamatory attacks."
On Dec. 21, Trump asked a federal court to dismiss Carroll's second lawsuit, arguing that a New York law allowing the writer to sue the former U.S. president over claims that he raped her decades ago is unconstitutional.
Trump alleged in the motion to dismiss Carroll's second lawsuit that the law, the Adult Survivors Act, runs afoul of the New York state constitution's due process protections. He also called the additional defamation claim Carroll claims in the lawsuit "baseless and legally defective."
On Jan. 10, 2023 judges from the D.C. Court of Appeals expressed reluctance to find that Trump acted within the scope of his employment in 2019 when he, in the course of denying a rape claim, allegedly defamed her by calling her a liar and saying she was "not my type," ABC News reported.
According to CNN, several judges on the D.C. Court of Appeals expressed reluctance at the Jan. 10 hearing to say whether Trump's conduct fell within the scope of his employment. Multiple members of the court pointed to the lack of a full factual record before them, suggesting that a jury would be best equipped to make the determination.
A federal judge indefinitely delayed the original defamation lawsuit Carroll brought against former President Trump, ABC News reported March 20.
Judge Lewis Kaplan adjourned the case without setting a new date while he awaits a decision from the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals, which governs the conduct of federal employees, on whether Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he spoke out against Carroll. If so, the Justice Department would substitute for Trump as the defendant and the case would be over, as the federal government cannot be sued for defamation.
On April 13, Reuters reported a Washington, D.C., appeals court refused to decide whether Donald Trump can be shielded from the first of two defamation lawsuits by Carroll.
The district's highest local court, the Court of Appeals, said it did not have enough facts to decide whether Trump was acting as president when he accused the former Elle magazine columnist in June 2019 of lying about the alleged encounter.
It sent the case back to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan saying the 2nd Circuit or a federal district judge in Manhattan should assess Trump's role.
On May 22, Carroll asked a judge to update her still pending original defamation lawsuit filed in 2019 against President Trump to add a new claim after he trashed her as a "whack job" during his CNN town hall earlier in the month. The Associated Press reported Carroll is seeking $10 million.
Day-by-day trial notes for lawsuit #2:
On the first day of testimony, April 26, Carroll took the stand and told jurors that the future president raped her after she accompanied him into a department store fitting room in 1996, the Associated Press reported.
"I'm here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn't happen. He lied and shattered my reputation, and I'm here to try and get my life back," she testified.
Carroll, 79, has said she crossed paths with Trump at the revolving door to Bergdorf Goodman on an unspecified Thursday evening in spring 1996. (Or maybe 1995.She's not sure.) At the time, she was writing a long-running advice column in Elle magazine. Trump was a real estate magnate and social figure in New York.
She alleges Trump slammed her against a wall, yanked down her tights and raped her while she struggled against him. She has said she finally kneed him off her and fled. She described calling two friends soon after. She said one advised her to go to the police, while the other said not to. She said she didn't out of shame, and fear of retaliation.
On the second day of trial, Carroll was cross-examined by Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopino.
Tacopina questioned the validity of her bombshell claims while suggesting she only came forward with them decades later, in 2019, because of her disdain for Trump's politics and because she wanted to sell copies of her book.
Carroll admitted she has had a hard time identifying the date the alleged rape happened.
When he asked why she hadn't screamed if she was being raped, Carroll responded,
"Here's the thing: I was too much in a panic to scream. I'm telling you: He raped me whether I screamed or not."
On the third day of the trial, May 1, Carroll concluded her testimony. Trump attorney Tacopina highlighted what he suggested were discrepancies between her testimony and her statements in interviews, her book, depositions and social media posts.
Carroll denied making up her claims to drive publicity for her memoir, Reuters reported. Carroll said she wasn't seeking attention through appearances on TV and podcasts, while acknowledging they were an important driver of book sales.
Tacopina accused Carroll of being a "massive" fan of Trump's TV show, "The Apprentice."
Asked why she encouraged women who were victims of sexual assault to report such incidents to authorities in her Elle magazine advice column years before the alleged assault while she herself did not do so, she said she was shaped by her upbringing in a different era.
I was born in 1943," Carroll said.
"Women like us were taught to keep our chins up and never complain. I would rather do anything than to call the police."
On the fourth day of the trial, a friend of Carroll's testified that Carroll called her and described the alleged attack minutes after alleged assault took place, ABC News reports.
Lisa Birnbach, a writer, was the first person Carroll said she told about the alleged attack, "five to seven minutes" after the alleged assault occurred, Birnbach said.
"She told me that Donald Trump recognized her outside or right in the doorway of Bergdorf Goodman, he asked her to help him shop, and assaulted her upstairs in a dressing room," Birnbach testified.
"And E. Jean said to me many times, 'He pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights.' Almost like she couldn't believe it had just happened to her."
Another witness for Carroll, Jessica Leeds, who was on a business trip in 1979 and says she was groped by Trump during a flight to New York, also testified as Carroll's attorneys attempted to show the jury a pattern of behavior, UPI News reported.
She admitted to Trump attorney Joe Tacopina that she couldn't produce any witnesses to the incident or provide much information about the flight, where it originated or the date of the incident.
On the fifth day, a clinical psychologist who examined Carroll said she endured the effects of trauma from an alleged attack by Trump. CBS News reported that Leslie Lebowitz, a trauma specialist hired by Carroll's attorneys to examine her, said she found during 20 hours of interviews that Carroll "manifests very notable avoidance symptoms, which have curtailed her romantic and intimate life and caused profound loss."
Carroll's attorneys played the infamous "Access Hollywood" audio tape of Trump telling Billy Bush, "I'm automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything," he said, including "grab 'em by the p----," referring to women's genitals. The tape surfaced during the 2016 campaign and was made just before Trump filmed a segment on the program "Access Hollywood." Trump told Bush: "When you're a star, they let you do it." Trump doubled-down on those lines during his October, 2022 deposition on Carroll's rape and defamation allegations.
"Historically, that's true, with stars," Trump testified on videotape as reported by Law & Crime. "Well what's what if you look over the last million years, I guess that's been largely true not always but largely true, unfortunately or fortunately."
Asked if he considered himself a star, Trump responded, "I think you can say that, yeah."
On the videotape, Trump also denied Carroll's claims, calling them the most "ridiculous, disgusting story" and "made up ." During the videotaped, Trump, who said Carroll wasn't "his type," confused Carroll for his ex-wife Marla Maples, his second wife.
On the final day of testimony, the Carroll legal team told the court they will be asking the jury to award their client $2.7 million in reputational damages caused by the former president, Law & Crime reported. This does not include possible damages to be sought as a result of the alleged rape or damages from lost wages.
Trump never attended the trial, even though while in Ireland he told reporters he need to cut his European trip short to respond in court to Carroll's allegations.
In her closing argument, Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said, "In a real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself." Referring to the Access Hollywood tape, she said, "He's telling you in his very own works how he treats women."
"In this country, even the most powerful person can be held accountable in court," said attorney Kaplan. "No one, not even a former president, is above the law."
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said in his closing argument he knows Trump is a divisive figure, but that shouldn't matter to jurors when reaching a verdict.
"People have very strong feelings about Donald Trump. That's obvious," Tacopina said. "There's a time and a secret place to do that: it's called a ballot box during an election."
Tacopina said he knows Trump is a divisive figure, but that shouldn't matter to jurors when reaching a verdict. Tacopina accused Carroll of fabricating her rape allegations to sell her book and make money.
On May 9, the Manhattan jury, after three hours of deliberations, reached a verdict awarding almost $5 million in damages to Carroll. Trump will have to pay $3 million in the defamation claim and $2 million for the battery claim.
Trump reacted on Truth Social: "I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS. THIS VERDICT IS A DISGRACE - A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!"
Trump will appeal the verdict and damages.
Trump and GOP face lawsuit claiming they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act
On Nov. 20, 2020 the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, the NAACP and three African American voters filed suit alleging Donald Trump, the Trump campaign and the Republican Party attempted to suppress the Black vote in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, all of which have large communities of color, The Independent reported.
"Under the specter of preventing 'fraud,' defendants engaged in a conspiracy, executed through a coordinated effort, to disenfranchise voters by disrupting vote counting efforts, lodging groundless challenges during recounts, and attempting to block certification of election results through intimidation and coercion of election officials and volunteers," the lawsuit claims.
According to Democracy Docket: Even after Wayne County's results had been certified, Trump personally called election officials in the county "in a last-ditch effort to disenfranchise Black voters in Detroit."
The suit was filed the day after Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed during a press conference that the president's campaign had uncovered 300,000 "illegitimate ballots" cast primarily in Detroit. (President Biden won Wayne County with 597,170 votes, while Trump received 264,553 votes.)
In December, 2020, an amended complaint added the Republican National Committee as a defendant alleging violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act. More plaintiffs also signed onto the legal action, including the NAACP. (Democrat members of Congress filed a separate suit alleging violation of the KKK Act.)
The former president and the Republican National Committee filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit on February 24, 2021. The defendants also filed a motion to transfer the case from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to the Eastern District of Michigan, where some of the plaintiffs reside. The plaintiffs opposed the transfer, arguing that the conspiracy was directed from D.C., where both Trump and the RNC were located.
On April 1, 2022 Law & Crime reported that a judge ruled Trump and the Republican Party do not have to face allegations that they violated the Voting Rights Act in the 2020 presidential election. But Trump and the GOP must face claims that they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act. Trump and the RNC also lost a separate motion to transfer the remaining litigation away from Washington, D.C.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan scoffed at Trump's notion that a federal court in Washington, D.C. lacks jurisdiction to preside over the former president's claims. "This Court is presented with an argument that is perhaps as unprecedented as it is outlandish: the former President of this country denying that he lived in and had minimum contacts with the country's capital and the White House during his time as President," Judge Sullivan wrote.
And then on Nov.28, Judge Sullivan ruled Trump's conduct was "purely political" and that he was not "absolutely immune," according to Bloomberg.
"If former President Trump disrupted the certification of the electoral vote count, as Plaintiffs allege here, such actions would not constitute executive action in defense of the Constitution," said Sullivan. "For these reasons, the Court concludes that Former President Trump is not immune from monetary damages in this suit."
According to the legal website, JustSecurity.com, this lawsuit is still active as of January, 2023.
Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riot
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California filed a lawsuit against former President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-S.C.) on March 4, 2021 alleging they and others are "responsible for the injury and destruction" that occurred during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (In June, it was reported the riot caused $1.5 million in damage to the building.) Swalwell accuses the four of violating both federal civil rights and local incitement laws.
The lawsuit - filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.,- accuses Trump and his allies of conspiring to violate the civil rights of the plaintiff.
- "As a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants' false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the Defendants' express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol," the complaint alleges. "Many participants in the attack have since revealed that they were acting on what they believed to be former President Trump's orders in service of their country."
- The defendants "by force, intimidation, or threat, agreed and conspired with one another to undertake a course of action to prevent" Joe Biden from being certified as the election winner.
At the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally, Rep. Brooks, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest, told the crowd the United States was "at risk unlike it has been in decades, and perhaps centuries." He said that their ancestors "sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives" for the country. "Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass," asking the crowd, "Will you fight for America?"
Rudy Giuliani told the crowd: "Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent, and if we're wrong, we will be made fools of, but if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail. So, let's have trial by combat."
CNN reported May 18 that lawyers for Giuliani responded to the lawsuit by arguing that he wasn't literally advocating for an insurrection. In a court filing, Giuliani wrote that his words were "hyperbolic."
In a legal brief filed Aug. 16 arguing why Trump should not be held liable for inciting the violence, Trump's attorney argued: "Given the numerous protests over the years on Capitol Hill and the necessity of protecting political speech-the very type of speech the First Amendment was designed to protect -a holding that individuals can be liable for violence by random listeners if their words could be interpreted as a threat would nearly shut down Washington."
In the brief, the former president's lawyer casts Trump's efforts to subvert the 2020 election and block its legally mandated certification as merely "exercising a specific constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
Rep. Brooks asked a federal judge Aug. 3 to declare that he was immune from Rep. Swalwell's lawsuit because he was simply "cooperating" with the White House, a decision Brooks made in order to maintain a positive relationship with President Trump for the benefit of his constituents.
(Brooks - who represented himself in the matter- also noted that he has been "faithful to his wife" of 45 years, has never received a speeding ticket or smoked tobacco, and that none of his four children have been divorced.)
On Feb. 18, 2022 U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta rejected Trump's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, the New York Post reported. "The President's actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch," Mehta wrote in the opinion. "They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President's broad immunity are not present here."
Mehta, however, dismissed the cases against Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr. and Rep. Brooks.
In his order, Judge Mehta ruled that the remarks by Brooks at the rally -- as well as the rally speeches by Giuliani and Trump Jr. -- were protected by the First Amendment. "The allegations against Brooks do not support a plausible inference that 'he was advocating . . . any action' or that 'his words were intended to produce, and likely to produce, imminent disorder,'" Mehta wrote, referencing a relevant Supreme Court precedent.
In a court filing in Washington, D.C. on July 28, attorneys for former President Trump asked a judge to grant him total immunity against any civil lawsuits filed in conjunction with the Jan. 6th insurrection.
According to the Washington Examiner, the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, states the former president is hoping to get the court to overturn a ruling made in February by Judge Amit Mehta when Trump asked for all the lawsuits to be dismissed.
Trump faces five separate lawsuits by Capitol and D.C. police for Jan. 6 riot
On March 31, 2021 two Capitol police officers - James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby - who were injured in hand-to-hand combat during the Jan. 6 insurrection filed suit against former President Trump for inciting his supporters, Politico reported. In their lawsuit, which was joined by 11 Democratic House members, the officers allege Trump "inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted" his supporters to assault them, and that they suffered both physical injuries and emotional distress. The officers are seeking unspecified compensation and damages greater than $75,000 apiece.
Reported Politico, "It's the officer's harrowing personal accounts that add new chapters to the growing collection of horrors unleashed that day. Blassingame said he was slammed into a stone column while rioters hurled the N-word at him. Hemby said he suffered hand and knee injuries that require continued medical care. Both said they suffer from ongoing emotional trauma that has upended their lives."
Blassingame, a 17-year veteran of the Capitol Police, told PBS NewsHour's Lisa Desjardins that no one had ever called him the n-word to his face in his 39 years on Earth. "That streak ended on January 6," he said. "I was called a n****r. I was called a traitor. I was called various epithets."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, describes in detail the melee the rioters caused during their siege on the U.S. Capitol building. Attorneys for the officers say their case is supported by comments made after January 6 by Republican leaders House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom laid blame for the riot at the feet of the former president.
Said McConnell on the Senate floor: "There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president, and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth."
McCarthy said on the floor of the House: "The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."
And then on Aug. 26, in a separate lawsuit, seven more U.S. Capitol police officers sued former President Trump, Stop the Steal rally organizers, the Trump campaign, Roger Stone and members of far-right extremist group Proud Boys, CNN reported. The suit accuses the defendants of spreading lies, using White supremacist sentiments to attempt to overthrow the 2020 election, and ultimately bearing responsibility for the riot that injured more than 140 officers. Five of the plaintiffs in the suit are African-American.
"Plaintiffs and their fellow law enforcement officers risked their lives to defend the Capitol from a violent, mass attack - an attack provoked, aided, and joined by Defendants in an unlawful effort to use force, intimidation, and threats to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential election," the lawsuit claims.
It was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
(Roger Stone asked the court on Dec. 23, 2021 to dismiss the suit against him. Donald Trump asked a federal court in Washington D.C. on Dec. 24 to dismiss the case. Trump argued he isn't "vicariously liable" for the actions of people who heard him speak at a "Stop the Steal" rally before the riot, Bloomberg News reported.)
On Jan. 4, 2022 four more police officers who responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol - including two who aided the evacuation of lawmakers - filed two separate lawsuits against Trump, seeking damages for their physical and emotional injuries, Politico reported.
In one suit, a Capitol Police officer who defended lawmakers in the House chamber is asking a court to hold the former president responsible for the mob of his supporters who conducted the attack. The other lawsuit was filed by two officers with the Metropolitan Police Department who were called in to help the Capitol Police during the insurrection.
In the 49-page lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C, Capitol Officer Marcus Moore, a 10-year veteran of the force, described the intense terror of the day as he moved from his post at the Madison Building to the East Side of the Capitol and eventually into the House chamber, helping evacuate lawmakers to safety. He's seeking a judgment against Trump and compensatory damages, saying explosions inside and outside the building left him with tinnitus. He also indicated he witnessed one rioter inside the Capitol armed with a gun.
Like James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, Moore is backed by a team of lawyers led by United to Protect Democracy, a nonprofit founded by a former Obama White House lawyer that has challenged many Trump-era policies and actions.
Politico reported that in the second lawsuit filed Jan. 4, two officers with the Metropolitan Police Department - Bobby Tabron and DeDivine Carter - described suffering physical assaults with poles, pepper spray and other projectiles, in addition to hand-to-hand violence. They are also seeking compensatory damages for their injuries.
Both responded to the West Front of the Capitol, where some of the most intense fighting of the day occurred. Carter described seeing rioters armed with guns, among other weapons. Tabron later joined officers helping evacuate lawmakers via an underground tunnel "where trains were being used to evacuate members of Congress from the Capitol."
"Officer Tabron was fighting for his life and felt certain he would not survive to make it home alive to his wife or see his family again," the lawsuit reads. "He wondered when gunfire would erupt and how such a battle, if started, would end."
And on Jan. 6, 2022 the one-year anniversary of the attack, NBC News reported Officer Briana Kirkland filed the 57-page lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. arguing that Trump incited the attack, did little to end it and conspired with far-right extremists to promote false claims about the 2020 election.
"As the leader of this violent mob, who took their cues from his campaign rhetoric and personal Tweets and traveled from around the country to the nation's capital at Trump's invitation for the January 6 rally, Trump was in a position of extraordinary inflAsked if he considered himself a star, Trump responded, "I think you can say that, yeah."uence over his followers, who committed assault and battery on Briana Kirkland," the lawsuit says.
Kirkland is seeking at least $75,000 in damages, as well as attorneys' fees.
On Feb. 18 U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta rejected Trump's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit by Blassingame and Hemby, the New York Post reported. "The President's actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch," Mehta wrote in the opinion. "They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President's broad immunity are not present here."
In a court filing in Washington, D.C. on July 28, attorneys for former President Trump asked a judge to grant him total immunity against any civil lawsuits filed in conjunction with the Jan. 6th insurrection.
According to the Washington Examiner, in the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the former president is hoping to get the court to overturn a ruling made in February by Judge Mehta when Trump asked for all the lawsuits to be dismissed.
In seeking the dismissal, Trump's lawyers said that he was absolutely immune from civil litigation related to the Capitol riot, because he was acting within the "outer perimeter" of his presidential duties.
But Judge Mehta refused to dismiss the lawsuits on those grounds, noting that he had previously rejected a nearly identical assertion of absolute immunity that Trump raised in response to other civil lawsuits filed by House Democrats and two Capitol Police officers (Blassingame and Hemby).
And then on Dec. 7, the D.C . U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals debated whether Trump can be held legally responsible for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Post reported.
The federal appeals court on Dec. 20 asked the Justice Department to weigh in on whether former President Trump should be protected by absolute immunity in civil lawsuits - as Judge Mehta ruled - brought against him for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, CNN reported.
CNN reported on Jan. 26, 2023 that U.S. District Judge Mehta denied a request by Trump - and several far-right activists who were also sued for their connection to the Capitol siege - to toss out the case brought by seven US Capitol Police officers who claim Trump and others violated both federal and Washington, DC, law for conduct linked to the riot that interrupted Congress' certification of the 2020 election.
In keeping the claims against Trump alive, Mehta pointed to an opinion he wrote last year rejecting claims of immunity Trump raised to challenge similar Jan. 6 lawsuits against him.
Mehta said the seven Capitol Police officers' lawsuit could also move forward against several other individuals as well, including members of far-right militia groups such as the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and the Proud Boys.
Mehta, however, is dismissing the police officers' case against far-right figures Roger Stone and Ali Alexander.
The Justice Department on March 2 said that Trump can be held liable in court for the actions of the mob that overtook the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Washington Post and Fox News reported.
"Two officers (James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby) with the U.S. Capitol Police, joined by 11 Democratic House members, are seeking to hold Trump liable for physical and psychological injuries they suffered during the riot. Trump has argued he is protected from the lawsuit by the absolute immunity conferred on a president performing his official duties."
Attorneys with the DOJ's civil rights division wrote in the filing that a president's protected speech "does not include incitement of imminent private violence."
Former President Trump argued in a federal appeals court filing he deserves immunity from three civil lawsuits that seek to blame him for the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, Bart Jansen at USA Today reported March 23.
Trump's lawyer, Jesse Binnall, told a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals there was no "incitement" in Trump's speech near the White House Jan. 6, 2021, before a mob of supporters stormed the Capitol. Binnall argued Trump's exhortation to "fight" was a reference to political pressure.
The lawmakers and police officers also filed an argument in the case, agreeing with the Justice Department but arguing against a sweeping view of presidential immunity other than for inciting violence. The litigants argued Trump was outside his official duties as a "clear and present danger" in urging supporters to block roads to Congress or forge Electoral College ballots.
Trump's lawyers urged the appeals court to dismiss the lawsuits by arguing that contentious speeches such as the one he gave Jan. 6, 2021, are part of a president's job.
The three-judge appeals panel will decide whether to allow the lawsuits to continue.
(Blog editor's note: The three cases involved in this hearing include the lawsuit filed by Blassingame and Hemby - see directly above - and the cases reported under "NACCP, Democrat House members file lawsuit for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol" and "Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riot," both above.)
Smartmatic sues Fox News for $2.7 billion
The Latest: Smartmatic has subpoenaed ex-President Donald Trump's former campaign operation as part of its defamation lawsuits over election conspiracy theories.
The election technology company — which was falsely accused of manipulating the 2020 presidential election results by Trump's lawyers — issued the subpoenas as part of its defamation lawsuits against Fox News and Newsmax.
The subpoenas were issued on April 12 and made public in court filings May 9. They seek communications and files from Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., Trump's campaign vehicle for the 2016 and 2020 elections. The organization has since been transformed into Trump's PAC for his 2024 presidential campaign, called the Make America Great Again PAC, according to Federal Election Commission filings reviewed by Business Insider.
In the subpoenas, Smartmatic asks for all communications regarding Smartmatic or Dominion — a rival election technology company also caught up in conspiracy theories — in connection with Fox News and Newsmax around the time of the 2020 election. They also ask for communication regarding appearances by Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, two attorneys who advanced the conspiracy theories on behalf of the Trump campaign.
Smartmatic and Dominion have each filed a series of defamation lawsuits against Fox News, Newsmax, the right-wing network One America News, Powell, Giuliani, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, and other figures who pushed falsehoods about the 2020 election.
Powell and Giuliani both worked for the Trump campaign and pushed a false conspiracy theory that Dominion and Smartmatic, in cahoots with each other, worked to "flip" results from then-President Trump to now-President Joe Biden. Smartmatic has since alleged that the media organizations defamed them by hosting Powell and Giuliani, and either endorsing or not sufficiently pushing back on their claims.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Smartmatic's attorney, Erik Connolly, if Smartmatic would be able to "use what Dominion already dug up — all the depositions and text messages and emails showing that executives at Fox and hosts of Fox knew that they were airing lies for months on end."
"Absolutely," Connolly replied, saying that Dominion's "shocking" evidence, had painted "a damning picture for Fox" and would be part of what they would use to show Smartmatic's case was "as strong as possible."
"They are looking to take this case through trial," he explained. "They are looking through the vindication of a jury verdict in their favor…that was their intention when they filed this lawsuit. That is their intention today."
"In order for them to get back to where they were before this all started, where they can win the contracts that they're now losing, they need to get an apology, they need to get a full retraction, because they're in that business for the long haul….this is a family owned business that have spent their whole lives building this."
Background: Smartmatic, a multinational company that builds and implements electronic voting systems, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit on Feb. 4, 2021 against Fox News, some of the network's star hosts, including Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, and Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, alleging the parties worked in concert to wage a "disinformation campaign" about the company. Smartmatic's lawsuit claims the defendants knew that Trump's campaign lawyers, Giuliani and Powell, would lie about Smartmatic, push conspiracy theories about the election being stolen from Trump, allege Smartmatic had committed fraud and that the Fox hosts then added their "own defamatory comments" for "personal gain."
(Smartmatic's voting machines were used in only one U.S. county during the 2020 election, Los Angeles, Forbes reported.)
The opening paragraph of the suit reads: "The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States. The election was not stolen, rigged, or fixed. These are facts. They are demonstrable and irrefutable.
With this action, Smartmatic says: Enough. Facts matter. Truth matters. Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to spread disinformation about Smartmatic. They lied. And they did so knowingly and intentionally. Smartmatic seeks to hold them accountable for those lies and for the damage that their lies have caused."
Giuliani told Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs on Nov. 12, 2020, "You're gonna be astonished when I tell you how (Smartmatic) was formed. It was formed, really, by three Venezuelans, who were very close to...dictator, Chavez, of Venezuela. And it was formed in order to fix elections."
Powell alleged during a Fox News appearance that software designed to effectuate the fraud could be loaded into Smartmatic machines "from Germany or Venezuela, even." She added, "We've identified mathematically the exact algorithms they used and plan to use from the beginning to modify the votes, in this case, to make sure Biden won." She also claimed China sent $400 million to Smartmatic "a few weeks before the election."
On Nov. 16, Powell told Dobbs, "I've just gotten some stunning evidence from a firsthand witness, a high-ranking military officer, who was present when Smartmatic was designed in a way that – and I'm going to just read to you some of these statements, if you don't mind, so I get them exactly right," Powell said.
"Sure," Dobbs said.
Powell continued, "From the affidavit, (Smartmatic was) 'designed in a way that the system could change the vote of each voter without being detected.'"
Powell also incorrectly claimed that Smartmatic owns Dominion.
Fox News' claims it covered the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election responsibly - what Fox lawyers termed in the "highest tradition of the First Amendment."
"Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," a book published Nov. 16, 2021 by ABC's Jonathan Karl, reports that the day after the election was called for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, 2020, Bartiromo interviewed conspiracy theorist and lawyer Powell on her show. Karl wrote that as Powell delivered a "fevered rant" and Bartiromo "didn't express one ounce of skepticism."
Bartiromo also baselessly accused Smartmatic of having a "backdoor" which invited infiltration into their election systems. "One source says that the key point to understand is that the Smartmatic system has a backdoor that allows it to be, or that allows the votes to be, mirrored and monitored allowing an intervening party a real-time understanding of how many votes will be needed to gain an electoral advantage."
According to Mediaite, she claimed "software made by Smartmatic that was changing votes from Trump to Biden." She also claimed "if you've got Democrats in charge from here on out, they're in charge of the machines, you'll never see a Republican in the White House again."
On Aug. 17 New York Supreme Court Judge David Cohen held a hearing on a dismissal request from Fox. Judge Cohen asked Fox to explain why former anchor Lou Dobbs repeatedly claimed on air in November and December, 2020 that there was new, "groundbreaking" evidence of voter fraud even after U.S. officials had debunked such claims.
"That is clearly his opinion," Fox News attorney Paul Clement said. "It was a widely shared opinion at the time."
Fox argued that remarks by Dobbs, as well as by Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, were constitutionally protected speech. It also argued they were reporting fairly on claims being made on air by Giuliani and Powell.
From Deadline.com: Rudy Giuliani's attorney was light on evidence when pressed by Justice Cohen. Attorney Joe Sibley of Camara & Sibley asked Cohen to dismiss six of the claims against his client because they constituted "product disparagement," or calling Smartmatic's software lousy, not defamation.
Judge Cohen asked Sibley about one of the Trump attorney's claims - that, in Venezuela, Smartmatic "'switched votes around subtly, maybe ten percent per district, so you don't notice it.' Is there some support in that to show that they can't even make out a claim for actual malice?" he asked.
Sibley: "Well, the evidentiary support would be the fact that that Smartmatic technology allows this. That would be the evidence."
Cohen: "Wait, that Smartmatic technology allows it, or it occurred like Mr. Giuliani claimed?"
Sibley: "Well I don't know that there is any evidence in the record that that would demonstrate that in fact occurred."
Fox News' effort to dismiss the defamation lawsuit was rejected on March 8, 2022. State Supreme Judge Cohen commented, "Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs' claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth."
Judge Cohen did, however, toss out claims against Fox News host Jeanine Pirro and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, but did not dismiss those against host Maria Bartiromo and former host Lou Dobbs. (The court ruled Pirro hadn't targeted the voting-technology firm and that it had no authority over Powell as she is a Texas resident.)
Some claims against Giuliani - including defamation - were dismissed but Judge Cohen explained Giuliani's "barrage" of criticism, including that Smartmatic fixed elections in Venezuela and was up to its "old tricks" on election night, justified letting some of Smartmatic's other claims against him proceed.
(Blog editor's note: In its executive summary of its investigative findings released Dec. 19, 2022 the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol reported that, despite his past claims of election fraud, Rudy Giuliani told the committee under oath: "I do not think the machines stole the election.")
Supreme Court will decide if Congress can see Trump's Washington D.C. hotel records
The Supreme Court May 15, 2023 agreed to weigh whether individual Democratic members of Congress can pursue a lawsuit seeking government documents related to the former Trump International Hotel in Washington, Lawrence Hurley at NBC News reported.
In a twist, the lawmakers are facing off against the Biden administration, which inherited the case after former President Donald Trump left office in 2021.
Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, representing the administration, said in court papers that an appeals court decision allowing the lawsuit "contradicts historical practice stretching to the beginning of the Republic" and "threatens serious harm to all three branches of the federal government."
The appeals court decision upended the historical practice of administrations negotiating with Congress over information requests, she added.
Oral arguments in the dispute will be heard by the justices in its next term, which begins in October.
The case arose from a 2013 decision by the General Services Administration, which oversees federal real estate, to lease the Old Post Office Building in Washington to the family-owned Trump Organization so it could operate a hotel.
The Trump International Hotel operated throughout Trump's term, raising legal, ethical and constitutional concerns, including over whether people paying for rooms there were seeking to influence the White House. Trump's company sold the lease last year and the hotel is now operating as a Waldorf Astoria.
When Trump won the 2016 election, 17 Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sought access to documents relating to the agreement, questioning whether Trump had a conflict of interest.
GSA, then controlled by the Trump administration, refused the request, although it later handed over many of the documents the lawmakers sought while withholding others.
The lawmakers in 2017 sued in federal court in Washington, seeking an order requiring GSA to disclose all the documents.
A federal judge threw out the lawsuit, saying the lawmakers did not have standing. Generally lawsuits can only move forward if the plaintiff can assert an injury that can be redressed by the court. The district court applied a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that said members of Congress cannot claim harm related to their official duties.
In a 2020 ruling issued just before Trump left office, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia revived the lawsuit, with a three-judge panel ruling 2-1 that the lawmakers had been harmed. The court cited freedom of information law, which allows people to sue when requests are rejected.
After Trump left office, the Biden administration sought a rehearing in the appeals court and then turned to the Supreme Court when that request was rejected.
Alex Swoyer at The Washington Times reported, "Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, said the executive branch — no matter which party controls it — doesn't want to be subject to litigation.
"'The long-term interest crosses over any party lines,' he said, explaining why both the Trump and Biden administrations fought the request."
The Democrats believed the lease constituted a conflict of interest for the president, and also meant he was drawing personal income from the lease, in violation of the Constitution's emoluments clauses.
Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overturn election
The Latest: "An Atlanta-area investigation of alleged election interference by former president Donald Trump and his allies has broadened to include activities in Washington, D.C., and several other states — a fresh sign that prosecutors may be building a sprawling case under Georgia's racketeering laws," the Washington Post reported June 2.
"Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis launched an investigation more than two years ago to examine efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his narrow 2020 defeat in Georgia. Along the way, she has signaled publicly that she may use Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute to allege that these efforts amounted to a far-reaching criminal scheme."
The Post and the New York Times report that immediately after the 2020 election, the Trump campaign hired two different research firms to find evidence of election fraud and theft. Neither firm was able to come up with proof that Biden had stolen the election. Berkley Research Group briefed Trump on their findings in December, 2020. The Trump campaign subsequently buried both reports.
Willis is now seeking information about their work in Georgia and other states. The law requires that prosecutors be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump knew his claims of voter fraud were lies at the time he was making them. (See immediately below regarding Trump's January, 2021 call to Brad Raffensperger, claiming the election was stolen and that the secretary of state needed to "find" the votes to reverse the election. For those counting, Trump was told on Nov. 23, 2020 by his Attorney General Bill Barr that he lost and that his claims of election theft were "bullshit" and earlier by the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs on Nov. 17, 2020, whom Trump immediately fired.)
Background: The district attorney's office in Fulton County formally launched a criminal probe in February, 2021 into President Trump's efforts to overturn his election loss in Georgia after Trump was heard in a Jan. 2, 2021 phone call pleading with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" votes. "All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes," the exact number Trump needed to overturn Joe Biden's win in Georgia. Trump argued that Raffensperger could change the certified results of the presidential election, an assertion the secretary of state firmly rejected.
A month earlier, on Dec. 5, 2020 Trump called the state's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, to urge him to use his "emergency powers" to block the certification of the results, hold a special session of the legislature to overturn the election results and name a slate of Republican electors to award Trump the state's 16 electoral votes. Kemp, a former election official, deflected, telling Trump he didn't have such powers.
Three days later, Trump called Georgia's Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, warning him not to interfere with a Texas lawsuit that challenged the election results in Georgia and other states. (The Supreme Court - including its three Trump-appointed justices - ultimately rejected even hearing the Texas lawsuit.)
According to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, "This investigation includes, but is not limited to, potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election's administration."
The Daily Beast reported prosecutors are also eyeing "false statement" charges against Rudy Giuliani, who acted on Trump's behalf when he spoke before Georgia's state Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Dec. 3, 2020 and detailed his rigged election conspiracy. Giuliani lied when he said the state counted 96,600 "phantom votes," repeating the same bonkers claim that fueled Sidney Powell's so-called "Kraken" lawsuit-which was promptly tossed out by a federal judge.
Giuliani also presented fake evidence of voting machine flaws and "mystery ballot boxes." He repeated the claims on Dec. 10, 2020 before the state's House Governmental Affairs Committee.
Another Trump attorney, John Eastman, testified at that same hearing, arguing that there was "more than enough" evidence of fraud and improper conduct to warrant Georgia lawmakers picking an alternative slate of presidential electors (i.e. fake Trump electors.)
In addition, Willis has indicated her team is examining a November, 2020 call U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., placed to Raffensperger. Graham called Raffensperger and his staff twice "about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump." Raffensperger told CNN that Graham had hinted that he should try to discard some ballots in Georgia. "It was just an implication of, 'Look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.'"
At a rally in Georgia on Sept. 25, 2021 former President Trump admitted trying to overturn the 2020 election in that state. According to Trump, after his aides failed to get Georgia officials to overturn their election, Trump on Dec. 5, 2020 called Gov. Kemp. Trump told the rally, "I said, 'Let me handle it. This is easy.' I got this guy elected.... I was going to show [the aides] how good I am. 'Let me handle it. I'll call them up.' I said, 'Brian, listen, you know you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election.'"
On Jan. 24, 2022 judges on Fulton County's Superior Court bench cleared the way for a special grand jury to be used in District Attorney Willis' investigations, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Chief Judge Christopher S. Brasher directed that the special grand jury be impaneled on May 2 and continue for a period "not to exceed 12 months." In asking the court to authorize the grand jury, Willis said her office has "received information indicating a reasonable probability that the State of Georgia's administration of elections in 2020, including the State's election of President of the United States, was subject to possible criminal disruptions."
The panel focused exclusively on "whether there were unlawful attempts to disrupt the administration of the 2020 elections here in Georgia," Judge Robert C.I. McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court said.
On June 2, Secretary of State Raffensperger testified before the grand jury about the infamous call Trump made to him and other attempts to overturn the state's 2020 election results, GPB News/NPR reported.
The special grand jury also subpoenaed key members of former President Trump's legal team, including Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman as well as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), according to reports from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on July 5.
The Independent reported July 26 that Trump described on Truth Social his now-infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as "perfect".
"Many people and lawyers, on both sides, were knowingly on the one call, I assumed the call was taped, there were Zero complaints or angry 'how dare you' charges made during the call, and no 'hang ups' by anyone aggrieved or insulted at what was said," he said. He added that he was "just doing [his] job as President, and seeking Fairness and the Truth."
Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer also appeared in front of the special grand jury, a source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to CNN on July 28. In February, Shafer told the House committee that the fake electors scheme came at the direction of the Trump campaign.
The New York Times reported Aug. 15, "The legal pressures on Donald J. Trump and his closest allies intensified further on Monday, as prosecutors informed his former personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Mr. Giuliani is a target of a wide-ranging criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia." A person being deemed a target in an investigation means that "whatever has been unearthed in this investigation suggests you may have committed a crime," CBS News legal correspondent Paula Reid said when defining the term "target."
NBC News reported that former Trump lawyer John Eastman pleaded his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and invoked attorney-client privilege Aug. 31 when he appeared before the Fulton County grand jury.
Politico's Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein reported that U.S. District Court Judge David Carter wrote in an 18-page opinion on Oct. 19 that emails from attorney John Eastman, an architect of Trump's last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 election, "show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public."
According to Judge Carter, Trump and his attorneys alleged in a Dec. 4, 2021 filing in Georgia state court that Fulton County had improperly counted more than 10,000 votes of dead people, felons and unregistered voters. They then moved that proceeding to federal court and discussed whether to use the same statistics in that filing.
On Dec. 31, 2021 Eastman emailed other Trump lawyers that the numbers filed in state court were not accurate. Senior White House lawyer Eric Herschmann also cautioned Trump's attorneys about the president signing a sworn court statement verifying inaccurate evidence of voter fraud, according to emails from December 2020 obtained by Axios.
However, Trump and his lawyers opted to file the federal complaint using the same numbers that Eastman conceded were inaccurate.
Wrote Judge Carter, "President Trump, moreover, signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers 'are true and correct' or 'believed to be true and correct' to the best of his knowledge and belief. The emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public. The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States."
Gov. Brian Kemp testified Nov. 15 behind closed doors before the special grand jury for three hours. Trump White House official Cassidy Hutchinson testified Nov. 16. And Sen. Graham testified for two hours on Nov. 22. On Nov. 29, South Carolina's Supreme Court unanimously ordered former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to testify.
Attorneys for pro-Trump Republicans who claimed to be Georgia's legitimate presidential electors in 2020 (Biden, not Trump won the state) claimed on Nov. 11 they were advised by then-President Trump's campaign to cast "contingent" Electoral College ballots - just in case one of Trump's longshot legal challenges to the results succeeded, Politico reported.
Any plans by top Trump lawyers - John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and others - to use Georgia's "provisional" votes to subvert the 2020 election without any legal backing were concocted without their knowledge, attorneys for the pro-Trump activists said.
The Fulton County special grand jury investigating former President Trump's attempts to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election results submitted its final report on Jan. 9, 2023 according to The Associated Press.
Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney will review the report before turning it over to Willis for "potential criminal prosecution," the newspaper reported. "Criminal prosecution" would require empaneling a new grand jury if the district attorney decides to seek a criminal indictment against Trump and/or his allies.
District Attorney Willis told a judge that decisions on whether and whom to charge in the probe "are imminent," CNBC reported Jan. 24. Willis urged the judge to keep sealed for now the final special jury report. "For future defendants to be treated fairly, it's not appropriate at this time to have this report released. We need to be mindful of protecting future defendants' rights."
(For more information on the federal investigation into the effort in Georgia to overturn the election, see "Justice Department and states investigate GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes" below.)
Portions of the report from the grand jury were released Feb. 16, revealing two findings from its monthslong probe but leaving many key questions unaddressed, CNN reported.
The special grand jury "unanimously" concluded that there wasn't widespread voter fraud in Georgia in 2020, rejecting Trump's conspiracy theories after hearing "extensive testimony" from election officials, poll workers and other experts.
The special grand jury also recommended that Fulton County District Attorney Willis consider indicting some witnesses for perjury.
And then on Feb. 21, the jury forewoman, Emily Kohrs, went on a media tour and reported that the special grand jury recommended indictments of multiple people on a range of charges in its report. "It is not a short list," Kohrs said, admitting it's more than a dozen.
Asked whether the jurors had recommended indicting Trump, Kohrs gave a cryptic answer: "You're not going to be shocked. It's not rocket science," adding "you won't be too surprised."
Judge McBurney told ABC News on Feb. 27 that jurors "can talk about the final report." McBurney also emphasized that the special grand jury was essentially investigative and did not have the ability to bring indictments.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported March 15 that members of the special grand jury investigating Trump's efforts to overturn his election loss heard a call in which Trump tried to pressure Georgia House Speaker David Ralston into convening a special state legislative session to throw out Biden's certified election victory. However, one juror who interviewed by the AJC says that Ralston, who has subsequently passed away, impressed him by shutting Trump down.
"[Ralston] basically cut the president off," the juror explained. "He said, 'I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.' ... He just basically took the wind out of the sails."
Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell have been subpoenaed by Willis in her investigation into an effort by Trump's legal team to overturn the state's presidential and senatorial elections by breaching a voting machine in a small rural Georgia county, CNN reported April 21.
The plot to breach voting systems in Coffee County, coordinated by members of Trump's legal team including Giuliani and Powell, is part of a broader criminal investigation into 2020 election interference led by Willis.
Willis' office is weighing a potential racketeering case against multiple defendants and is actively deciding who to bring charges against, sources tell CNN.
The Washington Post reported May 5 at least eight of the 16 Georgia Republicans who convened in December 2020 to declare Donald Trump the winner of the presidential contest despite his loss in the state have accepted immunity deals from Atlanta-area prosecutors investigating alleged election interference.
"Prosecutors with the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told the eight that they will not be charged with crimes if they testify truthfully in her sprawling investigation into efforts by Trump, his campaign and his allies to overturn Joe Biden's victory in Georgia."
At a CNN Town Hall broadcast May 10, former President Trump expressed no regrets over his phone conversation with Raffensperger pressuring him to find enough votes in the Peach State to overturn the 2020 presidential election. "Yeah, I called questioning the election. I thought it was a rigged election. I thought it had a lot of problems," Trump said. "And if this call was bad, why didn't him and his lawyers hang up?"
Fulton County's top prosecutor was dismissive of efforts by former President Trump and a GOP ally to derail her office's more than 2-year-old criminal investigation of attempts to meddle in Georgia's 2020 elections, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported May 15. District Attorney Fani Willis said recent court motions from Trump and Cathy Latham, who served as an "alternate" GOP elector, were "procedurally flawed and advance arguments that lack merit."
Trump's team is seeking to disqualify the Fulton DA's office from investigating the former president and to quash the release of the full final report authored by the special grand jury that aided Willis and recommended upwards of a dozen indictments, according to its forewoman.
House Select Committee completes investigation of Jan. 6 riot, forwards criminal referrals to DOJ, plus,
- Running Tally: Who cooperated and who did not
- 64 Days That Will Live in Infamy - Nov. 4, 2020 thru Jan. 6, 2021
On July 1, 2021 the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), appointed members to the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack to examine and report on the facts and causes relating to, what her office described as, "the terrorist mob attack on the United States Capitol."
Pelosi appointed seven Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who was the lead manager in Trump's first impeachment trial and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who served as lead manager for Trump's second impeachment. Also serving on the committee are Trump-critics Rep. Liz Cheney (R- Wyoming) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois). The chair is Mississippi Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson. Rep. Cheney is vice-chair.
Speaker Pelosi blocked GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy's nominees, Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, because they both actively spread misinformation about the 2020 election. But she accepted GOP Reps. Troy Nehls, Rodney Davis, and Kelly Armstrong. McCarthy, however, rescinded their nominations to protest the Speaker's decision to bar Jordan and Banks. (Fast forward: On June 19, 2022, following several nationally-televised committee hearings, former President Trump criticized McCarthy's decision. "Unfortunately, a bad decision was made. This Committee - it was a bad decision not to have representation on this Committee. That was a very, very foolish decision.")
The committee held its first hearing July 27, 2021. Fox News reported the four witnesses at the hearing were Private First Class Harry Dunn and Sergeant Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the Metropolitan Police Department. They provided detailed and emotional testimony about the attack.
"To be honest, I did not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 or the United States they claimed to represent," Gonell, an immigrant and Army veteran, said. "The rioters called me traitor, a disgrace, and shouted that I, I, an Army veteran and police officer, should be executed. I heard specific threats to the lives of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and also Vice President Mike Pence," Gonell added, saying that the officers "fought hand to hand, inch by inch, to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a mob intent on subverting our democratic process." Gonell said that the attackers were shouting, "Trump sent us. Pick the right side."
On Jan. 19, 2022 the Supreme Court rejected Trump's effort to stop the National Archives from giving the House Jan. 6 committee hundreds of pages of documents from his time in the White House. USA Today reported the four-page decision by Chief Justice John Roberts stated, in part, "Because the Court of Appeals concluded that President Trump's claims would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former President necessarily made no difference to the court's decision."
On June 13, Chair Rep. Thompson (D-MS) opened the second public hearing of the January 6 Committee: "This morning we will tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election. And knew he lost an election. And as the result of his loss, decided to wage an attack on our democracy."
Video of depositions from key Trump advisers - Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Jason Miller, Bill Stepien, Bill Barr, among others - made it very clear, as Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) stated, "The election fraud claims were false. Mr. Trump's closest advisors knew it. Mr. Trump knew it."
In riveting and damning testimony, former Attorney General Barr told committee investigators it was "demoralizing" that Trump wasn't listening: "If he really believes this stuff, he's become detached from reality, if he really believes this stuff. There was never any interest in what the actual facts were."
According to witness testimony at the committee's June 16 hearing, Vice President Pence himself and the lawyer who concocted the scheme to have Pence overturn the 2020 presidential election, John Eastman, both advised President Trump that the plan was unconstitutional and violated federal law. Eastman later plead the Fifth more than 100 times in his deposition before the Jan. 6 Committee.
Judge Michael Luttig, a nationally prominent conservative justice, told the committee that Trump, as well as his allies and supporters, "are a clear and present danger to American democracy."
"That's not because of what happened on January 6 -- it's because to this very day, the former president, his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election, that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election."
Rusty Bowers, the Republican leader of the Arizona state legislature, told the committee at its June 21 hearing that President Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called him shortly after the election and claimed that hundreds of thousands of illegals voted in Arizona as well as thousands of dead people. Bowers asked for the evidence. Trump told Giuliani to give Bowers the evidence. Giuliani promised to deliver it. But, according to Bowers, Giuliani never did and at a subsequent meeting in Phoenix, Giuliani admitted to Bowers that "We've got a lot of theories, we just don't have the evidence."
Shaye Moss, a Georgia election worker, was a target of a conspiracy theory spread by former President Trump and his allies. She told the committee the lies by Trump of harvesting fraudulent votes "turned my life upside down."
Moss fought back tears as she told how the harassment campaign against her upended her life in the weeks after the 2020 election.
"I no longer give out my business card. I don't transfer calls. I don't want anyone knowing my name," Moss testified. "I don't go anywhere with my mom. I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all. I've gained about 60 pounds."
(On Jan. 6, 2023, the 2nd anniversary of the Capitol riot, President Biden gave Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, another Georgia election worker, the Presidential Citizens Medal for their contributions toward preserving democracy in America.)
At the committee's hearing on June 23, 2022 it was announced that at least six Republican members of Congress sought pardons in the final days of Trump's presidency. They included Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Louis Gohmert (R-TX) and Scott Perry (R-PA). Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) summarized: "The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you have committed a crime."
Politico reported "The hearing highlighted how Trump's West Wing became a haven for conspiracy theories about election fraud that he then tasked DOJ and other cabinet agencies to investigate. When the theories were debunked, Trump would fall back on new ones, often plucked from far-flung corners of the internet and laundered through pro-Trump channels until they reached the Oval Office."
Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue described one such theory - that Italian satellites had switched votes from Trump to Joe Biden - as "pure insanity."
On June 28, the Select Committee heard from Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She testified that when she asked Meadows about plans for Jan. 6, "He didn't look up from his phone and said something to the effect of, 'There's a lot going on Cass, but I don't know, things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.'"
Hutchinson also testified that former President Trump knew many of his supporters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 were armed and demanded that they be let into a secure area at his rally. "He thought the mags (metal detectors) were at fault for not letting everybody in. But another leading reason, likely the primary reason, is because he wanted it full and he was angry that we weren't letting people through the mags with weapons -- what the Secret Service deems as weapons." Hutchinson said, "I overheard the President say something to the effect of 'I don't F-ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in, take the f-ing mags away."
She also testified Trump left after his rally speech on Jan. 6 expecting he would be taken to the Capitol. According to Hutchinson, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Tony Ornato recounted Trump screaming, "I'm the f---ing President. Take me up to the Capitol now." Trump then "reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel." She added that, according to Ornato, Trump used his other hand to "lunge" at Secret Service Agent Robert Engel. (Ornato was interviewed virtually Nov. 29 for roughly five to six hours. He told lawmakers and committee staff that he did not recall that conversation with Hutchinson.)
Hutchinson also testified that Meadows and Rudy Giuliani each sought pardons related to their actions on Jan. 6. And attorney John Eastman asked Giuliani about a potential pardon in an email. "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works."
The Select Committee on July 12 presented evidence that former President Trump knew that he legitimately lost the 2020 election to Biden, Raw Story reported.
Testimony from former Trump administration officials revealed that White House lawyers, known as "team normal," worked for hours on Dec. 18, 2020 to systematically debunk conspiracy theories about the election in an hours-long meeting with the president and his outside advisors, including Giuliani and Sidney Powell.
On July 21, the committee held a hearing focusing on "then-President Trump's refusal for more than three hours to call off the mob attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6," the Los Angeles Times reported. The committee attempted to show that Trump's inaction constituted a dereliction of duty.
"The mob was accomplishing President Trump's purpose, so of course he didn't intervene," committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger stated. "President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the Ellipse and telling the mob to go home. He chose not to act."
Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the committee on Sept. 29 the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump. However, Thomas, a lawyer, provided no evidence to support her claim.
The committee voted Oct. 13 to subpoena Trump. The subpoena required him to turn over documents by Nov. 4 and to appear for a deposition Nov. 14. Trump ignored the committee's subpoena.
The House select committee released its highly anticipated final report Dec. 22, presenting a full account of its findings on former President Trump's efforts to maintain power, USA Today reported. The committee's report concluded:
- Trump was the "central cause" of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol. "The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him."
- The committee recommended that the Department of Justice investigate the ex-president for inciting an insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and obstruction of an official proceeding.
- The attack on Jan. 6 on the U.S. Capitol was "foreseeable": The report gives a damning account of law enforcement's response to the attack.
The committee said it was "particularly troubling" that certain witnesses took the Fifth, including Gen. Michael Flynn, who refused to comment on such basic questions as whether he believed the violence on Jan. 6 was justified and whether he believed "in the peaceful transition of power" in the U.S.
GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee, described as "the most shameful findings" from the hearings: "President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television."
The committee concluded Trump was "directly and personally involved" in the effort to delay the counting of Electoral College votes during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, and acted with a "corrupt" purpose.
The committee also recommended the House Ethics Committee investigate four Republican lawmakers - including Kevin McCarthy, the future House speaker - for defying the committee's subpoenas.
The panel concluded there could be enough evidence to bring criminal charges against other Trump allies, like attorneys John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, Jeffrey Clark and Kenneth Chesebro.
Former Vice President Pence harshly criticized former President Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, widening the rift between the two men as they prepare to battle over the Republican nomination in next year's election, the Associated Press reported March 11, 2023.
"President Trump was wrong," Pence said during remarks at the annual white-tie Gridiron Dinner attended by politicians and journalists. "I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable."
"Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace," Pence said in his Gridiron Dinner remarks. "And it mocks decency to portray it any other way."
Running Tally: Who cooperated and who did not
Who cooperated: First Daughter and former White House advisor Ivanka Trump, former President Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, former Vice President Pence chief of staff Marc Short, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Rosen aide Richard Donoghue, former Trump transportation secretary Elaine Chao, Trump's education secretary Betsy DeVos, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee Ronna Romney McDaniel, Trump's White House counsel Pat Cipollone, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (he cooperated before he didn't), former chief counsel to VP Pence Greg Jacob, Trump White House aide Hope Hicks, former VP Pence national security advisor Keith Kellogg, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Engel, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former Attorney General William Barr, former White House national security advisor Robert O'Brien, former Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, Trump's son-in-law and former White House advisor Jared Kushner, former Trump White House and campaign aide Kellyanne Conway, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Trump's "election fraud" attorney Sidney Powell, former White House press secretary and chief of staff to First Lady Melania Trump Stephanie Grisham, "Stop the Steal" rally organizer Ali Alexander, Trump re-election campaign advisor and current fiancée to Donald Trump Jr. Kimberly Guilfoyle and former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller. The committee interviewed over 1,000 witnesses.
Who didn't cooperate: Former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (PA), Mo Brooks (Alabama), Andy Biggs (Arizona), and Ronny Jackson (Texas). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, child-grown-old Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Gen. Michael Flynn, Oath Keepers' leader Stewart Rhodes and Trump lawyers John Eastman and Jenna Ellis. Also, Peter Navarro, Dan Scavino and former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. Steve Bannon refused to testify and was sentenced to four months in jail for defying a subpoena from the House select committee. More than 30 witnesses asserted their Fifth Amendment rights during testimony. They include former national security adviser Gen. Mike Flynn, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, Trump confidant Roger Stone, Constitutional attorney John Eastman, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward. Many took the Fifth when asked by the committee "what supposed proof they uncovered that the election was stolen."
64 Days that Will Live in Infamy - Nov. 4 through Jan. 6
Timeline of first-ever presidential coup attempt in U.S. history
- President Trump to the nation: "We want all voting to stop."
- President Trump to the Acting Attorney General: "One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren't going to do anything to overturn the election."
- Former President Trump on Mike Pence: "He could have overturned the Election!"
Nov. 4, 2020
The day after the election, with Democrat Joe Biden leading the vote count, President Trump in the White House press room declared, "This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.
"So, we'll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop."
Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, texts White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, "Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition."
Donald Trump Jr., the oldest son of the president, texts Meadows outlining a strategy that is nearly identical to what allies of the President will attempt to carry out in the months ahead. In his texts, Trump Jr. makes specific reference to filing lawsuits and advocating recounts to prevent certain swing states from certifying their results, as well as having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake "Trump electors."
With Biden still ahead in the vote count, President Trump begins to realize he is on the brink of losing reelection. His lawyers explain to him that being angry about the results is not a reason to file lawsuits.
"Well, why don't we just get up to the Supreme Court directly?" he asks. "Like, why can't we just go there right away?"
Former Vice President Joe Biden is declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election by various media outlets.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sends email discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors to the Electoral College. Utah Senator Mike Lee texts Meadows: "Sydney (sic) Powell is saying that she needs to get in to see the president, but she's being kept away from him. Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help her get in?" (On Nov. 9, Sen. Lee texts Meadows that he found Powell to be a "straight shooter.")
Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani holds a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Northeast Philadelphia. (President Trump had earlier announced the press conference would occur at the famous Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia.) Giuliani, standing outside the landscaping business, a couple buildings down from the Fantasy Island Book Store, makes unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud. The black dye in his hair famously starts to drip down the side of his face during the press conference. The adult bookstore owner complains to the media they are taking up all his customer parking.
Virginia Thomas - again, the wife of a member of the U.S. Supreme Court - sends an email to 29 Arizona state legislators. "Article II of the United States Constitution gives you an awesome responsibility: to choose our state's Electors... [P]lease take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen." (Thomas's name also appears on an email to a group of Arizona representatives on Dec. 13, the day before members of the electoral college met to cast their votes and seal Biden's Arizona victory. She writes, "Before you choose your state's Electors ... consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don't stand up and lead.")
Thomas also sends similar emails to legislators in a second battleground state that Biden won, Wisconsin. "Please reflect on the awesome authority granted to you by our Constitution. And then please take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen for our state."
Thomas texts Mark Meadows, "Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!...You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America's constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History." (Thomas would admit later to the Jan. 6 Select Committee that she had no evidence to support her claims of voter fraud.)
President Trump fires Chris Krebs, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), via Twitter after Krebs refutes claims - including those by President Trump - that the 2020 election was subject to widespread voter fraud and hacking. Krebs earlier in the day had tweeted, "59 election security experts all agree, 'in every case of which we are aware, these claims (of fraud) either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.'"
Sometime in November
President Trump, campaign lawyers and outside attorneys - including Giuliani and Sidney Powell - hold a meeting to discuss legal issues associated with challenging the election.
(Vice President Mike Pence reported in October, 2022, that while the campaign lawyers reportedly gave President Trump a negative report concerning election challenges, Giuliani contested their claims. "Your lawyers are not telling you the truth, Mr. President," Giuliani said to Trump over a speaker phone.
("In the end, that (was the) day the president made the fateful decision to put Giuliani and Sidney Powell in charge of the legal strategy," Vice President Pence reported. "The seeds were being sown for a tragic day in January," referring to Jan. 6, 2021.)
Attorney Kenneth Chesebro, a legal advisor to the Trump campaign, begins drafting memos on the fake elector scheme. (Other Chesebro memos on the illegal scheme are dated Dec. 9 and Dec. 13.)
Trump attorneys Giuliani and Powell hold a press conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. laying out unproven charges of election fraud, including allegations that Dominion Voting Systems had worked with George Soros and Venezuela to steal the election from Trump. Powell claimed there was a "massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States."
By this same day, however, other Trump campaign lawyers had already prepared an internal memo debunking many of the claims made by Giuliani and Powell about Dominion Voting Systems and another voting machine company, Smartmatic. The campaign sits on its findings, however, as Trump supporters attack the companies in the conservative media and file unsuccessful lawsuits.
(In 2023, Fox News will pay Dominion $787.5 million for pushing Giuliani and Powell's false allegations.)
Mid to late November
Trump suggests, in an Oval Office meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr, that the Justice Department seize voting machines in certain states won by Biden. Barr rejects the idea, telling the president there is no basis for seizing the machines because there is no probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.
Around the same time, Trump also tries to persuade state lawmakers in contested states like Michigan and Pennsylvania to use local law enforcement agencies to take control of voting machines. State lawmakers refuse to go along with the plan.
Attorney General Barr grows so frustrated with Trump's election conspiracy theories that he confronts the president and tells him his claims are "bullshit." Burr tells Trump: "I understand you're upset with me. And I'm perfectly happy to tender my resignation." Trump slaps his desk and says: "Accepted. Accepted. Go home. Don't go back to your office. Go home. You're done."
Barr, who is still Attorney General, goes public and tells the Associated Press that, despite the numerous lawsuits Trump supporters had filed contesting the election results, "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election."
Barr also calls Trump's legal team "clownish." "I'm a pretty informed legal observer and I can't fucking figure out what the theory is here. It's just scattershot. It's all over the hill and gone."
President Trump goes down to the White House dining room and throws a plate of food against the wall. Staff later testified they were forced to clean ketchup off the walls.
At a White House meeting, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other White House attorneys tell Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump's personal attorney Giuliani and a group of Republican House members that the scheme to have states send Trump slates of electors to Congress in states that Trump lost "was not legally sound" and "did not comply with the law."
Attorney and U.S. Constitution "expert" John Eastman urges Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to retabulate the state's popular vote - and throw out tens of thousands of absentee ballots - in order to show Trump - not Biden - with a lead.
After President Trump's aides fail to get Georgia officials to overturn their election, Trump calls Republican governor Brian Kemp. Trump told a rally in September, 2021, "I said, 'Let me handle it. This is easy.' I got this guy elected.... I was going to show [his aides] how good I am. 'Let me handle it. I'll call them up.' I said, 'Brian, listen, you know you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election.'"
Trump also urged Kemp to use his "emergency powers" to block the certification of the results and name a slate of Republican electors to award him the state's 16 electoral votes. Kemp, a former election official, tells Trump he didn't have such powers.
Meanwhile, a steadily changing cast of Trump campaign lawyers file 66 federal and state lawsuits challenging the election results. All but one are rejected. (The one that succeeded, in Pennsylvania, involved a small number of ballots with technical errors.)
Trump calls Georgia's Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, warning him not to interfere with a Texas lawsuit that seeks to overturn election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states won by Biden. The Texas lawsuit argues that Biden's victories in the four states should be thrown out over Republican allegations of widespread voter fraud. The suit argues Republican-led legislatures in all four states should be allowed to select a pro-Trump slate of electors and hand Trump the 2020 election.
Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee, who on Nov. 7 urged President Trump to "exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans faith in our elections," sends a text to White House Chief of Staff Meadows suggesting a strategy for reversing Trump's defeat. "If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path." Meadows replies, "I am working on that as of yesterday."
Trump hypes the Texas case in the run-up to the Supreme Court's ruling. "We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!" he tweets.
Georgia Attorney General Carr files a response to the Texas lawsuit with the Supreme Court, urging the justices to reject the Trump-backed lawsuit.
All nine justices of the Supreme Court - including the three Trump-appointed justices - reject hearing the Texas lawsuit on the grounds the state lacks the standing to overthrow elections in other states. "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections."
(Former White House chief of staff Meadows wrote in his November, 2021 memoir, "The Chief's Chief," that he had never seen Trump look as "despondent" as he was when the Supreme Court rejected Texas' bid to overturn the 2020 election result.
(White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in 2022 that she witnessed a conversation soon after the Supreme Court decision in which Trump told chief of staff Meadows something to the effect of: "I don't want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don't want people to know that we lost."
(Postscript: Two-and-a-half-years later, Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General who brought the appeal to the Supreme Court, was impeached by Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives on 20 counts, including abuse of office, obstruction of justice and bribery. Afterwards, former President Trump criticized Texas Republicans, including Gov. Abbott.)
A few days before Dec. 14
President Trump works with allies to prepare a series of false Trump electoral slates from states Biden won. President Trump personally conducts a teleconference with attorney John Eastman and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and solicits the RNC's assistance with the scheme, specifically directing her to arrange for the fake electors to meet and rehearse the process of casting their fake votes. McDaniel agrees to provide that assistance and calls back later to tell the president RNC staff are working on it. (Trump subsequently has several phone calls with McDaniel on the topic.)
The Electoral College - electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia - cast their ballots and forward their "Certificates of Ascertainment" to the vice president and the National Archives, officially declaring Biden the 46th president of the United States.
President Trump announces Attorney General Barr's resignation.
Trump campaign officials, led by Giuliani, the Republican National Committee and Republican state parties organize meetings of Trump supporters in seven states Trump lost to draft language for fake Electoral College certificates. The gatherings take place in Arizona, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.
The unauthorized electors declare themselves "duly elected and qualified" and send the phony documents to Washington in hopes that on Jan. 6 when Congress convenes to certify the election the fake certificates will be recognized as official by Vice President Pence, who will chair the proceedings.
President Trump summons acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to the Oval Office and demands the DOJ file legal briefs supporting lawsuits challenging election results in key battleground states and that Rosen appoint special counsels to investigate Dominion Voting Systems, who Trump's lawyers claim - without evidence - switched Trump votes to Biden. Rosen declines, citing former Attorney General Barr's announcement on Dec. 1 that there was no wide-spread election fraud.
Trump personally calls election officials in Wayne County, Michigan in a last-ditch effort to overturn the election in that state.
An executive order is drafted by outside legal advisor Sidney Powell and Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn empowering the defense secretary to "seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under" a U.S. law that relates to preservation of election records. Without evidence, the draft cites conspiracy theories about election fraud in Georgia and Michigan, as well as debunked notions about Dominion and Smartmatic voting machines switching Trump votes to Biden.
The draft order would give the defense secretary 60 days to write an assessment of the 2020 election, suggesting it was a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February, 2021.
Former U.S. Army General Fynn, who lasted less than a month as President Trump's first national security advisor, and Sidney Powell, who had, by this time, filed unsuccessful lawsuits claiming China, Venezuela, Iran and George Soros worked to turn a Trump victory into defeat, attend an Oval Office meeting with President Trump.
The day before Flynn had told Newsmax the president could deploy military troops and declare martial law in order to rerun the election in certain states. ''He could immediately on his order seize every single one of these machines around the country. He could also order, within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states. It's not unprecedented.''
Flynn and Powell present the President with a draft executive order authorizing the military to seize voting machines throughout the country and appoint Powell as "a special counsel overseeing election integrity." The President reads the draft and verbally agrees to appoint Powell special counsel.
At one point in the meeting, it is also suggested that the president appoint Flynn as "field marshal" to coordinate Powell's efforts.
White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Eric Herschmann learn of the meeting, enter the Oval Office and begin working to systematically debunk Trump, Powell and Flynn's conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Cipollone tells the group there was no evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, asking "one simple questions, as a general matter 'Where is the evidence?'" Cipollone also tells Trump he opposes giving Powell any authority to investigate alleged election fraud.
The hours-long meeting ends near midnight with Trump's allies insulting and verbally attacking the White House counsel.
(Trump ultimately rejects the draft executive order and the White House never follows through with the appointment of Powell as special counsel.)
At about 1:45 a.m., President Trump tweets, "Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"
Seven days after the Electoral College named Joe Biden president-elect, President Trump meets with Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry, and eight other House Freedom Caucus members to strategize about Jan. 6. (On Jan. 6, Perry will lead the House GOP effort to not certify Biden's election.) Giuliani and some associates advocate a plan for Pence to unilaterally refuse to count Biden's electors and instead send the election back to various GOP-controlled state legislatures to replace Biden's electors with Trump's.
The D.C. Fusion Center (The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Capitol Police and the National Capital Region Threat Intelligence Consortium) share open source data regarding threats to Congress and elected officials, on groups strategizing to avoid arrest in D.C. and discussions about bringing guns into D.C. on Jan. 6. An FBI report states "threat actors" may plan to commit acts of violence in D.C. during demonstrations related to the inauguration.
President Trump calls Georgia election investigator Frances Watson, who is leading a probe into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County. "The people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me," he tells her. "They know I won, won by hundreds of thousands of votes. It wasn't close."
President Trump pressures Watson to find "dishonesty" and "When the right answer comes out, you'll be praised."
Dec. 23 thru Jan. 3
According to later Congressional testimony by Acting Attorney General Rosen, President Trump speaks at least five times to acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, "engaging in unauthorized conversations" about how the department might "publicly cast doubt on President Biden's victory."
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry, at the behest of President Trump, calls Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to tell him he didn't think the Justice Department had done its job on the election. During the call, Perry focuses on alleged fraud in his home state of Pennsylvania and follows up the conversation with an email to Donoghue forwarding additional debunked claims of election fraud from GOP state lawmakers in Pennsylvania. The claims are similar to those Trump is making, including a claim that Pennsylvania had 205,000 more votes than voters.
Rep. Perry, who originally introduced Trump to Clark in October, tells Donoghue, "I think Jeff Clark is great. I like that guy a lot. He's the kind of guy who could really get in there and do something about this. "
President Trump telephones Acting Attorney General Rosen and his deputy Donoghue and urges them to publicly declare the results of the 2020 election "corrupt." According to notes Donoghue took, Rosen tells Trump that he needs to "understand that the DOJ can't + won't snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn't work that way."
"[I] don't expect you to do that," Trump reportedly answers, "just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen."
Donoghue tells Trump, "Sir, we've done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed."
Trump ends the conversation by telling Rosen, "People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in. People want me to replace DOJ leadership." (It is reported that Clark believed smart thermostats hacked by the Chinese might have been used to manipulate Dominion voting machines in Georgia.)
At President Trump's urging, Clark circulates a draft letter -- which Clark wanted his bosses Rosen and Donoghue to approve -- urging Georgia's governor to convene the state legislature into special session. Clark's draft letter falsely claims the Justice Department was "investigating various irregularities" in the presidential election and had "identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election."
Clark wants the DOJ to send the letters to Georgia and other swing states that Trump lost, informing them that fraud had rendered their elections questionable, while advising state legislatures to convene and appoint pro-Trump electors. (Clark and Eastman were both pushing the fake electors scheme and spoke over the phone at least five times between Jan. 1 and Jan. 8.)
Secret Service agents are alerted to potential violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 at least 10 days before rioters stormed the building, according to emails and other messages made public in October, 2022. The threats included "calls to occupy federal buildings," "intimidating Congress and invading [the] Capitol Building," and people claiming they want to "arm themselves and to engage in political violence at the event."
Trump and his allies urge the Department of Justice to take Trump's false claims of a stolen election directly to the Supreme Court.
White House Chief of Staff Meadows emails Vice President Pence's top aide a detailed plan for undoing Biden's election victory. The memo, written by President Trump's campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, outlines a multi-step strategy:
On Jan. 6, the day Congress certifies the 2020 election results, Pence is to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Biden won but Trump claims were stolen from him through election fraud. Pence would then give the states a deadline of "7pm eastern standard time on January 15th" to send back a new set of votes. Then, if any state legislature missed that deadline, "no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state." In that case, neither Biden nor Trump would have a majority of votes, which would mean "Congress shall vote by state delegation" -- which would lead to Trump being declared the winner due to Republicans controlling the majority of state delegations in the U.S Congress.
In a meeting with top Justice Department officials in the Oval Office, President Trump again demands the department seize voting machines across the country. When told that voting machine performance was within the Department of Homeland Security's purview, the president calls Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, and tells him "the acting Attorney General...just told me it's your job to seize machine, and you're not doing your job."
Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro emails Trump's legal team claiming Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may be their best hope of derailing Joe Biden's win. "We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt. Realistically, our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas."
"I think I agree with this," Trump attorney Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would "kick the Georgia legislature into gear" to help overturn the election results.
(See Nov. 5, 9 and 10 above for a possible reason behind their belief that Justice Thomas would be sympathetic to their legal plea.)
In late December
Vice President Pence reaches out to former Vice President Dan Quayle to ask what he should do on Jan. 6. Quayle quickly puts the kibosh on any effort to overturn the election, telling Pence: "Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away."
When Pence "pressed again," explaining that he was under pressure from Trump to reject Biden's electoral college votes on Jan. 6, Quayle responded: "I do know the position you're in. I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian [who issues rulings about congressional authority]. That's all you do. You have no power.'"
Jan. 2, 2021
President Trump, Giuliani and Eastman speak to 300 state legislators via a conference call to arm them with purported evidence of fraud and urge them to take action to "decertify" their election results. "You are the real power," Trump tells the state lawmakers. "You're the ones that are going to make the decision." Eastman said the legislators had the authority to appoint their own set of pro-Trump electors, regardless of who won the election in their states.
President Trump phones Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and asks him to "find" enough votes to overturn the state's election. "All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes," the exact number Trump needs to overturn Biden's win in Georgia. Trump argues Raffensperger can change the certified results of the presidential election, an assertion Raffensperger rejects.
Eastman, who founded the ironically named law firm Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, tells a radio interviewer that Vice President Pence has the power to throw the election to the House of Representatives, saying it depended on whether Pence had "courage and the spine." Says Eastman, "I think if the vice president, as presiding over the joint session, would at least agree that because those ongoing contests have not been resolved, we can't count those electors. That, that, that means that nobody has a majority of the electors. And either they delay things -- so those constitutional challenges are resolved -- or they say, 'OK, well, we don't have electors from those states, that nobody has a majority. This is going to the House.'"
Justice Department official Clark both threatens and attempts to coerce acting Attorney General Rosen into sending the letter to Georgia. (Clark also wants the letter sent to other states where Trump supporters are contesting Biden's vote totals.) Clark raises the prospect that Trump could fire Rosen but then says he would decline any offer to replace Rosen as acting attorney general if Rosen sends the letter. (Evidence subsequently comes to light in November, 2021 indicating that Clark's proposed letter to Georgia may have first been reviewed by the White House.)
Jan. 2 or 3
A senior Secret Service official, Anthony Ornato, tells White House chief of staff Meadows there are intelligence reports saying there could potentially be violence on Jan. 6. Meadows responds, "All right. Let's talk about it."
Days before Jan. 6
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tells White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson President Trump privately acknowledged losing the 2020 election.
McCarthy told her that he feared that then-White House chief of staff Meadows was not preparing Trump to accept the election results.
President Trump tries to call fellow Republican Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in Arizona. But Hickman dodges the call but listens to the audio of Trump's call and is "horrified." Hickman says he didn't call the president back because he suspected Trump would do what he did to Georgia's Secretary of State Raffensperger on Jan. 2 (i.e. ask him to "find" votes.) "I didn't want to walk into that space."
At an extraordinary Oval Office showdown, President Trump meets with the top leaders of the Justice Department. Jeffrey Clark, an environmental lawyer who had never conducted a criminal investigation in the career, repeatedly tells the president that if named attorney general, he would conduct investigations that would uncover widespread fraud, he would send out the Georgia letter he had drafted and that he had the intelligence, the will and the desire to pursue these matters in the way that the President thought most appropriate.
Clark suggests that Justice issue a legal opinion to Vice President Pence advising him as to what actions he could take during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress. "That's an absurd idea," Stephen Engel, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, interjected. "It is not the role of the Department of Justice to provide legislative officials with legal advice on the scope of their duties."
Trump tells acting Attorney General Rosen, "One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren't going to do anything to overturn the election." Department of Justice officials then warn Trump that they and other senior officials would resign en masse if Trump fires Rosen and appoints Clark. They receive immediate support from another key participant: Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. Cipollone indicates that he and his top deputy, Patrick F. Philbin, will also step down if Trump acts on his plan. Only near the end of the nearly three-hour meeting does the president relent and agree to drop his threat to appoint Clark attorney general.
The head of intelligence for the U.S. Capitol Police, after reviewing social media posts, learns that Trump supporters are desperate to overturn the election and that "Congress itself" will be the target.
President Trump meets with Vice President Pence, his chief of staff Marc Short and legal counsel Greg Jacob and Eastman and attempts to convince Pence that Eastman is correct when he states Pence has the authority to stop the certification of the election. The president tells his vice president, "You really need to listen to John. He's a respected constitutional scholar. Hear him out."
Eastman proposes Pence overturn the election results by throwing out electors from seven states Biden won when Congress meets to count Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. Eastman emphasizes that Pence should take the action without asking permission -- either from a vote of the joint session or from a court. "The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter." (Blog editor's note: Why didn't Nixon in 1960 or Gore in 2000 think of that !?!)
Pence tells Trump that a vice president is not invested by the framers of the Constitution with the power to dictate presidential elections. Under the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act, the vice president, as president of the Senate, is responsible only for opening the certificates and counting the votes on the sixth day of January following a presidential election.
"I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this," Trump replied, later telling his vice president, "You've betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing."
During the meeting, however, Eastman acknowledged to Trump, Pence, Jacob and others in the Oval Office that his strategy violated the Electoral Count Act and was illegal.
At a rally that evening in Georgia, Trump told his followers Pence was the last backstop against the election being "stolen." "I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president comes through for us. He's a great guy. Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite as much."
On the eve of Jan. 6, President Trump makes several calls to the Willard Hotel "war room" across the street from the White House and confers with advisers and lawyers, including Giuliani, "Stop the Steal" rally organizers, constitutional "expert" Eastman and GOP officials on how to stop or at least delay the certification of Biden's electoral victory. Trump tells them that Pence is not inclined to insert himself into the certification process.
Trump allies call members of Republican-dominated legislatures in states that Biden won encouraging them to convene special sessions to investigate fraud and to reassign electoral college votes to Trump.
At a staff meeting in the Oval Office Trump repeatedly asks, "What are your ideas for getting the RINOs to do the right thing tomorrow? How do we convince Congress?"
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, texts Meadows that Vice President Pence "should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all -- in accordance with guidance from founding father Alexander Hamilton and judicial precedence." (Meadows responded on Jan. 6: "I have pushed for this. Not sure it is going to happen.")
Vice President Pence's top lawyer, Greg Jacob, drafts a three-page memo concluding that if Pence were to embrace Trump's demand that he single-handedly block or delay the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, he would be breaking multiple provisions of the Electoral Count Act, the law that has governed the transfer of power since 1887.
Pence endures another berating by Trump after telling the president that experts flatly rejected the president's plan. Trump shouted, "No, no, no!" Trump, furious, says: "You've betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing. Your career is over if you do this."
According to reports, Pence tells Trump, "You're not going to be sworn in on the 20th. There is no scenario in which you can be sworn in on the 20th."
Meadows sends an email indicating the National Guard would be at the Capitol the next day to "protect pro Trump people."
Trump confidant Steve Bannon, who is also at the Willard Hotel "war room" as it's senior political adviser, predicts on his podcast, "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's gonna be moving. It's gonna be quick."
Vice President Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, calls Tim Giebels, Pence's lead Secret Service agent, to his West Wing office and tells him the president is going to turn publicly against the vice president, and, as a result, there could be a security risk to Pence.
Meanwhile, the far-right militant group Oath Keepers drops off luggage carts at a Washington D.C. hotel filled with gun boxes, rifle cases, suitcases full of ammunition and enough supplies to last 30 days. It's leader, Stewart Rhodes, a Yale law graduate and disbarred attorney, had earlier told fellow Oath Keepers, "I think Congress will screw (President Trump) over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them." (On Nov. 29, 2022 a jury found Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Prosecutors on May 5, 2023 asked court to sentence Rhodes to 25 years in prison. He was sentenced to 18 years.)
In the morning, President Trump tweets, "States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!"
At 11:20 a.m., during Trump's final call with Pence before heading to the rally, the president pressures the vice president once more to overturn the election. "You can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as a pussy."
But Pence sends a letter to Congress stating, "It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not."
As the joint session of Congress convenes to confirm the Biden victory, thousands of Trump supporters gather on the Ellipse near the White House for the "Stop the Steal" rally.
Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato tells President Trump some of his supporters are bringing weapons to the rally.
Trump demands all his supporters be let into the secure area for his rally. "I don't fucking care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags (metal detectors) away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here." (Secret Service agents confiscated a haul of weapons from the 28,000 spectators who did pass through the magnetometers: 242 canisters of pepper spray, 269 knives or blades, 18 brass knuckles, 18 tasers, 6 pieces of body armor, 3 gas masks, 30 batons or blunt instruments, and 17 miscellaneous items like scissors, needles, or screwdrivers.)
President Trump begins speaking at noon, and tells the crowd, "If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people." In fact, more than a half-dozen times during his 70 minute speech, the 45th president turns his attention to his vice president, assuring the crowd, without reservation, that the vice president possesses the constitutional authority to deliver his administration a second term. "Mike Pence, I hope you're going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and the good of our country and if you're not, I'm going to be very disappointed in you."
President Trump then urges his supporters to march to the Capitol, saying he would march with them. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."
Just after 1 p.m., Trump leaves the rally expecting to be taken to the Capitol. When his Secret Service detail refuses for security reasons, Trump yells, "I'm the fucking President. Take me up to the Capitol now."
According to reports, Trump is so angry, he lunges for the steering wheel of the car and then for the throat of the Secret Service agent sitting in the front passenger seat.
Within 15 minutes of finishing his speech, an aide tells the president the Capitol is under attack.
At 1:49 p.m., Trump, back in the White House watching the riot on Fox News, retweets a video of himself rallying the crowd: "We will not take it anymore and that's what this is all about...You'll never get back your country with weakness. You have to show strength."
Beginning shortly before 2 p.m., hundreds of Trump supporters begin a battle with police, crying out, "Hang Mike Pence!"
At 2:05, Chief of Staff Meadows tells aide Cassidy Hutchinson he hasn't spoken with Trump. "He wants to be alone now."
By 2:20 p.m., after protesters break windows and climb into the Capitol, the building goes into lockdown. The Oath Keepers breach the Capitol in military formation.
White House Counsel Cipollone demands to see Trump but Meadows says Trump "doesn't want to do anything." Cipollone tells Meadows, "Mark, something needs to be done, or people are going to die and the blood's going to be on your fucking hands."
When Cipollone and Meadows finally do talk to Trump in the White House dining room about rioters' chanting "hang Mike Pence," Trump says the vice president "deserved" it.
At 2:24 p.m., President Trump tweets, "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution."
At 2:26 p.m. the Secret Service and Capitol Police escort Vice President Pence, his wife and daughter to a "secure area" - the underground Senate loading dock - within the Capitol complex. Secret Service agent Tim Giebels asks Pence to get into one of the vehicles. Pence replies, "I'm not getting in the car, Tim. I trust you, Tim, but you're not driving the car. If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I'm not getting in the car." They remain at the loading dock for the next three hours.
Secret Service agents with the vice president are so concerned about their personal safety some make calls to their families to say good-bye.
In one phone call, Sen. Tommy Tuberville tells Trump, "They've taken the Vice President out. They want me to get off the phone. I gotta go."
President Trump never calls Pence or asks about his welfare.
Pence calls Christopher Miller, the acting secretary of defense, to demand he deploy the National Guard.
While also sheltering in the loading dock, Pence's attorney, Greg Jacob, asks Eastman in an email, "Did you advise the President that in your professional judgment the Vice President DOES NOT have the power to decide things unilaterally?" Eastman states that the President had "been so advised," but then adds: "But you know him-once he gets something in his head, it is hard to get him to change course."
At 2:38 p.m., minutes after Ivanka Trump speaks with her father about the riot, President Trump tweets support for the Capitol Police, urging people to "stay peaceful," while scenes of violence and mayhem are splashed across American TV. "I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order - respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!" Trump doesn't tell them to go home.
President Trump watches the riot on Fox News in the dining room next to the Oval Office, "pleased, not disturbed, that his supporters had disrupted the election count," according to witnesses. In fact, Trump's attention was so rapt that he hits rewind and re-watches parts of the riot. He says his supporters looked "very trashy" but appreciated their fight. Trump places no calls to any agency of the U.S. government instructing them to take action to halt the riot.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) says Trump was "walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren't as excited as he was."
At 2:53 p.m. Donald Trump Jr. texts Meadows, "He's got to condemn this shit. Asap. The captiol police tweet is not enough." Donald Jr. also texts Meadows: "They will try to fuck his entire legacy on this if it gets worse."
Trump is informed of the fatal shooting of rioter Ashli Babbitt after 3:05 pm with a note, written by White House aide William "Beau" Harrison, that read: "1x CIVILIAN GUNSHOT WOUND TO CHEST @ DOOR OF HOUSE CHABER." There is no indication that this affected the President's state of mind or that the President expressed any remorse.
Eastman emails Greg Jacob insisting that Pence could still reject electors from Arizona and other states. Jacob replies by email: "I have run down every legal trail placed before me to its conclusion, and I respectfully conclude that as a legal framework, it is a results-oriented position that you would never support if attempted by the opposition, and essentially entirely made up. And thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege."
Ivanka Trump, senior advisor to the president, asks her father again to "please stop this violence."
GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy, protected by Capital police, phones President Trump to give him a first-hand report of the violence in the Capitol building. McCarthy tells Trump, "I just got evacuated from the Capitol! There were shots fired right off the House floor. You need to make this stop." Trump initially claims the protesters are linked to Antifa, referring to a network of "leftist" protesters and criminals. When McCarthy pushes back, saying, no, the protesters are Trump supporters, the president responds, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." McCarthy yells back, "Who the fuck do you think you are talking to?"
(The Republican House leader asked multiple members of Trump's family for help, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Kushner later characterized Leader McCarthy's demeanor on the call as "scared.")
At 3:17 p.m., Fox News reports gunshots are heard on Capitol Hill.
President Trump continues to watch events unfold on Fox News in the executive dining room. "He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV," says one close adviser.
At 4:15 p.m., Joe Biden holds a press conference and urges the mob to "pull back," calling on Trump "to go on national television...and demand an end to this siege."
At 4:17 p.m., 187 minutes after President Trump began his speech at the rally, Trump finally asks his followers to go home. "I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you, you're very special."
The insurgency finally ends.
At 6:01 p.m., Trump tweets that "these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots."
And at 9:02 p.m. Congress certifies the Electoral College vote - with Vice President Pence performing his ceremonial role of presiding over the process - naming Joe Biden president-elect. However, 147 Republican senators and representatives-more than half of the Republicans in Congress-join in objecting to the final certification of the Arizona and Pennsylvania electoral slates that voted for Biden.
(Blog editor's note: Two years and four months later, Donald Trump told a CNN Town Hall audience that Pence did have the Constitutional power to award the 2020 election to the Trump/Pence ticket...)
Justice Department special counsel investigating Jan. 6 riot and much more
The Latest: CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig believes Donald Trump gave prosecutors a plethora of evidence to hold against the former president in his ongoing legal battles during the May 10 Town Hall, Mediaite reported.
Honig was on CNN This Morning to recap the town hall where Trump once again denied the 2020 election, defended his rioting January 6th supporters, and pushed numerous other attacks and lies throughout the evening.
Trump told Collins "I agree with that" when she pressed him on how his January 6th supporters "listen to you like no one else."
Honig called that moment "the most important clip from last night" from a prosecutorial standpoint.
"If you're thinking about prosecuting Donald Trump in relation to the effort to steal the election, you're gonna need to show that connection, that Donald Trump knew and understood that his words would be acted on. Knew and understood that people were listening to him and would actually do things because he said so, and stop doing things because he said so. I've never heard him so clearly admit that. Everything Donald Trump says is out there. It's fair game. It can be used, and I think if I'm a prosecutor watching last night, I'm circling that clip and I'm saying 'Here we go. We just filled that gap.'"
Background: On March, 2022 the Justice Department expanded its criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to include examining the preparations and planning for the rally that preceded the riot, the Washington Post reported.
A special federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. issued subpoena requests to some "VIP" officials in former President Trump's orbit who assisted in planning, funding and executing the Jan. 6 rally.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Justice will "not shy away" from Jan. 6 investigations that may be seen as inherently "controversial or sensitive or political."
"To do that would undermine an element of the rule of law that we treat like cases alike without regard to the subject matter," Garland said.
CNN reported Sept. 13 that Justice Department criminal prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election -- including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts.
Investigators may be looking into whether people associated with Trump's Save America PAC defrauded people out of money using claims they knew to be false about the 2020 election being stolen.
On Nov. 18, Fox News reported Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Justice Department official Jack Smith as special counsel. Smith will oversee the investigation into Trump's retention of classified documents after leaving the White House and whether the former president obstructed the federal government's investigation into the matter as well as whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
For a second time, Trump's two top White House lawyers testified for several hours on Dec. 2 before the federal grand jury investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Pat Philbin were spotted at D.C. District Court.
Trump's daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have been subpoenaed by the special counsel, the New York Times reported Feb. 22, 2023.
The Hill reported Smith has also subpoenaed both former Vice President Mike Pence and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, two figures with strong visibility into Trump's actions leading up to and on the day of the deadly riot.
In March, Trump lawyers were in federal court trying to prevent the former vice president and former chief of staff from testifying. Trump's team contends that Smith's effort to seek details of Pence's conversations with Trump would violate executive privilege. The court quickly rejected Trump's argument and ordered both Pence and Meadows to testify.
According to The Hill, aide Stephen Miller, former Department of Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and former national security adviser Robert O'Brien were also all directed to testify.
Trump, on March 29, appealed in the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals the decision to force his former White House aides to testify.
Trump's legal team then lost that bid for emergency help from the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, to block some of his closest advisers from testifying about him to a grand jury, including former White House chief of staff Meadows, CNN reported April 4.
And then former President Trump's legal team appealed a sealed order requiring limited testimony from former Vice President Pence after a judge determined he must answer questions from the Justice Department about some aspects of Trump's attempts to stay in power, The Hill reported April 10.
According to the Washington Post on April 12, "Federal prosecutors probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have in recent weeks sought a wide range of documents related to fundraising after the 2020 election, seeking to determine if President Trump or his advisers scammed donors by using false claims about voter fraud to raise money." The Washington Post also reported "at least two grand juries in Washington are meeting every week about Trump and his advisers on multiple fronts."
(The New York Times reported April 29 that special counsel Jack Smith's prosecutors "are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims.")
NBC News reported that Trump's sealed appeal was filed in the circuit court on April 10, days after an adviser said Pence would not appeal an order last month by Judge James Boasberg, the chief judge of U.S. District Court in Washington, requiring Pence to testify in Smith's investigation of Trump.
Last week, the federal appeals court denied Trump's motion to block the testimony of several of his senior aides. The decision came after U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled in March that Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and other aides must testify despite Trump's invocation of executive privilege.
Former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a federal grand jury investigating efforts by then-President Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to a person familiar with the matter, the Associated Press reported April 27. Special Counsel Jack Smith sat in on the deposition.
Justice Department and states investigate GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes
The Latest: Dan McLaughlin, a senior writer at National Review Online, commented on May 16:
The people who agreed before the election to serve as Trump electors in Georgia cast votes for him on December 14, 2020, notwithstanding that Trump had lost the state and showed no imminent signs of having his loss of Georgia reversed in court or by any other arm of the state government. Margot Cleveland at the Federalist argues that they committed no crime by doing so, because these were openly provisional electoral votes, aimed to keep Trump's options open if things broke his way later.
"Fake crimes" depends on what the elements of those crimes are. But as I have written at length before in regard to Trump's electors in the disputed states, the simple reality is that they did nothing that deceived anybody: This was all done out in the open, and everyone knew that their votes would be meaningless unless there was some (by then, increasingly implausible) change of Trump's legal fortunes. So, I am inclined to agree with Cleveland that it would require a pretty extraordinary legal argument to criminalize what the electors did. There is little enough sign that any of them thought they were doing something against the law at the time, and it has been unjust for the legal system to treat them otherwise.
We do not, however, know if the charges being contemplated by Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis against Trump require her to prove that the electors did anything illegal. It may yet be that she will pursue a case focused more closely on what Trump did. While I reiterate my many cautions against the hazards of charging a former president with custom-tailored bespoke crimes, we can wait until we see what charges she has before judging them.
(For more, see "Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overturn election" above.)
Background: The Justice Department is looking into a GOP plot to put forward fake electors from seven states that then-President Trump lost in 2020. The investigation was triggered by a referral from the State of Michigan Attorney General.
Georgia is also investigating.
Fake Electoral College certificates were created after the 2020 election by Trump allies in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, who sought to replace Biden presidential electors. (The submissions from New Mexico and Pennsylvania contained a disclaimer saying the fake electoral votes should be counted only if courts later determined that they were, in fact, the qualified electors from their states. No such court determinations were ever made.)
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reported on Jan. 13, 2022 she had referred her investigation in Michigan to the U.S. Department of Justice. The attorney general of New Mexico, Hector Balderas, also referred the results of his investigation to Washington. (And the House Select Committee issued subpoenas connected with the plot.)
On Dec. 14, 2020, the Electoral College - electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia - cast their ballots and forwarded their "Certificates of Ascertainment" to the National Archives, officially declaring Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States. However, on the same day, Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, the Republican National Committee and certain Republican state parties, organized meetings of Trump supporters in seven states Trump lost to Biden and drafted language for fake Electoral College certificates. The unauthorized electors declared themselves "duly elected and qualified" and submitted the phony documents to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in hopes that on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress convened to certify the election, the fake certificates would be recognized as official by Vice President Pence, who chaired the proceedings.
One fake elector from Michigan boasted at an event hosted by a local Republican organization in February, 2022 that the Trump campaign directed the entire operation, CNN reported. "We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that," Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said at a public event organized by the conservative group Stand Up Michigan.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told USA Today on Feb. 3 that prosecutors in her office will investigate the submission of a fake slate of electors by Republicans in Georgia. In early May, Willis told CNN, "I don't plan on specifically coordinating with the Department of Justice. What their investigation would be is obviously election fraud that may have occurred anyplace in this great country. Mine is much smaller -- a big investigation, but much smaller. I am only looking into election interference in the state of Georgia and, more specifically, things that they asked for around that call that occurred in my county, Fulton County."
CNN reported Feb. 25 David Shafer, the chairman of the Republican Party in Georgia, told the House Select Committee that the Trump campaign had directed the party in 2020 to put forward an alternate slate of electors after then-President Trump lost the state's vote. "Acting on the advice of counsel in the election contest, Chairman Shafer convened the Republican nominees for Presidential Elector to cast their votes for President and Vice President for the sole purpose of preserving a remedy in the event the lawsuit succeeded," his attorney, Bob Driscoll, said in a statement. "There was nothing secret or surreptitious about the meeting. He and the other Republican Electors were acting provisionally to protect a remedy in the event President Trump ultimately succeeded in the pending (legal) contest."
(For more on this investigation, see "Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overturn election" above.)
And then on March 30, the New York Times reported federal prosecutors substantially widened their Jan. 6 investigation. "The investigation now encompasses the possible involvement of other government officials in Mr. Trump's attempts to obstruct the certification of President Biden's Electoral College victory and the push by some Trump allies to promote slates of fake electors."
The New York Times reported May 25 that a federal grand jury in Washington has started issuing subpoenas to people linked to the alternate elector plan, requesting information about several lawyers involved in the scheme, including Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and another one of Trump's legal advisers, John Eastman.
The FBI has subpoenaed records from the Republican leader of Arizona's state Senate as well as another GOP state senator, KPNX-TV (Phoenix) reported June 30. A spokeswoman for Senate President Karen Fann of Prescott confirmed the subpoena. Fann told one constituent in a December 2020 email that she had "spoken with Mayor Giuliani at least six times over the past two weeks." Fann told another constituent she had received "a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud."
Federal investigators also subpoenaed the Georgia Republican Party chairman for information related to the fake elector scheme there. The subpoena for the chairman, David Shafer, represents a significant step because he played a central role in organizing the fake slate of electors from Georgia and coordinated the effort with the Trump campaign.
The focus on Shafer also comes as sources tell CNN the Justice Department subpoenaed Trump electors in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- all states that Trump lost. (For more on the plot to submit fake Trump electors, see "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy" above.)
CNN reported Sept. 13 that Justice Department criminal prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election -- including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts.
On Oct. 13 at a public hearing, Select Committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) reported that, according to Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, former President Trump played a direct role in the effort to use fake electors to overturn the presidential election. Mediaite reported that, according to Rep. Murphy, "Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, testified before this committee that President Trump and his attorney, Dr. John Eastman, called her and asked her to arrange for the fake electors to meet and rehearse the process of casting their fake votes." McDaniel and the RNC subsequently cooperated.
On Nov. 18, Fox News reported Attorney General Merrick Garland had named special counsel Jack Smith to investigate the entirety of the criminal probe into the unlawful retention of national defense information at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief to the DOJ's public integrity section, will also oversee the investigation into whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
One of Smith's first moves was to subpoena Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him for records of communications with Trump, his 2020 campaign and 19 conservative attorneys and advocates. Subpoenas also were sent to the Cobb County Board of Elections in Georgia, as well as to local election officials in other swing states, Bloomberg reported.
The House Select Committee investigating the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, concluded in its Dec. 19 report: "The certifications signed by Trump electors in multiple States were patently false. Vice President Biden won each of those States, and the relevant State authorities had so certified. It can hardly be disputed that the false slates of electors were material, as nothing can be more material to the Joint Session of Congress to certify the election than the question of which candidate won which States."
The 845-page report - based on 1,000-plus interviews, documents collected including emails, texts, phone records and a year and a half of investigation - includes allegations that Trump "oversaw" the legally dubious effort to put forward fake slates of electors in seven states he lost, arguing that the evidence shows he actively worked to "transmit false Electoral College ballots to Congress and the National Archives" despite concerns among his lawyers that doing so could be unlawful.
The committee's report notes that while some of the signatories may have believed the certificates would only be used if Trump won relevant legal cases challenging the results, that rationale cannot apply to Trump himself: "President Trump (including acting through co-conspirators such as John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro) relied on the existence of those fake electors as a basis for asserting that the Vice President could reject or delay certification of the Biden electors."
Special Counsel Smith has received a trove of new documents from local election officials in Wisconsin and Nevada who were subpoenaed as part of the ongoing criminal investigation by the Justice Department into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, CNN and the Associated Press reported Jan. 4.
CNN reported Smith's team sent subpoenas to local and state officials in all seven of the key states - Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - targeted by Trump and his allies as part of their bid to overturn the election results.
And on Jan. 6 Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office is reopening its investigation into the 16 Republican electors who signed a certificate falsely claiming that Donald Trump had won the state's 2020 election, the Detroit News reported.
Nessel, a Democrat, previously referred the matter to federal prosecutors. But she cited new documents released by a U.S. House committee and said there was "clear evidence to support charges" against the group of 16 Michigan Republicans who signed a document that was submitted to the National Archives and was intended to help Trump supporters challenge his loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
The false Trump electors met inside Michigan Republican Party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020 as Biden's electors participated in an official ceremony in the state Capitol. Biden won Michigan by 3 percentage points or 154,000 votes.
Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago
The Latest: Attorneys for Donald Trump were unable to find a classified military invasion plan Trump described during a taped recorded meeting in 2021, months after leaving the White House, CNN reported June 2.
Prosecutors issued a subpoena for the document after asking a Trump aide before a federal grand jury about the audio recording of a July 2021 meeting at Trump's golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. On the recording, the former president acknowledged he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.
Prosecutors sought "any and all" documents and materials related to Mark Milley, Trump's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Iran, including maps or invasion plans, the sources say.
According to the New York Times report, "Trump also indicated he knew the document was secret."
The Washington Post reported, "For Justice Department prosecutors examining Trump's possible mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House, the audio could be important evidence about Trump's state of mind and his understanding of the rules about classified information - and it might show the path of certain sensitive documents once they left the White House. Trump's lawyers have suggested that the former president either did not know he possessed classified documents after leaving the White House or could have declassified such material while in office."
The Hill reported:
The tape is significant on two counts. It undercuts Trump's ongoing claim that he declassified the records found at his home, something he at one point claimed a president could do simply by thinking about it.
But it also shows Trump's awareness of the rules and processes surrounding the classification process ahead of the special counsel's investigation, a key detail for prosecutors who would need to successfully demonstrate the former president willfully retained the records.
"The tape recording is most probative of Trump's mental state. It shows that he knew the documents remained classified and shouldn't be shared with others, which further undercuts any potential argument that he secretly declassified them," Brian Greer, a former CIA attorney.
"It also makes it much easier to demonstrate that Trump's retention of the documents was willful, a key element of an Espionage Act charge."
Jim Trusty, an attorney for Trump, wouldn't comment on whether the document in question was classified — saying during an appearance on CNN that Trump has "unfettered authority" to both declassify and personalize records from his presidency.
Trump, in a Thursday night interview with Fox's Sean Hannity, also defended his actions without getting into specifics.
"All I know is this — everything I did was right. We have the Presidential Records Act, which I abided by a hundred percent," Trump said.
Prosecution under the Espionage Act doesn't require that information be classified, just that it deals with information important to the national defense. Plans for responding to Iran would likely qualify.
Part of the power of the tape is it allows prosecutors to hear in Trump's voice his awareness of the rules surrounding the handling of sensitive information.
"If it is accurate as reported, I do think it's very powerful evidence. One, it proves Donald Trump's knowledge about the law regarding the handling of classified information. Unlike most laws, where ignorance of the law is no excuse, there are some exceptions to that law and one of them is handling classified information. You do have to know that it's illegal when you violate that law," said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney.
"Having Trump on tape talking about, 'I wish I could talk about this, but I can't because it's classified and I should have declassified it before I left,' — that's pretty good evidence of his knowledge."
Zero Days After Leaving Office: Donald Trump becomes a private citizen the afternoon of Jan. 20, 2021.
106 Days After Leaving Office: On May 6 the chief counsel for the National Archives and Records Administration, Gary Stern, emails Trump's legal team saying some high-profile presidential documents appear to be missing. "We know things are very chaotic, as they always are in the course of a one-term transition. But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all presidential records."
NARA then goes back-and-forth "throughout 2021" with Trump representatives seeking the return of the records.
176 Days After Leaving Office (approx) CNN and The Guardian reported on May 31, 2023 that federal prosecutors have obtained an audio recording from a July, 2021 meeting at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersy in which the former president acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran and admits he cannot discuss the document because he no longer possesses the sweeping presidential power to declassify now that he's out of office, but suggests that he should have done so when he was still in the White House.
The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. On the recording, Trump's comments suggest he would like to share the information but he's aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records. The attendees, sources said, were journalists and did not have security clearances that would allow them access to classified information.
238 Days After Leaving Office: National Archives lawyer Stern is told by former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin that he was told by former Trump chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that none of the material at Mar-a-Lago is sensitive or classified and that Trump only had 12 boxes of "news clippings."
In an interview with New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, Trump told Haberman he left White House with "nothing of great urgency, no," before mentioning letters that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had sent him, which, she later reported, he had showed off to so many Oval Office visitors that advisers were concerned he was being careless with sensitive material. "You were able to take those with you?" Haberman asked. Trump replied, "No, I think that's in the archives, but ... Most of it is in the archives, but the Kim Jong-un letters ... We have incredible things." (Earlier, in January, 2020, Trump indicated during a recorded interview with Bob Woodward that he knew the letters he wrote to Kim Jong Un were top secret. In the recording, Trump can be heard telling Woodward to refrain from publicizing that it was Trump himself who had shown the letters to him. "Nobody else has them, but I want you to treat them with respect. Don't say I gave them to you. Okay?")
303 Days After Leaving Office: In late 2021, Trump reportedly goes through boxes of documents he had taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. Some of those boxes are finally transferred to the National Archives in January, 2022.
At the same time, he is told by one of his former White House attorneys, Eric Herschmann, that he could face legal liability if he did not return all government materials.
340 Days After Leaving Office: Officials at the National Archives in January, 2022 receive 15 boxes of materials from the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Archives officials suspect Trump has possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents - including those that might be considered classified.
(The media reported in August, 2022 that among the 15 boxes of materials returned from Mar-a-Lago in January were 700 pages of highly-classified materials, some of it "extraordinarily sensitive information," including 184 classified documents, 92 documents marked "secret" and 25 marked "top secret.")
Trump directs a lawyer working for him to tell the archives that Trump had returned all the documents he had taken from the White House at the end of his presidency. The lawyer, Alex Cannon, declined to convey Trump's message to the archives because he was not sure if it was true.
385 Days After Leaving Office: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asks the Justice Department to examine Trump's handling of White House records, the Washington Post reported Feb. 9.
In a statement the same day, Trump said he had engaged in "collaborative and respectful" discussions with the Archives and had arranged for the "transport of boxes that contained Presidential Records in compliance with the Presidential Records Act."
"The papers were given easily and without conflict and on a very friendly basis, which is different from the accounts being drawn up by the Fake News Media," he says in a statement. "In fact, it was viewed as routine and 'no big deal.' In actuality, I have been told I was under no obligation to give this material based on various legal rulings that have been made over the years."
442 Days After Leaving Office: The Washington Post reported April 7 that the Justice Department has begun taking steps to investigate former President Trump's removal of presidential records to Mar-a-Lago.
464 Days After Leaving Office: On April 29, the Justice Department sends a letter to Trump's lawyers as part of its effort to access the 15 boxes that Trump delivered in January, notifying them that more than 100 classified documents, totaling more than 700 pages, were found in the boxes. The letter says the FBI and US intelligence agencies need "immediate access" to these materials because of "important national security interests." Trump lawyers ask NARA to delay its plans to give the FBI access to these materials. Trump's lawyers say they want time to examine the materials to see if anything is privileged, and that they are making a "protective assertion of executive privilege" over all the documents.
474 Days After Leaving Office: On May 10, Debra Steidel Wall, the acting Archivist of the United States, who runs NARA, informs Trump's lawyers that she is rejecting their claims of "protective" executive privilege over all the materials taken from Mar-a-Lago, and will therefore turn over the materials to the FBI and US intelligence agencies. Wall says she reached this decision after consulting with top lawyers from the Justice Department and the White House Counsel's office. As to Trump's claim of executive privilege, Wall wrote that there is "no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter from obtaining NARA Presidential records."
475 Days After Leaving Office: On May 11, the Justice Department subpoenas Trump, seeking classified documents that still remain at Mar-a-Lago. (In October, 2022, it is reported by the Washington Post that, according to Trump employees cooperating with the FBI, Trump responded to the subpoena by ordering employees to move boxes of White House documents from a storage room to his office at Mar-a-Lago. Security camera video confirms the account.)
477 Days After Leaving Office: Federal prosecutors begin a grand jury investigation into whether classified documents were mishandled and of criminal obstruction of justice. (Intelligencer reported Aug. 12 that at this same time Trump's attorneys arranged for a DOJ National Security Division prosecutor and three FBI agents to come to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to pick up the items listed in the subpoena.)
498 Days After Leaving Office: Two of Donald Trump's employees move boxes of papers into a storage area the day before Justice Department official Jay Bratt arrives at Mar-a-Lago, the Washington Post later reported. (It's also later reported Trump and his aides allegedly carried out a "dress rehearsal" for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena.)
499 Days After Leaving Office: According to the Washington Post, FBI agents and Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and export control section at the Justice Department, meet with Trump's attorneys - former OAN host Christina Bobb and Evan Corcoran - at Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to collect material in response to the May 22 grand jury subpoena demanding the return of all classified documents. However, "The former President's counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained."
FBI agents were, instead, given "a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents." That envelope, according to the FBI, contained 38 unique documents with classification markings, including 16 documents marked secret and 17 marked top secret.
Trump's lawyers tell investigators that all the records that had come from the White House were stored in one location - a Mar-a-Lago storage room - and that "there were no other records stored in any private office space or other location at the Premises and that all available boxes were searched."
The New York Times reported that "around" the time of the June 3 meeting, the feds received a "written declaration from a Trump lawyer attesting that all the material marked classified in the boxes had been turned over." The declaration, which also stated that a "diligent search" had been undertaken, was drafted by Corcoran and signed by Bobb. (It was reported in October, 2022 that Corcoran conducted the search and instructed Bobb to sign the letter, which she did after insisting twice that he insert the phrase, "based upon the information that has been provided to me.")
The Wall Street Journal later reported that sometime after the June 3 meeting a mole in Trump's orbit told the FBI that Trump and his team are still withholding information. And that after the June 3 visit the Justice Department "developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government's investigation."
Trump is put on notice that he could not retain any classified documents after he was subpoenaed for their return. Hugo Lowell at The Guardian later reported the warning was conveyed to Trump by Evan Corcoran.
507 Days After Leaving Office: On June 8, the Justice Department sends Trump a letter stating the government documents he continues to hold at Mar-a-Lago are not stored in a secure location.
520 Days After Leaving Office: On June 24, the Justice Department hands a new subpoena to the Trump Organization, which owns Mar-a-Lago. The subpoena seeks surveillance video to help show who might have been coming and going from the storage area where (Trump's attorneys) indicated 50 to 55 boxes of records taken from the White House were being stored. The video footage shows various people entering and leaving the room, according to a person with direct knowledge of it.
562 Days After Leaving Office: FBI officials are able to establish probable cause that a crime has been committed and obtain a search warrant from a federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach on Aug.5, according to the Miami Herald.
The New York Times reported the material still in Trump's possession is so sensitive that DOJ officials felt they had to take the "politically explosive step" of raiding the former president's home. The paper also reported the Justice Department reviewed surveillance footage at Mar-a-Lago that showed that in one instance boxes were moved in and out of the storage room on the property.
565 Days After Leaving Office: And on Aug. 8, after the FBI had arrived at his Mar-a-Lago home with a search warrant, Trump, who is in New York, announces on Truth Social the FBI are inside his Mar-a-Lago home.
The Wall Street Journal reported FBI agents who search Trump's Mar-a-Lago home remove 26 boxes of materials, including four sets marked "top secret" and meant to be only available in special government facilities.
FBI agents recover one set of documents marked as 'Various classified/TS/SCI documents,' an abbreviation that refers to top-secret/sensitive compartmented information. In total, there were more than 100 pages recovered bearing classification markings.
The Washington Post reported that a document describing a foreign government's military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found at Trump's home/public resort. "Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs."
The documents included highly sensitive intelligence regarding Iran's missile program and China, the Washington Post reported. "If shared with others, the people said, such information could expose intelligence-gathering methods that the United States wants to keep hidden from the world."
The New York Times reported "Federal agents who executed the warrant did so to investigate potential crimes associated with violations of the Espionage Act, which outlaws the unauthorized retention of national security information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary; a federal law that makes it a crime to destroy or conceal a document to obstruct a government investigation; and another statute associated with unlawful removal of government materials."
Breitbart reported that Trump is under investigation by the Department of Justice for:
18 USC 2071 - Concealment, removal or mutilation
18 USC 793 - Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information
18 USC 1519 - Destruction, alteration or falsification of records in Federal investigation
575 Days After Leaving Office: On Aug. 18 a document that was part of the application for the Aug. 8 search warrant shows the Justice Department was seeking "evidence of a crime," "contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed" and included the phrase, "willful retention of national defense information."
583 Days After Leaving Office: On Aug. 26, the FBI affidavit - highly redacted - used to successfully convince a judge to approve the search warrant used in the Aug. 8 raid is made public. Fox News reported the affidavit stated the FBI believed it had "probable cause to believe" that, based on their investigation, they would find additional records containing National Defense Information if allowed to search Trump's home.
Fox News reported the affidavit also states, "The government is conducting a criminal investigation concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment or removal of government records." CNN reported the FBI told the judge a search of Trump's home would also likely find "evidence of obstruction."
The signed affidavit by a FBI official concludes, "Based on the foregoing facts and circumstances, I submit that probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e), 2071, or 1519 will be found at the PREMISES."
590 Days After Leaving Office: US District Judge Aileen Cannon on Sept. 2 releases a detailed inventory from the FBI search of former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort hotel/country club/home. The FBI recovered more than 11,000 government documents and photographs, including over 184 records with "Classified" markings. Of those documents, 67 were marked as "confidential," 92 were marked as "secret," and 25 documents were marked as "top secret." Agents found one document marked "secret" and one marked "confidential" in the desk drawer in Trump's office.
603 Days After Leaving Office: Trump-appointed Judge Cannon on Sept. 15, at the request of Trump's attorneys, names federal senior Judge Raymond Dearie to serve as special master to review the materials seized in the FBI's search of former President Trump's Florida residence and resort. Cannon also rejects the Justice Department's request to revive its criminal investigation into classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. Her ruling, in effect, which argued the former president should be given special consideration, halts the department's investigation of Trump's decision to take government documents with him to Florida after his term expired.
607 Days After Leaving Office: Trump's legal team acknowledged the possibility that the former president could be indicted, The Guardian reported. "Despite claiming days earlier that Trump couldn't imagine being charged, his lawyers made the stark admission in a court filing (Sept. 19)."
609 Days After Leaving Office: The New York Times reports the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Sept. 21 rejected Judge Cannon's decision and restored the Justice Department's access to documents with classified markings.
622 Days After Leaving Office: On Oct. 4, Trump filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court challenging part of a Sept. 21 ruling from the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
That ruling allowed the Justice Department to continue reviewing classified documents seized at Trump's Florida estate on Aug. 8 and blocked Trump-appointed Judge Cannon's ruling requiring the government to submit all the documents to an independent arbiter, or special master, for review.
Trump's lawyers said in their application that it was essential for the special master to have access to the classified records to "determine whether documents bearing classification markings are in fact classified, and regardless of classification, whether those records are personal records or presidential records." The Justice Department argued the documents, including highly-classified top secret documents, belong to the U.S. government.
627 Days After Leaving Office: Trump, at a political rally in Arizona, admits he took U.S. government documents with him after leaving the White House. "I had a small number of boxes in storage at Mar-a-Lago...They should give immediately back everything they've taken from me because it's mine."
631 Days After Leaving Office: The Supreme Court rejects former President Trump's Oct. 4 appeal to delay the Justice Department's criminal investigation into his handling of classified documents. The high court left in place part of a Sept. 21 decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that barred the special master, federal Judge Raymond Dearie, from reviewing the classified documents. Judge Dearie will continue to review the non-classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago and the Justice Department will continue its criminal investigation into the handling of the classified documents.
679 Days After Leaving Office: Attorney General Merrick Garland names Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate the unlawful retention of national defense information at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, Fox News reported Nov. 18. Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief to the DOJ's public integrity section, will oversee the investigation into Trump's retention of classified documents after leaving the White House, whether the former president obstructed the federal government's investigation into the matter and whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
689 Days After Leaving Office: Trump, who initially claimed the FBI planted the top-secret documents found in his Mar-a-Lago estate/hotel in August, again admitted on Nov. 28 taking them after his term expired on Jan. 20, 2021. In a Truth Social posting, Trump asks, "When will you invade the other Presidents' homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?"
692 Days After Leaving Office: An 11th Circuit federal appeals panel, all of whom were appointed by either President Trump or President George W. Bush, overturned Judge Cannon's order creating a third-party special master to review documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. The Dec. 1 ruling clears the way for federal investigators to use the documents in the criminal investigation of former President Trump. The appeals court directly criticized Judge Cannon's special master order, stating: "We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. . . . To create a special exception here would defy our Nation's foundational principle that our law applies 'to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.'"
838 Days After Leaving Office: Asked at a May 10 CNN Town Hall why he took classified documents with him after leaving the White House, Trump claimed he "had every right to under the Presidential Records Act."
(In reality, the Presidential Records Act provides that as soon as a president leaves office, the National Archives becomes the legal custodian of the president's records, which belong to the public.)
Trump also repeated the claim that by simply removing classified documents from the White House he had declassified them. "And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them."
When asked if he showed any of the classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago property to anyone, Trump replied, "Not really. I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified after..." When the host asked, "What do you mean not really?" Trump replied, "Not that I can think of." (The Washington Post reported days later prosecutors "have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others.")
Truth Social, Trump's go-to platform, struggles with investigations, money problems
The Latest: Forbes reported May 26
that Digital World Acquisition Corp., which plans to merge with the parent
company of Donald Trump's Truth Social platform, reported it made accounting
errors in its last financial report, adding to financial reporting issues that
have threatened to delist the company from Nasdaq.
In a May 18 filing, Digital World Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that signed a deal in 2021 to merge with Trump's media company to take Truth Social public, reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission it had made accounting errors in its annual financial report for 2022.
The year-end report can "no longer be relied upon," Digital World told regulators, and the company is now developing a remediation plan to address the "material weakness" in its "internal control over financial reporting," per the filing.
Digital World Acquisition also has not filed an earnings report for the first quarter of 2023, which is required for all companies listed on Nasdaq.
The company has until July 24 to submit a plan or be delisted from the stock exchange—the SEC can then accept or deny the company's plan, and if it rejects it, Digital World can appeal.
Background: Former President Trump's media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators, according to a report filed with the SEC in December, 2021.
Business Insider reported Dec. 6 that according to Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC), the company that plans to merge with Trump's new media venture, the SEC has requested documents about meetings of DWAC's board of directors, "policies and procedures relating to trading," identification of certain investors, and copies of communication between the partner company and Trump's new media company.
Digital World said it also received requests from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in late October, 2021 and early November for information regarding events that took place before the public announcement in October of its planned merger with the Trump Media & Technology Group.
The investigation comes after Trump's digital media company and Digital World, a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC), announced they had raised $1 billion in capital. None of the investors were identified, which is highly unusual for this sort of transaction, AXIOS reported.
The deal is expected to provide proceeds of approximately $1.25 billion, assuming full delivery of the amount of cash held in trust by DWAC.
The Hill reported that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) penned a letter to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler requesting that the agency open an investigation into the deal between Digital World and Trump Media & Technology Group.
Warren suggested that the deal had violated the Securities Act of 1933 because Patrick Orlando, the sponsor of Digital World, allegedly had conversations about an agreement with Trump as early as March 2021, well before the SPAC made its first filing in May and launched its initial public offering (IPO) in September.
According to Sen. Warren, under the 1933 statute, SPACs must disclose any form of direct or indirect contact with potential target companies to protect investors who get involved at the time of the IPO. The talks between Trump and Orlando were not disclosed in SEC regulatory filings, according to public records and news reports.
(The Washington Post defined a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC) as a shell company that is set up to take a private company public by merging with it. They are called "blank check" companies because public investors can purchase shares without knowing what the shell firm will eventually buy. For investors, the hope is that stock price will shoot up when an acquisition target is announced. In October, 2022, it was reported that Trump and Orlando began talks to create Trump Media and merge it with a SPAC as early as Spring, 2021.)
Truth Social was launched with much hype and fanfare on Feb. 21, 2022 with former GOP Congressman Devin Nunes, a rancher from California's central valley with no tech development experience, as its CEO.
And Trump finally joined Truth Social on April 28, posting on the social media platform for the first time.
Federal securities regulators expanded their investigation into possible securities violations related to the planned merger, according to a June 13 filing with the SEC. Axios reported, "Why it matters: Truth Social's financial prospects are heavily reliant on investment tied to the merger, which may never come to pass."
And then Trump's media company was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Manhattan in connection with a criminal probe into its planned merger with Digital World, CNBC reported. (The Trump company also received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a civil probe on June 27, DWAC said.)
Big investors are starting to eye the exits on the $1.3 billion bid to take Trump's social media startup public, Politico reported Oct. 3.
The hedge funds, trading firms and other major backers are questioning whether the financial riches that first attracted them to the transaction are still strong enough to hold their interest in a deal fraught with troubles, according to four investors who asked not to be named. Already, investors who had promised $138 million in capital have pulled out.
At a campaign rally on Oct. 1, Trump told supporters, "If they don't come up with the financing, I'll have it private. Truth Social is hot!"
The Stock Dork reported Oct. 12: "Now, the SPAC company, Digital World Acquisition Group (DWAC), seems to be struggling financially as the SPAC deal is in limbo. The company now lists its address as 3109 Grand Avenue in Miami, Florida. A search of the address verifies this as a UPS store in Coconut Grove, Miami."
Elon Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion on Oct. 27.
Fox News reported Oct. 28 that former President Trump wished Musk the best with Twitter but stressed he will stay on Truth Social, a social media platform he touts as "better," "safe" and that feels "like home."
The Pew Research Center reported on Nov. 18 that 27 percent of U.S. adults say they have heard of Truth Social but only two percent use the site for news. Thirty-one percent of U.S. adults say they use Facebook and 14 percent Twitter for news.
CNBC reported Nov. 22 that DWAC said shareholders voted to delay a deadline for its merger with the former president's firm until September 2023. In a securities filing Nov. 21, DWAC said there was "substantial doubt" about its ability to continue as a "going concern."
As of January, 2023, Trump has 4.9 million followers on Truth Social, a fraction of the 88 million he has on Twitter.
And then on Jan. 22, Rolling Stone reported that Trump is preparing a Twitter comeback, with plans to drop an exclusivity agreement he has with Truth Social.
According to Rolling Stone, Trump has told people close to him that he doesn't want to renew the agreement with Truth Social's parent company, TMTG.
SEC filings show that Trump is currently obliged to wait six hours after posting on Truth Social before posting the same content on any other social media platform, an agreement that is up for renewal in June, 2023.
The agreement only applies to non-political content - he can post "political messaging, political fundraising or get-out-the vote efforts" anywhere at any time, the agreement states. (But has of April 3, Trump has not posted on Twitter.)
On March 17, The Guardian reported federal prosecutors in New York investigating Trump's social media company "examined" whether it violated money laundering laws by accessing $8 million in loans with suspected Russia ties.
Guardian reporter Hugo Lowell explained on MSNBC that prosecutors "got a tip" at the end of last year over the loans that came at a time when Trump's company was "cash poor."
"They went and got bridge financing from first a bank, then in February 2022 they got a second loan of $6 million from two different companies," Lowell said. "As it turned out, they're pretty much one and the same company, and if you trace the beneficiaries back you get to the nephew of a Putin ally who was the first deputy justice minister in Russia and previously served in Putin's executive office."
Dan Alexander at Forbes reported April 4, "Truth Social is adding an estimated 100,000 users per month. If people continue to join at the current pace—and assuming that no one quits or dies—Truth Social will not hit its projected 81 million users until 2086. By that point, Trump would be 140 years old. A more likely outcome: Truth Social will join Trump Steaks, Trump University and GoTrump.com in the graveyard of failed Trump ventures."
Executives for the SPAC tied to struggling Truth Social are facing a September deadline to get SEC approval for their pending merger or they will be forced to return millions to investors. According to an April 2 report from the New York Times, two different investigations are tying up the merger between Digital World Acquisition Corp. and Trump Media & Technology Group with $300 million at stake.
As the Times reports, "That deal has been waylaid by two intensifying federal investigations. One is focused on whether preliminary merger discussions between Digital World and Trump Media violated federal securities laws. The other investigation is looking at whether a group of early investors in Digital World — who were brought into the deal by Patrick Orlando — engaged in improper trading."
A former executive VP at Truth Social turned has turned over 150,000 documents regarding the social media platform to federal investigators, RadarOnline.com has learned.
38-year-old Will Wilkerson oversaw the development of Trump Twitter alternative — now he's reportedly working at a Starbucks in North Carolina for $16 an hour.
Wilkerson's cushy job with Trump, along with stock options to potentially make him a millionaire, all went down the drain after he decided to distance himself from Truth Social and warn investors in the company that they might be at risk of losing their investments.
Wilkerson has become a federally-protected whistleblower, turning over contracts and emails to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman all under investigation
The Latest: A woman who said she worked for Rudy Giuliani during the last two years of the Trump administration alleges in a wide-ranging $10 million lawsuit that Giuliani, the former president's personal attorney, discussed selling presidential pardons and detailed plans to overturn the 2020 election results, NBC News reported May 15.
In a 70-page complaint filed in state court in New York, Noelle Dunphy said that after Giuliani hired her in January 2019 he sexually assaulted and harassed her, refused to pay nearly $2 million in wages and often made "sexist, racist, and antisemitic remarks," adding that she had recordings of numerous interactions with him.
A spokesman for Giuliani has denied the allegations in her lawsuit.
There is no evidence - other than her unsubstantiated claim - that Giuliani was selling or arranged for a pardon for anyone or that Trump was aware of what Dunphy claims Giuliani was up to.
She says Giuliani claimed to have "immunity" and told "her that he was selling pardons for $2 million, which he and President Trump would split." The lawsuit did not suggest any pardons were actually sold.
Justin Kelton, Dunphy's attorney, said on MSNBC that there is not a recording of the pardon conversation. "We do expect that it will be corroborated in other ways." He noted that the complaint alleges that another person was present for that conversation — Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate — and that Dunphy's attorneys would like to speak to Parnas about it.
Dunphy's lawsuit also claimed Giuliani raped her and sexually abused her while she worked for him. She claims Giuliani was taking Viagra regularly and "drank all day and night."
Background: Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Constitution "expert" John Eastman - the lawyer who advised President Trump that Vice President Pence had the power to decide who won the 2020 election - are all under investigation from California to the New York island.
In the aftermath of Election Day, 2020, President Trump hired Powell to represent his campaign in lawsuits seeking to overturn the outcome in several swing states. Powell was described by the president in a Nov. 14 tweet as one of his "wonderful lawyers and representatives."
At a Nov. 19 news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., Powell and Giuliani - whom President Trump days earlier had described as part of "a truly great team" - laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming, among other allegations, that a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Trump.
Trump soon thereafter dropped her as a member of his legal team.
Undeterred, Powell struck it out on her own - on Trump's behalf. She filed lawsuits in Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia alleging that rival election technology companies, in cahoots with each other, manipulated vote results to hand Biden his victories in those states.
Each and every one of her "Kraken" lawsuits were dismissed.
The Sixth Circuit blocked Powell and other attorneys from avoiding sanctions imposed in an Eastern District of Michigan lawsuit. The trial judge in that case, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker, in August, 2021 ordered the attorneys to pay the legal fees for the city of Detroit and other defendants in the case. In a blistering opinion, the judge also ordered them to take 12 hours of training - including six hours focusing on election law. The Detroit Free-Press reported Feb. 25 2022 that Powell complied by taking a class entitled, "The High Cost of Poor Legal Writing."
In addition, Powell has been named as a defendant in billion-dollar lawsuits filed by voting machine companies Dominion and Smartmatic for her allegedly slanderous comments about their role in flipping the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden.
Law & Crime reported March 22, 2021: "Facing more than $1.3 billion in liabilities over her post-election conspiracy theories, lawyer Sidney Powell told a judge the defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems filed against her on January 8, 2021 should be dismissed because 'no reasonable person' would believe that her well-publicized comments about an international plot against former President Donald Trump 'were truly statements of fact.'" Powell had claimed she had evidence Dominion "was created to produce altered voting results in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez," and that it had been imported to the U.S. to do the same for Democrats. Powell, who had earlier called the election "the biggest crime in American history...if not the life of the world" also claimed, "We're collecting evidence now from various whistleblowers that are aware of substantial sums of money being given to family members of state officials who bought this software."
She is also a defendant, along with several Trump supporters, in a defamation lawsuit filed by Eric Coomer, a former employee of Dominion. The lawsuit states, "Without concern for the truth or the consequences of their reckless conduct, defendants branded Dr. Coomer a traitor to the United States, a terrorist, and a criminal of the highest order." CNN reported that when Powell was deposed by Coomer's lawyer, she acknowledged that she did not have "a lot of specific knowledge about what Mr. Coomer personally did" in the supposed scheme to steal the election. She couldn't describe how the election was stolen from Trump, as she had alleged for months.
Powell is also being investigated by the Fulton County, Georgia district attorney for her alleged role in an effort to use fake Electoral College electors to overturn the state's presidential election results.
The State Bar of California confirmed it has been investigating Eastman since 2021 for possible ethics violations related to the 2020 election, The Hill reported March 1, 2022. The announcement from George Cardona, the state bar's chief trial counsel, said "A number of individuals and entities have brought to the State Bar's attention press reports, court filings, and other public documents detailing Mr. Eastman's conduct." (Earlier, in December, 2021, Cardona said, "Eastman may have assisted former President Donald Trump in criminal conduct in connection with the 2020 election and January 6th.")
Eastman was also under investigation by the Jan. 6 Select Committee and invoked the Fifth Amendment 100 times when he was deposed by the committee. On March 28, 2022 U.S. District Judge David Carter ruled that Eastman must turn over documents to the committee, writing that Eastman and former President Trump "more likely than not" committed a felony in their efforts to block the 2020 election results, the Wall Street Journal reported.
(For details on Eastman's efforts to help Trump overthrow the government, see "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy" above.)
And then the New York Times reported May 25 that the Justice Department has stepped up its criminal investigation of alternate slates of pro-Trump electors seeking to overturn Joe Biden's victory, with a particular focus on the team of lawyers that worked on behalf of President Trump, including Eastman. One federal judge described Eastman's activity as a "coup in search of a legal theory."
And NBC News reports that Eastman pleaded the Fifth and invoked attorney-client privilege when he appeared on Aug. 31 before the Fulton County, Georgia grand jury investigating attempts to influence the state's 2020 election.
The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 19 , 2022 unveiled criminal referrals targeting former President Trump and Eastman, recommending that the Department of Justice investigate for obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement.
The committee also said it believes there is "sufficient evidence" for a criminal referral of Eastman based on his plan for Pence to refuse to count state electoral votes from Biden states during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, which it says he knew was illegal, CBS News reported.
The California State Bar is seeking disbarment of Eastman, The Hill reported Jan. 26, 2023.
The Latest: A federal judge has ordered Rudy Giuliani to provide a detailed accounting of his finances and net worth in connection with a lawsuit filed by two Georgia poll workers who contend the Trump lawyer defamed them by publicly accusing them of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, Politico reported May 19.
U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell issued the order during an unusual hearing Friday on ongoing disputes about access to Giuliani's evidence related to the suit brought by Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Moss two years ago.
While the court session explored a variety of issues about evidence in the case, much of the focus was on Giuliani's claim in a recent court filing that he could not perform further searches of emails and other records stored in an electronic database because the vendor was seeking $320,000 to allow that. The former mayor, U.S. Attorney and Justice Department official said he simply could not afford that sum.
Howell said the plaintiffs were entitled to know about Giuliani's financial condition, including the divorce-related payments, before deciding whether to help foot the bill for document searches in the case. Typically, parties must handle their own costs to comply with discovery obligations.
Background: At the infamous Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, Giuliani told the crowd, "If we are wrong we will be made fools of but if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let's have trial by combat. I'm willing to stake my reputation. The president is willing to stake his reputation on the fact that we're going to find criminality there."
Giuliani has been paying a heavy price - including on his reputation - ever since. His law license was suspended in June, 2021 after the New York Supreme Court found, "There is uncontroverted evidence that Mr. Giuliani communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers, and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump's failed effort at reelection in 2020."
On July 7, 2021 the District of Columbia's highest court suspended Giuliani from practicing law in Washington. Reuters reported in March, 2022 the D.C. Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, is investigating Giuliani for statements he made about the 2020 presidential election.
And Giuliani has also been named as a defendant in billion-dollar lawsuits filed by both Dominion and Smartmatic voting systems for his alleged lies about their role in flipping the 2020 election in favor of President Biden. He is also a defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former employee of Dominion, Eric Coomer.
Giuliani claimed at a press conference on November 19, 2020 at Republican National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. that "One of the Smartmatic patent holders, Eric Coomer, I believe his name is, is on the web as being recorded in a conversation with Antifa members saying that he had the election rigged for Mr. Biden."
But, Salon reported, when questioned by lawyers during an August, 2021 deposition in Colorado, Giuliani admitted he didn't bother to fact-check his claim, or even reach out to Oltmann. "It's not my job in a fast-moving case to go out and investigate every piece of evidence that's given to me," Giuliani said. "Why wouldn't I believe him?"
Giuliani is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and Democrat members of Congress over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and has also been named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by two election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who allege Giuliani defamed them. The pair said they were subjected to harassment and abuse after baseless rumors pushed by Trump allies that they had interfered with votes as part of a plot to deprive Trump of victory. (Freeman and Moss settled out of court with One American News in a related lawsuit.)
Giuliani is also being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for his role in the "false electors" scheme intended to overturn Biden's 2020 election.
In addition, Giuliani is being investigated by the district attorney and a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia for possibly making false statements before Georgia's state Senate Judiciary Subcommittee detailing his election conspiracies. The New York Times reported June 28, 2022 that Giuliani "has emerged as a central figure in a Georgia criminal investigation of efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his election loss in the state, with prosecutors questioning witnesses last week before a special grand jury about Mr. Giuliani's appearances before state legislative panels after the 2020 vote."
The D.C. Bar discipline committee in Washington, D.C., concluded on Dec. 15 that Giuliani violated at least one professional rule in his efforts to help former President Donald Trump challenge the results of the 2020 election, Politico reported.
The three-member disciplinary committee agreed that Giuliani's handling of litigation in Pennsylvania crossed ethical lines.
"Mr. Giuliani has testified on several occasions that he believes there was a conspiracy," said D.C. Bar counsel Phil Fox, who investigated and argued the case for Giuliani's punishment. "There was a conspiracy, and he was the head of it."
The House Jan. 6 select committee unveiled criminal referrals Dec. 19, 2022 targeting former President Trump and Giuliani, recommending that the Department of Justice investigate on criminal charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Despite his repeated past claims of election fraud, Giuliani told the Select Committee during a deposition: "I do not think the machines stole the election."
Bruce Castor, the former Montgomery County district attorney and county commissioner who represented former President Trump during his second impeachment trial, filed an eight-page motion in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court on May 16, 2023 asking to no longer represent former New York Mayor Giuliani in a civil suit, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Castor summed up his gripe about Giuliani more succinctly: "He's not cooperating, and he's not paying me."
James Savage, a Delaware County voting-machine supervisor, sued Trump, his 2020 presidential campaign, Giuliani, and two local Republican poll watchers in November 2021, saying their unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election made him a target of hatred, ridicule, and physical threats.
Meadows is under investigation by the district attorney and a special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia for his role in an alleged effort to overturn the results of the presidential election in that state in 2020.
The Hill reported Meadows has also been subpoenaed by Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith as part of Smith's investigation of the Jan. 6 coup attempt and ordered to testify by D.C. District Judge Beryl Howell. Meadows is believed to have had "strong visibility" into Trump's actions leading up to and on the day of the deadly riot.
Disposition of five Trump-related cases
Dominion sues Fox News for $1.6 billion, settles for $787.5 million and admission of guilt
On March 26, 2021 Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, "arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed in an effort to boost faltering ratings that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election," the Associated Press reported. The lawsuit reads, in part, "Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does."
Dominion alleged Fox News was eager to court conservative viewers who were outraged by the network's call on Election Night that candidate Joe Biden would be victorious in Arizona, an early prediction that, while correct, was not initially matched by other news outlets and came under criticism from President Trump. Reports that blamed Dominion and others for influencing the election results, the company argues, served as a potential means of winning back those viewers' favor.
Fox segments included some that alleged fraud by Dominion and other segments that reported the Dominion voting machines did not, in fact, switch Trump votes to Biden. But Dominion, in its suit, claimed the contradictory segments didn't mitigate the network's culpability. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post explained, "This maddening duality - in which popular opinion hosts promote misinformation while other programs present something closer to reality - is a core feature of the Fox News experience...Dominion's suit, accordingly, focuses instead on establishing that Fox News personalities knew that on-air claims about the company were false." The suit reads, that despite knowing the truth, "Fox continued to promote the known lifes on its most prominent and widely viewed broadcasts and on Fox's websites, social media accounts, and subscription service platforms."
Columnist Nicholas Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times reported, "Dominion has offered a number of examples of Fox's hosts stating more than they actually knew - and seeming to take sides with (conspiracy lawyers Rudy) Giuliani and (Sidney) Powell. Lou Dobbs, for instance, said flatly that the voting machines 'were designed to be inaccurate,' according to the lawsuit. He thanked Giuliani for 'pursuing what is the truth.'
"When Jeanine Pirro said Dominion was an organized criminal enterprise started in Venezuela with Cuban money, she acknowledged that she was restating allegations she'd heard from the president's lawyers. But when Bartiromo said on the air, 'I understand Nancy Pelosi has an interest in this company,' she included no such qualification.
"And Bartiromo continued to allege fraud claims about Dominion 'even though she had been specifically notified that independent fact-checkers, government officials and election security experts debunked those lies,' according to the lawsuit."
On Nov. 10, Bloomberg reported Dominion filed a second lawsuit against Fox Corp. in an effort to gain access to Chairman Rupert Murdoch's documents about its coverage of the contest. Dominion is trying to find out how much Murdoch and his eldest son, Fox Corp. Chief Executive Officer Lachlan Murdoch, were involved in the decision by Fox News to report that Dominion conspired with foreign hackers to flip millions of votes away from then-President Trump. The network has reportedly balked at searching the Murdochs' documents for the information Dominion is seeking.
Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox figures questioned under oath in the case as well as show producers and programming executives, court records show.
Dominion CEO John Poulos said Fox News knew allegations against the company being made by former President Trump and his associates following the 2020 election were untrue but decided to air them anyway, The Hill reported Oct. 23, 2022.
"We told them. We told them in real time. Others told them. Government officials told them. Partisan government officials told 'em. People inside the Trump administration told them. Um, local election officials on both sides of the aisle told 'em. This is not a matter of not knowing the truth. They knew the truth," said Dominion CEO Poulos during an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes.
Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation, was deposed on Dec. 5. Lachlan Murdoch is the oldest son of Fox News owner and founder Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch was deposed under oath Dec. 13 and 14. Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace were deposed in November. Sean Hannity, who aired a November 2020 segment in which former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell accused Dominion of utilizing "an algorithm that shaved off votes from Trump and awarded them to Biden," gave a seven-hour deposition in August.
According to CNN, at the core of Dominion's case against Fox are 20 broadcasts and tweets between Election Day, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, including this exchange on Nov. 8, 2020 between Maria Bartiromo and Sidney Powell.
Bartiromo: "Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software. I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that."
Powell: "That's to put it mildly. The computer glitches could not and should not have happened at all. That is where the fraud took place where they were flipping votes in the computer system or adding votes that did not exist."
And a month later, on Dec. 12 on "Fox & Friends," Giuliani told the Fox audience, "We have a machine, the Dominion machine, that's as filled with holes as Swiss cheese and was developed to steal elections, and being used in the states that are involved."
The New York Times reported Dec. 21, 2022 that "Fox employees knew what they were broadcasting was false." Sean Hannity was asked under oath during his disposition if he believed the allegations from Trump's lawyers on his show that Dominion machines switched votes from Trump to Biden. "I did not believe it for one second."
Lawyers for Dominion argued in court that "not a single Fox witness" has substantiated the allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election. "Many of the highest-ranking Fox people have admitted under oath that they never believed the Dominion lies," including host Tucker Carlson and Meade Cooper, who oversees prime-time programming for Fox News.
Law & Crime reported Feb. 16, 2023 that, according to a 192-page Dominion court filing, after watching Rudy Giuliani's widely lampooned press conference with election conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch had a startling reaction. "Really crazy stuff. And damaging," the media mogul allegedly wrote in a text message on Nov. 19, 2020.
According to Dominion, "Privately, Fox's hosts and executives knew that Donald Trump lost the election and that he needed to concede. But Fox viewers heard a different story - repeatedly."
CNN reported, "The most prominent stars and highest-ranking executives at Fox News privately ridiculed claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, despite the right-wing channel allowing lies about the presidential contest to be promoted on its air, damning messages contained in a court filing revealed."
Soon after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson texted his producer in reaction to Fox losing some of its viewers to competing right-wing cable stations after declaring Biden the winner, "Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we've lost with our audience? We're playing with fire, for real….an alternative like newsmax could be devastating to us." And then on November 9, he texted Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott: "I've never seen a reaction like this, to any media company. Kills me to watch it."
On Nov. 13, 2020 Carlson texted one of his producers that Trump needed to concede "that there wasn't enough fraud to change the outcome" of the election. And on Nov. 18, Carlson told Laura Ingraham, "Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It's insane." Ingraham replied, "Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy."
(An email from Scott on November 11th, 2020 reads, "Our talent must stop disrespecting the audience." Scott blasted Neil Cavuto for abruptly cutting away from a Nov. 9 press conference by then Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany for making baseless accusations days after the election that Democrats committed voter fraud. In another email. Scott said, in effect, that telling viewers the truth about the election was "bad for business" and "this has to stop.")
According to Michael Tomasky at The New Republic, CEO Scott aggressively inserted herself into the news operation to insist that what little actual news gathering other people at Fox were doing must not continue. The infamous December 2, 2020, email from Scott to EVP Meade Cooper carried the subject heading "Fox News' Eric Shawn Fact-Checks Trump's 'Dump' Claims" and reads: "This has to stop now. I'm going to address this with you and Jay and Lowell tomorrow. This is bad business and there clearly is a lack of understanding what is happening on these shows. The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material. Bad for business."
Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a sworn deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the election in 2020 was stolen from Trump, the New York Times reported Feb. 27. Said Murdoch: "I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight."
Murdoch admitted he had not ever seen any credible evidence to suggest Dominion was coordinating a massive effort to steal the election.
"You've never believed that Dominion was involved in an effort to delegitimize and destroy votes for Donald Trump, correct?" the Dominion lawyer asked. "I'm open to persuasion; but, no, I've never seen it," Murdoch replied.
NBC News reported March 31 that Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis handed Dominion a major win too, when he agreed that the statements made on Fox News about election fraud in 2020 are false.
The ruling spared the voting machine company from having to litigate baseless conspiracy theories about its role in the 2020 election during the upcoming trial against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp.
Judge Davis reviewed the filings of Dominion and the network and concluded that in 19 cases Fox News hosts or guests had made comments that were false statements of fact, not assertions of opinion, and that could not be defended as standard, fair-minded inquiry.
Judge Davis knocked Fox's "neutral reporting" claim, finding "the evidence does not support that FNN conducted good-faith, disinterested reporting."
The Washington Post reported, "Davis's ruling asserts that the false statements — such as the claim that Dominion was created in Venezuela to rig elections for socialist leader Hugo Chávez — harmed the company's reputation, meaning that the impact on Dominion will not have to be debated at trial."
The Hill reported on April 18 Fox agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million.
(The settlement was the largest media payout in U.S. history, four times the amount ABC paid to Beef Products, Inc. several years ago.)
In a statement, Fox News Media said the network was "pleased" to reach a settlement and that it acknowledged "the Court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false."
"We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues."
"Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion," said the company CEO John Poulos.
Trump Organization found guilty on 17 counts of tax fraud, other crimes
On June 30, 2021 the Manhattan District Attorney's office charged the Trump Organization with a 15-year "scheme to defraud" and charged CFO Allen Weisselberg with grand larceny and tax fraud, the Washington Post reported.
Prosecutors also charged a subsidiary called Trump Payroll Corp., which handles the company's benefits and payments to employees.
In all, 15 criminal charges were filed against Weisselberg, according to a copy of the indictment obtained by the Washington Post. They included counts of conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. In many of the counts, the two Trump entities were charged along with Weisselberg.
Carey Dunne, a prosecutor with the District Attorney's Office, said the charges were related to an "off-the-books tax fraud scheme" that lasted for 15 years. He said the scheme allowed Trump Organization executives to get "secret pay raises" while not paying proper taxes. "Beginning from at least 2005 to on or about June 30, 2021, [Weisselberg, the Trump Corporation, Trump Payroll Corp.] and others devised and operated a scheme to defraud federal, New York State, and New York City tax authorities," prosecutors wrote. "One of the largest individual beneficiaries of the defendants' scheme was Allen Weisselberg. During the operation of the scheme, the defendants arranged for Weisselberg to receive in direct employee compensation from the Trump Organization in the approximate amount of $1.76 million."
The ex-CFO also ducked taxes on about $359,058 in tuition expenses for multiple family members, $196,245 for leases on his Mercedes Benz automobiles, $29,400 in unreported cash, and an unspecified amount in ad hoc personal expenses like new beds, flat-screen televisions, the installation of carpeting, and furniture for his home in Florida, according to the indictment.
Fox News quoted Dunne: "In light of the many statements that have already been made about this case, I'd like to clarify for the court briefly what this case is, and is not, about. The chief financial officer himself avoided taxes on $1.7 million of his income, which hardly amounts to an incidental 'fringe benefit'. And the former CEO signed, himself, many of the illegal compensation checks. To put it bluntly, this was a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme."
And then the New York Times reported Aug. 18, 2022 "One of Donald Trump's most trusted executives stood before a judge and pleaded guilty to 15 felonies, admitting that he conspired with Mr. Trump's company to carry out a scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish perks - even while refusing to implicate the former president himself."
"As part of the plea deal with the Manhattan district attorney's office, the executive, Allen Weisselberg, is required to testify at the company's trial if prosecutors choose to call on him, and to admit his role in conspiring with Mr. Trump's company to carry out the tax scheme.
"Under the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Weisselberg is expected to receive a five-month jail term, and with time credited for good behavior, he is likely to serve about 100 days. Mr. Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, must also pay nearly $2 million in taxes."
On Oct. 31, the first day of the trial, Susan Hoffinger, the chief of investigations for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, told the jury that Weisselberg will give the "inside story" of how the company allegedly used the years-long tax fraud scheme to boost executive pay.
"This case is about greed and cheating, cheating on taxes," she said. "The scheme was conducted, directed and authorized at the highest level of the accounting department."
In the opening statements, prosecutors also said that "when most of the criminal conduct occurred," between 2005 to 2017, the companies were "owned by Donald Trump."
The Trump Organization's attorney told the jury that the tax shenanigans "started with Allen Weisselberg and it ended with Allen Weisselberg."
On the second day of the trial, Nov. 1, Bloomberg reported prosecutors showed the jury the lease Trump signed for of an Upper West Side apartment used by Weisselberg. The lease represented part of the prosecution's efforts to show that the Trump Organization and its executives engaged in a years-long scheme to avoid taxes - one that was sanctioned by the highest echelons of the company.
Trump Organization senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConney told jurors Trump was the Trump Organization's ultimate decision-maker prior to his election. According to McConney, Trump signed off on Weisselberg's salary and bonuses.
McConney also told jurors he fudged company pay records to reduce Weisselberg's income tax bill.
McConney said Weisselberg told him he and Trump had discussed reducing Weisselberg's salary to offset rent payments that the Trump Organization made on the CFO's Manhattan apartment. Asked whether Trump, who was running the business at the time, was aware of the scheme, McConney said Weisselberg told him that Trump knew about it.
Rolling Stone reported, "Former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg testified Nov. 15 that Donald Trump personally green-lighted untaxed benefits that are the center of a Manhattan criminal trial against several of the ex-president's eponymous companies - including a gratis residence in New York City. 'The rent was authorized by Donald Trump,' Weisselberg said on the stand in State Supreme Court in Manhattan."
The Trump Organization has denied wrongdoing. Its lawyers allege that Weisselberg concocted the scheme on his own, without Trump or the Trump family's knowledge, and that the company didn't benefit from his actions. If convicted, the company could be fined more than $1 million.
According to CBS News, "Weisselberg said Donald Trump, or at times Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr., signed checks to pay up to $100,000 for private school tuition for Weisselberg's grandchildren. Weisselberg said he then instructed the company's controller to deduct the $100,000 from his salary, allowing him to report a smaller income. Copies of some of the checks signed by the Trumps have been shown in court."
And then Politico reported, "The Trump Organization engaged in an effort to clean up its act and stop fraudulent tax practices to avoid scrutiny when Donald Trump became president, the company's former chief financial officer told the jury.
"He said that he and other executives knew their practices were illegal - and brought them to an end after Trump took office."
On Nov. 18, the New York Post reported that Donald Trump's kids gave Allen Weisselberg a whopping $200,000 raise - instead of punishing him - after discovering his shady tax practices, according to testimony by Weisselberg.
Eric and Donald Trump Jr. in 2017 learned Weisselberg, 75, and two other top execs had been getting cushy, off-the-book perks and bonuses that they didn't report on their taxes - yet nobody was penalized, Weisselberg testified.
NBC News reported Weisselberg testified that the only other person in the company who knew about the tax fraud scheme was its controller, Jeffrey McConney.
After the prosecution rested its case, Trump Organization lawyers questioned an outside accountant who the company contended should have caught top executives cheating on taxes, Reuters reported Nov. 21.
On Dec. 6, the Trump Organization and separate entity the Trump Payroll Corp were found guilty on all 17 counts. The Wall Street Journal reported, "The jury found two Trump Organization corporate entities guilty of all criminal counts they faced, including conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The two entities could face a total of more than $1.6 million in fines."
The day after the conviction, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Company lawyers said they would appeal the conviction, which would be heard by an intermediate state appeals court in Manhattan.
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty last year to dodging taxes on $1.7 million in job perks was sentenced to five months in prison and five years of probation, Fox News reported Jan 10, 2023.
He will also be required to pay $2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties.
Trump's company was fined $1.6 million for a scheme in which the former president's top executives dodged personal income taxes on lavish job perks - a symbolic but hardly crippling blow for an enterprise boasting billions of dollars in assets, the Associated Press reported Jan. 13.
House committee sues, gets and then releases Trump's tax returns
After a three-year battle with the former president, on Dec. 30, 2022 AXIOS reported the House Ways and Means Committee released six years of former President Trump's tax returns.
The returns cover the years Trump was president and campaigning for president - 2015 through 2020 - and include his personal returns and those for several businesses along with IRS audit materials.
"What's he been hiding?" asks Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance.
"A few things are quickly apparent from assessing the top-line figures in Trump's returns. When Trump declared his candidacy for president in 2015, he characterized himself as a builder and businessman who could go to Washington and fix what politicians had wrecked. Trump's self-declared status as a political outsider and business titan were crucial elements of his appeal to voters.
"But Trump's tax returns suggest that his businesses are perennial money-losers, while raising questions about how he manages to finance a gilded lifestyle. For each of the six years from 2015 through 2020, one of Trump's main business entities, DJT Holdings, lost millions of dollars. The smallest loss was $34 million in 2015. The largest was $64 million in 2016. Combined, those losses total $314 million from 2015 through 2020."
In a statement Dec. 30, Trump bragged about how his tax returns prove he actually is a successful businessman. "The 'Trump' tax returns once again show how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises."
Jim Tankersley, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner at the New York Times added their own conclusions regarding Trump's business dealings and his long-cultivated image as a wildly successful businessman. "But the returns, which cover the tax years 2015 through 2020, do not show much success for Trump in his recent business dealings. They show Trump often reported heavy losses from his own ventures, even as he continued to cash in on assets he inherited.
"Trump's history of inheriting wealth and then losing it was chronicled by the New York Times in 2020, when it obtained decades of Trump's tax information, including much of what was disclosed Friday.
The only year he paid significant federal taxes "appeared to be the result of more than $14 million in gains from the sale of an investment his father had made in the 1970s, a Brooklyn housing complex named Starrett City, which became part of Trump's inheritance.
"The documents show, for example, that the effect of his inheritance in 2018 was greater than what the Times previously reported: Trump recorded $25.7 million in gains from the sale of business properties that he and his siblings had inherited or taken through trusts, including the sale of Starrett City."
According to the Times' reporters, "The sales of business properties Trump created himself came at a loss, however, dragging down his net proceeds and somewhat reducing his tax liability, the tax itemization shows. They included a total of $1 million in assets or equipment sold at a loss by two of his business entities, and another $1 million loss for bailing his son Donald Trump Jr. out of a failed business to build prefabricated homes."
The Democratic-led Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department and IRS in 2019, while Donald Trump was still president, after the agencies refused to comply with requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump's federal tax filings. Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) was seeking the tax returns because the committee was interested in learning how the IRS enforces tax laws against presidents.
The Trump Justice Department at the time said the House panel lacked a legitimate legislative purpose in seeking the documents.
The Biden administration initially declined to provide the returns to the committee but The Hill reported on July 30, 2021 the administration changed its mind and the Justice Department directed the Treasury Department to turn over former President Trump's long-sought tax returns. In a memo from the Office of Legal Counsel, Acting Assistant Attorney General Dawn Johnsen said the Treasury Department was required to defer to the congressional committee. "The statute at issue here is unambiguous: 'Upon written request' of the chairman of one of the three congressional tax committees, the Secretary 'shall furnish' the requested tax information to the Committee."
After a lengthy legal battle in which the Trump Administration and then the former president fought release of the tax returns, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Aug. 9, 2022 that the House Ways and Means Committee coul obtain former President Trump's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, AXIOS reported. Raw Story reported that in the ruling by Ronald Reagan-appointed U.S. Circuit Judge David Sentelle the judge found that the committee had a genuine legislative purpose in requesting the tax records.
On Oct. 27, a three-judge panel on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decided they wouldn't halt the handover of the former president's tax returns after the full appeals court rejected Trump's request that they review an earlier decision allowing for the release of the returns. Trump was ordered to turn over his tax returns the week of Oct. 31.
But then on Oct 31 Trump filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. And on Nov. 1, Chief Justice blocked the committee from receiving Trump's tax returns.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Democratic lawmakers on Nov. 10 urged the Supreme Court to deny the bid by former President Trump to block his tax returns from being handed over to a House panel, John Kruzel at The Hill reported.
And on Nov. 22, the Supreme Court denied Trump's efforts to block the release of his tax records to a congressional committee, the Washington Post reported.
DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle case over misuse of Inaugural funds
The Trump family business and President Trump's 2017 inauguration committee have jointly agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the attorney general for the District of Columbia, who claimed the Trump International Hotel in Washington illegally received excessive payments from the Trump inauguration committee, the New York Times reported May 3, 2022.
"The settlement in the civil suit came with no admission of wrongdoing by the Trump Organization, the former president or the inaugural committee."
The Trump Organization will pay $400,000 and the inauguration committee $350,000. All funds will go to two District of Columbia non-profits.
Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said, "After he was elected, one of the first action Donald Trump took was illegally using his own inauguration to enrich his family. We refused to let that corruption stand."
In January, 2020, Racine filed a lawsuit against the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, the Trump Organization and Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. for allegedly abusing nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family. In its lawsuit, the Attorney General alleged the Inaugural Committee, a nonprofit corporation, coordinated with the Trump family to grossly overpay for event space in the Trump International Hotel. Although the Inaugural Committee was aware that it was paying far above market rates, it never considered less expensive alternatives, and even paid for space on days when it did not hold events.
The lawsuit also alleged the 2017 inaugural committee improperly used nonprofit funds to host a private party at the hotel for the Trump family.
Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others, imposes $1 million fine on Trump, lawyer
A federal judge has dismissed former President Trump's lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, several ex-FBI officials and more than two dozen other people and entities that Trump claimed conspired to undermine his 2016 campaign by trying to vilify him with fabricated information tying him to Russia, CNN reported.
US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks dismissed the lawsuit Sept. 8, 2022 saying "most of Plaintiff's claims are not only unsupported by any legal authority but plainly foreclosed by binding precedent."
"What (Trump's lawsuit) lacks in substance and legal support it seeks to substitute with length, hyperbole, and the settling of scores and grievances," Middlebrooks wrote.
Trump filed the sprawling $24 million civil lawsuit alleging a vast conspiracy to undermine his 2016 presidential campaign and administration with accusations of Russian collusion, The Hill reported March 24, 2022.
Trump's lawsuit alleged RICO violations, injurious falsehood, theft of trade secrets, violations of the Stored Communications Act, and other actions - 16 in total.
"In the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton and her cohorts orchestrated an unthinkable plot - one that shocks the conscience and is an affront to this nation's democracy," the lawsuit began. It added that the alleged plot was "so outrageous, subversive and incendiary that even the events of Watergate pale in comparison."
A federal judge on Nov. 11 ordered sanctions against former President Trump's attorneys over their handling of a since-dismissed lawsuit, The Hill reported.
"[L]egal filings like those at issue here should be sanctioned ... both to penalize this conduct and deter similar conduct by these lawyers and others," Florida-based Judge Middlebrooks, an appointee of former President Clinton, wrote in a blistering 19-page order.
Trump and Alina Habba have appealed the ruling.
Calendar: Trump's trials, hearings, deadlines and the GOP primary
"Former president Donald Trump is adrift in a sea of legal jeopardy, which he will have to navigate through the Republican presidential-nomination campaign — tugging the GOP and the country along for the ride."
- Andrew C. McCarthy, NRO
Prosecutors must turn over evidence to defendant former President Donald Trump in the Manhattan fraud case by June 8. (See "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March, 2024")
A federal judge in New York set a hearing on June 27 to consider whether former President Donald Trump should be allowed to move his criminal case from State Supreme Court in Manhattan to federal court. (See "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March, 2024")
Fulton County DA Willis announced April 24 that she will announce indictments associated with her years-long investigation between July 11 and Sept. 1. She later hinted the indictments will be announced betweene August 7 and 18. (See "Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overturn election.")
August 23 – First GOP presidential debate, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Judge Merchan has given Trump's lawyers until Aug. 8 to file preliminary motions, which could include a request for a change of venue or for a dismissal. (See "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March, 2024")
Executives for the SPAC tied to struggling Truth Social are facing a September deadline to get SEC approval for their pending merger or they will be forced to return millions to investors. (See "Truth Social, Trump's go-to platform, struggles with investigations, money problems.")
The trial is scheduled for Oct. 2. (See "New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October.")
Sometime in Fall - Second GOP presidential debate, Ronald Reagan Library, California
The Supreme Court session begins in October. The justices will hear a plea by House Democrats to force the Trump Organization to turn over Washington, D.C. hotel records and a plea by the Biden Administration to not turn over the records. (See "Supreme Court will decide if Congress can see Trump's Washington D.C. hotel records.")
Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, indicted on 34 felony charges in Manhattan, returns to court for a hearing on Jan. 4. (See "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March, 2024")
Jan. 22 – Iowa caucuses.
U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield formally set a trial date for Jan. 29. (See "Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme, trial set for January, 2024")
Jan. 30 - First-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.
Judge Merchan set a trial date of March 25. (See "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March, 2024")
Feb. 6 - Nevada primary
Feb. 24 - South Carolina primary
March 5 - Super Tuesday
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