Is the legal noose tightening on Donald Trump?
Donald Trump has so many legal problems that he is currently employing no fewer than nineteen lawyers to represent him, according to Politico.*
Here is a guide to the
criminal and grand jury investigations found below in the blog which may - or may not - lead in the coming months to one or more indictments of the former president. Scroll down the Index and the blog to find each heading and its full text.
- New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, threatening to shut down business On Sept. 21, Attorney General James filed the civil lawsuit seeking a $250 million judgment and a prohibition on any of the Trumps leading a company in the state of New York. The suit was filed against the Trump Organization, the former president and three of his children, Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka. James said her office has sent a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan and the IRS.
- Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg indicted for fraud The Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corporation are scheduled to go on trial Oct. 24 on criminal charges of grand larceny and tax fraud. As the CEO of the company, testimony by the company's former CFO could point to Trump participating directly in the scheme.
- Georgia county DA investigating Trump's alleged
attempt to overthrow election The prosecutor investigating the very public efforts
by Trump and his allies to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia said
in September, 2022 that her team has heard credible allegations that serious
crimes have been committed and that she believes some individuals may see jail
- Is Donald Trump guilty of criminal obstruction? Regarding Trump's actions between the election and Jan. 6: "At the core of a possible criminal case against former President Trump is this argument - He knew he had lost the election and sought to overturn it anyway." Will the Jan. 6 committee recommend the House urge the DOJ to prosecute the former president?
- Justice Department investigating Jan. 6 riot; is Trump now a target? A special federal grand jury has issued subpoena requests to more than 40 officials in former President Trump's orbit. Justice Department criminal prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of 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.
- Justice Department, states investigating GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College voters "We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that," said Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party. The fake electors scheme was allegedly led by Trump-attorney Rudy Giuliani.
- Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing federal investigation Donald Trump's legal team acknowledged Sept. 19 in a court filing the possibility that the former president could be indicted. A three-judge appeals court panel on Sept. 21 rejected all of Trump's arguments to having any legal claim to the documents and authorized the federal government to continue with its related investigations.
- Truth Social gets off to rocky start; feds launch investigations Trump Media & Technology Group is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with a criminal probe.
* Trump, who has a reputation for not always paying his legal bills, had to pay his newest attorney, Chris Kise, $3 million up front to represent him in the Mar-a-Lago case. Trump, being Trump, had his Save America PAC (i.e. donors) pick up the tab.
Blog updated October 1.
For daily updates, follow
me on Twitter @Raygiles1
New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, threatening to close down business, plus Legal Analysis
House committees seek Trump's tax returns, financial records
- 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 for defamation, threatens to sue for sexual battery
Trump and GOP face lawsuit claiming they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act
- Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riots
- Trump faces five separate lawsuits by Capitol and D.C. police officers for Jan. 6 riot
- Trump sues Facebook, Twitter and Google, plus Legal Analysis
- Dominion sues Fox News, Giuliani and Powell
- Smartmatic sues Fox News, its hosts and Giuliani and Powell, plus Legal Analysis
- Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme on "The Celebrity Apprentice"
- Trump 2020 campaign, Giuliani, Powell and others target of defamation suit
- Trump sues the New York Times and niece Mary Trump
- Trump 2020, 2024 campaigns subject of lawsuits filed against FEC
- Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg indicted for fraud; trial set for Oct. 24
- Georgia county DA investigating Trump's alleged attempt to
overthrow election, plus Legal Analysis
- House Select Committee investigates Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol; plus, Running Tally: Who's cooperating and who's not; Legal Analysis: Is Donald Trump Guilty of Criminal Obstruction? and 64 Days That Will Live in Infamy
Justice Department investigating Jan. 6 riot; is Trump now a target?
- Justice Department, states investigating GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College voters
- Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing federal investigation
- Truth Social gets off to rocky start; feds launch investigations
Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman all under investigation
- Trump's Bedminster golf club facing criminal complaint
Disposition of six Trump cases
- Manhattan DA's investigation of Trump's real estate empire comes to an end (maybe)
- DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle case over alleged misuse of Inaugural funds
- Summer Zervos drops suit against Trump for alleged assault
- Trump avoids Wisconsin $$ bill for failed election fraud lawsuit
campaign ordered to pay Omarosa $1.3 million
- Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others
List of news and commentary sources used in the blog
New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, threatening to close down business, plus Legal Analysis
The Latest: The New York attorney general's office wants to accelerate its tax-fraud lawsuit against former President Trump and his three eldest children, and "set a trial date before the end of 2023," HuffPost reported.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James told a New York judge Sept. 29 that it wants "an expedited preliminary conference" to swiftly schedule the trial, citing its allegation that the Trumps are engaged in "an ongoing scheme" of fraud.
"Given the fact that this action involves allegations of an ongoing scheme and conspiracy to obtain millions of dollars through fraudulent activity, and that defendants repeatedly have sought to delay the conclusion of OAG's investigation, it is imperative that this case proceed quickly," wrote Kevin Wallace, a senior counsel for the Division of Economic Justice.
Michael Cohen predicted on Sept. 27 that Trump will, like the mobster Al Capone, get taken down by tax fraud charges.
Speaking on MSNBC's "Deadline White House," Cohen - who was Trump's lawyer and personal fixer - weighed in on a sprawling probe into the Trump Organization sparked by New York Attorney General Leticia James.
"Like the Al Capone effect, you're not going to get him on murder, extortion, racketeering. You get them on tax evasion," Cohen said.
"And much of this, especially the easier, the low-hanging fruit, so to speak - that was available a long time ago," he added, referring to potential evidence of fraudulent acts committed by the former president's business.
Capone, a notorious Chicago gang boss, was not indicted for violent crimes but instead convicted in 1931 on tax-evasion charges.
"I believe that there'll be a criminal prosecution by the IRS. I believe there'll be potentially a criminal prosecution by SDNY, especially now that it's not Trump controlled," Cohen said, referring to the courts in the Southern District of New York.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has referred allegations of financial crimes against Trump to both the IRS in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.
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 Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the affair.
The attorney general's investigation began in March 2019 after Trump's now former attorney, Michael 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, James 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.
Former President Trump filed a lawsuit on Dec. 20, 2021 against James, seeking to halt her long-running civil investigation, the New York Times reported. The suit, filed in federal court in upstate New York by Trump and his family real estate business, argued that James's inquiry violated Trump's constitutional rights. Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly accused James of pursuing the investigation as a political ploy.
On Jan. 18, 2022 James alleged in a court filing that Trump's business inflated the value of his 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 but offered to her for purchase for far less. The Park Avenue property was said to be worth $25 million in Trump's financial statements, but Ivanka Trump retained an option to buy it 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 wrote in her statement, "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, according to court documents. USA Today reported the firm, Mazars, said that a decade of Trump Organization financial statements "should no longer be relied upon."
The Hill reported that in a letter submitted in court filings Feb. 14, William Kelly, the general counsel for the accounting firm Mazars, wrote, "We have come to this conclusion based, in part, upon the filings made by the New York Attorney General (Letitia James) on January 18, 2022, our own investigation, and information received from internal and external sources."
On Feb. 17, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump and two of his adult children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., must testify in James' investigation, the New York Post reported. "In the final analysis, a State Attorney General commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities' principles, including its namesake," Engoron's decision reads. "She has the clear right to do so."
The Associated Press reported Feb. 28 that former President Trump appealed Judge Engoron's decision. Trump's lawyers argue ordering the Trumps to testify violates their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation. (James' investigation is a civil matter. But a separate criminal investigation by Manhattan's district attorney indicted the Trump Organization and its former chief financial officer last year that could potentially lead to criminal charges against Trump.) See "Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg indicted for fraud" below.
Kara Scannell at CNN then reported that New York Attorney General James had broadened her civil investigation to include the role of its long-time appraiser Cushman & Wakefield.
"In an effort to determine whether certain valuations prepared by Cushman were fraudulent or misleading, and whether Cushman itself has engaged in fraudulent or misleading practices in its issuance of appraisals, (The Office of the Attorney General) has issued a series of subpoenas to Cushman including most recently subpoenas issued in September 2021 and February 2022," James' office wrote.
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."
"Those valuations were used to obtain tax deductions and involved appraisals issued by Cushman."
Judge Engoron also determined that Cushman & Wakefield broke its own rules to appease the Trump Organization and the former American president's chronic practice of inflating the value of his properties, The Daily Beast reported April 27.
In his order, the judge indicated he has personally reviewed sensitive documents in the privacy of his court chambers. "This court has reviewed numerous documents in camera demonstrating that C&W was not consistent in adhering to its internal quality control practices when conducting appraisals on behalf of the Trump Organization." (Blog editor's note: The attorney general investigation of C & W was still active as of Sept. 23, 2022.)
Trump's federal lawsuit challenging New York's authority to investigate his sprawling real estate business was dismissed, Bloomberg reported. Trump and his company failed to provide evidence that New York Attorney General James opened the investigation as a result of political bias against him, U.S. District Judge Brenda Sannes ruled May 27.
Trump must also answer questions under oath, a state appeals court ruled May 26, rejecting his argument that he be excused from testifying because his answers could be used in a parallel criminal probe.
The Associated Press then reported a four-judge panel in the appellate division of the state's trial court upheld Judge Engoron's Feb. 17 ruling, which enforced subpoenas requiring that Trump and his two eldest children - Ivanka and Donald Jr. - give deposition testimony.
Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump sat for questioning in the investigation, Ivanka on Aug. 3 and Don Jr. on July 28.
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 questions. He invoked the Fifth protecting himself from self-incrimination 440 times during the four-hour interview.
Law & Crime reported an attorney for Trump filed a motion in federal appellate court Aug. 16 seeking to put the kibosh on New York State's multi-year investigation.
The filing, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, argued the AG's investigation is both "harassing and overreaching." The 45-page brief asked the court to step in so as to protect the 45th president's rights and "to curtail this improperly motivated and unconstitutional abuse of process."
And on June 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. Her statement read, 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 empire. 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.
Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico wrote on Sept. 21, the day the attorney general filed the $250 million lawsuit against Trump et al:
Legal analysts are already debating the finer points of the suit and whether it will or won't hold muster in court. Her civil suit might fly despite Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. balking at filing criminal charges over the same conduct.
For one thing, James only has to prove Trump's conduct was fraudulent or illegal by a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt as would be necessary in a criminal case. If it seems more likely than not that Trump knew of false valuations or instructed subordinates to inflate assets and income, that may be enough for James to prevail.
Trump could also be hurt by his numerous invocations of the Fifth Amendment, which can be used against him in the civil suit.
But there's a good chance the true legal merits of the AG's suit will never be tested in court.
Both sides have strong incentives to reach a settlement. Pursuing the case through to completion could take years and there's no guarantee that a judge will agree to grant all the relief the AG asked for. Trump seems to have an even stronger incentive to compromise, since the punishing sanctions James is seeking could amount almost to a death sentence for his business empire.
Trump's lawyers have already made a settlement proposal which James turned down, but her aides said her office isn't seeking any immediate court action against Trump, like an injunction that would swiftly drive him out of business in New York. And the AG seemed to emphasize her willingness to deal on the onerous punishment she proposed (in her lawsuit).
But on the same day the suit was filed, Trump told Sean Hannity at Fox News he rejected an offer to settle the three-year investigation into his real estate company because paying "even a small amount" would be akin to admitting guilt. "I met with them. I actually thought they wanted to settle but I didn't want to settle because how can you even if I paid a very small amount, you sort of admitting guilt."
Former federal prosecutor and currently Politico's legal affairs columnist Renato Mariotti wrote on Sept. 22,
Perhaps the biggest reason James has such a winning hand is this: Trump dealt her the cards.
In early August he invoked the Fifth Amendment some 440 times during his deposition in this case. It was undoubtedly the right move for him to make because he faces criminal investigations in multiple jurisdictions, and his words, even though they are ostensibly about matters unrelated to election interference could nevertheless be useful to prosecutors seeking to demonstrate his capacity for deception. Prosecutors could also use his words to bring criminal charges based on the alleged scheme that James uncovered.
But taking the Fifth has severe consequences in this case. Unlike in a criminal case, in a civil proceeding like the suit brought by James, the jury will likely be instructed they can infer that when Trump took the Fifth, his answer would have been adverse to him. Trump's repeated insistence that James' politically motivated suit left him no choice will not withstand the effect of the jury inferring that Trump broke the law and has no good answer to the questions he was asked.
That essentially screws Trump and his family in this case. It is no coincidence that James put in her lawsuit that when Trump was asked whether he 'had an ongoing agreement from at least 2005 to the present with Mr. Weisselberg, Mr. McConney and others to prepare the Statement of Financial Condition in a manner that included false and misleading valuation statements, Mr. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to answer.'
In a civil case like this one, that's the ballgame. Trump, his son Eric, and others took the Fifth hundreds of times and they can expect James and her team to throw that back in their faces to prove their case. All of the other evidence is just supporting corroboration. The testimony of Trump and his family - or lack thereof - is the centerpiece.
House committees seek Trump's tax returns, financial records
The Latest: The Committee on Oversight and Reform has begun receiving documents from Mazars USA, which was Donald Trump's longtime accounting firm before it severed ties, the New York Times reported Sept. 17.
"After a yearslong legal fight, the House Oversight Committee has received a first trove of documents from the firm, which recently entered into a legal settlement agreeing to produce a range of financial documents from several years before Mr. Trump took office and during his early presidency. Mazars said in February it could no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it had prepared for the Trump Organization."
HuffPost reported Sept. 17, "The committee will use the information in its investigation of allegations of conflict of interest when Trump was in office, and any possible violations of the Constitution's emoluments clause. The clause prohibits federal officials from receiving payments or significantly valuable gifts from foreign governments."
Financial records that must be turned over to Congress under the settlement include any document that indicates false or undisclosed information about Trump or his companies' assets, income or liabilities.
Documents from 2016 to 2018 related to the Old Post Office Building, which the former president converted into the Trump International Hotel, must also be provided under terms of the settlement. The hotel, once termed the "epicenter" of corruption by a local watchdog, was frequented by politicians - both domestic and foreign - while Trump was in office.
In addition, Mazars must turn over records from 2017 and 2018 related to relationships between Trump's businesses and foreign nations.
On Feb. 14, 2022
Trump's long-time accounting firm announced it had ended its relationship with
the Trump Organization, according to court documents. USA
Today reported the firm, Mazars, said that a decade of Trump Organization
financial statements "should no longer be relied upon."
Background: 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.) is seeking the tax returns because the committee is interested in learning how
the IRS enforces tax laws against presidents. The Trump Justice Department 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 July 30, 2021 the Biden administration changed its mind and the Justice Department said the Treasury Department must 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."
But then on Aug. 4, NBC reported: "Lawyers for Donald Trump urged a federal judge to block the Treasury Department from handing his tax returns over to the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee's stated reason for seeing the returns, to examine how the IRS audits presidents, is simply a pretext for wanting to look for something embarrassing, they said. They say the statute the committee cites, which allows the tax-writing committees to get copies of individual returns, has never been used against a president, a former president or any elected official."
And then a federal judge rejected former President Trump's bid to block congressional Democrats from obtaining his tax returns on Dec. 14, Politico reported. Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee to the federal district court in Washington, said Trump was "wrong on the law" and that Congress is due "great deference" in its inquiries.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on March 24, 2022 heard arguments from committee and Trump attorneys on the question of whether the Treasury Department should turn over Trump's tax returns.
(The Supreme Court in 2021 cleared the way for a Manhattan prosecutor to obtain Trump's tax returns from his accounting firm, but that ruling did not directly affect the Ways and Means Committee's case.)
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Aug. 9 that the House Ways and Means Committee can obtain former President Trump's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, AXIOS reported. Trump can, and likely will, appeal the ruling, meaning the litigation over the documents will continue. 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.
House Oversight Committee gets Trump's financial records
On Sept. 1, 2022, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, reported the Committee reached an agreement to end litigation filed by former President Trump and require the former President's accounting firm, Mazars USA, to turn over "key financial documents" to the committee.
According to Maloney, "In
April 2019, the Oversight Committee issued a lawful subpoena for financial
records as part of our investigation into President Trump's unprecedented
conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and foreign financial ties. After
facing years of delay tactics, the Committee has now reached an agreement with
the former President and his accounting firm, Mazars USA, to obtain critical
documents. These documents will inform the Committee's efforts to get to
the bottom of former President Trump's egregious conduct and ensure that future
presidents do not abuse their position of power for personal gain."
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.
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." (It was revealed in June, 2022 that the president knew some in the crowd were armed. See Jan. 6 at "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy" below for details.)
The complaint names as defendants Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
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, prosecutors have charged 14 alleged members of the Oath Keepers with crimes related to the siege, including seditious conspiracy.)
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, 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 Amit Mehta when Trump asked for all the lawsuits to be dismissed.
Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence
The Latest: 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 on Jan. 6 was sentenced to more than seven years in prison, NBC News reported Sept. 27.
Kyle Young, a 38-year-old HVAC worker from Iowa whose lawyer said was he "injected" with lies about the 2020 election and who had asked his Facebook followers to join him at the "stop the steel [sic]" rally, pleaded guilty in May to a felony count of assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers.
Young admitted he used a strobe light to disorient police, helped throw a large audio speaker at police, grabbed Fanone's wrist when the D.C. officer was abducted by the mob, and made contact with another officer abducted by the mob.
Young took part in the assault at the lower west tunnel where "some of the most barbaric violence" took place on Jan. 6. As discovered by online sleuths, the government argued that Young handed a taser to Danny Rodriguez, a MAGA fanatic who used it to electroshock Fanone in the neck on Jan. 6.
Young, trailed by his 16-year-old son, was right nearby as Rodriguez electroshocked Fanone, extensive video evidence shows.
In related news, "Former president Donald Trump said he would issue full pardons and a government apology to rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and violently attacked law enforcement to stop the democratic transfer of power," the Washington Post reported Sept. 1.
Said Trump: "I mean full pardons with an apology to many."
He added: "I am financially supporting people that are incredible and they were in my office actually two days ago, so they're very much in my mind. It's a disgrace what they've done to them. What they've done to these people is disgraceful."
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."
More than 855 alleged rioters have been arrested and charged since the storming of the U.S. Capitol, with more than 325 pleading guilty to crimes ranging from trespassing to seditious conspiracy. More than 225 are accused of assaulting or impeding
law enforcement officers. One hundred and forty law enforcement officers were injured in the fighting. Prosecutors say rioters committed roughly 1,000 assaults on federal officers and caused $2.7 million in damage to the U.S. Capitol. Five police officers died as a result of the
attack, four by suicide and one after suffering multiple strokes. Four pro-Trump rioters, including a woman shot by Capitol
Police, died. Some of the protesters - with "love in the air" - include:
- Scott Fairlamb, a New Jersey gym owner and former MMA fighter, punched a police officer and pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
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 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 on Jan. 6.
- 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.
- Nicholas Languerand, 26, will
spend three years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to
assaulting police officers. Languerand threw
various items at police, including an audio speaker, and later bragged about it
on social media.
- Lucas Denney, 44, of Texas,
pleaded guilty to felony assault, resisting or impeding officers while
using a dangerous weapon. Denney struck a
Metropolitan Police Officer with a pole outside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Creek, a 47-year-old former Marine, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for
assaulting officers on Jan. 6. 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 during the insurrection. 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, matching the longest prison sentence so far among hundreds of Capitol riot cases. The judge said he was troubled by Robertson's conduct since his arrest - not only his stockpiling of guns but also his words advocating for violence.
E. Jean Carroll sues Trump for defamation, threatens to sue for sexual battery
The Latest: Former President Trump is scheduled to be deposed in the defamation lawsuit brought by a former magazine columnist on October 19, CNN reported Sept. 30.
The timing was revealed in a new court filing Friday as lawyers for Trump and E. Jean Carroll spar over whether the depositions should proceed after a federal appeals court ruling earlier this week.
Carroll's attorneys suggested they may also seek to question Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and former senior adviser, after Trump said Kushner was one of only a handful of people who he had spoken with about the allegations.
Two days before, Trump's attorney asked the district court judge to halt document production and deposition testimony as they await a final decision on the outcome of the lawsuit appeal, initially filed in 2019.
Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan said in a response letter that the depositions should continue because the case has been in limbo for months while they've awaited the appeals court decision.
Kaplan said Trump has slow-walked his obligations, which is what prompted her to reverse a decision to not seek his deposition. Trump, she wrote, "violated every deadline that applied to his discovery responses without any credible excuse for his failure."
Trump is seeking a quick end to the defamation lawsuit by an author who claims he raped her more than a quarter century ago Reuters reported Sept. 28.
A lawyer for the former president asked a federal judge in Manhattan on Wednesday to substitute the United States as the defendant in E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit, a move that would end her case because the government cannot be sued for defamation.
The request came one day after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Trump was a federal employee when he branded Carroll a liar, but left it to a Washington, D.C., appeals court to decide whether Trump acted as president when he spoke.
Background: Former President Trump is being
sued 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 says he then defamed her by saying her claims were
lies, which sullied her character
and damaged her career.
Carroll filed the lawsuit in November 2019 claiming 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."
Carroll is seeking to depose Trump and obtain a swab of his DNA to test against male genetic material on a dress she says she was wearing during the encounter.
The case was moving forward until President Trump's Justice Department attempted to intervene in the case, claiming he had official immunity under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
But 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 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. 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, 2020 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.
On Dec. 3, three federal appeals court justices debated whether former President Trump strayed beyond his presidential duties in his aggressive response to Carroll's claim that he raped her, Politico and CNN reported.
"Who is he serving when he says something like, 'She's not my type?'...It would be one thing if he said, 'I didn't do it,' but he goes way beyond that," Judge Denny Chin said during oral arguments before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals "Did he need to say, 'She's not my type?'"
Trump's attorney, Alina Habba conceded that "an unprovoked attack on a citizen" would be outside the scope of a president's duties, but Carroll essentially compelled Trump to respond. "She went to the press. She made it public... She was on the aggressor side," Habba said.
a March 11, 2022 ruling in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected Trump's
request to bring counterclaims against Carroll, Bloomberg reported.
Kaplan said Trump had already delayed the 2019 case multiple times and that his
claim against Carroll was a "futile" and "bad faith"
attempt to delay it further. Carroll's single claim of defamation "could
have been tried and decided - one way or the other - long ago."
A trial date of Feb. 6, 2023 in federal court in New York was set by Judge Kaplan on July 19. Formal exchange of evidence by both sides must be completed by Nov. 1, 2022.
In an August letter to a New York federal judge, Carroll's lawyer notified the court that additional legal action was on the horizon. Roberta A. Kaplan, the journalist's lawyer, explained that Carroll is now preparing to file a separate lawsuit under New York's Adult Survivors Act "on the earliest possible date," which is Nov. 24.
AXIOS reported, "Carroll, who is in the middle of a high-profile defamation suit against Trump, had been unable to pursue legal action for the actual alleged assault due to the state's statute of limitations. Now the Adult Survivors Act, which gives adult survivors of sexual misconduct a one-year window to sue their abusers regardless of when the incident occurred, could give her another chance against her alleged abuser."
A federal appeals court on Sept. 27 opened the door to allowing the Justice Department to shield former President Trump for his conduct while president, CNN reported. That question - if Trump can be held personally responsible in Carroll's defamation case - will now be sent to the federal appeals court in Washington, DC.
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.
Judge Sullivan ruled that the civil rights groups lack standing to advance the Voting Rights Act claim because the lawsuit focuses on past conduct yet seeks relief on future conduct.
Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riots
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."
"No reasonable reader or listener would have perceived Giuliani's speech as an instruction to march to the Capitol, violently breach the perimeter and enter the Capitol building, and then violently terrorize Congress into not engaging in the Electoral Certification." The former New York City mayor also said in his court filing that the core of the insurrection was orchestrated by pro-Trump extremist groups to whom he had no connection.
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."
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 a civil lawsuit filed by Rep. Swalwell 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 explained "It is absolutely a part of the job and duties of the U.S. Congressman from Alabama's 5th Congressional District that the Congressman cooperate with the White House. Cooperating, or not cooperating, with the White House affects a Congressman's effectiveness. Certainly rejecting the request of the White House to give a speech at the Ellipse could hurt a Congressman's effectiveness. This is particularly true given the importance of the White House to space, defense and other jobs in a Congressman's district."
(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, 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, 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
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
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 influence 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.
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, 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 Amit Mehta when Trump asked for all the lawsuits to be dismissed.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta rejected Trump's request to toss three civil lawsuits in which Capitol Police officers allege that the former president bears responsibility for injuries law enforcement suffered during the January 6, 2021, attack, Business Insider reported Aug. 2. The lawsuits were filed by Marcus J. Moore, Bobby Tabron, DeDevine K. Carter and Briana Kirkland.
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.
Trump sues Facebook, Twitter and Google, plus Legal Analysis
The Latest: Former President Donald Trump could be allowed back on Facebook once a suspension of his account expires in 2023, Nick Clegg of parent company Meta Platforms, said Sept. 22 at an exclusive Semafor Exchange event in Washington, DC.
As the company makes its decision, it will talk to experts, weigh the risk of real world harm and act proportionally, he said. It's the first time Clegg, who, as president of global affairs is charged with deciding whether to lift the limit, has publicly discussed his thinking.
"When you make a decision that affects the public realm, you need to act with great caution," Clegg told Semafor editor-at-large Steve Clemons. "You shouldn't throw your weight about."
The decision will also have material effects on Trump's possible 2024 presidential campaign. He had 35 million followers on Facebook alone before his suspension; he now appears to have 4 million followers on the nascent Truth Social platform that he helped launch, but which has not emerged as a major competitor to established social media platforms.
YouTube said last year it would lift its suspension once the risk of violence has decreased while Twitter permanently banned Trump.
Background: Former President Trump
was removed from the platforms after his repeated dishonest claims about the
2020 election helped trigger the violence Jan. 6, 2021 in the U.S. Capitol. Twitter banned Trump on Jan. 8, alleging Trump's posts posed "the risk of further incitement of
violence." Trump was suspended from Facebook until at least 2023.
Trump then separately sued Twitter, Google and Facebook on July 7, 2021 arguing that the platforms were silencing conservative viewpoints and that he is the victim of censorship. Trump's lawsuits ask the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to order an immediate halt to social media companies "illegal, shameful censorship of the American people."
Philip Bump at the Washington Post explained, "Facebook, YouTube and Twitter began more actively policing misinformation and abusive content in the months after the 2016 election, following rampant criticism for allowing (misinformation) to propagate unchecked. The algorithmic effort to uproot such content included a number of prominent conservatives who (like Trump) had shared false information or (like Trump) had berated perceived opponents. A narrative formed: The companies were targeting them for what they believed rather than how they expressed it. This culminated in Trump's removal from the platforms for obviously spreading false claims about election fraud and obviously stoking his base's anger."
Trump's attorneys on Oct. 1 filed a motion for preliminary injunction against Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey. The filing states that Twitter had been "coerced" into banning Trump.
According to Courthouse News, on Oct. 27 a Miami-based U.S. District judge ruled that Trump's lawsuit against Twitter and YouTube must be heard in California, not Florida, under a user agreement covering everyone on the social media platform. On Nov. 19, a federal judge based in Florida made the same ruling for the Facebook suit. Trump was seeking special consideration because he was President when banned from the websites.
On Nov. 22, the Justice Department intervened in Trump's lawsuit against Facebook to defend the constitutionality of Section 230, USA Today and The Hill reported.
(Section 230 is a subsection of the 1996 Communications and Decency Act that undergirds much of how social media operates in the U.S. The policy holds that websites are not liable for the content posted to their platforms, a principle that fueled the rise of modern social media. President Trump signed an executive order aimed at dismantling the law but the order was revoked early in President Biden's term before any concrete action had been taken.)
Twitter asked a federal judge in San Francisco to throw out Trump's lawsuit, arguing the company's right to free speech is at stake -- not the former president's, Bloomberg reported Dec. 9. Trump "agreed to abide by Twitter's rules, and yet proceeded to repeatedly violate those rules" before, during and after the deadly assault on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters, with tweets that "could encourage further violence."
free-speech claim also ignores "that Twitter is a private actor that is
not constrained by the federal constitution," the company said. The
government "cannot force the private operator of an online platform, such
as Twitter, to disseminate speech with which the operator disagrees."
A federal judge in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2022 signaled a strong inclination to dismiss Trump's lawsuit against Twitter for kicking him off its platform, Courthouse News Service reported.
U.S. District Judge James Donato told a lawyer representing the former president that while technology and law might change and evolve, "one thing that's been more or less a constant going back 20 years is that private companies like Twitter are not subject to the First Amendment."
He said the U.S. Supreme Court made a "very definitive statement" in its 2019 ruling Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck that private entities cannot be considered state actors bound by the First Amendment.
On May 6, Judge Donato dismissed the lawsuit by Trump seeking to lift his ban from Twitter, CNBC and other media outlets reported. The judge noted, citing federal case law, that, "Twitter is a private company, and 'the First Amendment applies only to governmental abridgements of speech, and not to alleged abridgements by private companies.' " Judge Donato rejected the notion that Twitter's ban of Trump and the others was attributable to the government's actions, which would be the only way to uphold the claim of a violation of the First Amendment.
On July 5, Trump appealed
the dismissal of his lawsuit against Twitter with the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals, alleging a violation of his free speech rights for being
banned from the platform.
Legal Analysis: Dan McLaughlin, a former attorney who writes for the National Review, commented, "Just because something is bad does not mean it should be illegal. And just because something should be illegal does not mean it is. Lawyers are supposed to know this. The lawsuits filed by Donald Trump are complaints about things that are not against the law. Anybody who puts money or faith behind these suits is being scammed." (Blog editor's note: Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. both began fundraising soon after lawsuits were filed.)
Fox News commentator and conservative talk radio
host Mark Levin, however, predicts former President Trump's lawsuit against Facebook
is a "slam dunk" because Facebook and other big tech companies are, in effect,
government agencies and not private companies.
The evidence? "[The Biden administration is] working with Facebook and other social media platforms, and telling them what they want them to do. They can call it disinformation, they can call it whatever they want, that's quite beside the point," Levin said July 15, 2021 on his nationally-syndicated radio show. Social media platforms are "doing the work of the government, it is doing the work specifically of the Biden administration and the Democrat Party."
A lawyer for former President Trump agrees with Levin. Fox News reported Aug. 30 that attorney John Coale is arguing that multiple factors make them "state actors," meaning they'd be legally vulnerable under standards normally applied only to governments. In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Coale argued that the government is essentially deputizing social media companies to censor Americans. And he predicted that the Supreme Court will eventually decide the case.
"The basis for all of this case is that private companies cannot be empowered by the government via Congress, via [Section] 230," to censor people, Coale said. "The Biden administration and members of Congress can't delegate what they cannot do themselves."
The Biden Administration is defending legal liability protections for tech platforms against a court challenge from former President Trump in his lawsuit against Facebook, the Washington Times reported Jan. 21, 2022.
"The administration's intervention in Mr. Trump's case defends a legal provision, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act." The Justice Department's brief urges the federal judiciary not to rule on the constitutionality of Section 230 and said Trump misunderstands the law and prior court rulings.
"Section 230(c) does not require online service providers to limit or regulate speech by their users," the brief states. "Instead, Section 230(c) allows companies like Meta Platforms to choose to remove content or allow it to remain on their platforms, without facing liability as publishers or speakers for those editorial decisions. ... Section 230(c) does not reflect a preference for restricting content, much less for restricting content relating to any particular viewpoint."
Despite the confidence from Coale that the Supreme Court will hear and decide the case, most experts believe Trump's case is legally dubious. "I don't think the lawsuit has much chance of success because it first and foremost accuses the companies of violating the U.S. Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution only restricts government," Vanderbilt Law School professor Brian Fitzpatrick told Fox News. "It has zero chance of success. I think it's mainly for publicity, it's not to get real relief in a court."
Dominion sues Fox News, Giuliani and Powell
The Latest: A federal judge in Washington, D.C., agreed to dismiss a lawsuit that pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell filed against Dominion Voting Systems as the voting machine company pursues a $1.3 billion defamation claim against her, The Hill reported Sept. 28.
In a three-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols granted Dominion's request to toss the case after finding Powell failed to show that Dominion's defamation suit against her constituted an abuse of justice.
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 alleges 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, claims the contradictory segments don'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 lies 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.
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."
Fox News filed papers seeking dismissal of the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, Law & Crime reported May 18. The motion says Fox's "responsible journalists . . . covered both sides" of the 2020 election controversy and that the network's opinion hosts provided commentary which "a reasonable viewer" would consider as little more than "hyperbole speculating" about what really happened with the election - "rather than [as] factual assertions."
(On Dec. 16, a Delaware Superior Court judge denied a Fox News motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Variety reported the judge found "Dominion pleads specific facts that put Fox on notice as to Dominion's claims. The Complaint, and its exhibits, are detailed and focused, and state a reasonably conceivable defamation per se claim.")
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.
The Washington Post reported May 28, 2022 that the federal government has found no evidence that flaws in Dominion voting machines have ever been exploited, including in the 2020 election, according to the executive director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
A Delaware judge on June 21 rejected a motion by the parent of Fox News Network to dismiss Dominion Voting Systems Inc's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, Reuters reported. Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis, who last December said Dominion could sue Fox News Network, said the voting machine company can also sue Fox Corp on a theory it was directly liable for statements on the network.
In court papers, Dominion claim that Fox Corp, through Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch directly participated in, approved and controlled the network's election coverage and its aftermath.
Law & Crime reported Dominion is alleging the Murdochs knew Trump's election fraud narrative was false. On Nov. 6, 2020, Rupert Murdoch reportedly spoke to Trump and told him he lost. Print outlets under the News Corp empire like the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal denounced Trump's claims at the time and urged him to concede defeat.
For Judge Davis those reports are enough to show Dominion adequately pleaded actual malice. "These allegations support a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth when they allegedly caused Fox News to propagate its claims about Dominion," the 25-page ruling states, rejecting the petition to dismiss the lawsuit.
"Dominion has a very strong case against Fox News - and against OAN for that matter," said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor who teaches constitutional law at Stetson University and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute.
"The reason Dominion is suing is because Fox and other rightwing news outlets repeated vicious lies that Dominion's voting machines stole the 2020 election from Trump for Biden. But all of these conspiracy theories about Dominion's machines were just pure bunk, and Fox as a news organization should have known that and not given this aspect of the big lie a megaphone."
"What's particularly bad for Fox is [that] Dominion asked them to stop and correct the record in real time, and Fox persisted in spreading misrepresentations about the voting machine company."
Former Attorney General William Barr has been subpoenaed as part of the defamation lawsuit, ABC News reported July 11.
At a public hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Barr said in a clip played by the committee that the baseless allegations that Dominion machines switched votes from Joe Biden to Trump were "complete nonsense" and "amongst the most disturbing."
Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox figures already questioned under oath in the case as well as show producers and programming executives, court records show.
The Dominion v. Fox trial now set for April 17, 2023.
Dominion sues Rudy Giuliani: Dominion also filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Giuliani on Feb. 25, 2021 alleging the former New York City mayor and his allies "manufactured and disseminated the 'Big Lie,' which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election." Giuliani reacted to the lawsuit by issuing a statement saying it would "allow me to investigate (Dominion's) history, finances, and practices" and that he would countersue. Law & Crime reported April 7 that Giuliani, who served as Trump's attorney in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Dominion has asked the judge for a deadline of September 29 for each party to hand over discovery material ahead of a trial anticipated for 2023. Delaware Judge Davis has ordered broad discovery against Fox Corporation. Fox estimates that it has produced 4.3 million documents.
Dominion sues Sidney Powell (and visa versa): On Nov. 8, 2020, Powell, a lawyer who briefly represented the Trump campaign, appeared on Fox News and claimed, without evidence, that Dominion had an algorithm that switched votes from Trump to Biden.
Two months later, on Jan. 8, 2021 Dominion filed suit against Powell.
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 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."
On May 3, attorneys for Dominion Voting Systems told a federal judge Powell must be held accountable for her out-of-court attacks on the voting machine vendor or the court risks creating "unprecedented immunity for attorneys to wage televised disinformation campaigns," Law & Crime reported. Filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as a response to Powell's motion to dismiss, Dominion's attorneys wrote in their 56-page response motion, "Attorneys do not have a license to lie. Powell asks this Court to manufacture a sweeping and unprecedented immunity for 'attorney advocates' who knowingly or recklessly spread defamatory falsehoods during televised disinformation campaigns involving advocacy for their 'preferred candidate'-i.e., to create a propaganda exception to defamation liability. No such immunity has ever been recognized and settled law forecloses this argument."
Powell on Sept. 24 filed a counterclaim against Dominion, Law & Crime reported. In it, she argues that the voting machine hardware and software company is simply trying to silence its critics.
"Dominion's own patents and instruction manuals expressly provide for remote access to real-time election results; remote access to adjudicate votes or to flip votes; deletion of audit logs and votes; and other vulnerabilities. All of these vulnerabilities were present in Dominion voting equipment and software in the 2020 Presidential election," Powell wrote in the countersuit. "To avoid having these underlying facts surface in public, Dominion developed this litigation and the related cases as a public-relations campaign to change the narrative, to hide the truth, and to discourage future challenges and negative reporting."
Powell is seeking a declarative judgement of "not less than $10 million" in addition to punitive damages.
Powell's suit against Dominion was dismissed by a judge on Sept. 27 after finding Powell failed to show that Dominion's defamation suit against her constituted an abuse of justice.
Judge makes ruling on Giuliani and Powell: On Aug. 11, 2021 the Associated Press reported U.S. District Judge Nichols, a Trump appointee, cleared the way for the defamation cases by Dominion to proceed against Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, ruling there was no blanket protection on political speech. While courts have recognized there are some hyperbolic statements in political discourse, "it is simply not the law that provably false statements cannot be actionable if made in the context of an election."
The judge, who has consolidated the Giuliani and Powell case into one, outlined several instances where the two made outlandish and blatantly false claims, including when Powell stated that the company was created in Venezuela to rig elections for the late leader Hugo Chavez and that it can switch votes in US elections.
Smartmatic sues Fox News, its hosts, Giuliani and Powell, plus Legal Analysis
The Latest: More evidence Fox News and friends will have to face trial or reach settlement with Smartmatic and Dominion?
A defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp., Fox News Network and Lou Dobbs can proceed toward trial, a judge ruled Sept. 27 after concluding that a Venezuelan businessman had made sufficient claims of being unfairly accused of trying to corrupt the 2020 U.S. presidential election to be permitted to gather more evidence, the Associated Press reported.
The lawsuit filed last year alleged that businessman Majed Khalil was defamed by Dobbs on "Lou Dobbs Tonight" and in tweets.
It said the former Fox personality joined with attorney Sidney Powell on a December 2020 show to claim that Khalil and three others designed and developed programs and machines to corrupt the presidential election.
Lawyers for Fox and Dobbs had tried to convince U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton in Manhattan to toss out the lawsuit before evidence such as depositions and emails could be reviewed, but the judge said Khalil had sufficiently claimed that his reputation was harmed by false accusations.
The judge ruled that numerous reports declaring the falsity of claims against voting machine manufacturers Smartmatic Corp. and Dominion Voting Systems and rejecting Powell as a source of accurate information gave the defendants "reasons to doubt Powell's veracity and the accuracy of her reports."
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.)
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."
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."
Fox attempted to have a New York state court dismiss Smartmatic's defamation lawsuit in April, 2021. In a filing submitted April 26 of that year, Fox attorneys argued, "When a sitting President claims an election was stolen and assembles a legal team to challenge it, the public has a right to know about the allegations. When the press informs the public about those allegations, the First Amendment robustly protects that coverage. That protection does not dissipate if the allegations strike some as desperate or ultimately fail in court." Powell and Giuliani filed motions to dismiss the suit on June 10.
And then on Aug. 17 New York Supreme Court Judge David Cohen held a hearing on the dismissal request. At the hearing in Manhattan, 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."
And then on Nov. 12,
Smartmatic filed a libel and slander suit against Powell in U.S. District
Court, District of Columbia. Smartmatic's attorneys called it a "precautionary
lawsuit" in case their lawsuit in New York state court was dismissed. In court
papers, Smartmatic's attorneys said the claims were "materially identical." The
lawsuit specifically references the Nov. 19, 2020 press conference where Powell
allegedly "traveled to the District of Columbia shortly after the 2020 U.S.
election and then made defamatory statements about Smartmatic from within the
District of Columbia."
Fox News' effort to dismiss the defamation lawsuit was rejected on March 8. 2022. State Supreme Judge David 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.
Fox News then hit back at Smartmatic's financial standing by filing a counterclaim and arguing the network was protected by New York state law and the First Amendment, The Hill reported March 17. The counterclaim called Smartmatic's $2.7 billion lawsuit "extravagant" and argued that the voting machine company was actually in poor financial standing.
"As Smartmatic's own public filings reflect, by the time the 2020 Presidential election rolled around, it was no financial juggernaut on the cusp of earning billions in revenue. To the contrary, Smartmatic had been in the red each of the preceding four years, combining for nearly $100 million in losses, and its revenues had not exceeded $200 million since 2013," the court filing said.
"Yet by Smartmatic's telling, it stood to make nearly $2 billion in annual revenue in 2025-a figure more than four times its highest reported revenues within the past nine years and more than 16 times its reported revenues in 2020," the filing claimed.
Giuliani then sued Smartmatic to recoup legal fees as he defended himself against its lawsuit, Reuters reported.
In a counterclaim filed June 13 in a New York state court in Manhattan, Giuliani said the voting machine company's defamation lawsuit, which he characterized as baseless, interfered with his constitutional right to speak freely on issues of public concern.
Fox News and two other defendants, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo and former anchor Lou Dobbs, filed similar counterclaims citing New York's "anti-SLAPP" law, short for "strategic lawsuits against public participation."
They and Giuliani, as well as Smartmatic, are appealing parts of a March 8 decision by state Supreme Court Justice David Cohen allowing most of Smartmatic's lawsuit to proceed.
A Manhattan judge on Sept. 6 ordered the Fox network to start turning over files from a pool of millions of documents that the voting machine company demanded, Law & Crime reported. Under the terms of the ruling, Fox's productions of documents must start on Sept. 30, and all fact discovery must be completed by the last business day in March 2023.
Legal Analysis: Luke
Mullins at Washingtonian Magazine wrote on the legal battle
Smartmatic owner Antonio Mugica is waging
to save his company from the "Big Lie."
Here is a brief excerpt from Mullins' April article.
In the 20 years since its founding, Smartmatic had processed roughly 5 billion votes on behalf of governments all over the world-and not once had it experienced a security breach. But in mid-November 2020, with his customers rattled and his employees frightened, Mugica convened his top lieutenants to convey the gravity of the crisis. "Look," he told them, "this could wipe us out."
While he increased security at Smartmatic's offices and worked to calm frightened employees, Mugica faced a more fundamental concern. The vote-rigging conspiracy threatened to chase away his current customers, scare off future clients, and drive the firm out of business. "Because," he says, "in the end, what we're selling around the world is trust."
Seeing no other way to protect his company, Mugica began searching the internet for a few good litigators. One name stood out: Erik Connolly.
Three years earlier, the Chicago lawyer had won the biggest media defamation settlement in the country's history. It was a whopper of a case, against ABC News-Connolly secured a settlement of a reported $177 million or more for his client, Beef Products Inc., after the network had repeatedly described the company's meat as "pink slime."
Connolly identified three overarching factual assertions the Trumpers had made, which he would later spell out in court documents: One, Smartmatic was under the control of the Venezuelan government; two, its election technology had been used in many of the most closely contested U.S. states; three, it had switched votes from Trump to Biden in order to rig the outcome.
Courts tend to weigh free-speech rights carefully. And not surprisingly, Paul Clement - the Washington superlawyer who's representing Fox News and its current and former hosts in this case - has put forth a First Amendment defense. "Smartmatic's 285-page, $2.7 billion complaint is not just meritless," Clement and other lawyers said in a court filing on behalf of Maria Bartiromo, "it is a legal shakedown designed to chill speech and punish reporting on issues that cut to the heart of our democracy."
The argument of Clement and Fox News's other attorneys goes like this: Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election results was a news event of enormous consequence. And Fox Corp.'s networks and current and former hosts were simply covering this event and providing a forum for Trump's surrogates - such as Giuliani and Powell - to back up their allegations that Smartmatic had rigged the election. "If those surrogates fabricated evidence or told lies with actual malice, then a defamation action may lie against them," Fox News argued in court documents, "but not against the media that covered their allegations and allowed them to try to substantiate them."
At the same time, the lawyers for Giuliani, Powell, Fox Corp., and its current and former hosts have also added an interesting wrinkle to their defenses. In most defamation cases, plaintiffs must prove only that the published statements about them were false, harmful assertions of fact that were made negligently. In this case, the lawyers have all argued that Smartmatic isn't a private entity but rather a public figure. If the judge agrees, Smartmatic would be forced to clear a much higher legal threshold; the company would have to prove that the election-related smears had been made with "actual malice"-or, as the Supreme Court has said, "with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."
On this point, the defendants are likely to prevail, says University of Missouri School of Law dean Lyrissa Lidsky, because Smartmatic voluntarily chose to engage in a business - helping governments run elections - that warrants a high level of scrutiny. "If I were the judge," she says, "I would pronounce them a public figure."
Even so, Lidsky believes that Mugica and Smartmatic have a credible claim. She explains it this way: The defendants would have known that the conspiracy theory wasn't true if they had bothered to conduct a simple Google search; after all, Smartmatic played no role in the election outside of Los Angeles County. Should the case proceed into discovery, Connolly and his team could very well unearth damaging emails and other internal materials showing exactly what the pro-Trump flamethrowers may have known to be false before they went on television to broadcast their lies. "It's hard to prove actual malice," Lidsky says, "but this is the rare case in which it looks at the outset like there's a pretty decent chance the plaintiffs can do it."
Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme on "The Celebrity Apprentice"
The Latest: Former President Donald Trump's deposition in an investors' class-action fraud lawsuit over his promotion of a failed desktop video phone was delayed by Hurricane Ian that's ravaging large parts of Florida, Bloomberg reported Sept. 28.
The investors' lawyer sought a postponement saying the Category 4 hurricane that slammed the west coast of Florida Wednesday made questioning Trump under oath unsafe at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump opposed the delay.
The dispute led to a bitter war of words between lawyers in dueling letters to the court Wednesday. The judge ultimately ordered the two sides to agree on a new date for the deposition, adding it must be held before Oct. 31.
Background: 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 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 that the movie studio 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.
On June 3, 2022 a court filing in the case indicated that former President Trump and three of his adult children will face questioning in the federal lawsuit, according to reporting by Law & Crime.
Trump's 2020 campaign, Giuliani, Powell and others target of defamation suit
The conservative cable TV station Newsmax apologized on April 30, 2021 for airing false allegations that Eric Coomer, an employee for Dominion Voting Systems, manipulated machines or tallies on Election Day 2020 to the detriment of former President Trump, the Associated Press reported.
Coomer, security director at the Colorado-based firm, immediately dropped the pro-Trump TV station from his December, 2020 defamation lawsuit. Still listed as defendants, however, are the Trump presidential campaign, Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, One America News Network, conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, Gateway Pundit, Joe Oltmann and others.
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."
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 22, 2020 in state district court in Denver, was triggered by Colorado podcaster Oltmann's claim that Dr. Coomer "is controlling elections and his fingerprints are in every state." Oltmann claimed he had infiltrated a pre-election Antifa phone call and overheard someone named Eric claiming he made sure that Trump wouldn't win. Oltmann later made similar claims on One America News. The New York Times reported in December that Oltmann posted menacing messages, including "Eric Coomer, you are a traitor" and "We are coming for you and your shitbag company."
(Coomer was forced to live in hiding for months because of threats against his life and his family. His 80 year-old father started carrying a gun.)
Newsmax, in a statement published on its website May 1, 2021, said that while it aired accusations against Coomer made by Trump's lawyers and supporters, it found no evidence that they were actually true. "Newsmax has found no evidence that Dr. Coomer interfered with Dominion voting machines or voting software in any way, nor that Dr. Coomer ever claimed to have done so. Nor has Newsmax found any evidence that Dr. Coomer ever participated in any conversation with members of 'Antifa,' nor that he was directly involved with any partisan political organization. On behalf of Newsmax, we would like to apologize for any harm that our reporting of the allegations against Dr. Coomer may have caused to Dr. Coomer and his family."
NPR reported, "Coomer's attorneys said he has reached a financial settlement (with Newsmax), but terms of the arrangement were not disclosed."
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?"
CNN reported that when Sidney 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.
Slate reported that "Oltmann admitted (during his deposition) that he could not name a single person to authenticate the existence of the call at the center of the lawsuit. 'Other than yourself, and as you claim, Dr. Coomer, is there anyone that you can say was on the call with certainty?' an attorney for Coomer asked. 'I mean, I know for certainty that other people were on the call, yes. But I don't know for certainty the direct identity of those people,' Oltmann stated. Oltmann couldn't confirm the time and date of the supposed call, and he refused to name the person who connected him on the line, contrary to a court order from the judge."
Slate also reported that "TV host Michelle Malkin-on whose Newsmax program Oltmann first began to widely spread his allegation-could not explain the theory of how Coomer allegedly helped steal the election. 'So as you sit here, you cannot cite to the Court one working theory as to how Eric Coomer could have rigged the 2020 presidential election; isn't that true?' Coomer's attorney asked. 'That is true,' Malkin responded."
On Oct. 13, attorneys for President Trump's re-election campaign, Giuliani and conservative media figures asked a judge in Denver to dismiss the lawsuit, the Associated Press reported.
A Colorado judge on May 13, 2022 denied motions to dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed by Coomer against former President Donald Trump's campaign, Giuliani and Powell, a handful of conservative media figures and news outlets, the Associated Press reported.
District Court Judge Marie Avery Moses, in a 136-page decision, rejected various arguments to throw out the lawsuit, writing that "there is overwhelming evidence that an injunction would serve the public interest because the public is harmed by the spread of defamatory information."
They-knew-the-truth-all-along: A team of lawyers closely allied with President Trump held a widely watched news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 19, 2020. At the event, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell - 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.
But there was a problem for the Trump team, according to court documents released on Sept. 20, 2021.
According to the New York Times, by the time the RNC news conference occurred staff on Trump's campaign had already prepared an internal memo debunking many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, its employee Eric Coomer, and a separate software company, Smartmatic. Bottom line: officials in the Trump campaign were aware early on that many of the claims against the two companies were baseless.
Trump sues the New York Times and niece Mary Trump
President Trump filed a $100 million lawsuit against The
New York Times, three of its reporters, and his niece Mary claiming
they hatched an "insidious plot" to obtain his private records for a 2018 story
about his tax history, the Daily Beast reported Sept. 21, 2021.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Dutchess County, New York, alleges the newspaper convinced Mary Trump to "smuggle records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to The Times" despite her having signed a 2001 confidentiality agreement.
The suit blasts reporters David Barstow, Susanne Craig, and Russ Buettner's "collective efforts in tortiously breaching and/or interfering with his contractual rights and otherwise maliciously conspiring against him." The three won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2019 "For an exhaustive 18-month investigation of President Donald Trump's finances that debunked his claims of self-made wealth and revealed a business empire riddled with tax dodges."
Mary Trump later revealed in her tell-all book - "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man" - that she was the source for the Times story. She said she provided the newspaper with Fred Trump Sr.'s tax returns in addition to other confidential financial information regarding the family.
The 2018 Times reporting revealed, among other findings, that Donald Trump made the equivalent of at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire, with the help of "dubious tax schemes...including instances of outright fraud."
Trump now claims he is a "private citizen...entitled to the same contractual rights, privileges and protections as any other person."
Mary Trump disagrees. "I think he is a fucking loser, and he is going to throw anything against the wall he can," she said of her uncle's suit. "It's desperation. The walls are closing in and he is throwing anything against the wall that will stick. As is always the case with Donald, he'll try and change the subject."
"This is the latest in a long line of frivolous lawsuits by Donald Trump that target truthful speech and important journalism on issues of public concern," said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., who is representing Mary Trump. "It is doomed to failure like the rest of his baseless efforts to chill freedom of speech and of the press."
Trump has threatened to sue news organizations, including the Times, for decades, but has followed through on only a handful of occasions. It's not clear whether he has ever prevailed in any action that he or his political operation has brought over reporting or published commentary, either in court or through a settlement before trial, the Washington Post reported Sept. 22, 2021.
Trump repeatedly runs up against laws and judicial rulings that make it difficult for public figures to win judgments against news organizations. As a result, courts have dismissed almost all of his claims, including one in which his brother, Robert, sought to prevent Mary Trump from publishing her bestselling memoir.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that news organizations are protected from liability even for publishing information from a source who may have obtained the information unlawfully.
The Hill reported Dec. 2 that Mary Trump has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit her uncle brought against her and The Times.
Mary Trump v. Donald Trump:
According to Just
Security, in a lawsuit filed in September, 2020, "Mary Trump is
suing Donald Trump for defrauding her out of millions of dollars in an
inheritance dispute. The suit is pending in New York state court, where the
parties are currently battling over former President Trump's move to dismiss
The case had its roots in the 1981 death of Mary's father, Fred Trump Jr, the older brother of Donald Trump, who left the then 16-year-old Mary a profitable real estate portfolio.
Mary Trump claims her uncles Donald and Robert Trump and aunt Maryanne Trump Barry were supposed to protect her interests but instead siphoned money away, and "squeezed" her out through the 2001 settlement.
The former president's attorneys claim Mary was not cheated and was given accurate numbers and figures many years ago.
A lawyer for Donald Trump on Jan. 11, 2022 accused Mary Trump of trying to cash in on the family name by suing Trump, Reuters reported. At a hearing in a New York state court in Manhattan, attorney James Kiley said a 2001 settlement over the estate of Donald Trump's father Fred Trump Sr put Mary Trump on notice of potential claims against her uncles and aunt, and that she waited too long by not suing them until September 2020.
Blog editor's note: There is no evidence of publicly-reported news on either of these lawsuits in 2022.
Trump 2020, 2024 campaigns subject of lawsuits filed against FEC
American Bridge, a pro-Democratic super PAC, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) alleging that former President Trump is violating campaign finance laws by spending money from his PAC on events for himself while he hasn't yet officially stated he will be a presidential candidate in 2024, Newsweek reported March 14, 2022.
Trump has both raised and spent "well over" $5,000 in funds related to "advancing his own presidential campaign," the complaint alleges. American Bridge claims federal campaign finance laws dictate that Trump should have been required to file paperwork declaring his candidacy within 15 days of raising or spending over $5,000 on things that could "influence his election."
In February, Trump told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida: "We did it twice, and we'll do it again. We're going to be doing it again, a third time."
Newsweek reported March 16 that American Bridge claimed Trump has raised more than $122 million via his political committees.
Zeeshan Aleem, MSNBC Opinion Columnist, commented on March 20: "Lisa Gilbert, the executive vice president of Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, told me that the FEC complaint has 'more than a leg to stand on. On its face, the combination of Trump's own statements about 2024 and his aggressive fundraising certainly could be enough evidence to trigger the standard for becoming a candidate for president under federal law.'"
But Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor who previously worked as Los Angeles' chief enforcer of election laws, said that while American Bridge has raised "a potential violation'' with their complaint, the bigger question is whether the FEC will act upon it. "Given the FEC's recent history of lax enforcement, I'd be surprised if anything comes of this complaint."
Rahmani added that there are also two "huge loopholes" that Trump may take advantage of with regards to campaign finance law. "Candidates do not have to file a statement when they are only 'testing the waters,' which is what Trump will say he's doing. Nor does 'soft money' count toward the $5,000 contribution limitation."
Since 2016, there have been upward of 40 complaints against the former president - the FEC hasn't acted on any of them, including the case of Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen paying off Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election.
The FEC comprises three Democratic commissioners and three Republican ones, all of whom are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Four votes are required to move any finance violation claim forward, but in recent years the commission has been deadlocked along party lines, particularly in cases that involve Trump.
Also in March, 2022 the nonprofit, nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center accused the FEC of failing to respond to the group's July 2020 complaint laying out allegations against the Trump campaign.
The 2020 complaint alleged the Trump campaign "laundered upwards of three quarters of a billion dollars in 2020 campaign spending" through American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy, a firm run by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
Business Insider reported on July 8 that the Campaign Legal Center filed a lawsuit in US District Court for the District of Columbia alleging the Federal Election Commission failed to enforce campaign finance disclosure requirements by declining to investigate the Trump 2020 campaign's use of the two firms - American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy - to hide the details of its spending.
And then Democratic group American Bridge on July 20 filed a lawsuit against the FEC arguing the agency has failed to hold former President Trump accountable for openly teasing that he will run for the White House in 2024, The Hill reported.
The organization sued over inaction on its March complaint, arguing that the FEC's failure to address the matter is giving Trump an advantage over other potential candidates in fundraising.
"Donald Trump started his 2024 presidential campaign the same way he ended his 2020 campaign - illegally. We intend to hold him accountable," Jessica Floyd, president of American Bridge 21st Century, said in a statement. "There's no end to his grift. American Bridge is filing suit to prevent him from continuing to flout the law with his current, active presidential campaign."
American Bridge's lawsuit argues that Trump should be held to the standards of a formally declared candidate for federal office, which would include campaign fundraising disclosures and would dictate how much money he can raise from individuals ahead of a potential primary campaign.
Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg indicted for fraud; trial set for Oct. 24
The Latest: The New York judge overseeing a tax fraud case against the Trump Organization on Sept. 12 rejected any effort to delay next month's trial, acknowledging concern that former President Donald Trump's company might be trying to "stall" the criminal case, Reuters reported.
At a pre-trial hearing in a New York state court in Manhattan, Justice Juan Merchan warned against delaying tactics, even as a Trump Organization lawyer said the decision by longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg to plead guilty changed how the defense will present its case.
"One of the accusations is the defense is trying to stall," Merchan said. "It's starting to feel that way a little bit. ... I am repeating. We are not delaying this trial. It's starting Oct. 24th and we're going forward."
Background: On June 30, 2021 Manhattan
prosecutors charged the Trump Organization with a 15-year "scheme to
defraud" the government and charged CFO Allen Weisselberg with grand
larceny and tax fraud, the Washington Post reported. Weisselberg,
who began working for former President Trump's father in 1973 as an accountant
and bookkeeper, pleaded not guilty during a brief arraignment hearing.
An attorney for the Trump
Organization pleaded not guilty on the company's behalf. 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."
Jane Mayer at The New
Yorker reported, "(Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus) Vance launched his criminal probe into the
President as a stopgap measure in August of 2018, after federal prosecutors
declined to pursue Trump for his alleged role in the payment of hush money to
the porn star Stormy Daniels. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Daniels
had threatened to reveal publicly that she and Trump had had an affair. Trump's
former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison
partly for crimes connected to the hush money payment. But court documents made
it clear that President Trump participated in the scheme with Cohen. The documents
referred to the President as 'Individual-1,' who ran 'an ultimately successful
campaign for President of the United States.'"
On Feb. 22, 2022, the New York Times reported the Trump Organization and
its longtime chief financial officer, Weisselberg, asked a judge to
dismiss the criminal charges against them, arguing in court filings that the
case was politically motivated and was only brought because the defendants were
linked to former President Trump.
The New York Daily News reported May 23 the district attorney office urged a judge to allow the case to move ahead. "This case, at its core, is ordinary," wrote Assistant District Attorney Solomon Shinerock. "It arises from the fact that Allen Weisselberg violated the basic imperative that all New Yorkers faithfully report and pay tax on their income."
The New York Times reported Aug. 18, "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."
The businesses under indictment include both the Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corporation and are scheduled to go on trial Oct. 24.
USA Today reported, "The deal with the Manhattan district attorney's office requires him to testify truthfully about the scheme if called as a government witness."
The judge told the former Trump Organization CFO that if he didn't testify truthfully the judge would be "at liberty" to impose a sentence of five to 15 years in jail. The judge asked, "Do you understand?" Weisselberg, who is 75 years old, replied, "I do."
Georgia county DA
investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overthrow election, plus Legal Analysis
The Latest: "Boris Epshteyn, one of former President Donald Trump's most prominent lawyers, testified on Thursday before a special grand jury in Atlanta that has been convened as part of a criminal investigation into election interference by Mr. Trump and his allies," the New York Times reported Sept. 29.
"Mr. Epshteyn played a central role in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power despite his loss in the 2020 election. He now serves as an in-house counsel for the former president, helping coordinate the Trump team's various legal defense efforts; a separate federal investigation into Mr. Trump's mishandling of classified documents is underway, along with the inquiry by the Congressional committee investigating the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021."
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.
Attorney John Eastman testified at the same hearing, during which he argued 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 will focus 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 told 200 potential jurors. The panel will have up to a year to issue a report advising District Attorney Willis on whether to pursue criminal charges.
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 has subpoenaed key members of former President Trump's legal team, including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and 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."
Sen. Graham filed a
federal lawsuit in South Carolina seeking to quash an order forcing him to
testify. Graham argues that he's "immune" under the U.S. Constitution's speech
or debate clause, a portion of which states that members of Congress
"shall not be questioned in any other place."
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.
Amy Nakamura at USA Today reported Aug. 15, "A federal judge in Georgia denied Sen. Lindsey Graham's bid to avoid testifying before an Atlanta-area grand jury, rejecting the Trump ally's claim that he was shielded from such scrutiny by legislative privilege.
"U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May ruled that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had 'shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham's testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia's 2020 elections.'" Graham is expected to appeal.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Aug. 17 that "a long-simmering clash between two branches of Georgia government exploded into public view when an attorney for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) moved to kill a subpoena seeking the Republican's testimony before the Fulton County special grand jury studying potential criminal interference in Georgia's 2020 elections.
acknowledged for the first time that a sworn video statement that the governor
was scheduled to record late last month was cancelled."
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."
The Associated Press reported Aug. 17 that Giuliani testified before the Fulton County special grand jury for about six hours.
"I can tell you that we were ordered to be here, we showed up, we did what we had to do," Bill Thomas, Giuliani's local attorney, said following the hearing. "The grand jury process is a secret process and we're going to respect that."
Fulton County Superior Court Judge McBurney on Aug. 29 rejected Gov. Brian Kemp's effort to block a subpoena for his testimony but gave him an election-year reprieve, agreeing to delay his testimony until after the Nov. 8 vote, when Kemp is up for reelection and facing a challenge from Stacey Abrams.
NBC News reports 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.
Sidney Powell did not appear before the grand jury for her scheduled Sept. 22 interview.
"The investigation of Donald Trump's attempts to pressure election officials in Georgia to help overturn the state's 2020 results has always been the most direct threat to the former president," Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote on Aug. 16, 2022. "The potential crimes involve a discrete set of facts, and state prosecutors have a tape of Trump pleading with officials to 'find' just enough votes for him to win."
With Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani now a "target" of D.A. Fani Willis' investigation, "Trump almost certainly is a target as well, or will be soon." Observed attorney Norm Eisen, "They are too intertwined factually and legally in the attempt to use fake electors and other means to attack the Georgia outcome."
Jose Pagliery of The Daily Beast reported July 8, "Georgia is a state where prosecutors seeking an indictment can present hearsay evidence to grand juries. That means the special grand jury currently underway in Atlanta can be shown how former Attorney General Bill Barr and others repeatedly told Trump that his election conspiracy theories were absolute nonsense - laying the groundwork to prove that he knowingly cited false accusations of election fraud when he intimidated Georgia's secretary of state on Jan. 2, 2021.
"According to a person familiar with the inner workings of the Fulton County District Attorney's Office, prosecutors from the start have closely examined whether Trump and his lieutenants could be charged with breaking a Georgia state law against 'criminal solicitation to commit election fraud.' Investigators could charge them if they find that any member of Trump's team 'solicits, requests, commands, importunes' or tries to get Georgia officials to 'engage' in election fraud on the several recorded phone calls they made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger or his agency's top investigator."
But prosecutors would have a hard time proving that Trump was engaging in a crime if he truly believed that there was actual fraud in Georgia, lawyers told The Daily Beast.
However, the Jan. 6 Select Committee's half-dozen hearings may have laid that defense to rest, playing video testimony from Trump advisers who recalled telling the commander-in-chief that the conspiracy theories were baseless.
"I told him that the stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public were-was-bullshit, that the claims of fraud were bullshit. And, you know, he was indignant about that," Barr told congressional investigators under oath in a videotaped deposition shared by the committee last month.
"I told him that it was crazy stuff, and they were wasting their time on that, and it was doing a grave disservice to the country," Trump's former AG added.
That testimony will be pivotal to the grand jury, said Adam Kaufmann, a white-collar defense lawyer who was previously a Manhattan prosecutor.
"Trump is going to
cloak himself in that he believed he was right. What's going to be really
important is what his advisers were saying to him at the time," Kaufmann said.
"The Fulton County D.A. is now able to put in front of that grand jury the
Attorney General of the United States saying, 'No, Mr. President, we
investigated and there was no fraud.'"
Niall Stanage, the associate editor at The Hill, commented July 9:
"The Georgia probe could in the end be the most dangerous legal arrow aimed at Trump.
"One reason is the recorded phone call with Raffensperger.
"In addition to the ominous request to 'find' votes, the then-president also implied, in vague terms, that Raffensperger was complicit in election fraud or was willfully ignoring it. This, Trump warned Raffensperger, was 'a criminal offense.'
"Raffensperger has said he viewed Trump's words as a threat."
House Select Committee investigates Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol, plus,
- Running Tally: Who's cooperating and who's not
- Legal Analysis: Is Donald Trump guilty of criminal obstruction?
- 64 Days That Will Live in Infamy - Nov. 4, 2020 thru Jan. 6, 2022
The Latest: Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the committee the 2020 was stolen from former President Trump. She provided no evidence to support her claim.
Her lawyer, Mark Paoletta, issued a statement saying she answered the committee's questions, voiced her concerns about election fraud and condemned the violence on Jan. 6.
"As she has said
from the outset, Mrs. Thomas has significant concerns about fraud and
irregularities in the 2020 election," Paoletta said. "Beyond
that, she played no role in any events after the 2020 election results."
(Blog editor's note: For details on Ginni Thomas' role in the coup attempt, see Nov 5, 9 and 10 below under "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy.")
Former President Trump responded Sept. 30:
"Congratulations to Ginni Thomas for having the courage of her convictions. Most importantly, she is right.
"The Election was Rigged and Stolen, and everyone knows it-especially the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our Country. Cheating on Elections is the only thing they do really well, and that's because Weak Republicans and RINOs allow them to get away with it. Fortunately, Ginni Thomas is not one of them and, by the way, her husband is Great!"
(Blog editor's note: Trump praised Thomas for her convictions. The
dictionary defines "conviction" as "a firmly held belief or opinion," which, of
course, has nothing to do with evidence or facts.)
In related news, CNN's Manu Raju reported Sept. 30 on Twitter that Select Committee Chair Bennie Thompson says the committee's final report will be released before the midterms.
Background: 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."
Politico reported Oct. 8 that
President Biden had decided not to invoke executive privilege to shield an initial set of
records from Trump's White House that are being sought by the Select
"After my consultations with the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege (by former President Trump) is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the Documents," wrote White House Counsel Dana Remus in a letter to Archivist of the United States David Ferriero.
Trump responded by suing the committee and the National Archives to block the release of his White House's records, Politico reported Oct. 18. (At issue is the Presidential Records Act, a law passed by Congress to ensure that a president's official records belong to the people, not the occupant of the office, after the Supreme Court in 1977 rejected Nixon's attempt to stop the release of White House tapes and documents from the Watergate scandal.)
On Nov. 10, D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump's efforts to block the Jan. 6 committee from obtaining records from the National Archives. "The court holds that the public interest lies in permitting-not enjoining-the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on Jan. 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again," the judge wrote.
Lawyers for former President Trump on Nov. 16 asked an appeals court to overturn Judge Chutkan's ruling, The Hill reported. In a brief filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump argued that the ruling from U.S. District Judge Chutkan is essentially a "rubber stamp" for the committee and would upend the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
On Dec. 9 the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. ruled against the effort by Trump to shield documents from the House committee, the Associated Press reported. The three-judge panel said there was a "unique legislative need" for documents that the committee has requested.
The court's ruling reads, in part, "Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President's constitutional responsibilities," it said. The court concluded that although Trump retained some limited authority to claim executive privilege, it wasn't strong enough to overcome Biden's decision that Congress has a legitimate need for the material.
Former President Trump then turned to the Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to keep documents away from the House committee, the Associated Press reported Dec. 23. Trump's attorneys argued "both the Constitution and the Presidential Records Act give former Presidents a clear right to protect their confidential records from premature dissemination. This case presents a clear threat to that right."
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."
The Select Committee kicked off the first in a series of public
hearings on June 9 with never-before-seen footage from the attack that day, CBS News reported.
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 that 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 William 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."
Barr added: "Before the election it was possible to talk sense to the president. And while you sometimes had to engage in a big wrestling match with him, it was possible to keep things on track. I felt that after the election... he wasn't listening to advice from me."
Ivanka Trump said she knew her father had lost the election and believed Attorney General William Barr's conclusion that there was no widespread voter fraud. "I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying," she said of Barr.
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 in his deposition to the January 6 Committee more than 100 times.
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."
"A Pence declaration of Donald Trump as president would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a Constitutional crisis."
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 Freeman Moss, a former 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 talked about how the harassment campaign against her upended her life in the weeks after the 2020 election.
"It's turned my life upside down. 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."
At the committee's hearing on June 23, 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 Meadows predicted days before Jan. 6 that things could go awry. Hutchinson said 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 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 his rally speech on Jan. 6 expecting that 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.
Hutchinson also testified that Meadows and Rudy Giuliani each sought pardons related to their actions on Jan. 6. 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 to systematically debunk conspiracy theories about the 2020 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."
Running Tally: Who's cooperating and who's not
Who's cooperating: 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, 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, 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 has interviewed over 1,000 witnesses.
Who's not cooperating: Former President Donald Trump, 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. Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro, Dan Scavino and former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark.
Legal Analysis: Is Donald Trump guilty of criminal obstruction?
"At the core of a possible criminal case against former President Trump is this argument - He knew he had lost the election and sought to overturn it anyway." - New York Times
Twice during the week of Dec. 13, 2021, Select Committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) raised the possibility that former President Trump's conduct while a mob of his supporters overtook the Capitol could qualify as an effort to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden's victory. Cheney described that as a "key" topic facing the panel, Politico's Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu reported.
"Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress' official proceeding to count electoral votes?" Vice Chair Cheney asked during a committee meeting and again during a floor speech before the House of Representatives. Rep. Cheney's statement includes precise terminology from the federal criminal obstruction statute, Cheney and Wu report.
And on March 2, 2022 the committee claimed in a court filing its evidence shows former President Trump and his associates engaged in a "criminal conspiracy" to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election, spread false information about it and pressured state officials to overturn the results, according to the Associated Press.
"The evidence supports an inference that President Trump and members of his campaign knew he had not won enough legitimate state electoral votes to be declared the winner of the 2020 Presidential election during the January 6 Joint Session of Congress, but the President nevertheless sought to use the Vice President to manipulate the results in his favor," the filing states.
Wrote Greg Sargent at the Washington
Post on Jan. 4, "Determining whether Trump's conduct constituted
such a violation is complicated. It might require determining whether Trump saw
the (Jan. 6) violence as instrumentally helpful in subverting the electoral count, and
deliberately refrained from calling off the attack to serve that express goal.
"Then there's the
question of whether disrupting the electoral count constitutes obstructing an
official proceeding, and whether Trump, in inciting the mob to descend on the
Capitol during that count, participated in that obstruction."
To convict someone of that
crime, wrote Politico's Cheney and Wu, a jury must determine
that a defendant took an obstructive action, affected an "official
proceeding" and acted with "corrupt" intentions.
NRO's contributing editor Andrew
C. McCarthy concluded, "Trump is impeachably responsible
for the riot because his performance leading up to it was a betrayal of his
public trust. He is morally responsible for the riot because
he created the conditions without which it would not have happened. But he is
not legally responsible for it - in the sense that Democrats
and other critics invoke when they call for his criminal prosecution - because
there is a dearth of evidence that he intended violence, much less called for
"Legally speaking that
is very different from seditious conspiracy, proof of which requires - beyond a
reasonable doubt - a preexisting agreement to levy war against
the United States or attack our government by force. There is no evidence that
Trump is guilty of that."
On Feb. 18, however, Federal District Judge Amita Mehta ruled that civil suits by police officers and members of Congress alleging a
conspiracy to foment the Jan. 6 insurrection could proceed. In a detailed 112-page ruling, Mehta concluded that the
plaintiffs had made a "plausible" case that former President Trump himself
was at the center of a conspiracy to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Mehta noted that it
was "the president's and his campaign's idea to send thousands to the Capitol
while the certification was underway. It was not a planned part of the rally."
The New York Times reported that in another case, Judge David O. Carter of Federal District Court for the Central District of California "concluded...that Mr. Trump and a lawyer who had advised him, John Eastman, had most likely committed felonies in their effort to overturn the election. 'The illegality of the plan was obvious.'
"Judge Carter cited two crimes that he said the two men were likely guilty of committing: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstructing a congressional proceeding."
Opinion columnist Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor, wrote at the New York Daily News on March 10:
"Every competent prosecutor knows why Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice have not indicted Trump. I'm going to say it out loud.
"If Trump were charged, it's unlikely he would negotiate a plea deal. Instead, he would go to trial and make every step of the process a platform to cast himself as a victim of a vindictive Biden administration. He would use the renewed attention to spew lies about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. And he would raise money, lots of money, to fund his anticipated 2024 presidential campaign.
"But most important, despite a mountain of evidence that would convict most people many times over, Trump would not be convicted. Criminal convictions require a unanimous verdict.
"On a 12-person jury, there are going to be Trump supporters."
On June 15, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, also commented at Politico Magazine on the challenges of prosecuting Donald Trump: "Prosecutors would have to overcome the likely defense that Trump sincerely believed the election had been stolen because he had been told so by people he believed were knowledgeable. Defendants usually don't go to prison for following legal advice. While Eastman, Giuliani and Powell were conspiracy theorists whose claims were thrown out of multiple courts, they also were lawyers with, at one time, good credentials. Trump's defense team would argue that he trusted them and relied on their advice. Poor judgment might disqualify someone for public office, but it is not, in and of itself, a crime."
Ty Cobb, who was one of then-President Trump's legal defenders during Mueller's Russia-gate investigation, says there is a "very high" possibility the former president could get indicted, Ryan King at the Washington Examiner reported Sept. 9.
Cobb believes the "Justice Department has signaled that they intend to prosecute" Trump "no matter what" because of the obstructive activity he took during the Jan. 6 riot. "He clearly violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution's Article III when he gave aid and comfort and three hours of inaction with regard to what was happening on the grounds of the Capitol. That clearly gave aid and comfort to the insurrectionists."
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: "We want all voting to stop."
- Former President Trump on Mike Pence: "He could have overturned the Election!"
Nov. 4, 2020
The day after the election, President Trump says, "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."
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." Trump Jr. texts Meadows "we have operational control" to ensure his father gets a second term, with Republican majorities in the U.S. Senate and swing state legislatures. "It's very simple. We have multiple paths. We control them all."
As President Trump begins to realize he is on the brink of losing reelection, his lawyers explain to him that being angry about the results was 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?"
The president's advisors tell him that there are specific legal steps to follow to get before the Supreme Court. Trump instructs them to figure that process out.
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, Lee texts Meadows that he found Powell to be a "straight shooter.")
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 adult bookstore owner complains to the media they are taking up all his customer parking.
Virginia Thomas 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. "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, 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."
Virginia 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." (A Jan. 6 committee staffer claimed on Sept. 26, ,2022, that between Nov. 3, 2020, and President Biden's inauguration, Meadows' cellphone became a key channel for dozens of elected officials as well private citizens to convey outlandish conspiracy theories and last-ditch ideas to overturn the election, including a text from a GOP Congressman that included a link to a movie about "cyber warfare.")
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.'"
Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney 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. "We're representing President Trump, and we're representing the Trump campaign," Giuliani said.
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 Smartmatic. The
campaign sits on its findings even as Trump supporters attack the companies in
the conservative media and file unsuccessful lawsuits.
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 then 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 called 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 tells Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump's personal attorney Rudy 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." Cipollone and White House attorneys explain that trying to certify a Trump win in that manner "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 Donald Trump - not Joe 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, deflected, telling Trump he didn't have such powers.
Meanwhile, a steadily changing cast of Trump campaign lawyers, eventually featuring Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, file 65 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 Joe Biden. The Texas lawsuit argues that Biden's victories in the four states should be thrown out over unsubstantiated 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 with the Supreme
Court to the Texas lawsuit, 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.)
The Electoral College - electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia - cast their ballots and forwarded their "Certificates of Ascertainment" to the vice president and the National Archives, officially declaring Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States.
President Trump announces Attorney General Barr's resignation.
Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, and Republican state parties organize meetings of Trump supporters in seven states Trump lost to Biden 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.
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 could have been a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February of 2021.
Former U.S. Army general Michael Fynn, who lasted less than a month as President Trump's first national security advisor, and attorney 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 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 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 has 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, the president's personal lawyer, 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 and 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." Clark is the acting head of the DOJ's civil division. (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."
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 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."
Jan. 2, 2021
President Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Chapman University law professor John 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 told 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, ironically, founded the 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 been reviewed by the White House.)
Jan. 2 or 3
A senior Secret Service official, Anthony Ornato, tells White House chief of staff Mark Meadows there are intelligence reports saying there could potentially be violence on Jan. 6. Meadows responds, "All right. Let's talk about it."
President Trump tries to call fellow Republican Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in Arizona. But Hickman dodges the call. Hickman 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 joint session of Congress set for Jan. 6. "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 Chapman University law professor 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 Rudy 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
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."
In a meeting between Eastman and Vice President Pence's chief legal counsel Jacob, Eastman says "I'm here asking you to
reject the electors."
President Trump tweets, "The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors."
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."
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 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.
But 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."
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 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
Just after 1 p.m., Trump leaves the rally expecting he would 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."
Trump is so angry, he lunges for the steering wheel of the car and then for the throat of a 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, 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
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 Pat Cipollone demands to see Trump but Meadows said Trump "doesn't want to do anything." 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.
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.
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
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 hit rewind and watched certain moments again. Trump places no calls to any agency of the U.S. government instructing them to take action to halt the riot.
Eastman emails Vice President Pence's lawyer, 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."
At 2:44 p.m. pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt is fatally shot by a police officer while trying to break into the Speaker's Lobby, which is adjacent to the House floor.
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?"
At 2:53 p.m. Donald Trump Jr. texts Meadows, "He's got to condem 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."
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 Trump 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.
Aftermath: Nineteen months after leaving the White House - on Aug. 29, 2022 - former President Trump demands that somebody, or some organization, or some government agency, he isn't clear who, "declare the rightful winner or, and this would be the minimal solution, declare the 2020 Election irreparably compromised and have a new Election immediately!"
And just to make sure he got the point across, at 1:46 a.m. the next day, Trump states, "Declare the rightful winner, or hold a new Election, NOW! Our Country, which is failing badly, knows the 'score,' and will never accept Criminal Election Interference."
Justice Department investigating Jan. 6 riot; is Trump now a target?
The Latest: Former President Trump's attorneys are fighting a secret court battle to block a federal grand jury from gathering information from an expanding circle of close Trump aides about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, people briefed on the matter told CNN.
The high-stakes legal dispute -- which included the appearance of three attorneys representing Trump at the Washington, DC, federal courthouse on Sept. 22 -- is the most aggressive step taken by the former President to assert executive and attorney-client privileges in order to prevent some witnesses from sharing information in the criminal investigation events surrounding Jan. 6, 2021.
The court fight over privilege, which has not been previously reported and is under seal, is a turning point for Trump's post-presidency legal woes.
How the fight is resolved could determine whether prosecutors can tear down the firewall Trump has tried to keep around his conversations in the West Wing and with attorneys he spoke to as he sought to overturn the 2020 election and they worked to help him hold onto the presidency.
This dispute came to light as former Trump White House adviser and lawyer Eric Herschmann received a grand jury subpoena seeking testimony, the people briefed said.
Other former senior Trump White House officials, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin, appeared before the grand jury in recent weeks, after negotiating specific subjects they would decline to answer question about, because of Trump's privilege claims.
Herschmann himself is not in court fighting the subpoena. Instead, Trump's lawyers are asking a judge to recognize the former President's privilege claims and the right to confidentiality around his dealings. Herschmann's grand jury testimony has been postponed.
Background: The DOJ inspector general's office
announced on Jan. 25, 2021 that it was launching an investigation into
"whether any former or current DOJ official engaged in an improper attempt
to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential
And then in 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 March 30.
In February and March a special federal grand jury in Washington issued subpoena requests to some "VIP" officials in former President Trump's orbit who assisted in planning, funding and executing the Jan. 6 rally.
According to AXIOS, the development shows the degree to which the Justice Department investigation - which already involves more defendants than any other criminal prosecution in the nation's history - has moved beyond the storming of the Capitol to examine events preceding the attack.
In March, 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.
Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, appeared the of week July 17 before the federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. Greg Jacob, who was Vice President Pence's counsel and who, along with Short, fought Trump's effort to force the vice president to overturn the election, also appeared before the grand jury.
The two former top lawyers for the Trump White House appeared at federal court to testify before the grand jury, Reuters reported Sept. 2. Pat Cipollone remained in the grand jury room for more than two hours before exiting the courthouse without answering questions. Shortly after his departure, Reuters witnesses spotted former White House Deputy Counsel Pat Philbin arrive at the federal courthouse in Washington.
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.
The New York Times reported Sept. 12, "The Justice Department has issued about 40 subpoenas over the past week seeking information about the actions of former President Donald Trump and his associates related to the 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, according to people familiar with the situation."
Justice Department, states investigating GOP plot to
submit fake Electoral College voters
The Latest: A former technical adviser to the January 6 committee said texts former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows turned over provide "irrefutable" proof of a plot to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman, made the comment during an interview with CBS News "60 Minutes" on Sept. 25. He said Meadows' texts showed a "roadmap" for how allies of former President Donald Trump were trying to overturn the election.
"It showed actually the evolution of the beginning arguments from alternate electors all the way through rally planning," he said.
Host Bill Whitaker asked Riggleman to confirm his belief that Meadows' texts "provide irrefutable, time-stamped proof of a comprehensive plot at all levels of government to overturn the election."
Riggleman responded affirmatively: "Irrefutable. Early in the text messages they were talking about alternate electors, you know, I think as soon as November 5th or November 6th."
Whitaker went on to note the many text messages Meadows had received in the days after the election, including one from Donald Trump Jr. in which he explained an alternate electors plan that would allow his father to win pending Congress's actions on January 6.
For more on the "fake
elector" scheme, see "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy" 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.
The State of 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 federal prosecutors are reviewing the fake Electoral College certificates, according to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. (And the House Select Committee has 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, and 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."
And then on March 30, the New York Times reported federal prosecutors substantially widened their Jan. 6 investigation to examine the possible culpability of a broad range of figures involved in former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
"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."
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Georgia have interviewed several individuals who served as fake GOP electors from the state, CNN reported May 10. (For more on this investigation, see "Georgia county DA investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overthrow election" above.)
And two members of the electoral college and a voter from Wisconsin filed a lawsuit May 17 against 10 Republicans (and two attorneys) who claimed they were the duly elected presidential electors from the state in 2020, even though Joe Biden won the popular vote there, NBC News reported. According to The Guardian, the lawsuit, the first of its kind, asks the court to order the defendants to pay up to $2.4 million collectively in damages and bar them from ever serving as legitimate electors in a future presidential election.
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 Nov. 5 through Dec. 14 and Jan. 2 under "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.
The Washington Post reported on Sept. 24, "The Justice Department is questioning witnesses about conversations with Trump, his lawyers and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won. Prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021 and his pressure on Pence to overturn the election."
Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing federal investigation
The Latest: The Justice Department moved to quickly dismantle the independent review of documents seized from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, contending that the review - ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon - is impeding its criminal investigation, Politico reported Sept. 30.
In a 15-page filing asking a federal appeals court to speed its consideration of the issue, prosecutors complained the "special master" review prevents DOJ from accessing thousands of non-classified records recovered from the former president's estate.
CNN reported the DOJ request filed to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals proposes a briefing schedule that would wrap up written briefs by November 11, while asking the appeals court to schedule a hearing at its earliest convenience. Under the current schedule for the appeal, the last written brief is due about a month later, and oral arguments have not been scheduled yet.
"Expediting the appeal would serve the interests of justice because the portions of the district court's injunction that have not been stayed restrict the government's ability to vindicate the strong public interest in proceeding expeditiously with the criminal and national security investigation that underlies these proceedings," the DOJ wrote in the filing.
The department wrote to the court that an expedited briefing and argument schedule could allow its investigators, if successful in the appeal, to resume its full probe.
The government, the DOJ wrote in the filing "is thus unable to examine records that were commingled with materials bearing classification markings including records that may shed light on, for example, how the materials bearing classification markings were transferred to Plaintiff's residence, how they were stored, and who may have accessed them."
For his part, Trump is opposing the request to speed things up.
Timeline of former President Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing federal investigation:
The New York Times reported that near the end of his term the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) attempted to retrieve a trove of White House documents before Trump left office. President Trump, referring to the documents, told White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin that "it's not theirs, it's mine."
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, 2021, the National Archives and Records Administration contacts Trump's team to say 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," Gary Stern, the agency's chief counsel writes to Trump lawyers. "But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all presidential records."
"It is also our
understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records
were kept in the Residence of the White House over the course of President
Trump's last year in office and have not been transferred to NARA, despite a
determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the administration that
they need to be," Stern wrote in an email, according to the Washington Post.
NARA then goes back-and-forth "throughout 2021" with Trump representatives seeking the return of the records.
238 Days After Leaving Office: National Archives lawyer Gary 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."
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman interviewed former President Trump who 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."
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.
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 government materials he had taken with him when he left office.
340 Days After Leaving Office: Federal officials in January, 2022 recover 15 boxes of materials from the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Archives officials suspect Trump had 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.")
385 Days After Leaving Office: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asks the Justice Department
to examine former President Trump's handling of White House records, the Washington Post reported Feb. 9, 2022.
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 remain at Mar-a-Lago.
477 Days After Leaving Office: The New York Times reports May 12 federal prosecutors have begun a grand jury investigation into whether classified Trump White House documents were mishandled.
According to media reports, Trump is issued a grand jury subpoena seeking the return of sensitive government documents. Trump indicates he directed his staff to conduct a thorough search of Mar-a-Lago for documents marked classified. (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 and pick up the items listed in the subpoena.)
499 Days After Leaving Office: According to the Washington Post, when the 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, an attorney for Steve Bannon - at Mar-a-Lago on June 3, "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 told 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.
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."
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 handed a new subpoena to the Trump Organization, which owns Mar-a-Lago. The subpoena sought 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 had 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 that 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.
Washington Post: "In the months before the FBI's dramatic move to execute a search warrant at former president Donald Trump's Florida home - and open his safe to look for items - federal authorities grew increasingly concerned that Trump or his lawyers and aides had not, in fact, returned all the documents and other material that were government property."
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 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
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 100 records with "Classified" markings. FBI agents also found 46 empty folders marked "Classified" and 25 "Classified" documents, most of which were found in Trump's office.
596 Days After Leaving Office: The Justice Department notified a federal judge on Sept. 8 that it is exploring the possibility that Trump continues to retain highly sensitive intelligence and that he may have relocated and/or misplaced some classified documents belonging to the U.S. government.
And the National Archives informed congressional aides that it is still unsure whether the former president has surrendered all of the presidential records he removed from the White House as required, the New York Times reported Sept. 13.
607 Days After Leaving Office: Donald Trump's legal team acknowledged the possibility that the former president could be indicted amid the investigation into his retention of government secrets at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida," 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, "A federal appeals court on (Sept. 21) restored the Justice Department's access to documents with classified markings that had been seized last month from former President Donald Trump's Florida residence, handing a victory to federal investigators in their efforts to examine Mr. Trump's hoarding of sensitive government records.
"The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit blocked part of an order by (Trump appointed) federal judge (Aileen Cannon) that had temporarily barred the department from using the classified materials in its inquiry into whether Mr. Trump illegally retained national defense documents and obstructed the government's repeated efforts to recover them."
Truth Social gets off to rocky start; feds launch investigations
The Latest: Is the end near for Truth Social?
Benzinga reported Sept. 26 that Digital World Acquisition Corp., the company that was scheduled to take Trump Media & Technology Group- the parent company of Truth Social - public last year, has moved its address to a UPS Store in a Miami strip mall between a restaurant and nail salon.
"The move to the UPS
store could be a move to save cash as the company has struggled to pay bills in
recent months. The SPAC previously paid $15,000 a month for office space and
administrative support to a business affiliated with Patrick Orlando, the CEO
of Digital World Acquisition." UPS stores charge around $50 per month for P.O.
Benzinga reported Digital World announced in a filing with the SEC Sept. 23 that it has received termination notices from private investment in public equity, or PIPE, investors representing about $138.5 million in financing.
While announcing the proposed business combination with Trump Media & Technology Group in December 2021, Digital World said it has entered into securities purchase agreements with certain PIPE investors for subscribing to 1 million preferred shares in the SPAC at a purchase price of $1,000 per share. This would have fetched the company gross proceeds of up to $1 billion through the private placement.
The agreement with the PIPE investors provided for them to terminate their financing commitment if the closing of the PIPE has not occurred on or before Sept. 20.
Earlier this week, the FT reported that PIPE investors are seeking better terms or, in other words, reducing the conversion rate of the preferred shares so that it becomes viable for them.
With the SPAC deal pushed out due to a pending regulatory review, Digital World unilaterally extended the closing timeline by three months after failing to get concurrence from shareholders for an extension. The SPAC's shareholders will meet in October 2022 to decide on the fate of the deal.
If the deal is not consummated, TMTG will be deprived of the $1.3 billion cash infusion it is supposed to get from Digital World.
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 partner company to Trump's new media venture, the SEC has requested documents about meetings of the partner company'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 organization.
Digital World, which plans to merge with Trump Media & Technology Group, 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 merger with the Trump Media & Technology Group.
The investigation comes after Trump's digital media company and its SPAC partner - Digital World Acquisition - announced that 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's 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 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.)
Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter following comments he made praising and appearing to encourage the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. Facebook also suspended his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely but revised that punishment to only two years after its Oversight Board said an indeterminant suspension was a violation of Facebook's policies, the Washington Post reported. Before the ban, Trump was an avid Twitter user, tweeting an average of more than 30 posts per day toward the end of his presidency. At the time of the ban, Trump had nearly 90 million followers on Twitter.
Trump then separately sued Twitter, Google and Facebook on July 7, 2021 arguing that the platforms were silencing conservative viewpoints and that he is the victim of censorship. (See "Trump sues Facebook, Twitter and Google" above for details.)
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. Prior to its launch, Nunes told Fox Business the cite would be fully functional by March 31.
Trump finally joined his own Truth Social on April 28, posting on the social media platform for the first time.
Federal securities regulators expanded their investigation into the planned merger between the blank check acquisition company Digital World Acquisition Corp. and Truth Social, 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."
DWAC previously disclosed that it was under investigation, but now says regulators are seeking "additional documents and information."
Regulators have also requested information about unusual trading activity in securities of Digital World before the merger announcement, the New York Times reported. There was a big surge in trading of Digital World warrants - a security that gives the holder the right to buy shares at a later date at a specific price - before the merger announcement.
And then Trump's media company was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with a criminal probe, CNBC reported. Digital World Acquisition Corp. said Trump Media and Technology Group received a subpoena from a grand jury in Manhattan on June 30. (The Trump company also received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a civil probe on June 27, DWAC said.)
Business Insider reported, "The subpoenas signal federal prosecutors could be exploring the possibility of a criminal investigation into the acquisition."
Former President Trump was removed from the board of the Trump Media and Technology Group on June 8, just weeks before the company was hit with the subpoenas, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on July 7.
Truth Social called the report "fake news," Forbes reported. "It is unclear what role, if any, Trump still has with the company, but records reportedly suggest he is no longer chairman."
The New York Times reported July 18 that employees at a Miami investment firm had learned of a pending merger deal between former President Trump's social media company and the blank-check entity long before it was publicly announced.
Officials of the firm, Rocket One Capital, talked about ways to profit off the soon-to-be-announced transaction with Trump Media & Technology Group by investing in the special purpose acquisition company, Digital World Acquisition Corp.
And on Aug. 9, Matt Egan at CNN reported that Digital World Acquisition Corp. needs to extend a looming deadline to complete its deal with Trump's media company.
The shell company disclosed Aug. 6 it is seeking shareholder approval to delay the Sept. 8 deadline by a year to allow time to consummate its planned acquisition.
And then Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC) warned on Aug. 22 that potential damage to former President Trump's popularity could hurt his firm, CNBC reported. The warning came in a securities filing that set a Sept. 6 shareholder meeting to determine whether to delay the deadline for completing a merger with Trump's firm. DWAC also said it could liquidate if the merger isn't consummated.
And the news for Truth Social continued to get worse and worse...
Axios reported, "Google hasn't yet approved Truth Social's Android app for distribution via its Play Store because of insufficient content moderation, according to a Google spokesperson.
"On Aug. 19, we notified Truth Social of several violations of standard policies in their current app submission and reiterated that having effective systems for moderating user-generated content is a condition of our terms of service for any app to go live on Google Play." A source says that Google's concerns relate to content such as physical threats and incitements to violence.
And Truth Social, which has lost at least $6.5 million in its first year, is now locked in a bitter battle with one of its vendors claiming that the platform is stiffing the company out of more than $1 million in contractually obligated payments, FOX Business reported Aug. 25.
RightForge claims that Truth Social owes it around $1.6 million and is threatening legal action to recoup the money.
AXIOS reported Sept. 8 that Digital World Acquisition Corp. said it would adjourn its shareholder meeting until Oct. 10 after failing to secure at least 65% shareholder approval for a one-year extension to complete its merger with the parent company of Truth Social.
The loss throws the main backer of Trump's post-presidency business ventures once again into doubt. Digital World has long been touted as Truth Social's central funding source, and there's no clear financial substitute if that money goes away.
Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman all under investigation
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 legal power to decide who won the 2020 election - are all under investigation from California to the
New York island.
The Latest: The team of so-called "Kraken" lawyers behind efforts overturn the 2020 presidential election outcome and keep President Trump in office has accused a federal judge in Michigan of targeting them for sanctions because of their political views, Law & Crime reported Sept. 12.
Sidney Powell and five other attorneys filed a reply in their appeal of U.S. District Judge Linda Parker's sanctions ruling before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Officials in Michigan and Detroit are seeking to recoup at least some of what they spent on fending off the lawyers' still-unproven election fraud claims, which Parker found to be "a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process."
"It is one thing to take on the charge of vindicating rights associated with an allegedly fraudulent election," Parker wrote in her August 2021 ruling. "It is another to take on the charge of deceiving a federal court and the American people into believing that rights were infringed, without regard to whether any laws or rights were in fact violated. This is what happened here."
In a reply brief in support of their appeal, the attorneys essentially accuse Parker, a Barack Obama appointee, of playing politics, and they urge the Sixth Circuit to vacate her ruling.
The Sixth Circuit has previously rejected a request from Powell to stay enforcement of the sanctions order.
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."
In December 2021, the Washington Post reported that in the months after the November election, Powell's new nonprofit, Defending the Republic, raised more than $14 million from donors inspired by her fight for Trump. The Post also reported federal prosecutors have subpoenaed financial and other documents related to Defending the Republic and a political action committee by the same name, also headed by Powell.
The State Bar of Texas filed a disciplinary action against Powell, accusing her of professional misconduct for filing several federal lawsuits contesting the election of President Joe Biden, Courthouse News reported. The bar association's Commission for Lawyer Discipline filed the lawsuit in Dallas County District Court on March 1, 2022. The commission says it sued Powell, of Dallas, after receiving 10 separate complaints against her.
"Beginning in or about November of 2020[,] respondent filed multiple federal lawsuits in different jurisdictions (including the District Court of Arizona, the Northern District of Georgia, the Eastern District of Michigan, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin) alleging, inter alia, election fraud has occurred in the national presidential election in 2020," the six-page complaint states. "Respondent had no reasonable basis to believe the lawsuits she filed were not frivolous."
At a Nov. 19, 2020 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.
The Texas state bar lawsuit claims Powell violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and five subsections of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The bar association lawsuit comes two weeks after 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, 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 both Dominion and Smartmatic voting systems for her allegedly slanderous comments about their role in flipping the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden. She is also a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Eric Coomer, a former employee of Dominion.
On June 22, citing reports that Powell's non-profit, Defending the Republic, is footing legal fees for several right-wing extremists charged in the Capitol riot, the Department of Justice asked a federal judge to launch an ethics probe of Powell. Mother Jones explained, "Prosecutors say in their motion that they want to ensure that lawyers receiving payments from the group are not violating local conflict of interest rules, which require that defendants are informed of any payments to their attorneys by outside parties. The rules also say lawyers must make sure such payments do not cause 'interference with the lawyer's independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship.'"
Also on June 22, Collin County District Judge Andrea Bouressa, a Republican, denied Powell's motion to dismiss the disciplinary action by the State Bar of Texas against Powell, who told the judge she is the victim of a "political hitjob" by Democrats, Courthouse News reported.
Powell has also become involved in the Fulton County, Georgia investigation of efforts to overturn the election in that state. She has been directed by the district attorney to testify before a special grand jury on Sept. 22.
Eastman update: 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 is 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.
"Based on the evidence, the Court finds that it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress."
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." (For more on Eastman's questionable legal activities, see Jan. 2 through 6 above under "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy.")
And NBC News reports that Eastman pleaded his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and invoked attorney-client privilege Aug. 31 when he appeared before the Fulton County, Georgia grand jury investigating attempts to influence the state's 2020 election.
The Latest: Rudy Giuliani blew off a Manhattan court hearing Sept. 23 where a judge said the former New York City mayor would be tossed behind bars if he doesn't fork over $225,000 plus lawyer fees to his ex-wife by early next month, the New York Post reported.
The ultimatum came at a hearing in the divorce case between Giuliani, 78, and former wife Judith Giuliani - who claimed in a lawsuit he's fallen behind on payments totalling $262,000 owed under terms of their 2019 divorce settlement.
"If the amount is not paid by that date, I'm going to be forced - unfortunately because it's not something I want to do - I'm going to be forced to remand the defendant into custody," Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Katz said at the hearing where Giuliani was a no-show.
Background: At the infamous Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, 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, pending the disciplinary proceeding in New York. 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 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 lawsuit filed by a former employee of Dominion, Eric Coomer, and 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.
He has also been named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by two election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea '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. OAN admitted, as part of the settlement, they were wrong in pushing Giuliani's voter fraud claims.)
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 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."
And former Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman this year filed a lawsuit against Giuliani and others, including Donald Trump Jr., alleging they engaged in a conspiracy of intimidation and retaliation against him over his testimony in then-President Trump's 2019 impeachment.
The Associated Press reported June 10 the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the disciplinary branch of the District of Columbia Bar, filed charges against the former New York mayor alleging that he promoted unsubstantiated voter fraud claims in Pennsylvania. At issue are claims Giuliani made in supporting a Trump campaign lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania. That suit, which sought to invalidate as many as 1.5 million mail-in ballots, was dismissed by courts.
And from Page Six at the New York Post on Aug. 2:
Hold on to your hair dye.
Rudy Giuliani, already suffering under a mountain of legal issues, can add another to the heap.
He's being sued by his ex-wife who wants him to cough up more than a quarter of a million dollars, or go to prison.
In new court papers filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Judith Giuliani claims that the former mayor and one-time personal attorney to Donald Trump is in contempt of court for allegedly withholding $262,000 he should have paid her under the terms of their divorce settlement for things like their Palm Beach, Fla., house, housekeeper and private club fees.
And Judith's lawyers say that he's in contempt of court for allegedly skipping out on the payment, and they say he should be behind bars if the doesn't get his act together.
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."
Meadows update: Meadows, who helped spread former President Trump's
debunked voter fraud claims, may have committed voter fraud himself in the 2020
election, according to reporting in early March, 2022 by The New Yorker.
Meadows and his wife, Debbie, registered to vote in what has been called a "dive trailer" in a remote rural area of North Carolina. But Meadows does not appear to have spent a single night there, according to the report. Local news outlet WRAL later reported Meadows and his wife had voted via absentee ballots in North Carolina in 2020, sparking a state investigation. State Attorney General Josh Stein's office asked the State Bureau of Investigation to "investigate alongside the State Board of Elections," spokesperson Nazneen Ahmed told WRAL on March 17. (Meadows is also registered to vote in Virginia, where the couple owns a condo, according to the New York Times.)
The former owner of the mobile home told WRAL that he rented the property to Meadows' family, but said the former Trump aide "never spent a night down there" and that Debbie Meadows only stayed for a night or two. Under state law, a person cannot list a temporary residence as their residential address unless they intend to make the property a "permanent place of abode." In election law, the term "residence" refers to a person's "domicile," or the place where they actually live most or all the time. According to North Carolina election law, intentionally providing false information on voter registration is a felony.
On April 13, the Asheville Citizen News reported Meadows had been removed from North Carolina's voter rolls, a move made as the State Bureau of Investigation continues a probe allegations the former White House chief of staff committed election fraud.
Macon County Board of Elections Director Melanie Thibault confirmed she had removed Meadows the prior day from the county's active voter list. Thibault said she consulted N.C. Board of Elections staff in Raleigh after finding records that Meadows was registered both in Virginia and North Carolina. Meadows voted in North Carolina in 2020 and in 2021 he voted in Virginia, despite still being registered in North Carolina. On April 20, the Charleston Post & Courier reported that Meadows now claims he lives in South Carolina.
And then on April 22, the Washington Post reported that until the previous week, Mark Meadows was simultaneously registered to vote in three different states - North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina - according to state records.
Meadows is also 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.
Trump's Bedminster golf club facing criminal complaint
Former President Trump's New Jersey golf resort is facing a criminal complaint after the presidential seal was spotted on the course hosting a Saudi-backed LIV tournament, Mediaite reported July 29.
"Citizens for Reform and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a Justice Department complaint against Trump National Golf Club Bedminster - site of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series that has drawn protest from 9/11 families and defiant support from Trump - citing evidence they say shows the club is violating federal law by using the presidential seal on golf tee markers that were spotted in an Instagram post."
According to AXIOS, the presidential seal was spotted on towels, golf carts and other items at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.
Under 18 U.S.C. § 713(a), it is a crime to "knowingly display any printed or other likeness of the . . . seal of the President . . . of the United States . . . in, or in connection with . . . any building, monument, or stationery . . . for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States." Violators face up to six months' imprisonment and a monetary fine.
The former president has been caught using the presidential logo on his business properties in the past. At one point, the logo was found on his course in West Palm Beach, Florida, Forbes reported. The Trump Organization also ordered golf course tee markers with the emblem, ProPublica reported in 2018.
Disposition of six Trump cases
Manhattan DA's investigation of Trump's real estate empire comes to an end (maybe)
The Latest: CNN reported the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into the Trump Organization's finances is ongoing, District Attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters Sept. 8.
Bragg made the announcement at a news conference on the indictment of Steve Bannon, President Trump's former aide and campaign chair.
"The investigation is ongoing," he said.
Bragg was asked about the next steps in that investigation.
"You should not know what's going to happen next in an ongoing investigation, so we are doing our work as we should and when we have something to report by way of a court filing or as we said in our statement some other way of concluding the investigation we will inform you at the time," he said.
Background: On Nov. 4, 2021 the Manhattan district attorney
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
According to the Post, Trump's company sometimes valued its properties up to 30 times more 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.
But 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. It reportedly came after newly elected District Attorney Alvin Bragg suggested to the attorneys that he had doubts about moving forward.
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.
Wrote Pomerantz: "His (Trump's) 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. The team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes - he did."
CNN reported April 27 the special grand jury was set to expire at the end of the week and would not be extended.
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."
Pomerantz, in an interview with Professor John C. Coffee Jr. of the Columbia Law School in July, commented, "I was certainly myself personally satisfied that Trump had committed crimes under the New York penal law that warranted prosecution and that the evidence was sufficient to convict. And I should say, as I think I ultimately said- turning the clock ahead when I resigned from the investigation-that was not just my peculiar view. The view of the investigative team was that Trump had committed crimes, and I don't think there were dissents from that view. The problem was fitting his conduct within the pigeonholes of the New York penal law. It was very easy to do that under federal law, but, of course, we weren't sitting as federal prosecutors. But even under the New York penal law, I thought that, A., he was factually guilty and also that [B.] the evidence was sufficient to convict, and indeed that if tried before an impartial jury, it was likely that there would be a conviction.
"The rule of law is supposed to extend to the rich and poor alike. . . . It's a government of laws and not men, and that means the rule of law is for everybody. And I was utterly convinced that if the defendant had not been Donald Trump or the putative defendant, if it had been Joe Blow from Kokomo, we would have indicted without a big debate."
DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle case over alleged misuse of Inaugural funds
The Trump family business and President Donald 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 that the Trump International Hotel in Washington illegally received excessive payments from the 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.
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."
Background: In January, 2020, Washington D.C. Attorney General 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.
Racine's office alleged the Trump Organization and Presidential Inaugural Committee abused more than $1 million in inauguration funds and sought to recoup the money so the funds could be directed to real charitable purposes.
On April 27, 2021 Mother Jones reported that during preparations for the 2016 inauguration, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a professional party-planner and at the time a close friend of future First Lady Melania Trump, raised concerns with the president-elect, Ivanka Trump, and Rick Gates, the campaign committee's deputy chair, about prices the Trump hotel was charging the inauguration committee for events. This included a written warning to Ivanka Trump and Gates that Trump's hotel was trying to charge the committee twice the market rate for event space. Gates ignored the warning, the D.C. District Attorney's lawsuit noted, and the committee struck a contract with the hotel for $1.03 million, an amount the lawsuit says was far above the hotel's own pricing guidelines. Winston Wolkoff told The Daily Beast, "Everything they did was all about self-dealing. They had a nonprofit pay them for their own hotel at an inflated cost."
On Jan. 11, 2021, the Washington Post reported
that the tax-exempt inaugural committee was alleged in a new filing by the D.C.
attorney general to have improperly paid a bill it did not owe and that should
have been paid by the Trump Organization. The $49,358 bill was for reserved but
never-used rooms at the Loews Madison Hotel for friends of the Trump family.
The hotel asked, in vain, for the Trump Organization to pay the bill. The Trump
Organization eventually arranged for the inaugural committee to pay.
"This 'inquiry' is another politically motivated demonstration of vindictiveness & waste of taxpayer dollars," Ivanka Trump said in a December, 2020 tweet. Responded D.C. Attorney General Racine, "Our investigation revealed the Committee willfully used nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family. It's very simple: They broke the law. That's why we sued."
Summer Zervos drops suit against Trump for alleged assault
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who accused Donald Trump of sexual assault, ended her nearly five-year-old defamation lawsuit against the former U.S. president on Nov. 12, 2021, without receiving an apology or compensation, Reuters reported.
Zervos' attorneys, Beth Wilkinson and Moira Penza, said in statements that "after five years, Ms. Zervos no longer wishes to litigate against the defendant and has secured the right to speak freely about her experience."
"Zervos stands by the allegations in her complaint and has accepted no compensation," they said.
Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, called Zervos' decision to drop the case "prudent."
Zervos had claimed Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007. She says he then defamed her by saying her claims were lies. The Zervos lawsuit was filed in 2017 in New York. Zervos was seeking $2,914 in damages and an apology from the former president, who has called her claim "false smears," a "hoax" and has denied wrongdoing. The former president tweeted that Zervos' accusations were "made up events THAT NEVER HAPPENED."
On March 20, 2018 a New York judge rejected a bid by President Trump to dismiss the lawsuit. "No one is above the law," the judge wrote.
On March 14, 2019 a New York appellate court ruled that Zervos could proceed with her defamation lawsuit, rejecting the then-president's assertion he cannot be sued in state court. "Defendant's interpretation conflicts with the fundamental principle that the United States has a 'government of laws and not of men,'" Justice Dianne Renwick wrote. Renwick explained that Trump's legal team argument that the Constitution's Supremacy Clause - which gives federal laws precedence over state laws - should prevent the Zervos suit from proceeding had no support in the Constitution or prior case law.
On Nov. 19, the New York state Supreme Court rejected another effort by Trump's lawyers to prevent the president from being deposed in the lawsuit.
According to the Associated Press, on March 30, 2021 New York's Court of Appeals tossed out - in a one-sentence ruling - Trump's appeal to dismiss. Evidence-gathering had been on hold since Trump asked the court the year before to declare the presidency protected him from being sued in state courts.
Trump's lawyers filed a counterclaim against Zervos on Oct. 18 claiming she cannot sue him for defamation because she is lying about being sexually assaulted by the former president.
Zervos then dropped her suit.
Trump avoids Wisconsin $$ bill for failed
election fraud lawsuit
Donald Trump beat back efforts by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and other officials who wanted the ex-president to pay legal fees racked up by the state defending against his failed lawsuits to overturn the 2020 election result, Bloomberg reported Dec. 6, 2021.
The court lacks jurisdiction over the dispute because the state, along with Milwaukee County officials and the mayors of Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay, waited too long to seek legal fees and sanctions against Trump's lawyers, U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig in Milwaukee ruled.
Ludwig, a Trump appointee, said the flaws in Trump's frequently shifting election fraud lawsuit were "not insignificant failings" and that perhaps Trump's election fraud case "ought never to have been filed."
"Ready, fire, aim is not the preferred approach when litigating constitutional claims in federal court," Ludwig said. "Nevertheless, in the overall context of this case, the court is unable to conclude that counsel's conduct multiplied these proceedings in an objectively unreasonable and vexatious manner sufficient to warrant a fee award."
Wisconsin Gov. Evers on March 31, 2021 asked a federal judge to order Trump to reimburse the state for attorneys' fees and court costs associated with Trump's failed attempts to overturn the election results through "frivolous" legal action, Law & Crime reported. The motion was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Gov. Evers argued Trump's claims were "bereft of legal or factual basis" but the state still had no choice but to spend taxpayer dollars to defend against the "scattershot litigation tactics" employed by Trump's legal team.
The state was seeking to recoup $145,174.90 and argued in its filing, "This Court has both statutory and inherent authority to make the State whole for attorneys' fees...Trump and his attorneys should be jointly and severally liable, to dissuade future candidates and attorneys from engaging in such reckless abuses of the judicial system."
According to Law & Crime and the Wall Street Journal, Trump's attorneys had initially filed the election fraud suit Dec. 2, 2020 alleging state election officials intentionally undermined safeguards for absentee ballots and permitted ballot tampering. They were seeking an injunction to prevent the state from certifying its election results and "remanding" the case to the Wisconsin legislature. Ten days later, Judge Ludwig dismissed the "extraordinary case," writing that Trump "asks that the Rule of Law be followed. It has been."
The ruling on Trump's election fraud lawsuit was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, where an all-Republican three-judge panel unanimously affirmed Ludwig's ruling. "We agree that Wisconsin lawfully appointed its electors in the manner directed by its Legislature."
Milwaukee County officials asked a federal court April 8, 2022 to force Trump and his counsel to pay them $65,520 in attorneys fees after he brought a lawsuit against the state challenging their election results. In addition, city officials in Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay filed separate requests for attorneys fees on similar grounds, asking for a total of $42,570. Both these efforts failed.
Trump campaign ordered to pay Omarosa $1.3
A court arbitrator has ordered former President Trump's presidential campaign to pay nearly $1.3 million in legal fees to Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former Apprentice star, White House aide and author of the first tell-all book about the Trump White House, the New York Times reported April 20, 2022.
The award comes nearly seven months after the arbitrator ruled in Manigault Newman's favor that a confidentiality agreement she signed while working on Trump's 2016 campaign was invalid under New York law.
CNBC reported the campaign in 2018 had filed a complaint with the American Arbitration Association in New York against Newman, claiming she had violated the nondisclosure agreement with a scathing tell-all book titled "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House."
Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others
The Latest: 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 he claims conspired to undermine his 2016 campaign by trying to vilify him with fabricated information tying him to Russia, CNN reported Sept. 9.
US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks dismissed the lawsuit Sept. 8, 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.
"At its core, the problem with plaintiff's amended complaint is that plaintiff is not attempting to seek redress for any legal harm; instead, he is seeking to flaunt a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him, and this court is not the appropriate forum."
Middlebrooks-who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, but said he had no conflict of interest with either him or Hillary-also ruled Trump waited too long to bring the case, dismissing the ex-president's arguments he was too busy to bring it when he was in the White House and noting Trump's presidency "evidently did not deter him from filing other lawsuits."
Background: Former President Trump filed a sprawling $24 million civil lawsuit against 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, the Democrat National Committee (DNC) and dozens of others 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 alleges 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 begins. It adds that the alleged plot was "so outrageous, subversive and incendiary that even the events of Watergate pale in comparison."
"Acting in concert, the Defendants maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty."
The 108-page complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, claims the former president has suffered at least $24 million in damages in addition to the loss of present and future business.
The complaint names as defendants 48 individuals and organizations, including Clinton's 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, the campaign's general counsel Marc Elias, FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, Rep. Adam Schiff and many, many others.
Attorneys for Mrs. Clinton asked the court to dismiss former President Trump's lawsuit, The Hill reported April 20.
In a court filing, Clinton's attorneys claim the complaint lacks any factual basis, the "only factually supported allegations concerning Clinton in the lengthy Complaint" are the dates on which she declared her candidacy and won the Democratic presidential nomination and the public statements she made about purported ties between Trump and Russia. Her attorneys also believe the statute of limitations expired long ago on his claims, which allegedly occurred in 2016 and 2017.
On July 22, Law & Crime reported that fired FBI director James Comey, fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, resigned FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith had been removed as defendants in Trump's RICO lawsuit against Hillary Clinton.
U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks ruled the FBI personnel were working as government officials at the time and that Trump should be suing the U.S. government and not them.
Donald Trump's lawyers argue the statute of limitations shouldn't apply to the lawsuit he filed against political rival Hillary Clinton because the "immense and unrelenting demands" of the job prevented him from doing so sooner, Bloomberg reported in early August.
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