Consequences of the "Big Lie"

This blog should probably be subtitled, "The consequences of Donald Trump's delusion that he won the 2020 presidential election." Many of the lawsuits and investigations reported below stem from the former president's continuing self-deception.

And moving forward, with Trump leaning toward running again in 2024, it is clear that Trump, his family, his lawyers and some of his biggest supporters - like Fox News and One America News - will continue to be legally and financially impacted by the fall-out and consequences of the "Big Lie."

And by the fall-out and consequences, as well, of the multiple lawsuits and investigations they currently face not triggered by the 2020 presidential election. Like Trump and his adult children being sued for allegedly endorsing a pyramid scheme or E. Jean Carroll's ongoing defamation suit against the former president or the possibility Trump's own twitter, Truth Social, will implode and lead to more investigations and lawsuits.


Blog updated June 29.

For daily updates, follow me on Twitter @Raygiles1


Blog Index

Lawsuits

  • Lt. Col. Vindman sues Donald Trump Jr. and others for witness intimidation during impeachment trial

  • Michael Cohen sues his former boss, the former president

  • House Ways and Means Committee sues for President Trump's tax returns
  • NAACP, Democratic 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
  • 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, Giuliani, Powell and the MyPillow Guy (and vice versa)
  • Smartmatic sues Fox News, its hosts and Giuliani and Powell, plus Legal Analysis
  • Dominion sues Newsmax, OAN; AT&T sued by OAN
  • Smartmatic sues OAN and Newsmax; MyPillow Guy, Smartmatic sue each other

  • Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme on "The Celebrity Apprentice"
  • Trump sues the New York Times and niece Mary Trump
  • Trump sues Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others for undermining 2016 presidential campaign and administration, plus Legal Analysis
  • Truth Social gets off to rocky start; lawsuits ahead for Trump, others?

Criminal indictment

  • Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg indicted for fraud

Investigations

  • House Oversight Committee seeks Trump's financial records
  • New York AG investigating whether Trump Organization committed fraud, plus Legal Analysis
  • 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 for Jan. 6 riot; is Trump now a target?

  • Justice Department, states investigating GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College voters, plus Legal Analysis 
  • House Oversight Committee, Justice Department investigate removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago, plus Legal Analysis
  • Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman all under investigation

Formal Complaints

  • Liberal organization alleges Trump violated campaign finance laws in 2020 and is doing so again in 2022 

Partial settlement

  • Newsmax apologizes, settles with Dominion executive; but Trump campaign, Giuliani, Powell, One America News and others still target of defamation suit

Disposition of seven Trump cases

  • Manhattan DA's investigation of Trump's real estate empire comes to an end
  • DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle case over alleged misuse of Inaugural funds
  • Summer Zervos drops suit against Trump for alleged assault
  • Human rights group loses case to expose source of Trump cash at Scottish golf courses
  • Trump avoids Wisconsin $$ bill for failed election fraud lawsuit
  • Judge rejects New York City's effort to terminate Trump golf course contract over Jan. 6 riot 
  • Trump campaign ordered to pay Omarosa $1.3 million

List of news and commentary sources used in the blog


Lawsuits

Lt. Col. Vindman sues Donald Trump Jr. and others for witness intimidation during impeachment trial

The Latest:  The son of former President Trump said statements he made against a key witness in his father's impeachment trial are protected speech, and should shield him from a lawsuit accusing him of conspiracy and intimidation, Law.com reported June 1.

Donald Trump Jr., in a nearly 60-page motion, asked District Judge James Boasberg of the District of Columbia to dismiss the claims made by Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine native and military specialist whose testimony was the basis for Trump's first impeachment trial.

Trump Jr. assailed claims that he and Rudy Giuliani orchestrated a scheme to silence and punish Lt. Col. Vindman, saying complaints about "routine political criticism" belong in the court of public opinion.

"Vindman's lawsuit asks this court to salve his wounds after" his "political opponents said mean things," according to a motion on behalf of the ex-president's eldest son. But "politics is a rough and tumble business," and "there is no federal cause of action to mollify hurt feelings," the filing says.

Background:  Former Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino and former Trump White House official Julia Hahn, alleging they engaged in a conspiracy of intimidation and retaliation against him over his testimony in then-President Trump's 2019 impeachment, ABC News reported Feb. 2.

Vindman was one of the few officials to directly listen into the July 2019 phone call between former President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.  On the call, Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate his rivals - including Joe Biden's son - at the same time the U.S. was withholding military aid from the country. According to the New York Times, Vindman reported his concerns to his boss. During Trump's impeachment, Vindman testified that he had been alarmed as soon as he heard the exchange and again later when a transcript of the call omitted crucial words and phrases uttered by Trump.

Vindman is asking a federal judge to rule that Trump Jr., Giuliani, Scavino and Hahn all engaged in the conspiracy campaign, and to award him financial damages in an amount that would be determined after trial.

According to the New York Times, Vindman claims the defendants spread false claims that he was a Ukrainian spy, leaked classified information to undermine Vindman's credibility, falsely accused him of perjury and had him and his twin brother fired from their White House positions.

His lawsuit reads in part: "In late 2019 and early 2020, President Trump and his allies-including members of his White House staff, members of his family and personal legal team, and at least one on-air personality employed by an allied media outlet-engaged in an intentional, concerted campaign of unlawful intimidation and retaliation against a sitting Director of the National Security Council and decorated military officer, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, to prevent him from and then punish him for testifying truthfully before Congress during impeachment proceedings against President Trump. This campaign of intimidation and retaliation has had severe and deeply personal ramifications for Lt. Col. Vindman. It also left a stain on our democracy."


Michael Cohen sues his former boss, the former president

Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, sued the U.S. government and his former boss for revoking his home confinement in alleged retaliation for publishing a "tell-all memoir," Bloomberg reported Dec. 16. The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks damages for "extreme physical and emotional harm" and violations of Cohen's First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit, which also names former Attorney General William Barr as a defendant, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Cohen says the efforts to quash his book was "one instance in a long line of retaliatory measures" taken by Trump, his family and associates, "in the weaponization of his administration against his enemies" -- noting attempts to stop similar books by John Bolton and Trump's niece Mary.

Cohen finished his three-year prison sentence in 2021 for tax evasion, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. According to Law & Crime, a subset of those offenses related to hush money payments Cohen made to two women- adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal - on behalf of "Individual-1," prosecutors' thinly veiled pseudonym for President Trump.

Cohen was initially imprisoned in May 2019 but released to home confinement in May 2020. But weeks later the Bureau of Prisons reincarcerated him again at Otisville Correctional Facility in upstate New York when he refused to sign an agreement that would have prevented him from speaking to the media or publishing the book.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in July, 2020 then ordered the government to return Cohen to home confinement, saying that his transfer back into custody (including 16 days in solitary confinement) was "retaliatory in response to Cohen desiring to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book critical of the president and to discuss the book on social media."

Federal prosecutors insist probation officers had been unaware of Cohen's forthcoming book when they attempted to severely restrict Cohen's public communications.

Judge dismisses earlier Cohen lawsuit against the Trump Organization:  In November, 2021, New York Judge Joel Cohen granted former President Trump's motion to dismiss Michael Cohen's 2019 lawsuit against the Trump Organization.

In July 2017, according to Cohen's lawsuit filed in the New York state Supreme Court, the Trump Organization agreed to indemnify Cohen and to pay his attorneys' fees and costs in connection with related investigations.

However, Judge Cohen dismissed the suit, ruling, "Mr. Cohen's legal fees arise out of his (sometimes unlawful) service to Mr. Trump personally, to Mr. Trump's campaign, and to the Trump Foundation, but not out of his service to the business of the Trump Organization, which is the only defendant in this case." 


House Ways and Means Committee sues for President Trump's tax returns

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."

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 Associated Press reported, "A ruling for the committee could lead to Trump's financial dealings being revealed ahead of the 2024 presidential election. It could be months before the intermediate appeals court issues a ruling, which would likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court."

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.


NAACP, Democratic House members file lawsuit for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol; Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence 

The Latest:  A White House aide's testimony on June 28 about then-President Donald Trump's actions and statements on Jan. 6, 2021, could give a major boost to a series of civil lawsuits against Trump over his liability for the violence that broke out that day, Josh Gerstein reported at Politico.

Trump faces at least six civil suits over Jan. 6 that could gain traction from testimony by the aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, that Trump was told many of his supporters had weapons and that he urged they be allowed through metal detectors anyway.

A lawyer pressing a suit against Trump and others on behalf of 10 Democratic House members, Joseph Sellers, said the testimony could bolster their case because it supports the idea that Trump was aware violence was likely when he urged his backers to march to the Capitol.

The new information also seems to dovetail with U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta's explanation of why he was turning down Trump's bid to dismiss three of the suits. Mehta said it was plausible Trump countenanced the violence on Jan. 6 through a combination of his public exhortation to the crowd to march to the Capitol and his later resistance to issuing a statement calling on his supporters to retreat.

Sellers said the reported exchanges with Trump about weapons in the crowd were "highly relevant" to the civil suits and reinforced other indications that Trump was intent on using violence and threats to intimidate members of Congress.

For more information, see "House Select Committee investigates Jan. 6 attack on Capitol," "Trump faces fives separate lawsuits" and "Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit" below. 

Background:  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 told the crowd to march to the Capitol to protest the certification saying he would be there with them. "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." (He did not march to the Capitol with his followers.)

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.)

On Feb. 18, 2022  Judge Mehta rejected Trump's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, the New York Post reported. "The President's actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch," Mehta wrote in the opinion. "They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President's broad immunity are not present here." 

Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence

The Latest: Former President Trump said June 17 that he would look "very, very seriously" at pardoning those charged in connection with storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, if he ran for and became president again, The Hill reported.

Speaking during a Faith and Freedom event in Nashville, Tenn., Trump said the defendants charged in the Capitol riot were "having their lives totally destroyed and being treated worse than terrorists and murderers," claiming that most had been "charged with parading through the Capitol."

"And if I become president, someday if I decide to do it, I will be looking at them very, very seriously for pardons. Very, very seriously." 

Under the leadership of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and the FBI's Washington Field Office, the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Jan. 6 attack continues to move forward.

As of April 5, the approximate losses suffered as a result of the siege at the Capitol was $2,734,783. That amount reflects, among other things, damage to the Capitol building and grounds and certain costs borne by the U.S. Capitol Police.

As of June 6:

  • Approximately 255 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees, including approximately 90 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.
  • Approximately 140 police officers were assaulted Jan. 6 at the Capitol, including about 80 U.S. Capitol Police and about 60 from the Metropolitan Police Department.
  • Approximately 735 defendants have been charged with entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds.
  • Over 80 defendants have been charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon.
  • More than 50 defendants have been charged with destruction of government property, and approximately 35 defendants have been charged with theft of government property.
  • More than 280 defendants have been charged with corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding, or attempting to do so.
  • Approximately 50 defendants have been charged with conspiracy, either: (a) conspiracy to obstruct a congressional proceeding, (b) conspiracy to obstruct law enforcement during a civil disorder, (c) conspiracy to injure an officer, or (d) some combination of the three.

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 840 alleged rioters have been arrested and charged since the storming of the U.S. Capitol, with more than 250 pleading guilty and 225 accused of assaulting or impeding law enforcement officers.  One hundred and forty law enforcement officers were injured in the fighting. The Hill reported prosecutors say rioters committed roughly 1,000 assaults on federal officers and caused $1.5 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.
  • Devlyn Thompson of Washington state pleaded guilty to striking a police officer with a baton and was sentenced to 46 months in prison.
  • Danny Rodriguez, a Trump supporter from California, confessed to electroshocking a D.C. Metropolitan police officer in the neck.

  • 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.

  • Kevin 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.

  • A federal jury convicted Thomas Webster, a 57-year-old former NYPD office, on six charges, including assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon. In a video shown to the jury, Webster emerges from a crowd, jabs his finger at officers and hurls obscenities at a line of police before pushing a metal bike rack barrier into an officer. When the D.C. officer pushes him back hard with an open palm to the face, Webster swings a Marine Corps flagpole several times and tackles the officer to the ground.

  • 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.


E. Jean Carroll sues Trump for defamation

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 that, 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 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. 

A federal judge overseeing lawsuit on Sept. 15 denied Trump's request to stop the case from moving forward as they await an appeals court decision, CNN reported. 

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.

Lawyers for Carroll announced in court on Feb. 22, 2022 they are no longer seeking to depose former President Trump in their defamation lawsuit, saying doing so would cause too much delay, CNN reported.

In a March 11 ruling in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected Trump's request to bring counterclaims against Carroll, Bloomberg reported.

Judge 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." 

Meanwhile, both sides await a decision from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on whether Carroll's lawsuit should be dismissed because Trump was immune from being sued.

Lawyers for ex-President Trump and Carroll agreed to resume a process for exchanging evidence and taking witness testimony under oath, CNBC reported May 5.

The agreement sets the stage for the possible testing of a DNA sample from Trump. The court filing says both sides have agreed to complete the discovery process by November.


Trump and GOP face lawsuit claiming they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act

Donald Trump and the Republican Party do not have to face allegations that they violated the Voting Rights Act in the 2020 presidential election, a federal judge ruled April 1, Law & Crime reported.

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.

The suit, filed Nov. 20, 2020 by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and three African American voters, alleges the Trump campaign and its allies attempted to suppress the Black vote in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, all of which have large communities of color, The Independent reported. Trump and the RNC have denied these allegations.

"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.)

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.

In his ruling April 1, 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.

Originally filed by the Detroit-based Michigan Welfare Rights Organization in November 2020, the lawsuit initially targeted Trump and his campaign for a single alleged violation of the Voting Rights Act. A month later, 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.

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.

From AXIOS:

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. 

In a legal brief filed Aug. 16 arguing why Trump should not be held liable for inciting the violence meant to block the certification of President Biden's  election, Trump's attorney argued: "Given the numerous protests over the years on Capitol Hill and the necessity of protecting political speech-the very type of speech the First Amendment was designed to protect -a holding that individuals can be liable for violence by random listeners if their words could be interpreted as a threat would nearly shut down Washington."

In the brief, the former president's lawyer casts Trump's efforts to subvert the 2020 election and block its legally mandated certification as merely "exercising a specific constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

Rep. Brooks asked a federal judge Aug. 3 to declare that he was immune from 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 is representing 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 Trump's lawyer 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. 


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 apiece.

Reported Politico, "It's the officer's harrowing personal accounts that add new chapters to the growing collection of horrors unleashed that day. Blassingame said he was slammed into a stone column while rioters hurled the N-word at him. Hemby said he suffered hand and knee injuries that require continued medical care. Both said they suffer from ongoing emotional trauma that has upended their lives."  

Blassingame, a 17-year veteran of the Capitol Police, told PBS NewsHour's Lisa Desjardins that no one had ever called him the n-word to his face in his 39 years on Earth. "That streak ended on January 6," he said. "I was called a n****r. I was called a traitor. I was called various epithets."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, describes in detail the melee the rioters caused during their siege on the nation'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, all 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 on January 6. 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.

(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.

On Feb. 18 U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta rejected Trump's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit by Blassingame and Hemby, the New York Post reported. "The President's actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch," Mehta wrote in the opinion. "They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President's broad immunity are not present here."


Trump sues Facebook, Twitter and Google, plus Legal Analysis

The Latest: Law & Crime reported June 27 that former President Trump has filed a notice that he will appeal the dismissal of his First Amendment lawsuit against Twitter, documents filed in appellate court reveal.

The 45th president and several additional plaintiffs including anti-vaccine advocates, COVID-19 misinformation spreaders, and conservative activists signaled their intent to appeal by filing a notice of appeal as well as a series of procedural exhibits in a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The only possible way for Trump and the other plaintiffs to make a First Amendment claim against Twitter, the judge who dismissed Trump's case explained, was the narrowly-applied state action doctrine, which holds that government activity can be viewed as dominating a private activity "to such an extent that its participants must be deemed to act with the authority of the government and, as a result, be subject to constitutional constraints." But that doctrine, the judge went on, "is not an easy claim to make."

Law & Crime reported, "The plaintiffs will soon have to re-litigate their theories of alleged state action in one of the nation's traditionally most left-leaning and Free Speech-favoring appellate courts."

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."  

Wrote Philip Bump at the Washington Post, "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. The former president asked a Florida federal judge to force Twitter to restore his account, The Hill reported.

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 into President Biden's term before any concrete action was 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."

Trump's 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 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.

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.

"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 stated. "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 when Trump's lawsuits were first filed in July. "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, Giuliani, Powell and the MyPillow Guy (and vice versa)

The Latest:  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 over the network's 2020 presidential election coverage, 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 claimed 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 and urged him to concede defeat.

For Judge Davis those reports are enough at this stage 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. 

Without ruling on the merits, Davis said the allegations permitted "reasonable" inferences that Fox Corp acted with malice and proximately caused Dominion's alleged damages.

Background: On March 26, 2021 Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, "arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed in an effort to boost faltering ratings that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election," the Associated Press reported. The lawsuit reads, in part, "Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does."

Dominion 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."

(According to reporting by the New York Times, court documents released Sept. 20, 2021 show that by Nov. 19, 2020 the Trump campaign had prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims made by Trump lawyers about Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic and that the memo had determined that those allegations were untrue. Court documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings even as Trump supporters attacked the companies in the conservative media and filed unsuccessful lawsuits.) 

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 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.

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. Giuliani claims "Dominion's request for damages over employees allegedly being stalked, harassed and threatened due to (Giuliani's) comments, damages to remedy the alleged defamation and damages to repair the company's reputation cannot even be entertained - even if these things did happen - because the law only permits a corporation to recover their lost profits in defamation cases filed in the District of Columbia." 

Dominion told a court there is "no realistic possibility" that the voting machine manufacturer will reach settlements in its billion-dollar defamation lawsuits against Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, Reuters reported Jan. 25, 2022.

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. 

Dominion sues Sidney Powell:  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.

Dominion sues the MyPillow Guy (and visa versa):   

On Dec. 22, 2020 MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell told a radio interviewer "the biggest fraud is the Dominion machines." On January 18, 2021 having received a retraction demand letter from Dominion, Lindell repeated his claim that the machines "were built to cheat" and "steal elections." Lindell and his company were then both sued by Dominion in February, 2021 for defamation. Dominion is asking for $1.3 billion in damages.  

Lindell announced April 19 he filed a lawsuit against Dominion, seeking over $1.6 billion in damages. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, claims to protect free speech and seeks to remedy the damages MyPillow alleges it has suffered, the Washington Examiner reported.

The counter-suit claims Dominion is a governmental actor through its contracting with state and local agencies to provide voting tools and that Dominion's legal pursuit of Lindell violated MyPillow's First and 14th Amendment rights as well as "tortious interference with prospective business."

Also in April, MyPillow filed a motion to dismiss Dominion's lawsuit, arguing that the company shouldn't be held responsible for Lindell's claims. On May 28, Dominion asked a judge to reject MyPillow's request, claiming MyPillow CEO Lindell's falsehood-filled rants about the election were made in his capacity as the head of the company and were meant to juice the company's profits, Business Insider reported.

Lindell on June 3 filed another federal lawsuit, Business Insider reported, accusing Dominion and Smartmatic of "weaponizing the litigation process to silence political dissent and suppress evidence showing voting machines were manipulated to affect outcomes in the November 2020 general election.  Direct and circumstantial evidence demonstrates that, during the 2020 General Election, electronic voting machines like those manufactured and sold by Dominion were manipulated and hacked in a manner that caused votes for one candidate to be tallied for the opposing candidate." 

On May 20, a federal judge dismissed the counter-suit Lindell had filed against Dominion Voting Systems, INSIDER reported. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said that because of "frivolous" and "groundless," claims, his counter-suit could be dismissed, and his lawyers would also be sanctioned.

Judge makes ruling on Giuliani, Powell and Lindell lawsuits:  On Aug. 11 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, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Lindell, 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, Powell, Lindell and MyPillow case into one, outlined several instances where the trio 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. Lindell has appealed the decision and promises to go to the Supreme Court if necessary.


Smartmatic sues Fox News, its hosts and Giuliani and Powell, plus Legal Analysis

The Latest:  Rudolph Giuliani has sued Smartmatic to recoup legal fees as he defends against its $2.7 billion lawsuit accusing him, Fox News Network and others of falsely claiming that the company helped rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election so Joe Biden would defeat Donald Trump, 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.

"Smartmatic's litigation tactics, including its facially implausible damages claims, are a naked attempt to attack a well-known public figure" and amount to censorship, said Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and lawyer for Trump.

J. Erik Connolly, a lawyer for Smartmatic, said: "Smartmatic is confident in its claims against Mr. Giuliani."

Fox News and two other defendants, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo and former anchor Lou Dobbs, have 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.

In its lawsuit, Smartmatic faulted Giuliani for saying without evidence that the company was formed by people close to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his late predecessor Hugo Chavez, and founded "for the specific purpose of fixing elections."

In his decision, Cohen found a substantial basis to suggest that Fox News had "turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims" about Smartmatic, with reckless disregard for the truth.

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 only used in 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," Bartiromo "didn't express one ounce of skepticism."

(Blog editor's note: By contrast, Sandra Smith, host of Fox News Sunday, responding to GOP Rep. Mo Brooks' allegation on May 29, 2022 that Trump was "robbed" of re-election, replied, "Just to go on the record, there has been still no evidence or proof provided that there was any sort of fraud in that election." Did billion dollar lawsuits by Smartmatic and Dominion finally get Fox Corp's attention?)  

Fox is attempting to have a New York state court dismiss Smartmatic's defamation lawsuit.  In a filing submitted April 26, 2021 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 Giuliani 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 Judge 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 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.

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 US 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."


Dominion sues Newsmax, OAN; AT&T sued by OAN

The Latest: A judge in Delaware on June 16 ruled that a defamation lawsuit against Newsmax filed by Dominion Voting Systems can proceed, with the firm accusing the conservative media company of purposely spreading lies about its voting technology in the 2020 election, The Hill reported.

Judge Eric Davis in the Superior Court of Delaware denied a motion from Newsmax to dismiss the case, saying the company "knew the allegations were probably false" about the voting technology and "there were enough signs indicating the statements were not true to infer Newsmax's intent to avoid the truth."

Dominion Voting Systems, a federally certified company selling voting machines and tabulators across the country, filed lawsuits in August against Newsmax and One America News, as well as Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock.com, alleging defamation.

After the election, attorney Sidney Powell was a frequent guest on Newsmax, telling the "Greg Kelly Reports" show in one interview that there was a "systematic problem with the Dominion machines," according to the complaint filed by Dominion Voting Systems.

"We know Dominion has a long history of rigging elections. That's what it was created to do to begin with," she said in another appearance in late 2020, according to the complaint.

Defamation suits have to prove "actual malice," meaning someone intentionally spread claims they knew were false or spread them "with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."

Judge Davis agreed Dominion's suit had enough basis to move forward.

"The Complaint supports the reasonable inference that Newsmax either knew its statements about Dominion's role in the election fraud were false or had a high degree of awareness that they were false," the judge wrote.

One America News admitted in a May 9 legal statement that there was no widespread voter fraud by Georgia election officials in the 2020 presidential election after having extensively pushed the groundless claim, Insider reported. 

In a 30-second statement that aired May 9, a voiceover stated: "Georgia officials have concluded that there was no widespread voter fraud by election workers who counted ballots at the State Farm Arena in November 2020."

"The results of this investigation indicate that Ruby Freeman and Wandrea 'Shaye' Moss did not engage in ballot fraud or criminal misconduct," the statement said, referring to two election workers for Fulton County, Georgia, who had sued OAN for defamation.

"A legal matter with this network and the two election workers has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties through a fair and reasonable settlement."

Freeman and Moss helped administer the 2020 election in the state and said they were subjected to harassment and abuse after OAN broadcast reports baselessly alleging that Freeman and Moss had produced fake ballots and registered them in voting machines to steal the election from Trump.

Background: One of the largest voting-machine companies in the U.S. sued two conservative media T.V. networks and a businessman it said had defamed it by spreading accusations that it rigged the 2020 election for President Biden, the Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 10, 2021.

Dominion Voting Systems filed suits against Newsmax Media Inc. and Herring Networks Inc.'s One America News Network. Dominion also sued Patrick Byrne, the former chief executive of Overstock.com Inc., an online seller of furniture and other goods.

Dominion accused the two networks of defaming the company and its products by airing false reports that its machines switched votes from Trump to Biden. The company said Byrne repeatedly and falsely alleged that Dominion rigged vote tallies to steal the 2020 presidential election for Biden. In each of the three lawsuits, Dominion is seeking more than $1.6 billion in damages, citing lost profit and other costs.

"Newsmax helped create and cultivate an alternate reality where up is down, pigs have wings, and Dominion engaged in a colossal fraud to steal the presidency from Donald Trump by rigging the vote," the suit against Newsmax says.

Dominion sued Newsmax in state court in Delaware. The lawsuit against One America News Network, which also names executives Charles Herring and Robert Herring Sr. and reporters Chanel Rion and Christina Bobb as defendants, as well as the suit against Byrne were filed in federal court in the District of Columbia.

Byrne previously has said he didn't vote for Mr. Trump, but that he believes the 2020 election was rigged. 

Business Insider reported One America News Network presented a Long Island swing-set installer as an "expert mathematician" who claimed to uncover evidence that the 2020 election was rigged, according the lawsuit. OAN's Christina Bobb interviewed the man, Ed Solomon, on Jan. 27,2021 in a segment about the 2020 election. Solomon said he conducted a mathematical analysis showing that the results in Fulton County, Georgia, "can only have been done by an algorithm." He added that the probability of Biden's victory in the county was "1 over 10 to an exponent so large there's not enough stars in the universe, there aren't enough atoms in the universe, to explain the number." It's not clear where Solomon got his data set. Dominion's lawsuit says that Solomon's "current job was setting up swing sets in Long Island, New York."

Newsmax Media Inc. said in a filing in a Delaware court that its extensive reporting on Trump's election-conspiracy theory is justified in part by the former president's continued claim that the 2020 election was rigged, Bloomberg reported Dec. 14.  Newsmax made the argument in seeking dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems Inc. "A sitting President, with the full support of his party, disputed -- in fact, continues to dispute -- the outcome," Newsmax argued. "Obviously, the stakes of this dispute for the nation could not have been higher."

In related news, the Daily Beast obtained a deposition from the defamation lawsuit Rudy Giuliani is facing from Eric Coomer, a former employee of Dominion Voting Systems, in which Giuliani claims the Trump campaign held editorial authority over One America News Network's Christina Bobb, who worked with the Trump campaign's attempts to dispute the results of the 2020 election.

The court documents show that Giuliani, the former personal lawyer to ex-president Trump, spoke of an "agreement" he had with Charles Herring, president of OAN. The arrangement was to have Bobb come work with the campaign's legal efforts.

Giuliani goes on to say that he and Herring acknowledged a "conflict issue" with having Bobb on board. This led to Giuliani saying he gave Herring rules that OAN would defer to the Trump campaign in terms of what Bobb would be allowed to report.

(For more details on the Coomer lawsuit see "Partial Settlement" below.) 

More fallout from the Big Lie?  One America News was dropped from DirecTV April 4.  AdWeek reported, "The satellite TV cable behemoth said earlier this year that it planned to no longer carry OAN, which was criticized for spreading false information about the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 presidential election, and its general spread of conspiracy theories." OAN did not take news of the divorce well. Host Dan Ball went on air begging viewers to bring him evidence that William Kennard, the chairman of AT&T, the parent company to DirecTV, was "cheating on his taxes, cheating on his wife (or) saying racial slurs against white people." One America News then filed a $1 billion suit on March 7, 2022 against DirecTV and its parent company AT&T for breach of contract, Mediaite reported.  


Smartmatic sues OAN and Newsmax; MyPillow Guy, Smartmatic sue each other

The Latest:  A federal judge on June 21 gave a green light to Smartmatic's defamation lawsuit against One America News, a right-wing media organization it alleges pushed conspiracy theories about the election technology company's role in the 2020 presidential election, Business Insider reported.

Herring Networks, which operates OAN, asked US District Judge Carl J. Nichols to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing he didn't have jurisdiction over the case because the company is headquartered in California.

In a terse, 11-page opinion, Nichols said that isn't how the law works. OAN operates a studio in Washington, DC, and broadcasts throughout the district, giving the DC court jurisdiction, Nichols wrote.

Background:  Smartmatic filed a lawsuit on Nov. 3, 2021 against One America News Network, accusing the far-right cable channel of libeling and slandering the firm during coverage of the 2020 election, Politico reported.

The case, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, argues that One America News knowingly and repeatedly aired false claims in the months following the contentious election, including claims that votes cast for Trump were switched to Biden.

"OANN had every opportunity to do the right thing after the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States," attorneys for Smartmatic wrote in their complaint. "It could have reported the truth. Instead, OANN chose to do the wrong thing every time. It reported a lie."

Smartmatic's suit alleges that the network did so in order to juice its ratings, at a time when dissatisfaction on the right with Fox News led a portion of its conservative audience to seek out alternatives more favorable to Trump.

"OANN had found a winning recipe: spread disinformation about the election and Smartmatic to get views and viewer loyalty," the lawsuit claims.

Smartmatic sued Newsmax in Delaware state court in November, 2021 alleging both networks "reported a lie" and spread fraud claims about the company - whose machines were only used in Los Angeles, California in 2020 - knowing they were false.  

In both lawsuits, Smartmatic is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial; actual, consequential, and special damages in an amount to be determined at trial and punitive damages. 

Newsmax subsequently filed a counter-lawsuit against Smartmatic.

MyPillow Guy sues Smartmatic and vice versa

Business Insider reported that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell on June 3, 2021 filed a federal lawsuit accusing Smartmatic of "weaponizing the litigation process to silence political dissent and suppress evidence showing voting machines (including Dominion's machines) were manipulated to affect outcomes in the November 2020 general election." The suit claims MyPillow stands to lose up to $2 billion.

Smartmatic on Dec. 8 asked a court to dismiss Lindell's $2 billion federal lawsuit against them, Business Insider reported. Smartmatic argued Lindell's claims against them are fictitious, calling the pillow executive's allegations a "stunt" with "no basis in fact or law."

Newsweek reported Jan. 19, 2022 that Smartmatic had filed a defamation and deceptive trade practices lawsuit in federal court against MyPillow CEO Lindell, alleging that he spread election lies about the company as a marketing tool to sell more pillows.

"Mr. Lindell understood he could not change the outcome of the election with his disinformation campaign," the lawsuit states. "He could, however, gain a bigger audience for his book and gain more purchasers for his MyPillow products."  Smartmatic is seeking unspecified monetary damages in its suit.

On May 20, a federal judge ordered MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell to pay part of Smartmatic's legal fees in the voting company's defamation lawsuit against him, dismissing the counter-suit Lindell had filed against Smartmatic, INSIDER reported. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said that because of "frivolous" and "groundless," claims, his counter-suit could be dismissed, and his lawyers would also be sanctioned.


Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme on "The Celebrity Apprentice"

The Latest:  Former President Trump and three of his adult children will spend seven hours apiece facing questioning in a federal lawsuit accusing them of promoting a pyramid scheme, a court filing dated June 3 indicates.

According to reporting by Law & Crime, the former president, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump all face seven hours of questioning, for a total of 28 hours. Trump's executive assistant Rhona Graff will also face seven hours of questioning; former White House senior adviser Hope Hicks will face three.

Though precise dates for the depositions are not set, the filing indicates that the depositions could take place soon.

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.


Trump sues the New York Times and niece Mary Trump

Former 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 "collective efforts in tortiously breaching and/or interfering with his contractual rights and otherwise maliciously conspiring againtrutst 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.

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."

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.


Trump sues Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others for undermining 2016 presidential campaign and administration, plus Legal Analysis

The Latest: On June 21, Donald Trump's attorneys filed an amended lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, et al seeking to sidestep the applicable statute of limitations, which would, in effect, end the lawsuit.

Trump's lawyers have long promised to "cure defects" in the original March 24 complaint and sought to do so via the amended complaint, Law & Crime reported.

Trump's lawyers asserted in the amended complaint that "suspension, tolling and/or extension of the applicable statute of limitations is warranted" in this case because Trump didn't discover the true nature of the alleged ills until a 2019 report by the Office of the Inspector General.

On May 16, Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign asked a federal judge in Florida to dismiss former President Trump's racketeering case, Law & Crime reported.

Trump filed the 108-page lawsuit in March, alleging that Clinton and her co-defendants "orchestrated an unthinkable plot-one that shocks the conscience and is an affront to this nation's democracy." They "nefariously sought to sway the public's trust" by working together to "vilify" Trump by linking him and his 2016 presidential campaign to Russia's alleged interference with the presidential election, he claimed.

Clinton argues Trump's lawsuit fails first and foremost because his RICO claims have a four-year statute of limitations.

"The allegations that Defendants conspired to (1) create the Steele Dossier, (2) obtain and reveal internet data of a connection between Trump Tower and Alfa Bank, (3) provide false statements to law enforcement, and (4) disseminate false and injurious information, are all alleged events that occurred over four years ago," the motion to dismiss says. "Moreover, Plaintiff's own Complaint and his tweets demonstrate that he has been aware of the purported injuries for years."

In addition to the procedural matter of the statute of limitations, Clinton argues Trump's claims also fail substantively.

"Plaintiff has not plausibly alleged any cognizable RICO enterprise, has not sufficiently alleged the required two predicate acts, has not shown any pattern of racketeering activity, and has failed to adequately allege RICO standing," the motion to dismiss states.

Background:  Former President Trump filed a sprawling 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.

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 and many, many others.

The Federalist reported the lawsuit claims some of the defendants exploited "their access to non-public data in search of a secret 'back channel' connection between Trump Tower and Alfa Bank," but after discovering "no such channel existed, the defendants resorted to truly subversive measures hacking servers at Trump Tower, Trump's private apartment, and, most alarmingly, the White House."

"This ill-gotten data was then manipulated to create a misleading 'inference' of Russia collusion," the complaint charged. That data was then provided to the FBI and CIA, as well as peddled to the media.

Attorneys for Mrs. Clinton asked the court to dismiss former President Trump's lawsuit alleging a widespread Democratic conspiracy to undermine his 2016 campaign with accusations of Russian collusion, 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.

Attorneys for former President Trump on April 21 filed court papers requesting additional time to reply to a motion to dismiss his civil lawsuit against Hillary Clinton (and a large list of other defendants) and possibly file an amended complaint, Law & Crime reported. 

John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, on May 4 moved to dismiss the lawsuit against him by Trump, Law & Crime reported.

Legal Analysis:  Reuters reported, "Jeff Grell, a lawyer who specializes in racketeering cases, said Trump may have waited too long in bringing his racketeering claims. Civil racketeering claims are governed by a four-year statute of limitations, Grell said, but there is usually a big dispute about when that four-year period begins to run.

"Grell said defendants may also argue various defenses, such as that Trump's lawsuit ignores the immunity granted to government agents, the lawsuit doesn't set forth a pattern of racketeering - which is required for liability - or the lawsuit seeks to chill the exercise of free speech.

"Such defenses are usually resolved only after protracted litigation, Grell said."

Margot Cleveland, a lawyer, former law clerk for a federal appellate judge and The Federalist's senior legal correspondent, commented, in part, " Trump sues Clinton, the Clinton campaign, the Democrat National Committee, Perkins Coie, and lawyers Elias and Sussmann under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as 'RICO.'

"(And) even though the allegations of obstruction of justice arguably qualify, the statute of limitations will still stymie Trump. 

"In this case, Trump arguably knew before March 2018 - four years before Trump filed his RICO claim - of his injury given the appointment of Robert Mueller occurred in May 2017. Under these circumstances, it seems likely the court will dismiss Trump's RICO claim as barred by the statute of limitations.

"The final counts (in the suit) all seek to hold the defendants responsible for the conduct of others, with Count X, entitled 'Agency,' attempting to hold Clinton responsible for the conduct of those acting on her behalf, known legally as 'agents.' General principles of agency law provide that if a principal directed or authorized a wrongful act, or ratifies the act after the fact, he (or in this case she), is legally liable for the conduct.

"In Trump's lawsuit, he seeks to hold the business entities of Perkins Coie, DNC, the Clinton campaign, Neustar, Orbis, Fusion GPS, and Orbis liable for the conduct of their respective employees based on this doctrine. However, without an underlying wrong by an employee in the first instance, there can be no respondeat superior liability. Thus, the first question is whether Trump properly alleged an employee of the above enterprises committed a wrong for which the law provides a remedy. As detailed above, most of Trump's legal theory seems doomed, making these claims futile as well."

And the Texarkana Gazette editorialized:  "No doubt many of President Trump's supporters will applaud the lawsuit. And that may be the whole point. But President Trump should be careful. He may well see the whole thing backfire on him. That's because defense lawyers will be able to depose him and former staffers whose testimony is considered relevant. Under oath. Under penalty of perjury. President Trump has never liked questions he doesn't want to answer and very likely won't like some of the questions asked in a deposition."


Truth Social gets off to rocky start; lawsuits ahead for Trump, others?

The Latest:  Digital World Acquisition Corp., the bank-check company planning to merger with former President Trump's nascent media company, Truth Social, said June 27 that its directors have been subpoenaed by a Federal Grand Jury, TheStreet reported.

DWAC, which is also being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with respect to its plans to merge with the former President's Trump Media & Technology Group, said the subpoenas were related to the SEC probe and issued by a panel sitting in the Southern District of New York.

The subpoenas "seek certain of the same documents demanded in the above-referenced SEC subpoenas, along with requests relating to Digital World's S-1 filings, communications with or about multiple individuals, and information regarding Rocket One Capital", a Miami-based hedge fund.

"Additionally, on June 24, 2022, Digital World received a grand jury subpoena with substantially similar requests," DWAC said in an SEC filing. "These subpoenas, and the underlying investigations by the Department of Justice and the SEC, can be expected to delay effectiveness of the Registration Statement, which could materially delay, materially impede, or prevent the consummation of the Business Combination."

The New York Times reported: "The disclosure by Digital World is the first indication that federal prosecutors in Manhattan have joined in the scrutiny of the merger."

Business Insider reported, "The subpoenas signal federal prosecutors could be exploring the possibility of a criminal investigation into the acquisition."

Background: Former President Trump's new 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 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 companies disclosed in December that they entered into subscription agreements for $1 billion in committed capital which will be received upon completion of the merger. The deal is expected to provide proceeds of approximately $1.25 billion, assuming full delivery of the amount of cash held in trust by DWAC.

The Hill reported that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) penned a letter to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler requesting that the agency open an investigation into the deal between Digital World and Trump Media & Technology Group.

Warren suggested that the deal had violated the Securities Act of 1933 because Patrick Orlando, the sponsor of Digital World, allegedly had conversations about an agreement with Trump as early as March 2021, well before the SPAC made its first filing in May and launched its initial public offering (IPO) in September.

According to Sen. Warren, under the 1933 statute, SPACs must disclose any form of direct or indirect contact with potential target companies to protect investigators 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 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, 2022.

Reuters reported Truth Social chief of technology Josh Adams and chief of product development Billy Boozer resigned in April. Chief legal officer Lori Heyer-Bednar also resigned, according to a report from Politico.

Trump finally joined his own Truth Social on April 28, posting on the social media platform for the first time in more than a year with a throwback to his now-infamous 2017 typo "covfefe."

"I'M BACK! #COVFEFE," Trump posted on TRUTH Social with a photo of himself in front of his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida.

(The hashtag "covfefe" was referring to one of his deleted tweets in 2017 in which he decried the media's coverage of his administration.)

AXIOS reported May 16 that former President Trump plans to partially restrict himself from using Twitter, according to a new federal Securities and Exchange Commission filing from the blank check company taking Truth Social public.

The filing by Digital World Acquisition Corp. states: "President Trump is generally obligated to make any social media post on TruthSocial and may not make the same post on another social media site for 6 hours. Thereafter, he is free to post on any site to which he has access. Thus, TMTG has limited time to benefit from his posts and followers may not find it compelling to use TruthSocial to read his posts that quickly. In addition, he may make a post from a personal account related to political messaging, political fundraising or get-out-the-vote efforts on any social media site at any time."

(The statement - "make a post from a personal account related to political messaging" - would allow Trump to post on Twitter if he decided to run again for president.)

Rolling Stone reported May 18, Donald Trump has had a question for his friends and advisers in the past several weeks: "Is Google trying to fuck me?"

The source of his paranoia, according to two people with knowledge of the ex-president's query, was the absence of an Android app for Truth Social.

Since it launched in February, the app has been available only on Apple devices, leaving Android users - roughly 40 percent of the U.S. mobile device market - without access to the platform. This has left Trump with questions about the status of the product and whether his perceived enemies at Google had any plans to reject it.

As of May 18, Truth Social hadn't submitted an Android app to Google to review for Play Store approval, an individual familiar with the matter and two Trumpworld sources with knowledge of the situation told Rolling Stone.

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.

Who will Trump sue? With Trump's decades-long track record of suing business partners and vendors, who will Trump sue if Truth Social collapses? The Securities and Exchange Commission? Digital World Acquisition Corp? Truth Social execs who bailed? Elon Musk?

And who will sue Trump? Digital World Acquistion? It's investors? The Securities and Exchange Commission? Elon Musk?



Criminal indictment

Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg indicted for fraud

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. (The case: The People of the State of New York v. The Trump Corporation, et al.)

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 his 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 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."



Investigations


House Oversight Committee seeks Trump's financial records

The House Oversight Committee on Feb. 25, 2021 reissued a subpoena for the accounting firm Mazars USA, seeking former President Trump's financial records. 

Attorneys for former President Trump on April 5 then urged a judge to throw out the Congressional subpoena, calling it unconstitutional and unenforceable, Bloomberg reported.  Trump's lawyers argued, "The committee's justifications concerning the Trump Presidency cratered once he stopped being president, but the separation-of-powers concerns with these sorts of subpoenas did not." 

House Democrats argue the subpoena should no longer be held to the same legal standards that applied when Trump was president. In a brief filed in federal court May 5, the House Oversight Committee said Trump had lost the protections established by the Supreme Court that allowed his accounting firm to avoid turning over eight years of his financial information. "Presidents are not kings," the Democrats said, "and they do not serve for life." 

And then on Aug. 11 Bloomberg reported that U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C. ruled Trump must disclose certain financial records held by his accounting firm. The judge's ruling stopped short of calling for the handover of all the financial records that Democrats have requested, saying disclosure of some of the materials would raise separation-of-powers concerns. Instead Judge Mehta ordered Mazars to turn over to Congress, pursuant to its authority under the Foreign Emoluments Clause, personal and financial information relevant to Congress's efforts to legislate on the topic of federal lease agreements and, specifically, Trump's lease of the Old Post Office.

"The Committee has presented 'detailed and substantial' evidence that President Trump, at least through his business interests, likely received foreign payments during the term of his presidency," Mehta wrote regarding the Emoluments Clause, which bars the acceptance of gifts by the president from foreign nations without congressional approval. "The Committee therefore is not engaged in a baseless fishing expedition."

(In an earlier stage of the case, Judge Mehta upheld the committee's entire demand for records dating back to 2011, the New York Times reported, rejecting Trump's argument that it should be ruled invalid as a politically motivated effort to harass him.  But Trump's lawyers appealed and in 2020 the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts, instructing them to put greater emphasis on whether Congress had a legitimate need for materials it sought.)

And then on Aug. 12, The Hill reported, "Former President Trump and the House Oversight Committee are both appealing a judge's decision this week ordering his accounting firm to turn over some of his personal and corporate financial records to House Democrats, lawyers said in court filings." 

The Hill reported Dec. 13 a three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments over the 2019 subpoena from the House Oversight and Reform Committee demanding eight years of private financial papers from Trump's accounting firm.

But on Feb. 14, 2022 it was announced Trump's long-time accounting firm has terminated 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."


New York AG investigating whether Trump Organization committed fraud, plus Legal Analysis

The Latest:  Insider reports that Monday, June 20, is the deadline for James' office to tell a Manhattan judge whether - after two years of legal battles - it's finally satisfied with Trump's efforts to comply with the subpoena for his documents and whether it thinks Trump's costly contempt-of-court order should therefore be lifted once and for all.

A hearing for oral arguments on that matter will likely be set for later in the week.

And in related news, Business Insider reported June 14 that New York Attorney General Letitia James will investigate possible fraud surrounding some $250 million in campaign donations Donald Trump raised in the months after the 2020 presidential election through his "Big Lie" claims.

In addition to citing a duty to New York donors, the AG can also use New York City's banking industry to establish jurisdiction, one former assistant attorney general said.

"If the money passed through any institution with a foot in New York, that gives her jurisdiction," said Tristan Snell, who was the lead assistant in the AG office's 2014 prosecution of Trump University.

James had signaled in a tweet that she found details revealed earlier in the day - during the second televised Congressional hearing on the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol - "disturbing."

Testimony during the hearing revealed that Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.'s fiancée, had been paid $60,000 by Trump's "official election defense fund" for a three-minute speech she made during his January 6 "Stop the Steal" rally.

Financial disclosures have shown that Trump raised more than $250 million off of his "stolen election" claims in the two months after Election Day.

CNN reported the roughly $250 million that poured in after the election largely went to the former President's political action committee, rather than to the "election integrity" effort touted to his donors, the committee said.

"The big lie was also a big rip-off," said California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of the Democrats on the panel. After the hearing, Lofgren told CNN that the committee also has found evidence Trump and members of his family have personally benefited from donations that were advertised as going toward election fraud claims.

Asked about the committee's allegations, Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington said in a text to CNN that the former President's "political spending is totally synchronized" with his goal of "fixing our elections." 

Background: New York Attorney General Letitia James is pursuing an investigation into whether the Trump Organization misrepresented its assets to secure bank loans and tax benefits, Huffington Post reported.

The assets in question include the Seven Springs estate in upstate New York, 40 Wall Street, an office building in the financial district, Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, Trump National Golf Club outside Los Angeles, his Westchester golf club in New York, Trump International Golf Club Scotland and other properties.

Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, previously 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 investigation began in March 2019 after Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress and detailed Trump's alleged fraud, 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.

The attorney general's office 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. Eric Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization, also pleaded the Fifth repeatedly during his Feb. 24, 2020 deposition.

The Washington Post reported Nov. 22, 2021 "The Trump Organization owns an office building at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan. In 2012, when the company was listing its assets for potential lenders, it said the building was worth $527 million -which would make it among the most valuable in New York.

"But just a few months later, the Trump Organization told property tax officials that the entire 70-story building was worth less than a high-end Manhattan condo: just $16.7 million, according to newly released city records.

"That was less than one-thirtieth the amount it had claimed the year before."

Former President Trump filed a lawsuit on Dec. 20 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. (Trump's lawsuit was dismissed on May 27, 2022 by US District Judge Brenda Sannes.)

Fox News reported Jan. 3, 2022 that Attorney General James issued subpoenas for former President Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., in connection with an ongoing civil investigation into the family's business practices.

And then on Jan. 18 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. A separate criminal investigation by Manhattan's district attorney indicted its former chief financial officer last year and could potentially lead to criminal charges against Trump.  (See "Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg indicted for fraud" above.)

Judge Engoron on March 28 ordered the Trump Organization to turn over documents to James' office by April, as prosecutors move forward with a civil investigation into potential fraud, Forbes reported.  The Trump Organization has resisted.

And, in related news, Kara Scannell at CNN reports that New York Attorney General James has 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."

After Trump failed to respond to the attorney general's demand for documents, James's office in early April requested daily fines and argued that Trump should be held in contempt for failing to meet a March 31 deadline to turn over documents. Trump attorney Alina Habba argued that any materials that Trump had not turned over were in the possession of the Trump organization, not Trump personally. A week later, April 7, James asked the judge overseeing her office's investigation to issue a contempt citation and fine Trump $10,000 per day until he complied with the subpoena.

Ultimately, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump had not conducted a proper search for documents and was thus not in compliance with a previous court order.

Trump on April 25 was found in contempt by Judge Engoron for failing to comply with a subpoena from Attorney General James, who is seeking records for her civil investigation of his company, the Trump Organization.

Trump then lost an effort at a New York appeals court to stay a contempt order, CNBC reported May 3, and was ordered to pay $10,000 a day until he produced the documents.

In another subpoena fight, Trump is challenging Judge Engoron's Feb. 17 ruling requiring that he and his two oldest children answer questions under oath. The Attorney General investigators said they've collected a "substantial amount of evidence" that could support an enforcement action against the Trump Organization, Business Insider reported May 13.

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." 

And on May 11, a lawyer for Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. argued in a Manhattan appeals court that the New York attorney general's subpoenas for his clients' testimony are improper and rooted in political bias, Insider reported.

A four-judge panel will decide if the three Trumps must give sworn, closed-door testimony.

Former President Trump paid the $110,000 in fines he racked up after being held in contempt of court for being slow to respond to a civil subpoena issued by New York's attorney general, the Associated Press reported May 19.

Trump paid the fine but must still submit additional paperwork in order to have the contempt order lifted, the office of Attorney General Letitia James said. 

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 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.

On June 1 Business Insider reported Trump filed appellate papers in U.S. District Court in Albany in  response to a decision by Judge Brenda K. Sannes on May 27 rejecting Trump's request to dismiss the case. Trump said in his filing that he will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals, the next federal court up, to reverse Sannes' decision, which tossed his lawsuit after James defended her probe by asserting she has found "substantial" evidence of financial wrongdoing.

Trump claimed in court he is unable to produce his 12 former executive assistants the Attorney General is hoping to hear from because they won't return his calls, Business Insider reported June 3.

Business Insider reported June 8 that Judge Engoron kept a costly contempt-of-court order dangling over the head of former President Trump, saying it was the best way to ensure he fully complies with New York's ongoing inquiry into his hotel and golf resort business.

New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, declined to take up an appeal by former President Trump and two of his adult children, a decision that obligates the Trumps to sit for depositions next month, ABC News reports. Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump must sit for depositions beginning July 15, according to a previous stipulation filed in the case. 

Legal Analysis:  Vicky Ward, author of "The Liar's Ball," a book about the notorious wheelers and dealers of the real estate world, commented:  

"Most people will rightly be horrified to read this.

"But in the world of real estate, which I've written about for over a decade, exaggerating your net worth is completely commonplace, particularly when seeking funding or marketing. (It's also commonplace for real estate developers to sing a different song to the IRS. Typically, their accountants write complex disclamatory cover letters explaining the discrepancies. We don't know what Trump's said.)

"I phoned around to some of the biggest developers in America these past 24 hours to gauge their reaction to the Attorney General's filings, and the general reaction, unbelievably, was: 'This behavior is not particularly surprising or interesting. Possibly, he went too far.'

"The reason for this is that, though Trump's exaggerated claims may be more extreme than most, what he's done is essentially exactly how the 'game' (and I don't use that word loosely) of real estate works. And nearly all the players in it-particularly banks and financial institutions who have dealt with Donald Trump over the years-understand it and play it. They are complicit.

"The critical question for James is whether Trump's hyperbole crossed the line. Say, for example, he certified a set of facts-as opposed to his own opinions-that he knew to be incorrect and that inaccuracy cost an institution financially? From what James filed, that is unclear. So we shall have to see."

Former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Andy McCarthy, told Fox News that "inflating or deflating asset values is a commonality in industry."

"A lot of it is legal, some of it is illegal, but it is almost never prosecuted. And if they singled out Trump for prosecution, they would have a very significant selective prosecution defense to deal with."

New York Times reporters provided additional support for the idea that prosecuting Trump would be difficult.  "While (Mazars' financial) statements (regarding the Trump Organization) may contain exaggerated estimates of Mr. Trump's property values, those same documents also include a number of disclaimers, including acknowledgments that Mr. Trump's accountants had neither audited nor authenticated his claims.

"Another disclaimer notes that Mazars did 'not express an opinion or provide any assurance about' the statements, a common caveat in statements of financial condition. The firm also disclosed that, while compiling the information for Mr. Trump, it had 'become aware of departures from accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.'

"Mr. Trump's lawyers would likely argue that his lenders, sophisticated financial institutions like Deutsche Bank, would not have relied on the statements when providing him loans."


Georgia county DA investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overthrow election, plus Legal Analysis

The Latest:  Gov. Brian Kemp will deliver testimony next month to Fulton County prosecutors investigating Donald Trump's efforts to overturn Georgia's 2020 elections, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported June 23.

But unlike the parade of witnesses who have appeared at the Fulton courthouse to answer questions in front of a special grand jury, the Republican will instead deliver a "sworn recorded statement," according to a letter from the Fulton County District Attorney's office.

Kemp's sworn examination will take place on July 25.

The 23-member special grand jury also subpoenaed a bevy of evidence from Kemp's office, which Wade said must be made available at least 72 hours before the governor's scheduled testimony.

In related news, the New York Times reported June 28 that Rudy 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."

Blog editor's note:  Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told the Associated Press on January 10 that she was expecting to decide whether to charge Trump by June 30. Then on June 6, she said she can wrap up the probe and make a decision on an indictment potentially as early as this fall. But a special grand jury was empanelled in May and has up to a year to complete its work.

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 that 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.

In addition, Willis has indicated her team is examining the abrupt resignation of former Atlanta-based U.S. Attorney BJay Pak and a November 2020 call U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., placed to Raffensperger.

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 Republican governor, Brian 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.'"

Judges on Fulton County's Superior Court bench Jan. 24, 2022 cleared the way for a special grand jury to be used for 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. 

Trump has called the investigation a political witch hunt.  "What this Civil Special Grand Jury should be looking into is not my perfect phone call, but the large-scale voter fraud that took place in Georgia."

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.

Legal Analysis: Writing in The Atlantic on Jan. 25, David French asked:

Were Trump's attempts to reverse the outcome in Georgia (and nationally) criminal? There is compelling evidence that they were, under both Georgia state law and federal criminal statutes.

Perhaps the best guide to why they were criminal is a Brookings Institution report, published in October, that assessed Trump's actions in light of Georgia criminal law. The report concluded that "Trump's post-election conduct in Georgia leaves him at substantial risk of possible state charges predicated on multiple crimes."  The crimes include "criminal solicitation to commit election fraud" and "conspiracy to commit election fraud," among others.

I highlight those two statutes because they most plainly apply on their face.

Georgia's conspiracy-to-commit-election-fraud statute makes it a crime when one "conspires or agrees with another" to violate Georgia's election laws and, crucially, states that "the crime shall be complete when the conspiracy or agreement is effected and an overt act in furtherance thereof has been committed, regardless of whether the violation of this chapter is consummated." In other words, the scheme does not have to succeed to be criminal.

Georgia's relevant criminal-solicitation statute is also both straightforward and deeply problematic for Trump. Its first provision states:

     "A person commits the offense of criminal solicitation to commit election fraud in the first degree when, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony under this article, he or she solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage in such conduct."

And what is the precise violation of Georgia election law that Trump was conspiring to commit and soliciting others to commit? His demands implicate a number of laws, but among the most applicable is Georgia Code Section 21-2-566, which prohibits willfully tampering "with any electors list, voter's certificate, numbered list of voters, ballot box, voting machine, direct recording electronic (DRE) equipment, electronic ballot marker, or tabulating machine."

As the Brookings report notes, Trump's demands to Raffensperger appear to represent a "clear request" that "Raffensperger alter the final vote tallies so that Trump would appear to have won the election." If Raffensperger had done so, he'd have tampered "with lists of voters, voting machines, ballot records, DRE equipment, tabulating machines, or voter/ballot data uploaded to the secretary of state website from tabulating machines and DRE equipment."

To charge Trump with a crime District Attorney Willis will "need what everyone else who is investigating the former president's involvement in election fraud or outright election criminality needs - proof of the former president's state of mind," Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said on MSNBC's "The Katie Phang Show."

And Willis "has a good case walking in the door to that grand jury because she's got the tape" of Trump soliciting votes after the election, Vance added.

Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ahead of the official vote certification, telling him to "find" enough votes to change his loss to Joe Biden in the state into a victory. "Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break."

The call is particularly damning, Vance said, because Trump is "asking not for an investigation into potential voting fraud, not for a look to see whether something went wrong, but he's asking" Raffensperger to simply "find him the specific number of votes that he needs" to make him a winner.

"That's pretty good evidence of criminal intent walking into it." 

And former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, on June 19, commented, Trump has "zero" defense against a criminal investigation into whether him pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to tilt the election in his favor constitutes as election interference.

Akerman said during an appearance on MSNBC's The Katie Phang Show that the investigation in Georgia is more likely to "send Donald Trump to prison" than the investigation by the Jan. 6 Select Committee because the tapes of Trump asking Raffensperger to "find" thousands of votes to overturn Joe Biden's win could bolster the prosecution's case against him.

"What is significant with those tapes is that when you put it in context of all of the evidence that the January 6 committee has uncovered-you put that together, Donald Trump has zero defense in Georgia," he said. "If I had to put my money on one prosecution that's going to go forward here that will send Donald Trump to jail-it's Georgia. No question about it."

Akerman explained the recorded audio tapes could be difficult for the former president's defense team to defend in court. In fact, he argued Trump's only defense in the case would be "trying to somehow pick up on some ambiguity in the tape that he didn't really mean what he said."


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

The Latest:  Top Ten Revelations from June 28 hearing from Fox News, CNN and Rolling Stone:

1. Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified under oath and described Trump's angry reaction after former Attorney General Bill Barr said in an interview with the Associated Press on December 1, 2020 that the Department of Justice had not found evidence of widespread voter fraud after the 2020 election. Hutchinson testified Trump went down to the White House dining room and threw a plate against the wall, shattering it. "I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off of the wall to help the valet out."

2. Hutchinson testified her boss - Mark Meadows - predicted days before Jan. 6 that things could go awry when Congress certified electoral votes on Jan. 6. Hutchinson walked with former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani out of the White House and Giuliani said Jan. 6 would be "a great day" and that Trump would be on Capitol Hill and "look powerful." Hutchinson said she then asked Meadows about 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.'" 

3. 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." (Blog editor's note: Trump is pretty clear that he actually wanted armed protestors to walk down to the Capitol when Congress acted to name Joe Biden the next president.) 

4. Trump left his rally speech on Jan. 6 expecting that he would be taken to the Capitol, despite warnings from his top lawyers, including Pat Cipollone. 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. (Blog editor's note: The Washington Post confirmed Trump was angry about not being taken to the Capitol after his speech. See #10 below regarding the allegation he lunged at the Secret Service agent.) 

5. Not long after the rioters broke into the US Capitol, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone rushed into Meadows' office demanding a meeting with Trump, but Meadows said Trump didn't want to do anything about it. Hutchinson said Cipollone "very clearly said this to Mark - something to the effect of, 'Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood's going to be on your f---ing hands.'"

6. Hutchinson said that she heard Meadows say Trump did not think the Capitol rioters were doing anything wrong and that Vice President Pence deserved to face chants calling for his hanging. "I remember Pat Cipollone saying something to the effect of, 'Mark, we need to do something more, they're literally calling for the vice president to be f---ing hung.' And Mark had responded something to the effect of, 'You heard it, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn't think they're doing anything wrong.'"

7. Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, White House counsel Cipollone, deputy counsel Pat Philbin and others urged Trump to put out another stronger statement of unity the day after the attack on the Capitol. Family members and White House officials were concerned over rumors that Trump's Cabinet officials were considering invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from power.

8. Meadows and former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani each sought pardons after Jan. 6.

9. "I know her. I don't think she is lying." - Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

10. In response to the testimony, Trump unleased a dozen posts on Truth Social, referring to Hutchinson as a "a total phony and a leaker," accusing her of being embittered after not receiving a job offer with Trump's team after his presidency ended and claiming her body language "is that of a total bullshit artist." The former president called allegations that he had lunged at a Secret Service agent in an attempt to take the wheel of the presidential vehicle and grab a Secret Service agent by the throat "sick" and "fraudulent." (Blog editor's note: Peter Alexander of NBC News reports "A source close to the Secret Service tells me both Bobby Engel, the lead agent, and the presidential limousine/SUV driver are prepared to testify under oath that neither man was assaulted and that Mr. Trump never lunged for the steering wheel."  Fox News anchor Bret Baier dismissed Trump's complaints about Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony: "Cassie Hutchinson is under oath on Capitol Hill. The president is on Truth Social making his statements.")  

John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, wrote on June 28:

The testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, the aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, cannot be dismissed. If what she has testified to, sworn under oath, is not countered or contradicted by Meadows or Trump's White House counsel Pat Cippolone-either under oath themselves or eventually before a grand jury-then there is a credible criminal case that Trump violated the law in ways not dealt with by the second impeachment, and from which he would not be shielded by executive privilege.

And here's the rub for Trump. He has so far been protected by Meadows and Cippolone because they have refused to testify to the committee under claims of executive privilege-that Congress does not have the power to force them to speak about their direct conversations with the president or the actions they may have taken under his direct authority because the executive branch is not subordinate to the legislative branch. But they can testify if they choose. If they do not, they will, in essence, be allowing Hutchinson's testimony to stand.

As a result of the bombshells today, there's no question now that Donald Trump is staring down the barrel of an indictment for seditious conspiracy against the government of the United States.

Background:  On July 1, 2021 the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), named her appointments to the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack to examine and report upon 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. (On June 19, 2022, following several nationally-televised committee hearings, former President Trump criticized McCarthy's decision to not appoint any Republicans to the committee. "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 New York Post reports former President Trump blasted the "leftist" Select Committee, saying the committee has "further exposed itself as a partisan sham and waste of taxpayer dollars." (Blog editor's note:  Despite Trump's protests, his son, Donald Jr., his daughter, Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, and Donald Jr.'s fiancee, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and several Trump Administration senior leaders all testified before the committee.)

The committee held its first hearing July 27, 2021. Fox News reported the four witnesses at the hearing were Private First Class Harry Dunn and Sergeant Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the Metropolitan Police Department. They provided detailed and emotional testimony about the attack.

"To be honest, I did not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 or the United States they claimed to represent," Gonell, an immigrant and Army veteran, said. "The rioters called me traitor, a disgrace, and shouted that I, I, an Army veteran and police officer, should be executed. I heard specific threats to the lives of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and also Vice President Mike Pence," Gonell added, saying that the officers "fought hand to hand, inch by inch, to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a mob intent on subverting our democratic process." Gonell said that the attackers were shouting, "Trump sent us. Pick the right side."

On Aug. 25 the committee requested documents of Trump's official communications and activities leading up to lawmakers' certification of the electoral college results on Jan. 6, 2021. According to The Hill, the committee's document request to the Archives is "nothing short of sweeping." It seeks documents, communications, calendars, schedules, movement logs, videos, photographs, visitor logs, and telephone records and efforts to challenge the 2020 election results. It asked for documents not just from top White House aides but also from members of Trump's own family.

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 Committee. 

"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 constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself."  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  that "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."

On Feb.16, President Biden ordered the release of Trump White House visitor logs to the House committee, rejecting Trump's claims of executive privilege once more.

U.S. District Judge David Carter ruled March 28 in a civil case involving subpoenas from the Select Committee that he found it "more likely than not" that former President Trump and attorney John Eastman engaged in criminal conduct and that Trump "likely knew" his allegations of electoral fraud were baseless and his plan to stop or delay the vote count unlawful because the president had been told repeatedly by credible sources there was no voter fraud.

"The illegality of the plan was obvious," Carter, who was appointed by former President Clinton, wrote. "Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election."

Carter said there was enough evidence to find a likelihood that Trump committed at least two felonies: obstruction of an official proceeding, a serious charge that has been brought against hundreds of Capitol riot defendants, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

"If Dr. Eastman and President Trump's plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution. If the country does not commit to investigating and pursing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself."

As of May 1, the committee had interviewed more than 930 witnesses, according to the Associated Press.

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 as well as clips of videotaped testimony from some of people in former President Trump's orbit, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, CBS News reported.

Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney in their opening statements detailed how many Trump administration officials themselves did not believe the former president's baseless claims of a stolen election.

Former Attorney General William Barr, for example, told the Jan. 6 committee in his testimony that he told Trump his claims of a stolen election were "bullsh**." And Ivanka Trump said she "trusted" that there was no fraud because she respected Barr.

Cheney and Thompson called the events a "conspiracy" - and noted how many people were involved. The Jan. 6 committee plans to argue during its hearings:

1. Trump spread false information about the 2020 election.

2. Trump tried to install loyalists at the DOJ so the department would "support his fake election claims."

3. Trump pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to help overturn the election.

4. Trump urged on state election officials and legislators to change the election results.

5. Trump's legal team "instructed Republicans in multiple states to create false electoral slates and transmit those slates to Congress and the National Archive."

6. Trump summoned and assembled the mob in D.C. and directed them to march on the Capitol.

7. Trump ignored pleas for assistance from his team and failed to take action to stop the violence.

But the main theme of the hearing was detailing the chaos and violence of Jan. 6, 2021. Cheney said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy texted Trump family members and told them he was "scared" about what was happening.

Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who sustained a traumatic brain injury that day, testified about her experience on Jan. 6, describing it as "carnage" and "chaos." In the footage that was shown of the attack, no one tried to help Edwards as she lost consciousness after being hit with a bike rack and striking her head on the stairs. "I was slipping in people's blood. I was catching people as they fell ... it was carnage, it was chaos. I can't even describe what I saw. Never in my wildest dreams, did I think that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle."

On June 13, Rep. Bennie 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, 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."

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. After the Jan. 6 riot, Eastman sought a presidential pardon before Trump left office but was denied. Eastman later plead the Fifth in his deposition to the January 6 Committee more than a 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 jut 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 allegations/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.'"

Running Tally: Who's cooperating and who's not

Who's pleading the Fifth: Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Jeffrey Clark, Michael Flynn, Oath Keepers' Stewart Rhodes and John Eastman.  Gen. Flynn took the Fifth when asked, "Do you believe in a peacheful transition of power after a presidential election?" 

Who's cooperating: First  Daughter and former White House advisor Ivanka Trump, former President Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., 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,  chairwoman of the Republican National Committee Ronna Romney McDaniel, 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 Kelloggformer head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Engelformer White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former Attorney General William Barr,  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, Giuliani-pal Bernard Kerik, 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, former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and Ben Williamson, an aide to Mark Meadows who was in the West Wing of the White House on Jan. 6 The committee has interviewed over 1,000 witnesses as of May, 2022.

Who's not cooperating:  White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Mo Brooks (Alabama), Andy Biggs (Arizona) and Ronny Jackson (Texas).  

Who's been held in contempt by the committee:  Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro, Dan Scavino, Mark Meadows and Jeffrey Clark.  All have been referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution. The DOJ has declined to charge Meadows or Scavino.

Who's been charged with a crime by the DOJ: Steve Bannon was held in contempt by both the committee and the House in 2021 and subsequently charged with two counts of criminal contempt by the Justice Department and is awaiting trial.  Peter Navarro was indicted by the Justice Department in June, 2022 on two criminal contempt charges. 

Who's pleading executive privilege: Donald Trump, Peter Navarro, John Eastman, Alex Jones, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows. Commented Dennis Aftergut, a former assistant U.S. attorney, "It's not surprising that those closest to Trump are refusing to provide testimony. Those who do not fear the truth tend to share it."

Who's suing the committee: Mark Meadows, Donald Trump, various organizers of the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally, Alex Jones, Peter Navarro, Michael Flynn, the Republican National Committee, the Oath Keepers, Arizona GOP Chair Kelly Ward, and Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich. 

Who is suing to prevent their phone records from being turned over to the committee:  Mark Meadows, Stephen Miller, Sidney Powell, Roger Stone, Mike Lindell, Sebastian Gorka, Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward and Michael Flynn.  

Who the committee is still waiting to hear from:  Nancy Pelosi,  Jenna Ellis, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan and Donald Trump Jr.  

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, writes Politico's Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu.

"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 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 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. We don't know exactly what we'll learn there, either."

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 it.

"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 an extremely thorough and 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.  In a particularly damning portion of his opinion, 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."

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."

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, also commented at Politico Magazine on June 15 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."

But then the New York Times reported June 18, "In a civil case related to the committee's work, a federal judge concluded in March 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 David O. Carter of Federal District Court for the Central District of California concluded in that case.

"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. Members of the House committee have made similar suggestions, and some lawyers have contended that Mr. Trump could also be vulnerable to a charge of seditious conspiracy."

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!"

The Latest:  The day before a mob of President Donald J. Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff called Mr. Pence's lead Secret Service agent to his West Wing office, Maggie Haberman at the New York Times reported June 3.

The chief of staff, Marc Short, had a message for the agent, Tim Giebels: The president was going to turn publicly against the vice president, and there could be a security risk to Mr. Pence because of it.

Short did not know what form such a security risk might take, according to people familiar with the events. But after days of intensifying pressure from Trump on Pence to take the extraordinary step of intervening in the certification of the Electoral College count to forestall Trump's defeat, Short seemed to have good reason for concern. The vice president's refusal to go along was exploding into an open and bitter breach between the two men at a time when the president was stoking the fury of his supporters who were streaming into Washington.

"Mr. Short's previously unreported warning reflected the remarkable tension in the West Wing as Mr. Trump and a band of allies, with the clock running out, searched desperately for a means of overturning the election. Mr. Trump grew agitated as his options closed, and it became clear that he was failing in his last-ditch effort to muscle his previously compliant vice president into unilaterally rejecting the voting outcomes in key states.

"The warning also shows the concern at the highest levels of the government about the danger that Mr. Trump's anticipated actions and words might lead to violence on Jan. 6."

(See Jan. 5 below.)


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."

Nov. 5

Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, texts White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, "Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition."  

Donald Trump Jr., the oldest son of the president, texts Meadows outlining a strategy that is nearly identical to what allies of the President will attempt to carry out in the months ahead.  In his texts, Trump Jr. makes specific reference to filing lawsuits and advocating recounts to prevent certain swing states from certifying their results, as well as having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake "Trump electors." 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."

Nov. 6

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 enough of 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.

Nov. 7

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.

Nov. 9

Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice 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.") 

Nov. 10

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." (Fast forward: In both 2021 and 2022, the Supreme Court will act on 2020 presidential election-related matters. Virginia Thomas' husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, will not recuse himself from participating in any of those decisions.)

Nov. 18

President Trump fires Chris Krebs, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Krebs had been actively refuting claims - including those by President Trump - that the 2020 election was subject to widespread voter fraud and hacking.

Nov. 19

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.

Nov. 21

A supporter of President Trump drafts a letter proposing the president use his authority to enlist armed private contractors to seize and inspect voting machines and election data with the assistance of U.S. Marshals. (Note: The letter turned out to be an early iteration of a draft executive order presented to Trump on Dec. 18.)

Mid to late November

Trump suggests, in an Oval Office meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr, that the Justice Department seize voting machines in certain states won by Biden. Barr rejects the idea, telling the president there is no basis for seizing the machines because there is no probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

Around the same time, Trump also tries to persuade state lawmakers in contested states like Michigan and Pennsylvania to use local law enforcement agencies to take control of voting machines. State lawmakers refuse to go along with the plan.

Nov. 23

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."

Dec. 1

Barr 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."

Early December

At a White House meeting, White House counsel Pat Cipollone told 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 explained trying to certify a Trump win in that manner "did not comply with the law."

Dec. 4

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.

Dec. 5

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.)

Dec. 8

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."

Dec. 9

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 tweeted.

Dec. 10

A group of prominent conservatives signed an open letter reading:

"There is no doubt President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election. Joe Biden is not president-elect. Accordingly, state legislatures in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan should exercise their plenary power under the Constitution and appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump. Similarly, both the House and Senate should accept only these clean Electoral College slates and object to and reject any competing slates in favor of Vice President Biden from these states."

Georgia Attorney General Carr files a response with the Supreme Court to the Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the election in several states, urging the justices to reject the Trump-backed lawsuit. 

Dec. 11

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 Mark 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.)

Dec. 14

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 submit the phony documents (each of their states have already sent the states' official certificate to the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) 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.

Dec. 15

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.

Dec. 16

An executive order is drafted 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, which was never issued, would have given 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.

(The author of the draft order, titled, PRESIDENTIAL FINDINGS TO PRESERVE COLLECT AND ANALYZE NATIONAL SECURITY INFORMATION REGARDING THE 2020 GENERAL ELECTION has not been identified.)

Dec. 18

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, verbally agrees to appoint Powell special counsel to investigate foreign interference and calls Rudy Giuliani into the meeting.  

At one point in the meeting, it is suggested that the president appoint Flynn as "field marshal" to coordinate Powell's efforts.

But Giuliani and White House staff urge the President to reject the proposal, Giuliani telling him the U.S. military could only get involved if there was evidence of foreign interference in the election.  Powell says she has the evidence. 

Trump ultimately heeds Giuliani's advice and rejects the draft executive order. Trump directs Giuliani to contact Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli and ask if his agency could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states. (Cuccinelli later tells Giuliani the agency lacks the authority to audit or impound the machines.)

A little more than an hour after Powell, Giuliani, General Flynn and others left the White House, President Trump sends a Tweet telling people to come to Washington on Jan. 6. "Be there. Will be wild!"

Dec. 19

President Trump tweets, "Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election.... Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"

Dec. 21

President Trump meets with Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry, and 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.)  Rudy 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, groups strategizing to avoid arrest in D.C., and discussions of 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.

Dec. 23

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 Congressional testimony by Acting Attorney General Rosen, President Trump speaks at least five times with acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, "engaging in unauthorized conversations" about how the department might "publicly cast doubt on President Biden's victory."

Dec. 27

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.)

Dec. 28

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."

Dec. 29

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 Special Assistant and Oval Office Coordinator Molly Michael emails Rosen and Donoghue a draft Supreme Court brief contesting the election, telling them: "The President asked me to send the attached draft document for your review. I have also shared with Mark Meadows and Pat Cipollone."

Dec. 31

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 demand 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 meant 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." Said 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, and then says that 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."

Jan. 3

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 and 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 received 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.

Jan. 4

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" by the left. "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." 

Jan. 5

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 process and, on at least one call, presses for a scheme to get alternate slates of electors sent to Congress from battleground states Trump lost to Biden.

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 Mike 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 at a Washington D.C. hotel luggage carts 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."

Jan. 6

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. 

President Trump 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."

Trump continued. "We will never give up. We will never concede. We will stop the steal!" 

President Trump then urges his supporters to march to the Capitol, saying he would march with them. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."

After the rally, at 1:49 p.m., Trump 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."

Pence releases a letter publicly rejecting Trump and Eastman's plan to overturn the election.  

Beginning shortly before 2 p.m., hundreds of Trump supporters march from the "Stop the Steal" rally to the Capitol and begin a battle with police, forcibly and illegally breaking into the Capitol and crying out, "Hang Mike Pence!" (Trump later that day comments:  "Maybe out supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.")

The Oath Keepers breach the Capitol in military formation. 

By 2:20 p.m., after protesters broke through windows and climbed into the Capitol, the building goes into lockdown.

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 three hours, until the riot is contained.

President Trump never calls Pence or asks about his welfare.

At 2:38 p.m., minutes after Ivanka Trump speaks with her father about the riot, President Trump tweets support for the Capitol Police, urging people to "stay peaceful," while scenes of violence and mayhem are splashed across American TV. "I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order - respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!" 

President Trump watches the riot on television 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."

As the battle inside the Capitol rages, Donald Trump, Jr. sends a text to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, "He's got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol police tweet is not enough." Ivanka Trump, senior advisor to the president, asks her father again to "please stop this violence."

GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy, protected by Capital police, phones President Trump to give him a first-hand report of the violence in the Capitol building. McCarthy tells Trump, "I just got evacuated from the Capitol! There were shots fired right off the House floor. You need to make this stop." Trump initially claims the protesters are linked to Antifa, referring to a network of "leftist" protesters and criminals. When McCarthy pushes back, saying, no, the protesters are Trump supporters, the president responds, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." McCarthy yells back, "Who the fuck do you think you are talking to?"

President Trump continues to watch events unfold on television. "He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV," says one close Trump adviser.

At 4 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. President 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.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani calls GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama at about 7 p.m. and leaves a voice message: "Senator Tuberville-or should I say Coach Tuberville, this is Rudy Giuliani, the President's lawyer. I'm calling you because I want to discuss with you how they're trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down."

And at 8 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.

Aftermath

  • Five days later, on Jan. 11, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Republicans during a private conference call that President Trump had admitted to him that he bore some responsibility for the deadly attack that day. "I asked him personally today, does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he needs to acknowledge that." (Trump in April, 2022 denied ever telling McCarthy he bore responsibility for Jan. 6.)

  • On January 13, a week after the Jan. 6 riot, John Eastman, a law professor at the Fowler School of Law at Chapman University and a key figure in President Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, agreed to resign his position at the university. The president of the university issued a statement saying Eastman and the university agreed not to sue each other over Eastman's resignation.
  • In a November, 2021 interview, former President Trump justified his supporters calls on Jan. 6 to hang his vice president, Mike Pence, telling ABC News' Jonathan Karl, "Because it's common sense, Jon. It's common sense that you're supposed to protect. How can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?"

  • At the June 13, 2022 hearing of the Select Committee, former Attorney General Bill Barr stated: "Right out of the box on election night, the President claimed that there was major fraud underway. I mean, this happened, as far as I could tell, before there was actually any potential of looking at evidence." 



Justice Department investigating Jan. 6 riot; is Trump now a target?

 The Justice Department criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has expanded to examine the preparations and planning for the rally that preceded the riot, as the DOJ aims to determine the full extent of any conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's election victory, the Washington Post reported March 30.

In March and February, a federal grand jury in Washington issued subpoena requests to some "VIP" officials in former president Donald Trump's orbit who assisted in planning, funding and executing the Jan. 6 rally.

According to AXIOS, the Justice Department is also now scrutinizing those in the executive and legislative branches who were involved in any pre-insurrection rallies or tried to "obstruct, influence, impede or delay" Congress' Jan. 6 certification of the election results.

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 further beyond the storming of the Capitol to examine events preceding the attack.

The events of Jan. 6, 2021 are a legally fraught puzzle for federal investigators. Prosecutors and FBI agents must distinguish between constitutionally protected First Amendment activity, such as speech and assembly, and the alleged conspiracy to obstruct Congress or other potential crimes connected to fundraising and organizing leading up to Jan. 6.

The Justice Department's interest in the details of planning the rally dovetails with previous subpoenas issued to some rally organizers by the House Select Committee that is separately investigating Jan. 6. But the grand jury's work involving the Justice Department subpoena requests is a criminal investigation, far different from lawmakers pressing for public accountability.

The Justice Department is seeking 131 more attorneys to pursue prosecutions streaming from the sprawling investigation into the deadly Capitol attack, USA Today reported March 28.

More than 800 people have been charged so far in connection with the attack, though Justice has repeatedly declined to comment on whether the investigation includes the conduct of former President Trump, his advisers or other members of the administration in inciting the assault or seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

In early 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.

Is Trump now a target?  Peter Navarro, a top White House adviser to then-President Trump, is being commanded by a federal grand jury subpoena to turn over to the justice department his communications with the former president, the former president's attorneys and the former president's representatives, Hugo Lowell at The Guardian reported May 31.

"The exact nature of the subpoena - served on 26 May 2022 and first obtained by The Guardian - and whether it means Trump himself is under criminal investigation for January 6 could not be established given the unusually sparse details included on the order.

"But certain elements appear to suggest that it is related to a new investigation examining potential criminality by the former president and, at the very least, that the justice department is expanding its inquiry for the first time into Trump and his inner circle.

"The subpoena compelled Navarro to either testify to a grand jury early next month, or produce to prosecutors all documents requested in a separate congressional subpoena issued earlier this year by the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack."

"All documents relating to the subpoena dated February 9, 2022, that you received from the House select committee," the justice department says in the subpoena, "including but not limited to any communication with former President Trump and/or his counsel or representatives."

"It remains entirely possible, given the explicit reference to the select committee, that the grand jury subpoena indicates the US attorney for the District of Columbia, Matthew Graves, is building a criminal contempt of Congress charge against Navarro.

"But the fact that Trump is specifically named in the subpoena - a reference that the justice department would not have made lightly - and the specific requests for Navarro's communications with Trump could indicate that this is a criminal investigation examining Trump.

"At least four separate grand juries are now examining events related to the January 6 Capitol attack. One grand jury was impaneled last year for a contempt charge against Trump's strategist Steve Bannon. A second is examining organizers of pro-Trump rallies, a third is looking at Trump lawyers in a scheme to falsify slates of electors, and now a fourth concerns Navarro."

James Risen at The Intercept wrote June 25:

"Just before the House January 6 committee's dramatic hearing on Thursday on former President Trump's efforts to use the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election, the FBI raided the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department official who worked most closely with Trump to try to keep him in power.

"The raid is significant because it provides a tentative sign that the Justice Department may finally be conducting a criminal investigation of Trump and his allies for their attempt to stage a coup.

"The raid on Clark's house suggests that the Justice Department has expanded its investigation beyond January 6, in order to investigate the repeated attempts by Trump and his allies throughout the transition period between November 2020 and January 2021 to try to illegally overturn the election.

"If a criminal conspiracy case is to be developed against Trump, gathering evidence from and about Clark would be a good place to start. Clark was a total Trump loyalist, willing to do anything to help the president stay in power. In the midst of Trump's frantic efforts to overturn the election, Clark was eager for Trump to fire acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and then take over himself at the Justice Department. Once he was in charge, he planned to issue a letter to state officials in Georgia claiming, falsely, that the Justice Department had found evidence of election fraud and recommending that the Georgia state legislature should be called into special session to reopen the whole debate about who won the presidential election there."


Justice Department, states investigating GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College voters, plus Legal Analysis

The Latest:  Federal investigators subpoenaed the Georgia Republican Party chairman for information related to the fake elector scheme there -- as the Justice Department has issued a fresh round of subpoenas to people from several states who acted as rogue electors after the 2020 presidential election, multiple sources familiar with the situation told CNN.

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 this week in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- all states that Trump lost.

CNN previously reported the criminal probe sought information from Republicans in several states, including Georgia and Michigan, who had backed out of serving as Trump electors.

In this latest round of subpoenas, the targets are people who signed on to the illegitimate slates, sources say. 

In related news, Jonathan Allen at NBC News reported the Jan. 6 Select Committee revealed that the fake electors submitted false certifications of Trump victories to the National Archives in hopes of having then-Vice President Mike Pence substitute them for the actual electoral votes that made Joe Biden president.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in pre-recorded testimony that was aired during the committee's June 21 hearing that Trump called her so that one of his lawyers, John Eastman, could outline how the party organization could play its part in trying to certify Trump slates from states that voted for Biden.

"Essentially he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states," McDaniel said, revealing Trump's direct knowledge of the effort to undermine the election.

Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, said in recorded testimony that the White House counsel's office advised Meadows, Giuliani and others that the plan was not legally sound. 

And, in other news, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel confirmed that former President Trump was involved in lawyer John Eastman's fake elector scheme, the Washington Examiner reported.

During a brief excerpt from her deposition played during the Jan. 6 committee hearing June 21, McDaniel explained that Trump called her and put her in touch with Eastman, who then engaged with the RNC about the scheme over the following months.

"He turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of these legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states. I think more, just helping them reach out and assemble them," she said. "My understanding is the campaign did take the lead, and we just were helping them in that - in that role."

Background:  The Justice Department is looking into a GOP plot in 2020 to put forward fake electors from seven states that then-President Trump lost after receiving a referral on the matter from the Michigan state attorney general, CNN reported. 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, in fact, 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 also 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," Driscoll said. "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." Federal prosecutors have reportedly sent grand jury subpoenas to potential witnesses seeking their communications with "any member, employee or agent of Donald J. Trump" as well as their communications with the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Georgia have interviewed several individuals who served as fake GOP electors from the state, CNN reported May 10.

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 one of his chief legal advisers, John Eastman.

(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.)

Legal Analysis: Neil Cavuto told his Fox News audience June 21 that the Jan. 6 Select Committee's hearings made former President Trump "look awful." Cavuto then turned to Thomas Dupree, who served in the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush.

According to Mediaite, Dupree said the committee focused its attention June 21 on the links between Trump and the effort to send Congress slates of fake electors.

"It seems to be a real theme that the committee members are trying to bring out in their statements and their questioning to show that the former president wasn't just a bystander or that people that work for him were trying to do this, but that the president was a central player in all of this," Dupree said.

Dupree added that it's unclear whether Trump truly believed his false claims that the election was stolen from him.

Cavuto asked, "If you knowingly make statements you know aren't true and they're proven untrue and yet you still make the statements - maybe because you're totally and personally convinced you're in the right and they're in the wrong - at what point does that cross a constitutional line and maybe a legal one?"

Dupree replied, "It can cross a legal line if you're making those false statements in conjunction with the certification of an election or you're trying to corrupt the count or things of that nature."

Dupree added Trump could be in legal trouble if it can be shown that he "believed or knew or understood that his claims didn't have merit and yet, went ahead with this."


House Oversight Committee, Justice Department investigate removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago, plus Legal Analysis

The National Archives and Records Administration asked the Justice Department to examine former President Trump's handling of White House records, the Washington Post reported Feb. 9, 2022.

The referral from the National Archives came amid recent revelations that officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida that were not handed back to the government as they should have been, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up. Archives officials suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents - including those that might be considered classified.

And then on Feb. 10, the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee moved to investigate Trump's handling of White House records, the Washington Post reported.

In a letter sent to Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) requested information "to examine the extent and impact" of Trump's apparent violations of the Presidential Records Act.

Trump's years-long defiance of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president's official duties, has long raised concerns among historians and legal observers. His penchant for ripping up official documents was first reported by Politico in 2018, but it has drawn new scrutiny in recent weeks because of a House select committee's investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In a statement Feb. 9, 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 said 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."

According to CNN, getting Trump to return the documents "took nearly eight months to resolve -- beginning with NARA's outreach in May, 2021 and ending with its retrieval of the boxes from Mar-a-Lago  in January, 2022. In the end, it may have been a threat that ended the impasse. At one point, the Archives notified a member of Trump's team that it planned to alert Congress and the Department of Justice of the matter if it wasn't quickly resolved."

While federal law bars the removal of classified documents to unauthorized locations, sitting presidents have broad authority over classification. 

And then 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 - some of which were labeled "top secret." 

The New York Times reported April 8 the investigation is being led by the FBI.

"The Justice Department has instructed the National Archives not to share with the House Oversight Committee, which is conducting its own investigation, details about the material taken from the White House by Trump, the committee disclosed, in a hint that a criminal investigation might be underway."

The New York Times reported May 12 federal prosecutors had begun a grand jury investigation into whether classified White House documents were mishandled.

"In recent days, the Justice Department has taken a series of steps showing that its investigation has progressed beyond the preliminary stages. 

"The authorities have also made interview requests to people who worked in the White House in the final days of Mr. Trump's presidency, according to one of the people."

Legal Analysis:  "The Clintons had to return gifts, and there were lots of presidents who didn't write anything down, or not keep emails, but I don't know of a story since 1978 of a president leaving with this much material," Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University, told the Washington Post. "I can't give you someone worse than Trump."

But substantiating a criminal case against Trump - and perhaps even launching a criminal investigation - could be difficult, the Post reported.

Legal experts and analysts have noted that the National Archives lacks a real enforcement mechanism, and all recent administrations have had some violations of federal records laws - most often involving the use of unofficial email and telephone accounts.

Federal law makes it a crime to destroy government records, but it requires that a person know specifically they are breaking the law when doing so.

However, it could be a legal problem for Trump if significant amounts of classified material were among the materials at Mar-a-Lago, though it is hardly unheard of for former government officials to have such material outside appropriate government storage channels.

Hillary Clinton, Trump's opponent in 2016, was famously investigated by the FBI for possibly mishandling classified information in connection with her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. During the 2016 campaign , then-House Speaker Paul Ryan formally requested that Clinton be denied intelligence briefings - insisting that her email practices were proof that she mishandled classified information and therefore couldn't be trusted. Trump called for Clinton to be jailed, leading campaign rally chants of "Lock her up!"

The Justice Department ultimately did not bring criminal charges against Clinton, after the FBI decided she did not act with the intent necessary to substantiate a case. 

A national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger, was prosecuted for removing classified documents from the National Archives by stuffing them into his pants during the 9/11 Commission investigation.

Chris Truax, an appellate lawyer in San Diego, wrote at The Bulwark on Feb. 14 on the topic:

There are problems with prosecuting Trump for mishandling classified documents. For example, the Department of Justice would have to demonstrate that Trump himself was responsible for removing the documents-and that he had done so knowing they were classified. Establishing those facts will be hard even if they are true and these documents were not removed either by accident or at the direction of someone else.

Perhaps the biggest problem though is that when it comes to classified information, a sitting president really is kind of above the law. While he was president, Trump had the ultimate authority to decide what was classified and what wasn't. There is at least one documented example of him "declassifying" highly sensitive information on a whim so he could brag about it to the Russians. If he were criminally charged with improperly handling classified documents after he left the presidency, he could always claim that he had declassified those particular documents while he was still president. This would not be a defense to be proud of, but it might also be hard to disprove.


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 overturn the 2020 election - are all under investigation from California to the New York island for being wrong about 2020 election fraud and their subsequent actions to try to subvert the will of the American voters. 

Powell update:  

The Latest:  A Texas judge refused June 22 to dismiss a disciplinary action by the State Bar of Texas against former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who told the judge she is the victim of a "political hitjob" by Democrats, Courthouse News reported.

Collin County District Judge Andrea Bouressa, a Republican, denied Powell's motion to dismiss in a bench ruling after an hour-long hearing.

"I cannot conclude the plaintiff's allegations, if taken as true, do not entitle it to the relief sought," she said.

The state bar's Commission for Lawyer Discipline sued Powell in neighboring Dallas County in March, after receiving 10 separate complaints against her since 2020. The complainants allege Powell committed professional misconduct in contesting the election of President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump.

The bar association claims Powell filed federal lawsuits in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin that were frivolous and violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and five subsections of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. It alleges Powell took positions in the litigation that "unreasonably increased the costs" of the cases and "unreasonably delayed" their resolution, including an alleged failure to drop a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Michigan when "requested relief was moot."

Background: In the aftermath of Election Day, 2020 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, 2020 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 in the matter.

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."

Eastman update:  

The Latest:  CNN reported June 27 that the FBI seized the phone of John Eastman June 22 at a New Mexico restaurant Eastman and his wife were dining at and allegedly "forced" him to unlock his IPhone with his biometric data. The FBI reported has subsequently accessed Eastman's email accounts. 

Eastman asked a federal judge to force the FBI to return the phone and destroy any records it obtained via the phone. 

Eastman's phone was seized the same day federal agents searched the home of former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, who volunteered to help Trump try to overturn the 2020 election if then-President Trump appointed him Attorney General.  Which Trump considered but ultimately decided against.

Background:  The State Bar of California confirmed it has been investigating since 2021 Eastman 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," Cardona said.  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."

On March 28, 2022 U.S. District Judge David Carter ruled that Eastman must turn over documents to the Jan. 6 Select 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 into the creation of alternate slates of pro-Trump electors seeking to overturn Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election, 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.")

Giuliani update:  

The Latest:   A Black former Georgia election worker said on June 21 that she faced racist, deadly threats as President Trump publicly attacked her and her mother and sought to overturn the 2020 election results, Business Insider reported.

Wandrea ArShaye "Shaye" Moss, a veteran election official in Fulton County, testified before the January 6 committee during its fourth public hearing.

Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Georgia state Senate that Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, "engaged in surreptitious illegal activity" and accused them of "passing around USB ports as if they're vials of heroin or cocaine." He claimed a video of the election workers counting ballots showed the alleged crime.

That entirely unsubstantiated claim led to a deluge of racist and threatening Facebook messages, which Moss detailed to the committee.

"They included threats, a lot of threats wishing death upon me," she said. "Telling me that, you know, I'll be in jail with my mother, and saying things like, 'Be glad it's 2020 and not 1920.'" In 1920, several "Jim Crow" laws were in place to enforce racial segregation in the United States, and racially-motivated lynchings remained commonplace.

Moss also told the committee that the USB drive Giuliani claimed she received from her mother was actually a ginger mint.

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."

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 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." 

And 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. 

And former Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman this year filed a lawsuit against Giuliani and others 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 the 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.

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 the 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 into 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. 


Formal Complaints

Liberal organization alleges Trump violated campaign finance laws in 2020 and is doing so again in 2022 

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 whether he will be a presidential candidate in 2024,  Newsweek reported March 14.

Trump has both raised and spent "well over" $5,000 in funds related to "advancing his own presidential campaign," the complaint alleges. American Bridge states that federal campaign finance laws dictate that Trump would 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 requiring candidates to file a statement of candidacy within 15 days of making a decision and limiting contributions to $5,000.  "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."


Partial Settlement

Newsmax apologizes, settles with Dominion executive; but Trump campaign, Giuliani, Powell, One America News, the MyPillow Guy and others still 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 has 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.

And then MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and his online platform, Frank Speech, were both sued by Coomer for defamation on April 4, 2022. Coomer alleged in the complaint that his reputation had been "irreparably tarnished and that Lindell had posted "numerous false statements, defamatory interviews, and other dishonest content" maligning him on Frank Speech, along with "a sales pitch for products from MyPillow."

"Despite Defendants' baseless claims of election fraud being disproven by credible authorities across political parties, they persist in their campaign to profit from the 'Big Lie' by destroying the lives of private individuals like Dr. Coomer," the court filing said. "They have not acknowledged the harm they have caused, nor have they retracted any of their false statements."

Lindell, in 2021, said of Coomer, "You're disgusting and you are treasonous. You are a traitor to the United States of America. You know what: I can say that, just like I can about Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger," Lindell said. "These are things I have evidence of. The evidence is there. It's sitting there."

A Colorado judge on May 13 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 the 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.


Disposition of seven Trump cases

Manhattan DA's investigation of Trump's real estate empire comes to an end

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 Post reported.

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 will not be extended. Presentations to the grand jury were halted earlier this year after Manhattan District Attorney Bragg was sworn into office and raised concerns about the strength of the evidence.

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.

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.

"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."

Racine's office deposed Gates in December, 2020. Ivanka Trump sat for a five-hour deposition that same month. Her brother, Donald Jr., was deposed Feb. 11, 2021.

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.


Human rights group loses case to expose source of Trump cash at Scottish golf courses 

Edinburgh's Court of Session, the nation's highest court, ruled Nov. 25, 2021 the government does not have a duty to apply for Unexplained Wealth Orders against individuals, Business Insider reported.

The ruling puts an end to an effort to force an investigation of former President Trump's all-cash purchase in 2015 of Turnberry, the historic golf resort near Glasgow.

Craig Sandison, the senior judge who issued the ruling, agreed with the Scottish government that ministers could delegate that responsibility to the Lord Advocate, Scotland's chief legal officer.

And Dorothy Bain, the Lord Advocate (similar to the U.S. Attorney General), could still initiate a UWO against Trump, though she has made no signs that she will.

The case began after the Scottish government in February, 2021 rejected a motion to investigate former President Trump's all-cash purchases of two golf courses, Reuters reported May 24.

"Avaaz, a global human rights group based in the United States, filed a petition in Scotland's highest civil court seeking a judicial review of the government's decision not to pursue an 'unexplained wealth order' on Trump's business. In February, Parliament voted 89-to-32 against the motion, which was brought by the minority Scottish Green Party, which would have sought details on the source of the money the Trump Organization used to buy the courses in 2006 and 2014."

In 2014, Trump bought Turnberry for $68 million and has reportedly loaned it $150 million since the initial purchase.

The British government introduced "unexplained wealth" orders in 2018 to help authorities fight money laundering, target the illicit wealth of foreign officials and keep international criminals from making large investments in Scotland with "dirty money."

Eric Trump allegedly told veteran golf writer James Dodson in 2017 the courses were financed with money from Russia. Eric Trump has since denied making the comment.

And on Oct. 28, Scotland's highest court heard arguments on the case, Forbes reported.

When Trump bought the golf course in 2014 he used money "funneled in from elsewhere outside the U.K. from apparently unlimited funds," Aidan O'Neill QC, representing Avaaz, told the Court of Session.

There are, therefore, "reasonable questions" concerning the financing of Trump's Scottish golf course that need to be answered, O'Neill told Lord Sandison QC.

But ministers have a "discretion rather than an absolute obligation" to seek a UWO, Ruth Crawford QC, representing Scottish ministers, told the Court of Session. UWOs, she said, can lead to a "presumption being that the property has been obtained through unlawful conduct" and, therefore, have "a taint of criminality."


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 lawsuit 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.


Judge rejects New York City's effort to terminate Trump golf course contract over Jan. 6 riot

A state Supreme Court judge ruled April 9, 2022 that the city did not have the right to cancel the Trump Organization's contract to run the Ferry Point Golf Course, the New York Post reported.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had nixed the deal shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, arguing that Trump would not be able to attract golf tournaments.

According to Hot Air, shortly after the Jan. 6 riot, then-Mayor de Blasio declared that all of the Trump empire's contracts with the Big Apple were null and void. The four primary targets were two skating rinks in Central Park, the Central Park Carousel, and the golf course in The Bronx, all of which were managed under the Trump brand.

"This president has committed an unlawful act, he has disgraced himself, he will no longer profit from his relationship with New York City," de Blasio told reporters.

According to Hot Air, having the former mayor stand at a lectern and declare that Trump's "disgraced reputation" would prevent him from attracting tournaments to the golf course was irrelevant from the beginning, Judge Debra James ruled.  In her April 9 decision regarding the Ferry Point Golf Course, Judge James said there was nothing in the contract that required a tournament - only that the city would share in any proceeds if one were held. 

If the city wanted Trump's operation separated from the golf course it would have to buy them out at an estimated cost of $30 million.

"The judge didn't buy their nonsense and this is a well-reasoned and appropriate decision and we look forward to running the best golf course for years to come," Eric Trump said. 


Trump campaign ordered to pay Omarosa $1.3 million

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."


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Associated Press      Atlanta Journal-Constitution       AXIOS      Bloomberg News      

Bridge Michigan      Bulwark, The      Business Insider    Buzzfeed

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