Donald Trump: A busy man (in court) running for president
"Cass, if I can
get through this job and manage to keep [Trump] out of jail, I'll have done a
good job." - Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to aide Cassidy Hutchinson.
Donald Trump's legal dance card is "full up" for 2023 and 2024. And may get fuller.
As of today the GOP's leading presidential contender faces 91 criminal charges in four separate jurisdictions, adding up to three civil trials, three criminal trials with one more pending. And an eighth trial - yes, 8th - possibly lurking out west in Arizona.
Here is a quick status update on the trials awaiting Trump beginning next month.
- The New York Attorney General is suing the Trump family for $250 million. The civil trial is scheduled to begin in Manhattan next Monday, Oct. 2.
- Trump, who lost a $5 million defamation lawsuit against E. Jean Carroll earlier this year, now faces a $10 million defamation lawsuit by Carroll, scheduled to go to trial Jan. 15, 2024. Trump is trying to delay trial or even have the case dismissed, arguing what he said about Carroll while president is protected speech.
- The Trump family is being sued by unhappy viewers of "The Apprentice" for an alleged scam they pulled. A trial date of Jan. 29, 2024 has been set.
- Trump was indicted on four felony charges for his part in the Jan. 6 effort to overturn the 2020 election. The trial is set to begin March 4, 2024.
- Trump was arraigned last April and pled not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. His trial in a Manhattan criminal court is scheduled to begin March 25, 2024. The judge has indicted he is open to changing the starting date.
- Florida Federal Judge Aileen Cannon has set a trial date of May 20, 2024 in the Justice Department's case against Trump for retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump has pled not guilty to 40 felony counts in the case.
- On Aug. 14 Trump was indicted on 13 felony charges by a Fulton County, Georgia grand jury for illegally trying to overturn the 2020 election in that state. The court has set a trial date of Oct. 23, 2023 for Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro. The trial date for Trump and the other 16 defendants has not been set.
- And, if reporting is to be believed, there is a possibility that Arizona will indict the former president for his efforts to overturn the election in that state. (For details, see "Justice Department, states investigate and file charges against GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes" below.)
For a timeline of the many legal dates facing the former president as well as key dates for related cases and the GOP primary, see below near the bottom of the blog, "Calendar: Trials, hearings, deadlines and the GOP primary."
Blog updated Sept. 29
For daily updates, follow me on X at Raygiles1
New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October 2
- E. Jean Carroll sues Trump, wins $5 million judgment, sues him again for $10 million, second trial set for Jan. 15, 2024
- Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme, trial set for Jan. 29, 2024
Federal grand jury indicts Donald Trump for Jan. 6 coup attempt, trial set for March 4, 2024
- Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March 25, 2024, plus Legal Analysis
Trump indicted for refusing to return top-secret government documents; judge sets May 20, 2024 trial date, plus, timeline of Mar-a-Lago documents case
Will the Supreme Court - or state courts - decide Trump's 2024 ballot fate?
- Partner, estate of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick blame Trump, followers for his death
- NAACP, Democrat House members file lawsuit for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol; Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence
- Trump and GOP face lawsuit claiming they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act
- Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riot
- Trump faces five separate lawsuits by Capitol and D.C. police for Jan. 6 riot
- Smartmatic sues Fox News for $2.7 billion
- Georgia county grand jury indicts Trump and 18 allies for effort to overturn state election, trials begin Oct. 23
- House Select Committee completes investigation of Jan. 6 riot, forwards criminal referrals to DOJ; plus 68 Days That Will Live in Infamy - Oct. 31, 2020 thru Jan. 6, 2021
Justice Department, states investigate and file charges against GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes
- Truth Social, Trump's go-to platform, struggles with investigations, money problems
- Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman have all been indicted
Disposition of five Trump-related cases
- Dominion sues Fox News for $1.6 billion, settles for $787.5 million and Tucker Carlson's hide
- Trump Organization found guilty on 17 counts of tax fraud, other crimes
- DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle case over misuse of Inaugural funds
- Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others; imposes $1 million fine on Trump and lawyer
Democrat lawsuit seeking Trump's Washington D.C. hotel records dropped
Calendar: Trials, hearings, deadlines and the GOP primary
List of news and commentary sources used in blog
New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October 2
The Latest: An appeals court rejected Donald Trump's bid to delay a civil trial in a lawsuit brought by New York's attorney general, allowing the case to proceed days after a judge ruled the former president committed years of fraud and stripped him of some companies as punishment, the Associated Press reported Sept. 28.
The decision, by the state's intermediate appellate court, clears the way for Judge Arthur Engoron to preside over a non-jury trial starting Oct. 2 in Manhattan.
Trump plans to show up in person for at least the first week of a civil trial set to open in New York on Monday in which he and his business empire are accused of persistent fraud, according to court filings, Politico reports.
New York Attorney General Letitia James plans to call former President Trump and three of his adult children to testify at his civil fraud trial set to begin in New York next Monday, CNBC reported Sept. 28.
Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump are among the 28 names on James' list of witnesses to be called in the case. Trump's sons, who are also defendants in the case, have run the company since Trump was elected president in 2016.
Also on James' list are Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer and personal lawyer, and Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.
The Washington Post reported Sept. 29, "A New York judge's sweeping ruling punishing Donald Trump for years of alleged business fraud could force the former president to sell the New York real estate empire he built over decades that helped catapult him to fame, television stardom and the White House..
"The decision in a civil case accusing Trump of illegally inflating his property values orders the cancellation of his New York business licenses, potentially wresting from his control of dozens of properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars."
Experts said the full ramifications of the ruling would only emerge with further input from the judge and noted Trump has avenues to appeal it. But they said it seems clear that Trump's ability to control his New York properties is in grave and immediate jeopardy because he cannot operate them without a state license.
"The judge has said this is a matter of such urgency that these LLCs need to stop operating right now," said Cornell Law School professor Celia Bigoness.
At trial beginning Oct. 2, Engoron will consider even bigger penalties that James has requested, among them $250 million in fines, a prohibition on Trump and the company from obtaining new loans by any bank chartered in New York for five years, and a ban on Trump, his adult sons and executives from operating or owning businesses in the state in the future.
If the judge rules with Trump on whether he can own other businesses, the former president and current leading Republican candidate could possibly create a new series of LLCs and transfer his properties into the new entities, subject to the approval of a receiver.
But given the judge's
insistence that Trump be stripped of his existing licenses, experts said that
did not seem the most likely outcome.
Background: The genesis of the New York Attorney General Letitia James' $250 million lawsuit against Donald Trump et al announced in September, 2022 began in 2006 when Trump had a one-night affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. Ten years later and one month before the 2016 presidential election, GOP candidate Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep her mouth shut about the affair.
The attorney general's initial investigation began in March 2019 after Cohen testified before Congress and detailed Trump's alleged fraud in New York State, claiming the Trump Organization had lied about the value of its assets in order to secure loans and insurance and to reduce its tax liability. (Blog editor's note: When James announced her office's $250 million lawsuit against Trump et al for fraud on Sept. 21, 2022, she credited Cohen's testimony for triggering the investigation.)
Early in the investigation, Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told the New York Times, "Everything was done in strict compliance with applicable law and under the advice of counsel and tax experts." He added, "All applicable taxes were paid and no party received any undue benefit."
The attorney general's office subsequently deposed Eric Trump, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, in October, 2020. The New York Times reported that during his deposition, Eric Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself in response to more than 500 questions. Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization, also pleaded the Fifth repeatedly during his Feb. 24, 2020 deposition.
On Jan. 18, 2022 James alleged in a court filing that Trump's business inflated the value of its properties and misstated his personal worth in representations to lenders, insurance brokers and other players in his real estate empire, the Washington Post reported.
Two examples: According to Insider, an apartment leased by Ivanka Trump from the Trump Organization was given a sky-high public valuation of $25 million but offered to her for purchase for $8.5 million.
The Times reported Trump claimed his triplex apartment spanned 30,000 square feet, giving it an eye-popping value of $327 million. In truth, the apartment was 10,996 square feet. "Mr. Trump's long-serving chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, later acknowledged to investigators that the company had overvalued the apartment by 'give or take' $200 million."
James alleged, "Thus far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit."
And then on Feb. 14 Trump's long-time accounting firm announced it had ended its relationship with the Trump Organization. USA Today reported the firm, Mazars, said that a decade of Trump Organization financial statements "should no longer be relied upon."
On April 25, the district attorney's office told a court that evidence uncovered in the investigation into the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, New York, and the Trump National Golf Club in L.A., "indicates that the Trump Organization submitted fraudulent or misleading valuations of conservation easements to the Internal Revenue Service."
Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump sat for questioning in the investigation - Ivanka on Aug. 3 and Don Jr. on July 28. Trump Jr. did not assert his Fifth Amendment rights. He denied any role in preparing the company's financial statements.
Former President Trump completed his court-ordered testimony on Aug. 10 - raising his right hand, swearing to tell the truth and then declining to answer most of the questions. He invoked the Fifth protecting himself from self-incrimination 440 times during the four-hour interview.
And then on Sept. 21, James filed the $250 million lawsuit against Trump, the Trump Organization, his three oldest children, and two top executives, Allan Weisselberg and Jeff McConney. James' statement reads, in part, "The lawsuit alleges that Donald Trump, with the help of his children Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things. From 2011-2021, Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization knowingly and intentionally created more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets on his annual Statements of Financial Condition to defraud financial institutions."
The potential civil penalties would destroy Trump's New York business. The lawsuit seeks to:
- Permanently bar Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York state;
- Bar Trump and the Trump Organization from entering into any New York state commercial real estate acquisitions for a period of five years;
- Bar Trump and the Trump Organization from applying for loans from any financial institution registered with the New York Department of Financial Services for a period of five years.
James said her office also sent criminal referrals on the case to both the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan and the IRS in Washington, D.C.
James' office asked a judge to bar former President Trump from moving his businesses to a new holding company, CNBC reported Oct. 13. (On Sept. 21, the same day that Attorney General James sued Trump and the other defendants, her office saw that the Trump Organization had registered with New York's secretary of state a new company, called "Trump Organization II LLC." That new firm is incorporated in Delaware.) The request was spurred by concerns that the AG's office would have difficulty getting Trump to pay a fine, if he loses the suit, as a result of his assets being held by a company that is not named as a defendant in the case.
New York state Judge Arthur Engoron on Nov. 3 ordered an independent monitor be appointed to oversee the Trump Organization before the case by the state's attorney general against Trump's company goes to trial, Reuters reported. In October, James had asked the Manhattan-based judge to appoint a watchdog to halt "staggering" fraud at the company and keep the Trumps from transferring assets out of state.
Barbara Jones, a retired federal judge, was subsequently appointed to keep an eye on the company's future financial filings. Judge Engoron empowered Jones to monitor the company's new financial filings, including any submitted to banks, insurers, and tax authorities.
James' $250 million lawsuit against Trump and his children will go on trial October 2.
Trump returned to New York City April 13 to sit for a second deposition as part of New York Attorney General Letitia James' $250 million civil fraud lawsuit, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
According to reports, Trump testified for nearly seven hours. (The first time he testified - last Aug. 10 - he took the Fifth for most of the four-hour long interview.)
After Trump's second round of testimony, one of his lawyers said the former president had spent nearly seven hours "describing in detail his extraordinary business success and how the transactions at the center of this case were wildly profitable for the banks and for the Trump entities.
Ivanka Trump has hired her own counsel to represent her, Forbes reported April 26. And on June 27, an appeals court dropped her from the lawsuit, ruling she was not involved in the management of the company during the time of the alleged crimes.
Attorney General James asked a judge Aug. 30 for a partial summary judgment against Trump, citing what she called a "mountain of undisputed evidence" of false and misleading financial statements. "Based on the undisputed evidence, no trial is required for the Court to determine that Defendants presented grossly and materially inflated asset values in the SFCs [financial statements] and then used those SFCs repeatedly in business transactions to defraud banks and insurers," James wrote.
On Sept. 8, Bloomberg reported that Attorney General James accused Trump of exaggerating his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion a year by inflating the value of his biggest assets. The new calculation is part of James's request that a New York state judge hold Trump liable for fraud even before her $250 million suit against him, his two eldest sons and his company goes to trial on Oct. 2. James alleges Trump exaggerated his wealth to dupe banks and insurers into giving him better terms on financial transactions.
Judge Arthur Engoron found Donald Trump and his adult sons liable for fraud and canceled the Trump Organization's business certification, saying the Trumps provided false financial statements for roughly a decade, CNN reported Sept. 27.
David A. Graham at The Atlantic wrote: "The surprise is not that Trump and his co-defendants, including his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, committed fraud. What is surprising is that he could finally be punished for it—and quite harshly. The scheme that New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged last year was simple. When Trump wanted to lower his taxes, he'd claim a low valuation for a property. When he wanted to get cheap loans, he would inflate the valuation. This allowed him to inflate his claimed net worth each year, which let him obtain loans on better terms by personally guaranteeing them. Evidence of this pattern had already turned up in reporting, especially by WNYC and ProPublica, and James's case offered much more."
Judge Engoron ordered the cancellation of the business certificates for firms in the state owned by former President Donald Trump and others associated with the Trump Organization, casting into doubt the future of the private sector empire on which Trump has built his reputation for business acumen, ABC News reported Sept. 28. At trial beginning Oct. 2, Engoron will consider even bigger penalties that James has requested, among them $250 million in fines, a prohibition on Trump and the company from obtaining new loans by any bank chartered in New York for five years, and a ban on Trump, his adult sons and executives from operating or owning businesses in the state in the future.
E. Jean Carroll sues Trump, wins $5 million judgment, sues him again for $10 million, second trial set for Jan. 15, 2024
The Latest: A federal appeals court will quickly consider former President Trump's claim that presidential immunity protects him from being held liable for statements he made in 2019 when he denied that he sexually attacked a New York writer in the 1990s, the Associated Press reported Sept. 13.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued the order to expedite the appeal a day after Trump attorney Alina Habba told a three-judge panel of the court that the appeal raised "an important question that will affect the delicate balance between the judiciary and the executive branch for many years to come."
The 2nd Circuit set a schedule for written arguments to be filed within a month.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has set a Jan. 15 date for a jury to decide damages in a long-delayed lawsuit brought by the writer, E. Jean Carroll. She claimed Trump defamed her in 2019 when he said she fabricated claims in a memoir in which she said Trump sexually attacked her in a luxury Manhattan department store in 1996.
In May, a jury rejected Carroll's claim that Trump raped her in the department store's dressing room, but it concluded that he sexually abused her and awarded her $5 million.
In its two-page order, the 2nd Circuit denied an application by Trump to stay lower-court proceedings during the appeal, but it said it was in the interest of all sides for the appeals court to resolve the issue of presidential immunity expeditiously.
Judge Kaplan ruled that Trump is civilly liable for defamatory statements he made about writer E. Jean Carroll in 2019 when she went public with claims he had raped her decades earlier, CNBC reported Sept 6.
Judge Kaplan said the upcoming trial for Carroll's lawsuit against Trump will only deal with the question of how much the former president should pay her in monetary damages for defaming her.
He cited the fact that jurors at a trial in a separate but related lawsuit in May found that Trump sexually abused Carroll in a New York department store in the mid-1990s, and defamed her in statements he made when he denied her allegation last fall.
(See "Georgia county grand jury indicts Trump and 18 allies for effort to overturn state election, trials begin Oct. 23" below for commentary on issue of presidential immunity.)
Explanation of two lawsuits:
Lawsuit #1 - This lawsuit was filed in 2019 after President Trump allegedly defamed Carroll but for four years has been held up by a dispute on the question of whether Trump was acting as President or an individual when he allegedly defamed Carroll. On May 22, 2023 Carroll amended the lawsuit - she is now seeking $10 million - after Trump again allegedly defamed her again, this time days after a jury, in lawsuit #2, awarded her $5 million. A federal judge has set a January 15, 2024 trial date. In July, 2023, the DOJ reversed its original position and ruled that Trump was acting as a private citizen - not as President - when he allegedly defamed Carroll in 2019.
Lawsuit #2 - Long after leaving the White House, Trump attacked Carroll on Truth Social, calling her allegations "a hoax and a lie," triggering the defamation and sexual battery charges in Carroll's second lawsuit, which concluded May 9 with a Manhattan federal court jury awarding Carroll $5 million. See "Day-by-day trial notes" below.
Background: Former President Trump was sued in federal court for defamation by writer/columnist E. Jean Carroll, who wrote in a 2019 magazine article that Trump raped her in the mid-1990s in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury New York department store.
Carroll filed her first lawsuit against Trump in November 2019 claiming then-President Trump defamed her when he told a reporter "she's not my type" and accused Carroll of lying "in order to increase book sales, carry out a political agenda, advance a conspiracy with the Democratic Party, and make money." President Trump also claimed he never had met Carroll. (As to his claims "she's not my type" and that he had never met Carroll, during his Oct. 19, 2022 deposition for the lawsuit, Trump was shown a photo of the two of them at a party years ago and mistook Carroll for his second wife, Marla Maples.)
On Jan. 9, 2020, a New York State Supreme Court judge denied President Trump's request to dismiss the defamation lawsuit. In a highly controversial move, the DOJ then stepped in to defend then-President Trump, claiming his denunciation of Carroll was part of his official duties and, therefore, the United States, and not President Trump, was the defendant in the case. But Carroll's attorneys argued that "only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted."
On Oct. 27 Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan turned down the government's bid to make the United States the defendant. Trump's comments concerned events that had occurred "several decades before he took office," Judge Kaplan ruled, and had "no relationship to the official business of the United States."
But in the final days of Trump's presidency in January 2021, the Justice Department appealed that decision in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, claiming the president of the United States "acts within the scope of his office when he responds to public critics."
And then in a move that frustrated many Democrats, the Biden Justice Department argued in a brief filed June 7, 2021 that it should be permitted to substitute itself for former President Trump as the defendant in the lawsuit. Justice Department lawyers wrote in a brief to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, "This case does not concern whether Mr. Trump's response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll's allegations." Rather, the lawyers wrote, because they believe Trump was an employee of the government and that he acted "within the scope of employment," the department, rather than Trump personally, should serve as defendant in the case.
CNN reported the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on Sept. 27 opened the door to allowing the Justice Department to shield former President Trump for his conduct while president when they sent the case to the D.C. Court of Appeals to resolve the question: Was Trump a federal employee when he rebutted Carroll's story or was he acting purely on his own as a private citizen?
And on Oct. 12, 2022 the now former president lashed out again at Carroll, this time on Truth Social. "E. Jean Carroll is not telling the truth, is a woman who I had nothing to do with, didn't know, and would have no interest in knowing her if I ever had the chance."
"She completely made up a story that I met her at the doors of this crowded New York City Department Store and, within minutes, 'swooned' her," Trump wrote, in an off-the-cuff euphemism for Carroll's accusations of rape. "It is a Hoax and a lie, just like all the other Hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years. And, while I am not supposed to say it, I will. This woman is not my type!"
On Nov. 9, Bloomberg reported that Trump urged the District of Columbia's highest local court to adopt his argument that he was acting in the interests of the American people and within the boundaries of his official duties as president when he made allegedly defamatory remarks while denying a rape claim by Carroll.
President Biden's Justice Department sided with Trump, citing similar cases and the claim that his comments about Carroll were, in fact, made in his duties as president.
And then Trump was sued again - this time in state court - by Carroll on Thanksgiving Day, 2022, Reuters reported.
In a complaint filed in Manhattan, the former Elle magazine columnist also accused Trump of battery in the alleged encounter at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan.
Carroll, 78, brought the battery claim in her second lawsuit under New York's Adult Survivors Act, a new law giving sexual assault victims a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers, even if the abuse occurred long ago and statutes of limitations have expired. (The statute of limitations for most criminal offenses is decided by individual states. In New York, a law passed in May 2022 extended the five-year statute of limitations on civil rape cases under the reasoning that victims of sexual assault often needed more time to come forward.)
An earlier version of the second complaint, filed on Nov. 17, states the following:
"Trump's actions constitute sexual offenses as defined in Article 130 of the New York Penal Law, including but not limited to rape in the first degree (§ 130.35), rape in the third degree (§ 130.25), sexual abuse in the first degree (§ 130.65), sexual abuse in the third degree (§ 130.55), sexual misconduct (§ 130.20), and forcible touching (§ 130.52)."
On Dec. 1, Carroll's lawyers urged the District of Columbia's highest local court to reject the "troubling" position by Trump and the Biden Justice Department in her original suit that elected officials are immune against defamation claims whenever they speak about matters of public concern, Bloomberg reported.
"Presidents are free to deny allegations of misconduct," Carroll's lawyers wrote in a brief. "But a White House job is not a promise of unlimited authority to brutalize victims of prior wrongdoing through vicious, personal, defamatory attacks."
On Dec. 21, Trump asked a federal court to dismiss Carroll's second lawsuit, arguing that a New York law allowing the writer to sue the former U.S. president over claims that he raped her decades ago is unconstitutional.
Trump alleged in the motion to dismiss Carroll's second lawsuit that the law, the Adult Survivors Act, runs afoul of the New York state constitution's due process protections. He also called the additional defamation claim Carroll claims in the lawsuit "baseless and legally defective."
On Jan. 10, 2023 judges from the D.C. Court of Appeals expressed reluctance to find that Trump acted within the scope of his employment in 2019 when he, in the course of denying a rape claim, allegedly defamed her by calling her a liar and saying she was "not my type," ABC News reported.
A federal judge indefinitely delayed the original defamation lawsuit Carroll brought against former President Trump, ABC News reported March 20.
Judge Lewis Kaplan adjourned the case without setting a new date while waiting for a decision from the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals, which governs the conduct of federal employees, on whether Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he spoke out against Carroll. If so, the Justice Department would substitute for Trump as the defendant and the case would be over, as the federal government cannot be sued for defamation.
On April 13, Reuters reported a Washington, D.C., appeals court refused to decide whether Donald Trump can be shielded from the first defamation lawsuit by Carroll.
It sent the case back to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan saying the 2nd Circuit or a federal district judge in Manhattan should assess Trump's role.
The US Justice Department then reversed a crucial opinion that sought to protect the former president from the case, all but assuring the matter will go to trial in January, Bloomberg reported July 11.
The new opinion by the Biden administration, outlined in a letter filed in federal court in Manhattan, determined that Trump no longer qualifies for government-employee immunity and can be sued for remarks he made about Carroll while he was president in 2019.
The move is a reversal of a previous department opinion that concluded Trump was protected by the Westfall Act, which bars civil suits against employees of the federal government over claims that relate to their official duties. The DOJ revisited the issue after an appeals court clarified that workers are only protected by the law if their actions were intended to help the US government.
According to the DOJ, Trump's argument that his comments about Carroll were intended only to serve the U.S. was undermined by a May jury finding in Carroll's second lawsuit that he had abused Carroll "long before he became President."
On May 22, Carroll asked a judge to update her still pending original defamation lawsuit filed in 2019 against President Trump to add a new claim after he trashed her as a "whack job" during his CNN town hall earlier in the month. The Associated Press reported Carroll is now seeking $10 million more.
A federal judge then dismissed a defamation counterclaim by Trump against Carroll in her pending lawsuit that accuses the former president of defaming her after she wrote that he had raped her, CNBC reported Aug. 7.
Trump's counterclaim in the Carroll suit focused on what he argued were her false statements, which he alleged badly harmed his reputation, a day after a jury verdict in May in her favor for $5 million for sexual abuse and defamation in a related civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Carroll during a CNN interview said that she thought, "Oh, yes, he did — oh, yes, he did" — after jurors in that case did not find that Trump had raped her.
Judge Kaplan, in dismissing the counterclaim, wrote that Carroll's statements repeating a claim that Trump had raped her were "substantially true" because the jury had found he digitally penetrated her, even if it did not find that he had penetrated her with his penis, as is required for a rape charge under New York law.
On Aug. 10, Trump appealed the dismissed lawsuit. On Sept. 6, Judge Kaplan rejected Trump's appeal and said the Jan. 15, 2024 trial for Carroll's original lawsuit against Trump will only deal with the question of how much the former president should pay her in monetary damages for defaming her.
A federal appeals court will quickly consider former President Trump's claim that presidential immunity protects him from being held liable for statements he made in 2019 when he denied that he sexually attacked a New York writer in the 1990s, the Associated Press reported Sept. 13.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued the order to expedite the appeal a day after Trump attorney Alina Habba told a three-judge panel of the court that the appeal raised "an important question that will affect the delicate balance between the judiciary and the executive branch for many years to come."
Day-by-day trial notes for lawsuit #2 and appeals:
On the first day of testimony, April 26, Carroll took the stand and told jurors that the future president raped her after she accompanied him into a department store fitting room in 1996, the Associated Press reported.
"I'm here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn't happen. He lied and shattered my reputation, and I'm here to try and get my life back," she testified.
Carroll, 79, has said she crossed paths with Trump at the revolving door to Bergdorf Goodman on an unspecified Thursday evening in spring 1996. (Or maybe 1995.She's not sure.) At the time, she was writing a long-running advice column in Elle magazine. Trump was a real estate magnate and social figure in New York.
She alleges Trump slammed her against a wall, yanked down her tights and raped her while she struggled against him. She has said she finally kneed him off her and fled. She described calling two friends soon after. She said one advised her to go to the police, while the other said not to. She said she didn't out of shame, and fear of retaliation.
On the second day of trial, Carroll was cross-examined by Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopino.
Tacopina questioned the validity of her bombshell claims while suggesting she only came forward with them decades later, in 2019, because of her disdain for Trump's politics and because she wanted to sell copies of her book.
Carroll admitted she has had a hard time identifying the date the alleged rape happened.
When he asked why she hadn't screamed if she was being raped, Carroll responded,
"Here's the thing: I was too much in a panic to scream. I'm telling you: He raped me whether I screamed or not."
On the third day of the trial, May 1, Carroll concluded her testimony. Trump attorney Tacopina highlighted what he suggested were discrepancies between her testimony and her statements in interviews, her book, depositions and social media posts.
Carroll denied making up her claims to drive publicity for her memoir, Reuters reported. Carroll said she wasn't seeking attention through appearances on TV and podcasts, while acknowledging they were an important driver of book sales.
Tacopina accused Carroll of being a "massive" fan of Trump's TV show, "The Apprentice."
Asked why she encouraged women who were victims of sexual assault to report such incidents to authorities in her Elle magazine advice column years before the alleged assault while she herself did not do so, she said she was shaped by her upbringing in a different era.
I was born in 1943," Carroll said.
"Women like us were taught to keep our chins up and never complain. I would rather do anything than to call the police."
On the fourth day of the trial, a friend of Carroll's testified that Carroll called her and described the alleged attack minutes after alleged assault took place, ABC News reports.
Lisa Birnbach, a writer, was the first person Carroll said she told about the alleged attack, "five to seven minutes" after the alleged assault occurred, Birnbach said.
"She told me that Donald Trump recognized her outside or right in the doorway of Bergdorf Goodman, he asked her to help him shop, and assaulted her upstairs in a dressing room," Birnbach testified.
"And E. Jean said to me many times, 'He pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights.' Almost like she couldn't believe it had just happened to her."
Another witness for Carroll, Jessica Leeds, who was on a business trip in 1979 and says she was groped by Trump during a flight to New York, also testified as Carroll's attorneys attempted to show the jury a pattern of behavior, UPI News reported.
She admitted to Trump attorney Joe Tacopina that she couldn't produce any witnesses to the incident or provide much information about the flight, where it originated or the date of the incident.
On the fifth day, a clinical psychologist who examined Carroll said she endured the effects of trauma from an alleged attack by Trump. CBS News reported that Leslie Lebowitz, a trauma specialist hired by Carroll's attorneys to examine her, said she found during 20 hours of interviews that Carroll "manifests very notable avoidance symptoms, which have curtailed her romantic and intimate life and caused profound loss."
Carroll's attorneys played the infamous "Access Hollywood" audio tape of Trump telling Billy Bush, "I'm automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything," he said, including "grab 'em by the p----," referring to women's genitals. The tape surfaced during the 2016 campaign and was made just before Trump filmed a segment on the program "Access Hollywood." Trump told Bush: "When you're a star, they let you do it." Trump doubled-down on those lines during his October, 2022 deposition on Carroll's rape and defamation allegations.
"Historically, that's true, with stars," Trump testified on videotape as reported by Law & Crime. "Well what's what if you look over the last million years, I guess that's been largely true not always but largely true, unfortunately or fortunately."
Asked if he considered himself a star, Trump responded, "I think you can say that, yeah."
On the videotape, Trump also denied Carroll's claims, calling them the most "ridiculous, disgusting story" and "made up ." During the videotaped, Trump, who said Carroll wasn't "his type," confused Carroll for his ex-wife Marla Maples, his second wife.
On the final day of testimony, the Carroll legal team told the court they will be asking the jury to award their client $2.7 million in reputational damages caused by the former president, Law & Crime reported. This does not include possible damages to be sought as a result of the alleged rape or damages from lost wages.
Trump never attended the trial, even though while in Ireland he told reporters he need to cut his European trip short to respond in court to Carroll's allegations.
In her closing argument, Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said, "In a real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself." Referring to the Access Hollywood tape, she said, "He's telling you in his very own works how he treats women."
"In this country, even the most powerful person can be held accountable in court," said attorney Kaplan. "No one, not even a former president, is above the law."
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said in his closing argument he knows Trump is a divisive figure, but that shouldn't matter to jurors when reaching a verdict.
"People have very strong feelings about Donald Trump. That's obvious," Tacopina said. "There's a time and a secret place to do that: it's called a ballot box during an election."
Tacopina said he knows Trump is a divisive figure, but that shouldn't matter to jurors when reaching a verdict. Tacopina accused Carroll of fabricating her rape allegations to sell her book and make money.
On May 9, the Manhattan jury, after three hours of deliberations, reached a verdict awarding almost $5 million in damages to Carroll. Trump will have to pay $3 million in the defamation claim and $2 million for the battery claim.
Trump then asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to overturn the verdict in the civil trial. Separately, he asked District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan to order a retrial solely on the questions of monetary damages. Judge Kaplan rejected his appeal on July 19.
Judge Kaplan also rejected Trump's claim that he didn't rape Carroll since the jury "only" found him guilty of sexual battery: "The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was 'raped' within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump 'raped' her as many people commonly understand the word 'rape.'"
Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme, trial set for Jan. 29, 2024
Former President Trump, the Trump Organization, and three of his adult children, Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, all suffered a legal setback in a federal appeals court on July 28, 2021 Law & Crime and Politico reported.
From Law & Crime: "For years the Trump family and its namesake entity have fought to keep a pyramid scheme lawsuit from being litigated in public. The Trump family's weapon of choice to keep those details under wraps was private and compelled arbitration clauses."
But in a 43-page opinion issued July 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the Trump family's request to settle the numerous complaints against them through arbitration.
"The truth or falsity of the plaintiffs' allegations is not before us," Circuit Judge Robert D. Sack wrote. "We neither express nor imply any views with respect to them. The only question before us is whether this case should be resolved before the district court or an arbitrator."
Asserting myriad claims including "racketeering" and conspiracy and fraud, several of the class action plaintiffs originally sued the Trumps in October 2018 alleging the defendants - by way of "videos, print and online media" - promoted and endorsed a multi-level marketing, or pyramid, scheme known as ACN Opportunity, LLC.
Trump endorsed the company in speeches and on his T.V. show, "The Celebrity Apprentice."
Those endorsements came, the anonymous plaintiffs allege, even though the Trumps failed to conduct due diligence about the likelihood of economic losses and the slim probability of commercial success from such schemes. Each of the plaintiffs produced evidence to show the vast majority of people who were convinced to become "Independent Business Owners" for ACN went on to suffer losses or earned minimal profits.
Instead, the plaintiffs claim the Trump family from 2005 to 2015 simply parroted ACN's allegedly untrue claims because they were being paid millions of dollars, payments that were not publicly disclosed at the time their endorsements were made. (The New York Times reported the multi-level marketing company paid former President Trump $8.8 million over 10 years.) The lawsuits also claim statements by the Trumps that they had conducted extensive due diligence and research concerning the business opportunity and had inside information and personal experience with ACN were untrue.
At first, the Trumps litigated the lawsuits in the court system and successfully batted away a few of the causes of action. After winning those victories, however, and failing to secure a motion to dismiss, the Trumps moved to have the remaining claims settled by secretive arbitration.
But in April, 2021 a district court in New York City declined to allow the cases to be settled in arbitration. In May a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused to stay the decision pending appeal.
On Dec. 17, Bloomberg reported that unaired footage from Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" TV show is being reviewed by a team of lawyers in Los Angeles as part of the suit. A federal judge in New York City ordered the movie studio to make the footage available at a secure location, potentially ending a long-running battle that's still draped in secrecy. Lawyers for plaintiffs know what they're looking for: anything that shows Trump and his children knew they were duping would-be investors by leading them to ACN.
Donald Trump, Eric Trump and aide Hope Hicks were deposed in October, 2022. Plaintiff's attorney Robert Kaplan said in an email to Law & Crime on Nov. 4, "We look forward to moving forward expeditiously with expert discovery and class certification so that we can proceed to trial on the merits as soon as possible."
U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield has set a trial date in the case for Jan. 29, 2024.
Federal grand jury indicts Donald Trump for Jan. 6 coup attempt, trial set for March 4, 2024
The Latest: Taegan Goddard, the publisher of Political Wire, believes Donald Trump's attack of Gen. Mark Milley on Truth Social – Trump hinted at Milley being guilty of treason – is a sign that Milley may be a witness in Special Counsel Jack Smith's Jan. 6 case against the former president.
"Donald Trump suggested on Truth Social (Sept. 22) that Gen. Mark Milley — the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — should be executed for treason. It's an extraordinary attack on a well-regarded public servant.
"But it also raises the question of whether Milley is one of Special Counsel Jack Smith's witnesses for Trump's trial over interfering with the 2020 presidential election.
"That's because Milley may be able to provide proof that Trump knew he had lost the election.
"Politico made this report after the January 6 Committee voted to subpoena Trump:
Among other revelations, the committee said Thursday that Trump sent military leaders into a panic by secretly ordering all U.S. troops withdrawn from Afghanistan and Somalia days after losing reelection. The select panel showed testimony from Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describing Trump's withdrawal move as "potentially dangerous" but said Trump suggested leaving the problem to "the next guy." While the order was never implemented, Trump's intent was to complete the withdrawal before Inauguration Day — and panel member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) argued that it was evidence that he knew "his term would shortly end."
"If Trump knew he lost the election, then his actions on January 6 were obvious attempts to stay in office illegally.
"If Milley is a witness, Trump's comments can easily be portrayed as an attempt to intimidate him — something he swore not to do as part of his release conditions."
And in related news, prosecutors are probing former President Donald Trump's political operation after it paid over $44 million to lawyers and law firms that have represented potential witnesses and codefendants in his ongoing legal cases since 2020 — accounting for about half of the operation's legal expenses during that time, a new OpenSecrets analysis found.
OpenSecrets reported Sept. 22, "The political network's payments to lawyers and law firms that represent witnesses and defendants in the former president's ongoing legal cases have raised concerns about Trump pressuring witnesses citing the former president's history of allegedly trying to influence witnesses. From Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and Trump's first impeachment to the mounting number of ongoing legal cases, Trump also has provided lawyers to allies caught up in his own legal cases."
In total, OpenSecrets
reports, Trump's political network reported steering about $130 million in
donor funds to pay lawyers and cover legal costs since he first began running
for office. The network paid over $50 million of that since the start of
Background: On March, 2022 the Justice Department expanded its criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to include examining the preparations and planning for the rally that preceded the riot, the Washington Post reported.
A special federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. issued subpoena requests to some "VIP" officials in former President Trump's orbit who assisted in planning, funding and executing the Jan. 6 rally.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department 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."
CNN reported Sept. 13 that Justice Department criminal prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election -- including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts.
On Nov. 18, Fox News reported Attorney General Garland appointed former Justice Department official Jack Smith as special counsel. Smith will oversee the investigation into Trump's retention of classified documents after leaving the White House and whether the former president obstructed the federal government's investigation into the matter as well as whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
For a second time, Trump's two top White House lawyers testified for several hours on Dec. 2 before the federal grand jury investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Pat Philbin were spotted at D.C. District Court.
Trump's daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have been subpoenaed by the special counsel, the New York Times reported Feb. 22, 2023.
The Hill reported Smith has also subpoenaed both former Vice President Mike Pence and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, two figures with strong visibility into Trump's actions leading up to and on the day of the deadly riot.
In March, Trump lawyers were in federal court trying to prevent the former vice president and former chief of staff from testifying. Trump's team contends that Smith's effort to seek details of Pence's conversations with Trump would violate executive privilege. The court quickly rejected Trump's argument and ordered both Pence and Meadows to testify.
According to The Hill, aide Stephen Miller, former Department of Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and former national security adviser Robert O'Brien were also all directed to testify.
Trump, on March 29, appealed in the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to force his former White House aides to testify.
Trump's legal team then lost that bid for emergency help from the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, CNN reported April 4.
And then former President Trump's legal team appealed a sealed order requiring limited testimony from former Vice President Pence after a judge determined he must answer questions from the Justice Department about some aspects of Trump's attempts to stay in power, The Hill reported April 10.
According to the Washington Post on April 12, "Federal prosecutors probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have in recent weeks sought a wide range of documents related to fundraising after the 2020 election, seeking to determine if President Trump or his advisers scammed donors by using false claims about voter fraud to raise money." The Washington Post also reported "at least two grand juries in Washington are meeting every week about Trump and his advisers on multiple fronts."
(The New York Times reported April 29 that special counsel Jack Smith's prosecutors "are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims.")
NBC News reported that Trump's sealed appeal was filed in the circuit court on April 10, days after an adviser said Pence would not appeal an order last month by Judge James Boasberg, the chief judge of U.S. District Court in Washington, requiring Pence to testify in Smith's investigation of Trump.
The federal appeals court denied Trump's motion to block the testimony of several of his senior aides. The decision came after U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled in March that Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and other aides must testify despite Trump's invocation of executive privilege.
Former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a federal grand jury, according to a person familiar with the matter, the Associated Press reported April 27. Special Counsel Smith sat in on the deposition.
Former President Trump was indicted on Aug. 1 by a federal grand jury regarding Special Counsel Jack Smith's probe into Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. According to Fox News, "Trump was indicted on four federal charges out of the probe, including conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights."
The indictment focuses on four areas—pressuring state election officials to change the results; organizing fake slates of electors; using the Department of Justice to pressure state officials to change their electoral votes; and attempting to get Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify the results. (Trump also faces criminal charges related to the Electoral College scheme in the indictments issued at "Georgia county grand jury indicts Trump and allies for effort to overturn state election, trials begin Oct. 23" above.)
There are also six non-indicted co-conspirators who have not yet been identified — four attorneys, a Justice Department official and a political consultant. Media sources have, however, identified Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Clark and Kenneth Chesebro as five of Trump's co-conspirators. (See "68 Days That Will Live in Infamy" immediately above for details on the efforts and actions of all five to overturn the election.)
The judge overseeing former President Trump's election interference case in federal court set a trial date for March 4, 2024. Lawyers for the former president had requested an April 2026 start date.
And then Trump made his first formal push to have the judge disqualified. ABC News reported Sept. 11 the recusal motion filed by Trump's attorneys cited comments Judge Chutkan made in cases she oversaw for individuals charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol which they argue show she "suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned."
Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March 25, 2024 plus Legal Analysis
The Latest: Judge Juan Merchan, in a letter to Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche, said he would schedule a hearing in February to consider whether it makes sense to move the trial date, due to "the many recent developments involving Mr. Trump."
Background: On Nov. 4, 2021 the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. convened a long-term grand jury to hear evidence about the Trump Organization's financial practices and potentially to vote on criminal charges, the Washington Post reported.
According to the Post, Trump's company sometimes valued its properties up to 30 times more than their value depending on who the numbers were provided to. For example, in 2013, the Trump Organization told county tax officials that its California golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes was worth $900,000. But in 2014, as the company was seeking a massive tax deduction through a conservation easement, it said the same property was worth at least $25 million.
According to the New York Times, in the early weeks of the tenure of Vance's replacement, Alvin Bragg, the new D.A. developed concerns about the strength of that case and decided to abandon the grand jury presentation.
In February, 2022 the two prosecutors heading the case, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned - which a source at the time said was an indication of frustration over the direction of the case.
Pomerantz said in his resignation letter that Trump was "guilty of numerous felony violations" and that it was "a grave failure of justice" not to hold him accountable, the New York Times reported March 23. Pomerantz asserted that he had a meritorious case against Trump on felony tax offenses that Bragg refused to charge. "His financial statements were false, and he has a long history of fabricating information relating to his personal finances and lying about his assets to banks, the national media, counterparties, and many others, including the American people," Pomerantz wrote in his resignation letter.
In his book published after resigning, Pomerantz described Trump "as a malignant narcissist, and perhaps even a megalomaniac who posed a real danger to the country."
The New York Times reported April 29, "When Mr. Bragg took office this year, he and several of his aides raised concerns about the strength of the case, questioning whether they could prove that Mr. Trump intended to break the law. Other prosecutors in the office had raised similar concerns, people with knowledge of the matter said. In the final months of Mr. Vance's tenure, three assistant district attorneys stopped working on the investigation, concerned about how rapidly it was proceeding and what they felt were gaps in the evidence against the former president."
(Blog editor's note: On March 30, 2023, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, the former chief assistant Manhattan District Attorney, said on MSNBC that the investigation is still active. Former special assistant district attorney in Manhattan, Catherine Christian, told MSNBC on April 5 the same thing.)
And then on Nov. 21, the New York Times reported, "The Manhattan district attorney's office has moved to jump-start its criminal investigation into Donald Trump, seeking to breathe new life into an inquiry that once seemed to have reached a dead end."
"The district attorney's office first examined the payment to the actress, Stormy Daniels, years ago before changing direction to scrutinize Mr. Trump's broader business practices. But Mr. Bragg and some of his deputies have recently indicated to associates, supporters and at least one lawyer involved in the matter that they are newly optimistic about building a case against Mr. Trump, the people said."
(ABC News reported that Trump, after announcing his candidacy for president in 2015, recruited his attorney, Michael Cohen, and tabloid executive David Pecker to work together to "suppress negative stories" by having Pecker, on behalf of the National Enquirer, procure exclusive rights to stories that might cast a negative light on Trump and then not publish them. Trump and Cohen would then reimburse Pecker's company, AMI. The group eventually paid-off two women and one man: Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and a doorman at Trump Tower who told a tall tale about Trump have an out-of-wedlock son.)
The New York Times reported Cohen, the former president's former "fixer," is talking again to the Manhattan D.A. "The questioning of the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, offered the clearest sign yet that the district attorney's office was ramping up its investigation into Mr. Trump's role in the $130,000 hush money deal. Mr. Cohen has said publicly that Mr. Trump directed him, in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, to buy the silence of Stephanie Clifford, the actress known as Stormy Daniels." (The payment to Daniels came three days after release of the infamous "Hollywood Access" tape in which Trump is heard bragging about the fact that, being a "star," he could sexually assault women with impunity. The payment to Daniels was allegedly seen as a necessity to protect Trump's chances of winning the 2016 election.)
Cohen went to prison in 2018 for, among other things, campaign finance violations. Cohen's campaign finance problems came from the check he got from Donald Trump to pay off Stormy Daniels. Trump (identified as "Individual-1" by the Justice Department in Cohen-related court filings) emerged legally unscathed and has denied that he directed Cohen to pay off Daniels, saying the payments did not come from his campaign and that he did not have an affair with Daniels while married to the now-former first lady, Melania.
NPR reported that Cohen told authorities he paid Daniels the money and arranged to be reimbursed $420,000 by Trump's company to cover his taxes. The company recorded the payments to Cohen as legal fees, which could constitute a crime in New York.
On Jan. 30, 2023 the Manhattan district attorney's office began presenting evidence to a grand jury about Trump's role in paying hush money to porn star Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
One of the witnesses, David Pecker, was seen with his lawyer entering the building in Lower Manhattan where the grand jury is sitting. Pecker is the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with Daniels.
Daniels claims to have slept with Trump in 2006. In her memoir, Daniels described in graphic detail Trump's anatomy and the circumstances of their tryst. On Jan. 30, he again denied ever having an affair with Daniels.
One of Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina, appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" March 13 and said Trump has "no plans on participating" in the Manhattan grand jury. The lawyer, when asked if Trump directed Cohen to pay Daniels, replied, "Let's assume he did."
And then on March 30 Trump became the first former American president to be indicted on felony criminal charges after the Manhattan district attorney's office filed charges against him in connection with a $130,000 hush money payment weeks before the 2016 presidential campaign made to the porn star, ABC News and the New York Times reported.
Cohen claims he made the payment at Trump's direction.
Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney's office say that Trump illegally falsified business records when his reimbursement of the funds to Cohen was logged in the Trump Organization's books as a "monthly retainer" for Cohen's legal services, ABC News reported.
Trump was arraigned, and the charges unsealed on April 4 in Manhattan Criminal Court. Trump pled "not guilty" to 34 felony charges. Bragg said that Trump was accused of "falsifying New York business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election."
Judge Juan Merchan has set March 25, 2024 as the trial date. The judge said no one associated with the case, including Trump, should schedule anything to interfere. "He cannot agree to any speaking engagements, appearances," Merchan said.
Charlie Savage at the New York Times commented on the charges the Manhattan District Attorney filed against former President Trump. Here is just a portion of his essay.
The unsealed indictment against former President Donald Trump laid out an unexpected accusation that bolstered what many legal experts have described as an otherwise risky and novel case: Prosecutors claim he falsified business records in part for a plan to deceive state tax authorities.
Accusing Trump of bookkeeping fraud to conceal campaign finance violations, many believed, could raise significant legal challenges. That accusation turned out to be a major part of Bragg's theory — but not all of it.
"Pundits have been speculating that Trump would be charged with lying about the hush-money payments to illegally affect an election, and that theory rests on controversial legal issues and could be hard to prove," said Rebecca Roiphe, a New York Law School professor and former state prosecutor.
"It turns out the indictment also includes a claim that Trump falsified records to commit a state tax crime," she continued. "That's a much simpler charge that avoids the potential pitfalls."
But bookkeeping fraud is normally a misdemeanor. For it to rise to a felony, prosecutors must show that a defendant intended to commit, aid or conceal a second crime — raising the question of what other crime Bragg would contend is involved.
Bragg suggested that prosecutors are putting forward multiple theories for the second crime, potentially giving judges and jurors alternative routes to finding that bookkeeping fraud was a felony.
As was widely predicted, he is pointing toward alleged violations of both federal and state elections laws. By doing so, he is in part plunging forward with a premise that has given pause to even some of Trump's toughest critics.
As a matter of legal process, to cite federal law raises the untested question of whether a state prosecutor can invoke a federal crime even though he lacks jurisdiction to charge that crime himself. Still, Article 175 (in New York State law) does not say that the second intended crime must be a state-law offense.
At a news conference, Bragg pointed to both state and federal election law. He cited a New York state election law that makes it a misdemeanor to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means, but did not explain why that law would apply to a presidential election. He also described a federal cap on campaign contributions without indicating why he had the authority to invoke a crime he could not himself charge.
Bragg also introduced yet another theory, accusing Trump of falsifying business records as a way to back up planned false claims to tax authorities.
"The participants also took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments made in furtherance of the scheme," Bragg wrote in the statement of facts that accompanied the indictment.
At one point, he seemed to suggest that a planned false statement to New York tax authorities was just an example of the ways by which Trump and Cohen purportedly violated the state law against conspiring to promote a candidate through unlawful means.
At another point Bragg seemed to put forward an alleged plan to lie to tax authorities — an intention to say Cohen had earned income for "legal services performed in 2017" to launder what was in reality a repayment — as a stand-alone offense.
In the courtroom, prosecutor Christopher Conroy accused Trump of causing the Trump Organization to create a series of false business records, adding that he "even mischaracterized for tax purposes the true nature of the payment."
"The reference to false tax filings may save the case from legal challenges that may arise if the felony charges are predicated only on federal and state election laws," said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University.
Indeed, a range of election law specialists expressed fresh doubt about whether Bragg could successfully use campaign finance laws alone to elevate the bookkeeping fraud charges to felonies. Among those skeptics were Richard L. Hasen, a UCLA legal scholar, and Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a longtime election lawyer for the Republican Party and a critic of Trump.
Postscript: "The bottom line is that it's murky," Hasen, an expert in election law, told Fortune. "And the district attorney did not offer a detailed legal analysis as to how they can do this, how they can get around these potential hurdles. And it could potentially tie up the case for a long time."
Trump indicted for refusing to return top-secret government documents; judge sets May 20, 2024 trial date; plus, timeline of Mar-a-Lago documents case
The Latest: National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy, a legal analyst often seen on Fox News, on Sept. 25 explained why Trump's argument in his Sept. 14 interview with Megyn Kalley that he is protected from Special Counsel Jack Smith's indictment in the Mar-a-Lago documents case because of the Presidential Records Act is so weak.
She's invariably armed with a line of questions that gets to the point. She did that with Trump, particularly on his murky theory that the Presidential Records Act (PRA) is a complete defense for him against special counsel Jack Smith's charges that he unlawfully retained national-security information.
Trump filibustered about how he's covered by the PRA, how it puts him in charge of the documents, how it's a civil-law provision (not criminal) with no enforcement mechanism, and how he could therefore do anything he wanted with the documents.
Megyn pierced through the logorrhea by bracing him with the full implication of his argument.
Kelly: Do you believe that every CIA document that came to you as president was automatically yours to keep, no matter what?
Trump: I'm not gonna answer that question —
Kelly: So that's the dispute.
Trump: No, no — because I think it's clear in the document. The Presidential Records Act was a very complex thing. . . .
Trump went on to not answer the question, which is telling. But the answer is clear nonetheless: Yes, Trump is claiming that every classified intelligence-agency report shown to him by national-security officials became not just a presidential record but his personal property, to do with as he pleased — including taking them out of the White House or other government safekeeping and shipping them down to Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach resort club where he keeps his main residence.
The former president's reluctance to say this out loud is understandable. It sounds crazy.
Is Trump really covered by the PRA in the sense of its being a complete defense to the unlawful retention charges?
No. To be more precise (because Trump's rambling assertions confuse this point), he, as a former president, is certainly covered by the PRA, but the terms of the PRA do not make agency records or presidential records a president's personal property. Still, the fact that the former president's argument is a loser doesn't mean there is nothing to it. So let's try to wrap our brains around it.
Trump defenders are saying that if, say, the Agriculture Department handed then-president Trump a dry, non-classified report outlining mundane crop-production statistics, he could not keep that because it's an agency record, not a presidential record. By contrast, they insist that if the Defense Intelligence Agency produced a top-secret report outlining American security vulnerabilities that China's armed forces could exploit to defeat us in a war, that would not be an agency record; it would be a presidential record that Trump, in his sole, unreviewable discretion, could deem his personal property and lawfully use as wallpaper in a chandeliered Mar-a-Lago lavatory.
Does that seem right to you?
Of course it's not right, and for several reasons. Mainly it's not right because Trump ignores that the driving purpose of the PRA is to preserve presidential records as government property, to be kept in government safekeeping. The former president, to the contrary, claims that if agency intelligence reports technically qualify as presidential records, they perforce transmogrify into a president's personal records.
In Part Two of this two-column series, we'll get to why Trump's PRA theorizing is untenable.
Timeline of Mar-a-Lago documents case, alleged crimes and the federal investigation
Last Full Day in Office, Jan. 19, 2021: Reports surface in June, 2023 that Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, removed more than a thousand pages of classified documents from the White House late at night on orders from the president.
Zero Days After Leaving Office: Donald Trump becomes a private citizen the afternoon of Jan. 20, 2021.
16 Days After Leaving Office: President Biden announces that, unlike other living former presidents, Donald Trump will not be receiving classified intelligence briefings due to "erratic behavior," adding, "What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?"
106 Days After Leaving Office: On May 6 the chief counsel for the National Archives and Records Administration, Gary Stern, emails Trump's legal team saying some high-profile presidential documents appear to be missing. "We know things are very chaotic, as they always are in the course of a one-term transition. But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all presidential records."
NARA then goes back-and-forth "throughout 2021" with Trump representatives seeking the return of the records.
117 Days After Leaving Office (approx): According to the U.S. government indictment of Trump on June 8, 2023, Trump moves some of the documents he took with him after leaving the White House to his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. The Bedminster Club is not an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display or discussion of classified documents.
176 Days After Leaving Office (approx): CNN and The Guardian report on May 31, 2023 that federal prosecutors obtained an audio recording from a July, 2021 meeting at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersy in which the former president acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran and admits he cannot discuss the document because he no longer possesses the sweeping presidential power to declassify now that he's out of office, but suggests that he should have done so when he was still in the White House.
The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House. On the recording, Trump's comments suggest he would like to share the information but he's aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records. The attendees were journalists and staff who did not have security clearances that would allow them access to classified information nor was the location - a golf course - an authorized location to share top-secret government documents.
Note: In an interview with Fox News in June, 2023, Trump denied that the material in his possession at Bedminster was a classified document. "I didn't have a document, per se. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories and articles." ABC News, however,reported in August, 2023 that an early draft of the prologue to Mark Meadows' book, "The Chief's Chief," included a description of Trump having a classified war plan "on the couch" at his office in Bedminster, New Jersey, at a meeting attended by Meadows' ghostwriter and publicist. The reference to that document being in Trump's possession was removed before the book was published. Multiple sources tell ABC News Meadows acknowledged to Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigators that he asked that the paragraph be changed because it would be "problematic" had Trump had such a document in his possession.Trump, however, was subsequently indicted by Smith on charges of possessing the top-secret classified document.
238 Days After Leaving Office: National Archives lawyer Stern is told by former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin that he was told by former Trump chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that none of the material at Mar-a-Lago is sensitive or classified and that Trump only had 12 boxes of "news clippings."
In an interview with New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, Trump told Haberman he left White House with "nothing of great urgency, no," before mentioning letters that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had sent him, which, she later reported, he had showed off to so many Oval Office visitors that advisers were concerned he was being careless with sensitive material. "You were able to take those with you?" Haberman asked. Trump replied, "No, I think that's in the archives, but ... Most of it is in the archives, but the Kim Jong-un letters ... We have incredible things." (Earlier, in January, 2020, Trump indicated during a recorded interview with Bob Woodward that he knew the letters he wrote to Kim Jong Un were top secret. In the recording, Trump can be heard telling Woodward to refrain from publicizing that it was Trump himself who had shown the letters to him. "Nobody else has them, but I want you to treat them with respect. Don't say I gave them to you. Okay?")
303 Days After Leaving Office:In late 2021, Trump reportedly goes through boxes of documents he had taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. Some of those boxes - which included 197 documents marked classified - are finally transferred to the National Archives in January, 2022.
At the same time, Trump is told by one of his former White House attorneys, Eric Herschmann, that he could face legal liability if he did not return all government materials.
340 Days After Leaving Office: Officials at the National Archives in January, 2022 receive 15 boxes of materials from the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Archives officials suspect Trump has possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents - including those that might be considered classified.
(The media reported in August, 2022 that among the 15 boxes of materials returned from Mar-a-Lago in January were 700 pages of highly-classified materials, some of it "extraordinarily sensitive information," including 184 classified documents, 92 documents marked "secret" and 25 marked "top secret.")
Trump directs a lawyer working for him to tell the archives that Trump returned all the documents he had taken from the White House. The lawyer, Alex Cannon, declined to convey Trump's message to the archives because he was not sure if it was true.
385 Days After Leaving Office: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asks the Justice Department to examine Trump's handling of White House records, the Washington Post reported Feb. 9.
In a statement the same day, Trump said he had engaged in "collaborative and respectful" discussions with the Archives and had arranged for the "transport of boxes that contained Presidential Records in compliance with the Presidential Records Act."
"The papers were given easily and without conflict and on a very friendly basis, which is different from the accounts being drawn up by the Fake News Media," he says in a statement. "In fact, it was viewed as routine and 'no big deal.' In actuality, I have been told I was under no obligation to give this material based on various legal rulings that have been made over the years."
442 Days After Leaving Office: The Washington Post reported April 7 that the Justice Department has begun taking steps to investigate former President Trump's removal of presidential records to Mar-a-Lago.
464 Days After Leaving Office: On April 29, the Justice Department sends a letter to Trump's lawyers as part of its effort to access the 15 boxes that Trump delivered in January, notifying them that more than 100 classified documents, totaling more than 700 pages, were found in the boxes. The letter says the FBI and US intelligence agencies need "immediate access" to these materials because of "important national security interests." Trump lawyers ask NARA to delay its plans to give the FBI access to these materials. Trump's lawyers say they want time to examine the materials to see if anything is privileged, and that they are making a "protective assertion of executive privilege" over all the documents.
474 Days After Leaving Office: On May 10, Debra Steidel Wall, the acting Archivist of the United States, who runs NARA, informs Trump's lawyers that she is rejecting their claims of "protective" executive privilege over all the materials taken from Mar-a-Lago, and will turn over the materials to the FBI and US intelligence agencies. Wall says she reached this decision after consulting with top lawyers from the Justice Department and the White House Counsel's office. As to Trump's claim of executive privilege, Wall wrote that there is "no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter from obtaining NARA Presidential records."
475 Days After Leaving Office: On May 11, the Justice Department subpoenas Trump, demanding classified documents that still remain at Mar-a-Lago be returned. (In October, 2022, it is reported by the Washington Post that, according to Trump employees cooperating with the FBI, Trump responded to the subpoena by ordering employees to move boxes of U.S. government documents from a storage room to his office at Mar-a-Lago. Security camera video confirms the account.)
477 Days After Leaving Office: Federal prosecutors begin a grand jury investigation into whether classified documents were mishandled and of criminal obstruction of justice. (Intelligencer reported Aug. 12 that at this same time Trump's attorneys arranged for a DOJ National Security Division prosecutor and three FBI agents to come to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to pick up the items listed in the subpoena.)
482 Days After Leaving Office (approx): An unidentified female member of the Trump family texts Trump's personal aide, Walt Nauta (who would be indicted in June, 2023 for helping his boss move boxes of classified documents around the Mar-a-Lago property in an effort to allude the FBI and Trump's own attorneys) about boxes he had removed from the estate.
487 Days After Leaving Office: On May 23 Trump's then-lead attorney on the matter, Evan Corcoran, warned the former president in person, at Mar-a-Lago, that not only did Trump have to fully comply with the May 11 subpoena, but that the FBI might search the estate if he didn't, according to Corcoran's audio notes following the conversation.
Only minutes later, during a pool-side chat away from Trump, Corcoran got his own warning from another Trump attorney: If you push Trump to comply with the subpoena, "he's just going to go ballistic."
Trump asked Corcoran, "what happens if we just don't respond at all or don't play ball with them?" Corcoran told Trump. "Well, there's a prospect that they could go to a judge and get a search warrant, and that they could arrive here." Trump still insisted to them, "I don't want anybody looking through my boxes," and, "Wouldn't it be better if we just told them we don't have anything here?"
498 Days After Leaving Office: Two of Donald Trump's employees - including Trump's valet, Walt Nauta - move boxes of papers into a storage area the day before Justice Department official Jay Bratt arrives at Mar-a-Lago, the Washington Post later reported. (It is later reported that Nauta moved approximately 64 boxes from the storage room between May 24 and Juen 1, 2022 but only returned 25 to 30 boxes to the same storage room on June 2.)
499 Days After Leaving Office: According to the Washington Post, FBI agents and Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and export control section at the Justice Department, on June 3 meet with Trump's attorneys - former OAN host Christina Bobb and Evan Corcoran - at Mar-a-Lago to collect material in response to the May 22 grand jury subpoena demanding the return of all classified documents. However, "The former President's counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained."
FBI agents were, instead, given "a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents." That envelope, according to the FBI, contained 38 unique documents with classification markings, including 16 documents marked secret and 17 marked top secret.
The New York Times reported that "around" the time of the June 3 meeting, the feds received a "written declaration from a Trump lawyer attesting that all the material marked classified in the boxes had been turned over." The declaration, which also stated that a "diligent search" had been undertaken, was drafted by Corcoran and signed by Bobb. (It was reported in October, 2022 that Corcoran conducted the search and instructed Bobb to sign the letter, which she did after insisting twice that he insert the phrase, "based upon the information that has been provided to me.")
The Wall Street Journal later reported that sometime after the June 3 meeting a mole in Trump's orbit told the FBI that Trump and his team are still withholding information. And that after the June 3 visit the Justice Department "developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government's investigation."
Trump is put on notice that he could not retain any classified documents after he was subpoenaed for their return. Hugo Lowell at The Guardian later reported the warning was conveyed to Trump by Evan Corcoran.
Fast-forward to June 8, 2023: The indictment of the former president alleges that at this time Trump had boxes of classified documents put on an airplane taking Trump and his family north for the summer. The boxes were moved by aide Walt Nauta and others on the same day Trump's attorneys were handing over to the federal government a certified letter claiming all the documents had been returned. The indictment also alleges Trump had Nauta move more classified documents within the Mar-a-Lago estate to evade detection by the FBI and Trump's own attorneys.
507 Days After Leaving Office: On June 8, the Justice Department sends Trump a letter stating the government documents he continues to hold at Mar-a-Lago are not stored in a secure location.
520 Days After Leaving Office: On June 24, the Justice Department hands a new subpoena to the Trump Organization, which owns Mar-a-Lago. The subpoena seeks surveillance video to help show who might have been coming and going from the storage area where (Trump's attorneys) indicated 50 to 55 boxes of records taken from the White House were being stored. The video footage shows various people entering and leaving the room, according to a person with direct knowledge of it.
562 Days After Leaving Office: FBI officials are able to establish probable cause that a crime has been committed and obtain a search warrant from a federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach on Aug.5 to search Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate/hotel, according to the Miami Herald.
The New York Times reported the material still in Trump's possession is so sensitive that DOJ officials felt they had to take the "politically explosive step" of raiding the former president's home. The paper also reported the Justice Department reviewed surveillance footage at Mar-a-Lago that showed that in one instance boxes were moved in and out of the storage room on the property.
565 Days After Leaving Office: And on Aug. 8, after the FBI had arrived at his Mar-a-Lago home with a search warrant, Trump, who is in New York, announces on Truth Social the FBI are inside his Mar-a-Lago home.
The Wall Street Journal reported FBI agents who search Trump's Mar-a-Lago home remove 26 boxes of materials, including four sets marked "top secret" and meant to be only available in special government facilities.
FBI agents recover one set of documents marked as 'Various classified/TS/SCI documents,' an abbreviation that refers to top-secret/sensitive compartmented information. In total, there are 102 pages recovered bearing classification markings.
The Washington Post reported that a document describing a foreign government's military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found at Trump's home/public resort. "Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs."
The documents included highly sensitive intelligence regarding Iran's missile program and China, the Washington Post reported. "If shared with others, the people said, such information could expose intelligence-gathering methods that the United States wants to keep hidden from the world."
The New York Times reported "Federal agents who executed the warrant did so to investigate potential crimes associated with violations of the Espionage Act, which outlaws the unauthorized retention of national security information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary; a federal law that makes it a crime to destroy or conceal a document to obstruct a government investigation; and another statute associated with unlawful removal of government materials."
583 Days After Leaving Office: On Aug. 26, the FBI affidavit - highly redacted - used to successfully convince a judge to approve the search warrant used in the Aug. 8 raid is made public. Fox News reported the affidavit stated the FBI believed it had "probable cause to believe" that, based on their investigation, they would find additional records containing National Defense Information if allowed to search Trump's home.
Fox News reported the affidavit also states, "The government is conducting a criminal investigation concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment or removal of government records." CNN reported the FBI told the judge a search of Trump's home would also likely find "evidence of obstruction."
The signed affidavit by a FBI official concludes, "Based on the foregoing facts and circumstances, I submit that probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e), 2071, or 1519 will be found at the PREMISES."
590 Days After Leaving Office: US District Judge Aileen Cannon on Sept. 2 releases a detailed inventory from the FBI search of former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort hotel/country club/home. The FBI recovered more than 11,000 government documents and photographs, including over 184 records with "Classified" markings. Of those documents, 67 were marked as "confidential," 92 were marked as "secret," and 25 documents were marked as "top secret." Agents found one document marked "secret" and one marked "confidential" in the desk drawer in Trump's office. (Note: On July 13, 2023, NPR reported the FBI "gathered about 340 classified documents from the Mar-a-Lago resort.")
603 Days After Leaving Office: Trump-appointed Judge Cannon on Sept. 15, at the request of Trump's attorneys, names federal senior Judge Raymond Dearie to serve as special master to review the materials seized in the FBI's search of former President Trump's Florida residence and resort. Cannon also rejects the Justice Department's request to revive its criminal investigation into classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. Her ruling, in effect, which argued the former president should be given special consideration, halts the department's investigation of Trump's decision to take government documents with him to Florida after his term expired.
607 Days After Leaving Office: Trump's legal team acknowledged the possibility that the former president could be indicted, The Guardian reported. "Despite claiming days earlier that Trump couldn't imagine being charged, his lawyers made the stark admission in a court filing (Sept. 19)."
609 Days After Leaving Office: The New York Times reports the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Sept. 21 rejected Judge Cannon's decision and restored the Justice Department's access to documents with classified markings.
622 Days After Leaving Office: On Oct. 4, Trump filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court challenging part of a Sept. 21 ruling from the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
That ruling allowed the Justice Department to continue reviewing classified documents seized at Trump's Florida estate on Aug. 8 and blocked Trump-appointed Judge Cannon's ruling requiring the government to submit all the documents to an independent arbiter, or special master, for review.
Trump's lawyers said in their application that it was essential for the special master to have access to the classified records to "determine whether documents bearing classification markings are in fact classified, and regardless of classification, whether those records are personal records or presidential records." The Justice Department argued the documents, including highly classified top secret documents, belong to the U.S. government.
627 Days After Leaving Office: Trump, at a political rally in Arizona, admits he took U.S. government documents with him after leaving the White House. "I had a small number of boxes in storage at Mar-a-Lago...They should give immediately back everything they've taken from me because it's mine."
631 Days After Leaving Office: The Supreme Court rejects former President Trump's Oct. 4 appeal to delay the Justice Department's criminal investigation into his handling of classified documents. The high court left in place part of a Sept. 21 decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that barred the special master, federal Judge Raymond Dearie, from reviewing the classified documents. Judge Dearie will continue to review the non-classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago and the Justice Department will continue its criminal investigation into the handling of the classified documents.
679 Days After Leaving Office: Attorney General Merrick Garland names Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate the unlawful retention of national defense information at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, Fox News reported Nov. 18. Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief to the DOJ's public integrity section, will oversee the investigation into Trump's retention of classified documents after leaving the White House, whether the former president obstructed the federal government's investigation into the matter and whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
689 Days After Leaving Office: Trump, who initially claimed the FBI planted the top-secret documents found in his Mar-a-Lago estate/hotel in August, again admitted on Nov. 28 taking them after his term expired on Jan. 20, 2021. In a Truth Social posting, Trump asks, "When will you invade the other Presidents' homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?"
692 Days After Leaving Office: An 11th Circuit federal appeals panel, all of whom were appointed by either President Trump or President George W. Bush, overturned Judge Cannon's order creating a third-party special master to review documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. The Dec. 1 ruling clears the way for federal investigators to use the documents in the criminal investigation of former President Trump. The appeals court directly criticized Judge Cannon's special master order, stating: "We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. . . . To create a special exception here would defy our Nation's foundational principle that our law applies 'to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.'"
838 Days After Leaving Office:Asked at a May 10 CNN Town Hall why he took classified documents with him after leaving the White House, Trump claimed he "had every right to under the Presidential Records Act."
(In reality, the Presidential Records Act provides that as soon as a president leaves office, the National Archives becomes the legal custodian of the president's records, which belong to the public.)
Trump also repeated the claim that by simply removing classified documents from the White House he had declassified them. "And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them."
When asked if he showed any of the classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago property to anyone, Trump replied, "Not really. I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified after..." When the host asked, "What do you mean not really?" Trump replied, "Not that I can think of."
(In late June, 2023, an audio tape is released in which Trump is heard showing top-secret documents to visitors to his New Jersey golf course. The tape ends with Trump commenting: "See as President I could have declassified it. Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret…It's so cool…Hey, bring some, uh, bring some Cokes in please.")
867 Days After Leaving Office:Former President Trump and his aide, Walt Nauta, are indicted on June 8, 2023 on 37 criminal charges. Trump becomes the first U.S. president or ex-president to face federal criminal charges.
NBC News reported: "The indictment accuses Trump of breaking seven laws, including 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information and single counts of false statements and representations, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document, concealing a document in a federal investigation and a scheme to conceal."
The 49-page indictment, issued by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida reads, in part: "The classified documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack. The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods."
According to Fox News, the special counsel claims that Trump showed classified documents to persons not cleared to review top-secret government documents in twice in 2021--once in July at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey and once in August or September.
The indictment says Trump also suggested his attorney "hide or destroy documents called for by the grand jury subpoena" and directed his aide—co-defendant Walt Nauta—to "move boxes of documents called for by the grand jury subpoena, while claiming that he was cooperating fully." (The indictment only relates to documents Trump refused to return, not any of the many he voluntarily returned after leaving the White House.)
The indictment includes photos of boxes of classified documents stored in bathrooms, ballrooms and bedrooms at a facility - Mar-a-Lago - visited by tens of thousands during the year-and-a-half Trump kept them in his possession.
872 Days After Leaving Office: Former President Trump is arrested, fingerprinted, arraigned and pleas not guilty to all charges in a Miami federal criminal court on June 13, 2023.
878 Days After Leaving Office: "Why not just hand them over then?" Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked Trump on June 19.
"Because I had boxes. I want to go through the boxes and get all my personal things out," Trump responded. "I don't want to hand that over to [the National Archives] yet. And I was very busy, as you've sort of seen."
Baier noted that the Justice Department's indictment laid out how Trump allegedly told an aide to move the boxes containing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate while also telling his lawyers to indicate he was cooperating.
"Before I send boxes over, I have to take all of my things out. These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things, golf shirts, clothing, pants, shoes, there were many things."
910 Days After Leaving Office: Judge Cannon - yes, the same Judge Cannon that ruled in favor of Trump back at "603 Days After Leaving Office" - will preside over Trump's criminal trial in the case. This time she rejects Trump's effort to delay the trial until after the election and sets a two-week trial date of May 20, 2024 for Trump and his co-defendant Walt Nauta.
916 Days After Leaving Office: Jack Smith brought additional charges against Trump - he now faces 40 felony counts in the case - alleging the former president asked a staffer to delete footage from Mar-a-Lago security cameras. CNN reported new charges were also filed against Trump's aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago maintenance manager Carlos De Oliveira, who allegedly helped Nauta move boxes of classified documents around Mar-a-Lago after the Justice Department first subpoenaed Trump for classified documents last May. Smith also accuses Trump of acting with de Oliveira and Nauta to try to delete the footage from the property's security cameras. (Trump and Nauta both pleaded not guilty on Aug. 10. Trump on "Meet the Press" Sept. 17 said he would testify in court that he did not ask a staffer to delete footage from a security camera.)
Will the Supreme Court - or state courts - decide Trump's 2024 ballot fate?
The Latest: A liberal group has filed a lawsuit in Michigan contending that former president Donald Trump is disqualified from regaining his old job based on a rarely used, post-Civil War provision in the U.S. Constitution, the Associated Press reported Sept. 29.
Free Speech For People argued that Trump's attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss and encouragement of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol violated section three of the 14th Amendment, which holds that anyone who swore an oath to uphold the constitution and then "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against it is barred from holding office.
The case is the second the organization has filed to block the GOP presidential frontrunner's bid, following one in Minnesota.
And in related news, a Texas Republican candidate for president's effort to keep former Republican president Donald Trump off the West Virginia ballot in 2024 was dealt a short-term setback Sept. 28, Steven Allen Adams of The Intelligencer reported.
In proposed findings and recommendations filed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Omar J. Aboulhosn recommended the denial of an emergency application for a restraining order and a request for an expedited preliminary injunction and preliminary bench trial filed last week by John Anthony Castro, a write-in candidate for the Republican nomination for President.
Castro is seeking a federal court order prohibiting Trump from being placed on West Virginia's 2024 Republican primary ballot. Castro argues that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents Trump from holding future federal offices due to his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, which resulted in a riot at the U.S. Capitol Building by Trump supporters attempting to stop the certification of the 2020 election for President Joe Biden.
In his ruling, Aboulhosn said there was no need for an emergency restraining order or a preliminary injunction given that there were still three months until the January candidate filing period in West Virginia and eight months until the May 14 primary in the state. Castro is suing Trump and West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner.
"… (Castro) has failed to provide specific facts showing immediate and irreparable injury will occur prior to the defendants' providing a response in opposition to his motion," Aboulhosn wrote. "While he argues that he is 'already suffering irreparable competitive injuries because Defendant Donald John Trump … is siphoning off votes and contributions' from him, (Castro) fails to provide any specific facts in support of this allegation or forecast in what way this alleged damage may be impacted by the commencement of West Virginia's presidential primary filing period."
Aboulhosn's recommendations still need to be considered by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger. Castro filed his lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on Sept. 20.
Background: A write-in Republican
candidate in the 2024 presidential election sued Aug. 31, 2023 to keep former
president Donald Trump off of next year's ballot for the sympathies he has
shown to those convicted of crimes in connection with the deadly Jan. 6, 2021,
riot at the U.S. Capitol, Courthouse News Service reported.
According to Newsweek, on Sept. 5 the legal debate about whether or not Trump to appear on the 2024 ballot made its way before the Supreme Court.
distributed John Castro v. Donald Trump to the justices
ahead of the upcoming term, which will begin on Oct. 2. A decision on whether the court will take the case is expected to be made on or before
Michael McAuliffe said the Supreme Court will likely be addressing whether Castro's case has any standing when it decides on the matter in a couple of weeks, rather than the actual argument about the 14th Amendment.
"Standing is a basic threshold issue and will be the subject of the Court's upcoming conference discussion," he said. "The Court might even in the end dismiss the petition based on the procedural posture of the case."
Courthouse News Service reported, "John Anthony Castro, a
candidate out of Mansfield, Texas, claimed in a pro se complaint filed in Dane County Circuit
Court that Trump violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by
providing 'aid or comfort' to an insurrection and those who participated in it,
making him 'constitutionally ineligible to pursue or hold any public office in
the United States.'
"Castro's status as a
write-in candidate in the race for the presidency creates a cause of action
allowing him to challenge whether Trump is allowed to run for public office
because of potential injuries Castro could face 'in the form of a diminution of
votes and/or fundraising.'"
"Castro goes on to note that the section of the 14th Amendment cited was enacted in the post-Civil War Reconstruction-era 'to ensure that non-insurrectionists did not have to politically compete with the more popular pro-insurrectionist politicians in the south,' making Castro the exact type of person the amendment was designed to protect.
"The Wisconsin Elections
Commission is listed as the lead defendant in the lawsuit, which seeks an
injunction blocking Trump's ballot access documentation, including nomination
The former president responded Sept. 4 on Truth Social:
"Almost all legal scholars have voiced opinions that the 14th Amendment has no legal basis or standing relative to the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election. Like Election Interference, it is just another 'trick' being used by the Radical Left Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, to again steal an Election that their candidate, the WORST, MOST INCOMPETENT, & MOST CORRUPT President in U.S. history, is incapable of winning in a Free and Fair Election. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"
The Associated Press reported Sept. 1, "The 14th Amendment bars from office anyone who once took an oath to uphold the Constitution but then 'engaged' in 'insurrection or rebellion' against it. A growing number of legal scholars say the post-Civil War clause applies to Trump after his role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election and encouraging his backers to storm the US Capitol.
And then on Sept. 6 the Associated
Press reported a liberal group filed a lawsuit to bar former President
Trump from the primary ballot in Colorado, arguing he is ineligible to run for
the White House again under a rarely used clause in the U.S. Constitution aimed
at candidates who have supported an "insurrection."
The lawsuit, citing the 14th Amendment, is likely the initial step in a legal challenge that seems destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. The complaint was filed on behalf of six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The Associated Press then reported that attorneys for former President Trump on Sept. 7 moved to have the lawsuit moved to federal court in the first step of what promises to be a tangled legal battle that seems destined for the U.S. Supreme Court.
to Colorado's ability to place Donald Trump on the presidential ballot depends
solely on the Fourteenth Amendment," Trump's lawyers wrote. "Trump's
basis for removal of the state court action is federal question jurisdiction
under Section 3 of Fourteenth Amendment."
And on Sept. 12, Free
Speech for People, a liberal group, filed a lawsuit to block former President Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot in Minnesota, CNN reported.
(For details on the effort by Trump and his many allies to overturn the 2020 election, see "68 Days That Will Live in Infamy" below.)
According to reporting by the Associated Press on Sept. 22, dozens of lawsuits have been filed around the country seeking to disqualify Trump from the 2024 ballot based on the 14th Amendment clause barring anyone who swore an oath to the Constitution and then "engaged in insurrection" against it from running for office. Their arguments revolve around Trump's involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol to halt the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace has scheduled a hearing on the Colorado lawsuit Oct. 13. A hearing on the constitutional issues will come on Oct. 30. Judge Wallace said she hopes to decide by Thanksgiving whether the 14th Amendment's ban on insurrectionists holding office means former President Trump is disqualified from appearing on the state's presidential ballot in 2024, CNN reported Sept. 18.
Partner, estate of Capitol Police Office Brian Sicknick blame Trump, followers for his death
estate of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after defending
the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack, sued Donald Trump on Jan. 5, 2023 alleging the officer's death resulted from the former president's
"incendiary" rhetoric and false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, the
Wall Street Journal reported.
In a 47-page lawsuit, lawyers for Sicknick's estate said Trump "intentionally riled up the crowd and directed and encouraged a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol and attack those who opposed him." The lawsuit cited Trump's speech at the Ellipse earlier that day, in which he urged a crowd of supporters to "fight like hell" and march to the Capitol.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
The lawsuit also names as defendants two men convicted in connection with the Capitol attack: Julian Elie Khater, who admitted last year to deploying a chemical spray against Sicknick and other officers; and George Pierre Tanios, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from the Capitol attack. Khater and Tanios were sentenced on Jan. 27 to seven years in prison and time served, respectively.
NBC reported Sicknick's partner, Sandra Garza, is also a party to the suit and cites comments from the medical examiner that "all that transpired" on Jan. 6 "played a role in his condition." The suit seeks $10 million from Trump and $10 million each from Khater and Tanios.
The Wall Street Journal reported lawyers for Sicknick's estate are seeking damages for alleged wrongful death and conspiracy to violate civil rights from all the defendants, as well as claims for aiding and abetting an assault.
"The horrific events of January 6, 2021, including Officer Sicknick's tragic, wrongful death, were a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants' unlawful actions," the lawsuit said, referring to Trump, Khater and Tanios. "As such, the Defendants are responsible for the injury and destruction that followed."
Sicknick suffered two strokes after clashing with rioters.
The Wall Street Journal reported that in April 2021, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Washington determined that Sicknick died of a stroke and ruled the manner of his death as natural, using a term it said applied if "disease alone causes death." The office said that if a death is "hastened by an injury," it wouldn't consider the manner of death to be natural.
(According to AXIOS, medical examiner Francisco J. Diaz told the Washington Post after the autopsy that events at the Capitol on Jan. 6 "played a role in his condition.")
On March 2, 2023 Trump asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, Law 360 reported.
According to Law 360, Trump's legal team claims he has "absolute immunity" for actions taken while he was in office. "Officer Sicknick's death is a tragedy. That does not make it a tort for which President Trump is liable."
Department of Justice prosecutors told the D.C. Court that the former president is not immune from the lawsuit, Law 360 also reported.
And on Aug. 14, Trump's lawyers asked a judge to delay the case while Trump's election interference criminal case is pending in federal court, Raw Story reported.
NAACP, Democrat House members file lawsuit for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol; Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence
Attorneys for the NAACP filed the lawsuit against former President Trump on Feb. 16, 2021 alleging Trump incited the riot at the U.S. Capitol with his false claims about a "stolen" election. The lawsuit claims the riot amounted to a conspiracy under the 1871 Klan Act, which, in this case, outlaws interfering with a person's or persons civil rights by stopping the certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College win.
Also named in the suit is Trump's attorney during the post-election coup attempt, Rudy Giuliani, as well as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, two extremist groups that participated in the Jan. 6 riot.
Trump on Jan. 6, 2021 told the crowd to march to the Capitol to protest the certification. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong," Trump said. "We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."
Ten Democrat members of Congress added their names to the lawsuit on April 7. The amended lawsuit describes how each narrowly escaped the mob on Jan. 6 and how some still have nightmares and anxiety months later. The members joining the lawsuit are Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Karen Bass of California, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Hank Johnson Jr. of Georgia, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, Jerry Nadler of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Maxine Waters of California.
Trump attorney Jesse Binnall asked U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of Washington, D.C. to toss out this lawsuit, as well as those filed by Eric Swalwell and two injured U.S. Capitol Police officers, citing the president's "absolute immunity" from the civil suit on separation-of-powers and free speech grounds.
On May 27, a lawyer representing the far-right Oath Keepers militia group also asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit, Law & Crime reported. In a 32-page motion to dismiss filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. attorney Kerry Lee Morgan argued that "No Oath Keeper entered the Capitol violently or otherwise and therefor nothing in the amended complaint reaches to any violent act to physically prevent the House from observing the Electoral proceedings," the motion states. (However, in November, 2022, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other charges stemming from a mob's attack on the U.S. Capitol. Both were sentenced to long prison terms.)
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."
On March 18, Trump appealed the ruling.
In a court filing in Washington, D.C. on July 27, attorneys for former President Trump asked a judge to grant him total immunity against any civil lawsuits filed in conjunction with the Jan. 6th insurrection.
According to the Washington Examiner, in the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the former president is also asking the court to overturn the ruling made in February by Judge Mehta rejecting Trump's motion to dismiss.
And then on Dec. 7 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals debated whether Trump legally responsible for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Post reported.
The federal appeals court on Dec. 20 asked the Justice Department to weigh in on whether former President Trump should be protected by absolute immunity in civil lawsuits brought against him for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, CNN reported.
(Blog editor's note: See "Trump faces five separate lawsuits" below for more on Trump's request and Judge Mehta's decisions.)
Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence
The Latest: Former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, Fox News reported Sept.5.
Tarrio was found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a jury in Washington, D.C. alongside three other leaders of the Proud Boys. The others were each sentenced to between 15 and 18 years.
Tarrio had been arrested in Washington, DC, days before the riot for burning a DC church's Black Lives Matter banner and bringing high-capacity rifle magazines into the district, and was ordered by a judge to leave the city.
The Department of Justice sought more than three decades for Tarrio, characterizing him as the ringleader of violent protesters. He was also ordered to 36 months of probation at the end of his sentence.
"Tarrio has repeatedly and publicly indicated that he has no regrets about what he helped make happen on January 6," prosecutors wrote.
Tarrio pleaded for leniency, describing Jan. 6 as a "national embarrassment," and apologizing to the police officers who defended the Capitol and the lawmakers who fled in fear. He expressed remorse for letting down his family and vowed that he was done with politics.
Prosecutors successfully argued, however, that Tarrio was instrumental in organizing the Proud Boys demonstrations that sought to enter and occupy the Capitol.
Tarrio's sentence is the longest, so far, for any Jan. 6 defendants.
According to the Washington Post, "The sentences over the past week — including 22 years for Tarrio, 17 for Biggs and 15 for Rehl — bring the total number of years of incarceration in Jan. 6 sentences to about 700.
"More than 350 people
have been sentenced to jail or prison time, with an average sentence of just
less than two years."
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." Over 1,100 individuals have been brought to court over alleged involvement in the riot at the Capitol. Prosecutors have convicted more than 600 people for their participation in the violent demonstration.
However, during a phone interview March 25, 2021 on Fox News's "Ingraham Angle," former President Trump claimed, "(The crowd that invaded the capitol) was zero threat right from the start, it was zero threat" and the rioters had "great relationships" and were "hugging and kissing the police" throughout the siege. "A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in and they walked out."
Former Vice President Pence on June 3 said he saw it differently. "January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled, the Capitol was secured. And that same day we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States."
He added: "You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day."
Trump then called Fox News Maria Bartiromo's show July 11 and described for her the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters: "There was such love at that rally, you had over a million people, they were there for one reason, the rigged election, they felt the election was rigged. That's why they were there and they were peaceful people, these were great people, the crowd was unbelievable. And I mentioned the word love, the love in the air, I've never seen anything like it."
In the two-and-a-half years since a mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol, more than 1,020 people have now been charged and around 533 have pleaded guilty, the Department of Justice said April 6, 2023.
GOP Georgia Rep. Andrew
Clyde suggested the insurrection was far less serious than it's been
portrayed. "Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked
through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the
stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn't know
the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it
was a normal tourist visit."
Some of the visiting "normal" tourists - with, as Trump says, "love in the air" - included:
Daniel Rodriguez attacked Washington, DC, police officer Michael Fanone with an electroshock weapon in the neck during the US Capitol riot on January 6. He was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison.
- Scott Fairlamb, a New Jersey gym owner and former MMA fighter, pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
Douglas Jensen, 43, of Des Moines, Iowa led a mob of rioters chasing a Capitol Police officer up several flights of stairs. A jury found him guilty of five felonies and two misdemeanors. Jensen was sentenced to five years in prison.
Robert Sanford of Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, a retired firefighter, was caught-on-camera slinging the steel extinguisher at officers, striking two in the head. He was sentenced in April to four-years and four months in prison. Sanford also hurled obscenities and insults at the law enforcement officers on the Lower West Terrace, calling them "traitors."
Thomas Webster, a retired New York City Police Department officer, was convicted of several felonies for attacking a D.C. cop with a flag pole on Jan. 6 and then tackling the officer to the ground and attempting to rip off his gas mask. Webster was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
- A "pissed off" Howard Richardson of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for assaulting law enforcement officers with a Trump flag and joining a mob to use a giant Trump billboard as a battering ram when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
- Robert S. Palmer wore an American flag jacket and watched and cheered on the rioters before moving to the front and hurling a fire extinguisher, a plank and a long pole at police officers. He was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison.
- Kyle Toung, a Donald Trump fan who brought his teenage son along as he assaulted then-D.C. police officer Mike Fanone and another officer at the Capitol, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
- Albuquerque Cosper Head, who grabbed former Metropolitan Police Department officer Mike Fanone and dragged him into the mob, where he was grievously injured, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years behind bars.
- Kevin Creek, a 47-year-old former Marine, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for assaulting officers. Creek admitted to striking a D.C. police office, pushing a Capitol Police officer and kicking that same officer.
- Mark Mazza pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded firearm on US Capitol grounds and assaulting police officers with one of their own batons. Mazza told federal investigators he regretted not seeing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the riot and that they would "be here for another reason" if he had.
- Mark Ponder, a 56-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., attacked three police officers with poles and pleaded guilty to "assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon." He was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
- Guy Reffit, a Donald Trump fan from Texas who attempted to storm the U.S. Capitol while armed with a gun, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. He was convicted on five counts, including transport of a firearm in support of civil disorder.
- An off-duty Virginia police officer, Thomas Robertson, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. The judge said he was troubled by Robertson's conduct since his arrest - not only his stockpiling of guns but advocating violence.
- Both former President Trump and Florida Governor DeSantis have promised to consider pardoning some of the rioters convicted and sent to prison for their Jan. 6 crimes.
Trump and GOP face lawsuit claiming they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act
On Nov. 20, 2020 the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, the NAACP and three African American voters filed suit alleging Donald Trump, the Trump campaign and the Republican Party attempted to suppress the Black vote in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, all of which have large communities of color, The Independent reported.
"Under the specter of preventing 'fraud,' defendants engaged in a conspiracy, executed through a coordinated effort, to disenfranchise voters by disrupting vote counting efforts, lodging groundless challenges during recounts, and attempting to block certification of election results through intimidation and coercion of election officials and volunteers," the lawsuit claims.
According to Democracy Docket: Even after Wayne County's results had been certified, Trump personally called election officials in the county "in a last-ditch effort to disenfranchise Black voters in Detroit."
The suit was filed the day after Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed during a press conference that the president's campaign had uncovered 300,000 "illegitimate ballots" cast primarily in Detroit. (President Biden won Wayne County with 597,170 votes, while Trump received 264,553 votes.)
In December, 2020, an amended complaint added the Republican National Committee as a defendant alleging violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act. More plaintiffs also signed onto the legal action, including the NAACP. (Democrat members of Congress filed a separate suit alleging violation of the KKK Act.)
The former president and the Republican National Committee filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit on February 24, 2021. The defendants also filed a motion to transfer the case from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to the Eastern District of Michigan, where some of the plaintiffs reside. The plaintiffs opposed the transfer, arguing that the conspiracy was directed from D.C., where both Trump and the RNC were located.
On April 1, 2022 Law & Crime reported that a judge ruled Trump and the Republican Party do not have to face allegations that they violated the Voting Rights Act in the 2020 presidential election. But Trump and the GOP must face claims that they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act. Trump and the RNC also lost a separate motion to transfer the remaining litigation away from Washington, D.C.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan scoffed at Trump's notion that a federal court in Washington, D.C. lacks jurisdiction to preside over the former president's claims. "This Court is presented with an argument that is perhaps as unprecedented as it is outlandish: the former President of this country denying that he lived in and had minimum contacts with the country's capital and the White House during his time as President," Judge Sullivan wrote.
And then on Nov.28, Judge Sullivan ruled Trump's conduct was "purely political" and that he was not "absolutely immune," according to Bloomberg.
"If former President Trump disrupted the certification of the electoral vote count, as Plaintiffs allege here, such actions would not constitute executive action in defense of the Constitution," said Sullivan. "For these reasons, the Court concludes that Former President Trump is not immune from monetary damages in this suit."
According to the legal website, JustSecurity.com, this lawsuit is still active as of August, 2023.
Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riot
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California filed a lawsuit against former President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-S.C.) on March 4, 2021 alleging they and others are "responsible for the injury and destruction" that occurred during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (In June, it was reported the riot caused $1.5 million in damage to the building.) Swalwell accuses the four of violating both federal civil rights and local incitement laws.
The lawsuit - filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.,- accuses Trump and his allies of conspiring to violate the civil rights of the plaintiff.
- "As a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants' false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the Defendants' express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol," the complaint alleges. "Many participants in the attack have since revealed that they were acting on what they believed to be former President Trump's orders in service of their country."
- The defendants "by force, intimidation, or threat, agreed and conspired with one another to undertake a course of action to prevent" Joe Biden from being certified as the election winner.
At the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally, Rep. Brooks, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest, told the crowd the United States was "at risk unlike it has been in decades, and perhaps centuries." He said that their ancestors "sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives" for the country. "Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass," asking the crowd, "Will you fight for America?"
Rudy Giuliani told the crowd: "Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent, and if we're wrong, we will be made fools of, but if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail. So, let's have trial by combat."
CNN reported May 18 that lawyers for Giuliani responded to the lawsuit by arguing that he wasn't literally advocating for an insurrection. In a court filing, Giuliani wrote that his words were "hyperbolic."
In a legal brief filed Aug. 16 arguing why Trump should not be held liable for inciting the violence, Trump's attorney argued: "Given the numerous protests over the years on Capitol Hill and the necessity of protecting political speech-the very type of speech the First Amendment was designed to protect -a holding that individuals can be liable for violence by random listeners if their words could be interpreted as a threat would nearly shut down Washington."
In the brief, the former president's lawyer casts Trump's efforts to subvert the 2020 election and block its legally mandated certification as merely "exercising a specific constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
Rep. Brooks asked a federal judge Aug. 3 to declare that he was immune from Rep. Swalwell's lawsuit because he was simply "cooperating" with the White House, a decision Brooks made in order to maintain a positive relationship with President Trump for the benefit of his constituents.
(Brooks - who represented himself in the matter- also noted that he has been "faithful to his wife" of 45 years, has never received a speeding ticket or smoked tobacco, and that none of his four children have been divorced.)
On Feb. 18, 2022 U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta rejected Trump's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, the New York Post reported. "The President's actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch," Mehta wrote in the opinion. "They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President's broad immunity are not present here."
Mehta, however, dismissed the cases against Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr. and Rep. Brooks.
In his order, Judge Mehta ruled that the remarks by Brooks at the rally -- as well as the rally speeches by Giuliani and Trump Jr. -- were protected by the First Amendment. "The allegations against Brooks do not support a plausible inference that 'he was advocating . . . any action' or that 'his words were intended to produce, and likely to produce, imminent disorder,'" Mehta wrote, referencing a relevant Supreme Court precedent.
In a court filing in Washington, D.C. on July 28 attorneys for former President Trump asked a judge to grant him total immunity against any civil lawsuits filed in conjunction with the Jan. 6th insurrection. According to the Washington Examiner, the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, states the former president is hoping to get the court to overturn a ruling made in February by Judge Amit Mehta when Trump asked for all the lawsuits to be dismissed.
According to the legal website, JustSecurity.com, this lawsuit is still active as of August, 2023.
Trump faces five separate lawsuits by Capitol and D.C. police for Jan. 6 riot
On March 31, 2021 two Capitol police officers - James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby - who were injured in hand-to-hand combat during the Jan. 6 insurrection filed suit against former President Trump for inciting his supporters, Politico reported. In their lawsuit, which was joined by 11 Democratic House members, the officers allege Trump "inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted" his supporters to assault them, and that they suffered both physical injuries and emotional distress. The officers are seeking unspecified compensation and damages greater than $75,000 apiece.
Reported Politico, "It's the officer's harrowing personal accounts that add new chapters to the growing collection of horrors unleashed that day. Blassingame said he was slammed into a stone column while rioters hurled the N-word at him. Hemby said he suffered hand and knee injuries that require continued medical care. Both said they suffer from ongoing emotional trauma that has upended their lives."
Blassingame, a 17-year veteran of the Capitol Police, told PBS NewsHour's Lisa Desjardins that no one had ever called him the n-word to his face in his 39 years on Earth. "That streak ended on January 6," he said. "I was called a n****r. I was called a traitor. I was called various epithets."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, describes in detail the melee the rioters caused during their siege on the U.S. Capitol building. Attorneys for the officers say their case is supported by comments made after January 6 by Republican leaders House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom laid blame for the riot at the feet of the former president.
Said McConnell on the Senate floor: "There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president, and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth."
McCarthy said on the floor of the House: "The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."
And then on Aug. 26, in a separate lawsuit, seven more U.S. Capitol police officers sued former President Trump, Stop the Steal rally organizers, the Trump campaign, Roger Stone and members of far-right extremist group Proud Boys, CNN reported. The suit accuses the defendants of spreading lies, using White supremacist sentiments to attempt to overthrow the 2020 election, and ultimately bearing responsibility for the riot that injured more than 140 officers.
(Five of the plaintiffs in the suit are African-American. Like the other police-related Jan. 6 lawsuits against Trump and others, the complaint asserts that Trump violated the KKK Act by conspiring to instigate the riots.)
"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. The lawsuit was amended to add an eighth officer and to add a pro-Trump PAC as an additional defendant. On Jan. 26, 2023, a district court denied Trump's motion to dismiss the suit.
In a lawsuit filed Jan. 4, 2022 in federal court in Washington, D.C, Capitol Officer Marcus Moore, a 10-year veteran of the force, alleges physical and emotional injuries and describes 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."
On March 18, Trump appealed the ruling.
In a court filing in Washington, D.C. on July 27, attorneys for former President Trump asked a judge to grant him total immunity against any civil lawsuits filed in conjunction with the Jan. 6th insurrection.
According to the Washington Examiner, in the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the former president is hoping to get the court to overturn a ruling made in February by Judge Mehta when Trump asked for all the lawsuits to be dismissed.
In seeking the dismissal, Trump's lawyers said that he was absolutely immune from civil litigation related to the Capitol riot, because he was acting within the "outer perimeter" of his presidential duties.
But Judge Mehta refused to dismiss the lawsuits on those grounds, noting that he had previously rejected a nearly identical assertion of absolute immunity that Trump raised in response to other civil lawsuits filed by House Democrats and two Capitol Police officers (Blassingame and Hemby).
And then on Dec. 7, the D.C . U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals debated whether Trump can be held legally responsible for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Post reported.
The federal appeals court on Dec. 20 asked the Justice Department to weigh in on whether former President Trump should be protected by absolute immunity in civil lawsuits - as Judge Mehta ruled - brought against him for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, CNN reported.
CNN reported on Jan. 26, 2023 that U.S. District Judge Mehta denied a request by Trump - and several far-right activists who were also sued for their connection to the Capitol siege - to toss out the case brought by seven US Capitol Police officers who claim Trump and others violated both federal and Washington, DC, law for conduct linked to the riot that interrupted Congress' certification of the 2020 election.
In keeping the claims against Trump alive, Mehta pointed to an opinion he wrote last year rejecting claims of immunity Trump raised to challenge similar Jan. 6 lawsuits against him.
Mehta said the seven Capitol Police officers' lawsuit could also move forward against several other individuals as well, including members of far-right militia groups such as the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and the Proud Boys.
Mehta, however, is dismissing the police officers' case against far-right figures Roger Stone and Ali Alexander.
The Justice Department on March 2 said that Trump can be held liable in court for the actions of the mob that overtook the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Washington Post and Fox News reported.
"Two officers (James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby) with the U.S. Capitol Police, joined by 11 Democratic House members, are seeking to hold Trump liable for physical and psychological injuries they suffered during the riot. Trump has argued he is protected from the lawsuit by the absolute immunity conferred on a president performing his official duties."
Attorneys with the DOJ's civil rights division wrote in the filing that a president's protected speech "does not include incitement of imminent private violence."
Former President Trump argued in a federal appeals court filing he deserves immunity from three civil lawsuits that seek to blame him for the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, Bart Jansen at USA Today reported March 23.
Trump's lawyer, Jesse Binnall, told a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals there was no "incitement" in Trump's speech near the White House Jan. 6, 2021, before a mob of supporters stormed the Capitol. Binnall argued Trump's exhortation to "fight" was a reference to political pressure.
The lawmakers and police officers also filed an argument in the case, agreeing with the Justice Department but arguing against a sweeping view of presidential immunity other than for inciting violence. The litigants argued Trump was outside his official duties as a "clear and present danger" in urging supporters to block roads to Congress or forge Electoral College ballots.
Trump's lawyers urged the appeals court to dismiss the lawsuits by arguing that contentious speeches such as the one he gave Jan. 6, 2021, are part of a president's job.
The three-judge appeals panel will decide whether to allow the lawsuits to continue.
(Blog editor's note: The three cases involved in this hearing include the lawsuit filed by Blassingame and Hemby - see directly above - and the cases reported under "NACCP, Democrat House members file lawsuit for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol" and "Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riot," both above.)
Smartmatic sues Fox News for $2.7 billion
The Latest: "Kraken" lawyer Sidney Powell has asked a federal judge to put voting machine company Smartmatic's defamation lawsuit on the back burner while she faces a racketeering (RICO) criminal trial in Georgia for trying to overturn the 2020 election, Law & Crime reported Sept. 5.
Powell, noting that her criminal case is headed for trial "on or about October 23, but no later than November 3, 2023," asserted that in the absence of a 90-day stay of the civil defamation lawsuit she will be faced with the "'significant dilemma' of having to defend both lawsuits simultaneously and whether to assert or waive rights under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution here."
"Ms. Powell and Dominion are in the process of meeting and conferring in connection with a potential stay of the Dominion litigation against Ms. Powell," the footnote said.
Powell's attorney Joshua A. Mooney asked U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Donald Trump appointee, to pause the Smartmatic proceedings until Nov. 29. Judge Nichols is also presiding over Dominion's lawsuit against Powell.
Background: Smartmatic, a multinational company that builds and implements electronic voting systems, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit on Feb. 4, 2021 against Fox News, some of the network's
star hosts, including Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, and Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, alleging the parties
worked in concert to wage a "disinformation campaign" about the
company. Smartmatic's lawsuit claims the defendants knew that Trump's campaign lawyers, Giuliani and Powell, would lie about Smartmatic, push conspiracy theories about the election being stolen from Trump, allege Smartmatic had committed fraud and that the Fox hosts then added their "own defamatory comments" for "personal gain."
(Smartmatic's voting machines were used in only one U.S. county during the 2020 election, Los Angeles, Forbes reported.)
The opening paragraph of the suit reads: "The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States. The election was not stolen, rigged, or fixed. These are facts. They are demonstrable and irrefutable.
With this action, Smartmatic says: Enough. Facts matter. Truth matters. Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to spread disinformation about Smartmatic. They lied. And they did so knowingly and intentionally. Smartmatic seeks to hold them accountable for those lies and for the damage that their lies have caused."
Giuliani told Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs on Nov. 12, 2020, "You're gonna be astonished when I tell you how (Smartmatic) was formed. It was formed, really, by three Venezuelans, who were very close to...dictator, Chavez, of Venezuela. And it was formed in order to fix elections."
Powell alleged during a Fox News appearance that software designed to effectuate the fraud could be loaded into Smartmatic machines "from Germany or Venezuela, even." She added, "We've identified mathematically the exact algorithms they used and plan to use from the beginning to modify the votes, in this case, to make sure Biden won." She also claimed China sent $400 million to Smartmatic "a few weeks before the election."
On Nov. 16, Powell told Dobbs, "I've just gotten some stunning evidence from a firsthand witness, a high-ranking military officer, who was present when Smartmatic was designed in a way that – and I'm going to just read to you some of these statements, if you don't mind, so I get them exactly right," Powell said.
"Sure," Dobbs said.
Powell continued, "From the affidavit, (Smartmatic was) 'designed in a way that the system could change the vote of each voter without being detected.'"
Powell also incorrectly claimed that Smartmatic owns Dominion.
Fox News' claims it covered the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election responsibly - what Fox lawyers termed in the "highest tradition of the First Amendment."
"Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," a book published Nov. 16, 2021 by ABC's Jonathan Karl, reports that the day after the election was called for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, 2020, Bartiromo interviewed conspiracy theorist and lawyer Powell on her show. Karl wrote that as Powell delivered a "fevered rant" and Bartiromo "didn't express one ounce of skepticism."
Bartiromo also baselessly accused Smartmatic of having a "backdoor" which invited infiltration into their election systems. "One source says that the key point to understand is that the Smartmatic system has a backdoor that allows it to be, or that allows the votes to be, mirrored and monitored allowing an intervening party a real-time understanding of how many votes will be needed to gain an electoral advantage."
According to Mediaite, she claimed "software made by Smartmatic that was changing votes from Trump to Biden." She also claimed "if you've got Democrats in charge from here on out, they're in charge of the machines, you'll never see a Republican in the White House again."
On Aug. 17, 2021 New York Supreme Court Judge David Cohen held a hearing on a dismissal request from Fox. Judge Cohen asked Fox to explain why former anchor Lou Dobbs (Dobbs was fired soon after Smartmatic filed its suit) 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 Judge Cohen. Attorney Joe Sibley of Camara & Sibley asked Cohen to dismiss six of the claims against his client because they constituted "product disparagement," or calling Smartmatic's software lousy, not defamation.
Judge Cohen asked Sibley about one of the Trump attorney's claims - that, in Venezuela, Smartmatic "'switched votes around subtly, maybe ten percent per district, so you don't notice it.' Is there some support in that to show that they can't even make out a claim for actual malice?" he asked.
Sibley: "Well, the evidentiary support would be the fact that that Smartmatic technology allows this. That would be the evidence."
Cohen: "Wait, that Smartmatic technology allows it, or it occurred like Mr. Giuliani claimed?"
Sibley: "Well I don't know that there is any evidence in the record that that would demonstrate that in fact occurred."
(Smartmatic sued Newsmax on Nov. 3, 2021 for defamation, demanding that the conservative cable networks face jury trials for spreading falsehoods about the company.)
Fox News' effort to dismiss the defamation lawsuit was rejected on March 8, 2022. State Supreme Judge Cohen commented, "Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs' claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth."
Judge Cohen did, however, toss out claims against Fox News host Jeanine Pirro and former Trump attorney Powell, but did not dismiss those against host Bartiromo and former host Dobbs. (The court ruled Pirro hadn't targeted the voting-technology firm and that it had no authority over Powell as she is a Texas resident.)
Some claims against Giuliani - including defamation - were dismissed but Judge Cohen explained Giuliani's "barrage" of criticism, including that Smartmatic fixed elections in Venezuela and was up to its "old tricks" on election night, justified letting some of Smartmatic's other claims against him proceed.
(Blog editor's note: In its executive summary of its investigative findings released Dec. 19, 2022 the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 riot reported that, despite his past claims of election fraud, Giuliani told the committee under oath: "I do not think the machines stole the election.")
Georgia county grand jury indicts Trump and 18 allies for effort to overturn state election, trials begin Oct. 23
The Latest: Scott Hall, one of 18 co-defendants of former President Donald Trump in the Georgia election interference case, pleaded guilty to the charges against him, CNBC reported Sept. 29.
Hall, a bail bondsman, is the first defendant in the case to plead guilty in the case.
Hall pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts as part of a negotiated deal.
He was accused of willfully tampering electronic voting machines in Coffee County, Georgia, and of working with pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and others in that effort.
According to CNN, "He spent hours inside a restricted area of the election office when voting systems were breached, which was connected to efforts by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists to find voter fraud. Hall was captured on surveillance video at the office on the day of the breach. He testified before the special grand jury in the Fulton County case and acknowledged that he gained access to a voting machine."
Mediaite reported Sept. 29:
NYU law professor and former Department of Defense special counsel Ryan Goodman posted a series of tweets on X describing how Hall's guilty plea "spells bad news" for the other defendants, especially attorney Sidney Powell.
The danger for Powell and others, Goodman explained, was the multiple "alleged joint actions" in the indictment, where Hall, Powell, and others are accused of conspiring together of "willfully and unlawfully tampering with electronic ballot markers and tabulating machines," "to possess official ballots outside of the polling place," "using a computer with knowledge that such use was without authority and with the intention of removing voter data and Dominion Voting Systems data from said computer," and so on.
CNN senior legal analyst Ellie Honig also viewed Hall's plea as dangerous for Powell. In an appearance on CNN, Honig called the guilty plea "definitely a win" for the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, and noted the pressure that came with charging "19 defendants at once…they start taking pleas, they start turning on each other."
Honig was interested in finding out whether or not Hall's deal including him agreeing to testify, and then discussed how this could affect Powell.
person who needs to be most worried about this is Sidney Powell because Scott
is charged in the scheme to access voting equipment," said Honig. "And Sidney
Powell is also charged in that count. So if he is providing testimony, then she
is going to be implicated."
Background: The district attorney's
office in Fulton County formally launched a criminal probe in February, 2021
into President Trump's efforts to overturn his election loss in Georgia after
Trump was heard in a Jan. 2, 2021 phone call pleading with Georgia Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger to "find" votes. "All I want to do is this. I
just want to find 11,780 votes," the exact number Trump needed to overturn
Joe Biden's win in Georgia. Trump argued that Raffensperger could change
the certified results of the presidential election, an assertion the secretary
of state firmly rejected.
A month earlier, on Dec. 5, 2020 Trump called the state's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, to urge him to use his "emergency powers" to block the certification of the results, hold a special session of the legislature to overturn the election results and name a slate of Republican electors to award Trump the state's 16 electoral votes. Kemp, a former election official, deflected, telling Trump he didn't have such powers.
Three days later, Trump called Georgia's Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, warning him not to interfere with a Texas lawsuit that challenged the election results in Georgia and other states. (The Supreme Court - including its three Trump-appointed justices - ultimately rejected even hearing the Texas lawsuit.)
According to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, "This investigation includes, but is not limited to, potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election's administration."
The Daily Beast reported prosecutors are also eyeing "false statement" charges against Rudy Giuliani, who acted on Trump's behalf when he spoke before Georgia's state Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Dec. 3, 2020 and detailed his rigged election conspiracy. Giuliani lied when he said the state counted 96,600 "phantom votes," repeating the same bonkers claim that fueled Sidney Powell's so-called "Kraken" lawsuit-which was promptly tossed out by a federal judge.
Giuliani also presented fake evidence of voting machine flaws and "mystery ballot boxes." He repeated the claims on Dec. 10, 2020 before the state's House Governmental Affairs Committee.
Another Trump attorney, John Eastman, testified at that same hearing, arguing that there was "more than enough" evidence of fraud and improper conduct to warrant Georgia lawmakers picking an alternative slate of presidential electors (i.e. fake Trump electors.) Eastman falsely told state lawmakers that they had both the power and "duty" to replace the rightful slate of Democratic electors.
At a rally in Georgia on
Sept. 25, 2021 former President Trump admitted trying to overturn the 2020 election
in that state. According to Trump, after his aides failed to get Georgia
officials to overturn their election, Trump on Dec. 5, 2020 called Gov. Kemp. Trump told the rally, "I said, 'Let me handle it.
This is easy.' I got this guy elected.... I was going to show [the aides] how
good I am. 'Let me handle it. I'll call them up.' I said, 'Brian, listen, you
know you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us
out and call a special election.'"
On Jan. 24, 2022 judges on Fulton County's Superior Court bench cleared the way for a special grand jury to be used in District Attorney Willis' investigations, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Chief Judge Christopher S. Brasher directed that the special grand jury be impaneled on May 2 and continue for a period "not to exceed 12 months." In asking the court to authorize the grand jury, Willis said her office has "received information indicating a reasonable probability that the State of Georgia's administration of elections in 2020, including the State's election of President of the United States, was subject to possible criminal disruptions."
On June 2, Secretary of State Raffensperger testified before the grand jury about the infamous call Trump made to him and other attempts to overturn the state's 2020 election results, GPB News/NPR reported.
The special grand jury also subpoenaed key members of former President Trump's legal team, including Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, according to reports from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on July 5.
The Independent reported July 26 that Trump described on Truth Social his now-infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as "perfect".
"Many people and lawyers, on both sides, were knowingly on the one call, I assumed the call was taped, there were Zero complaints or angry 'how dare you' charges made during the call, and no 'hang ups' by anyone aggrieved or insulted at what was said," he said. He added that he was "just doing [his] job as President, and seeking Fairness and the Truth."
Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer also appeared in front of the special grand jury, a source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to CNN on July 28. In February, Shafer told the House committee that the fake electors scheme came at the direction of the Trump campaign.
NBC News reported that when former Trump lawyer John Eastman appeared before the special grand jury he pleaded his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and invoked attorney-client privilege.
Politico's Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein reported that U.S. District Court Judge David Carter wrote in an 18-page opinion on Oct. 19 that emails from Eastman, an architect of Trump's last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 election, "show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public."
According to Judge Carter, Trump and his attorneys alleged in a Dec. 4, 2021 filing in Georgia state court that Fulton County had improperly counted more than 10,000 votes of dead people, felons and unregistered voters. They then moved that proceeding to federal court and discussed whether to use the same statistics in that filing.
On Dec. 31, 2021 Eastman emailed other Trump lawyers that the numbers filed in state court were not accurate. Senior White House lawyer Eric Herschmann also cautioned Trump's attorneys about the president signing a sworn court statement verifying inaccurate evidence of voter fraud, according to emails from December 2020 obtained by Axios.
However, Trump and his lawyers opted to file the federal complaint using the same numbers that Eastman conceded were inaccurate.
Wrote Judge Carter, "President Trump, moreover, signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers 'are true and correct' or 'believed to be true and correct' to the best of his knowledge and belief. The emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public. The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States."
Gov. Brian Kemp testified Nov. 15 behind closed doors before the special grand jury for three hours. Trump White House official Cassidy Hutchinson testified Nov. 16.
Attorneys for pro-Trump Republicans who claimed to be Georgia's legitimate presidential electors in 2020 (Biden, not Trump won the state) claimed on Nov. 11 they were advised by then-President Trump's campaign to cast "contingent" Electoral College ballots - just in case one of Trump's longshot legal challenges to the results succeeded, Politico reported.
Any plans by top Trump lawyers - John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and others - to use Georgia's "provisional" votes to subvert the 2020 election without any legal backing were concocted without their knowledge, attorneys for the pro-Trump activists said.
The Fulton County special grand jury investigating former President Trump's attempts to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election results submitted its final report on Jan. 9, 2023 according to The Associated Press.
Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney will review the report before turning it over to Willis for "potential criminal prosecution," the newspaper reported. "Criminal prosecution" would require empaneling a new grand jury if the district attorney decides to seek a criminal indictment against Trump and/or his allies.
District Attorney Willis told a judge that decisions on whether and whom to charge in the probe "are imminent," CNBC reported Jan. 24. Willis urged the judge to keep sealed for now the final special jury report. "For future defendants to be treated fairly, it's not appropriate at this time to have this report released. We need to be mindful of protecting future defendants' rights."
(For more information on the federal investigation into the effort in Georgia to overturn the election, see "Justice Department, states investigate and file charges against GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes" below.)
Portions of the report from the grand jury were released Feb. 16, revealing two findings from its monthslong probe but leaving many key questions unaddressed, CNN reported.
The special grand jury "unanimously" concluded that there wasn't widespread voter fraud in Georgia in 2020, rejecting Trump's conspiracy theories after hearing "extensive testimony" from election officials, poll workers and other experts.
The special grand jury also recommended that Fulton County District Attorney Willis consider indicting some witnesses for perjury.
And then on Feb. 21, the jury forewoman, Emily Kohrs, went on a media tour and reported that the special grand jury recommended indictments of multiple people on a range of charges in its report. "It is not a short list," Kohrs said, admitting it's more than a dozen.
Asked whether the jurors had recommended indicting Trump, Kohrs gave a cryptic answer: "You're not going to be shocked. It's not rocket science," adding "you won't be too surprised."
Judge McBurney told ABC News on Feb. 27 that jurors "can talk about the final report." McBurney also emphasized that the special grand jury was essentially investigative and did not have the ability to bring indictments.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported March 15 that members of the special grand jury investigating Trump's efforts to overturn his election loss heard a call in which Trump tried to pressure Georgia House Speaker David Ralston into convening a special state legislative session to throw out Biden's certified election victory. However, one juror who interviewed by the AJC says that Ralston, who has subsequently passed away, impressed him by shutting Trump down.
"[Ralston] basically cut the president off," the juror explained. "He said, 'I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.' ... He just basically took the wind out of the sails."
Giuliani and Sidney Powell have been subpoenaed by Willis in her investigation into an effort by Trump's legal team to overturn the state's presidential and senatorial elections by breaching a voting machine in a small rural Georgia county, CNN reported April 21.
The plot to breach voting systems in Coffee County, coordinated by members of Trump's legal team including Giuliani and Powell, is part of the broader criminal investigation into 2020 election interference led by Willis.
The Washington Post reported May 5 at least eight of the 16 Georgia Republicans who convened in December 2020 to declare Donald Trump the winner of the presidential contest despite his loss in the state have accepted immunity deals from Atlanta-area prosecutors investigating alleged election interference.
"Prosecutors with the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told the eight that they will not be charged with crimes if they testify truthfully in her sprawling investigation into efforts by Trump, his campaign and his allies to overturn Joe Biden's victory in Georgia."
At a CNN Town Hall broadcast May 10, former President Trump expressed no regrets over his phone conversation with Raffensperger pressuring him to find enough votes in the Peach State to overturn the 2020 presidential election. "Yeah, I called questioning the election. I thought it was a rigged election. I thought it had a lot of problems," Trump said. "And if this call was bad, why didn't him and his lawyers hang up?"
Fulton County's top prosecutor was dismissive of efforts by former President Trump and a GOP ally to derail her office's more than 2-year-old criminal investigation of attempts to meddle in Georgia's 2020 elections, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported May 15. District Attorney Willis said recent court motions from Trump and Cathy Latham, who served as an "alternate" GOP elector, were "procedurally flawed and advance arguments that lack merit."
Trump's team is seeking to disqualify the Fulton DA's office from investigating the former president and to quash the release of the full final report authored by the special grand jury that aided Willis and recommended upwards of a dozen indictments, according to its forewoman.
A grand jury to consider indicting former President Trump and his allies was seated on July 11.
The Georgia state Supreme Court on July 17 unanimously rejected Trump's motion to "quash" Willis' special grand jury report, to block her from prosecuting him, and to bar her from using any evidence the grand jury obtained to charge him criminally or civilly.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported lawyers for former President Trump declared Aug. 3 they will appeal a judge's ruling that shot down their bid to gut Willis's prosecution of alleged criminal interference in Georgia's 2020 presidential election. They will challenge an order issued by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who said Trump did not have sufficient legal standing to mount such a challenge before indictments are announced. In a strongly worded decision, McBurney dismissed claims that Trump would be unduly harmed by the case going forward, calling any asserted injuries "either insufficient or else speculative and unrealized."
Fox News reported Aug. 14 that Trump was indicted in Georgia into his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state.
Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro, Jeff Clark, John Eastman, Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer and 10 others, were also charged. (Note: Thirteen of the 30 unindicted co-conspirators were "fake electors" in the scheme to thwart the legitimate counting of Electoral College ballots on Jan. 6, 2021.)
The indictment charges the defendants with violating the Georgia RICO Act—the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; Solicitation of Violation of Oath by a Public Officer; Conspiracy to Commit Impersonating a Public Officer; Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree; Conspiracy to Commit False Statements and Writings; Conspiracy to Commit Filing False Documents; Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree; Filing False Documents; and Solicitation of Violation of Oath by a Public Officer.
CNN reported the 41-count indictment alleged Trump and the other 18 defendants "unlawfully conspired and endeavored to conduct and participate in a criminal enterprise" after Trump lost the election in Georgia.
The charges also include False Statements and Solicitation of State Legislatures, high-ranking state officials, the creation and distribution of false electoral college documents, the harassment of election workers, the solicitation of Justice Department officials, the solicitation of then-Vice President Mike Pence, the unlawful breach of election equipment, and acts of obstruction. (Trump also faces criminal charges related to efforts to create and send false electoral college documents in the indictments reported at "Federal grand jury indicts Donald Trump for Jan. 6 coup attempt, trial set for March 4, 2024" below.)
Trump is specifically charged with 13 counts, including soliciting the then-Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to break their oaths of office by overturning the election.
Count 28 of the 41-count
indictment charges Trump and his former chief of staff Meadows in relation to
the former president's infamous phone call imploring Raffensperger to
"find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have" in Georgia.
Trump - also known at Inmate No. PO1135609 - turned himself in at the Fulton County jail, Fox News reported Aug. 24. He entered a plea of "not guilty" on Aug. 31. Unlike some of his co-defendants, Trump is not seeking a speedy trial as allowed by Georgia law. The judge did announce that Trump's trial, when held, will be televised.
A state judge has ruled that Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro will stand trial together beginning Oct. 23. The judge has not set a trial date for Trump or 16 other co-defendants.
House Select Committee completes investigation of Jan. 6 riot, forwards criminal referrals to DOJ, plus, 68 Days That Will Live in Infamy - Oct. 31, 2020 thru Jan. 6, 2021
The Latest: Former President Trump had an intense exchange with "Meet the Press" host Kristen Welker on NBC about his actions on Jan. 6 and why he didn't do more to put an end to the riot at the U.S. Capitol, Mediaite reported Sept. 17.
The two delved into Trump's false 2020 election claims and his attempts to overturn his loss to President Biden. Welker asked him to detail what exactly he was doing while his supporters laid siege to Congress in an effort to halt the 2020 election certification.
"Tell me how you watched this all unfold. Were you in the dining room watching TV?"
"I'm not going to tell you," Trump replied. He said he would "tell people later at an appropriate time."
This prompted Welker to ask, "What did you do when the Capitol was under attack though?"
Trump answered by pointing to the video he put out where he told his supporters to go home, even though he kept on pushing the same lie that fueled their assault on the Capitol.
"That was at 4 o'clock in the afternoon," Welker pointed out. "More than three hours after the attack."
The exchange continued with Welker asking Trump who he called to stop the riot.
"Why would I tell you that?" Trump responded, saying that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed the riot to happen. Trump repeatedly refused to say if he called the military or law enforcement to deal with the riot, even as Welker repeatedly pointed out that "Nancy Pelosi doesn't have the authority that you have as commander in chief."
In the same interview, Trump said he dismissed the views of his own lawyers in continuing to challenge his 2020 defeat because he did not respect them, saying he had made up his own mind that the election had been 'rigged' – a false claim that he continues to make, Reuters reported.
"It was my decision," Trump told NBC's "Meet the Press" program, that the election was "rigged" against him, adding that he relied heavily upon his own "instincts" in coming to that conclusion.
Trump has continued to make false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.
Asked why he dismissed
the views of lawyers in the White House and his campaign that he had lost the
election, Trump responded: "Because I didn't respect them."
Background: On July 1, 2021 the Speaker
of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), appointed members to the United States
House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack to examine and report on the
facts and causes relating to, what her office described as, "the terrorist
mob attack on the United States Capitol."
Pelosi appointed seven Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who was the lead manager in Trump's first impeachment trial and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who served as lead manager for Trump's second impeachment. Also serving on the committee are Trump-critics Rep. Liz Cheney (R- Wyoming) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois). The chair is Mississippi Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson. Rep. Cheney is vice-chair.
Speaker Pelosi blocked GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy's nominees, Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, because they both actively spread misinformation about the 2020 election. But she accepted GOP Reps. Troy Nehls, Rodney Davis, and Kelly Armstrong. McCarthy, however, rescinded their nominations to protest the Speaker's decision to bar Jordan and Banks. (Fast forward: On June 19, 2022, following several nationally-televised committee hearings, former President Trump criticized McCarthy's decision. "Unfortunately, a bad decision was made. This Committee - it was a bad decision not to have representation on this Committee. That was a very, very foolish decision.")
The committee held its first hearing July 27, 2021. Fox News reported the four witnesses at the hearing were Private First Class Harry Dunn and Sergeant Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the Metropolitan Police Department. They provided detailed and emotional testimony about the attack.
"To be honest, I did not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 or the United States they claimed to represent," Gonell, an immigrant and Army veteran, said. "The rioters called me traitor, a disgrace, and shouted that I, I, an Army veteran and police officer, should be executed. I heard specific threats to the lives of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and also Vice President Mike Pence," Gonell added, saying that the officers "fought hand to hand, inch by inch, to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a mob intent on subverting our democratic process." Gonell said that the attackers were shouting, "Trump sent us. Pick the right side."
On Jan. 19, 2022 the Supreme Court rejected Trump's effort to stop the National Archives from giving the House Jan. 6 committee hundreds of pages of documents from his time in the White House. USA Today reported the four-page decision by Chief Justice John Roberts stated, in part, "Because the Court of Appeals concluded that President Trump's claims would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former President necessarily made no difference to the court's decision."
On June 13, Chair Rep. Thompson (D-MS) opened the second public hearing of the January 6 Committee: "This morning we will tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election. And knew he lost an election. And as the result of his loss, decided to wage an attack on our democracy."
Video of depositions from key Trump advisers - Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Jason Miller, Bill Stepien, Bill Barr, among others - made it very clear, as Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) stated, "The election fraud claims were false. Mr. Trump's closest advisors knew it. Mr. Trump knew it."
In riveting and damning testimony, former Attorney General Barr told committee investigators it was "demoralizing" that Trump wasn't listening: "If he really believes this stuff, he's become detached from reality, if he really believes this stuff. There was never any interest in what the actual facts were."
According to witness testimony at the committee's June 16 hearing, Vice President Pence himself and the lawyer who concocted the scheme to have Pence overturn the 2020 presidential election, John Eastman, both advised President Trump that the scheme was unconstitutional and violated federal law. Eastman later plead the Fifth more than 100 times in his deposition before the Jan. 6 Committee.
Judge Michael Luttig, a nationally prominent conservative justice, told the committee that Trump, as well as his allies and supporters, "are a clear and present danger to American democracy."
"That's not because of what happened on January 6 -- it's because to this very day, the former president, his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election, that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election."
Rusty Bowers, the Republican leader of the Arizona state legislature, told the committee at its June 21 hearing that President Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called him shortly after the election and claimed that hundreds of thousands of illegals voted in Arizona as well as thousands of dead people. Bowers asked for the evidence. Trump told Giuliani to give Bowers the evidence. Giuliani promised to deliver it.
Bowers told President Trump, "I voted for you. I worked for you. I campaigned for you. I just won't do anything illegal for you." And, according to Bowers, Giuliani never did provide any evidence and at a subsequent meeting in Phoenix, Giuliani admitted to Bowers that "We've got a lot of theories, we just don't have the evidence."
Shaye Moss, a Georgia election worker, was a target of a conspiracy theory spread by former President Trump and his allies. She told the committee the lies by Trump of harvesting fraudulent votes "turned my life upside down."
Moss fought back tears as she told how the harassment campaign against her upended her life in the weeks after the 2020 election.
"I no longer give out my business card. I don't transfer calls. I don't want anyone knowing my name," Moss testified. "I don't go anywhere with my mom. I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all. I've gained about 60 pounds."
(On Jan. 6, 2023, the 2nd anniversary of the Capitol riot, President Biden gave Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, another Georgia election worker, the Presidential Citizens Medal for their contributions toward preserving democracy in America.)
At the committee's hearing on June 23, 2022 it was announced that at least six Republican members of Congress sought pardons in the final days of Trump's presidency. They included Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Louis Gohmert (R-TX) and Scott Perry (R-PA). Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) summarized: "The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you have committed a crime."
Politico reported "The hearing highlighted how Trump's West Wing became a haven for conspiracy theories about election fraud that he then tasked DOJ and other cabinet agencies to investigate. When the theories were debunked, Trump would fall back on new ones, often plucked from far-flung corners of the internet and laundered through pro-Trump channels until they reached the Oval Office."
Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue described one such theory - that Italian satellites had switched votes from Trump to Joe Biden - as "pure insanity."
On June 28, the Select Committee heard from Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She testified that when she asked Meadows about plans for Jan. 6, "He didn't look up from his phone and said something to the effect of, 'There's a lot going on Cass, but I don't know, things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.'"
Hutchinson also testified that former President Trump knew many of his supporters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 were armed and demanded that they be let into a secure area at his rally. "He thought the mags (metal detectors) were at fault for not letting everybody in. But another leading reason, likely the primary reason, is because he wanted it full and he was angry that we weren't letting people through the mags with weapons -- what the Secret Service deems as weapons." Hutchinson said, "I overheard the President say something to the effect of 'I don't F-ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in, take the f-ing mags away."
She also testified Trump left after his rally speech on Jan. 6 expecting he would be taken to the Capitol. According to Hutchinson, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Tony Ornato recounted Trump screaming, "I'm the f---ing President. Take me up to the Capitol now." Trump then "reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel." She added that, according to Ornato, Trump used his other hand to "lunge" at Secret Service Agent Robert Engel. (Ornato was interviewed virtually Nov. 29 for roughly five to six hours. He told lawmakers and committee staff that he did not recall that conversation with Hutchinson. Hutchinson's claim of Trump lunging at a Secret Service agent has never been debunked.)
Hutchinson also testified that Meadows and Rudy Giuliani each sought pardons related to their actions on Jan. 6. And attorney John Eastman asked Giuliani about a potential pardon in an email. "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works."
The Select Committee on July 12 presented evidence that former President Trump knew that he legitimately lost the 2020 election to Biden, Raw Story reported.
Testimony from former Trump administration officials revealed that White House lawyers, known as "team normal," worked for hours on Dec. 18, 2020 to systematically debunk conspiracy theories about the election in an hours-long meeting with the president and his outside advisors, including Giuliani and Sidney Powell.
On July 21, the committee held a hearing focusing on "then-President Trump's refusal for more than three hours to call off the mob attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6," the Los Angeles Times reported. The committee attempted to show that Trump's inaction constituted a dereliction of duty.
"The mob was accomplishing President Trump's purpose, so of course he didn't intervene," committee member Rep. Kinzinger stated. "President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the Ellipse and telling the mob to go home. He chose not to act."
Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the committee on Sept. 29 the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump. However, Thomas, a lawyer, provided no evidence to support her claim.
The committee voted Oct. 13 to subpoena Trump. The subpoena required him to turn over documents by Nov. 4 and to appear for a deposition Nov. 14. Trump ignored the committee's subpoena.
The House select committee released its highly anticipated final report Dec. 22, presenting a full account of its findings on former President Trump's efforts to maintain power, USA Today reported. The committee's report concluded:
- Trump was the "central cause" of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol. "The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him."
- The committee recommended that the Department of Justice investigate the ex-president for inciting an insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and obstruction of an official proceeding.
- The attack on Jan. 6 on the U.S. Capitol was "foreseeable": The report gives a damning account of law enforcement's response to the attack.
The committee said it was "particularly troubling" that certain witnesses took the Fifth, including Gen. Michael Flynn, who refused to comment on such basic questions as whether he believed the violence on Jan. 6 was justified and whether he believed "in the peaceful transition of power" in the U.S.
GOP Rep. Cheney, vice chair of the committee, described "the most shameful findings" from the hearings: "President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television."
The committee concluded Trump was "directly and personally involved" in the effort to delay the counting of Electoral College votes during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, and acted with a "corrupt" purpose.
The committee also recommended the House Ethics Committee investigate four Republican lawmakers - including Kevin McCarthy, the future House speaker - for defying the committee's subpoenas.
The panel concluded there could be enough evidence to bring criminal charges against other Trump allies, like attorneys John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, Jeffrey Clark and Kenneth Chesebro.
68 Days That Will Live in
Infamy - Oct. 31 through Jan. 6
Timeline of first-ever presidential coup attempt in U.S. history
- President Trump to the nation: "We want all voting to stop."
- President Trump to the Acting Attorney General: "One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren't going to do anything to overturn the election."
- Former President Trump on Mike Pence: "He could have overturned the Election!"
- Former President Trump to Mike Pence: "You're too honest."
The Latest: In her new book "Enough,"
former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson paints the closing days of the Trump
White House as even more chaotic and lawless than she previously disclosed in
her shocking televised testimony last summer before the Jan. 6 House
CNN reported Sept. 26 "Enough" describes how President Trump lashes out unpredictably and makes wild demands. Chief of staff Mark Meadows leaks classified documents to friendly right-wing media figures and burns documents. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani gropes Hutchinson inappropriately the day of the Capitol insurrection.
After the US Supreme Court declined to hear the bizarre lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, full of lies and false claims about the election, Trump pushed Meadows, "Why didn't we make more calls? We needed to do more. … We can't let this stand."
Trump continued, "I don't want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out."
Oct. 31, 2020
President Trump discusses a draft speech that declares victory and claims voter fraud with Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch.
The day after the election, with Democrat Joe Biden leading the vote count, President Trump in the White House press room declared, "This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.
"So, we'll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop."
Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, texts White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, "Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition."
Donald Trump Jr., the oldest son of the president, texts Meadows outlining a strategy that is nearly identical to what allies of the President will attempt to carry out in the months ahead. In his texts, Trump Jr. makes specific reference to filing lawsuits and advocating recounts to prevent certain swing states from certifying their results, as well as having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake "Trump electors."
With Biden still ahead in the vote count, President Trump begins to realize he is on the brink of losing reelection. His lawyers explain to him that being angry about the results is not a reason to file lawsuits.
"Well, why don't we just get up to the Supreme Court directly?" he asks. "Like, why can't we just go there right away?"
Former Vice President Joe Biden is declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election by various media outlets.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sends email discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors to the Electoral College. Utah Senator Mike Lee texts Meadows: "Sydney (sic) Powell is saying that she needs to get in to see the president, but she's being kept away from him. Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help her get in?" (On Nov. 9, Sen. Lee texts Meadows that he found Powell to be a "straight shooter.")
Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani holds a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Northeast Philadelphia. (President Trump had earlier announced the press conference would occur at the famous Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia.) Giuliani, standing outside the landscaping business, a couple buildings down from the Fantasy Island Book Store, makes unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud. The black dye in his hair famously starts to drip down the side of his face during the press conference. The adult bookstore owner complains to the media they are taking up all his customer parking.
Virginia Thomas - again, the wife of a member of the U.S. Supreme Court - sends an email to 29 Arizona state legislators. "Article II of the United States Constitution gives you an awesome responsibility: to choose our state's Electors... [P]lease take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen." (Thomas's name also appears on an email to a group of Arizona representatives on Dec. 13, the day before members of the electoral college met to cast their votes and seal Biden's Arizona victory. She writes, "Before you choose your state's Electors ... consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don't stand up and lead.")
Thomas also sends similar emails to legislators in a second battleground state that Biden won, Wisconsin. "Please reflect on the awesome authority granted to you by our Constitution. And then please take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen for our state."
Thomas texts Mark Meadows, "Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!...You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America's constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History." (Thomas would admit later to the Jan. 6 Select Committee that she had no evidence to support her claims of voter fraud.)
President Trump fires Chris Krebs, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), via Twitter after Krebs refutes claims - including those by President Trump - that the 2020 election was subject to widespread voter fraud and hacking. Krebs earlier in the day had tweeted, "59 election security experts all agree, 'in every case of which we are aware, these claims (of fraud) either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.'"
Sometime in November
President Trump, campaign lawyers and outside attorneys - including Giuliani and Sidney Powell - hold a meeting to discuss legal issues associated with challenging the election.
(Vice President Mike Pence reported in October, 2022, that while the campaign lawyers reportedly gave President Trump a negative report concerning election challenges, Giuliani contested their claims. "Your lawyers are not telling you the truth, Mr. President," Giuliani said to Trump over a speaker phone.
("In the end, that (was the) day the president made the fateful decision to put Giuliani and Sidney Powell in charge of the legal strategy," Vice President Pence reported. "The seeds were being sown for a tragic day in January," referring to Jan. 6, 2021.)
Attorney Kenneth Chesebro, a legal advisor to the Trump campaign, begins drafting memos on the fake elector scheme. (Other Chesebro memos and emails on the illegal scheme are dated Dec. 6 and 31 below.)
Chesebro was advising Wisconsin-based Trump attorney Jim Troupis about a legal strategy for challenging the results there in court. He stressed that in order to sustain legal challenges to Wisconsin's results, a slate of pro-Trump electors must convene on Dec. 14, 2020 and cast ballots as though they were legitimately elected.
Chesebro noted that if
courts ruled in Trump's favor, Congress may only be able to count electoral
votes cast by the legally prescribed deadline of Dec. 14. In other words, it
was a contingency plan while lawsuits were pending.
Trump attorneys Giuliani and Powell hold a press conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. laying out unproven charges of election fraud, including allegations that Dominion Voting Systems had worked with George Soros and Venezuela to steal the election from Trump. Powell claimed there was a "massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States."
By this same day, however, other Trump campaign lawyers had already prepared an internal memo debunking many of the claims made by Giuliani and Powell about Dominion Voting Systems and another voting machine company, Smartmatic. The campaign sits on its findings, however, as Trump supporters attack the companies in the conservative media and file unsuccessful lawsuits.
(In 2023, Fox News will pay Dominion $787.5 million for pushing Giuliani and Powell's false allegations.)
Mid to late November
Trump suggests, in an Oval Office meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr, that the Justice Department seize voting machines in certain states won by Biden. Barr rejects the idea, telling the president there is no basis for seizing the machines because there is no probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.
Around the same time, Trump also tries to persuade state lawmakers in contested states like Michigan and Pennsylvania to use local law enforcement agencies to take control of voting machines. State lawmakers refuse to go along with the plan.
Attorney General Barr grows so frustrated with Trump's election conspiracy theories that he confronts the president and tells him his claims are "bullshit." Burr tells Trump: "I understand you're upset with me. And I'm perfectly happy to tender my resignation." Trump slaps his desk and says: "Accepted. Accepted. Go home. Don't go back to your office. Go home. You're done."
Barr, who is still Attorney General, goes public and tells the Associated Press that, despite the numerous lawsuits Trump supporters had filed contesting the election results, "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election."
Barr also calls Trump's legal team "clownish." "I'm a pretty informed legal observer and I can't fucking figure out what the theory is here. It's just scattershot. It's all over the hill and gone."
President Trump goes down to the White House dining room and throws a plate of food against the wall. Staff later testified they were forced to clean ketchup off the walls.
At a White House meeting, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other White House attorneys tell Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump's personal attorney Giuliani and a group of Republican House members that the scheme to have states send Trump slates of electors to Congress in states that Trump lost "was not legally sound" and "did not comply with the law."
Attorney and U.S. Constitution "expert" John Eastman urges Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to retabulate the state's popular vote - and throw out tens of thousands of absentee ballots - in order to show Trump - not Biden - with a lead.
After President Trump's aides fail to get Georgia officials to overturn their election, Trump calls Republican governor Brian Kemp. Trump told a rally in September, 2021, "I said, 'Let me handle it. This is easy.' I got this guy elected.... I was going to show [his aides] how good I am. 'Let me handle it. I'll call them up.' I said, 'Brian, listen, you know you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election.'"
Trump also urged Kemp to use his "emergency powers" to block the certification of the results and name a slate of Republican electors to award him the state's 16 electoral votes. Kemp, a former election official, tells Trump he didn't have such powers.
Meanwhile, a steadily changing cast of Trump campaign lawyers file 66 federal and state lawsuits challenging the election results. All but one are rejected. (The one that succeeded, in Pennsylvania, involved a small number of ballots with technical errors.)
Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer allied with President Trump, drafts a memo describing a plot to use false slates of electors to subvert the election. Chesebro acknowledges that he was proposing "a bold, controversial strategy" that the Supreme Court "likely" would reject in the end.
But even if the plan did
not ultimately pass legal muster at the highest level, Chesebro argued, it
would achieve two goals. It would focus attention on claims of voter fraud and "buy
the Trump campaign more time to win litigation that would deprive Biden of
electoral votes and/or add to Trump's column."
Trump calls Georgia's Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, warning him not to interfere with a Texas lawsuit that seeks to overturn election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states won by Biden. The Texas lawsuit argues that Biden's victories in the four states should be thrown out over Republican allegations of widespread voter fraud. The suit argues Republican-led legislatures in all four states should be allowed to select a pro-Trump slate of electors and hand Trump the 2020 election.
Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee, who on Nov. 7 urged President Trump to "exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans faith in our elections," sends a text to White House Chief of Staff Meadows suggesting a strategy for reversing Trump's defeat. "If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path." Meadows replies, "I am working on that as of yesterday."
Trump hypes the Texas case in the run-up to the Supreme Court's ruling. "We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!" he tweets.
Georgia Attorney General Carr files a response to the Texas lawsuit with the Supreme Court, urging the justices to reject the Trump-backed lawsuit.
All nine justices of the Supreme Court - including the three Trump-appointed justices - reject hearing the Texas lawsuit on the grounds the state lacks the standing to overthrow elections in other states. "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections."
(Former White House chief of staff Meadows wrote in his November, 2021 memoir, "The Chief's Chief," that he had never seen Trump look as "despondent" as he was when the Supreme Court rejected Texas' bid to overturn the 2020 election result.
(White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in 2022 that she witnessed a conversation soon after the Supreme Court decision in which Trump told chief of staff Meadows something to the effect of: "I don't want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out."
A few days before Dec. 14
President Trump works with allies to prepare a series of false Trump electoral slates from states Biden won. President Trump personally conducts a teleconference with attorney John Eastman and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and solicits the RNC's assistance with the scheme, specifically directing her to arrange for the fake electors to meet and rehearse the process of casting their fake votes. McDaniel agrees to provide that assistance and calls back later to tell the president RNC staff are working on it. (Trump subsequently has several phone calls with McDaniel on the topic.)
The Electoral College - electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia - cast their ballots and forward their "Certificates of Ascertainment" to the vice president and the National Archives, officially declaring Biden the 46th president of the United States.
President Trump announces Attorney General Barr's resignation.
Trump campaign officials, led by Giuliani, the Republican National Committee and Republican state parties organize meetings of Trump supporters in seven states Trump lost to draft language for fake Electoral College certificates. The gatherings take place in Arizona, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.
The unauthorized electors declare themselves "duly elected and qualified" and send the phony documents to Washington in hopes that on Jan. 6 when Congress convenes to certify the election the fake certificates will be recognized as official by Vice President Pence, who will chair the proceedings.
President Trump summons acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to the Oval Office and demands the DOJ file legal briefs supporting lawsuits challenging election results in key battleground states and that Rosen appoint special counsels to investigate Dominion Voting Systems, who Trump's lawyers claim - without evidence - switched Trump votes to Biden. Rosen declines, citing former Attorney General Barr's announcement on Dec. 1 that there was no wide-spread election fraud.
Trump personally calls election officials in Wayne County, Michigan in a last-ditch effort to overturn the election in that state.
An executive order is drafted by outside legal advisor Sidney Powell and Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn empowering the defense secretary to "seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under" a U.S. law that relates to preservation of election records. Without evidence, the draft cites conspiracy theories about election fraud in Georgia and Michigan, as well as debunked notions about Dominion and Smartmatic voting machines switching Trump votes to Biden.
The draft order would give the defense secretary 60 days to write an assessment of the 2020 election, suggesting it was a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February, 2021.
Former U.S. Army General Fynn, who lasted less than a month as President Trump's first national security advisor, and Sidney Powell, who had, by this time, filed unsuccessful lawsuits claiming China, Venezuela, Iran and George Soros worked to turn a Trump victory into defeat, attend an Oval Office meeting with President Trump.
The day before Flynn had told Newsmax the president could deploy military troops and declare martial law in order to rerun the election in certain states. ''He could immediately on his order seize every single one of these machines around the country. He could also order, within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states. It's not unprecedented.''
Flynn and Powell present the President with a draft executive order authorizing the military to seize voting machines throughout the country and appoint Powell as "a special counsel overseeing election integrity." The President reads the draft and verbally agrees to appoint Powell special counsel.
At one point in the meeting, it is also suggested that the president appoint Flynn as "field marshal" to coordinate Powell's efforts.
White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Eric Herschmann learn of the meeting, enter the Oval Office and begin working to systematically debunk Trump, Powell and Flynn's conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Cipollone tells the group there was no evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, asking "one simple questions, as a general matter 'Where is the evidence?'" Cipollone also tells Trump he opposes giving Powell any authority to investigate alleged election fraud.
The hours-long meeting - which some describe as a "screaming match" - ends near midnight with Trump's allies insulting and verbally attacking the White House counsel.
(Trump ultimately rejects the draft executive order and the proposal that Trump declare martial law and the White House never follows through with the appointment of Powell as special counsel.)
At about 1:45 a.m., President Trump tweets, "Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"
Seven days after the Electoral College named Joe Biden president-elect, President Trump meets with Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry, and eight other House Freedom Caucus members to strategize about Jan. 6. (On Jan. 6, Perry will lead the House GOP effort to not certify Biden's election.) Giuliani and some associates advocate a plan for Pence to unilaterally refuse to count Biden's electors and instead send the election back to various GOP-controlled state legislatures to replace Biden's electors with Trump's.
The D.C. Fusion Center (The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Capitol Police and the National Capital Region Threat Intelligence Consortium) share open source data regarding threats to Congress and elected officials, on groups strategizing to avoid arrest in D.C. and discussions about bringing guns into D.C. on Jan. 6. An FBI report states "threat actors" may plan to commit acts of violence in D.C. during demonstrations related to the inauguration.
President Trump calls Georgia election investigator Frances Watson, who is leading a probe into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County. "The people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me," he tells her. "They know I won, won by hundreds of thousands of votes. It wasn't close."
President Trump pressures Watson to find "dishonesty" and "When the right answer comes out, you'll be praised."
Dec. 23 thru Jan. 3
According to later Congressional testimony by Acting Attorney General Rosen, President Trump speaks at least five times to acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, "engaging in unauthorized conversations" about how the department might "publicly cast doubt on President Biden's victory."
Attorneys Chesebro and Eastman, the legal "brains" behind the idea of getting Pence to subvert the Electoral College vote when Congress convenes on Jan. 6, discuss via email how to get a case – this one in Wisconsin - to overturn the election results before the Supreme Court. Chesebro writes, the "odds of action before Jan. 6 will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be 'wild' chaos on Jan. 6 unless they rule by then, either way."
"Though that factor could go against us on the merits," he added. "Easiest way to quell chaos would be to rule against us — our side would accept that result as legitimate."
(By this time, a Trump-appointed federal
judge had already, on Dec. 12, shot down the Trump campaign's last-ditch
attempt to overturn Wisconsin's certification of the 2020 election for Biden, dismissing the case, Trump vs.
Wisconsin Elections Commission, with prejudice. The Trump campaign appealed, but a three-judge panel
of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the
lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Wisconsin
results on Dec. 24.)
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry, at the behest of President Trump, calls Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to tell him he didn't think the Justice Department had done its job on the election. During the call, Perry focuses on alleged fraud in his home state of Pennsylvania and follows up the conversation with an email to Donoghue forwarding additional debunked claims of election fraud from GOP state lawmakers in Pennsylvania. The claims are similar to those Trump is making, including a claim that Pennsylvania had 205,000 more votes than voters.
Rep. Perry, who originally introduced Trump to Clark in October, tells Donoghue, "I think Jeff Clark is great. I like that guy a lot. He's the kind of guy who could really get in there and do something about this. "
President Trump telephones Acting Attorney General Rosen and his deputy Donoghue and urges them to publicly declare the results of the 2020 election "corrupt." According to notes Donoghue took, Rosen tells Trump that he needs to "understand that the DOJ can't + won't snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn't work that way."
"[I] don't expect you to do that," Trump reportedly answers, "just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen."
Donoghue tells Trump, "Sir, we've done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed."
Trump ends the conversation by telling Rosen, "People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in. People want me to replace DOJ leadership." (It is reported that Clark believed smart thermostats hacked by the Chinese might have been used to manipulate Dominion voting machines in Georgia.)
At President Trump's urging, Clark circulates a draft letter -- which Clark wanted his bosses Rosen and Donoghue to approve -- urging Georgia's governor to convene the state legislature into special session. Clark's draft letter falsely claims the Justice Department was "investigating various irregularities" in the presidential election and had "identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election."
Clark wants the DOJ to send the letters to Georgia and other swing states that Trump lost, informing them that fraud had rendered their elections questionable, while advising state legislatures to convene and appoint pro-Trump electors. (Clark and Eastman were both pushing the fake electors scheme and spoke over the phone at least five times between Jan. 1 and Jan. 8.)
Secret Service agents are alerted to potential violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 at least 10 days before rioters stormed the building, according to emails and other messages made public in October, 2022. The threats included "calls to occupy federal buildings," "intimidating Congress and invading [the] Capitol Building," and people claiming they want to "arm themselves and to engage in political violence at the event."
President Trump phones Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona pressuring him to overturn the state's presidential election results, saying that if enough fraudulent votes could be found it would overcome his narrow loss in Arizona to Biden.
Ducey later told a major Republican donor that he felt "pressure" to do the former president's bidding. A spokesperson for Ducey noted that no officials have ever found any evidence to support Trump's claims of massive voter fraud. He lost Arizona by more than 10,000 votes.
Trump and his allies urge the Department of Justice to take Trump's false claims of a stolen election directly to the Supreme Court.
White House Chief of Staff Meadows emails Vice President Pence's top aide a detailed plan for undoing Biden's election victory. The memo, written by President Trump's campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, outlines a multi-step strategy:
On Jan. 6, the day Congress certifies the 2020 election results, Pence is to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Biden won but Trump claims were stolen from him through election fraud. Pence would then give the states a deadline of "7pm eastern standard time on January 15th" to send back a new set of votes. Then, if any state legislature missed that deadline, "no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state." In that case, neither Biden nor Trump would have a majority of votes, which would mean "Congress shall vote by state delegation" -- which would lead to Trump being declared the winner due to Republicans controlling the majority of state delegations in the U.S Congress.
In a meeting with top Justice Department officials in the Oval Office, President Trump again demands the department seize voting machines across the country. When told that voting machine performance was within the Department of Homeland Security's purview, the president calls Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, and tells him "the acting Attorney General...just told me it's your job to seize machine, and you're not doing your job."
Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro emails Trump's legal team claiming Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may be their best hope of derailing Joe Biden's win. "We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt. Realistically, our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas."
"I think I agree with this," Trump attorney Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would "kick the Georgia legislature into gear" to help overturn the election results.
(See Nov. 5, 9 and 10 above for a possible reason behind their belief that Justice Thomas would be sympathetic to their legal plea.)
In late December
Vice President Pence reaches out to former Vice President Dan Quayle to ask what he should do on Jan. 6. Quayle quickly puts the kibosh on any effort to overturn the election, telling Pence: "Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away."
When Pence "pressed again," explaining that he was under pressure from Trump to reject Biden's electoral college votes on Jan. 6, Quayle responded: "I do know the position you're in. I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian [who issues rulings about congressional authority]. That's all you do. You have no power.'"
Jan. 1, 2021
Trump and his cohorts continue to pressure Pence to refuse to certify the vote tally on Jan. 6, a purely ceremonial task the vice president has presided over since the country's founding.
Pence steadfastly refuses to do so, saying his legal team had told him there was no constitutional basis for the vice president to be able to overturn an election at the last minute. On a phone call, Trump allegedly berated Pence and told him, "You're too honest."
President Trump, Giuliani and Eastman speak to 300 state legislators via a conference call to arm them with purported evidence of fraud and urge them to take action to "decertify" their election results. "You are the real power," Trump tells the state lawmakers. "You're the ones that are going to make the decision." Eastman said the legislators had the authority to appoint their own set of pro-Trump electors, regardless of who won the election in their states.
President Trump phones Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and asks him to "find" enough votes to overturn the state's election. "All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes," the exact number Trump needs to overturn Biden's win in Georgia. Trump argues Raffensperger can change the certified results of the presidential election, an assertion Raffensperger rejects. (In the room with the president are Mark Meadows and three campaign lawyers. No Department of Justice or White House attorneys participated.)
Eastman, who founded the ironically named law firm Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, tells a radio interviewer that Vice President Pence has the power to throw the election to the House of Representatives, saying it depended on whether Pence had "courage and the spine." Says Eastman, "I think if the vice president, as presiding over the joint session, would at least agree that because those ongoing contests have not been resolved, we can't count those electors. That, that, that means that nobody has a majority of the electors. And either they delay things -- so those constitutional challenges are resolved -- or they say, 'OK, well, we don't have electors from those states, that nobody has a majority. This is going to the House.'"
Justice Department official Clark both threatens and attempts to coerce acting Attorney General Rosen into sending the letter to Georgia. (Clark also wants the letter sent to other states where Trump supporters are contesting Biden's vote totals.) Clark raises the prospect that Trump could fire Rosen but then says he would decline any offer to replace Rosen as acting attorney general if Rosen sends the letter. (Evidence subsequently comes to light in November, 2021 indicating that Clark's proposed letter to Georgia may have first been reviewed by the White House.)
Jan. 2 or 3
A senior Secret Service official, Anthony Ornato, tells White House chief of staff Meadows there are intelligence reports saying there could potentially be violence on Jan. 6. Meadows responds, "All right. Let's talk about it."
Days before Jan. 6
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tells White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson President Trump privately acknowledged losing the 2020 election.
McCarthy told her that he feared that then-White House chief of staff Meadows was not preparing Trump to accept the election results.
President Trump tries to call fellow Republican Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in Arizona. But Hickman dodges the call but listens to the audio of Trump's call and is "horrified." Hickman says he didn't call the president back because he suspected Trump would do what he did to Georgia's Secretary of State Raffensperger on Jan. 2 (i.e. ask him to "find" votes.) "I didn't want to walk into that space."
At an extraordinary Oval Office showdown, President Trump meets with the top leaders of the Justice Department. Jeffrey Clark, an environmental lawyer who had never conducted a criminal investigation in the career, repeatedly tells the president that if named attorney general, he would conduct investigations that would uncover widespread fraud, he would send out the Georgia letter he had drafted and that he had the intelligence, the will and the desire to pursue these matters in the way that the President thought most appropriate.
Clark suggests that Justice issue a legal opinion to Vice President Pence advising him as to what actions he could take during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress. "That's an absurd idea," Stephen Engel, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, interjected. "It is not the role of the Department of Justice to provide legislative officials with legal advice on the scope of their duties."
Trump tells acting Attorney General Rosen, "One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren't going to do anything to overturn the election." Department of Justice officials then warn Trump that they and other senior officials would resign en masse if Trump fires Rosen and appoints Clark. They receive immediate support from another key participant: Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. Cipollone indicates that he and his top deputy, Patrick F. Philbin, will also step down if Trump acts on his plan. Only near the end of the nearly three-hour meeting does the president relent and agree to drop his threat to appoint Clark attorney general.
The head of intelligence
for the U.S. Capitol Police, after reviewing social media posts, learns that
Trump supporters are desperate to overturn the election and that "Congress
itself" will be the target.
(On Aug. 1, 2023, Special Counsel Jack Smith indicts Trump for working to overthrow the U.S. government of President-Elect Biden. According to the indictment, in the evening of Jan. 3, 2021, President Trump met for a briefing on an overseas national security issue with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior national security advisors. When the Chairman and another advisor recommended that the President take no action because Inauguration Day was only seventeen days away and any course of action could trigger something unhelpful, President Trump calmly agreed, stating, "Yeah, you're right, it's too late for us. We're going to give that to the next guy." Smith argues this is more evidence Trump knew he had actually lost the election.)
President Trump meets with Vice President Pence, his chief of staff Marc Short and legal counsel Greg Jacob and Eastman and attempts to convince Pence that Eastman is correct when he states Pence has the authority to stop the certification of the election. The president tells his vice president, "You really need to listen to John. He's a respected constitutional scholar. Hear him out."
Eastman proposes Pence overturn the election results by throwing out electors from seven states Biden won when Congress meets to count Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. Eastman emphasizes that Pence should take the action without asking permission -- either from a vote of the joint session or from a court. "The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter." (Blog editor's note: Why didn't Nixon in 1960 or Gore in 2000 think of that !?!)
Pence tells Trump that a vice president is not invested by the framers of the Constitution with the power to dictate presidential elections. Under the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act, the vice president, as president of the Senate, is responsible only for opening the certificates and counting the votes on the sixth day of January following a presidential election.
"I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this," Trump replied, later telling his vice president, "You've betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing."
During the meeting, however, Eastman acknowledged to Trump, Pence, Jacob and others in the Oval Office that his strategy violated the Electoral Count Act and was illegal.
At a rally that evening in Georgia, Trump told his followers Pence was the last backstop against the election being "stolen." "I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president comes through for us. He's a great guy. Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite as much."
On the eve of Jan. 6, President Trump makes several calls to the Willard Hotel "war room" across the street from the White House and confers with advisers and lawyers, including Giuliani, "Stop the Steal" rally organizers, constitutional "expert" Eastman and GOP officials on how to stop or at least delay the certification of Biden's electoral victory. Trump tells them that Pence is not inclined to insert himself into the certification process.
Trump allies call members of Republican-dominated legislatures in states that Biden won encouraging them to convene special sessions to investigate fraud and to reassign electoral college votes to Trump.
At a staff meeting in the Oval Office Trump repeatedly asks, "What are your ideas for getting the RINOs to do the right thing tomorrow? How do we convince Congress?"
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, texts Meadows that Vice President Pence "should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all -- in accordance with guidance from founding father Alexander Hamilton and judicial precedence." (Meadows responded on Jan. 6: "I have pushed for this. Not sure it is going to happen.")
Vice President Pence's top lawyer, Greg Jacob, drafts a three-page memo concluding that if Pence were to embrace Trump's demand that he single-handedly block or delay the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, he would be breaking multiple provisions of the Electoral Count Act, the law that has governed the transfer of power since 1887.
Pence endures another berating by Trump after telling the president that experts flatly rejected the president's plan. Trump shouted, "No, no, no!" Trump, furious, says: "You've betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing. Your career is over if you do this."
According to reports, Pence tells Trump, "You're not going to be sworn in on the 20th. There is no scenario in which you can be sworn in on the 20th."
Meadows sends an email indicating the National Guard would be at the Capitol the next day to "protect pro Trump people."
Trump confidant Steve Bannon, who is also at the Willard Hotel "war room" as it's senior political adviser, predicts on his podcast, "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's gonna be moving. It's gonna be quick."
Vice President Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, calls Tim Giebels, Pence's lead Secret Service agent, to his West Wing office and tells him the president is going to turn publicly against the vice president, and, as a result, there could be a security risk to Pence.
Meanwhile, the far-right militant group Oath Keepers drops off luggage carts at a Washington D.C. hotel filled with gun boxes, rifle cases, suitcases full of ammunition and enough supplies to last 30 days. It's leader, Stewart Rhodes, a Yale law graduate and disbarred attorney, had earlier told fellow Oath Keepers, "I think Congress will screw (President Trump) over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them." (On Nov. 29, 2022 a jury found Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Prosecutors on May 5, 2023 asked court to sentence Rhodes to 25 years in prison. He was sentenced to 18 years.)
In the morning, President Trump tweets, "States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!"
At 11:20 a.m., during Trump's final call with Pence before heading to the rally, the president pressures the vice president once more to overturn the election. "You can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as a pussy."
But Pence sends a letter to Congress stating, "It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not."
As the joint session of Congress convenes to confirm the Biden victory, thousands of Trump supporters gather on the Ellipse near the White House for the "Stop the Steal" rally.
Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato tells President Trump some of his supporters are bringing weapons to the rally.
Trump demands all his supporters be let into the secure area for his rally. "I don't fucking care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags (metal detectors) away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here." (Secret Service agents confiscated a haul of weapons from the 28,000 spectators who did pass through the magnetometers: 242 canisters of pepper spray, 269 knives or blades, 18 brass knuckles, 18 tasers, 6 pieces of body armor, 3 gas masks, 30 batons or blunt instruments, and 17 miscellaneous items like scissors, needles, or screwdrivers.)
President Trump begins speaking at noon, and tells the crowd, "If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people." In fact, more than a half-dozen times during his 70 minute speech, the 45th president turns his attention to his vice president, assuring the crowd, without reservation, that the vice president possesses the constitutional authority to deliver his administration a second term. "Mike Pence, I hope you're going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and the good of our country and if you're not, I'm going to be very disappointed in you."
President Trump then urges his supporters to march to the Capitol, saying he would march with them. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."
Just after 1 p.m., Trump leaves the rally expecting to be taken to the Capitol. When his Secret Service detail refuses for security reasons, Trump yells, "I'm the fucking President. Take me up to the Capitol now."
According to reports, Trump is so angry, he lunges for the steering wheel of the car and then for the throat of the Secret Service agent sitting in the front passenger seat.
Within 15 minutes of finishing his speech, an aide tells the president the Capitol is under attack.
At 1:49 p.m., Trump, back in the White House watching the riot on Fox News, retweets a video of himself rallying the crowd: "We will not take it anymore and that's what this is all about...You'll never get back your country with weakness. You have to show strength."
Beginning shortly before 2 p.m., hundreds of Trump supporters begin a battle with police, crying out, "Hang Mike Pence!"
At 2:05, Chief of Staff Meadows tells aide Cassidy Hutchinson he hasn't spoken with Trump. "He wants to be alone now."
By 2:20 p.m., after protesters break windows and climb into the Capitol, the building goes into lockdown. The Oath Keepers breach the Capitol in military formation.
White House Counsel Cipollone demands to see Trump but Meadows says Trump "doesn't want to do anything." Cipollone tells Meadows, "Mark, something needs to be done, or people are going to die and the blood's going to be on your fucking hands."
When Cipollone and Meadows finally do talk to Trump in the White House dining room about rioters' chanting "hang Mike Pence," Trump says the vice president "deserved" it.
At 2:24 p.m., President Trump tweets, "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution."
At 2:26 p.m. the Secret Service and Capitol Police escort Vice President Pence, his wife and daughter to a "secure area" - the underground Senate loading dock - within the Capitol complex. Secret Service agent Tim Giebels asks Pence to get into one of the vehicles. Pence replies, "I'm not getting in the car, Tim. I trust you, Tim, but you're not driving the car. If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I'm not getting in the car." They remain at the loading dock for the next three hours.
Secret Service agents with the vice president are so concerned about their personal safety some make calls to their families to say good-bye.
In one phone call, Sen. Tommy Tuberville tells Trump, "They've taken the Vice President out. They want me to get off the phone. I gotta go."
President Trump never calls Pence or asks about his welfare.
Pence calls Christopher Miller, the acting secretary of defense, to demand he deploy the National Guard.
While also sheltering in the loading dock, Pence's attorney, Greg Jacob, asks Eastman in an email, "Did you advise the President that in your professional judgment the Vice President DOES NOT have the power to decide things unilaterally?" Eastman states that the President had "been so advised," but then adds: "But you know him-once he gets something in his head, it is hard to get him to change course."
At 2:38 p.m., minutes after Ivanka Trump speaks with her father about the riot, President Trump tweets support for the Capitol Police, urging people to "stay peaceful," while scenes of violence and mayhem are splashed across American TV. "I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order - respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!" Trump doesn't tell them to go home.
President Trump watches the riot on Fox News in the dining room next to the Oval Office, "pleased, not disturbed, that his supporters had disrupted the election count," according to witnesses. In fact, Trump's attention was so rapt that he hits rewind and re-watches parts of the riot. He says his supporters looked "very trashy" but appreciated their fight. Trump places no calls to any agency of the U.S. government instructing them to take action to halt the riot.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) says Trump was "walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren't as excited as he was."
At 2:53 p.m. Donald Trump Jr. texts Meadows, "He's got to condemn this shit. Asap. The captiol police tweet is not enough." Donald Jr. also texts Meadows: "They will try to fuck his entire legacy on this if it gets worse."
Trump is informed of the fatal shooting of rioter Ashli Babbitt after 3:05 pm with a note, written by White House aide William "Beau" Harrison, that read: "1x CIVILIAN GUNSHOT WOUND TO CHEST @ DOOR OF HOUSE CHABER." There is no indication that this affected the President's state of mind or that the President expressed any remorse.
Eastman emails Greg Jacob insisting that Pence could still reject electors from Arizona and other states. Jacob replies by email: "I have run down every legal trail placed before me to its conclusion, and I respectfully conclude that as a legal framework, it is a results-oriented position that you would never support if attempted by the opposition, and essentially entirely made up. And thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege."
Ivanka Trump, senior advisor to the president, asks her father again to "please stop this violence."
GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy, protected by Capital police, phones President Trump to give him a first-hand report of the violence in the Capitol building. McCarthy tells Trump, "I just got evacuated from the Capitol! There were shots fired right off the House floor. You need to make this stop." Trump initially claims the protesters are linked to Antifa, referring to a network of "leftist" protesters and criminals. When McCarthy pushes back, saying, no, the protesters are Trump supporters, the president responds, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." McCarthy yells back, "Who the fuck do you think you are talking to?"
(The Republican House leader asked multiple members of Trump's family for help, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Kushner later characterized Leader McCarthy's demeanor on the call as "scared.")
At 3:17 p.m., Fox News reports gunshots are heard on Capitol Hill.
President Trump continues to watch events unfold on Fox News in the executive dining room. "He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV," says one close adviser.
At 4:15 p.m., Joe Biden holds a press conference and urges the mob to "pull back," calling on Trump "to go on national television...and demand an end to this siege."
At 4:17 p.m., 187 minutes after President Trump began his speech at the rally, Trump finally asks his followers to go home. "I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you, you're very special."
The insurgency finally ends.
At 6:01 p.m., Trump tweets that "these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots."
And at 9:02 p.m. Congress certifies the Electoral College vote - with Vice President Pence performing his ceremonial role of presiding over the process - naming Joe Biden president-elect. However, 147 Republican senators and representatives-more than half of the Republicans in Congress-join in objecting to the final certification of the Arizona and Pennsylvania electoral slates that voted for Biden.
Postscript: At 11:44 p.m., John Eastman writes an email imploring Greg Jacob, Vice President Pence's counsel, to urge his boss to suspend the session certifying the election. Eastman argued that because the House and Senate had violated the Electoral Count Act by debating the objection for more than two hours, Pence could violate it further by adjourning for 10 days. "So now that the precedent has been set that the Electoral Count Act is not quite so sacrosanct as was previously claimed, I implore you to consider one more relatively minor violation and adjourn for 10 days to allow the legislatures to finish their investigations," Eastman wrote. After reviewing the email, Pence called it "rubber room stuff."
Justice Department, states investigate and file charges against GOP plot to
submit fake Electoral College votes
The Justice Department is looking into a
GOP plot to put forward fake electors from seven states that
then-President Trump lost in 2020. The investigation was triggered by a referral from the State of Michigan Attorney General.
Authorities in Michigan and Arizona are also investigating for potential state violations. Authorities in New Mexico and Wisconsin are tracking the federal investigation. The district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia has investigated and filed charges.
Fake Electoral College certificates were created after the 2020 election by Trump allies in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, who sought to replace Biden presidential electors. (The submissions from New Mexico and Pennsylvania contained a disclaimer saying the fake electoral votes should be counted only if courts later determined that they were, in fact, the qualified electors from their states. No such court determinations were ever made.)
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reported on Jan. 13, 2022 she had referred her investigation in Michigan to the U.S. Department of Justice. The attorney general of New Mexico, Hector Balderas, also referred the results of his investigation to Washington. (And the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 issued subpoenas connected with the plot.)
On Dec. 14, 2020, the Electoral College - electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia - cast their ballots and forwarded their "Certificates of Ascertainment" to the National Archives, officially declaring Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States. However, on the same day, Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, the Republican National Committee and certain Republican state parties, organized meetings of Trump supporters in seven states Trump lost to Biden and drafted language for fake Electoral College certificates. The unauthorized electors declared themselves "duly elected and qualified" and submitted the phony documents to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in hopes that on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress convened to certify the election, the fake certificates would be recognized as official by Vice President Pence, who chaired the proceedings.
One fake elector from Michigan boasted at an event hosted by a local Republican organization in February, 2022 that the Trump campaign directed the entire operation, CNN reported. "We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that," Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said at a public event organized by the conservative group Stand Up Michigan.
CNN reported Feb. 25, 2022 David
Shafer, the chairman of the Republican Party in Georgia, told the House Select
Committee on Jan. 6 that the Trump campaign had directed the party in 2020 to put forward
an alternate slate of electors after then-President Trump lost the state's
vote. "Acting on the advice of counsel in the election contest, Chairman
Shafer convened the Republican nominees for Presidential Elector to cast their
votes for President and Vice President for the sole purpose of preserving a
remedy in the event the lawsuit succeeded," his attorney, Bob Driscoll,
said in a statement. "There was nothing secret or surreptitious about the
meeting. He and the other Republican Electors were
acting provisionally to protect a remedy in the event President Trump
ultimately succeeded in the pending (legal) contest."
then on March 30, the New York Times reported federal prosecutors
substantially widened their Jan. 6 investigation. "The
investigation now encompasses the possible involvement of other government
officials in Mr. Trump's attempts to obstruct the certification of President
Biden's Electoral College victory and the push by some Trump allies to promote
slates of fake electors."
(For more on the plot to submit fake Trump electors, see "68 Days That Will Live in Infamy"
CNN reported Sept. 13 that Justice Department criminal prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election -- including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts.
On Oct. 13 at a public hearing, House Select Committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) reported that, according to Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, former President Trump played a direct role in the effort to use fake electors to overturn the presidential election. Mediaite reported that, according to Rep. Murphy, "Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, testified before this committee that President Trump and his attorney, Dr. John Eastman, called her and asked her to arrange for the fake electors to meet and rehearse the process of casting their fake votes." McDaniel and the RNC subsequently cooperated.
On Nov. 18, Fox News reported Attorney General Merrick Garland had named special counsel Jack Smith to investigate the entirety of the criminal probe into the unlawful retention of national defense information at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief to the DOJ's public integrity section, will also oversee the investigation into whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
One of Smith's first moves was to subpoena Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him for records of communications with Trump, his 2020 campaign and 19 conservative attorneys and advocates. Subpoenas also were sent to the Cobb County Board of Elections in Georgia, as well as to local election officials in other swing states, Bloomberg reported.
The House Select Committee investigating the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, concluded in its Dec. 19 report: "The certifications signed by Trump electors in multiple States were patently false. Vice President Biden won each of those States, and the relevant State authorities had so certified. It can hardly be disputed that the false slates of electors were material, as nothing can be more material to the Joint Session of Congress to certify the election than the question of which candidate won which States."
The 845-page report - based on 1,000-plus interviews, documents collected including emails, texts, phone records and a year and a half of investigation - includes allegations that Trump "oversaw" the legally dubious effort to put forward fake slates of electors in seven states he lost, arguing that the evidence shows he actively worked to "transmit false Electoral College ballots to Congress and the National Archives" despite concerns among his lawyers that doing so could be unlawful.
The committee's report notes that while some of the signatories may have believed the certificates would only be used if Trump won relevant legal cases challenging the results, that rationale cannot apply to Trump himself: "President Trump (including acting through co-conspirators such as John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro) relied on the existence of those fake electors as a basis for asserting that the Vice President could reject or delay certification of the Biden electors."
CNN reported Smith's team sent subpoenas to local and state officials in all seven of the key states - Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - targeted by Trump and his allies as part of their bid to overturn the election results.
And on Jan. 6, 2023 Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office is reopening its investigation into the 16 Republican electors who signed a certificate falsely claiming that Donald Trump had won the state's 2020 election, the Detroit News reported.
Nessel, a Democrat, previously referred the matter to federal prosecutors. But she cited new documents released by a U.S. House committee and said there was "clear evidence to support charges" against the group of 16 Michigan Republicans who signed a document that was submitted to the National Archives and was intended to help Trump supporters challenge his loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
The false Trump electors met inside Michigan Republican Party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020 as Biden's electors participated in an official ceremony in the state Capitol. Biden won Michigan by 3 percentage points or 154,000 votes.
Mark Meadows, Trump's last White House chief of staff, is "the central witness" in the Department of Justice's probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, according to former U.S. attorney and legal analyst Harry Litman, Newsweek reported June 17.
Due to his proximity to the former president during the time that this scheme was allegedly hatched, Meadows is considered by legal experts to be a vital witness for that investigation.
Former Vice President Mike Pence testified before the grand jury in April.
And then former President Trump was arraigned Aug. 3 on four charges alleging that he attempted to orchestrate a scheme of fraudulent electoral college votes to overturn the results of the 2020 election. (For details on the charges, see "Federal grand jury indicts Donald Trump for Jan. 6 coup attempt, trial set for March 4, 2024" immediately above.)
And on Aug. 14 a Fulton County, Georgia grand jury indicted former President Trump and 18 others on a wide variety of criminal charges related to efforts to overturn that state's election in 2020, The Hill reported.
Several of the charges relate to a plot among Trump and his allies to submit false slates of pro-Trump electors to Congress in key swing states, including Georgia. (See "Georgia county grand jury indicts Trump and allies for effort to overturn state election, trials begin Oct. 23" above.)
On Aug. 15, FOX 10 in Phoenix reported that Arizona could be the next state to indict former president Donald Trump on charges in connection to trying to overturn the 2020 election results. Arizona's Attorney General is currently investigating, and Governor Katie Hobbs says she hopes to see Arizona's fake electors face criminal charges.
Truth Social, Trump's go-to platform, struggles with investigations, money problems
The Latest: "Shareholders in Digital World Acquisition, the investment partner of former president Donald Trump's media start-up, voted to approve an extension of the company's merger deadline and give it more time to complete the deal," the Washington Post reported Sept 5. "The extension will give the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, another year to finalize its long-stalled merger with the parent company of the pro-Trump social network Truth Social."
Digital World and Trump Media were originally schedule to merge in 2022.
Background: Former President Trump's media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators, according to a report filed with the SEC in December, 2021.
Business Insider reported Dec. 6 that according to Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC), the company that plans to merge with Trump's new media venture, the SEC has requested documents about meetings of DWAC's board of directors, "policies and procedures relating to trading," identification of certain investors, and copies of communication between the partner company and Trump's new media company.
Digital World said it also received requests from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in late October, 2021 and early November for information regarding events that took place before the public announcement in October of its planned merger with the Trump Media & Technology Group.
The investigation comes after Trump's digital media company and Digital World, a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC), announced they had raised $1 billion in capital. None of the investors were identified, which is highly unusual for this sort of transaction, AXIOS reported.
The deal is expected to provide proceeds of approximately $1.25 billion, assuming full delivery of the amount of cash held in trust by DWAC.
The Hill reported that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) penned a letter to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler requesting that the agency open an investigation into the deal between Digital World and Trump Media & Technology Group.
Warren suggested that the deal had violated the Securities Act of 1933 because Patrick Orlando, the sponsor of Digital World, allegedly had conversations about an agreement with Trump as early as March 2021, well before the SPAC made its first filing in May and launched its initial public offering (IPO) in September.
According to Sen. Warren, under the 1933 statute, SPACs must disclose any form of direct or indirect contact with potential target companies to protect investors who get involved at the time of the IPO. The talks between Trump and Orlando were not disclosed in SEC regulatory filings, according to public records and news reports.
(The Washington Post defined a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC) as a shell company that is set up to take a private company public by merging with it. They are called "blank check" companies because public investors can purchase shares without knowing what the shell firm will eventually buy. For investors, the hope is that stock price will shoot up when an acquisition target is announced. In October, 2022, it was reported that Trump and Orlando began talks to create Trump Media and merge it with a SPAC as early as Spring, 2021.)
Truth Social was launched with much hype and fanfare on Feb. 21, 2022 with former GOP Congressman Devin Nunes, a rancher from California's central valley with no tech development experience, as its CEO.
And Trump finally joined Truth Social on April 28, posting on the social media platform for the first time.
Federal securities regulators expanded their investigation into possible securities violations related to the planned merger, according to a June 13 filing with the SEC. Axios reported, "Why it matters: Truth Social's financial prospects are heavily reliant on investment tied to the merger, which may never come to pass."
And then Trump's media company was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Manhattan in connection with a criminal probe into its planned merger with Digital World, CNBC reported. (The Trump company also received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a civil probe on June 27, DWAC said.)
Big investors are starting to eye the exits on the $1.3 billion bid to take Trump's social media startup public, Politico reported Oct. 3.
The hedge funds, trading firms and other major backers are questioning whether the financial riches that first attracted them to the transaction are still strong enough to hold their interest in a deal fraught with troubles, according to four investors who asked not to be named. Already, investors who had promised $138 million in capital have pulled out.
At a campaign rally on Oct. 1, Trump told supporters, "If they don't come up with the financing, I'll have it private. Truth Social is hot!"
The Stock Dork reported Oct. 12: "Now, the SPAC company, Digital World Acquisition Group (DWAC), seems to be struggling financially as the SPAC deal is in limbo. The company now lists its address as 3109 Grand Avenue in Miami, Florida. A search of the address verifies this as a UPS store in Coconut Grove, Miami."
The Pew Research Center
reported on Nov. 18 that 27 percent of U.S. adults say they have heard of Truth
Social but only two percent use the site for news. Thirty-one percent of U.S.
adults say they use Facebook and 14 percent Twitter for news.
CNBC reported Nov. 22 that DWAC said shareholders voted to delay a deadline for its merger with the former president's firm until September 2023. In a securities filing Nov. 21, DWAC said there was "substantial doubt" about its ability to continue as a "going concern."
As of January, 2023, Trump has 4.9 million followers on Truth Social, a fraction of the 88 million he has on Twitter.
On March 17, The Guardian
reported federal prosecutors in New York investigating Trump's social
media company "examined" whether it violated money laundering laws by
accessing $8 million in loans with suspected Russia ties.
Guardian reporter Hugo Lowell explained on MSNBC that prosecutors "got a tip" at the end of last year over the loans that came at a time when Trump's company was "cash poor."
"They went and got bridge financing from first a bank, then in February 2022 they got a second loan of $6 million from two different companies," Lowell said. "As it turned out, they're pretty much one and the same company, and if you trace the beneficiaries back you get to the nephew of a Putin ally who was the first deputy justice minister in Russia and previously served in Putin's executive office."
Dan Alexander at Forbes reported April 4, "Truth Social is adding an estimated 100,000 users per month. If people continue to join at the current pace—and assuming that no one quits or dies—Truth Social will not hit its projected 81 million users until 2086. By that point, Trump would be 140 years old. A more likely outcome: Truth Social will join Trump Steaks, Trump University and GoTrump.com in the graveyard of failed Trump ventures."
Executives for the SPAC tied to struggling Truth Social are facing a September deadline to get SEC approval for their pending merger or they will be forced to return millions to investors. According to an April 2 report from the New York Times, two different investigations are tying up the merger between Digital World Acquisition Corp. and Trump Media & Technology Group with $300 million at stake.
As the Times reports, "That deal has been waylaid by two intensifying federal investigations. One is focused on whether preliminary merger discussions between Digital World and Trump Media violated federal securities laws. The other investigation is looking at whether a group of early investors in Digital World — who were brought into the deal by Patrick Orlando — engaged in improper trading."
Shares of Digital World Acquisition (DWAC) surged on July 21 as a settlement with U.S. securities regulator over fraud charges cleared some of the uncertainty over the blank-check firm's merger with former U.S. President Donald Trump's media and tech company, Reuters reported.
The special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) agreed to pay $18 million in fine to settle charges that it had made "material misrepresentations" to investors if it closes the merger.
Shareholders in Digital World Acquisition, the investment partner of former president Trump's media start-up, voted to approve an extension of the company's merger deadline and give it more time to complete the deal," the Washington Post reported Sept 5. "The extension will give the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, another year to finalize its long-stalled merger with the parent company of the pro-Trump social network Truth Social." Digital World and Trump Media were originally scheduled to merge in 2022.
Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman have all been indicted
Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark
Meadows, former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and U.S.
Constitution "expert" John Eastman - the lawyer who advised President
Trump that Vice President Pence had the power to decide who won the 2020
election - are all under investigation, being sues or facing criminal charges from California to the New York island.
All four, plus former President Trump, were indicted on anti-racketeering and corruption charges after a years-long criminal investigation led by state prosecutors in Georgia into their alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state, Fox News reported Aug. 14, 2023.
Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman and others were also charged with racketeering under Georgia's anti-racketeering and corruption statutes.
And in related news, Giuliani, Eastman and Powell have all been identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the federal grand jury Jan. 6-related indictment of Donald Trump.
Powell update: See "Georgia county grand jury indicts Trump and 18 allies for effort to overturn state election, trials begin Oct. 23" above for latest threat to Powell.
Background: In the aftermath of Election Day, 2020, President Trump hired Powell to represent his campaign in lawsuits seeking to overturn the outcome in several swing states. Powell was described by the president in a Nov. 14 tweet as one of his "wonderful lawyers and representatives."
At a Nov. 19 news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., Powell and Giuliani - whom President Trump days earlier had described as part of "a truly great team" - laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming, among other allegations, that a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Trump.
Trump soon thereafter dropped her as a member of his legal team.
Undeterred, Powell struck it out on her own - on Trump's behalf. She filed lawsuits in Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia alleging that rival election technology companies, in cahoots with each other, manipulated vote results to hand Biden his victories in those states.
Each and every one of her "Kraken" lawsuits were dismissed.
Powell has been named as a defendant in billion-dollar lawsuits filed by voting machine companies Dominion and Smartmatic for her allegedly slanderous comments about their role in flipping the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden.
Law & Crime reported March 22, 2021: "Facing more than $1.3 billion in liabilities over her post-election conspiracy theories, lawyer Sidney Powell told a judge the defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems filed against her on January 8, 2021 should be dismissed because 'no reasonable person' would believe that her well-publicized comments about an international plot against former President Donald Trump 'were truly statements of fact.'" Powell had claimed she had evidence Dominion "was created to produce altered voting results in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez," and that it had been imported to the U.S. to do the same for Democrats. Powell, who had earlier called the election "the biggest crime in American history...if not the life of the world" also claimed, "We're collecting evidence now from various whistleblowers that are aware of substantial sums of money being given to family members of state officials who bought this software."
She is also a defendant, along with several Trump supporters, in a defamation lawsuit filed by Eric Coomer, a former employee of Dominion. The lawsuit states, "Without concern for the truth or the consequences of their reckless conduct, defendants branded Dr. Coomer a traitor to the United States, a terrorist, and a criminal of the highest order." CNN reported that when Powell was deposed by Coomer's lawyer, she acknowledged that she did not have "a lot of specific knowledge about what Mr. Coomer personally did" in the supposed scheme to steal the election. She couldn't describe how the election was stolen from Trump, as she had alleged for months.
A federal appeals court on June 23, 2023 upheld the bulk of sanctions imposed against lawyers who sued to overturn President Biden's 2020 victory in Michigan, Reuters reported. The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that the allegations of electoral fraud Powell and others had pushed were baseless, frivolous or even refuted by their own filings. The court held that Powell and five other lawyers must pay a total of more than $152,000 in sanctions.
Former President Trump was indicted on Aug. 1 by a federal grand jury regarding Special Counsel Jack Smith's probe into Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Powell was named an unindicted co-conspirator.
On Aug. 14, Powell was one
of 19 Trump allies and supporters indicted by a Fulton County grand jury for violating Georgia election law
statutes, conspiracy to commit election fraud, conspiracy to commit computer
theft, conspiracy to commit computer trespass, and conspiracy to commit
computer invasion of privacy. She will go on trial Oct. 23.
Eastman update: Fox News host Laura Ingraham told John Eastman she had not seen evidence of fraud in the 2020 election after former President Trump's attorney claimed he had "lots" of it.
Eastman was one of 18 Trump allies indicted alongside the former president by the Fulton County District Attorney's office in Georgia earlier this month. According to the indictment, Eastman and others tried to establish a slate of fake electors to falsely certify that Trump won the 2020 election in order to change the outcome.
During the Aug. 29 interview, Eastman continued to double down on lies about the election, and insisted he "had lots of evidence of fraud."
(At his disbarment hearing in California on Sept. 6, Eastman testified, "there's no question that votes that were cast for Trump, were reported as cast for Biden.")
"I haven't seen that evidence, and I'm always wanting to see everything," Ingraham said. "I'd love to see that evidence."
Blog editor's note: Fox News just paid Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million for broadcasting, in their words, "certain claims" that were "false." Ingraham may be voicing the networks' new stance on false allegations by Trump and his allies regarding 2020 election "fraud."
State Bar of California confirmed it has been investigating Eastman since 2021
for possible ethics violations related to the 2020 election, The Hill reported
March 1, 2022. The announcement from George Cardona, the state bar's
chief trial counsel, said "A number of individuals and entities have
brought to the State Bar's attention press reports, court filings, and other
public documents detailing Mr. Eastman's conduct." (Earlier, in December,
2021, Cardona said, "Eastman may have assisted former President Donald
Trump in criminal conduct in connection with the 2020 election and January
Eastman was also under investigation by the Jan. 6 Select Committee and invoked the Fifth Amendment 100 times when he was deposed by the committee. On March 28, 2022 U.S. District Judge David Carter ruled that Eastman must turn over documents to the committee, writing that Eastman and former President Trump "more likely than not" committed a felony in their efforts to block the 2020 election results, the Wall Street Journal reported.
(For details on Eastman's efforts to help Trump overthrow the newly elected government, see "68 Days That Will Live in Infamy" above.)
The California State Bar is seeking disbarment of Eastman, The Hill reported Jan. 26, 2023. He went on trial before the bar on June 20, facing 11 disciplinary charges.
Former President Trump was indicted on Aug. 1 by a federal grand jury regarding Special Counsel Jack Smith's probe into Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Eastman was named an unindicted co-conspirator.
On Aug. 14, Eastman was
one of the handful of Trump associates indicted for violating Georgia election
law statutes. Eastman faces nine charges
stemming from the fake electors plot. They range from conspiring to commit
false statements and writings, and forgery, to state RICO charges.
The Latest: Giuliani owes more than $236,000 — and may be on the hook for more — for failing to turn over evidence and meet deadlines in a civil suit brought by two 2020 Georgia election workers he falsely accused of conspiring against Donald Trump. Bloomberg News reported the judge on Sept. 22 ordered Giuliani to pay $104,256 to cover the election workers' costs for successfully litigating over his failure to preserve and produce documents in the case. That's on top of $132,856 that Giuliani and his business previously were ordered to pay the plaintiffs to cover the expense of an earlier fight over evidence.
And Giuliani is reportedly going to be required to appear in person for the entirety of a trial for damages after he was found liable for defaming two poll workers, Raw Story reported Sept. 21.
The man once known as "America's mayor" has already lost the defamation case brought by Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, who sued Giuliani for defamation and false statements following the 2020 presidential election. They also said that they were seeking millions of dollars in damages from the politician. Now, the trial moves on to the damages portion to determine what's owed.
If Giuliani thought he could skip out on parts of the trial, or attend remotely, he was wrong, according to Politico's senior legal affairs reporter, Kyle Cheney.
"JUST IN: Rudy Giuliani will be required to appear in person for the duration of his trial on damages for defaming Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss," Cheney reported Wednesday. "
A judge has set Giuliani's trial for Dec. 11.
Giuliani is also being sued for almost $1.4 million by his former law firm for unpaid legal fees, various media outlets reported Sept. 18. The Davidoff Hutcher & Citron law firm and, specifically, partner Robert Costello, is seeking payment in Manhattan state court for fees covering several legal matters Giuliani has faced over the past four years.
Costello has known and worked with Giuliani going back to the 1970's.
the infamous Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the attack
on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, Giuliani told the crowd, "If we
are wrong we will be made fools of but if we're right, a lot of them will go to
jail. So let's have trial by combat. I'm willing to stake my reputation. The
president is willing to stake his reputation on the fact that we're going to
find criminality there."
Giuliani has been paying a heavy price - including on his reputation - ever since. His law license was suspended in June, 2021 after the New York Supreme Court found, "There is uncontroverted evidence that Mr. Giuliani communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers, and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump's failed effort at reelection in 2020."
On July 7, 2021 the District of Columbia's highest court suspended Giuliani from practicing law in Washington. In July, 2023 a disciplinary committee in Washington, D.C., recommended that he be disbarred for "frivolous" and "destructive" conduct.
And Giuliani has also been named as a defendant in billion-dollar lawsuits filed by both Dominion and Smartmatic voting systems for his alleged lies about their role in flipping the 2020 election in favor of President Biden. He is also a defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former employee of Dominion, Eric Coomer.
Giuliani claimed at a press conference on November 19, 2020 at Republican National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. that "One of the Smartmatic patent holders, Eric Coomer, I believe his name is, is on the web as being recorded in a conversation with Antifa members saying that he had the election rigged for Mr. Biden."
But, Salon reported, when questioned by lawyers during an August, 2021 deposition in Colorado, Giuliani admitted he didn't bother to fact-check his claim, or even reach out to Oltmann. "It's not my job in a fast-moving case to go out and investigate every piece of evidence that's given to me," Giuliani said. "Why wouldn't I believe him?"
Giuliani is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and Democrat members of Congress over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
He has also been named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by two election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who allege Giuliani defamed them. The pair said they were subjected to harassment and abuse after baseless rumors pushed by Trump allies that they had interfered with votes as part of a plot to deprive Trump of victory. (Freeman and Moss settled out of court with One American News in a related lawsuit.) On June 23, 2023, Giuliani was ordered to pay the legal fees of Moss and Freeman because he failed to comply with his obligations to turn over evidence in the case. And in a court filing July 25, Giuliani admitted he made "false" allegations about two Georgia election workers and no longer contests the outcome of the Georgia election. On Aug. 30, a judge ruled Giuliani is liable for defaming two Georgia election workers. Giuliani was ordered to pay nearly $90,000 and his businesses to pay more than $43,000 to reimburse legal fees the election workers incurred in their attempt to compel Giuliani to turn over the discovery. A trial to consider damages - Freeman and Moss are seeking millions - has been set for Dec. 11, 2023.
The D.C. Bar discipline committee in Washington, D.C., concluded on Dec. 15, 2022 that Giuliani violated at least one professional rule in his efforts to help former President Donald Trump challenge the results of the 2020 election, Politico reported.
The three-member disciplinary committee agreed that Giuliani's handling of litigation in Pennsylvania crossed ethical lines.
"Mr. Giuliani has testified on several occasions that he believes there was a conspiracy," said D.C. Bar counsel Phil Fox, who investigated and argued the case for Giuliani's punishment. "There was a conspiracy, and he was the head of it."
The House Jan. 6 select committee unveiled criminal referrals Dec. 19, 2022 targeting former President Trump and Giuliani, recommending that the Department of Justice investigate on criminal charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Despite his repeated past claims of election fraud, Giuliani told the Select Committee during a deposition: "I do not think the machines stole the election."
James Savage, a Delaware
County voting-machine supervisor, sued Trump, his 2020 presidential campaign,
Giuliani, and two local Republican poll watchers in November 2021, saying their
unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election made him a target of hatred,
ridicule, and physical threats.
Former President Trump was indicted on Aug. 1, 2023 by a federal grand jury regarding Special Counsel Jack Smith's probe into Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Guiliani was named an unindicted co-conspirator.
Trump was indicted again - along with Giuliani this time- on Aug. 14 after a years-long criminal investigation led by state prosecutors in Georgia into his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state. Giuliani faces 13 charges, including false statements and writing, racketeering, conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer, conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree and conspiracy to commit filing false documents, among others.
He is also being investigated by the State of Arizona for his part in the GOP fake electors plot.
On Sept. 7, Donald Trump hosted a fundraiser at his New Jersey golf course in an effort to raise money for Giuliani's mounting legal bills. Ironically, according to media reports, Trump has refused to pay Giuliani for the "legal" work the former mayor undertook on Trump's behalf during the 2020-21 coup attempt.
Former President Trump and Meadows were indicted Aug. 14 following a years-long criminal investigation led by state prosecutors
in Georgia into his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election
in the state.
Meadows faces two charges: solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer and racketeering, a charge usually reserved for organized crime.
Count 28 of the 41-count indictment charges Trump and Meadows in relation to the former president's infamous phone call imploring GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have" in Georgia. Meadows was on the line for the infamous phone call.
And in a related matter, Meadows, Trump's last White House chief of staff, is "the central witness" in the Department of Justice's probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, according to former U.S. attorney and legal analyst Harry Litman, Newsweek reported two months before, on June 17.
Trump was indicted by a federal grand jury in the case but not Meadows.
Disposition of five Trump-related cases
Dominion sues Fox News for $1.6 billion, settles for $787.5 million and Tucker Carlson's hide
The Latest: On MSNBC's "The Last World with Lawrence O'Connell" Sept. 21, Michael Wolff, the author of the new book, The Fall - The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, reported that hours before the Dominion trial was to begin, a written agreement was reached that Fox would pay Dominion $787.5 million and a verbal agreement was reached that Fox would also fire its #1 rated host, Tucker Carlson. Fox earlier tried to settle with Dominion paying only $500 million and firing Sean Hannity but that was not a steep enough price in Dominion's eyes.
Speculation: One of the key incentives for Fox to reach an agreement was that if the lawsuit actually went to trial, Hannity and Rupert Murdoch would be required to testify under oath about what they really believed about Trump's claim of a stolen election and how their beliefs on that issued differed dramatically from what Fox News and its hosts actually told viewers.
Footnote: According to Wolff, in the winter of 2022, an irate Rupert Murdoch told friends of his then wife, Jerry Hall: "This lawsuit could cost us fifty million dollars."
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 alleged Fox News was eager to court conservative viewers who were outraged by the network's call on Election Night that candidate Joe Biden would be victorious in Arizona, an early prediction that, while correct, was not initially matched by other news outlets and came under criticism from President Trump. Reports that blamed Dominion and others for influencing the election results, the company argues, served as a potential means of winning back those viewers' favor.
Fox segments included some that alleged fraud by Dominion and other segments that reported the Dominion voting machines did not, in fact, switch Trump votes to Biden. But Dominion, in its suit, claimed the contradictory segments didn't mitigate the network's culpability. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post explained, "This maddening duality - in which popular opinion hosts promote misinformation while other programs present something closer to reality - is a core feature of the Fox News experience...Dominion's suit, accordingly, focuses instead on establishing that Fox News personalities knew that on-air claims about the company were false." The suit reads, that despite knowing the truth, "Fox continued to promote the known lifes on its most prominent and widely viewed broadcasts and on Fox's websites, social media accounts, and subscription service platforms."
Columnist Nicholas Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times reported, "Dominion has offered a number of examples of Fox's hosts stating more than they actually knew - and seeming to take sides with (conspiracy lawyers Rudy) Giuliani and (Sidney) Powell.
"When Jeanine Pirro said Dominion was an organized criminal enterprise started in Venezuela with Cuban money, she acknowledged that she was restating allegations she'd heard from the president's lawyers. But when Bartiromo said on the air, 'I understand Nancy Pelosi has an interest in this company,' she included no such qualification.
"And Bartiromo continued to allege fraud claims about Dominion 'even though she had been specifically notified that independent fact-checkers, government officials and election security experts debunked those lies,' according to the lawsuit."
On Nov. 10, Bloomberg reported Dominion filed a second lawsuit against Fox Corp. in an effort to gain access to Chairman Rupert Murdoch's documents about its coverage of the contest. Dominion is trying to find out how much Murdoch and his eldest son, Fox Corp. Chief Executive Officer Lachlan Murdoch, were involved in the decision by Fox News to report that Dominion conspired with foreign hackers to flip millions of votes away from then-President Trump.
Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox figures questioned under oath in the case as well as show producers and programming executives, court records show.
Dominion CEO John Poulos said Fox News knew allegations against the company being made by former President Trump and his associates following the 2020 election were untrue but decided to air them anyway, The Hill reported Oct. 23, 2022.
"We told them. We told them in real time. Others told them. Government officials told them. Partisan government officials told 'em. People inside the Trump administration told them. Um, local election officials on both sides of the aisle told 'em. This is not a matter of not knowing the truth. They knew the truth," said Dominion CEO Poulos during an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes.
Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation, was deposed on Dec. 5. Lachlan Murdoch is the oldest son of Fox News owner and founder Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch was deposed under oath Dec. 13 and 14. Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace were deposed in November. Sean Hannity, who aired a November 2020 segment in which former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell accused Dominion of utilizing "an algorithm that shaved off votes from Trump and awarded them to Biden," gave a seven-hour deposition in August.
According to CNN, at the core of Dominion's case against Fox are 20 broadcasts and tweets between Election Day, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, including this exchange on Nov. 8, 2020 between Maria Bartiromo and Sidney Powell.
Bartiromo: "Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software. I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that."
Powell: "That's to put it mildly. The computer glitches could not and should not have happened at all. That is where the fraud took place where they were flipping votes in the computer system or adding votes that did not exist."
And a month later, on Dec. 12 on "Fox & Friends," Giuliani told the Fox audience, "We have a machine, the Dominion machine, that's as filled with holes as Swiss cheese and was developed to steal elections, and being used in the states that are involved."
The New York Times reported Dec. 21, 2022 that "Fox employees knew what they were broadcasting was false." Sean Hannity was asked under oath during his disposition if he believed the allegations from Trump's lawyers on his show that Dominion machines switched votes from Trump to Biden. "I did not believe it for one second."
Lawyers for Dominion argued in court that "not a single Fox witness" has substantiated the allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election. "Many of the highest-ranking Fox people have admitted under oath that they never believed the Dominion lies," including host Tucker Carlson and Meade Cooper, who oversees prime-time programming for Fox News.
Law & Crime reported Feb. 16, 2023 that, according to a 192-page Dominion court filing, after watching Rudy Giuliani's widely lampooned press conference with election conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch had a startling reaction. "Really crazy stuff. And damaging," the media mogul allegedly wrote in a text message on Nov. 19, 2020.
According to Dominion, "Privately, Fox's hosts and executives knew that Donald Trump lost the election and that he needed to concede. But Fox viewers heard a different story - repeatedly."
CNN reported, "The most prominent stars and highest-ranking executives at Fox News privately ridiculed claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, despite the right-wing channel allowing lies about the presidential contest to be promoted on its air, damning messages contained in a court filing revealed."
Soon after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson texted his producer in reaction to Fox losing some of its viewers to competing right-wing cable stations after declaring Biden the winner, "Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we've lost with our audience? We're playing with fire, for real….an alternative like newsmax could be devastating to us." And then on November 9, he texted Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott: "I've never seen a reaction like this, to any media company. Kills me to watch it."
On Nov. 13, 2020 Carlson texted one of his producers that Trump needed to concede "that there wasn't enough fraud to change the outcome" of the election. And on Nov. 18, Carlson told Laura Ingraham, "Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It's insane." Ingraham replied, "Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy."
(An email from Scott on November 11th, 2020 reads, "Our talent must stop disrespecting the audience." Scott blasted Neil Cavuto for abruptly cutting away from a Nov. 9 press conference by then Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany for making baseless accusations days after the election that Democrats committed voter fraud. In another email. Scott said, in effect, that telling viewers the truth about the election was "bad for business" and "this has to stop.")
According to Michael Tomasky at The New Republic, CEO Scott aggressively inserted herself into the news operation to insist that what little actual news gathering other people at Fox were doing must not continue. The infamous December 2, 2020, email from Scott to EVP Meade Cooper carried the subject heading "Fox News' Eric Shawn Fact-Checks Trump's 'Dump' Claims" and reads: "This has to stop now. I'm going to address this with you and Jay and Lowell tomorrow. This is bad business and there clearly is a lack of understanding what is happening on these shows. The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material. Bad for business."
Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a sworn deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the election in 2020 was stolen from Trump, the New York Times reported Feb. 27. Said Murdoch: "I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight."
Murdoch admitted he had not seen any credible evidence to suggest Dominion was coordinating a massive effort to steal the election.
"You've never believed that Dominion was involved in an effort to delegitimize and destroy votes for Donald Trump, correct?" the Dominion lawyer asked. "I'm open to persuasion; but, no, I've never seen it," Murdoch replied.
NBC News reported March 31 that Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis handed Dominion a major win when he agreed that the statements made on Fox News about election fraud in 2020 are false.
The ruling spared the voting machine company from having to litigate baseless conspiracy theories about its role in the 2020 election during the upcoming trial against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp.
Judge Davis reviewed the filings of Dominion and the network and concluded that in 19 cases Fox News hosts or guests had made comments that were false statements of fact, not assertions of opinion, and that could not be defended as standard, fair-minded inquiry.
Judge Davis knocked Fox's "neutral reporting" claim, finding "the evidence does not support that FNN conducted good-faith, disinterested reporting."
The Washington Post reported, "Davis's ruling asserts that the false statements — such as the claim that Dominion was created in Venezuela to rig elections for socialist leader Hugo Chávez — harmed the company's reputation, meaning that the impact on Dominion will not have to be debated at trial."
The Hill reported on April 18 Fox agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million.
(The settlement was the largest media payout in U.S. history, four times the amount ABC paid to Beef Products, Inc. several years ago.)
In a statement, Fox News Media said the network was "pleased" to reach a settlement and acknowledged "the Court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false."
"We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues."
"Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion," said the company CEO John Poulos.
Trump Organization found guilty on 17 counts of tax fraud, other crimes
On June 30, 2021 the Manhattan District Attorney's office charged the Trump Organization with a 15-year "scheme to defraud" and charged CFO Allen Weisselberg with grand larceny and tax fraud, the Washington Post reported.
Prosecutors also charged a subsidiary called Trump Payroll Corp., which handles the company's benefits and payments to employees.
In all, 15 criminal charges were filed against Weisselberg, according to a copy of the indictment obtained by the Washington Post. They included counts of conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. In many of the counts, the two Trump entities were charged along with Weisselberg.
Carey Dunne, a prosecutor with the District Attorney's Office, said the charges were related to an "off-the-books tax fraud scheme" that lasted for 15 years. He said the scheme allowed Trump Organization executives to get "secret pay raises" while not paying proper taxes. "Beginning from at least 2005 to on or about June 30, 2021, [Weisselberg, the Trump Corporation, Trump Payroll Corp.] and others devised and operated a scheme to defraud federal, New York State, and New York City tax authorities," prosecutors wrote. "One of the largest individual beneficiaries of the defendants' scheme was Allen Weisselberg. During the operation of the scheme, the defendants arranged for Weisselberg to receive in direct employee compensation from the Trump Organization in the approximate amount of $1.76 million."
The ex-CFO also ducked taxes on about $359,058 in tuition expenses for multiple family members, $196,245 for leases on his Mercedes Benz automobiles, $29,400 in unreported cash, and an unspecified amount in ad hoc personal expenses like new beds, flat-screen televisions, the installation of carpeting, and furniture for his home in Florida, according to the indictment.
Fox News quoted Dunne: "In light of the many statements that have already been made about this case, I'd like to clarify for the court briefly what this case is, and is not, about. The chief financial officer himself avoided taxes on $1.7 million of his income, which hardly amounts to an incidental 'fringe benefit'. And the former CEO signed, himself, many of the illegal compensation checks. To put it bluntly, this was a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme."
And then the New York Times reported Aug. 18, 2022 "One of Donald Trump's most trusted executives stood before a judge and pleaded guilty to 15 felonies, admitting that he conspired with Mr. Trump's company to carry out a scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish perks - even while refusing to implicate the former president himself."
"As part of the plea deal with the Manhattan district attorney's office, the executive, Allen Weisselberg, is required to testify at the company's trial if prosecutors choose to call on him, and to admit his role in conspiring with Mr. Trump's company to carry out the tax scheme.
"Under the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Weisselberg is expected to receive a five-month jail term, and with time credited for good behavior, he is likely to serve about 100 days. Mr. Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, must also pay nearly $2 million in taxes."
On Oct. 31, the first day of the trial, Susan Hoffinger, the chief of investigations for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, told the jury that Weisselberg will give the "inside story" of how the company allegedly used the years-long tax fraud scheme to boost executive pay.
"This case is about greed and cheating, cheating on taxes," she said. "The scheme was conducted, directed and authorized at the highest level of the accounting department."
In the opening statements, prosecutors also said that "when most of the criminal conduct occurred," between 2005 to 2017, the companies were "owned by Donald Trump."
The Trump Organization's attorney told the jury that the tax shenanigans "started with Allen Weisselberg and it ended with Allen Weisselberg."
On the second day of the trial, Nov. 1, Bloomberg reported prosecutors showed the jury the lease Trump signed for of an Upper West Side apartment used by Weisselberg. The lease represented part of the prosecution's efforts to show that the Trump Organization and its executives engaged in a years-long scheme to avoid taxes - one that was sanctioned by the highest echelons of the company.
Trump Organization senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConney told jurors Trump was the Trump Organization's ultimate decision-maker prior to his election. According to McConney, Trump signed off on Weisselberg's salary and bonuses.
McConney also told jurors he fudged company pay records to reduce Weisselberg's income tax bill.
McConney said Weisselberg told him he and Trump had discussed reducing Weisselberg's salary to offset rent payments that the Trump Organization made on the CFO's Manhattan apartment. Asked whether Trump, who was running the business at the time, was aware of the scheme, McConney said Weisselberg told him that Trump knew about it.
Rolling Stone reported, "Former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg testified Nov. 15 that Donald Trump personally green-lighted untaxed benefits that are the center of a Manhattan criminal trial against several of the ex-president's eponymous companies - including a gratis residence in New York City. 'The rent was authorized by Donald Trump,' Weisselberg said on the stand in State Supreme Court in Manhattan."
The Trump Organization has denied wrongdoing. Its lawyers allege that Weisselberg concocted the scheme on his own, without Trump or the Trump family's knowledge, and that the company didn't benefit from his actions. If convicted, the company could be fined more than $1 million.
According to CBS News, "Weisselberg said Donald Trump, or at times Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr., signed checks to pay up to $100,000 for private school tuition for Weisselberg's grandchildren. Weisselberg said he then instructed the company's controller to deduct the $100,000 from his salary, allowing him to report a smaller income. Copies of some of the checks signed by the Trumps have been shown in court."
And then Politico reported, "The Trump Organization engaged in an effort to clean up its act and stop fraudulent tax practices to avoid scrutiny when Donald Trump became president, the company's former chief financial officer told the jury.
"He said that he and other executives knew their practices were illegal - and brought them to an end after Trump took office."
On Nov. 18, the New York Post reported that Donald Trump's kids gave Allen Weisselberg a whopping $200,000 raise - instead of punishing him - after discovering his shady tax practices, according to testimony by Weisselberg.
Eric and Donald Trump Jr. in 2017 learned Weisselberg, 75, and two other top execs had been getting cushy, off-the-book perks and bonuses that they didn't report on their taxes - yet nobody was penalized, Weisselberg testified.
NBC News reported Weisselberg testified that the only other person in the company who knew about the tax fraud scheme was its controller, Jeffrey McConney.
After the prosecution rested its case, Trump Organization lawyers questioned an outside accountant who the company contended should have caught top executives cheating on taxes, Reuters reported Nov. 21.
On Dec. 6, the Trump Organization and separate entity the Trump Payroll Corp were found guilty on all 17 counts. The Wall Street Journal reported, "The jury found two Trump Organization corporate entities guilty of all criminal counts they faced, including conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The two entities could face a total of more than $1.6 million in fines."
The day after the conviction, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Company lawyers said they would appeal the conviction, which would be heard by an intermediate state appeals court in Manhattan.
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty last year to dodging taxes on $1.7 million in job perks was sentenced to five months in prison and five years of probation, Fox News reported Jan 10, 2023.
He will also be required to pay $2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties.
Trump's company was fined $1.6 million for a scheme in which the former president's top executives dodged personal income taxes on lavish job perks - a symbolic but hardly crippling blow for an enterprise boasting billions of dollars in assets, the Associated Press reported Jan. 13.
DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle
case over misuse of Inaugural funds
The Trump family business and President Trump's 2017 inauguration committee have jointly agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the attorney general for the District of Columbia, who claimed the Trump International Hotel in Washington illegally received excessive payments from the Trump inauguration committee, the New York Times reported May 3, 2022.
"The settlement in the civil suit came with no admission of wrongdoing by the Trump Organization, the former president or the inaugural committee."
The Trump Organization will pay $400,000 and the inauguration committee $350,000. All funds will go to two District of Columbia non-profits.
Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said, "After he was elected, one of the first action Donald Trump took was illegally using his own inauguration to enrich his family. We refused to let that corruption stand."
In January, 2020, Racine filed a lawsuit against the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, the Trump Organization and Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. for allegedly abusing nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family. In its lawsuit, the Attorney General alleged the Inaugural Committee, a nonprofit corporation, coordinated with the Trump family to grossly overpay for event space in the Trump International Hotel. Although the Inaugural Committee was aware that it was paying far above market rates, it never considered less expensive alternatives, and even paid for space on days when it did not hold events.
The lawsuit also alleged the 2017 inaugural committee improperly used nonprofit funds to host a private party at the hotel for the Trump family.
Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others, imposes $1 million fine on Trump, lawyer
A federal judge has dismissed former President Trump's lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, several ex-FBI officials and more than two dozen other people and entities that Trump claimed conspired to undermine his 2016 campaign by trying to vilify him with fabricated information tying him to Russia, CNN reported.
US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks dismissed the lawsuit Sept. 8, 2022 saying "most of Plaintiff's claims are not only unsupported by any legal authority but plainly foreclosed by binding precedent."
"What (Trump's lawsuit) lacks in substance and legal support it seeks to substitute with length, hyperbole, and the settling of scores and grievances," Middlebrooks wrote.
Trump filed the sprawling $24 million civil lawsuit alleging a vast conspiracy to undermine his 2016 presidential campaign and administration with accusations of Russian collusion, The Hill reported March 24, 2022.
Trump's lawsuit alleged RICO violations, injurious falsehood, theft of trade secrets, violations of the Stored Communications Act, and other actions - 16 in total.
"In the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton and her cohorts orchestrated an unthinkable plot - one that shocks the conscience and is an affront to this nation's democracy," the lawsuit began. It added that the alleged plot was "so outrageous, subversive and incendiary that even the events of Watergate pale in comparison."
A federal judge on Nov. 11 ordered sanctions against former President Trump's attorneys over their handling of a since-dismissed lawsuit, The Hill reported.
"[L]egal filings like those at issue here should be sanctioned ... both to penalize this conduct and deter similar conduct by these lawyers and others," Florida-based Judge Middlebrooks, an appointee of former President Clinton, wrote in a blistering 19-page order.
Trump and Alina Habba have appealed the ruling.
Democrat lawsuit seeking Trump's Washington D.C. hotel records dropped
The Supreme Court dismissed a dispute over whether individual Democratic members of Congress can pursue a lawsuit seeking government documents related to the former Trump International Hotel in Washington, NBC News reported June 26.
The move came after the Democratic lawmakers voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit, which the Biden administration was defending.
The case arose from a 2013 decision by the General Services Administration, which oversees federal real estate, to lease the Old Post Office Building in Washington to the family-owned Trump Organization so it could operate a hotel.
The Trump International Hotel operated throughout Trump's term, raising legal, ethical and constitutional concerns, including over whether people paying for rooms there were seeking to influence the White House. Trump's company sold the lease last year and the hotel is now operating as a Waldorf Astoria.
When Trump won the 2016 election, 17 Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sought access to documents relating to the agreement, questioning whether Trump had a conflict of interest.
The Washington Times reported, "Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, said the executive branch — no matter which party controls it — doesn't want to be subject to litigation.
"'The long-term interest crosses over any party lines,' he said, explaining why both the Trump and Biden administrations fought the request."
The Democrats believed the lease constituted a conflict of interest for the president, and also meant he was drawing personal income from the lease, in violation of the Constitution's emoluments clauses.
Calendar: Trials, hearings, deadlines and the GOP primary
The New York Attorney General is suing the Trump family for $250 million. The trial is scheduled for Oct. 2. (See "New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October 2.")
According to Newsweek, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case on or before Oct. 9. (See "Will the Supreme Court - or state courts - decide Trump's 2024 ballot fate?")
A Denver, Colorado court will hear arguments on Oct. 13 from Trump's attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit. (See "Will the Supreme Court - or state courts - decide Trump's 2024 ballot fate?")
Judge Chutkan set an Oct. 16 date to hear arguments on Jack Smith's request for a limited gag order on former President Trump. (See: "Federal grand jury indicts Donald Trump for Jan. 6 coup attempt, trial set for March 4, 2024")
Motions to compel discovery due on Oct 20. (See "Trump indicted for refusing to return top-secret government documents; judge sets May 20, 2024 trial date")
Judge McAfee set the first trial date in the case for attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell for Oct. 23. (See "Georgia county grand jury indicts Trump and allies for effort to overturn state election, trials begin Oct. 23.")
A Colorado judge has set a five-day hearing beginning Oct. 30 to review evidence, hear from witnesses and handle various challenges to the lawsuit. (See "Will the Supreme Court - or state courts - decide Trump's 2024 ballot fate?")
A hearing has been scheduled on Nov. 2 by the Minnesota state supreme court. (See "Will the Supreme Court - or state courts - decide Trump's 2024 ballot fate?")
Nov. 8- Third GOP presidential debate, Miami, Florida (Trump says he will not participate.)
Retrial motions due Nov. 3. Expert disclosures due on Nov. 15. (See "Trump indicted for refusing to return top-secret government documents; judge sets May 20, 2024 trial date")
A Colorado judge said she hopes to decide by Thanksgiving - Nov. 25 - whether the 14th Amendment's ban on insurrectionists holding office means former President Trump is disqualified from appearing on the state's presidential ballot in 2024. (See "Will the Supreme Court - or state courts - decide Trump's 2024 ballot fate?")
On Dec. 11 a federal court has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for the prosecution and defense attorneys. (See "Trump indicted for refusing to return top-secret government documents; judge sets May 20, 2024 trial date")
Rudy Giulaini is being sued for defamation by two Georgia 2020 election workers. Judge Howell has set a trial date of Dec. 11 to determine how much Giuliani will have to pay. (See "Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman have all been indicted.")
Trumps, indicted on 34 felony charges in Manhattan, returns to court for a hearing on Jan. 4. (See "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March 25, 2024")
Jan. 15 – Iowa caucuses.
A federal judge has set a date of Jan. 15 for the start of a second defamation trial. (See "E. Jean Carroll sues Trump, wins $5
million judgment, sues him again for $10 million, second trial set for Jan. 15, 2024".)
U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield formally set a trial date of Jan. 29 for the Trump family. (See "Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme, trial set for Jan. 29, 2024")
Jan. 23 - First-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. (Date still tentative)
Judge Juan Merchan, in a letter to Trump attorney Todd Blanche, said he would schedule a hearing in February to consider whether it makes sense to move the trial date. (See "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March 25, 2024")
Feb. 6 - Nevada primary
Feb. 24 - South Carolina primary
Feb. 27 - Michigan primary
District Attorney Fani Willis has asked a
judge to set the start of the trial of former President Trump and his co-defendants March 4. The judge has not made a decision. (See "Georgia county grand jury indicts Trump
and allies for effort to overturn state election, trials begin Oct. 23.")
The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's election interference case in federal court has set the trial date for March 4. (See: "Federal grand jury indicts Donald Trump for Jan. 6 coup attempt, trial set for March 4, 2024")
March 5 - Super Tuesday
Judge Merchan set a trial date of March 25 for the New York City criminal case against Trump. (See "Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump on criminal charges, trial set for March 25, 2024")
April 2 - New York primary
Pretrial hearing in the special counsel's classified documents Mar-a-Lago case are set for May 14. The trial begins May 20. (See "Trump indicted for refusing to return top-secret government documents; judge sets May 20, 2024 trial date")
July 15-18 - Republican National Convention
In late September, Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion lawsuit against Newsmax will go on trial. In 2020-21, the pro-Trump network broadcast interviews with Trump allies in which they alleged Dominion "has a long history of rigging elections," its software "altered and
flipped" votes in the 2020 election, and that the "entire election was hacked"
in Biden's favor.
November 5 - Election Day
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