Did Donald Trump hope to avoid prosecution by announcing presidential candidacy? Will the strategy succeed?

"So why did Trump announce so early?" Ed Morrissey at Hot Air asked.

Morrissey, a conservative blogger and commentator, answered: "He jumped into the race early primarily as a legal strategy intended to keep the DoJ and prosecutors in New York on the sidelines - which didn't work, of course. Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel immediately afterward, and both Letitia James and Alvin Bragg have continued to pursue their prosecutions of Trump in civil and criminal matters."

According to USA Today, Trump has spent at least $8 million on legal fees, while tangled up in at least a dozen significant investigations and lawsuits. Mother Jones reports the Republican National Committee paid $2 million of Trump's growing legal bills and Trump's PACs have ponied up another $7 million. (In other words, GOP donors are footing the bill.)

Below we list the five criminal investigations Trump faces as he heads into the fight over the 2024 GOP nomination.  For more information on each, scan down the blog to the header listed with each summary.

(Interesting fact: In our blog, which covers the investigations and lawsuits faced by Trump, his family and business, the word "criminal" is found more than 70 times.)

Fulton County, Georgia investigation of Trump effort to overturn state election

Both Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith are investigating the very public efforts by Trump and his allies to illegally alter the state's 2020 election results. Fulton County's special grand jury has completed its work and it is now up to a judge whether the jury's recommendations will be made public and up to Willis to determine if charges will be sought from a regular grand jury. On Jan. 24, Willis told a judge that possible charges are "imminent" against "future defendants."

See "Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overthrow election."


DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith is overseeing the investigation of Trump's removal of top-secret docs from the White House to Mar-a-Lago after his election defeat and his subsequent refusal to come clean with what exactly he had in his private possession for a year-and-a-half. Many analysts believe this is the most straightforward and easy case to prosecute for the feds.

Trump took. He repeatedly refused to give back. He lied about them. And he hid them.

See "Timeline:Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing federal investigation."

Manhattan DA investigating the Trump-Stormy tryst

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg already has one of Trump's pelts on his belt. Bragg's office successfully prosecuted the Trump Organization, convincing a jury that Trump's company was guilty of 17 different counts of tax fraud and other crimes. Now Bragg says he is looking into the former president's personal finances. The district attorney's office on Jan. 30 began presenting evidence to a grand jury regarding Trump's role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign who threatened to go public with their one-night tryst. (Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen went to jail for his part in the coverup and has provided Bragg information on the scheme.) Bragg appears to be "laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months," sources told the New York Times.

See "Manhattan DA revitalizes its investigation of Trump's real estate empire, taxes and Stormy Daniels."

Jan. 6, 2021 riot and plot to overthrow the U.S. government

The House Select Committee released its highly anticipated final report on Dec. 22, 2022 presenting a full account on former President Trump's efforts to maintain power, despite losing the 2000 election to Joe Biden, USA Today reported. The committee concluded: Trump was the "central cause" of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The committee recommended 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.

Judge David O. Carter of Federal District Court for the Central District of California in March, 2022 "concluded...that Mr. Trump and a lawyer who had advised him, John Eastman, had most likely committed felonies in their effort to overturn the election."

The Department of Justice, for its part, immediately after the Jan. 6 riot began its own investigation, including empaneling a special grand jury to examine every aspect of Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And on Nov. 18, Fox News reported Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Justice Department official Jack Smith as special counsel. Smith is overseeing the investigation into whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election.

See "House Select Committee completes investigation of Jan. 6 riot, forwards criminal referrals to DOJ" and "Justice Department investigating Jan. 6 riot."

Fake "electors" investigation nationally and in Georgia

According to Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee, former President Trump played a direct role in the effort to use fake electors to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Seven states ended up sending fake Electoral College slates of voters to Washington, claiming Trump had actually won. Special Counsel Smith is overseeing the federal investigation while in Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is conducting her own investigation of Trump's very public effort to overturn that state's 2020 election. Again, there is plenty of evidence, including testimony from state GOP leaders and participants in the phony elector scheme, that the Trump White House directed this fraudulent but ultimately failed campaign.

See "Justice Department and states investigate GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes."

Blog updated Feb. 6.

For daily updates, follow me on Twitter @Raygiles1

Blog Index


  • Partner, estate of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick blame Trump, followers for his death
  • New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October, plus Legal Analysis
  • NAACP, Democrat House members file lawsuit for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol; Trump, Pence don't see "eye to eye" on Jan. 6 violence
  • E. Jean Carroll sues Trump for defamation, then for sexual battery
  • Trump and GOP face lawsuit claiming they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act
  • Rep. Swalwell files lawsuit alleging Trump, others responsible for Jan. 6 riot
  • Trump faces five separate lawsuits by Capitol and D.C. police for Jan. 6 riot
  • Dominion sues Fox News
  • Smartmatic sues Fox News, plus Legal Analysis
  • Trump family accused of pushing pyramid scheme on "The Celebrity Apprentice"
  • Trump's 2020 campaign, Giuliani, Powell and others target of defamation suit


  • Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overthrow election
  • House Select Committee completes investigation of Jan. 6 riot, forwards criminal referrals to DOJ; plus, Running Tally: Who cooperated and who did not; Legal Analysis: Is Donald Trump Guilty of Criminal Obstruction? and 64 Days That Will Live in Infamy
  • Justice Department investigating Jan. 6 riot 

  • Justice Department and states investigate GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes 
  • Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing federal investigation
  • Manhattan DA revitalizes its investigation of Trump's real estate empire, taxes and Stormy Daniels
  • Truth Social: Today Trump's go-to platform, but will he still love Truth tomorrow?
  • Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman all under investigation

Potential investigation

  • Did Bill Barr-appointed Special Counsel John Durham uncover a possible Trump financial crime?

Disposition of five Trump cases

  • Trump Organization found guilty on 17 counts of tax fraud, other crimes
  • House committee sues, gets and then releases Trump's tax returns
  • DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle case over alleged misuse of Inaugural funds
  • Trump avoids Wisconsin $$ bill for failed election fraud lawsuit
  • Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others; imposes $1 million fine on Trump and lawyer 

Upcoming dates: Trump investigations, lawsuits, sentencing and trials

List of news and commentary sources used in the blog


Partner, estate of Capitol Police Office Brian Sicknick blame Trump, followers for his death

The Latest:  A federal judge sentenced the Pennsylvania man who pepper sprayed U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick on Jan. 6, 2021, to six years and eight months in prison, saying he found his assault on outnumbered officers inexcusable.

WUSA9's Jordan Fischer reported Jan. 27 that Julian Khater, 33, appeared before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan to be sentenced on two counts of assaulting police with a dangerous weapon. His co-defendant George Tanios, who purchased the pepper spray Khater used on officers, sat a short distance away while he awaited his own sentencing on two misdemeanor counts.

"This defendant committed cowardly and premeditated assault on at least three uniformed officers," Assistant U.S. Attorney Gilead Light told Hogan.

Khater and Tanios, who was sentenced to time already spent in jail, were arrested in March 2021 and accused of assaulting at least three officers with chemical irritant. One of those officers, Sicknick, collapsed later in the day and died after suffering a series of strokes. A medical examiner determined Sicknick died of natural causes and neither Tanios nor Khater were charged with his death. However, Khater pleaded guilty last year to assaulting both Sicknick and USCP Officer Caroline Edwards with pepper spray.

Background:  The estate of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, sued Donald Trump on Jan. 5 for $10 million 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 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.")

The Capitol Police at the time issued a statement saying, "Officer Sicknick died in the line of duty, courageously defending Congress and the Capitol."

New York AG sues Trump for $250 million, trial set for October, plus Legal Analysis

The Latest:  On Aug. 10, 2022, former President Trump underwent court-ordered testimony in the New York Attorney General's case against his company and family- raising his right hand, swearing to tell the truth and then invoking the Fifth Amendment protecting himself from self-incrimination 440 times during the four-hour interview.

CBS News released video of the interview on Jan. 31, 2023.

As the questioning began, Attorney General Letitia James asked Trump, "You have the right to refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate you. Do you understand that?"

Trump replied, "Yes."

(See "Legal Analysis" immediately below for potential consequences of Trump taking the Fifth in this particular case)

In related news, court filings show that former President Trump contradicting his own sworn affidavit from 2017, Newsweek reported Jan. 31.

New York Attorney General Letitia James' office wrote a letter to a federal judge attacking a deposition transcript involving Trump from 2021. The filing shows that Trump testified that he remained the "inactive" president of the Trump Organization while he was in the White House, despite an earlier sworn statement that he would relinquish all of his positions at the company.

As part of the since-settled lawsuit from 2021, Trump was questioned about whether there was a period of time when he did not serve as the president of the Trump Organization. In response, Trump said, "Well, I wasn't active during the time I was at 1600. I would say that I was an inactive president and now I'm active again."

When asked to clarify if there was ever a period of time where he ceased to hold that title at the company, the former president said, "Not to my knowledge, no."

However, a sworn statement dated January 19, 2017-the day before his inauguration-Trump signed a statement declaring that he would "hereby resign from each and every office and position," including Trump Organization LLC, among his other business ventures. The resignation was effective immediately.

James accused Trump and his three eldest children of lying in answers submitted to New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron as part of their response to the attorney general's $250 million lawsuit against them. Her office has accused the Trump family and their company of large-scale financial fraud.

In a letter to Engoron, Kevin Wallace, a senior enforcement counsel with James' office, asked for sanction against the Trump family and their counsels for "demonstrably false denials."

The New York lawsuit names Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, former company CFO Allen Weisselberg, its former payroll executive Jeffrey McConney, and entities under the Trump Organization umbrella.

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 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, James credited Cohen's testimony for triggering the investigation.)

Early in the investigation, Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told the New York Times, "Everything was done in strict compliance with applicable law and under the advice of counsel and tax experts." He added, "All applicable taxes were paid and no party received any undue benefit."

The attorney general's office subsequently deposed Eric Trump, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, in October, 2020. The New York Times reported that during his deposition, Eric Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself in response to more than 500 questions. Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization, also pleaded the Fifth repeatedly during his Feb. 24, 2020 deposition.

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."

The Hill reported that in a letter submitted in court filings Feb. 14, William Kelly, the general counsel for the accounting firm Mazars, wrote, "We have come to this conclusion based, in part, upon the filings made by the New York Attorney General (Letitia James) on January 18, 2022, our own investigation, and information received from internal and external sources."

On Feb. 17, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump and two of his adult children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., must testify in James' investigation, the New York Post reported. "In the final analysis, a State Attorney General commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities' principles, including its namesake," Engoron's decision reads. "She has the clear right to do so."

And then the Associated Press reported Feb. 28 that former President Trump appealed Judge Engoron's decision. Trump's lawyers argue ordering the Trumps to testify violates their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation. (James' investigation is a civil matter. But a separate criminal investigation by Manhattan's district attorney indicted the Trump Organization and its former chief financial officer last year. See "Trump Organization found guilty of 17 counts of tax fraud, other crimes" below.  The Manhattan DA is currently investigating additional charges against Trump that could potentially lead to even more criminal charges.  See "Manhattan DA revitalizes investigation of Trump's real estate empire, taxes and Stormy Daniels" below.)

Kara Scannell at CNN then reported that New York Attorney General James had broadened her civil investigation to include the role of its long-time appraiser Cushman & Wakefield.

"In an effort to determine whether certain valuations prepared by Cushman were fraudulent or misleading, and whether Cushman itself has engaged in fraudulent or misleading practices in its issuance of appraisals, (The Office of the Attorney General) has issued a series of subpoenas to Cushman including most recently subpoenas issued in September 2021 and February 2022," James' office announced in a court filing.

On April 25, the district attorney's office told a court that evidence uncovered in the investigation into the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, New York, and the Trump National Golf Club in L.A., "indicates that the Trump Organization submitted fraudulent or misleading valuations of conservation easements to the Internal Revenue Service."

"Those valuations were used to obtain tax deductions and involved appraisals issued by Cushman."

Judge Engoron also determined that Cushman & Wakefield broke its own rules to appease the Trump Organization and the former American president's chronic practice of inflating the value of his properties, The Daily Beast reported April 27.

In his order, the judge indicated he has personally reviewed sensitive documents in the privacy of his court chambers. "This court has reviewed numerous documents in camera demonstrating that C&W was not consistent in adhering to its internal quality control practices when conducting appraisals on behalf of the Trump Organization."

The Associated Press then reported a four-judge panel in the appellate division of the state's trial court upheld Judge Engoron's Feb. 17 ruling, which enforced subpoenas requiring that Trump and his two eldest children - Ivanka and Donald Jr. - give deposition testimony.

Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump then 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.

Former President Trump completed his court-ordered testimony on Aug. 10 - raising his right hand, swearing to tell the truth and then declining to answer questions. He invoked the Fifth protecting himself from self-incrimination 440 times during the four-hour interview.

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 Donald 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, will now keep an eye on the company's future financial filings as part of Attorney General James' $250 million fraud lawsuit. 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, 2023. 

Legal Analysis

Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico wrote on Sept. 21, the day the attorney general filed the $250 million lawsuit against Trump et al:

Legal analysts are already debating the finer points of the suit and whether it will or won't hold muster in court. Her civil suit might fly despite Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. balking at filing criminal charges over the same conduct.

For one thing, James only has to prove Trump's conduct was fraudulent or illegal by a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt as would be necessary in a criminal case. If it seems more likely than not that Trump knew of false valuations or instructed subordinates to inflate assets and income, that may be enough for James to prevail.

Trump could also be hurt by his numerous invocations of the Fifth Amendment, which can be used against him in the civil suit.

But there's a good chance the true legal merits of the AG's suit will never be tested in court.

Both sides have strong incentives to reach a settlement. Pursuing the case through to completion could take years and there's no guarantee that a judge will agree to grant all the relief the AG asked for. Trump seems to have an even stronger incentive to compromise, since the punishing sanctions James is seeking could amount almost to a death sentence for his business empire.

Trump's lawyers have already made a settlement proposal which James turned down, but her aides said her office isn't seeking any immediate court action against Trump, like an injunction that would swiftly drive him out of business in New York. And the AG seemed to emphasize her willingness to deal on the onerous punishment she proposed (in her lawsuit).

Former federal prosecutor and currently Politico's legal affairs columnist Renato Mariotti wrote on Sept. 22,

Perhaps the biggest reason James has such a winning hand is this: Trump dealt her the cards.

In early August he invoked the Fifth Amendment some 440 times during his deposition in this case. It was undoubtedly the right move for him to make because he faces criminal investigations in multiple jurisdictions, and his words, even though they are ostensibly about matters unrelated to election interference could nevertheless be useful to prosecutors seeking to demonstrate his capacity for deception. Prosecutors could also use his words to bring criminal charges based on the alleged scheme that James uncovered.

But taking the Fifth has severe consequences in this case. Unlike in a criminal case, in a civil proceeding like the suit brought by James, the jury will likely be instructed they can infer that when Trump took the Fifth, his answer would have been adverse to him. Trump's repeated insistence that James' politically motivated suit left him no choice will not withstand the effect of the jury inferring that Trump broke the law and has no good answer to the questions he was asked.

That essentially screws Trump and his family in this case. It is no coincidence that James put in her lawsuit that when Trump was asked whether he 'had an ongoing agreement from at least 2005 to the present with Mr. Weisselberg, Mr. McConney and others to prepare the Statement of Financial Condition in a manner that included false and misleading valuation statements, Mr. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to answer.'

In a civil case like this one, that's the ballgame. Trump, his son Eric, and others took the Fifth hundreds of times and they can expect James and her team to throw that back in their faces to prove their case. All of the other evidence is just supporting corroboration. The testimony of Trump and his family - or lack thereof - is the centerpiece.

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

Attorneys for the NAACP filed the lawsuit against former President Trump on Feb. 16, 2021 alleging Trump incited the riot at the U.S. Capitol with his false claims about a "stolen" election. The lawsuit claims the riot amounted to a conspiracy under the 1871 Klan Act, which, in this case, outlaws interfering with a person's or persons civil rights by stopping the certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College win. 

Also named in the suit is Trump's attorney during the post-election coup attempt, Rudy Giuliani, as well as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, two extremist groups that participated in the Jan. 6 riot.

Trump on Jan. 6, 2021 told the crowd to march to the Capitol to protest the certification. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong," Trump said. "We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore." 

Ten Democrat members of Congress added their names to the lawsuit on April 7. The amended lawsuit describes how each narrowly escaped the mob on Jan. 6 and how some still have nightmares and anxiety months later. The members joining the lawsuit are Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Karen Bass of California, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Hank Johnson Jr. of Georgia, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, Jerry Nadler of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Maxine Waters of California.

Trump attorney Jesse Binnall has asked U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of Washington, D.C. to toss out lawsuits filed by the NAACP, Eric Swalwell and two injured U.S. Capitol Police officers, citing the president's "absolute immunity" from the civil suit on separation-of-powers and free speech grounds.

On May 27, a lawyer representing the far-right Oath Keepers militia group also asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit, Law & Crime reported. In a 32-page motion to dismiss filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. attorney Kerry Lee Morgan argued that "No Oath Keeper entered the Capitol violently or otherwise and therefor nothing in the amended complaint reaches to any violent act to physically prevent the House from observing the Electoral proceedings," the motion states. (However, in November, 2022, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other charges stemming from a mob's attack on the U.S. Capitol.)

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

In a court filing in Washington, D.C. on July 28, attorneys for former President Trump asked a judge to grant him total immunity against any civil lawsuits filed in conjunction with the Jan. 6th insurrection.

According to the Washington Examiner, in the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the former president is also asking the court to overturn the ruling made in February by Judge Mehta rejecting Trump's motion to dismiss.

And then on Dec. 7 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals debated whether Trump legally responsible for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Post reported.

The federal appeals court on Dec. 20 then asked the Justice Department to weigh in on whether former President Trump should be protected by absolute immunity in civil lawsuits brought against him for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, CNN reported.

(Blog editor's note: See "Trump faces five separate lawsuits" below for more on Trump's request and Judge Mehta's decisions.)

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

The Latest:   A Jan. 6 defendant who sprayed a chemical irritant at about 15 police officers - and later bragged about it in a video interview - was sentenced Feb. 1 to 68 months in prison. This is one of the stiffest Jan. 6 sentences handed down to date.

Politico reported Daniel Caldwell, a 51-year-old Marine Corps veteran, delivered a tearful apology in court to the officers he sprayed, expressing remorse for his actions that day and pleading with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly for mercy.

But Kollar-Kotelly repeatedly described Caldwell as an "insurrectionist" and noted that his deployment of chemical spray at officers created such an intense cloud that it nearly broke the depleted police line by itself. Though no officers directly attributed their injuries that day to Caldwell's actions, Kollar-Kotelly said his actions undoubtedly contributed to their physical and psychological trauma.

"You're entitled to your political views but not to an insurrection," the judge said. "You were an insurrectionist."

Background:  The attack on the Capitol Jan. 6 was the most violent mass action in Washington, D.C. since 1812, when British soldiers burned down the Capitol and other government buildings, including the president's home.

Gerald F. Seib of the Wall Street Journal reported the FBI's official website contains 17 videos of the violence at the Capitol that day, "some so gruesome they are age-restricted so young people can't see them."

However, during a phone interview March 25, 2021 on Fox News's "Ingraham Angle," former President Trump claimed, "(The crowd that invaded the capitol) was zero threat right from the start, it was zero threat" and the rioters had "great relationships" and were "hugging and kissing the police" throughout the siege. "A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in and they walked out." 

Former Vice President Pence on June 3 said he saw it differently. "January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled, the Capitol was secured. And that same day we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States."

He added: "You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day."

Trump then called Fox News Maria Bartiromo's show July 11 and described for her the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters: "There was such love at that rally, you had over a million people, they were there for one reason, the rigged election, they felt the election was rigged. That's why they were there and they were peaceful people, these were great people, the crowd was unbelievable. And I mentioned the word love, the love in the air, I've never seen anything like it." 

More than 950 rioters from nearly all 50 states have been arrested and charged since the storming of the U.S. Capitol, with more than 325 pleading guilty to crimes ranging from trespassing to seditious conspiracy. More than 280 are accused of assaulting or impeding law enforcement officers.  One hundred and forty law enforcement officers were injured in the fighting. Prosecutors say rioters committed roughly 1,000 assaults on federal officers and caused $2.7 million in damage to the U.S. Capitol.  Five police officers died as a result of the attack, four by suicide and one after suffering multiple strokes. Four pro-Trump rioters, including a woman shot by Capitol Police, died.  Some of the protesters - with "love in the air" - include:

  • Scott Fairlamb, a New Jersey gym owner and former MMA fighter, punched a police officer and pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding.  He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
  • 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.

  • Thomas Webster, a retired New York City Police Department officer, was convicted of several felonies for attacking a D.C. cop with a flag pole on Jan. 6 and then tackling the officer to the ground and attempting to rip off his gas mask. Webster was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

  • A "pissed off" Howard Richardson of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for assaulting law enforcement officers with a Trump flag and joining a mob to use a giant Trump billboard as a battering ram when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. 
  • Robert S. Palmer wore an American flag jacket and watched and cheered on the rioters before moving to the front and hurling a fire extinguisher, a plank and a long pole at police officers. He was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison.
  • Kyle Toung, a Donald Trump fan who brought his teenage son along as he assaulted then-D.C. police officer Mike Fanone and another officer at the Capitol, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
  • Albuquerque Cosper Head, who grabbed former Metropolitan Police Department officer Mike Fanone and dragged him into the mob, where he was grievously injured, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years behind bars. 
  • Kevin Creek, a 47-year-old former Marine, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for assaulting officers. Creek admitted to striking a D.C. police office, pushing a Capitol Police officer and kicking that same officer.
  • Mark Mazza pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded firearm on US Capitol grounds and assaulting police officers with one of their own batons. Mazza told federal investigators he regretted not seeing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the riot and that they would "be here for another reason" if he had.
  • Mark Ponder, a 56-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., attacked three police officers with poles and pleaded guilty to "assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon." He was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
  • Guy Reffit, a Donald Trump fan from Texas who attempted to storm the U.S. Capitol while armed with a gun, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. He was convicted on five counts, including transport of a firearm in support of civil disorder.
  • An off-duty Virginia police officer, Thomas Robertson, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. The judge said he was troubled by Robertson's conduct since his arrest - not only his stockpiling of guns but advocating violence. 

E. Jean Carroll sues Trump for defamation, then for sexual battery

The Latest:  Donald Trump has hired a high-profile criminal lawyer to represent him in E. Jean Carroll's battery and defamation lawsuit, replacing attorney Alina Habba, Newsweek reported Feb. 1.

According to court documents, veteran New York lawyer Joe Tacopina has been brought in to work with the former president to fight the suit filed against him by the former Elle columnist.

The move to replace Habba as Trump's counsel in the Carroll case arrives after the former president, along with Habba, were both fined by a judge for filing "frivolous" lawsuits regarding the 2016 election.

On January 19, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks ordered Habba and Trump to pay nearly $938,000 in legal costs to the dozens of defendants - including Hillary Clinton - named in their dubious suits.

The trial is currently set to begin April 10.

In related news, Trump's sworn testimony in a defamation suit by a New York author who accuses him of rape was partially unsealed, revealing the former president's anger about the many alleged "hoaxes" against him, Bloomberg reported Jan. 13.

Trump, who was deposed in October in the suit by former Elle magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, derided the case as "a big, fat hoax" and called his accuser a "liar" and a "sick person," according to an unsealed, partial transcript made public by US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan.

"It is a hoax and a lie just like all the other hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years," the former president maintained in the videotaped deposition taken at his Florida residence of Mar-a-Lago.

Under questioning by Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan, Trump agreed that he uses the word "hoax" a lot in public, possibly more than 250 times in 2020 alone. He didn't appear to hesitate when he was asked what other hoaxes he thought had been played on him.

"The Russia Russia Russia hoax," Trump replied. "It's been proven to be a hoax. Ukraine Ukraine Ukraine hoax. The Mueller situation for two and a half years hoax ended in no collusion. It was a whole big hoax."

Climate change is a hoax as well, Trump said. 

He was also asked if he thought mail-in ballots are a hoax. "Yeah, I sure do," he said, though he also said he votes by mail too.

The unsealing came the same day Judge Kaplan denied Trump's motion to dismiss Carroll's sexual assault claim under the New York Adult Survivors Act. Trump had claimed the law ran afoul of the state's due process protections.

During his testimony, Trump mistook a photo of E. Jean Carroll for his ex-wife Marla Maples during a sworn deposition.

USA Today reports Trump said, "That's Marla, yeah. That's my wife," confusing Carroll for Maples -Trump's second wife, his spouse from 1993 to 1999 - when shown an old black-and-white photo of several people, including himself and Carroll.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba corrected Trump, saying "No, that's Carroll," after Trump was asked by Carroll lawyer Roberta Kaplan to clarify who he was pointing to in the photo.

Trump's misidentification of Carroll for his second wife could undercut his repeated public statements that Carroll is "not my type," including in sworn testimony during depositions

Background:  Former President Trump is being sued in federal court for defamation by writer/columnist E. Jean Carroll, who wrote in a 2019 magazine article that Trump raped her in the mid-1990s in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury New York department store.   

Carroll filed the lawsuit in November 2019 claiming 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." 

On Jan. 9, 2020, a New York State Supreme Court judge denied President Trump's request to dismiss the defamation lawsuit. In a highly controversial move, the DOJ then stepped in to defend then-President Trump, claiming his denunciation of Carroll was part of his official duties and, therefore, the United States, and not President Trump, was the defendant in the case.  But Carroll's attorneys argued that "only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted."

On Oct. 27 Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan turned down the government's bid to make the United States the defendant. Trump's comments concerned events that had occurred "several decades before he took office," Judge Kaplan ruled, and had "no relationship to the official business of the United States."

But in the final days of Trump's presidency in January 2021, the Justice Department appealed that decision in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, claiming the president of the United States "acts within the scope of his office when he responds to public critics." 

And in a move that frustrated many Democrats, the Biden Justice Department argued in a brief filed June 7, 2021 that it should be permitted to substitute itself for former President Trump as the defendant in the lawsuit.  Justice Department lawyers wrote in a brief to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, "This case does not concern whether Mr. Trump's response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll's allegations." Rather, the lawyers wrote, because they believe Trump was an employee of the government and that he acted "within the scope of employment," the department, rather than Trump personally, should serve as defendant in the case. 

On Dec. 3, three federal appeals court justices debated whether former President Trump strayed beyond his presidential duties in his aggressive response to Carroll's claim that he raped her, Politico and CNN reported.

"Who is he serving when he says something like, 'She's not my type?'...It would be one thing if he said, 'I didn't do it,' but he goes way beyond that," Judge Denny Chin said during oral arguments before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals "Did he need to say, 'She's not my type?'"

Trump's attorney, Alina Habba conceded that "an unprovoked attack on a citizen" would be outside the scope of a president's duties, but Carroll essentially compelled Trump to respond. "She went to the press. She made it public... She was on the aggressor side," Habba said.

In a March 11, 2022 ruling in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected Trump's request to bring counterclaims against Carroll, Bloomberg reported.

Judge Kaplan said Trump had already delayed the 2019 case multiple times and that his claim against Carroll was a "futile" and "bad faith" attempt to delay it further. Carroll's single claim of defamation "could have been tried and decided - one way or the other - long ago." 

In an August letter to a New York federal judge, Carroll's lawyer notified the court that additional legal action was on the horizon. Roberta A. Kaplan, the journalist's lawyer, explained that Carroll is preparing to file a separate lawsuit under New York's Adult Survivors Act "on the earliest possible date," which is Nov. 24.  

AXIOS reported, "Carroll, who is in the middle of a high-profile defamation suit against Trump, had been unable to pursue legal action for the actual alleged assault due to the state's statute of limitations. Now the Adult Survivors Act, which gives adult survivors of sexual misconduct a one-year window to sue their abusers regardless of when the incident occurred, could give her another chance against her alleged abuser."

CNN reported the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on Sept. 27 opened the door to allowing the Justice Department to shield former President Trump for his conduct while president when they sent the case to the D.C. Court of Appeals to resolve the question: Was Trump a federal employee when he rebutted Carroll's story or was he acting purely on his own as a private citizen?

And then on Oct. 12, the former president lashed out at Carroll on Truth Social, calling her accusations "a Hoax and a lie" and repeating that she was "not my type!"

"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," Trump said.

CNN reported that Trump appeared Oct. 19 for a deposition as part of the defamation lawsuit. 

On Nov. 9, Bloomberg reported that Trump urged the District of Columbia's highest local court to adopt his argument that he was acting in the interests of the American people and within the boundaries of his official duties as president when he made allegedly defamatory remarks while denying a rape claim by Carroll.

President Biden's Justice Department sided with Trump, citing similar cases and the claim that his comments about Carroll were, in fact, made in his duties as president.

And then Trump was sued again by Carroll on Thanksgiving Day, Reuters reported.

In a complaint filed in Manhattan, the former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of battery in an alleged encounter at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan.

Carroll, 78, brought the battery claim 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.

An earlier version of the same complaint, filed on Nov. 17, states the following:

"Trump's actions constitute sexual offenses as defined in Article 130 of the New York Penal Law, including but not limited to rape in the first degree (§ 130.35), rape in the third degree (§ 130.25), sexual abuse in the first degree (§ 130.65), sexual abuse in the third degree (§ 130.55), sexual misconduct (§ 130.20), and forcible touching (§ 130.52)."

"Typical gamesmanship from Roberta Kaplan," Trump's lawyer Alina Habba said in a statement. "This filing is completely inappropriate and we will take up this issue with the court."

Reuters reported U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan set an April 10, 2023 trial date for the original federal lawsuit. Kaplan did not rule on Carroll's request to hold one trial combining the lawsuits, which the former longtime Elle magazine columnist filed in November 2019, with a second lawsuit she filed on Thanksgiving Day accusing Trump of battery.

On Dec. 1, Carroll's lawyers urged the District of Columbia's highest local court to reject the "troubling" position by Trump and the Justice Department 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."

Law & Crime reported that Carroll's attorneys on Dec. 19 released passages from her deposition in which she described in detail the alleged rape.

On Dec. 21, Trump asked a federal court to dismiss Carroll's 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 alleges in the motion to dismiss 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 the accuser, E. Jean Carroll, is bringing 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.

Trump has sought to have the U.S. government substitute for him as the defendant, a position that the Justice Department under President Biden supports. However, for that to occur, the D.C. Court of Appeals must decide that Trump was acting within the bounds of his employment as president when he allegedly defamed Carroll.

According to CNN, several judges on the D.C. Court of Appeals expressed reluctance at the Jan.10 hearing to say whether Trump's conduct fell within the scope of his employment. Multiple members of the court pointed to the lack of a full factual record before them, suggesting that a jury would be best equipped to make the determination.

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

On Nov. 20, 2020 the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, the NAACP and three African American voters filed suit alleging Donald Trump, the Trump campaign and the Republican Party attempted to suppress the Black vote in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, all of which have large communities of color, The Independent reported. 

"Under the specter of preventing 'fraud,' defendants engaged in a conspiracy, executed through a coordinated effort, to disenfranchise voters by disrupting vote counting efforts, lodging groundless challenges during recounts, and attempting to block certification of election results through intimidation and coercion of election officials and volunteers," the lawsuit claims.

According to Democracy Docket: Even after Wayne County's results had been certified, Trump personally called election officials in the county "in a last-ditch effort to disenfranchise Black voters in Detroit."

The suit was filed the day after Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed during a press conference that the president's campaign had uncovered 300,000 "illegitimate ballots" cast primarily in Detroit. (President Biden won Wayne County with 597,170 votes, while Trump received 264,553 votes.)

In December, 2020, an amended complaint added the Republican National Committee as a defendant alleging violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act. More plaintiffs also signed onto the legal action, including the NAACP. (Democrat members of Congress filed a separate suit alleging violation of the KKK Act.)

The former president and the Republican National Committee filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit on February 24, 2021. The defendants also filed a motion to transfer the case from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to the Eastern District of Michigan, where some of the plaintiffs reside. The plaintiffs opposed the transfer, arguing that the conspiracy was directed from D.C., where both Trump and the RNC were located.

On April 1, 2022 Law & Crime reported that a judge ruled Trump and the Republican Party do not have to face allegations that they violated the Voting Rights Act in the 2020 presidential election. But Trump and the GOP must face claims that they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act. Trump and the RNC also lost a separate motion to transfer the remaining litigation away from Washington, D.C.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan scoffed at Trump's notion that a federal court in Washington, D.C. lacks jurisdiction to preside over the former president's claims. "This Court is presented with an argument that is perhaps as unprecedented as it is outlandish: the former President of this country denying that he lived in and had minimum contacts with the country's capital and the White House during his time as President," Judge Sullivan wrote.

Judge Sullivan ruled that the civil rights groups lack standing to advance the Voting Rights Act claim because the lawsuit focuses on past conduct yet seeks relief on future conduct. 

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."

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." 

"No reasonable reader or listener would have perceived Giuliani's speech as an instruction to march to the Capitol, violently breach the perimeter and enter the Capitol building, and then violently terrorize Congress into not engaging in the Electoral Certification."  The former New York City mayor also said in his court filing that the core of the insurrection was orchestrated by pro-Trump extremist groups to whom he had no connection. 

In a legal brief filed Aug. 16 arguing why Trump should not be held liable for inciting the violence, 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. (Blog editor's note: See "Trump faces five separate lawsuits" immediately below for more on Trump's request and Judge Mehta's decisions.)

And then on Dec. 7, a federal appeals court 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 then asked the Justice Department to weigh in on whether former President Trump should be protected by absolute immunity in civil lawsuits brought against him for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, CNN reported. 

Trump faces five separate lawsuits by Capitol and D.C. police for Jan. 6 riot

The Latest:  A federal judge has allowed another civil lawsuit against former President Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol to proceed.

CNN reported on Jan. 26 US District Judge Amit Mehta denied a request by Trump - and several far-right activists who were also sued for their connection to the Capitol siege - to toss the case out.

The suit was brought by 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, who sits on DC's federal court, said in the 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 Alilexander.

The judge said the alleged conduct by Stone and Alexander that was singled out in the lawsuit is protected by the First Amendment.

With Bloomberg adding, "During the attack, 140 police officers were assaulted and rioters caused more than $2 million in property damage," the new report adds, "The case brought by the Capitol police officers stands apart because of the long list of 20 defendants, Mehta wrote."

Background:  On March 31, 2021 two Capitol police officers - James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby - who were injured in hand-to-hand combat during the Jan. 6 insurrection filed suit against former President Trump for inciting his supporters, Politico reported. In their lawsuit, the officers allege Trump "inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted" his supporters to assault them, and that they suffered both physical injuries and emotional distress. The officers are seeking unspecified compensation and damages greater than $75,000 apiece.

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

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

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, describes in detail the melee the rioters caused during their siege on the U.S. Capitol building.  Attorneys for the officers say their case is supported by comments made after January 6 by Republican leaders House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom laid blame for the riot at the feet of the former president.

Said McConnell on the Senate floor: "There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president, and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth." 

McCarthy said on the floor of the House: "The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."

And then on Aug. 26, in a separate lawsuit, seven more U.S. Capitol police officers sued former President Trump, Stop the Steal rally organizers, the Trump campaign, Roger Stone and members of far-right extremist group Proud Boys, CNN reported. The suit accuses the defendants of spreading lies, using White supremacist sentiments to attempt to overthrow the 2020 election, and ultimately bearing responsibility for the riot that injured more than 140 officers. Five of the plaintiffs in the suit are African-American.

"Plaintiffs and their fellow law enforcement officers risked their lives to defend the Capitol from a violent, mass attack - an attack provoked, aided, and joined by Defendants in an unlawful effort to use force, intimidation, and threats to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential election," the lawsuit claims. 

It was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

(Roger Stone asked the court on Dec. 23, 2021 to dismiss the suit against him. Donald Trump asked a federal court in Washington D.C. on Dec. 24 to dismiss the case. Trump argued he isn't "vicariously liable" for the actions of people who heard him speak at a "Stop the Steal" rally before the riot, Bloomberg News reported.)

On Jan. 4, 2022 four more police officers who responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol - including two who aided the evacuation of lawmakers - filed two separate lawsuits against Trump, seeking damages for their physical and emotional injuries, Politico reported.

In one suit, a Capitol Police officer who defended lawmakers in the House chamber is asking a court to hold the former president responsible for the mob of his supporters who conducted the attack. The other lawsuit was filed by two officers with the Metropolitan Police Department who were called in to help the Capitol Police during the insurrection.

In the 49-page lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C, Capitol Officer Marcus Moore, a 10-year veteran of the force, described the intense terror of the day as he moved from his post at the Madison Building to the East Side of the Capitol and eventually into the House chamber, helping evacuate lawmakers to safety. He's seeking a judgment against Trump and compensatory damages, saying explosions inside and outside the building left him with tinnitus. He also indicated he witnessed one rioter inside the Capitol armed with a gun.

Like James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, Moore is backed by a team of lawyers led by United to Protect Democracy, a nonprofit founded by a former Obama White House lawyer that has challenged many Trump-era policies and actions.

Politico reported that in the second lawsuit filed Jan. 4, two officers with the Metropolitan Police Department - Bobby Tabron and DeDivine Carter - described suffering physical assaults with poles, pepper spray and other projectiles, in addition to hand-to-hand violence. They are also seeking compensatory damages for their injuries.

Both responded to the West Front of the Capitol, where some of the most intense fighting of the day occurred. Carter described seeing rioters armed with guns, among other weapons. Tabron later joined officers helping evacuate lawmakers via an underground tunnel "where trains were being used to evacuate members of Congress from the Capitol."

"Officer Tabron was fighting for his life and felt certain he would not survive to make it home alive to his wife or see his family again," the lawsuit reads. "He wondered when gunfire would erupt and how such a battle, if started, would end."

And on Jan. 6, 2022 the one-year anniversary of the attack, NBC News reported Officer Briana Kirkland filed the 57-page lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. arguing that Trump incited the attack, did little to end it and conspired with far-right extremists to promote false claims about the 2020 election.

"As the leader of this violent mob, who took their cues from his campaign rhetoric and personal Tweets and traveled from around the country to the nation's capital at Trump's invitation for the January 6 rally, Trump was in a position of extraordinary influence over his followers, who committed assault and battery on Briana Kirkland," the lawsuit says.

Kirkland is seeking at least $75,000 in damages, as well as attorneys' fees.

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

In a court filing in Washington, D.C. on July 28, attorneys for former President Trump asked a judge to grant him total immunity against any civil lawsuits filed in conjunction with the Jan. 6th insurrection.

According to the Washington Examiner, in the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the former president is hoping to get the court to overturn a ruling made in February by Judge Mehta when Trump asked for all the lawsuits to be dismissed.

In seeking the dismissal, Trump's lawyers said that he was absolutely immune from civil litigation related to the Capitol riot, because he was acting within the "outer perimeter" of his presidential duties.

But Judge Mehta refused to dismiss the lawsuits on those grounds, noting that he had previously rejected a nearly identical assertion of absolute immunity that Trump raised in response to other civil lawsuits filed by House Democrats and two Capitol Police officers (Blassingame and Hemby).

And then on Dec. 7, the DC US 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. 

Dominion sues Fox News

The Latest:  Former House Speaker Paul Ryan was deposed on Jan. 31 by Dominion Voting Systems in its $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News, Business Insider reports.

Ryan joined the Fox Corporation board of directors in 2019 after choosing not to run for re-election in the 2018 midterms. He had been speaker of the House of Representatives for more than three years while Republicans were in power, capping off 20 years in Congress.

Following former President Donald Trump's loss in the election, Fox News hosts repeatedly interviewed Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, two attorneys who spread false claims alleging Dominion was in cahoots with a rival election technology company, Smartmatic, and flipped votes from Trump in favor of now-President Joe Biden. Dominion alleges that Fox News hosts didn't sufficiently push back on the falsehoods, and in some cases perpetuated them. Dominion also claims that the hosts - Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro - knew or should have known that the conspiracy theories had no merit.

Jeremy Peters, the media reporter at the New York Times, told host Alex Wagner on MSNBC that the fact that Rupert Murdock testified for two days - Jan. 19 and 20 - is newsworthy. 

"Typically you would see companies like Fox settling before the chairman is ever deposed," said Peters.

Dominion has "one of the strongest defamation lawsuits that First Amendment scholars will tell you has ever been compiled against a major media organization."

"We've haven't seen a case get this far against a major media company in a very, very long time."

And the fact that Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro were called back for second depositions shows Dominion is collecting more information from text messages and emails as the discovery period moves forward, possibly proving, said Peters, that the "people at Fox knew that what they were putting on the air probably wasn't true but did it anyway."

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

Dominion alleges Fox News was eager to court conservative viewers who were outraged by the network's call on Election Night that candidate Joe Biden would be victorious in Arizona, an early prediction that, while correct, was not initially matched by other news outlets and came under criticism from President Trump. Reports that blamed Dominion and others for influencing the election results, the company argues, served as a potential means of winning back those viewers' favor.

Fox segments included some that alleged fraud by Dominion and other segments that reported the Dominion voting machines did not, in fact, switch Trump votes to Biden. But Dominion, in its suit, claims the contradictory segments don't mitigate the network's culpability. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post explained, "This maddening duality - in which popular opinion hosts promote misinformation while other programs present something closer to reality - is a core feature of the Fox News experience...Dominion's suit, accordingly, focuses instead on establishing that Fox News personalities knew that on-air claims about the company were false."  The suit reads, that despite knowing the truth, "Fox continued to promote the known lies on its most prominent and widely viewed broadcasts and on Fox's websites, social media accounts, and subscription service platforms."

Columnist Nicholas Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times reported, "Dominion has offered a number of examples of Fox's hosts stating more than they actually knew - and seeming to take sides with (conspiracy lawyers Rudy) Giuliani and (Sidney) Powell. Lou Dobbs, for instance, said flatly that the voting machines 'were designed to be inaccurate,' according to the lawsuit. He thanked Giuliani for 'pursuing what is the truth.'

"When Jeanine Pirro said Dominion was an organized criminal enterprise started in Venezuela with Cuban money, she acknowledged that she was restating allegations she'd heard from the president's lawyers. But when Bartiromo said on the air, 'I understand Nancy Pelosi has an interest in this company,' she included no such qualification.

"And Bartiromo continued to allege fraud claims about Dominion 'even though she had been specifically notified that independent fact-checkers, government officials and election security experts debunked those lies,' according to the lawsuit."

Fox News filed papers seeking dismissal of the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, Law & Crime reported May 18. The motion says Fox's "responsible journalists . . . covered both sides" of the 2020 election controversy and that the network's opinion hosts provided commentary which "a reasonable viewer" would consider as little more than "hyperbole speculating" about what really happened with the election - "rather than [as] factual assertions."

(On Dec. 16, a Delaware Superior Court judge denied a Fox News motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Variety reported the judge found "Dominion pleads specific facts that put Fox on notice as to Dominion's claims. The Complaint, and its exhibits, are detailed and focused, and state a reasonably conceivable defamation per se claim.")

On Nov. 10, Bloomberg reported Dominion filed a second lawsuit against Fox Corp. in an effort to gain access to Chairman Rupert Murdoch's documents about its coverage of the contest. Dominion is trying to find out how much Murdoch and his eldest son, Fox Corp. Chief Executive Officer Lachlan Murdoch, were involved in the decision by Fox News to report that Dominion conspired with foreign hackers to flip millions of votes away from then-President Trump. The network has reportedly balked at searching the Murdochs' documents for the information Dominion is seeking.

The Washington Post reported May 28, 2022 that the federal government has found no evidence that flaws in Dominion voting machines have ever been exploited, including in the 2020 election, according to the executive director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

A Delaware judge on June 21 rejected a motion by the parent of Fox News Network to dismiss Dominion Voting Systems Inc's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, Reuters reported.  Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis, who last December said Dominion could sue Fox News Network, said the voting machine company can also sue Fox Corp on a theory it was directly liable for statements on the network.

In court papers, Dominion claimed that Fox Corp, through Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch, directly participated in, approved and controlled the network's election coverage and its aftermath.

Law & Crime reported Dominion is alleging the Murdoch's knew Trump's election fraud narrative was false. On Nov. 6, 2020, Rupert Murdoch reportedly spoke to Trump and told him he lost. Print outlets under the News Corp empire like the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal denounced Trump's claims at the time and urged him to concede defeat.

For Judge Davis those reports were enough to show Dominion adequately pleaded actual malice. "These allegations support a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth when they allegedly caused Fox News to propagate its claims about Dominion," the 25-page ruling states, rejecting the petition to dismiss the lawsuit.

"Dominion has a very strong case against Fox News - and against OAN for that matter," said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor who teaches constitutional law at Stetson University and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute.

"The reason Dominion is suing is because Fox and other rightwing news outlets repeated vicious lies that Dominion's voting machines stole the 2020 election from Trump for Biden. But all of these conspiracy theories about Dominion's machines were just pure bunk, and Fox as a news organization should have known that and not given this aspect of the big lie a megaphone."

"What's particularly bad for Fox is [that] Dominion asked them to stop and correct the record in real time, and Fox persisted in spreading misrepresentations about the voting machine company."

Former Attorney General William Barr has been subpoenaed as part of the defamation lawsuit, ABC News reported July 11.

At a public hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Barr said in a clip played by the committee that the baseless allegations that Dominion machines switched votes from Joe Biden to Trump were "complete nonsense" and "amongst the most disturbing."

Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox figures already questioned under oath in the case as well as show producers and programming executives, court records show. 

The Dominion v. Fox trial now set for April 17 in Delaware state court .

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.

"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.

The New York Times reported Dec. 21 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.

Smartmatic sues Fox News, plus Legal Analysis

Smartmatic, a multinational company that builds and implements electronic voting systems, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit on Feb. 4, 2021 against Fox News, some of the network's star hosts, including Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, and Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, alleging the parties worked in concert to wage a "disinformation campaign" about the company.  Smartmatic's lawsuit claims the defendants knew that Trump's campaign lawyers, Giuliani and Powell, would lie about Smartmatic, push conspiracy theories about the election being stolen from Trump, allege Smartmatic had committed fraud and that the Fox hosts then added their "own defamatory comments" for "personal gain."

(Smartmatic's voting machines were used in only one U.S. county during the 2020 election, Los Angeles, Forbes reported.)  

Giuliani told Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs on Nov. 12, 2020, "You're gonna be astonished when I tell you how (Smartmatic) was formed. It was formed, really, by three Venezuelans, who were very close to...dictator, Chavez, of Venezuela. And it was formed in order to fix elections."

Powell alleged during a Fox News appearance that software designed to effectuate the fraud could be loaded into Smartmatic machines "from Germany or Venezuela, even." She added, "We've identified mathematically the exact algorithms they used and plan to use from the beginning to modify the votes, in this case, to make sure Biden won." She also claimed China sent $400 million to Smartmatic "a few weeks before the election."

Fox News' claims it covered the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election responsibly - what Fox lawyers termed in the "highest tradition of the First Amendment." 

"Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," a book published Nov. 16, 2021 by ABC's Jonathan Karl, reports that the day after the election was called for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, 2020, Bartiromo interviewed conspiracy theorist and lawyer Powell on her show. Karl wrote that as Powell delivered a "fevered rant" and Bartiromo "didn't express one ounce of skepticism."

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."

Fox attempted to have a New York state court dismiss Smartmatic's lawsuit in April, 2021.  In a filing submitted April 26, Fox attorneys argued, "When a sitting President claims an election was stolen and assembles a legal team to challenge it, the public has a right to know about the allegations. When the press informs the public about those allegations, the First Amendment robustly protects that coverage. That protection does not dissipate if the allegations strike some as desperate or ultimately fail in court."  Powell and Giuliani also filed motions to dismiss the suit on June 10.

And then on Aug. 17 New York Supreme Court Judge David Cohen held a hearing on the dismissal request.  At the hearing in Manhattan, Judge Cohen asked Fox to explain why former anchor Lou Dobbs repeatedly claimed on air in November and December, 2020 that there was new, "groundbreaking" evidence of voter fraud even after U.S. officials had debunked such claims.

"That is clearly his opinion," Fox News attorney Paul Clement said. "It was a widely shared opinion at the time."

Fox argued that remarks by Dobbs, as well as by Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, were constitutionally protected speech. It also argued they were reporting fairly on claims being made on air by Giuliani and Powell.

From Deadline.com: Rudy Giuliani's attorney was light on evidence when pressed by Justice Cohen. Attorney Joe Sibley of Camara & Sibley asked Cohen to dismiss six of the claims against his client because they constituted "product disparagement," or calling Smartmatic's software lousy, not defamation.

Judge Cohen asked Sibley about one of the Trump attorney's claims - that, in Venezuela, Smartmatic "'switched votes around subtly, maybe ten percent per district, so you don't notice it.' Is there some support in that to show that they can't even make out a claim for actual malice?" he asked. 

Sibley: "Well, the evidentiary support would be the fact that that Smartmatic technology allows this. That would be the evidence."

Cohen: "Wait, that Smartmatic technology allows it, or it occurred like Mr. Giuliani claimed?"

Sibley: "Well I don't know that there is any evidence in the record that that would demonstrate that in fact occurred."

Fox News' effort to dismiss the defamation lawsuit was rejected on March 8. 2022. State Supreme Judge Cohen commented, "Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs' claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth."

Judge Cohen did, however, toss out claims against Fox News host Jeanine Pirro and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, but did not dismiss those against host Maria Bartiromo and former host Lou Dobbs. (The court ruled Pirro hadn't targeted the voting-technology firm and that it had no authority over Powell as she is a Texas resident.)  

Some claims against Giuliani - including defamation - were dismissed but Judge Cohen explained Giuliani's "barrage" of criticism, including that Smartmatic fixed elections in Venezuela and was up to its "old tricks" on election night, justified letting some of Smartmatic's other claims against him proceed.

(Blog editor's note: In its executive summary of its investigative findings released Dec. 19, 2022 the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol reported that, despite his past claims of election fraud, Rudy Giuliani told the committee under oath: "I do not think the machines stole the election.")

Fox News then hit back at Smartmatic's financial standing by filing a counterclaim and arguing the network was protected by New York state law and the First Amendment, The Hill reported March 17. The counterclaim called Smartmatic's $2.7 billion lawsuit "extravagant" and argued that the voting machine company was actually in poor financial standing.

"As Smartmatic's own public filings reflect, by the time the 2020 Presidential election rolled around, it was no financial juggernaut on the cusp of earning billions in revenue. To the contrary, Smartmatic had been in the red each of the preceding four years, combining for nearly $100 million in losses, and its revenues had not exceeded $200 million since 2013," the court filing said.

"Yet by Smartmatic's telling, it stood to make nearly $2 billion in annual revenue in 2025-a figure more than four times its highest reported revenues within the past nine years and more than 16 times its reported revenues in 2020," the filing claimed.

Fox News and two other defendants, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo and former anchor Lou Dobbs, filed counterclaims citing New York's "anti-SLAPP" law, short for "strategic lawsuits against public participation.  "They and Giuliani, as well as Smartmatic, are appealing parts of a March 8 decision by state Supreme Court Justice Cohen allowing most of Smartmatic's lawsuit to proceed.

A Manhattan judge on Sept. 6 ordered the Fox network to start turning over files from a pool of millions of documents that the voting machine company demanded, Law & Crime reported. Under the terms of the ruling, Fox's productions of documents must start on Sept. 30, and all fact discovery must be completed by the last business day in March 2023.

Legal Analysis:  Luke Mullins at Washingtonian Magazine wrote on the legal battle Smartmatic owner Antonio Mugica is waging to save his company from the "Big Lie." Here is a brief excerpt from Mullins' April, 2022 article.

In the 20 years since its founding, Smartmatic had processed roughly 5 billion votes on behalf of governments all over the world-and not once had it experienced a security breach. But in mid-November 2020, with his customers rattled and his employees frightened, Mugica convened his top lieutenants to convey the gravity of the crisis. "Look," he told them, "this could wipe us out."

While he increased security at Smartmatic's offices and worked to calm frightened employees, Mugica faced a more fundamental concern. The vote-rigging conspiracy threatened to chase away his current customers, scare off future clients, and drive the firm out of business. "Because," he says, "in the end, what we're selling around the world is trust."

Seeing no other way to protect his company, Mugica began searching the internet for a few good litigators. One name stood out: Erik Connolly.

Three years earlier, the Chicago lawyer had won the biggest media defamation settlement in the country's history. It was a whopper of a case, against ABC News-Connolly secured a settlement of a reported $177 million or more for his client, Beef Products Inc., after the network had repeatedly described the company's meat as "pink slime."

Connolly identified three overarching factual assertions the Trumpers had made, which he would later spell out in court documents: One, Smartmatic was under the control of the Venezuelan government; two, its election technology had been used in many of the most closely contested U.S. states; three, it had switched votes from Trump to Biden in order to rig the outcome.

Courts tend to weigh free-speech rights carefully. And not surprisingly, Paul Clement - the Washington superlawyer who's representing Fox News and its current and former hosts in this case - has put forth a First Amendment defense. "Smartmatic's 285-page, $2.7 billion complaint is not just meritless," Clement and other lawyers said in a court filing on behalf of Maria Bartiromo, "it is a legal shakedown designed to chill speech and punish reporting on issues that cut to the heart of our democracy."

The argument of Clement and Fox News's other attorneys goes like this: Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election results was a news event of enormous consequence. And Fox Corp.'s networks and current and former hosts were simply covering this event and providing a forum for Trump's surrogates - such as Giuliani and Powell - to back up their allegations that Smartmatic had rigged the election. "If those surrogates fabricated evidence or told lies with actual malice, then a defamation action may lie against them," Fox News argued in court documents, "but not against the media that covered their allegations and allowed them to try to substantiate them."

At the same time, the lawyers for Giuliani, Powell, Fox Corp., and its current and former hosts have also added an interesting wrinkle to their defenses. In most defamation cases, plaintiffs must prove only that the published statements about them were false, harmful assertions of fact that were made negligently. In this case, the lawyers have all argued that Smartmatic isn't a private entity but rather a public figure. If the judge agrees, Smartmatic would be forced to clear a much higher legal threshold; the company would have to prove that the election-related smears had been made with "actual malice"-or, as the Supreme Court has said, "with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."

On this point, the defendants are likely to prevail, says University of Missouri School of Law dean Lyrissa Lidsky, because Smartmatic voluntarily chose to engage in a business - helping governments run elections - that warrants a high level of scrutiny. "If I were the judge," she says, "I would pronounce them a public figure."

Even so, Lidsky believes that Mugica and Smartmatic have a credible claim. She explains it this way: The defendants would have known that the conspiracy theory wasn't true if they had bothered to conduct a simple Google search; after all, Smartmatic played no role in the election outside of Los Angeles County. Should the case proceed into discovery, Connolly and his team could very well unearth damaging emails and other internal materials showing exactly what the pro-Trump flamethrowers may have known to be false before they went on television to broadcast their lies. "It's hard to prove actual malice," Lidsky says, "but this is the rare case in which it looks at the outset like there's a pretty decent chance the plaintiffs can do it."

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

Former President Trump, the Trump Organization, and three of his adult children, Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, all suffered a legal setback in a federal appeals court on July 28, 2021 Law & Crime and Politico reported.

From Law & Crime:  "For years the Trump family and its namesake entity have fought to keep a pyramid scheme lawsuit from being litigated in public. The Trump family's weapon of choice to keep those details under wraps was private and compelled arbitration clauses."

But in a 43-page opinion issued July 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the Trump family's request to settle the numerous complaints against them through arbitration.

"The truth or falsity of the plaintiffs' allegations is not before us," Circuit Judge Robert D. Sack wrote. "We neither express nor imply any views with respect to them. The only question before us is whether this case should be resolved before the district court or an arbitrator."

Asserting myriad claims including "racketeering" and conspiracy and fraud, several of the class action plaintiffs originally sued the Trumps in October 2018 alleging the defendants - by way of "videos, print and online media" - promoted and endorsed a multi-level marketing, or pyramid, scheme known as ACN Opportunity, LLC.

Trump endorsed the company in speeches and on his T.V. show, "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

Those endorsements came, the anonymous plaintiffs allege, even though the Trumps failed to conduct due diligence about the likelihood of economic losses and the slim probability of commercial success from such schemes. Each of the plaintiffs produced evidence to show the vast majority of people who were convinced to become "Independent Business Owners" for ACN went on to suffer losses or earned minimal profits.

Instead, the plaintiffs claim the Trump family from 2005 to 2015 simply parroted ACN's allegedly untrue claims because they were being paid millions of dollars, payments that were not publicly disclosed at the time their endorsements were made. (The New York Times reported the multi-level marketing company paid former President Trump $8.8 million over 10 years.) The lawsuits also claim statements by the Trumps that they had conducted extensive due diligence and research concerning the business opportunity and had inside information and personal experience with ACN were untrue.

At first, the Trumps litigated the lawsuits in the court system and successfully batted away a few of the causes of action. After winning those victories, however, and failing to secure a motion to dismiss, the Trumps moved to have the remaining claims settled by secretive arbitration.

In April, 2021 a district court in New York City declined to allow the cases to be settled in arbitration. In May a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused to stay the decision pending appeal. 

On Dec. 17, Bloomberg reported that unaired footage from Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" TV show is being reviewed by a team of lawyers in Los Angeles as part of the suit. A federal judge in New York City ordered that the movie studio make the footage available at a secure location, potentially ending a long-running battle that's still draped in secrecy. Lawyers for plaintiffs know what they're looking for: anything that shows Trump and his children knew they were duping would-be investors by leading them to ACN.

Donald Trump, Eric Trump and aide Hope Hicks were deposed in October, 2022. Plaintiff's attorney Robert Kaplan said in an email to Law&Crime on Nov. 4, "We look forward to moving forward expeditiously with expert discovery and class certification so that we can proceed to trial on the merits as soon as possible."

U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield has formally set a trial date in the case for Jan. 29, 2024.  

Trump's 2020 campaign, Giuliani, Powell and others target of defamation suit

The conservative cable TV station Newsmax apologized on April 30, 2021 for airing false allegations that Eric Coomer, an employee for Dominion Voting Systems, manipulated machines or tallies on Election Day 2020 to the detriment of former President Trump, the Associated Press reported.

Coomer, the former security director at the Colorado-based firm, immediately dropped the pro-Trump TV station from his December, 2020 defamation lawsuit. Still listed as defendants, however, are the Trump presidential campaign, Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, One America News Network, conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, Gateway Pundit, Joe Oltmann and others.

The lawsuit states, "Without concern for the truth or the consequences of their reckless conduct, defendants branded Dr. Coomer a traitor to the United States, a terrorist, and a criminal of the highest order."

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 22, 2020 in state district court in Denver, was triggered by Colorado podcaster Oltmann's claim that Dr. Coomer "is controlling elections and his fingerprints are in every state." Oltmann claimed he had infiltrated a pre-election Antifa phone call and overheard someone named Eric claiming he made sure that Trump wouldn't win. Oltmann later made similar claims on One America News. The New York Times reported in December that Oltmann posted menacing messages, including "Eric Coomer, you are a traitor" and "We are coming for you and your shitbag company."

(Coomer was forced to live in hiding for months because of threats against his life and his family. His 80 year-old father started carrying a gun.)

Newsmax, in a statement published on its website May 1, 2021, said that while it aired accusations against Coomer made by Trump's lawyers and supporters, it found no evidence that they were actually true. "Newsmax has found no evidence that Dr. Coomer interfered with Dominion voting machines or voting software in any way, nor that Dr. Coomer ever claimed to have done so. Nor has Newsmax found any evidence that Dr. Coomer ever participated in any conversation with members of 'Antifa,' nor that he was directly involved with any partisan political organization. On behalf of Newsmax, we would like to apologize for any harm that our reporting of the allegations against Dr. Coomer may have caused to Dr. Coomer and his family."

NPR reported, "Coomer's attorneys said he has reached a financial settlement (with Newsmax), but terms of the arrangement were not disclosed."

Giuliani claimed at a press conference on November 19, 2020 at Republican National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. that "One of the Smartmatic patent holders, Eric Coomer, I believe his name is, is on the web as being recorded in a conversation with Antifa members saying that he had the election rigged for Mr. Biden."

But, Salon reported, when questioned by lawyers during an August, 2021 deposition in Colorado, Giuliani admitted he didn't bother to fact-check his claim, or even reach out to Oltmann. "It's not my job in a fast-moving case to go out and investigate every piece of evidence that's given to me," Giuliani said. "Why wouldn't I believe him?"

CNN reported that when Sidney Powell was deposed by Coomer's lawyer, she acknowledged that she did not have "a lot of specific knowledge about what Mr. Coomer personally did" in the supposed scheme to steal the election. She couldn't describe how the election was stolen from Trump, as she had alleged for months.

Slate reported that "Oltmann admitted (during his deposition) that he could not name a single person to authenticate the existence of the call at the center of the lawsuit. 'Other than yourself, and as you claim, Dr. Coomer, is there anyone that you can say was on the call with certainty?' an attorney for Coomer asked. 'I mean, I know for certainty that other people were on the call, yes. But I don't know for certainty the direct identity of those people,' Oltmann stated. Oltmann couldn't confirm the time and date of the supposed call, and he refused to name the person who connected him on the line, contrary to a court order from the judge."

Slate also reported that "TV host Michelle Malkin-on whose Newsmax program Oltmann first began to widely spread his allegation-could not explain the theory of how Coomer allegedly helped steal the election. 'So as you sit here, you cannot cite to the Court one working theory as to how Eric Coomer could have rigged the 2020 presidential election; isn't that true?' Coomer's attorney asked. 'That is true,' Malkin responded."

On Oct. 13, attorneys for President Trump's re-election campaign, Giuliani and conservative media figures asked a judge in Denver to dismiss the lawsuit, the Associated Press reported.

A Colorado judge on May 13, 2022 denied motions to dismiss the defamation lawsuit, the Associated Press reported.

District Court Judge Marie Avery Moses, in a 136-page decision, rejected various arguments to throw out the lawsuit, writing that "there is overwhelming evidence that an injunction would serve the public interest because the public is harmed by the spread of defamatory information."

They-knew-the-truth-all-along: A team of lawyers closely allied with President Trump held a widely watched news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 19, 2020. At the event, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell - whom President Trump days earlier had described as part of "a truly great team" - laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming, among other allegations, that the Dominion voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela "and likely China" to steal the presidential contest from Trump.

But there was a problem for the Trump team, according to court documents released on Sept. 20, 2021.

According to the New York Times, by the time the RNC news conference occurred staff on Trump's campaign had already prepared an internal memo debunking many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, its employee Eric Coomer, and a separate software company, Smartmatic. Bottom line: officials in the Trump campaign were aware early on that many of the claims against the two companies were baseless.


Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overthrow election

The Latest:  During a Jan. 29 appearance on MSNBC's "The Sunday Show," former Department of Justice official Harry Litman claimed he believes a Georgia judge is prepared to release a special grand jury report on Donald Trump's attempt to tamper with the 2020 election vote results over Fulton County DA Fani Willis' objections.

According to the former prosecutor, the imminent release -- if it happens -- is "alarming."

'Why wouldn't they want the grand jury report released?" host Jonathan Capehart asked. "Shouldn't the public see it? But if what it is is a roadmap to the investigation, I get it. But if the judge rules that the final report should be released, Harry, what do you think we will learn?"

"Quite a bit," he replied. "And as [former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance] says it's not just the roadmap. At this point, that will suggest and recommend certain charges that she's not ready to do."

"She is really not ready," he suggested of DA Willis, "and it is a little bit, I think, alarming because I think the judge is going to decide on this this week and he will give a couple days grace for the Court of Appeals but she could be, all of the sudden, on the rollercoaster without her seatbelt and everything else buckled and prepared."

District Attorney Willis told the court on Jan. 24 that a decision on whether to charge any defendants is "imminent." 

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, during which he argued that there was "more than enough" evidence of fraud and improper conduct to warrant Georgia lawmakers picking an alternative slate of presidential electors (i.e. fake Trump electors.)

In addition, Willis has indicated her team is examining a November, 2020 call U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., placed to Raffensperger. Graham called Raffensperger and his staff twice "about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump." Raffensperger told CNN that Graham had hinted that he should try to discard some ballots in Georgia. "It was just an implication of, 'Look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.'" 

At a rally in Georgia on Sept. 25, 2021 former President Trump admitted trying to overturn the 2020 election in that state. According to Trump, after his aides failed to get Georgia officials to overturn their election, Trump on Dec. 5, 2020 called Gov. Kemp. Trump told the rally, "I said, 'Let me handle it. This is easy.' I got this guy elected.... I was going to show [the aides] how good I am. 'Let me handle it. I'll call them up.' I said, 'Brian, listen, you know you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election.'"

On Jan. 24, 2022 judges on Fulton County's Superior Court bench cleared the way for a special grand jury to be used in District Attorney Willis' investigations, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Chief Judge Christopher S. Brasher directed that the special grand jury be impaneled on May 2 and continue for a period "not to exceed 12 months."  In asking the court to authorize the grand jury, Willis said her office has "received information indicating a reasonable probability that the State of Georgia's administration of elections in 2020, including the State's election of President of the United States, was subject to possible criminal disruptions."

The panel will focus exclusively on "whether there were unlawful attempts to disrupt the administration of the 2020 elections here in Georgia," Judge Robert C.I. McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court told 200 potential jurors. The panel will have up to a year to issue a report advising District Attorney Willis on whether to pursue criminal charges.

On June 2, Secretary of State Raffensperger testified before the grand jury about the infamous call Trump made to him and other attempts to overturn the state's 2020 election results, GPB News/NPR reported.

The special grand jury also subpoenaed key members of former President Trump's legal team, including Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman as well as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), according to reports from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on July 5. 

The Independent reported July 26 that Trump described on Truth Social his now-infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as "perfect".

"Many people and lawyers, on both sides, were knowingly on the one call, I assumed the call was taped, there were Zero complaints or angry 'how dare you' charges made during the call, and no 'hang ups' by anyone aggrieved or insulted at what was said," he said. He added that he was "just doing [his] job as President, and seeking Fairness and the Truth."

Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer also appeared in front of the special grand jury, a source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to CNN on July 28. In February, Shafer told the House committee that the fake electors scheme came at the direction of the Trump campaign.

The New York Times reported Aug. 15, "The legal pressures on Donald J. Trump and his closest allies intensified further on Monday, as prosecutors informed his former personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Mr. Giuliani is a target of a wide-ranging criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia." A person being deemed a target in an investigation means that "whatever has been unearthed in this investigation suggests you may have committed a crime," CBS News legal correspondent Paula Reid said when defining the term "target."

The Associated Press reported Aug. 17 that Giuliani testified before the Fulton County special grand jury for about six hours.

NBC News reported that former Trump lawyer John Eastman pleaded his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and invoked attorney-client privilege Aug. 31 when he appeared before the Fulton County grand jury.

Politico's Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein reported that U.S. District Court Judge David Carter wrote in an 18-page opinion on Oct. 19 that emails from attorney John Eastman, an architect of Trump's last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 election, "show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public." 

According to Judge Carter, Trump and his attorneys alleged in a Dec. 4, 2021 filing in Georgia state court that Fulton County had improperly counted more than 10,000 votes of dead people, felons and unregistered voters. They then moved that proceeding to federal court and discussed whether to use the same statistics in that filing. 

On Dec. 31, 2021 Eastman emailed other Trump lawyers that the numbers filed in state court were not accurate. Senior White House lawyer Eric Herschmann also cautioned Trump's attorneys about the president signing a sworn court statement verifying inaccurate evidence of voter fraud, according to emails from December 2020 obtained by Axios.

However, Trump and his lawyers opted to file the federal complaint using the same numbers that Eastman conceded were inaccurate.

Wrote Judge Carter, "President Trump, moreover, signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers 'are true and correct' or 'believed to be true and correct' to the best of his knowledge and belief. The emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public. The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States."

Gov. Brian Kemp testified Nov. 15 behind closed doors before the special grand jury for three hours. Trump White House official Cassidy Hutchinson testified Nov. 16. And Sen. Graham testified for two hours on Nov. 22. On Nov. 29, South Carolina's Supreme Court unanimously ordered former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to testify.

Attorneys for pro-Trump Republicans who claimed to be Georgia's legitimate presidential electors in 2020 (Biden, not Trump won the state) claimed on Nov. 11 they were advised by then-President Trump's campaign to cast "contingent" Electoral College ballots - just in case one of Trump's longshot legal challenges to the results succeeded, Politico reported.

Any plans by top Trump lawyers - John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and others - to use Georgia's "provisional" votes to subvert the 2020 election without any legal backing were concocted without their knowledge, attorneys for the pro-Trump activists said.

The Fulton County special grand jury investigating former President Trump's attempts to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election results submitted its final report on Jan. 9, according to The Associated Press.

Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney received the report and ordered the grand jury dissolved almost one year after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) first put in a request for assistance in her investigation.

A hearing is slated for Jan. 24 to decide whether the report should be made public, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Judge 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 information on the federal investigation into the effort in Georgia to overturn the election, see "Justice Department and states investigate GOP plot to submit fake Electoral College votes" below.)

House Select Committee completes investigation of Jan. 6 riot, forwards criminal referrals to DOJ, plus, 

  • Running Tally: Who cooperated and who did not
  • Legal Analysis: Is Donald Trump guilty of criminal obstruction? 
  • 64 Days That Will Live in Infamy - Nov. 4, 2020 thru Jan. 6, 2021

The Latest: District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found Danean MacAndrew guilty of four crimes during the Jan. 6 insurrection, accusing the California woman of following then-President Trump's "instructions" in breaking the law, AXIOS reported Jan. 17.

MacAndrew filmed herself storming the Capitol with the mob of pro-Trump supporters and was found guilty by Judge Kollar-Kotelly on charges including violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building after a three-day bench trial.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote "Defendant marched to the Capitol where, she testified, she understood that only Congress had the power to fix the election's outcome and that Congress was likely in session while she was around and in the Capitol. Every step of the way, from the western boundary of Capitol grounds, to the West Lawn, to the Upper West Terrace, to the interior of the Capitol itself, she saw sign after sign that her presence was unlawful.

"Nevertheless, heeding the call of former President Trump, she continued onwards to 'stop the steal.' Having followed then-President Trump's instructions, which were in line with her stated desires, the Court therefore finds that Defendant intended her presence to be disruptive to Congressional business."

Background:  On July 1, 2021 the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), appointed members to the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack to examine and report on the facts and causes relating to, what her office described as, "the terrorist mob attack on the United States Capitol."

Pelosi appointed seven Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who was the lead manager in Trump's first impeachment trial and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who served as lead manager for Trump's second impeachment. Also serving on the committee are Trump-critics Rep. Liz Cheney (R- Wyoming) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois). The chair is Mississippi Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson. Rep. Cheney is vice-chair.

Speaker Pelosi blocked GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy's nominees, Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, because they both actively spread misinformation about the 2020 election. But she accepted GOP Reps. Troy Nehls, Rodney Davis, and Kelly Armstrong. McCarthy, however, rescinded their nominations to protest the Speaker's decision to bar Jordan and Banks.  (Fast forward: On June 19, 2022, following several nationally-televised committee hearings, former President Trump criticized McCarthy's decision. "Unfortunately, a bad decision was made. This Committee - it was a bad decision not to have representation on this Committee. That was a very, very foolish decision.")

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

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

Politico reported Oct. 8 that President Biden had decided not to invoke executive privilege to shield an initial set of records from Trump's White House being sought by the Select Committee. 

Trump responded by suing the committee and the National Archives to block the release of his White House's records, Politico reported Oct. 18.  (At issue is the Presidential Records Act, a law passed by Congress to ensure that a president's official records belong to the people, not the occupant of the office, after the Supreme Court in 1977 rejected Nixon's attempt to stop the release of White House tapes and documents from the Watergate scandal.)

On Nov. 10, D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump's efforts to block the Jan. 6 committee from obtaining records from the National Archives. "The court holds that the public interest lies in permitting-not enjoining-the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on Jan. 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again," the judge wrote.

Lawyers for former President Trump on Nov. 16 asked an appeals court to overturn Judge Chutkan's ruling, The Hill reported. In a brief filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump argued that the ruling from U.S. District Judge Chutkan is essentially a "rubber stamp" for the committee and would upend the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

On Dec. 9 the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. ruled against the effort by Trump to shield documents from the House committee, the Associated Press reported. The court's ruling reads, in part, "Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President's constitutional responsibilities." 

Former President Trump then turned to the Supreme Court, the Associated Press reported Dec. 23. Trump's attorneys argued "both the Constitution and the Presidential Records Act give former Presidents a clear right to protect their confidential records from premature dissemination. This case presents a clear threat to that right."

On Jan. 19, 2022 the Supreme Court rejected Trump's effort to stop the National Archives from giving the House Jan. 6 committee hundreds of pages of documents from his time in the White House.  USA Today reported the four-page decision by Chief Justice John Roberts stated, in part, "Because the Court of Appeals concluded that President Trump's claims would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former President necessarily made no difference to the court's decision."

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."

Ivanka Trump said she knew her father had lost the election and believed Barr's conclusion that there was no widespread voter fraud. "I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying," she said. 

According to witness testimony at the committee's June 16 hearing, Vice President Pence himself and the lawyer who concocted the scheme to have Pence overturn the 2020 presidential election, John Eastman, both advised President Trump that the plan was unconstitutional and violated federal law.  Eastman later plead the Fifth more than 100 times in his deposition before the January 6 Committee.

Judge Michael Luttig, a nationally prominent conservative justice, told the committee that Trump, as well as his allies and supporters, "are a clear and present danger to American democracy."

"That's not because of what happened on January 6 -- it's because to this very day, the former president, his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election, that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election."

Rusty Bowers, the Republican leader of the Arizona state legislature, told the committee at its June 21 hearing that President Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called him shortly after the election and claimed that hundreds of thousands of illegals voted in Arizona as well as thousands of dead people. Bowers asked for the evidence. Trump told Giuliani to give Bowers the evidence. Giuliani promised to deliver it. But, according to Bowers, Giuliani never did and at a subsequent meeting in Phoenix, Giuliani admitted to Bowers that "We've got a lot of theories, we just don't have the evidence."

Shaye Moss, a Georgia election worker, was a target of a conspiracy theory spread by former President Trump and his allies. She told the committee the lies by Trump of harvesting fraudulent votes "turned my life upside down."

Moss fought back tears as she told how the harassment campaign against her upended her life in the weeks after the 2020 election.

"I no longer give out my business card. I don't transfer calls. I don't want anyone knowing my name," Moss testified. "I don't go anywhere with my mom. I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all. I've gained about 60 pounds."

(On Jan. 6, 2023, the 2nd anniversary of the Capitol riot, President Biden gave Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, another Georgia election worker, the Presidential Citizens Medal for their contributions toward preserving democracy in America.)

At the committee's hearing on June 23, 2022 it was announced that at least six Republican members of Congress sought pardons in the final days of Trump's presidency. They included Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Louis Gohmert (R-TX) and Scott Perry (R-PA). Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) summarized: "The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you have committed a crime."

Politico reported "The hearing highlighted how Trump's West Wing became a haven for conspiracy theories about election fraud that he then tasked DOJ and other cabinet agencies to investigate. When the theories were debunked, Trump would fall back on new ones, often plucked from far-flung corners of the internet and laundered through pro-Trump channels until they reached the Oval Office."

Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue described one such theory - that Italian satellites had switched votes from Trump to Joe Biden - as "pure insanity."

On June 28, the Select Committee heard from Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She testified that when she asked Meadows about plans for Jan. 6, "He didn't look up from his phone and said something to the effect of, 'There's a lot going on Cass, but I don't know, things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.'"

Hutchinson also testified that former President Trump knew many of his supporters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 were armed and demanded that they be let into a secure area at his rally. "He thought the mags (metal detectors) were at fault for not letting everybody in. But another leading reason, likely the primary reason, is because he wanted it full and he was angry that we weren't letting people through the mags with weapons -- what the Secret Service deems as weapons." Hutchinson said, "I overheard the President say something to the effect of 'I don't F-ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in, take the f-ing mags away." 

She also testified Trump left after his rally speech on Jan. 6 expecting he would be taken to the Capitol. According to Hutchinson, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Tony Ornato recounted Trump screaming, "I'm the f---ing President. Take me up to the Capitol now." Trump then "reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel." She added that, according to Ornato, Trump used his other hand to "lunge" at Secret Service Agent Robert Engel.  (Ornato was interviewed virtually Nov. 29 for roughly five to six hours. He told lawmakers and committee staff that he did not recall that conversation with Hutchinson.)

Hutchinson also testified that Meadows and Rudy Giuliani each sought pardons related to their actions on Jan. 6. And attorney John Eastman asked Giuliani about a potential pardon in an email. "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works."  

The Select Committee on July 12 presented evidence that former President Trump knew that he legitimately lost the 2020 election to Biden, Raw Story reported.

Testimony from former Trump administration officials revealed that White House lawyers, known as "team normal," worked for hours on Dec. 18, 2020 to systematically debunk conspiracy theories about the election in an hours-long meeting with the president and his outside advisors, including Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

On July 21, the committee held a hearing focusing on "then-President Trump's refusal for more than three hours to call off the mob attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6," the Los Angeles Times reported. The committee attempted to show that Trump's inaction constituted a dereliction of duty.

"The mob was accomplishing President Trump's purpose, so of course he didn't intervene," committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger stated.  "President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the Ellipse and telling the mob to go home. He chose not to act."

Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the committee on Sept. 29 the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump. However, Thomas, a lawyer, provided no evidence to support her claim.

The committee voted Oct. 13 to subpoena Trump. The subpoena required him to turn over documents by Nov. 4 and to appear for a deposition Nov. 14.  Trump ignored the committee's subpoena.

The House select committee released its highly anticipated final report Dec. 22, presenting a full account of its findings on former President Donald Trump's efforts to maintain power, USA Today reported. The 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. 
  • Evidence obtained by the Select Committee shows the Republican National Committee knew that President Trump's claims about winning the election were baseless.

  • The committee said it was "particularly troubling" that certain witnesses took the Fifth, including Gen. Michael Flynn, who refused to comment on such basic questions as whether he believed the violence on Jan. 6 was justified and whether he believed "in the peaceful transition of power" in the U.S. 

  • GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee, described as "the most shameful findings" from the hearings: "President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television."

  • The committee concluded Trump was "directly and personally involved" in the effort to delay the counting of Electoral College votes during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, and acted with a "corrupt" purpose.

  • The committee also recommended the House Ethics Committee investigate four Republican lawmakers - including Kevin McCarthy, the future House speaker - for defying the committee's subpoenas.

  • The panel also 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.

Running Tally: Who cooperated and who did not

Who's cooperating: First  Daughter and former White House advisor Ivanka Trump, former President Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, former Vice President Pence chief of staff Marc Short, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Rosen aide Richard Donoghueformer Trump transportation secretary Elaine Chao, Trump's education secretary Betsy DeVos, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee Ronna Romney McDaniel, Trump's White House counsel Pat Cipollone, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (he cooperated before he didn't), former chief counsel to VP Pence Greg Jacob, Trump White House aide Hope Hicks, former VP Pence national security advisor Keith Kelloggformer head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Engel, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchinformer White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former Attorney General William Barr,  former White House national security advisor Robert O'Brien, former Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, Trump's son-in-law and former White House advisor Jared Kushner, former Trump White House and campaign aide Kellyanne Conway,  Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Trump's "election fraud" attorney Sidney Powell,  former White House press secretary and chief of staff to First Lady Melania Trump Stephanie Grisham, "Stop the Steal" rally organizer Ali Alexander,  Trump re-election campaign advisor and current fiancée to Donald Trump Jr. Kimberly Guilfoyle and former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller The committee has interviewed over 1,000 witnesses.

Who's not cooperating:  Former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (PA), Mo Brooks (Alabama), Andy Biggs (Arizona), and Ronny Jackson (Texas).  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, child grown old Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Gen. Michael Flynn, Oath Keepers' leader Stewart Rhodes and Trump lawyers John Eastman and Jenna Ellis.  Also, Peter Navarro, Dan Scavino and former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. Steve Bannon refused to testify and was sentenced to four months in jail for defying a subpoena from the House select committee.   More than 30 witnesses asserted their Fifth Amendment rights during testimony. They include former national security adviser Gen. Mike Flynn, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump attorney Jennis Ellis, Trump confidant Roger Stone, Constitutional attorney John Eastman, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward. Many took the Fifth when asked by the committee "what supposed proof they uncovered that the election was stolen."

Legal Analysis: Is Donald Trump guilty of criminal obstruction?

"At the core of a possible criminal case against former President Trump is this argument - He knew he had lost the election and sought to overturn it anyway." - New York Times

"Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election...it was a coup in search of a legal theory."  - Judge David O. Carter

Twice during the week of Dec. 13, 2021, Select Committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) raised the possibility that former President Trump's conduct while a mob of his supporters overtook the Capitol could qualify as an effort to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden's victory. Cheney described that as a "key" topic facing the panel, Politico's Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu reported.

"Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress' official proceeding to count electoral votes?" Vice Chair Cheney asked during a committee meeting and again during a floor speech before the House of Representatives. Rep. Cheney's statement includes precise terminology from the federal criminal obstruction statute, Cheney and Wu report.

And on March 2, 2022 the committee claimed in a court filing its evidence shows former President Trump and his associates engaged in a "criminal conspiracy" to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election, spread false information about it and pressured state officials to overturn the results, according to the Associated Press.

"The evidence supports an inference that President Trump and members of his campaign knew he had not won enough legitimate state electoral votes to be declared the winner of the 2020 Presidential election during the January 6 Joint Session of Congress, but the President nevertheless sought to use the Vice President to manipulate the results in his favor," the filing states.

Wrote Greg Sargent at the Washington Post on Jan. 4, "Determining whether Trump's conduct constituted such a violation is complicated. It might require determining whether Trump saw the (Jan. 6) violence as instrumentally helpful in subverting the electoral count, and deliberately refrained from calling off the attack to serve that express goal.

"Then there's the question of whether disrupting the electoral count constitutes obstructing an official proceeding, and whether Trump, in inciting the mob to descend on the Capitol during that count, participated in that obstruction."

To convict someone of that crime, wrote Politico's Cheney and Wu, a jury must determine that a defendant took an obstructive action, affected an "official proceeding" and acted with "corrupt" intentions.

NRO's contributing editor Andrew C. McCarthy concluded, "Trump is impeachably responsible for the riot because his performance leading up to it was a betrayal of his public trust. He is morally responsible for the riot because he created the conditions without which it would not have happened. But he is not legally responsible for it - in the sense that Democrats and other critics invoke when they call for his criminal prosecution - because there is a dearth of evidence that he intended violence, much less called for it.

"Legally speaking that is very different from seditious conspiracy, proof of which requires - beyond a reasonable doubt - a preexisting agreement to levy war against the United States or attack our government by force. There is no evidence that Trump is guilty of that."

On Feb. 18, however, Federal District Judge Amita Mehta ruled that civil suits by police officers and members of Congress alleging a conspiracy to foment the Jan. 6 insurrection could proceed. In a detailed 112-page ruling, Mehta concluded that the plaintiffs had made a "plausible" case that former President Trump himself was at the center of a conspiracy to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Mehta noted that it was "the president's and his campaign's idea to send thousands to the Capitol while the certification was underway. It was not a planned part of the rally."

The New York Times reported that in another case, Judge David O. Carter of Federal District Court for the Central District of California in March, 2022 "concluded...that Mr. Trump and a lawyer who had advised him, John Eastman, had most likely committed felonies in their effort to overturn the election. 'The illegality of the plan was obvious.'

"Judge Carter cited two crimes that he said the two men were likely guilty of committing: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstructing a congressional proceeding."

The judge wrote, "Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. Their campaign was not confined to the Ivory tower - it was a coup in search of a legal theory."

Opinion columnist Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor, wrote at the New York Daily News on March 10:

"Every competent prosecutor knows why Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice have not indicted Trump. I'm going to say it out loud.

"If Trump were charged, it's unlikely he would negotiate a plea deal. Instead, he would go to trial and make every step of the process a platform to cast himself as a victim of a vindictive Biden administration. He would use the renewed attention to spew lies about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. And he would raise money, lots of money, to fund his anticipated 2024 presidential campaign.

"But most important, despite a mountain of evidence that would convict most people many times over, Trump would not be convicted. Criminal convictions require a unanimous verdict.

"On a 12-person jury, there are going to be Trump supporters."

On June 15, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, also commented at Politico Magazine on the challenges of prosecuting Donald Trump:  "Prosecutors would have to overcome the likely defense that Trump sincerely believed the election had been stolen because he had been told so by people he believed were knowledgeable. Defendants usually don't go to prison for following legal advice. While Eastman, Giuliani and Powell were conspiracy theorists whose claims were thrown out of multiple courts, they also were lawyers with, at one time, good credentials. Trump's defense team would argue that he trusted them and relied on their advice. Poor judgment might disqualify someone for public office, but it is not, in and of itself, a crime."

Ty Cobb, who was one of then-President Trump's legal defenders during Mueller's Russia-gate investigation, says there is a "very high" possibility the former president could get indicted, Ryan King at the Washington Examiner reported Sept. 9.

Cobb believes the "Justice Department has signaled that they intend to prosecute" Trump "no matter what" because of the obstructive activity he took during the Jan. 6 riot. "He clearly violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution's Article III when he gave aid and comfort and three hours of inaction with regard to what was happening on the grounds of the Capitol. That clearly gave aid and comfort to the insurrectionists."

64 Days that Will Live in Infamy - Nov. 4 through Jan. 6

Timeline of first-ever presidential coup attempt in U.S. history

  • President Trump: "We want all voting to stop."
  • Former President Trump on Mike Pence: "He could have overturned the Election!"

Nov. 4, 2020

The day after the election, 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."

Nov. 5

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

Donald Trump Jr., the oldest son of the president, texts Meadows outlining a strategy that is nearly identical to what allies of the President will attempt to carry out in the months ahead.  In his texts, Trump Jr. makes specific reference to filing lawsuits and advocating recounts to prevent certain swing states from certifying their results, as well as having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake "Trump electors." Trump Jr. texts Meadows "we have operational control" to ensure his father gets a second term, with Republican majorities in the U.S. Senate and swing state legislatures.  "It's very simple. We have multiple paths. We control them all."

Nov. 6

With Biden 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?"

The president's advisors tell him that there are specific legal steps to follow to get before the Supreme Court. Trump instructs them to figure that process out.

Nov. 7

Former Vice President Joe Biden is declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election by various media outlets. 

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sends email discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors to the Electoral College. Utah Senator Mike Lee texts Meadows: "Sydney (sic) Powell is saying that she needs to get in to see the president, but she's being kept away from him. Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help her get in?" (On Nov. 9, Lee texts Meadows that he found Powell to be a "straight shooter.")

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 adult bookstore owner complains to the media they are taking up all his customer parking.

Nov. 9

Virginia Thomas sends an email to 29 Arizona state legislators. "Article II of the United States Constitution gives you an awesome responsibility: to choose our state's Electors... [P]lease take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen."  (Thomas's name also appears on an email to a group of Arizona representatives on Dec. 13, the day before members of the electoral college met to cast their votes and seal Biden's Arizona victory. 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, Wisconsin, that Biden won. "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."

Nov. 10

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." (Ginni Thomas, a lawyer, would admit later to the Jan. 6 Select Committee that she had no evidence to support her claims of voter fraud.)

Nov. 17

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.)

Nov. 18

Attorney Kenneth Chesebro, a legal advisor to the Trump campaign, begins drafting memos on the fake elector scheme to submit to Congress Trump electors in seven states that voted for Biden.  (Other Chesebro memos on the illegal scheme are dated Dec. 9 and Dec. 13.) 

Nov. 19

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.

Mid to late November

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

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

Nov. 23

Attorney General Barr grows so frustrated with Trump's election conspiracy theories that he confronts the president and tells him his claims are "bullshit." Burr then tells Trump: "I understand you're upset with me. And I'm perfectly happy to tender my resignation." Trump slaps his desk and says: "Accepted. Accepted. Go home. Don't go back to your office. Go home. You're done."

Dec. 1

Barr, 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.

Early December

At a White House meeting, White House counsel Pat Cipollone tells 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." Cipollone and other White House attorneys explain that trying to certify a Trump win in that manner "did not comply with the law."

Dec. 4

Attorney and U.S. Constitution "expert" John Eastman urges Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to retabulate the state's popular vote - and throw out tens of thousands of absentee ballots - in order to show Trump - not Biden - with a lead.

Dec. 5

After President Trump's aides fail to get Georgia officials to overturn their election, Trump calls Republican governor Brian Kemp.  Trump told a rally in September, 2021, "I said, 'Let me handle it. This is easy.' I got this guy elected.... I was going to show [his aides] how good I am. 'Let me handle it. I'll call them up.' I said, 'Brian, listen, you know you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election.'"  

Trump also urged Kemp to use his "emergency powers" to block the certification of the results and name a slate of Republican electors to award him the state's 16 electoral votes. Kemp, a former election official, tells Trump he didn't have such powers.

Meanwhile, a steadily changing cast of Trump campaign lawyers, including Giuliani and Powell, 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.)

Dec. 8

Trump calls Georgia's Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, warning him not to interfere with a Texas lawsuit that seeks to overturn election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states won by Biden. The Texas lawsuit argues that Biden's victories in the four states should be thrown out over unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud. The suit argues Republican-led legislatures in all four states should be allowed to select a pro-Trump slate of electors and hand Trump the 2020 election.

Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee, who on Nov. 7 urged President Trump to "exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans faith in our elections," sends a text to White House Chief of Staff Meadows suggesting a strategy for reversing Trump's defeat. "If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path." Meadows replies, "I am working on that as of yesterday."

Dec. 9

Trump hypes the Texas case in the run-up to the Supreme Court's ruling. "We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!" he tweets.

Dec. 10

Georgia Attorney General Carr files a response to the Texas lawsuit with the Supreme Court, urging the justices to reject the Trump-backed lawsuit. 

Dec. 11

All nine justices of the Supreme Court - including the three Trump-appointed justices - reject hearing the Texas lawsuit on the grounds the state lacks the standing to overthrow elections in other states. "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections." (Former White House chief of staff 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 testifies in 2022 that she witnessed a conversation soon after the Supreme Court decision in which Trump told chief of staff Meadows something to the effect of: "I don't want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don't want people to know that we lost."

A few days before Dec. 14

President Trump works with allies to prepare a series of false Trump electoral slates from states Biden actually 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.)

Dec. 14

The Electoral College - electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia - cast their ballots and forwarded their "Certificates of Ascertainment" to the vice president and the National Archives, officially declaring 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.

Dec. 15

President Trump summons acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to the Oval Office and demands the DOJ file legal briefs supporting lawsuits challenging election results in key battleground states and that Rosen appoint special counsels to investigate Dominion Voting Systems, who Trump's lawyers claim - without evidence - switched Trump votes to Biden. Rosen declines, citing former Attorney General Barr's announcement on Dec. 1 that there was no wide-spread election fraud.

Trump personally calls election officials in Wayne County, Michigan in a last-ditch effort to overturn the election in that state.

Dec. 16

An executive order is drafted 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.

Dec. 18

Former U.S. Army General Fynn, who lasted less than a month as President Trump's first national security advisor, and attorney Powell, who had, by this time, filed unsuccessful lawsuits claiming China, Venezuela, Iran and George Soros worked to turn a Trump victory into defeat, attend an Oval Office meeting with President Trump. 

The day before Flynn had told Newsmax the president could deploy military troops and declare martial law in order to rerun the election in certain states.  ''He could immediately on his order seize every single one of these machines around the country. He could also order, within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states. It's not unprecedented.'' 

Flynn and Powell present the President with a draft executive order authorizing the military to seize voting machines throughout the country and appoint Powell as "a special counsel overseeing election integrity."  The President reads the draft and verbally agrees to appoint Powell special counsel.  

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

White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Eric Herschmann learn of the meeting, enter the Oval Office and begin working to systematically debunk Trump, Powell and Flynn's conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

Cipollone tells the group there was no evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, asking "one simple questions, as a general matter 'Where is the evidence?'" Cipollone also tells Trump he opposes giving Powell any authority to investigate alleged election fraud. 

The hours-long meeting ends near midnight with Trump's allies insulting and verbally attacking the White House counsel. 

(Trump ultimately rejects the draft executive order and the White House never follows through with the appointment of Powell as special counsel.)

Dec. 19

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!"

Dec. 21

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.

Dec. 23

President Trump calls Georgia election investigator Frances Watson, who is leading a probe into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County. "The people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me," he tells her. "They know I won, won by hundreds of thousands of votes. It wasn't close."

President Trump pressures Watson to find "dishonesty" and "When the right answer comes out, you'll be praised."

Dec. 23 thru Jan. 3

According to 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."

Dec. 27

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry, at the behest of President Trump, calls Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to tell him he didn't think the Justice Department had done its job on the election. During the call, Perry focuses on alleged fraud in his home state of Pennsylvania and follows up the conversation with an email to Donoghue forwarding additional debunked claims of election fraud from GOP state lawmakers in Pennsylvania. The claims are similar to those Trump is making, including a claim that Pennsylvania had 205,000 more votes than voters.

Rep. Perry, who originally introduced Trump to Clark in October, tells Donoghue, "I think Jeff Clark is great. I like that guy a lot. He's the kind of guy who could really get in there and do something about this. " 

President Trump telephones Acting Attorney General Rosen and his deputy Donoghue and urges them to publicly declare the results of the 2020 election "corrupt." According to notes Donoghue took, Rosen tells Trump that he needs to "understand that the DOJ can't + won't snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn't work that way."

"[I] don't expect you to do that," Trump reportedly answers, "just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen."

Donoghue tells Trump, "Sir, we've done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed."

Trump ends the conversation by telling Rosen, "People tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in. People want me to replace DOJ leadership." (It is reported that Clark believed smart thermostats hacked by the Chinese might have been used to manipulate Dominion voting machines in Georgia.)

Dec. 28

At President Trump's urging, Clark circulates a draft letter -- which Clark wanted his bosses Rosen and Donoghue to approve -- urging Georgia's governor to convene the state legislature into special session. Clark's draft letter falsely claims the Justice Department was "investigating various irregularities" in the presidential election and had "identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election."

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, read Trump campaign-filed affidavits 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 were 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."

Dec. 29

Trump and his allies urge the Department of Justice to take Trump's false claims of a stolen election directly to the Supreme Court. 

Dec. 31

White House Chief of Staff Meadows emails Vice President Pence's top aide a detailed plan for undoing Biden's election victory. The memo, written by President Trump's campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, outlines a multi-step strategy: On Jan. 6, the day Congress certifies the 2020 election results, Pence is to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Biden won but Trump claims were stolen from him through election fraud. Pence would then give the states a deadline of "7pm eastern standard time on January 15th" to send back a new set of votes. Then, if any state legislature missed that deadline, "no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state." In that case, neither Biden nor Trump would have a majority of votes, which would mean "Congress shall vote by state delegation" -- which would lead to Trump being declared the winner due to Republicans controlling the majority of state delegations in the U.S Congress.

In a meeting with top Justice Department officials in the Oval Office, President Trump 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 possible reasoning behind their belief that Justice Thomas would be sympathetic to their legal plea.)

In late December

Vice President Pence reaches out to former Vice President Dan Quayle to ask what he should do on Jan. 6. Quayle quickly puts the kibosh on any effort to overturn the election, telling Pence: "Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away."

When Pence "pressed again," explaining that he was under pressure from Trump to reject Biden's electoral college votes on Jan. 6, Quayle responded: "I do know the position you're in. I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian [who issues rulings about congressional authority]. That's all you do. You have no power.'"

Jan. 2, 2021

President Trump, Giuliani and Eastman speak to 300 state legislators via a conference call to arm them with purported evidence of fraud and urge them to take action to "decertify" their election results. "You are the real power," Trump tells the state lawmakers. "You're the ones that are going to make the decision." Eastman said the legislators had the authority to appoint their own set of pro-Trump electors, regardless of who won the election in their states.

President Trump phones Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and asks him to "find" enough votes to overturn the state's election. "All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes," the exact number Trump needs to overturn Biden's win in Georgia. Trump argues Raffensperger can change the certified results of the presidential election, an assertion Raffensperger rejects. 

Eastman, who founded the ironically named law firm Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, tells a radio interviewer that Vice President Pence has the power to throw the election to the House of Representatives, saying it depended on whether Pence had "courage and the spine." Says Eastman, "I think if the vice president, as presiding over the joint session, would at least agree that because those ongoing contests have not been resolved, we can't count those electors. That, that, that means that nobody has a majority of the electors. And either they delay things -- so those constitutional challenges are resolved -- or they say, 'OK, well, we don't have electors from those states, that nobody has a majority. This is going to the House.'"

Justice Department official Clark both threatens and attempts to coerce acting Attorney General Rosen into sending the letter to Georgia. (Clark also wants the letter sent to other states where Trump supporters are contesting Biden's vote totals.) Clark raises the prospect that Trump could fire Rosen but then says he would decline any offer to replace Rosen as acting attorney general if Rosen sends the letter. (Evidence subsequently comes to light in November, 2021 indicating that Clark's proposed letter to Georgia may have 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 enough to accept the election results.

Jan. 3

President Trump tries to call fellow Republican Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in Arizona. But Hickman dodges the call. Hickman listens to the audio of Trump's call and is "horrified." Hickman says he didn't call the president back because he suspected Trump would do what he did to Georgia's Secretary of State Raffensperger on Jan. 2 (i.e. ask him to "find" votes.) "I didn't want to walk into that space."

At an extraordinary Oval Office showdown, President Trump meets with the top leaders of the Justice Department.  Jeffrey Clark, an environmental lawyer who had never conducted a criminal investigation in the career, repeatedly tells the president that if named attorney general, he would conduct investigations that would uncover widespread fraud, he would send out the Georgia letter he had drafted and that he had the intelligence, 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.

Jan. 4

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." 

Jan. 5

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."

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." (A jury subsequently found Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy on Nov. 29, 2022 over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.)

Jan. 6

In the morning, President Trump tweets, "States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!"

At 11:20 a.m., during Trump's final call with Pence before heading to the rally, the president pressures the vice president to overturn the election. "You can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as a pussy." 

But Pence sends a letter to Congress stating, "It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not."

As the joint session of Congress convenes to confirm the Biden victory, thousands of Trump supporters gather on the Ellipse near the White House for the "Stop the Steal" rally. 

Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato tells President Trump some of his supporters are bringing weapons to the rally.

But Trump demands all his supporters be let into the secure area for his rally. "I don't fucking care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags (metal detectors) away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here." (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 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 sheltering in a 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 indicates that President Trump continues to pressure the Vice President to act illegally: "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."

Trump was informed of the fatal shooting of rioter Ashli Babbitt at some point 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 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."

At 3:17 p.m., Fox News reports gunshots are heard on Capitol Hill. 

President Trump continues to watch events unfold on Fox News in the executive dining room. "He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV," says one close adviser.

At 4:15 p.m., Joe Biden holds a press conference and urges the mob to "pull back," calling on Trump "to go on national television...and demand an end to this siege."

At 4:17 p.m., 187 minutes after President Trump began his speech at the rally, Trump finally asks his followers to go home. "I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you, you're very special."  

The insurgency finally ends.

At 6:01 p.m., Trump tweets that "these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots."

And at 9:02 p.m. Congress certifies the Electoral College vote - with Vice President Pence performing his ceremonial role of presiding over the process - naming Joe Biden president-elect.  However, 147 Republican senators and representatives-more than half of the Republicans in Congress-join in objecting to the final certification of the Arizona and Pennsylvania electoral slates that voted for Biden. (Blog editor's note: Among those voting not to certify is the future Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy.)

Eleven days later...Jan. 17

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) sends a text to Mark Meadows, three days before Joe Biden is set to take office:  "Mark, in seeing what's happening so quickly, and reading about the Dominion law suits attempting to stop any meaningful investigation we are at a point of no return in saving our Republic !! Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!"

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) text Meadows: "In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall law."

(Martial law is the imposition of direct military control - sometimes by violence - of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law.)

Justice Department investigating Jan. 6 riot

The Latest:   The Justice Department's investigation into former President Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election continues.

Former Trump-era Department of Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli is testifying before a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, on Jan. 26.

Cuccinelli headed into the grand jury area just before 10 a.m. ET at the federal courthouse, where prosecutors looking at efforts to undermine the 2020 election as part of special counsel Jack Smith's investigation are also gathered.

"Yep," Cuccinelli told CNN when asked if was there to testify to the grand jury. When asked about the topic, he said, "Don't know."

Cuccinelli was a notable figure in Donald Trump's attempts to use his administration to pursue unfounded election fraud claims after the 2020 election and was a frequent presence around Trump's Oval Office.

He previously testified to the House select committee that investigated the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

His appearance at the federal courthouse suggests that prosecutors are continuing to look into high-level conversations within the Trump administration after the election, and may build upon other testimony of top White House officials who have appeared before the grand jury.

(For more on Cuccinelli's role in the Trump coup attempt, see Dec. 31 under "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy" above.)

Background: The DOJ inspector general's office announced on Jan. 25, 2021 that it was launching an investigation into "whether any former or current DOJ official engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election."

And then in March, 2022 the Justice Department expanded its criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to include examining the preparations and planning for the rally that preceded the riot, the Washington Post reported March 30.

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

In March, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Justice will "not shy away" from Jan. 6 investigations that may be seen as inherently "controversial or sensitive or political."

"To do that would undermine an element of the rule of law that we treat like cases alike without regard to the subject matter," Garland said.

Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, appeared the of week July 17 before the federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.  Greg Jacob, who was Vice President Pence's counsel and who, along with Short, fought Trump's effort to force the vice president to overturn the election, also appeared before the grand jury.

And two former top lawyers for the Trump White House also appeared at federal court to testify before the grand jury, Reuters reported Sept. 2.  Pat Cipollone, Trump's chief counsel, remained in the grand jury room for more than two hours before exiting the courthouse without answering questions. Shortly after his departure, Reuters witnesses spotted former White House Deputy Counsel Pat Philbin arrive at the federal courthouse in Washington.

CNN reported Sept. 13 that Justice Department criminal prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election -- including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts.

Investigators may be looking into whether people associated with Trump's Save America PAC defrauded people out of money using claims they knew to be false about the 2020 election being stolen. 

The New York Times reported Sept. 12, "The Justice Department has issued about 40 subpoenas over the past week seeking information about the actions of former President Donald Trump and his associates related to the 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, according to people familiar with the situation." 

On Nov. 18, Fox News reported Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Justice Department official Jack Smith as special counsel.  Smith will oversee the investigation into Trump's retention of classified documents after leaving the White House and whether the former president obstructed the federal government's investigation into the matter as well as whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Department of Justice asked Mike Pence to testify in its investigation of various aspects of Trump's attempted election subversion and the former vice-president was considering the request, sources with knowledge of the situation told the Guardian and ABC News in late November.

Former Trump adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller testified on Nov. 29 to the federal grand jury in Washington, DC, as part of the Jan. 6, 2021, investigation, CNN reported. Federal investigators have for months sought information from Trump's inner circle in the White House, attempting to gather insight into Trump's state of mind before his supporters rioted.

And, 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 NewsFormer White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Pat Philbin were spotted at D.C. District Court. 

Both Cipollone and Philbin had appeared earlier before the grand jury in September but declined to answer some questions until the privilege matter was resolved, sources told ABC News at the time.

The move to subpoena the two men signals a dramatic escalation in the Justice Department's investigation into the Jan. 6 attack and also show that newly appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith has not slowed any investigative efforts into both the events surrounding Jan. 6 or Trump's handling of government documents.


Justice Department and states investigate 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.

Georgia and Michigan are also investigating.

Fake Electoral College certificates were created after the 2020 election by Trump allies in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, who sought to replace Biden presidential electors. (The submissions from New Mexico and Pennsylvania contained a disclaimer saying the fake electoral votes should be counted only if courts later determined that they were, in fact, the qualified electors from their states. No such court determinations were ever made.)

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reported on Jan. 13, 2022 she had referred her investigation in Michigan to the U.S. Department of Justice. The attorney general of New Mexico, Hector Balderas, also referred the results of his investigation to Washington. (And the House Select Committee issued subpoenas connected with the plot.)

On Dec. 14, 2020, the Electoral College - electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia - cast their ballots and forwarded their "Certificates of Ascertainment" to the National Archives, officially declaring Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States. However, on the same day, Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, the Republican National Committee and certain Republican state parties, organized meetings of Trump supporters in seven states Trump lost to Biden and drafted language for fake Electoral College certificates. The unauthorized electors declared themselves "duly elected and qualified" and submitted the phony documents to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in hopes that on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress convened to certify the election, the fake certificates would be recognized as official by Vice President Pence, who chaired the proceedings.

One fake elector from Michigan boasted at an event hosted by a local Republican organization in February, 2022 that the Trump campaign directed the entire operation, CNN reported. "We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that," Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said at a public event organized by the conservative group Stand Up Michigan.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told USA Today on Feb. 3 that prosecutors in her office will investigate the submission of a fake slate of electors by Republicans in Georgia. In early May, Willis told CNN, "I don't plan on specifically coordinating with the Department of Justice. What their investigation would be is obviously election fraud that may have occurred anyplace in this great country. Mine is much smaller -- a big investigation, but much smaller. I am only looking into election interference in the state of Georgia and, more specifically, things that they asked for around that call that occurred in my county, Fulton County."

CNN reported Feb. 25 David Shafer, the chairman of the Republican Party in Georgia, told the House Select Committee that the Trump campaign had directed the party in 2020 to put forward an alternate slate of electors after then-President Trump lost the state's vote. "Acting on the advice of counsel in the election contest, Chairman Shafer convened the Republican nominees for Presidential Elector to cast their votes for President and Vice President for the sole purpose of preserving a remedy in the event the lawsuit succeeded," his attorney, Bob Driscoll, said in a statement. "There was nothing secret or surreptitious about the meeting. He and the other Republican Electors were acting provisionally to protect a remedy in the event President Trump ultimately succeeded in the pending (legal) contest."

(For more on this investigation, see "Georgia county DA, federal government investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overthrow election" above.) 

And then on March 30, the New York Times reported federal prosecutors substantially widened their Jan. 6 investigation to examine the possible culpability of a broad range of figures involved in former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

"The investigation now encompasses the possible involvement of other government officials in Mr. Trump's attempts to obstruct the certification of President Biden's Electoral College victory and the push by some Trump allies to promote slates of fake electors."

The New York Times reported May 25 that a federal grand jury in Washington has started issuing subpoenas to people linked to the alternate elector plan, requesting information about several lawyers involved in the scheme, including Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and another one of Trump's legal advisers, John Eastman.

The FBI has subpoenaed records from the Republican leader of Arizona's state Senate as well as another GOP state senator, KPNX-TV (Phoenix) reported June 30.   A spokeswoman for Senate President Karen Fann of Prescott confirmed the subpoena. Fann told one constituent in a December 2020 email that she had "spoken with Mayor Giuliani at least six times over the past two weeks." Fann told another constituent she had received "a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud."

Federal investigators also subpoenaed the Georgia Republican Party chairman for information related to the fake elector scheme there. The subpoena for the chairman, David Shafer, represents a significant step because he played a central role in organizing the fake slate of electors from Georgia and coordinated the effort with the Trump campaign.

The focus on Shafer also comes as sources tell CNN the Justice Department subpoenaed Trump electors in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- all states that Trump lost. (For more on the plot to submit fake Trump electors, see "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy" above.)

CNN reported Sept. 13 that Justice Department criminal prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election -- including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts.

On Oct. 13 at a public hearing, Select Committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) reported that, according to Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, former President Trump played a direct role in the effort to use fake electors to overturn the presidential election.  Mediaite reported that, according to Rep. Murphy, "Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, testified before this committee that President Trump and his attorney, Dr. John Eastman, called her and asked her to arrange for the fake electors to meet and rehearse the process of casting their fake votes." McDaniel and the RNC subsequently cooperated.

On Nov. 18, Fox News reported Attorney General Merrick Garland had named special counsel Jack Smith to investigate the entirety of the criminal probe into the unlawful retention of national defense information at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief to the DOJ's public integrity section, will also oversee the investigation into whether Trump or other officials and entities interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.

The House Select Committee investigating the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, concluded in its Dec. 19 report: "The certifications signed by Trump electors in multiple States were patently false. Vice President Biden won each of those States, and the relevant State authorities had so certified. It can hardly be disputed that the false slates of electors were material, as nothing can be more material to the Joint Session of Congress to certify the election than the question of which candidate won which States."

The 845-page report - based on 1,000-plus interviews, documents collected including emails, texts, phone records and a year and a half of investigation - includes allegations that Trump "oversaw" the legally dubious effort to put forward fake slates of electors in seven states he lost, arguing that the evidence shows he actively worked to "transmit false Electoral College ballots to Congress and the National Archives" despite concerns among his lawyers that doing so could be unlawful. 

The committee's report notes that while some of the signatories may have believed the certificates would only be used if Trump won relevant legal cases challenging the results, that rationale cannot apply to Trump himself: "President Trump (including acting through co-conspirators such as John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro) relied on the existence of those fake electors as a basis for asserting that the Vice President could reject or delay certification of the Biden electors." 

Special Counsel Smith has received a trove of new documents from local election officials in Wisconsin and Nevada who were subpoenaed as part of the ongoing criminal investigation by the Justice Department into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, CNN and the Associated Press reported Jan. 4.

CNN reported Smith's team sent subpoenas to local and state officials in all seven of the key states - Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - targeted by Trump and his allies as part of their bid to overturn the election results.

And on Jan. 6 Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office is reopening its investigation into the 16 Republican electors who signed a certificate falsely claiming that Donald Trump had won the state's 2020 election, the Detroit News reported.

Nessel, a Democrat, previously referred the matter to federal prosecutors. But she cited new documents released by a U.S. House committee and said there was "clear evidence to support charges" against the group of 16 Michigan Republicans who signed a document that was submitted to the National Archives and was intended to help Trump supporters challenge his loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

The false Trump electors met inside Michigan Republican Party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020 as Biden's electors participated in an official ceremony in the state Capitol. Biden won Michigan by 3 percentage points or 154,000 votes.

Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing federal investigation

The Latest: The Onion headline:  "Drop Box Outside National Archives Allows Ex-Presidents To Anonymously Return Classified Documents"

According to a new poll, Americans are more convinced that former President Trump knew he had classified documents inside his personal residence than those who believe the same thing about President Joe Biden.

The Washington Examiner reported Feb. 1 that 80% say they believe Trump knew there were classified documents inside his Mar-a-Lago home when it was searched by the FBI in August, according to polling from Monmouth University. Only 58% believe Biden knew they were in the president's private residence and former office.

Only 22 percent said they are very concerned about the documents found at former Vice President Mike Pence's residence in Indiana,

The latest numbers come as Republicans have sought to liken Trump's and Biden's circumstances, especially as the former president hopes to use it to salvage his White House run.

Timeline: Trump's removal of top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing federal investigation

Zero Days After Leaving Office:  Donald Trump becomes a private citizen the afternoon of Jan. 20, 2021.

106 Days After Leaving Office:  On May 6 the chief counsel for the National Archives and Records Administration, Gary Stern, emails Trump's legal team to say some high-profile presidential documents appear to be missing. "We know things are very chaotic, as they always are in the course of a one-term transition. But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all presidential records." Stern also wrote, "It is also our understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept in the Residence of the White House over the course of President Trump's last year in office and have not been transferred to NARA, despite a determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the administration that they need to be.

NARA then goes back-and-forth "throughout 2021" with Trump representatives seeking the return of the records. 

238 Days After Leaving Office:  National Archives lawyer Gary Stern is told by former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin that he was told by former Trump chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that none of the material at Mar-a-Lago is sensitive or classified and that Trump only had 12 boxes of "news clippings."

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, packing some of the boxes. Those boxes in January, 2022 are finally transferred to the National Archives.

At the same time, he is told by one of his former White House attorneys, Eric Herschmann, that he could face legal liability if he did not return government materials.

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.")

Shortly after turning over the 15 boxes of government material to the National Archives, former President Trump directs a lawyer working for him to tell the archives that Trump had returned all the documents he had taken from the White House at the end of his presidency. The lawyer, Alex Cannon, declined to convey Trump's message to the archives because he was not sure if it was true.

385 Days After Leaving Office:  The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asks the Justice Department to examine Trump's handling of White House records, the Washington Post reported Feb. 9.

In a statement the same day, Trump said he had engaged in "collaborative and respectful" discussions with the Archives and had arranged for the "transport of boxes that contained Presidential Records in compliance with the Presidential Records Act."

"The papers were given easily and without conflict and on a very friendly basis, which is different from the accounts being drawn up by the Fake News Media," he says in a statement.  "In fact, it was viewed as routine and 'no big deal.' In actuality, I have been told I was under no obligation to give this material based on various legal rulings that have been made over the years."

442 Days After Leaving Office:  The Washington Post reported April 7 that the Justice Department has begun taking steps to investigate former President Trump's removal of presidential records to Mar-a-Lago.

464 Days After Leaving Office:  On April 29, the Justice Department sends a letter to Trump's lawyers as part of its effort to access the 15 boxes that Trump delivered in January, notifying them that more than 100 classified documents, totaling more than 700 pages, were found in the boxes. The letter says the FBI and US intelligence agencies need "immediate access" to these materials because of "important national security interests."  Trump lawyers ask NARA to delay its plans to give the FBI access to these materials. Trump's lawyers say they want time to examine the materials to see if anything is privileged, and that they are making a "protective assertion of executive privilege" over all the documents.

474 Days After Leaving Office:  On May 10, Debra Steidel Wall, the acting Archivist of the United States, who runs NARA, informs Trump's lawyers that she is rejecting their claims of "protective" executive privilege over all the materials taken from Mar-a-Lago, and will therefore turn over the materials to the FBI and US intelligence agencies. Wall says she reached this decision after consulting with top lawyers from the Justice Department and the White House Counsel's office. As to Trump's claim of executive privilege, Wall wrote that there is "no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter from obtaining NARA Presidential records."

475 Days After Leaving Office:  On May 11, the Justice Department subpoenas Trump, seeking classified documents that still remain at Mar-a-Lago. (In October, 2022, it is reported by the Washington Post that, according to Trump employees cooperating with the FBI, Trump responded to the subpoena by ordering employees to move boxes of White House documents from a storage room to his office at Mar-a-Lago. Security camera video confirms the account. The employee is cooperating with the Justice Department.)

477 Days After Leaving Office:  Federal prosecutors begin a grand jury investigation into whether classified documents were mishandled and of criminal obstruction of justice.  According to media reports, Trump directs his staff to conduct a thorough search of Mar-a-Lago for documents marked classified.  (Intelligencer reported Aug. 12 that at this same time Trump's attorneys arranged for a DOJ National Security Division prosecutor and three FBI agents to come to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to pick up the items listed in the subpoena.)

499 Days After Leaving Office:  According to the Washington Post, when the FBI agents and Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and export control section at the Justice Department, meet with Trump's attorneys - former OAN host Christina Bobb and Evan Corcoran - at Mar-a-Lago on June 3, "the former President's counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained."

FBI agents were, instead, given "a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents." That envelope, according to the FBI, contained 38 unique documents with classification markings, including 16 documents marked secret and 17 marked top secret.

Trump's lawyers tell investigators that all the records that had come from the White House were stored in one location - a Mar-a-Lago storage room - and that "there were no other records stored in any private office space or other location at the Premises and that all available boxes were searched."

The New York Times reported that "around" the time of the June 3 meeting, the feds received a "written declaration from a Trump lawyer attesting that all the material marked classified in the boxes had been turned over." The declaration, which also stated that a "diligent search" had been undertaken, was drafted by Corcoran and signed by Bobb. (It was reported in October, 2022 that Corcoran conducted the search and instructed Bobb to sign the letter, which she did after insisting twice that he insert the phrase, "based upon the information that has been provided to me.")

The Wall Street Journal later reported that sometime after the June 3 meeting a mole in Trump's orbit told the FBI that Trump and his team are still withholding information. And that after the June 3 visit the Justice Department "developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government's investigation."

507 Days After Leaving Office:  On June 8, the Justice Department sends Trump a letter stating the government documents he continues to hold at Mar-a-Lago are not stored in a secure location.

520 Days After Leaving Office:  On June 24, the Justice Department hands a new subpoena to the Trump Organization, which owns Mar-a-Lago. The subpoena seeks surveillance video to help show who might have been coming and going from the storage area where (Trump's attorneys) indicated 50 to 55 boxes of records taken from the White House were being stored. The video footage shows various people entering and leaving the room, according to a person with direct knowledge of it.

562 Days After Leaving Office:  FBI officials are able to establish probable cause that a crime has been committed and obtain a search warrant from a federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach on Aug.5, according to the Miami Herald

The New York Times reported the material still in Trump's possession is so sensitive that DOJ officials felt they had to take the "politically explosive step" of raiding the former president's home. The paper also reported that the Justice Department reviewed surveillance footage at Mar-a-Lago that showed that in one instance boxes were moved in and out of the storage room on the property.

565 Days After Leaving Office:  And on Aug. 8, after the FBI had arrived at his Mar-a-Lago home with a search warrant, Trump, who is in New York, announces on Truth Social the FBI are inside his Mar-a-Lago home.

Washington Post: "In the months before the FBI's dramatic move to execute a search warrant at former president Donald Trump's Florida home - and open his safe to look for items - federal authorities grew increasingly concerned that Trump or his lawyers and aides had not, in fact, returned all the documents and other material that were government property."

The Wall Street Journal reported FBI agents who search Trump's Mar-a-Lago home remove 26 boxes of materials, including four sets marked "top secret" and meant to be only available in special government facilities.

FBI agents recover one set of documents marked as 'Various classified/TS/SCI documents,' an abbreviation that refers to top-secret/sensitive compartmented information.  In total, there were more than 100 pages recovered bearing classification markings.

The Washington Post reported that a document describing a foreign government's military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found at Trump's home/public resort. "Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs."

The documents included highly sensitive intelligence regarding Iran's missile program and China, the Washington Post reported. "If shared with others, the people said, such information could expose intelligence-gathering methods that the United States wants to keep hidden from the world." 

The New York Times reported "Federal agents who executed the warrant did so to investigate potential crimes associated with violations of the Espionage Act, which outlaws the unauthorized retention of national security information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary; a federal law that makes it a crime to destroy or conceal a document to obstruct a government investigation; and another statute associated with unlawful removal of government materials."

Breitbart reported that Trump is under investigation by the Department of Justice for:

18 USC 2071 - Concealment, removal or mutilation

18 USC 793 - Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information

18 USC 1519 - Destruction, alteration or falsification of records in Federal investigation

575 Days After Leaving Office:  On Aug. 18 a document that was part of the application for the Aug. 8 search warrant shows the Justice Department was seeking "evidence of a crime," "contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed" and included the phrase, "willful retention of national defense information."

583 Days After Leaving Office:  On Aug. 26, the FBI affidavit - highly redacted - used to successfully convince a judge to approve the search warrant used in the Aug. 8 raid is made public.  Fox News reported the affidavit stated the FBI believed it had "probable cause to believe" that, based on their investigation, they would find additional records containing National Defense Information if allowed to search Trump's home.

Fox News reported the affidavit also states, "The government is conducting a criminal investigation concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment or removal of government records." CNN reported the FBI told the judge a search of Trump's home would also likely find "evidence of obstruction."

The signed affidavit by a FBI official concludes, "Based on the foregoing facts and circumstances, I submit that probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e), 2071, or 1519 will be found at the PREMISES."

590 Days After Leaving Office: US District Judge Aileen Cannon on Sept. 2 releases a detailed inventory from the FBI search of former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort hotel/country club/home. The FBI recovered more than 11,000 government documents and photographs, including over 184 records with "Classified" markings. Of those documents, 67 were marked as "confidential," 92 were marked as "secret," and 25 documents were marked as "top secret." Agents found one document marked "secret" and one marked "confidential" in his desk drawer.

603 Days After Leaving Office: Trump-appointed US District Judge Aileen 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 Donald 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:  Donald 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 that had been seized last month from former President  Trump's Florida residence.

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." (A month later, at a campaign rally in Miami on Nov. 6, Trump once again admits taking White House documents with him to Mar-a-Lago. "Presidents leave, they take things, they take documents, they take things, they read them.")

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 at Mar-a-Lago. 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 admitted, "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 Aileen 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.'"

698 Days After Leaving Office:  The Washington Post on Dec. 7 reported that lawyers for former President Trump hired a firm to conduct a search of at least two of his properties for classified materials in recent weeks, after they were instructed by a federal judge to attest they had fully complied with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all materials bearing classified markings. (CNN reported the firm searched four different Trump properties.) Trump's lawyers reported at least two items marked classified were found at a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Fla. Those items were turned over to the FBI.

Manhattan DA revitalizes its investigation of Trump's real estate empire, taxes and Stormy Daniels

The Latest:  Former President Trump attacked CBS' "60 Minutes" for a segment that featured an interview with former US Attorney Mark Pomerantz, who was investigating alleged tax fraud by Trump and his company before he resigned in protest from the Manhattan D.A.'s office.

Trump grew his business, fortune and fame "through a pattern of criminal activity," according to a new book by Pomerantz.

Before resigning, "Pomerantz had mapped out a wide-ranging possible case against the former president under the state racketeering law, according to the soon-to-be published book, 'People vs. Donald Trump.' That broader approach was based on the theory that Mr. Trump had presided over a corrupt business empire for years, a previously unreported aspect of the long-running inquiry," the New York Times reported.

Pomerantz told 60 Minutes on Feb. 5, "If you take the exact same conduct- and make it not about Donald Trump and not about a former president of the United States, would the case have been indicted? It would have been indicted in a flat second."

Trump responded on Truth Social: "The 60 Minutes 'hit job' doesn't say that the Financial Statements have a powerful & complete 'Disclaimer Clause,' that the properties & assets are generally worth far more today than they were in the financial statement, that the most valuable asset is not even listed in the statement, that lawyer Mark Pomerantz & his law firm were Clinton's lawyers who then went to work for the D.A. to 'get Trump,' that Pomerantz & his antics make it impossible for me to be treated fairly, & NOBODY WAS HURT!"

(For more on Pomerantz and his allegations, see immediately below.)

In related news, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's latest moves suggest prosecutors are nearing a decision about charging former President Trump in connection with a $130,000 hush payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election, writes Zach Schonfeld at The Hill.

The Manhattan district attorney's office in the first week of February escalated the fight by empaneling another grand jury in the case and presenting witnesses.

Legal experts and a former colleague of Bragg's said the Democratic attorney's actions indicate prosecutors are edging closer to possible charges against Trump.

"If they actually are presenting witnesses, the first thing I said is, 'Oh, this is real. They're going for it,'" said Catherine Christian, a former financial fraud prosecutor in Bragg's office who was not involved in the investigation.

Trump has downplayed the development in a series of Truth Social posts, arguing Bragg should focus on fighting crime in New York.

"Some Radical Left crazies, coupled with 'ratings crushed' and failing Fake News, are trying to get [Bragg] to go the prosecutorial misconduct route, and take on certain very weak cases which are dead anyway based on the Statute of Limitations. FIGHT VIOLENT CRIME!" Trump posted.

Federal investigations into the mishandling of classified records at Mar-a-Lago and efforts to block the 2020 transition of power also continue. A district attorney in Georgia is investigating Trump's actions following the 2020 election, and the New York attorney general is also pursuing a civil lawsuit against the former president.

"On one level, I think Bragg doesn't want to be left out of the party if there are going to be additional criminal charges brought against Trump," said William "Widge" Devaney, a former assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey. 

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 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, prompting the resignations of the two senior prosecutors leading the investigation.

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.

Wrote Pomerantz: "His (Trump's) financial statements were false, and he has a long history of fabricating information relating to his personal finances and lying about his assets to banks, the national media, counterparties, and many others, including the American people. The team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes - he did."

The New York Times reported April 29, "When Mr. Bragg took office this year, he and several of his aides raised concerns about the strength of the case, questioning whether they could prove that Mr. Trump intended to break the law. Other prosecutors in the office had raised similar concerns, people with knowledge of the matter said. In the final months of Mr. Vance's tenure, three assistant district attorneys stopped working on the investigation, concerned about how rapidly it was proceeding and what they felt were gaps in the evidence against the former president."

Pomerantz, in an interview with Professor John C. Coffee Jr. of the Columbia Law School in July, commented, "I was certainly myself personally satisfied that Trump had committed crimes under the New York penal law that warranted prosecution and that the evidence was sufficient to convict. And I should say, as I think I ultimately said- turning the clock ahead when I resigned from the investigation-that was not just my peculiar view. The view of the investigative team was that Trump had committed crimes, and I don't think there were dissents from that view. The problem was fitting his conduct within the pigeonholes of the New York penal law. It was very easy to do that under federal law, but, of course, we weren't sitting as federal prosecutors. But even under the New York penal law, I thought that, A., he was factually guilty and also that [B.] the evidence was sufficient to convict, and indeed that if tried before an impartial jury, it was likely that there would be a conviction.

"I was utterly convinced that if the defendant had not been Donald Trump or the putative defendant, if it had been Joe Blow from Kokomo, we would have indicted without a big debate."

But CNN reported Sept. 8 that D.A. Bragg told reporters the investigation into the Trump Organization's finances is ongoing. 

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."

Reuters reported Dec. 5 that the Manhattan district attorney hired a former senior Department of Justice official who has investigated Trump, and who may again be called on to investigate the former U.S. president's activities. Matthew Colangelo will serve as senior counsel to district attorney Bragg. He previously helped oversee New York Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into Trump's charity, the Trump Foundation, which evolved into a civil probe into the finances of Trump and his company, the Trump Organization. The Trump Foundation was closed down in 2019, with its assets being distributed to actual charities.

The New York Times reported Michael 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."

Cohen went to prison 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 so she wouldn't reveal their long-ago affair during the 2016 campaign. Trump, however, has denied that he directed Cohen to pay off Daniels, said the payments did not come from his campaign and denied having an affair with Daniels while married to the now-former first lady, Melania.

NPR reported Cohen told authorities he paid the Daniels the money and arranged to be reimbursed $420,000 by Trump's company to cover his taxes. The company recorded the payments to Cohen as legal fees, which could constitute a crime in New York.

(On Dec. 6, as a result of prosecutions by the Manhattan District Attorney, the Trump Organization and the Trump Payroll Corp were found guilty on all 17 counts of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The two entities were fined more than $1.6 million.  See "Trump Organization found guilty of 17 counts of tax fraud, other crimes" above for details.)

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 a porn star 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.

The New York Times reported the grand jury was recently impaneled and the beginning of witness testimony represents a clear signal that D.A. Bragg is nearing a decision about whether to charge Trump.

One of the witnesses was seen with his lawyer entering the building in Lower Manhattan where the grand jury is sitting. The witness, David Pecker, is the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with the porn star, Stormy 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.

Truth Social: Today Trump's go-to platform, but will he still love Truth tomorrow?

The Latest: Trump Steaks? Trump University? Trump Shuttle?  Trump Vodka?

Raw Story reported Jan. 27:

"Because major advertisers are avoiding Donald Trump's Truth Social, users are instead being exposed to a flood of ads The New York Times characterizes as "miracle cures, scams and fake merchandise."

"That, in turn, has led to complaints aimed at the former president in his comment sections for allowing the forum to turn into a cesspool of ads from scam artists."

As the Times' Stuart Thompson wrote, "Ads from major brands are nonexistent on the site. Instead, the ads on Truth Social are for alternative medicine, diet pills, gun accessories and Trump-themed trinkets, according to an analysis of hundreds of ads on the social network by The New York Times," before adding, "The ads reflect the difficulty that several far-right platforms, including Rumble and Gab, have faced in courting large brands, preventing the sites from tapping into some of the world's largest ad budgets."

(Examples include ads for toenail fungus remover, a "lung cleaning" device and "Widow Maker" switchblade knives.)

The report notes Truth Social was initially financed with $37 million from GOP donors, and is currently estimated to be burning through $1.7 million per month and money is running out because of problems with the Security Exchange Commission.

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 merger it with a SPAC as early as Spring, 2021.)

Truth Social was finally 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. 

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 connection with a criminal probe, CNBC reported.  Digital World Acquisition Corp. said Trump Media and Technology Group received a subpoena from a grand jury convened by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan on June 30. (The Trump company also received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a civil probe on June 27, DWAC said.)

Truth Social, which lost at least $6.5 million in its first year, is locked in a bitter battle with one of its vendors claiming that the platform is stiffing the company out of more than $1 million in contractually obligated payments, FOX Business reported Aug. 25.

RightForge claims that Truth Social owes it around $1.6 million and is threatening legal action to recoup the money.

AXIOS reported Sept. 8 that Digital World Acquisition Corp. said it would adjourn its shareholder meeting until Oct. 10 after failing to secure at least 65% shareholder approval for a one-year extension to complete its merger with the parent company of Truth Social.

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!"

And then in early October, Elon Musk suddenly switched positions and decided to go ahead with his $44 billion offer to buy Twitter. Politico's Playbook on Oct. 5 reported, "He wants Donald Trump back. In May, he called Twitter's decision to ban Trump after January 6 'a morally bad decision' and 'foolish in the extreme.' He added, 'It alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.'  He has repeatedly criticized Twitter's content moderation decisions, making vague calls to transform it into an 'inclusive arena for free speech.'"

The Stock Dork reported Oct. 12: "Now, the SPAC company, Digital World Acquisition Group (DWAC), seems to be struggling financially as the SPAC deal is in limbo. The company now lists its address as 3109 Grand Avenue in Miami, Florida.  A search of the address verifies this as a UPS store in Coconut Grove, Miami."

Elon Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion on Oct. 27. 

Fox News reported Oct. 28 that former President Trump wished Musk the best with Twitter but stressed he will stay on Truth Social, a social media platform he touts as "better," "safe" and that feels "like home."

The Pew Research Center reported on Nov. 18 that 27 percent of U.S. adults say they have heard of Truth Social but only two percent use the site for news. Thirty-one percent of U.S. adults say they use Facebook and 14 percent Twitter for news.

On Nov. 19, Politico reported that Musk said Trump will be "reinstated" on Twitter, making good on his promise to lift the ban on the former president, who had been banished for violating the platform's rules against inciting violence.

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 4.8 million followers on Truth Social, a fraction of the 88 million he has on Twitter.

And then on Jan. 22, Rolling Stone reported that Trump is preparing a Twitter comeback, with plans to drop an exclusivity agreement he has with Truth Social.

According to Rolling Stone, Trump has told people close to him that he doesn't want to renew the agreement with Truth Social's parent company, TMTG.

SEC filings show that Trump is currently obliged to wait six hours after posting on Truth Social before posting the same content on any other social media platform, an agreement that is up for renewal in June.

The agreement only applies to non-political content - he can post "political messaging, political fundraising or get-out-the vote efforts" anywhere at any time, the agreement states.

Trump's A-Team: Meadows, Powell, Giuliani and Eastman all under investigation

The Latest:  The California State Bar is seeking disbarment of attorney John Eastman, who crafted memos for the Trump campaign encouraging Vice President Mike Pence to buck his ceremonial duty to certify the 2020 election results, The Hill reported Jan. 26.

Eastman crafted two memos for the Trump campaign outlining strategies for reversing then-President Trump's loss to President Biden, including another encouraging states to certify Trump's loss as a victory.

The filing notice for disciplinary charges points to false statements regarding voter fraud and his comments at the rally near the White House on Jan. 6 as the basis for the disbarment.

Eastman has since March of last year been under investigation by the State Bar, which is a regulatory agency housed within the California Supreme Court. The charges against him will now be heard in disciplinary proceedings, at which point California's State Bar Court will determine whether to revoke his law license.

An attorney for Eastman said he stands by his legal advice and that he was being targeted by the bar for providing legal advice they may disagree with.

(For details on Eastman's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, see "64 Days That Will Live in Infamy" above.)

Background:  Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Constitution "expert" John Eastman - the lawyer who advised President Trump that Vice President Pence had the legal power to decide who won the 2020 election - are all under investigation from California to the New York island.

Powell update:

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."

However, Trump dropped her only days after announcing the 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 lawsuit was dismissed.

In December 2021, the Washington Post reported that in the months after the November election, Powell's new nonprofit, Defending the Republic, raised more than $14 million from donors inspired by her fight for Trump. The Post also reported federal prosecutors have subpoenaed financial and other documents related to Defending the Republic and a political action committee by the same name, also headed by Powell.

In addition, the State Bar of Texas filed a disciplinary action against Powell, accusing her of professional misconduct for filing several federal lawsuits contesting the election of President Joe Biden, Courthouse News reported. The bar association's Commission for Lawyer Discipline filed the lawsuit in Dallas County District Court on March 1, 2022. The commission says it sued Powell, of Dallas, after receiving 10 separate complaints against her.

"Beginning in or about November of 2020[,] respondent filed multiple federal lawsuits in different jurisdictions (including the District Court of Arizona, the Northern District of Georgia, the Eastern District of Michigan, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin) alleging, inter alia, election fraud has occurred in the national presidential election in 2020," the six-page complaint states. "Respondent had no reasonable basis to believe the lawsuits she filed were not frivolous."

(At a Nov. 19, 2020 news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., Powell and Giuliani - whom President Trump days earlier had described as part of "a truly great team" - laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming, among other allegations, that a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Trump.)

The bar association lawsuit comes two weeks after the Sixth Circuit blocked Powell and other attorneys from avoiding sanctions imposed in an Eastern District of Michigan lawsuit. The trial judge in that case, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker, in August, 2021 ordered the attorneys to pay the legal fees for the city of Detroit and other defendants in the case. In a blistering opinion, the judge also ordered them to take 12 hours of training - including six hours focusing on election law. The Detroit Free-Press reported Feb. 25 2022 that Powell complied by taking a class entitled, "The High Cost of Poor Legal Writing."

In addition, Powell has been named as a defendant in billion-dollar lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems for her allegedly slanderous comments about its 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 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 in a lawsuit filed by Eric Coomer, a former employee of Dominion.

On June 22, citing reports that Powell's non-profit, Defending the Republic, is footing legal fees for several right-wing extremists charged in the Capitol riot, the Department of Justice asked a federal judge to launch an ethics probe of Powell. Mother Jones explained, "Prosecutors say in their motion that they want to ensure that lawyers receiving payments from the group are not violating local conflict of interest rules, which require that defendants are informed of any payments to their attorneys by outside parties. The rules also say lawyers must make sure such payments do not cause 'interference with the lawyer's independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship.'"

Also on June 22, Collin County District Judge Andrea Bouressa, a Republican, denied Powell's motion to dismiss the disciplinary action by the State Bar of Texas against Powell, who told the judge she is the victim of a "political hitjob" by Democrats, Courthouse News reported.

Eastman update:

The State Bar of California confirmed it has been investigating Eastman since 2021 for possible ethics violations related to the 2020 election, The Hill reported March 1, 2022. The announcement from George Cardona, the state bar's chief trial counsel, said "A number of individuals and entities have brought to the State Bar's attention press reports, court filings, and other public documents detailing Mr. Eastman's conduct." (Earlier, in December, 2021, Cardona said, "Eastman may have assisted former President Donald Trump in criminal conduct in connection with the 2020 election and January 6th.")

Eastman is also under investigation by the Jan. 6 Select Committee and invoked the Fifth Amendment 100 times when he was deposed by the committee. On March 28, 2022 U.S. District Judge David Carter ruled that Eastman must turn over documents to the committee, writing that Eastman and former President Trump "more likely than not" committed a felony in their efforts to block the 2020 election results, the Wall Street Journal reported.

And then the New York Times reported May 25 that the Justice Department has stepped up its criminal investigation of alternate slates of pro-Trump electors seeking to overturn Joe Biden's victory, with a particular focus on the team of lawyers that worked on behalf of President Trump, including Eastman. One federal judge described Eastman's activity as a "coup in search of a legal theory."

And NBC News reports that Eastman pleaded the Fifth and invoked attorney-client privilege when he appeared on Aug. 31 before the Fulton County, Georgia grand jury investigating attempts to influence the state's 2020 election.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 19 unveiled criminal referrals targeting former President Trump and Eastman, recommending that the Department of Justice investigate for obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement.

The committee also said it believes there is "sufficient evidence" for a criminal referral of Eastman based on his plan for Pence to refuse to count state electoral votes during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, which it says he knew was illegal, CBS News reported.

Giuliani update:

At the infamous Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, Giuliani told the crowd, "If we are wrong we will be made fools of but if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let's have trial by combat. I'm willing to stake my reputation. The president is willing to stake his reputation on the fact that we're going to find criminality there."

Giuliani has been paying a heavy price - including on his reputation - ever since. His law license was suspended in June, 2021 after the New York Supreme Court found, "There is uncontroverted evidence that Mr. Giuliani communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers, and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump's failed effort at reelection in 2020."

On July 7, 2021 the District of Columbia's highest court suspended Giuliani from practicing law in Washington. Reuters reported in March, 2022 the D.C. Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, is investigating Giuliani for statements he made about the 2020 presidential election.

And Giuliani has also been named as a defendant in billion-dollar lawsuits filed by both Dominion and Smartmatic voting systems for his alleged lies about their role in flipping the 2020 election in favor of President Biden. He is also a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a former employee of Dominion, Eric Coomer, and is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and Democrat members of Congress over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

He has also been named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by two election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, Ruby Freeman and 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.)  

And on Oct. 31, 2022,U.S. District Court of Columbia Chief Judge Beryl Howell denied Giuliani's motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit.

Giuliani is also being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for his role in the "false electors" scheme intended to overturn Biden's 2020 election.

The Associated Press reported June 10 the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the disciplinary branch of the District of Columbia Bar, filed charges against the former New York mayor alleging that he promoted unsubstantiated voter fraud claims in Pennsylvania. At issue are claims Giuliani made in supporting a Trump campaign lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania. (That suit, which sought to invalidate as many as 1.5 million mail-in ballots, was dismissed by courts.)

In addition, Giuliani is being investigated by the district attorney and a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia for possibly making false statements before Georgia's state Senate Judiciary Subcommittee detailing his election conspiracies. The New York Times reported June 28 that Giuliani "has emerged as a central figure in a Georgia criminal investigation of efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his election loss in the state, with prosecutors questioning witnesses last week before a special grand jury about Mr. Giuliani's appearances before state legislative panels after the 2020 vote."

The D.C. Bar discipline committee in Washington, D.C., concluded on Dec. 15 that Rudy 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 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."

Meadows update:

Meadows is under investigation by the district attorney and a special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia for his role in an alleged effort to overturn the results of the presidential election in that state in 2020. 

Potential investigation

Did Bill Barr-appointed Special Counsel John Durham uncover a possible Trump financial crime?

The Latest:  The Los Angeles Times reported Feb. 2 that former US Attorney General Bill Barr appointed U.S. Atty. Durham in 2019 just weeks after Mueller's report was released and tasked him with scouring the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, including whether the intelligence community was involved in raising questions about what the Trump campaign knew about Russian attempts to interfere in the election. The nearly four-year investigation has concluded after two people charged by Durham were acquitted.

Durham is believed to be working on his final report. Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland will decide how much of the report becomes public.

The New York Times' reporting also found that Barr and Durham never disclosed that the inquiry had expanded in 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Trump. Several news outlets including the New York Times reported at the time that the probe had come to include a criminal investigation, which seemed to indicate that Durham had instead found evidence to support Trump's accusations of wrongdoing by federal law enforcement.

The specifics of the tip are unclear, and Durham did not bring charges over it. Barr said Wednesday that the tip "was not directly about Trump" and that it was appropriate to fold into Durham's inquiry because "it did have a relationship to the Russiagate stuff. It was not completely separate from it. And it turned out to be a complete non-issue."

Background:  Special Counsel John Durham's long investigation of the FBI's probe of Russia's ties to former President Trump's 2016 campaign never proved former Attorney General Bill Barr's theories that the investigation had started with anti-Trump skullduggery by the CIA or allied intelligence services or through a conspiracy from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, writes Peter Weber at The Week.

But Durham is now facing pressure to reveal details of a reported criminal probe that is said to have arisen from a tip from a foreign government about suspected financial crimes linked to former President Trump, Darragh Roche at Newsweek reported Jan. 28, 2023.

In 2019, Durham began investigating the origins of a probe into potential connections between Russia and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, with the encouragement of then Attorney General Barr.

Barr appointed Durham special counsel and the two reportedly traveled together to Italy in the fall of 2019 where Italian officials were said to have given them an unexpected tip about suspicious financial dealings relating to Trump.

From The New York Times on Jan. 26:

     Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump.

     The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it[...]

     Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham decided that the tip was too serious and credible to ignore. But rather than assign it to another prosecutor, Mr. Barr had Mr. Durham investigate the matter himself - giving him criminal prosecution powers for the first time - even though the possible wrongdoing by Mr. Trump did not fall squarely within Mr. Durham's assignment to scrutinize the origins of the Russia inquiry, the people said.

According to reports, Barr gave Durham subpoena power and authority to convene a grand jury. The investigation never resulted in any charges against Trump or anyone else, and it's still unclear what the scope of it was, the Times notes.

Durham is in the final stages of his investigation and is still working on his final report, the Times reports, which had previously been slated to be completed by the end of 2022. It will then be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland to determine whether it should be made public.

Since the Times' article, calls have grown for more information to be made public.

"Barr and Durham are being mocked as incompetent doofuses, yet they actually seem to have quite ably and successfully buried that tip from the Italian government about Trump criminality, so their cover-up project was not a failure," tweeted David Frum of The Atlantic.

Former FBI attorney Andrew Weissmann told MSNBC he believes Attorney General Garland may begin looking into the case if he hasn't already started.

"You can imagine that with this reporting Merrick Garland or (Deputy Attorney General) Lisa Monaco are going to be really curious if they don't know already. There's a good chance they don't because John Durham would have had to tell them about it and laid out all the facts.

"And maybe he did. But if he didn't they will have to look at it and decide if it's something that needs to be pursued."

Liz Harrington, a spokesperson for Trump, told Newsweek in a statement: "As one of the biggest purveyors of the Russia Hoax, it is unsurprising the failing New York Times continues to print propaganda, rather than the truth about the biggest political scandal in American history, the illegal spying on President Trump's campaign."

Disposition of five Trump cases

Trump Organization found guilty on 17 counts of tax fraud, other crimes

The Latest: Donald 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, hardly crippling blow for an enterprise boasting billions of dollars in assets, the Associated Press reported Jan. 13.

A fine was the only penalty a judge could impose on the Trump Organization after its conviction last month for 17 tax crimes, including conspiracy and falsifying business records.

The amount imposed by Judge Juan Manuel Merchan was the maximum allowed by law, double the taxes a small group of executives avoided on benefits including rent-free apartments in Trump buildings, luxury cars and private school tuition.

The Trump Corp., which was convicted of nine felonies, was sentenced to a maximum fine of $810,000. The Trump Payroll Corp., which was convicted of eight felonies, was sentenced to a maximum fine of $800,000.

Merchan gave the company 14 days to pay.

Trump himself was not on trial and denied any knowledge of his executives evading taxes illegally. In a statement released after sentencing, the Trump Organization said it did nothing wrong and would appeal.

The Trump Organization said in a statement it did nothing wrong and would appeal the verdict.

"New York has become the crime and murder capital of the world, yet these politically motivated prosecutors will stop at nothing to get President Trump and continue the never ending witch-hunt which began the day he announced his presidency."

In related news, Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty last year to dodging taxes on $1.7 million in job perks - including a free Manhattan apartment, luxury cars and his grandchildren's private school tuition - was sentenced to five months in prison and five years of probation, Fox News reported Jan 10.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August, admitting that from 2005 to 2017 he and other executives received bonuses and perks that saved the company and themselves money.

He will also be required to pay $2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties.

He was escorted out of the courthouse in handcuffs.

Background: On June 30, 2021 the Manhattan District Attorney's office charged the Trump Organization with a 15-year "scheme to defraud" the government and charged CFO Allen Weisselberg with grand larceny and tax fraud, the Washington Post reported. Weisselberg, who began working for former President Trump's father in 1973 as an accountant and bookkeeper, pleaded not guilty during a brief arraignment hearing.

An attorney for the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty on the company's behalf. Prosecutors also charged a subsidiary called Trump Payroll Corp., which handles the company's benefits and payments to employees.

In all, 15 criminal charges were filed against Weisselberg, according to a copy of the indictment obtained by the Washington Post. They included counts of conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. In many of the counts, the two Trump entities were charged along with Weisselberg.

Carey Dunne, a prosecutor with the District Attorney's Office, said the charges were related to an "off-the-books tax fraud scheme" that lasted for 15 years. He said the scheme allowed Trump Organization executives to get "secret pay raises" while not paying proper taxes. "Beginning from at least 2005 to on or about June 30, 2021, [Weisselberg, the Trump Corporation, Trump Payroll Corp.] and others devised and operated a scheme to defraud federal, New York State, and New York City tax authorities," prosecutors wrote. "One of the largest individual beneficiaries of the defendants' scheme was Allen Weisselberg. During the operation of the scheme, the defendants arranged for Weisselberg to receive in direct employee compensation from the Trump Organization in the approximate amount of $1.76 million."

The ex-CFO also ducked taxes on about $359,058 in tuition expenses for multiple family members, $196,245 for leases on his Mercedes Benz automobiles, $29,400 in unreported cash, and an unspecified amount in ad hoc personal expenses like new beds, flat-screen televisions, the installation of carpeting, and furniture for his home in Florida, according to the indictment.

Fox News quoted Dunne: "In light of the many statements that have already been made about this case, I'd like to clarify for the court briefly what this case is, and is not, about. The chief financial officer himself avoided taxes on $1.7 million of his income, which hardly amounts to an incidental 'fringe benefit'. And the former CEO signed, himself, many of the illegal compensation checks. To put it bluntly, this was a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme."

On Feb. 22, 2022, the New York Times reported the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Weisselberg, asked a judge to dismiss the criminal charges against them, arguing in court filings that the case was politically motivated and was only brought because the defendants were linked to former President Trump.

The New York Daily News reported May 23 the district attorney office urged a judge to allow the case to move ahead. "This case, at its core, is ordinary," wrote Assistant District Attorney Solomon Shinerock. "It arises from the fact that Allen Weisselberg violated the basic imperative that all New Yorkers faithfully report and pay tax on their income."

And then the New York Times reported Aug. 18, "One of Donald Trump's most trusted executives stood before a judge and pleaded guilty to 15 felonies, admitting that he conspired with Mr. Trump's company to carry out a scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish perks - even while refusing to implicate the former president himself."

"As part of the plea deal with the Manhattan district attorney's office, the executive, Allen Weisselberg, is required to testify at the company's trial if prosecutors choose to call on him, and to admit his role in conspiring with Mr. Trump's company to carry out the tax scheme.

"Under the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Weisselberg is expected to receive a five-month jail term, and with time credited for good behavior, he is likely to serve about 100 days. Mr. Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, must also pay nearly $2 million in taxes."

USA Today reported the judge told the former Trump Organization CFO that if he didn't testify truthfully the judge would be "at liberty" to impose a sentence of five to 15 years in jail. The judge asked, "Do you understand?" Weisselberg, who is 75 years old, replied, "I do."

The Trump Organization was secretly held in criminal contempt in 2021 after failing to comply with court orders related to a criminal tax fraud investigation, the New York Times reported Dec. 13. As a result, the company was ordered to pay $4,000 in fines - the maximum allowed by law - during a one-day contempt trial in Manhattan that was previously unreported.

Trial Notes:

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.

When the trial resumed after a break, Weisselberg also testified before the jury that former President Trump was aware of - and personally approved - the fraudulent accounting, 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," reported Victoria Bekiempis of Rolling Stone. "'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.

USA Today reported Nov. 17: "Answering questions from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, Weisselberg's testimony provided evidence that the Trump companies benefitted from the illegal financial maneuvers he used to evade federal, state and New York City taxes by paying him lower salaries and getting lower costs for the Medicaid portion of payroll expenses.

"One of the dodges included cutting his salary and bonus to cover the thousands of dollars Trump paid for the private school tuition payments of Weisselberg's grandchildren."

Weisselberg acknowledged the maneuver enabled him to use pre-tax dollars for the bills, a major savings.

Weisselberg's testimony about the impact on the companies is important, because finding the Trump firms guilty under New York Law would require proving that the tax-free payments were improperly directed by a high-ranking executive in the course of his or her job and were carried out 'in behalf' of the companies.

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."

Weisselberg said the first time Trump signed a tuition check, Weisselberg said to him, "Don't forget, I'm going to pay you back for this." The payback, he said, was the salary reduction.

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.

When prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked the longtime chief financial officer if the Trump Organization demoted or punished him in light of the discovery, he said no.

"Were you in fact given a raise ... that totaled approximately $200,000?" Hoffinger asked.

"Correct," Weisselberg replied on his final day of testimony.

The Trump Organization's defense attorney asked: "Were you aware, aside from you, of anyone else knowing you failed to report the value of these rental payments on your tax returns?" asked the company's attorney, Alan Futerfas.

"No," replied Weisselberg.

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.

Asked by Trump lawyer Alan Futerfas in cross examination if Trump or anyone else in the company gave him permission to "commit tax fraud," Weisselberg said, "No."

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.

Donald Bender, a partner at the accounting firm Mazars USA, was the first witness called by defense attorneys. Bender and his team prepared tax filings for the company, as well as members of the Trump and Weisselberg families for years, until Mazars abruptly ended the relationship with the Trumps in February, 2022.

"The Trump Organization lawyers have sought to suggest that Mr. Bender bore responsibility for not alerting executives, including Mr. Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney, the company's controller, that the tax scheme was illegal," the New York Times reported. "Prosecutors, on the other hand, have presented evidence that indicate that Mr. Bender would not have been responsible for inaccuracies in the company's tax reporting."

Lawyers for former President Trump's real estate company rested their case after calling just two witnesses, Reuters reported Nov. 28.

As closing arguments began on Dec. 1, lawyers for Trump's family business sought to convince the jury that the Trump Organization is not guilty of the scheme carried out by some of its top executives, Jonah E. Bromwich at the New York Times reported. The defense focused on numerous comments it elicited from Weisselberg during the trial, in which he said he had acted "solely to benefit" himself.

ABC News reported in their closing arguments New York City prosecutors argued the Trump Organization "cultivated a culture of fraud and deception."

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass pushed back on the defense narrative that Weisselberg had only his own self-interests in mind when he hatched a scheme to evade taxes. Steinglass conceded Weisselberg was "primarily motivated by his own greed" -- but he insisted "there is a tremendous amount of evidence here, completely ignored by the defense in their summations, that he intended to benefit the defendants."

Prosecutors also claimed Trump "knew exactly what was going on with his top executives."

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.

House committee sues, gets and then releases Trump's tax returns

The Latest:  "When Donald Trump left office in early 2021, he was apparently on much thinner financial ice than almost anyone knew," the Daily Beast reported Feb. 1.

"That revelation, which three accounting experts confirmed upon reviewing Trump's 2020 tax return, may help explain some of the financial and political moves the former president has made in the intervening years. Snowballing legal fees, along with other possible legal settlements and judgments, threaten to consume the cash pile he needs to bankroll his business activity, as well as fund a lavish lifestyle and maintain his image of excess-an emperor atop a golden toilet."

Trump on Jan. 30 declared that he has more lawyers than the mobster Al Capone did. In a Truth Social post, Trump wrote that he has "more lawyers" working for him "than any human being in the history of our Country, including even the late great gangster, Alphonse Capone!"

According to USA Today, Trump has spent at least $8 million on legal fees, while tangled up in at least a dozen significant investigations and lawsuits.

Background:  After a three-year battle with the former president, on Dec. 30, 2022 AXIOS reported the House Ways and Means Committee released six years of former President Trump's tax returns.

The returns cover the years Trump was president and campaigning for president - 2015 through 2020 - and include his personal returns and those for several businesses along with IRS audit materials.

"What's he been hiding?" asks Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance.

"A few things are quickly apparent from assessing the top-line figures in Trump's returns. When Trump declared his candidacy for president in 2015, he characterized himself as a builder and businessman who could go to Washington and fix what politicians had wrecked. Trump's self-declared status as a political outsider and business titan were crucial elements of his appeal to voters.

"But Trump's tax returns suggest that his businesses are perennial money-losers, while raising questions about how he manages to finance a gilded lifestyle. For each of the six years from 2015 through 2020, one of Trump's main business entities, DJT Holdings, lost millions of dollars. The smallest loss was $34 million in 2015. The largest was $64 million in 2016. Combined, those losses total $314 million from 2015 through 2020."

In a statement Dec. 30, Trump bragged about how his tax returns prove he actually is a successful businessman. "The 'Trump' tax returns once again show how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises."

Jim Tankersley, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner at the New York Times added their own conclusions regarding Trump's business dealings and his long-cultivated image as a wildly successful businessman. "But the returns, which cover the tax years 2015 through 2020, do not show much success for Trump in his recent business dealings. They show Trump often reported heavy losses from his own ventures, even as he continued to cash in on assets he inherited.

"Trump's history of inheriting wealth and then losing it was chronicled by the New York Times in 2020, when it obtained decades of Trump's tax information, including much of what was disclosed Friday.

The only year he paid significant federal taxes "appeared to be the result of more than $14 million in gains from the sale of an investment his father had made in the 1970s, a Brooklyn housing complex named Starrett City, which became part of Trump's inheritance.

"The documents show, for example, that the effect of his inheritance in 2018 was greater than what the Times previously reported: Trump recorded $25.7 million in gains from the sale of business properties that he and his siblings had inherited or taken through trusts, including the sale of Starrett City."

According to the Times' reporters, "The sales of business properties Trump created himself came at a loss, however, dragging down his net proceeds and somewhat reducing his tax liability, the tax itemization shows. They included a total of $1 million in assets or equipment sold at a loss by two of his business entities, and another $1 million loss for bailing his son Donald Trump Jr. out of a failed business to build prefabricated homes."

The Democratic-led Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department and IRS in 2019, while Donald Trump was still president, after the agencies refused to comply with requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump's federal tax filings. Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) was seeking the tax returns because the committee was interested in learning how the IRS enforces tax laws against presidents.

The Trump Justice Department at the time said the House panel lacked a legitimate legislative purpose in seeking the documents.

The Biden administration initially declined to provide the returns to the committee but The Hill reported on July 30, 2021 the administration changed its mind and the Justice Department directed the Treasury Department to turn over former President Trump's long-sought tax returns. In a memo from the Office of Legal Counsel, Acting Assistant Attorney General Dawn Johnsen said the Treasury Department was required to defer to the congressional committee. "The statute at issue here is unambiguous: 'Upon written request' of the chairman of one of the three congressional tax committees, the Secretary 'shall furnish' the requested tax information to the Committee."

After a lengthy legal battle in which the Trump Administration and then the former president fought release of the tax returns, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Aug. 9, 2022 that the House Ways and Means Committee can obtain former President Trump's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, AXIOS reported. Raw Story reported that in the ruling by Ronald Reagan-appointed U.S. Circuit Judge David Sentelle the judge found that the committee had a genuine legislative purpose in requesting the tax records.

On Oct. 27, a three-judge panel on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decided they wouldn't halt the handover of the former president's tax returns after the full appeals court rejected Trump's request that they review an earlier decision allowing for the release of the returns. Trump was ordered to turn over his tax returns the week of Oct. 31.

But then on Oct 31 Trump filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. And on Nov. 1, Chief Justice blocked the committee from receiving Trump's tax returns.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Democratic lawmakers on Nov. 10 urged the Supreme Court to deny the bid by former President Trump to block his tax returns from being handed over to a House panel, John Kruzel at The Hill reported.

And on Nov. 22, the Supreme Court denied Trump's efforts to block the release of his tax records to a congressional committee, the Washington Post reported.

The committee's interest in Trump's tax returns and how the IRS enforces tax laws for presidents was dropped when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January, 2023.

DC Attorney General, Trump Organization settle case over alleged misuse of Inaugural funds

The Trump family business and President Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration committee have jointly agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the attorney general for the District of Columbia, who claimed 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.

Attorney General Karl Racine said, "After he was elected, one of the first action Donald Trump took was illegally using his own inauguration to enrich his family. We refused to let that corruption stand."

Background: In January, 2020, Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine filed a lawsuit against the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, the Trump Organization and Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. for allegedly abusing nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family.  In its lawsuit, the Attorney General alleged the Inaugural Committee, a nonprofit corporation, coordinated with the Trump family to grossly overpay for event space in the Trump International Hotel.  Although the Inaugural Committee was aware that it was paying far above market rates, it never considered less expensive alternatives, and even paid for space on days when it did not hold events.

The lawsuit also alleged the 2017 inaugural committee improperly used nonprofit funds to host a private party at the hotel for the Trump family.

Racine's office alleged the Trump Organization and Presidential Inaugural Committee abused more than $1 million in inauguration funds and sought to recoup the money so the funds could be directed to real charitable purposes.

On April 27, 2021 Mother Jones reported that during preparations for the 2016 inauguration, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a professional party-planner and at the time a close friend of future First Lady Melania Trump, raised concerns with the president-elect, Ivanka Trump, and Rick Gates, the campaign committee's deputy chair, about prices the Trump hotel was charging the inauguration committee for events. This included a written warning to Ivanka Trump and Gates that Trump's hotel was trying to charge the committee twice the market rate for event space.  Gates ignored the warning, the D.C. District Attorney's lawsuit noted, and the committee struck a contract with the hotel for $1.03 million, an amount the lawsuit says was far above the hotel's own pricing guidelines.  Winston Wolkoff told The Daily Beast, "Everything they did was all about self-dealing. They had a nonprofit pay them for their own hotel at an inflated cost."

"This 'inquiry' is another politically motivated demonstration of vindictiveness & waste of taxpayer dollars," Ivanka Trump said in a December, 2020 tweet. Responded D.C. Attorney General Racine, "Our investigation revealed the Committee willfully used nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family. It's very simple: They broke the law. That's why we sued."

Trump avoids Wisconsin $$ bill for failed election fraud lawsuit

Donald Trump beat back efforts by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and other officials who wanted the ex-president to pay legal fees racked up by the state defending against his failed lawsuits to overturn the 2020 election result, Bloomberg reported Dec. 6, 2021.

The state, along with Milwaukee County officials and the mayors of Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay, waited too long to seek legal fees and sanctions against Trump's lawyers, U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig in Milwaukee ruled.

Ludwig, a Trump appointee, said the flaws in Trump's frequently shifting election fraud lawsuit were "not insignificant failings" and that perhaps Trump's election fraud case "ought never to have been filed."

"Ready, fire, aim is not the preferred approach when litigating constitutional claims in federal court," Ludwig said. "Nevertheless, in the overall context of this case, the court is unable to conclude that counsel's conduct multiplied these proceedings in an objectively unreasonable and vexatious manner sufficient to warrant a fee award."

Wisconsin Gov. Evers on March 31, 2021 asked a federal judge to order Trump to reimburse the state for attorneys' fees and court costs associated with Trump's failed attempts to overturn the election results through "frivolous" legal action, Law & Crime reported. The motion was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Gov. Evers argued Trump's claims were "bereft of legal or factual basis" but the state still had no choice but to spend taxpayer dollars to defend against the "scattershot litigation tactics" employed by Trump's legal team.

The state was seeking to recoup $145,174.90 and argued in its filing, "This Court has both statutory and inherent authority to make the State whole for attorneys' fees...Trump and his attorneys should be jointly and severally liable, to dissuade future candidates and attorneys from engaging in such reckless abuses of the judicial system."

According to Law & Crime and the Wall Street Journal, Trump's attorneys had initially filed the election fraud suit Dec. 2, 2020 alleging state election officials intentionally undermined safeguards for absentee ballots and permitted ballot tampering. They were seeking an injunction to prevent the state from certifying its election results and "remanding" the case to the Wisconsin legislature. Ten days later, Judge Ludwig dismissed the "extraordinary case," writing that Trump "asks that the Rule of Law be followed. It has been."

The ruling on Trump's election fraud lawsuit was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, where an all-Republican three-judge panel unanimously affirmed Ludwig's ruling. "We agree that Wisconsin lawfully appointed its electors in the manner directed by its Legislature."

Milwaukee County officials asked a federal court April 8, 2022 to force Trump and his counsel to pay them $65,520 in attorneys fees after he brought a lawsuit against the state challenging their election results. In addition, city officials in Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay filed separate requests for attorneys fees on similar grounds, asking for a total of $42,570. Both these efforts failed.

Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others, imposes $1 million fine on Trump, lawyer 

The Latest: Former President Trump and one of his lawyers are appealing nearly $1 million in sanctions imposed on them for what a federal judge called their "frivolous" lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and more than two dozen other defendants, CNBC reported Feb. 6.

In imposing those sanctions Jan. 19, Judge Donald Middlebrooks said in an order, "We are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose."

Trump's suit, which sought $70 million in damages, accused Clinton, former FBI officials, the Democratic National Committee and others of conspiring to create a "false narrative" that Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign against Clinton were colluding with Russia to try to win the election that year.

The Florida federal judge ordered Trump and his lead attorney, Alina Habba, to pay over $937,000 in sanctions, AXIOS reported Jan. 19.

Trump's suit baselessly accused Clinton, her campaign and other Democrats of working to paint a false narrative about Trump's alleged collusion with Russia in order to win the 2016 presidential election.

Middlebrooks, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton, dismissed the case last September, calling it a "two-hundred-page political manifesto" and ruling that Trump exceeded the legal statute of limitations. "This case should never have been brought. Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start," "No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim." 

Background:  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 brought on Trump's behalf against his 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and dozens more defendants, The Hill reported.

The sanctioned parties - four attorneys and their two law firms - were ordered to pay a $50,000 court penalty and more than $16,000 in attorney's fees to one of the named defendants in Trump's suit.

"[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 U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks, an appointee of former President Clinton, wrote in a blistering 19-page order.

Upcoming dates: Trump investigations, lawsuits, sentencing and trials*

Georgia county DA investigating Trump's alleged attempt to overthrow election

District Attorney Willis told the court on Jan. 24 that a decision on whether to charge any defendants is "imminent." The judge's decision on whether to make the grand jury's report public is pending.

Smartmatic sues Fox News

Fox's production of documents and all fact discovery must be completed by March 31.

E. Jean Carroll sues Trump for defamation, sexual battery

A trial date of April 10 in federal court in New York was set by Judge Lewis Kaplan.

Dominion sues Fox News

Trial date set for April 17 in Delaware state court.

Truth Social: Despite its struggles, money problems and federal investigations, hangs on to become Trump's go-to platform

Trump's exclusivity agreement with the company taking Truth Social public expires in June.

CNBC reported that the company set to take Truth Social public has delayed its deadline for the merger with the former president's firm until September.

New York AG sues Trump for $250 million

Trial is scheduled for Oct. 2.

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

U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield formally set a trial date for Jan. 29, 2024.

*Blog editor's note:  All dates are subject to change. Please double-check.

News and commentary sources used in blog (127)*

ABC News       AdWeek      AlterNet       Arizona Republic       Asheville Citizen Times

Associated Press      Atlanta Journal-Constitution      Atlantic, The       AXIOS       

Benzinga       Bloomberg News       Bloomberg Law      Breitbart News     Bridge Michigan       

Bulwark, The      Business Insider      Buzzfeed

CBS News      Channel 2 Action News (Atlanta)     Charleston Post & Courier      

Check Your Fact    CNBC        CNN     Commentary    

Courthouse News     Daily Beast, The    Daily Caller, The      

Daily Kos     DailyMail.com       Deadline.com

Democracy Docket     Detroit Free-Press      Detroit News 

11Alive (Atlanta)      Federalist, The

Financial Times      Forbes      Fox Business        Fox News      Fox News Digital

Fox News Sunday     Free Beacon     Government Executive       GPB News

Guardian, The     Hill, The     Hot Air     Huffington Post

Independent, The     Insider     Intercept, The     InvestorPlace    

Jezebel       Just Security        KPNX-TV (Phoenix)    

Law & Crime     Law.com     Los Angeles Times     Mashable 

Mediaite    Media Matters     Michigan Live     Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Mother Jones     MSNBC     National Memo, The    National Review Online

NBC News     Newsmax       Newsweek     New Republic, The

The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)     New York Daily News    New Yorker, The    

New York Post    New York Times       NPR       Occupy Democrats     Onion, The

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project        PBS NewsHour       People

Philadelphia Inquirer      Pittsburgh Post-Gazette        Political Wire     

Politico       Politifact         Real Money     Reuters     Rolling Stone     Salon     

Salt Lake Tribune    San Antonio Express-News      Sarasota Herald-Tribune      

Semafor     SFGate     SiriusXM      Slate       St. Louis Post-Dispatch     

Stock Dork, The       Talking Point Memo       Tampa Bay Times     TechCrunch.com  

Texarkana Gazette      Texas Tribune       TheStreet

Times of San Diego     TMZ     Truth Social

Urban Milwaukee    UPI News     USA Today    U.S. News & World Report      Variety

Vice News     Vox.com      Wall Street Journal     Washingtonian Magazine

Washington Examiner     Washington Post

Washington Times     The Week       WISN 12 (Milwaukee)     WJCL (Savannah, GA)

WRAL     Wrap, The     WSB-TV (Atlanta)       WUSA9 (Washington, DC)      

Yahoo Finance     Yahoo News  

* The blog thanks the reporters and publishers of the media listed above for their professionalism and dedication to a free press in America.

Trump's Legal Problems - Political Blog
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