President Joe Biden issued one of his most dire warnings yet that Donald Trump and his allies are a menace to American democracy, declaring Thursday that the former president is more interested in personal power than upholding the nation's core values and suggesting even mainstream Republicans are complicit. "The silence is deafening," he said. During a speech in Arizona celebrating a library to be built honoring his friend and fierce Trump critic, the late Republican Sen. John McCain, Biden repeated one of his key campaign themes, branding the "Make America Great Again" movement as an existential threat to the U.S. political system. He's reviving that idea ahead of next year's presidential race after it buoyed Democrats during last fall's midterm election, laying out the threat in especially stark terms: "There's something dangerous happening in America right now." "We should all remember, democracies don't have to die at the end of a rifle," Biden said. "They can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or condemn threats to democracy, when people are willing to give away that which is most precious to them because they feel frustrated, disillusioned, tired, alienated." The 2024 election is still more than a year away, yet Biden's focus reflects Trump's status as the undisputed frontrunner for his party's nomination despite facing four indictments, two of them related to his attempts to overturn Biden's 2020 victory. Trump campaign reports raising more than $7 million after Georgia booking The president's speech was his fourth in a series of addresses on what he sees as challenges to democracy, a topic that is a touchstone for him as he tries to remain in office in the face of low approval ratings and widespread concern from voters about his age, 80. He used this line of political attack frequently ahead of last year's midterms, when Democrats gained a Senate seat and only narrowly lost the House to the GOP. But shifting the narrative in Washington could be especially tricky given that Biden is facing mounting pressure on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans held the first hearing in their impeachment inquiry and where the prospect of a government shutdown looms — a prospect Trump has actively egged on. On the first anniversary of Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters staged an insurrection, Biden visited the Capitol and accused Trump of continuing to hold a "dagger" at democracy's throat. He closed out the summer that year in the shadow of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, decrying Trumpism as a menace to democratic institutions. And in November, as voters were casting midterm ballots, Biden again sounded a clarion call to protect democratic institutions. Advisers see the president's continued focus on democracy as both good policy and good politics. Campaign officials have pored over the election results from last November, when candidates who denied the 2020 election results did not fare well in competitive races, and point to polling that showed democracy was a highly motivating issue for voters in 2022. "Our task, our sacred task of our time, is to make sure that they change not for the worst but for the better, that democracy survives and thrives, not be smashed by a movement more interested in power than a principle," Biden said Thursday. "It's up to us, the American people." Like previous speeches the latest location was chosen for effect. It was near Arizona State University, which houses the McCain Institute, named after the late senator, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who spent his public life denouncing autocrats around the globe. Biden said that "there is no question that today's Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA extremists." He pointed to Trump's recent suggestion that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who is stepping down from his post on Friday, should be executed for allegedly treasonous betrayal of him. House Republicans make their case for Biden impeachment inquiry at first hearing "Although I don't believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening," Biden added. He also noted that Trump has previously questioned those who serve in the U.S. military calling "service members suckers and losers. Was John a sucker?" Biden asked, referring to McCain, who survived long imprisonment in Vietnam. Then he got even more personal adding, "Was my son, Beau — who lived next to a burn pit for a year and came home and died — was he a sucker for volunteering to serve his country?" The late senator's wife, Cindy McCain, said the library, which is still to be built, grew out of bipartisan support from Biden, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs and her predecessor, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. She called it "a fitting legacy for my husband" and recalled how the Bidens introduced her to her future husband decades ago. "I am so grateful for that," Cindy McCain said, her voice cracking. Later Thursday, the Treasury Department announced $83 million in federal funds to help construct the 83,000-square-foot library near Papago Park. Republicans competing with Trump for their party's 2024 presidential nomination have largely avoided challenging his election falsehoods, and Biden said Thursday that voters can't let them get away with it. "Democracy is not a partisan issue," he said. "It's An American issue." After the speech, Biden spoke at an Arizona fundraiser for his reelection campaign. The attendees included Brittney Griner, the basketball star who was arrested last year at the airport in Moscow on drug-related charges and detained for nearly 10 months. Biden tells Pacific islands leaders that he hears their warnings about climate change and will act A number of candidates who backed Trump's election lies and were running for statewide offices with some influence over elections — governor, secretary of state, attorney general — lost their midterm races in every presidential battleground state. Still, in few states does Biden's message of democracy resonate more than in Arizona, which became politically competitive during Trump's presidency after seven decades of Republican dominance. Biden's victory made the state a hotbed of efforts to overturn or cast doubt on the results, and some GOP candidates continue to deny basic facts on elections. That's help reinforce other claims from Democrats about GOP extremism on other, separate issues, said Republican officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly describe the party's election shortcomings last year. Though Trump-animated forces in the party dominate public attention, many Republican voters were concerned about other issues such as the economy and the border and did not want to focus on an election result that was two years old. Republican state lawmakers used their subpoena power to obtain all the 2020 ballots and vote-counting machines from Maricopa County, then hired Trump supporters to conduct an unprecedented partisan review of the election. The widely mocked spectacleconfirmed Biden's victory but fueled unfounded conspiracy theories about the election and spurred an exodus of election workers. In the midterms, voters up and down the ballot rejected Republican candidates who repeatedly denied the results of the 2020 election. But Kari Lake, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, has never conceded her loss to Hobbs and plans to launch a bid for the U.S. Senate. Last year, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters and Mark Finchem, who ran for secretary of state, also repeated fraudulent election claims in their campaigns. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., who defeated Masters, said the importance of defending democracy resonates not only with members of his own party but independents and moderate GOP voters. "I met so many Republicans that were sick and tired of the lies about an election that was two years old," Kelly said. Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in next year's Senate race, said a democracy-focused message is particularly important to two critical blocs of voters in the state: Latinos and veterans, both of whom Gallego said are uniquely affected by election denialism and the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. "You know, we come from countries and experiences where democracy is very corrupt, and many of us are only one generation removed from that, but we're close enough to see how bad it can be," Gallego said. "And so Jan. 6 actually was particularly jarring, I think, to Latinos."
Donald Trump was indicted on felony charges Tuesday for working to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the run-up to the violent riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol, with the Justice Department acting to hold him accountable for an unprecedented effort to block the peaceful transfer of presidential power and threaten American democracy. The four-count indictment, the third criminal case against Trump, provided deeper insight into a dark moment that has already been the subject of exhaustive federal investigations and captivating public hearings. It chronicles a months-long campaign of lies about the election results and says that, even when those falsehoods resulted in a chaotic insurrection at the Capitol, Trump sought to exploit the violence by pointing to it as a reason to further delay the counting of votes that sealed his defeat. Even in a year of rapid-succession legal reckonings for Trump, Tuesday’s indictment, with charges including conspiring to defraud the United States government that he once led, was stunning in its allegations that a former president assaulted the “bedrock function” of democracy. It’s the first time the defeated president, who is the early front-runner for next year's Republican presidential nomination, is facing legal consequences for his frantic but ultimately failed effort to cling to power. Trump pleads not guilty to federal charges that he illegally kept classified documents “The attack on our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” said Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, whose office has spent months investigating Trump. “It was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government: the nation’s process of collecting counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.” The Trump campaign called the charges “fake” and asked why it took two-and-a-half years to bring them. Trump was the only person charged in Tuesday's indictment. But prosecutors obliquely referenced a half-dozen co-conspirators, including lawyers inside and outside of government who they said had worked with Trump to undo the election results. They also advanced legally dubious schemes to enlist slates of fake electors in battleground states won by Democrat Joe Biden to falsely claim that Trump had actually won them. The indictment accuses the defeated president and his allies of trying to “exploit the violence and chaos” by calling lawmakers into the evening on Jan. 6 to delay the certification of Biden’s victory. Trump arrives in Florida as history-making court appearance approaches in classified documents case It also cites handwritten notes from former Vice President Mike Pence that give gravitas to Trump’s relentless goading to reject the electoral votes. Pence, who is challenging Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, declined overtures from a House panel that investigated the insurrection and sought to avoid testifying before the special counsel. He appeared only after losing a court fight, with prosecutors learning that Trump in one conversation derided him as “too honest” to stop the certification. Trump is due in court Thursday, the first step in a legal process that will play out in a courthouse situated between the White House he once controlled and the Capitol his supporters once stormed. The case is already being dismissed by the former president and his supporters — and even some of his rivals — as just another politically motivated prosecution. Trump set for first public appearances since federal indictment, speaking in Georgia, North Carolina Yet the case stems from one of the most serious threats to American democracy in modern history. The indictment centers on the turbulent two months after the November 2020 election in which Trump refused to accept his loss and spread lies that victory was stolen from him. The turmoil resulted in the riot at the Capitol, when Trump loyalists violently broke into the building, attacked police officers and disrupted the congressional counting of electoral votes. In between the election and the riot, Trump urged local election officials to undo voting results in their states, pressured Pence to halt the certification of electoral votes and falsely claimed that the election had been stolen — a notion repeatedly rejected by judges. Among those lies, prosecutors say, were claims that more than 10,000 dead voters had voted in Georgia along with tens of thousands of double votes in Nevada. Each claim had been rebutted by courts or state or federal officials, the indictment says. Prosecutors say Trump knew his claims of having won the election were false but he "repeated and widely disseminated them anyway — to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, to create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and to erode public faith in the administration of the election.” The document carefully outlined arguments that Trump has been making to defend his conduct, that he had every right to challenge the results, to use the courts, even to lie about it in the process. But in stark detail, the indictment outlines how the former president instead took criminal steps to reverse the clear verdict voters had rendered. The indictment had been expected since Trump said in mid-July that the Justice Department had informed him he was a target of its investigation. A bipartisan House committee that spent months investigating the run-up to the Capitol riot also recommended prosecuting Trump on charges, including aiding an insurrection and obstructing an official proceeding. The indictment includes charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S., conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstructing an official proceeding and violating a post-Civil War Reconstruction Era civil rights statute that makes it a crime to conspire to violate rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution — in this case, the right to vote. The mounting criminal cases are unfolding in the heat of the 2024 race. A conviction in this case, or any other, would not prevent Trump from pursuing the White House or serving as president, though Trump as president could theoretically appoint an attorney general to dismiss the charges or potentially try to pardon himself. In New York, state prosecutors have charged Trump with falsifying business records about a hush money payoff to a porn actor before the 2016 election. The trial is set to begin in March. In Florida, the Justice Department has brought more than three dozen felony counts, accusing him of illegally possessing classified documents after leaving the White House and concealing them from investigators. That trial begins in May. Prosecutors in Georgia are also investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse his election loss to Biden there. The district attorney of Fulton County is expected to announce charging decisions within weeks. Smith's team has cast a broad net as part of his federal investigation, with his team questioning senior Trump administration officials, including Pence, before a grand jury in Washington. Prosecutors also interviewed election officials in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and other battleground states won by Biden who were pressured by the Trump team to change voting results. Rudy Giuliani, a Trump lawyer who pursued post-election legal challenges, spoke voluntarily to prosecutors. Giuliani was not named in the indictment, but appears to match the description of one of the co-conspirators. A spokesman for Giuliani said Tuesday night that Trump had a “good-faith basis” for the actions he took. Attorney General Merrick Garland last year appointed Smith, an international war crimes prosecutor who also led the Justice Department’s public corruption section, as special counsel to investigate efforts to undo the election as well as Trump’s retention of classified documents at his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago. Although Trump has derided him as “deranged” and called him politically motivated, Smith’s past experience includes overseeing significant prosecutions against high-profile Democrats. The Justice Department’s investigations began well before Smith’s appointment, proceeding alongside separate criminal probes into the rioters themselves. More than 1,000 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection, including some with seditious conspiracy.
A nearly 30-year-old rape claim against Donald Trump went to trial Tuesday as jurors in the federal civil case heard a former advice columnist’s allegation of being attacked in a luxury department store dressing room. The former president says nothing happened between them. E. Jean Carroll will testify that what unfolded in a few minutes in a fitting room in 1996 “would change her life forever,” one of her lawyers, Shawn Crowley, said in an opening statement. “Filled with fear and shame, she kept silent for decades. Eventually, though, silence became impossible,” Crowley said. And when Carroll broke that silence in a 2019 memoir, the then-president “used the most powerful platform on Earth to lie about what he had done, attack Ms. Carroll’s integrity and insult her appearance.” Trump — who wasn't in court but hasn't ruled out testifying —- has called Carroll a “nut job” who fabricated the rape claim to sell her book. Defense attorney Joe Tacopina told jurors Tuesday that her story was wildly implausible and short of evidence. He accused her of pursuing the case for money, status and political reasons, urging the jurors from heavily Democratic New York to put aside any animus they themselves might hold toward the Republican ex-president and ex-New Yorker. Also Read: Rape lawsuit trial against Donald Trump set to get underway “You can hate Donald Trump. That’s OK. But there’s a time and a secret place for that. It’s called a ballot box in an election. It’s not here in a court of law,” Tacopina told the six-man, three-woman panel. “Nobody’s above the law, but no one is beneath it.” The trial stands to test Trump's “Teflon Don” reputation for shaking off serious legal problems and to reprise accounts of the type of sexual misconduct that rocked his 2016 presidential campaign as he seeks office again. Trump denies all the claims, saying they are falsehoods spun up to damage him. The trial comes a month after he pleaded not guilty in an unrelated criminal case surrounding payments made to bury accounts of alleged extramarital sex. Carroll's suit is a civil case, meaning that no matter the outcome, Trump isn't in danger of going to jail. She is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a retraction of Trump statements that she alleges were defamatory. Among his comments: “She’s not my type," which her lawyers say was tantamount to calling her too unattractive to assault. Jurors — whose names are being kept secret to prevent potential harassment — range in age from 26 to 66 and include a janitor, a physical therapist and people who work in security, health care collections, a library, a high school and other settings. They were questioned about their news-watching habits (which vary from watching “everything” to ignoring it all), political donations and support for any of a roster of right- and left-wing groups. They were asked, too, whether they used Trump’s social media platform, read Carroll’s former Elle magazine column and even if they’d seen Trump’s former reality show “The Apprentice” — and whether any of these and other matters would make it difficult for them to be fair. Carroll, 79, is expected to testify as soon as Wednesday that a chance encounter with Trump, 76, turned violent, and that he defamed her when responding to the rape allegations. She says that after she ran into the future president at Manhattan's Bergdorf Goodman on an unspecified spring Thursday evening in 1996, he invited her to shop with him for a woman's lingerie gift before they teased one another to try on a bodysuit. Carroll says they ended up alone together in a store dressing room, where Trump pushed her against a wall and raped before she fought him off and fled. Her suit argues that she was psychologically scarred by the alleged attack, and then subjected to an onslaught of hateful messages and reputational damage when Trump painted her as a liar. “This case is Ms. Carroll's chance to clear her name, to pursue justice,” Crowley said. Tacopina countered that it was “an affront to justice.” He suggested her account of being violently raped in the Fifth Avenue store, with no one around, was preposterous. Also, Tacopina noted, there was no record that Carroll had any injuries, sought out a doctor or therapist, asked the store about surveillance video or even wrote about the alleged attack in her diary. “It all comes down to: Do you believe the unbelievable?” he asked in his opening statement. Also Read: Trump's day in court as criminal defendant: What to know Jurors are also expected to hear from two other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Trump. The jury will also see the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump is heard asserting that celebrities can grab women sexually without asking. Carroll's allegations normally would be too old to bring to court. But in November, New York state enacted a law allowing for suits over decades-old sexual abuse claims. The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.
For decades, former President Donald Trump has seemed to shake off allegations, investigations and even impeachments. Now his “Teflon Don” reputation is about to face a new test: a jury of average citizens in a lawsuit accusing him of rape. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in a trial over former advice columnist's E. Jean Carroll's claim that Trump raped her nearly three decades ago in a department store dressing room. He denies it. The trial is in a federal civil court, meaning that no matter the outcome, Trump isn't in danger of going to jail. He isn't required to be in court, either, and his lawyers have indicated he most likely won't testify. But the trial, which comes as Trump is again running for president, still has the potential to be politically damaging for the Republican. The jury is poised to hear a reprisal of stories of sexual misconduct that rocked his 2016 presidential campaign, allegations he claimed were falsehoods spun up to try to stop him from winning. Also Read: Biden review of chaotic Afghan withdrawal blames Trump The trial also comes a month after he pleaded not guilty in an unrelated criminal case surrounding payments made to bury accounts of alleged extramarital sex. Carroll, who seeks unspecified damages, is expected to testify about a chance encounter with Trump in late 1995 or early 1996 that she says turned violent. The trial will also include Carroll's defamation claim against Trump over disparaging remarks he made about her in response to the rape allegations. She's seeking a retraction. She says that after running into the future president at Manhattan's Bergdorf Goodman, he invited her to shop with him for a woman's lingerie gift before they teased one another to try on a garment. Carroll says they ended up alone together in a store dressing room, where Trump pushed her against a wall and raped before she fought him off and fled. Since Carroll first made her accusations in a 2019 memoir, Trump has vehemently denied that a rape ever occurred or that he even knew Carroll, a longtime columnist for Elle magazine. Trump has labeled Carroll a “nut job” and “mentally sick.” He claimed she fabricated the rape claim to boost sales of her book. Also Read: Never thought this could happen in America: Trump says after being charged “She’s not my type,” he has said repeatedly, although during sworn questioning in October, he also misidentified her in a photograph as his ex-wife Marla Maples. Carroll didn't stop to speak with reporters as she arrived at the courthouse Tuesday morning. Jurors are also expected to hear from two other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Trump. Jessica Leeds is set to testify that Trump tried to put his hand up her skirt on a 1979 flight on which the two were assigned neighboring seats. Natasha Stoynoff, a former People magazine staff writer, will testify that Trump pinned her against a wall and forcibly kissed her at his Florida mansion when she went there in 2005 to interview Trump and his then-pregnant wife Melania Trump. Also Read: Trump's day in court as criminal defendant: What to know Jurors will also see the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump is heard making misogynistic remarks about women, including an assertion that celebrities can grab, even sexually, women without asking. Carroll's allegations normally would be too old to bring to court. But in November, New York state enacted a law allowing for suits over decades-old sexual abuse claims. The jurors' names will be withheld from both the public and the lawyers, to protect them against possible harassment. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who will preside over the trial, rejected a request by Trump's lawyers that jurors be told that the ex-president wanted to spare the city the disruption his presence might cause. Kaplan noted that Trump has a New Hampshire campaign event scheduled for Thursday, the third day of the trial. “If the Secret Service can protect him at that event, certainly the Secret Service, the Marshals Service, and the City of New York can see to his security in this very secure federal courthouse,” Kaplan wrote in an order. Trump could still decide to attend the trial and testify. If he does not, the jury might be shown excerpts from his deposition, which was recorded on video. On Monday, Kaplan instructed lawyers on both sides not to say anything in front of prospective jurors Tuesday about who is paying legal fees. Earlier this month, the judge let Trump's lawyers question Carroll for an extra hour after it was revealed that her lawyers had received funding from American Future Republic, an organization funded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. In earlier questioning, Carroll said the lawyers were relying solely on contingency fees. The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll, Leeds and Stoynoff have done.
For the first time in history, a former U.S. president has appeared in court as a criminal defendant. Donald Trump surrendered to authorities Tuesday after being indicted by a New York grand jury on charges related to hush-money payments at the height of the 2016 presidential election. Trump, a 2024 presidential candidate, pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges in a Manhattan courtroom. He then flew home to Florida and spoke to a crowd of supporters at his home. Here’s what to know about Trump’s day in court: HUSH-MONEY PAYMENTS RELATED TO 2016 ELECTION Prosecutors unsealed the indictment against the former president Tuesday, giving Trump, his lawyers and the world their first opportunity to see them. Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Prosecutors said Trump conspired to undermine the 2016 presidential election by trying to suppress information that could harm his candidacy, and then concealing the true nature of the hush-money payments. The payments were made to two women — including a porn actor — who claimed they had sexual encounters with him years earlier, and to a doorman at Trump Tower who claimed to have a story about a child Trump fathered out of wedlock, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office. Also Read: Trump charged with 34 felony counts in hush money scheme DONALD J. TRUMP, DEFENDANT Trump was only seen briefly outside the district attorney’s office, where he surrendered to authorities and was booked and fingerprinted behind closed doors. Trump’s mugshot was not taken, according to two law enforcement officials who could not publicly discuss details of the process and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. As the former president entered the courtroom, he briefly looked at a huddle of news cameras but did not stop to speak to reporters. Inside the courtroom, Trump sat at the defense table with his hands in his lap and his lawyers at his side. He looked right at photojournalists who were briefly allowed into the courtroom as they snapped his photo. During the rest of the proceeding, he stayed still with his hands together and looked straight ahead. Trump only spoke briefly in court, telling the judge he was pleading “not guilty” and had been advised of his rights. The judge warned Trump that he could be removed from the courtroom if he was disruptive. Trump made no comment when he left court just under an hour later. Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche said during the hearing that Trump is “absolutely frustrated, upset and believes that there is a great injustice happening” in the courtroom. A ‘SURREAL’ DAY IN THE CITY WHERE HE GAINED FAME Before he appeared in court, Trump made posts on his social media network complaining that the heavily Democratic area was a “VERY UNFAIR VENUE” and “THIS IS NOT WHAT AMERICA WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!” As his motorcade carried him across Manhattan, he posted that the experience was “SURREAL.” The Republican has portrayed the Manhattan case and three separate investigations from the Justice Department and prosecutors in Georgia, as politically motivated. In recent weeks, he has lashed out at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, called on his supports to protest and warned about “potential death and destruction” if he were charged. TRUMP ADDRESSES SUPPORTERS Appearing in front of several hundred supporters at his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, Tuesday night, Trump repeated his claims that the investigation was politically motivated. He and attacked Bragg and the judge in the New York case, the judge's family and other prosecutors investigating him in other cases. “The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it," Trump said. BRAGG SPEAKS BRIEFLY Bragg, speaking publicly for the first time since the indictment last week, held a brief news conference after the court proceedings in which he said the hush-money scheme constituted “felony crimes in New York state—no matter who you are.” “We cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct,” Bragg said. The Democratic prosecutor said accurate and true business records are important everywhere, but especially in Manhattan, because it's the financial center of the world. Bragg was asked at the news conference why he was bringing the case now and if the timing was political. The district attorney said his office had “additional evidence” that his predecessor did not. “I bring cases when they’re ready,” he said. WARNINGS AND POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES The judge on Tuesday did not impose a gag order but warned Trump to avoid making comments that were inflammatory or could cause civil unrest. If convicted of any one of the 34 felony charges, Trump could face a maximum of four years in prison, but he'd likely be sentenced to less. TRIAL WHILE CAMPAIGNING FOR PRESIDENCY Trump is due back in court in December, but his lawyers asked that he be excused from attending that hearing in person because of the extraordinary security required to have him show up. Prosecutors asked the judge to set a trial for January — weeks before the first votes will be cast in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Trump's lawyers asked that it be pushed to the spring. The judge did not immediately set a date. MIXED POLITICAL IMPACTS Though he faces a swirl of legal challenges, Trump is running for president again and has sought to use the charges and other investigations to galvanize his supporters. Most of the Republicans also running or eyeing campaigns have released statements supportive of Trump while slamming the investigations of him as politically motivated. Many Democratic elected officials have said little about the New York indictment, including President Joe Biden. Trump’s legal troubles are only expected to bolster Democratic voters' opposition to him, but it’s unclear whether some Republicans and independent voters will see the legal problems as too much baggage. A NEW YORK CIRCUS A crowd of Trump supporters, thronged by journalists, gathered Tuesday outside the Manhattan courthouse. Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and George Santos of New York, who is facing multiple investigations over lies he told while running for office, were swarmed by cameras and reporters when they arrived and spoke mid-morning. A band of anti-Trump protesters appeared with a large banner saying, “Trump Lies All the Time.”
A stone-faced Donald Trump made a momentous courtroom appearance Tuesday when he was confronted with a 34-count felony indictment charging him in a scheme to bury allegations of extramarital affairs that arose during his first White House campaign. The arraignment in a Manhattan courtroom was a stunning — and humbling — spectacle for the first ex-president to ever face criminal charges. With Trump watching in silence, prosecutors bluntly accused him of criminal conduct and set the stage for a possible criminal trial in the city where he became a celebrity decades ago. The indictment centers on allegations that Trump falsified internal business records at his private company while trying to cover up an effort to illegally influence the 2016 election by arranging payments that silenced claims potentially harmful to his candidacy. It includes 34 counts of fudging records related to checks Trump sent to his personal lawyer and problem-solver to reimburse him for his role in paying off a porn actor who said she had an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier. “The defendant, Donald J. Trump, falsified New York business records in order to conceal an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential election and other violations of election laws," said Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy. Also Read: Trump pleads not guilty to 34 charges, admonished by judge Trump, somber and silent as he entered and exited the Manhattan courtroom, said “not guilty” in a firm voice while facing a judge who warned him to refrain from rhetoric that could inflame or cause civil unrest. All told, the ever-verbose Trump, who for weeks before Tuesday’s arraignment had assailed the case against him as political persecution, uttered only 10 words in the courtroom. He appeared to glare for a period at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor who brought the case. The indictment amounts to a remarkable reckoning for Trump after years of investigations into his personal, business and political dealings. It shows how even as Trump is looking to reclaim the White House in 2024, he is shadowed by investigations related to his behavior in the two prior elections, with prosecutors in Atlanta and Washington scrutinizing efforts by Trump and his allies to undo the 2020 presidential election — probes that could produce even more charges. Also Read: Besides Trump, these are the current and former world leaders facing criminal charges In the New York case, each count of falsifying business records, a felony, is punishable by up to four years in prison — though it's not clear if a judge would impose any prison time if Trump is convicted. The next court date is Dec. 4 — two months before Republicans begin their nominating process in earnest — and Trump will again be expected to appear. A conviction would not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024. The arraignment also delved into Trump's rhetoric on the case, with prosecutors at one point handing printouts of his social media posts to the judge and defense lawyers as Trump looked on. Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan did not impose a gag order but told Trump's lawyers to urge him to refrain from posts that could encourage unrest. The broad contours of the case have long been known, focusing on a scheme that prosecutors say began months into his candidacy in 2015, as his celebrity past collided with his presidential ambitions. Though prosecutors expressed confidence in the case, a conviction is no sure thing given the legal complexities of the allegations, the application of state election laws to a federal election and prosecutors' likely reliance on a key witness, Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to false statements. It centers on payoffs to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump years earlier, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged the former president had out of wedlock. "It’s not just about one payment. It is 34 false statements and business records that were concealing criminal conduct,” Bragg told reporters, when asked how the three separate cases were connected. All 34 counts against Trump are linked to a series of checks that were written to Cohen to reimburse him for his role in paying off Daniels. Those payments, made over 12 months, were recorded in various internal company documents as being for a legal retainer that prosecutors say didn’t exist. Cohen testified before the grand jury and is expected to be a star prosecution witness. Nine of those monthly checks were paid out of Trump’s personal accounts, but records related to them were maintained in the Trump Organization’s data system. Prosecutors allege that the first instance of Trump directing hush money payments came in the fall of 2015, when a former Trump Tower doorman was trying to sell information about an alleged out-of-wedlock child fathered by Trump. David Pecker, a Trump friend and the publisher of the National Enquirer, made a $30,000 payment to the doorman to acquire the exclusive rights to the story, pursuant to an agreement to protect Trump during his presidential campaign, according to the indictment. Pecker’s company later determined the doorman’s story was false, but is alleged to have enforced the doorman’s confidentiality at Cohen’s urging until after Election Day. Trump denies having sexual liaisons with both Daniels and McDougal and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments. Tuesday's schedule, with its striking blend of legal and political calendar items, represents the new split-screen reality for Trump as he submits to the dour demands of the American criminal justice system while projecting an aura of defiance and victimhood at celebratory campaign events. Wearing his signature dark suit and red tie, Trump turned and waved to crowds outside the building before heading inside to be fingerprinted and processed. He arrived at court in an eight-car motorcade from Trump Tower, communicating in real time his anger at the process. “Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse," he posted on his Truth Social platform. "Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!” Afterward, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told reporters that it was a “sad day for the country.” “You don’t expect this to happen to somebody who was president of the United States," he said.
Donald Trump may be the first former US president to face criminal charges, but many current and past leaders around the world have been tried or even jailed. Several of those leaders described the charges leveled against them as “politically motivated”. Yet, the charges have not always been a barrier to holding political office, reports CNN.Here are some notable recent examples: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu No one has served as Prime Minister of Israel longer than Benjamin Netanyahu, who was sworn in for his sixth term late last year. He is also being tried for corruption on counts of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. The Israeli PM, however, called the trial a “witch hunt.” While the case continues, Netanyahu has pushed a contentious plan to weaken Israel's judiciary, the report also said. One of the measures limits the methods by which a sitting prime minister may be judged unfit for office, prompting many Israeli opposition lawmakers to accuse Netanyahu of manipulating the judicial makeover to protect himself. He denies the charges. Read More: Trump's day in court as criminal defendant: What to know Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was imprisoned in April 2018, and was released in November 2019.He was jailed for corruption and money laundering after a construction business reportedly paid him and his wife $1.1 million in renovations and costs for a beachfront condominium. Prosecutors claimed that in exchange, the business received lucrative contracts from Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant. Lula has referred to the allegations as a "farce," stating that they are politically driven. Upon his release from jail in 2019, a Brazilian court overturned his corruption convictions, allowing Lula to run for president in 2022, when he beat Jair Bolsonaro. In January, he was sworn in for the third time as president. Bolsonaro is now facing potential legal problems, including allegations that he incited violent attacks in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia in January. Read More: Trump charged with 34 felony counts in hush money scheme Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina's current vice president, was sentenced to six years in jail last December after being found guilty of corruption during her two stints as president, from 2007 to 2011 and 2011 to 2015, the report also said. She was accused of conspiring with other government officials to grant contracts worth millions of dollars for road construction that were unfinished, expensive, and useless, according to the complaint.The charges against her were politically-motivated, Kirchner stated. The Argentine court convicted the 70-year-old former president of the country guilty of "fraudulent administration" and barred her from holding public office again. She does, however, have temporary immunity because of her present employment, which means she will not be going to jail anytime soon and can appeal. Read More: Trump indictment ends decades of perceived invincibility Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim After two stints in jail prior to his premiership, Anwar Ibrahim became Malaysia's prime minister in November 2022, in an unprecedented turn of events. Anwar was sentenced to prison in April 1999 after being convicted of sodomy. Sodomy, even if consensual, is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail in Muslim-majority Malaysia. He has always vigorously denied the allegations, claiming they were politically motivated. In 2004, a court reversed that conviction. Further claims of sodomy were leveled against him after his comeback as an opposition figure, and he was remanded to prison in 2014 after a lengthy legal struggle that lasted years. Anwar was freed from jail in May 2018 after receiving a royal pardon. He immediately returned to parliament before leading the Pakatan Harapan coalition to a majority of seats in Malaysia's general election in 2022. Read More: Capitol insurrection: Jan. 6 panel unveils report, describes Trump 'conspiracy' Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi Before 2011, the flamboyant Italian billionaire was a serial prime minister. Berlusconi was the dominating figure in Italian politics for over two decades, during which time he was prosecuted on at least 17 counts of embezzlement, tax fraud, and bribery, said the CNN report.He has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and several of his convictions have been overturned on appeal. His resignation in 2011 was not due to legal concerns, but rather to Italy's debt crisis.The 81-year-old gained a seat in Italy's Senate in September 2022, and his party is a member of the country's ruling coalition. Read More: Trump probe: Court halts Mar-a-Lago special master review
When Donald Trump steps before a judge this coming week to be arraigned in a New York courtroom, it will not only mark the first time a former U.S. president has faced criminal charges. It will also be a reckoning for a man long nicknamed “Teflon Don,” who until now has managed to skirt serious legal jeopardy despite 40 years of legal scrutiny. Trump, who is the early front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to turn himself in Tuesday. He faces charges including at least one felony offense related to hush money payments to women during his 2016 campaign. Like any other person facing trial, he will be booked, fingerprinted and photographed before being given the chance to enter a plea. The spectacle that is sure to unfold will mark an unprecedented moment in American history that will demonstrate once again how dramatically Trump — who already held the distinction of being the first president to be impeached twice — has upended democratic norms. But on a personal level, the indictment pierces the cloak of invincibility that seemed to follow Trump through his decades in business and in politics, as he faced allegations of fraud, collusion and sexual misconduct. “Boy, after all this time it’s a bit of a shock,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said of the indictment. “You know I always thought of him as the Gingerbread Man, shouting, ‘You can’t catch me!’ as he ran away.” “Given his track record,” he said, “I had trouble imagining he would ever be held accountable.” “These are not things that Donald Trump ever thought in his entire life, nor I, for that matter, that he would ever be confronted with,” Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime fixer and a key witness in the case who served jail time for the payments, told CNN. Of course, some of the celebration by Trump's detractors may be premature. Trump could seek to have a judge quickly dismiss the case. Even if it moves forward, there's no guarantee of conviction. Intensifying investigations in Atlanta and Washington are seen as potentially more serious legal threats. Still, Trump and his team were caught by surprise when word of the New York indictment broke Thursday evening, following news reports that the grand jury hearing the case was set for a weekslong hiatus. As the deliberations dragged on, some in Trump's orbit had become convinced that the case had stalled and that charges might never be brought. That included Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina, who said Friday morning he had hoped the “rule of law would prevail.” Trump, he said on the “Today" show, was “initially was shocked” by news of the charges, but quickly pivoted to his usual pushback playbook. “After he got over that," he said, Trump "put a notch on his belt and he decided we have to fight now. And he got into a typical Donald Trump posture where he’s ready to be combative on something that he believes is an injustice. ... I think he’s now in the posture that he’s ready to fight this.” In the meantime, Trump and his team have tried to use the news to his advantage, hoping to energize his loyal base by painting the investigation as part of a larger plot to derail his candidacy. Already, the charges have been a boon to his struggling fundraising. The campaign announced Friday evening that it had raised over $4 million in the 24 hours after the indictment became public, far smashing its previous record after the FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club. More than 25% of donations, according to the campaign, came from first-time donors. The average contribution: $34. His campaign also continued to blast out supportive statements from dozens of top Republicans who have rallied behind Trump, including several of his declared and likely challengers, underscoring his continued hold on the party. Read more: Trump's potential indictment caps decades of legal scrutiny Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in a speech Saturday to conservatives meeting in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, accused the Democratic prosecutor in New York, Alvin Bragg, of weaponizing the law “for political purposes” in bringing a case against “a former president.” DeSantis said the district attorney had indicted “a former president on misdemeanor offenses” that he was “straining to try to convert into felonies.” Trump has been in contact by phone with key congressional allies, including members of House leadership and top committees, according to people familiar with the conversations, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the response. Trump ally Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., who formally endorsed the former president Friday, said Trump “doesn’t back down" and was going to "fight back," telling a local radio show it was "yet another chapter where Donald Trump is going to come back on top in the end." The media maelstrom has catapulted Trump back into the spotlight he craves, at least temporarily limiting attention being paid to his rivals, including DeSantis, who is widely expected to challenge Trump for the nomination, and has been holding events across the county to promote his book. Trump aides have been discussing other ideas to maximize the situation, including the possibility of holding a press event either before or after the arraignment. Trump is expected to travel from Florida to New York on Monday and stay overnight at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan before heading to the courthouse early Tuesday. He will return to Florida after the arraignment. Trump has long denied that he had a sexual encounter with the porn actor known as Stormy Daniels and has blasted Bragg for pursuing the years-old case. Trump is also facing continued investigations in Georgia, over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in Washington, where a special counsel is probing the events of Jan. 6, 2021, as well as Trump's handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and potential obstruction of the investigation. But Sam Nunberg, a longtime former aide who broke with Trump years ago, said that while he no longer supports Trump, he believes the Manhattan case is “a waste of time," given the allegations, which remain under seal. And he said he was skeptical it would ultimately matter. “It doesn’t surprise me," he said of the indictment. “What would surprise me is if he actually ended up behind bars in prison and I don’t see that happening.” D’Antonio said that sentiment — and a continued belief that Trump will somehow prevail and dodge the charges — continues among the many people who have reached out to him in the last 24 hours, despite the charges. “They're like, he's going to get away with it," he said. "Somehow, he’s going to get it thrown out.” Read more: Trump indictment and hush money investigation explained
It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party. That unlikely coalition voted in 2018 to roll back portions of a far-reaching 2010 law intended to prevent a future financial crisis. But those changes are now are being blamed for contributing to the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank that prompted a federal rescue and stoked anxiety about a broader banking contagion. The rollback was was leveraged with a lobbying campaign that cost tens of millions of dollars and drew an army of hundreds of lobbyists into the effort. It also was seeded with ample campaign contributions. The episode offers a fresh reminder of the power that bankers wield in Washington, where the industry spends prodigiously to fight regulation and often hires former members of Congress and their staff to make the case that they are not a source of risk to the economy “The bottom line is that these banks would have faced a tougher supervisory framework under the original ... law, but Congress and the Trump regulators took an ax to it,” said Carter Dougherty, a spokesman for Americans for Financial Reform, a left-leaning financial sector watchdog group. “We can draw a direct line between the deregulation of the Trump period, driven by the bank lobby, and the chaos of the last few weeks.” President Joe Biden has asked Congress for the authority to impose tougher penalties on failed banks. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have started investigations. And congressional Democrats are calling for new restrictions on financial institutions. But so far there is no indication that another bipartisan coalition will form in Congress to put tougher regulations back in place, underscoring the banking industry's continued clout. That influence was on full display when the banking lobby worked for two years to water down aspects of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that had placed weighty regulations on banks designed to reduce consumer risk and force the institutions to adopt safer lending and investing practices. Republicans had long looked to blunt the impact of Dodd-Frank. But rather than push for sweeping deregulation, Sen. Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican who led the Senate banking committee, hoped a narrowed focus could draw enough support from moderate Democrats to clear the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold. Crapo broached the idea with Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — all on the ballot in 2018 — as well as Mark Warner of Virginia. By the fall of that year, the bipartisan group met regularly, according to a copy of Tester’s office schedule posted to his Senate website. A lobbying strategy also emerged, with companies and trade groups that specifically mention Crapo's legislation spending more than $400 million in 2017 and 2018, according to an Associated Press analysis of the public lobbying disclosures. The bill was sold to the public as a form of regulatory relief for overburdened community banks, which serviced farmers and smaller businesses. Community bankers from across the U.S. flew in to Washington to meet repeatedly with lawmakers, including Tester, who had 32 meetings with Montana bank officials. Local bank leaders pushed members of their congressional delegation when they returned home. But the measure also included provisions sought by midsize banks that drastically curtailed oversight once the Trump Fed finished writing new regulations necessitated by the bill’s passage. Specifically, the legislation lifted the threshold for banks to be considered “too big to fail” — a designation that carries a strict regimen of oversight, including mandatory financial stress testing. That component, which effectively carved large midsize banks out of more stringent regulation, has come under new scrutiny in light of the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, whose executives lobbied on behalf of the 2018 rollback. Read more: Silicon Valley Bank collapse concerns founders of color “The lobbyists were everywhere. You couldn’t throw an elbow without running into one," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who vehemently opposed the bill, told reporters last week. Campaign checks were written. Ads were cut. Mailers went out. As a reward for their work, Heitkamp ($357,953), Tester ($302,770) and Donnelly ($265,349) became the top Senate recipients of money from the banking industry during the 2018 campaign season, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan group tracking money in politics. Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer freed members to vote for the bill, a move intended to bolster the standing of vulnerable moderate incumbents. But the move also bitterly divided the Democratic caucus, with Warren singling out the moderates as doing Wall Street's bidding. In the hours before the bill passed the Senate with 17 Democratic votes, Heitkamp took to the chamber floor to inveigh against the “diatribe,” “hyperbole” and “overstatement” from opponents of the bill. Tester, meanwhile, huddled with executives from Bank of America, Citigroup, Discover and Wells Fargo, who were there on behalf of the American Bankers Association. The American Bankers Association, which helped lead the push, later paid $125,000 for an ad campaign thanking Tester for his role in the bill’s passage, records show. Less than a month after the bill was passed out of the Senate, Tester met Greg Becker, the CEO for the now-collapsed Silicon Valley Bank, according to his schedule. Becker specifically lobbied Congress and the Federal Reserve to take a light regulatory approach with banks of his size. Lobbyists with the firm the Franklin Square Group, which had been retained by Silicon Valley Bank, donated $10,800 to Tester's campaign, record show. Heitkamp was the only member of the group invited to the bill signing ceremony, beaming alongside Trump. Later, Americans for Prosperity, the grassroots conservative group funded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, ran an online ad commending Heitkamp for taking a stand against her party. In an interview, Heitkamp pushed back against suggestions that the legislation was directly responsible for the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. She acknowledged, however, that there was an open question about whether new rules put in place by the Fed after the measure was signed into law could have played a role. “I’m willing to look at the argument that this had something to do with it,” Heitkamp said, adding: “I think you will find that (the Fed) was engaged in some level of some supervision. Why that didn’t work? That’s the question that needs to be resolved.” In a statement issued last week, Tester did not directly address his role in the legislation, but he pledged to "take on anyone in Washington to ensure that the executives at these banks and regulators are held accountable.” Cam Fine, who led the Independent Community Bankers of America trade group during the legislative push, said the overall the bill was a good piece of legislation that offered much needed relief to struggling community banks. But like any major piece of legislation that moves through Congress, final passage hinged on support from a broad coalition of interests — including those of Wall Street and midsize banks. “Was it a perfect piece of legislation? No. But there’s an old saying in Washington: You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said Fine. Many of the moderate Democrats who supported the measure did not fare as well. Of the core group who wrote the bill, only Tester won reelection. Others from red states who supported it, including Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bill Nelson of Florida, lost. Tester will be on the ballot again in 2024. Last week he was in Silicon Valley for a fundraiser. One of the event's sponsors was a partner at a law firm for Silicon Valley Bank.
Facebook’s corporate parent has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the world’s largest social media platform allowed millions of its users’ personal information to be fed to Cambridge Analytica, a firm that supported Donald Trump’s victorious presidential campaign in 2016. Terms of the settlement reached by Meta Platforms, the holding company for Facebook and Instagram, were disclosed in court documents filed late Thursday. It will still need to be approved by a judge in a San Francisco federal court hearing set for March. The case sprang from 2018 revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a firm with ties to Trump political strategist Steve Bannon, had paid a Facebook app developer for access to the personal information of about 87 million users of the platform. That data was then used to target U.S. voters during the 2016 campaign that culminated in Trump’s election as the 45th president. Uproar over the revelations led to a contrite Zuckerberg being grilled by U.S. lawmakers during a high-profile congressional hearing and spurred calls for people to delete their Facebook accounts. Even though Facebook’s growth has stalled as more people connect and entertain themselves on rival services such as TikTok, the social network still boasts about 2 billion users worldwide, including nearly 200 million in the U.S. and Canada. Also read: Meta brings Facebook Reels to Bangladesh The lawsuit, which had been seeking to be certified as a class action representing Facebook users, had asserted the privacy breach proved Facebook is a “data broker and surveillance firm,” as well as a social network. The two sides reached a temporary settlement agreement in August, just a few weeks before a Sept. 20 deadline for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his long-time chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, to submit to depositions. The company based in Menlo Park, California, said in statement Friday it pursued a settlement because it was in the best interest of its community and shareholders. “Over the last three years we revamped our approach to privacy and implemented a comprehensive privacy program," said spokesperson Dina El-Kassaby Luce. “We look forward to continuing to build services people love and trust with privacy at the forefront.”