Trial opens in E. Jean Carroll’s rape lawsuit against Trump
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.
Rape lawsuit trial against Donald Trump set to get underway
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.
Trump's day in court as criminal defendant: What to know
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.”
Trump charged with 34 felony counts in hush money scheme
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.
Besides Trump, these are the current and former world leaders facing criminal charges
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
Trump indictment ends decades of perceived invincibility
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
Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations
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 user data issue: Facebook parent company Meta will pay $725M
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.”
Capitol insurrection: Jan. 6 panel unveils report, describes Trump 'conspiracy'
The House Jan. 6 committee’s final report asserts that Donald Trump criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election and failed to act to stop his supporters from attacking the Capitol, concluding an extraordinary 18-month investigation into the former president and the violent insurrection two years ago. The 845-page report released Thursday comes after the panel interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, held 10 hearings and obtained millions of pages of documents. The witnesses — ranging from many of Trump’s closest aides to law enforcement to some of the rioters themselves — detailed Trump’s actions in the weeks ahead of the insurrection and how his wide-ranging pressure campaign to overturn his defeat directly influenced those who brutally pushed past the police and smashed through the windows and doors of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed,” reads the report. “None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.” The insurrection gravely threatened democracy and “put the lives of American lawmakers at risk,” the nine-member panel concluded. Read more: Capitol insurrection: Jan. 6 panel urges criminal charges against Donald Trump The report’s eight chapters of findings tell the story largely as the panel’s hearings did this summer — describing the many facets of the remarkable plan that Trump and his advisers devised to try and void President Joe Biden’s victory. The lawmakers describe his pressure on states, federal officials, lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence to game the system or break the law. Trump's repeated, false claims of widespread voter fraud resonated with his supporters, the committee said, and were amplified on social media, building on the distrust of government he had fostered for his four years in office. And he did little to stop them when they resorted to violence and stormed the Capitol. The massive, damning report comes as Trump is running again for the presidency and also facing multiple federal investigations, including probes of his role in the insurrection and the presence of classified documents at his Florida estate. This week is particularly fraught for him, as a House committee is expected to release his tax returns after he has fought for years to keep them private. And Trump has been blamed by Republicans for a worse-than-expected showing in the midterm elections, leaving him in his most politically vulnerable state since he won the 2016 election. It is also a final act for House Democrats who are ceding power to Republicans in less than two weeks, and have spent much of their four years in power investigating Trump. Democrats impeached Trump twice, the second time a week after the insurrection. He was acquitted by the Senate both times. Other Democratic-led probes investigated his finances, his businesses, his foreign ties and his family. On Monday, the panel of seven Democrats and two Republicans officially passed their investigation to the Justice Department, recommending the department investigate the former president on four crimes, including aiding an insurrection. While the criminal referrals have no legal standing, they are a final statement from the committee after its extensive, year-and-a-half-long probe. Trump has tried to discredit the report, slamming members of the committee as “thugs and scoundrels” as he has continued to falsely dispute his 2020 loss. In response to the panel’s criminal referrals, Trump said: “These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me.” Read more: Trump rebuked for call to suspend Constitution over election The committee has also begun to release hundreds of transcripts of its interviews. On Thursday, the panel released transcripts of two closed-door interviews with former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who testified in person at one of the televised hearings over the summer and described in vivid detail Trump’s efforts to influence the election results and indifference toward the violence as it occurred. In the two interviews, both conducted after her July appearance at the hearing, she described how many of Trump’s allies, including her lawyer, pressured her not to say too much in her committee interviews.
Capitol insurrection: Jan. 6 panel urges criminal charges against Donald Trump
The House Jan. 6 committee urged the Justice Department on Monday to bring criminal charges against Donald Trump for the violent 2021 Capitol insurrection, calling for accountability for the former president and “a time of reflection and reckoning.” After one of the most exhaustive and aggressive congressional probes in memory, the panel’s seven Democrats and two Republicans are recommending criminal charges against Trump and associates who helped him launch a wide-ranging pressure campaign to try to overturn his 2020 election loss. The panel also released a lengthy summary of its final report, with findings that Trump engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to thwart the will of voters. At a final meeting Monday, the committee alleged violations of four criminal statutes by Trump, in both the run-up to the riot and during the insurrection itself, as it recommended the former president for prosecution to the Justice Department. Among the charges they recommend for prosecution is aiding an insurrection — an effort to hold him directly accountable for his supporters who stormed the Capitol that day. The committee also voted to refer conservative lawyer John Eastman, who devised dubious legal maneuvers aimed at keeping Trump in power, for prosecution on two of the same statutes as Trump: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstructing an official proceeding. While a criminal referral is mostly symbolic, with the Justice Department ultimately deciding whether to prosecute Trump or others, it is a decisive end to a probe that had an almost singular focus from the start. Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Trump “broke the faith” that people have when they cast ballots in a democracy and that the criminal referrals could provide a “roadmap to justice" by using the committee's work. “I believe nearly two years later, this is still a time of reflection and reckoning,” Thompson said. “If we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again.” Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s Republican vice chairwoman, said in her opening remarks that every president in American history has defended the orderly transfer of power, “except one.” The committee also voted 9-0 to approve its final report, which will include findings, interview transcripts and legislative recommendations. The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday. Read more: Some Capitol rioters try to profit from their Jan. 6 crimes The report’s 154-page summary, made public as the hearing ended, found that Trump engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the election. While the majority of the report’s main findings are not new, it altogether represents one of the most damning portraits of an American president in recent history, laying out in great detail Trump’s broad effort to overturn his own defeat and what the lawmakers say is his direct responsibility for the insurrection of his supporters. The panel, which will dissolve on Jan. 3 with the new Republican-led House, has conducted more than 1,000 interviews, held 10 well-watched public hearings and collected more than a million documents since it launched in July 2021. As it has gathered the massive trove of evidence, the members have become emboldened in declaring that Trump, a Republican, is to blame for the violent attack on the Capitol by his supporters almost two years ago. After beating their way past police, injuring many of them, the Jan. 6 rioters stormed the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden’s presidential election win, echoing Trump's lies about widespread election fraud and sending lawmakers and others running for their lives. The attack came after weeks of Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat — a campaign that was extensively detailed by the committee in its multiple public hearings, and laid out again by lawmakers on the panel at Monday's meeting. Many of Trump’s former aides testified about his unprecedented pressure on states, on federal officials and Pence to object to Biden's win. The committee has also described in great detail how Trump riled up the crowd at a rally that morning and then did little to stop his supporters for several hours as he watched the violence unfold on television. The panel aired some new evidence at the meeting, including a recent interview with longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks. Describing a conversation she had with Trump around that time, she said he told her that no one would care about his legacy if he lost the election. Hicks told the committee that Trump told her, “The only thing that matters is winning." Read more: Capitol riot panel blames Trump for 1/6 'attempted coup' Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the former president slammed members of the committee Sunday as “thugs and scoundrels” as he has continued to falsely dispute his 2020 loss. While a so-called criminal referral has no real legal standing, it is a forceful statement by the committee and adds to political pressure already on Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel Jack Smith, who is conducting an investigation into Jan. 6 and Trump’s actions. On the recommendation to charge Trump on aiding an insurrection, the committee said in the report's summary that the former president “was directly responsible for summoning what became a violent mob” and refused repeated entreaties from his aides to condemn the rioters or to encourage them to leave. For obstructing an official proceeding, the committee cites Trump’s relentless badgering of Vice President Mike Pence and others to prevent the certification of the election results on Jan. 6. And his repeated lies about the election and efforts to undo the results open him up to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States, the panel said. The final charge recommended by the panel is conspiracy to make a false statement, citing the scheme by Trump and his allies to put forward slates of fake electors in battleground states won by President Joe Biden. Among the other charges contemplated, but not approved, by the committee was seditious conspiracy, the same allegation Justice Department prosecutors have used to target a subset of rioters belonging to far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. Thompson said after the hearing that the seditious conspiracy charge is “something that the committee didn’t come to agreement on.” The panel was formed in the summer of 2021 after Senate Republicans blocked the formation of what would have been a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the insurrection. When that effort failed, the Democratic-controlled House formed an investigative committee of its own. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a Trump ally, decided not to participate after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected some of his appointments. That left an opening for two anti-Trump Republicans in the House — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to join seven Democrats, launching an unusually unified panel in the divided Congress. McCarthy was one of four House Republicans who ignored congressional subpoenas from the panel and were referred to the House Ethics Committee on Monday for their non-compliance. The Republican leader, who is hoping to become speaker of the House when his party takes the majority in January, has acknowledged he spoke with Trump on Jan. 6. The committee also referred Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona, all of whom were in touch with Trump or the White House in the weeks leading up to the attack. While the committee’s mission was to take a comprehensive accounting of the insurrection and educate the public about what happened, they've also aimed their work at an audience of one: the attorney general. Lawmakers on the panel have openly pressured Garland to investigate Trump’s actions, and last month he appointed a special counsel, Smith, to oversee two probes related to Trump, including those related to the insurrection and the presence of classified documents at Trump's Florida estate. The committee members said that full accountability can only be found in the criminal justice system. “No one should get a pass,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.