Posts tagged with "Stormy Daniels"

Trump pleads not guilty at arraignment in hush money case

April 5, 2023

On Tuesday, April 4 in a criminal courtroom in Manhattan, Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his alleged role in hush money payments toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign—the first time a former president has had to plead to criminal charges, reports NBC News.

Trump arrived at the courthouse at 100 Centre Street in lower Manhattan in a presidential-style motorcade from Trump Tower in midtown, where he’d stayed overnight. He was informed he was under arrest, fingerprinted, and processed ahead of his arraignment.

“Seems so SURREAL—WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America,” he said in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, which published as he was arriving at the courthouse.

The indictment was unsealed in a proceeding before Judge Juan Merchan. Trump was flanked by his lawyers inside the courtroom as prosecutors outlined their case, alleging he made covert and illegal payments to affect the 2016 election. He faces a maximum of four years in prison if convicted.

Asked for his plea, Trump answered, “Not guilty.”

Prosecutor Chris Conroy told the court that Trump engaged in an “illegal conspiracy” to aid his campaign and “undermine the election.”

The statement of facts compiled by prosecutors in conjunction with the indictment said Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”

It outlined three people who received hush money payments: adult film star Stormy Daniels, Playboy model Karen McDougal, and a former Trump Tower doorman who’d claimed to have a story about a child Trump had out of wedlock.

Daniels was paid $130,000 by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, while McDougal and the doorman were paid $150,000 and $30,000, respectively, by AMI, the publishers of The National Enquirer.

The Enquirer later concluded that the doorman story was not true, and it wanted to release the doorman from the agreement, but it held off on doing so until after the election at Cohen’s request, prosecutors said. The court filing said Trump thanked AMI CEO David Pecker for his help by inviting him to dinner at the White House in the summer of 2017.

The indictment said the falsified records Trump signed off on were all made in 2017, when he was president. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters the false statements were “made to cover up other crimes,” including violations of New York election law and federal campaign finance limits.

Addressing supporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Tuesday night, Trump said, “I never thought anything like this could happen in America.”

“The only crime I’ve committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it,” he said, calling the case “fake.”

“It should be dropped immediately,” he said.

The legal troubles, media spectacle, and porn-star-hush-money salaciousness at the heart of the case are a new chapter for the New York tycoon-turned-TV star-turned-politician, whose career has careened from scandal to success for four decades, NBC said—noting that this time, unlike his bankrupted casinos or his failed marriages, many of Trump’s supporters and detractors argue, the fate of American democracy is hanging in the balance as the former president increasingly conflates any legal woes as an effort to illegitimately deny him a return to power.

Conroy also told the judge prosecutors were “very concerned” about Trump’s inflammatory social media posts about Bragg, other prosecutors, and the judge—saying they could have an impact on jurors and witnesses.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche told the judge his client is “upset” and was simply exercising his First Amendment rights.

The judge warned both sides against escalating their rhetoric but did not issue any type of gag order. “Please refrain from making statements that would incite violence or civil unrest,” Merchan said.

Trump last month called for “protests” in the event of his arrest,; and he later ratcheted up his rhetoric, warning of “potential death and destruction,” if he was charged.

The arraignment is just the beginning of a lengthy legal process that could take months or years to resolve. The case is expected to go to trial next year.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Trump claims judge overseeing New York case ‘hates’ him. His lawyer says it isn’t true.

April 4, 2023

On Sunday, April 2, f Donald Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, said he doesn’t believe the judge who oversaw Trump’s indictment is biased—contradicting days of the former president’s attacks in which he declared that the judge “HATES ME,” reports The Washington Post.

On Friday, Trump claimed on his Truth Social account that Juan Merchanthe New York Supreme Court justice who’s overseeing the criminal proceedings—had treated Trump’s company “VICIOUSLY” in a tax fraud case that wrapped up in January and had “railroaded” the former CFO for the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, into pleading guilty.

But Tacopina, speaking Sunday to George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’s “This Week,” waved off the criticism. “Do I think the judge is biased? Of course not,” Tacopina said. “How could I subscribe to that when I’ve had no interactions with the judge that would lead me to believe he’s biased?”

When pressed about why his client was saying the opposite, Tacopina said, “You’re interviewing me, George, right?” and added, “I’m his attorney, but I’m myself. I’m not his PR person. I’m not a spokesperson. He’s entitled to his own opinion and, what he’s been through, quite frankly, I don’t blame him for feeling the way he feels.”

Trump is expected to appear before Merchan for an arraignment Tuesday. His indictment remains under seal, which means the specific charges are not known. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been investigating a payment made before the 2016 presidential election to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress, to keep her from publicly discussing a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump years earlier.

Tacopina told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that, when Trump makes his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon, “We will very loudly and proudly say, ‘not guilty.’” The Washington Post reported Friday that the former president plans to fly to New York on Monday before surrendering ahead of Tuesday’s arraignment. And Trump’s 2024 campaign announced Sunday he will speak Tuesday night from Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home, shortly after 8 p.m. (EDT).

Republicans continued to echo Trump’s attack on the legal system Sunday—calling the indictment an unprecedented attack on a political leader that may lead to legal or even physical retaliation. The escalating rhetoric also came as one former district attorney warned Sunday that Trump’s public statements and social media posts could lead to more serious charges than what he is facing now.

“I would be mindful of not committing some other criminal offense, like obstruction of governmental administration,” Cyrus R. Vance, the former district attorney for Manhattan, told NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” “And I think that could take what perhaps we think is not the strongest case, when you add a count like that, put it in front of a jury, it can change the jury’s mind about the severity of the case that they’re looking at.”

James M. Trusty, a lawyer representing Trump in the federal case over his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and in a Georgia case about alleged interference in that state’s counting of votes in the 2020 election, said Trump’s indictment in Manhattan is “political persecution.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

McCarthy tells Trump supporters not to protest if ex-president is indicted

March 21, 2023

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said this week that supporters of Donald Trump should not protest if the former president is indicted—following Trump’s call for people to take to the streets and rally against what he claimed would be his imminent arrest in a Manhattan investigation, reports The Washington Post.

In an all-caps message on his social media platform, Trump called on followers to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!

“I don’t think people should protest this, no,” McCarthy said during a news conference on Sunday, March 19. “And I think President Trump, if you talk to him, he doesn’t believe that, either.”

Posting on his Truth Social platform on Saturday, Trump wrote that he “WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY” and called on people to “PROTEST.” Despite the post from his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, his advisers said Trump’s team did not have specific knowledge about the timing of any indictment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) is investigating Trump’s role in hush money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

The case centers on a $130,000 payment from Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney, to Daniels—and Bragg is probing whether Trump broke campaign finance laws to reimburse Cohen for keeping Daniels quiet about allegations that she and Trump had an affair. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels and has described the payments as extortion.

Trump’s demand that people take to the streets to denounce a possible indictment stoked fears of violence and echoed rhetoric he used while addressing supporters shortly before a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Five people died in the attack or in its aftermath, and 140 police officers were injured in the assault.

“Nobody should harm one another,” McCarthy said Sunday, following Trump’s call for protests. “We want calmness out there.”

While McCarthy appealed for peace, he also slammed the investigation into Trump and accused Bragg of unfairly targeting the former president. “Lawyer after lawyer will tell you this is the weakest case out there, trying to make a misdemeanor a felony,” McCarthy said during the news conference.

Lawyers and advisers to Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, have expected for days that he will be indicted in the case.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

CFO Allen Weisselberg to testify at Trump Organization tax-fraud trial set to begin in New York

October 25, 2022

The criminal tax-fraud trial of the Trump Organization was scheduled to begin with jury selection on Monday, October 24—offering a rare look into an opaque company that prosecutors say illegally paid some executives in cars, apartments, and cash, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office alleges that former President Donald Trump’s family business effectively kept two sets of books. In internal records, the company recorded perks—including Mercedes-Benz cars for Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and his wife, and private-school tuition for his grandchildren—as employee compensation.

But Weisselberg and the company didn’t report the benefits to tax authorities, prosecutors said.

Trump and his family members weren’t charged, although the indictment alleges that the former president signed some checks for private-school tuition. Trump isn’t expected to testify in the case.

While the former president’s family business has been the subject of legal scrutiny, this is the first time the company has faced a criminal trial, the Journal notes.

The company faces nine criminal counts including conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The trial is expected to last about six weeks. Under New York state law, the company faces a maximum of about $1.6 million in fines if convicted on all charges. A criminal conviction could also make it harder for the company to obtain loans and access banking services. 

The Trump Organization’s lawyers have said prosecutors brought the case because of the Trump name. “Compensation cases are resolved by civil tax authorities, not criminal charges,” the lawyers said when the charges were announced.

The trial follows a multiyear investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office into Trump and his company. That investigation initially examined hush-money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels; then, shifted to an examination of whether the Trumps made misrepresentations about the value of their assets to lenders, insurers. and tax authorities. The district attorney’s office, then led by Cyrus Vance Jr., obtained Trump’s tax returns after a legal battle that went to the Supreme Court.

The tax-fraud indictment was an offshoot of that probe. District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who currently leads the office, has said his broader investigation into Trump, his company, and its leadership is ongoing. 

Although the allegations at trial revolve around the company’s payroll practices, not its larger real-estate business, prosecutors have said the company engaged in an audacious scheme.

“It was orchestrated by the most senior executives who were financially benefiting themselves and the company by getting secret pay raises at the expense of state and federal taxpayers,” Carey Dunne, the office’s former general counsel, told state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan last year.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August, throwing a wrench in the Trump Organization’s legal strategy. “We jointly had a defense theory, in which Weisselberg maintained he was innocent of all the charges,” Trump Organization lawyer Susan Necheles told the judge in September. She said the company had been forced to restructure its defense.

As part of his plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to testify truthfully against the Trump Organization at trial. Nicholas Gravante Jr., a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP who represents Weisselberg, said that under the promised sentence, Weisselberg would serve a maximum of 100 days in jail. 

Weisselberg has met with both prosecutors and the Trump Organization’s lawyers in advance of the trial “in order to assure that his testimony goes smoothly,” Gravante said.

The Trump Organization is expected to argue that the tax-fraud scheme to which Weisselberg admitted was an isolated practice of the finance chief and another employee, SVP/Controller Jeff McConney, and didn’t extend to the company itself.

A lawyer for McConney, who is named as an unindicted co-conspirator, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Research contact: @WSJ

Swalwell: Barr has taken Michael Cohen’s former job as Trump’s fixer

July 29, 2020

On Monday, July 27—one day before Attorney General Bill Barr was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary CommitteeRepresentative Eric Swalwell (D-15th District-California), a member of that panel, said that ever since President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen has been sentenced to prison (and then, home confinement), Barr “has taken the job.”

“Unfortunately, Bill Barr already had a job—as Attorney General of the United States, our nation’s top law enforcement official,” Swalwell wrote in a Newsweek op-ed published Monday. “And we must not let him do both jobs at once.”

Tuesday is the first time Barr will appear before the committee—where Democrats seek to press him on the alleged politicization of the Department of Justice (DOJ), The Hill reported.

Swalwell maintained that Cohen’s actions to shield the president from ridicule—as in the hush money payout of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016—are similar to actions Barr has taken in public office.

“It was reprehensible, but Cohen has taken responsibility for his actions and now is paying the price,” Swalwell wrote. “Meanwhile, Barr seems to be carrying out similar order—but deploying weapons more powerful than Cohen could’ve dreamed of: the power and authority of the U.S. Justice Department.”

The congressman listed examples in his op-ed that are likely topics during the House hearing, such as the administration’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s sentence and its dismissal Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was leading several investigations into Trump’s associates, including his other personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Swalwell said that during the hearing Barr “will be expected to explain in detail why he has put President Trump’s personal and political needs above the interests of the American people and our justice system.

“Unless he can provide us with valid rationales for his actions—beyond the self-serving excuses he has provided publicly so far—we must assume the Attorney General has been reduced to the role of an underworld fixer for Donald Trump, which has terrible implications for the health of our democracy and for Americans’ faith in government,” Swalwell wrote.

Research contact: @thehill

Seeing stars: Cameo, a Chicago startup that sells video shoutouts from celebrities, raises $50M for expansion

June 26, 2019

Want a shoutout from Brett Favre ($500), Gilbert Gottfried ($150), Stormy Daniels ($250), Tommy Lee ($350), Teresa Giudice ($200), or Dr. Pimple Popper ($100)?

Cameo, the Chicago-based startup that lets users buy personalized video messages from celebrities, has raised $50 million to help fuel an international expansion and further develop its app, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Most of Cameo’s shoutouts are booked through its website, CEO and Co-Founder Steven Galanis told the news outlet. The startup has been building its product development team and working toward relaunching an improved app.

 “We want to make it something super engaging, that when you’re on the ‘L’ going to work, you’re opening Cameo instead of Instagram,” he told the Tribune in an interview.

Since Cameo launched more than two years ago, the startup has drawn attention for its quick and affordable access to celebrities. Last year, it joined tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, and Airbnb on Time’s list of 50 “Genius Companies.”

But the company has not made it this far without running into some problems: In late 2018, it was reported that an account associated with an anti-Semitic group had tricked several celebrities into making Cameo videos using coded anti-Semitic language. Galanis quickly responded, calling the videos a “wake-up call.”

Cameo employs about 100 people, more than 65 of whom work out of its Windy City headquarters. Galanis said he plans to bolster the company’s international employee ranks, and wants to add European soccer players, Bollywood actors, and K-Pop artists to its celebrity roster.

Currently, the site offers video greetings from thousands of athletes and B-, C- and D-list celebrities. Consumers can pay as much as $350 to receive a greeting from rapper and TV star Ice-T, or $200 for former Chicago Bears player Mike Singletary.

This month’s round of funding brings the total amount Cameo has raised to $65 million. Galanis declined to disclose the valuation to the Tribune-however

Menlo Park, California-based investor Kleiner Perkins led the round of funding. Other investors included media and tech investor The Chernin Group, venture capital firm Spark Ventures, Bain Capital, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Michael Avenatti says credible, new Kavanaugh witness will come forward by Thursday

September 26, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh said on Fox News on September 24 that he’s “not going anywhere,” despite the claims of at least two women that he sexually harassed one and sexually attacked the other during his college and high school days, respectively.

The declaration represents a very unusual public defense by a Supreme Court nominee of his fitness to serve, CBS News reported on September 25.

The network news organization also noted that Kavanaugh sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, proclaiming adamantly that he “would not be intimidated into withdrawing.”

However, on the same night, Michael Avenatti—the lawyer who took down “ fixer” Michael Cohen over a payoff to Stormy Daniels and, in doing so, implicated the president—appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show to say that he had more incriminating information from a very credible witness that would be released before the new round of hearings on Thursday.

Specifically, on Fox, Kavanaugh strongly denied allegations of sexual misconduct from Christine Blasey Ford—now a psychologist at Palo Alto University—who attended a “sister school” (the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland) to his own boys-only high school, Georgetown Prep.

He also refuted the accusations of one of his classmates at Yale University, Deborah Ramirez, who claimed that he had exposed himself to her after an evening of drinking games  (Today, Ramirez is a board member and volunteer at Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence.)

Kavanaugh insisted that he was not a rowdy teen and claimed he was a virgin during the years in question. “I was focused on academics and athletics and going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects and friendship,” Kavanaugh said.

But, CBS News said, his yearbook page repeatedly referenced drinking and in a statement, his former Yale roommate reportedly described Kavanaugh as “a notably heavy drinker” who “became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.” The former Yale roommate James Roche admits he “did not observe” Ramirez’s account firsthand but that he believes her.

According to the CBS report, Avenatti says that he has a client who knew Kavanaugh in high school and accused him of setting up girls to be raped.

“When the American people hear from her, they will determine, as I have, that she is to be believed,” Avenatti said during a press conference Monday evening. Kavanaugh called that claim outrageous.

Avennati has not identified the accuser yet. but said that her name will be revealed within the next 48 hours. He offered some details on her background, including that she worked for the U.S. Mint, Justice Department,  and State Department.

Research contact: @nancycordes

Has Melania bolted to New York City?

May 31, 2018

The most popular member of the Trump family, Melania, seems to have hightailed it back to New York City—at least, for the summer, if not for the indefinite future— along with 12-year-old son Barron.

The 48-year-old First Lady reportedly entered Walter Reed Military Hospital on May 14 for treatment of a benign kidney condition. She is said to have been released from the medical facility on May 20, returning to the White House for a short recuperation. She did not appear at the Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery with her husband and no official explanation was provided for her absence.

But now comes word from the Inquisitr that the popular anti-Trump Twitter commentator, “Tea Pain,” has reported that Melania Trump has switched the location status on her personal Twitter account to New York City. This is fueling  speculation that she has moved out of the White House.

According to the Inquisitr report, despite a recent claim by Donald Trump that his wife Melania could be seen in a White House window, the first lady has not appeared in public since May 10, when she accompanied the President to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to welcome three  who had been held captive in North Korea back to the United States.

Rumor has is that she has settled back into Trump Tower in New York City, where she had lived since her marriage to Trump in 2005.Indeed, she waited until the end of Barron’s school year in New York to move to the U.S. capital formally five months following the POTUS’s inauguration.

Following the recent surge in publicity about Trump’s affair with porn star Stormy Daniels , his wife may feel less embarrassed when she is out of the Washington spotlight.

During Melania Trump’s stay at Trump Tower in the period between January 20 and June 10 of last year, she received Secret Service security protection that Business Insider said had cost taxpayers more than $100,000 per day—a cost that would presumably now need to go back into effect if the rumor proves accurate and she actually has moved out of the White House

According to the Inquistr, earlier this month, shortly before her disappearance from public view, a separate rumor circulated in Washington, D.C., circles, claiming that Melania was not living at the White House with her husband, but instead was residing with her parents and her son in a separate residence at another location in the city. However, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that rumor as “1,000 percent false.”

Based on findings of a You.Gov poll released in January Melania Trump has an overall 48% popularity rating—higher than her husband’s, which came in at 36%; and seven percentage points up on Ivanka Trump.

Research contact: kfrankovic@yahoo.com

Giuliani disclosure dumps Trump into Cohen legal mess

May 4, 2018

Just last week, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found that Americans nationwide suspected that Stormy Daniels was telling the truth about her affair with, and payoff by, President Donald Trump. Now, thanks to the POTUS’s new lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, we know it.

Specifically, the poll found, a majority of the U.S. public believed that Trump had bedded the adult film actress.  Fully 56% of respondents said they believed the two had an affair; and 51% said they believed Daniels’ allegations.

Now, in breaking news on May 3, Politico reported that, overnight, Guiliani had told the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that the POTUS had reimbursed his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford), meant to keep her quiet.

That revelation may represent the final nail in the coffin for Trump’s continuing claims (and legal case) that he did not cheat on his wife or pay off Daniels in an attempt to keep the tryst(s) out of the news.

Indeed, the actress’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti on Thursday said he might send a gift basket to Fox for breaking open the story, according to MSNBC.

In response, Trump continued to deny that he or Cohen had done anything wrong. In early morning tweets, the president said “Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement , a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement or NDA.

The president said that non-disclosure agreements are “very common” among celebrities and “people of wealth,” and noted that this one was invoked to stop “false and extortionist accusations.”

This follows repeated statements by the president that he knew nothing about the payment and had not reimbursed his lawyer for it.

Research contact: jyuan@politico.com

Men favor Trump more after seeing Stormy Daniels on ’60 Minutes’

April 4, 2018

President Donald Trump’s approval rating has gone up three points—from 50% to 53%—among male voters in the wake of the Stormy Daniels controversy, based on findings of a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll of 1,340 U.S. adults released on April 2.

Among women, not so much: Their support fell from 41% to 35%, in what the poll’s co-director Mark Penn labeled as the “Stormy Effect.”

Specifically, the president’s approval rating rose following allegations by the adult film star—on 60 Minutes on March 25—that she spanked Trump and had unprotected sex with him shortly after his wife Melania gave birth to the couple’s son, Barron, in 2006.

While Trump has denied the allegations made by the adult film star, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, she insisted that the pair had an affair and that she had been silenced via a non-disclosure agreement and threatened by the billionaire’s team prior to his election.

Daniels has filed a lawsuit to get out of a non-disclosure agreement, claiming that it is not valid because the document was not signed by Trump.

According to Newsweek report, she also has offered to give back $130,000 in “hush money” that she was paid by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen as part of the non-disclosure agreement.

The case has now been moved to closed arbitration, although Daniel’s lawyer has opposed the move—saying that the suit should be decided “in an open court of law owned by the people.”

Research contact: @MarkPenn