Posts tagged with "Stormy Daniels"

Cohen testifies at Trump’s hush-money trial

May 14, 2024

Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen officially took the stand on Monday morning, May 13, in what was expected to be the biggest day of testimony so far in Trump’s hush-money trial in Manhattan, reports New York Magazine.

Cohen testified that he and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg worked out the process for reimbursing him after he took out a personal loan to make Stormy Daniels’s payment. The final payment also included money that Cohen was owed by the company,

The two men—Weisselberg and Cohen—then went to Donald Trump’s New York office to obtain the CEO’s approval of the $420,000 final sum; which was to be paid to Cohen over a span of 12 months. Trump immediately sanctioned the expensive agreement—indicating to Cohen that his boss had discussed the arrangement previously with Weisselberg.

Cohen would be required to submit an invoice and would later be issued a check for “legal services rendered.” He would henceforth be known not as a Trump Organization staff member, but as personal lawyer to the president.

Why Cohen made the Daniels payment

Going back to his payment to Stormy Daniels, ADA Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen if he would’ve made the payment without Trump’s approval. He said no. “Everything required Mr. Trump’s sign-off,” he said. “On top of that, I wanted the money back.” Cohen said he informed Trump as soon as he received Daniels’s signed agreement.

“This matter is now completely under control and locked down,” Cohen told Trump at the time, he testified.

Describing the need for the payment, Cohen said that he was abroad in London when he received a call from Hope Hicks about the Access Hollywood tape. He recalled thinking at the time that the tape would be “significantly impactful especially with women voters.”

He said Trump described the words on the tape as “locker-room talk,” attributing the term to Melania Trump. Not long after the tape’s release, Cohen learned that adult-film star Stormy Daniels was trying to sell her story of a sexual encounter with Trump. When asked about his reaction to the story potentially coming out, Cohen said it would’ve been “catastrophic” for the campaign.

When Cohen relayed the news to Trump, he recalled Trump saying it would be a “total disaster” for the campaign and saying that “women will hate me.”

The defense has argued that Trump was motivated to make a deal with Daniels to protect his family, but Cohen said differently on the stand. Cohen recalled asking Trump what Melania might think. “He goes, ‘How long do you think I’ll be on the market for? Not long.’ He wasn’t thinking about Melania. This was all about the campaign,” Cohen said.

The prosecution displayed an email from Keith Davidson, Daniels’s attorney with the original $130,000 deal between Daniels and Trump. Cohen took credit for the punitive damages clause that would fine Daniels $1 million per violation of the non-disclosure agreement, adding that it was “to ensure that she didn’t speak.”

Cohen confirmed that he lied on the bank paperwork to form Resolution Consultants, LLC, the company he initially planned to use to transfer the money to Daniels. “I’m not sure if they would’ve opened it if it stated to pay off an adult film star for a nondisclosure agreement,” he said. He would go on to create a second LLC, Essential Consultants, for that purpose. Cohen was shown the wire transfer between himself and Davidson.  Although the reason for the payment was listed as “retainer,” Cohen confirmed that this was false and that the money was in exchange for the rights for Daniels’s story.

Cohen’s secret recording

In September 2016, Cohen secretly recorded a conversation between himself and Trump discussing the deal with Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had a yearlong relationship with Trump.

In the clip, which was played for the jury, Cohen says he’s talked to Weisselberg about opening up an LCC to transfer info to “our friend David,” an apparent reference to David Pecker of The National Enquirer, who helped to broker the hush-money deal with McDougal. Trump can be heard saying, “pay with cash,” though Cohen testified that he was against this idea. Cohen said he recorded the conversation for Pecker’s benefit, so he would know his repayment was being discussed. He confirmed that he sought to open an LLC in order to have “separation” from Trump. Per Cohen, the recording cuts off because he received an incoming call at the time.

When Cohen asked Trump if he knew McDougal, he responded, “She’s really beautiful.” Cohen told Trump that she was shopping her story, prompting him to order Cohen to “make sure it doesn’t get released.

Cohen testified that he was in the room as Trump took a call on speaker with Pecker about the McDougal story. When Pecker said that it would cost $150,000 to “control the story,” Trump responded, “No problem, I’ll take care of it.” When Cohen informed Trump once the deal was complete, he seemed pleased. “Fantastic,” Trump said.

In connection with Pecker, Cohen testified about the key 2015 meeting at Trump Tower between himself, Trump, and American Media CEO Pecker at which the three discussed placing positive stories about Trump in The National Enquirer while running negative ones about Trump’s rivals during the election season. Cohen said

Pecker’s offer also went beyond what went into print. “What he said was that he could keep an eye out for anything negative about Mr. Trump, and that he would be able to help us to know in advance what was coming out and try to stop it from coming out,” he said.

Cohen described Trump warning him ahead of his presidential campaign launch that stories might emerge once he jumped into the race. “You know that when this comes out, meaning the announcement, just be prepared, there’s going to be a lot of women coming forward,” Cohen recalled Trump saying.

Research contact: @nymagazine

Stormy Daniels walks Trump trial jury through alleged sexual encounter

May 7, 2024

Former President Trump came face-to-face with adult film actress Stormy Daniels on Tuesday, October 7 when she took the stand in his hush-money case, reports The Hill.

Daniels is so far the highest-profile witness in the Manhattan district attorney’s prosecution of Trump over a $130,000 payment made to her to keep quiet about allegations of an affair with the former president.

Daniels recounted her first experience meeting Trump during a celebrity golf tournament in 2006 near Lake Tahoe. She said their first interaction, when she was introduced to him, was “very brief.” She said Trump told her she must be “smart” after he learned she also directed films.

She said his security detail asked if she would like to have dinner with Trump at the time, to which she said no. The adult film actress says she ultimately agreed to have dinner with Trump, but despite “really nice restaurants” in the hotel, Trump’s bodyguard sent instructions to take a specific elevator up to the penthouse floor. That ultimately led her to Trump’s hotel room, she testified.

“That was my only expectation, that we’d have dinner,” Daniels said.

The sexual encounter with Trump

Daniels testified that Trump’s hotel suite was three times the size of her apartment. When she walked into the foyer, she said Trump met her in silk or satin pajamas.

“I told him to go change, so he obliged, very politely,” Daniels said.

The porn actress said she and Trump then sat down at the dining room table in the suite, where Trump asked her various “get to know you” questions. He also asked about how the adult film industry worked, including a query about whether Daniels had been tested for sexually transmitted infections. Daniels responded that she had and was negative. Daniels has publicly recounted these details multiple times previously. But now, she is under oath, testifying in an historic trial.

After dinner, Daniels excused herself to powder her nose. She said that the alleged sexual encounter with Trump began after she exited the bathroom, where she said she found Trump on the bed wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt.

She said she thought at one point, “Oh my God. What did I misread to get here?” She said the “intention was pretty clear” when someone is “stripped down to underwear, posing on the bed and waiting for you.”

She said Trump did not approach her in a “threatening manner” and that she did not have any alcohol or drugs that night.

Daniels said “yes” when asked if the sexual encounter with Trump was brief. She also testified that Trump did not wear a condom but she did not say anything about it to him.

Afterwards, the porn actor struggled in getting dressed again as she tried to depart as quickly as possible, she testified.

“He said, ‘Oh, it was great, let’s get together again honeybunch,’ and I just wanted to leave,” Daniels said.

Trump looked straight forward as Daniels described the alleged encounter, which he denies, with little visible reaction.

Another meeting

Daniels said she met Trump again while in public at a nightclub at her hotel the day following the alleged sexual encounter.

She said Trump introduced her as his “little friend Stormy,” and described the nightclub as “dark” with “loud music.” She said Trump told her he would figure out how to get her on his reality show “The Apprentice” once he returned home.

She added that Trump would call her once a week, or maybe two to three times a week, after meeting him. She said Trump always called her “honeybunch” and asked when they could get together again.

An interview

Daniels confirmed that in 2011, she sat for a ten- to 20-minute interview with In Touch Weekly, a celebrity gossip magazine, about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Daniels said she participated to control her narrative.

The adult film actress said she was supposed to be paid $15,000 but the story never ran. She said “not exactly, no” when asked by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger if she knew why it didn’t publish. It reportedly was killed after Michael Cohen threatened to sue.

Hoffinger also asked Daniels if she told the magazine all the details.

“No. I tried to keep it fairly lighthearted and to the point,” Daniels responded.

But that didn’t protect her: Telling a story she has recounted for years, Daniels told the jury about how a man threatened her a few weeks after she was interviewed by the magazine.

The encounter happened in a Las Vegas parking lot while she was with her daughter going to a mommy and me workout class, according to Daniels. But she did not go to the police, and there is no documentary evidence or other witnesses who have come forward to corroborate her claims.

“I thought he was the husband or something of one of the other women, and he approached me and threatened me not to continue to tell my story,” Daniels testified.

Trump’s Access Hollywood debacle

Daniels said that everything changed after the release of the Access Hollywood  tape. She then learned that Trump and his then-fixer, Michael Cohen, were interested in buying it, Daniels told jurors.

“They were interested in paying for the story, which was the best thing that could happen, ’cause my husband wouldn’t find out, but there would be a documentation,” she said.

Daniels connected the timing of her hush-money negotiations in October 2016 to that year’s upcoming presidential election, indicating she wanted it settled before the polls closed.

“I was afraid that if it wasn’t done before the nomination I wouldn’t be safe,” Daniels said, before correcting herself that she meant “the election.”

“Or he would never pay and there wouldn’t be a trail to keep me safe,” she added.

To secure a conviction on the felony charges, prosecutors must prove that Trump falsified business records with an intent to commit or conceal some other crime. Prosecutors have cited alleged campaign law violations—portraying the hush-money arrangements as an unlawful conspiracy to influence the 2016 election.

Trump’s lawyers have maintained that Daniels’s testimony, while salacious, does not matter because she has no personal knowledge of the business records that correspond to Trump’s charges.

Research contact: @thehill

Nervous Hope Hicks takes the stand—and won’t even glance at Trump

May 3, 2024

Hope HicksDonald Trump’s first political PR guru and presumed holder of all his dirty secrets—testified at the former president’s New York criminal trial on Friday, May 3—and wouldn’t even throw a glance at her former boss during her first hour on the witness stand, reports The Daily Beast.

From the moment she walked into the courtroom at 11:30 a.m., the atmosphere immediately changed, the Beast notes. The 35-year-old publicist—who normally carries herself confidently and owns the room—slowly made her way into the courtroom through a side door that’s disguised as a wall panel and uneasily made her way past the red-velvet rope that separates the battle area from the public pews. She kept her head down, with her feathered blonde hair drooping over her eyes as she gripped a black purse in her left hand.

Once she sat down, Hicks barely squeaked out an introduction. “Hi, my name is Hope Charlotte Hicks, and my last name is spelled H-I-C-K-S,” she said, apologizing for being nervous.

But after a few minutes, she began to sit up straighter and speak more firmly as she began detailing the way she entered Trump’s orbit. She recalled landing a job at the Trump Organization as its communications director and how it slowly morphed into a PR role on his 2016 presidential campaign.

According to another report by The Hill, Hicks testified that she learned about ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal on November 4, 2016, via a press inquiry from The Wall Street Journal—just four days before the presidential election.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ name came up a “year prior,” in November 2015, as Trump and his security discussed a celebrity golf tournament years earlier.

She learned about both women on one of Trump’s planes en route to a campaign stop, she said.

The Hill further reported that Hicks recalled that she learned about the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape via a request for comment from The Washington Post, which had obtained the recording.

In the tape, Trump is heard bragging about grabbing women inappropriately, seemingly without consent. In the tape, Trump says: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…Grab ’em by the p—-. You can do anything.”

Hicks said she forwarded the reporter’s email to other campaign leadership, which included an explanation of the tape, transcript and three questions asked of the campaign. The reporter also indicated that the Post planned to publish the video two hours later.

The subject of the email: “URGENT Wash Post query.”

“I was concerned,” Hicks said of her initial reaction. “I was very concerned.”

She said she forwarded the email to Trump aides Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, David Bossie, and Jason Miller.

The first time she actually saw the tape, itself, she said she was with Trump. “Was he upset?” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo asked the former Trump advisor.

“Yes,” she said with a pause. “Yeah, he was.”

She described her reaction as “just a little stunned” and said she had a “good sense” that the story would dominate the news for at least the next “several days.”

Hicks testified that Trump believed his remarks on the tape were “pretty standard stuff for two guys chatting.”

The Daily Beast added that, at the end of Trump’s term, Hicks “[was] burned by staying so close to Trump—evident by her private remarks after witnessing how Trump’s violent rhetoric and rejection of legitimate 2020 election results brought about the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.”

As the House of Representatives committee that investigated the January 6 riot eventually uncovered, Hicks texted Ivanka Trump’s then-chief of staff, “We all look like domestic terrorists now.”

She later added, “And all of us that didn’t have jobs lined up will be perpetually unemployed.”

The Daily Beast notes that prosecutors hope to use Hicks as a witness who can add crucial details about Trump’s involvement in directing hush-money payments to former “playmate” Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Trump is currently on trial facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records over the way he paid his consigliere Michael Cohen after the since-disgraced lawyer closed these deals.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Trump gets hit with sweeping gag order in hush money trial

March 28, 2024

Former President Donald Trump’s upcoming hush money trial in New York hit the former president with a gag order on Tuesday, March 26, just one day after Trump peddled a conspiracy theory about a prosecutor—and hours after the tycoon leveled attacks against the judge’s daughter, reports The Daily Beast.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan forbade Trump from speaking publicly about line prosecutors and court staff—or even their family members. He also subjected Trump to the same sorts of precautionary warnings the former president has faced from other judges in separate cases, ordering him to not even mention any prospective jurors.

However, a person familiar with the Trump team’s internal discussions told The Daily Beast they believe the gag order does not extend to the judge’s daughter. Merchan’s order only mentions the family members of “court staff.”

The snap decision was made on the heels of Trump’s anger-laden press conference yesterday at his 40 Wall Street building in downtown Manhattan, where the former president lashed out after suffering a minor loss in court when Merchan set his criminal trial—Trump’s first ever—to start on April 15.

When answering reporter’s questions, Trump attacked lead prosecutor Matt Colangelo, an unelected assistant district attorney for New York County. Colangelo worked on investigations against Trump while at the New York Attorney General’s Office; then, did a brief stint at the Department of Justice, only to return to the city to join the Manhattan District Attorney’s current case against Trump.

The former president seized on those details to surmise—without any proof—that Colangelo was somehow sent by President Joe Biden, Trump’s 2024 presidential rival, to bolster the local DA’s case.Att

The outlandish claim was a continuation of Trump’s long-espoused view that any law enforcement action against him is part of a shadowy “deep state” seeking to keep him from power.

Then on Tuesday morning, Trump shifted his followers’ focus to the judge himself—drawing attention to the judge’s own daughter.

“Judge Juan Merchan, a very distinguished looking man, is nevertheless a true and certified Trump Hater who suffers from a very serious case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. In other words, he hates me! His daughter is a senior executive at a Super Liberal Democrat firm that works for Adam “Shifty” Schiff, the Democrat National Committee, (Dem)Senate Majority PAC, and even Crooked Joe Biden,” Trump posted on his Truth Social media site.

This type of judicial decree is rare and seen as heavy-handed in a regular case, but Trump’s incessant attacks on the judicial system and his ability to rally his MAGA supporters has proven to be a unique threat that has flooded government offices with violent threats in the past two years.

In a separate matter in January, the final day of Trump’s three-month bank fraud trial was nearly derailed when a bomb threat was made targeting the home of Justice Arthur Engoron, who had overseen that case. Earlier, Trump loyalists left menacing phone calls at his chambers threatening physical violence against the judge and his law clerk, the attorney Allison Greenfield.

In the Manhattan District Attorney’s ongoing case against Trump, the former president has been launching personal attacks against DA Alvin Bragg Jr. from even before the moment a grand jury indicted him for faking business records in a scheme to cover up a hush money payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels.

Trump infamously posted a doctored photo of himself wielding a bat while standing ominously behind the DA—an image that was widely interpreted as intimidation.

Early on in the DA’s case, Justice Merchan took on a measured tone in court when he cautioned Trump’s lawyers against taking any actions that could be perceived as intimidating. He also strictly limited what the former president’s legal defense team could do with the information contained in the thousands of pages it received as evidence from the DA’s office—blocking defense lawyers from leaking any details that could compromise the case or lead to attacks against witnesses.

Merchan’s warnings grew more stern in the weeks that followed, as Trump began publicly speaking about the judge’s daughter. However, the judge did not punish Trump at the time—opting instead to continue cautioning against heated rhetoric.

But as Trump kept launching personal attacks against judges and prosecutors in other cases playing out in Florida, Georgia, and the District of Columbia—always feeding his loyalists’ hatred by chalking up every case to a shadowy, conspiratorial plot against him—the DA’s office sought steps to keep him in check.

In a request filed in court on Monday, February 26, eight prosecutors at the DA’s office asked Merchan to keep secret the names and addresses of any jurors who are eventually selected to decide whether Trump committed felonies when covering up his Stormy Daniels affair—especially since these New Yorkers will be the first Americans to decide whether a former U.S. president is guilty of crimes.

Prosecutors wrote that Trump’s “conduct in this and other matters—including his extensive history of attacking jurors in other proceedings—presents a significant risk of juror harassment and intimidation that warrants reasonable protective measures to ensure the integrity of these proceedings, minimize obstacles to jury selection, and protect juror safe.”

In a second request filed that same day, prosecutors also asked Merchan to issue a more sweeping gag order to further shut up Trump.

“Defendant has a longstanding and perhaps singular history of using social media, speeches, rallies, and other public statements to attack individuals that he considers to be adversaries, including ‘courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other public officials, and even individual jurors in other matters,’” they wrote, adding that “concerns grow more acute with the approaching trial.”

With his order on Tuesday, Merchan granted prosecutors’ request.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million

March 23, 2024

An appeals court panel said on Monday, March 25, that former president Donald Trump would be allowed to post a $175 million bond to stave off enforcement of a nearly half-billion dollar civil judgment against him and his business, reports The Washington Post.

The order on Monday morning was a significant win for Trump, who was otherwise facing a massive cash crunch and the prospect of New York Attorney General Letitia James seizing some of his assets as soon as this week.

However, while the panel eased the financial cloud over Trump, it did not erase it entirely. The panel gave Trump ten days to come up with the reduced bond of $175 million. Trump’s attorneys had previously sought to post a $100 million bond, rather than the full amount—and have not said whether he can meet the $175 million threshold.

James, who brought the lawsuit against Trump and his company, said Trump misstated the value of his properties and other assets by up to $2.2 billion a year from 2011 to 2021.

A judge in February ordered that Trump pay more than $450 million as a penalty. Trump’s attorneys have suggested that he would struggle to finance a bond of that size, saying they had tried and failed to get more than two dozen companies to help secure the bond.

An attorney for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. Trump himself was in a New York courtroom Monday for a hearing in an unrelated criminal case, related to hush money payments made to an adult-film actress.

A spokesperson for the attorney general said: “Donald Trump is still facing accountability for his staggering fraud. The court has already found that he engaged in years of fraud to falsely inflate his net worth and unjustly enrich himself, his family, and his organization. The $464 million judgment—plus interest—against Donald Trump and the other defendants still stands.”

Donald Trump‘s first criminal trial is now scheduled to start on April 15, according to a report by Deadline.

Judge Juan Merchan set that date on Monday, as the former president faces a series of charges related to the hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels in advance of the 2016 election. Trump’s charges have to do with claims that business records were falsified, among other things.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

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