Biden wants to reform the Supreme Court. So do Americans

On Tuesday evening, The Washington Post reported that President Joe Biden is preparing to announce his support for major reforms to the Supreme Court. Rather than call for immediate expansion of the court or for the impeachment of justices clearly violating the court’s toothless ethics guidelines, Biden will seek to establish term limits and an enforceable code of ethics.

Biden is also considering whether to promote a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s recent decision giving presidents broad immunity from prosecution.

While not offering the prospect of immediate relief from the precedent-breaking rulings of this ultraconservative court, Biden’s proposals would bring serious (and overdue) changes to the court—and they’re some of the most consequential ever put forward. The proposals also have the advantage of not being overtly partisan or created to generate a particular end, unlike court expansion. They also have the advantage of being really smart politics.

Republicans would viciously fight any Democratic proposal to expand the court. They would see any attempt by Biden to tack on four or six new justices as explicitly partisan, designed to weaken their iron grip on the court. Not only would such a proposal be immediately squelched in the Republican-controlled House, it also wouldn’t see much consideration in the filibuster-happy Senate.

When polled by Gallup in 2023, Americans were roughly evenly split over the idea of expanding the court, with 51% opposing it and 46% supporting it. But the same poll shows overwhelmingly bipartisan support both for placing an age limit on members of the court (74% support it) and for placing term limits on Congress members (87% percent support it). The reported proposal from Biden would sort of combine those two ideas, using a term limit for justices instead of an age limit. This has advantages over putting an age limit on the court because three of the four youngest justices are Trump appointees, and an age limit would allow them to remain on the court for decades to come.

And while Republicans would assail placing term limits on justices, that proposal would likely garner high enough levels of public support to make Republicans think twice. Even if they don’t, Republican leadership would be on record opposing a popular proposal, while Biden would be on record as offering an innovative solution to a widely-recognized problem.

Smart. Politics.

This is even more true for an enforceable code of ethics. A May survey from Data for Progress shows 77% of likely voters say Supreme Court justices and their spouses should be required to follow a code of ethics. Just 10% of likely voters, including only 18% of Republicans, oppose this idea. Overall, 73% felt that members of the court should be held to the same ethics standards as other federal judges. Only 17% felt that the court should be allowed to set its own ethical standards. 

That’s about as good a mandate as any idea is going to get in a day when the majority of Americans oppose teaching Arabic numbers. People may not know the history of the symbols they use when paying for a burger, but they know that Justice Clarence Thomas is dirty as hell.

Republicans in Congress are sure to view any ethics proposal as a response to the escapades of Justices Thomas and Samuel Alito and their insurrection-loving wives. So would the public. However, not only do a majority of likely voters support impeaching both Thomas and Alito (after voters are informed about those justices’ ethical lapses), but putting Republicans in the position of opposing ethical guidelines is essentially the same as forcing them to stand there and declare themselves the party of corruption.

That’s also very smart politics.

Biden’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to reverse the recent Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity is also likely to be popular. No one is particularly fond of the “Seal Team 6” scenario in which a president would be immune from having his political rivals assassinated. And it could be seen as a willingness on Biden’s part to surrender power and hold his office to higher standards at the same time that he is proposing such standards for the court.

None of this is to say that expanding the court is a bad idea. It may be the only way that the United States could gain relief from this court’s egregious rulings. Democrats should absolutely be ready to push that idea if this year’s election provides them the presidency and a majority in both chambers of Congress.

But right now, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin should be prepared to pounce on Biden’s court proposals as soon as they are announced.

There are good ideas. These are likely to be popular ideas. This is a very good fight to have in the months leading up to the election. So please, have it. Loudly and enthusiastically.

Now would be better than later. Getting this in public and forcing Republicans to react to it while the RNC is still going on would be just … peachy. Let Donald Trump deliver an acceptance speech in which he bombastically defends corruption. Put Republicans on the defense.

And deliver something the public not only wants but needs.

A rogue Supreme Court awaits its king

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts admonished liberal members of the court in his opinion that vastly expanded the idea of presidential immunity on Monday. The court’s three liberal members were only “fear mongering on the basis of extreme hypotheticals,” he wrote.

That finger-wag toward terrified, dissenting justices came only a few hours after Donald Trump signaled his desire for “televised military tribunals” that would try former Rep. Liz Cheney for treason. 

On call with Biden-Harris campaign, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) says SCOTUS' decision on presidential immunity means a Trump re-election isn't just the biggest threat to democracy in a generation. "It's far and away the biggest threat since the Civil War."

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) July 1, 2024

In less than a week, the Supreme Court has issued a string of rulings that demolish the ability of the government to regulate safety, labor, and the environment. Effectively, they’ve made being homeless illegal and being a Trump insurrectionist perfectly fine. And now they’ve presented a vast expansion of presidential power that exceeds the greatest dreams of Richard Nixon

Everything that the Supreme Court has done in these rulings paves the way for Trump and his allies’ Project 2025 to complete the purge of democracy that this court has already begun. And it all makes defeating Trump infinitely more important.

There was a time when Roberts was seen as a moderating voice on the Supreme Court, as someone who was concerned about the court being accused of partisanship, and who was willing to ally with the court’s more liberal elements to keep a new conservative majority under control. But the court-watchers who made such predictions could not have been more wrong.

Despite his odes to stare decisis, Roberts has consistently voted to overturn long-standing precedent. Since gaining the support of three Trump-appointed radicals, Roberts has become a reliable member of a series of 6-3 decisions that have redefined the traditional role of the three branches of government. 

In the decision on presidential immunity, Roberts is trying to dismiss the dissents of the three remaining liberal judges as overblown, but if anything, they are a subdued response to this ruling. 

  • The ruling extends absolute immunity to anything that falls within the “‘outer perimeter’ of the President’s official responsibilities, covering actions so long as they are ‘not manifestly or palpably beyond [his] authority,’” Roberts writes.

  • In determining whether an act is official, “courts may not inquire into the President’s motives.”

  • Also, courts can’t “deem an action unofficial merely because it allegedly violates a generally applicable law.”

If you’re having trouble seeing how anyone is permitted to question any action of the president under this ruling, you’re not the only one.

As Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson writes in her dissent, “Departing from the traditional model of individual accountability, the majority has concocted something entirely different: a Presidential accountability model that creates immunity—an exemption from criminal law—applicable only to the most powerful official in our Government.” She makes it clear that the court creates a “multilayered, multifaceted threshold” that would have to be cleared to charge a president under any circumstance, meaning that “no matter how well documented or heinous the criminal act might be,” it can still be dismissed.

And when it comes to the theoretical example that was raised during oral arguments, yes, “a hypothetical President who admits to having ordered the assassinations of his political rivals or critics” or who “indisputably instigates an unsuccessful coup” still has “a fair shot at getting immunity” for those actions.

Don't tell me the conservative justices don't believe in abortion rights. They are currently trying to abort democracy in the 992nd trimester. And if they get Trump onto the throne they’ve built, the odds of ever finding America again are slim to none.

President Joe Biden may be the last remaining politician in Washington who maintains endless respect for the institutions we have inherited and the network of implicit agreements that kept our democracy patched together over two centuries. As recently as a year ago, he rejected the idea of expanding the number of justices or taking other actions to restrain a court veering dangerously away from its traditional role.

Biden needs to reconsider. The damage this court has done, in just a matter of days, is inestimable, and those horrific decisions are stacked on top of years of increasingly nonsensical rulings, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade

This is a highly partisan court whose primary interest is in enacting a radical MAGA agenda. It’s also a court that has repeatedly made clear that it holds itself above the law and has nothing but contempt for anyone trying to hold it accountable. Now it wants to extend that privilege to Trump.

This court must be tamed. But most of all, this court must be prevented from joining the man whose throne they have been preparing. This nation can’t survive this court and Donald Trump. 

Joe Biden is going to have to beat them both. And we’re going to have to help him.

"If Joe Biden is not elected in November, we will not have a democracy that we have known for 250 years," says Goldman, who led the first House impeachment investigation into Trump in 2019.

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) July 1, 2024

House GOP tries to save Steve Bannon from facing justice

Steve Bannon, the former adviser to Donald Trump, was convicted of contempt of Congress in July 2022. He lost his first appeal this past May. He lost his second appeal last week. He is due to report to prison on Monday.

But Republicans are doing everything they can to throw him a rope—and not the kind some of them offered to Mike Pence. Instead, Republicans in the House are making an extraordinary effort to repudiate a past Congress, disowning the whole investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, in hopes this will somehow make Bannon’s conviction no longer count.

That House Republicans are willing to erase history—so long as it doesn’t involve a Confederate statue—should come as no surprise. After all, this is the same group that tried to unimpeach Trump. But what’s amazing is that they’re willing to go to such lengths for a third-rate podcaster who is likely to be in prison by Election Day no matter what they do.

If this Republican time machine is successful, it sets an amazing precedent for each Congress to examine and attack the actions of its predecessors—making it even more difficult for Congress to take any large legal actions since courts often move slowly and House terms are brief. 

That hasn’t stopped Republicans from going all in for Bannon.

On June 21, Bannon sent an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court. In it, Bannon’s attorney suggested that the purpose of his imprisonment was to keep a key player off the stage in the days leading up to the election.

“There is also no denying the fact that the government seeks to imprison Mr. Bannon for the four-month period immediately preceding the November presidential election,” attorney Trent McCotter wrote. 

House Republicans seem to agree with the importance of preventing Bannon from suffering a single day behind bars so that he can keep on promising that Trump’s opponents will all be going to jail once Team Orange is back in power. 

“You are going to be investigated, prosecuted, and incarcerated,” Bannon warned Democrats at a convention in Detroit earlier this month. “This has nothing to do with retribution. It has nothing to do with revenge. Because retribution and revenge might be another order of magnitude. This has to do with justice.”

But justice has a different meaning for Republicans. On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson made a mockery of the chamber’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group as it voted along party lines to send an amicus brief in support of Bannon to the Supreme Court.

A joint statement from Johnson, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer said that the House will “withdraw certain arguments made by the House earlier in the litigation about the organization of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol during the prior Congress.”

The trio also disowned the entire Jan. 6 Select Committee, saying that they believed “Speaker Pelosi abused her authority when organizing the Select Committee.”

Johnson followed up with a Fox News appearance in which he told host Sean Hannity that “the Jan. 6 committee was, we think, wrongfully constituted. We think the work was tainted. We think that they may have very well covered up evidence and maybe even more nefarious activities.”

The speaker provided no evidence for any of these accusations. 

In 2021, Senate Republicans blocked efforts to institute an independent investigation of the Jan. 6 assault on Congress. And in March, House Republicans issued a report seeking to exonerate Trump from any wrongdoing and discredit the findings of the select committee. That report made absolutely no mention of Trump’s role in the attack and instead blamed the Capitol Police for “a failure to provide proper security.”

Trump has already saved Bannon once by throwing him a pardon during his final hours in office. That pardon saved Bannon from facing the consequences for his central role in a border-wall-related fraud case, where one of his partners in crime is currently serving a four-year sentence in federal prison.

But Bannon faces a New York state trial in September over the same acts of criminal fraud. And Trump's pardon can't save him from a state charge. 

Bannon’s trial was originally slated to be conducted by Justice Juan Merchan, the judge who presided over Trump’s recent hush-money trial. Bannon’s trial has now been reassigned to Justice April Newbauer because of a reported conflict in Merchan’s schedule. However, the date for the trial hasn’t changed. 

Considering that others in the case have been found guilty, that’s a good indication that, no matter how much rope House Republicans unspool, it’s likely that Steve Bannon will be watching the election results on prison TV.

No, bad news for Trump does not make him stronger

 When Donald Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts, the Los Angeles Times had their response ready. “The guilty verdict only makes Donald Trump stronger,” read the headline to the May 30 article by Scott Jennings, a former CNN commentator and special assistant to former President George W. Bush.

“It was jarring to hear my CNN colleague Jake Tapper say ‘guilty’ 34 straight times,” wrote Jennings. “And it was equally jarring to see text after text pop up on my phone from decidedly non-MAGA Republicans, but also not Never Trumpers, all sounding the same note: ‘I don’t like this man, and now I think I have to vote for him.’”

Some ideas get so embedded in people’s heads that even those who should know better start to accept them automatically. One of those ideas is that any time Trump is attacked—whether it is through impeachment, indictment, being held responsible in a civil trial, or being convicted in a criminal trial—it only makes him stronger.

That idea is bullshit. Or to put it in technical terms, colossal bullshit.

I do not think Jennings was getting “text after text” from people who didn’t previously support Trump telling him “now I think I have to vote for him” because he had become a convicted felon.

Again, I call bullshit.

It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find similar opinions to Jennings. One day later, Fox News contributor and CEO of the Harris Poll, Mark Penn, wrote that conviction would make “​​the right rally and coalesce even more around former President Donald Trump.”

Penn blew off overnight poll results showing that people seemed ready to abandon Trump over the conviction, which seems like a somewhat questionable position for a man who runs a polling organization. Instead, Penn bet that Trump would gain “more energized, angry voters.”

“This is ultimately what angers the voters—the idea that there is one system of justice for some and another for their choice if it’s Donald Trump,” Penn wrote.

Except that there’s one bit of calculus that Penn and every other Republican seems to be ignoring: the vote of an angry, energized, Trump supporter convinced that their man got a raw deal in court is worth exactly one vote. It’s hard to believe that any of those “angry” or “energized” by Trump’s verdict were not already Trump supporters going in. And all the anger and energy in the world won’t make their vote worth any more than the most disinterested voter who pulls the lever for President Joe Biden.

The idea that Penn and Jennings are selling is that narrative that Republicans, and Trump, want everyone to believe: It’s the “every time he gets knocked down again, he gets up stronger” thesis. And it is, what’s that word again? Bullshit. 

Every time Trump is held accountable, every MAGA account on X seems to spew “Democrats just elected Trump!” Because, somehow, they seem to be convinced that everyone else is just as angry about a slight to Trump as the folks in their Let’s Go Brandon support group.

We’re not.

Three weeks after Trump’s conviction, the latest poll from The Hill/Ipsos shows that 21% of independent voters are less likely to support Trump following his conviction. Those same voters say that the guilty verdict is “very important” to how they will vote in November.

If Republicans genuinely believed that non-Trump supporters would be angered by the idea that a powerful billionaire might be held to account for a host of crimes—that Donald Trump would not be held to the rules that apply to anyone else—they were wrong.

If Republicans need more evidence, they might want to roll back to this Kathleen Parker opinion piece in The Washington Post after Trump’s first impeachment.

“I’ll be brief: President Trump will not be convicted by the U.S. Senate, and his positioning for reelection will have been strengthened by the process,” Parker wrote in 2019. 

She went on to rail against the “Mother Superior Nancy Pelosi, the prim and pursed-lipped Adam Schiff and grumpy scold-meister Jerrold Nadler” while explaining that impeachment would only encourage people to “take their chances with a player like Trump.”

Trump supporters were right there with Parker. So was Trump. He told those attending his rally that he intended to use his impeachment against Democrats. Trump supporters cheered him on and reassured their candidate that they were sticking with him

Spoiler alert: other people did not go with the “player” because he got impeached. Trump lost decisively in 2020. Impeachment did not make him stronger. Neither did indictment. Neither did conviction.

Earlier this month, an ABC poll of independent voters found a majority wanted Trump to drop out of the race. In fact, 16% of Republicans felt that Trump should withdraw. 

I’m guessing that none of those people were texting Jennings to tell him that they guessed they had to vote for Trump.

On Monday, the Trump-worshiping Washington Examiner moved to the next stanza in the Trump Always Comes Back Stronger theme song.

Republicans are warning Democrats that if former President Donald Trump’s sentence in his New York criminal case prevents him from attending the Republican National Committee convention, it will guarantee a red wave for the 2024 election.

They’re “warning” us, are they? I think there’s only one answer to this. And it’s just one word.

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Trump plans to grab the power of the purse from Congress

The Constitution gives the power to allocate federal funding to Congress, but Donald Trump isn’t about to let that stop him. Trump has made no secret that he wants to restore presidential impoundment, a power that has been severely limited since 1974, and seize the power of the purse away from Congress.

As The Washington Post reports, Trump’s ambitions go beyond just bringing back a power that was limited after Richard Nixon abused it to shut down programs he didn’t like, such as blocking billions Congress had authorized for subsidized housing. Presidential impoundment is both a sword and a scalpel, capable of eliminating entire departments or taking out individual programs.

Trump has already made it clear he means to purge the federal government, dismantle existing agencies, and replace career federal employees with an army of supporters loyal only to Trump. He’s also determined to turn the Department of Justice and FBI into agents of his retribution, allowing him to round up and imprison political opponents. And those are just a few of the choice pieces of destruction laid out by Trump and his cohorts in their 887-page Project 2025 playbook.

But even with Republicans in Congress shedding every member not committed to the MAGA cause, Trump still would not have every lever of power in his tiny hands so long as Congress can determine the spending. So he wants to end that control.

“Presidential Impoundment”—refusing to spend money authorized by Congress—was a power that had been exercised by many presidents going back to Thomas Jefferson, but most instances involved small amounts and concerns over funds that were duplicated or in conflict. It wasn’t until Nixon began treating the impoundment power as a kind of line-item veto, blocking tens of billions from programs that didn’t fit his agenda, that Congress took action to limit this power by passing the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

Ending this act has become part of the right-wing agenda to create a powerful authoritarian president. The Federalist Society insists that the 1974 act ended the president’s “constitutional spending authority,” though no such authority exists in the Constitution. Bringing back impoundments is also part of Project 2025.

Trump already attempted to violate the Impoundment Control Act during his first time in office. That includes the events leading up to his first impeachment when he illegally impounded funds that had been authorized for Ukraine.

In 2023, Trump gave a speech making clear that he wants to end controls on impoundments to strangle any program he doesn’t like.

“I will then use the president’s long-recognized Impoundment Power to squeeze the bloated federal bureaucracy for massive savings,” Trump said in a video address now posted to his campaign site. 

Unlimited use of the Impoundment Act goes well beyond even the authority of a line-item veto. It would allow Trump to halt funds at any time to inflict pain or apply pressure. It’s easy to see how this program might be used to force a weakened Congress into signing on to legislation provided by Trump, to slice out programs that had fallen out of favor, or to destroy whole departments. It’s hard to see how Congress could negotiate any kind of meaningful legislation when Trump could come in and selectively block funding. 

It’s not hard to see how this could be an extension of Trump’s ability to punish his enemies, especially in the wake of calls to “defund” the entire state of New York following Trump’s felony conviction on 34 counts in a Manhattan courtroom. It’s an idea that seems laughable … until you add impoundment.

A limited presidential impoundment ability was arguably beneficial over the nation’s first 200 years. However, it was unsupported by anything in the Constitution and lost in the only case in which it was directly challenged in the Supreme Court. That doesn’t mean that it would lose now, with a Republican-dominated court that seems anxious to hand Trump all the authority he wants. 

An unlimited presidential impoundment authority isn’t a “budgetary issue.” It’s full control of the entire government. Which is exactly why it’s on Trump’s agenda.

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House GOP wants to prosecute Biden’s family days after Trump conviction

Republican Reps. James Comer, Jim Jordan, and Jason Smith announced on Wednesday that they are referring President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and brother James for "criminal prosecution" to the Department of Justice. The referral accuses Hunter and James of “making false statements to Congress.”

The announcement wasn’t exactly a surprise, as GOP hard-liners had already laid out a “payback plan” to help Donald Trump following his conviction last week on 34 felony counts. As Politico reported on Tuesday, the criminal referrals were something that Comer, Jordan, and Smith could push through without support from other House members, since even some of their fellow Republicans are skeptical of their stunt “investigations.”

Ever since gaining control of the House, Republicans have conducted multiple simultaneous inquiries into every member of Biden's extended family. The original plan was to gift Trump with a Joe Biden impeachment so that Trump could feel better about having been impeached (twice). But that plan fizzled out badly after the kangaroo court that went after Biden displayed hilarious levels of incompetence

Now the House GOP’s Turgid Trio has produced a sorry document riddled with debunked claims, half-truths, and outright lies.

The announcement blares that Comer & Co. have tracked millions of ill-begotten dollars to members of Biden's family, "related companies," and "business associates"—which actually means this was a game of Six Degrees of Separation in which Republicans claimed that every transaction, no matter how remote, was tied to "Chinese money.”

It seems unlikely that the public will be very interested in how unspecified entities did business with something called Rosemont Seneca Bohai, LLC, which also had business with Hunter Biden, and how Hunter may have mistakenly sent texts to the wrong person, which could be read as implying his father was present. Only he wasn’t.

Or how James Biden made money at his business and later repaid his brother for a small personal loan. The trio insists this was Chinese money because someone paid someone who paid someone who paid James Biden who paid back Joe Biden.

By that standard, isn’t it all Chinese money, or Russian money, or whatever anyone wants to claim?

Another charge against James Biden claims that someone named Tony Bobulinski remembered James being at a meeting that he said he didn’t attend. Not that his presence or absence at the meeting made a whit of difference—this was just all that Comer, Jordan, and Smith could find by combing through hours of testimony and looking for contradictions.

Maybe in some deep-cut version of “Fox & Friends,” Bobulinski is a star and Rosemont Seneca is on everyone’s tongue. But outside that pocket universe, all of this is simply malarkey, to borrow one of Joe Biden’s favorite terms.

This latest stunt is mostly an excuse for Comer and Jordan to grab air time and distract Fox News viewers with talk about the "Biden crime family" in hopes of making a false equivalence to Trump's very real felony conviction.

It’s a very, very, very good bet that Attorney General Merrick Garland won’t jump on these referrals, because the evidence is unimaginably weak and the document attached to the charges contains far more lies than any alleged wrongdoing by Hunter or James Biden. But for the Republican trio, that’s also a part of the plan.

Because when the DOJ rightly ignores these nonsense charges, they'll get to make fresh complaints about Biden, Merrick Garland, and the "weaponized" justice system.

It’s all hogwash. But doing all they can to ingratiate themselves with Trump is the House GOP’s No. 1 job, after all.

Donald Trump was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records on May 30. What are potential voters saying about this historic news? And what is the Biden-Harris campaign doing now that the “teflon Don" is no more?

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Alito’s explanation for his upside-down flag has fallen apart

New information shows that everything Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has said about the reason an American flag was flown upside down over his home appears to have been a lie. Alito blamed the flag on a dispute with neighbors. Unfortunately for the prevaricating justice, his wife’s altercation with the neighbors became so extreme that those neighbors called the cops. The police report shows that the altercation came weeks after the upside-down flag was hoisted over Alito’s home.

On May 16, The New York Times broke the story that an American flag was flown upside down at the Alito home in January 2021. The upside-down flag, long used as a signal of distress, was appropriated by Donald Trump supporters following Jan. 6, 2021, to express their solidarity with the insurrectionists who had smashed their way into the Capitol building.

Alito denied any connection to the flag and claimed that his wife had put up this symbol in response to an altercation with a neighbor. He also claimed those neighbors had placed an offensive sign about Trump where it was near children waiting to board a school bus. But that excuse always had problems.

Now everything about Alito’s story is falling apart.

The story that Alito told Fox News reporters was that his wife flew the flag because neighbor Emily Baden placed a “Fuck Trump” sign in her yard that was within 50 feet of where children were waiting for the school bus in January 2021. Alito said that his wife had tried to talk to the neighbors about having a vulgar sign so close to where children waited for the bus, but that the conversation ended in an argument. 

Alito then claimed that Baden put up a sign that personally insulted Martha-Ann Alito and blamed her for the Jan. 6 assault. Finally, Alito said that he and his wife were walking through the neighborhood, ran into a man who lived at the property, and he called Martha-Ann Alito a number of disparaging terms, including the c-word.

So she went home and raised a flag in support of insurrection. As one does.

However, even a cursory look at Alito’s claims shows that they’re simply not true. In January 2021, area schools were still dealing with Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic. Children would not return to the classroom until March. So no children were waiting for the bus for Alito’s wife to be concerned about.

The latest information paints a very different picture of the interaction between Baden and the Alitos. Baden and her then-boyfriend, now husband, reported that Martha-Ann Alito was repeatedly harassing them to the point where they called the police and asked them to intervene. 

“Aside from putting up a sign, we did not begin or instigate any of these confrontations,” Baden told Times reporters.

At some point in January, the original “Fuck Trump” sign blew over. Martha-Ann Alito approached Baden thinking that the sign had been removed, but according to Baden, this encounter didn’t end in an argument. It was the first time Baden could ever recall speaking to either of the Alitos.

Following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Baden added two new signs. One of these read “Trump is a fascist.” The other said, “You are complicit.” Neither mentioned Martha-Ann or Samuel Alito, and Baden says that the signs were not aimed at them. Baden’s mother took the signs down out of concern that the same kind of people who attacked the Capitol might bring that kind of violence to their home.

Sometime after the signs had been removed, Baden and her boyfriend saw Martha-Ann. Alito sitting in a car outside their home and glaring at them in a way notable enough that they mentioned it to friends. A few days after President Joe Biden’s inauguration—which Samuel Alito skipped—the couple was driving past the Alito home when Alito’s wife ran toward their car, yelling something they couldn’t hear. She then appeared to spit in their direction.

It wasn’t until Feb. 15, a month after the upside-down flag flew over the Alito home, that the Alitos walked past Baden’s home while she and her boyfriend were bringing in the trash containers. Martha-Ann Alito then “used an expletive” and called them “fascists,” Baden told Times reporters. This event was also noted in texts that Baden sent at the time.

At that point, Baden said she snapped. 

She does not remember her precise words, but recalls something like this: How dare you behave this way. You’ve been harassing us, over signs. You represent the highest court in the land. Shame on you.

Her boyfriend admitted that he chased this statement with the use of the C-word. The incident was also observed by a neighbor. 

Following this exchange, the boyfriend went inside and called the police, confirming that it happened on Feb. 15, not before the flag was flown on Jan. 17, as Alito told Fox News reporters.

Alito’s excuse about the kids and the school bus was a lie. His claim that the flag was flown following a dispute with the neighbors is inaccurate. And none of it explains why he flew another pro-insurrection flag over his vacation home.

The Supreme Court is currently considering Trump’s motion for absolute legal immunity for his actions to interfere with the 2020 election while in office. It’s also determining whether the insurrectionists involved in the attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021, can appropriately be charged with obstruction

Alito has not recused himself from either of these cases. And on Wednesday, he stated in a letter to Congress that he will not recuse himself.

“I am therefore duty-bound to reject your recusal request,” he claimed in the letter.

The idea that Alito should be involved in considering any case connected with Trump, Jan. 6, or the 2020 election completely violates any concept of judicial ethics. This isn’t just the appearance of a conflict. It’s a conflict.

The only real question is: Will anyone do anything about it?

The revelation that Alito had flown a pro-Trump flag at a second location sparked renewed pressure in the Senate. Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin has been calling for Alito to recuse himself—which he’s now outright rejected—and for Chief Justice John Roberts to call this rogue justice into line.

“[Chief] Justice Roberts has to step back and realize the damage that’s being done to the reputation of the court,” Durbin told The Washington Post.

The Senate Judiciary Committee needs to open an investigation into Alito’s partisan support for the pro-Trump insurrection. They need to do it immediately.

Two other members of the committee, Sheldon Whitehouse and Richard Blumenthal, have been pressing Durbin to take action. That includes Blumenthal noting that while the Senate can’t regulate the actions of the Supreme Court, it isn’t without power—including the ability to set the number of justices on the court. And outside groups, like Indivisible and Demand Justice, as well as legal experts have also demanded an investigation into Alito’s leanings.

The new information showing that Alito’s claims about the flag incident were simply untrue only reinforces the need for the Senate to move. An impeachment of Alito is fully warranted, but with Republicans holding a narrow margin in the House and anxious to show their allegiance to Trump over the nation, an impeachment seems next to impossible.

There’s no time like the present to dilute Alito’s toxic presence by adding more seats to the Supreme Court.

RELATED STORY: The pressure is building for the Senate to do something about Alito

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Live coverage: Trump trial resumes with payoff to Stormy Daniels front and center

The third day of testimony in Donald Trump’s criminal trial for 34 felony counts of falsifying business records begins Thursday morning. Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is expected to resume the stand, and based on where his testimony left off on Tuesday, prosecutors are likely to move directly into aspects of the incident that led to Trump’s indictment. 

Jurors have already heard how Trump, Pecker, and attorney Michael Cohen set up a “catch-and-kill” scheme to buy stories that threatened Trump’s 2016 campaign for the White House. Pecker’s testimony made clear that the scheme was not meant to protect Trump from personal scandal, but to prevent the public from hearing stories that might affect the outcome of the election. The scheme was outlined in a Trump Tower meeting that included not just Cohen, but Trump’s campaign press secretary, Hope Hicks. Pecker even noted that he would have published one of the stories directed at Trump, but would have held it until after the election.

On Thursday, it’s expected that Pecker will be questioned about the events surrounding Trump’s encounter with adult film actress Stormy Daniels, how the National Enquirer purchased Daniels’ story, and how Daniels was persuaded to sign a non-disclosure document that kept her from revealing her relationship with Trump before the election.

Pecker will also be able to answer some of the questions at the heart of the trial, such as how Trump handled paying back the funds that were used to quiet Daniels. So far, the prosecution has been very effective in making the case that this isn’t about a personal scandal or about hush money. This is about a conspiracy to affect the results of the 2016 election by illegally covering up information from the public.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 9:12:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This would seem to put a large dent in the law school-worthiness of Bove’s work today.

Bove will start tomorrow w/ a real embarrassment before jury, as judge tells them Bove basically misled them in characterizing document he was supposedly using to "refresh [Pecker's] recollection." A bad way to start the day and +-undoes the solid if not very damaging work he did

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:47:14 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lisa Rubin with high praise for both sides today.

Between four trials and multiple additional hearings in GA, DC, and FL, I've seen a lot of lawyering in the Trump cases, and not all of it good. But today's direct and cross examinations of David Pecker were the sort of things you'd want to show law students.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:41:35 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Truthfully, when it came to what he needed to accomplish in the courtroom today, it didn’t seem that Emil Bove did that poor a job. He showed that Trump was just one of several pals of Pecker who had been given breaks when it came to holding back negative stories or playing up positive news, he reiterated that Pecker conducts intrinsically unethical checkbook journalism, and presumably, he was going somewhere with the questions about Hope Hicks.

But when it comes to dealing with Merchan, both Bove and lead attorney Todd Blanche are scoring idiot goals all around.

Merhcan to Bove: "Are you missing my point? Because I don't think you're responding to my statement. you gave the impression there was something in the document when there wasn't. so please be more careful." not as bad as "you're losing all credibility," but not great.

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

Merchan announces he’s adding the four new instances of potential gag order violation that the prosecution brought up today to the list of Trump statements the defense has to … defend. Now everybody gets another hearing on Wednesday afternoon to deal with this. That’s supposed to be everyone’s day off from this trial, so no one is going to be happy.

But it’s a good example of how Merchan is keeping things moving along (except in making rulings about those violations).

Merchan’s anger at the end of the day was also directed at the way Bove went after Pecker. Basically, he felt that the way Bove acted as Pecker tried to refresh his memory was meant to mislead the jury into thinking that Pecker was unreliable or following a script. So the jury is going to get a special jury instruction before court begins again in the morning. 
Which it will, no matter what some knucklehead told you on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:30:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A flurry of post-trial action.

Post-trial proceedings: Prosecution accuses Trump's counsel of improper impeachment, leading to an exchange where Emil Bove tests the judge's patience. Merchan: "Mr. Bove, are you missing my point? Because I don't think you're responding to what I'm saying."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:27:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Meanwhile, things are getting shaking-fist-at-clouds cantankerous outside the courthouse.

I am here outside NY Trump trial Courthouse and as far as I can tell only one pro Trump protester is in the vicinity The area is totally open and people are coming and going but only this gentleman bothered to show to support the former president pic.twitter.com/2E6LoQiuaK

— Norm Eisen (#TryingTrump out now!) (@NormEisen) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:25:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The day ends with the attorneys still in a sidebar with Merchan. Pecker is off the stand. He’s expected to be back tomorrow.

With the attorneys and Trump remaining in the room, the court may now rule on the gag order hearing. Hang in there.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:21:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of this in the last few minutes. Not sure if Trump’s team intends to say that Hicks was not there, of if they’re saying Pecker has a bad memory, or if they're accusing him of collaborating with the government.

Trump's lawyer Bove: And on August 2, 2028 you met again with the prosecutors about the August 2105 meeting Pecker: I need to see the report... Bove: You need to see a report to remember? Pecker: Yes. Bove: At no point did you mention Hope Hicks Gov't: Objection!

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:18:08 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove is now hitting Pecker on the idea that he didn’t claim Hope Hicks was at the Trump Tower meeting in his initial statements. This has generated a couple of objections and a sidebar. Pecker starts to argue with Bove, Bove gives him a document to read through.

Q: You didn't initially tell prosecutors that Hope Hicks was in aug 2015 meeting in Trump Tower, right? [it's not in 302-- ie FBI report -- of the meeting] A: correct, but-- Q: just yes or no A: no

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:14:24 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Not sure where Bove is going with this, other than to claim that the Trump Tower meeting was just something that happened, not a turning point.

Pecker agrees that Cohen acted as an intermediary for potentially negative stories. Bove notes that Cohen worked for Trump for at least eight years before the Trump Tower meeting.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:12:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I’m honestly surprised the prosecution didn’t bring this up. It could have been run through in a couple of “you’ve had other dealings with Cohen...” sentences and largely defused as fuel for the defense.

Pecker testified that Michael Cohen often asked Pecker for favors for himself, including asking Pecker to arrange paparazzi shoots of Cohen and to promote Cohen's daughter’s rock climbing.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:10:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove’s questioning has now turned to Cohen. Considering what Pecker said during the prosecution, it seems likely the defense will present Cohen as someone who was in it for himself and who was frequently lying when he claimed to be representing Trump.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:09:10 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove discovers that Pecker doesn’t just say “yes” to everything he asks.

Trump lawyer trying to suggest he rehearsed, went over material repeatedly. Pecker pretty well punctures the line of questioning: "What I said under oath was the truth. That's all I planned on doing today."

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:07:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still getting tales of Pecker helping out celebrities by holding back negative stories or running more favorable stories. Unclear how many more of these Bove has in his pocket.

Considering the long-time friendship between Pecker and Trump, his defense may have a pretty complete list.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:02:38 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And here’s why Bove brought up Ari Emanuel—his brother.

Pecker said he helped suppress a potentially negative story about Rahm Emanuel while he was running for mayor of Chicago, at Ari Emanuel's request.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 8:00:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of very similar statements are going past, some of them slightly worded repeats of statements already asked. Again, the idea is to make it seem that, no matter how shocking Pecker’s deal with Trump may seem, it was nothing special for National Enquirer.

Bove asks Pecker about other celebrities with whom he had a "mutually beneficial" relationship and for whom he has sought to publish positive stories or kill negative stories. You had similar relationships w/ people other than Trump? Yes. Meaning other people who you would…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:57:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker gets led through efforts AMI has made to support others in the past, including Ron Perlman, who Pecker considered a friend and media agency owner Ari Emanuel, who was embroiled in a lawsuit over supposed sexist and racist remarks in 2002.

Not sure either of these does much other than to give Bove some additional examples of Pecker refusing to run every story.

Pecker says that AMI only runs about half the stories it buys. However, what doesn’t get said, because Bove doesn’t ask, is that most of those stories that don’t get run are killed because they proved to be untrue or simply weren’t interesting enough on closer examination.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:50:29 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

What Bove is doing is setting up the idea that there was nothing unusual or illegal about buying stories to hide them, and that just because it was being done to support a campaign doesn’t make any difference.

He’s trying to elicit testimony to support the defense theory of the case: That there’s nothing illegal about hush money payments. And that there’s nothing unusual about a campaign coordinating with friendly media entities. In the defense narrative, that's just standard operating…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:47:40 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker admits that the first time he heard the term “catch-and-kill” it was from the prosecution.

Bove seems to think this is a mic drop moment, giving the jury a long pause for this to sink in. But this term has been a part of journalistic ethics for some time. Among other things, it was the title of a 2019 book by Ronan Farrow.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:39:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove hitting Pecker over the idea that slanting his paper for Trump was a long-time practice, diminishing the importance of the post-Trump Tower meeting scheme. 

During cross, Bove is driving home the point that Pecker long sought to publish positive stories about Trump, because it was good for business, and hide negative ones.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:36:46 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove may not quite accuse Pecker of holding onto the doorman, McDougal, and Daniels stories to use against Trump, but that’s certainly the initial implication.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:35:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Ah, here’s where Bove was going. In addition to buying stories to run, and buying stories for Trump’s catch-and-kill scheme, there was a third category: buying up stories to use them as leverage (i.e. blackmail) to convince celebrities to give interviews.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:33:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Bove starts off by reiterating National Enquirer’s checkbook journalism process.

"AMI wasn't a charity?" Bove asks.

"No, it was not," Pecker says.

"Part of AMI's business model was to purchase stories, correct?" Bove asked.

"Yes, it was," Pecker responded.

Bove hasn’t yet asked Pecker how many times he purchased stories to not run them, which is the critical factor in this case.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:30:05 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker closed out his answers for the prosecution with a big My Pal Donald story.

Pecker launches into a story about how, in 2001, all of his magazine offices were consolidated in one building in Boca Raton. That October, shortly after 9/11, his office received multiple anthrax letters. One of the editors at his magazine inhaled anthrax and ended up dying.…

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

Trump called him to provide help by … recommending an attorney. Pecker doesn’t say if this was so he could sue the FBI.

Anyway, on to the defense.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:25:45 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And that’s it. The prosecution announces that it is done with Pecker for now.

Emil Bove is up to cross-examine for Trump’s defense. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:23:09 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If you run a tabloid whose business is based on exaggerations, slander, and plain old lies, who could be a better mentor than Trump?

Asked if he has any ill-will toward Trump, Pecker emphatically answers in the negative. "On the contrary, [...] I felt that Donald Trump was my mentor. He helped me out throughout my career."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:21:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The documents include a list of accepted facts that Pecker is now reading. Many of the items on this list seem to match things that have been in testimony this week. This could suggest that prosecutors are nearing the end of what they want from Pecker.

Jurors are reportedly still paying attention and taking notes. Good for them.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:12:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still at it. 

Prosecutors are now presenting the cooperation letter David Pecker signed to assist with the Manhattan district attorney's investigation. It is dated October 25, 2019.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:10:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker still reading through agreements with law enforcement. This can’t be exciting for the jury. I still don’t understand why the prosecution didn’t just enter the agreements as exhibits, then question Pecker about the parts they wanted to highlight.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 7:08:02 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lisa Rubin comes through with the explaination.

David Pecker is now reading from American Media's non-prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice, which have been public for years but which misled the public about who exactly was involved in the alleged conspiracy to promote Trump's election. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

Those documents never reflect Trump or "Individual-1"'s participation; instead, they disclose only that AMI acted in concert with "one or more members or agents" of the Trump campaign & refer to the August 2015 meeting between Pecker, Cohen & "at least one other member of the…

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:59:23 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The questioning moves from pre-election corruption to post-election dictatorship.

In 2018, Pecker received a letter from the federal election commission. He called Cohen “immediately” after receiving the letter. Pecker told Cohen he was worried. "Why are you worried?" Cohen asked. "Jeff Sessions is the AG and Donald Trump has him in his pocket," he said.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:56:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker and Steinglass are looking at AMI’s non-prosecution deal that landed Pecker on the stand the first three days of trial.  Merchan reminds jurors that they can’t use anything in the agreement as evidence against Trump. Not quite sure why the prosecution pulled out this document. Again, we’ll probably find out.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:51:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Well, come on down, queen of the podium! Welcome to the case.

Pecker testified he remembers a call with Hope Hicks and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"Both of them said that they thought it was a good idea," Pecker said, referring to extending McDougal's contract.

Trump’s PR front was united in trying to keep his affairs hidden. That may be understandable, considering that they might have to answer questions about Trump's mistress.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:48:21 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

That they swerved back for another question about McDougal suggests there’s still something they’re trying to get Pecker to say about the biggest case in the catch-and-kill triptych. But it’s unclear exactly what they’re going for now.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:46:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Trump got angry at seeing McDougal interviewed, even though this was after the election.

According to Pecker, Trump got angry after seeing Anderson Cooper interviewing McDougal. Trump said that he thought there was an agreement forbidding her from speaking to the press. Pecker replied: "Yes, we have an agreement but I amended it to allow her to speak to the press."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Trump got even angrier when he learned about the amendment. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:43:28 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

CNN reports questioning has moved back to a discussion of Stormy Daniels, but there have been mentions in the last few minutes around a White House dinner, discussions with both Trump and Cohen, and issues in handling McDougal that are likely to surface again.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:38:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker explaining a meeting with McDougal after she seemed upset about the pace at which the deal was moving.

Pecker said the purpose of the meeting was to make sure they were complying to the agreement. "I wanted her to remain within our (pause) family, I should say."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:36:35 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

All these questions about McDougal, and referring to her as “our girl,” will be hard for Trump to explain if he sticks to his prior claims. It could get 10x worse for him after McDougal testifies.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:34:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Another example of how Trump seemed to take a very personal interest in someone whose story he still claims to be false.

During the visit to the White House, Trump walked with Pecker to the Rose Garden. Trump asked, “How’s Karen doing?” It was a reference to McDougal. Pecker replied: She’s good, she’s quiet.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:31:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Some cross-story synergy for your afternoon.

Boris Epshteyn, the Trump aide who was among several people indicted Wednesday by an Arizona grand jury for their efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is in the courtroom.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:30:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I can’t visualize, so tidbits like this don’t really help set the scene. But I realize that most people have that internal movie rolling, so …

David Pecker returns to the witness stand. He's wearing a charcoal suit, a light pink collared shirt, and a red tie. Then the jurors file into court. Steinglass, for the prosecution, trots to the lectern to resume his direct examination.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

I do like the idea of the prosecutor “trotting.”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 6:23:49 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And we’re getting underway for the afternoon.

Pecker is returning to the witness stand.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

This may not be Pecker’s last day on the stand. Prosecutors have indicated that they may not finish his questioning today, and then Trump’s team will get to cross-examine. Which at this point will likely consist of Blanche asking Pecker to prove “who’s ‘the boss’” over and over.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:36:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Something missed earlier that at least seems like it should be important.

Trump didn’t just thank Pecker for saving him from scandals through the catch-and-kill scheme, he did this in front of FBI Director James Comey.

Somehow, it seems that might have triggered some kind of alarm. But Comey might not have been able to hear it over all the self-congratulations he was handing himself for violating DOJ rules and making public statements about Hillary Clinton days before the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:14:22 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

What did we get out of the morning? Quite a bit, actually.

Though there were moments when it seemed as if things were going to sink into a morass of agreements and shell companies, overall the questioning and answers remained pretty lively.

  • Pecker has now outlined his behavior in the three catch-and-kill schemes he conducted for Trump following the Trump Tower meeting with Hope Hicks and other members of the campaign. In each case, Pecker made it clear that he didn’t believe he was acting to protect Trump’s reputation, but to protect his campaign-—a critical part of the underlying conspiracy that makes Trump’s falsifying business documents into a felony offense.
  • Pecker went over how he had previously attempted to shield Arnold Schwarzenegger during his run for governor in California, and how that effort generated legal issues for the National Enquirer and parent company AMI.
  • The concern over what Karen McDougal had to say was so extensive that Cohen and Trump urged Pecker to give her what she asked for. That didn’t mean just money, but two columns and a modeling contract. Trump personally checked in on “our girl” to see that she was staying quiet. 
  • Pecker made it clear that when he appeared to get cold feet in paying McDougal, it wasn’t over concerns about whether Trump would cough up the $150,000 she had been promised. It was because he had legal counsel look over the arrangement that he, Trump, and Cohen had cooked up using a shell company to confuse the control of McDougal’s contract and that counsel sniffed something wrong.
  • It’s a good bet that wrongness is related to something AMI ran into with Schwarzenegger, considering the emphasis the prosecution brought to those acts, but Pecker was unwilling to go into details to protect himself and AMI.
  • Finally, whatever had happened with McDougal made Pecker reluctant to directly pay Stormy Daniels when that incident came up. Pecker encouraged Cohen to pay for himself, but seemed surprised that Cohen had covered Daniel’s $130,000 payment out of his own pocket.
UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:02:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Lunch recess. Everyone is due back in court at 2:15 PM ET.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 5:01:17 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Trump talking to Pecker about McDougal during a private meeting.

Trump asked Pecker, “How’s our girl doing?”

Pecker said he told Trump, “She’s writing her articles. She’s quiet. She’s fine.”

This is profoundly creepy.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:55:44 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This is Pecker after saying that Trump thanked him for covering up the McDougal and Dino the doorman stories. Every time Pecker says something like this, an angel in the DA’s office gets its wings.

Asked by the prosecutor whether Trump's concern about the stories getting out was primarily about his family or the campaign, Pecker responds: "I thought it was for the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:50:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker ultimately ignored Cohen’s advice and amended the agreement with McDougal, allowing her more freedom to speak publically.

But he waited until December, more than a month after the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:48:27 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If there were worries that Cohen was misrepresenting what “the boss” wanted … nope. 

Pecker describes a conversation in Trump's office: "I said Michael Cohen is very concerned about his bonus for this year, and I wanted you to do that he's very loyal." He said Cohen was working very hard. "I believe that he would throw himself in front of a bus for you."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:46:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Still getting it through my head that, as prosecutors are questioning a tabloid publisher about Trump’s affairs with a Playboy model and a porn star, more Trump attorneys are in another courtroom defending his appeal over defaming a woman he assaulted in a dressing room, and still more Trump attorneys are in front of the Supreme Court arguing that he can sell nuclear secrets or carry out political assassinations without consequence.

He truly is God’s man on Earth.+

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:42:16 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker: “I wanted to protect my company, I wanted to protect myself and I wanted also to protect Donald Trump. ”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:40:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

For those still covering the details of Trump’s body position. 

As David Pecker testified about learning of Stormy Daniels’ allegation of having sex with Donald Trump, the former president leaned back in his seat and appeared to close his eyes, per @benfeuerherd

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

Maybe he’s getting sleepy. Maybe he’s just visualizing a fond memory.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:38:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen instructed Pecker to keep McDougal under wraps despite the WSJ article which made most of her story clear.

Cohen recommended that Pecker not release McDougal. Q: Did you take that advice? A: No, I did not.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:33:47 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker testifies that Trump got angry when some parts of the McDougal story were published by the Wall Street Journal before the election. 

Trump accused Pecker or one of his employees of leaking.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:28:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Questions to Pecker are generating some discussion on the frustrations of practicing checkbook journalism. It seems that some of those connected to the Daniels story were good sources for Pecker’s pay-as-you-go story mill, so he didn’t want to burn those bridges. But Pecker and Cohen continued to dicker over who should pay.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:23:53 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The New York Times is providing a lot of reporting on Donald Trump’s interpretive courtroom dance. Trump reportedly let out a “big yawn” when the prosecution first mentioned Stormy Daniels. Since then, he has reportedly become “more animated” including motioning to his lawyers and crossing his arms.

This announcement is brought to you by the Dept. of Is That Journalism?

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:19:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen tried to muscle Pecker into buying the Daniels story, once again threatening that Trump would be angry. But Pecker turned it around on Cohen, telling him to buy the story or Trump would be angry at Cohen.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:16:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Heavens forbid that something sully the sterling reputation of the National Enquirer.

Pecker told Howard that they couldn't pay $120,000. "I don't want the National Enquirer to be associated with a porn star," Pecker says he told Howard that night. Chuckles in the gallery.

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:15:22 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The courts are a very busy place today. This is only tangentially related to the trial underway, however… 

Breaking Trump LOSES his bid for a new trial or a judgment overturning the more than $80 million verdict for E. Jean Carroll in the second trial. Ruling https://t.co/5JncAkNDLj pic.twitter.com/pLpN2CWS4i

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:08:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker continues to be pretty straightforward in his answers.

“Do you know of someone named Stephanie Clifford?” Steinglass asks Pecker.

Pecker replies: "Stormy Daniels was a porn star." 

So far, there’s only been one instance where Pecker claimed to not know what the prosecution was talking about. That one related to Howard mentioning an “other” thing he discussed with Cohen.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:06:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Cohen spoke with Pecker about the tape. 

Email exhibit: After the "Access Hollywood" tape, Pecker said he spoke with Cohen and learned about the campaign's concerns about an old Radar Online article titled "Donald Trump, Playboy Man." Radar is an AMI property.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Dylan Howard then wrote that he had “deleted the article entirely.” So it appears that Pecker and Howard were even destroying existing articles to help protect Trump’s campaign.

Questions are now going to the main event — Stormy Daniels.

Daily Kos is the largest independent, progressive news outlet and activism hub in the country. Can you please support our work with a $5 monthly recurring donation?

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:02:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker being asked about his knowledge of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Asked if he remembers the "Access Hollywood" tape coming out, Pecker says: "I do. It was very embarrassing, very damaging for the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 4:01:04 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

That Rubin post explains something that happened right before the break.

Steinglass just stood up & yelped loudly to stop Trump lawyer Emil Bove from saying something. It's not clear exactly what or why, but it seems like Steinglass was suggesting that Bove was about to describe the nature of a relationship btwn Dylan Howard & someone he was texting.

— erica orden (@eorden) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:58:21 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Dylan Howard was editor-in-chief at the National Enquirer. Everything we’re hearing this morning suggests that Howard and Pecker knew this was an illegal scheme to conceal information during an election at the time it was happening.

NEW: On Election Night 2016, Dylan Howard texted an unknown "first-degree relative," "At least if he wins, I'll be pardoned for electoral fraud." Fortunately for the defendant, that text has been excluded by the judge for now. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:56:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

We’re back, Pecker is back on the stand (and I’m running about 5 minutes behind, but will rectify).

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:51:40 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I’m posting all three of these Lisa Rubin quotes that cover what the jury just heard, because they go a long way to covering a misconception that I had coming into this testimony—one that I repeated in an earlier update because of what I “knew” about this case.

NEW: It has long been conventional wisdom that David Pecker did not pay Stormy Daniels himself because he was angry Trump never reimbursed him. Not so, Pecker testified. 1/

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

The implication? Trump and Cohen had every intention of repaying Pecker until Pecker pumped the brakes for what he implied, without going into attorney-client privileged information, were concerns about the company's legal exposure. FIN.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

The implication? Trump and Cohen had every intention of repaying Pecker until Pecker pumped the brakes for what he implied, without going into attorney-client privileged information, were concerns about the company's legal exposure. FIN.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

And if that’s not enough, here’s another Anna Bower to make it doubly clear.

Pecker did not say why he decided he no longer wanted the reimbursement. But he said he made the decision after speaking with legal counsel. [Pecker does not have to reveal the legal advice he was given during that meeting bc it's privileged.]https://t.co/3CRutzTiKP

— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:29:30 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The reason I can indulge in reviewing how Cohen handled McDougal and how it relates to the shell company he created for Daniels is that we went into a morning recess about ten minutes ago. I should have given a hand signal at the time.

Anyway, hustle for that next cup of coffee if you need it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:21:49 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The source of that anger was an agreement to transfer McDougal’s story from AMI to a shell company, Resolution Consultants, that Cohen created strictly as an oubliette for any information about Trump’s relationship with McDougal.

The equivalent of Resolution Consultants in the Stormy Daniels story was Essential Consultants, another single-purpose shell company created by Cohen.

And yes, all this is tangled and feels a couple of steps removed from the action. That’s the purpose of shell companies: to be confusing and hide motivations.

Hopefully, the jurors are still taking good notes.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:16:24 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The ugly end of the McDougal agreement, after Pecker got cold feet and asked Cohen to rip up the contract.

Pecker says of Cohen's reaction: "He was very very angry, very upset, screaming at me basically." [...] "Cohen said, 'The Boss is going to be very angry at you.'" But Pecker said he stuck to his guns: "I said I'm not going forward. The deal is off."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:13:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A lot of what’s going on now is talking about how, despite that Trump Tower meeting and despite Cohen’s assurances, Pecker had a hard time getting repaid by Trump. This is important because when it came time to buy Stormy Daniel’s story, Pecker was no longer willing to float Trump what amounted to a campaign protection loan.

That’s why Cohen ended up having to shoulder the expense, and why Trump made his illegal payments to Cohen, not Pecker.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:06:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The Washington Post with more details on what McDougal was offered for this story that Trump denies.

Pecker said she wanted to write for celebrity magazines and wanted to be on the cover of some health and fitness publications. She also wanted to launch a fitness clothing line and a beauty products company, and that she wanted to be an anchor for red carpet events, according to Pecker.

Pecker said he told Cohen he didn’t have a problem with what McDougal was asking, but asked again, “who is going to reimburse me for this?”

McDougal had Trump over a barrel, and both she and Pecker knew it. She got an entire wish list of items to keep her silent during the campaign.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 3:02:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

From Jesse McKinley at The New York Times.

David Pecker is now describing Trump’s interest in obtaining boxes of material regarding Karen McDougal, saying that Trump was worried about what would happen if Pecker got “hit by a bus” or his company was sold. Trump “did not want someone else to potentially publish those stories.”

That’s a whole heaping lot of concern over something Trump says wasn’t true. It’s going to be interesting to see which way Trump tilts his head when McDougal takes the stand later in this trial.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:58:52 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Yes, he is watching closely. Head tilted to the right. https://t.co/WYQUa2l6Fy

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:57:15 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker is being asked to look at additional paperwork. Other than the court TV show joy of watching each item held up and asking for it to be entered into evidence, the jury isn’t likely getting a lot out of this part/

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:54:59 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Steinglass asks a question that goes directly to those 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Steinglass is asking whether Pecker was aware that corporations making campaign expenditures in coordination with a campaign without disclosing them was unlawful.

Yes, Pecker says.

Pecker also confirms the transaction was not reported under campaign finance obligations.

That seems like a big whoopsie from someone who just testified that he had structured McDougal’s contract after running into problems during Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:50:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Again, this was about protecting the campaign. The prosecution is never going to tire of leading Pecker back to this point, because that underlying conspiracy is at the core of their case.

Pecker: "We didn't want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

Pecker then says that he would not have purchased the story at the price McDougal demanded if Cohen hadn’t promised that Trump would pay for it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:47:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Pecker reiterates that for the National Enquirer, McDougal’s story was “a very, very large purchase.”

On a threat level, Cohen and Trump seemed to have rated this story the one that might create the most potential damage.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:45:54 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Jurors seem to be staying engaged. Not only are heads swiveling back and forth as Steinglass questions Pecker, there have also been reports that jurors are back to making lengthy notes.

The biggest group waiting for them at the door of the courtroom may be literary agents.

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UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:38:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Make everything clear to the jury.

Question from Conroy: Q: Do you know whether anyone other than Michael Cohen had knowledge of this contract? A: Yes, I believe Donald Trump did.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:36:18 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And here’s why the prosecution made that side trip into discussing Pecker’s deal with Schwarzenegger before bringing out McDougal’s contract—there’s a direct connection.

Because Pecker had found himself in some hot water after he paid then-Governor Schwartzenegger's housekeeper in exchange for the Terminator's continued association with two of his fitness titles--and after Arnold was running for governor.

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) April 25, 2024

Again, the prosecution is underscoring that this isn’t about protecting Trump’s personal reputation. It was about protecting his chances in the election.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:31:53 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This is not exactly subtle.

Exhibit: The deal with Karen McDougal. The contract purchased the "Limited Life Story Rights" for "any romantic, personal and/or physical relationship McDougal has ever had with any then-married man."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:30:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The contract was signed the first week of August, five months before Election Day. McDougal didn’t just get the money, but a two-year contract for columns in two AMI magazines.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:28:02 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Steinglass has brought out McDougal’s contract with AMI.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:24:31 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The prosecution has moved on to asking Pecker about other incidents where he got involved in a political campaign. Pecker says Arnold Schwarzenegger called during his run for governor and Pecker agreed to refuse to publish stories from women who came forward about affairs with the would-be governator. At least one of those stories ended up being published in the LA Times.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:20:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Much of the questioning that’s gone in in the last few minutes has been around the issue of payment for the McDougal story. While Cohen began by saying that Trump would take care of it, he later told Pecker that “you should pay,” which concerned Pecker because not only was it a sizable chunk of money, McDougal was asking to appear in other publications controlled by Pecker’s company, AMI. Cohen eventually came back around to saying that “the boss” would take care of it, but this took several calls with Pecker and with others at AMI.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:12:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A reminder of why Pecker was so concerned about hanging McDougal $150,000 to bury her story. On Tuesday, Pecker testified that the $30,000 he paid to quiet the “Trump’s secret love child” story was already way above what the National Enquirer normally paid. Pecker’s first offer to McDougal was just $10,000.

Trump really wanted this story buried.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:09:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Politico with more details on the latest gag order violations by Trump. That includes speaking directly about Pecker’s testimony.

Conroy told the judge: “This is a message to Pecker: Be nice. It’s a message to others: I have a platform and I can talk about you and I can say things like this, or I can say things like I said about Cohen.”

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:07:13 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

You can almost hear The Godfather theme playing every time there is a quote from Cohen.

Pecker says Michael Cohen told him: "You should go ahead and buy this story." "I am going to have Dylan Howard negotiate the terms," Pecker said he responded, before asking: "Who's going to pay for it?" Cohen: "Don't worry. I'm your friend. The Boss will take care of it."

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:05:42 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

From Jonah Bromwich at The New York Times:

Joshua Steinglass, the prosecutor, is now asking David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher, about a call he had with Trump about Karen McDougal … Steinglass is reminding [jurors] that it happened, and reemphasizing that Trump himself was personally involved, this time with more details. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:03:48 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

According to The Washington Post, Trump made an announcement on the way into court that seems aimed at winning over those fickle New Yorkers. Trump told reporters that he plans to hold a rally in Madison Square Garden that will honor police officers. Or maybe firefighters. Or maybe teachers.

It seems unlikely that Madison Square Garden knows anything about this rally.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 2:01:19 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The opening round of questions to Pecker are centered on the case of model Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump that lasted for over ten months. As CNN reports, McDougal had more than one offer for her story, but Michael Cohen encouraged Pecker to buy it.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:58:04 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Before the jury came in, Merchan talked with both defense and prosecution. Prosecutors insisted that Trump continues to break the gag order by talking about witnesses and threatens the jury be insisting that Merchan hurried to seat “95% Democrats.” Still no ruling from Tuesday’s gag order hearing.

Now: Prosecutor Chris Conroy files ANOTHER order to show cause to hold Trump in contempt for "four violations in the last three days" of the gag order.

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:53:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The jury has entered and Pecker is heading back to the stand.

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:49:28 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

One source you won’t be hearing this morning is MSNBC’s Katie Phang. That’s because Phang is in Washington this morning for that other court proceeding. The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments this morning on Trump’s claim of total immunity. 

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:46:47 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Just a few choice examples of the things David Pecker ‘s publication cranked out in 2016. Was National Enquirer enough to sway the results of the election? Maybe. Considering the razor-thin margins that determined the outcome, there were half a dozen issues, any one of which could have made the difference. 

It took everything falling Trump’s way for him to get that last-minute nudge across the line, and Pecker was shoving all the way.

Good morning from New York. On Day 1 on the stand, David Pecker described how he turned his tabloid empire into the Trump campaign's "eyes and ears": promoting him, attacking his rivals, and silencing "women selling stories." The ex-AMI chief's testimony resumes today. 🧵 pic.twitter.com/jKjIhEkwbq

— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 25, 2024

UPDATE: Thursday, Apr 25, 2024 · 1:44:11 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If you’re shocked to find that court is actually in session today, that’s probably because you listened to some knucklehead who said there would be no court on Thursday because he didn’t notice an update to the schedule that happened a week ago.

Sorry about that.

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Texas AG Ken Paxton skirts the law—again

Mere months after taking office in 2015, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton surrendered to authorities on three felony counts related to securities fraud. But after getting his mugshot taken and posting a $35,000 bond, Paxton spent the next nine or so years making sure that the law was a bludgeon to be used against other people. People who are not rich, white, politically empowered Republican men.

On Tuesday, weeks before that 2015 case was finally set to go to trial, the special prosecutors handling Paxton’s case announced a very special deal. Rather than facing a pair of first-degree felonies, each of which could have brought a minimum sentence of five years, and a third-degree felony that might have added at least two more, Paxton will face … zero years. Also zero months, zero days, and zero charges.

Instead, Paxton will agree to pay back the money he allegedly defrauded, attend a class on “legal ethics,” and do 100 hours of community service. He doesn’t have to pay a fine to the state. He doesn’t even have to plead guilty. Instead, all charges are dropped and Paxton can carry on with the vital work of threatening hospitals and protecting Texas’ right to drown children with razor wire.

Paxton’s get-out-of-felony-free deal comes six months after the state Senate acquitted him in an impeachment trial where he was clearly guilty. Paxton was overwhelmingly impeached in the Texas House in May 2023, on charges that included bribery, obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, and misappropriation of public resources. In the middle of those charges was a scheme in which a wealthy donor reportedly provided a job to Paxton’s mistress and seven members of Paxton’s staff resigned.

But immediately following his impeachment, Donald Trump pressured Texas state senators to show their loyalty by acquitting Paxton, and in behind-the-scenes negotiations, none were willing to stand up and provide the critical vote that would have impeached the Texas AG.

Paxton was also allowed to skate by the state bar association, which said it couldn’t discipline Paxton for supporting false claims of election fraud. An almost four-year-old FBI investigation that began in relation to charges leveled by some of those who resigned from Paxton’s office has yet to result in any charges.

While benefiting from the immunity of the wealthy and politically connected, Paxton has continued to use the law as a club against those who aren’t so lucky. That includes his infamous war against Kate Cox, who sought to end a nonviable pregnancy that threatened her health and potentially her life. Cox was ultimately forced to leave the state to seek relief after Paxon appealed a district court decision that would have allowed her to obtain a medical abortion.

Paxton has also been on the forefront of claims about an immigrant invasion. That includes issuing a reply to a Supreme Court ruling in January, claiming that it “allows Biden to continue his illegal effort to aid the foreign invasion of America,” and seeking to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which can protect from deportation children who were brought into the country illegally. Paxton not only sued the federal government for cutting through barriers of razor wire, he also refused to consider removing that wire after a woman and two children drowned.

Like a lot of Republicans, Paxton seems to have a very strict view of the law when it is being used against someone else, and an absolute disdain for it when it’s turned his way.

But considering how many things he's gotten away with over so many years, Paxton has a right to feel like Texas law is a joke. And he always seems to get the last laugh.

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GOP seeks new way to attack Biden since impeachment scheme is a bust

Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing with special counsel Robert Hur showcased Republican desperation to find some way to attack President Joe Biden.

Despite the release of a full transcript of the interview between Hur and Biden that showed complaints about the president’s memory to be exaggerated, if not outright lies, many Republicans continued to pursue the Biden-so-old route. Texas Rep. Nathaniel Moran went so far as to suggest that Biden should be placed under guardianship for diminished mental capabilities

At the same time, committee Chair Jim Jordan was one of multiple Republican members who asked Hur to envision fantasy scenarios in which the president was 15 or 20 years younger. That was part of an extended, and sometimes laughably desperate, effort by Republicans to get Hur to say that somehow, somewhen, somewhere in the multiverse, he might have considered charging Biden. They did not succeed.

But the biggest reason for the Hur hearing wasn’t just to give a chance to alternate between asking whether Biden should be in a care facility or if he’s a criminal mastermind. The reason that the Republicans called in Hur is that their big impeachment scheme has fallen apart. Now they are madly searching for something, anything, that they can throw against the walls of the White House.

As Politico reported on Wednesday, the Republican plan to impeach Biden appears to be all but dead. That effort began as soon as Republicans had their hands on the machinery of the House, with Rep. James Comer chairing the House Oversight Committee running a parallel “investigation” with Jordan on the Judiciary Committee and Chairman Jason Smith on the Ways and Means Committee. It reached its ludicrous peak on Sep. 12, 2023, when then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy announced a formal impeachment inquiry in a blatant effort to hang onto his big office. That didn’t work.

By the time Hunter Biden made his way to a closed-door meeting of the inquiry on Feb. 28, 2024, it seemed clear Republicans were only spinning their wheels. Despite hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents, Republicans had produced nothing more than some truck payments, family loans, and a heavily debunked claim from an indicted foreign agent

However, as the Politico article notes, Republicans see it as a high priority to “antagonize the White House.”

It might seem that getting some legislation passed after a session in which Republican infighting resulted in just 27 bills escaping the House (that includes renaming some Veterans Affairs clinics and issuing a commemorative coin). But Republicans are convinced that demonstrating competence in governing doesn’t matter to their voters. 

So they are just going to throw crap against the walls of the Capitol in the hopes that some of it might stick.

Among the Republican Plan Bs under consideration are:

  • Sending criminal referrals for Hunter Biden to the Justice Department. 

  • Keep investigating, but save any announcements for closer to Election Day.

  • Just keep investigating and making false claims—because that’s worked so well so far.

There’s also a plan to sue the Department of Justice, though it’s not clear why. 

There’s even a suggestion that Republicans might do something that seems anathema to them so far—draft legislation. In this case, it would be legislation to tighten rules for financial reporting and foreign lobbying.

However, not only would this require them to break out a pencil stub and do the work they’ve resisted since taking control of the House in 2023, it would also mean drafting something that would pass the Senate. It could be exceedingly difficult to craft a bill on financial reporting that didn’t have a much bigger impact on Donald Trump than Biden. Ditto on issues of foreign lobbying.

The problem for Republicans is that Trump and his family did all the things they’ve been attributing to Biden and his family. Which would seem to make the legislative route difficult without netting the wrong fish.

Other options, like the idea of making a criminal referral on Hunter Biden, would be an obvious exercise in toothless grandstanding. But that hasn’t seemed to bother Republicans so far, so this is likely what they’ll do.

Republicans are reportedly so far away from mustering enough support for a Biden impeachment that even Speaker of the House Mike Johnson can see that such a move would fail. But they’re unwilling—and possibly incapable—of trying to dig their way back to respectability by passing legislation that addresses the nation’s needs.

So they’re going to sit among the ashes of their very fine impeachment inquiry and try to find something else ugly enough to please MAGA voters. So far, they’ve got nothing.

The Bulwark’s Sarah Longwell joins Kerry to discuss the State of the Union and what President Biden needs to do to soundly defeat Donald Trump in Novembe.

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