Amy Coney Barrett asserts her voice, carries on Scalia legacy

After her fourth term on the bench, Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett is asserting her voice and following in the footsteps of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a pioneer of originalism on the high court and her former boss. 

Barrett, appointed by President Donald Trump in October 2020 to fill the seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, surprised some this term by voting in a few key cases with the Democrat-appointed minority.

But legal experts say that the former law professor is proving that her interpretation of the Constitution is consistent with what the Founding Fathers intended, and that disagreements between her and her fellow conservative justices should be "celebrated."

"This term we have seen all the originalist justices engaged in a healthy debate about how to apply tenets of originalism and textualism in many different contexts," Carrie Severino, president of JCN, told Fox News Digital in an interview. "And that is a sign that the originalist project has matured, and that the justices are fleshing out these important principles, and it should be celebrated."

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For many years, a widely lauded and accepted judicial philosophy was that the Constitution was a "living and breathing document." But conservative legal practitioners contested that approach as too volatile to political whims, judicially inappropriate and a departure from what the founders actually wrote in their original intent. 

But in the 1980s, the concept of an originalist interpretation of the law started to grow, largely driven by Reagan-appointed Justice Scalia.  

"It used to be that the late, great, Justice Scalia was basically the only originalist on the court," said John Shu, a constitutional lawyer and former official in both Bush administrations. "Then, in 1991, it became Scalia and Thomas and sometimes Rehnquist. In 2005 and 2006, it became Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.  And since 2017, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and of course Justice Barrett joined the Court, and she is very much following in Justice Scalia’s, for whom she clerked, footsteps."

Some experts say that approach bore out this term when Barrett sided with her liberal colleagues in the case in which the majority ruled in favor of a participant in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot who challenged his conviction for a federal "obstruction" crime. 

That case will likely aid the legal arguments of former President Trump who was charged with obstruction, among other crimes, by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT SAYS PUBLIC SCRUTINY OF SCOTUS IS 'WELCOME'

In her dissent, Barrett wrote that by "narrowing" a federal statute, the Court "failed to respect the prerogatives of the political branches."

"[S]tatutes often go further than the problem that inspired them, and under the rules of statutory interpretation, we stick to the text anyway," Barrett wrote, adding that the Court’s majority abandoned that approach and does "textual backflips to find some way— any way—to narrow the reach" of the statue at issue. 

Severino says that in her dissent, Barrett was "exactly in line" with Scalia's approach to that type of clause.

"Within originalism and textualism, there are people who in some particular instances may disagree on how those principles apply in a specific case," Severino wrote. "So it's not surprising that Barrett is going to have a different approach than Thomas or Alito or Gorsuch or Kavanaugh. They all have their own slightly different flavors, different personality, to exactly how they apply those," Severino said. 

"It’s a great sign that the justices are openly discussing what's the best way to apply originalism and textualism, the original intent and the actual text, which is what good and fair judges are supposed to do," said Shu.

"Justice Barrett’s opinions from this term indicate that the Scalia approach, over time, carried the day," he said.  "He also was great at showing how the originalist perspective is the common-sense perspective, and the one most faithful to the law and to a judge’s responsibilities."

Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, noted that Barrett "was law professor for a long time, so she has a different background than everybody else on the court."

"She's very thoughtful, she's very intellectual, she's very theoretical. She wants to get the theory right. She's a professor's justice," he observed. 

"She’s still very much in the Scalia mode. She's thinking about how to apply history and tradition and what that test means, and getting the theory of the matter right," he said. 

Which he said "was clear in the immunity decision, where she agreed fully with Robert's majority opinion, but said it would have been better to reframe this as an unconstitutional application of criminal law, rather than calling it immunity."

BIDEN'S SCOTUS CRITIQUES LARGELY UNPRECEDENTED, EXPERTS SAY, CONTRAST WITH CLINTON'S DEFERENCE IN 2000

"She's not a moderate. She's not a centrist. She’s not moving left," Shapiro said. "She’s an originalist and a textualist."

Jennifer Mascott, law professor at Catholic University and former Justice Department official, said Barrett’s writings this term "show a highly intelligent, careful principal jurist who is looking herself, as all the justices do, independently at the questions before her, and just taking the time for the American public to explain in important cases where she may have done something differently than the majority opinion." 

Notably, Barrett authored a concurrence in the case in which the high court unanimously ruled that Colorado could not remove Trump from 2024 election ballot. 

"The Court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election. Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up," she wrote. For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine Justices agree on the outcome of this case. That is the message Americans should take home."

The former Notre Dame professor is not without criticism on the right, with some conservative observers saying she can be too cautious or timid when it comes to upsetting precedent.

Giancarlo Canaparo, senior fellow at the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, says Barrett is "extremely mindful of the difference between conservative judges and conservative politicians, and she's trying very hard to be a conservative judge."

"And that means, I think, for her, not only being faithful to the text of the law and the Constitution, but also making sure that the court doesn't move on a particular issue until it’s sort of aware of the downstream effects on this doctrine or that doctrine," he said.

Canaparo observed that Barrett "needs to feel like she knows everything that can possibly be known" about a matter in order to make a move. 

"She's going to take positions when she feels like she knows everything, which is often in in those few areas where she wrote that she wrote about as a professor, but in other cases, we see areas where she's unwilling to make moves based on whatever information she has on hand, which you know that can be a good thing sometimes. Sometimes not."

But "sometimes, like a general, you've got to go with what information you have," he said. 

"Sometimes it seems like maybe she doesn't actually want a particular party to win, or she doesn't want to make a particular move, and so she uses the claim that there isn't enough information in the record as sort of an out."

Canaparo's critique aside, though, conservative legal watchers appear to sign on to Bush administration veteran John Shu's opinion that, "all in all, I think it’s great that a former Scalia clerk is now on the Court to carry on his legacy."

Trial for ex-FBI informant accused of fabricating Biden bribery story delayed until after 2024 election

The trial for Alexander Smirnov, the ex-FBI informant who has been charged with making false statements related to Joe Biden and Hunter Biden's business ties in Ukraine, has been delayed until early December, just weeks after the 2024 presidential election.

Smirnov's trial had been scheduled to begin in Los Angeles April 23, but special counsel David Weiss and Smirnov's defense attorneys filed a joint stipulation motion last week requesting additional time to prepare for the trial. 

Smirnov's attorneys said a failure to grant the time would "deny them reasonable time necessary for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence." 

The motion also pointed to additional time necessary to bring classified material into discovery, noting they would have to go through the Classified Procedures Act.

FBI INFORMANT CHARGED WITH GIVING FALSE INFORMATION ABOUT HUNTER BIDEN IN 2020

U.S. District Judge Otis Wright, who is presiding over the trial, granted the request. 

Smirnov's trial is now scheduled to begin Dec. 3 at 9:30 a.m. 

Weiss charged Smirnov, 43, in February after he alleged Joe Biden and Hunter Biden were paid millions in exchange for their help in firing a Ukrainian prosecutor who was at the time investigating the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings. Hunter Biden sat on the board of that company when Shokin was removed from his post. 

JUDGE RULES NO BAIL RELEASE FOR FBI INFORMANT ACCUSED OF LYING ABOUT BIDEN BUSINESS TIES

Prosecutors have accused Smirnov of peddling lies "that could impact U.S. elections," highlighting his alleged lies about a supposed multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving the Bidens and Burisma Holdings. 

Prosecutors say Smirnov falsely told his handler that Burisma executives paid Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter $5 million each around 2015. 

Smirnov pleaded not guilty to making a false statement. He is being held without bail after a judge denied his request for release.

Wright ordered that Smirnov remain in detention ahead of his trial in April, concurring with prosecutors who argued he presented a high flight risk. It is unclear whether Smirnov will remain in detention until December. 

Smirnov, a now-ex-FBI informant, had been described by the FBI as a "highly credible" confidential human source and worked for the bureau for years, dating back to the Obama administration. Smirnov, through his work for the FBI, had been paid "six figures," the FBI told lawmakers. 

The FBI also told lawmakers that information Smirnov brought to the bureau was "used in criminal investigations and prosecutions." 

Top DOJ officials also testified that Smirnov "was vetted against sources of Russian disinformation" and they found that information regarding the Bidens was "not sourced from Russian disinformation." 

SENATORS DEMAND FBI AGENTS TESTIFY ABOUT 'HIGHLY CREDIBLE' SOURCE WHO ALLEGEDLY MADE UP BIDEN BRIBERY SCHEME

But according to the indictment, Smirnov gave "false derogatory information" to the FBI despite "repeated admonishments that he must provide truthful information and that he must not fabricate evidence." 

The indictment says Smirnov told an FBI agent in March 2017 that he had a phone call with Burisma’s owner concerning the firm potentially acquiring a U.S. company and making an initial public offering (IPO) on a U.S-based stock exchange. 

In reporting this conversation to the FBI agent, Smirnov said Hunter Biden was a board member of Burisma, though this was publicly known. 

Smirnov is accused of having told the FBI for the first time In June 2020 about two meetings he had four to five years earlier, where executives associated with Burisma supposedly admitted they hired Hunter Biden to "protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems." 

During this meeting, the indictment alleges, Smirnov said the executives paid $5 million to each of the Bidens while Joe Biden was still in office. The indictment alleges Smirnov falsely claimed the Bidens were paid so that Hunter Biden, with his dad’s help, could take care of a criminal investigation being conducted by then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin into Burisma. 

BIDENS ALLEGEDLY 'COERCED' BURISMA CEO TO PAY THEM MILLIONS TO HELP GET UKRAINE PROSECUTOR FIRED: FBI FORM

The indictment alleges this information given by Smirnov in June 2020 was a fabrication. Prosecutors say Smirnov did have contact with Burisma executives in 2017, but when Joe Biden was out of public office and had no ability to influence U.S. policy and after the Ukrainian Prosecutor General had been fired in February 2016. 

The indictment alleges Smirnov transformed his "routine and unextraordinary" business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later bribery allegations against Joe Biden after expressing bias against him and his presidential candidacy. 

Smirnov is accused of repeating some of his false claims during an interview with FBI agents in September 2023, while changing other bits of information and promoting a new false narrative after claiming to have met with Russian officials. 

If convicted, Smirnov faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.   

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer and GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley were approached by a whistleblower last summer who alleged the FBI was in possession of a document — an FD-1023 form, dated June 30, 2020 — which explicitly detailed information provided by a confidential source alleging Biden, while serving as vice president, was involved in a multimillion-dollar scheme with a foreign national in exchange for influence over policy decisions.

The source told Fox News Digital the confidential source was used by the FBI for "at least several years," dating back to the Obama administration, before the FD-1023 form, and was "found to be highly credible" by the FBI. 

House Republicans demanded the FBI turn over the document, but FBI Director Christopher Wray refused a request from Comer and Grassley last summer for the public release of the form because the bureau "claimed it would jeopardize the safety of a confidential human source who they claimed was invaluable to the FBI." 

Wray was at risk of being held in contempt of Congress and eventually brought the FD-1023 form to Capitol Hill for House lawmakers to review in a secure location. 

Fox News Digital first reported on the contents of the document. 

An FD-1023 form is used by FBI agents to record unverified reporting from confidential human sources. The form is used to document information as told to an FBI agent, but recording that information does not validate or weigh it against other information known by the FBI. 

Comer said the FBI's FD-1023 form is not being used in the impeachment inquiry against the president. 

Supreme Court to debate ‘sleeper’ case that could affect Trump federal prosecution

It is the "sleeper" case that could upend the most closely watched criminal prosecution in the nation. And how the U.S. Supreme Court decides the fate of an obscure Capitol riot defendant will have immediate legal and political implications for the former and perhaps future president.    

The justices on Tuesday will hold oral arguments in the appeal of Joseph Fischer, one of more than 300 people charged by the Justice Department with "obstruction of an official proceeding" in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in Washington.

That charge refers to the disruption of Congress’ certification of Joe Biden's 2020 presidential election victory over Donald Trump.

Special counsel Jack Smith has also brought an obstruction charge against Trump, which is among four counts the 2024 presumptive Republican presidential nominee faces. His trial in that case was slated to begin March 4, but the Supreme Court's decision to hear this case and a separate dispute over Trump's claim of presidential immunity has delayed proceedings indefinitely.

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO MAYORKAS' IMPEACHMENT TRIAL

A federal judge earlier dismissed the obstruction offense against three Jan. 6 criminal defendants, ruling it did not cover their conduct on the Capitol grounds. Those defendants are onetime police patrolman Fischer, Garret Miller of the Dallas area and Edward Jacob Lang of New York’s Hudson Valley.

Fischer's appeal was the one the high court accepted for final review.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a 2019 Trump bench appointee, determined prosecutors stretched the law beyond its scope to inappropriately apply it in these cases, ruling a defendant must have taken "some action with respect to a document, record or other object" to obstruct an official proceeding under the law.

He concluded the statute in question focused on tampering with evidence and did not apply to those allegedly engaged in "assaultive conduct" like participating in a riot.

The Justice Department challenged that ruling, and a federal appeals court in Washington agreed with prosecutors that Nichols’ interpretation of the law was too limited.

"The vast majority of courts interpreting the statute have adopted the natural, broad reading" of the provision, the three-judge appellate panel wrote, "applying the statute to all forms of obstructive conduct that are not covered" specifically under that provision. 

Other defendants, including Trump, are separately challenging the use of the charge, but not as part of the current Supreme Court appeal.

The relevant statute — 18 U.S. Code Section 1512(c)(2) — of the Corporate Fraud Accountability Act, part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, states: "Whoever corruptly … obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both."

Congress passed the law in 2002 after the Enron financial and accounting scandal. Executives at the Texas-based energy company were charged with fraud, and the company eventually went bankrupt.

Judge Nichols in his ruling in the Miller case cited then-Sen. Biden, who referred to the new provision at the time as "making it a crime for document shredding."  

Both the government and Fischer, who was a North Cornwall Township Police officer in Pennsylvania at the time, offer contrasting accounts of his actions on Jan. 6, 2021.

His lawyers in their high court appeal say Fischer "was not part of the mob that forced the electoral certification to stop; he arrived at the Capitol grounds well after Congress recessed."

And while he admits entering the Capitol building and pushing his way through the crowd, Fischer claims he also helpfully returned a pair of lost handcuffs to a U.S. Capitol Police officer. After being pepper-sprayed by law enforcement, the defendant then says he left the complex just four minutes after entering.

But the Justice Department says Fischer "can be heard on the video yelling 'Charge!' before pushing through the crowd and entering the building. Once inside, petitioner ran toward a line of police officers with another rioter while yelling" a profanity.

And the government points to text messages he sent just before attending the "Stop the Steal" rally where President Trump spoke and the subsequent march to the Capitol.

"Take democratic congress to the gallows," he said in one post, and, "Can't vote if they can't breathe.. lol."

Fischer has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including disorderly and disruptive conduct; assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers; civil disorder; and the obstruction count. His trial is pending.

His legal team argues hindering or affecting an official proceeding is too ambiguous, as applied to Fischer's conduct on the Capitol grounds.

"That definition encompasses lobbying, advocacy, and protest, the very mechanisms that citizens employ to influence government. These are all forms of political speech that the First Amendment protects." 

But the government says Congress in enacting the statute meant it to be applied widely, to include "corruptly engaging in conduct to obstruct court, agency, and congressional proceedings."

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"The proof in this case would show that on January 6, 2021, petitioner and other rioters corruptly sought to prevent Congress from counting the certified votes of the Electoral College in the joint session," said government lawyers.

Some legal scholars say the conservative high court may be wary of giving the government too much leeway.

"Prosecutors love obstruction statutes, and they love conspiracy statutes, because those statutes are so broad and can be applied in a variety of circumstances to encompass all sorts of conduct," said Thomas Dupree, a leading appellate attorney and former top Bush Justice Department official. 

"The Supreme Court is going to look at what was Congress trying to do when it criminalized these things? Did Congress really intend these laws to sweep so far? And can you take a statute that was enacted to address, for example, corporate crimes and apply it to what happened on Jan. 6?"

How a Supreme Court ruling in the Fischer case would affect Trump's separate prosecution for alleged election interference is unclear. If Fischer prevails, the former president could then ask the federal courts to formally dismiss his own obstruction charge.

That could prompt a new round of separate legal appeals that might go back to the Supreme Court for final review.  

Nine days after oral arguments in the Fischer case, the justices will hold a public session to debate whether Trump enjoys absolute immunity from prosecution for conduct in office when allegedly seeking to overturn the 2020 election results and certification.

That has paused Trump's criminal conspiracy and obstruction trial indefinitely.

The separate challenge over the obstruction charge would also likely push the schedule well into next year.

The pending high court case is Fischer v. U.S. (23-5572). A ruling is expected by early summer.

Trump Georgia case: Five key takeaways from judge’s order giving DA Fani Willis an ultimatum

A Georgia judge on Friday ruled that embattled District Attorney Fani Willis needs to remove her ex-lover and special prosecutor from the case, or step aside herself, scolding her for "making poor choices" and having "tremendous lapse in judgment."

In the 23-page order, Judge Scott McAfee said that lawyers for former President Trump and several co-defendants charged in the sweeping 2020 election interference case "failed to meet their burden of proving" an "actual conflict of interest in this case." 

But McAfee said that the established record of evidence "highlights the appearance of impropriety" that infects the prosecution team unless special prosecutor Nathan Wade is removed, or Willis herself steps aside. 

Here are five key takeaways from the court order: 

JUDGE RULES FANI WILLIS MUST STEP ASIDE FROM TRUMP CASE OR FIRE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR NATHAN WADE

McAfee denied the co-defendants' motion to have Willis disqualified from the case, saying they lacked sufficient evidence that Willis "acquired a personal stake in the prosecution, or that her financial arrangements had any impact on the case."

However, he added that his finding "is by no means an indication that the Court condones this tremendous lapse in judgment or the unprofessional manner of the District Attorney’s testimony during the evidentiary hearing."

"Rather, it is the undersigned’s opinion that Georgia law does not permit the finding of an actual conflict for simply making bad choices – even repeatedly – and it is the trial court’s duty to confine itself to the relevant issues and applicable law properly brought before it," he said. 

Last month, Willis made a surprise court appearance during the two-day evidentiary hearing and, while on the witness stand, verbally sparred with lawyers for hours — at one point, prompting the judge to threaten to strike her testimony. She also raised eyebrows for appearing to be wearing her dress backwards.

The judge wrote in his order, "Other forums or sources of authority such as the General Assembly, the Georgia State Ethics Commission, the State Bar of Georgia, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, or the voters of Fulton County may offer feedback on any unanswered questions that linger."

"But those are not the issues determinative to the Defendants’ motions alleging an actual conflict," he said.

A Georgia state senate special committee formed in January to investigate Willis has already held one hearing, in which attorney Ashleigh Merchant – who led the allegations in court against Willis – testified that Wade's cellphone data indicated that he had made midnight trips to Willis' condo before he was hired. 

The Georgia House of Representatives also passed a bill earlier this year that would revive the Prosecuting Attorneys' Qualifications Commission, which could be used as a way to oust Willis. 

A Fulton County ethics board that was scheduled to hear complaints filed against Willis earlier this month backtracked after finding that it lacked jurisdiction. But complaints against both Willis and Wade are still pending before the Georgia state bar. 

Defendants had argued that Willis' several public statements on the case were prejudicial. McAfee said that some of those comments, including Willis' "unorthodox decision to make on-the-record comments, and authorize members of her staff to do likewise, to authors intent on publishing a book about the special grand jury’s investigation during the pendency of this case," didn't warrant her disqualification. 

But McAfee said that Willis' racially charged rhetoric about "playing the race card" during a speech at a church service was "legally improper."

"Providing this type of public comment creates dangerous waters for the District Attorney to wade further into. The time may well have arrived for an order preventing the State from mentioning the case in any public forum to prevent prejudicial pretrial publicity," he said. 

Judge McAfee said that Wade's "patently unpersuasive explanation" about inaccurate statements he submitted to the court about his divorce "indicates a willingness on his part to wrongly conceal his relationship with the District Attorney."

JUDGE DISMISSES SOME COUNTS AGAINST TRUMP IN FANI WILLIS ELECTION INTERFERENCE CASE

McAfee said he was "unable to place any stock" in the testimony of Terrance Bradley, the former law partner and Wade's divorce attorney who was considered a key witness of the defense team trying to prove Wade had been romantically involved with Willis prior to his hiring. 

Bradley, when pressed under oath, said he could not recall several details and timelines about conversations he had with former client Wade about Wade's romantic relationship with Willis.

At one point, he was questioned about a text message exchange in which he said Willis’ relationship with Wade had "absolutely" started before he was hired in the DA’s office in 2021. But later in court he claimed he was "speculating" in those comments.

In his order on Friday, McAfee said Bradley’s "inconsistencies, demeanor, and generally non-responsive answers left far too brittle a foundation upon which to build any conclusions."

FANI WILLIS WHO 'RELISHED IN' DONALD TRUMP PROSECUTION SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM CASE FOR ILLICIT AFFAIR: EXPERTS

"While prior inconsistent statements can be considered as substantive evidence under Georgia law, Bradley’s impeachment by text message did not establish the basis for which he claimed such sweeping knowledge of Wade’s personal affairs," McAfee said.

Robin Yeartie, a former "good friend" of Willis and past employee at the DA's office, testified in court that she had "no doubt" Willis and Wade's relationship started in 2019, after the two met at a conference. 

She testified to observing Willis and Wade "hugging" and "kissing" and showing "affection" prior to November 2021 and that she had no doubt that the two were in a "romantic" relationship starting in 2019 and lasting until she and Willis last spoke in 2022.

Judge McAfee in his order Friday said that "while the testimony of Robin Yearti raised doubts about the State’s assertions, it ultimately lacked context and detail." 

"[N]either side was able to conclusively establish by a preponderance of the evidence when the relationship evolved into a romantic one," he added. 

Still, the judge said that "an odor of mendacity remains," and added that "reasonable questions about whether the District Attorney and her hand-selected lead SADA [special assistant district attorney] testified untruthfully about the timing of their relationship further underpin the finding of an appearance of impropriety and the need to make proportional efforts to cure it."

It has not been announced whether Willis will choose to remove Wade from the case or step aside. 

Trump trials will make GOP frontrunner’s daytime campaign events a challenge, but ‘nothing will stop him’

Former President Trump will be on trial in New York City next month to defend himself against charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, taking the 2024 GOP frontrunner off of the campaign trail. 

But that won’t stop him. He says he’ll campaign at night.

"I'll do it in the evening," Trump said this week when asked how sitting in court to defend himself against charges brought by brought by Bragg related to alleged hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign would affect his 2024 presidential campaign. 

Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges.

NEW YORK JUDGE SETS TRUMP TRIAL FOR MARCH 25, DENIES REQUEST TO DISMISS BRAGG CHARGES IN HUSH MONEY CASE

The former president, who will likely be the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for the White House by the time the Bragg trial begins March 25, has been forced to tackle competing calendars for the last several months with presidential primaries and court dates in multiple jurisdictions.

So far this year, Trump dominated in the Iowa caucuses, left New Hampshire with a commanding victory, swept caucuses in Nevada and the U.S. Virgin Islands and is poised to win in South Carolina Feb. 24.

But Trump’s victories haven’t come just from crisscrossing the country stumping on the campaign trail. He’s spent days in court in New York for Bragg’s case, the civil fraud trial stemming from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit against him and his businesses and E. Jean Carroll’s defamation trial. 

TRUMP ORDERED TO PAY MORE THAN $80 MILLION IN E. JEAN CARROLL DEFAMATION TRIAL

He's also appeared in court in Washington D.C. for special counsel Jack Smith’s case related to the 2020 election and in Florida for Smith’s case related to classified documents.

"President Trump has been attacked by the Democrats for eight years. He has stood strong through two sham impeachments, endless lies and now multiple baseless political witch hunts," Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt told Fox News Digital. "The Democrats want Donald Trump in a courtroom instead of on the campaign trail delivering his winning message to the American people, but nothing will stop him from doing that."

The first trial on the 2024 calendar was supposed to be in Washington, D.C., March 4 after special counsel Jack Smith charged the former president with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights. 

Those charges stem from Smith’s investigation into whether Trump was involved in the Capitol riot Jan. 6, 2021, and any alleged interference in the 2020 election result.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial was scheduled for March 4, the day before the March 5 Super Tuesday primary contests, when Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Vermont vote to select a GOP nominee.

But Smith has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether Trump can be prosecuted on charges relating to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump has also appealed to the Supreme Court a lower court’s ruling on presidential immunity.

TRUMP ASKS SUPREME COURT TO EXTEND DELAY IN ELECTION CASE, CLAIMING PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY

The trial is paused until the Supreme Court makes its decisions. It is now unclear when — and if — that trial could begin.

But that doesn’t make the month of March free for campaign events. New York Judge Juan Merchan this week rejected Trump’s request to dismiss the charges against him from Bragg’s investigation. Merchan set jury selection for March 25 and said the trial will last approximately six weeks.

Bragg alleged Trump "repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election."

Trump pleaded not guilty to all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree in New York.

Jury selection in that case will begin just after the Louisiana primary and ahead of April 2, when Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin voters hit the polls to select a GOP nominee.

Smith also charged Trump after his investigation into the former president’s alleged improper retention of classified records from his presidency at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all 37 felony charges from that probe. The charges include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice and false statements.

Trump was then charged with an additional three counts as part of a superseding indictment from Smith’s investigation, an additional count of willful retention of national defense information and two additional obstruction counts. Trump pleaded not guilty.

That trial was set to begin on May 20, 2024, ahead of the Kentucky primary on May 21, the Oregon primary on May 25 and New Jersey's primary June 4.

But U.S. District Judge of the Southern District of Florida Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the case, said that date may be delayed. A decision will be made March 1 during the next court date.

Should Trump win the GOP nomination, he would spend July 15-18 at the Republican Convention in Milwaukee.

However, Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis has proposed her trial begin just weeks later.

Willis charged Trump as part of her investigation into his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state. Trump was charged with one count of violation of the Georgia RICO Act, three counts of criminal solicitation, six counts of criminal conspiracy, one count of filing false documents and two counts of making false statements.

TRUMP CALLS 'BADLY TAINTED' FULTON COUNTY CASE 'A SCAM' AFTER DA FANI WILLIS' COURTROOM DRAMA

He pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Fulton County prosecutors have proposed that trial begin Aug. 5, 2024.

But Willis has been in court defending herself after revelations that she had a romantic relationship with prosecutor Nathan Wade, who she brought onto her team to help bring charges against Trump.

In an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital this week, Trump blasted the case as a "sham." 

"There is no case here," Trump said during Willis’ testimony. "It is so badly tainted. There is no case here."

Trump told Fox News Digital "the case will have to be dropped."

"There's no way they can have a case," Trump said. "The whole thing was a scam to get money for the boyfriend."

Commenting on all of the cases against him, Trump said, "It’s all corrupt stuff. It is all politics — using the law to try to stop a party that is substantially ahead, and a particular person that’s substantially ahead in every poll, including against Biden.

"This is all meant to stop me."

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

NRA gets unanimous GOP backing in suit to dismantle governor’s ‘unlawful’ gun order

FIRST ON FOX: The National Rifle Association hit Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham with a lawsuit Thursday in the state's Supreme Court over an "unconstitutional" rule temporarily suspending open and concealed carry across Albuquerque and the surrounding county. 

"Please rescind your unlawful and blatantly unconstitutional orders and uphold your oath to defend the constitutional rights of those in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. Until then, we’ll see you in court," NRA-ILA Executive Director Randy Kozuch wrote to Lujan Grisham on Thursday, according to a letter exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital. 

The suit, filed Thursday in the New Mexico Supreme Court, names Lujan Grisham, Chief of New Mexico State Police Troy Weisler and New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen. 

The NRA was joined by every single GOP state House and Senate member, along with retired law enforcement, the Republican Party of New Mexico and the Libertarian Party of New Mexico as petitioners. 

NRA SLAMS DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR'S GUN ORDER, ISSUES HARSH ADVICE

The lawsuit argues Lujan Grisham's gun order is unconstitutional and unlawful, and called on the state's highest court to "issue an extraordinary writ invalidating" the order. 

Lujan Grisham temporarily suspended open and concealed carry laws in Bernalillo County, where Albuquerque is located, for at least 30 days in a public health order announced Friday. The governor cited the fatal shootings of a 13-year-old girl in July, a 5-year-old girl in August and an 11-year-old boy this month as motivation behind the rule. 

The governor has been hit with at least four other lawsuits over the order, all of which argue the rule defies the U.S. Constitution. On Wednesday, a federal judge appointed by President Biden blocked part of the public health order that suspended carrying firearms in public. 

Lujan Grisham argued following the judge's ruling that she will "stand up to protect families and children" from crimes involving guns. 

"I refuse to be resigned to the status quo. As governor, I see the pain of families who lost their loved ones to gun violence every single day, and I will never stop fighting to prevent other families from enduring these tragedies," she said. 

Lujan Grisham said when she announced the order that she anticipated legal challenges and raised some eyebrows over her remarks on the Constitution. 

"No constitutional right, in my view, including my oath, is intended to be absolute," Lujan Grisham told a reporter who asked whether it’s "unconstitutional" to order Americans not to exercise their right to bear arms.

Kozuch, the director of the NRA's lobbying arm, hit back in his letter to Lujan Grisham Thursday that the NRA "strongly disagrees" with her comment that her oath is not "absolute."

"You claim that your oath to uphold the rights covered by these amendments is ‘not absolute.’ The National Rifle Association strongly disagrees. New Mexicans and other law-abiding Americans visiting or travelling through Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have an absolute right to carry the firearm of their choosing to defend themselves and their families," he wrote. 

GOP ASKS UNLIKELY BIDEN ADMIN ALLY TO STEP IN TO STOP NM'S 'UNCONSTITUTIONAL POWER GRAB'

The NRA pointed to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 6 of the New Mexico state Constitution as both "clearly" protecting "the right of peaceable people to carry firearms for self-defense." 

Article II, Section 6 of the New Mexico Constitution states: "[n]o law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms."

Quickly following the announcement last week, Second Amendment groups, New Mexico residents, Democrats and even gun control activist David Hogg spoke out that the rule was unconstitutional. 

"In a shocking move, Governor Lujan Grisham is suspending Second Amendment rights by administrative fiat, ignoring the U.S. Constitution and the New Mexico Constitution," Kozuch told Fox News Digital earlier this week. 

"Instead of undermining the fundamental rights of law-abiding New Mexicans, she should address the soft-on-criminal policies which truly endanger its citizens," he added. 

Kozuch again stressed in his letter Thursday that the governor should "hold criminals responsible" for spreading violence, and highlighted that even the governor admitted in her press conference last week that criminals would not follow the 30-day gun ban. 

"When announcing these orders, you claimed that they are meant to deal with the very real problem of violent crime in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. Yet, in the very press conference where you made that claim, you admitted that the criminals responsible for that rising violence will not follow these orders," he wrote. 

"The NRA urges you to hold criminals responsible for the damage they inflict, but we will not stand by as you attempt to blame and restrict the rights of peaceful Americans who simply want to protect themselves, their families, and their community."

NEW MEXICO GOV. GRISHAM SWIPES AT FELLOW DEMOCRAT WHO CALLED HER GUN CARRY BAN UNCONSTITUTIONAL

The governor's press secretary Caroline Sweeney told Fox News Digital on Sunday that the "order does not suspend the Constitution but instead state laws over which the governor has jurisdiction." Sweeney added that the governor "was elected to serve the people of New Mexico, and not a day goes by that she doesn’t hear from a constituent asking for more to be done to curb this horrific violence."

Before the lawsuits against the order grew larger Thursday, New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez distanced himself from the governor, telling her he would not defend her administration in court. 

NEW MEXICO REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS CALL FOR DEM GOV. GRISHAM'S IMPEACHMENT AFTER GUN ORDER: 'SHE'S ROGUE'

"Though I recognize my statutory obligation as New Mexico's chief legal officer to defend state officials when they are sued in their official capacity, my duty to uphold and defend the constitutional rights of every citizen takes precedence. Simply put, I do not believe that the Emergency Order will have any meaningful impact on public safety but, more importantly, I do not believe it passes constitutional muster," Torrez wrote in his letter to Lujan Grisham this week. 

The governor also does not have support from the Bernalillo County Sheriff, who called the order "unconstitutional," while Bernalillo County district attorney, the Albuquerque police chief, and Albuquerque mayor have all said they won’t enforce the order. Lujan Grisham said the state police would enforce the order, and that violations could carry a fine of up to $5,000.

Biden admin ordered to turn over Prince Harry’s immigration records amid preferential treatment claim

A federal judge on Tuesday gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) one week to deal with requests for Prince Harry's immigration records after the agency was sued by the Heritage Foundation.

The Biden administration appeared in a federal court Tuesday after the conservative think tank filed a lawsuit demanding DHS release Prince Harry's immigration records, alleging the administration gave him "preferential treatment" in allowing entry to the U.S. 

The suit claimed that the Biden administration allowed the prince to enter the U.S. despite his admission of illegal drug use – a factor that would usually be enough to deny other people entry. 

Entities within DHS, including Border Patrol, denied the group's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the documents, but DHS headquarters had yet to make a decision on the requests.

D.C. District Court Judge Carl Nichols gave DHS until June 13 to notify the court on whether it will expedite or respond to a request for the records.

PRINCE HARRY'S UK COURT BATTLE: ROYAL SAYS TABLOIDS WERE 'MAIN FACTOR' FOR BREAKUP WITH EX CHELSY DAVY

Heritage filed the original FOIA requests for the documents following the release of Prince Harry's bestselling memoir, "Spare," in which he admitted to using cocaine, psychedelics and marijuana.

When filling out a visa application, those drug abuses are supposed to be documented in detail, and would normally trigger a special review if not rejection of the application. However, the group is suspicious that Prince Harry was either not honest on his visa application, or that the Biden administration gave him preferential treatment.

DHS entities rejected the original FOIA request, citing privacy concerns for the British royal, who moved to Montecito, California, with his wife Meghan Markle in 2020. Lawyers for the agency also leveled that argument in court Tuesday.

Nile Gardiner, director of the foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center, told Fox News Digital Wednesday the judge's urging of a swift decision from the administration is a "very positive development."

"This matter is being treated very seriously," he said. 

Gardiner said there is "strong public interest for the release of Prince Harry's immigration records, especially in light of his widespread admission and drug use in ‘Spare,’ his memoir."

PRINCE HARRY'S UK COURT SHOWDOWN: ROYAL FAILS TO SHOW UP FOR FIRST DAY, LEAVES JUDGE FRUSTRATED

"We believe that it is important that the public is aware of what he actually put in his immigration application. Did he outline in detail all his drug use as he was supposed to do? We also want to know whether he received any kind of preferential treatment for U.S. officials with regard to his visa application. So if there was any dishonesty on the application, that would be perjury and a criminal offense." he added.

DHS SUED FOR PRINCE HARRY’S IMMIGRATION RECORDS TO SEE IF HE LIED ABOUT DRUG USE

"The situation with Prince Harry's immigration application was that it was, it appears, to have been so fast-tracked, while most people wait many months, years to have their applications process. So it is in the public interest for immigration law to be applied fairly to everyone who applies without a favor or bias and so this is why there is a big public interest here," Gardiner said.

Heritage said in its lawsuit that while this case "focuses on the widespread public and press interest on the specific issue of whether DHS acted, and is acting, appropriately as regards the Duke of Sussex, it cannot be separated from its broader context." 

"The press and congressional hearing rooms are replete with detailed accusations that DHS is deliberately refusing to enforce the country’s immigration laws and is responsible for the current crisis at the border," the lawsuit said.

"[T]he broader controversy is so grave that Articles of Impeachment have been filed against DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas and Secretary Mayorkas has taken the extraordinary step of retaining private counsel to represent him in impeachment proceedings," it said.

Chief Justice Roberts asked to testify in Senate on Supreme Court ethics amid Thomas controversy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Thursday asked Chief Justice John Roberts testify on May 2 about ethics rules that govern the Supreme Court, as controversy continues to swirl around Justice Clarence Thomas' trips he took with a GOP mega-donor.

"I invite you, or another Justice whom you designate, to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 2, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building to testify at a public hearing regarding the ethical rules that govern the Justices of the Supreme Court and potential reforms to those rules," Durbin said in a letter to Roberts on Thursday.

"In extending this invitation, I offer that the scope of your testimony can be limited to these subjects, and that you would not be expected to answer questions from Senators regarding any other matters," Durbin said.

AOC DOUBLES DOWN ON ‘IGNORING’ ABORTION RULE, CLARENCE THOMAS IMPEACHMENT: ‘ABUSE OF JUDICIAL OVERREACH’

Durbin asked Roberts this month to open an investigation into Thomas over what Democrats say is his "misconduct" that was detailed in a ProPublica report.

The liberal news outlet's report accused Thomas of improperly receiving lavish vacations from Republican mega donor Harlan Crow, which reportedly included taking trips across the world on Crow's yacht and private jet without disclosing them.

Expert have dismissed the ProPublica report as political hit piece and explained that justices are permitted to accept invites to properties of friends for dinner or vacations without paying for it or disclosing it.

Thomas released a rare statement following the report saying that he has consistently followed ethics guidelines.

DEMOCRATS PRESS SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE TO INVESTIGATE CLARENCE THOMAS' TRIPS WITH GOP MEGADONOR

"Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years," Thomas said.

"As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable," Thomas said.

"I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines," he said. "These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance. And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future."

REPORT ON CLARENCE THOMAS' TRAVEL HABITS IS 'POLITICS PLAIN AND SIMPLE': EXPERT

Durbin told Roberts Thursday that "there has been a steady stream of revelations regarding Justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally."

"These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the Court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence. The status quo is no longer tenable," Durbin said.

Durbin added that "there is ample precedent for sitting Justices of the Supreme Court to testify before Congress, including regarding ethics. Durbin says the Judiciary Committee most recently heard testimony from sitting Justices in October 2011, and that hearing "included robust exchanges about the Court’s approach to ethics matters."

Fox News Digital's Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.

Justice Thomas defends trips taken with ‘dearest friends’ after reports say he accepted gifts

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued a rare statement Friday to defend travel he took with his friends over many years, following reports that he failed to report travel-related gifts from a GOP mega-donor.

A ProPublica investigation published this week found that Thomas’ close friendship with real estate developer Harlan Crow allowed him to accompany the Texas billionaire on luxury vacations on his private jet and yacht, as well as free stays on Crow’s vast vacation property, among other perks.

But Thomas defended the trips and explained that he has always followed Supreme Court guidance.

"Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years," the justice, who has served on the bench for 32 years, said in a Friday statement.

PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS CALL FOR CLARENCE THOMAS IMPEACHMENT AFTER REPORTED UNDISCLOSED GIFTS FROM GOP MEGADONOR

"As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable," Thomas said.

CLARENCE THOMAS REPORT SPURS NEW CALLS FROM DEMOCRATS FOR SUPREME COURT CODE OF ETHICS

"I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines," he said. "These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance. And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future."

In a statement to ProPublica, Crow denied ever trying to influence Thomas or put him in positions where other influential people could do the same.

"The hospitality we have extended to the Thomas’s (sic) over the years is no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends," part of the statement reads. "We have never asked about a pending or lower court case, and Justice Thomas has never discussed one, and we have never sought to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issue. More generally, I am unaware of any of our friends ever lobbying or seeking to influence Justice Thomas on any case, and I would never invite anyone who I believe had any intention of doing that."

SUPREME COURT BLOCKS WEST VIRGINIA FROM IMPLEMENTING 'SAVE WOMEN'S SPORTS' LAW AS STATE BATTLES ACLU

Last month, the Judicial Conference of the United States, which creates and oversees policies for federal courts, revised its ethics and financial disclosure guidelines to require the justices to disclose things like traveling by private jet and staying in resorts.

The ProPublica report sparked reaction from Senate Democrats who called for a strict code of ethics to be imposed on the nine justices.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that Thomas’ alleged actions are "simply inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any public servant, let alone a Justice on the Supreme Court."

"Today’s report demonstrates, yet again, that Supreme Court Justices must be held to an enforceable code of conduct, just like every other federal judge," Durbin said in a Thursday statement. "The ProPublica report is a call to action, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will act."

Progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shared similar sentiments in her calls for accountability.

"The American people deserve a federal judiciary that is accountable to the rule of law, not wealthy Republican donors. Today's news is a stark reminder that judges should be held to the highest ethical standards and free from conflicts of interest," Warren wrote on Twitter

Fox News Digital's Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.

Kentucky Senate convicts former prosecutor in impeachment trial

An ex-prosecutor accused of promising a defendant favors in court in exchange for nude images was convicted on three articles of impeachment Thursday, in the Kentucky Senate's first impeachment trial in more than a century.

Senators voted 34-0 to convict former state prosecutor Ronnie Goldy Jr. on each impeachment article. The action will bar Goldy from holding a future elected office in the state.

Goldy had failed to appear at a hearing last week before the Senate impeachment panel.

Goldy had served as commonwealth’s attorney for Bath, Menifee, Montgomery and Rowan counties. He resigned effective Feb. 28 after the impeachment articles were drafted. The House voted 97-0 last month to impeach Goldy.

ARMY BLACK HAWK HELICOPTERS CRASH, KILLING 9 SERVICE MEMBERS: OFFICIAL

An attorney who represented Goldy did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.

Goldy has been embroiled in scandal since July, when the Courier Journal first reported hundreds of Facebook messages he exchanged with the defendant.

The defendant testified the Facebook messages were authentic and told a hearing officer for a bar inquiry commission that she and Goldy had sexual relations, with the prosecutor allegedly withdrawing warrants and getting her cases continued in exchange for the images, the newspaper reported.

In a written response to an inquiry from the House impeachment committee, Goldy defended himself by arguing that the nude photos and videos the woman sent him were "an extension of the friendship they had developed."