Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Morning Report — Trump’s push for legal delays is working

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May19,2024

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It is increasingly possible that former President Trump may dodge a federal trial before Nov. 5 on charges of election interference, a goal of his defense and a potential blow to special counsel Jack Smith’s case charging Trump with illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss. 

The government’s case originally was scheduled to go to trial in March but was in limbo as the Supreme Court decided to hear Trump’s claim of absolute immunity from prosecution for decisions he made as president. Justices heard oral arguments Thursday in that case, appearing skeptical of Trump’s assertion but also dubious about parts of Smith’s case against the former president. A ruling is expected in late June or early in July. Trump continues to navigate criminal charges in four jurisdictions.

Conservative and liberal justices peppered Trump’s counsel with hypothetical situations to gauge how far former president’s claim of sweeping immunity protections could go.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked whether a president could be prosecuted for accepting a bribe for appointing someone to an ambassadorial post, while liberal Justice Elena Kagan asked whether a president selling nuclear secrets would have immunity (The Hill).

Fellow liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked if “fundamentally evil” actions such as ordering the military to take out a political rival would be protected under Trump’s rationale.

Lawyer D. John Sauer, who argued the case on behalf of Trump, said most of the hypotheticals could plausibly fall under the standard for presidential immunity.

“That well could be an official act,” Sauer responded to Sotomayor’s scenario about a military assassination ordered by a president.

The high court could opt to return the case back to a lower court to weigh distinctions between immunity for presidential decisions versus personal decisions. Trump has repeatedly claimed that if a president is at risk of criminal prosecution for official acts, then the president is effectively hamstrung, or “chilled” as Sauer put it, in their actions and decisions for fear of future prosecution (CNBC).

▪ The Hill’s Niall Stanage in The Memo: Trump’s immunity case could derail Trump’s other three proposed trials — for alleged offenses relating to the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, the retention of sensitive information at his Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago and attempts to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia.

▪ NBC News: Presidents should not be immune from criminal prosecution for actions taken while in office, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during a Thursday interview with “Meet The Press.”

▪ The Hill: Six things to know about Trump’s immunity argument.

While Smith attended the Supreme Court arguments Thursday, Trump was in Manhattan as a defendant in a criminal fraud trial involving his alleged actions to bury damaging information while wooing voters as a presidential candidate in 2016.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who is a subpoenaed witness for the prosecution and once a Trump ally,returned to the stand with an account of efforts in 2016 focused on burying ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal’s allegations of an affair with Trump, which Pecker said he did at the behest of Trump and Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer and fixer at the time.

“We didn’t want the story to embarrass Mr. Trump or embarrass or hurt the campaign,” Pecker said under oath. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Cohen of lying.

Pecker told jurors the National Enquirer declined to pay to “catch and kill” an account of an affair with Trump by adult movie celebrity Stormy Daniels. “I am not paying for this story,” he testified while recounting his version of a conversation with Cohen. Pecker had already shelled out $180,000 on other Trump-related stories by the time Daniels came along, at which point, he said, “I didn’t want to be involved in this.”

Paying hush money is not a crime, nor is having an affair. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) asserts that fraudulently doctoring business records to mask a personal payout is a crime in New York and alleges it was Trump’s scheme to influence the election. The defendant’s lawyer says his client’s actions were political, not criminal.

Trump’s “hush money” trial resumes today at 9:30 a.m.

3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

▪ 🏠 It is more expensive than ever to buy a home in the U.S., according to a new report from the real estate company Redfin, with last month’s median home price hitting a record $383,725.

▪ ✈️ Southwest Airlines will limit hiring and stop flying to four airports as it copes with weak financial results and delays in getting new planes from Boeing. Both Southwest and American Airlines reported first-quarter losses this year.

▪ 🔬 Cattle infections with H5N1, the bird flu virus, may be more widespread than originally thought, according to genetic evidence. Is action announced this week by government scientists too little, too late? The leap of avian flu to cows presents a worry about human infection. 

LEADING THE DAY

ECONOMY

The latest economic data showing slower first-quarter growth and persistent inflation surprised some economists and roiled financial markets Thursday. Government data, which showed growth at a near two-year low in the first three months of the year, also clouded the picture for Biden and the White House as voters continue to voice economic worries while evaluating whether they think the country is on the right track.

Gross domestic product expanded 1.6 percent from January through March, a decline from last year, and the stubborn inflation picture scrambled investors’ hopes for interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve in the near term. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed lower by more than 370 points on Thursday’s news, but analysts countered that government data showed robust underlying demand, leading economists to warn that the market was overreacting.

© The Associated Press / Matt Rourke | The Capitol in 2022.

CONGRESS

RHETORIC IS HEATING UP on competing tax proposals from Democrats and Republicans ahead of the 2024 election, which will determine whether the individual provisions in the 2017 Trump tax cuts are extended, modified or thrown into the legislative dust bin. Biden, lawmakers on key tax-writing committees, and tax advocates of various ideological stripes are battling over what they agenda should be when taxes will return to the limelight in 2025, writes The Hill’s Tobias Burns.

“Donald Trump was very proud of his $2 trillion tax cut that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and biggest corporations and exploded the federal debt. That tax cut is going to expire. If I’m reelected, it’s going to stay expired,” Biden wrote on social media on Wednesday, referring to Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a centerpiece of Republican tax policy.

SENATE DEMOCRATS ARE BRACING for a backlash from young voters over the potential ban of TikTok on U.S. phones, something that is likely given the Chinese government’s opposition to parent company ByteDance divesting itself of a company that has one of the most sophisticated social media algorithms in the world. While The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports proponents of the TikTok legislation included in the foreign aid package have tried to frame it as a “divestiture” effort, China’s position opposing a sale makes a ban seem more likely.

Several K Street lobbying shops posted record revenues last quarter as Congress moved spending bills, the Biden administration ramped up its regulatory agenda and clients set their sights on post-election policy priorities. “You think of it as a marathon, right? You don’t just step up to the starting line and start running, you train months in advance, and that’s exactly what’s happening now,” Nadeam Elshami, a policy director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and former chief of staff to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told The Hill’s Taylor Giorno.

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at 9:30 a.m.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. Biden will return to Washington from New York City this afternoon. On Saturday night, the president will address the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington.

Vice President Harris will record an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton for “Keepin’ it Real,” a nationally syndicated radio program. She will also record a radio interview with Ryan Cameron for “Uncensored.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Beijing and met Friday with President Xi Jinping. He met with Wang Yi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission and foreign minister. In the afternoon, the secretary held a working lunch with Wang Yi, then met with Wang Xiaohong, minister of public security. Blinken took questions from reporters in the evening as he wrapped up his itinerary.

First lady Jill Biden will travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., to speak at 12:30 p.m. local time about women’s health research at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation annual luncheon honoring first ladies.

ZOOM IN

© The Associated Press / Mike Stewart | Georgia State Patrol officers detained a protester on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta on Thursday.

POLITICS

PRO-PALESTINIAN PROTESTERS making themselves heard at universities across the country see themselves as part of a tradition of anti-war demonstrations. Hundreds of students have been arrested after setting up encampments on school grounds and demanding their institutions call for a cease-fire in Gaza and divorce their endowments away from companies associated with Israel. The Hill’s Lexi Lonas reports that while universities and police have made changes over the years in their handling of student activism, experts are pointing to similarities with years past on the activists’ demands and public perception.

“They are pretty similar in a number of important ways and also some of the responses that campuses took during that era echo some of the kinds of issues that are facing law enforcement and campus administrators now,” said Bob Corn-Revere, chief counsel for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. He pointed back to the free speech protests and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the 1960s, which also saw a “demand for many universities to take positions on the pressing issues of the day.”

Protests and encampments have sprung up across the country since Columbia University deployed New York police officers to arrest protesters occupying its lawn. A group of Columbia students on Thursday filed a federal civil rights complaint against the school, accusing the university of discrimination against Palestinian students and pro-Palestinian protesters. From California to Massachusetts, they have tested the response of the schools’ administrations, politicians and activists on the right and left.

The Associated Press: Some universities negotiate with pro-Palestinian protesters. Others quickly call the police.

In Georgia, dozens of activists clashed with police on Thursday as pro-Palestinian protesters held demonstrations at Emory University in Atlanta. Reports of tear gas and tasers being used by law enforcement were posted on social media (Axios).

In Washington, D.C., hundreds of students from a group of local universities including Georgetown, Howard and the University of Maryland joined a “solidarity encampment” at the George Washington University (GWU).

“We’re here to stay,” Mahmoud Beydoun, 20, a junior at GWU who is Palestinian, told The Washington Post. “We have certain demands, and we want them to be heard and met.”

After Texas state troopers arrested more than 50 people at a Wednesday University of Texas at Austin protest, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is facing accusations that the state went too far. Police in riot gear broke up an unsanctioned but nonviolent demonstration at the state’s flagship university. Among those arrested was a journalist with local Fox 7 news affiliate.

“Today, Greg Abbott’s [Department of Public Safety] has more courage to arrest peaceful student protesters than when an active shooter entered an elementary school in Uvalde,” state Democrats wrote in a statement Wednesday evening.

In Los Angeles, the University of Southern California (USC) announced Thursday that it is canceling its main May commencement ceremony, capping a dramatic series of events that began last week after it informed valedictorian Asna Tabassum, who had been opposed by pro-Israel groups, that she would not be delivering the traditional speech. In ending the university-wide graduation ceremony altogether, USC said it aimed to quell the controversy that grew as it dismantled aspects of the ceremony (Los Angeles Times and The New York Times).

2024 ROUNDUP

▪ Trump’s presidential campaign will host a major donor retreat next week in Florida featuring prominent Republicans widely regarded as prospective running mates.

▪ Here’s a recap of how Biden and Trump have circled one another as candidates this week.

▪ The Biden campaign is targeting voters who supported former GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley in the Pennsylvania Republican primary, hoping to snag their support.

▪ Erode the Federal Reserve’s independence? Trump’s transition planners (in case he returns to the White House) are drafting proposals.

▪ Florida “will not comply” with recent administration changes to Title IX that add protections for transgender students, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.

▪ Former first lady Melania Trump has maintained a low profile during her husband’s reelection campaign and Manhattan trial.

▪ Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, on Wednesday jumped headlong into the debate about the rights of the unborn and appeared to fully endorse conservatives’ embrace of fetal personhood.

ELSEWHERE

© The Associated Press / Mark Schiefelbein | Secretary of State Antony Blinken with U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns in Shanghai on Thursday.

INTERNATIONAL

IN CHINA THIS WEEK, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is calling on Beijing to provide a level playing field for American businesses as he takes steps to resolve a raft of contentious issues that could jeopardize the newly repaired relationship. Tensions are running high between the two countries over U.S. accusations that China is supporting Russia’s campaign against Ukraine, providing Moscow with materials including semiconductors, sophisticated machine tools and cruise missile engines.

Other frictions include China’s multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the U.S. along with accusations of intellectual property theft and other practices seen as discriminating against U.S. businesses in China (Financial Times and ABC News).

Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, a sign of continued effort to ease tensions, but officials expect little progress on core issues like Taiwan, trade and Chinese support of Russia. Still, in his opening remarks, Xi struck a conciliatory note.

“China is happy to see a confident, open, prosperous and thriving United States. We hope the U.S. can also look at China’s development in a positive light,” Xi said, according to Chinese state media (The New York Times).

A RARE AREA OF COOPERATION is emerging for the U.S. and China amid rapidly changing developments in Myanmar’s civil war: combatting Chinese criminal groups engaged in “pig-butchering” scams — where scammers obtain funds from victims using manipulative tactics. It’s a slim area of convergence where both the U.S. and China need to combat criminal groups operating out of Myanmar, writes The Hill’s Laura Kelly, even as Washington and Beijing hold wildly separate views on the country’s military dictatorship, human rights concerns and goals for regional peace and stability.

BIDEN AND 17 OTHER WORLD LEADERS issued a statement Thursday calling on Hamas to release the remaining hostages taken during the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, arguing that doing so would bring about a prolonged cease-fire in the ongoing conflict in Gaza (The Hill).

“We call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza now for over 200 days. They include our own citizens,” the leaders wrote. “The fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, who are protected under international law, is of international concern.”

Meanwhile, the U.N.’s top coordinator for humanitarian aid for Gaza has said that Israel has taken steps to improve the delivery of relief supplies but warned that much more must be done to meet the vast need there (The New York Times). U.S. troops began assembling a floating pier off the coast of northern Gaza, part of a Biden administration effort to open new paths for humanitarian aid ahead of a planned Israeli offensive in the city of Rafah. The U.S. is on track to start delivering aid into Gaza by early May, officials said (The Hill and The Wall Street Journal).

UKRAINE AID: The U.S. secretly provided Ukraine with a long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems that can reach deep into Russian-occupied areas — or even strike more deeply into Russia itself. The missiles, also known as ATACMS, have a maximum range of 186 miles. Ukraine first used them over the past week, ABC News reports.

▪ The New York Times: The small town of Chasiv Yar has been under relentless attack by Russian forces. Controlling the town would put them in striking distance of key Ukrainian operational and supply centers.

▪ Al Jazeera: Ukraine welcomes delayed U.S. aid, but few say they expect Russia’s defeat. Experts say the $61 billion package will replenish military stocks but won’t help Kyiv’s forces counterattack.

OPINION

■ Oral argument on immunity hints at another Trump trial — but not soon, by Ruth Marcus, columnist, The Washington Post.

■ Every day in court improves Trump’s chances in November, by Stuart Stevens, guest essayist, The New York Times.

THE CLOSER

© The Associated Press / AP photo | In 1967, University of Wisconsin anti-Vietnam War student protesters confronted stick-wielding Madison, Wis., riot police officers on campus.

And finally … 👏 👏 👏 Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! They recognized some change-makers who made waves, one way or another, during their campus years.

Demonstrating their trivia prowess: Chuck Schoenenberger, Clare Millians, Richard E. Baznik, Peter Sprofera, Stan Wasser, Jeremy Serwer, Tim Burrack, Pam Manges, Virginia Schaeffer, Mark Roeddiger, Carmine Petracca, Mary Anne McEnery, Randall S. Patrick, Joe Atchue, John Ciorciari, Rick Schmidtke, William D. Moore, Patrick Kavanagh, Jaina Mehta Buck, Steve James, Harry Strulovici and Terry Pflaumer.

They knew that the late Rep. John Lewis as a young man became chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and helped recruit students to join civil rights demonstrations. He was elected to Congress as a Georgia Democrat in 1986.

A daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was among more than 100 protesters arrested last week on the campus of New York’s Columbia University during a pro-Palestinian student protest.

While reflecting on her time as college student body president, Hillary Rodham Clinton — a first lady, senator, secretary of State and presidential candidate — recounted to an alumni magazine interviewer, “I stayed up all night to talk students out of staging a Vietnam War protest that would embarrass our college.”

The late Tom Hayden, who became famous in his 20s while protesting the Vietnam War, earned a University of Michigan sociology degree, was a candidate for U.S. Senate and California governor, was sentenced to five years in prison for inciting a riot (overturned on appeal) and wed Jane Fonda — not in that order. The correct answer we looked for was “all of the above.”

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Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Morning Report — Trump’s push for legal delays is working”
  1. Does this mean that Trump might avoid trial completely due to legal delays? How does this impact the overall case against him for election interference?

  2. It seems that former President Trump is successfully avoiding a federal trial, which is a setback for special counsel Jack Smith’s case. The government’s case has been on hold awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on Trump’s claim of immunity. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the coming months.

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