What to know
- Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records during his arraignment in Manhattan. The charges are in connection with two women, according to NBC News.
- A grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office voted to indict Trump last week. He is the first former U.S. president to be criminally charged.
- New York City ramped up security measures ahead of Trump’s arraignment. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia heeded Trump’s call for protests, giving a short speech in Manhattan as hecklers shouted over her.
- Trump ended his night in Florida at Mar-a-Lago, delivering a speech to MAGA supporters.
A presidential historian notes a parallel with the past
Why Donald Trump is no Nelson Mandela
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., claimed today that “Trump is joining some of the most incredible people in history being arrested today. Nelson Mandela was arrested, served time in prison. Jesus! Jesus was arrested and murdered.”
Let’s just stipulate that Trump is not like Jesus and focus on the other, slightly less ridiculous comparison.
Mandela was a freedom fighter, and not in the metaphorical sense of the word. He used what he called “properly controlled violence” against the racist South African government. At the most basic level, Trump stands accused of committing crimes in large part to cover up extramarital affairs.
But perhaps the most important distinction is Mandela’s accountability. He engaged in sabotage, he said in a courtroom speech, not because he had “any love of violence,” but only after “a calm and sober assessment of the political situation.” He said a free South Africa was “an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Trump was well within his rights to plead not guilty today, but given his legendary mendacity, we can’t imagine him admitting to any accusation the way that Mandela did. Nor does he seem guided by any sort of higher principle — let alone appear willing to endure any kind of suffering for a cause.
Ifill on Trump's rhetoric: 'It is not normal and it is dangerous'
Lots of whining, little winning
It’s likely that there was almost nobody listening to former President Donald Trump speak at Mar-a-Lago who didn’t want to be there. But even his most diehard supporters may have found it hard to feign excitement during a predictable recitation of everybody who is corrupt and deserving of prosecution — except him. Lots of whining, little winning.
It was whataboutism stretched out across about 30 minutes, albeit arguably even darker than his “American carnage” inauguration address in 2017. Here, there were no great lines, to say nothing of punch lines. Just seething, but uninspired, grievance.
Shocking: Trump (mostly) followed his (terrible) script
I’m going to be honest: I thought that was going to be a lot more painful to sit through.
Don’t get me wrong, that speech from Trump wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination “good.” It was filled with the same old gripes as ever, attacked the judge presiding over the case, tried to paint Joe Biden as the real criminal here, made Trump look worse in several ongoing investigations, and was packed with so many lies as to make it nearly impossible to clock them all in real time.
But there was a forward thrust to the speech that almost resembled a narrative arc. There were words for him to read that he mostly read. And it was thankfully, blessedly short, something I thought would be entirely unlikely given his tendency to ramble when given the chance.
In what may be my most pure, uncut bit of Acela corridor punditry to date, I’m going to give that speech an “F” for content and a “D+” for delivery.
Reid: 'These facts are not that squishy to me'
The judge warned Trump not to say anything too wild. Guess what happened?
You may recall that earlier today Judge Juan Merchan declined to slap a gag order on Trump but warned him to “please refrain from making statements that would incite violence or civil unrest.” He also told Trump to “not engage in words or conduct which jeopardizes the rule of law, particularly as it applies to these proceedings in this courtroom.”
Of course, Trump did exactly that tonight. During his speech, he not only called out Merchan as a “Trump-hating judge” but also said he had a “Trump-hating family.” He then explicitly called out Merchan’s daughter for insult.
Beyond the physical security risk that Trump’s ire presents, throughout his speech the former president explicitly denounced the proceedings against him in a way that, from where I’m sitting, “jeopardizes the rule of law.” I eagerly await to see if Bragg’s office decides that Merchan might be amenable to a new motion to keep Trump from commenting from here on out.
Trump’s speech gets … weird
Soooo … that Trump speech wasn’t all that great. Which is to say, it went as expected.
To give you a sense of how off-the-rails Trump’s rambling got before he ended, I’ll have you know he touched on his alleged success with deregulation of the pharmaceutical industry.
Specifically, he touted the fact that Americans are “able to get drugs now that aren’t approved.” (He’s referring to so-called right-to-try laws enacted during his administration, FYI.)
How does this relate to Trump’s Manhattan arraignment? Your guess is as good as mine.
Nonetheless, quite a statement from Trump out of Mar-a-Lago tonight: “My enemies are out to get me! Hooray for experimental drugs!”
The GOP isn’t opposed to political persecution
Trump’s supporters have been so persistent in their claim that any investigation into the former president amounts to a political persecution that you could be tricked into believing that those supporters are opposed to political persecution.
But the facts have shown that they believe that they are the ones who ought to be doing the persecuting. The latest case in point is Fox News host Jesse Watters, who on his show tonight promised political persecution if Trump is elected again.
“If Donald Trump runs and wins, he’s going to indict Joe Biden and the entire Biden crew,” he said. “So, Biden might have to run and win because if he doesn’t, you know those indictments are coming. It’s not like Trump’s going to let this thing go.”
How does a president indict somebody? What crime would he charge? Those are all pesky details.
We know, though, that hypocrisy doesn’t matter to this crowd. There is no guiding political philosophy. There’s only the belief that everything that happens to Trump is an outrage. And that everything that happens to Democrats is just what they’ve got coming.
Trump keeps talking about cases where he could still be indicted
I’m not a lawyer, but it sure seems like a weird legal strategy for Trump to spend so much time tonight talking about the cases where he’s not yet been criminally charged — and potentially offering up incriminating statements in cases that have not yet been decided.
That’s especially true in the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, one of two probes led by DOJ special counsel Jack Smith. Trump (again) insisted that he had every right to take the documents that were found at his residence last year. He did the same last week, when speaking with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, even as Hannity tried to get him to say otherwise.
Exonerated Five member debuts Trump-inspired campaign ad
Yusef Salaam, the activist, author and member of the Exonerated Five, selected the day of Trump’s arraignment to debut an ad for his New York City Council campaign — an ad inspired by Trump’s dark history.
In 1989, Salaam was one of five Black and Latino teens falsely accused of committing a vicious assault in Central Park. Trump, the bigoted opportunist, threw gasoline on the lies by buying multiple full-page newspaper ads calling for New York to reinstate the death penalty. He has never apologized for his crusade, even after the real assailant confessed.
But Yusef Salaam’s word reigns supreme here. Tonight on “The ReidOut with Joy Reid,” he talked about how it felt seeing Trump walk into a courtroom as a defendant, and what truly equal justice looks like.
For Trump, a criminal indictment is just one more gripe
In the opening of his address at Mar-a-Lago tonight, Trump kicked things off with a familiar list of grievances. He complained about the Russia investigation and lied about “spying on his campaign.” He moaned about the “first impeachment hoax” and “second impeachment hoax.” He once again falsely claimed that he won the 2020 election but was thwarted thanks to “votes illegally stuffed into ballot boxes.”
It’s clear that for Trump — and his supporters — this objectively very serious new legal development is just another example to add to a long list of complaints of supposedly unfair treatment.
MAGA royalty have flocked to Mar-a-Lago tonight
Trump’s high-profile supporters have gathered in Florida tonight for the former president’s first post-arraignment speech.
Flanked by screens urging fans to donate cash, Trump will be speaking to a very friendly crowd indeed. NBC News reports that such MAGA faithful as Roger Stone, failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate (and election denier) Kari Lake, Rep. Ronny Jackson, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Matt Gaetz and Trump children Don Jr., Eric and Tiffany are in the venue.
Trump attorney laughably criticizes the media for caring about the case
In defense attorney Joe Tacopina’s bombastic remarks to the media after Trump was arraigned, he lobbed a particularly inane criticism at the reporters who had gathered to observe the day’s historic proceedings.
“If this man’s name was not Donald J. Trump, there is no scenario we’d all be here today,” Tacopina said.
I must have missed the defense attorney telling the journalists who covered the recent trial where Gwyneth Paltrow was acquitted that they were covering a ski crash trial only because the defendant was an an Oscar Award-winning actress.
Of course, so many journalists were there because the case involves Trump. Of course, few (if any) journalists would be there for somebody who’s unknown. That’s not, pardon the pun, an indictment of journalism. It’s how celebrity works.
And nobody should understand that more than an attorney representing a bona fide publicity hound like Trump.
MSNBC's prime-time special coverage is underway
Trump has plenty of company in his alleged crimes
One of the biggest conservative talking points today has been that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was grasping for a crime to charge Trump with and landed on an obscure one — “falsifying business records in the first degree.” But last month, the national security law blog Just Security looked at more than a decade’s worth of cases from New York district attorneys’ offices to determine whether it would be outside the norm for Trump to face the charge.
Their conclusion: Nah, this totally makes sense.
The authors determined:
Prosecution of falsifying business records in the first degree is commonplace and has been used by New York district attorneys’ offices to hold to account a breadth of criminal behavior from the more petty and simple to the more serious and highly organized.
What makes this case novel, as some have argued, is that the “first-degree” felony charge requires the falsification to be done in the name of other crimes that Trump isn’t actually charged with. So while this is the kind of case that the Manhattan DA handles all the time, Bragg is going to need to convince a jury that these alleged crimes were committed to facilitate further crimes that aren’t part of the indictment.
Coming up at the top of the hour on MSNBC
PHOTOS: Small crowds at the pro-Trump rally
Aerial shots showed thin crowds at the pro-Trump rally this morning at Collect Pond Park in Manhattan, along with significant numbers of counterprotesters as well.
Given that Trump likely has well over 100,000 supporters in New York City alone, and many more within a drivable radius, it was a weak showing.
Melber: We'll tell you what's true — and what's 'completely bananas'
Trump claims vindication ahead of planned Mar-a-Lago speech
Ahead of his post-arraignment remarks at Mar-a-Lago, tonight Trump apparently decided that the charges presented by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg earlier today are proof of Trump's innocence.
“The hearing was shocking to many in that they had no ‘surprises,’ and therefore, no case,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “Virtually every legal pundit has said that there is no case here. There was nothing done illegally!”
This is, unsurprisingly, false. Legal analysts across the political spectrum vary in their assessment of the strength of the Manhattan district attorney’s charges against Trump for falsifying business records. But more than a few believe that he’s got a strong case. They’ve been saying so all day — and not just on MSNBC. And of course the charges don’t require some element of “surprise” to have binding legal consequences. Expect more misdirection and evidence-free denialism from Trump during his speech tonight, slated for 8:15 p.m. ET.
‘Pressure campaign’ could help secure Trump conviction
It’s a bit early in People v. Donald Trump to either pronounce the case dead on arrival or, in contrast, dub it a total nightmare for Trump. But there’s an aspect of the prosecution that might be underappreciated as we examine the case: what Bragg called the “pressure campaign” against Michael Cohen.
The allegation comes in Bragg’s statement of facts, a separate document from the indictment that explains the prosecution’s case in more detail. In the statement, Bragg noted that, after the FBI searched Cohen’s home and office in 2018, Trump and others “engaged in a public and private pressure campaign to ensure that [Cohen] did not cooperate with law enforcement in the federal investigation.” (Cohen wound up pleading guilty federally to multiple crimes, including related to the hush money scheme; Trump was never charged federally, even though Cohen implicated Trump in the scheme.)
The reason this alleged pressure campaign is important is that it can be powerful evidence before a jury, if this case goes to trial and this evidence is admitted. To the extent that Bragg’s theory of the case is that Trump falsified business records in order to engage in a wide-ranging cover-up, this pressure campaign evidence could add fuel to that theory.
McCarthy says Bragg 'will be held accountable by Congress'
Today, after Trump was arraigned in wake of an actual indictment, the California Republican took to Twitter to suggest that his House “weaponization” subcommittee would be taking a look at the case, declaring that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s “weaponization of the federal justice process will be held accountable by Congress.”
There’s zero evidence the Trump indictment amounts to the “weaponization” of the Manhattan DA’s office. It’s another case of Trump allies seeking to investigate investigators who dare to hold the MAGA leader accountable.
Trump indictment highlights star witness (beyond Michael Cohen)
Many people closely following the Trump hush money investigation in New York are well aware of Michael Cohen reportedly meeting more than a dozen times with Manhattan prosecutors. But the newly unsealed indictment suggests there's another key witness in the mix.
As Steve Benen wrote for Maddowblog earlier today:
I also read the materials with a point NBC News’ Laura Jarrett emphasized last week: “Cohen is a key witness, but prosecutors can’t hinge their entire case on his testimony. In New York, no one can be convicted on the basis of testimony from an accomplice to a crime without corroborating evidence. What’s the corroborating evidence in this case?”
With this in mind, the materials from Bragg’s office today repeatedly referenced the role of David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer, and his direct and extensive efforts in Trump’s alleged schemes. NYU Law’s Ryan Goodman noted this afternoon that Pecker “is going to be a star witness.”
Read Steve's full summary below.
Election laws could help Bragg prove felony violations
Heading into today’s arraignment, part of the speculation was over whether Trump would be charged with misdemeanor or felony counts of falsifying business records. The felony charge, unlike the misdemeanor, requires that the defendant falsify records with intent to commit or conceal another crime. And while the indictment charges felony counts of falsifying business records, it doesn’t detail what those other crimes might be.
However, at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s news conference just now, he referred to state and federal election laws, suggesting that those could form the prosecution’s theory for what other crimes Trump allegedly intended to commit or conceal.
Alvin Bragg lays out his 'bread and butter' case against Trump
At a press conference shortly after Trump’s arraignment, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg offered a concise summary of why Trump was charged with falsifying business records.
“Under New York State law, it is a felony to falsify business records with intent to defraud, and intent to conceal another crime," he said. "That is exactly what this case is about: 34 false statements made to cover up other crimes.”
“These are felony crimes in New York state, no matter who you are — we cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct,” he continued.
Bragg laid out the allegations that Trump made false claims in business records about payments to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen. Those false claims were allegedly intended to cover up how he compensated Cohen for hush money payments to multiple individuals in order to hide damaging information from the voting public in violation of New York’s election law.
Bragg emphasized that while it might be unusual to charge a former president, the charges themselves were routine for his office, given that New York is the country’s financial capital. He described how his office charges people routinely for falsifying business records in relation to violations of bank secrecy laws and tax laws, calling it the “bread and butter” of their white collar work.
“We today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law,” he said as he closed his remarks. “No amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle.”
Court document explains Trump embarked upon a scheme
As MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance told MSNBC moments ago:
This was about the campaign — that Donald Trump was faltering as the election drew close because of the “Access Hollywood” tape. As the statement of fact explains, he embarked upon a scheme. It’s conspiracy language, although we don’t see a conspiracy count in the indictment itself, saying that he embarked upon this scheme that was designed to keep more of these stories from coming to light.
And we know the context, no matter what his lawyers try to argue to the court of public opinion. This was all about controlling damage in a campaign environment. In other words, this indictment really is Trump’s origin story as a candidate trying to manipulate elections, trying to keep damaging information from coming to light.
One place Trump allegedly discussed his scheme: the Oval Office
Manhattan DA Bragg holds press conference, warns against normalizing 'criminal conduct'
Trump won’t be gagged. That may or may not work out for him.
Judge Juan Merchan declined to issue a gag order against Trump related to this case, according to NBC News. That means that he’ll be able to keep posting through it, even if it might not be in his best interests to do so.
Merchan did caution Trump though: “Please refrain from making statements that would incite violence or civil unrest.” Sound advice. Not that it’s stopped Trump in the past.
Today's reminders of Trump's powerlessness
I appreciated Ari Melber and others who’ve noted that today’s booking hearing, at 57 minutes, was very lengthy compared with normal hearings.
As an observer, these moments of waiting have felt, dare I say, affirming. Powerful, at least. As in, Trump is being subjected to the force of the criminal justice system in ways that are clearly uncomfortable for him.
As a former president, Trump undoubtedly received privileges throughout this arraignment that aren’t afforded to other people normally prosecuted by the Manhattan DA. Relative to other alleged criminals, he’s only experiencing a modicum of the pressure the criminal justice system can bring to bear on its targets. But we’re getting these occasional reminders — be it the lengthiness of the proceedings or images of Trump in court — that he’s truly entangled in this process.
It reminds me of a song by rap group The Pharcyde: “Runnin’.”
The chorus says you “can’t keep runnin’ awayyyyyyy.”
And the first lines of the song are:
I must admit on some occasions
I went out like a punk and a chump
Or a sucka or something to that effect
Maybe it’s on Trump’s post-arraignment playlist.
Correction: Conspiracy not among indictment charges
MSNBC previously reported incorrectly that the indictment charges against Trump included conspiracy. He was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records.
Next Trump court appearance won’t be for months
According to NBC News’ Garrett Haake, the next in-person hearing where we can expect Trump to appear in court won’t be until at least December.
“The next hearing is likely scheduled for Dec. 4,” Haake told MSNBC, with Trump expected to make an appearance. That delay gives lawyers on both sides the chance to file any related motions and prepare their arguments. This calendar would then put the start of the trial in this case around next January.
But a January start date for a trial would put it right at the middle of the first rounds of the GOP primary calendar. And it means that we’re going to be hearing about this case throughout the Republican debates in the back half of the year.
Trump is alleged to have signed bogus checks while in office
According to a news release from Bragg’s office, the charges against Trump accuse him of reimbursing his former lawyer Michael Cohen “through a series of monthly checks, first from the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust — created in New York to hold the Trump Organization’s assets during TRUMP’s presidency — and later from TRUMP’s bank account.” Eleven checks were “issued for a phony purpose,” according to the release, nine of which were signed by Trump himself.
The dates that are listed in the newly unsealed indictment for the allegedly falsified records for those bogus checks range from Feb. 17, 2017 to Dec. 7, 2017. That means that for the first year that Trump was in the White House, Trump allegedly was actively aware of and participating in this scheme being run through his business.
Going back to Jessica Levinson’s entry from earlier today, that is something that sounds extremely impeachable, given that he was serving in office while breaking the law. And if proved guilty, it should definitely be a factor in Trump’s re-election campaign, as conclusive proof that Trump was willing to violate the law while in office.
Trump's attorneys respond, downplay indictment
A cowed Donald Trump in court
This is what Donald Trump looks like as a criminal defendant:
Even those who have covered Trump for years seem a little surprised at the expression on the former president’s face. “Trump is not enjoying this at all,” wrote Trump chronicler Maggie Haberman. “It’s plain on his face.” But a cowed Trump, while rare in the grand scheme of things, is surprisingly common in legal proceedings.
In December 2015, for example, Trump sat for a deposition in a lawsuit alleging that he and his Trump University defrauded students of thousands of dollars. A month before, Trump had claimed at a rally that he had “the world’s greatest memory.” But when plaintiffs’ lawyers asked if he stood by that self-assessment, Trump only mumbled “I have a good memory” in roughly the same tone as a child caught stealing cookies.
But it makes sense that Trump would feel ill at ease in a room where he is not in charge. From a young age, Trump has been used to getting his way and dominating a room. That only became more true as he entered politics and became president. On Tuesday, for the first time in a very long time, he was in a room where he was not the master of the universe. To which one can only say: Good.
Trump indictment unsealed. Read full document here.
The Manhattan DA's office unsealed the Trump indictment. Read it in full here.
Trump leaves courtroom after roughly one-hour hearing
Trump just left the courtroom after his 57-minute arraignment. As MSNBC's Ari Melber just noted on air, it was a “very, very lengthy booking hearing.”
As we already know, Trump during his arraignment pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection to hush money payments made to two women.
Courtroom reporter gives details from inside Trump arraignment
Judge is reportedly ‘very concerned’ about Trump’s online rhetoric
In laying out the charges against Trump, Assistant District Attorney Chris Conroy told the presiding judge that his office is “seeking a protective order” regarding discovery materials, according to NBC News producer Adam Reiss. That move comes in response to Trump’s “recent threatening emails and speeches both directed at New York City, the courts here in New York, the justice system, and the district attorney’s office,” Reiss relayed via phone to MSNBC’s anchors.
The worry that the DA’s office laid out was that Trump or his attorneys might use items from discovery to potentially threaten witnesses and members of the jury pool. In response, the judge told Trump’s lawyers that he’s “very concerned” about the rhetoric from their client, even as they tried to defend his statements as a free speech issue. We’ll know more soon enough about whether any sort of protective order is actually granted, but the fact that it’s even a possibility speaks to how Trump’s posting addiction could affect the course of this trial.
Stop asking the Biden White House about the Trump charges
There are so many things in this world where reporters can — and should — ask the White House for comment. Trump being charged with a crime is not one of them.
“I think the American people should feel reassured that when there is an ongoing case like this one that we’re just not commenting,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters today. I just don’t know what the point is asking about this case, especially since Jean-Pierre has repeatedly declined to comment about it. There is no world where she answers any question about today’s arraignment with something like “Oh, yeah, the president thinks he’s totally guilty, lock him up.”
The White House not weighing in on criminal investigations was a pretty solid norm until Trump decided to curb stomp it, so it really is reassuring that this administration is rededicated to reinforcing it.
Trump pleads not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records
Read more here:
First photo of Trump in courtroom arrives
Judge Juan Merchan ruled against allowing video cameras during Trump's arraignment, but a few news photographers were allowed inside to photograph the scene inside the courtroom before the arraignment kicked off."That's the face of a criminal defendant," MSNBC's Ari Melber just noted.
Ironically, Trump may have underestimated his voters' loyalty
Candidate Donald Trump boasted in January 2016 that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Even so, the allegation that Trump paid off adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair suggests he may not have believed his own boast.
The irony is that the same month that Daniels was reportedly paid off, an “Access Hollywood” tape from 2005 was broadcast that captured Trump, on a hot mic, making another boast: “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” Of course, that boast got even more vulgar.
He still won the election. So would a tell-all from Stormy Daniels have sunk him? I can’t imagine that it would have.
If Trump goes down for reasons related to sending money to Daniels, he’ll likely kick himself for doubting his own Fifth Avenue boast.
Trump enters courtroom as arraignment kicks off
Trump was just seen entering the courtroom, about 15 minutes later than the scheduled 2:15 p.m. ET arraignment.
Once the indictment is shared with Trump's lawyers, they will ask for a brief recess to review it, Trump layer Joe Tacopina announced earlier.
Trump likely getting fingerprinted ahead of arraignment
Cameras aren’t following Donald Trump’s every move before he enters the courtroom in lower Manhattan, but one thing that should be happening before he’s arraigned on the indictment is to get fingerprinted. And according to The Washington Post, he was getting fingerprinted minutes ago as part of processing.
Even if Trump reportedly isn’t getting a mug shot, fingerprinting is one part of the usual process that happens before he’s arraigned in court and has to enter a plea to the charges that we’re all waiting to see.
Trump campaign fundraising off arrest with fake mug shot T-shirt
A Trump campaign email blast sent out minutes ago encouraged supporters to pick up their commemorative arraignment T-shirts today. The former president is never one to miss an opportunity to try and rake in some cash on some of the country's darkest days.
"What better way to PROVE that our campaign will NEVER SURRENDER our country to the Left’s tyranny than countless grassroots patriots proudly wearing their very own 'NOT GUILTY' T-Shirts," the campaign email states.
The mug shot on the shirt is not real. As Jordan Rubin wrote earlier this morning, Trump is not expected to have a mug shot taken.
DeSantis’ rejected refuge
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pledge that Florida would not help with any extradition of former President Donald Trump to New York was short-lived and unnecessary, as Trump arrived at the Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday afternoon in advance of his scheduled arraignment.
As Trump faces his most difficult moments yet, he still managed to find a way to make DeSantis look weak — by ignoring him.
The DeSantis move, though — as pointless as it was — does show the lengths to which the likely 2024 presidential candidate will go to get in the good graces of Trump’s supporters, whether Trump is ultimately running against him for the 2024 Republican nomination or not.
Being indicted as a former president is like failing kindergarten
As MSNBC legal analyst Neal Katyal told MSNBC moments ago:
The law does provide a different mechanism to prevent rogue prosecutors from going after presidents. That’s the doctrine of absolute immunity. An accusation that the president did something wrong at the border, for example in the performance of his duties, it is incredibly hard legally to pierce that immunity. ...
It’s really hard if you’re a former president to be indicted. You really have to try. It’s like failing kindergarten. Yes, Donald Trump has managed to do it but I don’t think that’s something that should concern us tremendously when we’re talking about future presidents.
Trump’s courtroom action today extends beyond New York
While we all understandably focus on Trump’s arraignment today in a New York state courthouse, let’s remember that this is hardly the only investigation pending against the former president.
It appears that the federal investigation into the events leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, and efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election is also heating up. Just today, Trump lost his emergency appeal to prevent some of his highest-level advisers from testifying before a grand jury looking into issues involving the insurrection at the Capitol and the 2020 election. This means the grand jury could hear from Mark Meadows, who served as Trump’s White House chief of staff, in the coming days.
Trump had claimed, as he often does, that any testimony his advisers would provide were covered by executive privilege. This is an oft-used legal weapon Trump uses to try and thwart investigations against him.
A three-judge panel of appellate judges correctly denied Trump’s emergency appeal, while allowing that Trump could still raise executive privilege issues in the future.
Executive privilege is a qualified privilege, and the courts have not allowed Trump to stretch it to the breaking point. Executive privilege can be used to shield certain conversations the president has with his advisers, particularly those that implicate national security issues. But it is understood that the privilege should not be used to undermine a criminal investigation. The public interest in allowing those investigations to continue is simply too high.
If all of your friends got indicted and convicted, would you?
MSNBC’s Ari Melber tweeted out a reminder that there sure are a lot of people in Trump’s circle who have been arrested and convicted of various crimes:
He added in a follow-up tweet that “many of the convicted Trump aides were independently found guilty of crimes committed while working for Trump (Weisselberg, Cohen, Stone), and/or crimes hiding evidence for Trump (Bannon, Manafort, Flynn).”
I mean, you shouldn’t automatically judge a person from the company he keeps, but that sure is a lot of crime.
The challenges of covering the Trump circus
Former Ohio governor and current MSNBC contributor John Kasich thinks the media might be focusing too much on the circus that is today’s Trump arraignment circus.
I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, all media organizations have struggled with balancing coverage of Trump’s at times historic behavior with, well, everything else. I also understand the desire to keep a sharp eye on the minutiae of the day. Imagine not being able to coverage a key Trump admission of guilt, or violence from supporters (or opponents). And today’s court appearance is literally unprecedented.
On the other hand, if you look at how Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., was swarmed earlier today by seemingly 100 reporters you get a sense of how ridiculous the coverage is today. Yes, we’ve witnessed a collapse in media outlets providing local coverage in the last few decades. But what do we make of media priorities when journalists at times nearly outnumber protesters and counter-protestors? And how do we justify spending countless combined hours of speculation on something that is going to happen shortly anyway?
It’s all a bit meta — with no easy answers. But if I’m part of the problem, arguably so is Kasich.
Meanwhile, a major update in DOJ's Jan. 6 probe
In case you managed to forget, Trump is dealing with several probes into his conduct at once. As he was preparing to head court to be arraigned, a federal appeals court panel handed him a loss in his attempt to stymie the Department of Justice’s investigation into Jan. 6, 2021.
Last month, a federal judge said that executive privilege didn’t prevent former Trump administration staffers — including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — from giving their testimony in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation. Trump had filed an emergency motion to prevent a federal grand jury from hearing from those witnesses, but today’s order rejected that bid.
It’s entirely keeping with Trump’s M.O. that he keeps dragging things out on all legal fronts, but Trump's lawyers can't feel too encouraged that their client keeps insisting they make losing arguments.
Why Team Trump suddenly doesn’t want cameras around
MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann made a very good point on "MSNBC Reports" just now on why Trump, the star of America’s first (and hopefully only) reality-television-show presidency, is opposed to cameras being in the courtroom during this afternoon’s arraignment.
Trump loves to be on camera when he is in control of what happens, Weissmann said. During an arraignment, the defendant is not the person in charge. He doesn’t dictate anything. He must defer to the judge. There’s no wonder, then, why Trump wouldn’t want such a proceeding televised.
Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the case, ruled against allowing video cameras in the courtroom during Trump's arraignment.
Trump isn't expected to get a mug shot
I noted earlier the several atmospheric questions surrounding Donald Trump’s indictment, including “Will we see his mug shot?” It looks like the answer to that question is “no,” because reportedly he won’t be getting one.
According to The New York Times:
The former president is not likely to be photographed when he is booked on charges, officials say, because his image is commonly available and taking his mug shot would entail more movements for him, complicating security.
So, although Trump is being charged because he’s not above the law, we’re seeing different treatment of him already based on who he is. Not getting a mug shot won’t affect how the case turns out — the evidence will — but it’s a reminder that we’re not dealing with a normal defendant in every respect.
Why Trump's trial could be a long way off
“It is important to remember,” writes MSNBC legal analyst Charles F. Coleman Jr., “an old adage: The wheels of justice are often slow.”
Though Election Day 2024 is more than a year and a half away, Coleman points out that that day could come and go before the former president’s trial begins in this case: “Delay tactics have been a staple in the Trump defense playbook when he has been sued in civil court. This criminal case is likely to be no different, and those tactics only lengthen the time between Tuesday’s arraignment and whatever eventual trial that takes place.”
Read Coleman’s full piece below.
A potential gag order for Trump would be complicated — but not impossible
As MSNBC legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg told MSNBC moments ago:
This is about drawing lines. On one hand, the judge wants to make sure that this is conducted with dignity and decorum in his courtroom and to manage that process so that both sides get a fair trial — not just the defendant but the government too.
On the other hand, Mr. Trump is a candidate for president. It would be hard to tell somebody who’s running for president that they can’t talk at all about the criminal indictment that they’re facing. It seems to be at least a campaign issue for him, if not also a fundraising mechanism.
So, it’s about drawing lines and I think the judge, who is well regarded for being thoughtful and running a good and dignified courtroom, will find the right balance here. And if he has to fine tune it, he can do that too. He can admonish people. If they don’t adhere to the admonishment he can bring them back. Then, he can impose a more stringent requirement if they’re not listening.
The anti-Trump crowd overshadows the pro-Trump crowd
Today one of the most popular MAGA politicians in the country headlined a pro-Trump rally in Manhttan, but a passing pedestrian could be forgiven for thinking it was actually an anti-Trump rally. Anti-Trump and anti-fascist protestors showed up in big numbers and were at times much louder than the pro-Trump faction throughout the morning. “We just real-life ratio’d these guys at their own protest,” I overheard one counter-protester said with a big grin on his face to a friend.
Some activists expressed hope that more anti-Trump activists would show up in the streets. Lisa Fithian, a 62-year-old artist and organizer who lives in Manhattan told me, “There should be tens of thousands of people out here, and there should’ve been tens of thousands of people out during his impeachment hearings, but people are lulled into apathy.”
She said she saw the moment as an occasion for mixed emotions. “Today I’m both sad because it’s a tragedy, what’s been happening in this country: Trump is marching us toward fascism,” she said. “But I’m also elated because finally Alvin Bragg is standing up and acting with courage to try and bring him to justice.”
Who is Juan Merchan, the judge presiding over this historic case?
Trump has already complained about the judge in his case, Juan Merchan, a former Manhattan prosecutor who emigrated to the United States from Colombia when he was six years old. “The Judge ‘assigned’ to my Witch Hunt Case, a ‘Case’ that has NEVER BEEN CHARGED BEFORE, HATES ME,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
The truth is that Merchan — who also presided over the Trump Org. trial — actually has a reputation for fairness. And as a former prosecutor who practiced in that same courthouse, I can say that not all judges there share the same reputation. In other words, Trump could have drawn a much worse jurist for this case than this 16-year veteran of the bench. Even if Trump doesn’t understand that, his lawyers probably do.
Trump arrives to N.Y. courthouse for arraignment
After a short motorcade ride from Trump Tower, Trump arrived moments ago to the Manhattan courthouse where he is set to be arraigned within the hour.
In true Trump fashion, the former president used his brief commute to post about his upcoming arrest on social media.
Trump’s indictment is not the polling boon some had feared
Even before Trump’s indictment was officially announced, some commentators suggested that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation might somehow help Trump, creating sympathy with voters who see the charges as unwarranted. But new polling suggests that’s not the case.
A new CNN/SSRS poll finds 60% of respondents, including 62% of independents, approve of the charges — even though 75% believe politics influenced the decision to bring charges. (And only 6% haven’t heard about Trump’s indictment, a shockingly low number.) Similarly, a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll finds 45% of Americans believe Trump should be charged, to just 32% who say he shouldn’t be.
Depressingly but unsurprisingly, Republican voters take a rosier view of their former nominee’s criminal indictment. And as Hayes Brown noted earlier, Republican primary polls conducted since the indictment show Trump stretching his lead over the current field, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
On the other hand, as I wrote before news of the indictment dropped, DeSantis already has been struggling for weeks. It’s hard to argue that today’s indictment has done more than crystallize a preexisting trend.
Trump leaves Trump Tower, expected to surrender next
Trump was seen exiting Trump Tower in Manhattan moments ago and is expected to surrender to local authorities ahead of his scheduled 2:15 p.m. ET arraignment for the Stormy Daniels hush money-related indictment.
Trump associate Jason Miller tweeted a photo from the former president's motorcade.
How this complaint could lead to Trump’s third impeachment
Trump is now an indicted criminal defendant. But he can still run for the presidency, and perhaps win. If he's elected to be president again, could this criminal indictment lead to a third Trump impeachment?
The answer is, yes. I believe that payments Trump made to his former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, for payments that Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, will play a key role in this criminal case. The facts indicate that Trump made the payments to Cohen while he was president.
This means that if Trump does become president again, these repayments could help form the basis of a third impeachment proceeding. Impeachments are generally understood as being about punishing public officials for so-called public crimes. As Alexander Hamilton noted in the Federalist Papers, impeachment was viewed as a way to publish government officials or “public men” for political crimes.
It is possible to view this hush money payment scheme as a political crime. Cohen has stated in federal court that he paid Daniels in order to ensure that she would not tell the world she had an affair with Trump. (Trump denies having an affair with Daniels.) Cohen has also stated in federal court that these statements were made in order to affect the 2020 presidential election. In this way, everything about these payments are political.
The weirdness of hostility toward the media at a MAGA protest
Typically when I cover an activist event, the bulk of demonstrators are open to talking to the press to spread their message. Making a statement is, after all, the purpose of gathering in public as a group. But I experienced the opposite at today’s pro-Trump rally in Manhattan. The pro-Trump activists were overwhelmingly reluctant to talk to me — or overtly hostile — and some seemed only interested in granting interviews to journalists affiliated with the right.
It’s one thing to not trust left-of-center media, which I expected, but it’s another to refuse to even engage with them. This is, after all, an event designed to show the country how much Trump support he still has as we await his official arraignment for unprecedented criminal charges. This hatred of mainstream media is clearly self-defeating here, because it essentially ignores the bigger audience out of spite.
Why Trump isn’t considered a flight risk
As part of his arraignment, authorities will take Trump’s fingerprints and possibly a mug shot of him. But afterwards, he’s expected to hop on a plane and fly straight back to Mar-a-Lago. That’s because the charges Trump is likely to face don’t require that bail be set in New York.
But even if judge were considering Trump’s flight risk, it’s highly unlikely he’d have his travel restricted. Trump is extremely recognizable, an aspiring presidential candidate, and he’s planning to fight the charges — nobody thinks he’s going to disappear.
Trump calls for case to be moved to Staten Island. Fat chance.
Trump once again this morning called for a change in venue of his case, claiming Manhattan wouldn't be a fair location in terms of choosing unbiased jurors given his family business history there.
“Very unfair venue, with some areas that voted 1% Republican," Trump wrote on his social media platform. "This case should be moved to nearby Staten Island — would be a very fair and secure location for the trial."
As Steve Benen wrote for Maddowblog moments ago:
Let’s instead consider the underlying question: Is it possible that a trial would be moved out of Manhattan? Probably not.
“The only reason he would try to move venue to Staten Island is that he thinks — based on voter registration — that that’s a friendlier potential jury pool for him,” Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, told Bloomberg News over the weekend. “That’s not going to fly.”
In other words, defendants don’t have the luxury of saying, “I’m a Republican, and there are more Republicans on Staten Island, so I want my trial in a ‘red’ area instead of a ‘blue’ area.” That’s just not how the justice system is supposed to work.
Read more from Steve's post below:
Trump’s indictment apparently hasn’t hurt him with GOP voters
There have been a few national polls conducted since last week’s indictment vote and the trends have to make the Trump campaign feel good — for now, at least.
“Some 48% of self-described Republicans say they want Trump to be their party’s presidential nominee, up from 44% in a March 14-20 poll,” Reuters reported on Monday, based on a survey conducted between March 31 and April 3. “Some 19% back his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, down from 30% last month.” (The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for Republicans.)
It’s not clear that this bump will last, but it reflects what journalist Molly Jong-Fast recently called “Trump’s biggest trick” — getting GOP voters to internalize his indictment as an attack on them.
MTG’s ruined rally was political satire brought to life
Greene’s rally, which was truly “a flop” according to my colleague Zeeshan Aleem reporting from the scene, collapsed in part because nobody could hear her speak. According to Semafor, some of the few lines that could be made out blamed New York Mayor Eric Adams for the din: “‘I’m standing here peacefully protesting but you called me out by name,’ Greene was heard saying. ‘You send your henchmen down here to commit assault against people by making loud noises,’ she said.”
But practically speaking, it wasn’t Adams or any other Democrat who enabled this “assault” via noise. It was, as NBC News’ Ben Collins reported, a Trump supporter handing out whistles who caused a lot of the chaos. To me, this is cinema. It’s beautiful. It’s art. It’s an irony that’s better scripted than any satire that could be purposefully written about how the right’s individualism is self-defeating. Long live the Trump Whistle Guy, champion of Loud Noises and accidental friend to Eric Adams.
What is that second offense kicking up Trump indictment to a felony?
As MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang told MSNBC moments ago:
There have been some media reports that there are 34 felonies in this indictment.
I would love to know the background behind this.
Once this indictment is unsealed, we’ll be able to see the specific statutes in the state of New York that Bragg has alleged have been violated by Donald Trump.
But most importantly, what’s that second crime? What is that second offense that’s kicking it up to being a felony? That’s what we’re all waiting to see. Falsification of the business record, a misdemeanor in the state of New York — but to make it a felony, is it tax evasion? Is it a campaign finance violation? What is it that’s kicking it up to be a felony?
Jim Jordan and James Comer’s ‘gag order’ complaint is off-base and premature
House Republicans are going to bat for their de facto leader ahead of his arraignment, complaining about a potential “gag order” on Trump that would block him from lashing out against Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who received a recent death threat.
House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and House Oversight Chair James Comer, R-Ky., said in a joint statement today:
We are deeply concerned by reports the New York District Attorney may seek an unconstitutional gag order. To put any restrictions on the ability of President Trump to discuss his mistreatment at the hands of this politically motivated prosecutor would only further demonstrate the weaponization of the New York justice system. To even contemplate stifling the speech of the former commander in chief and current candidate for President is at odds with everything America stands for.
So, what is a gag order? NBC News’ Laura Jarrett explained recently:
A gag order is a judicially imposed order restricting parties, attorneys and/or witnesses in a pending case from making any public statements about it. The standard courts look to is whether such statements have a “reasonable likelihood” of possibly preventing a fair trial.
As for Comer and Jordan’s complaint, they don’t cite any specific “reports” about Bragg’s plans, and we don’t know what the judge in the case, Juan Merchan, will do, whether asked by Bragg or not. But I don’t necessarily expect Merchan to issue a formal order restricting Trump’s speech just yet, even if the former president has viciously attacked Bragg while whipping up his supporters who are capable of violence. My former Manhattan DA colleague Catherine Christian told Rachel Maddow last night that the judge might start with a “stern lecture” to the Trump team.
At any rate, if Merchan does impose such an order, it wouldn’t automatically be unconstitutional, as Comer and Jordan argue. Trump is a unique defendant in some respects but, as his impending arraignment shows, he doesn’t operate outside of the law by virtue of the job he once held and wants to hold again.
Imagine Trump being subjected to a gag order
In part because of the inflammatory remarks Trump has already made concerning his indictment, one of the questions that has arisen among legal observers is whether Judge Juan Merchan will impose a gag order in this case. A secondary question is, if the judge does impose such an order, whether Trump is capable of complying with one.
The current consensus appears to be that, while such a gag order is unlikely to be imposed today, the judge will probably put Trump on notice that his typical way of attacking his enemies and perceived enemies will not be tolerated.
On the other side of the equation, though, is Trump’s desire to run as the poor, put-upon and persecuted presidential candidate. It will be interesting to see how the judge draws the line between Trump baselessy attacking DA Alvin Bragg as unethical and allowing Trump to run his “look at how bad they’re treating me” campaign.
Marjorie Taylor Greene's speech foiled by ... a Trump supporter?
NBC News' Ben Collins reports that a Trump supporter handing out free whistles might have been the nail in the coffin for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's speech.
This might have been the biggest rally flop I’ve ever seen
I've seen a lot of rallies in my life, but the pro-Trump rally featuring Marjorie Taylor Greene just now might have been the biggest flop I've ever seen.
As Greene approached the rally site, there was a scramble and people rushed to surround her. But at least initially, the crowd seemed to be made mostly out of press, not supporters.
Greene spoke for about 10 minutes about how the indictment was "a travesty," but it was hard to make out more than a few words here or there because she had a weak megaphone and was drowned out by chants and whistles from anti-Trump protesters. The entire thing was a non-event.
This doesn't bode well for the MAGA crowd's capacity or willingness to mobilize for Trump.
What prosecutors need to prove if Trump charged with falsifying business records
MSNBC Daily columnist Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney, explained what Manhattan prosecutors would have to prove for a jury to convict Trump of falsifying business records (if that's indeed what he is being charged with):
Frank Figliuzzi: We have to pay attention to any attacks on the judge
As MSNBC analyst Frank Figliuzzi told MSNBC moments ago:
If I had to pick a city in this country that is best equipped to handle this trial and this ongoing process, it would be New York.
The FBI joint terrorism task force literally has, last time I looked, maybe 200 very seasoned NYPD detectives under one roof with the FBI. Every one of the three-letter agency, state, county, local, federal, secret service layered on top of that adds extra security measures. Then, this massive intelligence effort across all the agencies, including Homeland Security, is probably also in touch with the social media platforms because they are the first eyes on what’s developing. Their algorithms are saying, “We’re seeing this, but not this” and then passing that all to law enforcement.
All this is critically important as we move forward. We have to pay attention to any attacks on the judge. The grand jurors are already targeted online, who indicted Trump. These guys want their identity. They want the identity already of the jury that’s going to be selected in this case. We have to watch that and secure those folks as well. … There’s no question that I would start from day one with physical security on this judge.
Santos bails on Trump rally, tells former prez to 'stay strong'
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., didn’t stick around long at the small but intense protests downtown. He bailed about half an hour before Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s organized rally was supposed to begin after being swarmed with reporters asking for comment.
Among the few things he said during his brief appearance, according to NBC News, was a message for Trump: “Stay strong. The people are with him."
Counterprotesters drown out short-lived Marjorie Taylor Greene appearance
Well, that was quick. After a brief address to a pro-Trump rally in lower Manhattan that appeared to be filled with more counterprotesters and members of the media than actual Trump supporters, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene left the scene in a somewhat chaotic moment.
'Trump or death': Why this New Yorker heeded Trump's call for protests
Ahead of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's pro-Trump rally, I spoke to Dion Cini, a resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood. Waving a colossal “Trump or death flag," Cini was part of the relatively modest contingency of Trump supporters who showed up at the lower Manhattan rally.
Cini said that he was inspired to come out because he’s incensed that the Manhattan DA is allowing crime to run rampant in New York (he’s not) while pursuing Trump charges. Cini called the indictment “the fourth insurrection” against Trump but didn’t specify what the previous ones were. He said he expects the indictment to boost Trump in the polls by “20 points.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene arrives to pro-Trump rally
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, heeding Trump's call for protests against his indictment in New York, has arrived in lower Manhattan.
As NBC News' Ben Collins reports:
Why Team Trump's potential push for a change in venue is ludicrous
As MSNBC legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg told MSNBC moments ago:
We tried a 9/11 conspirator in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia — Alexandria, about three miles from the Pentagon — and we were able to assemble a fair jury. So, you’re not looking for a jury that’s never heard of Donald Trump or Stormy Daniels or hush money payments. You’re not looking for a jury or jurors that have no opinions. You’re looking for jurors who can be fair, who can sit in the courtroom, listen to the evidence, and follow the instructions of the judge. That’s all you’re looking for.
In a city with millions of people, the notion that you can’t find fair jurors in Manhattan is ludicrous. The Trump team may move for a change in venue. I don’t give that much chance of success. ...
The trial has to be fair and the judge has to make sure that he runs a dignified court room and decorum is important. It also has to be fair for the government. We care a lot about a defendant’s rights to a fair trial, properly so. But those parties are entitled to a fair trial: the defendant and the government. And this judge has a reputation for doing exactly that.
NYC mayor wants Marjorie Taylor Greene’s 'best behavior.' Good luck with that.
Ahead of this morning’s Trump indictment protest led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, New York City Mayor Eric Adams had a simple bit of advice for her: “Be on your best behavior."
A solid recommendation, you’d think. Well, Greene took offense to that, using her official congressional Twitter account to blast Adams as “delusional” and “trying to intimidate, threaten, and stop” her from protesting. It’s truly a remarkable flop from the Georgian, given that at no point did Adams do any of those things.
She also pondered if Adams would “weaponize his government” against her, which is honestly a remarkable bit of synergy with the House GOP’s Word of the Year. Unfortunately, this is about as good as her behavior gets, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a chill symposium of ideas taking place at her rally.
Quiet so far ahead of Marjorie Taylor Greene's pro-Trump rally
Good morning from Collect Pond Park in lower Manhattan, where Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia is expected to headline a pro-Trump rally at 10:30 a.m. ET. The park has been split into pro- and anti-Trump sections and it’s fairly quiet so far, with activists in small numbers on both sides.
There are competing “F--- Trump” and “Trump or death” banners anchoring the different factions on each sides, but so far the media seems to significantly outnumber rallygoers.
What’s interesting about Todd Blanche joining Trump's legal team
For all of Trump’s predictability in some areas — his recent Truth Social posts, chock full of stock phrases, almost read like a MAGA bingo card — the former president still has the capacity to surprise us. And he gave us a classically Trump surprise yesterday with the news that former federal prosecutor and well-known New York defense lawyer Todd Blanche would be joining his defense team in the Manhattan DA’s case.
But what matters about Blanche is not whether his addition is intended to sideline Joe Tacopina, who could have a conflict of interest given his prior consultation with Stormy Daniels. Nor is it his prior representations of two Trump allies: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Rudy Giuliani associate Igor Fruman.
Rather, what makes Blanche’s new role fascinating is twofold.
First, for as much as Blanche’s success with Manafort and Fruman likely impressed Trump, the biggest factor might have been one of Blanche’s current clients: Boris Epshteyn, whose phone was seized last year by federal law enforcement in the Justice Department’s ongoing Jan. 6 investigation. Epshteyn is said to have told people he thought Blanche was the right choice to represent the former president, according to The New York Times. That Epshteyn, whose communications with other Trump lawyers has been a subject of inquiry in the DOJ’s Mar-a-Lago records investigation, continues to hold so much sway with Trump is itself revealing.
Second, Blanche essentially has acknowledged he had to resign from his law partnership in order to represent Trump. On one hand, that makes sense: Many prominent law firms skew liberal, on the whole, and in a post-Jan. 6 world, America’s most prestigious law firms have been particularly skittish about Trump-adjacent personnel, as some former administration lawyers learned to their dismay while job hunting. Even Trump’s $3 million Florida Man, former Florida solicitor general Chris Kise, had to leave his law practice to represent Trump.
Yet Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, where Blanche was a partner, not only allowed Blanche to represent Manafort and Fruman, but also remains home to Nicholas Gravante, who represented former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg through his January sentencing after he pled guilty to 15 criminal counts, including tax fraud. And while I cannot prove it, my guess is that for reputational reasons, Cadwalader drew the line at Trump himself. While Big Law is hardly America writ large, could its growing allergy to Trump be a sign of things to come? Watch this space.
We should finally learn the actual charges against Trump today
Atmospheric questions abound ahead of Trump’s arraignment: Will he be handcuffed? Will we see his mug shot? Is he going to make a big speech to cameras outside of court?
That’ll all be interesting. But the main event, I would submit, is that we expect to learn the actual charges that are bringing Trump to court today. Charges of falsifying business records in connection with covering up the Stormy Daniels hush payment are a good bet. But under what legal theory? A felony business records charge requires not only proof of intent to defraud but an effort to commit or conceal another crime in the process.
How Alvin Bragg’s office plans to prove such a charge — if indeed that is the charge, or one of them — is an open question that we should have a better grip on later today.
Read more on what we can expect today here: