Tuesday Reads: AnticipationPosted: March 21, 2023 Filed under: just because 19 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!!
It doesn’t look like there will be an indictment of Trump today, but the sense of excitement at the likelihood that it will happen this week is palpable in today’s news and on social media. Unfortunately, there’s no indication this morning that Trump will be arrested today. New York City is preparing for possible civil unrest, but so far the protests Trump has been calling for haven’t materialized.
Jose Pagliery at The Daily Beast: A MAGA Lawyer’s Last-Ditch Effort to Kill a Trump Indictment.
A Manhattan grand jury’s indictment of Donald Trump has started to look like an inevitability, as cable news—and Trump himself—speculate that charges could drop any hour now. But a lawyer who’s played a bit part in a number of MAGA scandals has now come out of nowhere to try to derail the entire case.
On Monday, the grand jury heard shocking testimony from Rudy Giuliani lawyer Bob Costello, who once again tried to pin the blame for Trump’s hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels on a familiar fall guy: Michael Cohen.
For years, Costello has been a low-key yet crucial background character in Trumpworld. He investigated crimes at the Southern District of New York—the same legendary federal prosecutor’s office once led by Giuliani—and in the decades since, Costello has stood by the former mayor’s side as Giuliani became a MAGA movement celebrity, with Costello also becoming a sort of Forrest Gump for many of the biggest scandals in that world.
At one point, Costello was the key person pushing the FBI to investigate Hunter Biden’s laptop. At another point, he advised Trump’s buddy, Steve Bannon, to not cooperate with the Jan. 6 Committee. A colleague described Costello as “a MAGA guy all the way.”
But Costello also briefly interacted with Cohen, the one-time Trump fixer who took the blame for the Stormy Daniels payment and who has now become the Manhattan District Attorney’s star witness against Trump.
It’s that relationship with Cohen and Giuliani that placed Costello at the Manhattan DA’s offices for three hours on Monday afternoon.
So what happened?
Costello indicated Monday that he was there to explain why a half-dozen damning emails seem to indicate a wide-ranging conspiracy reaching deep into the Trump White House in early 2018—emails that appear to show the American president using Giuliani to keep Cohen from cooperating with the feds.
But instead of playing along, two dozen grand jurors heard Costello tear apart Cohen by portraying him as a former client and a desperate liar willing to do anything to avoid prison.
Costello, who spoke to reporters on a Manhattan sidewalk after his testimony, described how he hijacked the closed-door grand jury proceedings on Monday. The ex-prosecutor said he refused to answer a Manhattan prosecutor’s narrow questions and used them as an opportunity to flip the script, telling grand jurors there was a ton of evidence they weren’t being shown by the Manhattan DA.
“They’d ask me a limited question based on these six emails, and I would volunteer information that I thought the grand jury needed to hear,” he said. “My only mission there today was to tell the truth about what Michael Cohen was saying during any point in time when I was representing him in April 2018.”
“I told the grand jury that this guy couldn’t tell the truth if you put a gun to his head,” he added.
There’s much more about Costello at the link. The DA had Cohen there to give rebuttal testimony if necessary, but he wasn’t called. It appears that the grand jurors weren’t impressed with what Costello told them. He complained that none of them requested a copy of a packet of “evidence” he brought with him.
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman joined Michel Cohen on MSNBC Monday following a press conference by Donald Trump ally Bob Costello who appeared before a Manhattan grand jury.
As a possible indictment hangs over Trump, the district attorney’s office asked the former president if he wanted to speak out in his defense to the grand jury. He declined but he sent Costello instead. Costello then said that he provided stacks of “evidence” about Cohen that show he was desperate and willing to do anything to get out of potential prison.
But the reality is a different matter, according to Cohen. Speaking to Ari Melber, he and Akerman explained that the special counsel’s report on the Russia investigation revealed a lot of information about the exchanges between Cohen and Costello, including the attempt by Trump allies to keep him from flipping.
“I start with the Mueller report because the Mueller report laid out a witness-tampering plot by Donald Trump, basically to keep Michael in line with Donald Trump,” said Akerman, saying that it went through Rudy Giuliani and Bob Costello….
Melber put up a headline saying Costello contacted one of Trump’s lawyers to see, allegedly, if he could arrange for a pardon for Cohen. He asked why something like that matters.
“Well, that’s all part of the story,” Akerman explained. “It really starts on April 9th when the search warrant is executed and only a few days after that Donald Trump calls him according to the Mueller Report and he can confirm this and told him that, you know, he was just checking in to see if he was okay and he encouraged Michael to hang in there. Then he got calls from other people, friends of Donald Trump, who called up and basically told him to keep in line, including Allen Weisselberg who I believe also called him during that period of time. One of the people that was involved in cooking the books.”
Akerman continued: “What’s wrong with it is it comes to a point when Michael meets with Costello, who is talking to Rudy Giuliani, who is talking to Donald Trump, and it all comes back to Donald Trump that Michael is on board and that he’s staying with the team. And the next day, the day after that meeting occurs on April 17th, Donald Trump starts tweeting out that Michael’s not going to flip. That he’s with the team, that he’s on board.”
Melber categorized it as “an effort then to abuse government power to thwart a probe.”
This story gets really complicated! I had forgotten all that because Trump has committed so many crimes, its hard to keep track. Read more details at Raw Story.
Ryan Goodman and Make No Mistake, the Investigation of Donald Trump and the Stormy Daniels Scheme Is Serious.
Though it may be tempting to do so, it is a mistake to assess the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation of Donald Trump by comparing its relative severity with those of myriad other crimes possibly committed by him. That is not how state and federal prosecutors will — or should — be thinking about the issue of charging Mr. Trump, or for that matter, any other defendant….
Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, would be well within his discretion in determining that the answer to those questions is yes and therefore supports charging Mr. Trump in connection with any crimes arising from an effort to keep Stormy Daniels from disclosing an alleged affair to the electorate before the 2016 election.
This case is just one of a few ongoing criminal investigations into Mr. Trump’s conduct — including potentially a much larger financial investigation by the Manhattan district attorney — and the hush money scheme is no doubt the least serious of the crimes. It does not involve insurrection and undermining the peaceful transfer of power fundamental to our democracy, nor the retention of highly classified documents and obstruction of a national security investigation.
But does that mean the Manhattan criminal case is an example of selective prosecution — in other words, going after a political enemy for a crime that no one else would be charged with? Not by a long shot. To begin with, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was instrumental in the scheme, has already pleaded guilty to a federal crime emanating from this conduct and served time for it and other crimes. Federal prosecutors told the court that Mr. Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Mr. Trump (identified as “Individual 1”). It would be anathema to the rule of law not to prosecute the principal for the crime when a lower-level conspirator has been prosecuted.
Mr. Bragg, however, has had to pick up the slack, since federal prosecutors have not pursued such charges, for reasons that were clear under the corrupt influence of William Barr. Barr is reported to have shut down any follow-up investigation of Mr. Trump, but it remains murky as to why a criminal investigation or indictment of Mr. Trump has not been pursued under the current administration (Attorney General Merrick Garland has not explained publicly any reason for not pursuing this investigation).
As a state prosecutor, Mr. Bragg cannot bring the same federal campaign finance charge to which Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty. He has various options nonetheless. New York district attorney offices have often charged a crime of filing a false business record, both as a felony and as a misdemeanor. The crime is a clear felony if it is done with intent to aid or cover up another crime and otherwise is a misdemeanor.
Many folks have forgotten that it was Bill Barr who shut down the investigation of Trump for the crimes that Michael Cohen went to prison for. Read the rest at the NYT link.
CBS News: “Significant increase” in threats online ahead of possible Trump indictment.
Intelligence sources told CBS News that there’s been a “significant increase” in threats and violent rhetoric online from domestic violent extremists as former President Donald Trump claimed he will be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury.
But the sources said they have not identified any credible or direct threats to a person or property and they are continuing to monitor for credible specific threats.
Domestic violent extremists in online postings have warned that prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office would cross a red line if Trump is indicted and it would be met with more violence than the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the sources said. There have also been postings calling for civil war.
Sources said the threats are mostly aimed at law enforcement, judges and government officials in New York and elsewhere that domestic violent extremists perceive as participants in what they see as a political persecution of Trump.
A law enforcement source said they are seeing chatter online, with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg being mentioned in a lot of it, but not much mobilization toward violence or protests at this point. But law enforcement sources said the situation could change quickly….
The New York Police Department and other federal, state and local agencies are prepping security plans in and around the Manhattan criminal courthouse where Trump is likely to appear if he is charged.
HuffPost: Dismal Crowd At NYC Trump Rally Despite Ex-Prez’s Call For Action As Arrest Looms.
The leadership of the New York Young Republican Club, a far-right group, wants to be very clear: It’s actually a good thing that only a handful of Donald Trump supporters showed up to the pro-Trump rally held Monday outside the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
“We purposefully kept it small,” the club’s president, Gavin Wax, told HuffPost.
“I think there’s more cameras here than people,” observed Vish Burra, the club’s executive secretary and a staffer for Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).
“I would prefer a lower turnout,” said Troy Olson, sergeant-at-arms.
Turnout couldn’t have gotten much lower. Despite Trump’s call just a few days prior to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK” in anticipation that he would be charged criminally for years-old hush money payments to adult actor Stormy Daniels, members of the media vastly outnumbered Trump supporters at the rally.
The event on Monday, as a result, turned into a sort of media petting zoo for the endangered Republicans, some of whom sought out interview requests while others hid their faces out of fear of identification.
“I had like 50 cameras on me!” exclaimed one man, whose face was covered by an American flag mask, before sounding secretly thrilled that he’d likely be in the paper tomorrow.
One more from Alexander Burns at Politico: Stop Overthinking It: An Indictment Would Be Bad For Trump.
The widely expected indictment of Donald Trump in Manhattan has all the makings of a political disaster for him. It should be the climactic event in a yearslong saga involving marital infidelity, sleazy financial dealings and now the first-ever criminal charge against a former American president.
Naturally, the question arises: Could this actually be good for Trump? [….]
It is not irrational speculation. Americans have a history of sticking with flamboyant politicians with more than a passing relationship with the criminal justice system, from Marion Barry in Washington, D.C., to Edwin Edwards in Louisiana. Trump is a character from a similar mold, with an even tighter grip on his followers that verges at times on the quasi-mystical. At another point in his political life, perhaps Trump might have turned this case into rich fodder for a comeback.
Not now. For all his unusual strengths, Trump is defined these days more by his weaknesses — personal and political deficiencies that have grown with time and now figure to undermine any attempt to exploit the criminal case against him.
His base of support is too small, his political imagination too depleted and his instinct for self-absorption too overwhelming for him to marshal a broad, lasting backlash. His determination to look inward and backward has been a problem for his campaign even without the indictment. It will be a bigger one if and when he’s indicted.
Read the rest at Politico.
So that’s what’s happening with the expected Trump indictment as of now. It should be an exciting week ahead. I’ll add a few more important stories in the comment thread. Have a great Tuesday, Sky Dancers!
Quotes from the focus groups:
So many crimes…I can’t keep track.
Great coverage…thank you for this…History in the making!
It’s 2023. I can’t believe we’re still on about this shit.
This time with ref to all the lying Repub presidents. Recently re Ronzo bribing Iranians to help him win against Carter. We knew that. The Shrub lying us into war. We knew that. The Dump, lying and criming so much it might be easier to find something he did _not_ lie about. (I can’t think of anything!)
And instead of all these jerks being in jail, all we get is reports about yet more evidence.
The US legal system needs work. It’s turned into Dickens’ Chancery Court.
You’re right! It’s Bleak House. I feel like “a little mad old woman in a squeezed bonnet who is always in court, from its sitting to its rising, and always expecting some incomprehensible judgment to be given in her favour. Some say she really is, or was, a party to a suit, but no one knows for certain because no one cares.”
Yes! Miss Flite! Feels a bit like we’re all Miss Flite now.
Is anything ever going to happen? It’s always happening tomorrow, or next week, or next month.
well, I don’t know how he even gets lawyers these days, he screws them all over
“intentionally misled” Of course. What did they think would happen?
A musical interlude: Molly Tuttle playing clawhammer guitar
Thank you, Beata.