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Did Trump Blow Up His Hush-Money Trial Before It’s Even Begun?

There might be a fatal flaw in the former president’s defense arguments.

Donald Trump sits at a table with his hands folded
Angela Weiss/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s legal defense in his hush-money trial may be doomed before it begins.

Trump is on trial for 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records after his lawyer and fixer at the time, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels from speaking about her affair with the former president. Trump claims that those payments were simply part of Cohen’s ordinary fees.

Ex-prosecutor Andrew Weissman wrote on X (formerly Twitter) Sunday that even if Trump tries to claim that those payments were actually legal fees, there are notes made at the time that are more specific.

“Trump’s latest defense, which we will see at trial I’m sure, that the 34 business records were not false because they were legal payments (reimbursing his lawyer Cohen for making the $130,000 hush money payment) is BELIED by contemporaneous notations that the payments were for ongoing legal services rendered during a certain month,” Weissman explained. “Oops.”

But Trump’s legal team isn’t exactly on the ball, as all of their blatant attempts to delay proceedings in this trial have been shot down. One attorney, Alina Habba, has claimed that Trump’s being required to attend every day of his hush-money trial, per state law, is a violation of due process, and has tried to excuse away his dozing off in court by saying he “reads a lot.”

Presiding Judge Juan Merchan has also refused to let the team know who the prosecution’s first three witnesses are, lest Trump try to attack the witnesses on social media.

This is Trump’s first criminal trial, and he’s under a gag order that prevents him from speaking about court staff or their families. It hasn’t prevented him from attacking about Merchan’s daughter, though, and he has a contempt of court hearing this week about it.

Now, as jury selection ends and his trial begins in earnest, the proceedings aren’t going to be an easy experience for the former president. The witness list includes his former employees, his White House aide Hope Hicks, Daniels, and his former fixer Cohen. If Cohen’s words are anything to go by, Trump and his lawyers have reason to “be worried.”

Trump Issues Dangerous Warning to Followers Before Hush-Money Trial

The former president urged his supporters to protest on his behalf.

Donald Trump gestures as he speaks
Yuki Iwamura/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump extended a dangerous message to his Truth Social followers on Monday: descend upon U.S. courthouses.

The post, which also lambasted American university students for a wave of pro-Palestinian protests last week, came mere hours before the GOP presidential nominee was scheduled to return to his New York hush money on trial in New York, where opening statements are expected to begin.

“Why are Palestinian protesters, and even rioters, allowed to roam the Cities, scream, shout, sit, block traffic, enter buildings, not get permits, and basically do whatever they want including threatening Supreme Court Justices right in front of their homes, and yet people who truly LOVE our Country, and want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, are not allowed to ‘Peacefully Protest,’ and are rudely and systematically shut down and ushered off to far away ‘holding areas,’ essentially denying them their Constitutional Rights,” Trump questioned, referring to dozens of protests during which hundreds of students were arrested and not allowed to practice their First Amendment Rights.

“America Loving Protesters should be allowed to protest at the front steps of Courthouses, all over the Country, just like it is allowed for those who are destroying our Country on the Radical Left, a two tiered system of justice,” Trump continued. “Free Speech and Assembly has been ‘CHILLED’ for USA SUPPORTERS. GO OUT AND PEACEFULLY PROTEST. RALLY BEHIND MAGA. SAVE OUR COUNTRY! ‘THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF.’”

Trump’s comments are eerily similar to those that prompted many of his supporters to descend on Washington, D.C., in January 2021. That rally eventually turned into the January 6 insurrection. Fortunately, turnout has been much lower this time around.

Trump is accused of using former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The trial is expected to last several weeks. He faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Judge Issues Chilling Warning About a Second January 6 Attack

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan noted that another insurrection is completely possible.

Donald Trump supporters enter the Capitol during the January 6 attack
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A Washington, D.C., judge issued a dire warning Friday about the effects of the January 6 attack.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sentenced Scott Miller, a former Proud Boys leader  who fought with multiple police officers while trying to storm the Capitol building, to 66 months in prison. This is one of the longest sentences that Chutkan has given. She cited Miller’s actions at the Capitol, as well as evidence that he held Nazi beliefs and thought that Washington, D.C., residents should be executed. 

Previously, the longest sentences Chutkan had handed down related to the insurrection were 63 months long, given to two other violent offenders at the Capitol. Chutkan described the storming of the Capitol as “close to as serious a crisis as this nation has ever faced.” 

“It can happen again,” Chutkan, who is expected to preside over Donald Trump’s criminal trial for trying to overturn the 2020 election, said Friday. “Extremism is alive and well in this country. Threats of violence continue unabated.”

Those threats have become normalized in Republican discourse, with right-wing figures across the country invoking violence and urging their supporters to arm themselves. The man behind it all, Donald Trump, has yet to face any consequences thanks to the Supreme Court holding up his case over questions of presidential immunity. 

Since the January 6 attack, Trump has not toned down his own rhetoric, saying that 2024 could be the “last election we ever have”—and his far-right supporters could try to make that a reality. Not to mention that many Republicans still believe in conspiracies about the Capitol riot, a sign that the right isn’t concerned about inciting political violence, let alone the violence itself. 

In short, Miller’s sentence shows that the consequences for political violence in the U.S. right now only come after the fact, and do not deal with those who incite it beforehand. This does not bode well for the aftermath of the 2024 elections, no matter how they go.

Guess Where Marjorie Taylor Greene Has Suddenly Gotten Popular?

The Georgia Republican has amassed a fan base in Russia.

Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to reporters
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s conspiracy theories, vitriolic language, and xenophobia have made her a darling of the right and a pariah on the left—and now, she’s gained admiration from Russian state television.

Greene’s attempts to block aid to Ukraine, her criticisms of NATO, and her beliefs that the United States should withdraw from the alliance have drawn plaudits from TV hosts in Russia, The Daily Beast reported Friday.

“She believes that Americans should help Putin win. Yes, you heard that right. To help him win in Ukraine,” says host Evgeny Popov in one clip.

It’s a new development for Greene, who previously was mocked in the country for confusing gazpacho with Gestapo and claiming that Jewish space lasers caused the California wildfires. Russian TV even said her words were proof of “mental debilitation” in Western politics. But Greene may be happy to know that her echoing of Russian propaganda in the House of Representatives has paid off, despite the fact that the issue of aid to Ukraine has divided the Republican Party. It looks like former Representative Ken Buck was right on the money when he called her “Moscow Marjorie.”

Some experts have even suggested that Russia is buying off American politicians just like they do in Europe. Greene wouldn’t be the only Republican to spew Kremlin talking points, but she seems to be the most popular so far. As the new darling of Russian state TV, she’s filling a void left by Speaker Mike Johnson, who in recent days has come out in support of aid in Ukraine after months of blocking it. Johnson was so beloved on Russian television for blocking aid to Ukraine that one TV host called him “Our Johnson.”

Green also appears to have usurped erstwhile Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose February interview with Putin fell flat, ending Russian TV’s love affair with him.

Russia’s praise of Greene, and other conservative personalities before her, is just further proof that post–Donald Trump, a large part of the Republican Party has pledged its allegiance to Vladimir Putin.

Read more about Russia's influence in the U.S.:

Trump May Need to Find a Less Shady Backer for His Fraud Bond

New York Attorney General Letitia James does not believe Knight Specialty Insurance is up to the task.

Letitia James speaks
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

New York state Attorney General Letitia James on Friday asked the judge presiding over Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial to reject the former president’s bond, which has been dogged by reports of the insolvency of the company backing it.

Earlier this month, James gave Trump and Knight Specialty Insurance, the insurance company that underwrote his civil fraud case bond, 10 days to guarantee that the $175 million surety could be justified. Those 10 days are now up.

Trump and Knight Specialty Insurance, which is not licensed as a surety in New York state, could not prove the surety “meets the requirements of trustworthiness and competence,” according to a memo from James’s office,  and thus failed to demonstrate that they would be good for the $175 million. 

Screenshot of a tweet

It’s not exactly a surprise, given that the bond would account for more than a third of Knight Specialty’s assets and more than its surplus funds. The company may also have not actually legally agreed to pay the bond for Trump. Trump has struggled to come up with the money to pay the various legal fees against him on his own; he enlisted the insurer Chubb to loan him the $91 million needed for the E. Jean Carroll defamation judgment.

As a result, James wants to give Trump a week to post another bond, this one backed by someone more trustworthy than the “king of subprime car loans.” If he cannot, James may begin seizing his assets to cover the judgment against him. 

Judge Arthur Engoron is set to hear arguments on the surety’s validity on Monday. Trump, meanwhile, won’t be far: His criminal hush-money trial, which now has a full jury, is set to proceed in New York the same day.

Read about the shady businessman backing Trump's bond:

New Evidence Shows Matt Gaetz Might Be Skeezier Than We Thought

The House Ethics Committee has received a new statement in its investigation into the Florida representative.

Matt Gaetz looks down
Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Matt Gaetz isn’t having a great week. It just got worse.

The House Ethics Committee, which is investigating Gaetz for illegal drug use as a member of Congress, received a sworn statement alleging that Gaetz attended a 2017 party in Florida where cocaine and MDMA use occurred, ABC News reported Friday. The statement also alleges that the girl at the center of a Department of Justice investigation into Gaetz attended the party and was seen naked.

The Justice Department began investigating Gaetz in 2020 over allegations that the Florida representative had paid a convicted sex trafficker to have sex with the girl, who was 17 at the time. It concluded the probe in 2023 and declined to charge Gaetz.

Gaetz has denied using drugs as a member of Congress. But, according to Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin, he has bragged to co-workers about taking erectile dysfunction medicine–energy cocktails to “go all night.” He also allegedly, while standing on the House floor, showed colleagues nude photos and videos of women he had slept with.

The Florida Republican made headlines earlier this week after he and Wisconsin Representative Derrick Van Orden traded insults amid House GOP chaos over foreign aid packages. He also drew the ire of another colleague, New York Representative Mike Lawler, who on Thursday charged him and his “seven useful idiots” with sowing division in the Republican caucus by moving to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy, for his part, has pointed to his refusal to shut down the ethics investigation into Gaetz as the motivation behind Gaetz’s October motion to vacate. Gaetz has admitted as much privately.

Whatever the ethics probe turns up, it’s clear that his colleagues in the House are sick of him.

Truth Social Exec Is Epically Destroyed Over Tanking Stock

Devin Nunes complained that Trump Media & Technology Group was the victim of “naked short selling.”

Devin Nunes gestures as he speaks
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Trump Media & Technology Group CEO Devin Nunes got told off Friday for his company’s terrible stock performance in a blistering statement that puts Donald Trump’s angry Truth Social barbs to shame. 

Nunes, a former congressman who helms Trump’s social media venture, wrote a letter to the CEO of NASDAQ, Adena Friedman, asking her to prevent “naked short selling,” a technique used to try to benefit from an asset declining in value. Nunes asked Friedman to make sure trading firms disclose whether they are short-selling $DJT stock.

Truth Social’s stock value has plummeted since it debuted on the stock market a few weeks ago. As of Friday, it is worth about $35 a share, half of its initial price.

Citadel Securities, one of the firms named in the letter, had some choice words in response to Nunes’s complaint.   

“Devin Nunes is the proverbial loser who tries to blame ‘naked short selling’ for his falling stock price. Nunes is exactly the type of person Donald Trump would have fired on The Apprentice. If he worked for Citadel Securities, we would fire him, as ability and integrity are at the center of everything we do,” the firm said in a statement, the likes of which is not usually heard on Wall Street. 

Screenshot of a tweet

Trump Media fired back with a statement of their own. 

“Citadel Securities, a corporate behemoth that has been fined and censured for an incredibly wide range of offenses including issues related to naked short selling, and is world famous for screwing over everyday retail investors at the behest of other corporations, is the last company on earth that should lecture anyone on ‘integrity,’” a spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.

Naked short selling, an illegal practice, differs from conventional short selling, which is when traders borrow stock shares before selling them, hoping to profit later by buying back the stock at a lower price. In naked short selling, a trader never follows through on the promise to borrow. This can severely hurt a company’s stock price, and there is no shortage of people who would want to see Trump’s stock fail. 

But the former president’s social media venture might not need the help. While its stock price was slightly up today, it has plummeted since its initial public offering a few weeks ago, hurt by the news that two of its investors were arrested for insider trading as well as poor revenue numbers reported from its SEC filings. Trump is legally barred from selling any shares in Trump Media for six months without board approval, and who knows what the company will be worth by the time he decides to sell.

Read more about Trump's media venture:

If Trump’s Sitting in His Hush-Money Trial, Who the Heck Is Posting?

The former president did not have access to his phone in court.

Donald Trump sits with his hands folded in front of him
Sarah Yenesel/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump fired off an all-caps rant on Truth Social Friday about his presidential immunity Supreme Court case—despite sitting in the courtroom for his hush-money trial as the posts went up.

Trump complained bitterly about the importance of presidential immunity to protect sitting and former presidents, one of his go-to lines of argument as insists that he should be shielded from criminal prosecutions.

Screenshot of a tweet

Trump simply can’t stop posting, despite having been warned by the judge presiding over the trial to stay off his phone, both inside and outside the courtroom. And it’s starting to hurt his case: On Thursday, Judge Juan Merchan refused to provide Trump’s lawyers with a list of the prosecution’s first three witnesses. 

This isn’t the first time Trump’s account has mysteriously posted while the former president himself was indisposed. During his defamation trial in January, his account made 30 posts disparaging E. Jean Carroll while he sat in court without access to his phone.  

If it’s not Trump behind these morning social media screeds, then who is it? It may be Dan Scavino, former White House deputy chief of staff and current adviser to the Trump campaign. Scavino ghostwrote many of Trump’s tweets during his time as president, and even though Trump no longer posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, the two maintain a close relationship that may include sharing access to Trump’s social media accounts. Trump recently joked that Scavino “could say, ‘I don’t like you voters, I don’t like you at all. I’m fed up with you. I can’t stand you.’ And that’s the end of my political career.” 

Regardless of who’s actually doing the posting, Trump’s Truth Social account has gotten him in trouble in a number of courtrooms as of late. He’s been accused by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of violating a gag order against attacking witnesses in the hush-money trial. Like any seasoned poster, though, Trump (or whoever he shares his account with) keeps posting through it. Maybe he’s just trying to juice the stock

Read about the case Trump is more concerned with:

RFK Jr. Begged to Drop Out by the One Group Where He Was Successful

Environmentalists are uniting against the independent presidential candidate.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at a podium
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Before he was an anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spent nearly 30 years working as a senior attorney for an environmental activist group. Now those former colleagues are urging voters to steer clear of the presidential candidate. 

Nearly 50 of Kennedy’s colleagues from his time at the Natural Resources Defense Council  have come out against his candidacy, taking out full-page newspaper ads expected to run over the weekend in six swing states, The New York Times reported Friday.

“A vote for RFK Jr. is a vote to destroy that progress and put Trump back in the White House,” says the ad, which will run in Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

The ad comes as several other national environmental organizations wrote an open letter criticizing Kennedy for his political turn. 

“Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is not an environmentalist. He is a dangerous conspiracy theorist and science denier whose agenda would be a disaster for our communities and the planet,” the letter states.

Former colleagues and mentors were even more blunt when speaking to the Times. Gina McCarthy, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama, slammed Kennedy as an environmentalist “no more.”

“He’s against science, he’s against vaccines, he talks jibber jabber on climate. I don’t know what he stands for,” she said.

John Hamilton Adams, who co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and hired Kennedy to represent the group, said in a statement, “I mentored Bobby as a young environmentalist. I do not recognize the person he has become. His actions are a betrayal to our environment.”

In response, Kennedy told the Times that the environmental movement “is making a mistake to settle for crumbs that have been given to us by the Biden administration.”

In another blow, Joe Biden was endorsed by 15 members of the Kennedy family at a rally in Philadelphia Thursday, following a White House visit in March.

“We can say today, with no less urgency, that our rights and freedoms are once again in peril,” Kerry Kennedy, one of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s sisters, said. “That is why we all need to come together in a campaign that should unite not only Democrats but all Americans, including Republicans and independents, who believe in what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.”

Kennedy’s candidacy seems to be serving Donald Trump and the Republican Party more than anything else. His donors skew heavily to the right, and pro-MAGA ideologues keep publicly praising him. While a fundraiser in Los Angeles for his campaign earlier this month was packed with environmentalists, fans of the Kennedy political dynasty, and wealthy New Age hippies, the pushback from his family and environmental colleagues could discourage those supporters.

Maybe RFK Jr. should have stuck to environmental law:

The Unexpected Way Trump’s Hush-Money Trial Is Hobbling His Campaign

Trump’s mandatory courtroom attendance has thrown a wrench into fundraising.

Donald Trump grimaces as he sits with his hands folded
Sarah Yenesel/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump is finding campaigning for the 2024 presidential election more difficult than his last time around, and his criminal trial in Manhattan is a big reason why.

Jury selection began this week, which means that Trump is required to be in the courtroom. He’d much rather be out on the campaign trail fundraising, and as The Daily Beast reported Friday, it’s starting to have financial consequences.

The former president, accused of a hush-money scheme involving porn star Stormy Daniels, has already missed a major House GOP fundraiser in Texas because of the trial schedule, and will likely be forced to cancel on similar events for the same reason. His legal fees have driven him to all kinds of shady grifting, and Joe Biden continues to outraise him.

Trump’s campaign has attempted to bridge the donation gap by scheduling fundraisers in nearby states. Trump will use his weekend outside the courtroom to attend a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, and the campaign has scheduled another in New Jersey on May 11.

Media attention hasn’t been a problem for Trump, even as he spends most of the day in a courtroom. He’s been posting on Truth Social so frequently that the judge has asked him to put away his phone, and a campaign stunt at a bodega made headlines. But for any candidate, especially one as cash-strapped and with as much prior name recognition as Trump, funding is the lifeblood of a campaign. With the trial now scheduled to run longer than the originally planned two months, his money problems won’t be going away anytime soon.