Will They Make A Reality Show SitCom Out Of His Prison Time?
Trump is foolishly still fighting with popular Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. He went on a right-wing radio show and told host Doug Wagner that "With Kim, I helped her get elected. I would say that without me she would not be governor." It’s not unlike his shtik with DeSantis: basically ‘I endorsed you and you won because of me so you should be my slave now.’ And now he’s getting into the same tussle with Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was Trump’s press secretary and the daughter of a former Arkansas governor. Trump endorsed her and cleared the field for her and now he’s furious that she’s being neutral in the presidential primary.
But these spats with MAGAts who prefer DeSantis to him are meaningless compared to the cascade of judicial rulings that have been coming down against him this week. Let’s start with U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing Trump’s cases with E. Jean Carroll. He not only denied Trump a new trial, he called Trump a rapist! Aaron Blake reported that “after Trump was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll in a civil suit, “his legal team and his defenders lodged a frequent talking point. Despite Carroll’s claims that Trump had raped her, they noted, the jury stopped short of saying he committed that particular offense. Instead, jurors opted for a second option: sexual abuse.
“This was a rape claim, this was a rape case all along, and the jury rejected that— made other findings,” his lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said outside the courthouse.
A judge has now clarified that this is basically a legal distinction without a real-world difference. He says that what the jury found Trump did was in fact rape, as commonly understood.
The filing from Judge Lewis Kaplan came as Trump’s attorneys have sought a new trial and have argued that the jury’s $5 million verdict against Trump in the civil suit was excessive. The reason, they argue, is that sexual abuse could be as limited as the “groping” of a victim’s breasts.Kaplan roundly rejected Trump’s motion Tuesday, calling that argument “entirely unpersuasive.”
“The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape,’ ” Kaplan wrote.
He added: “Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.”
Kaplan said New York’s legal definition of “rape” is “far narrower” than the word is understood in “common modern parlance.”
The former requires forcible, unconsented-to penetration with one’s penis. But he said that the conduct the jury effectively found Trump liable for— forced digital penetration— meets a more common definition of rape. He cited definitions offered by the American Psychological Association and the Justice Department, which in 2012 expanded its definition of rape to include penetration “with any body part or object.”
Kaplan also flatly rejected the Trump team’s suggestion that the conduct Trump was found liable for might have been as limited as groping of the breasts.
The reason? Trump was not accused of that, so the only alleged offense that would have qualified as “sexual abuse” was forced digital penetration. Beyond that, Trump was accused of putting his mouth on Carroll’s mouth and pulling down her tights, which Kaplan noted were not treated as alleged sexual abuse at trial.
“The jury’s finding of sexual abuse therefore necessarily implies that it found that Mr. Trump forcibly penetrated her vagina,” Kaplan wrote, calling it the “only remaining conclusion.”
Kaplan also noted that the verdict form did not ask the jury to decide exactly what conduct Trump had committed, and that neither prosecutors nor Trump’s lawyers had requested it to do so.
“Mr. Trump’s attempt to minimize the sexual abuse finding as perhaps resting on nothing more than groping of Ms. Carroll’s breasts through her clothing is frivolous,” Kaplan wrote.
He added that the jury clearly found that Trump had “ ‘raped’ her in the sense of that term broader than the New York Penal Law definition.”
On top of that, Wednesday also saw Trump’s bid to move his state case in regard to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records regarding Stormy Daniels to a federal court, rejected by a federal judge who told Trump the Manhattan Supreme Court will see him on March 25.
More of a threat to Trump, of course, are the federal cases that could put him in prison. Yesterday afternoon, CNN reported that Trump’s lawyers are trying to figure out who ratted him out. “The potential charges listed in the target letter,” wrote Jeremy Herb and Kristen Holmes, “suggest the special counsel will prosecute a bigger case against Trump than the former president’s team was expecting, given the evidence they are aware of. That has led to questions if there is evidence or testimony they don’t know about… [Trump’s] political action committee has underwritten legal costs for multiple witnesses, which has given them some insight into what has been shared with Smith’s team.
The target letter cites three statutes that Trump could be charged with: pertaining to deprivation of rights; conspiracy to commit an offense against or defraud the United States; and tampering with a witness…
The Justice Department has been known in the investigation to be examining possible violations of the law around conspiracy and obstruction of the congressional proceeding on January 6, which is part of the witness tampering law, CNN previously reported following a Justice Department search of a Trump administration adviser’s home.
If Smith indicts Trump in the January 6 case, it would mark the third time that Trump has been criminally charged this year, and the second time by the special counsel. The Manhattan district attorney indicted Trump in March on charges of falsifying business records, and Smith charged Trump last month over the mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Trump has pleaded not guilty in both cases.
At one time, Matt Gaetz would have wanted very much to be a guest on Charlie Sykes’ radio show and Charlie Sykes would have wanted Matt Gaetz as a guest. Now the two influential Republicans are on opposite sides, although I think Sykes, editor-in-chief of The Bulwark, may no longer consider himself a Republican. He says he voted for Evan McMullen in 2016 and for Biden in 2020. As for Gaetz, he’s definitely more a Trumpist and MAGAt than a Republican.
Gaetz, who is still being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for sex trafficking a minor, said yesterday that he’s introducing a bill to defund Jack Smith’s investigations into Señor Trumpanzee. Good luck getting the Senate to take that up. If you click on the image you’ll be able to listen to 25 seconds of his opposite world nonsense.
Trump has been asking his allies in Congress to make moves like this, not just puppet party leaders like McCarthy and Stefanik but also shit-stirrers like Traitor Greene and Gaetz. As you can imagine, Sykes had a very different perspective. Writing at The Bulwark really Wednesday morning he noted that “The wheels of justice grind exceeding slow, but it now seems likely that within a few weeks, the twice impeached, defeated ex-president will face four separate criminal indictments. This will be on top of the conviction of the Trump Organizations on 17 felony counts, including tax fraud, and a federal jury finding that the ex-president had raped and defamed E. Jean Carroll. [Hours after Sykes wrote this, a judge denied Trump’s frivolous request for a new trial/] By any rational measure, Trump’s disgrace is absolute, comprehensive, and about to get far worse. As Tom Nichols noted on our podcast yesterday: ‘It is a ghastly reality that the only job left that Donald Trump could get in this country is president of the United States.’ And yet, his grip on the GOP seems stronger than ever.”
Last year, the House January 6 Committee declared that there was sufficient evidence to charge Trump with four crimes: obstructing an official proceeding (Title 18 Section 1512(c).); conspiracy to defraud the government (Title 18 Section 371.); making knowingly and willfully materially false statements to the federal government (Title 18 Section 1001); and inciting or assisting an insurrection (Title 18 Section 2383).
And now here comes Jack Smith, with a set of indictments that will likely overshadow everything that has come before. (ABC reports that the target letter mentions three federal statutes: conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States, deprivation of rights under color of law, and tampering with a witness, victim or an informant.)
On Tuesday evening, Benjamin Wittes, probably the savviest legal journalist in the country, predicted that Trump would be indicted today and that the next text we’ll see will be tomorrow. He outlined how he came up with this:
Let’s start with some working assumptions: After his experience last time of Trump publicly disclosing the fact of the indictment while it was still under seal, Special Counsel Jack Smith will want to minimize the amount of time the indictment is sealed— a period of time in which Trump can talk about it but the public can’t read it.
I think we can also assume that Smith will want to minimize the amount of time between the target letter and the indictment itself. The reason for the target letter is to give Trump a fair opportunity to come into the grand jury if he chooses (he will not so choose, but that’s his decision) and his lawyers an opportunity to meet with prosecutors to try to talk them out of proceedings. Once that opportunity has been meaningfully offered, there is no reason not to move quickly— and every reason to go forward expeditiously. The longer Smith waits, the longer Trump has to lie uncontradicted.
We basically know three things, two of them from Trump, and one of them from the press. From Trump we know (1) that he received the target letter on Sunday, and that (2) it gave him four days to come into the grand jury. From the press, we know (3) that one of Smith’s senior prosecutors was spending quality time with the grand jury last week.
This last fact is important, because it suggests that prosecutors may have already presented their case to the grand jury and have held off only on having the grand jury vote on whether to hand up the charges. In other words, it suggests that the gun is loaded and the safety is off. They don’t need any additional time or steps before pulling the trigger.
Counting four days from Sunday would bring us to Thursday evening. In fact, however, Smith will know well before Thursday evening whether Trump is coming in (he is not). A visit by a former president to the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse would require significant Secret Service coordination. It couldn’t be a surprise pop-in. It would have to be arranged both with the special counsel’s office and with the court itself.
So Smith will not be sitting at his desk glancing at his watch waiting for Trump to show up as business hours on Thursday wane. If he were to proceed to a grand jury consideration of the charges on Thursday afternoon, he could do so knowing that he will have honored his promise to hold off for four days.
So I’m thinking an indictment on Thursday or Friday is the most likely scenario. My assumption is that Smith will once again proceed under seal, though he will do so while prepared to move to unseal the charges the moment Trump announces them— which Trump will do immediately. This means the indictment will likely become public on Friday.
Now I’d like to hear Wittes guess how long it will take Trump to expire if he’s brought before a firing squad, offered a last cigarette and shot.