As expected, Trump chickens out of testifying

Serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) said that he wanted to testify at his trial but that the gag order prevented him from doing so. That was false, of course, and after the judge told him so, he said that he would testify but few believed he would have the guts to open himself up to cross-examination.

Sure enough, the defense rested their case today without him testifying. The judge scheduled closing arguments for the coming Tuesday after which the case goes to the jury.

It will be interesting to see if SSAT gives any reason for not testifying.

A big legal win for consumers

Before she became a Massachusetts US senator and while she was still an academic, Elizabeth Warren proposed the creation of a watchdog government agency that would look after the interests of consumers when it came to financial matters. That agency, known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, became a reality in 2010 during the Obama administration in the teeth of fierce opposition from business interest and the Republican party.

The CFPB was meant to ensure that people would be treated fairly by “banks, credit unions, securities firms, payday lenders, mortgage-servicing operations, foreclosure relief services, debt collectors, and other financial companies”. In order to ensure greater independence, the legislation creating the CFPB required that it be funded through the Federal Reserve and not through annual Congressional appropriations, where it could be eliminated during the budgetary process.
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More evidence that Rudy Giuliani is an idiot

A grand jury in Arizona recommended indictments against Rudy Giuliani and 17 other people for their involvement in the fake electors scheme they concocted to try and overturn the 2020 election.

Among the defendants in the Arizona case are 11 Arizona Republicans who submitted a document to Congress falsely declaring that Trump won in Arizona in the 2020 presidential election — including a former state GOP chair, a 2022 US Senate candidate and two sitting state lawmakers. The other defendants are Mike Roman, who was Trump’s director of election day operations, and four attorneys accused of organizing an attempt to use fake documents to persuade Congress not to certify Biden’s victory: John Eastman, Christina Bobb, Boris Epshteyn and Jenna Ellis.

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Senator Robert Menendez must be really stupid

On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart looks at the corruption trial of New Jersey senator Robert Menendez and his wife Nadine on charges that in his capacity as a senator, he did favors for individuals in exchange for bribes. Officials who raised their home found gold bars and stacks of cash all over the place.

As Stewart says, this shows that Menendez is kind of stupid to indulge in this kind of cartoonish corruption when he could learn from his colleagues in Congress how to make much more money such as using their access to inside information to make highly profitable stock trades with no risk of being arrested.

What political news reports should contain – but often do not

News reporters are supposed to use as a maxim that their articles provide answers to five questions: who, what, when, where, and why. But very often, they short-change the first four and go straight to the ‘why’ question, instead of first telling us the first four and letting us form our own opinions.

Some of the irritants are:

  1. In talking about upcoming elections, not giving the exact date but saying things like ‘next month’ or ‘three weeks from now’.
  2. In reporting election results, not giving us the actual votes or the percentages of at least the main candidates but instead just giving us the margin of victory or, even worse, using words such as ‘won easily’ or ‘won narrowly’ and similar formulations.
  3. In opinion polls, not giving us the numbers in favor of the candidates or positions but instead just telling us who or what is ahead. They also often omit important information as to whether the people polled were all citizens or registered voters or likely voters, and what the sample size (or margin of uncertainty) was.
  4. In economic news, they report in general terms, such as that ‘inflation has increased’ rather than telling us what the actual change was and whether it was year over year, or month over month, and what measure was used.
  5. When there is a vote in Congress in either body, they do not give the actual votes in favor or against the motion and the way that the parties split on it.
  6. In major legal decisions (say at the Supreme Court or Appeals Court levels where the result is by a panel of judges), not giving the votes in support of the majority and minority opinions and the names of the justices who voted on either side. Instead, they talk of how the ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ voted and only give names when there are unexpected alliances. They should also provide links to the actual opinions, but almost never do.

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A Trump trial puzzle

[UPDATE: I read this article today by a former federal prosecutor that also makes the point that lying about his liaisons with Daniels and McDougal was a bad strategy.

But it’s also clear that Trump’s lawyers are pursuing a flawed and risky strategy. Why? Most likely it’s not them, but him. Trump is the client, and he gets the final word on major decisions. So far as I can tell, this team has managed to stay on Trump’s good side by indulging — perhaps necessarily — his worst traits and instincts. It may be their downfall.

Most devastatingly, lead attorney Todd Blanche, in his opening statement, repeated Trump’s claim that he never had a sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels. That was followed by days of testimony last week that — if you believe Daniels’ very persuasive account — effectively demonstrated that a central plank of Trump’s defense is a lie and has been a lie for years, and that the jury cannot trust even Trump’s lead counsel to tell them the truth.

A bunch of Trump-supporting legal commentators have claimed that Daniels’ testimony was irrelevant to the case — a truly baffling interpretation of events given what actually happened. Prosecutors had no choice but to put Daniels on after Blanche affirmatively called her a liar in his opening statement, and they had to elicit considerable detail about the sexual encounter in order to establish her credibility in response to Blanche’s attack inside the courtroom and Trump’s years of attacks outside of it. Not only was that the appropriate way for the government to defend the integrity of its investigation and its witness, it was also an unmissable opportunity for them to tank the credibility of Trump’s entire legal defense.

But the author does not speculate as to the motive behind this poor choice of strategy.]

We are in the fourth week of the trial of serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) and it has been as tawdry as expected. The main (but not only) charge is that SSAT falsified business records to claim that $130,000 given to his former fixer Michael Cohen was a retainer for legal services when it was actually reimbursements to Cohen for payments made to suppress damaging information emerging just before the 2016 election. The latter reason would constitute an illegal campaign contribution. The statement issued by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg when the indictments were first announced in April 2023 has the following:

In one instance, American Media Inc. (“AMI”), paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman, who claimed to have a story about a child TRUMP had out of wedlock.  

In a second instance, AMI paid $150,000 to a woman who alleged she had a sexual relationship with TRUMP. When TRUMP explicitly directed a lawyer who then worked for the Trump Organization as TRUMP’s Special Counsel (“Special Counsel”) to reimburse AMI in cash, the Special Counsel indicated to TRUMP that the payment should be made via a shell company and not by cash. AMI ultimately declined to accept reimbursement after consulting their counsel. AMI, which later admitted its conduct was unlawful in an agreement with federal prosecutors, made false entries in its business records concerning the true purpose of the $150,000 payment. 

In a third instance – 12 days before the presidential general election – the Special Counsel wired $130,000 to an attorney for an adult film actress. The Special Counsel, who has since pleaded guilty and served time in prison for making the illegal campaign contribution, made the payment through a shell corporation funded through a bank in Manhattan.

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Hard times for Trump allies

John Catsimatidis is a billionaire who is a Republican donor. He also owns a radio station WABC and Rudy Giuliani had a time slot on that show that he used to rant about his usual pet peeves. But WABC at some point warned him to stay away from topics like the 2020 election, possibly because of fears that his reckless spewing of conspiracy fantasies about the 2020 election being stolen because of rigged voting machines and software might get the station sued by Dominion and Smartmatic voting systems, the way he has been sued. He already is on the hook to pay $148 million for defaming two Georgia election workers.

But Giuliani did not heed the warnings and so the station has suspended his show.
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Ban on noncompete clauses gets challenged in court

I wrote yesterday about how the FTC had banned noncompete clauses for all but high-level employees. It is absurd to think that low-level employees in places like fast food and the hospitality industry have valuable proprietary information that they could give to their new employers. These clauses are nothing but a way to prevent such employees from finding better jobs, and thus has the effect of suppressing wages.

It should come as no surprise that the US Chamber of Commerce immediately filed a lawsuit challenging the power of the FTC to ban those clauses.
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Trump did not have a good day in court

After the jury was seated last week, yesterday was the second day of the trial for serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) on the charges of fraud arising from his payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. The only witness yesterday was the former publisher of the tabloid newspaper National Enquirer David Pecker who testified to working with then SSAT fixer Michael Cohen about arrangements to buy the rights to any damaging stories about SSAT’s affairs and then not publish them. He testified that his newspaper would be on the look out for those stories.

But that was not all. Pecker was also asked earlier in the campaign to publish negative stories about SSAT’s opponents in the Republican primaries

David Pecker is saying that during the campaign, Michael Cohen would call him and said “we would like you to run a negative article” on a political opponent, such as Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson, or Marco Rubio.

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Arizona GOP digs an even deeper hole on abortion

The ruling by the Arizona supreme court that an 1864 law that purportedly bans all abortions even in the case of rape and incest has created shock wave in GOP politics. The only exception is to save the life of the woman but, as has been pointed out, this is not as clear cut as it appears to be. It is not always evident at which point the woman’s life is in danger and doctors fearing prosecution may wait until they think death is imminent, which could well result in death or serious complications.

Even serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) and the GOP nominee for governor Kari Lake have said that they oppose the law although embarrassingly for Lake, just two years ago she enthusiastically supported the very same law, even referring to it as section 13-3603, its specific legislative number, showing that she knew exactly what she was supporting.
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