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Last Week In Lawfare Land: Jury Selection, Dueling Schedules, And A Big SCOTUS Case

Here’s the latest information you need to know about each prosecution Democrats are waging against the Republican presidential candidate.

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As the November 2024 election quickly approaches, the lawfare crusade against former President Donald Trump is now entering the trial phase. On Monday, April 15, the first criminal trial of President Trump began in New York City.  This will likely soon be followed by trials in Florida and, potentially, in Washington D.C. Along with criminal crusades, President Trump is also battling Attorney General Letitia James’s $454 million civil fraud case on appeal. 

Here’s the latest information you need to know about each case.

Read our previous installments here.

Manhattan, New York: Prosecution by DA Alvin Bragg for NDA Payment

How we got here: In this New York state criminal case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged former President Donald Trump in April 2023 with 34 felony charges for alleged falsification of business records. Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen paid pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement in which she agreed not to publicize her claims that she had an affair with Trump (who denies the allegations). Nondisclosure agreements are not illegal, but Bragg claims Trump concealed the payment to help his 2016 election chances and in doing so was concealing a “crime.”

Latest developments: The trial began on Monday, April 15. Jury selection was completed on Thursday, April 19. There are a total of 12 selected jurors who will decide President Trump’s fate in this case. The impartiality of the jury is already questionable, as Juror 11 has stated, “I don’t like his persona. … He just seems very selfish and self-serving so I don’t really appreciate that in any public servant.” While President Trump’s attorneys attempted to remove Juror 11, Judge Merchan refused the request and allowed Juror 11 to stay on the jury. 

On Friday April 19, Judge Merchan selected five additional alternate jurors. Now, the opening arguments in this case could begin as soon as Monday, April 22.

Judge Merchan has issued a gag order on President Trump generally prohibiting him from publicly speaking on possible jurors, witnesses, and other personnel in this case. 

Fulton County, Georgia: Prosecution by DA Fani Willis for Questioning Election Results 

How we got here: The Georgia state criminal case is helmed by District Attorney Fani Willis and her team of prosecutors — which until recently included Nathan Wade, with whom Willis had an improper romantic relationship. Willis charged Trump in August 2023 with 13 felony counts, including racketeering charges, related to his alleged attempt to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia. President Trump is joined by 18 co-defendants, including Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Sidney Powell, and others. Some of President Trump’s co-defendants have reached plea deals; others have petitioned to have the case removed to federal court, each attempt of which has been denied.

Latest developments: Not much news as the Trump team awaits a decision on its appeal of Judge Scott McAfee’s ruling allowing Willis, whose apparent conflicts of interest prompted a separate hearing, to continue prosecuting the case.

Southern District of Florida: Prosecution by Biden DOJ for Handling of Classified Documents

How we got here: In this federal criminal case, special counsel Jack Smith and federal prosecutors with Biden’s Justice Department charged former President Trump in June 2023 with 40 federal charges related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence. The trial is set to begin on May 20, 2024, though this date is expected to be pushed back. Additionally, venue matters: The trial is currently set to take place in Fort Pierce, Florida, in a locality that heavily backed President Trump in the 2020 election. If that remains unchanged, the demographics of the jury pool may result in a pro-Trump courtroom.  

Latest developments: President Trump’s attorneys have requested that Judge Cannon delay the May 9 deadline for reviewing classified documents due to President Trump’s ongoing criminal trial in New York. Expectedly, Special Counsel Jack Smith has filed an opposition to President Trump’s request for delay. Judge Cannon is expected to rule on this request in the coming days.  

Washington, D.C.:  Prosecution by Biden DOJ for Jan. 6 Speech

How we got here: In this federal criminal case, special counsel Jack Smith and federal prosecutors charged former President Trump in August 2023 with four counts of conspiracy and obstruction related to his actions on Jan. 6, 2021. President Trump’s lawyers have argued that immunity extends to actions taken by a president while acting in his official capacity and that, in any event, the First Amendment protects his right to raise legitimate questions about a questionable election process.

Latest developments: This case is currently stalled while awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court on former President Trump’s immunity claim. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in that case on April 25, after which it could issue a ruling by the end of the June term. On April 8, Special Counsel Jack Smith submitted a brief to the Supreme Court, urging it to reject President Trump’s immunity claim. If the Supreme Court rules against President Trump, a trial could quickly follow beginning in July or August. 

Another case before the Supreme Court could also affect Smith’s prosecution of Trump. In Fischer v. United States, Joseph Fischer has asked the court to rule that the Department of Justice is improperly interpreting a statute against “obstruction of an official proceeding,” which was passed to crack down on the destruction of financial records, to go after Jan. 6 defendants. Two of Smith’s charges against Trump also depend on the statute, leading commentators to suggest that if the court rules in Fischer’s favor, it could hamper Smith’s ability to apply the statute to Trump.

As some commentators, including one in The Federalist, have highlighted, a footnote in Smith’s recently filed brief may portend Smith’s plans to circumvent the court’s forthcoming Fischer ruling, should it be decided in Trump’s favor — leading many to question whether Jack Smith intends to ignore the high court in his pursuit of President Trump.

New York: Lawsuit by A.G. Letitia James for Inflating Net Worth

How we got here: In this New York civil fraud case, Democrat Attorney General Letitia James sued former President Trump in September 2022 under a civil fraud statute alleging that he misled banks, insurers, and others about his net worth to obtain loans, although the loans have been paid back and none of the parties involved claimed to have been injured by the deals. Following a no-jury trial, Judge Arthur Engoron issued a decision on Feb. 16, 2024 ordering Trump to pay a $454 million penalty. Trump has appealed this decision and posted a required $175 million appeal bond. The appeals court plans to hold hearings on the merits of the full case in September 2024. 

Latest developments: On April 4, Attorney General James challenged the “sufficiency” of President Trump’s posted bond. President Trump’s attorneys countered by asking the judge to set aside Attorney General James’s challenge because the bond is financially sound. A hearing on the financial sufficiency of the bond will be held on April 22. 


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