Trial Attention: Don’t Let a Pecker Distract from More Important Stories

In my opinion, Donald Trump’s criminal trial, which starts in earnest today, is no more than the third most important thing happening to him this week. While I think charging Trump for alleged crimes for which his co-conspirators have already been punished and in which Bill Barr’s DOJ tampered has merit, and while I don’t think you can separate the allegations here from his other attempts to cheat to win elections, I believe the Trump Organization fraud case and the outcome of the January 6 case (and his claim to absolute immunity generally) have far more impact on Trump’s ability to continue to wreak havoc.

So I think Tish James’ bid to have Knight Specialty Insurance disqualified for providing Trump’s appeal bond and SCOTUS’ review of Trump’s absolutely immunity claims are far more important events this week than the Alvin Bragg trial.

The same is true of last week. Jury tampering — abetted by Jesse Watters and other Trump allies — will be an urgent, ongoing concern. But there are a slew of events — the UAW’s election win in a southern VW plant, the House’s passage of Ukraine funding (and follow-on repercussions we’re likely to see from it), continuing Israeli and Iranian tensions and attacks on Palestinians, the likelihood SCOTUS will narrow the application of the obstruction statute in the context of January 6, even the planned withdrawal of US troops from Niger — will be far more important to the fate of the US and the world than whether Trump glowered or slept or farted in the courtroom.

All of which is my way of saying: beware of letting this trial drown out more important events. Yes, it is unprecedented to see Trump subjected to discipline. But this trial is sucking up far, far too much attention that might better be directed elsewhere — and all that attention is one of the reasons why jury and witness tampering are such a risk.

I will be monitoring it in passing, but will rely on the very good journalists who are in the courtroom rather than covering it myself. Adam Klasfeld (with support from Just Security) is, as always, one of the best journalists providing live trial coverage, Lawfare has a full trial team covering it, NBC’s Lisa Rubin and Katie Phang have been offering useful expectation setting.

David Pecker may testify as soon as today about how he conspired with Trump and Michael Cohen to manage media focus during the 2016 election. This trial may have very much the same effect.

179 replies
  1. Harry Eagar says:

    Starvation in Sudan and Mozambique and — as always — slavery and starvation in Equatorial Guinea. Hardly news, since these conditions are nearly endemic in those places, but possibly important.

    New news: civil war in BurmaMyanmar, with China (one suspects) behind the surprising success of the rebels.

    • Twaspawarednot says:

      I would not under estimate the importance of this trial if the rumor of uncontrollable farting is true. Wouldn’t that be another violation of the gag order?

  2. Fancy Chicken says:

    I’m not at all surprised to see this after watching you Friday past on Nicole Sandler. And it’s the reason I think you’re such an important voice in all this cacophony.

    I think it’s fair to say that we all rely on you for your coverage of the stuff burbling under the headlines and bringing attention to things such as your coverage of Hunter Biden’s legal travails which should have more attention from the press.

    Thanks again Dr. Wheeler for all you do and helping to keep us focused on a Monday morning.

  3. Fancy Chicken says:

    And if I may add to your list of important issues this week, the possibility that the House GOP continues to tear itself apart and a Motion to Vacate hanging over Mike Johnson’s head could lead to massive upheaval in Congress.

    • Zirczirc says:

      Agreed, but I think that was one of the “follow-on repercussions” from the Ukraine vote that EW mentioned.


        • BobBobCon says:

          Not that we would be likely to get any direct evidence for a long while, but I’m curious if this has any effect on the Trump-Putin relationship.

          Does Putin decide to cut his losses and move on to someone else in the GOP? Does Putin choose to make an example of Trump to show others what happens to people who fail him?

          Or does this force Trump to be even more of a sellout to forestall those other possibilities?

        • Yargelsnogger says:

          I think Putin has more reasons to support Trump than just his subservience to him personally or his policy preferences about Russia. Trump is still incompetent, a chaos agent, divisive and corrosive within the US, and will still undermine our alliances and alienate our friends.

          IMO, he still has plenty of reasons to back Trump in the next election.

        • BobBobCon says:

          I think it’s not so much whether Putin backs Trump and more about how much, what he wants in return, and what kind of hedging of his bets he might do.

      • bgThenNow says:

        MJ is odious, but he did finally bring the bills to the floor. I’ve been wondering what the Ds might decide WRT the attempt to oust him. They can keep him or hang him out to dry. And of course, they can keep the House from imploding if MJ agrees to play ball. Or not. Or else, otherwise?

        • klynn says:

          If I were a Dem member in the House, I would push to reintroduce the Border bill since the argument of the bill being tied to Ukraine aid is no longer a stance in play.

        • 0Alexander Platt0 says:

          Why? It was a horrible bill whose killing was a blessing. This is the best of all possible outcomes wherein the bill is both dead and haunts republican candidates who couldn’t get it done.

        • Rayne says:

          Much of the outrage about the border is manufactured. This should be spelled out for the public in tandem with politically necklacing the GOP for both ginning up the crisis — literally encouraging border crossings by fomenting political unrest and resisting regulation of gun exports — and then whipping up their base to respond violently at the border.

          The GOP can’t get it done because they don’t want it done. They need it just like they need their attacks on reproductive freedom and on trans persons’ bodily autonomy, to keep their bigoted base afraid and willing to vote GOP.

        • 0Alexander Platt0 says:

          “had the backing of a number of border service groups and the Border Patrol union” is not a positive thing.

        • klynn says:

          A number of border NGO’s supported aspects of the bill. In particular on the increase of asylum judges:
          “Each asylum case generally takes 5 to 7 years to complete. Without more judges, these timelines and backlogs will continue to grow. Today there is funding for 734 immigration judges, the bipartisan Senate bill would provide funding for an additional 100 immigration judges and their associated staff.”

          The National Immigrant Justice Center advocates for much more than the bill offers. But the increase of judges and staffing on asylum cases was supported.

        • 0Alexander Platt0 says:

          “A number of border NGO’s supported aspects of the bill”
          That’s some weak sauce, my friend. The bill was bad. It’s good that it died. I’d be delighted to support you in a quest for a different bill that focused on increased funding to ease the process of asylum seekers, but that was never the point of this one.

        • Tracy Lynn says:

          This was a bad, bad bill. Once I heard the border patrol union was in favor of it, I thought, “this is going to be bad for asylum seekers and everyone else trying to cross the border.”

          The cynic in me thought that there were Ds who didn’t support it, but knew that the Rs would kill it once DJT told them to, thus keeping their progressive credentials intact.

          And personally, I’m glad it happened this way.

        • GlennDexter says:

          That border bill while not great would have sped up the processing for those seeking asylum by hiring more judges at least. It would enable so many to come out of the shadows and work which is what most want to do

        • Twaspawarednot says:

          And hasn’t the GOP been a travel agent by continually claiming the U.S. has open borders?

      • Fancy Chicken says:

        Ah, thanks for pointing that out Zirc.

        As you can see from the timestamp of my post it was pre 8 am and I’m a foggy processer that early!

    • Rwood0808 says:

      EmptyGreen doesn’t have the votes.

      Johnson knows it. She knows it. If she pushes it she’ll lose and with that loss, she’ll no longer have a soapbox to scream from. I don’t see her doing that. We can expect more screaming but zero actual action.

      • Onwatch45 says:

        Unfortunate renaming attempt…

        [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the SAME USERNAME and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. I’ve edited your username here this one time to match your previous comments as I suspect you didn’t intend to use your RL name. Please check your browser’s cache and autofill. /~Rayne]

      • Frank Anon says:

        I hope she goes ahead, and most importantly I hope the Democrats don’t save Johnson. There are no bills at the Ukraine level in the hopper, so the peril behind a fully non-functional House is limited, if somewhat disheartening. Another month-long Speaker fiasco, with Republicans pitched against eachother is a blessing for November

  4. harpie says:

    Chris Geidner did a VIDEO interview about the SCOTUS argument:
    [there is, incredibly, also a transcript!]:

    On Trump’s immunity claim, the history (or lack thereof), and its consequences Lawyers Kathleen Hartnett and Kristy Parker and historian Holly Brewer discuss the upcoming Trump v. U.S. arguments and the briefs that they submitted in the case. Chris Geidner 4/21/24

  5. harpie says:

    Jamelle Bouie wrote a great column about the UNIONS story, before the Chatanooga vote was final.
    Here it is on the Internet Archive:

    Southern Republican Governors Are Suddenly Afraid Jamelle Bouie 4/19/24

    […] The mere potential for union success was so threatening that the day before the vote began, several of the Southern Republican governors announced their opposition to the U.A.W. campaign. [link]
    It is no shock to see conservative Republicans opposing organized labor. But it is difficult to observe this particular struggle, taking place as it is in the South, without being reminded of the region’s entrenched hostility to unions — or any other institution or effort that might weaken the political and economic dominance of capital over the whole of Southern society. […]

  6. Rugger_9 says:

    LGM has also been a valuable resource for the union votes, since one of the contributors there also teaches labor law. It’s worth checking out.

    With respect to Leticia James and the prospect of seizures, it was pretty clear that Defendant-1 would try yet another scam to bamboozle the NYT into more press hysterics thereby forcing more special treatment for himself. Even if the client doesn’t grasp the legal requirements for a bond in NY, the lawyers and the finance department certainly should. This is true especially considering how much airtime the requirements did get combined with the filings by the AG’s team.

    MTG will likely force a vote to vacate the chair, but with her making the front page of the NY Post as ‘Moscow Marjorie’ I suspect her 15 minutes are up. It will be more interesting to see what RoJo and the rest of the Putin Caucus in the Senate do to stop the bill there. One amendment would force a conference committee and there is always the cloture rule shenanigans to consider.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      Apparently a deal has been struck about the bond, and allegedly it says that the Schwab account will be at the sole disposal of Knight instead of shared with TrumpOrg and its vacuums. That established the cash reserve.

      As with many things in this case, the details are going to be very important. If the deal is accepted, AG Letitia James will be delayed in padlocking assets.

      • gertibird says:

        I believe this entire fiasco about the bond was a set up by Trump/lawyers to create delay all along. How much time has been wasted and more will be coming to “detail out the deal” which should have been a straight forward bond done weeks if not months ago.

        • dopefish says:

          There’s no real delay caused though, once the bond is accepted then the NYAG won’t be collecting on this bond (or seizing any of Trump’s other assets) until the appeal process has played out.

          Perhaps Team Trump were just sloppy / rushed to get this bond done, or perhaps they were hoping to slip some minor wrinkles through that would make it harder for the AG to collect on the bond later. Either way, they needed this bond to be accepted by the Court and it sounds like they made the necessary concessions to achieve that. ABC News story with early report, light on details.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Not. Trump is sloppy in litigation when it works for him. After about four thousand cases over half a century, he knows how to rig the system.

          Trump has already delayed the time for his appeal in the big NY civil fraud case by weeks with this bond business, and has yet to perfect his appeal. He has gotten lenient treatment throughout. Had you or I tried to submit a bond of this caliber for a much smaller amount, it would have been rejected.

          Delay is working, especially if Trump manages to collect value from his DJT shares, which he can’t do for at least another five months. A few weeks here, a few weeks there, and Trump might have access to funds that would allow him to pay off hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments and legal fees, without having to sell any real estate. That would keep his empire alive.

        • xyxyxyxy says:

          How has the appeal been delayed?
          It was scheduled in the Appelate session starting in September.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Two things: first, the delay is the point because Defendant-1 and his team know they broke laws here and were found liable. Delays mean no accountability or loss of funds in order to buy time for a second term pardon-fest revenge tour.

          Second, the whole aura regarding Defendant-1 (no, not that one making the viral rounds) hinges upon his being perceived as a billionaire thereby motivating people to try to tap into the money. Defendant-1 really identifies himself has being fabulously wealthy and has done so for decades. The Forbes intervention is a good example but it is not alone as evidence.

          However, if that veneer is broken through, look for the supporters to drop Defendant-1 like a bad habit with remarkable speed. Watch Murdoch and Faux News (et al) reporting to see how the breaking winds are blowing.

        • xyxyxyxy says:

          In your dreams supporters are going to drop him.
          As he said, even if he killed somebody on 5th Ave.
          On twitter Fox “News” reported that James lost to Trump today.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Faux News (et al) still believes Defendant-1 is rich, and the loss of that belief is a precondition for the rats leaving the ship. It’s hard to buy off anyone with empty pockets, and FWIW one reason Pecker is testifying is because Defendant-1 stopped paying him off.

      • Frank Anon says:

        I think this is a fantastic result. All Trump needs now is cash, not debt, not promises but old fashioned cold hard cash to pay lawyers and keep up appearances. Stripping any access away from this amount of money has got to be extremely painful, as I suspect he was hoping to use IOU’s on his various limited partnership interests. Its also not as garish as the $450 million number, which is even high enough for a self-proclaimed billionare to proclaim martyrdom.

  7. harpie says:

    Today is EARTH DAY!

    Heather Cox Richardson wrote about it in Letters from an American:

    During her confirmation hearings in 2021, Interior Department secretary Deb Haaland promised “to responsibly manage our natural resources to protect them for future generations—so that we can continue to work, live, hunt, fish, and pray among them.” Noting her Indigenous heritage, Haaland tweeted, “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior…. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”
    Republicans, especially those from states like Wyoming, which collects more than a billion dollars a year in royalties and taxes from the oil, gas, and coal produced on federal lands in the state, opposed Haaland’s focus on responsible management of natural resources for the future and warned that the Biden administration is “taking a sledgehammer to Western states’ economies.”

    On Thursday, April 18, the Interior Department finalized a new rule for a balanced management of America’s public lands. […]

    It “recognizes conservation as an essential component of public lands management, on equal footing with other multiple uses of these lands.” The Bureau of Land Management will now auction off leases not only for drilling, but also for conservation and restoration. […]

    • harpie says:

      From 4/12/24:
      Biden Administration Raises Costs to Drill and Mine on Public Lands For the first time since 1920, the government has raised the rates that companies pay. The fossil fuel industry says it will hurt the economy. Coral Davenport

      The Biden administration on Friday made it more expensive for fossil fuel companies to pull oil, gas and coal from public lands, raising royalty rates for the first time in 100 years in a bid to end bargain basement fees enjoyed by one of the country’s most profitable industries.

      The government also increased more than tenfold the amount of the bonds that companies must secure before they start drilling. […]

      That’s around the time TRUMP was doing this:

      Trump rails against wind energy in fundraising pitch to oil executives
      At a Mar-a-Lago dinner, Donald Trump doubles down on promises to derail a key form of clean energy that competes with fossil fuels https: //www.washingtonpost. com/climate-environment/2024/04/17/trump-wind-power-oil-executives/ April 17, 2024

    • harpie says:

      Greg Sargent re: TRUMP v the Environment:
      Apr 20, 2024 at 7:30 AM

      We don’t talk about this enough, but if Trump wins, he will do everything possible to repeal Biden’s climate policies. On the pod, @volts. wtf [link] volts is incredibly informative on how disastrous this would be.
      He also explains a concept called “petro-masculinity”:
      [link to podcast]
      Trump’s Bizarre Rants Over Wind Power Are More Ominous Than You Think If Donald Trump wins the White House again, his love of fossil fuels and hatred of renewable energy could translate into an absolute catastrophe.

        • Chirrut Imwe says:

          “Petro-Masculinity” – what a perfect way to describe rolling coal. And truck nuts. And sexist mud flaps. And…

        • Rayne says:

          I’m not keen on the label because it doesn’t convey just how owned Trump is by “Bonesaw” bin Salman and the other petro-states. Those petro-states include Russia.

          Nor does it adequately describe the degree to which fossil fuels have poisoned such a large percentage of American men’s psyche that they feel emasculated without massive overcompensation. I’ll bet this same poisoned population will be glad to wear the label, proud to be MAGA (Maintain America’s Gasoline Addiction) Petro-Masculine.

        • JazzHandler says:

          I’ve always called them petrosexuals, which allows me to describe aspects of our modern world as petronormative.

  8. BRUCE F COLE says:

    Certainly the relative legal import of the NYC election interference trial is somewhere down the ladder from the precedent-establishing SCOTUS hearing and James’ thoroughly justifiable interrogation of Knight Specialty’s qualifications and liquidity, but I think the spectacle in lower Manhattan deserves the attention it’s getting (without denying the need for attention to those other two) because, at the moment at least, it’s serving very well to diminish “Trump’s ability to continue to wreak havoc,” which is the marker Marcy posits above, to wit:

    Perhaps for the first time in his life he’s being forced to bend to the will of those he considers his inferiors (Merchan, Bragg, Kern and the jury themselves), and the interactions with them are all very mediagenic and extremely damaging to his ego and public persona.
    The order to sit back down as the judge was preparing to leave the bench, the summary denials of appeal by Kern, Bragg’s ongoing procedural dominance of his team, and his universally derided refusal to stand to acknowledge the preeminence of the jury — all work remarkably well (or they “conspire,” in his mind no doubt) to vividly paint a fallen, over matched strongman.

    This is all powerfully havoc-wreaking with respect to his ability to wreak havoc. Yes, certainly such dynamics also work to bolster his standing among his cult followers, but they, more to the point, give the broader electorate, especially undecided or red-leaning likely voters, a very clear picture of just who this guy is. On top of that, they give Biden supporters some very vivid arguments as door knocking season begins that show just how damaging to our country it would be if this cretin gets elected.

    This trial is also promising to be the quickest route to seeing that despicable fucker become a rightfully convicted felon, so there’s also that. And this is all happening despite the MSM’s idiotic framing of the trial as a “hush money” affair rather than as “election interference” (which will change this week as Bragg begins his election-centric narrative).

    • BRUCE F COLE says:

      And…from the Prosecution’s opening statement just now:

      “This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a coverup”…“The defendant Donald Trump orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy and lied in his New York business records over and over and over again.” (timestamp 10:31, by Shayna Jacobs)

    • SteveBev says:

      Blanche ‘You’ll learn that the “hush money” payments paid out were “negotiated by lawyers.” ‘

      This elicits an objection from the prosecution. Merchan asks counsel to approach the bench. After they briefly discuss out of earshot, Merchan sustains the objection.
      How not to win friends and influence jurors – getting stopped in your opening does nothing to enhance an advocate’s credibility with a trier of fact.

        • SteveBev says:

          The second sustained objection was to

          “Blanche says Cohen cannot be trusted. He has in other courtrooms walked in and swore to tell the truth but I suspect he will tell you he was lying, Blanche says.”

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          Oops. I meant to say, “Seems like it should have been overruled.” Blanche was basically saying what Colangelo said he was going to say.

        • SteveBev says:

          Without knowing exactly why was said I am just guessing, but the reported remarks insinuate that Cohen has lied in every case, and suggests that if Cohen failed to fully admit that (I suspect he will tell you he was lying) then that too is a lie. NB he was found to be truthful in the AGNY case.

          If Blanche had stuck to what he knew would be admitted lies to Courts, instead of generalising then there wouldn’t have been a problem. He pushed his luck too far.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Which courts, when, and what facts?

          The objection was sustained because Blanche was trying to smear Cohen generally, not assert that he lied about specific things.

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          Thanks. Seems like “getting off on the wrong foot” understates Trump’s position there upon adjournment.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Does anyone really think for just one moment that the court and/or Barr’s DoJ would not have immediately prosecuted Cohen for perjury (or at least filed something specific to object to his release) if he had done the deeds Blanche was claiming he did?

          Maybe I’m missing something, but to me the absence of documentation tells me this is another poo-flinging exercise by the defense team. Thus, the sustained objections.

        • SteveBev says:

          Cohen’s admitted perjury is a complex topic

          In his guilty pleas in 2018 which resulted in the 3 year sentence from Judge Pauley in Federal Court for the hush money scheme, and bank and tax frauds, he also pleaded guilty to an offence of perjury to Congress (lying to U.S. congressional committees about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow)

          But his pleas to tax fraud are matters he contested before Engoron and admitted he lied to Paulette in pleading to them. This complicated his release from supervision application on 3/20/24 before Judge Furman

          “Judge Jesse M. Furman in Manhattan questioned Cohen’s truthfulness in a written order denying his request for early release from the court supervision that followed his three-year prison…Furman cited Cohen’s testimony at Trump’s civil fraud trial in a Manhattan state court last October. On the witness stand, Cohen insisted he wasn’t actually guilty of tax evasion even though he pleaded guilty to the charge in 2018. Asked if he had lied to the federal judge who accepted his guilty plea, Cohen said, “Yes.” “

          So Furman concluded that Cohen had either lied to Pauley or to Engoron

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Fair enough, but the case doesn’t solely rely on Cohen, since there are significant amounts of documentation, independent witnesses (such as Pecker, Daniels and Hicks) and there are the tapes Cohen made.

          The people’s lawyer also did much better than Blanche did in laying out the case they will make.

        • SteveBev says:

          Sure. It seemed that the Prosecutor handled the issue very well, emphasising that on essential matters Cohen’s testimony is part of a factual matrix involving tapes documents phone records texts messages and other testimony which corroborates him.

          One such record is a set of notes where Alan Weisselberg set out the whole scheme to disguise the reimbursement of Cohen as income to him and how to achieve it!!!

          These are all reasons why Blanche ought to have handled the topic with a degree of finesse

          Instead he was like a bull at a gate.

          Blanche was stopped by objections on multiple occasions not previously noted in the play by play reportage.

          For whatever advantage Blanche may gain by getting the jury to hear him say these things, attacking Stormy Daniels and Micheal Cohen, it is at the expense of his credibility.

          It looks desperate.

        • dopefish says:

          “Trump’s refusal to join those bench conferences”

          From the second day of the trial

          “Mr. Trump, yesterday we discussed whether you wanted to be present at sidebars. You indicated you did. Your attorney indicated to me that you have changed your mind,” Merchan said, noting that Trump had signed a form waiving that right, known as Antommarchi Rights.

          IANAL, my very limited understanding was that this just concerned sidebar conferences during the voir dire phase.

    • Rick Ryan says:

      I agree, and I’m glad you wrote this because you said it much better than I ever could. While Marcy’s broader point stands, that there are a lot of critical events happening right now perhaps lacking proper attention because the trial sucks so much of it in, I think she really strongly underestimates how damaging this is to Trump’s whole ‘aura’, which is where so much of his power springs from.

      A lot of his appeal, at least beyond racism and cruelty, is/was that he is/was larger than life, a big swinging dick who could order people around and defy the law at will because he was a sort of demi-god, better than us mere mortals (I am not exaggerating, I know a few die-hard Trumpists who talk about him in literal, unironic deific terms). Seeing him having to sit there, for days on end, while yeah every snooze and fart gets live-tweeted, is an embarrassment that strikes him much deeper than it would almost anyone else on earth. Regardless of the legal outcome, his veil of super-humanity — *especially* in the eyes of the media — has been pierced in a way that can never be fully repaired.

      Plus, this puts back out into the mainstream discourse, just in time for the heating up of campaign season, that he did in fact have to pay for it. Which is what he was so desperate to cover up in the first place. Lol.

  9. zirczirc says:

    With regard to MTG and her fellow travelers, I point out that Russia has three big allies in its war against Ukraine–North Korea, which provides it with artillery shells; Iran which provides it with drones, and a sizable number of the GOP in the House and Senate, who have conspired to prevent the sending of assistance to Ukraine. If I were running against one of those members/senators, I’d be constantly associating them with the totalitarians of North Korea and the Mullahs of Iran. I am old enough to remember the ads that morphed democratic senators and representatives into Osama Bin Laden or otherwise associated them with him. People like Max Cleland didn’t deserve such treatment, but they got it. Turnabout is fair play.


    • gertibird says:

      Include China. They also have been supplying and working with Russia against sanctions to help Russia with munitions and manufacturing. And we all know how China is the enemy to MAGA’ts.

  10. Rwood0808 says:

    The biggest hit trump could take TODAY would be Engoron voiding his bond, yet I see little to no mention of it in the press. Nor do I see any mention of what James would do following such a ruling.

      • Rwood0808 says:

        I’ll stand corrected and thank you for the links, yet I still see little to no explanation of what happens after Engoron voids the bond. (I don’t have the time to check every link you shared, so maybe someone somewhere did and I just missed it)

        Near as I can put together it’ll play out like this:

        Engoron rejects the bond.

        Trump fires off an emergency appeal.

        That gets rejected. (Does the bond then revert to the full $464m?)

        James starts seizing assets seven days later.

        The main question: Will the court give trump yet again another ten days(?) to come up with another bond, or do they say no, you had your chance and you blew it, pay up?

        • Rayne says:

          I’m going with insurance industry news coverage:

          James’s legal team has argued that the court should declare the bond insufficient and has requested that Trump secure a new guarantor within a week. Failure to comply could lead to immediate property seizures to settle the financial judgment. The court is expected to address this request in a hearing set for today, Monday, April 22.

          The bond required was initially closer to half a billion dollars but was reduced to $175 million by an appellate court after Trump’s representatives argued that securing a bond for the larger amount would be “impossible”. The bond is supposedly backed by a Charles Schwab brokerage account, holding just over $175 million, in the name of the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust. However, the attorney general’s office says it has only seen a single dated screenshot verifying this account’s balance, raising concerns about the liquidity and stability of the bond’s backing. James is concerned that Trump could withdraw all the funds from this account at any point. Trust documents stipulate that the trust “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request,” allowing the ex-President to empty the account securing the bond.


          James is reasonably leaning into immediate seizure because of the bullshit with the Schwab account.

        • gruntfuttock says:

          Giving him another week is beyond generous. How does he STILL get away with this shit? He already had it delayed and got the amount required reduced and he was clearly pissing all over them.

          He posts a frivolous ‘bond’ which guarantees no payments and, even if it did, is unenforcable because it’s funded from a tax haven which doesn’t recognise US law.

          Dunk him in the fucking lake to see if he can still breathe already!

          Satire ;-)

        • Rwood0808 says:

          Gawd help us when we have to revert to the insurance industry for news!! :)

          Personally, I hope she seizes the jet first.

          TX, Rayne

        • Rayne says:

          I don’t think NYS can seize Trump Aviation assets, at least not according to this article:

          Not certain how Trump Aviation figures into the Trump org.

          Trump’s 757 is in NY, though, easy to grab if NYS can find a way to do so.

          (Shout out to Laura Packard who was quoted in that Newsweek piece.)

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The NYAG could seize anything owned by a Trump defendant. But pouring down through tiers of ownership would be less effective than seizing major assets held at the top tier(s).

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The initial bond required was over half a billion dollars, about $550 million. The appeals court dropped the bond to about a third of that amount, after Trump pled that no one would give him one – without saying how hard he tried, or what assets he was willing to pledge as collateral.

          The original judgement was for about $370 million. With accrued pre- and post-judgment interest – which become part of the judgment, not an add-on – it had grown to over $460 million. Add in about 20% to cover costs and interest through the usual two-year appeals process, and you arrive at about $550 million. The media rarely gets this right.

        • Rwood0808 says:

          Can you convert that number into “golf courses” for us?? I can’t find the exchange rate posted anywhere. /s

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The Doral has the largest net worth, but it’s in Florida, so a little more work to seize.

          Somebody keeps repeating, thought, that Mar-a-Lago is worth $1.5 billion. /s

        • RockyGirl says:

          Assuming that James can begin seizing assets (now or in the future) are there any constraints on which assets she can seize? This is a New York State judgment- is she limited to NY assets? Or can she start seizure of out-of-state assets such as the Doral golf course? Certainly nothing overseas, but maybe Bedminster? What about bank accounts for liquid $$$?

        • Rwood0808 says:

          From Newsweek:

          James can seize Trump’s buildings, belongings, even intellectual property from anywhere in the world.

          “Speaking of turnover proceedings, she any actually do that for any asset that Trump owns, no matter where it is located—across the country, across the world,” the lawyer said. “That includes things like stock that he owns, LLC member interests, intellectual property, cars, planes, jewelry, furniture, personal property. She can seek an order, directing that Trump turn over those assets to her and then those assets can be auctioned.”

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          No limits as to assets or where they are located, so long as they are owned by the Trump defendants.

          Because it’s easiest, she would go after NY state assets first. She would target the most liquid assets, those easiest to turn into cash, then those worth the most and with the fewest competing interests. His real estate assets, the bulk of his portfolio, will all be mortgaged to others, so it’s not a quick or simple process.

        • RockyGirl says:

          Interesting, thanks. I read (MeidasTouch?) that seizing Trump Tower might be problematic since Trump doesn’t actually own most of it, but rather it is the condo owners who do. In any case, I look forward to all of this in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Yes, while KSIC has a right exclusively to control the Schwab acct, it has to give Trump two days notice before it does so. Meanwhile, Trump can use the account at will: deplete the acct or substitute lower quality, more volatile assets.

          From a bond issuer’s perspective, and not typical of the practices that made Hankey a billionaire, that’s extraordinarily lenient. It exposes the NYAG to considerably risk.

          KSIC’s offshoring its insurance risk to an affiliated company in a low-regulation tax haven probably overstates the actual surplus capital it has. That would mean it is more undercapitalized than its fragmentary financial statements admit. That exposes the NYAG to more risk.

          Trump must be using that Schwab account for much more than an escrow account. Most insurers would refuse that arrangement. Nor has Trump disclosed whether KSIC is the only company he’s pledged its assets to.

        • Rayne says:

          I would *love* to know if that Schwab account has been trading Trump Media & Technology Group Corp (NASDAQ:DJT) which amplifies the amount of risk involved.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Trump was squirrely in giving out so little information on that Schwab account. Apparently only the court and prosecutor got it.

        • Harry Eagar says:

          Had KSIC ever written a bond before? The bail bondsmen I know — who couldn’t write a $10 million bond in their wildest dreams — would never have given the surety 48 hours notice.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          No appeals bonds in NY and none for at least two years prior anywhere.

          But Rayne is right. That sort of background info on KSIC and its parent and affiliated companies is easy to find in the press or in the prosecution’s filings. You’d never know it, though, from reading Trump’s filings.

        • Overshire says:

          On the lowered bond requirement, I keep wondering why, if DJT has cash on hand to cover it, he would pay the vig for a bond at all, rather than simply post the cash? It seems out of his notoriously cheap character to pay an extra ten percent for, essentially, no benefit.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          That question does crowd the living room like an elephant no one wants to talk about.

          Trump has many fines and legal fees to pay, including a recent, nearly $1.0 million judgment in Florida, regarding his frivolous Clinton suit. So, why pay at least $2 – 3.5 million for this bond, when you could put up the cash instead?

          I suspect it’s because Trump was already in debt to Hankey for over $200 million on other loans, and Hankey didn’t want another lender taking priority over a big chunk of Trump’s liquid assets.

        • RipNoLonger says:

          Your explanation makes a lot of sense to me. Hankey wants to keep his priority on loans that he’s already issued to trump. What a bunch of sleaze!

        • Rayne says:

          He’s probably doing some bullshit tax evasion, I mean, tax avoidance and trying to string out the inevitable dispersion of cash because delay has always worked to his benefit in the past. Look at how the bond amount was deeply lowered because of his use of delays.

          And he’s really not liquid if he’s worth that much cash.

        • SteveBev says:

          ‘Andrew Amer says “the AG is fine with all these conditions stipulated on the record.”

          Judge accepts it, and court is adjourned.’

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          That final conclusion about mooting concerns is Pollyannish, given the other frailties KSIC has.

          If Engoron has accepted this bond with those few changes, he’s being very kind to Donny, but it probably avoids an appeal.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It’s Engoron’s position that matters, but yes, James apparently agreed with the changes, presumably for the same reasons: to avoid an appeal on this issue and to move on to the underlying appeal.

        • SteveBev says:

          I suspect there is rather more in the stipulations on the record which address the concerns.

          You will know better than I do, but I imagine that the “agreement to vary the bond” will be written up as a consent order, so hopefully all will become clear without resort to parsing the transcript.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          What matters regarding the appeals bond, issued by KSIC, are the written commitments from KSIC.

          Underlying that are the written commitments from the Trump defendants.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Correction to that tweet: Under the existing agreement – and in the absence of other known commitments – Trump’s eponymous revocable trust had full control of that Schwab account, with the unrestricted right to trade in it, subject to losing control to KSIC on two days notice. Details matter, the control issue, in particular.

        • SteveBev says:

          Yes. I don’t think RachelS was at all versed in the technicalities so it didn’t surprise me that the stipulations’ weren’t elucidated.
          It was always a case of seeing what the order says

        • SteveBev says:

          Meidas Touch video
          Micheal Popok interview of Justice Barbara Jaffe retd justice of NY Supreme Court who was present for the hearing
          Explains all the stipulations and the revision to the paperwork and the timetable for that

          1Schwab account is cash only not securities
          (Full control of account to Knight))
          2 correct undertaking to pay on bond
          3 Knight consent to enforcement in NY

  11. harpie says:

    Just now from Merchan’s Sandoval ruling:

    [If TRUMP testifies] They [prosecutors] can also ask about how Trump was found in New York attorney general Letitia James’s civil case against him “to have by fraudulently misstating the value of his assets for an economic benefit.”

    That’s from a really long link at 14.58 BST on the Guardian Live blog:
    https: //www.

      • harpie says:

        Yes, sorry…but sometimes if I’m adding one during an edit, then my whole comment gets put in the pokey, which I wanted to try and avoid.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The headline to that live blog is silly: “Defense says ‘Trump is innocent.'” FFS if it said anything else, there wouldn’t be a trial. But I see that the coverage has since switched topics.

  12. xyxyxyxy says:

    Everybody seems to be covering Merchan’s trial. Who’s covering the Engeron surety bond trial today?

  13. BRUCE F COLE says:

    With the Trump NY fraud case in appellate limbo right now, I’m wondering if a decision that Bragg made early in his tenure as DA — to put a hold on what was described as a fully developed fraud case against Trump by Pomerantz and Dunne — might have been the result of consultation with AG James who might have asked Bragg to stuff it because she was in the process of making the same case at the state level?

    I haven’t seen anything written about that, is why I’m asking.

    • xyxyxyxy says:

      I don’t know if MeidusTouch discussed consultation with James and Bragg, but Karen Friedman Agnifilo who used to be 2nd in DA Office talked about how beneficial it was that Bragg waited for James to finish her case late last year or earlier this year.
      They’re conferring on a possible deal where Schwab account with the $175 million is to be cash at all times.

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        TY. It’s like prosecutorial tag-teaming.

        The Bragg opening statement by Colangelo is brutal, awesome, and it looks like they’ve got everything well backed up. Cohen was so smart to record everything.

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        A codicil to all that is that a reading of today’s opening statements in front of Merchan makes Pomerantz’ dissing last year of the election fraud approach to this case by Bragg seem fortuitously unpersuasive. We’ll see if that remains the case going forward, of course, but Bragg’s team looks very prepared and formidable while Trump’s looks hackneyed and ungainly, especially with the sustained objections they absorbed right out the gate.

  14. Joseph Andrews says:

    The closing of the piece:

    “David Pecker may testify as soon as today about how he conspired with Trump and Michael Cohen to manage media focus during the 2016 election. This trial may have very much the same effect.”

    Nice writing.

    I read the following earlier today (from here:–

    “According to then-US Attorney in charge of the case, Geoffrey Berman, who was later forced to resign, that happened because of interference from Attorney General Bill Barr who instructed them to “cease all investigations” into the matter. Berman wondered if Barr was trying to shield Trump from possible legal liabilities after he was out of office. It’s certainly not a stretch to think so.”

    Not surprisingly…a bit of searching took me here:

    The comments here are, as usual, quite good.

    No doubt Ms. Wheeler has written about ‘Billy Barr’ in this context many times…

    Does Barr have legal exposure in all of this? His own behavior over the past months has been all over the map.

  15. xyxyxyxy says:

    Something incredible, from @frankrunyeon: NY Courts will release daily transcripts of Donald Trump’s criminal trial: This is a truly remarkable development. Court stenographers control their work and charge varying rates. The transcript is never dropped into the case file.
    It can be *$6.50 per page* a day for these “daily” transcripts. A day can be 200 pages = $1,300 a day.

    • vigetnovus says:

      Totally not surprised. Michael Cohen may be a Cooley Law school grad, but he’s not stupid. The question is how embarrassing are these tapes going to be? I wonder what colorful epithets Trump uses to describe Stormy Daniels?

  16. Matt Foley says:

    How many affairs and abortions did God tell him to hide with NDAs? Americans want to know.

  17. Thread Theorist says:

    The NY state court system will be providing daily transcripts of the Trump trial at

    Their reasoning is

    “This historic case, which has generated unparalleled public interest, calls for this historic step by the court system. I am pleased to join Chief Administrative Judge Zayas in announcing that the trial transcripts-providing a word-for-word account of the proceedings-will be posted daily on our website, giving the public ready access to the accurate court record. This will serve to enhance public understanding of the trial.”

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the SAME USERNAME and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. I’ve edited your username here this one time to match your previous comments as I suspect you didn’t intend to use your RL name. Please check your browser’s cache and autofill. /~Rayne]

  18. LesNoyes says:

    Mean Mr. Ketchup, a walking tort
    Sleeps in the court, denies he’s a raper
    Smells not the airs that he blows
    Hopes that Bragg will not him appose
    Struggling to keep up his pose
    Such a losing old man
    Such a losing old man

  19. David F. Snyder says:

    If I’m going to obsess on a case (which, per Marcy’s reasoning, I won’t) it will be the documents case—as that likely involves ongoing harm (where are the missing files?).

    That said, the possibility of eternally recurrent election fraud needs to be nipped in the bud..

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      1. Overturn Citizens United; and 2. Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, for a start.

      • bmaz says:

        How are you going to overturn Citizen’s United? That, at this point, would require a Constitutional amendment, and that is not going to happen. Besides, as long as Buckley v. Valeo stands, the 1A decision in CU is arguably correct. It is hard to understand the constant sturm and drang over Citizens United.

        • Rwood0808 says:

          They said the same thing about Roe.

          If you think its too hard then get out of the way so others can work.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          You think the hurdle of a constitutional amendment can be overcome with the right attitude? LOL. It might be overcome with an expanded court, but that, too, would take years to achieve. Another tack is required.

        • bmaz says:

          Rayne, why is yet another true and innocuous comment in moderation? This is ludicrous.

          [Moderator’s note: once again you have been told repeatedly your complaints about moderation will be binned. Perhaps if you stopped trolling so much including complaints about moderation, the algorithm would stop treating you like a possible troll. Your next complaint will be binned. /~Rayne]

        • Rwood0808 says:

          The right attitude, no. A well-thought-out plan, yes. If overturning CU requires another tack, then lets discuss that.

          Whenever I had an employee that cried and offered nothing but reasons why they couldn’t do a job they were quickly fired and replaced with someone who could. Almost every time the task turned out to be not as hard as everyone had said.

          I never understood why anyone would listen to someone who constantly says it can’t be done? People like that are a net negative; to themselves, their organization, and everyone around them.

          While I’m here I’ll just write my own bmaz response:
          1. LOL
          2. Insert derogatory name/insult
          3. “I’ve been doing this for 300 years!”
          4. You know nothing and are stupid.
          5. Complaint about everyone complaining.

          [Moderator’s note: don’t do this, it’s an attack on another commenter, off topic, and encourages brigading. /~Rayne]

        • bmaz says:

          I’m sorry “RWood”, who are “they? Because the threats to Roe have been talked about at this blog forever. And I was one of the ones talking, so don’t pull that with me. And, frankly no, I am not “in the way”, I am simply honest about what is going on.

  20. Badger Robert says:

    1. The Ukraine aid vote is historic. The demographic hole in Russia is going to get deeper. Ukraine has a similar problem, but will probably be westernized when the war ends. Ukraine will definitely be militarized.
    2. What’s happening inside the Republican party? Is the money they claim to have raised just another fiction, like the appeal bond? At the Presidential level, the Rs can get plenty of free media. What is going to happen to the local candidates and local offices?
    3. Can the unions deliver the votes? Will there be domestic content requirements and tariffs on parts not coming in from Mexico or Canada?
    Trump may not be the main story.

  21. Badger Robert says:

    And how will this so called ban of TikTok be enforced? What if the DofJ decides it has higher priorities?

  22. synergies says:

    Speaking of: I don’t think I’ve been this astonished about psy ops since the “cleric” shook the bone of a USA service member at the news camera after the failed rescue mission of the hostages in Iran thereby giving reagan the win over Jimmy Carter in 1980.
    There’s all sorts of these “missiles” murals in Iran. Scroll down the article in the link to see photos of. That we are fighting against the rape of the world. Billions spent propping up Hezbollah & Hamas… meanwhile students needing to be educated. More important things…

  23. bmaz says:

    The criminal trial in Manhattan is a fool’s errand that Alvin Bragg should have never brought. It is already a farce with 1-2 months yet to go. Not even two full days after jury empanelment. The insane amount of hot air in, and on, both cable news and print media is, well, truly insane.

    Here is Rick Hasen’s collection:

    Here is Jed Shugarman in the NYT: “I Thought the Bragg Case Against Trump Was a Legal Embarrassment. Now I Think It’s a Historic Mistake.”

    Here is Josh Gerstein:

    Due to multiple links, and contrary to the current ethos here, I doubt Rayne will also this comment to post. Not much I can do about this except point out the BS and inanity.

    [Moderator’s note: knock off the off-topic complaints about moderation. This is the second time you’ve been told today. /~Rayne]

    • xyxyxyxy says:

      As Barr during the Trump Administration “catch and killed” bad news, unless I missed it, it’s surprising that he hasn’t come out and called bullshit on this case like the others you point to. Or will he still after announcing that he would still vote for Trump?

  24. Susan D Einbinder says:

    On the most recent podcast of “Prosecuting Donald Trump,” the hosts read the NY AG’s argument against accepting the Knight agreement (IANAL – sorry if I’m not using the correct terms) and it noted quite a few reasons to reject it, including the fact that the company reinvests its funds back into its Cayman Islands account and quite a sordid history of illegal activities by Knight himself that, at least from what was written, seemed to render the company unfit and in violation of the requirements for such an agreement. It is stunning that the NY AG accepted it anyway, because – at least from my take – Knight himself and the way he has run the company cannot meet the state requirements.

    So did the previous Prez get away with it … yet again?

    • xyxyxyxy says:

      Let’s see the documents, but from reports, Trump has to keep $175 million “cash” in a money market account and present monthly bank statements.

    • SteveBev says:

      A retired Judge present in the court for the hearing explains the consent order here:
      The AG got everything they wanted except a deposit of a sum into court

      The bond is fully collateralised, with the collateral the Schwab money market account containing $175m in cash under exclusive control of KSIC, who cannot use the account to trade, and must provide monthly statements to the AG. KSIC stipulates to the jurisdiction of NY for all matters associated with the bond.
      The licensing in NY was not discussed, but as I mentioned before the statute permits waiver by the court of such condition or substitution of alternative conditions.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The NYAG got what they asked for, not what they wanted or were entitled to, in order to move things along and avoid further delay on this issue. So did the court.

        • SteveBev says:


          And seeking an outcome they can live with is the purpose of their litigation of the bond, and a judgment by the AG in determining how they best protect the public interest issues at stake.

          So “the prez getting away with it” isn’t IMHO a helpful lens through which to view the outcome.

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