Trump charged in New York, progressives win key races in Wisconsin and Chicago
It was, in fact, quite a day.
The news of the first half of the day was Donald Trump being arraigned on a 34-count felony indictment in Manhattan. The former president has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree — a New York state crime — relating to Trump Organization records.
The Statement of Facts submitted in the case by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office is bringing the case, laid out more details of the background that led us to today — most of which has been covered in the news in recent years and a significant part of which relate to Michael Cohen’s actions as Trump’s former lawyer in the run-up to and aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign.
The charges are the end result of hush money payments, like the one Cohen arranged for Stormy Daniels, “catch and kill” agreements orchestrated with American Media, Inc. (the owner of the National Enquirer), and — as Bragg’s office alleges — Trump having “arranged to reimburse” Cohen for his payments. The Statement of Facts discussed both campaign and tax implications of payments — which is key to the felony charges — and that both Cohen (referred to as “Lawyer A” in the Statement of Facts) and AMI “admit[ted] guilt” regarding the scheme.
Following from that investigation and as a result of the grand jury’s indictment, for the first time in history on Tuesday afternoon, a former president pleaded not guilty to criminal charges.
In the Statement of Facts, Bragg raised that reality in an almost surreal way.
For many, myself included, it seemed proper that Trump, who has long suggested that he is above the law, faced his literal day in court. Some people whose views I greatly respect, though, are less excited about this particular prosecution. It’s not that Trump doesn’t deserve to be prosecuted, they argue, but this prosecution is not the one that does the job.
One of those making this argument today is Rick Hasen, a UCLA law professor and election law expert. His legal argument, as I read it, is that this is a complex, novel prosecution that might not succeed. His legal arguments are sensible. Within them, he basically argues the state case is weaker than the federal case would have been — which he supported even though he believed it would have been a tough case.
That seems like a matter of degree, though, with Hasen’s political argument ultimately pushing him against this case. The political argument is essentially his opinion, though, and I think weaker than his legal questions about the case. He wrote:
It is said that if you go after the king, you should not miss. In this vein, it is very easy to see this case tossed for legal insufficiency or tied up in the courts well past the 2024 election before it might ever go to trial. It will be a circus that will embolden Trump, especially if he walks.
I might agree with Hasen if this were the only case. But, it’s almost certainly not going to be. Between Georgia and both arms of the DC investigation (Jan. 6 and Mar-a-Lago documents), there could be as many as four cases brought against the former president, in addition to civil matters.
If Trump should be held to account for his actions — and, particularly as to today’s case, if Hasen supported a federal case relating to these actions — then I’m not sure I see a problem with Bragg pursuing a case here.
Law Dork with Chris Geidner brings you independent, reader-supported legal and political journalism that seeks to hold government and other public officials accountable. Support this reporting by becoming a free or paid subscriber today.
Election night results
Tuesday night brought much more news.
Here’s the breaking news report from the Star Tribune, which highlights the pending abortion case at the Wisconsin Supreme Court:
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz, 60, defeated former Justice Dan Kelly, who previously worked for Republicans and had support from the state's leading anti-abortion groups. It's his second loss in a race for Supreme Court in three years. …
The new court controlled 4-3 by liberals is expected to decide a pending lawsuit challenging the state's 1849 law banning abortion. Protasiewicz made the issue a focus of her campaign and won the support of Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups.
At the same time, Chris Kang from Demand Justice highlighted a significant appeals court race win for progressives in Wisconsin as well:
Down in Illinois, the call took a bit longer — but Brandon Johnson has been elected Chicago’s next mayor.
The tell, though, came an hour before the Associated Press call — when the Paul Vallas post-election party sent home the bagpipers.
There will be much to sort out in the days and months ahead, but voters far from either coast spoke quite loudly tonight in favor of clearly enunciated and loudly proclaimed progressive visions of governing.
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So glad to hear about Wisconsin & Chicago!!
Wonderful piece, Chris!