No TrumpsπŸ‘±‍♂️ Newsbites
Trump indictment talk baffles and enrages some congressional Republicans. Democrats worry anything short of a conviction would fire up his fiercely loyal base.
  • Trump's growing legal jeopardy has his Republican loyalists on the defensive.
  • Some are downplaying any effect on Republicans' chances in the 2022 and 2024 elections.
  • Some Democrats have urged prosecutors to proceed with caution.
The next two election cycles in America could be a roller-coaster ride for Republicans as Donald Trump and his namesake company face the prospect of criminal charges.

Political insiders are only starting to grasp this increasingly real possibility after New York Attorney General Letitia James' recent statement confirming she's now linked up with the Manhattan district attorney, who has been digging into Trump's financial records after securing that authority from the Supreme Court.

While most Washington politicians appear, at least publicly, to be out of the loop about what's happening a few stops up the Acela Corridor, interviews with more than a dozen congressional leaders and influential political operatives this week elicited incredulous looks, knee-jerk reactions, and wild speculation about what prospectively sidelining Trump would mean to the political world.

They realize there will be repercussions — to their own messaging and for whoever runs for president in 2024 — should Trump or his family-run business end up as defendants in a state courtroom.

Trump is facing a slew of investigations, including on his business dealings in New York, attempts to tamper with the 2020 election results in Georgia, and his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

"It should mean more people jump in the race and don't wait for Trump, claiming that he's distracted," Doug Heye, a GOP strategist who once served as a House leadership aide, said of the ripple effects from a Trump prosecution as scores of Republicans consider their own White House campaigns.

GOP leaders, Heye added, also wouldn't emerge unscathed.

"While Republican leadership wants to put Trump in the rearview mirror, the investigations, in addition to Trump being back on the stump, make that impossible," he said.

... Trump remains the face of the GOP, remotely dictating details that vary from who's allowed to hold leadership roles to which candidates are cleared to run in the 2022 midterms. He's also the de facto nominee to run again for president in 2024 until he says otherwise.

In the latest sign of Trump's near-universal control of the party, he directed House Republicans to oppose the creation of a commission to study the attack on the Capitol. All but 35 of them obliged. Even Indiana GOP Rep. Greg Pence, the older brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, opposed the commission despite the fact that rioters were overheard hunting for his sibling and threatening to hang him.

Trump no longer enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution, a protection he could rely on as a sitting president. And while it's been four months since Trump left the White House, Democrats and Republicans say they're just beginning to assess the political fallout should James, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, or prosecutors from another jurisdiction in the US file charges against Trump or his cohorts.

Democrats told Insider they expect Trump could end up playing the victim card if he or members of his entourage are criminally charged, and that could serve to energize a fiercely loyal base that is likely to be critical on the turnout front for Republicans in the 2022 midterms.

"He would say, 'This was an injustice perpetrated by the swamp.' And maybe his people would go along with him," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

On cue, the twice-impeached former president fumed on his blog on Wednesday over James' latest statement confirming his company is under a state criminal investigation. "They failed to stop me in Washington, so they turned it over to New York to do their dirty work," he wrote.

Privately, Republican operatives acknowledged the jarring ramifications of an indictment issued against their famously short-tempered leader.

Still, GOP lawmakers in Congress ducked, dodged, and weaved when asked what they thought about Trump becoming a criminal defendant. Some looked to their hovering aides to save them from saying anything that could provoke the ire of their vindictive leader.
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Top Arizona elections official expresses 'grave concerns' over audit, tells Maricopa County to toss voting machines
  • Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has told Maricopa County to decommission its voting machines.
  • In a letter, Hobbs said she had "grave concerns" the equipment had been compromised by Cyber Ninjas.
  • The private company took custody of the machines as part of a Republican-led "audit."
Any voting machines that have come into the hands of people carrying out a Republican-led "audit" of the 2020 presidential contest are no longer safe to be used in future elections, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in a letter Wednesday to officials in Maricopa County.

Earlier this year, Arizona's GOP-controlled Senate chose the private firm, Cyber Ninjas, to carry out another count of the ballots in Maricopa County, which President Joe Biden won by more than 45,000 votes. That decision was made over the objections of the county's Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors, which noted the 2020 election had already been audited more than once by credible firms.

Cyber Ninjas has no experience in elections work and is led by a man who promoted false, pro-Trump conspiracy theories last fall. It is currently conducting an "audit" that has included efforts to detect bamboo in ballots as part of an apparent effort to demonstrate they were fraudulent and made in China. It also has custody of the equipment that was used to count those votes.

In Wednesday's letter, provided to Insider by the secretary's office, Hobbs wrote that she has "grave concerns regarding the the security and integrity of these machines," saying that the chain of custody had been irrevocably "compromised."

After consulting with the US Department of Homeland Security, Hobbs wrote, she was recommending they "not be reused in future elections."

"Rather, decommissioning and replacing those devices is the safest option as no methods exist to adequately ensure those machines are safe to use," she added.

Hobbs, a Democrat who has received death threats over her role in certifying President Biden's victory in 2020, said no member of her staff was allowed to observe Cyber Ninjas' handling of the election equipment, a lack of transparency that may have allowed the machines to be altered.

"[M]y office did not reach this decision lightly," Hobbs wrote. "However, given the circumstances and ongoing concerns regarding the handling and security of the equipment, I believe the county can agree that this is the only path forward to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County in the future."
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Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg under criminal tax investigation by New York attorney general
The longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, is under criminal investigation by the New York attorney general's office in connection with his personal taxes, an official close to the probe told NBC News.

The investigation comes as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's office have eyed Weisselberg and his adult sons in their own criminal probe of former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization.

News of the probe comes two days after Attorney General Letitia James' spokesman said her office was investigating the Trump Organization in "a criminal capacity." Several investigators from the AG's office have been deployed to work with Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance's team.

James already was known to be conducting a civil investigation of the company related to allegations that it misstated the value of real estate properties for financial benefit. Weisselberg had been deposed by James' investigators as part of that probe.
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Trump DOJ secretly obtained CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr's phone and email records
  • CNN reported that the Trump DOJ secretly seized phone and email records from Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
  • Three current and former Washington Post reporters faced similar covert seizures.
  • Starr reported on US military policy towards North Korea in 2017.
The Trump administration's Department of Justice covertly obtained phone and email records from CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, in a manner reminiscent of the one multiple current and former Washington Post reporters faced.

CNN reported on Thursday that the Justice Department informed Starr on May 13 that prosecutors had gained access to phone and email records between June 1, 2017, to July 31, 2017. Starr had reported on US military options presented to Trump in 2017, but the DOJ letter did not state a reason that Starr's records were seized.

According to the letter, all of Starr's personal and work email and phone records were obtained for that timeframe. The records were sought through the courts, but Starr nor CNN were not notified in the process, and it is unclear whether the seizure was approved under Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Attorney General William Barr.

The longstanding and controversial practice of federal investigators secretly seizing records from journalists, under the scope of leak investigations, was widely used by the Obama administration and favored by the Trump administration as well.

... In the early days of the Trump administration, the Justice Department covertly pulled phone records from several current and now former Washington Post journalists and also tried to source their email records, according to government letters sent to the reporters and reviewed by The Post. The reporters were looking into Russia's influence in the 2016 elections.
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Federal investigators seized 18 electronic devices in raid of Rudy Giuliani's apartment and office
  • Federal prosecutors seized 18 electronic devices in raids of Rudy Giuliani's home and office in April.
  • The FBI conducted the April raid in connection with a criminal probe into his dealings in Ukraine.
  • The investigation into Giuliani resumed in March following Merrick Garland's confirmation as AG.
According to the court filing dated April 29, which became public on Thursday, prosecutors seized 18 electronic devices, including phones and computers, belonging to Giuliani as well as "certain employees" of his firm. Giuliani's attorney Robert Costello told Reuters in April that a desktop computer belonging to Giuliani's ex-wife and a work laptop belonging to Giuliani's assistant were among the electronics that were seized.

"Technical specialists with the FBI have begun to extract materials from the seized devices, but the review of those materials has not begun," according to the filing, which was obtained by CNN.

In an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson following the raid of his home, Giuliani said investigators took "seven or eight electronic items of mine," but claimed they did not take the hard drives purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden.
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Jennifer Weisselberg says the Trump Org. CFO, her former father-in-law, will flip on Trump in New York investigations
  • Jennifer Weisselberg said Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, will flip on Trump.
  • She is Allen Weisselberg's ex-daughter-in-law, and was married to his son Barry.
  • Jennifer Weisselberg has also been cooperating with prosecutors who are investigating Trump.
Jennifer Weisselberg said Allen Weisselberg, her former father-in-law and the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, will flip on Donald Trump.

Weisselberg was speaking to CNN Thursday about the New York investigations into the Trump Organization and the former president. Interviewer Erin Burnett asked her directly: "Will Allen Weisselberg flip on Trump?"

She responded with a simple "yes," prompting Burnett to note there was "no hesitation" with her answer.

... Weisselberg also told Burnett that while attending Trump's inauguration in 2017 it felt "dangerous" for him to become president.

"The amount of power given to a president — I just think it's irresponsible to give somebody who is self-serving and narcissistic that much power when it's inevitably always to benefit themselves," she said.

When asked why she is cooperating with prosecutors now, Weisselberg said it's because "it's so horrifying that Donald Trump could be president again, knowing what I know."
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or Trump-ism

Trumpism refers to the nontraditional political philosophy and approach espoused by Donald Trump and his supporters. The term Trumpism can also be used to directly refer to an outrageous or idiosyncratic statement made by Donald Trump.

Trump, whom many observers consider an anomaly, left the White House by saying, “We will be back in some form.” His legacy is “Trumpism” – a wave of white nationalism.

Trumpisms are Bushisms on steroids.