Legal experts are applauding Special Counsel Jack Smith’s move to “leapfrog” a Trump effort to delay his D.C. case by claiming he has immunity from prosecution and appealing the decisions by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on that major question.
Trump is claiming he cannot be prosecuted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election because he was president at the time, and is also claiming he cannot be prosecuted because he was impeached by the House but not convicted by the Senate.
Legal experts and U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan have declared Trump is not immune from prosecution for criminal acts, with Judge Chutkan writing: “Defendant’s four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens.”
On Monday the Special Counsel appeared to have short-ciircuited Trump’s delay tactic by asking the Supreme Court to rule on this question: “Whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.”
“It is hard for Trump to logically object to Smith’s request today for expedited Supreme Ct review since it is Trump who is claiming he [should] not be subject to the indictment at all,” writes former FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann, a popular MSNBC legal analyst. “Expedited review only helps alleviate that harm, if he is correct (which he is not).”
Weissmann adds, “Note newest Smith team member: the storied appellate lawyer Michael Dreeben. Argued over 100 cases in Supreme Court, and was head appellate lawyer on SC Mueller team.”
“This is a really ballsy move,” declared former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Asst. Attorney General Harry Litman. “And who is Michael Dreeben? He plays a similar role in Mueller investigation but he was a very long time Deputy Solicitor General and probably the most respected Supreme Court advocate on criminal issues in the Dept.”
Steve Vladeck, the national security attorney and professor of law, adds, “if I were taking a criminal procedure issue to the Court, there’s no one I’d want as my special counsel *more* than Michael Dreeben.”
He also explains, “The bottom line of Jack Smith’s #SCOTUS filing is that he wants to ensure, one way or the other, that the issue of Trump’s constitutional immunity from the January 6-related prosecution is conclusively resolved by the end of the Supreme Court’s *current* term (i.e., June 2024).”
“This is exactly the right move,” announced noted constitutional law scholar and Harvard University Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe. “And SCOTUS should agree to leapfrog the DC Circuit, just as it did in the Nixon tapes case. The issue is purely legal and delay hurts the country.”
Former 30-year federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, now an NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst sums up the Special Counsel’s move: “Unwilling to play Trump’s stupid reindeer games, Jack Smith takes the reins and seeks an expedited answer from the Supreme Court on Trump’s baseless claim that he is above the law and can’t be prosecuted for his crimes.”
Watch Weissmann’s explanation of Smith’s move below or at this link.
MSNBC Legal Contributor Andrew Weissmann explains why Jack Smith’s direct appeal to the Supreme Court on the issue of Trump’s immunity claims is a “smart move.” pic.twitter.com/835W478Kpe
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 11, 2023
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Arrested Again: Ex-FBI Informant and GOP Former Star Witness Alexander Smirnov
Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant who was arrested just eight days ago and charged with lying to the Bureau about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, has again been arrested, his lawyers state in an emergency court filing Thursday.
Smirnov allegedly used Russian intelligence to smear the Bidens, falsely claiming both Joe Biden and Hunter Biden had each accepted $5 million bribes. His claims were the basis of House Republicans’ impeachment investigation into President Biden.
But as NBC News’ Tom Winter reported, it’s a “mystery,” at least for now, why Smirnov was arrested again, his lawyers say, on the same charges as the first time.
Winter says earlier today at his attorneys’ offices in Las Vegas, Nevada, “Apparently agents showed up with a valid arrest warrant out of the Central District of California and took him into custody, but according to his attorneys, it was for the same exact indictment and the same exact charges that he had been previously hit with.”
CNN adds that the warrant “this time” was “signed by federal district Judge Otis Wright, who will oversee the criminal case out of California.”
The federal government asked for Smirnov to be detained but a magistrate judge allowed him to be released last week.
Winter reports that Smirnov’s attorneys say “they would like to know why” he was re-arrested, “and there’s no indication on the docket that the judge has granted some sort of emergency motion to remand him, basically to pull him off the streets because he’s violated his agreement.”
“So a bit of a mystery at this point,” Winter adds.
CNN notes that after his first arrest, “Smirnov was released by Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts in Nevada on Tuesday with several conditions, including GPS monitoring and the surrender of his two passports.”
Politico’s Kyle Cheney posted the arrest warrant. See it below or at this link.
JUST IN: Alexander SMIRNOV, the former FBI informant charged with feeding false info about the Bidens, has been rearrested despite a magistrate’s release order.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) February 22, 2024
Image: Screenshot of Smirnov with his face hidden from camera view
‘Reached His Limits’: Engoron ‘Brings the Hammer Down’ on Trump Attorney
New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has refused a “last ditch effort” from Donald Trump’s attorney to delay imposing the $355 million judgment in Attorney General Letitia James’ civil business fraud case against the ex-president.
“Once the judgment is officially entered, it will start the 30-day clock for Trump to file an appeal. During that period, Trump will need to put up cash or post bond to cover the $355 million and roughly $100 million in interest he was ordered to pay the state,” CNN reports.
MSNBC legal correspondent Lisa Rubin pointed to an email Judge Engoron sent Trump’s attorney Clifford Robert that reads in part, “You have failed to explain, much less justify, any basis for a stay.”
On social media Rubin notes, “Judge Engoron has reached his limits. It appears that he has signed the judgment and that all that needs to happen now is for the clerk to enter it.”
On-air at MSNBC, Rubin explained that Trump’s attorney asked Engoron “to stay the judgment without Donald Trump having to post a bond.”
Robert, according to Rubin, tried to use “a technicality in New York Civil Practice saying they should have filed a motion and they didn’t file a motion, they should have given us notice. We should have been able to counter propose our own judgment.”
Engoron, she continues, asked, “‘What exactly are you objecting to?’ And when Trump’s lawyers couldn’t articulate beyond a small but meaningful error with respect to the calculation of interest for Allen Weisselberg, that was the only real error that they identified. They couldn’t come up with anything else.”
“That’s when Engoron sort of dropped the hammer on them and said, ‘look, enough is enough. You have given me no reason for a stay.”
Rubin notes that at this point, “We’re just waiting for the clerk to start that 30 day clock.”
Nikki Haley Just Laid the Groundwork to Endorse Donald Trump
Down in the polls by double digits, former Trump UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who recently took off the kid gloves and has been battering her Republican opponent Donald Trump, just laid the groundwork to endorse the man she calls “unstable and unhinged,” by labeling President Joe Biden “more dangerous.”
“I think what’s really important is to know that the majority of Americans dislike Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” Haley told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in remarks that aired Thursday (audio below). “So we think that there needs to be an alternative.”
“While critical of both men — who she called ‘too old’ to be president — she said ‘Biden is more dangerous’ due to his management of immigration and the economy,” NPR reports. “Haley hinted that, if Biden and Trump were to face a rematch, she would back Trump if he wins the Republican presidential nomination.”
Trump, despite facing 91 criminal felony charges and civil judgments totaling possibly more than a half-billion dollars (including accruing interest,) is beating Haley, the former South Carolina governor. FiveThirtyEight‘s national polling average puts Trump at 77.7% and Haley at 16.4%. Even in her home state, Donald Trump is trouncing Nikki Haley, 63% to 35% in one recent poll, and 63% to 34% in another.
Haley did beat the one-term twice-impeached four-times indicted ex-president in January fundraising, a feat some strategists say will allow her to stay in the race longer.
Haley is going directly after Trump, and “launched her sharpest attack yet Tuesday, describing him as getting ‘more unstable and unhinged,'” AFP reported.
“He’s getting meaner and more offensive by the day,” she added. “He’s completely distracted, and everything is about him. He’s so obsessed with his demons in the past that he can’t focus on the future Americans deserve.”
She did not stop there.
“It’s not normal to spend $50 million dollars in campaign contributions on personal court cases,” Haley told supporters. “It’s not normal to threaten people who back your opponent, and it’s not normal to call on Russia to invade NATO countries.”
And yet, despite promising her base she will stay in the race even after South Carolina, and despite attacking Trump, Haley is now paving the way to endorse her former boss.
“I have a lot of concerns about Trump regaining the presidency. I have even more concerns about Joe Biden being president. I mean, you look at both of these men and all they have done is given us chaos, all they have given us is division,” Haley told NPR. “We need to starting bringing normalcy back to America and that’s why I think we need to have a new generational leader that focuses on the solutions of the future instead of all the issues of the past.”
Haley “compared the ex-president to a ‘bully,’ and stressed that he failed to obtain significant portions of the electorate in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“People don’t like when he goes off the teleprompter and says crazy things like he’d rather take Putin’s side over our allies,” she said. “People don’t like it when he mocks the military. People don’t like it when he calls people names.”
Some think an endorsement from Haley for Donald Trump won’t come.
“Haley endorsing Trump would be career ending for her. MAGA will never support her now. You can’t staddle this. You are either Trump or Never Trump. There is no middle ground between Liz Cheney and Donald Trump,” says former Washington State lawmaker and former state GOP chair Chris Vance, who opposes Donald Trump and describes himself as “a politically homeless Never Trump Conservative.”
Listen to Haley’s remarks to NPR below or at this link.
Image: Haley and Trump in 2020.
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