“The end of Trump’s financial empire”: Legal experts say N.Y. fraud ruling could bring him down
Areeba Shah – September 27, 2023
Donald Trump committed massive fraud in New York for years by repeatedly misrepresenting his wealth by hundreds of millions of dollars while building his real estate empire, a state Supreme Court judge ruled on Tuesday afternoon.
This startling decision came in the civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has argued that Trump, along his sons Donald Jr. and Eric and the entire Trump Organization, had “grossly” inflated the value of more than a dozen assets by hundreds of millions in total, and then used those fake values to defraud banks and insurers in order to obtain more favorable deals and secure loans.
James argued that Trump routinely overstated his net worth to financial institutions by between $812 million to $2.2 billion, depending on the year and the specific applications he filed, and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin Oct. 2.
New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron, who issued the summary judgment on Tuesday, ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded as punishment and ordered that an outside “receiver” must be appointed to supervise the management of those Trump properties. The ultimate outcome could well be the end of Trump’s ability to do business in the state.
Trump and his adult sons are now “barred from doing business in New York forever” under Engoron’s ruling, said Catherine Ross, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University. “And given that New York was the home base of their business, the base of their fortune, of Trump’s reputation, his credibility, his integrity — it’s all been found lacking.” The former president “is not a good businessman,” she added. “He’s a conman.”
Tuesday’s ruling came summary judgment, a decision indicating that there is no need for a jury trial because the evidence is “so strong” for one side, Ross explained, that no reasonable jury could reach a different decision.
Engoron’s ruling amounts to saying “that the New York attorney general presented an ironclad, well-documented case backed up with lots of evidence,” Ross said. In fact, she added, Engoron had already “lambasted Trump’s lawyers for trying to resuscitate defense arguments and positions that he had already expressly rejected and for essentially misleading the court in a number of instances.”
This decision was viewed as a surprise by legal observers and is clearly a major victory for James, who has been investigating claims since March 2019 that Trump and other executives at his companies had manipulated the values of various properties in order to get better deals from banks and insurers. She filed a lawsuit in September 2022.
Though the trial will determine the exact magnitude of the financial penalty inflicted on the Trumps and their business entity, Engoron has already granted one of the biggest punishments James pursued: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Trump’s New York properties, including the Trump Organization itself, to operate in the state. That could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.
This decision “signals the end of Trump’s financial empire,” Bennett Gershman, a former New York prosecutor and law professor at Pace University, told Salon.
“The judge declared that Trump and his family are guilty of a massive, staggering fraud in overvaluing his properties,” Gershman said. “The only issue left to be decided is the penalty to be imposed on him.”
The ruling, if it survives the appeals that are sure to follow, would deprive Trump of his ability to exercise control over critical properties in the state, particularly with regard to strategic and financial decisions. This would effectively dismantle a large portion of the former president’s business empire, and could destabilize his financial standing.
“This ruling cripples [Trump’s] ability to engage in business activities anywhere, and completely terminates his ability to do business in New York state,” Gershman said, adding that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg could now decide to reopen “his criminal investigation of Trump for falsely stating the value of his properties.” Bragg had earlier declined to prosecute Trump on those charges.
The former president has “boasted” that his personal net worth in the billions, Gershman added, although many observers have concluded that is unlikely. “The truth is that his net worth is far, far less than that,” Gershman said. “The consequences of this ruling and the upcoming trial, while not making him a pauper, will significantly reduce his net worth.”
According to Engoron’s ruling, Trump, along with his company and key executives, engaged in a pattern of false statements about their financial status in annual statements. This resulted in more favorable loan conditions and reduced insurance expenses, among other tangible benefits, the judge found.
Furthermore, these deceptive tactics violated legal boundaries, Engoron said, despite the arguments by Trump’s lawyers that a disclaimer attached to his financial statements absolved him of liability.
“In defendants’ world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies,” Engoron wrote in his 35-page ruling. “That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”
The judge ordered that Trump and the other defendants provide the names of potential independent receivers “to manage the dissolution of the canceled LLCs,” meaning the various Trump business entities, within 10 days of the ruling.
No member of the Trump family will have control over the properties in question, and according to Ross it is “very likely” that many or most will be sold to compensate for the Trumps’ fraudulent gains, a process similar to the “liquidation” that occurs in bankruptcy proceedings.
One notable finding in Engoron’s decision was that Trump had continuously overvalued Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, inflating its value on one financial statement by as much as 2,300%, The Associated Press reported. Engoron also challenged Trump’s claim about the size of his apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, which the former president on at least one occasion had asserted was 30,000 square feet, nearly three times its actual size. Trump had estimated the apartment’s market value at $327 million, a patently implausible number even in the New York City real estate market.
“A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud,” Engoron wrote.
Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Salon that while the former president is a “fraudster,” his supporters will continue to claim that “he’s a good businessman,” adding that Trump has “proven time and again that he can survive these sorts of stains on him and his company.”
As far as Trump’s business ventures go, Rahmani said: “He’s done doing business in New York. He’s just done.”
In their own motion for summary judgment, Trump’s legal team had asked the judge to dismiss the case, contending that there was no evidence that the public had been harmed by Trump’s actions. They also argued that many of the allegations in the lawsuit were barred by the statute of limitations.
Engoron noted that he had rejected those arguments earlier in the case, and fined Trump’s five defense lawyers $7,500 each as punishment for “engaging in repetitive, frivolous” arguments.
James’ lawsuit is just one of many legal challenges confronting Trump, who remains the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Over the past six months, the former president has faced four criminal indictments and is also facing a second defamation suit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll, who earlier won a civil verdict against Trump for sexually assaulting her in the 1990s.
“Maybe this will affect the public’s perception of him not only as an obstructer of justice, who undermined national security and sought to unlawfully undo a fair election, but also as a financial cheat,” Gershman said.
Ross added that Trump “seems to be leveraged up to his eyeballs,” facing “enormous debts” and rapidly mounting legal bills. And this decision creates further legal jeopardy for him, she added.
“If he were to consider taking the stand in one of the many pending cases against him, whether criminal or civil,” Ross said, “this finding of fraud could be used by the other side — by the prosecution, or the other party in a civil case — to impeach his testimony. Fraud goes to the essence of whether you tell the truth.”
The Biggest Bombshells in Trump Whistleblower Cassidy Hutchinson’s New White House Memoir
Kyler Alvord – September 26, 2023
In her newly published book, “Enough,” the former White House aide shares disturbing allegations involving several D.C. power players, including Rudy Giuliani, Matt Gaetz and President Trump himself
After laying low for more than a year, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson is returning to the public eye with the release of a new tell-all memoir, Enough, that’s already put some of Donald Trump‘s allies on the defensive.
Hutchinson, who served as a top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, became an instant public figure last summer when she testified against Trump in a televised hearing before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Immediately after her explosive testimony, she had to go into hiding for safety reasons, holed up in a Washington, D.C. hotel for several days before temporarily relocating to Atlanta to wait out the backlash.
In her 356-page book, published Tuesday, Hutchinson puts forth several previously unheard claims, walking readers through the ups and downs of her life, including her once-skyrocketing career. Along the way, the 26-year-old shares countless stories about her time before, during and after working in Trump’s White House, offering a brief on all of the major players in the modern Republican Party and the inner-workings of the Trump administration.
Chock-full of details both consequential and just plain juicy, the book covers everything from Trump officials’ favorite candies (Jared Kushner gravitated to peach rings, she writes) to various lawmakers’ personalities (Sen. Ted Cruz lacked a sense of humor and once called her a “tattletale,” she alleges) to the president’s erratic leadership style (examples of which are too vast to summarize).
Hutchinson explains how various high-ranking Republicans reacted to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, and uses a wide range of anecdotes to exemplify her high-profile friendships in Washington, including with now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Some of the more damning claims in Hutchinson’s book include an alleged incident of groping by disgraced ex-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on the morning of the U.S. Capitol Riot, the “vain” reason Trump didn’t want to be seen wearing a N95 mask during the pandemic, Meadows’ apparent sense of guilt surrounding prominent Republican Herman Cain‘s premature COVID death, and a couple of uncomfortable encounters with firebrand House Freedom Caucus member Matt Gaetz.
Asked whether she fears the attacks that may come as people pore over the details in her memoir, Hutchinson tells PEOPLE that she doesn’t, and that she stands by all of her claims.
“If somebody wants to attack the way that they come off in the book, I’m not going to hold myself responsible for what they may say about the way that they’re framed,” she says. “I’m holding them accountable to their own actions.”
Here, five of Hutchinson’s most memorable allegations scattered throughout the pages of Enough.
Trump refused to wear masks during the pandemic because his bronzer turned the straps visibly orange
According to Hutchinson’s new book, the anti-mask movement that Trump supporters spearheaded during COVID-19 — leading to countless preventable deaths nationwide — stemmed from a makeup mishap involving the president early on in the pandemic.
“The president tried on several N95 masks at the Honeywell plant in Phoenix, Arizona, which manufactured all manner of personal protective equipment (PPE). He was not thrilled that staff urged him to wear a mask, believing it would make him look weak and afraid of the virus,” Hutchinson writes. “He decided on a white mask and strapped it to his face before asking each staffer whether or not he should wear it in front of the press pool.”
Hutchinson says that the president looked to her for input, making a “thumbs-up/thumbs-down” gesture. She shook her head, signaling that he shouldn’t wear it.
“I pointed at the straps of the N95 I was holding,” she recalls. “When he looked at the straps of his mask, he saw that they were covered in bronzer. ‘Why did no one else tell me that,’ he snapped. ‘I’m not wearing this thing.'”
“He wore safety goggles on the tour,” she continues in the book. “The press would criticize him for not wearing a mask, not knowing that the depth of his vanity had caused him to reject masks—and then millions of his fans followed suit.”
Cassidy says Rudy Giuliani groped her on the morning of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot
Buried in Hutchinson’s account of the chaos that ensued on Jan. 6, 2021, is a disturbing allegation that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani groped her — in the presence of a fellow Trump attorney, John Eastman.
In her memoir, Hutchinson recalls frantically looking for Giuliani as the morning’s rally was beginning — she says she was trying to get more information on what Trump and his confidants were planning that day, as well as convince the president’s closest advisers to keep Trump from meeting his supporters at the Capitol. She eventually tracked Giuliani down in a tent near the rally stage, and when Giuliani saw her, she says “the corners of his mouth split into a Cheshire cat smile.”
Waving a stack of documents — which he allegedly told her was evidence that Trump could still win the election — Giuliani approached Hutchinson “like a wolf closing in on its prey,” she writes.
“Rudy wraps one arm around my body, closing the space that was separating us. I feel his stack of documents press into the small of my back,” she writes. “I lower my eyes and watch his free hand reach for the hem of my blazer.”
After complimenting her leather jacket, she alleges, “His hand slips under my blazer, then my skirt. I felt his frozen fingertips trail up my thigh. He tilts his chin up. The whites of his eyes look jaundiced. My eyes dart to John Eastman, who flashes a leering grin.”
Responding to the groping claim, Giuliani’s political adviser, Ted Goodman, told PEOPLE, “It’s fair to ask Cassidy Hutchinson why she is just now coming out with these allegations from two and a half years ago, as part of the marketing campaign for her upcoming book release.”
Eastman’s personal attorney, Charles Burnham, said his client “categorically denies” the allegation that he witnessed Hutchinson get groped, claiming that Eastman didn’t know who she was until her testimony before the Jan. 6 House committee in June 2022. “Dr. Eastman is considering defamation litigation against those responsible for making or publishing these libelous allegations,” he wrote in a statement shared with PEOPLE.
Cassidy says Matt Gaetz made a pass at her at Camp David, and raised red flags among top Republicans prior to his sexual abuse allegations
In Hutchinson’s Jan. 6 testimony, she alleged that Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz was among a handful of Republican lawmakers who sought a pardon from Trump before he left office. In her memoir, though, she shares multiple other stories centered around Gaetz — including a couple of uncomfortable moments she allegedly had with the controversial House Freedom Caucus member, resulting in a confrontation at Camp David at which Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy was present.
According to Hutchinson, she organized a May 2020 retreat at Camp David to which some of Trump’s closest friends in the House GOP were invited, including Gaetz and McCarthy. By the time the House members arrived in the evening, Trump and Meadows had already gone off to their cabins for the night. McCarthy “ordered a few bottles of bourbon and wine” from the bar and invited some of the members over to his cabin to drink, Hutchinson writes. Then around 1 a.m., she alleges, the few who were still hanging around heard a knock at McCarthy’s cabin door.
“I thought it was Camp David’s staff coming to quiet us down—Kevin’s cabin was across from the president’s. But when Kevin opened the door, we discovered Matt Gaetz leaning against the door frame,” she writes in the book. “Matt straightened his posture when Kevin asked him what he wanted, and he explained that he had seen my golf cart parked outside and thought that this was my cabin.”
She continues: “Embarrassed, I got up and asked Matt what he needed. He explained that he was lost and needed me to escort him back to his cabin. I told him to proceed around the circle drive—all the cabins were clearly marked and it was impossible to get lost. He asked me one more time to leave with him. ‘Get a life, Matt,’ Kevin said, then shut the door.”
At various points in the memoir, Hutchinson briefly mentions other strange interactions with Gaetz, like at a bar following Trump’s first impeachment vote, when she writes that Gaetz “chuckled and brushed his thumb across my chin” before allegedly asking her, “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a national treasure?”
In the later days of the administration, when Gaetz began dropping by on occasion to seek a pardon from Trump, Hutchinson writes, “I tried to dismiss Matt’s antics but began wondering why he was pushing so hard for a pardon. I raised the issue with Mark one day after Matt had left and asked if there was anything I should know about. ‘Between you and me,’ Mark said, ‘DOJ may be looking into something about Matt. Best to stay away from him. Can you do that for me?’ I nodded and promised I would.”
It was later reported that Gaetz was the subject of a sex trafficking probe for an alleged sexual relationship with an underage girl, but he was ultimately not indicted by the Justice Department. The House Ethics Committee reportedly reopened its own probe into his conduct in June 2023, the status of which is unknown.
Asked for comment about the alleged encounters with Hutchinson, Gaetz told PEOPLE in a statement: “I don’t remember either of these events and based on Cassidy’s prior false statements, I doubt they occurred.”
The written statement continued: “I did date Cassidy for a few weeks when we were both single years ago. We parted amicably and remained friends thereafter, even during President Trump’s post presidency when she asked me to help her secure housing in South Florida because she was eager to continue working for President Trump. It is sad to see Cassidy dishonestly turn against so many people who cared about her for fame and book sales.”
Hutchinson denied ever dating Gaetz in a Monday night interview on The Rachel Maddow Show, saying that they were friends at times but that he “does not have the best track record for relationships” and that she has “much higher standards in men.”
Mark Meadows privately took some responsibility for former presidential candidate Herman Cain’s COVID-19 death
Hutchinson’s book details the moment she informed Mark Meadows that former presidential candidate Herman Cain died from COVID-19 complications after attending Trump’s first pandemic-era campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She alleges that Meadows felt at least some responsibility for Cain’s death.
“I had slipped into Mark’s office when I got the news, my middle finger and thumb tapping together as I gnawed the inside of my cheek, wrestling with my words. ‘Chief, have you heard about Herman Cain?'” Hutchinson writes, recalling the July 30, 2020, conversation.
By her account, Meadows responded asking if Cain was all right, to which she replied, “No, Mark, he’s dead.” Hutchinson says the blood drained from Meadows’ face, and he began asking her questions: “He was in Tulsa wasn’t he?” (Yes, sir.) “That’s where he caught COVID, right?” (Yes, sir.)
“Mark had briefly turned his attention to the TV. I had assumed that he was wondering if the news had been made public,” she continues in the memoir. “He looked back at me and said flatly, ‘We killed Herman Cain.’ I could hear him swallow. ‘Get me his wife’s number,’ he said sadly.”
Earlier in the book, Hutchinson writes that Trump was getting stir-crazy in the first months of the pandemic, leading to the early campaign rallies: “What little patience the president possessed had been exhausted. He wanted to be out on the campaign trail. ‘We have to start doing rallies again,’ he stressed to anyone within earshot.”
“The consensus among senior staff was that rallies were a bad idea both for reasons of public health and because it wasn’t the time to wade into politics. Clearly indoor rallies were off-limits, for the former reason,” she continues in the book. “‘Antifa is having rallies every day on the streets,’ countered Trump, referring to the Black Lives Matter protests. ‘We are going to plan a big rally, and it’s going to happen as soon as possible.'”
Hutchinson writes that Trump’s adamancy signaled the planning of the June 20, 2020, Tulsa rally that Cain would ultimately attend.
“I had seen [Cain] in the risers behind the stage in Tulsa,” Hutchinson recalls in the book. “He grabbed my wrists and pumped my arms above my head, flashing his enigmatic smile as he cried out, ‘We’re going to win! We’re going to win! Four more years! Four more years!'”
Cassidy says Liz Cheney secretly helped her break free from Trump’s legal team during the Jan. 6 investigation
Initially represented by a Trump-aligned lawyer after getting subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Hutchinson struggled with what she characterized as his alleged instruction to be unforthcoming with the committee’s search for answers — and, eventually, to refuse testifying in subsequent depositions, even if it ran the “small risk” of being held in contempt of Congress.
“I knew in my heart that was a luxury I could not afford,” she writes. “There was only one option — to fulfill my moral and civic obligations.”
Hutchinson says she had already tried finding independent legal representation, meeting numerous lawyers and brainstorming ways to scrape together money — even visiting her estranged father to ask for financial help — but was met with unreasonably high fees at every turn.
“To honor the oath I swore to defend, I had to free myself from Trump World,” she remembers thinking in the book. “All I had to do was figure out a way to free myself without doing anything that would draw their attention and arouse suspicion.”
In an earlier deposition, Hutchinson had tried to slyly feed committee members some helpful answers without appearing insubordinate to the Trump attorney accompanying her, and afterward, committee vice chair Liz Cheney had walked up to her, given her a hug, and whispered, “Thank you.” But she writes that she had more to say, and that she felt her attorney was trying to keep her from saying it.
In a bind, she quietly turned to one of the few people she felt she could trust — Cheney — arranging a phone call to discuss her situation and ask for help finding a new, affordable lawyer so she could come clean about what she saw in Trump’s White House.
The next day, Hutchinson says, Cheney provided her with a list of lawyers to reach out to that she believed would help. “I thanked her and promised that I would figure out a way to do the right thing, regardless of the outcome of the search for new counsel,” she writes. “I could not find the words to tell her that the committee was giving me one of the greatest gifts I could have received: hope.”
Soon, Hutchinson had signed an engagement letter with two lawyers who’d worked in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush. They agreed to represent her pro bono.
Hutchinson writes that she formed a friendship with Cheney after breaking free from Trump’s orbit, saying that when she was exiled after testifying live, she knew that she could always look to the Wyoming congresswoman for support.
“Liz checks on me every day,” she writes of the time that she was in hiding after testifying. “She sends encouraging articles, shares stories about the public support we’ve received since the hearing, and relays messages from prominent figures in the Republican Party, our Republican Party. We talk and laugh, I cry, we laugh some more. Liz is becoming my rock.”
“Liz reminds us that true leadership is grounded in principle, and that change can be achieved through unyielding loyalty to our democratic ideals,” it reads. “May this book serve as a testament to the transformative power of leaders like Liz, who inspire us to be agents of the truth in our republic, and beyond. That we, as individuals, are enough.”
Judge rules Donald Trump defrauded banks, insurers while building real estate empire
By Michael R. Sisak – September 26, 2023
NEW YORK (AP) — A judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House.
Judge Arthur Engoron, ruling in a civil lawsuit brought by New York’s attorney general, found that the former president and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing financing.
Engoron ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded as punishment, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York, and said he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee the Trump Organization’s operations.
A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling. Trump has long insisted he did nothing wrong.
The decision, days before the start of a non-jury trial in Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit, is the strongest repudiation yet of Trump’s carefully coiffed image as a wealthy and shrewd real estate mogul turned political powerhouse.
Beyond mere bragging about his riches, Trump, his company and key executives repeatedly lied about them on his annual financial statements, reaping rewards such as favorable loan terms and lower insurance premiums, Engoron found.
Those tactics crossed a line and violated the law, the judge said, rejecting Trump’s contention that a disclaimer on the financial statements absolved him of any wrongdoing.
“In defendants’ world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies,” Engoron wrote in his 35-page ruling. “That is a is a fantasy world, not the real world.”
Manhattan prosecutors had looked into bringing a criminal case over the same conduct but declined to do so, leaving James to sue Trump and seek penalties that could disrupt his and his family’s ability to do business in the state.
Engoron’s ruling, in a phase of the case known as summary judgment, resolves the key claim in James’ lawsuit, but six others remain.
Engoron is slated to hold a non-jury trial starting Oct. 2 before deciding on those claims and any punishments he may impose. James is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York, his home state. The trial could last into December, Engoron has said.
Trump’s lawyers had asked the judge to throw out the case, which he denied. They contend that James wasn’t legally allowed to file the lawsuit because there isn’t any evidence that the public was harmed by Trump’s actions. They also argued that many of the allegations in the lawsuit were barred by the statute of limitations.
Engoron, noting that he had “emphatically rejected” those arguments earlier in the case, equated them to the “time-loop in the film ‘Groundhog Day.’”
James, a Democrat, sued Trump and the Trump Organization a year ago, alleging a pattern of duplicity that she dubbed “the art of the steal,” a twist on the title of Trump’s 1987 business memoir “The Art of the Deal.”
The lawsuit accused Trump and his company of routinely inflating the value of assets like skyscrapers, golf courses and his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, padding his bottom line by billions.
Among the allegations were that Trump claimed his Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan — a three-story penthouse replete with gold-plated fixtures — was nearly three times its actual size and valued the property at $327 million. No apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount, James said.
Trump valued Mar-a-Lago as high as $739 million — more than 10 times a more reasonable estimate of its worth. Trump’s figure for the private club and residence was based on the idea that the property could be developed for residential use, but deed terms prohibit that, James said.
Trump has denied wrongdoing, arguing in sworn testimony for the case that it didn’t matter what he put on his financial statements because they have a disclaimer that says they shouldn’t be trusted. He told James at the April deposition, “You don’t have a case and you should drop this case.”
“Do you know the banks were fully paid? Do you know the banks made a lot of money?” Trump testified. “Do you know I don’t believe I ever got even a default notice, and even during COVID, the banks were all paid? And yet you’re suing on behalf of banks, I guess. It’s crazy. The whole case is crazy.”
Engoron rejected that argument when the defense previously sought to have the case thrown out.
The judge said the disclaimer on the financial statements “makes abundantly clear that Mr. Trump was fully responsible for the information contained within” them and that “allowing blanket disclaimers to insulate liars from liability would completely undercut” the “important function” that such statements serve “in the real world.”
James’ lawsuit is one of several legal headaches for Trump as he campaigns for a return to the White House in 2024. He has been indicted four times in the last six months — accused in Georgia and Washington, D.C., of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss, in Florida of hoarding classified documents, and in Manhattan of falsifying business records related to hush money paid on his behalf.
The Trump Organization was convicted of tax fraud last year in an unrelated criminal case for helping executives dodge taxes on extravagant perks such as Manhattan apartments and luxury cars. The company was fined $1.6 million. One of the executives, Trump’s longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty and served five months in jail. He is a defendant in James’ lawsuit and gave sworn deposition testimony for the case in May.
James’ lawsuit does not carry the potential of prison time, but could complicate his ability to transact real estate deals. It could also stain his legacy as a developer.
James has asked Engoron to ban Trump and his three eldest children from ever again running a company based New York. She also wants Trump and the Trump Organization barred from entering into commercial real estate acquisitions for five years, among other sanctions. The $250 million in penalties she is seeking is the estimated worth of benefits derived from the alleged fraud, she said.
James, who campaigned for office as a Trump critic and watchdog, started scrutinizing his business practices in March 2019 after his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress that Trump exaggerated his wealth on financial statements provided to Deutsche Bank while trying to obtain financing to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
James’ office previously sued Trump for misusing his own charitable foundation to further his political and business interests. Trump was ordered to pay $2 million to an array of charities as a fine and the charity, the Trump Foundation, was shut down.
Mobility, a novel by Lydia Kiesling, looks at the way fossil fuels defines life in public and private, shaping the very way we tell stories.
Jess Bergman – September 26, 2023 (October 2nd-9th, 2023 issue)
Elizabeth “Bunny” Glenn, the protagonist of Lydia Kiesling’s new novel Mobility, may work for the Turnbridge Oil Company, but that doesn’t mean she’s in oil. As she’s quick to remind anyone who asks, “I work for the non-oil part of it, the part that is moving away from oil; we are targeting batteries and energy storage, not oil.” And as she rationalizes to herself, all she does in her capacity as a marketer and administrator is “relay information, tell stories, shape narratives, soft things, things that didn’t really matter.”
Despite these disavowals, the fact is that Bunny has spent years trying to better understand the oil industry. It turns out to be a Sisyphean task: The basic schema of the industry—where many companies are vertically and horizontally integrated, mergers are a constant, and financialization has spawned its own sprawling sub-industry—intentionally obscures the full picture. The oil landscape is a quicksand of “names and names and names.” Every time Bunny learned a new one, “the map she had constructed in her mind shifted.” Meanwhile, her brother John, a do-gooder Peace Corps veteran who teaches English in Ukraine, teases Bunny that she’ll wind up like their uncle Warren, a garden-variety reactionary with a desk job at Motiva that earns him “a seemingly huge amount of money.”
More than halfway through the novel, John’s partner, Sofie—a Swedish journalist who covers fossil fuels—provides Bunny with a term that describes the oil industry’s elusiveness: “hyperobject.” Coined by the philosopher Timothy Morton in 2010, a hyperobject is something so large and complex, so distributed across both space and time, that it evades our comprehensive understanding, even as we cannot escape its presence in our life. “The more data we have about hyperobjects, the less we know about them—the more we realize we can never truly know them,” Morton argues. Oil is a hyperobject par excellence: Not only is it the result of a geologic process that is millions of years old, but there are reserves of crude oil all over the world, and its byproducts are found in innumerable consumer items: artificial limbs and toilet seats, lipstick and trash bags, refrigerators and contact lenses. As Bunny herself puts it, “It does touch everything. Absolutely everything.”
Even before Bunny started working at Turnbridge, her life had been touched by oil more directly than others’. As a Foreign Service brat in Azerbaijan in the late 1990s, her adolescence unfolded alongside the development of a new international order, and commodities like oil played a starring role in this transition. Four years before her family’s arrival in Baku, and three years after the country restored its independence from the Soviet Union, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic and a consortium of 11 foreign oil companies signed what was called the “contract of the century”: an agreement to jointly develop—and share the profits from—oil fields in the Azeri sectors of the Caspian Sea. Several of those foreign companies, of course, were American. Bunny’s father is sent to Azerbaijan in part to protect his country’s investment.
In Baku, some of the consequences of the newly privatized oil economy are obvious even to a self-absorbed 15-year-old like Bunny: a sulfuric smell on the beach, or the “mansions with no context” piled up on cliffsides outside of the capital. But most of what she learns about the industry comes via a more sentimental education—namely, crushes on the young men who have flocked to Azerbaijan to witness the so-called end of history. There is Eddie, a mild-mannered Brit making a documentary about the Nagorno-Karabakh War, who rents a room in the apartment above the Glenns’; and then there is Charlie, a hedonistic, hirsute American who publishes a guerrilla newspaper called The Intercock (short for Inter-Caucasian Times) covering “foreign activity in the former Soviet Union.”
At one point, while attending a party at an oil prospector’s mansion in Baku’s ancient inner city, Bunny bumps into her crushes smoking cigars with a gray-haired Amoco bureaucrat. After frightening the oilman off with a veiled reference to his taste for sex workers, Charlie turns to Bunny. “Do you want to hear the story of oil in the former Soviet Union?” he asks. Following her noncommital “I guess,” Charlie proceeds to unspool a profane monologue about the scramble for the Caspian’s riches amid the breakup of the USSR, featuring cameos by Mikhail Gorbachev, Ilham Aliyev, “Condoleezza fucking Rice,” BP, Chevron, Exxon, and more.
This speech, which unfolds across four pages, is for Bunny’s benefit, but also our own. By embedding crucial context in naturalistic dialogue, Kiesling is able to establish the historical conjuncture in which her book is set without resorting to dull exposition. But this formal choice is more than just a canny bit of craft; it also hints at the novel’s true subject. Recognizing the epistemological impasse that Bunny runs up against in her quest to master the industry’s inner workings, Mobility is not really about oil qua oil, but the way it is narrativized—both for good and for ill.
Mobility teems with storytellers, from investigative reporters, podcasters, and filmmakers to spin doctors, government public information officers, and oil CEOs, dictating their memoirs to underpaid female assistants. When Bunny eventually joins their ranks, it’s due less to any conscious choice than to circumstance. Personally and professionally adrift after graduating from college in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, she moves in with her recently divorced mother in Texas and finds a job through a temp agency at Miles Engineering Consultants, a firm that provides “client satisfaction in the diverse fields of geophysics and seismology, hydrology, hydrogeology, and construction support.” Bunny is assigned to the admin pool, where she puts her English degree to work copy-editing inscrutable reports about prospective megaprojects, such as a nuclear power plant in the Persian Gulf. However tedious, it’s a task at which she excels.
Not long after Bunny is hired, she meets Frank Miles—son of the company’s founder, and son-in-law to oil magnate Frank Turnbridge—who recognizes in Bunny a potential asset to his own ambition. Before long, Frank convinces her to jump ship to Turnbridge, where he’ll be heading up a new arm of the business: one that “over time,” he promises, will begin investing in “renewables, batteries, clean energy.” As she’ll learn, it’s a future that’s always just on the verge of arriving.
Whatever “unease” Bunny feels as a reflexive liberal who believes in global warming but who is now working for an oil company is allayed in short order by the material comforts that the job enables her to obtain: a well-appointed apartment in Houston, Ted Baker dresses, Bare Minerals makeup, Jo Malone perfume (the novel is littered with brand names that increase in value in tandem with Bunny’s professional advancement). It’s a state of affairs that Sofie mocks during a visit to Texas: “I’m sorry, but this is such an American tragedy! You work for the oil complex so you can have health insurance and a place to live!” However much Bunny clings to these justifications, the truth is that she starts to find something magnetic about the industry after immersing herself in its literature.
While attempting to better understand her new workplace, Bunny spends many Saturdays at the Turnbridge Petroleum Library, donated by Frank to a local college, where she reads introductory textbooks (“useful but boring”) as well as “narrative histories, which she infinitely preferred.” The latter are seductive in both the cinematic quality of their imagery and in the sheer enormity of the feats of engineering and labor they describe—so monumental that they reduce the “dead people and filth strewn all over the pages of these books” to mere footnotes. “These tragedies were made small against the inexorability of a steel tube drilling down thousands of feet, drilling sideways a thousand feet more, seeming to subvert the laws of geology or physics,” Bunny thinks. “Literal pipelines laid under the ground and spanning two continents, traveling under the ocean itself, to bring them their standard of living.”
Her encounter with these texts is formative in more ways than one: Bunny will eventually stake her career on building a Lean In version of this emphatically masculine mythos. In 2016, she attends a women-in-energy luncheon in a frigid Texas conference room where the keynote speaker is “one of the first Black women special agents in the FBI.” Bunny, then unmarried and childless, is seated with a number of colleagues discussing the challenges of being a working mother in the oil industry. A geologist with twins who’s recently been let go from Exxon jokes—if you can call it that—that “they always lay the moms off first.” Then one of the only men present at the lunch drops by their table. “What are we talking about here?” he asks. “Shoes?” A less keen novel might leverage this interaction into an epiphany for Bunny, but Kiesling is working in an ultimately ironic register here. At the end of the scene, Bunny lifts a foot out of her “Tory Burch square-heeled croc pumps that didn’t have quite enough room in the toe box…before turning her attention back to the podium.” She, at least, had been thinking about shoes after all.
Over the course of Mobility, Kiesling develops a critique of the fossil fuel industry’s use of women as both a shield and a source of legitimacy. This applies to women on the outside: A recurring motif is the line, supplied by industry flacks like Bunny, that it’s thanks to oil and gas that mothers can give birth in brightly lit, temperature-regulated hospitals, full of high-tech devices made from petrochemical byproducts, rather than in unsanitary sheds, the United States’ high rate of maternal mortality be damned. But it’s women working on the inside who prove to be most useful to the industry. Of course, the benefits flow both ways: On the one hand, the industry’s embrace of corporate feminism allows individual women to recast their environmentally destructive and highly remunerative work as a radical riposte to the old boys’ club. More significantly, this PR strategy plays into the narrative that a lack of diversity, not a profit motive antithetical to life, is responsible for oil’s gravest ills. In this way, reforming the energy industry’s relationship to women and other minorities becomes a metonym for reforming the industry itself. At yet another conference, Bunny listens to a chipper blonde introduce a new professional network for women backed by companies like Shell and Halliburton. Her ambitions for the project are grand: It’s “something that will benefit not only us, but our entire oil and gas industry.” Notably, the woman is a special guest at an event titled “Storytelling Oil and Gas.”
By focusing primarily on the recent past and covering mostly real disasters, natural and otherwise—the Deepwater Horizon spill; Hurricane Harvey—Mobility sets itself apart from most so-called climate change novels, which tend to take place in an alternative present or near future menaced by mysterious adverse weather events. So when the book flashes forward to 2051 in a brief coda knowingly titled “Downstream”—referring to the refining of crude oil and all of its byproducts, as well as their marketing and sale—it comes as a somewhat deflating capitulation to the conventions of the genre. Kiesling depicts this future bluntly; its crises are represented in broad strokes, with minimal stylistic flourishes: “On the first 120-degree-Fahrenheit day [Bunny] ever felt, nearly everything shriveled and died and the crows fell out of the trees.”
Given the destructiveness of Mobility’s final act, it’s tempting to read it as an environmentalist parable, or even an intervention. But the novel is fundamentally ambivalent about the usefulness of stories in fighting climate change. Through Bunny’s occasional insecurities about the meaning of her work for Turnbridge, Kiesling breaks the fourth wall. “Sometimes Elizabeth marveled at how simultaneously irrelevant and critical the shaping of narrative was to reality,” she writes.
Decarbonization was more important than ever. The majors were pulling out of the Permian and Bakken right and left…. And yet Europe was preparing to freeze without Russian gas. The EU had signed a deal to double its supply of LNG from Azerbaijan, great news for Azerbaijan and BP.
In Mobility, the primary function of the stories told by fossil fuel companies is to approximate the feeling of change without actually changing anything—except, perhaps, their names.
For the industry, this proves to be a winning strategy: “Many of the people who got rich from oil put themselves directly atop the next generation of energy just in the nick of time.” For its opponents, the value of narrative is less clear. We learn little about the impact of Sofie’s journalism, other than that her career goes “gangbusters” after she becomes a household name during the Standing Rock protests. And when Bunny bumps into Charlie many years after their initial meeting in Baku, he’s traded in harassing fossil fuel executives for reporting on drone war, because, he explains, “There’s more people with a deep state paranoia who will subscribe to your podcast than there are people who want to hear about oil companies.” Stories, Kiesling suggests, can make us feel better about the path of least resistance, or they can prompt us to consider the cost of our familiar comforts. But given that they tend toward tidy resolution, stories are more likely to produce inertia than action on a mass scale. This makes them no match for the resources of an industry that scaffolds our geopolitical order and produces trillions of dollars in profits a year.
Rather than styling itself as a rallying cry, the closest thing that Mobility offers to a concrete solution is smuggled into a joke in a scene some years before the apocalyptic flash-forward. During a visit to the United States in 2014 from his posting in Tajikistan, Bunny’s diplomat father tells his grown children that the long-defunct oil field their grandparents owned a small interest in might soon become active again, thanks to a tertiary form of oil recovery in which pressurized carbon dioxide is blasted into old wells to loosen whatever remains. Any money it yields, he says, will be passed on to them. Bunny’s brother John is horrified by the prospect of profiting from oil. “Can you do something to shut down production?” he asks.
Bunny laughs. “He owns one-seventy-somethingth of it,” she tells her brother. “Is he supposed to throw a grenade down the well?
Jess Bergman is a senior editor at The Baffler and a contributing writer at Jewish Currents.
Joe Biden makes history by joining UAW picket line
Bernd Debusmann Jr, Sarah Smith, Natalie Sherman September 26, 2023
US President Joe Biden has backed striking cars workers in Michigan during a visit to their picket line – a first for a sitting US president.
Mr Biden said that the workers “deserve” raises and other concessions they are seeking.
The visit comes a day before his would-be challenger, Donald Trump, is due to arrive.
But workers told the BBC they felt the rivals might politicise the strike, and urged them to “just stay away”.
In brief remarks to the picketing workers on Tuesday, the Democratic president said that they “deserve the significant raise you need and other benefits”.
He added that the workers should be doing as “incredibly well” as the companies that employ them.
While US lawmakers – and presidential candidates – frequently appear at strikes to express solidarity with American workers, it is considered unprecedented for a sitting president to do so.
Some workers said they hoped the attention from Mr Biden and his rival would help their cause, but others dismissed the visits as political stunts aimed at getting votes, which would have little practical impact on the negotiations.
“We would much rather neither of them showed up,” longtime Ford worker Billy Rowe told the BBC. “We don’t want to divide people and when you bring politics into it, it’s going to cause an argument.”
Earlier in September the UAW declared a strike targeting Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, pushing the three major car companies for better pay and conditions.
The White House, which was heavily involved in resolving a 2022 labour dispute with rail workers, was “not part of the negotiations”, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday.
Officials had previously refused to be drawn on whether Mr Biden supports the current UAW proposal, with Ms Jean-Pierre insisting the administration would “leave it to the UAW and the big three”.
Mr Biden’s presence in Michigan is instead intended to show support to the car workers, Ms Jean-Pierre said.
The president believes “that the men and women of the UAW deserve a fair share of the record profits they’ve helped to create”, she added.
The White House announced Mr Biden’s visit to the UAW workers last week, soon after Mr Trump announced he would skip the 27 September Republican presidential debate in California to visit Detroit, the heart of US vehicle manufacturing.
On his social media platform Truth Social, Mr Trump said he had provoked the presidential visit.
“Crooked Joe Biden had no intention of going to visit the United Autoworkers, until I announced that I would be headed to Michigan to be with them [and] help them out,” he wrote.
Mr Biden was invited to visit the UAW members by the group’s president, Shawn Fain, who has sometimes been critical of Mr Trump.
In his Truth Social post, Mr Trump – who has not been invited by the UAW – vowed that car workers are “toast” if they do not endorse him and if he does not win the election.
On the picket line in Michigan, word of the duelling visits was greeted by groans and “a lot of eye rolls”, according to Billy Rowe, 61, one of half a dozen workers huddled in the rain holding picket signs outside a Ford factory near Detroit, receiving regular honks of support from passing cars and trucks.
Mr Rowe, who has worked at Ford for 27 years, said he saw the dispute as one between workers and the companies.
Another Ford employee, Frankie Worley, said that “politics shouldn’t be involved” in the issue.
“They come down here and get a picture and say they support us, but really, do they?” said Mr Worley, who has spent 28 years at the company, including 20 on the assembly line. “This involvement is just to put their face against us and say they’re helping us. Just stay away.”
The strike, he added, is his first. He said he was partly motivated by the fact that his pay has only risen $4 (£3.2) from $28 an hour 25 years ago to $32 today.
“It’s hard to make a living now,” he said.
The visits by Mr Biden and Mr Trump – currently the frontrunner for the Republican nomination – come as Republicans and Democrats alike focus on the electorally important Midwestern “Rust Belt”, where blue-collar workers such as UAW members form a vital voting bloc.
The battle for those votes in Michigan promises to be intense. Democrats narrowly won the state in the 2020 presidential election after losing there in 2016.
Meanwhile, the UAW endorsed Mr Biden in 2020, but has yet to name a preferred candidate for the 2024 election, saying that the union’s support needs to be “earned”.
Though the UAW has long been allied with the Democratic party, Mr Worley said that many of its members are upset about issues including inflation and illegal border crossings, weakening support for Mr Biden among the rank-and-file.
“I’ve seen a big shift,” he said.
Mr Biden’s visit to the picket line also comes as his administration pushes for more electric vehicle (EV) production in the US – a cause for concern for union members who worry that EVs require fewer workers to build them and could be made in non-union factories for much lower wages.
In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Trump called Mr Biden’s visit a “PR stunt” to “distract and gaslight” the US public from other issues, including immigration and public safety.
Surveys suggest that a majority of Americans back the UAW’s cause, and a recent Gallup poll found that 67% support unions more generally.
‘Morning Joe’ Says It’s ‘Not a Reach’ to Compare Trump to Hitler: If You Don’t See It, ‘You’re Just Stupid’ or ‘You’re One of Them’ (Video)
Andi Ortiz – September 26, 2023
Donald Trump has returned to an old favorite insult, calling NBC and MSNBC an “enemy of the people” once again on Monday. As a result, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough argued on Tuesday that, at this point, “it’s not a reach” to liken Trump to Hitler “without any concerns whatsoever.”
In yet another angry screed on Truth Social, Trump wrote that if he were to win re-election, he would likely start charging organizations like NBC to be on the air, and investigate them for their “Country Threatening Treason.” To that, Scarborough only scoffed.
Homing in on the fact that Trump “says that the news network that is most critical of him should be taken off the air,” Scarborough immediately likened Trump to Hitler.
“This is not a reach, I can go back and talk about Nazi Germany and I do it without any concerns whatsoever,” Scarborough said. “And if people can’t start drawing the parallels, well, you’re just stupid or you have your head in the sand, or you’re one of them.”
As the conversation continued, Scarborough also compared Trump to Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister in Hungary, who heavily restricted free press in that country. But eventually, Scarborough’s musings returned to more graphic Hitler callouts.
“Do I think that Donald Trump’s could be allowed to line people up against a wall and shoot them? No, he’d like to. No doubt! I know him. And I’ve known him for a long time. And we can see this. He would like to; he’s not going to be allowed to.”
That said, Scarborough does expect Republicans to let him restrict the freedom of the press.
“That is something that Republicans — 50% of Americans are supporting him right now, despite the fact he steals nuclear secrets, and he steals war plans, and he says he’s going to terminate the constitution. So sure, they’ll let him shut down TV stations. That’s where we are!”
You can watch Scarborough’s full comments in the video above.
Some environmental groups have also raised concerns about how the development and construction of wind farms could impact whales. However, the environmental community has pointed to the absence of any evidence suggesting there’s a link between the projects and whale deaths, and stressed the importance of renewable energy to combat climate change ― the greatest threat to marine life.
On its website, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there are no known links between large whale mortalities and offshore wind surveys.
“At this point, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could cause mortality of whales,” the agency said.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management also said it had found no evidence, noting: “Past and current research show that vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear continue to pose a dangerous, life-threatening risk to whales.”
Users of X, formerly Twitter, were swimming in scorn over Trump’s fishy claim:
Hutchinson was a top aide to Mark Meadows, then Trump’s chief of staff. She planned to continue working for Trump at Mar-a-Lago after his term ended, she wrote in her book “Enough.”
But despite her loyalty, Meadows told Hutchinson two days before leaving the White House that Trump suspected her of leaking to the press the names of people joining him in Florida, which she denied.
“My frustration turned to rage. ‘Mark, you can go to hell if you think that,’” Hutchinson wrote. “That night I went home and unpacked, trying to let the news sink in that I wasn’t moving to Florida.”
Instead, Hutchinson became the most revelatory witness during the House’s investigation of Jan. 6 hearings and her book provides an explanation for the actions behind Trump’s criminal charges.
Anecdotes include how Meadows’ wife complained to her about the campfire smell of his burning papers. Rudy Giuliani allegedly groped her at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally. And her observations foreshadowed criminal charges Trump would face over the handling of classified documents and trying to overturn the 2020 election.
Here are five takeaways from the book:
Giuliani approached ‘like a wolf closing in on its prey,” Hutchinson wrote
The book largely tracks the testimony Hutchinson delivered before the House committee that investigated Jan. 6. But one revelation was her accusation that Giuliani, Trump’s chief campaign lawyer, groped her at the president’s Jan. 6 rally near the White House. Giuliani has denied the allegation.
Hutchinson wrote that she was in a tent with Giuliani and another campaign lawyer who spoke at the rally, John Eastman, who had a “Cheshire cat smile.” Giuliani approached her “like a wolf closing in on its prey,” Hutchinson wrote.
Giuliani complimented her leather jacket, which she told him was faux leather, and he wrapped his arm around her body, Hutchinson wrote.
“His hand slips under my blazer, then my skirt,” Hutchinson wrote. “I feel his frozen fingertips trail up my thigh. He tilts his chin up. The whites of his eyes looked jaundiced. My eyes dart to John Eastman, who flashes a leering grin.”
Hutchinson wrote that she recoiled and stormed away in a rage.
“The claims are absolutely false, totally absurd,” Giuliani said.
Meadows’ wife said his suits ‘smell like a bonfire’ from burning documents, Hutchinson wrote
Meadows was burning so much paperwork in his office fireplace during the final weeks of the administration that Hutchinson wrote she was worried he would set off the smoke detectors.
Hutchinson propped open the door to a patio despite the chill on Dec. 19, 2020, she wrote.
The Presidential Records Act requires White House staffers to preserve their documents and send them to the National Archives. Copies and personal documents were supposed to be destroyed in burn bags, she wrote.
“I do not know precisely what papers Mark was burning, but his actions raised alarms,” she wrote. “Even if he was burning copies, he was still toeing a fine line of what should be preserved, under the law.”
Meadows’ wife Debbie, who helped pack his belongings when leaving the White House, asked Hutchinson and another staffer not to light the fireplace any more.
“All of his suits smell like a bonfire and I can’t keep up with his dry cleaning,” Hutchinson quoted Debbie Meadows as saying.
Hutchinson compares White House on Jan. 6 to Titanic
Hutchinson breaks little new ground in the book from her testimony before the committee. But her eye for detail is often amusing, such as when she notices when arriving at the rally Jan. 6 the loudspeakers are playing “My Heart Will Go On,” from the movie “Titanic.”
“The ship is the White House,” Hutchinson tells a friend, who replies: “And we’re in steerage.”
The book echoed her testimony from her House testimony:
Hutchinson couldn’t hear what the fight was about Dec. 18, 2020, but the raised voices erupting from the Oval Office were “highly unusual.” According to the House Committee that investigated the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, and lawyer Sidney Powell, among others, were urging Trump to seize voting machines, which White House lawyers opposed. “The screaming was much louder than I anticipated,” Hutchinson wrote.
Hutchinson also recited an exchange Jan. 6, 2021, with Tony Ornato, then-deputy of staff and a Secret Service official. Ornato described an “irate” Trump demanding to be taken to the Capitol in his vehicle nicknamed “the Beast,” before Secret Service agent Bobby Engel rebuffed him, Hutchinson wrote. Ornato described Trump “grabbing for the steering wheel, and then for Bobby’s neck,” Hutchinson wrote.
Hutchinson’s observations about classified documents, Jan. 6 foreshadow criminal charges against Trump
Hutchinson foreshadows the criminal charges against Trump.
At one point, Meadows scolds her for storing classified binders about Crossfire Hurricane, an FBI investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, in a safe rather than in her desk drawer as he instructed, Hutchinson wrote.
Meadows asked her to coordinate declassification of documents during the final month of the administration, she wrote. She described carrying armloads of classified documents around White House offices, despite not holding a security clearance to deal with them.
“When I got to Florida, I reminded myself, I would have a fresh opportunity to restore order so the president would be better served,” Hutchinson wrote.
Meadows arranged the call Jan. 2, 2021, when Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes for him to the win the state. After the call, White House counsel Pat Cipollone appeared at Meadows’ office and said: “That call was not good,” Hutchinson wrote.
Meadows has pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy and to asking Raffensperger to violate his oath of office. His lawyers contend the “kerfuffle” about his trip to Georgia was based on discharging his official duties.
Hutchinson dedicates book to lawyers who represented her for free
The book is dedicated to Hutchinson’s pro bono lawyers rather than to her parents or others.
She was initially represented in the congressional investigation of Jan. 6 by a lawyer arranged by former White House aides: Stefan Passantino. But she worried about misleading the committee with incomplete answers about what she saw, as she eventually testified to the committee.
Passantino never told her to lie, as she testified and writes in the book. He sought to keep her testimony brief and uneventful. But Hutchinson feared what would happen if she left out important information as the committee called her back for a third deposition, such as about Trump wanting to visit the Capitol.
“Liz Cheney zeroed in on how I knew what had been said in the Beast: ‘So who relayed to you the conversation that happened in the Beast?’” Hutchinson wrote. “I froze. I thought for certain she had heard that something eventful had happened, and she suspected I knew what it was.”
Hutchinson worried she had lied to the committee by not explaining more fully. As she cast about for a new lawyer, Bill Jordan and Jody Hunt of Alston & Bird volunteered to represent her for free.
“Well, Cassidy, it looks like you’ve had quite the adventure the last few years,” Jordan told her, according to her book.
Cassidy Hutchinson’s new book reveals a Trump White House even more chaotic than previously known
Jake Tapper, Jeremy Herb, Makayla Humphrey – September26, 2023
In her new book “Enough,” former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson paints the closing days of the Trump White House as even more chaotic and lawless than she previously disclosed in her shocking televised testimony last summer. President Donald Trump lashes out unpredictably and makes wild demands. Chief of staff Mark Meadows leaks classified documents to friendly right-wing media figures and burns documents. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani gropes Hutchinson inappropriately the day of the Capitol insurrection.
She also depicts major Republican figures, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy, stating clearly behind the scenes what they refrained from telling the American people: that Joe Biden won the presidential election and Trump lost.
Hints that integrity wasn’t exactly the word of the day were there from the beginning, of course. “Cass, if I can get through this job and manage to keep (Trump) out of jail, I’ll have done a good job,” Meadows told Hutchinson in June 2020.
Hutchinson’s book describes her meteoric rise from idealistic Capitol Hill intern at the beginning of the Trump administration to the indispensable aide to the White House chief of staff in the president’s final year. Hutchinson, whose testimony before the January 6 committee provided the most damning inside account of Trump’s actions – and lack of action – on January 6, describes her internal struggle about what transpired at the end of the Trump administration and how she ultimately chose to come forward and testify fully about what she saw in the West Wing.
To hear Hutchinson tell it, the Trump world felt almost like a criminal organization where loyalty was prized above everything. After one 2020 campaign rally, Meadows asked her, “Would you take a bullet for him?” – meaning Trump.
“Could it be to the leg?” Hutchinson tried to joke back.
Meadows responded that he would “do anything” to get Trump reelected.
“We killed Herman Cain,” Meadows told Hutchinson and asked for his wife’s phone number.
A spokesman for Meadows disputed Hutchinson’s account in a statement to CNN. The spokesperson said it was offensive to suggest this was Meadows’ initial reaction to Cain’s death. “In the days after he was expressing exasperation that the media would blame the President for Mr. Cain’s death. Very different,” the spokesperson said.
That did little to change the White House’s attitude about masking. In fact, at one visit to an N-95 plant, Hutchinson advised Trump to remove his mask before facing the cameras because his bronzer is smearing on its elastic straps. In another instance in the frenzy after the election, visitors to the White House who tested positive for Covid were admitted regardless because Trump insisted on meeting with them.
These ethical mores or – or the lack thereof – were taken to the campaign trail where, Hutchinson writes, Meadows met furtively with former Hunter Biden business associate Tony Bobulinski while being shielded from public view by Secret Service agents.
Hutchinson didn’t start truly questioning the men she worked alongside until after the election, but even then, it was late coming. As Trump watched Giuliani’s notorious hair-dye-leaking press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, he shouted, according to Hutchinson, “Somebody make this stop! Get him off! Make him stop!”
But even then, she says, she “didn’t blame the president for any of it yet. I didn’t want to blame him. I felt strongly that he should concede the election, and I worried that we were surrounding him with people who fueled his most impulsive behaviors. I knew things could get out of hand, and fast.”
‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark’
Meadows emerges in the book as not only duplicitous but as a fall guy for folks who don’t want to admit that Trump had lost grip with reality. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe expressed concern about the president’s unpredictability, noting that one minute “he acknowledges he lost… Then he’ll immediately backpedal.”
McCarthy told Hutchinson the same thing. They both blamed Meadows. After the US Supreme Court declined to hear the bizarre lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, full of lies and false claims about the election, Trump pushed Meadows, “Why didn’t we make more calls? We needed to do more. … We can’t let this stand.”
Trump continued, “I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out.” Even then, when Meadows assured Trump he would work on it, Hutchinson’s irritation is with Meadows for giving Trump false hope, not with Trump for demanding that his delusions become reality.
Hutchinson’s claim that Trump admitted to Meadows that he lost is the latest in a series of eye-witness accounts of Trump periodically admitting in private to having lost the election. Hutchinson testified to both federal investigators and the Fulton County grand jury, she writes, though she was not referenced in any of the indictments of Trump.
Hutchinson describes a White House that in its final weeks had turned to utter lawlessness, with Meadows regularly burning documents in the fireplace of the chief of staff’s office. After Meadows’ office became smoky before a meeting, former GOP Rep. Devin Nunes asked Hutchinson, “How often is he burning papers?” When Meadows’ wife came to help pack his office in January 2021, she pleaded to Hutchinson, “Mark doesn’t need to burn anything else. All of his suits smell like a bonfire.”
The Meadows spokesperson said that Hutchinson’s telling was an “absurd mischaracterization.”
“Mrs. Meadows was referencing how the wood fireplace made the office smell smoky — and we often started it using old newspaper. It had nothing to do with documents,” the spokesperson said.
On that wild day of December 18, 2020, when Trump considered proposals in the Oval Office to seize voting machines, White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato told Hutchinson he “heard the president talk about the Insurrection Act or martial law,” she writes.
Hutchinson writes that at one point during the Oval Office meeting, she heard Trump screaming, “I don’t care how you do it just get it fucking done!” It’s unclear what the ‘it’ referred to however.
As senior staffers tried to get Meadows to return to the White House to get the likes of his onetime national security adviser Mike Flynn, former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne to leave the Oval Office, White House staff secretary Derek Lyons asked, “Does the chief really need more of a reason to come back? Here it is. Martial law.”
Those plans, of course, did not come to fruition, and Trump looked for other avenues to overturn his election loss, pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes to flip the Peach State from Biden to Trump.
“That call was not good,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Meadows, according to Hutchinson, who writes that Cipollone was listening in on the call. Testifying under oath to the January 6 committee last year, Cipollone said he had no memory of knowing about the call until he read about it in the press.
In a statement to CNN, a spokesman for Cipollone denied he was on the Georgia call, noting that Cipollone was not among those Meadows introduced at the start of the call.
‘I think It’s going to go well’
In the weeks after the election, January 6 remained the fail-safe, and Hutchinson writes that Trump visiting Capitol Hill was part of the plan until the very end. “On New Year’s Eve, (Meadows) asked me to talk to Tony (Ornato) about a potential motorcade movement to Capitol Hill following the president’s rally.”
“I think the Sixth is going to go well,” Trump said. “Do you think it’s going to go well, Chief?”
“Yes, sir,” Meadows replied. “I think it’s going to go well.”
Many of the stories Hutchinson tells about that day were parts of her testimony. Trump knew about the weapons his supporters were carrying – “Big guy knows,” Ornato said, and at this point in the narrative, Hutchinson still found that news reassuring, as if it meant Trump would do something to stop it. She recounts the tell-tale moment at the Ellipse when she heard the president roaring: “Take the fucking mags (metal detectors) down … Look at all those people in the trees. They want to come in. Let them. Let my people in. Take the fucking mags away. They’re not here to hurt me.”
Soon after, backstage at the rally, Giuliani slipped his hand up Hutchinson’s skirt and up her thigh, Hutchinson alleges in the book. (Giuliani denied her allegation to Newsmax, calling it “absurd.”) She stormed away, filled with rage. But it was nothing compared with the rage she later felt after the Capitol was attacked and people died, Hutchinson writes.
As the attack on the Capitol unfolded, Hutchinson said thoughts raced through her mind about what she needed to do – and she worried it could be the beginning of a coup.
“We have to have a plan in place in case the worst happens. In case this is the beginning of a coup,” she writes.
Even this was not enough yet. Hutchinson remained part of Team Trump. Unlike White House communications director Alyssa Farah, who resigned on December 3, 2020, or deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews, who left on January 6, 2021, Hutchinson remained.
Part of Hutchinson’s rationale was that she saw herself as someone who could help maintain protocols during the final days of the Trump presidency, particularly as Meadows scrambled to get hold of a binder containing highly classified documents related to the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
She was shocked when Meadows gave the classified documents to two right-wing media personalities who regularly toe the MAGA line.
The Meadows spokesman said that Hutchinson’s account was false, and that the documents had already been declassified by Trump. The White House counsel’s office asked for the documents back, the spokesperson said, because they contained elements of personal information that needed to be redacted.
“It was not an issue of classification – it was about procedural redactions,” the spokesperson said.
Hutchinson, however, writes that Cipollone told her the documents were still full of classified information, and he demanded their return. Before she could leave to call Meadows, Cipollone added: “Hey Cass, while you’re on the phone with him, can you tell him we cannot pardon Kimberly Guilfoyle’s gynecologist?”
“My jaw was hanging as I turned around to look at Pat. I knew by the look on his face that he was dead serious,” she writes.
According to Guilfoyle’s testimony to the January 6 committee, she was seeking to help the son of her former gynecologist, a well-respected California doctor.
‘We just want to protect the president’
The book is a journey, with Hutchinson judging herself to have been “complicit” in the decisions that led to January 6. After telling the story of her troubled upbringing – with a largely absent and ultimately abusive father – Hutchinson’s story is mostly about her time working for a president she once “adored.”
Initially, Hutchinson says, she was “transfixed” by Trump and how he electrified the crowds at his rallies. Working in the White House, first in the Office of Legislative Affairs and then under Meadows, she focused on her mission of helping the president and being a “loyal foot soldier,” she writes.
Numerous examples of Trump’s questionable behavior are glossed over as Hutchinson, ever the loyal aide, saw them as normal at the time. That includes Trump’s 2019 phone call with Zelensky that ultimately led to his first impeachment and the 2020 Atlantic story about Trump referring to American soldiers killed during World War I as “losers” and “suckers” – which a former senior administration official with firsthand knowledge confirmed to CNN.
In the summer of 2017, Trump’s first year in office, Hutchinson was an intern in Sen. Ted Cruz’s office. By 2020, she was dressing down the Texas Republican senator for showing up uninvited to Trump’s arrival on a Texas tarmac, warning him that if he didn’t leave it would be the “last presidential event you ever receive an invitation to.”
Trump loyalists attack Hutchinson to this day as having tried to work for the 45th president in Florida well past January 6, 2021, and Hutchinson fully owns up to that, making clear that her break with the president and his team didn’t come until Meadows fully made clear she wouldn’t be part of the post-presidency – a move that didn’t happen until her final three days in the White House.
Much of what Trump loyalists throw at her to discredit her – for instance, her pleading for help in getting a lawyer – she admits in “Enough.”
The House January 6 committee made much of Hutchinson changing lawyers because of suggestions that her first, Stefan Passantino, was encouraging her to be less than truthful under oath. Hutchinson writes that Passantino discouraged her from fully cooperating. “No, no, no. We want to get you in and get you out,” he told her.
“We were to downplay my role, he explained, as strictly administrative. I was an assistant, nothing more,” she writes. “Stefan never told me to lie to the committee. ‘I don’t want you to perjure yourself,’ he insisted. ‘But “I don’t recall” isn’t perjury.’” At another time he told her, “We just want to protect the president,” she writes.
The book also explains one of the mysteries of the January 6 inquiry: With so many uncooperative witnesses, how did the committee know what to ask Hutchinson to get her to disclose her damning testimony while she was still represented by the attorney paid for by Trump world? It turns out, Hutchinson writes, that she coordinated with Farah, who is now a CNN political commentator, telling her everything she knew. Farah spoke with committee vice chair Liz Cheney, who then knew what to ask Hutchinson during the committee’s third closed-door deposition with her.
Jobs are dangled and then withdrawn from Hutchinson as she begins to cooperate with the committee. Soon, she is shut out and then demonized by Trump world. She leaves open the question as to what might have happened historically if Trump and Meadows had trusted her and invited her to Mar-a-Lago.
But Hutchinson’s courageous testimony did occur, so perhaps more important to the republic today is the question of how many more witnesses with Trump-world-funded attorneys involved in current prosecutions and investigations are experiencing the same situation.
The elusive Fed ‘soft landing’ nears. Why are Americans so mad about the economy?
Howard Schneider – September 26, 2023
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said emphatically last week that people “hate inflation, hate it,” but he left another fact unspoken – they also punish the politicians in charge when prices rise.
The central bank’s quest for a “soft landing” of more slowly rising prices and continued economic growth looks increasingly probable. In fact, the U.S. may hit a sweet spot just as the 2024 presidential election campaign crescendos next year.
It’s the sort of benign outcome that academic studies and high-ranking economists had called virtually impossible after inflation hit 40-year highs in June of 2022. Some warned that millions of workers might need to be rendered jobless to reduce the pace of price increases in a flashback to the central banking experience of the 1970s.
Rather than cheering, though, after years of economic turbulence since the coronavirus pandemic erupted in 2020, Americans grumble, at least if you ask them about the economy.
More than 40% of U.S. voters who backed Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election say they think the economy is worse off than it was then, a Reuters/Ipsos poll published last month found.
The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, former President Donald Trump, faces a string of criminal indictments related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Still, several recent polls show him tied with Biden in a hypothetical 2024 matchup.
That’s because things on the ground don’t feel as good as the positive inflation trend would indicate. With fast rising prices and the end of an array of pandemic-era government benefit programs, inflation-adjusted household income fell last year, and the poverty rate increased.
Borrowing costs also have risen sharply in the past 18 months as the Fed ratcheted up interest rates to tame the surge in inflation, adding to consumers’ sour mood.
Past presidential elections have often seemed to turn on pocketbook issues. High inflation and a Fed-induced recession hampered President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 reelection campaign against Republican candidate Ronald Reagan; President George H. W. Bush was hobbled by rising unemployment, a spike in prices, and a recession in his 1992 bid for a second term against Democrat Bill Clinton, the race in which a Clinton adviser famously framed campaign strategy around “the economy, stupid.”
The Biden administration has worked to lower costs by releasing stores of the country’s strategic petroleum stockpile, pushing down health insurance premiums, negotiating the cost of common prescription drugs, and trying to end monopolies in meat processing and battling “junk” fees paid by consumers.
They’ve also touted hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investments during Biden’s term as increasing the capacity of the U.S. economy going forward by easing supply chain constraints. Critics say that spending and the associated deficits may actually be fueling higher prices.
A Biden adviser said the White House understands that the economy and inflation are a critical issue, and the campaign has a big media push planned on “Bidenomics.” The adviser added that many voters see threats to democracy and their rights as vital, too, and the strong performance of Democrats in the midterm elections last year shows that.
Analysts, economists and the media closely track the main inflation gauge, the U.S. Consumer Price Index, for its monthly window on how much prices have risen from a month or a year ago.
In the 12 months through August, the CPI accelerated 3.7%, a sharp drop from its peak of 9.1% in June of 2022.
But that’s not what voters care about. Even as the pace of price hikes recedes, the sticker shock from previous increases remains. Just because inflation falls, in other words, it doesn’t mean prices fall back to where they were – only that they are growing less quickly.
Anyone in a grocery store is less likely to appreciate that meat, poultry, fish and eggs are slightly less expensive now than they were at the start of the year – inflation among those goods was negative for several months – than to grimace at the fact that those core sources of protein still cost about 24% more than they did on the eve of the pandemic in early 2020.
In a mid-1990s survey, Yale University economics professor and Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller found that inflation associated with no less than “a tone of moral indignation.”
“People tell of businesses trying too hard to pursue profits, the Fed behaving stupidly, people trying to live above their means, or politicians trying too hard to get reelected,” Shiller wrote.
In another telling survey in the summer of 2022, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that the onset of inflation had promptly doubled the percentage of respondents seen in previous polls who felt pessimistic about the economy – dwarfing the numbers seen even at the depths of a pandemic that would go on to kill 1.1 million people in the U.S. and throw the economy into chaos.
“Now that inflation has accelerated to its highest rate in four decades, the mood has turned darker,” the McKinsey study said.
The headline to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America 2022” report from October of last year was headlined “Concerned for the future, beset by inflation.”
How could paying more at the grocery store or the gas station compare with a mass catastrophe like the pandemic?
In the latter case, a multi-trillion-dollar government safety net had given people a bridge through the initial spike in unemployment and provided a buffer for them to stay away from jobs until they regarded the workplace as safe.
There is no similar buffer from higher prices, a stretched family budget, or an eroding retirement. Inflation is universal and efforts to combat it with things like price controls or subsidies typically don’t work.
Biden promised this month to get gasoline prices down again, a rash vow for any president given the limited impact an administration has on prices at the pump.
The question is how long the inflation scar will last from here, whether the pace of price increases continues to moderate, and whether, as the Fed seems to anticipate, the rest of the economy remains on track.
If it goes according to the central bank’s current expectations, there may even be interest rate cuts thrown into the mix next year, letting Biden test the premise of whether running on a strong economy in an environment of easing credit works as well as running against an economic downturn, financial tightening, and rising prices.
There’s some indication a turn in public sentiment could be in the making even before that happens. The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse survey, for the two weeks ending Sept. 4, showed that while 80% of respondents were still “somewhat” or “very” concerned about future inflation, the number had fallen from earlier peaks in every state.
As Powell noted last week, there is a schism between what people say in surveys and how they behave.
When asked a question, they are sour.
When left alone, they go shopping.
“It’s a very hot labor market … You’re starting to see real wages are now positive by most metrics … Overall, households are in good shape,” Powell said in his Sept. 20 press conference after the end of the latest Fed policy meeting. “Surveys are a different thing. Surveys are showing dissatisfaction. I think a lot of it is people hate inflation. Hate it. And that causes people to say the economy’s terrible. At the same time they’re spending money. Their behavior is not exactly what you’d expect from the survey.”
(Reporting by Howard Schneider; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons and Paul Simao)