Shouts of ‘Shame! Shame!’ erupt in Arizona House as fight over abortion ban engulfs lawmakers

Associated Press

Shouts of ‘Shame! Shame!’ erupt in Arizona House as fight over abortion ban engulfs lawmakers

Anita Snow and Morgan Lee – April 10, 2024

Arizona State Rep. Matt Gress, R, speaks to reporters on the House floor at the Capitol, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother's life is at stake. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona State Rep. Matt Gress, R, speaks to reporters on the House floor at the Capitol, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother’s life is at stake. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Volunteer signature gatherers Judy Robbins, left, and Lara Cerri, center, watch outside a bookstore as voter Grace Harders prepares to sign a petition that aims to enshrine the right to abortion in Arizona, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother's life is at stake. (AP Photo/Anita Snow)
Volunteer signature gatherers Judy Robbins, left, and Lara Cerri, center, watch outside a bookstore as voter Grace Harders prepares to sign a petition that aims to enshrine the right to abortion in Arizona, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother’s life is at stake. (AP Photo/Anita Snow)
Democratic lawmakers record Arizona State Rep. Teresa Martinez, R, as she speaks from the House floor at the Capitol, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother's life is at stake. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Democratic lawmakers record Arizona State Rep. Teresa Martinez, R, as she speaks from the House floor at the Capitol, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother’s life is at stake. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona State Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamliton, D, speaks on floor at the Capitol, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother's life is at stake. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona State Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamliton, D, speaks on floor at the Capitol, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother’s life is at stake. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona State Speaker of the House Ben Toma, R, speaks to reporters from the House floor at the Capitol, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother's life is at stake. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona State Speaker of the House Ben Toma, R, speaks to reporters from the House floor at the Capitol, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state can enforce its long-dormant law criminalizing all abortions except when a mother’s life is at stake. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Legislature devolved into shouts of “Shame! Shame!” on Wednesday as Republican lawmakers quickly shut down discussion on a proposed repeal of the state’s newly revived 1864 law that criminalizes abortion throughout pregnancy unless a woman’s life is at risk.

The state Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for enforcement of the pre-statehood law. Arizona abortion providers vowed Wednesday to continue service until they’re forced to stop, possibly within weeks.

State legislators convened as pressure mounted from Democrats and some Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, for them to intervene.

House Democrats and at least one Republican tried to open discussion on a repeal of the 1864 abortion ban, which holds no exceptions for rape or incest. GOP leaders, who command the majority, cut it off twice and quickly adjourned for the week. Outraged Democrats erupted in finger-waving chants of “Shame! Shame!”

Republican state Rep. Teresa Martinez, of Casa Grande, said there was no reason to rush the debate. She accused Democrats of “screaming at us and engaging in extremist and insurrectionist behavior on the House floor.” The GOP-led Senate briefly convened without debate on abortion.

“We are navigating an extremely complex, emotional and important area of law and policy,” said Martinez, the GOP House whip. “In my opinion, removing healthy babies from healthy mothers is not health care nor reproductive care. Pregnancy is not an illness. It should be celebrated. It is an abortion that terminates life.”

Democratic legislators seized on national interest in the state’s abortion ban.

“We’ve got the eyes of the world watching Arizona right now,” said Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, of Tucson. “We know that the Supreme Court decision yesterday is extreme. And we know that should the 1864 ban on abortion remain a law in Arizona, people will die.”

Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs called inaction on the proposed repeal unconscionable.

“Radical legislators protected a Civil War-era total abortion ban that jails doctors, strips women of our bodily autonomy and puts our lives at risk,” she said.

Three Republican legislators openly oppose the ban, including state Rep. Matt Gress, of Phoenix, who made a motion Wednesday to repeal the law. In a statement, he said the near-total ban “is not reflective of the values of the vast majority of our electorate, regardless of political affiliation. … This issue transcends all.”

According to AP VoteCast, 6 out of 10 Arizona voters in the 2022 midterm elections said they would favor guaranteeing legal abortion nationwide. The state recorded 11,530 abortions in 2022, the last data available, according to Arizona’s Department of Health Services.

At Camelback Family Planning in Phoenix, where about one-fourth of Arizona abortions are performed, registered nurse Ashleigh Feiring said abortion services were still available and that staff hope emergency legislation will avoid interruptions or closure.

“Our plan is to stay open as long as possible,” Feiring said. “Our clinic has been shut down twice in the last four years, but we’ve always resumed service.”

At the same time, anti-abortion groups including SBA Pro-Life America urged Arizona residents to oppose a proposed ballot initiative aimed at placing abortion rights in Arizona’s state constitution.

“They would wipe away all pro-life laws put in place by the Legislature, reflective of the will of the people,” SBA President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

Hobbs, however, predicted that outrage will motivate voters to enshrine abortion rights directly in state law.

“The fight is not over, for sure” she said.

Grace Harders drove around metro Phoenix on Wednesday looking for an opportunity to sign an abortion rights petition. She said she wouldn’t know what to do if she had an unplanned pregnancy but knew she’d be scared.

“I’m a pro-choice person, and I want to ensure the right for all women,” Harders said.

Abortion rights advocates said they’ve gathered more than 500,000 signatures for the petition from the Arizona for Abortion Access campaign — far above what they need to add a ballot question asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion until viability, when a fetus could survive outside the womb.

Arriving for a campaign fundraiser in Atlanta, Trump said the Arizona court decision went too far and called on state lawmakers to change it even as he defended the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It’s all about states’ rights,” the former president told supporters and journalists. “It’ll be straightened out.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, most Republican-controlled states have started enforcing new bans or restrictions, and most Democratic-dominated ones have sought to protect abortion access.

Meanwhile, voters have sided with abortion rights supporters on statewide ballot measures in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Vermont.

The Arizona ruling suggests doctors can be prosecuted for performing the procedure. The 1864 law carries a sentence of two to five years in prison for doctors or anyone else who assists in an abortion.

“Physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal,” the Arizona Supreme Court said in its decision, adding that additional criminal and regulatory sanctions may apply to abortions performed after 15 weeks, the state’s previous time limit for the procedure.

Beyond that, the court ruling also ignited concern that enforcement might interfere with handling miscarriages.

Enforcing the 1864 law won’t begin for at least two weeks. However, plaintiffs in the case — including Planned Parenthood — said the delay could last up to two months, based on an agreement reached in a related case.

Planned Parenthood has said it will offer abortion services up to 15 weeks of pregnancy for at least two more months, in line with an agreement in the related case.

Doctors and clinic leaders are anticipating a scramble across the Southwest region to accommodate Arizona residents as they travel out of state for abortion care.

___

Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.

U.S. announces $138 million in emergency military sales of Hawk missile systems support for Ukraine

Associated Press

U.S. announces $138 million in emergency military sales of Hawk missile systems support for Ukraine

Tara Copp and Matthew Lee – April 9, 2024

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifies before Senate Committee on Armed Services during a hearing on Department of Defense Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2025 and the Future Years Defense Program on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifies before Senate Committee on Armed Services during a hearing on Department of Defense Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2025 and the Future Years Defense Program on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department has greenlighted an emergency $138 million in foreign military sales for Ukraine to provide critical repairs and spare parts for Kyiv’s Hawk missile systems.

The U.S. announced the move Tuesday saying that Ukraine has an urgent need for the maintenance support to keep the missile system running.

The announcement follows a similar, small-sized round of $300 million in munitions support the Pentagon announced last month after it was able to convert contract savings to be able to offset the cost of providing the aid. Both the State and Defense Departments have been looking for ways to continue to get Ukraine support while a $60 billion Ukraine aid package remains stalled in Congress.

The HAWK is a medium range surface-to-air missile system that provides air defense, which is one of Ukraine’s top security needs.

“Ukraine has an urgent need to increase its capabilities to defend against Russian missile strikes and the aerial capabilities of Russian forces,” the State Department said in a memo outlining the sale. “Maintaining and sustaining the HAWK Weapon System will enhance Ukraine’s ability to defend its people and protect critical national infrastructure.”

During a Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said without the support — the U.S. risks that Ukraine will fall to Russia.

“Ukraine matters, and the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine will have global implications for our national security as well,” Austin said.

If Kyiv falls, it could imperil Ukraine’s Baltic NATO member neighbors and potentially drag U.S. troops into a prolonged European war.

The work on the Hawk systems will be performed by contractors from Massachusetts-based RTX Corporation, formerly known as Raytheon and Huntsville, Alabama-based PROJECTXYZ. The State Department said the parts needed to repair the systems will come from U.S. Army stock, third-country donations, commercial off-the-shelf components and new production.

More than half of foreign-born people in US live in just 4 states and half are naturalized citizens

Associated Press

More than half of foreign-born people in US live in just 4 states and half are naturalized citizens

Mike Schneider – April 9, 2024

FILE – Women representing more than 20 countries take part in a Naturalization Ceremony, March 8, 2024, in San Antonio. More than half of the foreign-born population in the United States lives in just four states — California, Texas, Florida and New York — and their numbers grew older and more educated over the past dozen years, according to a new report released Tuesday, April 9, 2024, by the U.S. Census Bureau. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)More

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — More than half of the foreign-born population in the United States lives in just four states — California, Texas, Florida and New York — and their numbers grew older and more educated over the past dozen years, according to a new report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2022, the foreign-born population was estimated to be 46.2 million people, or almost 14% of the U.S. population, with most states seeing double-digit percentage increases in the last dozen years, according to the figures from the bureau’s American Community Survey.

In California, New Jersey, New York and Florida, foreign-born individuals comprised more than 20% of each state’s population. They constituted 1.8% of West Virginia’s population, the smallest rate in the U.S.

Half of the foreign-born residents in the U.S. were from Latin America, although their composition has shifted in the past dozen years, with those from Mexico dropping by about 1 million people and those from South America and Central America increasing by 2.1 million people.

The share of the foreign population from Asia went from more than a quarter to under a third during that time, while the share of African-born went from 4% to 6%.

The report was released as immigration has become a top issue during the 2024 presidential race, with the Biden administration struggling to manage an unprecedented influx of migrants at the Southwest border. Immigration is shaping the elections in a way that could determine control of Congress as Democrats try to outflank Republicans and convince voters they can address problems at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The Census Bureau report didn’t provide estimates on the number of people in the U.S. illegally.

However, the figures show that more than half of the foreign-born are naturalized citizens, with European-born and Asian-born people leading the way with naturalization rates at around two-thirds of their numbers. Around two-thirds of the foreign-born population came to the U.S. before 2010.

The foreign-born population has grown older in the past dozen years, a reflection of some members’ longevity in the U.S., with the median age increasing five years to 46.7 years. They also became more educated from 2010 to 2022, with the rate of foreign-born people holding at least a high school degree going from more than two-thirds to three-quarters of the population.

Trump’s $175 Million Bond Is Even Shadier Than It Looks

Daily Beast

Trump’s $175 Million Bond Is Even Shadier Than It Looks

Jose Pagliery – April 8, 2024

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

The little-known insurance company that rescued Donald Trump by providing a last-minute $175 million bank fraud bond isn’t just unlicensed in New York; it hasn’t even been vetted by a voluntary state entity that would verify it meets minimum “eligibility standards” to prove financial stability.

Perhaps even more troubling, the legal document from Knight Specialty Insurance Company doesn’t actually promise it will pay the money if the former president loses his $464 million bank fraud case on appeal. Instead, it says Trump will pay, negating the whole point of an insurance company guarantee, according to three legal and bond experts who reviewed the contract for The Daily Beast.

“This is not common… the only reason this would be done is to limit the liability to the surety,” said N. Alex Hanley, an expert in how companies appeal enormous judgments.

New York AG Questions if $175 Million Bond Insurer Can Save Trump

These two points, noted here for the first time, validate the New York attorney general’s concerns that Trump is trying to avoid a financial punishment that could be catastrophic to his riches and reputation.

“There are many questions here, and that short piece of paper gives very little comfort,” said Maria T. Vullo, who was formerly New York’s top financial regulator.

“I believe this paper isn’t worth much and there are more shenanigans behind it,” said one former regulator, who’s intimately familiar with industry norms but spoke only on condition of anonymity.

After a three-month trial ended with a state judge concluding that Trump committed bank fraud for a decade by lying about his wealth and property values, the real estate tycoon and his top executives were ordered to pay $464 million—a massive sum that increases every day with interest that dates back years. But unable to find a large and trusted surety company to provide the half-billion-dollar bond that would legally halt AG Letitia James from seizing his properties, Trump convinced an appellate court to lower that sum to $175 million.

He then opted for an insurance company in California that’s tied to Don Hankey Jr., a billionaire MAGA supporter who’s built a nasty reputation by dealing in subprime auto loans that have resulted in numerous complaints about predatory business practices—like illegally repossessing the cars of American soldiers.

On Thursday, The Daily Beast noted how the Knight Specialty Insurance Company isn’t licensed by New York’s Department of Financial Services, a detail that has caught the attention of bond experts. What’s more, the firm’s financial statements show that it doesn’t have the “surplus” to meet the capital requirements for posting the bond.

Just like federal regulators require financial institutions to have sufficient reserves in case of a run on the banks, New York law limits how much money state-regulated surety companies can post on a single bond to 10 percent of a firm’s total “capital and surplus.” However, a court filing by the company on Thursday showed that Knight Specialty only has $138 million in “surplus,” vastly exceeding the government-set cap because the Trump bond alone makes up 127 percent of the company’s reserves.

“Based on the financial statement provided, Knight Specialty is providing a bond that is one-third of its total assets and greater than its surplus, which is incomprehensible for a carrier to underwrite,” said Vullo, who was previously the superintendent of New York’s DFS.

In subsequent court filings, the AG’s office immediately questioned whether Knight Specialty was even good for the money. The law enforcement agency said it “takes exception to the sufficiency of the surety,” noting that Knight Specialty is trying to operate “without a certificate of qualification.”

Former president Donald Trump looks on at the 18th green during day three of the LIV Golf Invitational - Miami at Trump National Doral Miami
Former president Donald Trump looks on at the 18th green during day three of the LIV Golf Invitational – Miami at Trump National Doral Miami.Megan Briggs/Getty Images

In normal circumstances, defendants like Trump would tap a surety company overseen by state regulators at DFS, which verifies that an insurer is “solvent, responsible and otherwise qualified to make policies or contracts of the kind required.” But Knight Specialty appears to be helping Trump with an alternate option: operating through what’s called the “excess and surplus lines insurance” market.

In the industry, this secondary exchange is typically reserved for high-risk business ventures, or those that have a severe loss history that makes them untouchable in the primary market, forcing them to find a willing insurer that isn’t licensed in their home state.

Indeed, the insurance company’s president, Amit Shah, made that very point when defending his firm’s ability to strike this deal, telling CBS that Knight “is not a New York domestic insurer, and New York surplus lines insurance laws do not regulate the solvency of non-New York excess lines insurers.”

That’s why Knight Specialty’s recent finances—which showed that its “capital and surplus” were even smaller in recent years—were registered with the Surplus Lines Stamping Office of Texas, a government-created nonprofit that tracks these types of figures.

New York has a nonprofit like that too, called the Excess Line Association of New York. ELANY states that its role is to “facilitate compliance,” by verifying that these secondary-market insurers “meet eligibility standards in order to underwrite risks presented by excess line brokers.” The group’s communications manager, John Rosenblatt, explained that ELANY “conducts a thorough financial examination of every foreign insurer listed.”

It’s a voluntary process, but one that’s meant to actually prove that a company is trustworthy and stable.

“The ELANY list is composed of insurers that request to be listed and are approved by ELANY following a thorough analysis of the insurer’s financial security,” Rosenblatt told The Daily Beast.

Trump’s Bond Backer Repo’d Soldier Cars

But that raises another issue.

“Knight Specialty Insurance Company is not on the ELANY voluntary list,” Rosenblatt said.

While any company filing these types of transactions to the New York quasi-governmental private sector regulator must use a licensed broker within 45 days, ELANY said it has “no knowledge of the specific transaction at this time.”

Furthering the point of just how anomalous this Trump deal is, ELANY recorded $76 million and $74 million in “surety and fidelity” transactions in 2022 and 2023, respectively. That means Trump’s bond alone would represent double what ELANY typically monitors over hundreds of transactions in a given year—and that includes premiums that aren’t only tied to court judgments like this one.

In his interview with CBS last week, Knight Specialty’s president asserted that the company has more than $1 billion in “equity.” The bond it posted on Thursday also included a financial snapshot of a second corporate entity, the similarly named Knight Insurance Company LTD, which lists $1 billion in “surplus to policy holders.”

The document seems to suggest that the smaller company is somehow strengthened by the existence of the larger one. But only the smaller company is actually listed on the bond agreement.

In reality, though, a strict reading of “Bond No. 350588” shows that even the smaller company isn’t technically on the hook for paying out the $175 million if higher courts ultimately cement his loss to the AG.

Buried in the typical legalese of the contract is the phrase: “Knight Specialty Insurance Company… does hereby… undertake that if the judgment… is dismissed… Donald J. Trump… shall pay… the sum directed.”

In other words: If Trump loses the case, Trump will pay. But that’s no different than Trump’s obligation before the bond was issued.

“Getting into the weeds, the company undertakes that Trump will pay,” said one bond industry source who declined to be publicly identified for this story.

This is Trump’s second big-figure bond in recent weeks, making the earlier bond apt for comparison. In that other case, Trump is appealing an $83 million federal jury verdict for defaming the journalist E. Jean Carroll by denying that he raped her. He managed to score a deal with a subsidiary of the insurance megagiant Chubb that would force it to pay $92 million if the cash-strapped politician couldn’t cough up the money.

Trump Gets a Massive Lifeline on Half-Billion-Dollar Bond

Unlike the bank fraud bond, the Carroll bond agreement specifically states “such payment shall be made” “by the surety to the obligee” if Trump fails to pay. Hanley said a proper contract would name Trump and the insurance company “jointly and severally,” which would mean they’re both on the hook for the total.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Trump has been caught trying to slip questionable clauses in a bond contract. In the Carroll case, Trump almost got away with an underhanded 60-day delay to pay her—that is, until her lawyers brought it to the judge’s attention.

As if that’s not enough, there’s a third gem buried in this contract that has industry experts and lawyers scratching their heads. The standard practice would be to promise that the loser would pay the judgment, “plus interests and costs.” However, Trump’s bank fraud bond doesn’t list that either.

Instead, it says “the liability of this bond shall not exceed the sum” of $175 million.

Clifford Robert, the lawyer who filed the bond with the court and also represents Trump’s sons Don Jr. and Eric in this case, did not respond to questions. Neither did Knight Speciality Insurance Company.

Hanley, the bond expert, said the lawyers who drew up this latest Trump bond could try to assert that Knight Specialty doesn’t owe anybody anything—without much success. But it bears all the hallmarks of Trump’s overarching legal strategy: pushing off the inevitable as long as possible.

“That could be set up for that argument, but this would fall under a common-law statute. My best guess is that this is all set up to delay again,” he said.

The Shady Company Backing Trump’s Bond Somehow Just Got Even Shadier

The New Republic – Opinion

The Shady Company Backing Trump’s Bond Somehow Just Got Even Shadier

Ben Metzner – April 8, 2024

It’s conventional wisdom that the right wing is dominated, defined, even, by “grifters all the way down.” No big surprise, then, that the insurance company footing the bill for Donald Trump’s fraud case bond is itself unscrupulous.

An investigation by The Daily Beast revealed that Knight Specialty Insurance, the company backing Trump’s $175 million civil fraud penalty payment, is not licensed as a solvent surety firm by the New York Department of Financial Services, and has not been vetted by the state’s Excess Line Association, a board of insurers that provides voluntary audits of other insurer’s finances. The reason for that: The California-based Knight does not appear to have enough money in its coffers to post Trump’s bonds.

According to the Beast, Trump’s bond accounts for a third of the company’s assets and more than its total surplus funds. Maria T. Vullo, a former New York financial regulator, has called the move to post Trump’s bond “incomprehensible for a carrier to underwrite.”

The company, for its part, seems aware of its predicament: The Beast reports that Knight has not legally promised to pay Trump’s penalty if the former president’s appeal is unsuccessful. Instead, the document Knight produced indicates, Trump would still be responsible for paying.

Knight Specialty Insurance is owned by the “king of the subprime car loan,” right-wing billionaire Don Hankey. Hankey appeared to come to Trump’s rescue after the former president loudly struggled to post in his real estate fraud case.

But now, what appeared to be a stroke of luck for Trump may actually be a case of two grifters looking to get one over on one another. If Hankey’s company in fact has not legally agreed to pay the penalty, Trump may ultimately be forced to forfeit assets if he cannot cover the disgorgement himself. New York Attorney General Letitia James has promised to seize Trump properties if he cannot pay.

In dealing with a shady businessman like Hankey, Trump, whose Department of Justice sued Hankey for illegally repossessing the cars of military veterans, might have heeded the words of one of his favorite poems: “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

Trump’s $175 million bond makes no sense

Salon

“Incomprehensible”: Experts say Trump’s $175 million bond makes no sense

Charles R. Davis – April 8, 2024

Donald Trump Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Donald Trump Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump’s effort to challenge his massive civil fraud conviction itself appears to rely on deception, The Daily Beast reported Monday.

Last week, Trump posted a $175 million bond to appeal his $454 million fraud conviction in New York — this, after his lawyers claimed he was unable to find anyone willing to guarantee he would actually pay the full amount. In order to post that bond, the former president turned to Knight Speciality Insurance Company, led by billionaire Don Hankey, described by MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin as the “king of subprime car loans.”

But according to former regulators and other legal experts, the bond is highly irregular. Per a legal filing, it amounts to little more than a promise that Trump himself could pay the full cost of the bond if he ultimately loses his appeal, The Daily Beast reported, noting that such an arrangement effectively negates “the whole point of an insurance company guarantee.”

It does not appear that Knight Specialty Insurance Co. could even cover the bond if it wanted: according to a court filing, the company has financial reserves of just $138 million. And while a related corporate entity claims a financial surplus of $1 billion, the court filing does not explicitly state that it would be liable.

“Based on the financial statement provided, Knight Specialty is providing a bond that is one-third of its total assets and greater than its surplus, which is incomprehensible for a carrier to underwrite,” Maria T. Vullo, a law professor at Fordham University who previously served as New York’s top financial regulator, told the publication.

Indeed, experts who reviewed the bond filing said it appears to state that it is “Donald J. Trump” who “shall pay” any bond, an arrangement that is far from normal.

“This is not common,” N. Alex Hanley, CEO of the civil bond company Jurisco, told the outlet.

New York Attorney General Letitia James also has questions about the bond and its issuer’s ability to pay it, stating in a legal filing last week that she “takes exception to the sufficiency of the surety to the undertaking.” A hearing on Trump’s bond and the potential issues with it is scheduled for April 22.

Hankey, for his part, in a recent interview with Reuters insisted that he had accepted collateral for the $175 million bond. But he added that he was not sure exactly what the source of it was.

“I don’t know if it came from Donald Trump or from Donald Trump and supporters,” he said, adding that he now regrets only charging a Trump a “low fee” for his services.

Businessman behind Trump’s NY bond says he charged him a ‘low fee’

Reuters

Businessman behind Trump’s NY bond says he charged him a ‘low fee’

Koh Gui Qing – April 5, 2024

FILE PHOTO: New York Attorney General Letitia James holds a press conference following a ruling against former U.S. President Donald Trump, in New York City
New York Attorney General Letitia James holds a press conference following a ruling against former U.S. President Donald Trump, in New York City
FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Trump holds presser after criminal case hearing on porn star hush money charges in New York
Former U.S. President Trump holds presser after criminal case hearing on porn star hush money charges in New York

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Don Hankey, the billionaire businessman whose company Knight Specialty Insurance provided the $175 million bond that Donald Trump posted in his New York civil fraud case, told Reuters that the fee his firm charged the former U.S. President was low.

Hankey, who backed Trump as a presidential candidate in 2016 and has said he supports his re-election, has maintained that providing the bond was a business decision. He declined to disclose the fee, but said it was low because Knight did not think there was much risk involved.

Lawyers say surety companies typically charge a fee of between 1% and 2% of the face value of the bond.

Hankey said he now feels Knight did not charge Trump enough because of New York Attorney General Letitia James‘ subsequent scrutiny of the bond, as well as the media attention around it.

“We thought it would be an easy procedure that wouldn’t involve other legal problems and it’s not turning out that way. We probably didn’t charge enough,” Hankey said in an interview.

“We have been getting a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls. Maybe that’s part of the reason he had trouble with other insurance companies,” Hankey said, adding that despite the issues, he did not regret providing the bond.

Trump posted the $175 million bond on April 1, as he appeals a $454 million fraud judgement against him for overstating his net worth and the value of his real estate to dupe banks and insurers, in a case brought by James.

On Thursday, James’ office questioned the $175 million bond, asking that Knight provide proof that it has enough assets to pay if Trump’s appeal fails. A New York judge will hold a hearing on the matter on April 22.

Hankey, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $7.4 billion, said he was taken aback by James’ questioning the bond. “I’m surprised they’re coming down harder on our bond or looking for reasons to cause issues with our instrument,” he said.

Hankey, who runs a group of businesses including a provider of subprime automotive loans that has been reprimanded by regulators for predatory behaviour involving customers, said Trump offered collateral for the $175 million in cash.

He said the cash is held at a brokerage firm and pledged to Knight, and that Knight can access it if needed.

“I don’t know if it came from Donald Trump or from Donald Trump and supporters,” Hankey said of the cash Trump provided for collateral.

Hankey said he first approached Trump’s representatives to discuss how he could help Trump with the bond, before the former president managed to get it reduced on appeal from $454 million to $175 million. Trump would have had to “come up with a lot of collateral or somebody else would,” Hankey said.

Hankey said he understood from Trump’s representatives that Trump did not have $454 million in cash.

Trump last month said in a post on his social media platform Truth Social that he had “almost five hundred million dollars in cash.” In an April 2023 deposition with James, he said he had “substantially in excess of $400 million in cash.”

A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing in New York; Editing by Greg Roumeliotis and Bill Berkrot)

The real price tag for Trump’s billionaires’ banquet

CNN Opinion:

The real price tag for Trump’s billionaires’ banquet

Opinion by Dean Obeidallah – April 7, 2024

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.”

This weekend, some 100 wealthy people were on the guest list for an exclusive fundraising event at the ritzy Palm Beach, Florida, home of billionaire investor John Paulson.

Dean Obeidallah - CNN
Dean Obeidallah – CNN

The soirée reportedly raised more than $50 million for former President Donald Trump’s 2024 White House campaign. Trump’s well-heeled backers paid $250,000 per person for those serving on the “host committee” to $824,600 per person to serve as a “chairman.” Those contributing at the top level were allowed to be seated at Trump’s table during dinner.

In more normal times, there would be nothing particularly remarkable about this kind of high-priced fundraiser. Trump, however, is anything but a conventional Republican candidate. After all, he attempted a coup to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election for which he now faces numerous felony charges.

Trump’s deep-pocketed and highly credentialed donors, including Paulson, doubtless are fully aware of his record, but nevertheless see fit to donate massive sums of money to a man who attempted to destroy the peaceful transfer of power that stands at the heart of our democracy.

Paulson and the other wealthy donors who attended Saturday night’s event must surely be aware that Trump sat idly by, watching on television as the January 6 attacks unfolded — ignoring requests that he call off his supporters for more than three hours and even turning a deaf ear to his aides and one of his family members.

They may also know that since leaving the White House, Trump has celebrated the January 6 attackers, even starting many of his campaign rallies by playing a recording sung by the “J6 Prison Choir.” They might have heard that he has vowed to pardon those convicted of crimes related to the siege of the Capitol, which in some cases included assaulting police officers.

The effort to upend our democracy also involved violent groups like the right-wing, extremist Proud Boys, the leader of which has been convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with his role in seeking to interfere with the peaceful handover of power on January 6.

None of that seems to have troubled these rich people — at least not enough to get them to forgo making massive donations to Trump’s presidential campaign. Their fundraiser came a little over a week after Democrats, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, held a star-studded fundraising event for incumbent President Joe Biden that raked in some $25 million.

If they’ve been paying attention, the wealthy donors at Saturday night’s fundraiser for Trump — who included hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, oil tycoon Harold Hamm and casino mogul Steve Wynn — might also be aware that in December, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump had been “engaged in an insurrection.” And even though the US Supreme Court ultimately determined that Trump could remain on the 2024 ballot in Colorado, it did not overrule the state’s high court on the issue of Trump having taken part in an “insurrection.”

Trump’s donors might even have heard reports about the former president channeling Adolf Hitler by declaring that immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of our nation, his vow to be a “dictator” on the first day of his presidency and his repeated praise of autocrats. Presumably, if they found any of this alarming, they would not have donated at least a quarter of a million dollars per person to help Trump take back the White House.

To put it bluntly, I don’t put the sophisticated, ultra-wealthy people who attended this weekend’s campaign fundraiser in the same category as average Americans who have been conned time and again by Trump’s repeated lies that the 2020 election was “rigged.” I suspect that this elite group of backers knows exactly what is going on with the former president.

It seems more than plausible that Paulson had at least some second thoughts about Trump in 2024. In fact, earlier in the 2024 campaign, Paulson raised funds for Trump’s GOP primary opponent Ron DeSantis despite having made big donations to Trump in 2016 and 2020.

But all of that changed once it became clear that Trump would become the GOP’s presidential nominee. A few weeks ago, Paulson told CNN, during a discussion ahead of Saturday’s fundraiser, that he was “pleased to support President Trump in his re-election efforts.” He added, “His policies on the economy, energy, immigration and foreign policy will be very beneficial for the country.”

Paulson left out any mention of the Trump tax cut enacted in 2017, which greatly helped the very wealthy set, which Paulson and the others at Saturday’s dinner are privileged to be part of.

Is that why these very rich people are now turning a blind eye to the threat that Trump poses to the rule of law in our country? Are they hoping he’ll enact more policies that could fatten their wallets? Perhaps they have fully grasped the danger Trump poses to our republic, but have decided they are on board with him all the same.

Or perhaps they believe they can benefit as wealthy friends of an autocratic leader. After all, in Hungary led by Trump’s ally Viktor Orban, his inner circle has profited under his leadership with the funneling of contracts. Of course, the same can be said of Russia under Vladimir Putin, where the oligarchs who gave him their support became even wealthier — until running afoul of him, when some were “forced into exile or died in suspicious circumstances.”

A short time after the January 6 attack, Chuck Collins, director of the Project on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, was unstinting in his criticism of Trump’s uber-wealthy backers. “They enabled Donald Trump. They bankrolled his campaigns,” he told the progressive news site Common Dreams. “And they cheered as Trump cut their taxes, swept away regulations that pinched their profits, and packed the courts with judges eager to wink at their transgressions.”

Liz Cheney — the conservative former US Representative from Wyoming and onetime Republican member of the House GOP leadership — warned Americans recently that with Trump’s second rise to power we are “sleepwalking into dictatorship.” If he in fact regains power, we can blame, among others, these short-sighted, wealthy enablers who helped underwrite Trump’s campaign. They undoubtedly know better, but appear to care more about helping their bottom line than protecting our democracy.

Acquisition of Budapest Airport may conclude within days, says PM Orban

Reuters

Acquisition of Budapest Airport may conclude within days, says PM Orban

Reuters – April 8, 2024

European leaders and EU’s Michel meet in Bucharest

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – The acquisition of Budapest Airport could conclude “within days”, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in parliament on Monday, signalling an end to months of negotiations with majority owner AviAlliance.

Since Orban took power in 2010, his government has boosted Hungarian ownership in energy, banking, telecoms and the media, and has been planning to buy the airport for years.

“We hope that within days, the airport… will be owned in majority by the state”, he said. Hungary’s government submitted its binding offer in September 2023.

In 2021, Orban’s government submitted a non-binding offer to buy the airport, but the process was later halted amid high inflation and volatility in global financial markets.

Economy minister Marton Nagy said earlier in 2023 the financing of the package could include budget funds and development bank money. He did not say which assets the government might sell.

(Reporting by Boldizsar Gyori; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Rising opposition leads rally against Hungary’s Orban

Reuters

Rising opposition leads rally against Hungary’s Orban

Reuters Videos – April 7, 2024

STORY: Many protesters carried the national flag, shouting slogans such as, “We are not scared” and “Orban resign!”

“I believe in him and trust that he will lead this country out of this corrupt situation, which is heading in the direction of North Korea,” demonstrator Eva Hazenberger said.

The protesters marched to the parliament building in Budapest, where Magyar told his supporters he would help them get rid of the Orban administration.

“I did not start this whole thing to bring down the whole power elite alone,” Magyar said in his speech. “I began this to launch a completely new era. I am a spark that will ignite the engine.”

The 43-year-old, who says he plans to launch his own party, stated that the upcoming European parliamentary election would be the “first nail in the coffin” of the present government.

Magyar became widely known in February when he unleashed incendiary comments about the inner workings of the government and published a recording of a conversation with his ex-wife, where she detailed an attempt by a senior aide to Orban’s cabinet chief to interfere in a graft case. Prosecutors are now investigating the statements.

The probe comes at a politically sensitive time for Orban, ahead of European parliamentary elections in June and also follows a sex abuse scandal that brought down two of his key political allies – Hungary’s former president and Varga – in February.