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Trump Loses His Bid To Block Pence Grand Jury Testimony
INSIDE: E. Jean Carroll ... Tucker Carlson ... MTG
A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
Time For Pence To Testify
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has denied former President Trump’s emergency effort to block his vice president from testifying to the DC grand jury investigating the conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election.
The sealed ruling came down late Wednesday. The earlier district court ruling against Trump also remains under seal. Both rulings remain secret because they are a part of grand jury proceedings.
While we don’t know the precise arguments being made by Trump or Special Counsel Jack Smith – or the reasoning of the trial and appeals courts – it has been widely reported that Trump was invoking executive privilege to shield himself from Pence’s testimony.
The exact significance of Pence’s testimony to the case against Trump remains unknown. Pence has waffled between forthcoming and coy, transparent and hedged, critical of Trump and enabling of him. But the public accounts Pence has given, including in his book, hardly paint Trump in a flattering light – and of course Trump wouldn’t be trying to block Pence from testifying unless it were damaging.
As for the legal significance of a prosecutor successfully piercing executive privilege à la U.S. v. Nixon, we’ll have to wait until the rulings are unsealed to make that assessment. Trump could still appeal to the full appeals court or to the Supreme Court.
Her testimony yesterday, based on accounts from those in the courtroom, was compelling and heart-rending. Carroll, now 79, testified that she has not had a romantic relationship or sex since the alleged rape by Trump when Carroll was in her early 50s.
Carroll held up through most of her direct testimony, but did break down eventually:
Without Trump’s testimony, his legal team has few options other than to seek to undermine Carroll’s credibility. Today will not be pretty.
Meanwhile, the judge admonished Trump and warned of potential legal jeopardy for comments he made on social media immediately before the trial began Wednesday. The judge seemed to be suggesting Trump was flirting with obstruction of justice for trying to tamper the jury with his out-of-court conduct.
“Here’s all I can tell you: I will speak to my client and ask him to refrain from any further posts regarding this case,” Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina told the judge. “I will do the best I can do, your honor. That’s all I can say.”
Bizarre And Troubling
In an extraordinary, unprecedented, and bordering on lawless move, lawyers for Donald Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation are lobbying Republicans in Congress to somehow intervene in the case and implausibly block the Justice Department from pursuing a prosecution.
Laying out a partial defense of Trump that amounts to talking points for GOP lawmakers, the Trump lawyers in a letter to House Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner (R-OH) seemed to be beseeching the former president’s congressional allies to help muddy the waters in the case. (Newsflash: Congress can’t order the Justice Department to stop an investigation.)
Notably their defense of Trump focused mainly on the period before he was subpoenaed by a DC grand jury to return all of the documents. They didn’t have much to offer on the period after the subpoena, when Trump’s greatest legal jeopardy may have attached.
Tucker Carlson Emerges In Twitter Video
Tucker Carlson made his first public comments since he was sacked by Fox News, posting a video to Twitter that seems to have been shot in his home studio in Maine:
Meanwhile, the NYT has more on the redacted internal messages Carlson sent that were apparently so damaging that they contributed to the decision to fire him. It’s still hard to know what to make of this. The Times story goes on and on about how bad the messages are:
“Carlson Texts Set Off Crisis Atop Fox”
“Private messages sent by Tucker Carlson … showed him making highly offensive remarks”
“Private messages sent by Mr. Carlson … showed him making highly offensive and crude remarks”
“one of the messages was particularly offensive”
In all, the Carlson texts are referenced some 13 times in the NYT story before, in the 20th paragraph of the story, we get this: “The Times has not seen the contents of the message.”
Disney Sues DeSantis
Disney is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state officials in federal court in Tallahassee over various actions he has taken against the company over the last year. This is actually a really interesting case because DeSantis has made it clear that his punitive actions toward Disney were in retaliation for Disney’s criticism of his “Don’t Say Gay” law. But Disney may not ultimately be looking to vindicate its underlying rights as much as get DeSantis off its back and enable it to get back to normal.
Montana House Ostracizes Its Only Transgender Member
Wow, just wow.
Rather than expelling or censuring state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D), the first and only transgender member of the Montana House, the GOP majority banned her from the floor for the rest of the session. To cast votes, Zephyr will have to do so remotely.
This is in retaliation for her vocal opposition to legislation banning gender-affirming care.
The “othering” of Zephyr – so reminiscent of the recent expulsion effort against the Tennessee Three – is obviously punitive but it also spares House Republicans from having to endure her very presence. We can’t keep you from being one of us, but we can keep you from being around us.
McCarthy Seizes His Debt-Ceiling Hostage
It was a low bar for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to clear: Get a wish list of right-wing fever dreams attached to a raising of the debt ceiling through the House. Way to go, Kev!
Make no mistake: McCarthy has little to no negotiating authority from his conference. This is not going to go well. Buckle up for a debt-ceiling crisis this summer.
Brian Kolfage Sentenced In We Build The Wall Case
Brian Kolfage, the former associate of Steve Bannon, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in federal prison for his role the We Build The Wall fraud. Kolfage had pleaded guilty.
Bannon, on the other hand, was pardoned by President Trump in one of the last acts of his presidency, but he now faces state charges in the matter in New York.
Supreme Court Ethics Watch
Politico: “The ‘Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices‘ seemed designed to quell rising calls for ethics reform at the high court. But it didn’t break much new ground, and it stopped well short of adopting an enforceable code of conduct that critics have been clamoring for.”
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) is expected to announce today that he is running against Sen. Joe Machin (D) in 2024.
WaPo: Biden embraces his ‘Dark Brandon’ alter ego in 2024 campaign
The Guardian: DeSantis assembles senior staff for expected 2024 presidential campaign