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Why Trump Finally Made Me Smile

Donald Trump was never forever. The former president is 74, obese and the subject of serious criminal investigations. Resurfacing after disgracefully inciting a rampage on the Capitol, he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference. The delivery was tired and the grievances now boring.

The big difference is he's no longer in power. Thanks to Trump, Democrats now hold the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress. That the authoritarian clown show no longer threatens America makes it considerably more entertaining.

The speech was predictably heavy on attacks against the man who beat him. "Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history," Trump said. Biden, whose approval rating is 56 percent, as opposed to Trump's 34 percent, is ignoring him.

The question is whether there are enough sane people left in the Republican Party to fix it. Could the party, to borrow a phrase, build back better? That would be hard with the smart conservatives — Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, Lisa Murkowski, Adam Kinzinger — now marooned on RINO Island.

Tom Nichols, a prominent never-Trumper, thinks it's over for the GOP. The party, he writes, is now "controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man."

What happens when the old man leaves the scene? Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and other would-be Trumps might want his voters, but they don't have his skills. They lack the Vegas-comic patter and tough New Yorker persona and silly antics. In sum, they're not entertaining.

Same goes for the Trump children, hard as they might try on impersonation. (However, if Ivanka were to knock out the gutless Marco Rubio in a Florida primary, that would be OK.)

It's true that despite Trump's loss in November, Republicans took back several seats in the House. That, of course, was before Trump's cop-beating mob threatened to hang Mike Pence. (The former vice president, understandably, sent his regrets to the CPAC organizers.) And it happened after a campaign in which COVID-concerned Democrats failed to go door to door while Republicans did.

When the congressional midterms take place in 2022, things will be a lot different. COVID should be over. There could well be two years of nontraumatic governance and an economy fat with new jobs. At the same time, the voter bloc that still calls itself Republican is shrinking. And it's not good news that only 37 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Republican Party, whereas 48 percent have a positive view of Democrats, according to Gallup.

Should we worry that there may not be a Republican Party able to counter Democratic excesses? Another anti-Trump conservative, Jennifer Rubin, says no. She notes that many parts of the country are already basically one-party locales — say, Democratic New York City or Republican Mississippi. But their crowded primaries provide voters with a diversity of views.

Meanwhile, with Biden at the top, the Democratic Party has built up moderate appeal. The party's lefties are finding, much to their dismay, that their every wish is not Biden's command. By the way, Congress now has the highest job approval in almost 12 years, and it's run by Democrats.

When Republicans complained that Biden didn't spend much time negotiating with them on his COVID relief bill, the question was: Negotiate with whom? With the Republicans who wouldn't admit he really won the election? They happened to represent a majority of the House Republican caucus.

The happy news is that Trump doesn't even get me mad anymore. So what if he still insists he won the election? Crazy people on street corners claim to be president. Trump finally made me smile, because he no longer matters.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Why Trump Will Suffer Legal Torment For Years To Come

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Acquitted by the Senate of inciting the U.S. Capitol insurrection last month, Donald Trump faces more fallout from the unrest, including a lawsuit from a congressman Tuesday. But his biggest legal problems might be the ones that go much further back.

In one of what is expected to be many lawsuits over the deadly riot, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) accused Trump on Tuesday of conspiring with far-right extremist groups that were involved in storming the Capitol.

Trump, who made a fiery speech to supporters prior to the riot, could also be hit with criminal charges — though courts, wary of infringing free speech, have set a high bar for prosecutors trying to mount federal incitement cases.

But riot-related consequences aren't the only thing Trump has to worry about.

With his historic second Senate trial behind him, here's a look at the legal road ahead for Trump.

Criminal Investigations

Atlanta prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into whether Trump attempted to overturn his election loss in Georgia, including a January 2 phone call in which he urged the state's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to reverse Biden's narrow victory.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat elected last November, announced the probe Feb. 10. In the call, Trump told Raffensberger: "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have" to get to erase Biden's lead, and argued that Raffensberger could alter the results, an assertion the Republican secretary of state firmly rejected.

Details of the call, such as Trump's focus on the vote total, "lets you know that someone had a clear mind, they understood what they were doing," Willis told MSNBC last week. "When you're pursuing the investigation, facts that like that might not seem so important become very important."

Willis' office declined to identify who was under investigation but said it was focusing on "the matters reported on over the last several weeks," including Trump's call. The Washington Post obtained a recording of the call and published it January 5.

Trump spokesperson Jason Miller described the Georgia inquiry as the continuation of a "witch hunt" — a term Trump himself has used to describe some investigations — and the "Democrats' latest attempt to score political points" at Trump's expense.

___

Karl Racine, the attorney general for Washington, D.C., has said district prosecutors could charge Trump under local law that criminalizes statements that motivate people to violence.

But the charge would be a low-level misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Federal prosecutors in Washington, meanwhile, have charged some 200 Trump supporters with crimes related to the riot, including more serious conspiracy charges. Many of the people charged said they acted in Trump's name.

But the bar is very high to charge Trump with any crimes related to the riot. There has been no indication that Trump would be charged in the riot though prosecutors have said they are looking at all angles.

Trump could also be sued by victims, though he has some constitutional protections, including if he acted while carrying out the duties of president.

___

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, is in the midst of an 18-month criminal investigation focusing in part on hush-money payments paid to women on Trump's behalf, and whether Trump or his businesses manipulated the value of assets — inflating them in some cases and minimizing them in others — to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.

Vance's office hasn't publicly said what it is investigating, citing grand jury secrecy rules, but some details have come out in court fights mounted by Trump's lawyers over prosecutors' access to his tax records. Trump's lawyers have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court twice to block a subpoena for the records, with a ruling on the latest challenge expected in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Vance's prosecutors have been speaking with Trump's former lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen about the payoffs he arranged to porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn't go public about alleged affairs with Trump, as well as Trump's relationship with lenders Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital and other issues.

Last month, Vance's office sent subpoenas to local governments in the New York City suburbs seeking information about a sprawling Westchester estate Trump owns there, and 158 acres of land he donated to conservation land trust in 2016 to qualify for an income tax deduction.

Vance, whose term expires at the end of the year, hasn't announced if he will seek reelection, leaving questions about the future of any Trump-related prosecutions.

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Trump no longer has the cloak of immunity from federal prosecution he did while in office, although federal prosecutors in New York who had been looking into the hush-money payments have essentially abandoned that probe.

The same U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan also appears to have moved on from its investigation of Trump's inaugural committee. That inquiry examined the committee's spending, including whether foreigners illegally contributed to inaugural events.

A major donor to the inaugural, Imaad Zuberi, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and failing to register as a foreign agent. He's scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in Los Angeles.

___

Civil Litigation

New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil investigation focuses on some of the same issues as Vance's criminal probe, including possible property value manipulation and tax write-offs Trump's company, the Trump Organization, claimed on millions of dollars in consulting fees it paid, including money that went to Trump's daughter Ivanka.

James' office issued subpoenas to local governments in November 2019 for records pertaining to Trump's estate north of Manhattan, Seven Springs, after Cohen provided Congress with Trump financial statements that listed the 213-acre property was worth $291 million in 2012 — far higher than the $56.5 million value that a Trump-commissioned appraisal placed on it in 2015.

James, also a Democrat, is also looking at similar issues relating to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago, and a golf course near Los Angeles. Recently, her office has won a series of court rulings forcing Trump's company and a law firm it hired to turn over troves of records.

Investigators have yet to determine whether any law was broken. If criminal wrongdoing is uncovered, James' office could pursue charges through a county district attorney or with a referral from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or a state agency.

___

Revisiting The Russia Probe

The Justice Department, under attorney general nominee Merrick Garland, could still pursue matters left uncharged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While campaigning for the White House, Biden said he would not direct the Justice Department to pursue charges against Trump, nor stand in the way of investigations it might take up on its own. In one of his first acts as president, Biden issued an executive order requiring all executive branch political appointees to sign a pledge that they won't interfere with Justice Department investigations.

Mueller's report included multiple accusations of Trump obstructing justice, including firing FBI Director James Comey over his unwillingness to say Trump was not personally under investigation; pressuring Comey to end an investigation into Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn; and instructing White House counsel Don McGahn to have Mueller removed amid media reports that his team was investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice.

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Private Lawsuits

Trump's election loss could hasten the resolution of lawsuits brought by two women who've accused him of sexual misconduct.

Lawyers for Summer Zervos, a restaurateur who worked with Trump as a contestant on The Apprentice, asked New York's high court last week to dismiss as moot Trump's appeal that argued a sitting president can't be sued in a state court.

Zervos came forward during Trump's 2016 campaign with allegations he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping when she sought to talk to him about her career in 2007. Trump denied her allegations and retweeted a message calling her claims "a hoax," leading Zervos to file the defamation lawsuit against him.

A defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist who accused Trump last year of raping her in the mid-1990s, is on hold as an appeals court weighs Trump's argument that the United States government, rather than Trump as an individual, should be the defendant.

Government lawyers have argued that statements he made about Carroll — including that she was "totally lying" to sell a memoir — fell within the scope of his work as president because Carroll was, in effect, questioning his fitness to hold public office.

A ruling in Trump's favor would allow the Justice Department to represent him in the matter and could put taxpayers on the hook for any payout that might result. It's unclear whether the department would maintain that position under Biden.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly as Zervos and Carroll have.

Senate Acquits Trump Despite Bipartisan Support For Impeachment

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

After a confusing day, the United States Senate voted on Saturday afternoon 57 to 43 in favor of convicting Donald J. Trump in his second impeachment trial. Though this was, by far, the greatest bipartisan vote in favor of impeachment in the nation's history, it still was not sufficient to reach the necessary two-thirds of the Senate necessary for conviction.

Among those Republicans voting with Democrats were Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey.

With that vote, the court of impeachment is adjourned and Republicans have shrugged off their last flirtation with the idea of democracy.

Saturday, Feb 13, 2021 · 3:59:25 PM EST · Mark SumnerSaturday, Feb 13, 2021 · 4:02:52 PM EST · Mark Sumner

Sen. Chuck Schumer: "This trial wasn't about choosing country over party, not even that. This trial was about choosing country over Donald Trump, and 43 Republican members chose Trump."

Saturday, Feb 13, 2021 · 4:05:41 PM EST · Mark SumnerSaturday, Feb 13, 2021 · 4:13:06 PM EST · Mark Sumner

Trump has released a gloating statement. I'm not going to quote any of it. Just know that he doesn't take a moment to condemn the violence on Jan. 6.

Twitter To Trump: You Are Banned Forever, No Matter What

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Twitter executive Ned Segal on Wednesday said that even if Donald Trump ran for election in the future and was elected to the presidency, he would not be given back his Twitter account.

"When you're removed from the platform you're removed from the platform, whether you're a commentator, you're a CFO, or you are a former or current public official," Segal told CNBC.

Pressed to explain how the policy applies to Trump's specific case, Segal said, "He was removed when he was president and there'd be no difference for anybody who's a public official once they've been removed from the service."

Trump was permanently removed from Twitter in January. The service cited his support and praise of the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, noting that inciting violence violates Twitter's terms.

From the Feb. 10 edition of CNBC's "Squawk Box":

BECKY QUICK, CNBC: One more question for you, President Trump was banned, former President Trump was banned, if he came back, ran for office again and was elected president, would you allow him back on the platform?
NED SEGAL: So the way our policies work, when you're removed from the platform you're removed from the platform, whether you're a commentator, you're a CFO, or you are a former or current public official.
And so, remember, our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence, and if anybody does that, we have to remove them from the service and our policies don't allow people to come back.
QUICK: So no?
SEGAL: He was removed when he was president and there'd be no difference for anybody who's a public official once they've been removed from the service.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.