By Jake Kaplan

Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:

A witness in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment is suing Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani for witness intimidation.

  • Retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel Alexander Vindman was a national security aide during the Trump administration. In July 2019, he listened to and reported Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. This ultimately became the basis for Trump’s first impeachment, and Vindman testified before Congress as part of its inquiry.
  • Vindman’s lawsuit accuses Trump Jr., Giuliani, and others of engaging “in an intentional, concerted campaign of unlawful intimidation and retaliation against [Vindman] to prevent him from and then punish him for testifying truthfully before Congress during impeachment proceedings against President Trump.”
  • According to the complaint, the “campaign against Lt. Col. Vindman was designed to inflict maximum damage by creating and spreading disinformation that [the Defendants] knew would be picked up and amplified by anchors at Fox News, other right-wing media outlets, and across social media — all while Lt. Col. Vindman’s active duty status prevented him from effectively defending himself.” Trump fired Vindman and his twin brother from their White House positions following Vindman’s testimony, and Vindman retired from the military in 2020.  

A judge rejected a plea deal in the federal hate crimes case against Ahmaud Arbery’s killers.

  • In November, a jury convicted Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Brian of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. All three men were found guilty on felony murder charges, and Travis McMichael was additionally found guilty on a charge of malice murder. They were later sentenced to life in prison. Preet spoke with the lead prosecutor in the case on Stay Tuned.
  • In addition to the state murder charges, the men are facing federal hate crime charges following an April 2021 indictment.
  • This week, the McMichaels planned to plead guilty to the federal charges after reaching an agreement with prosecutors, which reportedly would have permitted them to serve the first thirty years of the sentence in federal prison. However, U.S. District Judge Lisa Wood rejected the terms of the deal since it did not give her any discretion in the sentencing. Preet and Joyce discussed the rejected plea deal this week on CAFE Insider.
  • In court, Arbery’s family vehemently objected to the plea deal. Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said, “Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement will defeat me. It gives them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son.”
  • On Thursday, Gregory McMichael affirmed his not guilty plea. Travis McMichael is expected to appear in court again today with a final decision on his plea. As of now, jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday for all three defendants.

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