Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
A Manhattan grand jury charged former President Donald Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an indictment unsealed this week.
- On Tuesday, Trump was arraigned and a judge unsealed the indictment and statement of facts. Trump pled not guilty to the charges.
- In the documents, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accused Trump of orchestrating a scheme to pay hush money to three individuals in order to prevent salacious stories from surfacing before the 2016 presidential election. Bragg wrote, “In order to execute the unlawful scheme, the participants violated election laws and made and caused false entries in the business records of various entities in New York. The participants also took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments made in furtherance of the scheme.”
- In a statement, Bragg said his office pursued the case in part to maintain business integrity in New York City. Bragg said, “Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market. We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct…The trail of money and lies exposes a pattern that…violates one of New York’s basic and fundamental business laws. As this office has done time and time again, we today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law.”
- During the arraignment, Judge Juan Merchan cautioned Trump not to make “statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest.” In the days following last week’s grand jury vote to indict Trump, he has posted on social media disparaging comments about Bragg, the judge, and their families. Trump also shared an image of himself holding a baseball bat next to an image of Bragg.
- Trump delivered a speech the night of the arraignment, in which he condemned the charges. “The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it,” Trump said.
Trump is also facing a number of other criminal investigations related to the Mar-a-Lago documents and January 6.
- Special counsel Jack Smith is reportedly compiling evidence that Trump obstructed the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents. Boxes containing classified documents were reportedly moved out of a Mar-a-Lago storage area after Trump received a subpoena to return the documents. Trump also reportedly personally examined some of the boxes.
- CNN reported that former Trump administration national security officials testified before a grand jury in the special counsel’s January 6 investigation. Former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and his former deputy Ken Cuccinelli reportedly testified that Trump was repeatedly informed that DHS did not have the authority to seize voting machines following the 2020 election.
- Also in connection with the January 6 investigation, a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Trump’s effort to shield a number of aides from testifying. Smith is seeking testimony from a number of Trump aides, including former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien, and Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller.
- A federal judge also recently ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to testify before a grand jury in the January 6 investigation. On Wednesday, a spokesperson said Pence would not appeal the order.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is coming under fire for potential ethics violations.
- ProPublica reported that Thomas and his wife have gone on several luxury vacations funded by billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow. The trips included travel to Indonesia, New Zealand, and a number of destinations within the United States, and included transportation on Crow’s private jet and yacht and stays at properties owned by Crow or his company.
- The Supreme Court does not have its own code of ethics, however the justices are required to make yearly financial disclosures of most gifts and “hospitality.” Last month, the federal judiciary strengthened its policy to require justices to report details about non-business travel.
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