Trump’s Worsening Legal Woes

Happy Tuesday! If you manage not to laugh out loud at this tennis announcer’s reaction to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” unexpectedly disrupting a rally during the Canadian Open this weekend, we will pay you $100 (out of Jonah’s salary).

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia indicted former President Donald Trump and 18 of his political allies late last night, charging the group—which includes onetime Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis as well as his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows—with violating the state’s racketeering (RICO) law for their alleged efforts to “unlawfully change the outcome of the [state’s 2020] election in favor of Trump.” Trump was also hit with several other counts, including solicitation of violation of oath by public officer, conspiracy to commit forgery, filing false documents, and more. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis spoke briefly to reporters early this morning, announcing Trump and his 18 co-defendants have until noon on August 25, 2023 to turn themselves in to officials in Georgia.
  • Hunter Biden’s lawyers filed a motion late Sunday night arguing that part of the now-defunct plea deal with federal prosecutors—the provision resolving a felony gun charge for lying about drug use on firearm purchase form—is still “valid and binding.” The judge overseeing the case told prosecutors they had until noon on Tuesday to respond. Citing “prosecutors’ contemporaneous written and oral communications” as corroboration, the filing from Hunter’s legal team also claimed that U.S. Attorney David Weiss and his team understood the scope of the immunity afforded to Hunter by the plea deal before it collapsed, and have since “renege[d] on the previously agreed-upon plea agreement.”
  • Two Russian bombers flew near NATO airspace over the North Sea on Monday, prompting Denmark and the Netherlands to deploy F-16 fighter jets in response. The Russian planes then turned back, never having left international airspace. According to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), four Russian aircraft also flew into Alaska’s air defense identification zone late Sunday and early Monday, but similarly remained in international airspace. “This Russian activity in the Alaska ADIZ occurs regularly and is not seen as a threat,” NORAD said in a statement.
  • The Pentagon announced a new $200 million security assistance package for Ukraine on Monday, tapping into previously approved congressional aid to send Ukraine additional munitions for HIMARS and Patriot air defense systems, as well as artillery rounds, tactical vehicles, Javelins, and mine clearing equipment. The drawdown was funded by the additional $6.2 billion made available after a Pentagon accounting error; President Joe Biden asked Congress last week for an additional $24 billion to support the Ukrainian war effort. Ukrainian forces have reportedly gained ground in the southeast in recent days, retaking at least part of Urozhaine and pressuring Russian forces in the neighboring village of Staromaiorske.
  • The military junta that seized power in Niger last month announced plans over the weekend to charge the deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum, with high treason. Bazoum and his family have been detained since the coup, and, if convicted of the charge, could face the death penalty.
  • Pakistan’s two major political parties agreed Saturday to appoint a caretaker prime minister—Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar—to oversee the country’s general elections after the country’s National Assembly was dissolved last week. Kakar—a senator from the western province of Balochistan who has the backing of Pakistan’s military—will serve as premier until elections, which were due to be held in November but may be delayed to incorporate the results of a new census.
  • The Education Department and Justice Department released new guidance to colleges and universities on Monday outlining how to navigate race considerations in admissions—including how to assess admissions essays that highlight applicants’ race—following the Supreme Court’s June decision gutting affirmative action. According to the document, “a university could consider an applicant’s explanation about what it means to him to be the first Black violinist in his city’s youth orchestra or an applicant’s account of overcoming prejudice when she transferred to a rural high school where she was the only student of South Asian descent.”

Trump & Friends Indicted in Georgia

Just after midnight this morning—exhibiting little to no regard for the sleep schedule of morning newsletter writers—Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis walked out behind a podium to detail the sprawling indictment that had finally been unsealed about an hour earlier. “Based on information developed by [our] investigation, a Fulton County grand jury returned a true bill of indictment charging 19 individuals with violations of Georgia law arising from a criminal conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in this state,” she said. After a few more minutes of details, she concluded: “I will now take a very limited number of questions prior to going to sleep.”

The activity of Willis and her team in recent months had more or less made clear such a move was coming, but the scope of the indictment—19 defendants!—still managed to shock even the closest political observers. Former President Donald Trump was hit with numerous charges, of course, but so were several of his lawyers during the post-election period (Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis), his former chief of staff (Mark Meadows), a onetime Trump campaign aide (Mike Roman), and the Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer. The grand jury voted yesterday to bring a total of 41 felony counts, and 13 of those are against Trump himself, who has now been indicted four separate times in as many months. 

Longtime Dispatch members know that we prefer to avoid the kind of insta-reactions that often leave out significant details or fail to convey important nuances—just to meet an artificial deadline. (As we said in our very first post: “We will be timely and topical, but we won’t be slaves to the relentless pace of the news cycle. We will slow things down, deliberately—because we think the times require more deliberation. Whenever possible, we want to pause and think before we react, to research and report before sharing our views.”) So we’ll take a beat, do lots of reporting, and we’ll meet you back here in 24 hours with a much better sense of the indictment’s substance and the political and legal dynamics at play. 

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