Our Best Stuff From a Busy Week for Donald Trump’s Lawyers

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 26, 2024. (Photo by Curtis Means/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Sunday. One of my favorite things about our current TV service is that it gives you an option to watch sporting events in split-screen mode. This was especially helpful during the NCAA basketball tournament, where we could have up to four games on at once and then click over to one when the action was heating up. I didn’t check to see whether that option was deployed for Donald Trump-related news this week, but it would have been useful.

On Thursday, Trump himself was in Manhattan for his hush-money trial, but another legal team representing him was busy arguing on his behalf before the Supreme Court. Two months ago, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that “former presidents enjoy no immunity from criminal prosecution for any official acts taken while in office,” and the Supreme Court took up his appeal. 

In a bonus edition of The Collision, Sarah reviews the oral arguments and looks at the complicated questions the justices were trying to answer—and she explains that the justices can’t answer them with only Donald Trump in mind but must, as Justice Neil Gorsuch put it, craft a “a rule for the ages.”

Sarah runs through the specific questions: “Should judges try to determine whether the president was invoking a core presidential authority? … Should presidents be immune if their attorneys general told them it was legal and they relied on that advice? … If it’s so clear that presidents can be charged for crimes in office, why wasn’t FDR charged for interning Japanese Americans during World War II—a clear violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242?” are just a few of them. But she also writes about the particular challenge the justices face: “​​If the high court gives presidents too much immunity, the White House could turn into a ‘crime center,’ as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said. Too little immunity, and there’s an endless cycle of prosecutions.”

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Trump’s trial over hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels is proving a look into how Trump operates behind the scenes. In the regularly scheduled edition of The Collision, Mike reports on how the early days of the trial are going and what we can expect to learn. Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said during opening arguments that the court could expect to hear a lot about Trump’s arrangements with lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker designed to help Trump avoid scrutiny for scandalous behavior as well as to go after Trump’s opponents. Mike writes: “The legal consequences for this sort of real-time insight into Trump’s operation may not matter when it comes to convincing a jury the former president is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of falsifying business records. And it remains untested whether voters in a general election can and will be moved by learning more unsavory aspects of a man whose unsavory character is well-known and baked into their perception of him.” 

But boy, oh boy, things are going to get interesting. Expect more from us on all of Trump’s legal entanglements. For now, though, have a great weekend. 

The Cass Review Won’t Fade Away

The number of children seeking treatment for gender dysphoria has spiked in the last decade. But are hormones and puberty blockers safe? Are they effective? In the U.K., the National Health Service directed pediatrician Hillary Cass to conduct a review of the state of youth gender medicine, and her findings should give everyone pause. According to the Cass Review, “We have no good evidence on the long-term outcomes of interventions to manage gender-related distress.” Her findings are similar to smaller reviews in European countries that have pulled back on such treatments. What about the United States? Jesse Singal has been on this beat for nearly a decade, and he has seen how the debate over the safety, efficacy, and appropriateness of medical intervention has been taken over by ideological activists. Those activists have shaped media coverage and influenced families whose children express gender confusion. And then Republican states started passing laws banning care, increasing polarization. But Singal sees the Cass Review as a game changer: He writes: “In the long run, institutions and figures will be forced to follow the trail blazed by Europe, not out of any sense of moral duty toward trans and gender-nonconforming youth, which was abandoned long ago, but simply because of the sheer brute force of institutional and reputational incentives. The American era of youth gender medicine being ‘SETTLED SCIENCE!!!’ has reached its sunset.” 

Gaslighting in Defense of Bigotry

As students at elite universities across the country stage vitriolic protests of Israel’s response to Hamas’ October 7 terrorist invasion, Jonah wonders in the G-File (🔒) what’s worse—the displays of antisemitism or the hypocrisy of the leftists who’ve rediscovered their passion for “free speech” now that the offensive and harmful language is being directed toward Jewish students. (Spoiler alert: Both are bad.) And don’t get him started on the idea that these demonstrations are “anti-war.” He writes: “Openly declaring, in chant form or otherwise, that Israel must be Judenrein by any means necessary, is an open call for war, not peace. Because the only way to ‘liberate’ Israel from the river to the sea is war. Pretending that ‘from the river to the sea’ is a call for a two-state solution is a lie. That’s not the position of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, SJP, and pretending otherwise is to volunteer as a media praetorian for people who plainly declare they are pro-genocide.” For his part, Nick finds the whole protest scene to be a little cringey. “The spectacle of Ivy League twerps cosplaying as jihadists is so deeply embarrassing that I wonder if the worst punishment these people could face will be having to suffer through the occasional reminder in future years of what they got up to while they were at Columbia,” he writes in Boiling Frogs.

After RNC Shakeup, Trump Ground Game Could Be Compromised

The Dispatch Politics team goes deep on a subject that has seen little reporting: Six weeks into Donald Trump’s handpicked leadership taking over the Republican National Committee, the party’s ground game is—to put it politely—lacking. We report that while the RNC had a plan to open 40 satellite offices in key states before Chair Ronna McDaniel was ousted, “neither the committee nor the Trump campaign has much infrastructure or personnel in the swing states that will decide the November 5 election.” While Trump reportedly told McDaniel to focus on “election integrity” over get-out-the-vote efforts, a lesser presence on the ground in battleground states means fewer resources for House and Senate candidates. The team talked to state operatives who are concerned about the effect on those down-ballot races: “They see little evidence, if any, that typical get-out-the-vote activities—including voter registration and volunteer recruitment and training—are happening. Nor have they seen any signs that there is staff on the ground to conduct such activities. They say they do not expect the RNC to address the problem anytime soon.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Israelis marked Passover this week with their minds on the hostages still being held in Gaza. Reporting from Israel, Charlotte speaks with family members who are waiting for their loved ones to return.
  • In his Friday column, Kevin takes note of Trump lawyer Todd Blanche insisting that his client be called President Donald Trump. Kevin points out that we don’t have aristocratic titles in America, and he calls out the irony of Trump’s demands given that an argument for him in 2016 was that he would put an end to dynastic politics.
  • The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last month was supposed to mess with supply chains and devastate our economy, according to some of the more panicked experts. But, as Scott Lincicome notes in Capitolism (🔒), that hasn’t happened. And he has some thoughts about why the tragic event hasn’t had wider economic repercussions.
  • The great thing about states being “laboratories of democracy” is that sometimes the mad scientists admit when an experiment has failed. That’s the case in Oregon today. Three years ago, the state decriminalized even hard-core drug usage. Now the streets of Portland, especially, are overrun by homeless encampments, and drug overdose deaths are rampant. The state legislature passed a bill that the state’s governor signed into law on April 1 that will restore penalties for drug possession. Ari Blaff reports from Portland on how things got to where they are.
  • And the pods: On The Remnant, Jonah welcomes Jesse Singal to discuss his Dispatch piece on the Cass Review and to go deeper on the sensitive issue of youth gender medicine. On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss a Supreme Court case over how cities can handle homelessness that is bound to have policy implications up and down the West Coast. And on The Dispatch Podcast, Jamie interviews Tim Miller of The Bulwark for a wide-ranging discussion on social justice and schooling, why kids these days support Palestine, and more.
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