Trump campaigns in New York’s South Bronx in a bid to woo non-white voters

Former President Donald Trump campaigned on May 23 in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation, holding a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.

Mr. Trump was addressing supporters in Crotona Park, a public green space in a neighborhood that is among the city’s most diverse and its most impoverished, a change from the majority-white areas where he holds most of his rallies.

The former president opened his rally with an ode to his hometown, talking about its humble beginnings as a small Dutch trading post before becoming a glamorous capital of culture that “inspired the entire world.” He established residency in Florida in 2019.

“Everyone wanted to be here,” he told the enthusiastic audience. “But sadly this is now a city in decline.” “If a New Yorker can’t save this country,” he went on to say, “no one can.”

‘This isn’t your typical presidential election’

With Mr. Trump confined to New York for his trial for much of the last six weeks, the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign has planned a series of local stops across his hometown before and after court. He visited a bodega in Harlem, dropped by a construction site and held a photo op at a local firehouse.

But the Bronx rally is his first event open to the general public as he insists he is making a play to win an overwhelmingly Democratic State that hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Besides creating a spectacle of rallygoers and protesters, the rally also gave Mr. Trump an opportunity to highlight what he argues are advantages on economic and immigration issues that could cut into key Democratic voting blocs.

“The strategy is to demonstrate to the voters of the Bronx and New York that this isn’t your typical presidential election, that Donald Trump is here to represent everybody and get our country back on track,” said Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds, a potential Trump running mate who grew up in Brooklyn and spoke at the rally.

Supporters of the Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gather for a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024.

Supporters of the Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gather for a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
AP

Hours before Mr. Trump’s rally was set to begin, a long line of supporters decked out in red “Made America Great Again” hats and other Trump gear snaked around the park, waiting for security screening to begin. Trump’s campaign said it expected several thousand people to attend.

The Bronx Democratic Party protested Mr. Trump’s appearance with its own event at the park. Members of multiple unions were present, holding signs that said “The Bronx says no to Trump” in both English and Spanish.

“We are used to elected officials, to government officials, to opportunists of all kinds who come to our community and use our painful history,” said Democratic State Rep. Amanda Septimo, who represents the South Bronx. “They talk about the Bronx and everything that’s wrong with it, but they never get to the part that talks about what they’re going to do for the Bronx and we know that Trump is never going to get to that part in his speech.”

But some locals in the crowd disagreed. Margarita Rosario, a 69-year-old who has lived in the borough for more than 60 years, said she New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on television the night before suggesting that the Bronx wouldn’t support Mr. Trump. It spurred her to show up, holding a Trump flag and a poster that said, ‘Make America Great Again’. “I got so annoyed with that. I said ‘How dare she speak for the whole Bronx?’” she said.

Muhammad Ali, a 50-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant who lives in Bronx, said he planned to vote for Mr. Trump in November. He also said he once used to think the former president was a racist but his views have changed. “We need a patriotic president at the moment and I find Donald Trump more patriotic for the moment than Joe Biden,” he said.

Why Trump is trying to win over non-white voters

Recent polls suggest Mr. Trump is gaining ground with Black and Hispanic voters, groups that traditionally have supported Democrats. Mr. Trump’s campaign sees an opportunity to grab enough of their votes to make a difference in battleground States in the November 5 election.

That is not the case with New York, which Mr. Trump lost by 23 percentage points in 2020 and has no chance of winning this year, political analysts say. But, a well-attended rally held in the city and covered by major TV networks could help project his message to Black and Hispanic voters nationwide.

“I think it’s part of this larger narrative where he’s trying to chip away at Biden’s support amongst Black and Latino men, primarily,” said Christina Greer, an associate professor of political science at Fordham University. “By him going to the South Bronx, he can say ‘I’m talking to communities that Joe Biden is taking for granted’.”

Mr. Trump’s focus on non-white voters reflects both candidates’ efforts to look beyond their base in what national polls show to be a close re-match. Some 40% of registered voters in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll said they would vote for Mr. Biden if the election were held today, with the same share picking Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump won the U.S. presidency in 2016 with less support from Black and Hispanic voters than any president in at least 40 years, then made up ground with both groups in the 2020 race. In the New York Times/Siena College poll in March, he was selected by 23% of Black and 46% of Hispanic respondents in a one-on-one matchup with the current president. That is far higher than the 12% of Black and 32% of Hispanic voters than he won in 2020, according to Edison Research exit polls.

Political analysts have attributed Mr. Biden’s slipping support among non-white voters this election cycle in part to the outsized impact of inflation on people living paycheck to paycheck.

Roughly 55% of Bronx County residents are Hispanic and about one-third are Black, according to 2022 census data. Mr. Biden won the county by 67.6 percentage points in 2020.

Biden on the offensive

Mr. Biden has had a flurry of actions and events focused on bolstering support among African American voters, including giving the commencement address at Morehouse College, where he noted the billions in funding his administration has granted to historically Black colleges and universities. He also has singled out Mr. Trump and other Republicans for attacking programmes aimed at improving diversity, equity and inclusion.

On Thursday, the Biden campaign released two new ads attacking Mr.Trump’s treatment of Black people.

Democratic U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres, who represents the Bronx, on Thursday said it was clear to New Yorkers in the borough that Mr. Trump put his self interests over their needs. “I’m confident the people of the Bronx are not going to buy the snake oil he’s selling,” Mr. Torres told MSNBC in an interview.

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Trump VP prospect Doug Burgum and GOP oil baron Harold Hamm are allies in business and politics

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum as Vivek Ramaswamy, left, watches at a campaign rally at The Margate Resort in Laconia, New Hampshire, Jan. 22, 2024.

Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

If former President Donald Trump taps North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum to be his running mate, the biggest beneficiary of the partnership could be someone else entirely: Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and executive chairman of shale oil drilling giant Continental Resources, who could end up with two powerful allies in a Trump White House.

Burgum’s ties to Hamm and the shale oil drilling giant he founded are complex. Continental is the largest oil and gas leaseholder in North Dakota, where oil and gas is the biggest industry by revenue.

The two men also have a friendship outside of business: Burgum recently contributed a rave review blurb to Hamm’s new memoir. And during his 2023 state of the state address, Burgum compared Hamm favorably to President Theodore Roosevelt, describing Hamm as a person “whose grit, resilience, hard work and determination has changed North Dakota and our nation.”

But Burgum has an even more personal link to Continental: Burgum’s family leases 200 acres of farmland in Williams County to the energy giant for the company to pump oil and gas, according to previously unreported business records and a federal financial disclosure report.

Burgum has made up to $50,000 in royalties since late 2022, while he’s been governor, from the deal with Continental Resources, according to his financial disclosure, details of which have not been reported.

Experts told CNBC that Burgum and his family business likely made thousands more from the agreement with Continental Resources since signing a contract with the company in 2009.

This link between Burgum and Continental highlights one of the potential risks for Trump of selecting a running mate who has lived most of his adult life in private.

Burgum has never been subjected to the kind of scrutiny that someone like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has undergone and from which Rubio has emerged politically intact.

Burgum endorsed Trump in January, a month after he dropped out of the Republican primary for president. Since then, he has become an advisor to Trump on energy policy and joined a shortlist of contenders to be the former president’s running mate.

Hamm, meanwhile, is one of Trump’s biggest supporters in the industry. Burgum, Hamm and other industry advocates were reportedly at a meeting at Trump’s private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, where the former president called on oil and gas executives to donate $1 billion to his campaign in exchange for his plan to roll back environmental regulations.

Hamm is co-hosting an event for Trump that’s sponsored by the former president’s political action committee, Make America Great Again Inc., on May 22, according to an invitation.

Continental Resources donated $1 million to the super PAC in April, according to Federal Election Commission records. Hamm gave $614,000 to the Trump 47 Committee in March.

Burgum’s oil deal with Continental

The original agreement between the Burgum Farm Partnership and Continental Resources was signed by Bradley Burgum, the governor’s late brother, according to a land lease reviewed by CNBC.

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki told CNBC the contract was drawn up years before the governor was sworn into office in 2017.

“North Dakota is a leading energy producer, including the No. 3 oil producing state. Tens of thousands of families and mineral owners have similar arrangements,” Nowatzki said. “As the publicly available disclosures show: The cited agreement began many years before he became governor.”

Nowatzki did not answer specific questions about the deal, Burgum’s role with the family business or his relationship with Hamm.

A spokeswoman for both Continental Resources and Hamm did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

CNBC obtained Burgum’s personal financial disclosure by a request to the Federal Election Commission. His business records were acquired through the North Dakota secretary of state’s office.

Data from North Dakota’s Minerals Department shows that the locations of the oil and gas wells matches the coordinates of Burgum’s family farm on his business records. The state’s data does not identify Burgum’s address, but the area where the farm and seven of Continental Resources wells are located is within a small township named Brooklyn.

All seven wells have been active since 2011, just two years after Burgum’s family signed an agreement with Continental Resources. The wells produced over 5,000 barrels of oil and thousands of cubic feet in natural gas in March alone, according to the latest data from Drilling Edge. It’s unclear how many of the seven wells are located directly on the Burgum property.

Burgum was elected governor in 2016 and reelected to a second term in 2020. He’s not running for reelection in 2024.

The Burgum Farm Partnership LLP, which oversees the family farm land in Williams County and Cass County, is worth between $500,001 and $1 million, according to the financial disclosure.

Doug Burgum is a managing partner of the Burgum Farm Partnership, and he signed the businesses’ latest annual report in March. Burgum’s financial disclosure says the governor is a non-managing member and the company is a “family investment” limited liability partnership.

The company’s annual report that was filed to the secretary of state’s office in April lists Burgum, his late brother’s two children, his sister, Barbara, and his own three adult children as managing partners of the family business.

The oil and gas land deal says Continental Resources provides the Burgum Farm Partnership 19% of the proceeds from the sales of oil and gas Continental sold after it is pumped from the Burgum property, according to the contract and experts who reviewed the records.

“The greater benefit is that the Burgum Farm Partnership does not have to invest any money to drill the wells, collect the hydrocarbons (no pipes, no tanks, no roads),” Edward Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said in an email after reviewing the contract.

The royalty payments arrive in monthly and quarterly installments, according to the agreement.

The sun sets behind a pumpjack during a gusty night in Fort Stockton, Texas, March 24, 2024.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Experts note that landholders leasing their property to oil and gas companies can make thousands of dollars more beyond the royalties in bonuses and other payments.

“The company will usually pay the land owner a ‘bonus’ for signing the lease (usually hundreds or thousands of dollars per acre, depending on how hot the market might be),” said Jack Balagia, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas and former general counsel for Exxon Mobil. 

Ryan Kellogg, a professor at the University of Chicago who reviewed the contract, said the document does not disclose details of a bonus to the Burgum farm company, except to give a low range of how much was paid.

“The up-front bonus payment is not disclosed,” Kellogg said. “It’s just listed as ‘$10 and more’ where the ‘more’ is potentially significant. Bonuses are almost never disclosed in leases.”

The Burgum contract also says that the family business made money from Continental Resources through one initial down payment called “paid-up” on the lease, with no details provided on how much Burgum and his family saw from that part of the agreement.

“By paid-up, [we mean] a lease where all cash for the term of the lease is paid upfront, and by a rental form, we mean one with a down payment and rental payments once a year after that,” said Ted Borrego, an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

Burgum drilling contract raises questions

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum encourages voters to support Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally in the basement ballroom of The Margate Resort in Laconia, New Hampshire, Jan. 22, 2024.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Neither of Burgum’s two financial disclosures from his successful runs for governor reveal a land deal with Continental Resources. North Dakota requires candidates for state office to disclose only the names of businesses that do not act as their principal source of income. No other details are required to be disclosed.

Since Burgum first ran for governor in 2016, he’s disclosed to the North Dakota secretary of state’s office that he and his wife, Kathryn, have a financial interest in more than a dozen companies, including Burgum Farm Partnership.

But those three-page state records do not specify how much of a financial interest they have in these companies nor any money they make from those businesses. 

A candidate for president or Congress is required to disclose many more details, including a range of income from each of their assets during the previous 12 months.

Burgum’s federal disclosure report spans 26 pages and reveals scores of closely held LLCs, partnerships and assets. With Burgum’s net worth easily in the hundreds of millions, the Continental lease forms only a small part of his income streams.

Burgum and Trump aligned on energy

Ultimately, it may not matter to Trump whether Burgum has been fully vetted if the governor is the person he wants on his ticket.

For Trump, Burgum represents a key ally in the oil and gas business, as the former president looks to raise money from the industry’s executives.

Dan Eberhart, who runs oil and gas drilling company Canary, said a Trump/Burgum ticket could help to accomplish this.

“Choosing Burgum would bring more industry donors to Trump’s orbit,” Eberhart said in a recent interview.

“Nominating Burgum as VP would send a strong signal to the industry that we would have an important voice in a potential Trump administration,” he added.

President Donald Trump greets Harold Hamm after he was introduced by Hamm at the Shale Insight 2019 Conference in Pittsburgh, Oct. 23, 2019.

Leah Millis | Reuters

Government ethics watchdogs have also started to take notice of the relationship between Trump, Hamm, Burgum and others linked to the oil and gas industry.

“The fact that Mr. Burgum has an income producing, oil and gas lease arrangement with Continental Resources itself raises its own concerns, since Continental Resources’ executive chairman, Harold Hamm, recently participated with other oil and gas executives and Mr. Burgum in the Mar-a-Lago meeting Mr. Trump held last month seeking $1 billion in fundraising from those in attendance,” said Canter.

“Under these circumstances, Mr. Burgum seems to be uniquely positioned to benefit himself both financially and politically depending on what he is able to bring to the table that would serve the respective interests of Trump and Hamm,” she said.

Hamm’s company has had extensive business in North Dakota for over a decade, and the state is ranked in the top three states to produce oil.

In 2022, Hamm announced Continental Resources was investing $250 million into a pipeline that spanned 2,000 miles to capture carbon dioxide and pump it underground for storage in North Dakota. Last year, Hamm donated $50 million to a planned library in North Dakota honoring Roosevelt.

Hamm’s alliance with Burgum preceded a donation Continental Resources made to a PAC that backed the North Dakota governor when he ran for president. The company gave $250,000 to the pro-Burgum Best of America PAC in July, according to FEC filings.

Burgum’s gubernatorial campaign has regularly been backed by other executives in the oil and gas industry, according to data from the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.

Burgum’s successful campaign for governor in 2020 received more than $35,000 from those in the oil and gas industry. That amount is second only to the more than $1 million Burgum put into his campaign.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Make America Great Again Inc. and the correct spelling of Ryan Kellogg’s name.

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Trump hush-money trial: Appeals court upholds gag order; Cohen gives more testimony

A New York appeals court on May 14 upheld the gag order in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial, finding that the judge “properly determined” that Mr. Trump’s public statements “posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses in this case as well.” Mr. Trump had asked the state’s intermediate appeals court to lift or modify the gag order, which bars him from commenting publicly about jurors, witnesses and others connected to the case, including Judge Juan M. Merchan’s family and prosecutors other than District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

At an emergency hearing last month, just days before the trial started, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that the gag order is an unconstitutional curb on the presumptive Republican nominee’s free speech rights while he’s campaigning for President and fighting criminal charges.

In its ruling, the five-judge appeals panel noted that Mr. Trump wasn’t claiming that the gag order had infringed on his right to a fair trial. Rather, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that prohibiting him from commenting restricted his ability to engage in protected political speech and could adversely impact on his campaign.

The appeals court ruled that Judge Merchan “properly weighed” Mr. Trump’s free speech rights against the “historical commitment to ensuring the fair administration of justice in criminal cases, and the right of persons related or tangentially related to the criminal proceedings from being free from threats, intimidation, harassment, and harm”. Mr. Trump’s fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen returned to the witness stand on May 14, testifying in detail about how the former President was linked to all aspects of the hush-money scheme that prosecutors say was an illegal effort to purchase and then bury stories that threatened his 2016 campaign.

Mr. Trump, the first former U.S. President to go on trial, was joined at the courthouse by an entourage of GOP lawmakers that included House Speaker Mike Johnson and others considered vice presidential contenders for Mr. Trump’s 2024 campaign. Their presence was a not-so-subtle show of support meant not just for Mr. Trump, but also for voters tuning in to trial coverage and for the jurors deciding Mr. Trump’s fate.

As proceedings began, Mr. Johnson held a news conference outside the courthouse, using his powerful pulpit to attack the U.S. judicial system. It was a remarkable moment in American politics as the person second in line to the presidency sought to turn his political party against the rule of law by declaring the Manhattan criminal trial illegitimate.

“I do have a lot of surrogates, and they’re speaking very beautifully,” Mr. Trump said before court as the group gathered in the background. “And they come … from all over Washington. And they’re highly respected, and they think this is the greatest scam they’ve ever seen.” Mr. Cohen, meanwhile, resumed his place on the witness stand as prosecutor Susan Hoffinger worked to paint him as a Trump loyalist who committed crimes on behalf of the former President.

Mr. Cohen told jurors that he lied to the Congress during an investigation into potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to protect Mr. Trump. He also described for jurors the April 2018 raid by law enforcement on his apartment, law firm, a hotel room where he stayed and a bank where he stashed valuables.

“How to describe your life being turned upside-down. Concerned. Despondent. Angry,” he said.

“Were you frightened?” Ms. Hoffinger asked.

“Yes, ma’am.” But he said he was heartened by a phone call from Mr. Trump that he said gave him reassurance and convinced him to remain “in the camp.” He said to me, Don’t worry. I’m the President of the United States. There’s nothing here. Everything’s going to be OK. Stay tough. You’re going to be OK,’” Mr. Cohen testified.

Mr. Cohen told jurors that “I felt reassured because I had the President of the United States protecting me … And so I remained in the camp.” But their relationship soured, and now Mr. Cohen is one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal critics. His testimony is central to the Manhattan case.

Mr. Cohen testified that after paying out $1,30,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels in order to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter, Mr. Trump promised to reimburse him. He said Mr. Trump was constantly apprised of the behind-the-scenes efforts to bury stories feared to be harmful to the campaign.

Jurors followed along as Ms. Hoffinger, in a methodical and clinical fashion, walked Mr. Cohen through that reimbursement process. It was an attempt to show what prosecutors say was a lengthy deception to mask the true purpose of the payments. As jurors were shown business records and other paperwork, Mr. Cohen explained their purpose and reiterated again and again that the payments were reimbursements for the hush-money. They weren’t for legal services he provided or for a retainer, he said.

It’s an important distinction, because prosecutors allege that the Mr. Trump records falsely described the purpose of the payments as legal expenses. These records form the basis of 34 felony counts charging Mr. Trump with falsifying business records. All told, Mr. Cohen was paid $4,20,000, with funds drawn from a Trump personal account.

“Were the descriptions on this check stub false?” Ms. Hoffinger asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Cohen said.

“And again, there was no retainer agreement,” Ms. Hoffinger asked.

“Correct,” Mr. Cohen replied.

Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty and also denies that any of the encounters took place.

During his time on the witness stand, Mr. Cohen delivered matter-of-fact testimony that went to the heart of the former President’s trial: “Everything required Mr. Trump’s sign-off,” Mr. Cohen said. He told jurors that Mr. Trump did not want Ms. Daniels’ account of a sexual encounter to get out. At the time, Mr. Trump was especially anxious about how the story would affect his standing with female voters.

A similar episode occurred when Mr. Cohen alerted Mr. Trump that a Playboy model was alleging that she and Mr. Trump had an extramarital affair. “Make sure it doesn’t get released,” was Mr. Cohen’s message to Mr. Trump, according to testimony. The woman, Karen McDougal, was paid $1,50,000 in an arrangement that was made after Mr. Trump received a “complete and total update on everything that transpired.” “What I was doing, I was doing at the direction of and benefit of Mr. Trump,” Mr. Cohen testified.

Prosecutors believe Mr. Cohen’s insider knowledge is critical to their case. But their reliance on a witness with such a checkered past — Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payments — also carries sizable risks with a jury.

The men, once so close that Mr. Cohen boasted that he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump, had no visible interaction inside the courtroom. The sedate atmosphere was a marked contrast from their last courtroom faceoff in October, when Mr. Trump walked out of the courtroom after his lawyer finished questioning Mr. Cohen during his civil fraud trial.

Throughout Mr. Cohen’s testimony on May 14, Mr. Trump reclined in his chair with his eyes closed and his head tilted to the side. He shifted from time to time, occasionally leaning forward and opening his eyes, making a comment to his attorney before returning to his recline. Even some of the topics that have animated him the most as he campaigns didn’t stir his attention.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers will get their chance to question Mr. Cohen as early as Tuesday, when they’re expected to attack his credibility. He was disbarred, went to prison and separately pleaded guilty to lying about a Moscow real estate project on Mr. Trump’s behalf.

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Trump hush-money trial | Michael Cohen says former U.S. president was intimately involved in scheme

Former U.S. President Donald Trump was intimately involved with all aspects of a scheme to stifle stories about sex that threatened to torpedo his 2016 campaign, his former lawyer said Monday in matter-of-fact testimony that went to the heart of the former president’s hush money trial.

“Everything required Mr. Trump’s sign-off,” said Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s fixer-turned-foe and the prosecution’s star witness in a case now entering its final, pivotal stretch.

In hours of highly anticipated testimony, Mr. Cohen placed Mr. Trump at the centre of the hush money plot, saying the then-candidate had promised to reimburse the lawyer for the money he fronted and was constantly updated about behind-the-scenes efforts to bury stories feared to be harmful to the campaign.


ALSO READ | A respite: On the Trump case 

“We need to stop this from getting out,” Mr. Cohen quoted Mr. Trump as telling him in reference to porn actor Stormy Daniels’ account of a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump a decade earlier. The then-candidate was especially anxious about how the story would affect his standing with female voters.

A similar episode occurred when Mr. Cohen alerted Mr. Trump that a Playboy model was alleging that she and Mr. Trump had an extramarital affair. “Make sure it doesn’t get released,” was Mr. Cohen’s message to Mr. Trump, the lawyer said. The woman, Karen McDougal, was paid $150,000 in an arrangement that was made after Mr. Trump received a “complete and total update on everything that transpired.”

“What I was doing, I was doing at the direction of and benefit of Mr. Trump,” Mr. Cohen testified.

Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied having sexual encounters with the two women.

Mr. Cohen is by far the prosecution’s most important witness, and though his testimony lacked the electricity that defined Ms. Daniels’ turn on the stand last week, he nonetheless linked Mr. Trump directly to the payments and helped illuminate some of the drier evidence such as text messages and phone logs that jurors had previously seen.

The testimony of a witness with such intimate knowledge of Mr. Trump’s activities could heighten the legal exposure of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee if jurors deem him sufficiently credible. But prosecutors’ reliance on a witness with such a checkered past — Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payments — also carries sizable risks with a jury and could be a boon to Mr. Trump politically as he fundraises off his legal woes and paints the case as the product of a tainted criminal justice system.

The men, once so close that Mr. Cohen boasted that he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump, had no visible interaction inside the courtroom. The sedate atmosphere was a marked contrast from their last courtroom faceoff, when Mr. Trump walked out of the courtroom in October after his lawyer finished questioning Mr. Cohen during his civil fraud trial.

This time around, Mr. Trump sat at the defence table with his eyes closed for long stretches of testimony as Mr. Cohen recounted his decade-long career as a senior Trump Organization executive, doing work that by his own admission sometimes involved lying and bullying others on his boss’s behalf.

Jurors had previously heard from others about the tabloid industry practice of “catch-and-kill,” in which rights to a story are purchased so that it can then be quashed. But Mr. Cohen’s testimony, which continues Tuesday, is crucial to prosecutors because of his direct communication with the then-candidate about embarrassing stories he was scrambling to suppress.

Mr. Cohen also matters because the reimbursements he received from a $130,000 hush money payment to Ms. Daniels, which prosecutors say was meant to buy her silence in advance of the election, form the basis of 34 felony counts charging Trump with falsifying business records. Prosecutors say the reimbursements were logged, falsely, as legal expenses to conceal the payments’ true purpose. Defence lawyers say the payments to Mr. Cohen were properly categorised as legal expenses.

Under questioning from a prosecutor, Mr. Cohen detailed the steps he took to mask the payments. When he opened a bank account to pay Ms. Daniels, an action he said he told Mr. Trump he was taking, he told the bank it was for a new limited liability corporation but withheld the actual purpose.

“I’m not sure they would’ve opened it,” he said, if they knew it was ”to pay off an adult film star for a nondisclosure agreement.”

To establish Mr. Trump’s familiarity with the payments,Mr. Cohen told the jury that Mr. Trump had promised to reimburse him. The two men even discussed with Allen Weisselberg, a former Trump Organization chief financial officer, how the reimbursements would be paid as legal services over monthly instalments, Mr. Cohen testified.

And though Mr. Trump’s lawyers have said he acted to protect his family from salacious stories, Mr. Cohen described Mr. Trump as preoccupied instead by the impact they would have on the campaign.

He said Mr. Trump even sought to delay finalising the Ms. Daniels transaction until after Election Day so he wouldn’t have to pay her.

“Because,” Mr. Cohen testified, “after the election it wouldn’t matter” to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen also gave jurors an insider account of his negotiations with David Pecker, the then-publisher of the National Enquirer, who was such a close Mr. Trump ally that Mr. Pecker told Mr. Cohen his publication maintained a “file drawer or a locked drawer” where files related to Mr. Trump were kept.

That effort took on added urgency following the October 2016 disclosure of an “Access Hollywood” recording in which Mr. Trump was heard boasting about grabbing women sexually.

The Daniels payment was finalised several weeks after that revelation, but Monday’s testimony also centred on a deal earlier that fall with Ms. McDougal.

Mr. Cohen testified that he went to Mr. Trump immediately after the National Enquirer alerted him to a story about the alleged Ms. McDougal affair. “Make sure it doesn’t get released,” he said Mr. Trump told him.

Mr. Trump checked in with Mr. Pecker about the matter, asking him how “things were going” with it, Mr. Cohen said. Mr. Pecker responded, ‘We have this under control, and we’ll take care of this,” Mr. Cohen testified.

Mr. Cohen also said he was with Mr. Trump as he spoke to Mr. Pecker on a speakerphone in his Trump Tower office.

“David had stated that it’s going to cost them $150,000 to control the story,” Mr. Cohen said. He quoted Mr. Trump as saying: “No problem, I will take care of it,” which Mr. Cohen interpreted to mean that the payment would be reimbursed.

To lay the foundation that the deals were done with Mr. Trump’s endorsement, prosecutors elicited testimony from Mr. Cohen designed to show Trump as a hands-on manager. Acting on Trump’s behalf, Cohen said, he sometimes lied and bullied others, including reporters.

“When he would task you with something, he would then say, ‘Keep me informed. Let me know what’s going on,’” Mr. Cohen testified. He said that was especially true “if there was a matter that was troubling to him.”

Defence lawyers have teed up a bruising cross-examination of Mr. Cohen, telling jurors during opening statements that he’s an “admitted liar” with an “obsession to get President Trump.”

Prosecutors aim to blunt those attacks by acknowledging Mr. Cohen’s past crimes to jurors and by relying on other witnesses whose accounts, they hope, will buttress Mr. Cohen’s testimony. They include a lawyer who negotiated the hush money payments on behalf of Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal, as well as Mr. Pecker and Ms. Daniels.

After Mr. Cohen’s home and office were raided by the FBI in 2018, Mr. Trump showered him with affection on social media and predicted that Mr. Cohen would not “flip.” Months later, Mr. Cohen did exactly that, pleading guilty to federal campaign-finance charges.

Besides pleading guilty to the hush money payments, Mr. Cohen later admitted lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that he had pursued on Mr. Trump’s behalf during the heat of the 2016 campaign. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but spent much of it in home confinement.

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Donald Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

Donald Trump tried to illegally influence the 2016 Presidential election by preventing damaging stories about his personal life from becoming public, a prosecutor told jurors on April 22 at the start of the former President’s historic hush money trial.

“This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election — to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad to say about his behaviour, using doctored corporate records and bank forms to conceal those payments along the way,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said. “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

A defence lawyer countered by assailing the case as baseless and attacking the integrity of the onetime Trump confidant who’s now the government’s star witness.

“President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan district attorney’s office should never have brought this case,” attorney Todd Blanche said.

The opening statements offered the 12-person jury — and the voting public — radically divergent roadmaps for a case that will unfold against the backdrop of a closely contested White House race in which Mr. Trump is not only the presumptive Republican nominee but also a criminal defendant facing the prospect of a felony conviction and prison.

It is the first criminal trial of a former American President and the first of four prosecutions of Mr. Trump to reach a jury. Befitting that history, prosecutors sought from the outset to elevate the gravity of the case, which they said was chiefly about election interference as reflected by the hush money payments to a porn actor who said she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.

“The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 Presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again,” Mr. Colangelo said.

The trial, which could last up to two months, will require Mr. Trump to spend his days in a courtroom rather than on the campaign trail, a reality he complained about Monday when he lamented to reporters after leaving the courtroom: “I’m the leading candidate … and this is what they’re trying to take me off the trail for. Checks being paid to a lawyer.”

Mr. Trump has nonetheless sought to turn his criminal defendant status into an asset for his campaign, fundraising off his legal jeopardy and repeatedly railing against a justice system that he has for years claimed is weaponised against him. In the weeks ahead, the case will test the jury’s ability to judge him impartially but also Mr. Trump’s ability to comply with courtroom protocol, including a gag order barring him from attacking witnesses, jurors, trial prosecutors and some others.

Mr. Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — a charge punishable by up to four years in prison — though it’s not clear if the judge would seek to put him behind bars. A conviction would not preclude Mr. Trump from becoming President again, but because it is a state case, he would not be able to pardon himself if found guilty. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg revisits a years-old chapter from Mr. Trump’s biography when his celebrity past collided with his political ambitions and, prosecutors say, he scrambled to stifle stories that he feared could torpedo his campaign.

The opening statements served as an introduction to the colourful cast of characters that feature prominently in that tawdry saga, including Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who says she received the hush money; Michael Cohen, the lawyer who prosecutors say paid her; and David Pecker, the tabloid publisher who agreed to function as the campaign’s “eyes and ears” and who served as the prosecution’s first witness on Monday.

Mr. Pecker is due back on the stand on April 23, when the court will also hear arguments on whether Mr. Trump violated Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order with a series of Truth Social posts about witnesses over the last week.

In his opening statement, Mr. Colangelo outlined a comprehensive effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to prevent three separate stories — two from women alleging prior sexual encounters — from surfacing during the 2016 Presidential campaign. That undertaking was especially urgent following the emergence late in the race of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Mr. Trump could be heard boasting about grabbing women sexually without their permission.

Mr. Colangelo recited Mr. Trump’s now-infamous remarks as Mr. Trump looked on, stone-faced.

“The impact of that tape on the campaign was immediate and explosive,” Mr. Colangelo said.

Within days of the “Access Hollywood” tape becoming public, Mr. Colangelo told jurors that the National Enquirer alerted Mr. Cohen that Stormy Daniels was agitating to go public with her claims of a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006.

“At Trump’s direction, Cohen negotiated a deal to buy Ms. Daniels’ story in order to prevent American voters from learning that information before Election Day,” Mr. Colangelo told jurors.

But, the prosecutor noted, “neither Trump nor the Trump Organisation could just write a check to Cohen for $130,000 with a memo line that said ‘reimbursement for porn star payoff.’” So, he added, “they agreed to cook the books and make it look like the payment was actually income, payment for services rendered.”

Those alleged falsified records form the backbone of the 34-count indictment against Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has denied a sexual encounter with Ms. Daniels.

Mr. Blanche, the defence lawyer, sought to preemptively undermine the credibility of Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his role in the hush money scheme, as someone with an “obsession” with Mr. Trump who cannot be trusted. He said Mr. Trump had done nothing illegal when his company recorded the checks to Mr. Cohen as legal expenses.

“There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It is called democracy,” not a crime, Mr. Blanche said.

Mr. Blanche challenged the notion that Mr. Trump agreed to the Ms. Daniels payout to safeguard his campaign. Instead, he characterised the transaction as an attempt to squelch a “sinister” effort to embarrass Mr. Trump and his loved ones.

“President Trump fought back, like he always does, and like he’s entitled to do, to protect his family, his reputation and his brand, and that is not a crime,” Mr. Blanche told jurors.

The efforts to suppress the stories are what’s known in the tabloid industry as “catch-and-kill” — catching a potentially damaging story by buying the rights to it and then killing it through agreements that prevent the paid person from telling the story to anyone else.

Besides the payment to Ms. Daniels, Mr. Colangelo also described other arrangements, including one that paid a former Playboy model $150,000 to suppress claims of a nearly yearlong affair with the married Trump. Mr. Colangelo said Mr. Trump “desperately did not want this information about Karen McDougal to become public because he was worried about its effect on the election.”

He said jurors would hear a recording Mr. Cohen made in September 2016 of himself briefing Mr. Trump on the plan to buy Ms. McDougal’s story. The recording was made public in July 2018. Mr. Colangelo told jurors they will hear Mr. Trump in his own voice saying: “What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?”

Mr. Trump denies Ms. McDougal’s claims of an affair.

The first and only witness on April 22 was Mr. Pecker, the then-publisher of the National Enquirer and a longtime Trump friend who prosecutors say met with Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen at Trump Tower in August 2015 and agreed to help Mr. Trump’s campaign identify negative stories about him.

Mr. Pecker described the tabloid’s use of “checkbook journalism,” a practice that entails paying a source for a story.

“I gave a number to the editors that they could not spend more than $10,000” on a story without getting his approval, Mr. Pecker said on April 23.

The New York case has taken on added importance because it may be the only one of the four against Mr. Trump to reach trial before the November election. Appeals and legal wrangling have delayed the other three cases.

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Mike Pence: Russian aggression poses ‘serious threat’ to Europe

Former Vice President of the US, Mike Pence, joins Euronews Correspondent Stefan Grobe on the Global Conversation to discuss military support for Ukraine, transatlantic relations and collective challenges.

On Saturday, the US House of Representatives approved a long-stalled €89 billion foreign aid package with €57 billion earmarked for Ukraine.

The outcome has restored hopes of a late-summer counteroffensive following a lag in weapons deliveries to the war-ravaged country.

The aid package is expected to get the green light from the US Senate and President Joe Biden in the coming days but experts argue it might be weeks before fresh stocks of munitions arrive on the frontline.

Saturday’s result (311 votes for and 112 against) signals renewed bipartisan support for Ukraine despite months of resistance from the hard-right MAGA (Make America Great Again) wing.

Ahead of the landmark vote, Former US Vice President Mike Pence, who served under President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021, sat down with Euronews Correspondent Stefan Grobe at the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum.

To watch this episode of the Global Conversation, click on the video in the media player above or read the full interview below.

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: Mr Vice President, this is not your first visit to Brussels. I hope you got a warmer reception than the first one…

Mike Pence, Former Vice President of the United States: I did, but the first one was a little cold. It was right after we were elected. There was, I understand, a lot of concern in Europe that we were going to embrace a new form of isolationism, economic isolationism, in particular. 

And, what I made clear at that very first conference in Munich in 2017, was that America First did not mean America alone. And I’m proud of the way (through some stops and starts), we strengthened our NATO alliance. We strengthened our relationship with our European allies. And I think we set the table, for the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom to provide the kind of support that we’ve all been providing, to the courageous fighters in Ukraine.

What about long-term support for Ukraine?

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: Let me start with the topic that has taken centre stage in Brussels, the global threats that affect the security of both the European Union and the United States. Now, congressional support packages for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan have been hanging in the balance for quite some time. What message does that send to America’s allies?

Mike Pence, Former Vice President of the United States: Well, I think the message is that a majority of Republicans and Democrats and a majority of the American people, embrace our role as leader of the free world. I think you’ll see the Congress send to President Biden’s desk, the historic package of support for Ukraine, for Israel, for Taiwan, as well as take strong steps, to stand up to China by forcing the sale of TikTok in the United States. So, we have very close majorities in Congress. I served there for 12 years. I understand the difficulty of moving legislation.

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: On that note, how confident are you that there will be long-term US support for Ukraine?

Mike Pence, Former Vice President of the United States: Well, I must tell you that we’re entering a presidential year, but the package will provide President Zelenskyy and his soldiers with the lethal support that they need to continue to take the fight to the Russians. And then at the end of the day, I have great confidence in the American people. 

Everywhere I went as vice president, and then over the last year, as a candidate for president, I had one person after another stopping me and thanking me for the strong stand that we’d made to stand with our military, to stand with our allies, to stand up to authoritarian aggression, whether that be in Ukraine or whether it be the terrorist attack by Hamas, against Israel or even China’s, provocations in the Asia Pacific. 

I and the majority of the American people know and understand our unique role in the history of the free world. And I’m confident the American people will demand, that whoever occupies the Oval Office in the next administration will live out that American ideal.

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: I think that, nevertheless, people have noticed a little shift. Standing up to Russia used to be a mainstay of Republican Party principles. You know, the party of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, John McCain and others. What happened? And why isn’t that the case anymore?

Mike Pence, Former Vice President of the United States: Stefan, I think there is a rising tide of Republican isolationism, in my party. I’ve spoken out against it boldly and will continue to. We learned hard lessons in the 1930s, didn’t we? You in Europe, paid a very dear price. But, I would submit to you that those who believe that we have to choose between solving our domestic problems, our crisis at our southern border, inflation, crime in our cities, and being the leader of the free world, have a fairly small view of the greatest nation on earth. 

But I do believe the majority of the American people in both political parties, support our allies and American leadership, in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: What would you say, looking at transatlantic relations, going forward, what is the biggest challenge that we both face on both sides of the pond?

Mike Pence, Former Vice President of the United States: I think in the short term, Russian aggression represents a very serious threat to the peace and stability of Europe. I do not doubt in my mind if the West were to falter and Vladimir Putin were to overrun Ukraine, it would just be a matter of time before he crossed a border that under Article five, we as NATO allies would have to go and fight him. That’s one of the arguments I’ve made in my country. 

I think it’s important that we support the courageous Ukrainian soldiers who are fighting for their freedom so that our soldiers don’t have to make that fight. So, in the short term, I think Russian aggression represents a very real threat. In the long term, there’s no question, that China represents the greatest strategic and economic threat, not just to the United States, but, to the West. And I think only in combination, with free nations around the world, will we meet that moment.

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: On Ukraine. Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he would end the war within 24 hours. Do you share that assessment?

Mike Pence, Former Vice President of the United States: I think the only way you could end the war in 24 hours is if you gave Vladimir Putin what he wants. And I served with the president for four years. And, I know he has a way of making statements that express an aspiration. But I remain hopeful that the American people, regardless of the outcome of the election, will continue to understand and demand that our leadership in the White House and our leadership in Congress, meet this moment and stand up to Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: You have been a member of the House of Representatives in the United States. You have been governor of Indiana. You have been the Vice President of the United States. You’ve written your memoirs. I wonder what the world can expect from Mike Pence, looking ahead.

Mike Pence, Former Vice President of the United States: Well, Stefan, we like to say we don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. What people can expect is that I’ll continue to advocate the values and ideals that have characterised my public life for more than 40 years. 

I’m someone who joined the Republican Party during the Reagan years. I’m someone who believes in a strong national defence and that America is the leader of the free world. I believe in balanced budgets and a limited federal government. 

I believe in traditional values, the right to life. And so, the work that I’m committed to for the rest of my life is to hold up those ideals and values. And if opportunities come our way to make a greater service to America, I promise to keep you posted.

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Charges against Donald Trump, Jan. 6 rioters at stake as U.S. Supreme Court hears debate over obstruction law

Former President Donald Trump walks out of the courtroom following the first day of jury selection at the Manhattan criminal court in New York on April 15, 2024.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

The Supreme Court on April 16 is taking up the first of two cases that could affect the criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn his election loss in 2020. Hundreds of charges stemming from the Capitol riot also are at stake.

The justices are hearing arguments over the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding. That charge, stemming from a law passed in the aftermath of the Enron financial scandal more than two decades ago, has been brought against 330 people, according to the Justice Department. The court will consider whether it can be used against those who disrupted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over Mr. Trump.

The former President and presumptive nominee for the 2024 Republican nomination is facing two charges in the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington that could be knocked out with a favorable ruling from the nation’s highest court. Next week, the justices will hear arguments over whether Mr. Trump has “absolute immunity” from prosecution in the case, a proposition that has so far been rejected by two lower courts.

The first former U.S. President under indictment, Mr. Trump is on trial on hush money charges in New York and also has been charged with election interference in Georgia and with mishandling classified documents in Florida.

In Tuesday’s case, the court is hearing an appeal from Joseph Fischer, a former Pennsylvania police officer who has been indicted on seven counts, including obstruction, for his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to keep Mr. Biden, a Democrat, from taking the White House. Lawyers for Mr. Fischer argue that the charge doesn’t cover his conduct.

The obstruction charge, which carries up to 20 years behind bars, is among the most widely used felony charges brought in the massive federal prosecution following the deadly insurrection.

Explained | The U.S. House Select Committee report on the January 6 Capitol attack

Roughly 170 Jan. 6 defendants have been convicted of obstructing or conspiring to obstruct the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, including the leaders of two far-right extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. A number of defendants have had their sentencings delayed until after the justices rule on the matter.

Some rioters have even won early release from prison while the appeal is pending over concerns that they might end up serving longer than they should have if the Supreme Court rules against the Justice Department. That includes Kevin Seefried, a Delaware man who threatened a Black police officer with a pole attached to a Confederate battle flag as he stormed the Capitol. Seefried was sentenced last year to three years behind bars, but a judge recently ordered that he be released one year into his prison term while awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The high court case focuses on whether the anti-obstruction provision of a law that was enacted in 2002 in response to the financial scandal that brought down Enron Corp. can be used against Jan. 6 defendants.

Mr. Fischer’s lawyers argue that the provision was meant to close a loophole in criminal law and discourage the destruction of records in response to an investigation. Until the Capitol riot, they told the court, every criminal case using the provision had involved allegations of destroying or otherwise manipulating records.

But the administration says the other side is reading the law too narrowly, arguing it serves “as a catchall offense designed to ensure complete coverage of all forms of corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding,” including Mr. Fischer’s “alleged conduct in joining a violent riot to disrupt the joint session of Congress certifying the presidential election results.” Mr. Smith has argued separately in the immunity case that the obstruction charges against Mr. Trump are valid, no matter the outcome of Mr. Fischer’s case.

Most lower court judges who have weighed in have allowed the charge to stand. Among them, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, wrote that “statutes often reach beyond the principal evil that animated them.” But U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, another Trump appointee, dismissed the charge against Mr. Fischer and two other defendants, writing that prosecutors went too far. A divided panel of the federal appeals court in Washington reinstated the charge before the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.

While it’s not important to the Supreme Court case, the two sides present starkly differing accounts of Mr. Fischer’s actions on Jan. 6. Mr. Fischer’s lawyers say he “was not part of the mob” that forced lawmakers to flee the House and Senate chambers, noting that he entered the Capitol after Congress had recessed. The weight of the crowd pushed Mr. Fischer into a line of police inside, they said in a court filing.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia are among 23 Republican members of Congress who say the administration’s use of the obstruction charge “presents an intolerable risk of politicised prosecutions. Only a clear rebuke from this Court will stop the madness.” The Justice Department says Mr. Fischer can be heard on a video yelling “Charge!” before he pushed through a crowd and “crashed into the police line.” Prosecutors also cite text messages Mr. Fischer sent before Jan. 6 saying things might turn violent and social media posts after the riot in which he wrote, “we pushed police back about 25 feet.” More than 1,350 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Approximately 1,000 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or judge after a trial.

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Trump unable to pay $464m bond in New York fraud case, his lawyers say

Donald Trump’s lawyers told a New York appellate court Monday that it’s impossible for him to post a bond covering the full amount of a $454 million civil fraud judgment while he appeals, suggesting the former president’s legal losses have put him in a serious cash crunch.

Trump‘s lawyers wrote in a court filing that “obtaining an appeal bond in the full amount” of the judgment “is not possible under the circumstances presented.” Trump claimed last year that he has “fairly substantially over $400 million in cash,” but back-to-back courtroom defeats have pushed his legal debt north of a half-billion dollars.

Citing rejections from more than 30 bond underwriters, Trump’s lawyers asked the state’s intermediate appeals court to reverse a prior ruling requiring that he post a bond covering the full amount in order to halt enforcement while he appeals the judgment in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit.

Trump’s financial constraints are being laid bare as he appeals Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 16 ruling that he and his co-defendants schemed for years to deceive banks and insurers by inflating his wealth on financial statements used to secure loans and make deals.

If the appeals court does not intervene, James can seek to enforce the judgment starting March 25. James, a Democrat, has said she will seek to seize some of Trump’s assets if he is unable to pay.

With interest, Trump owes the state $456.8 million. That amount is increasing nearly $112,000 each day. In all, he and co-defendants, including his company, sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. and other executives, owe $467.3 million. To obtain a bond, they would be required to post collateral covering 120% of the judgment, or about $557.5 million, Trump’s lawyers said.

Trump maintains that he is worth several billion dollars, but much of his wealth is tied up in his skyscrapers, golf courses and other properties. Few underwriters were willing to issue such a large bond and none would accept Trump’s real estate assets as collateral, instead requiring cash or cash equivalents, such as stocks or bonds, his lawyers said.

Trump’s lawyers said freeing up cash by offloading some of Trump’s properties in a “fire sale” would be impractical because such cut-rate deals would result in massive, irrecoverable losses.

Not mentioned in Trump’s court filings Monday was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s potential financial windfall from a looming deal to put his social media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, on the stock market under the ticker symbol DJT.

A shareholder meeting is scheduled for Friday. If the deal is approved, Trump would own at least 58% of shares in the company, which runs his Truth Social platform. Depending on share price, that could be worth several billion dollars.

Trump is asking a full panel of the intermediate appeals court, the Appellate Division of the state’s trial court, to stay the Engoron judgment while he appeals. His lawyers previously proposed a $100 million bond, but Appellate Division Judge Anil C. Singh rejected that after an emergency hearing on Feb. 28. A stay is a legal mechanism pausing collection of a judgment during an appeal.

In a court filing last week, Senior Assistant Solicitor General Dennis Fan urged the full appellate panel to reject what he dubbed the defense’s “trust us” argument, contending that without a bond to secure the judgment Trump may attempt to evade enforcement at a later date and force the state to “expend substantial public resources” to collect the money owed.

A full bond is necessary, Fan wrote, in part because Trump’s lawyers “have never demonstrated that Mr. Trump’s liquid assets — which may fluctuate over time — will be enough to satisfy the full amount of this judgment following appeal.”

Trump’s lawyers asked the Appellate Division panel to consider oral arguments on its request, and preemptively sought permission to appeal a losing result to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Singh did grant some of Trump’s requests, including pausing a three-year ban on him seeking loans from New York banks. In their court filing Monday, Trump’s lawyers did not address whether they have sought a bank loan to cover the cost of the judgment or obtain cash for use as bond collateral.

Trump appealed on Feb. 26, a few days after Engoron’s judgment was made official. His lawyers have asked the Appellate Division to decide whether Engoron “committed errors of law and/or fact” and whether he abused his discretion or “acted in excess” of his jurisdiction.

Trump wasn’t required to pay his penalty or post a bond in order to appeal, and filing the appeal did not automatically halt enforcement of the judgment. Trump would receive an automatic stay if he were to put up money, assets or an appeal bond covering what he owes.

Gary Giulietti, an insurance broker friend enlisted by Trump to help obtain an appeal bond, wrote in an affidavit Monday: “A bond of this size is rarely, if ever, seen. In the unusual circumstance that a bond of this size is issued, it is provided to the largest public companies in the world, not to individuals or privately held businesses.”

Giulietti, who acts as an insurance broker for Trump’s company, testified at the civil fraud trial as an expert witness called by Trump’s lawyers. In his ruling, Engoron observed that some of Giulietti’s testimony was contradicted by other witnesses, including a different defense expert. He noted that Giulietti’s company collected $1.2 million in commissions on its Trump accounts in 2022.

In all, Trump has more than $543 million in personal legal liabilities from three civil court judgments in the past year. Bonding requirements could add at least $100 million to that total.

In January, a jury ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she accused him in 2019 of sexually assaulting her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. Earlier this month, after his lawyers made similar arguments that he be excused from posting a bond, Trump did secure a $91.6 million bond to cover 110% of the Carroll judgment while he appeals.

Last year, a jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million in a related trial. In that case, rather than post a bond, Trump put more than $5.5 million in cash in an escrow account while he appeals.

(REUTERS)

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Trump clinches GOP nomination for third consecutive U.S. Presidential election, setting up rematch with Biden

Donald Trump, whose single turbulent term in the White House transformed the Republican Party, tested the resilience of democratic institutions in the U.S. and threatened alliances abroad, will lead the GOP in a third consecutive presidential election after clinching the nomination on March 12.

With wins in Georgia, Mississippi and Washington state, Mr. Trump surpassed the 1,215-delegate threshold needed to become the presumptive Republican nominee. He’ll formally accept the nomination at the Republican National Convention in July, by which point he could be in the remarkable position of being both a presidential candidate and convicted felon. Mr. Trump has been indicted in four separate criminal investigations and his first trial, which centers on payments made to a porn actress, is set to begin March 25 in New York City.

Mr. Trump’s victory in the GOP primary ushers in what will almost certainly be an extraordinarily negative general election campaign that will tug at the nation’s already searing political and cultural divides. He’ll face President Joe Biden in the fall, pitting two deeply unpopular figures against each other in a rematch of the 2020 campaign that few voters say they want to experience again.

About 38% of Americans viewed Mr. Trump very or somewhat favourably in a February poll conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs, compared to 41% for Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump is attempting to return to the White House after threatening democratic norms in the U.S. He refused to accept his loss to Mr. Biden in 2020, spending months grasping at baseless conspiracy theories of election fraud that were roundly rejected by the courts and his own attorney general. His rage during a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, helped rile up a mob of supporters who later violently attacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to disrupt the congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s win.

Only in the wake of the insurrection, with storefronts in the nation’s capital boarded up and military vehicles parked on streets to prevent further violence, did Mr. Trump accept the reality that Mr. Biden would become president. He has since called Jan. 6 “a beautiful day” and aligned himself with those have been imprisoned for their actions — many for assaulting police officers — labeling them “hostages” and demanding their release.

Mr. Trump has been ambivalent about other basic democratic ideals during his 2024 campaign. He has not committed to accepting the results of this year’s election and, during a December interview on Fox News, suggested he would be a dictator for the first day of a new administration. He has aligned himself with autocratic leaders of other countries, most notably Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

Editorial | Narrowing field: On 2024 U.S. presidential election’s Republican primaries race

Such alliances are a departure from the longstanding posture of the U.S., which has focused on strengthening democracies abroad. But a Trump election could upend U.S. support for Ukraine after its invasion by Russia. And it could have dramatic implications for NATO.

During his years in the White House, Mr. Trump often derided the transatlantic alliance as antiquated and lamented that some countries weren’t spending enough on their own defense. He has maintained that critique this year, causing a stir on both sides of the Atlantic in February when he told a rally crowd that he once warned members that he would not only refuse to defend countries that were “delinquent,” but that he “would encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to them.

Legal trouble

Mr. Trump becomes the GOP’s standard-bearer at a time of profound legal trouble, raising the personal stakes of an election that could determine whether he faces the prospect of time behind bars. He faces 91 felony charges in cases that span from the New York hush money case to his efforts to overturn the election and his hoarding of classified documents.

While the New York case is moving forward this month, there’s significant uncertainty about the trajectory of the other, more serious cases, raising the prospect that they may not be decided until after the election.

Also Read | What are the charges against former U.S. President Donald Trump?

The Republican Party’s rules for its convention do not address what might happen if the presumptive nominee is convicted of a crime. A conviction wouldn’t bar Mr. Trump from continuing to run, though a felon has never been a major party nominee or won the White House.

If he were to win in November, Mr. Trump could appoint an attorney general who would dismiss the federal charges he faces, a remarkable possibility that would undermine the Justice Department’s traditional independence from the White House.

In addition to the criminal cases, Mr. Trump owes in excess of $500 million in fines and interest after a judge in New York ruled he had engaged in a scheme to inflate his net worth to obtain favorable financing. He was ordered to pay $355 million, plus interest, in that case — adding to the $88.3 million he already owed writer E. Jean Carroll after he was found liable of defamation and sexual abuse.

Mr. Trump, so far, has deftly used the legal cases as a rallying cry, portraying them as a plot hatched by Democrats to keep him out of power. That argument proved powerful among GOP primary voters, with whom Mr. Trump remains a deeply popular figure.

He now enters the general election phase of the campaign in a competitive position, with voters frustrated by the current state of the economy after years of sharp inflation, despite robust growth and low unemployment, as well as growing concern about the influx of migrants across the southern border. As he did with success in 2016, Mr. Trump is seizing on immigration this year, deploying increasingly heated and inflammatory rhetoric in ways that often animate his supporters.

The 77-year-old Mr. Trump is aided by Mr. Biden’s perceived weaknesses. The 81-year-old president is broadly unpopular, with deep reservations among voters in both parties about his age and ability to assume the presidency for another four years, though he is not much older than Mr. Trump.

Mr. Biden is also struggling to replicate the coalition that ushered him into the presidency four years ago as some in his party, particularly younger voters and those on the left, have condemned his handling of Israel’s war against Hamas.

Trump’s headwinds

While those dynamics may play in Mr. Trump’s favour, he faces stiff headwinds in winning support beyond his base. A notable chunk of GOP primary voters backed his rivals, including Nikki Haley, who ended her campaign after the Super Tuesday races but has not endorsed Mr. Trump. Many of those voters have expressed ambivalence about backing him. He’ll have to change that if he wants to win the states that will likely decide the election, such as Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — each of which he lost in 2020.

It remains unclear how Mr. Trump’s legal cases will resonate in the general election, particularly among suburban voters, women and independents. Mr. Trump’s role in appointing the justices who overturned the constitutional right to an abortion could prove a liability in swing states, where women and independent voters are especially influential. He’s also made a string of racist comments, including an assertion that his criminal indictments boosted his support among Black Americans, that aren’t likely to win over more moderate voters.

Still, Mr. Trump’s speedy path to the nomination reflects more than a year of quiet work by his team to encourage states to adopt favorable delegate-selection rules, including pushing for winner-take-all contests that prevent second-place finishers from amassing delegates.

That helped Mr. Trump become the presumptive nominee much earlier than in recent presidential elections. Mr. Biden didn’t win enough delegates to formally become his party’s leader until June 2020. During his 2016 bid, Mr. Trump won the needed delegates by May.

This year, Trump handily dispatched his Republican primary rivals, sweeping the early-voting states that typically set the tone for the campaign. The field included a range of prominent Republicans such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Ms. Haley, his former U.N. ambassador, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Mike Pence, who was Mr. Trump’s vice president.

At one point, DeSantis was ahead of Mr. Trump in early state polls. But he wilted in the national spotlight, failing to live up to sky-high expectations, despite $168 million in campaign and outside spending. DeSantis dropped out of the race after losing Iowa — a state he had staked his campaign on — and endorsed Mr. Trump.

In the end, Ms. Haley was Mr. Trump’s last challenger. She only won the District of Columbia and Vermont before ending her campaign.

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Powell reinforces position that the Fed is not ready to start cutting interest rates

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday reiterated that he expects interest rates to start coming down this year, but is not ready yet to say when.

In prepared remarks for congressionally mandated appearances on Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday, Powell said policymakers remain attentive to the risks that inflation poses and don’t want to ease up too quickly.

“In considering any adjustments to the target range for the policy rate, we will carefully assess the incoming data, the evolving outlook, and the balance of risks,” he said. “The Committee does not expect that it will be appropriate to reduce the target range until it has gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2 percent.”

Those remarks were taken verbatim from the Federal Open Market Committee’s statement following its most recent meeting, which concluded Jan. 31.

During the question-and-answer session with House Financial Services Committee members, Powell said he needs “see a little bit more data” before moving on rates.

“We think because of the strength in the economy and the strength in the labor market and the progress we’ve made, we can approach that step carefully and thoughtfully and with greater confidence,” he said. “When we reach that confidence, the expectation is we will do so sometime this year. We can then begin dialing back that restriction on our policy.”

Stocks posted gains as Powell spoke, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 250 points heading into midday. Treasurys yields mostly moved lower as the benchmark 10-year note was off about 0.3 percentage point to 4.11%.

Rates likely at peak

In total, the speech broke no new ground on monetary policy or the Fed’s economic outlook. However, the comments indicated that officials remain concerned about not losing the progress made against inflation and will make decisions based on incoming data rather than a preset course.

“We believe that our policy rate is likely at its peak for this tightening cycle. If the economy evolves broadly as expected, it will likely be appropriate to begin dialing back policy restraint at some point this year,” Powell said in the comments. “But the economic outlook is uncertain, and ongoing progress toward our 2 percent inflation objective is not assured.”

He noted again that lowering rates too quickly risks losing the battle against inflation and likely having to raise rates further, while waiting too long poses danger to economic growth.

Markets had been widely expecting the Fed to ease up aggressively following 11 interest rate hikes totaling 5.25 percentage points that spanned March 2022 to July 2023.

In recent weeks, though, those expectations have changed following multiple cautionary statements from Fed officials. The January meeting helped cement the Fed’s cautious approach, with the statement explicitly saying rate cuts aren’t coming yet despite the market’s outlook.

As things stand, futures market pricing points to the first cut coming in June, part of four reductions this year totaling a full percentage point. That’s slightly more aggressive than the Fed’s outlook in December for three cuts.

Inflation easing

Despite the resistance to move forward on cuts, Powell noted the movement the Fed has made toward its goal of 2% inflation without tipping over the labor market and broader economy.

“The economy has made considerable progress toward these objectives over the past year,” Powell said. He noted that inflation has “eased substantially” as “the risks to achieving our employment and inflation goals have been moving into better balance.”

Inflation as judged by the Fed’s preferred gauge is currently running at a 2.4% annual rate — 2.8% when stripping out food and energy in the core reading that the Fed prefers to focus on. The numbers reflect “a notable slowing from 2022 that was widespread across both goods and services prices.”

“Longer-term inflation expectations appear to have remained well anchored, as reflected by a broad range of surveys of households, businesses, and forecasters, as well as measures from financial markets,” he added.

Powell is likely to face a variety of questions during his two-day visit to Capitol Hill, which started with an appearance Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee and concludes Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee.

Questioning largely centered around Powell’s views on inflation and rates.

Republicans on the committee also grilled Powell on the so-called Basel III Endgame revisions to bank capital requirements. Powell said he is part of a group on the Board of Governors that has “real concerns, very specific concerns” about the proposals and said the withdrawal of the plan “is a live option.” Some of the earlier market gains Wednesday faded following reports that New York Community Bank is looking to raise equity capital, raising fresh concerns about the state of midsize U.S. banks.

Though the Fed tries to stay out of politics, the presidential election year poses particular challenges.

Former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, was a fierce critic of Powell and his colleagues while in office. Some congressional Democrats, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have called on the Fed to reduce rates as pressure builds on lower-income families to make ends meet.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., joined the Democrats in calling for lower rates. During his term, Democrats frequently criticized Trump for trying to cajole the Fed into cutting.

“Housing inflation and housing affordability [is] the No. 1 issue I’m hearing about from my constituents,” Pressley said. “Families in my district and throughout this country need relief now. I truly hope the Fed will listen to them and cut interest rates.”

Correction: Ayanna Pressley is a Democratic representative from Massachusetts. An earlier version misidentified the state.

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