With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
Following a flurry of reports yesterday suggesting the former president will be indicted by New York prosecutors within days, DONALD TRUMP said publicly this morning that he’s preparing to be charged as soon as Tuesday.
Trump’s Truth Social post: “BASED ON AN OLD & FULLY DEBUNKED (BY NUMEROUS OTHER PROSECUTORS!) FAIRYTALE, THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.”
NBC’s Jonathan Dienst scooped the news yesterday afternoon that “local, state and federal law enforcement and security agencies are preparing” for Trump’s indictment over allegations that he paid off porn star STORMY DANIELS during the 2016 campaign to keep her quiet about an alleged affair she’d had with the married Trump in 2006. Dienst wrote that state and federal agencies were “conducting preliminary security assessments” and “discussing potential security plans” surrounding a potential Trump appearance at Manhattan’s criminal courthouse.
Trump’s attorney JOE TACOPINA said his client will surrender without a physical altercation. “There won’t be a standoff at Mar-a-Lago with Secret Service and the Manhattan DA’s office,” Tacopina said. Trump would be expected to travel to New York to enter a plea to the charges in person. More from the N.Y. Daily News
But Trump himself raised the specter of resistance, if not violent revolt, in his post this morning. “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” he wrote — a call to arms reminiscent of his Dec. 19, 2020, Twitter summons inviting his most ardent followers to Washington on Jan. 6 to stop JOE BIDEN’s presidential victory from being certified in Congress.
As our colleagues Josh Gerstein, Kyle Cheney and Erica Orden write this morning, the battle cry “is indicative of the type of civil unrest he could unleash if he faces charges.”
There’s been plenty of confusion and surprise about why this particular Trump scandal might end up being the one that sticks — particularly because investigators who’ve previously looked into the hush-money allegations have declined to charge him. In the summer of 2019, federal prosecutors in New York closed a probe of the scheme, a year after winning a guilty plea from Trump attorney MICHAEL COHEN over his role in facilitating the $130,000 payment for Daniels’ silence.
Likewise, congressional Democrats around that time briefly considered a deep dive into the allegations. Top aides for then-House Judiciary Chair JERRY NADLER (D-N.Y.) even discussed immunity for Trump associates in return for their testimony. But Democratic leaders forced Nadler to put that idea on ice, and the House ended up impeaching Trump later that year on completely separate grounds.
WaPo has a big read this morning about Manhattan DA ALVIN BRAGG, the embattled prosecutor who resurrected what had seemed like a cold case. Bragg has been under fire from NYC’s mayor and police commissioner, even his own prosecutors, Mark Berman, Shayna Jacobs, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey write.
“What still remains unclear is why Bragg and his office seemingly pivoted from a probe centered on Trump’s alleged practice of overvaluing his assets to the hush money issue that now appears to be the grand jury’s focus,” they write. “Within Bragg’s office, this matter had been known in the past as the ‘zombie’ case.”
News of a looming indictment comes after six years’ worth of Trump-related investigations have failed to result in serious legal repercussions. Now, however, Bragg’s charges might only be the first ripple in a wave of accountability headed in Trump’s direction:
- CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Devan Cole and Katelyn Polantz write that “in a monumental ruling Friday, a federal judge ordered Donald Trump attorney EVAN CORCORAN to provide additional testimony as part of an investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents.”
- The Daily Beast’s Jose Pagliery scoops that in addition to granting the Justice Department permission to question Corcoran about the matter, outgoing Chief Judge BERYL HOWELL also handed his notes directly to prosecutors — “what she deemed evidence of a crime involving the former president improperly hoarding classified documents after he left office.”
- Also on the classified docs front: A six-byline WaPo piece this morning puts the spotlight on Trump aide WALT NAUTA, who “could provide evidence that illuminates … [how] Trump repeatedly resisted requests to return documents, and may have obstructed law enforcement efforts to retrieve them.”
- Meanwhile, back in New York, Trump and E. JEAN CARROLL, who accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s, “agreed to a single trial on whether Trump defamed the former Elle magazine columnist,”according to Reuters.
- And let’s not forget that Georgia prosecutor FANI WILLIS could still seek charges surrounding Trump’s attempts to pressure election officials into “finding” enough votes for him to win the state in 2020.
Trump, for his part, is keeping his focus on his campaign. His inner circle has long held that such charges will only rally the base to his side, helping him win the nomination. Trump is now back on Facebook, and his team announced last night that he is planning his first campaign rally in Waco, Texas, on March 25.
Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
SCOOPLET: HALEY SWIPES AT DeSANTIS ON UKRAINE — NIKKI HALEY used a Thursday night gathering with more than 700 Orthodox Jews at Palm Beach Synagogue to jab Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS in his own backyard. Asked about suggestions that the U.S. should stop assisting Ukraine fight the Russian invasion, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. told the crowd, “With all due respect, your governor is wrong,” according to audio obtained by Playbook.
“We need to have the back of Ukraine,” she said to applause. “This is bigger than Ukraine. This is about a war for freedom, and it’s one we have to win.”
“This is in the national security interest of America,” she continued. “If we lose this, if Ukraine doesn’t win this war, Russia has said Poland and the Baltics are next. And we’re looking at a world war. … If we win this war, this sends a message to China on Taiwan, it sends a message to Iran with the bomb, it sends a message to North Korea that’s doing missiles every week. This is not a time to get weak in the knees when it comes to Russia. This is the time to double down.”
PHOTO OF THE DAY
9 THINGS THAT STUCK WITH US
1. HOW TUCKER GOT THE TAPES: “House GOP ignored Capitol Police requests to review public Jan. 6 footage, lawyer says,” by Kyle Cheney and Jordain Carney: “Only one of the more than 40 riot clips that Fox News’ TUCKER CARLSON aired earlier this month using access granted by the House GOP got previewed and approved beforehand, according to Capitol Police general counsel THOMAS DiBIASE. The rest, DiBiase said, ‘were never shown to me nor anyone else from the Capitol Police.’”
2. PRIMARY COLORS: The Ohio Senate GOP primary is starting to heat up: BERNIE MORENO, Secretary of State FRANK LaROSE and Rep. WARREN DAVIDSON are considering joining MATT DOLAN in the field, NBC’s Henry Gomez reports from Cleveland. In the contest to take on Democratic Sen. SHERROD BROWN, there are plenty of competing approaches and advantages: Dolan and Moreno have personal wealth. Davidson has the backing of the Club for Growth. Moreno has ties to Trump, Rep. MAX MILLER and Sen. J.D. VANCE. Dolan has had a long head start in the establishment/slightly post-Trump lane. And LaRose has walked the election denial tightrope carefully.
3. HOW THE GOP WORKS NOW: Online right-wing influencers have increasing sway over Republican politics, Semafor’s Dave Weigel and Shelby Talcott report: “It’s becoming clear that the voices that shape conservative conversation are increasingly outside what [Florida Gov. RON] DeSANTIS calls ‘legacy media.’” They talked to dozens of strategists to compile a shortlist of the most influential, including JACK POSOBIEC (who two people said will be as important as GEORGE WILL was), JOHN CARDILLO, STEVE BANNON and Libs of TikTok’s CHAYA RAICHIK.
4. THE ONGOING DEMOCRACY THREAT: “Election conspiracy movement grinds on as 2024 approaches,” by AP’s Christina Cassidy in Franklin, Tenn.: “‘We are at war. The only thing that’s not flying right now is bullets,’ said MARK FINCHEM … [D]eep distrust about U.S. elections persists among Republicans, skepticism fueled by former President Donald Trump’s false claims and by allies who have been traveling the country meeting with community groups and holding forums … As the nation barrels toward the next presidential election, the election conspiracy movement that mushroomed after the last one shows no signs of slowing down.”
Related news: Beset by conservative conspiracy theories, the Electronic Registration Information Center — which allows states to coordinate their voter rolls — saw two more Republican-led states head for the exits yesterday: Ohio and Iowa.
5. THE NEXT ABORTION FRONTIER: Wyoming yesterday became the first state to ban abortion pills, tackling the increasingly common medication method of abortion. Gov. MARK GORDON signed it into law yesterday and allowed another broader anti-abortion bill to take effect without his signature. More from the Casper Star-Tribune
6. ON THE WORLD STAGE: “How a U.S.-Nicaragua deal freed 222 people but may have boosted a dictator,” by Nahal Toosi: “The moves by Nicaraguan President DANIEL ORTEGA and ROSARIO MURILLO — his powerful wife and vice president — now seem more like a way to consolidate power and continue repression than make amends with Washington. … America is struggling to protect and promote democracy not just in Nicaragua but across Latin America. … Nicaragua is a test case. Washington has devoted a lot of effort both to weaken and sway the Ortega regime, but has come short of its goals — a situation likely being watched by others in the region.”
7. BUDGET BATTLE: “Veterans, carpenters and vaccines: What’s at stake if U.S. COVID aid is canceled,” by Reuters’ Andy Sullivan: “A Republican proposal to cancel unspent COVID-19 relief money could undercut healthcare for military veterans and pensions for blue-collar workers while doing little to improve the U.S. fiscal picture, a Reuters review of federal spending figures found.
8. SVB STEPBACK: “How D.C. and Silicon Valley Got Stuck With Each Other,” by Ben Schreckinger in POLITICO Magazine: “For years, Silicon Valley and Washington have been going through an acrimonious political divorce. … Now, with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the dramatic federal rescue of its depositors, economic reality has forced them into a shotgun reconciliation. … As people who work at the intersection of the two power centers describe it, the rhetorical divergence in recent years has only masked a growing inter-dependence that, if anything, has been cemented by the events of the past week.”
9. MILESTONE MARKER: “20 Years After U.S. Invasion, Iraq Is a Freer Place, but Not a Hopeful One,” by NYT’s Alissa Rubin in Iraq: “Conversations with dozens of Iraqis offer a portrait of a nation that is rich in oil, hobbled by corruption and unable to guarantee its citizens’ safety.”
— “U.S. veterans won justice for burn pit exposure. Iraqis were forgotten,” by WaPo’s Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim in Albuhishma, Iraq
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 funnies
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:
— “The Four Quadrants of American Politics,” by The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein: “Why Congress doesn’t work.”
— “The Weekend Silicon Valley Stared Into the Abyss,” by Wired’s Paresh Dave and Chris Stokel-Walker: “When SVB collapsed, entrepreneurs who feared losing everything spent nerve-wracking days crafting backup plans, seeking new funds, and pleading with politicians.”
— “Voices From Pavlivka,” by Antoine d’Agata and Ellen Barry in the NYT Magazine: “Inside a psychiatric hospital in Kyiv, the growing mental trauma of the war is written on every soldier’s face.”
— “How Putin’s war destroyed a golden age of Russian culture,” by Polina Ivanova in FT Magazine: “Inside the pain, purges and persecution that have decimated the country’s once-flourishing theatre scene.”
— “Appeasement at the Cineplex,” by Orville Schell in The New York Review of Books: “Unable to resist China’s huge market, Hollywood has proven willing to alter its films to avoid offending Beijing.”
— “Police Killed His Son. Prosecutors Charged the Teen’s Friends with His Murder,” by The Appeal’s Meg O’Connor: “It’s been four years since a Phoenix police officer killed Jacob Harris. Records obtained by The Appeal show officials have made inconsistent or false statements about the night police killed him. As Harris’s friends grow up behind bars, his father won’t stop until he gets justice for his son.”
— “The Haunted Life of Lisa Marie Presley,” by Rolling Stone’s David Browne: “She was the closest thing America had to royalty. But living in Elvis’ shadow was an unimaginable struggle. Friends and collaborators recall Lisa Marie’s rebel spirit and the mix of hope and heaviness that marked her final days.”
— “Let’s Talk Barbara Walters,” by N.Y. Mag’s Irin Carmon: “Seventeen leading broadcasters on her legacy and making their way in the world she made.”
— “Font Wars Spread After State Department Replaces Times New Roman With Calibri,” by WSJ’s Katie Deighton: “‘I’m banging my head against the wall;’ camps divided in fallout from government efforts to make documents easier to read.”
— “The ‘Nepo Babies’ of the House of Representatives,” by Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin
Robert Kennedy Jr. met with Aaron Rodgers.
Kevin McCarthy and Joe Biden found common ground on St. Patrick’s Day.
Prince Joachim of Denmark is moving to D.C.
Doug La Follette is retiring after almost half a century as Wisconsin’s secretary of state.
OUT AND ABOUT — Invariant’s Chris Gillott and BGR’s Robb Walton hosted a happy hour yesterday afternoon to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Sen. Bill Cassidy’s (R-La.) office, the Senate HELP team and Cassidy alumni. SPOTTED: Rob Butora, Tim Carlton, Jack Cramton, John Cummins, Darien Flowers, Courtney Lawrence, Jeff Lucas, Dave Pulliam, Maria Sierra and Allie Solley.
TRANSITIONS — Sylvia Hall is now supervising producer for development programming at Stand Together. She previously was senior managing producer for event content and programming at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. … Patricia Zurita will be chief strategy officer at Conservation International. She most recently was CEO of BirdLife International.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: USTR Katherine Tai … Reince Priebus … CNN’s Zachary Cohen … Henry Rodgers of the Daily Caller … Precision’s Stephanie Schriock … former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe … Terri McCullough … Gary Coby … Will Ragland … POLITICO’s Nick Niedzwiadek and Alix Beadle-Ryby … David Mark … National Media’s Will Feltus … Katie Denis … Joe Dougherty of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies … Marcus Garza … Fox News’ Jessica Curry and Karrah Kaplan … Katie Hadji of Sen. Bill Cassidy’s (R-La.) office … Chris Harris of Giffords … Jeffrey Surrell of Shot Point Strategies … Liz Gorman … Congressional Leadership Fund’s Calvin Moore … Ashlee (Reid) Morehouse … Bloomberg’s Kate Hunter … Winnie Stachelberg … Karen Knutson of Chevron … Kiki Kalkstein of the Global Health Council … Brad Fitch … Neal McDonald of FlexPoint Media … Errin Haines of The 19th … Marc Adelman … former Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) … Laura Cunliffe … Spencer Thibodeau of DOE … NBC News PR’s Haylie Reichner
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
ABC “This Week”: Mike Pence … Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Panel: Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Mary Bruce and Rick Klein.
MSNBC “Inside with Jen Psaki”: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries … Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer … NYC Mayor Eric Adams. Check out Psaki’s new 3 Minute Read
CBS “Face the Nation”: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) … Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) … Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway … Gary Cohn … H.R. McMaster.
Fox News “Sunday Morning Futures”: Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) … Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) … Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) … Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
CNN “State of the Union”: Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) … New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. Panel: Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Jonah Goldberg, Karen Finney and Marc Short.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) … Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). Panel: Peter Baker, Carlos Curbelo, Carol Lee and Jen Psaki.
MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) … Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) … John Kirby.
FOX “Fox News Sunday,” guest-anchored by Gillian Turner: Mohamed El-Erian … Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) … John Kirby. Panel: Jason Chaffetz, Francesca Chambers, Juan Williams and Michael Allen.
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