We’re back with another episode of Serious Trouble! And this week, we have a new character: Senator Robert Menendez, who’s been indicted along with his wife and three New Jersey businessmen. The indictment alleges the senator and his wife accepted gifts including cash and gold bars, and in exchange he sought to pressure other officials to take official acts to benefit his generous friends.
There’s been a line of Supreme Court cases in recent years, most prominently McDonnell v. United States, that has narrowed the government’s scope to prosecute officials for corruption. But a narrowing is not a closing, and the oft-repeated slogan that the Supreme Court has “legalized bribery” is an overstatement. As Ken describes, this indictment is tailored to allege conduct that remains quite clearly illegal post-McDonnell. Menendez should be worried — and some of the public statements he’s been making for political reasons could be harmful to his legal defense.
Hunter Biden’s litigation offensive continues — in addition to the IRS, he’s now suing Rudy Giuliani and Giuliani’s sometime lawyer, Robert Costello, alleging they violated federal and California law by breaking into his “laptop,” which is not a laptop but an external hard drive, and whose ownership he still won’t quite fess up to, and the shenanigans relating to which generally appeared to occur quite far away from California. The lawsuit is a bit of a mess, frankly, but as with the IRS suit, his key objective likely isn’t to win damages anyway. Hunter’s main objective is likely to learn more about how Rudy got into his files and who encouraged him to look at them — if he can establish that any federal officials directed Rudy’s actions, that would hamper the government’s ability to use evidence from the “laptop” against him in future prosecutions.
Also back on the east coast, Judge Tanya Chutkan has denied Donald Trump’s motion asking her to recuse herself from his criminal case on grounds of bias. Chutkan has the law right — the bar for recusal of a federal judge is very high (as we’ve discussed in the context of Judge Cannon in Florida) and her comments about Trump during other trials rise nowhere near the level that courts have found necessary in the past to require recusal. Don’t look for an appeals court to bail Trump out on this one, either.
In Fulton County, Georgia, facing RICO charges, Trump made a decision that has surprised some people — he announced that he will not attempt to remove his criminal case to federal court. Why? It’s probably a mix of legal and political calculation.
And the Trump family has received a devastating ruling at the summary judgment stage in the New York Attorney General’s civil fraud case, where a judge found — before trial — that the Trump businesses had repeatedly and fraudulently misrepresented the value of real estate they held. The consequences for their ability to do business in New York are likely to be severe.
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Episode links and references:
Hunter Biden’s lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani and Robert Costello for hacking his (?) non-laptop laptop in California (?)
Trump’s brief filing saying he will not seek to remove his Georgia criminal case to federal court
Judge Tanya Chutkan’s order denying Trump’s motion for her to recuse herself from his federal criminal case
Judge Arthur Engoron’s summary judgment order against various Trumps and Trump entities