Breaking: NYT Reports Grand Jury Votes to Indict Donald Trump for a Felony Related to “Hush Money” Payments; No Information Yet on Whether There is an Attempt to Bootstrap a Federal Campaign Finance Charge (Which May Not Work)

Breaking NYT:

A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Donald J. Trump on Thursday for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to four people with knowledge of the matter, a historic development that will shake up the 2024 presidential race and forever mark him as the nation’s first former president to face criminal charges.

The felony indictment, filed under seal by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, will likely be announced in the coming days. By then, prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, will have asked Mr. Trump to surrender and to face arraignment on charges that remain unknown for now.

Mr. Trump has for decades avoided criminal charges despite persistent scrutiny and repeated investigations, creating an aura of legal invincibility that the vote to indict now threatens to puncture.

His actions surrounding his 2020 electoral defeat are now the focus of a separate federal investigation, and a Georgia prosecutor is in the final stages of an investigation into Mr. Trump’s attempts to reverse the election results in that state.

But unlike the investigations that arose from his time in the White House, this case is built around a tawdry episode that predates Mr. Trump’s presidency. The reality star turned presidential candidate who shocked the political establishment by winning the White House now faces a reckoning for a hush money payment that buried a sex scandal in the final days of the 2016 campaign…

To turn a misdemeanor false records charge into a felony under NY law, the falsification must be in furtherance of “another crime.” I’ve expressed some skepticism about whether a federal campaign finance crime could be used in state court (and whether there is a campaign finance crime at all). But we’ll have to see the indictment to know.

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“Here’s how protected election system blueprints are making their way into far-right circles”

LA Times:

On the third day of the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month, two men delivered on experts’ biggest concerns about attempts to access election machines after the 2020 election.

Using copies of election software — improperly removed from multiple counties — that has been circulating among election deniers, they presented an unfounded narrative that they had discovered evidence of fraud and foreign interference. They also discussed their goal to secure jobs as election officers and build a team of computer experts to access elections systems in more than 60 counties in order to prove their theories.

“This is exactly the situation that I have warned about,” said election technology expert Kevin Skoglund, a senior technical advisor at the National Election Defense Coalition. “Having the software out there allows people to make wild claims about it. It creates disinformation that we have to watch out for and tamp down.”

Skoglund is among the election security experts concerned that bad actors are using the time between the 2020 and 2024 elections to study election systems and software in order to produce disinformation during the next presidential election, such as fake evidence of fraud or questionable results.

Described as an election integrity presentation, the event wasn’t on the official CPAC agenda or sanctioned by the organization, but took place in a guest room at a nearby hotel. Some CPAC sponsors hold their own sessions, which are planned and produced by them and not CPAC.

Only a small number of people attended the event in person. At least 2,800 people watched live online through a far-right broadcast, according to that show’s host. That broadcast included commentary from election deniers before and after the presentation.

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Federal courts note circuit split on whether the “materiality” provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes a right privately enforceable under Section 1983

The “materiality” provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is as follows:

No person acting under color of law shall . . . deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election . . . .

This provision has been at issue in recent cases like Ritter v. Migliori before the United States Supreme Court, and surely in the near future the Court will confront the question about what kinds of provisions are “material” (and what things are an “act requisite to voting”), especially when it comes to signature and other requirements for absentee ballots.

But another question has arisen in federal courts: whether private litigants may sue in federal court to enforce this provision, or whether only the Attorney General of the United States initiate such claims. From the denial of the motion to dismiss earlier this month in v. Georgia State Election Board, one of the cases litigating SB202 in Georgia:

Defendants argue that the Materiality Provision does not create a private right of action. The Court recognizes that courts in other circuits are divided as to whether the Materiality Provision can be enforced via a private right of action. Compare Migliori v. Cohen, 36 F.4th 153 (3d Cir. 2022) (holding that private plaintiffs may enforce the Materiality Provision via 42 U.S.C. § 1983), with McKay v. Thompson, 226 F.3d 752, 756 (6th Cir. 2000) (holding otherwise). Significantly, the Eleventh Circuit has already directly addressed this issue in Schwier v. Cox and concluded that the Materiality Provision can be enforced by a private right of action under § 1983. 340 F.3d 1284, 1297 (11th Cir. 2003). Given this binding precedent, the Court finds that the Materiality Provision can be enforced by a private right of action. To the extent that Defendants seek dismissal on this ground, the motion is DENIED.

The Fifth Circuit last year acknowledged the split but concluded it did not need to resolve the issue at that time. In oral argument earlier this month, the issue did not attract much attention, but briefing from the United States came out in favor of a private right of action. It described the Sixth Circuit’s holding in this way: “The only other circuit to address this issue never discussed Section 1983, merely stating without elaboration that the Materiality Provision ‘is enforceable by the Attorney General, not by private citizens.'”

It’s not clear what the Fifth Circuit will do and whether it deepens the circuit split, but it’s an issue I’m watching ahead of 2024.

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Florida: “2 DeSantis election fraud cases end with guilty pleas in Hillsborough; Both men received six months of probation. Their attorneys called the prosecutions political.”

Tampa Bay Times:

Two Hillsborough County residents who were part of a statewide sweep billed as an effort to combat voter fraud pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony charges and received six months of probation.

Hubert Jack and Michael Anderson each admitted to charges of voting by an unqualified elector, stemming from their participation in the 2020 election, despite prior convictions that made them ineligible to vote. Jack also pleaded guilty to a charge of false swearing.

The pair were included in a string of arrests made last summer by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new election security force. Those arrested were accused of having illegally voted, as they had prior homicide or sex offense convictions….

Both attorneys said their clients believed they were allowed to vote.

Before the 2020 election, Crawford said, Jack encountered a group that was registering people to vote. Jack, who had a prior conviction for sexual battery, was told, incorrectly, that Amendment 4 restored voting rights to all felons, his attorney said. The amendment did not restore voting rights to those convicted of homicide or sexual battery.

“He was told wrong,” Crawford said.

Jack signed a form attesting that he was eligible to vote. He was later given a voting card and a letter of congratulations from the supervisor of elections, his attorney said. No one challenged his eligibility.

In Anderson’s case, his efforts to register to vote occurred as he was trying to obtain clemency for a sex offense conviction from more than 20 years ago. He went to “extraordinary lengths” to verify that he was eligible to vote, including contacting people in Tallahassee, and the local supervisor of elections office, his attorney said.

“They assured him, yes, you’re eligible,” Bridges said.

The Department of State is required to notify and remove ineligible voters from the rolls, a task they’ve struggled to complete.

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“Arizona Democrats to sue No Labels to block third-party challenge”


The Arizona Democratic Party will file a lawsuit Thursday against the state’s top election administrator and No Labels, seeking to reverse the moderate group’s recognition as a political party for the 2024 elections, according to Democratic officials.

The lawsuit, in state court in Phoenix, reflects growing concern in Democratic circles that a No Labels third-party ticket in 2024 will jeopardize the reelection hopes of President Biden and make it harder for Democrats to maintain control of the Senate.

The lawsuit claims that Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, who is a Democrat, made an error in accepting signature petitions for the No Labels Party, because accompanying affidavits from proposed electors were signed before all the petitions were gathered, in violation of state statute. As a result, the Arizona Democratic Party claims the affidavits purporting to verify the petitions should be considered false and the petitions invalid.

The lawsuit also argues that No Labels, which is organized as a social welfare nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors, has failed to comply with the federal requirements of a political party, including donation limits and donor disclosure.

“No Labels is not following the rules for political party recognition, while attempting to be placed on the ballot alongside actual, functioning political parties who do,” said Morgan Dick, spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party. “Arizonans deserve better and voters deserve to know who is behind this shadowy organization and what potentially nefarious agenda they are pushing.”

Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels, dismissed the lawsuit as a political move.

“This undemocratic and unscrupulous lawsuit is a disgrace,” he said in a statement. “Next time you hear this crowd talking about protecting democracy, remember what they are really doing is protecting their turf.”

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