In the next few months, as the weather warms in Washington, something remarkable could happen in the city’s federal courthouse: Donald J. Trump could become the first former president in U.S. history to sit through a trial as a criminal defendant.
The trial, based on charges that Mr. Trump conspired to overturn the 2020 election, is scheduled to start in early March. And while the date could change, it is likely that a jury will sit in judgment of Mr. Trump before the 2024 election — perhaps even before the Republican Party meets in Milwaukee in July for its nominating convention.
Mr. Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination and is facing 91 felony charges in four separate cases. Putting him on trial either before the convention or during the general election would potentially lead to a series of events that have never been seen before in the annals of American law and politics.
It would almost certainly fuse Mr. Trump’s role as a criminal defendant with his role as a presidential candidate. It would transform the steps of the federal courthouse into a site for daily impromptu campaign rallies. And it would place the legal case and the race for the White House on a direct collision course, each one increasingly capable of shaping the other.
Throughout it all, Mr. Trump would almost certainly seek to turn the ordinarily sober courtroom proceedings into fodder he could use to influence public opinion and gain any advantage he can in a presidential race unlike any other….
Mr. Trump has already turned his legal travails into a campaign message that doubles as a lucrative online fund-raising tool. But his attempts to reap political benefit from his prosecutions and to use his legal proceedings as a platform for his talking points about victimhood and grievance are likely to only intensify if he is actually on trial, in the nation’s capital, in the middle of the 2024 presidential cycle.
There is no evidence that President Biden has meddled in any of the Trump prosecutions. Still, people close to Mr. Trump are planning to exploit the situation by falsely claiming to voters that Mr. Biden is a “socialist” leader directly seeking to imprison his political rival. One of those people, who was not authorized to speak publicly, suggested that this message could resonate especially powerfully with Hispanic voters, some of whom have family members who have suffered under dictatorial regimes in Latin America.
Rambling above the rust-colored cliffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the Terranea Resort is known for its ocean views, world-ranked spa and villas that can command $3,000 a night or more.
The property is less well known as a gathering spot for federal elected officials and the campaign donors they wine and dine.
But one politician was very familiar with the luxurious resort: former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. In 2 ½ years, the Bakersfield Republican’s election committees dropped nearly a quarter of a million dollars at Terranea, with most of the money coming from a thinly regulated leadership PAC, a Times investigation has found.
As he exits Congress two months after his historic ouster as speaker, political obituaries tout McCarthy’s skills as a prolific fundraiser on behalf of Republican candidates. Also setting him apart from other congressional leaders was his roughly decade-long pattern of using his Majority Committee PAC to spend lavishly on hotels, private jets and fine dining establishments, according to a Times analysis of campaign finance records on file with the Federal Election Commission.
From 2012 through last June, McCarthy’s PAC shelled out more than $1 million on hotels, private air travel and eateries, the FEC records show. That’s more than double the combinedtotal spent by the leadership PACs of the seven other lawmakers who’ve held the top House and Senate positions for their parties during all or part of that period, according to the Times analysis.
Leadership PACs are subject to fewer spending controls than other campaign accounts. In fact, the FEC determined earlier this year that those committees are free to use their money on personal expenses, without limits. Even before the ruling, good-government advocates complained to the FEC that politicians were using their leadership PACs as personal slush funds to subsidize expensive lifestyles. Now, they fear the problem will grow worse.
“Unfortunately, it’s a little bit of the Wild West,” said Michael Beckel, research director for Issue One, a nonprofit organization that studies the role of money in politics. He said the group has “deep concerns” that politicians could use “leadership PAC funds for their own personal enrichment.”…
Rick LaRue’s holiday reading suggestions.
New report from Michael Sozan of CAP.
New from the Center for Public Integrity.
Wisconsin’s top Republican on Capitol Hill this week indicated support for a new proposal to dissolve the state’s bipartisan elections commission and give its powers to the secretary of state’s office with oversight from the GOP-controlled legislature.
But others in his party have been skeptical of the plan to abolish the Wisconsin Elections Commission, and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wednesday he did not support it, casting doubt on the effort’s prospects.
“I’ve been consistent since the 2020 election saying I think the state legislature needs to reclaim its constitutional authority over federal elections,” U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin’s highest-ranking Republican, said in a brief interview Tuesday. “How they do that, I’ll leave it up to them. But I think WEC is out of control.”
The proposal, released Monday by Senate elections committee chairman Dan Knodl and 10 other Assembly Republicans, would require Democratic Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski to take over the elections commission’s administration duties by June 30 — about five months before the 2024 presidential election. Under the measure, Godlewski’s actions would require the approval of the Republican-controlled legislative committees on elections.
It is the latest attempt from Republicans to overhaul how Wisconsin runs its elections ahead of the 2024 election. And it comes as the Wisconsin Elections Commission has faced continued criticism fueled by false claims by former President Donald Trump about Wisconsin’s system of elections and for policies election commissioners approved to navigate hurdles presented by the coronavirus pandemic….