There's been a lot happening in the American Justice system, the place where politicians, their children, and their associates can (hopefully) still be held accountable for bad behavior in (hopefully) fair and objective proceedings.
In this election season, court cases will matter more than the polls, more than candidate platforms, more than the rally speeches, and more than the debates.
I've been tracking some of the biggest cases and want to help keep you informed while providing a bit of background and commentary.
Breaking late yesterday, Rudy Giuliani, a former prosecutor who was once revered as "America's Mayor," is facing major consequences for shaking his fist at clouds and spouting harmful lies. After hearing devastating testimony about the impact of his harassment, the jury in Giuliani's defamation case against two Georgia poll workers handed down a $148 verdict.
Giuliani did himself no favors by flaunting judicial authority, refusing to hand over discovery documents, repeating his defamatory statements to reporters on the courthouse steps, and declining to testify in his own defense. With just a bit of respect, cooperation, and contrition, the jury verdict would likely have been much lower.
These same defamatory statements are also at issue in the Georgia RICO case against Giuliani and co-defendants, including Donald Trump, as they were made by Giuliani in his role as Trump's personal attorney and as part of an alleged criminal scheme to overturn the state's election results. That case may go to trial next summer.
Meanwhile in California, a grand jury handed down an indictment against Hunter Biden for charges related to tax evasion. These charges are more serious than the gun possession charge for which Biden was indicted earlier this year.
The president's son faces three counts each of evasion of a tax assessment, failure to file and pay taxes, and filing a false or fraudulent tax return. The unpaid taxes were for tax years 2016 through 2019, which would have been due in April of 2017 through April of 2020, four filing dates on which Joe Biden was neither Vice President nor President.
House Republicans are calling for an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden despite his son's alleged tax evasion taking place when Joe Biden was out of office, despite a lack of evidence of President Biden's involvement, despite the Biden Justice Department indictment of Hunter Biden demonstrating an even-handed and non-political application of the law, and far premature of any conviction of Hunter Biden.
In New York, the Civil Fraud trial of Donald Trump and company wrapped up with a whimper as Donald and his son Eric Trump declined to present the testimony they had scheduled for their defense.
Donald Trump's attorney blamed the cancellation of her client's testimony on a narrow gag order preventing the elder Trump from attacking court staff. Apparently, the potential damage from his inability to refrain from attacking the judge's principal law clerk from the stand outweighed the potential benefit of anything he might say in his defense.
The Civil Fraud case resumes in January with closing arguments.
Soon afterward at the top of the new year, Trump will be facing a second defamation case filed by E. Jean Carrol, a woman Trump sexually abused in a department store dressing room. The assault was determined to be factual in another case earlier this year, in which Trump was hit with a $5.5 million verdict. This case involves separate defamatory statements Trump made against Carrol while Trump was serving as president, a complication that has invoked Constitutional issues that have delayed the proceedings.
Also upcoming early in 2024, the business records case involving Trump's efforts to cover up hush money payments made to a porn actress in advance of the 2016 election.
Meanwhile in D.C., the Election Interference case against Donald Trump is on hold pending appeals on parallel tracks to the Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue is whether Trump can claim absolute presidential immunity for his efforts to overturn an election he had lost. If Trump prevails in his appeal, the case against him will be dismissed and a dangerous precedent will be established, potentially allowing future presidents to remain in power regardless of election results.
In the Colorado 14th Amendment Disqualification Clause case, we're waiting to see whether the Colorado Supreme Court will set aside the lower court's ruling that January 6th should be considered an insurrection, and that Trump was engaged as an insurrectionist, but that he never made an oath to "support" the Constitution and that anyway, insurrectionists should be allowed to subsequently serve as President.
I was impressed by the slick advocacy of Trump's attorney, Scott Gessler, in his ability to sound reasonable while defending the indefensible. Even more slick, two days after the hearing, Gessler filed a motion to have the other side pay a chunk of his legal fees.
And now, you're up to date. Whew!
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