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Political Notebook

Court restores gag order in Trump civil fraud case

Judge Arthur EngoronERIN SCHAFF/NYT

NEW YORK — A New York appeals court on Thursday reinstated a limited gag order on Donald Trump, preventing him from making public comments about the law clerk in a civil business fraud case brought by the state.

The court in a two-page decision upheld New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron’s set of orders that prevented Trump and his defense team from mentioning the clerk, who has been the subject of antisemitic and other threats and messages since the case began.

Engoron imposed a gag order on the former president for comments about the clerk that he believed endangered the clerk’s safety. The order was issued after a day Trump posted a photo of the employee on social media that the judge said led to threats.

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The judge has fined Trump twice for a total of $15,000 for violating the gag order.

Trump’s side has repeatedly accused the clerk of bias and having an inappropriate influence on Engoron’s decision-making.

A temporary pause on the gag order issued Nov. 16 gave Trump two-week window in which to discuss the clerk publicly. That day, he resumed his complaints and accusations against her on social media.

The civil fraud case stems from a $250 million lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James against Trump, his company, and several current and former executives including Trump’s adult sons. The Trumps and their lawyers have denied any wrongdoing.

On Thursday, Engoron said he would decide the case in January. The trial began Oct. 2 and may continue into mid-December.

Trump lawyer Christopher Kise on Thursday said the gag order ruling amounted to a “tragic day for the rule of law.”

He and the rest of Trump’s legal team have said it is their duty to call out courtroom unfairness when they see it and that the gag order prohibits Trump’s right to free speech and seeks to influence next year’s presidential election.

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Trump, who is the leading candidate for the Republican ticket for president in 2024, has repeatedly complained on the campaign trail about the civil case and four pending criminal indictments. He has leveraged those complaints to take in significant campaign donations from supporters.

Washington Post

Democrats OK subpoenas for donors linked to justices

WASHINGTON — Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to authorize subpoenas for two prominent conservatives who arranged luxury travel and other benefits for Supreme Court justices, but Republicans challenged the legitimacy of the move and pledged to withhold support for enforcing the legal order.

The committee chairman, Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, pushed through the vote in the meeting’s final moments after Republicans had walked out in protest. The vote from the 11 Democrats would authorize subpoenas for Republican megadonor Harlan Crow and conservative activist Leonard Leo. But without bipartisan backing, the subpoenas probably will not be enforced because that would take 60 votes in the closely divided Senate.

During a contentious committee meeting, Republicans tried to delay the vote before Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee’s top Republican, invoked a rule to limit the session to two hours. Nonetheless, Durbin proceeded with a vote to authorize subpoenas.

“They think we’re gonna roll over and come back sometime later and try all over again and face the same limitations,” Durbin said. “There reaches a point where there has to be a vote. They walked out on it. That’s their decision.”

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Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said later he was ready to “move on” from challenging whether committee rules were followed, but added that ultimately the subpoenas would not be enforced. Leo and Crow issued statements saying the authorization of the subpoenas was not valid.

Crow’s office said Crow was willing to engage with the committee, but that Democrats so far “have made intrusive demands of a private citizen that far exceed any reasonable standard and to this date have not explained why this request is necessary to craft legislation.”

Leo, a longtime executive with the conservative Federalist Society who has orchestrated a push to move the court and the rest of the judiciary to the right, said in a statement, “I will not cooperate with this unlawful campaign of political retribution.”

Crow has had both a close personal and financial relationship with Justice Clarence Thomas for more than two decades. Crow paid for nearly annual vacations for Thomas and bought from Thomas and others the Georgia home in which the justice’s mother still lives. He also paid for the private schooling for a Thomas relative.

Democrats are investigating the ethics of the Supreme Court’s justices and are seeking information from Leo and Crow on the gifts and trips they gave to Supreme Court justices. Durbin said Leo and Crow have not cooperated with the committee’s requests for more information.

“Both Leonard Leo and Harlan Crow are central players in this crisis,” Durbin said. “Their attempts to thwart legitimate oversight efforts of Congress should concern all of us.”

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The high court this month adopted its first code of ethics after facing criticism for the gifts and luxury trips that some justices received from wealthy benefactors. But Democrats pointed out that the ethics code lacks enforcement and allows the justices to police themselves. It “falls far short of what we would expect from the highest court in the land,” Durbin said.

The committee has advanced legislation to impose a separate ethics code on the court.

Associated Press

Details of Trump, McCarthy call revealed

In the weeks after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, traveled down to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and threw a lifeline to the former president, who was under a cloud of controversy for provoking the historic assault.

The fence-mending session between the two Republican leaders ended with a photo op of the two men, grinning side by side in a gilded, frescoed room. The stunning turnabout of the House GOP leader, who had previously blamed Trump for the deadly attack, paved the way for the former president’s return to de facto leader of the Republican Party.

When the tables were turned almost three years later, however, Trump did not return the favor.

During a phone call with McCarthy weeks after his historic Oct. 3 removal as House speaker, Trump detailed the reasons he had declined to ask Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, and other hard-right lawmakers to back off their campaign to oust the California Republican from his leadership position, according to people familiar with the exchange who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose a private conversation.

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During the call, Trump lambasted McCarthy for not expunging his two impeachments and endorse him in the 2024 presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the conversation.

“F--- you,” McCarthy claimed to have then told Trump, when he rehashed the call later to other people in two separate conversations, according to the people. A spokesperson for McCarthy said that he did not swear at the former president and that they have a good relationship. A spokesperson for Trump declined to comment.

The transactional — and at times tumultuous — relationship has seemingly endured despite McCarthy’s ouster. The two continue to speak and text, according to people with knowledge of the relationship.

Washington Post