Trump lawyer hints defense will focus on free speech; ex-president will not have mugshot taken – live

Trump lawyer argues January 6 indictment criminalizes speech

Donald Trump’s attorney John Lauro appeared on NBC’s Today show, and gave a few hints of the former president’s legal strategy in defending against the indictment he faces for trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Lauro first indicated that he objects to special counsel Jack Smith’s push to hold the trial in 90 days, calling it “absurd”:

One of former President Trump’s attorney’s John Lauro speaks about the indictment and the timing of the trial.

“To take President Trump to trial in 90 days, of course, is absurd. The question is why do they (the special counsel) wanna do that,” Lauro told @SavannahGuthrie.

— TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 2, 2023

Smith made a similar attempt with the charges he filed against Trump over the Mar-a-Lago documents, but a federal judge has now pushed that trial to May 2024.

Lauro also indicated that he planned to argue Smith was putting Trump on trial over his speech, which would go against the first amendment:

.@SavannahGuthrie: The indictment specifically says that the President has a first amendment right to speech, he even has a first amendment right to lie. (…) This indictment is criminalizing conduct, not speech.
Lauro: No, it’s criminalizing speech (…)

— TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 2, 2023

Key events

US Capitol offices evacuated after threatening phone call

Frightening scenes played out at the US Capitol a few minutes ago, when police evacuated Senate office buildings in response to a threatening phone call that was reportedly a hoax.

US Capitol Police say they dispatched officers after receiving warnings of a possible active shooter:

Our officers are searching in and around the Senate Office Buildings in response to a concerning 911 call. Please stay away from the area as we are still investigating. We will continue to communicate with the public here.

— The U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice) August 2, 2023

If you are inside the Senate Buildings, everyone inside should be sheltering in place as the report was for a possible active shooter. It should be noted that we do not have any confirmed reports of gunshots.

— The U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice) August 2, 2023

Politico reports the Washington DC police department, which helps secure the Capitol complex, said the call appeared to be a ruse:

DC’s Metropolitan Police Department spox Hugh Carew tells me the evacuation of Russell Senate Office Building came after a call for an active shooter that “appears to be a bad call”
“No injuries and no shooter were located”

— Nicholas Wu (@nicholaswu12) August 2, 2023

It’s currently the Congress’s August recess, and most lawmakers are away from the Capitol, though staff are still working. Reporters at the scene saw people being led out from the Senate office buildings by police with their hands in the air:

Pence says Trump surrounded himself with ‘crackpot lawyers’ as he tried to overturn election

Mike Pence kicked off his presidential campaign with a speech condemning former boss Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the 2020 election.

Pence reiterated that criticism today when asked about the indictment filed by Jack Smith:

Mike Pence on Trump effort to overturn election results: “Sadly, the president was surrounded by a group of crackpot lawyers that kept telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear. … The president ultimately continued to demand that I choose him over the Constitution.”

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 2, 2023

It’s not exactly a winning message, at least not yet. Polls currently have Pence with single-digit support among Republican voters.

Trump will not have mugshot taken in Thursday arraignment – report

When Donald Trump appears at a federal courthouse on Thursday afternoon to answer the indictment brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith for allegedly trying to overturn his 2020 election loss, he will not be formally arrested or have his mugshot taken, Bloomberg News reports.

Citing US Marshals Service spokesman Drew Wade, Bloomberg said his appearance in Washington DC will be similar to one he made in June in Miami, where he pled not guilty to charges Smith filed over the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

Here’s more on what we can expect tomorrow, from Bloomberg:

The 4 p.m. hearing at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse is likely to be short, but it’s an important step in kicking off the latest case brought by Special Prosecutor John L. “Jack” Smith. Trump is expected to be arraigned in person — which means he’ll enter an initial plea to the charges — though the court has yet to announce specific details about the hearing.

Before that, Trump will be processed by the court, which will be similar to the former president’s experience in Florida after he was indicted in June over his handling of classified documents, US Marshals Service spokesman Drew Wade said.

Wade confirmed that Trump:

— will have his fingerprints taken digitally

— will be required to provide his social security number, date of birth, address, and other personal information

— won’t have photograph taken, since he’s already easily recognizable and there are already many photographs available

Trump won’t be placed under arrest, according to Wade. In accepting the indictment Tuesday, US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya issued a summons for his appearance, not an arrest warrant.

The former president will then head into the courtroom for his appearance. The summons was issued by Upadhyaya, so the expectation is he’ll appear before her, but the case has been assigned to US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama. The court hasn’t put the hearing on the public calendar to confirm whose courtroom he’ll go to.

During the hearing, Trump’s lawyers will likely do most, if not all, of the talking. The government didn’t ask to put Trump in pretrial custody while the Florida case proceeds, and there’s no expectation they’ll ask for that now. If prosecutors want the judge to impose any conditions on his release, however, they could make those requests, and Trump’s lawyers would have a chance to raise objections.

Separately, Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi has released a terse statement about what Washingtonians can expect when the former president goes to court tomorrow:

Donald Trump had a private dinner with Fox News executives shortly after learning that he would be indicted a third time, according to a New York Times report.

The two-hour dinner between Trump, Fox News president Jay Wallace and the network’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott, was held in a private dining room at the former president’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, the paper said, citing sources.

During the dinner, the Fox executives lobbied Trump to attend the first Republican presidential primary debate later this month, the report said. The event will be hosted by Fox News with the Republican national committee in Milwaukee.

The Fox executives made a soft appeal for Mr. Trump to attend the debate, two of the people familiar with the dinner said, telling the former president that he excels on the center stage and that it presents an opportunity for him to show off his debate skills.

According to the paper, Trump told the Fox executives he had not yet made a decision and would keep an open mind.

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

A powerful Democrat senator has called Samuel Alito’s public expression of opposition to US supreme court ethics reform “unwise and unwelcome”, rejecting the conservative justice’s contention that Congress cannot implement such measures.

“Justice Alito is providing speculative public commentary on a bill that is still going through the legislative process,” said Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and the chair of the Senate judiciary committee.

He added in a statement:

Let’s be clear: Justice Alito is not the 101st member of the United States Senate. His intervention … is unwise and unwelcome.

Last week, Alito spoke to the Wall Street Journal, often an outlet for his views and complaints. Discussing Washington scandals about rightwing justices taking gifts from donors with business before the court – most notably over Clarence Thomas’s links to Harlan Crow and Alito’s own fishing trip with Paul Singer – Alito said: “I marvel at all the nonsense that has been written about me in the last year.”

Saying he was defending himself because “nobody else is going to do this”, the George W Bush-appointed conservative, 73, said: “Congress did not create the supreme court.

I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it. No provision in the constitution gives them the authority to regulate the supreme court – period.

Durbin, who with Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island has sought to pilot ethics reform in response to the Thomas and Alito scandals, rejected Alito’s position.

“The ethical conduct of supreme court justices is a serious matter within this committee’s jurisdiction,” he said.

Ensuring ethical conduct by the justices is critical to the court’s legitimacy.

A lawyer for John Eastman, one of the co-conspirators named in Tuesday’s indictment of Donald Trump, said he would decline a plea deal if offered one by federal prosecutors.

In a statement, Harvey Silverglate said Eastman has not and will not be engaged in plea bargaining in the case with state or federal prosecutors.

With respect to questions as to whether Dr. Eastman is involved in plea bargaining, the answer is no. But if he were invited to plea bargain with either state or federal prosecutors, he would decline. The fact is, if Dr. Eastman is indicted, he will go to trial. If convicted, he will appeal. The Eastman legal team is confident of its legal position in this matter.

The statement claimed the indictment relies on a “misleading presentation of the record to contrive criminal charges against Presidential candidate Trump and to cast ominous aspersions on his close advisors.”

Here’s our video report of how Democrats and Republicans reacted to Donald Trump’s latest federal indictment on charges relating to his alleged attempted election subversion.

How Washington DC reacted to Trump’s latest indictment – video report

Obama warned Biden of Trump’s continued strength – report

Barack Obama warned Joe Biden that Donald Trump would be a formidable election opponent, even with his legal troubles, the Washington Post reports.

The warning came over lunch at the White House between the current president and Obama, whom Biden served under as vice-president from 2009 to 2017. Among the factors Obama cited as helping Trump were “an intensely loyal following, a Trump-friendly conservative media ecosystem and a polarized country”, the Post reports.

Here’s more from the Post’s report:

At the lunch, held in late June in the White House residence, Obama promised to do all he could to help the president get reelected, according to two people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversation.

That commitment was a welcome gesture for the White House at a time when Biden is eager to lock down promises of help from top Democrats, among whom Obama is easily the biggest star, for what is likely to be a hard-fought reelection race. The contents of the private conversation have not been previously reported.

Obama was visiting the White House for what Biden aides described as a regular catch-up between the two men who served in the White House together for eight years. During their lunch, Obama made it clear his concerns were not about Biden’s political abilities, but rather a recognition of Trump’s iron grip on the Republican Party, according to the people.

Recent polling suggests Trump has a significant lead over his GOP rivals and that he and Biden are essentially tied in a hypothetical rematch.

The White House said there was no specific agenda for the June 27 meeting, and people briefed on the conversation said the two presidents discussed a range of political, policy and personal matters, including updates about their families.

The day so far

Donald Trump is expected to appear in court at 4pm eastern time tomorrow in Washington DC to answer the indictment brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith over attempting to overturn the 2020 election. So far today, we’ve gotten hints of the former president’s potential defense strategy from his lawyer, heard various Republicans reaffirm their allegiance to him and suspicion of the justice department, and learned Smith has concerns about an attorney hired to represent one of Trump’s co-defendants in the Mar-a-Lago case.

That’s not all that’s been happening:

  • Why did Fitch downgrade the US’s debt from its highest rating? The January 6 insurrection was among the reasons.

  • Robert F Kennedy Jr is running as Democrat for president, but is being bankrolled by a Republican.

  • Reporters managed to track down Merrick Garland somewhere that wasn’t the justice department headquarters, but he still had little to say about the new charges against Trump.

Senator and Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott highlighted his presence on the “weaponization” bandwagon in response to Donald Trump’s latest indictment:

I remain concerned about the weaponization of Biden’s DOJ and its immense power used against political opponents.

What we see today are two different tracks of justice. One for political opponents and another for the son of the current president.

— Tim Scott (@votetimscott) August 2, 2023

We’re watching Biden’s DOJ continue to hunt Republicans, while protecting Democrats.

— Tim Scott (@votetimscott) August 2, 2023

Special counsel concerned lawyer for Trump co-defendant has conflict of interest

The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports that special counsel Jack Smith is concerned that Stanley Woodward, a lawyer for Donald Trump’s valet Walt Nauta, has a conflict of interest:

New: Special Counsel requests a hearing case about potential conflicts re Trump lawyer Stanley Woodward, who represents Walt Nauta — as well as two potential trial witnesses and formerly the now-cooperating Mar-a-Lago IT worker asked to delete tapes

— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) August 2, 2023

Smith indicted Nauta alongside Trump on charges related to hiding classified government documents at Mar-a-Lago and working the keep them out of the hands of government archivists. Nauta was arraigned in Florida last month in proceedings that were delayed because he struggled to find a lawyer:

In an interview with Fox News, Florida governor Ron DeSantis called for Donald Trump’s trial over the January 6 insurrection and effort to overturn the 2020 election to be moved out of Washington DC:

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), when asked about Donald Trump’s third indictment, says the case needs to be moved out of Washington D.C.:

“A D.C. jury would indict a ham sandwich and convict a ham sandwich if it was a Republican ham sandwich.”

— The Recount (@therecount) August 2, 2023

The US capital city is deeply Democratic, and during his presidency, Trump rarely ventured into its streets, except to visit his hotel.

Polls show that DeSantis is Trump’s strongest challenger for the Republican presidential nomination, but his campaign is going much worse than expected.

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