Trump Legal Risks Mount With New York Moves

Former President Trump's legal woes are mounting with the news that state and local prosecutors in New York are conducting a joint criminal investigation into his company.

It's unclear exactly what charges the New York attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney are exploring, but the announcement signals an escalation in the offices' investigations that have at times spilled into public view in recent years. The rare move to publicly announce a criminal probe is also fueling Republican efforts to discredit it.

The immediate implications of the news are unclear, as both offices have been tight-lipped about their investigations, but it raises the stakes for both Trump and the prosecutors.

The immediate political ramifications are more readily apparent. Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, and his allies say the investigations are more evidence that Democrats are hellbent on using their powers to attack him even after he has left office.

Republicans have pointed to James’s 2018 campaign, in which she vowed to take on Trump as attorney general. Others say it’s part of an effort to stop Trump from launching a 2024 presidential bid.

“It’s clear that the Democrats and their allies want to stop Trump from running for president in 2024,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “They’re worried that he will win, and they will throw every roadblock in his way to prevent that from happening.”

Read more from Julia Manchester and Harper Neidig at The Hill

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As GOP Looks Ahead To Midterms, Trump Looms Large Over Party's Future

As the dust settles from an internal Republican power struggle over former President Donald Trump’s role in the future of the party, many within the party are eager to turn their attention to the 2022 midterms, but some critics see Trump as a liability in the effort to forge a winning coalition of conservative and independent voters.

The removal of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., from House GOP leadership after repeatedly denouncing Trump has spurred new warnings from prominent moderate Republicans that fealty to the former president could destroy the party. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told CNN Trump is “toxic” for Republicans, and punishing Cheney for defying him was “crazy.”

The CBS News/YouGov survey Trump cited found 80% of Republicans approve of ousting Cheney from leadership, with most justifying the move because she was “not on message with the party” and she was “wrong about the 2020 election.” About one-third of respondents who backed removing Cheney explicitly agreed disloyalty should be punished.

Last week’s events underscored how closely the party has tied itself to Trump as it charts a course toward the midterms. Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said Trump critics like Cheney are increasingly out of step with the base, and they are doing the party a disservice by training their fire on the former president instead of the current one.

“What you’ll read and see on TV is Trump controls the Republican Party,” O’Connell said. “That’s not true. The grassroots control the Republican Party, and they love Trump... The blueprint going forward is the American First agenda.”

Still, as O’Connell noted, Donald Trump is not on the ballot in 2022, and plenty of Democrats who are steadily voting to advance President Biden’s agenda are. Enthusiasm to oppose Biden on the right is already strong, and it will likely only grow stronger in the next 18 months.

“Joe Biden is the best advertisement for taking back power in Washington for the Republican Party,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell dismissed warnings of a Republican schism over Trump as a Democratic narrative intended to depress Republican turnout. If Trump supporters show up to vote in full force in 2022, he expects Republicans will easily take control of the House and possibly even the Senate, and that would position them well to win the White House in 2024.

“[Democrats] understand a tsunami is coming, and they’re trying to mitigate their losses,” he said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at abc6

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Republicans Attack Biden Agenda After Disappointing Jobs Report

Republicans are seizing on disappointing jobs data to argue that President Biden’s spending and tax plans are already causing a slowdown in the economy.

Friday’s jobs report — which showed U.S. employers added 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — could pose a challenge for Biden as he seeks to enact his proposals for $4.1 trillion in new spending financed by tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations.

Republicans were already opposed to Biden’s infrastructure plans, but last month’s lackluster job gains are giving GOP lawmakers a new line of attack that they are hoping will resonate with voters.

Republicans responded to Friday’s employment report from the Labor Department by taking aim at a provision in Biden’s COVID-19 relief law that extends enhanced unemployment benefits through the beginning of September. GOP lawmakers argued that the $300 per week boost to weekly unemployment benefits is discouraging people from returning to work.

Republicans are now hoping that their economic message might reverberate with some moderates on the other side of the aisle and force Democrats to scale back their multi-trillion dollar proposals.

GOP lawmakers also hope that their arguments against Biden’s proposals will gain traction with voters ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

“Another bad jobs report, and after a while, that’s going to sink in,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.

Read more from Naomi Jagoda at The Hill

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Trump Muddles Republican Messaging On Afghanistan

Donald Trump’s hearty endorsement of pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September has undercut efforts by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other key Republicans to question President Biden’s strategy. 

More broadly, the former president has focused the nation’s attention on China as the United States’s premier national security concern, putting pressure on Senate Republicans to support legislation Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to move to respond to Beijing’s growing influence and power. 

McConnell is the most powerful Republican leader in Washington, but he doesn’t have the same unrivaled platform that he did when he was in the same position — head of the minority opposition in Washington — at the start of former President Obama’s tenure. 

GOP strategists say the base is with Trump, not McConnell, which gives other Republicans incentive to follow his lead, especially if they are looking to run for the White House in 2024 if Trump forgoes the race.

“The grassroots are with Trump on this so therefore the party is with Trump on this issue,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. 

He said, however, that McConnell is playing the traditional Republican role of pushing a muscular national security stance, adding, “Republicans have traditionally been stronger on it than Democrats.”

“Unfortunately, McConnell is not seeing the larger picture, which is any time we’re not focused on China, we’re losing,” O’Connell said. “The biggest threat in the 21st century to America and all of humanity is China, and anytime you’re hanging around the Middle East for more than 20 years, you’re not focused on China.” 

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Texas Holds Special Election To Replace Rep. Wright, Who Died Of COVID

Saturday’s special election in the state’s 6th Congressional District is a bipartisan, 23-candidate scrum — with the shadow of President Trump looming over Republicans and Democrats alike.

Trump this week waded into the race to replace Republican Rep. Ron Wright — who died of coronavirus complications in February at age 67 — with a full-throated endorsement of Susan Wright, the congressman’s widow.

Unless one candidate notches more than 50 percent of the vote — an unlikely prospect in such a crowded field — Saturday’s top two vote-getters will battle it out in a runoff election later this spring.

“I’d be surprised if Trump’s endorsement does not propel Susan Wright into the runoff, at least,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told The Post.

Ron Wright, who had been battling lung cancer, was positioning his wife to take his place months before his death.

That inspired 10 Democrats to leap into the race in hopes of flipping the seat — along with 11 Republicans, most of them Trump supporters who have carried on a bruising battle among themselves. An independent and a Libertarian round out the field.

“To win, district Democrats have to coalesce around one candidate — but they have just as many horses running,” O’Connell said. “If they don’t pick one of them, it could easily end up being two Republicans in the runoff race.”

In an off-year special election, when only the most motivated turn out to vote, “This race is all about the rise of the Republican grass roots,” O’Connell said.

“It’s not that Donald Trump controls the Republican Party — it’s that the grass roots control the Republican Party,” he said. “And the base still loves Donald Trump and his agenda.”

Read more from Mary Kay Linge at the New York Post

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Feds Raid Rudy Giuliani's New York City Home

Federal investigators on Wednesday raided former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s home and office as part of an ongoing investigation into his dealings in Ukraine.

They descended on the properties after obtaining a search warrant as part of an ongoing probe into his business deals and purported role in the recall of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was abruptly removed from her post in early 2019.

Investigators are said to be reviewing whether Mr. Giuliani violated foreign lobbying laws while working as an attorney for former President Donald Trump.

The raid shook Washington and the legal world. Some said it smelled bad, given Mr. Giuliani’s proximity to Mr. Trump and criticism of the current president’s son.

“This looks like prosecutorial harassment of a political opponent,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist. “It seems to me the Biden administration is punishing Trump supporters.”

And Mr. Giuliani, he said, is “Trump supporter No. 1. That should raise a lot of eyebrows.”

Read more from Jeff Mordock and Tom Howell Jr. at The Washington Times

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GOP, Democrats Grapple With Post-Chauvin Trial World

Republicans and Democrats are grappling with how to move forward on issues of race and policing after the Derek Chauvin trial, a watershed national moment that will almost certainly play a role in the 2022 midterms. 

Democrats are seizing on the moment to push for police reform, but are wary over the backlash in 2020 to “defund the police,” which some see as costing the party House seats in last year’s elections.

Republicans are also looking at police reforms, but do not want to go nearly as far as Democrats. Some are also seizing on to the idea that law enforcement is coming under siege from the social justice movement, as warnings of “cancel culture” and mobs influencing courts get sounding boards from conservative pundits and some politicians. 

Some Republicans say critics of the police were too quick to jump to conclusions in the shooting, which took place 30 minutes before the verdict was read in the Chauvin trial. 

“We move on to the next incident and immediately it becomes politicized. Now, here we don’t know all of the facts, we don’t know where this is going, but it appears they jumped the shark. It appears they want to use every event to further an agenda,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. 

Read more from Julia Manchester at The Hill

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Trump Steps Up Campaign-Style Attacks On Biden

Former President Donald Trump is increasingly taking aim at his successor, President Joe Biden, with a series of blistering criticisms reminiscent of last year’s campaign as the 45th president teases another run.

Trump has issued a series of statements, his substitute for Twitter, from which he was banished over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, challenging Biden’s policy decisions and circulating articles that are similarly critical of the White House’s new resident. He also appeared on Sean Hannity’s prime-time Fox News show on Monday night to take his case directly to the voters.

"While former President Trump is maintaining a laser-like focus on helping Republicans take back power in Washington and across the country in 2022, he is also keeping tabs on the follies of the Biden administration,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “And at a time when the country needs to vaccinate as many Americans as possible as quickly as possible, Trump is correct that the Biden administration’s decision to halt distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a self-defeating head-scratcher that will only lead to greater skepticism about COVID jabs among the general population.”

Known for his marketing instincts, Trump also objected to the symbolism of the 9/11 date. “September 11th represents a very sad event and period for our Country and should remain a day of reflection and remembrance honoring those great souls we lost,” he said. “Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do.” O’Connell called Biden’s choice of date “flat tone-deaf."

“Donald Trump may be out of the White House, but he is the unquestioned leader of the Republican Party and the one person who can lead the GOP back to majorities in Washington next year, despite repeated attempts by Big Tech, the Democrats, and corporate media to silence his every word,” O’Connell said. “And should Trump choose to run for the White House in 2024, he will be the Republican Party presidential nominee."

Read more from W. James Antle III at the Washington Examiner

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Democrats Brace For New 'Defund The Police' Attacks

Democrats are bracing for another round of calls to “defund the police” even as a bitter debate continues to rage within the party about whether the slogan hurt them in the 2020 elections.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd, coupled with a fatal shooting this week of a 20-year-old Black man by police during a routine traffic stop just miles from the courthouse, has renewed frustration over a lack of progress toward ending such killings.

Republicans believe the defund the police narrative is a political gift they can use again to win over swing voters and to energize their own political base.

“This is music to the Republican minority’s ears in Washington,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “That is more powerful for Republicans than any perfectly scripted message.”

Polling shows that stripping funds from law enforcement is by no means popular nationwide, with a recent USA Today-Ipsos poll showing that only 1 in 5 Americans support the movement to defund the police.

Read more from Julia Manchester at The Hill

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Is DeSantis 'out of touch' with business on vaccine passport ban?

A top legal expert at the World Health Organization pulled no punches this week when he called out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for an April 2 executive order prohibiting vaccine passports. 

So-called vaccine passports are identification cards proving one has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition to preventing businesses from using them as a tool to help protect the health of workers and customers, Gostin said, the governor’s executive order is “very likely unlawful."

That said, one GOP strategist said the governor is not alone in his opposition to vaccine passports. In fact, it is representative of the views of many of his supporters, said Ford O’Connell. 

“What DeSantis sees here is what many conservatives do — that COVID vaccine passports are an all-out assault on freedom and the Constitution,” O’Connell said. “They are concerned that vaccine passports are about keeping tabs on your data and medical history, and they see this as the largest expansion of  surveillance since the Patriot Act.”

While a proof of vaccination card displays a person’s name, birthdate and COVID vaccination information, vaccine passports are digitally coded cards that utilize a scannable symbol. O’Connell said contained within that scan might be personal information besides COVID vaccination records, and that is what worries some people. 

Read more Wendy Rhodes at The Palm Beach Post

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