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Trump Legal News: Writing's on the Wall

It used to be that there was an item of Trump legal news nearly every day. But these days, a day with just one such story is pretty rare. Now, the general rule is that there are multiple stories every day. That's how things go, we suppose, when you're out on bail in three jurisdictions (with a fourth coming soon, presumably). Here's the latest:

Auld Lang Syne: It might not be a Happy New Year for Donald Trump, because Special Counsel Jack Smith proposed that the Washington, DC, case commence on January 2 of next year. The feds also estimated that their case would take 4-6 weeks to present, which means Trump could be a convicted felon by Super Tuesday (March 5).

It's possible Judge Tanya Chutkan will sign off on that date, and that's that. Undoubtedly, Team Trump will try to push it back, but basic game theory does not favor their situation. That is to say, if they push for a date in December of 2024, that's going to look like an unserious request designed purely to drag the case out beyond the election. Chutkan is well-known for having a low tolerance for such shenanigans. If, on the other hand, the defense proposes something more reasonable—say, mid-March—then they don't really achieve much, and arguably they put Trump in a worse situation, PR-wise, since the trial and campaign would be entirely coterminous. Whatever happens, it's becoming nearly impossible that Trump is going to be able to push all of his legal troubles out past the election.

Not Guilty, Redux: Meanwhile, in the case brought by Jack Smith—that is, the other case brought by Jack Smith—Trump and his staffer Walt Nauta entered pleas of "not guilty." They had already entered pleas, of course, but they were required to respond to the additional counts that appear in the superseding indictment. Carlos De Oliveira, who was named only in the new indictment, has yet to secure local counsel, since he apparently won't be able to share Stanley Woodward with his co-defendants. So, he has not entered a plea yet, since that can only be handled by a lawyer admitted to the Florida Bar.

X Gon' Give It To Ya: It is not known what case this relates to, but Team Smith also got a search warrant that enabled them to access the account belonging to Trump on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. If you had to guess, you'd have to assume that it was for the 1/6 case, since Trump's Twitter activity is a pretty big part of that story. But again, just a guess. The only reason this news came to light is that Elon Musk & Co. resisted the warrant and had to pay a fine.

Hot 'Lanta: Fulton County DA Fani Willis continues to make everyone wait for the other shoe to drop. Well, OK, for the other, other, other shoe. CNN reports that she plans to indict at least a dozen people, and that one of them is Trump. One suspects that someone in Willis' office leaked that, at the DA's instruction, as part of her strategy for keeping things from being too explosive when the hammer falls. You know, the same reason that a pressure cooker releases the steam a bit at a time rather than all at once.

It is also the case that there are three weeks left for Willis to meet the end-of-August deadline she's hinted at, and that if the goal is to tamp down the response, a Friday afternoon/evening makes the most sense. So, today could be the day. That said, people tend to get a warning before they are indicted, and every time Trump has gotten that warning, he's run to his boutique social media platform to complain to his followers. There's been no Truth Social posting about an imminent Georgia indictment, so maybe today's not the day.

The Academics Speak: William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen are both law professors (at the University of Chicago and the University of St. Thomas, respectively). They are also both active in the Federalist Society, which means they are conservatives. And, as reported by The New York Times, they have finished a draft article that will be published next year. In it, they apparently make a painstaking case that Trump has violated the terms of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that he is no longer eligible to serve as president. As summarized by Baude: "Donald Trump cannot be president—cannot run for president, cannot become president, cannot hold office—unless two-thirds of Congress decides to grant him amnesty for his conduct on Jan. 6."

We do not know exactly what is driving Baude and Paulsen. Perhaps they are just trying to add to the world's body of knowledge, as academics are supposed to do. Could be, although the fact that they've aligned themselves with a right-wing activist group suggests there's more going on. Maybe they are Never Trumpers. Maybe they are trying to save the Republican Party from itself, by getting a serious conversation about the Fourteenth Amendment underway. In any event, this article is going to be fuel for at least a few lawsuits. And given the politics of the authors, it's likely to be taken more seriously than would be an article from, say, outspoken anti-Trump scholar Laurence Tribe.

Incidentally, when the new piece is published, it will be in The University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Surely the duo did not choose that publication by coincidence.

And that's today's roundup. Undoubtedly there will be much more next week. (Z)

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