Trump Faces A Mini-Trial For Contempt Within The Larger Hush-Money Trial

INSIDE: Sarah Sanders ... Mike Johnson ... Conan O'Brien
Former US President Donald Trump arrives for the second day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 16, 202... Former US President Donald Trump arrives for the second day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 16, 2024. Trump said April 15, 2024 that he has a "real problem" with the judge handling his New York criminal case -- and that he should be on the campaign trail instead of in court. "We're not going to be given a fair trial," Trump told reporters outside the Manhattan courtroom after jury selection ended for the day in his "hush money" trial, one of four separate criminal cases he faces. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP) (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

Come For Jury Selection, Stay For Contempt Proceedings

Before jury selection even began in the first-ever criminal trial of a former president, prosecutors sought to hold Donald Trump in contempt of court for violating the gag order imposed on him in the hush-money case.

On social media in the days before trial, Trump continued to attack witnesses in the case, including key witness Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer.

Prosecutors want Trump sanctioned $3,000 for the violation and warned that further violations could send him to jail for the duration of the trial.

The trial judge said he would enter a show cause order as to why Trump should not be held in contempt and set arguments on the matter for April 23. The contempt proceeding will happen in parallel with the trial.

The range of sanctions for contempt is pretty broad, and I would expect a graduated scale of increasing punishments for each violation, rather than hauling Trump off to jail right away. I know. But that’s how it typically works.

Our Man On The Scene

The logistics of being the sole trial reporter for a small news outlet like TPM are hairy. Josh Kovensky has been up at 5 a.m. ET that last two days and in line at the courthouse by 6 a.m. In each instance he got in, but only barely, due to limited seating while jury selection is underway.

As long as he gets in, we’ll be bringing you his coverage:

This Could Take A While

Between taking Wednesdays off, the upcoming Passover holiday, and other schedule constraints, April may be taken up by jury selection, and prosecutors may not begin their case in chief until May. It’s hard to predict, but that gives you some sense of the pacing of the trial.

A Quick Dip Into The Trivial

Did Trump fall asleep in court? So reported Maggie Haberman.

Did that make Trump mad at Maggie? You bet it did.

Does any of this matter? Not really.

But it was a good windup for Chris Hayes to knock a softball out of the park:

Cry Harder

The wailing from Donald Trump and his team after Day 1 of the trial mostly involved performative outrage that Donald Trump is being treated like a criminal defendant, which manifested itself in the form of extreme umbrage that Trump must be present in court.

The high dudgeon was reminiscent of every other white collar trial in the last few decades, when affluent (usually white) defendants first encounter the criminal justice system and are outraged, OUTRAGED, that people are treated like this. Yep, every damn day in every courthouse in America.

SCOTUS Takes Up Major Jan. 6 Case Today

Oral arguments are scheduled this morning before the Supreme Court in Fischer v. United States. The NYT’s Adam Liptak describes the stakes:

The question the justices will consider is whether a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted in the wake of the collapse of the energy giant Enron, covers the conduct of a former police officer, Joseph W. Fischer, who participated in the Capitol assault, on Jan. 6, 2021.

The law figures in two of the federal charges against Mr. Trump in his election subversion case, and more than 350 people who stormed the Capitol have been prosecuted under it. If the Supreme Court sides with Mr. Fischer and says the statute does not cover what he is accused of having done, Mr. Trump is almost certain to contend that it does not apply to his conduct, either.

Don’t Let Russian Election Interference Go Down The Memory Hole

David Corn tries to rescue us from the limits of memory and the onslaught of historical revisionism:

Russia attacked in 2016. It tried again in 2020. Isn’t it evident Putin—who is one for two—will take another stab at this in 2024? Especially now that much more is at stake. This election will likely determine whether the United States continues supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion. With Trump and other Republicans opposing such assistance, how could Putin not try once more to give him a secret boost?

Worth your time.

Now Every Losing GOP Candidate Blames ‘Election Fraud’

TPM’s Khaya Himmelman on the metastasis of wild, conspiracy-fueled “election fraud” claims being raised by losing GOP candidates all the way down to dogcatcher. Okay, maybe not dogcatcher. Yet.

Quote Of The Day

“I’m fairly concerned and it’s definitely a gut check moment for people who have been pro-life for a very long time.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, on elected Republicans freaking out over the political landscape in a post-Dobbs world.

2024 Ephemera

  • FL-Sen: Sen. Rick Scott (R), without a hint of irony, tells voters to forget about his support last year for a six-week abortion ban because now he’s completely onboard with a 15-week ban.
  • Abortion will be on the ballot in about a dozen states in November.
  • President Biden kicks off three days of campaign events in Pennsylvania.

The Latest In Lecterngate!


Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders ‘ office potentially violated state laws on purchasing, state property and government records when it purchased a $19,000 lectern for the Republican governor that’s prompted nationwide attention, an audit requested by lawmakers said Monday.

Legislative auditors referred the findings in the long-awaited audit of the lectern to local prosecutors and the attorney general, and lawmakers planned to hold a hearing Tuesday on the report. The report cited several potential legal violations, including paying for the lectern before it was delivered and the handling of records regarding the purchase.

Potential Movement On The Hill For Ukraine Aid

It seems like a long shot and it might cost Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) his speakership, but he finally plans to bring Ukraine aid to a vote as early as the end of this week.

His tactic, such as it is, consists of bringing aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan up in three separate bills along with a fourth bill full of Republican goodies. Then the whole thing will in theory be sent to the Senate as one bill for it to pass.

The idea seems to be that the bill full of goodies will placate the hard right in his conference, which is opposed to Ukraine aid and threatening to remove him as speaker if he pushes it through. But it’s already showing signs of not placating them.

‘What’s Wrong With Me? Why Can’t I Feel?’

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