Trump says he didn’t testify at hush money trial because of ‘my past’: Live updates

LIVE – Updated at 17:28

Donald Trump has offered a garbled explanation as to why he ultimately declined to testify at his New York hush money trial, citing his “past” and telling a conservative radio host that he feared political bias against him, also coming close to breaking his gag order in the same interview by criticising Manhattan prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.

Later on Thursday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will host his latest 2024 campaign rally in Crotona Park in New York City’s South Bronx, the first time that he has rallied in his hometown for eight years.

Mr Trump trailed the event on his Truth Social platform by pledging to “Make New York Great Again!!!” and promising: “Far Lower Taxes, Safe, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Good Schools, and everything else that goes towards the American Dream!”

On Wednesday, a hearing in Mr Trump’s classified documents case in Florida devolved into a chaotic shouting match as two lawyers fought over claims of a threat allegedly made to a defense attorney.

The hearing had been scheduled on behalf of Walt Nauta, the former president’s co-defendant and valet, to share arguments that the office of Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith had vindictively and selectively charged him with offenses.

Key Points

  • New York hush money trial: Trump fudges explanation on why he didn’t testify and tests gag order with attack on prosecutor
  • Trump pledges to ‘Make New York Great Again’ ahead of South Bronx rally
  • Florida hearing on Trump’s classified documents case devolves into chaotic shouting match
  • Trump promises release of imprisoned journalist Evan Gershkovich in late-night deluge of Truth Social posts
  • Nikki Haley says she will vote for Trump after all

What next for Nikki Haley voters now she’s in for Trump?

17:15 , Oliver O'Connell

What happens to Nikki Haley’s supporters now that she has said she will vote for Donald Trump in the 2024 election despite being his most vociferous critic during the Republican primaries?

It’s an important question as she continues to attract approximately 20 per cent of the GOP vote in state primaries despite having dropped out of the race in March.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, former Trump staffer, current co-host of The View and CNN commentator, and another leading anti-Trump voice in the Republican Party, is not convinced that Haley’s supporters will follow her example.

“Not convinced most Haley voters become Trump voters,” she tweeted this morning. “A look at comments on Haley’s insta post that she’s backing Trump: floods of comments saying they feel betrayed.”

She continued: “Haley voters were more anti-Trump than she was. She was the vehicle to register their opposition to Trump.”

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reports that the Biden campaign has moved quickly, continuing its efforts to woo disaffected Republicans determined to avoid a second Trump presidency. Shortly after Haley gave her support to Trump, a group of her supporters from Vermont and Arizona met with the Biden campaign, the outlet reports.

“The fact they actually sent someone last night to speak to a small group … I think that’s a good signal that they’re aware there are huge numbers of Haley voters out there,” Robert Schwartz, founder of the Haley Voters For Biden PAC, told The Daily Beast.

He said the meeting was highly encouraging, and likened it to other listening sessions the Biden campaign has done with the pro-Palestinian uncommitted vote.

Trump finally offers explanation for why he backed out of testifying in hush money trial

16:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump has finally offered some sort of explanation as to why he backtracked on plans to take the stand to testify in his hush money trial.

For weeks, Mr Trump flirted with the idea of standing to address his accusers in court, vowing he would “absolutely” take the stand just days before the criminal trial began on 15 April.

When the time came, however, Mr Trump did not take the stand. Instead, the defence rested its case on Tuesday after calling just on two witnesses including attorney Robert Costello.

Now, Mr Trump has claimed that the reason he didn’t take the stand is because of the judge – and over fears that his “great”, albeit chequered, past might come back to haunt him.

James Liddell explains...

Trump explains why he backed out of testifying in hush money trial

16:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Trump claims Putin will release jailed journalist Evan Gershkovich ‘for him’

15:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s more on the Republican’s big talk about securing the release of the imprisoned American reporter from jail in Russia.

James Liddell has the story.

Trump claims Putin will release jailed journalist Evan Gershkovich ‘for him’

Musk agrees to host presidential debate involving RFK Jr on X – who then calls out Trump and Biden

15:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Elon Musk says that he’ll host a presidential debate involving Robert F Kennedy Jr on X ahead of the 2024 presidential election in November – with the independent candidate calling on Joe Biden and Donald Trump to join.

James Liddell has more.

Musk agrees to host presidential debate involving RFK Jr on X

Prospective Trump veep Kristi Noem now banned from all tribal lands in South Dakota

14:45 , Joe Sommerlad

The dog-killer is now not welcome in large swathes of the state she governs but, sure, why not consider her for vice president of the United States?

John Bowden reports.

Kristi Noem now banned from all tribal lands in South Dakota

AOC roasts Rudy Giuliani over his bizarre coffee venture

14:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has roasted former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani over his latest business venture: selling coffee.

Katie Hawkinson has the details.

AOC roasts Rudy Giuliani over his bizarre coffee venture

Trump has realized how big of a problem abortion poses for him

13:45 , Joe Sommerlad

The Biden campaign is sharpening its edge on the broader issue of reproductive freedom as their ideological rivals continue to flounder in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe vs Wade.

While a unified stance on the issue of abortion continues to elude the GOP, Democrats are mounting a full-scale assault.

Hammering their opponents over a century-old abortion ban in Arizona and new restrictions put into place in Florida, the incumbent president’s party enjoys a clear strategic advantage in addition to their polling lead on the issue: Republicans cannot decide whether or not to pursue a ban on abortion at the national level.

The party remains split, even with Trump at the helm saying that he would not support such legislation.

Here’s more on the issue from John Bowden.

Trump has realized how big of a problem abortion poses for him, reports suggest

The brand-new Democrats waging a surprisingly cynical war against Trump

13:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s John Bowden on the failed run for Congress of ex-Capitol police officer Harry Dunn and what it has to tell us about the bigger picture.

The Democrats waging a surprisingly cynical war against Donald Trump

Justice Samuel Alito ‘hung another Jan 6 flag outside his second home’

12:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Another flag carried by January 6 rioters was seen flying outside the New Jersey beach home of Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito on multiple occasions last year, according to a report.

The “Appeal to Heaven” flag, was carried by rioters during the pro-Trump attack on the US Capitol in 2021, was flown outside the vacation home of Justice Alito during the summer of 2023.

Also known as the “Pine Tree flag”, it dates back to the Revolutionary War.

It comes days after reports from The New York Times that a flagpole on the judge’s front lawn at a property in Virginia had flown an upside-down Stars-and-Stripes in late 2020 and early 2021 in the days after Joe Biden took office.

The “Appeal To Heaven” flag and the inverted US flag were both embraced by supporters of Trump’s “Stop The Steal” campaign, which falsely claimed Biden’s win was fraudulent.

Mike Bedigan reports.

Justice Samuel Alito ‘hung another Jan 6 flag outside his second home’

New York hush money trial: Trump tests gag order by talking about prosecutor

12:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump spoke to WABC radio last night and spoke rather unwisely about Manhattan prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.

He also flubbed an answer about why he chickened out of testifying on the witness stand and issued a bizarre warning about “terrorists” arriving at the southern border from the Congo, or some such rubbish.

Collins challenges Cruz on Trump’s attacks on his family

11:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Speaking of ring-kissers, Texas senator Ted Cruz was confronted with his flagrant hypocrisy by Kaitlan Collins on CNN last night.

Nikki Haley says she will vote for Trump

11:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Briefly, and improbably, the face of the resistance, “Birdbrain” now becomes the latest Republican to eat her words, set aside months of personal insults and abuse and dutifully kiss the ring.

Remember this?

Or this?

Or, I don’t know, this?

Here’s John Bowden on the latest member of the GOP to sell off their hard-won credibility at a low, low price.

Nikki Haley says she will vote for Donald Trump

Trump to hold first New York rally in eight years

10:45 , Joe Sommerlad

With his travel schedule badly hampered by the Manhattan hush money criminal trial and his near-daily court commitments, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has had to get creative with campaigning ahead of the 2024 election.

Today, Trump is set to hold a rally in New York, his first in the Empire State in eight years, and not in a MAGA stronghold like the rural north, western region or even the borough of Staten Island.

No no. Trump is heading to the South Bronx.

His campaign has filed a permit for a 3,500-person gathering in Crotona Park at 6pm on Thursday 23 May.

Trump is expected to use the rally to talk about the economy, crime rates, and the migrant crisis.

“New Yorkers have suffered greatly thanks to Biden’s failed policies,” the campaign said, announcing the event.

Here’s more from Oliver O’Connell.

Trump to hold first New York rally in eight years

Florida classified documents case: Shouting match erupts at hearing as Trump and allies try to dismiss charges

10:15 , Joe Sommerlad

A hearing in Trump’s classified documents case devolved into a chaotic shouting match on Wednesday as lawyers fought over claims of a threat allegedly made to a defense attorney.

The hearing on Wednesday morning had been scheduled for Walt Nauta, Trump’s co-defendant and valet, to share arguments that the office of special counsel Jack Smith had vindictively and selectively charged him with offenses.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, did not issue a ruling, according to CNN.

The hearing was quickly taken over by a disagreement over an August 2022 meeting including prosecutor Jay Bratt and Stanley Woodward, Nauta’s defense attorney, who claimed in court and legal filings that Bratt tried to convince Nauta to cooperate with the prosecution against Trump by threatening to affect the possible nomination of a judgeship.

Nauta argues that he was charged for not cooperating with the Justice Department and its probe into Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified files.

Here’s more on the row from Gustaf Kilander.

Shouting match at classified documents hearing as Trump ally tries to dismiss charges

Truth Social: Trump pledges to ‘Make New York Great Again’ ahead of South Bronx rally

09:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Today’s big event in Trumpworld is the former president’s first New York rally in eight years as he takes to the rally stage in Crotona Park in the South Bronx.

Here he is cheerleading for it last night:

Truth Social: Trump resumes attack on Jack Smith over classified documents case

09:15 , Joe Sommerlad

There was also plenty more vitriol against his enemies in the legal sphere, with “Deranged” Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith back in his sights.

The Republican presidential candiate is also continuing to push that the lie that the FBI agents who raided Mar-a-Lago in August 2022 in search of the secret files he had stolen from the US government were prepared to kill him.

The reason that operation became necessary was because he refused to co-operate with the National Archives when it requested its material back.

Truth Social: Trump promises release of imprisoned journalist Evan Gershkovich in late-night deluge of posts

08:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump spent yesterday fundraising in Houston and Dallas and afterwards was up late on his social media platform, thanking Texas governor Greg Abbott and lieutenant-governor Dan Patrick for their support (Patrick was also at his trial in Manhattan earlier this week).

Among his more interesting posts, amid the usual stew of dubious graphs, Fox quotes and campaign videos, was this pledge to ensure the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been in prison in Vladimir Putin’s Russia for over a year on trumped up spying charges.

Trump has rarely shown much interest in his plight before.

VIDEO: RNC headquarters lockdown is 'concerning', White House says

08:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Stephen Colbert has new slogan for Trump after ‘unified Reich’ Truth Social post

07:00 , Amelia Neath, James Liddell

Stephen Colbert has taunted the Trump campaign after the posting of a video that included a reference to the “creation of a unified Reich” if Mr Trump returns to the White House in November.

“Trump posted a video touting how great a second Trump term would be ending with ‘MAGA!!’,” Late Show host Colbert explained. “But in grayscale underneath is the headline: ‘Industrial strength significantly increased driven by the creation of a unified Reich’.”

“Unified yike,” the host reacted. “That’s not a dog whistle that’s a whistle made of dog.”

Posted on Monday evening, the 30-second clip showed several hypothetical news headlines in the event that Mr Trump wins the presidential election in November, beating Democrat President Joe Biden.

READ MORE

AOC roasts Rudy Giuliani over his bizarre coffee venture: ‘Remember falling asleep with the TV on and waking up to the weirdest ads?’

06:00 , Katie Hawkinson

Democratic Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has roasted former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani over his latest business venture: selling coffee.

Mr Giuliani – who is grappling with bankruptcy and a string of legal issues – recently launched his new business Rudy Coffee offering three styles of coffee beans.

The three variations come with tag lines such as “fighting for justice” with an image of Mr Giuliani from his time as US attorney for the Southern District of New York; “enjoying life,” with an image of a flip-flop-wearing Mr Guiliani sitting on a beach; and “America’s mayor,” with an image of a smiling Mr Giuliani holding a cup.

While former president Donald Trump has chosen to sell sneakers and bibles to cover his legal fees, his former lawyer is flogging three coffee types: “bold,” “morning,” and decaf. The bags weigh two pounds each and can be purchased for $29.99.

The coffee will begin shipping in June with the first 100 bags signed by the former mayor.

“You’re not just treating yourself to exceptional coffee, you’re also supporting our cause,” Mr Giuliani said in a new video advertisement on X.

READ MORE

RNC headquarters plunged into lockdown after vials of blood addressed to Trump

05:15 , Gustaf.Kilander

The Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington DC was plunged into lockdown after vials of blood were sent to former president Donald Trump.

US Capitol Police were called to the Republican party’s building at around 7.45am ET on Wednesday morning to a report of a “suspicious package”.

A police spokesperson told The Independent that a package had been sent to the building containing two vials of blood. It was addressed to Mr Trump.

The building was briefly evacuated and a Hazmat team called in, with the USCP urging people to avoid the surrounding area.

READ MORE

Kristi Noem now banned from all tribal lands in South Dakota

04:30 , John Bowden

The feud between South Dakota’s governor and indigenous Native American tribes in her state escalated again on Wednesday as the ninth of the nine recognized tribes in the state voted to ban her from their lands.

It’s a decision that is unlikely to move the Republican governor and conservative culture war enthusiast, who has been publicly gunning for a shot at being Donald Trump’s running mate. But it does signal the deep dissatisfaction that the governor faces at home from her state’s Native population.

Noem’s feud with the tribes stems from a number of reasons, including disputes between the state government and tribal leaders during the Covid-19 pandemic and her efforts to save the doomed Keystone XL pipeline project. But her most recent spat with Native American leaders relates to her accusations that tribes are allowing drug cartels from Central America to operate on their territory.

She has also made comments about Native American parents and their children, which caused deep offense.

Her comments about cartels were made during a May 17 press conference: “I ask them .... Why have they not banished the cartels? Why have they not banished the cartel affiliates? Why have they only focused their attention on me, who has offered them help, and not gone after those who are perpetuating violence?” she said, at the time.

READ MORE

FCC to consider rules for AI-generated political ads on TV and radio, but can't touch streaming

03:45 , Ali Swenson

The head of the Federal Communications Commission introduced on Wednesday a proposal to require political advertisers to disclose when they use content generated by artificial intelligence in broadcast television and radio ads.

If adopted by the five-person commission, the proposal would add a layer of transparency that many lawmakers and AI experts have been calling for as rapidly advancing generative AI tools churn out lifelike images, videos and audio clips that threaten to mislead voters in the upcoming U.S. election.

Yet the nation’s top telecommunications regulator would only have authority over TV, radio and some cable providers. The new rules, if adopted, would not cover the tremendous growth in advertising on digital and streaming platforms.

“As artificial intelligence tools become more accessible, the commission wants to make sure consumers are fully informed when the technology is used,” FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement Wednesday. “Today, I’ve shared with my colleagues a proposal that makes clear consumers have a right to know when AI tools are being used in the political ads they see, and I hope they swiftly act on this issue.”

READ MORE

What is Donald Trump’s net worth?

03:00 , Joe Sommerlad, Ariana Baio

Donald Trump is having an expensive year.

Nearly six months into 2024, the former president is facing two multi-million dollar civil case rulings and mounting legal fees as he defends himself in various criminal courts.

The presumed nominee for the Republican Party was found liable in two civil cases and is awaiting sentencing in his first criminal trial – all based out of New York.

In January, a New York judge ordered Mr Trump to pay E Jean Carroll $83.3 million after he was found liable for defamation. In February a New York justice found Mr Trump liable for financial fraud and ordered him to pay more than $350m – though the bond was later brought down to $175m .

With the court rulings in place, here’s what Mr Trump’s financial situation is looking like.

Fani Willis sails to victory in Georgia primary – and celebrates with Grey Goose vodka

02:15 , Ariana Baio

Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County and prosecutor who brought charges against Donald Trump in Georgia, sailed to victory in her Democratic primary reelection race on Tuesday night – and celebrated with Grey Goose vodka.

Ms Willis had been the favorite in the race against her opponent Christian Wise Smith, who she also defeated in 2020.

In a landslide victory, she took more than 80 per cent of all Democratic votes.

Now, she will face off against Republican candidate Courtney Kramer during the general election in November.

In her victory speech, Ms Willis thanked supporters saying: “They want a district attorney that believes everyone deserves to be safe and everyone is entitled to some dignity.”

READ MORE

Trump will ‘give Netanyahu a blank check’: Youngest Jewish Congresswoman on Israel, Gaza and the election

01:30 , Eric Garcia

Progressive Democrats initially might have been wary of Sara Jacobs when she came to Congress in 2021. The Center for Responsive Politics showed that in 2020, she was the fifth most self-funded candidate, a product of the fact that her grandfather co-founded the semiconductor company Qualcomm. She also beat a candidate who had the endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders, who had won the California primary. It would be easy to dismiss her as a moneyed “nepo baby” with nothing to offer to the left of the party.

But since becoming a congresswoman, the 35-year-old California Democrat has distinguished herself as one of the more progressive voices in Congress.

When members of the Squad slept on the steps of the US Capitol in 2021 in protest of a rent moratorium coming to a close, Jacobs brought protesters pizza. She has been a consistent voice for defending women’s reproductive rights, always by leading with her own examples — she was the first member of Congress to discuss her own period on the House floor and has also openly talked about freezing her eggs.

READ MORE:

Trump will ‘give Netanyahu a blank check’: Youngest Jewish Congresswoman on Gaza war

Arkansas attorney general sends cease-and-desist letters to out-of-state abortion pill providers

Thursday 23 May 2024 00:45 , Ariana Baio

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin has sent cease-and-desist letters to two abortion pill providers in New York and Europe, demanding they stop marketing and selling the medication in his state, where abortion is illegal.

Mr Griffin announced on Tuesday that he was taking the first step in warning the companies - Choices Women’s Medical Center Inc based in New York, and Aid Access based in the Netherlands - to stop “advertising the availability of abortion-inducing pills” in Arkansas.

Both companies have created website pages that appeal directly to Arkansans and offer medical solutions to people in need of abortions.

Aid Access says people in Arkansas can buy the abortion pill, mifepristone and misoprostol, online and the company will ship it to them. Choices Women’s Medical Center Inc says it can connect Arkansas with its clinic “serving patients from Little Rock” to help.

“These companies must cease and desist advertising relating to the performance of abortion services in Arkansas immediately or face the possibility of lawsuits from my office,” Mr Griffin wrote.

READ MORE

Hunter Biden’s trial on felony tax charges delayed until September

Thursday 23 May 2024 00:00 , Katie Hawkinson

Hunter Biden’s tax charges trial will be pushed to September after his legal team advocated for a delay.

The president’s son will now face his tax trial on 5 September in California. US District Judge Mark C. Scarsi cited the “needs of the defendant” when ruling on the delay.

Mr Biden 54, was indicted on nine tax-related criminal charges in December. Prosecutors say he made millions from 2016 to 2020 and engaged in a lavish lifestyle while skipping out on more than $1.4m in taxes. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The trial date comes after Mr Biden filed to dismiss the charges, a request which Judge Scarsi denied last month.

“Defendant provides no facts indicating that the Government undertook charging decisions in any respect because of public statements by politicians, let alone based on Defendant’s familial and political affiliations,” Mr Scarsi said.

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DeSantis bans rainbow colors on Florida bridges ahead of Pride Month

Wednesday 22 May 2024 23:30 , James Liddell

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis doesn’t want the Sunshine Skyway Bridge lit up in rainbow colors for Pride Month – and instead it will be illuminated in red, white and blue.

The 429ft, four mile-long bridge spans Lower Tampa Bay to connect Pinellas County to Manatee County.

With June marking Pride Month, LGBTQ communities are set to be celebrated around the world. Sunshine Skyway Bridge’s 1,800 LED lights are typically lit up in rainbow colours that month.

But plans to shine a light on the event using the Sunshine State’s flagship bridge have been stymied by Mr DeSantis and the Florida Department of Transportation.

READ MORE:

DeSantis bans rainbow colors on Florida bridges ahead of Pride Month

GOP candidate for NC governor blasts public spending as his family nonprofit rakes in taxpayer funds

Wednesday 22 May 2024 23:00 , Brian Slodysko, Bill Barrow

In his bid to become North Carolina’s first Black governor, Republican Mark Robinson assails government safety net spending as a “plantation of welfare and victimhood” that has mired generations of Black people in “dependency” and poverty.

But the firebrand lieutenant governor’s political rise wouldn’t have been possible without it.

Over the past decade, Robinson’s household has relied on income from Balanced Nutrition Inc., a nonprofit founded by his wife, Yolanda Hill, that administered a free lunch program for North Carolina children. The organization, funded entirely by taxpayers, has collected roughly $7 million in government funding since 2017, while paying out at least $830,000 in salaries to Hill, Robinson and other members of their family, tax filings and state documents show.

The income offered the Robinsons a new degree of stability after decades of struggle that included multiple bankruptcies, home foreclosure and misdemeanor charges — later dropped — for writing bad checks. In Robinson’s telling, the financial turnaround provided by the organization also allowed for his ascent into the North Carolina government.

“Yolanda’s nonprofit was providing a salary for her that was enough to support us,” Robinson wrote in his 2022 memoir, noting that its growth gave him the freedom to quit his furniture manufacturing job in 2018 and begin a career in populist conservative politics.

READ MORE:

GOP candidate for NC governor blasts public spending as his family nonprofit rakes in taxpayer funds

Miami TV meteorologist blasts Ron DeSantis over new ‘Don’t Say Climate Change’ law

Wednesday 22 May 2024 22:30 , Katie Hawkinson

A Florida meteorologist has blasted Governor Ron DeSantisafter he signed a series of bills dubbed the “Don’t Say Climate Change“ laws.

Last week, Gov DeSantis signed three laws impacting climate policy and clean energy, including a bill that strips the term “climate change” from many parts of state law and repeals a 16-year-old policy listing climate change as a priority when making energy policy decisions.

The bills also prohibit wind farms offshore and near coastlines and protect against possible gas appliance bans.

“As Florida is on fire, under water and unaffordable, our state government is rolling back climate change legislation and language,” NBC6 meteorologist Steve MacLaughlin wrote on X.

Mr MacLaughlin said this legislation comes “in spite of the fact that the state of Florida, over the last couple of years has seen record heat, record flooding, record rain, record insurance rates and the corals are dying all around the state.”

READ MORE:

Miami TV meteorologist blasts Ron DeSantis over new ‘Don’t Say Climate Change’ law

The brand-new Democrats waging a cynical, confusing war against Donald Trump

Wednesday 22 May 2024 22:00 , John Bowden

“He doesn’t even live here!”

The news of Harry Dunn’s plans to run for Congress in Maryland’s 3rd congressional district went off like a fart in a crowded movie theater, at least among his soon-to-be-opponents. So much for any focus on local issues whatsoever: it was time to prepare to hear the phrase “January 6” on repeat for four months.

Dunn had become a fixture on CNN because of his past career as one of hundreds of Capitol Police officers assigned to protect lawmakers on the day of the attack. Of several who testified to the January 6 committee in 2022, Dunn provided a unique, deeply personal and raw perspective as a Black officer subjected to racist taunts by rioters during the hours-long siege on America’s seat of democracy.

Once a virtual nobody, Dunn was now a well-known figure in DC circles. He was spotted at house parties hosted and attended by Washington journalists, and continued to appear in the odd cable news hit long after congressional hearings related to the attack concluded. And now, he was rocketing to the top of the power rankings (or close to it) of Democratic candidates vying in a crowded primary for a seat in Congress.

His first act was to announce his candidacy, unsurprisingly, in a CNN interview. Of course, he was the only candidate to run for the seat who scored an in-studio interview with a national news network over the course of the primary: another perk of being Washington-famous.

READ MORE:

The Democrats waging a surprisingly cynical war against Donald Trump

Shouting match erupts at classified documents hearing as Trump and allies try to dismiss charges

Wednesday 22 May 2024 21:30 , Gustaf Kilander

A hearing in Donald Trump’s classified documents case devolved into a chaotic shouting match as lawyers fought over claims of a threat allegedly made to a defense attorney.

The hearing on Wednesday morning had been scheduled for Walt Nauta, Mr Trump’s co-defendant and valet, to share arguments that the office of special counsel Jack Smith had vindictively and selectively charged him with offenses.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Mr Trump, did not issue a ruling, according to CNN.

The hearing was quickly taken over by a disagreement over an August 2022 meeting including prosecutor Jay Bratt and Stanley Woodward, Mr Nauta’s defense attorney, who claimed in court and legal filings that Mr Bratt tried to convince Mr Nauta to cooperate with the prosecution against Mr Trump by threatening to affect the possible nomination of a judgeship.

Mr Nauta argues that he was charged for not cooperating with the Department of Justice and its probe into Mr Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified files.

“I had been recommended for a judgeship, that’s beyond dispute,” Mr Woodward said on Wednesday.

READ MORE

RNC headquarters plunged into lockdown after vials of blood addressed to Trump

Wednesday 22 May 2024 21:00 , Gustaf Kilander

The Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington DC was plunged into lockdown after vials of blood were sent to former president Donald Trump.

US Capitol Police were called to the Republican party’s building at around 7.45am ET on Wednesday morning to a report of a “suspicious package”.

A police spokesperson told The Independent that a package had been sent to the building containing two vials of blood. It was addressed to Mr Trump.

The building was briefly evacuated and a Hazmat team called in, with the USCP urging people to avoid the surrounding area.

READ MORE:

RNC headquarters plunged into lockdown after ‘vials of blood’ sent to DC building

AOC roasts Rudy Giuliani over his bizarre coffee venture: ‘Remember falling asleep with the TV on and waking up to the weirdest ads?’

Wednesday 22 May 2024 20:30 , Katie Hawkinson

Democratic Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has roasted former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani over his latest business venture: selling coffee.

Mr Giuliani – who is grappling with bankruptcy and a string of legal issues – recently launched his new business Rudy Coffee offering three styles of coffee beans.

The three variations come with tag lines such as “fighting for justice” with an image of Mr Giuliani from his time as US attorney for the Southern District of New York; “enjoying life,” with an image of a flip-flop-wearing Mr Guiliani sitting on a beach; and “America’s mayor,” with an image of a smiling Mr Giuliani holding a cup.

While former president Donald Trump has chosen to sell sneakers and bibles to cover his legal fees, his former lawyer is flogging three coffee types: “bold,” “morning,” and decaf. The bags weigh two pounds each and can be purchased for $29.99.

READ MORE:

AOC roasts Rudy Giuliani over his bizarre coffee venture

Coming up today: ‘MAGA Cruise’ on the Hudson River ahead of Trump’s New York rally

Wednesday 22 May 2024 20:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Organizers promise a night to remember and you wouldn’t bet against it.

“Sailing from Midtown, Manhattan the evening before Tump [sic] Rally Bronx. Party like a Rock Star with New York’s Finest MAGA Patriots,” the flier reads, spelling the key word wrong.

Here’s more from Oliver O’Connell.

‘BYOB’ MAGA cruise around New York announced to coincide with Trump’s Bronx rally

Classified documents hearing devolves into chaotic shouting match

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:39 , Gustaf Kilander

A hearing in Donald Trump’s classified documents case devolved into a chaotic shouting match on Wednesday as lawyers fought over claims of a threat allegedly made to a defense attorney.

The hearing on Wednesday morning had been scheduled for Walt Nauta, Mr Trump’s co-defendant and valet, to share arguments that the office of special counsel Jack Smith had vindictively and selectively charged him with offenses.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Mr Trump did not issue a ruling, according to CNN.

But the hearing was soon taken over by a disagreement over a August 2022 meeting including prosecutor Jay Bratt and Stanley Woodward, Mr Nauta’s defence attorney, who claimed in court and in legal filings that Mr Bratt tried to convince Mr Nauta to cooperate with the prosecution against Mr Trump by threatening to affect the possible nomination of a judgeship.

Trump-backed candidate wins special election for former speaker Kevin McCarthy’s seat

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Republican California assemblymember Vince Fong, who received the backing of former president Donald Trump, won the special election on Tuesday to replace former House speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Fong, who is close to McCarthy and got his support, beat Tulare County sheriff Mike Boudreaux to serve the remainder of the former speaker’s term in the House, which ends in early January.

The newly-elected member said in a statement that he’ll focus on border security, supporting small businesses and investing in water storage important to agriculture in the area.

Gustaf Kilander has more.

Trump-backed candidate wins special election for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s seat

RNC HQ placed on lockdown after ‘vials of blood’ sent to DC building

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:00 , Joe Sommerlad

The Republican National Committee (RNC) headquarters in Washington DC was placed on lockdown on Wednesday after a suspicious substance was found.

Two vials of blood were sent to the headquarters, US Capitol Police (USCP) told The Independent.

“At approximately 7.45am, the USCP responded to the 300 block of First Street, SE, for the report of a suspicious package,” a spokesperson said.

“The package was just cleared by our Hazardous Incident Response Division. It contained two vials of blood,” the spokesperson said shortly after 10am ET.

“The source of the package and its contents will be further investigated.”

Gustaf Kilander has this report.

RNC headquarters plunged into lockdown after ‘vials of blood’ sent to DC building

Stephen Colbert has a new slogan for Trump after ‘unified Reich’ Truth Social post

Wednesday 22 May 2024 18:30 , Joe Sommerlad

The late-night hosts have, of course, been having a field day with the Republican presidental candidate’s latest Nazi-related controversy (honestly America, that is a sentence no one should ever have to write).

Here’s Amelia Neath and James Liddell with the latest from Colbert.

Stephen Colbert has new slogan for Trump after ‘unified Reich’ Truth Social post

Trump shovels donors’ funds into hefty seven-figure legal bills

Wednesday 22 May 2024 18:00 , Joe Sommerlad

The Republican presidential candidate started the month owing his lawyers a seven-figure sum as the ex-president burns through thousands of dollars per day to cover his burgeoning legal fees.

Founded and controlled by Trump, the Save America PAC has been his primary fundraising and political spending wing since he left the White House.

The PAC, composed of wealthy pro-Trump donors, has absorbed most of the cost from his legal troubles, as he faces 88 felony counts including 34 from his hush money trial alone.

James Liddell has more.

Trump owes lawyers seven-figure sum as donors’ funds shovelled into legal bills

Trump fundraising off false claim FBI planning to shoot him during Mar-a-Lago raid

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:30 , Joe Sommerlad

The dishonesty of Trump’s claim that the Feds were specifically authorised to shoot him during its classified documents raid on Mar-a-Lago two years ago is just jaw-dropping.

The wording he alludes to is standard practice, according to the Justice Department’s guidelines, and can in no way be construed as an order to use “deadly force” against him.

The agents involved, furthermore, knew he would not be at home at the time anyway, hence choosing the moment they did.

But as undeterred by inconvenient truths as ever, he assures his supporters “I nearly escaped death” as he begs for their loose change, a matter of weeks after his own lawyers argued in front of the US Supreme Court that he, as president, should be entitled to order the assassination of a political rival.

And look who’s taking credit for it all!

Here’s James Liddell on the ever-preposterous Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Marjorie Taylor Greene twists ‘standard’ FBI policy as ‘plan to assassinate’ Trump

Democrats launch ‘MAGA Veepstakes’ to target extreme views of Trump’s running mate hopefuls

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:00 , Joe Sommerlad

The Democratic National Committee has launched a campaign to target the “desperate race to the bottom” to become Trump’s running mate.

The DNC’s “Trump’s MAGA Veepstakes” will highlight the Republican vice presidential hopefuls’ anti-abortion views, election lies, and support for gutting healthcare and Social Security.

“Like any narcissist, Donald Trump will choose a VP in his image: an extreme, anti-choice MAGA election denier who wants to rip away Americans’ freedoms and sell out working families to help their special interest donors,” DNC communications director Rosemary Boeglin said in a statement shared with The Independent.

“Trump has floated dozens of names, and while he trots them around like sad show ponies on the campaign trail, it doesn’t really matter who’s in his good graces one day and who’s shooting their dog the next.

“Trump’s VP contenders have all already shown they pass his extreme, MAGA litmus test.”

Here’s more from Alex Woodward.

Democrats launch ‘MAGA Veepstakes’ to target extreme views of Trump’s hopefuls

Fani Willis sails to victory in Georgia primary – and celebrates with Grey Goose vodka

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:30 , Joe Sommerlad

The prosecutor who brought charges against Trump in Georgia sailed to victory in her Democratic primary re-election race on Tuesday night – and celebrated with a signature glass of Grey Goose vodka.

Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, had been the favorite in the race against her opponent Christian Wise Smith, who she also defeated in 2020.

In a landslide victory, she took more than 80 per cent of all Democratic votes.

Now, she will face off against Republican candidate Courtney Kramer during the general election in November.

In her victory speech, Willis thanked supporters saying: “They want a district attorney that believes everyone deserves to be safe and everyone is entitled to some dignity.”

Ariana Baio reports.

Fani Willis sails to victory in Georgia primary and celebrates with Grey Goose vodka

Join our reporters for a Reddit AMA on Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:18 , Joe Sommerlad

Alex Woodward and Ariana Baio have been covering Trump’s hush money trial for The Independent every single day since Judge Merchan first gavelled proceedings open on Monday 15 April.

For the past month, they’ve endured long lines and all kinds of weather to bring you live coverage and analysis from inside the courthouse.

As the trial finally draws to a close, you can find them on Reddit from 12pm ET taking your questions on all aspects of the last five weeks.

From the blockbuster testimony of Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen to Trump sleeping at the bench, ask them anything!

Giuliani pleads not guilty to Arizona fake electors plot

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Ex-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has pleaded not guilty to election interference charges in Arizona after being served court papers at his 80th birthday party.

Giuliani, former personal attorney to Donald Trump, faces nine felony charges for his alleged role in a 2020 presidential election interference plot.

The former mayor has been charged alongside 17 others in the scheme.

He appeared virtually at his arraignment on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was required to post a $10,000 bond. His trial will begin in October.

Katie Hawkinson has the details.

Rudy Giuliani pleads not guilty to charges in Arizona fake electors plot

Florida classified documents case: Judge to hold first hearing since indefinitely postponing case

Wednesday 22 May 2024 15:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Judge Aileen Cannon, presiding over Trump’s classified documents case in Florida, will hold her first hearing with prosecutors and defense lawyers on Wednesday since indefinitely postponing the trial earlier this month.

Judge Cannon will hear arguments regarding Trump’s request to dismiss the indictment brought against him by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith on the basis that it fails to clearly articulate a crime and instead amounts to “a personal and political attack against President Trump” with a “litany of uncharged grievances both for public and media consumption”.

Prosecutors on Smith's team will argue against that request.

The case had been set for trial on 20 May but Judge Cannon cited numerous issues she has yet to resolve as the basis for cancelling it, with no further indication as to when it may be ready to start.

Trump himself is not expected to be present for the hearing, which will begin at 10am ET in Fort Pierce, but the motion filed by his lawyers is just one of several they have submitted seeking to dismiss the case, some of which have already been denied.

Also scheduled for Wednesday are arguments by a Trump co-defendant, his valet Walt Nauta, to dismiss the charges against him.

The arguments come one day after a newly-unsealed motion revealed that defense lawyers are seeking to exclude evidence from the boxes of records that FBI agents seized during a search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach in August 2022.

The defense lawyers asserted in the motion that the raid was unconstitutional and “illegal” and the FBI affidavit filed in justification of it was tainted by misrepresentations.

Smith's team rejected each of those accusations and defended the investigative approach as “measured” and “graduated”.

It said the search warrant was obtained after investigators collected surveillance footage showing what it said was a concerted effort to conceal the boxes of classified documents inside the property.

“The warrant was supported by a detailed affidavit that established probable cause and did not omit any material information,” prosecutors wrote.

“And the warrant provided ample guidance to the FBI agents who conducted the search. Trump identifies no plausible basis to suppress the fruits of that search.”

The defence motion was filed in February but was made public on Tuesday, along with hundreds of pages of documents from the investigation that were filed to the case docket in Florida.

Those include a previously-sealed opinion last year from the then-chief judge of the federal court in Washington, which said that Trump's lawyers, months after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, had turned over four additional documents with classification markings that were found in Trump's bedroom.

The March 2023 opinion from US district judge Beryl Howell directed a former lead lawyer for Trump in the case to abide by a grand jury subpoena and to turn over materials to investigators, rejecting defence arguments that their cooperation was prohibited by attorney-client privilege and concluding that prosecutors had made a “prima facie” showing that Trump had committed a crime.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2024, has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

trump says he didn’t testify at hush money trial because of ‘my past’: live updates

Judge Aileen Cannon (AP)

Trump denies he’s ‘looking at’ restricting access to contraception after all

Wednesday 22 May 2024 15:00 , Joe Sommerlad

The former president has said he is “looking at” policy that may restrict access to contraception in some states and promised a “very comprehensive policy” on the issue shortly.

Trump was asked during an interview in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, if he was in favour of restrictions on an individual’s right to contraception. He did not rule out the possibility.

"We’re looking at that, and I’m going to have a policy on that very shortly and I think it’s something that you’ll find interesting,” he said, adding that it would be released “within a week or so”.

“You will find it, I think, very smart. It’s a very smart decision,” the Republican beamed.

However, shortly after reporting of his remarks circulated in the media, Trump furiously back-peddled, posting a typically capitalised message to his Truth Social platform denying the claims – which he described as a “Democrat fabricated lie”.

Confusing.

Here’s Mike Bedigan to unpack it all.

Trump says he’s ‘looking at’ restricting access to contraception

Trump team is nervous about running mate’s position on abortion

Wednesday 22 May 2024 14:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump’s aversion to answering tough questions about abortion may now be impacting his search for a running mate.

Puck News reported on Tuesday that the former president and his team are actively considering the effect a Republican hailing from a state with restrictive abortion laws could have for his electoral chances — and they’re assuming the worst.

Trump’s team is apparently worried that choosing a prospective veep from such a state would open the candidate up to uncomfortable questions about the issue, even as he has sought to dodge the political blowback from moderates by refusing to endorse a national ban.

John Bowden has more.

Trump team is nervous about potential running mate’s position on abortion

For the first time, Biden campaign raises less cash than Trump

Wednesday 22 May 2024 14:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Joe Biden’s campaign has raised less cash than the Donald Trump campaign for the first time as the two 2020 rivals prepare to face off again this November.

Last month, the Biden campaign raised more than $51m, far below the $90m haul it took in in March, it revealed in its latest filings.

The haul was also significantly lower than the $76m raised by his rival, after the former president boosted his effort with the Republican National Committee and attended a string of major fundraisers.

But Democrats still lead Republicans in overall cash and Biden himself has significantly more cash than Trump.

Gustaf Kilander reports.

Biden campaign raises less cash than Trump for the first time

Trump’s campaign says it will begin accepting contributions through cryptocurrency

Wednesday 22 May 2024 13:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Of course it does.

The Republican’s campaign is reportedly hoping to build up a “crypto army” in advance of Election Day.

Donald Trump's campaign says it will begin accepting contributions through cryptocurrency

Navarro predicts ‘mass deportations’ in second Trump term

Wednesday 22 May 2024 13:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump’s jailed former trade adviser Peter Navarro has warned of “mass deportations” should his former boss return to the White House during an interview conducted from inside prison.

Navarro, 74, is serving a four-month sentence at the low-security FCI Miami prison in Florida after he was convicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress.

He was charged in 2022 after he refused to provide testimony or documentary evidence when requested by the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

In the new interview, Navarro conducted from behind bars via email with Semafor, he gave his predictions on the “unfinished business” that would be back on the table, should Trump regain the presidency in November.

Mike Bedigan reports.

Peter Navarro predicts ‘mass deportations’ in second Trump term in prison interview

Trump apologists out in force on Fox News as trial testimony concludes

Wednesday 22 May 2024 12:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Alina Habba led the charge of the brainwashers working to ensure viewers of the conservative news channel are not tempted into thinking for themselves about the hush money affair.

“Gym” Jordan was also out there doing the devil’s work none too persuasively.

Meanwhile, over on CNN, Kaitlan Collins challenged Senator James Lankford on voting against his own border bill under the influence of Trump.

Biden says Trump ‘uses Hitler’s language’ after Truth Social video

Wednesday 22 May 2024 12:00 , Joe Sommerlad

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday both condemned former president Donald Trump’s use of Nazi rhetoric after he shared — then deleted — a video referencing a “unified Reich” in the US after his hypothetical re-election this fall.

Speaking at a fundraiser in Boston, Biden called his predecessor and 2024 opponent “the same guy that uses Hitler’s language, not America’s”.

“It’s no surprise that when he, about four months ago, he talked about – I think maybe a little longer - that Hitler did some quote some good things,” he said.

Separately, Harris told attendees at the Service Employees International Union convention in Philadelphia that the ex-president’s use of such rhetoric shows the stakes of this year’s presidential election.

“This kind of rhetoric is unsurprising coming from the former president and it is appalling,” she said.

“And we’ve got to tell him who we are. And once again, it shows our freedoms and our very democracy are at stake”.

Andrew Feinberg and James Liddell have this report.

Biden says Trump ‘uses Hitler’s language, not America’s’ after Truth Social video

After furious backlash, Trump deletes ‘unified Reich’ Truth Social video

Wednesday 22 May 2024 11:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump has finally deleted a video posted to his Truth Social account that included a reference to the “creation of a unified Reich” if he returns to the White House in November.

The 30-second clip, which was posted on Monday evening and quickly stoked outrage, showed several hypothetical news headlines imagining a Trump victory, one of which contained the disturbing phrase in question.

James Liddell has the story.

Trump deletes ‘unified Reich’ Truth Social video after furious backlash

Florida classified documents case: Justice Department reveals top secret files found in Trump’s bedroom

Wednesday 22 May 2024 11:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump has lashed out once again at Joe Biden and the Department of Justice (DoJ) after it was revealed that classified documents were found stashed in his bedroom at Mar-a-Lago.

The former president, in a typically loud post on his social media platform Truth Social, claimed that FBI agents had been authorized to use “deadly force” during the “unconstitutional” raid on his Florida property that took place in August 2022.

Four documents marked “classified” were found in Trump’s bedroom, according to a newly-unsealed opinion by US District Judge Beryl Howell.

The 87-page document found prosecutors had presented compelling evidence that the former president had knowingly stashed national security documents in his home and then tried to conceal them when the DoJ tried to retrieve them.

In her opinion, Judge Howell wrote: “Notably, no excuse is provided as to how the former president could miss the classified-marked documents found in his own bedroom at Mar-a-Lago.”

Here’s Mike Bedigan’s report.

Trump lashes out after DOJ reveals classified documents were found in his bedroom

New York hush money trial: Trump claims people are being ‘mugged and killed outside’ courthouse

Wednesday 22 May 2024 10:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s some more of the defendant’s preposterous and hysterical rhetoric from outside court yesterday as he accused Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg of wasting time on a frivolous lawsuit when he should be prosecuting violent street crime.

Donald Trump claims people are being ‘mugged and killed outside’ courthouse

New York hush money trial: Trump’s lawyers rested their case after calling just two witnesses. Experts say that’s not unusual

Wednesday 22 May 2024 10:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s a look at the thinking behind the very brief case presented by the defense this week.

Trump's lawyers rested their case after calling just 2 witnesses. Experts say that's not unusual

New York hush money trial: Trump said he ‘absolutely’ planned to testify – what changed?

Wednesday 22 May 2024 10:00 , Joe Sommerlad

He wouldn’t answer that question when he was asked about it at court yesterday.

In which case, here’s Ariana Baio to have a go.

Trump said he ‘absolutely’ planned to testify in hush money trial. So what changed?

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