Judge bars Trump from presenting own closing arguments in fraud trial – live | US Congress

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Judge bars Trump from presenting own closing arguments in fraud trial

Joanna Walters

Joanna Walters

Donald Trump will be barred from his reported aim to deliver his own closing argument on Thursday in his New York civil business fraud trial.

Judge Arthur Engoron had reportedly been prepared to allow the former president, in a highly unusual move, to address the court tomorrow in addition to his lawyers doing so.

But fresh news now being reported by the Associated Press – Engoron has “rescinded permission”.

Trump is a defendant in the case brought by the New York attorney general, Letitia James. She claims his net worth was inflated by billions of dollars on financial statements that helped him secure business loans and insurance.

An attorney for Trump informed Engoron earlier this week that Trump wished to speak during the closing arguments, and the judge approved the plan, according to one of the two people who spoke to the AP.

Read more about the case from the Guardian’s Lauren Aratani, who had a great report from last weekend, here.

New York Attorney General Letitia James leaves the courtroom after a proceeding in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court.
New York Attorney General Letitia James leaves the courtroom after a proceeding in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Key events

Lauren Aratani

Lauren Aratani

Donald Trump’s real estate empire is facing peril.

For 11 weeks, the inner workings of his company have been discussed at a New York fraud trial. A judge has already decided Trump committed fraud. He will rule on punishment later.

Trump’s companies could lose their New York licenses, making it nearly impossible for him to run his real estate business. He is also facing a vast fine – state lawyers made the case for a $370m penalty on Friday – which could force the company to sell off its properties.

At this point, prosecutors and Trump’s defense team have rested their cases. Closing arguments are set to take place on Thursday.

The last three months offered Trump and his lawyers their chance to defend Trump in court against accusations that he purposely exaggerated his net worth on government documents. Instead, they worked to uphold the shimmering portrait Trump has painted of himself for the last 40 years. The story that gave Trump celebrity and, ultimately, the White House could lead to the downfall of his company.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators outsied Trump Tower in New York.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside Trump Tower in New York. Photograph: Michael Brochstein/Sopa/Rex/Shutterstock

A scathing pre-trial summary judgment made the trial an uphill battle for Trump’s team. Issued on 26 September, less than a week before the trial started, the ruling said documents submitted by prosecutors showed Trump had committed fraud. The ruling is currently under review by an appellate court, but if upheld, Trump will lose his business licenses, severely curtailing his real estate business in New York.

You can read more here.

Trump in court with his lawyers in Manhattan.
Trump in court with his lawyers in Manhattan. Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP

Judge bars Trump from presenting own closing arguments in fraud trial

Joanna Walters

Joanna Walters

Donald Trump will be barred from his reported aim to deliver his own closing argument on Thursday in his New York civil business fraud trial.

Judge Arthur Engoron had reportedly been prepared to allow the former president, in a highly unusual move, to address the court tomorrow in addition to his lawyers doing so.

But fresh news now being reported by the Associated Press – Engoron has “rescinded permission”.

Trump is a defendant in the case brought by the New York attorney general, Letitia James. She claims his net worth was inflated by billions of dollars on financial statements that helped him secure business loans and insurance.

An attorney for Trump informed Engoron earlier this week that Trump wished to speak during the closing arguments, and the judge approved the plan, according to one of the two people who spoke to the AP.

Read more about the case from the Guardian’s Lauren Aratani, who had a great report from last weekend, here.

New York Attorney General Letitia James leaves the courtroom after a proceeding in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court.
New York Attorney General Letitia James leaves the courtroom after a proceeding in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Senior Democrat decries Mayorkas impeachment efforts as ‘circus’

Joanna Walters

Joanna Walters

House Republicans today condemned Alejandro Mayorkas during the opening hearing in the impeachment process they’ve instigated against the homeland security secretary over record numbers of migrants making unauthorized entry across the US-Mexico border.

Mark Green, the Republican chairman of the committee leading the impeachment effort, said in opening remarks that Mayorkas had intentionally encouraged illegal immigration with lax policies, Reuters reports.

But congressman Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the committee, called the impeachment effort a “circus sideshow” crafted by Republicans “to try to distract from their own failures” to address border security.

Homeland Ranking Member Bennie Thompson in his opening statement runs through GOP “circus sideshow list, arguing that Mayorkas impeachment is effort to win political points in campaign season

— Mica Soellner (@MicaSoellnerDC) January 10, 2024

The impeachment effort is the culmination of years of Republican criticism of Joe Biden’s border management and the president’s moves to reverse some of the harshest policies of Donald Trump.

“The secretary’s actions have brought us here today, not ours,” Green said at the hearing, calling Mayorkas “the architect of the devastation” at the border.

Not only Democrats across both congressional chambers but also Senate Republicans have questioned the attempt to remove Mayorkas over a policy dispute, which legal experts say does not satisfy the high standard for impeachment.

Border security is a core issue for Republican base voters and the party has intensified its criticism of the Biden administration in the run-up to 5 November election.

The only cabinet secretary to ever be impeached was Ulysses Grant’s secretary of war in 1876 following allegations of corruption – demonstrating the exceptional nature of today’s proceedings.

More on Thompson:

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Dem on the committee, says Green is only holding a hearing to impeach Mayorkas because he told donors he would.

“Get the popcorn” and “it’s going to be fun,” Green told donors at a campaign event, which was caught on tape. pic.twitter.com/MGF0iIUKSd

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) January 10, 2024

Interim summary

It’s been a lively morning on Capitol Hill, to say the least. And there is a lot more action to come so stay with us as we bring you the US political news as it happens.

Here’s where things stand:

  • Hunter Biden made a surprise appearance at a congressional hearing, as Republicans on the US House oversight committee convened to consider a resolution to hold the US president’s son in contempt of Congress over his refusal to comply with a subpoena for testimony over his business interests.

  • Appearing with his attorney, Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden sat silently in the front row of the hearing room as the chair and vice-chair of the oversight committee delivered their opening statements.

  • After Hunter Biden walked into the House oversight committee hearing room in Washington, Republican Nancy Mace laid into him, prompting objections from Democrats. “Who bribed Hunter Biden to be here today? That’s my first question,” she said.

  • Meanwhile, in a separate proceeding, House Republicans leading the homeland security committee were barreling ahead with efforts to impeach homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, part of a broader effort to make immigration and border security a defining issue of this year’s presidential election. The committee was holding its first hearing in the process, but Mayorkas was not attending.

  • A group of constitutional law experts has written an open letter saying that impeaching Mayorkas simply because Republicans disagree with his policies is unjustifiable.

The Republican campaign against Hunter Biden centers on allegations that his father, president Joe Biden, benefited illicitly from his business dealings overseas.

The GOP has turned up no proof of such ties. What they have discovered is that, per the testimony of Hunter Biden’s former business partner, he would sometime put his father on speakerphone during business meetings, but their conversations were casual.

As he was departing the House oversight committee room, Hunter Biden was asked why he had his father talk to his clients. Here’s what he had to say:

Reporter: “Mr. Biden, why did you put your dad on speakerphone with your business partners if he had no involvement in your business?”

Hunter Biden: “Do you have a dad? Does he call you? Do you answer the phone?” pic.twitter.com/jEp6QxvQFz

— The Recount (@therecount) January 10, 2024

According to Reuters, Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell spoke briefly to reporters about why the president’s son made an unexpected appearance in the House oversight committee’s audience.

“We have offered to work with the House committees to see what and how relevant information to any legitimate inquiry could be provided,” Lowell said after Biden left the hearing room.

“Our first five offers were ignored. And then in November, they issued a subpoena for a behind-closed-doors deposition, a tactic that the Republicans have repeatedly misused in their political crusade to selectively leak and mischaracterize.”

As he departed the oversight committee room, Hunter Biden indicated he would have testified publicly, if the lawmakers had allowed him.

From NBC News:

NEW: As he was leaving I asked Hunter Biden if we would testify today if the committee asked him to.
He looked back at me and responded YES: pic.twitter.com/tGyYvzoZEB

— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) January 10, 2024

Republicans are moving to hold the president’s son in contempt of Congress for not honoring a subpoena to testify behind closed doors.

It’s unclear where Hunter Biden is now, or if he plans to discuss his trip to the Capitol this morning. Here’s the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly with a look at what House Republicans had planned for the president’s son, before the disruption caused by his unexpected appearance before the oversight committee:

Republicans on the US House oversight committee will on Wednesday consider a resolution to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress over his refusal to comply with a subpoena for testimony.

The personal struggles and legal travails of Joe Biden’s surviving son are well-known. Republicans are targeting him as part of attempts to portray his father as corrupt and therefore secure his impeachment, as an expected election rematch with Donald Trump looms.

In early December, Hunter Biden, 53, defied a subpoena for testimony to be delivered in private, instead appearing in public on Capitol Hill.

“Republicans do not want an open process where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless inquiry, or hear what I have to say,” Biden told reporters. “What are they afraid of? I am here.”

On Monday, James Comer of Kentucky, the Republican oversight chair, and Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chair of the House judiciary committee, released their contempt resolution and an attendant report.

They said: “Hunter Biden’s willful refusal to comply with our subpoenas constitutes contempt of Congress and warrants referral to the appropriate United States attorney’s office for prosecution.”

The story of Hunter Biden’s brief trip to hostile territory – the House oversight committee hearing room – is better seen than read.

Here’s the moment South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace addressed him directly after his unexpected appearance:

Democrat Jared Moskowitz, speaking while Biden was still there, asked the committee to vote to have the president’s son testify publicly. The Republican-issued subpoena Biden defied demanded his testimony behind closed doors, and the GOP rejected Moskowitz’s motion:

Moskowitz: Let’s vote. Let’s take a vote. Who wants to hear from hunter right now today? Anyone? Come on. Who wants to hear from hunter? No one. So I’m a visual learner. And the visual is clear, nobody over there wants to hear from the witness. pic.twitter.com/EpANiLntEb

— Acyn (@Acyn) January 10, 2024

And here’s the scene when Biden decided to leave as rightwing Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene began speaking:

Hunter Biden departs oversight committee room

And as quickly as he appeared in the House oversight committee room, Hunter Biden has departed, just as rightwing Republican lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene was about to speak.

“Apparently you’re afraid of my words,” Greene said, as the president’s son and his attorneys left.

Republicans caught off guard after Hunter Biden turns up at hearing to hold him in contempt

House Republicans clearly did not expect Hunter Biden to appear in person for an oversight committee hearing where they are considering whether to hold him in contempt of Congress.

The president’s son is accused of defying a subpoena to testify behind closed doors, though Republicans have made separate and unproven allegations that he engaged in corrupt foreign business dealings.

After walking into the hearing room, Republican Nancy Mace laid into him, prompting objections from Democrats.

“Who bribed Hunter Biden to be here today? That’s my first question,” began Mace in the first remarks by a lawmaker directed at Biden since he arrived in the room. “Second question: You are the epitome of white privilege coming into the oversight committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed. What are you afraid of? You have no balls to come up here.” At that last comment, Biden appeared to wave his hand in a sign of exasperation.

Democrats were not happy with that line of questioning, with one lawmaker responding, “if the gentlelady wants to hear from Hunter Biden, we can hear from him right now. Mr. Chairman, let’s take a vote and hear from Hunter Biden.”

That would fly in the face of the GOP’s tactics when dealing with Biden. They had demanded he be deposed in private, but on the day that was to happen, the president’s son instead appeared at the Capitol and told reporters he would only testify publicly.

While Republicans have yet to turn up proof for their allegations that Joe Biden benefited from corrupt business dealings overseas, Hunter Biden is facing several federal charges related to failing to pay taxes and lying to buy a gun.

The Messenger caught Hunter Biden walking into the House oversight committee’s room as its hearing was kicking off:

Hunter Biden at Capitol as Republicans move to hold him in contempt – report

Hunter Biden has unexpectedly turned up at the Capitol, as two Republican-led House committees move to hold him in contempt of Congress for refusing to appear for a behind-closed-doors deposition.

CNN reports that he is expected to attend the House oversight committee hearing, which just convened:

New: Hunter Biden is expected to make an appearance at the House Oversight Committee meeting marking up a resolution to hold him in contempt of Congress, Democrat and Republican sources tells CNN. Plans are fluid but this is the expectation.

— Annie Grayer (@AnnieGrayerCNN) January 10, 2024

The GOP’s move to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas comes after months of vilifying the homeland security chief for the surge of migrants crossing the souther border, the Guardian’s Lauren Gambino reports:

House Republicans are barreling ahead with their effort to impeach homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, part of a broader effort to make immigration and border security a defining issue of this year’s presidential election.

The House homeland security committee will hold its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday, after more than a year of intensifying attacks by Republicans, who have accused Mayorkas of being derelict in his duty to secure the US-Mexico border. If Republicans are successful, Mayorkas would be the first cabinet secretary impeached in nearly 150 years.

Thousands of migrants are arriving at the southern US border each day, straining border patrol resources and causing strain to the authorities and services in many cities and towns across the country. The situation is an acute political vulnerability for the president, who has been unable to stem the record number of migrants from across the western hemisphere traveling north to escape violence, political upheaval, poverty and natural disasters.

The inquiry into Mayorkas’s handling of the nation’s borders is being led by the House homeland security committee, as opposed to the House judiciary committee, which typically oversees impeachment proceedings but is focused on the separate impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.

Constitutional law experts say GOP allegations against Mayorkas ‘come nowhere close’ to justifying impeachment

A group of constitutional law experts has written an open letter saying that impeaching Alejandro Mayorkas simply because Republicans disagree with his policies is unjustifiable.

“Simply put, the Constitution forbids impeachment based on policy disagreements between the House and the Executive Branch, no matter how intense or high stakes those differences of opinion,” the group writes in the letter published by Just Security.

“Yet that is exactly what House Republicans appear poised to undertake. The charges they have publicly described come nowhere close to meeting the constitutional threshold for impeachment. Their proposed grounds for impeaching Secretary Mayorkas are the stuff of ordinary (albeit impassioned) policy disagreement in the field of immigration enforcement. If allegations like this were sufficient to justify impeachment, the separation of powers would be permanently destabilized.”

Among the signatories is Donald Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general during Republican George HW Bush’s presidency.

House GOP trains sights on Mayorkas, Hunter Biden as right wing revolts over spending plan

Good morning, US politics blog readers. House Republicans are today making their latest moves in their campaign to use the chamber’s powers against Joe Biden’s allies, but the real drama may be latest bout of infighting between lawmakers over government spending. Rightwing Republicans are upset about a preliminary government funding agreement speaker Mike Johnson agreed to with Democrats over the weekend, and the tension may heighten further today, when the GOP holds a behind-closed-doors conference meeting.

In public, the party will be busy taking the Biden administration, and the president’s family, to task. At 10am eastern time, the House homeland security committee will hold a hearing into the failures of Alejandro Mayorkas, as part of their effort to impeach the secretary for what they say is his failure to stop the surge of migrants crossing the southern border. The oversight committee will convene at the same time to begin contempt proceedings against the president’s son Hunter Biden for not appearing for a deposition. We’ll give you the highlights of all these events.

Here’s what else we are watching today:

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and national security council spokesman John Kirby will brief reporters at 1pm eastern time. Expect them to be pressed for more details on defense secretary Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization.

  • Ron DeSantis will campaign in Des Moines, Iowa at 11am, with five days to go until the state’s first-in-the-nation Republican presidential caucus.

  • An appeals court could rule on Donald Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution for trying to overturn the 2020 election. A three-judge panel in Washington DC heard arguments yesterday, and sounded skeptical of the former president’s defense.





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