May 21, 2024

Welcome back to Sneak. Tonight's edition is 695 words, a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Trump trial staredown

Robert Costello leaves the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in March of 2023. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pair of high-drama moments pierced the Trump trial today in New York City.

  • Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen admitted stealing from the Trump Org.
  • Judge Juan Merchan temporarily cleared the courtroom and asked defense witness Robert Costello: "Are you staring me down?"

Why it matters: Cohen was the prosecution's star witness, and Costello was the defense's star Cohen critic.

  • In the day's early testimony, Cohen acknowledged stealing $30,000.
  • "You stole from the Trump Organization, right?" Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked Cohen today, per the New York Times.
  • "Yes, sir," Cohen replied.

In the afternoon, Merchan dressed down Costello — who was formerly Cohen's legal adviser — over his reactions while on the witness stand.

  • "If you don't like my ruling, you don't say 'Jeez,' and you don't say 'strike it,' because I'm the only one who can strike testimony in court," Merchan said.
  • "You don't give me side eye and you don't roll your eyes," he said, per NBC News.

When Costello wasn't being called to task by the judge, he testified Cohen was "absolutely manic" when the two met in 2018 after the FBI raided Cohen's hotel room and office.

  • "I swear to God, Bob, I don't have anything on Donald Trump," Costello testified that he was told by Cohen at the time.

The bottom line: "This was one of the crazier days of this trial, less for the actual testimony than the repeated interruptions," noted the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman.

2. FDIC chair prepared to quit

FDIC chair Martin Gruenberg on Capitol Hill on May 16. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

FDIC chair Martin Gruenberg is prepared to step down after a scathing report on a culture of harassment and retaliation inside the agency, he told staff in an email today.

The big picture: Gruenberg said he's willing to move aside once a successor is confirmed, which could take time and allow President Biden to keep him in the position indefinitely.

  • Biden wouldn't get to choose an acting chair as the role would automatically go to Travis Hill, the vice chairman of the board and a Republican.
  • "In light of recent events, I am prepared to step down from my responsibilities once a successor is confirmed," Gruenberg said.

State of play: The announcement came the same day Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the head of the Senate Banking Committee, called on Biden to choose a new FDIC leader.

  • Gruenberg stepping down would leave the FDIC board deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans, making it difficult for the agency to move forward on any controversial rulemaking, Axios' Emily Peck reports.
  • It would also change the balance of power among the three banking regulators — the FDIC, the OCC and the Fed.

3. ICC blowback

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a ceremony marking Memorial Day for fallen soldiers of Israel's wars. Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via Getty Images

The International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision to seek an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has garnered near universal condemnation from Senate Democrats.

Why it matters: Netanyahu has been increasingly isolated by Democrats due to his handling of the war in Gaza, but the move from the ICC has many in the party jumping to his defense.

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the decision by the ICC "profoundly unfair" and "reprehensible."

The big picture: Democrats scoffed at the grouping of Israeli leaders with top officials for Hamas.

  • Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), a top Israel backer, told Axios the decision was "trash" and the ICC has "destroyed their own credibility."
  • Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) also told Axios there was "no equivalence" between Israel and Hamas and the decision is "wrong and it's dangerous."
  • Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), in a joint statement with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), slammed the ICC's "political move" that "seeks to undermine Israel as it defends itself."

The other side: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) praised the ICC, saying it was "right to take these actions" and argued Netanyahu has "waged an unprecedented war of destruction against the entire Palestinian people."

The bottom line: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said today the House may vote on sanctions against the ICC for seeking the warrants, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.

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4. Pic du jour

Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff arrive at a reception for Jewish American Heritage Month in the Rose Garden of the White House.