October 02, 2023

πŸŽƒ Happy Monday. The new government funding deadline is Nov. 17 β€” just in time for everyone's favorite political day of the year: Thanksgiving.

  • Smart Brevityβ„’ count: 1,081 words ... 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Furious Trump faces judge

Trump sits in the courtroom, flanked by his attorneys. New York AG Letitia James (top left) looks on from the first row. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A livid former President Trump attended the first day of his civil fraud trial today in New York, where he used every free moment as a chance to excoriate the judge who will determine the fate of his business empire.

Why it matters: Trump's palpable anger on social media and at the courthouse offered a sampling of how his combative rhetoric on the campaign trail could play out β€” and potentially backfire β€” in his legal defense.

  • Politically, Trump's grievance campaign in the wake of his four indictments has been a success β€” catapulting him to a 40-point lead over the rest of the GOP field.
  • Legally, the wisdom of provoking judges and prosecutors with endless claims of a "witch hunt" will now face a critical test β€” especially with Trump himself vowing to take the stand.

Driving the news: Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron β€” who ruled last week that Trump committed fraud by inflating his wealth and assets on financial records β€” will preside over a non-jury trial to determine damages in the case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

  • Depending on the outcome of the trial, Trump could lose control of some of his flagship New York properties β€” striking at the heart of the real estate empire that vaulted him into the national and political spotlight.
  • Trump claimed outside the courtroom that he is the one who has been "defrauded," accusing Engoron of drastically undervaluing his properties and failing to account for the prestige of the Trump "brand."
Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

What they're saying: "This is a judge that should be disbarred. This is a judge that should be out of office. This is a judge that some people say could be charged criminally for what he's doing," an indignant Trump told reporters at the courthouse.

Between the lines: While this is a civil trial, Trump has made no such distinction when comparing the case brought by James to the 91 criminal charges he faces in New York, D.C., Florida and Georgia.

  • "It all comes down from the DOJ. They totally coordinate this in Washington," Trump baselessly declared, accusing James and other prosecutors of coming after him for political purposes.
  • Asked why he decided to attend the trial in person, Trump replied: "Because I want to watch this witch hunt myself."

What to watch: Engoron appears to have ignored Trump's incendiary rhetoric so far. But the former president may not be so lucky at his federal trial in D.C., where prosecutors have again called for a gag order in light of his threatening statements on social media.

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2. πŸ”₯ McCarthy showdown begins

Screenshot via X

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) filed his highly anticipated "motion to vacate" against Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tonight, triggering a vote on whether to oust him within the next two legislative days, Axios' Juliegrace Brufke reports.

Why it matters: No speaker has ever been removed by a motion to vacate, which can be triggered by a single member but requires a majority of the House to succeed. The House has only voted on a motion to vacate one time β€” in 1910.

What they're saying: "I have enough Republicans where at this point next week one of two things will happen," Gaetz told reporters after introducing the resolution.

  • "Kevin McCarthy won't be the speaker of the House or he'll be the speaker of the House working at the pleasure of the Democrats, and I'm at peace with either result because the American people deserve to know who governs them."
  • "If Democrats want to own Kevin McCarthy, they can have him," he added.

The backdrop: Conservative hardliners are fuming about McCarthy's decision to rely on Democratic votes to avert a government shutdown, triggering a potential rebellion against his leadership.

What to watch: McCarthy is expected to need Democrats to remain speaker. House Majority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has yet to disclose leadership's plans, telling reporters that McCarthy had not reached out to him.

  • The far-right House Freedom Caucus appears to be divided on the issue, with several members criticizing the timing of Gaetz's motion.

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3. πŸš’ Bowman's damage control

Screenshot via CNN

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) is attempting to rally his Democratic colleagues around him after Republicans introduced a resolution to expel him from Congress for pulling a House office building alarm on Saturday.

  • The incident, which took place as Democrats were trying to delay a vote on a short-term spending bill, is being investigated by Capitol Police.

Driving the news: Democratic staffers were bewildered by a messaging memo that Bowman's office sent out on Google Docs this afternoonΒ β€” before restricting access to it seven minutes later, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.

  • The memo included a list of nine suggested talking points, including: "I believe Congressman Bowman when he says this was an accident. Republicans need to instead focus their energy on the Nazi members of their party before anything else."
  • Bowman's office then restricted access to the documents, saying "it was leaked to reporters," according to emails viewed by Axios.

What they're saying: "I just became aware that in our messaging guidance, there was inappropriate use of the term Nazi without my consent," Bowman said in a statement on X.

  • "I condemn the use of the term Nazi out of its precise definition. It is important to specify the term Nazi to refer to members of the Nazi party & neo-Nazis."

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4. πŸ‘€ Kelly confirms Trump's veteran bashing

Photo: Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images

In a blistering statement to CNN, former Trump chief of staff John Kelly confirmed β€” for the first time β€” anonymous accounts of Trump disparaging U.S. service members and veterans during his presidency.

  • That includes an explosive 2020 story in The Atlantic that reported Trump referred to Americans killed in war as "suckers" and "losers," which the then-president vigorously denied at the time.

"There is nothing more that can be said," Kelly, a retired four-star general, concluded. "God help us."

Read the full statement

πŸ“¬ Thanks for reading tonight. This newsletter was copy edited by Kathie Bozanich.