“…the sheer volume of these legal problems indicates that — after a moment of maximum invincibility in the White House — Trump has fallen to a point of historic vulnerability before the law,” our colleagues David A. Fahrenthold, Amy Gardner, Shayna Jacobs, and Spencer S. Hsu report this morning.
- “He has lost not only the formal immunities of the presidency and the legal firepower of the U.S. Justice Department. He also is without some of the informal shields that protected him even before he was president: his reputation for endless wealth, and his clout as a political donor in New York.”
By the numbers: “The Washington Post identified at least six ongoing investigations that could involve Trump, as well as the 29 lawsuits in which he or one of his companies is named as a defendant," per David, Amy, Shayna, and Spencer.
- “Of the investigations, the oldest and broadest appear to be two in New York: A criminal probe begun by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance (D) in 2018, and a separate civil inquiry begun in 2019 by state Attorney General Letitia James (D).”
- “The New York Attorney General has focused on two properties for which Trump claimed $46 million in tax deductions by using ‘conservation easements’ — giving up some of the value of his land by declaring he would not develop it. The federal tax breaks were based on the value Trump gave up. James’s investigators want to know if that was exaggerated.”
- “In addition, James’s investigators have asked about Trump’s Chicago hotel, probing whether Trump paid the proper taxes when a lender forgave more than $100 million in debt he owed on the property, according to court filings. And she has asked if he misled potential lenders for his 40 Wall Street tower and other properties by sending them ‘Statements of Financial Condition’ that exaggerated his assets and underplayed his debts. She has taken depositions from both Trump’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and Eric Trump.”
Vance "has indicated interest in the same issues in New York and Chicago — and requested records from Trump properties as far away as Miami, per David, Amy, Shayna, and Spencer.
- “…Vance has a tool no investigator has ever had before: the former president’s tax returns, which also contain voluminous information about his businesses.”
- “Vance obtained them last month after years of litigation. Tax experts say they should allow investigators to see years worth of data, on dozens to hundreds of Trump subsidiaries. Vance has obtained the records under grand jury secrecy rules, which means they cannot be shared with James.”
- Notable: "Neither Vance nor James has formally accused Trump of wrongdoing. Vance, like James, declined to comment on the specifics of the cases.”
INCOMING: “In addition to the two New York investigations, Trump also faces three probes related to his efforts to overturn his loss to President Biden. Two are in Georgia, where Trump, in a phone call, pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to ‘find’ enough votes to let him win.”
- Trump is being investigated by the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) in a criminal investigation focused on whether Trump broke state laws against “'solicitation of election fraud,' conspiracy, racketeering, or making threats related to the election administration.”
- “Separately, Raffensperger’s own office is also investigating Trump’s actions — and, by law, could refer the case to state or federal prosecutors.”
- And in D.C., City Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) has opened a criminal investigation into whether Trump actions on Jan. 6 violated a D.C. law against “inciting or provoking violence.”
More: “The U.S. Justice Department, meantime, is conducting a broad investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. The Justice Department declined to answer when asked if it might investigate Trump’s role in the insurrection as well.”
Among the 29 lawsuits Trump is facing, there's a melange of disputes: About 18 of them stem from legal issues regarding the former president's properties. Other suits have resulted from Trump's presidency, David, Amy, Shayna, and Spencer report.
- “In Washington, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) filed a suit accusing Trump of conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election… Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) has filed a similar suit against Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr., who also spoke to the crowd before the assault."
- Then, there are the defamation lawsuits from E. Jean Carroll and Summer Zervos, “who say Trump sexually assaulted them, filed their suits while Trump was president, but they say the assaults took place years earlier.”
- “One of the most unusual legal sagas involving Trump has to do with a group of former and current tenants in Trump buildings, who allege that Trump and his late father illegally raised their rents by using phony invoices to inflate their maintenance costs. Their case is based on a scheme revealed in 2018 by the New York Times.”
On the Hill
RISE OF THE ‘TALKING FILIBUSTER’: “Democrats favoring a filibuster overhaul moved swiftly Wednesday to seize on President Biden’s new embrace of changing Senate rules to ease the way for his agenda, hoping to inject momentum to alter the long-standing rules,” our colleagues Annie Linskey, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis report.
- “Biden’s embrace of a return to the ‘talking filibuster’ was spurred by a growing conclusion that his ambitious agenda — from climate action to immigration reform to civil rights bills — will otherwise meet a quick death.”
- “Some Democrats have begun debating which bill would present the most promising vehicle for reforming the filibuster. Some suggest a far-reaching voting rights bill that recently passed the House … Others argue that it would be more effective to pick a bill with broad bipartisan support, like an infrastructure overhaul.”
- Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) weighs in: “I’m still at 60. … I haven’t changed,” Manchin told CNN's Manu Raju, rejecting calls to lower the 60-vote threshold.
- Asked about creating a carveout for specific issues: “No, no, no. That’s like a little bit being pregnant.”
- Would a “talking filibuster” actually help Democrats? “It’s unclear,” per the LA Times's Chris Megerian. “If a few senators banded together, they could share speaking duties and block any activity in the Senate for long stretches, rather than putting the onus on a single senator to keep talking. So modifying the rules like Biden suggested may not open the floodgates like progressives are hoping for.”
- Either way: “We just can’t wait two years to get things done,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told our colleagues. “Rules are blocking us from progress.”
In the agencies
FED PAINTS A ‘ROSY’ FORECAST: “The Federal Reserve expects the U.S. economy to grow at its fastest pace in four decades this year as the unemployment rate falls to 4.5 percent … and then ticks down closer to pre-pandemic levels — 3.9 percent in 2022 and 3.5 percent in 2023,” our colleague Rachel Siegel reports. “GDP growth [will] reach 6.5 percent this year, up from its previous projection of 4.2 percent.”
- “It’s the Fed’s rosiest picture of the economy since the coronavirus pandemic gripped the globe last year. But it also comes with risks. Consumer prices will jump, at least temporarily, as Americans spend their stimulus money and slowly return to normal life.”
- “Inflation is expected to hit 2.4 percent this year, compared with the Fed’s earlier estimate of 1.8 percent — the kind of pop some economists have warned could actually harm the economic recovery.”
- Notable: Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell and other Fed leaders said “there is no reason to expect that inflation will spiral out of control."
Thank Biden's stimulus package: The Fed “anticipates that the covid-19 vaccination campaign and trillions of dollars of fiscal stimulus will propel the U.S. economy to its fastest expansion since the early 1980s,” the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Kiernan reports.
At the White House
🚨ARMED MAN ARRESTED OUTSIDE VICE PRESIDENT'S RESIDENCE: Paul Murray, “a 31-year-old man from Texas was arrested Wednesday outside [Vice President Harris’s] residence in Northwest Washington after police said they got a tip that he had been ‘exhibiting concerning behavior,’” our colleague Peter Hermann reports.
- “Police said they found a firearm, ammunition and an extended ammunition magazine in his vehicle, which was found parked in a garage.”
RESURRECTING UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS: “Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords [D-Ariz.], announced Tuesday a six-figure TV ad buy, highlighting the universal appeal of universal background checks and urging the Senate to cast aside a gun lobby and pass the policy into law,” a spokesperson told Power Up.
- “The national ad campaign comes as the House passed H.R. 8 with strong bipartisan support and Biden committed to signing the bill … Giffords’s new ad, ‘We All Know,’ encourages the Senate to pass the legislation.”
Special report: Our colleagues Bonnie Berkowitz and Chris Alcantara explain the numbers that grow with each mass shooting.
- The database was updated to reflect the eight people killed Tuesday at three spas in Atlanta: The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office identified four victims killed in the shooting: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
Outside the Beltway
ATLANTA GUNMAN CHARGED: “Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old suspect in shootings at three Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, was charged Wednesday with murder and homicide,” our colleagues Paulina Firozi and Mark Berman report.
- “Atlanta police said the suspect told them his actions were not racially motivated. The suspect claimed he had a ‘sex addiction,’ according to police, and wanted to eliminate temptation,” our colleagues Silvia Foster-Frau, Marian Liu, Hannah Knowles and Meryl Kornfield report.
- But Asian Americans see the shooting as a culmination of years of racism, misogyny and exotic fetishization. “The shooter said it wasn’t racially motivated, but on the other hand, he’s going specifically to these spas where Asian women work precisely to serve the sexual fantasies of white males,” David Palumbo-Liu, a Stanford professor, told our colleagues, “so to disentangle them is really to do a disservice to the fact that these things are so linked together.”
Democrats have linked the Atlanta massacre to anti-Asian rhetoric throughout the pandemic. “Advocates and Democratic lawmakers said it was hard to separate Tuesday’s killings from the recent increase in anti-Asian animus, including rhetoric from" Trump, our colleagues Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Marianna Sotomayor report.
- “Trump repeatedly blamed China for unleashing the virus on the world — and tanking the United States’s economy. During the tirades, Trump repeatedly used racially insensitive names like ‘China virus,’ ‘Wuhan virus’ and ‘kung flu.’” He used that same phrasing on Tuesday, during a Fox News appearance.
- “The discriminatory language has historic roots in anti-Asian xenophobia, which has portrayed Chinese people as ‘disease-ridden threats to America,’” our colleagues Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg, Razzan Nakhlawi and Andrew Ba Tran report.
- The numbers: “The coalition Stop AAPI Hate has been documenting anti-Asian attacks since the pandemic started last March and says there have been nearly 3,800 hate-fueled incidents against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the U.S.,” per our colleagues Foster-Frau, Liu, Knowles and Kornfield.
- “The shooting made visible the worst-case scenario many Asians living in the United States feared. Many sadly expressed a similar sentiment: We knew this was coming.”
Meanwhile, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jay Baker who came under fire for saying Long had “a bad day,” previously promoted “shirts that called the novel coronavirus an ‘IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA,’” our colleagues Kornfield and Knowles report.
- “Baker’s comments and social media history fueled long-running concerns about racism in law enforcement."
The myth of the 'model minority'
CRISIS… WHAT CRISIS? “Republican lawmakers were unable to get [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas to say the Biden administration is facing a ‘crisis’ at the border as a result of its policy decisions during a lengthy virtual hearing Wednesday of the House Homeland Security Committee,” our colleague Nick Miroff reports.
- "Testifying for more than four hours, Mayorkas continued to describe the record influx of unaccompanied teenagers and children crossing the Mexico border as a ‘stressful challenge’ that Biden officials are working “round-the-clock" to address."
- “GOP lawmakers were at times exasperated by the responses from Mayorkas, who made no missteps during the hearing and replied with calm, carefully worded responses, even after Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) said he found the secretary’s testimony 'nauseating.'”
Background: “The situation at the southern border is complex,” the Associated Press's Jill Colvin writes.
- “Since Biden’s inauguration, the country has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people encountered by border officials, with 18,945 family members and 9,297 unaccompanied children encountered in February — an increase of 168% and 63% from the month before, according to the Pew Research Center. That creates an enormous logistical challenge, since children, in particular, require higher standards of care and coordination across agencies.”
- Key: “Still, the encounters of both unaccompanied minors and families remain lower than at various points during the Trump administration, including in spring 2019."
Reminder: Biden's immigration plan would eventually allow most undocumented immigrants to become citizens. Daniela Santamariña, Danielle Rindler and Joe Fox explain how: