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We’re Talking Real Money

February 1, 2024
Notes
Transcript
Trump hasn’t re-defamed E. Jean Carroll, so it basically takes about $83 million to get him to shut up.  Plus, the big risk in the Georgia case, MAGA will be rooting for San Francisco, and Charlie talks about getting off the hamster wheel. Ben Wittes is back with Charlie Sykes for The Trump Trials.
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Welcome to the Bulwark podcast. Every Thursday, we devote the podcast to the Trump trials, and there are so many of them But this week, it feels like more like waiting for godot. We’re waiting on Judge and Warren. Lisa says we’re recording this. We’re waiting on the DC circuit.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:26

    Court of appeal. We’re waiting on Fannie Willis to come up with her response. We’re waiting on Judge Aileen Cannon to basically do anything. So We’re kinda doing a lot of waiting, Ben. How are you, by the way?
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:39

    Happy Thursday.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:40

    Happy Thursday to you, Charlie Sykes, yeah, we’re in this state of suspended animation, and it is aggravating. I got a I got an email from one of your colleagues yesterday, which just had subject line. What’s up with the DC Circuit? And I was like, I don’t know. You know, it’s frustrating.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:02

    We could pretend to know. I mean, we have a podcast, so we’re supposed to pretend to know. Right? We’re supposed
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:07

    to Here’s my reckless speculation about it. You have two judges here who are from the liberal wing of the court. You have one who is from the conservative wing of the court. And so there’s, I think, really, two possibilities of what the hold up here is. One is trying to, very careful negotiation to keep the court unanimous is one possibility, and the other possibility is that Judge Henderson, Karen Lacraft Ron DeSantis writing either a lengthy dissent or a lengthy concurrence that is taking her some time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:45

    And using a quill pen?
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:47

    Yes. And doing it in a slow fashion.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:50

    Dipping it in ink I honestly don’t know which
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:53

    is more probable. My impression from the oral arguments was that they were the three judges were not that far apart. I did have the impression based on the briefing schedule that they were quite aware of the time exigencies here. Although, of course, nobody is allowed to speak the reasons for the time exigencies. But, that they were aware of them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:19

    And so I’m surprised by how long it’s taking and a little bit puzzled by it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:25

    Well, we’re also waiting on, Judge, and Goren, who was, had been widely expected to release that ruling in the New York fraud case yesterday. We spend a lot of time on it because by the time this podcast comes out, we may know what he’s he’s doing. And, again, this all speculation he didn’t meet his own deadline. There there are kind of these new accusations about deficiencies in the Trump organization’s financial reporting. Is that a possibility?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:48

    I mean, this is a The independent monitor was appointed back in twenty twenty two flags this potentially significant irregularity in this report in the company. So could you kind of refresh people’s memory, what that might be?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:02

    Well, so there is a an independent monitor who has been pointed to, you know, make sure that that assets are handled appropriately given that the attorney general is asking for a fine that would require a lot of their liquidation, and she’s also asking for the business licenses of the relevant players to be revoked, or in some cases permanently and in some cases for lengthy periods of time. And so there’s some actor other than the current management of the Trump organization, which remember has been people forget this, but convicted as an organization of criminal offenses. Right? And and it chief operating officer has or its chief financial officer has pled guilty. So, you know, this civil case is only one of their problems.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:56

    Right? And a lot of these assets at some point, assuming these judgments stand up on appeal are going to be used to satisfy the judgment. And so they’re the independent monitor is there to make sure that they are not liquidated and or mismanaged in the meantime. So, you know, that could be one of the explanations for the for the delay. The other The other explanation is more prosaic and probably explains the DC Circuit too, which is writing good judicial opinions is actually hard.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:31

    And, sometimes takes a little longer than you want it to. And when you’re dealing with a one cent may be future president of the United States. You do wanna get it right and you do wanna, you know, particularly if you’re gonna take hundreds of millions of dollars of his assets away. Tell the stakes are a little bit lower for the DC Circuit, which is immediately gonna get appealed. And, you know, and is in any event not gonna find determine whether Trump is guilty or not.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:59

    But judge Engoran is gonna produce an opinion with a giant round number that says, you know, this is the amount of money that the state of New York gets from New York, and that’s gonna be a huge deal when when that number comes out, it’s very likely to dwarf the eighty three million dollars that E. Jane Carroll got last week. And so you know, you do wanna be careful when you’re writing that opinion because you really don’t wanna be the judge’s schlub who issues a a big judgment and then gets reversed by the court of appeals.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:35

    Yeah. I think of applying, you know, occam’s razor. These are the most obvious, explanations is that they wanna get this right. They wanna make sure that it is iron clad, you know, they’re looking over their shoulder for the appeals courts and all of that. So that I think that seems reasonable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:50

    So there’s really no point in speculating about it until it comes out. I I wanna talk about, the Eugene Carol verdict, coming down. And I have some questions to you about just about what’s a lot of money these days. And, you know, what what’s enough money and what is actually real money? I actually have a reason for asking all this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:07

    But before we do that, can we just talk about the elephant in the room that, you know, that you and I have been doing this podcast for a long time. I’ve been doing it for I said this morning five years, actually, this started off as the weekly standard daily podcast. So six years. And then if you add on a radio show that I used to do, you got another twenty three years. And Ben, I blame you for this that, that I decided this was a good time to get off the the daily hamster wheel of crazy and did announce that next Friday will be my last podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:37

    And I just wanted to mention that at least at the top of this in case people are tuning in. We’re done yet. We’re gonna do this podcast. I’m gonna be doing podcasts next week. But I I think it’s I’m stepping back, and I I kinda blame you, Ben, for all this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:50

    So So I I’m not sure how I feel about being blamed for this. I did tell you, a week or so ago that not having to have opinions when I left the Washington Post editorial page when I had to have opinions about every court opinion, and I had to and being able to decide what not to read was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:14

    You did say that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:15

    I didn’t say that. And I but let the record reflect that I in no way knew at the time that you were contemplating stepping back And had I known, I absolutely would not have said that because that encouraged you, apparently, to take this drastic step that I so regret. All jokes aside Charlie Sykes podcast has been so meaningful to so many of us. And I say that as somebody who,
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:45

    you
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:45

    know, most recently has been a participant in it on a weekly basis. But long before that was a regular listener Ron DeSantis person who appeared on it. I it’s one of the few podcasts I listen to absolutely every day, except when I’m on it. I know that there are, you know, just a gazillion people who have been moved by this kind of daily chronicle of the crazy and your meditations on it and your conversations with people on it both at the weekly standard and here. And I just wanna say on behalf of all of them how much we have valued your scurrying on the particular hamster wheel.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:38

    Thank you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:38

    And, while we don’t begrudge you getting off of it and having that moment of of absolute liberation where you don’t have to, have opinions about everything anymore. We will miss you very much, and hope that we will get to continue to follow you in other forms.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:58

    I really, really, really do appreciate that. And, you know, I I really have enjoyed doing the podcast. As I as I mentioned in my newsletter this morning, you know, I had the opportunity to every day talk with, you know, the smartest people around smart and interesting people, you know, and I was thinking back to when we first started this. If I’d made a list of the kinds of people that I wanna talk about, I think I have most of them. I mean, I remember going to a conference in the before times.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:23

    And I was thinking about, you know, there were a lot of interesting people there. I don’t think think I’ve even told you this story. And I’m thinking I’ve never met Ben Wittis. I really wanna meet Ben Wittis. I wonder, you know, Ben Wittis is over there somewhere.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:35

    And I was thinking that how cool it would be. And here, you and I, like we’re we’re having these conversations. So I I have been, you know, very honored, very, very blessed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:43

    Can I just say about that? That that is one of the weird effects of the Trump era is that it brought together all kinds of people who previously would have had no reason to interact with one another. Not out of hostility or political tribalism. It’s just that you know, my world overlapped with Bill’s crystal’s world enough that we knew each other by face and name and occasionally emailed, but not enough that I knew the Sarah Longwells or Tim Miller’s or Charlie Sykes’s you know, one of the oddities of the Trump era is that it caused people across the political spectrum including people like me who exist uneasily on the political spectrum to decide that their fundamental political identity was that they were pro democracy and to put aside a lot of other things and bond on that base us.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:47

    And that has been an extraordinary experience. You know, I can just name, you know, all the people that that we’ve, you know, made common cause with that we don’t agree. And I agree with you. I I’m also sort of uncertain on the political spectrum, you know, because a lot of this has, you know, broken old alliances and made you rethink various things, except about democks. And I wanna make it clear that I am not giving up the fight.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:08

    I’m not walking away from this. One of my thoughts was, you know, you can’t do this in the middle of the election year. And, you know, as I thought about it, I thought, no, that that’s a decision I’ve made for the last forty years, you know, stick through the election year. But in this current environment, and I’m not saying that everybody else needs to make the same thing. The fire hose is a very real thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:27

    And it is imagine your brain being hooked into Twitter twenty four seven, and all of this stuff just going through. Is somebody that, you know, I love history, American history, you and I have talked about that. I keep thinking that you have a better perspective if you just step back that when you are in the crazy every single day, you’re not necessarily going to have the most important thoughts. You know, look, a lot of what we do is completely disposable anyway. But in order to understand our time, know, I mean, my life is getting up at five AM every morning and writing a two thousand word email and newsletter and then getting on a podcast with really, really smart people.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:08

    Now I’m I’m not complaining that’s hard. It’s just that am I doing the best possible job I can do? Am I contributing as much as I can? Am I fully understanding this extraordinary moments you’re in. I mean, that that’s really been the process that I’ve been going through in part.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:23

    So let me say for those members of the audience for whom that does not sound super hard. That’s super hard. Writing every day, is hard. And having an hour of good questions, having done enough reading to conduct an interview in a in a serious way across the range of subjects that you do it. And then doing the political commentary that you do on television as well.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:54

    That’s a a hell of a grind to do day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, year in. Look, I I wrote editorials for the post every day for ten years. I know the writing thing every day, but the writing and podcasting thing in combination, that’s a tough slog.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:16

    Well, and then there’s another thing as well. I’ve thought obviously, you know, long and hard about how we got to this moment. How easy it is to get caught up in, you know, partisan cheerleading and tribalism. It happened. I got drawn into it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:31

    No back in the what do you call them? The, you know, the aughts, whatever. When I was on conservative talk radio, and after a while, you know, it becomes about the team. You’re not thinking about things. You’re looking for ammunition.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:43

    And it’s so easy to basically put on that jersey and feel that you have to advocate I don’t wanna do that anymore. In an election year, I think it’s harder and harder to maintain independence of thought. And to step back and say, okay. What’s really going on as opposed to being right in the trenches where all you can see is the bayonet in front of you. And the need for you to stick the bayonet in somebody else.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:07

    And so I don’t want to go from one sort of tribal mono thinking into another tribal mono thinking. I also think it’s very, very difficult, Ben. To be a center right commentator in this particular moment because the right has become so corrupted it has been so subsumed with demagoguery and hackery and everything. And yet, you know, it’s not enough to simply say, okay, I I’m gonna change my hat. Because I think we still need to talk to the voters who, in fact, are are confused by all of this, you know, and wanna have trusted voices.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:49

    So So all of that is going on. And I I don’t have a formula for it, but back in twenty sixteen, when Trump came along, I realized I can’t keep doing this, the analogy you’re using with my wife all the time is I feel like I’m strapped to the mast, you know, and the and the frigate is being blown around and I gotta get off this frigate. I felt in twenty sixteen that that was the time to make a change, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. But I also feel that I can do I can engage in this fight in the long run more effectively by not basically putting my face up against the fire hose. And and and part of that is that twenty twenty four is not just about twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:30

    We have to sort of pace ourselves because this is going to be a fight that is gonna last for a very, very long time, long after probably, I’m gone. You’re a young guy, but for decades. And so I think it’s important to maintain your independence, maintain your perspective to be able to step back and maybe think things through as opposed to having an opinion on twenty things every morning, to have an opinion on one thing for a while, cumulatively, you will deal with all the issues without driving yourself and everybody around you insane. I’m sorry, guys, but, you know
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:08

    You may not deal with all the issues. Right. And that’s fine. Right? You may deal with a narrow subset of the issues.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:17

    If we can switch roles here, and I can interview you about this for a minute. Do you have a sense of what the next Friday is your last bulwark podcast? Which means I get to say one more. We’ll be back week, and we’ll do this all over again. But this is the last week I get to say it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:34

    What happens to you the Monday after that? You don’t get up at five o’clock to write morning shots. What are you gonna be doing? What are you gonna are you gonna sleep in? Are you gonna work on a book?
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:46

    What’s the next act?
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:47

    Well, I don’t know, except that that Monday, the odds are that I’ll probably have to get up at three forty five to do morning, Joe. So I don’t get to sleep in. That’s the only thing. I don’t know the answer to that. But could we go back to blaming you for this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:00

    Sure. Because the other thing that you wrote that really sort of hit me was when you ran through the list of all the things that you don’t care about. Because, you know, this is part of the things I’m realizing is that you get so overwhelmed with all stuff, you go, you know, I’m sorry. I just don’t care enough to have an opinion about everything. And if you step back, and you, I guess, give yourself a little more time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:25

    You might, again, still not care, or you might care about other things. But an answer to your question, I don’t know, but I’m not leaving this fight. I just want you to know that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:34

    Yeah. No. I I hear you. I just wanna say about that list. That when I wrote it, I think the first item on the list is that I don’t care who Taylor Swift is dating.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:43

    And I have to say that the Maga freak out about who Taylor Wift is dating and has made me actually not care about it, but I’ve been so amused by how angry people are at her and how angry people are about her that I’ve decided I’m just I’m a Swifty now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:03

    I am with you on this. By the way, did you see the tweet? Because I thought this was really interesting this morning. Liz Cheney, tweets to Taylor Swift, something like you are a national treasure. And I wrote, the planets are aligning.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:16

    There’s something going on. All of these things are converging. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:21

    Taylor is inadvertently becoming part of the democracy movement, and I have a lot of time for that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:27

    I have time for that as as well. But it is interesting. You know, I mean, you know, we’ve talked about how how the right wing has completely lost its mind. This is one of those extraordinary moments where even people on the right, I think, are kind of going, maybe this is not the smartest thing. We have a new poll out showing Joe Biden as a six point lead now on Donald Trump, and a lot of it is the gender gap.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:49

    And the Republican party’s response is, yes. Let’s put Taylor Swift at the top of
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:55

    our enemies list. Taylor Swift, Disney, the NFL. We’re picking fights with pillars of American popular culture that are not obviously left aligned I mean, I I have not dug through Taylor Swift’s music, but I don’t think of her as a left I’ve
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:18

    seen the concert.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:19

    I don’t think of her as left a left figure. And, you know, she’s not particularly political. And at some point, you’re just at war with the culture. And when you go to war with the culture, you lose.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:32

    Wait. And you’re going to war with the culture in a way that you’re suddenly getting the attention of people who are not hardcore voters. You have a lot of sort of unmotivated, disconnected voters. And suddenly, you’re out there going, hey, you know, this is our jihad against Taylor. So and suddenly you get their attention, but in the way, the worst possible, in the worst possible way.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:53

    So, see, Ben, US what I wanna do. I wanna write more about things like this seriously, but I wanna do it in a more serious way. It’s easy to do the hot takes and the cheap shots, which I do not mind doing. I wanna make this very clear. But, you know, for people who just listen to the podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:09

    There was a time in the before times when I actually wrote whole books. I’ve written nine books. I like long form journalism. I like writing columns that are thoughtful. When I walk my dogs, you know, and listen to audible, okay, I’m now I’m giving too much information.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:25

    You know? By the way, I just finished a Nathaniel Philbrook book about the Battle of York Town, which is just freaking fantastic. I mean, I don’t know if you like stuff. I’m just
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:33

    Was it called?
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:34

    It’s called in the eye of the hurricane, I think. And it’s about George Washington and the French and everything. It’s also very interesting, you know, having, you know, French grandchildren the detailed contribution of the French to the American Revolution, which I think people know about on a surface level, but it’s really an extraordinary story. But anyway, But I also listened to the columns of of Charles Krahammer and George Will. It’s now an anachronism to just listen to the thoughtfulness, the historical perspective, just the human decency in all of this, that this is the way conservatives use to sound.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:11

    And it’s, like, it feels like it’s a lost art. It feels like an archaeological dig in some sense that we’re not doing all of that I actually love doing the the daily short hits newsletter, but at the end of my career, at this moment, is that what I wanna be doing? I’m sorry. That’s too much about me. If you wanna talk about Taylor Swiftmore, I am more than into it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:31

    No. I I am much more interested in you than I am in Taylor Swift. I I’ve never written, a line in an article, much less a lead. I don’t care about Charlie Sykes, but I have written that about Taylor Swift and her boyfriend. Which I’d slightly regret now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:46

    Well, you you never knew. I mean, this is one of those things where eventually all the planets will align that everyone has to connect it in some way. What I love, by the way, particularly, is the fact that now, apparently, if Taylor Swift and Travis Kelsey are now coding as Libps. Right? Does that mean that conservative mug America has to root for San Francisco to win the Super Bowl.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:14

    I know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:16

    You dig your own grave culturally. And, I think I think I think, yeah, they have to root against, the flyover state and, for San Francisco. And, you know, it’s It’s, Maga and Nancy Pelosi.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:31

    Yeah. You you knew that they were taking a weird turn when Ben Shapiro, you know, the the voltaire of the right decided that he was gonna, what, you know, throw Barbies in the trash because the movie Barbie was a thing at Speaking of seriousness, let’s talk about I wanna talk about money, which I think you know a lot more about than I do. So we found out yesterday. Donald Trump, last year spent fifty five million dollars on legal bills. I guess my first point would be you would think that if you had you know, fifty plus million dollars to spend on lawyers, you get better lawyers than than he’s been getting.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:06

    You’d be able to get somebody other than, you know, Alina Haba. But that’s a lot of money, isn’t it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:11

    Yes. So first of all, let’s be precise. Donald Trump did not spend fifty million dollars on lawyers. Donald Trump’s pack
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:19

    which means Donald Trump’s donors
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:21

    Doners.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:22

    Grammars from Wichita.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:24

    Why this is legal? I actually, you know, I’m the legal guy. I actually don’t understand this. Oh. Why it is okay to spend pack money on personal legal bills that aren’t obviously related to the campaign.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:42

    I think the reason is has everything to do with whatever disclosures you make in the finest of fine print to your donors, but I am not a campaign finance law expert, and I frankly find this bewildering that this is that this is legal. I mean, this is a guy who is indicted on four separate occasions in his personal capacity, not in his, not for, you know, activity that the campaign obviously has some equity. And and so I I do find it strange. That said, the amount of money is very large. It’s not that large for a defense in four separate high profile white collar criminal cases, plus two defamation lawsuits plus, you know, a couple of major civil suits.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:38

    So I don’t think it’s that surprising given the magnitude of his legal problems, which are, you know, extraordinary. That said, it’s a very large amount of money. And if you are thinking of donating to Donald Trump’s Super PAC or to the RNC, you should be aware that these leadership packs are actually spending an enormous amount of money on Trump’s legal problems, not on, you know, getting him elected.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:10

    His donors may not accept, but you raise a very interesting question. And about the the use of campaign dollars because generally candidates that use campaign dollars for personal purposes, will find themselves in, in trouble.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:23

    Well, as a general matter, yes, I believe, but I’m not sure that the explanation is that what are called leaders packs are not limited to campaign spending. And, they can basically spend money on stuff as long as they are not, you know, defrauding anybody. They can spend money on personal expenses to the extent that they need to. That said, fifty million dollars. It’s a heck of a gratuity.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:55

    I don’t actually understand also why it’s not taxable income.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:58

    Oh, That’s another interesting question. Sure. Yeah. The the once it transfers over You have a
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:04

    debt, and it is satisfied by somebody else. Why is that not a gift? Right. Look, I am not a tax expert, and I’m not a campaign finance expert. I just don’t understand why a giant bill for legal fees can be satisfied out of donor pockets without raising significant legal issues.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:28

    As to your question about the quality of his legal representation, it’s exceedingly uneven. Elena Habo was a disaster in the civil case. Mister Sadow in Atlanta, who represents him in the Fulton County case is not a disaster. He’s a very professional serious lawyer, the team that represents him in DC has made some, I think, lousy arguments, but they are not They’re kinda loud mouthed professionals. And, you know, he has definitely not represented in most locations by the a team.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:05

    You know, it used to be that he was represented by by Jones Day, Don McGahn and his crew. And, you know, they were their superb. He’s driven away all the normal lawyers, and you’re left with these sole pre titianers who are quite uneven in their quality. And some of them, he fires very quickly when they show any signs of independence or or being limited in the stupidity of the arguments that they’re gonna make. And so it’s definitely gonna be an issue for him as some of these cases head to trial.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:41

    I don’t know how much it cost him in the final judgment to have Alina Haba representing him. But, you know, that eighty three million dollars, I don’t I don’t think it discount all that much because the conduct is so horrible, but I do think it cost him real money not to have competent counsel there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:00

    That obviously cost him a lot of money. But also his own performance in the courtroom, I mean, deciding to show up in in the, you know, in front of the jury, in the side of the jury, you know, basically go through his performative asshole or even, you know, for every moment that he was there. As I mentioned, I think to Joe Klein on the podcast yesterday, look, it’s not a surprise that Donald Trump has trouble getting good lawyers. It means be notorious for not paying his lawyers. And now in addition to possibly not being paid, you’re watching lawyers being disbarred, the lawyers being indicted, not a great incentive.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:33

    So let’s talk about that judgment, eighty three million dollars. You know, we’re talking about what’s a lot of money. K? We know that eighty three million dollars is a lot of money. Is it enough money?
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:44

    To shut Donald Trump up. So far he has not been re defaming Eugene Carol. So is eighty three million dollars that passed the threshold of what it takes to get Donald Trump’s attention?
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:56

    Well, at least for a week.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:58

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:58

    Right. It has his attention for a week. He has not, at least not that I’ve seen, re defamed eugene Carroll in that time period, By the way, that’s an interesting argument that the judgment is reasonable. If you’re gonna go up and ask that these punitive damages be cut, which I’m sure he will. One response to that is, hey, you know, nothing else worked.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:27

    And Boy, this jury said eighty three million dollars, and he’s been awfully quiet in response.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:33

    Okay. So I have a question that you’ve sort of been directly raised, though. So let’s say that he has to post a bond or that he has to ultimately pay the eighty three million dollars. Can he take that from his campaign funds, his Super PAC? He was asked about this the other day.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:49

    Is that possible? He’d want to, you know?
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:52

    The answer is I don’t know. I think the answer is it depends on the specific fundraising appeals that the Super PAC purports to be or the leadership pack, purports to be but again, it raises potential tax implications. I think it raises campaign finance issues, but I think if you solicit money from people on the grounds that we’re gonna use this money to pay legal bills and satisfy whatever judgments that we have. I think you probably can.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:30

    Wow. Isn’t that something?
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:32

    Again, it requires a lot of knowledge of the details of what their fundraising appeals are as well as what the bylaws of the organizations are that I don’t have.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:46

    So remind me how this works. I mean, obviously, he’s going to appeal this this judgment, is Eugene Carroll ever going to see this money? And number two, does he have to post a bond? I mean, you know, if you’re Donald Trump, You know, when does it become real that you have to come up with eighty three million dollars and write a check to either e g and Carol or into a you know, posted bond for the court. Has it work?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:11

    It’s an escrow. It’s a bond, basically. So, yes, basically. And and it’s kinda real now. First of all, in New York, to appeal the cost of the appeal bond, I believe, is a hundred or a hundred and ten percent of the value the judgment.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:28

    And so if you’re gonna appeal it, you actually do have to put up the money. Now you could put up the money in either by writing a check that puts the money or by hiring what amounts to a bail bondsman to write the bond for you, and then you pay some fee. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:44

    And they take the risk. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:46

    They take the risk that you somehow run out on it, which I that I don’t think he would be able to do because he has real assets in New York. Like, he’s gotta put up real money now. And by the way, that would be, I believe, true of any judgment in the Angurun and haters as well, which would be will be much larger. So you start to get into a position where it’s not that she will not see the money pending the appeal, but he has to make arrangements for that money to exist in real form. And, you know, unlike Alex Jones who can go through all kinds of contortions to make himself judgment proof Donald Trump owns buildings.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:35

    He owns the Trump organization, which, you know, has real estate. And he has golf courses. And so I don’t think it’s that easy for him to evade judgments That said, what he can do is scrape and fight and delay things over long periods of time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:59

    Okay. So let’s talk about the big one that that may come down by the time that people hear this. What should we be looking at and judge on Gaurin’s ruling in the New York fraud case. I mean, obviously, the top line is going to be the headline. You know, it’s gonna be in the hundreds of millions of dollars I believe Latisha James is asking for three hundred and seventy million, you know, probably not gonna be that much, but it’s gonna be a big number.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:22

    What else should we be looking for? If you’re Donald Trump other than the money, which is and that’s a lot of money and that will get his attention, what other details in that ruling are you gonna be looking at?
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:32

    So there’s a few things that you always look for in a district court opinion. The first is the findings of fact. When a court, a reviewing court reviews a lower court, they do not owe deference generally to the lower court on questions of law, but they do owe deference to the lower court on questions of fact. And the theory here is the trial judge is the one who listened to the witness testimony himself. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:02

    He’s the one who supervised all the testimony who heard all the all all the backs and forth. And so when he finds something as a as a matter of fact, those will be overturned by a reviewing court only with a certain amount of hesitation. And so when you’re dealing with a district court on a complex matter, you are always looking for Are the findings of fact rich? Did he do the work to document? People love to quote the highfalutin sentences and the rhetoric and the stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:41

    But look at the specific facts that he found what value, what number does he put as a matter of fact on the total volume of fraud that the Trump organization committed in these valuations. Those are gonna be very hard for appellate courts to overturn. The second thing is There’s the big top round number. How much of that is the value of the fraud and how much of it is something else, right, whether punitive damages or or, you know, something that’s more ethereal. Than, you know, you owed x and you did y.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:25

    Right? And then finally, what remedies does he order other than financial penalties. So there’s all kinds of requests here for, like, preventing the officers of this company from doing business in the state of New York, right, essentially dismantling the Trump organization. What does he do in that regard? So the big headline will be the number, but I think you also wanna look at what are the findings of fact that underlie that number and what are the remedies other than that fine?
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:00

    What are the components of that gestalt number? And what are the remedies other than the financial remedies?
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:07

    Okay. So let’s talk about the the other thing that we are waiting on not gonna get to Aileen Cannon because we’d wait forever for that, I think.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:14

    Yeah. We can wait three more months for that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:17

    I know. The Georgia case DA down there, Fony Willis, and this special prosecutor Nathan Wade had been subpoenaed, to testify at a hearing on February fifteen evolving, motions to disqualify them both from the Georgia election interference case. Now this was obviously filed by an attorney any one of the defendants in the racketeering case and the allegations are that Will Saletan Wade were involved in an improper romantic relationship and should be disqualified Wade had been expected to testify about his alleged relationship with Willis on Wednesday, but he and his estranged wife settled their apparently rather dasty divorce case. So we’re waiting on her response. Where are we at on this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:00

    How grave a threat is this posed to the entire, election interference Trump case?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:05

    So I am in the minority on this, and I don’t think it’s that serious a threat here is the parameters of the immediate issue tomorrow by Friday her response to this set of allegations is due in court. Now it is possible that we won’t see it tomorrow because a cyber attack has taken down these the Fulton County Court systems filing system. And so the docket is at least yesterday when I last checked the docket was not available. I’m not sure whether it will be by Friday or not. But she will file her brief and you know, if by, carrier pigeon, it will eventually make its way to the press, and we will see a copy of it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:53

    And of course, we will post a copy on law fair as soon as we have one. That will presumably respond at least to the legal argument that there is some conflict that requires disqualification here, but it also may respond to the factual allegations. And the response on the factual allegations is important because of two things. One is assuming there was a relationship or is a relationship between Fannie Willis and Jonathan Last. It actually matters when that relationship started.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:29

    The allegations in the brief contend that she hired somebody she was dating. And it seems to me it’s a rather different picture if that specific allegation is true, then if she hired Nathan Wade and then they started dating at some point. Right? That’s a that’s a bit of a different picture. The second area in which the facts really matter here is, is it clear that he’s spending money that he’s earning from her office on her.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:59

    That’s a much uglier picture. If it’s substantiated, then if it’s true, if they’ve gone on a few vacations together, and she’s paid her way, or he paid for the tickets, and she paid for the lavish dinners. Whatever. I I don’t think you know, that’s not gonna kill a case. The third issue and the really important issue is whether any of this creates a disqualifying conflict and Anna Bauer, has looked carefully at the disqualification decisions in Georgia it does not seem to me that these rise to the level that have caused disqualifications in the past That said, the tighter the relationship, the financial relationship is with money that he is being paid by her office, the more that could change.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:50

    And so what I would say is this is an area where both the facts and the law argument in that brief that she’s filing tomorrow are gonna be really interesting and are gonna matter a lot. And then the second thing I believe on the fifteenth of February, is this hearing where they will both have to testify barring, something that I don’t anticipate. And I do think that they will have to answer for, you know, less for the fact that they may be dating, which is not Will Saletan then for any any wiff that there is a financial advantage to her of retaining him for this work. I don’t think that is going to kill the case. But, you know, we’ll have to see what happens in in mid month.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:44

    I mean, obviously, this doesn’t look good. I mean, there’s a lot of political fallout, but wanna keep on this whole question of killing the case. Let’s say that, in fact, their conduct did cross such a line that they are both disqualified from the case. Can the case survive in the worst case scenario of them both being disqualified?
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:05

    Well, his disqualification doesn’t matter very much because he’s just he he’s an employee or actually a contractor. And so, you know, if Nathan Wade gets disqualified, Fony Willis has other trial lawyers and can hire other ones, If she is disqualified, that is a big deal because her office gets disqualified with her.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:27

    Oh, it’s not just her. It’s the whole office.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:30

    Yes. Exactly. And so because the whole office works for
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:33

    her. Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:34

    And so if that were to happen, that is a big deal. And that would mean that there’s a an office in Georgia that would then have to reassign the case to a different prosecutorial office, which would come in and represent the state for that purpose. That would be a big deal. It would not immediately trigger the dismissal of the case. It would require the appointment of a different prosecutor to handle the matter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:04

    And actually something similar happened earlier during the special grand jury when Fanny Willis went to or hosted a fundraiser for somebody who turned out to be running against the lieutenant governor of state, Bert Jones, and she was disqualified by the judge supervising the special grand jury from investigating Bert Jones, and that case to my knowledge still has not been reassigned. So I think if she were qualified, it would be a very big deal. It would not mean that the case goes away. It’s an indicted case. But it would mean that you’d have to bring in some other office to take it over, and that would be given given the investment in this case.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:51

    That would be a very substantial problem. One.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:53

    So leaving aside Aileen Cannon, what else should we be paying attention to this next week? That’s a global question. That could be anything.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:00

    Well, there’s one big answer to this, which is one week from today, which is gonna cause us to have to record at a different time than usual. Is the oral argument in, the section three case before the Supreme Court of the United States. And there have been sixty five Amicus briefs filed in the case.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:24

    I have not read them all yet.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:26

    I haven’t read them all either. But, you know, they’re all available on Law Fair for anybody who wants them. You know, we are going to have a major Supreme Court showdown on whether Colorado can bar president Trump from the ballot. And it’s your nightmare, Charlie. You’ve been warning about this for, like, a year now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:47

    Yeah. February eighth. That’s gotta be on everybody’s calendar. Has gonna be a long and busy busy day. So, Ben, once again, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:59

    This is the last time I get to say this will be back next week, but not at the exact same time because there’ll be an oral argument going on, and we’ll do this all over again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:09

    We will indeed. And thank you all for listening to this Bulwark podcast. I’m very, very grateful. I’m Charlie Sykes. We’ll be back tomorrow.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:16

    Will do this all over again. Secret Podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
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