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Manhattan grand jury indicts Donald Trump

Former commander-in-chief is first former president indicted

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President Donald Trump (Screen capture via ACU Vimeo)

A New York grand jury on Thursday voted to bring criminal charges sought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office against former President Donald Trump in connection with his alleged orchestration near the end of the 2016 presidential race of a hush money payment to an adult film actress.

The contents of the indictment triggered by the grand jury’s decision will almost certainly be kept under seal, however. And it is not clear when the charges will be filed, nor when an arrest and arraignment might come, or even whether Trump will surrender himself.

The uncertainty also extends to the consequences of America’s first-ever indictment of a former president, the prospect of which had already roused Trump’s allies in Congress to accuse prosecutors of politically motivated misconduct while prompting the former president’s supporters to heed his call for protests.

The New York Times reported on March 9 that Trump’s attorneys had received the signal from prosecutors that they were considering criminal charges, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.

Republican members in House leadership, meanwhile, signed on to a letter issued by Trump ally and chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), which demands testimony and documents from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on his office’s case against the former president.

The move closely followed Trump’s Truth Social post previewing the coming indictment in which he wrote that charges would be filed on March 21 and urged his supporters to “protest, take our nation back!” The message recalls Trump’s Dec. 19, 2020, tweet promoting the “wild” protests in D.C. that were scheduled for Jan. 6, 2021.

Evidence from court testimony in the criminal cases against several defendants who were charged with crimes including seditious conspiracy for their involvement in the deadly insurrection on the U.S. Capitol that day has shown that tweet was a major factor in the instigation of the riots.  

In a notice to senators’ offices on March 20, the Senate sergeant at arms said U.S. Capitol Police are taking security precautions, because “while law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity.”

Trump’s former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen is a key witness for the government, reportedly meeting with prosecutors 20 times to testify to his involvement in facilitating the payment to Daniels under Trump’s instruction.

In 2018, Cohen was charged with violating campaign finance laws and other crimes stemming from his involvement in the scheme, testifying under oath that he routed – “in coordination with” and “at the direction of” Trump, who was then “a candidate for federal office” – $130,000 to Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election to secure her agreement not to disclose that she and Trump had extramarital sex in 2006.

Cohen was convicted and then disbarred before serving 13.5 months of his 5-year prison sentence.

However, after his two-hour testimony before the grand jury on March 20, Trump ally Robert Costello publicly challenged Cohen’s testimony and credibility. He told reporters that Cohen, to whom Costello had once been a legal advisor, was lying about the former president’s involvement in the payment and had previously claimed credit for conceiving of and executing the payment to Daniels.

The Federal Election Commission opened an inquiry into the matter but dropped the probe following a split 2-2 vote along party lines by the bipartisan agency’s commissioners. A former FEC official previously told the Washington Blade that its investigations are almost always dropped, even in cases for which there is clear and substantial evidence that campaign finance laws were violated.

Trump faces more legal jeopardy amid the Justice Department’s ongoing separate probes into his role in the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol and potentially criminal mishandling of classified documents.

According to reports last week, there were new developments in the case presented to members of a special grand jury that was convened in connection with charges brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over allegations that Trump unlawfully interfered in  the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Trump in a lengthy statement described the New York indictment as “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.”

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Joe Biden to ‘stand down’ from 2024 presidential race

Announcement comes amid growing pressure from Democrats to step aside

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Pride celebration on June 10, 2023, at the White House. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

President Joe Biden on Sunday announced he will “stand down” from the 2024 presidential ticket.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your president,” he said in a statement he posted to X. “And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my term.”

Biden said he will speak to the country “later this week in more detail about my decision.”

The president in his statement specifically thanked Vice President Kamala Harris, describing her as an “extraordinary partner in all this work.” Biden in a second statement endorsed her.

The move comes after weeks of pressure from Democratic leaders, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who met privately with the president to urge him to step aside because he had no clear path to beating the Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Doubts among Democrats were crystalized by Biden’s poor performance in his televised debate against Trump on June 27, which led prominent donors including actor George Clooney to urge the party to replace him. They were followed by a steady trickle of elected Democrats.

“We are deeply grateful to President Biden for his more than 50 years of public service and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects his legacy and what President Biden has done his entire career: put the needs of Americans and his country above his own. We owe the Biden-Harris team a debt of gratitude for leading the country out of a state of chaos and constant crisis under former President Trump.”

“The Biden-Harris administration has been the most pro-LGBTQ+ equality administration in history: assembling the most diverse administration, signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law to protect against attacks on marriage equality, and taking important steps to protect our transgender community and LGBTQ+ students,” added Robinson. “President Biden and Vice President Harris have worked closely with HRC and others to get things done and move us closer to equality. We look forward to hearing President Biden address the nation later this week.”

The Washington Blade will update this story.

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Log Cabin Republicans host GOP candidates in tight congressional races

Speakers included U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (D-Calif.) and Senate candidate Eric Hovde

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U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) speaks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Republican congressional candidates in some of the most anticipated races of the 2024 cycle delivered remarks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Milwaukee’s Discovery World Art and Science Museum on Wednesday.

Speakers included U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), a 31-year incumbent with an anti-LGBTQ voting record who is narrowly trailing gay Democratic challenger Will Rollins, and Eric Hovde, an entrepreneur vying to unseat the first openly gay U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Nick Meade, president of LCR Coachella Valley, introduced the California congressman by acknowledging that Calvert “didn’t have the most loving relationship vote-wise for our community” when his district was redrawn to include Palm Springs in 2022.

“We met with Ken,” Meade said. “We met with him again. And he showed up again. And he showed up again. We asked him to come to events and he showed up to the events. We asked if he would support us financially. He did it and then he did it again. He continues to show up.”

Eventually, Calvert joined 46 other House Republicans in endorsing the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex and interracial couples and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December 2022.

Meade explained that directly after the floor vote in July, the congressman passed Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran a slip of paper on which he had written the number “47,” telling the conservative LGBTQ leader “this is for you guys.”

Addressing his remarks to Calvert, Meade said, “I know, as humble as you are, you say you didn’t whip votes, but there are a lot of your friends close to our jurisdiction, your [congressional district] that voted for it as well. I will never forget that.”

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in our party, and one of those things is just that, as Nick was pointing out, that we were able to pass the gay marriage initiative on the floor,” Calvert said. “That was a good day.”

The congressman then discussed the importance of providing for the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. “Everyone who serves in the military should be treated equally,” he said.

“It was refreshing to see the Log Cabin Republicans admit that Ken Calvert had never met a gay Republican until he decided he needed their support to win his new congressional district,” Rollins said in an emailed statement to the Washington Blade.

“But Ken might’ve forgotten to tell them that he voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill, voted to defund LGBTQ senior centers, and just tried to make it harder for the spouses of LGBTQ military personnel killed in combat to collect survivor benefits.”

When introducing Hovde later in the program, Moran said, “Here in Wisconsin, we have a lesbian senator who’s a Democrat, who has been voting in lockstep consistently with President Biden, who has been making it worse for the lives of LGBT families, business owners, [and] service members, not only here, but also abroad.”

Senate candidate Eric Hovde speaks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Baldwin should not expect the community to line up behind her reelection effort, Moran said, because gay voters “are not just voting on gay issues.”

Hovde told the audience he was “proud” that they had not “gotten caught up in the identity politics that the left has been pushing, you know, based on your race, your sexuality, your income level, your religion.”

“They want to try to drive a narrative and say you have to vote one way when you’re talking about issues that affect everybody,” he said.

The businessman then pivoted to voice his support for Log Cabin Republicans’ positions on transgender issues that were outlined earlier by Moran — specifically, opposition to irreversible gender-affirming medical interventions for patients younger than 18 and bans prohibiting trans girls and women from competing against girls and women in sports.

In recent years, athletics have provided opportunities for girls that were not available in generations past, he said, so “I’m thankful that you are using, just, a common-sense approach to these issues because that’s where most Americans stand.”

“Men shouldn’t be playing and girls sports — period,” Hovde said, adding, “That doesn’t mean that we’re against transgender people.”

The Republican hopeful noted, “we don’t let people drive before the age of 16” and “we don’t let them drink alcohol till 21” so the idea that “we’re gonna push or allow them to change their gender at 13, 14, 12” is “insanity.”

Baldwin, Hovde said, is divisive for claiming that former President Donald Trump is “one of the most dangerous men with a dark soul,” and the Democratic senator is a “rubber stamp for the progressive socialist left” as evidenced by her refusal to confirm Ric Grenell’s nomination, during the Trump administration, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Germany (a post for which he was confirmed by vote of 56-42.)

Hovde called Grenell, who also served as acting director of national intelligence and special presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations, “a super competent man with great foreign policy chops” and “exactly who you want serving in government.”

“As the first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin didn’t run to make history, she ran to make a difference,” said Baldwin campaign spokeswoman Jackie Rosa. “And she’s proud of the difference she’s made to create jobs, lower health care costs, defend our freedoms, and improve the lives of millions of Wisconsinites.”

“Eric Hovde has to rely on divisive and false rhetoric about Tammy because he knows he doesn’t hold a candle to her legislative record,” she said.

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Log Cabin Republicans president, Ric Grenell outline conservative LGBTQ positions

Big Tent Event took place outside the Republican National Convention on Wednesday

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From left, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran attend the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran outlined his organization’s position on divisive LGBTQ issues during the organization’s Big Tent Event offsite from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

“As conservative members of the LGBT community, we’re extremely concerned” that a “radical gender theory” is “being advanced in the name of LGBT equality,” Moran said in a video address following his remarks at the event.

“The last three years have been a real watershed moment for these radical leftists working in conjunction with woke corporations, out of sync academics, and cultural elitists who want to hijack our hard-earned civil rights movement to advance an extremist agenda,” he said.

The problem, Moran said, is that “Americans are seriously reconsidering their support for LGBT equality as a result” as evidenced by a Gallup poll last year which found for the first time that general and broad support for LGBTQ inclusion was in decline.

“The left’s war on our traditional values is starting to take a toll on the overall amount of acceptance and tolerance for average gays and lesbians in this country,” Moran said.

The Log Cabin president then explained how his organization had worked with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican state legislature on the controversial Parental Rights in Education (“Don’t Say Gay”) law, which “prevented mandated curriculum from being instructed on sexual orientation and gender identity from age three to grade three.”

Moran characterized the legislation as policy driven by a “common sense” approach, noting, however, that “in 2023, when the presidential primary races started kicking into high gear, we saw a broad push across the nation with legislation that was an overreaction and poorly thought out.”

“That next year, the reintroduction of that same Florida bill took the prohibition on those conversations all the way up from age three to age 18 in Florida schools, which was not practical nor needed, and thus we opposed that new version of the bill,” Moran said. “It just wasn’t smart public policy.”

Broadly, “average Americans see themselves as tolerant and inclusive — and we when we present a message that smacks of homophobia, anger, vitriol, and exclusion, they will vote against us every time,” he said.

“Eighty percent of this country supports equality and inclusion for the Ls, the Gs, the Bs, and the Ts,” added Moran, “but this comes with some guardrails concerning specific policy debates.”

“This is indicative of a very serious messaging problem. This is where we at Log Cabin Republicans need to step in to help the Republican Party steer through these issues with precision,” he said.

In practical terms, Moran said this will mean, “One, fight back against leftist extremists and cultural Marxists who are trying to undo strong cultural mores in society that are hijacking our civil rights movement and two, fight back against hardline social conservatives who never accepted the real evolution and acceptance of LGBT equality in the first place from dragging the Republican Party back into the middle of a gay marriage fight that has long been settled.”

With respect to specific policy debates, he highlighted “one, the protection and integrity of women’s spaces, two, support the preservation of women’s sports and Title IX, three, strong parental consent at every level in our schools, and four, no permanent gender transition under the age of 18.”

Taking the stage before Moran was former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, who also served as acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration.

The diplomat and conservative political operative celebrated the Republican Party’s issuance of a new platform this year that, for the first time, does not express opposition to same-sex marriage.

The two-page document does, however, call for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“I couldn’t be more proud to have this platform under Donald Trump,” Grenell said. “After the platform was passed, President Trump called me and he said, ‘did you see what we did?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir, I did and it’s amazing. You know, I want you to know that we’re gonna stay quiet until it really gets into the fabric and we’ll give it a little time. And you know, I know it’s gonna be a little hard for some people. So, we’ll give it a little time before we talk about it.’ He goes, ‘No, we won! Start talking about it.’ He’s all in. He’s all in with us.”

“In 2016, when Donald Trump came to run this party, I never once worried that he would somehow use us politically,” Grenell said. “You’ll notice he doesn’t. He absolutely believes that we are part of the American society. And he thinks it’s really weird if you don’t.”

At the same time, however, he stressed that Trump expects “us to police our own community to make sure we call out the radical left” and told the audience they “should be very upfront about rejecting the crazy radical gay left” who “don’t speak for us.”

“Now, the gay left is going to constantly tell you that you need special protections because they like to keep us in a box and take us out six months before elections and parade us around,” Grenell said. “We don’t do that. We want to be included at the front.”

He added that “I got in the most trouble for when I said that the State Department should cut all of its DEI programs out. We don’t need a special office down the way that has glitter and rainbows. We want to be at the table of substance. When you do the African policy, we want to be in the room. When you develop European policy, we want to be in the room.”

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