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Trump can't get in criminal jeopardy by pleading the Fifth — but he can lose a lot of money: former FBI agent
On Wednesday's edition of MSNBC's "The Beat," former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa outlined the potential consequences of former President Donald Trump's decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in a deposition for the New York Attorney General's probe into his family's business practices.
The Fifth Amendment famously protects the right not to incriminate oneself in legal questioning. But, noted Rangappa, that protection does not apply in civil cases — and could cost Trump a lot of money.
"You're saying while he has the right to plead the Fifth in a criminal probe, it is still okay in a civil case to treat it as a bad thing, as a kind of a guilty thing if someone pleads the Fifth because it's not being used to incarcerate them?" said anchor Ari Melber.
"That's right," said Rangappa. "In a criminal case, a jury cannot draw inferences of guilt from someone asserting their Fifth Amendment right, but in a civil case a jury can draw an adverse inference and there's a lower standard of proof. It's a preponderance of the evidence."
Trump has already come out the worse in other civil investigations by New York State, Rangappa noted.
"The case that Trump is facing is financial penalties," said Rangappa. "We've seen this already when New York dissolved his charitable foundation, which he was misusing funds, and sent his kids to remedial training on how to be fiduciaries. You know, he doesn't like losing money but I suspect he's more willing to lose money than go to jail, and I think that's why made the choice he did today."
Asha Rangappa says Trump taking the fifth could cost him in civil litigation www.youtube.com
Historians warn Biden about 'dire condition of democracy' during 'ferocious lightning storm': report
Historians warned President Joe Biden about the rise of totalitarianism and decline of democracy during a White House meeting last week.
"President Biden paused last week, during one of the busiest stretches of his presidency, for a nearly two-hour private history lesson from a group of academics who raised alarms about the dire condition of democracy at home and abroad," The Washington Post reported Wednesday. "The conversation during a ferocious lightning storm on Aug. 4 unfolded as a sort of Socratic dialogue between the commander in chief and a select group of scholars, who painted the current moment as among the most perilous in modern history for democratic governance, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions who requested anonymity to describe a private meeting."
Comparisons were reportedly made to the rise of secessionism prior to the 1860 election and rise of the initial "America First" movement and the rise of fascism before the 1940 election.
"Following a similar meeting with Biden last spring, the Aug. 4 gathering was distinguished by its relatively small size and the focus of the participants on the rise of totalitarianism around the world and the threat to democracy at home," the newspaper reported. "They included Biden’s occasional speechwriter Jon Meacham, journalist Anne Applebaum, Princeton professor Sean Wilentz, University of Virginia historian Allida Black and presidential historian Michael Beschloss. White House senior adviser Anita Dunn and head speechwriter Vinay Reddy also sat at the table."
The group heard loud thunder during the meeting and later learned it came from the lightning strike that killed three people across the street from the White House.
"Most of the experts in attendance have been outspoken in recent months about the threat they see to the American democratic project, after the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, the continued denial by some Republicans of the 2020 election results and the efforts of election deniers to seek state office," The Post reported. "Some of last week’s discussion focused on similarities between today’s landscape and the period leading up to World War II, when growing authoritarianism abroad found its disturbing echo in the United States. As Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini consolidated their power in the 1930s, the Rev. Charles Coughlin used his radio broadcast to spread a populist anti-Semitic message in the United States."
Read the full report.
Here's the 'near-identical script' Republicans are using to reframe Trump investigation as a war on America
On Wednesday, People Magazine published an analysis of the "near-identical scripts" of talking points Republicans are using in the wake of the FBI search warrant at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Florida — and how it is all designed to deflect any possibility the investigation is legitimate and frame it as tyranny or a war on America.
"A number of talking points are being echoed in far-right groups following news that Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home was visited by FBI agents executing a federal search warrant on Monday," said the report. "Some Republican officials, as well as conservative outlets like Fox News, are offering up near-identical descriptions of the search."
Among the phrases commonly used are "banana republic," used by politicians like Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO); "civil war," used by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and a flood of Trump supporters on social media; "Department of Injustice," also used by Boebert; the idea that the FBI search warrant was a "raid," used by Greene and in fundraising emails by the Republican National Committee; and the idea that the FBI is President Joe Biden's "Gestapo," used by Boebert, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), and Steve Bannon.
In reality, the warrant — part of an investigation into classified documents that were improperly removed as Trump and his allies departed the White House — was independently approved by a federal magistrate judge, and there is no evidence Biden even had knowledge of it.
Trump himself has lashed out at the probe, calling it "political targeting at the highest level" and a "Witch Hunt" — identical language that he used to disparage the Mueller investigation and both impeachment investigations.
Notably, Trump and his officials are also refusing to release a copy of the FBI's warrant, which — while it likely wouldn't reveal all the details of why the FBI is investigating him — would at least give more insight into what the FBI was searching for.
You can read more here.