A brief history of tragic presidential relatives, from Alice Roosevelt to Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden embraces his father, President Joe Biden, and his stepmother, Jill, at Biden’s 2021 inauguration.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Shannon Bow O’Brien , The University of Texas at Austin

A Delaware jury found Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, guilty on June 11, 2024, of three felony counts related to lying on a federal firearms application in 2018 – making him the first child of a president to be convicted of a felony.

While Hunter Biden marked on the application that he was not using illegal drugs at the time, the jury determined that he was, in fact, lying about his drug use.

Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, issued a statement shortly after the jury’s announcement, saying that they supported Hunter and that they would “continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal .”

The president has previously said that he would not pardon his son if he were found guilty of a federal crime.

Joe Biden has long defended his son amid his drug addiction and other personal issues, including a paternity scandal and ongoing court battle over child support .

The president responded to the news of Hunter’s charges on June 20, 2023, by saying he is “very proud of my son .”

I am a scholar of the American presidency and have looked at how the children and other family members of presidents have been thrust into the nation’s spotlight, often unwittingly. Their shortcomings, vices and sometimes even physical appearance have been fodder for gossip columns, political opponents and comedians.

Hunter Biden is not the first child of a president to be charged with a crime. Jenna and Barbara Bush pleaded “no contest” in 2001 to misdemeanor charges of underage drinking and using a false ID. Amy Carter was arrested for protesting in 1985, and before his father was president, Donald Trump Jr. was arrested for public drunkenness in 2001.

But nearly all presidents have had incidents involving their kids and other family members that attracted public scrutiny. Some of the events fall into questionable prank category, like when Tad Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln, sprayed dignitaries with fire hoses .

Other incidents are less innocuous and amusing.

A middle-aged man wearing a dark suit holds hands with a woman with blonde hair, and walks next to another woman, also blonde and younger.
Hunter Biden, center, accompanied by his mother, first lady Jill Biden, left, and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, walks out of court after hearing the verdict on June 11, 2024.
Associated Press

Youthful indiscretions

James Madison raised his troubled stepson, John Payne Todd, as his own. Todd regularly engaged in gambling, drinking and womanizing . Madison went deeply into debt trying to pay off Todd’s vices, including once bailing him out of debtor’s prison . In the mid-1800s, Todd’s debts eventually forced his widowed mother to sell the family estate, Montpelier .

Todd even had a lawyer visit his mother on her deathbed to rewrite her will , making himself her sole heir.

A family photo shows a man and a woman seated, surrounded by six children ranging in age from toddler to teen.
A colorized portrait of former President Theodore Roosevelt’s family features his oldest daughter, Alice, in the center.
Stock Montage/Getty Images

Alice Roosevelt, the oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, also presented some complications for her father during his presidency in the early 1900s.

Alice had a strained relationship with her father and his second wife, Edith. When her parents suggested sending her to a boarding school, Alice responded: “If you send me, I will humiliate you. I will do something that will shame you. I tell you I will.”

In a time when women were expected to be demur, Alice smoked, drank, partied and even sometimes wore a pet snake as an accessory .

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “I can do one of two things: I can be president of the United States or I can control Alice Roosevelt. I cannot possibly do both.”

Alice was later banned from the Taft White House after burying a voodoo doll in the likeness of the new first lady, Helen Herron Taft, on the property.

Neil Bush, son of George H.W. Bush and brother to George W. Bush, also has a colorful history.

Neil was the director of a large savings and loans company that collapsed in 1988, after it made improper and illegal loans. This cost taxpayers more than US$1 billion at the time and resulted in an embarrassing payout to federal banking regulators .

People also criticized Neil because of his ties to Chinese investors and his limited knowledge about industries that employed him, leading to accusations of influence peddling .

Neil Bush, like Hunter Biden, was also the subject of paternity accusations during his divorce.

That’s my brother

Presidential brothers have been another particular sore point for some presidents.

Lyndon Johnson’s brother, Sam Houston Johnson, was often quite talkative after he had a few drinks. The president eventually had to use the Secret Service to follow his brother to ensure he didn’t disclose any embarrassing information to the press .

Billy Carter, former President Jimmy Carter’s brother, reveled in his notoriety. As the president’s brother, he toured the country to make money and hawk his own Billy Beer.

He urinated on a runway before the press corps while waiting for people.

When Carter was running for reelection in 1980, Billy took money from the Libyan government and became a foreign agent for the country – while also making inflammatory and antisemitic statements to justify his behavior.

Billy’s association with Libya ultimately led to a Senate investigation and complicated his brother’s failed reelection campaign .

The side profiles of two men are seen as they have their arms around each other - one is Bill Clinton and the other is a man wearing a white hat.
Former President Bill Clinton comforts his half-brother Roger in 1994, shortly after their mother’s death.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Roger Clinton, the younger half-brother of former President Bill Clinton, also engaged in questionable activities. In the 1980s, before the Clinton presidency, Roger sold cocaine to an undercover officer .

Later, during the Clinton administration, Roger’s Secret Service codename was “Headache.”

Bill Clinton pardoned Roger for his drug offenses right before leaving office in January 2001.

Keeping it in the family

Presidents are like everyone else. They, too, have family members who do or say things that eventually become stories for the dinner table – or tales people want to push under the rug.

Hunter Biden could potentially serve a maximum of 25 years in prison for this crime, though that is unlikely, since he is a first-time offender. He could also face a fine of US$750,000.

And he is still not free of other controversies. The Republican-controlled House is focusing its impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden on Hunter’s business deals in foreign countries. However, Republicans – who quickly responded to Hunter’s verdict as evidence of broader wrongdoing in the Biden family – have yet to produce evidence that fuels their impeachment case.

Hunter Biden has said that he is accountable for his actions, and I do not think it is fair to conflate the administration with the activities of an adult son.

He is not the first presidential relative who has caused turmoil, and he won’t be the last.The Conversation

Shannon Bow O’Brien , Associate Professor of Instruction, The University of Texas at Austin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article .

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It’s Morning Again In America, But No One Notices

Under President Biden’s watch, America saw the death of al-Qaeda’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. According to many terrorism experts, al-Zawahiri may have been a more formidable threat than Osama Bin Laden himself. Additionally, the United States is now experiencing an unemployment rate currently below 4%.

Had there been a killing of an al-Qaeda leader like al-Zawahiri and an unemployment rate of 3.8% under the watches of Presidents Reagan or Obama, their approval ratings would be sky-high. Their parties would be calling for space on Mount Rushmore to be reserved for them. Republicans especially would be calling for that President to be written into the Bible. In fact, Republicans and Democrats do already consider Obama and Reagan to be exceptional Presidents, even though President Biden has accomplished more.

In 1984, under President Reagan, the unemployment rate was considerably higher than now at over seven percent. Inflation was at 4.3% in 1984; and it is currently at around 3.2%. It is not currently “Morning Again In America.” It’s better. During the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, there was a casualty count of 13 U.S. service members. President Biden suffered politically due to this. Under Reagan’s watch, 241 U.S. military personnel were killed in a bombing of a barracks. Reagan did not retaliate. According to POLITICO, Osama bin Laden declared he considered Reagan’s lack of retaliation an indicator that America was a “weak nation” that could be attacked without consequence. Despite the killings of 241 U.S. soldiers, and unemployment rate considerably higher than now, Reagan managed to secure a reputation as one of the toughest, most competent Presidents the U.S. has ever known and won re-election by a landslide. Biden is only experiencing a very narrow lead against Trump, and only in some polls.

CNN reported in March that employers added 303,000 jobs. CNN’s Zakaria dared to ask the question why President Biden’s approval ratings are not higher, despite all he has accomplished. CNN’s Zakaria pointed out that Americans alter their perception of the economy based on their view of the President.

In The Producers, there is a line that goes “It ain’t no mystery if its politics or history, the thing you’ve gotta know is… everything is show biz.” Despite being part of a Mel Brooks movie, this quote seems quite relevant to this situation. President Biden is many things. But love him, hate him, or neither, it is quite hard to pass off President Biden as a movie star. Bill Maher almost pinpointed the problem perfectly. He pointed out that despite the unusually good numbers for the economy, Biden’s speeches rarely moved people to tears. Unfortunately though, Maher then completely missed the point of this situation and seemed to imply that it was Biden’s problem.

In Game Change, Sarah Palin’s husband reminds her that she once stood in front of a crowd during a debate in Alaska, the audience did not understand any issues, but they simply voted for her based on personality. This may be the increasing norm. CNN’s Zakaria stated that there was once a time when Americans altered their perception of the President based on the economy, now it is the reverse. The public failing to understand real-life issues and voting strictly based on personality has expanded far beyond Sarah Palin’s constituents.

Since President Biden’s opponent is, after all, a reality TV host, the “everything is show biz” line is more true than ever. It is not enough to heal the economy, it is not enough for President Biden to stretch his show business skills. The fact that Trump’s popularity often rises whenever a new charge is introduced proves it may not be enough to have Trump be on trial.

A number of Haley supporters have promised to support Biden over Trump. This may change now that Haley has endorsed Trump. Will a fraction of disgruntled Haley supporters, Trump’s criminal charges, and concerns about abortion rights compensate for Biden’s lack of star power?

Liz Cheney wrote that “Every one of us – Republican, Democrat, Independent – must work and vote together to ensure that Donald Trump and those who have appeased, enabled, and collaborated with him are defeated.” Instead of replacing Biden, or criticizing Biden’s lack of star power, Republicans, Democrats and Independents must work together to help the public realize they should vote with their minds, and not cast their vote based on whose speeches make them cry. Biden is known to think with his heart but in order to preserve democracy, voters need to vote with their minds in this election. Biden’s accomplishments prove you don’t have to be a tearjerker to be a great President.


Photo 193726890 © Yalcinsonat | Dreamstime.com

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Medal of Honor Tuesday: Navy Capt. Richard M. McCool Jr.

Navy Capt. Richard M. McCool Jr.

At my age, my eyesight is not that good. Thus, I might be forgiven for misreading the name of this week’s highlighted Medal of Honor recipient at DoD News.

At first glance, I read his last name as “Mr. Cool.” Of course, I absolutely do not mean any disrespect by pointing my gaffe out.

On the contrary, this week’s honoree, Navy Capt. Richard M. McCool, is one of the most “valiant,” “gallant,” “intrepid” Medal of Honor recipients I have read about. And, yes – with every respect, sincerity and admiration – he was also very, very “cool.”

Here are some excerpts from this week’s Medal of Honor Monday by Katie Lange , recounting how, “[w]hen Japanese suicide aircraft attacked U.S. Navy ships late in World War II, Navy Capt. Richard Miles McCool Jr. calmly worked to save several sailors and keep his ship from exploding.”

In December 1944, after receiving further amphibious training, McCool assumed command of USS LCS 122, a landing craft support ship that employed about 65 crew members. Shortly after the crew settled in, LCS 122 set sail for the Pacific Theater of war.

By the spring of 1945, the Battle of Okinawa had gotten underway and Allied troops were busy trying to get a foothold on the island. U.S. supply and support ships were in abundance at the island’s harbor, but that made them sitting ducks for Japanese suicide bombers, known as kamikazes.

To thwart kamikaze attempts, the U.S. set up 15 radar picket stations around the island. McCool said each station included at least three destroyers that used their radar to detect upcoming attacks and four LCS ships that would guard the destroyers by shooting down enemy planes.

::

On June 10, 1945, LCS 122 was on picket duty north of Okinawa when a hostile air raid began. The USS William D. Porter, a destroyer at the station, was severely damaged by a kamikaze attack. Then-Lt. McCool ordered his men to evacuate the survivors from the sinking ship (below).

The USS William D. Porter sinks after a kamikaze suicide aircraft crashed and exploded underneath it off the coast of Okinawa, June 10, 1945. USS LCS 122 stands by to evacuate the surviving crew. U.S. Navy photo

The next evening, LCS 122 was attacked by two kamikazes. McCool immediately launched the full power of his gun batteries, which quickly shot one aircraft down.

“The first one dove at us and passed over my bow,” McCool remembered. “I was afraid that the people in the No. 1 40-mm gun mount might have been hit by the wheels or something, it was so low. But it crashed into the water just on our port bow.”

The second aircraft came flying in right behind the first. The LCS’s gun batteries did some damage, but the aircraft still crashed into McCool’s battle station in the ship’s conning tower.

“It came in and hit about 8-10 feet below where I was standing,” McCool remembered, saying they were lucky that the aircraft’s bomb didn’t explode on impact. “Instead, it or something from the plane went through the radio shack and out the side of the ship on the other side and exploded, apparently just as it was entering the water.”

The crash immediately engulfed the area in flames and knocked McCool unconscious. He said when he came to, he was the only person in the conning tower.

“I shimmied over the port side of the conning tower and dropped onto the deck from there,” he said.

McCool was seriously wounded by shrapnel and suffered painful burns on his right side. According to his Medal of Honor citation, he rallied his concussion-shocked crew and began vigorous measures to fight the fire raging on the deck below him. McCool said the flames were 15 to 20 feet from a room that stored the ship’s rockets, so he was very concerned about the ship exploding.

“I can remember telling the chief engineer to take a crew of people and go around to the starboard side and forward, and I would have somebody else go around the other way and try to at least keep the fire from spreading,” he said in his Library of Congress interview. “And the truth of the matter is I don’t really remember much of what went on after that.”

His Medal of Honor citation said he rescued several men trapped in a blazing compartment and even carried one of them to safety, despite the excruciating pain of his own wounds — including his right lung collapsing. But McCool said he has no memory of that.

::

McCool was finally able to get his own help after aid arrived to LCS 122. Eleven men were killed and 29 were wounded in the incident, newspapers at the time reported. But thanks to McCool’s leadership, many others were rescued, and his ship survived to see further service.

McCool was evacuated from the area and was sent to medical facilities in Guam, Pearl Harbor and California for treatment.

::

McCool spent nearly a year in hospitals, including several months at one in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma. He was there when he learned he’d be getting the Medal of Honor. Shortly thereafter, in September 1945, he married his girlfriend, Carole Elaine Larecy, who he’d met on leave prior to his deployment. They went on to have three children, two boys and a girl.

::

McCool received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman during a White House ceremony on Dec. 18, 1945. (Below)

McCool was born on Jan. 4, 1922, in Tishomingo, Oklahoma

He died on March 5, 2008, at a hospital in Bremerton, Washington, and is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland.

“In his honor, the Navy transport dock ship USS Richard M. McCool Jr. was christened by his granddaughters in June 2022. The ship was delivered to the Navy in April of this year.”

Read the full article here.

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What do we know about alleged Hamas sympathizer, Abdallah Aljamal? An example of error-filled “breaking news”

In short: not a lot.

falsehood flies quote

Various western news organizations have reported that Abdallah Aljamal died in the latest Israeli attack on Gaza. Many have led with inaccurate inflammatory headlines and lede paragraphs.

What do we know versus what has been alleged?

First, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed on Twitter that there were three hostages in his home and that he was killed.

“Journalist” Abdallah Aljamal was a Hamas terrorist holding Almog, Andrey and Shlomi hostage in his family’s home in Nuseirat.

The IDF also claimed that Aljamal worked for Al Jazeera.

Despite the tweet and resulting inflammatory headlines (FOX , Hindustan Times , NY Post ), Aljamal was not an Al Jareeza employee.

Al Jazeera Jerusalem bureau chief Omar al-Walid told The Times of Israel:

This man is not from Al-Jazeera, and he did not work for Al-Jazeera at all, and he is not listed as working for Al-Jazeera neither now nor in the past… We do not know him, and all the rumors that have been spread are empty of content and not true at all.” He adds that the network plans to sue anyone spreading rumors claiming a link to Abdallah Aljamal (emphasis added).

Even before I knew the IDF lied about Al Jazeera, my initial reaction: THIS IDF ? The one torturing prisoners from Gaza since last October at Sde Teiman ?

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which filed a petition for the closure of the Sde Teiman site, was one of a number of groups demanding the closure of the detention facility at the former army base.

State Attorney Aner Helman, responding to the ACRI petition, told the court that 700 inmates had already been moved to Ofer, a military stockade in the West Bank. Another 500 were slated to be transferred in the coming weeks, leaving 200 at Sde Teiman whose future was yet to be decided.

Color me skeptical.

Aljamal was a contributor to The Palestine Chronicle. That label usually means freelance writer or unpaid writer, not an employee. The Palestine Chronicle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has operated a news site since 1999 .

CNN noted the lack of evidence in its headline , quite the exception. The news organization also provided claimed death counts:

The latest figures from Gazan authorities say 274 Palestinians were killed and 698 injured – which would mark one of the deadliest days in months for people living in Gaza.

The IDF has disputed those numbers, saying it estimated the number of casualties from the operation was “under 100.” CNN cannot independently verify either side’s figures.

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Federal Election Commission and Citizens United

The Federal Election Commission has generally been a do-nothing agency composed of three Republicans and three Democrats. Whenever an issue that could reform the election process comes before the Commission, it is inevitably turned down, with the three Republicans and three Democrats voting in opposite ways. Republicans on the Commission and Republican politicians want freedom to spend unlimited sums on elections without any significant restrictions. They are backed by many billionaires and wealthy Americans who are willing to fund them. However, there are restrictions as to how much individuals can donate directly to politicians running for office. Thus, to give large sums of money to support candidates, they have to donate to superPACs and other organizations that supposedly cannot coordinate their efforts with the candidates. However, it has been obvious to all observers that this is being done surreptitiously.

Since the Citizens United vs FEC decision by the Supreme Court in 2010, limits on campaign spending have essentially been blocked. The floodgates have been opened to billions of dollars, providing wealthy Americans with undue influence over the political system. In addition, foreign and domestic corporations, unions, and foreign governments have found ways to channel money into the system in order to try and sway the outcomes of political campaigns. The Supreme Court equated money with free speech and viewed corporations as persons, indicating that they had First Amendment rights. Citizens United also allowed anonymous contributions of dark money to be given to SuperPacs, so that other citizens do not know who is providing support to candidates. Surveys of American citizens have shown that an overwhelming majority is against unlimited anonymous funding of political campaigns, but has not moved the courts or the politicians.

The Federal Election Commission has been dysfunctional for more than a decade, given the equal number of Democrats and Republicans. However, this has recently changed with one Democrat, Dara Lindenbaum, voting with the three Republicans on the Commission. With this group voting together, the minor restrictions on how politicians, political parties, and SuperPacs raise and spend money have been overturned. Reformers who have wanted funding of political campaigns to be further restricted are dismayed, with conservatives elated. As if Citizens United were not enough, this new ruling allows SuperPacs and candidates campaigns to work together and coordinate their efforts in advertising and door to door canvassing.

The only way that a reasonable system of campaign financing can be passed is through a Constitutional Amendment overturning Citizens United. And the Federal Election Commission must have members who want fairness in the electoral process and not to have our government determined by which political party has the wealthiest donors and can raise the most money. Our system has turned into an oligarchy rather than a democracy.

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Tags: Citizens United, Federal Election Commission, Oligarchy, political parties, SuperPacs, Supreme Court

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Biden and Trump may forget names or personal details, but here is what really matters in assessing whether they’re cognitively up for the job

This image of Trump and Biden was taken during the 2020 presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn.
Pavlo Conchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Leo Gugerty , Clemson University

Some Americans are questioning whether elderly people like Joe Biden and Donald Trump are cognitively competent to be president amid reports of the candidates mixing up names while speaking and having trouble recalling details of past personal events .

I believe these reports are clearly concerning. However, it’s problematic to evaluate the candidates’ cognition based only on the critiques that have gained traction in the popular press.

I’m a cognitive psychologist who studies decision-making and causal reasoning . I argue that it’s just as important to assess candidates on the cognitive capacities that are actually required for performing a complex leadership job such as the presidency.

Research shows that these capacities mainly involve decision-making skills grounded in extensive job-related knowledge, and that the types of errors made by Biden and Trump do increase with age , but that doesn’t mean either candidate is unfit for office.

Intuitive vs. deliberative decision-making

There are two types of decision-making: intuitive and deliberative.

In intuitive decision-making, people quickly and easily recognize a complex situation and recall an effective solution from memory. For example, physicians’ knowledge of how diseases and symptoms are causally related allows them to quickly recognize a complex set of patient symptoms as matching a familiar disease stored in memory and then recall effective treatments.

A large body of research on fields from medicine to military leadership shows that it takes years – and often decades – of effortful deliberate practice in one’s field to build up the knowledge that allows effective intuitive decisions .

In contrast to the ease and speed of intuitive decisions, the most complex decisions – often the kinds that confront a president – require conscious deliberation and mental effort at each stage of the decision-making process. These are the hallmarks of deliberative decision-making.

For example, a deliberative approach to creating an immigration bill might start with causal reasoning to understand the multiple factors influencing the current border surge and the positive and negative effects of immigration. Next, generating possible bills may involve negotiating among multiple groups of decision-makers and stakeholders who have divergent values and objectives, such as reducing the number of undocumented immigrants but also treating them humanely. Finally, making a choice requires forecasting how proposed solutions will affect each objective, dealing with value trade-offs and often further negotiation.

Psychological scientists who study these topics agree that people need three key thinking dispositions – referred to as “ actively open-minded thinking ” or “wise reasoning ” – for effective deliberative decision-making:

  • Open-mindedness: Being open-minded means considering all of the choices and objectives relevant to a decision, even if they conflict with one’s own beliefs.

  • Calibrated confidence: This is the ability to express confidence in a given forecast or choice in terms of probabilities rather than as certainties. One should have high confidence only if evidence has been weighted based on its credibility and supportive evidence outweighs opposing evidence by a large margin.

  • Teamwork: This involves seeking alternative perspectives from within one’s own advisory team and from stakeholders with conflicting interests.

A health reporter addresses the difference between normal gaffes and mistakes that are a cause for concern.

Presidents need to use both intuitive and deliberative decision-making. The ability to make smaller decisions effectively using intuitive decision-making frees up time to concentrate on larger ones. However, the decisions that make or break a president are exceedingly complex and highly consequential, such as how to handle climate change or international conflicts. Here is where deliberative decision-making is most needed.

Effective intuitive and deliberative decisions both rely on extensive job-related knowledge. Especially during deliberative decision-making, people use conceptual knowledge of the world that is consciously accessible, commonly referred to as semantic memory. Knowledge of concepts such as tariffs, Middle East history and diplomatic strategies allows presidents to quickly grasp new developments and understand their nuances. It also helps them fulfill an important job requirement: explaining their decisions to political opponents and the public.

What to make of forgetfulness and word mix-ups

Biden has been criticized for not recalling details of his personal past . This is an error in episodic memory, which is responsible for our ability to consciously recollect personal experiences.

Neurologists agree, however, that Biden’s episodic memory errors are within the range of normal healthy aging and that the details of one’s personal life are not especially relevant to a president’s job. That’s because episodic memory is distinct from the semantic memories and intuitive knowledge that are critical to good decision-making.

Mixing up names, as Biden and Trump occasionally do, is also unlikely to affect job performance. Rather, it simply involves a momentary error in retrieving information from semantic memory. When people make this common error, they usually still understand the concepts underlying the mixed up names, so the semantic knowledge that helps them deal with life and work is intact.

president biden sits on a chair with other men in suits on couches in an oval room in the White House
Biden is known for thoroughly investigating and discussing a diverse range of viewpoints with his advisers before making an important decision.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Making complex decisions as you age

Because all of us use a myriad of concepts to navigate the world every day, our semantic knowledge typically does not decrease with age, lasting at least until age 90. This knowledge is stored in posterior brain regions that deteriorate relatively slowly with age.

Research shows that, since intuitive decision-making is learned by extensive practice , older experts are able to maintain high performance in their field as long as they keep using and practicing their skills . As with semantic memory, experts’ intuitive decision-making is controlled by posterior brain regions that are less compromised by aging .

However, older experts must put in more practice than younger ones to maintain previous skill levels.

The thinking dispositions that are key to deliberative decision-making are influenced by early social learning , including education. Thus, they become habits, stable characteristics that capture how people typically make decisions .

Evidence is emerging that dispositions such as open-mindedness do not decline much and sometimes even increase with age . To investigate this, I looked at how well open-mindedness correlated with age, while controlling for education level, using data from 5,700 people in the 2016 British Election Study . A statistical analysis showed that individuals ages 26 to 88 had very similar levels of open-mindedness, while those with more education were more open-minded.

Applying this to the candidates

As for the 2024 presidential candidates, Biden has extensive knowledge and experience in politics from more than 44 years in political office and thoroughly investigates and discusses diverse viewpoints with his advisers before reaching a decision.

In contrast, Trump has considerably less experience in politics. He claims that he can make intuitive decisions in a field where he lacks knowledge by using “common sense” and still be more accurate than knowledgeable experts. This claim contradicts the research showing that extensive job-specific experience and knowledge is necessary for intuitive decisions to be consistently effective.

My overall interpretation from everything I’ve read about this is that both candidates show aspects of good and poor decision-making. However, I believe Biden regularly displays the deliberative dispositions that characterize good decision-making, while Trump does this less often .

So, if you’re trying to assess how or whether the candidates’ age should affect your vote, I believe you should mostly ignore the concerns about mixing up names and not recalling personal memories. Rather, ask yourself which candidate has the key cognitive capacities necessary to make complex decisions. That is, knowledge of political affairs as well as decision-making dispositions such as open-mindedness, calibrating confidence to evidence, and a willingness to have your thinking challenged by advisers and critics.

Science cannot make firm predictions about individuals. However, the research suggests that once a leader has developed these capacities, they typically do not decrease much even with advanced age, as long as they are actively used.The Conversation

Leo Gugerty , Professor Emeritus in Psychology, Clemson University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article .

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News organizations ignore ProPublica ‘bombshell’ about possible witness tampering

On June 3, ProPublica told the world that witnesses against Donald Trump had received monetary rewards “including large raises from his campaign, severance packages, new jobs, and a grant of shares and cash from Trump’s media company.”

Mainstream news organizations seem to be playing “not my scoop, not my story.” That’s bad for democracy. No Washington Post or New York Times. No traditional TV network news. Or Fox. CNN gave the story cursory attention.

So we’ve republished it in toto . Here’s a high-level summary and a list of media organizations that have reported the story. Trump’s lawyers tried to kill it.

The beneficiaries

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was sentenced to 47 months in prison; Trump pardoned Manafort .

D.C. insurrection and election denial

  1. Boris Epshteyn, New Jersey: “Epshteyn was involved in assembling sets of false electors around the country after Trump lost the 2020 election, and Epshteyn’s emails and texts have come up repeatedly in investigations… From November 2022 to August 2023, the Trump campaign had paid Epshteyn’s company an average of $26,000 per month. The month after the indictments, his pay hit a new high, $50,000, and climbed in October to $53,500 per month, where it has remained ever since.”
  2. Dan Scavino, D.C.: communications staffer with authority to publish to social media accounts “had an up-close view of Trump during the final weeks of his presidency — a focus of the congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6 insurrection and the criminal probe into election interference.” Trump’s media company that owned Truth Social gave Scavino a $240,000 a year contract “in August 2021, a month after the congressional investigation began.” After being unable to postpone a September 2022 subpoena but before testifying in May 2023, Scavino received “a seat on the board of the Trump social media company [as well as] a $600,000 retention bonus and a $4 million ‘executive promissory note’ paid in shares, according to SEC filings. The company’s public filings do not make clear when these deals were put in place.”

Florida classified documents

  1. Brian Butler, Florida: A valet and manager at Mar-a-Lago with “direct knowledge of the handling of the government documents at the club,” he was “was offered golf tournament tickets, a lawyer paid for by Trump and a new job that would have come with a raise.” He turned them down.
  2. Caroline Wiles, Florida: daughter of Susie Wiles, had worked on the 2016 campaign and followed Trump to D.C. “where she reportedly left one job because she didn’t pass a background check [and] was hired by his campaign. Her salary: $222,000, making her currently the fourth-highest-paid staffer.”
  3. Evan Corcoran: “Corcoran’s notes from his conversations with Trump formed the backbone of the eventual indictment, and his descriptions of those meetings are expected to be a critical component at trial. The lawyer made an initial appearance before the grand jury in January 2023 and appeared again in another session in March… Just days after his March grand jury testimony, the Trump campaign sent two payments to his firm totaling $786,000, the largest amount paid in a single day in his almost two years working for Trump. The firm brought in a total of $1.4 million in that four-week span, more than double its payments from any other comparable period during Corcoran’s time working for Trump.”
  4. Jennifer Little, Georgia: hired to represent Trump, then pulled into Florida documents case. “Little told him, according to news reports, that unlike the government’s prior requests, a subpoena meant he could face criminal charges if he didn’t comply…Just after Little was forced to testify before the grand jury in March 2023, a Trump political action committee paid her $218,000, by far the largest payment she’d received while working for Trump. In the year after she became a witness, she has made at least $1.3 million from the Trump political committee, more than twice as much as she had during the year prior.”
  5. Margo Martin, Florida: “allegedly witnessed Trump showing off what he described as a secret military document, got a significant raise [from $155,000 to $185,000 per year] not long after the classified documents case heated up with the search at Mar-a-Lago… Campaign finance filings show a much larger pay increase for Martin, but the Trump campaign said the filings are misleading because of a difference in how payroll taxes and withholdings are reported by the two committees.”
  6. Susie Wiles: “When Trump was indicted on June 8, 2023, over his handling of the documents, the indictment described Wiles as a ‘PAC representative.’ It described Trump allegedly showing her a classified map related to a military operation, acknowledging ‘that he should not be showing it’ and warning her to ‘not get too close.’ That June, Right Coast Strategies, the political consulting firm Wiles founded, received its highest-ever monthly payment from the Trump campaign: $75,000, an amount the firm has equaled only once since… She also got a 20% raise that May, from $25,000 to $30,000 per month.”

2023 New York civil trial

  1. Allen Weisselberg, NY: Trump’s former chief financial officer “got a $2 million severance agreement in January 2023, four months after the New York attorney general sued Trump for financial fraud in his real estate business. The agreement contains a nondisparagement clause and language barring Weisselberg from voluntarily cooperating with investigators.”
  2. Steve Witkoff: appeared as an expert witness who “defended the Trump Organization real estate valuations at the heart of the case. Two months after Witkoff’s testimony, Trump’s campaign for the first time started paying his company, the Witkoff Group, for air travel. The payments continued over several weeks, ultimately totalling more than $370,000.”

Who’s followed ProPublica’s lead?

In addition to TMV:

  1. Boing Boing: Trump Team paid 9 key trial witnesses handsomely, says new bombshell report
  2. CNN (YouTube channel): Trump’s businesses and campaign have given financial benefits to witnesses, ProPublica report shows
  3. Cardinal & Pine: It sure looks like Trump is paying off witnesses
  4. Daily BeastTrump Trial Witnesses Got Big Raises From His Campaign and Businesses
  5. Esquire: Nine Trump Witnesses Have Recently Received Financial Benefits from His Campaign? How Convenient !
  6. NJ.com: Donald Trump has spent millions in possible witness tampering
  7. Newsweek: Trump’s Inner Circle Got Pay Boost Amid Criminal Trial, Probes
  8. Salon: Trump aides receive “significant financial benefits” after testifying, suggesting witness tampering
  9. Scripps News Service (YouTube channel): Trump witnesses received raises and benefits at work
  10. Techdirt: Trump Threatens To Sue ProPublica For Reporting On Payouts To Witnesses In His Various Cases
  11. The New Republic: Bombshell Report Reveals Team Trump Is Rewarding Key Trial Witnesses

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ANTISEMITISM SUCKS

ANTISEMITISM SUCKS

Nothing is new
They blame the Jew
While we are only a few
They wish what we knew.

When they’re in trouble
And feel they’re in a bubble
They do what they normally do
They call the Jew.

Maybe they should grow up
And face the facts
And get off our backs
We’ve taken our licks
And used no tricks.

Our secret is
Hitting the books
We read and we write
That gives us fight
To do what’s right.

You may have found
If we’re knocked on the ground
We bounce back up
It’s not due to luck.

Know helps us to say Yes
And eliminate the guess
Peace and understanding
Is our best landing.


Photo 178201488 | Antisemitism © Karen Koch | Dreamstime.com

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Love and Marriage Near Normandy’s D-Day Beaches

Harold Terens and Jeanne Swerlin tie the knot at the town hall of Carentan, France (Screen capture AP video),,

Readers have been flooded with dozens of heartrending stories about “that Day” eighty years ago.

The stories are about bravery, sacrifice, heroism, selflessness, patriotism and, yes, tragedy and death.

I cannot resist burdening the reader with one more story related to the “Longest Day.”

This one, however, is about love and marriage a mere 35 miles (as a crow flies) from the sacred beaches of Normandy.

What makes the story even more charming, is that it is about love and marriage between a 100-year-old World War II D-Day veteran and a “youngster of just 96.

On Saturday, two days after the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Harold Terens and his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin tied the knot at the town hall of Carentan-les-Marais, France, an important crossroad linking the invading Allied Forces to each other and to other key locations and the site of six days of fierce fighting following the D-Day invasion.

According to Associated Press journalists Sylvie Corbet and Terry Spencer , Terens enlisted in 1942, shipped to England where he was a radio repair technician attached to a four-pilot P-47 Thunderbolt fighter unit. The 20-year-old corporal “went to France 12 days later, helping transport freshly captured Germans and just-freed American POWs to England.

After the Nazi surrender, Terens returned to the U.S. and married his first wife, Thelma, in 1948. She passed away in 2018.

In 2021, Terens met Swerlin, also a widower, and “the rest is history.”

Last week, Terens and Swerlin were flown to France courtesy of Delta Airlines for the D-Day 80th anniversary celebrations and for their wedding.

AP‘s Corbet and Spencer :

As the swing of Glenn Miller and other period tunes rang out on the streets, well-wishers — some in WWII-period clothes — were already lined up a good hour before the wedding, behind barriers outside the town hall, with a rousing pipe and drum band also on hand to serenade the happy couple.

After both declaring “oui” to vows read by Carentan’s mayor in English, the couple exchanged rings.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Terens said.

She giggled and gasped, “Really?”

With Champagne flutes in hand, they waved through an open window to the adoring crowds outside.

::

The crowd yelled “la mariée!” – the bride! — to Swerlin, who wore a long flowing dress of vibrant pink. Terens looked dapper in a light blue suit and matching pink kerchief in his breast pocket.

But that was not all.

Terens and Swerlin were invited to a state dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris with none other than Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, where Macron congratulated the newlyweds and toasted, “(The town of) Carentan was happy to host your wedding, and us, your wedding dinner…”

For those who like statistics:

The collective age of the bride and groom is almost 200.

Terens and Swerlin collectively have 15 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

But only the collective “two” spent the honeymoon in Paris.

Watch the video of the wedding here:

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ProPublica: Nine Trump witnesses have received significant financial benefits from his businesses, campaign

If any benefits were intended to influence testimony, that could be a crime.

Donald Trump, official photo

Nine witnesses in the criminal cases against former President Donald Trump have received significant financial benefits, including large raises from his campaign, severance packages, new jobs, and a grant of shares and cash from Trump’s media company.

The benefits have flowed from Trump’s businesses and campaign committees, according to a ProPublica analysis of public disclosures, court records and securities filings. One campaign aide had his average monthly pay double, from $26,000 to $53,500. Another employee got a $2 million severance package barring him from voluntarily cooperating with law enforcement. And one of the campaign’s top officials had her daughter hired onto the campaign staff, where she is now the fourth-highest-paid employee.

These pay increases and other benefits often came at delicate moments in the legal proceedings against Trump. One aide who was given a plum position on the board of Trump’s social media company, for example, got the seat after he was subpoenaed but before he testified.

Significant changes to a staffer’s work situation, such as bonuses, pay raises, firings or promotions, can be evidence of a crime if they come outside the normal course of business. To prove witness tampering , prosecutors would need to show that perks or punishments were intended to influence testimony.

White-collar defense lawyers say the situation Trump finds himself in — in the dual role of defendant and boss of many of the people who are the primary witnesses to his alleged crimes — is not uncommon. Their standard advice is not to provide any unusual benefits or penalties to such employees. Ideally, decisions about employees slated to give evidence should be made by an independent body such as a board, not the boss who is under investigation.

Even if the perks were not intended to influence witnesses, they could prove troublesome for Trump in any future trials. Prosecutors could point to the benefits to undermine the credibility of those aides on the witness stand.

“It feels very shady, especially as you detect a pattern. … I would worry about it having a corrupt influence,” Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said after hearing from ProPublica about benefits provided to potential Trump witnesses.

But McQuade said these cases are difficult to prove, even if the intent were actually to influence testimony, because savvy defendants don’t explicitly attach strings to the benefits and would more likely be “all wink and a nod, ‘You’re a great, loyal employee, here’s a raise.’”

In response to questions from ProPublica, a Trump campaign official said that any raises or other benefits provided to witnesses were the result of their taking on more work due to the campaign or his legal cases heating up, or because they took on new duties.

The official added that Trump himself isn’t involved in determining how much campaign staffers are paid, and that compensation is entirely delegated to the campaign’s top leaders. “The president is not involved in the decision-making process,” the official said. “I would argue Trump doesn’t know what we’re paid.”

Campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement that “the 2024 Trump campaign is the most well-run and professional operation in political history. Any false assertion that we’re engaging in any type of behavior that may be regarded as tampering is absurd and completely fake.”

Trump’s attorney, David Warrington, sent ProPublica a cease-and-desist letter demanding this article not be published. The letter warned that if the outlet and its reporters “continue their reckless campaign of defamation, President Trump will evaluate all legal remedies.”

It’s possible the benefits are more widespread. Payments from Trump campaign committees are disclosed publicly, but the finances of his businesses are mostly private, so raises, bonuses and other payments from those entities are not typically disclosed.

ProPublica did not find evidence that Trump personally approved the pay increases or other benefits. But Trump famously keeps close watch over his operations and prides himself on penny-pinching. One former aide compared working for the Trump Organization, his large company, to “a small family business” where every employee “in some sense reports to Mr. Trump.” Former aides have said Trump demands unwavering loyalty from subordinates, even when their duties require independence. After his Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided to recuse himself against then-President Trump’s wishes, paving the way for a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s ties to Russia, Trump fumed about being crossed. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” Trump asked, referring to the notorious former aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy who later served as Trump’s faithful fixer long before Trump became president.

In addition to the New York case in which Trump was convicted last week, stemming from hidden payments to a porn star, Trump is facing separate charges federally and in Georgia for election interference and in another federal case for mishandling classified documents.

Attempts to exert undue influence on witnesses have been a repeated theme of Trump-related investigations and criminal cases over the years.

Trump’s former campaign manager and former campaign adviser were convicted on federal witness tampering charges in 2018 and 2019. The campaign adviser had told a witness to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’” referencing a character in “The Godfather Part II” who lies to a Senate committee investigating organized crime. Trump later pardoned both men in the waning days of his presidency. (He did not pardon a co-defendant of the campaign manager who had cooperated with the government.)

During the congressional investigation into the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a former White House staffer testified that she got a call from a colleague the night before an interview with investigators . The colleague told her Trump’s chief of staff “wants me to let you know that he knows you’re loyal and he knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss.” (A spokesperson for the chief of staff denied that he tried to influence testimony.)

Last year, Trump himself publicly discouraged a witness from testifying in the Georgia case. Trump posted on social media that he had read about a Georgia politician who “will be testifying before the Fulton County Grand Jury. He shouldn’t.”

One witness has said publicly that, when he quit working for Trump in the midst of the classified documents criminal investigation, he was offered golf tournament tickets, a lawyer paid for by Trump and a new job that would have come with a raise. The witness, a valet and manager at Mar-a-Lago, had direct knowledge of the handling of the government documents at the club, the focus of one of the criminal cases against the former president. “I’m sure the boss would love to see you,” the employee, Brian Butler, recalled Trump’s property manager telling him. (The episode was first reported by CNN .)

In an interview with ProPublica, Butler, who declined the offers, said he looked at them “innocently for a while.” But when he added up the benefits plus the timing, he thought “it could be them trying to get me back in the circle.”

 
~~~~
 

One Trump aide who plays a key role in multiple cases is a lawyer named Boris Epshteyn, who became an important figure in Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

A college classmate of one of Trump’s sons who worked on the 2016 campaign and briefly in the White House, Epshteyn was involved in assembling sets of false electors around the country after Trump lost the 2020 election, and Epshteyn’s emails and texts have come up repeatedly in investigations.

In 2022, he testified before the Georgia grand jury that later indicted Trump on charges related to attempts to overturn the election. The FBI seized his phone, and in April 2023 he was interviewed by the federal special counsel.

In early August 2023, the special counsel charged Trump with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding as part of an effort to overturn the 2020 election. A couple weeks later, the Georgia grand jury handed down an indictment accusing Trump of racketeering as part of a plot to overturn the election results in the state. From November 2022 to August 2023, the Trump campaign had paid Epshteyn’s company an average of $26,000 per month. The month after the indictments, his pay hit a new high, $50,000, and climbed in October to $53,500 per month, where it has remained ever since.

Epshteyn is a contractor with the campaign and the payments go to his company, Georgetown Advisory, which is based at a residential home in New Jersey. The company does not appear to have an office or other employees. Campaign filings say the payments are for “communications & legal consulting.”

Kenneth Notter, an attorney at MoloLamken who specializes in white-collar defense, said that a defendant should have a good explanation for a major increase in pay like Epshteyn’s. “Any change in treatment of a witness is something that gets my heart rate up as a lawyer.”

Already in early 2023, months before the pay bump, a Trump campaign spokesperson described Epshteyn to The New York Times as “a deeply valued member of the team” who had “done a terrific job shepherding the legal efforts fighting” the investigations of Trump. The Times reported then that Epshteyn spoke to Trump multiple times per day.

Timothy Parlatore, an attorney who left Trump’s defense team last year citing infighting , found Epshteyn’s large raise baffling. He questioned Epshteyn’s fitness to handle high-stakes criminal defense given his scant experience in the area. “He tries to coordinate all the legal efforts, which is a role he’s uniquely unqualified for,” Parlatore said.

The Trump campaign official told ProPublica that Epshteyn got a pay raise because Trump’s legal cases intensified and, as a result, Epshteyn had more legal work to coordinate. The official declined to say if he started working more hours: “All of us are working 24/7, … every second of the day.” Epshteyn declined to comment on the record.

Even after the major pay increase, Epshteyn has not devoted all of his working time to the Trump campaign. He has continued to consult for other campaigns in recent months, disclosure filings show. And in November, he got a new role as managing director of a financial services firm in New York called Kenmar Securities, regulatory filings show .

Other employees in Trump’s political orbit have followed a similar pattern — including his top aide.

Trump campaign head Susie Wiles, a Florida political consultant, was present when Trump allegedly went beyond improperly holding onto classified documents and showed them to people lacking proper security clearances.

When Trump was indicted on June 8, 2023, over his handling of the documents, the indictment described Wiles as a “PAC representative.” It described Trump allegedly showing her a classified map related to a military operation, acknowledging “that he should not be showing it” and warning her to “not get too close.”

That June, Right Coast Strategies, the political consulting firm Wiles founded, received its highest-ever monthly payment from the Trump campaign: $75,000, an amount the firm has equaled only once since.

Wiles had been a grand jury witness before the indictment. News reports indicated Wiles had told others that she continued to be loyal to Trump and only testified because she was forced to. (And, according to Wiles, Trump was told she was a witness sometime before the indictment’s June release.)

The Trump campaign official told ProPublica that the spike in payments was largely because Wiles was billing for previous months.

She also got a 20% raise that May, from $25,000 to $30,000 per month. “She went back and redid her contract,” the official said, adding that her role as a witness was not a factor in that raise.

A few months later, the Wiles family got more good news. Wiles’ daughter Caroline, who had done some work for Trump’s first campaign and in the White House, where she reportedly left one job because she didn’t pass a background check, was hired by his campaign. Her salary: $222,000, making her currently the fourth-highest-paid staffer. (The Trump campaign official said her salary included a monthly housing stipend.)

Susie Wiles said she and another campaign official were responsible for hiring her daughter, who she said has an expertise in logistics and was brought on to handle arrangements for surrogates taking Trump’s place at events he couldn’t attend. Wiles said Trump wasn’t involved in the hire.

Caroline Wiles told ProPublica her mother’s position in the campaign played no role in her getting a job, but she declined to describe the circumstances around the job offer. “How did I get the job? Because I have earned it,” she said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with Susie.”

The indictment suggests Susie Wiles herself has been aware of efforts to keep potential witnesses in the fold. Soon after the FBI found classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, a Trump employee was asked in a group text chat that included Wiles to confirm that the club’s property manager “was loyal.”

Wiles told ProPublica she couldn’t talk about the details of the case, but she called the text message exchange “a nothing.”

More generally, she said she was unaware of the need to ensure employees who are witnesses do not appear to be receiving special treatment. “It’s the first time I’ve heard that’s best practice,” she said. “I don’t mind telling you I conduct myself in such a way that I don’t worry about any of that.” Trump, she said, had never talked to her about her role as a witness.

Less powerful aides who are witnesses have also enjoyed career advances.

Margo Martin, a Trump aide who, like Wiles, allegedly witnessed Trump showing off what he described as a secret military document, got a significant raise not long after the classified documents case heated up with the search at Mar-a-Lago.

According to the indictment, Trump told Martin and others the military plan was “secret” and “highly confidential.” “As president I could have declassified it,” he allegedly told the group. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”

A few months before her grand jury appearance, she moved from the payroll of a Trump political committee to a job with the campaign as it was launching. Martin was given a roughly 20% pay raise, from $155,000 to $185,000 per year, according to the Trump campaign. Campaign finance filings show a much larger pay increase for Martin, but the Trump campaign said the filings are misleading because of a difference in how payroll taxes and withholdings are reported by the two committees.

Because of that quirk, it’s impossible to know who else got raises and how big they were. The campaign official said that at least one other witness also got a pay raise but did not provide details about how much and when.

 
~~~~
 

Dan Scavino is a longtime communications aide who Trump once called the “most powerful man in politics” because he could post for Trump on the president’s social media accounts. Scavino was among the small group of staff who had an up-close view of Trump during the final weeks of his presidency — a focus of the congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6 insurrection and the criminal probe into election interference.

In August 2021, a month after the congressional investigation began, securities filings show that the parent company behind Truth Social, Trump’s social media company, gave Scavino a consulting deal that ultimately paid out $240,000 a year.

The next month, lawmakers issued a subpoena to Scavino to ask him what the White House knew about the potential for violence before the attacks and what actions Trump took to try to overturn the election results. The panel gave Scavino a half-dozen extensions while negotiating with him, but he ultimately refused to testify or turn over documents and was held in contempt.

In September 2022, Scavino received a subpoena to testify before the criminal grand jury in the federal election interference probe. This time, he wasn’t able to get out of it and was seen leaving the Washington, D.C., courthouse in May 2023.

Bits of Scavino’s testimony were reported by ABC News, citing unnamed sources. Though his recollections of Trump from Jan. 6 painted the former president unfavorably, his reported testimony didn’t include significant new information. He testified Trump was “very angry” that day, and, despite pleas from aides to calm the Capitol rioters, Trump for hours “was just not interested” in taking action to stop it. When the testimony was reported, Trump’s spokesperson said Scavino is one of the former president’s “most loyal allies, and his actual testimony shows just how strong President Trump is positioned in this case.”

Between getting the subpoena and testifying, Scavino was given a seat on the board of the Trump social media company.

Scavino was also granted a $600,000 retention bonus and a $4 million “executive promissory note” paid in shares, according to SEC filings. The company’s public filings do not make clear when these deals were put in place.

As one of the few aides who Trump was with on Jan. 6, Scavino is likely to be called if Trump’s election interference cases go to trial.

Reached by ProPublica, Scavino declined to answer questions about how he got the board seat and other benefits from the Trump media company. “It has nothing to do,” he said, “with any investigation.”

A Trump Media spokesperson declined to answer questions about who made the decision to give Scavino the benefits and why, but said, “It appears this article will comprise utterly false insinuations.”

 
~~~~
 

When Atlanta attorney Jennifer Little was hired to represent Trump in his Georgia election interference case, it marked the high point of her career.

A former local prosecutor who started her own practice, she had previously taken on far more modest cases. Highlights on her website include a biker who fell because of a pothole, a child investigated for insensitive social media comments and drunk drivers with “DUI’s as high as .19.” Little had made headlines for some higher profile cases, like a candidate for lieutenant governor accused of sexual harassment, but everything on her resume paled in comparison to representing a former president accused of plotting to reverse the outcome of an election.

Then in May 2022, her job got even more complicated when Trump pulled her into his brewing showdown with the Justice Department over classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Despite multiple requests, Trump had not returned all of the documents he had brought with him from the White House to his Florida club. The Justice Department had just elevated the matter by subpoenaing Trump for the records, and Trump wanted her advice.

Little told him, according to news reports, that unlike the government’s prior requests, a subpoena meant he could face criminal charges if he didn’t comply.

When Trump ultimately did not turn over the records and the criminal investigation intensified, Little’s involvement in that pivotal meeting got her called before a grand jury by federal prosecutors.

Some of her testimony before that grand jury, which determines whether someone will be indicted, may have been favorable for Trump. In one reported instance, Little’s recollections undermined contemporaneous documentary evidence that was damaging to Trump. Investigators had obtained notes from another lawyer at the May 2022 meeting indicating Trump suggested they not “play ball” with federal authorities: “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”

Little told the grand jury she remembered the question more benignly, according to an ABC News story that cited anonymous sources, and said she couldn’t recall Trump recommending they not “play ball.”

Trump has since been indicted over his handling of the classified documents. If the case goes to trial, Little’s testimony could prove crucial as the two sides try to make their case about Trump’s consciousness of guilt and whether he purposely withheld documents. (Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case and has said he did nothing wrong.)

Just after Little was forced to testify before the grand jury in March 2023, a Trump political action committee paid her $218,000, by far the largest payment she’d received while working for Trump. In the year after she became a witness, she has made at least $1.3 million from the Trump political committee, more than twice as much as she had during the year prior.

Little told ProPublica the large payment she received soon after she was compelled to testify was due to a lengthy motion she filed around then to block the release of the Georgia grand jury’s findings and prevent Trump from being indicted. Her hourly rate did not change, she said, the workload increased. The elevated payments in the year after she became a witness did coincide with the Georgia case heating up and Trump getting indicted.

The Trump campaign official said the spike in payments to Little after she became a witness was the result of her billing for multiple time periods at once.

A similar pattern played out for the other Trump lawyer present at the Mar-a-Lago meeting about the subpoena.

Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in white-collar criminal defense, was new to the team at the time. And it was his notes, obtained by investigators, that memorialized Trump suggesting they not “play ball.” His notes also included a description of Trump seeming to instruct him to withhold some sensitive documents from authorities when the former president made a “plucking motion.”

“He made a funny motion as though — well okay why don’t you take them with you to your hotel room and if there’s anything really bad in there, like, you know, pluck it out,” Corcoran’s notes read, according to the indictment.

Like Little, Corcoran tried to fight being forced to testify before a grand jury, asserting that as Trump’s lawyer, their communications were protected. But prosecutors were able to convince a judge that the protection didn’t apply because their legal advice was used to commit crimes.

Corcoran’s notes from his conversations with Trump formed the backbone of the eventual indictment, and his descriptions of those meetings are expected to be a critical component at trial. The lawyer made an initial appearance before the grand jury in January 2023 and appeared again in another session in March.

Around the time he was forced to be a witness, Corcoran recused himself from the classified documents case, but he continued to represent Trump on other matters. Nevertheless his firm’s compensation shot up for a few months.

Just days after his March grand jury testimony, the Trump campaign sent two payments to his firm totaling $786,000, the largest amount paid in a single day in his almost two years working for Trump. The firm brought in a total of $1.4 million in that four-week span, more than double its payments from any other comparable period during Corcoran’s time working for Trump.

Corcoran did not respond to questions from ProPublica. The Trump campaign official said the spike in payments came because the firm was billing for more hours of work as Trump’s cases ramped up. The official added that the number of lawyers from the firm working on the case may have increased but could not provide specifics.

 
~~~~
 

The issue of witnesses who have received financial rewards from Trump has already come up at both of the former president’s New York trials.

In the civil fraud case last year, prosecutors questioned the Trump Organization’s former controller about the $500,000 in severance he had been promised after retiring earlier in the year. During his testimony, the former controller broke down in tears as he complained about allegations against an employer he loved and defended the valuations at the center of the case as “justified.” At the time of the testimony, he was still receiving his severance in installments.

Former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg got a $2 million severance agreement in January 2023, four months after the New York attorney general sued Trump for financial fraud in his real estate business. The agreement contains a nondisparagement clause and language barring Weisselberg from voluntarily cooperating with investigators.

It came up in Trump’s hush money trial last month when prosecutors told the judge that the severance agreement was one of the reasons they would not call Weisselberg . He was still due several payments.

“The agreement seems to preclude us from talking to him or him talking to us at the risk of losing $750,000 of outstanding severance pay,” one prosecutor said .

In last year’s fraud trial, the judge wrote of the severance agreement, “The Trump Organization keeps Weisselberg on a short leash, and it shows.”

A Trump Organization spokesperson said in a statement that after Weisselberg and the controller announced their retirement plans, “the company agreed to pay them severance based on the number of years they worked at the company. President Trump played no role in that decision.” Weisselberg’s severance agreement was signed by Trump’s son Eric.

Another witness from the civil trial last year, longtime Trump friend and real estate executive Steve Witkoff, was called as an expert witness by Trump’s defense team, and he defended the Trump Organization real estate valuations at the heart of the case.

Two months after Witkoff’s testimony, Trump’s campaign for the first time started paying his company, the Witkoff Group, for air travel. The payments continued over several weeks, ultimately totalling more than $370,000.

The Trump campaign official confirmed the campaign used Witkoff’s private jet for multiple trips, including Trump’s visit to a stretch of the Texas border in February, saying it “appropriately reimbursed” him for the flights. The official said it sometimes used commercial charter jet services but opted for Witkoff’s plane because of “availability, space, and convenience.”

Witkoff and The Witkoff Group did not respond to requests for comment.

 
~~~~
 

By ProPublica and Robert Faturechi, Justin Elliott and Alex Mierjeski
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom.
Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Do you have any information about Trump’s campaign or his businesses that we should know? Robert Faturechi can be reached by email at robert.faturechi@propublica.org and by Signal or WhatsApp at 213-271-7217. Justin Elliott can be reached by email at justin@propublica.org or by Signal or WhatsApp at 774-826-6240.

Published under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
See the original story , published June 3, 2024, 6 a.m. EDT.

The post ProPublica: Nine Trump witnesses have received significant financial benefits from his businesses, campaign appeared first on The Moderate Voice .