Trump’s Terrible Week

E. Jean Carroll, the New York attorney general, and a panel of judges are piling on the former president.

New York Attorney General Letitia James at a podium
New York Attorney General Letitia James at a press conference regarding Donald Trump (Yuki Iwamura / AFP / Getty)

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Pour one out for Donald Trump’s lawyers: Their client has had a miserable week in court, and his legal woes are mounting.

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

On the Defense

Trump’s latest legal setback came last night, when a federal appeals court handed the classified documents seized by the FBI at his Mar-a-Lago estate back to government investigators. In siding with the government, a three-judge panel—including two Trump appointees—slapped down just about every argument that Trump and his legal team had advanced to suggest that the former president was within his rights to take classified documents from the White House when he left office last year. The decision also rebuked Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointed federal judge whose rulings in favor of Trump have led many legal experts and former prosecutors to question her impartiality. The lower court had “abused its discretion,” the panel wrote.

Trump, meanwhile, continues to make wild-sounding assertions about presidential authority that his own lawyers won’t repeat in court. “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying ‘It’s declassified,’ even by thinking about it,” Trump told Sean Hannity in an appearance on Fox News last night. He went on to suggest that FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago were looking for “Hillary Clinton emails” and might have made off with Trump’s will—charges that even Hannity, no Trump critic, appeared to find outlandish.

The appellate ruling was not the only sign of trouble for Trump in the Department of Justice’s investigation. Earlier this week, Judge Raymond Dearie—the special master whom Judge Cannon appointed (and whom Trump’s lawyers recommended) to review the Mar-a-Lago documents—expressed irritation at the Trump team’s refusal to show proof that as president, Trump had actually declassified the documents in question before his term ended. “You can’t have your cake and eat it,” Dearie told them.

The investigation into the classified documents is a federal matter. Trump’s legal problems in New York State are growing too. On Tuesday, E. Jean Carroll, a writer who says Trump raped her in the 1990s (he denies it), said she would take advantage of a new state law allowing victims of sexual assault a onetime opportunity to file new civil lawsuits after the statute of limitations on their cases has expired. And yesterday, hours before the appellate ruling came out, New York Attorney General Letitia James unveiled a lawsuit against Trump, his family, and his business alleging that for years, Trump inflated his net worth for financial gain.

My colleague David Graham wrote yesterday that, in the picture painted by the 222-page complaint, “the Trump Organization was actually just a massive fraud with incidental sidelines in property development, merchandising, and entertainment.” The lawsuit can’t directly put Trump in jail, but James is referring the case to federal prosecutors and seeking to bar the former president and three of his adult children from ever running a business in New York again.

The potential damage to Trump’s ego could be just as painful as any of the likely legal ramifications. When he launched his presidential bid more than seven years ago, the first thing his campaign did after Trump descended the golden escalator—even before his now-infamous rant about Mexican “criminals” and “rapists” coming over the southern border—was give every reporter in attendance a folder outlining his net worth and asserting that it was not a penny less than $8.7 billion. Trump has been making such claims for years, and yesterday, James said that they were not only political lies but violations of the law as well.

None of these lawsuits and investigations might stop Trump from running for president again in 2024. He noted last week that even an indictment is “no prohibition” on another campaign. That is true. Voters, rather than the courts, are still the jury that will most likely have the last word on whether Trump returns to the White House. His critics can only hope that these developments and revelations—along with those emanating from the House’s January 6 committee, which will hold another hearing next week—will persuade Americans not to give him that second chance.


Today’s News
  1. Alex Jones testified at a damages trial that will determine what he owes the families of the Sandy Hook victims.
  2. A federal watchdog found that more than $45 billion may have been stolen from the U.S. unemployment-insurance program during the pandemic.
  3. Since Vladimir Putin’s announcement yesterday that he will call up as many as 300,000 civilians in the war on Ukraine, some Russian men have begun fleeing the country.


Evening Read
Illustration of a thought bubble with a desk in it
(Getty; The Atlantic)

Why Adults Still Dream About School

By Kelly Conaboy

I have a recurring dream. Actually, I have a few—one is about dismembering a body (I’d rather not get into it), but the more pertinent one is about college. It’s the end of the semester, and I suddenly realize that there is a class I forgot to attend, ever, and now I have to sit for the final exam. I wake up panicked, my GPA in peril. How could I have done this? Why do I so consistently self-sabota—oh. Then I remember I haven’t been in college in more than a decade.

Someone with intimate knowledge of my academic career might point out that this nightmare scenario is not that far removed from my actual collegiate experience, and that at certain times in my life, it did not take the magic of slumber to find me completely unprepared for a final. And, well … regardless of what may or may not be true of my personal scholastic rigor, I suspect the school-stress dream is quite a common one. Even among nerds.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break
Diego Luna marching through a smoky landscape in "Andor"
(LucasFilm / Walt Disney Studios)

Read. Home, by Marilynne Robinson—or another pick from our list of books where the setting exposes the characters.

Watch. The Star Wars prequel series Andor, on Disney+, is an unusually mature entry in the franchise.

Play our daily crossword.


My wife and I are about halfway through Ken Burns’s new three-part documentary, The U.S. and the Holocaust, which concluded last night on PBS. We’re big fans of Burns, and although it feels icky to call any Holocaust film “enjoyable,” this one is very well done. (The familiar voice of Peter Coyote, a frequent narrator of Burns films, is as soothing a companion as always.)

The Holocaust is obviously not an overlooked historical event, and I have devoured countless books and films about it over the years. But Burns has still managed to unearth plenty of clips I’d never seen before, and his indictment of the U.S. response to the unfolding horror in Nazi Germany is quietly damning. As Dara Horn wrote in The Atlantic last week, Burns goes a little too easy on Franklin D. Roosevelt. His real aim, however, seems to be reminding viewers that America has always talked a bigger game about welcoming immigrants and refugees than it has actually played. That history clearly has relevance today, and it was never more apparent than during the 1930s and ’40s, when the desperate Jews of Europe looked to America and too often found its doors closed.

— Russell

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.

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