Hells Angels Leader Chuck Zito, Dershowitz Show Up In Court

Topline

Former President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump, Jr., made his first appearance at his father’s criminal trial on Tuesday, one of the few Trump family members who have gone to the trial, alongside his brother Eric Trump—as the ex-president has brought a rotating entourage of allies to the courthouse as testimony has ramped up.

Key Facts

Trump has brought a number of politicians to court as ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels have testified, with The New York Times reporting Trump’s advisers have been arranging a coterie of supporters to attend the trial to “buoy [Trump] up” and speak out against the case—particularly as Trump is barred from speaking out against witnesses himself under a gag order.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., was the first major GOP official to arrive with Trump to court, when Daniels testified on May 9, with Sens. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala, and JD Vance, R-Ohio, arriving for the first day of Cohen’s testimony and House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., showing up at the courthouse (but reportedly never actually entering the courtroom) the next day on May 14.

Approximately 25 members of Congress have attended in total, including Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who both reportedly went to court on the third day of Cohen’s testimony.

Other politicians who have shown up at the trial include former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, along with such other Trump allies as attorney Alan Dershowitz, former Trump administration intelligence official Kash Patel, comedian Joe Piscopo, former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka and Chuck Zito, an actor and the former leader of Hells Angels in New York.

Trump’s son Eric Trump is the only one of the ex-president’s children who has been regularly present during the trial, regularly showing up in court and decrying the trial on social media—though Eric’s wife Lara Trump was also present on May 14 and Donald Trump, Jr. came to court on Tuesday.

A number of Trump advisors and attorneys have also accompanied him at the trial beyond his defense team, including attorney Alina Habba—who is not representing the ex-president in this case—and advisors Boris Epshteyn and Jason Miller; Andrew Giuliani, son of ex-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, has also been a regular presence at the trial.

Where’s Trump’s Family?

While Eric Trump has regularly shown up to court, the ex-president’s other family members had notably been absent prior to Don Jr.’s appearance on Tuesday, and daughter Ivanka Trump and wife Melania Trump have yet to make an appearance in court. The lack of family members at the criminal trial aside from Eric Trump has been striking to legal experts, who have noted criminal defendants typically have their family present at their trial.

Tangent

While attending the trial as press and not part of the ex-president’s entourage, several Trump-friendly media personalities have also been spotted in court, including Fox host Jeanine Pirro, whom Trump acknowledged in court on May 10, and Newsmax host Greg Kelly, who reportedly stood up and gave Trump a thumbs up in court on May 9.

What To Watch For

How Trump’s trial entourage affects the fight to become his running mate. A number of politicians who are showing up at the trial are also considered to be vice presidential contenders, including Scott, Vance, Burgum and Ramaswamy—though it remains to be seen if appearing in the courtroom will help any of them curry enough favor with the ex-president to clinch the spot on Trump’s ticket.

Contra

While the Times reports that Trump’s advisors are behind the rotating group of politicians accompanying Trump to the trial, the ex-president told reporters Monday that he was urging Republicans to stay home. “We have a lot of them, they want to come, and I say just stay back and pass lots of laws to stop things like this,” Trump said Monday as he continued to decry the legal case against him, though he told reporters Tuesday morning his surrogates at the trial were “speaking very beautifully” about him.

Surprising Fact

Some of the politicians who have appeared at Trump’s trial have made comments that Trump is barred from making under the gag order against him—namely criticizing Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter, who Trump has accused of being biased against him because she does work for Democratic politicians. That’s raised concerns among legal experts that Trump could be using his allies—whom he termed his “surrogates” on Tuesday—to speak on his behalf, which could violate the gag order’s terms. The gag order prohibits Trump from speaking out against various people involved with the trial, or directing others to, though the Times notes it’s unlikely Merchan could say Trump violated the gag order unless there was clear evidence he directed people to speak for him.

Chief Critics

Some Republicans’ appearances at the trial have drawn criticism, as Democrats have accused politicians of appearing at the trial solely to further their own political careers. “Iowans deserve to know whether their hard-earned money is going to a political photo op 1,100 miles from the State Capitol,” Iowa Democratic Party chair Rita Hart said in a statement Monday about Bird showing up in court. “Iowans deserve an attorney general that’s focused on serving her constituents—not her political ambitions.” Former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., also took aim at Johnson for going to court on Tuesday, tweeting she “[has] to admit I’m surprised that [Johnson] wants to be in the ‘I cheated on my wife with a porn star’ club.” (Trump has denied allegations of an affair with Stormy Daniels.)

Key Background

Trump is on trial for 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, stemming from reimbursement checks he paid to Cohen after his ex-attorney paid Daniels $130,000 right before the 2016 election to cover up allegations of an affair. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and has decried the trial as a “witch hunt,” also complaining about the legal proceedings—which, as a criminal defendant, Trump is required to be at—taking away his ability to campaign. Daniels and Cohen have been the most high profile witnesses to take the stand thus far at the trial, which began in mid-April, with both testifying negatively about the ex-president. Daniels told the jury about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump—saying she “blacked out” during the episode, though she wasn’t drugged, and wanted to get out of there “as fast as I could”—while Cohen testified Trump had direct knowledge of and involvement in the hush money scheme. Trump is barred under a gag order from speaking out against witnesses, the jury, and other participants in the case, but the judge has ruled he violated the order 10 times.

Further Reading

ForbesTrump’s VP Shortlist: Here Are The Top Contenders-As Tim Scott Suggests He Wants The Job
ForbesMichael Cohen Says Stormy Daniels Payment ‘Required Trump’s Sign Off’
ForbesTrump And Stormy Daniels: What To Know About Hush Money Saga As Adult Film Star Takes The Stand



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