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Nikki Haley hits Trump over E. Jean Carroll defamation damages verdict: Highlights

A jury today said Trump must pay $83.3 million in defamation damages to Carroll.
Image: Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley Campaigns In Her Home State Of South Carolina
Nikki Haley speaks Wednesday in North Charleston, S.C.Allison Joyce / Getty Images

Here's the latest from the 2024 campaign trail:

  • Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is escalating her attacks on former President Donald Trump as she seeks to prolong the Republican primary.
  • Trump has gone quiet on the airwaves ahead of the next round of primaries, while Haley and her allies are airing ads in South Carolina.
  • Trump, who was previously found liable for defaming E. Jean Carroll while he was president, was ordered to pay her to the tune of over $83 million in damages.
  • The DNC is launching a new ad campaign aimed at boosting President Joe Biden in South Carolina and Nevada.

Colorado voters tell Supreme Court that Trump should be ineligible for office

Colorado voters who say Trump should be barred from holding office because of his role in events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol urged the Supreme Court today to kick him off their state’s Republican primary ballot.

Trump “intentionally organized and incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol in a desperate attempt to prevent the counting of electoral votes cast against him,” lawyers for the voters said in a new brief.

“By spearheading this attack, Trump engaged in insurrection against the Constitution,” the lawyers wrote.

Read the full story here.

Why one vulnerable Democrat would likely vote to save Speaker Johnson’s job

Centrist Rep. Susan Wild, a Pennsylvania Democrat and one of the Republicans’ top targets in the 2024 election, said in an interview today that she is leaning toward voting to save Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., if conservative hardliners force a vote to oust him from power.

Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has personally warned Johnson that she will file a privileged “motion to vacate,” putting the question of Johnson’s political future before the full House, if he tries to pass any package that includes Ukraine aid. Other conservatives are furious with Johnson over the topline spending deal he cut with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and have said a motion to vacate is on the table.

“I really am not inclined to help a member of the Republican Conference who wants to oust the speaker over something like either Ukraine aid or a funding deal with the Democrats,” Wild told NBC News today.

Read the full story here.

Florida abortion amendment gets on ballot — but state Supreme Court hearing awaits

The group behind a proposed amendment to enshrine access to abortion in Florida’s constitution said today that it was notified that the measure was slated to appear on the November ballot.

Floridians Protecting Freedom announced that the Florida Division of Elections had notified the group that the measure would appear as “Amendment 4” in November, pending the highly anticipated review of the amendment by the state Supreme Court.

Organizers behind the measure nevertheless welcomed the fresh development that state officials had, for the time being, formally advanced the measure to the November ballot.

“Today, our campaign to limit government interference with abortion reached a historic milestone with the assignment of an official ballot number,” Floridians Protecting Freedom campaign director Lauren Brenzel said in a statement. “This November, Floridians should have the chance to vote for Amendment 4 to return control of our bodies and futures back to us, where these personal decisions belong.”

The proposed ballot measure seeks a state constitutional amendment to bar restrictions on abortion before fetal viability, considered to be at about the 24th week of pregnancy. It would include exceptions past that point for “the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.” If voters passed the amendment, it would effectively undo the state’s current 15-week ban, as well as a more-recently passed six-week ban — both of which remain blocked by the courts.

That last step could still prove to be a major hurdle for the group.

Under Florida law, the state Supreme Court gets to review the proposed language by any proposed citizen-initiated constitutional amendment proposal that received a certain number of signatures from valid registered voters in the state.

In this case, the language faces a specific challenge initiated by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, to the state Supreme Court urging the court to keep the question from appearing on the ballot altogether. 

That means the court’s conservative majority will have the opportunity to prevent voters from deciding on the proposed measure in November, even though the group collected the required number of signatures for it to appear. Five of the seven justices on the court have been appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a fierce opponent of abortion.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Feb. 7.

The court has until April 1 to approve or reject the proposed language.

Trump makes endorsements in Michigan and Arizona GOP chair races

Trump is putting his support behind two new potential GOP chairs in Michigan and Arizona after both state parties threw themselves into chaos with the unceremonious departures of their party leaders this month.

The former president announced on his Truth Social platform tonight that he is backing former Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra to become the new Michigan GOP chair. Hoekstra "has my Complete and Total Endorsement," Trump wrote.

Hoekstra has been issuing statements under the state party logo declaring himself the chairman ever since several state party committee members voted to oust Kristina Karamo, who was elected chairwoman last year. Karamo claims she still has the job and has refused to leave her post.

Trump also announced he was backing Gina Swoboda to become chairwoman of the Arizona GOP, calling her "an outstanding person with incredible passion for our Party."

The former chairman, Jeff DeWit, resigned Wednesday following the release of an audiotape on which he could be heard offering Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake lucrative job opportunities if she agreed to take a break from politics.

J Street rescinds endorsement of Jamaal Bowman

J Street, a prominent liberal pro-Israel group, is no longer endorsing Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., in his heated primary battle in New York's 16th District due to growing disagreements over the conflict in the Middle East.

"J Street looks forward to continued dialogue with Congressman Bowman outside of the context of endorsement, and J Street has committed to make no endorsements in the primary race in 2024," J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement published today.

Bowman's name no longer appears on a list of members of Congress the group endorsed ahead of the 2024 elections. His name was on the list as recently as last week.

The organization backed Bowman in 2022, saying Bowman's victory in a contested primary marked "a major win for J Street and a significant strengthening of pro-Israel, pro-peace representation in the next Congress." J Street also announced it invested $200,000 to support Bowman and Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., via the group's independent expenditure arm, the J Street Action Fund.

“Reps. Nadler and Bowman have shown strong and principled pro-Israel, pro-peace leadership, so it’s great news they’ll both be returning to Congress,” said Kevin Rachlin, J Street's vice president of public affairs, after it was announced that Bowman won his primary and Nadler had defeated former Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., in a heated primary race.

This year, Bowman faces a formidable primary challenge from Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who is endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Haley responds to E. Jean Carroll verdict: 'America can do better'

Haley responded to today's verdict that Trump must pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages, arguing that "America can do better."

"Donald Trump wants to be the presumptive Republican nominee and we’re talking about $83 million in damages," Haley said in a post to X. "We’re not talking about fixing the border. We’re not talking about tackling inflation. America can do better than Donald Trump and Joe Biden."

Haley has previously aligned herself more closely with Trump's attacks on the investigations, telling CNN's Dana Bash earlier this month, "Some of the cases have been political," while noting of the Carroll case specifically: "This one I haven’t looked at." Haley has also said she would pardon Trump if he’s convicted on any of the criminal charges against him.

Georgia Senate approves resolution to establish panel to investigate Fani Willis

The Republican-led Georgia Senate on Friday approved a resolution to establish a committee to investigate the prosecutor who brought an election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants last year.

In a 30-19 vote that passed along party lines, the state Senate approved legislation that will permit a special committee to investigate Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis amid misconduct allegations.

Read the full story here.

Trump will fly straight to Las Vegas following Carroll verdict

Trump is flying straight to Las Vegas tonight from New York ahead of his campaign rally tomorrow afternoon, campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung told NBC News.

Trump will deliver remarks tomorrow at a "Commit to Caucus" rally at Big League Dreams, a baseball and softball park in Las Vegas.

While Haley is set to win Nevada's primary on Feb. 6, Trump is instead participating in the state's caucuses on Feb. 8. The caucuses' results are the only ones that count for awarding delegates at the Republican National Convention this summer, but state law mandates that Nevada holds a primary, prompting the state to hold both types of elections this year.

How voters might respond to the Carroll verdict based on recent polling

It’s unclear exactly how Trump’s legal troubles will affect his general election campaign, and the Carroll case was a civil trial, with Trump’s criminal trials coming later this year.

But Tuesday's NBC News exit poll did ask Republican voters in New Hampshire whether they would consider Trump “fit to be president” if he was convicted of a crime.

Forty-two percent of New Hampshire GOP primary voters said they would not see Trump as fit to hold office if convicted. And while most of those respondents (83%) said they supported Nikki Haley in the primary, 13% of that group said they voted for Trump on Tuesday.

Trump must pay E. Jean Carroll over $83 million in defamation damages, jury rules

Former President Donald Trump must pay writer E. Jean Carroll over $83 million in damages for repeatedly defaming her, a jury found Friday. 

The nine-person jury began deliberations in federal court in New York at 1:40 p.m. ET and reached a verdict in just under three hours.

Read the full story here.

Michigan Muslim leaders cancel meeting with Biden campaign over Gaza

Muslim leaders in Dearborn, Michigan, canceled a planned meeting with Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez today after receiving pushback from their community over Biden’s support for Israel, three invitees confirmed to NBC News.

About a dozen Muslim and Arab elected officials and community leaders were to take part in the meeting, which was organized by Wayne County Deputy Executive Assad Turfe, who also made the decision to cancel the meeting. It was first reported by the Detroit News.

The officials who were invited, all Democrats, said there was no point in meeting with Biden campaign aides until the president calls for a cease-fire in Gaza.

“Community engagement is powerful when it is used to shape policies that save lives — these conversations must be had with policy-makers, not campaign staff. I will not entertain conversations about elections while we watch a live-streamed genocide backed by our government,” Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said on X.

This is not the only meeting the campaign has scheduled with Muslim and Arab leaders in Michigan, a key swing state with a large Muslim population. Chavez Rodriguez is in Michigan for a series of meetings with representatives of various Democratic-leaning constituency groups, including the Arab and Palestinian-American, Hispanic, and Black communities, according to a source familiar with the Biden campaign’s thinking.

Senior campaign staffers have held similar meetings with an array of constituent groups in key battleground states beginning starting last fall, the source added. 

Arab and Muslim Americans voted overwhelming for Biden in 2020, but many now say they cannot support the president again over his steadfast support for Israel during the war in Gaza.

Meanwhile, for the first time this year, Michigan will be one of Democrats’ early presidential nominating states. It will hold its primary on Feb. 27, so Biden campaign officials are looking to shore up support inside his party ahead of that contest. Even though he faces no real threat for the nomination, the snub from the local Muslim leaders speaks to the difficulty Biden will have in bringing those voters back into the fold.

 

The RNC risks putting its thumb on the scale for Trump

We remember, back in 2016, when Trump accused the Democratic National Committee of “rigging” the party's presidential primary in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders. 

“I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders. He never had a chance,” Trump said at his convention speech. 

That past Trump rhetoric makes what’s happening just two contests into the 2024 Republican presidential race absolutely jaw dropping, because the Republican National Committee is putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Trump.

It all started when RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said that it was time for the party to unite around Trump after his victory in the New Hampshire primary. 

“I’m looking at the math and the path going forward, and I don’t see it for Nikki Haley,” McDaniel said Tuesday night. “We need to unite around our eventual nominee, which is going to be Donald Trump, and we need to make sure we beat Joe Biden.”

While Trump won both Iowa and New Hampshire and while Haley’s upcoming path in South Carolina and beyond remains difficult for her, here’s the current delegate count: Trump 32, Nikki Haley 17 — with 1,215 needed for the nomination.  

Then came the news of a proposed RNC resolution, floated by longtime Trump ally David Bossie, calling the former president the party’s “presumptive” nominee. 

Bossie later withdrew the resolution. 

And late Thursday, Trump said he supported the resolution’s withdrawal, although he appreciated its intent. 

“While I greatly appreciate the Republican National Committee (RNC) wanting to make me their PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE, and while they have far more votes than necessary to do it, I feel, for the sake of PARTY UNITY, that they should NOT go forward with this plan, but that I should do it the “Old Fashioned” way, and finish the process off AT THE BALLOT BOX,” he said on his social-media platform.

In 2016, there were some legitimate complaints about the DNC’s nominating process — which included too few debates, plus those WikiLeaks emails showing DNC officials criticizing Sanders.

But these current actions — with the RNC chair already calling for the party to unite behind Trump and with a discussion (albeit tabled for now) about moving to rhetorically dispatch with the nominating contest — risk going well beyond what happened in 2016.

Check out today's First Read newsletter here.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger won't seek re-election to Congress

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., won't seek re-election to his seat after serving in the House for 21 years.

The 77-year-old congressman, who joins a list of dozens of retiring House Democrats, said in a statement that he wants to pass the torch to a younger generation of lawmakers.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision for me because, now more than ever, Congress needs thoughtful, end-game representatives like me — members who care more about constituents and our country and less about cable news hits," he said. "But it is time to pass the torch to a younger generation of leaders and I am looking forward to spending more time with my family."

Ruppersberger's district favors Democratic candidates. All of Maryland's congressional districts are represented by Democrats except one, which is held by GOP Rep. Andy Harris.

MoveOn plans to spend $32 million to boost Biden, congressional Democrats

The progressive group MoveOn plans to spend tens of millions of dollars this election cycle to boost turnout among young voters in key states for Democrats looking to keep the White House and win majorities in both chambers of Congress.

The $32 million investment, laid out initially to The New York Times and spelled out in a memo released Friday morning, is targeting 11 million people that the group calls "surge voters," which it defines as those who either "became active for the first time, or more active, after the 2016 election."

MoveOn's top targets are the presidential and Senate races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona and Ohio; the presidential races in Georgia and Michigan; and more than two-dozen swing-district House seats.

Haley again questions Trump's mental fitness for office

Haley is questioning whether Trump is “confused again,” suggesting he conflated her with E. Jean Carroll in a video he posted on Truth Social overnight.

"Wait a second, did Trump just say the person suing him is 'running for office?'" Haley wrote in a post on X. "Is he confused again? I was not in a New York City courtroom yesterday, any more than I was in charge of security at the Capitol on January 6. I was in South Carolina meeting with voters. They’d like to see a debate between me and Trump."

It was unclear, however, who Trump was referring to when he said someone is "running for office." Trump recently confused Haley with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at a campaign office, saying that Haley was in charge of security at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump goes quiet on the airwaves as Haley and her allies target South Carolina

Trump's campaign has been quiet on the airwaves with less than one month until the South Carolina primary, where Haley and her allies have stepped up their ad spending.

Trump's campaign has not spent on ads in South Carolina since the first week of January, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. Haley and Americans for Prosperity Action, a super PAC tied to the Koch network that has backed her, have a combined $2.8 million in ads booked over the next two weeks. The South Carolina Republican primary is set for Feb. 24.

Haley's campaign launched two TV ads in the Palmetto State this week, one painting Trump as the candidate of "chaos," while casting Haley as part of a "new chapter" of leadership. The other TV ad touted Haley's work as South Carolina's governor.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt wrote in a text message on Friday that she had "nothing to share on ad spending," but noted that the millions spent on ads boosting Haley in Iowa and New Hampshire did not propel her to victories there.

Steve Bannon teases 'special announcement' with Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale next week

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon teased a "special announcement" next week with Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., who has been weighing a run for Senate.

Rosendale appeared on Bannon's "War Room" podcast on Thursday, and detailed the pressure he has faced not to run for Senate in Montana, noting his vendors and donors were pressured not to support the congressman. He also noted he is touring the state with Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz.

"We've got standing room only," Rosendale said. "Me and Matt Gaetz are going to go out there and deliver the truth to the people across the state in Montana."

Rosendale has for months been weighing a run against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, after losing to Tester by nearly 4 percentage points in 2018. But top Republicans, including National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines, have coalesced around former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy in the race to take on Tester. Daines, also a Montana Republican, endorsed Sheehy back in June.

Sheehy and the NRSC dropped a new ad Thursday that ties Tester to the Biden administration, while a super PAC linked to Democrats is up with a new ad attacking Sheehy, according to AdImpact. 

Tester is a top GOP target this year as one of two Democrats running for re-election in states Trump won in 2020. Trump carried Montana by 16 percentage points.

Trump storms out of courtroom during closing arguments Carroll’s defamation trial

Trump abruptly stormed out of court during closing arguments in the E. Jean Carroll damages trial Friday as her attorney was telling jurors the former president is a liar who thinks “the rules don’t apply to him.”

“The record will reflect that Mr. Trump just rose and walked out of the courtroom,” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said after his dramatic departure during lawyer Roberta Kaplan’s presentation.

Roberta Kaplan, who’s not related to the judge, had told the jury that Trump spent the “entire trial continuing to engage in defamation” against Carroll by calling her sexual abuse allegations against him a “con job.”

“Ms. Carroll did not make it up, the sexual assault happened and his denials were all complete lies,” the lawyer said.

Read the full story here.

Haley campaign says it raised $2.6 million in 48 hours after N.H primary

Haley's campaign said it raised $2.6 million in the 48 hours after polls closed in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, $1.2 million of which came after Trump threatened to “permanently bar” anyone who contributed to the former U.N. ambassador from “the MAGA camp.”

"Trump’s scheme blew up in his face," Haley spokesperson AnnMarie Graham-Barnes said in a statement.

Haley has been ramping up her attacks on Trump as she digs into a month of campaigning in South Carolina before the state’s Feb. 24 primary.

Campaign signs for Nikki Haley on the day of the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 22, 2024 in Laconia.
Campaign signs for Nikki Haley in Laconia, N.H., on Tuesday.Matt Nighswander / NBC News

DNC launches ad campaigns in South Carolina and Nevada targeting minority voters

The Democratic National Committee is launching an ad blitz in the coming primary states of South Carolina and Nevada by targeting communities of color, rural areas and potential younger adults as Biden makes his re-election pitch to voters.

The ad campaign, previewed first to NBC News, focuses on getting out the vote, rejecting “MAGA” Republicans and highlighting issues like voting rights and student loan forgiveness. The bulk of the new ads — on radio, in print and online, along with billboards and kiosks on college campuses — start Saturday.

The DNC is spending six figures in South Carolina and another six figures in Nevada.

Read the full story here.

Closing arguments to begin in E. Jean Carroll’s damages trial against Trump

Closing arguments are set to begin Friday morning in E. Jean Carroll’s damages trial against Trump, in which the writer is expected to seek well over $10 million for the former president’s repeatedly defaming her by calling her sexual abuse allegations against him a “con job.”

Trump, who took the stand Thursday for the second time since his presidential re-election campaign began, is in attendance for Friday’s proceedings.

Trump delivered dramatic but brief testimony, saying he lashed out at Carroll after she went public with her allegations in 2019 because he wanted “to defend myself, my family and frankly the presidency.” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered the comment stricken from the record because it wasn’t responsive to the question to which he was responding.

Read the full story here.