Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Key Witness Richie McGinniss Blows Massive Hole in Prosecution’s Case

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Richie McGinniss, the Daily Caller video editor who was running behind Joseph Rosenbaum when Kyle Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, testified in court on Nov. 4, 2021, that Rosenbaum “lunged” for Rittenhouse’s gun and “threw his momentum toward the weapon,” bolstering the defendant’s self-defense argument and blowing a major hole in the state’s case.

“It was very clear to me that he (Rosenbaum) was reaching specifically for the weapon because that’s where his hands went,” McGinniss testified. He then stood up in the courtroom, putting both of his hands out, and demonstrated the lunge. He said Rosenbaum was in an “athletic position” as if he was “running as fast as he could.” The rifle was aimed lower than Rosenbaum’s hands, which were also going lower. Rittenhouse “dodged around it,” and then leveled the weapon and fired, he testified.

“It appeared he was lunging for the front portion of the weapon,” McGinniss said, adding that Rosenbaum yelled f*** you, sounding “very angry.”

“He said f*** you, and then he reached for the weapon,” insisted McGinniss as the prosecutor questioned him on redirect. Prosecutor Thomas Binger asked whether there could be various reasons Rosenbaum would reach for a gun pointed at him, but McGinniss insisted that, no, rather than being pointed, the gun was at a 45-degree angle when Rosenbaum lunged, reaching about six inches up the barrel. He said Rosenbaum was in a low position running.

McGinniss, who was probably the witness closest to the shooting and who was positioned to see more than even the dramatic videos in the case show, was called to the witness stand by the prosecutor, Thomas Binger, but his testimony turned into a likely cornerstone for the defense team’s self-defense argument. It’s early, but McGinniss’ testimony is shaping up to potentially be THE key witness testimony in a trial in which the prosecutor has offered little evidence to counter a claim of self defense. However, none of this was a surprise; it’s consistent with what McGinniss told police at the time. Still, it was a dramatic moment.

“As Rosenbaum was lunging forward, my eyes were on the gun,” Richie McGinniss said many times. He said he believed that Rosenbaum was trying to get Rittenhouse’s gun. “He was going for the barrel of the gun?” asked defense attorney Mark Richards. “Correct,” said McGinniss, who is the video editor of Daily Caller, who had gone around the country to riots to chronicle what he believed the “corporate media” would not.

Under state law, Rittenhouse must have reasonably believed that he or someone else was in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death when he opened fire, killing Rosenbaum and, a short time later, shooting Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz. Grosskreutz survived his wounds, but Huber died. Rosenbaum was not armed, but Huber was hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard and touching his gun when shot, and Grosskreutz was moving toward Rittenhouse with a gun, according to videos and previous testimony in the case. The defense is trying to argue that Rosenbaum was trying to disarm Rittenhouse of his gun.

In other developments in the trial on Thursday, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed an elderly male juror in a scooter who was accused of making a tasteless joke about Jacob Blake’s shooting. The man declined to repeat the joke but said it had nothing to do “with Kyle,” but Schroeder said he wanted to make sure the public trusts the proceedings.

Ryan Balch, a combat veteran from Afghanistan and Iraq, who hung out with Rittenhouse that night, said he came with a couple of Wisconsin friends to serve as a “deterrent” to rioters causing arson fires and looting. “He seemed to be a young and impressionable kid,” Balch testified of Rittenhouse, whom he didn’t know before that night, adding that Rittenhouse said he was 19 and a lifeguard. “He seemed under-equipped and under-experienced.” He believed the protesters would “see that as a weakness and try to exploit that,” so he stayed close to Rittenhouse.

“It was like a war zone,” said Balch.

But the star witness was McGinniss because of his proximity to the first shooting, the video of which is farther away and grainier than the later shootings of Huber and Grosskreutz.

Joseph rosenbaum sex offender
Joseph rosenbaum

“I realized that Mr. Rosenbaum was continuing to advance, and Mr. Rittenhouse was standing still, and based on the way Rosenbaum was running and lunging for the portion of the rifle, it was clear to me that something with the weapon was going to happen,” Richie McGinniss said. On cross-examination, he confirmed he told police that Rittenhouse was “trying to evade these individuals,” including Rosenbaum.

He said that he later discovered he wasn’t recording video when the shooting occurred. He did record a gruesome video after the shooting of CPR efforts to save Rosenbaum’s life, which failed. The prosecutor admitted while questioning McGinniss that a large crowd was “bashing the crap out of those cars” in the gas station parking lot where Rittenhouse ran.

McGinniss testified that he wasn’t sure what would happen – Rosenbaum grabbing the weapon or Rittenhouse shooting it – so he changed his trajectory. His eyes were focused on the barrel of the weapon. It was angled 45 degrees to the ground when Rittenhouse first stopped. “When Mr. Rosenbaum lunged…that’s when it was leveled at Mr. Rosenbaum and fired,” said McGinniss. He felt Rittenhouse had stopped because he reached a “dead end” with nowhere else to go (video shows he was cornered back among cars, and there were a lot of people clustered in the area on the other side of him.)

Richie McGinniss Sticks to the Lunging Description

Binger played a previous television interview with McGinniss in which McGinniss said that Rittenhouse was “falling forward.” The prosecutor was trying to see if McGinniss would clarify that Rosenbaum’s forward motion was due to him being shot versus it being a lunge right before he was shot. That’s a critical difference because the defense’s self-defense argument in the Rosenbaum shooting hinges on convincing the jury that Rittenhouse feared Rosenbaum would disarm him of his gun and use it against him.

Richie mcginniss
Rosenbaum with a shirt over his head.

But McGinniss rejected Binger’s implication that his comments now and then are contradictory.

“He was lunging, falling,” he said of Rosenbaum. “He threw his momentum toward the weapon and when the weapon wasn’t there, his momentum was still there. His momentum was going forward and that’s at the point he (Rittenhouse) was firing the shots.”

McGinniss said that, as the shots were fired, he looked down at his own legs. He felt a sound or sensation like something went past his legs. He looked down and then back up. He said that he did feel he was in danger from Rittenhouse discharging the gun. Rittenhouse is also charged with endangering McGinniss’s safety, but, again, a finding of self-defense would nullify that charge too.

McGinniss did say he couldn’t tell whether Rosenbaum actually made contact with Rittenhouse’s gun.

“At any point did you see Mr. Rosenbaum touch the defendant’s gun?” Binger asked.

“It’s hard for me to say whether he made contact with the gun, but what I can say is they were extremely close, and if he did, it didn’t alter the trajectory of the weapon,” said McGinniss, adding, of Rosenbaum, it wasn’t like he “got a hand on it” but, if anything, he would have grazed Rittenhouse’s weapon. But he said Rosenbaum’s body was partially obstructing the barrel of the gun. “It was hard for me to say definitively that he (Rosenbaum) actually made contact. I couldn’t say definitively whether or not there was contact made,” said McGinniss.

Rittenhouse trial day 2
The prosecutor, rittenhouse, and the defense.

McGinniss told Binger, “If shots had not been fired, it’s not clear to me if he (Rosenbaum) would have fallen.”

Binger asked whether Rosenbaum was already falling forward. “Momentum was going forward. This term falling, I’m not going to say that,” McGinniss responded.

“Mr. Rosenbaum fell forward. It was as if if you were to lunge at somebody… shots were fired at the exact moment his momentum was going forward,” he said, saying that he didn’t find the terms to be contradictory.

 

 

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Prosecutors Rest Their Case Against Trump in Hush Money Trial

State prosecutors rested their case against former President Donald Trump on Monday, capping off four weeks of testimony from 20 witnesses.

The first-ever trial of a former President was one step closer to a conclusion after prosecutors concluded their case Monday. Next up: Trump's attorneys will get a chance to present their defense. The case centered around Trump's alleged sexual encounter with an adult film actress in 2006 and a $130,000 payment to her in 2016 to keep her quiet ahead of the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied the encounter happened.

Prosecutors allege that Trump covered up the payment to Stormy Daniels and another hush money payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal ahead of the election and covered them up as legal payments.

Trump, 77, is the first former U.S. president to be charged with a felony.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified business records with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements. Both Cohen and Daniels testified during the trial.

Daniels detailed the alleged 2006 sexual encounter and testified she "blacked out." She also said Trump didn't wear a condom. Defense attorneys asked for a mistrial after that testimony, which they argued was prejudicial.

Judge Juan Merchan denied that motion and repeatedly fined Trump for his comments and social media activity outside of the courtroom. Merchan ordered Trump to pay a total of $10,000 for violations of the gag order.

The gag order remains in place. Trump, the nation's 45th president, is prohibited from making or directing others to make public statements about the jurors, witnesses, attorneys, court staff, district attorney staff and family members of staff.

It is not clear if Trump plans to take the stand in his own defense. He previously said he would take the stand if necessary.

Under New York state law, falsifying business records in the first degree is a Class E felony that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

In late March, Trump said that he wasn't worried about a conviction when asked if he thought a conviction could hurt his chances of returning to the White House.

"It could also make me more popular because the people know it's a scam," he said. "It's a Biden trial, there is no trial, there's a Biden trial."

Whatever happens during the trial, Trump will be protected by the U.S. Secret Service.

Even if convicted and sentenced to jail, Trump could continue his campaign to retake the White House.

"The Constitution does not bar felons from serving as President," said Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Trump could not pardon himself from any state charges, Hasen said.

Federal Scholarship Program Under Fire For Alleged Bias Against Conservatives

Lawmakers have threatened to revoke the appropriations for a federally-funded scholarship program that an audit found favors liberally leaning students over conservatives by a ratio of 10 to 1.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established in the 1970s to award scholarships to students who “demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service.”

An audit of those scholarships performed by the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, though, reported strong liberal bias at the taxpayer-funded foundation.

“While this role suggests these programs should include scholars who reflect a breadth of views, values, and interests, their participants instead display a stark ideological tilt,” AEI said in its report.

The foundation does have members of both parties on its board, including U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kans.

Notably, President Joe Biden's Education Secretary Miguel Cardona also sits on the board.

House Republican lawmakers on leadership on the relevant committees sent a letter to foundation Executive Secretary Terry Babcock-Lumish demanding answers.

“Between 2021 and 2023, the Truman Foundation selected 182 Truman winners,” the letter said. “Yet, despite the Truman Foundation’s claims that it ‘supports scholars from a wide range of perspectives, interests, and geographic areas,’ just six recipients espoused interest in a cause traditionally considered conservative-leaning.

“Not a single winner professed interest in causes such as protecting the rights of the unborn or defending the Second Amendment,” the letter continued. “By contrast, the Foundation selected at least 74 winners professing interest in a progressive cause.”

The foundation awards about 60 scholarships every year.

“As a publicly funded award charged with preparing the civic leaders of tomorrow, the Truman Scholarship should, at a bare minimum, be reflective of the country’s breadth of values, viewpoints, and interests,” the letter said. “The Truman Foundation requested approximately $3 million in appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year. However, if the Truman Scholarship functions as a career booster solely for students of a particular political persuasion, it should no longer be worthy of Congressional support, taxpayer funding, or its exalted public image.”

Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development Chairman Burgess Owens, R-Utah., and Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., led the letter.

The foundation did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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Wisconsin Lawmakers Push Questions About IDs For Illegal Immigrants, Voting

(The Center Square) – Some Wisconsin lawmakers are trying to calm fears about illegal immigrants getting IDs and voting in the state.

The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections and the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection held a hearing Thursday with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, some local election clerks and Fond du Lac County’s district attorney.

“We're not trying to get anybody into a bad spot here, or in a corner, or make accusations on that level,” Sen. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, said. “We want our clerks, who are already stressed enough, to know that we are here to be there as an assist to them.”

Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, said he wants to make sure voters have faith in Wisconsin’s electoral process.

“This is one of the topics that hit our inboxes quite a bit the last three months or so,” Krug added. “We thought it’s pretty important just to vet it out, to get all the information out to the public.”

The Wisconsin Elections Commission was invited to Thursday’s meeting but didn’t attend because commissioners were having a meeting of their own. But that left lawmakers’ questions unanswered.

Wis-DOT Deputy Secretary Kristina Boardman said Wisconsin is known as a strict voter ID state.

“I want to make very clear that Wis-DOT is required to provide free identification cards for U.S. citizens that request them for the purposes of voting, and that to be eligible for that free identification card one must be a U.S. citizen and at least 17 years of age,” Boardman said. “Wis-DOT staff do not determine voter eligibility or register anyone to vote. Someone who has a Wisconsin ID or a driver's license is eligible to register to vote online, and that information will be confirmed with Wisconsin DMV systems to ensure that the information entered for voter registration is consistent with the DMV's records

Boardman said in Wisconsin, less than a fraction of one percent of ID requests are fraudulent.

“We put together [a] case activity report, assemble all of the documentation that we have, we have the investigator that had the case pull that together, and we do refer that to law enforcement so that they can take whatever action is appropriate,” Boardman added. “We note what statutes we believe may have been violated. And then it's up to law enforcement to take action.”

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Senate Republicans Override Evers’ Vetoes

(The Center Square) – On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate voted to override nine vetoes from Gov. Tony Evers, including the vetoes that scuttled PFAS clean-up money, millions of dollars that were earmarked for hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls and a plan that would allow advanced practice registered nurses to work more independently.

“The legislature has passed hundreds of bills to solve problems facing Wisconsin businesses and families. Most of these bills were signed into law, but many were vetoed by a governor more focused on politics than policies that help everyday Wisconsinites,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Tuesday. “Overriding the governor’s obstructive vetoes is the last, best way to address these critical issues.”

The override votes came one day after Evers sued the legislature over nearly $200 million that is attached to some of his vetoes.

Most of that money is the $125 million that’s supposed to go toward PFAS clean up in Wisconsin.

“For the fifth time this legislative session, I voted to provide Wisconsin families with the largest investment in clean drinking water in state history – five more times than every Democrat legislator in this state combined. The bill that Gov. Evers vetoed (SB 312) would have created a grant program that targets this critical funding to areas of the state most heavily impacted by PFAS contamination while protecting innocent landowners from financial ruin,” Sen Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, said.

Evers has accused the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee of obstructing his plans to clean up Wisconsin’s drinking water, and of delaying his other actions across the state.

LeMahieu said Evers is simply playing the game.

“While Gov. Evers plays politics, the legislature will continue to do the right thing on behalf of the people of our state,” LeMahieu added.

Senate Democrats responded with game-playing accusations of their own.

“Coming in to do all these veto overrides was clearly a stunt to try to appeal to voters ahead of the fall election,” Den. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said. “Clearly Republicans were hearing from things in their district and wanted political cover. I don't think they got political cover today. I think what they got was people realizing just how afraid they are.”

But Tuesday’s veto overrides are largely symbolic.

While Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have a veto-proof majority, Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly do not.

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Trump Holds Lead Over Biden Heading Toward November

With less than half a year until the 2024 presidential election, former President Donald Trump holds a sizable lead over incumbent President Joe Biden in several swing states.

While the overall national polling varies and shows a tighter race, Trump holds significant leads in several swing states.

According to Real Clear Politics, Trump leads in a slew of key battleground states like Arizona (+5.2), Georgia (+4.6), Michigan (+0.8), Nevada (+6.2), North Carolina (+5.4), Pennsylvania (+2.0), and Wisconsin (+0.6).

Other polling has shown Trump with a dominant lead in the Sun Belt while performing less well against Biden in some rust belt swing states.

“As the old saying goes, good gets better and bad gets worse, and it’s clear President Biden is in bad shape right now,” Colin Reed, a Republican strategist, former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and co-founder of South and Hill Strategies, told The Center Square. “Five and a half months is an eternity in politics, and there’s theoretically still time to right the ship, but it’s getting late early for the president, especially when Father Time remains undefeated and doubts about his age continue to grow. “

According to the Real Clear Politics’ national polling average, Trump leads Biden 46.1% to 44.9%.

A New York Times poll released this week showed leads for Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania but slightly trailing Biden in Wisconsin, raising concerns among supporters.

Trump’s lead has been in large part fueled by minority voters flocking to his side.

Meanwhile, Biden’s approval rating has plummeted since taking office. While that is not unusual for incumbents, Biden’s approval is lower than recent presidents.

Gallup recently released polling data showing that in the 13th quarter of Biden’s presidency, he averaged a 38.7% approval rating, worse than Trump at the same time in his term.

“None of the other nine presidents elected to their first term since Dwight Eisenhower had a lower 13th-quarter average than Biden,” Gallup said.

Axios reported this week that Biden and his team think the polls don’t represent Americans’ actual feelings and that the president’s position is strong.

“They're still 50% (well 45%) to win, per betting markets,” pollster Nate Silver wrote on X. “But Biden has been behind Trump in polls for a year now. His approval is in the tank, and voters have been clear they think he's too old. If Trump wins, history will not remember Biden kindly.”

Meanwhile, Trump spends valuable campaign time in a series of court appearances for his myriad of federal prosecution court dates.

“I’m under a gag order,” Trump told reporters after a court appearance Tuesday. “Nobody has actually seen anything like it ... I'm beating him in every poll and I have a gag order, so I think it's totally unconstitutional."

Republicans have blasted Biden for Trump’s prosecution, accusing Biden of using the Justice Department against his political opponent.

“Despite Far Left Democrats’ illegal election interference, President Trump is beating Joe Biden in the polls!” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., wrote on X Tuesday. “Voters see right through the sham Biden Trials and know President Trump is the best choice for president.”

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