Monday, April 15, 2024
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Monday, April 15, 2024

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Franklin City Meeting on the Rock Gets Testy Fast [VIDEO]

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At times, the meeting grew testy. However, speakers also stressed a need to improve communication going forward.

Neighbors and aldermen raised questions about a proposed “memorandum of understanding” between the City of Franklin and the Rock sports and entertainment complex at a Tuesday Common Council meeting, with several residents expressing concern about a provision that includes a near-blanket assurance granting future permits for special events at the Rock without any specific new decibel-limit being reached.

“I’m here as one of the seniors in this city…You people aren’t taking good care of us. I’m 95 years old, and I don’t like putting up with some of this stuff,” an affected neighbor, Le Roy Lewandowski, told city officials. “Please, we have to do something. I feel like I’m in a city that I don’t have the power to do anything.” He said the Rock’s developer, Mike Zimmerman, is a friend of his.

Lewandowski said the recent noise scared a 90-year-old woman who lives next to him.

Neighbors are especially upset that Franklin’s earlier agreement with the Rock set the allowed decibel levels much higher (79) than the regular city noise ordinance allows.

The Rock was represented at the meeting by Zimmerman and Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor, who works for the Rock. Zimmerman said the provision on permits was important to the Rock. “If we are going to negotiate with the city in good faith, what we do ask for is terms that allow for us to run our business,” he said.

Alderman Mike Barber said he wanted to mitigate the adversarial roles. “We still have to have methods to protect our citizens and that is something that I as an alderman would not want to give up,” he told Zimmerman.

Mike barber
Ald. Mike barber

However, despite the at times-collaborative language, tensions still flared, especially when Zimmerman and Taylor first spoke to the Council after a lengthy and emotional public comment session. Several speakers claimed Franklin is getting a black eye on talk radio because the sound issues haven’t been fixed.

Taylor called a citizen, Orville Seymer, a “goof” during one exchange, and Zimmerman got into a brief heated exchange with a neighbor in the audience when Zimmerman sarcastically referred to the man’s wife by her first name, Joy, while saying some of his critics were ignorant. Watch:

The Rock’s representatives and city officials stressed the MOU was a work in progress, not a final document. The document represents an attempt by the city to resolve neighbors’ long-standing noise concerns, which they say are destroying their quality of life.

The controversial passage on extraordinary events in the MOU says,

“Extraordinary Events. The City of Franklin agrees to support the entertainment efforts of Ballpark Commons for extraordinary events such as concerts, fireworks, and seasonal events (Hill Has Eyes, Enchant). The City of Franklin will not withhold permits and approvals unless there are direct violations of sound ordinance and/or reasonable compliance concerns with city departments (fire, police, health, etc.) and municipal codes as outlined in the new PDD (city agreement with the Rock).”

That concerns some neighbors, who think it means the city will lose all leverage.

Neighbors have contended that the city’s development agreement and practices have made it impossible for the Rock to have violations. The decibel level set in the city’s development agreement with the Rock (called the PDD) is 79, much higher than Franklin’s regular noise ordinance allows and other guidelines. Furthermore, a violation is not counted unless it occurs for 30 minutes straight. Many neighbors said the 79 decibel limit, and how it came to be, is the crux of the problem.

The MOU does not specify a new decibel level. Instead, it says, “Following execution of this MOU, the parties agree to begin negotiations on a new decibel level agreement by type of event. Specifically, the parties agree to adjust volumes to comply with 3 different thresholds for Milkmen games (based on attendance and/or day of the week), extraordinary events, and fireworks.”

Andy Kleist, of Franklin, said the MOU “does little to mitigate the noise issues.” He said the Umbrella Bar should be included in speaker adjustments.

The section for extraordinary events is “an entitlement for the Rock and should be removed. It does not benefit the neighbors in any way,” he said.

“There is consistently no consideration for the impact on families,” he said, calling the city’s behavior “unacceptable and negligent.”

The full MOU can be read here.

Aldermen React

“I think it’s a beginning step,” said Alderman Mike Barber, of the MOU, but he said it lacked details. “I don’t understand the monitoring,” he said, adding that he also doesn’t understand some of the decibel levels in the MOU. “I think it’s a first step.” He said he wanted a more open process involving citizens and other aldermen.

Alderwoman Michelle Eichmann spoke in glowing terms about the Rock.

“What would Franklin be without the Rock?” Eichmann said, adding that the document was a good start. The Rock is a complex that hosts a summer concert series, fireworks, a Halloween event, Milkmen baseball games, a rap concert, a taco and tequila event, and more. It is located adjacent to residential neighborhoods on an old landfill site.

Franklin emergency meeting emergency franklin meeting steve taylor franklin
Steve taylor, john nelson, and the rock neighbors in franklin.

Alderwoman Courtney Day said the MOU was a good document to start with, but she raised concerns about reopening the entire PDD. Turning the speakers in and down should help a lot, she said. Day was also concerned about the section in the agreement promising permits for special events.

Mayor John Nelson said the MOU is a “working document” that will include additional input.

Alderman Ed Holpfer said there are things in the MOU that are “not acceptable.”

Zimmerman said he believed the agreement (called the PDD) needed to be opened up.

Tempers Flare

Taylor addressed conflict-of-interest concerns at the meeting, sitting next to Zimmerman at the table facing aldermen.

At the meeting, Supervisor Taylor read from a letter he sent on May 13, 2022, to the County disclosing the conflict of interest with the Rock, saying that he would “not be voting or participating in any debate on Rock-related items and would abstain” on any votes before the County Board or subcommittees involving the Rock.

“I have distanced myself. Why? Because of where I work,” Taylor said. He called citizen Orville Seymer a “goof” after Seymer said from the audience that he has four open records requests pending against Taylor.

“That’s the whole conflict of interest that talk radio and bloggers want to write about and that’s fine. But keep on digging because there’s nothing there and I know the difference,” Taylor said, referring to his dual role as a county supervisor and Rock employee. The County also has a separate development agreement with the Rock, and some county supervisors have said they want to explore whether the county can take legal action due to the noise concerns.

Zimmerman labeled the perception that the Rock “hasn’t done anything” “complete ignorance.” When people made retorts from the audience, he said, “It’s the definition of ignorance. So we’re going to review the facts, Joy.” It appears he was referring to one of the neighbors who spoke earlier in the meeting.

“That’s my wife,” a man from the audience retorted. “Don’t talk to my wife like that.”

The mayor interjected, “Well, if we have to, we’ve got the Police department… It’s order.”

“I called her, her name, mayor. Apparently he’s insulted by that,” Zimmerman said. “Oh, it’s the tone? Got it.”

At other points, Zimmerman said he wanted to work with the city, but he repeatedly called it a “negotiation.”

“We also sit here and are willing to change things,” Zimmerman said. He said the MOU was the result of “those negotiations.”

However, he also said: “We by no means, if you guys don’t want to sign this. We have an agreement. We’re comfortable where we’re at.”

The mayor said the MOU would require the city to take over sound monitors and place the results online so people can see “in real time where it’s at.”

The 79 Decibel Limit

Neighbors and a county supervisor singled out the 79-decibel limit in the city’s agreement with the Rock as the main problem, saying that the county never approved that level, and it’s much higher than the regular Franklin noise ordinance.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Patti Logsdon said she wanted to “set the record straight” on the 79-decibel limit that was set by the city for the Rock.

Patti logsdon
Supervisor patti logsdon

She said the county development agreement never suggested a sound limit. “We did not set this,” she said. The actual Franklin noise ordinance is supposed to be 55 decibels in the day and 45 at night, and she said that a separate Franklin ordinance that mentions 79 decibels is by permit only and is “for things like fireworks. We don’t expect noise levels like that in a residential area.”

Joy Draginis-Zingales of Greendale – the woman mentioned by Zimmerman – said she was asked to be a voice for her subdivision. “79 decibels was never approved at the county…the county doesn’t have the right to do that.” She said the agreement needed to involve everyone coming to the table.

Dana Gindt of Franklin also said it was “incorrect to say the county approved 79 decibels.” She said this was used as justification for the number to be placed in the city PDD, but that justification was false.

“For the last 10 years, it has been nothing but chaos. Loud music for no reason,” neighbor John Czaskos, 80, said. He has lived in the area for 40 years.

Zimmerman stated that, within the city development agreement, the Rock is allowed to go up 79 decibels. He said the Rock has made changes over the years, including installing light shields, LED lights, and the installation of sound monitors, as well as a reduction of nights for the Halloween event (a $200,000 county sound study found that most of the monitors were inoperable).

Neighbors and a county supervisor urged the city to follow its noise ordinance that requires a 50-decibel limit, with 45 decibels at night.

Name Calling Criticized

Dale Kirner, of Franklin, told city officials that his name is “not terrorist. It’s not NIMBY. It’s not *ucker. I’m not a Karen.” He was referring to a recent Wisconsin Right Now story that revealed the names some neighbors and county supervisors were called during a closed meeting between the mayor, director of administration, a city alderman, the developer Mike Zimmerman, and Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor, who works for the Rock’s foundation. They came up with the proposed MOU at that meeting.

He said the press coverage has helped the neighbors. He also thanked Alderman Jason Craig.

“If you don’t think the city of Franklin is being laughed at right now, you’re not listening to morning talk shows,” Kirner said. With the help of the publicity, “This is coming to light. We’re not bad people. We help each other out,” Kirner said.

Neighbor Debbie Davis said she appreciated officials’ integrity and felt the MOU was created with good intent, but she said active directives should be used instead.

Donnella McAdams, of Franklin, said, “This noise intrusion has been allowed for 10 years for hundreds of events with amplified noise extending for two miles.” She said the recent $200,000 sound study confirmed what neighbors have been saying for years.

Citizen Rich Busalacchi read passages of Wisconsin Right Now’s article on the emergency meeting and said to the mayor, John Nelson, “Your administration, you and some of the common council members are bought and paid for by Rock and Mike Zimmerman.”

“That’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous,” the mayor responded, saying Busalacchi was making “public lies.”

Busalacchi said he was concerned about the vagueness of the MOU. He said there have been 10 years of “unfulfilled promises.” He said the MOU makes the City of Franklin an “arm of the Rock,” and a “company town.”

Zimmerman trashed Busalacchi for his “hate speech,” accusing him of “non-facts.”

Busalacchi retorted to the mayor, “You could not even defend your residents in the closed meeting. Franklin is now the laughingstock of local communities.” He said Franklin should “get rid of the MOU and the Trojan horse agreements.”

Neighbors Unload About the Rock Noise Issues

Claire Vitchick, of Franklin, declared, “I’m so disgusted with the city, I can’t believe it. I pay for police that don’t come. What kind of city is this? It’s a joke.”

For his part, Orville Seymer told the Common Council that Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor “is the problem in this. He has a long history of vindictive, retaliatory behavior.” He asked Zimmerman to “rein in Steve Taylor.”

He said Franklin officials were getting beat up badly on talk radio over the Rock issue.

Steven Green, of Franklin, said the MOU marks an opportunity to move forward. “The Rock is good for Franklin. The people who live there deserve to be happy.” He said people “have to work together.”

He asked the Common Council and developer Mike Zimmerman to show neighbors “mercy.”

Supervisor Kathleen Vincent, who represents Greendale, told Franklin aldermen that she was “asking you to consider the lives being impacted by the sound.”

She said that county supervisors should be included in meetings about the Rock and asked for “transparency” in meetings.

Andy Pelkey, of Franklin, said he was glad that “some progress is being made” but chastised the City of Franklin for ignoring the problem over the years, “letting it fester for years and years and years like this issue has.”

“The city has a history of ignoring the facts,” he said.

He noted of an item in the proposed MOU to move speakers so they don’t point at the neighborhood, “Why wasn’t this already being done?”

Tom Kowalski, of Franklin, said that the MOU “talks about good faith,” but that he doesn’t trust that anything is in good faith anymore.

He criticized Franklin’s practice whereby a sound violation is not registered unless it’s gone on for 30 minutes straight. “A single break in the song will get them off,” Kowalski said.

“Are we giving away the farm on this?” he asked.

Neighbor Bob Knoll said the Rock is a “fantastic development” but raised concerns about a proposed sound fence’s location. His wife, Naomi Knoll, also raised concerns about the Umbrella bar and sound fence working.

 

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Five Key Questions Ahead of Trump’s First Criminal Trial

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts related to charges he paid hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels through a lawyer and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.

Trump has attempted to delay the start of the New York state trial several times, including three longshot tactics judges rejected this week.

What charges does Trump face in the New York hush money case?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified 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 are expected to testify.

Cohen is expected to be a key witness in the trial. Daniels has said she expects to testify.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., Bragg's predecessor, did not bring the case to trial.

What happens on Monday?

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and Donald Trump are expected to be present when the trial before Judge Juan Merchan gets started Monday. The first step will be picking a jury, a process that could take a week or more depending on how things progress. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will select 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of potentially hundreds of people. Each juror will answer 42 questions designed to determine if they can be impartial in the high-profile trial of a polarizing former president. The jurors will remain anonymous because of security concerns.

Once a jury is seated, it's on to opening statements where prosecutors and defense attorneys will get to address the jury about what they plan to show during the trial.

What is Trump's defense to the charges?

Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and has accused Bragg of bringing a politically motivated case involving conduct in 2016 during a presidential election year as Trump faces incumbent Joe Biden in a rematch of the 2020 election.

Trump has spoken out against the judge, the district attorney and other involved in the case repeatedly. Trump's comments prompted a gag order from the judge who said Trump can't talk publicly about certain people involved in the case and their families.

"The White House Thugs should not be allowed to have these dangerous and unfair Biden Trials during my campaign for President. All of them, civil and criminal, could have been brought more than three years ago. It is an illegal attack on a Political Opponent. It is Communism at its worst, and Election Interference at its Best. No such thing has ever happened in our Country before," Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social this week. "On Monday I will be forced to sit, GAGGED, before a HIGHLY CONFLICTED & CORRUPT JUDGE, whose hatred for me has no bounds. All of these New York and D.C. 'Judges' and Prosecutors have the same MINDSET. Nobody but this Soros Prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, wanted to take this ridiculous case. All legal scholars say it is a sham. BIDEN'S DOJ IS RUNNING THE CASE. Just think of it, these animals want to put the former President of the United States (who got more votes than any sitting President!), & the PARTY'S REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE, IN JAIL, for doing absolutely nothing wrong. It is a RUSH TO THE FINISH. SO UNFAIR!"

Will Trump take the stand?

That's not clear yet. Trump said last month that he'd be willing to testify at trial if needed.

Could Trump go to jail?

It's too earlier to tell what will happen if Trump is convicted. 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.

Trump's age and lack of any prior criminal convictions could work in his favor at sentencing if he's convicted. His attacks on the judge could have the opposite effect at sentencing. Before sentencing, the judge would look at sentencing guidelines, recommendations from prosecutors and any other pre-sentence reports.

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 re-take 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.

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s next supreme court race could be even more contentious and even more expensive than the last one.

Liberal Justice Anne Walsh Bradley on Thursday surprised the state when she announced she will not run for re-election next year.

"My decision has not come lightly. It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election, should I run. But it's just time to pass the torch, bring fresh perspectives to the court," Walsh Bradley said in a statement.

She is one of Wisconsin’s longest serving justices, serving her third 10-year term on the court.

“In the 177-year history of the court, only four justices have served longer than my length of service,” she wrote.

Walsh Bradley’s decision means the next election will be open.

Former Republican attorney general, and current Waukesha County judge, Brad Schimel has already jumped into the race. There aren’t any declared Democrats yet.

Schimel on Thursday said Walsh Bradley’s decision isn’t changing anything for him.

“From the beginning of my campaign, I made it clear that I’m not just running against one person, I’m running against this Court’s leftist majority,” Schimel said. “I wish Justice Ann Walsh Bradley well in retirement after decades of public service. I look forward to continuing the fight to bring integrity and respect for the Constitution back to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin’s last race for the supreme court, in April of 2023, set records for spending. The race between Justice Janet Protasiewicz and former Justice Dan Kelly cost more than $56 million. That makes the 2023 Wisconsin race the most expensive judicial race in American history. Many court observers and politicos in Wisconsin say the 2025 race could be just as expensive, or even more expensive.

Protasiewicz’s victory flipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court to a 4-3 liberal majority for the first time in 15 years.

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State Bar of Wisconsin Changing Diversity Definition to End Discrimination Suit

(The Center Square) – The State Bar of Wisconsin isn’t ending its diversity clerkship that faced a federal discrimination lawsuit, instead it is changing the definition of diversity.

The State Bar agreed to tweak the program and make it about the diversity of ideas and experiences, rather than base the clerkship on race and gender.

“The settlement clarifies the definition of ‘diversity’ but makes no changes to the program,” State Bar Executive Director Larry Martin said. “The Diversity Clerkship Program, which has been creating opportunities for Wisconsin-based law students for three decades, will continue to exist and to operate in its current form.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty sued, saying it’s against the law to hire anyone based on race or gender.

WILL Associate Counsel Skylar Croy said they have had to make it a habit to remind people of that fact.

“Defeating unconstitutional DEI programs has become WILL’s area of expertise, and we are not stopping here,” Croy said in a statement. “While we are pleased with this victory, we know the fight is far from over. In fact, this is only the beginning of a movement, and our lawsuit will provide a roadmap for future victories in all 50 states.”

WILL has also sued over DEI programs at the University of Wisconsin that it says are race-based.

The bar said the only thing that is changing about the Diversity Clerkship is the focus on race in its definition of diversity.

“Under the settlement, the new definition states: Diversity means including people with differing characteristics, beliefs, experiences, interests, and viewpoints. Diversity promotes an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their differences and without regard to stereotypes, and helps to ensure a better understanding and consideration of the needs and viewpoints of others with whom we interact,” the bar added.

WILL sued on behalf of Daniel Suhr, who is a lawyer in the state and is required to be a member of the bar.

After the settlement, Suhr said the new definition is the first step toward restoring fairness to the Diversity Clerkship.

“Premier internship opportunities should be available to students based on merit – not race. I am proud to partner with WILL to set a strong precedent for the next generation of law students,” he said in a statement.

The Diversity Clerkship Program is a 10-week, paid summer job where first-year Marquette University Law School and University of Wisconsin Law School students are matched with law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies.

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Group Allegedly Involved in Pre-pandemic Wuhan Coronavirus Research to Testify Before Congress

Lawmakers plan to interrogate the head of Eco Health Alliance, the group accused of conducting dangerous coronavirus research in Wuhan, China just before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold a public hearing May 1 where Dr. Peter Daszak is expected to testify. Daszak is the president of Eco Health Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit health research company that used taxpayer-funded grants to conduct coronavirus research.

The lawmakers on the committee also allege that newly obtained documents show Daszak’s previous testimony misled the committee or misrepresented the facts.

“These revelations undermine your credibility as well as every factual assertion you made during your transcribed interview,” the letter said. “The Committees have a right and an obligation to protect the integrity of their investigations, including the accuracy of testimony during a transcribed interview. We invite you to correct the record.”

One of those obtained documents appears to show Daszak saying he plans to work with Wuhan researchers.

A federal grant database shows that Eco Health Alliance received millions of dollars since 2014 from the federal government to study coronaviruses that originate in animals and in some cases can transfer to humans, with an emphasis on China.

A key and highly disputed part of the inquiry is whether Eco Health Alliance’ research included making coronaviruses more dangerous,.

Under former President Donald Trump, the federal National Institutes of Health cut all funding to the group in question over the controversy.

Under the Biden administration, funding has been restored, and NIH has emphatically stated that Eco Health Alliance did not play a role in the start of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, in the absence of a definitive answer, misinformation and disinformation are filling the void, which does more harm than good,” NIH said in a 2021 statement. “NIH wants to set the record straight on NIH-supported research to understand naturally occurring bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, funded through a subaward from NIH grantee EcoHealth Alliance. Analysis of published genomic data and other documents from the grantee demonstrate that the naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false.”

In 2022 and 2023 NIH awarded Eco Health Alliance a total of at least $1,230,594 to research “the potential for future bat coronavirus emergence in Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.”

The idea that the COVID-19 virus began in a Wuahn lab was once denounced as a conspiracy theory but has now gotten more widespread credibility.

The FBI announced last year after its investigation that COVID-19 most likely came from a Wuhan lab. That news came just after the Department of Energy also said the Wuhan lab was most likely the origin of COVID-19, though neither agency expressed a high degree of confidence in that theory.

Other groups have suggested it came from the Wuhan wet market, though no definitive answer has been settled on.

Trump's First Criminal Trial

Trump Calls for Sanctions, Censure of Special Counsel Jack Smith

Former President Donald Trump called for special counsel Jack Smith to be sanctioned or censured for "attacking" the judge in Trump's classified documents case.

Trump's comments on Thursday come after Smith and his team of prosecutors made it clear they think Judge Aileen Cannon's latest ruling was based on "an unstated and fundamentally flawed legal premise." Prosecutors objected to Cannon's order to produce proposed jury instructions under two different legal scenarios. Smith said both legal scenarios were flawed.

In response to the judge's order, prosecutors said they need clarification on Cannon's position so they can appeal if needed. They asked the judge to decide before the trial if the Presidential Records Act "has an impact on the element of unauthorized possession" of classified documents. Failure to do so could make it impossible to prosecute Trump because of the double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits anyone from being prosecuted twice for the same crime.

Trump lashed out Thursday morning.

"Deranged 'Special' Counsel Jack Smith, who has a long record of failure as a prosecutor, including a unanimous decision against him in the U.S. Supreme Court, should be sanctioned or censured for the way he is attacking a highly respected Judge, Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over his FAKE Documents Hoax case in Florida," Trump wrote in a message posted to Truth Social.

Trump also said Smith shouldn't be on the case.

"He shouldn’t even be allowed to participate in this sham case, where I, unlike Crooked Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and all the rest, come under the Presidential Records Act," Trump wrote. "I DID NOTHING WRONG, BUT BIDEN DID, AND THEY LET HIM OFF SCOT-FREE. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN, JACK? A TWO TIERED SYSTEM OF JUSTICE. ELECTION INTERFERENCE!"

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 felony counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn't have security clearance and tried to get around the government's attempts to get them back.

Trump faces a rematch against President Joe Biden in this year's presidential election. Trump also faces three other criminal cases in New York, Georgia and another federal case in Washington D.C. He's used millions of dollars in campaign contributions to pay his mounting legal bills.

Trump also is appealing a $464 million fine in a civil case in New York. He posted a $175 million bond to appeal that decision.

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Biden Cancels Replenishment of Strategic Oil Reserves

The Biden administration will pause its replenishment of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves because oil has become too expensive, the White House said.

Earlier in his term, Biden drained about half of the U.S. oil reserves down to their lowest level in decades in order to try to lower gas prices, which surpassed a record national average of more than $5 per gallon in 2022 before coming back down. Now, Biden’s effort to replenish those reserves have been stalled.

Critics warn that lower oil reserves are a national security issue for the U.S. If the reserves are low when a larger war or crisis occurs, refilling the reserves could be much more difficult and certainly more expensive.

“It’s pure insanity to watch the Biden Administration cut American oil production and then claim they can’t refill our critical reserve because of the price,” Daniel Turner, founder and executive director for Power The Future, said in a statement. “Joe Biden drained the SPR for political reasons, cut our domestic production for his climate agenda and now he’s leaving our critical reserve more vulnerable because he’s incompetent. As a result, Americans are paying more at the pump, more at the grocery store and our SPR is less full during a time of rising turmoil in the Middle East.”

Biden has taken fire from Republicans for hindering U.S. oil production and lowering the reserves. The Biden administration has increased regulatory pushback for oil domestic production while raising ongoing concerns about climate change.

“The Biden administration’s war on U.S. energy is crippling hardworking Americans and has led to our Strategic Petroleum Reserves being at their lowest levels since the 1908s,” U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Ga., wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Reverse course and restore U.S. energy dominance!"