Thanks for reading Minimum Competence! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.
Manhattan prosecutors have accused former President Donald Trump of misleading people to expect his arrest this week and prompting Republican Congress members to interfere with the investigation into his hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. On Saturday, Trump claimed that he would be arrested on Tuesday in the Manhattan District Attorney's probe. On Monday, three Republican committee chairmen accused District Attorney Alvin Bragg of abusing his prosecutorial authority and sought communications, documents, and testimony from him. As of Wednesday, the grand jury hearing evidence in the Stormy Daniels case had yet to issue an indictment, and on Thursday, Bragg's office confirmed that it was investigating allegations that Trump engaged in violations of New York State penal law. If indicted, Trump would be the first US president to face criminal charges. Trump faces federal investigations stemming from his handling of government documents after leaving the White House, alleged attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, and a state-level probe in Georgia into whether he unlawfully sought to reverse the 2020 election results there. Trump has denied the allegations and called the investigation politically motivated.
It’s Friday, let's take a fun little digression into the arrests of presidents of yore. In an oft-retold but perhaps apocryphal tale in 1872, President Ulysses S Grant was arrested for speeding in his horse-drawn carriage. He was nicked at the corner of 13th and M streets in Washington DC, by a Black civil war veteran policeman named William H West. Grant was known for his excellent horsemanship and loved to drive a pair of spirited animals. The president apologized and left on the first occasion, but was caught again the next day. West placed him under arrest and he was ordered to pay $20. A trial was held the next day, with heavy fines and a scathing rebuke issued against numerous speeding drivers. However, Grant did not show up. Trump will probably not be able to get out of this one quite so easily, but if history is any guide he won’t be seeing the inside of a jail cell any time soon.
Justin Sun, the crypto entrepreneur who made headlines for paying millions to have lunch with Warren Buffet, is now facing civil charges for allegedly violating US securities laws by offering and selling two unregistered crypto tokens, Tronix and BitTorrent, and manipulating the prices of TRX. The SEC has filed a complaint against Sun and three of his companies in a Manhattan federal court. Sun is a Chinese national and an adviser to crypto exchange Huobi, as well as the founder of blockchain company Tron. The SEC has also brought civil charges against eight celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan, who were paid to illegally promote TRX and BTT. Mr. Sun tweeted that the SEC’s complaint “lacks merit,” and that the accusations were only the latest example of action the regulator has taken against “well-known players in the blockchain and crypto space.” In 2019, Sun paid $4.6 million in an auction to secure a lunch date with Warren Buffett. Sun postponed the lunch, citing an illness with kidney stones, and later said he hoped to discuss cryptocurrencies and blockchain with the billionaire investor. Sun recently made headlines by offering $1.5 billion to buy Credit Suisse, as the bank was in the middle of talks to be bought by rival UBS Group AG. Credit Suisse did not publicly respond to the offer.
Utah has become the first state to introduce laws that limit children's use of social media. The two measures, signed by Governor Spencer Cox, require parental consent before children can sign up for sites such as TikTok and Instagram. They also prohibit the use of social media by children under 18 between 10:30 pm and 6:30 am, require age verification for users in the state, and seek to prevent companies from luring children to their apps with addictive features. Similar proposals are being considered in Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, and New Jersey, as well as California. Social media companies will likely have to design new features to comply with parts of the law. However, it remains unclear how the regulations will be enforced. Children's advocacy groups have generally welcomed the law, while tech industry lobbyists have criticized it as unconstitutional, citing the infringement of First Amendment rights.
US lawmakers grilled TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew, over concerns about the app's influence on Americans and possible Chinese interference. The questions were mostly of a grandstanding variety and those that were directed at specific issues tended, as the clip played in the episode indicates, to miss the point. Chew repeatedly denied connections with the Chinese Communist Party and stated that TikTok has taken necessary steps to ensure the safety of American users. US lawmakers accused the app of damaging children's mental health and promoting content that encourages eating disorders, illegal drug sales, and sexual exploitation. While Chew's responses did little to calm US lawmakers' concerns over the app's China-based parent company, ByteDance, he emphasized that American data is stored on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel. A bipartisan group of US senators has backed legislation that would give President Joe Biden's administration the power to ban TikTok, and the app's fate has added a new element to tensions between the US and China. The hearing's outcome and lawmakers' next steps remain unclear, but the possibility of a ban has prompted shares of social media companies that compete with TikTok for advertising, such as Facebook and Snap, to rise.