Thursday, December 5, 2019

Last Call For Trump's Taxing Explanation, Con't

As expected, Trump's legal team has filed a petition with the US Supreme Court to protect his tax returns from House Oversight Democrats.

In their Wednesday petition to the court, filed ahead of a Thursday deadline, Trump’s personal attorneys warned the justices that a lower court ruling in favor of the Democratic lawmakers would set a dangerous precedent if allowed to stand.

“Under the D.C. Circuit’s decision, Congress can subpoena any private records it wishes from the President on the mere assertion that it is considering legislation that might require presidents to disclose that same information,” they wrote.

The Supreme Court last month agreed to temporarily stay the House committee’s subpoena for Trump’s financial records while the court considers whether to take up his appeal.

The case arose after Democrats subpoenaed Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, in April for years of his personal and corporate financial records. Lawmakers said the information would help to determine if updates were needed to current ethics-in-government laws.

Trump challenged the subpoena, arguing the lawmakers lacked a legitimate legislative purpose.

A federal district court judge sided with the Oversight and Reform Committee, as did the D.C. Circuit on appeal, prompting Trump’s latest petition to the Supreme Court.

In their petition, Trump’s attorneys cautioned that congressional subpoenas could be used as political weapons against a sitting president if the justices don’t overrule the D.C. Circuit’s decision.

“Given the obvious temptation to investigate the personal affairs of political rivals, subpoenas concerning the private lives of presidents will become routine in times of divided government,” they wrote.

Both lower court rulings were blistering indictments of the plenary executive, stating that having the White House determine what executive branch information was subject to subpoena was a bit like having a murder suspect saying "I get to decide what evidence the state gets to use against me".

Yes, there's a presumption of innocence but there's also evidence used to determine guilt.  The House wants to know what Donald Trump did with his finances because there's probable cause that the guy is taking money from the Russian mob.

And the final thing here is that Trump is literally going to the Supreme Court to prevent House Democrats from even seeing his taxes.

It's insane.

Anyway, it doesn't mean SCOTUS wants a part of this.  They may punt.  We'll see where this goes.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Three legal experts told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival amounted to impeachable offenses, in a hearing that laid the groundwork for formal charges to be filed against the president.

Democrats on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee said they may look beyond Trump’s relations with Ukraine as they draw up articles of impeachment, to include his earlier efforts to impede former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of his campaign’s relations with Russia

“The president’s alleged offenses represent a direct threat to the constitutional order,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said.

The impeachment inquiry, launched in September, focuses on Trump’s request that Ukraine conduct investigations that could harm political rival Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination.

The hearing on Wednesday was the committee’s first to examine whether Trump’s actions qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” punishable by impeachment under the U.S. Constitution.

Three law professors chosen by the Democrats made clear during the lengthy session that they believed Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses.

“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt.

Which is literally the point the GOP is trying to make.  Nothing is impeachable when Trump is concerned.  Nancy Pelosi is moving ahead anyway.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced on Thursday she is asking the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, saying "the president leaves us no choice but to act."

“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today, I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said in a brief televised statement from the Capitol, speaking directly to the American people.

The facts of Trump's alleged wrongdoing involving Ukraine, she said, "are uncontested.”

"The president abused his power for his own personal, political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival,” Pelosi said, adding that his actions "seriously violated the Constitution."

"Our democracy is what's at stake," Pelosi continued. "The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit."

So, what's next?  The evidence gets laid out Monday by the House Judiciary.

House impeachment investigators will present evidence against President Donald Trump to the Judiciary Committee on Monday, a key step before Democrats finalize articles of impeachment.

The Judiciary Committee’s Thursday announcement of its next hearing comes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed the panel and other investigators to draft articles of impeachment, a historic milestone that suggests the House could vote to impeach Trump before the end of the year.

It also comes a day after the Judiciary Committee held its first impeachment hearing, in which constitutional law scholars argued Trump’s dealings with Ukraine meet the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” as laid out in the Constitution.

Democrats previewed three potential articles of impeachment at Wednesday’s hearing: abuse of power, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice.

The impeachment inquiry centers on Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leaders to investigate his political rivals, with Democrats arguing that Trump has obstructed their probe by refusing to provide documents and blocking important witnesses. Democrats say the evidence they have compiled shows Trump used military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting with the country’s president as leverage.

A House Judiciary Committee vote on articles of impeachment could come as soon as the end of next week, bringing a vote before the full House on the following week.

We're about to enter history here, folks.

Climate of Disaster, Con't

We've now reached the new American redlining practice of the 21st century starting in one of the most vulnerable states to rising sea levels: rich beach areas will be saved, poor beach areas with people who can't afford to relocate will drown and be wiped out.

Officials in the Florida Keys announced what many coastal governments nationwide have long feared, but few have been willing to admit: As seas rise and flooding gets worse, not everyone can be saved.

And in some places, it doesn’t even make sense to try.

On Wednesday morning, Rhonda Haag, the county’s sustainability director, released the first results of the county’s yearslong effort to calculate how high its 300 miles of roads must be elevated to stay dry, and at what cost. Those costs were far higher than her team expected — and those numbers, she said, show that some places can’t be protected, at least at a price that taxpayers can be expected to pay.

“I never would have dreamed we would say ‘no,’” Ms. Haag said in an interview. “But now, with the real estimates coming in, it’s a different story. And it’s not all doable.”

The results released Wednesday focus on a single three-mile stretch of road at the southern tip of Sugarloaf Key, a small island 15 miles up Highway 1 from Key West. To keep those three miles of road dry year-round in 2025 would require raising it by 1.3 feet, at a cost of $75 million, or $25 million per mile. Keeping the road dry in 2045 would mean elevating it 2.2 feet, at a cost of $128 million. To protect against expected flooding levels in 2060, the cost would jump to $181 million.

And all that to protect about two dozen homes.

“I can’t see staff recommending to raise this road,” Ms. Haag said. “Those are taxpayer dollars, and as much as we love the Keys, there’s going to be a time when it’s going to be less population.”

The people who live on that three-mile stretch of road were less understanding. If the county feels that other parts of the Keys ought to be saved, said Leon Mense, a 63-year-old office manager at a medical clinic, then at least don’t make him pay for it.

“So somebody in the city thinks they deserve more of my tax money than I do?” Mr. Mense asked. “Then don’t charge us taxes, how does that sound?”

She suggested the county could offer residents a ferry, water taxis, or some other kind of boat during the expanding window during which the road is expected to go underwater during the fall high tides.

“If that’s three months a year for the next 20 years, and that gets them a decade or two, that’s perhaps worth it,” Ms. Haag said. “We can do a lot. But we can’t do it all.”

At a climate change conference in Key West on Wednesday, Roman Gastesi, the Monroe County manager, said elected leaders will have to figure out how to make those difficult calls.

“How do you tell somebody, ‘We’re not going to build the road to get to your home’? And what do we do?” Mr. Gastesi asked. “Do we buy them out? And how do we buy them out — is it voluntary? Is it eminent domain? How do we do that?

The answer will increasingly be take the land by force and give the residents nothing.  Meanwhile, whoever ends up holding the new beachfront properties further inland will win the jackpot.  As local and state governments look to take a long, hard look at who will win and who will lose in this game of life, they won't take chances.  It'll be those with the cash who will come out on top.

And the people who will lose everything to climate change?

Hey, remember, it's a hoax, right?


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