Friday, August 21, 2020

Last Call For A Taxing Situation, Con't

Trump just lost his post-SCOTUS legal challenge to keep his taxes out of the hands of New York County DA Cyrus Vance's office, and the clock is now ticking on the secret Trump has been hiding for five years.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero threw out President Donald Trump’s challenge to a subpoena seeking his tax returns, a decision that all but guarantees a New York grand jury access to these documents in the near future. Trump will fight Thursday’s order, but he has run out of options: The Supreme Court already rejected his sweeping claims on immunity, then gave Marrero a road map that led ineluctably to a decision against the president. And soon, at long last, New York prosecutors will obtain the tax returns that he has fought so long to conceal.

New York County District Attorney Cy Vance reportedly began investigating Trump in 2018 for the illegal hush money payments that Michael Cohen made on his behalf. Since then, prosecutors have indicated that they are also looking into bank and insurance fraud by Trump and his companies. In 2019, a New York grand jury subpoenaed Mazars, Trump’s shadowy accounting firm, for eight years of financial records from both Trump and his businesses, including tax returns. The president, aided by the Department of Justice, intervened to quash the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers argued that sitting presidents are absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas. Alternatively, they insisted that prosecutors should have to show a “heightened need” when subpoenaing the president, demonstrating that their action is a “last resort” to obtain information “not available from any other source.”

Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion for SCOTUS, issued in July, rejected both these arguments. Roberts explained that nothing in the Constitution compels state prosecutors to show a “heightened need” for a subpoena of the president. Nor do the president’s constitutional powers shield him from a subpoena while in office. To the contrary, historical practice confirms that “the public has a right to every man’s evidence.” However, Roberts noted, a president may challenge a subpoena that is issued in bad faith if he can show it was designed to harass him. He can also defeat a subpoena by showing that it will impede his constitutional duties. The chief justice then sent the case back down to the lower courts, giving Trump an opportunity to raise these final objections.

Roberts’ decision was diplomatic: It confirmed that no one is above the law without immediately forcing Trump to comply with the law. But it was also a time bomb, because the chief justice surely knew that none of those objections had any merit in this case. The bomb went off on Thursday. Trump’s lawyers argued that Vance was engaged in a yearslong campaign of harassment against the president, a “fishing expedition” with illicit partisan motives. But they provided no credible evidence to back up their claims. As Marrero wrote:

This Court cannot mechanically credit allegations that a particular application of judicial process to the President is necessarily unduly burdensome and motivated by bad faith if, upon thorough and independent review, it fairly and compellingly appears that the claimed imposition on the President lacks plausible basis. … Given force, the relief the President seeks … would essentially extend the application of presidential immunity simply by virtue of a mere invocation that it is, after all, the President whose petition to be shielded from judicial process the Court is evaluating.

But the Supreme Court declined to extend such immunity to the president in Trump v. Vance. And Trump cannot get around that decision by lobbing vague and unsubstantiated accusations at prosecutors. That tactic might succeed on Twitter, but it does not fly in a court of law. Marrero explained:

The President’s response embodies a novel application of presidential immunity to protect the executive branch from judicial process. At its core, it amounts to absolute immunity through a back door, an entry point through which not only a President but also potentially other persons and entities, public and private, could effectively gain cover from judicial process.

Finally, Marrero noted, Trump failed “to raise claims based on identifiable executive policies or specific Article II duties” that might be hampered by complying with the subpoena. The president did not establish that turning over his tax returns would prevent him exercising his executive powers. He barely even tried—perhaps because a president who spends so many days tweeting his grievances cannot plausibly insist that an otherwise valid subpoena would somehow hinder his ability to lead the nation.

Trump appealed today to the 2nd Circuit to tie up Marrero's order but the Supreme Court just made it clear six weeks ago that Trump has no real legal basis to stop Vance's office from getting his tax returns. The order doesn't go into effect until the 28th, so we'll see what transpires.

If the order is stayed, it will not be stayed for long.

And then it's over for Trump and he knows it.

Convention Connection, Day 4

There were several great moments on the final day of the DNC last night, 13-year-old Brayden Harrington giving a speech about how Joe Biden gave him to courage to work on his stutter like Biden himself overcame, Julia Louis-Dreyfus getting in some brutal digs at the Tangerine Tyrant, but Joe Biden's acceptance speech may be the best speech I've ever seen the man give, and it could not have happened at a more crucial time in the tapestry of American history.

Just a week ago yesterday was the third anniversary of the events in Charlottesville. 
Remember seeing those neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists coming out of the fields with lighted torches? Veins bulging? Spewing the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the '30s? Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it? 
Remember what the president said?  There were quote, "very fine people on both sides." It was a wake-up call for us as a country. And for me, a call to action. At that moment, I knew I'd have to run. My father taught us that silence was complicity. And I could not remain silent or complicit. At the time, I said we were in a battle for the soul of this nation. And we are.
One of the most important conversations I've had this entire campaign is with someone who is too young to vote. I met with six-year old Gianna Floyd, a day before her Daddy George Floyd was laid to rest. She is incredibly brave. I'll never forget. When I leaned down to speak with her, she looked into my eyes and said "Daddy, changed the world." Her words burrowed deep into my heart. Maybe George Floyd's murder was the breaking point. 
Maybe John Lewis' passing the inspiration. However it has come to be, America is ready to in John's words, to lay down "the heavy burdens of hate at last" and to do the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism. America's history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we've made our greatest progress. That we've found the light. And in this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again. That we can find the light once more. 
I have always believed you can define America in one word: Possibilities. That in America, everyone, and I mean everyone, should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them. 
We can never lose that. In times as challenging as these, I believe there is only one way forward. As a united America. United in our pursuit of a more perfect Union. United in our dreams of a better future for us and for our children. United in our determination to make the coming years bright. 
Are we ready?  I believe we are. This is a great nation. And we are a good and decent people. This is the United States of America. And there has never been anything we've been unable to accomplish when we've done it together. 
The Irish poet Seamus Heaney once wrote:
"History says,
Don't hope on this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme" 
This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme.

Joe Biden gets it.  It was a beautiful speech. He understands America is its people, and the choices our leaders make in the name of those people. And right now, the guy in the Oval Office?

He only cares about himself.  Period. That's it.

Biden's not perfect by any stretch. He still has a lot to answer for regarding his political decisions over the years, and how they hurt people. Guy wasn't even in my top five in 2019.  But if I had seen this Joe Biden years ago, I would have held him in higher regard. This is the Joe that Barack Obama saw in 2008.

We need to make sure he wins.

Bannon: Busted, Broken, And Bagged

After everything shifty and grifty former Trump chief strategist, Breitbart editor, and human pile of rumpled failure Steve Bannon was involved with at the Trump regime, the guy finally gets collared for good ol' mail fraud in the end.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested Thursday after being charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors through his “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign.

Bannon and three associates were indicted in a federal investigation in the Southern District of New York. Prosecutors allege the four defrauded donors by raising “more than $25 million to build a wall along the southern border of the United States,” but some of that money was used for personal gain.
The United States Postal Inspection Service assisted in the investigation.

Others in the indictment are Timothy Shea, a 49-year-old from Colorado accused of owning a shell company, Brian Kolfage, a disabled Iraq war veteran, and Andrew Badolato, who according to his own website was a contributor to Breitbart News, the conservative publication Bannon used to run.

The campaign was intended to raise money to help President Donald Trump fulfill a campaign promise to build a border wall. Instead, prosecutors allege that Bannon and his team profited off the arrangement.

The indictment said the defendants “collectively received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds from ‘We Build the Wall,’ which they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.”

“The defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. “While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle. We thank the USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case, and we remain dedicated to rooting out and prosecuting fraud wherever we find it.”

The White House declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Bannon did not return a request for comment.

Trump of course said he knows nothing about this at all, despite the fact that Bannon and his brick heads constantly said they were raising money for Trump's wall and used that point to specifically raise money, multiple times.

When asked about the pattern of lawlessness in his administration, Trump said that Obama did it too, except the number of former Obama White House officials indicted for crimes is, you know, zero.

PS: Large Adult Son was more than happy to back this.

And of course he knew everyone involved.

Don is lying again because that's what grifters do with effectively unlimited power. They lie and con people out of money daily. They are bad at it, but use Trump's influence and power to get away with it.

Only, they're no longer getting away with it.


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