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Supreme Court Rules That Prosecutor Can Get Trump Tax Returns

The Supreme Court has ruled that the IRS can release Donald Trump's tax returns to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., who is conducting a criminal probe of the former president and his business, according to CNN. The decision, issued without comment or dissent, represents a major legal defeat for Trump, who has violated promises to release his tax returns and fought in court to conceal them from prosecutors.

The returns will still be shielded by grand jury secrecy rules that prohibit their public release. The subpoenas demand tax returns and other documents between January 2011 and August 2019 from Mazars, his accounting firm

In practical terms, the court's ruling means that Vance's probe of alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, tax evasion, and fraud will no longer be hindered by Trump's effort to keep his taxes and other documents from the prosecution.

.Last summer the high court majority rejected Trump's broad claims of immunity from a state subpoena seeking his tax returns and said that as president he was not entitled to any kind of special privilege or standard. By 7-2, the justices remanded the matter back to the lower court, allowing Trump to offer further objections to the subpoena's scope, which his lawyers described as "geographically sprawling, temporally expansive, and topically unlimited," raising "suspicions of a fishing expedition."



Why Trump Will Suffer Legal Torment For Years To Come

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Acquitted by the Senate of inciting the U.S. Capitol insurrection last month, Donald Trump faces more fallout from the unrest, including a lawsuit from a congressman Tuesday. But his biggest legal problems might be the ones that go much further back.

In one of what is expected to be many lawsuits over the deadly riot, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) accused Trump on Tuesday of conspiring with far-right extremist groups that were involved in storming the Capitol.

Trump, who made a fiery speech to supporters prior to the riot, could also be hit with criminal charges — though courts, wary of infringing free speech, have set a high bar for prosecutors trying to mount federal incitement cases.

But riot-related consequences aren't the only thing Trump has to worry about.

With his historic second Senate trial behind him, here's a look at the legal road ahead for Trump.

Criminal Investigations

Atlanta prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into whether Trump attempted to overturn his election loss in Georgia, including a January 2 phone call in which he urged the state's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to reverse Biden's narrow victory.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat elected last November, announced the probe Feb. 10. In the call, Trump told Raffensberger: "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have" to get to erase Biden's lead, and argued that Raffensberger could alter the results, an assertion the Republican secretary of state firmly rejected.

Details of the call, such as Trump's focus on the vote total, "lets you know that someone had a clear mind, they understood what they were doing," Willis told MSNBC last week. "When you're pursuing the investigation, facts that like that might not seem so important become very important."

Willis' office declined to identify who was under investigation but said it was focusing on "the matters reported on over the last several weeks," including Trump's call. The Washington Post obtained a recording of the call and published it January 5.

Trump spokesperson Jason Miller described the Georgia inquiry as the continuation of a "witch hunt" — a term Trump himself has used to describe some investigations — and the "Democrats' latest attempt to score political points" at Trump's expense.

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Karl Racine, the attorney general for Washington, D.C., has said district prosecutors could charge Trump under local law that criminalizes statements that motivate people to violence.

But the charge would be a low-level misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Federal prosecutors in Washington, meanwhile, have charged some 200 Trump supporters with crimes related to the riot, including more serious conspiracy charges. Many of the people charged said they acted in Trump's name.

But the bar is very high to charge Trump with any crimes related to the riot. There has been no indication that Trump would be charged in the riot though prosecutors have said they are looking at all angles.

Trump could also be sued by victims, though he has some constitutional protections, including if he acted while carrying out the duties of president.

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, is in the midst of an 18-month criminal investigation focusing in part on hush-money payments paid to women on Trump's behalf, and whether Trump or his businesses manipulated the value of assets — inflating them in some cases and minimizing them in others — to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.

Vance's office hasn't publicly said what it is investigating, citing grand jury secrecy rules, but some details have come out in court fights mounted by Trump's lawyers over prosecutors' access to his tax records. Trump's lawyers have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court twice to block a subpoena for the records, with a ruling on the latest challenge expected in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Vance's prosecutors have been speaking with Trump's former lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen about the payoffs he arranged to porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn't go public about alleged affairs with Trump, as well as Trump's relationship with lenders Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital and other issues.

Last month, Vance's office sent subpoenas to local governments in the New York City suburbs seeking information about a sprawling Westchester estate Trump owns there, and 158 acres of land he donated to conservation land trust in 2016 to qualify for an income tax deduction.

Vance, whose term expires at the end of the year, hasn't announced if he will seek reelection, leaving questions about the future of any Trump-related prosecutions.

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Trump no longer has the cloak of immunity from federal prosecution he did while in office, although federal prosecutors in New York who had been looking into the hush-money payments have essentially abandoned that probe.

The same U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan also appears to have moved on from its investigation of Trump's inaugural committee. That inquiry examined the committee's spending, including whether foreigners illegally contributed to inaugural events.

A major donor to the inaugural, Imaad Zuberi, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and failing to register as a foreign agent. He's scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in Los Angeles.

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Civil Litigation

New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil investigation focuses on some of the same issues as Vance's criminal probe, including possible property value manipulation and tax write-offs Trump's company, the Trump Organization, claimed on millions of dollars in consulting fees it paid, including money that went to Trump's daughter Ivanka.

James' office issued subpoenas to local governments in November 2019 for records pertaining to Trump's estate north of Manhattan, Seven Springs, after Cohen provided Congress with Trump financial statements that listed the 213-acre property was worth $291 million in 2012 — far higher than the $56.5 million value that a Trump-commissioned appraisal placed on it in 2015.

James, also a Democrat, is also looking at similar issues relating to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago, and a golf course near Los Angeles. Recently, her office has won a series of court rulings forcing Trump's company and a law firm it hired to turn over troves of records.

Investigators have yet to determine whether any law was broken. If criminal wrongdoing is uncovered, James' office could pursue charges through a county district attorney or with a referral from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or a state agency.

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Revisiting The Russia Probe

The Justice Department, under attorney general nominee Merrick Garland, could still pursue matters left uncharged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While campaigning for the White House, Biden said he would not direct the Justice Department to pursue charges against Trump, nor stand in the way of investigations it might take up on its own. In one of his first acts as president, Biden issued an executive order requiring all executive branch political appointees to sign a pledge that they won't interfere with Justice Department investigations.

Mueller's report included multiple accusations of Trump obstructing justice, including firing FBI Director James Comey over his unwillingness to say Trump was not personally under investigation; pressuring Comey to end an investigation into Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn; and instructing White House counsel Don McGahn to have Mueller removed amid media reports that his team was investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice.

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Private Lawsuits

Trump's election loss could hasten the resolution of lawsuits brought by two women who've accused him of sexual misconduct.

Lawyers for Summer Zervos, a restaurateur who worked with Trump as a contestant on The Apprentice, asked New York's high court last week to dismiss as moot Trump's appeal that argued a sitting president can't be sued in a state court.

Zervos came forward during Trump's 2016 campaign with allegations he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping when she sought to talk to him about her career in 2007. Trump denied her allegations and retweeted a message calling her claims "a hoax," leading Zervos to file the defamation lawsuit against him.

A defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist who accused Trump last year of raping her in the mid-1990s, is on hold as an appeals court weighs Trump's argument that the United States government, rather than Trump as an individual, should be the defendant.

Government lawyers have argued that statements he made about Carroll — including that she was "totally lying" to sell a memoir — fell within the scope of his work as president because Carroll was, in effect, questioning his fitness to hold public office.

A ruling in Trump's favor would allow the Justice Department to represent him in the matter and could put taxpayers on the hook for any payout that might result. It's unclear whether the department would maintain that position under Biden.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly as Zervos and Carroll have.

Investigating Hunter Biden? Probe Trump’s Taxes Too

Hunter Biden says his tax affairs are under investigation. The president-elect's son says he is "confident" the probe by the U.S. attorney's office in Delaware will find no wrongdoing.

Fine. We shall see.

A few things to unpack here. First, inquiries into possible tax fraud should be welcome. When some people cheat on their taxes, those who don't have to cover for them.

At the same time, Joe Biden's 50-year-old son is not Joe. Any tax issues he has are his, not his father's.

President Donald Trump has tried mightily to link Hunter's business dealings with Chinese and European tycoons to Joe, and the investigations have come up empty. He'd undoubtedly love to tie Hunter's tax issues into one public-confusing package.

Attorney General William Barr has rejected Trump's demand for a special counsel to investigate Hunter. He says that scrutiny of Hunter's activities is "being handled responsibly and professionally." Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, which has been scouring Hunter's business ventures, concluded, "None of the Journal's reporting found that Joe Biden was involved in his son's business activities." The tax probe doesn't implicate Joe either.


All this said, it was not OK that Hunter used his powerful political name to rake in cash from foreign tycoons. It was not OK that he used his family ties to score a discounted stake in a Chinese private equity venture or various lucrative consulting deals. Or that he sold himself as the guy who could grease entry into the Washington power structure.

And Joe should have stopped it. There was nothing in Hunter's biography — which included drug and money problems — that would have prompted these foreign interests to hire him for his talents. Two Obama administration officials aired concern that Hunter's seat on the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma would leave the appearance of a conflict of interest. Senate Republicans looked hard for evidence that Joe Biden altered U.S. policy in Ukraine for his son, and found none. Still, appearances matter.

Of course, Biden's missteps in letting a family member profit off his Washington connections pale in contrast to the Trumps' brazen self-dealing. In that case, you don't even know where to start.


Imagine the outrage if Biden were to let Hunter stand in for him at a G-20 meeting, as Trump let his daughter Ivanka do. In 2018, China fast-tracked 18 trademarks to companies linked to Trump and Ivanka — you know, those sunglasses, handbags and shoes.

Then there was son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser. Vanity Fair reports that Kushner set up a shell company into which Trump fans are still pouring money. Its apparent purpose was to avoid federally mandated disclosures of campaign spending, much of it heading to Trump family pockets. The company's first president was Eric Trump's wife, Lara. Its first vice president was Vice President Mike Pence's nephew John Pence.

Back on the tax fraud front, state prosecutors in Manhattan are ramping up efforts to obtain Trump's personal and corporate tax returns. They are looking into possible insurance fraud, bank fraud and tax fraud. If they find culpability, Trump could face criminal charges.


Any pardons that Trump might grant himself and his children could shield them from federal prosecutions, but not state ones. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has already testified that Trump inflated the value of his assets to his lenders and then deflated them to cut his real estate taxes. Both practices are illegal. Also under investigation are millions in tax write-offs for consulting services, some apparently for work by Ivanka.

Let's find all the tax cheats. Do it for we who've been paying both our taxes and their taxes.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Trump Organization Must Hand Over Documents Say New York Judge

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron has just ordered President Donald Trump's company, the Trump Organization, to hand over more documents to the State of New York's Attorney General, Letitia James.

James has been investigating President Donald Trump's family businesses since March of 2019, just two months after she took office.

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