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Like A Mob Boss, Trump Wanted Two Favors From ‘His’ Supreme Court

Like a mob boss looking for payback, Donald Trump wanted the Supreme Court to do him two favors heading into the November election: keep him in power and keep him out of jail. To its everlasting credit, the court quickly declined to deliver on the first. Even though Trump had nominated three arch-conservatives to the bench—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—the court rejected his baseless challenges to the results of the election.

It took the court far too long to screw up the courage to decline the second favor, but in a one-sentence order issued on February 22, the court dismissed an emergency petition Trump's lawyers had filed last October to stop Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from enforcing a critical grand jury subpoena issued to the former president's accounting firm—Mazars USA, LLP—as part of a wide-ranging criminal investigationinvolving Trump's business practices.

Pending the court's ruling on the petition, Vance had agreed to pause enforcement of the subpoena. And in the meantime, as the court dithered, New York's five-year statute of limitations continued to tick away, threatening to derail the entire probe.

The investigation can now move forward, full speed.

Of all the potential avenues for indicting Trump now that he is out of office and has lost the immunity from prosecution that comes with the presidency, Vance's probe, which began in 2018, offers the most immediate promise. Although New York grand jury proceedings are secret, it has been widely reported that Vance is investigating Trump not only for the hush money paid to pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford, aka "Stormy Daniels," and onetime Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal, but also to determine if other aspects of Trump's private financial dealings have violated state fraud and income tax laws.

The Mazars subpoena is a key component of Vance's inquiry. It demands multiple years of Trump's personal and corporate federal and state tax returns and other financial documentation, dating back to 2011.

As some commentators have noted, information from Mazars could help prove that the Trump Organization used deceptive accounting techniques to inflate the value of assets when applying for bank loans and insurance while understating values to reduce tax bills. Documents from Mazars could also help establish that Trump or members of his family acted with the knowledge and intent needed to prove the commission of financial crimes.

Usually, the Supreme Court rules on emergency petitions expeditiously, often within a matter of weeks, or even days. So, what was behind the inaction in this case? Was there a legitimate reason for the inordinate delay, or were political considerations in play?

The court itself isn't saying. Unlike elected politicians, the justices don't issue press releases or regularly speak to the media. In the absence of an official explanation, the reason for the delay appears to lie in the ideological orientation of the court, which has shifted sharply to the right since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September.

The court's conservatives now outnumber its liberals, 6-3. They determine the substantive outcome of most cases as well as the timing of decisions. But despite the backbone they displayed in rebuffing Trump's 2020 election complaints, the conservatives may not have been willing to abandon Trump to deal with Vance and his prosecutorial team while he was still president.

Whatever the reason, there was no good excuse for the more than four-month delay on the Mazars subpoena, especially because the court was already familiar with the subpoena and the facts and issues it raised. Indeed, the subpoena was the subject of the court's historic 7-2 decision last July, which recognized the authority of a state grand jury to demand documents from a sitting president.

Writing for the majority in last year's case, Chief Justice John Roberts reached deep into the history of U.S. constitutional law, as I have noted before, citing the legendary Chief Justice John Marshall's approval of subpoenas issued to President Thomas Jefferson in the 1807 treason trial of Aaron Burr. Roberts' opinion was also layered with repeated references to the cases of United States v. Nixon and Clinton v. Jones.

In the process, Roberts rejected both the claim raised by Trump's private attorneys that sitting presidents enjoy "absolute immunity" from state criminal investigations, as well as an alternative contention advanced by the Trump Justice Department that state prosecutors must demonstrate a "heightened" standard of need before gaining access to the president's records.

Roberts and the majority, however, stopped short of ordering compliance with the subpoena. Instead, they remanded the case to the lower federal courts to permit Trump's attorneys to argue the subpoena was overly broad in scope and issued in bad faith. Afterward, in short order, both the federal district court judge assigned to the litigation in Manhattan as well as the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the subpoena, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to resolve the matter once and for all.

Lacking any sound basis to invalidate the subpoena, Trump's attorneys were obviously counting on continued delays to keep their client out of jail. But despite the rejection of their emergency petition, they may not be done trying yet.

According to CNN, the disgraced ex-president's lawyers are preparing to file a new petition with the Supreme Court, requesting a full hearing with oral arguments and a new briefing schedule to review the 2nd Circuit's ruling. If granted, such a petition could impose additional delays and restrictions on Vance's investigation.

Trump, for his part, has responded to the court's order in typical fashion, releasing a statement lambasting the order as a continuation of the "witch hunt" against him. "The Supreme Court never should have let this 'fishing expedition' happen, but they did," the statement asserted. "This is something which has never happened to a President before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo."

To restore the public's faith in judicial independence, the court should reject any further efforts to undermine, limit or suspend the Vance investigation. In the aftermath of Trump's shameful acquittal in his second Senate impeachment trial, the court should stand aside and force Trump to face accountability.

Now a private citizen, Donald Trump deserves no more deference or protection from the judiciary than any other criminal suspect. It's high time to bring him to justice. Nothing less than the rule of law is at stake.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Why Bill Barr Is The Second Biggest Loser Of Trump’s Regime

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Of all the bombastic statements ever uttered by Attorney General William "Bill" Barr, a remark made toward the end of a lengthy interview with CBS News in May will be remembered above the rest. Asked how "history" will look upon his controversial motion to dismiss the criminal charges that Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought against Michael Flynn for making false statements to the FBI, Barr raised his eyebrows, chortled loudly, and flashed a sly smile.

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As Trumps' Legal Jeopardy Mounts, Will Ivanka Snitch On Daddy?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

If you're a fan of TV crime procedurals, you've no doubt seen shows where detectives interrogate two suspects detained in separate and austere holding rooms. The object is to get one of the perps to snitch on his or her accomplice and "turn state's evidence" in return for leniency.

The dramas may feature different actors and different crimes, but the essential script components are the same: The cops offer immunity, witness protection, or some other favorable treatment in exchange for a confession. The arrestees, however, remain defiant, and hang tough. Some sit stone-faced and silent. Others smirk and laugh. Still others hurl back insults, accusing the cops of incompetence and a rush to judgment.

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Trump Faces Pardon Dilemma As He Maneuvers To Avoid Indictment




This article was produced by the
Independent Media Institute.

Donald Trump is becoming more fearful and anxious by the day. Above everything else, he desperately wants to save his own skin and avoid spending his remaining days outfitted in an orange prison jumpsuit. This is why, as the legal challenges to his humiliating defeat at the polls fail one by one, he will eventually shed his phony tough-guy facade and seek refuge in a presidential pardon for the myriad of federal felonies he may have committed.

The question is not whether Trump will pursue the pardon remedy, but precisely when and how he will do so. Even though a presidential pardon would apply only to federal offenses and leave him exposed to charges under New York law arising from the ongoing probe conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, he has no other viable choice.

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Why Chief Justice Roberts May Fail To Protect The 2020 Election

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

As election day approaches, voting-rights lawsuits are heating up across the country. In two separate federal cases in August, 20 states and the District of Columbia sued President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to reverse cutbacks to the postal system designed to undermine the agency's ability to deliver the expected upsurge in mail-in ballots this fall.

At the same time, the Trump administration has filed federal lawsuits to invalidate vote-by-mail procedures adopted in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New Jersey. The administration alleges, without any supporting evidence, that easing the rules on mail-in balloting will lead to massive fraud.

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How Trump Exploited The Legal Infrastructure To Advance Fascism In America

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

The debate over whether Donald Trump is a fascist is no longer confined to a narrow segment of the far left. It is now out in the open. Even mainstream columnists like the New York Times' Michelle Goldberg and the Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor and influential Democratic politicians, such as Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, have come to use the "F" word to describe our 45th commander in chief.

Although it is an emotionally loaded and often misused term, fascism is as real today as a political and cultural force, a set of core beliefs, and a mode of governance as it was when Benito Mussolini founded the Italian Fascist Party in 1919 and declared himself dictator six years later.

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No, The Constitution Doesn’t Protect Coronavirus Deniers

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

In the annals of American jurisprudence, few legal adages have gained wider currency or proven more adaptable to changing times and circumstances than the phrase, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact."

While the exact provenance of the dictum is unclear, the expression is most often attributed to a dissenting opinion written in 1949 by the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Jackson in the case of Terminiello v. Chicago.

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Trump Has Too Much To Fear — And Won’t Leave Quietly

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

The presidency of Donald John Trump is collapsing. Unwilling or unable to confront the deadly realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 138,000 American lives, the president's job-approval ratings have plummeted. The ravages of the virus, in turn, have triggered a deep economic slump, pushing unemployment rates to levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. There is a growing perception that our 45th commander in chief, never known for his intellectual acuity or moral rectitude, is unfit to lead the nation in this moment of extreme crisis.

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Will Roberts Reject Trump’s Legal Assault On Obamacare?

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

If you're one of the 23.3 million Americans who depend on Obamacare for your survival, brace yourself for a looming disaster: In the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump is trying yet again to take away your health insurance, and this time he may succeed.

Having failed to persuade Congress to repeal Obamacare in 2017 (remember the historic "thumbs down" vote cast by John McCain), Trump now is asking the Supreme Court to reexamine the law, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and declare the entire statute unconstitutional in a new case—California v. Texas. The case, which began as a federal lawsuit filed by Texas and a group of other predominantly Republican-led states, has been added to the court's docket for the 2020 term, which starts in October.

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Black Lives Matter Lawsuit Holds Barr Personally Liable In Civil Rights Violations

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

No attorney general since John Mitchell has gotten away with assaulting the rule of law more than Bill Barr. But unlike Mitchell, who served 19 months in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, Barr has yet to be held accountable for his ever-expanding laundry list of outrageous misdeeds and derelictions.

To be sure, there have been several efforts to bring Barr to heel. Last July, for example, the House voted to hold both Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt for refusing to turn over documents related to the Trump administration's attempt to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census. But in an act of defiance that surprised absolutely no one, the DOJ, which Barr heads, refused to pursue charges against either cabinet member, leaving the House with no means of enforcement.

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Will Trump Make America A Failed State?

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

There are no universally accepted definitions of either a "failed state" or a "constitutional crisis." Good arguments can be advanced, however, that we are suffering from both disorders at the state and national levels in the midst of the lethal COVID-19 pandemic.

In a May 19 article, Guardian columnist Nathan Robinson argues that Wisconsin is beginning to resemble a failed state, which he defines as "one that can no longer claim legitimacy or perform a government's core function of protecting the people's basic security." The Wisconsin GOP, Robinson writes, is a minority party, but after years of extreme gerrymandering, it wields de facto dictatorial powers, enabling it to gut public-sector unions and advance the privileges of business interests and the wealthy.

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Supreme Court Must Decide Whether Trump Is Above The Law

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

"L'état, c'est moi" ("I am the state") —Declaration attributed to Louis XIV, King of France

Article II of the U.S. Constitution vests the executive power of the federal government in a president, not a king. Kings rule by fiat. The president is supposed to govern with the consent of the people and in coordination with Congress and the judiciary, the two other co-equal branches of government.

Donald Trump, our 45th president, has never accepted our constitutional structure of checks and balances, asserting instead, as he did in a speech last July, that under Article II, "I have the right to do whatever I want as president."

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Trump Escalates His Angry Assault On The First Amendment

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Donald Trump is at war with the First Amendment and the free press. The war is on full display nearly every day in his rage-filled press conferences on the COVID-19 pandemic, in which he regularly condemns the "fake news" media and bashes reporters who dare to ask the slightest probative questions about his handling of the ongoing public-health crisis.

Trump's war is also longstanding. And it is waged not only on television and in angry tweets and at campaign rallies (which have been put on hold because of the coronavirus), but also in courtrooms across the country in the form of defamation lawsuits designed to shame, silence and punish his critics.

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