Trump asks Supreme Court to block subpoena for his tax returns

Robie de Guzman   •   November 15, 2019   •   223

US President Donald J. Trump waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return from a campaign rally in Bossier City, Louisiana; in Washington, DC, USA, 15 November 2019. EPA-EFE/YURI GRIPAS / ABACA / POOL world rights

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys on Thursday asked the US Supreme Court to quash an attempt by prosecutors in New York to obtain his tax records for the last eight years.

The filing comes after a US district court and a federal appellate panel ruled that Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, had to comply with a grand jury subpoena for the documents.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose office has been trying to enforce the subpoena, said he would delay action to allow the president’s lawyers to ask the Supreme Court to consider the case in the current term, according to The New York Times.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, a state or local prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation of the President of the United States and subjected him to coercive criminal process,” Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said. “Politically motivated subpoenas like this one are a perfect illustration of why a sitting president should be categorically immune from state criminal process.”

The dispute goes back to August, when Vance’s office demanded that Mazars hand over the tax records as part of an investigation into whether the Trump campaign’s 2016 hush-money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal violated the laws of New York State.

Both women said they had affairs with Trump, who denies the claims.

On Wednesday, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals let stand an earlier ruling that Mazars must also provide eight years of Trump’s tax returns to the Oversight and Reform Committee of the US House of Representatives.

The committee is seeking the tax records for “legitimate legislative pursuits, not an impermissible law-enforcement purpose,” the appellate judges concluded.

Trump’s legal team plans to ask the Supreme Court to take up that case as well.

While the US Department of Justice has long held that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, Trump attorney William S. Consovoy has maintained that his client enjoys “temporary presidential immunity,” not only from prosecution, but also from investigation. – EFE-EPA

llb/dr

Supreme Court OKs live coverage of Ampatuan massacre promulgation

Robie de Guzman   •   December 10, 2019

(FILE) Filipino Mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan Junior (R), prime suspect in the massacre of 57 civilians in a southern province, is shoved with photos of the mass murder victims as he arrives at the Department of Justice in Manila, Philippines on 18 December 2009. EPA-EPE/FRANCIS MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday approved the request for live coverage and broadcast of the promulgation of the Maguindanao massacre ruling set on Thursday, December 19at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Supreme Court Spokesperson, Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka said the en banc voted to allow the live streaming of the promulgation but did not elaborate if the voting was unanimous.

“After the en banc session of the SC this morning, they granted the request for the live broadcast and coverage of the promulgation of the decision of the case ‘People vs Ampatuan’ which is pending before Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,” Hosaka told reporters.

The request for open and live coverage of the case promulgation was filed earlier by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and several media networks.

The Maguindanao massacre, which occurred on Nov. 23, 2009, is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

The gruesome incident left 58 people dead, including 32 media personnel, some members of the Mangudadatu family and several civilians.

The ambush happened when they were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan are the primary accused in the case.

Of the 197 original suspects facing multiple murder charges, 101 were put on trial and could face sentencing soon.

Hosaka said a set of guidelines for the media coverage will be released by the SC Public Information Office.

This will include the number of reporters who will be allowed inside and outside of the courtroom as well as the rules on the use of mobile phones, cameras, and other recording devices.

A room will also be prepared where members of the media may monitor court proceedings during the case promulgation.

“However, due to space limitations and security concerns that the court has imposed. These are in broad strokes the actual resolution and guidelines will be out possibly at the end of the week,” Hosaka said.

Congressional report cites ‘overwhelming’ evidence against Trump

UNTV News   •   December 4, 2019

US President Donald Trump leaves 10 Downing Street during the NATO Summit in London on Tuesday, 3 Dec. 2019. EFE-EPA/WILL OLIVER

WASHINGTON — The Intelligence Committee of the US House of Representatives said Tuesday that its impeachment probe of President Donald Trump uncovered “overwhelming” evidence that the occupant of the White House has engaged in misconduct.

“The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” the Democratic-led panel said in its 300-page report.

The members of the committee, including Trump’s Republican allies, are due to vote Tuesday evening on whether to accept the report and forward it to the House Judiciary Committee as the basis for drafting articles of impeachment against the president.

Trump, according to the document, withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into launching an investigation of 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

That investigation – which never materialized – would have focused on Hunter Biden’s acceptance of a position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company in 2014, when his father was coordinating US policy toward Kiev as vice president under Barack Obama.

The intelligence committee report describes a “drastic” increase in pressure on Ukraine during the period between the July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and the public revelations about that conversation due to the whistle-blower complaint filed by a US government official.

“In the weeks following the July 25 call, the President’s hand-picked representatives increased the President’s pressure campaign on Ukrainian government officials – in person, over the phone, and by text message – to secure a public announcement of the investigations beneficial to President Trump’s re-election campaign,” according to the document.

“To compel the Ukrainian President to do his political bidding, President Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary,” the report says.

Trump denies that delaying the nearly $400 million in eventually disbursed aid to Ukraine or his reluctance to invite Zelensky to the White House had anything to do with a desire that Kiev announce an an investigation of the Bidens.

But the report concludes that Trump did seek to extract such a commitment from Zelensky and that in so doing, he “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.”

The text goes on to accuse the president of orchestrating an “unprecedented” effort to obstruct the impeachment probe.

Within minutes of the report’s publication, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that the document “reflects nothing more than their (Democrats) frustrations” and “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.” EPA-EFE

Trump confirms US Navy secretary forced out over SEAL case

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2019

A handout file photo made available by the US Navy shows US Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer addressing the crew of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) via the ship’s 1MC during a visit to the ship at sea near Newport News, Virginia, USA, 27 October 2019 (issued 25 November 2019).

WASHINGTON – The United States president confirmed Sunday that the Pentagon has asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his management of the case of a Navy SEAL who was demoted for misconduct.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper had requested Spencer’s resignation after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.”

In July, Gallagher was convicted for illegally posing next to the body of the dead jihadist for photographs during his 2017 deployment in Iraq, and acquitted him of a murder charge for allegedly killing an injured captive.

The case has attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump, who last week expressed his support for Gallagher and on Sunday night confirmed Spencer had been “terminated.”

“Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday night, adding “Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin.”

The Trident pin is the badge that marks membership to the elite Navy SEALs.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Spencer and Naval Special Warfare Commander Rear Admiral Collin Green had threatened to resign if the Navy complied with Trump’s request to revoke Gallagher’s demotion, although Spencer denied the news.

Trump said Sunday he “was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy.”

“He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank,” Trump added.

In its statement, the Pentagon said that Esper spoke with the “commander in Chief” on Friday about the Gallagher case and found out that Spencer had privately proposed to the White House, contrary to his public position, to restore Gallagher’s rank and allow him to retire with the Trident pin.

The Department of Defense spokesman added that recently during a conversation between the two, Spencer never informed Esper of his private proposal to the White House.

In the statement, Esper said he is “deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official.”

“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper said.

Following recent events, Esper has also ordered that Gallagher retain his Trident pin.

Trump said that “Admiral and now Ambassador to Norway Ken Braithwaite will be nominated by me to be the new Secretary of the Navy.” EFE-EPA

ssa /tw

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