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US Supreme Court rulings open path to President Trump’s finances | Trump News



Two United States Supreme Court decisions delivered on Thursday a legal path for the eventual release of President Donald Trump’s financial records.

Whether the information, which could be damaging for the president, will come out before November’s presidential election is unclear, lawyers and politicians said.

“These two opinions are very dark clouds for the president,” said Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Washington, DC.

“The opinions reject the argument that he has this global immunity from prosecution or service of process,” Rossi told Al Jazeera.

In a pair of 7-2 decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that a New York state grand jury could get Trump’s financial records and sent back to a lower court enforcement of a subpoena by Congress.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, and a House of Representatives committee had subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA LLP for 10 years of his financial records. Trump claimed his position as president gave him broad protection of “absolute immunity” from investigation by Congress and the New York prosecutors.

The court rejected that claim and ruled Trump is subject to the subpoenas but left open an avenue for the president to argue the legal requests for documents should be limited because they were issued in bad faith or for political motives.

“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court’s opinion.

Two justices appointed by Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch voted with the majority against the president in both rulings. Former Attorney General Eric Holder in the Obama administration praised the decision on Twitter.

At the White House, Trump spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said the court’s decisions were a “big win” because the cases were remanded back to district courts. 

“The president has an ample arsenal of arguments that he can make,” McEnany told reporters at a news conference. 

The Manhattan prosecutor is a Democrat, and Democrats in the US Congress were pursuing the investigations solely for “partisan” reasons, she said.

Those legal arguments, however, are not strong, said lawyers who have been critical of the president’s legal claims.

SupCt media stakeout

Members of the news media gather outside the US Supreme Court, where justices made it clear that President Donald Trump cannot evade criminal investigations, ruling that a prosecutor in New York City can obtain Trump’s financial records including tax returns, July 9, 2020 [Leah Millis/Reuters]

“The idea that he can simply assert that this is harassment, that it’s politically motivated in the absence of any proof whatsoever is not going to help him very much,” said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar at Harvard Law School.

“The president and his people are grasping at straws to find anything they can to indicate this was not as thorough a rout as it was,” Tribe told Al Jazeera.

Trump’s claims will not gain him “leverage” in the lower courts, he said.

When the decisions were announced, Trump lashed out with seven tweets on Twitter, arguing he was being treated unfairly and was being persecuted for political reasons.

“The rulings were basically starting all over again” by sending the cases back to lower courts, Trump told reporters at the White House.

“It’s a pure witch-hunt, a hoax … A political witch-hunt,” the president said.

Trump will now try to use the courts to forestall the release of the information, which could be hurt him both politically and legally, lawyers predicted.

“Today’s decisions are a victory for the rule of law in the United States, and support the notion that no person, even the president, is above the law,” said Barbara McQuade, a law professor at the University of Michigan.

“But, once again, President Trump has exploited the slow-moving process of the courts to stall the ultimate production of these records,” McQuade told Al Jazeera.

“By remanding these decisions to the lower courts for further proceedings, the court is opening the door for further delay by Trump, who will likely drag out litigation past the November election,” she said.

SupCt Trump protester

 A demonstrator holds a sign reading ‘follow the money’ outside the US Supreme Court, where justices ruled that a prosecutor in New York City can obtain President Donald Trump’s financial records including tax returns, July 9, 2020 [Leah Millis/Reuters]

Rossi pointed to US historical precedent in the Nixon tapes case during the 1974 Watergate scandal. Federal courts expedited proceedings to force President Richard Nixon to release White House recordings of his conversations. Nixon resigned 16 days later.

“It could be a Nixon tapes situation where the courts are moving fast, and you will have a resolution probably by September. And if the returns and tax information are provided in early September, that is very bad news for President Trump,” Rossi said.

In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Vance said the rulings were “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one – not even a president – is above the law.”

Vance is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified records of hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and nude model Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign. Both women told of sex with Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats in Congress would renew efforts to win enforcement of their subpoenas for Trump’s financial and tax records.

“The court has reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference.

“We will continue to press our case in the lower courts,” Pelosi said, adding she expects the financial records to show Russian financing of Trump’s real estate ventures.

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US says it has jabbed 82 million people, topping the world | Coronavirus pandemic News



But coronavirus rates have plateaued over the past week, raising concern over yet another surge in cases and deaths.

The United States has administered 82 million coronavirus vaccine shots, White House officials announced on Friday, more than any other country in the world.

During a coronavirus task force news conference, health officials said 55 percent of Americans aged 65 and older have now received at least one shot, up from 8 percent just six weeks ago.

“Altogether we’ve administered more than 82 million shots, more than any country in the world,” said Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for the COVID-19 response team.

But the US has also suffered more deaths than any other country in the world – more than 518,000 Americans have lost their lives to the disease.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccines administered during his first 100 days in office [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

US President Joe Biden who took office in January has promised to make tackling the pandemic a top priority for his administration and has set a target to vaccinate 100 million Americans by early May – to coincide with his 100 days in office. He has said the country is well under way to meeting that goal.

Officials say 450 vaccination sites have been set up around the country which has sped up the effort and they have plans to open up more sites as vaccine supplies increase over the next weeks.

In an effort to further boost the campaign, last week the US gave emergency approval to use a third vaccine produced by drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. Biden has also announced that the US will manufacture the J&J vaccine, a shot that requires only one dose, further speeding up the effort.

But even with the vaccination campaign well under way, officials said deaths and infection rates have plateaued in recent days, indicating that the nation could be at risk of yet another surge.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said amid the rapid spread of new variants across the country, Americans need to ‘double down’ on protection measures of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, said over the past week, there have been daily 60,000-70,000 new coronavirus cases, and 1,900 Americans have been dying every day.

“The current numbers remain concerning,” Walensky said, “cases and deaths are still too high, and have now plateaued for more than week.”

Amid the rapid spread of new variants, which have been detected in 48 US states, she urged Americans need to “double down” on protection measures of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing.

“I know that the idea of relaxing mask wearing and getting back to every day activities is appealing,” she said, “but we’re not there yet.”

Several states have in recent days announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions on businesses and have lifted statewide mandates to wear masks. Health officials have responded with concern and urged Americans to continue to wear masks and follow precautions set under federal guidelines.

Biden blasted the decisions by state governors on Thursday, calling it “a big mistake” and “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking.”

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said the current numbers are an indication of a likely fourth surge in cases.

“When you have that much viral activity in a plateau it almost invariably means that you are at risk for another spike,” he said.

During the briefing on Friday, officials also announced that the CDC is working on publishing guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, indicating which activities they may or may not be able to resume.

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