Michael Cohen taken back into custody – report
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and fixer, has been taken back into federal custody, according to Reuters.
Cohen was expected to sign papers about his home confinement today, several weeks after being released from prison amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus among inmates.
But Cohen now seems to have been remanded back into federal custody. This development comes after Cohen was photographed outside of his home at a Manhattan restaurant, apparently violating the conditions of his release.
The secretary of defence, Mark Esper, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Mark Milley, are testifying to the House Armed Services Committee, on the subject of the military role in civilian law enforcement, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, during which Donald Trump had threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy active duty troops to US cities.
Esper repeated his early resistance to using the act:
“As a former soldier and member of the National Guard, I’m a firm believer that in these situations the [national] guard is best suited to provide domestic support to civil authorities in support of law enforcement. Using active duty forces in a direct law enforcement role should remain a last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire situations.”
Gen Milley echoed Esper, in his account of the events at the end of May and beginning of June.
“I continually assessed and advised that it was not necessary to employ active duty troops in response to the civil unrest occurring in our nation was my view then and remain so now that local, state and federal police backed up by the National Guard under governor control, could and continually can effectively handle the security situation in every case across the country,” Milley said.
“However, I recommended to the secretary of defence, and he ordered, about 1700 active duty troops to an increased alert posture, in the vicinity of Washington DC, but none of them were ever used.”
In his opening statement to the House judiciary committee, former US attorney Geoffrey Berman detailed how he learned of his firing.
Berman said he spoke to attorney general William Barr again on June 19 after their meeting and reiterated he would not resign from his position as the top prosecutor in the southern district of New York office.
Barr promised to call Berman the next day, Instead, hours later, Barr issued a statement saying Berman had resigned.
“That statement was false,” Berman said in his opening statement. “In addition, the press release said, among other things, that the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, had been appointed by the president as Acting U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York effective July 3rd pending Jay Clayton’s nomination and confirmation for that position.
“The appointment of Craig Carpenito as Acting U.S. Attorney, or anyone from outside of the Office, would have been unprecedented, unnecessary and unexplained.”
Berman then issued a statement saying he had not resigned. He received a letter the next day informing him he had been fired. But after Barr assured him his deputy would instead take over the office in an acting capacity, Berman agreed to step aside and not litigate his removal.
According to his opening statement, former US attorney Geoffrey Berman told attorney general William Barr that he would not resign partly because there were investigations in the southern district of New York office he wanted to see to completion.
Berman also told the House judiciary committee that Barr explictly said the push for his resignation was unrelated to his job performance.
“I asked the Attorney General if he was in any way dissatisfied with my performance as U.S. Attorney. He said that he was not at all dissatisfied,” Berman said.
“He said the move was solely prompted by Jay Clayton’s desire to move back to New York and the Administration’s desire to keep him on the team,” Berman said, referring to the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has been named as Berman’s replacement.
“I told the Attorney General that I knew and liked Jay Clayton but he was an unqualified choice for U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York because he was never an AUSA and had no criminal experience.”
Berman says Barr pressured him to resign – reports
Former US attorney Geoffrey Berman reportedly told the House judiciary committee that attorney general William Barr urged him to quit before he was fired last month.
According to a copy of Berman’s opening statement obtained by multiple news outlets, Berman said Barr asked to meet him on June 19 at the Pierre Hotel in New York.
“I was not told the purpose of the meeting,” Berman told the committee behind closed doors. “The meeting took roughly 45 minutes and was held in the Attorney General’s hotel suite. … There were sandwiches on the table, but nobody ate.”
Berman said Barr urged him to step down and take a job in the justice department’s civil division. When Berman said he would not do so, Barr warned that his refusal would impact his career.
“The Attorney General said that if I did not resign from my position I would be fired,” Berman said. “He added that getting fired from my job would not be good for my resume or future job prospects. I told him that while I did not want to get fired, I would not resign.”
Berman was ultimately fired from his job last month after refusing to resign, causing a public spat with Barr and Trump.
Today so far
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- The supreme court ruled a New York grand jury may receive the president’s financial records and tax returns. In a 7-2 decision, the court rejected Trump’s argument that he was categorically immune from the grand jury process, delivering a victory for Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance. But Vance will still have to go back to court to have his subpoena enforced, which will delay the case.
- The supreme court said House committees could not receive Trump’s financial records for now. In another 7-2 decision, the justices sent the case back to a lower court for a more thorough review of the separation of powers issues in the case.
- Another 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. The figure marks a slight decrease from a week before, but unemployment numbers remain alarmingly high as many states report increases in new cases of coronavirus.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Echoing his fellow Democratic lawmakers, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said today’s supreme court rulings proved that no one, including the president, is above the law.
“No matter how much he wishes it to be true, President Trump is not king,” Schumer said in a new statement. “In a devastating blow to President Trump and his enablers in the Republican party, the Supreme Court today upheld a fundamental tenet of our democracy that no one is above the law.”
Schumer argued that the rulings served as a somber reminder of how Trump’s political allies, including attorney general William Barr, have helped him skirt the law.
“Sadly, today’s rulings are a stark reminder that while President Trump is actively undermining our democracy, Senate Republicans and Attorney General Barr are not lifting a finger to stop him—something that is not lost on the American people,” Schumer said.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committeee, celebrated the supreme court’s decision today as a recognition that the president is not above the law.
But Schiff, who served as the lead impeachment manager during Trump’s Senate trial, expressed disappointment that the court had set a new standard for congressional oversight.
“No one is above the law, not even the President of the United States. Nor are they immune from congressional oversight or criminal investigation, no matter how much they endeavor to delay or evade them,” Schiff said in a new statement.
“While we are disappointed that the Supreme Court abandoned its prior precedent and promulgated a new standard for Congressional subpoenas implicating the President, we are grateful that the Court reaffirmed Congress’ broad power to investigate in aid of its legislative authority.”
Schiff acknowledged the court’s decision would delay the House investigations but expressed confidence that Democrats would ultimately prevail in their legal battle.
“The Supreme Court’s remand of this case to permit the lower courts to apply the new standard will serve to delay the Committee’s investigation — and, given the risk of foreign influence over this President, such delay is dangerous — but we remain confident that we will ultimately prevail,” Schiff said. “And in light of the President’s tweets this morning, he appears to believe the same.”
Meanwhile, in New York, a Black Lives Matter mural is being painted on the section of Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower today.
The president has previously complained about the planned mural, saying the anti-racist message would be “denigrating” the “luxury avenue” on which his property sits.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio fired back at Trump last week, “Black people BUILT 5th Ave and so much of this nation. … We are honoring them. The fact that you see it as denigrating your street is the definition of racism.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the supreme court’s decision today gives House Democrats “a path” to obtain Trump’s financial records, even though they will not receive them right now.
“We have a path that the Supreme Court has laid out that we will certainly not ignore and we will never stop our oversight,” Pelosi said. “That is our responsibility under the constitution of the United States.”
The Democratic speaker indicated that she and her caucus had reasonable expectations about the court’s decision going into today.
Pelosi said, “There was never any way they were going to give us the records right now, but they would give us a path to the records.”
House Democrats, including judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler, are emphasizing that today’s rulings mean the president is not above the law.
During the Trump impeachment inquiry and trial, Democrats frequently said that no one is above the law to argue their case against the president.
Congressman Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House judiciary committee, lamented the fact that today’s supreme court decisions mean the cases involving Trump’s financial records will continue.
“For almost four years, Democrats have been singularly focused on attacking President Trump for political gain,” Jordan said in a statement.
“Today’s decisions by the Supreme Court sadly will not end the Democrats’ partisan obsession. Americans around the country deserve better than the Democrats’ never-ending political games.”
There appears to be an interesting divide developing among Trump and his allies in terms of their responses to today’s rulings.
Trump, and now Jordan as well, have complained that the court should have given the president more authority to essentially ignore these subpoenas for his financial records.
But one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, celebrated the fact that the court’s rulings mean there will be a delay in the release of the records, meaning they will almost certainly not be made public before the November election.
Pelosi pledges to continue legal battle to obtain Trump’s financial records
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would continue its legal efforts to obtain Trump’s financial records after the supreme court sent the case back to a lower court.
“A careful reading of the Supreme Court rulings related to the President’s financial records is not good news for President Trump,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“The Court has reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, as it asks for further information from the Congress. Congress’s constitutional responsibility to uncover the truth continues, specifically related to the President’s Russia connection that he is hiding.
“The Congress will continue to conduct oversight For The People, upholding the separation of powers that is the genius of our Constitution. We will continue to press our case in the lower courts.”
At her weekly press conference, the Democratic speaker said the court’s decision sent a clear message that the president is not above the law, a frequent rallying cry for Democrats during the impeachment inquiry.
Striking a notably different tone than the president, one of Trump’s lawyers is celebrating today’s supreme court decisions.
“We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s financial records,” lawyer Jay Sekulow said in a statement.
“We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts.”
As Sekulow notes, today’s decisions mean there will be additional legal battles over the subpoenas in the months to come, virtually ensuring the president’s financial records will not be seen before the November election.
Trump is still tweeting away, painting himself as the victim of a double standard in comparison to the “totally corrupt previous Administration.”
“Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given … for another president,” the president tweeted.
“This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT,” Trump said of the subpoenas for his financial records.
“We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in U.S. history, and NOTHING HAPPENS.”
Trump criticizes ‘political prosection’ of financial records cases
Trump has now weighed in (via Twitter, of course) on this morning’s supreme court decisions involving subpoenas for his financial records.
“The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution,” the presient said.
“I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”
Trump took specific aim at the court in a separate tweet, implying the justices were holding him to a different standard than past presidents.
“Courts in the past have given “broad deference”. BUT NOT ME!” Trump said.
Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance issued a statement celebrating the supreme court’s ruling that the president is not categorically immune from grand jury requests.
“This is 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 said.
“Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the grand jury’s solemn obligation to follow the law and the facts, wherever they may lead.”
In terms of the substance of the two supreme court decisions, the opinions mark a defeat for Trump because the justices rejected his legal team’s argument that the president should be immune from such proceedings.
However, the president appears to have secured a victory in terms of the logistics of the decisions.
The justices ruled that Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance may receive the president’s tax returns and financial records. However, even if Vance can get the records soon, they will likely not be made public because they will be turned over to a grand jury, legally requiring them to be kept secret.
In terms of the House subpoenas, the supreme court sent the case back down to the lower court to more closely consider separation of powers issues. That will almost certainly delay the release of Trump’s financial records to the committees until after the election.
So the court has made an important decision in terms of executive power, but this virtually guarantees the American people will not see the president’s financial records before heading to the polls in November.