New York appeals court allows Trump emoluments case to move forward

September 16, 2019

President Donald Trump has never been one “to look a gift horse in the mouth”—but now, his avarice may have consequences. On September 13, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that a lawsuit accusing the POTUS of violating the Emoluments ClauseArticle I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution—could proceed after a lower court had thrown out the case.

Specifically, the clause “prohibits any person holding a government office from accepting any present, emolument, office, or title from any King, Prince, or foreign State, without congressional consent. Its purpose is to prevent external influence and corruption of American officers by foreign states

According to a report by The Hill, a panel of judges with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which alleged that the president violated the constitutional clause by refusing to put his business assets in a blind trust while in office and profiting off the presidency.

But the case had been dismissed by a lower court in December 2017.

CREW welcomed the reinstatement of the case: “If President Trump would like to avoid the case going further and curtail the serious harms caused by his unconstitutional conduct, now would be a good time to divest from his businesses and end his violations of the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution,” Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

And CREW is just one of the many watchdog organizations that have raised concerns about the president’s decision not to put his company in a blind trust, according to The Hill.

Indeed, several of his actions in recent weeks seem to have been geared to generate profits for his properties—among them, his talk of hosting the next G7 meeting at his Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami; his “suggestion” that Vice President Pence stay at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland; and his deal with the USAF to do pricey refuels at the nearby airport and layovers at TrumpTurnberry.

Multiple lawsuits have alleged Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause , but none has gone to court until the September 13 decision cleared the way.

“I got sued on a thing called emoluments. Emoluments. You ever hear of the word? Nobody ever heard of it before,” Trump said at a speech in Pennsylvania last month. “And what it is is presidential harassment, because [the presidency] is costing me a fortune, and I love it.”

Chances are, he’ll be familiar with the Emoluments Clause soon.

Research contact: @thehill

House Judiciary panel agrees on procedural steps to impeachment, as Dems covertly list credible charges

September 13, 2019

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee clandestinely have begun to compile a list of possible charges against President Donald Trump— delineating potential articles of impeachment—even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders publicly resist taking such action, The Washington Post reported on September 12. 

Indeed, the Post says, the procedural tools approved on Wednesday—on a 24-17 party line vote—by that committee are similar to those used against former presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Commenting on the markup of the resolution for investigative procedures, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) said in his opening remarks: “The resolution before us represents the necessary next step in our investigation of corruption, obstruction, and abuse of power.

“This Committee has already covered the central findings of the Special Counsel’s investigation,” he said, adding, “The President’s 2016 campaign asked for and received the assistance of the Russian government.  Key figures from the campaign then lied to federal investigators about it.  The Special Counsel found that, at least ten times, the President took steps to interfere with the investigation.  In at least five of those incidents, the Special Counsel concluded that all of the elements necessary to charge obstruction of justice had been met.”

Nadler continued, “Our investigation is not only about obstruction. Our work must also extend beyond the four corners of the Mueller Report.  We have a responsibility to consider allegations of federal election crimes, self-dealing, violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, and a failure to defend our nation from future attacks by foreign adversaries.

“And, of course, this Committee and others have gone to court to secure evidence that has been withheld from Congress on indefensible legal grounds.  Former White House Counsel Donald McGahn is not ‘absolutely immune’ from appearing before this Committee.  We require his testimony for our obstruction investigation.  But the President has vowed to ‘fight all of the subpoenas,’ and this, too, is conduct that requires a congressional response.

“As Members of Congress—and, in particular, as members of the House Judiciary Committee—we have a responsibility to investigate each of these allegations and to determine the appropriate remedy.  That responsibility includes making a judgment about whether to recommend articles of impeachment.”

He ended with a call to action. “…We have a constitutional, historical, and moral obligation to fully investigate these matters.  Let us take the next step in that work without delay. I urge my colleagues to adopt this resolution.”

According to the Post’s report, additional potential impeachment articles being explored by the committee could focus on hush-money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Sources told the news outlet that the current behind-the-scenes planning reflects a growing desire among House Democrats to build a public case against Trump—and soon—even if there is no chance the Senate would convict him.

The additional tools approved on Wednesday would, the Post says, allow the committee to designate certain hearings as impeachment sessions, allow counsels to question witnesses publicly, permit some evidence to remain private and allow the president’s counsel to respond in writing to evidence and testimony.

Trump “has trampled the Constitution,” said Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), a committee member who has drafted his own articles, threatened to introduce them and then backed off after learning of the panel’s plans to eventually craft its own. “There is just so much you could go after. It’s going to be refining it down to the most salient.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) commented that the vote was a “continuation of what we have been doing.” Asked Thursday to clarify whether Democrats have taken a new step toward impeachment, Pelosi demurred, according to a report by The Huffington Post, saying,  “There’s nothing different from one day to the next,” she said. “We’re still on our same path.”

She added that the investigations, which have been greatly stymied by the administration’s refusal to comply with subpoenas, were moving at a good pace.

“We are, from a timing standpoint, where we need to be,” Pelosi said

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Trump to launch ‘America First’ smartphone app for his voter base

September 12, 2019

Although President Donald Trump already has “weaponized” his Twitter account to provide continual commentary on the politics, people, issues, and media that are top-of-mind in the Oval Office, soon he will have another way to get his message out to the U.S. electorate—an “America First” app.

According to a report by Politico, Trump’s reelection campaign plans to launch a smartphone app this fall to encourage his base of supporters to donate, volunteer, and reel in like-minded voters — all while providing the president with more unfiltered access to his followers.

Supporters who download the all-in-one app are expected to be able to sign up for a Make America Great Again rally, canvas a neighborhood, or call voters—maybe even register to vote as the campaign looks to turn passive supporters into activists.

But, perhaps the key feature will be the app’s use of prizes—maybe VIP seats or a selfie with the president—to persuade rabid Trumpers to recruit their friends, rewarding them as campaigns have been doing for top donors for years, according to people familiar with the plans, the news outlet says.

Trump‘s campaign didn’t respond to questions about the app, which originally had been scheduled to debut this summer. But Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital media director turned campaign manager, has spoken about his goal to directly contact and target millions more supporters than the campaign did in 2016.

“This is how Donald Trump stays president for four more years,” said Parscale, holding up his iPhone onstage at a Trump rally last year. “Now this phone is how we connect with you. It’s how we turn you into the army of Trump.”

The campaign already has acquired 200 million voter files from the Republican National Committee, Politico notes—and is spending millions on digital ads, texts, and rally attendee RSVPs to collect data on voters.

Indeed, the app could be used to gather supporter preferences, and then to create profiles that could be used to tailor specific messages to specific voters—down to the color of an ad.

What’s more, the app will not only offer a way to hear directly from Trump, but it give millions of diehard Trump voters a way to communicate with each other privately.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who worked for the RNC during the 2016 election, told Politico that Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms allow Trump to communicate with all types of people while the campaign app will rally the base.

“It’s not this or that. It’s all of the above,” Spicer said. “I think in this day and age, it adds one more element.”

Research contact: @politico

Air Force does pricey refuels in Scotland and crews layover at TrumpTurnberry—all on US voters’ dime

September 11, 2019

The Trump Organization and President Donald Trump, himself, were directly involved in developing a partnership between his Turnberry golf resort on the southwest coast of Scotland and Glasgow Prestwick Airport, The New York Times first reported this week.

The partnership, which began a year before Trump’s presidential campaign kicked off, worked to add TrumpTurnberry to a list of hotels used by the airport’s aircrew on stopovers— despite the fact that it is significantly farther away from the airport than other hotels used in a similar manner and has higher advertised prices, according to the Times.

What’s more, the president has arranged with the U.S. Air Force to refuel American aircraft—paying consumer prices for the fuel—at the Glasgow Prestwick Airport, a military maneuver that has not been approved by the Scottish government.

And the Air Force pilots and crew for those planes also are staying at the Trump Turnberry–on the dime of U.S. voters.

“We provide a full handling service for customers and routinely arrange overnight accommodation for visiting aircrew when requested,” the Prestwick airport said in a statement on Monday.

“We use over a dozen local hotels, including TrumpTurnberry, which accounts for a small percentage of the total hotel bookings we make,” it added.

The report comes amid controversy over U.S. military personnel staying at the resort while traveling through the airport in March, The Hill reported..

Trump has repeatedly denied involvement in the move, tweeting Monday, “I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry (they have good taste!) NOTHING TO DO WITH ME”

However, Air Force plane stops at Prestwick have increased from 180 in 2017 to 257 in 2018—and 259 so far, including 220 overnight stays, in 2019. That means lots of money is being made–both by the Trump resort and the airport.

Air Force officials could not tell the Times how many times crews had been sent to TrumpTurnberry specifically but said they are combing through vouchers to determine the exact count.

According to Natasha Bertrand, a reporter for Politico and an MSNBC contributor, the House Oversight committee has begun an investigation into whether U.S. military expenditures have been propping up TrumpTurnberry.

She says, “A peculiar refueling stop in Glasgow by a U.S. Air Force crew, who stayed overnight at the resort—there&back—tipped them off.’

What’s more, she tweeted, “One crew member was so struck by the choice of hotel—markedly different than the Marriotts and Hiltons the 176th maintenance squadron is used to—that he texted someone close to him and said the crew’s per diem allowance wasn’t enough to cover food and drinks at the ritzy resort.”

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

Research contact: @TrumpTurnberry

 

 

Meteorologist-in-chief? NOAA staff warned in September 1 directive not to contradict Trump

September 10, 2019

The POTUS is reaping the whirlwind in Washington, DC, as Hurricane Dorian weakens to a tropical storm and exits Canada.

Indeed, President Donald Trump has continued to insist loudly and implacably within the past few days that a map of the projected path of Hurricane Dorian showed that Alabama “would most likely be hit” by the storm.

To prove his point, the president had gone so far as to redraw the official map of the storm’s footprint with his own Sharpie on September 4—and had sent out a volley of tweets within the past week.

Rather than allowing the controversy to persist, a top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) official warned his staff not to contradict the White House, The Washington Post reported.

Referencing archived hurricane advisories, the NOAA official said that information provided to the president and the public between August 28 and September 2 “demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

He told NOAA staff to “only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon.” They were also told not to “provide any opinion,” according to a copy of the email obtained by The Washington Post.

A NOAA meteorologist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution told the Post that the note, understood internally to be referring to Trump, came after the National Weather Service office in Birmingham contradicted Trump by tweeting Alabama would “NOT see any impacts from the hurricane.”

The Birmingham office sent the tweet after receiving a flurry of phone calls from concerned residents following Trump’s message.

The agency sent a similar message warning scientists and meteorologists not to speak out on September 4, after Trump showed the doctored hurricane map.mu

“This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast,” the meteorologist said. “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors and ultimately that is what was occurring—ultimately what the Alabama office did is provide a forecast with their tweet, that is what they get paid to do.”

The NOAA statement set off a firestorm among scientists, who attacked NOAA officials for bending to Trump’s will.“This looks like classic politically motivated obfuscation to justify inaccurate statements made by the boss. It is truly sad to see political appointees undermining the superb, lifesaving work of NOAA’s talented and dedicated career servant,” Jane Lubchenco, who served as NOAA administrator under President Barack Obama, told the Post..

Research contact: @washingtonpost

GOP to cancel 2020 primaries and caucuses, as Trump rivals cry foul

September 9, 2019

Is the GOP “running scared”? Four states are set to cancel their 2020 Republican presidential primaries and caucuses—a move that would block President Donald Trump’s challengers from even getting on the ballot.

Republican functionaries in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas are expected to announce the cancellations this weekend, three GOP officials who are familiar with the plans told Politico.

According to the political news outlet, “The moves are the latest illustration of Trump’s takeover of the entire Republican Party apparatus. They underscore the extent to which his allies are determined to snuff out any potential nuisance en route to his renomination—or even to deny Republican critics a platform to embarrass him.”

“Trump and his allies and the Republican National Committee are doing whatever they can do to eliminate primaries in certain states and make it very difficult for primary challengers to get on the ballot in a number of states,” former Representative Joe Walsh (R-Illinois), who recently launched his primary campaign against the president, told Politico, adding, “It’s wrong, the RNC should be ashamed of itself, and I think it does show that Trump is afraid of a serious primary challenge because he knows his support is very soft.”

Walsh warned,“W e intend to be on the ballot in every single state no matter what the RNC and Trump allies try to do,” Walsh added. “We also intend to loudly call out this undemocratic bull on a regular basis.”

Former Massachusetts Governor. Bill Weld said in a statement, “We don’t elect presidents by acclamation in America. Donald Trump is doing his best to make the Republican Party his own personal club. Republicans deserve better.”

RNC officials said they played no role in the decisions, the news outlet reported. Trump aides said they supported the cancellations—but stressed that each case was initiated by state party officials.

The shutdowns aren’t without precedent for either the Democrats or the Republicans. South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick noted that his state decided not to hold Republican presidential primaries in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was running for reelection, or in 2004, when George W. Bush was seeking a second term. South Carolina, he added, also skipped its 1996 and 2012 Democratic contests.

“As a general rule, when either party has an incumbent president in the White House, there’s no rationale to hold a primary,” McKissick said.

Officials in several states said in statements provided by the Trump campaign that they were driven by the cost savings. State parties in Nevada and Kansas foot the bill to put on caucuses.

“It would be malpractice on my part to waste money on a caucus to come to the inevitable conclusion that President Trump will be getting all our delegates in Charlotte,” Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald told Politico. “We should be spending those funds to get all our candidates across the finish line instead.”

Research contact: @politico

#1 with a bullet: San Francisco board resolves that the NRA is top ‘domestic terrorist organization’

September 6, 2019

Unsettled by recent mass shootings across the nation—including the latest, in Odessa, Texas—the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution (No. 190841) this week “declaring the National Rifle Association to be a domestic terrorist organization and urging other cities, states, and the federal government to do the same.”

The resolution was introduced by Supervisor Catherine Stefani on July 30—two days after a shooting at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, in which three people were killed and more than a dozen others injured, The New York Times reported.

Before the resolution was put to a vote on Tuesday , September 3, Stefani spoke about the “carnage across this country,” also citing mass shootings last month in El PasoDayton, Ohio; and near Odessa, Texas.

Stefani said the NRA conspires to limit gun violence research, restrict gun violence data sharing and block every piece of sensible gun violence prevention legislation proposed at local, state, and federal levels.

 “The NRA exists to spread pro-gun propaganda and put weapons in the hands of those who would harm and terrorize us,”. Stefani said in a statement. “Nobody has done more to fan the flames of gun violence than the NRA.”

While the resolution has no practical effect,. Stefani said in an interview with the Times on Wednesday, “I firmly believe that words matter, and I think this is a step in fighting the negative impact of the NRA.”

The N.R.A. characterized the action as “a publicity stunt.”

“This is just another worthless and disgusting ‘sound-bite remedy’ to the violence epidemic gripping our nation,” Amy Hunter, a spokesperson for the association, said in a statement on Wednesday, according to the Times. “This is a reckless assault on a law-abiding organization, its members, and the freedoms they all stand for. We remain undeterred, guided by our values and belief in those who want to find real solutions to gun violence.” Stefani referred to the federal Justice Department’s definition of terrorist activity, which involves the use of a firearm, weapon or dangerous device to endanger the safety of individuals. The definition also includes members of organizations that provide funds, weapons or training to individuals who commit terrorist acts.

Research contact: @nytimes

Bill Flores joins exodus of House Republican members

September 5, 2019

Another one bites the dust: U.S. Representative Bill Flores (Texas’ 17th District) today became the 15th House Republican—and the fifth from the state of Texas—to announce he plans to retire at the end of his term and not seek re-election in 2020, claiming in a personal statement that he wants to spend more time with his family and resume private-sector business activities.

“After much prayer over the past few days and following conversations with my wife, Gina, during that time, I have decided that my current term will be my last,” Flores, 65, who was first elected in 2010, said in the statement, posted on his House website.

So far, only three House Democrats have said they will not run again. By contrast, in 2018, 18 House Democrats did not seek reelection and 34 House Republicans opted out, according to Ballotpedia.

The other House members from the Lone Star State who have confirmed that they will not run for reelection include Representatives Mike Conaway (Texas’11th District), Will Hurd (Texas’ 23rd), Kenny Marchant (Texas’ 24th), and Pete Olson (Texas’22nd),  Ballotpedia reports.

Flores, a retired oil and gas executive, s serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and has been active in the Republican Study Committee, which had been the caucus of the House’s most conservative members.

Several of the Republican retirements have been in increasingly competitive districts; in three of them, GOP incumbents won reelection by fewer than five percentage points in 2018. But others are in “safer” districts, The Washington Post opined.

Last year, the Post says, Flores prevailed with nearly 57% of the vote. During an interview Thursday on WTAW-AM radio in College Station, Texas, Flores expressed optimism that his district would remain in Republican hands.

“It’s a center-right district,” he said. “There are a lot of thoughtful conservative leaders out there, particularly next generation, that I think will decide to serve the public and to get engaged.”

In his statement, Flores said his family had “evolved substantially” in the nearly 10 years since he first ran for Congress.

“Gina lost her father, we picked up a daughter-in-law, added four awesome grandkids and watched my Mom and Dad move further along their senior years,” Flores said. “My job as Representative has made it difficult to spend as much time with Gina and the rest of my family as I would like.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Biden: Trump doesn’t have ‘intestinal fortitude’ for gun control; ‘no compromise’ with McConnell

September 4, 2019

Former vice president and current candidate for president Joe Biden said Monday that he sees little hope for a compromise in Washington, D.C., that would tighten restrictions on gun sales—adding that President Donald Trump “has no intestinal fortitude” to follow through on his talk of pushing Congress to act in the wake of yet another mass shooting, NBC News reported.

The still-dominant Democratic frontrunner has made his ability to work with Republicans a touchstone of his presidential campaign, the network said—but he told reporters in Iowa that guns will not be an issue that can be dealt with across the aisle.

“I said I’ll work with {Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell where we can agree. But on this one, he’s not going to agree … so we just have to beat him, flat out beat him,” Biden said a Labor Day picnic in Cedar Rapids. “I think there’s no compromise. This is one we have to just push and push and push and push and push. And the fact of the matter is, I think it’s going to result in seeing some of them [Republicans] defeated.”

Guns are an issue on the agenda for Congress when it returns to Washington this month after the August recess, but Biden said he’s not holding his breath for action.

Part of the problem, he told NBC News, is that Trump has on several occasions voiced some support for new gun safety measures, including universal background checks, only to backtrack later.

“I’ve seen nothing,” he said of a possible solution in Congress this fall. “The president has no intestinal fortitude to deal with this. He knows better. His instinct was to say yeah, we’re going to do something on background checks. What’s he doing? Come on. This is disgraceful. This is disgraceful what’s happening.”

Biden’s head-to-head rival, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), told NBC News, “[W}e know what the pieces are …— universal background checks, assault weapons off our streets, get rid of bump stocks and the ability to fire weapons in a short period of time. There are a lot of things we could be doing. So why doesn’t it happen? And the answer is corruption. It’s corruption. Right now we have a Washington that is held hostage by the gun industry and the NRA. That has to stop.”

Research contact: NBCNews

‘Go back where you came from’: Trump to severely ill children who traveled to USA for treatment

September 3, 2019

The Trump Administration has begun denying pleas from non-citizens who wish to extend their time in the United States in order to continue receiving treatment for severe medical conditions from which they suffer. Letters issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and obtained by ABC News, tell those applying for medical relief that agency offices, “no longer consider deferred action requests,” except for members of the military.

Among those affected will be Serena Badia, according to ABC, a teenage girl from Spain who has undergone heart surgery five times. Three of those procedures were back in her home country, where doctors told her she wouldn’t live past age 12.

According to the network, Serena came to America. with her mother and sister, hoping doctors here would be able to help where the Spanish surgeons failed. Serena, now age 14, has been treated here for over a year as U.S. doctors attempt to rebuild her pulmonary artery. But her treatment here now is in jeopardy after immigration authorities told her family they have 33 days to leave the U.S. or risk not being able to return.

“If they don’t let us come back to the United States, then I won’t be able to get treated,” the adolescent patient told ABC News. “We don’t know what to do because we don’t want to be illegal here.”

 “Yes, it’s very scary,” she added.

Former Vice President and 2020 candidate Joe Biden weighed in at a campaign stop on August 29, criticizing President Trump for “targeting” children with severe illnesses.

“We are running out of words to condemn the inhumanity of this administration,” Biden said in a statement. “There is no possible national security justification for further traumatizing sick kids at their most vulnerable.”

A 16-year-old with cystic fibrosis, a 13-year-old with muscular dystrophy and a 4-year-old girl with cerebral palsy are also among the children whose families received

“People are terrified and confused,” the lawyer for the young patients, Anthony Marino told ABC News. “I don’t know how people react to their government telling them to disconnect from lifesaving health care.”

USCIS, the agency in charge of legal immigration and processing visas, told ABC News that “this does not mean the end of deferred action” but rather that any requests must be submitted to a different agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is the department in charge of deportations.

But the customs enforcement agency wasn’t aware of the policy change until reports surfaced in the press, according to an ICE official. The agency doesn’t have a process to accept the medical deferment applications that were previously reviewed by USCIS, the official told the network news organization.

“What we do next is probably sue them,” Marino said. “We’re certainly keeping that option open.”

Research contact: @ABC