Posts tagged with "US District Court for the District of Columbia"

Andrew McCabe sues DOJ and FBI, alleging his ouster was retaliatory and demanded by Trump

August 12, 2019

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe filed suit [Civil Action No. 19-2399] in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 8 against Attorney General Bill Barr, the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for ending his career on March 16, 2018—just before he would have qualified for his retirement benefits following 21 years of public service, Politico reported.

“Defendants responded to Plaintiff’s two decades of unblemished and non-partisan public service with a politically motivated and retaliatory demotion in January 2018 and public firing in March 2018— on the very night of Plaintiff’s long-planned retirement from the FBI,” McCabe said in his complaint.

He added, “Defendants’ actions have harmed Plaintiff’s reputation, professional standing, and dramatically reduced his retirement benefits. Plaintiff asks this Court to find that his demotion was unlawful and his purported termination was either a legal nullity or, in the alternative, unlawful, and to award him any and all relief necessary for him to retire as he had originally planned: as the Deputy Director of the FBI and an agent in good standing, with sufficient time in service to enable him to receive his full earned law enforcement pension, healthcare insurance, and other retirement benefits.”

The ousted FBI official also specifically named President DonaldTrump—acting in an official capacity as President of the United States—as the individual who was “responsible and accountable for Defendants’ actions.”

He alleged that the president, in conspiracy with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, executed the scheme to deprive him of his job and retirement funding.

“It was Trump’s unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him,” McCabe said in his complaint, adding, “Plaintiff’s termination was a critical element of Trump’s plan and scheme. Defendants—as well as then-Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Defendant Barr’s predecessor—knowingly acted in furtherance of Trump’s plan and scheme, with knowledge that they were implementing Trump’s unconstitutional motivations for removing Plaintiff from the civil service. “

According to the Politico report, the lawsuit comes just two days after former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok filed a similar lawsuit, alleging that Trump’s vendetta against him led to his unceremonious firing, despite a formal disciplinary process that recommended a less severe punishment.

Strzok is seeking his old job back or compensation for his lost pay and benefits.

Although both men made plain their dislike of Trump, they say it never affected their official actions at the FBI. McCabe argues that Trump’s Twitter threats also coerced his subordinates at the Justice Department to do his bidding.

“Trump demanded [McCabe’s] personal allegiance, he sought retaliation when Plaintiff refused to give it, and [former Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, [FBI Director Christopher] Wray, and others served as Trump’s personal enforcers rather than the nation’s highest law enforcement officials, catering to Trump’s unlawful whims instead of honoring their oaths to uphold the Constitution,” McCabe’s suit charges. “Trump’s use of threats and accusations to cause his subordinates to act is memorialized in his tweets and other public documents, including the Special Counsel Report.”

Research contact: @politico

House Democrats file suit in federal court for President Trump’s tax returns

July 3, 2019

It has been nearly two months since Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), evaded Democrats’ request for President Trump’s tax returns—facetiously saying that the financial information could not be released in light of “serious issues” about whether their demand was proper.

A May subpoena from the panel also was treated as inconsequential.

As of July 2, Neal said he had no choice but to file suit in federal court in order to compel the Internal Revenue Service to turn over the records.

“In refusing to comply with the statute, Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people,” the lawsuit (Case No. 1:19-cv-1974)—filed against the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, Steven T. Mnuchin, and IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia— says.

Neal is seeking the President’s tax returns using an arcane IRS provision known as 6103, which allows the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request and obtain an individual’s tax information for a legitimate legislative purpose.

According to a report by Politico, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had a terse response to the suit.

“We will respond to this latest effort at presidential harassment in court,” he said.

And that may be sooner than he thinks: While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, Politico said that “some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.”

“They’re not unaware the administration is throwing up roadblocks at every conceivable opportunity and I think they understand that the system itself is under stress,” Kerry Kircher, who was the House’s general counsel from 2011 to 2016 and deputy counsel from 1996 to 2010, told the political news outlet, adding, “The judiciary is aware of the need for some expedition here, and that we can’t go through the usual processes where it takes a couple years for these cases to work themselves out.”

Neal asked the court for a speedy decision, reminding it that sessions of Congress only run two years.

“If this Court does not redress Defendants’ noncompliance quickly, the Committee will be unable to fulfill its essential role of overseeing the Executive Branch or to carry out its constitutional obligation to legislate,” the suit says.

Research contact: @politico

No verdict yet in first courtroom test of House subpoena of Trump financial records

May 15, 2019

In a Washington, D.C., courtroom on May 14, lawyers representing the Democrat-controlled House Oversight Committee, Mazars USA, and Donald Trump faced off over release of the president’s financial records.

While the verdict on whether Mazars—Trump’s accounting firm—must produce all of the president’s financial statements, communications, and other documents related to its relationship with the president may not come this week; during this first hearing, the judge seemed to be leaning toward approval of the congressional subpoena, CNN reported.

Indeed, the judge, Amit Mehta of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, underlined during the hearing how federal courts have almost never sided with requests to limit congressional subpoenas, and Congress has done historically important work with investigations in the past, like in the Watergate and Whitewater investigations.

“Am I right there isn’t a single Supreme Court case or appellate case since 1880 that has found a congressional subpoena overstepped its bounds?” Mehta asked Trump’s lawyer. “I agree there are outer limits, but it’s not clear to me what they are.”

In this case, the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Mazars USA for all financial records related to Trump, a handful of his companies, and his foundation from 2011 through 2018.

Trump’s personal legal team then sued Mazars to stop the subpoena, prompting the House to step up in court to argue for its investigative request.

According to CNN, “The case weighs the extent of Congress’ authority and the personal privacy claims of the president—in a court system that has generally refrained from infringing on congressional investigations, including subpoenas.”

“This is an effort to engage in law enforcement, not to legislate,” said attorney William Consovoy, who is representing Trump.

Doug Letter, the House general counsel, disputed that characterization.

“Congress is not trying to send President Trump to jail,” he said. “But we can still look into … whether someone is violating the law.”

And that is a decision that Trump is trying desperately to delay with this suit. Indeed, the president’s attorneys have said that Judge Mehta is deliberately fast-tracking these hearings—and, in doing so, is not giving them a fair shot in court.

The accounting firm has not taken sides and is willing to hand the documentation over, should the judge decide in favor of the House committee.

Mazars became a target in the House investigation after former Trump personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen accused Trump of fudging his wealth in an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills football team and reduce his real estate tax burden.

The House has argued that it has the authority to subpoena Trump’s information, and says it is investigating potential constitutional, conflict of interest, and ethical questions related to Trump’s financial holdings.

Trump’s attorneys, conversely, say the President is being targeted by the Democrats for political reasons — that the subpoena doesn’t have a legislative purpose. They also argue Trump will be harmed if his private information from his accountant is exposed.

Research contact: @CNNPolitics

Democrats file suit impugning Whitaker appointment

November 20, 2018

Three Democratic senators filed a lawsuit on November 19 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the appointment of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and in doing so, ratcheting up the court effort to declare his placement atop the Justice Department as unconstitutional, CNN reported.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii filed the suit, represented by the groups Protect Democracy and the Constitutional Accountability Center.

The lawsuit is only the latest challenge to Whitaker’s appointment to replace former AG Jeff Sessions after President Donald Trump fired his attorney general the day after the election.

In a joint statement, the senators said, “On November 7, President Trump appointed Whitaker to oversee the Department of Justice–including the Special Counsel’s investigation—in violation of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. The Senators’ complaint asks the Court to declare Whitaker’s appointment unconstitutional and to enjoin him from serving as, or carrying out the duties of, Acting Attorney General.”

Senator Blumenthal personally commented, “Installing Matthew Whitaker so flagrantly defies constitutional law that any viewer of School House Rock would recognize it. Americans prize a system of checks and balances, which President Trump’s dictatorial appointment betrays.”

He said. “President Trump is denying Senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official. The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test. In selecting a so-called “constitutional nobody” and thwarting every Senator’s constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts.”

For his part, Senator Whitehouse noted, The stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice – a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president.  Unless the courts intercede, this troubling move creates a plain road map for persistent and deliberate evasion by the executive branch of the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent.  Indeed, this appointment appears planned to accomplish that goal.”

Senator Hirono, an outspoken opponent of the administration, stated, “Donald Trump cannot subvert the Constitution to protect himself and evade accountability. We want the court to make clear that the Senate must confirm Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as Acting Attorney General—otherwise this temporary appointment violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. Without exception for President Trump’s allies, principal officers who report directly to the president must be subject to a hearing and confirmed by the Senate.”

Last week, the Justice Department issued a memo defending Whitaker’s appointment, concluding that it was legally justified under the Vacancies Reform Act.

The Senate Democrats’ lawsuit, however, argues that his appointment his unconstitutional under the Constitution’s Appointments Clause requiring Senate confirmation of high-level federal appointees, CNN reported.

In addition to the lawsuit filed Monday, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed suit last week asking a federal judge to replace Whitaker with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Research contact: @jeremyherb

CNN sues Trump and White House aides for pulling Acosta’s press pass

November 14, 2018

CNN on November 13 filed a lawsuit against the President Donald Trump and several of his aides—including Chief of Staff John Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Director of the U.S. Secret Service Randolph Alles, and Secret Service Agent “John Doe” in his official capacity—in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, demanding that the press credentials of Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta be restored, the network reported.

“The suit escalates a long-running feud between President Trump and CNN and could test the limits of the president’s ability to crack down on news organizations whose coverage he does not like,” CNN said.

According to the terms of the complaint, Acosta has covered the White House since 2012 and, since 2013, has possessed press credentials—often called a “hard pass”—that allow him regular and unescorted access to White House briefings. However, on November 7, the defendants “revoked Acosta’s White House credentials because, in the president’s own words, Acosta failed ‘to treat the White House with respect’” at a briefing.

What’s more, the suit alleges “the revocation of Acosta’s credentials is only the beginning; as the president explained there ‘could be others also’ who get their credentials revoked.”

In the suit, the cable news network accuses Trump and other administration officials of violating Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights of free speech and due process, respectively, and asks the court—presided over by Trump appointee Judge Timothy J. Kelly—to immediately remediate the issue by replacing the credentials.

“While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone,” CNN said in a statement. “If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.”

Indeed, said CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker in an internal memo to staff, “This is not a step we have taken lightly. But the White House action is unprecedented.”

The White House responded immediately, with Sanders remarking that CNN is “grandstanding” by suing. She said the administration will “vigorously defend” itself. (Read the White House’s full response here.)

Specifically, the White House initiated its action against Acosta after he refused to give up his microphone to an aide and continued to question the president. Sanders has characterized that action as improper, saying that Acosts “plac[ed] his hands on a young woman.”

However, other reporters seated nearby did not confirm the White House’s accusations. Maggie Haberman of The New York Times tweeted on November 8, “The White House press office is sharing a manipulated video that makes it appear that Acosta was menacing the intern when he was not and did not. The intern reached over Acosta to grab the microphone while he trying to ask another and Acosta tried to pull away.”

Revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events of last Wednesday,” White House Correspondents’ Association President Olivier Knox said in a statement on November 13. “We continue to urge the administration to reverse course and fully reinstate CNN’s correspondent. The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.”

“I have always endeavored to conduct myself as a diligent but respectful reporter who asks probing but fair questions,” Acosta wrote in  a formal statement. “The revocation of my White House press credential not only destroys my ability to perform my current job, it will follow me for the rest of my career. My reputation and my future career prospects have all been significantly harmed if not completely devastated.”

 Research contact: @brianstelter