Tag Archives: Legal

Donald Trump takes legal action to block release of his financial records

Donald Trump takes legal action to block release of his financial recordsDonald Trump and his businesses sued the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight committee on Monday to block a subpoena requesting the president's financial records. It is the latest move in a fierce tussle between the White House and Democrats in Congress amid allegations about the president's finances. In a court filing in Washington, the president's lawyers argued congressman Elijah Cummings "has no legislative purpose" to issue the subpoena and accused Democrats of using their majority in Congress to harass him.   “The Democratic Party, with its newfound control of the US House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J Trump," the lawsuit stated. “Subpoenas are their weapon of choice.” The lawsuit asked the court to block a subpoena issued to Mr Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, last week demanding several years of the president's financial statements. The lawsuit, which will be fiercely contested in court, follows a string of moves in recent weeks by Mr Trump and his businesses to block the Democrats from getting their hands on his financial records.   Michael Cohen made the explosive claims during his testimony in February Credit: Getty It came after Michael Cohen, Mr Trump's longtime former lawyer, told Congress that Mr Trump had inflated his company's assets to obtain a loan in a failed attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills football team. Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to several crimes including tax fraud and lying to Congress in 2017, submitted portions of documents called "statements of financial condition" to the House Oversight committee ahead of his testimony in February.   Cohen's testimony led Democrats in Congress to demand the release of Mr Trump's statements of financial condition and his tax returns for the last six years – something he has refused to do voluntarily, bucking the trend of recent presidential candidates. In his lawsuit on Monday, Mr Trump called Cohen's testimony "a partisan stunt, not a good-faith effort to obtain accurate testimony from a reliable witness". In a statement, Mr Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said: "We will not allow presidential harassment to go unanswered." A spokeswoman for Mazars said the company would “respect this process and will comply with all legal obligations”. Mr Cummings has previously said his committee has the "full authority" to investigate whether the president engaged in illegal conduct before and during his time in office and whether he had any undisclosed conflicts of interest. He gave Mazars, which prepared financial statements for loan applications for Mr Trump, an April 29 deadline when he issued the subpoena. Responding to Mr Trump's lawsuit yesterday he said there was no “valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorised subpoena from Congress”.



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Mueller report: ‘Beyond implausible’ Trump team was unaware of Russian election interference, says legal expert

Mueller report: ‘Beyond implausible’ Trump team was unaware of Russian election interference, says legal expertWith the release of the Mueller investigation on Thursday, albeit in lightly redacted form, there are now as many questions as there are answers.And while the investigation did not find evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, it uncovered “multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government”. The Independent spoke to legal expert and writer Colin Kalmbacher, who had much to say about Mr Mueller’s findings. The report highlighted that multiple members of the Trump campaign received some form of communication from Russian officials. Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Alex van der Zwaan, Konstantin Kilimnik, and 25 Russian nationals were indicted by the Special Counsel. On that, Mr Kalmbacher said that: “It’s beyond implausible the Trump Administration was unaware of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any sleight-of-hand responses from administration officials that downplay such knowledge are not only off-base but, because they’re so ridiculous, also read as suspect.”President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr, and other campaign officials have touted the claim of “no collusion” as the Special Counsel was “unable” to come to the conclusion that the group “willfully” violated the law in the case of the Trump Tower meeting, or intentionally colluded with Russia, but could not prove overall that justice was not obstructed. Mr Kalmbacher said that "it is imperative to differentiate between: (1) Russian government actors; and (2) non-governmental actors. Mr Mueller’s redacted report – and years’ worth of public knowledge – have established that highly placed Trump 2016 campaign officials made contact with Russian nationals not directly affiliated with the Russian Federation.” “In other words, obviously the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians but there’s nothing immoral, illegal or otherwise untoward about that. Only the most irresponsible and reckless – and almost certainly incorrect – reporting has suggested that Trump campaign apparatchiks actually had conspiratorial meetings with Russian Federation agents keyed toward cheating Donald Trump across the finish line by way of razor-thin margins in the Midwestern United States.” “As far as the latter is concerned, if I were summing up the extent of the Trump campaign’s efforts with Russian Federation agents, I’d have to emphasise the Mueller report's bottom-line finding that 'the investigation did not establish such coordination.'"As for the charges laid against Manafort in Virginia? They weren't linked to collusion at all. Mr Kalmbacher said: “I covered the Manafort trial in Virginia in person. This was all fairly run-of-the-mill gilded upper crust tax evasion and bank fraud. In other words: the story of American wealth. It would have been nice if the Manafort prosecution led to an American Spring focused on uprooting the methods by which the wealthy and well-connected game our system: but that’s not where things were headed. Manafort, the president's former campaign manager, was in March sentenced to nearly four years in prison on tax and bank fraud."You could prosecute most people who make over six figures for the same kind of stuff Manafort was convicted of in Virginia – but our system is actually set up to facilitate white collar crime – and none of that had anything directly to do with politics; he was interested in finding ways to launder his money earned in Ukraine, sure. But even these white collar crimes were fairly pedestrian stuff: lying on his taxes, hiding income, inflating assets. Is this the kind of thing society really thinks people should be caged for?”The section on Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials begins with: “The Trump Campaign showed interested in WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials throughout the summer of 2016,” and is mostly redacted from that point.The report states “On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks posted thousands of internal DNC documents revealing information about the Clinton Campaign. Within days, there was public reporting that US Intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the DNC.”Was Mr Mueller aware that the Trump campaign knew the emails were going to be released before they were? Mr Kalmbacher believes so.He replied, “Well, yes. But that’s hardly surprising – and not the least bit incriminating – because Wikileaks themselves teased the existence of the leaks before they were released.”Continuing, he added: “This is one of the more hare-brained episodes in the entire Russiagate drama. The idea that a hatchet man like Roger Stone had access to some secret pool of knowledge or that he was buddying around with Julian Assange in a bid to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. It’s absolutely ridiculous. There’s no need for grand designs or cloak-and-dagger espionage. We’re not dealing with a Graham Greene character here. Anyone on either side of the equation should think twice about romancing Roger Stone. He’s not a scheming mastermind or a windswept hero. The Trump campaign knew about potentially harmful Clinton-related releases because Roger Stone was capable of using a Twitter account.”The report notes that "Beginning in June 2016, [redacted] forecast to senior Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release information damaging to candidate Clinton. WikiLeaks‘s first release came in July 2016.’" "What an interesting coincidence," said Mr Kalmbacher. "Except that it’s not interesting whatsoever.”“Wikileaks publically teased the forthcoming release of Clinton-centric data in May of 2016. May comes before June. The real story here – and the revealing piece of information – is why it took Roger Stone at least two weeks to alert his superiors about this impending release. That’s hardly expert timing or even great ability to read for comprehension. But, of course, it’s not Roger Stone’s timing or reading comprehension that’s important here. The key point: the narrative of Stone’s scheming nefariousness is almost completely fictitious.”As for the legal implications of the report? “Most of the report on this subject is redacted. So, there are, presumably legal implications and I’d imagine the lines dedicated to those implications outline some of the still-working parts in the ongoing Stone prosecution.”Mr Kalmbacher continued: “More directly: don’t be so stupid as to lie about non-crimes. Other than that, no. There’s nothing illegal about relying on Wikileaks for campaign dirt. Wikileaks is a publishing company. They provide information – they do journalism – that powerful people do not like."Mr Mueller has decided to not prosecute those involved with the Trump tower meeting (Donald J Trump Jr, Manafort, and Jared Kushner) despite Mr Trump Jr setting up the meeting due to the offer of “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father” as there was no proof that they “willfully” violated the law. But which campaign law is this based on, and what exactly about their behaviour didn't violate it? “This is based on 11 CFR 110.20. I’ve actually written about why Mr Mueller wouldn’t charge Trump Jr. over this meeting before. Turns out my prediction was half right. Mr Mueller, like most lawyers, has a habit of arguing with himself. In essence he decided not to prosecute Trump Jr. for two reasons: (1) it would be hard to classify opposition research as “a thing of value” and this would have been the first time in US history that such an effort would have been made; and (2) because of a tick (feature or bug?) in campaign finance law, ignorance of the law actually is an excuse and here, Mr Mueller determined that Trump Jr. was not familiar with the intricacies of campaign finance law. Who really is, though? Campaign Legal Center – that’s about it. "Mr Mueller is a conservative Republican whose interests and loyalties are pretty clear – he wasn’t there to rock the boat or make precedent. So, it’s no surprise that he didn’t go after the 45th president’s oldest son.”Finally, why did none of this add up to collusion? “Collusion was almost always never going to be proved or shown simply because it’s not the legal term of art applicable here.” He continued: “Collusion only exists in antitrust law in the US. I can’t recall exactly when or how it transposed itself into our cultural lexicon but it’s basically been used as a smokescreen."Mueller obviously can’t prove something that’s entirely inapplicable. But, again, prosecutors can easily prove conspiracy if they want to. They can easily prove campaign finance crimes if they want to. They can easily go after regulatory infractions a la Manafort if they want to.”“The decision not to charge here was a conscious one not to create controversy because the case, if charged, would have, simply, ruined people’s lives. And, it seems, Mueller didn’t deem that damage equivalent to the potential crimes he probably saw."



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Jussie Smollett legal team: Prosecutors flip-flopping on why they dropped charges

Jussie Smollett legal team: Prosecutors flip-flopping on why they dropped chargesJussie Smollett’s legal team lashed out at prosecutors, arguing the Cook County State’s Attorney has “flip-flopped” in its comments about their client.



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The Mueller interview that wasn't: how Trump's legal strategy paid off

The Mueller interview that wasn't: how Trump's legal strategy paid offMueller had spent 22 months investigating whether Trump or his aides conspired with Russia during the 2016 election, interviewing 500 witnesses. The strategy paid off, insulating Trump from the legal jeopardy presented by a sit-down interview with the special counsel’s team – an interview that Trump had said publicly he wanted to do. There was even a tentative date for the interview – Jan. 27, 2018 – though one of Trump’s lawyers told Reuters he never intended to make the president available to Mueller.



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Democrats refuse to retreat on Trump legal issues despite Mueller disappointment

Democrats refuse to retreat on Trump legal issues despite Mueller disappointmentHouse committee chairs call on attorney general William Barr to send them full Mueller report by 2 April Jerrold Nadler, the House judiciary committee chairman, has has announced he will summon the attorney general, William Barr, to testify. Photograph: Craig Ruttle/AP As Donald Trump declared victory following the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Democrats showed no signs of backing down from the numerous legal questions encircling the president and his associates. The completion of the highly anticipated Mueller report prompted an intense debate in Washington over how to proceed as Democrats said a summary of its findings by the attorney general, William Barr, “raises as many questions as it answers”, even though it probably laid the issue of collusion with Russia firmly to rest. Since taking control of the House of Representatives in January, Democrats have launched an onslaught of investigations into the president, his administration and his family business. It thus came as an undeniable blow to Democrats that Mueller’s report did not find that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to swing the 2016 election, or produce a more definitive conclusion on whether the president himself engaged in any criminal activity. But as Trump and his allies seized on the account to falsely claim “total exoneration”, Democrats signaled the legal and political battle lines were far from settled, especially when it came to Barr’s decision not to pursue the obstruction of justice issue. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House judiciary committee, announced he would summon Barr, who was confirmed as Trump’s attorney general earlier this year, to testify on Capitol Hill as Democrats seek more answers from the conclusion of the nearly two-year federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future.— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) March 24, 2019 In a four-page letter to Congress, Barr said Mueller’s report did not find criminal collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow during the 2016 presidential election but was inconclusive on the question of whether the president obstructed justice. “It’s a shame that our country has had to go through this,” a defiant Trump said Sunday. “To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this.” Democrats nonetheless demanded the release of the full Mueller report, while suggesting Barr’s summary could not be trusted given his prior criticisms of the special counsel investigation. “The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay,” the Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Given Mr Barr’s public record of bias against the special counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.” Democrats took particular issue with the claim by Barr and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to prove Trump had obstructed justice. The special counsel examined several actions by Trump in considering the question of obstruction, including his firing of the former FBI director James Comey, public and private attempts to pressure the former attorney general Jeff Sessions, and role in misleading the public about a meeting between his campaign and a Russian lawyer during the campaign. In a joint statement, the Democratic chairmen of the House intelligence, judiciary and oversight committees called for the complete release of Mueller’s report and “all underlying documents”. “It is unacceptable that, after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the president in under 48 hours,” the chairmen said. “The special counsel’s report should be allowed to speak for itself,” they added. On Monday evening, six Democratic House committee chairs, including the chairmen of the intelligence and judiciary subcommittees, sent a letter to Barr requesting that he send them the full Mueller report by 2 April. They also asked Barr to start transmitting the evidence underlying the report to the relevant committees. Barr has not made clear how much of the report he intends to make public, teeing up a potentially major dispute that may ultimately be settled in the courts. By a tally of 420-0, the House voted overwhelmingly last month in favor of making the Mueller report public. But even as they seek a full accounting of Mueller’s investigation, Democrats have sought to temper expectations of impeachment – a subject that has polarized the American public. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has on multiple occasions thrown cold water on what several Democrats refer to as “the I-word”, leaving it to voters at the 2020 ballot box to determine Trump’s fate. Some strategists said the initial read of the Mueller report may have lifted the burden of impeachment from Democrats’ shoulders, enabling them to focus instead on drawing a policy contrast to Trump as he seeks re-election next year. “I think Democrats need to allow the investigations to continue while focusing on the rest of their legislative agenda,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who served as an aide to the former Senate majority leader Harry Reid. “It’s pretty clear impeachment is not in the cards, at least not right now.” To impeach Trump, Democrats would need not just a majority in the House but also a two-thirds vote in the Republican-led Senate to convict – an outcome as unlikely as ever before given the widespread support Trump enjoys from members of his own party. Polling has found Americans largely split on whether Trump should be impeached. There are countless other legal perils looming over Trump’s presidency, however, that remain unresolved and which Democrats are likely to focus on. Among them are hush money payments to women claiming affairs with Trump and attempts by the president and his allies to cover them up. In public testimony on Capitol Hill last month, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen directly implicated the president in the hush money payments – a violation of US campaign finance law – while also accusing Trump of various other criminal acts. Those allegations are being investigated by prosecutors of the southern district of New York and increasingly a subject of the inquiries launched by House Democrats. “Reading the coverage today one would assume that the release of the Mueller report ended the criminal investigations into Trump his inauguration, his business, and his foundation,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Barack Obama, tweeted. “It didn’t. He still has more criminal exposure than all the other presidents combined.”



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Explainer: Why Trump's legal woes go beyond the Mueller report

Explainer: Why Trump's legal woes go beyond the Mueller reportOther ongoing investigations and litigation are focusing on issues including his businesses and financial dealings, personal conduct, charitable foundation and inaugural committee. The special counsel on Friday submitted his confidential report on the investigation to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who must decide on how much of it to make public. The U.S. Justice Department has a decades-old policy that a sitting president cannot face criminal charges, so such a case against Trump would be unlikely while he is in office even if there were evidence of wrongdoing.



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Explainer: Why Trump's legal woes go beyond the Mueller report

Explainer: Why Trump's legal woes go beyond the Mueller reportThe closure of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election does not mark the end of legal worries for President Donald Trump and people close to him. Other ongoing investigations and litigation are focusing on issues including his businesses and financial dealings, personal conduct, charitable foundation and inaugural committee. The special counsel on Friday submitted his confidential report on the investigation to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who must decide on how much of it to make public.



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Brexit deal legal advice sends pound tumbling

Brexit deal legal advice sends pound tumblingThe pound tumbled Tuesday after the UK government’s top legal advisor cast doubt on Prime Minister Theresa May’s last-gasp changes to her Brexit deal, hours before a vital vote. Sterling, which had been rising after May secured revisions to the Brexit withdrawal agreement, hit reverse after legal advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. Cox said last-minute new agreements “reduce the risk” of Britain being “indefinitely and involuntarily” held in the so-called Irish border backstop.



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Manafort penalty sparks outrage among legal experts: '4-year sentence far below the recommended 20 years'

Manafort penalty sparks outrage among legal experts: '4-year sentence far below the recommended 20 years'The sentencing of Paul Manafort, former chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, was highly anticipated, capping a significant chapter in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. As a federal judge handed down his sentence in a jam-packed Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom and observers digested the judge’s decision – 47 months – Manafort’s case was immediately perceived as a high-profile instance of the justice system working one way for a wealthy, well-connected man, while working in another, harsher, way for indigent defendants facing lesser crimes. “Paul Manafort’s lenient four-year sentence – far below the recommended 20 years despite extensive felonies and post-conviction obstruction – is a reminder of the blatant inequities in our justice system that we all know about, because they reoccur every week in courts across America,” said Ari Melber, a legal analyst for NBC News, in a tweet shortly after the verdict.



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Cohen sues Trump Organization, wants it to pay legal bills

Cohen sues Trump Organization, wants it to pay legal billsNEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming the Trump Organization broke a promise to pay his legal bills and owes at least $ 1.9 million to cover the cost of his defense.



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