New York, Nov 4 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump's tax returns can be turned over to New York prosecutors by his personal accountant, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, leaving the last word to the Supreme Court
The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upholds a lower court decision in the ongoing fight over Trump's financial records. Trump has refused to release his tax returns since he was a presidential candidate, and is the only modern president who hasn't made that financial information public.
In a written decision, three appeals judges said they only decided whether a state prosecutor can demand Trump's personal financial records from a third party while the president is in office.
The appeals court said it did not consider whether the president is immune from indictment and prosecution while in office or whether the president himself may be ordered to produce documents in a state criminal proceeding.
"We hold that any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not bar the enforcement of such a subpoena," 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann wrote.
According to the decision, a subpoena seeking Trump's private tax returns and financial information relating to businesses he owns as a private citizen "do not implicate, in any way, the performance of his official duties."
"We are not faced, in this case, with the President's arrest or imprisonment, or with an order compelling him to attend court at a particular time or place, or, indeed, with an order that compels the President himself to do anything," the 2nd Circuit said. "The subpoena at issue is directed not to the President, but to his accountants; compliance does not require the President to do anything at all."
Several weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan tossed out Trump's lawsuit seeking to block his accountant from letting a grand jury see his tax records from 2011.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. sought the records in a broader probe that includes payments made to buy the silence of two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, who claim they had affairs with the president before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denied them.
Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance, declined to comment.
The lawyer who argued the case on Trump's behalf before the appeals court did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
During oral arguments, Trump's lawyer told the 2nd Circuit that Trump is immune from state criminal law even if he shoots someone because he's president.
Vance's attorneys have argued that Trump is not above the law while the president's lawyers have said the Constitution prohibits states from subjecting the U.S. president to criminal process while he is in office.
In the subpoena to Trump's longtime accountant, Vance's lawyers call for financial and tax records of entities and individuals, including Trump, who engaged in business transactions in Manhattan.
The 2nd Circuit noted that Trump has not been charged with a crime, but his lawyers have acknowledged that he could be criminally prosecuted after he leaves office.
"Even assuming, without deciding, that a formal criminal charge against the President carries a stigma too great for the Constitution to tolerate, we cannot conclude that mere investigation is so debilitating," the appeals court said. "There is no obvious reason why a state could not begin to investigate a President during his term and, with the information secured during that search, ultimately determine to prosecute him after he leaves office."
Trump's lawyers have said the probe by Vance, a Democrat, is politically motivated.
U.S. Justice Department lawyers in Washington also urged the 2nd Circuit to reverse the findings of the lower court, saying Vance must prove "particularized need" for the records before they are released to a grand jury.
Vance's investigation comes as the president faces impeachment hearings initiated by House Democrats after the president tried to get Ukraine's leader to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.
Barcelona, Nov 4 (AP/UNB) — About 2,000 protesters wielding Catalan pro-independence symbols and some Spanish republican flags are banging kitchen pots and blocking access to a Barcelona venue where the Spanish royal family is attending an award ceremony.
Some of the guests at the Princess of Girona Awards for young talent have been unable to enter on time the conference center in the Catalan regional capital, which had been guarded heavily by police.
The protesters are chanting "Go Away!" to King Felipe VI and his family, burning pictures of the Spanish monarch.
The heir, 14-year-old Princess Leonor, was expected to deliver a short speech at Monday's ceremony.
Tensions over roughly half of Catalonia's strong desire to secede from Spain have become the main political theme for voters in the country's general election on Sunday.
A man who stabbed to death a former co-worker who interrupted him during a burglary is set to be executed in South Dakota on Monday barring a last-minute stay.
Charles Russell Rhines brushed off a plea for mercy from 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer in the 1992 slaying at a Rapid City doughnut shop. Now 63, Rhines last week unsuccessfully challenged the drug the state plans to use in the execution at the state prison in Sioux Falls.
Rhines argued the drug, pentobarbital, isn't the "ultra-short-acting" drug he's entitled to, but a circuit judge ruled it acts as fast or faster than other drugs Rhines cited when used in lethal doses. He's appealing that ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Rhines has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block his execution. He argues that the jury that sentenced him to death had an anti-gay bias, a claim the court declined to hear before. He also argues that the state has denied him access to experts to examine him for cognitive and psychiatric impairments; the state argued that he was examined by mental health experts and found competent.
Gov. Kristi Noem has said she won't block the execution.
Schaeffer was delivering supplies to Dig 'Em Donuts where he worked when Rhines ambushed him, stabbing him in the stomach. Bleeding from his wound, Schaeffer begged to be taken to a hospital, vowing to keep silent about the crime; instead, he was forced into a storeroom, tied up and stabbed to death.
Steve Allender, a Rapid City police detective at the time of the killing who is now the city's mayor, said Rhines' jury sentenced him to death partly because of Rhines' "chilling laughter" as he described Schaeffer's death spasms.
"I watched the jury as they listened to the confession of Charles Rhines on audiotape and their reaction to his confession was appropriate. Any human being would be repulsed by the things he said and the way he said them," Allender told KELO.
Rhines attended Schaeffer's funeral, then moved to Seattle a few days later. Authorities thought the move was odd because Rhines had vowed to never return to Washington state, where he had spent time in prison. Allender said authorities initially interviewed Rhines and felt something was off, but Rhines wasn't arrested until four months later — after Rhines told his former roommate about the killing.
Rhines wrote to the Argus Leader in May 2013, saying that when he saw a grieving mother on the news in an unrelated case, he realized what he had done to Schaeffer's mother.
"Just at the cusp of her beloved child becoming an independent person, a responsible adult with a family and friends surrounding him and his mother waiting expectantly for grandchildren to spoil, having all that snatched away for almost no reason at all and the hole it has had to have left in her heart," he wrote. "Prosecutors talk of closure, but that wound will never close, no matter how long it is there."
Peggy Schaeffer, Donnivan's mother, rejected the words as insincere.
Schaeffer's family declined to speak with The Associated Press in advance of Rhines' execution. In June, when a judge scheduled the execution, Peggy Schaeffer told reporters, "This step was one big one for justice for Donnivan. It's just time."
Hong Kong police say a 48-year-old knife-wielding man who slashed two people and bit off part of the ear of a politician during weekend protests has been arrested, along with two men who attacked him in return.
Senior police official John Tse says the man attacked a couple with a knife outside a mall late Sunday after an argument, before turning his teeth on the politician's ear. Tse said Monday that the assailant was then thrashed by an angry crowd, including two men aged 23 and 29 who were arrested.
Police said five people were injured, including two in critical condition.
The incident occurred shortly after police stormed the mall to thwart protests as tensions continue to mount after five months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
One year from now, voters will decide whether to grant President Donald Trump a second term in office, an election that will be a referendum on Trump's vision for America's culture and role in the world.
Much is unknown about how the United States and its politics will look on Nov. 3, 2020.
Who will Trump's opponent be? How will Democrats resolve the ideological, generational and demographic questions roiling their primary? Will a strong economy shore up Trump's support or will recession warning signs turn into a reality? Will Trump face voters as just the third American president to have been impeached by the House of Representatives?
This much seems certain: The nation will plunge into the election as deeply divided as it has been politically in more than half a century, when cities were in flames with protests over war and civil rights.
"It seems like Republicans and Democrats are intractable," said Mark Updegrove, a presidential historian and chairman of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation. "They are both adhering to their own versions of reality, whether they're based in truth or not."
The political divisions today reflect societal and economic schisms between more rural, largely white communities where the economy depends on industries being depleted by outsourcing and automation, and more urban, racially diverse areas dominated by a service economy and where technology booms are increasing wealth.
Many of those divisions existed before Trump, but his presidency has exacerbated them. Trump has panned his political opponents as "human scum," while Democrats view his vision for America's future as anathema to the nation's founding values.
Indeed, no president in the history of public opinion polling has faced such deep and consistent partisan polarization.
Polling conducted by Gallup shows that an average of 86% of Republicans have approved of Trump over the course of his time in office, and no less than 79% have approved in any individual poll. That's compared with just 7% of Democrats who have approved on average, including no more than 12% in any individual poll.
One thing that does unite the parties: voters' widespread interest in the presidential campaign, even at this early phase. A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 82% of Democrats and 74% of Republicans are already interested in the election.
To win, Trump's campaign needs to recreate the enthusiasm among his core supporters, a task that isn't always easy for an incumbent burdened with a four-year record in office. But Trump is already leaning hard into the strict immigration policies that enlivened his supporters in 2016, while trying to convince more skeptical Republicans that Democrats are moving so far left as to be outside of the mainstream.
Rather than trying to persuade independents and moderate Democrats to switch their allegiances, the Trump campaign also believes it has better prospects in identifying Trump fans who didn't show up in 2016 and mobilizing them to vote.
Trump's case for reelection may hinge on the state of the economy, which continues to grow. The unemployment rate is also near a five-decade low of 3.6% and the stock market keeps reaching new highs.
"At the end of the day, people care about their pocket books and how they're doing and I think he can clearly point to life being better off," said Jason Chaffetz, a former Republican congressman from Utah. But he added, "Any precipitous drop would hurt the president."
A full picture of the economy does hold some warning signs for Trump at the one-year mark to Election Day.
The president delivered a massive tax cut in 2017, yet it lacked the rocket-like thrust to push growth above the 3% that Trump promised. Job growth has been solid, yet parts of the industrial Midwest this year have shed the factory jobs that he promised to create.
Consumers are helped by the slight inflation and low interest rates, but housing costs and student debt have sabotaged some American's hopes for middle-class prosperity. The China trade war inflamed by Trump has shown to his voters his willingness to fight for them, yet it has led to a decline in the type of business investment that fuels growth.
That is the story of the American economy Democrats want to tell over the next year. But the party is still struggling to figure out its own message to voters beyond contempt for Trump, the one sure thing that unites Democratic voters.
With just three months until primary-season voting begins, the top tier of candidates reflects the party's uncertainty over its own identity.
Former Vice President Joe Biden promotes his decades of experience and running as an unabashed moderate willing to work across the political aisle. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are pushing for sweeping liberal change.
With all three of those candidates in their 70s, Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is running a surprisingly successful campaign on a call for generational change.
"I didn't just come here to end the era of Donald Trump. I am here to launch the era that must come next," Buttigieg said Friday during a Democratic Party dinner in Iowa.
The biggest known unknown for both parties may be how the ongoing impeachment proceedings will be viewed by Americans one year from now.
Testimony from a litany of administration officials has validated an anonymous whistleblower complaint that raised concerns about Trump's dealings with Ukraine. A rough transcript that the White House itself released showed Trump asked Ukraine's president to look into baseless corruption allegations against Biden and his son Hunter.
But like the broader contours of American politics, the impeachment proceedings are so far breaking along partisan lines. A vote last week on the rules for the impeachment process passed with support from all but two Democrats. Every Republican voted no.
Those numbers would still put Democrats in position to impeach Trump in the House, though acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate looks all but certain. Still, it would leave Trump as the first president facing reelection after impeachment.
Updegrove, the presidential historian, said the question a year from now will be whether that matters.
"If not, what will matter to the American people as a whole?" he asked. "Is there anything?"