A few miles south of the namesake tower where Donald Trump began his run for president, New York prosecutors are grinding away at an investigation into his business dealings that could shadow him long after he leaves office in January.
The probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is one of several legal entanglements likely to intensify when Trump loses power — and immunity from prosecution — upon leaving the White House, reports AP.
Trump faces two New York state inquiries into whether he misled tax authorities, banks or business partners. Two women alleging he sexually assaulted them are suing him. Some Democrats are calling for the revival of a federal campaign finance investigation that appeared to end under U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
It isn’t known whether any investigation has gathered sufficient evidence to charge Trump with any crimes.
Prosecuting a former president would also be an unprecedented step in a country that has sought, since its founding, to sweep aside a departing commander-in-chief’s alleged transgressions in favor of a peaceful transition of power.
“With the country so sharply polarized in 2020, would a legal battle ultimately be seen as political retaliation? That is a difficult calculation,” said Meena Bose, executive director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University.
Trump has said that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself for any federal offenses, but the concept remains untested because no president has ever attempted to do so. A 1974 Justice Department opinion said presidents could not pardon themselves because that would violate the “fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.”
Trump has used his pardon power to help out friends and high-profile defendants in the past, commuting the sentence of longtime friend Roger Stone in July and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in February, and has suggested he could do more of the same before his term ends.
Vance’s investigation is particularly troublesome for Trump because it involves possible state-level charges that could not be wiped away with a presidential pardon.
Vance, a Democrat, hasn’t disclosed the details of his probe, citing grand jury secrecy rules, but his office has said in court filings that it is related to public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”
Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, told Congress that Trump often inflated the value of his assets when dealing with lenders or potential business partners, but deflated them when it benefited him for tax purposes.
While Trump has been in office, the investigation’s progress has been hampered by court fights over whether prosecutors could get access to his tax returns, or whether a president has any immunity from a state investigation. One appeal related to the records battle is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Vance’s office declined to comment. It isn’t clear whether the long-running probe is close to conclusion, or months or years away from any resolution.
A message seeking comment was left with a lawyer for Trump. In the past, Trump has called Vance’s investigation “a continuation of the witch hunt — the greatest witch hunt in history.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James is also investigating whether Trump’s company lied about the value of its assets to get loans or tax benefits, though her probe is civil — not criminal — in nature. Trump’s son, Eric Trump, spoke by video with investigators last month after losing a court fight to postpone the deposition until after the election.
There were new revelations Thursday that both James and Vance had also subpoenaed documents related to tax deductions taken by Trump’s company related to business consulting fees paid to his daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Part of Vance’s criminal investigation pertains to payments made during Trump’s 2016 campaign to porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal to prevent them from publicly alleging they had extramarital affairs with him.
Cohen pleaded guilty to orchestrating the payments, which Manhattan federal prosecutors said amounted to illegal gifts to Trump’s campaign. They identified Trump in court filings as having directed Cohen’s efforts, but he was not charged. Trump has denied the affairs and said any payments were a personal matter, not a campaign expense.
The Justice Department has a longtime policy stating that it is unconstitutional to prosecute a sitting president in federal court.
There is also the potential that a Democrat-led Justice Department could pursue matters left uncharged in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference, such as allegations Trump obstructed justice.
President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, has said that he would not direct his Justice Department to pursue charges against Trump — nor would he stand in the way of investigations it might take up on its own.
“I am not going to make that individual judgment,” Biden told reporters in August.
Some Democrats have cautioned that indicting Trump could enrage the nearly 74 million Americans who voted for him, complicating Biden’s promised effort to heal the nation’s political divisions. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a Democrat, has warned of the “potential cost to the nation” from prosecuting a former president.
Richard Nixon was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, after resigning in 1974 over the Watergate break-in in an effort by Ford to end the fallout from an all-consuming political scandal. Bill Clinton, on his final day in office, struck a deal with special counsel Robert Ray to avoid prosecution over perjury allegations that led to his impeachment. He agreed to give up his law license for five years and pay a $25,000 fine for lying in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Paul Rosenzweig, a former senior counsel in the Clinton investigation, argues that potentially criminal behavior stemming from Trump’s time as a businessman would make him an exception to the practice of not prosecuting former presidents.
“Never before have we had a president, who has been credibly accused of criminal activity from before his presidency,” he said.
Once out of office, Trump won’t be able to point to his busy schedule as a reason to delay civil lawsuits, like ones brought by E. Jean Carroll, a former magazine advice columnist, and Summer Zervos, a restaurateur and contestant on his old TV show, “The Apprentice.”
Carroll says Trump raped her in the mid-1990s in a New York department store. Her lawsuit says Trump’s denial of the allegation — including that she was “totally lying” to sell a memoir — defamed her. Carroll is seeking a DNA sample from Trump to see if it matches material found on a dress she says she wore during the alleged attack.
Zervos says Trump kissed and groped her when she sought to talk to him about her career in 2007. Trump denied her allegations and retweeted a message calling Zervos’ claims a hoax.
Trump’s lawyers have maintained that Zervos’ defamation suit should be delayed until he’s out of office. That’s now only about nine weeks away.
Also read: Why AP called Georgia for Biden
More than two weeks after Election Day, The Associated Press has declared Joe Biden the winner of the presidential contest in Georgia, a longtime Republican state that the Democratic president-elect narrowly won by making major inroads in suburban areas that formerly favored the GOP.
Biden won the presidency on Nov 7, after capturing Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which had swung for President Donald Trump in 2016. But his 0.3 percentage point lead over Trump in Georgia was so narrow that the state could not be called — until now.
It is AP’s practice not to call a race that is — or is likely to become — subject to a recount. While there is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points.
The AP called the race for Biden on Thursday after state election officials there said hand-tallied audit of ballots cast in the presidential race confirmed the former vice president leads President Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes out of nearly 5 million counted.
The audit’s review of ballots cast confirmed Biden’s lead, and no available evidence suggests a machine recount of ballots already reviewed by hand will result in a different outcome. Therefore, AP declared Biden the winner in Georgia.
The hand tally completed this week is not legally a recount under Georgia law. Rather, it was the race selected by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for review under a new state law that says one race in the general election must be audited by hand to check that machines counted ballots accurately. Raffensperger said the tight margin of the presidential race meant a full hand count of ballots was necessary to complete the audit.
Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system, said the result of the hand audit found Biden leading Trump by a little more than 12,000 votes. Going into the hand tally, Biden led Trump by a margin of about 14,000 votes. Previously uncounted ballots discovered in several counties during the hand count reduced that margin, while other counties found slight differences in results as they did their hand counts. State election officials had consistently said that was to be expected, and stressed the audit was not a response to any suspected problems with the state’s results or an official recount request.
While not formally a recount under the letter of state law, the hand tally conducted to complete the audit was, in practice, a recount.
Also Read- Joe Biden wins Georgia
“Every single vote was touched by a human audit team and counted,” Sterling said.
The state has until Friday to certify results that have been submitted by the counties. At that point, Trump’s campaign has two business days to request a recount. That recount would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the state’s counties.
On Election Day, Trump had initially jumped out to an early lead in the state. But Biden did well with voters who cast ballots by mail. And as those ballots continued to be counted in the days after the Nov 3. election, he overtook Trump.
Georgia has long been a Republican stronghold, dominated at most levels of government by the GOP. Voters there hadn’t swung for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992. Trump beat Hillary Clinton there by 5 percentage points in 2016.
But the party’s grip has loosened. As older, white, Republican-leaning voters die, they’ve been replaced by a younger and more racially diverse cast of people, many of whom moved to the booming Atlanta area from other states — and took their politics with them.
Overall, demographic trends show that the state’s electorate is becoming younger and more diverse each year. Like other metro areas, Atlanta’s suburbs have also moved away from Republicans. In 2016, Hillary Clinton flipped both Cobb and Gwinnett counties, which Biden won.
In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams galvanized Black voters in her bid to become the country’s first African American woman to lead a state, a campaign she narrowly lost.
Many political analysts say it’s not a question of if, rather when, Georgia becomes a swing state. That much was clear in the closing weeks of the campaign as Biden; his running mate, Sen Kamala Harris; and former President Barack Obama barnstormed the state. Trump, too, visited the state to play defense.
The question that remains is whether Biden’s win marks a major shift, or a temporary revolt by suburban voters who disliked Trump and who will return to the Republican fold after he’s gone.
A Pentagon official installed in a top policy job last week has tested positive for COVID-19, the Pentagon said Thursday, just days after he met with the Lithuanian defense minister, who had contracted the virus.
Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesperson, said Anthony Tata, who is serving as the undersecretary of defense, was tested Thursday after learning that Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis had tested positive. Tata and other senior defense leaders, including Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, all met with Karoblis either last Friday or Monday.
Hoffman said the department is doing contact tracing and conducting rapid testing for those who came in contact with the delegation. Miller and other senior staff and a media contingent traveled Wednesday to meet with troops and leaders at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then flew out to the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford, off the coast of Virginia. Video of the visit showed Miller shaking hands and hugging people at Fort Bragg, and he met with sailors on the ship.
Tata is just the latest top Trump administration member to become infected. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tested positive after attending an election night party at the White House. Others who were at the party also tested positive, including White House political director Brian Jack, former White House aide Healy Baumgardner and Trump campaign advisers David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski said he believed he contracted the virus in Philadelphia while assisting the president’s election challenge there.
Trump himself was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in October when he contracted the virus. Others in Trump’s orbit who have tested positive include his wife, Melania, his son Barron, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and advisers Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks.
There also was an outbreak at the Pentagon last month when Admiral Charles W Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, found out had he tested positive after meeting in the Pentagon with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps later also tested positive, and all the chiefs were forced to quarantine at home for at least 10 days.
Hoffman said in a statement that the department has recently “recommitted to fastidiously following the CDC guidelines with respect to mitigation measures — face coverings, social distancing, contact tracing, hand washing and virtual engagements among others.”
Hoffman said Miller and the service secretaries aren’t going to quarantine “based on testing and mitigation measures that were in place during the Lithuanian delegation’s visit and CDC guidelines.”
Tata, a former Fox News commentator and retired one-star general, was moved into the top policy job just a few months after he failed to get through Senate confirmation because of offensive remarks he had made, including about Islam.
He is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for policy. James Anderson, who had been acting undersecretary, resigned last week, shortly after President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and named Miller the acting Pentagon chief.
Joe Biden has won Georgia and its 16 electoral votes, an extraordinary victory for Democrats who pushed to expand their electoral map through the Sun Belt.
The win by Biden pads his Electoral College margin of victory over President Donald Trump. Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election on Nov 7 after flipping Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to the Democrats’ column.
Biden now has 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
Also Read- Biden wins White House
Trump won Georgia by 5 percentage points in 2016 over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In 2020, Democrats had focused heavily on the state, seeing it in play two years after Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost the governor’s race. Both of Georgia’s Senate seats were on the ballot this year, further boosting the state’s political profile as well as spending by outside groups seeking to influence voters. Those two races are headed to a January runoff.
Georgia hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992.
President Donald Trump's refusal to cooperate with his successor is forcing President-elect Joe Biden to seek unusual workarounds to prepare for the exploding public health threat and evolving national security challenges he will inherit in just nine weeks.
Blocked from the official intelligence briefing traditionally afforded to incoming presidents, Biden gathered virtually on Tuesday with a collection of intelligence, defense and diplomatic experts. None of the experts is currently affiliated with the U.S. government, raising questions about whether Biden is being provided the most up-to-date information about dangers facing the nation.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received a more formal briefing Tuesday as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, though still has relatively limited information about the specific threats Biden will inherit.
And as the worst pandemic in a century bears down on the U.S. with renewed ferocity, the current administration is blocking Biden from collaborating with its response team. Biden's representatives instead plan to meet directly with pharmaceutical companies this week to determine how best to distribute at least two promising vaccines to hundreds of millions of Americans, the biggest logistical challenge to face a new president in generations.
The moves reflect how Biden is adjusting to a historically tense transition. With no sign that Trump is prepared to facilitate soon a peaceful transfer of power, Biden and his team are instead working through a series of backup options to do the best they can to prepare for the challenges he will face as soon as he takes office in January.
Declining to criticize Trump, Biden acknowledged Tuesday that he has “not been receiving briefings that would ordinarily come by now" as he opened his virtual meeting with the national security experts. The 12 participants, who appeared on video screens, included former Deputy CIA Director David Cohen, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Avril Haines, a deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, among others.
Biden said he was preparing to inherit “a divided country and a world in disarray.”
“That's why I need you all,” he said.
Weeks after the election, Trump continues to block Biden’s access to the administration’s pandemic and national security briefings, falsely claiming that Biden is not the legitimate president-elect because of non-existent voter fraud. The Democrat defeated the Republican president on Nov. 7, and Trump's flailing legal strategy to block certification of the election results is quickly fizzling out.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday on Fox News Channel that the Trump administration “is doing everything statutorily required” for a transition. But she blamed the General Services Administration, an obscure government agency whose leader, Emily Murphy, has yet to certify Biden as the winner, for stalling the process of officially launching the transition.
Trump, who has publicly refused to accept defeat, selected Murphy to lead GSA.
A study released Tuesday by the Center for Presidential Transition at the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service warned that an abbreviated transition could impair Biden’s ability to fill the more than 1,200 administration jobs requiring Senate confirmation, including key Cabinet and sub-Cabinet posts on the front lines of addressing the pandemic.
A growing group of Republicans have begun to state publicly what Trump will not: Biden will become the next president on Jan. 20. Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch Trump ally, referred to Biden as the American “president-elect” for the first time Tuesday.
“He isn’t getting the briefings that the president-elect should be getting, but that’s not going to stop him from doing everything he can to prepare and execute during this transition period," said Biden transition spokesman T.J. Ducklo.
Trump’s decision to block the transfer of power has forced Biden to navigate the life-and-death business of vaccine distribution with limited information.
Biden's team plans to meet with private pharmaceutical companies on its own in the coming days to learn more about the status of their vaccine production. While neither of the two most promising vaccines has yet earned U.S. government approval, they would almost certainly be distributed under Biden’s watch if and when they are formally deemed safe.
Currently under the Trump administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon are working in conjunction with states on a vaccine distribution plan. But the Biden transition team and Democrats in Congress also have ideas. There could be conflicting expectations for state leaders and health care systems, which will be closest to the actual work of putting shots into the arms of Americans.
Biden warned on Monday that “more people may die” if Trump continues to block his access to vaccine distribution plans and pandemic data.
The heads of the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association issued a joint statement Tuesday urging the Trump administration to share “all critical information related to COVID-19” with Biden.
“There are obvious limits to Biden's approach.
Some of Biden's current team of advisers on national security and foreign policy have held security clearances in their past jobs, but are not privy to real-time intelligence now. Others have security clearances in their current jobs, perhaps as employees of defense contractors. But right now, no member of the transition team can share classified intelligence with the Biden transition team, especially without being in a secured location.
Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell, in a recent interview with the Center for Presidential Transition, said it was imperative that Biden be briefed on the agency’s highly classified covert actions undertaken by the Trump administration, “because on Inauguration Day, these covert actions will become the new president’s.”
Meanwhile, serious foreign conflicts loom.
Trump, for example, is expected to withdraw a significant number of troops from Afghanistan in the coming weeks. The NATO leader on Tuesday criticized the decision, warning such a move could give terrorist groups an opening to organize attacks against the West.