Supreme Court Lawyer on Tax Return Rulings: ‘If I’m Donald Trump, I’m Scared Right Now’

After the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of 7-2 decisions in high-profile cases on President Donald Trump’s tax returns, the prevailing consensus among legal experts was that the rulings were a mixed bag: the High Court reaffirmed that no one—including the president—is above the law, but also shielded Trump from potential political damage in the here and now, and likely until after the 2020 election. But Supreme Court litigator Neal Katyal argued Thursday that those takes were off the mark.

Appearing on MSNBC, Katyal said the prevailing notion that the president had weathered the storm surrounding his financial documents was wrong.

“I’ve been listening to our reporting for the last half hour and I love my MSNBC colleagues and analysts, but I profoundly disagree with almost everything that’s been said. This is not a ‘mixed bag’ or a victory for Trump. Trump shouldn’t be happy about this. The fact is he lost,” Katyal said, responding to NBC News’s Pete Williams.

The former acting U.S. Solicitor General then addressed the perception that the cases, Trump v. Vance and Trump v. Mazars, being returned to the lower courts meant that the proceedings would be tied up in litigation until well after the 2020 election.

“Look, these cases can move very quickly. The Nixon tapes case moved in a matter of three months; Bush v. Gore, start to finish – the election dispute of 2000 – 36 days. This is all about the election of 2020, and I expect Cy Vance to move incredibly fast,” he said, adding that Trump’s remaining legal defenses in the case are nothing more than a “paper-thin shield at best.”

Katyal concluded by discussing the his view of potential timeline leading up to the November elections.

“I think it’s totally possible for all of this to come out before the 2020 election in terms of New York’s prosecutors getting this information and acting on it,” he said. “So I would caution all those folks who have been listening to this for the last half hour and say, ‘This is a mixed bag.’ It is not. If I’m Donald Trump, I am scared right now. Whether or not it comes before or after the 2020 election, Cy Vance is going to get this material, and it looks pretty damaging to Donald Trump.”

Later in the day, Katyal described the court’s decisions as “scary for Trump,” suggesting it was going to be “easy for courts to decide the New York case, particularly since the SCOTUS opinion today leaves Trump with very little left to say.”

Former federal prosecutor and Law&Crime legal analyst Gene Rossi concurred with Katyal’s take.

“I fully agree with the brilliant [Katyal],” Rossi wrote. “The two tax and financial cases are not wins by any means for President Trump. The SCOTUS essentially said the Emperor has no clothes. And he is crowing because he found a tiny four-leaf legal clover to cover himself?”

Former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Joyce White Vance sided with Katyal’s take this was a clear loss for the president, particularly when you consider that Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch ruled against the president’s arguments of absolute immunity.

[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

via Law & Crime

July 9, 2020 at 02:22PM

174 Lawyers and Legal Scholars Condemn Trump Admin Sanctions on International Criminal Court: ‘Contrary to American Values’

National security lawyers and law professors have sent a letter to the White House asking the president to rescind sanctions targeting International Criminal Court investigators. The president’s executive order was issued after the ICC authorized its chief prosecutor to investigate whether the U.S. committed war crimes in Afghanistan. The coalition of 174 legal experts say that the Trump administration’s response is “wrong in principle, contrary to American values, and prejudicial to U.S. national security.”

On June 11, President Donald Trump issued an executive order “on Blocking Property Of Certain Persons Associated With The International Criminal Court.” The order said, in relevant part:

I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, find that the situation with respect to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its illegitimate assertions of jurisdiction over personnel of the United States and certain of its allies, including the ICC Prosecutor’s investigation into actions allegedly committed by United States military, intelligence, and other personnel in or relating to Afghanistan, threatens to subject current and former United States Government and allied officials to harassment, abuse, and possible arrest. These actions on the part of the ICC, in turn, threaten to infringe upon the sovereignty of the United States and impede the critical national security and foreign policy work of United States Government and allied officials, and thereby threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States. The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, has never accepted ICC jurisdiction over its personnel, and has consistently rejected ICC assertions of jurisdiction over United States personnel. Furthermore, in 2002, the United States Congress enacted the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (22 U.S.C. 7421 et seq.) which rejected the ICC’s overbroad, non-consensual assertions of jurisdiction. The United States remains committed to accountability and to the peaceful cultivation of international order, but the ICC and parties to the Rome Statute must respect the decisions of the United States and other countries not to subject their personnel to the ICC’s jurisdiction, consistent with their respective sovereign prerogatives. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those responsible for the ICC’s transgressions, which may include the suspension of entry into the United States of ICC officials, employees, and agents, as well as their immediate family members. The entry of such aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States and denying them entry will further demonstrate the resolve of the United States in opposing the ICC’s overreach by seeking to exercise jurisdiction over personnel of the United States and our allies, as well as personnel of countries that are not parties to the Rome Statute or have not otherwise consented to ICC jurisdiction.

I therefore determine that any attempt by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any United States personnel without the consent of the United States, or of personnel of countries that are United States allies and who are not parties to the Rome Statute or have not otherwise consented to ICC jurisdiction, constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.

Lawyers and law professors specializing in international law and national security have sent a letter to the White House, asking the president to rescind the executive order which “authorizes asset freezes and visa denials against ICC lawyers and officials who investigate U.S. personnel, including military and CIA personnel for alleged torture, rape, and other war crimes in Afghanistan, and relatedly at CIA “black sites” in Lithuania, Poland and Romania.”

“The undersigned have a diversity of views on the ICC and its Afghanistan investigation. However, we share the conviction that sanctioning ICC lawyers for carrying out their responsibilities to investigate atrocities is wrong in principle, contrary to American values, and prejudicial to U.S. national security,” the letter said. “U.S. sanctions have long been legitimately imposed on terrorists, international criminals, and gross violators of human rights. But targeting ICC lawyers – and in some cases their families – punishes the very people who investigate atrocities.”

“Seeking to intimidate investigators and punish prosecutors perverts the purpose and undermines the legitimacy of sanctions,” the undersigned continued.

Among the 174 signers was 100-year-old Ben Ferencz, the last living U.S. prosecutor of Nazis in Nuremberg. The list of names also included former U.S. war crimes Ambassadors and U.S. lawyers at international war crimes tribunals.

The letter said that sanctioning ICC lawyers for opening an investigation into alleged U.S. war crimes undermines American credibility on the world stage.

“The Afghanistan investigation is not a case of runaway prosecutors. Before opening a full investigation, the prosecutors sought and received authorization to proceed from a unanimous, five-judge appeals chamber of the ICC. Their investigation also addresses alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by Taliban forces,” the signers said. “Sanctioning ICC lawyers is also contrary to our longstanding national commitment to human rights, the rule of law, and accountability for those who commit atrocities. To stand against atrocities, while simultaneously opposing investigations of those who allegedly commit them, strains credibility.”

The lawyers further proposed that the Trump administration, if truly concerned about an ICC jurisdictional incursion, could “invoke its right to investigate alleged war crimes itself.”

“Under the ICC Statute, that would bar ICC jurisdiction. This option remains open to the U.S. But rather than assert this unquestioned right, the President has chosen the alternative route of authorizing asset and visa sanctions on ICC lawyers,” the letter said.

In closing, the national security and international law experts said that the sanctions were both “ineffectual” and a dark example for “bloody” and “lawless” regimes around the world to follow.

“Finally, the sanctions are contrary to U.S. national interests. They will not succeed in blocking ICC investigations, which are undertaken by lawyers duty bound to carry out their responsibilities as prosecutors. Worse, the ineffectual sanctions mock our bipartisan commitment to human rights and the rule of law, alienate our allies, and encourage repressive regimes,” the letter concluded. “Bloody and lawless rulers can now be expected, not only to resist, but also to follow Washington’s example of threatening and punishing ICC lawyers simply for doing what most countries and nearly all democracies of the world ask of them – to pursue justice for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

National security lawyer Mark Zaid, who in recent months represented the Ukraine whistleblower, was one of the signatories of the letter.

He told Law&Crime that he is “already representing two Americans who provide free legal assistance to the ICC” and “will be filing a lawsuit against the Trump Administration if it moves to enforce sanctions.”

Read the letter below:

Lawyers’ statement on ICC sanctions by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

via Law & Crime

June 29, 2020 at 12:46PM

Prosecutors May Get Trump Tax Returns, Court Rules

President Donald Trump’s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday. It was a major setback for the president’s attempt to keep his financial records private. A three-judge appeals panel did not take a position on the president’s biggest argument — that he was immune from all criminal investigations, the New York Times reports. A lower court called that argument “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.” The appeals court said the accounting firm, not  Trump himself, was subpoenaed for the documents, so it did not matter whether presidents have immunity.

The tax returns are not likely to be handed over soon. Trump has fought vigorously to shield his financial records, and the case appears headed to the Supreme Court. The legal fight began in August after Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for his tax returns and those of his family business dating to 2011. Prosecutors are investigating the role of the president and his business in hush-money payments made to two women just before the 2016 presidential election. The office sought the records in connection with an investigation into whether New York laws were broken when Trump and the Trump Organization reimbursed his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, for payments he made to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had an affair with Trump. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, saying a criminal investigation of the president was unconstitutional. They pointed to impeachment as the correct way to address wrongdoing by a president.

via The Crime Report

November 4, 2019 at 11:33AM

Police: Girl, 14, Nabbed After Punching Man Dressed Up As Donald Trump In The Face

A 14-year-old Florida Girl walked up to a man dressed up as Donald Trump and punched him in the jaw as her friends recorded the attack, police say.

The victim and two family members were waiting in line Friday evening outside the Naples Haunted Gross House at the Collier County fairgrounds when he was slugged by the teenage assailant, according to a police report.

After punching the man, the girl returned to her place in line with several other minors, at least one of whom recorded the attack and posted video to Instagram.

In a written statement, the victim told cops that, “I walked over to the girl and asked her why she had hit me. I told her I was with my family here to have a good time.” The man said he contacted a fairgrounds worker who then summoned police.

Cops, who noted that the teenager’s “sole motivation was to strike ‘Trump,’” cited the girl for misdemeanor battery.

The girl, whose name was redacted from an incident report released by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, has been barred from returning to the fairgrounds.

via The Smoking Gun RSS

October 29, 2019 at 10:37AM

Jon Sale Is Proud to Take Part in ‘Legal History’ Again, This Time for Rudy Giuliani

Miami attorney Jon Sale is intrigued by the prospects of being a part of history for a second time in presidential impeachment actions.

The co-chair of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough’s white-collar and government investigations practice has been retained by longtime friend Rudy Giuliani in the congressional investigations targeting President Donald Trump.

In his first exposure to impeachment work, Sale was fired along with his boss, Archibald Cox, in the Nixon-era Saturday Night Massacre.

“I’m proud to take it on,” he said of the defense for Trump’s personal attorney. “This is the second time in my life that I have a chance to take part in something that is legal history.”

Giuliani and Sale were New York University law classmates and went on to work together as federal prosecutors in New York. They remained close friends.

“I played a role in his presidential campaign. We’ve been very close personally and professionally,” Sale said Tuesday in a telephone interview. In 2008, he was an unpaid senior counselor on Giuliani’s campaign.

Before going into private practice, Sale was a federal prosecutor in New York and Connecticut and chief assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida.

The Brooklyn native is known for being buttoned down, low key, diplomatic and unflappable—all skills he will need representing Giuliani in the Washington spotlight.

For now, he will focus on a congressional subpoena response due Oct. 15.

The subpoena poses “a lot of complicated issues involving questions of privilege and constitutional issues, which I’m just beginning to analyze,” Sale said. ”We have to analyze these issues and decide on a response and advise my client, who will then decide as to how to respond.”

Details about the scope of Giuliani’s role in foreign affairs expanded Wednesday with Ukraine’s former president saying he discussed investments with Giuliani in 2017. The Associated Press reported they discussed “political support and investment” but nothing else, and Poroshenko didn’t elaborate.

Sale acknowledges the breadth of the impeachment investigation stretches well beyond a standard government probe.

“In addition to legal strategy, you have to have real-world common sense. The whole world is watching,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a grand jury matter where it’s all under seal, and and it’s a proceeding involving an inquiry with an impact of the president of the United States. That’s an extremely serious matter.”

While just starting his representation, Sale said he doesn’t see a conflict between Trump and Giuliani.

“To the best of my knowledge, as of now there are no conflicts,” Sale said. “I’m not in touch with the president. I’m only in touch with Mr. Giuliani.”

Heavy travel to Washington and New York won’t be a change for Sale, because that’s what he’s accustomed to. Squeezing everything into his schedule is more of an issue.

“One of the challenges is I am so busy,” he said. “My practice has never been so booming. The only hesitancy I have is having enough time to be able to do it.”

Asked if he would recruit others at Nelson Mullins to work with him, he said that was up to Giuliani.

“If he does, I welcome it. I’ve never had a problem with bringing in good lawyers to work together, but so far everything is happening so fast. I’m sure he wouldn’t do it without consulting me.”

Sale said his wife and Nelson Mullins colleague Jayne Weintraub is too busy to get involved. She represents red-carpet photographer Bruce Weber in New York in a civil lawsuit claiming he exploited or sexually assaulted five male models.

Sale, an avid baseball collector, proves his sophistication by estimating the value of a baseball autographed by six-time All-Star and power hitter Jose Canseco. Weintraub landed probation for the retired baseball player after a fight at a Miami Beach nightclub.

Back to his new client, Sale has strenuously denied Giuliani did anything illegal and is enthusiastic about defending his client in an unfriendly forum.

“To the extent it’s a challenge, the more I will enjoy it, and it will be a challenge because it’s so partisan,” he said.

via – Newswire

October 2, 2019 at 02:27PM

Trump Won’t Apologize for Central Park Five Role

President Trump doubled down on his controversial stance on the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of an assault on a white female jogger in Central Park in 1989, USA Today reports. Trump was asked by American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan whether he’d apologize to the men for taking out newspaper ads calling for their execution. All five were exonerated in 2002 after Matias Reyes confessed to raping the woman, a statement backed up by DNA evidence.

At first, Trump was defensive, asking Ryan, “Why would you bring that question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up.” The reporter responded that there were “movies and everything about them,” referring a new Netflix TV series about the Central Park Five. “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt,” Trump said. “If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So we’ll leave it at that.” Fairstein, the top New York City sex crimes prosecutor at the time, has come under scrutiny in the Netflix series, entitled, “When They See Us.” Trump spent $85,000 to take out a newspaper ad calling for the teenagers’ executions.

via The Crime Report

June 19, 2019 at 08:45AM

Mar-a-Lago Intruder May Face National Security Case

Federal prosecutors disclosed this week they are developing a potential national security case against Yujing Zhang, the 33-year-old Chinese woman charged with unlawfully entering Mar-a-Lago with a stash of electronic equipment, the Miami Herald reports.

They asked a federal judge to allow them to file “classified information” under seal without the public — or the defendant — seeing it. If the motion is granted, prosecutors will present the evidence directly to the federal judge in Zhang’s trespassing case during a private, closed meeting in the judge’s chambers. The prosecution’s motion indicates that she is a focus of a widening U.S. probe of possible Chinese espionage and suggests that authorities have evidence she was likely not simply a “bumbling tourist” who accidentally found her way into President Donald Trump’s private estate in Palm Beach.

via The Crime Report

June 13, 2019 at 09:31AM

For the first time, prosecutors have tied President Trump to a federal crime. But can a sitting president be indicted?

For the first time, prosecutors have tied President Donald Trump to a federal crime, accusing him of directing illegal hush-money payments to women during his presidential campaign in 2016. The Justice Department stopped short of accusing Trump of directly committing a crime. Instead, they said…

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F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen

The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

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