‘WITCH HUNT!’ Trump Attorneys Say They Will Fight Subpoena For President’s Tax Returns

WASHINGTON — Attorneys for President Donald Trump on Wednesday told a federal judge that they intend to fight a subpoena ordering Trump turn over his private tax returns.

In a status report filed with a federal district court in New York, the president’s attorneys said they had multiple objections to the district attorney’s subpoena aside from the one struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this month and argued that District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s subpoenas are “overly broad.”

“In our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to every man’s evidence,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the 7-2 decision. “Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.”

Roberts also wrote that a “President may avail himself of the same protections available to every other citizen, including the right to challenge the subpoena on any grounds permitted by state law, which usually include bad faith and undue burden or breadth.”

“The President should not be required, for example, to litigate the subpoena’s breadth or whether it was issued in bad faith without understanding the nature and scope of the investigation and why the District Attorney needs all of the documents he has demanded,” Trump’s lawyers argued in their status report.

A status conference in the case is scheduled for Thursday.


Judge Demands Details Surrounding Trump’s Clemency of Stone

WASHINGTON– A federal judge on Monday challenged President Donald Trump’s decision to commute the prison sentence ofRoger Stone.

Stone, a long time ally of Trump, was convicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election. Stone was convicted of multiple charges, including making false statements, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. The 67-year-old received notice Friday evening that his 40-month prison sentence was commuted by Trump, just days before he was scheduled to report to prison.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson — who presided over Stone’s trial last year, issued order that a copy of Trump’s executive order commuting Stone be provided to her no later than Tuesday.

She also asked for clarification as to the scope of the clemency, including whether Trump’s order was specific to Stone’s prison sentence or also includes the two-year period of supervised release that was ordered as part of his sentence.

MANAFORT TRIAL: Judge’s need for speed jolts prosecution off its game

ALEXANDRIA, VA (BLOOMBERG) — U.S. prosecutors want to tell a jury about Paul Manafort’s lavish lifestyle and spending habits to support their claim that he failed to pay taxes on offshore income and defrauded banks. The judge isn’t making it easy for them.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who’s repeatedly said he wants the trial to move fast, is living up to his word. On Wednesday, just the second day of the trial, he forced prosecutors to race through evidence and cut them off when they spent too long on a topic. The judge’s obvious irritation appeared to disorient prosecutors, who typically are given more latitude in questioning witnesses and displaying documents. Ellis was having none of that.

“The more I can do to shorten this thing the better,” Ellis told prosecutors in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. “Then you get to go home and I get to go home.”

The pressure from the judge may be having an effect. Prosecutors initially estimated the trial would last three weeks. On Wednesday, with a fourth witness already on the stand, they said things were moving so quickly they should be able to wrap up their case next week.

The judge and prosecutors clashed several times during testimony from FBI Special Agent Matthew Mikuska. He recounted an early-morning raid on Manafort’s condominium in July 2017, when agents knocked three times and entered with a key they obtained. Through the agent, Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye tried to show jurors photographs and documents about Manafort’s luxurious lifestyle and how he paid for the trappings from accounts in Cyprus.

Manafort used untaxed offshore money to buy $849,000 of clothes from a New York store, $520,000 of clothes from a Beverly Hills store, and $934,350 of goods from an antique store, according to the prosecutors. Among his clothes was a $15,000 ostrich jacket, prosecutors said.

When Mikuska was asked about the number of suits he found in Manafort’s condo, the agent said: “It’s hard to quantify, but easily closets full.”

But Ellis refused to let jurors see pictures of the garments. “Let’s move on,” he told Asonye.

With the jury out of the room, Ellis criticized prosecutors for what he saw as an excessive focus on Manafort’s luxurious lifestyle and their efforts to introduce evidence of it through the FBI agent.

“Enough is enough,” the judge said. Referring to photos of Manafort’s fancy clothes, Ellis asked how it would advance the case. He pressed prosecutors on whether they could tie the clothes to the money Manafort made.

Ellis forced Asonye to move so quickly through the FBI agent’s evidence that jurors got no context or explanation for the exhibits they saw briefly on their video monitors. Ellis also refused to display a photograph of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that he had admitted into evidence, and he only briefly allowed jurors to see a picture of Manafort’s condo building.

“Can you describe the building?” Asonye asked the FBI agent.

“They can see the building,” Ellis interjected. He then asked the agent: “Is somewhere in this building what you searched, a condo you searched?” When Mikuska said yes, Ellis said: “Alright, let’s move on.”

After sending jurors out for their morning break, Ellis, still visibly annoyed, told the lawyers the case was about whether Manafort signed false income tax returns that failed to disclose foreign accounts and omitted income.

Ellis said he was unclear about how Asonye planned to tie Manafort’s money to an exhibit on home improvements. “Is it just that Mr. Manafort is awash in money?” Ellis asked.

As the testimony rolled on, with an executive from what’s billed as the “world’s most expensive store,” prosecutors seemed to be adapting to Ellis’s directives, focusing more on how Manafort used wire transfers from Cyprus bank accounts to pay for the clothes, than the clothes themselves.

Before the jury came in for the second day, Ellis told Asonye he used the word “oligarch” too often in his opening statement. The prosecutor had described Ukrainian oligarchs who funded Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, which Manafort advised for several years. Ellis said he won’t allow the word to come up again.

“The word oligarch has come to have a pejorative meaning about which there will be no evidence at trial,” Ellis said. After saying prosecutors could submit written arguments on the matter, the judge said: “We’re not going to have this case tried that he associated with despicable people and therefore he’s despicable. That’s not the American way.”

The biggest surprise of the day came when Ellis asked about a document referring to Manafort’s former right-hand man Rick Gates, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller. In his opening statement on Tuesday, Manafort attorney Thomas Zehnle called Gates a thief and a liar who betrayed his boss to line his own pockets.

Ellis asked if prosecutors intended to call Gates as a witness.

“We’re not sure,” Asonye said. “He may testify in this case, your honor. He may not.”

Reporters bolted for the door with the juicy news flash that Mueller’s team might not call its star witness after all.

Ellis looked bemused. “That was news to me, by the way, and obviously to about 25 people who scurried out of here like rats on a sinking ship,” he said.

“As the evidence comes in, we constantly re-evaluate whether we need to call certain witnesses,’’ Asonye responded. “It’s not to suggest we’re not calling him, but obviously if we can shorten the trial, we will do so. And that applies to every witness that we put on the list, not just Mr. Gates.’’


BATTLE FOR THE BORDER: Judge rejects bid to block California ‘sanctuary’ laws

SACRAMENTO, CA (Politico) — A federal judge on Thursday rejected the bulk of a Trump administration demand to block three California sanctuary laws, allowing the state to keep in place its most significant legislative measures aimed at countering President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Sacramento-based U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez rejected, for now, the Justice Department’s drive to halt a California law that limits the kinds of immigration-related information state and local law enforcement can share with federal officials. The judge also declined DOJ’s request to block another law guaranteeing California officials certain information about local and privately run jails that hold immigration detainees in the Golden State.

While the ruling is a setback for the Trump administration’s attempt to enforce immigration laws in states where leaders favor more liberal policies, Mendez did block parts of one of the disputed California laws, including provisions that banned private employers from voluntarily cooperating with immigration officials and from re-verifying the legal work status of employees.

Mendez, an appointee of President George W. Bush, took a narrow view of state and local governments’ obligations to allow their employees to assist federal immigration officials. He said California had broad authority to limit use of its resources for immigration enforcement.

“Refusing to help is not the same as impeding,” wrote Mendez. “Federal objectives will always be furthered if states offer to assist federal efforts. A state’s decision not to assist in those activities will always make the federal object more difficult to attain than it would be otherwise. Standing aside does not equate to standing in the way.”

Justice Department lawyers argued that a 1996 federal law prevents California from blocking disclosure of information helpful to immigration authorities, such as prisoners’ expected release dates and their home addresses. But Mendez said that law covers only records “strictly pertaining to immigration status” and not a broader set of data.

Mendez’s decision denied a preliminary injunction against the most significant provisions the Justice Department challenged in a suit filed with fanfare last March. The ruling doesn’t eliminate the possibility that the federal government could prevail in more aspects of the suit in the future, but it leaves the administration without much of the immediate relief it wanted.

A Justice Department spokesman had no immediate comment on the decision.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose office defended the laws, hailed the ruling.

“The right of states to determine how to provide public safety and general welfare to their people continues to stand strong,” Becerra said in a statement.

The author of the law limiting information-sharing with federal officials, California state Sen. Kevin De Léon, tied the judge’s decision to the outcry over Trump’s move to separate some immigrant parents from their children.

“Today, a federal judge made clear what I’ve known all along, that SB 54, the California Values Act is constitutional and does not conflict with federal law,” De Léon said. “California is under no obligation to assist Trump tear apart families. We cannot stop his mean-spirited immigration policies, but we don’t have to help him, and we won’t.”

Mendez said he hoped his ruling would be seen as a legal one, not a political one, and he said “piecemeal opinions” from judge will not resolve hot-button immigration debates.

“This Order hopefully will not be viewed through a political lens and this Court expresses no views on the soundness of the policies or statutes involved in this lawsuit. There is no place for politics in our judicial system and this one opinion will neither define nor solve the complicated immigration issues currently facing our Nation,” wrote the judge, who added that he ruled “without concern for any possible political consequences.”

The judge closed his opinion with a strong exhortation to Congress and the White House to enact legislation addressing the most contentious disputes relating to immigration policy.

“This Court joins the ever-growing chorus of Federal Judges in urging our elected officials to set aside the partisan and polarizing politics dominating the current immigration debate and work in a cooperative and bi-partisan fashion toward drafting and passing legislation that addresses this critical political issue,” Mendez wrote. “Our Nation deserves it. Our Constitution demands it.”

Politico’s Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.



BUSTED: Clinton, DNC funneled $84M through state parties to skirt campaign finance laws, claims report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hillary Clinton and her cohorts at the DNC may have some explaining to do, according to blockbuster accusations revealed in a newly filed lawsuit.

“The Hillary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee allegedly used state chapters as strawmen to launder as much as $84 million in an effort to circumvent campaign donation limits, and the Federal Election Commission ignored complaints exposing the practice”, a lawsuit filed Monday by The Committee to Defend the President (CDP) claims.

As reported by Fox News, the CDP, formally known as the “Stop Hillary PAC”, filed its complaint with the FEC in December 2017 with the claims that the Hillary Victory Fund (HVF) solicited cash from big-name donors, and allegedly sent that money through state chapters and back to the DNC before ending up with the Clinton campaign.

In its initial complaint, the CDP alleged that around $84 million was funneled illegally from the DNC through state party chapters and back into funds marked the Clinton campaign.

“The Clinton machine has escaped accountability for its illegal practices for far too long,” Ted Harvey, CDP chairman, told Fox News. “After months of review, the FEC has refused to address the Clintons’ $84 million money laundering scheme that violated several campaign finance laws.”

On Monday, the CDP renewed its allegations through the filing of a lawsuit against the FEC with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In it, the CDP claims that the commission failed to act, calling the inaction “arbitrary, capricious, contrary to law, and an abuse of discretion.”

“Based on publicly available FEC records, repeatedly throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, HVF would purportedly transfer funds to its constituent political committees, which included between 34 and 40 state parties,” the complaint reads. “On the very same day each of these transfers supposedly occurred, or occasionally the very next day, every single one of those state parties purportedly contributed all of those funds to the DNC.”

The complaint documents a series of transactions in which the HVF disbursed contributions to its state party committee members, only to receive the funds back on the same day.

Officials for the FEC declined to comment when reached by Fox News on the matter, but issued a statement addressing the allegations a short time thereafter.

“A provision of federal campaign finance law requires that any Commission action on an enforcement matter be kept strictly confidential until the case is resolved,” the statement reads. “To comply with this legal commitment and to protect the interests of those involved, we have a policy of not commenting on matters that are before the agency.”


‘WE’LL SEE ABOUT THAT’: Justice Department to appeal court ruling on DACA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Justice Department on Tuesday announced plans to appeal a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling which blocked President Donald Trump’s overhaul on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last week’s ruling by San Francisco-based U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup impaired enactment of Trump’s executive order to cease the Obama era program which sheltered a vast number of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation.

“It defies both law and common sense for DACA … to somehow be mandated nationwide by a single district court in San Francisco,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are now taking the rare step of requesting direct review on the merits of this injunction by the Supreme Court so that this issue may be resolved quickly and fairly for all the parties involved.”

Last Wednesday, the president took to Twitter to criticize the District Court’s ruling.

“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA)…almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts,” the president wrote.

Roughly 700,000 brought to the U.S. illegally — dubbed “Dreamers” — would be impacted by the president’s shutdown of DACA, which the Trump administration said it plans to end by March 5.