President Donald Trump played his well-worn victim card on Thursday. That was after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in a pair of 7-2 rulings that, contrary to his belief and his lawyers' arguments, the presidency does not give him "absolute immunity" from having to show personal financial records to investigators.
"Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference’. BUT NOT ME!" he complained in one tweet. There was more: "This is all a political prosecution." (There's no prosecution, at least not yet.) "Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!" and "We have a totally corrupt previous Administration … and nothing happens to them."
But the rulings, both authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, could have been worse for Trump. Whatever happens in the long run, there's almost no chance he'll have to hand over anything before the November election.
In one decision, the court rejected Trump’s argument that he did not have to comply with a subpoena from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and it ruled that Vance had authority to pursue the president’s personal and business financial records. But the justices said Trump still can challenge specific requests in the lower courts, which will drag out the case. Vance is investigating whether business records were falsified to conceal hush-money payments to two alleged Trump paramours.
In the other decision, the court said Trump can't categorically reject congressional demands for his private financial records, but the subpoenas can't be too broad without crossing the separation-of-powers line. That case also goes back to the lower courts to sort out. Among the reasons House Democrats say they need the records are for inquiries into potential foreign conflicts of interest.
Even if Trump goes on to lose either case and hand over returns to investigators, it doesn't mean they would be made public. After first pledging early in his 2016 campaign to release the tax returns, he claimed he couldn't because they were under audit. Less than four months before the 2020 election, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany put out the same excuse on Thursday. There's nothing about an audit that legally prevents Trump from showing his returns.
Janison: Not his fixers
Once again, Trump has been separated from his illusions about his powers. Chief Justice Roberts and six colleagues have made it clear that the conservative-tilted Supreme Court has no obligation to fix criminal cases for Republican presidents, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
What? The job doesn't come with absolute immunity from investigation?
No, Roberts wrote: "Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding. We reaffirm that principle today." Trump's two court picks, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, agreed the president is not above the law.
Trump's wailing on Twitter suggests he believed the high court owed him protection.
Fog on school openings
Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday the agency won't revise its coronavirus guidelines for reopening schools, which Trump seemed to have demanded a day earlier. “Our guidelines are our guidelines,” Redfield declared.
But Redfield said the CDC "would provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance that we put forward.”
Draft CDC documents obtained by The Associated Press include a checklist that encourages parents to consider carefully whether to send their kids back to school in person or seek virtual instruction.
That runs counter to Trump’s messaging. He has been repeatedly pressuring state and local officials to reopen schools this fall for in-person classes, even threatening to withhold federal funds from those that keep teaching and learning remote.
Fauci: Divided we fail
Dr. Anthony Fauci isn't naming names, but he said "divisiveness" in America, including political fights over mask-wearing, has made the pandemic worse.
"When you don’t have unanimity in an approach to something, you’re not as effective in how you handle it," Fauci told the FiveThirtyEight podcast. "So I think you’d have to make the assumption that if there wasn’t such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach."
The government's top infectious diseases expert isn't in sync with Trump's repeated insistence that the U.S. is setting an example for the world and that the record surge in COVID-19 cases is all about more testing.
"As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not," Fauci said.
Cohen won't surrender pen, back in pen
Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is working on a tell-all book about the president, was sent back to prison on Thursday after federal authorities revoked his coronavirus furlough.
The Bureau of Prisons said Cohen had been returned to jail after he “refused the conditions of his home confinement” during a hearing to convert his furlough to home confinement.
Cohen's lawyer, Jeffrey Levine, said his client balked at signing an agreement not to engage with the media through any medium including books. That restriction would block the planned September release of his book about his time working for Trump, who has labeled him a "rat" for cooperating with prosecutors. Levine said the volume was "close to completion."
Cohen was let out for the furlough in late May. He now faces imprisonment until November 2021. He was sentenced to 3 years after pleading guilty to lying to Congress and tax and campaign finance charges tied to the payoffs he handled to porn stars who had stories of affairs with Trump.
Here's Biden's deal
Joe Biden on Thursday, introducing a New Deal-like economic agenda, drew a sharp contrast with Trump, who he said has abandoned working-class Americans amid cascading crises, The Associated Press reported.
“His failures come with a terrible human cost and a deep economic toll,” Biden said during a 30-minute address at a metal works firm near his childhood hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. “Time and again, working families are paying the price for this administration’s incompetence.”
Biden called for a $400 billion, four-year increase in government purchasing of U.S.-based goods and services, plus $300 billion in new research and development in U.S. technology firms. He proposed tightening current “Buy American” laws that are intended to benefit U.S. firms but that government agencies can circumvent.
He also reaffirmed pledges for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, stronger collective-bargaining rights and a repeal of tax breaks for U.S. corporations that move jobs overseas. While the economy looked to be a Trump strength before the pandemic, Biden and his aides now see the issue as an opening to attack the incumbent on multiple fronts.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Trump has gotten a second 45-day extension to file an annual disclosure form required by federal ethics rules, The New York Times reported. The White House said the president needed more time because the report was “complicated” and he had “been focused on addressing the coronavirus crisis and other matters.”
- Trump may have to change the venue again for his Republican nomination acceptance speech. With the coronavirus ravaging Florida, GOP officials are considering moving the event from an indoor arena in Jacksonville to an outdoor stadium in the city, according to The Washington Post. The downside: August there is hot, sticky and often rainy, with chance of hurricanes.
- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio joined in the painting of a Black Lives Matter street mural Thursday in front of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. Trump previously complained it would be "denigrating this luxury Avenue." The words in bright yellow letters stretch about half a block.
- If Trump wants to keep his longtime confidant Roger Stone out of prison, it looks like he'll have to give him a pardon or clemency soon. The Justice Department said a surrender date of July 14 set by the judge was reasonable. Contrary to Trump's complaints, Attorney General William Barr told ABC News he thought Stone's prosecution was "righteous" and the 40-month sentence "fair."
- Barr's effort to toss the case against Michael Flynn is still meeting resistance from the judge who was to sentence Trump's former national security adviser on his guilty plea. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan asked the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to let him continue probing the Justice Department's decision.
- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, breaking from Trump, signaled he favors removing the names of Confederate military leaders from Army bases. The rebel officers committed "an act of treason, at the time, against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution," Milley told the House Armed Services Committee.