By Robert A. Vella
Five months ago this week, Donald Trump thought he had finally dodged all the political and legal bullets being fired at his thoroughly corrupt presidency. Republicans in the U.S. Senate had rammed-through a sham impeachment trial which found him “not guilty” on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges. The Judicial System had largely allowed his administration to circumvent numerous oversight investigations by the House of Representatives, and the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr was systematically undermining all criminal investigations and prosecutions surrounding his inner circle. It was widely feared that Trump’s dictatorship-in-the-making would be unleashed with ruinous effect on American democracy, the rule of law, and the constitutional foundations this nation was built upon.
But, just when Trump’s desire for unlimited power was about to be realized, a natural disaster of global proportions rained down on his fascist parade. At precisely the same time that the Senate verdict was announced, the coronavirus pandemic had invaded the U.S. and began rapidly spreading a deadly contagion among the American people. Ever since, Trump’s political fortunes have cracked and corroded with increasing intensity and with increasing collateral damage to the Republican Party. This great fall happened not because President Trump didn’t have the resources necessary to successfully combat COVID-19, but because he arrogantly refused to employ them. In Trump’s deranged mind, a lowly virus paled in comparison to his self-image as an omnipotent and godlike being; so, he didn’t take the threat seriously. Even worse, he still isn’t despite the obvious reality of a raging public health crisis that has forced the country to its knees.
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt Trump a staggering blow when it ruled against him in one of two cases involving his tax returns and financial records. New York prosecutors will now gain access to those records in civil and criminal cases regarding allegations of financial fraud by his family business and regarding illegal hush money payments he made during the 2016 election campaign. This process of discovery will require weeks and months to complete, but it is definitely bad news for Trump regardless of the relative timing with the November election.
To add insult to injury, Trump’s own government agencies and state officials are refusing to comply with his dangerous attempts to ignore the costly consequences of the pandemic while a rising tide of Republican politicians are moving steadily away from him. And, new reporting is lending credibility to last week’s speculation – by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others – that the U.S. Intelligence community has been withholding national security information from the President because of fears that he would leak it to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Taxes, troubles, traitorousness, and weakness – the long-awaited downfall has begun.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for prosecutors in New York to see President Trump’s financial records, a stunning defeat for Mr. Trump but a decision that probably means the records will be shielded from public scrutiny under grand jury secrecy rules until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.
In a separate decision, the court ruled that Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. The vote in both cases was 7 to 2. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote both majority opinions.
In the case concerning the prosecutors’ subpoena, he wrote that “no citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.” He added that Mr. Trump may still raise objections to the scope and relevance of the subpoena.
The court’s four more liberal members joined that majority opinion, and Mr. Trump’s two appointees voted with the majority but did not adopt its reasoning.
In the case concerning congressional subpoenas, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that lower courts had not adequately considered the separation of powers concerns raised in the case. He was joined by the same justices who voted with him in the New York case.
President Donald Trump took a swing at Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday in the aftermath of two Supreme Court decisions involving his closely-held financial records, lamenting that the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and close Trump ally was not doing enough to target the president’s political foes.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said on Thursday that he was unlikely to attend the Republican convention in Jacksonville, Fla., next month, citing scheduling conflicts.
Roberts, who is retiring at the end of the year, is the sixth GOP senator to indicate they will not attend the Republican convention in Jacksonville, Fla., next month, where President Trump will formally accept the party’s nomination.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) became the first senator to say they would not attend, citing concerns about the coronavirus. He was quickly followed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
Not long after the Russia-Taliban bounty scandal first started unfolding in public view, a bombshell new report from Just Security claims that President Donald Trump directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to provide the Russian government with U.S. intelligence information concerning terrorist groups in the Middle East—whom Vladimir Putin was likely supplying with weapons—without getting anything in return.
According to the report, which was sourced from several former Trump administration intelligence officials, the administration’s failure to address Russia’s furnishing of weapons to the Taliban, coupled with Trump’s “embrace” of Putin, may have set the stage for Kremlin officials to green-light the audacious bounty operation.
The president said in tweets Wednesday that his own administration had issued guidance that was too tough, and that he would cut funding for schools that didn’t open their doors to students for the coming academic year. His White House Coronavirus Task Force later pushed for a full reopening of schools — without providing any detailed guidance on how to bring all students back.
The White House effort has sparked accusations of federal government overreach, especially as most states grapple with rising case counts. In California, which reported its biggest daily jump in new cases Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said any decision on reopening schools will be based on what the case count is then. And in New York, once the U.S. epicenter and now one of the biggest success stories, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Trump has no authority to order schools open.
“We will open the schools if it is safe to open the schools,” said Cuomo, who frequently sparred with the president over reopening businesses. He said the state would make a decision in early August.
Florida has become a new hot spot for the virus, with more than 200,000 cases — the fourth highest in the nation. Yet, the state’s Department of Education said Monday that all “brick and mortar schools” will be required to open “at least five days per week for all students” in August.
At least one superintendent has said he will let “local conditions at the time” dictate whether schools open.
“I will not reopen our school system August 24 if the conditions are what they are today,” Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools said Tuesday. “Our reopening plan contemplates a phase two reality. We are still in phase one, a phase one that has degraded over the past few weeks.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not revise its guidelines for reopening schools despite calls from the White House to do so, agency Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Thursday.
Instead, additional reference documents will be provided, Redfield told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid basically communities in trying to open K-through-12s,” Redfield said. “It’s not a revision of the guidelines; it’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance we put forward.”
The comments risk further adding to a sense of confusion about how best to reopen schools as the new academic year approaches amid a surge in confirmed coronavirus cases. President Donald Trump has vehemently called for schools to reopen — one of the keys to restarting the economy and getting the country back to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy — calling the existing guidelines “very tough and expensive,” and going so far as to threaten to cut off school funding, though the federal government’s ability to do so is limited.