Thursday Open Thread: SCOTUS Decisions on Trump Financial Records and Other NewsPosted: July 9, 2020
BREAKING News: As I write this, we are waiting for a momentous decision from the Supreme Court on whether Trump must reveal his tax returns and business financees. MSNBC just announced that the court has decided by a 7-2 vote that Trump is not immune from a subpoena for his records from the grand jury in New York City. According to Pete Williams, the effect of this is that the fight goes back to the state court where Trump can continue to fight the release of the information. Williams says that in both cases–the one in New York and the one from Congress–Trump has no immunity from these subpoenas. Trump’s taxes must be turned over to the grand jury immediately, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll get to see them. Now Trump has to go back to court and make the same kinds of arguments that any regular person could make. Read the full decision here.
Pete Williams now reporting on the second decision. SCOTUS again sends it back to lower courts with guidance on how Congress can get the financial records. It would require a specific legislative purpose. The upshot is that Congress won’t be getting the tax returns any time soon. Williams says neither case will be resolved before the election.
Brace for a Trump tantrum on Twitter.
Now back to my original post.
Another day dawns in an American in crisis. Yesterday the U.S. reported 60,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and passed a new milestone of 3,000,000 total diagnosed cases. Of course the numbers are actually much higher, because of our inadequate testing and contact tracing. PPE shortages are popping up again and the federal government is doing nothing about it. Unemployment is still shockingly high and about a third of U.S. households missed rent or mortgage payments in July.
It didn’t have to be this way and the reason for all these failures is Donald Trump. At USA Today, Ira Shapiro writes: As COVID cases top 3 million, it’s past time to end the catastrophic Trump presidency.
Our country is living through a tragedy of unthinkable magnitude.
COVID-19 has hammered the world, but America — with 4.25% of the world’s population — has suffered a quarter of its cases and fatalities….
It is no secret why. America’s tragedy results from the largest failure of presidential leadership in our history. Donald Trump threw out the pandemic response playbooks left by his predecessors; weakened the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the virus; promised its early disappearance; fantasized about miracle cures; and then, after a series of uninformed television briefings, chose to declare victory and pronounce the problem over.
He defied the warnings of public health experts and showed contempt for social distancing and wearing masks. He has created misunderstandings and sowed division by encouraging Americans to rebel against the reasonable public health measures put in place by their governors and mayors. He’s trying to end insurance coverage for millions, and on Tuesday, as America set a record for new daily cases, he began to officially withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization.
Shapiro says we can’t wait six months to be rid of “an increasingly unhinged” Trump. It’s obvious that Republicans in the Senate will do nothing to inhibit Trump’s insanity, so he argues that Americas governors should call for Trump to resign, though he admits this is unlikely.
How much worse does it have to get before those with the power to do something about this tragedy decide to act?
Of course it’s not just Trump’s response to the virus that is damaging our country. His kowtowing to Russia is horrifying. Just Security has the latest: Trump Pushed CIA to Give Intelligence to Kremlin, While Taking No Action Against Russia Arming Taliban.
President Trump’s actions in the face of the Russia-Taliban arms program likely signaled weak US resolve in the eyes of Putin and Russian military intelligence.
Three dimensions of Trump’s response are described in detail in this article, based on interviews with several former Trump administration officials who spoke to Just Security on the record.
First, President Trump decided not to confront Putin about supplying arms to the terrorist group. Second, during the very times in which U.S. military officials publicly raised concerns about the program’s threat to U.S. forces, Trump undercut them. He embraced Putin, overtly and repeatedly, including at the historic summit in Helsinki. Third, behind the scenes, Trump directed the CIA to share intelligence information on counterterrorism with the Kremlin despite no discernible reward, former intelligence officials who served in the Trump administration told Just Security….
The failure to push back on the weapons program signaled to Putin that he could press further, said Michael Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with responsibility for Russia in the Obama administration. “When Western powers fail to push back, the Kremlin keeps prodding and probing — until it meets resistance, or until the costs for President Putin and his regime exceed the perceived benefits,” Carpenter wrote in Just Security on Friday.
What we now know is that President Trump not only failed to push back against Russia’s arming the terrorist group. That extraordinary act of omission was coupled with the president’s effort to push the CIA to cooperate with Russia by providing U.S. intelligence to the Kremlin on counterterrorism operations despite getting nothing in return, according to former officials.
Read the rest at the Just Security.
More from The Daily Beast: CIA Kept Giving Intel to Russia, Got Nothing Back.
It is not unusual for the agency to share intelligence, particularly intelligence on imminent threats, even with hostile intelligence agencies. Intelligence agencies maintain liaison relationships in part to ensure their operations don’t escalate into open conflict. Pompeo, as well as his predecessor in the Obama administration, John Brennan, have both acknowledged working with Russia on shared counterterrorism goals.
But after the Russians’ 2016 election interference, and then the 2018 Sergei Skripal poisoning, the counterterrorism-sharing effort appeared egregious to some in the intelligence community. That’s a renewed concern given recent and unconfirmed intelligence that the Russians paid Taliban elements to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The order to share intelligence was a standing directive, Polymeropoulos said, encouraging the intelligence agencies to share whenever possible. “You roll your eyes, you shrug, but you gotta do this,” he said. He did not believe the intelligence-sharing harmed U.S. interests; instead, it appeared naive. Pushing back on it would not have been appropriate: “It would feed into the ‘Deep State’ narrative” of security services going rogue to shank Trump, he said.
But agency leaders, both Pompeo and his successor, current CIA Director Gina Haspel, knew of internal dissatisfaction. “Leadership was well aware of the unanimity in view that this was a waste of time,” Polymeropoulos said, “but it doesn’t matter, because it’s [administration] policy. We had to still go through with it.”
Click the link for more details.
I’m going to post this right now for anyone who wants to discuss the SCOTUS decisions. I’ll add more stories on this as they become available.