Federal judge rules Trump must turn over tax returns to Manhattan DA
Steve Bannon indicted by federal prosecutors
Over 1.1m Americans made an initial claim for unemployment benefit last week
Michigan to pay $600m to compensate Flint residents over lead-tainted drinking water – reports
Louisiana’s governor sets state on path to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
New Mexico city to pay $6.5m to family of man choked to death by police officer
Here’s what has happened so far today:
- Steve Bannon was arrested along with three other men for leading an online fundraising scheme that raised millions of dollars to build a privately built border wall at the southern border, ultimately using donations for personal expenses. Donald Trump said that he was “sad” to hear of Bannon’s arrest, but distanced himself from his former campaign adviser.
- A federal judge ruled that Trump must comply with the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena of his tax returns. The district attorney’s office is conducting an investigation into hush-money payments Trump made in 2016 and possible bank and insurance fraud.
- The Department of Labor’s weekly unemployment figures showed that 1.1 million people filed for unemployment claims last week, a concerning uptick compared to the week before.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg made a promise to spend $1 billion in the fight against Donald Trump in the 2020 election. That announcement was made when Bloomberg announced he was running for the Democratic nomination in November 2019, a campaign that dissipated in less than four months.
The Huffington Post points out that, even though Bloomberg promised he would spend that money even if he did not get the nomination, the billionaire has yet to open his wallet to the Democratic cause. Here’s more from the Huffington Post’s story:
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a promise when he ran for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination earlier this year: He would spend “whatever it takes” to defeat President Donald Trump in November, at one point suggesting he could put $1 billion of his $55 billion net worth toward the anti-Trump cause.
Bloomberg lavished money on his own campaign, spending more than $433 million on television ads, according to Kantar/CMAG, and building a massive field operation he promised to keep running regardless of who won the nomination. Even now, nearly six months after he dropped out of the contest, Bloomberg remains the biggest television ad spender of the presidential race by a significant margin, having spent more than four times as much as Trump’s campaign and six times as much as former Vice President Joe Biden.
But as Bloomberg prepares to address the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night, his largess has not yet made its way to explicit anti-Trump efforts. While he remains perhaps the Democratic Party’s most significant donor, he dismantled the field operation he pledged to keep open, has not made major donations to any of the major super PACs backing Biden, and has not spent anywhere close to $1 billion.
The Department of Justice requested today that the Supreme Court review a decision from an appeals court that ruled Donald Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter.
That the president blocking people on Twitter is a violation of the First Amendment’s right to participate in a “public forum” was first ruled in 2018 by a federal district court and was again upheld by an appeals court in 2019.
“The result of the court of appeals’ novel ruling will be to jeopardize the ability of public officials — from the President of the United States to a village councilperson — to insulate their social-media accounts from harassment, trolling, or hate speech without invasive judicial oversight,” the justice department said in a statement.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University initially filed the lawsuit that led to the ruling on behalf of seven people Trump blocked that included writers and academics who were critical of Trump on the platform.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, had surgery Thursday morning to remove a polyp from his vocal cords, according to NBC News.
A source told NBC that Fauci is at home and doing well. Polyps are not considered a sign of cancer and can develop after prolonged strains of the vocal cords from yelling, singing or cheering. Fauci has been, of course, doing a lot of talking these past few months, doing countless interviews on the Covid-19 outbreak.
While Fauci is expected to return to work soon, patients of the surgery are advised talk for up to five days post-surgery and talk lightly for the week after. Fauci was doing interviews just this week, calling Russia’s claim of an effective and safe Covid-19 vaccine as “bogus” and the long-term effects the virus can have on a person as “troublesome”.
Steve Bannon was reportedly on a yacht off the coast of Connecticut when he was arrested today. Welcome to 2020.
Though Donald Trump has distanced himself from We Build The Wall, the campaign has connections with other top Republicans and allies to Trump besides Steve Bannon. At one point, a prominent backer of the campaign said Trump had given his “blessing” to go forth with the privately constructed wall.
Here’s more from the Guardian’s Daniel Strauss:
The list of well known names associated with We Build the Wall goes far beyond the figure of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and populist firebrand Bannon. The group’s website is a roll call of top figures in Republican and conservative circles.
It lists Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state and a prominent Trump cheerleader, as its attorney general. Bannon was the advisory board chairman. Erik Prince, founder of the private military contractor Blackwater USA, is a member of the organization’s advisory board. Former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, an icon in conservative anti-immigration circles, is also on the advisory board, as is former Milwaukee county sheriff Dave Clarke and former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling.
The White House has released Donald Trump’s official statement on the arrest of Steve Bannon, a former key Trump adviser.
In the statement, the White House distanced itself from the We Built The Wall campaign and from Bannon, saying that Trump had no involvement in the project and that it was a “showboat”.
“President Trump has always felt the Wall must be a government project and that it is far too big and complex to be handled privately,” said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “President Trump has not been involved with Steve Bannon since the campaign and the early part of the Administration, and he does not know the people involved with this project.”
Though Trump had no direct ties to the campaign, the founders targeted Trump’s supporters when rallying up donations, using the name “Trump Wall” when advertising the wall on a now-deleted GoFundMe page.
While taking questions from reporters in the Oval Office, Trump himself said that he was “sad” to hear about Steve Bannon’s arrest but reiterated that he has distanced himself from Bannon “for a very long period of time”.
Bannon was a key figure in Trump’s 2016 campaign and was close to the president up until summer 2017, when Bannon criticized Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a group of Russians during the campaign as being “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”. Bannon was fired from his role as a White House advisor and has been distanced from the president since. This past summer, Bannon has suggested he supports Trump’s reelection campaign and made moves to try to get back into the president’s circles.
Federal judge rules Trump must turn over tax returns to Manhattan DA
A federal judge today rejected Donald Trump’s latest attempt to block the Manhattan district attorney’s office from getting a hold of his tax returns for investigations into the president.
Cyrus Vance, the Democratic Manhattan district attorney, has been trying to get the president’s tax returns for an investigation into whether state laws were broken when hush-money payments were given to two women during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Vance has also suggested the scope of the investigation is broader, encompassing possible bank and insurance fraud.
The case has already made it up to the Supreme Court, which rejected arguments from Trump’s lawyer in July that the president is immune from criminal investigation.
After the court’s ruling, Trump’s lawyers went back to the lower courts and argued that a subpoena from a Manhattan grand jury for the investigation was too broad and politically motivated. Judge Victor Marrero, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, said that blocking a subpoena “amounts to absolute immunity through a back door”.
Even if the Manhattan district attorney’s office gets the tax returns, it will only be made public if Trump is charged with a crime after he leaves office, per grand jury secrecy rules.
Some important context to today’s news of former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s arrest: Earlier this summer, attorney general William Barr attempted to prevent Audrey Strauss, the Southern District Court of New York’s (SDNY) interim district attorney who today arrested the president’s former ally, from heading the powerful district.
Trump fired SDNY’s former district attorney Geoffrey Berman in June 2020 after a baffling series of events where Barr released a press statement, without Berman’s knowledge, that Berman is resigning. When Berman refused to confirm his resignation from the role, Barr announced that he asked Trump to fire Berman, and the president followed through.
When asked why they sought to fire Berman, Barr and Trump pointed fingers at each other. Berman has overseen investigation and prosecution of key Trump allies like Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen. Upon his departure, Berman said that it was crucial that “important cases continue upended” in SDNY.
That Berman did not leave without publicly expressing dismay forced Barr to give up a plan to replace Berman with a chief prosecutor from New Jersey, a move that critics say was the justice department’s attempt to wrestle control of SDNY.
Instead, Audrey Strauss, who was Berman’s second-in-command, stepped up. Berman said that he was happy to leave SDNY in the hands of Strauss, saying she would continue the district’s “tradition of integrity and independence”.
It appears that US Postal Service agents were the ones to arrest Steve Bannon today. The irony is palpable.
Former key Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who was one of the main architects of the president’s campaign, joins Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn in the list of men who aided Trump during his campaign and have since been indicted over the last four years.
While Bannon was a key figure in helping Trump get elected, inspiring much of his far-right, extremist rhetoric and serving as chief executive during his presidential campaign, Bannon and Trump have had some serious rifts in the months after Trump entered the White House. Trump fired Bannon in summer 2017, supposedly after Bannon criticized Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a group of Russians during the 2016 campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”.
In a press briefing later in the year, former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump was “furious” and “disgusted by Bannon’s remarks. “Going after the president’s son in an absolutely outrageous way is probably not the best way to curry favor with anybody,” she said.
But more recently, Bannon has been reentering mainstream Republican media circles, seeming to try to court his former boss by showering him with praise.
“When people see the difference between the order of Trump and the chaos of [presumptive Democratic candidate Joe] Biden,” he said on Fox News earlier this year. “I think it’s going to be a pretty clear choice and I think Biden’s going to have a very tough time making this case to people.”
Steve Bannon is listed as “advisory board chairman” of the online fundraising campaign that has led to his arrest today in New York.
A press release from the Department of Justice says that Bannon covertly received over $1 million in donor funding, “hundreds of thousands of dollars” of which was used to cover Bannon’s “personal expenses”. Bannon and the three other men arrested “devised a scheme to route those payments” through a nonprofit controlled by Bannon and a shell company under the control of Timothy Shea, who was also arrested today.
The We Build The Wall campaign started in 2018 as a GoFundMe by Kolfage, a military veteran, who has described some people crossing the southern border without documents as terrorists and drug traffickers and accused border wall critics as being cartel collaborators. The campaign created a video posted on Youtube of construction of metal barricades to attract anti-immigrant donors to the campaign.
By spring 2019, the group had raised $22 million out of its $1 billion goal.
Last year, the campaign was seen by the Guardian building a private border wall in south Texas despite a court injunction that ordered the work to be suspended.
Steve Bannon indicted by federal prosecutors
Former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon has been arrested in New York in connection to an online fundraising scheme.
The Department of Justice’s Southern District of New York (SDNY) says that Bannon, along with three others, were arrested for leading the “We Build The Wall” online fundraising campaign that “defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors”.
In a statement, acting US attorney Audrey Strauss said that the fund capitalized on donors’ interest in building a border wall while instead funneling millions of dollars to fund the “lavish lifestyle” of “We Build The Wall” founder and public face Brian Kolfage.