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Judge Advances Trump Lawsuit to Next Level

December 6, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media, Politics

Tax March Washington, DC in front of the Trump International Hotel. Courtesy of Ted Eytan.

A federal judge in Maryland gave permission for lawyers in Maryland and Washington, DC to issue subpoenas in a lawsuit that claims President Donald Trump used his luxury hotel in DC to make money via his role as US President, violating the emoluments clause of the US Constitution.

The attorneys general in DC and Maryland say they are prepared to serve as many as 20 companies and government agencies with subpoenas this week. This is the first time in US history that a lawsuit claiming a president as violated anti-corruption clauses as reached the stage of discovery.

Another, similar lawsuit brought by Democratic legislators got past a first step in federal court in Washington, and two lawsuits filed in New York were thrown out of court. That decision is being appealed. None of these cases got to the level of discovery, yet.

State and federal government agencies and customers and competitors of the Trump International Hotel, which is right down the street from the White House, will be getting subpoenas, according to General Brian Frosh, Maryland attorney general. Even if lawyers from the Department of Justice are able to stop the case, Frosh says that will only delay the inevitable, but not derail the process.

“They have a very high burden to win on a writ of mandamus, I don’t think they can meet that standard here,” Frosh said. “They’ve done everything they possibly can to stop us from getting discovery.”

A writ of mandamus is a process that can halt the legal proceedings by claiming they are illegal or improper.

Washington DC Attorney General Karl Racine described the emoluments clauses in the Constitution as “our nation’s original anti-corruption laws.”

Political Leaders Call for Unity in Wake of Synagogue Massacre

November 1, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media

Ben Ray Luján

Responding to what is the deadliest synagogue shooting in US history, the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic congressional campaign committees decried the need for unity in the nation.

“We all bear some responsibility,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers of Ohio said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We need to clean up our act and try to bring more civility to our Congress and, frankly, to our dialogue.”

Eleven people lost their lives in a Pittsburgh house of worship when a heavily armed man entered the premises, firing off all his weapons into the unarmed crowd. In addition to the dead, several others were wounded, including four police officers who were first-responders. The shooter was apprehended after he was shot.

Strivers said that lawmakers have a responsibility to keep political dialogue civilized in the wake of this tragedy.

“Look, another senseless act of hate has stricken yet another community and a place of worship in the United States of America,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico said, also on “Meet the Press.” “The Congress has a responsibility to act to keep people safe.”

Luján and Strivers called for President Trump to lead the country to establish solidarity.

“I sometimes disagree with the way the president treats people,” Stivers said. “I thought after the pipe bombs he initially set the right tone of unity and coming together. I hope that will continue.”

In a speech made on Saturday night at a political rally in Illinois not long after Saturday morning’s shooting, President Trump called the shooting “an anti-Semitic attack at its worst.” He then called on Americans to “stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters to defeat anti-Semitism and vanquish the forces of hate.”

On Sunday Luján said,

“It’s not too much to expect leaders to bring us together, to unite our country, to find a way to reach out to us to our greater good and make sure that we rise above all of the accusations and the hate and the finger-pointing. I am certainly hopeful that we’ll see that out of the leader of the free world, and that we’ll see that out of each and every one of us individually, as well as our colleagues.”

Corker Points Finger at Saudi Prince in Khashoggi Murder

October 25, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media

Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker believes that the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was ordered from the top; namely from direct orders from the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi journalist, Global Opinions columnist for the Washington Post. Photo courtesy of POMED.

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“It is my thinking that MBS was involved in this, that he directed this and that this person was purposely murdered,” said Corker.

Corker is the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was referring to Khashoggi, whose death was denied for two weeks by the Saudi government before they admitted that indeed he died while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

The explanation the Saudi authorities are giving for the death of Khashoggi, whose body has not yet been recovered, is that a “fist fight” broke out during the journalist’s visit between Khashoggi and the men in the building, and he died accidentally as a result of the unplanned brawl.

Very few US officials, if any, are convinced of the truth of this story, including Senator Corker. President Trump has changed his mind a few times about the Saudi version of events, from saying on Friday night that he found the story credible; to Saturday in an interview with the Washington Post when he said ““Obviously, there’s been deception and there’s been lies. Their stories are all over the place.”

For over two weeks the Saudi government vigorously denied any knowledge of where Khashoggi might be, or that he was harmed in any way inside the consulate. Finally, after much international pressure, especially from Turkey, who could see from surveillance cameras that he did not walk out of the consulate alive, the Saudis relented and admitted that Khashoggi died in the building. Exactly how he died, however, is still far from clear.

SEC Forces Musk to Step Down as Tesla Chairman

October 2, 2018 by Dan Kazan in News and Media

Elon Musk in 2008. Photo Courtesy JD Lasica

As part of a deal in the wake of Elon Musk’s bizarre tweet this past August, the SEC is requiring Tesla’s CEO to step down as Chairman of the forward-thinking electric car company. The settlement will also require Musk to reign-in his Twitter account to prevent future inappropriate tweets.

The deal was struck only two days after the SEC accused Musk of misleading his investors about his plans to buy back his publicly traded company. He will be barred from re-election as Chairman for three years. An independent chairman will be appointed in his stead while Musk remains CEO.

The SEC also charged Tesla of failure to have disclosure controls in place to properly vet Musk’s tweets. Both Musk and Tesla will pay $20 million each to the SEC for the oversight.

The deal will still need to be approved by a court is more lenient that the original SEC demands, which included the total exclusion of Musk from any executive role at Tesla or any other publicly held company.

Jay Clayton, SEC chairman, defended the deal, a rare public statement from an SEC chief concerning enforcement actions.

I believe the agreement “is in the best interests of our markets and our investors, including shareholders at Tesla.”

Tesla and Musk agree to settle the allegation, but without admitting  or denying the charges.

“The total package of remedies and relief announced today are specifically designed to address the misconduct at issue by strengthening Tesla’s corporate governance and oversight in order to protect investors,” said Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division.

Musk’s August 7 tweet invoked the number 420, a thinly veiled reference to marijuana. He said he mentioned “420” because he thought his girlfriend, rapper Grimes, would find it amusing.

“According to Musk, he calculated the $420 price per share based on a 20% premium over that day’s closing share price because he thought 20% was a “standard premium” in going-private transactions. This calculation resulted in a price of $419…he rounded the price up to $420 because he had recently learned about the number’s significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend “would find it funny, which admittedly is not a great reason to pick a price,” the SEC stated in their complaint against Musk.