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SCOTUS Shuts Down Trump Bid To Keep Tax Returns From New York Prosecutor

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  • The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to Donald Trump Monday, rejecting the former president’s attempts to block a New York prosecutor from receiving eight years of his tax returns as part of a grand jury investigation into potential fraud.
  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. requested the documents in 2019. Trump’s legal team sued to stop the release, arguing that the then-president was immune from all criminal prosecution while in office.
  • The Supreme Court shot down the case in July but allowed Trump’s legal team to make other arguments against the subpoena in an appeals court, which later struck down their claim that the subpoena is too broad and politically motivated. 
  • Now that the highest court has upheld that ruling, the grand jury will receive the financial records soon. Due to secrecy rules, it is unclear if Trump’s tax returns will ever be made public.

SCOTUS Rules Against Trump in Tax Return Battle

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected former President Donald Trump’s efforts to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from obtaining eight years of tax returns and other financial records.

This decision marks a stunning blow for Trump, who has fought bitterly for years to keep his tax records private from both the public and prosecutors, despite promising during his 2016 campaign that he would make them public.

Notably, the documents will be subject to grand jury secrecy rules, meaning it is unclear when, if ever, they will be open to the general public. Regardless, the ruling is still significant because it will seriously advance the grand jury investigation, which has been described by many as one of the most serious legal threats Trump currently faces post-presidency.

Vance first sought Trump’s tax returns in 2019, when he subpoenaed the former president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, as part of a criminal probe. The scope is not entirely clear, but it does involve, at least in part, an inquiry into alleged hush-money payments Trump made to two women ahead of the 2016 election.

Vance has said there are other elements of his investigation that have not been made public. According to reports, court filings by the prosecutors indicate they are looking into potential tax and insurance fraud.

Long-Fought Legal Dispute Ends

Trump denied the hush money claims, calling the probe a “witch hunt,” and moving to block the subpoena by arguing that he had total immunity from criminal prosecution as president.

The Supreme Court rejected that argument in 7-2 opinion in July but also sent the case back down to the lower courts so Trump’s lawyers could challenge the subpoena on other grounds. Trump’s lawyers then claimed the subpoena was too broad and amounted to political harassment.

An appeals court rejected that argument in October, sending the case back to the Supreme Court for a second time, where it was ultimately struck down again Monday with no explanation from the justices or any publicly noted dissent.

The decision is expected to drastically change the long-fought dispute, which Vance has said has largely held up the legal process on his end. Mazars has said it will comply with the final ruling of the courts, meaning Vance and the grand jury should be getting the documents shortly.

Trump’s representatives and legal team have not responded for comment. Vance, for his part, simply tweeted Monday morning, “The work continues.” 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)

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Buckingham Palace Asked That a Photoshopped Image of the Queen Be Removed From a Pro-Trump Bus

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  • Buckingham Palace told BuzzFeed News it had requested that an unofficial “Trump Train” bus remove a photoshopped image it features of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and QAnon broach.
  • The owner of the bus, Buddy Hall, told BuzzFeed that he had not heard from the palace but had recently removed the Queen’s image as part of a pre-existing redesign plan. 
  • While the Queen’s image had appeared on the bus for a year, the Palace only became aware of it after the vehicle recently attended a Florida rally with Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are staunch Trump allies.

Buckingham Palace Asks for Removal of Queens Image on Trump Bus

Buckingham Palace has requested that a photoshopped image of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and QAnon broach be removed from an unofficial “Trump Train” bus, according to Buzzfeed News.

The bus was created to support the 2020 re-election of Donald Trump, according to its GoFundMe page, which amassed 16 donors. It has over 6,000 followers on Facebook. The bus now travels the country supporting a 2024 Trump presidential campaign. 

BuzzFeed reported that the Queen’s image had been on the bus for over a year, but the Palace only became aware after it recently attended a rally in Florida held by Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are staunch Trump allies.

A Palace spokesperson told the outlet that “representations asking for [the photo’s] removal have been made.”

The Palace gave no further comment, but one of the staple duties of the Royal Family is to remain politically neutral. 

The photo being used of the Royal Family’s matriarch was taken in 2011. In it, she is wearing a red outfit and one of her signature boater hats, which had the “MAGA” slogan doctored over it. She appears next to a “Women for Trump” sign and above a slogan that reads “Keep on Trumpin.”

The Queen is one of many photoshopped faces that appear on the bus, including an image of Trump’s head attached to the body of “Rocky” protagonist Rocky Balboa and an image of former president Ronald Reagan in a “MAGA” baseball cap. The Mississippi license plate for the bus reads “TRUMP 45.”

Image Taken Down as Part of Pre-Existing Redesign Plans. 

The owner of the bus, Buddy Hall, announced on May 1 that he would be taking the wrap off the Trump Train in order to remove the likeness of “TRAITOR PENCE.” He said he plans to replace him with Florida Governor Ron Desantis, conservative commentator Candace Owens, the former president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Laura, as well as former security advisor Michael Flynn, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

Hall told BuzzFeed News that while he had not heard from the Palace, the Queen’s image was already removed in the redesign process, which was always part of his plan. In a video posted Tuesday to the Trump Train’s Facebook page, her image still appeared on the bus, but the person recording the video claimed the wrap featuring her would be taken down on Thursday. A new photo of the bus has not yet been shared. 

The person recording the video also said that this year alone, $30,000 has been spent on upkeep of the bus. 

Buckingham Palace is reportedly not the only entity concerned with its image appearing on the bus. The website hosting service GoDaddy.com told HuffPost that it also asked to no longer appear on the Trump Train. 

“GoDaddy doesn’t sponsor the bus and we don’t have any advertising relationships with the bus/owner whatsoever,” a spokesperson told HuffPost. “They don’t have permission to use our brand on the bus and we’ve asked them to remove.”

There is no word as to whether or not the GoDaddy.com logo will be on the new redesign of the bus. 

BuzzFeed News reached out to representatives for Gaetz and Greene regarding the bus using the Queen’s image. Both thought there was nothing wrong with the situation. 

A spokesperson for Gaetz said, “We’re sure Her Majesty has greater concerns.” 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Gaetz told the outlet, “You do know what a meme is right? Isn’t that what Buzzfeed is all about?”

See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (HuffPost) (The Independent)

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Liz Cheney Ousted From GOP Leadership Role for Calling Out Trump’s Election Lies

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  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) was ousted from her leadership post by Republicans on Wednesday due to her repeated criticism of former President Trump and his continued efforts to spread false information about the 2020 election.
  • The congresswoman remained defiant in remarks Tuesday night, where she argued Trump was “a threat America has never seen before” who “risks inciting further violence.” 
  • While many Republicans cheered Cheney’s removal as a key step to unify the party, others condemned the decision and accused GOP leadership of “canceling” her for speaking the truth.
  • The move represents perhaps the strongest indication since the Jan. 6 insurrection that the Republican Party will continue to embrace Trump and punish dissenters.

House GOP Removes Cheney From Top Spot

The House GOP voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), the number 3 Republican, from her leadership position Wednesday over her refusal to stay silent about former President Donald Trump’s false election claims.

The remarkable removal comes just four months after the former president incited an insurrection, causing major splits in the GOP.

The latest move is arguably the strongest signal that Republicans have decided their party line is unwavering loyalty to Trump, and that they believe his support is needed to win back the House in 2022.

This is not the first time that Republicans tried to oust Cheney from leadership. Earlier this year, Trump loyalists in the chamber held a vote to remove her after she voted to impeach the president for his role in the insurrection.

That attempt failed, largely because Cheney received backing from Republican leadership. This time, however, she did not have the support of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), who began mobilizing to remove the congresswoman last week after she tweeted that the 2020 election “was not stolen.”

“Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system,” she added. 

While Cheney has reiterated this stance many times since January, her latest comment seemed to be the final straw, and on Monday, McCarthy officially announced he was holding a vote on her position in a letter to his conference.

In the letter, which was full of contradictions, McCarthy claimed that the GOP was a “big tent party” of “free thought and debate,” while simultaneously calling for the removal of a leader who broke with Trump, and painting the vote as a necessary step to unify the party.

A majority of the party backed that decision Wednesday morning when McCarthy held a voice vote, making it so that the public will never know exactly how many people voted to remove the congresswoman.

Cheney’s Speech

Cheney, for her part, held firm to her beliefs in a defiant speech Tuesday ahead of the anticipated vote, where she continued to condemn Trump’s lies and accused her fellow Republicans of being complicit in undermining Democracy.

“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this capital in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him,” she said. 

“He risks inciting further violence. Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president, they have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.” 

“This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans,” she continued later.  “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

Response

Cheney’s parting speech drew boos from some of her colleagues, many of whom cheered her ouster Wednesday.

“Liz Cheney is the GOP of the past,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) tweeted. “We are not going back.”

Trump himself also issued a series of statements calling Cheney a “bitter, horrible human being,” and claiming that Republicans “have a great opportunity today to rid themselves of a poor leader, a major Democrat talking point, a warmonger, and a person with absolutely no personality or heart!”

However, many House Republicans condemned the move.

“i predict that the history books of the future will not celebrate,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.) wrote in a thread “They will say this was the low point of the Republican Party.” 

“Liz Cheney was canceled for speaking her mind,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-N.Y.) told reporters.

Next Steps

There has been a similarly mixed reception to Cheney’s anticipated replacement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who McCarthy has tapped to fill the position.

Stefanik took office as a moderate cheered for openly defying and condemning Trump. Her role in Congress changed drastically in the fall of 2019, when she became one of the most vocal opponents of his first impeachment, prompting him to tweet, “A new Republican Star is born.” 

After that, she booked more TV appearances, campaign donations, and general fame. Her support for the former president grew and she doubled down, spreading his false election claims in 2020.

If she is elected to leadership, as is expected, the top three House Republican leadership positions will all be held by people who voted to not certify President Joe Biden’s win.

Cheney, for her part, has made it clear she does not intend to go anywhere. After Wednesday’s vote, the congresswoman told reporters that she will do “everything” she can “to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”

“The nation needs a party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that,” she added.

According to The Washington Post, sources have said that Cheney already spent the last week planning for increased travel and media appearances to promote her case and rally other Republicans behind her.

She likely will not be alone in her endeavors: on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that more than 100 current and former anti-Trump Republicans are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to split from the GOP and create a third party if changes are not made.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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Biden Says Americans Will Lose Unemployment Benefits if They Turn Down “Suitable” Jobs

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  • President Biden said Monday that out-of-work Americans will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if they turn down a “suitable” job offer.
  • The announcement follows a stark jobs report from the Labor Department, which found that just over 260,000 jobs were added in April when nearly 1 million had been projected.
  • Republican lawmakers blamed the additional $300 a week in joblessness benefits provided by the federal government, and several Republican-led states have opted out of the programs, arguing that doing so will encourage people to go back to work.
  • Biden rejected those arguments, noting that numerous studies disprove that claim. Instead, he said American corporations should do more to entice people to work, such as providing pay raises and COVID safety precautions.

Biden Addresses Benefits as Job Creation Falters

President Joe Biden on Monday ordered the Labor Department to ensure that Americans will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if they do not accept a “suitable” job when offered.

In remarks at the White House, Biden also said he would direct the agency to work jointly with states to reimpose the requirement that people collecting joblessness benefits must show they are actively looking for work.

The comments come just days after the latest jobs report showed far fewer positions created than expected. The Labor Department reported that just 266,000 jobs were added last month, even though economists had predicted it would be about 1 million.

While broad swaths of the U.S. economy are opening up as more Americans get vaccinated, some employers have reported that they are having a hard time finding workers.

Republicans have largely argued that this is because of the additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits Americans are collecting from the last stimulus package.

The Unemployment Debate

In his address, however, Biden hit back on that claim. He said the White House does not “see much evidence” that benefits have deterred people from taking jobs — a fact that is supported by numerous studies on pandemic unemployment benefits. He also argued that corporate America has to do more to encourage people to come back to work.

The president placed responsibility on employers, especially those who have accepted federal relief, to raise their pay, protect their workers from the virus, and help them gain access to vaccinations so out-of-work Americans feel safe going back.

“My expectation is that as the economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments, and if they do, they’ll find plenty of workers,” he said. “And we’re all going to come out of this together and better than before.”

Some companies have already started to take similar steps, like Chipotle, which announced Monday that it was raising its average wage to $15 an hour to address the labor shortage. However, many big companies will simply wait it out.

Those businesses may not have to wait long because a growing number of Republican-led states have been rejecting the increased federal unemployment money. On Monday, the governors of Alabama and Mississippi joined Montana, South Carolina, and Arkansas and announced their states would be leaving the programs by mid-June. More states are likely to do the same. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CBS News) (CNBC)

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