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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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Second Former Aide Accuses N.Y. Governor of Sexual Harassment

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  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has been accused of sexual harassment by another former staffer, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, who first relayed the allegations to The New York Times on Saturday.
  • Bennett said Cuomo asked her multiple inappropriate questions about her sex life and told her he would be open to dating women in their 20s, which she interpreted as a request for a sexual relationship.
  • Bennett’s allegations come less than a week after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, detailed years of sexual harassment from the governor, including an alleged non-consensual kiss, all of which Cuomo denied.
  • In a series of statements over the weekend, Cuomo said he never made advances towards Bennett, apologized to anyone who interpreted his comments as “unwanted flirtation,” and agreed to refer the matter to the state attorney general’s office.

Charlotte Bennett Claims Cuomo Sexually Harassed Her 

A second former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has come forward with allegations of sexual harassment.

The news comes just days after another staffer, Lindsey Boylan, published a Medium essay accusing Cuomo of years of misconduct, including uncomfortable comments and an unwanted kiss.

In the essay, Boylan also said that Cuomo had created a culture of harassment and bullying in his administration. Allegations of hostility and a toxic work environment have also recently been echoed by numerous officials during the political fallout over the Cuomos administration’s failure to properly disclose COVID-19 related deaths in the state’s nursing home.

Now, the most recent accusations made by 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, also support the same narrative. During an interview with The New York Times on Saturday, Bennett described a series of escalating interactions in which the governor asked her multiple questions about her personal life that she “interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”

Bennett, who was hired for an entry-level position at Cuomo’s Manhattan office in 2019, said she and the governor became friendly shortly after she started. She said things started to escalate when she was moved to the Capitol office in Albany to work on the pandemic response in March.

She recounted several episodes where she said the governor asked her about her personal and romantic life in a way that made her feel uncomfortable. The most upsetting exchange she said she had was on June 5, during which Cuomo allegedly asked her a number of inappropriate questions, like whether she was monogamous in her recent relationships, if she believed age difference mattered, and if she had ever been with an older man.

Cuomo allegedly said he felt lonely during the pandemic and that he wanted a girlfriend, “preferably in the Albany area.” She claimed he also told her “age doesn’t matter” and that he was fine with dating “anyone above the age of 22.”

She said she then tried to shift the conversation, at one point telling him she was thinking about getting a tattoo, but said that Cuomo had suggested should put it on her buttocks so people would not see it when she wore a dress. 

Bennett told The Times Cuomo never was physical with her, though she believed that what he wanted from her was clear. 

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared. And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Others Back Bennett’s Account 

Notably, Bennett also shared text messages she had sent friends and family after each interaction that were verified by The Times. Additionally, both her mother and a friend who was also a Cuomo official at the time confirmed that she had told them about the details of the June 5 interaction. 

Shortly after that incident, Bennett also disclosed what happened with Cuomo to his chief of staff, who she said was very apologetic, asked if she wanted to move jobs either inside or outside the executive branch, and ultimately helped her transfer to another job in a different part of the Capitol.

Towards the end of June, Bennett met with a special counsel to the governor — a fact that was confirmed to The Times by another special counsel to the governor — but she ultimately decided just to move on and not pursue an investigation.

Cuomo Calls for Investigation

Cuomo, for his part, told The Times in a statement Saturday that he believed he had been acting as a mentor and “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”

His special counsel also said later that day that the governor had tapped a federal judge to launch an independent investigation into the allegations.

That announcement, however, sparked backlash from top lawmakers who believed there needed to be a truly independent probe, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), who called the allegations from both women “serious and credible.” 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also told reporters that President Joe Biden supported an independent review.

On Sunday, Cuomo reversed his position in a statement and said that he would refer the investigation to the New York attorney general. The governor also claimed that he “never inappropriately touched anybody” and “never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm,” but that he just liked to tease people about their personal lives.

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” he said. “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (CBS News)

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House Passes Equality Act Aimed at Preventing LGBTQ+ Discrimination

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  • The House voted Thursday to approve the Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Democrats and civil rights groups have applauded the move, saying it is necessary to protect LGBTQ+ Americans from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other public areas.
  • Republicans and conservative groups have opposed the bill, arguing it violates religious freedoms by forcing organizations that refuse to serve LGBTQ+ people to choose between operating on their beliefs.
  • The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it will need 60 votes to avoid the legislative filibuster.

House Approves Equality Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act on Thursday, a broad measure that would greatly expand protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

The legislation would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity in numerous public areas such as employment, housing, education, credit, and jury service, among other places. 

The bill also would expand the 1964 act to cover other federally funded programs and “public accommodations” like shopping malls, sports stadiums, and online retailers. 

Currently, anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people fall under the umbrella of “sex,” a relatively new development that came last June after the Supreme Court ruled that gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans were protected under the Civil Rights Act on the basis of sex.

But the existing law still has many loopholes that have allowed for discriminatory practices against the LGBTQ+ community.

A person can still be denied housing due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in 27 states, according to a statement released by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the leading sponsor of the measure. They can also be denied access to education in 31 states and the right to serve on a jury in 41.

Support and Opposition

Many Democrats, civil rights organizations, and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups have praised the House’s passage of the bill, which has been decades in the making, and which President Joe Biden had promised would be one of his top priorities during his first 100 days in office.

“Today’s vote is a major milestone for equality bringing us closer to ensuring that every person is treated equally under the law,” Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said in a statement. “Now, the ball is in the Senate’s court to pass the Equality Act and finally allow LGBTQ Americans the ability to live their lives free from discrimination.”

However, the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, which previously blocked the legislation when the House initially passed in it 2019. While the Senate was controlled by Republicans at the time, the current 50-50 split still means that at least 10 Republicans will have to join all 50 Democrats to break the 60-vote legislative filibuster.

But Republicans in Congress have largely opposed the act. Only three GOP representatives voted in favor of the measure Thursday, just half of the number who voted for its passage in 2019.

Many Republicans have echoed the claims of anti-LGBTQ+ groups, arguing that the act will infringe on religious freedoms by forcing businesses and organizations that have religious objections to serving LGBTQ+ people to decide between their beliefs or continued operation.

Others have also said the bill that would roll back protections for women who were assigned female at birth by allowing transgender women to participate in women’s sports.

Shift in Public Opinion

Still, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday he will fight for the act in his chamber and condemned Republicans who have voiced their opposition to it.

“Their attacks on trans people in the transgender community are just mean,” he said. “And show a complete lack of understanding, complete lack of empathy. They don’t represent our views and they don’t represent the views of a majority of Americans.”

Several recent polls have found that Americans broadly support legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

According to the 2020 Public Religion Research Institute American Values Survey, more than 8 in 10 people said they favor laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in public accommodations and workplaces.

A 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found the number of Americans who support these laws to be slightly lower, roughly 7 in 10. Notably, that also included 62% of Republicans, which may indicate that the actions of GOP leaders in Congress do not represent the will of their voter base.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CNN)

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Former Aide Accuses New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of Sexual Harassment

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  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was accused of sexual harassment by his former aide Lindsey Boylan in an essay she published on Medium Wednesday.
  • Boylan claimed she was subjected to inappropriate remarks and behavior from the governor for years, including an instance in 2018 where he allegedly kissed her without her consent after a meeting.
  • Boylan said Cuomo created an administration, “where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.”
  • Cuomo denied the allegations, but Boylan’s essay comes as numerous current and former top officials have recently accused the governor of engaging in intimidation and creating a hostile work environment.

Lindsey Boylan Details Allegations Against Cuomo

A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) published an essay Wednesday accusing him of sexual harassment, expanding on allegations she made in December. The aide, Lindsey Boylan, first made the accusations in a Twitter thread about women being harassed in the workplace.

“Yes, @NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years,” she wrote. “Many saw it, and watched.” 

At the time, Boylan did not provide any more details to the media, and Cuomo denied the allegations.

“I fought for and I believe a woman has the right to come forward and express her opinion and express issues and concerns that she has,” he said at a press conference after the accusations surfaced. “But it’s just not true.”

In her essay, published on Medium, Boylan accused Cuomo of subjecting her to several years of deeply uncomfortable situations, including an instance after a meeting in 2018 when he kissed her on the lips without her consent.

She claimed that Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs” and that over the years, “His inappropriate gestures became more frequent.”

These alleged actions also included one time in October 2017, where she said he sat across from her on a jet and said “Let’s play strip poker.” Boylan outlined a number of other inappropriate actions and comments she claimed the governor made. She even embedded screenshots from emails and text messages that she said supported her story. However, she said her fears got worse after the kiss in 2018, and that she “came to work nauseous every day” until she eventually resigned in September of that year.

Notably, Boyland additionally stated that Cuomo’s “pervasive harassment” extended to other women as well, and that he would make “unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues” and “ridiculed” them about their romantic relationships.

This kind of behavior, she said, was part of the culture Cuomo created in his administration, “where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.”

He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences,” she said, stating that after she first tweeted the accusation in December, two other women reached out to her but were too afraid to speak.

One allegedly told Boylan she lived in fear of what would happen if she rejected Cuomo’s advances, and the other said he had instructed her to warn people who upset him that they risk losing their jobs.

Cuomo’s Response

Cuomo’s press secretary Caitlin Girouard responded to the allegations in a statement Wednesday by reiterating the governor’s past remarks.

“As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” she told reporters.

Girouard also disputed Boylan’s story about the jet ride, sharing a statement from four current and former administration officials who were on one or more of the four flights in October 2017 that Boylan had taken with Cuomo.

“We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen,” the four officials said.

Other Allegations

Boylan is by no means alone in some of her specific accusations. Cuomo’s last few weeks have been mired in scandal after a top aide revealed his administration had withheld nursing home data on COVID-related deaths. In the aftermath of the revelations and Cuomo’s handling of it, numerous top officials have accused the governor of intimidation, bullying, and fostering a toxic workplace.

Many of those accusations surfaced after New York Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), who has been an outspoken critic of Cuomo, claimed that the governor threatened to “destroy” him on a call last week.

Cuomo said Kim was lying about the conversation, but shortly after, many current and former aides and other insiders gave The New York Times similar accounts of aggressive behavior and intimidation.

Also on Wednesday, Karen Hinton, another ex-Cuomo staffer, published an op-ed in the New York Daily News that echoed many of Boylan’s claims about a toxic work environment for women.

That claim also appeared to be supported up by three people who worked in the governor’s office at the same time as Boylan. They told The Times it was true that Cuomo would make inappropriate remarks and comment on people’s appearances. 

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

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