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Justice Department asks appeals court to end Trump emoluments case

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The Justice Department on Monday asked a federal appeals court to step in and halt a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of violating anti-corruption provisions in the U.S. Constitution after the trial judge ruled the case could proceed.

The department asked the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte’s rulings that let the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia move ahead with the lawsuit against the Republican president, including requests for tax returns and revenue statements.

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The department’s request represents an aggressive legal move because federal appellate courts like the 4th Circuit typically do not weigh in on legal disputes until there is a judgment at a lower court level. Trump’s legal team said this was a rare case in which emergency interim relief was necessary.

The two attorneys general on Dec. 4 issued subpoenas for financial records from Trump’s businesses as part of their lawsuit that said his dealings with foreign governments have violated the Constitution’s so-called emoluments provisions.

“The complaint rests on a host of novel and fundamentally flawed constitutional premises, and litigating the claims would entail intrusive discovery into the President’s personal financial affairs and the official actions of his Administration,” Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing.

Karl Racine, the District of Columbia’s attorney general, said in a statement that Trump “is going to extraordinary lengths to try to stop us from gathering information about how he is illegally profiting from the presidency.”

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Requests for such an expedited appeal rarely succeed, according to Boston College Law School professor George Brown. But Brown said the 4th Circuit might grant this request because the case implicates the president and raises novel legal questions.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2017, said Trump failed to disentangle himself from his hotels and other businesses, making him vulnerable to inducements by foreign officials seeking to curry favor. One of the Constitution’s emoluments provisions bars U.S. officials from accepting gifts or other emoluments from foreign governments without congressional approval.

Messitte, presiding over the case in Greenbelt, Maryland, has narrowed the lawsuit to claims involving Trump International Hotel in Washington and not Trump’s businesses beyond the U.S. capital.

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Messitte ruled in March that the two attorneys general had legal standing to pursue the case, and in July rejected what he called Trump’s “cramped” view that emoluments were limited essentially to outright bribes.

Those rulings allowed the case to enter the discovery phase, evidence-gathering that could force disclosure of Trump’s financial records.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham

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Here’s why politicians who BS are more dangerous than those who lie

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Bullshit seems to be the new currency in politics. Around the world, a new breed of politicians is flourishing, for whom lying and bullshitting is part of their everyday routine. This is earning them both popular appeal and widespread revulsion. But what is bullshit and why is it so effective in our time?

Bullshitting is different from lying. The American philosopher Harry Frankfurt, who attempted to build a theory of bullshit, explains this clearly. He argues that whereas the liar cares about the truth – their aim is to prevent others from learning it – the bullshitter does not care about the difference between the truth and falsity of their assertions. They just pick ideas out, or make them up, to suit their purpose.

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As Americans turn their attention to the first public hearings in the House impeachment investigation, there is another country that has been affected by the scandal that’s fueling the investigation: Ukraine.

What do the Ukrainian people think of the impeachment controversy?

The congressional investigation centers on Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy into opening a corruption investigation into presidential candidate Joe Biden.

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Why Elon Musk is infuriating astronomers

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It is a truism that commercialization often comes at a detriment to science. The internet, once an academic and intellectual space free of advertisements, has been transformed into a digital billboard; likewise, the commercialization of radio airwaves has made Earth-based radio astronomy difficult due to interference from Wi-Fi, AM/FM and TV signals. Now, as capitalists are gearing up to commercialize space, astronomers have renewed reason to be upset by an announcement by SpaceX that could make ground-based observational astronomy much more difficult, forcing astronomers to work around the zipping of satellites across the night sky.

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