NEW YORK — President Donald Trump has successfully stalled Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s demand for his tax returns for more than a year thanks to a Tuesday ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The one-page order from the Appeals Court scheduled a hearing for Sept. 25. In the meantime, Vance’s demand for eight years of returns from Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars, remains on pause. Trump sued over Vance’s subpoena on Sept. 19 of last year. The three-judge panel signaled its openness to Trump’s stall tactics during a brief hearing on whether to extend the stay on Vance’s ...
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The trial of US basketball star Brittney Griner, detained in Russia since February, opened on Friday as tensions rage over Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.
"The trial has started," Polina Vdovtsova, the spokeswoman for the court in the town of Khimki outside Moscow, told reporters.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of drug smuggling.
The trial was partially closed, with a limited media presence, which Vdovtsova said was "on the request of the defence, the request of Griner herself".
The six-foot-nine star was brought into court in handcuffs. She wore a white T-shirt with US music icon Jimi Hendrix on it.
The 31-year-old came to Russia in February to play there during the US off-season, and was detained at a Moscow airport after she was found carrying vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner was detained days before Russian President Vladimir Putin defied US warnings and sent troops into Ukraine, prompting Western powers to impose sweeping sanctions on Moscow.
US authorities initially kept a low profile on the case, which was not made known to the general public until March 5.
But against the backdrop of sinking relations, Washington now says that Russia "wrongfully detained" the basketball star and put its special envoy in charge of hostages on the case.
The WNBA has also said it is working to bring Griner home.
She was due to play club basketball in Russia before the resumption of the US season, a common practice for American stars seeking additional income.
Russian law is strict in such cases and other foreigners have recently been handed heavy sentences on drug-related charges.
Last month a Moscow court sentenced a former US diplomat, Marc Fogel, to 14 years in prison for "large-scale" cannabis smuggling.
Russia and the United States regularly clash over the detention of each other's citizens and sometimes exchange them in scenes reminiscent of the Cold War.
In April, former US Marine Trevor Reed, serving a nine-year sentence in Russia for violence, was exchanged for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, imprisoned in the US since 2010 for drug trafficking.
Other exchanges of this type could be the subject of possible talks, observers say.
Among the names most mentioned is that of Paul Whelan, an American sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage, and the Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, nicknamed "The Merchant of Death", who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US.
In January 2020, Putin pardoned a young Israeli-American woman, Naama Issachar, imprisoned in Russia for "drug trafficking" after then-Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu met with him in Moscow, and brought her home.
She was stopped in April 209 during a transit at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport while flying between India and Israel via the Russian capital.
Authorities said they found nine grams of cannabis in her luggage.
GOP 'privately praying' the Jan. 6 committee puts an end to Donald Trump: former Republican lawmaker
During an appearance on CNN's "New Day" with hosts John Berman and Brianna Keilar, former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) stated that the Republican Party leadership is "privately praying" that the Jan 6th Committee's investigation of the Capitol insurrection will end Donald Trump's political future.
Discussing the House Select Committee testimony given by Cassidy Hutchinson, the former senior aide to ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Walsh said the revelations so far are giving GOP lawmakers hope that they can finally put the former president in their rearview mirrors.
Pressed by host Berman "...does it make Trump's path to the nomination more tenuous, what we've heard from the January 6th committee?" Walsh replied, "Maybe, John, maybe, but I think really important to say at the outset that, you know, [Pennsylvania Republican Se. Pat] Toomey and Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy and all of these Republicans privately are praying that this committee and these hearings will do what they haven't had the courage to do for the last four or five or six years and that's remove Donald Trump from the public scene."
"Look, John and Brianna, I talk to Republican base voters every single day," he continued. "They are the ones who are going to decide if Trump is the nominee, not Mitch McConnell or Pat Toomey. And I will admit that there is -- Trump is losing some support among his base based on what I'm hearing because of these hearings, but it's not because they disapprove of Trump's behavior, they just think this is going to make it more difficult for Trump to win in '24."
Asked by host Keillar about Republicans keeping their distaste for the former president to themselves, Walsh snapped, "Brianna, I have to watch my language and, John, I can't say what I really want to say. But I am so damn sick of Republicans talking privately or anonymously. None of that stuff matters. I mean, look at 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson, look at what she's done this week."
"I mean, five years ago I came out and publicly called out Trump and if I had a dollar for every damn Republican over the last five years who privately told me, 'oh, joe, I agree with what you're saying publicly about trump,' I would be wealthy."
Watch the video below or at this link.
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When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, the court's conservative supermajority performed a nifty sleight-of-hand, as if dressed in magician's capes rather than judicial robes.
The six conservatives suggested that the court wasn't scrapping a half-century of settled law, but empowering the people to solve the contentious issue of abortion rights themselves, via the political process.
"It's time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the majority opinion. The ruling, Alito continued, "allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting and running for office."
In a functioning democracy, in which majorities rule and the punishment for running afoul of the people's will is losing an election, reproductive rights would be safe nearly nationwide.
We do not have a functioning democracy. The court isn't returning abortion rights to the political process to be determined by majority rule. It's sending the issue back to state legislatures so gerrymandered that they can scarcely claim to reflect the will of the people at all. It's handing the issue to "elected representatives," yes, but elected from districts drawn by these very lawmakers so that they cannot lose.
It's a broken system and a rigged game, severed from electoral accountability and run by lawmakers increasingly insulated from the people. Alito and his colleagues fully understand this; their decisions to bless extreme partisan gerrymandering and bleed the Voting Rights Act have helped create this era of worsening minority rule.
This is democracy cosplay, performed by robed ideologues. After all, public opinion has remained remarkably consistent for the past 20 years: Before the Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs, almost twice as many Americans wanted to see Roe upheld as wanted to see it overturned. And after the high court's decision, that number jumped even higher.
We have a broken system and a rigged game — democracy cosplay, severed from electoral accountability and run by lawmakers increasingly insulated from the public.
Yet even in states where majorities support abortion rights — including Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio, Virginia and Arizona — lawmakers hurried to enact immediate, bold restrictions or enforce bans already on the books. This rushed activity followed additional abortion restrictions passed recently in Texas, Alabama and Georgia, despite opposition by majorities in those red states.
In Ohio, for example, a ban on abortions six weeks into pregnancy — a so-called heartbeat law — went into effect after the court overturned Roe. This law was passed by Ohio lawmakers in 2019 even though it was opposed by 52 percent of voters, and supported by just 39 percent.
Ohio enacted that ban just months after the 2018 elections, in which Democrats and Republicans equally divided the statewide vote for the state legislature. Nevertheless, Republicans had gerrymandered themselves such a massive advantage that they won nearly two-thirds of the seats. Gerrymandering built a firewall between runaway lawmakers and accountability at the ballot box. Only six of those 99 seats in the Ohio House could even be considered competitive, meaning there's effectively no way for a majority of voters to change their government.
Gerrymandering enables these laws — and then makes it all but impossible to vote the scoundrels out. So it should come as little surprise that GOP leaders have so little fear of the voters that they have already promised additional abortion restrictions this fall.
Even in closely divided states like Georgia and Florida, uncompetitive state legislative districts empower extreme lawmakers far out of the political mainstream. In Florida, those lawmakers passed a new package of abortion restrictions early this year, even though voters opposed them by a margin of nearly two-to-one. Gerrymandering helps Republicans hold 65 percent of seats in the state House, even though Gov. Ron DeSantis only won the state in 2018 by 33,000 votes. In 2020, when Donald Trump won 51 percent of the vote here, just six of 120 districts were competitive enough to be within 5 percentage points.
But that's also the case in officially red states like Texas and Oklahoma. The draconian Texas restrictions effectively turn citizens into bounty hunters, empowered to file lawsuits against anyone they think may have helped someone else obtain an abortion. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed that 57 percent of Texans opposed this legislation; lawmakers passed it anyway. Oklahoma — where a Pew Center poll found 51 percent of citizens believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases — passed a similar bill, the public be damned.
Citizens can vote harder, lobby their elected representatives, run for office themselves, or do any of the other civic-minded activities Alito encouraged in his opinion. But none of that really matters when the outcomes are preordained.
Minority rule has a tight grip on American democracy, and it has only just begun to squeeze in earnest. The Supreme Court's conservative majority, of course, was itself appointed by two presidents who lost the national popular vote, and then confirmed by a U.S. Senate that does not reflect the public will and hands extra power to smaller, whiter and more conservative states.
Now, one by one, this court is handing down decisions most Americans revile, and suggesting that the answer lies in a political process that this conservative wrecking crew has been systematically kneecapping for the last decade.
It could get worse. On Friday, the court declared that it would hear arguments in a case from North Carolina that could hand gerrymandered state legislatures complete control over election law and procedures, from redistricting to the approval of presidential electors, without no veto by governors or review by state supreme courts. This terrifying notion is called the Independent State Legislature doctrine, and it seems likely that as many as four justices already support it. This is America as we head into so-called Independence Day: A nation where you can vote as hard as you want, but it might not make any difference.