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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 127)

Donald McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules; Administration Will Appeal

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-mcgahn-facebookJumbo Donald McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules; Administration Will Appeal United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry subpoenas Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Mueller, Robert S III McGahn, Donald F II Justice Department impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Executive Privilege, Doctrine of Decisions and Verdicts Burck, William A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify before House impeachment investigators about President Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry, a judge ruled on Monday, saying that senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas and calling the administration’s arguments to the contrary “fiction.”

The 120-page decision by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed another lower-court victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome Mr. Trump’s stonewalling.

“Presidents are not kings,” wrote Judge Jackson, adding that current and former White House officials owe their allegiance to the Constitution. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

The Justice Department, which is representing Mr. McGahn in the lawsuit, will appeal, a spokeswoman said. Still, the ruling by Judge Jackson, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, could have broader consequences for the investigation into Ukraine affair.

In rejecting the Trump administration’s sweeping claim that top presidential advisers, as Mr. McGahn was, are absolutely immune from being compelled to talk about their official duties — meaning they do not even have to show up — the judge said the same is true even for those who worked on national security issues.

Notably, John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, has let it be known that he has significant information about the Ukraine affair at the heart of the impeachment inquiry but is uncertain whether any congressional subpoena for his testimony would be constitutionally valid. He wants a judge to decide.

Judge Jackson’s ruling also came on the same day that another federal judge in Washington held out the possibility that more documents about the Ukraine affair could yet see the light of day, ruling that emails between the White House and the Pentagon about the freezing of military aid to Ukraine should be released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

But even as those rulings suggested that more potential evidence for impeachment investigators might become available as the cases play out, House Democrats said the Intelligence Committee would deliver a report soon after Thanksgiving making the case for impeaching Mr. Trump, moving forward rather than waiting for the inevitable appeals to drag on.

Democrats are compiling a list of “noncompliance with lawful subpoenas” as part of the report so the Judiciary Committee can consider drafting an article of impeachment charging Mr. Trump with obstructing Congress, the intelligence panel’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, wrote in a letter to colleagues on Monday.

Indeed on Monday, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked an appeals court ruling in another case that required Mr. Trump’s accounting firm to turn over financial records to another House committee while justices decide whether to take the case. If they do choose to hear arguments, the justices might not issue a final ruling on the matter until late June.

Several potential witnesses to what Mr. Trump said and did to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that could benefit him politically — like Mr. Bolton and Mr. Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney — have declined to testify because the administration instructed them not to, claiming that current or former senior officials are constitutionally immune.

Mr. Bolton, who met alone with Mr. Trump about why he was freezing a military aid package to Ukraine in August, has threatened to sue if Democrats try to compel him to testify, seeking a court ruling about whether such a subpoena is legally valid.

A lawyer for Mr. Bolton, Charles J. Cooper, has previously argued that Mr. Bolton’s situation is different from Mr. McGahn’s because Mr. Bolton’s official duties centered on foreign affairs and national security matters. But Mr. Bolton’s intentions and desires are unclear.

Mr. Bolton has become an enigmatic figure in the impeachment drama. According to other testimony, he strongly opposed the Ukraine pressure campaign and told aides to report what was going on to White House lawyers. He left the White House under rancorous circumstances in September and has since criticized Mr. Trump’s foreign policy.

But it remains unclear what he would tell impeachment investigators if he were to appear, and House Democrats are nervous that he is such a wild card he could just as easily hurt their case as help it. He accused the White House last week of not giving him back his Twitter account when he left, then teasingly asked if it was “out of fear of what I may say?”

In her ruling, Judge Jackson appeared to respond to Mr. Cooper’s notion. She wrote that the law required not just Mr. McGahn, but also “other current and former senior-level White House officials” who receive a subpoena to appear — and that it made no difference if they worked on domestic or national security matters.

Still, she emphasized, her ruling is only about whether Mr. McGahn must show up to be asked questions. It leaves unanswered whether the questions that lawmakers want to ask him — primarily about conversations with Mr. Trump detailed in the Mueller report — are subject to executive privilege, suggesting that even if Congress ultimately wins a Supreme Court ruling forcing Mr. McGahn to show up, the litigation process might have to start all over again.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Mr. McGahn in May after the release of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. It showed that Mr. McGahn was a key witness to several of the most serious episodes in which Mr. Trump sought to obstruct the Russia investigation.

But Mr. Trump, who had openly vowed to stonewall “all” oversight subpoenas after Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterm election, instructed Mr. McGahn not to cooperate.

In August, the House Judiciary Committee sued Mr. McGahn, seeking a judicial order that he comply with the subpoena. That same day, the panel also asked a judge for an order permitting it to see secret grand jury evidence gathered by Mr. Mueller, which Attorney General William P. Barr declined to provide to Congress. (Another federal judge ruled for Congress in the grand jury case a month ago, but the administration has appealed.)

The court filings said the House needed the information not just for oversight purposes, but also for an impeachment inquiry. While the impeachment focus has since shifted to the Ukraine affair that burst into public view in September, House Democrats are still considering an article of impeachment that would accuse Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice.

A question pervading both disputes is whether the Constitution permits Congress to subpoena aides to a president like Mr. McGahn and, potentially, Mr. Bolton, to talk about their official duties — or whether the president’s secrecy powers make his aides absolutely immune from such subpoenas.

Administrations of both parties have taken the position that “Congress may not constitutionally compel the president’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties,” as a 15-page legal opinion from Steven A. Engel, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, put it. But there is no definitive court precedent on the issue.

In 2008, another Federal District Court judge, John D. Bates, rejected that theory in a subpoena dispute. He ruled that President George W. Bush’s former White House counsel Harriet Miers had no right to skip a hearing for which she had been subpoenaed. Judge Bates, a Bush appointee, said she had to show up — although she might still refuse to answer specific questions based on a claim of executive privilege.

But because the Miers dispute was then resolved before an appeals court weighed in, Judge Bates’s opinion does not count as a controlling precedent for other disputes raising the same issue. That left the Obama administration, in a 2014 memo, free to take the position that Judge Bates had been wrong, and the Trump legal team echoed that logic.

In declaring that absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas for senior-level presidential aides “simply does not exist,” Judge Jackson spoke scornfully of the memos by the Office of Legal Counsel, sometimes called O.L.C., saying otherwise.

“Absolute testimonial immunity for senior-level White House aides appears to be a fiction that has been fastidiously maintained over time through the force of sheer repetition in O.L.C. opinions, and through accommodations that have permitted its proponents to avoid having the proposition tested in the crucible of litigation,” she wrote.

Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Disclosure of Trump’s Financial Records

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-scotus-facebookJumbo Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Disclosure of Trump’s Financial Records United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump Tax Returns Supreme Court (US) Mazars USA House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked an appeals court ruling that required President Trump’s accounting firm to turn over financial records to a House committee.

The court’s brief order gave no reasons, and there were no noted dissents.

The court’s stay was in one sense routine, maintaining the status quo while the court decides whether to hear Mr. Trump’s appeal in the case. But it also suggested, given that it takes five votes to grant a stay, that the court viewed the legal questions presented by the case as substantial enough to warrant further consideration.

The court set a speedy briefing schedule, requiring Mr. Trump to file his petition seeking review by Dec. 5. The court could announce whether it will hear the case in the coming weeks and, if it does, issue a decision by June.

A Supreme Court ruling in the case could yield a major decision on the balance of power between Congress and the executive branch and on the role of the court in enforcing the separation of powers.

The justices are likely to consider the case alongside a similar one concerning a subpoena from Manhattan prosecutors to Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, seeking eight years of business and personal tax returns. That case is further along at the Supreme Court, as Mr. Trump has already filed a petition seeking review and the prosecutors have filed a brief urging the court to deny review.

In both cases, Mr. Trump sued to stop Mazars from complying with subpoenas for his financial records. Federal appeals courts ruled against Mr. Trump in both cases.

Monday’s stay order concerned a subpoena that the House Oversight and Reform Committee issued in April after it learned that Mr. Trump’s ethics disclosure forms did not list a debt for hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 election. Mr. Trump and his company reimbursed the president’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, for payments to the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The president has denied the relationship.

Mr. Cohen also told the committee that Mr. Trump had inflated and deflated descriptions of his assets on financial statements to obtain loans and reduce his taxes.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that the subpoena was improper because the committee lacked a legitimate legislative purpose for seeking the information. A divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that argument.

In the Supreme Court, lawyers for the committee argued that its investigation was driven by its legislative and oversight responsibilities. They added that the “rapidly advancing impeachment inquiry also makes it particularly important that Congress not be deprived of the information sought by the subpoena.”

On Nov. 18, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. entered a temporary “administrative stay” in the case. The new stay order was issued by the full court.

The case from New York concerns a subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, for eight years of Mr. Trump’s personal and business tax returns in connection with the hush-money payments.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, ruled this month against Mr. Trump. The court, in a focused ruling, said state prosecutors may require third parties to turn over a sitting president’s financial records for use in a grand jury investigation.

The New York case involves more ambitious legal arguments. Mr. Trump’s lawyers, in a petition seeking review of the Second Circuit’s decision, said he was immune from criminal investigation while he remained in office.

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Intelligence Panel to Release Impeachment Report Soon After Thanksgiving

WASHINGTON — Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee plan to deliver a report soon after Thanksgiving making the case for impeaching President Trump, the chairman said on Monday, moving quickly to escalate what he called “urgent” evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the Intelligence Committee chairman, wrote in a letter to colleagues that after two months of inquiry amid consistent stonewalling by Mr. Trump, his panel has uncovered “massive amounts of evidence” pointing to misconduct and “corrupt intent” by the president.

The evidence will be detailed in a report being drafted for public release and transmittal to the House Judiciary Committee shortly after lawmakers return from their holiday break, Mr. Schiff wrote. The Judiciary panel is expected to promptly draft and debate articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump based on its findings.

“The president has accepted or enlisted foreign nations to interfere in our upcoming elections, including the next one; this is an urgent matter that cannot wait if we are to protect the nation’s security and the integrity of our elections,” Mr. Schiff wrote.

His committee has collected dozens of hours of testimony supporting the underlying allegation at the center of the impeachment inquiry: that the president used the powers of his office to pressure Ukraine to discredit his political rivals — by pressuring its leader to announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unsupported theory that Democrats conspired with Ukraine to interfere in the 2016 election.

Westlake Legal Group impeachment-investigation-tracker-promo-1570214529724-articleLarge-v4 Intelligence Panel to Release Impeachment Report Soon After Thanksgiving Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Schiff, Adam B House Committee on the Judiciary House Committee on Intelligence

Testimony and Evidence Collected in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry

The status of the documents and witness testimony being collected by congressional investigators.

“As the evidence conclusively shows, President Trump conditioned official acts — a White House meeting desperately desired by the new Ukrainian president and critical U.S. military assistance — on Ukraine announcing sham, politically motivated investigations that would help President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign,” Mr. Schiff said, encapsulating what is likely to be the core of Democrats’ report.

Mr. Schiff did not put a precise date on the delivery of his report to the Judiciary Committee, but the rough timeline he outlined would put Democrats on track to vote on impeachment articles by the end of the year, barring unexpected complications or a collapse in support within their caucus. If they are successful, a trial to determine whether Mr. Trump will be acquitted or removed from office would follow in the Senate.

At this point, Democrats expect to get little to no Republican support. The president’s allies have united firmly behind him to argue either that the facts laid out by senior diplomats and administration officials are incorrect, or that they simply do not merit impeachment.

The Judiciary Committee is expected in the coming days to announce public impeachment hearings to take place next week to hear the evidence on Ukraine and to begin to draft and debate impeachment articles, which are roughly analogous to charges in a courtroom trial. They could also convene sessions with expert witnesses to define impeachable offenses and offer Mr. Trump and his legal team a chance to present a defense or exculpatory evidence.

Mr. Schiff said that his committee would continue investigative work as it drafts its written report, and he said he could not rule out additional witness depositions or public hearings. The committee already conducted 17 private witness interviews and questioned a dozen of those witnesses in public in nationally televised hearings over the last two weeks.

“Even as we draft our report, we are open to the possibility that further evidence will come to light, whether in the form of witnesses who provide testimony or documents that become available,” Mr. Schiff said.

He also indicated that the Intelligence Committee was compiling a “catalog the instances of noncompliance with lawful subpoenas” as a part of its report so the Judiciary Committee could consider drafting an article of impeachment charging the president with obstructing Congress. Mr. Schiff noted in his letter that the Judiciary Committee approved an article along those lines in 1974 as it recommended the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon.

Republicans are said to be drafting their own dissenting views to accompany the report.

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President Trump Signs Federal Animal Cruelty Bill Into Law

Westlake Legal Group 25xp-cruelty-facebookJumbo President Trump Signs Federal Animal Cruelty Bill Into Law United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Law and Legislation Animals Animal Abuse, Rights and Welfare

In a rare display of political unity, President Trump on Monday signed a bipartisan bill that, for the first time, makes acts of animal cruelty a federal crime punishable with fines and up to seven years in prison.

The bill, called the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, was introduced in the House this year by two Florida lawmakers — Representative Vern Buchanan, a Republican, and Representative Ted Deutch, a Democrat. It expands a 2010 law signed by President Barack Obama that banned videos that show animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or subjected to other forms of torture.

Now, intentional acts of cruelty shown in the videos are also felony offenses.

“This is a very important bill and it’s an honor to be involved with it,” Mr. Trump said at a signing ceremony on Monday. “I’m glad we got it done.”

The bill was passed unanimously by a voice vote in the House in October. It was passed unanimously by the Senate in November.

Mr. Buchanan said that signing the bill “into law is a significant milestone for pet owners and animal lovers across the country.”

Federal law already bans sponsoring animal fights.

Laws in all 50 states already include felony provisions for animal cruelty. But the federal bill would help prosecutors address cases of abused animals that cross state lines, animal rights groups have said. It could also funnel more resources toward investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty cases.

The additional step of making acts of cruelty a crime “makes a statement about American values,” said Kitty Block, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.

“The approval of this measure by the Congress and the president marks a new era in the codification of kindness to animals within federal law,” she said. “For decades, a national anti-cruelty law was a dream for animal protectionists. Today, it is a reality.”

Chris Schindler, vice president of field services at the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement on Monday that the law would be particularly important in the District of Columbia, where cruelty cases often involve multiple jurisdictions and, on occasion, federal property.

“Our officers investigate thousands of animal cruelty cases each year, but have been unable to truly bring justice for the animals in instances when the cruelty occurs across multiple jurisdictions,” he said. “The PACT Act is a necessary tool for us to provide further protections for animals and our community, and will ensure some of the most horrific acts of animal cruelty are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The bill would not apply to people who slaughter animals for food or to those who hunt, trap and fish.

Federal action addressing animal cruelty stretches back to the late 1990s, after the Humane Society of the United States began investigating “crush videos,” in which animals are tortured or killed, often under a woman’s foot, in the service of a sexual fetish.

The federal government enacted a law in 1999 that made the production and sale of such videos a federal crime. But in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds after some argued it was overly broad.

A replacement bill was passed and signed by Mr. Obama in 2010.

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Ex-White House Counsel McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-mcgahn-facebookJumbo Ex-White House Counsel McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry subpoenas Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Mueller, Robert S III McGahn, Donald F II Justice Department impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Executive Privilege, Doctrine of Decisions and Verdicts Burck, William A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify before impeachment investigators about Mr. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation, a judge ruled on Monday.

The 120-page decision by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed a victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome President Trump’s stonewalling.

Judge Jackson rejected the Trump administration’s sweeping claim that top presidential advisers are absolutely immune from being compelled to talk about their official duties — meaning they do not even have to show up in response to a subpoena.

Citing Congress’s constitutional power to investigate suspected abuses of power within the government, Judge Jackson wrote that the Trump administration’s “claim to unreviewable absolute testimonial immunity on separation-of-powers grounds — essentially, that the Constitution’s scheme countenances unassailable executive branch authority — is baseless, and as such, cannot be sustained.”

Still, Mr. McGahn is unlikely to appear any time soon because it is virtually certain that the Justice Department will file an appeal and seek a stay of the judge’s ruling. He and his lawyer, William A. Burck, have taken the position that the fight is between Congress and the Trump administration, permitting administration lawyers to handle the case.

“Don McGahn will comply with Judge Jackson’s decision unless it is stayed pending appeal,” Mr. Burck said in an email. “The DOJ is handling this case, so you will need to ask them whether they intend to seek a stay.”

The Justice Department had no immediate comment, but a stay request and appeal is widely expected, following the pattern of other recent legal fights over congressional subpoenas.

But the ruling carries broader implications at a time when the White House has also invoked the same expansive immunity theory to block witnesses about the Ukraine affair from cooperating in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in the House.

Several potential witnesses to what Mr. Trump said and did in connection with his pressuring of Ukraine to announce investigations that could benefit him politically — like his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton — have declined to testify because of the administration’s constitutional theory that they are immune.

Mr. Bolton, who had a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Trump about why he was freezing a military aid package to Ukraine in August, has let it be known that he has pertinent information about the matter. But he has also threatened to sue if he is presented with any subpoena, seeking a judicial ruling about whether such a subpoena is legally valid.

A lawyer for Mr. Bolton, Charles J. Cooper, has previously argued that Mr. Bolton’s situation is different from that of Mr. McGahn because Mr. Bolton’s official duties centered on foreign affairs and national security matters. But Mr. Bolton’s intentions and desires are unclear.

In her ruling, Judge Jackson appeared to respond to Mr. Cooper’s notion. She wrote that the law required not just Mr. McGahn, but “other current and former senior-level White House officials” who receive a subpoena to appear, and that it made no difference “whether the aides in question are privy to national security matters, or work solely on domestic issues.”

She added: “However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the president does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires,” she said. “Fifty years of say so within the executive branch does not change that fundamental truth.”

If Mr. McGahn declines to testify until a definitive judgment is reached and Mr. Trump is prepared to keep appealing all the way to the Supreme Court, there appears to be little chance that the matter will be resolved in time for Mr. McGahn’s potential testimony to play any role in the impeachment inquiry.

Indeed, the current dispute is only about whether Mr. McGahn must show up to be asked questions. Even if the Supreme Court were to ultimately say he must, it would leave unanswered whether the questions that lawmakers want to ask him — primarily about conversations with Mr. Trump detailed in the Mueller report — are subject to executive privilege, so the litigation process might have to start all over again at that point.

In her ruling, Judge Jackson distinguished the issue she was ruling on — whether senior-level presidential aides, such as Mr. McGahn, are legally required to appear before a committee in response to a subpoena — “from the very different question of whether the specific information that high-level presidential aides may be asked to provide in the context of such questioning can be withheld from the committee on the basis of a valid privilege.”

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Mr. McGahn in May after the release of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The report showed that Mr. McGahn was a key witness to several of the most serious episodes in which Mr. Trump sought to obstruct the Russia investigation — including when the president pushed Mr. McGahn to have Mr. Mueller fired, and later tried to bully him into falsifying evidence to deny that he had done so.

But Mr. Trump, who had openly vowed to stonewall “all” oversight subpoenas after Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterm election, instructed Mr. McGahn not to cooperate. His administration put forward the theory that top aides to the president like Mr. McGahn were absolutely immune from being compelled to testify about their officials duties — meaning that they do not even have to show up.

In August, the House Judiciary Committee sued Mr. McGahn, seeking a judicial order that he comply with the subpoena. That same day, the panel also asked a judge for an order permitting it to see secret grand jury evidence gathered by Mr. Mueller, which Attorney General William P. Barr declined to provide to Congress. (Another federal judge ruled for Congress in the grand jury case a month ago, but the administration has appealed.)

The court filings said the House needed the information not just for oversight purposes, but also for an impeachment inquiry. While the impeachment focus has since shifted to the Ukraine affair that burst into public view in September, House Democrats are still considering an article of impeachment that would accuse Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice.

A question pervading both disputes is whether the Constitution permits Congress to subpoena aides to a president like Mr. McGahn and, potentially, Mr. Bolton, to talk about their official duties — or whether the president’s secrecy powers make his aides absolutely immune from such subpoenas.

Administrations of both parties have taken the position that “Congress may not constitutionally compel the president’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties,” as a 15-page legal opinion from Steven A. Engel, the current head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, put it. But there is no definitive court precedent on the issue.

In 2008, another Federal District Court judge, John D. Bates, rejected that theory in another subpoena dispute. He ruled that President George W. Bush’s former White House counsel Harriet Miers had no right to skip a hearing for which she had been subpoenaed. Judge Bates, a Bush appointee, said she had to show up — although she might still refuse to answer specific questions based on a claim of executive privilege.

But the executive branch did not appeal the Miers ruling, and because no appeals court weighed in, Judge Bates’s opinion does not count as a controlling precedent for other disputes raising the same issue. That left the Obama administration, in a 2014 memo, free to take the position that Judge Bates had been wrong, and the Trump legal team echoed that logic.

In arguments late last month, Judge Jackson had indicated skepticism with the Trump administration’s arguments that Judge Bates got it wrong 11 years ago, suggesting that the executive branch’s legal theory threatened constitutional checks and balances.

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Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-military2-facebookJumbo Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) Esper, Mark T Defense Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered the Pentagon not to remove a Navy SEAL at the center of a high-profile war crimes case from the elite commando unit, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Monday.

Mr. Esper’s confirmation of the order from Mr. Trump is the latest turn in an extraordinary series of events that pitted the president against his senior military leadership over the fate of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the SEAL who was convicted of posing for photographs with the body of a teenage Islamic State captive in American custody.

The Navy wanted to oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit. Instead, it was the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, who was fired on Sunday. Mr. Esper accused Mr. Spencer of not telling him that he was negotiating a separate deal with the White House, which differed from what Mr. Spencer was saying publicly and to senior Defense Department leadership.

On Monday, Mr. Esper indicated that the military would follow Mr. Trump’s wishes.

“I spoke with the president on Sunday,” Mr. Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. “He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident pin.” The pin designates membership in the elite unit.

This was the second time Mr. Trump had made known his wishes that Chief Gallagher remain a Navy SEAL — the first was last Thursday, via Twitter. But Navy officials said over the weekend that they did not consider tweets to be orders and announced they were moving ahead with disciplinary hearings that could oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit.

Those hearings will not be happening now, Defense Department officials indicated.

Following this weekend’s rapid-fire developments in an already complicated story, some Pentagon officials remained torn on Monday deciding whose side of the story to believe, according to a Defense Department official.

Mr. Trump’s intervention into the military justice system and the Defense Department’s maneuvering to avoid confrontation with the White House had some in the building confused as to what actually happened regarding Mr. Spencer’s dismissal, the official added.

Chief Gallagher was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, among other misconduct.

His court-martial ended in acquittal on those charges, but he was convicted of one charge of bringing discredit to the armed forces by posing for photos with the teenage captive’s body.

The Navy demoted him, but Mr. Trump earlier this month reversed that demotion, angering Navy officials, including the commander of the SEALs, Rear Admiral Collin Green, and Mr. Spencer, the Navy secretary.

In a letter acknowledging his termination on Sunday, Mr. Spencer said that he regarded good order and discipline throughout the Navy’s ranks to be “deadly serious business.”

“The lives of our sailors, Marines and civilian teammates quite literally depend on the professional execution of our many missions, and they also depend on the ongoing faith and support of the people we serve and the allies we serve alongside,” the letter said.

He added: “Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.”

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Who Is Edward Gallagher, the SEAL the Navy Wants to Expel?

The son of a West Point graduate and career Army officer, Edward Gallagher enlisted in the Navy as a medic in 1999 and deployed to Iraq attached to a Marine infantry unit. He became one of the few Navy medics ever to complete the Marines’ demanding scout sniper school. Now 40, he sometimes goes by the nickname Blade.

He graduated from the Navy’s punishing Basic Underwater Demolition course in 2005 and joined the SEALs, the most elite commando force in the Navy. Since then, he has deployed to combat zones with the SEALs five times, rising to become a special operations chief, as SEAL chief petty officers are known. Chief Gallagher was named the top platoon leader in SEAL Team 7 and has been awarded several Bronze Stars for valor in actions under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan. The chief came to be widely known among the SEALs as a battle-wise veteran.

Since his arrest last fall, his supporters, including conservative lawmakers and media outlets, have portrayed Chief Gallagher as a valiant SEAL who was being unfairly second-guessed and prosecuted over heat-of-the-moment decisions in a combat zone. But his critics, including some fellow SEALs, have said he had become a rogue operator and poor military role model, and had committed heinous acts of unnecessary violence.

SEALs from the platoon that Chief Gallagher led during a deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2017 told military officials that they saw the chief fatally stab a wounded ISIS captive. Navy investigators said while several SEALs were providing medical aid to the fighter, Chief Gallagher took out a handmade hunting knife and stabbed the captive, a teenager, several times in the neck and torso.

The chief was also accused of firing a sniper rifle at civilians, striking a girl wearing a flower-print hijab as she walked along a riverbank and an old man carrying a water jug. Several SEALs broke the group’s code of silence and testified against Chief Gallagher in a military trial.

The chief appeared before a military jury of five Marines and two sailors in a two-week trial that started in late June and was marred by accusations of prosecutorial misconduct and a witness who changed his story on the stand.

After deliberating for about two hours, the jury acquitted Chief Gallagher of murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice charges. But the chief was convicted of one relatively minor charge — posing for inappropriate photos with the dead captive — and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, time he had already served before trial. The jury also ordered that the chief be demoted one rank to petty officer first class, a step that became a point of contention.

During the sentencing, Chief Gallagher told the jury he had put “a black eye” on the Marine Corps and the Navy. “I’ve made mistakes in my 20-year career — tactical, ethical, moral — I’m not perfect,” he said. “But I’ve always bounced back from my mistakes.”

During the war crimes investigation, officials uncovered evidence that Chief Gallagher had violated regulations in a number of ways. A live training grenade was found in his garage. Text messages were unearthed in which he talked about using marijuana and narcotics with other SEALs.

That behavior, along with his criminal conviction, has rankled the commander of the SEALs, Rear Adm. Collin Green, who has sought to rein in what some saw as years of lax discipline in the force. A sailor can be expelled from the SEALs if a commander loses “faith and confidence in the service member’s ability to exercise sound judgment, reliability and personal conduct.”

The Navy has expelled more than 150 sailors from the SEALs since 2011, stripping them of the right to wear the Trident pins that signify membership. Having the insignia taken away is a serious consequence: The dead take their comrades’ Trident pins with them to the grave.

Westlake Legal Group the-daily-album-art-articleInline-v2 Who Is Edward Gallagher, the SEAL the Navy Wants to Expel? War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J navy seals Green, Collin P Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

Listen to ‘The Daily’:What Should Happen to the Navy SEAL Chief?

A war-crimes investigation pitted the commander in chief against the military. How a presidential intervention resulted in a rare resignation — upending the Navy.

Mr. Trump has provided supportive messages for Chief Gallagher on Twitter, offering congratulations after the court-martial verdict and telling him and his family, “You have been through much together.” But Mr. Trump has been more than a cheerleader.

The president ordered less restrictive confinement for Chief Gallagher while he awaited trial; reversed his demotion and restored his rank to chief petty officer after the verdict; and last week, announced that he would prevent the Navy from kicking the chief out of the SEALs.

After Chief Gallagher had his rank restored this month, he thanked Mr. Trump on Instagram, writing, “I truly believe that we are blessed as a Nation to have a Commander-in-Chief that stands up for our warfighters.”

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Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-military2-facebookJumbo Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) Esper, Mark T Defense Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered the Pentagon not to remove a Navy SEAL at the center of a high-profile war crimes case from the elite commando unit, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Monday.

Mr. Esper’s confirmation of the order from Mr. Trump is the latest turn in an extraordinary series of events that pitted the president against his senior military leadership over the fate of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the SEAL who was convicted of posing for photographs with the body of a teenage Islamic State captive in American custody.

The Navy wanted to oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit. Instead, it was the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, who was fired on Sunday. Mr. Esper accused Mr. Spencer of not telling him that he was negotiating a separate deal with the White House, which differed from what Mr. Spencer was saying publicly and to senior Defense Department leadership.

On Monday, Mr. Esper indicated that the military would follow Mr. Trump’s wishes.

“I spoke with the president on Sunday,” Mr. Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. “He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident pin.” The pin designates membership in the elite unit.

This was the second time Mr. Trump had made known his wishes that Chief Gallagher remain a Navy SEAL — the first was last Thursday, via Twitter. But Navy officials said over the weekend that they did not consider tweets to be orders and announced they were moving ahead with disciplinary hearings that could oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit.

Those hearings will not be happening now, Defense Department officials indicated.

Following this weekend’s rapid-fire developments in an already complicated story, some Pentagon officials remained torn on Monday deciding whose side of the story to believe, according to a Defense Department official.

Mr. Trump’s intervention into the military justice system and the Defense Department’s maneuvering to avoid confrontation with the White House had some in the building confused as to what actually happened regarding Mr. Spencer’s dismissal, the official added.

Chief Gallagher was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, among other misconduct.

His court-martial ended in acquittal on those charges, but he was convicted of one charge of bringing discredit to the armed forces by posing for photos with the teenage captive’s body.

The Navy demoted him, but Mr. Trump earlier this month reversed that demotion, angering Navy officials, including the commander of the SEALs, Rear Admiral Collin Green, and Mr. Spencer, the Navy secretary.

In a letter acknowledging his termination on Sunday, Mr. Spencer said that he regarded good order and discipline throughout the Navy’s ranks to be “deadly serious business.”

“The lives of our sailors, Marines and civilian teammates quite literally depend on the professional execution of our many missions, and they also depend on the ongoing faith and support of the people we serve and the allies we serve alongside,” the letter said.

He added: “Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.”

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U.S. Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria

By

MANAMA, Bahrain — United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive.

American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert redoubts even though their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during an American raid on Oct. 26.

On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters — the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month — reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border.

“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of the military’s Central Command, told reporters on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain on Saturday.

The resumption of extensive counterterrorism operations capped a tumultuous two months in which many of the nearly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria flew or drove out of the country under Mr. Trump’s withdrawal order. Separately, several hundred other troops, some with armored Bradley fighting vehicles, arrived from Iraq and Kuwait under a subsequent order from Mr. Trump to protect Syria’s eastern oil fields from ISIS, as well as from the Syrian government and its Russian partners.

When the dust settles on all of the troop movements, General McKenzie said he would have about 500 American forces, or half of what he had before Mr. Trump’s directives, operating in an area east of the Euphrates River and Deir al-Zour, north to al-Hasakah and into Syria’s far northeast along the border with Iraq.

American commandos and their Syrian Kurdish partners conducted some low-level missions after the withdrawal order. But now that Americans and Kurds had regrouped their joint operations in the much smaller area, General McKenzie said, they could resume bigger missions against ISIS.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 25dc-isis2-articleLarge U.S. Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Politics and Government Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said on Saturday that relations between the United States and the Kurds were now “pretty good.”Credit…Mazen Mahdi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“What we’re talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate,” General McKenzie said in describing what was left of ISIS’s religious state that at its peak was the size of Britain. “They still have the power to injure, still have the power to cause violence.”

The operation on Friday in Deir al-Zour province against several ISIS compounds killed or wounded “multiple” ISIS fighters and resulted in the capture of more than a dozen others, according to a statement from the American military coalition in Baghdad, which oversees the operations in Syria.

After the American withdrawal from the border, Vice President Mike Pence reached a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that accepted a Turkish military presence in a broad part of northern Syria in exchange for a cease-fire. The deal amounted to a near-total victory for Mr. Erdogan, as thousands of Syrian Kurds were forced to flee south, often battling with ill-disciplined Turkish proxy forces as they went.

The United States considers the Syrian Kurds a pivotal partner in the fight on the ground against ISIS, but Turkey views them as terrorists, a distinction that has repeatedly put Washington in a difficult position.

Syrian Kurds who counted the United States as a friend and an ally accused Washington of betrayal immediately after the withdrawal from the border and the Turkish offensive. Army Green Berets who had fought alongside the Kurds and praised them for their valor said they felt ashamed at how the United States had treated the Kurds.

General McKenzie insisted that relations between the two sides were now “pretty good.” He did not say, however, how long American troops would stay in northern Syria. “We don’t have an end date,” he said twice during an interview with reporters on Saturday.

With a mercurial president who has twice in 10 months ordered all American troops out of Syria immediately — only to reverse himself twice after aides implored him to reconsider — other senior commanders say the Pentagon has to be ready for another no-notice message on Twitter that American troops are leaving, oil or not.

It was a message that Mr. Pence, on an unannounced pre-Thanksgiving visit to Iraq, repeated on Saturday even as he sought to reinforce the administration’s support for the Kurds and the mission of protecting the oil fields. “President Trump is always going to look for opportunities to bring our troops home and to take these men and women out of harm’s way,” Mr. Pence said.

The immediate fight may be on again against ISIS, but General McKenzie said that protecting the oil fields might ultimately draw a larger challenge from Syrian Army troops west of the Euphrates. “I’d expect at some point the regime will come forward to that ground,” General McKenzie said in a separate interview before the security conference.

The last time pro-Syrian government forces threatened American troops near the oil fields, in February 2018, the United States unleashed an artillery and aerial bombardment that left 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters dead. Most of that American air power is still nearby.

At the security conference in Manama on Saturday, several top European and Middle Eastern officials urged their counterparts to continue applying unrelenting pressure on ISIS, which is also called Daesh, in northern Syria.

“ISIS leaders have been killed and territory reclaimed, but the profound crisis of governance that made Daesh’s emergence possible is still there,” said France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly. “France’s aircraft will continue to strike relentlessly, and French forces will continue to train and equip partner forces.”

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs, added that ISIS also posed “an ideological challenge with which we are also having to deal and which, frankly, only us in the region can take the lead in this fight.”

“We need to expose terrorists for the thugs that they are,” he added.

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U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria

By

MANAMA, Bahrain — United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive.

American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert redoubts even though their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during an American raid on Oct. 26.

On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters — the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month — reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border.

“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of the military’s Central Command, told reporters on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain on Saturday.

The resumption of extensive counterterrorism operations capped a tumultuous two months in which many of the nearly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria flew or drove out of the country under Mr. Trump’s withdrawal order. Separately, several hundred other troops, some with armored Bradley fighting vehicles, arrived from Iraq and Kuwait under a subsequent order from Mr. Trump to protect Syria’s eastern oil fields from ISIS, as well as from the Syrian government and its Russian partners.

When the dust settles on all of the troop movements, General McKenzie said he would have about 500 American forces, or half of what he had before Mr. Trump’s directives, operating in an area east of the Euphrates River and Deir al-Zour, north to al-Hasakah and into Syria’s far northeast along the border with Iraq.

American commandos and their Syrian Kurdish partners conducted some low-level missions after the withdrawal order. But now that Americans and Kurds had regrouped their joint operations in the much smaller area, General McKenzie said, they could resume bigger missions against ISIS.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 25dc-isis2-articleLarge U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Politics and Government Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said on Saturday that relations between the United States and the Kurds were now “pretty good.”Credit…Mazen Mahdi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“What we’re talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate,” General McKenzie said in describing what was left of ISIS’s religious state that at its peak was the size of Britain. “They still have the power to injure, still have the power to cause violence.”

The operation on Friday in Deir al-Zour province against several ISIS compounds killed or wounded “multiple” ISIS fighters and resulted in the capture of more than a dozen others, according to a statement from the American military coalition in Baghdad, which oversees the operations in Syria.

After the American withdrawal from the border, Vice President Mike Pence reached a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that accepted a Turkish military presence in a broad part of northern Syria in exchange for a cease-fire. The deal amounted to a near-total victory for Mr. Erdogan, as thousands of Syrian Kurds were forced to flee south, often battling with ill-disciplined Turkish proxy forces as they went.

The United States considers the Syrian Kurds a pivotal partner in the fight on the ground against ISIS, but Turkey views them as terrorists, a distinction that has repeatedly put Washington in a difficult position.

Syrian Kurds who counted the United States as a friend and an ally accused Washington of betrayal immediately after the withdrawal from the border and the Turkish offensive. Army Green Berets who had fought alongside the Kurds and praised them for their valor said they felt ashamed at how the United States had treated the Kurds.

General McKenzie insisted that relations between the two sides were now “pretty good.” He did not say, however, how long American troops would stay in northern Syria. “We don’t have an end date,” he said twice during an interview with reporters on Saturday.

With a mercurial president who has twice in 10 months ordered all American troops out of Syria immediately — only to reverse himself twice after aides implored him to reconsider — other senior commanders say the Pentagon has to be ready for another no-notice message on Twitter that American troops are leaving, oil or not.

It was a message that Mr. Pence, on an unannounced pre-Thanksgiving visit to Iraq, repeated on Saturday even as he sought to reinforce the administration’s support for the Kurds and the mission of protecting the oil fields. “President Trump is always going to look for opportunities to bring our troops home and to take these men and women out of harm’s way,” Mr. Pence said.

The immediate fight may be on again against ISIS, but General McKenzie said that protecting the oil fields might ultimately draw a larger challenge from Syrian Army troops west of the Euphrates. “I’d expect at some point the regime will come forward to that ground,” General McKenzie said in a separate interview before the security conference.

The last time pro-Syrian government forces threatened American troops near the oil fields, in February 2018, the United States unleashed an artillery and aerial bombardment that left 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters dead. Most of that American air power is still nearby.

At the security conference in Manama on Saturday, several top European and Middle Eastern officials urged their counterparts to continue applying unrelenting pressure on ISIS, which is also called Daesh, in northern Syria.

“ISIS leaders have been killed and territory reclaimed, but the profound crisis of governance that made Daesh’s emergence possible is still there,” said France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly. “France’s aircraft will continue to strike relentlessly, and French forces will continue to train and equip partner forces.”

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs, added that ISIS also posed “an ideological challenge with which we are also having to deal and which, frankly, only us in the region can take the lead in this fight.”

“We need to expose terrorists for the thugs that they are,” he added.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com