In two decisions issued on Thursday, the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot access US President Donald Trump’s financial records, but the Manhattan District Attorney (DA) can pursue the records.
In Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, the Supreme Court stated that the subpoenas issued by Congress for Trump’s financial records posed separation of powers concerns. Congressional committees wanted access to the records to guide legislative reform in areas concerning money laundering, terrorism, and foreign interference in United States elections. The Supreme Court stated that, when Congress seeks information that it needs to legislative action, citizens have a duty to cooperate. However, when Congress issues subpoenas for information from the president, there are “special concerns regarding the separation of powers.” The courts below did not adequately take this into account.
In Trump v. Vance, the case between Trump and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, the Supreme Court stated that the court established two hundred years ago that “no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.” The court reaffirmed that principle, holding that the president is not absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers. The president is also not entitled to a heightened standard of need.
The court vacated the decision of the lower court in Trump v. Mazars USA LLP and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. In Trump v. Vance, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgement of the Court of Appeals, remanding the case for proceedings consistent with the court’s opinion. The case will be returned to the district court, where Trump can raise further arguments.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian announced Wednesday that China would impose visa restrictions on US personnel “behaving badly” on Tibet-related issues. The announcement followed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Tuesday announcement that visa restrictions on certain Chinese officials would be imposed under the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, for the lack of “fair, transparent and reciprocal treatment” from the People’s Republic of China.
The Reciprocal Access Act seeks to deny access to the US for Chinese officials known to be involved in restricting visits to Tibet. The visa restrictions are applicable to an unspecified number of Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party officials determined to be “substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas”.
Pompeo’s announcement came a day after US Senate approval of a bill laying out economic sanctions against Chinese officials and Hong Kong police, as well as banks doing transactions with them.
Pompeo said that China continued systematically to obstruct travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas by US diplomats and other officials, journalists, and tourists, while Chinese officials and other citizens enjoy far greater access to the United States.
He concluded his statement by saying that the US will continue to work to advance the sustainable economic development, environmental conservation, and humanitarian conditions of Tibetan communities within China and abroad.
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In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared grizzly bears a “distinct population segment” and attempted to remove the species from protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This decision was subsequently challenged, and the court held that further agency consideration was necessary to remove the species from the list. The court’s decision to remand resulted in a second delisting attempt of the species in 2017, which the district court also vacated.
The FWS appealed “those aspects of the remand that require the study of the effect of the delisting on the remaining, still listed, grizzly population in the coterminous 48 states, as well as further consideration of the threat of delisting to long term genetic diversity of the Yellowstone grizzly.”
In its decision handed down Wednesday, the court stated: “We affirm the district court in all respects, with the exception of the order requiring the FWS to conduct a ‘comprehensive review’ of the remnant grizzly population. As to that order, we remand for the district court to order further examination of the delisting’s effect on the remnant grizzly population consistent with this opinion.”
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday that refugees do not have to apply for and be denied asylum in Mexico before they can apply for asylum in the US. This decision struck down a rule by the Trump administration that requires refugees to apply for asylum in countries they travel through on their way to the US.
In 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created a joint interim final rule, entitled “Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications,” which generally required refugees to apply for and be denied asylum in countries through which they travel on their way to the US.
The lower court initially granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the rule in the four states along the United States-Mexico Border. This preliminary injunction was stayed by the Supreme Court, pending the disposition of the appeals court.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the plaintiffs, who were nonprofit organizations representing asylum seekers, had standing because the rule diverted the plaintiffs’ resources from other sources and the plaintiffs would lose significant funding because of the rule.
The court held that the rule was unlawful under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) because the rule was inconsistent with 8 U.S.C. § 1158, which allows a refugee who is physically present in the US to apply for asylum.
The court also concluded that the rule was arbitrary and capricious because evidence indicated that refugees may not have safe options in Mexico, and the agencies did almost nothing to ensure that these other countries would be a safe option for refugees. The agencies also did not justify their assumption that an alien who did not apply for and receive asylum in another country was not likely to have a “meritorious asylum claim.” The rule would also adversely impact any unaccompanied minors seeking asylum.
Because of this, the court affirmed the preliminary injunction. The US District Court for the District of Columbia also struck down this rule on June 30.
The proposals, collectively referred to as the BREATHE Act, follow protests against the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Elijah McClain, as well as countless other individuals who perished at the hands of police years ago. This legislation seeks to “divest our taxpayer dollars from brutal and discriminatory policing and invests in a new vision of public safety—a vision that answers the call to defund the police and allows all communities to finally BREATHE free.”
The BREATHE Act has four main goals—divert federal resources from jails and police, invest in other methods of community safety, allot funds to rebuilding communities, and hold law enforcement officials accountable for civil rights violations. The act seeks to accomplish its first goal by eliminating federal programs used to support the criminal justice system. The policing, prosecution, sentencing, and jailing practices used in the criminal justice system adversely impact black and brown communities. Through this first goal, the BREATHE Act seeks to reverse the deleterious effects these communities experience on a daily basis. The second goal aims to provide community-led approaches to public safety by defunding local police forces. The act seeks to implement its third goal by promoting educational judgment, which would provide equal funding among all public institutions, close youth detention centers and replace them with community-based, rehabilitation focused centers and remove both armed police and security guards and surveillance equipment from schools. The last goal seeks to prevent voter suppression and disenfranchisement, which currently affects black and brown communities at a greater rate than white communities.
The four goals articulated in the BREATHE act seek to fulfill the Movement for Black Lives’ mission, which is:
“We are rising up against all the ways that the criminal-legal system has harmed and failed to protect Black communities. The current moment requires a solution that fundamentally shifts how we envision community-care and invest in our society. History is clear that we cannot achieve genuine safety and liberation until we abandon police, prisons, and all punishment paradigms.”
Members of Congress have yet to comment on whether they will introduce the BREATHE Act.
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