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By Lawrence Hurley and Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday firmly rejected President Donald Trump’s arguments for sweeping presidential immunity and ruled that a New York prosecutor can obtain his financial records but prevented – at least for now – Democratic-led House of Representatives committees from getting similar documents.

The twin 7-2 rulings authored by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts mark another milestone in Trump’s tumultuous presidency and in the short term prevent details of his finances from becoming public because lower courts must resolve lingering issues.

The businessman-turned politician, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, has fought tenaciously to keep his tax returns and other elements of his finances secret – and the rulings spare him of any major revelation at a sensitive time. But looking further ahead, Trump faces possible future criminal prosecution in his native New York, perhaps after he leaves office.

The Supreme Court emphasized that there are limits to the powers of the presidency and stoutly reaffirmed the principle that not even the president is above the law – a message delivered 3-1/2 years into a presidency in which Trump has repeatedly skirted the norms of American political conduct.

Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees, conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined Roberts and the four liberal justices in both rulings, spurning Trump’s arguments that the Constitution gave him absolute immunity from any criminal proceedings as a sitting president.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, and the three House committees all issued subpoenas to third parties for the records, not to the Republican president himself. Trump sued to block enforcement of the subpoenas.

The court in the New York case ruled that the subpoena to Trump’s long-term accounting firm, Mazars LLP, for tax returns and other financial records to be turned over to a grand jury as part of Vance’s criminal investigation can be enforced.

The justices rebuffed Trump’s broad arguments on expansive presidential powers in a showdown with Congress as he tried to block subpoenas by lawmakers to Mazars and two banks – Deutsche Bank and Capital One – for his financial records. In doing so, the court also faulted the broad arguments made by the House and sent the litigation back to lower courts, delaying the final outcome.

Trump portrayed himself as a victim, calling the subpoenas a “pure witch hunt” and a “hoax” in comments to reporters. On Twitter, he wrote, “This is all a political prosecution … and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”

Trump’s argument that he was immune from any criminal process “runs up against the 200 years of precedent establishing that Presidents, and their official communications, are subject to judicial process,” Roberts wrote.

“We affirm that principle today and hold that the president is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need,” Roberts added.

Roberts rejected the suggestion that the decision would subject future presidents to harassment by local prosecutors, noting that the court in 1997 rejected a similar argument made by President Bill Clinton when he faced a civil lawsuit brought by a woman who accused him of making unwanted sexual advances – litigation the court refused to delay.

The court in 1974, Roberts noted, also ruled that President Richard Nixon must turn over audio tapes in the Watergate scandal that eventually drove him to resign.

‘HE IS HIDING’

Unlike other recent presidents, Trump has refused to release his tax returns and other documents that could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will continue to investigate Trump and seek to enforce the subpoenas.

“Congress’s constitutional responsibility to uncover the truth continues, specifically related to the President’s Russia connection that he is hiding,” Pelosi said, referring to the possibility that Trump’s financial records could show such an entanglement.

Roberts said lawmakers will need to further explain the need for the records at the lower court, which would then assess the burden placed on the president.

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, said he would “raise additional constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts.”

Vance’s investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization was spurred by disclosures of hush payments to two women who said they had past sexual relationships with the president, pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – relationships he has denied.

Trump argued that Congress lacked a valid purpose for seeking his records and that such disclosure would compromise his and his family’s privacy and distract him from his duties. In the Vance investigation, Trump’s lawyers argued before a lower court that law enforcement officials would not have the power to investigate him even if he shot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

The House Oversight Committee issued its subpoenas after Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, told Congress Trump had inflated and deflated certain assets on financial statements between 2011 and 2013 in part to reduce his real estate taxes.

The House Financial Services Committee is examining possible money laundering in U.S. property deals involving Trump. The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether Trump’s dealings left him vulnerable to the influence of foreign individuals or governments.

Read the full opinion for the grand jury case https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19-635_o7jq.pdf

Read the full opinion for the House Democrats case https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19-715_febh.pdf

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung and Jeff Mason; Editing by Will Dunham)


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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, was taken to a federal jail on Thursday after refusing to agree to a gag order as a condition of serving his criminal sentence under home confinement, Cohen’s lawyer said.

Cohen, 53, was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, according to his lawyer, Jeffrey Levine. Cohen had been released from a federal prison in upstate New York in May due to concerns over possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.

He had completed about a year of a three-year sentence for his role in hush money payments to two women, as well as for financial crimes and lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen had originally been eligible for release in November 2021.

On Thursday, he was ordered to a federal courthouse in Manhattan to convert his furlough to home confinement, Levine said outside of the courthouse.

He said they were presented with an agreement that barred Cohen from having any contact with news media organizations, TV, film or book publishing outlets, or from posting on social media.

“I’ve never seen any language like this in my life,” Levine said.

After objecting, Levine said the U.S. Marshals Service came with “shackles” and ordered Cohen remanded to the jail in Brooklyn because he failed to agree to the terms.

The federal Bureau of Prisons said Cohen refused the conditions of his home confinement and as a result was returned to a detention facility.

Levine said he was working to resolve the dispute over the terms of home confinement.

On July 2, Cohen tweeted that he was close to completing a book with an anticipated publication date of September.

At the time of Cohen’s release in May, he wrote on Twitter that “there is so much I want to say and intend to say. But now is not the right time. Soon.”

Cohen once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump but later turned on his former boss and cooperated with Democratic-led congressional inquiries. Trump has called Cohen a “rat.” Cohen has called Trump a “racist,” a “con man” and “a cheat.”

Trump, who is facing a challenging re-election bid in November, had to deal recently with two unflattering books about his administration and family, one by former national security adviser John Bolton and another by his niece Mary Trump.

Thursday’s events come a week after Cohen was spotted at a sidewalk table at the French restaurant Le Bilboquet near his Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan, according to the New York Post newspaper.

Levine had told the Post that the dinner did not violate the terms of Cohen’s release from prison.

Lanny Davis, a former attorney for Cohen, said on Thursday that Cohen told him the authorities never said he had violated any rules by going to the restaurant.

Davis also said that he spoke with Levine after what was expected to be a probation visit on Thursday.

He said Levine told him that, when Cohen objected to giving up his book and other First Amendment rights, the authorities said they would try to work it out. But instead, 90 minutes later, the U.S. marshals showed up with shackles and an order to arrest Cohen.

At that point, Cohen said he was willing to sign whatever they wanted, Davis was told, but as they put the shackles on Cohen, one marshal said, “It’s out of our hands.”

Cohen was sentenced for his role in hush money payments to two women, pornographic film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougall, who said they had sexual relationships with Trump. The president has denied having relationships with either woman.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, and Noeleen Walder, Carlo Allegri and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Franklin Paul, Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis)


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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Five suspects were arrested on Thursday in the killing of rap music artist Pop Smoke, who was shot to death inside his Hollywood Hills home during a reported break-in earlier this year, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The suspects – three adult men and two juvenile males – were taken into custody in a series of raids conducted under search warrants throughout the city of Los Angeles, an LAPD spokeswoman, officer Norma Eisenman, said.

The arrests were all made without incident, she said. No further details about the suspects or their alleged connection to the killing were immediately available.

The 20-year-old Pop Smoke, whose real name was Bashar Barakah Jackson, was found by police shot inside his rented multimillion-dollar house before dawn on Feb. 19. He died of his wounds at a hospital some hours later.

Police said they were dispatched to Jackson’s home in response to an emergency 911 call reporting a break-in. According to police, eyewitnesses told investigators they saw two to six suspects, at least one of whom wore a mask.

The rapper, who was born in New York City’s Brooklyn borough, was perhaps best known during his short career for the July 2019 single “Welcome to the Party,” which many considered last year’s song of the summer. A remix released a few months later featured rapper Nicki Minaj.

According to various media reports cited by the Los Angeles City News Service, Jackson had posted photos on social media hours before his killing from a party at the home revealing the property address, with one of the photos showing a person holding a large sum of money.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Eureka, Calif.; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)


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