Trump Must Hand Over Tax Returns to NY Prosecutors: Judge

Marrero called Trump's immunity claim "repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values."

U.S. President Donald Trump must hand over eight years of tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors, a federal judge ruled, after Trump claimed he was immune from being sued.

RELATED: More Than Half in US Approve of Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Poll

The decision, by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan, escalates the president's battle to keep his finances under wraps, despite having promised during his 2016 White House run that he would disclose his tax returns.

Marrero called Trump's immunity claim "repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values."

Trump quickly filed an emergency notice of appeal to the federal appeals court in Manhattan.

Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, had subpoenaed personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018 and other records from Trump's longtime accounting firm Mazars USA as part of a criminal probe into the president and his family business.

Trump's lawyers had argued that the president was immune from such a probe while in office, and that the Constitution required Vance to wait until after Trump left the White House.

Lawyers for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance, declined to comment.

In a 75-page decision, Marrero declined to assert jurisdiction over the dispute, saying Trump should have brought his case in a New York state court.

But the judge made clear that if the appeals court disagreed with that finding, Trump should lose.

"The expansive notion of constitutional immunity invoked here to shield the President from judicial process would constitute and overreach of executive power," Marrero wrote.

Such a "sweeping doctrine finds no support in the Constitution's text or history," and would effectively leave the president, his family and his businesses "above the law."

Vance issued the subpoena four weeks after issuing another subpoena to the Trump Organization for records of hush money payments, including to two women prior to the 2016 election who said they had sexual relationships with Trump, which he denies.

Mazars has in the past said it would comply with its legal obligations, and as a matter of policy did not comment on its work for clients.

Trump is running for re-election. His current term ends on Jan. 20, 2021.

The president is separately trying to block Deutsche Bank AG from handing over financial records, which the bank has said include tax returns, sought by committees of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Oral arguments in that case were heard by the federal appeals court in Manhattan on Aug. 23. It has yet to rule.

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North Korea blasts ‘SICKENING NEGOTIATIONS’ with US, denounces their ‘hostile policy’ after nuclear talks flop

Pyongyang has shed the light on recent collapse of the working-level talks with the US, accusing Washington of sticking to “hostile policy” against North Korea, inability to hold meaningful dialogue and producing false statements.

A scorching statement on the talks and their failure was released by the North Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday. The negotiations took place in Stockholm on Saturday, resulting in a failure as the North Korean delegation broke off, saying the talks “have not fulfilled” their expectations.

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The statement came in response to Washington’s attempts to downplay the extent of the flop.The US State Department insisted that Pyongyang agreed to hold new talks in two weeks, while the remarks of the Korean chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, did not reflect “the content or spirit” of the meeting.

The ministry argue that wasn’t the case, expressing doubts that the US is able to come up with any meaningful suggestions in just two weeks.

The US is spreading a completely ungrounded story that both sides are open to meet after two weeks but as it has conceived nothing even after the passage of 99 days since the Panmunjom summit, it is not likely at all that it can produce a proposal commensurate to the expectations of the DPRK and to the concerns of the world in just fortnight.

Pyongyang went further and accused the US of using the Stockholm talks as a vanity event “to meet its political goal of abusing the DPRK-US dialogue for its domestic political events.” No actual preparations for the talks had been made by the US, the ministry claimed, as Washington simply repeated the same old points it produced before.

Also on North Korea says talks with US have FAILED, urges Washington to ‘reconsider position’...

Such an approach makes North Korean leadership “sceptical” about the existence of “political will” in Washington to actually fix the bilateral relations, the ministry said, warning that the country does not seek to further engage into that pointless talks unless the US changes its attitude and stops its “hostile policy.”

“We have no intention to hold such sickening negotiations as what happened this time before the US takes a substantial step to make complete and irreversible withdrawal of the hostile policy toward the DPRK,” the statement reads.

As we have clearly identified the way for solving problem, the fate of the future DPRK-US dialogue depends on the U.S. attitude, and the end of this year is its deadline.

While the relations between North Korea and the US have been quite hostile for decades, they got particularly heated during Donald Trump’s Presidency. The US leader and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un engaged in a bitter war of words, featuring military threats and personal insults, yet ultimately managed to stick to diplomacy and entered direct talks. Their first summit in Singapore, held in June 2018, was touted as a major breakthrough towards a peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula.

Also on ‘New phase in containing outside forces’: North Korea brags of successful test of submarine-launched missile (PHOTOS)...

Still, the prospects of the negotiation process became uncertain this February after the Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam flopped. The new failure of a major diplomatic event in Stockholm makes the future of the talks even more unclear, while a re-ignition of the Korean Peninsula standoff grows increasingly possible.

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Trump kicks out the United Nations

The clip of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg’s withering look at US President Donald Trump as he entered the Glass Palace to attend a UN meeting on religious freedom in New York took over the internet.

Spanish news agency EFE commented on Monday from NY, the arrival of the US president.

Unexpectedly Donald Trump arrived at the United Nations where the Climate Action Summit is running but he didn’t take part in that high-level meeting.

He appeared when India’s PM Narendra Modi was beginning his speech, and he also listened to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before leaving the hall.

Upon his departure he declared to the press: “I am a big believer in clean air and clean water, and all countries should get together and do that, and they should do it for themselves. It’s very, very important”.

Earlier, observers had recalled that the main absentee of the meeting would be Trump, a climate change skeptic, who has even decided to withdraw United States from Paris Agreement.

EFE reported that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres inaugurated the event with a message of urgency, but also of hope.

In his text he referred that “Time is running out, but it‘s not too late yet. Climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win”.

In addition, he stressed that it is not a meeting of speeches or negotiations, but for action, and that should show concrete commitments.

Some 60 heads of State and Government are due to take part, as well as the speeches of local and regional authorities that will present new plans on this matter.

Trump denied Sunday that his absence would be another of his contempts towards both climate topic and the United Nations when he assured “Simply, I am very busy”.

Cameramen immortalized Greta’s reaction as the magnate went past ignoring her, and she gave him an ice-cold glare.

“If a picture is worth more than 1,000 words, then this GIF is worth 100,000”, tweeted NowThis news organization, quoted by Italian news agency ANSA.

“Greta Thunberg accidentally warmed the planet with her scorching glare”, a New York magazine said ironically.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Trump reportedly told Russia he didn’t care about 2016 election interference — and aides buried the meeting notes

In 2017, President Donald Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak he believed Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential to be unimportant, according to a report from the Washington Post — and access to the memo describing the meeting was restricted to very few people, out of fear that the president’s comments would be made public.

Trump has repeatedly downplayed fears about Russian election interference in public. But the Post’s report, from Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, and Ellen Nakashima, is the latest allegation that the White House has treated potentially embarrassing records about Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders with a high level of official secrecy.

That same concern is contained in a whistleblower’s report alleging the White House used a secure electronic system to classify a conversation between Trump and the Ukrainian president. That report is at the center of House Democrats’ newly launched impeachment inquiry. And it was compounded Friday night by CNN and New York Times reports that access to notes from conversations with Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was similarly restricted.

It is unclear whether the memo prepared following the Russia meeting was placed in the same secure system as the Ukrainian transcript was. Three former officials reportedly said the memo was accessible only to officials with incredibly high security clearances, and that because of that, it was available only to a very, very small number of people.

These latest reports come as the president is immersed in a growing scandal about his willingness to have foreign governments — in the latest case, Ukraine — work to his benefit during an election cycle. And they also put more scrutiny both on Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders and the White House’s attempts to keep those conversations from becoming public.

What Trump reportedly said at the meeting with Russian officials

Trump reportedly made the comments on interference during the same May 2017 meeting at which he shared classified US intelligence on ISIS with Russia, causing his critics to fear both that the president could not be trusted with classified information and that he may have inadvertently revealed US intelligence sources and methods. He also said firing FBI director James Comey had relieved “pressure” from the Russia investigation.

Beyond dismissing Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections, officials the Post spoke with said Trump also appeared to give Russia permission to meddle in the elections of other countries as well. It’s not clear exactly what he said to give this impression.

Trump is said to have blamed US-Russia tensions on journalists, saying, “I could have a great relationship with you guys, but you know, our press.”

In fact, the officials said Trump and top administration officials have often used the press to defend Russia’s actions, arguing that Voice of America — a government-funded independent news agency that broadcasts and publishes around the world — is of a kind with Russia’s digital propaganda push ahead of 2016.

Voice of America’s critics have long argued it is US propaganda, and Russia itself designated it a foreign agent, but US presidents have supported it. And unlike Russia, it has not taken out Facebook ads aimed at dividing countries on racial lines or sponsored events meant to sow chaos and division.

The Post’s report comes as other US officials and outside experts are emphasizing the risk election meddling poses to American democracy. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire issued a similar warning during a testimony to Congress this week, calling protecting elections his “most fundamental priority.”

Officials involved in Mueller’s Russia investigation — including the special counsel himself — have warned that Russia will continue to try to influence elections during the 2020 cycle; this week, G. Zachary Terwilliger, a US attorney who investigated election interference during the 2018 midterms, said of Russian interference in 2020, “They’re going to do it. In an open setting like this there’s not a lot I can get into, but I think it wouldn’t be irresponsible for me to say they’re definitely going to try.”

The report raises more questions about what the White House is hiding

Officials who spoke with the Post said the manner in which top administration aides handled a memo of the president’s Russia meeting is reminiscent of the security around a conversation between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of a whistleblower’s complaint and a newly launched impeachment inquiry.

According to the whistleblower, records of the US-Ukraine phone call were removed from the system that is designated for storing such materials (and that is accessible by cabinet-level officials) and was moved to a highly secure system reserved for “code-word information,” intelligence at the highest level of classification there is in the US. The ISIS intelligence Trump shared with the Russians was concerned codeword-level information before he declassified it; phone calls with world leaders are rarely, if ever, given that classification.

The whistleblower alleges the record transfer was an attempt by top administration officials to conceal the call because there was some concern “they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”

The Trump administration claims that this was the norm for all calls with foreign leaders. All of the officials quoted in the Post story said top aides had begun working to restrict access to records of meetings following the leaks of Trump’s calls with Mexican and Australian leaders, not only because those leaks were personally embarrassing for the president but because officials feared more leaks could lead to world leaders being unwilling to speak with the US.

But three former officials reportedly said the memo was kept under tighter control than most, and that people normally able to access such memos, even following the leaks, were not able to see the Russia notes. This would seem to suggest the administration was working to keep Trump’s comments from view.

The whistleblower alleged that the Ukraine call was “‘not the first time’ under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”

This line has led some of the president’s critics to worry about what else might be hidden within that codeword-level system, and to question if it contains evidence of comments of even greater concern than those the president made on the Ukraine call.

It’s not clear if the codeword system was used for the Ukraine call, or if access was restricted in some other way. But the fact that Trump reportedly told top Russian officials their country’s interference in a presidential election was not a big deal and that his aides reportedly worked to conceal that statement will do little to quiet those critics.

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Venezuelan foreign minister says Trump sends aid to Guaido to distract public opinion of his own scandals

United Nations, September 27 (RHC)-- U.S. President Donald Trump sends aid to Venezuela’s opposition hoping it would “distract” people from scandals engulfing the White House, says Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.

“"It was really shameful.  It's the puppeteer with the puppets, telling them what to do.  And of course they are all really frustrated because they have tried all year long to overthrow our government.  It has been a continuous coup.  They have sanctioned and they have imposed all these blockades against the Venezuelan people and they haven't reached their goals.  They haven't achieved their goals and they won't,” said the top diplomat on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

He made the comments as Trump was trying to handle repercussions of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he called for an investigation into his 2020 opponent, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.  “It's really Trump trying to distract the public opinion of his own scandals.” 

Edited by Ed Newman
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Washington & Warsaw make pact to obstruct Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

US President Donald Trump and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, have called the Russian gas pipeline to Germany a “threat” to European energy security.

According to a White House statement, the two leaders discussed the possibility of hindering the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project, which aims to deliver more natural gas from Russia to the EU.

Earlier this month, Poland’s state-owned energy company PGNiG said it won’t extend the contract for gas supplies with Russian Gazprom after 2022. According to PGNiG head Peter Wozniak, Russian gas is overpriced. Under the agreement with Gazprom, Warsaw can annually receive 10.2 billion cubic meters of gas, which is delivered via the Yamal gas pipeline through Belarus.

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Poland already has a 20-year deal to buy LNG from the US in a bid to give up Russian gas entirely, despite the fact that American gas is more expensive and is not as reliable in meeting Poland’s needs. Warsaw has also inked a number of contracts with American companies to replace Russian supplies. That should make Poland the future center for the re-export of American LNG in the region, said the US ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher.

Poland has become an “American puppet and does not have its own policy, fully repeating the words of its elder brother,” according to Vladimir Dzhabarov, the Russian first deputy head of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs. He told RT that the US and Poland don’t have the ability to impede the implementation of Nord Stream 2, adding that the pipeline is necessary to meet the energy needs of Europe.

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“They will not be able to hinder the project, but they will try to slow down the construction. But I think that Western Europe will not accept this, particularly Germany, which is interested in Russian gas,” Dzhabarov said.

An expert at the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Research, Vladimir Bruter, echoed Dzhabarov, saying Poland has become a country that plays along with Washington and is interested in dividing Europe.

“All these are elements of the American strategy, where Poland stands out as the main ‘deterrent’. It is expected to become a barrier to Russia and a provocateur to Germany. If Berlin does not defend its own interests, then it will fall into American foreign policy traps,” Bruter told RT.

Washington is one of the most vocal critics of the Russian pipeline project. Trump has previously slammed the pipeline as a “tremendous mistake.”

Also on US Senate committee green-lights sanctions against Nord Stream 2 pipeline project...

Last week, Gazprom said that the Nord Stream 2 project, which is planned to be finished by year’s end, is 81 percent complete.

The project involves the construction of two pipelines with a total capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year, to extend from the Russian coast to Germany – and further on to other European customers – through the Baltic Sea. Berlin has insisted that the project will help the country meet its growing demand for energy as it phases out coal and nuclear power.

The pipeline route has so far been laid through the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zones of Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Germany. Only one remaining stretch of the pipeline, to be laid through Danish territorial waters, is pending official authorization.

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Trump confirms he discussed Biden in call with Ukrainian president

U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday he discussed Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son in a call with Ukraine's president.

Trump's statement to reporters about his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came as the Democratic leader of a key congressional panel said the pursuit of Trump's impeachment may be the "only remedy" to the situation.

Trump's call with Zelensky has been at the centre of an escalating battle in Washington since Friday, when news outlets reported Trump repeatedly asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate whether Biden, the Democratic front-runner to take on Trump in next year's election, misused his position when he was vice-president.

Trump told reporters at the White House that their phone conversation was mostly congratulatory but also touched on corruption and the Bidens.

"The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice-President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine," Trump said.

Democrats have said that if Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden, it is tantamount to promoting foreign interference in the 2020 election.

Trump has denied doing anything improper. His allies, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have defended the president's phone call, which, according to news reports, was the subject of a complaint made by an as-yet-unnamed whistleblower.

Joe Biden, Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former vice-president, says if the reports are true, 'then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.' (Kathryn Gamble/Reuters)

If an investigation shows that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden, the U.S. Congress may have no choice but to pursue impeachment, Democratic House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said on Sunday.

Schiff had previously shied away from calling for impeachment, but his comments on CNN's State of the Union showed his stance had shifted.

"If the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader to do something illicit, to provide dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is co-equal to the evil that conduct represents," Schiff said.

Other lawmakers have called for the Democratic leadership to pursue impeachment immediately, but Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far resisted calls to formally begin the process.

In a letter to colleagues later on Sunday, Pelosi warned the administration against keeping the details of the whistleblower complaint secret. The administration has so far resisted sharing the details of the complaint with lawmakers.

"If the administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation," Pelosi wrote.

Meanwhile, Trump on Monday shrugged off talks of impeachment while speaking with reporters as he arrived at the UN General Assembly.

Asked how seriously he was taking the threats by Congress, Trump said, "Not at all seriously." 

Romney voices concern

Senator Mitt Romney, who has clashed with Trump in the past, sounded a rare note of concern among Trump's fellow Republicans, many of whom have remained silent, defended Trump or escalated their attacks on Biden in the days after the reports about the Trump-Zelensky call.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, shown speaking at a bilateral meeting in Toronto on July 2, is at the centre of an escalating battle in Washington between Democrats and Trump. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

"If the president asked or pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme," Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, said in a Twitter post.

Impeachment proceedings in Congress that begin in the House can lead to a president being removed from office, but Democrats would need the support of Republicans, who control the Senate.

Multiple news organizations reported on Friday that Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate whether Biden misused his position as vice-president under Democratic President Barack Obama to threaten to withhold U.S. aid unless a prosecutor who was looking into a gas company in which Biden's son was involved was fired.

Biden has confirmed he wanted the prosecutor fired but denies it was to help his son. Biden said the wider U.S. government, the European Union and other international institutions also wanted the prosecutor fired for his alleged failure to pursue major corruption cases.

Biden said on Saturday there should be an investigation into Trump's call, saying it "appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power." He said he never spoke to his son about Ukraine.

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Venezuelan president says Trump has obsessive hatred of Latin Americans

In the new season of his RT TV show, Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa on Thursday interviewed Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, where both critically addressed the complex realities the Bolivarian Revolution is currently facing.

During their one-hour conversation, the two leaders of contemporary Latin American politics talked about the economic and social situation of Venezuela, which, as Correa said, is "victim of a disinformation campaign" whereby the political opposition tries to benefit from problems that have been "clearly caused by the so-called 'sanctions' which are actually illegal aggressions against sovereign countries."

In order to highlight the effects of the U.S.-led economic aggression, President Maduro recalled that from the beginning of President Hugo Chavez's administration in 1999 up to 2015, “we had annual revenues of $50 billion from oil sales.  Now we only receive $4 billion.”

Maduro also mentioned that the death of Commander Hugo Chavez in March 2013 meant a "very big blow" for his country because "internal enemies, but especially the U.S. imperial power, began to design tactics to replace Chavismo."

During the presidency of Donald Trump, over the last two years, "the war with Washington has had a devastating effect on our social stability and people's lives," the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader said.

"Venezuela cannot either open or close international bank accounts.  It cannot pay for any type of product.  In addition, we are now being threatened with a complete naval blockade."

In his talk with Correa, the Bolivarian president once again denounced that the U.S. government actions imply many financial costs to the Venezuelans.  "They have confiscated and robbed us of almost $30 billion," Maduro said and explained that Venezuela is carrying out "an economy of resistance."

In order to tackle this situation, his administration has established priority policies, one of which is food and medicine production.  This goal is "at the center" of those priorities so as to be able to supply the population.

"Venezuela has no sanctions, it has aggressions," Maduro said and added: "Trump has an obsessive hatred against Latin American peoples, refugees, immigrants; he has a special hatred of the Venezuelan people and our history."

"I compare [what happens now] with the Hitler era, with that same vision that Hitler imposed against the Jews before the war," he stressed.  Based on the challenges it faces at the current historical moment, the Venezuelan government is laying the long-term foundations to overcome the country's traditional dependence on oil revenues.

"I have defined 16 'development drivers' on the basis of our country's economic, industrial and technological realities," Maduro said and recalled that transforming a natural resources-based growth model, which has been in place for the last 100 years, is a difficult task.

Nevertheless, "despite all imperial aggressions, we are standing strong and ready to resume the path towards growth,", President Maduro affirmed.

For his part, in order to illustrate what is happening in Venezuelans' everyday live, Rafael Correa asked the audience to imagine what it means to live under siege.  "Imagine a country which cannot sell oil, its main product; even if it could sell it and obtain some foreign currency, it cannot buy anything because it cannot use the international financial system," the Ecuadorean politician said.

“That is what they have done to Venezuela.  And, in their eagerness to sanction a government without having the right to do so, they are sanctioning the whole population," Correa stressed.​​​​​​​

Before finishing the interview, Correa invited President Maduro to describe in his own words the Venezuelan political system.  "In Venezuela, they tell us, there is no democracy and you are a 'usurper'," Correa said provocatively.

"Over 20 years of revolution, we have had 25 elections for president, governors and mayors," Maduro replied and, with a hint of irony, he said that it would be "a strange dictatorship."  The Venezuelan president recalled that the Chavista movement has beaten the opposition in 23 out of those 25 elections.  

Rafael Correa concluded his program by reiterating his support for Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan people.  "Intellectual honesty does not mean being neutral, which is impossible. Intellectual honesty means trying to maintain objectivity, despite the partiality we all have and our ideological inclinations."

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