With the entrance of former Vice President Joe Biden into the 2020 Democratic presidential contest on Thursday, the field is largely set, with all the big names included.
The sprawling Democratic field features candidates ranging from 37 to 77 years old; liberals and moderates; senators, governors and mayors; and an unprecedented number of women and minorities. Democrats view the upcoming election as a must-win, and they’re looking to nominate someone who is their best hope to beat President Donald Trump.
Here are the 20 candidates:
Best known for: Being former President Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017 and U.S. senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009.
Biggest strength: He’s well-known nationally and popular in some places Democrats have lost recently, such as working-class swing states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, his birthplace.
Biggest weakness: Biden would be the oldest person ever elected president, with a nearly five-decade record for opponents to comb through, at a time many in his party are clamoring for a new generation to take the reins. The notoriously chatty former senator also tends to commit verbal gaffes and faced recent accusations by some women of uninvited, though nonsexual, touching.
Best known for: Serving as mayor of Newark and, currently, U.S. senator from New Jersey. He made headlines last year during his self-proclaimed “‘I am Spartacus’ moment” as he flouted Senate rules against disclosing confidential documents during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation fight.
Biggest strength: His optimistic, unity-first attitude could resonate at a time of deep political divisions.
Biggest weakness: Trying to convince voters that he’s tough enough to take on Trump.
Best known for: Serving as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and being a former Naval intelligence officer.
Biggest strength: He’s won over voters and many skeptics with his intelligence and an articulate yet plain-spoken speaking style. He’s also shown an ability to inspire voters of different ages with a message of hope and “a new generation of leadership” and has been able to raise millions more than many of his Democratic rivals.
Biggest weakness: His youth and lack of political experience — his only public office has been leading the community of about 100,000 people — will give some voters pause. He also will need to ramp up his campaign operations and do more to appeal to minority voters in order to maintain his early momentum.
Best Known for: Serving as Health and Human Services secretary during President Barack Obama’s second term and as the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, for five years.
Biggest strength: His youthfulness and status as the only Latino in the race could help him win the votes of Democrats looking for a new face of their party.
Biggest weakness: His fundraising lags well behind other contenders.
Best known for: Being a former congressman from Maryland.
Biggest strength: He has rolled out a rural-focus policy that includes proposals to strengthen family farmers and rural infrastructure, a plan that could play well in the battleground Rust Belt states won by Trump.
Biggest weakness: Low name recognition.
Best known for: Serving as a U.S. representative for Hawaii; the first American Samoan and first Hindu to be elected to Congress.
Biggest strength: Her military service in Iraq and Kuwait with the Hawaii National Guard.
Biggest weakness: She has been criticized for traveling to Syria in 2017 to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of war crimes and even genocide. She was also forced to apologize for her past work advocating against gay rights.
Best known for: The senator from New York is one of her chamber’s most vocal members on issues of sexual harassment, military sexual assault, equal pay for women and family leave.
Biggest strength: Not being afraid to defy her own party in the #MeToo era, calling early for Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s resignation over sexual misconduct allegations and saying Bill Clinton should have voluntary left the presidency over an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.
Biggest weakness: Sluggish campaign fundraising in the wake of some unpleasant #MeToo headlines of her own, with Gillibrand acknowledging there were “post-investigation human errors” made when her Senate office investigated allegations of sexual misconduct against various staffers.
Best known for: The former California attorney general is now the junior U.S. senator from California, known for her rigorous questioning of Trump’s nominees.
Biggest strength: As the one black woman in the race, she’s able to tap into networks like historically black colleges and universities and her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority that haven’t been fully realized before.
Biggest weakness: Her prosecutorial record has come under scrutiny amid a push for criminal justice reform.
Best known for: Being a quirky brewpub owner who became a politician late in life, rising to governor of Colorado.
Biggest strength: An unorthodox political persona and successful electoral track record in a swing state. He’s one of the few governors in a race heavy with senators and D.C. stalwarts.
Biggest weakness: He’s previously joked that he was too centrist to win the Democratic nomination. As governor he disappointed some environmentalists by not regulating the energy industry more. He’s another white male baby boomer in a party filled with younger and more diverse candidates that better reflect its base.
Best known for: Being governor of Washington state and a former congressman.
Biggest strength: His campaign emphasis is on combating climate change, which he frames as an economic opportunity in addition to a moral imperative.
Biggest weakness: He risks being labeled a one-issue candidate.
Best known for: The three-term Minnesota senator raised her national profile during a Senate committee hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when she asked him whether he had ever had so much to drink that he didn’t remember what happened. He replied, “Have you?”
Biggest strength: She’s known as a pragmatic lawmaker willing to work with Republicans to get things done, a quality that’s helped her win across Minnesota, including in rural areas that supported Trump in 2016. She says her Midwestern sensibilities would help Democrats reclaim critical battlegrounds like Wisconsin and Michigan.
Biggest weakness: Her pragmatism may work against her in a primary, as Democratic voters increasingly embrace more liberal policies and positions. There have also been news reports that she has mistreated staff.
Best known for: Serving as the mayor of Miramar, Florida, and playing on the Florida State University Seminoles’ 1993 national championship football team.
Biggest strength: He touts his mayoral experience balancing government regulations needed to protect the environment while allowing room for companies to prosper.
Biggest weakness: Low name recognition and funding.
Best known for: The Massachusetts congressman and Iraq War veteran gained national attention for helping lead an effort within the party to reject Nancy Pelosi as House speaker after Democrats regained control of the chamber.
Biggest strength: Military and congressional experience.
Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, late start on the fundraising necessary to qualify for the summer debate stage.
Best known for: The former congressman narrowly lost the 2018 Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz in Texas, the country’s largest conservative state.
Biggest strength: A do-it-yourself campaign style that packs lots of travel and multiple events into long days and encourages off-the-cuff discussions with voters that still allow O’Rourke to talk up his days as a onetime punk rock guitarist and his love for his home on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Biggest weakness: He’s longer on enthusiasm and vague, bipartisan optimism than actual policy ideas, and the style-over-substance approach could see O’Rourke’s strong early fundraising slip once the curiosity begins to fade.
Best known for: The Ohio congressman made an unsuccessful bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic leader in 2016.
Biggest strength: Ryan has touted himself as a candidate who can bridge Democrats’ progressive and working-class wings to win the White House.
Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, late start on grassroots fundraising.
Best known for: A 2016 presidential primary campaign against Hillary Clinton that laid the groundwork for the leftward lurch that has dominated Democratic politics in the Trump era.
Biggest strength: The Vermont senator, who identifies himself as a democratic socialist, generated progressive energy that fueled his insurgent 2016 campaign and the best fundraising numbers of any Democrat so far.
Biggest weakness: Expanding his appeal beyond his largely white base of supporters.
Best known for: The California congressman is a frequent guest on cable news criticizing President Donald Trump.
Biggest strength: Media savvy and youthfulness could appeal to young voters.
Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, late start on grassroots fundraising.
Best known for: The senator from Massachusetts and former Harvard University law professor whose calls for greater consumer protections led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under then-President Barack Obama.
Biggest strength: Warren has presented a plethora of progressive policy ideas, including eliminating existing student loan debt for millions of Americans, breaking up farming monopolies and mammoth technology firms, implementing a “wealth tax” on households with high net worth and providing universal child care.
Biggest weakness: She is viewed as one of the most liberal candidates in the Democratic field, which could hurt her chances among moderates. Her policy-heavy approach also risks alienating voters at a time when other candidates are appealing to hearts as much as to minds.
Best known for: Best-selling author and spiritual leader.
Biggest strength: Outsider who could draw interest from voters who are fans of her books.
Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, little political experience.
Best known for: Entrepreneur who has generated buzz with his signature proposal for universal basic income to give every American $1,000 a month, no strings attached.
Biggest strength: Robust policy agenda, tech savvy.
Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, no political experience.
Source: NewsMax Politics
The U.S. Capitol building is seen through flowers in Washington, U.S., April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
April 25, 2019
By Jan Wolfe
(Reuters) – The U.S. Congress does not arrest and detain people for ignoring its subpoenas anymore, but it still has significant power to demand witnesses and documents, and Republican President Donald Trump is putting that power to the test.
“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
In another display of his disregard for Washington norms, Trump is defying subpoenas issued by Democrats in the House of Representatives, who have launched numerous investigations of him, his businesses, family and administration.
He earlier this week filed an unprecedented lawsuit seeking to block a congressional subpoena intended to force an accounting firm to disclose information about his financial dealings as a businessman.
Here is how the congressional subpoena, contempt and enforcement process works.
What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is a legally enforceable demand for documents, data, or witness testimony. In Latin, “sub poena” means “under penalty.”
Subpoenas are typically used by litigants in court cases. The Supreme Court has also recognized Congress’s power to issue subpoenas, saying in order to write laws it also needs to be able to investigate.
Congress’ power to issue subpoenas, while broad, is not unlimited. The high court has said Congress is not a law enforcement agency, and cannot investigate someone purely to expose wrongdoing or damaging information about them for political gain. A subpoena must potentially further some “legitimate legislative purpose,” the court has said.
What can Congress do to a government official who ignores one?
If lawmakers want to punish someone who ignores a congressional subpoena they typically first hold the offender “in contempt of Congress,” legal experts said.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said on Tuesday that his panel will vote on holding a former White House security director, Carl Kline, in contempt for failing to appear for questioning. The committee wants to ask him about allegations that the Trump administration inappropriately granted clearances to some of the president’s advisers.
The contempt process can start in either the House or the Senate. Unlike with legislation, it only takes one of the chambers to make and enforce a contempt citation.
Typically, the members of the congressional committee that issued the subpoena will vote on whether to move forward with a contempt finding. If a majority supports the resolution, then another vote will be held by the entire chamber.
The Democrats have majority control of the House; Trump’s Republican Party holds the Senate. So any contempt finding in months ahead is likely to come from the House.
Only a majority of the 435-member House needs to support a contempt finding for one to be reached. After a contempt vote, Congress has additional powers to enforce a subpoena.
Ross Garber, a lawyer in Washington, said Trump’s lawyers will likely argue that any subpoenas and contempt citations issued now expire when a new Congress is seated in January 2021.
But Washington lawyer Garber said there is debate among lawyers about that question, which has not been settled by the Supreme Court.
How is a contempt finding enforced?
The Supreme Court said in an 1821 case that Congress has the “inherent authority” to arrest and detain recalcitrant witnesses.
In a 1927 case, the high court said the Senate acted lawfully in sending its deputy sergeant-at-arms to Ohio to arrest and detain the brother of the then-attorney general, who had refused to testify about a bribery scheme known as the Teapot Dome scandal.
It has been almost a century since Congress exercised this arrest-and-detain authority, and the practice is unlikely to make a comeback, legal experts said.
Alternatively, Congress can ask the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, a federal prosecutor, to bring criminal charges against a witness who refuses to appear. There is a criminal law that specifically prohibits flouting a congressional subpoena.
But this option is also unlikely to be pursued, at least when it comes to subpoenas against executive branch officials.
“It would be odd, structurally, because it would mean the Trump administration would be acting to enforce subpoenas against the Trump administration,” said Lisa Kern Griffin, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Duke University.
For this reason, in modern times Congress has opted for a third and final approach to enforcing a contempt finding: getting its lawyers to bring a civil lawsuit asking a judge to rule that compliance is required.
Failure to comply with such an order can trigger a “contempt of court” finding, enforced through daily fines and even imprisonment, Griffin said.
In 2012, the House, then controlled by Republicans, subpoenaed internal Justice Department documents related to a failed federal law enforcement operation to track illegal gun sales, dubbed “Fast and Furious.”
Democratic then-President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, refused to comply, citing a doctrine called “executive privilege.” The House voted to hold him in contempt in a rare instance of Congress taking such action against a sitting member of a president’s Cabinet.
Can Trump persuade a court to quash the subpoenas?
Just as Congress can sue to enforce a subpoena, Trump has shown a willingness to sue to block one.
On Monday, Trump brought a constitutional challenge to a subpoena issued by the House Oversight Committee for his financial records. The subpoena was sent to Mazars USA, an accounting firm, and seeks eight years of his financial statements.
Cummings has said the records are related to its investigation of allegations that Trump inflated or deflated financial statements for potentially improper purposes.
Garber said there was some merit to Trump’s argument that the subpoena power is being improperly used to unearth politically damaging information about him, rather than to help Congress make laws or set budgets.
But Edward Kleinbard, a lawyer who formerly served as chief of staff to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, said Congress is well within its power to investigate whether the president complied with tax laws and similar statutes.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; editing by Kevin Drawbuagh and Jonathan Oatis)
Former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore told The Wall Street Journal he would bow out as the president’s nominee for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board if he becomes a liability for Republicans.
“I want to help make America the most prosperous place in the world,” Moore said Wednesday, adding, “I’m totally committed to it as long as the White House is totally committed to it.”
Since President Donald Trump announced Moore as his pick, several media outlets have reported on Moore’s old columns about women in sports.
CNN published an article quoting four columns Moore wrote in the early 2000s for National Review magazine, which included pithy jokes and commentary about banning female announcers and referees from NCAA basketball games and questioning why ESPN would ever air women’s basketball.
Moore earlier Wednesday accused journalists of pulling a Kavanaugh against me” in reference to sexual misconduct allegations that surfaced against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process last year.
“It’s been one personal assault after another and a kind of character assassination, having nothing to do with economics,” Moore said during an interview with North Dakota radio station WZFG.
But he told the Journal he would back down “if something I said or something I’ve done becomes a political problem. … I don’t want to be a liability. Why should we risk a Senate seat for a Federal Reserve board person, you know? I mean that just doesn’t make any sense.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
April 24, 2019
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to fight all the way to the Supreme Court against any effort by congressional Democrats to impeach him, even though the U.S. Constitution gives Congress complete authority over the impeachment process.
Trump’s threat, made in a morning tweet, came as the White House launched a fierce legal battle to fight subpoenas from Democrats in the House of Representatives for documents and testimony from his administration.
Democrats remain divided on whether to proceed with Trump’s impeachment after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry. Trump defiantly proclaimed on Twitter that the investigation “didn’t lay a glove on me.”
“If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Republican president, who is seeking re-election next year, said without offering details about what legal action he envisioned.
The Constitution gives the sole power of impeachment and removing a president from office to the House and the Senate, not the judiciary, as part of the founding document’s separation of powers among the three branches of the federal government.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have remained cautious over launching impeachment proceedings against Trump ahead of the 2020 election, although they have left the door open to such action. Others in the party’s more liberal wing have demanded impeachment proceedings.
Mueller’s findings, released in a redacted report last week, detailed about a dozen episodes of potential obstruction of justice by Trump in trying to impede the inquiry but stopped short of concluding that he had committed a crime.
The report said Congress could address whether the president violated the law. Mueller separately found insufficient evidence that Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia in the 2016 presidential race.
House Democrats have stepped up their oversight of the Trump administration since taking control of the chamber in January, from Trump’s tax returns and White House security clearances to the investigation into Russian interference in U.S. politics.
Trump has ordered officials not to comply with subpoenas, and has filed a lawsuit to prevent material from being turned over to lawmakers.
“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
Under the Constitution, Congress is a co-equal branch of government alongside the executive branch and the judiciary.
The Constitution empowers Congress to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House is given the power to impeach a president – bring formal charges – and the Senate then convenes a trial, with the senators as jurors, with a two-thirds vote needed to convict a president and remove him from office.
The Constitution gives no role to the Supreme Court in impeachment, though it does assign the chief justice the task of presiding over the Senate trial. Conservative John Roberts currently serves as chief justice.
That would not preclude Trump from proceeding with litigation to tie up the issue in the courts, despite Supreme Court precedent upholding congressional impeachment power. In 1993, the nation’s top court ruled 9-0 in a case involving an impeached U.S. judge that the judiciary has no role in the impeachment process.
Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard who has been critical of Trump, said the U.S. founding fathers had considered but ultimately scrapped the idea of allowing the Supreme Court to have any role in the impeachment process.
“Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate,” Tribe said in a series of tweets on Wednesday.
Some congressional Republicans have urged the country to move forward after the Mueller report, while a few, including Senator Mitt Romney, have condemned Trump’s actions. Some conservatives outside of Congress have urged congressional action in the wake of Mueller’s report.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton and Makini Brice, Writing by John Whitesides, Editing by Andrea Ricci and Alistair Bell)
As former vice president Joe Biden prepares to launch his 2020 presidential campaign on Thursday, his long public record working for gun control has been consistently in line with the values of today’s Democratic Party, but potential political danger lurks for him even on this issue, NBC News reported on Wednesday.
As a Delaware senator and ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Biden voted in favor of the Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986, which the NRA has called “the law that saved gun rights.”
Reflecting a vastly different era decades ago, when compromise was common in the Senate and guns were less of a partisan and emotional issue, the act passed by a wide margin.
It overturned six Supreme Court rulings and various regulations, leaving a legacy as one of the most important gun laws of the past century and a major political boost for the growing gun rights movement.
The act allowed dealers to sell rifles, shotguns and ammunition through the mail and limited federal inspections of firearms dealers while allowing them to sell at gun shows.
Biden praised it at the time as a “balanced piece of legislation that protects the rights of private gun owners while not infringing on law enforcement’s ability to deal with those who misuse guns or violate laws,” adding that “I have never believed that additional gun control or Federal registration of guns would reduce crime.”
Biden spokesman Bill Russo said “Cherry-picking an out of context quote from 1986 doesn’t even begin to address Joe Biden’s unparalleled record on gun safety. Let’s be clear on the facts: Joe Biden took on the NRA and won – twice.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
President Donald Trump says he’ll go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court “if the partisan Dems” ever try to impeach him.
But Trump’s strategy could run into a roadblock: the high court itself, which said in 1993 that the framers of the Constitution didn’t intend for the court to have the power to review impeachment proceedings. The Supreme Court ruled that impeachment and removal from office is Congress’ duty alone.
“I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. Trump says not only are there no “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” one of the bases for impeachment outlined in the U.S. Constitution, “there are no Crimes by me at all.”
He alleges Democrats committed crimes and says they’re looking “to Congress as last hope!” because “We waited for Mueller and WON.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
Shahzadi Rai, 29, a transgender woman and activist, poses during an interview with Reuters at her home in Karachi, Pakistan April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
April 24, 2019
By Syed Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Transgender people in Pakistan’s Sindh province will be able to serve as regular duty police officers, the police chief said, adding it was time to offer more opportunities to a group relegated to menial jobs in government.
After years of sometimes brutal persecution, transgender Pakistanis gained recognition in 2009 when the Supreme Court granted them special status with rights equal to other citizens.
While discrimination still persists, the move to allow transgender police recruits would be a significant step for the community, activists say.
“We will make them part of Sindh police,” Syed Kaleem Imam, Inspector General of the Sindh police told Reuters in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province.
“They are good God-gifted people. Citizens like us. We should stand by them,” said Imam, who as a junior officer became aware of the discrimination against the community.
As in neighboring India and Bangladesh, transgender Pakistanis have faced widespread discrimination for decades. Many live in secluded communities, earning a living as dancers or forced into sex work or begging.
A 2017 census counted 10,418 transgender people in the country of 207 million, but rights group Charity Trans Action Pakistan estimates there are at least 500,000.
In a major step forward in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that transgender people could receive national identity cards as a “third sex” and in 2017, the government issued its first passport with a transgender category.
While some transgender people have achieved celebrity as news anchors or fashion models, entry into the police force would be a major development for the community.
“Police behavior and their complaint mechanism is not trans-friendly. I will try to make police trans-friendly and educate colleagues when I join the police,” said Shahzadi Rai, a 29-year-old transgender activist who hopes to join the force.
“When we go to lodge any report at the police station, their behavior and questions hurt us. They don’t ask questions about the case, but about our gender,” Rai said.
Zehrish Khan, a program manager at Gender Interactive Alliance, a transgender rights group, said the community had always sought inclusion and was now seeing the fruits of the 2009 Supreme Court ruling.
“If we are inducted into the police, we’ll show we can work harder compared to men and women,” Khan told Reuters.
It could be months before the first transgender police officers are hired, Imam said, but they will have the same opportunities as other recruits and perform regular duties in the field.
“We will give them space, facilitate them so that they can come into the mainstream,” the police chief said.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; editing by Darren Schuettler)
A woman reacts during a mass burial of victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
April 24, 2019
By Shihar Aneez, Ranga Sirilal, Joe Brock and Sanjeev Miglani
COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankan intelligence officials were tipped off about an imminent attack by Islamist militants hours before a series of suicide bombings killed more than 300 people on Easter Sunday, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Three churches and four hotels were hit by suicide bombers on Sunday morning, killing 321 people and wounding 500, sending shockwaves through an island state that has been relatively peaceful since a civil war ended a decade ago.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on Tuesday, without providing evidence of its involvement.
Indian intelligence officers contacted their Sri Lankan counterparts two hours before the first attack to warn of a specific threat on churches, one Sri Lankan defense source and an Indian government source said.
Another Sri Lankan defense source said a warning came “hours before” the first strike.
One of the Sri Lankan sources said a warning was also sent by the Indians on Saturday night. The Indian government source said similar messages had been given to Sri Lankan intelligence agents on April 4 and April 20.
Sri Lanka’s presidency and the Indian foreign ministry both did not respond to requests for comment.
Sri Lanka’s failure to effectively respond to a looming Islamist threat will fuel fears that a rift between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena is undermining national security.
The president fired Wickremesinghe last October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court.
Opposing factions aligned to Wickremesinghe and Sirisenahave often refuse to communicate with each other and blame any setbacks on their opponents, government sources say.
Sri Lankan police had been warned weeks ago about a possible attacks by a little-known domestic Islamist group, according to an Indian intelligence report given to Sri Lankan state intelligence services, and seen by Reuters.
Sirisena, announcing plans on Tuesday to change the heads of the defense forces, said his office never received the Indian report.
Junior Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, an ally of Wickremesinghe, told Reuters that he was also not privy to the Indian intelligence findings.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez, Ranga Sirilal, Joe Brock and Sanjeev Miglani; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Alex Richardson)
Despite evidence that millions of Hispanics and immigrants could go uncounted, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed ready Tuesday to uphold the Trump administration’s plan to inquire about U.S. citizenship on the 2020 census in a case that could affect American elections for the next decade.
There appeared to be a clear divide between the court’s liberal and conservative justices in arguments in a case that could affect how many seats states have in the House of Representatives and their share of federal dollars over the next 10 years. States with a large number of immigrants tend to vote Democratic.
Three lower courts have so far blocked the plan to ask every U.S. resident about citizenship in the census, finding that the question would discourage many immigrants from being counted . Two of the three judges also ruled that asking if people are citizens would violate the provision of the Constitution that calls for a count of the population, regardless of citizenship status, every 10 years. The last time the question was included on the census form sent to every American household was 1950.
Three conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, had expressed skepticism about the challenge to the question in earlier stages of the case, but Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh had been silent, possibly suggesting a willingness to disrupt the administration’s plan.
However, over 80 minutes in a packed courtroom, neither Roberts nor Kavanaugh appeared to share the concern of the lower court judges who ruled against the administration.
Kavanaugh, the court’s newest member and an appointee of President Donald Trump, suggested Congress could change the law if it so concerned that the accuracy of the once-a-decade population count will suffer. “Why doesn’t Congress prohibit the asking of the citizenship question?” Kavanaugh asked near the end of the morning session.
Kavanaugh and the other conservatives were mostly silent when Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, defended Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add the citizenship question. Ross has said the Justice Department wanted the citizenship data, the detailed information it would produce on where eligible voters live, to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
Lower courts found that Ross’ explanation was a pretext for adding the question, noting that he had consulted early in his tenure with Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former top political adviser and immigration hardliner Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state.
The liberal justices peppered Francisco with questions about the administration plan, but they would lack the votes to stop it without support from at least one conservative justice.
“This is a solution in search of a problem,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s lone Hispanic member, said of Ross’ decision.
Justice Elena Kagan chimed in that “you can’t read this record without sensing that this need was a contrived one.”
Roberts appeared to have a different view of the information the citizenship question would produce.
“You think it wouldn’t help voting rights enforcement?” Roberts asked New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, who was representing states and cities that sued over Ross’ decision.
Underwood and American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Dale Ho said the evidence showed the data would be less accurate. Including a citizenship question would “harm the secretary’s stated purpose of Voting Rights Act enforcement,” Ho said.
Census Bureau experts have concluded that the census would produce a more accurate picture of the U.S. population without a citizenship question because people might be reluctant to say if they or others in their households are not citizens. Federal law requires people to complete the census accurately and fully.
The Supreme Court is hearing the case on a tight timeframe, even though no federal appeals court has yet to weigh in. A decision is expected by late June, in time to print census forms for the April 2020 population count.
The administration argues that the commerce secretary has wide discretion in designing the census questionnaire and that courts should not be second-guessing his action. States, cities and rights groups that sued over the issue don’t even have the right to go into federal court, the administration says. It also says the citizenship question is plainly constitutional because it has been asked on many past censuses and continues to be used on smaller, annual population surveys.
Gorsuch, also a Trump appointee, also noted that many other countries include citizenship questions on their censuses.
Douglas Letter, a lawyer representing the House of Representatives, said the census is critically important to the House, which apportions its seats among the states based on the results. “Anything that undermines the accuracy of the actual enumeration is immediately a problem,” Letter said, quoting from the provision of the Constitution that mandates a decennial census.
Letter also thanked the court on behalf of Speaker Nancy Pelosi for allowing the House to participate in the arguments.
“Tell her she’s welcome,” Roberts replied.
Source: NewsMax Politics
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday failed to meet a congressional deadline for turning over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to lawmakers, setting the stage for a court battle between Congress and the administration.
The outcome, which was widely expected, could prompt House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal to subpoena Trump’s tax records as the opening salvo to a legal fight that may ultimately have to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Neal set a final 5 p.m. EDT deadline for the IRS and Treasury to provide six years of Trump’s individual and business tax records. But a Democratic committee aide said the deadline passed without the panel receiving the documents.
Earlier on Tuesday, the White House said Trump was unlikely to hand over his tax returns. “As I understand it, the president’s pretty clear: Once he’s out of audit, he’ll think about doing it, but he’s not inclined to do so at this time,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News in an interview.
“This is not up to the president. We did not ask him,” said a Democratic committee aide, who cited a law saying the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” taxpayer data upon request from an authorized lawmaker.
“In terms of the law, what he says is largely irrelevant,” said the aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the White House remarks.
Neal informed IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in a letter earlier this month that failure to comply with the deadline would be viewed as a denial.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that he intends to “follow the law” while pledging to keep the IRS from being “weaponized” for political gain.
Legal experts said House Democrats could vote to hold Mnuchin or Rettig in contempt of Congress if they ignored a subpoena, as a pretext to suing in federal court to obtain Trump’s returns.
As Ways and Means chairman, Neal is the only lawmaker in the House of Representatives authorized to request taxpayer information under federal law. Democrats say they are confident of succeeding in any legal fight over Trump’s tax returns.
“The law is on our side. The law is clearer than crystal. They have no choice: they must abide by (it),” Representative Bill Pascrell, who has been leading the Democratic push for Trump’s tax records, said in a statement to Reuters.
Democrats want Trump’s returns as part of their investigations of possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves the public as president.
Republicans have condemned the request as a political “fishing expedition” by Democrats.
Despite the law’s clarity, Democrats have long acknowledged that the effort would likely result in a legal battle that could end up with the U.S. Supreme Court.
“If the IRS does not comply with the request, it is likely that Chairman Neal will subpoena the returns,” Representative Judy Chu, a Democratic member of the Ways and Means Committee, told Reuters.
“If they do not comply with that (subpoena), a legal battle will begin to defend the right of oversight in Congress,” she said.
Trump broke with a decades-old precedent by refusing to release his tax returns as a presidential candidate in 2016 or since being elected, saying he could not do so while his taxes were being audited.
But his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told a House panel in February that he does not believe Trump’s taxes are under audit. Cohen said the president feared that releasing his returns could lead to an audit and IRS tax penalties.
Source: NewsMax Politics