Weekly recap: May 7 – 20

Hi everyone! In case you missed it: I am now writing a bi-weekly newsletter for CAFE (Preet Bharara’s company) called CAFE Brief, where I recap news and analysis of politically charged legal matters. This will become a daily newsletter eventually. For more explanation, see here.

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READ yesterday’s edition of CAFE Brief

READ Friday’s edition of CAFE Brief.

READ last Tuesday’s edition of CAFE Brief, from May 14.

READ the CAFE Brief from May 10.


I’m going to be doing this section a little differently this time, pulling select quotes from articles that sum up the story in question.

Some stuff that didn’t make the 25+ top stories list in CAFE Brief:

Assange update

Sweden issued a detention order against Assange, now jailed in Britain. The Swedish Court could revive a rape charge against the Wikileaks founder, leading to an arrest warrant and fight over extradition. Since the rape charge against Assange predates the charges filed by the US, it is likely that Sweden would be granted priority.

Mar-a-Lago corruption

Florida spa owner Li “Cindy” Yang filed a defamation suit against the Miami Herald for publishing a photo she took with Trump at Super Bowl Party in a story about Robert Kraft soliciting prostitution at a day spa she founded. However:

the suit also contained a surprising passage that acknowledged that Yang had also run a business that provided Chinese executives “access to American business and political culture”—and this included entry to events at Mar-a-Lago.

Her lawyer writes in the lawsuit documents that Yang “realized the premium attached to a picture and story that her clients would cherish, while at the same time, supporting charitable causes.”

Remember, the Herald also reported that the FBI is investigating Yang for possibly funneling money illegally from China into Trump’s reelection campaign, a fact not mentioned in the lawsuit.

Air Force One campaign

On Thursday, Trump posted a video of himself aboard Air Force One, the presidential seal prominently displayed over his shoulder. In it, Trump blasted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s entry into the 2020 race. According to campaign finance laws, Trump is required to reimburse tax payers for the flight because he used it for a political campaign.

Trump’s use of taxpayer-funded transportation to post a political message raises some legal and ethics questions. But possibly the greatest crime, some experts say, is the breakdown of norms.

“It’s entirely inappropriate, and it is against historical norms for a president to be campaigning from Air Force One,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “Most presidents have had enough respect for the office to try to separate campaigning from formal duties. Donald Trump is not such a president.”

To impeach?

In House leadership meetings yesterday, numerous members clashed with Speaker Pelosi and her supporters over whether to begin an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) — all members of the Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi andReps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.

OPINION – I believe Rep. Raskin has the right of it in this quote. With the administration stonewalling every subpoena, an impeachment inquiry (not a final vote) would help the committees obtain information more quickly through the courts.

Raskin — a former law professor — said he wasn’t advocating impeaching Trump but suggested that opening an impeachment inquiry would strengthen their legal position while allowing Democrats to move forward with their legislative agenda.

More excerpts:

During the Steering and Policy Committee meeting, Cohen said President Bill Clinton faced impeachment proceedings “over sex” while Trump is “raping the country,” according to two sources in the room. Cohen later confirmed his remarks.

Pelosi pushed back on Cohen during the meeting and his assertion that she was simply afraid impeachment would cost her the House majority.

“This isn’t about politics at all. It’s about patriotism. It’s about the strength we need to have to see things through,” Pelosi said, according to an aide in the room.

DHS directing personnel to the border

An email obtained by The Daily Beast revealed that the Department of Homeland Security is “urging” cybersecurity specialists to deploy to the southern border and assist with the “ongoing surge of migrants” after an earlier request failed to recruit enough officials. The request is concerning because it would reduce cybersecurity staff focused on protecting US elections and voting infrastructure.

Yesterday, another Daily Beast report revealed that DHS has also sent US Secret Service members to the border and is looking to send more. Aside from protecting the president, “the Secret Service also conducts criminal investigations. Its focuses include financial crimes and cybersecurity threats.”

Child separation

Under a court order, the Trump administration has identified at least 1,712 migrant children likely separated from their parents in addition to the nearly 3,000 separated under the “zero tolerance” policy.

Iran arms report

The chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, and Intelligence committees sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting a briefing and documents on an alleged politicized and slanted assessment of intelligence regarding Iran.

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