CAFE Brief: April 29 – May 6

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.

SUBSCRIBE to get the newsletter in your inbox twice a week.

READ yesterday’s edition of CAFE Brief, covering May 3 – 6.

READ Friday’s edition of CAFE Brief, covering April 29 – May 2.

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. We had foster kittens stay at our house that needed bottle feeding every 3 hours and that took up a lot of my time.

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

Smearing Biden

Joe Biden’s son used to sit on the board of a Ukrainian company that was under investigation by the corrupt chief prosecutor of Ukraine. The United States, along with all of Europe, wanted the corrupt prosecutor gone, and eventually Ukraine complied. Biden, as a representative of the US, was involved in this effort.  This all happened years ago, but now the current Ukrainian prosecutor is reopening the case. Source

As the NYT reported, Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, met with the current Ukrainian prosecutor multiple times and likely played a role in the decision to reopen the case.

Mr. Giuliani called Mr. Trump excitedly to brief him on his findings, according to people familiar with the conversations. …Mr. Trump, in turn, recently suggested he would like Attorney General William P. Barr to look into the material gathered by the Ukrainian prosecutors — echoing repeated calls from Mr. Giuliani for the Justice Department to investigate the Bidens’ Ukrainian work and other connections between Ukraine and the United States. Source

The Washington Post published an op-ed warning that Trump will continue to use the Justice Department to launch investigations into his political rivals.

So what we have here is the president’s lawyer, with the direct involvement of the president himself, pushing a foreign official to open an investigation for the obvious purpose of embarrassing a potential rival, while the president is pushing the Justice Department to act in ways that could harm that rival as well. Source

Tax requirements

The California “state Senate voted 27-10 on Thursday to require anyone appearing on the state’s presidential primary ballot to publicly release five years’ worth of income tax returns,” according to The AP. “If the bill becomes law, Trump could not appear on the state’s primary ballot without filing his tax returns with the California secretary of state.”

  • Similar bills are working their way through the Washington state and New Jersey state legislatures.


How are this administration’s attempts to stonewall Congress likely to pan out? The Washington Post laid it all out for you with Lisa Kern Griffin, a law professor at Duke University. The overall theme is that Congress is likely to win court cases in many instances, but time is not on their side. See the full piece for her take on specific cases, from McGahn’s testimony to Trump’s tax returns.

But, she continued, “it takes time for those things to be enforced.” Subpoenas and contempt citations issued by Congress last only for the duration of that Congress — meaning that subpoenas issued now will expire when the new Congress is installed in January 2021. They can be renewed, but if, for example, Republicans retake the House, it’s fairly safe to assume they won’t be.

The White House is quite aware of the time limit on the actions taken by House Democrats.

“I think that they can slow-walk it, and that their intent is actually to try to run out the clock until the end of the Congress itself and, of course, up until the election in 2020,” Griffin said.

Russia in Venezuela

On Friday, Trump said he talked to Putin on the phone and “he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela.” Two days later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.

Putin “underscored that only the Venezuelans themselves have the right to determine the future of their country, whereas outside interference in the country’s internal affairs and attempts to change the government in Caracas by force undermine prospects for a political settlement of the crisis.”

It was a message Lavrov “underscored” when sitting down with Arreaza on Sunday. Ahead of his meeting, Lavrov said the United States should halt what he called its “irresponsible” campaign to overthrow Maduro. Afterward, Lavrov reiterated, “We call on the U.S. government to stop their irresponsible actions against international law.” Source