Sunday, September 20, 2020

August 3, 2020   NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City prosecutor fighting to get President Donald Trump’s tax returns told a judge Monday he was justified in demanding them because of public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”

Manhattan District Attorney District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. is seeking eight years of the Republican president’s personal and corporate tax records, but has disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records, other than part of the investigation related to payoffs to two women to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with Trump.

In a court filing Monday, attorneys for Vance said the president wasn’t entitled to know the exact nature of the grand jury investigation.

They noted, though, that at the time the subpoena for the tax filings was issued to Trump’s accountants, “there were public allegations of possible criminal activity” at the president’s company “dating back over a decade.”

They cited several newspaper articles, including one in which the Washington Post examined allegations that Trump had a practice of sending financial statements to potential business partners and banks that inflated the worth of his projects by claiming they were bigger or more potentially lucrative than they were.

Another news article described congressional testimony by Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who said the president would overstate the value of his business interests to impress people or lenders, but then deflate the value of assets when trying to reduce his taxes.

The attorneys also cited reports of past investigations by New York regulators into whether the conduct described by Cohen amounted to bank fraud.

“These reports describe transactions involving individual and corporate actors based in New York County, but whose conduct at times extended beyond New York’s borders. This possible criminal activity occurred within the applicable statutes of limitations, particularly if the transactions involved a continuing pattern of conduct,” the lawyers said.

Trump’s legal team has argued that the subpoena for his tax filings was issued in bad faith and amounted to harassment of the president.

The Supreme Court last month rejected claims by Trump’s lawyers that the president could not be criminally investigated while he was in office.

Vance’s lawyers urged U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero to swiftly reject Trump’s further arguments that the subpoenas were improper, saying the baseless claims were threatening the investigation.

“Every day that goes by is another day Plaintiff effectively achieves the ‘temporary absolute immunity’ that was rejected by this Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court,” Vance’s lawyers said.

Marrero has scheduled arguments to be fully submitted by mid-August.

Vance sought the tax records in part for a probe of how Cohen arranged during the 2016 presidential race to keep the porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal from airing claims of extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.

Cohen is serving the last two years of a three-year prison sentence in home confinement after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, lying to Congress and tax crimes. He said he plans to publish a book critical of the president before the November election.

If the court orders Trump’s accounting firm to give his tax returns to the grand jury, they could be used in any criminal inquiry, but would not be released publicly. Grand jury documents are secret in New York.

ATLANTA (AP) — Rapper and actor T.I. has settled civil charges with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that he helped promote a fraudulent cryptocurrency. T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, agreed to a civil settlement with the SEC that was announced Friday. He is paying a $75,000 fine and agreeing not to sell or market similar securities for at least five years. Harris got into trouble, the SEC said, because he used his social media accounts to promote FLiK, falsely claiming to be a co-owner, and asked an unnamed actor and comedian to also promote FLiK, providing language calling it T.I.’s “new venture.” The SEC says both of those moves broke federal laws against selling securities without registering with the SEC. The charges against Harris were part of a larger enforcement action against others including film producer Ryan Felton, who faces wire fraud and other charges in a 28-count indictment unsealed Wednesday.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Legal advocates are lining up on both sides of actor Bill Cosby’s appeal as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court prepares to review his 2018 sex assault conviction. Cosby was the first celebrity to go on trial in the #MeToo era, and his appeal could resolve lingering questions about how the cases should be tried. For starters, the high court will try to clarify when other accusers can testify against a defendant — and when the additional testimony amounts to character assassination. Public defenders in Philadelphia, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in Cosby’s appeal, noted that courts have given conflicting guidance on the issue.

NEW YORK (AP) — The Council of Fashion Designers of America gave its top fashion awards on Monday to Gabriela Hearst for womenswear and Kerby Jean-Raymond for menswear. The two designers led a group of winners that the CFDA said was the most diverse in the 39-year history of the awards. It was the second honor in two days for Jean-Raymond, the prominent Black founder of the Pyer Moss label, who was also named Designer of the Year by Harlem’s Fashion Row in a virtual ceremony on Sunday. The CFDA winners also included Telfar Clemens, who won the accessories award, and Christopher John Rogers, who won for American emerging designer. All four were first-time winners.

NEW YORK (AP) — There’s a scene in a new documentary about Paris Hilton, where the so-called socialite is speaking with former classmates from a Utah boarding school. They joke about how on her reality series “The Simple Life,” Hilton pretended to be clueless over many things— including how to perform any sort of manual labor. One bluntly described it as “some straight-up (expletive),” as they all laughed. “I don’t think you had like a high-pitch voice back then,” was another observation. None of this is a surprise to Hilton. What’s revealed in “This is Paris,” which debuted for free Monday on Hilton’s YouTube channel, is that the ultra-glam, baby-talking young woman whose standard line was “that’s hot,” was a manufactured caricature not just for fame but self-protection, too.