Donald Trump

Trump Files Legal Challenge To New York Tax Return Law

President Donald Trump has filed a legal challenge to a New York law approved earlier this year that would allow Congress to access his New York tax returns.

Attorney General Letitia James in a statement said she is prepared to defend the measure, known as the TRUST Act. James is named in the suit, as is the House Ways and Means Committee, and New York Taxation and Finance Commissioner Michael Schmidt.

“President Trump has spent his career hiding behind lawsuits, but, as New York’s chief law enforcement officer, I can assure him that no one is above the law — not even the president of the United States,” James said.

“The TRUST Act will shine a light on the president’s finances and finally offer transparency to millions of Americans yearning to know the truth. We have all the confidence that this law is legal and we will vigorously defend it against any court challenge.”

The legal challenge comes as, for now, Democrats in the House of Representatives have shown little desire to access Trump’s New York tax filings, believing a richer trove of information is contained in his federal tax returns. Trump has broken with decades of tradition in refusing to release his federal tax returns.

The law allows committee chairs of the Ways and Means and Judiciary panels in Congress to access the tax returns of public officials in New York.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, one of the bill’s main sponsors, called the lawsuit “without merit.”

“It impugns the integrity of the legislative purpose behind the law. New York State has an interest in supporting the lawful oversight responsibilities of the U.S. Congress,” he said.

And another bill sponsor, Assemblyman David Buchwald, predicted the legal challenge will fail.

“It’s no surprise that the President has moved quickly in an attempt to strike down New York’s tax transparency law, as he is fighting the release of his tax returns on every front,” he said.

Trump Extends Twitter Feud With Cuomo

President Donald Trump on Tuesday extended his Twitter beef with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, knocking his leadership of the state and the outmigration of people.

Cuomo, in turn, called the tweets part of a “tantrum.”

The tweets from the president, which began on Monday, appear centered around Attorney General Letitia James’s office conducting investigations into Trump’s finances, including his effort to buy the Buffalo Bills.

Today’s focus: James’s investigation of the National Rifle Association’s financial picture and the turmoil surrounding the gun rights group’s leadership.

“People are fleeing New York like never before. If they own a business, they are twice as likely to flee,” Trump wrote. “And if they are a victim of harassment by the A.G. of the state, like what they are doing to our great NRA, which I think will move quickly to Texas, where they are loved…..”

He added in a follow-up tweet: “Texas will defend them & indemnify them against political harassment by New York State and Governor Cuomo. So many people are leaving New York for Texas and Florida that it is totally under siege. First New York taxes you too high, then they sue you, just to complete the job.”

Cuomo in a statement pointed to the federal tax overhaul of 2017 capping state and local tax deductions at $10,000 — a move seen as harmful to high-tax blue states like New York.

“President Trump is in la la land. If he is worried about law enforcement, he shouldn’t break the law. If he is worried about New York taxes, he should repeal the New York tax penalty called SALT that he and Republicans passed, which targeted New York and raised our taxes by $15 billion,” Cuomo said.

“I lowered taxes in New York. Trump raised them. Try the truth for a change, Mr. President.”

3 New York Takeaways From The Mueller Report

The release of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has ties to New York and ramifications for the state’s politics.

Here are three key takeaways about how the report effects the Empire State’s political scene:

1. New Yorkers with bit roles.

The president, of course, is the first New Yorker to win the White House since Franklin Roosevelt. And that’s led to some ancillary characters from New York politics to play a role in the saga surrounding the 2016 election. Many of the redactions in the report are due to the upcoming perjury trial of Roger Stone, the colorful New York political operative who has an on-again, off-again relationship and advisory role with Trump.

Western New York political operative Michael Caputo, who had at one point sought a Trump gubernatorial campaign in 2014, is also briefly mentioned in the report. Caputo is said to have learned of a Russian business partner based in Florida named Henry Oknyansky that he had information on Hillary Clinton, and Caputo introduced him to Stone.

Another bit player is Randy Credico, a leftist comedian and activist who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, but also has ties to Stone. Credico, who has interviewed the now-jailed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on his radio show, had much of his role redacted in the report.

2. The Republican response.

At start of Trump’s campaign,. New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox didn’t embrace the populist candidate’s plan to upend the political system. That’s since changed. Cox in a statement on Thursday cheered the report for finding no evidence the Trump campaign sought to collude with Russian intelligence to sway the election’s outcome and claimed the report exonerated the president of obstruction of justice, though the report itself is rather murky on that point, choosing to ultimately not make a conclusion. Cox went as far as to echo the president’s own call for an investigation of intelligence officials who had raised alarms over Russia’s involvement in the election.

“Meanwhile, the investigation must now turn to the conduct of intelligence and other officials who abused their positions and the truth about the phony Steele dossier must be revealed to the public,” Cox said in a statement. “As President Trump said, this should never happen again.”

3. What will swing district Democrats do?

Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi last year won a seat in the House of Representatives the president won by 15 percentage points. He defeated Republican incumbent Claudia Tenney, a prominent supporter of the president who had Trump come to the district and raise money for her campaign. Tenney may not be as popular as Trump in that district, but the president in 2020 will again be at the top of the ticket and the central New York seat will be see as an opportunity for Republicans to pick up.

Brindisi on Thursday gave a careful answer when asked about the Mueller report.

“I want to read the report and see what’s in there,” he told Spectrum News. “But my concern is I don’t want to spend the next year and a half getting bogged down on the Mueller investigation and Russia. We’ve got to focus on the issues I’m hearing out of town hall meetings — lowering drug costs, infrastructure spending, doing something about this opioid epidemic. Those are the things we need to focus on in Congress and not get bogged down in endless investigations.”

House Judiciary Committee Requests Documents From Fmr. Trump Staffer Caputo

Former Donald Trump campaign staffer and Western New Yorker Michael Caputo is among the 81 agencies, entities and individuals the House Judiciary Committee is requesting documents.

It is part of an investigation, the committee announced today, into obstruction of justice, public corruption and other abuses of power allegedly committed by the president, his associates and members of the administration. New Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, said over the past two years the Republican-led Congress has refused to conduct responsible oversight.

“We have sent these document requests in order to begin building the public record,” Nadler said. “The Special Counsel’s office and the Southern District of New York are aware that we are taking these steps. We will act quickly to gather this information, assess the evidence, and follow the facts where they lead with full transparency with the American people. This is a critical time for our nation, and we have a responsibility to investigate these matters and hold hearings for the public to have all the facts. That is exactly what we intend to do.”

Caputo, who worked for the campaign from November 2015 to late-May 2016, has previously testified before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and did an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The Senate Judiciary Committee has also contacted his attorney requesting information and possibly testimony.

In a letter, Nadler asked Caputo for documents that have already been produced in other proceedings to be provided to House Judiciary by March 18.

In addition the committee is requesting documents related to the following:

  • a) The June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting (the “Trump Tower meeting”), including but not limited to contacts or communications about the meeting involving one or more of the following individuals: Donald Trump Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Emin Agalarov, Aras Agalarov, Goldstone, and/or Rinat Akhmetshin.
  • b) Any contacts, direct or indirect, from January 1, 2015 to January 20, 2017 between or involving the Russian Federation and its officials, agents, intermediaries, and/or instrumentalities and any of the following: Donald Trump, the Trump Campaign, the Trump Organization, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, Thomas Bossert, Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Konstantin Kilimnik, K.T. McFarland, and/or Erik Prince.
  • c) Any contacts, direct or indirect, from January 1,2016 to the present between Paul Manafort and/or Rick Gates and any of the following individuals: Konstantin Kilimnik, Serhiy Lyovochkin, and/or Rinat Akhmetov

Nadler said the staff would work with Caputo and his attorney on a “mutually agreeable schedule” for those documents. The political operative has complained often that the legal proceedings have been very costly for him and a GoFundMe and trust fund were even started in his name.

Caputo said he needed to discuss the latest developments with his attorney before making any comment.


Miner Targets Molinaro

Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has thus far trained most of her criticism in her long shot independent gubernatorial campaign on her fellow Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, keeping up a tradition she started even before she left local office and launched her statewide run.

But today, Miner has trained her sights on another of her opponents: Republican Marc Molinaro.

Miner issued a statement this morning calling on Molinaro to “clarify his support” for President Donald Trump, noting that while he has said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, instead writing in the name of former Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, he has “evaded taking a stand on the president’s positions.”

The former mayor says she and her supporters want Molinaro to publicly explain where he stands on five key issues, including: The elimination of the SALT deductions, abortion rights (specifically the Reproductive Health Act), the president’s U.S. Supreme Court nominees, private funding for infrastructure projects, and Trump’s “refusal” to fund the Hudson River transit tunnel.

“As the party’s titular head, Molinaro has a moral responsibility to speak up for those vulnerable New Yorkers who are being victimized by the President’s rhetoric,”” Miner said. “We all have a responsibility to speak out against party leadership when they are wrong – just as I have spoken truth to power in regard to Andrew Cuomo’s behavior.”

Molinaro has been asked at one time or another about many, if not all, of these issues. But apparently Miner has not found his responses satisfactory.

This is an interesting approach for Miner, the former head of the state Democratic Party – a position to which she was appointed by Cuomo, and which she relinquished when their relationship soured due to her public criticism of his policies.

On the one hand, this seems to bolster Cuomo and his effort to link Molinaro to Trump, who is unpopular in this Democrat-dominated state.

But it also appears to be an effort to inoculate herself against criticism generated when she decided to run on the “Serve America Movement,” or SAM, line. SAM, which also happens to be Miner’s initials, was founded by a bipartisan group of political players that includes a number who worked for Republicans.

Miner has insisted she is trying to challenge the current two party system, and is in some ways beyond politics, instead focused on solutions and civility at a time when both are few and far between. She has tapped as her running mate the former Republican Mayor of Pelham, Michael Volpe.

Some critics have suggested that Miner’s candidacy will only bolster Molinaro’s long-shot effort to oust Cuomo, providing an outlet for disaffected voters – Democrats and independents – who don’t like the governor. But recent polling found that she, Libertarian candidate Larry Sharpe and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins are only attracting a combined 4 percent of the vote, with 8 percent undecided.

Conservative Party Links Molinaro To Trump

Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro has struggled to distance himself throughout his uphill statewide campaign from President Donald Trump, who is not terribly popular in his Democrat-dominated home state.

Right from the get-go, Molinaro repeatedly noted that he didn’t even vote for the controversial presidential candidate back in 2016, instead writing in the name of former Rep. Chris Gibson, a self-professed political pragmatist who once considered – and then rejected – a run for governor himself.

But Molinaro’s efforts to cast himself as a fair-minded fiscal conservative with middle-of-the-road social views, unlike Trump, have been stymied by his Democratic opponent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is relishing running against the president and linking him to the Dutchess County executive at every available opportunity – even going so far as to cast Molinaro as a “Trump mini-me.”

There are, however, a group of New York voters for whom Trump is not the enemy, but rather a hero. And these voters, many of them members of the state Conservative Party, need to turn out for Molinaro in next month’s general election if he is to have any hope of not losing in a landslide to the governor, who is leading by a wide margin in public opinion polls.

The state Conservative Party, which has endorsed Molinaro, also has an interest in getting its base to the polls, since retaining its ballot status rests on its ability to attract at least 50,000 votes for the Republican candidate on its line. The more votes he gets there, vis-a-vis other minor party candidates, the better placement the Conservatives get on the ballot for the next four years.

So the Conservatives are doing what Molinaro won’t – even can’t – willingly following Cuomo’s lead in linking him to Trump, but casting that connection as a positive, rather than a negative.

The party has released a new radio ad, entitled “Hallelujah,” urging “those who stood with the Conservative Party and voted for President Donald J. Trump to continue to stand with the Conservative Party and vote for Marc Molinaro for Governor on the Conservative line.”

Here’s the script:

This is what a typical liberal hears when Donald Trump speaks…

“(Yelling and screaming over horror score)”

But this is what a conservative hears…

“Glory, glory hallelujah!”

If Trump infuriating his enemies is music to your ears – – and you don’t mind making the liberals scream yourself – – this November stand with President Trump.

Cast your vote on the Conservative Party line, Row C. Your vote means more on the Conservative Party line.

Almost 3 million voters across the state backed Trump for President. Maybe Andy Cuomo thinks they have nowhere to go this election.

He’s wrong.

See, the Conservative Party unapologetically backs Trump. And when you vote Marc Molinaro for Governor on the Conservative Party line, you make a statement.

This election, vote Molinaro for Governor on the Conservative Party line, Row C. Send a message that you stand with President Trump because there’s more to do to make America great again.

TRUMP: We gotta get it done!

Paid for the State Conservative Campaign Committee.

Interestingly, this ad only focuses on the governor’s race, on which the Conservative Party’s future depends.

It makes no mention of, say, the battle for control of the state Senate, in which the Republicans are fighting mightily to retain their slim control of the majority in a supposed blue-wave election year – an effort that the Conservatives arguably also have a stake in.

There’s also no mention of the battle for control of the House, which the president himself has been focused on, stumping for candidates in key red states across the nation. The president hasn’t in recent months, paid much attention to his home state, though soon-to-be-former House Speaker Paul Ryan was scheduled to be in key upstate districts this week, and Vice President Mike Pence has also made appearances.

Trump himself last appeared upstate in August, when he attended an event to benefit Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney, a staunch supporter of the president, who is locked in a tight re-election battle with Democratic Assembly Anthony Brindisi.

Farley on Iran: ‘Avoid Any Kind of Military Escalation’

From the Morning Memo:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chele Farley weighed in on the escalating rhetoric between the U.S. and Iran during a campaign stop yesterday in Buffalo.

Responding to an all-caps Twitter warning from President Donald Trump to the Islamic Republic, an Iranian special forces chief said: “If you begin the war, we will end it.” Farley said cooler heads should prevail.

“I think that the U.S. needs to have a strong military which we have done,” she said. “But certainly I’m in favor of talks, and we certainly want to avoid any kind of military escalation if at all possible.”

At the same time, Farley criticized her opponent, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, for supporting the Obama administration’s Iran deal. She said the Democrat is out of touch with New Yorkers who opposed the framework, and is acting solely out of a desire to possible run for president in 2020.

For the record, the senator has insisted she is focused on her current re-election effort, and isn’t contemplating a White Hosue bid, but Farley isn’t buying that, saying:

“She is catering to the far-left fringes of the Democratic party in a bid to win a Democratic primary.”

Meanwhile, Farley again criticized her opponent for calling for the termination and reimagination of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

That’s something Gillibrand has repeatedly called for many times now, and even says should be the first order of business for the Democrats if they re-take control of Congress in the midterm elections.

“Abolishing ICE is a horrible idea,” Farley said. “Kristen Gilibrand was the first senator to call out for the abolishment of ICE, which is outrageous. We all know that ICE has played a very important role in our border security.”

Gillibrand, as recently as this week, has stood by her statements on ICE despite pushback.

USA Today Drops Columnist For Heated Twitter Exchange With WNY Political Operative

USA Today has dropped one of its political columnists after she authored a controversial social media post about a Western New York political operative’s children. The paper announced Friday Cheri Jacobus’ work would no longer be published following a heated Twitter exchange with former Trump campaign volunteer Michal Caputo.

The tweet, which still hasn’t been deleted, asked if Caputo’s daughters are ugly or whether they would be shared sexually at parties hosted by Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein, an associate of former President Bill Clinton, was a former financier and was found guilty ten years ago for soliciting sex from an underage girl.

Jacobus’ attack seemed to be the exclamation point on heated thread that included Caputo calling the columnist bitter, childless and alone. Jacobus, a boisterous critic of President Trump, referred to Caputo as a traitor and said he’d end up in jail for lying under oath.

“Cheri Jacobus is clearly mentally ill and she will hopefully get help,” Caputo said when reached by phone Friday evening.

In addition to testifying in front of a congressional committee, Caputo was deposed in May by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.  Mueller was appointed to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. Caputo worked in Russia in the 1990’s for a media company later hired by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

Caputo has repeatedly called the Russia collusion investigation bogus and has mounted a spirited defense which included an online fundraiser for his legal defense.  He’s also become a regular critic of the Mueller investigation on Fox News.  

Caputo’s ire isn’t limited to Jacobus, he also blamed Erie County’s Executive and the Chair of the Erie County Democratic Party.

“Mark Poloncarz and Jeremy Zellner are still paying WNYmedia to promote sexualized attacks on my family and they need to stop. Politics is a tough game but families have always been off limits. Unless Poloncarz and Zellner want that to change – for them too,” Caputo added.  

Zellner told WBEN radio Friday Caputo’s charges were baseless and didn’t warrant a response.


Rep. Reed Defends Trump During MSNBC Interview

Southern Tier Republican Tom Reed defended President Donald Trump during a sometimes contentious interview on MSNBC last night.

Host Katy Tur asked the congressman about the president walking back a comment earlier this week in which he apparently sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over United States intelligence regarding foreign interference in the 2016 election. Trump said he misspoke but Reed pivoted, arguing the more important point is the distinction between Russian meddling, which he says the president has repeatedly recognized, and collusion.

“That’s why it’s time to get the show on the road and move this process forward on the investigation to say if there’s collusion, if there’s meddling, what is it. Let’s get the facts out to the American people and get this behind us so we can start solving the problems of America,” Reed said.

Tur pushed further, asking why Trump seems to have a hard time agreeing with his own intelligence agents. She pointed out even on the walk-back, he added a caveat that others could have also interfered in the 2016 election.

Reed agreed, saying there is ample evidence of computer hacking out of China and North Korea in order to attempt to influence elections.

“The issue of meddling in our elections is a real threat and it’s clear that Russia was part of it,” he said. “Now that doesn’t mean Russia is the only actor that engaged in that, not only in 2016 but before, and what we should do as a country is recognize the threats to our election process and make sure that they don’t happen going forward.”

The congressman said he believes there is value to the meetings between the American and Russian presidents and took exception to a question about whether Putin has something on Trump.

“Obviously Putin is not friend of America,” Reed said. “He is an adversary. He is an enemy and we should treat him as that, however we do have to recognize that Russia does have influence in the world as a super power with nuclear weapons that can influence areas like Syria, Iran, North Korea.”
The congressman’s Democratic challenger this fall was critical of Reed’s “weak” responses and “playground language. ”

“Neither Reed nor the president takes cyberattacks seriously, because neither Reed nor the president understands them. As a cybersecurity expert, I am certain that 21st-century warfare will be cyberwarefare,” Tracy Mitrano said.

She says the 2016 hacking will be just the first skirmish and believes more needs to be done to fortify American from the attacks.

Trump Pardons D’Souza For Campaign Finance Conviction

President Donald Trump announced Thursday in a tweet he would pardon controversial conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, whose campaign finance violations provided a coda to the failed Senate bid of Republican Wendy Long.

“Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today,” Trump posted on Twitter. “He was treated very unfairly by our government!”

D’Souza pleaded guilty to charges related to the arranging of contributions to Long’s Senate campaign totaling $20,000 with the promise he’d pay donors back, essentially violating the $5,000 cap on donations to a federal candidate.

Long ran against Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer in 2016 and previously ran against Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012.

The pardon by Trump of D’Souza was criticized by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office originated the case.

“The President has the right to pardon but the facts are these: D’Souza intentionally broke the law, voluntarily pled guilty, apologized for his conduct & the judge found no unfairness,” Bharara said on Twitter. “The career prosecutors and agents did their job. Period.”