News Headlines 7/2/21

TRUMP ORGANIZATION, CFO WEISSELBERG CHARGED WITH TAX FRAUD: Former President Donald Trump‘s company, the Trump Organization, and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, were charged with tax fraud Thursday (July 1st) in what prosecutors called a “sweeping and audacious” 15-year scheme “orchestrated by the most senior executives” at the company. The Trump Organization and Weisselberg are accused of conspiring to pay senior executives “off the books” compensation on which tax wasn’t paid, including rent, car payments and tuition. Weisselberg was claimed to be one of the largest beneficiaries, who allegedly hid nearly $1.8 million in this type of compensation from tax authorities. Trump himself wasn’t charged, but prosecutors noted he signed some of the checks involved in the case. The most serious charge against Weisselberg carries a prison sentence of five to 15 years, and the Trump Organization could have to a pay a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes. The case could also make it harder for the company to get bank loans or make deals. Both Weisselberg and attorneys for the Trump Organization pled not guilty.

BIDEN MEETS WITH FAMILIES OF SURFSIDE CONDO RESIDENTS, SEARCH RESUMES AFTER SAFETY PAUSE: President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden yesterday (July 1st) met for more than three hours with family members of still-missing residents of the Surfside, Florida, condominium that partially collapsed one week earlier. Biden also met with and thanked first responders looking for survivors in the rubble from the 12-story Champlain Towers South building and stopped by a memorial wall covered in flowers and photos of the missing. He additionally received a briefing from officials, which was also attended by Governor Ron DeSantis, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and the state’s two U.S. senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Biden pledged continued federal help and also said he believed the federal government has, quote, “the power to pick up 100 percent of the cost” of the search and cleanup. Meanwhile, the search efforts at the site resumed yesterday evening after they’d been stopped for 15 hours over safety concerns about the stability of the remaining part of the tower that’s still standing. They began again after the site was evaluated by structural engineers. The confirmed death toll remains at 18, with 145 people still missing.

GARLAND ORDERS TEMPORARY STOP OF FEDERAL EXECUTIONS: Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last night (July 1st) that he’d ordered a temporary stop of federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of its related policies and procedures. He said, “The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely. That obligation has special force in capital cases.” Under former Attorney General William Barr, the Justice Department resumed federal executions in 2019 after a 17-year halt, and carried out an historic run of executing 13 people in six months near the end of former President Donald Trump‘s term.

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS VOTING LIMITS: The Supreme Court’s conservative majority yesterday (July 1st) upheld voting limits that had been imposed in Arizona, overturning a lower court ruling that found they were discriminatory under the federal Voting Rights Act. The 6-3 ruling said that the state’s restrictions on who can return early ballots for another person and refusing to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct aren’t racially discriminatory. The federal appeals court had found the measures disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic and Native American voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, but Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority that the state’s interest in the integrity of elections justified the measures and voters faced, quote, “modest burdens” at most. He wrote that showing a law disproportionately affects minority voters isn’t enough to prove a violation of law. Justice Elena Kagan condemned the majority’s decision, charging that it had weakened the Voting Rights Act for the second time in eight years.

PELOSI NAMES MEMBERS, INCLUDING CHENEY, OF COMMITTEE TO PROBE CAPITOL ATTACK: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday (July 1st) named eight members of a new select committee that will investigate the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Included are seven Democrats and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, who was removed from the House Republican leadership in May for being too critical of former President Donald Trump. Cheney said she was honored to serve on the committee, and that her duty is to the Constitution. Her appointment came after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy threatened to strip Republican members of their committee assignments if they accepted an appointment from Pelosi to the panel. Leading the select committee will be Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee