We Took a bit of A Break, but We'er Back With A Korean Meeting and Hostages, and A Lawyer Leaving His Firm

On his way home from Singapore, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought with him three American hostages who had been held for months in North Korea. In preparation for the upcoming Peace Summit, North Korea released the three men from the brutal labor camps where they were being held, to a hotel near Pyongyang. This moment had been months in the making. Back in March, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho traveled to Sweden to discuss the potential release of the three hostages. Pompeo who was then acting as CIA Director personally spoke with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend concerning the release of the three men. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has spent decades negotiating hostage releases with North Korea, believes that there was a precondition placed on the North Korean release of American hostages before the summit was to take place. The release of these three hostages was seen as a diplomatic gesture and a sign of decreasing tensions between the United States and North Korea. 

To follow the release of the hostages the date for the summit between the United States and North Korea was announced. The President and North Korean leader will be meeting in Singapore on June 12th of this year. 

In less foreign news, Rudy Giuliani, a new member of the Trump legal team and former mayor of New York, announced that he was officially resigning from Greenbegr Traurig. A statement released by the firm described Giuliani's leave as this; After recognizing that this work is all-consuming and is lasting longer than anticipated, Rudy has determined it is best for him to resign from the firm." After being at the firm for only a year, Giuliani had planned to take only a temporary leave but, "In light of the pressing demands of the Mueller investigation, I believe it is in everyone's best interest that I make it a permanent resignation. This way, my sole concentration can be on this critically important matter for our country. There may have been some political motivation behind his resignation. Greenburg Traurig was reportedly unhappy with Giuliani's comments over the payments made by Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels, which Giuliani claimed were not unusual and a common practice among high-powered attorneys. 

Piling Allegations and SCOTUS on the Boarder of an Immigration Decision

Veterans Affairs nominee Ronny Jackson has been fighting an uphill battle as information of his past professional experience is being revealed during his confirmation hearing before the Senate. Last week allegations involving Jackson’s workplace practices, including claims of inappropriate behavior and over-prescribing prescription drugs began surfacing. Complaints to the White House included that Jackson oversaw a poor work environment, that he had drunk alcohol on the job, and that he had been involved in a car wreck after a secret service going away party. A 2012 report form the Navy's Medical Inspector General revealed  that Jackson and a rival physician exhibited “unprofessional behaviors” as they engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit. After review by the Associated Press the report was found to have no references to improper prescribing of drugs or the use of alcohol which were allegations brought out separately by a Senate committee. Jackson has not responded to any of the allegations presented against him. President Trump appears to be standing by his nominee calling him “one of the finest people that I have met". In a private meeting between the President and Jackson yesterday afternoon, the President reportedly encouraged Jackson to keep fighting to win the confirmation. With allegations piling up daily we wait to see if Jackson will survive his confirmation hearing or if he will step down and ask the president to nominate another individual to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Supreme Court sat for its last day of oral arguments in this term. They heard arguments for one of the most anticipated cases they had in their docket this term; No. 17-965. DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, ET AL., Petitioners V. HAWAII, ET AL. One of the many questions before the court was whether or not the president had the authority to issue a travel ban proclamation such as this one. The court was reviewing the constitutionality, under the establishment clause of the First Amendment, of Trump's third travel ban. The travel ban being reviewed was announced by Trump on September 24, 2017 and banned individuals who are from Chad, Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela.  At the end of the respondents thirty minute argument, Chief Justice Roberts informed Mr. Katyal he could take an additional five minutes if he wished to finish his argument. This additional grant of time if not often offered by the court and although Mr. Katyal did not take it, the offer indicates the weight the Justices are placing on this decision.

An opinion from the Justices is not expected until mid May. As predicted, the Liberal Justices expressed discomfort with the Trump's efforts to limit immigration. While the Conservative Justices did not seem eager to limit the president's ability to impact immigration, particularly with questions of national security an boarder control being considered by other government agencies. It seems as if this case will come down to the swing vote, Justice Kennedy, who appeared to be leaning with the Conservative Justices in favor of the ban. 

SCOTUS Leans Left

 

The Supreme Court today issued an opinion in the case of Sessions, Attorney General v. Dimaya, 15-1498. The Court initially heard arguments for this case back in January 2017. The ruling was a 5-4 split with all four of the liberal justices in the majority, conservative justices in the dissent.  The decision in todays case turned on a 2015 decision form the court that struck down a similarly worded part of another federal law that imposes longer prison sentences on repeat criminals. Previously immigration officers had relied upon a list of crimes that made an individual eligible for deportation. The category in Dimaya's case was crime “that, by its very nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force…may be used in the course of committing the offense”. This particular provision was struck down by the federal appeals court in San Francisco, and affirmed by the Supreme Court as Constitutionally vague. 

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement after the ruling that it “significantly undermines” its “efforts to remove aliens convicted of certain violent crimes". The Court's decision in no way impacts the ability for the government to deport individuals who have committed a clearly violent crimes, including murder, rape, drug trafficking, and other serious offenses. The category of crimes impacted are limited to those which carry a prison term of more than a year, but do not otherwise fit in a long list of "aggravated felonies" that can lead to deportation. 

The Court's decision today does come as a loss for the President and his administration who have both pressed stricter enforcement of immigration law. What is further notable about this case is that it was Trump's own appointed justice, Neil Gorsuch, who was the deciding vote. Although Gorsuch did not sign on to the entirety of Justice Kagan's opinion, he did state; “no one should be surprised that the Constitution looks unkindly on any law so vague that reasonable people cannot understand its terms and judges do not know where to begin in applying it". This is the first case in which Gorsuch has split from the Trump administrations rhetoric, a topic that was highly discussed during his confirmation process. Although the Justice stated he would always interpret the law through an unbiased lens, Trump relied heavily on Gorsuch's conservative past when selecting him as the nominee to replace Scalia. This was in part motived by the President's belief that should an abortion case come before the Court, Gorsuch would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. The decision today indicates that unlike Trump desired, Gorsuch is going to cite the Constitution in his opinions and not the day to day rhetoric of the Administration.

Cohen in Court , Trump on Taxes

A New York court today denied the block sought by both Michael Cohen and President Donald Trump. After a near three-hour hearing, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Kimba Wood denied the request for a Cohen, Trump or a Third party to be the first to review the material discovered in the raid of Cohen's office and hotel room. After hearing arguments as to wether or not the communications seized were privileged or not, Judge Wood determined that prosecutors were able to move forward in the initial stages of their review.  “I have faith in the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s office that their integrity is unimpeachable,” Wood said during the hearing. “I think that a taint team is a viable option". Wood did indicate that she may appoint a "special master to determine what docunments involving Trump are and are not privileged. 

The President today went to Hialeah, Florida to host a round table on taxes. In a discussion with small buisiness leaders Trump promoted a $1.5 trillion tax cut package Republicans pushed through the end of last year. According to Trump what made these tax cuts possible was allowing larger corporations to give bonuses to some of their employees. Trump claimed that the tax plan would be the  "last time you're going to fill out that long complicated horrible return". Trump went on to talk about trade, and slighted both Mexico and the European Union saying "in many cases our friends are worse than our enemies". Trump slammed unfair trade deals saying that it is "very hard to do business", followed by another vow to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

A Monday Afternoon Warrant, Syria, the U.S. Response, and What's to Come from Zuckerberg

Late Monday afternoon a raid of Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen raised further questions of the legal issues surrounding Cohen, Stormy Daniels and the Russia investigation. There was a Chemical attack in Syria this weekend and the U.S .is yet to officially respond, Plus Zuckerberg is taking responsibility