Rural crime goes on

 In times like these, when we are in uncharted waters of corruption at the highest levels of government, news of a little old-fashioned rustling is kind of reassuring if the culprits are caught. -- blj
Modesto Bee
Oakdale cops corral early morning horse thieves
Marijke Rowland
Two men found out the hard way that you don't steal horses in the Cowboy Capital.
At 2 a.m. Saturday Oakdale Police received a call about a suspicious vehicle loading horses into a trailer. When officers arrived on the 1000 block of Post Road, they determined a horse theft was in progress, according to Oakdale Police Department Public Information Officer Janeen Yates.
Officers arrested Oakdale residents Colton Haynes, 28, and Dustin O’Daniel, 23, on felony theft charges. Both Haynes and O’Daniel were booked into the Stanislaus County Jail. The horses were returned to their owner.

Washington Post
From Mueller to Stormy to ‘emoluments,’ Trump’s business is under siege
By Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold
The carefully maintained secrecy around President Trump’s finances is under unprecedented assault a year into his presidency, with three different legal teams with different agendas trying to pry open the Trump Organization’s books.
On one side is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who has subpoenaed Trump Organization documents as part of his wide-ranging investigation into the 2016 campaign. On another is Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress seeking internal correspondence as part of her effort to be freed from a nondisclosure agreement centering on an alleged affair with Trump.
And in the most direct assault, the District and Maryland have sued Trump, alleging that he is improperly accepting gifts, or “emoluments,” from foreign or state governments through his businesses, including his hotels. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the case can proceed, opening the way for the plaintiffs to seek at least a portion of Trump’s tax returns, which the president has refused to release.
“I think under pretty much any reading of the judge’s order, we can get discovery of his personal financial information in that it relates to payments from foreign and domestic governments,” Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) said. He and D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) also plan to seek other documents related to the president’s D.C. hotel.
The inquiries are exposing the risks Trump took on when he made the decision to maintain ownership of the company that bears his name while serving in the White House — a departure from 40 years of presidential tradition and the advice of ethics officials. Previous presidents have chosen to fully divest their assets. When Trump took office, he instead put his stake in his company into a trust managed by his sons, accessible to him at any time.
D.C. and Maryland are suing President Trump for violating a little-known constitutional provision called "the emoluments clause." (Video: Jenny Starrs/Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Now, what initially seemed like a plum arrangement for Trump — enjoying the fruits of his business while running the country — may come back to harm the Trump Organization if it is forced to reveal the kind of financial information and private correspondence that real estate firms closely guard.
During the campaign, Trump played on his reputation as a successful businessman, boasting of his real estate projects while refusing to disclose financial information that might have corroborated that image. He deflected calls to release his tax returns, a disclosure every president has made since the 1970s.
Since taking over the business, his grown sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, have at times remarked that one of the benefits of running a private company is the ability to avoid the scrutiny and pressure faced by publicly held firms.
“We’re not a public company,” Eric Trump told The Washington Post shortly after taking over, a fact he has reiterated since. “If we want to add 20 properties to our portfolio in one year we can do that; if we want to add zero to the portfolio in a given year, we can do that.”
Company officials argue it would have been impractical to untangle and sell all of Trump’s real estate holdings, and that doing so might have created additional conflicts of interest.
No private real estate developer wants its plans, financial information and partnerships thrust into open view, as they amount to proprietary information. But that is exactly what could be at stake for Trump.
Since last year, the company has received subpoenas as well as informal requests from investigators with Mueller’s office seeking documents related to Trump’s past business activities in Russia, according to several people familiar with document subpoenas and witness interviews.
The requests are broad, according to the sources, including information regarding the company’s plans for a Trump-branded property in Moscow and communications with Felix Sater, Trump’s partner on Trump SoHo in New York, which has since left the Trump chain.
Alan Futerfas, a New York attorney representing the Trump Organization, said last month that the requests are “old news” and that the company’s “assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”
Whether Trump had an extramarital affair with Daniels a decade ago — something she alleges and he denies — her lawsuit is bringing scrutiny to the company as well.
Daniels received $130,000 from Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as part of an agreement to keep silent about her alleged relationship with Trump more than a decade ago. Cohen used his company email account in negotiations, and on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” show, Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said the agreement was mailed to Cohen at his Trump Organization address.
Avenatti argues that the Trump Organization has “unmistakable links” to the case. He has sought depositions of Trump and Cohen and made up to 10 requests for documents, though a judge deemed the requests premature.
Previously, Avenatti sent a document-preservation letter to the company, asking it to preserve any paperwork and other records regarding Daniels.
Other current or former Trump Organization employees, including attorney Jill A. Martin and former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller, could come under scrutiny for their alleged roles in facilitating meetings with Daniels or covering them up.
In a statement provided to The Post by Cohen, the company has said it “has had no involvement in the matter.”
The attorneys general’s suit is potentially the most consequential, with this week’s ruling setting the stage for the plaintiffs to possibly seek private documents related to the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue NW — a property Trump once used as a backdrop for a campaign event featuring hundreds of hotel staff.
One possible outcome of the case, Racine said, is that Trump could be forced to “divest from any financial interest he has in the hotel.”
Some law professors following the case said that significant impediments remain for the plaintiffs. But they have probably cleared their biggest hurdle toward requiring the company to produce records related to the hotel as part of the legal process known as discovery. Some of the records may be made available to the public; some may not.
“We will be able to get broad discovery in regards to the Trump hotel’s business and the sources of that business,” Racine said.
The Justice Department, which is defending Trump in the case, maintains that the case should be dismissed and has not said whether it will appeal the judge’s decision.
The company issued a statement saying that “the court has yet to rule on several additional arguments, which we believe should result in a complete dismissal.”
People who have sued the Trump Organization in the past said it has been unusually fierce in fighting document requests. “We got, in five years of litigation, what should have been done in less than a year,” said Daniel King. An attorney, he represented clients from a planned Trump development in Mexico who sued after the project failed and their deposits were lost.
In 2006, Trump sued reporter Tim O’Brien for defamation after O’Brien reported that Trump’s net worth was far less than the billions he had claimed. As part of the litigation, O’Brien sought internal Trump documents — including the businessman’s tax returns — in an effort to establish Trump’s actual assets and income.
“The first time that they gave us the tax returns back, it looked like a crossword puzzle, because so much had been redacted,” O’Brien said. In one case, he said, “the only line item that was showing was [Trump’s wife] Melania’s modeling income, which we had no interest in knowing about.”
The case was ultimately dismissed, and O’Brien did not get the information he sought.
“Trump’s problem from the beginning has been a willingness to mix business with governance, and not to make a sharp distinction between the two,” said George D. Brown, a law professor at Boston College. “Well, it’s conceivable that this lawsuit, if it proceeds down a certain path, will force him to rethink that.”
Frances Stead Sellers, Tom Hamburger and Emma Brown contributed to this report



Washington Post
This Trump legal defeat may force Trump to decide: His presidency or his businesses?
By Jennifer Rubin
D.C. and Maryland are suing President Trump for violating a little-known constitutional provision called "the emoluments clause." (Video: Jenny Starrs/Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
In a decision with far-reaching implications for President Trump, a federal court ruled this week that a lawsuit could go forward claiming he unconstitutionally received foreign emoluments — that is, monies from foreign governments explicitly prohibited by the Constitution — from his hotel in Washington. The Associated Press reported:
A federal judge Wednesday allowed Maryland and the District of Columbia to proceed with their lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of accepting unconstitutional gifts from foreign interests, but limited the case to the president’s involvement with the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte’s ruling dismissed other sections of the lawsuit that raised concerns about the impact of foreign gifts to the president from Trump Organization properties outside of Washington.
Maryland and D.C. accuse the president of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bans the president and other federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments as well as U.S. states. Specifically, they allege nearby businesses have been subjected to increased competition as a result of the foreign traffic to the Trump Hotel.
The litigants were delighted with the ruling. (“Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said ‘we won the first round. It’s a very clear decision that Donald Trump is not above the law and has to be held accountable to the emoluments clause.’ D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine … tweeted: ‘We have standing to hold Pres. Trump accountable for violating the Constitution.’ ”)
If Maryland and the District are successful, Trump may be ordered to do something he has so far avoided and which spineless Republicans have refused to demand — namely, disclose what his businesses receive from foreign governments, and either permanently jettison his ties to those operations or reject payments and other things of value from foreign governments (e.g. trademarks in China). Congress could of course choose to approve Trump’s receipt of his emoluments, but House and Senate Republicans — who like the rest of us don’t actually know what Trump’s businesses receive from what sources — have been loath to do that.

Moreover, if a Democratic Congress is elected, it can choose explicitly to disallow Trump’s receipt of foreign emoluments, setting up a possible constitutional clash. If either Congress or a court holds that Trump must give up certain parts of his operations (or segregate any monies and other valuable offerings from foreign governments), he may finally need to decide whether the presidency is worth giving up parts of his financial empire. Moreover, before a final decision on his retention of foreign emoluments, either Congress or litigants (in one of three cases currently ongoing) could demand a raft of financial records exposing for the first time Trump’s finances, including his tax returns.

I talked about the ruling with Norman Eisen, a former chief ethics lawyer for the Obama administration and chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which is serving as outside counsel for the plaintiffs, and constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe, counsel in a separate case brought in New York by CREW and private litigants, which was dismissed last year but is on appeal. Here is our conversation (edited for sake of clarity and length).
RIGHT TURN: Can Trump make an interlocutory appeal (i.e. appeal right now before a final decision in the case)?
EISEN: The DOJ [Justice Department] can request an interlocutory appeal, but it is up to the courts whether to allow it. Interlocutory appeals are the exception to the norm, and the DOJ will bear the burden of showing an interlocutory appeal is justified. Also, even if an interlocutory appeal is heard, that does not necessarily stay the proceedings below. The DOJ will also have to ask for such a stay and will bear the burden of showing that a stay is warranted.
RT: Why did this case make it past the first hurdle and not the New York case? Will the New York case be appealed?
TRIBE: We are appealing the decision in the Southern District of New York dismissing our suit there. One reason for the different results is that Judge Messitte considered but rejected as wrong some of the grounds Judge Daniels erroneously gave for dismissing the SDNY case. In particular, Judge Messitte correctly rejected Judge Daniels’s conclusion that because Trump’s patrons chose to stay at his hotel, there was nothing a court could do to redress the injuries caused by the emoluments violations; he also rejected Judge Daniels’s conclusion that only Congress, and not the courts, could enforce the foreign emoluments clause. Judge Messitte’s rejection of these key conclusions from Judge Daniels suggests that the appeals court in New York could similarly reject those arguments. Further, the cases involve different plaintiffs, and as Judge Messitte recognized, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland are not typical litigants: They are afforded “special solicitude.” That means a lower hurdle to jump to prove standing.
RT: What is the significance of suing in Trump’s personal capacity?
EISEN: At oral argument, Judge Messitte recognized the emoluments clauses present a unique question among constitutional provisions. Unlike nearly all other provisions which involve the exercise of government authority, the emoluments clauses govern the public and private behavior of officers as an obligation of their office. Adding a claim against the president in his personal capacity helps ensure that the court will be able to reach the full scope of the his transgressions and maximizes the chance of success as the case proceeds.
RT: When does discovery start? Will you seek tax returns? Depose Trump? What other Trump associates will you want to depose (Trump’s children, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen)?
EISEN: We are deliberating over a discovery plan. At this time we cannot comment on it other than to say the plaintiffs will certainly seek extensive business records that allow us to understand the scope of the president’s constitutional violations. We believe we can move quickly through discovery once it begins.
RT: Are you asking him to disgorge emoluments received to date? Injunctive relief beyond that?
TRIBE: D.C.’s and Maryland’s complaint asks for only declaratory and injunctive relief, which means only relief going forward. Neither the District of Columbia nor the state of Maryland are seeking damages for past harms.
RT: How does this affect the third case brought by roughly 200 representatives and senators?
TRIBE: This decision provides favorable and well-reasoned precedent holding that a court may consider a suit for injunctive relief against the president when he violates his constitutional duties. While the suit brought by members of congress is differently framed than either the SDNY suit or the one brought by D.C. and Maryland, hopefully Judge Messitte’s thoughtful opinion will provide persuasive authority on those issues which do overlap between the cases.