The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump must hand over financial records to prosecutors in New York.
In a 7-2 ruling, the court said the president does not have absolute immunity from criminal investigation.
The nation’s highest court also issued a ruling in a separate case concerning a request by Democratic-led congressional committees for Trump’s tax returns and financial records.
In a 7-2 ruling and a partial victory for Trump, the court sent the congressional case back to a lower court for further consideration.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, has asked for eight years of the president’s financial records in connection with an alleged “hush money” payment made to porn actress and former Playboy model Stormy Daniels.
Trump’s attorneys had claimed the president was immune from criminal investigation — a claim rejected by the court.
“Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” the court said. “We reaffirm that principle today.”
Vance called the ruling “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one – not even a president – is above the law.
“Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the grand jury’s solemn obligation to follow the law and the facts, wherever they may lead,” Vance said.
Ghislaine Maxwell charged with six counts in Epstein sex abuse case
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was charged Thursday with six counts relating to the sexual abuse and trafficking of minors in the case of late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
An indictment filed in a New York court showed that the charges include conspiracy to entice minors to travel in order to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation of minors for criminal sexual activity and perjury.
Maxwell, whose whereabouts had been unknown following Epstein’s suicide while awaiting trial last summer, was arrested by FBI officers in New Hampshire on Thursday morning.
Epstein hanged himself in a New York cell in August last year while awaiting trial on charges of trafficking minors for sex and US prosecutors are investigating whether he had any accomplices.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio early Sunday lifted a curfew he had imposed on the city for nearly a week as anti-racism protests raged there and nationwide.
“Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city,” de Blasio tweeted in announcing that the curfew was over “effective immediately.”
The 8:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew — the city’s first in 75 years — ends a day early on the eve of the city’s “reopening” on Monday after more than two months of sheltering-at-home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This week New York will enter phase one of the state’s plan to reboot economic activities shuttered due to COVID-19, which caused more than 21,000 confirmed and probable deaths in America’s most populous city.
The initial stage of reopening will allow construction and manufacturing to resume. Retail stores will be allowed limited in-store and curbside pickup.
The mayor had extended the controversial curfew June 2 and moved it up to start more than 20 minutes before sunset, after a number of luxury stores in Manhattan were looted on the heels of mass protests over police brutality.
The second weekend of protests, triggered by the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, drew out marchers by the thousands but were largely peaceful.
Many protesters defied the curfew on Saturday but they were largely ignored by police, who in nights prior had clamped down aggressively on demonstrations that violated the nighttime order.
Over the past week, social media has been deluged with images showing police arresting, cornering and at times beating demonstrators with batons.
Beyond the general call to dismantle systemic racism, the New York protests aim to change a law that shields police discipline records from the public, and cut the 36,000-member police force’s $6 billion annual budget.
New York was under a curfew that would last until early Tuesday morning, officials said, after looters raided stores in central Manhattan, targeting some of the city’s top retailers.
Upmarket fashion store Michael Kors on Fifth Avenue was among the luxury outlets hit, along with Nike, Lego and electronics shops across Midtown, before the 11:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew came into effect, AFP journalists said.
Groups of young people moved from block to block around the district, usually bustling with tourists but deserted due to the coronavirus, with entire streets blocked by police.
Images from local NY1 television showed some young people running out of a Best Buy electronics store before being apprehended by the police.
Stores in the south of Manhattan suffered a similar fate, according to an AFP photographer.
The New York Times reported that the flagship Macy’s department store had also been targeted by looters.
Police did not immediately confirm this, simply saying that “numerous stores were hit” and arrests made “in the hundreds” across the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said a lot of stores around Madison Avenue had been hit and the situation was “really not acceptable.”
As a result, he said the curfew would start from 8:00 pm on Tuesday instead of 11:00 pm.
“The city is fully under control, and overwhelmingly calm and peaceful,” he nevertheless insisted on NY1.
– ‘Time to go home’ –
The imposition of the curfew had been announced a few hours earlier by the mayor and New York state governor Andrew Cuomo after protests and looting during the weekend — notably in the trendy SoHo district.
The mayor tweeted late Monday that “protesters were overwhelmingly peaceful today” but that some people were out to damage property and steal.
“We support peaceful protest in this city. But right now it’s time to go home,” de Blasio said.
“Some people are out tonight not to protest but to destroy property and hurt others -— and those people are being arrested. Their actions are unacceptable and we won’t allow them in our city.”
New York, the economic capital of the United States, and around 40 other cities across the country have imposed curfews after violent protests against police brutality triggered by the death of African-American George Floyd in Minnesota.
Just after 11:00 pm, around a hundred people held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the scene of major protests in recent days, taking a knee in tribute to victims of police brutality, according to an AFP journalist.
Police observed them from a distance but did not arrest anyone despite the curfew.
While looters hit New York, in Washington President Donald Trump said he was “dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property.”
Mayor de Blasio, a Democrat, denounced Trump’s “bellicose words” and “divisive rhetoric.”
“I don’t think it’s a statement from the last few hours that has caused all this, I think it’s what he’s done for years that has contributed,” he said.
Fifteen children have been hospitalised in New York with a rare inflammatory disease possibly linked to coronavirus, officials said Tuesday, in the latest reports of the worrying syndrome.
Kawasaki disease is a mysterious illness that primarily affects children up to the age of five and causes the walls of arteries to become inflamed, resulting in fever, skin peeling, and joint pain.
Britain’s National Health Service first sounded the alarm last month, warning about a small rise in children infected with the coronavirus that have “overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki disease.”
France has also reported several cases.
Though frightening, most recover without serious issues.
New York’s government health department said it had identified 15 cases of children aged between two and 15 who had symptoms of Kawasaki disease.
“That is enough for sure (to say) it’s causing us concern,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.
More than half of the patients required blood pressure support and five needed mechanical ventilation, but no fatalities were reported among the cases, the department said.
Respiratory symptoms were reported in less than half the patients, it said. All experienced a fever and more than half reported rash, abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.
New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said a few cases had also been identified in Boston and Philadelphia.
“We’re not sure what to make of this yet. We’re still learning every day about how COVID-19 behaves,” she said.
Treatment for Kawasaki disease involves intravenous immunoglobulin and aspirin, Barbot added.
Banks are considering letting some employees keep working from home indefinitely, and staggering the shifts of those who do come into the office.
Hotels are trying to figure out a way to let arriving guests go straight to their rooms without signing in at the reception desk.
New York — the financial, cultural and tourism capital of the United States — is gingerly preparing to get back to business after more than a month of coronavirus shutdown.
“‘When will we return to work?’ is a question on many people’s minds these days,” said Jane Fraser, the number two official at Citigroup. She has assembled a committee of veteran bankers to come up with conservative scenarios for a return to something resembling normalcy.
Most Citigroup employees currently work from home, including CEO Michael Corbat.
Like its rivals, Citi has set up market-watching computer terminals for traders at home, although some traders have been sent to especially disinfected facilities to do their jobs.
The bank anticipates that some employees will be reluctant to return to work, with no treatment or vaccine yet available for COVID-19.
For those employees “we will want to do our best to provide them the flexibility to continue working remotely,” said Fraser.
Financial services represents nearly 10 percent of private sector jobs in the city, which is home of the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and headquarter offices of several large banks. Finance also represents 29 percent of the city’s GDP.
– In no hurry –
At JPMorgan Chase, one of the city’s largest employers, the return to work will be modeled somewhat after how New York’s economy was restarted after the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.
“Employees will return to work on-site in a phased approach over a period of time,” read an internal memo seen by AFP.
This won praise from Patrick Foye, chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Association, who said that staggered office shifts will reduce congestion, and chances of contagion, on the city subway, trains and buses.
Having people come in three days a week, as opposed to five, as well as having them stay at least six feet apart, would be helpful measures, Foye told journalists in a recent video conference.
New York is the most densely populated US city, with 11,000 inhabitants per square kilometer.
The epicenter of the US coronavirus pandemic, New York has been through crises before, including the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and the great recession of 2008.
But those challenges are minor compared to the task of reopening the Big Apple this time.
– Big budget deficit –
Measures taken to curb the spread of the virus will probably destroy 475,000 jobs through March 2021 and leave New York with a 9.7 billion dollar budget deficit, according to the Independent Budget Office.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said the city will gradually return to business, area by area, but gave no date or conditions.
The city’s 25,000 bars, restaurants, and night clubs are wondering if they will be allowed to operate full-steam in a world now shaped by social distancing.
“If you have to open up 50 percent reduced occupancy — we understand that from a public health perspective, but many businesses are not financially viable,” said Andrew Rigie, head of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represents restaurants and nightlife venues.
Many businesses have unpaid rent and bills, and no savings to dip into. Many small businesses have also yet to receive emergency loans promised in massive relief packages approved by the US Congress, as banks tasked with disbursing the money prefer to give it to larger companies.
A huge question mark also hovers over everything: will people be comfortable gathering in large groups in small spaces again?
“We do not know what consumer purchasing behavior is going to be like,” said Rigie. He estimates that at least a quarter of the city’s nightlife spots will shut down.
Coogan’s, a popular Irish pub and restaurant in Manhattan, was one of the early victims, shuttering on April 21.
On Broadway, at the Metropolitan Opera and in museums, the city is getting ready to welcome people wearing masks. The idea that life will not return to normal for some time is sinking in.
Nor is it clear if tourists — 65 million in 2019, many of whom came to see Broadway shows — will return in large numbers.
Unclaimed victims of the new coronavirus are being buried in unmarked mass graves by contract laborers on an island in New York, officials confirmed Friday.
Hart Island is one of America’s largest public cemeteries, with more than one million people buried there.
New York authorities have used the site for over 150 years to lay to rest unclaimed bodies, unidentified people and residents whose families could not afford a private burial.
“We will continue using the island in that fashion during this crisis and it is likely that people who have passed away from COVID who fit this description will be buried on the island in the coming days,” a spokesperson for the city government told AFP.
The New York Times reported that around 25 people are being buried on Hart Island a day since the coronavirus crisis started last month.
Before the outbreak it was 25 a week.
New York has borne the brunt of America’s pandemic, registering some 160,000 confirmed cases, more than any country outside of the United States, including Europe’s hardest-hit nations of Spain and Italy.
The state’s death toll is 7,844, around half of deaths across the US.
The mile-long Hart island, which sits in a tidal estuary in the Bronx, became a potter’s field in 1869 after the city purchased it from a private landholder to bury unknown and indigent residents.
Approximately 1,200 burials take place every year. The dead are placed in pine coffins laid in trenches. There are no gravestones but small white markers indicate the trenches.
The site has long been run by the city’s prisons department, and inmates from the nearby Rikers Island, one of America’s most notorious jails, are typically paid to perform the burials — although not during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are using contract labor,” the spokesperson said.
Still-born children and AIDS victims have also been buried on Hart Island over the years.
The site was off-limits to the public for decades but in recent years relatives have been allowed to visit on designated days.
Late last year, New York’s city council voted to transfer control of Hart Island to its parks department and make it easier for the public to visit.
The island has served as a prison camp for captured Confederates in the US Civil War, a mental asylum, a sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers, a youth detention center and even a Cold War-era missile base.
It is often referred to as New York’s “island of the dead” or “jail for the dead.”
With the rapid rise of hospitalizations and a health system nearly at capacity, New York doctor Shamit Patel is preparing for the worst over the next few days, all while hoping he won’t have to start choosing which coronavirus patients to treat.
Just 10 days ago, only half of the 46-year-old internist’s patients at Beth Israel — one of the Mount Sinai hospitals in Manhattan — were suffering from COVID-19.
“We’re not over capacity yet, but we’re planning for it to go over capacity,” he said, adding he thinks the hospital has “planned well.”
The wave of virus patients at Beth Israel corresponds to the one inundating New York City, which shot from 463 confirmed cases two weeks ago to 36,000 on Monday.
“At the rate that I’m seeing, the peak could be anywhere from end of this week to sometime next week,” said Patel.
Under extreme pressure for the past two weeks, he is preparing for the worst, even if “it’s something that we hope we don’t have to see.”
For Patel, the worst would be a situation similar to that in certain regions of Italy, where the health system is so overwhelmed that it can no longer take care of all patients.
“You’re gonna have to be a little quicker in seeing and assessing and getting the treatment plan for each patient,” Patel predicted, noting they “may have to double or triple the number of patients you’re seeing.”
But, he added worriedly, “you can’t really go more than triple the number of patients you’re seeing in a day and provide effective treatment.”
– ‘Picking and choosing’ –
In addition to the limitations of healthcare personnel, Patel is worried about a potential shortage of equipment, particularly of ventilators. New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio talk daily about the need for the machines.
“If you get a surge of patients coming in, and you only have a limited number of ventilators, you can’t necessarily ventilate patients,” Patel said. “And then you have to start picking and choosing.”
Outside of the hospital, Patel is also worried about transmitting the virus to his family. He lives with his 80-year-old father, who suffers from Parkinson’s, and his aunt, who has cancer.
“I don’t want to come back here and actually give it to them because I don’t think they would do well at all,” he said.
He maintains the minimum two meter (six-foot) distance and uses antibacterial wipes generously, while ensuring his relatives have enough food.
“I stay pretty much in my room,” Patel explained, “and then I’ll go out there and periodically check on them.”
But stress and anxiety are ever-present, both at work and at home for Patel and his colleagues, who are running a marathon, as governor Cuomo put it.
“If it’s something that kicks in, then it goes down after it peaks, then we can sustain it for a little while,” Patel said. “But all hands on deck for months on end is something that’s hard to sustain.”
“This is going to be a long and drawn out battle.”