Happy Monday and welcome back to On The Money. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.
THE BIG DEAL–Federal judge rules against Trump in fight to keep tax records from Manhattan prosecutors: A federal judge on Monday dismissed President Trump‘s lawsuit challenging a subpoena from New York prosecutors for his tax returns.
Judge Victor Marrero, a district judge in New York appointed by former President Clinton, rejected Trump’s argument that he cannot be subject to the criminal process while in office.
“This Court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process as being countenanced by the nation’s constitutional plan,” Marrero wrote in a 75-page ruling.
Marrero said that Trump was advancing a position that presidents, their relatives and their businesses are above the law and that aspects of such a position are “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.” The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda tells us more here.
Bear in mind: Despite Marrero’s ruling, the appeals court has blocked enforcement of the subpoena until a panel of appellate judges conducts an expedited review of the case. Until then, Trump’s records are staying put.
Trump’s response: Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
Shortly after the ruling came out, Trump tweeted: “The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump. A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close!”
The background: The Manhattan district attorney’s office issued a grand jury subpoena in August to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for Trump’s tax returns and other financial records. The following month, Trump’s personal lawyers filed a lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of the subpoena.
The district attorney’s office is investigating payments made ahead of the 2016 presidential election to women who have claimed they had affairs with Trump.
LEADING THE DAY
U.S., Japan sign trade deals: President Trump on Monday oversaw the signing of two limited trade deals with Japan, slashing tariffs on $7.2 billion worth of America’s agricultural exports, but avoiding thorny issues such as auto tariffs.
“From Day One my administration has worked tirelessly to achieve a level playing field for the American worker,” Trump said at the signing ceremony.
“It’s a great deal for us and our workers,” he added.
The deals were signed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shinsuke J. Sugiyama in the White House.
What’s in the deals: The first deal scraps Japanese tariffs on nuts, berries, grains, wine, cheese and other products amounting to roughly $4.3 billion, and reduces tariffs on beef and pork products amounting to $2.9 billion. Current tariffs would remain on another roughly $1.7 billion of agricultural exports.
The second deal focuses on digital products, such as digital media and software, which will face reduced trade barriers and tariffs. Digital trade between the two countries already amounts to $40 billion.
The deals cover roughly $55 billion in trade, about a quarter of the nearly $218 billion in goods traded between the two countries.
The Hill’s Niv Elis has more here.
Tax-return whistleblower in spotlight amid impeachment fight: A whistleblower allegation about possible misconduct in the IRS presidential tax-return audit program is receiving new attention amid House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
- House Democrats are focused on a separate whistleblower complaint that President Trump allegedly urged Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
- But progressive groups are also urging leaders to disclose more information about the tax complaint, arguing it could be crucial to Democrats’ oversight.
Naomi Jagoda tells us why here.
What we know: The whistleblower complaint is largely shrouded in mystery, with few public details.
- Its existence was first revealed by the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee in court documents in August in its lawsuit for Trump’s tax returns.
- In an Aug. 8 letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin included in a filing, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said his panel received information from a federal employee on July 29 that included credible allegations of “inappropriate efforts to influence” the IRS mandatory program of auditing presidents and vice presidents.
- The Washington Post reported Thursday that the whistleblower is an IRS employee who said he was told that at least one Treasury Department political appointee tried to interfere with an audit of Trump or Vice President Pence’s tax returns.
- The whistleblower spoke with the Post and wouldn’t say anything about the substance of his complaint but confirmed that he sent it to Neal, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
NBA sparks anger with apology to China: The NBA is under fire from all sides after apologizing to China for a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that showed solidarity with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Morey on Friday tweeted “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” bringing a sharp rebuke from China, where several businesses and TV networks cut ties with the Rockets and blocked their games from Chinese viewers.
The NBA moved to contain the fallout, faced with the prospect of a serious setback to its work in China’s lucrative market. Morey deleted the tweet and expressed his regrets. The NBA also issued a statement Sunday apologizing for the tweet, and both Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and All-Star power forward James Harden distanced themselves from Morey.
As the league scrambled to save face in China, lawmakers at home from both parties ripped the NBA, accusing it of putting profit over principle. I tell you why here.
What they’re saying:
- Rockets superfan Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted Sunday that he was “proud” to see Morey stand up for Hong Kong and accused the NBA of “shamefully retreating” in “pursuit of big $$.”
- Former Rep. O’Rourke (D-Texas): “The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights. What an embarrassment.”
- “I thought the @NBA was proud to be the ‘wokest professional sports league‘?” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.),
- Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) wrote in a Monday letter to Silver that the league’s “shameful” response would “mark a permanent stain” on the NBA.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Business economists are predicting a slowdown in growth next year amid President Trump’s trade war with China, according to a quarterly survey released Monday.
- With a resilient but slowing economy at his back, President Trump is approaching a crucial two-week sprint in trade talks with China and the European Union before a new round of costly tariffs kick in.
- As another potential government shutdown looms next month, activist groups are pushing for legislation to protect low-wage federal contractors, a group they say can least afford to lose income but has the fewest protections.
- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), a 2020 presidential candidate, on Monday urged the IRS not to adopt proposed rules that would reduce donor reporting requirements for certain tax-exempt groups.
ODDS AND ENDS
- An investment bank research note released Monday said that Wall Street fears of a potential Elizabeth Warren presidency may be overblown.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who’s leading a multistate antitrust investigation into Facebook, met with officials at the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday to raise concerns about the company’s market power.