New York City

Trump must hand over tax records and Tish James recommends police reforms

Rounding up the week’s political news.

The Black Lives Matter mural outside of Trump Tower.

The Black Lives Matter mural outside of Trump Tower. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Patience, the great thinkers say, is a virtue. In the past months and weeks, New Yorkers have received a master class in waiting – waiting for the results from last month’s elections, waiting for the economy to reopen, waiting for some answers about when and how the coronavirus pandemic will abate. This week, despite a handful of major court rulings and the release of some highly anticipated reports, New Yorkers may be left waiting for complete answers to questions including whether schools will reopen in the fall or, if you’re a Democrat, whether President Donald Trump’s tax returns will ever be unveiled. For the latest on those questions and more, here are this week’s headlines. 

SCOTUS hands Cy Vance a win on Trump’s tax returns

President Donald Trump may have grown up in the lap of luxury and may be the current occupant of the White House, but he is still, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, an “every man.” The court handed down a 7-2 ruling on Thursday rejecting Trump’s assertion that he is immune from criminal subpoenas while in office. “In our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to every man’s evidence,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.” The ruling hands a win to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s financial documents – including personal and corporate tax returns – as part of an investigation into payoffs made before the 2016 election to two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump. While the ruling could mean that Trump’s tax returns will eventually become public, some have cast doubt on the possibility of that happening before the November presidential election.

But the Supreme Court didn’t have all good news for New Yorkers hoping to get access to the president’s long-sought returns. In a second case, the Supreme Court sent back to lower courts the question of whether congressional committees – including the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney – could subpoena Trump’s tax returns. In the decision, the majority found that lower courts didn’t adequately scrutinize the validity of lawmakers’ requests for financial documents.

Tish James recommends NYPD reforms

In the weeks following massive protests against police brutality across the country, New York has ushered in a number of landmark policing reforms, including a ban on chokeholds and uncloaking police disciplinary records. But New York Attorney General Letitia James has a few more suggestions, including one to strip sole control of the New York City Police Department from the mayor’s office. In a report released on Wednesday, James called for an independent commission to oversee the NYPD that would be made up of representatives appointed by the New York City mayor’s office, the City Council, the public advocate’s office and the comptroller’s office. As The New York Times noted, the NYPD commissioner has served at the pleasure of the mayor since the 19th century, meaning any kind of push for an overhaul that would share oversight power would attract pushback from City Hall and police unions. 

School reopening still up in the air

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that public schools would partially reopen in September, detailing a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning that would have students attending in-person classes just a few times a week, or every other week, to limit the spread of the coronavirus. But like clockwork, Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to reporters just a few hours later delivering a different message – that the final decision on school reopening would be made by the state, and would come by early August. “We’re doing everything to be ready in September,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “If anybody sat here today and told you that they could reopen the schools in September ... that would be reckless and negligent.” 

Cuomo rejects nursing home criticism

Who’s to blame for the coronavirus-related deaths of more than 6,400 nursing home residents across New York? A report released by the state Department of Health on Monday argues that it’s not Cuomo, but factors including nursing home staff and visitors possibly spreading the virus. In the past few months, as nursing homes and long-term care facilities saw devastating outbreaks of the coronavirus, Cuomo has come under fire – in particular, for a now-rescinded directive for these facilities to accept recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals. While the report concludes it wasn’t that directive that contributed to deaths of nursing home residents, the real answer is likely more complicated.