May 9, 2020

Axios AM

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Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,165 words, 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: Trump case at Supreme Court tests sweeping view of presidential immunity

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

President Trump’s steadfast refusal to release his tax returns — a fight that will culminate in Supreme Court arguments on Tuesday — has mushroomed into a showdown with implications well beyond his administration, Sam Baker writes.

  • If he loses, the public will eventually see the financial records Trump has fought so hard to keep secret.
  • If he wins, the presidency could be shielded from most accusations of crimes — and it'd be much harder to investigate future presidents.

Driving the news: The court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in Trump’s effort to block two sets of subpoenas for his financial records — one batch filed by a trio of House committees, the other by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

  • Those subpoenas demanded a host of financial records from Capital One, Deutsche Bank and the accounting firm Mazars, mostly pertaining to business they did with Trump before he was president.
  • Trump's personal lawyers will argue that neither Congress nor a state prosecutor had the authority to issue the subpoenas.

The other side: All the relevant committees, Trump’s lawyers said in a brief, "have acknowledged that the purpose of the investigations is to determine whether the President engaged in wrongdoing" — which, they argue, is impermissible.

The intrigue: Trump’s lawyers take it a step further. They're arguing not only that Congress didn’t have a legislative purpose here, but that if it had a legislative purpose, like stronger disclosure requirements, that would be unconstitutional.

  • Such laws "exercise dominion and control over the Office of the President," Trump says.

Where it stands: Lower courts in this litigation have all ruled against Trump. And the Supreme Court’s key precedents on presidential investigations — cases from the Teapot Dome scandal to Watergate and Bill Clinton’s affair with Paula Jones — seem to work against Trump.

  • What’s next: The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June.

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2. Few jobs are safe
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The reality, incredibly, is worse than the data. The great Neil Irwin, N.Y. Times senior economics correspondent, captures one of the most sobering reasons: "Almost Every Job Is at Risk" (subscription).

  • The big picture: "April 2020 — more technically, the period between the second week of March and the second week of April — was the worst month for American workers at least since the Great Depression and possibly in the history of the nation."

Why it matters to you, from Neil's piece: "...Walmart and a few odd exceptions aside, there was no shelter in the storm for American workers in the last month."

Anyone still thinking that the pandemic’s economic effects are limited to people in restaurants, travel and similar service businesses is very much mistaken. Workers in almost every industry, including those that on the surface shouldn’t be affected by the pandemic at all, are at risk.
We’re all vulnerable, whether we work in an office or a factory or a construction site; whether our employer is public or private; whether our work can easily be migrated to a home office or not.
3. Britain's worst year since 1706?
The Bank of England, London. Photo: Matt Dunham/AP

"The Bank of England has forecast that the coronavirus crisis will push the UK economy into its deepest recession in 300 years," per the Financial Times (subscription).

  • The report sees an almost 30% drop in the first half of 2020, "the fastest and deepest recession since the 'great frost' in 1709."

The 14% annual contraction could be the biggest annual rate of decline since 1706, when all of Europe's main powers were embroiled in a devastating war following the death of the childless Charles II of Spain, per AP.

4. Pic du jour
Spotted yesterday in Brunswick, Ga. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

To honor Ahmaud Arbery, who would have turned 26 yesterday, "people around the country are dedicating their daily jog or walk to him and posting about it on social media with the hashtags #RunWithMaud and #IRunWithMaud," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

  • The big picture: The Feb. 23 shooting in coastal Georgia is drawing comparisons to the time in U.S. history when extrajudicial killings of black people, by white male vigilantes, inflicted racial terror. It frequently happened with law enforcement complicity or feigned ignorance, AP reports.
6. ⛳ At age 100, he has a bucket list
Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

They stormed French beaches on D-Day, helped liberate a concentration camp and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

  • And seven World War II veterans weren't about to let a pandemic keep them from marking the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, the end of the war in Europe, AP's Darlene Superville and Kevin Freking write.

Ranging in age from 96 to 100, the veterans held their salute as President Trump joined them for a commemoration at the World War II Memorial.

  • Steven Melnikoff, now 100, was an infantryman whose Army unit was responsible for capturing more than 10,000 German soldiers.
  • "It was a tough battle," said Melnikoff, who lives near Baltimore. Speaking of his unit, he said: "I was with them constantly for 11 months, except the weeks and months that I spent in the hospital." He had been shot in the neck.

Other veterans joining Trump were Gregory Melikian, 97, of Phoenix, who sent the coded message to the world that the Germans had unconditionally surrendered.

  • Donald Halverson, 97, of Minnesota, saw some of the war's fiercest fighting in Italy. John Coates, 96, of Maryland, fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Jack Myers, 97, of Hagerstown, Md., was part of a unit that liberated the Dachau concentration camp.
  • Melnikoff; Guy Whidden, 97, of Braddock Heights, Md.; and Harold Angle, 97, of Chambersburg, Pa., participated in the D-Day invasion.

Melnikoff described himself as striving toward new goals, including golf.

  • "My mission now that I'm 100 years old is to make sure many young people know the story of what happened 75 years ago," he said. "I want the people to remember so this would never happen again."

He was also looking ahead to a golf game today.

  • Melnikoff plays three times a week and, according to background provided by the White House, is scheduled to set a world record in the summer as the oldest golfer to play on a course in Scotland.
  • Melnikoff said: "Golf is the greatest game, and you can play it till you're 100 years old."

And he actually knows!

The veterans salute as Taps is played. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP
7. Trump's favorite front page
Courtesy N.Y. Post

"The House Intelligence Committee ... released transcripts from a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections conducted when a Republican led the committee, making public documentation that has been a major source of partisan rancor," The Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Hughes writes (subscription).

8. 1 smile to go: Hot wedding venue during virus
Photos: Michael Wargo via AP

In these photos, barred from holding a ceremony in a public space due to lockdown restrictions, Danielle Cartaxo and Ryan Cignarella are married on the front lawn of a friendly stranger in West Orange, N.J.

  • Lawns — sometimes borrowed, sometimes blustery — are newly popular as wedding venues amid the virus, AP's Leanne Italie reports.

One couple even splurged on a white plastic aisle runner.

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