Supreme Court Indicates Gun Case May Be Moot : NPR

A view of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. Protections for 660,000 immigrants are on the line at the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
A view of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. Protections for 660,000 immigrants are on the line at the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has heard a major gun-rights case. But the drum roll of anticipation seemed to fade, as the debate in the high court Monday focused almost exclusively on whether the case should be dismissed as moot.

At issue was a New York law that allowed New York City residents to have a permit for a gun at home, but barred them from transporting the gun elsewhere except to seven New York City shooting ranges. Three handgun owners who had such “premises licenses” challenged the law as a violation of their Second Amendment right to bear arms because they could not transport their guns to shooting ranges and competitions outside the city or to second homes.

“So what’s left of this case?”

The problem for those gun owners was that New York state and New York City abandoned the challenged law earlier this year after the Supreme Court said it would review it.

“New York City and New York state actually gave them everything that they had asked for before this argument,” said New York City corporation counsel James Johnson after the argument. “That was made very plain in this argument today.”

Indeed, it was, and the court’s liberals drove home the point.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointedly asked: “So what’s left of this case?”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor piled on. You’re asking [the court] to decide a case “in which the other side has thrown in the towel and completely given you every single thing you demanded in your complaint.”

Can you transport a gun and stop for coffee?

But lawyer Paul Clement, representing the gun owners, fought back. He argued that the new regulations for New York City still only permit “continuous and uninterrupted” gun transport within the city. That, he suggested, might put in doubt a stop for coffee or a bathroom break.

Justice Stephen Breyer didn’t take that argument seriously, saying he doubted any police officer would arrest someone for stopping for coffee.

Representing the Trump Administration, Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall tried to argue that the case is still alive because the plaintiffs could be awarded damages.

Justice Ginsburg came to bat again, pointing out that the gun owners never asked for damages. Has “the Solicitor General ever asked this court to allow such a late interjection of a damages” claim in order to save a case from being thrown out as moot? she asked.

Wall conceded he knew of no such case.

That is the “democratic process”

Next up to the lectern was Richard Dearing, who serves as Deputy Counsel for the City of New York. He emphasized that this lawsuit challenged a premises license, not a carry license. A premises license, he noted, is granted for the home only, though it must allow certain limited transport of the licensed handgun.

Dearing said the plaintiffs asked only for specified additional transport of these guns, and the city in the end gave the handgun owners everything they had asked for.

That the city changed its laws, he suggested, “is a good thing, not a bad one. The government should respond to litigation, should assess its laws … when they are challenged.” That, he said, is the “democratic process.”

“So then why is this case moot?”

But suppose that, in addition to stopping for a cup of coffee, the gun owner stops to visit his mother for a couple of hours, posited Justice Samuel Alito. “Would there be any law that would violated?”

Dearing replied that those kinds of questions were never at issue when the old law was challenged.

“So then why is this case moot?” wondered Alito. “Because [the plaintiffs] didn’t get all that they wanted,” he insisted. “They wanted a declaration that the old law was unconstitutional, period.”

Dearing replied that the plaintiffs framed the case they brought; they asked for a court order that allowed them to transport handguns to shooting ranges outside the city and to homes outside the city. And they got what they asked for.

With Justices Alito and Neil Gorsuch overtly seeking to blunt the city’s mootness argument, at the end of the day the question was where the rest of the court stood.

Justice Clarence Thomas, a forceful advocate for gun rights, asked no questions, as usual.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh has a far more gun-friendly record than the justice he replaced last year, Justice Anthony Kennedy. But Kavanaugh too asked no questions.

New York City is committed to “closing the book” on its old law

Chief Justice John Roberts asked just a few questions, and only of the City of New York’s lawyer. He wanted to know if the city could deny a premises gun license to the plaintiffs in this case because they had admitted previously violating the law.

“Is the city committed to closing the book on that old rule,” asked Roberts?

Yes, replied lawyer Dearing, noting that the plaintiffs have already had their licenses renewed twice since challenging the old New York law.

Only once on Monday did any justice directly address the question posed by the original New York case: whether the city’s justification for its regulations were constitutional. “Are the people of New York City and state less safe now” under the new law than they were under the previous law that was challenged, asked Justice Alito?

“No, I don’t think so,” replied lawyer Dearing. “We made a judgment, expressed by our police commissioner, that it was consistent with public safety to repeal the prior rule.”

Alito pounced. “So you think the Second Amendment permits the imposition of a restriction that has no public safety benefit?

Dearing replied that the new regulations–allowing for more transport of premises licensed guns–will make enforcement more difficult. But he said it is still doable.

That hardly appeased Alito, but organizations advocating stricter guns laws were breathing easier. Their relief may be only temporary.

With Kavanaugh replacing the more moderate Kennedy, there now seems to be a conservative majority on the court, justices who will in future treat gun regulations with far more suspicion than in the past. And even if that day does not come this term, there are more test cases waiting in the wings.

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U.S. ‘Likely’ to Bring New Charges in Giuliani-Allies Case

(Bloomberg) — The U.S is “likely” to bring additional charges in a case against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of Rudy Giuliani who are accused of skirting campaign contribution limits as part of a plot to oust the American ambassador to Ukraine, a prosecutor said.

The comment was made Monday at an hour-long court hearing in Manhattan. Speaking in response to a question from U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken about whether the government planned to file additional charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind said: “Certainly the investigation is ongoing. We think a superseding indictment is likely, but no decision has been made. It’s something we continue to evaluate.”

Parnas and Fruman were charged in October. According to prosecutors, they illegally funneled foreign money into U.S. political campaigns, including a $325,000 contribution to the pro-Trump America First political action committee. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors have said repeatedly their investigation is continuing, and Bloomberg and other news organizations have reported that Giuliani is a subject of interest in the case. Zolkind’s comment came after Gerald Lefcourt, one of the defense lawyers, complained that the heavily redacted documents shared by the government in discovery had left them with little sense of the case. As an example, he held aloft a search warrant affidavit with the pages completely blacked out.

In response, Zolkind said the redacted pages did not relate to the charges that have been filed thus far — an indication that the investigation has spanned well beyond the charges against the two men. The prosecutor didn’t elaborate on what the new accusations would be or whether others would be charged, but he said later that at least one of the defendants, Parnas, is “under investigation for additional crimes.”

Zolkind also opposed a request by Parnas for more lenient home detention conditions, saying he presents a substantial flight risk based on his ties to Ukraine and a “billionaire oligarch in Vienna” currently fighting extradition to the U.S. The reference was likely to Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, who lives in Austria and is facing prosecution for overseas bribery in Chicago. The legal team Firtash hired to defend him in that case included Parnas as a translator.

Parnas and Fruman worked with Giuliani on efforts to dig up political ammunition for Trump in Ukraine against Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. According to the indictment, their campaign donations played a role in the pressure campaign to remove U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Trump recalled her from her post earlier this year.

Prosecutors have obtained thousands of files of phone, bank and Internet service provider records in response to subpoenas, and seized several cell phones, computers, thumb drives and digital tablets from the defendants and their homes after their arrest. The FBI is still trying to access those devices and evidence gleaned from them has not yet been produced. Zolkind said subpoenas are still being served.

Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, said his client wants to cooperate with the Congressional investigation into the Ukraine matter but that prosecutors have seized records responsive to a Congressional subpoena.

(Adds background)

To contact the reporter on this story: Christian Berthelsen in New York at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at [email protected], Anthony Lin

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Rep. Duncan Hunter to plead guilty in campaign finance violations case

The California Republican didn’t say definitively that he was resigning, but the former Marine officer did mention that “It’s been a privilege to serve in Congress. I think we’ve done a lot of great things for the nation.”

The Hunters have been a dynasty in southern California politics for decades. Hunter or his father, Duncan Hunter, Sr., have held that San Diego seat since 1980. The elder Hunter, a hardline military hawk, even ran briefly for president in 2008 before withdrawing.

When asked what would happen to his congressional seat, Hunter added: “I’m confident the transition will be a good one.”

Margaret Hunter, the congressman’s wife, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds back in June, a move that put enormous pressure on him to find a deal with federal prosecutors.

A source close to the case said Hunter’s plea agreement will be “virtually identical” to Margaret Hunter’s deal.

Recommended federal sentencing ranges for this felony charge range from 8 to 14 months, although Hunter’s lawyers will argue for a drastically lower term of incarceration, citing his military and public service records.

A hearing notice was posted Monday morning on the federal court docket in San Diego announcing Hunter’s change of plea. An attorney for the California Republican could not be immediately reached for comment. Justice Department officials declined to formally comment on Hunter’s interview.

Hunter’s trial was initially scheduled to take place this fall, but the proceedings had been pushed back until Jan. 22. Hunter had also filed a case in a federal appeals court seeking to dismiss the charges. Both these legal actions will end with the plea deal.

The House Ethics Committee, which has also announced that it intended to investigate Hunter, would drop its case against him as well.

Federal prosecutors described the Hunters as so mired in debt that they had less than $1,000 in their bank account from 2009 to 2017, and owed money to stores like Macy’s and Home Depot. The Hunters had begun falling behind on their children’s school tuition and missed numerous mortgage payments.

“It explains why he himself used campaign funds to buy everything from cigarettes to gadgets to groceries to getaways — things he wanted but could not afford to buy with his own money,” prosecutors alleged in one filing.

Hunter — who has developed a reputation on Capitol Hill for drinking heavily and carousing — was also accused of routinely using campaign cash to finance numerous extra-marital affairs.

In one episode in 2010, Hunter allegedly took a lobbyist on a “double date” road trip to Virginia Beach with a fellow congressman and then charged his campaign for the hotel room and bar tab.

In another 2015 incident, Hunter allegedly took a House leadership aide out for cocktails and then took an Uber back to his office after they spent the night together. Both expenses were charged to his campaign account, prosecutors say.

Hunter, who narrowly won reelection last fall despite his indictment, has long claimed that he was the subject of a political witch hunt. Hunter alleged that the prosecutors were biased against him because they supported former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and he was an early endorser of President Donald Trump.

Prosecutors accused Hunter of improperly using campaign funds to pursue numerous romantic affairs with congressional aides and lobbyists.

Prosecutors urged the judge in Hunter’s case to “admonish” the lawmaker to stop attacking them as politically biased. Hunter, they said, had attempted to connect his case to Trump’s claims of an FBI “witch hunt” against him.

After Hunter was indicted, GOP leaders stripped him of his committee assignments but stopped short of calling on him to resign.

Former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was indicted on insider trading chargers last summer and also initially denied the charges, ended up pleading guilty this fall and resigned from Congress. But Collins and Hunter both won reelection despite their indictments, which marked the first time since the 1980s that multiple members facing prison time were able to convince voters to return them to office.

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Storm dumps snow on Northeast after California bomb cyclone

A winter storm that brought havoc to the Midwest over the Thanksgiving weekend was rolling through the Northeast on Monday, dumping more than a foot of snow in some areas seeing their first measurable snowfall of the season.

More than 50 million people remained under winter storm advisories or warnings a week after the historic storm first smashed onto the Pacific Coast as a “bomb cyclone.”

Up to a foot of snow was forecast from northeastern Pennsylvania to central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire before ending late Monday, AccuWeather said. Some areas of the Catskills, Berkshires and the mountains in southern Vermont and New Hampshire could see up to 30 inches.

Boston, New York City and Philadelphia and their vast suburbs were all under a winter weather advisory, according to the National Weather Service.

“An accumulation of a coating to an inch or so is possible around Philadelphia,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. “Up to a few inches may fall on the New York City area with several inches likely around Boston.”

SOURCE AccuWeather, as of Dec. 2

Much heavier snow is likely in the northern and western suburbs of New York City and Boston, he said. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said his city was prepared to clear snow and ice from streets.

“With the forecast predicting snow just in time to create a messy evening commute, I urge all New Yorkers to take extra precautions, stay off the streets and take public transportation whenever possible,” de Blasio said. “Everyone must do their part.”

Albany, New York, had picked up 14.5 inches of snow from the storm as of Monday morning, making it one of the top-10 biggest December snowstorms on record for the city.

Since Sunday, the storm has already dropped 20 inches of snow in East Glenville, New York, 15 miles northwest of Albany – the highest snow total in the Northeast so far.

Highway travel was hazardous: Midday Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that state troopers “have already responded to more than 740 storm-related crashes statewide.”

The storm, dubbed Winter Storm Ezekiel by The Weather Channel, began its march across the nation last Tuesday when it slammed across southern Oregon and northwestern California with 100-mph wind gusts along the coast and multiple feet of snow in the mountains. 

Bomb cyclones hitting the West Coast are rare, drawing weather service warnings that the storm could rival some of the most intense storms on record for that part of the country. 

A snow plow clears the road surface on Route 7, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019 in New Ashford, Mass. A powerful winter storm that’s been tormenting travelers across the U.S. since before Thanksgiving moved to the Northeast on Sunday, packing one last punch of snow and ice as people make their way home after the holiday weekend.

The storm then swept east over the next four days, driving heavy snow and strong winds to a vast portion of the Upper Midwest and the Plains. The storm began pummeling the Northeast as snow, freezing rain and sleet on Sunday. 

In Buffalo, a Delta Connection flight from New York slid off a taxiway Sunday morning, Delta Air Lines confirmed to USA TODAY. None of the 64 passengers aboard the Endeavor Air CRJ-900 were injured, the airline said.

The storm story was not over in the West, however, as a separate system began to pound the region. 

In the mountains northeast of Los Angeles, nearly 9,000 customers lost power Sunday due to heavy snowfall, Southern California Edison said. 

The front, driving heavy rains and high winds after rolling onto the California coast below San Francisco, could pound areas of the state for several days, the National Weather Service said. More than 1,000 flights were delayed or canceled into and out of San Francisco on Saturday and Sunday.

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Trump campaign bans Bloomberg News from events over ‘troubling and wrong’ decision

President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign will no longer issue credentials to Bloomberg News because of its decision to investigate Trump, but not his political opponents, campaign manager Brad Parscale announced Monday.

Bloomberg News announced last week that it wouldn’t investigate its namesake owner, Mike Bloomberg, while he runs for president, or any other Democratic presidential candidate for that matter, but would continue to investigate President Trump.

“The decision by Bloomberg News to formalize preferential reporting policies is troubling and wrong,” Parscale wrote in a statement. “Bloomberg News has declared that they won’t investigate their boss or his Democrat competitors, many of whom are current holders of high office, but will continue critical reporting on President Trump.”


Parscale said he is “accustomed to unfair reporting practices” but Bloomberg News’ decision takes it too far because “most news organizations don’t announce their biases so publicly.”

Bloomberg launched his 2020 campaign last week with a one-minute ad, which was posted on social media. Along with the video, Bloomberg posted a written statement on his campaign website in which he laid out why he was the best candidate to defeat President Trump next November.

“Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events,” Parscale wrote. “We will determine whether to engage with individual reporters or answer inquiries from Bloomberg News on a case-by-case basis. This will remain the policy of the Trump campaign until Bloomberg News publicly rescinds its decision.”


“The accusation of bias couldn’t be further from the truth. We have covered Donald Trump fairly and in an unbiased way since he became a candidate in 2015 and will continue to do so despite the restrictions imposed by the Trump campaign,” Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait told Fox News.

Micklethwait is the same editor who sent a memo to staffers, obtained by The Washington Post, in which he declared the newsroom will “continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation)” and that it would extend the same policy to his opponents in the Democratic primaries, but not to President Trump.


Micklethwait added that “if other credible journalistic institutions” publish investigative work regarding the former New York City mayor, Bloomberg News will either publish or summarize it for readers. The decision to avoid investigating 2020 Democratic presidential candidates sparked backlash and confusion, including former Bloomberg Washington D.C. bureau chief Megan Murphy, who slammed the organization in a series of tweets.

“It is truly staggering that *any* editor would put their name on a memo that bars an army of unbelievably talented reporters and editors from covering massive, crucial aspects of one of the defining elections of our time. Staggering,” Murphy wrote. “This is not journalism.”

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Evacuation Slide Falls From Delta Jet Into Massachusetts Man’s Front Yard

MILTON, Mass. (AP) — Authorities say no one was hurt when an evacuation slide fell from a jetliner into the yard of a suburban Boston home.

A Delta Air Lines spokeswoman tells the Boston Herald that the uninflated slide fell from a flight from Paris to Boston around noon Sunday.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the pilot reported a loud noise as the plane approached Logan Airport and landed safely.

Police in Milton, south of Boston, alerted the agency that the slide had been found in a resident’s yard.

Wenhan Huang tells The Patriot Ledger he was doing yard work when the slide took out several branches of his Japanese maple.

His neighbor, Stephanie Leguia, was feet from where it fell and fears it could have killed someone.

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Montreal police search for missing senior who left residence wearing slippers

Montreal police are urging the public to assist them in their search for a 75-year-old man missing since 8 p.m. Sunday and believed to be suicidal.

The search is made more critical by the fact that Claude Brossoit was only wearing slippers when he left the centre where he resides. Police did not say where his residence is. He pulled on a pair of brown or beige pants over his dark blue pyjamas and is also believed to be wearing a black coat with a red crest.

As of 7:30 a.m. Monday, the temperature in Montreal was minus 7 Celsius with a windchill of minus 15.

Brossoit is thin, stands five-feet-eight-inches tall and has grey hair.

Anyone with any information on his whereabouts is urged to 911 or Info-Crime Montreal at 514-393-1133.

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REAL SCOOP: Surrey RCMP seizes 30 kg of cocaine

Surrey RCMP’s Gang Enforcement Team seized more than 30 kilograms of cocaine this month, along with $125,000 cash in three separate investigation into the local drug trade.

Const. Richard Wright announced the results of the investigations into Lower Mainland “criminal networks” involved in supplying large quantities of cocaine.

Wright said six men have been arrested so far in connection with the drug and cash seizures, but have been released pending further investigation.

He said none of the men arrested are linked to the ongoing Lower Mainland gang conflict.

The largest seizure of 30 bricks of cocaine was made on Nov. 22 when officers conducted a traffic stop in the 11900-block of 80 Avenue just after 6 p.m.

“During the traffic stop, the officers observed a suspicious bag in the vehicle, subsequent investigation of that bag revealed 30 individually-wrapped packages of suspected cocaine,” Wright said. “Officers also located and seized $5,000 in cash and a $25,000 money order. The driver and passenger were both arrested for possession of a substance for the purpose of trafficking.”

Police wouldn’t provided a per-kilo value for the cocaine seizure, saying it was against Mountie policy to do so.

“What I can say is these are the equivalent of 125,000 doses of suspected cocaine,” Wright said.

Postmedia later confirmed with sources that cocaine currently sells for between $49,000 and $55,000 per kilo, which would bring the total to approximately $1.5 million or more.

The gang team also stopped a vehicle about 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 near 152 Street and 81 Avenue. Inside, they found 392 grams of suspected cocaine in a hidden compartment within the vehicle.

“The driver and passenger of the vehicle were arrested for possession of a substance for the purpose of trafficking, and have been released from custody while the investigation is on-going,” Wright said.

A day later gang squad officers pulled over another vehicle near 140 Street and 108 Avenue after seeing the driver “cross the solid line at the shoulder of the road,” Wright said.

“The driver was found to have an expired B.C. drivers licence and upon further investigation of the vehicle and its occupants, items consistent with drug trafficking, including multiple cellphones, a quantity of MDMA and currency were found.”

Police searched the vehicle and found a cardboard box containing multiple bundles of cash wrapped in elastic bands, later counted to be in excess of $125,000.

“The driver and passenger were arrested for possession of property obtained by crime over $,5000,” Wright told a Surrey news conference Friday.

Wright said police continue to investigate all three seizures.

“We have a tremendous amount of evidence to go through as I am sure you can appreciate and there is always more intelligence and investigation to be done,” he said. “I am not going to go into any more details about the individuals involved because the matters are still under investigation.

Surrey RCMP Insp. Mike Hall said drug trafficking across the region “is a significant driver of violent criminal activity.

These three interdictions will have a significant impact on the flow of cocaine at the street level, and represent a significant financial hit to the network of drug traffickers these seizures are associated to,” Hall said.

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White House stays mum about hearing participation as deadline passes

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House made no public statement as of a 6 p.m. (2300 GMT) deadline on Sunday to say whether he would send legal counsel to participate in a congressional impeachment hearing this week.

Although the deadline passed, it was not immediately known if the White House had been in contact with the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee about whether Trump would participate in the hearing on Wednesday. (Reporting by Diane Bartz and Matt Spetalnick Editing by Alistair Bell)

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