blocked
November 25, 2019

The Supreme Court on Monday blocked a lower court's decision that let House Democrats immediately review President Trump's financial records.

After agreeing to an expedited review of the lower court's ruling, Trump's lawyers were told they have until Dec. 5 to file a formal petition explaining why the court should accept its case for full briefing and oral argument, The Washington Post reports. If the petition is rejected, the lower court's ruling will go into effect, but if it is accepted, the case will likely be heard in the spring and decided before the Supreme Court adjourns in June.

The House Oversight Committee sent a subpoena to Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, in mid-April, seeking his financial records. Trump immediately sued in an attempt to block the subpoena, and after a federal judge ruled against him in May, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in October that presidents "enjoy no blanket immunity from congressional subpoenas." Catherine Garcia

October 29, 2019

Alabama's strict new abortion law has been blocked by a federal judge just over two weeks before it was set to take effect.

Judge Myron Thompson of the United States District Court in Middle Alabama issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday temporarily blocking the law, which prohibits abortion in almost all cases, The New York Times reports. Performing abortions would be a felony under the law except in cases where a woman's health is at risk, with no exception for rape or incest. The law would have taken effect on Nov. 15.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) approved the measure in May, describing it as a potential "opportunity" for the Supreme Court to "revisit" Roe v. Wade. It came as part of a series of new restrictive abortion laws across the country, including in Georgia, where a new law was passed banning abortion in instances where a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The Georgia law was also blocked by a federal judge earlier this month.

In his decision, Thompson said the Alabama law "contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent," The Hill reports, also saying it "violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make 'choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.'" Brendan Morrow

October 8, 2019

One of the key figures in President Trump's Ukraine scandal won't testify before Congress Tuesday after all.

The administration has ordered U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland not to testify before Congress as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry, The New York Times reports.

Sondland is a witness in Trump's ongoing Ukraine scandal set off by a phone call in which he urged Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Sondland worked with the administration on Ukraine and in a series of text messages released last week discusses the scandal with Bill Taylor, U.S diplomat to Ukraine. At one point, when Taylor asks if the U.S. is "now saying that security assistance & WH meeting are conditioned on investigations," Sondland replies, "call me."

In a statement, Sondland's counsel said he is "profoundly disappointed" not to be able to testify but that he "stands ready" to do so after the "issues raised by the State Department" are resolved. As the Times points out, this step to block Sondland's testimony is significant considering Democrats have signaled that actions that impede their investigation will be taken as evidence of obstruction. Brendan Morrow

October 1, 2019

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Georgia's rigid new abortion law from going into effect.

The law, signed in May by Gov. Brian Kemp (R), bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This can take place as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, often before a woman learns she is expecting. There are a few exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, although the woman must first file a police report.

In the order, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones wrote that the Supreme Court has "repeatedly and unequivocally" upheld Roe v. Wade, establishing that a state may not ban abortion before 24 and 26 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetus becomes viable. "By banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, HB 481 prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy at a point before viability," he said.

Georgia's current abortion laws, which prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, will remain in effect for now. The new law was set to go into effect on Jan. 1. ACLU of Georgia Legal Director Sean Young said this was a "tremendous victory for the women of Georgia and for the Constitution." Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Kemp, said the governor will "continue to fight for the unborn and work to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, and prosper." Catherine Garcia

July 30, 2019

Democratic senators hoping to fast-track a bill that gives Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status were blocked on Tuesday by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Temporary Protected Status is given to eligible people from designated countries who have escaped natural disasters, armed conflict, and political turmoil. They are able to live and work in the United States without fear of being deported. Last week, the House passed a bipartisan bill on the matter, and Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wanted to approve it by unanimous consent before going on a six-week recess. Lee opposed this, saying Republicans did not have enough time to make changes to the bill. "It is an unconscionable moral failing for the Senate not to approve this legislation," Menendez said.

The United Nations estimates more than four million Venezuelans have fled their country, due to economic chaos, food and medicine shortages, and hyperinflation. While the Trump administration has called on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to step down and considers Juan Guaidó the legitimate leader, the White House has not come out in support of giving Venezuelans TPS and has tried to take the designation away from Haitians, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorians. The United States is the top destination for people who are leaving Venezuela. Catherine Garcia

June 29, 2019

A federal judge on Friday ruled that the Trump administration cannot use military funds to construct a wall at the southern border.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam issued the permanent injunction in a California federal court a month after temporarily halting the use of military funds, which were diverted after President Trump declared a national emergency at the border.

Gilliam wrote that the administration's lawyers were unable to provide any new evidence or an argument for why the court should reverse its previous decision. He also determined that groups suing to block the use of military funds would suffer "irreparable harm" over border wall construction because it would prevent them from enjoying public land along the border, adding that "the balance of public interest" is in favor of the groups opposing the wall. He did not, however, rule on whether the White House violated the National Environmental Policy Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union initially filed the lawsuit on behalf of several organizations, arguing that the funds had already been denied by Congress.

The injunction will stop border wall construction at sites in New Mexico, California, Arizona, and Texas. Tim O'Donnell

May 15, 2019

The Federal Communications Commission has finally developed a kryptonite for robocalls, officials said.

The agency announced Wednesday it's adopting a new rule that will allow phone companies to automatically block rampant spam operators. Customers would not need to activate this setting once a service provider makes the change, officials said — it would be turned on by default. The head of the FCC is calling for the anti-robocall service to be provided for free, reports Mashable.

"Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and tired of robocalls. By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” said Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement.

No one is safe from the onslaught of these calls — not even the the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, who got a spam robocall during an onstage interview last month. Pai said the FCC will vote on the rule on June 6, reports The Wall Street Journal. Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

January 14, 2019

A federal judge on Monday blocked the Trump administration's new rules allowing more employers to opt out of offering workers no-cost birth control from going into effect in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, employer insurance plans have to include free contraceptives; religious groups are exempt, but the new rules would give more employers, including schools and nonprofits, the chance to opt out. On Sunday, a judge ruled there are "serious questions" about whether this violates the ACA, and he temporarily blocked the rules in 13 states and D.C.

Pennsylvania also sued the administration, and on Monday, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia wrote that if enforced, the rules could cause harm to states, and issued a nationwide injunction. "The negative effects of even a short period of decreased access to no-cost contraceptive services are irreversible," she said. Catherine Garcia

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