More Fires Ravage California, But No Federal Relief Money to Help
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More Fires Ravage California, But No Federal Relief Money to Help

Meanwhile, Mueller Pores Through Trump’s German Bank Records

Fires. Tens of thousands of people fled fires in Southern California. The biggest, the Thomas Fires, was in Ventura County and burned an area nearly as large as Seattle. “The prospects for containment are not good,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Ventura County.

At least 150 structures in Ventura County were destroyed. About 27,000 people were evacuated. “Red flag” fire conditions are expected to last at least through Thursday.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency in the city and urged about 150,000 people in affected areas to evacuate. It is unclear how many people have been injured or killed in the fires.

Major Northern California fires earlier this fall killed 43 people and destroyed nearly 9,000 structures. But the Trump White house ignored the heavily Democratic state in its request to Congress for $44 billion for supplemental disaster aid targeted mainly for the hurricane-ravaged, but reliably Republican, Texas and perennial swing state Florida.

Members of California’s congressional delegation are asking their colleagues for $4.4 billion more for fire-related disaster relief.

Investigation. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has asked Deutsche Bank for information on accounts for Trump and his family, Reuters reported. The federal investigator probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election subpoenaed the bank, and key documents have been handed over. Trump’s attorney is denying that any such subpoena was issued.

Deutsche Bank has lent the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate ventures and is one of the few major lenders to give large amounts of credit to Trump in the last decade. A string of bankruptcies at his hotel and casino businesses during the 1990s made most of Wall Street wary of extending him credit.

Jerusalem. Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a step that could contribute to unrest across the Middle East. Both Israel and the Palestinians claim the city is their capital. Israel captured the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war, and U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic presidents has been that the city’s status should be decided in peace talks. Trump doesn’t plan to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No country currently has an embassy in Jerusalem because of the disputed status of the city.

Cake artist. The Supreme Court heard arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission about discrimination based on sexual orientation. Baker Jack C. Phillips claims that a non-discrimination law violated his First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found Phillips violated the law by refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Phillips claims that as a “cake artist,” he speaks through his cakes and designs them “for the purpose of celebrating his clients’ marriages.”

Prepared to lose. Trump is using an obscure legal mechanism to try to protect some of his most controversial executive orders in case they’re struck down in court. A severability clause instructs courts to leave the rest of an order intact even if they find one of its provisions to be unconstitutional. Trump most recently used this in the two proclamations shrinking the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. “They’re not just preparing for a court challenge,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “They’re prepared to lose.”

Featured Photo: Ojai, Calif., Tuesday morning. (Ojai Valley News photo posted to Facebook by Dennis McDougal.)

December 6, 2017