There are moments on television where the irony is so great that it leaves you dumbfounded. On Tuesday night, CNN brought on its contributor, James Clapper, to address the plea deal struck by accused Russian Agent Maria Butina. Clapper was asked by Wolf Blitzer if it is possible that Butina could have simply been used unwittingly by the Russian government. It is a fair question, but Clapper immediately dismissed claims of “unwitting” actions and insisted ” I suspect she was witting.” If that sounded familiar, it should and, while Clapper is clearly an expert on intelligence matters, he is an even greater expert on what constitutes “witting” crimes.
This morning, I will have the privilege of giving a keynote address before the National Press Club at a symposium organized by The International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) on privacy and security issues surrounding the rising use of facial identification technology.
Below is my column at Foxnews.com on the inevitable collapse of Michael Cohen’s strategy to avoid jail for his extensive criminal conduct as a businessman and a lawyer. I recently discussed how the filing detailed the windfall payments of over $4 million that Cohen received from companies like AT&T to buy access and influence with Trump. It was one of Cohen’s last scams. He ended up keeping the money despite being embroiled in the scandals that led to his demise. He then scammed thousands of anti-Trump donors on a GoFundMe site for hundreds of thousands of dollars on the promise of turning against Trump. He never mentioned the millions that he shook down companies for in his cash for access scheme. In other words, Cohen continue to hustle but, on this occasion, he came up one hustle too short.
There is an interesting free speech case emerging in Cleburne Texas where Aaron Urbanski was arrested after protesting in front of the St. Mark United Methodist Church against its Christmas event. Urbanski, 31, was screaming that Santa is not real and was arrested for criminal trespass. It was a remarkably obnoxious and disrespectful act by Urbanski and other protesters, but much will depend on where the protest was held in front of the church. If the arrests were due to the content of the protests rather than its location, a serious free speech issue could emerge. For this part, Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain simply declared “Don’t mess with Santa” — a statement that could be cited by the defendant in a first amendment challenge to his arrest.
I guess some people in Summerville, South Carolina just do not like winter or at least Christmas. Cameron Lewis Baun, 29, has been arrested for going on an alleged spree of arson in burning Christmas decorations. He reportedly started by burning an outdoor Snowman. He may have misunderstood the lyrics from Frozen. It is “Do you want to build a snowman?”
Jupiter’s clouds have always fascinated many of us like nature’s massive lava lamp. This image from NASA is one of the most captivating yet of the incredible sight on the largest planet. The photos seems to confirm that indeed paisleys are back and part of a galactic trend.
An earlier column discussed the unnerving statement by Trump that he answered the questions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller “very easily.” The column suggested that the claim may have been bravado since nothing is easy in this investigation. That would seem to be the case since Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani just contradicted the President and said that Trump did not answer the questions either easily or quickly. He described the process as taking two weeks and that the process was an utter “nightmare.” He also spoke openly about the President not being as controlled as other clients — a statement occurring after Trump former Secretary of State called Trump “undisciplined.”
One of the overlooked portions of the Justice Department filings on Michael Cohen was the calculation of how much Cohen made selling access to Trump after the election. I previously wrote about how Cohen found willing corporations like Novartis and AT&T to give him windfall payments to curry favoritism with Trump. It turns out that Cohen made over $4 million and appears to have done little since he was quickly ensnared in scandal. These companies however were outed in what is usually the hidden, seedy underbelly of this town.
As many on this blog know, I am something of a geek and particularly love the NASA website. Having watched the moon landing on a tiny black and white television (at another family’s house because we did not have a television), I still marvel at seeing images from space. I found the latest posting by NASA thrilling: the actual sound of winds on Mars.
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering the appointment of Bill Barr to be the 77th Attorney General of the United States. If true, it would be Barr’s second stint as Attorney General after his service 1991 to 1993 during the administration of President George H. W. Bush — only the second time in history for such a successive appointment. I have known Bill Barr for years and represented him during the Clinton impeachment (with other former Attorneys General). He is one of the most brilliant lawyers I have known and would be a brilliant selection by President Trump for the position. To put it simply, he is the perfect choice for this position at this time. He is a rock solid leader who would bring stability and authority to the Justice Department.