Author: jonathanturley

Giuliani: I Am Afraid My Gravestone Will Read “He Lied For Trump”

I have been critical of interviews given by Trump’s counsel Rudy Giuliani and the continued need to walk back from comments that either undermine or contradict his client. This weekend was no exception, though some of the coverage was unfair as I previously discussed. Now he is facing questions after an interview with the New Yorker where he observed “I am afraid it will be on my gravestone… ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’” Even as a joke, it was not the type of statement that advances the interests of your client. Trump himself is an unpredictable client but that is not an excuse to mirror your client as an unpredictable counsel.

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Barr and BuzzFeed: What Two Stories Reveal About Coverage and Commentary In The Age Of Trump

Below is my column on the concerns raised about the media coverage from last week. As I have stated, my concern is not with the BuzzFeed story per se, but how it was used to start a feeding frenzy of speculation. The treatment of the two major stories of last week (the Barr and BuzzFeed stories) speaks volumes about the consistent pattern of coverage and commentary in the age of Trump.

Here is the column:

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Montreal Club Cancels Comedian For Wearing Dreadlocks

I have been previously critical of “cultural appropriation” campaigns against students and faculty and others accused of incorporating or adopting clothes, food (here and here and here), or exercise (and here) or even art (and here) associated with other cultures. These controversies have also involved hair and jewelry styles, including dreadlocks. The latest controversy arose over a comedian, Zach Poitras, who happened to have dreadlocks who was scheduled to have a show in Montreal at a bar associated with the University of Quebec. It was cancelled after people objected that he was white and thus his hair style was cultural appropriation. It is the same misguided position that we have seen on college campuses in sanctioning those who explore different styles or art forms or foods.

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Italian Supreme Court Rules That Watching Porn At Work Is A Protected Right

According to the Italian edition of The Local via LiveSicilia, workers on personal breaks have a protected right to watch pornography. The Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome said Fiat had no right to sack the worker, who enjoyed “just a glimpse of the film during a meal break.” The United States may inadvertently go even further in actually paying for employees to watch porn. This is one of the few industries that appears to be booming in the shutdown. There is a reported sharp increase in the watching of porn after federal workers were put on leave. Since these workers will eventually be paid for their missing time, we may outstrip Italy on the provocative issue.

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Will Michael Cohen’s Father-in-Law Sue Giuliani For Defamation?

In Washington, it is all too common for public figures to exchange uncorroborated allegations. Often the most telling factor is to wait to see who actually sues for defamation. We are at that point in the controversy surrounding the Buzzfeed story after Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani made what would be arguably defamatory statements against the father-in-law of Michael Cohen on national television . . . if the statements are untrue. The question is whether Fima Shusterman will sue over being called a criminal working with Ukrainian organized crime.

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THE BUZZFEED STORY FOLLOWS A PATTERN OF BOOM AND BUST STORIES

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the controversy over the Buzzfeed story of President Donald Trump allegedly telling his former counsel Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. This weekend BuzzFeed stood by its story, though it declined to explain a disturbing discrepancy in the account. I disagreed with the call of Rudy Giuliani to investigate or sue BuzzFeed. If BuzzFeed had two officials associated with the Special Counsel making these allegations, it was right to run the story. My criticism is how the story was overblown by experts and members of Congress as a “slam dunk’ case for prosecution and impeachment despite the absence of any clear evidence or corroboration.

Here is the column:

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“Not Very Clever”: Man Robs Bank Without Disguise, Used Taxi To Get Away, and Paid Hotel With Dyed Money

There are some felons who simply need to go to jail for a lack of effort. Andre Edwards, 41, not only robbed three banks without any disguise but then called a taxi as a getaway car. He then paid his hotel bill with money showing the red dye used by banks to mark stolen money.

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No, Mr. Giuliani, BuzzFeed Should Not Be Sued Or Investigated [Updated]

It often seems that when the Trump team has the high ground on a story, it rushes to bulldoze it to the ground. The controversial interview by Rudy Giuliani on CNN, it a case in point. In response to the rebuke of BuzzFeed by the Special Counsel, Giuliani gave a rambling interview that included a call for BuzzFeed to be investigated or sued. Neither should occur. I have been critical of how the media and legal experts overplayed the BuzzFeed story. However, if BuzzFeed had two officials connected to the Mueller investigation giving this information, it was news. Indeed, aspects of the story are likely to be born out by Michael Cohen in his testimony before Congress. There is ample reason to criticize how the media treated this story but the suggestion that journalists should be investigated or sued for reporting such a story is dangerous and unwarranted. Indeed, Giuliani made news  an by asking “And so what if he talked to him about it?” In fairness to Giuliani (who has been unfairly reported on the context of the statement), he prefaced that statement by saying that he did not know if Trump spoke to Cohen. However, it would be a reckless and problematic act if Trump spoke to a witness about this testimony on his and Trump’s conduct. Such an act would maximize the risk to himself and Cohen.

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The House Has A Duty To Impeach If They Find High Crimes and Misdemeanors By Trump

Below is my column in USA Today on the recent statements by various Democratic leaders that they are unlikely to pursue impeachment because they do not have the votes in the Senate to convict. While many members pushed the impeachment angle during the campaign, there was a shift on the issue after the Democrats took office. Almost immediately after the election, senior Democrats changed course and began to dismiss calls for impeachment as “fruitless” and a distraction. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton declared impeachment to be “a useless waste of energy” and asked “Why would we go down the impeachment road when we cannot get it through the Senate?” 

I have repeatedly said that I do not see the strong foundation for an impeachment against Trump. However, these comments raise a more fundamental question about how members should approach their duties under Article I irrespective of the President. Members often pull a bait-and-switch with gullible voters, but they should not manufacture a new constitutional standard. If they truly believe that any president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, they have a sworn duty to vote for impeachment.

Here is the column:

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Five Myths About Bill Barr

Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on a growing mythology building around the nomination of Bill Barr for Attorney General of the United States. One of the most prominent is that Barr was intentionally evasive about releasing any report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Members of both parties have overwhelmingly called for the release of the report. However, Democratic members pushed Barr to promise to release the entire report before he actually reads it.

Barr said repeatedly that he believed that not only the completion of the Special Counsel investigation but the release of the information was in the public interest.  Barr was repeating the standard from the regulation, which is precisely what he should do.  That standard says that the Attorney General has discretion to conclude that “these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.” What the Democratic senators were demanding would have been an unethical pledge to release a report without knowing its contents.  Federal law prevents the disclosure of a myriad of different types of material from Grand jury (or Rule 6(e)) material to classified material to material covered in privacy or confidentiality laws as well as possible privileged material.  After pushing him on whether he would act ethically, it was a curious request for a facially unethical and unprofessional pledge.
Here is what Barr said:

“I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel’s work . . .For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political or other improper interests influence my decision.”

Here is the column:

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Report: Trump Told Cohen To Lie To Congress

There is a new report out today that President Donald Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The sources are described as two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter. It is not clear if that means two officials currently involved or previously involved (which would include some of the fired or removed officials like Andrew McCabe or James Comey). Nevertheless, if true, such an allegation could easily be translated into a criminal allegation or article of impeachment. It comes down to the proof. What is clear is that, if the proof is Cohen alone, they have work to do on this one. Cohen is a serial liar and felon. I have written that I agree with the Democrats in calling him to testify and that his testimony could prove useful in giving needed details. However, Cohen is about as credible as a mob torpedo without being thoroughly and completely verified by more credible sources. There are also some gaps in the story as well as obvious defenses.

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MSNBC Host Suggests Lindsey Graham Is Being Blackmailed By Trump

While the media often (and often correctly) criticizes President Donald Trump for attacking critics personally or making claims without sufficient support, there seems less scrutiny when he or his allies is the target of such attacks. The recent attacks on Sen. Lindsey Graham after MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle suggested on national television that his support for Trump is due to being blackmailed with “something pretty extreme.” Various Republicans denounced the allegation (which was picked up by a Democratic member) as a clear reference to long-standing rumors that Graham is gay (which Graham as denied). They have described the statements are inherently homophobic. The reprehensible statement was soon echoed by others — not only implying that President Trump engages in blackmail but that Graham has sold out to conceal some “extreme” conduct.

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Giuliani: “I Never Said There Was No Collusion Between The Campaign, Or People In The Campaign”

Another interview, another controversy. Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani has found himself in another firestorm after telling CNN host Chris Cuomo: “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign.” The problem is that his client has . . . repeatedly.

Update: In what has become a pattern, Giuliani spent the next today walking back his statements.

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No SOTU For You: Pelosi Moves To Postpone State Of The Union Due To Shutdown

Claiming security concerns, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked President Donald Trump to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union speech due to the shutdown of the government. There is no question that security can be guaranteed, as reaffirmed by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who said that federal law enforcement is “fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.” The general view however is that the security risk is a thin, if not transparent, cover for a political muscle play. In reality, Congress controls the invitation and a joint meeting of Congress requires an invitation from both houses.

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