Below is my column on the Steven Bannon case that ran in the Washington Times. Notably, one of the defendants indicted with Bannon is a Andrew Badolato, a person who has repeatedly assisted the government in prior cases. While Badolato has pleaded not guilty and has a long association with Bannon, his history could raise a serious threat for defense counsel that he might cut a deal with prosecutors. In a case of this kind, a cooperating witness confirming an intent to hide transactions would be devastating to the defense. A May 24, 2021 trial date has been set though U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres called that date “optimistic.” (Note: postings this week may be limited due to my duties in a criminal defense case).
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on what stood out in the Democratic National Convention in terms of the future for the Justice Department under a possible Biden Administration. I have been highly critical of President Donald Trump’s treatment of the Justice Department and his disregarding of the principles of separation of the White House from ongoing investigations. Critics however often seem to embrace the seem disregard for core, defining principles of legal process. Highlighting the message of Sally Yates and Kamala Harris on justice issues is discomforting for those of us who want to see the Justice Department’s independence and objectivity respected and reinforced.
Below is my column in the Hill on the announced criminal plea by former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith and the continued calls by Democratic leaders to end the John Durham investigation. This week I discussed the call of Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, for DOJ lawyers to refuse to help in the investigation despite his own conflict of interest. When the Clinesmith plea was announced, Weissmann proceeded to deride the charge and make spurious legal and factual claims about its basis. The Weissmann call for DOJ lawyers to hinder this investigation is unprofessional and unwarranted but hardly uncommon in this rage-filled environment.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the effort of New York Attorney General Letitia James to forced the dissolution of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The decision of James to seek the clearly unwarranted dissolution of the nation’s largest gun rights organization is consistent with her past politicalization of office. The case itself is important and raises serious questions of excessive spending by officers of the NRA. While there are other organizations that have not received this level of attention over spending, the record of the NRA is worthy of scrutiny and possible injunctive relief. However, James undermined the credibility of the case by demanding dissolution to pander to Democratic voters. It is all too familiar to those of us who have criticized James in the past for her use of the office for political grandstanding.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on yesterday’s hearing in the Senate, which ended abruptly with Sen. Hirono walking out after a confrontation with Sen. Cruz over his objection that the Democrats were avoiding direct criticism of Antifa. In roughly 50 hearings as a witness in Congress, that was a first for me. I have been in a hearing with a lock down but I have never been in hearing with a walk out. I was not sure if I was expected to turn off the lights after both senators left.
The dramatic ending of the hearing however quickly supplanted the underlying issue. As I stated in my testimony, I am less concerned with Antifa’s role in the protests as its role in the growing anti-free speech movement in the United States.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the continued speculation over President Donald Trump delaying or cancelling the 2020 election. This conspiracy theory first appeared shortly after Trump’s election and became the rage when Vice President Joe Biden predicted that Trump would try to halt the election (and try to steal the election through the Postal Service). Despite the overheated coverage, Trump did not try to delay the election. He cannot delay the election. He asked a question of whether it should be delayed, which Congress can legally do. However, as I said immediately after the tweet, it is a question that is politically absurd and legally unfounded. However, the only thing more ridiculous was the response to this eleven-word question. It is all part of the panic disorder that seems triggered by Trump tweets on a daily basis.
Below is my column on the recent hearing before the House Judiciary Committee with Attorney General William Barr. The hearing was widely ridiculed after Barr was repeatedly prevented from answering questions. It was a great disappointment. I just testified on the Lafayette Park controversy and many of us were waiting for a month to hear from Barr directly on the details, particularly the statements of many in the media that the Park area was cleared to allow President Trump to take a picture in front of St. John’s Church. Democratic members continued to refer to that as a fact (as has many in the media) despite the federal agencies supplying information that shows that the plan was approved days before and the order was given with no knowledge of the photo op. Yet, on repeated occasions Barr tried to supply times and dates, Democratic members immediately “took back the time” and even got angry when he tried to answer. The same is true on other controversies. We lost an opportunity to actually answer these questions. Yet, after repeatedly blocking Barr from answering, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him a “Blob” at the hearing. He might seemed less blob-like if Democrats allowed him to speak. Instead, the hearing was an example of how Congress will work tirelessly not to find answers when a narrative is too good to check.
Below is my column in The Hill on the recent disclosure of a document showing that the FBI used an agent to gather information for Crossfire Hurricane during campaign briefings of Trump during 2016. The document directly contradicted the long-standing denial that the investigation to Russian collusion was ever used to gather intelligence on Trump or his campaign. At the same time, the credibility of the Steele Dossier was further undermined this weekend with the release of new information that Steele misrepresented the sources and information used as the basis for this report, which was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The source for the most alarming allegations was revealed as Igor Danchenko, 42, as confirmed to The New York Times, He was not the “Russian-based” source claimed by Steele and the FBI learned that Steele took third-hard rumors and presented them as hard intelligence in the report used to help justify the Russian collusion investigation. This source was used in the last two renewal applications to the FISA court as a “truthful and cooperative” and “Russian-based,” according to the Justice Department Inspector General report found. So it turns out that the primary “source” of Steele’s dossier was “not a well-connected current or former Russian official, but a non-Russian-based contract employee of Steele’s firm.”
None of this has made any difference to the coverage. On ABC Sunday, George Stephanopoulos had Chris Christie as a guest but his involvement in the very meeting discussed in the document did not merit a single question from the host. In the meantime, Democratic leaders, who once mocked the idea of any investigation of Trump or targeting of the campaign, now say that it really doesn’t matter. Rep. Eric Swalwell says that it was actually “the right thing to do.”
Below is my column in the Hill on a variety of proposals that could rekindle the debate over “reverse discrimination” in the federal courts. Many of the proposals seek to adopt exclusive racial classifications that will collide with existing precedent under both statutory and constitutional law. If this movement is to result in lasting reforms, these threshold legal challenges should be considered.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the commutation of the sentence of Roger Stone and the objections from various commentators and politicians that it was an unprecedented abuse of this constitutional power. The political outcry was predictable but it was also accompanied by an ahistorical treatment in Congress and the press. Many leaders lined up to cast the first Stone comment on how it was an unprecedented act despite their own relative silence during past abuses of presidential clemency. Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that the commutation was “an act of staggering corruption” for someone who “could directly implicate him in criminal misconduct.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff declared that the commutation left him “nauseous.” Of course, Pelosi, Schiff, and other Democrats seemed to have greater stability and intestinal fortitude after Bill Clinton’s pardoning of his own brother (Roger Clinton), a fugitive Democratic donor (Marc Rich), or his longtime friend (Susan McDougal) who was convicted in an investigation that implicated both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Likewise, Mitt Romney seemed to echo Toobin’s view (below) in declaring this an “unprecedented, historic corruption” when “an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.” However, Romney long heralded his respect and support of President George H.W. Bush despite Bush’s executive clemency actions for six former senior government officials implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal, including former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Bush himself was implicated in that scandal and some alleged was protected by their silence. Nevertheless, this Society of Historical Revisionism appears to be expanding with members expressing utter shock at the notion of a president abusing the pardon power. There were no calls for investigations or new legislation from these politicians at the time. So, to paraphrase John 8:7, let he or she “without sin among you,” cast the first Stone criticism.
Below is my column in The Hill on the increasingly common rationalization that looting and property damage is a long-standing tradition first embraced by the Sons of Liberty in the Boston Tea Party. That historical analogy was very popular in the days before the Fourth of July. A professor made the comparison on CNN on the Fourth. The view is widely raised in universities like the column in the University of Arizona’s Daily Wildcat newspaper declaring “The Boston Tea Party was when we first saw looting as a form of protest in America. White people acting out in anger is literally celebrated in our history books.” Likewise, at the University of Dayton last week, a column stated “There is something to be said when our White founders destroying British property in the Boston Tea Party is glorified in every textbook, but burning down a Target for the rights of African Americans to simply breathe is damned in the media.”
It is a revisionist historical argument that is as convenient as it is wrong. While the Framers would have supported the vast majority of protesters who engaged in peaceful demonstrations for reform and racial equality, the Sons of Liberty would have been the first to denounce the concept of wanton property destruction or looting as a means for social change.
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper that looks at three different stories attacking Attorney General Bill Barr as acting unethically and corruptly from the Flynn case to the Berman decision to the Cohen case. I have not hesitated to criticize Barr on his policies or actions. However, these are based on long-standing differences over constitutional and legal issues. It is the character attacks that I found notable in last week’s stories particularly in the absence of supporting evidence.
Below is my column in USA Today on the D.C. Circuit ordering Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the case of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. After this column ran, new evidence emerged that further undermined the FBI and the targeting of Flynn, as discussed in another recent column. Notes from fired FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok show that former FBI Director James Comey told President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden that Flynn’s call to the Russian diplomat “appear legit.” Nevertheless, Biden (who denied having anything to do with the case) is noted as raising the idea of a charge under the facially unconstitutional Logan Act, a law that has never been used successfully to charge a single person since the beginning of this Republic. Comey of course was the one who later bragged that he “probably wouldn’t have … gotten away with it” in other administrations, but he sent “a couple guys over” to question Flynn, who was settling into his new office as national security adviser. We now know that, when Comey broke protocols and sent the agents, he thought the calls were legitimate and that agents wanted to dismiss the investigation in December for lack of evidence. They were prevented from doing so as Strzok, Biden, and others discussed other crimes, any crime, to nail Flynn just before the start of the Trump Administration.
If all of that seems “illegitimate” and “irregular,” it pales in comparison to how two judges on the D.C. panel viewed the handling of the Flynn case by Judge Emmet Sullivan. It seems that everyone from the President to the Vice President to the FBI Director to ultimately the federal judge have engaged in a dangerous form of improvisational law when it came to Michael Flynn. That will now hopefully end though many questions still remain.
It is possible for Judge Sullivan to appeal, though the upcoming hearing on Flynn has been removed from the docket.
Below is my column in The Hill on the ongoing destruction of memorials and statues. After this column ran, I learned that one of the iconic busts of George Washington University had been toppled on my own campus. I did not learn that from our university, which was conspicuously silent about this destructive act at the very center of our campus. There is something eerily familiar in the scenes of bonfires with police watching passively as public art is destroyed. Such acts are akin to book burning as mobs unilaterally destroyed images that they do not want others to see. There are valid issues to address on the removal of some public art but there is no room or time for debate in the midst of this spreading destruction. Even when there is merit to objections to literally or artistic or historical works, mob action threatens more than the individual work destroyed by such action. The media has largely downplayed this violence, including little comparative coverage of an attack on the Democratic state senator who simply tried to videotape the destruction of a statue to a man who actually gave his life fighting against slavery in the Civil War. As discussed earlier, history has shown that yielding to such mob rule will do little to satiate the demand for unilateral and at times violent action. People of good faith must step forward to demand a return to the rule of law and civility in our ongoing discourse over racism and reform.