A federal judge issued a surprising decision that allowed part of an emoluments challenge to proceed toward trial. The opinion has been widely misreported, but still represents a rare win for those arguing that President Donald Trump is accepting prohibited payments from foreign governments at the various Trump properties. However, the decision is only on the threshold standing question and did not address the merits of the constitutional claim. Moreover, United States District Judge Peter Messitte dramatically narrowed the action to only claims related to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. These is considerable debate over the meaning of the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause. There are clearly good-faith arguments that such payments fall within the meaning of the language, but I remain highly skeptical. Even with the much reduced action, I think Messitte is wrong and that the action should have been dismissed in its entirety. Previous actions have been dismissed.
Below is my column in USA Today on the recent ruling against President Donald Trump in a civil lawsuit where his counsel sought dismissal on constitutional grounds. It was a weak argument that made bad precedent for the Office of the President. With yet another change in his legal team, Trump needs to focus on continuity among his legal team. More lawyers does not necessarily translate to a stronger case. Indeed, it can undermine a case when lawyers are advancing conflicting or reckless arguments.
Here is the column:
Municipal Judge Wilfredo Benitez is at the center of a controversy after he reportedly shouted profanities and cited his judicial position after being found passed out by the side of a road. Benitez was later found to be intoxicated. However, his charges were later thrown out by another judge.
At the turn of the last century, surrealists had a parlor game in Paris called “The Exquisite Corpse” where writers would create collective stories by writing lines without knowing what preceded them. The lines were often nonsensical like the line that gave the game its name: “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau. ” (“The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.”) With minutes of his firing, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe became such an exquisite corpse with various politicians adding lines to his story that seemed entirely disconnected to his story. Former FBI Director James Comey used McCabe to pitch his upcoming book while former Attorney General Eric Holder used him to effectively attack career staff at his former agency. The point of the game in both politics and literature is not to advance a coherent narrative but insert your own lines into a collective story.
Below is my column on various proposal for gun control reforms after the latest school massacre in Florida. As the column discusses, the constitutional burden is more demanding than suggested by many politicians. This is clearly a right that is subject to reasonable limitations but it is an individual constitutional right that affords gun owners a higher protection in the court.
President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has moved to claim at least $20 million in damages from porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen is alleging at least 20 violations. With the recent allegations of physical threats and post-election actions, the political costs to this strategy is likely to continue to rise. Notably, Cohen is not simply pursuing damages through his limited liability corporation Essential Consultants. An attorney for Trump is now directly calling for Daniels to be forced into arbitration . . . and silence.
Below is my column in USA Today on the expanding litigation over the Stormy Daniels controversy and specifically the precarious ethical position for Trump’s longtime counsel, Michael Cohen. One interest development was the move by Daniels’ counsel (and my former research assistant) Michael Avenatti to get a new judge in the Daniels case. Avenatti argued that it was inappropriate for the case to be heard by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Feffer because she is seeking a federal judgeship from President Trump. The move was surprisingly successful and the case was transferred to Judge Howard Halm. Like Feffer, Halm was appointed by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
Here is the column: