Last night, Fox News reported that the laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden was subpoenaed last year by the FBI in a money laundering investigation. While the status and the targets of the investigations are unknown, the subpoena would appear to support the fact that these emails are authentic and that the laptop was Biden’s. While House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and roughly 50 “intelligence experts” have assured the public that this is just Russian disinformation, both the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence have now confirmed that they do not believe the laptop and its contents are Russian disinformation. Now it appears that the laptop was viewed as sufficiently connected to possible federal crimes to be subpoenaed as evidence by the FBI a year ago. Continue reading “Biden Laptop Was Subpoenaed By The FBI in 2019 As Part Of A Money Laundering Investigation”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was the target this month of a plot of extremists to kidnap her and storm the state capitol. After the arrests of the primary suspects, Whitmer lashed about at President Donald Trump for failing to condemn right wing violence. That is certainly a common criticism. However, Whitmer also attacked Attorney General Bill Barr and suggested that he knew about the plot. It was a curious attack since the FBI uncovered the plot and the DOJ is prosecuting the plot. There is no indication that the DOJ was delaying action. To the contrary, it acted to thwart the plot and protect Whitmer. The other question is why would Barr lie about his knowledge? To what logical end? He was not asked about any threats but specifically if he knew about signs and statements made a protest in Lansing, Michigan in June — a protest that was under state, not federal, jurisdiction.
In his long-awaited testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony proved as casual as his appearance in an open shirt from his home office. Comey was hammered with embarrassing findings of errors under his watch in the handling of the Russian investigation, including the reliance on information that FBI agents warned might be Russian disinformation supplied by a Russian agent. After years of investigation, the FBI was unable to show that a single Trump official conspired or colluded with the Russians. Instead, investigations found extensive errors, irregular and criminal conduct, and statements of intense bias by key FBI figures. Yet, Comey proceeded to give what amounted to a series of shrugs in either denying any recollection of such information or deflecting responsibility to others. Continue reading “What Rings Comey’s Bell: The Former FBI Director’s Casual Testimony Confirms the Worst About His Tenure”
I have been critical recently of remarks attributed to Attorney General Bill Barr, including the alleged consideration of criminal charges against a mayor for not acting against rioters and the use of sedition charges against some individuals. The latter allegation was reinforced by the Associated Press after it obtained a memo to United States attorneys. The memo suggests a more general use of sedition for anyone opposing government authority by force. Such a use of sedition laws directly threatens free speech values and would return to dark periods of the suppression of dissent in our country. It is also entirely unnecessary given the array of ample and severe laws available to punish looters and rioters.
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.
Here is the column:
Recently, I posted a criticism of Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who ran a column with Professor Ryan Goodman encouraging Justice Department attorneys not to assist U.S. Attorney John Durham in his ongoing investigation (at least before the election) and dismissing the basis for the plea agreement reached with former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith. Goodman argues that I was unfair to him and Weissmann in my posting and I wanted to respond. I did include a longer quote from the column to be sure that their point was better understood in context in an updated posting. However, in my view, the defense of this column only highlights the inherent bias that the original posting sought to address. Rather than append this long discussion at the end of the original column, I felt it deserved its own posting and consideration by readers. The discussion below is a response not just to Goodman’s tweets but their column.
I recently wrote a column discussing how Democratic leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden, have argued against continuing the investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham despite growing evidence of misconduct by Justice Department officials and now the first guilty plea by former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith. Now, Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has derided the Clinesmith plea while actually calling on Justice Department attorneys to refuse to help on ongoing investigations that could implicate aspects of his own prior work. [Update: I have include a longer quote from the column by the two authors and I have written another posting to address objections raised by Professor Goodman.]
We have previously discussed allegations against FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith who played a key role in maintaining the secret surveillance of Trump campaign advisers in the Russian Investigation, including the falsification of a filing to the secret court. U.S. Attorney John Durham who is investigating the matter, has announced that Clinesmith will now plead guilty to making a false statement. The implications of this criminal plea is enormous but the media has engaged in a pattern of willful blindness to mounting evidence of wrongdoing in the Russian investigation by FBI and DOJ figures. Continue reading “FBI Lawyer In Russian Investigation To Plead Guilty For False Statement”
This week, former Vice President Joe Biden rekindled the debate over the killing of Michael Brown in 2014 with a tweet stating that his life was “taken” by police and represents the systemic racism in our society. The sixth anniversary of the killing is obviously notable as protests continue across the country over the killing of George Floyd. However, two of Biden’s leading candidates for vice president still maintain the police “murdered” Brown in Ferguson, Missouri — a claim that could become a contested campaign issue since it was the Obama Administration that found that shooting to be justified while Biden was vice president. Given the additional comments from Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, a brief recap of the multiple investigations into the shooting seems warranted. Continue reading “Biden Tweet Rekindles Debate Over Michael Brown Case”
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.”
I recently received a letter contesting my statements concerning Attorney General Bill Barr in columns (here and here and here and here) and congressional testimony (here and here). The letter is from Ralph Nader, Lou Fisher, and Bruce Fein. I have known all three signatories for many years and I have the utmost respect for them. They offer detailed and thoughtful disagreements with my past statements and the record of Attorney General Bill Barr. I asked them if they would allow me to share their arguments with the blog and they have agreed to do so. As with the prior posting of Professor Morrison, I strongly encourage you to consider the analysis from three of the most influential minds in Washington.
These are figures who require little introduction. They are well known throughout the world for their contributions to the law and public policy. Ralph Nader is as legendary figure who has fought his entire life for consumer protection, environmental protection and good government. He has run for president repeatedly (indeed I voted for him) and is widely viewed as one of the most influential figures in the world on public policy. Lou Fisher spent four decades at the Congressional Research Service and is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the shaping of congressional legislation and policies. He is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on constitutional and congressional issues. Bruce Fein was a high ranking Justice Department figure in the Reagan Administration and has been one of the most influential conservative voices in print and television for decades. He is known for his independent and principled analysis of legal and constitutional issues.
As I stated in Attorney General Barr’s confirmation, he comes to this position with long-established and robust views of executive privilege and powers. While I have long disagreed with him on many of these issues, I view many of the current controversies to reflect policy and interpretative differences, not ethical or criminal or impeachable misconduct. I do not agree with presumptions made about his improper motivations or designs in carrying out his duties, for a second time, as Attorney General of the United States. Despite my many friends on the other side, my view has not changed. Nevertheless, people of good-faith can disagree and that is precisely what is offered by Messrs. Nader, Fisher, and Fein (sounds like a great law firm!)
Here is their letter for your consideration:
Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley has called upon Attorney General Bill Barr to launch a federal civil rights investigation of the St. Louis couple who wielded guns outside of their house during a protest in their gated community. I have previously written about the possible charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey and expressed my skepticism over the apparent effort of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to find a criminal charge. However, Attorney General Barr should decline this request from Sen. Hawley. There is no civil rights violation in this investigation. Indeed, while I thought the charges could be defeated in trial or on appeal, I previously wrote that the vague criminal provisions could be used to bring a charge. The issue turns on how the guns were used. While I find the criminal provisions to be vague and the application in this case to be unwarranted, it is not a civil rights violation to advance such an interpretation of the law.
One of the most controversial figures selected by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his investigative team was Andrew Weissmann. While some criticized Weissmann for perceived bias, many of us focused on his record of prosecutorial excess. Now a law professor at New York University, Weissmann appears eager to fulfill both criticisms. After the commutation of Roger Stone, Weissmann called for Stone to be pulled in front of a grand jury. It did not matter that there was no crime under investigation or likely criminal charge based on the use of a presidential power that is virtually absolute. Weissmann seemed to call for the use of the grand jury for a fishing expedition — precisely the type of alleged excessive use of prosecutorial power that he faced at the Justice Department. Weissmann is reportedly writing a book on the investigation with the reported titled “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation.”
This afternoon, I am testifying on the hearing on the controversy surrounding the clearing of Lafayette Park on June 1, 2020. I was called to appear to address the underlying legal and constitutional standards governing such mass demonstrations. For roughly 14 years, I was one of the lead counsels in the World Bank litigation that helped establish guidelines and case law governing such operations. I have been critical of the force used to clear the park as well as the attack on a team of Australian journalists covered the protests.
The operation to clear the Park began two days before with the plan to install fencing. By Monday, a small barrier was in place around the park itself and the clearing operation was to push back the crowd to a perimeter to allow the higher fencing to be installed beyond the range of debris or objects. The crowd was pushed back to I St. from H St. by the line of officers. (The hearing title and the testimony refers to the “Lafayette Park” or “Lafayette Square Park” generally. In fact, the immediate park was closed off and we are discussing the operation to clear the area for the installation of the higher fence).
As I state in the testimony, I believe the order to clear the area would be found lawful. It is the level of force (and a charging of the line of officers) that is likely to be the focus of any court. I still do not see the need for this level of force in the use of batons and pepper spray.
I have attached my testimony below.
The hearing went until after 2 pm.