Category: Justice

Turley To Testify Before House Judiciary Committee On Executive Privilege

I will be testifying tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee on President Donald Trump’s assertion of executive privilege and congressional oversight. The Hearing will be held 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15th, in Room 2141 in the Rayburn House Office Building.

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Barr Assigns Federal Prosecutor To Investigate Origins Of Russia Probe

Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned John H. Durham, the United States Attorney in Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the Russia Investigation. The country remains divided over the Russian Investigation with many questions raised as to political influence and targeting. Durham is a former special prosecutor with a long and distinguished record at the Justice Department, including prior investigations into CIA abuses of detainees and internal corruption. Besides, he has one of the most intense official photos in government that I have ever seen.

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WA Appeals Court Allows Necessity Defense For Alleged Vandal In Shutting Down Pipeline As Environmental Protest

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

I have been critical of the notion that a defendant may not always be permitted the opportunity to present evidence in their defense, especially the affirmative defenses of necessity and self-defense.  Yet in a case recently before the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division One, The Court held that in a particular case, a defendant charged in shutting down an oil pipeline to draw attention to environmental hazards posed by such industry–he is entitled to argue before the court his actions were necessary to protect the environment and common good of the people. 

While this case received nearly no attention in the recent media, the effects of this ruling can be both of benefit to the defendant and the environmental protection cause, but could also open some doors to those seeking to excuse criminal behavior using specious necessity claims.

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Holder: Barr Needs To Learn That He Is “The People’s Lawyer, Not The President’s Lawyer”

Attorney General William Barr has faced considerable criticism over his press conference before the release of the Special Counsel report. Many have objected that his account seemed designed as a prebuttal to the report to support Trump. While I disagree with the extent of the criticism, I can see why there are such objections. Yet, the one person who one would not expect to hear from would be former Attorney General Eric Holder who was viewed as a highly political and intensely loyal member of the President Barack Obama’s cabinet. That reputation was highlighted when Holder proclaimed that he was “I’m still the president’s wingman.” Yet, Holder went public this week to remind Barr that he is “the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer.”

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Kushner in the Crosshairs: New Book Ties Kushner To Comey Firing

U.S. Embassy (Jerusalem)

If President Donald Trump has had a couple of lousy weeks, it is still considerably better than the experience of his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Not only has the media reported (and the White House has not denied) that Trump overruled his security and legal advisers in ordering a clearance for Kushner, but Kushner is the subject of a new book and confirms earlier accounts that he was the mastermind behind the disastrous decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey. What is striking about the account in Vicky Ward’s new book, Kushner, Inc. is how clueless Kushner (and by extension the President) seemed about the likely response to the firing. With every other advisor, including Steve Bannon, warning of the inevitable backlash and disaster, Trump went with Kushner and fired Comey. The result was the Special Counsel appointment. Had Trump let Comey finish the investigation and then fired him, the Russian investigation would have likely ended many months ago.

In addition Kushner has been accused this week of using private or personal email for official business despite years of controversies over such use and his own father-in-law’s campaign on the issue against Hillary Clinton.

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Can The Mueller Report Be Released?

With everyone waiting for the expected news of the submission of the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, there remains a remarkably unresolved question of what Attorney General Bill Barr can actually give to Congress. I have previously discussed how giving the report to Congress would require the redaction of a host of information under privacy, classification, and executive privilege rules.  However, the threshold question is what the statute contemplates.  The answer is: not much.

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Trump Selects Jessie Liu As Associate Attorney General

While President Donald Trump has been criticized for his pressuring of Justice officials like former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others, he has actually selected highly qualified people for vacancies in the Department. That was the case with Attorney Bill Barr and that is the case with the nomination this week of U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu as Associate Attorney General of the United States. Liu, 46, is an exceptionally well qualified nominee and, just as Trump has been rightfully criticized for some of his actions, he should be praised for this nomination. (For full disclosure, Liu is married to one of my colleagues, Michael Abramowicz.)

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Report: Trump Pressured The Justice Department To Oppose The AT&T Warner Merger

The New Yorker is reporting that President Donald Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then Trump’s chief economic adviser, to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger last summer. If true, the action could raise an additional allegation of the abuse of power and a direct lie to the American public. Months later, Trump expressly denied playing any role in the decision to sue to oppose the $85 billion merger. Trump’s intense dislike for CNN (owned by Time Warner) had been a long source of speculation that he was seeking to punish the cable network for its criticism of him and his Administration.

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Is Mueller Uncovering Ukrainian Rather Than Russian Collusion?

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on status of the Mueller investigation and what we have learned about Russian collusion. On Friday, Mueller filed what could be his last major filing before the submission of his report to Attorney General Bill Barr. It was the Manafort sentencing report and, once again, it was long on Ukrainian and short on Russian collusion. Indeed, Manafort’s lobbying efforts were designed to help Ukrainian figures on issues stemming from their internal political tensions and investigations. For example, the highly detailed filing discusses how Manafort was given millions to further a “furtive activity in connection with the United States’s consideration of a resolution condemning Ukraine for President Yanukovych’s locking up his political opponent Tymoshenko.” Mueller discusses the focus of Mueller’s work as “lobbying for Ukraine.” While Mueller could still present evidence of Russian collusion, this filing continues a notable trend in the omission of such evidence by key players. If Manafort was an agent for Russia, it would likely have been mentioned in his sentencing report and used as the basis of either a FARA or related charge. Instead, the filing shows Manafort was working for Ukrainian not Russian interests in these criminal enterprises.

Here is the column:

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Kurds: Islamic State Defeat To Be Announced “In A Few Days” But Is ISIS Truly Vanquished?


By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

If there was ever a “nation” in the ordinary meaning comprising the Islamic State it is unquestionably moribund. The area reportedly controlled by the terrorist organization remains for the time down to one square kilometer, according to some reports less than six hundred meters square in Baghuz.

What actually has so far saved the jihadists from annihilation was that they interspersed themselves among civilian human-shields while Kurdish forces and allies exercise pause to protect the innocent. Thus remains the glory of the Caliphate, hiding among women and children to save itself.

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Manafort Loses Plea Deal After Judge Finds False Statements To Special Counsel

Paul Manafort added to his burgeoning record of alleged crimes and falsehoods this week with a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson that he had broken his cooperation agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller by making false statements and withholding information. The result could be devastating for Manafort who will now face sentencing without the benefit of the plea deal that he struck with Mueller. That could mean that, absent a pardon from President Donald Trump, Manafort could die in prison since he is looking at decades of potential jail time.

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McCabe: Rosenstein Complained That Trump Forced Him To Justify Comey Firing

We have previously discussed the tell-all book written by James Comey. Now Andrew McCabe has cashed in on his own tell all — and not surprisingly it is scathing. The most notable allegation however concerns the memorandum written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on why Comey should be fired. McCabe insists that he and others witnessed a visibly upset Rosenstein complain that Trump and aides pressured him to write the justification for firing Comey. The book is The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.

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DOJ Agrees To Investigate Epstein Deal . . . Sort Of

I have previously written about the disgraceful sweetheart deal given to accused serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The deal was struck by Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta and not only succeeded in protecting Epstein from serous jail time but protecting a host of high-profile friends including Bill Clinton who were regulars at his infamous island resort. The problem is that the investigation is not being handled by the Inspector General but the oft-criticized DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility. OPR is routinely criticized for its defense of accused officials, even in some indefensible circumstances. For critics, it often seems more like OPR offers more cover than scrutiny in controversies over prosecutorial abuse. Moreover, the Epstein scandal involves serious questions of corrupt influence by powerful friends of Epstein. Such questions require serious investigative measures. OPR is more likely to find that the deal was within the scope of permissible decisions by a prosecutor like Acosta despite being widely ridiculed as an utter disgrace.

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“That Hero Lies In You”: Saudi Feminist Leader Reportedly Tortured In Saudi Arabia While Saudis Enjoy Mariah Carey Concert

Saudi Arabia is full of contradictions as a nation imposing medieval Islamic laws while striving to portray itself as a modern country. We have routinely discussed the incredible bravery of women in the Kingdom who have risked everything to demand the most minimal rights of human beings from freedom of speech to freedom of travel to associational rights. One of these heroes is Saudi activist Loujain Alhathloulwho remains incarcerated and is being reportedly tortured for her advocacy of equal rights. For all of the women being abused in the Kingdom, many objected to Maria Carey holding a concert when this repression continues. Carey, who loves to sing about that “hero inside you,” took the money and will be holding the concert today. It appears that Carey’s commitment to women does not extend as far as turning down one concert from her already burgeoning fortune.

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Turkish Courts Release Imprisoned Politician After Hunger Strike In Protest To Isolation Of Abdulla Öcalan

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

On January 13th I posted an article featuring PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan being held without access to visitation by family and attorneys since 2016. The government’s reversal of policy occurred after a two month long hunger strike staged by imprisoned Kurdish sympathizers including pro-Kurdish Turkish Member of Parliament Leyla Guven, 55. MP Guven’s condition was described as “grave” and in the end considerable concern was that her life was in danger. Now, at least for the time being, Ms. Guven is no longer in custody and hopes are high for her recovery.

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