Report: Obama Administration Carried Out Massive and Unconstitutional Surveillance Programs

President_Barack_ObamaWith the steady stream of controversies swirling around the White House, there has been little attention given a highly disturbing report that the Obama Administration engaged in previously undisclosed and violations of the Fourth Amendment.  Just a few days from the 2016 election, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) reportedly raised a highly unusual alarm over the creation of “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue” by possibly unconstitutional surveillance conducted under President Barack Obama.  If true, this should be given equal attention to the other stories crowding our front pages and cable coverage.  The Obama Administration has a well-documented history of abuse of surveillance and stands as one of the most antagonistic administrations toward privacy in our history.  Indeed, if true, many of the former Obama officials currently testifying against the Trump Administration were responsible for a far broader scope of abusive surveillance programs.

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Yates Goes On CNN To Declare That Russians Had “Real Leverage” Over Flynn

sally_q-_yatesI have previously been critical of the stance taken by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.  I remained unconvinced that Yates had the ethical basis to order for the entire Justice Department to stand down and not to assist the president in the defense of his first executive order on immigration. I also questioned Yates’ decision to voluntarily testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  She was testifying as someone who was recently in a prosecutorial position about subjects related to an ongoing investigation where no one has yet to be indicted.  Now those concerns have been magnified by Yates’ appearance in the media to talk about matters center to the ongoing investigation at the Justice Department and other related subjects.

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White House Claims “Many Legal Scholars” See No Conflict In President Asking Comey If He Is Under Investigation

Sarah-Huckabee-Sanders-2017-05-05-cropWhite House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured the media yesterday that there was nothing inappropriate with President Donald Trump asking former FBI Director James Comey if he was a target of the ongoing investigation over Russian influence or collusion in the presidential election.  She insisted that the White House had reached out to legal experts and “several legal scholars who have weighed in on it and said there’s nothing wrong with it.”  She also said that “many legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last hour.”  While I cannot speak for all legal scholars, I find it surprising that the White House could find “several” who would sign off on such an inquiry.  It was clearly improper for Trump to ask the question and it would have been equally improper for Comey to answer in this fashion.

To make matters worse, Sanders said that, by removing Comey, the White House hoped to bring the investigation to a sooner conclusion. In her defense, I took her comment as meaning that the White House has nothing to fear from the investigation and wants it to come to a conclusion: “We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity. And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.” However, it was another uniquely ham-handed treatment of the controversy from a White House that continues to struggle with maintaining a single coherent message.  The overwhelming thrust of the coverage of the Comey termination was that it was meant to bring an end to the Russian investigation.  To connect the firing of Comey with the hope for a faster conclusion to the investigation is incredibly daft.

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Atlanta Attorney Charged In Wife’s Murder

McIver booked april 26 2017 (002)When the gun of Atlanta attorney Claud “Tex” McIver went off in a car and killed his wife Diane McIver, he insisted that he pulled out the gun when he thought that they have inadvertently driven into a Black Lives Matter protest.  Police however believe that McIver intentionally shot his wife and then sought to cover up the crime with a friend who was driving the car.  The case involves a series of factual and legal twists.

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Government Ethics Office Rebukes White House Over Handling of Kellyanne Conway Violation

kellyanne_conway_by_gage_skidmore_3I recently criticized the ethics complaint filed against Presidential Advisor Kellyanne Conway by 15 ethics law professors. For full disclosure, Conway is one of my former students at George Washington University Law School (she graduated in 1995). I criticized the complaint as highly political with little foundation. The only aspect of the complaint that was not frivolous was the allegation that Conway violated the federal rule against endorsing commercial products in light of her comments about Ivanka’s line of clothing and jewelry. As I stated, Conway did violate the rule and I believe that she should have been punished with an official reprimand or some other equivalent measure.  However, I viewed the violation as part of a tongue-in-cheek retort to the controversy. The White House reached the same conclusion that there was no “nefarious” intent but it also declined to impose any formal punishment.  That decision has led to a relatively rare rebuke fromOffice of Governmental Ethics Director Walter Shaub.  Referring to Conway’s “free commercial,” Shaub expressed dismay over the failure to impose any punishment and further chastised deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino for his explanation for the lack of any discipline.

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Washington State To Move To Extend Restraining Order To Second Executive Order

washington-flag-sealdonald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedWe just discussed the move in Hawaii to secure a new restraining order to cover the second Trump executive order.  That was the most likely move that we previously discussed.  The other option was to seek to extend the existing restraining order to cover the second executive order on the grounds that there was not a substantial change.  That is the option that Washington state is taking. Today, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson indicated that he will ask that Judge James Robart’s Feb. 3 ruling be extended on the grounds that the second Executive Order contains the same alleged violations as the first.

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