Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the recent disclosure that the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Donald Trump was working for Russia after his firing of former FBI Director James Comey. In reading the story, it struck me that the emerging picture from early 2017 looks increasingly like a study in cognitive bias. Indeed, it raises a rather intriguing possibility that both sides may feed each other in reaching the wrong conclusions.
There is an interesting postscript story to the controversy surrounding New York attorney Aaron Schlossberg. As we discussed earlier, Schlossberg who went on a bizarre tirade against Spanish-speaking restaurant workers has quickly become the most hated man of the week in New York. The New York Post reported that he has now been kicked out of his office by Corporate Suites, the company that held his lease. Now, Schlossberg’s former client, Niche Music Group LLC, is suing him for embarrassing the company by its association to him. While I have little sympathy for Schlossberg (who is a GW grad), the lawsuit raises a troubling question over the liability of lawyers for statements or conduct made in their private lives. The premise of the action is that a lawyer can be sued if his views or actions cause embarrassment by association with clients.
Chicago attorney Jerald Jeske, 51, believed that his wife loved her two Chihuahuas more than she loved him. One could certainly understand why she would feel that way after he then proceeded to throw both dogs off their balcony. According to WGN-TV in Chicago reported, one was killed and one survived long enough to run off (and has not been found).
Below is my column in Fox.com on the Barr memorandum that has garnered so much attention. As I noted, I do not agree with the ultimate conclusion of the research that the obstruction provision could not be the foundation for a subpoena to require President Donald Trump to answer questions. However, the memo is a well-reasoned and thoughtful treatment of the issue. Moreover, I agree with Barr (as I have stated since 2017) that critics were stretching obstruction provisions to the breaking point in their blind effort to turn every act into a crime. Indeed, while I do not necessary view the memo as a strong case against obstruction, it is part of a strong case for confirmation.
Despite a series of self-inflicted wounds by President Donald Trump over the Russian investigation in pressuring former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and directly discussing the investigation with former FBI Director James Comey, Trump has reportedly returned to the same pattern in lashing out with Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. If true, it is entirely baffling. Republicans and Democrats have uniformly objected to these communications as improper and raising the appearance of influencing the investigation. It also undermines Whitaker’s position.
Below is a column on the Flynn’s sentencing hearing and the curious turn of events in the case. He is now scheduled for a new sentencing hearing in March 2019. Interestingly, while I have repeatedly stated in print and television that Flynn does not deserve sympathy, I have been widely quoted as saying that I have called for such sympathy. My point is simply that there are serious concerns raised by how this interview was handled, including the intentional effort to have Flynn interviewed without counsel. Moreover, it is possible to denounce such false statements without exaggerating the specific crime itself. It is still unclear why Flynn lied when the conversation of such sanctions was not strange or improper. Indeed, the Administration publicly was saying that it wanted a new start with Russia and would reexamine all aspects of the relationship. The hearing however quickly went off the rails. I have a great deal of respect for Judge Emmet Sullivan and have appeared before him on countless occasions. But this hearing took a radical departure from the record and the specific crime being addressed in sentencing.
I have previously discussed the problematic advocacy of Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, including repeated corrections of his statements on national television. The latest correction was to Giuliani’s insistence that, while Trump did continue to discuss a Moscow deal far later than previously claims, the thrust of the deal came down to an “unsigned letter.” That latest representation lasted only a few hours when the signed letter was found. Now, Giuliani is saying the letter was signed but it is just “bulls**t.” Again, I fail to see how this meets the standard of effective and professional representation.
Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper on the recent admission by James Comey that he intentionally circumvented the White House Counsel and Justice Department protocol to send two agents to interview then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. It is a subject that will hopefully be raised this week when Comey appears again before Congress on Monday. Comey describes his sudden realization that he could “get away with” sending “a couple guys over” to the White House. Comey’s epiphany could be his epitaph.
An earlier column discussed the unnerving statement by Trump that he answered the questions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller “very easily.” The column suggested that the claim may have been bravado since nothing is easy in this investigation. That would seem to be the case since Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani just contradicted the President and said that Trump did not answer the questions either easily or quickly. He described the process as taking two weeks and that the process was an utter “nightmare.” He also spoke openly about the President not being as controlled as other clients — a statement occurring after Trump former Secretary of State called Trump “undisciplined.”
One of the overlooked portions of the Justice Department filings on Michael Cohen was the calculation of how much Cohen made selling access to Trump after the election. I previously wrote about how Cohen found willing corporations like Novartis and AT&T to give him windfall payments to curry favoritism with Trump. It turns out that Cohen made over $4 million and appears to have done little since he was quickly ensnared in scandal. These companies however were outed in what is usually the hidden, seedy underbelly of this town.
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering the appointment of Bill Barr to be the 77th Attorney General of the United States. If true, it would be Barr’s second stint as Attorney General after his service 1991 to 1993 during the administration of President George H. W. Bush — only the second time in history for such a successive appointment. I have known Bill Barr for years and represented him during the Clinton impeachment (with other former Attorneys General). He is one of the most brilliant lawyers I have known and would be a brilliant selection by President Trump for the position. To put it simply, he is the perfect choice for this position at this time. He is a rock solid leader who would bring stability and authority to the Justice Department.
The media is replete this week with stories of the “demise” and “fall” of attorney Michael Avenatti, who skyrocketed to fame in his representation of porn star Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels. Avenatti’s skill at both litigation and public advocacy led to calls for him to run for president. That was before Avenatti became embroiled in a public rift with his live-in girlfriend, who alleged physical abuse, and then allegations of unethical conduct by Daniels. It often seems that people enjoy only one thing more than a meteoric rise of a celebrity: the later fall from a great height. In this case, those declaring the ethical case as a threat to Avenatti’s license should look closer at the known record.
Michael Avenatti, counsel for Stormy Daniels, is having a seriously bad month. He was earlier accused of domestic battery by a girlfriend, who secured a restraining order last week. (The police declined to bring a felony charge in the case). Now, Daniels has gone public with accusations that Avenatti solicited donations without her approval and did not reveal where the money has gone. In perhaps the most serious allegation, she alleges that Avenatti sued Donald Trump for defamation in her name but without securing her approval. (For full disclosure, Avenatti is my former student and I have previously praised his impressive success as a lawyer.