A prominent real estate lawyer who once described himself in a column as “jungle street skills and a passion for justice” has been suspended for bizarre and abusive conduct. Adam Leitman Bailey told a tenant that he should commit suicide as a worthless human being and even declared “now you’re my bitch.” The problem is that the tenant recorded the call.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on an overlooked issue from the letter of Attorney General Bill Barr to Congress on the Special Counsel report. Whatever happens to the allegations and evidence facing President Trump, there remains the question of what to do with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
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.
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.
We have been discussing the incredible courage of women activists in Saudi Arabia and Iran who are being arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for claiming the most basic civil liberties. One of the most inspiring activists is Nasrin Sotoudeh, a world renowned human rights lawyer jailed in Iran for her representation of women who removed their mandatory headscarf. In an act of unspeakable brutality and savagery, an Iranian court has sentenced her to 38 years and 148 lashes in a trumped up charge of spying, spreading propaganda, and insulting Iran’s supreme leader. In the meantime, ten women are being tried in Saudi Arabia which continues to repress women and girls under its strict Islamic code.
Comal County Judge Jack Robison has caused a considerable controversy in Texas after he told a jury to go back after it reached a guilty verdict in a sex trafficking case because God told him the defendant was innocent. There have been long debates over what a court can use as a matter of “judicial notice” but divine intervention is not one of them.
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.)
One of the curious aspects of the public hearing before the House Oversight Committee was the limited interest in past discussions of a pardon by Cohen with Trump or his legal team. Only a passing reference was made in the hearing, but Cohen said unequivocally that “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.” The Wall Street Journal has a report that cast some doubt on that sworn statement. It is reporting that Cohen’s lawyer at the time Stephen Ryan not only pressed for a pardon after the FBI raid on Cohen but suggested that, absent a pardon, he might flip. If true, the story could be another instance where the truth of Cohen’s testimony is subject to challenge despite a pledge from the Committee Chair Elijah Cummings that he would push for a perjury prosecution for any false statements. Cohen already has been accused of perjury and there has already been a call for a request for a perjury investigation from GOP members.
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.
Media groups are contesting an effort by Alan Dershowitz to close part of the oral arguments before the Second Circuit in the ongoing litigation over the handling of the case of his former client, Jeffrey Epstein (left), who was an alleged sex trafficker for powerful men ranging from Bill Clinton to Dershowitz himself. Dershowitz has denied the allegations of one of Epstein’s alleged victims that she was coerced into having sex with Dershowitz.
There is a deeply troubling story in the New York Times concerning the long fight over President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’ security clearance. After a long refusal to give him a top secret clearance, Kushner was finally cleared and President Trump indicated that he played no role in the decision and that it was made by the intelligence officials. There is now a report that intelligence officials refused to change their position and maintained that Kushner should not be given a clearance. Trump then reportedly overrode the opposition from both his national security and legal staffs in ordering that Kushner be given the clearance. The order was sufficiently alarming that both Trump Chief of Staff, (former Gen. and Homeland Security Secretary) John Kelly, and his White House Counsel Don McGahn, wrote internal memos on their objections as a record. As someone who has worked in the field with a top secret special intelligence clearance since the Reagan Administration, I find this report to be chilling. It is exceptionally rare and the further highlights the problems caused by nepotism in government. Congress has also objected that the White House has not cooperated into its oversight investigation into the matter.
As someone who has called for the disbarment of Michael Cohen for well over a year, the belated decision by the New York bar this week to disbar the disgraced lawyer is welcomed news. There are few ex-lawyers that you can say this about, but the removal of Cohen from the bar has materially improved the value of everyone’s license across the country.
Harvard students are petitioning for the removal of law professor Ronald Sullivan, the house dean (previously called House Master) of Winthrop House. The school has announced a “climate review” on whether Sullivan can continue as dean after he agreed to represent accused sexual harassers Harvey Weinstein and Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer. It appears that even the representation of people accused of sexual harassment is now considered its a threatening or improper act.
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the effort in New York to change constitutional protections against double jeopardy to allow prosecutors to charge former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort with state offenses. The effort is to guarantee that Manafort goes to jail if President Donald Trump gives him a pardon. The sight of politicians campaigning on the pledge to jail Manafort raises serious concerns of this highly selective effort. Moreover, the effort to change New York constitutional protection to get Manafort could give Trump precisely the basis for a pardon that Democrats are preemptively trying to deter. I have repeatedly said that a pardon for Manafort would be inexcusable. He has more than earned any sentence that a court chooses to give him and the New York effort should not change that. However, if the Democrats tailor their constitutional protections to get Manafort, they are giving Trump the ability to say that he is responding to selective targeting of Manafort to guarantee that he is not punished twice for the same underlying conduct. More importantly, New York should not sacrifice its commendable protection against double jeopardy to get Manafort. He is not worth it.