Category: Lawyering

Report: Trump Asked Cohen to Bury Revealing Pictures of Jerry Falwell Jr. Before His Endorsement

(Official White House Photo: Shealah Craighead)

There is a new report that Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. reached out to Donald Trump in 2015 to seek his help on preventing the release of revealing photographs. Trump allegedly asked his fixer Michael Cohen to help Falwell. Cohen reportedly succeeded but, in Cohen’s signature style, Cohen reportedly kept at least one photo. Falwell would go on to offer a key endorsement of Trump before the Iowa primary.

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Trump Opposes Mueller Testimony As Declaring That McGahn Will No Testify

President Donald Trump has continued to oppose the testimony of key witnesses like former White House Counsel Don McGahn. He has now added his opposition to the testimony of Robert Mueller himself. It is a position that signals a certain defensive, if not fearful, posture with regard to the report. Congress clearly has a legitimate interest in hearing from these witnesses and will prevail in forcing their appearance. More importantly, it is not in the public’s interest for the White House to seek to silence such witnesses with lingering questions over the allegations against the President. I have long expressed my skepticism over the chances of a collusion or obstruction charge against Trump. However, Congress should move quickly to challenge any such block on key witnesses.

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Sandburg’s Rule: Congress Shifts Attention Away From Mueller’s 400-Page Report To Focus On Barr’s 4-Page Summary

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the hearing with Attorney General Bill Barr in the Special Counsel investigation. Barr’s testimony reaffirmed many of the points of the column, including the fact that Robert Mueller was not told that he could not reach a conclusion of obstruction. Indeed, Barr testified that both he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Mueller that he should reach a conclusion. As Mueller’s superiors, that should have resolved any question of a “policy” of Main Justice. However, according to Barr, Mueller not only did not reach a conclusion but he also disregarded the express request that his staff identify grand jury information to allow for a rapid release of a redacted report.

Notably, Barr also confirmed that just eight percent of the public report was redacted — largely to remove material that could undermine ongoing investigations. The sealed version of the report given to Congress only had two percent redacted. Thus, while the Democratic leadership is insisting holding back impeachment efforts until they can get “the full report,” they already have 98 percent of the report and the remaining grand jury information might ultimately not be released by a federal court. Nevertheless, as predicted in the column, the focus of Congress remains on the four-page summary that preceded the full 408-page report. It is a telling emphasis that highlights what I have previously discussed as the priority of congressional leaders.

Here is the column:

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Barr Testimony: Mueller May Have Some ‘Splainin’ To Do

One of the big takeaways from the first day of the testimony of Bill Barr concerns a number of failures that may be attributed to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The most significant failure concerns his decision not to reach a conclusion on obstruction, as I discussed in today’s column. With an hour of the release of the Report, I criticized Mueller for his decision not to reach a conclusion which has no basis in law or policy. The only question was whether Mueller had been told not to reach such a conclusion. Barr answered that questions today in no uncertain terms. Not only could Mueller reach a conclusion, both Barr and Rosenstein pressed him to do so. Mueller’s decision remains both unsupported and incomprehensible. And that is not all that Mueller will have to explain.

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“How Come I’m The Only One?” Cohen’s Claims Victim Status Before Heading To Prison

Michael Cohen has never been a figure who generated much sympathy in others. Cohen spent his career as a legal thug for Trump — threatening everyone from college students to journalists with ruin. He ran shady business deals for himself and taped his own clients without their knowledge. For many of us, his three-year prison sentence was incredibly light given his confessed criminal acts. There is however one person who has unlimited sympathy of Cohen: himself. In a pathetic interview, Cohen laments how he has been singled out and unfairly sent to prison. He previously contradicted his prior sworn confessions to crimes.

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Judge Indicted For Allegedly Aiding Illegal Immigrant Evade Arrest by ICE

We previously discussed the controversy surrounding Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph who allegedly helped an illegal immigrant evade ICE agents in April 2018. Joseph and court officer Wesley MacGregor were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting and obstruction of a federal proceeding.

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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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Roughly 300 Years Later, Is Julian Assange The New John Peter Zenger?

Below is my column in the BBC on the historical and potential legal significance of the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Much of the prosecution could turn on whether Assange is a journalist. Notably, Assange just received a European journalism award from the European parliamentarians. Assange is this year’s recipient of the 2019 GUE/NGL Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers & Defenders of the Right to Information.

In the meantime, there are some interesting comparison between the Assange and Zenger cases in the long-standing debate over what constitutes press freedoms.

Here is the column:

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Columbia Professor: Barr Can Release Grand Jury Information But Does Not Want To Do So

As we await the release of the Special Counsel report, there are some curious standards being suggested for the release of grand jury information. Various media organizations have featured experts insisting that Barr could release such information called Rule 6(e) information. That is news for me. I was counsel in one of the largest Rule 6(e) cases, the Rocky Flats Grand Jury case, years ago in Denver. Yet, the Nation has posted an explanation by Columbia University Law Professor Jeffrey Fagan that the rules for such disclosure are “elastic” and Barr could be “creative” in making releases. In my view, that is in direct contradiction with not just long-standing but recent precedent. There should not be just a wildly different account by legal experts on such a question so I would like to explain why such views are misplaced.

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“He Is Our Property”: The D.C. Establishment Awaits Assange With A Glee And Grudge

Below is my column in USA Today on the Julian Assange arrest. We are still learning more about Assange’s confinement, including bizarre accounts of Assange’s conduct in the Ecaudorian Embassy in London. The key question will be the highly generalized allegation in the single count indictment from the Justice Department that Assange played an active role in the hacking. That would cross the Rubicon for journalists and make this an even more difficult case for those worried about free speech and the free press. Yet, the indictment is strikingly silent on details or an assertion that Assange actually used the password. We will likely learn more as the May hearing approaches for his extradition.

Here is the column:

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Federal Judge Attacks Trump As Adopting The Same Rhetoric and Tactics As The KKK

There is a controversy out of the University of Virginia where federal Judge Carlton Reeves gave a scathing speech against President Donald Trump — likening his conduct to that of the Kl Klux Klan and segregationists from the Jim Crow period. The speech (accepting an award) raising troubling issues about Reeves engaging in political speech in violation of core judicial ethical rules.

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Prominent New York Lawyer Suspended For Bizarre Conduct

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.

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Rod Rosenstein’s Deepening Ethical Quandary

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.

Here is the column:

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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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