In a interview painfully reminiscent of the “alternative facts” statement of Kelly Anne Conway, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani triggered another firestorm by declaring on NBC’s Meet the Press that “truth isn’t truth.” I actually can see what Conway was trying to say with her “alternative facts” comment, but the Giuliani comment left me mystified why a lawyer would frame such an argument. He was understandably trying to convey that prosecutors can frame the facts in ways to trap a witness. However, it came out in a terribly mangled way. In the meantime, President Trump was on Twitter asserting that White House Counsel Don McGahn is “no RAT” like John Dean in the Nixon Administration. Both statements took the worst possible framing of their respective arguments and predictably led to another wave of criticism. Continue reading “Giuliani: “Truth Isn’t Truth””
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the continuing controversy surrounding the release of the tell-all book by Omarosa Manigault Newman. Manigault Newman has continued her release of secret tapes featuring the President and his staff. Her latest tape captures a private conservation with Lara Trump who offers Manigault Newman a $15,000 a month job with the Trump campaign on the promise that she will “stay positive.” Trump refers to the rumor that Manigault Newman has dirt of Trump as she offered a job with few apparent duties or expectations other than “staying positive.” Of course, many of us are still wondering what Manigault Newman did in the White House. Nevertheless, the taping shows the utter lack of loyalty or honestly by Manigault Newman in dealing with friends and coworkers.
The Trump campaign has now filed a civil action, which is discussed as a possibility in the column below. The potential for criminal liability however is limited in this case.
In a highly controversial move, President Donald Trump has revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan and ordered the review of other officials who all share one obvious distinguishing characteristic: they are all fierce critics of Trump. The move has been widely condemned as Nixonian and amounting to a black or enemies list. While I have been highly critical of everyone on the list (and called for some to be fired and, in a couple cases, prosecuted), I find the move very troubling from a free speech perspective. Indeed, I am still uncertain about the rationale for the actions and why the list would be composed entirely of Trump critics if based on a consistent, apolitical basis. Continue reading “Trump Revokes Clearance Of John Brennan and Orders Review Of Other Former Officials”
The end of the trial of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort today proved controversial after the defense counsel made reference to the alleged selective prosecution by the Special Counsel. If accounts are accurate, it would seem a direct violation of the prior understanding with the court that no party was to make reference to selective prosecution and the Special Counsel investigation of President Donald Trump.
As many of you know, I have been a long critic of the corrupt history of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and its sleazy leadership. For years, many have called for FIFA officials to end their global reputation as corrupt and self-dealing. They showed utter contempt for such calls and investigation. It was not until the United States worked with other countries to arrest top officials that FIFA fessed up to its problems. However, it did not take long for FIFA to go back to its old ways. It has now made future corruption scandals less likely not by the implementation of new rules allowing the punishment of those who “defame” FIFA officials or the organization. Indeed, the word “corruption” is no longer in the code of ethics. Moreover, bribes and other violations kept secret for ten years will be essentially wiped clean for purposes of prosecution.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the controversial statements of the judge presiding over the trial of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman. Judge T.S. Ellis III has raised growing concerns over his comments in court, particularly before the jury.
Controversial FBI official Peter Strzok has been fired by the FBI — joining former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe in the ignoble distinction of being terminated by an agency that rarely jettisons its own. The firing creates an obvious dissonant element to the Democratic defense of Strzok as someone unfairly hounded by the Republicans. The terminations of McCabe and Strzok are based on the view of officials who viewed their conduct as unacceptable and, in McCabe’s case, potentially criminal.
One notable controversy was raised by Strzok attorney Aitan Goelman, who maintained that Deputy Director David Bowdich “overruled” the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility to remove him. The suggestion is that career officials did not view Strzok’s conduct as warranting such action.
Strzok was with the FBI for 21 years. It did not take time for Trump to tweet out the news:
Strzok was removed from the special counsel probe last year after the discovery that his incendiary text messages with FBI lawyer, who had an affair with Strzok.
I am interested in the basis for Strzok’s attorney claiming that the deputy director “reversed the decision of the career FBI official responsible for employee discipline who concluded, through an independent review process, that a 60-day suspension and demotion from supervisory duties was the appropriate punishment.” There should be some explanation from Goelman as to whether that is true and, if so, the basis for such a reversal. Generally, the recommendation of the OPR carries considerable weight in such matters. However, the ultimate decisions rests with officials like Goelman on whether the findings warrant more serious sanctions.
For a growing number of critics, the breakthrough verdict against Monsanto for $289 million over its Roundup weedkiller is an indictment of the company’s corporate culture but also of academics who were used by the company to discredit scientific studies linking the herbicide to cancer. Former groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, 46, reportedly has only months to live but he just delivered a body blow to one of the largest corporations in the world. It is not that $289 million is a crippling fine for Monsanto, but the verdict of guilt based on a finding of actions taken “with malice or oppression” will likely trigger tens of thousands of such claims. Not surprisingly, Monsanto is now ditching its name in favor of Bayer after its recent acquisition. Continue reading “Roundup The Academics? Monsanto Verdict Raises New Troubling Questions About Professors Working Under Corporate Sponsorship”
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. issued an alarming tweet that suggested that critics of President Donald Trump including James Comey, Rod Rosenstein, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Jeff Sessions, and Loretta Lynch should be arrested. While we are living in an age of rage, such statements from a university president is deeply disconcerting. This follows a disturbing poll showing a surprisingly large percentage of Republicans believe that the President should be able to shutdown media organizations. It seems like the rising distemper in this country is turning us against the foundations of our system from due process to the free press. Continue reading “Liberty University President Calls For Trump Critics To Be Arrested”
Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the latest “smoking gun” of obstruction in the form of Trump tweets. There continues to be a categorical refusal of many to acknowledge the implications of the interpretation being advanced to implicate Trump. There is also a failure to acknowledge that the Clinton campaign received more information was Russian sources, including Russian intelligence figures. The difference is the Clinton people were smart enough to use a cut out in the form of a former British spy.
While advocates continue to maintain that agreeing to go to a meeting to review promised evidence of crimes is a federal election violation, no case like this has ever resulted in a conviction that I know of. Indeed, I do not know of any case remotely similar to this case as being brought. The First Amendment implications should bar any such prosecution.
Below is my column in USA Today on the most recent claim that the tweets of President Donald Trump concerning the Special Counsel are acts of obstruction. Once again, there is a blind eagerness to claim a prime facie criminal case against Trump. However, the implications of such a charge are enormous. It would mean that a subject or target of an investigation could be criminally charged for publicly denouncing the prosecutors or their investigation. While it is certainly true that a president is not just any investigatory subject and has powers that do mean a menacing meaning to such tweets, it would radically extend the scope of obstruction into more ambiguous areas. In the end, this is still the exercise of free speech in this context.
The Justice Department received well-deserved pushback yesterday in the trial of Paul Manafort from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis who noted that it’s not a crime to be rich in America. The Justice Department has been trying every possible way of introducing pictures and witnesses detailing Manafort’s “extravagant lifestyle” in the jury trial. This includes such items as his $15,000 jacket that’s “made from an ostrich.” On style values alone, many of us would be tempted to convict on the Ostrich jacket but that is hardly what Manafort is charged with. Nevertheless, the government got plenty by using lifestyle witnesses to confirm Manafort’s use of direct wire transfers from his many foreign accounts — a practice that was recalled as exceptionally rare by the witnesses.
President Donald Trump continued his ill-advised tweeting about the Special Counsel investigation, calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop Robert Mueller “right now.” Putting aside that Sessions correctly recused himself from such matters over a year ago, the demand for terminate the investigation undermines Trump’s legal team and, for those other than his core base, it comes across as defensive and increasingly alarmed about the investigation. I have never understood these tweets because I have yet to see compelling evidence of a crime by Trump linked to obstruction or collusion.
Lost in the mix of Manafort and other news, there is a significant development in Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller has referred a number of cases to the Southern District of New York for possible prosecution, including reportedly case involving longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and his work for his former firm, the Podesta Group and former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, a former partner at law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. It is not clear if charges would emerge from these cases but the referral further decentralizes the investigation.