Category: Media

Wolff Book Prompts Rare Denial From Special Counsel’s Office

Michael Wolff made a killing on his last book on Donald Trump despite denials from his sources as to key statements. He is now back with a sequel entitled “Siege: Trump Under Fire.” As before, there were instantly questions about Wolff’s standards and sources in making sensational claims. Two such claims immediately stood out as highly dubious, if not facially untrue. The Special Counsel’s office has already made a rare public denial of one of those claims: that Mueller’s office actually drafted indictments against Trump for obstruction of justice.

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Poll: Only 18 Percent Of Germans Feel Free To Voice Views In Public

For years, we have discussed the unrelenting attacks on free speech in Europe with the expansion of hate speech laws and the general criminalization of speech, including international speech crimes. Some in the United States would like to follow down that dangerous path (and universities are reinforcing the view of the need to regulate speech). The implications of such anti-speech policies are evident in Germany where a survey, conducted by the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach(and published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) found that only 18 percent of Germans feel free to express their views in public. It is the most vivid example of how Europeans are learning to live without free speech. Undeterred, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the successor to Angela Merkel, is now calling on greater limits on free speech during election periods — a concept that would normally be viewed as counterintuitive outside of the new European model.

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Biographer: MLK Watched And Laughed During Rape Of Follower

Pulitzer prize winning author and MLK biographer David Garrow has written a disturbing piece in the British magazine Standpoint on his review of secret tapes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There have long been stories about MLK’s affairs and even discussions of reexamining his standing in the MeToo period. However, the details in this article are different and deeply unsettling, if true. If not, Garrow has ruined his own celebrated career and defamed an American icon. Either way, one would think that there would a huge amount of coverage of the allegations in the mainstream media. Instead, there has been very little coverage of the story. While Yahoo and MSN ran foreign-based stories, most of the coverage has come from newspapers outside of the United States.

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Trump Again Calls For Changing Libel Laws After NYU Professor’s Faked Quote [Updated]

President Donald Trump has previously — and unwisely — called for changing libel laws to combat what he calls “fake news.” I have previously criticized  Trump for his calls for greater liability of the media for its coverage of the controversies surrounding his Administration, including his desire to sue Saturday Night Live.  Now, due to the publication of a false quote from Trump by New York University Professor Ian Bremmer, Trump is again calling for a change in the law and ignoring that our defamation standard is anchored in the first amendment. Ironically, Trump himself was recently accused of posting a doctored clip of Nancy Pelosi and has repeatedly retweeted false or defamatory statements.

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The Assange Case Could Prove The Most Important Press Case In 300 Years

Below is my column for BBC on the Assange espionage charges. As I have written, I believe that Attorney General Bill Barr is dead wrong on these charges — a view apparently shared by at least two of the prosecutors on the team. Until now, President Donald Trump’s disturbing rhetoric against the media has been disconnected from actual moves against the media with the exception of suspending press passes or changing rules for the White House press corp. This is a quantum leap in the wrong direction. Indeed, this prosecution could easily become the most important press case since John Peter Zenger.

Here is the column:

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Bill Barr Is Wrong On Assange

Bill Barr has been (in my opinion) wrongly attacked for many of his actions with regard to the Special Counsel Report. Indeed, I defended his decisions in print and I testified in favor of his confirmation. I still believe that he is an excellent choice for Attorney General. However, on the charges against Julian Assange, he is wrong. Dead wrong. As I stated in a recent column, the use of the Espionage Act strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Now, the Washington Post is reporting that two prosecutors involved in the Wikileaks case argued against the new charges.

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Pelosi Reaffirms No Impeachment . . . Because Trump Wants To Be Impeached

Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference today that left far more questions than she answered . . . except for some members of the press. While CNN asked the more obvious question of why Pelosi keeps saying that Trump is committing impeachable acts but barring impeachment, the other reporters quickly moved to softball questions and the short time ran out, as did Pelosi. However, Pelosi did reaffirm that Trump should not be impeached because he wants it too much. That is consistent with those other principled stances like (1) serial killers should not be arrested if police think that they really want to be caught; (2) suicide jumpers should not be stopped if they really want to be rescued; and (3) bulimia victims should be given more food if you think that they just want you to intervene. The original question is still the operative question: if Trump is committing crimes and a cover up, as Pelosi alleges, why does it matter what Trump wants as opposed to what the Constitution says.

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France Continues Crackdown On Journalists

France appears to be launching a crackdown on the free press with the same vigor it has shown in destroying free speech guarantees in the nation famous for its 1784 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of all the Citizen. Recently, we discussed how the French government was criminally investigating journalists who uncovered false statements by French officials on the country’s role in the war in Yemen. Now, a senior reporter at the renowned French Le Monde has been called in for questioning after Ariane Chemin revealed that a security aide to President Emmanuel Macron has been summoned for questioning by the domestic intelligence service.

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Florida To Impose Sweeping Anti-Semitism Ban On Florida Schools

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is reportedly planning to travel to Israel and use the trip to sign a bill that imposes a sweeping anti-Semiticism law that raises serious free speech implications. Florida and other states are enacting a bill being duplicated through the country that would ban statements that “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective.” I have previously raised my concerns over the curtailment of free speech from such laws as well as bans on support for boycotts of Israel. While courts have struck down the boycott laws, supporters are still trying to curtail speech under ill-defined hate speech models. Recently, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations called for an international ban on anti-Semitic speech.

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France Investigates Journalists For Exposing Alleged Lies About War In Yemen

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Now France is adding an attack on the free press that parallels its growing intolerance for free speech. A reporter from Radio France and the co-founders of Paris-based investigative news organization Disclose are under criminal investigation for their reporting on France’s role in the war in Yemen with the use of leaked secret documents. In the United States, such journalism could get you the Pulitzer. In France, it could get you prison.

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A Question Of Contempt: Why The Barr Vote Could Prove Costly For Congress

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the vote of the House Judiciary Committee to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress. There are a number of conflicts with the Administration that present favorable grounds for Congress in a court challenge. This action is the least compelling and could ultimately undermine congressional authority with an adverse ruling.

I am honestly confused by some of the criticism including the recent column by Andrew Napolitano in Fox.com where he states “Barr knows the DOJ is not in the business of exonerating the people it investigates. Yet he proclaimed in his letter that Trump had been exonerated.” I like and respect Napolitano a great deal but that is not what the letter said. What the letter said was “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: ‘[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.’” That is true. Indeed, it was odd that Napolitano would focus on the collusion/coordination issue when many people have accepted that the conclusion of no criminal conduct was clear from the report. At no point does Barr say that Trump was exonerated. Indeed, he included the most damaging line from the report on obstruction in saying that Mueller expressly did not exonerate him on that question. Barr was addressing the conclusions on criminal conduct and I still do not see where, as stated by my friend Andrew, where Barr in the letter was “foolish,” “deceptive,” “disingenuous,” or “dumb and insulting.” Those are powerful accusations against any lawyer and should be tethered to a clear example in the letter of a false or deceptive statement.

The Napolitano letter also ignores Barr’s statement that the report would have been released relatively quickly (removing the need for the summary) if Mueller complied with his request and that of Rod Rosenstein to identify grand jury material. It remains inexplicable that Mueller allegedly ignored those reasonable requests from his two superiors. As a result, Mueller’s people had to go back through the report to identify the Rule 6(e) material, a previously requested.

Update: The Democrats are now arguing that they are not demanding the redacted Grand Jury information despite weeks of calling for the full and unredacted report — and a subpoena that demands the entire unredacted report. They now insist that they want Barr to ask the Court to release the small percentage of Grand Jury information. That is not likely in light of the long record at the Justice Department.

Here is the column:

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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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The Sliming Of Pete Buttigieg

Fox News reported on a disturbing allegation of an alleged effort by conservative activists to push a false claim that Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg sexually assaulted another man. The man denies the published account and says that he was coerced into signing a statement as part of an effort by lobbyist Jack Burkman and blogger Jacob Wohl. The story appears entirely false and represents a new low for this town even after such disgraceful stories as the Pizzagate.

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