Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the continuing jury deliberations in the trial of Paul Manafort in Alexandria, Virginia. Defense counsel generally take heart in the passage of time as an indication that the jury is having difficulty in reaching a verdict. However, it can be deceiving. I took over a case in this same courthouse after a jury deliberated over a week and still convicted on all counts.
I have been critical of the decision of President Donald Trump to rescind the clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan and to release a list of other officials to be reviewed — officials who are uniformly critics of the President. Despite my criticism of everyone on the list, I viewed the unprecedented action to be unwarranted and retaliatory. However, Brennan himself does not help the case for those of us opposing the action. This weekend Brennan walked back his earlier reckless statement that Trump press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin was treasonous. Now Brennan insists that when he called Trump treasonous he did not mean that he actually committed treason. Continue reading “Brennan: I Did Not Mean Trump Was Treasonous When I Said His Actions Are “Nothing Short Of Treason””
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.
In a brief exchange with Judge T.S. Ellis III, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort declined yesterday to take the stand in his own behalf. His defense then declined to present its own case and moved the trial to closing arguments. Given the highly damaging evidence offered by the prosecution, there is little that will be offered to actually refute the charges. The decision to waive testimony and a defense case can be a strong strategic choice in a case where the defense savaged the prosecution. That is not this case. Continue reading “Manaport Declines To Testify Or Present Defense in Alexandria Trial”
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.
There is an interesting case out of North Carolina where Justin Adams was fined $1,000 for littering. Adams is a KKK member who was distributing Klan literature on car windshield wipers. Complaints followed and police were called. Chief District Judge Mark Galloway imposed the fine, but there are serious questions raised about content-based discrimination of speech. Adams’ views are vile but it seems unlikely that others distributing literature would be subject to arrest. Indeed, Roxboro Police Chief David Hess seemed to confirm as much in his later comments.
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.
Whatever becomes clear after Rick Gates finishes his direct and cross examination is that Gates and Paul Manafort truly deserved each other. On the stand on his first day of testimony, Gates admitted to embezzling hundreds of millions from Manafort as he helped Manafort hide millions and lie to the government and banks. It was highly damaging testimony, but the most damaging in my view came earlier from Manafort’s accountants that he was in financial collapse — struggling to maintain an opulent lifestyle after his Ukrainian money machine was cut off with the flight of his main client.
This week, the City of West Hollywood council joined in the gratuitous insults and derogatory that has come to characterize our politics on both sides. The city council unanimously voted to ask Los Angeles and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove President Donald Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star has been repeatedly vandalized in recent weeks. In the meantime,Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that Austin Clay, 24, was charged with vandalism for destroying Trump’s star last month. He used a pickaxe.
For over a year, there has been an ongoing debate over the constitutionality of the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel. The claim is that Mueller constitutes a “principal officer” who should be nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Instead, defenders claim Mueller is an “inferior officer” who does not require such a process. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia just gave Mueller an impressive legal victory in an opinion that swept aside this and two other fundamental challenges to the Special Counsel. The decision came as part of the grand jury investigation into Trump confidant Roger Stone.
While there are good-faith arguments that Mueller is no inferior officer given the sweeping nature of his mandate, I have previously expressed great skepticism of the viability of these challenges in light of the prior decision of the Court in Morrison v. Olson, which upheld the constitutionality of the Independent Counsel Act. That Act was allowed by Congress to lapse but the special counsel procedure is, if anything, stronger than the ICA since Mueller is squarely within the Justice Department and subject to its chain of command. This of course could well change with the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is a long critic of Morrison. However, his past writings do not clearly establish that he would rule a Special Counsel to be a principal officer. However, this challenge is clearly designed to move up to the Supreme Court where Morrison is considered an endangered precedent, even before the expected addition of Kavanaugh.