Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper exploring the current evidence supporting a criminal collusion case against President Donald Trump or his campaign. While clearly not popular to raise, the evidence released to date is rather underwhelming. Indeed, the basis for a criminal collusion prosecution is weaker today than it was a year ago. That does not mean that new evidence cannot be released but this is an attempt at an objective review of past filings and disclosures from the Special Counsel, Congress, and witnesses. That evidence strengthens the case against collusion and certainly supplies ample foundation for a defense against the charge of a criminal conspiracy with the Russians in hacking computer systems. Once again, the column only addresses the basis for a criminal charge based on collusion by Trump or his campaign. The prosecution of Russians for hacking is strong and the fact that Russians wanted to help Trump seems unassailable. The narrative supporting a criminal conspiracy however seems increasing incomplete and incoherent.
For over a year, many of the theories of Russian collusion have highlighted a mysterious call to an unpublished number by Donald Trump Jr. in the critical period of the infamous meeting with Russians in Trump Tower. Democratic members apparently received the disappointing news this week that the number has been tracked down and did not belong to President Donald Trump but business associates of his son.
The exploration of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz of a possible third party candidacy has been welcomed by many who have long seen our dysfunctional politics as a result of the duopoly of power in the country in the hands to just two parties. People want change and that is highly unlikely to occur in our current system. That is precisely why Schultz has been met with a torrent of criticism by the media and Democrats for even suggesting a third party run. The spin is that he is handing the election to Donald Trump by splitting the anti-Trump ticket. However, this has been the same mantra for every third party candidate in my lifetime. The problem is that he could win and there is no danger that more threatens the establishment in Washington. So we are back to the same refrain — eagerly repeated by the media — that the country simply cannot handle more choice than the two offered by the party elites.
We have previously discussed the continued statements of President Donald Trump questioning the overwhelming science behind climate change. Yesterday, President Trump was again mocking the notion of climate change by pointing at the polar air hitting the Midwest. It is part of a long history of Trump transposing weather with climate change — a point repeatedly made by experts but ignored in these tweets. Notably, recent polls show less division among the public, including Republicans, who overwhelmingly agree that we are experiencing climate change.
As many on the blog are aware, I am a fiscal conservative and social liberal (the profile of many a libertarian). I have previously railed against our soaring debt and the continued inability of our presidents and members of Congress to exercise a modicum of fiscal responsibility. This is a new low with the Treasury Department taking on $1trillion in more debt — for a second year in a row. We are saddling our children with this crippling level of debt to avoid our politicians to escape their responsibility to make tough decisions. With the start of the 2020 presidential election, politicians are lining up with expansive new spending proposals to entice supporters as our government plunges deeper into debt.
On January 13th I posted an article featuring PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan being held without access to visitation by family and attorneys since 2016. The government’s reversal of policy occurred after a two month long hunger strike staged by imprisoned Kurdish sympathizers including pro-Kurdish Turkish Member of Parliament Leyla Guven, 55. MP Guven’s condition was described as “grave” and in the end considerable concern was that her life was in danger. Now, at least for the time being, Ms. Guven is no longer in custody and hopes are high for her recovery.
Months ago, I wrote about how Special Counsel Robert Mueller was clearly gunning for Stone with an increasing intensity (here and here and here). Stone was arrested early Friday morning in another signature raid on his home by the FBI. Once again, as with the treatment of Paul Manafort, it is unclear why prosecutors wanted to have a night raid on his home (captured by awaiting media) for non-violent crimes. It was entirely unnecessary in my view. The criminal counts themselves are additional counts of false statements and witness tampering. These type of process crimes are the majority of charged conduct against non-Russians in the investigation other than the unrelated crimes against figures like Manafort.
President Donald Trump’s former lawyer fixer, Michael Cohen, has declined to appear at this scheduled hearing on February 7th, citing “ongoing threats” against his family by President Donald Trump and his current counsel Rudy Giuliani. I have previously criticized Trump for his highly inappropriate references to Cohen’s father-in-law and the warning Cohen that his family could be investigated. The comments looked like an obvious threat and an effort to intimidate a witness who has accused Trump of knowing violations of federal law. However, Cohen’s explanation is hardly convincing, though it is highly ironic. Cohen made his living as a legal thug who threatened anyone who presented a risk to Trump. However, the more likely reason is that recently new stories implicated Cohen in additional criminal conduct and Cohen was afraid that he might be asked about possible criminal conduct by his family, including his father-in-law.
I have been critical of interviews given by Trump’s counsel Rudy Giuliani and the continued need to walk back from comments that either undermine or contradict his client. This weekend was no exception, though some of the coverage was unfair as I previously discussed. Now he is facing questions after an interview with the New Yorker where he observed “I am afraid it will be on my gravestone… ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’” Even as a joke, it was not the type of statement that advances the interests of your client. Trump himself is an unpredictable client but that is not an excuse to mirror your client as an unpredictable counsel.
Below is my column on the concerns raised about the media coverage from last week. As I have stated, my concern is not with the BuzzFeed story per se, but how it was used to start a feeding frenzy of speculation. The treatment of the two major stories of last week (the Barr and BuzzFeed stories) speaks volumes about the consistent pattern of coverage and commentary in the age of Trump.
In Washington, it is all too common for public figures to exchange uncorroborated allegations. Often the most telling factor is to wait to see who actually sues for defamation. We are at that point in the controversy surrounding the Buzzfeed story after Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani made what would be arguably defamatory statements against the father-in-law of Michael Cohen on national television . . . if the statements are untrue. The question is whether Fima Shusterman will sue over being called a criminal working with Ukrainian organized crime.
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the controversy over the Buzzfeed story of President Donald Trump allegedly telling his former counsel Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. This weekend BuzzFeed stood by its story, though it declined to explain a disturbing discrepancy in the account. I disagreed with the call of Rudy Giuliani to investigate or sue BuzzFeed. If BuzzFeed had two officials associated with the Special Counsel making these allegations, it was right to run the story. My criticism is how the story was overblown by experts and members of Congress as a “slam dunk’ case for prosecution and impeachment despite the absence of any clear evidence or corroboration.
It often seems that when the Trump team has the high ground on a story, it rushes to bulldoze it to the ground. The controversial interview by Rudy Giuliani on CNN, it a case in point. In response to the rebuke of BuzzFeed by the Special Counsel, Giuliani gave a rambling interview that included a call for BuzzFeed to be investigated or sued. Neither should occur. I have been critical of how the media and legal experts overplayed the BuzzFeed story. However, if BuzzFeed had two officials connected to the Mueller investigation giving this information, it was news. Indeed, aspects of the story are likely to be born out by Michael Cohen in his testimony before Congress. There is ample reason to criticize how the media treated this story but the suggestion that journalists should be investigated or sued for reporting such a story is dangerous and unwarranted. Indeed, Giuliani made news an by asking “And so what if he talked to him about it?” In fairness to Giuliani (who has been unfairly reported on the context of the statement), he prefaced that statement by saying that he did not know if Trump spoke to Cohen. However, it would be a reckless and problematic act if Trump spoke to a witness about this testimony on his and Trump’s conduct. Such an act would maximize the risk to himself and Cohen.
Below is my column in USA Today on the recent statements by various Democratic leaders that they are unlikely to pursue impeachment because they do not have the votes in the Senate to convict. While many members pushed the impeachment angle during the campaign, there was a shift on the issue after the Democrats took office. Almost immediately after the election, senior Democrats changed course and began to dismiss calls for impeachment as “fruitless” and a distraction. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton declared impeachment to be “a useless waste of energy” and asked “Why would we go down the impeachment road when we cannot get it through the Senate?”
I have repeatedly said that I do not see the strong foundation for an impeachment against Trump. However, these comments raise a more fundamental question about how members should approach their duties under Article I irrespective of the President. Members often pull a bait-and-switch with gullible voters, but they should not manufacture a new constitutional standard. If they truly believe that any president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, they have a sworn duty to vote for impeachment.