DOJ Closes Three Insider Trading Investigations Of U.S. Senators

US-DeptOfJustice-Seal_svgsenate_large_sealWe previously discussed the insider trading allegations against Senators Richard Burr (R., N.C.) Dianne Feinstein (D., Cal.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), and Kelly Loeffler (R., Ga.) over the selling of stocks after briefings early in the pandemic.  As I stated earlier, I am highly skeptical of such cases as a criminal defense attorney as viable due to the difficulty in both the elements and the proof needed for such a charge.  Yesterday, the Justice Department dropped three of the four investigations. Only Burr remains under investigation.

Continue reading “DOJ Closes Three Insider Trading Investigations Of U.S. Senators”

Twitter Refuses To Delete Trump Tweets But Apologizes To Widower Of Lori Klausutis

download-3Twitter has (correctly) declined demands from various people to delete the tweets of President Donald Trump pushing the conspiracy theory that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough murdered a young intern, Lori Klausutis.  I have repeatedly denounced the use of this tragedy as reprehensible given what the family has gone through.  I have received many emails from people who defend Trump’s tweets and advance this claim.  I am not convinced for all of the reasons that I have stated previously. I view this conspiracy theory as analogous to the one involving with Rep. Gary Condit and the death of intern Chandra Levy.  In that case, Condit actually had an affair with Levy but I was highly critical from the outset of the overwhelming presumption of guilt based on nothing but sensational and scurrilous rumor. It is not enough to say that “some people believe this might be true” to justify such tweets.  Seven percent of Americans believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows, but we do not investigate the claim.

Continue reading “Twitter Refuses To Delete Trump Tweets But Apologizes To Widower Of Lori Klausutis”

Executive Loses Job and Dog After Tirade Against African American Bird Watcher [Updated]

download-4We have long discussed the difficult questions raised by private and public employers punishing employees for postings on social media or controversies in their private lives.  When employers are identified in the media, controversial statements or conduct can have an obvious backlash against the them, particularly if there is an allegation of racist or discriminatory views.  For free speech advocates, this can raise a type of “Little Brother” problem but the First Amendment is focused on state, not private action. This ongoing debate over where to draw the line on private speech has a new controversy with the release of a truly shocking videotape of a woman, identified as Amy Cooper calling police on an African American bird watcher in Central Park. Her employer Franklin Templeton has put her on administrative leave while reviewing the incident.  She is reportedly the head of insurance investment solutions at Franklin Templeton.  Others have called for animal abuse charges to be filed as Cooper was shown yanking around her hapless dog during her tirade. The dog was surrendered to a local shelter for its protection. Update: Amy Cooper was fired shortly after she was put on administrative leave.

“Are Democrats Trying To Lose This Race?”: Bush Ethics Head Slams Omar For Saying That She Believes Biden Accuser

Painter-731-Thumbnail-640x480We have been discussing the struggle of Democratic members and various commentators in rejecting sexual assault allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden while also opposing any review of his papers for past allegations, including those at the University of Delaware.  Some members and feminist figures, including most recently Iihan Omar, have declared that they believe that Biden did rape his Senate aide Tara Reade and is continuing to lie about it publicly.  However, they still support him to be the next President of the United States.  Now, former George Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter has chastised Omar for publicly stating that she believes Reade because it could cost the Democrats the election. It is a curious ethical line to draw.  If a member believes that Biden is not just a rapist but continuing to lie about the rape, one would hope that the member would publicly voice their view.  Just as I find Omar’s position to be morally incomprehensible, I find Painter’s position to be ethically incomprehensible.

Continue reading ““Are Democrats Trying To Lose This Race?”: Bush Ethics Head Slams Omar For Saying That She Believes Biden Accuser”

Florida Man Charged with Kidnapping . . . For A Lift To The Keys

Alexander Michael Sardinas, 37, has been charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. (Monroe County Sheriff's Office)We have been discussing curious criminal charges linked to the pandemic but few are quite as bizarre as the charges facing Alexander Michael Sardinas, 37  Sardinas has been charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. The reason for the alleged crimes is the truly bizarre element.

Continue reading “Florida Man Charged with Kidnapping . . . For A Lift To The Keys”

Rep. Omar Declares That She Believes Biden Is A Rapist But Should Be The Next President

440px-Ilhan_Omar,_official_portrait,_116th_CongressWe have been discussing special dispensation granted to former Vice President Joe Biden by Democratic members and the media.  Yesterday, Rep. Iihan Omar, D-Minn., became the latest member to declare that she believes that Biden did rape a Senate aide and is continuing to lie about the crime in public statements.  However, Omar reaffirmed that she will do everything in her power to make him the next president of the United States.

Continue reading “Rep. Omar Declares That She Believes Biden Is A Rapist But Should Be The Next President”

Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong

220px-Biden_2013Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on special dispensation given Joe Biden by members of Congress, commentators, and the media.  We previously discussed the muted media response to false legal comments from President Barack Obama and other Obama officialson the Flynn case. The pattern of media avoidance is more glaring with recent Biden controversies. Notably, the column ran when Biden gave his interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”  This weekend, I was critical of segments on CNN and NBC’s Meet the Press which quoted Biden but cut off the line where he falsely claimed to have received multiple endorsements from the NAACP.  CNN’s John King derisively referred to controversy as something people are “trying to make hay” out of and then played the interview. However, CNN clipped the tape to leave out the next line where Biden declared “The NAACP has endorsed me every time I’ve run. Come on, take a look at my record.” Despite that invitation to look at his record, CNN and other media routinely cut out the false statement and also omitted any discussion of the false claim linked to the NAACP. On a story about Biden’s claim that all black voters must vote for him (or not be truly black), it would seem material that he also falsely claimed endorsements from the leading organization in the African American community.  However, it was routinely omitted from the tape and Biden has not been asked to respond to the rebuttal from the NAACP.  It is precisely the type of crafting of the coverage to confine damage for Biden that is discussed in the column.

Here is the column: Continue reading “Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong”

Mika Brzezinski Calls For Trump To Be Banned On Twitter

Twitter Logodonald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedScarborough’s co-host and wife Mika Brzezinki is calling for President Donald Trump to be banned on Twitter after he resumed his bizarre pushing of a conspiracy theory that Joe Scarborough murdered an intern in 2001. I have long denounced the President’s use of the tragic story of Lori Klausutis as callous and wrong.  There is not a shred of support for this claim and the constant tweets from the President only adds to this tragedy for the Klausutis family.  As I noted yesterday, “politics ain’t beanbag” but it is also not a license for such malicious slandering of your critics.  Having said that, I do not support the effort to ban Trump from Twitter. I have written repeatedly about the danger posed by calls from politicians for increased censorship on social media and the Internet.  Indeed, I criticized Trump recently for such banning of opposing views from his Twitter account.

Continue reading “Mika Brzezinski Calls For Trump To Be Banned On Twitter”

Video Captures Frightening Encounter With Bear In Wild

Screen Shot 2020-05-25 at 6.54.51 AMI had to share this video from Italy.  As many of on the blog know, my primary recreation is backpacking and hiking. I have often shared photos of wild animals spotted on those trips but this video from the Brenta Mountains in the Italian Alps is quite unnerving.  To have a large bear moving toward such a small child is really dangerous but thankfully everyone (particularly this young boy) remained calm and cool.

Continue reading “Video Captures Frightening Encounter With Bear In Wild”

President Trump Pledges To Override State Orders As Ninth Circuit Upholds California Church Order

ninth-circuit-logodonald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedThis week, President Donald Trump has pledged that he will “override” state orders barring in-person religious services unless governors do so.  As I have previously noted, the President is claiming authority that is expressly denied to him in our system of federalism. While I have warned such deference given to the states wanes with time, any order to reopen churches in a given state will be based on the inherent authority of the courts, not the President.  This issue could be coming to a head with the split decision of a panel in the Ninth Circuit late Friday to uphold the order Gov. Gavin Newsom barring large in-person religious services.  Early on in the pandemic, I wrote about how governors can shutdown churches under the Constitution. The Administration can, and has promised, joined legal challenges to such state orders but it is not claiming the inherent authority of presidents to “override” state decisions.  The Justice Department has warned Newsom that his order is contravening constitutional rights.

Continue reading “President Trump Pledges To Override State Orders As Ninth Circuit Upholds California Church Order”

Weekend Photos: Today’s Column, The Basalt Of The Earth

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Once again I needed to “make essential travel to facilitate commerce related to critical infrastructure.” *** So I loaded up some tools and headed down the highway. For me I find the semi-arid coulees to be relaxing and soul-resting. Unless someone or natural events disturbs the area, it otherwise will remain nearly identical to what it was ten or twenty years earlier. Wildland fire seems to be the main cause of change and even in that example only a few years are needed for restoration. Time moves at a lichen’s pace.

Click on each photo to enlarge.

Continue reading “Weekend Photos: Today’s Column, The Basalt Of The Earth”

Law Professor Wins Record Defamation Verdict For False Rape Claim

downloadUniversity of Minnesota Law School Professor Francesco Parisi has won almost $1.2 million in a defamation case against a woman who accused him falsely of rape.  It might be the largest defamation verdict in history for Minnesota. It is a rare such verdict in a rape case. However, the defendant was never charged with a false charge, a common practice of police even in some of the most notorious false rape cases like the Duke Lacrosse Case.  At the time, Morgan Wright’s false charge destroyed Parisi’s life, including a three-week incarceration which led to his not being with his mother when she died. Continue reading “Law Professor Wins Record Defamation Verdict For False Rape Claim”

“Technically Black”: Atlantic Columnist Supports Biden’s Statement That Black Trump Supporters Are Not Really Black

220px-Biden_2013Former Vice President Joe Biden had a bad day yesterday after his statement during an interview with Charlamagne tha God on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”  To Biden’s credit, he came out an apologized. (Something President Donald Trump has consistently refused to do for comments like his statement that Jewish voters who voted for the Obama Administration “do not like Israel too much”). However, Atlantic staff writer Jemele Hill has kept the controversy brewing with her insistence that Biden’s statement that over a million such Black voters in recent polling are not really (as opposed to “technically”) black was “accurate.”  The controversy raises some of the issues addressed recently in a column on the stereotyping of Trump supporters.  [Biden is also facing a push back from the NAACP which said that, despite his repeated statements to the contrary, it has never endorsed Biden or anyone else.]

Continue reading ““Technically Black”: Atlantic Columnist Supports Biden’s Statement That Black Trump Supporters Are Not Really Black”

A Call To Account: D.C. Circuit Gives Sullivan 10 Days To Defend His Flynn Orders

1280px-Emmet_G._Sullivan_2012We have been having a spirited debate over the orders of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in the case of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.  Now, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has given Judge Sullivan ten days to respond to the motion for his removal.  The language is not discretionary so Sullivan will likely to have address the two controversial orders issued after the filing of the motion to dismiss.  In particular, he will have to state directly to the D.C. Circuit his understanding of his own discretion in such matters. I have maintained that the law in this areas is clear and that Sullivan has little ground upon which to deny this motion.  Continue reading “A Call To Account: D.C. Circuit Gives Sullivan 10 Days To Defend His Flynn Orders”

The Flynn Court Drifts Dangerously Outside Judicial Navigational Beacons

Der Untergang der TitanicBelow is my column in USA Today on concerns over the recent orders of U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan. As leading lawyers, including a former Clinton U.S. Attorney openly advise Sullivan on how to “make trouble” for the Administration, these calls only magnify concerns over the purpose of these proceedings and whether they are increasingly detached from the merits of the pending motion. While many seem to relish the improvisational element, they risk undermining the judicial element of the proceedings. Flynn’s team has sought the removal of Sullivan (a very difficult proposition, particularly in the D.C. Circuit).  The intense opposition in the bar and teaching academy to Trump seems again to have greatly distorted the legal analysis, which fails to address the most troubling aspects of these orders.  As I have previously acknowledged, there are good-faith arguments to be made but much of the analysis has ignored the strong precedent against a denial of the motion and rarely even acknowledge the serious implications for the rights of defendants in such action. I address some of the countervailing (and in my view controlling) authority in a separate posting.

Notably, the D.C. Circuit gave Judge Sullivan ten days to respond to the motion seeking his removal. Thus, these issues will presumably be addressed by Judge Sullivan before any hearing is held.

Here is the column: Continue reading “The Flynn Court Drifts Dangerously Outside Judicial Navigational Beacons”

Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks