Trump’s Terror Over Being Investigated Boils Over – Latest Move Shows Just How Desperate He Is
Trump is losing his marbles. He’s been stewing, simmering, and raging ever since the FBI raided the offices and home of his lawyer, Michael Cohen. The raid had to do with Cohen’s business affairs and his $130,000 payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels, among other things, and Trump, Cohen, and various allies seem to be terrified that the seized materials will reveal something incriminating. Trump has even been screaming his fool head off about attorney-client privilege in a sorry attempt to convince the world that the raid was illegal.
Cohen is under criminal investigation (though the DOJ has yet to give specifics on that). Attorney-client privilege applies to legal advice, but don’t tell Trump and his team that. They’ve sent a letter to Judge Kimba Wood, a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York, asking her to stop the DOJ’s review of Cohen’s materials and give Trump and his team the right to determine what is and is not privileged information.
Seriously. He wants to tell the DOJ what they can and cannot see. What could possibly go wrong?
“The President objects to the government’s proposal to use a ‘taint team’ of prosecutors from the very Office that is investigating this matter to conduct the initial privilege review of documents seized from the President’s personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen.”
A taint team is a team of prosecutors who will go through Cohen’s material and ensure that anything that is truly privileged information is not used or made public. This team is separate and isolated from the agents who are conducting the overall investigation. Trump’s desperate plea to the court shows that he and his team don’t seem to understand how attorney-client privilege works, let alone what a taint team does:
“Various documents that, to a taint team, may appear on their face to be non-privileged may in fact be covered by the attorney-client privilege.”
Do they really think prosecutors on a taint team are simply going to skim documents and determine privilege just on their face? Holy hell. The rest of that paragraph is an explanation and definition of privilege, as if the courts and the DOJ don’t understand this. Trump’s lawyers are seriously among the most incompetent lawyers on the planet.
Furthermore, shortly after the raid, Reuters explained exactly how attorney-client privilege works:
[T]he privilege only covers communications relating to legal advice, said Lisa Kern Griffin, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Duke University School of Law. It does not protect a person’s discussion of business, personal, or financial matters with a lawyer if they are unrelated to a legal representation.
Crucially, attorney-client privilege also does not apply to communications by a lawyer in furtherance of a crime or fraud.
And should Trump be allowed to determine what is privileged and what isn’t, it’s really difficult to believe that he won’t simply tell the DOJ that everything relating to him is privileged and therefore, they can’t see it at all.
Regarding the raid itself, the letter says, in part:
“It simply cannot be the case that by acting in such an aggressive, intrusive, and unorthodox manner, the government has somehow created an entitlement on its own part to eliminate the President’s right to a full assertion of every privilege argument available to him. Indeed, if the Court were to endorse the use of a taint team under these circumstances, raids of law offices would likely become more commonplace, as they would permit the government to wrest from the privilege-holder the ability, in the first instance, to assert privilege over documents and rightfully withhold them.”
It’s true that searching an attorney’s office is uncommon. It’s actually harder to get a search warrant for an attorney’s office because of privilege, according to the Reuters story:
The U.S. Department of Justice has a policy of only raiding law offices if less intrusive approaches, like issuing a request for documents known as a subpoena, could compromise the investigation or result in the destruction of evidence.
Under department policy, the raid of Cohen’s offices required multiple levels of authorization by high-level officials.
“It is very unusual to take such an action,” said Griffin. “It suggests there is deep criminality at issue and real concern that just asking for the documents won’t be enough to ensure they are turned over.”
Gee, why on earth would they have trouble obtaining what they need from Cohen through less intrusive means? What Trump really wants to do here is prevent that team from seeing anything that might incriminate him. That’s pretty much a given. Whether the court will grant him what he wants is up for debate right now, but make no mistake: He’s more scared of the investigation into Cohen than Mueller’s Russia probe at the moment. He’s terrified of what they might find. We can’t imagine why.
Former GOP congresswoman resigns as interim USA Gymnastics head after anti-Nike tweet surfaces
USA Gymnastics interim president and CEO Mary Bono is resigning after only days in the position after coming under fire for posting an anti-Nike tweet. Bono was a Republican congresswoman from 1998-2013 representing the 44th and 45th California districts during her tenure. Unfortunately, it seems that in spite of her retirement the GOP racism still goes strong in her.
On Friday, USA Gymnastics named Bono as their new interim leader to take the organization into a new era after Larry Nasser’s long-enabled abuse. However, she was divisive from the start. HuffPost reports:
The day after her new role was announced, Bono came under fire for posting a photo on Twitter of her covering the Nike logo on her golf shoes. The photo suggested that Bono was protesting the sportswear company’s move to partner with Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL player who has kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
Olympian Simone Biles called out Bono on Twitter, writing: “Mouth drop. Don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter USA Gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.”
Bono deleted the tweet, but the damage was done. She was already on shaky ground due to her past. Bono worked with Faegre Baker Daniels, the law firm that represented USA Gymnastics as the Larry Nassar scandal arose. Another Olympic gold medalist, Aly Raisman, expressed her opposition to Bono, too.
My teammates & I reported Nassar’s abuse to USAG in 2015. We now know USOC & lawyers at Faegre Baker Daniels (Mary Bono’s firm) were also told then, yet Nassar continued to abuse children for 13 months!? Why hire someone associated with the firm that helped cover up our abuse?
Considering that it hasn’t been a week on the job and she’s already controversial, Bono did the organization a favor and resigned. She stayed defensive to the end, justifying both the tweet and her work with the law firm, saying she “proudly” stands behind it.
With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel. I exercised mine: to mark over on my own golf shoes, the logo of the company sponsoring him for ‘believing in something even if it means sacrificing everything’ — while at a tournament for families who have lost a member of the armed services (including my brother-in-law, a Navy SEAL) who literally ‘sacrificed everything
View the full statement below:
Mary Bono is OUT as @USAGym interim president and CEO. In exit stmt, she defends her tweet marking out @Nike logo on her sneakers: “With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel. I exercised mine” pic.twitter.com/qS0uaGdXyl
Students cheated by for-profit colleges to finally get debt relief as judge unblocks Obama-era rule
Students scammed by for-profit colleges whose business model was fraud will finally get the debt relief the Obama administration put into motion and the Trump administration tried to block. The Betsy DeVos-led Education Department said it would stop trying to delay the student debt relief rule after a federal judge ordered it implemented immediately.
Attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia successfully sued DeVos last year over her decision to block the rule, known as Borrower Defense to Repayment, from taking effect.
The judge sided with the states last month, but implementation of the debt-relief rule was delayed pending Tuesday’s decision in the separate lawsuit brought by an industry group.
This is a good win—a really good win—but it’s also a reminder of how many judges Donald Trump has put on the federal bench to rule in future such cases pitting people like broke students against companies like the for-profit colleges that cheated them.
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Organization sues Trump to protect media from unconstitutional restrictions
PEN America is a New York nonprofit dedicated to promoting creative expression and defending the rights upon which it’s predicated: freedoms of speech and press. Its members range from journalistic to literary to media professionals. There’s no shortage of issues for the organization to tackle, especially now, but PEN’s “bedrock work” is “long-term advocacy on behalf of individual writers who are being punished because of their work.”
They take exception to Trump’s war against the press. Represented by Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, PEN America is moving beyond criticism to legal complaint. They’re asking a federal district court, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, to declare Trump’s retaliatory actions unconstitutional under the First Amendment and to block Trump from retaliating or directing retaliation against someone based on their speech.
Their challenge is meaningful, as the organization was founded in 1948. It’s also nonpartisan. PEN “forcefully raised concerns about free expression infringements during the Obama, Bush, and other prior administrations.” Trump’s not even the first president PEN has sued.
It’s a pretty complaint. PEN takes care to catalogue Trump’s verbal attacks on the press (“disgusting,” etc.), then notes that these comments, while anti-democratic, are not the basis for this suit. The problem is, they point out, that he has threatened to engage, and he has engaged, in conduct intended to retaliate against specific news organizations and journalists he disagrees with.
PEN says Trump’s retaliatory measures against Amazon—motivated by a desire to strike at founder Jeff Bezos, also owner of the Washington Post—have included criticizing Amazon in a way that affected its stock, telling USPS to re-evaluate its rates for Amazon, and personally directing the head of USPS to double rates for Amazon and its ilk.
Trump has also openly referred to his vendetta against CNN.
In this case, his dislike has bled over into hostility toward parent company Time Warner. Back in 2016, PEN says, he threatened to push the Department of Justice to block Time Warner’s merger with AT&T. That’s exactly what he did, despite the norm for vertical mergers being approval. DOJ’s effort to block the merger died in district court, but, as PEN has pointed out, CNN and Time Warner expended significant resources in the process.
A great number of Trump’s actions against and threats toward individual reporters and outlets vis-á-vis access have been public—very public. To name a few, Trump has warned reporters he’ll take their press credentials and told networks he’ll go after their broadcast licenses. Imagine what he’s doing and saying off the record.
Trump’s actions prove his threats are credible, not mere posturing. One reporter, Kaitlan Collins, was banned for questioning Trump.
PEN’s suit is both solid and important. Here’s Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley Law School at the University of California. (He’s constitutional law’s Mick Jagger.)
“No president in history has repeatedly threatened the press as Donald Trump does on a regular basis. Under long-standing First Amendment precedents, these threats violate freedom of press and the First Amendment. This lawsuit addresses an urgent threat to our Constitution.”
Sonja West, a First Amendment expert at the University of Georgia Law School, focuses on the harms the lawsuit seeks to avert or mitigate.
“President Trump has a pattern of trying to use the power of the federal government to punish the press for coverage he dislikes. Make no mistake, this should alarm us. Lobbing insults at reporters is one thing, but this kind of tactic represents a far more serious threat to press freedom. When a president crosses the line from insulting the press to turning the wheels of government as a means to retaliate against news organizations for their reporting, the potential First Amendment violations become very real. This lawsuit is asking the courts to make clear that the president cannot violate the Constitution’s vital protections for press freedom.”
PEN’s is just the latest addition to the bevy of suits directed against Trump by everyone from individuals to associations to businesses to members of Congress. By my count, Trump’s currently being sued under at least four amendments to the Constitution. It’s another ignoble first.
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