Category Archives: legal news

How will the former America’s Mayor do this job?

I have no legal background. I spent a career writing news stories and offering commentary on issues of the day as a journalist.

There. That said, I am going to express some bafflement at Rudolf Giuliani’s decision to join Donald J. Trump’s legal team with the aim of finding a quick conclusion to a special counsel’s expansive and exhaustive examination of allegations of collusion involving the 2016 presidential election.

I stood behind the former New York mayor when he rose to the challenge of repairing his city that was shattered by the attack of 9/11.

Giuliani reportedly has plenty of shared history with Robert Mueller, the special counsel who’s been conducting the investigation. Indeed, Mueller became FBI director right before the 9/11 attack (see picture above).

But since that time, the former mayor has become a political pit bull. He is a fierce defender of Donald J. Trump, whose campaign is being examined by Mueller and his team of legal eagles.

I am having trouble understanding just how this man, Giuliani, intends to persuade Mueller to button up his examination quickly. The way I understand it, Mueller is a meticulous prosecutor, careful in the extreme to protect evidence gathered.

What’s more, Mueller already has indicted some individuals close to the president’s campaign. There appears to be much more ground to plow before he brings this probe to an end.

As Politico reports: Mueller likely still has much work to do. At a minimum, he must see through his case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty to charges including bank and tax fraud and is set to face trial starting in July.

So, the question remains: How is the man once called “America’s Mayor” going to push Mueller to conclude at least portions of this investigation in a speedy fashion?

This layman out here in Flyover Country doesn’t see any way in the world that will happen. Robert Mueller will conclude this investigation at his own pace … if he’s given the chance to complete his work.

Ethan Couch is back in the news … oh, joy!

For as long as he lives — more than likely — Ethan Couch is going to be remembered for one infamous occurrence.

How he received a probated sentence after he killed four pedestrians in Tarrant County, Texas — while driving drunk.

Couch was 16 years of age at the time. His lawyer defended him by saying that because he comes from a wealthy family, he didn’t know that what he did was wrong. It became known as the “affluenza defense.”

Funny, huh? Not really. Then the boy violated the terms of his probation when he fled with his mother to Mexico. He was returned to Texas and spent two years in the slammer.

The young man is now 20. He’s out of jail. He’ll try — I presume — to restart his life.

Do I feel sorry for him? Hah! Not in the least. I feel even less sorry for Mom, who truly knew better when she spirited her kid to Mexico. She’s awaiting trial on a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon and money laundering.

Good grief!

If she’s convicted, this person needs to spend the maximum sentence available.

Welcome back to the spotlight, Ethan. Mind your Ps and Qs.

Why not just ‘mend’ the 2nd Amendment?

President Gerald R. Ford thought he was appointing a conservative jurist to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1975 when nominated John Paul Stevens.

Wrong, Mr. President. The justice turned out to be a liberal icon on the court. The retired justice has ignited a wildfire. He writes in a New York Times essay that it’s time to — gulp! — repeal the Second Amendment.

Justice Stevens is 97 years of age but he still has a razor-sharp mind. He’s a learned and brilliant man.

That all said, I happen to disagree with him on the need to repeal the amendment that says the “right to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Stevens writes, in part: Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.

Read the entire essay here.

I don’t intend to suggest I can match Justice Stevens’s intellectual wattage. I just want to offer the view that the Second Amendment contains no language that I can identify that says it must remain sacrosanct.

With the March For Our Lives emboldening literally millions of young Americans to seek legislative remedies to the spasm of gun violence, I am going to cling tightly to the view that those remedies exist somewhere in the legislative sausage grinder. And those remedies can be enacted without repealing the Second Amendment.

I know what the amendment says and nowhere does it ban any reasonable controls on the purchase, sale or the possession of firearms. Gun-rights proponents keep insisting that any legislation that seeks to impose tighter controls on gun purchases launches us down some mysterious “slippery slope.” They fill Americans with the fear that the government is coming for their guns; they’ll be disarmed and made vulnerable to governmental overreach.

That is the worst form of demagoguery imaginable.

Surely there can be some way to allow “law-abiding Americans” to purchase firearms while keeping these weapons out of the hands of lunatics. This can be done under the guise of a Second Amendment guarantee that Americans can “keep and bear Arms.”

Trump lawyer pours gas on the flame

John Dowd is not serving his client well.

Dowd, a lawyer, represents Donald John Trump. Dowd now is calling for an end to an investigation led by another lawyer, special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s looking deeply into issues involving Trump, his campaign, his transition to the presidency and the presidency itself.

Now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has fired deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a key player in Mueller’s probe, Dowd says it’s time for Mueller to wrap up this investigation.

If I were to put myself in Mueller’s shoes I might be asking: What in the world is Dowd trying to hide? Why does he want me to end an investigation that is growing more complicated by the day, if not the hour?

Thus, in my view Dowd has done his client a disservice. Oh, but then there is this: Donald Trump wants the investigation to end as well. He’s called it a “witch hunt,” which it isn’t. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who selected Mueller after Sessions recused himself, said Mueller has done nothing wrong and that his probe should continue.

At issue, of course, is the “Russia thing,” and whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians seeking to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee’s Republican leadership has said there is “no collusion,” which prompted Trump to declare that “Congress” has found nothing wrong. Oops! He didn’t say that the GOP leaders on the committee have drawn that conclusion.

Oh, but the Mueller probe has many more trails to explore, many more leads to follow.

He’s a long way from finishing his work.

John Dowd needs to pipe down and let the special counsel do his job, get to the finish line and if he finds nothing there — as Trump keeps insisting — he needs to tell us all himself.

McCabe gets canned and AG shows his heartlessness

I totally understand that this analogy might be a stretch, but I’ll toss it out there anyway. Andrew McCabe’s firing today by Attorney General Jeff Sessions — just two days before he was to retire from the FBI — reminds me a vaguely of the convict who gets a stay of execution as he is being led into the death chamber.

Sessions canned McCabe on the recommendation of an inspector general report that said he should be terminated because of alleged lack of candor while allowing FBI officials to talk to the media.

The firing now deprives McCabe of the retirement he had earned through two decades working for the FBI.

Think of this for a moment. The former deputy FBI director likely deserved some punishment for his indiscretion. Did he deserve to fired at the 11th hour just prior to his pending retirement? Let me think. I don’t believe he did.

Donald Trump wanted McCabe fired. McCabe has been a key player in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election. McCabe now says his firing is meant to undermine Mueller’s probe. He is understandably furious with the attorney general.

“Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe wrote in a lengthy statement commenting on his firing.

I had hoped Sessions would let McCabe retire. I also had hoped Sessions would demonstrate his desire to depart the Trump administration by bucking the president’s desire to see McCabe get the boot.

I was wrong all around. I also am having difficulty trying to understand why he would be canned and, thus, denied the pension he had earned while serving the public.

And the timing of the firing … well, it speaks loudly and so very clearly about the character of the people at the top of this presidential administration.

Decision made on name of blog

I have made a command decision I want to share with you.

Some time back I mused out loud on this blog that I might change its name when we relocated to North Texas. The name “High Plains Blogger” has served two purposes. One was to salute our location on the High Plains of Texas; the other was to salute one of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood, who starred in “High Plains Drifter” a few decades ago.

Well, our move is fast approaching and I’ve decided — drum roll! — to keep the name of this blog.

We intend to remain semi-mobile even after we relocate to North Texas. We have family matters to consider that will bring us back to Amarillo periodically. Thus, I won’t sever my ties to this city we’ve called “home” for 23 years.

I doubt I’ll be able to continue to comment with as much regularity on local matters as I’ve been able to do. My local-content musings have diminished considerably since I quit my daily print journalism job at the Amarillo Globe-News on Aug. 31, 2012.

I’ve remained somewhat connected through various media about goings-on in Amarillo and the Panhandle, enabling me to offer commentary on issues as they’ve presented themselves.

I won’t be disconnected completely even after we depart for points southeast of the Panhandle. The blog, though, is likely to concentrate more on state, national and international issues — along with the occasional stories about our beloved puppy, Toby, and musings about the retired life with which my wife and I have become quite comfortable.

Those retirement segments hopefully will include some travel tales as we embark on journeys across this continent of ours.

High Plains Blogger has developed an identity. I like being associated with it.

Now, I could change my mind and come up with a new name. If I do, you’ll be the first to know.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading and sharing. I am having the time of my life.

State prison unit to get A/C … more to come?

Texas’s massive prison system is no stranger to lawsuits.

An inmate, David Ruiz, once sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on grounds that the crowded prison conditions violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The federal courts took over the prison system and a massive prison unit construction boom ensued to relieve crowding.

Now it appears that another lawsuit has forced the TDCJ to install air conditioning units at its Pack Unit southeast of College Station. It’s too damn hot there and inmates deserve air conditioning in their living quarters. I support the state’s decision to cool off this unit.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “It’s a big day for the inmates who suffered through those summers at the Pack Unit,” said Jeff Edwards, attorney for the prisoners. “They’re not going to be in fear of dying from heat stroke anymore.”

Edwards said the agreement details that the department will install temporary air conditioning for the coming summer, with permanent units in place by May 2020. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed an agreement, adding that the department and plaintiffs would be working to finalize details in the coming weeks.

The agreement is awaiting federal court approval.

This brings to mind something I learned not long after I arrived in Amarillo in 1995. I received a tour of the William P. Clements Unit northeast of the city. The assistant warden at the time walked me through the unit and made quite a point of telling me that Clements did not have air conditioning. To cool the place off during the summer, it had large fans to blow the air around and provide some semblance of relief from the heat.

Amarillo, though, is a different kind of place from the region near College Station. It not only gets damn hot in Aggieland, but the humidity can stifle even the stoutest of individuals.

I moved to the Panhandle from the Golden Triangle, where the humidity is overpowering. I don’t know if the Mark Stiles Unit in Jefferson County has air conditioning; if it doesn’t, I believe it should.

I do not buy the notion that our prison units are “country clubs,” which some critics have contended for too many years. They’re tough places to exist.

Air conditioned prison units do not turn them into posh resorts. They merely create a semblance of livable conditions for individuals who would rather not be there in the first place.

AG defends his decision to recuse himself

Hell has this habit of freezing over, enabling me to say something positive about one of Donald Trump’s key Cabinet officers.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fielded a direct question the other day that required him to provide a direct answer. He answered it correctly, to his great credit.

The questioner asked him whether he regretted recusing himself from the investigation into whether the Trump 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russians who meddled in our electoral  process.

Sessions was unequivocal in his answer. Sessions had to pull out of the investigation, he said, because of his key role in the Trump presidential campaign and then the transition into the Trump presidency.

There could be no way for the AG to conduct an impartial investigation into alleged collusion with the Russians, Sessions said, because he was far too close to the situation. He would be investigating potentially himself.

So, he withdrew from the Russia probe. He handed the matter over to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who then selected Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel in this ongoing probe.

I have praised Sessions’s decision from the get-go. It demonstrated an understanding of the ethics of the law and the AG’s appreciation of the appearance of conflict of interest.

The AG’s decision, not surprisingly, has angered the president, who has said that had he known Sessions would back out of the “Russia thing,” he would have nominated someone else to the post. Trump and Sessions, by many accounts, have at best a frosty relationship to this day.

The way I see it, it’s because Sessions made the correct decision to back away from an investigation that is being handled by one of the most meticulous lawyers anyone can find.

As much as I disapprove of Sessions as attorney general in the first place, I merely think it’s appropriate to offer a good word when he makes the right decision and then stands foursquare behind it.

Trump savages AG; ‘disgraceful’

Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!

The above is a tweet that Donald John “Smart Person” Trump Sr. fired off this morning.

He continues to do the seemingly impossible. The president is making patently unsympathetic characters, um, sympathetic.

Trump is undermining the attorney general. He seems to want the AG to quit. My guess — along with many others — is that the president cannot get past Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the “Russia thing,” because he couldn’t be an impartial investigator into whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians who meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

For the record, while I am no fan of the attorney general, he did precisely the right thing in recusing himself. He was a key campaign adviser and served in a senior position in the Trump transition to the presidency. He had no business investigating the Russia meddling issue and he acted properly in backing away.

At issue is Sessions’s decision to use inspector general lawyers to probe allegations of bias in the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to examine the Trump campaign.

According to The Hill: The president said the Justice Department’s inspector general is ill-equipped to probe allegations that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was improperly used to monitor members of his transition team.

Trump wants AG lawyers to look into it and is blasting the attorney general for using the IG legal team.

And, of course, he has to mention that the IG is an appointee of former President Barack Obama, continuing the current president’s fixation with leveling criticism of All Things Obama.

The disgrace doesn’t involve the attorney general’s decision to use the inspector general’s team. The disgrace continues to be the president’s unheard of undermining of the AG.

Take guns first, due process later? Sure thing, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. Trump is hardly a champion of civil liberties.

Due process? Who needs it? Why, he is ready to “take guns first” and worry later about “due process.”

The president’s latest popping off occurred today in a meeting at the White House with Democratic and Republican senators. The issue dealt with guns, naturally.

Trump’s statements today continues to add confusion to this debate in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre that killed 17 students and staff members.

He has endorsed the notion of raising the minimum age to 21 to purchase firearms; the president wants to arm teachers, giving them firepower to take out shooters when violence erupts; now is wants to grab guns first and worry later about “due process.”

Well, we know what the president thinks of “due process.” He has griped about a White House staff secretary being forced out of office over allegations of spousal abuse, that he was denied “due process.” Oh, but then he egged on rally crowds during the 2016 campaign to “lock her up” when they started chanting about allegations involving Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Due process? Anyone?

There’s a glimmer of good news, though. The National Rifle Association is likely to get angry over the president’s latest rhetorical riff.

I am unwilling to wager, however, whether the president will — pardon the pun — stick to his guns when the NRA starts putting on the pressure.