Category Archives: legal news

Court (more or less) restores Trump’s travel ban

The notion of banning people from entering this nation because they come from places where most citizens practice a certain religion remains repugnant to me.

The United States of America is supposed to stand for a principle that welcomes all citizens of the world. That’s no longer the case.

Donald J. Trump’s ban on folks coming from six Muslim-majority nations has been kinda/sorta restored by the U.S. Supreme Court, which today issued a 6-3 ruling to back the president. Today’s ruling overturns a lower court decision that threw out the ban on the basis that it discriminates against people because of their religion.

What does it mean? I guess it bans anyone who comes here who lacks any “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Others can come in, according to the court.

My question remains the same: Will any of this make us safer against international terrorists? I do not believe that’s the case.

It’s just a partial ban

Nothing in the president’s initiative prevents U.S. citizens from committing acts of terror. The U.S. Army psychiatrist who killed those folks at Fort Hood in November 2009 is an American, to cite just one example.

I continue to cling to the notion that “extreme vetting,” which the president also has called for, isn’t a bad thing by itself. Indeed, U.S. customs and immigration officials need to do better at ensuring at points of entry that everyone coming here does not pose a threat; they’re doing that already.

Today’s ruling only settles it temporarily. The court’s next term begins in October and the justices will take it up fully then.

Score one for the president, though. He got a ruling he can live with, even though it won’t do a thing to make us safer against those who would harm us.

Get set to watch further politicization of federal judiciary

Now there are “reports” that Anthony Kennedy is considering an end to his judicial career.

The Supreme Court associate justice’s retirement, if it comes next week as some are thinking it might, is going to produce something I suspect the nation’s founders didn’t anticipate when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

That would be the extreme politicization of the judicial selection process.

Those silly men. Sure, they were smart. They weren’t clairvoyant.

The present-day reality is that the process has become highly political. When did politics play such a key role in selecting these jurists? It’s hard to pinpoint the start of it all. Some might suggest it began with President Reagan’s appointment in 1987 of Robert Bork to succeed Lewis Powell, who had retired. The Senate would reject Bork largely on the basis of his vast record of ultraconservative writings and legal opinions.

Clarence Thomas’s nomination in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush also produced plenty of fireworks, owing to the testimony of Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment and assorted acts of impropriety.

On and one it has gone, through Democratic and Republican administrations ever since.

The founders wrote a provision into the Constitution that allows federal judges to get lifetime appointments. The idea was to remove politics from their legal writings. Indeed, some judges have taken seats on the U.S. Supreme Court with their presidential benefactors expecting them to toe a philosophical line, only to be disappointed when they veer along uncharted judicial trails.

It’s too early to tell whether Justice Neil Gorsuch will fall into that pattern. He was Donald J. Trump’s initial pick for the high court. The president might get to make another appointment quite soon. Then again, maybe not.

Whenever that moment arrives, you can take this to the bank: The next Supreme Court pick is going to ignite a whopper of a political fight if one side of the Senate sees a dramatic shift in the court’s ideological balance.

Something tells me the founders might not have anticipated these judicial nominations would come to this.

Top lawyer ‘lawyers up’; more to come, maybe?

If you’re keeping score, it’s good to know how many of Donald J. Trump’s key administration staffers have hired lawyers to represent them.

You have the president’s son-in-law and senior public policy adviser, Jared Kushner seeking outside counsel; Vice President Mike Pence has hired a lawyer to represent him and might be able to use campaign funds to pay for the counselor’s advice; today we got word that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has joined the lawyering-up club.

And oh yes, the president himself has hired a team of lawyers.

Why all this legal eagle activity? You know the reason, but I’ll mention it anyway. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign worked in cahoots with Russian hackers, who tried to influence the 2016 election outcome.

Of all the people mentioned here, I find Sessions’ decision to be most interesting. He’s the nation’s top lawyer. He runs the Department of Justice. He also has recused himself from anything to do with the Russia investigation.

Throughout all of this Russia investigation, we hear the president toss out terms like “witch hunt” and “fake news.” He doesn’t condemn the notion that Russian government goons might have sought to influence the election.

The special counsel has a lot of information to sift through. The former FBI director, James Comey, told Senate committee members that the president pressured him to back off a probe into the Russia matter. The president launches into those tweet tirades that seem to undermine his own message, not to mention his legal defense against whatever might be tossed at him.

We’re a long way from knowing the truth behind all of this.

The high-priced legal community is riding a serious gravy train, thanks to the concerns being expressed by the president of the United States and some among his senior team members.

Trump doth protest too much?

You’ve heard it said, no doubt, that someone with something to hide “doth protest too much” at the hint of questions about whatever it is he or she might be hiding.

It’s a Shakespearean statement, coming from “Hamlet.”

So it could be with Donald John Trump, who’s forgoing his “unity” pledge with another series of tweet tirades against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The president detests Mueller. He wants him out, or so many have speculated. Trump just might do something seriously foolish by asking deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to remove Mueller. Or, he could do something even more foolish than that by removing Rosenstein and Mueller in one fell swoop.

Here’s my Trump question of the day: If the president is innocent of any of the allegations leveled against him, why not let Mueller do his job — after releasing every single shred of information he would ask of the president, his campaign team and his White House organization?

If he’s clean, the record will show it. Isn’t that how it works?

Yes, Newt … the president can ‘obstruct justice’

I am beginning to think Newt Gingrich no longer should be taken seriously.

He’s the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; at one time he was second in line to be president, right behind the vice president.

Gingrich once voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for, among other things, obstruction of justice. So what does this clown say now? The president cannot commit such a crime because — are you ready? — he’s the president!

The current president, of course, is Donald J. Trump.

Gingrich is an ally of Trump. He has spoken favorably of the president. I get that. However, his remarks to the National Press Club make no sense. He didn’t cite a federal statute that prohibits a criminal indictment against the president. He said that the office protects its occupant from an obstruction of justice charge.

But … didn’t it protect President Clinton? Didn’t it do the same for President Nixon when the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him for, um, obstruction of justice?

Newt needs a reminder of history. Indeed, he was part of an event that involved a president who he once accused of obstructing justice. If he continues to ignore history and spout the nonsense he keeps spouting about Donald Trump, then he is talking himself out of any relevance to the current political discourse.

No ‘fishing expeditions’? Sure thing, Sen. Cruz

Ted Cruz doesn’t want special counsel Robert Mueller to go on a “fishing expedition” in his search for answers relating to Donald J. Trump’s relationship with Russian government officials.

I now shall remind the junior U.S. Republican senator from Texas about another fishing expedition that once suited GOP members of Congress just fine. It involved Kenneth Starr’s probe into an Arkansas real estate matter; they called it Whitewater.

Starr, the special counsel appointed to look into that deal, then went on a fishing expedition of his own. He wandered far afield and then discovered that President Bill Clinton was involved in a tawdry relationship with a young White House intern.

A federal grand jury summoned the president to talk about that relationship. The president didn’t tell the panel the truth.

Boom! Congressional Republicans then had their grounds for impeaching the president. The House did it. The Senate then acquitted him.

So, you see? Fishing expeditions can turn into something consequential.

Mueller is a pro and deserves latitude in his search for the truth.

I just find it laughable that Cruz would issue a warning against Mueller, a former FBI director and a man fairly universally respected as a thorough and meticulous investigator. Indeed, Cruz called Mueller a “good and honorable man.”

One can imagine if a Democratic president faced the kind of scrutiny that is being leveled against Donald Trump. What do you suppose the Cruz Missile would say then?

I get how political consideration — and leanings — are driving the analyses of the Mueller investigation.

My own take on Robert Mueller’s probe is that if he uncovers something that is, um, illegal, he is bound by his oath to pursue it to the very end.

Tapes, Mr. President? If you have ’em, produce ’em

Donald John Trump has turned the political tease into something of an art form.

He fired FBI Director James Comey and then blasted out a tweet that said Comey had better hope there aren’t any tape recordings of his conversations with the president.

The tweet, quite naturally, produced a crap storm of its own with pols and pundits wondering out loud if Trump was bluffing. Such “tapes,” of course, would have recorded conversations the president had with Comey regarding the FBI’s investigation into the “Russia thing” that Trump acknowledges was his reason for dismissing Comey.

The former FBI boss returned to Capitol Hill this week to testify about Russia, Trump, the 2016 election and the state of affairs at the FBI when Trump dropped the hammer on Comey, who painted quite an unflattering portrait of the president.

So, here’s the question of the day: Do you, Mr. President, have recordings of your conversations with Comey. If you do, produce them. If you don’t, then admit it was all a bluff, a hoax, a sham, a game. Tell us the truth … for once!

Let’s get to the heart of this hacking matter

As a frequent critic of Donald J. Trump, I want to set the record straight on a key issue that’s threatening the man’s presidency.

I do not give a rat’s rear end about whether alleged attempts by Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential election actually created a Trump victory. I accept the notion that Trump would have won the election anyway.

What is troubling me is the question of what role — if any — the Trump campaign had in assisting the Russians.

Former FBI Director James Comey told U.S. Senate committee members today that he is certain of Russian meddling in our election. I accept the FBI director’s opinion on that, too.

I keep circling back to the question of whether Trump’s team actively aided the Russian hackers. If they didn’t aid them, did they know about any attempts to influence the election? If they knew and did nothing, that to me is tantamount to collusion — even if it doesn’t fit the legal definition of the word.

We keep hearing reports of key Trump campaign advisers meeting with Russians during the campaign and then during the transition. It all gets back to the Watergate-era question posed by then-Sen. Howard Baker: What did the president know — and when did he know it?

As for the whether the hacking/meddling actually proved decisive, that they changed enough votes to swing the results in favor of Trump and away from Hillary Rodham Clinton, it doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is that they have done what all those intelligence agencies have said they did. The former director of the FBI has confirmed it to my satisfaction.

If the Trump campaign colluded, dear reader, we are looking at a charge of treason.

Comey sets the table

James Comey’s testimony before a U.S. Senate committee is going to send even more shockwaves through the nation’s capital.

The former FBI director is going to tell the Intelligence Committee that Donald J. Trump pressured him repeatedly to back off an investigation into whether Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had done something wrong while conferring with Russian government officials.

Oh, but wait. Now comes the president’s lawyer who says Trump feels “vindicated” because Comey supposedly told the president he wasn’t under “investigation” personally.

Is that vindication? We’ll have to await the Q&A from senators.

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/336848-comeys-dramatic-account-rocks-washington

Americans are going to hear Comey say he was “concerned” about the president’s repeated pressure. Will we hear the ex-FBI boss declare that he believes there was an attempt to obstruct justice? Don’t hold your breath. My hunch is that such a determination will have to come from special counsel Robert Mueller — Comey’s old friend and former colleague. Mueller has taken the lead on investigation this Russia matter and whether there was “collusion” between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian hackers who were seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome.

I do not believe that Comey’s testimony will “vindicate” the president. Nor will it convict him. It is likely to keep the post at full boil while the special counsel and his team do their work to uncover the truth.

Let’s call it James Comey Day

I guess some of the TV news networks think Thursday is going to be a big day.

At least one of them, CBS News, is planning to pre-empt its daytime programming to broadcast the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing featuring former FBI Director James Comey.

Comey is going to speak publicly about his firing by Donald J. Trump, as well as the conversations the two men had prior to Comey’s dismissal.

Hey, it’s a big deal, man!

Comey was heading up an FBI investigation into allegations that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russian government agents and hackers who were seeking to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

Then he got canned. Just like that! 

Vice President Pence said the dismissal had “nothing to do” with the Russia probe. Then the president told NBC News that, yep, he fired Comey because of the “Russia thing.”

So, let’s ask former top federal cop what went down, shall we?

Let us also determine which man to believe: a meticulous note-taker such as Comey or a serial liar such as the man who fired him.

Get the popcorn and the soda ready.