Category Archives: legal news

‘Hoax’ probe of Trump now is getting quite serious

This is a mere hunch.

When a special counsel orders an unannounced search of a home for evidence of possible crimes involving the president of the United States, then I believe we have a serious investigation under way.

Federal agents barged into the home of former Donald J. Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort. They collected information and evidence allegedly related to the probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president, let us remember, has said all along that Mueller’s probe is a “witch hunt,” that it is a “hoax,” that the whole “Russia thing” matter is a creation of Democrats who are still steamed at losing the 2016 presidential election.

The search conducted two weeks at Manafort’s home suggests something quite different. It represents a potentially stunning turn in the probe into whether Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election were done in collusion with the Trump campaign.

Is there an obstruction of justice charge on its way? Might there be an actual violation of the law to be discovered?

Yes, this investigation is still in its infancy. Mueller is known as a meticulous lawyer. He has hired a crack legal team. He is a former FBI director who served under presidents of both major political parties: George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama.

Is this man capable of conducting a “hoax” investigation?

Hmmm. I, uh, don’t believe so.

Kenneth Starr: The King of Irony

Leave it to Kenneth Starr to make one of the more ironic declarations about the unfolding investigation into Donald J. Trump’s alleged involvement with Russian election hackers.

Starr has cautioned special counsel Robert Mueller to avoid going onto a “fishing expedition” in his search for the truth behind whether Trump’s presidential campaign had any improper dealings with Russians seeking to meddle in our 2016 election.

Mueller needs to keep his mission focused, Starr said. He shouldn’t allow it to wander onto unplowed ground.

Well now. How does one respond to that?

Let’s try this.

Kenneth Starr became a master judicial fisherman in the 1990s when he was selected as special counsel to investigate a real estate deal called Whitewater involving President and Mrs. Clinton. He came up with nothing there. Then he sauntered off into a sexual harassment charge leveled against the president by Paula Jones. Then he found something else, which was a relationship the president was having with a White House intern.

Real estate deal leads to sexual harassment, which then leads to a sexual relationship. Impeachment followed all of that.

Is the current special counsel headed down the same path? I haven’t a clue.

Kenneth Starr, though, proved to us all that these investigations can hit pay dirt even as they wander hither and yon.

The comic aspect of this whole discussion is that someone such as Starr would issue a word of caution for one of his legal descendants about a “fishing expedition.”

Now it’s the grand jury system under attack

Grand juries do an important task within the criminal justice system.

They hear evidence from prosecutors and then decide whether a criminal complaint merits an indictment, which is a formal accusation of a crime that needs to be decided by the courts.

Now, though, the grand jury “system” has come under attack as it relates to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Donald Trump campaigned had an improper relationship with Russian government hackers seeking to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

Who are the attackers? I’ve heard it come from right-wing talking heads on conservative media outlets. For example, Sean Hannity of Fox News said the grand jury that Mueller has impaneled is inherently biased against Trump. Hannity echoes the president’s description of Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”

Fascinating, yes? Sure it is. These are the same fools who called for grand jury investigations into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s missing e-mails. This is the “lock her up!” crowd that didn’t give a damn about any presumption of innocence and wanted a grand jury to find a reason to imprison the former U.S. senator, secretary of state and 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee.

These individuals make me want to puke.

***

I now want to say a few words about the grand jury system.

It’s not perfect, but it works. Indeed, I have some intimate knowledge of the Texas grand jury system. I served on a grand jury for three months here in Randall County. I was asked to serve by a jury commissioner who was picked by 181st District Judge John Board; the jury commissioner, a friend of mine, was tasked with finding qualified individuals to serve on a grand jury.

I eventually was seated on the grand jury and we met in Canyon each week. We heard complaints brought to us by law enforcement. It was an educational process to be sure. Did we indict every criminal suspect named in a complaint? Hardly.

We would hear from prosecutors who would explain the circumstances surrounding the complaint. We would ask questions of them, talk among ourselves and then decide whether to issue an indictment. It was clean, simple and most importantly, it was done honestly and in good faith.

Granted, the stakes involved in our list of hearings fall far, far, far short of what awaits the grand jury that will consider the assorted Donald J. Trump matters that Robert Mueller will bring forward.

It angers me in the extreme, though, to hear partisan, talking-head hacks disparage for political purposes a segment of our criminal justice system that can — and does — bring great value to the delivering of justice.

Stand tall, proceed Special Counsel Mueller

Robert Mueller doesn’t need an encouraging word from little ol’ me out here in Flyover Country, far from the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

I’ll give him a few of them anyway.

Mueller is up to his eyeballs in probing “the Russia thing” that cost James Comey his job as FBI director … when Donald John Trump Sr. fired him. Mueller now owns the title of special counsel and he has assembled a team of crack lawyers to probe whether Trump’s campaign worked in cahoots with Russian hackers seeking to meddle in our nation’s electoral process.

Trump, of course, is calling it all a “hoax,” a “witch hunt,” an “excuse” for Democrats who are angry about losing the 2016 election to Trump.

It is none of the above, largely because of Mueller.

The special counsel once ran the FBI himself. President George W. Bush appointed him to the FBI post in 2001– one week before 9/11! He served his 10-year term and then was asked by President Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, to stay on for additional two years. Think about that. He gets selected by a Republican president and then is asked to stay on by a Democrat.

He left office and then went into private practice. Then came a new presidential administration. The new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, decided to recuse himself from anything having to do with Russia. A deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, then appointed Mueller to be the special counsel, to take charge of this investigation.

His appointment was hailed by Republicans and Democrats alike, who all sang in perfect unison about Mueller’s integrity, his knowledge of the law, his professionalism and his honesty.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans now are lining up against any attempt Trump might mount to remove Mueller. They want him on the job. They want him to ferret out the truth. They want this guy to finish the task he has been given.

The only people who are disparaging Mueller happen to be the president of the United States and his closest White House advisers — some of whom happen to be members of the president’s family.

I’ve said before that if the president believes Mueller is marching down a blind alley, that he shouldn’t have a thing to worry about. Let the investigation proceed and then breathe a heavy sigh if it produces zero criminality. Might that be a reasonable posture for the president and his team to take?

Instead, they are seeking to undermine the man’s work and his reputation. Accordingly, Donald Trump disgraces himself and his high office every time he opens his trap.

Robert Mueller needs to complete his investigation. This American patriot — yours truly — has complete faith in his ability to do the job he has been assigned.

Grand jury portends intensifying of probe?

Am I able to make a presumption without sounding presumptuous?

I’ll give it a shot.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel assigned to examine Russian meddling in our 2016 election, reportedly has just impaneled a grand jury to begin hearing evidence and, more than likely, call witnesses to tell the panel what they know about this matter.

Here’s my presumption: I am going to presume that Mueller’s investigation is gaining some speed and that the former FBI director just might be smelling some blood in the water around Donald J. Trump and his presidential campaign team.

Recall for a moment another grand jury that a special counsel impaneled. I refer to the panel called into duty at the behest of Kenneth Starr, who was ostensibly examining a real estate transaction involving Bill and Hillary Clinton. Then he stumbled onto something quite unexpected: a relationship that President Clinton was having with a young White House intern. He summoned the president to testify before the grand jury, which asked him about that relationship. The president didn’t tell the truth.

Bingo! Impeachment followed.

Is the past going to be a prologue for what might await the current president?

As the Wall Street Journal reports: “Grand juries are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said that the decision by Mr. Mueller to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.”

I believe it also suggests that Mueller might expand his probe into areas other than precisely the Russian meddling and the allegations of collusion between the Russians and the Trump presidential campaign. There might be a subpoena or two coming that deals with, say, Trump’s tax returns and assorted business connections involving Trump’s business interests and Russian government officials.

Here’s another presumption: This story is still building.

Oh, that POTUS, what a card

Newly minted White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to tamp down criticism of Donald Trump’s call for cops to rough up suspects.

The president was “making a joke,” Sanders said.

Oh, now I get it. Why didn’t I realize it in the moment when the president told cops in Long Island, N.Y., that they shouldn’t have to presume that criminal suspects are innocent until a court proves them guilty?

I know why it didn’t dawn on me — or on police chiefs across the nation. It’s because no one took it as a joke. They took it as a statement of principle from Trump. They issued statements individually and collectively that police shouldn’t rough up criminal suspects; they also condemned the president’s statements on the subject.

They are sensitive to police relations with the communities they serve, owing to repeated incidents of police-involved shootings in connection with the deaths of African-Americans.

But, hey! He was joking, said press secretary Sanders.

“I believe he was making a joke at the time,” Sanders said during today’s White House press briefing.

Actually, the president did make a reasonable call for the end to the notorious gang MS-13, in his remarks to police in Suffolk County, N.Y. Then he twisted off into this rough-’em-up rhetoric.

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in. Rough, I said. Please don’t be too nice,” Trump said. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know? The way you put their hand over. Like, don’t hit their head, and they’ve just killed somebody? Don’t hit their head? I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’”

Nice try, Sarah Sanders. You might “believe” the president was joking. Many of the rest of us — including the men and women who lead local police agencies — don’t see it that way.

Giuliani is right: AG Sessions made the correct call

Hell must have frozen over … even in this oppressive heat!

How else does one explain that Rudolph Giuliani has spoken words of wisdom about U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

Giuliani said Sessions made the correct call when he decided to recuse himself from anything to do with the Russia controversy surrounding the Trump administration. I happen to agree that, yes, the AG did the right thing. He is too close to the president and could not possibly be considered an unbiased investigator into this matter of whether the Russians sought to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

It’s entirely possible that Sessions is on his way out. Donald J. Trump might replace him. Giuliani sought to tamp down reports that he would succeed Sessions at Justice by endorsing his decision to recuse himself.

The president has done a masterful job of undercutting his top cop. It’s not that I consider Sessions all that trustworthy. It’s merely that Trump has yet again trampled all over one of his top Cabinet officials. He tweeted over the weekend that the “beleaguered” Sessions should be investigating Hillary Rodham Clinton. Good grief! Sessions is beleaguered because of the president himself! Trump told the New York Times he wouldn’t have selected Sessions if he knew that the AG would recuse himself from “the Russia thing.”

Trump goes after AG

As for the man formerly known as America’s Mayor, Giuliani, he wouldn’t be any better, other than he’s now on record as endorsing Sessions’s decision to bow out of the Russia matter.

And, yes, the chaos continues. Let’s all stay tuned.

Hoping that texting ban produces tangible result

My wife has many innate talents. One of them is her ability to detect someone who is texting while driving a motor vehicle.

Tooling along the northern edge of Des Moines, Iowa, she spotted a car in front of us; she was quite certain the driver wasn’t paying sufficient attention to the task of driving a motor vehicle. The driver was erratic; the car was weaving back and forth in the lane. Then the driver moved to the exit lane and sure enough, as we passed, we noticed a young woman looking at her texting device while hurtling along at about 60 mph.

I wanted to scream!

My wife then wondered about those electronic signs that the Texas Department of Transportation posts along our state’s highways that give us a running total of the traffic deaths during the calendar year. “I wonder if the state could put the number of fatalities caused by texting while driving,” she said.

I don’t know the answer to that. Then I mentioned that the state does keep some sort of record on the cause of traffic fatalities.

Oh, yes. The Texas Legislature this year finally approved a bill that bans texting while driving throughout the state. It’s now against state law to operate device while driving a motor vehicle. I thank Gov. Greg Abbott for signing the bill into law.

My hope now is that the new law, which takes effect in September, will have a tangible impact on the number of traffic deaths caused by that idiotic behavior, that the ban over time will reduce that number dramatically.

As for the moron we witnessed along the Des Moines freeway, I will say a prayer that she doesn’t hurt someone else — or herself — while acting so damn stupidly.

POTUS doth protest too much?

Donald J. Trump has declared war on Robert Mueller.

Why? To what end? The president is seeking to discredit the special counsel’s credibility as he continues an investigation into whether Trump’s presidential campaign had any inappropriate dealings with Russian government officials.

The president himself called it “the Russia thing.” He fired FBI Director James Comey because of the FBI’s probe into Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election.

Then came the Justice Department’s hiring of Mueller — also a former FBI director — as special counsel.

Trump is having none of it.

Here’s my fundamental question: If the president has nothing to hide, then why doesn’t he just step aside and let the special counsel look far and wide … only to come up empty?

But, no-o-o-o-o. Donald Trump is turning the hounds loose to look for conflicts of interest. He’s seeking to discredit Mueller — who’s reputation as a proverbial Boy Scout is impeccable.

The way I am viewing this, the more Trump objects to Mueller continuing his probe the more he acts like something who wants to keep something out of the special counsel’s hands.

What do you suppose that might be?

Keep Mueller on the job.

Dear Mr. POTUS: Let Mueller do his job

Donald J. Trump requires a lesson in government. Yep, the president of the United States does not understand how many things work.

Take the special counsel hired by the U.S. Department of Justice to examine the president’s potential ties to the Russian government and whether there might be some collusion between that government and the president’s winning campaign in 2016.

He is rattling some sabers, threatening to fire special counsel Robert Mueller if he looks into the Trump family’s financial dealings.

Here’s where the lesson might kick in.

The special counsel has wide latitude to take the examination wherever it leads. Does the president recall what occurred when an earlier special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, began examining a real estate matter involving President and Mrs. Clinton? He sniffed around and then learned about a young White House intern. Starr then learned about a relationship she was having with the president. He decided to ask the president some questions about it. He summoned him to a federal grand jury; the president violated the oath he took to tell the truth; he then was impeached.

That’s what happens, Mr. President. Special counsels are within their legal authority to look where they can find to determine the truth. Indeed, an examination of family business dealings well might help the public learn the whole truth about the relationship between the Trump empire and the Russian government. If it finds nothing there, then Mueller’s office can clear the president.

Technically, the president cannot summarily fire the special counsel. He has to ask the Justice Department to do it. Indeed, a leading congressional Republican, Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, has warned the president about getting rid of Mueller. If he does it, the president faces a bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill.

Let the process continue, Mr. President. You don’t seem to know the trouble you would purchase if you act foolishly.