Category Archives: legal news

Stormy’s lawyer talks too much

Allow me a brief moment to say something critical about the lawyer who represents the woman who has said that she and Donald Trump had a one-night sexual encounter in 2006.

Michael Avenatti is Stormy Daniels’s lawyer. Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — is the porn star who alleges the tryst with the man who would become president of the United States. She also received $130,000 in hush money to keep her quiet about the encounter, which Trump — believe it or not — denies ever occurred.

As for Avenatti, he talks too much. He is becoming an annoyance, at least to me. He shows up on late-night talk shows, on Sunday morning news shows, during the week, day and night. He is everywhere.

He yaps, yammers and yowls about Trump, about his “Mr. Fix It,” lawyer Michael Cohen.

I know how this works. Lawyers who get hired to represent high-profile clients often see their entry onto the public stage as their ticket to legal prominence. They end up becoming celebrities all by themselves.

It helps, as it does in Avenatti’s case, that they’re media friendly. He’s on a first-name basis with every interview who asks to talk to them. George, Chuck, Chris, Margaret, Rachel, Lawrence, Anderson, Don … you name ’em, Avenatti is their “best friend” while chatting it up about Stormy/Stephanie’s case against Trump.

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe Daniels’s account of what happened. I also believe that she got the money to keep quiet. I also disbelieve the president’s denials. I came to those conclusions not long after this story broke.

The porn star’s lawyer doesn’t need to persuade me of anything.

I just wish he’d shut his trap and do his job, whatever it entails, behind the scenes … and away from the spotlight.

Ali might get pardon? Eh? For what?

Donald J. “Ignoramus in Chief” Trump Sr. reportedly is considering a pardon for, get a load of this, the late Muhammad Ali.

Please, Mr. President, do some homework — for once, will ya?

The Greatest does not need a pardon. Do you understand?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1971 that the boxing authorities that stripped Ali of his heavyweight champion title violated his constitutional rights that (a) guaranteed his freedom of religion, (b) allowed him to protest peaceably the federal government and (c) allowed him freedom of speech.

You see, Ali protested the Vietnam War by refusing in 1967 to accept induction into the U.S. Army; he cited his Muslim faith as the basis for his refusal to be drafted. The boxing authorities then decided to deny him the right to earn a living by stripping him of his ability to box, to defend his heavyweight title. He was cast out of boxing for more than three years.

The nation’s highest court rectified that injustice by overturning his conviction on draft evasion. What’s more, President Jimmy Carter issued a pardon for all Vietnam War draft dodgers — and that included Muhammad Ali.

Earth to Trump: The Greatest of All Time does not need a presidential pardon!

Now, get ready for that summit with Kim Jong Un.

Trump does right by drug offender

Alice Marie Johnson is a free woman, thanks to a presidential commutation of a sentence she never should have received.

I applaud Donald J. Trump for setting Alice Johnson free.

Yes, I found it curious — and that is the most charitable thing I can say about it — that it took an Oval Office visit by reality TV celebrity Kim Kardashian West to persuade the president to do the right thing.

I don’t know what motivated him to respond to Kardashian West’s request. Maybe it’s their shared reality TV background; maybe it’s the good things Kim’s husband, Kanye West, has said about Trump.

Johnson was given a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense, reportedly the first conviction she ever had received. The sentence clearly was overly harsh and Johnson — a great-grandmother — didn’t deserve to spend so many years behind bars.

There’s another aspect of the president’s newfound compassion that I find curious. Didn’t he declare not long ago that drug dealers should be executed, given the death penalty?

I guess I also should point out that when President Obama commuted the sentences of hundreds of non-violent drug offenders, conservatives went ballistic. This time? Uh, they hail the president.

Well, whatever.

The president did the right thing. We can speculate all we want about why he did it. The bottom line is that he has set free an American citizen who needs her freedom.

It brings to mind one more question: How many other Alice Johnsons are locked up for far too long?

Yes, POTUS can ‘obstruct justice’

I am not a lawyer, but you know that already.

However, I know enough about history to understand this basic truth: Presidents of the United States can “obstruct justice.” Indeed, two of them — Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon — were accused of obstructing justice. One of them got impeached partly on that accusation; the other came within a whisker of being impeached before he resigned the presidency.

Thus, I am baffled in the extreme by lawyers serving the current president who says he cannot obstruct justice because, well, he’s the president. They are saying in effect that Donald J. Trump is above the law.

I beg to differ. I offer a strenuous objection to the notion that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, cannot determine that Trump obstructed justice in the hunt for the truth behind “the Russia thing.”

I don’t quite understand the logic being offered by Trump’s legal team that suggests Mueller cannot accuse the president of obstructing justice. Trump himself has acknowledged on network television that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of “the Russia thing”; then he told Russian visitors to the Oval Office that his dismissal of Comey had relieved him of pressure from the Russia probe and whether the Russian government meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

To my way of thinking, that constitutes at the very least circumstantial evidence of obstruction, but I know that Mueller’s team doesn’t operate on circumstance; it needs hard evidence. Whether it comes up with anything actionable remains to be seen.

As the nation watches this investigation lurch toward some conclusion, many of us are conflicted about the argument being offered that the president can do anything he wants — because he is the president.

Richard Nixon famously told David Frost that very thing, that the president cannot break the law simply by virtue of his office. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee eventually saw it quite differently when it approved articles of impeachment against the president.

I am pretty sure the law hasn’t changed since the 1970s. The current president took the same oath to follow the law that all of his predecessors took. The law in my view allows for presidents to be accused of obstructing justice.

AG might seek a new job

If I were U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — and I am so glad I am not — I would be looking for a new job.

As in right now. Immediately if not sooner. But I am not altogether certain a new attorney general would serve the public interest as it regards an ongoing investigation into the president’s 2016 campaign.

The president of the United States, Donald John Trump, has tweeted once again that he regrets picking the former Republican senator from Alabama to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Why is that? Oh, it’s just Sessions decided to do the right thing by recusing himself from any Justice Department investigation into the Russia matter and the Russians’ meddling in our 2016 presidential election.

I am no fan of the AG, but on this matter he made precisely the correct decision. He had served on Trump’s political team; he was central to the president-elect’s transition to the presidency. Had he remained involved in the Russia matter, he would have been in charge of investigating himself. How does the attorney general do such a thing without compromising  a sensitive and complex investigation? He cannot. That’s why he bailed on the Russia probe and turned it over to his deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein.

Donald Trump, though, keeps yapping that he should have picked someone else to lead the DOJ, had he known Sessions was going to recuse himself.

Sessions might be inclined to want out. But there’s this thing involving the integrity of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Would a new AG be as faithful to the appearance of conflict of interest that Sessions was when he recused himself?

Hey, maybe Jeff Sessions ought to wait for Trump to fire him.

Then he can watch along with the rest of us as the crap hits the fan.

Trump makes an audacious ‘demand’

Presidents of the United States have plenty of power. The man who holds the office at the moment, Donald Trump, has wielded it yet again.

He “demanded” that the Department of Justice launch an investigation into whether the FBI planted a snitch inside the 2016 presidential campaign for “political purposes.”

What has gotten tongues wagging is that presidents don’t normally make such demands of DOJ officials who are in the midst of ongoing investigations. They might request it. They don’t demand anything.

I don’t think we should be all that surprised that the president has tossed yet another office tradition into the crapper. He told us he would be an unconventional president. Yep, he’s fulfilled that campaign “promise” … in spades.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, responded the right way. He has assigned the inspector general to conduct the probe into whether the FBI did what Trump has alleged.

Again, to no one’s surprise, Trump has suggested that someone within the Obama administration told the FBI to infiltrate the GOP candidate’s presidential campaign.

This “demand” matter, though, continues to cause angst among those who worry about the integrity and the independence of the DOJ and the FBI from presidential politics.

The investigation that Trump has ordered will seek to ascertain the motive behind any directive that was issued by the FBI. Indeed, the law enforcement agency is empowered to solicit information from confidential sources. When the FBI gets word, therefore, of Russian interference in our presidential election, isn’t it proper for the agency to get to the bottom of it all?

The president has ordered an investigation into an investigation.

That isn’t normal by any stretch. Donald Trump has exercised the power he possesses legally. What’s legal, though, isn’t always right.

Federal courts aren’t ‘political’? Guess again

The nation’s founders had the right idea when they created a Constitution that called for lifetime appointments of federal judges.

Part of their intent was to take politics out of the judicial system. Sadly, that intent has been lost. It’s gone. The federal bench is, um, highly political.

Case in point: U.S. Senate Republicans today filled a federal judgeship they kept empty for the past six years during the Obama administration. They voted 49-46 — along party lines — to seat Michael Brennan on the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals. President Obama had nominated Victoria Nourse to that bench in 2010, but it was held up by Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (pictured above), who exercised a Senate rule that allows a home-state senator to block anyone he or she chooses; Nourse pulled her nomination in 2012.

Indeed, one of the consequences of our federal elections is the federal judiciary and who gets seated. Presidential elections are particularly consequential in that regard. Presidents have the power to set judicial courses for generations through their appointment powers. You’d better believe, too, that politics matters when the Senate considers who to confirm or reject when they exercise their “advise and consent” authority.

Are the federal courts more political than, say, state courts? Hardly. In Texas, we elect judges on partisan ballots. Judicial philosophy or legal credentials take a back seat to which party under which the candidate is running, or so it appears at times in Texas.

The founders sought when they were creating a new nation to deliver a system of justice that would be free of political pressure. I only wish their dream would have come true. More than two centuries later, we hear laypeople/politicians second-guessing judicial rulings — especially when they lack any base of knowledge of the law upon judges make their decision.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way when the nation’s founders were building a nation “of laws, not of men.”

No, Mr. VPOTUS, it’s not yet time to ‘wrap it up’

Uh, this note is for Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Vice President, pardon this disagreement from a blogger out here in Flyover Country, but it’s not yet time for special counsel Robert Mueller to conclude his investigation into what Donald Trump once called “the Russia thing.”

Indeed, sir, he needs to continue pursuing all the angles, leads and hunches he has in order to reach a conclusion that we all can presume is fair — and complete!

I get that it’s been a year, as you noted in your recent interview, since this investigation began. Do I need to remind you, Mr. Vice President, that the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email matter lasted far longer? Or how about the Benghazi probe that went on for two-plus years? Nothing came of either of those congressional probes, Mr. Vice President — which I’m sure you’re aware of, right?

Did you or your fellow Republicans join Democrats then in calling for an end to those fruitless investigations? Of course you didn’t! Y’all wanted it to go on forever. And ever. And then some!

The special counsel has a lot more ground to plow regarding that lawyer of the president’s, Michael Cohen. He also wants to talk directly to the president himself, who keeps changing his mind on whether he wants to submit to questioning from the special counsel.

You said the administration has provided “millions of documents.” Do you think Mueller and his team can read all that paperwork over a weekend? It takes time, Mr. Vice President, for the legal eagles to pore through all that stuff.

So, give it to them. Let them finish their work on their schedule, not yours, or the president’s or any of your supporters.

I’m not one of them. I want a thorough investigation to reach a conclusion under its own power.

With that, sir, I’ll close with this. I didn’t vote for you in 2016, but you still work for me, as well as for the 65 million-plus Americans who voted for Hillary.

Therefore, as your boss, I implore you to, um … keep your trap shut!

What? Rudy exposes another Trump lie?

The hits just keep on comin’, man.

Get a load of this latest offering from the man formerly known as America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who’s now taken on a new gig as Donald Trump’s lawyer tasked with negotiating a “quick” end to Robert Mueller’s investigation into “the Russia thing.”

Giuliani told Fox News’s Sean Hannity this week that Trump repaid another lawyer, Michael Cohen, who had forked over $130,000 to the porn star who allegedly had that one-night sexual tryst a dozen years ago with the man who would become president of the United States.

But … wait! Trump had said he didn’t know anything about the hush money Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about the fling she allegedly took with Trump in 2006 … which, of course, Trump has denied ever occurred.

So, where we do we stand?

Trump’s denial about Cohen’s payment to Stormy Daniels has been flushed away, apparently. Trump’s denial of the tryst is still on shaky ground, given that Cohen paid Daniels a substantial amount to shut her up about an event Trump said didn’t happen.

Does anyone think any of this is going to persuade Robert Mueller to end his probe quickly? Is this veteran lawyer and former FBI director going to call it quits on this probe just because Rudy Giuliani is on board with the rest of the Trump legal team?

I, um, think not.

The carousel keeps spinning in Trump World

My head is spinning. I’m suffering from motion sickness. I might throw up.

Ty Cobb has left Donald J. Trump’s legal team. The president reportedly has hired a new personal legal eagle: Emmet Flood who — and this is rich — served on President Bill Clinton’s team that defended him against impeachment in 1998.

We have Rudy Giuliani on the team. Rudy is the former New York mayor, former federal prosecutor, former presidential candidate, current Trump cheerleader. Giuliani’s task reportedly is to persuade special counsel Robert Mueller to bring his Russia investigation to a speedy close. Good luck with that, Mr. Mayor.

John Dowd bailed from the president’s legal team. Why? His client, Donald Trump, wasn’t listening to any legal advice he was getting. Why serve someone who doesn’t heed the best legal advice he can find?

The Hill reported: “Emmet Flood will be joining the White House staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Ty Cobb, a friend of the president, who has done a terrific job, will be retiring at the end of the month.”

I find it interesting that Cobb would “be retiring” at this critical time. With so much work apparently left to do and with Trump’s tenure as president appearing to be in growing peril, now this “friend of the president” has decided to ride off into the sunset?

Mueller’s investigation continues to gather steam. The special counsel reportedly has drafted a lengthy list of questions he wants to ask the president. He also reportedly is considering whether to subpoena the commander in chief if Trump doesn’t appear voluntarily before a federal grand jury that Mueller has impaneled.

Meanwhile, the president continues to undermine and undercut Mueller’s investigation. Yes, he’s doing so even though he insists there’s “no collusion” with Russians.

I’m still about to throw up.