Category Archives: legal news

Flynn gets the leniency he would have denied others

The Robert Mueller Drama has taken an astonishing turn.

The special counsel today recommended that former national security adviser Michael Flynn receive zero prison time as payback for the “substantial” contribution he has made in Mueller’s investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system.

What we don’t know is what Mueller gained precisely from Flynn, the key Trump aide who quit after 24 days as national security adviser. He had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about what he knew about the campaigns contacts with the Russians.

Mueller, though, apparently has received a treasure trove of information from Flynn. Hence, the no-prison recommendation from the special counsel.

Think of the irony for a moment.

It was the same Michael Flynn who stood before the Republican National Convention in 2016 and led a chorus of chants to “Lock her up!” in reference to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s problems associated with her use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state.

Flynn had no problem yelling right along with the GOP faithful to throw Clinton behind bars. Due process? Who needs it? Not the Republican faithful or the retired Army lieutenant general who led their chants in Cleveland.

Flynn’s downfall after a distinguished career as an Army officer was shocking, but deserved. He did plead guilty to committing a felony, which was lying to the FBI about a criminal investigation.

I would give damn near anything to know what’s under the redaction marks in the sentencing memo that Mueller released today. For now I’ll settle for presuming that Mueller is still working on the details of what he has assembled for his final report.

Something tells me it’s likely to make the president squirm.

Avenatti’s standing takes a header? Too bad, dude

So now there are reports that a loudmouth lawyer is feeling the pain of a plummeting public standing.

Cry me a river, will ya?

The lawyer is one Michael Avenatti, who I believe is the least sympathetic public figure this side of Donald John Trump Sr. He represents — for now! — Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress/stripper who has alleged that she and the future president of the United States had a one-night fling about a dozen years ago. She got a $130,000 hush money check to stay quiet — about an event that Trump says didn’t happen. Go figure.

Avenatti has been a cable talk-show staple since Clifford/Daniels burst onto the scene. To be totally candid, this guy annoys me in the extreme. He shows up everywhere. He is on a first-name basis with all the leading talking heads. He clearly has established himself as being part of the most dangerous place on Earth: between Avenatti and a TV camera.

Well, now his stock is plunging.

Stormy Daniels says he isn’t representing her correctly. He is doing and saying things in public without her permission. Daniels says she is considering dumping him as her personal counsel.

What’s more, he was accused briefly of striking a woman in a “domestic dispute.” Avenatti, who is estranged from his wife, denied it vehemently. The local district attorney then decided to forgo filing a formal felony criminal charge against Avenatti. The Los Angeles city attorney’s office, though, is still pondering whether to pursue a misdemeanor case against him.

And then there’s this: Avenatti is — or was — considering running for president in 2020 as a Democrat. His modus operandi reportedly is to become the Democrats’ pit bull in a fight with Donald Trump.

If they go low, according to the Avenatti Doctrine, we go even lower; we fight ’em tooth and nail, hammer and tong; strap on the brass knucks; let’s get ready to rummmmmble!

I want this guy to vanish. I am tired of hearing his voice, of looking at his mug, of listening to him proclaim how he is always right and everyone else is always wrong.

Say good night, counselor.

Trump piles on more innuendo

Donald J. Trump’s list of unsubstantiated allegations keeps piling up.

The latest now is that special counsel Robert Mueller is forcing witnesses to lie about what they know regarding “The Russia Thing” that Mueller is investigating.

Is that what they call “suborning perjury?” Yep, it is. It’s also a patently ridiculous.

Trump goes wild

As usual, the president — who is the target of this probe — offers no proof, no evidence, no corroboration of what he is alleging. Hey, it’s old hat for this guy. He tossed out reckless innuendo so many times already it’s difficult to keep track of them all.

This is the latest example of the desperation that seems to be emanating from the president and his team. Indeed, the more he complains, whines and gripes about Mueller, the guiltier he sounds.

How about just letting the special counsel do his job, issue his report and let the public digest it all?

Sen. Grassley weighs in on Trump-Roberts ‘feud’

Donald J. Trump is continuing to beat the drum against U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is likely to show needed restraint. I trust he’ll let the president continue his infantile tirade on matters on which he knows next to nothing.

Trump called some U.S. troops stationed overseas and continued his tirade over criticism the chief justice made about the president’s reference to an “Obama judge.” He sought to inform the president that that federal judges are “independent” and not partisan. That, of course, fell on Trump’s deaf ears.

So, then this happened: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley defended Trump, saying that Roberts didn’t criticize President Obama when the president in 2010 “attacked” Justice Samuel Alito during a State of the Union speech.

Good job, Mr. Chairman, except you got quite wrong.

President Obama didn’t “attack” Alito; he criticized the Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United case that opened up campaign finance to corporations, allowing them to spend unlimited amounts of money on political races. He stated his view that the torrent of money would further corrupt the U.S. political system.

Justice Alito famously shook his head while sitting in front of the president and muttered “not true.” Obama, I repeat, did not single any justice out . . . which is quite different from what Trump has done with the chief justice.

To be fair, Obama was wrong to criticize the court in that setting. Most of the justices were sitting in a group in the audience on Capitol Hill. Democrats in the chamber cheered the president; the justices had to take it. I said at the time — and I’ll repeat it here — that President Obama’s criticism was done in the wrong place and in the wrong setting.

There is no equivalence to be found in what Donald Trump is doing now and what Barack Obama did then. As Chief Justice Roberts, I hope he’s done commenting on this ridiculous spat that the president initiated with his ill-informed and ill-tempered remark about an “Obama judge.”

Did the chief justice fire a shot across his colleagues’ bow?

I remain fully committed to the proposition that the nation’s founders got it exactly right when they established a system whereby federal judges get lifetime appointments to serve in a co-equal branch of the U.S. government.

These judges are intended to be independent of political pressure from the presidents who appoint them.

Thus, I am wondering about U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ stern rebuke of Donald Trump’s implication that judges are beholden to the men who nominate them to the federal judiciary.

Roberts issued the rarest of rejoinders in reminding Trump that there are “no Obama judges, or Trump judges, or Bush judges or Clinton judges.” They are independent thinkers and adjudicators, he said.

I wonder if the chief justice didn’t actually fire a shot across the front of the rest of the federal judiciary as well, reminding his colleagues of the responsibility they all have to follow the law without regard to the president who nominated them.

I wonder as well if that lesson will be heeded, for example, by the two men Donald Trump has selected for the nation’s highest court: Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Both men have pledged to follow the law and to be faithful exclusively to the U.S. Constitution, which they all have taken oaths to preserve and protect.

Donald Trump appears for all the world to be making the judicial system loyal to him, irrespective of what the law dictates. That is what I believe Chief Justice Roberts was seeking to address with his statement today.

And of course, the president isn’t taking the criticism quietly and respectfully. He is firing back at the chief justice. Trump said in a tweet: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

Good grief, Mr. President.

Yes, judges have differing points of view. To say that they are beholden to partisan politicians steeps to cynical depths we haven’t seen before.

It is demagoguery, pure and simple.

Should judges speak out more?

A former Clinton administration Cabinet official poses an interesting question in light of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ rebuke of Donald Trump.

Should they speak out more? asks former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

My quick answer: no, they shouldn’t.

Roberts said this today: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

It’s a rare rejoinder coming from the nation’s top jurist aimed at the nation’s top governmental executive.

We can argue all day about whether the federal judiciary is actually independent. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing showed just how political the high bench has become, many would argue. I won’t join that debate today.

The issue is whether the president should be condemning them or whether judges should be let loose to respond.

Donald Trump has been castigating judges, calling them “Obama judges” or “so-called judges” or judges who oppose his policies because they are appointed to the bench by someone from another political party.

The chief justice is responding cleanly and succinctly to the president.

It’s the rare quality that gives the statement its gravitas, adds weight to it. It lends and air of added ummmph to the chief’s rebuke of the president.

Thus, my hope would be that federal judges — let alone the chief justice of the nation’s highest court — would remain quiet. If they all start offering opinions about careless statements coming from politicians, the frequency would clearly water it all down.

I welcome the chief’s remarks. That they are so rare makes them even more significant.

SCOTUS chief to POTUS: No such thing as partisan judges

Listen up, Mr. President. Sit up straight and pay attention. The chief justice of the United States of America is speaking words of wisdom.

Chief Justice John Roberts has informed you, Donald Trump, that the country doesn’t have “Obama judges, or Bush judges or Clinton judges.” The federal judiciary, he reminded all of us in a statement issued today, is an independent branch of the government. The men and women who adjudicate cases must be free of partisan consideration, such as the individual who nominated them to whatever bench where they sit.

It’s a rare event to have the chief justice admonish a politician, Mr. President. Congratulations, you’ve stirred the pot!

The chief is admonishing you for those intemperate remarks you keep making about judges. You had the gall to refer to a U.S.-born federal jurist as a “Mexican” only because he is of Mexican heritage; the judge was ruling against your anti-immigration efforts. You referred to another judge based in Hawaii as a “so-called judge” because he knocked down your Muslim travel ban. Another judge who ruled against your recent asylum ban became an “Obama judge.”

Thus, the chief justice got riled enough to speak out against your careless references to the men and women who sit on our federal bench.

Perhaps he’s ticked that you criticized him directly for his vote in 2012 to preserve the Affordable Care Act. That makes it even worse, Mr. President.

You, Mr. President, keep demonstrating an absolute and unwavering ignorance of the roles that the co-equal branches of government play. You don’t understand the limits of your own executive power, or the limitations placed on the legislative and judicial branches of government. Your habitual loud mouth and careless rhetoric underscore your own ignorance of the governmental framework you took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend.”

I am glad to know that Chief Justice Roberts has called you out, although his language — quite understandably — was measured and scholarly.

I know you won’t learn from this. I just had to weigh in anyway.

Mr. President, you simply scare the spit out of me.

CNN/Acosta matter contains quiet back story

Psst. Let me bring you in on a secret that virtually no one is talking about.

Federal Judge Timothy Kelly’s ruling that required Donald Trump and the White House to reinstate CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials speaks to the value of an independent federal judiciary.

The president ordered Acosta’s White House press pass yanked after the two men had a contentious exchange during a press conference the day after the midterm election.

CNN filed a complaint against the White House. Late this past week, Judge Kelly ruled in favor of CNN.

What makes the story interesting is that Kelly is a Donald Trump appointment. The new president nominated Kelly to the federal bench and he was confirmed by the Senate.

We’ve all talked at length about how U.S. Supreme Court justices side with the presidents who nominate them. The same occasionally is said about lower-court federal judges.

Judge Kelly took off in the opposite direction. His ruling wasn’t overly harsh, but it did go against the president who nominated him.

I mention this because it validates the value of an independent federal judiciary and the fact that these judges get lifetime appointments, leaving them free to rule independently. They are charged with interpreting the U.S. Constitution and with determining whether government actions concur or run counter to constitutional principles.

The president’s revocation of Acosta’s press credentials didn’t make the constitutional grade and Judge Kelly sided with the Constitution . . . and not the president who selected him.

That’s a good sign for the health of our federal judicial system.

Mueller and Whitaker: nothing close to parity

A friend of mine who posted this on Facebook asked whether it’s  a “typo or intentional.” I believe Donald Trump’s direct reference to incoming U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is intentional.

Setting that aside, the president now suggests some sort of parity between acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointments to the jobs they are doing.

First, Whitaker has been picked to assume a Cabinet post on an interim/temporary basis. He should have been vetted already through a confirmation process by the U.S. Senate. That’s the issue there.

As for Mueller, the Justice Department selected him to do a specific job as independent counsel. He is looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded in 2016 with Russian operatives who attacked our presidential election process.

I now feel compelled to remind the president that Mueller is not a Cabinet official. Whitaker is.

End . . . of discussion.

Graham: New AG ‘comfortable’ with Russia probe

Lindsey “The Lap Dog” Graham, a South Carolina Republican U.S. senator who once dared to challenge Donald Trump’s competence and moral standing, now says the president’s new attorney general is comfortable with an investigation under way into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives in 2016.

OK, then. How in the world are we supposed to believe that.

Acting AG Matthew Whitaker is on record calling special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and a “fraud.” Trump appointed him as acting attorney general after firing Jeff Sessions solely because Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter.

Now the senator wants us to believe (a) that Whitaker is OK with Mueller’s probe and (b) the president won’t order Whitaker to give Mueller the axe.

I don’t believe the first thing. The second matter, whether Trump will commit a supremely foolish act, is anyone’s guess. No one can predict what the president will do, not even Sen. Graham.

Whitaker’s appointment to lead the Justice Department fills me with dread. I fear the president will move to coerce Whitaker into forcing Mueller out. I also fear that Whitaker will do the president’s bidding. The result of all this will produce the mother of constitutional crises; believe me when I say that I do not want that to happen.

Moreover, given Sen. Graham’s dramatic change of heart regarding the president, I am disinclined to believe anything he says as well. Back when he was running against Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, he spoke candidly about Trump’s credentials for the nation’s top job — or, more to the point, the absence of credentials.

Then Trump vanquished him. He got elected president. Now the senator has been slobbering all over Trump’s shoes, seeking to please him, possibly because he wants to become attorney general.

Is the senator to be believed now? I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, the Russia drama continues to play out.

I’ll just implore the powers that be — one more time! — to let Robert Mueller do his job. Let him finish his work.