In the history of presidential scandals, it is often the hidden things that end up proving decisive. Think, for example, of Monica Lewinsky’s stained blue dress or of Richard M. Nixon’s secret Oval Office tapes.
But in President Trump’s recent scandal involving Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star known as Stormy Daniels, something that was never there to begin with could play an unexpected role.
The missing item is the signature that Mr. Trump failed to place on Ms. Clifford’s non-disclosure deal two years ago. And if her lawyer has his way, there is a chance that the inch-long blank space could force Mr. Trump to testify about what he knew of the arrangement.
Peggy Peterson vs David Dennison
Earlier this year, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, claiming that the non-disclosure contract was “null and void” because Mr. Trump left empty the line where he was meant to write his name.
This would be amusing, if it actually happens. Since Trump cannot even remember what he did 2 hours ago, I’d be surprised if he was a credible witness, or if he is allowed to testify in this matter.
The easier solution would be just to declare the NDA null and void, and be done with the matter. Not sure if Trump’s pride will allow this, yet, though I’m certain some White House staff and Trump’s outside council of mal-advice has suggested it.
“No one’s happy a man’s life is going to be taken,” said Michael Fischer, 35, a Republican and a financial planner in Omaha who, like many along the streets here, said he supported capital punishment. “But if you take the death penalty off the books, the fear is there won’t be strong discouragement for people to commit crimes.”
Uhh, it obviously didn’t work so well for the guy on Death Row, did it? How many people are murdered every day in states with death penalties on the books? Dozens? More? Specious reasoning. No, the reason for the death penalty is to take revenge for the cruelty of the universe by killing someone. Revenge killings are bad enough for individuals, but revenge killings by the state is not solving anything.
Should Have Been You
On a related point, if one is a Cubs fan, one is also supporting the Death Penalty Governor, Peter Ricketts, in his mission to kill as many humans as he can.
When Nebraska lawmakers defied Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2015 by repealing the death penalty over his strong objections, the governor wouldn’t let the matter go. Mr. Ricketts, a Republican who is Roman Catholic, tapped his family fortune to help bankroll a referendum to reinstate capital punishment, a measure the state’s Catholic leadership vehemently opposed.
After a contentious and emotional battle across this deep-red state, voters restored the death penalty the following year. Later this month, Nebraska is scheduled to execute Carey Dean Moore, who was convicted of murder, in what would be the state’s first execution in 21 years.
The prospect has renewed a tense debate in a state that has wrestled with the moral and financial implications of the death penalty for years, even before the 2015 attempt to abolish it. Protesters have been holding daily vigils outside the governor’s mansion to oppose Mr. Moore’s execution.
Complicating matters, Pope Francis this week declared that executions are unacceptable in all cases, a shift from earlier church doctrine that had accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives. Coming only days before the scheduled Aug. 14 execution here, the pope’s stance seemed to create an awkward position for Mr. Ricketts, who is favored to win a bid for re-election this fall.
Mr. Ricketts, scion of the TD Ameritrade family fortune and an owner of the Chicago Cubs, has made the death penalty a signature issue as he seeks a second term as governor. In the past, he has repeatedly said that capital punishment deters violent crime. He contributed $300,000 to help with a petition drive that led to the restoration of the death penalty by voters.
Mr. Ricketts declined requests to be interviewed for this story, but in an interview in The Omaha World-Herald in 2015, the governor said that his position in favor of executions was in keeping with the tenets of his faith.
“As I’ve thought about this and meditated on it and prayed on it and researched it, I’ve determined it’s an important tool.”
Executions are in keeping with the tenets of his faith. Hmmm. Wonder what religion that is exactly? Sounds barbaric.
The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with a Kremlin-linked banker, as the gun-rights group appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions. The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin — a relationship that ensnared members of Trump’s team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny.
Those inquiries could shed light on the tightly held fundraising practices and political activities of the NRA. The political powerhouse shelled out more than $30 million in 2016 to back Donald Trump’s candidacy — more than it spent on 2008 and 2012 political races combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
A deep, longstanding relationship between Russia and the NRA would not surprise me in the slightest. Where does the NRA get all of its funds anyway? Not from individual contributions, the math doesn’t work. At best, the NRA has 5 million members, and allegedly, many of these are inactive.
I find it extremely plausible that the Russians were funneling funds through the willing NRA leadership to help Trump, and other Republicans.
McClatchy reported earlier this year:
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.
FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.
It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.
Last February when Torshin visited Washington, Rockefeller heir and conservative patron George O’Neill Jr. hosted a fancy four-hour dinner for the banker on Capitol Hill, an event that drew Rohrabacher, Erickson and other big names on the right. Rohrabacher has labeled Torshin as “conservatives’ favorite Russian,” Torshin was in Washington at the time to lead his country’s delegation to the National Prayer Breakfast, where Trump spoke. The banker also was slated to see the presidentat a meet-and-greet event prior to a White House breakfast, but Torshin’s invitation was canceled after the White House learned of his alleged mob connections, Yahoo News reported.
Torshin’s involvement with the NRA may have begun in 2013 when he attended the group’s convention in Houston. Keene, the ex-NRA leader and an avid hunter, was instrumental in building a relationship with the Russian, according to multiple conservative sources.
Keene also helped lead a high-level NRA delegation to Moscow in December 2015 for a week of lavish meals and meetings with Russian business and political leaders. The week’s festivities included a visit to a Russian gun company and a meeting with a senior Kremlin official and wealthy Russians, according to a member of the delegation, Arnold Goldschlager, a California doctor who has been active in NRA programs to raise large donations.
Others on the trip included Joe Gregory, who runs the NRA’s Ring of Freedom program for elite donors who chip in checks of $1 million and upwards, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke and Pete Brownell, a chief executive of a gun company and longtime NRA board member.
In a phone interview, Goldschlager described the trip as a “people-to-people mission,” and said he was impressed with Torshin — who, he noted, hosted both a “welcoming” dinner for the NRA contingent and another one.
“They were killing us with vodka and the best Russian food,” Goldschlager said. “The trip exceeded my expectations by logarithmic levels.”
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article195231139.html#storylink=cpy
The government should not be in the business of revenge killings.
Dance of Death
The Washington Post reports:
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday called for reviving the death penalty in his state, which banned the practice in 2011 and has not carried out an execution in nearly two decades.
Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D), the House majority leader, dismissed Rauner’s call to reinstate the death penalty with a brief statement Monday.
“On its merits, the governor’s proposal is a terrible idea,” she said.
Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton (D) also was critical, noting that prior issues with capital punishment prompted lawmakers to abolish it years earlier.
“The death penalty should never be used as a political tool to advance one’s agenda,” Cullerton said in a statement. “Doing so is in large part why we had so many problems and overturned convictions. That’s why we had bipartisan support to abolish capital punishment. I’ve seen nothing from today’s announcement to suggest that lesson has been learned.”
Yet another reason not to vote for Rauner, as if there were even any room left on the column.
Rauner’s cynical move is solely about the election, shoring up support with the right-wing which is rightfully suspicious of Rauner’s conservative credentials, and should be seen as such.
Illinois banned its death penalty in 2011, but the state had halted executions long before that. In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan (R) declared a moratorium and decried the death penalty as “fraught with error.” He then commuted all of the state’s death sentences in 2003, an unprecedented move.
One of his successors, Pat Quinn (D), signed legislation that abolished the death penalty entirely in 2011. He also pointed to the risks of executing a potentially innocent person, saying: “If the system can’t be guaranteed, 100-percent error-free, then we shouldn’t have the system.”
Cell phones are useful for a lot of things, but owning one does have consequences, like the ability for 3rd party organizations or government entities to track your location down to 25-50 feet at any time your phone is connected to a cell tower.
The NYT reports:
Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, wrote in a letter this week to the Federal Communications Commission that Securus confirmed that it did not “conduct any review of surveillance requests.” The senator said relying on customers to provide documentation was inadequate. “Wireless carriers have an obligation to take affirmative steps to verify law enforcement requests,” he wrote, adding that Securus did not follow those procedures.
The service provided by Securus reveals a potential weakness in a system that is supposed to protect the private information of millions of cellphone users. With customers’ consent, carriers sell the ability to acquire location data for marketing purposes like providing coupons when someone is near a business, or services like roadside assistance or bank fraud protection. Companies that use the data generally sign contracts pledging to get people’s approval — through a response to a text message, for example, or the push of a button on a menu — or to otherwise use the data legally.
But the contracts between the companies, including Securus, are “the legal equivalent of a pinky promise,” Mr. Wyden wrote. The F.C.C. said it was reviewing the letter.
Courts are split on whether investigators need a warrant based on probable cause to acquire location data. In some states, a warrant is required for any sort of cellphone tracking. In other states, it is needed only if an investigator wants the data in real time. And in others no warrant is needed at all.
Other experts said the law should apply for any communications on a network, not just phone calls. “If the phone companies are giving someone a direct portal into the real-time location data on all of their customers, they should be policing it,” said Laura Moy, the deputy director of the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology.
Mr. Wyden, in his letter to the F.C.C., also said that carriers had an obligation to verify whether law enforcement requests were legal. But Securus cuts the carriers out of the review process, because the carriers do not receive the legal documents.
The letter called for an F.C.C. investigation into Securus, as well as the phone companies and their protections of user data. Mr. Wyden also sent letters to the major carriers, seeking audits of their relationships with companies that buy consumer data. Representatives for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon said the companies had received the letters and were investigating.
In this particular instance, the 3rd parties selling your location data is called 3Cinteractive and LocationSmart, but there are hundreds more such companies who have built their businesses on turning your location into sellable data, most of which are relatively obscure.
Securus received the data from a mobile marketing company called 3Cinteractive, according to 2013 documents from the Florida Department of Corrections. Securus said that for confidentiality reasons it could not confirm whether that deal was still in place, but a spokesman for Mr. Wyden said the company told the senator’s office it was. In turn, 3Cinteractive got its data from LocationSmart, a firm known as a location aggregator, according to documents from those companies. LocationSmart buys access to the data from all the major American carriers, it says.
How does it work?
“Envision a cell site,” says Allen (a typical tower appears in the photo above). “They’re triangular, and each side has about 120 degrees of sweep.” Every time a signal is transmitted to a nearby phone, says Allen, there is a round-trip delay to the mobile device and back. By using all three sides of the triangle to “talk” to the mobile device, the tower can triangulate which edge of the base station is closest to the device. “Typically the accuracy return varies,” says Allen. “In urban settings, it can be accurate down to several blocks; in suburban settings, several hundred meters.”
“We can locate any subscriber,” says Allen, “and companies want all those subscribers to be addressable,” or discoverable. Normally, this requires passing through some privacy gateways, says Allen. “The end user must opt in through a Web portal or SMS, or an app like Foursquare,” he says, per “universal” CTIA and MMA guidelines, and carriers’ own privacy protocol.
But with enterprise services, there’s a catch. “In a workplace scenario, the corporate entity has the right to opt-in those devices,” says Allen. “The [employee] is typically notified, but the opt-in is up to the employer.”
In other words: if your employer owns your phone, tablet or 3G-enabled computer, they’re entitled to own your location, too.
Even Apple, a corporation that prides itself on not selling users data as much as their competitors, has acknowledged that users data has sometimes been sold.
9To5 Mac reports:
Over the last few days, Apple has seemingly started cracking down on applications that share location data with third-parties. In such cases, Apple has been removing the application in question and informing developers that their app violates two parts of the App Store Review Guidelines…
Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip Thus far, we’ve seen several cases of Apple cracking down on these types of applications. The company informs developers via email that “upon re-evaluation,” their application is in violation of sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines, which pertain to transmitting user location data and user awareness of data collection.
Legal – 5.1.1 and Legal 5.1.2
The app transmits user location data to third parties without explicit consent from the user and for unapproved purposes.
Apple explains that developers must remove any code, frameworks, or SDKs that relate to the violation before their app can be resubmitted to the App Store
As the Senate considers Gina Haspel’s nomination as director of the C.I.A., it is time to dispel the false narrative about her record. That narrative says that Ms. Haspel’s involvement in torture, as well as the order she drafted authorizing the destruction of videotapes documenting this abusive practice, was legal and justifiable.
Torture — “enhanced interrogation,” as it was called — was supposedly legal because Justice Department lawyers had given it their blessing at the time, and destroying evidence of it was legal not only because government lawyers said it was, but also because Ms. Haspel was just following orders.
But Ms. Haspel’s supporters, many of whom are lawyers, should know better: the faulty advice of government lawyers and bosses cannot make illegal conduct legal. And C.I.A. investigations that rely on these specious justifications to excuse her decisions should be given no weight.
In 2002, Ms. Haspel ran a secret detention site in Thailand, code-named Cat’s Eye, that was known for its use of harsh interrogation techniques that amounted to torture. She was also chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, director of the National Clandestine Service for the agency.
The Nuremberg trials after World War II established that following orders is not a defense for conduct that is patently illegal. Under the Geneva Conventions, torture, like genocide, belongs in that category. A similar principle says that incorrect legal advice cannot shield one from liability when such advice is promoting transparently unlawful conduct. Torture, like genocide, is of such patent illegality that we are entitled to hold all who engage in it responsible, whether they knew it was illegal or not. Under both domestic and international law, a manifestly evil act puts perpetrators on notice they are committing a crime, and they can be held responsible for such knowledge.
Torture is just wrong. It should never be used. Not only that, but it doesn’t even work!
The NYT reports that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed wants to release a six paragraph statement about Gina Haspel:
Ms. Haspel ran a black-site prison in Thailand where another high-level detainee was tortured in late 2002. But it is not known whether she was involved, directly or indirectly, in Mr. Mohammed’s torture. Mr. Mohammed was held in secret C.I.A. prisons in Afghanistan and Poland.
In the weeks after his capture, an Intelligence Committee report said, Mr. Mohammed was subjected to the suffocation technique called waterboarding 183 times over 15 sessions, stripped naked, doused with water, slapped, slammed into a wall, given rectal rehydrations without medical need, shackled into painful stress positions and sleep-deprived for about a week by being forced to stand with his hands chained above his head.
While being subjected to that treatment, he made alarming confessions about purported terrorist plots — like recruiting black Muslims in Montana to carry out attacks — that he later retracted. They were apparently made up, the Senate report said.
Mr. Giuliani said he came into the case last month skeptical about letting Mr. Trump testify, based on his own experience as a former U.S. attorney and private lawyer.
“I’m not sure any client of mine has ever testified, and I sure as heck have benefited from ones who were dumb enough to do it” when he served as a prosecutor, Mr. Giuliani said.
Another consideration is how Mr. Trump would perform as a witness and whether he has the discipline to avoid unnecessary tangents that open himself to new questions.
“Anyone can see he has great difficulty staying on a subject,” one person familiar with the legal team’s deliberations said.
A person familiar with the legal team, i.e., Rudy Giuliani, admitting that Trump has the attention span of a gnat.
Preparing Mr. Trump to testify would be a serious distraction to his work as president, eating into time he needs to deal with pressing global issues, Mr. Trump’s lawyers contend.
In an informal, four-hour practice session, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were only able to walk him through two questions, given the frequent interruptions on national-security matters along with Mr. Trump’s loquaciousness, one person familiar with the matter said.
Yeah, there’s so many television shows he needs to keep up with; I’m certain his DVR is nearly full because he never has time in his busy day to watch the shows and delete them from his playlist. Oh, and golfing of course.
On the second quoted sentence, I think Mueller’s team would be fine with Trump rambling on and on, contradicting himself every other sentence, spinning tales that will reveal more than they conceal. Trump is a lot of things, but he isn’t shy about voicing his opinions, especially opinions that have no basis in fact.
Trump’s new legal team doesn’t have a security clearance, but that’s never stopped Rudy Giuliani in the past from reading classified documents1 – allegedly.
Meanwhile, the turnover has created a separate problem for Mr. Trump’s defense: His lawyers lack security clearances, which could limit the documents and materials they can see.
When Mr. Dowd left in March, he was the only outside lawyer who held a clearance. The outside team as it now stands—Jay Sekulow, Marty and Jane Raskin and Mr. Giuliani—are all in the process of applying for security clearances, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Department of Justice is investigating potential efforts by AT&T and Verizon to hamstring a technology that could someday make it easier for consumers to seamlessly switch their wireless carriers, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The probe appears to focus on whether those companies — perhaps in a bid to stop their subscribers from jumping ship to rivals — colluded to undermine so-called eSIM cards, a technology that could someday allow the owners of smartphones, smartwatches or other devices to change their service provider on their own, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the probe, which has not been made public.
If the U.S. government ultimately determines that AT&T and Verizon harmed competitors or consumers, it could result in major fines or other penalties.
In the Trump/GOP era of government, corporations are encouraged to run rampant over any rules or laws they don’t like, all that is needed is a nice campaign contribution, and issues miraculously vanish! Poof!
I am pretty sure we’ve been paying attention to this case since it was first reported, ten years ago or more, but am too lazy to look in former iterations of this blog to find the reference.
The gears of justice do grind exceedingly slow, don’t they?
The NYT reports:
Raphael Golb’s conviction wasn’t quite like any other: using online aliases to discredit his father’s adversary in a scholarly debate over the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The 9-year-old case got a New York law thrown out and finally ended Monday with no jail time for Golb, who persuaded a judge to revisit a two-month jail sentence imposed earlier in the case.
Appeals had put the jail term on hold and narrowed the counts in his criminal impersonation and forgery conviction in a curious case of ancient religious texts, digital misdeeds, academic rivalries and filial loyalty.
“Obviously, I’m relieved not to be going to jail,” Golb said, adding that he remains concerned by having been prosecuted for online activity he said was meant as satire. “The judge today did the right thing, but the whole thing should have been thrown out nine years ago.”
Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post report:
President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.
Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization and is a close confidant of Trump, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.
“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? . . . Did they find his recordings?”
Especially funny is that Michael Cohen2 made tapes because “Spanky” Trump so often bragged about how he taped conversations, despite the fact that Trump never actually took the time to create a system to record conversations.
You Wanted To Disappear
Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer and executive editor of Bloomberg View, wrote a column in the wake of Trump’s taping claim saying that Comey likely had little reason to worry. In the piece, O’Brien recounted that Trump frequently made a similar boast to him.
“Back in the early 2000s, Trump used to tell me all the time that he was recording me when I covered him as reporter for the New York Times,” O’Brien wrote. “He also said the same thing when I was writing a biography of him, ‘Trump Nation.’ I never thought he was, but who could be sure?”
But after Trump sued him for libel shortly after his biography came out, O’Brien’s lawyers deposed Trump in December 2007 — during which Trump admitted he had not, in fact, clandestinely taped O’Brien.
“I’m not equipped to tape-record,” Trump said in the deposition. “I may have said it once or twice to him just to — on the telephone, because everything I said to him he’d write incorrectly; so just to try and keep it honest.”
I’d say the odds are greater than 50/50 that Trump was recorded by Cohen saying something of interest to federal prosecutors, and that the Feds have a copy of this recording or recordings, and that Trump is stress-peeing on a rug in the Oval Office right now.
said everyone at the same time, except for Trump and his thugs [↩]
Michael Cohen being raided is big news, but there are other threads we are following, including the Paul Manafort case.
The FBI found a storage locker with lots and lots of documents that Paul Manafort was saving, perhaps to be made whole. This will come up again, mark my words.
Betsy Woodruff reports:
According to court documents, one of Manafort’s former employees led an FBI agent to a storage locker filled with paperwork on Manafort’s businesses and finances. The person’s name is redacted from the filings. But he’s now at the center of a fight over evidence that could play a significant role in the government’s case against Manafort.
“People do strange things when confronted with authoritative FBI agents,” said Sol Wisenberg, a criminal defense attorney with Nelson Mullins.
The person whose name was redacted also gave the FBI agent “a key to the lock on Unit 3013 and described the contents of Unit 3013,” according to the affidavit. That person also gave the FBI agent “written consent” to search the storage unit, and opened it for the FBI agent.
The FBI agent then looked into the storage unit and saw about 21 boxes of documents, as well as a filing cabinet. One box was marked as containing expenses, paid bills, invoices, and legal complaints. Another box said it contained “Ukraine Binders,” as well information about ballot security, Georgia, research, and “Ukraine Campaign.”
Manafort and Gates have been involved in Ukrainian politics for years, and helped prop up Kiev’s Putin-friendly strongman, Viktor Yanukovych.
The FBI agent seemed to figure out immediately that the storage unit’s contents were interesting, because the law enforcement officials started surveilling the storage unit facility to see if anyone went in to take out any files. The day after seeing the storage unit, the FBI agent filed the affidavit—which was more than 20 pages long—with a magistrate judge.
I guess these guys haven’t heard of a document shredder or something. I shred stuff on a regular basis and I avoid criminal or even sketchy business! Why wouldn’t these guys have a contract with a shredding company to come every other month?
This is what we know, in part from Mr. Cohen’s attorney: The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, acting on a referral from Mr. Mueller, sought and obtained search warrants for Mr. Cohen’s law office, home and hotel room, seeking evidence related at least in part to his payment of $130,000 in hush money to the adult actress Stephanie Clifford, who goes by her stage name, Stormy Daniels. There are reports that the warrant sought evidence of bank fraud and campaign finance violations, which is consistent with an investigation into allegations that the Daniels payment was illegally sourced or disguised. (For example, routing a payment through a shell company to hide the fact that the money came from the Trump campaign — if that is what happened — would probably violate federal money-laundering laws.)
What does this tell us? First, it reflects that numerous officials — not just Mr. Mueller — concluded that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Cohen’s law office, home and hotel room contained evidence of a federal crime. A search warrant for a lawyer’s office implicates the attorney-client privilege and core constitutional rights, so the Department of Justice requires unusual levels of approval to seek one. Prosecutors must seek the approval of the United States attorney of the district — in this case Geoffrey Berman, the interim United States attorney appointed by President Trump.
Prosecutors must also consult with the criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington. Finally, prosecutors must convince a United States magistrate judge that there’s probable cause to support the search. Faced with a warrant application destined for immediate worldwide publicity, the judge surely took unusual pains to examine it. This search was not the result of Mr. Mueller or his staff “going rogue.”
and importantly, if the Southern District of New York, in the process of examining Cohen’s records in their taint team, find evidence of other crimes or discover relevant documents for the Russia investigation, they can send those back to the Special Prosecutor.
In a search like this, prosecutors typically set up a privilege team or “taint team” of investigators not involved in the case to review potentially privileged documents and shield those from the team actually involved in the prosecution. There is an exception to the attorney-client privilege if communications to an attorney are used in furtherance of a crime or fraud; that could come into play here as well. And documents related to anything Cohen did on his own — after all, Trump has denied knowing about the payment to Daniels — are likely not privileged if they do not contain attorney-client communications. Documents are not automatically privileged simply because they passed through an attorney’s hands.
The Stormy Daniels payout may be outside the scope of the Russia investigation, but it’s possible that Mr. Cohen’s records are full of materials that are squarely within that scope. And the law is clear: If investigators executing a lawful warrant seize evidence of additional crimes, they may use that evidence. Thus Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, with their catastrophically clumsy handling of the Daniels affair, may have handed Mr. Mueller devastating evidence.
The Environmental Protection Agency signed off last March on a Canadian energy company’s pipeline-expansion plan at the same time that the E.P.A. chief, Scott Pruitt, was renting a condominium linked to the energy company’s powerful Washington lobbying firm.
Both the E.P.A. and the lobbying firm dispute that there was any connection between the agency’s action and the condo rental, for which Mr. Pruitt was paying $50 a night.
Nevertheless, government ethics experts said that the correlation between the E.P.A.’s action and Mr. Pruitt’s lease arrangement — he was renting from the wife of the head of the lobbying firm Williams & Jensen — illustrates why such ties to industry players can generate questions for public officials: Even if no specific favors were asked for or granted, it can create an appearance of a conflict.
“Entering into this arrangement causes a reasonable person to question the integrity of the E.P.A. decision,” said Don Fox, who served as general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics during parts of the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.
Staying in a 2 bedroom condo in a swanky DC neighborhood for $50 a night? That’s a good deal if you can stomp out of the swamp to get it. Pruitt’s daughter got to use the other room, but she stayed for free. And the $50 was only for nights he was there, not the entire time. You know, like a deal you would negotiate with your landlord. If your landlord was a lobbyist who had business in front of your agency, naturally.
However, an examination of Capitol Hill rentals suggests that rates typically are considerably higher and generally do not come with a provision, as Mr. Pruitt’s did, that the renter can pay for only the nights stayed at the condo.
“I’ll leave my stuff here for six months, will sleep here a few nights a month on an irregular schedule, and you’ll charge me only for the nights when the police don’t break down the door, and I wake up in your bed. Deal? Deal.“
Phil Marches On
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s security detail broke down the door of the Capitol Hill condo he rented from the wife of an energy lobbyist last year because they believed the Trump cabinet member was unconscious, according to a report Friday.
The bizarre March 2017 incident unfolded after a member of Pruitt’s personal security became concerned about the administrator when he didn’t answer his phone, according to ABC News.
“They say he’s unconscious at this time,” a 911 operator is told, according to a recording obtained by the network. “I don’t know about the breathing portion.”
The Federal Savings Bank, West Loop, in the news again.
Crain’s Chicago reports:
Two senior House Democrats are pushing to subpoena the Department of Defense on whether Trump administration officials considered nominating Chicago banker Stephen Calk as secretary of the Army after his small local bank made outsized loans to Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.
The request for a subpoena was made in a letter today—you can read it below—to U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Texas, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, from the panel’s senior Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, and Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, senior Democrat on the House Oversight subcommittee on national defense.
The two Democrats said the Defense Department hadn’t produced any of the documents they asked for, nor said when it would.
The letter referenced “extremely troubling reports that a banker named Stephen Calk may have made loans of up to $16 million to President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in exchange for promises to name him secretary of the Army.”
Calk’s Chicago-based lender, Federal Savings Bank, made a total of $16 million in loans to Manafort in December 2016 and January 2017. They were collateralized by homes in New York City, the Hamptons and Virginia.
At just $364 million in assets, Federal Savings Bank is far too small to be making loans of that size to a single borrower.
“Although Mr. Calk ultimately was not given a position with the department, reports that he was being considered for a high-level and highly sensitive national security position within the Trump administration as part of a quid pro quo with Mr. Manafort raise serious concerns that, completely apart from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, warrant scrutiny by Congress,” the Democrats’ letter said.
They want to review all Defense Department documents and communications regarding a potential role for Calk, among other items.
A [questionable] new study blames Chicago’s sudden spike in gun violence in 2016 on the dramatic drop in street stops by Chicago police that year, but several crime experts quickly discounted its findings, particularly its conclusion that the Laquan McDonald scandal wasn’t a factor.
But the ACLU and several crime experts who reviewed the study at the Tribune’s request questioned its findings.
“They’re more or less suggesting that working in an unconstitutional police department is worth the trade-off,” said John Eterno, a criminal justice professor at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, N.Y., and a former captain with the City of New York Police Department. “If you’re going to be doing 40,000 stops a month … you have to have reasonable suspicion on every one of those 40,000 stops.”
Karen Sheley, an ACLU staff attorney who is overseeing the agreement with Chicago police, dismissed the study as “junk science.”
“This particular viewpoint is both insulting to officers who follow the law on a regular basis and ignores the harm, including the public safety, to the communities who are most impacted by police work,” she said.
The study’s authors are law professor Paul Cassell, a former federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush, and economics professor Richard Fowles, who specializes in statistical analysis. The two also published a study last year arguing that the longstanding Miranda warnings for suspects in custody — that they have the right to remain silent — have “handcuffed” police officers across the country.
The experts who reviewed the study questioned its main conclusion — the strong link between street stops and homicides. In 2017, by comparison, street stops increased only slightly, yet homicides fell by more than 100.
“I’m very concerned about what they see from that one year and suddenly they make all these claims, which is just so wrong,” said Eterno, the Molloy College professor. “You can’t really make claims about any type of trend or anything that’s going on based on the one-year change.”
Others pointed to New York, where homicides remained low even when the number of stop-and-frisks fell sharply.
I don’t want to live in a police state where basic civil liberties have been suspended, and a militarized armed police has free reign to terrorize each and every citizen with the assumption that this and only this is the way to reduce violent crime. That is not America, that is a totalitarian hellscape.
How about we reduce the number of guns held by citizens instead? Well regulated militia and all that.
You know the NRA and its allies in the media and in Congress will be citing Cassell/Fowles this month until their neck veins are bulging.