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WUSA 9 Interviews Debbie Hines on Mueller Report

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Alas, the long awaited Special Counsel Robert Mueller report was released to Attorney General William Barr.  Although the report reportedly contained over 700 pages, Attorney General Barr wrote a 4 page summary of its contents. To say that wasn’t scratching the surface would be a severe understatement.

The American people deserve to see its full contents.  The report looked into two questions–whether there was a conspiracy or coordination between Trump, the Trump campaign and the Russian government during our 2016 presidential election;  And whether there was an obstruction of justice by Donald Trump into the Russian investigation.

Until the report is released, we cannot speculate about its contents. We are just as in the dark as before the report was released.   WUSA 9 anchor Bruce Johnson interviewed me on my take on the Mueller report.

 

Manafort’s Sentence and the Luck of White Privilege

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Paul Manafort – Creative Commons

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, was sentenced today in federal court in the District of Columbia by Judge Amy Berman Jackson. I have had the occasion to appear before Judge Jackson representing defendants. She is known for being fair. And she is not a pushover judge as Judge T.S. Ellis, III, Manafort’s judge in his Alexandria, VA case. Judge Elliot gave Manafort a light sentence more than a decade below the sentencing guidelines of 19- 24 years. Judge Ellis sentenced Manafort to less than five years.

Manafort faced a maximum of 10 years before Judge Jackson. Judge Jackson let it be known in court today that Manafort had a contempt for the court proceedings and our American democracy by his acts. While Manafort’s last week’s sentence sickened me, Judge Jackson today stated that the truth and facts matter. The real issue was whether the sentence would run in addition to the sentence last week or run along with the prior sentence—to shorten his term in prison.

The case is really a tale of two judges and how the court system works in favor of white collar and white privileged defendants. Judge Ellis last week stated that other than the charges, Manafort had left an otherwise routine life. Manafort made $60 million out of his deals and failed to pay taxes on much of it. Out of the money, he bought lavish homes, $20,000 suits, yet had very little left by the time of his court woes. Judge Jackson made clear that she is not pleased with Manafort’s shenanigans after being charged—his lying to prosecutors under a plea agreement to cooperate.

Paul Manafort for the first time apologized for his acts. He begged Judge Jackson to be able to have a lighter sentence and stay home with his wife. Judge Jackson told Manafort before sentencing that he squandered the chance for a lighter sentence—yet she gave him a lighter sentence anyway.

On the possible maximum sentence of 10 years, Judge Jackson stated that 30 months of her sentence must by law run concurrent with the Virginia sentence last week. On count one -conspiracy charge, Judge Jackson sentenced Manafort to 60 months with 30 months running concurrent (meaning to run alongside of) with the Virginia sentence last week. Manafort dodged the bullet of the maximum 10 years. With regards to the witness tampering count, Judge Jackson sentenced Manafort to 13 months, to run consecutive (in addition to) with count one and the VA sentence.

As I read the sentence, Manafort will serve 43 months or 3 ½ years in addition to the Virginia 4- year sentence. Roughly, Manafort would serve 7 years. Without a pardon, Manafort faces a prison term until he is 77 years old. While parts of  the sentencing may be in addition to the Virginia sentence last week, Manafort still received a light sentence, considering what he could have likely received. His sentence was still less than what the federal guidelines called for.

The fraud on the American public committed by Manafort shows that crime does pay if you are rich, white and privileged in America. This is not a reflection on Judge Jackson—but on the overall criminal white-collar system which gives breaks to white collar, white privileged defendants but throws the book at African American defendants, mostly men and persons of color, even when committing white collar crimes.

Setting aside Manafort’s sentence, when he was in jail pending trial, he had access to computers and an almost suite like room in the prison, instead of a one room jail cell. To say that he received extra privileges would be an understatement. Manafort caught a break both during his time awaiting sentencing and during sentencing, last week and before Judge Jackson today.

To be an old, white and privileged man in America works very well in the criminal justice system. Paul Manafort did not deserve the break he received for the crimes he committed. The ultimate snub to the criminal justice system and to the American people will be if Donald Trump pardons Manafort.  No matter what happens, Paul Manafort is the poster boy for white privileged males.

UPDATE: At the same time of his sentencing, Paul Manafort was indicted on state charges  in New York for which Trump cannot pardon him, if convicted.

Washington, DC Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer who appears before the U.S. District Court and is a former prosecutor.

Roger Stone Gets His Comeuppance in the Mueller Investigation

Friday, January 25th, 2019

Trusted Donald Trump aide Roger Stone got his long awaited comeuppance for his behavior in the special prosecutor’s Trump Russia investigation. Stone was arrested at his office in the wee morning hours of Friday, January 25. While Roger Stone may have been expecting an indictment, nothing prepared him for the manner in which he was arrested.

Mueller’s team sent a strong and serious message to Trump confidante, Roger Stone, by arresting him at 4 a.m. much like everyday street criminals, mob bosses and narcotic dealers are arrested. Of course, following his arrest, Stone complained about the nature of the arrest with over 29 FBI furloughed agents coming to his house to take him into custody. Stone for his part declared his innocence.

The lack of common prosecutorial courtesies usually afforded to white collar clients/defendants to conveniently turn themselves in with their lawyer upon indictment shows the seriousness of the case and the possible indication of a flight risk by Stone.
Prosecutors obtain indictments on what they can likely prove. The indictment shows Mueller’s team intends to prove that Stone acted like a mob boss in witness tampering, threatening to do harm to witnesses’ pets, lying and obstruction of justice. Stone may soon be singing another song and re-considering his loyalty to Trump.

The prosecution does not need to set out its entire case in an indictment. And at any time, the Special Counsel’s office could file a further amendment or addition to the indictment. While we don’t know the strategy of the special prosecutor’s office, the case was laid out for possible collusion in the indictment.

The decades long relationship that Trump has with Roger Stone makes it difficult for Trump to distance himself from Stone. The possibility of jail time for Stone makes it easier for Stone to re-consider his Trump loyalty and consider his loyalty to his life and family. While Stone does not presently intend to make statements against Trump, other white-collar defendants in the investigation, like Cohen, Flynn, Papadopoulis and Manafort took deals rather than go to prison. Persons who wear suits don’t normally want to trade them in for an orange jumpsuit and leg braces.

While Trump may state that Stone’s indictment has nothing to do with Trump, is a witch hunt and is more about lying, the indictment allegations and details suggest otherwise. The indictment states a high ranking Trump campaign official was “directed” to ask Stone in October, 2016 to obtain further information about Clinton leaked emails. This indictment is likely just a tip of the iceberg in the chain to the Trump campaign and stolen leaked Emails during the campaign.

I suspect that the Mueller investigation has far more incriminating information on Stone than what is listed in the indictment. And when Stone’s lawyers come to meet with the prosecutors, they may see a preview of what might be awaiting Roger Stone that is not contained in the indictment. Prosecutors may use this tactic as leverage for Stone to plead guilty and cooperate, if facing more charges.

At some point, Stone may want to take a deal and cooperate rather than face the potential for years in jail. And of course, a president can pardon a convicted felon. It is unclear if a convicted person can be pardoned by a president who might also be an unindicted co-conspirator. What is clear is Roger Stone is the 6th Trump campaign aide to be indicted. The others, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn all pled guilty. That’s 5-0 for Mueller and one is pending. That’s like Tom Brady having won 5 previous Super Bowls and now he is facing number 6.  The odds do not bode well for Roger Stone.  Ditto for the Rams.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.

Trump Expresses Desperation Over Mueller Investigation

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump for the umpteenth time lashed out at Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller on Twitter on August 1, 2018 calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Mueller investigation. Presumably, Trump forgot that Sessions recused himself from the Mueller investigation and has no legal authority to end it.  That didn’t stop Trump from tweeting about it.  Trumps’ tweet stated that Sessions should stop this “rigged witch hunt right now.” From a legal standpoint, the tweet could be viewed as further possible evidence of obstruction of justice.  If Trump is attempting to impede and prevent a lawful investigation from continuing, that could amount to obstruction of justice.

 

Donald Trump appears to be particularly feeling the heat this week with the start of Paul Manafort’s trial, Michael Cohen tape revelations, Facebook’s announcement of new fake Russian accounts and the ongoing attempts by Mueller to interview Trump. While Manafort’s trial is about tax evasion, money laundering and other alleged money crimes having nothing to do with the Russian influence over the 2016 elections, Manafort was Trump’s trusted chairman over his 2016 presidential campaign.  While Manafort remains stoic and silent in regards to Trump, only time and a possible conviction in the first trial will tell if Manafort will seek a deal. Meanwhile Manafort has a second trial coming in September for which he will remain in jail.

Trump’s tweet also comes following Facebook’s announcement this week of Russian fake accounts targeting the 2018 upcoming elections. Since the tweet surfaced, the White House and Press Secretary Sanders have downplayed the tweets—saying that Trump was expressing his opinion. It was more likely a desperate one over the events that appear to be moving quickly towards him.

Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen continues to send signals that he intends to give a tell all to the special prosecutor, if and when the opportunity arises.  Michael Cohen may have also recorded a hundred tapes involving Trump matters. One tape apparently discusses hush money that may have been paid to a Playboy model prior to the election to silence details of an affair.  Cohen has not been indicted but appears to signal a willingness to cut a deal to prevent or lessen jail time, if one is forthcoming.

The special prosecutor is still in negotiations with Trump’s attorneys to interview him over knowledge of any Russian involvement and possible obstruction of justice.  No agreement has been reached. The possibility of interviews with Mueller still looms large.

Past actions may be catching up with Donald Trump. Trump’s firing James Comey last year over his failure to end the Russian investigation, to Trumps’ statement during the presidential debate calling for Russia to find the 30,000 missing Hillary Clinton Emails, to campaign meetings with Russians in Trump Towers to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, to wanting a back channel to speak with Russians after the election, may all be adding up with new information and indictments in 2018.

Most American people want to know what the Mueller investigation has uncovered regarding Donald Trump. The Trump administration and the American public likely agree on the desire to end the Mueller investigation albeit in different ways.  Trump would like to shut down the investigation “right now” before anymore dirt on him is uncovered by Mueller’s team. Most Americans and many bipartisan members of Congress want the investigation to end by proceeding to its conclusion.  And that’s the problem that Donald Trump faces. Trump may now feel the walls closing in on him with nowhere to run or hide. When the curtain gets finally pulled back, we may see the real Donald Trump.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former Baltimore prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. She frequently appears in media outlets as a legal analyst and political commentator.

 

Celebrating Presidents Day with a Fake President in Office

Monday, February 19th, 2018
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

With everything going on with the Russian interference with our November, 2016 presidential election, some question the legitimacy of the current person holding the title and office of president.  On Friday, indictments were handed down against Russian individuals and entities for engaging in unlawful activities to undermine the 2016 election and to favor Donald Trump.  It begs the question that if a person holding the office of president won the office through the influence by the Russians, is President’s day still a legitimate holiday in 2018.

Monday, February 19, 2018 is President’s day.  Most local, state and federal offices are closed.  President’s day is celebrated on the third Monday of February.  When I was in school, it was celebrated as Washington’s birthday in honor of our first president.  It was changed throughout time to celebrate Presidents Washington and Lincoln and then all presidents including the present president in office.

If Robert Mueller’s investigation determines that Donald Trump’s campaign engaged in collusion or in overt activity with the Russians to undermine our election process in November, 2016, then the person presently holding the office is a sham or a fake.  Even with the lack of any present indictments showing a combined effort by the Trump campaign to engage in a conspiracy with a foreign adversary, this so-called president has already shown an unwillingness to actually occupy the office.

Instead of bringing the country together, Trump has consistently engaged in a pattern and practice of dividing the country.  It’s like it’s him and his staunch supporters and the rest of the country in a battle.  When opportunities arise to console and comfort a grieving country, he takes every opportunity to further ignite divisive sparks.   Charlottesville, VA showed the president’s true colors in supporting the Neo-Nazi’s during the summer rally where one individual was killed.  And this past weekend, after visiting first responders in Parkland, FL, he headed to a party at his nearby Florida resort, in the wake of 17 persons killed at Douglas High school.

Trump’s attacks on women and support of men who are known sexual and domestic abusers further shows his division among gender.  And then there’s the race divide with Trump going against the NFL players’ right to silently protest the police brutality against blacks. He forcefully spoke against the players’ constitutional rights to address racism.  And many whites sided with the president and missed the point of the protests.  And Trump rarely misses an opportunity to attack Hispanics, Muslims and African Americans but often remains neutral in criminal actions by whites such as the Las Vegas killer and Charlottesville rally of KKK and white supremacists.

While there is no job description for the office of president, it appears that at a minimum, a president should unite the American people—or at least make genuine efforts to do so.  The Trump administrations does the exact opposite.  Sowing seeds of division may win votes with the weak Trump base.  However, it undermines the office of the president and disserves the e American people.

 

With possible further indictments in the wing on the Trump campaign and the president’s non-presidential actions in year one, do we really have reason to celebrate President’s day this year? I suggest we use President’s day 2018 to make a donation online to an organization that is upholding the constitution and democracy.  We don’t appear to have a president that honors either one.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Comey, Trump and Our Constitutional Crisis

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Comey’s Firing and the Lingering Constitutional Crisis

AmericanflagDonald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for what might appear to be Comey’s reluctance to end the Trump Russian collusion investigation and/or pledge loyalty to the President. Before being fired, Comey had asked for additional funds to investigate any Russian collusion with the 2016 presidential election. Instead of more funds, he was fired.

The reasons keep changing as to the reasons for the firing. At first, Trump stated he relied on the letters and memorandum of Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Nominee Rod Rosenstein which discussed Comey’s performance and duties. Attorney General Sessions, as many may recall, stated that he recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation over one month ago, due to his conflict of interest. Yet, he re-entered the investigation to weigh in on Comey’s performance into Russiangate. It’s as if the Trump administration violates its own rules whenever it deems necessary.

Trump later stated he intended to fire Comey all along due to how badly he treated Hillary Clinton. And within days after being sworn into office, Trump now alleges that he met with and dined with James Comey and asked if he was the target of the investigation. Trump insists that Director Comey advised that Trump was not being investigated. As the world turns, the facts change.

The legal issues involved are so immense in this scenario. If Trump intended to politically pressure Comey to end an ongoing investigation of any Russian involvement and/or involvement with the Trump administration, then a charge of obstruction of justice to impede an ongoing investigation might be warranted.

And meanwhile as the Comey firing issue was being discussed and dissected by the media, Trump was meeting with Russian officials at the White House with only Russian photographers present. All U.S. media were excluded by the President. It is as if this President is snubbing all rules of law, protocol, hijacking the U. S. for his own purposes and acting as the chief CEO of the U.S, in the process.

Meanwhile, the investigative process continues into the issue of Russian influence in the 2016 election. Without a FBI director, the investigation will continue despite Trump’s desires to the contrary. However, an independent special prosecutor needs to be appointed to avoid even the appearance of the ongoing impropriety. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejects the call for a special prosecutor. One must wonder if he has any involvement with Russiangate.

The real issue is whether we as American citizens and our lawmakers will continue to allow Trump to take us down the very dark abyss that he is leading us into. The task is not just for the FBI to investigate but for the many Americans who see democracy slipping from our grips to actively protest, resist, contact law makers and urge action to be taken. There comes a time when going down a slippery slope becomes impossible to climb back up. And we are inching towards the fall into the darkness. Democracy is not slipping away in darkness. It is occurring right before our eyes.

Please watch my discussion on the Bill Press Show on May 11, 2017 for a more detailed analysis at 38:00 min mark:

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former prosecutor. She often appears on MSNBC, CBS News, PBS, Al Jazeera and Fox 5 DC.