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Sean Spicer Rewarded for Lies; Jemele Hill Almost Fired for Truth

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
Frmr Press Secretary Sean Spicer

Frmr Press Secretary Sean Spicer

On Sunday, September 17, the 2017 Emmys aired with an appearance and skit by former White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer.  It appears the Emmy’s wanted to make light of the lies that Spicer told as press secretary about the crowd size of Donald Trump’s inauguration with a skit about the Emmy crowd size.

I am still fuming at Spicer’s appearance. Sean Spicer should have been booed and hissed off the stage. Instead Spicer appeared afterwards to be having the time of his life with meeting, greeting, partying and taking selfies with celebrities.

During his brief stint as press secretary, Spicer told lie after lie each day, in an apparent attempt to appease his boss.  His biggest and first of many lies was that the Trump inauguration crowd size was the largest that there had ever been in history.  After his Emmys appearance, he now asserts he regrets telling this lie—as if it was no harm, no foul. A lie is still a lie. And the Emmys giving Spicer any media platform sends a wrong message.

Contrast Sean Spicer’s mainstream acceptance with that of rejection of ESPN co-host Jemele Hill’s comments.  Jemele Hill, in a series of tweets on September 11, stated that Donald Trump is a white supremacist— “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” Hill in a series of tweets, stated her reasons for asserting Trump is a white supremacist. Hill stands by her September 11 personal statements and provides specific reasons in an interview with the Washington Post.

Hill’s comments stem from Trumps’ association with known white supremacists, the birther movement, derogatory comments about Mexicans and Blacks, among others.  Current White House Press Secretary Sara Hucklebee Sanders called for Hill’s firing.  And a host of other persons including Donald Trump negatively weighed in on her comments. Hill’s truthful opinion almost costs her job.

Spicer’s lies get rewards and perks for him. He is now weighing options as a TV commentator, speaker engagements with high fees and a host of other media perks—all due to his lies.  Who knows Spicer may be even given his own show.  It could be called, “How I Lied My Way to Fame and Fortune.”.

I know there are folks who will say that Spicer’s Emmy appearance was meant as parody and humor. After all, Trump critic Stephen Colbert came up with the idea.  Sorry but I cannot find humor with Spicer who made a mockery of the White House with constant lies throughout his brief tenure as press secretary.

 

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being truthful. As a trial attorney, I always advise my clients to tell the truth. I advise them that bad things will happen if you get caught in a lie.  In today’s world with the election of Donald Trump, we have come to apparently accept lies as the new norm. And Sean Spicer proves once again that lying pays.

In the case of truth versus lies, lies win. Unfortunately, it’s the truth that may get you fired.

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

 

 

Lawyers Sue Heartless Trump on DACA

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

AmericanflagThe law can be used for good or bad. And when it’s used for good, I have no greater feeling as a lawyer. Today was one of those good days.  The District of Columbia joined 15 states to sue the federal government, Donald Trump as President, Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Trump’s decision on ending DACA.

 

Litigation is my life and one that I’m proud of. And I am so proud today that lawyers in New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia took a stand for DACA in fighting for the lives of those young undocumented “Americans” who came here as children before the age of 16 and know no other country except the U.S.

 

The lawsuit filed in federal court in New York alleges that Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA is motivated by ill will; will cause a loss of revenue for these states, lower employment, split up families and serve no useful purpose under the rule of law. Major businesses, Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft filed affidavits within the lawsuit stating the effect of ending DACA will have ill adverse impact on businesses.  Mr. Trump, also known to a few as the jobs creator, will be doing anything but increasing jobs.  In addition, Mr. Trump has made known that he does not favor Mexicans—from a Mexican American judge presiding over his lawsuit to calling Mexicans “bad hombres”. More than 78% of the DACA recipients are of Mexican descent.

California has an unusually large segment of Hispanic residents. And California Attorney General Xavier Becerra intends to file his state’s separate lawsuit to protect the almost 200,000 DACA recipients in the State of California.  Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh is contemplating taking similar action.

A federal lawsuit must be based on an aspect or issue involving the U.S. Constitution or federal law. The basis appears that the revocation of DACA is illegal based, in part, on discrimination of Mexicans.  Each state spells out in the lawsuit how its individual state will suffer substantial harm in areas of business, education, health and tax revenue.  Many aspects of the lawsuit sound similar to travel ban legal arguments in lawsuits filed earlier this year citing previous derogatory statements by Trump against Mexicans and due process arguments.

The 15 states and the District of Columbia joined in the lawsuit are both blue states and a few red states that voted for Trump.  North Carolina, a red state, argues that immigration and DACA recipients are vital to its economy. North Carolina asserts in the lawsuit that it has one of the highest application rates to DACA in the country.  The lawsuit alleges that North Carolina will lose 7.8 billion dollars over the next ten years if DACA is rescinded.  I assume that before long other states will take action, in addition to those contemplated by Maryland and California.  The full Complaint can be read here.

The Department of Justice will defend against the lawsuit.  While the case will likely be an uphill climb to win, legal precedent is often won by advancing the right arguments and being on the right side of the law. And fighting Trump on ending DACA is being on the right side of the law.  The law can be sterile at times.  But this lawsuit is full of heart.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She often appears as a legal and political analyst on MSNBC, CBS, PBS, Al Jazeera and Fox 5 DC.  Her opinion articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.

DACA and The Devil Living Inside the White House

Monday, September 4th, 2017
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump proclaimed Sunday, September 3, 2017 as National Day of Prayer.  And on that same day, he announced that he intends to end DACA with a 6-month delay period of time.  DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  It is the executive order that President Obama signed in June, 2012 which protected and allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to be granted work permits.  It does not cover all young undocumented immigrants brought here, as it has a cut-off age and other requirements.

800,000 undocumented young persons are believed to be covered under DACA.  Trump had earlier stated that he had a “great heart” in terms of DACA and those young persons covered under it.  On Sunday’s National Day of Prayer, he showed where his real great heart lay. He announced ending DACA on the same day he asked people to pray.

Over 91% of individuals under DACA are employed or attending school. They are mostly law-abiding individuals.  They are our neighbors, co-workers, friends, colleagues, students and family members. They traveled to the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own.  They are often referred to as Dreamers who have earned their place in our society and are contributing to it.

During Hurricane Harvey, one Dreamer, Alonso Guillen, a recipient under DACA,  lost his life as he was trying to save the lives of others during the flooding.   Rescue volunteer Guillen, a 31 year old disc jockey, insisted on helping those in the floods in his neighborhood of Cyprus Creek. After helping others, he was swept away and his body was discovered by his family on Sunday.

 

I don’t know what Trump prayed for or who he prayed to on his self-proclaimed National Day of Prayer. I prayed for humanity, empathy, compassion and fairness in our leaders and for our country.  Donald Trump has been on the wrong side of humanity, empathy, compassion and fairness ever since taking office and even before.

 

Trump supports white supremacists in the White House and Neo-Nazis shown killing Heather Heyer on the streets of Charlottesville.  He supports and pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff for 24 years, abused the criminal justice system in treating Hispanics as sub-human in his jail. Arpaio is known for being one of the most corrupt and abusive sheriffs in America. He sparked fear in Hispanics by unlawfully targeting and detaining them, holding them in cruel and sub-humane conditions.  Trump started his term with an illegal Muslim travel ban to the U.S.  At every turn these last 8 months, Trump has been on the wrong side of justice and fairness.

 

We must stand as a nation with Dreamers.  We are all dreamers of the American dream. While many of us were born in this country, most of us were not born with a multi- million-dollar inheritance like Mr. Trump.  And most immigrants are not able to marry a millionaire like Melania Trump  and remain here.

 

We must diligently work and pray for the Dreamers to remain.  I pray that all Dreamers will be allowed to remain in this country. Mostly, I pray for Donald Trump under Psalms 109:8 which reads:  “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.”

 

 

Donald Trump’s Dog Days of Summer

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

 

The dog days of summer are usually referred to as the hottest days of the summer, particularly from mid- July to almost the end of August.  And Labor Day has come to mean the unofficial end of summer with vacations ending and students returning back to school.   The dog days of the Trump Administration have been particularly hot.  With summer closing to an end, I thought that now is a good time to evaluate the Trump Administration’s summer days.

 

Trump’s Administration has been hounded with its failure of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, the ever- ongoing Trump-Russia investigation by Special Prosecutor Mueller, Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville Nazi/white supremacist rally, the Twitter roll out of elimination of transgenders in the military, pardon of Sheriff Arpaio and now the expected ending of “DACA”, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

 

For the past 8 years of the Obama Administration, the Republican Party vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and leave millions without health insurance.  Trump declared the repeal and replacement of Obamacare would be the very first thing that he intended to accomplish.  With a Republican controlled House and Senate, it seemed very likely that the Affordable Care Act was on its death bed.  A vote in favor of repeal and replace would have likely left more than 16 million people uninsured by 2026.  And yet in the summer of 2017, the Republicans and the Trump administration failed to accomplish their signature promise. On July 28, 2017, during the wee morning hours, the repeal and replace voted failed with deciding votes by Senators John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) joining the Democrats.

 

The ongoing Russia- Trump investigation has continued to heat up and dog Mr. Trump.  It shows no signs of going away. With leaks abundant, it appears that each summer day brought a new revelation.  There were times that White House reality show was turning faster than any televised soap opera.  With a search warrant of Trump’s former campaign manager and chief campaign strategist Paul Manafort’s house on July 26, 2017 to revelations about previously undisclosed June 9, 2016 meetings with Don Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort and a Russian lawyer evolving around possible collusion, there was no letting up.

 

Beginning in mid-June, the Mueller focus began centering on targeting Trump for obstruction of justice and Kushner’s finances and business dealings. And even Vice President Pence lawyered up in mid-June with hiring of outside counsel. Despite all, Trump tweeted claiming victory against the investigation on June 16, 2017.

 

Unfortunately for Trump, Mueller did not wave a white flag and give up on the Trump-Russia investigation. Instead the efforts intensified. And Trump had to add lawyers to his legal team along with Kushner and Don, Jr adding additional counsel in the form of criminal defense attorneys.

 

In mid-June, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) director testified that Russian hacking occurred in at least 21 states.   In July, Trump refused to blame Russia for meddling in our election. Instead of relying on information from DHS, he relied on the word and denials of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit—as if Putin was going to admit anything.

Towards the end of July, it was leaked that Special Prosecutor Mueller was allegedly investigating Trump’s business deals, had his tax returns, the same ones Trump failed to disclose. A special prosecutor has the power to subpoena documents during its investigation.

Now CNN and MSNBC are reporting that Mueller has brought on top IRS Department of Justice prosecutors.  The heat is really on.  A case on the Russia collusion may take months if not years to complete an investigation.  Whenever prosecutors follow the money trail, it is a much easier case to prove matters such as tax evasion.  While they are not as salacious as the Russia-Trump collusion, tax matters are less reliant on fact witnesses.  Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion instead of the alleged violent acts he committed. In cases involving mob members, it was often tax evasion that brought them to justice and jail—instead of the crimes of murder and obstruction of justice.

And on August 3, news outlets reported Mueller impaneled a Washington grand jury to investigate the Trump-Russia thing. As a former prosecutor, the grand jury means the Trump-Russia investigation is not going away any time soon. Politico reported on August 29, that special counsel Mueller and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has teamed together on the investigations.

 

The most egregious and morally repulsive aspect of Trump’s summer were his comments surrounding the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi/KKK/white supremacist rally in August. Counter protester Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist whose car attacked protesters.  Instead of denouncing the hatred, bigotry and violent actions of Nazis and white supremacists, Trump defended it. He stated publicly that there was blame on “many sides”—meaning Nazis and the counter protesters against bigotry and hatred were both to blame.  As an African American, I know which side the President stands on in with respect to blacks and Jews versus white supremacists. Throughout history, White supremacists openly lynched, burned and terrorized blacks in many parts of the country. And now a U.S. president openly condones their racist and bigoted conduct.

With fall approaching and the dog days of summer leaving us, things will not cool down for Trump.  And it will only get hotter for the Trump Administration. Unfortunately, things are heating up for everyone else as long as he remains in office.

 

Time to Begin the Process to Pull the Plug on Trump

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

 

 

The latest news surrounding Donald Trump has some persons calling for impeachment, removal or resignation of Trump as president.  In a memo made by then FBI Director James Comey, Trump allegedly asked Comey if he would end the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. It was allegedly made the day after Flynn resigned. Comey declined.  The issue is whether this request, if proven to be true, should be considered obstruction of justice and if so, what remedies exist.

 

Obstruction of justice is a federal statute that makes it unlawful to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede an official proceeding.  There are several key elements to proving the crime.  First, there must be an intent on the part of the person to specifically obstruct, influence or impede. The party must be aware that an investigation or proceeding exists. And the action must be one that attempts to obstruct, influence or impede.  In looking at the totality of the circumstances surrounding what is being alleged by former FBI Director James Comey, it appears that all criteria have been met.

 

The memo of Comey does not stand alone in a vacuum. Putting together the pieces of the puzzle is an easy one. First, there was a dinner meeting at the White House where Comey asserts that Trump allegedly asked him to pledge his loyalty to the President. According to Comey, he declined to pledge his allegiance to Trump.  Now there’s the Comey memo asserting that Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation against Michael Flynn.  Comey continued with the investigation. And of course, Comey was fired by Trump.  If a sitting president, having the power to end one’s career or position makes the request that Trump allegedly made, it would indicate that all criteria of the federal obstruction of justice statute have been met.  But that doesn’t end the matter.

 

Donald Trump is the sitting president of the U.S. with certain protections against criminal prosecution.  The Supreme Court has not ruled whether a sitting president can be charged with a federal crime in lieu of impeachment.  If any other politician had done the alleged actions, he or she would likely be facing a criminal indictment by a Grand Jury shortly.  But the President of the United States’ removal is based on impeachment or use of the 25th amendment under the Constitution.

 

Impeachment proceedings, as were done in the case of former President Bill Clinton, must be started with a majority of the House and then a full trial in the Senate with 2/3 members of the Senate in support.  With the GOP controlled House and Senate, impeachment is an option but a political one. And unfortunately, it’s still too soon to know if enough Republican law makers will pull the plug on their President. My mother used to have a saying that if you make your bed hard, you must lay in it. And Republicans may still prefer to lay in their bed with Trump, instead of formal impeachment charges.

 

The other method to oust a sitting president is found in Section 4 of the 25th amendment of the U. S. Constitution which states that a president may be removed if he or she is found unable to serve or to discharge one’s duties.  This option has never been used and likely won’t be used in Trump’s case—under our present circumstances. And it requires a 2/3 majority in the House and Senate to permanently remove a president.

 

We have likely only hit the tip of the iceberg here. And that’s where an independent commission or special prosecutor is needed.  At this point with Trump potentially asking officials to end investigations, we need a special prosecutor who can dig deep without fear of reprisal, recusal or removal.

 

And speaking of removal, the last method might be the president’s resignation. That would require many Republican leaders to convince Trump that he can’t continue to serve. Whichever method is considered, it won’t be an easy or quick fix.  Speaker Paul Ryan states he still has “confidence” in Trump, despite the newest allegations.  I suspect some Republicans are likely going through the five stages of grieving which are denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.

 

One thing is for sure. More Republicans will be getting out of bed with Trump and saying enough is enough.

Debbie Hines appears on WUSA 9 with Bruce Johnson on May 17, 2017 to discuss Trump, Comey and special prosecutor:

http://www.wusa9.com/opinion/editorials/off-script/-offscripton9-can-trump-be-impeached-over-comey-memo-/440628580 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst 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.