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My Top Ten Wishes (Satirical) For the Fake SOTU

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump gives his second State of the Union Address (“SOTU”) tonight. I look forward to the Democratic rebuttal to be given by Stacey Abrams. Abrams who ran for governor of Georgia is the new face of the Democratic party.

Black women have supported the Democratic party by overwhelmingly voting in higher numbers than any other group in 2016, 2012 and 2008. Yet, the Democrats have often ignored Black women while trying to win back those whites who left the Democratic party beginning with President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960’s and have yet to return.

As I look forward to hearing Stacey Abrams tonight, I also wanted to share my satirical top ten wishes for the fake SOTU. In my David Letterman voice, here goes the top ten in reverse order beginning with number 10.

10. The wall becomes a non-issue and all federal government workers rejoice without the threat of a pending shutdown hanging over them.

9. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrives in her workout attire and begins her workout with her trainer on the House floor.

8. No Democrats show up for the SOTU except Speaker Nancy Pelosi who remains to protect the House.

7. Trump accidently takes a truth serum before giving the speech and provides special counsel Robert Mueller with everything he needs to indict Trump. Trump doesn’t realize he is speaking the truth for the first time in his life as he begins talking to the American people for over one hour.

6. Senator Mitch McConnell apologizes to the American people for failing to do his job during the Trump regime and hastily resigns.

5. While Trump is still speaking, armed FBI agents arrive to arrest and take Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump to an undisclosed location. Melania Trump, Baron Trump, Tiffaney Trump remain listening to Trump finish his speech.

4. Vice President Pence goes into hiding after the speech begins which may implicate him in Trump’s doings.

3. Trump resigns. Mic drops.

2. Speaker Nancy Pelosi ends the SOTU with the gavel sounding marking the beginning of her presidency.

1. A new day begins in America on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 with the end of the Trump era/regime.

If only fiction could become fact.

Roger Stone’s Fate at a Trial Will be Decided by Blacks

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Roger Stone was arraigned in D.C. federal court today. As expected, Stone entered a plea of not guilty. An arraignment hearing is for the purpose of advising the defendant of the present charges against him, allow him to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty plus state additional terms of the defendant’s pre-trial release. Stone had to give up his passport and cannot contact any witnesses. If he violates the terms, he goes to jail pending his trial date.

As for Stone, he is slowly learning what it means to be a defendant. Stone voiced concerns about being arrested in the early morning hours with over 20 FBI agents. His specific concern was that he was arrested with more force than Osama Bin Laden. By the way, Osama Bin Laden was shot to death during the raid on his house. The courtesy of affording a white -collar defendant the ability to turn himself in with his attorney at his convenience is exactly that… a courtesy. It is not mandatory, as Stone discovered.

Now the real reason why the arrest was likely done in the manner it was conducted had to do with the parallel search warrant of Stone’s residences. An announcement in advance would have potentially allowed Stone to destroy or attempt to destroy documents. A search warrant is obtained with a judge signing off on it. In the affidavit that is presented to a judge to obtain a search warrant is the belief of what the search is more than likely to yield. The Mueller prosecutors had good reason to believe based on either cooperating testimony or either evidence that another crime or crimes may have been committed.

It is likely that more charges are being considered. Stone may be asserting his white privilege in public. However, as a charged defendant, he is no different than other defendants who go before the court. He will be processed in the same way as all others.

As the events unfold and Stone’s attorneys learn of the evidence against their client, Roger Stone may be less inclined to boldly assert the lack of evidence against him. As the indictment reads, the prosecution has what appears to be a tight case against Stone. The reality of possible jail time may soon become a wake-up call for Stone. It’s usually a matter of if you feel lucky and want to roll the dice. Of if you want to face reality that wearing an orange jumpsuit daily is staring you in the face. Reality comes in many forms.

Stone emphatically states his wants his day in court. In a jury trial in the District of Columbia, Stone will be facing jurors who reside in D.C. Most D.C. voters voted overwhelmingly Democrat by almost 91% in the November 2016 presidential election. Only 4% of all D.C. residents voted for Donald Trump. While the District of Columbia’s Black population is just slightly under 50%, those jurors are not likely to be sympathetic to Stone. The fact that many potential jurors in D.C. work for the federal government which was closed for 35 days due to Trump’s shutdown bears indirectly on how jurors might feel about Stone. Stone has made it clear of his close association to Donald Trump. While jurors are advised to base their verdict solely on the evidence presented in a case, no one juror is  likely to be able to completely forego their thoughts about Trump.

Another hearing is scheduled for Friday, February 1 to plan future court events and hearings. Stone left the D.C. federal court without as much of a whimper, unlike his blustering and bold statements following his arrest in Florida. Maybe Stone is giving thought to those potential D.C. jurors who might hear his case and judge his guilt or innocence.

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

Pelosi v. Trump: Politics Over Money

Friday, January 18th, 2019

Donald Trump may have likely met his match with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. With the government being shut down, Speaker Pelosi raised concerns about Trump giving his State of the Union address before the government re-opens. In a letter addressed to Trump, she stated that he should delay his speech until after the government reopened. Her concerns were for security and the fact that nothing entitles Trump to give a state of the union address, in the manner he intended. In other words, it is almost like a nothing burger.

Pelosi had also made plans to embark on a trip with a Congressional delegation to Afghanistan. Trump in like Trumpeon fashion retaliated. And this is where the story gets interesting.

Trump denied the delegation use of government military planes to travel to a war zone. He likely saw Pelosi’s trip as grandstanding. It was a visit to the troops and to engage in government business.

Despite denying Congressional use of government planes for government business, Trump allowed Melania Trump to take a government plane to go on a weekend frolic. Once again, the Trump hypocrisy continues. If anyone should have been taking a commercial flight, it should have been Melania Trump—not our elected officials on government business.

Then Trump allegedly doubled down by further exposing the intended commercial travel, thereby placing in jeopardy the lives of the Congressional delegation, the military and anyone traveling on the same commercial flight. Pelosi had decided to take Trump up on his request to travel via commercial airlines albeit more risky. The administration’s purported leaking of those plans thwarted any commercial travel to Afghanistan for the near foreseeable future.

Trump at this stage is reacting to Pelosi’s demands. He is now in reactionary mode. And anyone who knows negotiations will tell you that is a poor position to find oneself in. Trump reacted to Pelosi’s denial of his $5 billion wall; he reacted to her letter to delay the State of the Union address. He reacted to her purported trip to visit the troops overseas and conduct official government business. And then Trump reacted to Pelosi’s attempt to continue travel via commercial flight. If this were an Ali- Frazier fight, with Pelosi being Ali and Trump being Frazier, Frazier is on the ropes. And the Ali/Pelosi rope-a-dope is working quite well.

Nancy Pelosi is a veteran politician from a family of generations of politicians. Many persons fail to remember that Speaker Pelosi hails from Baltimore where her father and brother were mayors of Baltimore. She often speaks about her political lessons learned from her father, Tommy D’Alessandro. While Nancy Pelosi was learning how to be a shrewd politician, Donald Trump was playing with his father’s money—and losing it. While Pelosi was beginning her political career in 1977 and later getting elected to Congress in 1987, Trump was learning how to file for corporate bankruptcy. He filed for business bankruptcy four times beginning in 1991. Nancy was getting re-elected to Congress in 1993.

Nancy Pelosi has many political maneuvers up her sleeve. More importantly, she is an effective leader. While Republicans despise her, she has been able to keep her base intact, while becoming the next person in line for presidency following Vice President Pence.

From his business dealings, Trump has likely never had to deal with a woman, the likes of a Nancy Pelosi. And his naivety is showing with his reactions to her moves. Speaker Pelosi is looking to see what Trump has in the way of punches. Presently, she has ascertained his weakness. Like a boxer, she will continue to hammer away at his weakness. And in Trump’s book, the Art of the Deal, one caveat states that the worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. It makes the other person smell blood. Right now, Pelosi smells blood.

Trump wants his wall. He has a wall. Her name is Nancy Pelosi.

UPDATE:  Speaker Pelosi delayed Trump’s State of the Union address until after the government is re-opened.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer and former prosecutor.

The Extreme Hypocrisy of the Republican Party

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Donald Trump, Public Domain

The Republican party was once known as the party of Abraham Lincoln. Now it is known as the party of Donald Trump, a reality star, creator of the birther movement and race baiter in Chief. Time and time again, the Republican party has shown its hypocrisy in the Trump era by failing to speak out against racism and bigotry.

The other day, Congress failed to censure Iowa Representative Steve King for saying “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that become offensive?” To answer King’s statement, white supremacy was offensive to many persons as far back as Abraham Lincoln’s time. The House passed a resolution condemning white supremacy but failed to rebuke King. Every Republican House member should have requested a vote on censuring King, if not seeking his resignation. It is not enough just to fail to appoint him to committees. Steve King should have been asked to resign for his hideously racist comments.

Time and time again, the Republican party fails to address racism and bigotry under the Trump era. Donald Trump following the August, 2017 Charlottesville, Nazi rally where Heather Heyer was killed by a hate filled Nazi supremacist, stated there were good people on both sides—meaning the Nazi’s and their protestors. No Republican lawmaker serving in the House or the U.S. Senate strongly condemned Donald Trump for referring to Nazi’s, Neo-Nazi’s  and white supremacists as “good people.”  It’s as if Trump can do no wrong when it comes to siding with racists.

Donald Trump  sets the tone for white supremacy and bigoted speech. Even before he was elected, he fueled the birther movement alleging that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in this country, without any valid basis for the assertion. It was likely one of Trump’s proudest moments when the first African American president produced his birth certificate—just like slaves once did to show they were free persons.

Once Trump ran for office and won, he became race-baiter-in chief. He gives a platform for all the Steve Kings to stand on. Trump called Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” as well as other NFL African American players who kneel during the playing of the national anthem in protest of police brutality against Blacks. He refers to Mexicans as rapists; He disparages judges of Hispanic descent. He views African countries as “shithole” nations. To point out all of Trump’s racist remarks would take up more space than needed to make the point. Republicans fail to see the big fat elephant in the room named Donald Trump.

Recently, when N.Y. representative Rashida Tlaib stated we should “impeach the mother f’er”, Texas Republican Representative Brian Babin called her words “ill-conceived and inconsistent with our national values.” I don’t ever recall Babin or any GOP legislator calling any of Trump’s comments inconsistent with our national values. The only thing that would have delighted me more would have been if Rep. Tlaib had used Trump’s own language that he called Colin Kaepernick—a SOB.

The latest Republican hypocrisy seems focused on holding the federal government workers hostage while Trump demands a Mexican border wall. As most folks will remember, Mexico was supposed to pay for the wall. Time and time again, Trump chanted that point to his base. Yet, now it appears the wall will be financed on the backs of American taxpayers and on the hostage taking of the federal government workers—the vast majority that live in Red states and towns. No Republican member is calling for Trump to back down from his wall double talk and re-open the government. Mitch McConnell won’t even bring a vote to the floor to open the government and then continue talks about the so-called wall that Mexico would have paid for.

All the talk about the wall is double talk and code talk for race baiting. As the president demands a $5 billion ransom money to open the federal government in exchange for a so-called wall, he continues to ramp up incidents of persons killed by undocumented persons. Some of those victims were killed by guns, yet I fail to see any gun control measures being introduced and passed.

Immigrants contribute significantly in the U.S. from serving in the military, owning businesses, paying taxes, doing menial jobs, inventing and investing in our economy and society. As recently seen in the news, some undocumented immigrants work in Trump’s many businesses with forged papers. When it is to Trump businesses’ advantage, undocumented immigrants are valuable. To his base, he calls them rapists and murderers.

As an African American, I know this country has long been known for its hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing another when it comes to race and race relations. The explicit race baiting language used by Trump and supported implicitly and explicitly by Republican lawmakers without rebuke brings the hypocrisy to an extreme level. If this were a fake reality show, it could be dubbed “Extreme GOP Hypocrisy”. Sadly, this is our new norm under the Trump era.

Washington, D.C. 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.

 

No Slam Dunk for Mueller in Manafort Trial

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

All political eyes and ears are on the start of Paul Manafort’s criminal trial for tax evasion, money laundering and an assortment of other money crimes. Paul Manafort is the former chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.  Jury selection is underway today.

If this were a card game, special prosecutor Robert Mueller has held his playing cards closely to his chest to prevent tipping his hand.  Until the start of the trial, we do not know what the evidence will show.  The indictment spells out what the prosecution intends to prove.  Once witnesses take the stand and documents are presented, we will know the hand that Manafort and Mueller have been dealt.

As for timing, the actual start of the trial with opening statements may not take place on the first day.  There is never a magical formula to predict the time that it will take to pick a jury.  Having tried many complex trials lasting weeks and months, it is never an easy guess. And this case is further complicated by the fact that everything is political in nature.  While Manafort’s trial does not focus on Russia and any Russian collusion, it is there streaming in the background. And prospective jurors may already have taken sides in this political climate.

Jurors will be asked a ton of questions to ensure that they can be fair and impartial.  However, most jurors will likely already know something about the case. Some may have already come to conclusions—without ever hearing any evidence.  Those prospective jurors who cannot set aside their preconceived notions and judge the case solely on the evidence presented will likely be excluded.   However, in today’s political climate, it is conceivable that a juror who is strongly for or against one side, might end up sitting on the jury.

The stakes are high for Robert Mueller and his special prosecution team.  If the prosecution wins, then it will send a clear signal that the other upcoming cases are on the right path. If he loses or a jury is unable to render a verdict, a roar of “no collusion”, “witch- hunt “will be heard around the world by Donald Trump and his followers.  If Mueller does not succeed with a guilty verdict on all or most counts, the GOP and Trump will likely call for an end to the special prosecutor.  Although Manafort’s charges and trial are not about Russia, it’s really all about Russia.

Manafort is charged in an indictment with various money crimes consisting of  lying to banks to get money, avoiding paying taxes, money laundering and hiding money in offshore accounts to avoid declaring it as income.  These cases are tried mostly with documents to prove the elements of the crime.  Under most ordinary circumstances, these cases are usually easy to win. Witnesses will testify such as Rick Gates who worked for Manafort.  Gates has cut a deal with prosecutors.  A witness who has skin in the game and has cut a deal with prosecutors is sometimes viewed with doubt or suspicion.  If the documentary evidence is overwhelming, Gates and the witnesses are only icing on the cake.

Most financial crime cases are easy to win for the prosecutor.  Yet, no case is ever a slam dunk for prosecutors.  Despite having a strong case, a case can still be lost.  One never knows what a jury of 12 persons will do when they go to deliberate behind closed doors.  All 12 jurors must agree to render a verdict.  If less than twelve agree on charges, a mistrial will be declared.

The biggest problem for Mueller is predicting how twelve persons will decide this case.  Anything less than guilty verdicts on all 12 counts will be seen as a partial loss.  There is no slam dunk trial in law.  Any case can be won or lost. Manafort’s case is seen as a must win for Robert Mueller.

UPDATE:  In the late afternoon,  a jury of six men and six women were seated to hear the trial. Opening statements and prosecution witness testimony began.  The prosecution intends to paint Manafort as someone who believes he is above the law.  The defense intends to play “pin the tail on the donkey” and blame everything on Rick Gates who received a plea deal.  But Rick Gates was not the one who received $60 million in  unreported income.  A three judge panel denied Manafort’s request for release from jail pending trial.  Manafort must remain in jail pending his second trial in September.

More updates and analysis to follow as the trial progresses.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former Baltimore prosecutor and criminal defense trial attorney.  She is often seen in various media outlets as a legal analyst.