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2018- A Year of Sex, Lies, Guns and Trump

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Donald Trump, Public Domain

Every new year, we look back towards the past year to see the good, bad and ugly. If 2018 can be boiled down to a theme—it would be sex, lies, guns and Trump. Trump fits into all three categories.

Guns were rampant again this year with no end in sight in terms of gun control. On February 26, 2018, in Parkland, Florida, one of the safest towns in the U.S. , a school gun shooting occurred and 17 persons died including teachers and students. This time may have been different than previous gun shootings in that it galvanized students to hold the March for Our Lives on March 25, 2018. It once again raised the issue of gun control. Like in so many times and years before, no meaningful gun legislation occurred.

 

On June 29, five journalists were shot and killed at the Annapolis Gazette in Annapolis, MD. Throughout the Trump administration, Donald Trump has shouted chants that the media is the enemy of the state. Our constitution’s first amendment is freedom of the press. Yet, the person sitting in the White House holding the office of President continues to attack the press as an enemy. While the shooting and death of 5 journalists is not directly attributable to Trump, the constant attacks on the media with chants of fake news using the term “enemy”, have no place in the U.S. Following the deaths of the journalists, the Trump administration had to be convinced that a lowering of the U.S. flag in mourning was appropriate.

October 28, 11 persons were killed while holding religious services in a Pittsburg synagogue. Following Trump’s 2017 response to the Charlottesville, VA killing of Heather Heyer during a neo-Nazi march, many persons in Pittsburgh had no desire to see Trump visit there. In 2017, Trump all but defended the neo-Nazi’s hatred of Jews  stating there were fault on both sides of the aisle. As a former prosecutor, I understand that violence and hatred have no place in this country. Apparently, Donald Trump doesn’t fully understand the ramifications of spewing hatred with words and acts. Both have consequences.

Sex played an important part in 2018. From Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, CBS executive Les Moonves, Bill Cosby to Donald Trump, sexual harassment, sex crimes and paybacks continued to play a huge part in 2018. CBS executive Les Moonves lost not only his job but a $120 million severance pay, after an independent investigation revealed a decades long history of sexual harassment against women employees. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh fared better than Moonves. Professor Christine Blasey Ford testified publicly accusing Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape in high school, with “100%” certainty. Many Republican lawmakers still voted to confirm Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. It just goes to show how little has changed since the Clarence Thomas hearing and Anita Hill’s testimony.

In a different outcome, on September 26, Bill Cosby, once considered America’s TV dad, received a sentence of 3-10 years in prison for sexual assaults committed against Andrea Constand which occurred 14 years earlier. In April, Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual assault and classified a “sexually violent predator” requiring lifetime registration.

From accounts from the Mueller investigation, Donald Trump was implicated in ordering and directing the payment of hush money and other ways to silence his sexual escapades with several women, according to alleged testimony by his fixer, attorney Michael Cohen and others. It is suspected that if such behavior had been known, it may have derailed his presidential outcome. We will never know.

According to the Washington Post as reported by Fact Checker’s database, Trump had an unprecedented year of deception averaging 15 false claims a day in 2018. This triples the amount from the year before, according to Fact Checker. This would account for a November Quinnipiac poll which found that 58% of voters saying Trump wasn’t honest. For obvious reasons, there is not enough room to discuss his voluminous false claims in 2018.
Aside from false claims, Trump continues to side with Russian President Putin at every opportunity. In 2018, he sided with Putin saying there was no 2016 Russian interference in our election—going against the report of our U.S. intelligence community. At every turn, Trump has tried to derail the Mueller investigation—changing Attorney Generals. His most dreaded fear of impeachment may occur in 2019.

The latest Trump debacle is the government shutdown. Trump refused to sign legislation on December 22 that would allow the government to remain open and running. Instead he insisted on $5 billion for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. As of January 1, 2019, the federal government workers and contract workers remain hostage to a wall without pay—that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

2019 brings the hope of some stability in the government with the oversight of the Democrats taking control of the House.

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

Please No More Sam Nunberg Circus as Breaking News

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018
Sam Nunberg -Courtesy of the Grio

Sam Nunberg -Courtesy of the Grio

Anyone, who turned on cable news TV at any time on Monday, couldn’t help but see a defiant Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide, ranting and raving about his refusal to appear before a grand jury to testify pursuant to a subpoena. Nunberg, appearing possibly inebriated or at least smelling of alcohol according to CNN’s Erin Burnett, speculated about Trump, Roger Stone and other parties involved in the Russian-Trump investigation. Whenever did speculation become breaking news?  I wonder who on the major cable news outlets thought Nunberg’s hours long coverage was appropriate.

As I watched Nunberg, I wondered what the world must now think of the U.S. While we do have very good reason to be concerned about an Russian involvement or interference in our election, we do not have a good reason to air every possible aspect as breaking news. And Nunberg appears in the category  of non-breaking news given the non-substance of his interview.

I do think there are journalists that would not have interviewed Nunberg to the point of sickening to watch on air.  MSNBC Joy Reid recently interviewed Stephanie Hamill, an adviser for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, who spouted conspiracy theories when asked to answer a question.  Akin to what should have happened with Nunberg’s speculation on Trump affairs, Reid cut off  Hamill’s responses, saying she does not harbor conspiracy theories on her show.  I think it would have been appropriate for one of the news outlets to have proceeded to commercial and return without Nunberg.   Perhaps, Joy Reid was needed to interview Nunberg to cut short his breaking-non-breaking news segment.

 

On Friday, we will learn if Sam Nunberg, former Trump aide, will appear before the grand jury pursuant to the subpoena issued to him to produce documents and testify in the Russian-Trump investigation. He later changed his tone indicating that he will comply. Whatever he decides to do, I hope the cable news networks do not waste another entire day to interviewing and discussing him as breaking news.

Nunberg’s grand jury attendance or non-attendance is not breaking news worthy of the news time spent on it on Monday.  If he doesn’t appear, as a former proseuctor, I know that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will file a motion to compel him to testify and bring the requested documents. If a contempt order is entered against Nunberg, he must comply with the subpoena or face jail time.

There are so many stories that were news worthy on Monday and will be news worthy on Friday, in lieu of Nunberg;  Gun control debate and laws, immigration and ending of DACA, upcoming special elections and ensuring our  2018 and 2020 elections are secured, Flint, Michigan water contamination are just a few.  Former first lady Michelle Obama once said that when they go low, we go high. Monday’s coverage of Nunberg was a new low for cable TV  news.  I just hope the cable news outlets do not rinse and repeat similar coverage of Nunberg  all day on Friday.

 

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

 

Trump’s Days are Dwindling Down

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

 

Some Republicans now state that Donald Trump may not seek re-election. If the unsealed indictments of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and guilty plea agreement of George Papadopoulos are any indication of things to come, Trump may not last the entire first term. The much anticipated hashtag of #MuellerMonday revealed a 31 page, 11 count indictment against Manafort and co-defendant Gates’ indictments for money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent. Allegations revealed $75 million held in offshore account by Manafort resulting in his use to purchase lavish million-dollar homes, secure loans, purchase a lavish lifestyle of a million-dollar wardrobe in an alleged scheme to evade reporting of income and payment of taxes. It is a classic money laundering scheme as alleged.

After turning themselves in, Manafort and Gates respectively were released on $10 million and $5 million bail, ordered held on house arrest, only to leave for lawyer, doctor and court appearances and ordered to turn in their passports. NPR reported after reviewing unsealed court documents that Manafort had three passports and traveled with aliases. For a man alleged to be worth over $75 million, perhaps $10 million in bail was low. And if the government proves its case, all of the alleged ill-gotten gains will be turned over to the government. Usually, white collar defendants are released on their own recognizance—only having to report to pre-trial. The trial may not occur for over a year due to the nature of the charges.

The real coup of Mueller was the unsealing of the indictment and guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, an alleged Trump campaign foreign policy advisor. Papadopoulos pled guilty to one count of making a false statement. It was the best kept secret in a town that is not known for secrets. According to court papers, Papadopoulos is a cooperating defendant—meaning he is likely wearing a wire to gain and or corroborate information.

The Trump administration denies having knowledge of him, except to say Papadopoulos was a volunteer. The Internet is not as forgetful. In March, 2016, Trump tweeted an Instagram photo of Sessions and Papadopoulos at a meeting with Trump and a few others present. Trump titled it  “national security meeting”—with Papadopoulos present seated two seats to the left of Jeff Sessions.  Trump and Sessions are at the heads of the  table shown in the Instagram photo.

Today, Trump says Papadopoulos was a low level volunteer. Court papers allege a meeting was held in March, 2016 on seeking assistance from Russia on dirt on Clinton, in the campaign. In addition to Trump, Attorney General Sessions may now be in legal hot water. Of course, both will continue to deny involvement—and attribute everything to fake news.

Special Prosecutor Mueller, a former George W. Bush FBI director appointee, has been diligently working on the Trump Russian investigation for months now. By all legal accounts, he is methodically investigating the involvement of Russia into our 2016 presidential election. And the end game for Trump may likely be death by Mueller, whether by indictment, impeachment, resignation or 25th amendment. But mark my words, Trump’s days are numbered.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer who represents white collar defendants and a former Baltimore prosecutor.

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.