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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.

Trump’s Wins are Major Losses for the U.S.

Sunday, February 4th, 2018
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

When Donald Trump campaigned in 2016, he stated that he planned to win on every single issue for Americans.  And one year after taking office, Trump has won hands down on every single issue that seeks to divide rather than unite us as a country and lower our standing in the world.

Trump got off to a running start on January 27, 2017 by hastily implementing a Muslim travel ban on 7 Muslim countries.  The ban barred citizens of the Muslim countries from entering the U.S. After a federal appeals court struck down the first ban, a second ban ensued.  Later after litigation, a third ban was enacted. On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed a third version of the travel plan to go into effect banning individuals from eight Muslim countries.   Citizens from the effected countries will not be able to immigrate, work, study or vacation in the U.S. while the ban is in effect. Litigation is still ongoing.

The propaganda of “America First” touted by Trump has resulted in a loss of travel business and jobs in the travel industry. An analysis shows that the travel ban could cost $18 billion dollars in U.S. tourism over two years.  In just the first week after the travel ban, business travelers canceled $185 million in travel bookings.

By January, 2018, Trump continued his attacks on other non-white countries by calling Haiti and all countries in Africa “shithole countries” in decrying against immigration from these countries.  The derogatory remarks further show the open bigotry advance by Trump.

On May 31, 2017, Trump declared that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. One hundred and ninety-five countries support the agreement. Only Syria and Nicaragua didn’t join—and now the U.S exited. The purpose of the Paris Climate Accord was to help prevent further global warming and to use clean energy.  Most of Trump’s base and likely Trump, himself, do not believe in the science of global warming. The Trump administration’s policies on world issues have diminished the U.S. in the eyes of the world and its standing among most countries, except Russia.

On August 12, 2017, hundreds of white supremacists, Klu Klux Klan members and Nazi’s marched at a rally in Charlottesville, VA.  The rally resulted in the death of one woman as a car plowed through peaceful anti-Nazi protestors and injured 35 other individuals.  Trump instead of denouncing the bigotry, racism and divisiveness of the rally, defended the white supremacists.  Trump stated there were “very fine people” on both sides.

White supremacists have existed throughout our country’s history.  Trump has allowed a renewed platform for their bigotry and hatred. According to research by the Anti- Defamation League, white supremacy propaganda has increased by almost 300% at college campuses –up from 2016.

In the fall with the beginning of NFL season, Trump weighed in on the protests by NFL players on police brutality and mistreatment against African Americans.  The protests began in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick.  By 2017, some NFL players began kneeling during the national anthem in silent protest.  Trump referred to Kaepernick and others as “sons of bitches” in defiance of players’ first amendment rights.  During his State of the Union address, Trump again stressed the importance of standing during the national anthem.  He never addressed the underlying reasons for the protests—police brutality against Blacks and Black mistreatment in the criminal justice system.

 

Just in time for Christmas, Trump gave the best winning Christmas gift to the rich— an overhaul of the tax code resulting in increased wealth for the wealthy. On the tax increase, Congressman Paul Ryan boastfully stated on Twitter on February 3, 2018 that the tax increase resulted in one high school secretary to receive an additional $1.50 per week—as if that was something to be boastful about.

Previously Trump and the GOP—tried to repeal and “replace” Obamacare on at least two occasions. With the tax law, Trump ended up settling for repealing the individual mandate requirement to purchase health insurance—all but insuring that insurance premiums will soar in 2019.

Some other wins for Trump are appointments to lead federal agencies whose ideology are in direct conflict with the agencies they lead, nominating federal judges for a lifetime appointment who have little or no trial experience, casting doubt on our system of checks and balances otherwise known as the rule of law and his relentless attack on the media and journalists except Fox News —referring to the media as “fake news”.

 

Assuming if Trump is impeached, indicted or otherwise put out of office before 2020, he will still be winning in 2020 and thereafter. The dismantling of our norms, distrust of our media, loss of world standing and divisiveness caused by Trump’s first year in office will likely last for decades—long after 2020.   Trump’s wins are our losses as a society.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political commentator 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.

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.