Trump versus judges, courts and attorneys

If it hadn’t been clear in the past it is becoming more obvious now – Donald Trump thinks that judges and courts should be acting in his interests regardless of the laws. And it seems that his Attorney General William Barr is on trump’s side rather than the side of the law.

Two Supreme Court jugdments have gone against Trump in the last week, and his reaction is to criticise the judges and promote new ‘conservative’ judges – he really means judges who will ignore the law and do what he wants.

And Barr is also stepping in, trying to dump a New York US Attorney who has investigated associates of Trump.

Politico:  After week of Supreme Court defeats, Trump says he’ll release new shortlist of potential justices

President Donald Trump on Thursday pledged to unveil a new list of potential Supreme Court nominees ahead of November’s general election, reprising a campaign tactic that helped him shore up conservative support during his 2016 White House run.

The announcement came hours after the high court dealt the president his second major defeat this week, rejecting his administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program’s protections for roughly 650,000 immigrants — most of whom entered the U.S. illegally as children more than a decade ago.

Since assuming office, Trump has routinely touted his presidency’s rapid rate of judicial confirmations — including the hard-won installations of Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the high court — to energize his base in public remarks and at political rallies.

But the fruits of those efforts to remake the federal judiciary were not evident earlier this week, after Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts sided Monday with the Supreme Court’s Democratic appointees in a landmark anti-discrimination case.

What he means is vote for him to get judges who will favour Trump over the laws of the US.

Do you get the impression that Trump doesn’t like it when the Supreme Court doesn’t do whatever he wants?

Yeah, right. Trump has always acted in what he thinks are his own best interests.

And he seems to have an ally in Attorney General Barr. Fox News: Trump nominates SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to replace Geoffrey Berman as US attorney in New York

President Trump nominated the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, to replace Geoffrey Berman as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, late Friday night in what appears to be political shakeup.

It is sometimes hard to separate politics and justice in the US, especially with Trump in charge.

“For the past three years, Jay has been an extraordinarily successful SEC Chairman, overseeing efforts to modernize regulation of the capital markets, protect Main Street investors, enhance American competitiveness, and address challenges ranging from cybersecurity issues to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

Shortly after the announcement by the Department of Justice, ABC News reported via Twitter that Berman was fired after declining other positions within the department.

Berman responded:

He has no choice but to ‘step down’ if dumped. But this could be a contentious dumping.

Jerry Nadler heads the House Judiciary Committtee.

Lindsey Graham, Republican Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, is also not jumping in on trump’s behalf.

Fox News: Graham says he won’t advance Trump nominee for SDNY prosecutor without Schumer, Gillibrand consent

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Saturday he will not take up President Trump’s nomination for a new U.S. attorney for Manhattan unless New York’s Democratic senators sign off.

Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will honor the “blue slip” tradition and require the consent of home state senators to proceed — in this case, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Graham’s statement signals an uphill climb for Trump to get a new Senate-confirmed federal prosecutor in one of the nation’s most high-profile districts.

Graham’s committee is the first stop for Senate confirmation of the nominee.

Graham said in a statement:

“According to Attorney General Barr, the Trump Administration intends to nominate Mr. Jay Clayton to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, I have not been contacted by the Administration in this regard. However, I know Mr. Clayton and believe him to be a fine man and accomplished lawyer.”

“As to processing U.S. Attorney nominations, it has always been the policy of the Judiciary Committee to receive blue slips from the home state senators before proceeding to the nomination. As chairman, I have honored that policy and will continue to do so.”

A statement from Gillibrand:

“I will not be complicit in helping President Trump and Attorney General Barr fire a U.S. attorney who is reportedly investigating corruption in this administration. Jay Clayton should withdraw his name from consideration immediately and remove himself from this sham. President Trump cannot be allowed to desecrate our nominations process further.”

Maybe the political and judicial systems are a bit stronger at standing up to Trump than he would like.


Meanwhile conflicting claims about the Bolton book.

Trump claims that Bolton’s book is fake and lies, but that he is publishing classified information.  But:

More from Fox News:  Judge allows Bolton book to be released, but says he ‘gambled’ with national security

A federal judge on Saturday allowed the forthcoming publication of John Bolton’s memoir to go ahead next week despite concerns it contains classified information – but tore into the former national security adviser for having “gambled” with national security.

“Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability,” Judge Royce Lamberth said in a ruling.  “But these facts do not control the motion before the Court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm.”

Another failed court action.

But Bolton’s team has claimed that the administration is just trying to suppress embarrassing information about President Trump’s conduct.

“We are grateful that the Court  has vindicated the strong First Amendment protections against censorship and prior restraint of publication,” Adam Rothberg, Simon & Schuster’s senior vice president of corporate communications, said in a statement. “We are very pleased that the public will now have the opportunity to read Ambassador Bolton’s account of his time as National Security Advisor.”

It’s hard to see anything exposing the US to harm more than Trump.

But Trump sees this failure as a win.

 

Law School statement on free speech

Free speech has been topical issue in New Zealand, with controversies at Massey and Auckland universities in past months. lso internationally.

From a statement on free speech from the Dean of the Notre Dame Law School in Indiana, USA ahead of a speaking engagement by William Barr, Attorney General of the United States:

Freedom of speech matters. As Frederick Douglass once said, “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker”.

Just as speakers are free to speech, protesters are free to protest. They must do so in a place and manner that respects the rights of speakers to speak and listeners to listen…

Notre Dame Law School will neither endorse nor condemn invited speakers. An institution of higher education must be place where controversial ideas and points of view are expressed, heard and discussed.

This is such a place.

The full announcement:

But where politics (and political appointees) are involved it provoked the ‘only free speech that I like’ brigade. Tweets in response condemned both Barr and Notre Dame Law School. Like:

Winston Smith @2plus2isSTILL4

The invitation brings shame to your institution. It is a statement that you do actually accord respect to a man who has disgraced himself and his office.

Tessa Sainz  @tessasainz

So being a traitor to this country and party to unprecedented corruption is a “controversial point of view” the University deems worthy of discussion? Does @NotreDame gain anything from Barr’s corruption? I’m guessing there’s a lot of financial reasons behind this decision

KB851  @KB8511 (Lawyer and College Faculty)

So now Notre Dame joins Florida in completely screwing this up People are smart They get there is a difference between a conservative voice and allowing trump jr or Barr to do NOTHING but lie You are dead wrong ND as are you, my alma mater, Florida

I am ashamed

Megan Schweppenheiser  @schweppenheiser

There is still time to boycott. Who would want to listen to that liar and gadlighter who is complicit in bringing down our democracy? Don’t go. Non-violent protest. Bring whistles. Stand up for the rule of law and ethics! Don’t give him a platform!

There were more bitter political opponents.

But there were also a smattering of supportive tweets:

Mary Miskimon  @MaryEM106

The only reason Bill Barr is controversial is because students disagree with his boss. That’s not controversial; that’s diverse thought, and it’s what we do here in America. It’s sad that ND has to explain to the students it admitted (presumably bright).

Joseph Rio  @josephwrio

It’s utterly amazing that Dean Cole has to issue such a common-sense statement. But judging by the replies on this thread by people who evidently believe they have been blessed with revealed truth, it was absolutely necessary. Difference of opinion is not evil.

Politically and on free speech issues the USA is a badly divided country.


American Conservative on Barr’s speech at Notre Dame – Bill Barr: Religious Liberty Warrior

Last week, US Attorney General William Barr gave an extraordinary speech about religious liberty at Notre Dame Law School. I have not been able to locate a transcript, and only found time to watch it this morning. Here’s a video of the entire thing. The speech itself begins at about the four-minute mark.

The AG begins by talking about the capacity for self-government, meaning not the form of administration of a liberal democracy, but the ability of individuals to master their own passions, and subject them to reason. Can we handle freedom? That, says Barr, is a question that preoccupied the Founders.

No society can exist without the capacity to restrain vice, he goes on to say. If you depend only on the government to do this, you get tyranny. (This, by the way, is what’s happening in China; many Chinese actually support the tyrannical Social Credit System, because communism destroyed civil society and social trust.) But, says Barr, licentiousness is another form of tyranny. People enslaved by their own appetites make community life impossible. (This, I would say, is what we are more endangered by in America today … and it will ultimately call forth tyranny, Chinese-style.)

Barr offers this quotation from Edmund Burke:

“Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.”

Why is religion a public good? Because, says Barr, it “trains people to want what is good.” It helps to frame a society’s moral culture, and instills moral discipline. No secular creed has emerged that can do what religion does, he says. And by casting religion out, we are dismantling the foundation of our public morality.

“What we call ‘values’ today are nothing more than mere sentimentality, drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity,” says the AG.

Barr took the gloves off, saying that religion is not jumping to its death; it’s being pushed.

“This is not decay,” he said. “This is organized destruction.”

He named secularists in academia, media, and elsewhere as figures who are not neutral at all, but have rather inculcated a kind of religiosity in their own project of destroying religion. They conduct their own inquisitions and excommunications for heresy.

Here’s a link to AG Barr’s entire speech. 

‘Constitutional crisis’ over Mueller report

Controversies over the Mueller report and the Trump administration continue in the US.

The vote was 24-16 in favour of holding Barr in contempt.

Reuters Explainer: Can Trump use executive privilege to withhold full Mueller report?

The White House on Wednesday invoked executive privilege to block the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted Russia report as a U.S. House panel met to vote on holding the U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress for withholding the document.

The White House’s move escalated a constitutional clash between the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican President Donald Trump over its powers to investigate him, his administration, his family and his business interests.

Trump is stonewalling Congress on multiple probes, blasting the investigations as “presidential harassment.” In an unusual move, he is even suing to stop the release of some materials that lawmakers want.

There are so few court decisions on executive privilege that it is hard to be certain if Trump can withhold the unredacted report and underlying evidence, said Ross Garber, a lawyer in Washington who focuses on political investigations.

But to prevail in court the White House will eventually need to be more specific about which documents are protected by executive privilege and why, Garber said.

In a letter to Trump on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr encouraged the president to make a “preliminary, protective assertion of executive privilege designed to ensure your ability to make a final assertion, if necessary, over some or all of the subpoenaed materials.”

Some legal experts have argued that Trump long ago forfeited, or waived, his right to make an executive privilege claim over conversations described by witnesses in Mueller’s investigation and related documents.

Meanwhile:

Democrats versus Barr versus Mueller are not fading away

The Mueller investigation led to the Barr letter which was followed by the release of most of the Mueller report was followed by the release of a Mueller letter to Barr, and now Barr has been questioned in the US senate. And the controversies continue, predictably with many angles being taken by media and politicians.

Washington Examiner: 5 takeaways from the Barr hearing

1. Tension between Attorney General William Barr and Robert Mueller

Barr revealed a split with the special counsel over the pursuit of evidence that President Trump tried to obstruct the probe. Mueller did not draw any conclusion on obstruction, despite gathering the evidence.

“The investigation carried on for a while as additional episodes were looked into,” Barr told the panel. “So my question was, why were those investigated if, at the end of the day, you weren’t going to reach a decision on them?”

Later in the hearing Barr dismissed a March 27 letter from Mueller complaining about Barr’s four-page memo to Congress about the report. “The letter’s a bit snitty and I think it was written by one of his staff people,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

2. Barr didn’t review Mueller’s evidence.

Under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a former prosecutor who is running for president, Barr acknowledged neither he nor Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reviewed the trove of evidencegathered by the Mueller team before he cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.

The Mueller report did not clear Trump of any wrongdoing, but Barr’s letter summarising the findings of the investigation were taken by Trump and others as doing that.

3. Barr is probing leaks to media.

Under questioning from Republicans on the panel, Barr said he is investigating Department of Justice leaks to the media regarding the investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

4. Barr is examining the justification for surveillance warrants into Trump campaign.

Barr said he is investigating the basis for the Justice Department’s decision to secretly surveil the Trump campaign beginning in October 2016. Barr said he is working with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to determine if a surveillance warrant was properly obtained by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court the month before the election.

5. Senate Judiciary (probably) won’t call Mueller to testify.

Democrats are eager to hear testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller, they said Wednesday. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., doesn’t plan to invite him.

“I’m not going to do any more,” Graham said after Barr’s day-long hearing. “Enough already, it’s over.”

But it appears to be far from over.

RealClear Politics – Pelosi: Attorney General Barr Committed A Crime; “He Lied To Congress”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of criminally lying to Congress about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Mueller’s letter relating to how Barr has characterized its findings.

“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime,” the Speaker told reporters.

Asked again about the accusation, Pelosi said: “He lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law.”

Asked whether Barr should go to jail, the speaker said: “There’s a process involved here.”

There’s something for everyone to cherry pick from.

Conduct of media and Trump questioned after release of Mueller summary

So far just a summary of the report of the inquiry by Special Counsel (Robert Muller) has been released, but claims and accusations are flying, with the media bearing the brunt of most criticism.

Trump is justifiably very please with the outcome, but as usual has made inaccurate statements – he has not been fully exonerated as he claims, and his conduct during the inquiry, in particular his accusations against Mueller, was far from presidential.

But the media is copping most of the flak.

Politico:  Media stares down ‘reckoning’ after Mueller report underwhelms

Fox News host Sean Hannity accused “CNN, MSNBC, and the mainstream media” of having “lied” for two years in his first tweet on Sunday after a four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions was made public.

Pot, kettle.

“Now they will be held accountable,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump. Jr. accused “CNN, MSNBC, BuzzFeed and the rest of the mainstream media” of “non-stop conspiracy theories” in a statement, while urging “honest journalists within the media” to “have the courage to hold these now fully debunked truthers accountable.”

That Mueller concluded no one from Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia in attempting to influence the election has ramped up scrutiny of the news media’s handling of the two-year investigation.

There may be some truth in that, but it is an over generalisation – Lowry is a part of the media and I presume he isn’t criticising himself.

Longtime Rolling Stone writer and author Matt Taibbi published an excerpt from his new book on Saturday which argued that “Russiagate is this generation’s WMD,” a reference to news coverage during the run-up the Iraq war, widely seen as the greatest journalistic failure in modern memory.

“The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess”.

But as with some of the media on the collusion accusations, this may be premature, until details of the inquiry findings are released – and if they are not all released, it will provide scope for continued questions.

It may be premature to castigate the news media when a lot questions remain unanswered. Attorney General William Barr only provided a four-page summary of Mueller’s report, which notably on the issue of obstruction, “does not conclude that the president committed a crime,” but “also does not exonerate him.” It remains unclear why, exactly, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded over the weekend that there was not sufficient evidence to support obstruction — especially as the president was never interviewed.

Also, blaming “the media” writ large is problematic in potentially lumping unsupported speculation — whether on cable news or on social media — with dogged reporting on an investigation which led to a half-dozen Trump associates, including a former campaign chairman and national security adviser, either being charged or pleading guilty to crimes. Not to mention, there are still a dozen investigations, largely based in New York, stemming from the special counsel’s investigation.

Some journalists have already pushed back on the weekend criticism. “Given the issues, stakes, and seriousness with which special counsel treated all of this, the media’s coverage of Russia-Trump connection and possible obstruction over the last two years was somewhere between about right and not quite aggressive enough,” tweeted Esquire’s Ryan Lizza.

Of course there are valid criticisms of the modern media (all of it). Lance Morrow (City Journal): Journalism Dies in Self-Importance

I suppose it’s true that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as the Washington Post’s slogan says. But journalism may also die, by morphing into forms that can no longer be described as journalism. Journalism may come to mean a crooked scandal sheet, or high-minded propaganda. Sometimes squalor and self-righteousness are equally disreputable.

The other day, Ted Koppel, a voice from the late-twentieth-century practice of journalism, spoke about what has become of his old business in the age of Trump. “We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were,” Koppel said, in an understatement. The Left always cites Fox News in this regard. He singled out the Washington Post and the New York Times, saying that they have gone overboard in their bias, transforming themselves into anti-Trump advocates.

“We are not talking about the Washington Post [or New York Times] of 50 years ago,” Koppel said. “We’re talking about organizations that . . . have decided, as organizations, that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States.”

Other media, or at least parts of it (like Fox), have at times blatantly taken Trump’s side.

Koppel made clear that he does not disagree with the verdict that Trump is “bad for the United States.” He means only that the Post and Times abandon their journalistic responsibility when they take sides so blatantly.

Today, opinion and dogmatic speculation are the currency of politics and journalism. Facts have become elusive or even unnecessary, except for, say, the body counts at mass shootings. Otherwise, the world is fluid and angry and ideological. Among other things, the new journalism—more theater than journalism, a slugfest of memes—is a lot easier to practice. Much of it, on either side, is little more than noise.

Washington Times:  Media pulled off big con with Russia collusion story

America got conned again.

It was all a big set-up. A ruse. A dirty canard.

The whole thing was one giant lie.

And everybody peddling it — from House Democratic leaders, to Senate Democrats running for president, to the Senate Republican who reported the whole thing in the first place, to the roaring lions of the Great White Media…

I presume the Washington Times excludes themselves from ‘Great White Media’.

Media defends itself. Politico – Week 96: Trump Might Not Be Guilty, But Neither Is the Press

Trump walked away victorious if bloodied from the announcement, hailing the Barr letter, in a classic bit of exaggeration, as a “complete and total exoneration” as he boarded Air Force One in Florida. But Trump had every right to revel.

Mueller’s air-tight inquiry—did his team ever leak?—encouraged political speculation from Democrats and journalistic supposition on the part of reporters that Russian monkey wrenching of the election, which almost everyone now concedes happened, had succeeded in penetrating and influencing the Trump campaign.

No information should not be an automatic excuse for speculation.

Mueller’s failure to connect Trumpworld directly to Russian skullduggery in a way that would hold up in a court of law made a shambles—for the time being, at least—of the theories formed by pols and reporters studying the issue from outside Mueller’s cone of knowledge.

Did the press blow the Trump story? That’s what journalist Matt Taibbi wrote in his newsletter the day before the release of the Barr letter, excoriating “every pundit and Democratic pol” who hyped an emerging Russia headline. He dings CNN, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, the New York Times, and others for what he considers credulous and gullible reporting, comparing their output to the faulty coverage of WMD during the Iraq War run-up. The Taibbi tirade will be cringemaking for every reporter whose extrapolations of the Russian story now place them on the wrong side of the Barr précis.

But there’s a major difference between the press coverage of the WMD story and the Russia business, one that deserves highlighting.

Media should have reported on the Mueller inquiry. It was a big deal and quite newsworthy. But in the absence of facts ‘reporting’ and ‘news’ were often overrun with speculation and predictions.

In defense of the coverage, let’s remember that charges of collusion didn’t arise in a vacuum. Thanks to Mueller, we now know about the steady and suspicious dalliances with Russians during the campaign by the easily compromised, ethically challenged, political amateurs inside Trumpworld—George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. (and Michael Flynn after the campaign).

Recall how many documented lies Mueller has caught the president’s men telling. Recall again the relationship between Manafort and his business associate Konstantin V. Kilimnik, believed by Mueller to be allied with Russian intelligence.

There was a lot of news that justified reporting.

The dishonesty and lying of senior members of trump’s campaign team, and their prosecutions and findings of guilt, were big news.

So with all due respect to Donald Jr., who was quick on Sunday to turn the absence of more indictments from Mueller into an indictment of what he called “the Collusion Truthers,” I will not be “apologizing for needlessly destabilizing the country.” Quite the opposite. Investigators investigated. Reporters reported. The republic still stands.

As long as Trump is bestowing exoneration on himself today, let’s not forget to mention Mueller and his much-reviled deep-state warriors—remember all those “13 angry Democrats” tweets?—who proved they could wield the law in a fair and impartial matter.

There was misreporting and preposterous claims in the absence of facts from across the media spectrum.

Can the Mueller findings be trusted? At this stage only a brief summary has been revealed by the Attorney General, who was appointed by Trump.

Remember that one prominent person was scathing of Mueller and his inquiry.

NZ Herald chose to publish this from David Von Drehle:

For nearly two years as special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller has endured a nearly constant barrage of insults and character assassination from a Twittering President Donald Trump and his bootlicking propagandists.

There is only one explanation for the president’s relentless attacks. He thought that Mueller was likely to throw the book at him. And there are only two explanations for that expectation. Either Trump knew he deserved it, or Trump assumed Mueller would sink to his own level of mendacity and self-serving to pervert justice. The idea that a public servant, indeed, a team of public servants, would quietly discharge a mission with honour was utterly beyond Trump’s fathoming.

America had an unpleasant job that needed doing. The president of the United States had surrounded himself with people who lied about their contacts with highly placed Russians. He had fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, and within hours he personally assured the Russian ambassador that he did so to shut down an inquiry into these lies.

It was possible all this could be explained as the product of incompetence and naivete, because Trump had been utterly unprepared for the presidency and was surrounded by gangsters and clowns.

But it was also possible something intentional was going on.

Someone had to sort out the facts. The task would be exhausting, it would be thankless and it would likely end in some degree of vilification.

Mueller’s report has not yet been published, and there will be more to say about it when more of it has been seen. Perhaps parts of it will remain secret for years, if not decades. But we can say that Mueller ran the tightest ship Washington has seen in a very long time, leakproof and diligent. And it appears he was more than fair to the president and the first family. According to Attorney General William Barr, Mueller alleged no collusion with the Russians.

That seems more than fair. Maybe the president will apologise now for his many months of attacks on the silent Mueller. “I’m sorry,” Trump might say, “I guess you weren’t on a witch hunt after all. I guess you didn’t hire a bunch of partisan hacks, as I repeatedly charged. Thank you for doing your job with honesty and integrity.”

Nothing like an apology From trump yet, Just a typical misrepresentation of the summary findings.

On ‘Obstruction of Justice’ the Attorney General’s letter states that the Special Counsel said “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

Mueller found no evidence of collusion, and  “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offence’.

But what was clear during the investigation was that claims from both the media and Trump were inappropriate.

The Mueller report should put an end to questions of collusion, but what appears to be an exemplary investigation by Muller is in stark contrast to the performances of the President and the media. If neither change their approach to their respective jobs then the disrepute of politics and political reporting remains a stain on the United States.

 

US Attorney General’s letter to Congress on Mueller report

The US Attorney General William Barr’s summary letter to Congress on the Mueller investigation has been released.

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in it’s election interference activities”.

Mueller handed responsibility on whether to proceed on possible obstruction of justice to the Attorney General.

The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

 

Click to access AG%20March%2024%202019%20Letter%20to%20House%20and%20Senate%20Judiciary%20Committees.pdf

Trump keeps trashing his Attorney General

As others have expressed here, it is easy to become numb to what Donald Trump says. Incredulity is turning into boredom due to the number of outrageous things he says.

Media don’t help as they keep reporting on stupid but trivial things, like his comments on the hurricane Florence flooding “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water”. Mocking Trump is like breathing air.

But Trump’s ongoing involvement and interference in judicial matters and investigations is (or should be) a major concern.

Like Trump says ‘hard to imagine’ Kavanaugh guilty of allegation

Trump conceded that “we’ll have to make a decision” if Ford’s account proves convincing.

“I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said.

This is mild involvement by Trump’s standards, but it would normally be prudent for President stay right out of things like this (Trump us not known for prudence).

However some of the most serious interference from Trump is his ongoing attacks on his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Hill.TV INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE: Trump eviscerates Sessions: ‘I don’t have an attorney general’

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,”

“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it”

“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

“He gets in and probably because of the experience that he had going through the nominating when somebody asked him the first question about Hillary Clinton or something he said ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself”.

“And now it turned out he didn’t have to recuse himself. Actually, the FBI reported shortly thereafter any reason for him to recuse himself. And it’s very sad what happened.”

What Trump seems to be sad about is that Sessions is acting for the United States of America, as he absolutely should be, and not in Trump’s own personal interests.

And as is common, Trump is wrong in the recusal.  Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee:

“I recused myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing on my part during the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation, 28 CFR 45.2, required it.”

Trump appears to see himself as above the law.

He has been trashing Sessions for some time, because Sessions is not doing what he wants, and doesn’t do what Trump says he wants him to do.

Trump has the power to sack Sessions. That he hasn’t done that despite his ongoing criticism suggests that it has been made clear to him that it would likely lead to a crisis in his presidency, and would possibly making his own position untenable.

If Trump sacked sessions it may (and should) precipitate mass resignations from his administration, and it may even force Republican politicians to stand up for their country rather than rolling over for Trump.

Operation Burnham inquiry warranted ‘in the public interest’

Attorney General David Parker announced this afternoon that there would be an inquiry into Operation Burnham, the attackn in Afghanistan that has been criticised in the book Hit & Run.

“In deciding whether to initiate an inquiry I have considered material including certain video footage of the operation. The footage I have reviewed does not seem to me to corroborate some key aspects of the book Hit & Run.

“The footage suggests that there was a group of armed individuals in the village.

“However, the material I have seen does not conclusively answer some of the questions raised by the authors.

“In light of that, and bearing in mind the need for the public to have confidence in the NZDF, I have decided in the public interest that an inquiry is warranted.”

The inquiry’s terms of reference include:

  • The allegations of civilian deaths.
  • The allegation that NZDF knowingly transferred a man to a prison where he would be tortured.
  • The allegation that soldiers returned to the valley to destroy homes on purpose.

Approval for Inquiry into Operation Burnham

Attorney-General David Parker has today announced a Government Inquiry will be held into Operation Burnham and related events.

The operation undertaken in Tirgiran Valley, Afghanistan, by NZSAS troops and other nations’ forces operating as part of the International Security Assistance Force took place on 21-22 August 2010.

It was the subject of the book Hit & Run by authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson which contained a number of serious allegations against New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel involved in the operation.

“In deciding whether to initiate an inquiry I have considered material including certain video footage of the operation,” says Mr Parker.

“The footage I have reviewed does not seem to me to corroborate some key aspects of the book Hit & Run.

“The footage suggests that there was a group of armed individuals in the village.

“However, the material I have seen does not conclusively answer some of the questions raised by the authors.

“In light of that, and bearing in mind the need for the public to have confidence in the NZDF, I have decided in the public interest that an inquiry is warranted.”

Commissioning this inquiry does not mean the Government accepts the criticisms of the actions of SAS forces on the ground, although their conduct is squarely within the inquiry’s purview and will be thoroughly examined.\

The inquiry, established under s 6(3) of the Inquiries Act 2013, will be undertaken by two persons of the highest repute, former Supreme Court judge Sir Terence Arnold and Sir Geoffrey Palmer. As required by statute, it will act independently, impartially and fairly.

Given the classified nature of some information that will be made available to the inquiry, it is possible that two forms of report will be provided; one a public version and a second version referring to classified or confidential information.

Mr Parker said the inquiry would seek to establish the facts in connection with the allegations, examine the treatment by NZDF of reports of civilian casualties following the operation, and assess the conduct of the NZDF forces, including compliance with the applicable rules of engagement and international humanitarian law and the authorisation – military and, if any, political – for Operation Burnham.

It will assess the status – civilian or insurgent – of the Afghan nationals in the area of the operation.

It will also assess the extent to which NZDF rules of engagement authorised “targeted killings” and whether this was clearly explained to those involved in approving the rules of engagement.

The accuracy of public statements made by NZDF and the accuracy of written briefings to ministers about civilian casualties will also fall within the inquiry’s scope.

The inquiry will also be asked to examine whether NZDF’s transport and/or transfer of suspected insurgent Qari Miraj in 2011 to the Afghanistan National Directorate of Security in Kabul was proper given, amongst other matters, the June 2010 decision of the High Court of England and Wales in R (on the application of Evans) v Secretary of State for Defence.

The inquiry, in common with all inquiries under the Inquiries Act, has no power to determine the civil, criminal, or disciplinary liability of any person. However it may, if justified, make findings of fault and recommend further steps be taken to determine liability.

Inquiry_into_Operation_Burnham__Terms_of_Reference.pdf

Media_Q_and_A_Operation_Burnham.pdf

Contempt of Court law to be considered by Parliament

It’s a bit ironic that after nine years as Attorney-General it is from Opposition that Chris Finlayson is got a bill into Partliament that will consider Contempt of Court law changes that would toughen up on criticism of judges, especially via social media, and also publishing information that could prejudice an arrested person’s right to a fair trial .

Audrey Young (NZH): It took a move to Opposition for Chris Finlayson to make progress on contempt law

A proposed new law of contempt, setting boundaries for what can and can’t be said by the media, particularly social media, about defendants, trials and judges is going to be examined by Parliament.

One of the most controversial parts of the bill is likely to be penalties for making untrue allegations against judges, which will attract a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years imprisonment.

Some abuse of judges was calculated to intimidate judges individually or collectively, said the bill’s sponsor, former Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

I’ve seen what look like examples of this on a particular website that shouldn’t (mustn’t) be named here (for legal reasons).

“Such abuse is capable of undermining the rule of law. Judicial independence and impartiality is at the heart of the rule of law.”

The previous National Government commissioned the Law Commission to look at the law of contempt. It came up with plenty of recommendations and a draft bill to implement them.

But Finlayson was unable to convince the Ministry of Justice to make it a legislative priority so it languished.

So in Opposition Finlayson adopted the Law Commission’s bill as his own private member’s bill – which was recently drawn from the biscuit tin in the regular ballots for members’ bills.

So it is just by the luck of the draw that has enabled this to be considered by Parliament.

And Justice Minister Andrew Little will seek the support of his Cabinet colleagues to adopt it as a government bill after it passes its first reading, which is likely to be next week.

“Now that it has been drawn and has to be considered, we might as well do it properly,” Little said.

That’s very good to see from Little. He has made a good start as Minister of Justice in the Labour led government, on more than this issue.

The Administration of Justice (Reform of Contempt of Court) Bill will set those laws out in one place and come up with rules that will apply equally to mainstream media, and people commenting or blogging, tweeting or posting publicly through social media on the courts.

It will also cover disruptions in court, jurors who breach the rules by doing their own independent research, the enforcement of court orders, and malicious attacks on judges.

A lot of the time, people did not know what the boundaries were, including tweeters sitting in the back of a courtroom.

“I want to get this thing properly debated for the sake of the system,” said Finlayson.

“I think there is a danger in our system that we become obsessed when looking at justice questions with ‘law and order’ type issues and we don’t look at the other areas that are so fundamental to the efficient and successful running of our state.”

One of the issues on which he expected there would be debate was on criticism of judges.

Judges should not be immune from criticism for their decisions, he said.

“I’m not concerned about judges being criticised for their judgments but I am concerned about the abuse of judges and the attempts to intimidate judges, be it individually or collectively.

“Fair criticism is different from abuse.”

The aim of the bill was to make sure the boundaries were clear and people knew what they can and cannot do.

In the modern era of social media it will be good for this to be clarified.

Little has some concerns about what limitations are put on the criticism of judges.

Free speech versus the functions and  integrity of the judicial system.

What the bill does:

  • A person or organisation commits an offence if it publishes information that could prejudice an arrested person’s right to a fair trial, and is liable for up to six months imprisonment or a fine of $25,000 for an individual or $100,000 for an organisation.
  • Publishing untrue accusations against a judge punishable by up to two years imprisonment and a $50,000 fine for individuals and $100,000 for organisations.
  • A person wilfully disrupting court proceedings may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to three months.
  • A person disobeying a court order may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to three months.
  • A juror convicted of intentionally researching information relevant to the case is liable for a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to three months.

That’s what is being considered by Parliament, it hasn’t been agree on yet.

The first one is of particular interest to users of social media – it is important that the law is clear on this.

Little has concerns about the last one.

He is also opposed to making it an offence for jurors to research cases…

“Most jurors get a pittance as a substitute for their wages. Most are reluctant to be there and they are doing it out of a civic duty,” he said.

“A better balance needs to be struck but that can be dealt with at select committee.”

I would think it would be difficult to discover let alone convict a juror for intentionally researching information relevant to the case.

AG Sessions fires former FBI #2 McCabe

The Washington political circus continues.

Reuters – Former FBI No.2 McCabe fired; claims he is being targeted

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired the FBI’s former No.2 official Andrew McCabe Friday, prompting McCabe to say he is being targeted because he is a crucial witness into whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Sessions, in a statement on Friday, said he felt justified in firing McCabe after the Justice Department’s internal watchdog found he leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions.

“The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability,” Sessions said.

But McCabe, who played a crucial role in the bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, denied those claims and said he is facing retaliation by the Trump administration.

In a lengthy statement, McCabe said he believes he is being politically targeted because he corroborated former FBI Director James Comey’s claims that Trump tried to pressure him into killing the Russia probe.

Trump ousted Comey last year and acknowledged in a televised interview that he fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”

McCabe’s dismissal came two days before his 50th birthday, when he would have been eligible to retire from the Federal Bureau of Investigation with his full pension. The firing – which comes nine months after Trump fired Comey – puts McCabe’s pension in jeopardy.

The timing seems a bit nasty.

That’s also nasty -especially considering this just before Christmas:

It’s not exactly going to encourage people to work for the White House or under White House appointees.

Chaos continues.