Bob Schwartz

Category: Government

Lesson for Trump Attorneys: The Lawyers of Watergate

“The Nixon White House initially dismissed the break-in as a “third-rate burglary,” but after a year of increasingly persistent media coverage, Congress initiated multiple investigations that exposed the involvement of more than 20 of the most powerful lawyers in the United States.”

This was going to open with a list of lawyers who are representing Trump and Trump-related enterprises—including the White House. But that list changes too fast; Trump’s chief attorney in the Mueller investigation, John Dowd, resigned just this week.

Whoever they are or will be, they have one thing in common. They are working for a client who almost certainly has engaged in unethical, if not illegal, practices—before and during his political life, including his presidency. A client who has asked others, including his attorneys, to help fix or cover-up those practices when they were in danger of coming to light. A client who is vindictive, willful, self-absorbed, not very smart, and possibly psychologically unstable. A client who will not listen to them.

All of which brings us to Nixon and the lawyers of Watergate. One difference between Nixon and Trump is that Nixon was smart, a lawyer himself and a long-time national politician who understood how government works. Nixon was also a patriot, and, at least at some point in his life, a brave man, having served with distinction in World War II.

Unfortunately, Nixon, like Trump, found himself engaged in practices that he eventually needed to hide. He enlisted a gang of henchmen to help him—and many of those men were lawyers. When they truth came out, many of those lawyers were no longer allowed to be lawyers (including Nixon), and Nixon was no longer president.

If you wonder why lawyers are leaving Trump right and left, the following suggests one of the reasons.

ABA Journal, June 2012

The Lawyers of Watergate: How a ‘3rd-Rate Burglary’ Provoked New Standards for Lawyer Ethics

The Nixon White House initially dismissed the break-in as a “third-rate burglary,” but after a year of increasingly persistent media coverage, Congress initiated multiple investigations that exposed the involvement of more than 20 of the most powerful lawyers in the United States.

At the top of the list was Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, who resigned on Aug. 8, 1974, as Congress was gearing up to conduct impeachment proceedings.

But the list also included two U.S. attorneys general, two White House counsels, an assistant attorney general and a chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

John D. Ehrlichman
Disbarred in Washington State.

John W. Dean III
Disbarred in Virginia.

Spiro T. Agnew
Disbarred in Maryland.

Charles W. Colson
Disbarred in Virginia and the District of Columbia, license suspended in Massachusetts.

Herbert W. Kalmbach
Law license in California was suspended, but reinstated in 1977.

Richard G. Kleindienst
Law license in District of Columbia suspended for a month, and censured by Arizona disciplinary authorities.

Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr
Disbarred in 1975 by the Washington Supreme Court, but petition for reinstatement was granted in 1980.

Gordon Liddy
Disbarred in New York.

Robert C. Mardian
Law licenses suspended in California and by the U.S. Supreme Court, but later reinstated.

John N. Mitchell
Disbarred in New York and from the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.

Richard M. Nixon
Disbarred in New York.

Harry L. Sears
Law license suspended in New Jersey for three years.

Donald H. Segretti
Law license suspended in California for two years.

Bradford Cook
Nebraska law license was suspended for three years.

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Trump and the Battle of Universes: Crisis on This Earth

It is painful to be reducing the future of America to a simplistic metaphor—or to a comic book concept. But here goes.

For Trump, reality is Trump. Trump Earth. Trump World. Trump Universe. Nothing else exists.

For everybody else, reality is everything else. Not-Trump Earth. Not-Trump World. Not-Trump Universe.

It is really that simple. A little practically complicated because Trump is president. But conceptually, just that simple.

The battle has already started and is likely to get worse before it gets better. For examples, see the various series in the comic book world, such as Crisis on Infinite Earths. Not pretty, with lots of collateral damage. The good news is that in the long run, the good guys and good gals win. We hope.

Normalizing Corruption: “Kushner Cos. filed false NYC housing paperwork”

Associated Press:

Kushner Cos. filed false NYC housing paperwork

NEW YORK (AP) — When the Kushner Cos. bought three apartment buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood of Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected by special rules that prevent developers from pushing them out, raising rents and turning a tidy profit.

But that’s exactly what the company then run by Jared Kushner did, and with remarkable speed. Two years later, it sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than it paid.

Now a clue has emerged as to how President Donald Trump’s son-in-law’s firm was able to move so fast: The Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.

While none of the documents during a three-year period when Kushner was CEO bore his personal signature, they provide a window into the ethics of the business empire he ran before he went on to become one of the most trusted advisers to the president of the United States.

“It’s bare-faced greed,” said Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, a tenants’ rights watchdog that compiled the work permit application documents and shared them with The Associated Press. “The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment.”

Set aside the specifics of this particular corrupt practice. Ignore the fact that Jared Kushner’s father Charlie, founder of Kushner Cos., once pled guilty to 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering, and served fourteen months in federal prison. Ignore the business, legal, political and personal practices of Donald Trump, Jared’s father-in-law and boss, and President of the United States.

Focus on this. When corruption is practiced within the context and four walls of a corrupt enterprise, corruption is normal. The only things wrong are any words or actions that brings any of those corrupt practices to light or causes an unfavorable light to shine on them. Everything else is okay, because within those four walls, corruption is normal.

Corruption is not normal. In business. In government. In politics. In the White House. It is as clear as ever that some people don’t know that, don’t believe that, and never will.

China Should Inspire More American Media Eye-Rolling

More media eye-rolling is needed in America. China, another country with cult of personality leadership and canned party-line presentations, shows us the way.

New York Times:

SHANGHAI — It was the eye roll seen across China.

As the annual meeting of the country’s legislature stretched into its second week, the event’s canned political pageantry and obsequious (and often scripted) media questions seemingly proved too much for one journalist on Tuesday.

With a fellow reporter’s fawning question to a Chinese official pushing past the 30-second mark, Liang Xiangyi, of the financial news site Yicai, began scoffing to herself. Then she turned to scrutinize the questioner in disbelief.

Looking her up and down, Ms. Liang rolled her eyes with such concentrated disgust, it seemed only natural that her entire head followed her eyes backward as she looked away in revulsion.

Captured by China’s national news broadcaster, CCTV, the moment spread quickly across Chinese social media….

On Chinese social media, GIFs and other online riffs inspired by Ms. Liang’s epic eye roll quickly proliferated, and by evening they were being deleted by government censors. Ms. Liang’s name became the most-censored term on Weibo, the microblogging platform. On Taobao, the freewheeling online marketplace, vendors began selling T-shirts and cellphone cases bearing her image.

Update: Why Trump Wanted to Be “David Dennison” in the Hush Money Agreement with Stormy Daniels (Hint: It Has to Do with Her Breasts)

Update: Following this post, I realized that “DD” are also the initials of Dirk Diggler. Diggler, the main character in the movie Boogie Nights (1997), is a well-endowed male porn star based on the famous porn actor John Holmes. So is the choice of “David Dennison” about a porn star’s breasts or about a porn star’s penis? Or both?

In the non-disclosure agreement signed by Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her relationship with Trump, he used the name David Dennison. The signature line—which according to her new lawsuit he didn’t sign—doesn’t even have that fake name. All it says is “DD”.

Why David Dennison? The initials tell it all.

Stormy Daniels bra size, reported in the multiple sites that keep track of such things, is 34DD. This is Trump’s juvenile little joke. Get it? If you’re not laughing, that’s because nothing Trump does—including his attempted jokes—is a laughing matter. Just, as he would tweet, SAD!

David Dennison and Stormy Daniels

Winnie the Pooh Censored in China

China President Xi Jinping wants to change the constitution to remain in power beyond the limit of two terms. China Digital Times  explains:

Chinese state media announced on Sunday a list of proposed amendments to China’s constitution, which are expected to be adopted next month at the National People’s Congress session in Beijing. Among the 21 proposed amendments, the one with perhaps the deepest potential impact on the future of Chinese politics and society deals with paragraph 3 of article 79, which would eradicate the current limit of PRC presidents and vice-presidents to two five-year terms. This would effectively set President Xi Jinping up to maintain his seat as president indefinitely….

Following state media’s announcement, censorship authorities began work to limit online discussion.

As part of that censorship, a growing list of terms have been blocked from being posted on the search engine Weibo. Along with seeming innocent phrases that are protest memes and obvious authors such as George Orwell, for a while the list also included the letter “N”:

N — While the letter “N” was temporarily blocked from being posted, as of 14:27 PST on February 26, it was no longer banned. At Language Log, Victor Mair speculates that this term was blocked “probably out of fear on the part of the government that “N” = “n terms in office”, where possibly n > 2.”

Most ridiculous of all is the blocking of Winnie the Pooh:

Winnie the Pooh (小熊维尼) — Images of Winnie the Pooh have been used to mock Xi Jinping since as early as 2013. The animated bear continues to be sensitive in China. Weibo users shared a post from Disney’s official account that showed Pooh hugging a large pot of honey along with the caption “find the thing you love and stick with it.”

I’ve written before about my high regard for Winnie the Pooh—the books by A.A. Milne, not the Disney version. It is great literature, not least in the character of the sweet, loyal, interesting, but seemingly not very smart bear (as he calls himself, “a bear of very little brain.”) Seemingly, because he may also be a bit of an enigmatic Zen master:

On Monday, when the sun is hot
I wonder to myself a lot:
“Now is it true, or is it not,”
“That what is which and which is what?”

I have never thought of Pooh as a political subversive. And yet, if you are a supreme ruler aiming to become eternally supreme, enemies are everywhere. Even a letter of the alphabet or a simple and adorable bear.

White House Music: Love the Way You Lie (Updated)

Update: See below for news of 2012 tweet from Trump, commenting about Rihanna’s real life abuse situation, saying that if she is dating Chris Brown “She has a death wish. A beater is always a beater.”

Donald Trump and John Kelly probably haven’t ever heard Love the Way You Lie by Eminem and Rihanna. Maybe the younger, just-resigned, spouse-abusing White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter has, though he didn’t take it personally.

If you haven’t seen the interview with Porter’s second ex-wife Jennifer Willoughby (the first was also abused), please watch it. It is one of the most articulate, honest and compelling testimonies about abuse you will see. She explains how it is possible to stay in what in retrospect looks like an impossible and dangerous relationship. She also warns Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s closest aides and Porter’s current girlfriend, to be careful.

Anyway, Love the Way You Lie popped up on a playlist today. Maybe coincidence, maybe not. Maybe the White House, still trying to figure out how to defend Porter, should listen.


Rihanna:

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
Well, that’s all right
Because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
Well, that’s all right
Because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

Eminem:

I can’t tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
And right now there’s a steel knife in my windpipe
I can’t breathe, but I still fight while I can fight
As long as the wrong feels right, it’s like I’m in flight
High off her love, drunk from her hate
It’s like I’m huffin’ paint
And I love her the more I suffer, I suffocate
And right before I’m about to drown she resuscitates me
She fuckin’ hates me, and I love it, “Wait!
Where you going?”, “I’m leaving you.” “No, you ain’t
Come back!” We’re runnin’ right back, here we go again
It’s so insane, ’cause when it’s goin’ good it’s goin’ great
I’m Superman with the wind at his back, she’s Lois Lane
But when it’s bad it’s awful, I feel so ashamed
I snap, “Who’s that dude?”, I don’t even know his name
I laid hands on him, I’ll never stoop so low again
I guess I don’t know my own strength

You ever love somebody so much
You can barely breathe when you’re with ’em?
You meet, and neither one of you even know what hit ’em
Got that warm fuzzy feelin’
Yeah, them chills used to get ’em
Now you’re gettin’ fuckin’ sick of lookin’ at ’em?
You swore you’d never hit ’em, never do nothin’ to hurt ’em
Now you’re in each other’s face
Spewin’ venom in your words when you spit ’em
You push, pull each other’s hair, scratch, claw, bit ’em
Throw ’em down, pin ’em
So lost in the moments when you’re in ’em
It’s the rage that took over, it controls you both
So they say it’s best to go your separate ways
Guess that they don’t know ya
‘Cause today, that was yesterday, yesterday is over
It’s a different day, sound like broken records playin’ over
But you promised her, next time you’d show restraint
You don’t get another chance, life is no Nintendo game
But you lied again
Now you get to watch her leave out the window
Guess that’s why they call it window pane

Now, I know we said things, did things that we didn’t mean
And we fall back into the same patterns, same routines
But your temper’s just as bad as mine is
You’re the same as me when it comes to love
You’re just as blinded, baby, please
Come back, it wasn’t you, baby, it was me
Maybe our relationship isn’t as crazy as it seems
Maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano
All I know is I love you too much to walk away though
Come inside, pick up your bags off the sidewalk
Don’t you hear sincerity in my voice when I talk?
Told you this is my fault, look me in the eyeball
Next time I’m pissed I’ll aim my fist at the drywall
Next time? There won’t be no next time!
I apologize even though I know it’s lies
I’m tired of the games, I just want her back
I know I’m a liar, if she ever tries to fuckin’ leave again
I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire

Rihanna:

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
Well, that’s all right
Because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
Well, that’s all right
Because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

 

From The Hill:

CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday resurfaced an old tweet from President Trump denouncing domestic abuse, hours after Trump praised Rob Porter, who resigned as White House staff secretary over allegations that he abused his ex-wives.

In October 2012, Trump tweeted in response to news that singer Rihanna appeared to be once again romantically paired with Chris Brown after he physically assaulted her.

“If Rihanna is dating Chris Brown again then she has a death wish,” Trump wrote. “A beater is always a beater– just watch!”

The Military Parade Trump Really Wants—Putin Style

Trump is demanding a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, just like the one he saw in France.

But what he really, really wants is one like his hero Putin puts on—especially with the lady soldiers in knee-high black boots and miniskirts (not a joke, as pictured above).

From the Mirror, 9 May 2016:

Vladimir Putin’s all-female ‘miniskirt army’ display their strength in sexist military parade.

Women troops sporting knee-high black boots and starched white uniforms – several inches above the knee.

The women marched in strict formation – and bright sunshine – to the strains of martial music and the clear delight of the macho Russian leader.

Quinnipiac University Poll: 72% of Republicans Say That Trump Is a Good Role Model for Children

Quinnipiac University National Poll :

It is important that a president be a good role model for children, 90 percent of American voters say, but President Donald Trump is not a good role model for children, these voters say 67 – 29 percent in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today.

There is almost no gender gap in grading President Trump’s standing as a role model. Every party, gender, education, age and racial group, except Republicans, say the president falls short, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll finds.

Republicans say 72 – 22 percent that Trump is a good role model for children.

Hope in a Sore American Storm

Wings of Wonder – Morton Solberg

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson, Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

The storm in America is sore.

Those of us who know American history well, who understand how American government works, who have seen it in some of its worst days, want to maintain a sense that all things must pass.

But some of us who want to see a way past the current circumstances are having trouble assembling a vision of that path.

People have confidence in the checks and balances cleverly built into American democracy, and they are right to be impressed. You cannot say enough about the brilliance of the Constitution, the platform for history’s most durable and successful democracy.

But the founders and the Constitution presuppose sufficient people, particularly leaders, of the highest qualities. The list of those qualities is long and obvious. Honest, knowledgeable, capable, intelligent, brave, selfless, compassionate, just, on and on. There was never any expectation that America would be led by saints, just that when people and matters of government got out balance, other people and matters would step up to make it right.

There has never before been a time when it seemed there were not enough of those people with those qualities at the highest levels. We had no idea what happens to the elegance of constitutional America in those circumstances. Until now.

America—the America that knows and believes in the Constitution, American history, the rule of law, the system of checks and balances—must continue to plan and strategize a way past. But mere confidence that this is just one more difficulty that will be dissolved by electoral democracy, time and the American spirit may be misplaced. Which leaves us with hope. That thing with feathers, singing its tune.