Bob Schwartz

Category: Law

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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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.

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.

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.

Rosanne Cash: Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A.

The wonderful and gifted musician Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, wrote an eloquent and stirring piece in the New York Times, Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A.  It is addressed to her fellow country artists. In part:

For the past few decades, the National Rifle Association has increasingly nurtured an alliance with country music artists and their fans. You can see it in “N.R.A. Country,” which promotes the artists who support the philosophical, if not economic, thrall of the N.R.A., with the pernicious tag line “Celebrate the Lifestyle.”

That wholesome public relations veneer masks something deeply sinister and profoundly destructive. There is no other way to say this: The N.R.A. funds domestic terrorism…

A shadow government exists in the world of gun sales, and the people who write gun regulations are the very people who profit from gun sales. The N.R.A. would like to keep it that way.

The stakes are too high to not disavow collusion with the N.R.A. Pull apart the threads of patriotism and lax gun laws that it has so subtly and maliciously intertwined. They are not the same.

I know you’ll be bullied for speaking out. This is how they operate. Not everyone will like you for taking a stand. Let it roll off your back. Some people may burn your records or ask for refunds for tickets to your concerts. Whatever. Find the strength of moral conviction, even if it comes with a price tag, which it will. Don’t let them bully you into silence. That’s where their power lies — in the silence of rational voices and in the apathy of those who can speak truth to power.

In case you don’t visit the NRA Country site, here are the citizens of NRA Country that Rosanne Cash is talking to.

Labor Day: The Wobblies – Industrial Workers of the World

From the IWW History Project at the University of Washington:

Founded in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World captured the attention of a generation with its fiery rhetoric, daring tactics, and program of revolutionary industrial unionism. Pledging to replace the narrow craft unionism of the American Federal of Labor with massive industrial unions, the organization grew in numbers and reputation in the years before World War I, demonstrating an ability to organize workers neglected by the AFL, notably immigrant steel and textile workers in the Northeast, miners, timber, and harvest workers in the West.

But the IWW’s revolutionary program and class-war rhetoric yielded more enemies than allies. Frequently jailed or beaten when they tried to organize, Wobblies faced something more serious after the United States mobilized for war in 1917. Federal and state governments moved to suppress the organization, imprisoning hundreds of Wobblies, passing criminal syndicalism laws that made membership a crime. The IWW survived and is active today, but never regained the momentum of its early years.

It took Nixon 1,734 days. It took Trump only 109.

It took Nixon 1,734 days. It took Trump only 109.

Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre took place on October 20 1973. Besieged by investigations into Watergate, on that night he fired independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, which resulted in Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigning. That was 1,734 days after Nixon took office.

Today Donald Trump fired Attorney General James Comey, who was leading one of the investigations into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is 109 days after Trump took office.

It still took nearly a year, but Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, in the face of certain Senate conviction of impeachment articles passed by the House. The articles begin:

ARTICLE 1

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice. (emphasis added)

We don’t know that the Republican-led House will have the courage to hold impeachment hearings, let alone pass articles of impeachment. Unlike the Nixon situation, where Republicans cooperated in a bipartisan upholding of core American and constitutional principles, it is hard to tell exactly what some Republicans believe or will do in these circumstances.

The only thing certain is that with this firing of the FBI Director, we are in dark territory. Will it get even darker? Will we see the light? And will no Congress rid us of this turbulent president?

See The Case for Impeachment by Allan J. Lichtman

World Book Day

Today, April 23, is designated World Book and Copyright Day by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)—a day to promote reading, publishing and copyright. (In the UK, World Book Day is recognized on the first Thursday in March, but strangely World Book Night is tonight.)

UNESCO says:

World Book and Copyright Day is an opportunity to highlight the power of books to promote our vision of knowledge societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory for all citizens.

The UN says:

It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. With this in mind, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.

So today, read a book, write a book, publish and copyright a book. If you’ve already done any or all of those, start doing it again. Appreciate those who have done any of those things. And give a book to someone or read a book to someone, particularly to children.

Note: I know Cervantes, Shakespeare and Nabokov, but I admit that Garcilaso de la Vega, Maurice Druon, Haldor K. Laxness, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo are new to me. Among the things I learned is that Laxness received the 1955 Nobel Prize for Literature, and that George R.R. Martin (author of Game of Thrones) said “I think Druon is France’s best historical novelist since Alexandre Dumas, père.”

All of which serves as one more reminder of what great authors and books remain to be read, and as a reminder that World Book Day is a good time to get started.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Conspiracy

conspiracy

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Conspiracy (2001) is an HBO movie that tells the story of the Wannsee Conference, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. It was a top secret meeting of senior government officials of Nazi Germany and SS leaders to debate the merits of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution,’ the extermination of the entire Jewish population of Europe.

The excellent movie and the horrifying meeting are both mesmerizing and near-sickening. But whatever your knowledge of the Nazis and the Holocaust, you should—must—see it.

Not only because you should know more about the Nazis and the Holocaust, though you should. See it because you will discover how men of supposed culture, faith, education, and managerial and professional stature (many at the meeting were lawyers) can find themselves not just following a debased and subhuman road, but actually designing and building the road themselves. A highway to hell.

Conspiracy should be made freely available, at least on this one day. Unfortunately, besides free availability on Amazon Prime Video, you will have to pay $9.99 to stream or buy it. You can at least view some clips for free.