On Merrick Garland’s Confirmation

As you may, or may not, have heard, Merrick Garland was confirmed, by a vote of 70-30, as the next Attorney General for the United States a few minutes ago. That is a good thing. Garland is a competent, and stabilizing, presence that will be very good for the Department of Justice. And, man can the DOJ use that about now.

But, before people do too many backflips, remember that Merrick Garland is no avenging liberal hero. He has a horrible record on criminal justice issues, and very long has. He is a built in stabilizer, but certainly not as the once and future cure for the ills of the justice system, which at his new job will be front and center.

Is Garland the cure? No. He is an admirable and good man that will restore some bit of normalcy and, hopefully, consistent competence to the DOJ. That alone means everything right now in the wake of the disastrous Jeff Sessions, Matt Whitaker and William Barr eras under Donald Trump. The resetting and stabilization is critical right now.

There are a bunch of just below the AG nominees Biden has made that are great. As Marcy noted previously, Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke are excellent people. And, yes, even Lisa Monaco (as DAG) will likely be a competent and worthy person in leadership. Didn’t see me saying that ten years ago. There are also outstanding former DOJ people like Sam Bagenstos and Sasha Samberg-Champion returning to government, even if not at the DOJ, and they are taking pay hits to do so. Be thankful for those, and similar, people because that is also truly good stuff.

In short, all are tectonic shifts in the right direction from the disastrous Trump years. But, as to Garland, let’s wait and see. He was a good and stable choice. Before you place your hopes and dreams on him too much, however, let him show his work. On criminal justice, his history of work has been, shall we say, rather uneven. There were several warts when Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court, and there still are. For now though, great.

On Conspiracy

In comments, Harpie went back to Elizabeth de la Vega’s summary of conspiracy.

Since Eureka brought this up above, I figured it might be timely to post it again:

Conspiracy Law – Eight Things You Need to Know.
One: Co-conspirators don’t have to explicitly agree to conspire & there doesn’t need to be a written agreement; in fact, they almost never explicitly agree to conspire & it would be nuts to have a written agreement!
Two: Conspiracies can have more than one object- i.e. conspiracy to defraud U.S. and to obstruct justice. The object is the goal. Members could have completely different reasons (motives) for wanting to achieve that goal.
Three: All co-conspirators have to agree on at least one object of the conspiracy.
Four: Co-conspirators can use multiple means to carry out the conspiracy, i.e., releasing stolen emails, collaborating on fraudulent social media ops, laundering campaign contributions.
Five: Co-conspirators don’t have to know precisely what the others are doing, and, in large conspiracies, they rarely do.
Six: Once someone is found to have knowingly joined a conspiracy, he/she is responsible for all acts of other co-conspirators.
Seven: Statements of any co-conspirator made to further the conspiracy may be introduced into evidence against any other co-conspirator.
Eight: Overt Acts taken in furtherance of a conspiracy need not be illegal. A POTUS’ public statement that “Russia is a hoax,” e.g., might not be illegal (or even make any sense), but it could be an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

de la Vega has been consistently good on conspiracy going back to the first failed impeachment effort and the lead up to it. I posted this at least once before, think on a post I penned, but not sure, so am going to put this out here again.

At any rate, here are a set of model jury instructions (that I have previously patterned off of for real trials) for a conspiracy case. They are for a drug case, but conspiracy is conspiracy, and the law is pretty much the same, and has long been. What Harpie cited from de la Vega is correct. But to give you a look at how it actually goes down in a court, check out actual pattern jury instructions, because real instructions are always the guide in a real criminal trial. Substitute in the elements for 18 USC §373 and 18 USC §2101, or any of the other various putative crimes being discussed ad nauseam and you will get the picture.

As you read through them, keep in mind the question of “what holes could a competent criminal defense attorney drive a truck through here given a beyond a reasonable doubt burden?”

Now would Trump acquire an actually competent criminal defense attorney were, in the unlikely event he is really charged? Now there is a great question! But, if he were to, there are currently still a LOT of holes. People are getting ahead of themselves. Read the instructions, they scan pretty fast. But keep in mind that once you charge and put a defendant, any defendant, on trial, things are not as easy as they are here or on social media.

Trump Impeachment II – The Beginning

And so it begins any minute now. Don’t fret, it will not take long, because Pelosi, Schumer and the Dems have so decreed out of political cowardice. Is that politically expedient at the start of the nascent Biden Administration? Maybe! But they all took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not their political expediency.

So where are we at the onset of proceedings?

The tentative schedule is this:

First, there will be a debate over the “Constitutionality” of even holding and impeachment trial at all. This is a ridiculous argument, and will fail, but with much cowardly GOP Senate support.

There will be up to four hours equally divided between the impeachment managers and the president’s counsel to debate the constitutionality of the trial. Again, that will fail as to Trump. Then there will be sixteen hours per side to argue their case. It will be predictable baloney from both sides, with no actual evidence submitted and admitted. And, no, “video presentations” do not count, that is simply argument by propaganda. Each party’s arguments are delimited by not being able to go over two days, and cannot exceed eight hours each.

“After the presentations are done, senators will have a total of four hours to question both sides. Then there will be four hours divided equally between the parties for arguments on whether the Senate will consider motions to subpoena witnesses and documents, if requested by the managers.

There will be up to four hours equally divided for closing arguments, along with deliberation time if requested by the senators before the vote takes place.”

Much of the above, though not all, came from an excellent report by Barbara Sprunt and Diedre Walsh at NPR.

Is this year another stupid and truncated show trial by Pelosi, Schumer and the Dems, in order to look like they are doing something while they are cowering? Of course it is. Same as it ever was.

There will also be discussion of an “organizing resolution”. Don’t fall for that, the parameters have already been agreed to behind the scenes.

Lastly, while joint stipulations may always be made, otherwise the general parameters are controlled by the extant Senate Rules on Impeachment. They are here for your reference.

And here is Leahy’s feckless “Dear Colleagues” letter.

Donnie The Wimp And His Impeachment Coffin

There was a pretty astounding report by CNN early this morning depicting the, and I am being kind here, disarray in Trump’s impeachment defense. The gist is this:

Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, who were expected to be two of the lead attorneys, are no longer on the team. A source familiar with the changes said it was a mutual decision for both to leave the legal team. As the lead attorney, Bowers assembled the team.
Josh Howard, a North Carolina attorney who was recently added to the team, has also left, according to another source familiar with the changes. Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, from South Carolina, are no longer involved with the case, either.

No other attorneys have announced they are working on Trump’s impeachment defense.

A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office. Trump was not receptive to the discussions about how they should proceed in that regard.

That sounds ominous!

But here is the part that even more stuck out to me:

“As the lead attorney, Bowers assembled the team.”

and, most notably,

“The attorneys had not yet been paid any advance fees and a letter of intent was never signed.”

Lol, for the uninitiated, that means Trump never paid a dime as to a retainer, and never signed a fee agreement. That not only is inappropriate, in most jurisdictions it is, in and of itself, unethical. Even when the lawyer is agreeing to do work pro bono, there is a retainer agreement. Always, because real lawyers don’t blithely hang their asses out on the line without specified parameters. That is just how it is.

As I said on Twitter:

A rather large discussion ensued. Go look if you so desire, but I will stand by that for now. No, I do not really know, but it almost makes sense.

Trump is not cash rich. Expending collected campaign funds to perpetrate a fraudulent defense might be a dicey proposition. And no competent attorneys are lining up to pitch that. Trump may literally be down to Rudy and Jenna Ellis. Dershowitz and Jon Turley are squirrely as shit, but even they may not be that stupid.

So, where art thou go Donald?

Really Big Girl

Yeah, she was that and everything. RBG became a thing, not just in hip hop, but popular culture.

And she earned every ounce of it.

I once knew Sandra Day. Was she as much of a hero, especially to progressives that I would rather associate with? Nope.

But RBG came to be the successor, and a beyond awesome one. She set the scene. The scene that now lets Sotomayor and Kagan be on the court.

But, now, what? McConnell and Trump have laid clear their intentions. When evil jackasses tell you who they are, believe them.

RBG did not make it to the final lap. But you can. Know what is at stake, and get off your ass. The one thing the Democrats have never taken seriously enough is courts and judicial policy. I have been screaming this forever. So has has Dahlia Lithwick.

It is time for better attention to be paid.

Franks A Lot

Okay, I have been complaining about the lack of understanding of Franks v. Delaware warrant evaluation standards forever. I know there were ones previous, in other times, I am pretty sure there have been more times since, even if less formally on Twitter or in comments, but here was a big one in relation to the continued insanity over the appropriate warrant, and subsequent reauthorizations, as to Carter Page.

The universe of commenters on this, including Michael Horowitz, the vaunted DOJ IG, have ignored the mark. Not short sold it, but totally ignored it. Between Horowitz’s deficient 435 page “report” and, now, the SSCI Report, all 952 pages of it, neither has addressed the applicable standard as to Page. That is 1,387 pages of refusing to mention for a word, much less discuss for a sentence, paragraph or page, the actual controlling authority on the issue. And, no, no discussion of it all is honest or complete without it.

But, as I have relentlessly pointed out, Page was absolutely a proper CI target. The warrant issue is about far more than the whiny Carter Page. It is about much more than FISC warrants. The same law applies to all, and it is being made a joke through through the Page nonsense.

The latest example is this case in NY State Court. I am not going to embed a bunch of tweets, read the thread for yourself. The pertinent case is described in this thread by Sam Feldman, as noted by Carissa Byrne Hessick. Later Scott Greenfield noted, appropriately, that the instant decision was done by the court, even if bogusly, under the old 1974 NY State case of People v. Darden. But Darden is bad law in every regard. For a modern court to glom onto it is maybe not stunning, but extremely disconcerting.

Darden, among other infirmities, relied on Roviaro v. US, a case that so stands for the opposite of what the Darden court advocated, it is hilarious. Literally the exact opposite.

But this is where the discussion is now thanks to the bogus discussion regarding the curious and disturbing character Carter Page. The micro analysis of all this has been ludicrous. If you cannot address the basic standards of warrants, how they apply to the initial, and then reauthorization warrants, for Page, and far more than just noisy FISC ones, it is a failed discussion.

I think a lot of people did not take me seriously as I relentlessly said that the warrant issue, whether FISC or Title III, was about far more than Carter Page. Well, here is a concrete example, even under related state law. There are serious issues here, and they go far deeper than the charlatan Carter Page. These issues are universal and critical.

Maybe Trump Really Is Never Going To Leave

Now that Rayne has you all festive for the holidays, I am gonna leave you with one more little nugget of joy. Trump really is planning on not leaving even if he loses badly to Biden. I have kind of poo poohed this kind of talk, but this morning on Morning Joe, there was a discussion with former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth and Tom Rogers, a journalist and original founder of both CNBC and MSNBC. These are two very smart and credible people, and they are pretty convincing. If you can find a video clip of their appearance, post the link and I’ll add it in to the post, it is harrowing.

But they have an article out together now in Newsweek entitled “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President”. Also harrowing, and they are convinced that this is really Trump’s plan.

Wirth and Rogers lay out two paths they expect Trump to take. The first is the obvious one pretty much everybody is aware of, severe voter suppression and goon poll watchers challenging voters pretty much anywhere and everywhere, along with claiming fraud as to the vote by mail. But it is the second path that is truly frightening.

This spring, HBO aired The Plot Against America, based on the Philip Roth novel of how an authoritarian president could grab control of the United States government using emergency powers that no one could foresee. Recent press reports have revealed the compilation by the Brennan Center at New York University of an extensive list of presidential emergency powers that might be inappropriately invoked in a national security crisis. Attorney General William Barr, known for his extremist view of the expanse of presidential power, is widely believed to be developing a Justice Department opinion arguing that the president can exercise emergency powers in certain national security situations, while stating that the courts, being extremely reluctant to intervene in the sphere of a national security emergency, would allow the president to proceed unchecked.

With this, Trump has begun to lay the groundwork for the step-by-step process by which he holds on to the presidency after he has clearly lost the election:

1. Biden wins the popular vote, and carries the key swing states of Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by decent but not overwhelming margins.

2. Trump immediately declares that the voting was rigged, that there was mail-in ballot fraud and that the Chinese were behind a plan to provide fraudulent mail-in ballots and other “election hacking” throughout the four key swing states that gave Biden his victory.

3. Having railed against the Chinese throughout the campaign, calling Biden “soft on China,” Trump delivers his narrative claiming the Chinese have interfered in the U.S. election.

4. Trump indicates this is a major national security issue, and he invokes emergency powers, directing the Justice Department to investigate the alleged activity in the swing states. The legal justification for the presidential powers he invokes has already been developed and issued by Barr.

5. The investigation is intended to tick down the clock toward December 14, the deadline when each state’s Electoral College electors must be appointed. This is the very issue that the Supreme Court harped on in Bush v. Gore in ruling that the election process had to be brought to a close, thus forbidding the further counting of Florida ballots.

6. All four swing states have Republican control of both their upper and lower houses of their state legislatures. Those state legislatures refuse to allow any Electoral College slate to be certified until the “national security” investigation is complete.

7. The Democrats will have begun a legal action to certify the results in those four states, and the appointment of the Biden slate of electors, arguing that Trump has manufactured a national security emergency in order to create the ensuing chaos.

8. The issue goes up to the Supreme Court, which unlike the 2000 election does not decide the election in favor of the Republicans. However, it indicates again that the December 14 Electoral College deadline must be met; that the president’s national security powers legally authorize him to investigate potential foreign country intrusion into the national election; and if no Electoral College slate can be certified by any state by December 14, the Electoral College must meet anyway and cast its votes.

9. The Electoral College meets, and without the electors from those four states being represented, neither Biden nor Trump has sufficient votes to get an Electoral College majority.

10. The election is thrown into the House of Representatives, pursuant to the Constitution. Under the relevant constitutional process, the vote in the House is by state delegation, where each delegation casts one vote, which is determined by the majority of the representatives in that state.

11. Currently, there are 26 states that have a majority Republican House delegation. 23 states have a majority Democratic delegation. There is one state, Pennsylvania, that has an evenly split delegation. Even if the Democrats were to pick up seats in Pennsylvania and hold all their 2018 House gains, the Republicans would have a 26 to 24 delegation majority.

12. This vote would enable Trump to retain the presidency.

Is this nuts? Sure. Is it possible? Yes, given who and what Trump and Barr are, it may well be.

Trump’s America: Racism, Imperious Police and CNN Under Arrest in Minneapolis

There is a surreal situation going down in Minneapolis. The CNN crew covering it was literally arrested on live air. Not all of them understand you, just the reporter, Oscar Jimenez, that was a minority, the white correspondent a few feet away was, of course, not. The stormtroopers, and, yes that is exactly what they look and are acting like, were totally polite to the white guy.

And then they arrested the CNN camera guy documenting the bizarre arrest of the correspondent. While doing so, the camera was on the ground, still live, documenting it all for posterity. You could then see the camera being dragged off by a state trooper, still on and broadcasting. As I said, surreal.

When last seen the CNN camera was still on and broadcasting from a black space that appears to be the trunk of a police car. I guess the camera, though hostage to thugs, at least is alive and does not have a knee on its neck.

As they say, the situation is developing…..

Wait, there is an update! The camera is now in an elevator, and still live!

Oh, and what could have fomented all this? Yeah, The American President:

Judge Emmet Sullivan Makes A Serious Holiday Move on DOJ and Flynn

I have expressed some qualms over Judge Sullivan naming John Gleeson as the court’s amicus on the crazy Flynn situation. But today there is a new player on the pitch, Beth Wilkinson.

Judge Sullivan has engaged a hired gun.

Folks need to understand the Yoda like move Emmet Sullivan made in hiring Beth Wilkinson.

First off, she is an absolutely fantastic advocate and tough as hell.

Second, she has serious DOJ cred.

Third, she still has major friends at Paul Weiss, and that counts below the surface.

Fourth, Brett Kavanaugh may well owe his Supreme Court seat to her.

Fifth, her husband is David Gregory, the former NBC guy and now senior political guy at CNN. That is some media contact potential whether direct or indirect.

Also, again, she is really kick ass. Beth Wilkinson is a serious player, and a killer advocate. Judge Emmet Sullivan is not going quietly into the night. I actually thought that, given the short response time the DC Circuit ordered, Sullivan and his clerks might do the response themselves. Obviously they will still have major input, but this battle is joined, and in a very big way.

Trump Pride and DOJ Prejudice: The Flynn Volume

As Marcy has already reported, the DOJ has formally moved to dismiss the Flynn case. Here is the pleading they filed. (Marcy also addressed here) Trump is, of course, calling the DOJ who just did his command influence bidding “scum” and accusing them of “treason”.

Let’s start with a little Q and A:

Q: Can DOJ do that?

A: Sure, but it is bizarre beyond belief.

Q: Does this mean the case is over?

A: No. As I have repeatedly said, the plea has been accepted, after full allocution, not just once (Judge Contreras), but twice (Judge Sullivan) and, arguably thrice (also Judge Sullivan). There is a technical difference between a plea being entered and a plea being accepted. The Flynn plea was very much accepted. Multiple times.

Q: So, what does that mean?

A: It means that there was a formal finding of guilt entered by the court.

Q: So is that finding of guilt gone now?

A: No. The DOJ can file whatever it wants, the final decision still remains with Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Q: Does that mean “Flynn is an innocent man” as Trump is bellowing?

A: No. Flynn has sworn to his guilt under oath and penalty of perjury multiple times, and the court accepted his sworn guilt.

Q: So, what happens now?

A: Yeah, I don’t know the answer to that. We shall have to await Judge Sullivan entering in with his thoughts. I have no idea where Judge Sullivan will go. For the sake of the rule of law, and, frankly, legal sanity, I hope Judge Sullivan takes this as the full on broadside to law and intelligence that it really is. As I importune relentlessly, courts and law are a function of men and women. They are us. They speak and act for us. Judge Emmet Sullivan is not a man that will take this affront to justice lightly. Nor should he. It is absurd, the court should treat it that way, and, if anything, sanctions ought be imposed on Powell and Flynn.

Okay, where does that leave things? Now that is not a very easy question to answer. Here are a few thoughts though. The first one is “prejudice”. It is absolutely critical whether a dismissal request by the DOJ (or any prosecutor for that matter) is “with prejudice” or “without prejudice”. Here, Tim Shea, and it is crystal clear that means Bill Barr, demands that any dismissal be “with prejudice”. That means that no case based on these facts could ever be brought again. It is a pardon by a corrupt DOJ, without Trump ever having to even issue a pardon. Anybody, including the national press, that describes it differently is straight up lying.

The statute of limitations on a 18 USC §1001 charge for false statements is (as pretty much any charge possible against Flynn save for an ongoing conspiracy allegation) is five years, which is the general statute in federal criminal law. But, you see, that exceeds the time of Trump and Barr if Trump is not reelected. And therein lies the problem and why Mr. Barr and his lackeys Shea and Jensen, are apoplectic to make any dismissal “with prejudice”. Does this ever occur in real criminal justice life? No. Hell no. Of course not, in fact it is always “without prejudice”. Always, unless the government is caught by incontrovertible facts beyond dispute, and even then they usually demur to “without prejudice” dismissal.

But, wait, there’s more, I have other questions! Let’s talk about “materiality” for a moment. It is replete in the position taken by Bill Barr, through his cutout, Tim Shea. To be kind to Mr. Shea, he is an eggplant installed by Trump and Barr. And, here, the eggplant has signed this pleading on his own. Normally any such pleading would be signed by underlings, including career prosecutors. But not here. Why? That is not clear, but apparently no career track lawyer in DOJ would undersign this garbage. So there is that.

Back to “materiality”: Peruse pages 12-20 of the DOJ motion. Good grief, law review articles will spend hundreds of pages in the future laughing at the arguments Tim Shea has signed off on. Because, presumably nobody but a Trump/Barr appointed toady would even touch that. Yes, it is truly that absurd.

Okay, a parting shot: Normally, when a client puts an attorney’s work in dispute through claims of malpractice, all attorney/client privilege is waived. That is generally how it works. And if Flynn and his Fox News addled lawyer Sid Powell have not accused Rob Kelner and Covington & Burling of malpractice, then there has never been such an accusation. Privilege is waived.

While I thought Judge Sullivan should have disregarded the nonsense, denied all the the Powell crazy (arguably unethical conduct) and just sentenced Flynn. Marcy was right, and I underestimated just how sick the DOJ could be under Barr.

Well, here we are. Flynn and Powell have waived privilege. The DOJ under Barr and, here, Shea, is corrupt beyond comprehension.

But the irreducible minimum is that Judge Emmet Sullivan is the one with jurisdiction and control of this case. Not Trump. Not Barr. An honest and good judge, and one that has proven that over decades. Sidney Powell was right about one, and only one, thing: The Stevens case is a template for the court to find the truth.

Emmet Sullivan is a judge that can appoint an honest and independent special prosecutor to make sure real justice is done. Trump and Barr cannot fire the truth if Judge Sullivan seeks the truth and justice. And he should, for all of us. Judge Sullivan is a lion of justice that has done this before, and he should again.

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