Category Archives: Politics

Iron Man to Challenge Paul Ryan

Randy Brice

Paul Ryan is more unpopular nationally than Donald Trump: a recent Pew Research study found only 29% of Americans approve of Ryan’s performance. Yet what matters most to a Congressman is how he is viewed in his district. I haven’t been able to find a recent local poll; historically Ryan has been more popular at home than nationally, but the weakness of the national number has led some to ask Is Paul Ryan actually vulnerable in 2018?.

Enter Randy Brice, the Democratic challenger, with a first-rate declaration of candidacy video:

Good stuff.

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Trump Lawyer Ethics Update

Further to my post noting that Trump’s personal lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz appeared to be giving legal advice in a jurisdiction where he was not admitted to practice, I now learn that the Campaign for Accountability has filed a bar complaint against Kasowitz in DC; someone else filed a similar complaint in New York, where Kasowitz is admitted.

The Above the Law blog says “it’s unlikely this ends with Marc Kasowitz getting in ethical trouble” but I don’t see why not.  I can see why this wouldn’t necessarily be a big violation, all things considered, so I would be shocked to see a major sanction like a suspension, but I’d also be somewhat surprised if there wasn’t at least a wrist slap somewhere.

Posted in Law: Ethics, Trump | 2 Comments

Trump’s Lawyer is not a Member of the DC Bar?

NYT reports on Trump’s personal lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz giving what looks like awfully convenient (for him and for Trump) legal advice to White House staffers that they don’t need to lawyer up. As the NYT explains:

He told aides gathered in one meeting who had asked whether it was time to hire private lawyers that it was not yet necessary, according to another person with direct knowledge.

Such conversations between a private lawyer for the president and the government employees who work for his client are highly unusual, according to veterans of previous administrations.

Previous administrations tried to coordinate the activities of private lawyers before letting them interact with aides. Jane Sherburne, a White House special counsel who managed ethics issues during Mr. Clinton’s first term, said Mr. Kendall was not allowed to meet with White House staff members until “we had gone through a whole exercise of having conversations with employees ourselves, talking to them about whether they wanted to retain their own counsel and telling them they didn’t have to talk to Kendall.”

Under ethics rules, Mr. Kasowitz cannot interview any official who has hired a lawyer without that lawyer’s permission, meaning it would be in his interest if administration aides did not hire their own lawyers, experts said. “It is probably easier for him to represent Trump if he doesn’t have to deal with a bunch of other lawyers,” Ms. Sherburne said, adding that she believed it was inappropriate for Mr. Kasowitz to discourage aides from hiring their own counsel.

Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush who now teaches at the University of Minnesota’s law school, said that in a worst-case scenario, a staff member might listen to Mr. Kasowitz’s advice and “end up thrown under the bus.”

What the NYT don’t mention, however, is that Kasowitz does not appear to be a member of the DC Bar. At least according to Kasowitz’s homepage at his law firm, Kasowitz is only admitted in New York. I don’t think that is any obstacle to advising the President on matters of federal law, but it might be an issue on advising the staff as to whether they need representation?

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Comey and the Chain of Command

Former FBI Director James Comey’s written testimony for tomorrow’s hearing is out. No new revelations as such, but the overall tone is is very striking.

One other interesting aspect is Comey’s relationships with his bosses. On Feb. 14 Comey did not share his concerns with his bosses, although he did share them with senior FBI officials:

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia – related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.

Nevertheless, a few days later Comey asked AG Sessions to run interference for him against the President, but Sessions didn’t:

I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply.

On March 30, Comey called the acting AG to pass the buck–it didn’t work:

I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia – related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.

What do we learn from this?

First that Comey briefed his bosses when it suited him, and kept them in the dark when he made a political judgement that there was no percentage in having them in the loop.

Second, that at least regarding the Valentine’s Day meeting with Trump, Comey was talking to the wrong higher-ups. If Comey was really afraid of being left alone in a room with Trump, he should have talked to Vice President Pence, the one man in the administration who understands the dangers of one-on-one meetings.

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Everyone Else is Linking to This

So I guess I will join the stampede.

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‘The Loneliness of Donald Trump’

This week’s must-read is Rebecca Solnit’s The Loneliness of Donald Trump.

Far briefer, and thus more reliant on being evocative than detailed, Solnit’s essay nonetheless invites comparison with Garry Wills’s book Nixon Agonisties: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man, by which I mean high praise indeed. (Recall that Wills wrote, “First-generation millionaires tend to give us libraries. The second and third generations think they should give us themselves.”)

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