Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/19/18: “Boy, Am I Sick Of This Stuff” Edition

Morning….

1. Once again, the Orwell Catch-22. Ethics Alarms has several times flagged the unconscionable use of the Orwellian ” If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ in the news media and among the resistance as they try to demonize the President of the United States for insisting on basic principles of due process and legal procedure. (Here, for example.) How did the Left come to such a state where they embraced this unethical concept, which is totalitarian to the core, and the antithesis of liberal thought? It is pure corruption, and forces fair Americans to side with the President and his defenders whether they want to or not.

To get a sense of how insidious this trend is, read Jonathan Chait’s recent effort for New York Magazine. Chait isn’t an idiot, but he’s so biased that he often sounds like one, as in his ridiculously blind 2016 essay declaring that “The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral.”

This time, he makes the argument that President Trump must be guilty of horrible crimes because various Trump allies have denied that Michael Cohen will “flip” on his client, meaning that he would testify against him. Lawyers can’t testify against their clients, even if they have knowledge of criminal activity. They can testify to client efforts to involve them in criminal activity prospectively, because requests for advice regarding illegal acts are not privileged. Chait, however, doesn’t observe this distinction: he is simply towing the ugly If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ position that has been adopted, to their shame, by many left-leaning pundits and supposedly legitimate news organizations like the New York Times. Look at this section in Chait piece, for example:

Not all of Trump’s supporters feel so confident that Cohen will respect the omertà. In a conversation with Trump last Friday, Jay Goldberg, one of Trump’s lawyers, warned the president, “Michael will never stand up [for you]” if charged by the government, according to The Wall Street Journal. But why would Trump have anything to worry about, unless … Trump committed a crime that Cohen knows about?

In an interview with the Journal, Goldberg elucidated his concerns about Cohen’s loyalty and the devastating impact it would have if he cooperated with the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Goldberg explained.

Again, this makes a lot of sense as a legal defense strategy for a businessman who has probably done a lot of illegal stuff. But as a public-relations strategy, isn’t Trump’s lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He’s probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate.

Where to start? To begin with, Goldberg’s statement should get him in front of a bar disciplinary committee. Why is he telling the Wall Street Journal what he advised his client? That’s bright line legal misconduct, and when a lawyer behaves like that, he has no credibility with me.  (Yes, he should be fired.)  There is probably no powerful, active, wealthy or well-known figure in the United States who wouldn’t be concerned if his or her lawyer “cooperated” with authorities, meaning that they revealed client confidences. The information need not be criminal to be embarrassing. Lawyers are bound by their profession not to reveal their clients’ confidences. Any lawyer who would trade client confidences for his or her own interests is an unethical lawyer (and any prosecutor who would try to induce a lawyer to do this would also be engaging in an ethics violation.).

Goldberg comparing Cohen to a mob informant is jaw-droppingly stupid, but it is merely a loyalty analogy, and perhaps a reflection on Goldberg’s assessment of Cohen as a sleaze, one with which I heartily concur. (On the other hand, Goldberg does not appear to be much better.) However, Chait’s assumption that Trump’s lawyer saying ‘You shouldn’t trust this guy, he’ll throw you under the bus to save his own skin’  is not evidence of crimes by Cohen or Trump.

As I read Chait’sarticle, I assumed that eventually the author would explain exactly what dire crimes he thought Cohen and Trump were guilty of committing. He doesn’t. He doesn’t know what they are, he’s just sure that the President did them. After all, if he didn’t, why would he have to worry about his lawyer flipping?

This presumption of guilt is the beating black heart of the resistance.

2. Res Ipsa Loquitur. The involvement of New York’s prosecutors in the raid on Cohen’s files has been cited, amusingly, as evidence that no over-zealous prosecution by the Special Prosecutor was involved. It is fair to say, however, that New York’s prosecutorial culture is rife with anti-Trump animus and political bias. Here, for example is this news:

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York is moving to change New York state law so that he and other local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned, according to a letter Mr. Schneiderman sent to the governor and state lawmakers on Wednesday.

The move, if approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature, would serve notice that the legal troubles of the president and his aides may continue without the efforts of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Under the plan, Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, seeks to exempt New York’s double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons, according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. The current law and the concept of double jeopardy in general mean that a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice.

Getting Trump is apparently worth the price of undermining core Constitutional protections designed by the Founders to prevent abuse of government power and the persecution of citizens. Schneiderman wrote in the letter that he and his advisers were “confident” the legislation would withstand any constitutional scrutiny.  I am confident that it would be struck down, and that any judge or justice trying to rationalize such an outrageous measure would wear the neon label of a political hack for the rest of his or her professional life.

Blechhh.

 

42 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

42 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/19/18: “Boy, Am I Sick Of This Stuff” Edition

  1. adimagejim

    The criminalization of opposing political views is an invitation to create an entirely separate political order. This is the most dangerous period and political movement since the last civil war.

  2. valkygrrl

    2: Um why are you citing a state Attorney General to question the integrity of federal prosecutors?

    The AUSAs work for the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York who works for the US Attorney General who works for POTUS who works for the American people, at least theoretically. Personal opinions about POTUS may vary.

    The New York Attorney general works for the people of the state of New York and has no authority over the actions of AUSAs. So whatever integrity they may or may not have is completely divorced from Schneiderman’s desire to see people who receive presidential pardons get prosecuted in state court.

    Sloppy reasoning Jack

    • I made that pretty clear. New York prosecutors. New York’s big firm legal culture is virulently anti-Trump, and both AUSAs and the state prosecutors are part of that culture.Both Preet Bhararra and the current AUSA in the Southern District come from New York Big Law, as does Eric Schneiderman. Some worked for Shumer, some were state Democrats. The New York prosecutors all come from the same culture, have similar biases, are similarly politicized, as in “unethical.”

      • valkygrrl

        Working as a prosecutor in New York creates the assumption of being unethical? I don’t think you’d accept that argument if applied to a different target. I know you wouldn’t.

        Does this disdain for the legal culture extend to magistrates and judges?

        • Now now–what I said is that being part of the New York legal culture pre-disposes prosecutors to be biased against Trump, And it does. I have the listserv exchanges to prove it.

          You mean like the Hawaii judge who struck down the travel halt using a standard never employed with any other President? Yes.

          • valkygrrl

            I was thinking about Trump calling a judge biased because of his (the judge’s) Mexican heritage. I was also thinking that I could probably cause a kaboom by saying police culture is unethical ergo cops are all unethical.

            • Police culture is suspicious of blacks and has an inherent bias based on legitimately bad experiences with a disproportionate number of African-Americans. This is what I call a “pre-unethical condition.” As is black bias against police.

              Trump’s comments were ignorant of judicial culture.

  3. Chris

    I agree that “If you aren’t guilty, you have nothing to hide” is generally a pretty shitty stance, especially when used to potential justify violations of privacy.

    That said…I think it’s high time to concede that Trump acts like a guilty person would act in this scenario.

    A while back commenters here were blasting me for calling Trump “pro-Russia” and using the announcement of new sanctions by Nikki Haley as evidence that he wasn’t…at the time I argued that these sanctions were likely put in place by others in Trump’s administration and that if he agreed to them, it was reluctantly. This argument was mocked.

    Now it comes out that I was entirely correct: Trump apparently misunderstood the extent of the sanctions, thinking that they were only going to go as far as those of other countries, not knowing they would be much harsher. When he found out the extent, he freaked out and had his administration roll them back, and threw Nikki Haley under the bus, like he does everyone. The White House line became that there may have been “momentary confusion” that caused Haley to get ahead of the curve.

    Haley’s response: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

    (By the way, Haley should be named an ethics hero for this response. If she weren’t a Republican this would be the new feminist anthem; it’s better than “Nevertheless, she persisted.”)

    So we’re back to Trump being incomprehensibly pro-Russia and undermining anyone in his administration who takes a stand against them. That isn’t proof that the Russia theories are true. But it’s exactly how he’d be expected to act if they were.

    https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/18/politics/nikki-haley-james-comey-trump-russia/index.html

    • Chris, you love evaluating episodes in a vacuum for some reason. Your Trump is pro-Russia stance is seen with skepticism because it ignores more episodes and context than the ones you merely choose to focus on.

      • Other Bill

        Chris is a sophist of the first order.

      • Chris

        Michael, the episode I mention above was literally used by you as evidence that Trump was not pro-Russia, before you had all the facts.

        Are you confident the other episodes you have in mind won’t involve similar revelations?

        • That 1st disagreement we had pertained to delayed sanctions from late last year, which we learned were delayed because Trump (or his Commerce department) wasn’t comfortable with the specifics.

          This is a different round of sanctions. So, I’d flip the question back on you: how do you know this stutter step won’t involve similar revelations?

          Your problem is that you are trying to make a black-and-white case out of the subtleties of geopolitics while refusing to look at the big picture. Trump may not be as “anti-Russia” as you want him to be, but that doesn’t make him “pro-Russia”.

          Trump *may be* Pro-Russia, I don’t think there is sufficient evidence there given the big picture of all the legacy attitudes and policies he’s inherited *AND CONTINUED* that aim to contain Russian influence and the proxy conflicts we’re engaged in *against* Russia.

          Your entire line of argument relies purely on the topic of sanctions and whether or not he’s gung-ho for them.

          Sanctions are a tiny tool in a larger toolbox, and these sanctions in particular are somewhat wimpy. So minor changes in them hardly reveal anything about an individual’s overall attitude.

          • Chris

            You have a very selective memory if you think my argument or the larger “Trump is pro-Russia” argument is based “purely on the topic of sanctions.” Do I really need to remind you of Trump’s endless pro-Russia rhetoric and his praise of Vladimir Putin?

            • So you focus on one paragraph of the whole.

              Swell.

              • Chris

                At that moment? Yes. I see no admission that you were wrong about what you said in that paragraph.

                That 1st disagreement we had pertained to delayed sanctions from late last year, which we learned were delayed because Trump (or his Commerce department) wasn’t comfortable with the specifics.

                Ok, I was wrong about the specific conversation. The point still stands: Trump has been consistently opposed to sanctions in a way the rest of his administration is not. This Haley business is just the most recent, and one of the most striking, examples.

                This is a different round of sanctions. So, I’d flip the question back on you: how do you know this stutter step won’t involve similar revelations?

                I don’t know what you mean by this.

                Your problem is that you are trying to make a black-and-white case out of the subtleties of geopolitics while refusing to look at the big picture. Trump may not be as “anti-Russia” as you want him to be, but that doesn’t make him “pro-Russia”.

                He is pro-Russia in both his rhetoric and the majority of his policies regarding the country. This is unarguable.

                Trump *may be* Pro-Russia, I don’t think there is sufficient evidence there given the big picture of all the legacy attitudes and policies he’s inherited *AND CONTINUED* that aim to contain Russian influence and the proxy conflicts we’re engaged in *against* Russia.

                There is plenty of evidence, you’re just ignoring it.

      • Chris ignores headlines and makes shit up to support his political views. Just like the New York Times, he should not be trusted enough to publish a chicken soup recipe, much less anything substantive.

    • valkygrrl

      It isn’t even a if you’ve got nothing to hide. It’s how can someone flip on an innocent person?* Worrying that someone will flip on you is an implied admission of guilt which makes Goldberg’s malpractice all the worse, he’s saying he thinks his client is guilty of something.

      *Without committing perjury

      • Prosecutors have frequently used pressure and deals to get witnesses to testify falsely against a target. Cohen, who appears to have the ethics of a rattlesnake, is exactly the kind of person who might be vulnerable to such pressure. Your comment is naive.

        • valkygrrl

          Did he add those caveats to his public statements? Or did he, in front of the potential jury pool, who know all about prosecutors from Law and Order reruns and Jack McCoy would never suborn perjury thank you very much, that his client is guilty?

          • That’s not suborning perjury. Giving a witness a motivation to lie is not telling him to lie, unless you *know* he’s lying.

            • That sort of statement is what makes normal citizens detest lawyers. What should be about the truth ‘and nuthin’ but’ is a game to lawyers. Splitting hairs to remain ‘within the letter of ethics’ while violating the spirit that created the ethics in the first place.

              It might be necessary, but so are enemas, and neither are pleasant to contemplate.

              I apologize to the lawyers on this blog: most of you are decent folks, and understand the game that many out here are dismayed by. I get HOT when Jack McCoy maneuvers a witness into doing something against their personal best interest just to win a case. He is a good lawyer, by all accounts, yet callous when this occurs.

    • Isaac

      “So we’re back to Trump being incomprehensibly pro-Russia and undermining anyone in his administration who takes a stand against them.”

      Are we, though? That’s quite the hot take considering that US air strikes 2 months ago appeared to have killed several, if not dozens of Russian contractors, we just bombed Syria again, and Trump just publicly insulted Putin for supporting them.

      • Chris

        Were the Russian contractors the target, or caught up in the middle? I’ll grant you Trump’s actions in Syria don’t quite fit with the rest of his pro-Russia stance. But one condemnation of Putin after a year and a half of zero condemnations doesn’t amount to much in my book.

    • Chris wrote, “I think it’s high time to concede that Trump acts like a guilty person would act in this scenario.”

      That is the perception of a very biased person that is looking at the reactions through permanently attached industrial-strength weapons-grade thickened anti-Trump blinders. Yours is a perception that Trump is guilty until proven innocent.

      No Chris Trump is not acting like a guilty person, Trump is acting (not necessarily intelligently thoughtful actions) like a person that’s literally being attacked every day from every opposing direction (this is what the left is intentionally doing) – he’s a cornered animal and that animal may not be the evil wolf that he’s being portrayed. You would be wise to consider this as a source of those reactions, seriously considering the actions of a cornered animal would also imply that you consider innocent until proven guilty as a valued principle.

      Can you imagine what this President could do if the political left had a smidgen of respect for the office of the President of the United States and was not intentionally attacking the office, the person, and the administration for anything and everything with the presumption of guilt. The behavior of the political left, in general, since Trump was been elected has been vengeful, sophomoric, disrespectful of voters, unethical, immoral, and without regard for the Constitution or future of the united States of America.

      • Chris

        Any “cornered animal” president who was not guilty of colluding with Russia and had a modicum of intelligence would make every effort to distance himself from Russia, rather than heaping praise on Putin and undermining all members of his staff and the larger government who take a strong stance against the country.

        Then again, Trump is very dumb.

        Yes, I can imagine what Trump would do without opposition. Thank god for the opposition.

  4. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York is moving to change New York state law so that he and other local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned, according to a letter Mr. Schneiderman sent to the governor and state lawmakers on Wednesday.

    Has he even heard of ex post facto laws?

    • valkygrrl

      That would only apply if he wanted to prosecute someone pardoned before the law was passed. Trump has only pardoned Joe Arpaio and Scooter Libby, not his aids or associates.

    • Rich in CT

      Does New York law recognize presidential pardons as binding on state law?

  5. So if California and New York can just make laws up, what is to stop the other states?

    Texas dislikes abortion rights. Why should we care what the SCOTUS says, if Cali and NY get away with this crap?

    Nevada would like to control (and sell) the enormous portion of federal property within their state boundaries. Pass a law that allows it.

    North Dakota thinks oil is on indian lands… why not just take them?

    Colorado thinks pot is just fine to smoke: just pass a law… oh wait.

    There is a pattern here. The progressives are fine with progressives breaking laws, and only protest if non progressives do so. Because they are on the right side of history, or something.

    Tick, tick, tick… we are slouching towards Civil War… the shooting kind, not the cold one progressives already launched.

    • adimagejim

      More plainly said and better illustrated than my comment above. Thank you.

    • luckyesteeyoreman

      [Reply to slickwilly’s 1:36 pm]
      “Tick, tick, tick… we are slouching towards Civil War… the shooting kind, not the cold one progressives already launched.”

      I am curious and fascinated to know others’ further thoughts on how that “shooting kind” might evolve out of today’s conditions – I mean, reasoned and credible projections of what such a “civil” war might look like: how the warring parties might become organized; what strategy and tactics sides might employ; how soon, how fast, will the “shooting phase” occur from today; how long will the shooting last; what roles will external powers play; what the projected toll in lives might be; who the winners and losers will be; what the post-war humanscape might look like, coast to coast; who’s going to rule over what’s left of what, and so on. I am thinking “Syria” in all this…

      There will be chemicals. And germs. And other poisonings…

      “Disappearances” will reach historic highs…famine and thirst will pervade…

      I can only speculate on who some of the dead in such a war would be, if it ever truly breaks out. But I believe it is safe to say that among the dead will be plenty of the following, and their families: cops (or “enforcers,” if you prefer); activists; media; academics and “school administrators;” business people (from message-runners, to technocrats, to CEOs and their minions); government officials at all levels, elected and unelected, and of course, the “security details” who will fail to guard those future dead. I know myself; if I become hungry enough, I will kill and eat people…I’ll stop there.

      • luckyesteeyoreman

        I forgot to list lawyers – sorry, Jack.

        • Two scenarios:

          The first is less likely with Trump as POTUS: Feds begin gun confiscations or general registrations. Most in fly over country will not stand for this

          The second is organized riots that impact common middle class Americans. Rioters looking for Conservatives, gun owners, white males, etc. will trigger an armed response. How state authorities react (support the Constitution and Rule of Law, or the rioters) will determine the Civil War aspect. The rioters would have to be armed and in open rebellion in this scenario.

          You mention those likely to die in such a conflict. I believe most of those you mentioned will hide for the duration, and not fight (with the possible exception of some cops, particularly in Blue states/cities.) I predict some other classes of casualty: the elderly, medically dependant, very young, and mentally impaired, especially those on drugs that may lose their supply if distribution is interrupted. Note that the politics of those I mentioned will not be relevant to their deaths. These are in jeopardy in the first 4 months.

          Within the first year, if and when supply lines are disrupted, food becomes a general problem. (Actually, in urban areas, supply disruption makes food an issue at two weeks, and critical within a month. Just in Time delivery means store stocks are usually less than two weeks ‘normal’ supply. If anything, I am optimistic with this prediction. Most people keep less than two weeks in their homes; stores would run out in a couple of days as people hit them ala’ a hurricane warning) Secondary food riots are likely. If water is still being supplied, this is when municipal workers quit coming to work as they attempt to get food for their families. No more water as lack of maintenance stops the system. Remember the rule of Three: Three minutes without air, Three days without water, Three weeks without food, and Three months without shelter (less if in winter.) Without food, water or fuel, many would not survive the first winter of such a conflict. Think ‘millions’ not ‘thousands’ within the first year.

          How does this end up, should it happen? No idea. I believe the variables are too unpredictable to say. I do believe that any hot Civil War is an invitation for foreign invasion, either under the guise of UN peacekeepers, or as an opportunistic take over bid by a large power (China, Russia, EU, or a coalition of smaller countries?) We are resource rich, and a tempting target if we are too distracted to field armed forces against an invasion.

          The most important question is ‘how do we stop this?’ Short of martial law, I am not sure. The right generally wants to be left to the business of living their lives, and is slow to awaken and act, although they are waking up now. The left seems bent on revolution, changing society into their socialist utopia, and will (are) push(ing) the right to fight back. They have to stop themselves, before others stop them forcibly. I do not see the left, never one for self discipline, cooling off any time soon, especially after the Trump meltdowns.

          Now I am depressed.

          • luckyesteeyoreman

            Second try…

            Thanks slickwilly for your comment. I guess I foresee a more gradual “Californication” of the whole country, with no acute hardships severe enough on a nationwide scale to motivate any particularly well-organized or “successful” (or “effective”) radical paramilitary forces to stand up. “Will,” insofar as it exists among Americans to fight an internal war, seems all but isolated to very small niches of the population, with too many easy incentives for residents of surrounding communities to avoid joining the fight. Steve-O has projected a kind of Belfast guerrilla war; I just don’t think there are enough Americans willing to fight like that for very long. But, as we are seeing with the David Hogg brigades, there will be plenty of young people ready and willing to march and riot as mobs. I expect that generally, in our near future, street mobs will dictate political agendas and actions, even more than big money from big donors. People on the political right will never organize themselves into effective mobs like the leftists have already done and continue to do. I’m not depressed, just resigned to the country’s fate, and eager to see the leftists devour themselves as they work with ever bigger mobs to hoard and centralize power that will be ever more corrupt, inept, and brutal. The prospect of corrupt, incompetent leftist governance almost delights me, because I’ll have a higher probability of committing what the rulers will call crimes, and getting away with them.

  6. #1 In my opinion, the anti-Trump resistance and most of the political left has completely lost sight of the Constitution.

    #2 I said I was going to be patient to allow them time to go through what they got in the raid and find the things they were specifically looking so they could indict; my patience is beginning to wear thin, they need to speed this process up. If they don’t indict someone as a result of the raid then I’m going to say that the raid was unwarranted and likely violated the civil rights of multiple people.

    • valkygrrl

      If they run the fastest federal investigation ever then maybe 6 months after they actually get to look at the stuff collected in the raid… You know the stuff that’s tied up in court right now while they fight over filter teams and special masters and Cohen saying if you let him sort it he pink promises not to withhold evidence. Your patience is going to have to run a bit thicker.

      • valkygrrl wrote, “If they run the fastest federal investigation ever then maybe 6 months after they actually get to look at the stuff collected in the raid…”

        I really don’t give a damn what other processes have been over the years, this one is different, it involves the President of the United States!! Six months is not going to cut it, as far as I’m concerned six weeks is pushing it!

        valkygrrl wrote, “Your patience is going to have to run a bit thicker.”

        Not in this instance.

        • valkygrrl

          Then go ahead and lose your shit right now.

          Out of curiosity though, when would that six weeks have started? If Cohen drags out the fight over who sees what for 5 weeks would you give yourself permission to throw a temper tantrum or…?

          • valkygrrl wrote, “lose your shit”, “throw a temper tantrum”

            Bite me valkygrrl, I’m not a f***ing 3 year old. That was completely unnecessary BS, Stop acting like an asshole.

            Yes, of course I’ll allow a time differential because of Cohen himself stretches it out. The people that ordered and conducted this raid should have had their shit together enough to make this process short, very short! They knew prior to going into this raid that this was going to be politicized in a political fireball and they should have been properly prepared to put the process in warp speed.

            Politically speaking; the political left attack dogs would be just fine with this hanging over the heads of Trump and associates to hold them in that cornered animal hole they are driving them into. To the left it’s all about, guilty until proven innocent, if Trump and associates can’t prove innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt, then the left automatically sees guilt – these political hacks are anti Constitution.

            • Chris

              Bite me valkygrrl, I’m not a f***ing 3 year old.

              Then stop acting like one. Your understanding of how fast investigations move is comically Pollyanish, and your hostility to valky for pointing that out to you is unwarranted.

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