Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: My Upcoming Smithsonian Program on Cross-Examination

I don’t know how many Ethics Alarms readers live in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.—I suspect quite a few—but if you do and are interested in seeing me and my sister present a lively two-hour program exploring many of the legal ethics issues that I have tackled here, along with plenty of history, popular culture and trial technique (and are willing to pay $45 for the privilege as well as some take-home materials),  maybe I can meet you on the evening of October 21st.

The event is called “Courtroom Drama: The Art of Cross-Examination,” and here’s description: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2019: Starring Two Of My Favorite Unethical Websites!

WAKE UP!

Oh, great: started this post at 7 am, hell broke lose at ProEthics, and now it’s after noon. Well, the hell with it: I’m not going back to change the headline or the intro, and I like Lenny’s version of the Stars and Stripes at any time of day.

So there.

1. Unprofessional and dangerous stuff from  Above the Law….as usual. The legal gossip and snark online tabloid is run and written by lawyers who are not practicing law, so they feel free to engage in conduct that lawyers are forbidden from engaging in, like misrepresentation.  Lately the cyber rag has been cyber-ragging on Jones Day, a long-time, distinguished D.C. mega firm. Why are they doing that? Come on, it should be obvious.

ATL takes the position—and it has company— that Jones Day is eeeevil and must be shunned because it represents the Trump campaign. Hence you get headlines like “IF YOU HAD TO GUESS WHICH FIRM WOULD DO THIS:New allegations claim Jones Day lightened the skin and narrowed the nose on the picture of one of their lawyers.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/31/2019: Some Ethics Notes As I Run Out The Door…

Hello, I must be going…

I got my prep done faster than expected, so I have time for a shorter than usual warm-up…

1.  “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?” It’s going to take a while for me to go through last night’s debate, which the Red Sox saved me from having to watch live. I can say this right now, however: responsible parties should not permit completely unqualified, publicity-seeking wackos like Marianne Williamson (and, as I argued in 2015 and 2016, Donald Trump) to enter primaries and participate in debates. This is how you get “A Face in the Crowd”; this is how you set up democracy to fail. There will always be a critical number of idiots in the electorate, and parties have a duty to fulfill a critical gate-keeper function to prevent the grifters, con artists, cult leaders and amateurs from using them to warp elections and the government.

Williamson was babbling about “dark psychic forces” and “emotional imbalance” last night.  Democrats should ding her right now, and tell her she is welcome to run under the banner of the Crystal Party, or something similar. Continue reading

How Ironic! An Anti-Clinton Conservative Lawyer Plays The “Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy” Card

Attorney Larry Klayman was familiar presence during the Clinton administration.  The founder of Freedom Watch and Judicial Watch and conservative gadfly  helped bring dozens of cases against Bill Clinton, the White House, and various staff members and agencies, uncovered some damning documents in FOIA requests, filed government ethics complaints, and continued to champion conservative causes after he left Judicial Watch in other hands. He  represented  former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and  state’s rights activist rancher Cliven Bundy, among other clients. Now the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility Ad Hoc Hearing Committee has handed down a 183-page report finding that Klayman breached the D.C. professional ethics rules, recommending that he be suspended from the practice of law for 33 months, and have  he prove his rehabilitation and fitness to gain reinstatement.

According to the report, Klayman represented Elham Sataki, whom he helped file a 2010 sexual harassment suit against her employer, Voice of America.  Klayman persuaded Sataki to move to Los Angeles and offered to pay her housing and living expenses, telling Sataki she could later reimburse him. She took him up on the offer, but when  Sataki rejected Klayman’s overtures for a romantic relationship,  the findings state, the lawyer raised his fee demands to continue representing her sexual harassment claim. As a result, the report concludes, Sataki did not pursue her case. Continue reading

Thank You, FaceApp!

Were you aware of FaceApp? It was a suddenly popular mobile face-editing application for your smartphone that would take your photo and show how might age over the next half century. It was all the wave, until there was a contemporaneous story about law enforcement going into facial recognition software big time. Oh oh…”Minority Report”! Suddenly someone read the app’s privacy policy. The company was based in Russia! It could sell your face to be used in subway gonorrhea ads, and there was nothing you could do about it! The Democratic National Committee freaked, and sent out an alert imploring those who work on presidential campaigns to delete the app from their phones because FaceApp’s creator, Wireless Lab, is based in St. Petersburg, Russia. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer then went overboard, as Chuck is wont to do, and demanded that FBI and the Federal Trade Commission  investigate FaceApp, because the company could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens.”

ARRRHHHHH!!!!

The app’s creators rushed to contain the damage. FaceApp’s CEO swore that the company’s servers are not based in Russia,  that no user data is sent there, the photos will not end up in  facial recognition databases.  FaceApp does not, it is told, “sell or share any user data with any third parties.”

Google also swears that it won’t read our email. And don’t get me started about Facebook…

FaceApp’s privacy policy asks for “irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid, transferable sub-licensable license” for the pictures of your face. That should set off ethics alarms, or better yet, privacy alarms, for anyone who reads it, which means virtually nobody. I’m hardly any better: many years ago I used a Simpsons app to convert my photo into Simpsons Jack… Continue reading

Robert Mueller’s Disastrous Testimony And Its Significance, Part Two

Part I is here.

Random Observations on the Mueller testimony and aftermath:

  • Observing the desperate spin offered by frustrated “resistance” members, desperate Democrats and social media Trump-Haters has been almost as revealing as Mueller’s performance. The most positive  takeaway they could muster is that Mueller clearly said that his investigation didn’t exonerate the President. That’s meaningless. It is not a prosecutor’s job to exonerate anybody, ever. An investigation’s goal is to determine whether there is probable cause to determine that a crime or crimes have been committed, not to prove anyone’s innocence. The hearts of the impeachment mob leaped for joy briefly during the morning hearing of the Judiciary Committee when Mueller answered “yes” to Rep. Ted Lieu’s (D–Calif.) question whether he had declined to indict Trump because of an existing Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion stating that a sitting president couldn’t be charged with a crime. Ah-HA!  Mueller had found evidence of illegal activity committed by the President and was only prevented from indicting him by Justice Department policy! Start those impeachment hearings!

Never mind. In the afternoon hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, reversed himself,   saying that that OLC opinion prevented him from making any determination, period, of Trump’s culpability in obstructing justice. “As we say in the report, and as I said in the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime,” Mueller told the Committee after specifically referencing the Lieu exchange.

“I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu, who said, and I quote, ‘you didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it,” Mueller said.

This did not prevent journalists, pundits and my Facebook friends from ignoring the second statement so they could falsely promote the first. “They got him to confirm that he didn’t make a charge because of the Justice Department memo,” said “Meet the Press’s” Chuck Todd in an NBC panel. No, they didn’t. That’s a direct lie, as well as fake news.

  • The contention that Mueller was only a convenient figurehead for what was designed as a partisan hit job was made more credible by Mueller’s confusion. Mueller’s chief deputy, the infamously over-zealous,  partisan and controversial prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, headed a group of mostly left-leaning investigators. Complaints about the apparent rigged nature of the investigation were met by reminders of Mueller’s party affiliation and reputation for fairness and rectitude. That defense was left in the dust.

Now the anti-Trump tenor of the report no longer suggests the objective conclusions of a political neutral, but the partisan bias of prosecutors with an agenda.

  • Mueller’s weakness also suggests an answer to the persistent question of why the investigation appeared to be so incompetently managed, as with, for example, the involvement of Peter Strzok.

It didn’t appear that Mueller was capable of competent oversight, or even paying attention.

  • The most damaging and disturbing Mueller answer by far was when he was asked about Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele to compile the infamous Russian-sourced ‘dossier’ against Trump.  Mueller said that he was ‘not familiar‘ with it. KABOOM! How is this even possible, unless Weissman and the other anti-Trump Jauberts on his team kept the old man locked in a closet somewhere? The involvement of the Steele dossier undercut the legitimacy of his investigation, and the investigation’s leader  was that uninformed about its origins? Was this wilful ignorance? Blatant incompetence?

Finally, how could the investigators and Mueller justify following bread crumbs that led to indictments of various Trump administration and campaign figures for crimes unrelated to the subject of the investigation, but be oblivious to the strong indications of wrongdoing—the FBI’s FISA fraud, the conflicts of interest, the surveillance of Carter Page—related to the investigation itself?

  • In another ridiculous addition to the Ethics Alarms, “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” files—at this point, I  cannot maintain any respect for the intelligence and/or integrity of anyone who denies the obvious partisan bias of CNN, MSNBC, and the major networks—I watched CNN for over 30 minutes this morning to see how they would cover the hearings. Over at Fox News, of course, Mueller’s disturbing demeanor was being dissected in detail. The “Fox and Friends” blonde of the day said, sympathetically, that she would be “praying for him and his family,” since something is definitely seriously wrong.

At CNN, however, there was just a crawl representing Mueller’s testimony as straightforward, sticking to the report, and, of course, emphasizing the “no exoneration” statement and his answer to Lieu, retracted though it was. CNN showed no video of Mueller from either hearing, and its panels all focused exclusively on “where the Democrats go from here.”

Incredible. (Can something be simultaneously incredible and unsurprising?)The big news from the hearings, what those who didn’t have the time or stamina to watch them needed to know, was unquestionably Mueller’s frightening lack of preparation, clarity, or knowledge of the report he had signed and the investigation he had supposedly overseen, and how this undermined the report’s legitimacy, especially as an anti-Trump document.  Not only did he fail to give Democrats more ammunition for their coup as they clearly hoped it would, he undermined the credibility of the entire report.

Spin is one thing; intentionally hiding what occurred to make spin easier is something very different, and a major breach of journalism honesty and integrity.

  • Mueller’s repeated concern during his testimony regarding Russian interference in our elections, past and future, is being largely ignored by CNN and the rest because it directly points the finger of accountability to Barack Obama. The Mueller report  states that Russia began interfering in American democracy in 2014, with the operation becoming full-blown during the 2016 presidential election. The Obama administration knew this was going on, and took no discernible action.  In 2016, Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice told her staff to “stand down” and “knock it off” as they drew up plans to “strike back” against the Russians, according to  Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.”

Yet I continue to read attacks on Trump because he didn’t take adequate steps to foil the Russians,

  • Where is the accountability? House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler had said over the weekend that Mueller’s report showed “very substantial evidence” that President Donald Trump is “guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors” — an impeachable offense. “We have to … let Mueller present those facts to the American people, and then see where we go from there, because the administration must be held accountable,” Nadler,  said on “Fox News Sunday.” Yet Mueller’s testimony, orchestrated by Nadler,  confirmed none of this. Nadler was intentionally misleading the American public.

_______________________________________

Sources (for Parts 1 and 2): NBC News, Grabien, The American Spectator, Reason, Issues and Insights, The Hill,

Robert Mueller’s Disastrous Testimony And Its Significance, Part One

A transcript of the testimony is here.

The amazing thing is that the Democrats held the hearings at all. Mueller, as a matter of legal ethics and client confidentiality, was severely limited regarding what he  could say beyond what was already in his investigation’s report. Desperate to gain some public relations traction in their endless, nation-rending determination to end a legal and duly elected Presidency without the inconvenience of an election, one can only surmise that Mueller’s ethically problematical press conference led them astray, and not only astray, but into a disaster of their own making.

The first hint that something was amiss was Mueller’s request that an aide sit by him and assist in his testimony. That was not only unusual but ominous, and the Republicans on the committee quickly rejected it. Once Mueller started answering questions, it was painfully clear why this request had been made. He looked disoriented and confused. The 75-year-old Justice Department veteran had to ask committee members to repeat their questions repeatedly, as if he was having difficulty focusing. He often did not know whether the representatives were asking him questions or if they were reading from his own report. In  the first 90 minutes of the hearing, Mueller asked for clarification of questions more than 10 times. Under questioning from Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), Mueller asked: “And where are you reading from on that?” “I’m reading from my own question” was the answer.  “Then can you repeat it?” Mueller asked. The audience laughed. By the end, the audience had stopped laughing. As Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted, the performance was “painful” to watch.  Mueller asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to restate her question three times.  Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asked the 14 word question, “Attorney #2 in the Inspector General’s report and Strzok both worked on your team, didn’t they?” and Mueller appeared to be confused by it.“Pardon me?” Mueller replied. After Gaetz restated his question, Mueller replied: “And the question was?” Asked by Head Trump-hunter Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to explain what his investigation  found “in plain terms,” Mueller answered: “Well, the finding indicates that the president, uh, was not, uh, the president was not exculping, uh, exculpated, uh, for the acts that he allegedly committed.”

Ah! Well thank you, sir, that explains everything! Nadler looked as if he wanted to start banging his head on the table.

Continue reading