Tag Archives: Trump-Russia conspiracy theory

Bravo! Professor Turley And Sir Thomas More On The Disgraceful, Dangerous, And Deranged Professionals Of “The Resistance”

Law professor/blogger Jonathan Turley’s latest essay, “Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps” had me at “Roper,” Turley’s direct reference to the most often posted movie clip on Ethics Alarms,* the scene above from “A Man For All Seasons.”  Turley applies the scene correctly, too, to the depressingly large mob of previously respectable and responsible lawyers, elected officials, scholars, academics, journalists and pundits who have betrayed their professions’ values and ethics to falsely tell a gullible public that the President and members of his family, campaign and administration have committed treason, espionage, conspiracy, election fraud and obstruction of justice when such accusations are not supported by law or precedent, evidence, facts or common sense. These accusations are, rather, the product of unreasoning fury and bias sparked by Donald Trump’s election as President.

Some of the individuals Turley names, like Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary’s running mate, may be just spewing political bile out of a lack of integrity. Kaine is a former prosecutor and should know better. Some, like Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin, may be examples of bias making smart people stupid. MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler, who claimed Trump was “conspiring with the U.S.’ sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy,” and who declared it is now “clear” that “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime” are, sadly, typical of how the unethical and dishonest the news media now behaves much of the time. As for my fellow legal ethicist Richard Painter, also fingered by Turley, I’m convinced from his increasingly extreme and hysterical anti-Trump analyses  that he has been driven to the edge of madness by Trump’s election. He’s not the only one.

Turley also points to former Watergate assistant special prosecutor Nick Akerman, who is just plain wrong. One cannot claim, as Ackerman does, that there is “a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements” of a violation of the election laws when, as Turley points out, no court has ever reached such a conclusion. That is prima facie evidence that there is no clear case.

Echoing More, Turley writes, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/15/2017

Gooooood Morning Ethics Alarms Readers in Vietnam (3, 501 views so far)!!

1. I am three new rationalizations and at least two Comments of the Day behind. Sorry.

2. One of the more creative efforts to make Donald Trump Jr.’s aborted opposition research meeting seem significant, sinister and one more step to the impeachment “the resistance” and the news media so, so desperately want is this article in the Washington Post, by a Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the director of the Intelligence and Defense Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center, who was a director of intelligence and counterintelligence at the Department of Energy and previously a CIA intelligence officer in domestic and international posts. His analysis is a masterpiece of projection, supposition, unwarranted assumptions and exaggeration. Rolf’s argument is that the meeting is important because it constituted a “green light” to Russia that the Trump campaign approved of Russian meddling in the election, would not blow the whistle on it, would be open to more serious involvement, and would respond to such action with future quid pro quo favors. All of this, simply based on the willingness to meet on the hopes of acquiring dirt on Hillary Clinton.

It is useful a a microcosm of the entire Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, and indeed conspiracy theories generally. Applied to an agreement between a married man and a single woman to have drinks together, the fact that the man never tells his spouse about the meeting means that the man thought the meeting was illicit, was open to having adulterous sex with the woman, would react favorably to the woman’s subsequent efforts to undermine his marriage, and was a green light to the woman to escalate her seduction. But as in the case of Trump’s meeting, a married man having drinks with an unmarried woman is not illicit, no matter what Mike Pence thinks, and is not proof of any further actions or unethical intent no matter what conclusions the woman leaps to. There is also the disconnect that under Mowatt-Larssen’s analysis and his version of the Russian thinking, Donald Trump Jr was central to the Trump campaign rather than incidental. He also seems to think the right hand in this chaotic organization knew what the right hand was doing, which we know not to be true. Continue reading

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This Is Why It’s Time For Political Cartoons To Go

 

Here (and above) is a sample of the bumper crop of political cartoons inspired by the Donald Trump, Jr. aborted meeting to acquire damaging information on Hillary that never materialized.

They are all, to various degrees, unfair, misleading, or simply untrue. Why is this acceptable? If presenting a false representation of the truth is required to make a joke, and the intended audience accepts what is false as fact, how is that justifiable?

The cartoon above, one of the most unethical, is typical of the work of Tom Toles, the Washington Post’s relentlessly biased cartoonist.

The others are presented below, in approximate order of unfairness and dishonesty.

They collectively state that there has been treason, a crime, corruption, collusion and conspiracy, and that there is actual, as opposed to speculated, “news” that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to interfere with the election. This is old fashioned yellow journalism-style political cartooning, throwing red meat to members of the public who want to believe that the President of the United States is a traitor so they can undo the election. That isn’t funny. That’s disgusting.

As I wrote in 2012, focusing on another dishonest and partisan Toles cartoon:

” Political cartooning peaked as a form of commentary about half a century ago, and has been declining ever since. Now it is dominated by hateful, unfunny and witless culture warriors who have as much in common with Jules Feiffer and Bill Mauldin as Mario Mendoza had in common with Hank Aaron. Are there exceptions? There are always exceptions. Pat Oliphant, Exhibit A, is brilliant, nuanced and clever; he’s also 77 years old, the last of the greats. If there are Oliphants out there, legitimate commentators who can make fair and honest observations with humor and a pen, great: what a wonderful alternative to the typical pundit rants. Put them on the editorial pages. The standard, however, should be content, not form. Political cartoons were once an efficient means of aiming a thousand words at non-readers and members of the public without the skills or education to grasp complex issues. They have become a vehicle for the unqualified and trivial-minded to acquire a platform they don’t deserve, to the detriment of the public and journalism.”

Now the evidence: Continue reading

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Observations On The Trump Jr. “Collusion” Attempt [UPDATED]

1.  Preet Bharara, the ex-U.S. attorney fired by the Trump Administration, tweets…

Quick reminder: something doesn’t have to be illegal for it to be foolish, wrong and un-American.

True. When Donald Trump, Jr. was informed that a Russian lawyer wanted to meet with him to pass along damaging information about Hillary Clinton, he should have gone to the FBI immediately, because this could have been indicative of a national threat. Instead he said “Whoopie!” or words to that effect. Moron.

But we knew that.

*Notice of Correction: In the original post, I erroneously stated that Bharara had joined Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference with the election. That was incorrect. I apologize. I was confused by this headline from the Washington Examiner: Special counselor adds former Preet Bharara prosecutor to Russia probe: Reports. It’s a bad headline, but I should have read the whole article. Careless.

2. Similarly, if Danny Jr told Kushner and Manafort what he was told the meeting would be about, THEY should have told him that the meeting was a bad idea, and to report it. They are slime-bags, and none too bright either.

We knew that, too.

3. It may be pure moral luck that this didn’t turn into a serious breach of election laws. But the fact is that no information changed hands, as far as we know. There was no “collusion,” which isn’t a legal term anyway.

4. The New York Times, from its good side, actually detailed the legal realities of the case, which ironically show how absurdly over-heated and misleading its own coverage is. The Times consulted with legal experts who said,

  • The events made public in the past few days are not enough to charge conspiracy.  Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor said the revelations are important because if further evidence of coordination emerges, the contents of the emails and the fact of the meeting would help establish an intent to work with Russia on influencing the election…at least on Donald Trump Jr.’s part.

But as has been the situation throughout, the episode is still waiting for real evidence of genuine collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and this wasn’t it. The anti-Trump mob, in the news media and out of it, is so, so eager, so desperate, to prove sanctionable wrongdoing that it is pouncing on everything that contains a shred of hope.

  • There has to be an underlying federal offense that is being conspired to be committed. So far, there is no evidence of that, and the aborted meeting with the Russian lawyer didn’t come close.

If the e-mails released yesterday specified that what was being offered had been obtained by an illegal computer hack, that would  be enough. They didn’t. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Donald Trump, Jr.

Donald Trump, Jr. just released the entire e-mail chain that the New York Times alluded to (without actually seeing it) in a front page story designed to advance the Russian-Trump collusion  narrative.

Good for him. It would be wonderful if this were the usual course, in the Trump administration and every other one. Stop stonewalling, get the facts out, and take whatever comes.

Observations:

1. New York criminal defense attorney Eric Turkewitz, seemingly displaying  the ethics of his breed, implies that Trump, Jr.’s attorney would have been telling him to delete the messages. That would be unethical, and quite probably spoliation, since the e-mails could be reasonably seen as likely to be sought in an investigation already underway. My assumption is that Trump’s lawyer approved the release. Maybe Eric would have too.

2. Vox, among others, are tracking down partisan election law lawyers who will argue that young Donald was violating election laws. I’m extremely dubious of that.

The relevant statute language:

A solicitation is an oral or written communication that, construed as reasonably understood in the context in which it is made, contains a clear message asking, requesting, or recommending that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value.

Unless one is determined to read the statute as meaning what it pretty clearly does not, “value” means monetary value, not “useful.”  “Value” could reasonable mean services, like spending time and resources hacking DNC computers. But handing over a document already acquired? How is that value if it didn’t cost anything? If the information was not illegally obtained by the Russians, and we have no way of knowing whether it was, then simply receiving proffered information that might be useful in a campaign doesn’t involve a campaign in a crime.

3.  “Colluding” is a pejorative term, but not a legal one. Is an American “colluding” with a foreign power once he or she has been told that the power wants a particular result, and the American takes steps to accomplish the same result, but in his own interests? Is that a crime? No. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/11/17…”Alan Brady” Shows His Ignorance, And The New York Times Shows Its Bias.

Good Morning!

[By the time I finished #1 on today’s list, there was no room for the rest, except for the shortest item. Oops. But it’s Carl Reiner’s fault: he ticked me off.]

1. Carl Reiner, comedy legend and still kicking in his 90s, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times urging Supreme Court Justice Kennedy not to retire, as some believe he is preparing to do. Kennedy is a relative  whippersnapper at 8o. That Reiner’s argument is unethical in multiple ways should be obvious, but then expecting the editors of the New York Times to spot an ethics problem is naive.

Reiner tells Kennedy that he shouldn’t retire because ” the best part of your career has just begun. As a nonagenarian who has just completed the most prolific, productive five years of my life, I feel it incumbent upon me to urge a hearty octogenarian such as yourself not to put your feet up on the ottoman just yet. You have important and fulfilling work ahead of you.” The problem is that the decision shouldn’t be based on what Kennedy wants or will enjoy. He’s supposed to act in the best interests of the nation, not to maximize the rewards of his golden years. Reiner uses a comparison to his own career—he still acts periodically, but even Reiner can’t possible think that his last five years were objectively more productive than when he was writing and performing in “Your Show of Shows,” or playing Rob Petrie’s hilariously nasty boss on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”—which shows a narrow perspective. If Carl can’t perform the way he used to but movie-goers still like watching him, there’s no harm done. A SCOTUS justice who no longer is in top mental fettle, however, can do substantial harm.

How many screenplays has Reiner had produced since he turned 80? How many studios have hired him to direct? The last movie he wrote was in 1989, when Carl was 67.  His last directing assignment was 20 years ago. So Carl has retired from those jobs that are too demanding for him, just not acting. His argument to Kennedy is disingenuous. Gee, maybe the Justice should try acting, like Carl.

Reiner’s entire piece is a sham: it isn’t about retirement, it’s about liberal politics. He writes,

“The country needs justices like you who decide each case with fairness and humanity, and whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line. You have always voted your conscience, and defended the rights and liberties of all our citizens.”

Is  Reiner seriously arguing that there are no younger qualified judges “whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line” ? That’s what all SCOTUS justices are pledged to do.  Does anyone think that Reiner would like Justice Ginsberg, also in her 80’s, to step down because she reliably hews to Democratic Party positions in virtual lockstep? No, of course not. What he is really saying is that when Republican-appointed justices consider cases, they violate their duty to be objective, but when Democrat-appointed justices decide in favor of progressive positions, they are just being wise and fair. This also the position of the New York Times, which is using an old man as its mouthpiece. Nice. Continue reading

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Clearly, This Is Never Going To Stop Until The News Media Gets What It Wants, Or Loses All Credibility…

[ I cannot begin to express how much I resent having to keep writing posts on this topic.]

The New York Times  has reported  that a Russian lawyer ( Various reports use the intentionally sinister addition “with ties to state-owned enterprises and to a senior government official.” which simply means that the lawyer had represented them. This isexactly  like saying that a criminal defense lawyer “has ties to the mob”because he once represented a gangster. It is despicable journalism, biased and misleading) met with Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort and the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, having been told that she could offer access to negative information about Hillary Clinton. The three members of the Trump campaign quickly discovered that she could not, and wanted to lobby the group on another matter.

Don Jr. said in a statement that he had met with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, at the request of an acquaintance and denied that he received any information on Clinton.

“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” he said. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

Trump Jr. added that Veselnitskaya  changed the subject and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and moved the conversation towards the Magnitsky Act, the  2012 bill that blocks certain Russian officials’ entrance to the U.S. and their use of the U.S. banking system. “It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” he concluded.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. Yet all the news stations and news sites are treating this like it is a smoking gun, proof of impeachable offenses by Donald Trump and crimes by his campaign. There is wall to wall coverage, and it is, based on what we know thus far, nothing at all but anti-Trump hype and more of the apparently endless effort by the news media and Democrats to keep the Russian collusion narrative going without any genuine fuel.

I was saddened to see Richard Painter, a solid legal ethicist who has helped drive traffic away from my favorite ethics site by turning it into his own personal Trump attack page with over-heated theories obviously cooked up by a brain derailed by a Trump obsession. On MSNBC , Richard fumed, Continue reading

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