YOU’RE FIRED: Trump Sacks U.S. Attorney Probing Fox News For Hiding Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

On Friday the White House announced that it was asking forty-six U.S. Attorneys to submit their resignations. They were further instructed to clear out their desks by the end of the day. Replacing staff at the Department of Justice is a routine part of most administration transitions. However, it is rarely done so ham-handedly without prior notice or opportunity to orient the replacements.

Preet Bharara Donald Trump

By acting so impetuously, Donald Trump is leaving numerous in-progress investigations without leadership or direction. They include cases involving terrorism, drug trafficking, civil rights abuses, and more. There is no reason to rush these lawyers out the door. Most are career attorneys who have served during both Democratic and Republican administrations.

One possible explanation for Trump’s hastiness could be something he saw the night before on Fox News. Sean Hannity demanded that anyone affiliated with the Obama administration be summarily dismissed ASAP. What he was advocating was nothing short of the purges conducted by old-school tyrannical regimes. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that Trump carried out the ideological cleansing the next day. But there is abundant evidence that Trump responds obediently to things he sees on Fox News.

Which makes the case of fired attorney Preet Bharara especially troubling. Bharara is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In that jurisdiction he has had responsibility for high profile prosecutions of organized crime, Wall Street corruption, and political malfeasance. He has a reputation for being thorough and non-partisan. He was even personally asked to remain by President-Elect Trump last November, which he agree to do.

What makes Bharara’s dismissal so controversial is that one of the cases he is currently investigating involves Fox News. Last month the New York Daily News reported that:

“The feds are conducting an ‘ongoing criminal investigation’ of Fox News Channel and whether Rupert Murdoch’s company hid from investors the payments it made to employees who alleged they were sexually harassed, an attorney alleged in court Wednesday.” […]

[Attorney Judd Burstein, representing former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros] “said Fox News’ payouts to female employees claiming sexual harassment are not disclosed in Fox’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings, which could be a violation of federal securities law.”

The ever-increasing number of former female Fox News staffers alleging sexual harassment is not just a moral atrocity. It also threatens to cost the network millions of dollars and loss of prestige. The current rash of scandals began with Gretchen Carlson and quickly spread to others including Andrea Tantaros, Juliet Huddy, and even Megyn Kelly. As such it’s pertinent to any analysis of the company’s fiscal health and they have a responsibility to inform investors. Fox News already lost its founder and CEO. Roger Ailes, as a result of the scandal.

To say the least, it is unseemly for Trump to shove Bharara out the door while he is working on such a sensitive case. Fox News is Trump’s most devoted media cheerleader, thus Trump has an incentive to shield them from legal jeopardy. And for this act of presidential protection to take place immediately after a plea from Hannity – Fox’s most adoring Trump fluffer – just compounds the inappropriateness.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Bharara, as a matter of principle, refused to cooperate with the Trump purge. CNN reported that he would not comply with the request for a resignation. In effect, he dared Trump to fire him. And given Trump’s penchant for petty vengeance, that is exactly what Trump did. This opens the door for a replacement who Trump is already considering. Marc Mukasey is a lawyer who counts among his clients Fox’s ex-CEO Roger Ailes. Were he to assume the position, it is unlikely that the case against Fox News would proceed. This is how Trump drains the swamp.

CREEPING FASCISM: Trump Insults Another Judge In Ongoing Effort To Deligitimize The Judiciary

The rule of law is often touted as a cornerstone of democratic society. The United States regards equal justice under the law as a core value. Founding Father John Adams articulated this principle when he declared that we are “a government of laws, not of men.” None of this, of course, presumes that there is a tyranny of legal rhetoric. That’s why we have courts to adjudicate the meaning and scope of the statutes that govern us.

Donald Trump

Respect for the law is generally observed in a civil society. That doesn’t mean unquestioning agreement or forgoing the right to dissent. But it does mean appreciating the role of an independent judiciary. That’s a concept that Donald Trump has repeatedly trashed.

In a petty and insolent tweet Saturday morning, Trump demonstrated once again his contempt for the judiciary and for any form of disagreement with his autocratic authority. He was responding to a ruling by a Washington state judge that stayed his executive order barring people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. The order even included legal residents and those with valid visas and green cards. He tweeted:

For the record, Judge James Robart was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush in 2004. Consequently, Trump could not lash out reflexively at the “liberal” courts. But that didn’t stop him from demeaning the Judge Robart, and by extension the entire judicial system.

By labeling Robart a “so-called judge,” Trump is implicitly denying that he isn’t an actual judge. By some twisted illogic he is demoting Robart to some other status. Perhaps Trump thinks he’s a “fake” judge, or an “alternative” judge. Either way, the effect is to undermine his legitimacy and that of his ruling.

Furthermore, Trump’s assertion that the decision “takes law-enforcement away from our country” makes no sense whatsoever. The judge’s ruling is, by definition, a component of law enforcement. And how does a decision by a U.S. federal court take anything away from “our country”? In what jurisdiction would Trump place this authority?

What’s more, Trump’s assertion that the ruling is “ridiculous” defies reason. Which may be why he didn’t even bother to supply one. However, four other courts agree with Robart’s decision. Last week courts in New York, Virgina, Washington, and Massachusetts issued similar judgments. That portends trouble for any hope by the White House for overturning the stay or prevailing overall.

Trump has previously expressed his disdain for the law when battling a suit over his fraudulent Trump University. In that case a judge who was born in Indiana, but whose parents were from Mexico, was accused of being biased and unfit to preside due to his heritage. That was just another example of Trump diminishing the role of the judiciary for irrelevant reasons. Despite swearing never to settle, he eventually did just that. The plaintiffs won a massive $25 million in compensatory damages.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

The problem with Trump’s tweet cannot be overstated. It is common in totalitarian regimes for the government to assert dominance over its institutions. That applies to the legislature, the media, the military, and the judiciary. Trump’s comment reflects his view that the courts are, or should be, subservient to his will. It’s a view that reinforces concerns about his aspirations to dictatorship.

The judiciary is one of the last lines of defense to prevent a descent into tyranny. Hopefully they will stand strong against Trump and for the principles enshrined in the Constitution. And maybe the Democrats in the Senate will have the guts to block the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court seat that they stole. At the very least they should ask him whether he thinks Robart is a so-called judge.

‘I Hope Trump Enjoys Losing’ Says ACLU Director After Donations Skyrocket

Last week Donald Trump issued an Executive Order suspending immigration from seven Majority-Muslim nations. The outcry was swift and furious as hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country took the streets (and airports). The public revulsion to this bigoted proposal became the latest theme for massive anti-Trump protests. Even many Republicans expressed deep disagreement with the White House. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a stinging joint statement taking Trump to task. They boldly declared that “we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

Donald Trump

That’s an opinion shared by many national security and counter-terrorism experts. But a surprising confirmation of the widespread opposition to Trump’s ban came Sunday evening with an announcement by the ACLU. As reported by The Hill:

“The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has received more than $19 million [now more than $24 million] since Saturday, and has hundreds of thousands of new members since it took action against President Trump’s executive order […] The average it takes in per year is $3 million to $4 million, according to Reuters reporter Dustin Volz.”

So the ACLU received six times as much in donations in one weekend as they ordinarily receive in a full year. That’s a powerful demonstration of citizens voting with their pocketbooks. It all began with the ACLU filing a lawsuit to challenge the Executive Order. They argued that it unconstitutionally discriminated on the basis of religion. A federal court in New York agreed, issuing an emergency stay finding that there is “a strong likelihood of success.” That ruling prompted this deliciously snarky response from the ACLU’s national director, Faiz Shakir:

“I hope Trump enjoys losing. He’s going to lose so much we’re going to get sick and tired of his losing.”

Indeed, the sentiment against Trump is growing daily. Gallup’s tracking poll shows his net approval plunging eight points, in just five days, with fifty percent disapproving. In the first week of his presidency he has earned the distinction of having the lowest favorability of any new president on record. His own email appeals to supporters reveal that he’s “worried:”

“We thought there would be a huge influx in contributions this weekend, but we were wrong. We need a MASSIVE turnaround immediately if we’re going to hit our goal by tomorrow at midnight.”

The Trump team may suffer further disappointments going forward. The American people do not tolerate official prejudice from their government. Trump tried desperately to spin the order as a safety measure that was not directed at Muslims. However, that contradicts his campaign promise “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” His surrogates Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn, Jr. similarly admitted that the order was deliberately aimed at Muslims.

The momentum is growing for Americans committed to the values to which this country has long aspired. The support for the ACLU’s actions affirms those values. And there is no reason the momentum can’t continue. Here is a link to the ACLU’s donations website. Share this article and link with your friends and family. If we remain active in protests and communications with our representatives, we can insure that Trump and his hateful agenda continue to lose, although most of us won’t get sick of it any time soon.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

UH-OH: DOJ Inspector General To Probe FBI’s ‘Improper’ Handling Of Clinton Investigation

When reviewing the most consequential events of the 2016 presidential election, one strikingly inappropriate action comes immediately to mind. Less than two weeks before the nation voted, FBI Directer James Comey violated a long-held principle of law enforcement. He released confidential and unsubstantiated data concerning an in-progress investigation of Hillary Clinton.

Comey Trump

Comey’s action gave Donald Trump’s campaign a jet-propelled boost at a time when it needed it most. And it left little time for Clinton’s campaign to respond or recover from the political harm. As it turned out, there was nothing of significance in the additional analysis that Comey initiated, but the damage was done.

Thursday morning the Inspector General’s office of the Department of Justice announced that it will be reviewing these events. Requests from member of Congress, outside organizations, and members of the public, spurred the IG to commence this review. According to the Huffington Post, the review will address several specific topics, including:

  • Allegations that Department or FBI policies or procedures were not followed in connection with, or in actions leading up to or related to, the FBI Director’s public announcement on July 5, 2016, and the Director’s letters to Congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016, and that certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations;
  • Allegations that the FBI Deputy Director should have been recused from participating in certain investigative matters;
  • Allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information;
  • Allegations that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize same, were influenced by improper considerations.

These are the most salient issues that desperately need to be resolved. Comey’s behavior was suspiciously beneficial to one political candidate, and this investigation should explore any and all motivations. The IG’s review is being careful not to engage in further partisanship. Consequently, it’s also examining allegations that an assistant AG improperly disclosed non-public information to Clinton’s campaign.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

It remains to be seen what conclusions will be drawn when the review is complete. There could be consequences for Comey, or it could be swept under the FBI’s rug. Timing will also be critical. If this stretches too long into the Trump administration, and his anticipated purges at the DOJ are effected, then nothing of significance will result. Trump’s people will surely protect him and his allies in the FBI, including Comey. So stay tuned as this developing story continues to unfold.

Top Advisor Proposes Changes In Ethics Laws For Trump’s ‘Billionaire Presidency’

The specter of Donald Trump’s looming presidency has stirred up serious consideration of potentially unlawful conflicts of interest. His expansive business empire makes ethical violations a near certainty. In fact, there have already been incidents where foreign dignitaries made reservations at Trump hotels in order to curry favor with the President-Elect.

Donald Trump

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution expressly prohibits the president from receiving money, gifts, or anything of value from foreign governments or officials. Thus, any foreign officials staying at a Trump hotel would automatically put him violation of the Constitution. Additionally, there are numerous ethics laws enacted by Congress to prevent bribery or corruption on the part of public officials. Trump’s businesses present a tangled web of pending breaches just waiting to happen.

This is not a partisan observation aimed at hobbling The Donald before he even moves in. Republicans are keenly aware of the legal obstacles in the road. One of Trump’s closest advisors, Newt Gingrich, conceded that it was an issue in a radio interview on Monday. His remarks were a disturbing commentary on the privilege of class in politics. He described Trump’s ascension to power as a “billionaire presidency,” which he meant as a justification for special treatment. As reported by Politico:

“We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work,” Gingrich said Monday during an appearance on NPR’s “The Diane Rehme Show” about the president-elect’s business interests. “We’re going to have to think up a whole new approach.”

In other words, the rules for the rich are different than those for the rest of us. That’s an argument for the kind of aristocracy that the United States fought a revolution to escape. Public servants enriching themselves through their office should be illegal no matter their net worth. That’s why in prior administrations, presidents would place their assets in a blind trust and divest them if necessary. And contrary to Gingrich’s assertion, there has been great wealth in White House. Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy come to mind.

Gingrich doesn’t provide any details of the “whole new approach” he’s proposing. However, he did offer one specific method of by which Trump could avoid accountability:

“In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon,” Gingrich said. “It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period. Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

Actually, he technically does not. The power of the pardon is not “totally open.” For instance it cannot be used to absolve someone for crimes that have yet to be committed. So for Gingrich’s idea to work, Trump would have to wait for the conflicts to occur, then pardon the offenders. And with his unique business structure, his refusal to let go of any of it, and his family’s involvement, he would have to issue new pardons every day.

Furthermore, while the president can pardon himself for criminal penalties, he cannot stop Congress from impeaching him. So any violation of the Constitution as described above could trigger his ouster from office.

Earlier this month Trump promised to hold a press conference on December 15, to address these matters. That was a week ago and he has still not rescheduled the canceled event, other than to say it could be sometime in January. He may be able to evade questions from the press about his shady financial dealings, but he can’t evade justice for long.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Proposals like the one Gingrich offered only serve to inflame the class division that Trump represents. He is not a king and he is not above the law. But no should be surprised that Gingrich favors leniency for ethical violations by the rich and powerful. He himself was ousted as Speaker of the House for ethical breaches related to his book royalties

Fox News ‘White’ Washes Racist Past Of Trump’s Attorney General Nominee

The Trump transition marches on with another name being floated for a prominent role. This time it’s Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL) who is reportedly being tapped for Attorney General. Jeff Sessions would join white nationalist Stephen Bannon and religious bigot Michael Flynn in Donald Trump’s inner circle.

Jeff Sessions

The choice of Sessions is perfectly aligned with Trump’s well-documented record of prejudice and division. But it’s not particularly suited for leadership of the Justice Department which is responsible for enforcing civil rights laws. Prior to his senate service, Sessions was a U.S. attorney and attorney general in Alabama. He was nominated by President Reagan for a seat on the federal bench, but failed to receive confirmation from a majority Republican senate. Among the reasons were his criticisms of the NAACP as un-American and communist-inspired. He also referred to a black lawyer as “boy,” and called white attorneys who defended black clients “race traitors.” No wonder former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke tweeted his support saying:

Ordinarily, this sort of behavior would be disqualifying for a high profile government post. But in the Age of Trump there are no depths too low for an aspiring public figure to sink. Trump himself has engaged in the most abhorrent forms of hate-speech aimed at African-Americans, women, Muslims, and others. And throughout it all, Fox News was there to tidy up his bigotry and re-frame it as bold, straight talk.

That’s exactly what happened Friday morning on Fox & Friends when guest host Ed Henry interviewed Trump advisor Brad Blakeman. Predictably impressed, Blakeman said that Trump “couldn’t pick a better candidate” than Sessions. He lauded the Senator as:

“…a guy who is steeped in the law, got an excellent reputation, was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 to be the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, served for more than a decade, then became the attorney general thereafter of Alabama, and then the U.S. Senator. So he’s got a stellar record.”

Henry deftly dodged the substance of Blakeman’s glowing tribute to Sessions. Instead, he diverted to unrelated questions about Republican frustration with Democratic AG’s Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. But for some reason Henry ignored the glaring omissions in Blakeman’s revisionist history.

An ethical journalist would have pointed out that Sessions was rejected for a judgeship due to blatantly racist behavior. That information is directly relevant to the duties of the Attorney General who has jurisdiction over the federal justice administration. But on Fox News it is potentially damaging to their mission of right-wing propaganda. Consequently, it’s left out of the discussion and their viewers remain blissfully ignorant. So even in the Age of Trump, some things never change.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.