Roger Stone, a veteran GOP operative and long-time ally of President Donald Trump, was facing a federal prison sentence when, on Friday, the news broke that Trump had commuted his sentence. Stone, who was convicted on charges including obstruction of Congress and witness tampering, will not be spending three years and four months in federal prison.
But Trump cannot issue presidential pardons at the state level, and legal experts Gerald Lefcourt and Robert C. Gottlieb argue that Stone should be prosecuted in New York State.
“It is time for New York prosecutors to answer this latest assault by Trump on the rule of law,” Lefcourt and Gottlieb write in an op-ed for CNN’s website. “They should ready a state prosecution of Stone.”
Lefcourt formerly served as president of the National Association of Criminal Lawyers, while Gottlieb was an assistant district attorney in New York. And according to their piece, a prosecution of Stone in New York State would be quite reasonable.
“Bringing a new case against Stone is possible thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York legislature for Assembly Bill 6653,” Lefcourt and Gottlieb explain. “Signed into law last October, AB6653 enables New York district attorneys to prosecute what effectively amounts to certain friends and family of any president who pardoned them for federal convictions. Among the people who can be prosecuted are associates with information relevant to a civil or criminal investigation of the president. That would be Roger Stone.”
Lefcourt and Gottlieb note that when Stone was prosecuted, he was accused of threatening a witness: Randy Credico — and Credico lives in New York.
“It is a felony under New York’s penal code to intimidate a witness to prevent him from communicating incriminating information to a prosecutor by instilling a fear of physical injury,” the attorneys note. “It is a misdemeanor to induce a witness to avoid testifying in a legal proceeding.”
It’s possible that after November 3, pundits will be talking about how President Donald Trump won reelection and bounced back from all the polls that, in June and July, showed him losing to former Vice President Joe Biden. But at the moment, the president really is in dire straits. Attorney Richard North Patterson, former chairman of Common Cause and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, doubts that Trump’s reelection campaign will recover — and in a new article for The Bulwark, he explains why he believes that Trump is “cornered” and why his negative poll numbers have “hardened.”
“The electoral dynamics have already hardened,” Patterson writes. “Donald Trump will lose if everyone who wants to vote can. His remaining hope is to choose his own electorate.”
Patterson adds that between coronavirus, race relations and the state of the economy, Trump’s campaign is doomed — and he doesn’t believe that a rally-the-base approach can bring him a victory.
“Amid a deadly and economically ruinous pandemic,” Patterson writes, “[Trump] is driving a strategy aimed only at arousing his base — chiefly by inflaming white racial grievances and cultural resentment. He seeks not to heal the wounds exacerbated by George Floyd’s murder, but to exploit them.”
Trump, according to Patterson, is running a campaign that recalls Richard Nixon in 1968 — which is problematic for him because demographics in the U.S. have changed a lot since then.
“[Trump] converts predominantly peaceful protests into an epidemic of disorder, as if this were America in 1968,” Patterson explains. “But it is not 1968 — or even 2016. Our demographics have changed: the U.S. population was above 83% non-Hispanic white in 1968, compared to 60% today.”
Patterson complains that Trump’s campaign is “politically tone-deaf” and that he is failing to seriously address the issues voters care about the most — including the coronavirus pandemic.
“Trump’s presidency has been swamped by COVID-19 — yet another reason why his race-baiting, a loser in itself, is terminally deficient,” Patterson notes. “The pandemic has become a metaphor for Trump’s suffocating incompetence, mendacity and self-absorption.”
To make matters worse, Patterson adds, Trump is encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to abolish the Affordable Care Act during the pandemic.
“A glaring example of Trump’s political empathy gap is a crucial issue underscored by the pandemic: health care,” Patterson observes. “Millions of people have lost employer-based health insurance during the pandemic — a number which, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated in May, could reach 27 million. Trump and his party have no plan to help them. In fact, he has insisted on asking the Supreme Court to invalidate Obamacare, which would strip perhaps 23 million more Americans of their health insurance.”
Patterson concludes his piece by emphasizing that because Trump cannot win on the issues, his only hope is voter suppression.
“He has only one way out: pursuing voter suppression through any stratagem that limits Biden’s vote — like relentlessly exploiting the pandemic,” Patterson asserts. “That’s why he’s crying voter fraud and decrying voting by mail. As he flails in quicksand and self-pity, we can expect him to resort to more desperate measures. Curbing democracy will become what November is about.”
On Friday, President Donald Trump saved veteran GOP operative Roger Stone from federal prison by commuting his sentence. Attorney General Bill Barr, before the commutation, had said that he considered Stone’s prison sentence fair. But when CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang asked Barr to weigh in on the commutation, he had no comment.
Jiang approached Barr, introducing herself and asking the attorney general, “Do you have any comment on the Stone commutation?.” Barr smiled when Jiang first introduced herself, but after hearing the question, he immediately turned away from the CBS reporter and ignored her.
NEW—Last week Attorney General Bill Barr described Roger Stone’s sentence as “fair”.
Just now he had no comment on the President’s decision to commute Stone: pic.twitter.com/YFGPaD3xKm
— Weijia Jiang (@weijia) July 13, 2020
Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for charges that included obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to Congress. During an interview with ABC News, Barr said of the sentence, “I think the prosecution was righteous, and I think the sentence the judge ultimately gave was fair.”
But after Trump issued his pardon and Jiang asked Barr to comment, it was obvious that the attorney general and Trump loyalist wasn’t about to say anything critical of the president.
The way Barr’s smile disappeared from his face was delicious
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) July 13, 2020
Watching him go from “someone wants to talk to me” to “Damn it” is both sad and fascinating.
— Imissdfs (@dfschuck41) July 13, 2020
Former Lifelock spokesperson Rudy Giuliani tells Salon that the audits of President Trump’s tax returns have been “completed and accepted,” except for “possibly not most recent.”
Giuliani was confirming claims he made Sunday morning to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo. This new story, however, seems to undermine the president’s excuse that he can’t release his returns because they are under audit, a line he has been repeating since the 2016 campaign.
Last Thursday, following the Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling that the Manhattan district attorney can subpoena the president’s tax returns, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeated the excuse to reporters, saying, “The media’s been asking this question for four years, and for four years, the president has said the same thing, his taxes are under audit, and when they’re no longer under audit, he will release them.”
In a separate case about Congress requesting the president’s financial documents, which the court effectively delayed until after the election, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had pushed the audit issue with one of Trump’s attorneys, who avoided responding directly.
“Every president voluntarily turned over his tax returns, so it gets to be a pitched battle, because President Trump is the first one to refuse to do that,” she said this spring. “Initially, he said because of an audit was ongoing. Now, it seems to be broader than that.”
In 2019 an IRS whistleblower turned evidence over to Congress reportedly showing “inappropriate conduct” on Trump’s returns.
But Giuliani said that prosecutors have “no reason to believe that there’s anything wrong with his tax returns,” because “all of them have been audited, all of them have either been passed on or settled.” The former mayor of New York City allowed for an exception: “maybe not the last one.”
Giuliani added this in a text message, which we publish verbatim:
Since there are. Always extensions can’t be sure. Really not sure if there is one or two not completed but almost all are and they are done.
Those last “one or two” would be the returns has Trump filed as president. “The last one” would be fiscal year 2018, the year Giuliani says he took on Trump as his client, pro bono.
When Salon asked Giuliani if he meant that Trump’s returns had been audited each year up through 2018, Giuliani replied that he “didn’t specify.”
The former face of Fraud Guarantee LLC explained that these specific claims of fact about Trump’s returns had derived from his “general knowledge of how taxes are handled.”
He did not respond when asked whether this meant that he himself had also been audited every year, and that this was a common experience for people.
“All you have to do is know how they work and most are gone now or an action would be brought because of statute of limitations,” Giuliani said in a text message.
Whatever his protestations, Giuliani appears to have made conclusive claims about knowledge of facts regarding his client that pertain directly to an ongoing criminal investigation.
The Manhattan DA’s office had sought eight years of Trump’s business and tax records in connection with its investigation into hush-money payments made on Trump’s behalf just ahead of the 2016 election.
Trump and the Trump Organization both reimbursed Michael Cohen, Giuliani’s predecessor as the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, for payments made to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels. Cohen was also involved in payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both women claim to have had affairs with Trump.
While Giuliani appeared to be attempting to defend his client, however, he seems instead to have directly contradicted Trump, including official White House statements given as recently as last week.
Those claims of fact would seem on their face to violate attorney-client privilege, a favorite exit ramp for Giuliani, which he has used numerous times throughout the Ukraine impeachment saga in media interviews about his relationships with Trump, Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and husband-and-wife attorney team Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing. At the time, Trump also alluded to the privilege.
In 2017 Giuliani told Fox News personality Sean Hannity that Trump had repaid Cohen for the Daniels payoff.
“They funneled through a law firm, and the president repaid it,” he said.
“Oh. I didn’t know that,” Hannity replied. “He did?”
“Yep,” Giuliani said.
WASHINGTON – The federal government incurred the biggest monthly budget deficit in history in June as spending on programs to combat the coronavirus recession exploded while millions of job losses cut into tax revenues.
The Treasury Department reported Monday that the deficit hit $864 billion last month, an amount of red ink that surpasses most annual deficits in the nation’s history and is above the previous monthly deficit record of $738 billion in April. That amount was also tied to the trillions of dollars Congress has provided to cushion the impact of the widespread shutdowns that occurred in an effort to limit the spread of the viral pandemic.
For the first nine months of this budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $2.74 trillion, also a record for that period. That puts the country well on the way to hitting the $3.7 trillion deficit for the whole year that has been forecast by the Congressional Budget Office.
That total would surpass the previous annual record of $1.4 trillion set in 2009 when the government was spending heavily to lift the country out of the recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis.
Refusing to wear a face mask or take the threat of COVID-19 seriously is a badge of honor among some far-right Republicans, but that outlook can have tragic consequences. In Florida, St. Johns County Commissioner Paul Waldron — a Republican supporter of President Donald Trump — is now hospitalized with COVID-19 after voting against a county measure that called for mandatory mask wearing.
The Florida Politics website reports that according to his daughter, Ashley Waldron Zapata, Waldron is “still sedated and in critical condition…. The hospital is working hard to keep him comfortable and continuously monitoring him.”
How many stories like this will it take? https://t.co/LX27JFN0Yh
— danielle jones (@djtweets) July 13, 2020
Waldron, according to Zapata, “went into septic shock” and was in the “most critical of conditions.” However, she indicated that his condition is improving.
Zapata said of her father, “His blood gas levels have improved today, and numbers are holding. Although we are not out of the woods, today has been a good day.”
Florida is among the Sun Belt states that has recently seen a troubling surge in the number of new COVID-19 infections.
‘It’s a slow-moving train wreck’: GOP activists fear that weak online fundraising could cost Republicans the Senate
A true blue wave in November would not only include former Vice President Joe Biden defeating President Donald Trump, but also Democrats retaking the U.S. Senate, expanding their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and winning victories in state races. None of that is guaranteed to happen, but according to an article by Elena Schneider, James Arkin and Ally Mutnick for Politico, some Republican activists are worried that when it comes to U.S. Senate races and online fundraising, the GOP is falling short.
“The money guarantees Democrats nothing heading into November 2020,” Schneider, Arkin and Mutnick explain. “But with President Donald Trump’s poll numbers sagging and more GOP-held Senate races looking competitive, the intensity of Democrats’ online fundraising is close to erasing the financial advantage incumbent senators usually enjoy. That’s making it harder to bend their campaigns away from the national trend lines — and helping Democrats’ odds of flipping the Senate.”
Similarly, Kevin McLaughlin — executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — told Politico, “Some GOP Senate candidates have made great strides online, but we’re still light years away from where we need to be as a party. 2020 should serve as a canary in the coal mine to anyone on the ballot in 2022 and beyond. They have a simple choice: adapt immediately or find a new job. We have better resources than Democrats, but they don’t do any good if no one uses them.”
Corry Bliss, executive director of Congressional Leadership Fund (a Republican super PAC), is sounding the alarm as well. Bliss told Politico that Democrats “are better at online fundraising than we are — period.”
While Democrats have the fundraising platform, ActBlue, Republicans have a similar fundraising platform of their own: WinRed. But according to Schneider, Arkin and Mutnick, GOP strategists and donors are worried that GOP campaigns aren’t doing enough to take advantage of WinRed and other fundraising tools.
Eric Wilson, a GOP consultant known for his work with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, told Politico that Republicans are dropping the ball in terms of campaigning and fundraising. According to Wilson, “It’s a slow-moving train wreck. The warning signs are flashing right now, and they’re ignoring it.”
At an NRSC event in June, the Politico journalists report, Republican activists presented a slideshow and noted that during 2020’s first quarter, Republican senatorial candidates trailed their Democratic counterparts by $30 million collectively.
In order to win back the U.S. Senate in November, Democrats will need to maintain all of the seats they are defending and flip at least four GOP-held seats. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is considered the most vulnerable incumbent Democratic senator, while vulnerable incumbent GOP senators include Maine’s Susan Collins, Arizona’s Martha McSally, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, Iowa’s Joni Ernst and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis.
I’m glad the editors at the National Review finally got around to condemning President Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence and I agree that it was indefensible. However, I have to quarrel with their assertion that the act was “fully within the president’s powers and in keeping with the long-established pattern of presidents’ pardoning or commuting the sentences of associates caught up in special-counsel probes.”
To be sure, it’s possible to find precedents if you’re looking to make a two-wrongs-make-a-right argument. President Clinton famously pardoned his brother. He also pardoned Susan McDougal of Whitewater fame. Neither of these examples are on a par with Trump giving Stone a get out of jail card. In this case of Roger Clinton, the charges were drug-related and over a decade old, and he had served his full sentence. With respect to McDougal, it’s conceivable, although not proven, that she covered up criminal, unethical or embarrassing acts by then-Governor Bill Clinton, but she likewise had already served her full sentences on charges of fraud, conspiracy and civil contempt. The National Review prefers the example of Poppy Bush’s infamous Christmas Eve 1992 pardons of Iran-Contra figures, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. This is a better comparison because Weinberger almost certainly protected Bush from Lawrence Walsh’s special investigation as well as the inquiry conducted by Congress. But Bush had already been defeated in the November election and was headed out the door.
In one sense, since the presidential pardon is absolute, there can be no limitations on it and even the most self-serving and obvious example of obstruction of justice can be considered “fully within the president’s powers.” This is basically the de facto situation in most cases, especially because the Department of Justice has a policy against prosecuting a sitting president. The only remedy while they remain in office is impeachment, and that possibility certainly had limited appeal in Poppy’s case. Bill Clinton could have pursued impeachment of Bush if only to assure that he became ineligible to hold any further office, but that kind of contentious battle would have destroyed any honeymoon he had in DC, which was limited in any case. Some commentators, including myself, have argued that the costs of not pursuing impeachment were extremely high, and now we’re seeing why, but the immediate problem was solved when Bush left office. As for charging a president once they’re a private citizen, it’s not easy to overcome the constitutional right of a president to pardon and commute however they please.
This is problematic in theory and now in practice. If Donald Trump stood accused of murdering someone on Fifth Avenue and Roger Stone was an eyewitness, we would not say it was okay for Stone to stonewall the investigation and then receive a commutation as a reward. In that scenario, we’d expect the Justice Department to drop their qualms about indicting a sitting president. At a minimum, we’d certainly expect Trump to face charges of obstruction of justice once he left office. There has to be some legal limitation on the pardon power.
Personally, I think Nancy Pelosi would be doing the Republicans a favor if she impeached Trump a second time over the Stone commutation. I don’t mean that she’d be making it easier for Trump to win reelection. I mean that it’s too late for the Republicans to nominate someone other than Trump as their 2020 presidential nominee because he’s already won all the necessary delegates. The only option they have left to avoid going into the fall election with Trump as their standard bearer is to convict him in an impeachment trial and render him ineligible. Were Pelosi to give them that option, it would be a gigantic gift. It would also be the right thing to do since Trump is manifestly incapable of managing the COVID-19 outbreak and it’s already led to tens of thousands of excess deaths and untold economic damage.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense for Pelosi to do this from a self-interested political perspective. Why disrupt a trajectory that looks increasingly like a Democratic landslide up and down the ballot? But it would still be the correct move because Trump’s crime sets a terrible precedent, and because so many people’s lives are on the line.
The Republicans would probably take a pass, but that would help clarify where they stand, and that’s also a benefit for the voters, and the American people.
Trump official decries ‘inexcusable’ COVID-19 testing failures after his son had to wait a week for results
Mick Mulvaney, the United States’ special envoy for Northern Ireland who previously served as President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, believes that America’s testing capabilities for the novel coronavirus are still way short of where they should be.
In an editorial published by CNBC, Mulvaney argues that the next economic stimulus package passed by Congress must address shortfalls in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief among those shortfalls, he writes, is its ability to quickly test people for the disease and deliver their results in a timely fashion.
“I know it isn’t popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country,” Mulvaney writes. “My son was tested recently; we had to wait 5 to 7 days for results. My daughter wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents, but was told she didn’t qualify. That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic.”
President Donald Trump has regularly boasted about the United States’ testing capabilities, and even held an event at the White House earlier this year with signs that declared, “America leads the world in testing.”
In fact, the president has gone so far as to blame increased testing for the rise in coronavirus infections, even though the positivity rate of the tests has risen to such an extent that the number of new cases cannot plausibly be pinned on increased testing capabilities.
Unlike the Ukraine scandal, former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation did not result in articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. But it did lead to the prosecutions of some of Trump’s top allies, including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Andrew Weissman, who headed the U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal fraud division, is speaking out about the investigation — which, according to Weissman, went well, but not as well as it could have.
Mueller’s probe is the subject of Weissman’s new book, “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation,” due out from Random House on September 29.
Weissman told the Associated Press, “I am deeply proud of the work we did and of the unprecedented number of people we indicted and convicted — and in record speed. But the hard truth is that we made mistakes. We could have done more. ‘Where Law Ends’ documents the choices we made, good and bad, for all to see and judge and learn from.”
Weiss, during the AP interview, also said of the book, “This is the story of our investigation into how our democracy was attacked by Russia and how those who condoned and ignored that assault undermined our ability to uncover the truth. My obligation as a prosecutor was to follow the facts where they led, using all available tools and undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our work.”
When Mueller’s report was released in 2019, Trump described it as a total vindication— which is misleading. Mueller asserted that the 2016 Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians, although questionable, did not rise to the level of a full-fledged criminal conspiracy. But Mueller did not render a judgement on obstruction of justice, noting that DOJ policy prohibits the indictment of a sitting president. However, Mueller urged members of Congress to read his report and arrive at their own conclusions.