Podcast: President Trump’s deepening legal troubles

President Trump’s legal issues continue to mount, including whether he violated campaign finance laws when he allegedly directed his attorney, Micheal Cohen, to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels. In this podcast from NPR, Steve Inskeep talks to Trump supporter Chris Buskirk, who runs the conservative publication American Greatness, about the president possibly being linked to campaign finance violations.

Video: Toobin says Trump should be nervous after Flynn’s sentencing recommendation

Robert MuellerCNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says Robert Mueller’s recommendation that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn serve no prison time in exchange for his cooperation should send a signal to President Trump. And that signal is that it’s time to be nervous about the investigation. Mueller says Flynn provided “substantial” assistance to his investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. You can read the heavily-redacted sentencing recommendation document here. 

The press and the president

CNN has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for revoking the press credentials of Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent. The Washington Post lays out CNN’s legal argument, and points out that the lawsuit is causing the White House to change its tune on why it revoked Acosta’s press pass. An article at Slate supports CNN’s claim, and states that they believe the news organization will win its lawsuit. Politico has posted its own take on the lawsuit, titled “Donald Trump and Jim Acosta: A love story.”

Here’s a copy of the altered video of the incident that was retweeted by Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders alongside unedited C-SPAN video. The video is provided by The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, the American Bar Association has posted an ABA Legal Fact Check on the lawsuit:

“With CNN challenging the suspension of the White House media pass for one of its reporters, the American Bar Association posted today a new ABA Legal Fact Check exploring the history and case law of the conflict between the White House and the media over credentials.

A half century ago, the Secret Service periodically denied media credentials for niche or alternative media. This led to federal lower court rulings in the 1970s that tested whether the White House had the authority to deny a “hard pass” for a reporter and on what grounds. While the cases never reached the U.S. Supreme Court, lower court judges cited both First and Fifth Amendment grounds in ruling for reporters and against the Secret Service. CNN’s lawyers cited similar First and Fifth Amendment grounds in arguing on behalf of its reporter.

ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the media and public find dependable answers and explanations to sometimes confusing legal questions and issues. For coverage of other timely issues in the news, these prior ABA Legal Fact Checks might be helpful:

  • Click here on the legal history of U.S. birthright citizenship.
  • Click here on what legally constitutes the crime of treason.
  • Click here on whether White House confidentiality agreements can be enforced.
  • Click here for an ABA Legal Fact Check on under what circumstances, if any, would a president be above the law.
  • Click here for an ABA Legal Fact Check on the authority of a president to issue pardons.

The URL for the site is www.abalegalfactcheck.com. Follow us on Twitter @ABAFactCheck.”

Video: Toobin on Trump’s threats of violence from the left

President Trump’s warning to evangelical leaders about violence if the GOP loses the midterm elections stems from Trump’s appeal to racism, according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “They will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently,” Trump said, according to reports from The New York Times and NBC News. 

The president’s pardons

In comments to media today, President Trump invited NFL players who would protest during the national anthem to suggest individuals to be considered for a presidential pardon.

Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following response:

“President Trump has spent much of his first 18 months in office degrading NFL players who protest police brutality and racial injustice. Today, he has tried once again to change the narrative about the work of those and other activists, betraying a fundamental misunderstanding of the cause behind these protests — and using racist dog whistles to do it.

“While we support a fair and concerted effort to address unfair sentences in the federal system, pardons alone won’t fix our deeply broken criminal justice system. We need real reforms that will address systemic racism and implicit bias in policing that too often results in violence and death. We need a bail system that doesn’t criminalize poverty. We need sentencing reform so that thousands of Black and brown people aren’t ensnared in jails and prisons. Should the president meet with athletes, we hope he will propose serious policy changes that get us closer to those goals.”

This statement is online here:
https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-comment-president-trumps-suggestion-considering-pardons-request-nfl-players

Parsing Trump’s lawyer’s words about that $130K payment

Just when you thought you’d heard all there was to tell about the payment of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels that President Trump’s personal lawyer “facilitated,” Michael Cohen, the aforementioned attorney, piped up with another statement regarding the alleged affair that all parties deny happened. At The Washington Post, columnist Paul Waldman says Cohen’s latest statement is interesting as much for what it doesn’t say as for what it does. Here’s what Waldman says is the key part from Cohen’s latest statement:

In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.

Waldman notes that Cohen doesn’t say he used his own money to make the payment; he “used his own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” which is Ms. Daniels’ real name. While Cohen takes pains to emphasize “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign” was involved, ethics experts say Cohen may have made an “in-kind” donation to the Trump campaign — implicating himself.

Another interesting thing is that there’s no denial that Trump himself may paid the hush money or reimbursed Cohen for the payment. Still another is this observation by Waldman, “Remember: The president may have had an affair with a porn star who was paid $130,000 in hush money to keep it quiet, and we treat it like it’s the third- or fourth-most scandalous thing that happened this week.”

You can read his complete analysis at The Post.

Opioid commission member calls commission a ‘sham’

President Trump’s bipartisan commission on opioids is a “sham,” according to a report on CNN. Former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy says no one is willing to “do anything about it.” The president declared the opioid epidemic a 90-day public health emergency last October, but didn’t make any funding available to treat the problem. Critics say Trump’s declaration was ineffective, and hasn’t slowed the number of overdose deaths from opioids. “This and the administration’s other efforts to address the epidemic are tantamount to reshuffling chairs on the Titanic,” Kennedy told CNN. “The emergency declaration has accomplished little because there’s no funding behind it. You can’t expect to stem the tide of a public health crisis that is claiming over 64,000 lives per year without putting your money where your mouth is.”

Laying out the case that Trump obstructed justice

The Brookings Institute has released a report that outlines the case that President Donald Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey. Authors Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman Eisen “break down and analyze” whether the president may have obstructed justice, and what ramifications may follow. The Washington Post says the report amounts to “an amicus brief for use by special counsel Robert S. Muller III and his team.” The authors state that “the public record contains substantial evidence that President Trump conspired to obstruct justice with senior members of his administration although the public facts regarding conspiracy are less well developed.”

You can read the Brookings Institute report here.