There are so many lawyers, so many lawsuits and so much legal news surrounding President Trump that we decided to call our own lawyer to catch you up.
DOJ threads the needle
Michael Avenatti is one week into representing himself in federal court in Southern California, where he is accused of stealing funds from his client. Is he doing a good job lawyering for himself? And is a juror in the trial secretly posing as Josh Barro for this week’s podcast? You won’t know until you listen! P.S. As mentioned in the show, we’ve been enjoying and relying on Meghann Cuniff’s excellent and detailed reporting on the Avenatti trial. Follow her here.
Then: the DOJ has indicated that they will refuse to step in to defend Congressman Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit brought against him over the insurrection. Why is this different from other situations related to January 6 where the DOJ has stepped in? Also: one person arrested in the insurrection made a selective prosecution argument — why is he being prosecuted now when so many people who were arrested on federal property in Portland last summer were not?
Plus: when you’re under federal indictment and also rich enough to post a $250 million bond, how do the feds ensure you stay in the country and show up in court?
A pro se pro?
This week, Michael Avenatti told a federal district judge in California that he would like to represent himself in his second of three criminal trials, in which he is charged with stealing millions from his clients’ settlements. There are a lot of reasons why hiring a lawyer is a very good idea and a very smart idea. Is it possible, though, that Michael Avenatti could be making a good decision, even though his experience in criminal law is, uh, as a defendant?
Also: like former President Trump, the Biden administration has beef with social media companies. Ken and Josh examine whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act could be revised to hold platforms accountable for misinformation around vaccines.
Then: Tom Barrack, who chaired President Trump’s inaugural committee, is the latest prominent Trump-tied figure to be indicted. He’s facing charges related to alleged lobbying of the Trump administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.
An expensive defense
Allen Weisselberg is no longer in executive positions with the Trump Organization and its subsidiaries. Does this signal anything about the relationship between the former CFO and the company? Weisselberg’s defense is going to be very, very expensive. How expensive? Ken says there’s a good chance a full defense in a case like this could even be $1.7 million — the amount in off-the-books compensation Weisselberg is alleged to have received. So who’s paying those legal bills, and what happens if a wealthy defendant such as Weisselberg can’t afford them?
Then: the sanctions hearing for Kraken lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood with a federal district judge in Michigan did not...go well. Ken and Josh discuss what makes an affidavit too stupid to file, and whether you should be sharing your sanctions hearing on Telegram. (You should not.)
Also, Michael Avenatti received his first sentence: 30 months for trying to extort Nike. This may be the end of his legal career (it is) but it’s not the end of his legal troubles. He still faces two more cases for allegedly stealing money from both Stormy Daniels and a paralyzed tort lawsuit plaintiff. And finally: Can Fox News air just about anything as long as they run a chiron or disclaimer with it?
BONUS: Josh and Ken talk about the criminal indictments against Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization
Surprise episode! Josh Barro and Ken White talk about the unsealed indictments of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. They’re alleged to have engaged in a fifteen-year tax fraud scheme that protected Weisselberg and other Trump Organization employees from paying tax. In Weisselberg’s case, that’s over $1.7 million in compensation. But what’s really at stake here? And is this actually just a way for prosecutors to get to the man for whom the Trump Organization is named?
The ATPL XL Ask Us Anything Show
As of Wednesday morning, there have been no charges yet against the Trump Organization or any of its senior officials. The Wall Street Journal reported that charges for tax related crimes are expected Thursday for the organization and its CFO, Allan Weisselberg. Ahead of those charges, there have been reports that the New York District Attorney gave Trump Organization lawyers a deadline of this Monday to talk prosecutors out of charging the organization. What’s the purpose of that meeting? What can really happen at this point?
Attorney General Merrick Garland will not conduct a broad review of the politicization of the Department of Justice during the previous administration, disappointing many Democrats. He says the Department’s inspector general is best positioned to investigate such matters. Is that a good decision?
Then: Josh and Ken answer a bunch of questions from listeners about why there probably won’t be any repercussions for President Trump related to his role in the insurrection, a hard-number prediction about whether he will be arrested “at some point,” how Josh and Ken met, and our signature swear jar sound effect. Thank you for sending in your questions and please keep them coming.
The show will return July 14.
"What the Fuks?"
The first Capitol riot defendant received her sentence today, more than six months after the insurrection. Ken White and Josh Barro analyze the sentencing memos from the woman’s lawyer and the government. Both agreed that a lenient sentence with no jail time was appropriate for her one misdemeanor count (to which she pleaded guilty) and the government seemed to set a standard for the hundreds of sentences that are expected. What is the criteria and will it determine how other people are sentenced?
Next: some legal analysts worry that because the government will continue to defend Donald Trump in the defamation lawsuit against him E. Jean Carroll, that indicates the government would also defend the former president in civil cases arising from the insurrection. Ken says that the government actually has a better reason to do so in that case than they do in the E. Jean Carroll case. Also: Trump’s attempts to use the Department of Justice and the FCC to get SNL to stop making fun of him were amusing and predictable but not legally feasible.
Also in this episode: the swear jar runneth over as Ken and Josh discuss a Ukrainian oligarch named Pavel Fuks with ties to Rudy Giuliani. Finally: the DOJ drops its fight with John Bolton, Manhattan prosecutors appear to be investigating another Trump Organization exec, and the Trump Organization sues the entire city of New York for canceling its contracts to run a golf course, two ice rinks and a carousel.
Concise, clear, wry, revelatory. So much to understand about US justice system. Everything to like.
Informal, but really informative. Great presenters who manage to lead the listener through the legal weeds and make it a fascinating journey.
Will try not to make this defamatory
Thoroughly enjoyable tours through the legal issues surrounding the Trump presidency. Ken White (Popehat) breaks things down for the layman while Josh Barro asks the intelligent questions. Credit to both of them that they make it seem like a chat between friends.