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.
It’s been an interesting week for Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, despite the fact that Donald Trump isn’t president anymore. This week, we saw communications from Trump administration officials pressuring people in the Department of Justice to investigate increasingly erratic claims about the November election. In one exchange, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows asked then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to look into a matter dubbed “Italygate.” Rosen forwarded the request to his acting deputy attorney general, who replied “pure insanity.” What’s revealed in these communications? Why didn’t they ultimately bend to the will of the Trump White House? Was anything about their communications legally irresponsible? Ken says you shouldn’t underestimate the motivating forces of self preservation, institutional preservation, and the likelihood that many people in Trump’s Department of Justice were about to be on the job hunt.
Then, we knew that the Trump administration had subpoenaed journalists’ information as part of its leak investigations, but this week, we found out that extended to lawmakers too. Did they necessarily suspect certain lawmakers were leaking material? What were they looking for?
Plus: former White House counsel Don McGahn finally testified and it was kind of boring, new indictments and new plea deals for those involved in the Capitol riots, and Ken makes a connection between Ewoks, Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti because Ken’s gonna Ken.
A Trump legal problem becomes a Biden administration problem
Before the election, the Department of Justice under President Trump was at work defending him in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit, arguing that when Trump denied Carroll’s accusation that he had raped her, he did so in his official capacity as president, and therefore he couldn’t be sued. It’s customary for the Department of Justice to represent the president in situations like this, though a federal judge rejected it. The Trump DOJ appealed, but after he lost the election, there was a question about whether the DOJ under Biden would continue the appeal. Carroll and her lawyers were strongly opposed. Well, now the Department of Justice under President Biden has spoken: they will continue to represent the former president in this case. Why? Was this unexpected?
Ken and Josh discuss that, plus the audio of Rudy Giuliani pressuring Ukrainian officials to announce investigations into Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine and whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, if it’s a sweet gig to be a special master, how you go about searching through millions of documents anyways, messing up a PDF and hurting the opposing party, serving subpoena realness and more.
Michael Flynn and Myanmar
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made some news this week at a rally when he seemed to say a coup like the one in Myanmar earlier this year should happen in the United States. Flynn denied saying this, even though he was caught on tape. Flynn’s old boss, former president Trump, is supposedly telling people he expects to be reinstated as president by August. While Ken says it’s not a crime to believe or wish you’ll be reinstated, it can tip over into seditious conspiracy if an agreement is made.
Court documents related to prosecutors’ investigation of Rudy Giuliani show yet another redaction mistake. The documents didn’t reveal much about the investigation, but they did give Josh the opportunity to explain the right and wrong way to redact information from a PDF. And the Manhattan DA’s probe of the Trump Organization may use New York’s “Little RICO” law.
Blast from the past
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has empaneled a special grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former President Donald Trump, his business, or his business associates. It could be a few months before we know anything, or if there will be anything, about indictments. Is this an indication that Vance expected to indict anyone at all? Ken White and Josh Barro discuss the coverage of the grand jury announcement and the part of the memo sent to then-Attorney General Barr that underlay his decision to announce (purporting to summarize the Mueller report) that the Justice Department lacked sufficient evidence to indict Trump for obstruction of justice. What went into this order by LSFJ Amy Berman Jackson that the memo be released?
Plus: Judge Jackson unseals some Manafort documents, McGahn will testify soon, remember Gordon Sondland?, and why you should be nice to your exes if you’re going to crime.
This podcast is no longer purely civil in nature
We know that allies of Rudy Giuliani have been pushing for former President Trump to pay his legal fees or to pay him so he can pay his legal fees. But there’s another urgent ask that The Daily Beast reports Trump has demurring on: “a strong verbal or written statement saying Giuliani’s work during the Trump-Ukraine saga was done on behalf of then-President Trump—and therefore not part of an illegal foreign lobbying effort.”
Josh and Ken agree this would be inadvisable for Trump if he wants to avoid legal exposure, so does that mean he’s being a good client?
New York Attorney General Tish James says her prob eof the Trump Organization is “no longer purely civil” and that she’s work on a criminal inquiry with the Manhattan DA. So...what does that mean? Plus: Proud Boys, insanity defenses, how not to talk about your clients and more.
Hushing the hush payments
Do you remember Essential Consultants, LLC? Michael Cohen’s company established to make hush payments to Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) and Karen MacDougal to stop them from publicly disclosing their affairs with Donald Trump before the 2016 election. Michael Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty to making an excessive campaign contribution, but nobody else faced legal consequences for the concealed payment. And now the FEC has dropped its investigation into the matter, citing prosecutorial discretion. What does that mean? Why? Is this the end of the road?
Plus: would Giuliani flip on Trump and would Ken want him as a witness? Can Trump use campaign funds to pay Rudy’s legal fees? Is “Foxitus” a legal defense? And: more reasons why being in lock-up is horrible and dangerous (but not a reasons judges are sympathetic to when considering pretrial detention) and FOIA-ing for information about Champ and Major Biden, the First Dogs.
More than all the other news and legal podcasts I subscribe to, this is my favorite. Ken White is articulate and funny. Thanks guys.
I never miss it!
This is the only podcast that I listen to every episode. Solid analysis and good senses of humor. Great stuff!