Friday, February 14, 2020

Four Lawyers and an Unlawful President

U.S. President Donald Trump has had dubious legal representation over the years but none of his layers was more unscrupulous than mob lawyer Roy Cohn. His influence can be seen in Trump's unrelenting altercations with the law. It is fair to say that Cohn groomed Trump to be the man he is today.. From many accounts of the way he operates, Trump acts more like a mafia boss than a president. This is a man who uses the vernacular of organized crime, calling people who tell the truth "rats" and he seeks revenge like the head of a criminal syndicate.

Trump was impeached for asking the Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political opponent in exchange for releasing the military aid that was allocated by Congress. He then withheld congressional funding earmarked for climate mitigation. In the most recent example of quid pro quo Trump is using federal money destined for New York as leverage to get that state to drop its legal proceedings against him.

Trump has been found guilty of defrauding people through his Trump University scam and a judge ruled that he misused funds in his charity for personal gain. Where Trump goes so does impropriety, so it should come as no surprise that it followed him into the presidency. More than a half dozen Trump political associates have been indicted so far including his former lawyer. One of Trump's high profile lawyers is in prison, another is under investigation and two have been disbarred.

Roy Cohn

Trump's illegal schemes began under the tutelage of Cohn. His first well known crime took place in the 70s when companies belonging to the duo were convicted of violating the Fair Housing Act. Throughout his law career Cohn was charged with numerous federal crimes including professional misconduct, perjury, witness tampering, and financial improprieties. He was eventually disbarred for unethical conduct, including misappropriation of clients' funds and attempting to defraud a dying client by forcing the client to sign a will amendment leaving him his fortune.

Cohn is also known for being Senator Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel during one of the darkest periods in American history. It is interesting to note that although Cohn was known to have sex with men, he both disparaged and fired people for being gay. He was also instrumental in the signing of an executive order banning homosexuals from working for the federal government. Broke and owing millions to the IRS, Cohn died of AIDS in 1986 at the age of 59.

Cohn had close ties with people in conservative political circles. He served as an informal advisor to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Cohn introduced Reagan to Rupert Murdoch allowing him to take some of the credit for the alliance between conservatives and media that has culminated in the state run fake news media known as Fox. Cohn's work for leading members of the criminal underworld prompted Allan Dershowitz to call him "the quintessential fixer".

Michael Cohen

More recently Michael Cohen assumed the role of Trump's "fixer" and "pit bull". Cohen was a vice-president of the Trump Organization, and Trump's personal counsel, he also served as the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. After he was indicted by the Mueller investigation Cohen plead guilty to eight counts including campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud. Cohen said he broke the law at the direction of president Trump and "for the principal purpose of influencing" the 2016 presidential election. In November 2018, Cohen entered a second guilty plea for lying to a Senate committee about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He was disbarred following his felony convictions.

Cohen liked to use threats and intimidation. In an interview with ABC News in 2011, Cohen stated, "If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn't like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump's benefit. If you do something wrong, I'm going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I'm not going to let you go until I'm finished." In 2015 he threatened Tim Mak a reporter with The Daily Beast saying, "I'm warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting." In televised testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Cohen described Trump as a "racist," a "con-man", and a "cheat". He said the president told him to lie to Congress and the public about the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations.

Cohen paid a porn star and another women hush money to keep them from going public about extramarital affairs they had with Trump. Cohen is alleged to have played a role in coordinating Russia's meddling in the election of 2016. He may also be Trump's link to Russian mafia. Cohen's uncle is a doctor who treated members of a well known crime family, he is the owner "El Caribe Country Club" which is known to be frequented by individuals associated with the Russian mafia.

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani is another one of Trump's lawyers who also has ties with Russia. The former federal prosecutor, New York City mayor, and Republican presidential candidate was hired as part of Trump's legal defense team in April 2018, when special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating Trump's contacts with Russian operatives.

Giuliani reappeared in the spotlight when it became clear that he was seeking to dig up dirt on the president's political opponent and push for the ouster of US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani is also known to have been involved with alleged criminals Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. These two men were charged by federal prosecutors in New York for funneling money from a Russian oligarch into US elections.

Giuliani is also under federal criminal investigation for violating lobbying disclosure laws intended to prevent covert foreign influence. He pushed for the ouster of Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine. Yovanovitch would later become a key witness whose testimony made a convincing case at Trump's impeachment. Although Trump was impeached in the House, Republicans in the Senate covered up for the president and refused to call witnesses.

Bill Barr

U.S. Attorney General, Bill Barr has created a justice department file to consider debunked information that Rudy Giuliani got from the Russian government. From Trump's perspective Barr is just another member of his legal team. Barr recently interceded on the president's behalf when he took the unprecedented step of overruling the line prosecutors and reducing the sentencing guidelines for Trump advisor Roger Stone. This provoked outrage in and outside of the Justice Department and led to the resignation of the four prosecutors who were pleading the case. This is not the first time Barr has done the president's bidding. He will always be remembered for rewording the findings in Robert Mueller's report.

Barr may acquiesce to this president, however there are many others in the Department of Justice that will not be so easily swayed by Trump's imperial demands. Judge Amy Berman Jackson is trying the Stone case in federal district court in Washington, DC. and she is likely to judge the case on its merits. "The Judges of this Court base their sentencing decisions on careful consideration of the actual record in the case before them; the applicable sentencing guidelines and statutory factors; the submissions of the parties, the Probation Office and victims; and their own judgment and experience," said DC District Court Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell. "Public criticism or pressure is not a factor."

Trump's assaults on the separation of powers have been criticized by Chief Justice John Roberts who expressed concern for the independence of the courts . More recently Judge Thomas Griffith of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals made a veiled reference to Trump when he applauded Judge Merrick Garland for protecting the rule of law, noting that it "needs protection from partisans and demagogues."

The threat to America's justice systems comes from a president who sees truth as his enemy and criminality as his creed.

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