Sessions’ war on civil rights

Attorney General Jeff SessionsFrom a “zero tolerance” policy that separates migrant children from their families to walking back criminal justice reform, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is slowly undermining progress made in civil rights, according to a story at The Atlantic. After recusing himself from the Russia probe, Sessions has withstood the withering criticism of his boss, President Donald Trump, to enact a number of measures that reverse gains that have been made to ensure justice for all:

But behind the scenes, even as the president has agitated in public about firing his attorney general, Sessions is the true architect of much of what people believe to be Trump’s domestic-policy agenda. As implemented in recent decisions to curtail asylum grants, ramp up immigration enforcement, and dial back criminal-justice reform and voting-rights protections, this agenda is more than just the reversal of policies enacted during the Barack Obama era, which Trump promised during his campaign. Rather, from the Black Belt in Alabama in the 1980s to the farthest reaches of the border fence today, the Sessions Doctrine is the endgame of a long legal tradition of undermining minority civil rights.

Critics say Sessions is “rolling back civil rights progress” and killing reforms in policing, prosecuting and prisons. Author Vann R. Newkirk II says that Sessions’ history as a US attorney and senator from Alabama may explain his determined efforts to undermine decades of progress in civil rights.

Shades of Watergate: Did the FBI seize Cohen’s recordings?

FBI sealAs President Nixon did recording audio in the Oval Office that would haunt him in the Watergate investigation, it turns out President Trump’s attorney Micheal Cohen also regularly recorded conversations. Now, Trump’s team is concerned that the FBI may have seized those recordings when agents raided Cohen’s office, home and hotel room. The Washington Post and CNN report that Trump staffers were warned not to have conversations in Cohen’s office: According to CNN, “It’s one of the first things people entering Trump world would be told: Don’t have conversations in his office. He’s recording it,” one former campaign official said. Legal experts told the Post that any such recordings would be highly valuable to prosecutors.

“If you are looking for evidence, you can’t do any better than people talking on tape,” said Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor.

 

Such recordings “would be considered a gold mine,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University who specializes in legal ethics.

 

“The significance is 9.5 to 10 on a 10-point scale,” he added, noting that investigators know “that when people speak on the phone, they are not guarded. They don’t imagine that the conversation will surface.”

The Post reports a hearing is scheduled Friday on Cohen’s efforts to prevent the government from using material seized by the FBI.

FBI raids Trump’s lawyer: Will he fire Mueller?

After the FBI raided the office and hotel room of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen on Monday, some conservative pundits and the president are crying foul over the sanctity of attorney-client privilege. USA Today has a look at why the raid is unusual and the hurdles investigators had to clear to get a search warrant. The Washington Post also has analysis of how and why the FBI was able to execute the search. As you may know, Cohen is at the center of a controversy over the payment of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump is alleged to have had an affair. CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan calls the raid “a stunning move,” as well as “extraordinarily unusual and highly aggressive.” The president raged after hearing the news, leading some analysts to speculate whether Trump will fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller or others in the Justice Department. CNN quoted the president:

“Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens,” he said, making sure to repeat the question for the cameras. “And many people have said, you should fire him.”

One former US attorney told The Washington Post that the raid is like “dropping a bomb on Trump’s front porch.” For the latest developments, follow The Trial Lawyer magazine on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Who’s on Mueller’s team?

Robert MuellerSpecial counsel Robert Muller has assembled a team of at least 17 lawyers looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. The team has already brought charges against 22 people and entities, including four associates of Donald Trump. Who are the lawyers on the special counsel’s team? CNN has a look at the men and women assisting in Mueller’s investigation.

Can a sitting president be indicted?

Donald J. TrumpAs the White House debates whether to allow President Trump to be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, legal scholars are debating another issue: can you indict a president while he or she is still in office? The Office of Legal Counsel, of course, says you can’t. But is Mueller bound by that opinion, or will he disregard it? Former White House Counsel Bob Bauer writes at Lawfare that constitutional arguments against indicting a president are problematic. Click here to read his opinion.

Podcast: Bharara reads Mueller’s tea leaves

Donald J. TrumpFormer US Attorney Preet Bharara knows a thing or two when it comes to deciphering plea deals and indictments, and he tells Politico that he sees much more coming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign. “Hard to tell, but the George Papadopoulos guilty plea tells us (a) Mueller is moving fast, (b) the Mueller team keeps secrets well, (c) more charges should be expected and (d) this team takes obstruction and lying very, very seriously,” Bharara told Politico.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

ACLU calls AG Sessions more dangerous than Trump

Who poses a greater danger to the American justice system, President Donald Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions? The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union says Sessions poses the more significant threat. The ACLU’s David Cole says Sessions is “…particularly retrograde on criminal justice.” Read the complete analysis at the ACLU’s website. Attorney General Jeff Sessions