Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Week in Review, Legal edition

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He dealt with some legal issues.

Hacking lawsuit. Donald Trump Jr.'s initial flirtations with the Russian criminal conspiracy took up most of the news cycle this week, but Donald Trump Sr. was the only one to be sued over it. The Trump campaign and Trump confidant Roger Stone were named as defendants in an invasion of privacy lawsuit by Protect Democracy on behalf of three individuals who suffered damages when personal information in the stolen DNC e-mails was published on Wikileaks.

The suit alleges that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to steal those e-mails. The danger for Trump is not so much the monetary damages that might result (the suit does not name a dollar figure) but the fact that the discovery process would permit them to take depositions from witnesses and obtain otherwise secret documents--which would include e-mails of the sort Donald Trump Jr. released this week.

Legal fees. It was revealed this week that the Trump campaign had made a payment of $50,000 to Alan Futerfas, who came to wider attention this week because he is Donald Trump Jr.'s personal attorney. The payment was made on June 27, long before the point at which Trump Sr. claims he was told about the Trump Jr./Kushner/Manafort efforts to collude with Russia. Nor is it likely that Futerfas was hired for routine legal work and then assigned to Trump Jr.: he is a criminal defense lawyer with no experience in campaign law.

The Trump campaign has incurred $4.5 million in legal fees so far, much of it in recent months. Trump Sr., who claims (and now almost certainly will be) to be a billionaire, has been hounding the Republican National Committee to pay for his many lawyers currently engaged in defending him over the Russia conspiracy. It's not immediately clear why the RNC should: it is legally distinct from the Trump campaign, and there is little speculation that it was a material part of the Trump team's now-acknowledged efforts to get illegally obtained information from Russia.

Meanwhile, it is Trump's donors who are effectively footing the bill for the legal services of Futerfas, Marc Kasowitz, Michael Cohen, Jay Sekulow, the recently-hired Ty Cobb, and dozens of their associates. (Although Kasowitz, at least, may not be on the team much longer.)

Impeachment. Last but not least, official articles of impeachment were filed against Trump in the House of Representatives this week. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) filed H. Res. 438 on Wednesday over Trump's attempts to obstruct the investigation into the Russia conspiracy. Rep. Al Green (D-TX), who supports the article, said that more articles were coming.

While the White House called the article "utterly and completely ridiculous," the betting markets are now offering better than even odds that Trump will be impeached.

Why are these bad things?

  • When politicians seek power by any means, innocent people can get hurt.
  • Generally speaking, innocent people don't hire lawyers to defend them against crimes they supposedly don't yet know were committed.
  • The behavior of a president's subordinates reflects on the person who gave them responsibilities.
  • It's extremely bad if there are legitimate and obvious reasons to consider removing a president from office.