Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Last Call For No Trial Of Any Century

America's criminal justice system is 100% broken, and there's no greater evidence of this than the permanent detainment of US citizens being held indefinitely in county jails across the country.  In Louisiana alone the number is in the hundreds, some who have been waiting on trails for years.

The Louisiana Sheriffs' Association says around 1,300 people have been in local jails for four years waiting for their trials, and 70 people have been held for five years without having their case heard, according to the group's informal survey.

"I think the number is actually higher," Michael Ranatza, executive director, said after a budget hearing before state lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee on Monday (April 9).

Last month, the sheriffs' association tallied up how many people were sitting in jails without going to trial or receiving a sentence, Ranatza said. The problem is so pervasive that it is eating into sheriffs' budgets to house the accused for so long, he said.

"I want you to understand that there are people in the state of Louisiana who have waited over five years to be tried in criminal court," Ranatza told the committee. "There's a higher number at the four-year level, about almost 1,200."

Jay Dixon, Louisiana's state public defender, said he was surprised the sheriffs' count of people waiting for years without a trial was that high. Public defenders have a system that automatically alerts them if nothing has happened in a case for six months.

Dixon said he didn't have an easy way of verifying the sheriffs' association numbers, explaining that the people counted aren't necessarily represented by public defenders. There could be a number of factors that force someone to sit in jail awaiting trial, including the ability to afford bail, he said.

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the accused the right to a speedy trial. A defendant can file a motion for a speedy trial, which in Louisiana would have to commence within 120 days for someone held in custody charged with a felony -- or 30 days for a misdemeanor -- unless a judge determines a delay is justified.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana is troubled by the long waits reported by the sheriffs, though they said people being held too long before trial is a widespread problem. "This is huge problem in Louisiana and it is a problem nationally," said Bruce Hamilton, a staff attorney for the organization.

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune has asked the sheriffs' association for a list of where these prisoners who have been in jails for over four years without a trial are located according to their survey. The association hasn't sent a response yet.

And let's remember the only reason this is even being mentioned is because county sheriffs don't have the money to detain people in county jails for years like this.  They still have to clothe and feed these folks and it's eating up their budgets.  State courts are flooded and the backlog is so bad people are getting lost in jails for four or five years now. 

It's a massive violation of the Constitution, and it's happening in basically every state.  And surprise, the victims of this are most often black and brown, and the least likely to be able to afford cash bail.

My guess is that this is happening to tens of thousands across the country, if not far more.  Nobody will lift a finger to correct the problem, either.

The Drums Of War, Con't

With Trump reeling from the FBI raid on his personal lawyer, Michal Cohen, the move for a "wag the dog" style distraction is now in 110% overdrive.  Trump wants cover to fire Rosenstein, Mueller, and anybody with them.

Rod J. Rosenstein, the veteran Republican prosecutor handpicked by President Trump to serve as deputy attorney general, personally signed off on Monday’s F.B.I. decision to raid the office of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney and longtime confidant, three government officials said.

The early-morning searches enraged Mr. Trump, associates said, setting off an angry public tirade Monday evening that continued in private at the White House as the president fumed about whether he should fire Mr. Rosenstein. The episode has deeply unsettled White House aides, Justice Department officials and lawmakers from both parties, who believe the president may use it as a pretext to purge the team leading the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

Searching a lawyer’s files is among the most sensitive moves federal prosecutors can make as they pursue a criminal investigation. Mr. Rosenstein’s personal involvement in the decision signals that the evidence seen by law enforcement officials was significant enough to persuade the Justice Department’s second-in-command that such an aggressive move was necessary.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have spent the last 24 hours trying to convince the president not to make an impulsive decision that could put the president in more legal jeopardy and ignite a controversy that could consume his presidency, several people close to Mr. Trump said. The president began Tuesday morning with a pair of angry tweets, calling the raids “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!” and venting that “attorney–client privilege is dead!”

Mr. Trump has long been mistrustful of Mr. Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, who appointed the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and now oversees his investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign and possible obstruction of justice by the president. In his remarks Monday night, the president lashed out at Mr. Rosenstein for having “signed a FISA warrant,” apparently a reference to the role Mr. Rosenstein played in authorizing the wiretap of a Trump associate in the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump considered firing Mr. Rosenstein last summer. Instead, he ordered Mr. Mueller to be fired, then backed down after the White House counsel refused to carry out the order, The New York Times reported in January. Mr. Trump is now again telling associates that he is frustrated with Mr. Rosenstein, according to one official familiar with the conversations.

That distraction and cover is already being set up. Trump has already canceled his trip to Latin America this weekend for the Summit of the Americas and is sending VP Mike Pence in his place. 

President Donald Trump is scrapping his plans to travel to Lima, Peru, later this week to attend the Summit of the Americas, instead staying in the United States to "oversee the American response to Syria," the White House said Tuesday.

Vice President Mike Pence will take Trump's place at the meetings, while the president will "monitor developments around the world," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The news comes a day after Trump said the United States had “a lot of options militarily” to respond to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend. He said Monday that his administration would decide how to react in the next "24 to 48 hours." No response has yet been announced.

The suspected poison gas attack on Saturday in the suburbs of Damascus killed dozens of people. After a similar chemical attack a year ago, Trump ordered missile strikes on a Syrian air base. Before the weekend attack, however, he had said he wanted “to get out” of the civil-war-ravaged country.

Yes, before this weekend he wanted to get out of Syria.  Now he realizes just how much he needs the US in Syria to rally the country around the flag. And if the trip cancellation wasn't a dead giveaway that major military action against Assad is imminent, the sudden resignation of homeland security advisor Tom Bossert should be.

President Donald Trump's top homeland security advisor, Tom Bossert, is stepping down, the White House announced Tuesday.

The White House did not give a reason for Bossert's departure, which came as a surprise while the president pushes to ramp up border security.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNBC that the move "seems like a natural turnover with a new [National Security Council] director." John Bolton, a foreign-policy hardliner, started as Trump's national security advisor Monday, replacing H.R. McMaster.

A Bloomberg News reporter, citing a source, said Bossert resigned at the request of Trump's new national security advisor, John Bolton.

Just two days ago Bossert was on the Sunday shows saying "all options were on the table" as far as a military response to Syria.  My guess is that Bolton's mustache wants a massive military response as the chief option on this table and Bossert objected. He's gone now as a result, and in less than 48 hours.

Things are moving very, very quickly towards something ugly in Syria.  Tomahawk missiles aren't going to cut it.  This is going to be something more. We know this because Israel has already attacked a Syrian air base in response.

Syria and its most powerful ally, Russia, blamed Israel for striking an air base in the war-torn country on Monday, following a suspected chemical gas attack that drew condemnation from world powers.  
Russia's Defense Ministry claimed two Israeli F-15 warplanes launched eight guided missiles from Lebanese territory, targeting the T-4 base in central Syria. The Defense Ministry said Syrian defense units destroyed five of the incoming missiles. 
The Lebanese Army issued a statement alleging a number of violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft between Sunday and Monday. The statement stopped short of accusing Israel of being behind the attack on the T-4 base. 
Syrian state media said that a number of people were killed or injured in the strikes and cited a military source blaming Israel for the military action. 
Israeli officials have not issued any response to reports of the strike, but its warplanes hit the same facility in February, after Israel said an Iranian drone had infiltrated its airspace. Israeli officials said Iran, a key backer of the Syrian government, was using the T-4 facility as a command center.

As I've long been saying, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life, facing multiple bribery scandals and calls for his resignation.  He needs a major escalation in Syria as much as Trump does right now and he's playing his part to get back in the good graces of the international community after scrapping a migrant relocation deal that still remains in limbo.

Taken separately, the sudden Trump reversal on Syria, the Cohen raid, the Latin American trip cancellation, Bossert's firing and the Israeli strike all would be disconcerting.  All of them happening in rapid succession is a screaming air raid siren that considerable military action will be taken this week.

It's possible that this is all a feint, but a betting man would put his chips down on a major series of attacks and soon (within days), by the US and possibly by more than one ally in the region, on Assad's forces.  Whether that will be the cover Trump needs to also remove Rosenstein and Mueller, I can't tell you.  Remember, he has already tried to fire Mueller once before.

It gets hairy and scary from here. The question was always going to be when he was going to try again, and now all indications are that this is coming.  Maybe Mueller and Rosenstein will be spared by bloodlust in Syria, but at this point I rule nothing out.

Stay tuned.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

If you've been wondering when Mueller was going to make his move on Trump's longtime personal lawyer and bagman Michael Cohen, that day was Monday, and the move was a full out FBI raid on Cohen's home, office, and hotel room to seize documents pertaining to Trump.

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.

FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to a fourth person familiar with the investigation.

Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, that person said.

In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.

The raids — part of an investigation referred by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to federal prosecutors in New York — point to escalating legal jeopardy for a longtime Trump confidant who is deeply intertwined in the president’s business and personal matters.

I can't begin to tell you the level of criminality and probable cause needed to authorize an FBI raid on the personal lawyer of the occupant of the Oval Office. A federal magistrate signed off on this, Rod Rosenstein signed off on this, the US Attorney's office in Manhattan signed off on this, and just to make sure Rosenstein and Mueller referred this to the US Attorney's office rather than do this himself with his team.  The bar for going after a attorney in a federal case where attorney-client privilege must be broken because of probable cause of evidence of criminal activity is sky high.

  1. Before obtaining a search warrant, investigators had to try to obtain the evidence in another way, such as by subpoena.
  2. The authorization for the warrant had to come from either the U.S. attorney or an assistant attorney general. (Rosenstein is deputy attorney general, a higher position than assistant attorney general.)
  3. The prosecutor had to confer with the criminal division of the department before seeking the warrant.
  4. The team conducting the search had to “employ adequate precautions” to ensure that they weren’t improperly viewing privileged communications between Cohen and his clients.
  5. The search team would have included a “privilege team,” including lawyers and agents not working the case, which would work to ensure that investigators conducting the search didn’t see privileged communications.
  6. The investigators had to develop a review process for the seized material.

Even with those checks in place, the U.S. attorney wasn’t guaranteed a warrant. Search warrants granted to U.S. attorneys are approved by magistrate judges serving in U.S. District Court.

The question of what qualifies as privileged communication is complex. Not every communication between an attorney and a client is included. One type of communication that’s excluded: communications between an attorney and a client that might be predicated on committing or covering up a crime.

In a phone call with The Post, law professor Robert Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford University Criminal Justice Center, explained where the lines might be drawn.

“There is a crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege,” Weisberg said. “The affidavits that went into the warrant application — and possibly direct conversations with the judge — would have had to give at least prima facie reason to believe that the communications, even where they were privileged, give some indication that Cohen was involved in committing or planning some kind of fraud.”

Needless to say, Trump is pissed.

If Trump's going to make his move on Mueller and Rosenstein, it's going to happen soon now.  Again, taking attorney-client communications only happens when there's probable cause that a crime has been committed and that those communications are evidence of that crime, and that probable cause involves Donald Trump.

It would not have happened if it there wasn't rock-solid indication that Cohen was covering up fraud.  That fact alone signals criminal activity by the man in the Oval Office, guys, and if you think that Trump has committed crimes in the last, oh, decade or so other than paying off hush money to a porn star using campaign funds, well the Feds have all of that now too.  Merry Christmas!

Needless to say I cannot overstate how bad this is for both Trump and Cohen.

But the FBI’s seizure on Monday of privileged communications between Trump and his private lawyer, Michael D. Cohen — as well as documents related to a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who has alleged a sexual affair with Trump — was a particularly extraordinary move that opens a whole new front in the converging legal battles ensnaring the administration.

Cohen is Trump’s virtual vault — the keeper of his secrets, from his business deals to his personal affairs — and the executor of his wishes.

“This search warrant is like dropping a bomb on Trump’s front porch,” said Joyce White Vance, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama.

Mark S. Zaid, a Washington lawyer, said the seizure of Cohen’s records “should be the most concerning for the president.”

You can’t get much worse than this, other than arresting someone’s wife or putting pressure on a family member,” he said. “This strikes at the inner sanctum: your lawyer, your CPA, your barber, your therapist, your bartender. All the people who would know the worst about you.”

And yes, I believe Trump's people are making it very, very clear this means he's fried like a egg on a Baghdad summer sidewalk.  This is a breach of his inner circle, a hole drilled into the Trump bunker. He's shaken to the core, and Trump will lash out.

Asked why he had not fired Mueller, Trump left the door open. “We’ll see what happens,” he told reporters. “Many people have said, ‘You should fire him,’ ” the president added.

We're very close now to a seminal moment in history, and not a pleasant one.  Trump has already canceled his Latin American summit trip scheduled this week to instead monitor developments in Syria and around the world and VP Mike Pence will go in his stead. My guess?  Trump is firing a crapload of something in the next 48 hours, whether it’s DoJ employees or Tomahawk missiles. Maybe both.

More on that later today.
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