Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Trac reports - "The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first six months of FY 2017 the government reported 152 new environment prosecutions. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 304 for this fiscal year. According to the case- by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this estimate would be the lowest ever recorded since the Justice Department started tracking its environmental prosecutions over two decades ago." For more information and data see here.
(esp)(w/disclosure that she received her BS degree from Syracuse University).
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Scattershooting, while wondering whatever happened to John B. Henderson.
The appointment of Bob Mueller as Special Counsel sends an unmistakable signal to every politico, white collar lawyer and potential target in DC. It's time to get serious. Think Fitzgerald on steroids. This will be a real investigation, with a real grand jury, and real prosecutors who know how to investigate, prosecute and keep their mouths shut. Expect plenty of collateral damage as well. There won't be any immunity giveaways or hand-wringing negotiations over the breadth of subpoenas.
A number of commentators have suggested that Mueller is only "overseeing" the Russia Investigation, apparently in the same sense that an Attorney General oversees various criminal investigations within DOJ. Get a grip. Mueller will be totally involved in all strategic and tactical aspects of the case. He will be hands on. For God's sake, he and his lieutenants just resigned from their partnerships at Wilmer Hale to take on what could be one of the most significant criminal investigations in U.S. History, an investigation with profound implications for the country. He'll be there every day, every step of the way, and in total control.
In today's WSJ (subscription required), Kimberly Strassel plants the seeds, in The Mueller Caveat, for a future Trump attack on Mueller. Of course Mueller's integrity is "unquestioned" but Strassel asks whether he can be "objective" about his old buddy Comey. This question assumes that Comey's firing will loom large in the Russia Investigation. I seriously doubt it. The contacts between Comey and President Trump in the period between inauguration and firing will certainly be looked at as a key to President Trump's intent and motives. But, barring new information, the idea that the firing itself constitutes criminal obstruction is unsound. It was no more an obstruction of justice than Nixon's firing of Archie Cox. Trump could fire Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller tomorrow and order their successors to shut down the Russia Investigation and it still wouldn't be an obstruction of justice. He is the chief executive of the Executive Branch and has the authority to fire either one of them. Don't think it is an impossibility. Of course, it would signal the beginning of the end of Trump's tenure.
Meanwhile, over on the left, the Comey flacks are out in force. It's comedy time at the New York Times with Saint James and Ben Wittes in starring roles. Michael S. Schmidt's NYT puff piece on Comey is a classic of the genre. Lawfare's Ben Wittes, an admitted Comey confidante, is interviewed and holds forth for the record. According to Wittes, Comey, pre-firing, had "concerns" about Rod Rosenstein's likely confirmation by the Senate. "He said, 'I don't know. I have some concerns. He's good, he's solid but he's also a survivor and you don't survive that long without making some compromises and I'm concerned about that.'" Translation: "Anyone who might consider firing me is by definition compromised." What a hoot. Comey would know all about survival and compromise. He's a 17 year DOJ veteran, who left at one point to take a $6 million per year job at Lockheed. Rosenstein on the other hand, prior to becoming DAG, spent his entire career in public service without a hint of impropriety. His reputation for straight-shooting is impeccable. Notably, Schmidt nowhere mentions Wittes's recent and unhinged hit piece on Rod Rosenstein in Lawfare.
I have a slightly different interpretation of Comey's concerns. I would have been concerned too, had I been in his shoes. Comey had been widely and correctly condemned by a broad and impartial sector of the legal and law enforcement community for his improper interference in the political process--an interference that violated longstanding DOJ policies and usurped DOJ's prosecutorial role. But Loretta Lynch was too politically damaged to fire him and Sally Yates, as a lame duck, was too weak. Comey knew that Rosenstein had the integrity and the stature to pull it off. Meanwhile, also in classic fashion, the broadcast media parroted the NYT. Joe Scarborough on Friday morning's show breathlessly reported Comey's "concerns" as if Comey, yesterday's goat, is now the nation's ethical ombudsman.
Whatever happened to the idea that a respected public servant can make a serious mistake, even one that justifies his or her firing, and still be judged an honorable person based on the whole of his or her career? I know numerous people within the FBI and DOJ who have worked with Comey and have enormous respect for his abilities and integrity. This doesn't mean that he is flawless or that his conduct during the election renders him untouchable. By all means, let's have a public airing of all of the circumstances surrounding Comey's firing, assuming that it can be done without compromising Mueller's work. There is little doubt of President's Trump motivations. But let's not conflate the impropriety of President Trump's motives with the improprieties catalogued in Rosenstein's Memo.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, the Second Global White Collar Crime Institute will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 7-8, 2017 at the Law Offices of Trench Rossi Watanabe. The program for the event is now available online. What was already shaping up to be a fascinating conference will now be even more interesting with news breaking overnight of another major Brazilian corruption scandal.
According to the New York Times, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo alleged overnight that a food company executive taped a conversation with Brazilian President Michel Temer in March that included discussions of "hush money" being paid to a jailed politician. According to the the New York Times, President Temer is also alleged to have told the food company executive to pay a lawmaker in relation to a dispute at a company facility. The President of Brazil issued a statement in response to the O Globo story denying the allegations, and the New York Times noted in its article that the paper had not yet independently confirmed the allegations.
According to The Rio Times, the food company executive in question, Joesley Batista, told federal prosecutors about the conversation as part of his cooperation pursuant to a plea bargain. Batista had been implicated in the Carwash corruption investigation in Brazil. After news of the allegations broke, lawmakers from several political parties called for an investigation. There were also calls for the President to resign. According to The Rio Times, PSB national president Carlos Siqueira told local media, "The resignation of the President has become an imperative not to aggravate the crisis further. The Temer government ended today."
This latest alleged scandal comes at a time when Brazil is still reeling from the fallout of the Petrobras scandal, a case that led to the downfall of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. These latest developments will certainly be ones to watch as corruption allegations continue to plague the Brazilian government.
Co-blogger Sol Wisenberg (here) called for Rod Rosenstein to "Hunker down Rod. Your country needs you." There are many who feared that the appointment of a special counsel would not be as neutral as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The appointment of special counsel/prosecutor could also delay a current investigation - after all anyone new would have to get up to speed. But the DAG outdid himself here in appointing former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.
The real hero of the story still remains Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and hopefully history will remember this.
Monday, May 15, 2017
I imagine we will know more about Rod Rosenstein's Memo, and its timing in connection with FBI Director Comey's firing, later this week. Based on the publicly available information, it appears that that when Rosenstein met with the President last Monday he was asked for his views on Saint Jim. Rosenstein no doubt articulated his disapproval of Director Comey's appallingly improper conduct during the 2016 election, a disapproval shared by legions of current and former DOJ prosecutors and FBI Special Agents. He was asked to memorialize his thoughts in a memo, and given a quick turnaround time. If this is how it played out, there was nothing wrong with the President's question, nothing wrong with Rosenstein's answer, nothing wrong with the President's request for a memo, nothing wrong with Rosenstein's decision to obey the request, and nothing wrong with the resulting memo itself. Nothing at all. Comey's conduct, as Rosenstein's Memo makes clear, was a gross deviation from standard DOJ practices, a clear overstepping of authority, and an improper smearing of an American citizen who just happened to be a major political candidate. As devoted readers of this Blog no doubt remember, I detailed Director Comey's myriad shortcomings here just after the election. To make matters worse, Director Comey refused to acknowledge his mistakes and improprieties and continued to publicly justify his shocking behavior in increasingly bizarre fashion. Some have suggested that Rosenstein's Memo "reads like an op-ed" or is "deeply troubling." I expect this kind of nonsense from the political opposition and the resisters, but when I see it from former colleagues of Rosenstein it makes we want to puke. The President is Rosenstein's superior. He asked for Rosenstein's opinion. He asked for Rosenstein to memorialize his thoughts in writing on a fast timetable. Each of these was a reasonable request. Should Rosenstein have refused the request, protesting that he needed more time to prepare a memo? He didn't need more time to detail Comey's indiscretions. Any schoolboy or schoolgirl reasonably competent in Civics could have done so.
The problems arose with what happened next. When Rosenstein learned that the White House was disseminating a false version of events to the effect that Comey's firing was solely the result of Rosenstein's Memo, he is reported to have quickly complained to the White House Counsel that he did not want the facts massaged and would not be comfortable staying in an Administration where this was happening. Translation: "Tell the President's people to quit lying. Stop the phony stories now." And the phony stories stopped. Then the President, in his typical foot-in-mouth way, admitted that Comey's handling of, and public comments about, the Russia investigation played a part in the firing. Think about that for a moment. Because of Rosenstein's status and sterling reputation, a reputation much ballyhooed by the Trumpistas, the President's people were forced to instantly and embarrassingly change their false narrative, and the President stumbled into another unforced error. That would not have been possible if the DAG had been a hack or mere factotum. Of course, Rosenstein could have decided to resign. Instead he demanded the truth and got it. It is a judgment call and I don't blame him at all for making the call he did, two weeks into the job.
Make no mistake, there is going to be a thorough investigation of Russian Collusion, either within Main Justice or by a Special Counsel. There are many good reasons for keeping the investigation in-house, as Rosenstein should know having served (along with me) in an Independent Counsel's Office. There are great inefficiencies and delays involved in setting up and running a Special Counsel operation. In disputes between such an office and an uncooperative Executive Branch, who would you rather see the President opposing? A Special Counsel, who he can demonize, or his own DAG, who he has already praised as a man of impeccable integrity? The scarier President Trump gets, the more I need the people around him to be sound, sane, and steady professionals. I want to see people like McMaster, Mattis, and Rosenstein at their stations.
As a matter of public relations, the President's unforced error will make it more difficult for Rosenstein to resist the calls for a Special Counsel. If President Trump's inappropriate comments about the investigation pile up, more and more citizens will be prone to see any declination by the DAG as a whitewash or a cover-up. So keep talking Mr. President. The more you complain about the Russia Investigation, the likelier you are to get a Special Counsel for all of your efforts. Meanwhile, were I Rosenstein, I would react to every Presidential criticism of the investigation with a renewed determination to leave no stone unturned. Hunker down Rod. Your country needs you.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
In 2015, I launched the Inaugural ABA Criminal Justice Section Global White Collar Crime Institute in Shanghai, China. It was an incredible success and brought together practitioners, government officials, judges, consultants, and academics to discuss some of the most important issues in the field.
I’m please to announce that the Second Global White Collar Crime Institute will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 7-8, 2017 at the Law Offices of Trench Rossi Watanabe. The program is now available online, and it is shaping up to be another spectacular event.
The program includes the following panels:
- A Prosecutor’s View of Global White Collar Crime from Investigation to Sentencing
- Navigating Cross Border Government Investigations and Prosecutions
- Trends Regarding Global Anti-Corruption Enforcement
- A View of Global White Collar Crime from the Bench
- Preparing for the Globalization of Corporate Internal Investigations
- Navigating Global Compliance Trends and global Enforcement Priorities
I hope you will be able to join me for this engaging and informative conference in one of the world’s most active white collar enforcement environments. Register here while space is still available.