In what’s become a running joke, Donald Trump claimed on the campaign trail that “I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people.” Early in the Administration a few semi-legitimate figures destroyed their reputations in futile efforts to steer the orange menace. Today, there’s no one left in Trumplandia but the dullards, fanatics and grifters who thrive in that fetid habitat.
With legitimate firms inventing “conflicts” to avoid representing him, Trump’s impeachment defense team is a roll call of MAGA-land’s finest. This gallery of legal talent is Trump’s idea of serious people.
Bondi is a former Florida AG and Fox News host who ended the state’s investigation into Trump University for a measly 25 grand. Bondi solicited the money personally from Trump. He paid the bribe out of his charitable foundation, and lied about it. Here’s what Trump said, out loud, on the campaign trail, about donations like these, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”
She’s now a lobbyist for Qatar, while also collecting a government check as a White House employee.
Dershowitz is often described as Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyer, but that description skims over a vital nuance in his relationship to that dead rapist. For Epstein and Dershowitz, the attorney-client relationship flowed in both directions.
While he also represented notorious figures like Claus von Bulow and OJ Simpson, he didn’t actually murder their victims. Dershowitz’s relationship to Epstein was kind of special, in that Dershowitz, like Donald Trump, is one of the Epstein party bros accused of raping a girl at his mansion.
How did a lifelong liberal Democrat become a soulless and apparently brainless defender of every crime Trump commits? You can’t square that circle without multiplying by Epstein. Why is Dershowitz on TV disagreeing with himself on impeachment? Everything about the world looks different after someone has evidence of your child rape. If Dershowitz merely entertains a passing thought of betraying Trump, Bill Barr will have the Feds at his door.
After serving as Special Council in the Clinton investigation in the 90’s, Starr helped Jeffrey Epstein negotiate a sweetheart deal to escape a federal rape prosecution in 2007.
After protecting Epstein, Starr became President and Chancellor at Baylor University, which had only recently voted to permit the sin of dancing on campus. As Chancellor of this evangelical Christian bastion, he performed the usual duties expected of any leader of an evangelical institution, covering up a rape scandal. The school’s first-ever Title IX coordinator promptly quit in frustration with the administration’s resistance, but not before documenting more than 400 rape cases.
Having served the Southern Baptists by covering up rapes, he now graduates to helping White Jesus escape justice. May God reward him richly, soon, and with eternal effect.
If it sometimes seems like Jay Sekulow has no idea what he’s talking about, that’s because he’s a professional entertainer who plays a lawyer on TV. He also plays drums in a band with the former lead singer of Kansas. I’m not making this up.
A bizarre religious nut with a law degree from Pat Robertson’s “university,” Sekulow struggled to make ends meet as just another amateur scam artist selling tax shelters in Atlanta. That career ended in the late 80’s with a $13 million bankruptcy and a securities fraud suit.
He climbed back into the saddle protecting abortion protesters, then landed a spot in the most lucrative business in evangelical religion – entertainment. He used a radio show to pimp his “non-profit” Christian legal defense organization called, creatively, the ACLJ. Its purpose was to end “Christian persecution,” apparently by making Sekulow and his family members stupid-rich. Money started rolling in, and by the early 90’s daddy was back in limos and private jets, where a humble servant of Christ belongs.
Borrowing tools learned in his tax shelter practice, Sekulow set up a complex machine for laundering millions in ACLJ donations toward himself and his family. His family has fleeced at least $33 million from this scam. Sekulow is a straight-up crook who will reap money from this circus regardless what happens to Trump.
Ray is a former Clinton prosecutor, later arrested for stalking a woman in a case that was hushed up and officially sealed. Apart from a few failed political campaigns and a bit of stalking, he’s maintained a low profile in private practice since the Clinton scandal.
A former assistant to William Barr, Cipollone’s clients include Laura Ingraham. Yes, that Laura Ingraham. One of his ten kids works on Ingraham’s Fox News show. He was appointed to replace the White House counsel who was fired for cooperating with prosecutors.
Cipollone is a real lawyer, with a formal education and a real practice with legitimate clients, so his presence on this team might seem odd without a few more details. He’s also a rabid right-wing Catholic, credited with “converting” Laura Ingraham to the faith. He volunteered to help Trump’s campaign team in 2016.
Herschmann is another real lawyer, but there are no straight professionals in Trumplandia. His firm is Kasowitz Benson Torres, the mob lawyers who have represented Trump for decades. They defended him in his divorces, bankruptcies, and the Trump University fraud cases. The firm has a thoroughly unsurprising practice protecting Russian “legitimate businessmen,” including Ihor Kolomoisky, one of the Ukrainian oligarchs implicated in the Trump-Ukraine “drug deal,” Oleg Deripaska, and Paul Manafort.
Herschmann helped Southern Union delay and reduce a multi-million dollar penalty for illegally storing chemical waste, an effort that earned him a spot as chairman of the company. That stake in Southern would net him a modest fortune when with the company was sold.
He keeps a very thin public profile, but his other recent work includes representing a Chinese “businessman” tied up in a complex money laundering scheme in Los Angeles. Herschmann is helping the Chinese defendants escape the seizure of the assets at the center of the scheme. In what seems to be one of the central qualifications for entry to Trumplandia, Herschmann served a turn protecting a prominent sex abuser.
To make matters more interesting, Herschmann was a large donor to the Kamala Harris campaign. He also supported Ted Cruz against Trump, and has been a sizable donor to Cory Booker.
Jane & Martin Raskin
A former mob prosecutor, Jane Raskin now earns a living on the other side of the bar. Husband, Martin focuses on commercial litigation. Together they are the least tainted members of this team, but they’re new. It is unclear where Jay Sekulow found this low-profile pair of Floridians, probably waiting in line at the prime-rib slicing station in the Mar-a-Lago buffet. Within a few months we’ll either discover their skeletons, or we’ll hear that they quietly resigned from the team after agreeing to cooperate with the DA. Nobody escapes Trumplandia with their soul.
As Trump aides, friends, and even an attorney head to prison for helping him, one can only hope that each of these folks gets their brush with justice. No one should ever forget what they’ve done.
Happy Brexit AND the President is Above the Law Day, everyone. The Anglosphere in 2016 decided to pull the plug on their wheezing democracies by 2020. Now that they’ve flatlined, take a minute of reflection, attend to the funeral, bury your illusions, and let’s build a better system.
Or, as former republican David Jolly noted tonight on MSNBC, “You want to really lose the 2020 election? Just quit.”
We can’t do this.
Not giving up or quitting. The thing about Alexander’s statement that incensed me was the aspect of trying to have his cake and eat it too. There’s a crumb of vindication in his admission that Schiff et al made their case, but the notion that it was improper but not impeachable is a gross insult to my intelligence.
Was this not the plan?
We knew going in that the Republican senate would disgrace itself rather than turn against their leader. This was the purpose of the vote of impeachment when it passed the House, and the reason why Pelosi held it back until the opportune time: to force the Republican senators to disgrace themselves, and to demonstrate conclusively that the sanctity of procedure is a thing of the past.
This was political theatre. It succeeded brilliantly. Our enemies look like corrupt fools and the imperative to destroy them at the ballot box has never been clearer. A month ago one could speak of “moderate Republicans” or say that once Trump himself has passed, the party will revert to a better place. One could say “If Sanders wins I’ll vote Republican” or “If Biden or Buttigieg wins I’ll sit out the election.” None of these things can be said now.
One could not create finer propaganda.
“ We knew going in that the Republican senate would disgrace itself rather than turn against their leader”
Absolutely true, but it was still gut wrenching to see, even if we all knew it would happen. I do take some solace in the fact that more damning info will keep dripping out (Parnas is turning out to be quite the unexpected bonus).
Thought you might like some followup on your article about the new drug Zolgensma, currently the world’s most expensive drug at $2.1mil for a single dose that cures you of spinal muscular atrophy.
Novartis is holding a lottery starting next week. 100 lucky babies will be given the drug for free:
I guess the other thousands will be left to die a painful and tragic death, too weak to eat or breath or keep from choking on their own saliva (the usual way these kids die).
I’m grateful that Novartis developed this drug (well, actually the small biotech that they bought, and the University that did the initial work under NIH funding…). But the structural inefficiencies in the drug discovery market are now a life and death matter. We *have* to solve them soon or we might as well stop funding basic research. How cruel to tax someone to fund the NIH to develop drugs that same taxpayer will never have access to?
But there’s also a point here that Creigh and I have made repeatedly in the past about federal deficits. Even if we did nothing to reduce the price of this drug, If we went into debt to buy this drug for every child who needs it, that debt is worth it. Every deficit hawk talks as if the worst thing we can do to our kids is leave them a big debt to pay off. No it isn’t. It’s not even in the top ten. Do we really think babies like this one are better off dead than face higher taxes in the future to pay off a federal debt? Even if people don’t believe Creigh and me and all us crazy MMTers that deficits don’t matter, I hope we can agree that deficits at least matter less than *some* things we can provide right now, like healthcare, education, social security, and a host of other areas. That spending in those areas will lead to far better lives for our children even if they’re burdened with resulting higher debt.
I expected the GOP Senate to fall in line behind their crime boss and acquit, no matter what the evidence said. I also knew the getting witnesses to testify was a longshot. But I am a bit surprised at just how angry I am at Lamar Alexander’s chickenshit response -yeah he did it, and it wasn’t right, but we won’t do anything about it.
But still, we are not supposed to do what is necessary, given that fact that the rule of law being shattered was proven, yet again, on the largest stage in the nation?
And the question is “So what?”
We all knew 3 years ago that any impeachment trial would end as this one will.
The real question is what is the tyrant going to be like when he is fully unchained and unhindered by mid-Feb?
How about he immediately starts demanding that all trade deals be tied to investigating his enemies? And of course, every aid deal will have the same strings.
And you people keep saying “It will be all right, it will be all right…”
Trump is lucky this coronavirus started right at the time of his impeachment hearings. Or else even more people might be tuning in to see his legal team get totally manhandled.
I realize I’m always late commenting on articles, so forgive me but I wanted to bring up two quick things.
1) Apropos to your prior post’s links about AI successes, and your mention that law enforcement might be one area where AI is problematic, Chicago PD is withdrawing its predictive policing tool:
I don’t think it was specifically using AI (although I’m not sure), but it goes with what EJ was mentioning, which is that AI and Big Data analytics are only as good as its inputs, and can easily serve to confirm human biases rather than leading to any actual insights if used incorrectly.
Ironically, however, law enforcement might be one place where your assertion that we want an AI to produce conclusions that a human would produce anyway (except we’d need months of deliberation), might also be correct. Lots of police reform advocates are pushing for community policing, i.e. getting cops to walk regular beats so that they get to know the community, and become a part of their policing ward, rather than be holed up in their cars and isolated from the local community. On paper, it sounds good: cops integrate into the communities they’re protecting, which leads them to have better insights into the crimes going on there, while also fostering more trust among the community members. There’s only one problem: we’ve tried this before. Decades ago, we used to have cops walking the blocks, and it led to huge problems with graft and protection rackets, which is why we put them in cars and kept them from getting too close to a community in the first place. Putting them back on the streets will probably lead to the cycle repeating. People who study corruption say that inevitably corruption arises in the human-human interface of government and its citizens. Decrease that interface (by computers and automation, but also by having clear-cut rules which leave no room for interpretation — say like 3-strikes and you’re out) and corruption decreases. Law enforcement, for better or for worse, is one of the largest and most extreme human-human interfaces that government has. In this situation, if an AI can come up with the same insights as a beat cop, and allow for the necessary nuances that clear-cut rules never provide, while being insulated from the temptation to solicit graft, then perhaps it can be useful.
2) The coronavirus is a good example of the benefits and drawbacks of the Chinese model of governance. China was able to seal off a city larger than the size of New York and Chicago combined, within a matter of 12 hours, based on one edict. Within days, they expanded that quarantine to >60million people. No democracy could have pulled that off.
Unfortunately, that quarantine is unlikely to be helpful. The real way to deal with an outbreak is information: you have to make it easy for people to report things like their travel history, their symptoms (e.g. cough, fever), their contacts, etc. That information allows you to spot infections early, determine transmission vectors, and quickly apply focused efforts in areas needed, rather than blanket quarantines.
In the US, if you report that you’re from Wuhan and have a fever, you will get immediate care, as will anyone you came in contact with. The doctors treating you who report your case to the CDC will get immediate help in treating you properly. The doctor who missed your diagnosis 2 days ago will not be punished. Neither will the airport worker who missed your fever when you flew in. In contrast, in China, people are afraid to report their symptoms because the focus will be on mass quarantine rather than treatment. The doctors and the local health officials are afraid of losing their jobs and more, and so on.
In this case, regardless of the centralization of information flows, the empathy is actually *critical* to the solution. The quality of the information is dependent on being empathetic to the citizens. This has always been the case in any health-related field (one of the reasons why doctor-patient communication is protected from law enforcement), but I’d argue it’s important in a lot of other areas too, such as law enforcement (no one is going to rat out their neighbor unless they trust the cops and know they’ll be protected). Even economic data: no one trusts China’s economic data because they know that local officials simply lie when reporting their economic growth so that they don’t get punished for not meeting goals.
So maybe, Chris, it’s the other way around: empathy leads to better quality information, which allows centralized structures to function better. When centralized systems forget that empathy is the foundation for the information they rely on, their information becomes inaccurate, and they tend to fall.
The Soviet Union needed much more centralized economic data than we did (gotta write those 5 Year Plans 🙂 ). And ostensibly, it’s easier for them to collect it: they can simply order the bosses of their state-owned companies to send whatever reports Moscow desired, whereas in America, we have to beg private businesses to answer surveys, and then apply a bunch of statistical methods to try to make them accurate. And yet, when the Soviet Union fell, it was a massive surprise, because their economic data had been so faulty for decades, much worse than our own data. Why? Because in America, no business owner is punished if they answer a survey saying they didn’t meet their sales targets this year, or plan to lay off employees, or curtail investment, etc. In the USSR, any boss that even hinted at any of those things was likely to be relieved of his job, and possibly sent to a Siberian gulag. In the end, the whole thing ended up being a charade. As the old joke went, “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.” It was a joke everyone knew except for the higher-ups in Moscow, who kept believing the numbers everyone was reporting, until it all came crashing down.
Final example: the reason we share more information with Facebook than German citizens ever gave up to the Stasi, might have nothing to do with technology. Perhaps, it has everything to do with the fact that Facebook promised to give you community, engage with your friends and like-minded people, etc. in exchange for that information, while the Stasi was only looking for information to jail or execute someone. And the minute that Facebook was shown to be abusing their customers’ trust, their level of engagement, and the amount of information they shared with the platform, decreased as well.
EJ is right that AI can become the ultimate garbage-in/garbage-out. And empathy may be the key to keeping the inputs from being garbage. So perhaps the goal isn’t to get centralized systems to be more empathetic, but to remind them empathy is the only way they can stay centralized?
I think my argument is less “garbage in, garbage out” or “can give wrong results if not careful” than it is “ideology in, ideology out” and “there is no way to avoid this because there is no non-ideological position.”
If someone writes an ML system to monitor policing, and chooses which data is relevant to give it, and that someone is a Blue Lives Matter type, then the ML system will return Blue Lives Matter decisions. If that someone is me, then the ML system will return anarcho-pacifist decisions. If that someone is a neoliberal, it will return neoliberal decisions. The “objective” and “non-flawed” position cannot be reached.
What’s very dangerous is that people don’t understand this, and believe that ML can be used to achieve this vaunted “objective” position better than any human is able to. This is dangerous because it allows people to camouflage their biases as objective fact. A person who hates poor people can disguise this by teaching an ML system to hate poor people and then saying “see, the computer agrees with me, I’m right.”
As such, machine monitoring of police is something I’m going to have to agree with Chris about – it’s a Fochian nightmare.
(I totally agree with you about what you said about the Soviet reporting structures and about community policing, those are excellent points made well.)
This is powerful:
Good piece, Chris. Your pen drips with loathing in a deeply readable way.
“Within a few months we’ll either discover their skeletons…”
Could I ask what this idiom means, please? Are we suggesting that they will disappear and be found dead somewhere?
skeleton in the closet (plural skeletons in the closet): (US, idiomatic) A shameful secret.
Of course, thank you. I hadn’t connected “skeleton” to “skeleton in the closet.” I feel foolish now.
Actually EJ, my initial thought was also that they’d end up dead too, because of the gangster mentality of this regime, and Trump’s dictator envy. But I also think it’s a skeleton closet reference.
Title would be reassuring if it meant that the trial would go poorly for the Florida Man or that their competence would raise questions to the American voter,
but neither will happen so it just means that it’s not Florida Man that is defended by these people, it’s our Constitutional system and rule of law.
American Idol is, officially, a more stable democracy than the United States.
Did these lawyers get cash up front?
They’re being paid in airtime
Which will include questioning by the likes of Senator Harris, right?
I read tgat tge RNC put up $225k. Will try to find source.
The legal luminaries representing trump need to read this four-step test to deciding impeachment. From the conservative National Review, a reasonable and provable (if not already “proven”) process.
> May God reward him richly, soon, and with eternal effect.
Indeed. May he be accompanied by the “best” of his people.