The Mueller Team’s Latest Charges In the Russia Investigation Follows the Money Trail to One of America’s Largest Law Firms

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Office filed another important criminal charge yesterday (February 20, 2018) as part of its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. These charges are being brought against attorney Alex Van Der Zwaan, who is scheduled to plead guilty later today for lying to the FBI about a conversation he had with Rick Gates, Trump’s Deputy Campaign Chairman. The conversation with Gates was about the work that Van Der Zwaan and his law firm, Skadden Arps, Slate, Meager and Flom, were doing in Ukraine for the pro-Russian regime of then-President Viktor Yanukovich.

Van Der Zwaan, who worked out of the Skadden Arps London office until he was fired last year, was part of that law firm’s legal team that was hired at the behest of Paul Manafort, a senior advisor to the Yanukovich regime and his pro-Russian party during 2011 and 2012, who then went on to become Trump’s Campaign Chairman in 2016.  Skadden Arps was hired by the Ukraine government to counter the adverse publicity that the Ukraine government was receiving over its arrest and prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine who lost the presidential election to Yanukovich in 2010.

Immediately after taking office, Yanukovich directed that a politically-motivated investigation be conducted into Tymoshenko’s handling of a natural gas deal between Russia and Ukraine, leading to her arrest, incarceration and prosecution on baseless trumped-up political charges in 2011.

When an international storm of protest erupted, and with the U.S. government, the European Union and human rights groups calling for Tymoshenko’s immediate release, Manafort and Gates convinced the Ukraine government to hire the Skadden Arps firm to counter this adverse publicity and to lend an air of respectability to the government’s relentless and unfounded prosecution of Tymoshenko, who by this time was in urgent need of specialized surgery in Germany to relieve a painful back condition. However, the Yanukovich regime steadfastly refused to permit her to travel to Germany for the operation.

Manafort and Gates orchestrated the retention of the Skadden Arps team for the ridiculously low contract amount of $12,000 in order to keep the contract just below the threshold requirement under Ukraine law for the public bidding of all government contracts.

Since I was Ms. Tymoshenko’s U.S.-based attorney at the time, I helped her Ukraine-based legal team to calculate the actual legal fees and expenses that Alex Van Der Zwaan and the other members of the Skadden Arps team were incurring for their frequent trips to Kiev, where they stayed at expensive hotels and dined at expensive restaurants while they were being led around Ukraine by Manafort, Gates and their pro-Russian cronies as part of their so-called investigation. We estimated that the law firm must have been paid at least $1-2 million for its legal services in preparing their “whitewash” report, which unsurprisingly concluded that there was some legitimate basis for the Tymoshenko prosecution and that it was not (at least not completely) a political hit-job by Manafort, Gates and the Yanukovich Regime they were working for.

When we turned the results of our investigation into the missing $1-2 million in payments over to the FBI and Department of Justice prosecutors, they apparently incorporated this  information into their larger money laundering and influence-peddling investigation of Manafort and Gates, which led to the recent charges that Manafort and Gates used an offshore account to  “funnel $4 million to pay secretly for the report” supporting Tymoshenko’s conviction. The work was revealed in last year’s indictment of Manafort and Gates, in which prosecutors asserted that the two men lobbied members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine, including the issue of whether Yanukovych had a legitimate basis for imprisoning and prosecuting his political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko.

The pubic release of the charges against Van der Zwaan signals that the Special Counsel’s office has reached  plea agreements with both Van der Zwaan and Rick Gates, and that both of them are cooperating with the continuing investigation into the both Manafort and Gates’ work for the pro-Russian Ukrainian President, as well as their continuing work for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party even after Yanukovich was forced to flee Kiev for the safety of Moscow in March of 2014 during the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine.

The results of this investigation should answer the longstanding question as to why then-Candidate Trump hired Manafort and Gates to head up his Presidential Campaign in the summer of  2016, knowing how closely affiliated they were with pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. The recent charges and plea agreements should also substantially advance the ongoing Mueller investigation on many fronts, including the question of whether it was Trump himself who directed Manafort and Gates to water down the Ukrainian plank in the party platform at the Republican National Convention. This revision of the Republican platform eliminated the call for the U.S. to send defensive military equipment to the beleaguered Ukraine government, which was facing the annexation of Crimea and a Russian-incited rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

One thing is clear: there is much, much more to come from the Special Counsel’s office.

THE END OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM?

In his inauguration speech, Donald J. Trump basically announced the end of American Exceptionalism — the concept that the United States has a special mission and place in history.
The enduring concept of American Exceptionalism dates back to French writer Alexis de Tocqueville’s reflections on America in his 1835/1840 work, Democracy in America, where he concluded: “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”
Abraham Lincoln echoed this theme of American uniqueness when he noted in his Gettysburg address in 1863 that one of the things that sets us apart from all other countries in history was the sacred duty of the United States to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Since the end of the Civil War, and up until January 20, 2017, the idea of American Exceptionalism has infused the rhetoric of virtually every modern President and political leader. In April 1917, near the end of the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson exhorted Americans to fulfill the country’s destiny to make the world “Safe for Democracy.”
In his State of the Union address in January 1941, when the future of liberal democracies in their world war against fascism hung in the balance, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a message to its besieged democratic allies around the globe, reassuring them that “We Americans are vitally concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world … This is our purpose and our pledge.”
Fifty six years ago, in his Inaugural speech in January 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s reminded Americans that it was our country’s fundamental duty to protect human rights “at home and around the world.” He pledged that America would “bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Ronald Reagan inspired us with his soaring rhetoric about America being a “Shining City on the Hill,” a beacon of freedom, hope and liberty that was – and always be — the model and example for all the world.
President Obama, in April 2009, publicly acknowledged Americas “extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity,” while cautioning that such a lofty goal could only be achieved through effective partnerships with other countries. He also often remined us that America is, at its core, a good and caring nation that must work tirelessly in the cause of democracy and human rights around the world.
With Trump, this powerful concept of American Exceptionalism, which has been enshrined in our nation’s psyche for almost two hundred years, is dead. Or so Donald Trump would like us to believe.
In the immortal words of Stephen Colbert, Trump basically compared America to a “dumpster fire.” America’s longstanding mission to preserve and protect the causes of democracy, freedom and human rights around the world has, according to the Trump gospel, virtually devastated the country. In Trump’s view, American internationalism and free trade policies, fueled in large measure by a belief in America’s special place in the world, has reduced America to a virtual wasteland. Trump painted a dark “Mad Max” picture of a country with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.” and rampant “American Carnage” in our inner cities.
Of course, Trump’s vision of America is a totally false one, or at least grossly misleading, and he knows it. But this kind of dark rhetoric that he honed on the campaign trail seemed to work, and now that he is President, he seems incapable of letting his distorted vision of America evolve into something that more closely resembles reality.
In the dark parallel universe painted by Trump in his inauguration speech, there was not even one acknowledgment that any of the former Presidents sitting behind him had done anything other than to let America go to hell in a handbasket. Since, according to the Trump Doctrine, only he and he alone can save the country from catastrophe, he could not possibly bring himself to thank the outgoing President – Barrack Obama — for literally saving the country’s economy from the virtual freefall that it was in when he took office in January 2009. He could not acknowledge that, under President Obama’s stewardship, the unemployment has dropped from a high of 10% in January 2009 down to under 5%, that poverty and welfare dependency fell sharply fallen throughout the country, and that 20 million more Americans enjoy health insurance coverage, or at least until the Republican leadership guts the Affordable Care Act.
Questioning the value of America’s international alliances such as NATO, which have kept the peace in Europe for at least the past five decades, Trump has latched onto the slogan of “American First,” which was used by fascist sympathizers and isolationists such as Charles Lindberg during the late 1930s to try to keep America from coming to the aid of the Western European democracies that were being threatened, reasoning that Hitler’s plan to exterminate all European Jews and minority groups was none of America’s business.
Trump did make a passing reference to seeking “friendship and good will with the nations of the world,” but that our interaction with other nations would be solely motivated by a new commitment to serve America’s interests first, which presumably no longer include an interest in promoting freedom and human rights in other parts of the world, or combatting Climate Change, unless – in the unlikely event – that there was some economic or strategic advantage to the United States in promoting such causes.
However, despite President Trump’s best efforts to drive a stake through the heart of American Exceptionalism, I strongly believe that it will not die. Indeed, I think it likely that Trump’s attack on American core values will serve to energize and invigorate the American Resistance Movement. Today, as hundreds of thousands of Americans participate in the Women’s March on Washington, our faith in American Exceptionalism is renewed, and will emerge from the scourge of Trumpism more powerful than ever. American has been a beacon of liberty and protector of human rights throughout the world for generations now, and this shining torch will not – and cannot – ever be extinguished.
As Woodrow Wilson proclaimed over one hundred years ago, “The history of liberty is a history of resistance.” Long live the Resistance!

TRUMP AND HIS INVISIBLE SUPPORTERS

Most of the mainstream media put the attendance at Trump’s Inauguration at about 198,000, with the most generous estimates below 250,000. These included about 50,000 protesters (including three of my family members). Compared with the 1.8 million joyous Americans who turned out for the Inauguration of Barrack Obama on January 20, 2009, the turnout for Trump was decidedly subdued, but since we live in the age of electronic media, perhaps the Trump troops can be cut a little slack for not having many “boots on the ground” around the Capitol.
But Donald Trump is predictable, if nothing else. All you have to do is push his button, and he reacts. Not such a good trait to have in a poker player or a President, but there you have it. He is what he is, as the saying goes.
Several commentators (including Rachel Maddow of MSNBC) predicted (and took side bets) that Trump the Insecure would say that the size of the crowd was at least three times its actual size. They were not disappointed. On Saturday, when Trump went to the CIA headquarters in a “despicable display of self-aggrandizement” before the Wall of Honor (former CIA Director Brennan’s observation), he blasted the media for “lying” about the size of the crowd the day before. He said that it looked like a million people.
Given the extent of the lack of preparation by Trump and his transition team for actually taking over the executive administration of the country, you would think that the number of attendees at the inauguration ceremony would be the last of their concerns. There are literally thousands of senior level executive branch positions yet to be filled, and yet the Trump Team has not even named people to fill those positions, let alone actually filled them. The Trump team, in a panic last Thursday – the day before the inauguration – made a few desperate calls to senior Obama Administration officials, begging them to stay on for a while until Trump could get his act together and find a replacement for them. Some agreed, but others exercised their right to “Just say no.” Either they did not want to be associated in any way with the Trump Administration, or they had made other plans.
Trump’s insecurity and “thin skin” is legendary. However, what is becoming painfully apparent is that Trump suffers from a mental disease, known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which raises serious questions as to whether he can actually fulfill the responsibilities of his office.
The Mayo Clinic’s definition of NPD is as follows:
A mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism. If you have NPD, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious, you often monopolize conversations, you may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior, and you may feel a sense of entitlement (when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry). At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior.

Psychologists and psychiatrists generally use the criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to give patients a diagnosis of NPD. These criteria include:
• Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

• Expecting to be recognized as superior.

• Exaggerating your achievements and talents.

• Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.

• Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people.

• Requiring constant admiration.

• Having a sense of entitlement.

• Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations.

• Taking advantage of others to get what you want.

• Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.

• Being envious of others and believing others envy you.

• Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner.
Clearly, Donald Trump suffers from NPD, and it doesn’t take a professional to make the diagnosis. His symptoms are so obvious and non-subtle. Just as you don’t need a weatherman to tell you that it is raining outside (just look out the window), it is not that difficult for a lay person to tell when someone displays the classic symptoms of NPD.
The problem is not just that Trump’s NPD is annoying; it is that it is also extremely dangerous. NPD can alter a person’s cognitive and behavioral to such a deviation from “normal” that it can affect that person’s competency as to their life and job functions. It can exhibit itself in the following ways:

(1) Cognition (i.e. perception, thinking, and interpretation of oneself, other people, and events);

(2) Affectivity (i.e. emotional responses);
(3) Interpersonal functions; and
(4) Impulsivity.
Does this description remind you of someone you have seen recently? I’ll give you only one hint: he was just sworn in as President of the United States.
Another characteristic of a Narcissist is that he/she will never admit to being distressed by their own behavior. Instead, they always blame other people for any problems.
In extreme cases – which is what we apparently are facing with Donald Trump – a Narcissist presents a danger to others because they are in complete denial of reality and lack empathy, which may manifest itself in, for example, ignoring requests to cease behavior (such as cheating and lying); name calling, criticizing, belittling, mean “jokes”, jabs and put downs (verbal abuse); arguments surrounding the same issues over and over; no “closure” – no apologies, no accountability, no consequences, no change.
Trump’s meltdown at the CIA on Saturday, January 21, 2017, one day after his inauguration, should be cause for alarm. His obsession with what he considers to be the undercounting by the mainstream media of his inauguration crowd, to the point where he ordered his press secretary to make an announcement of “alternative” head-count figures, shows that he has crossed the line from just neurotic to pathological.
And why is he bragging – as he did at CIA headquarters — that he has been on the cover of Time Magazine 15 times, while Tom Brady has only made it once? He is President of the United States, for G-d’s sake, and yet he is so insecure and self-obsessed that he has to publicly remind people that he is the most powerful and important person in the room. It just doesn’t compute, and is not normal. This is because he has serious mental problems.
Perhaps the reason why not many Trump voters took the trouble to travel to Washington to watch the induction ceremonies is that they have gotten that same sinking feeling in the pits of their collective stomachs as the rest of us about Trump’s mental instability and lack of basic competency to fulfill the requirements of the job. Trump and his team let the transition period slip, with day after day representing a missed opportunity to heal the country’s wounds, to bring us together, or at least lay the groundwork for a competent Trump Administration. It is more than “buyer’s remorse” that all of us are experiencing. Despite what they have said after the fact, few – including Trump himself – actually thought that he would be elected as President and have to actually serve in that position. He craved the attention of the campaign, and probably thought that if his long-shot bet actually paid off and he became the 45th President of the United States, that his insecurity and constant need of reassurance that he was “the Greatest” in every possible category would somehow dissipate and he would have the genuine confidence that he had always craved. However, now that he is President, and is unquestionably the Most Powerful Man On the Planet (yes, even more powerful than Vladimir Putin), he still has the same feelings of insecurity and lack of self-worth, and it having extreme difficulty coming to terms with the stark reality that he will always feel this way and there is nothing he can do about it to permanently ease the pain.
At this rate, if Trump psychological condition deteriorates any further, he will have to be declared to be incompetent to hold office.
Not that most of us would welcome a Pence Presidency. But it seems more and more likely that this is the direction in which we are headed.
There is only one reasonable response to a Trump Presidency, and that is to remember the immortal words of Woodrow Wilson over a century ago: “The history of liberty is the history of resistance.” Long live the Resistance!

THE RELEASE BY BUZZFEED NEWS OF THE “TRUMP RUSSIAN DOSSIER” HIGHLIGHTS THAT THE FBI HAS KNOWN ABOUT THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN’S TIES TO RUSSIA SINCE AT LEAST AUGUST 2016, BUT HAS CONDUCTED VIRTUALLY NO INVESTIGATION OF THESE ALLEGATIONS

The publication last Tuesday by BuzzFeed of the 35-page document – referred to as a “Dossier” — prepared by a former British intelligence officer regarding the ties between President-elect Donald J. Trump and the Russian government has triggered a huge political stir in Congress and, of course, in the Office of the President-Elect, but contains little news that has not been widely known within the media, as well as in the law enforcement and intelligence communities.
Specifically, the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies have had information relating to the direct communications between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government since at least July/August 2016, when it was first alerted that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Carter Page, Trump’s foreign policy advisor, as well as other intermediaries, were receiving information originating with the government that was extremely helpful to the Trump Campaign, and extremely damaging to Hillary Clinton.
As I reported in my law firm’s blog on October 31, 2016 (www.mccallionlaw.com.blog ), the FBI was “applying a double standard when it comes to publicly confirming whether the FBI has active investigations relating to the two major Presidential candidates.” As I pointed out, FBI Director Comey’s cryptic letter to Congress — eleven days before the November 8th election — announcing that the FBI was reviewing some new emails that may or may not be relevant to Hillary Clinton and her use a private email server, was grossly unfair to the Clinton Campaign and the American public, not only because it was inevitably designed to influence the outcome of the election, but because Comey was remaining silent as to the far more explosive investigation it had regarding to possible treason by high-ranking members of the Trump Campaign. Specifically, I sharply criticized Director Comey regarding his refusal to comment on “whether FBI agents had sought to speak with or had interviewed Trump former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, or his deputy, Rick Gates, even though it is widely known throughout the law enforcement and intelligence communities that there is an active FBI investigation of Manafort, Gates and others for money laundering and other illegal activities ever since documents surfaced in Kiev, Ukraine in August 2016 showing that Manafort had received over $12 million in cash from the pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich.”
I was able to reliably report on these investigations since I had personally received reliable information regarding the money laundering operations by Manafort, Gates and others through various companies and bank accounts located in New York and elsewhere, and had brought a civil racketeering lawsuit on behalf of various clients against Manafort, Gates and a Ukrainian oligarch – Dimitri Firtash – who was supplying much of the illegal money that was then “laundered” through these U.S.- based accounts. We also named as a defendant Manafort’s former boss – Victor Yanukovich – – the pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, who was run out of Kiev during the so called “Maiden Revolution” in Ukraine in February/March 2014, and is now residing in Moscow under the protection of Vladimir Putin.
During our investigation, we also collected valuable information regarding the ties between Manafort/Gates and Russian oligarchs and organized crime leaders based in Moscow. All of this information was turned over to the FBI, and Firtash was later indicted by the U.S. Dept. of Justice on similar money laundering and corruption allegations.
The former MI-6 British intelligence officer also provided the FBI with specific information regarding the connections between Manafort/Gates and Russian operatives. For example, he reported in his “Dossier” that he learned “in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald TRUMP, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership [and that] this was managed on the TRUMP side by the republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries.”
In fact, the former MI-6 agent believed this and other information urgently needed to get into the hands of the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, that – without even the permission of his private clients who had commissioned his investigation – he turned the fruits of his investigation over to U.S. law enforcement and others. He specifically alerted the FBI not only to the possibly treasonous activities by Manafort and Gates themselves, but also – as I had done – the various “ethnic Russian” operatives both within and close to the Trump Campaign.
Yet the FBI did nothing, and kept the entire matter under wraps while, at the same time, the agency leaked like a sieve as to Hillary Clinton’s emails and the “dangers” that some of her emails might have been hacked by Russian operatives.
I also reported in my October 31, 2016 blog that the FBI investigation also covered the money laundering activities of the Trump Organization with regard to the huge influx of cash from that Company from Russian and Eastern European sources, including money provided by known international criminals and organized crime racketeers. For example, the Trump Soho project in lower Manhattan was largely financed by illegally-obtained cash from Russia and Eastern European sources, including money provided by known international financial criminals and organized crime racketeers. The Trump Soho project in lower Manhattan was largely financed by illegally-obtained cash from Russia and several former Soviet Republics, and Trump specifically marketed his Sunny Isles, Florida apartment units in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other venues designed to attract Russian organized crime money, Such as the French Riviera. So much tainted Russian money poured into Trump’s Sunny Isles project that the entire area came to be referred to as “Little Moscow,” complete with Russian shops, restaurants and even directional signs.
As I have previously reported, foreign condo owners in Trump’s Sunny Isles project include Peter Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian businessman arrested on fraud charges in San Francisco in 1999, who, with his partner — former Ukraine Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, laundered hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. and elsewhere. Kiritchenko avoided jail time in the U.S. by agreeing to testify against Lazarenko, who was convicted of money laundering and spent 13 years as a client of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Other proud owners of Trump condos at Sunny Isle include Anatoly Golubchik and Michael Sall, members of a Russian-American organized crime group who ran an illegal high-stakes sports betting ring catering almost exclusively to wealthy oligarchs from the former Soviet Union. The list goes on and on.
Based on the fact that Trump’s buildings in New York and Florida were filled with Russian/Ukrainian oligarchs and their families, the Trump Organization (and therefore the Trump Campaign) were in a unique position to collect detailed ongoing information regarding these Russian/Ukrainian expatriates, which was a very valuable bargaining chip with Putin and the Russian intelligence organizations, since Putin has always been paranoid about the ability or likelihood of various Russian oligarchs to undermine his iron grip on all things Russian, both domestically and internationally. So the Dossier (at page 11) has the ring of truth to it to the extent it further reports that a “Source close to TRUMP campaign …confirms regular exchange with Kremlin has existed for at least 8 years, including intelligence fed back to Russia on oligarchs’ activities in the US.”
It was not until the President-Elect strongly denied being briefed about the Dossier at his Thursday news conference – calling it “fake news” – that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others felt compelled to correct the record by confirming that Trump had, in fact, been briefed on the Dossier, and that FBI Director Comey had specifically taken Trump aside during the recent intelligence briefing to advise him that this information was “out there.” In fact, it has now been disclosed that the Dossier had been widely circulated before the BuzzFeed publication and that it was the height of irresponsibility for the President-Elect to accuse the intelligence community for the “leak” of such a widely available document.
The former MI6 agent has disappeared “off the grid” and is unavailable for comment. Definitely a wise move. The stakes here are very high, and the Kremlin kleptocracy has shown no compunction about terminating with extreme prejudice even those on foreign soil whom they deem pose a threat to them. One of my sources regarding Trump’s Sunny Isles’ holdings recently died after falling (or being pushed) off an apartment balcony of a Sunny Isles apartment. Was his death related to our continued investigation of the ties between the Trump Organization and Russian/Ukrainian oligarchs and organized crime operatives with apartments in Sunny Isles, or was his death a coincidence and unrelated to this investigation? Strangely, his computer and phone went missing, so it is difficult – if not impossible – to fully investigate his contacts in the final days and hours before his fateful plunge. Very unsettling.
In any event, President Elect Trump’s baseless attacks on the press and intelligence communities should not detract from the most important “take away” from the release of the Dossier, and its importance has virtually nothing to do with alleged sex tapes from a Moscow hotel, or whether Trump is a “germaphobe” or not. Those are all sideshows and distractions from the real issue of paramount national importance: Did high-ranking members of the Trump Campaign, including several of those following him to the White House, commit high crimes and misdemeanors – basically treason – against the United States and, if so, what did the President Elect know about it and when did he know it. Question 2: Why did FBI Director fail to disclose its investigation of the Trump Organization’s Russian ties at the same time that he was making public statements about the Clinton email investigation. In other words, why was Director Comey focusing the public’s attention on the tail of the dog (the email investigation), without disclosing the much more important investigation of the dog itself.
The American people have a right to know. NOW!

COMEY, GIULIANI AND THE POLITICALIZATION OF THE FBI

No matter what the outcome of the Presidential election, the FBI is shaping up to be one of the biggest losers of this election season. Over one week’s time, the FBI’s well-deserved reputation for being a professional law enforcement agency operating above the political fray has been virtually flushed down the toilet into the murky cesspool of contemporary American politics.
On Friday, October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey gave us his “October Surprise”, darkly hinting through a thin veil of innuendo that Hillary Clinton might be due for another round of email investigations. Shortly after he sent this incendiary letter up to Capitol Hill, it was leaked that the possible renewed FBI interest in Secretary Clinton was a fallout from a probe of former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop computer that he had shared with his estranged wife and top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. As further details emerged, it was learned that the FBI had not actually seen the emails on Weiner’s computer because no court order had yet been issued or even sought permitting a search of his computer. Nor did the FBI know whether Weiner’s computer contained any emails that were sent to or from HRC, and if so, whether those emails were merely duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI.
In other words, Director Comey intentionally interjected the FBI into the Presidential Campaign, and since the clear (albeit erroneous) implication to the public was that the FBI Director would not send a letter to Congress on such an important topic eleven days before a national election if he had not already determined – at least preliminarily – that the new emails contained some “smoking gun” classified documents that would warrant a reopening of the FBI’s investigation of Ms. Clinton.
What we now know one week later is that Director Comey knew or should have known at the time he released the letter to Congress (knowing that it would be made public a few nanoseconds after it reached the Hill) was that an agent or agents in the FBI’s New York field office had already leaked the story about these “new emails” to the Trump Campaign. This is why Rudy Giuliani was already appearing on Fox News, smiling like the Cheshire cat and barely able to keep himself from spilling the news that he knew was about to be publicly released by the FBI. He cryptically announced that the Trump Campaign had “a couple of things up our sleeve” that would be “game changers.” And then, as if on cue, the FBI Director drops the letter bombshell two days later.
One week later, four days before the election, Giuliani confirmed that he knew that something big was happening at the FBI, thus confirming that FBI insiders had leaked information to the Trump Campaign in advance of Comey’s announcement. Giuliani insisted that he had learned about this information from former FBI agents, who had presumably received the information directly from active FBI agents, but whether the leak to Giuliani was a one step or a two-step process makes little difference. The important point is that the FBI has now joined the Russians and WikiLeaks as full-fledged members of the Stop Hillary campaign.
For the past 40 years of the post-Watergate era, the FBI and the Department of Justice have largely steered clear of partisan politics, re-building a generally well-deserved reputation as professional investigative (in the case of the FBI) and prosecutorial organizations. Public release of information regarding criminal investigations came only after indictments were handed down, and if a decision was made not to indict a high-profile subject or target of an investigation, any derogatory information obtained about that individual was not leaked to the press. Such information remained secure in the FBIs confidential files, no matter how frustrating it was to the FBI agents or AUSAs who had worked on the case, only to have it decided by higher-ups in Washington that the investigation would not proceed to an indictment and trial.
One notable exception to this general rule was Rudy Giuliani, who was as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and then U.S. Attorney in New York was so consumed by an overwhelming ambition for publicity and self-promotion, that he regularly leaked information about Grand Jury investigations and other confidential information to the press on “deep background.” He was often at the center of the “anonymous sources” within the Justice Department that reporters were so fond of citing. To be sure, Giuliani had many successful prosecutions of high-level political and organized crime figures during his tenure as a federal prosecutor, but his habit of leaking information to the press in advance of indictments or before a trial did some irreparable damage to the professional reputation of the federal prosecutors office in New York and the federal judicial system here.
The flip side is that Rudy Giuliani also took a “pass” on some cases involving high profile individuals, such as Donald Trump. During the time period that Trump Towers and Trump Plaza were being built in Manhattan, the mob-controlled Teamster Local 282 and its President, John Cody, had a virtual lock on every major construction site in the City. Every truck driver who drove a redi-mix cement truck onto a jobsite was a member of Local 282, and if the real estate developer did not make an illegal side deal with John Cody’s union, the flow of redi-mix cement would be cut off and the entire construction project would grind to a halt. Through the good offices of Roy Cohn, the mentor and godfather to Donald Trump, a deal was made with Local 282 whereby Trump agreed to hire no-show Teamster foremen, whose salaries were then funneled to the organized criminal organizations controlling the Teamster Local. Trump also agreed to modify the construction of Trump Tower to accommodate an apartment for one of Cody’s girlfriends and mob associate, Verona Hixon, who wanted a swimming pool included with her massive Trump Tower apartment, which was second in size only to Trump’s own apartment.
In order to close the deal with organized crime and guarantee that his Manhattan construction projects would not be interrupted by labor strife or work stoppages, Trump and Cohn also made a deal with “Fat” Tony Salerno, another notorious mob figure who owned C&A Concrete, the redi-mix cement company whose trucks delivered the cement to the Trump Towers and Trump Plaza job sites. Trump readily agreed to pay C&A an inflated contract amount, knowing that the excess profits would go into the coffers of organized crime.
During the Justice Department investigation of Teamster Local 282, the FBI and federal prosecutors working on the case were able to get the cooperation of at least one of the developers who made a corrupt deal with the union, but when Donald Trump was questioned about his dealings with the union, he refused to cooperate and adamantly denied that he had any illegal deal with either Local 282 or with C&A Concrete. With some difficulty, the Justice Department was still able to indict and convict John Cody on racketeering charges based upon the testimony of Sigmund Somers, one of the other major real estate developers in the New York area, but the investigation and prosecution would have gone much more swiftly if Trump had cooperated. Moreover, once Cody was indicted, he called a City-wide strike of truck drivers that closed down every major job site in the New York City area, with the notable exception of the Trump Towers and Trump Plaza job sites, which were specifically exempted by the union, based in large measure to the fact that Trump had proved himself to be a “stand up guy” who had refused to cooperate with federal law enforcement.
In fact, since lying to FBI agents and federal prosecutors is itself a federal crime, even if those false statements are not made under oath, there were those within the federal law enforcement community, myself included, who strongly felt that Donald Trump should have been indicted, but we were overruled by those further up the ladder in the Justice Department. At the time, in 1981 and 1982, Rudy Giuliani was the Associate Attorney General, the third highest official in the U. S. Department of Justice. As part of his supervisory responsibilities over all the U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country, Giuliani would have necessarily had a decisive policy-making role as to whether the major labor racketeering investigation underway at that time, including the investigations of Teamster Local 282 and C&A Concrete, would have focused exclusively on the prosecution of corrupt union leaders and organized crime controlled construction companies, or whether real estate developers like Donald Trump who had entered into unlawful racketeering agreements with organized crime controlled unions and construction companies but who refused to testify truthfully about it should also be prosecuted.
By actively participating in the transformation of the FBI from a professional non-partisan agency into a political arm of the Trump Campaign, Rudy Giuliani is helping cause irreparable damage to the FBI’s integrity and reputation. And if Giuliani were to be named as the next Attorney General of the United States, this country would have the most political and partisan Attorney General since John Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury following the Watergate Scandal.

THE FBI CONFIRM THAT IT ALREADY HAS AN ONGOING INVESTIGATION OF TRUMP AND HIS RUSSIAN CONNECTIONS

FBI Director James Comey has been applying a double standard when it comes to publicly confirming whether the FBI has active investigations relating to the two major Presidential candidates. He recently sent an intentionally cryptic letter to Congress announcing that the FBI was reviewing some new email that had not yet been reviewed, but which may or may not be relevant to Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server. These new emails may turn out to be something significant to federal law enforcement, or it may turn out to be nothing. Director Comey doesn’t know at this point, and he clearly indicated that it is unlikely that the significance (or not) of these new emails will be clarified prior to election day. The Trump Campaign predictably pounced on Comey’s letter and interpreted it as a message from the FBI that it would be reopening its investigation of Secretary Clinton and certain of her staff members for misuse of classified documents.
On the other hand, Director Comey has absolutely refused to confirm the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Trump and some of his top aides for various unlawful activities, including having actively communicated and colluded with Russian and pro-Russian operatives to illegally influence this year’s Presidential election. Director Comey has even declined to say whether FBI agents had sought to speak with or had interviewed Trump former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, or his deputy, Rick Gates, even though it is widely known throughout the law enforcement and intelligence communities that there is an active FBI investigation of Manafort, Gates and others for money laundering and other illegal activities ever since documents surfaced in Kiev, Ukraine in August 2016 showing that Manafort had received over $12 million in cash from the pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich.
Although not yet specifically asked, it can also be assumed that Director Comey would “no comment” if asked about the active FBI investigation into the money laundering activities of the Trump Organization with regard to the huge influx of cash into that Company from Russian and Eastern European sources, including money provided by known international financial criminals and organized crime racketeers. The Trump Soho project in lower Manhattan was largely financed by illegally-obtained cash from Russia and several former Soviet Republics, and Trump specifically marketed his Sunny Isles, Florida apartment units in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other venues designed to attract Russian organized crime money, such as the French Riviera. So much tainted Russian money poured into Trump’s Sunny Isles project that the entire area is now referred to a “Little Moscow,” complete with Russian shops, restaurants, and even directional signs.

Here are the facts that should be disclosed by the FBI in the interests of fairness: There has been an active FBI investigation of the Trump Campaign and several of its senior officials since at least mid-June 2016, when it became publicly known that the DNC computers were hacked by suspected Russian operatives. This FBI investigation further intensified when Paul Manafort was forced to resign at Trump’s campaign manager on August 19, 2016, after it was disclosed that he had received at least $12.7 million in cash from the former pro-Russian President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, who was forced out of office in February 2014 and fled to Moscow, where he is still under the protection of President Vladimir Putin.
Less widely publicized – but well known to Manafort and the FBI at the time of Manafort’s resignation — was the fact that Manafort, Rick Gates (the Deputy Chair of the Trump Campaign) and Brad Zackson , a former manager in the Trump Organization, had been using various U.S. and offshore bank accounts to launder money for a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch by the name of Dimitri Firtash. Mr. Firtash was ultimately indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago), although efforts to extradite Firtash from Vienna, Austria proved to be unsuccessful.
I am very familiar with these investigations since much of the evidence relating to these money laundering activities was obtained by my law firm as part of a civil RICO investigation, and then provided to the FBI. Over the past several months, at least two FBI agents have been assigned to work in Kiev, Ukraine and are coordinating with a Ukrainian anti-corruption task force in their further investigation of, among other things, Manafort, Gates and others affiliated with the Trump Campaign.
Normally, I would refrain from commenting on an ongoing investigation by the FBI that I was aware of, since the public disclosure of such an investigation could lead the target or targets of that investigation to take steps to obscure the trail of suspicious banking transfers, or to move their money to a more secure location beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement. However, in these cases, the targets of the investigations, including Manafort, Gates, Epshtyn and Trump himself are well aware that they are the subject of ongoing FBI investigations, so public disclosure should not impair those investigations. Moreover, the American public is entitled to know as much about the FBI ongoing investigations into Trump and his chief advisors before they go to the polls, even though Director Comey has already damaged the electoral process by only disclosing the details regarding the FBI investigation of one of the Presidential candidates, while refusing to even acknowledge that there are far more serious investigations of the Trump Campaign and its various operatives.

TRUMP AND THE RISE OF THE “ALT-RIGHT”

During their first Presidential Debate on September 26, 2016, Hillary Clinton touched on what is perhaps the essence of Donald Trump when she suggested that he “lives in his own reality.” The debate quickly moved on to other topics, but the observation is central to an understanding not only of Donald Trump, but also the “Alt-Right”, or Alternative Right movement, that has taken over the Trump campaign and, therefore, the Republican Party since Steve Bannon of Breitbart News was named as “CEO” of the Trump campaign.
The mainstream media has largely missed the significance of what Trump and his Alt-Right cohorts have done by literally creating an alternative reality and a parallel universe of made-up “facts” to support their positions. The media has recently focused on the number of “lies” that Trump has spoken at his campaign stops. The New York Times, for example, published a lead article on September 24, 2016 listing 31 major lies by Donald Trump within the space of a few days, as if this would shame Trump into apologizing for his errors and driving away his supporters once they became aware that he was not a “truth teller.” This may have been the likely scenario ten or twenty years ago, when a politician or elected official might lose his or her “credibility” if they were caught in a red-faced lie. But this is 2016, and a new reality has set in.
Simply stated, Trump knows that most of what he is saying about the country and the world is not true. President Obama was not really born in Kenya; the President is not really a secret Muslim; our inner cities are not a “living hell” and our minority communities are not worse off now than they were ten or twenty years ago; our country is not really falling apart, global warming is not a hoax, and the Russians are not really our friends. More importantly, Trump’s most fervent supporters know that much of what he is saying is not true, at least from an objective reality point of view. Why then does Trump persist in repeating known falsehoods time and time again, and why is he still so competitive in the public opinion polls among likely voters?
Part of the answer to this question is that objective facts and objective truths are just not that important to a large percentage of Donald Trump’s supporters. What is important is what they “believe” in, and what they believe in is a witch’s brew of concocted “facts” that all the members of the Alt-Right tribe can agree to and which they continue to hold even after those beliefs are proved to be wrong. In other words, for those that firmly believe that the world is flat, the mere fact that there is overwhelming evidence that the world is round will not shake their belief that the world is flat. The same can be said for the hard-core global warming deniers. All of the overwhelming scientific evidence that global warming is a real and present danger will not shake Donald Trump’s belief, and those of his followers, that the “threat” of global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and others who would like to bring the US economy and its fossil fuel industry to its knees.
Which brings us to the “birther” issue, which launched Donald Trump’s political career and kept it going for nearly eight years after President Obama took office and nearly six years after the White House posed Obama’s birth certificate on its web site. It had become such an essential part of the Republican Right’s belief system that recent polls indicate that more than a quarter of Republicans still believe that Obama was born outside the United States, and another 25% “aren’t sure.” See US News, Trump’s Alternative -Reality Strategy, September 16, 2016. No wonder Trump was in no hurry to disavow his “birther” theory and acknowledge that the siting President was not an illegal usurper. And then when he finally declared in a much publicized news conference that Barrack Obama was born in this country, he couldn’t resist alleging that it was Hillary Clinton, President Obama’s Secretary of State for six years, who had really started the “birther” controversy, and that Donald Trump should be congratulated for finally forcing the President to disclose his birth certificate and putting the issue to rest.
Far from ending the “birtherism” controversy and exposing himself to embarrassing questions as to why it took him six years after the disclosure of the President’s birth certificate for him to finally stop challenging the legitimacy of the country’s first black president, he diverted the press corps’ and the public’s attention to an entirely new “trumped up” controversy, namely, who actually first started making these unfounded allegations.
As Mo Elleithee, Director of the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service, was quoted as pointing out in the US News article of September 16, 2016: “We’re living in a very confusing era. Facts are in question all the time. And people have created alternative realities. With the explosion of media that we have seen in recent years, people are getting their news and their info and their facts from like-minded sources.”
In other words, Trump supporters and Alt-Right believers never have to be exposed to MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post or any of the rest of what the Alt Right would consider to be the liberal media establishment. They don’t even have to watch CNN or Fox News, which occasionally take a stab at challenging right-wing orthodoxy and been known to question the veracity of some of Donald Trump’s more outrageous statements. They can just follow Breitbart News or one of the other Alt-Right news outlets, where they will never run the risk of being exposed to investigative news stories that found that Trump had never really donated millions of dollars to charities, as he said he had done, that Trump Foundation funds had been used to settle his private lawsuits, that there are federal and state investigations into Trump University, or that he made a contribution to the re-election campaign of the Florida Attorney General a few days before that Florida state official decided to not pursue a fraud investigation into the Trump University scandal.
During the Republican primary season, the Alt-Right was operating generally under the radar of the mainstream media. Once Trump became the Republican nominee for President, this all changed. On August 25, 2016 Hillary Clinton pointed out how the degree to which the Alt-Right movement was to Donald Trump’s campaign, accusing Trump of “taking a hate movement mainstream.” See CNN coverage on August 25, 2016. “He’s brought it into his campaign,” she alleged.
Much of the Alt-Right movement is comprised of racists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, xenophobes and other hate-based individuals and groups. As Andrew Anglin of the Neo-Nazi website The Daily Storm succinctly put it, “The goal is to ethnically cleanse White nations of non-Whites and establish an authoritarian government. Many people also believe the Jews should be exterminated It doesn’t get much clearer than that.”
The Alt-Right movement has gone so far as to create a pseudo-scientific basis for its racism, known as “Evolutionary Biology,” which at its core is a belief that biology has established that white people and black people are biologically and genetically different, that that this has evolved over time. In their Alt-Right journals, American Renaissance and Radix Journal, Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer have argued that the prevailing view in the equality of the races is wrong, and that there are fundamental differences in the races, referred to as “race realism,” and that because of these differences, there should be a separate and distinct “white racial consciousness.” Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart News tech editor, has challenged “the all-consuming cult of equality” between the races, and has argued that the “habits and predilections [of the races] might have diverged along with skin colour.” See “Science and Racism”, www.breitbart.com/london/2014/05/19. For his troubles, Yiannopoulos got himself banned from Twitter and other social media platforms.
The hyper-nationalism and nativism that is an essential element of Trump’s appeal to his supporters, i.e. “the Deplorables,” has an inherently Alt-Right racist tinge to it since, under Alt-Right orthodoxy, not only should America Come First, but America should be be a White America First. As Matt Fourney, one of the online luminaries of the Alt-Right world has explained (http//mattfourney.com/alt-right/): “The single defining characteristic of the alt-right is …about putting your nation first. It means that all people have the right to a land of their own: whites, blacks, Asians, you name it. For decades, globalists have sought to destroy white nations by flooding them with foreigners Alt-righters fight for the continued existence of white nations and white people.”
This is the dark underbelly of Trump’s call to build a Wall and to exclude entire categories of foreigners from entering the country, such as all Muslims, or at least Muslims from countries where terrorist groups are active. Not only will those foreigners supposedly take away the jobs of native Americans, and rape and pillage their way across the country, but the Hispanic, black, Arab and other people of color who are clamoring to enter Fortress America are primarily non-Whites, which is a threat to the Alt-Right vision of a White America.
That is why the deportation of 11 million undocumented Mexicans and other Hispanics is so appealing to the Alt-Right movement, and why Donald Trump and like-minded politicians who are riding high on the Alt-Right wave of populist disillusionment with traditional U.S. immigration policy. As Matt Fourney has explained: “In the United States, illegal immigration from Mexico and Latin America will make whites – the people who founded America – a minority by 2050. These invaders bring crime and corruption with them. In the U.S., Mexican drug cartels have ruined our major cities. Illegal aliens kill and rape American women. Illegal Mexicans deprive Americans of jobs.”
Fourney’s solution of mass deportation of Mexicans and other Latin Americans coincides perfectly with Donald Trump’s plans to deport all undocumented Hispanic Americans. There is a strong element of “racial cleansing” involved in the Alt-Rights anti-immigration policies and those of Donald Trump. Just as the predominantly Christian Serbs sought to drive the predominantly Muslim populations from Serbia and Bosnia by any means necessary, so too does the Alt-Right dream of a return to a white Christian America, free of Muslim infidels. As for what should be done to separate White America from Black and Asian America, the Alt-Right think tanks (to put it generously) are either silent or exceedingly vague.
The Alt-Right is also home to the Neo-Nazis, who are known as “1488ers,” a reference to the “14 words” of neo-Nazism (“We Must Secure the Existence of Our People and a Future for White Children”) and the number 88(for a doubling of the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, to represent “Heil Hitler”). (http//www.nationalreview.com/article/433650/alt-rights-racism-moral-rot).
The magnetic attractiveness of the Alt-Right movement to racists and Neo-Nazis is heavily linked to their penchant and near-worship of “Political Incorrectness,” a favorite term oten used by Trump in his stump speeches. For the Alt-Right, “political incorrectness” means that they can use racists terms and jokes. For example, the website The Right Stuff (http//therightstuff.biz/trs-lexicon/) refers to “Dindu nuffins,” or “Dindu.” This refers to “an obviously guilty black man,” according to The Right Stuff, who is trying to say “He didn’t do nothing.” Other politically incorrect terms, according to The Right Stuff include “electric jew” (television), “helicopter rides “ ( the right was to physically remove “Commies, Reds, University Professors and Journalists”), “merchant” ( a Jew), “ovenworthy” (“anything that would be substantially improved by immediate incineration”), “the plantation” (a “liberal social program [where] whitey still runs the show [and] darkie is still at the bottom”) and “fash” (fascism). It was no coincidence when Donald Trump Jr. publicly suggested on September 15, 2016 that if he or his father lied as much as the Democrats did, the media would be “warming up the gas chamber.” Not only was the comment an inappropriate joke about the Holocaust and the use by the Nazis of gas chambers to incinerate the Jews, but it is likely that Donald Jr. was very familiar with the Alt-Right websites where the use of such politically incorrect references to people as “ovenworthy” is commonplace.
Another key element in the Alt-Right Movement is what is referred to as “The Manosphere.” The Alt-Right sees itself as an opposition force to feminism, creating a men’s rights movement, or “Manosphere,” consisting of a network of forums, websites and social media focused on the concerns of the “heterosexual, masculine men.” It sees cyberspace and the internet as a male domain where, if women do not like the harassment, bullying and “hate trolling” that goes on there, they should “just log off” as Yiannopoulos wrote in Breitbart News (http.//www.breitbart.com/milo/2016/07/05/solution-online-harassment-simple-women log off/). Both Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia are clearly alpha-males who fall squarely in the center of the Manosphere and, therefore, deserved the respect and admiration of the predominantly male Alt-Right.
The focal point and ideological word factory for this Alt-Right movement is the Breitbart News, and when Trump named Steve Bannon of Breitbart News as the “CEO” of his campaign, the Alt-Right effectively took control of not only the Trump campaign, but also the entire Republican Party.
The Alt-Right is not to be confused with Conservative movement, which is, in many ways, the arch-enemy of the Alt-Right. A popular disparaging slur that the Alt-Right has for traditional conservatives is “cuckservatives,” a phrase merging the words “conservative” and “cuckold.” The phrase is particularly popular among the White Supremacists who view traditional white conservatives as traitors to their race, to the extent that they believe in integration and mixed-race marriages.
Given the fact that racism and neo-fascism is at the core of the Alt-Right, and that the Alt-Right, through the persons of Steve Bannon, is now in firm control of the Trump campaign, it is difficult to understand why Hillary Clinton’s reference to half of Trump’s supporters as falling into the “Basket of Deplorables” was considered to be a political gaffe by her. It may have been “politically incorrect,” but it is entirely accurate that, leaving aside the precise percentage, a large portion of Trump’s most ardent supporters, and the philosophical basis for his campaign (to the extent he has one) comes from the Alt-Right and its deplorable (or more accurately described “despicable”) collection of misfits, racists, neo-Nazis, misogynists, xenophobes, climate change deniers, and flat-earthers. Hillary Clinton was being charitable by merely describing them as “Deplorables.” The Republican Party should have ousted this dangerous and un-American group from its ranks long ago. Now it is too late. They now own the party. The party of Lincoln and of Reagan is now the Alt-Right party of skin heads and white supremacists.

THE CURRENT ASSAULT ON FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND OTHER CORE AMERICAN VALUES

 

One of the most troubling aspects of Donald Trump’s campaign, from a constitutional and legal perspective, is that he is the first presidential candidate in history (or at least in my lifetime) who refuses to accept as a “given” established core values of our constitutional democracy. These core values include Freedom of Speech and of Religion, which are embedded in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

If Donald Trump’s campaign is any indication of what a Trump Administration would be doing, then we can anticipate that the freedom of speech and expression exercised by non-violent protesters at his rallies would continue to be suppressed. Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly urged his supporters at his mass rallies to assault non-violent protesters. He has also made a continuing practice of belittling and berating the press for its coverage of his campaign and has even withheld press credentials from certain news organizations that have had the temerity to report on certain aspects of his campaign in a negative light.

On Monday, September 19, 2016, immediately after a series of bombings in New York and New Jersey, Trump blamed “freedom of expression” as a potential roadblock to the war against terrorism. In an interview on Fox News, Trump blamed freedom of the press for the fact that magazines were being sold that published bomb-making instructions. He did not identify which magazines he was referring to, but presumably, he was referring to Al Qaeda’s English-language propaganda magazine, Inspire, or jihadi websites that publish bomb-making instructions. What Trump failed to note – perhaps because he does not himself know – that these kind of magazines are not sold at any mainstream U.S. bookstores or newsstands.

Trump’s suggestion that First Amendment freedoms should be eliminated, or at least abridged, under the guise of supporting the fight against terrorism is reminiscent of Putin’s heavy-handed attacks on press freedom in Russia by labeling all media opposition there as unpatriotic or treasonous.

Over the past few years, numerous prominent Russian reporters have been found murdered or have “disappeared” after writing articles critical of Putin and his inner Kremlin circle. Similarly, the political opposition in Russia has been mostly crushed with the jailing or exile of several prominent political opposition leaders. As Timothy Snyder pointed out in a recent New York Times article on Russian fascism (09/21/16), Putin has long idolized Ivan Ilyin, the founding father of Russian fascism, who believed that individuality, diversity, and democracy were evil, and that the only thing that was important was a Holy Russia governed by a “national dictator.” Writing in the 1930s and 1940s, Ilyin looked to Mussolini and Hitler as the kind of leaders who could save Europe by destroying democracies and the individual freedoms that went along with them.

Trump’s real concern with the press and American media in general is that it has been largely critical of both him and the policies that he has espoused in his campaign, suggesting, for example, that his proposals to build a multi-billion-dollar Wall on the southern border with Mexico would be ineffective at stemming the flow of Mexican immigrants, a nonsensical waste of money and resources, and an environmental catastrophe. The press has also portrayed him and his campaign as xenophobic, misogynistic and racist, which Trump has considered being “unfair” and “false”, even though mainstream reporting is, for the most part, backed up with a wealth of documentary support. Trump has now ratcheted up his criticism of the press by suggesting that the media coverage of his campaign and press freedom in general is basically harmful to the country as long as we are in the midst of an existential war on terrorism.

What Trump seems to be missing, or at least ignoring, is that America’s longstanding tradition of a free and uncensored press is precisely part of what has made this country an exceptional example of how real democracies are different from autocratic pseudo-democracies such as Russia, Turkey and countless other “republics” in name only around the globe.

A likely reason why Trump has expressed such admiration for President Vladimir Putin of Russia is that, if elected, he would like to emulate Putin’s iron hand when it comes to the press and political dissent. Correspondingly, Putin’s embrace of Trump and aversion to Hillary Clinton springs from his belief that Clinton, as Secretary of State during the Russian parliamentary elections of December 2011 and the presidential elections of March 2012, gave the signal to the Russian opposition to demonstrate in the streets against the rigged elections and stuffed ballot boxes that kept Putin and his ruling party in power. Putin forced all nongovernmental organizations as “foreign agents” and branded all political opponents as enemies of the Russian state. It is not surprising, therefore, that Putin would support Trump and release hacked emails embarrassing the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton, since Trump has reciprocated by expressing agreement with most of Russia’s foreign policy, including the weakening of NATO and the democratic republics of Western Europe and Ukraine. Just as the institutions of democracy have been hollowed out in Russia and reduced to a sham, the undermining of democracy in the U.S. and Western Europe is also part of the grand design of Putin and his former KGB cronies.

Given Trump’s affinity for Putin and the way that he has been able to control the press and to suppress dissidents in Russia, it is likely that President Trump would take similar steps to “discipline” the U.S. mainstream press, but denying White House press credentials to reporters who consistently question Trump’s policies and practices, by having his administration challenge the FCC licenses of offending news organizations, and other measures designed to stifle a free press. Borrowing from Putin’s playbook, opposition political leaders would also be likely subjected to a barrage of investigations and prosecutions by a politicized U.S. Dept. of Justice, with perhaps Chris Christie or some other political hit man being appointed to the position of Attorney General of the United States. And since President Trump would have the pardon power, no doubt Christie’s Bridge Gate problems would also be quickly solved.

The President of the United States has awesome powers. If used without restraint in order to silence critics or to get even with political opponents, the U.S. government can quickly be turned into something more closely resembling the pseudo-democracies of Russia, Turkey or countless other “republics” in name only, which outwardly profess adherence to democratic principles and the electoral process, but in practice are nothing more than autocratic regimes. These regimes rule through raw power and fear, who perpetuate themselves through the brutal suppression of free speech and a free press.

Although we take the Freedom of the Press for granted, this country has gone through some extremely troubling periods when there were severe restrictions placed on the right of free expression and freedom of the press.  It is entirely within the realm of possibility that such rights can be suppressed once again under the administration of a Trump or someone like him. It should be remembered that in 1798, only a few years after the passage of the Bill of Rights and adoption of the Constitution in 1791, the governing Federalist Party attempted to suppress criticism by means of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made criticism of Congress and of the President a crime. Fortunately, Thomas Jefferson was elected President in the election of 1900, in part due to his opposition to the Sedition Acts, and he pardoned most of those who had been convicted under them.

During the Civil War, four New York newspapers were prosecuted in mid-1961 for “frequently encouraging the rebels by expressions of sympathy and agreement.” These actions all followed various “executive orders” issued by President Lincoln, including his eighth order on August 7, 1861, which made it both illegal and punishable by death to hold “correspondence with” or give “intelligence to the enemy, either directly or indirectly.” This was understood as an explicit direction for actions taken by various state and federal governmental officials to harass or prosecute newspapers and reporters who published any articles deemed to be sympathetic to the Southern cause.

During World War I, the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 imposed restrictions on the press, with offenders subject to fines of $10,000 and up to 20 years imprisonment for the publication of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States ….”

Similarly, a Minnesota law that targeted publishers of “malicious” or “scandalous” information was not invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court until 1931, when the decision in Near v. Minnesota struck down this state law as an infringement on the First Amendment’s freedom of the press. In 1938, in Lovell v. City of Griffin, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the reach of the First Amendment’s freedom of the press beyond just newspapers and periodicals, holding that freedom of the press was a fundamental persona right extending to “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion. This, of course, now extends to the internet.

In January 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held, in Obsidian Finance Group LLC v Cox, that the protections of the First Amendment’s free speech and free press clauses extend to bloggers on internet, and that they cannot be liable for defamation unless the blogger acted negligently. The Ninth Circuit explained that journalists and bloggers are essentially equal under the First Amendment since those protections do not depend on “whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story.”

One way that Donald Trump has said that he would consider restricting the freedom of the press is by loosening up the defamation and libel laws, which subject newspapers and other media outlets to possible lawsuits for the publication of information that is alleged to be false and defamatory. As the law now stands, however, there are severe legal restrictions on a person’s ability to successfully pursue a lawsuit for an allegedly defamatory article if that person may be considered to be a “public figure.” The reason for this is that in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a 1964 case, the Supreme Court sharply restricted such libel cases by holding that when a publication involves a public figure, a plaintiff in a libel suit bears the burden of proving that the publisher acted with “actual malice,” meaning that the publisher had to know of the inaccuracy of the information or statement being published, or acted with “reckless disregard” as to the truth of the statement. In another watershed case, in 1971 the Supreme Court, in New York Times Co. v. United States, upheld the publication of the previously secret Pentagon Papers, which contained some highly critical information regarding America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. I recall this case very clearly since I was a law school intern in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan at the time that the case was argued in federal court.

If Donald Trump has his way, these and other restrictions on the ability of a public figure such as himself to sue the press for its negative reporting of him would be swept aside, and the country would embark on a new era of press restrictions and even criminal prosecutions of newspapers and investigative reporters, no doubt including the teams of reporters now delving into the illegal activities of the Trump Foundation.