Al Franken’s Future

171116-al-franken-leeann-tweeden-airplane-se-1105a_cdbd11d4ba4f856a53dca9fe3803882f-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

The Harvey Weinstein revelations and their cumulative impact have given rise to countless Hollywood sexual misconduct scandals, which have altered the cultural atmosphere of our times.

A group of individuals with compelling stories of abuse have come forward with accusations against a number of the rich and famous, including one previously celebrated figure who is currently a member of the United States Senate, “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Al Franken.

Soon after Los Angeles radio anchor Leann Tweeden brought forward detailed allegations that, without her consent, Franken had forcibly kissed her with open mouth and subsequently offensively touched her while she slept, Franken issued multiple apologies and followed up with a request that an ethics committee investigation be conducted regarding his own wrongdoings.

“I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences,” Franken said. “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.”

Some of Franken’s defenders praised him for submitting himself to an ethics probe. However, from a public relations perspective, Franken had no choice but to take the action he did because of one powerfully strong piece of evidence, which has been widely distributed by the conventional and social media.

A photo depicting a smirking Franken placing his hands on the upper body of Tweeden as she slept is immediately recognizable for what it is, clearly incriminating in nature, and impossible to reasonably defend.

Despite claims by some defenders that the activity in the photo was merely a joke, when taking into account the context that Tweeden has set forth, it is highly likely that Franken intended the action and attendant photograph to be a deliberate provocation.

It is also highly likely that, under the circumstances, Franken has taken the ethics probe approach because it has historically provided a shield to members of Congress who have been accused of corrupt or abusive behavior.

Such an investigation opens up a path for the accused legislator to nurture the image of cooperation while slowing any pending resignation demands. Point of fact: Franken has already been asked by members of his own party to resign. The rules of the ethics committee were written by politicians and seem to have been designed to assist those embroiled in scandal.

Current Senate rules mandate that there be six members on the committee, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with the chairman being a member of the majority party.

After the committee finds that “there is substantial cause for the committee to conclude that a violation within the jurisdiction of the committee has occurred,” it will proceed to conduct a full adjudicatory review. An adjudicatory review normally consists of interviews and sworn statements and can also involve a public hearing. When the committee finishes its review, it will issue a final report to the Senate, which may include a recommendation of disciplinary action. Both the final report and recommendations may be kept confidential at the discretion of the committee.

The committee’s options, with respect to potential disciplinary action, are typically censure, payment of restitution, or expulsion. A censure of a senator is merely a formal scolding for misconduct. Payment of restitution is essentially a fine imposed in order to compensate the victim in a monetary manner. Expulsion is the more difficult option to carry out, since it requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Consequently, the Senate has not expelled a member in more than a century.

If we look to history, we see that ethics committee investigations do not usually end up with the accused senator being held fully accountable for his or her actions. In the early 1990s, after only a few months of investigation by the ethics committee, Republican Senator Dave Durenberger was censured and ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution. Durenberger did not run for reelection in 1994 and the next year pleaded guilty to charges of misuse of public funds while in office. He was sentenced to one year of probation.

During the same time period, the Senate ethics panel made the decision not to investigate Democrat Senator Brock Adams, who was accused of sexual harassment and rape. The Ethics Committee sent a letter to the National Organization for Women, which had actually called for the investigation, stating that the investigation would not be pursued for the following reasons: the incidents had occurred before Adams had taken office, the alleged rape had already been investigated by the U.S. Attorney, and the committee had not received a request to initiate proceedings from the alleged victim.

Brock denied the allegations and declined to tender his resignation; however he did end up dropping out of his reelection race.

Around the same time period, Republican Senator Bob Packwood, a public advocate for women’s rights, was accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment. The related ethics investigation lasted nearly three years. Only after the bipartisan committee voted unanimously to recommend that Packwood be expelled did the senator resign.

In 2009 Republican Senator John Ensign acknowledged having an extramarital affair with a campaign aide. The following year an ethics committee began to investigate whether the Senator tried to buy his former aide’s silence. Ensign resigned in 2011, while the investigation was still ongoing. After probing for twenty-two months, the committee concluded that Ensign broke federal laws, and it referred the case to the Department of Justice. The department decided not to prosecute.

Because it is a highly politicized internal Senate process, an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee generally takes a significant length of time to complete and, unless evidence of misconduct is overwhelming, results in little or no accountability.

More likely than not, an ethics committee investigation of sexual misconduct on the part of Franken will provide a way for the Democrat senator to wiggle out of any repercussions for his reprehensible behavior.

Advertisements

Hollywood Unravels

harvey-hollywood

Hollywood is experiencing a seismic displacement that is impacting its business, brand, and future prospects.

Since the disgusting serial behavior of Harvey Weinstein was made known to the public courtesy of the tenacious reporting of journalist Ronan Farrow, some of the most powerful members of the Hollywood community have been accused of various forms of sexual misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to criminal sexual assault.

The alleged perpetrators comprise a list of some of the biggest and most heralded names in Hollywood, including Ben Affleck (actor and Oscar winning director), Dustin Hoffman (Oscar winning actor), Kevin Spacey (Oscar winning actor), Jeremy Piven (Emmy winning television actor), James Toback (director and Oscar nominated screenwriter), and David O. Russell (Oscar nominated director).

For decades the Hollywood community has in large part ignored and even condoned the contemptible behavior of Roman Polanski (Oscar winning director) and Woody Allen (four-time Oscar winner).

New revelations related to Hollywood’s unseemly side seem to be pouring in by the hour. Now accusations against Spacey are opening up yet another horrific illegality that has been the subject of rumors in the town for years, the unspeakable crime of pedophilia.

Never before has a scandal this dark and pervasive draped the Hollywood community with such ill-repute. And never before has the Hollywood brand been sullied as badly as it has been during this past year.

Adding to the crushing weight of it all is the fact that the entertainment business is suffering damages in a dollar amount that is still impossible to calculate. Many of those who are currently accused of misconduct have potentially profitable current and future projects that have been cancelled or put on hold.

Some of the accused have careers that are, at a minimum, severely impaired. For others it is most certainly over.

As viewers of entertainment industry award shows are able to attest, Hollywood has set itself up as an agenda driven purveyor of cultural norms. Many entertainment figures are infamous for talking down what they view as “fly-over” country.

Middle America is the place that so-called progressives on the Left Coast use to bolster one another’s views with unfounded smug certainty. Even as Hollywood pitches its out-of-the-mainstream worldview, a twisted form of narcissism, self-idolatry, still rules the roost and blinding hypocrisy reigns. This is particularly evident when it comes to the outward display of self-congratulation via the award ceremony industry.

Movies about Hollywood itself seem to be the recipients of a disproportionate degree of attention, e.g., “The Artist,” “La La Land,” “Argo” and “Trumbo.”

The Left Coast is also in the ugly habit of deriding those who promote government reduction, self-defense rights, border enforcement, and the like. Judeo-Christian faith expression serves as fodder for snide comedic skits and perverse story plotlines. Intact marriages and loving families are the stuff of ridicule. And patriotism has been recast as divisive, outmoded, and worse.

There is a consequence to embracing a worldview that is devoid of time-honored values. What we have now in Hollywood is a frayed fabric that continues to unravel with no apparent way of mending.

Indictments Tainted by Conflicts of Interest and Media Leaks

20-mueller-w600-h315-2x

Robert Mueller recently received some sharp criticism for his role in conducting an investigation into purported Russian collusion. However, the disapproval of the special counsel seems to have come from an unexpected source.

The Wall Street Journal, which is known to be unfriendly to President Donald Trump, called on Mueller to resign.

The Journal opined, “The Fusion news means the FBI’s role in Russia’s election interference must now be investigated—even as the FBI and Justice insist that Mr. Mueller’s probe prevents them from cooperating with Congressional investigators.”

“Mr. Mueller is a former FBI director, and for years he worked closely with Mr. Comey. It is no slur against Mr. Mueller’s integrity to say that he lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe of the bureau he ran for a dozen years. He could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil over that conflict of interest,” the Journal stated.

The discredited dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC to the opposition firm Fusion GPS, may have been used to launch the investigation that led to Mueller’s appointment.

Mueller is the same individual who was the FBI director that oversaw the agency’s investigation into the criminal behavior of Russian bribery, extortion, and money laundering that had the underlying purpose of obtaining control over America’s uranium supply.

Part of Mueller’s FBI probe at the time centered on Uranium One, the infamous entity involved in the sale of one-fifth of the U.S. supply of uranium. It is self-evident that any current investigation into Russian activities would be severely impacted by Mueller’s past. This special counsel evidently lacks the independence that is required in order to conduct an impartial probe and may additionally have conflicts when it comes to looking into the propriety of the FBI’s investigation of Russian criminality.

In this same time period when the Journal is applying pressure on Mueller and several scandals that implicate the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee are dominating much of the media, CNN is somehow the recipient of an exclusive breaking story indicating that charges have been brought by Mueller’s grand jury and an arrest may soon occur.

The cable news outlet cited anonymous sources that were “briefed on the matter.”

Sharyl Attkisson, former investigative journalist for CBS News, does not view the timing of the reports of the Mueller indictments as coincidental.

“Friday leak of grand jury indictments. If you’ve ready [read] The Smear, you probably believe it’s intended to dominate news coverage this weekend and drown out talk of Uranium One scandal. You’re pretty smart!” Attkisson tweeted.

Conventionally, an individual who is indicted by a grand jury is immediately notified; however, according to CNN, neither the defendant or the defendant’s lawyers have been notified.

The grand jury is an important part of our criminal justice system and is prominently featured in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure specify that a prosecutor may not leak evidence, or even the existence of a grand jury’s investigation, to the press. A sealed indictment is an indictment that is sealed so that it stays non-public until such a time as it is unsealed.

In the rare case such as this when the indictment is sealed, the judge orders that the indictment be kept secret until the defendant is in custody or has been released pending trial. No person may disclose the indictment’s existence, except as necessary to issue or execute a warrant or a summons. Consequently, it is clearly illegal to leak information on a sealed indictment to the press.

In August of this year, leaks appeared in the press indicating that Mueller had impaneled a grand jury, and the possibility exists that an individual or group of individuals within Mueller’s office may be the source of information about the initial impaneling of the grand jury as well as the sealed indictments recently leaked to CNN.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made the criminal nature of such a leak clear.

“First off, it’s supposed to be kept a secret … There are very strict criminal laws about disclosing grand jury information. Now, depending on who disclosed this to CNN, it could be a crime,” the governor told ABC’s “This Week.”

Christie, calling upon his experience as a former prosecutor, emphasized how seriously grand jury secrecy is taken by those in the criminal justice system, stating that the public has to have “confidence in the fact that the grand jury process is secret and as a result fair… Again, we don’t know who leaked it to CNN. It would be a crime if prosecutors or agents leaked it.”

South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, appeared to lay the responsibility on Mueller for allowing the media to learn about sealed grand jury charges in the Russia investigation.

“In the only conversation I’ve had with Robert Mueller, I stressed to him the importance of cutting out the leaks,” Gowdy told “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s kind of ironic that the people charged with investigating the law and the violations of the law would violate the law,” the chairman remarked.

Even though CNN did not indicate who had been charged, the number of individuals charged, or what charges had been filed by Mueller’s team, the cable network appeared to have some knowledge of whom the subject of the sealed indictment may be.

CNN reporter Pamela Brown indicated that the network knows more than they have reported concerning the identity of the individual or individuals targeted by Mueller’s indictment.

“We have a sense of who the charges are against, the person or people, but our understanding is that the person or people who have been charged have not been notified yet,” Brown said.

Leaking to the press would appear to be consistent with the heavy handed tactics Mueller’s team has been utilizing. In July the team reportedly told former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort that it planned to indict him. Subsequently, Manafort’s door lock was reportedly picked and an unannounced pre-dawn raid of his Virginia home was conducted.

Harvey Weinstein’s Growing Legal Quagmire

2017 Weinstein Company And Netflix Golden Globes After Party - Arrivals

Harvey Weinstein has now lost his job, his wife, and his reputation. Next on his agenda is the prospect of spending a great deal of time huddling with his lawyers.

The disgraced movie mogul is facing a mounting pile of legal troubles swarming at him from every conceivable direction. The details that have been revealed in allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein, particularly those contained in Ronan Farrow’s reporting for the New Yorker, could result in civil and criminal liability for Weinstein and his company, with legal actions against the former film executive emanating from multiple jurisdictions.

More than 20 women have voiced allegations against Weinstein, claims of which include harassment, groping, forced sexual relations, and even rape. The alleged incidents took place over many decades in numerous locales.

The names of women who have lodged charges in the public square include an unusually high number of well known actresses including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Rosanna Arquette, Mira Sorvino, and Kate Beckinsale.

Most of the alleged victims would not be in a position to sue Weinstein in a civil court, due to the relatively short statutes of limitations governing the former mogul’s alleged torts (one or two year time periods).

The alleged assaults took place in many different jurisdictions, including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Utah, as well as the French Riviera, each of which has varying statutes of limitations and time limits on reporting to authorities.

The alleged acts date as far back as 1984. Eight of the incidents allegedly occurred after the 2005 founding of the Weinstein Company. Moreover, the eight settlements Weinstein reportedly reached with former accusers could prevent those women who already settled from taking him to court.

However, Weinstein’s legal problems in the civil arena are just the beginning of an expanding legal vortex. He now finds his alleged actions are the subject of investigations by the FBI as well as the New York and London police, while Los Angeles law enforcement is looking into launching a probe of its own.

Weinstein has been accused of committing both sexual assault and rape. A sexual assault occurs when an individual is offensively touched without consent or compelled to engage in a sexual act. Rape occurs when an individual is sexually penetrated without consent.

Three of the women have alleged that Weinstein raped them. Predictably, the film executive released a statement denying any allegations of non-consensual sex.

Felony rape is a very serious crime, and a conviction in New York can carry a sentence of up to 25 years. Since 2006 New York has had no statute of limitations for first degree felony sex offenses; this law did not take effect until after 2006 and therefore prosecutors would probably be barred by the statute of limitations for crimes that occurred prior to 2006.

The case that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. had ready to go two years ago should have been prosecuted. An Italian model cooperated with police to obtain an audio recording of Weinstein admitting that he had groped her, yet Vance failed to bring the charges forward. He had no adequate explanation for his lack of action.

The Weinstein Company itself is also facing potential legal consequences. Female employees of the Weinstein Company could bring individual or class action lawsuits against the company for subjecting them to alleged hostile work environments.

The company released a statement indicating that the “allegations come as an utter surprise to the Board” and additionally that “any suggestion that the Board had knowledge of this conduct is false.”

The New York Times followed this statement with a report that the Weinstein Company directors were informed of at least three confidential settlements with women. One of the remaining board members claimed that although he knew about the settlements he believed they dealt only with consensual affairs.

The former and current directors, including Weinstein himself, could be sued by investors in a breach-of-fiduciary-duty lawsuit. The directors could be liable for their failure to address Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein own 42 percent of the company; this leaves a significant number of outside investors who may go after former and current members of the company’s board, including Weinstein.

Weinstein, as a director and officer of the company, would have breached his duty of loyalty if he acted in bad faith for a purpose other than advancing the best interests of the company. If a co-chairman of a company uses his or her position of power to sexually assault potential and actual employees, it breaches the duty to the firm. It also does considerable harm to the company’s brand and the reputation of the enterprise.

According to TMZ, Weinstein’s employment contract with the company had unusual passages in which the contract explicitly addressed the possibility of future misconduct claims against Weinstein.

According to the website, Weinstein agreed to reimburse the company for any settlements or judgments arising out of his misconduct and to make an additional payment to the company for each instance of wrongdoing. The contract purportedly provided that Weinstein could not be fired for committing heinous acts against women as long as he came up with the required payments.

If the TMZ description of the contract is accurate, it means that former and current board members of the Weinstein Company would have been put on notice of Weinstein’s unlawful behavior and sadly would have deliberately allowed his behavior to continue.

Unconstitutional DACA Must Go

DACA

Numerous reports indicate that President Donald J. Trump is rescinding the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

DACA was unconstitutionally created by the Obama administration. The program violates Separation of Powers, undermines the sovereignty of the United States, and represents the worst of policy decisions. In short, DACA needs to be completely eliminated.

After the press initially raised the notion that the Trump administration may jettison DACA, the left immediately referred to the potential action as bigoted and mean. Attorneys general from the states of New York and Washington also let it be known that lawsuits would be filed against the White House.

Recently, partisan attorneys general from both states issued statements that contained threats of such imminent legal action and condemned the expected rescission action. The very same attorneys general filed similar suits in the past over the temporary travel moratorium President Trump had issued earlier in the year. Other states controlled by the Democratic Party are expected to file additional lawsuits challenging the docking of DACA.

New York A.G. Eric Schneiderman issued a statement that labeled the dissolution of DACA as “an assault on the values that built this state and this nation.” The irony of Schneiderman’s use of the word “assault” is underscored by the astounding disregard for constitutional principles that the Obama administration displayed.

With the stroke of his pen in 2012, President Obama signed DACA into law. Without legal authority to do so, Obama bestowed work permit eligibility, granted access to Social Security and various government benefits, and facilitated the evasion of deportation by individuals who were in the country illegally. The former president did so ostensibly to address the needs of those who illegally entered the U.S. as minors.

Instead of enforcing existing immigration law, Obama, through the action of creating DACA, essentially took away the incentive for people to seek legal entry into the country. The preceding administration breached its obligation to enforce the laws on hand, and in so doing encouraged a new wave of massive illegal immigration.

DACA basically rewards law breakers by granting them benefits that are specifically and exclusively designated for those who are in the U.S. legally. Three Democrats and a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to defund DACA in June 2013.

“The point here is…the President does not have the authority to waive immigration law, nor does he have the authority to create it out of thin air…,” Steve King, lead author of the legislative amendment, said.

In November 2014 Obama once again ignored the Constitution and overstepped his authority by signing a similar executive action, which expanded DACA in some unusual ways. Again with a mere signature, the former president decreed into existence the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), which granted certain illegal immigrants a quasi-legal status termed “deferred action status” along with a three-year renewable work permit and exemption from deportation.

Several states filed lawsuits over DAPA claiming that the action was unconstitutional. A temporary injunction was issued by a federal judge in February of 2015, which essentially blocked the program from going into effect.

The judge’s decision was upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. At the time the appellate court chastised Obama for failing to enforce existing law, stating that Obama’s decree “does not transform presence deemed unlawful by Congress into lawful presence and confer eligibility for otherwise unavailable benefits based on that change.”

In other words, Obama had no legal or constitutional authority to provide government benefits that were disallowed by legislation, which had been duly passed by Congress.

Obama’s overreach undermined the important principle of Separation of Powers by encroaching on the exclusive power of Congress to legislate immigration matters.

Just like DAPA, DACA is blatantly unconstitutional. Congressional members are elected to debate and to engage in lawmaking that will offer fair and meaningful solutions with regard to the issue of immigration.

By getting rid of DACA, President Trump is simply correcting a blatantly illegal and destructive policy framework that should never have been on the books in the first place.