The Impending Flow of Vape Related Lawsuits

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In the 1980s a host of lawsuits emerged, which alleged cigarette manufacturers knew their products were addictive and caused lung cancer, but failed to warn consumers about the inherent dangers.

History may be in the process of repeating itself, this time amid a controversy that surrounds a modernized smoking-related device.

Several plaintiffs have already filed lawsuits against the largest e-cigarette corporate target, alleging that the company’s products create medical problems for consumers and additionally create addiction issues, particularly for teen users.

Like so many others before him, one Chicago teenager recently sued an e-cigarette company as well as a retailer over his own e-cigarette usage.

In papers filed by young user Adam Hergenreder, manufacturer Juul Labs Inc. is named as a defendant, along with a Waukegan gas station that allegedly sold products illegally to the teen. In Hergenreder’s state (Illinois), tobacco products are only allowed to be sold to those who are 21 years of age or older.

Juul is the leading manufacturer of e-cigarette devices and e-liquid flavors. It controls nearly three-quarters of the American vape market, which is a massive market in and of itself, and the company’s value is said to be in the tens of billions of dollars range.

After having difficulty breathing and experiencing tremors, among other symptoms, Hergenreder was hospitalized with severe lung damage. The young man claims he started his vape activity at age 16 to “fit in” with his friends. He also claims he was unaware that the e-cigarettes contained nicotine. Believing that the products were safe, Hergenreder engaged in vaping multiple times a day.

Juul is alleged in the lawsuit to have used deceptive marketing tactics, which targeted adolescents. It is further alleged that use of its product ultimately created a serious and dangerous addiction for the individual partaking, because of the amount of concentrated nicotine and other harmful substances that are purportedly contained in the product.

Juul has had a significant online and social media presence, which it has used in its advertising campaign to make e-cigarettes appear trendy and hip, thereby appealing to young people.

In a January 2019 study, researchers at Stanford University analyzed Juul’s marketing approach, including its website, social media platforms, hashtags, and campaign emails. Researchers found that Juul’s advertising imagery in its first six months on the market was manifestly youth oriented. Results indicated that the product’s presence on Instagram created online communities of young people who would post videos of vape related activity.

Hergenreder’s case is part of a response to a growing health concern related to the vape merchandiser. The states of Illinois and Indiana have both had individuals lose their lives as a result of vape related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control indicates that it has received reports of six deaths and over 450 possible cases of e-cigarette related lung illnesses.

Consequently, in addition to civil lawsuits, Juul is facing mounting scrutiny by local, state, and federal officials, much like the tobacco companies experienced in the 1980s and 1990s. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York recently banned flavored e-cigarettes. And from the Oval Office, President Trump told reporters that he was planning to take action after a sixth person recently died from a vape related lung illness.

Noting the seriousness of the issue, President Trump indicated that “some very strong rules and regulations” were forthcoming.

Shortly thereafter, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced a plan to ban flavored e-cigarettes at least until a formal review had been conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Juul has responded with a statement that it has an “aggressive action plan to combat underage use.” The company stated that it is seeking to “preserve the opportunity to eliminate combustible cigarettes, the deadliest legal consumer product known to man.”

Juul shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts as of last fall in response to complaints, and has also pulled flavored products from brick-and-mortar retail locations.

The FDA has been unable thus far to identify a single source as the cause of e-cigarette related illnesses; however, theories suggest that illnesses may be related to vitamin E acetate (found in THC) or the combined effects of nicotine, flavorings, and solvents.

Although Juul claims in advertising that its products are a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, for teenagers e-cigarettes appear to be a gateway product to conventional cigarettes. A 2015 study at the University of California, San Francisco, and a 2017 Canadian study at the University of Waterloo both found that teenage vape users were more likely than their non-using counterparts to begin smoking traditional cigarettes after having experienced the sustained use of e-cigarettes.

In the 1980s tobacco companies defended against lawsuits, many times successfully, by asserting that smokers knowingly assumed the risks when they began smoking, including the risk of cancer.

In the 1990s, after documents were leaked that showed tobacco companies were aware of the addictive nature of tobacco, plaintiffs began to be successful in obtaining favorable verdicts and settlements.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the e-cigarette industry will be treated in the same manner as the tobacco industry, or perhaps even more harshly.

Jeffrey Epstein Case Cloaked in Mystery

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The mystery entangling the main protagonist in the Jeffrey Epstein drama is no doubt more vast and intricate than mainstream media sources would have us believe.

Allegations against the multi-millionaire are monstrous. Scores of sexual abuse offenses involving young women are alleged to have taken place between the years 2002 and 2005.

The evidence gathered by the Palm Beach police, which began in 2005, was reportedly massive in quantity. However, Democrat prosecutor Barry Krischner inexplicably came up with a single count with which to file criminal charges against Epstein, that of soliciting prostitution. Kirschner offered Epstein what appeared to be an outrageous deal involving zero jail time.

One couldn’t help but notice that Epstein was known to be a friend and mega-donor to big-name Democrats, which included the likes of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.

According to his own lawyers, Epstein was part of the original group that conceived the Clinton Global Initiative. Former President Clinton was reportedly a 26-time passenger on Epstein’s private plane, which was known as the “Lolita Express.” Allegedly, also along with the former president during a 2002 trip to Africa were passenger-actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker.

Local police chief Michael Reiter was reportedly outraged at the time and sought help with the state case from federal prosecutors. The then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alex Acosta, initiated a federal investigation that culminated with Epstein entering into a 2008 deal in which he pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges, registered as a sex offender, and paid restitution to three dozen victims that were identified by the FBI. He was sent to prison.

Epstein’s jail time, though, was handled by Democrat officials, who apparently saw to it that he would enjoy the luxury of his own private wing and would additionally have the ability to spend his days at his home during the 13-month sentence. He was also given a subsequent year of house arrest in Palm Beach, Florida.

Epstein’s victims subsequently filed a lawsuit under the federal Crime Victims Rights Act. The court determined that federal prosecutors handling the Epstein sexual abuse case had violated the rights of his victims by keeping secret the deal that they had reached with him.

Adding to the controversy over how the case was handled is an underreported statement that Acosta made, which carried with it the implication that interference with the disposition of Epstein’s case may have taken place, and the interference may have emanated from a government source.

As reported by the Daily Beast, Acosta indicated that he had been told Epstein “belonged to intelligence,” that the matter was “above his [Acosta’s] pay grade,” and that he was to “leave it alone.”

Epstein reportedly entered the financial business world, taking a job for a period of time with investment bank Bear Stearns and subsequently leaving the firm in 1981. According to the Miami Herald, Epstein was a “key federal witness in the criminal prosecution of two prominent executives with Bear Stearns.” The executives were later acquitted.

Reports dealing with Epstein characterize him as a billionaire and a money manager. Interestingly, the man doesn’t appear to be either. He has not been ranked or listed on the Forbes 400 list. According to Forbes, “…there is scant proof he holds a ten-figure fortune.”

The manner by which Epstein became wealthy is an enigma. His fortune reportedly comes from his money management firm, The Financial Trust Co., which is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, the Wall Street trading desks don’t know of Epstein’s transactions, nor do his dealings appear in business trade publications as would be expected.

Little to no information regarding a client list or other records has thus far been made public by The Financial Trust Co. One known former Epstein client is retail billionaire Leslie Wexner, who reportedly stopped doing business with Epstein more than 10 years ago.

According to reports, Epstein employed no portfolio managers or analysts. Instead he purportedly handled by himself investment decisions involving tens of billions of dollars.

Epstein seemed to be able to rub elbows with the rich and famous even after he bore the stigma of registered sex offender. One might think that after the #MeToo scandals in which Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and Les Moonves became embroiled, the highly recognizable level-three registered sex offender would be persona non grata at entertainment industry events.

Not so. In late 2010 Epstein held a dinner party for Great Britain’s Prince Andrew at his New York 71st Street mansion, with guests that included Chelsea Handler, Katie Couric, Woody Allen, Charlie Rose, and George Stephanopoulos. In 2011 Epstein attended a “billionaire’s dinner” along with Silicon Valley celebrity CEOs Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. And in 2016 Epstein was in attendance at the celebrity filled premiere of the Warner Bros. film “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Epstein’s is a saga that involves some of the nation’s most wealthy and powerful, those individuals whose status affords them the opportunity to hobnob in elite circles that stretch from East Coast to Left and beyond.

Details involving the case are still in the process of unfolding and probably will be for a long time to come. So, too, will its foul nature, drama, and mystery.

Democrats Launch Preemptive Strike on Barr

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The Democratic Party and its willing allies in the mainstream media have a new target in their political sights: Attorney General William Barr.

Attorney General Barr is the latest recipient of the poisonous politics in which Democrats of the extreme partisan kind are engaging. Interestingly, what appears to be lurking in the shadows of the political drama is a kind of raw fear on the part of Democrats.

A tactic from the military handbook, known as the “preemptive strike,” involves attacking one’s enemy before the enemy has had a chance to attack first. In this manner, the opposing side’s capabilities are inhibited or eliminated.

Democrats are going on the attack against Attorney General Barr with the goal of destroying the man’s reputation. They are doing so in order to interfere with the efforts of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in unearthing potentially damaging facts relating to the government’s investigation of President Trump.

Senate Democrats know, although some feign otherwise, that the attorney general is a fair-minded and competent legal professional.

The new head of the DOJ has plainly stated that with the Mueller investigation having been completed, he intends to delve into issues that may impact the image and reputation of various public officials, including some in the previous administration. This may prove to be potentially problematic, especially for Democrat candidates who are running in upcoming elections.

Attorney General Barr has let the Senate Judiciary Committee know that he is looking into the origins of the investigation into Trump and any possible criminal leaks to the media by FBI and/or DOJ officials. Additionally, the question of whether the Christopher Steele dossier was a form of Russian disinformation will be examined.

The Steele dossier was reportedly the basis for applications submitted in order to persuade the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to issue warrants against a Trump associate, Carter Page.

Steele was hired to create the dossier by an entity called Fusion GPS, which is an opposition research firm that was paid in part by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, using the Perkins Coie law firm as a cutout.

The attorney general has already started probing the manner in which the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign and administration was conducted. He has indicated a desire to determine the facts surrounding the alleged spying on Donald Trump before, during, and after the 2016 presidential election. He has also indicated that he will look into the numerous leaks to the press that occurred, and the origin of the Steele dossier and its use in the FISA courts.

Fear may have set into certain Democrat members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, when the attorney general informed them that he was working closely with Inspector General of the United States Department of Justice Michael Horowitz to investigate the investigators who initiated and conducted the investigation at the DOJ and FBI into so-called Trump-Russia collusion.

For more than a year Inspector General Horowitz has been looking into the process by which FISA court surveillance warrants were obtained to spy on Trump associate Carter Page. Horowitz commenced the FISA abuse probe after having received requests from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and members of Congress.

Attorney General Barr said, “I talked to Mike Horowitz a few weeks ago about it. It’s focused on the FISA, basis for the FISA and handling of the FISA applications. But by necessity, it looks back a little earlier than that. The people helping me with my review will be working very closely with Mr. Horowitz.”

According to Attorney General Barr, Horowitz’s report could be released at the end of June 2019, and any criminal referrals produced will be placed into the hands of the attorney general.

Democrats are no doubt aware that if the immense investigative and intelligence powers possessed by the federal government were used on American citizens without a proper predicate, the communication thereof to the public will significantly jeopardize their party’s ability to win elections and maintain power.

United States Attorney for the District of Utah John Huber has reportedly been tasked with looking into the way in which the FBI handled allegations of Hillary Clinton’s role in the sale of U.S. uranium rights to an entity known as Uranium One. He has also been charged with the responsibility of examining the way in which FISA warrants were obtained to surveil Carter Page. According to various media reports, Huber is close to submitting his findings.

Democrats realize that Huber will be reporting his findings to Attorney General Barr.

The attorney general may have caused certain Senate Democrats to experience further anxiety when he told them that more wrongdoing than previously reported may have taken place by those who were conducting a counterintelligence investigation of President Trump and other individuals connected with him.

“Many people seem to assume that the only intelligence collection that occurred was a single confidential informant and a FISA warrant. I would like to find out whether that is, in fact, true. It strikes me as a fairly anemic effort if that was the counterintelligence effort to stop the threat as it is being represented,” Attorney General Barr said.

The attorney general also indicated that he is working closely with the FBI to go where Democrats never thought he would.

With some of the spying details about to be revealed, the Democrat strategy is to preemptively undermine the credibility of the head of the DOJ, Attorney General Barr.

To this end, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, was particularly outrageous in her rhetoric during Attorney General Barr’s testimony before Congress, saying, “Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrificed their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office.”

Calls for the attorney general to resign came spewing out of the mouths of Democrat presidential hopefuls, including Senators Kamala Harris, D-Calif, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Other Democrats issued demands for the attorney general’s resignation, disbarment, and/or impeachment.

When Attorney General Barr used the term “spying” in his public testimony, it sent Democrats and their mainstream media cronies into a tailspin. They subsequently showed their true colors, launching a barrage of attacks against him.

But despite their unsavory tactics, the attorney general is proving himself to be unflappable, both in his public testimony and beyond. It highly unlikely that he will be distracted by partisan politicians who in private are more than likely scared out of their wits.

Trump Weathers the Democrat Subpoena Storm

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President Donald Trump is experienced in the art of litigation.

As a successful real estate entrepreneur, he was able to acquire the skills necessary to maneuver the legal playing field in the rough and tumble Manhattan marketplace.

The president has now made a strategic decision to litigate rather than comply with the attempt by Democrats to use their oversight powers to keep a discredited narrative alive.

Recently, a significant change took place in the legal approach that the Trump White House adopted.

For the past two years President Trump’s administration fully cooperated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. More than a million documents were produced, officials were allowed to freely testify, and executive privilege was not exercised.

However, following the release of the Mueller report, the administration has decided to take a different legal approach with respect to what appears to be an unnecessary use of congressional investigative powers.

The president has recently indicated his opposition to having White House personnel submit to the subpoenas peppering Pennsylvania Avenue from overzealous congressional Democrats.

By challenging the Democrats’ efforts to perpetually investigate rather than fulfilling their congressional duties, President Trump increases the likelihood of the Democratically controlled House to be perceived as a “do-nothing” chamber.

White House attorneys are objecting to Democrat subpoenas, which probably means that protracted legal battles will ensue.

The Trump Organization has filed a lawsuit against House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., seeking to block a subpoena for the president’s years-old financial records.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin allowed a deadline to pass, which was given by the Democrat House to turn over the president’s tax returns.

The White House instructed its former personnel security director Carl Kline not to testify before Congress about the process by which the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner obtained their security clearances. The House has since held Kline in contempt.

Personal counsel of the president Rudy Giuliani pointed out to Politico that the president’s position on the House subpoenas is justified, when considering the partisan political motives of congressional Democrats.

“I think it’s exactly the right legal strategy, Giuliani said. “I doubt there’s anybody in America that thinks this has some legitimate governmental purpose.”

“This is like a judge saying I’m going to hang you, but I’ll give you a trial first,” Giuliani added.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., fully supports the president’s policy of not complying with what Graham rightly referred to as “a complete partisan thing now.”

With the Muller investigation wrapped up, the Russia-collusion narrative debunked, and an obstruction of justice charge eliminated, Graham accurately compared Democrats to filmmaker Oliver Stone attempting to come up with a plot line for a film dealing the Kennedy assassination.

“I think Congress is going crazy here,” Graham told The Associated Press.

One of the things that has been driving many of the Democrats in Congress insane is the prospect of bringing in former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify. Because the Trump administration has indicated that it may use executive privilege to prevent Congress from subpoenaing McGahn, the media have been invoking the specter of former President Richard Nixon in an attempt to portray the invocation of the constitutional privilege as an illicit act.

The president is legally empowered to resist subpoenas originating from the legislative branch that are designed to obtain information or testimony relating to the executive function. The Supreme Court has viewed this presidential privilege as a part of the separation of powers doctrine, derived from the president’s ability to carry out the duties held by the commander in chief under the Constitution.

The privilege to prevent staffers from testifying and/or withhold documents arises because of the unique need to protect the confidentiality of the advice that assists presidential judgments.

Despite the stilted coverage of most of the media, prior presidents have engaged in similar battles. Former President George W. Bush clashed with Congress after his administration attempted to block testimony from top aides over the firing of several federal prosecutors.

Former President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege to withhold documents related to the gun-trafficking scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, which resulted in the House holding then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.

The Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon held that when executive privilege is at issue, “…coequal branches of the Government are set on a collision course.” The judicial branch is therefore forced to deal with “the difficult task of balancing the need for information in a judicial proceeding and the Executive’s Article II prerogatives.” Such a proceeding “pushes to the fore difficult questions of separation of powers and checks and balances.” The court concluded that “constitutional confrontation between the two branches are likely to be avoided whenever possible.”

Consequently, when dealing with confrontations between the executive and legislative branches, the courts have avoided direct intervention.

In such legal proceedings, the wheels of justice move even more slowly than usual and are likely to slog through the court system eventually making their way up to the High Court.

The bottom-line result will be that the president’s legal battles with Congress are likely to last beyond the 2020 presidential election, thus denying the investigation-obsessed Democrats both their narrative and their pound of flesh.

Hollywood Writers Go to War with Talent Agents

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Two Hollywood institutions, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA), are now in an all out battle with one another. Consequently, the way in which business is conducted in the entertainment world may never be the same.

A dispute between the two organizations arose over the 43 year-old Artists’ Managers Basic Agreement (AMBA), a pact between the WGA and the ATA, which regulates the terms of how agents represent writers.

The WGA by-laws stipulate that an agency must sign the AMBA in order to represent one of its members.

Questions about the AMBA arose after a survey of WGA members found that Hollywood writers felt as if the major agencies’ practice of “packaging” was a detriment to their careers.

Packaging refers to an activity in which agents engage whereby there is a combining together of creative clients to benefit film studios, producers, and television networks.

Talent agencies used to rely primarily on a 10 percent commission rate as a revenue source. However, the practice of packaging provided a means in which larger agencies would be able to earn substantial additional revenue.

So-called packaging fees are charged separately and comprise an additional revenue source that is over and above the 10 percent commission; this additional amount of income is earned in exchange for bringing to a particular entertainment project a group of artists, e.g., writers, directors, and actors.

Additionally, the three biggest agencies, William Morris Endeavor (WME), Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and United Talent Agency (UTA), have spawned affiliate companies that participate in the ownership of content.

Writers contend that agents who package and gain an ownership stake have a conflict of interest, and they further assert that this conflict has caused writers’ earnings to decline.

The pursuit of packaging revenue places agents in a position of seeking deals that produce lucrative packaging fees rather than pushing for their clients to receive greater compensation.

When an agency owns and/or produces content, it places the agent in the dubious position of being an employer who is supposed to be representing the interests of an employee. This is a textbook case of a conflict of interest.

The growth of revenue streams for large talent agencies has attracted private equity investors and has even spurred some of the larger agencies to reportedly pursue the idea of going public. This has added more pressure as well as additional incentive to continue packaging and content ownership.

The agents that engage in such practices have actually made things worse through a lack of transparency, which has bred mistrust with their clients. Creators often had no knowledge that the content they had created was being packaged, with their agency generating a substantial amount of additional revenue off of their work. The agencies have acknowledged this error and have indicated that in the future they will be transparent.

The problem is that the damage has been done. Because the WGA and the ATA have come to an impasse in their negotiations, a tough-minded new talent agent code of conduct has been implemented by the writers union to end packaging and content ownership by agencies. The new code disallows any agent who represents a WGA member from receiving packaging fees and/or from working with agency-affiliated production companies.

WGA members have been instructed to disassociate from agents who do not comply with the new code of conduct. To this end, the union has provided members a DocuSign link with which they can send formal termination letters to agents.

These letters are now being sent out. Krista Vernoff, the showrunner on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” wrote an article for the Hollywood Reporter, which is titled “Why I Left My Agent, Despite the Sales Pitch.”

A sizable number of writers have taken to Twitter to announce their solidarity with the union by changing their profile pictures to icons that say “I Stand With the WGA.”

More than 800 writers have signed a statement of support and indicated that they “will only be represented as writers by agencies franchised by the Guild.” Most of the notable showrunners and TV creators that agencies desire to package have been visibly in support of the union.

The union has decided to play hardball with a new database for showrunners, where position openings are posted and writers may directly apply for work. It has put forth a plan for writers to be represented by managers and lawyers, as opposed to agents, although the ATA contends that the plan violates the law in California and New York.

Reportedly, the union has already drafted a lawsuit against the ATA and its member agencies, which would bring the battle to a courtroom on the East Coast or the West. The lawsuit will likely claim a breach of fiduciary duty by the agents who accepted fees from studios and allegedly failed to negotiate in good faith on behalf of their clients’ interests.

The outcome of this conflict will likely result in an entertainment industry realignment, whereby writers are represented by smaller agencies that agree to collect commissions, minus the packaging or content participation.

In a letter to members, the WGA described the significance of the big agencies firing in the following manner: “We know that, together, we are about to enter uncharted waters.”

Smollett Gets Hit with a Lawsuit as Chicago Seeks Justice

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Jussie Smollett may regret his failure to pay a bill sent to him courtesy of the City of Chicago.

After an extensive investigative process, a demand for payment was sent to the alleged hate crime hoaxer in an effort by the city to obtain reimbursement for costs incurred due to Smollett’s claims.

The letter gave the “Empire” actor seven days in which to pay an amount of approximately $130,000.

Smollett is refusing to pay the city anything, not a single solitary penny. He continues to publicly claim that he has been “truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” despite the fact that one of his lawyers has already fundamentally altered the facts of his claims.

Smollett may be about to reap the whirlwind because of a civil lawsuit that the city of Chicago plans to file against him. Bill McCaffrey, a spokesperson for Chicago’s Department of Law, released a statement indicating that because Smollett “has refused to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false report on January 29, 2019,” a civil complaint is in the process of being drafted.

McCaffrey commented that the lawsuit against Smollett will be filed “in the near future” and that the city will “pursue the full measure of damages allowed under the ordinance.”

A provision in the municipal code allows the city to file a civil action to collect the costs incurred when individuals make “false statements” to law enforcement and cause resources to be wasted.

The law also allows the city to go after the actor for “up to three times the amount of damages the city sustains” as a result of the violation. Consequently, if Smollett loses he faces a possible judgment of $390,000. In addition, the city can recover court costs and attorney’s fees, which could push the amount he could owe to over $500,000.

Smollett will soon realize that civil law differs greatly from criminal law, just as O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake discovered. Civil lawsuits pose grave problems even in cases in which criminal defendants are acquitted after a full trial.

In civil cases, the burden of proof is significantly less than that required of prosecutors in a criminal proceeding. The standard for the prosecution in a criminal matter requires evidence sufficient to prove the guilt of the defendant “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In its civil lawsuit against Smollett, the City of Chicago is only required to produce a “preponderance of evidence” to prove that Smollett is liable for the amounts sought. This civil standard requires that the city prove Smollett is more likely than not to have arranged for the attack upon himself, for the court, in the form of a judge or a jury, to hold the actor liable.

The $130,000 may in hindsight look quite inexpensive to Smollett, especially after he sees the amount of legal costs for which he will be responsible in order to defend himself against the City of Chicago’s lawsuit.

The extensive civil litigation that the city’s lawsuit would create would open the actor up for a sworn deposition under oath with the penalty of perjury hanging in the balance.

Smollett and his attorneys continue to make public statements proclaiming Smollett’s innocence. However, Joseph Magats, a lead prosecutor in the case, recently said that he “does not believe” Smollett is innocent.

Perhaps the greatest risk for Smollett is that a court will come to a legal conclusion that it was he himself who staged the alleged attack upon his person, thereby cementing his place in history as a B-list hate crime stager.

Democrats Creep from Collusion to Obstruction

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In a cart before the horse scenario, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, stated with certainty that he believes President Donald Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice. Nadler declared this as his committee initiated an investigation to ostensibly determine whether or not the president obstructed justice.

Nadler’s panel sent out 81 document requests and subpoenas as part of an unprecedented partisan probe launched at a time it is widely believed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is wrapping up his investigation and issuing a report.

Nadler, who has evidently come to a conclusion prior to his committee’s investigatory work, has also moved past the Mueller report, apparently amid concerns that it will contain no evidence of the supposed Russian collusion, which the Democrat Party and its allies in the left-leaning media have been obsessing over for more than two years.

Politico has cautioned those who are eagerly anticipating the special counsel’s report to “prepare for disappointment.”

Despite denials from certain members of the party, Nadler and his ilk are on an endless search for a rationale that they will be able to sell to the public so that impeachment of the president can be pursued and the 2016 election can be reversed.

“I think Congressman Nadler decided to impeach the president the day the president won the election,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said. “Show me where the president did anything to be impeached…Nadler is setting the framework now that the Democrats are not to believe the Mueller report.”

Nadler opined that the president is guilty of obstruction of justice, citing the “1,100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a ‘witch hunt.’” He additionally pointed to President Trump’s 2017 firing of then-FBI director James Comey.

“It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” Nadler stated.

Nadler’s determination prior to the investigation begs the question: Can a case be made against President Trump for obstruction of justice?

There are two serious impediments facing Nadler and other Democrats who are looking to impeach a sitting president using an obstruction of justice charge. The first impediment is the law and the second involves politics.

An analysis of the current facts results in a finding that there is no viable case for obstruction of justice. A sitting president who exercises legitimate constitutional power cannot be guilty of obstructing justice for merely acting on such power.

In this case, President Trump carried out tasks in which he is fully authorized to engage, using powers inherent to the office of the presidency and granted by the Constitution. These powers grant to the president the ability to hire and fire officials under his charge, including FBI Director Comey.

Even if the president had suggested a de-escalation of an investigation, as Comey alleged, this would not constitute obstruction, since the Chief Executive is, in fact, in charge of the executive branch of government.

Immediately after the president relieved Comey from his position, the former FBI director leaked copies of memos to the New York Times in which Comey had written that President Trump asked him to drop the investigation into then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

The Comey firing was explicitly recommended via a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which stated, “Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives. The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”

Obstruction of justice additionally requires a showing that the party who is obstructing possessed corrupt intent to interfere with, or had attempted to interfere with, the proceeding or investigation.

This means that the intentional aim of the interference is for self-interest.

Decisions made by a president that have arguable benefits for the people that the president serves are difficult for prosecutors to characterize as having the requisite corrupt intent.

President Trump’s decisions were arguably made to benefit the nation that his executive branch serves.

With regard to the tweets, presidents have a First Amendment right to express opinions. Moreover, the chief executive must freely express points of view as the leader of the executive branch.

President Trump’s tweets are not orders to those subject to his authority. They are instead expressions of ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and proposals to the people.

If President Trump had desired to interfere with the Mueller probe, he could have ordered it to be defunded, minimized, or terminated. Instead he chose to express opinions using his Twitter account.

Prior to taking the office of attorney general, William Barr penned a memorandum indicating that a president should not be prosecuted over conduct that is less than clearly serious criminality.

Does this mean that a sitting president cannot commit obstruction of justice? Of course not.

However, to commit a prosecutable offense, the occupant of the oval office would have to do something outside the scope of his constitutional authority, such as bribing a witness, threatening a judge, or destroying evidence.

Politically speaking, obstruction of justice, if used as a hedge for the lack of evidence of collusion, will likely result in a public perception that a significant gap had occurred between the original purpose of the investigation and the endgame.