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.

President Trump’s Emergency Declaration Will Survive Lawsuits

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According to Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the new Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, President Donald Trump possesses the lawful authority to use emergency powers to fund and build a barrier at the border.

In response to an interview question about the legality of the president’s recent emergency declaration, Smith told host of ABC’s “This Week” George Stephanopoulos, “Unfortunately, the short answer is yes. There is a provision in law that says the president can declare an emergency. It’s been done a number of times…” The congressman added that the president would be the recipient of a court challenge.

The lawsuit avalanche has just begun. More than a dozen states are filing suits challenging the emergency declaration. A case in point is the recent one declared by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

It is simply a fact that under existing law the suits should eventually lose when the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately gets the case.

Even Democrats such as Smith and various liberal legal commentators have admitted that President Trump has the statutory authority to declare the border crisis to be a national emergency, and he will therefore be able to adequately fund a border barrier.

The declaration by a president of a national emergency is nothing new. There have been 58 national emergencies declared since the National Emergencies Act of 1976 (NEA) was signed into law. Currently, there are 31 active national emergencies in effect. President Bill Clinton declared 17, and President Barack Obama declared 13 of them.

National emergencies exist today in remote places such as Yemen, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Myanmar, and Somalia. The current national emergency declared by President Trump deals with a crisis occurring on the U.S. Southern border.

The NEA was originally passed to rein in the authority of the president to use emergency power. The law requires the occupant of the Oval Office to renew declarations of emergencies annually, and it gives Congress the potential ability to terminate a state of emergency. Congress has routinely renewed most past declared emergencies without raising meaningful objections or litigation.

In order to terminate President Trump’s recent declaration of emergency, Congress must pass a joint resolution and submit it to the president for his signature. If the president were to veto the resolution, as President Trump would most certainly be expected to do, Congress would have to come up with a veto-proof supermajority to end the state of the emergency.

When Congress, via the NEA, granted the president the power to declare a national emergency, it did not define the meaning of the phrase. The power of any president to declare a national emergency ends up being very broad.

President Trump’s authority to do so does not arise solely from the NEA, though, but also from the presidential power to protect the nation and control the orderly process of entry into the United States.

Supreme Court precedent recognizes the power of the executive branch to control the admission and exclusion of foreign nationals and generally views this authority as mostly unsusceptible to interference by courts.

The funding for a border barrier has already been given the blessing of Congress via enacted legislation that was signed into law. The law of the land, as stated in the Secure Fence Act of 2006, is that a border barrier shall be built along the U.S. Southern border.

Democrats are alleging that President Trump’s emergency declaration is seeking to use an emergency as a means to obtain what Congress had refused to authorize. However, Democrats are evidently more than willing to have the judicial branch step in to end a declared emergency, rather than follow a law that specifically states how Congress is mandated to carry out the process of overriding an emergency declaration.

There was no mass rush to file lawsuits and no cries of abuse of power on the part of Democrats when President Obama, after stating that he did not possess the legal authority to do so, proceeded to bypass Congress after it refused to pass immigration reform. He simply created with a stroke of his pen a program that fundamentally altered immigration laws.

The former president additionally funded some significant parts of the Affordable Care Act, after Congress had denied him such funding. And he also funded the undeclared war in Libya, after Congress had turned down his funding request.

In is clearly apparent that Democrats are not concerned with the law, but rather they are in opposition to any kind of border barrier of which President Trump might be in favor. This is simply due to the fact that President Trump made the wall a centerpiece promise during his 2016 presidential campaign. Democrats have been relishing in anything they believe might harm him politically, and they continue to do so.

The ugly reality is that the primary reason Democrats are seeking to stop the construction of any type of border barrier is that barriers work, and they do not want anything to be implemented that might curb the mass migration of their would-be voters.

Jeff Bezos’s Extortion Claim May Go Nowhere

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Founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, entered the political arena about six years ago with his purchase of The Washington Post.

American Media, Inc. (AMI) is the company that owns The National Enquirer, which is the media outlet that recently revealed Bezos was involved in an extramarital affair. The Enquirer story appeared a day after Bezos announced that he and his wife of 25 years were getting a divorce.

The story exposed Bezos’s affair with Lauren Sanchez, who is a former host of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” News of the affair changed public perception of Bezos, particularly with regard to his image as a CEO.

After suffering some embarrassment as a result of the story, Bezos unveiled a surprising blog post, which accused AMI of extortion. According to Bezos, in an email sent by the company’s lawyer, AMI threatened to publish texts and compromising photographs of Bezos, which included pictures of his male anatomy, if he did not publicly state that the tabloid’s reporting on his affair was not motivated by political concerns. Ironically, the lawyer who wrote the email is a former Amazon employee.

David Pecker is the CEO of AMI, and he is known to be an associate and friend of President Donald Trump. In the aforementioned blog post, Bezos made it a point to mention President Trump and cited ways that the president and Pecker had cooperated in the past.

Apparently, Bezos has been stung by the president’s tweets about his newspaper.

“It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote. “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets.”

Bezos has now put together a team of prominent lawyers and crisis managers to assist him in his public tug-of-war. The team includes high-profile figures such as Hollywood lawyer Martin Singer, who in 2005 represented Bill Cosby over potential Enquirer articles that detailed sexual assault allegations made against Cosby.

Attorney Jonathan Sherman, who previously represented AMI, is part of Bezos’s team and is with the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner. Partner of the firm David Boies defended Harvey Weinstein against sexual harassment and abuse accusations.

An additional team member is security specialist Gavin de Becker, who worked with public figures such as Olivia Newton-John, Cher, and former President Ronald Reagan.

If the email is taken at face value, it appears as though AMI’s lawyer offered to forego the publishing of material that would be embarrassing to Bezos in exchange for a public statement from Bezos that would benefit AMI. Based on a superficial read, the subject of criminal extortion has been repeatedly featured in media discussions.

Citing anonymous sources, reports have surfaced claiming that federal prosecutors are looking into the extortion claim.

The allegation in question is that AMI, via its lawyer, communicated to Bezos during settlement discussions that it possessed embarrassing texts and photographs, and conveying that if Bezos did not settle with AMI the company intended to go forward and publish the material.

The communication was made by a Deputy General Counsel for AMI and purportedly followed an email from AMI’s Chief Content Officer that had described in detail the texts and photographs.

In analyzing this email, it is important to focus on the context within which both parties are seeking to settle a dispute.

In settlement negotiations, it is common practice for the parties to propose that each side will release the other from any potential claims. This is what was communicated through its legal counsel in the subject email by AMI, along with a proposal that Bezos would agree to tell the public that AMI’s coverage of Bezos was not politically motivated. In return, AMI would agree not to publish the texts and photographs.

Outside of the settlement discussion context, criminal extortion would exist in a case such as this if money was demanded as payment for not making public an embarrassing secret. However, in this instance the key difference revolves around the settlement backdrop.

Why would the two sides be negotiating a settlement? It is clear that Bezos has been raising potential civil legal claims against AMI, while AMI has suggested that Bezos’s Washington Post planned to publish a false news story about AMI.

These cross assertions are arguably the basis for both parties to be pursuing a settlement of their respective claims. A settlement agreement would mutually release the claims of both parties.

Typically such agreements contain non-disclosure provisions stipulating that neither side will disparage the other, particularly when both sides are publishers. The argument of AMI as a criminal extortion defendant would be as follows: the texts and emails in question were an essential part of the settlement negotiations and were necessary to establish an incentive for Bezos to negotiate.

Prosecutors would have an uphill battle in attempting to use these facts as a basis for a criminal extortion case. Additionally, the First Amendment creates further problems for the prosecution, since Bezos is a very well known influential public figure and a power player in Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., and Hollywood.

Since Amazon moved forcefully into the entertainment business, Bezos is often seen at award shows and red carpet events. His life choices can have an on one of the largest companies in the world and one of the most influential news outlets in the nation. Despite its inherent unseemly nature, this story is, in fact, a newsworthy one that most current news outlets would run with if given the opportunity.

Furthermore, in the Michael Cohen case AMI entered into a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, agreeing to cooperate in exchange for not being subjected to prosecution. The agreement was conditioned on the company not getting into trouble legally for a period of three years.

Bezos’s team is well aware that, if it were determined that AMI broke the law, the company would potentially be in violation of the agreement. However, if there is no prosecutable crime, there seemingly would be no impact on the non-prosecution agreement.

Much of the analysis and reporting on the latest chapter in the Bezos saga illustrates the hunger on the part of many in the mainstream press for anything that can be weaponized against the president and used to ratchet down his poll numbers.