Stormy’s lawyer ends bid for role in Cohen case
By LARRY NEUMEISTER and TOM HAYS
Wednesday, May 30
NEW YORK (AP) — Lawyers for President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, failed to win more time Wednesday to analyze millions of files seized by the FBI, but they did get one thing they wanted: Their TV tormentor, Stormy Daniels’ attorney, withdrew a request to get a formal role in the case.
A federal judge refereeing an ongoing legal tussle about which documents should be withheld from investigators because of attorney-client privilege gave lawyers for Trump and Cohen until June 15 to finish reviewing 3.7 million paper and electronic files seized from Cohen in the April raids.
The deadline for them to identify documents they believe are confidential was set over the objection of Cohen’s lawyer, Todd Harrison.
“We’re working around-the-clock,” he told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, saying that even with a team of 15 lawyers “moving heaven and earth,” they had only finished reviewing 1.3 million files so far and didn’t expect to finish until mid-July.
“I don’t know if we can make that,” another Cohen lawyer, Stephen Ryan, said of the June 15 deadline.
Wood was unmoved, but she made comments in court that may have prompted Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to withdraw a request to get a formal role in the legal negotiations.
Avenatti had applied to intervene in the case so he could ensure that any confidential records or recordings related to Daniels that were in Cohen’s possession weren’t improperly disclosed.
Much of Wednesday’s hearing was consumed by spirited arguments about Avenatti’s numerous public attacks on Cohen, mostly through live cable TV appearances. Ryan protested that the barrage was improper, saying Avenatti was on television at least 170 times, mostly to badmouth Cohen.
He also complained that Avenatti had improperly acquired and released certain bank records related to Cohen’s business dealings.
“I have never seen an attorney conduct himself in the manner that Mr. Avenatti has,” Ryan said.
Wood told Avenatti that while he is free to speak his mind now, he would have to end his “publicity tour” and attacks on Cohen if he became part of the case. Lawyers practicing in the federal court in Manhattan must follow local rules barring statements that might taint prospective jurors.
“That means that you would have to stop doing some things you have been doing. If you participate here, you would not be able to declare your opinion as to Mr. Cohen’s guilt, which you did; you would not be able to give publicity to documents that are not public. It would change your conduct,” Wood said. “I don’t want you to have some existence in a limbo, where you are free to denigrate Mr. Cohen and I believe potentially deprive him of a fair trial by tainting a jury pool.”
Shortly after the court hearing, Avenatti withdrew his application, but not before appearing before TV cameras outside again and assailing Cohen and his legal team once more.
Among other things, he accused Cohen’s lawyers of giving a journalist an audio recording of a conversation between Daniels’ former lawyer and Cohen.
In court, Ryan denied that Cohen’s lawyers gave recordings to a reporter, saying that if any did exist pertaining to Daniels, they were “under lock and key,” controlled by his law firm, the Trump Organization or the president.
“It has not occurred,” he said.
Daniels, who was not in court Wednesday, got a $130,000 payment from Cohen before the election in exchange for not speaking about an alleged sexual encounter with the president in 2006. Trump denies it.
Speaking to reporters after the court hearing, Avenatti said Ryan’s reference to the existence of audio tapes was a major revelation, and that he was certain some of those tapes relate to Daniels.
“As a result of our efforts, there was a shocking admission that was made in court today, namely, that just like the Nixon tapes, we now have what I will refer to as the Trump tapes,” he said.
He called for the “release of all those audio recordings to the American people and to Congress so that they can be heard by all.” Then, he added, “people can make their own determination as to their importance as it relates to the president, what he knew and when he knew it, and what he did as it relates to conspiring with Michael Cohen to commit one or more potential crimes.”
Special Master Barbara Jones said in a letter Tuesday that lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization have designated more than 250 items as subject to attorney-client privilege. She said the material includes data from a video recorder.
Judge Wood said if Trump and Cohen’s lawyers don’t finish reviewing material by June 15, the task of performing the attorney-client review will be handled by a special “taint team” of prosecutors walled off from those involved in the criminal probe.
Of the material seized from Cohen’s home, hotel and office in April, only two old Blackberry phones and the contents of a shredder have yet to be turned over to Cohen’s lawyers, prosecutors said.
The files, mostly from phones and electronic storage devices, were seized April 9 in raids on Cohen’s Manhattan home and office. The raids initially drew an outcry from Trump, who claimed an attack on attorney-client privilege.
The raids on Cohen were triggered in part by a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who separately is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Wood became involved after Cohen came to court, complaining that he feared attorney-client privilege would not be protected.
Trump Immigration Policy Veers From Abhorrent to Evil
By Nicholas Kristof
May 30, 2018
The New York Times
We as a nation have crossed so many ugly lines recently, yet one new policy of President Trump’s particularly haunts me. I’m speaking of the administration’s tactic of seizing children from desperate refugees at the border.
“I was given only five minutes to say goodbye,” a Salvadoran woman wrote in a declaration in an A.C.L.U. lawsuit against the government, after her 4- and 10-year-old sons were taken from her. “My babies started crying when they found out we were going to be separated.”
“In tears myself, I asked my boys to be brave, and I promised we would be together soon. I begged the woman who took my children to keep them together so they could at least have each other.”
This mother, who for her protection is identified only by her initials, J.I.L., said that while in El Salvador she was severely beaten in front of her family by a gang, and she then fled the country to save the lives of her children.
Who among us would not do the same?
J.I.L. noted that she had heard that her children might have been separated and sent to two different foster homes, and added: “I am scared for my little boys.”
Is this really who we are? As a parent, as the son of a refugee myself, I find that in this case Trump’s policy has veered from merely abhorrent to truly evil.
Family separations arise in part because of the new Trump administration policy, announced last month, of “zero tolerance” for people who cross the border illegally. That means that parents are jailed (which happened rarely before), and their kids are taken away from them.
“That’s no different than what we do every day in every part of the United States when an adult of a family commits a crime,” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told NPR this month. “If you as a parent break into a house, you will be incarcerated by police and thereby separated from your family.”
Yet Mirian, a Honduran woman who arrived in the U.S., broke no law. She simply followed the established procedure by presenting herself at an official border crossing point and requesting asylum because her life was in danger in Honduras — nevertheless, her 18-month-old was taken from her.
“The immigration officers made me walk out with my son to a government vehicle and place my son in a car seat in the vehicle,” Mirian said in a declaration accompanying the A.C.L.U. suit. “My son was crying as I put him in the seat. I did not even have a chance to comfort my son, because the officers slammed the door shut as soon as he was in his seat.”
Likewise, Ms. G, a Mexican in the A.C.L.U. suit, went to an official border crossing point and requested asylum with her 4-year-old son and blind 6-year-old daughter. None of them had broken American law, yet the children were taken from their mother.
“I have not seen my children for one and a half months,” Ms. G wrote in her declaration. “I worry about them constantly and don’t know when I will see them.”
Granted, this does not happen to all who present themselves at the border and do not cross illegally; it seems arbitrary. But even for those parents who commit a misdemeanor by illegally entering the U.S. — because they want to protect their children from Central American gangs — the United States response seems to be in effect to kidnap youngsters.
If you or I commit a misdemeanor, we might lose our kids for a few days while we’re in jail, and then we’d get them back. But border-crossers serve a few days in jail for illegal entry — and after emerging from criminal custody, they still don’t get their kids back soon, said Lee Gelernt, an A.C.L.U. lawyer. In one case, he said, it has been eight months and the child still has not been returned.
It’s true that immigration policy is a nightmare, we can’t take everyone and almost no one advocates open borders. Some immigrants bring small children with them and claim to be the parent in hopes that this will spare them from detention.
Yet none of that should be an excuse for brutalizing children by ripping them away from their parents. I was at times ferociously critical of President Barack Obama’s handling of Central American refugees, but past administrations managed these difficult trade-offs without gratuitously embracing cruelty. One fruitful step has been to work with countries to curb gang violence that forces people to flee.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly hails family separation as a “tough deterrent” and shrugs that “the children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”
So what’s next, Mr. President? Minefields at the border would be an even more effective deterrent. Or East German-style marksmen in watch towers to shoot those who cross?
We as a nation should protect our borders. We must even more assiduously protect our soul.
PBS: Some Migrant Children In U.S. Custody Were Released To Human Traffickers
By Jake Thomas
In 2014, eight unaccompanied minors were released to human traffickers who sent them to work on an Ohio egg farm.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services unknowingly allowed eight Guatemalan teens to be released into the care of human traffickers, leading the young people to a life of forced labor on an Ohio egg farm.
Now in 2018, HHS still has not implemented new protocol that would greatly reduce the risk of undocumented children winding up in similar situations – despite promising Congress two years ago that such changes would be made.
In fact, just last year the department lost track of nearly 1,500 children, with no way of knowing how many fell victim to human trafficking.
The agency’s top official was brought before the Senate again this year to address continued shortcomings – issues that warrant even greater scrutiny in light of the Trump administration’s recent announcement that more unaccompanied children are likely to enter the system.
After unaccompanied minors arrive in the United States, often to reunite with family members or to flee violence or poverty in their home countries, they are typically transferred from border patrol or customs officers to the custody of HHS, which often reunites the minors with a relative or another sponsor. The department is supposed to place check-in phone calls 30 days after a minor’s placement, but during the hearing, [Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the agency’s Administration for Children and Families] acknowledged gaps in that system.
Between October and December 2017, he said, the agency was unable to locate almost 1,500 out of the 7,635 minors that it attempted to reach — or about 19 percent. Over two dozen had run away, according to Wagner, who said the agency did not have the capacity to track them down.
Back in 2016, members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations grilled agency officials as to why they were unable to track children after placing them with sponsors, an issue that became more urgent following a scathing report from the committee showcasing the ten children who were sent to work on an egg farm in Ohio two years prior.
“It’s just a system that has so many gaps, so many opportunities for these children to fall between the cracks, that we just don’t know what’s going on — how much trafficking or abuse or simply immigration law violations are occurring,” said the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Rob Portman.
In 2014, at least 10 trafficking victims, including eight minors, were discovered during a raid by federal and local law enforcement in Portman’s home state of Ohio. As FRONTLINE examined in the recent documentary Trafficked in America, HHS had released several minors to the traffickers. The committee said the case was due to policies and procedures that were “inadequate to protect the children in the agency’s care.”
Speaking with Frontline for the documentary, Portman said HHS cannot continue shirking its responsibility when it comes to undocumented children:
“We’ve got these kids,” he said. “They’re here. They’re living on our soil. And for us to just, you know, assume someone else is going to take care of them and throw them to the wolves, which is what HHS was doing, is flat-out wrong. I don’t care what you think about immigration policy, it’s wrong.”
As ICE separates children from parents at the border, public outrage grows
Chris Hayes dedicated a segment to the now “systematic” dividing of immigrant children from their parents at the border.
Jessica M. Goldstein
May 26, 2018
The Washington Post
How does one “lose” almost 1,500 children?
Last month, Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the administration for children and families (ACF), announced at a Senate hearing that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement — which is to say, an office he oversees — was “unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 children between October and December.”
As Mother Jones reports:
The Trump administration is seeking to criminally prosecute everyone who crosses the US-Mexico border, including parents. The policy is likely to separate thousands of families who arrive at the border by placing parents into the criminal justice system. Without their parents, children will be placed into the custody of ORR.
In March, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Trump administration for forcibly removing young children from their parents who are awaiting asylum hearings. The class action lawsuit “claims the practice by government agencies of separating young children from their families violates the Due Process Clause and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The lawsuit represents a proposed class of ‘hundreds of individuals whose minor children have already been taken from them.’”
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted excerpts from the lawsuit on Friday, pointing to one case in particular — a mother who said she has not seen her 18-month-old son since he was taken from her a month before — “a moral abomination, and a national shame.” Friday evening, Hayes dedicated a segment of “All In” to what he called Trump’s “despicable” policy and its affect on families who come to the United States seeking asylum — so, as Hayes points out, “not trying to sneak in.”
“Kids as young as nine years old, seven years old — cases of children as young as 18 months — ripped out of the arms of their mother and putting those children into government-run shelters for a very specific reason: To punish the immigrants.”
Earlier this month, White House chief of staff John Kelly was asked by NPR about the practice of arresting mothers who cross the border illegally with their children, which was then a recent proposal by attorney general Jeff Sessions. Unlike President Donald Trump, who since the earliest days of his campaign has spoken about immigrants with vitriol, Kelly told NPR that “the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13. Some of them are not.”
But Kelly went on to say that these immigrants would struggle to “assimilate” due to lack of language skills. “A big name of the game is deterrence,” he said. The interview went on:
Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.
It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.
Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?
I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.
Believe it or not, the incredibly reassuring and specific language deployed by Kelly — “into foster care or whatever” — did not stir confidence among those who considered this practice, to borrow NPR’s phrasing, “cruel and heartless.”
Late Friday night, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a frequent critic of the Trump administration, aimed a tweet about this policy at first lady Melania Trump, referencing her Be Best initiative, which focuses on the “social, emotional, and physical health” of children, a campaign with “three pillars,” the first of which is children’s “well-being.”
This morning, President Trump responded to the latest wave of pushback against his immigration policy with a tweet that claimed it was Democrats, not the president himself, responsible for this “horrible law” and featured a number of hallmarks of a classic Trump tweet: Arbitrary capitalization, a reference to the border wall, abuse of the caps lock key, and racially-charged language. (MS-13 are “thugs,” but the neo-Nazis who marched on Charlottesville were some “very fine people.” Interesting!)
It’s exhausting being a reporter in the Trump era. A new documentary captures the toll at the New York Times.
By Hank Stuever TV critic May 23
The Washington Post
President Trump’s election set off a mad scramble among high-profile journalists, book authors and filmmakers who compete to tell the story of American history and experience. Overnight, they all needed an exclusive yet meaningful vantage point. Some, like author Michael Wolff, looked for a way to slither into a ringside seat. Others headed for the great flyover to spend time with the forgotten citizens who connect to the new president’s bombast.
Liz Garbus, one of the finest documentary filmmakers working today, followed another instinct altogether, asking to embed a film crew in the white hot center of the most elite and most maligned spot in mainstream media: the newsroom of the New York Times.
The company’s executives agreed to give Garbus broad access, but mostly steered her away from their Eighth Avenue headquarters in Manhattan, and instead pointed her to the real action, in the paper’s impressively staffed Washington bureau at D.C.’s Farragut Square. There, Garbus trailed Times reporters and editors from Inauguration Day, as they began a frantic process to accurately convey and comprehend the first year of an administration intent on making up the rules as it goes along.
The result, premiering Sunday on Showtime, is an engrossing four-part documentary called “The Fourth Estate.” Although it is filled with sort of pulse-quickening journalistic jujitsu one expects — the deadlines, the doggedness, the scoops, the backlash — it is also refreshingly human in scope, stopping more than once to observe the emotional toll on these journalists who are working themselves to the bone.
An investigations editor looks at the time and realizes that Valentine’s Day dinner is shot. One reporter works out his angst late at night hitting balls at the driving range. Another reporter, a divorced dad, rouses his sleepy kids to get them ready for school as he prepares to face whatever fresh hell the White House beat will deliver today.
And reporter Maggie Haberman, whose stock at the paper soared on her years spent closely covering Trump when he was a Page Six persona, now finds herself on an endless Acela loop between home in New York and her beat in Washington, starting early and ending late, often with a round of TV appearances on the cable-news shows, which means a makeup session and a hair blowout. Her son calls relentlessly until she picks up.
“It’s your mama,” she answers, listening for a moment, then offering him what might also be good advice for half the country: “You can’t die in your nightmares. I promise.”
I will stop here to personally say that Trump fatigue ought to be more of a concern in our industry, from top management all the way down to the voracious readers eagerly clicking on the freshest findings of the 24-7 news cycle. The national desk staffers I see riding the elevators at The Washington Post wear the same looks of dogged dedication as the reporters featured in “The Fourth Estate.” They’re unable to get off their own ego-powered treadmills and hopelessly uncompensated for all the extra — yet vital — hours the work requires. It’s a wonder that we aren’t seeing more reporters and editors leave the newsroom via the paramedic stretcher. The story — this story, this president — is everything.
Garbus’s subjects (many of whom are Post alum) do their best to brush away the intense stress, rationalizing the pursuit over all else. They over-caffeinate and nibble their nails down to nubs in mortal fear of getting beat on a story; the notes in the film’s score grow noticeably more ominous during a shot of The Post’s K Street tower, on the night of a particularly harsh scooping.
“I don’t know how all of this will end,” the bureau’s chief, Elisabeth Bumiller, says at one point. “I don’t know how long it’s going to last. But we will all look back on this and tell our children we were in the Washington bureau at this moment and we covered it.”
“I may never cover a story this big,” says reporter Michael S. Schmidt. “I may never have the opportunity that I have now, and I feel that I have to give it everything that I have. I am single and I live by myself and I have no other commitments. I work and that’s what I do. I don’t even have food in my apartment.”
Garbus’s quiet lionization of their efforts will naturally disgust viewers who’ve fallen in lockstep behind the president’s constant media vilifying. On assignment, the Times reporters are frequently berated by Trump supporters; their attempts to fan out and understand the ramifications of policy on these voters’ lives are sometimes met with slammed doors and lectures about fake news.
The demands on the reporters’ ability to focus are near-constant, from nailing down the stories in motion to honoring the ingratiating requests for sound bites from Michael Barbaro, host of the Times’s instantly successful daily podcast. It can be frustrating to watch Barbaro needle them to “talk a little bit about” the thing they’re busy writing about. Watching the film, a viewer begins to wonder how much easier the reporters’ lives would be — and perhaps how much better their stories would be — if they weren’t always engaged in these acts of multimedia branding.
Twitter looms large and keeps things at a boil; Garbus uses the app’s signature bird whistle to demonstrate how quickly news — and the waves of reaction to it — holds the reporters in constant sway, tempting some of them to get caught up in their own outrage.
From New York, Executive Editor Dean Baquet extols both the modern metabolism of news gathering and the paper’s mission of independent inquiry, while searching for new ways to pay for it. We watch as the company frees up some capital by reducing the square footage it occupies in its skyscraper, and Baquet begins thinning the newsroom’s editing ranks to hire more reporters, angering the paper’s employee union by offering retirement packages to longtime copy editors who guarded the paper’s tone and accuracy.
We’ve already seen plenty of documentaries about the pains and penny-pinching that come with shifting a print medium to a nimble digital enterprise; the minutes spent explaining the Times’s financial health tend to drag.
The film is most compelling when it’s right in there listening in on phone conversations or hovering behind reporters as they rush to file. If you love watching harried wordsmiths dither over changing “fraught” to “dire” to “treacherous,” then this is your jam.
Depending on one’s particular beef with the Times, “The Fourth Estate” tends to deliver: Those concerned about media diversity will surely notice that a paper with an African American editor and a female Washington bureau chief can still so closely resemble the old club, disproportionately white and male. If you’re waiting to watch as former White House reporter Glenn Thrush gets a two-month suspension for improper behavior, becoming one more example in a sweep of #MeToo coverage (started by the paper’s intense reporting on Harvey Weinstein), it’s all there, as uncomfortable as Times editors may have been about having to discipline an employee with cameras present. And if you’re looking for evidence of bias creeping into the story agenda — bias of any flavor — I predict you’ll find some.
As naive as it sounds, I hope this film reaches an audience beyond nitpicky Times aficionados and self-fascinated journalists. We live in an era where fewer citizens seem to understand that there are many kinds of media, some better than others. And when people do make films about newspapers anymore (dramatic or documentary), they’re usually nostalgic for an era that’s never coming back.
On that point, in all four episodes I don’t recall seeing any of those sentimental shots of presses rolling. Instead, close-ups of the soft keystrokes that create and edit stories seem to faintly echo the clattering wire-service readouts director Alan J. Pakula used in his Watergate movie, “All the President’s Men.”
Rather than presses, the most important object in “The Fourth Estate” is a rectangular blue icon on the Times’s content-management system, marked “Publish.” Whenever an editor in the Washington bureau hovers the mouse over it and clicks, it’s a subtle yet enthralling expression of freedom.
The Fourth Estate (90 minutes) first of four parts premieres Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Continues June 3, 10 and 17.
Hank Stuever has been The Washington Post’s TV critic since 2009. He joined the paper in 1999 as a reporter for the Style section, where he covered popular culture.