Manafort trial aftermath


Staff & Wire Reports



This courtroom sketch shows Paul Manafort listening to U.S. District court Judge T.S. Ellis III at federal court in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Manafort, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump's winning presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president's associates. A judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts the jury could not agree on. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

This courtroom sketch shows Paul Manafort listening to U.S. District court Judge T.S. Ellis III at federal court in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Manafort, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump's winning presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president's associates. A judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts the jury could not agree on. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)


Manafort juror says 1 holdout prevented 18-count conviction

By ERIC TUCKER and CHAD DAY

Associated Press

Thursday, August 23

WASHINGTON (AP) — A juror in Paul Manafort’s financial fraud trial says a lone holdout prevented the jury from convicting the onetime Trump campaign chairman on all 18 counts.

Jurors repeatedly tried to persuade the holdout to “look at the paper trail” but she insisted there was reasonable doubt, juror Paula Duncan told Fox News.

“We didn’t want it to be hung, so we tried for an extended period of time to convince her,” Duncan said, adding that the four days of deliberations were so heated that there were “tears” among the 12 jurors. “But in the end, she held out and that’s why we have 10 counts that did not get a verdict.”

The federal jury on Tuesday found Manafort guilty on eight counts; the judge declared a mistrial on 10 counts the jury was deadlocked on.

Duncan, a self-described Trump supporter who was photographed for the Fox report in a red “Make America Great Again” hat, said she and 10 other jurors were prepared to find Manafort guilty of each count in the indictment. Duncan said she considered the charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to be legitimate and considered the evidence “overwhelming.”

“I did not want Paul Manafort to be guilty, but he was,” Duncan said. “And no one is above the law.”

She said neither positive nor negative sentiments about Trump influenced the decision.

“I think we all went in there like we were supposed to and assumed that Mr. Manafort was innocent. We did due diligence,” Duncan said. “We applied the evidence, our notes, the witnesses, and we came up with the guilty verdicts on the eight counts.”

She said the president’s administration did come up during deliberations because of testimony that Manafort had tried to secure a White House position for a banker who authorized millions of dollars in loans for him and had lobbied Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“The charges were legitimate but the prosecution tried to make the case about the Russian collusion right from the beginning and, of course, the judge shut them down on that,” Duncan said. “We did waste a bit of time with that shenanigan.”

Duncan also said she would have liked to have heard more from Manafort’s defense. Manafort did not testify at trial and his lawyers conducted mostly limited questioning of the government’s witnesses.

She also said the jury “agreed to throw out the testimony” of Manafort protege Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in Mueller’s investigation and agreed to cooperate with investigators, and focus instead on the documents.

Duncan’s comments in the interview Wednesday came the same day that the trial judge unsealed several transcripts of closed bench conferences. One transcript showed that the defense had privately sought a mistrial because of comments a juror was quoted as making about the weakness of Manafort’s defense.

The disclosure by one juror of another juror’s remarks on the ninth day of Manafort’s trial prompted U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to question jurors about whether the comment would affect their ability to make a fair and impartial verdict. Juror names are blacked out in the transcripts.

Ellis denied Manafort’s motion, saying that after considering the circumstances carefully and questioning each juror about their ability to be impartial, a mistrial wasn’t warranted.

Defense lawyers did not press the issue in public, and after the jury’s verdict, Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing took care to praise Ellis for a fair trial and the jury “for their very long and hard-fought deliberations.”

Opinion: What’s Happening to Charitable Giving in This Country?

By Chuck Collins and Helen Flannery

InsideSources.com

At a time of staggering inequality and a fraying social safety net, charity can play a hugely important role in addressing urgent social needs.

Instead, however, a growing number of extremely rich people are using charity mechanisms called donor-advised funds, or DAFs, to claim substantial tax benefits — often without actually supporting the charities addressing those needs.

In “Warehousing Wealth,” a new report we’ve co-authored for the Institute for Policy Studies, we track the explosive growth of these accounts and their perils, and recommend some reforms.

DAFs are holding accounts for high-dollar donors designated specifically for charitable giving. Originally a creation of community foundations, they’ve been adopted and aggressively marketed by a number of for-profit Wall Street firms: Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab and Vanguard all now offer them.

Donors can put money into a DAF — taking a tax deduction when they do so — and then later recommend grants from that DAF to qualified charities.

Unfortunately, after the donor has claimed a substantial tax break, the funds may sit in the DAF for years — or potentially forever. There’s currently no legal incentive to move money to charities once it’s been put into a DAF.

In fact, these Wall Street-sponsored DAFs often entail financial incentives for staff at the DAF, and for fund managers and client advisers at its for-profit affiliate, to keep money in the fund rather than donate it.

DAFs are now the fastest-growing recipients of charitable giving in the United States. Donations to DAFs increased from just under $14 billion in 2012 to $23 billion in 2016 — growth of 66 percent over five years. In contrast, charitable giving by individual donors nationwide grew by just 15 percent over the same five years.

In fact, DAFs appear to be shifting giving away from public charities. The share of total U.S. individual charitable giving that’s going to DAFs, rather than directly to public charities, has nearly doubled over the last seven years.

In 2016, for the first time ever, a DAF — Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund — was the top single recipient of charitable giving in the United States, edging out the more traditionally charitable United Way. And in 2017, six of the top 10 recipients of charitable giving were DAFs.

The problem is there’s no legal requirement for DAFs to pay out their funds to qualified charities — ever. According to one estimate, the average annual payout rate for DAFs in 2016 was just 20 percent, and some DAFs give considerably less than that. And even as the amount of funds flowing to DAFs has increased, payout rates have been steadily going down.

As currently structured, DAFs foster a wealth preservation mentality among donors, rather than incentives to move donations to qualified charities. This delays the public benefit from those donations, which has an opportunity cost for society. DAFs also open up loopholes for both donors and private foundations to get around tax restrictions, and have little transparency and accountability.

Because we subsidize charitable giving through the tax code, there’s a strong public interest in seeing those charitable funds deployed quickly to solve real community problems.

There are simple reforms that could prevent these abuses.

Lawmakers could require the distribution of DAF donations within a fixed number of years. They could delay the tax deduction until funds are paid out to a public charity. And they could ban DAFs from giving to private foundations, and vice versa — closing loopholes that further delay giving to active charities.

There are significant risks to warehousing wealth in large financial institutions at a time of extreme wealth inequality and undisputed public need for the services charities provide. It’s imperative to correct the rules regulating these charitable vehicles to ensure the public good is justly served.

ABOUT THE WRITERS

Chuck Collins directs the program on inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies, where Helen Flannery is an associate fellow. They are co-authors of the IPS report “Warehousing Wealth: Donor-Advised Charity Funds Sequestering Billions in the Face of Growing Inequality.” They wrote this for InsideSources.com.

The Conversation

How Donald Trump can survive Michael Cohen’s decision to turn on him

August 22, 2018

Neil Visalvanich

Lecturer in the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University

Disclosure statement

Neil Visalvanich does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

Durham University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer”, Michael Cohen, has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of fraud, among other crimes, and has implicated the president himself in wrongdoing. Speaking about payments made to porn actress Stormy Daniels and others, supposedly to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with the president, Cohen told a US judge: “I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” This would constitute a violation of campaign finance laws, and the implications for Trump are already the subject of speculation.

On the same day Cohen took his plea, Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was also convicted of federal crimes relating to his work with Russian and pro-Russian companies and governments.

While we can’t know how these sudden twists will impact the current administration long term, they have suddenly injected a new potency into the miasma of scandal that hangs around the president himself. So what might happen to Trump next, and what can the history of presidential scandal tell us about his chances of weathering this storm?

Holding steady

Ever since Trump was elected, much has been made of his remarkably stubborn approval ratings. Despite the endless controversy and hugely negative news coverage, he has consistently retained the approval of somewhere around 40% of Americans. The reason is clear: while self-identified Democrats and independents strongly disapprove of Trump, Republicans still overwhelmingly support him, with his latest approval figures among those voters as high as 87%. With few exceptions, Republican politicians in Congress have also been relatively reluctant to speak out against the president for fear of retribution from their core voters.

On the face of it, this puts Trump well ahead of his most infamous scandal-ridden predecessor, Richard Nixon, whose approval ratings dropped to the mid-to-low 20s at the end of the Watergate scandal, However, in hindsight, many do not realise that Nixon too retained the support of Republican voters and politicians well into the scandal’s development.

Nixon’s voters and allies in Congress did not abandon him until Presidential Counsel John Dean testified against him to the Senate Watergate Committee, a shocking event followed by the release of audio tapes unambiguously implicating Nixon himself in a criminal cover up. The same effect could well be at work in Trump’s scandals today: depending on what specific evidence Cohen can offer up against Trump, the stubborn Republican support keeping Trump afloat could yet start to crumble.

Coming apart

On the other hand, the US of the 1970s was far less politically polarised than today’s. In these hyper-partisan conditions, there’s an alternative scenario in which the president does not just survive, but thrives in the face of scandal.

This is what happened after President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky exploded into a humiliating attempt to impeach him. Thanks to a booming economy and a more polarised political culture, Clinton’s approval ratings actually rose at the height of the Lewinsky scandal. Democratic voters never abandoned him, and proved amenable to the administration’s portrayal of the scandal: a partisan prosecution for a moral lapse that had no bearing on the president’s performance. Enough independents and centrists were satisfied with America’s economic performance to agree.

With things going as they are, Trump may be able to preserve what standing he has in the same way. Today as in the late 1990s, the US economy is generally doing well; while real wages remain stagnant, unemployment is remarkably low and overall growth generally strong.

Trump is also borrowing from the Clinton playbook in his efforts to paint his various scandals as the machinations of overzealous and corrupt political enemies, calling Robert Mueller’s investigation the “greatest witch hunt in American history”. Until now, this strategy has certainly kept base on side, although political independents and more centrist elements in his party don’t appear quite so enthusiastic.

So what now? Barring some truly unprecedented action in the Washington power structure itself, the ultimate arbiter of wrongdoing will be the American people. They will decide whether Trump’s scandals are legitimate, and whether they are important enough to warrant political punishment. And as team Trump will be well aware, the strongest signal they can send that these presidential scandals are unacceptable is to vote and hand Congress over to the Democrats in this November’s midterm elections. That would dial the up pressure on Trump to a higher level than before.

Opinion: What’s So Unsettling to Schumer About ‘Settled Law’?

By Michael Graham

InsideSources.com

What’s so unsettling to Chuck Schumer about “settled law”?

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, made headlines when she left her meeting with Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and announced: “We talked about whether he considered Roe (v. Wade) to be settled law. He said that he agreed with what (Chief) Justice (John) Roberts said at his nomination hearing in which he said it was settled law.”

This is good news for the White House, because it indicates Collins is unlikely to break ranks and vote against Kavanaugh. Which means it’s bad news for Sen. Schumer and his party’s uphill fight to keep Kavanaugh off the court.

And so, Schumer says, “settled law” doesn’t “settle” anything.

“Let’s be clear — this is not as simple as Judge Kavanaugh saying that Roe is settled law,” Schumer said after the story broke. “Everything the Supreme Court decides is settled law until it unsettles it. It’s no different than the typical judicial dodge of saying you respect stare decisis.”

So a nominee saying “settled law” simply isn’t good enough for Schumer. Except for when it is.

In 2005, during the confirmation hearings for Roberts, Schumer said he was “impressed” with Roberts’ “concepts of modesty and stability. They suggest to me you respect precedent and well-settled law.”

And again in 2006 when, during his grilling of Justice Samuel Alito, Schumer asserted that the “settled law” standard had been set:

“So why is it only when it comes to Roe you can’t tell us whether it is settled, whether it is not settled, or how it is settled, and you can pick any formulation you want,” Schumer demanded of the nominee. “Other judges have commented on Roe being settled. Ruth Bader Ginsburg talked about her view and she still got a lot of votes on the other side of the aisle.”

Settled or unsettled, Schumer voted against Alito and Roberts anyway. This adds to the speculation that his complaints of a Kavanaugh “dodge” are in fact merely anti-Trump partisanship.

“The real dodge is Senator Schumer dodging the fact that Supreme Court nominees, Republican and Democrat alike, do not answer questions that would prejudge issues that come before the court,” says Adam J. White, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.

“Surely the senator remembers Sonia Sotomayor — whom Schumer personally introduced at the beginning of her 2009 hearings — explaining why nominees should not prejudge issues,” White said.

During her confirmation hearings, Sotomayor told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “I will follow precedent according to the doctrine of stare decisis. I can’t prejudge what that precedent means until the issue comes before — what a prior decision of the court means and its applicability to a particular issue is until that question is before me as a judge — or a justice, if that should happen.”

As the Washington Post reported at the time, “In not allowing senators to pin her down on concrete matters of law, Sotomayor borrowed an approach that has been used by most nominees to the nation’s highest court since the failed nomination of Robert H. Bork.”

Known as the “Ginsburg Standard” after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, nominees simply refused to answer detailed questions about specific cases or issues that might come before the court. Ginsberg was confirmed by a vote of 96-3.

And it worked for Sotomayor, too. Senate Democrats, including Schumer, backed her unanimously in a 68-31 confirmation vote.

So what is Schumer’s objection now? Kavanaugh is certainly meeting the standards met for earlier, successful nominees. As Josh Blackman, professor at South Texas College of Law, said: “Judges cannot provide a preview of how they would vote on a given case. There isn’t much more that Judge Kavanaugh could have said here.”

Then there’s what might be called the “Schumer Standard.” During the debate over Sotomayor’s confirmation, her critics highlighted controversial quotes and comments from her public record, including her assertion in 2001 that “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Schumer defended his fellow New Yorker by saying that, while “snippets of statements” were used to criticize the nominee, “we’ve heard precious little about the body and totality of your 17-year record on the bench, which everybody knows is the best way to evaluate a nominee.”

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has a 12-year record on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and has written 300 opinions on cases covering virtually every aspect of jurisprudence. In addition, the Senate Judiciary Committee has received more than 430,000 pages of records to review — more than twice the number for any previous nominee.

Using the Schumer Standard, senators should have more than enough information to evaluate Kavanaugh’s fitness for the bench, regardless of the senator’s claims on questions “dodged.”

Ironically, after Schumer launched his attack on Kavanaugh, he refused to answer questions from reporters on any other subjects. Maybe Schumer was trying to dodge questions from reporters who understand the hypocrisy of his attacks on Republican nominees.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He is also a CBS News contributor. You can reach him at michael@insidesources.com. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

This courtroom sketch shows Paul Manafort listening to U.S. District court Judge T.S. Ellis III at federal court in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Manafort, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president’s associates. A judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts the jury could not agree on. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121212197-183ef26cf0464aa598d28dba71387a30.jpgThis courtroom sketch shows Paul Manafort listening to U.S. District court Judge T.S. Ellis III at federal court in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Manafort, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president’s associates. A judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts the jury could not agree on. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports