Posts Tagged ‘Alan Dershowitz’

Supreme Court Controversy — Not a Mere ‘Job Interview’

September 30, 2018

Even in the court of public opinion, basic fairness should preclude conviction without clear evidence.

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Protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination outside the Supreme Court, Sept. 27.
Protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination outside the Supreme Court, Sept. 27. PHOTO: JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
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Until Judge Brett Kavanaugh was accused of horrible crimes—sexual assault, lewd conduct and even gang rape—his confirmation hearings could fairly, if not entirely accurately, be characterized as a “job interview.” The burden was on him to demonstrate his suitability to serve on the Supreme Court. He apparently met that burden in the eyes of a majority, a partisan one to be sure, and seemed on the way to getting the job.

But now everything has changed. So should the burden of persuasion. The behavior of which Judge Kavanaugh has been accused is so serious and devastating that it requires a high level of proof before forming the basis for his rejection. There is an enormous and dispositive difference between a candidate’s rejection on ideological grounds, as was the case with Robert Bork, and rejection on the ground that he has committed crimes warranting lifetime imprisonment rather than a lifetime appointment.

Being on the Supreme Court is a privilege, not a right. But being disqualified based on a false accusation of a crime would be a violation of the fundamental right to fairness. Some will argue that the issue of Judge Kavanaugh’s ideological and professional qualifications should be merged with the sexual allegations and that doubts should be resolved against a lifetime appointment.

In some cases that would be a plausible argument. But it is too late for that kind of nuanced approach now, because these accusations have received world-wide attention. Judge Kavanaugh is on trial for his life. At stake are his career, his family, his legacy and a reputation earned over many decades as a lawyer and judge.

If he is now denied the appointment, it will be because he has been depicted as a sexual predator who deserves contempt, derision and possible imprisonment. He may no longer be able to teach law, coach sports or expect to be treated respectfully. He could be forced to resign his current judicial position, because having a “convicted” rapist on the bench is unseemly. For these reasons, he now has the right—perhaps not a legal right, but a right based on fundamental fairness—to have the charges against him put to the test of clear and convincing evidence or some standard close to that.

The court of public opinion is different from a court of law, but it too is an important court. Wouldn’t anyone rather be convicted in a court of law of drunken driving—also a serious crime—than convicted in the court of public opinion of being a serial sex predator? Many would even rather go to prison for a year on drunken driving charges than be labeled a sexual predator for life. In a nation dedicated to fairness and due process, explicit constitutional rights often serve as a metaphor and guide in the kind of basic fairness we demand even in nonlegal proceedings. That model should operate here as well.

Had Judge Kavanaugh been rejected on ideological or professional grounds before these sordid accusations were leveled, he could go back to his life, as Robert Bork did. But if the Senate fails to confirm him now, his life will never be the same.

Some would argue that if Judge Kavanaugh is now confirmed in the face of these serious accusations, it will have an equally damaging effect on the life, reputation and credibility of his accusers. That is false. Even if he is confirmed, those accusers will be treated as heroes by the many people who believe them. It will not have close to the impact on them that a failure to be confirmed will have on Judge Kavanaugh. The best evidence of that is Anita Hill, who has gone on to a distinguished career as an academic, writer, commentator and feminist. The stakes are simply not comparable.

I don’t know whether Judge Kavanaugh is guilty, innocent or somewhere in between. I don’t know whether he told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Judge Kavanaugh wouldn’t have been my candidate of choice for the Supreme Court. I am a liberal Democrat who believes Republicans improperly denied Judge Merrick Garland a seat on the high court.

But this is no longer about who would make the best Supreme Court justice. It is about the most fundamental issues of fairness this country has faced since the McCarthy era, when innocent people were accused of trying to overthrow the government and had their lives ruined based on false accusations, while being denied all semblance of due process or fairness. The American Civil Liberties Union stood strong against McCarthyism by demanding due process and hard evidence. But the ACLU now argues that “unresolved questions regarding credible allegations of sexual assault” be resolved against the accused nominee.

We have come a long way since McCarthyism, but we now live in an age that risks a new form of sexual McCarthyism. We must not go to that even darker place. The best way of assuring that we don’t is to accord every person regardless of his status, the kind of fundamental fairness we would expect for ourselves if we were accused.

Mr. Dershowitz is a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/this-is-no-mere-job-interview-1538313919

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Maxine Waters goes on Trump ‘impeachment’ tear, vows to ‘get him’ — “Then go after Pence.” — Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr weigh in…

September 12, 2018

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters escalated her rhetorical assault on President Trump over the weekend – vowing to “get him” and repeating the word “impeachment” over and over.

Waters, who took heat earlier this year for urging her supporters to confront Trump administration officials in public, told a group gathered in Los Angeles that some Democratic leaders have asked her to stop talking about impeaching Trump.

“There’s a difference in how some of our leadership talk about how we should handle all of this,” Water said. “They say, ‘Maxine, please don’t say impeachment anymore.’”

“And when they say that, I say ‘impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment.’”

In video posted by The American Mirror, Waters said she wakes up in the middle of the night and “all I can think about is I’m going to get him,” in reference to Trump.

The California congresswoman, who was accepting an award from the Stonewall Young Democrats on Saturday, has been one of the most outspoken congressional Democrats calling for impeachment. While many in party leadership have shied away from those demands, Waters and her allies are emboldened by the prospect of Democrats retaking the House in the midterms and, potentially, using a majority to launch impeachment proceedings.

In June, Waters made controversial comments amid the backlash over the White House’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy leading to family separations at the border.

“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Waters said.

The lawmaker later claimed that she wasn’t calling for protesters to actually “harm” Cabinet members.

On Saturday, Waters once again brought up the remarks from earlier in the summer and said she did not threaten Trump supporters — but seemed to joke that she’s done that before.

“It frightened a lot of people, and of course the lying president said that I had threatened all of his constituents,” Waters said. “I did not threaten his constituents, his supporters. I do that all the time, but I didn’t do it that time.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/09/10/maxine-waters-goes-on-trump-impeachment-tear-vows-to-get-him.html

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Alan Dershowitz said on Fox News (Wednesday, September 12, 2018) that Maxine Waters has vowed to “impeach Donald Trump and then impeach Pence.” Dershowitz said there has not been any hint of any wrongdoing by Vice President Mike Pence and talk like this “cheapens the impeachment clause in the Constitution.”

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Dershowitz said he largely agrees with Ken Starr, who said “Putting the nation through that process is really quite wrenching.”

Ken Starr, the former independent counsel whose investigation resulted in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, said Monday that, although the process reflects necessary checks and balances, lawmakers should be “careful” about going down that road.

“Impeachment is hell,” Starr said on “CBS This Morning” while promoting his new book, Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation. He later added: “I think history is teaching us, the history of the ’90s is teaching us about 2018.”

Impeachment chatter has gone relatively quiet in recent months as Democrats have tabled the issue ahead of November’s midterm elections, worried it could alienate voters. Trump, however, speculated about his own possible removal from office at a rally last week, telling his supporters that if he is impeached, “it’s your fault because you didn’t go out to vote.”

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Starr said that, though Clinton was impeached in the House but acquitted in the Senate, the “system did work.”

“Our system of checks and balances worked; that is, the president was held accountable. He, in fact, had to answer to articles of impeachment,” Starr said. “But, at the same time, the American people are very forgiving, and we also want stability. And so, one of the messages of this book is, be careful about impeachment.”

He continued: “Impeachment is hell, and putting the nation through that process is really quite wrenching.”

Trump’s personal lawyers have been in a months-long tête-à-tête regarding Mueller’s request that the president sit down for a wide-ranging interview about his presidential campaign and any possible obstruction of justice. Starr said that he believes a U.S. president has an obligation to obey the law, but “if I’m a criminal defense lawyer, I’m saying, don’t do it.” Trump’s lawyers have worried that the president, known for making off-the-cuff remarks, would contradict himself and inadvertently lie to investigators.

“I don’t think he would engage in a perjury trap, no,” Starr said of the special counsel. “I have every confidence in Bob Mueller.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ken-starr-impeachment_us_5b96f1c1e4b0511db3e54ee8

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Mr. Rosenstein, What Is the Crime?

September 9, 2018

We have a special prosecutor, a ton of facts, Public Enemy Number One George Papadopoulos is going to the slammer for 14 days, but we still don’t know what the BIG CRIME is we are looking for. Seems un-American…

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies on Capitol Hill, December 13, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

What’s the legal basis for his special-counsel investigation? We have a right to know.For precisely what federal crimes is the president of the United States under investigation by a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department?

It is intolerable that, after more than two years of digging — the 16-month Mueller probe having been preceded by the blatantly suspect labors of the Obama Justice Department and FBI — we still do not have an answer to that simple question.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein owes us an answer.

To my mind, he has owed us an answer from the beginning, meaning when he appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller on May 17, 2017. The regulations under which he made the appointment require (a) a factual basis for believing that a federal crime worthy of investigation or prosecution has been committed; (b) a conflict of interest so significant that the Justice Department is unable to investigate this suspected crime in the normal course; and (c) an articulation of the factual basis for the criminal investigation — i.e., the investigation of specified federal crimes — which shapes the boundaries of the special counsel’s jurisdiction.

This last provision is designed to prevent a special counsel’s investigation from becoming a fishing expedition — or what President Trump calls a “witch hunt,” what DAG Rosenstein more diplomatically disclaims as an “unguided missile,” and what Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, invoking Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret-police chief, pans as the warped dictum, “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” In our country, the crime triggers the assignment of a prosecutor, not the other way around.

Trump Makes It Hard to Defend Trump

Sound reasons undergird the regulations. If a Democrat were in the White House, we would know them by heart at this point. Republicans once knew them well, too. That was before Donald Trump’s character flaws had them shrugging their shoulders, resigned that he deserves to be investigated whether he committed a crime or not.

Yet, the rationale for the regulations relates to the presidency, not to the man or woman who happens to occupy the office at a particular time. It is too debilitating to the governance of the United States, to the pursuit of America’s interests in the world, for us to permit imposing on the presidency the heavy burdens of defending against a criminal investigation unless there is significant evidence that the president has committed a serious crime.

As illustrated by this week’s hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats are too Trump-deranged in this moment to recognize their interest in avoiding a prosecutor’s cloud over future Democratic administrations. (Of course, they probably calculate that no Democratic attorney general would appoint a special counsel, no matter the evidence, and that the media would compliantly play along.) It is therefore up to Republicans to respond to the damage being done to the office. This can be hard to do.

If policy were all that mattered, the Trump presidency would be a rousing success. The economy is humming. The yokes of tax and regulation have been eased to the extent that, despite tariff hijinks, unemployment has plummeted and employers have trouble filling positions. Meanwhile, the federal courts are being stocked with exemplary jurists who, for decades, will be faithful stewards of the Constitution.

Alas, there’s a lot more to it than policy. You want to slough off as unreliable the latest ABC/Washington Post poll that has Trump’s job approval at just 38 percent (with 60 percent disapproving)? Okay . . . but since he seems hell-bent on personalizing the midterms as a referendum on him, it is less easy to ignore that the so-called generic ballot is swinging the Democrats’ way: by nearly 10 points according to FiveThirtyEight, while even more Trump-friendly Rasmussen reflects a recent Democratic surge to a four-point lead.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger observes, the president’s loyal base, consisting of roughly a third of the voting public, is going to be with him and, presumably, with Republicans. Still, if a Democratic takeover of the House is to be avoided, the GOP desperately needs the voters who reluctantly pulled the lever for Trump only because he was not Hillary Clinton.

You may notice that Mrs. Clinton is not on the ballot this time. Meanwhile, in just the last few days, the president has attacked his attorney general yet again, this time for prosecuting two allegedly corrupt Republican congressmen and thus refusing to politicize the Justice Department; he has conflated himself with the country in absurdly suggesting that an anonymous derogatory op-ed by an administration official might amount to “TREASON,” such that the New York Times should “turn [the author] over to the government at once” for the sake of “National Security”; and he has used Communist North Korea’s murderous anti-American dictator Kim Jong-un as a character reference. If this is the plan for turning out the Trump-skeptical vote, I respectfully suggest that it needs rethinking.

It’s about the Presidency, Not the President

More to the point, these derelictions — the president’s self-supplied fuel for the media narrative of an unhinged chief executive — make it politically risky for Republicans to defend the presidency by defending the president from what appears to be an unwarranted investigation.

To be clear, if there is probable cause to believe that Donald Trump was criminally complicit in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, he must be investigated, and the nation must resign itself to the compromised administration that entails. But we have never been told, much less shown, that this is the case. It is supposed to be established before the investigation commences.

Meantime, not only have millions of public dollars been expended on Mueller’s investigation; administration officials have had to go into their own pockets, paying millions in legal fees to defend themselves and comply with the special counsel’s demands. Executive officials have been forced to deal with Congress and foreign leaders while hamstrung by criminal suspicion of the president. Trump aside, the signal has gone out to the meritorious people we should want to serve in future administrations: Why leave your prestigious, profitable job to serve in government and risk financial and reputational ruin?

Congressional Republicans are letting this happen because they don’t want to stick their necks out for Donald Trump. Yet this is not solely about Donald Trump, much as he seems determined to frame it that way. It is about a constitutional office that is far more critical than any current incumbent.

Questioning the Legitimacy of Mueller’s Investigation

Echoing Democrats, Republicans say Robert Mueller, a patriotic and honorable man, should be allowed to finish his work. Let’s take Trump the lightning-rod out of the equation. If we were to pretend that the president is a Democrat, what would be made of that claim?

1. Rectitude
Mueller’s personal rectitude would be irrelevant. If he or you don’t think so, go ask Ken Starr. In any event, a prosecutor’s personal integrity is never dispositive when he or she commences an investigation, seeks a warrant, or tries an accused. What matters is whether the laws and rules have been satisfied.

2. Special Counsel Neither Necessary Nor Authorized for Investigation of Russia 
If the president were a Democrat, it would be pointed out that to question the special counsel’s criminal investigation of the president is not to question the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The latter is vital. No one denies that it should be aggressively pursued to its conclusion.

Moreover, if the counterintelligence investigation were incidentally to turn up concrete evidence that Donald Trump had committed a crime, no one denies that a special counsel appointment would be appropriate at that time. (Get it? Evidence of crime first, then assignment of prosecutor.) But unless and until that were to happen, a counterintelligence investigation does not need a prosecutor at all, much less a special counsel. That is why the aforementioned special-counsel regulations do not authorize an appointment for counterintelligence cases.

3. Conflict of Interest
It is a condition precedent to the appointment of a special counsel that there be a conflict of interest. There is no such conflict preventing the Justice Department from investigating Russian interference in the election. If that were not obvious enough, Mueller himself has elucidated the point by transferring the two indictments he has brought against Russian operatives to Justice Department components — the “Troll Farm” case to the U.S. attorney’s office in the District of Columbia, and the hacking case to Main Justice’s National Security Division. If there were a conflict of interest, it would be inappropriate for the special counsel to make such transfers. To the contrary, there is no reason why DOJ could not have investigated these cases in the normal course — if there is a “normal course” for a pair of publicity-stunt cases that will never be prosecuted.

But while we’re on the subject of conflicts . . . let’s have a brief look at Mueller’s staff.

The president is in the habit of ranting about “17 angry Democrats.” As is often the case, this misses the point. There is nothing wrong per se with a president’s being investigated by prosecutors registered with the opposition party. Of course, for the sake of his own credibility, Mueller is foolish to have stacked his staff with partisans. (Please, spare me the blather about how the Justice Department is not allowed to inquire about party affiliation when hiring. These are not obscure lawyers who applied for a job; they are well-known lawyers whom Mueller recruited into a hyperpolitical case, fully aware that they are activist Democrats.) But there is foolish, and then there is disqualifying. Being a Democrat is not disqualifying.

Still, we must ask, Why was Mueller appointed? Supposedly, because DOJ was too conflicted. So whom does he turn around and recruit? Well, his chief deputy is Andrew Weissman, and his main legal beagle is Michael Dreeben. They were two of the top officials at the purportedly conflicted DOJ — respectively, chief of the criminal-fraud section and deputy solicitor general. Before her stint as Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, Jeannie Rhee was DOJ’s deputy assistant attorney general. She, like several other members of Mueller’s bloated staff, comes to the task of investigating the president either directly from the purportedly conflicted Justice Department or after a brief stint in private practice.

In any proper special-counsel investigation, it would be worth asking why, if the Justice Department is too conflicted to handle the case, its top officials are an ethical fit to staff the case. In this particular investigation, however, the actions of the Justice Department (and the FBI) in commencing and pursuing the Trump/Russia probe are themselves under investigation by the Justice Department and its inspector general, and by several congressional committees. Under those circumstances, how is it appropriate to staff a special-counsel probe, which is premised on avoiding a conflict of interest, with lawyers who were top officials in the Justice Department whose conduct of the same probe is itself under investigation? If we pretend that the president is a Democrat, and we throw in for good measure Weissman’s adulation of former acting attorney general Sally Yates for insubordinately defying the president on an enforcement matter, is it not worth asking why Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself but Weissman gets to run the investigation?

If a Democrat were in the White House, it wouldn’t happen. Because if a Democrat were in the White House, and Weissman & Co. were Republicans transferred over from the Republican DOJ now under investigation, congressional Democrats would be screaming that there was no conflict of interest warranting the appointment of a special counsel, and that the only apparent conflict involved the prosecutors. And Republicans sages would be meekly agreeing — as would I (less meekly, I hope).

What Is the Crime?

There is one thing and one thing alone that would justify the appointment of a special counsel: concrete evidence that Donald Trump committed a crime in connection with Russia’s election interference. So, to repeat: For precisely what federal crime is the president of the United States under investigation?

DAG Rosenstein owed us an explanation of this on Day One. He and Mueller’s staff have evaded this obligation by arguing that nothing in the special-counsel regulations requires a public recitation of the factual basis for the investigation. More haughtily, they claim that the special-counsel regulations are not enforceable — they’re just hortatory guidelines that DOJ may flout at will.

Allow me to translate: Rosenstein claims that the Justice Department’s desire for investigative secrecy takes precedence over the president’s capacity to govern.

This, notwithstanding that in every independent-counsel investigation since Watergate, the president and the public have been apprised of exactly what crimes necessitated an investigation. And notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s rationalization, in Morrison v. Olson (1988), that the constitutionally dubious statute (since lapsed) authorizing an independent counsel passed muster because, prior to the appointment, the Justice Department first carefully established evidence of specific criminal-law violations.

That is preposterous. Investigative secrecy should never have had pride of place where the presidency is at stake. After 16 months, there is no excuse for it.

The Rosenstein Memo . . . and the Steele Dossier

It is no answer that Rosenstein has given Mueller a supplemental memorandum (dated August 2, 2017) purportedly fleshing out the factual basis for the investigation. This memorandum, too, has been almost completely withheld from Congress and the public. Furthermore, from what little we know of it (the passages unsealed in connection with the prosecution of Paul Manafort for crimes unrelated to Russia’s election-meddling), it is inadequate.

As I have previously noted, it appears that the Rosenstein memo merely asserts that there are “allegations” that crimes may have been committed. It does not provide a factual basis for believing these allegations are true.

The Justice Department claims the memo cannot be unsealed without compromising the investigation and potentially prejudicing uncharged people. The latter concern could easily be addressed by redacting the names — except, of course, the president’s, if it appears. (Remember, the point here is to determine if the president is under investigation, and for what crime.) Thus I suspect there is a more controversial reason for Rosenstein’s obstinacy: Unsealing would reveal that the memo relies on the Steele dossier — the unverified opposition-research project sponsored by the Clinton campaign.

What makes me say so? Well, here is one of the two passages that Rosenstein, under court pressure, has deigned to let us read: Mueller is authorized to investigate:

Allegations that Paul Manafort . . . Committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States of America, in violation of United States law.

To date, Manafort, like every other Trump-campaign official, has never been charged with a crime related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Now, the Steele dossier is not the only “collusion” evidence against Manafort. There has been public reporting that, while he was Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort furtively offered briefings on the campaign to Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch known to be close to Vladimir Putin (but intriguingly discussed as if he could be, or become, a Western intelligence asset in emails between dossier author Christopher Steele and top DOJ official Bruce Ohr). If true, this claim of Manafort’s offer to Deripaska is unseemly and suspicious, but it does not establish a crime. Manafort is also known to have been present at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, arranged by Donald Trump Jr. in hopes of scoring campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Again, unseemly, but not a crime per se (unless the campaign-finance laws are stretched in a way that would implicate many, many campaigns). No, the only publicly known, unambiguous allegation that Manafort was enmeshed in a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign and Russia is sourced to the Steele dossier.

We know that in June 2017, a month after appointing Mueller, Rosenstein relied heavily on the Steele dossier in approving a FISA surveillance-warrant application (targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page). Is it not reasonable to suspect that, less than two months after signing off on the warrant application, he would again rely on the Steele dossier in amplifying the basis for Mueller’s investigation?

More questions: Did Rosenstein have evidence other than the Steele dossier to support this criminal-collusion allegation against Manafort? Does the deputy attorney general acknowledge relying on the Steele dossier in his memo to Mueller? Are there other allegations in the Rosenstein memo that mirror the Steele dossier’s sensational, uncorroborated claims? Is Donald Trump named in the memo?

Mueller’s Report . . . about What?
The last question is the pertinent one. Reuters reported back in April of this year that Rosenstein assured Trump that he is not a “target” of Mueller’s probe. Even if true, that would not mean the president is not a subject of the probe. If he’s not, why wouldn’t we have been told that? Why hasn’t it been announced that the Trump aspect of the investigation is closed — if, indeed, it was ever open?

We have to assume that Trump is and has been under criminal investigation, even if there is not and has never been a crime.

It is frequently noted that, as special counsel, Mueller is expected to provide a report to Rosenstein, who will then decide what parts of the report to share with Congress and the public. This is said to explain why Mueller is being so thorough: He must be comprehensive even if he finds no prosecutable crimes.

Democrats, of course, anticipate that such a thoroughgoing, narrative report will form the basis for an impeachment of the president. Impeachment does not require proof of courtroom-prosecutable misconduct, but of any misconduct Congress might determine is — or might inflate into — high crimes and misdemeanors. The idea is that, despite the absence of penal offenses, Mueller will find discreditable and erratic behavior, which, post-midterms, a Democratic-controlled House can whip into “collusion” and “obstruction” for purposes of impeachment articles.

We go back, however, to first principles. The way this is supposed to work, the Justice Department must describe the factual basis for specified crimes – not discreditable, erratic behavior; crimes – that the special counsel is authorized to investigate. If the special counsel wants to investigate other crimes, he is supposed to ask for his jurisdiction to be expanded. When the special counsel writes his report, it is supposed to be about why prosecution of those crimes should be authorized or declined. That’s it. Mueller is a prosecutor working for the Justice Department, not counsel for a congressional impeachment committee. His task is to report his prosecutorial decisions about crimes he has been authorized to investigate because the Justice Department is conflicted; it is not to hold forth on his assessment of Donald Trump’s overall comportment and fitness to be president. That is for voters, or their elected representatives, to determine.

So what are the suspected crimes committed by Donald Trump that Mueller has been authorized to investigate, and what was the factual basis for Rosenstein’s authorization of this investigation?

We still haven’t been told.

The anti-Trump Left decries all criticism as an effort to “delegitimize” and “obstruct” the Mueller investigation. But no one is questioning the investigation of Russia’s interference in the election. We are questioning why a special counsel was appointed to investigate the president of the United States. It is the Justice Department’s obligation to establish the legitimacy of the appointment by explaining the factual basis for believing a crime was committed. If there is no such basis, then it is Mueller’s investigation that is delegitimizing the presidency and obstructing its ability to carry out its constitutional mission — a mission that is far more significant than any prosecutor’s case.

We’re not asking for much. After 16 months, we are just asking why there is a criminal investigation of the president. If Rod Rosenstein would just explain what the regs call for him to explain — namely, the basis to believe that Donald Trump conspired with the Kremlin to violate a specific federal criminal law, or is somehow criminally complicit in the Kremlin’s election sabotage — then we can all get behind Robert Mueller’s investigation.

But what is the explanation? And why isn’t the Republican-controlled Congress demanding it?

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/09/trump-russia-probe-robert-mueller-investigation/

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Liberal law professor Alan Dershowitz gives Rod Rosenstein an “F” in legal ethics — Conflict of interest means he should be fired

July 1, 2018

Liberal law professor Alan Dershowitz on Saturday criticized Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s continued supervision of the Robert Mueller investigation, citing “conflict of interest” as a reason he should be replaced.

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“There is no surprise that this one is taking a long time,” Dershowitz said on “Fox & Friends” on the length of the investigation so far. “What is surprising is that Rod Rosenstein is still supervising it. More and more information is coming out about his conflict of interest. We have now seen stories in the New York Times about how he may have regretted writing a letter and he felt he was used writing a letter.”

“He is a central witness in this entire obstruction of justice if it involves the firing of Comey,” said Dershowitz. “How can he still stay on the case? I wish they would focus much more on that because he is recused. He is disqualified. He ought to be replaced. That will, however, slow the process down even more probably.”

Responding to a question from Ed Henry about ways to deal with the situation, Dershowitz cited several, including a lawsuit or an “ethics charge.” (RELATED: Congressman: Rosenstein Is Spying On Me)

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Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Getty Images file photo

“As somebody who has taught legal ethics for over 25 years at law school, the first thing you learn you can’t be both a prosecutor and a witness,” he said. “So much influences your role as a prosecutor to know that if the case goes a certain way, then you are a witness. If it goes another way maybe you are not a witness. You will look terrible this way. You will look better the other way. He has real self-interest. People talk about the president not pardoning himself or the president not pardoning people who are involved. Here you have the person who is leading the investigation who has an obvious interest in the way in which the investigation is going to go involving his own participation. That just shouldn’t be allowed.”

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http://dailycaller.com/2018/06/30/dershowitz-rosenstein-conflict-of-interest/

TAGS : ABBY HUNTSMAN ALAN DERSHOWITZ DONALD TRUMP FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION FBI ROD ROSENSTEIN

Related:

Rosenstein Consulted With Ethics Advisor Over Recusing Himself From Mueller Probe

https://peoplestrusttoronto.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/rosenstein-consulted-with-ethics-advisor-over-recusing-himself-from-mueller-probe/

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Federal judge rightly rebukes Mueller for questionable tactics

May 7, 2018

An experienced federal judge has confirmed what I have been arguing for months — namely, that the modus operandi of special counsel Robert Mueller is to charge associates of President Trump with any crime he can find in order to squeeze them into turning against Trump.

This is what Judge T.S. Ellis III said at a hearing Friday: “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment.”

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BY ALAN DERSHOWITZ, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 05/07/18 11:30 AM EDT 1,934 THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

But, as the judge correctly pointed out, it risks the possibility that the squeezed witness will not only sing — he will compose! Here is what he said about that: “This vernacular is to ‘sing,’ is what prosecutors use. What you got to be careful of is, they may not only sing, they may compose.” 


I have been using this “compose” metaphor for decades, and I am gratified that a judge borrowed it to express an important civil liberties concern. Every experienced criminal lawyer has seen this phenomenon at work. I have seen it used by prosecutors who threaten wives, parents, siblings and, in one case, the innocent son of a potential witness who was about to graduate law school. Most judges, many of whom were former prosecutors, have also seen it. But few have the courage to expose it publicly, as Judge Ellis has done.

Defenders of Mueller’s tactic argue that the threatened witnesses and their relatives are generally guilty of some crime, or else they wouldn’t be vulnerable to the prosecutor’s threats. This may be true, but the crimes they are threatened to be charged with are often highly technical, elastic charges that are brought only as leverage. They are dropped as soon as the witness cooperates. This was precisely the point Judge Ellis was making with regard to Manafort.

A similar point could be made with regard to President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and perhaps to his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Indeed, Flynn pleaded guilty to a highly questionable charge precisely because his son was threatened with prosecution.

Civil libertarians have long criticized this tactic, since the time it was used by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his minions to pressure witnesses to testify against suspected communists in the 1950s. In recent decades it has been deployed against mobsters, terrorists and corporate predators. But Judges Ellis has accused Mueller of using this questionable approach to develop a political case against the duly elected president of the United States.

For those who argue that everything is fair, if the goal is to prevent a president from being above the law, Judge Ellis provided a compelling response: “What we don’t want in this country, we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. … It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants.”

He was referring to the manner by which the special counsel was using his power to “tighten the screws” on Manafort by indicting him for an alleged crime that the judge believes has nothing to do “with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate.”

Civil libertarians should be applauding Judge Ellis for seeking to cabin the “unfettered power” of the special counsel to do “anything he wants.” But no, because his ruling may help Trump, and because Trump has applauded it, the civil liberties and criminal defense communities have not been heard from.

The judge has not yet ruled on the propriety of the special counsel’s actions, and it is unlikely he will dismiss the charges against Manafort. But Mueller is on notice that he may not have unfettered power to indict President Trump’s associates for old crimes that are unrelated to the Russia investigation for the purpose of making them sing or compose against Trump. Equally important, the civil liberties community no longer has an excuse to ignore — or defend, as some have done — tactics that pose considerable dangers to civil liberties, just because they are being used against President Trump.

Last week was not a good one for special counsel Mueller. Nor was it particularly good for President Trump, as his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani presented a somewhat garbled narrative with regard to the payments made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. But it was an excellent week for the Constitution and for all Americans, because a federal judge made it clear that no one — not even the special counsel — is above the law and beyond scrutiny by our system of checks and balances.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter professor of law, emeritus, at Harvard Law School. He is the author of “Trumped Up: How Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous to Democracy” and “The Case Against BDS: Why Singling Out Israel for Boycott is Anti-Semitic and Anti-Peace.” You can follow him on Twitter @AlanDersh and on Facebook @AlanMDershowitz.

TAGS ROBERT MUELLER, DONALD TRUMP

http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/386508-federal-judge-rightly-rebukes-mueller-for-questionable-tactics

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Donald Trump’s better off litigating: Alan Dershowitz

May 4, 2018

In my experience, subjects of criminal investigations rarely help themselves by speaking to prosecutors or testifying before a grand jury. Far more often, they hurt themselves by falling into a perjury trap carefully set by prosecutors.

When prosecutors invite a subject to talk to them, they are not trying to help the subject. They are trying to bolster their case against him. Subjects can become targets and then defedants even if they tell the truth.

Image result for Alan Dershowitz, photos

By Alan Dershowitz

They can fill gaps or make statements that are contradicted by other witnesses who the prosecutors chose to believe. That is why, in my half-century of practicing criminal law, I have never advised a client to speak to prosecutors unless the alternative is worse.

OUR VIEW:No obstruction? No collusion? Then why not testify?

In this case, the alternative may well be a grand jury subpoena, which is worse in that the subject must appear without his lawyer and without limitations of time and subject matter. But it is better in that it can be challenged legally. A negotiated appearance cannot.

There are several grounds on which President Trump’s lawyers could challenge a subpoena. The broadest ground would be that a sitting president cannot be compelled to appear before a grand jury and answer questions. The courts are likely to reject so broad an argument, as they rejected President Clinton’s claim that he could not be required to sit for a deposition.

A somewhat narrower objection would be to answering any questions that relate to the exercise of his presidential authority under Article 2 of the Constitution. Just as members of Congress and the judiciary cannot be questioned about the exercise of their constitutional powers, so, too, a president cannot be required to explain why he fired FBI Director James Comey or national security adviser Michael Flynn.

President George H. W. Bush was not questioned about why he pardoned Caspar Weinberger and others on the eve of their trials, even though it was obvious to everyone, especially the special prosecutor, that he pardoned them for the improper purpose of shutting down the Iran-Contra investigation, which might well have pointed a finger of accusation at him.

I think that President Trump would have a good chance of prevailing on this issue.

Finally, he could challenge questions that go beyond the scope of the special counsel’s mandate. Even if he prevailed on that challenge, it would only be a Pyrrhic victory, since the same questions could be put to him by a grand jury in the Southern District of New York.

All in all, I think the president is probably better off litigating than testifying, though he might end up doing both.

Alan Dershowitz is professor of law emeritus at Harvard University andauthor of Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/05/03/donald-trump-better-litigating-testifying-alan-dershowitz-editorials-debates/34524873/

Alan Dershowitz: Harsh words for Feds after raid on Trump’s lawyer — Mueller is trying to turn Cohen against Trump — Has Mueller “lost perspective”

April 10, 2018
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Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz on Monday laid into Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
(Screenshot via Fox News)

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz warned Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to raid President Trump’s personal lawyer’s office is an assault on the privileged lawyer-client relationship.

Dershowitz said on Fox News that he believes the decision to raid Michael Cohen’s office would be a sign that Mueller is trying to turn Cohen against Trump.

“This may be an attempt to squeeze Cohen,” he said. “He’s the lawyer, he’s the guy who knows all the facts about Donald Trump, and to get him to turn against his client.”

“This is a very dangerous day today for lawyer-client relations,” he added.

Dershowitz, who has drawn the ire of Democrats for defending Trump, said Mueller’s move is also dangerous because it gives the FBI the option of deciding what information seized from Cohen to pursue.

“I tell [clients] on my word of honor that what you tell me is sacrosanct,” he said. “And now they say, just based on probable cause … they can burst into the office, grab all the computers, and then give it to another FBI agent and say, ‘You’re the firewall. We want you now to read all these confidential communications, tell us which ones we can get and which ones we can’t get.'”

“If this were Hillary Clinton being investigated and they went into her lawyer’s office, the ACLU would be on every television station in America, jumping up and down,” he added.

“The deafening silence from the ACLU and civil libertarians about the intrusion into the lawyer-client confidentiality is really appalling,” Dershowitz said.

The famed law professor said Mueller’s move will only convince more people not to cooperate and said he believes Mueller has “lost perspective” in the case.

Dershowitz recommended that Trump make a motion in court to take Cohen’s materials away from the FBI and make a judge decide what evidence can be used and which cannot.

 https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/alan-dershowitz-today-is-a-very-dangerous-day-for-lawyer-client-relations

Trump Hits Again at Mueller, Invoking Alan Dershowitz’s Support

March 21, 2018

Bloomberg

By Terrence Dopp

  • President keeps up attacks on prosecutor leading Russia probe
  • Mueller wrong way to address Russian 2016 meddling: academic

President Donald Trump returned to criticisms of the special counsel investigating Russian election meddling Wednesday, this time quoting Alan Dershowitz on Fox News mounting a vigorous attack on Robert Mueller, saying he never should have been appointed and that there was no evidence of a crime.

“Special Council is told to find crimes, whether crimes exist or not. I was opposed the the selection of Mueller to be Special Council, I still am opposed to it. I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a Special Council appointed,” Trump said on Twitter, quoting the former Harvard law professor.

Alan Dershowitz

Photographer: Lior Mizrahi/Hulton Archive

In a subsequent message, Trump wrote, “there was no probable cause for believing that there was any crime, collusion or otherwise, or obstruction of justice!”

The tweets come as even Republicans in Washington have become concerned that Trump will fire Mueller, the former FBI director brought in as special counsel after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from investigating allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday praised Mueller and said he should be allowed to finish his job, in his first comments since Trump began slamming Mueller over the weekend. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters that Mueller should be allowed to complete his work.

Lawmakers took some comfort in statements from Trump attorney Ty Cobb and White House officials that Trump wasn’t planning to oust Mueller. But Trump continued to attack the investigation as a “witch hunt,” and he hired Joseph diGenova, a former federal prosecutor who has said Trump is the victim of a “brazen plot” by the FBI and the Justice Department. DiGenova also has repeatedly criticized the Trump appointee who oversees Mueller’s probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-21/trump-quotes-harvard-law-professor-in-critique-of-mueller

White House chief of staff John Kelly: Devin Nunes memo likely to be released soon — Alan Dershowitz: America Has ‘the Right’ to See FISA Memo

January 31, 2018

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 Image result for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, photos

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was overheard Tuesday night telling a Republican lawmaker he is “100 percent” in favor of releasing a classified memo on the Russia investigation, and his chief of staff says the document is likely to be released “pretty quick.”

The memo has sparked a political fight pitting Republicans against the FBI and the Justice Department.

“Oh yeah, don’t worry,” the president told South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan on the House floor after his first State of the Union address. “100 percent.”

Duncan had implored Trump to “release the memo.”

Television cameras captured the exchange as Trump was leaving the chamber.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN Wednesday that the legal and national security review of the document was continuing, adding that Trump had not read the memo as “as of last night prior to and immediately after the State of the Union.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Wednesday on Fox News Radio that he expected the memo to be released “pretty quick.”

The memo arrived at the White House on Monday evening after Republicans on the House intelligence committee brushed aside opposition from the Justice Department and voted to release it. Under committee rules, the president has five days to object to its release.

The four-page memo was written by Republicans on the committee, led by chairman Rep. Devin Nunes of California, a close Trump ally who has become a fierce critic of the FBI and the Justice Department.

Republicans have said the memo reveals improper use of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation. Democrats have called it a selectively edited group of GOP talking points that attempt to distract from the committee’s own investigation into Russian meddling.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday that nothing in the memo vindicates Trump. Speaking at an event sponsored by the news site Axios, Schiff said Nunes was pushing a “misleading narrative.”

On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he supports the memo’s release but doesn’t want Republicans to use it to attack special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign was involved.

“This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation and his investigation should be allowed to take its course,” Ryan said, noting that he also supports Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller.

Ryan said the memo shows “there may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals.” He did not provide additional details, only saying that “there are legitimate questions about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated by the FISA process,” a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

It’s unclear how FBI malfeasance could have solely resulted in a judge signing off on a FISA warrant. Applications for such warrants are submitted by Justice Department lawyers before a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Those lawyers would have to authorize and ultimately prepare any filing that is made.

The vote to release the memo is an unprecedented move by the committee, which typically goes out of its way to protect classified information in the interest of protecting intelligence sources and methods.

It also came after Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray warned John Kelly that releasing the memo publicly could set a dangerous precedent, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Rosenstein also told Kelly the memo didn’t accurately characterize the FBI’s investigative practices, the person said.

The Washington Post first reported the details of the White House meeting. The FBI and the Justice Department declined comment.

The Justice Department had said in a letter last week that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the memo without first giving the FBI and the department the chance to review it.

After those complaints, Wray reviewed the memo over the weekend. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who was with Wray when he reviewed the memo, said the FBI director did not raise any national security concerns with him. Gowdy said the memo doesn’t reveal any intelligence methods but it does reveal “one source.”

On Tuesday, Sanders had pushed back on reports that the release was imminent, saying the White House has no “current plans” to do so. “The President has not seen or been briefed on the memo or reviewed its contents,” she said.

A senior White House official said the National Security Council is leading an interagency review of the memo. If Trump decides to release the memo, it could be made public as early as Wednesday afternoon, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential internal deliberations.

So far, the official said, the Justice Department is the only agency opposing its release.

Republicans said they are confident the release won’t harm national security. They also said they would not release the underlying intelligence that informed the memo.

“You’ll see for yourself that it’s not necessary,” said Texas Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who’s leading the House’s Russia investigation.

But Schiff said the memo’s release could compromise intelligence sources and methods.

Some Republican senators have also said they don’t want to release the memo, and Democrats have pushed back on Republican criticism of the FBI, saying it is an attempt to discredit Mueller’s investigation. The probe has already resulted in charges against four of Trump’s former campaign advisers and has recently moved closer to Trump’s inner circle.

In response, Democrats on the panel have put together their own memo. On Monday, the committee voted to make the Democratic memo available to all House members — but not the public.

___

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Jonathan Lemire, Tom LoBianco, Mary Clare Jalonick and Andy Taylor contributed to this report.

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Image result for Alan Dershowitz, photos

Alan Dershowitz: America Has ‘the Right’ to See FISA Memo

Americans have the right to see a contentious memo reportedly accusing the Justice Department and FBI of misusing their authority to get a secret surveillance order on an ex-Trump campaign aide, Alan Dershowitz said Monday.

The acclaimed Harvard law professor declared “transparency is the essence of democracy” in an interview on Newsmax TV‘s “Newsmax Now.”

Dershowitz said the public must be able to see what is contained in the memo following a vote Monday by the House Intelligence Committee to send the memo to President Donald Trump to declassify.

“The American public has the right to see it, has the right to know why it’s classified, has the right to know whether it could be presented to the public redacted, with just whatever is absolutely essential to national security perhaps being redacted,” Dershowitz said.

“The most important first step is to make it available so we see what’s in it, we see whether or not there were justifications, if it was used, if material was used improperly to obtain a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant. The American public is entitled to see all that . . . Let’s see it, then we can have a reasonable discussion of what it really means.

“I want to hear why it’s not being made public and why the Justice Department, or anybody else in Congress or anywhere else, is trying to keep the American public from seeing what could be an important document.”

Dershowitz also weighed in the decision by the FBI’s Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to step down Monday, saying the development points up “a broader issue.”

“Are we allowed to ask people what their political affiliation is or not?” Dershowitz asked, noting McCabe was reportedly asked that question by President Donald Trump.

“And the rule has to apply on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “McCabe’s wife was an active Democrat who received funding from Clinton-related sources. Should that be a disqualification? If so, it should be a disqualification on the other side of the aisle as well? We need objective rules that apply equally to both sides.”

“Those are very, very hard questions,” Dershowitz added. “We have to resolve them in an objective and neutral and nonpartisan way.”

https://www.newsmax.com/newsmax-tv/alan-dershowitz-fisa-memo-gop/2018/01/29/id/840171/

Read Full Article Here Alan Dershowitz: Public Has ‘the Right’ to See FISA Memo | Newsmax.com

Qatar Doubles Down on PR Campaign Appealing to U.S. Jews and D.C. Insiders

January 18, 2018

A visit to the emirate by Alan Dershowitz, meetings with Jewish organizations and promises of a new attitude toward Israel: Qatar is working hard to change its image as a Hamas-supporting state, but some in Washington remain unconvinced

By  

Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, left, shaking hands with U.S. President Donald Trump in Riyadh, May 21, 2017.
Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, left, shaking hands with U.S. President Donald Trump in Riyadh, May 21, 2017.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON – Qatar has recently expanded its public relations effort aimed at improving its image in the United States, including within the Jewish community.

The wealthy emirate, often criticized for having ties to Hamas, has invited influential American public figures – some of them with close ties to the Trump administration – to visit and meet with its senior leadership, which denies providing support to the Gaza Islamist group and other terror organizations.

Last week, prominent New York attorney Alan Dershowitz published an article on the Hill website, following his visit to Qatar at the invitation of the country’s powerful emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Dershowitz wrote that he was surprised to hear the Qatari response to many of the accusations hurled at the Gulf state, and urged the Trump administration and Congress to reexamine the issue.

Also last week, Qatar hosted former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a leading right-wing media commentator and father of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Huckabee tweeted that he found Doha, Qatar, to be “surprisingly beautiful, modern, and hospitable.”

skip – Mike Huckabee tweet

Another recent visitor to the tiny emirate, whose wealth comes from its huge natural gas reserves, was conservative radio host John Batchelor. He took his popular audio show to Qatar last week at the behest of the country’s leadership, where he was joined by Thaddeus McCotter, a former Republican congressman from Michigan.

The emirate has also flown in representatives of various Washington think tanks on Qatar-funded trips.

Dershowitz, Huckabee and Batchelor all seem to be visiting as part of the Qatari leadership’s efforts to change its reputation among American politicians as a “problematic” nation associated with its support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar hosts some of Hamas’ senior leaders and funds the international media network Al Jazeera, whom neighboring Arab countries have accused of supporting Islamist movements and of destabilizing their regimes.

As part of the attempt to push back against these allegations, Qatar has hired the services of Nick Muzin, a public relations adviser who previously worked as a senior staffer to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

skip – Nick Muzin tweet

An Orthodox Jew, Muzin has used his contacts within the Republican Party and the Jewish community to find an ear for Qatar’s arguments in Washington and New York – at a time when the emirate is facing a severe crisis because of attempts by Saudi Arabia to isolate it economically and diplomatically.

When Qatar’s hiring of Muzin’s Stonington Strategies firm was first revealed last summer – for a reported monthly fee of $50,000 – it raised eyebrows in Jewish and conservative circles because of Muzin’s professional background. Cruz, his former boss, has called for the Muslim Brotherhood to be designated a terrorist organization, yet Qatar is considered a major Brotherhood supporter in the Arab world.

Who are the good guys?

Muzin’s first attempts to organize meetings for the Qatari emir and crown prince with Jewish-American leaders ran into public opposition and became a source of debate in the Jewish press. Fast forward a few months, though, and it seems the Qatari public outreach effort is slowly beginning to change some minds in Washington and elsewhere.

Dershowitz’s article – titled “Why is Qatar being blockaded and isolated?” – is a good example, especially in light of the author’s reputation as a staunch supporter of Israel.

He wrote he had “just returned from a private visit to Qatar, at the invitation of and paid for by the Emir. I do not represent Qatar’s government and, to be honest, I was initially reluctant to accept his invitation because I had heard that Qatar was contributing to Hamas, which is a terrorist group, and that it was supporting Iran, which is the largest exporter of terrorism in the world. But then I did my own research and concluded that the Qatar issue was more complex and nuanced. So I wanted to see for myself.”

Alan Dershowitz, left, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010.
Alan Dershowitz, left, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010.עמוס בן גרשום / לע”

One of the first things that surprised him, Dershowitz wrote, was that as soon as he got to Doha, Qatar’s capital, “I was surprised to read that an Israeli tennis player had been welcomed by the Qatari government to participate in a tennis tournament.” Dershowitz compared this recent event to Saudi Arabia’s refusal last month to allow Israeli chess players to attend the world chess championship held in Riyadh. “Moreover,” he added, “Saudi officials criticized Qatar for allowing an Israeli tennis player to participate in its tournament, and for ordering ‘the Israeli flag to be raised.’”

“This episode,” he concluded, “made clear to me that the Saudis were not necessarily the good guys in their dispute with Qatar.”

After going over Qatar’s reaction to allegations that it supports Hamas and other terror organizations (allegations that Qatar’s leadership denies), Dershowitz wrote: “After hearing these different accounts, I observed that Qatar is quickly becoming the Israel of the Gulf States, surrounded by enemies, subject to boycotts and unrealistic demands, and struggling for its survival. I heard a lot of positive statements regarding Israel from Qatari leaders as well as hints of commercial relationships between these isolated nations.”

In a conversation with Haaretz on Tuesday, Dershowitz emphasized that he has “not come to any firm conclusions” about Qatar’s ties to Hamas, Iran and other problematic actors in the region. He did, however, leave the emirate with “somewhat more nuanced” views, as “there appear to be two sides to the story.”

A group of Palestinian women holding Qatar flags and banners during a demonstration in support of Qatar, in Khan Yunis, Gaza, June 14, 2017.
A group of Palestinian women holding Qatar flags and banners during a pro-Qatar demonstration in Khan Yunis, Gaza, June 14, 2017. The gulf state’s support of Hamas remains a big stumbling block.Ali Jadallah / Anadolu Agency

Dershowitz explained that he asked the emir and other senior Qatari officials to assist with the release of two Israeli citizens currently being held in Gaza, as well as the return of the bodies of two slain Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, killed in action during the 2014 Gaza war. “They told me they’re trying,” he said, stopping short of providing more details on the sensitive subject.

Coincidentally, on Monday – shortly after the publication of Dershowitz’s article and the culmination of Huckabee’s Qatar visit – U.S. President Donald Trump talked with the emir by phone. A White House readout of that conversation stated: “The President thanked the Emir for Qatari action to counter terrorism and extremism in all forms, including being one of the few countries to move forward on a bilateral memorandum of understanding.” It continued: “The leaders discussed areas in which the United States and Qatar can partner to bring more stability to the region, counter malign Iranian influence, and defeat terrorism.”

One person unmoved by Dershowitz’s article was Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the D.C. think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He has written extensively in recent years about Qatar’s ties to Hamas and other terror organizations. “Stick to what you know,” Schanzer tweeted Dershowitz. “Happy to brief you sometime on Qatar. Doha is bad news.” And in a subsequent tweet, Schanzer added: “The man [Dershowitz] defends Israel until he’s blue in the face and then normalizes Hamas’s top patron.”

Dershowitz responded, “Happy to hear facts. Not conclusions. I make up my own mind based on facts.”

skip – Jonathan Schanzer tweet

skip – Alan Dershowitz tweet

Schanzer told Haaretz on Wednesday that “there is nothing wrong with analysts and intellectuals traveling to Qatar to learn about the situation there. The problem is that during those visits, they’re not hearing the other side of the story. They are getting the government line and then they go home. They need to hear also from Qatar’s critics. There is a lot of material they should become aware of about Qatar’s ties to Hamas, Al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood and other problematic actors.”

Schanzer previously called to designate Qatar as a state sponsor of terrorism for its ties to these groups. “If you really want to see all sides of the story,” he told Haaretz, “you’re not going to get it in Doha.”

The problem with Qatar

Qatar is not only inviting opinion formers to Doha – it is also working to bring its arguments to Washington. Last week, the Qatari minister in charge of aid and assistance to Gaza, Mohammed al-Emadi, visited the U.S. capital, where he met with, among others, members of Congress and diplomats. Emadi came to Washington partly because he is the rare example of an Arab diplomat who, according to press reports, works on a regular basis with Israeli security officials as part of Qatar’s efforts to help reconstruct the Gaza Strip following the 2014 war. By presenting him to decision-makers and influencers in the U.S. capital, the emirate is hoping to convince them it has a positive impact in Gaza and is working with Israel to improve the situation there.

“The frustration with Qatar,” said an Israeli official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, “is that they do some good things in Gaza. But at the same time, there are problems arising from their use of Al Jazeera and their ties with Hamas. It’s a complicated situation. They are one of the only countries in the world that truly cares about improving the situation in Gaza. They’re also one of the only countries that has ties to all the bad guys in the region – Hamas, Sunni Islamists and Iran.”

A Qatari woman walking in front of the city skyline in Doha, Qatar.
A Qatari woman walking in front of the city skyline in Doha, Qatar.Kamran Jebreili/AP

Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein told Haaretz that he has discussed Qatar’s policies with Muzin, whom he has “known and worked closely with for a number of years – ever since he was an important staffer for Sen. Cruz.” Last September, Klein refused to meet with the Qatari leadership, accusing the regime of funding “Islamic terrorists who aim to murder Jews, Americans, Christians and even fellow Muslims.”

This week, though, Klein said that while he still has many doubts about Qatar’s role in the region, he is open to hearing the arguments being fleshed out by Dershowitz and others. “I think Dershowitz’s article was totally reasonable,” Klein said. “I think we should check out their claims. If they’re true, then there’s no reason not to go there and engage in dialogue with them. But if they’re lying, then we should have nothing to do with them.”

Klein added, though, that Qatar has to stop airing incitement on Al Jazeera if it ever wants to win the trust of the United States and Israel.

With regards to his conversations with Muzin, Klein said the PR maven “made it clear to me that he wouldn’t take on the job of working for Qatar unless he was assured by the leaders of Qatar that their goal is to make Qatar a more free and civilized society, and to do something about the problems with Al Jazeera.”

Qatar still faces significant criticism on Capitol Hill. Last October, two Republican members of Congress published an article titled “It’s Up to Congress to Hold Qatar Accountable.” Reps. Dan Donovan and Brian Fitzpatrick – both members of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa – wrote that “Qatar is the master of playing all sides. The same country that served as the U.S. Central Command headquarters during the invasion of Iraq and still hosts a critical American air base today also sponsors Hamas’s anti-Israel agenda, gives sanctuary to terrorist leaders and spreads its wealth to terrorist and extremist groups throughout the Middle East.”

In November, a Democratic consulting firm, Bluelight Strategies, which has also worked with Qatari opposition leaders opposing the country’s regime, circulated a political memo among Democrats in Congress urging them to attack Republicans and the Trump administration for turning a blind eye to Qatar’s ties with Hamas and other terror groups. The memo, titled “Emerging GOP Vulnerability on Terrorism, Iran and Israel,” highlighted the Trump administration’s confusing policy regarding the Gulf crisis, and urged Democrats to speak out on the issue: “The more the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans are called out for embracing Hamas state sponsorship of terrorism, the more the message will penetrate.”

This view of Qatar as a country that tries to have it both ways is still prevalent in Washington and, as of now, it remains the main challenge standing in the way of the emirate’s charm offensive.

A man walking past a branch of Qatar National Bank (QNB) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 5, 2017.
A man walking past a branch of Qatar National Bank (QNB) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 5, 2017. Qatar is looking to make friends in Washington after the Saudis triggered a diplomatic crisis.\ Faisal Nasser/REUTERS