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Trump-Russia Investigation “Informant” Stefan Halper Wants to Have It Both Ways

Westlake Legal Group stefan-halper-620x349 Trump-Russia Investigation “Informant” Stefan Halper Wants to Have It Both Ways Trump-Russia Investigation Techno Fog Targeted Svetlana Lokhova stefan halper Sam Clovis Russians Politics lawsuit george papadopoulos General Flynn Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story False donald trump dismissal Carter Page British Citizen

There’s an interesting lawsuit playing out involving a woman Svetlana Lokhova and Steven Halper.

Halper was one of the “informants” that the FBI ran against Trump campaign associates, including Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Sam Clovis. In fact, it was Halper who invited George Papadopoulos to London in the first place, where he would then ask Papadopoulos if he knew “about the hacking the emails from Russia.” This would be what Papadopoulos repeated to an Australian diplomat, helping to form the shaky genesis of the Trump-Russia investigation (further pushed by the Steele Dossier).

If it sounds like the FBI purposely lied to someone in order to later use it as an excuse to investigate the Trump campaign, that’s probably because that is what appears to have happened. The investigation into all this is ongoing under the leadership of current AG Bill Barr and John Durham.

In regards to Lokhova, she is suing Halper for defamation over his alleged planting of false stories in the media accusing her of having an affair with Gen. Michael Flynn and working for the Russian government. These contacts were said to have happened in 2014 and made media reports after Flynn became part of the Trump team. Lokhova claims there was no affair at all and that such claims of her being a Russian agent turned her into a pariah. In reality, she’s simply a British citizen and there’s been no evidence offered to the contrary.

Now, Halper is asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed, not because he’s admitting to being a government agent, but because if he were one, he’d supposedly have immunity.

This is wanting to have it both ways. You don’t get to have a lawsuit dismissed by claiming immunity if you won’t actually admit that you possess such immunity. In reality, we all know Halper is/was a government agent because we can find him under contract with the FBI and CIA through various government queries. Those contracts weren’t for him to paint James Comey’s private bathroom. We also know his behavior in regards to targeting Trump associates was not of his own doing. In hindsight, none of his approaches made any sense. Why would anyone want Carter Page to write an academic paper? And why would a nobody like Papadopoulos be offered expenses and payment to attend a security conference?

Regardless, it has not been officially confirmed who he was working for. Asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit without an admission that proves his immunity, is laughable. Furthermore, that still wouldn’t settle anything, as immunity is not blanket. Was he on an operation when he targeted Flynn and Lokhova? Who was behind it? Was it within legal bounds (i.e. was he CIA targeting Flynn)?

These are all questions that need to be answered and Halper certainly shouldn’t be allowed to skirt liability via unproven claims of immunity. He clearly wants to avoid any real discovery here and if the judge entertains this nonsense, it will just give a further green light for un-elected bureaucrats in the intelligence community to run wild.

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The post Trump-Russia Investigation “Informant” Stefan Halper Wants to Have It Both Ways appeared first on RedState.

Westlake Legal Group stefan-halper-300x169 Trump-Russia Investigation “Informant” Stefan Halper Wants to Have It Both Ways Trump-Russia Investigation Techno Fog Targeted Svetlana Lokhova stefan halper Sam Clovis Russians Politics lawsuit george papadopoulos General Flynn Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story False donald trump dismissal Carter Page British Citizen   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

CNN’s Don Lemon Sued for Sexual Assault

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Few hosts on CNN are as inflammatory and ridiculous as Don Lemon. While laughably considering himself a “journalist,” he’s a rabid partisan and has spent most of the past few months confidently pronouncing that Donald Trump is a white supremacist and blaming mass shootings on Republicans. He’s also someone who used his platform to savage Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. Due process wasn’t a concern of Lemon’s as he hosted guest after guest assailing the character of the now Supreme Court Justice.

Now, the tables have turned as CNN’s own Don Lemon is being sued for sexual assault.

Dustin Hice, the man accusing Lemon of assault, claimed that the CNN host attacked him at Sag Harbor dive bar Murf’s in July 2018. Hice, who was working at the time at another Hamptons bar, alleged that one night at Murf’s he recognized Lemon there. Hice offered to buy him a drink, which the CNN host declined.

Later in the night, according to Hice, Lemon approached him and his group of friends and, after putting his hand down his shorts he “vigorously rubbed his genitalia” and “shoved his index and middle fingers into [Hice’s] moustache.”

Did this actually happen? I don’t know. The description of events is pretty specific but that’s hardly dispositive. What I do know that CNN has previously set the standard that lack of evidence doesn’t matter when they are targeting their political opponents.

But because this is one of their own, CNN has suddenly decided that questioning motives is appropriate.

“The plaintiff in this lawsuit has previously displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts,” a CNN spokesperson told Mediaite in a statement. “This claim follows his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon. Don categorically denies these claims and this matter does not merit any further comment at this time.”

This is a benefit of the doubt that CNN has never given to anyone on the right side of the aisle. To now see them cite things like a “pattern of contempt” and previous malice to discredit an accuser is incredibly ironic. Oddly enough, Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy, who spend most of their time attacking any semblance of controversy in right wing media, have remained silent on this.

We’ll see where this goes, but it could get ugly if Hice has any witnesses to the behavior described. Don’t expect CNN to operate in any consistent manner regardless.

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The post CNN’s Don Lemon Sued for Sexual Assault appeared first on RedState.

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Breaking: Trump 2020, GOP sue California over tax-return requirement

Westlake Legal Group newsom Breaking: Trump 2020, GOP sue California over tax-return requirement The Blog tax returns lawsuit Jerry Brown gop Gavin Newsom donald trump Constitution California

Now we will finally get an answer to this vexing political question — is Jerry Brown wiser than Gavin Newsom? The state of California will now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend the law Newsom signed after Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the GOP sued the state today. At issue is whether California can impose requirements for a federal office not contained in the US Constitution:

The Trump campaign and Republican Party sued California on Tuesday over a new law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns to run in the state’s primary.

One of the suits contends California’s law is “a naked political attack against the sitting President of the United States.” …

The lawsuits argue the law violates the U.S. Constitution by creating an extra requirement to run for president and deprives citizens the right to vote for their chosen candidates. The Constitution puts just three requirements on presidential candidates: That they are natural born citizens, 35 or older and a U.S. resident for at least 14 years.

Brown vetoed a similar bill two years ago, noting that it was fairly obvious that it wouldn’t withstand judicial scrutiny. But even if such a law was constitutional, Brown observed at the time, it would still be a bad idea. What else would states require from candidates for federal office if this precedent got set? High school transcripts? Health records? Spotify lists?

The judges in this case might not bother to weigh the pros and cons of public policy, because they won’t need to do so. The state can’t impose requirements on such candidates in the first place beyond confirming the requirements already in the Constitution. Tax status isn’t among those requirements, and the New York Times notes that the law was already being viewed skeptically by “legal scholars”:

The vast majority of presidential nominees over decades have released their tax returns, with the exception of President Gerald Ford in 1976. Mr. Trump’s decision not to release his tax returns was one of the early traditions he shattered. But Mr. Newsom’s attempt to codify the tradition of disclosure into a law has raised serious constitutional issues, according to legal scholars.

“What other kinds of regulations can one imagine that states might impose on presidential candidates to get onto the ballot?” said Richard M. Pildes, a professor of constitutional law at New York University.

Brown’s warning about the optics of this extends even further. RNC chair Ronna McDaniel sneered at California’s “desperation” in making this attempt:

In a statement, Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the R.N.C., said that “it certainly doesn’t bode well for Democrats heading into 2020 that their best bet for beating President Trump is to deny millions of Californians the ability to vote for him.”

She called it a “stunt” that was “unconstitutional and, simply put, desperate.”

Well, yes, that’s exactly what it is. If California wants to codify tax-return release into a prerequisite for office, they need to find thirty-seven other states willing to ratify a constitutional amendment to that effect. Otherwise, the courts should take little time into overturning this stunt … even in the Ninth Circuit.

The post Breaking: Trump 2020, GOP sue California over tax-return requirement appeared first on Hot Air.

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The definitions of “sex” and “gender identity” are heading to SCOTUS… sort of

Westlake Legal Group TransBathroom The definitions of “sex” and “gender identity” are heading to SCOTUS… sort of transgender rights transgender The Blog Supreme Court lawsuit Equality

For some time now, we’ve been waiting for a court case that could clear up some of the rather daunting questions arising from issues of transgender rights and how they intersect with traditional views on privacy and the segregation of the genders. A variety of these cases have produced a mixed bag of results in the lower courts and the Supreme Court has seemed reluctant to do more than nibble around the edges of the underlying questions. That may be about to change, though perhaps not for the better.

The Daily Signal has a good summary of such a case where oral arguments will be presented before the Supremes on October 8th. The case is R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The case centers on Tom and Nancy Rost, who operate a family-owned funeral home in the Detroit area.

Six years ago, one of their male employees announced that he was transgender and planned to begin dressing as a woman at work. Tom reportedly agonized over the decision and the impact it might have on his female employees and, even more so, their grieving clients. In the end, he decided he couldn’t allow the employee to do that and declined the request. In short order, he was sued by the EEOC. And as the Daily Signal points out, it’s a decision that could have a dramatic impact on small businesses around the country.

Later, following the commission’s urging, a federal court of appeals effectively redefined the word “sex” in federal law to mean “gender identity.”

Enacted by Congress in 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has long protected women, along with racial and religious minorities, from unjust discrimination in the workplace.

Redefining the term “sex” in that law to mean “gender identity” would create chaotic, unworkable situations and unjustly punish business owners like Tom while destroying important gains women and girls have made over the past 50 years.

Indeed, Tom Rost’s case, in which Alliance Defending Freedom represents the funeral home, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Speaking as someone who has been digging into the broader aspects of this subject for some time now, I regret to say that this is probably just about the worst case you could pick to send to the Supreme Court, and not just because it looks likely to go against the defendants. The problems here are many, but the biggest one is the type of action that the employer is trying to engage in.

We’ve covered more transgender lawsuits here than I can count, but the big ones that have been of interest almost uniformly revolve around either issues of privacy or fairness, particularly in competitive sports. The former generally deal with public access to bathrooms, lockers, and showers while the latter focus on males identifying as females competing against actual women in sporting events. In all these cases, natural women and girls frequently come out on the losing end when they go before a judge.

In Harris Funeral Homes, while the issue of bathroom access comes up (and could be easily resolved) this primarily comes down to an employment opportunity question. What the owners have done is basically informed their employee that they can’t keep their job if they dress as the opposite sex. We shouldn’t be in the business of denying jobs to transgender workers, to begin with, and the court will probably read the case that way and find for the plaintiff.

Even worse, this case gives the Supremes an open invitation to ignore the larger, underlying questions we need answered and duck out of a sticky situation with a very narrow, tailored ruling. This case does nothing to address the question of whether or not “identifying” as the opposite gender actually makes you that other gender in the eyes of the law. It doesn’t force the justices to demand answers in terms of the “science” behind transgender claims. It doesn’t take into account the issues surrounding the natural physical advantages males have over females in competitive environments.

No, this case ignores all of that and allows the plaintiff to basically frame this as a question of whether or not the funeral home can force him to dress a certain way for work and fire him if he fails to comply. And of course, the answer to that question is no. It’s not a question of sloppy or inappropriate clothing. It’s gender-specific clothing. And as longs as the clothes are clean and professional-looking, you could no more fire a woman dressed in a suit, tie and trousers than you could a man wearing a gown. Nor should you.

What we need to see is one of these cases of men competing in women’s sports make it to the Supreme Court and attempt to force them to answer these question of whether or not these are actually women and how fair or unfair such competitions are. Don’t be shocked if the Supremes duck away from Harris Funeral Homes on those larger issues and treat this as an equal employment opportunity case. It’s what they love to do in the trickier social conflict cases (as well as with the Second Amendment) and they will almost certainly take that escape hatch here if it’s available.

The post The definitions of “sex” and “gender identity” are heading to SCOTUS… sort of appeared first on Hot Air.

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Federal judge to NY: Don’t turn over Trump’s state tax returns to Congress — for now

Westlake Legal Group TrumpSlowClap715 Federal judge to NY: Don’t turn over Trump’s state tax returns to Congress — for now TRUST Act The Blog tax returns Richard Neal New York lawsuit House Ways and Means Committee federal judge donald trump 26 USC 6103

New York’s attempt to get around the IRS and target Donald Trump has come to a temporary — and surprisingly early — halt. A federal judge issued a temporary injunction that forbids the state to use its new TRUST Act to supply Trump’s state tax records to congressional committees that request them. Judge Carl Nichols took no position on the merits of either side, but wants to make sure that the status quo gets maintained while Trump’s lawsuit against the TRUST Act plays out in court:

A federal judge ordered New York state authorities Thursday to take no action, for the time being, on turning over President Donald Trump’s state tax returns if they’re requested by Congress.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols of the District of Columbia agreed with the president’s lawyers, who said if they waited to take legal action until after the tax returns were turned over, it would be too late to challenge the state law because the tax documents would have already been made public.

That is the most surprising part of Nichols’ order. Normally, federal courts will not intervene to freeze the status quo unless damage is imminent or already under way and the plaintiff has a significant chance of succeeding with their claim. Nichols didn’t make a determination on either point. In his order, though, he agrees with Trump’s argument that to wait for damage to be imminent would make it too late to take action:

Westlake Legal Group nichols-order Federal judge to NY: Don’t turn over Trump’s state tax returns to Congress — for now TRUST Act The Blog tax returns Richard Neal New York lawsuit House Ways and Means Committee federal judge donald trump 26 USC 6103

Nichols had asked the two sides to come up with an agreement to keep the situation from arising, but that didn’t bear fruit. Instead, Nichols imposed the order that now requires the state of New York to notify him if Congress attempts to utilize the TRUST Act.

To be fair, Richard Neal hadn’t even yet asked for them, a point which has grated on the nerves of other Democrats. They have pressured the House Ways and Means Committee chair to take quick advantage of the TRUST Act and get Trump’s New York state tax returns, which would allow them a back door to Trump’s finances. Neal has balked at that, claiming it would undermine his argument to use 26 USC 6103 to get Trump’s federal tax returns by making the effort more nakedly political. That clause exists for Congress to have the ability to review the IRS’ operations, not to investigate individual citizens, and a New York state tax return has nothing to do with the IRS. Neal wants to keep pursuing the head-on legal challenge on the basis of the federal law, not undermine the case by revealing the true intent of the demand.

Nichols will hear arguments on the case at the end of the month, starting with New York’s motion to dismiss Trump’s lawsuit blocking the execution of the TRUST Act. Nichols was careful not to overtly tip his hand, but his recognition that damage would be done instantaneously absent this order at least hints that he thinks Trump’s argument against the law has merit. This injunction might be in place for a while.

The post Federal judge to NY: Don’t turn over Trump’s state tax returns to Congress — for now appeared first on Hot Air.

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Federal judge to DNC: Your Russia-collusion lawsuit over 2016 hack “entirely divorced from the facts”

Westlake Legal Group TrumpPhoenixSpeechThumbsUp715-8-17 Federal judge to DNC: Your Russia-collusion lawsuit over 2016 hack “entirely divorced from the facts” The Blog Russian collusion lawsuit donald trump dnc dismissal

Conspiracy theories may get a lot of traction on social media, but they don’t fare nearly as well in federal court. The Democratic National Committee learned that the hard way yesterday after having their lawsuit against Donald Trump’s campaign over Russian collusion dismissed for being “entirely divorced from the facts.” Not only did the DNC not provide any evidence of collusion, the sharing of DNC e-mails after their publication is covered by the First Amendment, Judge John Koetl ruled:

A federal judge in New York on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee against the Russian government, President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Wikileaks that alleged a vast, international conspiracy to tip the scales of the 2016 presidential election.

In an 81-page opinion, Judge John Koeltl wrote that the Russian government was the “primary wrongdoer” in the alleged plot to hack into the DNC’s systems and steal a trove of emails and documents. …

On Tuesday, Judge Koeltl ruled against the DNC, emphasizing that they did not allege that anyone other than the Russian government participated in the hacking of their systems, and failed to “raise a factual allegation that suggests that any of the defendants were even aware that the Russian Federation was planning to hack the DNC’s computers until after it had already done so.”

“The DNC argues that the various meetings and conversations between the defendants in this case and with persons connected to the Russian government during the time that Russian GRU agents were stealing the DNC’s information show that the defendants conspired with the Russian Federation to steal and disseminate the DNC’s materials,” Koeltl wrote. “That argument is entirely divorced from the facts actually alleged in the Second Amended complaint.”

After three years of shrieking hysteria over Russia collusion, and three years of prominent Democrats like Adam Schiff insisting that proof of it exists, the DNC couldn’t make a single proffer on it. Instead, they relied on an argument that the Trump campaign’s sharing of the information post-hack was evidence of the conspiracy pre-hack, which as Koetle concluded is simply nonsense. “While the court is required to accept the factual allegations in the Second Amended Complaint,” Koetl wrote, “it is not required to accept conclusory allegations asserted as facts.”

It’s a pretty sad end for the Russia-collusion theory. A civil suit has a lower standard of proof than a criminal prosecution, and the DNC couldn’t even muster enough to keep the judge from dismissing the complaint. Small wonder, then, that Donald Trump wasted no time declaring victory:

That’s probably too optimistic as the focus has shifted to obstruction in Congress, but it’s still an embarrassment for those Democrats who have flogged the collusion narrative for the last two-plus years. It might, however, signal a problem for the Department of Justice in their upcoming prosecution of Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal notes that Koetl’s ruling might signal how Assange can disentangle himself from some of the charges he faces, at least:

Judge Koeltl’s ruling addressed a central concern about press freedoms raised in another case about WikiLeaks. In May, the U.S. Justice Department charged Mr. Assange with violating the Espionage Act for an alleged effort to obtain and publish classified information about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. U.S. authorities are seeking to have Mr. Assange extradited from the U.K., where he was arrested in April.

The Department of Justice had better prepare their case against Assange better than the DoJ did. Koetl pointed to Bartnicki in ruling that publication of materials stolen by someone else is still covered under the First Amendment if the publisher didn’t participate in the theft. Even if Wikileaks directly and actively sought out the hackers to get the data, the publication would still be protected, Koetl ruled. That’s something to watch when Assange comes to court.

The post Federal judge to DNC: Your Russia-collusion lawsuit over 2016 hack “entirely divorced from the facts” appeared first on Hot Air.

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Trump Just Got Another Win In Court, Democrat Party Lawsuit Is Dismissed With Prejudice

Westlake Legal Group DonaldTrumpAPphotoJune2019-620x317 Trump Just Got Another Win In Court, Democrat Party Lawsuit Is Dismissed With Prejudice With Prejudice WikiLeaks Politics lawsuit Front Page Stories Front Page frivolous Featured Story Dropped donald trump dnc dismissed democrats

President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn as he arrives at the White House, Sunday, June 30, 2019, in Washington. Trump returns from a visit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea as well as the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ridiculous lawsuits have become the norm during the Trump era in regards to targeting a Presidential administration. Just a few weeks ago, a judge threw out a lawsuit brought by various activists alleging that Trump was violating the emoluments clause.

While there are still quite a few outstanding, another frivolous lawsuit bit the dust today and this one was filed directly by the Democratic party.

By being dismissed with prejudice, it makes any possibility of an appeal extremely unlikely. In other words, the judge is letting the DNC know their lawsuit was garbage and never should have been brought. The idea that Trump could be sued for the actions of someone else, of which we still have little evidence showing exactly who it was, is crazy on its face.

The judge did stop short of sanctioning the DNC’s legal team, but that’s a peripheral matter.

Even this Clinton appointed judge understands how terrible the reasoning of the DNC was. By their telling, Trump was liable for sharing publicly available information and Wikileaks was liable for releasing it in the first place.

Both of those are insane contentions given the broadness of the 1st amendment. Had the DNC gotten their way here, every single time a newspaper publishes any leaked materials, they could be sued. While the press should be responsible for publishing clearly false, defamatory information, no one should want to live in a society where you can be sued for simply sharing information. It smacks of the illiberal moves New Zealand made after the Christchurch shooting.

In the end, Trump gets another win over the litigious nonsense he’s had to deal with since assuming office. That has to count for something.

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The post Trump Just Got Another Win In Court, Democrat Party Lawsuit Is Dismissed With Prejudice appeared first on RedState.

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Past interference: Louisiana judge orders Goodell to deposition over “Nola No-Call”

Westlake Legal Group nfl-pi Past interference: Louisiana judge orders Goodell to deposition over “Nola No-Call” The Blog Roger Goodell pass interference NFL new orleans saints NEW ORLEANS lawsuit

Did the NFL cook up a blown call in the NFC Championship game in order to defraud New Orleans Saints fans? Naaah, but that didn’t prevent a local New Orleans judge from forcing league commissioner Roger Goodell into a deposition to answer questions about it. Despite a federal court ruling that essentially said laissez les bons temps rouler in February, the local judge is keeping a fraud lawsuit alive … for now:

A Saints superfan and New Orleans area attorney could soon get his chance to question NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the NOLA-no call.

The missed penalty ended the Saints season in a heartbreaking fashion.

A New Orleans judge met with the lawyer as well as attorneys for the NFL to decide when Goodell could be deposed in the ongoing court case.

Judge Nicole Sheppard told NFL attorney that they have to either settle or go to trial, but that they had to get off the docket.

It’s too late to overturn the game’s result, the plaintiff acknowledges, but Tony LeMon wants Goodell and the league to pay up for damages. Just what those damages might be is uncertain. The federal case relied on lower Super Bowl ticket prices for Saints fans to establish standing, but that argument got the ol’ heave-ho.

What other specific and ameliorable damage can LeMon or any other fan claim in order to establish standing in the case? It may have been the worst call in NFL history, but as anyone watching the game can attest, the refs made at least one bad non-call that favored the Saints too — and they had 59 other minutes in which to beat the Rams. The plaintiff wants to prove fraud in order to collect, but that would require some evidence of an intentional scheme to rob someone of something of value. And in most courts that aren’t homers, judges usually require some proffer of evidence before allowing for fishing-expedition depositions.

However, perhaps there’s more there than one might assume. The NFL plans to appeal, of course, but that didn’t work out well for them last week:

When Civil Court Judge Nicole Sheppard ruled attorney Tony LeMon could move forward with his lawsuit, the NFL filed an emergency writ with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to stop it. But, Sheppard denied their request Wednesday afternoon (July 24), which would have prevented Goodell’s deposition. …

FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti said he’s surprised by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and now, he said it now seems more likely a deposition will happen.

Sometimes underdogs win, too — but it seems unlikely that Goodell will ever sit down with LeMon and his attorneys. The NFL has already taken action to have a backup for similar moments in the future with booth reviews for certain types of penalty calls, the wisdom of which we will shortly see in the next few weeks. Courts have more important business than attempting to weaponize fan disappointment, even when that disappointment is real and sympathetic.

The post Past interference: Louisiana judge orders Goodell to deposition over “Nola No-Call” appeared first on Hot Air.

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Free speech or “modern-day McCarthyism”? Judge dismisses Covington teen’s $250M defamation suit against WaPo

Westlake Legal Group Nick-Sandmann-2 Free speech or “modern-day McCarthyism”? Judge dismisses Covington teen’s $250M defamation suit against WaPo Washington Post The Blog Nick Sandmann lawsuit dismissal Defamation

Consider this the media version of “RTs ≠ endorsements.” The Covington Catholic High School teen who was smeared as a racist over a badly reported incident at the March for Life will not be able to recover damages from media outlets. A federal judge ruled that the Washington Post did not make false and defamatory claims about Sandmann, and that reporting what Nathan Phillips alleged was protected by the First Amendment.

It’s not the end of this, but it’s not likely to get much better on appeal:

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post over its coverage of an interaction between a Kentucky high school student and a Native American activist on the National Mall, which gained national attention after the video went viral.

Judge William O. Bertelsman dismissed the suit, stating that the Post’s coverage was protected as free speech and rejecting Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann’s argument that the newspaper implied inaccurately that Sandmann had behaved in a menacing or violent way. The Post had quoted the activist, a veteran named Nathan Phillips, who said Sandmann stood in his way to get to the Lincoln Memorial in the Jan 19 incident.

Bertelsman wrote that though Phillips’ claim may have been inaccurate, the Post had a right to publish it. The Post couldn’t be sued for defamation simply if some of its reporting was inaccurate, he wrote, rather it had to both false and defamatory.

Bertelsman concluded that the Post had the right to report on Phillips’ point of view even if Phillips’ claims were “erroneous.” Bertelsman took Sandmann’s claims as fact but ruled that irrelevant to the defamation claim:

“The court accepts Sandmann’s statement that, when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation and not impede or block anyone,” the judge wrote.

“However, Phillips did not see it that way. He concluded that he was being ‘blocked’ and not allowed to ‘retreat.’ He passed these conclusions on to The Post. They may have been erroneous, but . . . they are opinion protected by the First Amendment. And The Post is not liable for publishing these opinions.”

That’s not going to bode well for Sandmann’s other lawsuits. He has filed a similar claim against CNN and has identified over 50 other potential targets for legal action. Unless Sandmann can point to much more egregious conduct, especially statements of “facts” in reporting that were clearly false and published for defamation, this project doesn’t have much promise, as I wrote at the time:

In order to win a libel or defamation action, the plaintiffs have to show that the statements were objectively false, caused financial injury, and weren’t protected speech. The big problem for Sandmann and his attorneys will be the first and second points. Respondents will argue that they thought they had the full story from the first video, and they were at worst simply mistaken rather than acting with intent to defame. They might also argue that even the longer video remains open to a wide variety of interpretations, so there is no objective foundation for legal action. On top of that, what financial injury did a 16-year-old high-school student incur from a week of terrible coverage? His attorneys will argue that Sandmann’s prospects are damaged for life, but it’s going to be difficult to quantify those damages beyond sheer speculation.

As it happens, Bertelsman found problems with Sandmann’s argument on points 1 and 3. He also relied on Milkovich to note that the complaint’s reliance on figurative speech cut against precedent as well:

In his ruling, Bertelsman also cited the case, Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., writing that statements that are “loose, figurative” or “rhetorical hyperbole” are protected by the First Amendment because they can’t be proved true or false.

Bertelsman identified words used by The Post to describe the students as falling under the protection established in Milkovich: “swarmed,” “taunting,” “disrespect,” aggressive” and “rambunctious,” among others.

Those are terms of opinion rather than fact, and rely heavily on perspective. None of this makes the reporting on Sandmann and the Covington Catholic High School students good, of course. In fact, the reliance on these terms points to a certain bias that came through loudly and clearly at the time. This should embarrass  the Washington Post, but bad reporting alone isn’t actionable. If it were, most media outlets would have blinked out of existence decades ago, and all we’d have are social-media video clips.

The question in the headline, by the way, is a trick question. Freedom of speech and “modern-day McCarthyism” are, unfortunately, not mutually exclusive states. In fact, to combat the latter we need the former even more. The best cure for bad speech is more and better speech. That is why the courts have been stingy about defamation and libel, restricting it only to the most obvious of circumstances. Sandmann got victimized by the national media and deserves a hearty rhetorical defense, but defamation suits aren’t going to work to correct the record.

Of course, Sandmann’s attorneys plan to appeal this, and who knows? Perhaps the Supreme Court might be in the mood to rethink Milkovich and other libel-slander-defamation law. Justice Clarence Thomas certainly made his feelings known about Sullivan in February, not long after this legal action got filed. Until the Supreme Court decides to redefine defamation in relation to opinion and free speech, though, this isn’t going anywhere.

The post Free speech or “modern-day McCarthyism”? Judge dismisses Covington teen’s $250M defamation suit against WaPo appeared first on Hot Air.

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Trump sues New York over tax return law

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When we recently looked at Congressman Richard Neal’s refusal to request President Trump’s New York State tax returns (and the subsequent primary challenge he drew), Neal seemed to be making a good point. The state tax returns would only be a course of last resort if they failed to obtain the federal returns, and it wasn’t a sure thing that he would be able to use the new law in New York to get them anyway.

That turned out to be fairly prescient because the New York law designed to go after Trump is now being challenged by the President. And that could tie up the process for months or even years. (NBC News)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining his state tax returns through a newly passed New York law.

The president’s lawyers said the law was nothing more than an effort to get information about his personal finances to embarrass him politically.

The suit referred to an NBC News story on Monday to show that Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., was under pressure from fellow Democrats to make use of the new law.

The lawsuit is asking the same question I’ve been posing here for quite a while. What legitimate legislative or law enforcement purpose is served by demanding the release of the President’s tax returns, either federal or state? Congress is charged with providing oversight, but that doesn’t include going on politically driven fishing expeditions.

While it’s true that most presidents and presidential candidates release at least some of their returns voluntarily, it’s never been mandatory. And our tax laws are set up in such a way as to take great pains to keep everyone’s returns private except under extraordinary circumstances. If the citizens of the nation truly think it’s a terrible thing for a presidential candidate not to voluntarily disclose their returns, the remedy is to not vote for them or vote them out at the next election.

So what specific crime does the committee believe has taken place and how would Donald Trump’s tax returns help resolve the situation? All we’ve heard thus far is some vague references to the emoluments clause, but for a person who owns a chain of international hotels, that’s a ridiculous charge since it couldn’t possibly be avoided. (Though Trump has temporarily turned direct control of his empire over to other family members while in office, so it’s unclear why we’re discussing this in the first place.)

Before closing this out, I do have to wonder if this isn’t going to backfire. If a judge sets the New York State law aside as a result of this lawsuit, Richard Neal might see that as a clear indicator that there is no option whereby his committee could get the state returns in a timely fashion. That might give him the excuse he needs to go full bore after Trump’s federal returns. (Not that there’s a sure path to getting those either.) Of course, if both of those routes fail, the President could just stonewall them, possibly right through the 2020 elections.

The post Trump sues New York over tax return law appeared first on Hot Air.

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