Two years after Donald Trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation.
- Trump’s private company is contending with civil suits digging into its businesswith foreign governments and with looming state inquiries into its tax practices.
- Trump’s 2016 campaign is under scrutiny by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose investigation into Russian interference has already led to guilty pleas by his campaign chairman and four advisers.
- Trump’s inaugural committee has been probed by Mueller for illegal foreign donations, a topic that the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman plans to further investigate next year.
.. However, there has been one immediate impact on a president accustomed to dictating the country’s news cycles but who now struggles to keep up with them: Trump has been forced to spend his political capital — and that of his party — on his defense.
.. Trump has denied he directed Cohen to break the law by buying the silence of former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels. He also said Cohen, as his lawyer, bore responsibility for any campaign finance violations.
“I never directed him to do anything wrong,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday. “Whatever he did, he did on his own.”
.. Prosecutors also revealed Wednesday they had struck a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, the company that produces the National Enquirer tabloid, for its role in the scheme.
The company admitted it had helped pay off one of Trump’s accusers during the campaign. It said it had done so in “cooperation, consultation, and concert with” one or more members of Trump’s campaign, according to court filings.
.. It is unclear whether prosecutors will pursue charges against campaign or Trump Organization officials as part of the case.
But at the White House, advisers have fretted that this case — and not Mueller’s — could be the biggest threat to Trump’s presidency. House Democrats have already indicated the campaign-finance allegations could be potential fodder for impeachment proceedings.
.. The nearly $107 million donated to Trump’s inaugural committee has drawn the attention of Mueller, who has probed whether illegal foreign contributions went to help put on the festivities.
The special counsel already referred one such case to federal prosecutors in Washington. In late August, an American political consultant, W. Samuel Patten, admitted steering $50,000 from a Ukrainian politician to the inaugural committee through a straw donor.
Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
.. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that federal prosecutors in New York are examining whether the inaugural committee misspent funds. The Washington Post has not independently confirmed that report.
Officials with the committee, which was chaired by Trump’s friend Tom Barrack, said they were in full compliance “with all applicable laws and disclosure obligations” and have not received any records requests from prosecutors.
.. Trump also faces a pair of civil lawsuits alleging he has violated the Constitution by doing business with foreign and state governments while in office.
.. “What we want to do is be able to tie the flow of money from foreign and domestic sovereigns into Donald Trump’s pocketbook,” said Karl A. Racine (D), the D.C. attorney general. He called the emoluments clauses “our country’s first corruption law.”
.. The plaintiffs are seeking to have Trump barred from doing business with governments. But the more immediate threat for Trump and his company is the legal discovery process, in which the plaintiffs are seeking documents detailing his foreign customers, how much they paid — and how much wound up in the president’s pocket.
New York state inquiries
.. In New York, where Trump’s business is based, incoming Attorney General Letitia James (D) is preparing to launch several investigations into aspects of his company.
.. She said she wanted to look into whether Trump had violated the emoluments clause by doing business with foreign governments in New York and examine allegations detailed by the New York Times that Trump’s company engaged in questionable tax practices for decades.
New York state’s tax agency has also said it is considering an investigation into the company’s tax practices.
.. Earlier this year, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed suit against Trump and his three eldest children, alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a case spurred by reporting by The Post in 2016.
.. Trump is accused of violating several state charity laws, including using his charity’s money to pay off legal settlements for his for-profit businesses. He used the foundation to buy a portrait of himself that was hung up at one of his resorts. Trump also allegedly allowed his presidential campaign to dictate the charity’s giving in 2016 — despite laws that bar charities from participating in campaigns.
.. Meanwhile, a defamation suit against Trump by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos has also quietly advanced through the New York courts.
.. A judge has allowed Zervos to seek discovery — including possibly deposing the president — as the two sides wait for a panel of New York appellate judges to rule on Trump’s latest move to block the lawsuit.
Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder, and his firm sought a higher payback but Judge Otero docked their request by 25%, faulting the amount of time spent researching motions to transfer and throw out the case. Mr. Harder, who charged Mr. Trump $842 an hour, defended his firm’s hours in court last week and said that when the president is being sued, one errs on the side of being safe.
.. Ms. Clifford continues to press against the president and his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement
.. Mr. Avenatti distributed a sketch over social media on April 17 of a man Ms. Clifford said threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, a few weeks after she’d discussed her alleged sexual encounter with the president in a celebrity magazine. Mr. Trump tweeted the following day, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
Ms. Clifford argued in the defamation suit that the tweet attacked the veracity of her account and suggested she was falsely accusing someone of committing a crime against her.
.. Judge Otero said he declined to impose anything more significant because Ms. Clifford’s “unwillingness to resort to litigation” in light of Mr. Trump’s “continuing use of rhetorical hyperbole” suggests she’s already been deterred from filing more meritless defamation claims aimed at curbing free speech.
American men do have genuine reasons for anxiety. The traditional jobs that many men have filled are disappearing, thanks to automation and outsourcing. The jobs that remain require, in most cases, higher education, which is increasingly difficult for non-affluent families to afford. We should indeed tremble for the future of both men and women in our country unless we address that problem, and related problems of declining health and well-being for working-class men.
.. Three emotions, all infused by fear, play a role in today’s misogyny. The most obvious is anger — at women making demands, speaking up, in general standing in the way of unearned male privilege. Women were once good mothers and good wives, props and supports for male ambition, the idea goes –but here they are asserting themselves in the workplace. Here they are daring to speak about their histories of sexual abuse at the hands of powerful men. It’s okay for women to charge strangers with rape, especially if the rapist is of inferior social status. But to dare to accuse the powerful is to assail a bastion of privilege to which men still cling.
.. Coupled with anger is envy. All over the world, women are seeing unprecedented success in higher education, holding a majority of university seats. In our nation many universities quietly practice affirmative action for males with inferior scores, to achieve a “gender balance” that is sometimes dictated by commitment to male sports teams, given Title IX’s mandate of proportional funding.
.. But men still feel that women are taking “their” places in college classes, in professional schools.
.. Envy, propelled by fear, can be even more toxic than anger, because it involves the thought that other people enjoy the good things of life which the envier can’t hope to attain through hard work and emulation. Envy is the emotion of Aaron Burr in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”
.. And then, beneath the hysteria, lurks a more primitive emotion: disgust at women’s animal bodies.
.. In the United States, we observe this dynamic in racism, in homophobia and even in revulsion toward the bodies of people who are aging. But in every culture male disgust targets women, as emblems of bodily nature, symbolic animals by contrast to males, almost angels with pure minds.
.. Disgust for women’s bodily fluids is fully compatible with sexual desire. Indeed, it often singles out women seen as promiscuous, the repositories of many men’s fluids.
.. as with the apparent defamation of Renate Dolphin in Kavanaugh’s infamous yearbook, men often crow with pride over intercourse with a woman imagined as sluttish and at the same time defame and marginalize her.
.. Disgust is often more deeply buried than envy and anger, but it compounds and intensifies the other negative emotions.
.. Our president seems to be especially gripped by disgust: for women’s menstrual fluids, their bathroom breaks, the blood imagined streaming from their surgical incisions, even their flesh, if they are more than stick-thin.
Over the past several days Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify have removed most of Mr. Jones’s programming from their services in a sweeping effort to rein in those who traffic in online misinformation that draws hundreds of thousands of followers and results in harassment and threats to their targets. Stitcher, LinkedIn and Pinterest have also removed Infowars content.
.. YouTube’s termination of Mr. Jones’s channel cost him access to his 2.4 million subscribers and resulted in the removal of all his past videos. Those videos had amassed billions of views, in part because YouTube continued to recommend them to users who had shown interest in conservative topics.
.. Mr. Jones has been trying to compensate by promoting his website and mobile app. On Tuesday, after news of Mr. Jones’s bans spread, Infowars was Apple’s fourth most popular news app, outranking those from every mainstream news media organization. Before the ban, it ranked 33rd on average since July 12.
.. He suggested that it was his support for President Trump, not his spreading of falsehoods, that led to him being “de-platformed.”
“This is a war on free speech,” Mr. Jones said. “This is what the corporate media is doing in America because it’s afraid of new independent media and asking questions.”.. Facebook removed Mr. Jones’s pages for violating its policies by “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” YouTube terminated Mr. Jones’s channel for repeatedly violating its policies, including its prohibition on hate speech. Spotify cited its own prohibition on hate speech as the reason for removing a podcast by Mr. Jones... Indeed, Infowars’ own website says in its terms of service that the company “may review and delete any content you post on the website or elsewhere utilizing our services or system if we determine, in our sole discretion, that the content violates the rights of others, is not appropriate for the website, or otherwise violates this agreement.”.. While private companies can choose what to take down from their sites, the fact that social media platforms like Facebook have become indispensable platforms for the speech of billions means that they should resist calls to censor offensive speech.. The recent decision by Facebook and YouTube to take down Alex Jones’s content may have provided a quick solution to a challenging situation, but encouraging these companies to silence individuals in this way will backfire.”.. Mr. Jones was defiant on his program Monday, saying past efforts to screen offensive broadcasts have “only made us stronger.”
.. “But it has not allowed us to reach a lot of new people,” he continued. “That’s why you have to understand now that Infowars is the most censored program in the world — because we know the truth.”
.. Over two decades, Mr. Jones has built a profitable business selling diet supplements, survivalist gear, and air and water filtration equipment as he spread bizarre theories, including that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were an inside job, that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a government-backed hoax, and that various government-orchestrated plots are responsible for poisoning Americans’ water, air and food. Mr. Jones promotes himself and Infowars as near-solitary truth tellers in a news landscape dominated by left-leaning “corporatist” media — even though the popular Drudge Report website broadcast his show on Monday.
.. Now, what he calls his “de-platforming” has only increased his sense of grievance, and that of his followers — even as it shrinks his reach before the November midterm elections.
.. “I knew what the enemy was doing — I knew their battle plan, I made the conscious decision to draw their fire,” he said on his show Monday. “When you see the Alamo assaulted and myself probably destroyed, I’ve been telling you this for years,” he said, adding: “Remember Infowars. Remember free speech.”
.. So far, Mr. Trump, who praised Mr. Jones during an appearance on his radio show during the presidential campaign, has remained silent as Mr. Jones issues appeals to Trump supporters.
.. On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. posted on Twitter that Mr. Murphy was “A Democrat Senator openly admitting that Big Tech’s censorship campaign is really about purging all conservative media. How long before Big Tech and their Democrat friends move to censor and purge Breitbart News, Daily Caller and other conservatives voices from their platforms?”
The removal of his content comes as Mr. Jones faces multiple defamation lawsuits for claims he spread on Infowars, including by the families of nine Sandy Hook victims, who are pursuing three separate lawsuits against him.
.. encourage his followers to migrate to his Infowars website, where he has posted the content removed by other platforms. He is also asking followers to donate to him — and buy his merchandise.
.. “Don’t forget the financial support; that is the strongest thing you can do to make sure that we continue on and are strong in the fight,” he said. Referring listeners to his online store, he said, “Go there today and send them a strong message that you stand for the First Amendment, you stand for us and get air filtration, water filtration, optics, preparedness gear, high quality storable foods, supplements that are so good for you and your family.
“Feed your gladiator,” he urged.
He has proved to be irresistible media catnip : flamboyant and fast-talking with a bottomless pocketful of scoops and quotes.
.. stories circulated of Avenatti threatening or harshly criticizing three media organizations: the Daily Caller, the Hollywood Reporter and Law & Crime, a legal website.
.. “If you and your colleagues do not stop with the hit pieces that are full of lies and defamatory statements, I will have no choice but to sue each of you and your publication for defamation,”
.. Here is the charismatic ratings-meister who thrives in the spotlight, but when the coverage turns negative, he goes on the attack against the very press that benefits him.
.. “Avenatti seems quite Trumpian in both loving media attention and acting quite contemptuously toward the free press.”
.. Identifying errors, and asking for corrections, is always legitimate, of course.
But should a fit of pique really include threats to sue journalists and their news organizations for defamation?
.. he sees Avenatti being treated as a hero because a lot of people agree with his anti-Trump agenda.
But he says he shouldn’t get that kind of a pass.
.. Liberals’ faulty thinking about Avenatti goes like this, he said: “It’s okay if he acts badly because he’s accomplishing things.”
.. White sees a clear parallel to the way avid Trump supporters defend the president’s unsavory behavior: “Take him seriously, not literally” — simply because it’s someone whose agenda you like.
.. “I generally support standing up to Trump and Cohen,” White said, “but when Avenatti makes frivolous legal threats, he’s acting just like them.” (Trump is well known for threats to sue journalists, very few of which have come to pass.)
Avenatti is effective, in part, because he plays the same game as Trump, with a gleeful willingness to attack and an instinct for manipulating journalistic appetites.
Stormy Daniels already has a defamation claim against President Trump based in part on his accusation that her story that she was threatened in a parking lot was false. (Trump says the claim of an affair was “false and extortionist.”) Now she has a splendid case.
Accusing someone of a crime is defamation per se, meaning no damages need to be proved. Avenatti will be entitled to depose Trump under oath to ask such nettlesome questions as:
- Did you have sexual relations with my client?
- Did you publicly deny knowledge of a settlement payment on national TV?
- Did you reimburse Michael Cohen for fronting the money?
- Did you break up the payments in monthly installments? Why?
- Have you made other payments to remain silent about adulterous affairs? How many? Did they all extort money from you, in your view? What are their names? How much did you pay out?
.. According to Daniels, Cohen strong-armed her into making a settlement. She, in other words, was the victim of a pressure campaign, not its instigator. Cohen would therefore need to answer questions that parallel inquiries for Trump. One or both might take the 5th — which many Americans would interpret as evidence one or both violated criminal campaign laws.
Avenatti has advantages over Robert S. Mueller III. Avenatti can needle Trump daily on TV, a tactic that already pushed Trump to lie publicly about his knowledge of the settlement. Avenatti can not be fired by Trump. Pursuant to the Paula Jones case, Daniels’s lawyer unquestionably has the right to depose Trump under oath.
There is delicious karma in this happening to Trump, who bludgeoned Hillary Clinton during the campaign for allegedly helping her husband to falsely smear women who accused the philandering president of sexual conduct. We reach karmic overload when we note that Trump has spent a lifetime threatening to and actually filing lawsuits alleging defamation.
Decision comes amid investigation of Donald Trump’s personal attorney for potential bank fraud and campaign-finance violations
President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has dropped a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed over the publication of an unsubstantiated intelligence dossier that alleged he played a role in working with Russia to help Mr. Trump become president.
Mr. Cohen is also dropping a similar defamation suit against Fusion GPS, the private investigation firm responsible for the dossier.
Since filing the suits in January, Mr. Cohen has come under criminal investigation for potential bank fraud and campaign-finance violations. His attorney said the probe made it difficult to continue with the defamation cases.