Law and Disorder
May 8, 2020

Tara Reade has now accused presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden of sexual assault on camera, after Biden unequivocally denied the allegation on TV. And after saying she was having trouble finding legal representation, Reade now has at least two lawyers, The Associated Press reports.

Her main attorney is Douglas Wigdor, a supporter of President Trump — he donated $55,000 to Trump's 2016 campaign — who has also represented women in sexual assault cases against Harvey Weinstein and Fox News hosts. Wigdor told AP his firm is currently representing Reade without charge, and the firm denied any political motivation.

Reade's other new lawyer is William Moran, who "previously wrote and edited for Sputnik, a news agency founded and supported by the Russian state-owned media company Rossiya Segodnya," AP reports. As Reade noted in her interview with Megyn Kelly, skeptics of her allegation sometimes bring up her recent, now-deleted quasi-erotic writings praising Russian President Vladimir Putin to suggest she's "a Russian agent." Moran texted AP Thursday to say he found its focus on his past work "disgraceful." Wigdor said Reade told him she was connected to Moran through Katie Halper, the podcaster who first broadcast Reade's assault allegation.

Reporters who have investigated Reade's account were unable to find any other allegations of sexual assault against Biden, and aides to former President Barack Obama said they uncovered no such allegations when they thoroughly vetted him for vice president in 2008.

At this point, it seems likely Reade won't be able to prove her 27-year-old allegation and Biden won't be able to disprove it.

We do know Reade has been speaking with reporters at major news organizations for more than a year, and that she has substantially changed her story in that time, as have her corroborating witnesses. That doesn't mean her new version of events is inaccurate.

A year ago, Reade steered reporter Laura McGann to a friend who had counseled her through her time in Biden's office in 1992 and 1993, she writes in Vox. At the time, the friend said Biden "never tried to kiss" Reade and "never went for one of those touches," adding, "What was creepy was that it was always in front of people." Now the friend tells McGann she did not want to violate Reade's level of comfort a year ago. "All of this leaves me where no reporter wants to be: mired in the miasma of uncertainty," McGann writes. Peter Weber

December 10, 2018

In court filings Friday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York linked President Trump to two crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen admitted to committing on his behalf in 2016. "What the prosecutors did not say in Mr. Cohen's sentencing memorandum," The New York Times reported Sunday, "is that they have continued to scrutinize what other executives in the president's family business may have known about those crimes, which involved hush-money payments to two women who had said they had affairs with Mr. Trump," porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The federal prosecutors did not directly accuse Trump of committing a crime, but they said Friday that "with respect to both payments, [Cohen] acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump. Cohen has said he believed Trump personally approved the Trump Organization's decision to reimburse him for the hush payments, and he told prosecutors that the company's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was involved in discussions about the payments, the Times reports.

"While the prevailing view at the Justice Department is that a sitting president cannot be indicted, the prosecutors in Manhattan could consider charging him after leaving office," the Times notes. Trump still owns the Trump Organization through a trust, and the company and its executives — including Trump's children — are not protected by the Justice Department opinion against prosecuting Trump in office.

"There's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee, said on CBS's Face The Nation. "The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump." Schiff has previously said the intelligence committee will examine Trump's family business. Peter Weber

September 4, 2018

On Monday afternoon, President Trump once again criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter, but this time it wasn't for recusing himself in the Russia investigation. In this case, Trump took aim at "Jeff" and "the Jeff Sessions Justice Department" for filing charges against "two very popular Republican congressmen," presumably Reps. Chris Collins (N.Y.) and Duncan Hunter (Calif.), and endangering "two easy wins" in November. Collins and Hunter were two of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump.

Aside from being wrong on the timing — the Collins investigation started during Trump's tenure and the Hunter investigation began in June 2016 — Trump is clearly suggesting that the Justice Department should protect him and the Republican Party's congressional majority, not prosecute crime impartially. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was one of the few Republicans to interrupt their Labor Day to comment on Trump's tweet, insisting that "the United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice — one for the majority party and one for the minority party."

Lawfare editor in chief Benjamin Wittes saw Trump's tweet as clear proof that for Trump, "the job of the Justice Department in his view is to protect his friends and punish his enemies," while Ken "Popehat" White suggested "it is 100 percent outside his comprehension why this is bad." You can watch more reactions, plus some additional context, on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 below. Peter Weber

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