, Derek Reinbold  //  5/19/17  //  Daily Update

Additional reports have arisen regarding former FBI Director James Comey's interactions with President Trump.  President Trump tweeted that the appointment of a special prosecutor to helm the Russia investigation was a "witch hunt."  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the Senate that he knew Comey would be fired before he authored the memo used as justification for the firing.  And former Senator Joe Lieberman may be the frontrunner to replace Comey. 



Former FBI Director James Comey was reportedly unsettled by his interactions with President Trump (NYT).

  • Benjamin Wittes provided background for the New York Times report, and offers greater detail into the efforts to “undermine” Comey’s “independence and probe the FBI’s defenses,” at Lawfare.
  • Comey prepared extensively for his meetings with President Trump, and apparently took detailed notes of their encounters afterwards (WaPo).
  • Proving obstruction of justice in a criminal prosecution is difficult, but ultimately the court of public opinion will determine President Trump’s fate, argues Peter Henning at the New York Times.
  • Comey has left a breadcrumb trail of what occurred in his previous public records,according to Faiza Patel at Just Security.
  • Michael Rosenwald for the Washington Postexplains why political memos matter.
  • Comey, is of course, not in legal trouble, explains Robert Chesney for Lawfare.

President Trump denied any collusion with Russia, calling the appointment of a special prosecutor a “witch hunt”  (NYT, WaPo, Politico).

  • In a press conference, President Trump argued that the special counsel “divides the country” (NYT).
  • The “witch hunt” narrative may be the beginning of a strategic response against the investigation, argues Bob Bauer at Lawfare.

We shouldn’t assume the Russia conflict is going away with the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel (Lawfare).

  • The New York Times Editorial Board describes Mueller as the special counsel America needs.
  • Mueller was a good make-up call for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, argues David Leonhardt for the New York Times.
  • Both Mueller and Comey have a long history of rising to big challenges to protect our country (Politico).
  • A former FBI special agent who is “not a fan of Robert S. Mueller, III” nonetheless praised Mueller as a fine choice as special counsel.

More commentary developed on what exactly obstruction of justice constitutes as applied to President Trump (ABC, PBS).

Rosenstein told the Senate that he knew Comey would be fired before he authored the memo used as justification for the firing (NPR, L.A. Times).

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, back in June of 2016, joked that then-candidate Trump was receiving payments from Vladimir Putin (WaPo).

  • This incident is troubling because it suggests what Republican politicians were willing to accept in order to secure the White House, argues Leah Litman for Take Care.

Walking back a statement made hours earlier, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Michael Flynn has not indicated whether he will honor the Committee’s subpoena (CNN, ABC).

  • Susan Hennessey and Helen Klein Murillo analyze Congress’s options in the event that Flynn refuses to comply with the subpoena (Lawfare).

President Trump is still lying, he is just being more careful in how he does it, according to Neil Buchanan at Dorf on Law.

There are pros and cons to impeachment, writes Eric Posner.

  • Greg Weiner offered a political history of impeachment at the New York Times.



Former Senator Joe Lieberman is said to be the leading contender for Comey’s replacement as FBI Director (CNN).

  • Lieberman should not be FBI Director because of his lack of experience, Islamophobia, and recent breach of professional ethics of disclosure, argues Jed Shugerman on Shugerblog.
  • Earlier this week, Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare argued that appointing a partisan political figure of any kind to head the FBI should be unthinkable.

The Senate Judiciary Committee invited Comey to testify (The Hill).



Immigration arrests are up 38 percent from this time last year (NYT).

Immigrants in detention centers are often hundreds of miles from legal help (Immigration Prof Blog).

Lowering the hiring standards for border patrol agents will erode trust and put the public at risk (The Hill).



Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who has called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist group,” is joining the Trump Administration in the Department of Homeland Security (WaPo, Rewire).



Those working in the Trump Administration should ask why they still go to work, suggests Robert Kagan.



The United States launched a strike on troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (WaPo).

  • Jennifer Daskal looked at the non-legal issues and lingering questions from the strike at Just Security.

Congress should reverse Attorney General Sessions on his criminal justice policies,argues Inimai Chettiar and Ames Grawert at the Brennan Center.

The North Korean nuclear threat is real, and it is time to start treating it that way,argues Stephen Rademaker at the Washington Post.

President Trump has failed to take basic measures to protect the country’s security,according to Gail Collins at the New York Times.

President Trump’s erratic behavior is dangerous for the country, explains Nicholas Kristof.

President Trump should defer to Congress on domestic policy and focus on national security and foreign affairsargues John Yoo for the New York Times.

The President could be messing with one of the country’s greatest allies, Israel,according to Ronen Bergman for the New York Times.

Talks on the planned laptop ban for flights from Europe to the United States ended with no deal being struck (Ars Technica).



Senators probed David Bernhardt, President Trump’s nominee for deputy secretary of the Interior Department, raising concerns about conflicts of interest from his time as a lobbyist (The Hill).

The Office of Government Ethics issued a new compliance certification that all Senate-approved presidential appointees will now be required to submit, and will begin electronically posting all records released through the Freedom of Information Act (POGO).



Even if the Trump Administration decides to stay in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, it is hard to imagine the U.S. stepping up as a world leader on climate issues, notes Ann Carlson on Take Care.

Thursday, the FCC voted to approve a plan scaling back Obama-era net neutrality rules (Ars Technica).



A group of 15 states plus Washington, D.C. filed court papers to defend subsidies paid to health insurance companies to reduce coverage costs for low income people the Trump Administration had threatened to cut off (WaPo, Lyle Denniston, Reuters).

  • Here is a copy of the motion to intervene in the D.C. Circuit.

States are stepping up on climate change, but more will need to join the fray if we are to avoid the worst of climate change, writes Sarah Duffy at Legal Planet.

Daily Update | April 24, 2018

4/24/18  //  Daily Update

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral argument in litigation challenging the Trump Administration’s “Muslim ban,” the Department of Homeland Security is moving ahead with plans to establish a National Vetting Center that is supposed to establish tighter restrictions on screening foreigners. The Department of Education has shut down dozens of investigations into complaints of racial discrimination in school discipline. Thousands of Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria have had to repeatedly face deadlines that would cut off federal assistance in providing temporary housing. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee signaled its approval of Mike Pompeo’s nomination as Secretary of State, following a late intervention by President Trump.

Zachary Piaker

Columbia Law School

Daily Update | April 23, 2018

4/23/18  //  Daily Update

The Democratic National Committee sued the Russian government, Russian government entities, the Trump campaign, Wikileaks, and Trump campaign officials alleging a conspiracy to hack DNC servers and release information during the 2016 election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told White House Counsel Don McGahn that he would consider resigning if President Trump fired Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.The Trump administration will pivot its teen pregnancy prevention funding efforts toward abstinence-based programs and away from comprehensive sexual education. The CIA’s campaign for controversial deputy director Gina Haspel to be confirmed as its director is atypically public and political. The future of the Iran nuclear deal will be central to meetings between French President Emmanuel Macron and President Trump next week.

Daily Update | April 20, 2018

4/20/18  //  Daily Update

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he intends to restore voting rights to felons on parole, a move that could open the ballot box to more than 35,000 people. The White House cybersecurity team is undergoing a major shuffle that former officials say could jeopardize the administration’s efforts to develop policy and punish hackers. Congressional Republicans want to impose "net neutrality" rules that allow Internet service providers to charge online services and websites for priority access to consumers, analogizing paid priority to TSA Precheck. Just four months after giving $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, House Republicans recently unveiled a farm bill that would dismantle the nation’s main source of nutrition assistance for struggling workers and families. Congress will hold hearings to debate America’s role in the Yemeni civil conflict, which has led to one of the world's most dire humanitarian crises.

Jeffrey Stein

Columbia Law School