June 11, 2017

Sunday School 6/11/2017

Boy, it was a hot one today, no air conditioning in the school, since it's the weekend and all. I only had the energy to visit one classroom today, and it was a good one: This Week with George Stephanopoulos, on ABC.

One of George's guests today was former US Attorney Preet Bharara, who, you might remember, is the guy who brought about the end to the reigns of Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos in the New York State Legislature, and who was also not shy about delving into potential ethics violations by New York's Sonofa Gov, Andrew Cuomo, his close associates, and less-close associates affiliated with Cuomo's Buffalo Billion and other economic development activities. He was not thrilled with the premature shuttering of the Moreland Commission, either.

Right here in Syracuse, he's got the leaders of COR Development under indictment; motions are still being filed in those matters, even as COR continues working on our Inner Harbor project, where they have exclusive development rights. Bharara's firing has not yet had an impact on the cases, and I hope it doesn't. Better to see these go through the legal process than to have things messed with simply because we have a new administration in Washington.

Anyway, today Bharara talked about James Comey and Donald Trump, answering some specific questions from Stephanopoulos. When asked if Comey lied under oath, the answer was clear:
It does not appear that way. I mean you've got someone who...has a reputation for telling the truth, someone who has contemporaneous notes of what happened... On the other hand, I think a lot of people will tell you that the president himself sometimes makes accusations that turn out to be not true...  And when it comes down to who's telling the truth and who's not, I think most people would side reasonably with James Comey.
Stephanopoulos asked about Comey leaking his notes, and whether there was "anything illegal" there.
So, I'm not in the business of making legal pronouncements on... what's legal or what's criminal anymore. But I will say, it sounds like more of a distraction... Nothing that was in the memo or in the conversations he had with his friend... was classified.
So I think the main point that people should be focusing on, from what I can see, is that you have... uncontroverted from someone who was under oath that on at least one occasion, the president of the United States cleared a room of his vice president and his attorney general, and told his director of the FBI that he should essentially drop a case against his former national security advisor. 
And whether or not that is impeachable or that's indictable, that's a very serious thing. And I'm not sure that people, you know, fully get that the standard is not just whether something is a crime or not, but there should - you know, whether or not it can be charged as a crime or Congress will impeach, it's a very serious thing.
And there's a lot to be frightened about and a lot to be outraged about if you have a president who, A, may have done it, although I know he denies it, but he hasn't (denied it) under oath yet. And B, he seems to suggest that even if he had done it or said words to that effect, there's nothing wrong with it. And you have other people who seem to be excusing it.  
 That's an incredibly serious thing if people think that the president of the United States can tell heads of law enforcement agencies, based on his own whim or is own personal preferences or friendships, that they should or should not pursue particular criminal cases against individuals. 
That's not how America works.
There's more, including a discussion on whether or not this is ever going to be more than 'he said/he said case'. Bharara doesn't know but did toss out this out there.
...look at the surrounding circumstances and indicia of truthfulness and those things include contemporaneous statements to other people. They include the track record of the witness... and whether or not one of the hes in the 'he said/he said' has a track record for lying or not both on the air and in legal proceedings...and I believe there is such a track record with respect to one of the parties.
We all know which one he's talking about, don't we?

Bharara himself was the recipient of a three calls from Trump, two from him as president-elect and a third after the inauguration, including the one Bharara refused to return. He was fired the next day. Regarding those  conversations, he also noted
The number of times that President Obama called me in seven-and-a-half years was zero. The number of times I would have expected to be called by the president of the Unites States would be zero, because there has to be some kind of arm's length relationship given the jurisdiction that various people had.
I miss Preet Bharara, I do.

See you around campus.