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All the Presidents' Lawyers


All presidents have legal issues. Some have more than others. A weekly conversation about the law, executive power, and all the presidents' lawyers, good and bad.

All presidents have legal issues. Some have more than others. A weekly conversation about the law, executive power, and all the presidents' lawyers, good and bad.


United States





All presidents have legal issues. Some have more than others. A weekly conversation about the law, executive power, and all the presidents' lawyers, good and bad.




Last call for pardons

As President Trump was about to walk out of the White House for the last time, he made some final pardons. Ken White and Josh Barro talk about who got one in the final days of the Trump presidency, who didn’t (the Capitol rioters, Donald Trump Jr. and the other Trump children, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump himself), and whether that was bad legal advice. Would it have been wise for President Trump to give the self-pardon a shot? How many people, pardoned or not, are at risk for prosecution by...


Insurrection and impeachment

One week after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, interrupting the congressional proceeding that affirmed Joe Biden’s defeat of President Trump, officials from the FBI and the Department of Justice have made some arrests and have promised more are on the way. What are the charges we know about right now, and what do they mean? Are there other possible charges? And is President Trump in legal trouble for his words and conduct in support of the insurrection? Josh Barro and Ken White...


The phone call to Georgia

On Saturday, President Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and urged him to revise Georgia’s presidential election result so he would be the winner. He told Raffensperger he only needed to find about 12,000 votes. The call went on for an hour with President Trump reciting conspiracy theories while Raffensperger and his lawyer Ryan Germany explained with remarkable patience that the problem with the president’s arguments is that they are wrong and made up. Did the...


The Show To End 2020

The Trump administration has been a remarkable time for lawyers. Often, not remarkable in a good way. Ken and Josh talk about a completely nuts meeting at the White House on Friday night in which Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn were urging President Trump to do some crazy things, and other advisers were urging the president not to do those crazy things. Wait, didn’t they say Sidney Powell was “practicing law on her own”? And what’s this about her being a special...


Bye Barr

Attorney General Bill Barr is leaving the administration a few days before Christmas. Is he being fired for doing the job he was supposed to do? And who is Jeffrey Rosen, who will serve as acting attorney general after Barr leaves? Hunter Biden has been under investigation by the US Attorney’s office in Delaware since 2018. It started as a money laundering investigation and in the course of that investigation, they developed questions about whether Hunter Biden was paying the taxes he was...


Knocking at the Supreme Court’s door

We’ve reached the stage in the legal efforts by President Trump’s allies to contest the election results where the Supreme Court could opt to get involved, but they’re not getting involved. Congressman Mike Kelly sought an injunction from the Supreme Court to block Pennsylvania’s certification of its election results. Despite President Trump tweeting a photo of Amy Coney Barrett with lasers coming out of her eyes, the court declined to hear it, and none of the justices went on the record...


Pardon season

It’s pardon season. Last week, President Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, for the false statements charge to which he pleaded guilty, and he’s been pardoned for certain activity he was never charged with. If this pardon was corruptly issued, is it valid? Yes. Even if the president gets in political or legal trouble for it, is it still valid? Still yes. The power to pardon is pretty close to a power a king would have, and there is no precedent for curbing...


Practicing law on her own

This week, there’s been some tension among President Trump’s lawyers. Sidney Powell appeared at press conferences with Rudy Giuliani and made wild claims about voter fraud and other random things. Now the campaign has cut her loose, saying Powell does not represent the campaign or the president in his personal capacity. What does it mean to say that Powell is just “practicing law on her own?” And is Rudy Giuliani a good lawyer? Ken White finally tells us. Josh Barro and Ken White talk...


Is overturning the election results even the goal anymore?

This week Ken takes the reins of the show while Josh is away. Special guest Franita Tolson of USC’s Gould School of Law joins the conversation to delve into what’s left of the Trump campaign’s lawsuits contesting Joe Biden’s win. Republican election officials in Michigan refused to certify the votes in Democratic-heavy Wayne County...and then they reversed themselves after an outcry from voters. The Trump campaign has had a dismal track record so far in its legal fight, so is the media...


The president and the president-elect

Josh Barro and Ken White are back! A few interesting things have happened in the past two weeks — first of all, Joe Biden is the president-elect with narrow but clear leads in states that put him over 300 electoral votes. President Trump is displeased about this. He says he really won the election and he is engaging in a legal and PR strategy to contest those results. Most of the individual lawsuits, though, are not very plausible, and as Democrats keep pointing out, they don’t contest a...


Bad cases make bad law

Last week, the Justice Department made their case for why they should step in and defend in the defamation lawsuit E. Jean Carroll filed against President Trump. A federal judge just ruled on their two main arguments: no, the president is not a government employee according to the law, therefore the DOJ cannot take over and represent him, and also no, the president was not acting in his official capacity as president when he denied Carroll’s allegation. Ken White and Josh Barro talk through...


What is an official act?

Jean Carroll accused President Trump of raping her in the 1990s. The president crassly denied her allegation, and she sued him for defamation, saying that he defamed her by calling her a liar. The federal government has sought to intervene here, stepping into Trump’s shoes and becoming the defendant in the case, and now they are arguing that when the president said he didn’t rape Carroll and that she is “not [his] type,” he was acting in his official capacity as president. Is the Justice...


A loan, a payment, a trail

The New York Times has continued its series based on nearly two decades of President Trump’s tax records. Late last week, the New York Times traced a $20 million payment that one of Trump’s companies received in 2016 from his joint hotel venture with Las Vegas casino magnate Phil Ruffin. Shortly before that payment, the hotel borrowed $30 million — and most of that loan was personally guaranteed by Ruffin. Shortly after that, Trump contributed an additional $10 million to his campaign,...


Does the president have immunity if he is sued for being contagious?

President Trump has COVID-19. He was hospitalized Friday, but he took a little joyride around Bethesda on Sunday and then on Monday, he checked himself out and returned to the White House. Why did the hospital let him leave, even if, as commander in chief, everyone at the military hospital ultimately takes orders from him? Could he be sued for recklessly exposing and possibly infecting others? What about White House employees, like Secret Service agents — could they make an OSHA complaint?...


Tuesday’s other sh*t show

Long-suffering federal judge Emmet Sullivan finally got to hold that hearing about whether he should grant the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the false statements charge to which former national security adviser Michael Flynn had already pleaded guilty. Both the government and Flynn argued for dismissal, so Sullivan appointed a retired judge to make the case no one was making any longer: that he should not dismiss the charge. So how did that go? Well, it was a little dramatic....


Fraud Guarantee

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance continues to push for financial records from President Trump’s businesses, and he’s filed a brief with the court of appeals ahead of oral arguments that says the records could “establish New York crimes such as Scheme to Defraud , Falsification of Business Records, Insurance Fraud, and Criminal Tax Fraud, among others.” Should we expect that the grand jury is looking into exactly those things? Not necessarily. It’s more speculative than specific, Ken...


‘A corrupt and politically motivated favor’

Long-suffering federal judge Emmet Sullivan is still presiding over the Michael Flynn case, which isn’t yet dismissed. The DC Circuit declined to force him to promptly dismiss the case and is allowing him to hear arguments about whether he should do so, and retired judge John Gleeson has filed his friend of the court brief arguing that Judge Sullivan should deny the Justice Department’s motion — unopposed by the defendant — to dismiss the false statements charge to which he had already...


Was President Trump on the job when he called E. Jean Carroll a liar?

The Justice Department has filed a motion to take over the defense of E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against President Trump. Carroll, a longtime advice columnist, alleged the president raped her at a department store in 1995 or 1996. The president said her claim was false and that she was “not [his] type.” She sued him for defamation on the grounds that he was falsely accusing her of being a liar. The case has been kicking around in a New York state court, which had recently ruled the...


Did Antifa and BLM do the RICO?

Chad Wolf, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, appeared Monday on Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Carlson asked why the heads of Antifa and Black Lives Matter hadn’t been charged under, for example, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for what Carlson alleged was their responsibility for riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. Wolf replied that the Department of Justice was looking into it. Ken tells us again (for, like, the millionth time) why it’s not...


Bannon arrested at sea

We’re a few days into the Republican National Convention, and there have already been a number of apparent Hatch Act violations. The Hatch Act isn’t a criminal law — does it actually prevent government employees from engaging in campaign activity while on the job, or is it really just a norm? And isn’t there something kind of weird about barring people who work in politics from doing things that are...political? Steve Bannon was arrested on a boat last week — he and his associates from the...