by Julie Kelly
A gala hosted by a prestigious women’s legal group last month acted as a venue for the original Russiagate players to get the band back together.
The Women’s White Collar Defense Association’s annual dinner in Washington attracted the most influential legal figures in government, academia and the private sector. Emceed by Loretta Lynch, former attorney general under Barack Obama, the event honored several women aligned with the Democratic Party; current Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, a longtime Obama advisor, and U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, appointed to the bench by Obama, won the “Champions” award for “elevating diversity and promoting diversity” in the legal field.
In a fair world, the pair would’ve instead received awards for “elevating election conspiracies and promoting lawfare against political opponents” rather than some eye-rolling woke cause. After all, it was Monaco, as Obama’s homeland security advisor, who ordered the infamous intelligence community assessment into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election after Donald Trump’s shocking victory. Monaco had participated in secret meetings with former CIA director John Brennan and others throughout 2016 as the Obama regime and Hillary Clinton campaign concocted the bogus Trump-Russia election collusion scheme. She then spent her time in government exile as a CNN commentator continuing to advance the phony narrative.
During that same time, Howell, as chief judge of the district court in Washington, oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into imaginary election collusion. She handled the proceedings of Mueller’s grand jury, which indicted numerous figures tied to Trump including Paul Manafort and Roger Stone although none of the charges related to conspiring with the Kremlin to rig the presidential election.
Howell graciously took notice of her fellow Russiagate accomplices during her acceptance speech on November 28. Sharing a stage with Monaco, Howell acknowledged the presence of Sally Yates and Andrew Weissmann, two instrumental Russiagate figures, in the audience that night. Yates, among other nefarious acts, approved the initial FISA applications on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page and led the crusade to oust Lt. Michael Flynn amid allegations he violated the Logan Act. Weissmann led the Mueller team of prosecutors and investigators; he now is a regular talking head on cable news programs to warn the end is near for Trump. (Former acting attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who authorized the Mueller probe and signed one of the FISAs, also was in attendance but did not merit a shout-out.)
But it wasn’t Howell’s sycophantic gestures to well-known partisan operatives that betrayed her oath of office. Howell—who spares no criticism of Trump, his associates, and his voters during court proceedings—went on a bit of a public tirade unfit for a judge entrusted with fairly executing the law, particularly one with such unchecked power.
Without saying his name, Howell suggested Trump was an “authoritarian,” a popular rallying cry of the Left, and lamented how she and her cohorts must deal with January 6 defendants who believed the “big lie” the 2020 election was stolen—another Democratic Party-approved talking point.
Howell’s speech represented a “pot meet kettle” moment. It is she, not Trump, demonstrating her own authoritarian impulses as she attempts to take down the former president at any and all costs.
For example, she pierced attorney-client protections between Trump and his lawyer in the classified documents investigation—which should have been conducted in Florida, not Washington—under the crime-fraud exception and ordered Evan Corcoran to turn over private communications to Special Counsel Jack Smith. She also signed Smith’s still-sealed application to serve a search warrant on Twitter to obtain Trump’s records while also approving a nondisclosure order preventing the company from notifying Trump. Claiming Rep. Scott Perry’s cell phone contained evidence of a possible crime, she granted DOJ’s request to keep data seized from the device in 2022.
But her inflammatory speech, not her precedent-setting orders, finally landed Howell in some hot water. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) filed an ethics complaint with the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit (another Obama appointee) last week. “Judge Howell’s partisan speech is obviously highly inappropriate election interference by a federal judge that undermines the public’s trust in our courts. Moreover, the public display of the cozy personal relationships between Judge Howell and her partisan friends who appear before her undermines public trust in judicial independence,” Stefanik wrote.
Taking Judicial Activism to a New Level
Howell’s conduct, however, is representative of a larger problem and one that threatens the legitimacy of the 2024 presidential election. Americans are getting an unwanted, and unneeded, dose of judicial interference on many levels as judges of both parties throw jurisprudence to the wind in a dangerous game of beating Trump at the court house rather than the voting booth.
In a decision constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley called “most anti-democratic opinion I’ve seen in my lifetime,” the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday kicked Trump off the 2024 GOP primary ballot. Citing evidence produced by the January 6 Select Committee and testimony from self-proclaimed “experts” in political extremism, the court’s majority in a 4-3 decision concluded the events of January 6 represented an “insurrection” incited by Trump in violation of the 14th Amendment. “[The] Court finds that Petitioners have established that Trump engaged in an insurrection on January 6, 2021 through incitement, and that the First Amendment does not protect Trump’s speech,” the Democratic-appointed judges wrote. (The full opinion with dissenting view is here.)
We do not reach these conclusions lightly. We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach. We are also cognizant that we travel in uncharted territory, and that this case presents several issues of first impression.
Justices Richard L. Gabriel, Melissa Hart, Monica Márquez and William W. Hood
The court stayed, or put on hold, their own mandate until January 4 pending appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Which would represent the latest powder keg sitting on the highest court’s Trump-related docket. Justices are currently considering whether to grant Jack Smith’s request to expedite consideration of Trump’s defense that his actions before and on January 6 were protected by executive immunity. Trump’s attorneys may also file a petition to ask the court to overturn a gag order that was upheld but significantly narrowed in scope by the D.C. appellate court.
Judge Tanya Chutkan authored both the decision denying Trump’s privilege claims and the broad gag order. Overturning either or both would represent a humiliating defeat for the Obama appointee, who also set an accelerated trial schedule in a rush to help Democrats get Trump convicted before Election Day. Chutkan has a long record of making partisan statements about Trump and his supporters; during a court hearing last year, she suggested the former president should be behind bars.
But Chutkan and Howell aren’t the only bad seeds at the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse a few blocks from the Capitol building. Another legal crisis created by their colleagues is brewing at the Supreme Court. Last week, the court granted certiorari for a January 6 defendant fighting obstruction of an official proceeding charge, a felony slapped against more than 300 J6ers and one of four counts in Smith’s indictment against Trump in the Washington case. More than a dozen judges on the D.C. District Court, including Howell and Chutkan, have endorsed the Department of Justice’s spurious application of the post-Enron scandal law over the few years.
A reversal by the Supreme Court would inflict lasting damage on the court’s waning credibility.
Further up the Acela corridor, New York State Judge Arthur Engoron continues to make a mockery of the legal process—and himself. His clownish antics in front of the camera coupled with unhinged outbursts and directive do nothing to assure Americans the first full court proceeding involving the former president is fair and impartial. Engoron found Trump guilty of bank fraud before the bizarro 11-week bench trial began then ordered the cancellation of his business licenses.
Engoron also imposed a gag order, fining Trump twice for alleged violations.
As he weighs Trump’s financial punishment, Engoron on Monday again denied a defense motion to dismiss New York Attorney General Leticia James’ case by claiming Trump’s witnesses were paid to lie on the stand. “[All] that his testimony proves is that for a million or so dollars, some experts will say whatever you want them to say,” Engoron wrote in a December 18 order denying a request for directed verdict.
By the way, this is Engoron’s signature:
Courts Are Fixin’ For a Raucous 2024
The Colorado Supreme Court justices who removed Trump from the ballot got at least one thing right: these decisions undoubtedly place the county in “unchartered territory.” And with cratering public trust in every American institution, especially the government, now is not the time for those entrusted to protect the rule of law, the rights of defendants even if they are named Trump, and the Constitution to abdicate their solemn duty in exchange for self-serving political performances.