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Columnists
Other view: Sessions may be Trump's Achilles' heel

The Washington Post reported on Saturday:

‘Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

“Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions—then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump—were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

“One U.S. official said that Sessions—who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter—has provided ‘misleading’ statements that are ‘contradicted by other evidence.’”

Possibly, Sergey Kislyak misrepresented the conversations back to Moscow, but at a time when Donald Trump was not expected to win, what would be the purpose of lying? A contemporaneous document is more likely than not to be accurate in these circumstances. It’s also noteworthy that the exchange with Sessions was important enough to merit a report back to the Kremlin. Sessions is sticking by his Judiciary Committee testimony.

The report raises a host of questions:

Did Trump/Trump allies leak the report in an effort to push Sessions out the door?

Did Trump antagonists leak the report as a warning shot to Trump and/or Sessions that the noose is tightening?

Will the Senate demand that Sessions return to address the allegations?

Is Sessions the subject of an investigation (for untrue statements under oath, for helping to fire FBI Director James B. Comey as part of an effort to obstruct justice)?

If Sessions can be pressured to testify against Trump, what does he know?

If Trump does decide to fire Sessions or Sessions finally relents and quits, will the Senate refuse to confirm a Trump flunky as attorney general, especially if he or she does not vow to protect the special counsel at all costs?

If Sessions is fired or quits and can’t get a replacement to serve, would Trump order Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (who would then be acting attorney general) to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III? Would Rosenstein comply?

Will any of this spur a robust warning from Republicans to leave Rosenstein in place and allow Mueller to complete his job?

What other evidence of Russian communications with the Trump team exist, and if there is any, did the Trump team member lie, under oath or otherwise?

It does appear that the report spooked the president, who awoke Saturday morning to deliver another tweetstorm. (Remember when people argued that we shouldn’t report on tweets?) He tweeted, “While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS.” He also was back to dredging up Hillary Clinton, his favorite distraction technique. (“What about all of the Clinton ties to Russia, including Podesta Company, Uranium deal, Russian Reset, big dollar speeches etc.”) And he also insisted (falsely) that Donald Trump Jr. had volunteered to hand over his emails in a grand show of transparency.

One wonders how the brand-new communications director Anthony Scaramucci thinks the White House messaging is going. In the space of 24 hours, the president has managed to convince a great number of Americans that there is something so terrible out there that Trump will never allow the Russian investigation to run its course. (The message here is also: The president is panicking.)

Scaramucci might want to keep one thing in mind: At this point in the administration knowingly conveying Trump’s lies or constructing a web of lies to shield the president may land one in a heap of trouble for obstruction of justice, witness intimidation or numerous other charges. He might want to keep contemporaneous notes of his conversations with the president. Just saying.


Mailbag
Letter: Reject any agreement with ICE

The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence strongly urges Jerome County Commissioners reject any agreement with ICE to rent space in the county detention center. Agreements between local government and federal immigration enforcement efforts have had a significant impact on immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Many community-based advocates with domestic and sexual violence programs are hearing from immigrant survivors of abuse and rape that they have increased fear and concerns about reaching out for help. In some places, advocates are reporting a decrease in immigrant survivors contacting their agencies for assistance.

Under previous administrations, Congress created important protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Violence Against Women Act in the express recognition that abusers often exploit a victim’s lack of immigration status as a tactic of abuse. Not surprisingly, local government agreements with ICE undermines public safety for anyone experiencing domestic or sexual violence, encourages racial profiling, and has a detrimental impact on survivors of domestic and sexual violence. By renting space in the detention center to ICE, it blurs the line between local law enforcement and immigration officers and places survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at risk of perpetrators calling the police with unfounded allegations to expose someone to ICE.

Service providers are trying to help immigrant survivors navigate a lot of uncertainty, and assessing whether there is any risk to them for reaching out for protection. Increased collaboration between local government and federal immigration enforcement will erode community policing efforts, undermine access to safety and justice for immigrant victims and their children, and undermine public safety. We urge Jerome County Commissioners to reject the agreement with ICE to avoid creating a climate of fear where people cannot access life-saving services for domestic and sexual violence.

Kelly Miller

Boise


Columnists
OTHER VIEW
Stapilus: Where compromise is on the upswing

Our justice system is going through a quiet revolution, away from what you often see on TV.

There you see disputes—from murder cases to divorces to civil money-claims lawsuits—hashed out in trials, in open court. You can’t blame the drama writers: It’s the entertaining way.

But if you go to watch the action at your local courthouse, you won’t see much of it, at least not out in the open. Compared to a generation ago, far more cases are settled away from trials, away from the courts, as a part of a deal-making process.

This comes to mind as I think about a new book (which—disclosure here—I helped publish), called Mediation Mechanisms, by Duff McKee, a retired Fourth District judge who has mediated a couple of thousand or so cases. (The book is available at ridenbaughpress.com, at Amazon.com and elsewhere.) His book is about how mediation works, on a practical level.

He also writes, “When I began practicing law in the mid-1960s, it was a concession of weakness to be the first one to bring up the subject of settlement. This meant that the other lawyer had to raise the subject first if the case was to get settled. This led to bizarre communications between lawyers dying to discuss settlement without either one appearing to be the first one to utter the question, ‘Can’t we settle this?’”

Now things have changed, most especially the ballooning cost of litigation and crowded court calendars which led to more judges imploring lawyers to settle the dispute out of court, and to clients who can’t afford the public show. The costs, especially for such things as discovery, document research, expert assistance and more, can put the cost of civil action out of reach for most people.

These days, McKee said, “the settlement process is now primary in the minds of most litigators and most judges. Trial calendars with multiple settings are a fact of life, with cases stacked four to six deep, in the full expectation that five out of six scheduled cases will settle before trial.”

A few weeks ago I talked this over with a couple of long-established Boise lawyers, and they strongly agreed. One said that two or three decades ago lawyers at his firm would spend much of their time at or preparing for trial; so far this year, by contrast, only about one in ten attorneys there have undertaken even a single trial.

Another attorney I’ve known for several decades shifted several years ago from work in litigation and trials to almost exclusively working in mediation and arbitration.

As McKee said, “the civil case mediation has come of age in our system.”

That has its good points and some not so good. On the good side, settlements can lead to more compromises and to resolutions that can be fairer all around; many legal cases really aren’t all black and white, and many cry out for some answer that encourages each side to give a little. Many people may come out of the system less damaged.

The downside is that not all cases are like that, and our legal system should have a practical way to come to grips with right and wrong. Sometimes someone really should be put in the position of having to pay, and someone ought to be clearly vindicated.

Ironically, or maybe not, as we’ve moved into ever-sharper “win-lose” divisions in our politics and policy, we seem to be moving into a legal system edging toward thoughtful discussion and compromise.


Randy Stapilus