Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Could Schneiderman Take Down Trump
Who is Trump’s Worst Enemy?
Over the course of his business and political career, Donald Trump has made many enemies, most of whom he’s either dispatched or negotiated with handily, via masterful business deals (in the case of Atlantic City casino operator and television impresario Merv Griffin) or with cunning campaign strategy (as with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton).
However, one man appears to be gathering strength to attack Trump full-force, and this person’s resources are indubitably formidable, as is his tenacity. The man in question is New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and he’s not someone to be taken lightly.
To those who may be unfamiliar, Schneiderman is a rising legal star whose courtroom battles in New York State with entities such as Airbnb and Citigroup have proven legendary. Schneiderman is not a man who’s satisfied merely doing his job, and as an attorney general at a state, rather than federal level, Schneiderman is relatively immune from attacks on his office or department within New York’s far-flung bureaucracy.
In fact, Trump has had run-ins in the past with Schneiderman and has come out bruised. In 2013, Schneiderman filed a class-action lawsuit — one of three nationwide — on behalf of disgruntled former students of Trump University. According to Trump, the lawsuit was filed one day after Schneiderman met with ex-President Obama in Syracuse. Trump ultimately settled the lawsuit ten days after being elected president.
This is not to say that Trump is afraid of Schneiderman. In many ways, just the opposite is true, as Trump called Schneiderman a “sleazebag” in 2015 and claimed that the AG told his daughter Ivanka that Schneiderman’s office would drop the Trump University suit in exchange for campaign contributions.
“This guy is bad news. He’s disliked by practically everybody. I’m just shocked he continues to hold office. He’s a total lowlife, a sleazebag who hates [New York] Governor Cuomo and would love to be governor someday,” declared Trump in the New York Post.
“There’s an unbelievable amount of corruption in the state. New York has become a cesspool of corruption. It’s talked about all over the world. It’s an embarrassment.”
But to some degree, that was ancient history. Rather than ignore the fact that Trump has partially stepped out of his jurisdiction with a move to Washington, D.C., Schneiderman now appears to be relishing the opportunity to bludgeon the business magnate because Trump’s attention is focused on national affairs, while his New York-based companies are highly vulnerable to Schneiderman’s legal maneuvering.
And if that weren’t enough, Schneiderman has been beefing up his staff with experts in federal law, such as Eric Haren, the current chief counsel for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Schneiderman also hired famed and recently-fired (by Trump) ex-prosecutor for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.
For readers who are unaware, Bharara was responsible for some of the most high-profile cases against Wall Street bankers during the presidency of Barack Obama. It was Bharara who brought in Indian billionaire investor Raj Rajaratnam on insider trading charges and obtained a sentence of 11 years for the trader, capping one of the only financial industry cases that resulted in jail time during Obama’s entire tenure in office.
Now, Schneiderman appears to be making no secret of his desire to target Trump, based — as he claims — on wanting “to protect the rights of New York residents,” as regards immigration, deportation and affirmative action issues that are pertinent to his state and particularly New York City.
“Public safety relies on trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Schneiderman said recently. “No local law enforcement agency should have to undercut that trust just to carry out Donald Trump’s draconian immigration policies.”
Two days before Trump was inaugurated, Schneiderman gave pages of “guidance” to New York municipalities on how they can hinder Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions. Specifically, Schneiderman told these local governments that they’re not required to enforce federal law, except in extremely narrow circumstances.
However, veteran legal observers believe that by targeting Trump, Schneiderman may be promoting his own selfish interests — the raising of his profile so that he could run for office in the future — either for the governorship of New York or perhaps some other nationally prominent position.
Already, Schneiderman officially joined a multi-state lawsuit against Trump’s travel ban to six Muslim countries, arguing that 13,000 New Yorkers were born in one of those countries and that 400,000 New Yorkers identify as Muslims.
Schneiderman conveniently ignores the fact that it’s highly unusual, if not entirely improper, for a prosecutor to choose his targets first and attempt to dig up evidence later; most legal experts say that sequence of events represents a clear case of bias.
Indeed, before digging in his heels too deeply against Trump, Schneiderman may want to worry about some of his own conflicts of interest, such as the fact that Schneiderman was named to a “leadership council” of Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.
In fact, Schneiderman did more than a few favors for Clinton, such as giving the Clintons’ eponymous Foundation a free pass on having to identify its foreign donors and on the timely filing of its mandatory nonprofit paperwork for multiple years following 2010. Strangely enough, the Trump Foundation received no such favors from Schneiderman for the same items.
And even though Schneiderman claimed he was very interested in resolving election fraud in New York State’s 2016 Democratic primary, he turned a blind eye to clearly documented issues such as incompetent poll workers, broken voting machines and one in eight Brooklyn voters being dropped from voting rolls, all of which allowed Clinton to steamroll over progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders.
There’s also the matter of a recent New York State court ruling in favor of oil industry-associated think tank The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), wherein Schneiderman and other state attorneys general will have to disclose agreements that they made with each other to Congress concerning the joint prosecution of oil giant ExxonMobil for “climate fraud.”
If the agreements show improper conduct, it could go as far as ending Schneiderman’s career. Apparently, Schneiderman denied CEI’s request for documents under New York State’s Freedom of Information Laws (FOIL). Schneiderman should be glad this case is being handled by state — not federal — courts, given that President Trump is a major climate change denier.
In fact, Schneiderman may want to very carefully reassess going up against Trump, now that Trump has the enormous resources of the presidency at his disposal. If the Department of Justice were to determine that New York State has been doing anything unethical (its state legislature is famously corrupt), Schneiderman could have hell to pay.