On this day in legal history, September 8, 1974, President Ford pardoned President Nixon, establishing the doctrine of “we haven’t held our elected leaders accountable to this point and we sure as heck aren’t starting now.”
So, on this day in history, we revisit September 8, 1974, when President Gerald Ford issued Proclamation 4311, granting his predecessor, Richard Nixon, a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed during his presidency, particularly concerning the Watergate scandal. Ford believed this step was necessary to heal the nation, stating it was a move to write an end to a national tragedy. Interesting how that works, often times people speak of holding wrongdoers accountable as being the mechanism for closure–here it seems the argument was to just let the whole thing go. This decision was met with widespread criticism, with many alleging a secret deal between Nixon and Ford, leading to Ford's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, a rare occurrence for a sitting president.
In the aftermath, Nixon faced a life of scrutiny and health issues, while Ford's presidency was marred by the controversial pardon, contributing to his defeat in the 1976 elections. Despite the initial backlash, Ford's decision was later viewed by the public with a more sympathetic lens, with Senator Ted Kennedy acknowledging the courage it took to make such a decision, and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarding Ford the Profile in Courage Award in 2001–which sounds prestigious, but it's handed out to politicians left and right. Ted Kennedy himself won it in 2009 which is ironic given his history–Google “Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick” if you don’t follow the reference.
On April 22, 1994, former U.S. President Richard Nixon passed away at the age of 81 due to complications following a stroke suffered in his New Jersey home. His death was met with a national day of mourning, proclaimed by then-President Bill Clinton, who lauded Nixon as a statesman with a vision for lasting peace and expressed gratitude for his counsel. The announcement of Nixon's death was followed by tributes from various prominent figures, including former presidents and senators, recognizing his contributions and reflecting on his legacy. He was given a state funeral and buried next to his wife in Yorba Linda, California.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh recently expressed optimism that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon take significant steps to enhance its self-regulation concerning ethics. During an event in Cleveland, he echoed Chief Justice John Roberts' earlier statements about the court's commitment to addressing these issues. Kavanaugh emphasized the justices' dedication to upholding the institution's integrity and fostering respect among the American populace, despite potential disagreements over their rulings.
This discussion comes amidst growing criticism of the court for perceived ethical violations. While Democrats advocate for a binding ethics code for the justices, some members of the court argue that Congress lacks the authority to enforce such regulations on an independent governmental branch. Justice Elena Kagan revealed that the justices are contemplating self-imposed ethics guidelines, acknowledging diverse opinions among them.
Recent reports have spotlighted Justice Clarence Thomas for not disclosing financial benefits received from Republican donor Harlan Crow, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor's staff encouraging institutions to purchase her books during her appearances. Furthermore, Kavanaugh suggested that the court should consider more cases in the upcoming term, aiming for around 75 cases, a significant increase from recent years. He also criticized the trend of crafting judicial opinions with potential social media reactions in mind, urging judges to maintain the gravity and respect inherent in the judicial process.
We should of course keep in mind the fact that Brett Kavanaugh himself has been credibly accused by three women of assault.
The legal troubles for Peter Navarro, a former advisor to Donald Trump, began in earnest when he was subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack on February 9, 2022, to provide documents and testimony regarding the Capitol riot. Despite the subpoena, Navarro refused to comply, publicly defending his non-compliance in media appearances. He claimed that Trump had invoked executive privilege on his behalf, a claim that lacked substantiating evidence and was further undermined as President Joe Biden, who had the sole discretion to assert such privilege, did not do so for Navarro.
Navarro's refusal to adhere to the subpoena led to a contempt of Congress charge, which was followed by an indictment on two counts by a grand jury in June 2022. Each count, pertaining to non-compliance with document production and testimony subpoenas, carries a potential one-year imprisonment sentence. Navarro was arrested at Reagan National Airport amidst plans to travel to Nashville, an event marked by allegations of harsh treatment, which were later partially acknowledged by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta.
Navarro's legal defense centered around the assertion of executive privilege, a claim he stated was made at the behest of Trump. However, Judge Mehta rejected this defense in January 2023, highlighting Navarro's failure to provide any evidence supporting Trump's directive to invoke the privilege, a stark contrast to other advisors like Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino who produced letters from Trump instructing them to assert the privilege. Navarro's attempts to dismiss the charges and argue against the procedural validity of the subpoena were also rejected by the court.
During the trial, which commenced with jury seating on September 5, 2023, Navarro chose not to testify in his defense or present any witnesses, a strategy that proved unsuccessful as he was convicted on both counts of contempt of Congress after a two-day trial. The conviction, which mirrors that of another ex-Trump aide, Steve Bannon, from the previous year, leaves Navarro facing potential imprisonment of up to a year and a fine of $100,000 for each count, with sentencing scheduled for January 12, 2024.
Former Greenberg Traurig patent litigator, Allan Kassenoff, has filed a lawsuit against social media influencer Robert Harvey, accusing him of defamation, cyberstalking, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit, which seeks over $150 million in damages, alleges that Harvey's videos on platforms like TikTok, where he has over 3 million followers, portrayed Kassenoff as an abusive spouse and father, leading to his job loss and financial downfall. These videos, which began appearing on May 31, included alleged clips of Kassenoff verbally abusing his ex-wife, Catherine, amidst their divorce and custody battle over their three children. Kassenoff insists that Harvey disseminated misleading videos recklessly, disregarding the truth. The lawsuit, representing Kassenoff and his children, also includes another plaintiff, Constantine Gus Dimopoulos, Kassenoff's attorney, who accuses Harvey of defamation and harassment. Kassenoff maintains that his ex-wife collaborated with Harvey to fabricate a story about her having terminal cancer, which further fueled the defamation campaign, resulting in his resignation from Greenberg Traurig. The firm has established a trust fund for Kassenoff's children following his departure.