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Danziger: Reasonable Doubt

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Why New York’s District Attorney Should Reopen That Fox News Investigation

For well over three decades, Robert M. Morgenthau served as the Manhattan District Attorney. A law enforcement legend, Morgenthau became renowned for his zealous pursuit of white-collar offenders.

He believed that “crime in the suites” deserved to be punished just as consistently as crime in the streets — and as a former federal prosecutor, he ignored minor issues such as jurisdiction when he thought justice needed to be done. And he sought expansive interpretations of law wherever he saw the federal government failing to do justice.

Recently I asked a ranking federal prosecutor who once worked for D.A. Morgenthau whether his old boss would have allowed Fox News Channel executives to escape accountability for the crimes of Roger Ailes and their alleged concealment of those crimes from auditors and shareholders.

The answer was a resounding “NO.”

Before New Yorkers first elected him D.A. in 1974, Morgenthau had served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District, appointed by President Kennedy. He resisted fiercely when Richard Nixon sought to remove him under dubious circumstances in 1969. So he would understand the predicament of Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney abruptly fired by Trump last year, after Bharara commenced an investigation of Trump’s friend Ailes and the company’s hidden payoffs to the women he tormented.

As reviewed in this space yesterday, that investigation potentially implicated top executives at Fox, continuing for several months after Ailes died in May 2017. Among those subpoenaed to explain how Fox had paid off those women and concealed those illicit payments was former Fox vice president Bill Shine, who was eventually fired by the network — and then appointed deputy White House chief of staff by Trump last month.

Yet somehow during the period when federal prosecutors questioned Shine and his appointment by Trump, the Fox News investigation went “dormant,” according to major news outlets. During that same period, the acting U.S. Attorney who had replaced Bharara, his former deputy Joon Kim, was replaced in turn by Geoffrey Berman — a former managing partner at Greenberg Traurig, whose clients had included Ailes and News Corp, the parent company of Fox News. Berman was personally interviewed by Trump and recommended by his former law partner Rudolph Giuliani, a confidant of both Ailes and Trump.

Many troubling questions remain unanswered in this matter. When did the Southern District end the investigation of Fox News? Why did prosecutors decide to drop the case? Did Berman recuse himself from that decision? Why was Shine called to testify in that investigation? What was he asked, and what were his answers? Did the White House or the FBI conduct due diligence when Shine was appointed to one of the most powerful positions in government?

Indeed, very little in this narrative inspires confidence — and the absence of transparency only inflames suspicions of wrongdoing. But there is a potential remedy under law.

If crimes were committed in the suites at Fox, those offenses occurred in Manhattan — where Morgenthau’s successor, Cyrus Vance, Jr. now serves as District Attorney. Fairly or not, Vance’s own integrity has been questioned over his decision not to prosecute the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault. Although Vance insists he rejected prosecution of Weinstein due solely to a lack of evidence, that decision is currently under examination by the New York Attorney General.

Should he wish to affirm his integrity and fearlessness, Vance should look into the Fox News case — where a sexual predator just as monstrous as Weinstein escaped punishment for years because his employer, a publicly held company, secretly paid out tens of millions of dollars to hide his misdeeds. For reasons that remain suspiciously opaque, New York’s federal prosecutor let that case lapse. And now a key witness sits in one of the most sensitive positions in the Trump White House, which is notorious for failing to properly vet top officials.

It’s time for Vance should ask himself: “What would Morgenthau do?”

Red Cross General Counsel Resigns Over Handling of Sexual Assault Allegations

American Red Cross General Counsel David Meltzer has resigned after a ProPublica story detailed troubling aspects of how he handled a sexual misconduct case involving another senior official at the charity.

In his resignation letter, dated Jan. 31 and effective immediately, Meltzer wrote to American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern that he deeply regretted his handling of the case. “I want to ensure that the reputation of the institution remains strong and that nothing interferes with the organization’s ability to effectively carry out its important mission,” his letter says.

In an organization-wide email this morning, McGovern announced the resignation. “Over the course of the last year, we have seen news accounts of other organizations and institutions contending with serious instances of sexual harassment and the harmful repercussions that such misconduct can create. Last week, it was our organization’s turn to again struggle with these issues,” McGovern wrote. “I am committed to moving forward in a way that strengthens us as an organization.”

ProPublica’s story last week reported that in 2012 the charity pushed out a senior executive in its international division, Gerald Anderson, after an internal investigation concluded he sexually harassed at least one subordinate. Another Red Cross employee accused him of rape. Through his lawyer, Anderson has denied any sexual misconduct. Save the Children, which hired Anderson after he left the Red Cross, said in a statement today that “Anderson is no longer employed by Save the Children.”

At the conclusion of the investigation in 2012, Meltzer sent out an email announcing Anderson’s departure in which Meltzer praised Anderson for his “dedication” and “leadership.” Meltzer then angered some employees at a staff meeting when he said he wished Anderson were staying at the charity, according to several people who attended.

Shortly after he left the Red Cross, Anderson got a job as senior director for humanitarian response at Save the Children, a global charity based in Connecticut. Anderson was given a positive reference by a senior Red Cross official, according to Save the Children. The Red Cross said last week it was taking disciplinary action because of the positive reference but declined to provide details.

In his resignation letter, Meltzer apologized for his statements around Anderson’s departure.

“I deeply regret the damage this language may have caused the organization and its wonderful staff — particularly the employees involved in this matter,” he wrote. “I also deeply regret that my words could have undermined confidence in the commitment of the Red Cross to properly address complaints of this nature. I would never want to be the cause of such a result. Rather, I feel strongly that every employee must feel comfortable and protected in reporting harassment and other misconduct to management.”

Meltzer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Meltzer’s resignation follows what multiple staffers described as a tense week at the charity. At an emotional staff meeting last week of the International Services Department, where Anderson and his accusers had worked, multiple employees called for Meltzer’s resignation and a public apology to the two women who made the allegations in 2012.

Meltzer worked for the Red Cross for over 12 years, rising from senior vice president for international services to a dual role as general counsel and chief international officer. In those positions, he helped oversee some of the charity’s largest — and at times, most troubled — projects. He played a leading role in its half-billion-dollar relief program after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the subject of a previous investigation by ProPublica and NPR.

Meltzer has also tried to manage the charity’s relationship with overseers on Capitol Hill. A 2016 Senate report found that Meltzer had successfully maneuvered to limit the scope of an inquiry into the charity’s disaster relief operations by the Government Accountability Office.

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Lara Trump: ‘We’re Sad’ To See Alleged Sexual Abuser Wynn Resign From RNC

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

The Republican reaction to now-former RNC finance co-chair Steve Wynn’s sexual misconduct scandal went from hypocritical to absurd on Monday when Lara Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law and senior campaign adviser, said she was “sorry” to see Wynn leave his post.

When news broke that gambling mogul Wynn is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, including rape, Republicans were remarkably silent about all the cash he had raised for them as the Republican National Committee finance co-chair. Wynn resigned from his position after a full day of press coverage and tanking stock prices.

But even after his resignation, the RNC refused to comment on the allegations, or on the disposition of the funds he had raised. And if Lara Trump is to be believed, that resignation was accepted only reluctantly.

In an interview on Fox Business Network’s Mornings with Maria, host Maria Bartiromo asked Trump — who is married to Eric Trump — for her “take” on the “bad news” of Wynn’s resignation.

Trump responded by praising “amazing” RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel for accepting Wynn’s resignation.