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Nixon’s decisions during Watergate may help us understand the legal trouble Trump is in now

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Washington, a town loaded with lawyers, is talking about how President Donald Trump can’t seem to find even one.

The Russia probe has put Trump in desperate need of a first-rate attorney. But one key reason he is unable to hire good counsel, Washington legal analysts say, is that he’s a terrible client. In lawyer lingo, this usually means that a client won’t do what his attorneys advise. (Here, Trump’s critics also mean that Trump doesn’t pay his bills, but that’s another story.)

Certainly, that’s what John Dowd, Trump’s former lead attorney on the Muller investigation, meant. After Dowd resigned, The Washington Post reported that he had been complaining about how Trump ignored his advice.

This problem is not new. During Watergate, President Richard M. Nixon wouldn’t listen to his lawyers either — as my late husband, Leonard Garment, found out while he was working in the White House as Nixon’s legal counsel at the time of Watergate. True, Nixon was himself a skillful lawyer, so he was ignoring his lawyers’ legal advice on a far more sophisticated level. But what played out during the Watergate scandal may help us predict what could happen now.

During Watergate, Nixon wouldn’t listen to his lawyers either — as my late husband, Leonard Garment, found out while he was working in the White House

To begin with, Nixon never really told his lawyers what was going on — violating a cardinal rule of the lawyer-client relationship. It meant that his lawyers couldn’t give him sound advice based on the facts of his situation. Garbage in, garbage out.

In fact, Nixon’s lawyers were often the last to know. They would hold earnest meetings, trying to piece together the facts of the case. Meanwhile Nixon would be conferring separately with political advisers like John Ehrlichman, then-Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and White House Counsel John Dean in the Oval Office.

Among other missing details, Nixon never shared with his lawyers what turned out to be the fact most critical of his case: There was a taping system in the Oval Office.

Nixon made the situation even more abnormal by deciding to manage his own legal defense. In May of 1973, for example, the White House decided it had to issue a statement about Watergate that offered something more than the repeated boilerplate denials it had been providing. Nixon told his lawyers to draft the statement without any input from him. Then, the president said, they should send him their drafts, and he would revise them on the basis of his “recollections.” In other words, the lawyers didn’t have control of the product — the client did.

In 1973, Nixon appointed a new chief of staff, Alexander Haig, who often carried drafts of the statement between the lawyers and the president. Haig knew there was a taping system — but the lawyers didn’t. Some of Nixon’s “recollections” that he added to the legal statements were so detailed that my husband and the other lawyers thought there had to be a taping system. But they didn’t hear it from their client.

After Watergate, Nixon wrote that he was shocked when the tapes’ existence became public. He had expected White House staffers to invoke executive privilege when asked about them. Yet he had never even talked with his lawyers about whether an assertion of executive privilege would be justified, likely or successful. (It wasn’t; it wasn’t; and it wouldn’t have been.)

In fact, like Trump’s, Nixon’s legal defense team was quite small — fewer than a half-dozen attorneys. This may have been because hiring an outside lawyer to do personal legal work was viewed as an admission of guilt. But Nixon’s personal tics also kept the numbers small. He looked at the plausible candidates for the outside lawyer job and didn’t trust most of them — Joe Califano! Ed Williams! Experienced lawyers, yes, but Democrats! — with his political secrets. He would have trusted Bill Rogers, an old friend who was about to leave his job as secretary of state. But Rogers was too smart to bite.

 President Richard Nixon speaks near Orlando, Florida, on Nov. 17, 1973. AP file

The small size of the defense team was one factor that kept Nixon’s lawyers from being able to push back effectively against the hundreds of lawyers (literally) who had arrived in Washington to work for Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, for Sam Dash of the Senate Watergate Committee, for John Doar of the House Judiciary Committee — among others — to investigate and prosecute Watergate.

The final straw for Nixon’s legal team was also the starkest example of Nixon’s arrogance — and perhaps a warning for Trump.

Nixon remarked early in the Watergate scandal that he had John Dean “on tape.” When Archibald Cox heard about the remark, he asked what it meant. Nixon told his lawyers, who didn’t yet know about the taping system, that he was referring to a tape cassette (remember those?). So the lawyers wrote Cox a letter, saying just this.

In the fall of 1973, Judge John Sirica, who was in charge of Watergate prosecutions at the time, asked one of the Nixon lawyers where the cassette was. The lawyers asked Nixon about it. No problem, Nixon said: His lawyers could create a cassette from notes that Nixon had made.

Nixon, in other words, was asking — or telling — his lawyers to lie to the court. Within days, they began to make arrangements to leave the case quietly. Nixon’s defense continued to collapse until, nine months later in the summer of 1974, Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment.

Some of the troubles that Trump’s lawyers have had reflect the general problem of representing a president. But they also reflect personality.

Some of the collapse of Nixon’s Watergate defense reflects the difficulty of representing a president, any president. Presidents have political imperatives, president-sized egos and high-level secrets. In that sense, the legal representation of a president can barely be called a legal representation — it belongs to an oxymoronic category you might label “political litigation.”

But in other respects, Nixon sabotaged his own legal defense and made it almost impossible for his lawyers to do their jobs properly.

In the same way, some of the troubles that Trump’s lawyers have had reflect the general problem of representing a president. But they also reflect personality — and not just in the narrow sense that Trump is a “bad client.”

Even if Trump could become a “better client,” it’s unlikely he would be able to attract the superior lawyers who could save him from Special Counsel Robert Muller. They know that the Trump White House is simply not conducive to superior lawyering

“This is turmoil,” Theodore Olson, one of the lawyers who turned down the Trump defense, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “It’s chaos, it’s confusion. It’s not good for anything.”

This is not the Nixon White House — but it could be another kind of graveyard for the reputations of even the best lawyers.

Suzanne Garment, a lawyer, is the author of “Scandal: The Culture of Mistrust in American Politics.”

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COVID-19: Muslim graveyard in India turns bodies away, as coronavirus cases continue to surge | World News

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Delhi’s main Muslim graveyard is running out of space due to COVID-related deaths, as it surpassed Mumbai to become India’s worst-hit city.

On 15 April, a stream of ambulances arrived at the Jadid Qabristan cemetery on the outskirts of Delhi, where a patch of waste ground was turned into a COVID-19 burial ground last year.

The graves now run-up to the boundary wall, with little space for more.

People bury bodies at a graveyard in Delhi. The graveyard has had to turn away bodies as it runs out of space
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Drone footage shows people burying bodies at a graveyard in Delhi
According to official figures, Delhi recorded over 17,000 coronavirus cases on 14 April
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According to official figures, Delhi recorded over 17,000 coronavirus cases on 14 April

Head gravedigger Mohammad Shameem said he has had to turn bodies away, with space and staff at a premium.

“Yesterday there were 19 bodies, but we can only handle 15,” he said.

Hospitals are also struggling to cope under the growing strain of increased cases.

Pappu Ali, 43, contracted coronavirus and his family visited several private hospitals in the city searching for a bed. He died after being admitted to a government hospital.

“There were not enough doctors, we couldn’t even find water,” his uncle Mehboob said.

According to official figures, Delhi recorded over 17,000 cases on 14 April, while Mumbai’s highest single-day peak was 11,163 on 4 April.

People bury the body of a man, who died from coronavirus disease at a graveyard in New Delhi
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People bury the body of a man, who died with coronavirus
A Muslim graveyard in Delhi is running out of space, with the gravediggers forced to turn people away
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The Jadid Qabristan cemetery has been forced to turn people away

India reported more than 200,000 new cases in a single day on 15 April, with hospitals reporting a shortage of beds and oxygen.

The financial hub of Mumbai, India’s largest city, has gone into lockdown, but other cities remain open despite a spike in cases.

This week, millions of Hindu pilgrims gathered in the temple town of Haridwar, in Uttarakhand to celebrate Maha Kumbh Mela, dubbed as a superspreader event.

Following the event, 30 Hindu priests tested positive for coronavirus.

Among those infected with the virus, was the leader of the All India Akhada Parishad, Mahant Narendra Giri, who has been admitted to hospital.

On Thursday night, Uttarakhand reported 2,200 cases in 24 hours – its biggest single-day spike since the pandemic began in December 2019.

As cases around the country surge, India has found itself short of vaccines and is running out of the raw materials required to make new jabs.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is locally made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) but production has been delayed by a raw material shortage.

SII’s chief executive appealed to US president Joe Biden to end the ban on raw material exports out of the US.

A mourner is consoled after her husband died of COVID-19 in New Delhi. India recorded 200,000 cases on 16 April
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A mourner is consoled after her husband died of COVID-19 as India recorded 200,000 cases on 16 April
Due to a shortage of beds in hospitals, patients are forced to share beds as they received treatment for the virus
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Due to a shortage of hospital beds, patients are forced to share

“Respected POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating the virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the US, I humble request you lift the embargo on raw material exports out of the US so that vaccine production can ramp up,” Adar Poonawalla said on Twitter.

Vaccination centres are rationing supplies, as the country inoculates over 45s having started its roll-out in mid-January with front line workers.

It has administered the most doses in the world, after America and China, but ranks much lower when looking at the per capita figure.

The government said the country had a stock of about 30 million doses, which will be enough for 10 days.

Despite initial reluctance to use non-Indian vaccines, the government has this week given emergency authorisation to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine to be imported this month.

It has also urged Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to sell jabs to India.

A new Indian variant of the virus has been detected in the UK, with 74 cases detected by Public Health England.

India is not on the travel red list, so there is no requirement for hotel quarantine. Travellers returning from India are required to take two COVID-19 tests and quarantine at home for 10 days.

Boris Johnson is scheduled to visit the country at the end of April, his first major international trip since Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Asked if his planned trip to India would still go ahead later this month, a No 10 spokesman said it was still on.

But he said the programme “will be slightly shorter” and added: “As you would expect, safety is obviously important and is a priority for us on this trip, which is why we will make sure that all elements of the visit are COVID-secure.”



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Hong Kong: Media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed over pro-democracy protests | World News

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Billionaire Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been imprisoned over his role in pro-democracy protests.

Mr Lai, founder of opposition newspaper Apple Daily, was one of several activists who appeared in court on Friday who had been earlier found guilty of taking part in “unauthorised assemblies” during mass pro-democracy protests in 2019.

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison while nine others received jail time or suspended sentences.

The 73-year-old is a fierce critic of Beijing and his sentence comes as the mainland is increasingly cracking down on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is seen handcuffed and escorted by the guards leaving prison
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Mr Lai is seen handcuffed and escorted by the guards leaving prison for his hearing

Mr Lai has been in jail since December after being denied bail in a separate national security trial.

District court judge Amanda Woodcock said even though the 18 August assembly was peaceful there was a “latent risk of possible violence” and that a deterrent sentence and “immediate imprisonment” was appropriate.

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Raab says ‘China is violating the freedom of Hong Kong’

Mr Lai’s repeated arrests have drawn criticism from Western governments and international rights groups, who raised concerns over waning freedoms in the global financial hub, including freedom of speech and assembly.

Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra said: “The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these activists underlines the… government’s intention to eliminate all political opposition.”

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The other defendants also found guilty, included prominent barrister Margaret Ng and veteran democrats Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho, Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung.

They received sentences of up to 18 months. Ng, Leung Yiu-chung and Albert Ho were given suspended sentences.

The 2019 pro-democracy protests were spurred by Beijing’s tightening squeeze on wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong upon its return to Chinese rule in 1997, and plunged the semi-autonomous city into its biggest crisis since the handover.

Beijing has since consolidated its authoritarian grip on Hong Kong by imposing a sweeping national security law,
punishing anything it deems as secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Supporters of the law say it has restored stability.

Mr Lai has been a frequent visitor to Washington, meeting officials such as former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor”.

Prosecutors said he will face two additional charges of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces and conspiracy to
obstruct the course of justice.

Earlier this week, Apple Daily published a hand-written letter Mr Lai sent to his colleagues from prison, saying: “It is
our responsibility as journalists to seek justice.

“As long as we… do not let evil get its way through us, we are fulfilling our responsibility.”

It is “time for us to stand tall”, he wrote.

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Human cells grown in monkey embryos triggers ‘Pandora’s box’ ethical concerns | Science & Tech News

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Human cells have been grown in monkey embryos by scientists in the US, sparking ethical concerns and warnings that it “opens a Pandora’s box”.

Those behind the research say their work could help tackle the severe shortage of transplant organs as well as enable better overall understanding of human health, from the development of disease to ageing.

But some experts in the UK have highlighted the significant ethical and legal challenges posed by the creation of such hybrid organisms and called for a public debate.

Credit: Weizhi Ji, Kunming University of Science and Technology
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The chimeric embryos were monitored in the lab for 19 days before being destroyed. Pic: Weizhi Ji, Kunming University of Science and Technology

Concerns have been raised after researchers from the Salk Institute in California produced what is known as monkey-human chimeras.

This involved human stem cells – special cells that have the ability to develop into many different cell types – being inserted in macaque embryos in petri dishes in the lab.

The aim is to understand more about how cells develop and communicate with each other.

Chimeras are organisms whose cells come from two or more individuals.

In humans, chimerism can naturally occur following organ transplants, where cells from the organ start growing in other parts of the body.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte
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Professor Izpisua Belmonte said the work was conducted with ‘utmost attention to ethical considerations’

Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who is leading the research, said: “These chimeric approaches could be really very useful for advancing biomedical research not just at the very earliest stage of life, but also the latest stage of life.”

In 2017, he and his team created the first human-pig hybrid, where they introduced human cells into early-stage pig tissue but found the environment provided poor molecular communication.

As a result, the researchers decided to investigate lab-grown chimeras using a more closely related species.

The human-monkey chimeric embryos were monitored in the lab for 19 days before being destroyed.

According to the scientists, the results, published in the journal Cell, showed human stem cells “survived and integrated with better relative efficiency than in the previous experiments in pig tissue”.

The Salk-Institute
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The chimeras were produced by researchers from the Salk Institute in California

The team said understanding more about how cells of different species communicate with each other could provide an “unprecedented glimpse into the earliest stages of human development” as well as offer scientists a “powerful tool” for research on regenerative medicine.

Insisting that their research has met current ethical and legal guidelines, Prof Izpisua Belmonte said: “As important for health and research as we think these results are, the way we conducted this work, with utmost attention to ethical considerations and by coordinating closely with regulatory agencies, is equally important.

“Ultimately, we conduct these studies to understand and improve human health.”

Human stem cells being injected into a pig embryo. Pic: Salk Institute
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Human stem cells being injected into a pig embryo. Pic: Salk Institute

Responding to the research, Dr Anna Smajdor, lecturer and researcher in biomedical ethics at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said: “This breakthrough reinforces an increasingly inescapable fact: biological categories are not fixed – they are fluid.

“This poses significant ethical and legal challenges.”

She added: “The scientists behind this research state that these chimeric embryos offer new opportunities, because ‘we are unable to conduct certain types of experiments in humans’.

“But whether these embryos are human or not is open to question.”

Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and co-director of the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, University of Oxford, said: “This research opens Pandora’s box to human-nonhuman chimeras.

“These embryos were destroyed at 20 days of development but it is only a matter of time before human-nonhuman chimeras are successfully developed, perhaps as a source of organs for humans. That is one of the long-term goals of this research.

“The key ethical question is: what is the moral status of these novel creatures? Before any experiments are performed on live-born chimeras, or their organs extracted, it is essential that their mental capacities and lives are properly assessed.”

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