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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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Climate change: President Xi Jinping vows to end Chinese funding of coal plants abroad at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) | Climate News



China will stop funding new coal-fire projects abroad, President Xi Jinping announced at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

China was the last significant public financier of overseas coal – predominantly in Africa and Asia – delivered under its enormous global infrastructure project known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

But international pressure on Beijing to stop financing the most polluting fossil fuels has intensified, as the world attempts to meet Paris Agreement targets to prevent runaway climate breakdown.

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Is President Biden’s pledge enough to help developing countries tackle climate change?

In a pre-recorded video address, President Xi told the UNGA China will “step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad”.

Bernice Lee, director of Futures at global affairs think tank Chatham House, said recipient countries were already “moving away from [coal] plants anyway”.

“But it is a big deal, credit where credit is due,” she said. “It is important that this is now formalised and locked into the system.”

The move could be a significant step towards tackling global emissions, potentially culling $50 billion of investment across 44 projects, according to US think tank Global Energy Monitor (GEM). The Chinese President did not specify when the commitment would come into effect – although his country has not directed any BRI funding toward coal power plants so far this year.

But China itself accounts for half of the world’s coal consumption, according to Our World in Data.

The country’s “substantial domestic plans” for new coal plants is “the next new frontier” said Ms Lee.

The move is not just about tackling climate change but also about geopolitics, according to Dr Rebecca Nadin, director of ODI’s Global Risks and Resilience programme.

“Beijing also hopes the announcement will send a clear message to developing countries that they don’t need to… rely on the US’s ‘Build Back Better World’ (B3W) or the G7’s Clean Green Initiative, if they want a clean energy future.

“The message is now very much that China can provide that, either as financier, technology provider, knowledge broker or development partner.”

The announcement came hours after the US President Joe Biden promised to double his country’s aid to help poorer nations cut emissions and cope with climate change, bringing the total to $11.4bn (£8.3bn).

In May the Group of Seven (G7) countries vowed to end all new finance for coal power abroad by the end of this year, and to rid forever their own power systems of unabated coal in the 2030s.

China’s announcement could help galvanise COP26, United Nations (UN) climate talks hosted in Glasgow in November, as it had been under pressure to end the financing as a part of its updated package of climate pledges to be submitted to the UN.

However China has yet to confirm it will attend the talks, the COP26 president Alok Sharma told Sky News on Sunday.

Analysis by Thomas Cheshire, Asia Correspondent

China was the biggest financier of coal projects abroad – so Xi’s pledge is a big deal. Simply, “it leaves no international financing for new coal”, according to Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

Coal’s appeal had been waning internationally. A recent analysis from CREA found that overseas coal capacity linked to China was more likely to be cancelled than built, because of economic reasons and public opposition.

But this is now the official end – and hopefully prevents overseas coal creeping back if conditions were to improve.

So, good news. But, as ever, the more important issue is China’s own use of coal.

It still relies on it a huge amount and remains the world’s biggest polluter. Xi has promised that emissions will peak by 2030

But even if that is achieved – and that’s a big if, with new coal power stations still being built – experts say it will be too late to prevent the worst effects of warming.

Watch the Daily Climate Show at 6.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.

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US-Mexico border crisis: Vehicles form barrier at Texas crossing to deter Haitian migrants – as VP Kamala Harris criticises ‘horrible’ tactics | US News



Parked vehicles have created a steel barrier which stretches for miles along the US border with Mexico in the latest measure to deter migrants from crossing into Texas.

The US has been expelling Haitians from a large makeshift camp at the border, which at one point had attracted more than 12,000 migrants.

Around 8,600 people remain at the camp beneath the Del Rio International Bridge, which spans the Rio Grande from Texas to Mexico’s Ciudad Acuna, after more than 3,000 migrants were moved.

Texas Department of Safety vehicles line up along the bank of the Rio Grande near an encampment of migrants, many from Haiti, near the Del Rio International Bridge, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico. 
The vehicles have been lined up along the bank of the Rio Grande near the camp. Pic: AP

Law enforcement officers on horseback were pictured using what appeared to be aggressive tactics against the migrants – and a barrier has now been set up along the border, using vehicles belonging to the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, has backed his approval of the tactics – and criticised the Biden administration for not doing more, claiming local people and officials had “taken the lead on securing the border”.

But US Vice President Kamala Harris criticised the way the migrants had been treated, when she said: “What I saw depicted, those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible.”

She added she supported an investigation into the horseback incidents, while homeland security officials called the images “extremely troubling”.

In recent days, US authorities have removed at least 4,000 people from the site for processing in detention centres.

More than 500 Haitians have been deported to their homeland on four flights, with repatriations set to continue on a regular basis, the US Department of Homeland Security said.

A U.S. border patrol officer grabs the shirt of a migrant trying to return to the United States along the Rio Grande river, after having crossed from the United States into Mexico to buy food, as seen from Ciudad Acuna, in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
A migrant is pursued by a US patrol along the Rio Grande river

Some of those returned reacted angrily as they stepped off flights at Port-au-Prince airport in the Haitian capital after spending large amounts of money to travel from the troubled Caribbean nation via South America, hoping for a better life in the US.

The disturbances underscored the instability in the Caribbean nation – it is the poorest in the Western hemisphere, where a presidential assassination, rising gang violence, and a major earthquake have spread chaos in recent weeks.

The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former president Donald Trump in March 2020, which allows for migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum.

Unaccompanied children are exempt from the order, a decision which was made by President Joe Biden.

 United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021. - The United States said Saturday it would ramp up deportation flights for thousands of migrants who flooded into the Texas border city of Del Rio, as authorities scramble to alleviate a burgeoning crisis for President Joe Biden's administration
Tactics by US border patrols on horseback have been widely criticised. Pic: Getty Images
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. take shelter in make-shift migrant camp near the International Bridge between Mexico and the U.S., as they wait to be processed, in Del Rio, Texas, U.S. September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Go Nakamura
Migrants seeking asylum in the US take shelter near the Del Rio International Bridge

Mexico has also begun moving Haitian migrants away from the border, authorities said on Tuesday, signalling their support for the US as the situation creates a political headache for Mr Biden.

Republican politicians with an eye on the 2022 midterm elections, when they will bid to retake control of Congress, have been quick to portray the camp as the result of a push to end some migration restrictions.

There are also reports that some of the Haitian migrants facing expulsion back to their homeland are instead being released in the US, with some observed at the Del Rio bus station by Associated Press journalists.

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Lithuanian defence ministry urges people to ‘throw away’ Chinese phones after discovering censorship tools | Science & Tech News



The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence has urged people to stop buying Chinese phones and throw away the ones they already possess after discovering censorship software.

It followed a report from the country’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) which found that Xiaomi devices were censoring terms deemed to be offensive to Beijing.

According to an analysis by the Lithuanian NCSC, the Chinese company’s flagship devices sold in Europe have a built-in ability to detect and censor particular terms.

The phrases included “demonstration”, “free Tibet”, “long live Taiwan independence”, and “church” according to the Lithuanian authorities.

Although the censorship capability had been turned off for devices in the European Union, the ministry of defence warned that it could be turned on remotely.

“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” said Defence Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius, according to Reuters.

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Chinese Ambassador banned from parliament: ‘Standing up for free speech is critical’

A spokesperson for Xiaomi declined to comment when contacted by Sky News.

The call to throw away Chinese phones comes amid growing tensions between Lithuania and China over the former’s support for Taiwan – which China claims as part of its own territory.

China demanded Lithuania recall its ambassador in Beijing last month and recalled its own envoy from Vilnius in a protest over Taiwan announcing its mission in the country would use the name of Taiwan, instead of the city of Taipei, which is typically used in other European nations and in the US.

Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber security expert at the University of Surrey, told Sky News: “We all know there are different builds of phones for different countries. If you want to sell a device in a country then you have to obey the laws there.

“But to have censorship software left in that can be remotely activated… that’s a whole different level of one country effectively exporting its domestic regulations via technology,” he said.

Professor Woodward said he could understand the thought process behind the Lithuanian warning: that if one Chinese vendor has included a censorship capability to please Beijing then that made it harder to trust others haven’t done so too.

“Lithuania is a small market so I can imagine this might blow over, but the censorship software seemed to specifically be addressing items that were part of the tension between the two countries,” added Professor Woodward.

“That starts to look like a deliberate attempt to interfere,” he said.

“I’m sure other countries are also looking at these devices, so it behoves the Chinese government to make sure that they aren’t trying to export their censorship regulations elsewhere or else they could destroy trust in all Chinese vendors, and that won’t end well for anyone.”

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