tv James Zirin Plaintiff in Chief CSPAN November 17, 2019 12:00am-1:11am EST
role in the event of the history for over five decades and the law schools are incredibly fortunate to have you both in leadership and all of you are wonderful as leaders and as institutional leaders. i want to thank everyone for joining this to discuss the an exciting and extremely timely book and a portrait of donald trump and 3500 lawsuits. his other two books both of which are highly relevant to other books as well are cases that mattered and americans greatest trial court and supremely partisan here and how in supreme court. this is the fifth time you get to sit with you to talk about your wonderful work. so it's meaningful and noise fun to have a conversation with you.
you are someone who as i described an extraordinary contour. you have been a wonderful friend who is given so much to this institution and your father went to the small school and also someone who i think is given so much to the people of new york and the host and producer of a talkshow in the digital age which can be seen weekly that the new york metro area and guess conclude a range of personality from the world of politics, law, business, foreign relations, counterterrorism, media, lifestyle and the military. that push your experience of a litigator prosecutor has given a tremendous amount of perspective and you share that perspective
gradually and freely and joyfully. you have written hundreds of articles of reforms the l.a. times, london times, washington times in the new york law journal and a member of the council on foreign relations. so i cannot think of a more perfect person to tell a story like this and provide unique insights about our president donald trump and it's truly unusual history. the book is a story like a said about new york city takes place during times of great change in real estate booms, changes in culture, the explosion of media and those are just a few of the things that you cover. tell us a story of her neighborhood. with much in the book taking place, the supreme court, the da office, southern district and financial institution.
so after we sent out the invitation, i received a reply from someone on the invite list. it came to my website called dear dean. sometimes that is to get nice note and sometimes you don't get such nice notes. this is the note i got. someone wrote dear dean, i do not see that this book is part of the study of law. a hit piece against newly elected president. large enterprises conduct much business and much business includes litigation. i think to this is a good place to start. what would you say in response to this. >> i'm not yet responded. >> i would say i agree being a business with a society and inevitably involves a great deal of litigation, trump had an extraordinary record and alluded to my record as we used to say
in the u.s. attorney's office, he had the record, trump had a record of 3500 losses, that's more losses than the top three real estate offers in the united states combine and he sued at the drop of a hat. he was a plaintiff slightly more awesome than a defendant from the receiving end. but he used the legal system to achieve objectives which were quite unusual. they were at the heart of the legal system which is now the adversary system. different from europe, civil law method where judge conducts the inquiry, we inherited the system from the english and it was a
crown juul of the legal framework and the idea was that it was to partisan sides arguing an issue or arguing the facts, it was the best way to get the truth. trump weapon is the legal system and the record is to get at the truth, he used it to prove a lie. and often he was successful in doing that. he would sue someone and they would fear by being bankrupt by the legal fees and back down and whatever the merits were a pursuit was disregarded and it was to destroy the adversary. in that sense he was atypical and you could tell you should say, this is the dean, you don't know what you are talking about. [laughter] >> and reading the book it's clear there have been
objectively few victories but do you think trump's approach is successful in any way financially reputation really and to what extent has there been success? >> many of the suits were stupid silly suits. my favorite, i should not say favorite because it was a horror show but there was an elderly father and daughter who were in the travel business in long island and they had a storefront travel agency which they called trump travel. they called trump travel because they saw bridge tours to people in trump they thought was ace hardware and was signify excellence. somehow or other got wind of this business and he sued them.
and he said you cannot use the trump name in the travel agency even though he's never been in the travel business in any way shape, matter or form in business in long island unless you count queens and brooklyn. so he brought this suit and they had to defend it and they were small business people and they expended their life savings litigating the sou suit with tr. what happens is the legal system notoriously slow in the laws delay and is to be or not to be. they got to the courthouse and the judge said why don't you settle the case. what was the settlement, they had to reduce the size of the trump travel agency sign and they settled the case.
trump passed by again and he was dissatisfied with the sign in the reduced size and brought them back to court and the judge had had enough and city settled the case in the second case was dismissed. i have the story in the book but it's one that i love to tell and the auto con travel agency reminded me of the german jewish who is one of the founders and was walking in a certain neighborhood and past the tailor shop and there was a sign in his head no con taylor, auto con's cousin. [laughter] and he was absolutely outraged, he stormed into the tailor shop and said i am him take that sign down, you are not my cousin. so he said certainly. so next week he's walking in the same neighborhood and he passes
the tailor shop and says joe con taylor, formally auto con's cousin. [laughter] we were able to continue but interestingly enough, trump is a bully and there were two brothers from south africa who were named trump and they had a trump pharmaceutical chain, very successful, billionaires on like trump who is a phony billionaire and he sued them because a copy of pharmaceutical newsweekly -- he has never ever been in the pharmaceutical business. and he sued them for using the trump name in the courts but they had the funds really to fight them. >> a significant character in your book is right, and you talk
about him a lot, i've known you almost ten years and there's almost never a conversation that he does not come up. the fascinating figure and as many of you know chief counsel to senator mccarthy went on to become a political with criminal and questionable character destroying many lives along the way. interestingly enough, we discovered recently, my colleague perfect for under professor who is one of the librarians come he never discovered connections that he head to the law school. we were talking in late 50s and 60s who is an alumnus in the supreme court justice and obviously both his father and alumni graduated about 30 years apart. and he of a very college history. you described him as a defining mentor and present in trump's life. specifically i want to read a passage from your book that i
thought was really interesting and i would love for you to comment on it. >> understanding cohen is central to understanding the rise of donald trump. trump wanted to make inroads in new york society and politics. his father had made a fortune in real estate in the outer borough never ventured into sophisticated manhattan. a prominent lawyer could give trump entrée to a brave new world of politicians, mobsters, well-heeled men and beatable women. cohen and trump would cut an unholy and enduring bargain. con the priest. what he think about that statement. >> how much impact did cohen have on trump and wises so important for us to think about
cohen in this. >> trump knew how to wage asymmetrical warfare and as a lawyer he never seem to address the issue, he seemed to address the judge and he would often say to his associates who said to him, the law is against us, he would say screw the law, who is the judge. and he would address the adversary to see what dirt he could fling at the adversary and tried to dissuade the adversary from fighting aside of the case. trump met him in a bar in 1973 and we did not mention he is the prosecutor's in the rosenberg case and the facts of the
rosenbergs became to counsel to senator mccarthy and he was a horrible character who is terribly hiccup with critical and closeted gay as most gay lawyers were and had to be in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. but he was unbelievably hypocritical about his identity when he was with mccarthy, he spearheaded something called the lavender investigation to identify gays in the state department and get rid of them. later on when he was a political power broker in new york, he was able to throttle a proposed bill that would give gay people equal rights in public accommodations. in kushner in his angels in america records the depth of his
hypocrisy and interestingly enough, he was a supporter of the right wing even though a registered democrat. and indeed donald trump for many years was a registered democrat. so you had all these running and they both met in a bar in 1973, it was a chic nightclub called the club and it was a place where older married men were seen with younger women and i actually met barbara there on occasion. [laughter] which is a story in itself. i was not married at the time and i was not with the younger woman. [laughter] but i had a interesting conversation with him that i recall animate donald trump for
the first time which was nuzzling women at the bar. in any event, they met at the club and trump had a problem, a legal problem. he and his father were being sued for greatest commission and housing under the fair housing act and they were being prosecuted by the civil rights division in the nixon justice department and the evidence against trump was overwhelming. testers will go out to the trump house, a black tester would be told there are no apartments available in a half-hour later a white tester, probably fbi agents would ask if there were apartments available and they were shown apartments and told,
that they can have almost any apartment that they wanted. and trump went to a number of lawyers in a most any reputable lawyer would say this is the case that should be settled with the justice department and you really just get a slap on the wrist without admitting or denying the allegations of the complaint you degree not to discriminate in the future. and maybe take an ad saying fair housing landlord. and he said, screw the advice you're getting from these other lawyers, we have to fight the case and trump like that advice. so he retained him in the first thing he did was call a press conference. and he said this was a terrible miscarriage of justice, the
justice department and it was a witch hunt, freeze that he had borrowed from the mccarthy era when others accused him of engaging of a witch-hunt. and so there was his paranoia about the case and the second thing cohen did was he counterclaimed against the government for $100 million. the counterclaim gets back to the question, what does that have to do with law, the counterclaim is supposed to be a good faith device with the defendant can assert a claim that he or she has against the plaintiff. he used the counterattack, it was the art of war, on his or her heels to make them feel
vulnerable cohen and trump made statements in particular the rich or the beer crops are the politicians they don't like it counterclaim and they don't like the idea of having to pay a large sum of money. and two weeks later judge in the eastern district of new york dismissed the counterclaims. and why he did not sanction trump i will never know. the second thing they did was attack the justice department attorneys, one later became the respective judge in california and accused them of storm trooper tactics. and the judge put that matter on and he had no case for them engaging in storm trooper tactics and was irrelevant anyways. so we asked the judge to market off the counter.
the justice department said, don't market off the calendar, we want a hearing. he's accused the principal lawyers of misconduct and we should have a hearing. so they said will hold a hearing. so that's what judges do. they had a hearing and the judge exonerated the lawyers and that's all that happened in the case in two years. and finally, the judge said why don't you settle case and he said yes, maybe we should settle the case, what was the settlement, the entered into a consent without admitting or denying the allegations and agree not to discriminate in the future and agreed to take an ad in the paper which trump said cost too much so they changed the ad so it was a little more brief so they got the same settlement three years earlier
and trump was advised he could handle the truck under department of justice. that was the end of the race discrimination case except for one thing. three years later, the justice department determined they were violating the consent decree and continuing to discriminate against blacks and latinos housing. and how that ended nobody is sure it's buried in the court files. but that was how they first met and that so trump began to admire cohn and his tactics. cohn -- i don't want to belabor the point about him but he was someone who had beaten the system. that's what attracted him to trump, he had been indicted three times. they had the honor to serve and he had been acquitted three times. in one of the occasions there
was where he was able to sum up in his own behalf without taking a stand but in the event he beat the system and trump love that. so that was one aspect of the relationship. the other aspect was, the trump's had never operated in manhattan and they knew no one in manhattan and cohn knew everyone in manhattan, he lit up the town, he knew the talents of the catholic church, the politicians, the social people, he had a birthday party every year and you would not believe who would attend the birthday party, mobsters, city councilman, judges, they were all there in many were people who were awaiting trial and joey adams said if you're indicted, you're invited.
[laughter] and he met, he wanted to build buildings in manhattan and to do that the builders had two options, one was used structural steel which was less expensive and the other was to use concrete which is more expensive because the concrete business was controlled by mobsters. catalano was later gunned down in a new york street in solano was sent to a long prison term and died while in custody. in trump for some strange reason opted to construct trump tower out of poor concrete. in constructing trump tower, he
poured concrete and had to deal mobsters. he had to deal with the president john cody whose girlfriend got for apartments and trump tower even though she had no visible means of support. during the time of construction, the whole thing is a story, you read a book just about the construction of trump tower. during the time of construction there was a citywide strike and there was no construction going on because no one could get past the picket lines except one place, that was trump tower. where the poured concrete flowed into the construction of the building. so trump's ties to the mob and later in atlantic city run deep and i going to them in the book and they were all very interesting.
>> there has been a bit of a renaissance in just a few weeks ago your wonderful spouse had a premier event for the documentary" the husband attributed to trump and we certainly seen a number of lawyers attempt to fill a role for trump. michael, rudy giuliani and both men who have served as attorney general. jeff sessions and now bill barr. my question is, what does actually mean in the context of trump? >> it really means that you don't hire a lawyer and have a lawyer to protect your legal rights and trump's view. trump is a day trader and has only one objective and that is to win. you hire a lawyer to win, right cohn was someone you hired to
win and to grind your adversary into the dust. trump used to have a photograph of cohn in his desk and when someone would come in a tradesman or lawyer and ask to be repaid, trump would reach into his desk and taken a picture as if it was medusa and say this is my lawyer, you go tell them in a wand out the guy was stiff and they never able to correct. he left a trail of suppliers, creditors and architects and even his dentist who never got paid. so that is what that means pre-he made the statement from the white house and when he recused himself and he wanted to get mueller fired and there was no one around to fire mueller.
and that was the context. so he used it for the wonderful movie that he saw. >> you offer a great commentary in the documentary. your front and center which is terrific. and in theaters nationally. here's another question, consider how front center twitter is another social media channels. our president trump and national discourse, what will be have seen if twitter had been around in the cohn days. >> he was more comfort than over. i don't think he would've written a tweet because he would've had to have attribution, he liked to whisper in someone's photographs of him coming where he is whispering in mccarthy's ear. when i saw him stand trial in
the southern district, he was whispering in that year of his partner constantly. he was paranoid about being overheard in because of that, he often talked in codes and when i first met him in the grand jury, they had all sorts of witnesses to testify and they were friends of his and he would go round with each witness and go like that with his hand and i naïvely, because there was a new assistant, thought he was giving them encouragement. but he was really saying take the fifth. . . .
>> first you see the asymmetrical approach of truth to defend against these very serious accusations against him the first line of defense who is this whistleblower? he is a spy he is committing treason attacked by someone who has remained anonymous and then he is informed by third parties that we don't know so that's the first line of defense that that whistleblower statute if they weren't anonymous there would be no whistleblowers. in the statute which was amended shortly before this incident allows the whistleblower to rely on
hearsay but so does a grand jury and agent testifies before the grand jury that they interviewed somebody and these are the facts. and they can indict that - - based on that so there's nothing inherently wrong for the list of lore to rely on hearsay. then the whistleblower complaint first was tried to shield from public scrutiny saying there was no crime as a basis but millions of dollar of aid was involved in winds up in the house of representatives so the next thing you do is threaten to sue. he said he would sue nancy pelosi and adam shift to conspire to overthrow the
united states and then said the procedure it lacks due process and that can't confront his accusers the grand jury came from star chamber the whole idea they would conduct secret proceedings to frame the accusation to be determined no crime has been committed the reputation the possible target where they can continue with their lives. so he attacked the procedure. actually more information is coming out of the house
impeachment inquiry then comes out of the grand jury. every witness has a prepared statement that is released to the public we know the substance because it has been released and no grand jury proceeding is witness for his or her prepared statement to the public and that's not a requirement and that's hardly ever done. so you can see all the techniques playing out the way trump confronts this. with his last statement add of exasperation i will sue anybody who kisses me off and that's a litigious president we have and that's what he learned with 3500 lawsuits. >> when you compare that litigious nature up against the inquiry unlike anything we
have ever seen before. >> the trump card is control over the senate it is unfathomable he is the passport to power without trump they have no position at all and he is in a position to run against them in primaries and cut off campaign funds so is mitch mcconnell and in the position to relieve them of committee assignments so he has a very political impact - - practical control of republican senators. that is the exactly the kind of i can make you do what i want you to do these practical
lessons are not that much different if you ratchet that up from the bronx to washington and how people behave or bend under pressure and under threats and comply with the will of the person and that's the behavior that you see in the united states senate. so far it seems to be working. lindsey graham, i don't know what's in his head but he has become a staunch advocate for her trump in the senate trying to throttle the whole proceeding before it has begun. >> but with legal process and
the rule of law in a democracy. >> of course john marshall said we are a government of laws not men go today he would say men and women and the rule of law has been undermined the courts have said it that trump has conducted himself as though the law is to be sidestepped and is meaningless and is able to control events without regard to the rule of law. in the book i call him the anti- legal president because he doesn't like judges who rule against him with a judge rules against him, he is the mexican judge or the obama judge.
there is no respect for a judge to interpret the law and apply the law as written. and that undermines the whole society and mentioning justice scalia someone i did not admire in many ways but i do admire that he said what really protects our liberties is not the bill of rights anybody can have a bill of rights what protects our liberties is the separation of powers that coequal branches of government with checks and balances on the excesses of each department and in particular the executive. hamilton and madison did not want a man on horseback that was a king but someone subject to the rule of law they created a constitution which
trump has sworn to protect and defend that which he proceeds to ignore for just that reason. so i think we are living in a very dangerous time setting a dangerous precedent how will that end? and of us knows i prefer to think no public man can remain at the center of the controversy indefinitely. >> we will open up for questions please be mindful c-span is recording. >>.
interestingly enough you liked roy cohn because he said he wasn't a big charger and i think he ran with him because he thought he was political cover and would give him entrée to important representation. he like to be wherever the action was and be there at trump tower. he brought the case against the nfl even though he was dying of aids at the time and affliction he never admitted that he had. and i think trumps record of paying lawyers is not very good he thought they were people to be used and exploited and had contempt for lawyers except as a vehicle to achieve his objectives. i hope that answers your question.
>> so how did he get the job with mccarthy so who was his rabbi? >> exactly the system that cohen grew up in. he graduated from law school before he was 21. and then to be admitted to the bar under the rules then and god a job with the us attorney's office i think because his father had political influence in the bronx and then to be assigned to the rosenberg case he was not to remain the prosecutor of course it was the trial of the century to bring him national recognition and it turned out later that trump or that cohen had put perjury on
part of the principal witness that was exposed and he took glee in the execution of the rosenbergs and said if i had been there i would have pulled the switch myself anyway the anti-communist dance attracted him to the archdiocese which was then very powerful politically they recommended to j edgar hoover and edgar hoover knew about him anyway and got the job of special counsel of attorney general in washington then hoover recommended him to mccarthy. his competition was kennedy who was on the staff of the senate select committee. :-colon edged him out and later claimed kennedy had a
grudge and then became chief counsel to senator mccarthy. >> good morning. he began one of his questions what does it mean for the rule of law and democracy? let me ask about the impeachment what does it mean as a lifelong democrat fundraiser operative, the works for my party but what does it mean for the rule of law in democracy with 200 years of house procedure and most importantly, the two modern impeachment presidents nixon and clinton when the speaker comes out of her close dark corners to announce the impeachment inquiry is official without a resolution of the house with a discussion
in suing and a vote i don't buy that for one second i'm not a fan of donald trump but i think the party in the house majority is way behind the eight ball on this we can discuss politics bit constitution of law go to the text first it is very clear it could not be more clear the house shall. your reaction my reaction is that is one of the most important proceedings in our government to commence a proceeding to remove an
unofficial or the president and not to be taken light - - slightly that is what due process is all about. and we condemn if we do at all. tupelo sees credit they did not introduce a resolution for impeachment which bid be viewed as a partisan act and to her credit she said she wanted more evidence and it turns out they were amassing some very significant evidence with regard to ukraine and the quid pro quo and they are
proceeding in a fair way because carrying these witnesses just like the grand jury proceeding for go i cannot pass on the political fallout perhaps what they are doing is offensive but it isn't to me i think it is consistent and is consistent with the constitution. if you want to bring up the constitution when you have the emoluments clause which the president of the united states calls it phony as if it was enacted by democrats last week. [laughter] and he says he is in the hospitality business so why can't he invite foreign
>> and that it started with the interference of the election started with ukraine to be discredited and newspapers are supposed to stress what is important and what is most important about the transcript is to say to president zelinski that i need a favor and that was to get dirt on biden's son and then on biden we have that it has made the whole whistleblower complaint irrelevant because it has occurred in a telephone conversation where we have incomplete but significant
>> and that has for the court to defraud his clients said he was pretty disreputable. and the one case that occurs to me is a group of tenants trying to resist trump is forcing them out for a condominium. so they formed a tenants group they retained reputable lawyers and trump brought the rico case against the lawyers and that was thrown out the lawyers were represented and
at the conclusion of the case paul white suggested that trump be sanctioned for a baseless counterclaim. and the court said in the deposition to discover his basis to sue the lawyers although trump said he never settles with the case he did settle and it was hushed up it didn't come out until later when the lawyer from the law firm disclosed in the book that he wrote. >> you just mentioned attorneys sanctioned and the
counterclaim of roy :-colon and the case that was dismissed with a federal judge referring to his position as repugnant pushing the claim he cannot even be investigated and it seems he has a history with the frivolous claims and defenses which you discussed already. so to what extent through the thousands of lawsuits that judges have called him out on these frivolous claims are sanctioned him? >> i am unaware of the case against the tenants lawyers where he was sanctioned to settle the case and paid the sanctions but certainly in the polish brigade case arising out of the construction of trump tower where he retained
undocumented polish workers and denied he even knew they were there even though he told lawyers he knew they were there and said the polish guys really know how to work hard and said the testimony was not worthy they did not react well. but the most interesting recent case which was a total outrage that he brought in the federal court from subpoena business records including tax returns that it appears the secret payments to stormy daniels.
and the first reason why i have said publicly i thought he should be sanctioned i didn't think there was a basis to be sued because that in junction statute that prevents an interference with state proceedings and amended their complaint that said trumps civil rights were a bridge that's where there's a federal question that the federal court should abstain and then to go on to reach the merits of the extraordinary claim trump was making was that the
president was not only immune from prosecution and indictment to appeal in the second and said your client is quoted to say he can choose somebody on fifth avenue and people would still vote for him. so let me ask you suppose he shot somebody on fifth avenue using the police could not investigate or interview witnesses? or see if they could get a statement from him? or to gather the surveillance tape? and so much more complicated and intrusive and now they're just asking for documents so
now the seven years of tax returns five of the years trump wasn't even the president. so the information he saw is largely private information none of it relates to him being prepped one - - president. and prosecutors routinely subpoena business records but then the whole problem is compounded by the justice department because it's quite common to be involved where the president is sued over official acts. and if he failed to pay the dry cleaner before official
acts they'll implicate the justice department but it is unknown to come in when the president is suing to suggest there is violence to the constitutional structure to have an investigation or inquiry of private tax returns. >> first of all thank you for your book. it's important work in the dialogue for go i have a couple of questions. why did you write the book and what do you hope is the impact? and second you said nobody knows how this will turn out
but i want you to reconsider that if you are looking at this case in connecticut what is the endgame i'm a child of new york city. as the dean mentioned all the things that went on it is the underworld. the stuff that went on with michael cohen and real estate is the underworld of new york city and is not pretty. there has been great harm done no doubt just to the public consciousness how partisan effects have never been like this in my lifetime. but the lack of stability in
the viciousness that people attack from a partisan viewpoint to be put aside completely but john god he eventually. how do you see this with the russian investigation or these tax issues and said here is my crystal ball? >> you put your finger on why i wrote the book. [laughter] i don't know how that will come out it wouldn't pretend to know i may even be reluctant to venture a prediction because trump has cheated so many times.
but what is important from the point of view of the rule of law that somebody has various crimes that trump has committed the tactics he employed and to discredit the class representative when there was no real gain to get rid of the class representative the attacks on the judge involved in the case because of the judges mexican ancestry who is a highly respected judge he and his family had to be under guard for five years because of his role as a judge in a narcotics case. i think him using the rico
statute to attack his partners to exact money from them is extortion and blackmail and it is such a parade of horrible's i wanted to write it down. is a legal book because i am a lawyer and i am offended by what he has done to pervert the legal system. i'm not hiding my politics i am middle-of-the-road republican my father ran for office as a republican for the state senate and was defeated by a ticket head by fdr in 1844 and i remember whenever we got into a taxi he would say east river drive you would never say fdr. [laughter]
but i didn't intend that as a political book the core of this is we see ourselves in the period of truth decay where what we read in the papers challenge does not read true those facts are disputed even they they are contestable to be informed you have to know the truth i hope in some small way my book contributes to the truth and the articles of impeachment layout crimes to violate federal election but beyond that from what the framers intended to be no foreign interference in the government of the united states and that has been laid out and exposed if he is
acquitted and reelected then we have four more years that are unconscionable then it serves the populous right but i hope that won't happen i don't think it will happen i think the american people will understand there will be a backlash against that environment you described. >> thank you for your extraordinary work. [applause] timely and relevant and interesting. >> i want to tell you how honored i am. thank you so much. [inaudible conversations]
>> i decided to publish this anonymously because this debate is not about me but us and how we want the presidency to affect our country and that is where the discussion said center someone call this cowardice my feelings are not hurt by the accusation nor am i prepared to attach to criticism of president trump i may do so in due course expanding on the op-ed from the new york times in september 2018 entitled i am
part of the resistance in the new book correcting the assertion from the opinion piece from last year. i was wrong about the quiet resistance inside the trump administration unelected bureaucrats and cabinet appointees were never going to fear him or find his malignant management style. he is who he is. joe klein who is a longtime anonymous author of the clinton novel primary colors. check your program guide for schedule information.
regarded they are expressing a belief to actually live up to those rules if we don't have people trusting the legal system it cannot operate they don't get the help from the community for who was to blame. so this call for forgiveness on my part is a way to say that is one way we trust with one another. ♪ >> i'm the provost at the university of tennessee at martnd
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