Thursday, March 23, 2017

Martha Stewart wound up in an orange jumpsuit for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, and Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions might be heading down the same path

Martha Stewart
If domestic diva Martha Stewart served five months in federal prison for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions should not be above such a fate, should he? Our answer is "hell, no!" Sec. 1001, commonly known as "making false statements," might be the biggest threat to Sessions' freedom -- and his political life.

Sessions' vulnerability to a Sec. 1001 prosecution first came to light via a complaint to the Alabama State Bar by Boston-area attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee. Before the Larrabee complaint hit the news, many Americans probably thought the main possible charge against Sessions would be perjury (under 18 U.S.C. 1621) -- and some prominent legal analysts, such as George Washington University's Jonathan Turley, pooh-poohed the notion that such a charge could be brought.

I'm not sure Turley is right about that, but even if he is, perjury might not present Sessions' biggest hurdle. That could come from Sec. 1001, as Larrabee explains in his bar complaint:

On March 6, 2017, Sessions submitted a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee supplementing his testimony on January 10, 2017. (Letter from Sessions to Charles E. Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, attached hereto as Exhibit “A.”)

Sessions claimed in the letter that his response to [U.S. Sen. Al] Franken, denying any communications with the Russians during the campaign, “was correct.” Rather than acknowledge the falsity of his prior testimony, Sessions willfully and deliberately insisted that his prior false testimony was correct. In doing so, Sessions made an additional material false statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee and attempted to conceal and cover up his prior false testimony and perjury.

This comes under the heading of "The Cover-up Is Worse Than the Crime," and Larrabee asserts that it violates Sec. 1001. How is this for a possible case of irony? More than 10 years later, many Americans likely think Martha Stewart went to prison for insider trading or perjury. But she actually got nailed for lying to government agents. And Sessions, while trying to clarify his perjury before the U.S. Senate, stepped in the same brier patch that ensnared Martha Stewart.

A 2004 article at Graziadio Business Review puts the Stewart case in perspective. Its title is "Businesspersons Beware: Lying Is A Crime":

In recent corporate scandals, some executives have learned the hard way that lying is still a crime in corporate America. Martha Stewart was accused of selling her ImClone stock allegedly after receiving insider information. However, she was not convicted of securities fraud. She was instead convicted for lying. In addition, Computer Associates executives were indicted and some have already pleaded guilty for lying to their own company’s attorney during an internal investigation when their lies were passed on by their attorney to the government. . . .

Lying is a crime because those who lie in a judicial proceeding are destroying the essential fabric of the “rule of law,” which has enabled capitalism to be so successful in the United States. Lying is and must be a crime in a judicial proceeding—and must be enforced against everyone—whether he or she is the President of the United States, the president of a Fortune 500 multinational organization, or the janitor. Stewart’s crime of lying must be viewed not only in terms of how it may have impacted her own company and shareholders,[4] but must also be viewed in light of the potential damage to our entire economy if lying were suddenly to be tolerated in our judicial proceedings. After all, if it is okay for Stewart to lie, then how can we complain about accountants who lie about a company’s financial audits, executives who lie about their company’s sales and revenues, or analysts who lie about their stock recommendations? What then makes us think that anyone will continue to invest their money in the American stock market, which has been the driving force of our brand of successful capitalism during the second half of the 20th century?

Martha Stewart hardly is the only business exec to run afoul of Sec. 1001. So have Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Skilling, along with political figures Scooter Libby and Rod Blagojevich.

Will we soon be making way for Jeff Sessions?


Anonymous said...

The news just keeps getting worse for Trump -- Comey, Manafort, Nunes, etc. It's not even drip . . . drip . . . drip. It's a deluge.

Anonymous said...

I sure felt safer when Martha Stewart was in prison.

Anonymous said...

Like a lot of folks, I had forgotten Martha Stewart got in trouble for lying, and that Jeff Sessions has done the same thing. She lied about stocks or something?

legalschnauzer said...

@10:38 --

As I understand it, Stewart's main crime was getting greedy. She had stock in a company that was about to take a hit, and she sold a bunch of it after getting an insider tip that things were going south. Insider trading started the investigation, but she was convicted of making false statements to government agents. I can't remember the amount of money involved -- the amount Stewart stood to lose -- but given her net worth, I doubt it hardly would have been a catastrophe.

Anonymous said...

Any chance Sessions resigns?

legalschnauzer said...

@10:43 --

I doubt it, but if I were him, I would be thinking about it. My guess is that he's already committed crimes, and still would be subject to prosecution even if he resigns. But with the number of Trumpistas apparently involved in misdeeds, Sessions might quickly be forgotten if he steps down, goes back to Mobile, and tries his best to fade from view. He was stupid to ever get involved with a clown like Trump anyway. I think Martha Stewart got greedy for money, and Sessions got greedy for power. Would be interested to hear what others think of a possible Sessions resignation. If I were him -- and I'm sure he's financially set for life -- the last thing I would want is the possibility of spending my twilight years behind bars. His arrogance, however, probably makes him think he's above that -- the old "it can't happen to me " syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the Larrabee bar complaint get into possible campaign-finance violations involving Sessions?

legalschnauzer said...

@10:57 --

Yes, it does, and I would encourage folks to check out the whole complaint; it's not too long.

Larrabee outlines three areas of criminal conduct by Sessions: (1) Perjury; (2) False statements; (3) Campaign-finance violations.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people like Martha Stewart are happy to accept the rewards that can come with the stock market, but they aren't so happy to accept the risks. If you jump in the game, you are going to take your lumps sometimes. Even Nick Saban loses on the football field from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Martha Stewart reminds me of Donald Trump with boobs. She's much smarter than he is, has much more class, and would make a much better president. But like Trump, she thinks she has an inherent right to always be a winner in life. Losing is for other people. But that's not the way the stock market works, and it's not the way real life works either. We all are subject to being losers at some point. That's when you show some grace, get up off the mat, dust yourself off, and move forward. Trump makes no attempt at showing grace. Stewart exhibits grace on the outside, but on the inside, it's a different story.

e.a.f. said...

a small informal pool. my nickel, Canadian, so its worth less than an American nickel, says all will be forgiven and forgotten. Nothing will happen to Sessions and he isn't going to resign because he was appointed by Trump to keep the lid on things. if I'm wrong and lord knows I've been a few times, if Sessions goes, I predict the whole lot goes. Just a guess.

Martha Stewart has always been able to "re invent" herself. trump and sessions not so much. they aren't that flexible or smart.