New York Attorney General Eric “Shakedown” Schneiderman has just been walloped with an ethics complaint.
A long and meticulously detailed 228-page ethics complaint.
Filed by… Donald Trump.
While the word isn’t in the complaint, the New York State Constitution has a specific term for what Trump is describing.
That would be found in Article XIII, Section 5, which provides for the removal of state officials — including the attorney general — for “misconduct or malversation….”
What is “malversation”? Webster’s defines it this way:
improper or corrupt behavior, esp. in public office
How did Schneiderman respond?
By sending out an ex-Obama campaign staffer to denounce Trump — thereby making Trump’s point exactly. A point to which we will return.
Let’s talk malversation, shall we? Specifically the malversation of Eric Schneiderman. In chapter and verse.
Trump begins his complaint by immediately issuing “respectfully” a “request that the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics commence an investigation into the misconduct of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman…. As detailed in this Complaint, Mr. Schneiderman committed multiple violations of New York Public Officers Law Section 74 by, among other illegal conduct, soliciting campaign contributions and other fundraising endorsements from Mr. Trump and other high profile Trump Org. executives during an active investigation by the Office of the Attorney (the ‘OAG’) into Trump Org.’s affiliate, Trump Entrepreneurial Initiative… (TEI).”
Got that? Charges that Mr. Schneiderman — whom we have taken to calling “Shakedown Schneiderman” for what are now seriously obvious reasons — “committed multiple violations” of the very laws he is specifically charged with enforcing.
Which is, according to the New York State Constitution, “malversation.”
Follow the money, Woodward and Bernstein were told when uncovering the Watergate scandal. Reading Donald Trump’s voluminous ethics complaint filed this week against Schneiderman, the money trail — make that the malversation trail —right down to photo copies of cashed checks, is easy to follow. So let’s follow it.
• 2010: Candidate for Attorney General of New York Eric Schneiderman makes two unannounced visits to Donald Trump in Trump’s Fifth Avenue Trump Tower offices. His campaign is struggling and he is there, records the complaint, “to personally request that Mr. Trump contribute to his campaign.” Trump says that “I also received numerous phone calls from Mr. Schneiderman and his representatives seeking financial support for his campaign.”
• October 12, 2010: Donald Trump gives Schneiderman’s campaign a $12,500 campaign contribution.
• 2010: “At Mr. Schneiderman’s specific request, I also introduced him to a number of wealthy New Yorkers so that he could solicit campaign contributions.”
Stop here. What comes next, which I will supply with bold print, begins to show Schneiderman’s shakedown method of operation kicking in. Says The Donald:
But for Mr. Schneiderman, it was never enough. Even though his election was not of particular importance to me, Mr. Schneiderman always wanted more and acted as if I was not doing my part to assist him in his election campaign.
Recall that what would later become a lawsuit by the Attorney General over what had originally been called Trump University — its name voluntarily changed to the Trump Entrepreneurial Initiative (TEI) after a complaint from New York bureaucrats over the use of the word “university” — was set in motion by a frivolous complaint from a handful of students (out of 10,000!) who decided they were unhappy with their results from TEI. Thousands of others — the overwhelming majority — were perfectly happy, of course, and in fact not just happy campers but enthusiastic as recorded by the attendees themselves in voluntary written assessments of TEI. But there’s always a few in any crowd, and this being an event bearing the name of Donald Trump, eventually those few made their way with what the Trump complaint calls a “frivolous lawsuit” to the inevitable lawyers. Specifically they made their way to the law firm of Robbins, Geller, Rudman and Dowd LLP.
Which is why it is important to note this revelation from Trump’s filing.
• October 25, 2010: Eric Schneiderman “according to public records, accepted $15,000 in campaign contributions from attorneys Patrick Daniels and Michael Dowd, both founding partners with the law firm of Robbins, Geller, Rudman and Dowd LLP.”
Why is this important? Trump’s filing again, bold emphasis mine:
These contributions were particularly significant in that, at the time they were made, the Robbins Geller firm was already representing former students… in a lawsuit against TEI in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.
• January 1, 2011: Eric Schneiderman is sworn in as Attorney General of New York. He takes the following oath as provided by the New York State Constitution:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of attorney general, according to the best of my ability;
• May 17, 2011: “…a mere six months after accepting my (October) campaign contribution, Mr. Schneiderman and the Office of the Attorney General (‘OAG’) launched an investigation into TEI by serving… a subpoena demanding the production of thousands of documents from TEI. Notably, in the subpoena, the OAG focused their inquiry on virtually the exact same issues that were already being litigated in the California action filed by the Robbins Geller firm. Prior to receiving the subpoena, the OAG had never given any indication that it was even considering investigating TEI.”
The investigation was in fact part of a larger investigation into for-profit universitiesand trade schools operating in New York, focused “primarily” on those receiving state or federal subsidies, which TEI was not receiving.
Now. What comes next is a key to understanding the way Schneiderman operates his “malversation.”
• May 17, 2011: “Within literally minutes of receiving the subpoena, Trump Org. received a call from New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro, seeking comment from the Trump Parties regarding the detailed allegations set forth in the subpoena for an article he was set to publish.”
This was quickly followed by a flood of calls from “reporters from numerous, other media outlets.”
This was what was termed in this space a few weeks back in a story on Trump’s legal response to the Schneiderman lawsuit as the “horse head in the bed” routine. I described it this way:
You remember Khartoum the race horse. The scene is immortalized in the Oscar-winning film The Godfather.
The rich and famous Hollywood producer Jack Woltz, owner of the $600,000 Secretariat-like race horse Khartoum, refuses to put Mafia Don Vito Corleone’s favored godson Johnny Fontane in a movie. One fine morning, Woltz awakens, horrified, to find the severed head of his beloved race horse — whom he has lovingly described beforehand as “the greatest racehorse in the world” — in his blood-soaked bed. As seen here in the legendary scene from the film version of Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel. Message delivered, Don Corleone’s god son Johnny Fontane gets his movie part from the thoroughly terrified movie producer.
In other words, Trump was to settle — or else. He had now been served with a subpoena for documents, and was cooperating fully, astonished at finding himself in this position.
What comes next is a truly remarkable series of details in the Malversation of Eric Schneiderman.
What comes next is a truly remarkable series of details in the Malversation of Eric Schneiderman.
• Ivanka Trump:
Throughout TEI’s cooperation with the OAG’s investigation as well as during subsequent settlement discussions between TEI and representatives from the OAG, Mr. Schneiderman, both directly and through his former transition committee leader, totally unsolicited, personally assured me and other Trump Org. executives, including my daughter Ivanka M. Trump, that the OAG’s investigation into TEI was weak, that it was ‘going nowhere,’ and that it would never result in a lawsuit.
So in other words, after slapping Donald Trump out of the blue with a subpoena, taking this news to the media, demanding and getting complete cooperation from Trump with thousands of TEI documents, Schneiderman “both directly” and through someone else insisted the possibility of a lawsuit was “going nowhere.”
Sometime “in or about May 2011” — which is to say when Donald Trump was served with the subpoena for TEI documents and the story was leaked to the New York Times and other media, Schneiderman “had his former transition committee leader reach out to Ms. Trump to ask if she and her husband, Jared Kushner, could introduce him to some of the couple’s young, wealthy and accomplished friends and colleagues. In this regard, Mr. Schneiderman’s representative advised Ms. Trump that Mr. Schneiderman was interested in establishing relationships with ‘the next generation of influential New Yorkers’ in hopes of gaining their respect, thereby assuring their financial support of his future political aspirations.”
What did Ivanka Trump do?
• June 20, 2011: On this June morning, her father already served with that subpoena a month earlier and repeatedly assured there was no lawsuit coming, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner hosted a “meet and greet” breakfast for the Attorney General in the Trump International Hotel & Tower. In attendance, as requested, 15-20 of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s “most accomplished friends and colleagues.”
Breakfast over, Schneiderman then sent a “handwritten letter on official OAG letterhead thanking them for the breakfast.” The last two sentences of which read, bold print for emphasis in the Trump ethics complaint:
Good luck with your next big adventure. It is much more important than any of the rest of the stuff we deal with!
The letter was signed: “Eric.”
Translation? Pay no attention to the idea of a lawsuit. It isn’t going anywhere.
• September 22, 2011: With the investigation still ongoing, and persistently assured that no lawsuit was coming, Schneiderman’s former transition committee leader asks Ivanka Trump to a Schneiderman-sponsored fundraiser for the newly elected California Attorney General, Kamala Harris. Donald Trump, given “Mr. Schneiderman’s persistent, unsolicited and unqualified reassurances that the investigation would never eventuate in a lawsuit, and my sincere belief that there was no wrongdoing on the part of TEI,” says that “I did not perceive any issue with trying to assist Mr. Schneiderman whenever I or other Trump Org. executives were able.” Thus Donald Trump makes the maximum donation requested — $5000. And daughter Ivanka attends the event with other Trump executives — as the personal guest of Eric Schneiderman.
• January 12, 2012: Yet again comes another request to Ivanka Trump. This time Schneiderman wants a dinner with Ivanka, husband Jared and, at Schneiderman’s request, New York billionaire Marc Lasry, the co-founder of Avenue Capital Group. Mr. Schneiderman wanted an introduction to Lasry from Ivanka, and the dinner took place as requested.
• June 30, 2012: At a wedding this day at Cipriani Wall Street, the Attorney General is in attendance along with Ivanka Trump. He seeks her out and “after some small talk, struck up a conversation about his office’s investigation into TEI.” Completely unsolicited, Schneiderman launched into a narrative that his office was “highly bureaucratic,” that one of the “most difficult” aspects of his job was managing the “hundreds of attorneys” on his staff, that the case against TEI was “very weak,” a “non-event,” and “going nowhere.” Schneiderman also told Ivanka that her father didn’t have to worry because Schneiderman had “no intention of moving forward” with a lawsuit and TEI should just be “patient” and “let things play out” while he “went through the motions” to satisfy his staff.
• October 15, 2012: For months after that meeting at the wedding, Schneiderman was repeatedly calling Ivanka and husband Jared for “dates and times when they could all get together again.” That moment arrived on October 15, when the three met for drinks at the Four Seasons watering hole The Bar. For two full hours Schneiderman talked about his ambition for higher office and the importance of “friendship and loyalty” — something Schneiderman said was “so rare in politics.”
• April 17, 2013: Not satisfied with requesting favors from both Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump, Schneiderman now put the arm on Michael Cohen, a Trump Organization executive, who ponied up a thousand bucks for a Schneiderman fundraiser on this date in April. Like clockwork, Cohen too was on the receiving end of an unsolicited Schneiderman monologue saying that the investigation into TEI was going nowhere, that Trump should be “patient” and “let it ride” and that “no lawsuit would ever eventuate.”
To get an idea of the level of chutzpah Schneiderman possesses, Cohen reminded the attorney general that he, Cohen, was Donald Trump’s Special Counsel as well as being a Trump executive. Which is to say, Schneiderman was telling all of this “not to worry” business to Donald Trump’s lawyer. Schneiderman just plowed on anyway, asking the Trump lawyer to use his Trump influence to “persuade players on the New York Giants and the New York Jets with whom Mr. Cohen is friendly, along with other celebrities and athletes whom Mr. Cohen knows,” to attend future Schneiderman fundraisers. The requests kept coming, with Schneiderman’s fundraising consultant repeatedly badgering Cohen for help even as the attorney general’s office had an ongoing investigation moving along on TEI.
• July 20, 2013: Michael Cohen gets a letter from Schneiderman thanking him for the $1,000 contribution.
One month and five days later, August 25 — a Saturday, no less — Donald Trump learns out of the blue — from an ABC producer, no less — that he is now being sued by Eric Schneiderman. With Schneiderman launching a national media blitz to scorn and malign Trump from coast to coast.
And what was the response of Eric Schneiderman after the news was out that Donald Trump had filed a complaint against him with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics?
Tellingly, Eric Schneiderman sent out a spokesman named Matt Mittenthal to defend him against charges that he had grossly corrupted the power of his office.
Here’s a question. Who is Matt Mittenthal?
You guessed it. The New York Daily News identifies Mittenthal as formerly “of President Obama’s campaign in Pennsylvania.”
As we have noted in this space before, Schneiderman has a penchant for staffing the attorney general’s office with left-leaning politicos, guaranteeing the one government agency that is supposed to be devoted to equal justice is in fact, as has proved true in the Trump case, all about politics. Mittenthal joins a coterie of political operatives who were or are still Schneiderman staffers in the AG’s office. Micha Lash, the chief of staff and well-known Democrat operative; ex-chief of staff Neal Kwatra, a left-wing union activist; Melissa DeRosa, the ex-deputy chief of staff and acting chief of staff now departed to work for Governor Andrew Cuomo; and Damien LaVera, a “senior adviser and chief spokesman” who worked at the Democratic National Committee for Howard Dean as well as in the Obama Energy Department.
From beginning to end, the highly detailed review of Schneiderman’s performance in Donald Trump’s ethics complaint presents a vivid picture of precisely what the New York State Constitution calls “malversation” — improper or corrupt behavior in public office. In the case of Donald Trump, clearly for political purposes.
There is another phrase for what we now know about Eric “Shakedown” Schneiderman as revealed in the Trump ethics complaint.
That phrase would be “breach of faith.”
The very heart of the idea of an attorney general — in this case in the state of New York (or for that matter anywhere else) — is the faith that there is one person at least who upholds the principle that all New Yorkers — rich and poor, famous and unknown alike — are equal before the law. That they are protected by that law. And that no matter the corruption that may be uncovered elsewhere in or out of government, the attorney general is there to ensure justice without prejudice and without rancor.
And most importantly?
To make damn certain that the fix isn’t in.
Eric Schneiderman has breached that faith.
The fix was in for Donald Trump.
And according to the Constitution of New York State?
That is malversation — cause for removal from office.
Your move, Governor Cuomo.