Years ago, a public figure in the Reagan administration was accused of lying to Congress. Reportedly, he ridiculed the charge by asking “what’s next, lying to Evans and Novak?” Evans and Novak were prominent journalists of the time. They hosted a television show.
Thirty years later, a group of leftist law professors is charging Kellyanne Conway with, in effect, “lying to Evans and Novak.” The Washington Post reports that 15 law professors (a low number, as these things go) have filed a professional misconduct complaint against Conway. They lodged the complaint with the District of Columbia Bar, to which she was admitted in 1995. Conway, who became a pollster not a lawyer (and never looked back), has not kept up her membership.
The law professors’ complaint letter cites Conway for making a false statement during a television interview. She said that President Obama banned Iraqi refugees from coming into the U.S. after a massacre in Bowling Green. There was no ban and no such massacre. With Evans and Novak no longer around, Conway made the misstatement to Chris Matthews.
The law professors also point to Conway’s endorsement (such as it was) of Ivanka Trump’s products. I discussed event this here. The professors say the “endorsement” broke federal ethics rules, which technically it probably did, and purport to deem the violation grounds for discipline by the bar association.
The law professors also complain that Conway used the term “alternative facts” to describe the White House view of the size of the inauguration day crowd. “Alternative facts are not facts at all; they are lies,” the profs sniff. But an alternative version of the facts is not necessarily a lie, and this, I think, was what Conway meant to say.
Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal says that the professors’ complaint “could go nowhere — and take a long time getting there. It certainly deserves that fate.
If Conway’s misstatement of facts about Obama’s Iraqi refugee policy is grounds for bar discipline, then I want to know whether the statute of limitations is up for such Obama statements as “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
If Conway’s technical violation of rules in connection with comments about Ivanka’s product lines is grounds for bar discipline, then I want to know whether the statute of limitations is up for Hillary Clinton’s violation of government rules on the handling of documents — and also for the many misstatements Hillary made about her server as she tried to dissemble her way out of political difficulty.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, is obviously correct when he calls the charges “overtly political.” As such, they open up a future in which partisans will call for bar investigations every time a political figure misstates a fact — an every day occurrence — or maybe states a fact someone doesn’t agree with.
Turley takes the complaint about Ivanka’s endorsement more seriously than he takes the rest of the professors’ letter. However, he’s dismissive of it too:
[T]his is a matter for investigation in the Executive Branch. I assume that there is some discretion in distinguishing between violations that are substantive efforts to endorse a product and a passing statement like Conway’s. I would expect that such a comment would generate at least a formal reprimand and the Administration has already stated obliquely that Conway was “counseled.”
The question is whether the Bar is the proper forum for such transgressions [by] a staff member who is new to executive service [ed: and by someone who isn’t acting in the capacity of a lawyer]. . .Again, I fail to see the basis for a formal ethics charge based solely on the product endorsement and view the other references as bordering on frivolous as the foundation for an ethics complaint.
I hope someone is cataloging all of the low tactics employed by the left to impair the Trump administration. Such a catalog will be useful the next time a Democratic president takes office.
But many of the tactics will have to be rejected as too idiotic. Filing a bar complaint is one of them.