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 ​​​​​​​​​​​The Latest Legal News & Industry Information

Former Hillary Clinton Cyber Adviser
Indicted for Lying to FBI about Trump


     A prominent Washington, D.C. attorney pleaded not guilty last week to lying to the FBI after he allegedly claimed to have evidence of the Trump campaign’s communications with a Russian bank.
     The FBI was investigating accusations that former President Donald Trump’s 2016 election was influenced by the Russian government when attorney Michael A. Sussman contacted the agency.
    He portrayed himself as an unaffiliated concerned citizen but failed to disclose he represented the campaign of Trump opponent Hillary Clinton and several corporations, according to prosecutors.
     He reported to the FBI’s general counsel in 2016 that cybersecurity researchers discovered suspicious communications between Russia-based Alfa Bank and a Trump Organization computer server.
     Although a Justice Department investigation found widespread efforts by the Russian government to help Trump get elected, the FBI discredited Sussman’s allegations.
     The FBI then investigated Sussman, finding that he failed to disclose his affiliation with Clinton and multiple technology firms. 
     Until he resigned this week, Sussman was a partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie specializing in cybersecurity. He also is a former federal prosecutor.
     The firm has extensive ties to the Democratic Party. It represented the Democratic National Committee after Russian agents hacked its servers and republished its emails in public forums.
     The FBI’s indictment says, "During the meeting [with the FBI’s general counsel], Sussmann lied about the capacity in which he was providing the allegations to the FBI. Specifically, Sussmann stated falsely that he was not doing his work on the aforementioned allegations ‘for any client,’ which led the FBI General Counsel to understand that Sussmann was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative.
     "In fact, Sussmann acted on behalf of specific clients, namely a U.S. Technology Industry Executive, a U.S. Internet Company and the Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign.”
     Sussman’s attorneys from the law firm of Latham & Watkins say their client is the victim of political reprisal, not the lying criminal portrayed in the indictment.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Georgetown Tennis Coach to Plead Guilty
For Taking Bribes in Varsity Blues Scandal


     A former Georgetown University tennis coach plans to plead guilty to participating in the college admissions cheating scandal known as Varsity Blues.  
     Gordon Ernst is admitting to accepting about $2.7 million in bribes to help children of wealthy families gain admission to the elite school.
     He arranged athletic scholarships for at least 12 students between 2012 and 2018. Some of them had never played tennis competitively.
     He is awaiting a hearing date to enter a guilty plea in federal court in Boston.
     Ernst, 54, a former Chevy Chase, Md. resident, agreed to accept a plea bargain from prosecutors in which he would plead guilty to conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and filing a false tax return.
     Otherwise, he was scheduled for a trial in November with coaches from other universities in the nationwide scandal that resulted in 57 arrests. One of them was famed actress Lori Loughlin, who spent two months in jail and remains on probation.
     In other Varsity Blues developments, attorneys for two fathers argued in court last week that they were duped into making what they called “donations” to get their children into top universities on athletic scholarships.
     They are the first parents to go to trial in the scandal. Forty-seven others have accepted plea bargains.
     An attorney said in his opening statement on behalf of one of the fathers that bribes paid by “admissions consultant” William Singer to coaches showed how easily college admissions can be manipulated.
     Many of the accused parents hired Singer to act as the middleman to get their children into the University of Southern California and other highly-rated colleges. He later pleaded guilty to bribing college coaches to falsely certify that students were recruited for the schools’ athletic teams.
     “He thought Singer was legitimate,” attorney Brian T. Kelly said. “He had no inkling that Singer was a skilled con man.”
     Among the coaches Singer bribed was Georgetown’s Ernst, who accepted the money under the guise of consulting fees.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

D.C.’s Mayor Blamed for Handling
Of Rental Assistance Program


     A rising tide of evictions in the Washington area is compelling increasingly desperate efforts to help households avoid homelessness.
     In some cases, local officials are blaming each other for the failure of tenants to receive the legal and financial assistance they need to stay in their homes.
     D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson complained in a recent letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser that the city’s STAY DC program for distributing federal aid to desperate tenants was “not nimble enough to issue payments before these evictions occur.”
     Nearly 300 evictions are scheduled in Washington by the end of October, according to D.C.’s Office of the Tenant Advocate. About 32,000 local residents are behind on their rent or mortgage payments, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
     Bowser administration officials deny allegations of dragging their feet. Similar accusations of slowed efforts to distribute federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds are being lodged against state officials in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere.
     ERAP was approved by Congress in two phases as the pandemic drove up unemployment to 14.8 percent in April 2020, the highest rate since the U.S. Labor Department started data collection in 1948.
     The first phase, which Congress passed last December, appropriated $25 billion that is being distributed through states and cities. The second phase in March added $21.55 billion.
     Witnesses from the housing industry who testified at a recent House Financial Services Committee hearing said the process to receive the money is so laborious for the paperwork it requires that many eligible renters feel shut out of the program. Others lack the literacy skills needed to apply.
     In addition, state officials who are supposed to administer the funds sometimes are slow to process applications and to distribute it.
     “To state the obvious, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program isn’t working,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.
     Only about 12 percent of the $46.5 billion Congress appropriated for ERAP to help prevent renters from losing their homes has reached the people who need it, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

D.C.’s Federal Workers Accept
Biden’s Vaccination Mandate


     Most of Washington’s federal workforce is accepting President Joe Biden’s mandate to get vaccinated or lose their jobs without complaints.
     The stringent new rules the president announced this month are the Biden administration’s latest effort to halt a surge in the Delta variant of coronavirus that is reaching toward record infection and death rates in the United States.
     “We have a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said during a nationally televised presentation.
     Biden’s order is similar to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s order last month that all 35,000 city employees must get vaccinated or face weekly testing. However, Biden’s order goes further, requiring the vaccinations except for medical or religious exemptions.
     Union leaders for federal employees gave no indication they would oppose the vaccination rule, only that they had reservations about it.
     The National Treasury Employees' Union released a statement saying the president’s order “making vaccination a condition of employment for federal employees is a step the government, as an employer, has the legal right to take."
     An American Federation of Government Employees statement said the nation’s largest union for government workers has “strongly encouraged” vaccinations but would prefer that the requirement for workers be negotiated as part of collective bargaining.
     The strongest resistance is coming from the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which said “government should trust its employees to make their own medical decision under consultation with their doctor, not mandated by their employer.”
     Unlike 19 other governors, the governors of Maryland and Virginia are not participating in lawsuits against the mandate. 
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

D.C. Attorney General Amends
Antitrust Lawsuit Against Amazon


     An amendment last week to an antitrust lawsuit by the District of Columbia’s attorney general accuses Amazon.com, Inc. of forcing wholesale suppliers to give the company’s customers unfairly favorable pricing.
     Meanwhile, the wholesalers’ other customers must pay higher prices, the lawsuit says.
     The latest allegations amend the lawsuit Attorney General Karl Racine filed in May that says Amazon used its market dominance over pricing contracts with third-party sellers.
     Third-party sellers sell on Amazon under their own brand names. Amazon buys and sells other products from wholesalers, also known as first-party sellers, whose contracts require that they guarantee Amazon a minimum profit.
     Racine’s amended lawsuit says the contracts force wholesalers to make up the difference in their revenue by raising prices in other marketplaces outside Amazon to stay profitable.
     “These agreements reduce other online marketplaces’ ability to compete with Amazon by offering lower prices to consumers,” according to the complaint. It adds that the minimum profit guarantee “results in reduced competition among online marketplaces and higher prices to consumers.”
     Amazon has argued that sellers set their own prices for products they sell through the company’s website.
     “Amazon takes pride in the fact that we offer low prices across the broadest selection, and like any store we reserve the right not to highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively,” Amazon said in a statement. “The relief the AG seeks would force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers, oddly going against core objectives of antitrust law.”
     The Federal Trade Commission also is investigating Amazon’s sales practices.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.