America’s Lawyer E23: Stock trading by members of Congress is out of control, and a new report shows just how bad the conflicts of interest have gotten – We’ll explain what’s happening. Pollsters are warning Democrats to not get their hopes up, even as polls provide good news for their Party. But it could all be a mirage, and we’ll explain why. All that, and more is coming up, so don’t go anywhere – America’s Lawyer starts right now.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Hi, I’m Mike Papantonio and this is America’s Lawyer. Stock trading by members of Congress is outta control and a new report shows just how bad the conflicts of interest have really gotten. And pollsters they’re warning Democrats, not to get their hopes up, even as polls provide what looks like good news for their party, but could all be a mirage according to New York Times. All that and more it’s all coming up. Don’t go anywhere. America’s Lawyer starts right now.

Stock trading by members of Congress is creating massive conflicts of interest for lawmakers. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins joins me to talk about it. We’ve done this story before, Farron. This is such a, this is such a simple solution, pass laws that say to congressmen that you may not trade stocks while you’re in office. Put it in a blind trust. This is, this is simple stuff. This just shows the level of greed that’s taking place up in Washington right now.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. And, and for the longest time it’s been Nancy Pelosi herself who has been stonewalling all of this and of course, we understand Pelosi’s husband makes a lot of stock trades. He’s been buying and selling stocks and things that Congress is working on. There, there’s no secret that this man has a very serious conflict of interest. And so Pelosi had for the longest time been the biggest roadblock. So finally, recently she says, all right, listen, we’ll, we’ll go forward with this. I’m okay with it now. And, and actually just last week, they were about to bring this legislation to the floor and then out of nowhere, I, I, I still cannot figure out why, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley comes out and basically says, we’re not doing this right now. We’re gonna kick this can down the road. And.

Mike Papantonio:             What, what a surprise coming outta Merkley.

Farron Cousins:                  Really.

Mike Papantonio:             What a surprise.

Farron Cousins:                  I mean, it’d almost be as surprising if Bernie Sanders had done that. That’s.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. That’s the same caliber. If you look at Merkley’s history is great on progressive. I mean, he is just the best we could ask for. That’s just so out there. Now, Pelosi doesn’t surprise me because hubby has made millions of dollars with inside information that she’s provided. She says, oh no. This, you know what their defense is to Pelosi? Well, she doesn’t, she doesn’t own any stock. I swear to God, that’s, that’s their, well Nancy doesn’t own any stock. But look, the bigger story is this is you’ve got 3,700 conflict trades where they’ve looked at ’em. I say they, there’s been two or three entities that have, that have been studying this for a while, but let’s use the 3,700 conflict trades. Well, the conflict is that these are people that are on committees or they’re on assignments, they’re taking place with hearings and investigations on the very thing that they’re trading stock for. It’s insider trading. People go to prison for it unless you’re in Congress.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and what happens here, just so everybody understands is the way this works is, okay, we’ve got a hearing coming up with executives from some industry. So right before the hearing, I’m gonna sell my stock because I know the hearing is gonna make these guys look bad. The stock is gonna go down. That’s one example. The other is okay, we’re crafting a budget bill. We’re crafting a military bill. We’re about to send $8 million to Raytheon. Hey, broker, put some money into Raytheon for me before we pass this legislation, before it even leaves committee, the public doesn’t even know it exists. Those are things that actually happen with our elected officials and when they get caught, and this is something you and I have talked about too, the penalty for them is a $200 maximum fine.

Mike Papantonio:             Was it Lowenthal from California, is that his name?’.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. So he, he was actually involved in the hearings about the 737 max design defects and the, there were bad findings. They said, we gotta do, you remember it.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             There planes falling outta the sky. Well, on inside information, he trade stocks and yeah, he reports it. Oh, by the way, I’m on the committee. I, I know about the investigation. I know all the bad stuff. Oh, I traded stocks and I made a lot of money. I saved a lot of money right now. Chris, what’s his, Chris Collins. I mean, involved in the investigation on whether or not a drug trial actually was successful or not. It was a disaster. Nobody knew it was a disaster. He tells his son, go trade stock. Oh, but he didn’t do it. It was only my family that did.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and the only reason Chris Collins was one of the people to actually pay a price for this, you know, he was, was convicted was because he was caught on video making the phone call.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  Everybody else is a little bit smarter. He actually walked out into an open public area, made the phone call, like during the hearing I think it was. And so everybody said, wow, this is pretty obvious. You gotta do something.

Mike Papantonio:             Look.

Farron Cousins:                  So the other folks aren’t as stupid as Chris Collins was. And again, this is a bipartisan issue.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and according to the numbers, there’s also bipartisan support to pass legislation to stop it.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  But I think it’s all window dressing. I don’t think any of these people actually want to do it.

Mike Papantonio:             They’re not gonna do anything. They’ve been kicking it down the road for three years.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. Maybe even longer than that. But the point is it’s insider trading. These people are going into Congress, they’re worth $500,000. When they come out, they’re worth $5 million, $10 million and this is how they do it. It’s insider trading. We throw people in prison for it. And the very, very idea of Merkley trying to stop this is very disheartening to me.

A new report’s identified at least 150 activists that have been targeted by fossil fuel industry types for harassment. Wow, SLAPP suits, talk about it.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. What’s happening here is that for many years you have these environmental activists, you know, they, they, they show up at the pipelines. They show up, you know, to, to protest at the offices, the refineries. So what the fossil fuel industry has been doing is saying, okay, you know what? Let’s sue the organizers. Let’s sue the people who show up at the barricades. Let’s make their lives a litigation nightmare. We know we’re not actually gonna win lawsuits. But what we do is we tie them up, you know, with these SLAPP suits, we make sure that they can’t get out there. They can’t do this. They’re gonna lose all their money from their organization by paying for lawyers. And it’s just a delay tactic to get these people off their backs. It’s truly disturbing because it does cost these people, you know, tens of thousands of dollars to fight these lawsuits coming from this industry that has endless money and can file as many suits as they want.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, that, here’s what they admit. They, they admit that it’s harassment.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             They admit that it, it’s a way they even talk about now it’s a way to make money. So because you got Greenpeace that’s worth, you know, multimillions of dollars. So they, they sue them and actually wanna get paid money from Greenpeace for Greenpeace trying to stop them from slaughtering whales all over the world or whatever it may be, or the fossil fuel drilling in our parks. But the SLAPP suits, it’s not just the SLAPP suits. They also use the power of subpoena, the use of depositions, every, every process in discovery that they can use to harass that person. They make telephone calls to universities if a professor’s involved, you gotta get rid of that professor. They, they, they make calls about people in their jobs. You might want to know that this person is doing this, making it sound like there’s really something nefarious going on. I mean, this is, these are tactics that, that you’d expect from ghouls. I mean.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, CIA ghouls and that’s exactly what they’re up to. But it goes on and I, I don’t, I don’t think it’s gonna get any better. I don’t think that there’s, there’s been, there’s been a temp. You remember the Donziger case that we did?

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah, absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             Talk about that just a second.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. Steven Donziger, who was the lawyer who took on Chevron down there in Ecuador, absolutely obliterating the environment, screwing people over, poisoning them, paying off the government. Donziger took ’em to trial, won. Chevron comes back, sues him, allege all, all of this misconduct, somehow wins. Gets Donziger thrown in prison.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  Stripped of his law license. It’s insane. But

Mike Papantonio:             Here, here again, that’s one of these stories that I talk about, the federal judges that are appointed. The judge that did that to Donziger has never known anything except representing corporation. The judge absolutely saw that Chevron had, had murdered, murdered entire families down there with toxins, wiped them out with leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain cancer, birth defects, wiped out entire families. And this judge, New York type, you know, appointed, it was a Clinton appointment. Had come through the corporate, had come through the corporate law firm process year after year, made big money representing corporations, never represented a consumer in his life. One of by the way, one of the, the worst federal judges we have sitting up there, Clinton appointment. But we talk about this all the time. How does this happen? It’s because the Democrats do the same thing the Republicans do. They go to these big silk stocking law firms that represent corporations and they put ’em in power. This, the Donziger, Steven Donziger case is good example of really our justice system totally upside down.

Democrats are doing better in the polls, but pollsters are warning that it might not be real. It may be a mirage. This is a pretty sobering story. I gotta tell you, this is coming from the New York Times, Nate Cohn. Nate, this is, Nate Cohn’s really a credible guy.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             And he’s saying that, that what’s happening is pollsters are being, are being influenced by the party that they represent and they’re doing it because they want to create hope. They want to create promise. They want to create this notion that all is good. So go out to the polls and we’re gonna win. It’s that, let’s go get ’em guys. But the numbers, according to Cohn, just are not showing that.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. It, it is really interesting because when you see the national polls in the last, you know, three months, the national polls have shifted where it was Republicans beating Democrats, now it’s generic Democrat beating generic Republican. But then when you look at the individual races, you don’t see that. So we’re not seeing actual Democrat beating actual Republican. It’s only the hypothetical Democrat beating the hypothetical Republican.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  Now there are plenty of areas for the Democrats to be optimistic, but in terms of the House of Representatives, I think that is so far fetched at this point.

Mike Papantonio:             Oh, it’s so.

Farron Cousins:                  The, the Republicans, again, break it down race by race and you see that these people, I don’t see how they lose. Even with the extremism, they’re gonna, they’re gonna take the House.

Mike Papantonio:             Do you see how dangerous this is for Democrats?

Farron Cousins:                  Oh, absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             For example, right now, if I were to ask you, what does media say about Warnock and, and Herschel Walker? Oh, Warnock’s gonna, gonna clobber Walker. No. But that, when you take a, according, and this is, this is not just coming from us.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             This is coming from Nate Cohn with New York Times that did this story and they say we better be really, really clear about what’s really happening.

Farron Cousins:                  You know, and that’s actually one of the races I’ve been hyper focused on just because.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, I’ve seen your stories.

Farron Cousins:                  Herschel Walker is just, I mean, is just, just the biggest nut job we’ve ever seen.

Mike Papantonio:             Total nut job.

Farron Cousins:                  So, so it, it intrigues me, but, but polls have all shifted and, and Walker’s ahead and Warnock is nowhere to be found.

Mike Papantonio:             Exactly. So, so here’s the problem. You can’t, you, you, as you’re looking at this, understand the polling process to a large degree really is used to pump up the party you want pump up. We’re, you know, Warnock’s gonna kill Walker. Oh, great. Well now it has a two edge sword. One is, well, I’m not gonna worry about it. I’m not gonna go to the polls and do anything about it. And sometimes that’s actually used by the opponent.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and it lulls the candidate themselves into this false sense of security. With Warnock, who’s not doing interviews, he’s not doing rallies or events. He’s just sitting.

Mike Papantonio:             How about, how about Fetterman up in.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. Well.

Mike Papantonio:             Give me your take on that, on that race up there.

Farron Cousins:                  Fetterman is doing a good job. I mean, those, those polls have been consistent. He’s winning by double digits against Dr. Oz.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay.

Farron Cousins:                  But a lot of that has to do with Oz being just the worst candidate with the worst handlers and the worst social media team. They’re so stupid is all I can say. They’re so stupid.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s like he got, well, he chose every moron he could. But even that race, I think.

Farron Cousins:                  I think it’s tighter than people think.

Mike Papantonio:             I think it’s a lot tighter than people think. But the polls to me, they’re, they’re used, being used as a weapon more than they’re being used to tell us what’s really going on. That’s my point.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Joe Manchin pulled a, a fast one on the, on the Biden administration and progressives are furious. Take this story. Okay. It’s just, it’s amazing.

Farron Cousins:                  This, this is absolutely infuriating because what happened, obviously we had to get Joe Manchin’s vote for the Inflation Reduction Act.

Mike Papantonio:             Right, right.

Farron Cousins:                  So Biden pulls him into the White House many, many times and eventually gets him to agree, I’ll vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, but you’ve gotta bring my bill, this pipeline expedition process to a vote and Biden reluctantly, I guess says, okay, I’ll do it. So what mansion does instead.

Mike Papantonio:             Biden, Biden needed a win.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. He

Mike Papantonio:             He needed a win.

Farron Cousins:                  He did. And so Manchin knowing that that was the deal they had struck, instead of bringing his, let’s get rid of environmental review for new pipelines to the floor in a bill, he has tacked it onto a must pass budget resolution.

Mike Papantonio:             Right.

Farron Cousins:                  That if we don’t pass it, the government shuts down.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Farron Cousins:                  So Manchin broke the deal.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Farron Cousins:                  And the Democrats, I mean, the public in general is furious at Manchin, but the Biden administration says, well, we can’t do anything. It’s the deal.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, okay. Now, now, now think about what you just said. How many times have we done stories about Biden coming in and says, no more drilling, I’m gonna stop all this? You know, we’re gonna, we’re gonna, we’re gonna get this under control. And then we look at his history, drilling here, drilling there, expanding, expand. He may know exactly what he did.

Farron Cousins:                  Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             You see that’s the problem. He may know, he may, may know exactly that, yeah, this worked out pretty good. I have some plausible deniability about being the drilling president, fossil fuel president.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and Manchin is used to playing the role of the bad guy.

Mike Papantonio:             Right.

Farron Cousins:                  So Biden gets to hide behind that. Like, hey, I had to get his deal.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  I, I, I gave him my word. And Manchin’s like, ah, I’ll be the bad guy. I don’t care. They love, they love him in West Virginia.

Mike Papantonio:             Oh.

Farron Cousins:                  He is the fifth most popular Senator in the US.

Mike Papantonio:             Manchin cannot lose in West Virginia.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             There’s no way.

Regulators in Ireland fined Facebook hundreds of millions of dollars for violating the privacy rights of children. By God, it’s about time, right?

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. Seriously.

Mike Papantonio:             And not only this, this is whole, just so you know, this is all developing into a whole new area of litigation. A matter of fact, we’re handling it. Talk, talk about this case a little bit though.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, what, what I love about this story is the fact that obviously here in the US, we should be doing the same thing, but we’re not. So it takes the regulators over in Ireland to actually take action. And what Facebook or Meta, as they’re called, has been doing is when you’re 13 to 17, you sign up for social media, Instagram, most popular, they hide your data because you’re underage. Well, the regulators in Ireland determined you aren’t doing that. You’re allowing the data of these minors to be accessed by predators, by people with bad intentions, by, by just regular old people out there.

Mike Papantonio:             There are dozens and dozens of cases that are emerging, where they go to the data. They, just a whole, the catfish system, you name it. It’s a whole, it’s a whole industry. And then these children end up in traffick, being trafficked. And so we’re seeing those cases because we’re handling the trafficking problems best we can in the US, we’re handling some of the biggest cases in America on trafficking. But this is now emerging as part of that problem. And, and it’s not, it’s not that the, it’s not that the social media folks don’t know about it. They’ve known about it a long time. It is that and it’s, it’s, it’s clear that it’s gonna take a multi multibillion dollar hit before they get it. And my goal is to do exactly that. We have cases coming in right now where exactly that data that, that Meta said they were hiding, but it was actually accessible to anybody was used to lure kids into being trafficked.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and again, we have this same information here in the United States. Our regulators, all law, our lawmakers are asleep at the wheel, letting this company do this because they understand, and this is why they let it happen.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Farron Cousins:                  Oh, if we limit the 13 to 17 year olds, they’re not gonna have the content they want. They’re gonna leave the app.

Mike Papantonio:             That’s right.

Farron Cousins:                  So we have to keep them because it’ll cost us money if we don’t.

Mike Papantonio:             Even though we’re putting ’em at risk.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. And we think as a company we’ll make more money keeping them here and exposing their data then we’ll ever have to pay in fines.

Mike Papantonio:             What I do when I start a project like this, whether it’s tobacco or opioids or whatever, we, you know, we usually organize those projects. The lawyers that are coming into this see the same thing I see and it, the problem is remarkably vast and the industry, I think when we start discovery, we’re gonna find documents that show that they knew or suspected that this was going on. And then on the other side, they did an evaluation, a monetary evaluation and said that it’s worth the risk. It’s a cost of doing business. We might get hit on one or two lawsuits where kids are trafficked, but we’re making so much money doing it the way we’re doing it, that it’s a business decision. We’re gonna do it anyway. We see it with, we see it with industry all the time. In some rate, so for some reason we’ve gotten in this idea in the US that social media’s different. There’s something warm and fuzzy about social media. That they’re progressive and they’re more like us. They’re nothing like the average American, nothing. This is a good story that explains. I’m glad the Irish had enough courage to do this.

A human trafficking victim has been ordered to pay the family of a rapist that she killed $150,000 instead of getting an award and the Nobel peace prize. This young girl was trafficked at 15, she was held prisoner, virtually held prisoner. She had the opportunity to get away by killing this man. She should, she, she was justified in doing it. Most states have what they call a safe harbor, harbor protection. She took a knife to him, stabbed him 30 times, made sure he was dead and, and you know, did what she had to do. She got out of there. Now, the point is Iowa did not have a safe harbor. They didn’t have a safe, they didn’t have a protection for that. First of all, if you take a look at a woman who’s been sodomized, been raped repeatedly by the same time has been, has been, has been sent to other people to be raped and sodomized. Then at, at what point do you look at a child who stabbed somebody 30 times and say, yeah, maybe I get this? Maybe I understand the rage. These prosecutors who even brought this case, I promise you are, are bottom rung prosecutors. If you look at their success rate as prosecutors, their conviction rate is probably really, really low. But here they had a woman, a young girl, 15 year old stabbed him 30 times. They said, well, we’re gonna win this one.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and he had raped her repeatedly at, one point raped her at knife point. And, and again, this is a trafficking victim who had left her house as a runaway to escape an abusive family. And she ended up sleeping in the hallways of this apartment building where a kind man took her in, but uh-oh, turns out he trafficked her and sent her off for sex, including to the rapist.

Mike Papantonio:             Zachary Brooks.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and, and.

Mike Papantonio:             Zachary Brooks.

Farron Cousins:                  And here’s what gets me too. They, they, they’ve said, we’re not gonna put you in prison for this, which of course, this is clearly a case of self defense. But they put an ankle monitor on her because they told her as they were doing this, we don’t want you to return to your previous lifestyle.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  Of being a human trafficking victim. It’s, it’s sick, the whole system.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, okay, here’s what they knew. Here’s what the pro I, I swear to you, you, I used to be a prosecutor myself. If you look at the records of prosecutors, you, you look at who, the prosecutor has the right to say, no, this is a non prosecution. I’m not going to do this. The, the facts allow me to make that decision unless the judge comes in and says, by God, you’re gonna do it. You have the right to say, I’m gonna null process. Okay. They didn’t do it. And I’m just guessing, I don’t know ’em, but I’ve seen it before. If you look at their, at their record for, for successful prosecutions, it’s probably dismal. So they thought, oh, this is one I’m gonna get a, I’m gonna get a conviction. Here’s where they put this, this, this girl now. Okay. It’s not only that she has an ankle bra, bracelet. It’s the $150,000 that she has to pay to the family because according to these pros, this is what the prosecutor said. Well, she’s failed to take responsibility for what she’s done. The prosecutors said that. They said, well, oh good God, she left the kids without a father. Good.

Farron Cousins:                  Daddy’s a rapist.

Mike Papantonio:             Daddy’s a rapist and that should be, they should be celebrating that he’s dead. Not that he, you know, that he left the kids without a father. But the ugly thing about it is I look at this is everybody at every turn had the right to do the right thing and they didn’t do it. And now anything she does, you understand, well, she’s on probation for five years. Anything she does to violate that probation could send her to prison for 20 years.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             And that’s what that’s, that’s kind of the rest of the story that’s not being told here.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and, and, and we see this happen a lot of times with the victims. They can’t ever get the proper justice because the justice system, in many cases looks at these women and say, well, you brought this on yourself.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and it’s, it’s, it’s beyond sick is all I can say.

Mike Papantonio:             I’ve said it before, we have one of the most talented, young female trial lawyers that I’ve, that I’ve worked with here at this law firm that was, she was trafficked when she was 14 years old. Escaped when she was 17. I wish these prosecutors and this judge could sit down and talk to her and understand what this young girl inevitably went through and then say, yeah, this is a good idea. We’re gonna, poor, you know, she didn’t, she didn’t accept responsibility. Poor kids don’t have a daddy who’s, you know, a rapist. You know, that, that the, if you really follow this to the end, this is, this case is it’s FUBAR. This case is total FUBAR. Farron, thanks for joining me. Okay.

Farron Cousins:                  Thank you.

Mike Papantonio:             That’s all for this week but all of these segments are gonna be available the coming week right here on this channel. And you can follow us on Twitter @AmericasLawyer. I’m Mike Papantonio and this has been America’s Lawyer where we tell you stories every week that corporate media just refuses to tell because their advertisers won’t let ’em or their political connections are so so strong that it doesn’t allow for it. We’ll see you next time.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.