About thebellyofthebeast

Adjunct professor at Northwestern University's School of Law and its Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, contributing editor to ABA "Litigation" and "The American Lawyer," and author of "The Lawyer Bubble - A Profession in Crisis (2013), "The Partnership - A Novel" (2010), "Crossing Hoffa - A Teamster's Story" (2007) (A "Chicago Tribune" Best Book of the Year), and "Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold" (2008). Recently retired after 30 years at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Graduated from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) and Northwestern University (combined B.A./M.A. in economics, with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa).


After six months, how many kids are still in federal custody because Trump’s government deported their parents?

Answer: 50

Meanwhile, in an emergency motion last week, the ACLU said that the government is dragging its feet on a proposed settlement that would allow separated families to pursue their international human rights to seek asylum: “Over 40 detained families decided to accept removal — instead of receive due process — because they simply could not wait in detention any longer.”

No Defense? Try Distraction, Lies, and Offense

Lacking any coherent response to this ongoing crisis that Trump created, he is deploying three characteristically Trump strategies: distraction, lies, and “offense is the best defense.” As a 7,000-person caravan makes its way north from Central America. Trump is using a barrage of lies to demonize them and blame Democrats:

Trump has even made the absurd claims that Democrats had somehow organized the caravan and were banking on its arrival before Election Day so participants could vote for Democrats. Of course, no such asylum-seekers could vote because they would not be US citizens. But it’s a safe bet that some of his fans now believe Trump’s big lies. They also believe his unsupported assertion that the caravan includes terrorists from the Middle East.

The Height of Cynicism

It’s worse than politics, as The Hill reports; “Republicans have found themselves playing defense on immigration since June following the outcry over Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border.

“GOP strategists, citing internal polls, were concerned the family separations would harm Republican candidates, particularly among female voters. Many now see the caravan issue as a midterm blessing, one that could shift the debate away from a humanitarian focus and back to questions of national security and US sovereignty.”

Kids Held Hostage Day 169.

On Nov. 6, vote to make it stop. Otherwise it won’t.

The whole world is watching. If the American people get this one wrong, the immediate impact will be profound and the judgment of history will be harsh.

It should be.



No one can accuse the Trump administration of learning from its mistakes. On Oct. 12, 2018, The Washington Post reported that Trump was considering another family separation policy. When reporter Phil Rucker asked him about it, Trump said that he thinks the initial family separation policy deterred illegal border crossings, so Trump is “looking at everything.”

Everything, that is, except the facts surrounding human tragedies that his policies have already produced.

How Bad Can This Situation Get?

Pretty bad. For example:

— Trump’s government asked a five-year-old child to sign away her rights to a bond hearing that would have reviewed her custody situation.

— Trump’s government is sending children back to their home countries without alerting family members that they’re on the way. A four-year-old was left at a reunification center in Guatemala with no one to pick her up.

— Trump’s government is expanding detention camps for undocumented and unaccompanied migrant teenagers:

“The tent city that the federal government operates at the Tornillo border station about 35 miles southeast of El Paso on the Mexico border was built in June as a temporary home for a few hundred migrant children. Four months later, it has rapidly expanded and has nearly quadrupled in size,” according to The New York Times.

Because the shelter is on federal property, it is not licensed by Texas child welfare officials and does not have to adhere to the same regulations that other traditional migrant youth shelters must follow to maintain their state licensing.

Ripple Effects of a Vile Policy

“Most of the children at Tornillo are waiting for the results of FBI checks on their potential sponsors,” the Times reports “The children cannot be released to the sponsors until fingerprinting and criminal background checks are completed.”

“Indeed, such newly introduced requirements, like the need for sponsors to provide their fingerprints and those of other adults in their households, have delayed even the clearest sponsorship applications, like those brought by parents. Immigration enforcement authorities have also begun using the fingerprints to arrest applicants — most of whom are undocumented immigrants themselves — which has kept some potential sponsors from coming forward.”

Tax Dollars At Work

The Times continues, “Housing children in Tornillo costs about three times as much as placement in a traditional shelter, according to government figures. Mr. [Mark A.] Weber, [a spokesman for] Health and Human Services, could not provide a figure of the total cost to establish and run the tent city. But he said that standard shelter beds cost $250 per day, and temporary emergency shelter beds cost $775 a day.”

The Trump Party on Congress — formerly known as the GOP — remains complicit in what history will mark as one of the great tragedies in modern history. On November 6, the process of redeeming America’s soul must begin.


Shortly after Rick Gates‘ plea agreement in February 2018, I appeared on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” to discuss its implications. I suggested that Gates could be a far bigger problem for Trump than Paul Manafort (assuming Manafort eventually flipped, too). The reason: After Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign in August 2016, Gates remained — all the way through the transition. Gates could provide continuity in telling the Trump-Russia story that Manafort could not. And Trump does not want that story told.

An earlier post highlighted some of the entries that emerge when applying the Rick Gates name filter to the Trump-Russia Timeline. He intersects with several key players in the story: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) (“Putin’s Favorite Congresman”), Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., George Papadopoulos, Brad Parscale (Trump’s 2016 campaign digital director, now manager of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign), Oleg Deripaska (Russian oligarch), and the NRA, to name a few.

Last week, another piece of the Gates-related narrative emerged. Within days of joining the Trump campaign in March 2016, Gates solicited proposals from Psy-Group (an Israeli company) to create fake online identities, use social media manipulation, and gather intelligence that would help defeat Trump’s Republican primary opponents and Hillary Clinton. In August 2016, Psy-Group’s owner, who had previously worked with Oleg Deripaska and Dmitry Rybolovlev (another Russian oligarch who had bought Trump’s Florida mansion for more than twice what Trump had paid for it three years earlier; check out the Deripaska and Rybolovlev name filter entries on the Timeline), met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

MARCH 30-31, 2016: Gates Seeks Proposals For Social Medial Manipulation Campaign

AUG. 3, 2016: Don Jr. Meets With Emissary From Saudi Arabia and UAE (revision of previous entry)

FEB. 20, 2017: Russian Ambassador to UN Dies Suddenly

FEB. 16, 2018: Grand Jury Indicts Internet Research Agency and Russian Nationals; Pinedo Plea Agreement Released (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 8, 2018: Hicks Joins Fox

OCT. 8, 2018: Rosenstein Gets Reprieve

OCT. 11, 2018: Simpson Reaffirms Refusal to Testify

OCT. 14, 2018: Trump on 60 Minutes: Blasts Sessions; Denies Collusion; Equivocates on Whether He’ll Shut Down Mueller


On March 30, 2017, Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent with expertise in Russian influence operations, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that following the money behind disinformation websites aimed at undermining American democracy was important. But, he continued, the committee should also “follow the trail of dead Russians.”

Last week, another body got added to the pile. Here’s the pertinent new entry on the Trump-Russia Timeline:

OCT. 3, 2018: Kremlin Lawyer Dies in Helicopter Crash

Russian deputy attorney general Saak Albertovich Karapetyan dies when his helicopter crashes in a forest during an unauthorized evening flight that began in adverse conditions. Karapetyan, 58, had been intimately familiar with some of the most notorious operations carried out under Vladimir Putin’s orders, according to The Daily Beast. He had worked closely with Natalia Veselnitskaya and was involved in running some of Moscow’s most high-profile efforts to thwart international investigations into Russia’s alleged crimes. For example, Karapetyan had signed a letter from the Russian government refusing to help the US in a civil case linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky. Leaked emails have since shown that Veselnitskaya had helped draft the document sent with that letter.

Several more Timeline entries fit Watts’ frightening theme:

NOV. 8, 2016: Russian Consulate Official Declared Dead

Russian-born Sergei Krivov, 63, is duty commander involved with security affairs at the Russian consulate in New York City when he dies mysteriously. At first, Russian officials say Krivov fell from the roof of the consulate building. Then they say he died of a heart attack. The initial police report filed on the day of the incident says Krivov had “an unknown trauma to the head.”

EARLY DECEMBER 2016: Russians Arrest Cybersecurity Expert

The arrests, according to reports by the Russian newspaper Kommersant and Novaya Gazeta, among others, are made in early December and amount to a purge of the cyberwing of the FSB, the main Russian intelligence and security agency.

DEC. 26, 2016: Russian Intelligence Officer Found Dead

Oleg Erovinkin, 61, is found dead in his car. He had been a general in the KGB and its successor spy organization, the FSB, before Putin appointed him chief of staff to Igor Sechin, president of Russia’s state-controlled oil giant Rosneft.

FEB. 20, 2017: Russian Ambassador to UN Dies Suddenly (this entry will be added in next week’s Timeline update)

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, 64, dies while at work in his New York office. The cause of death is not disclosed. In 1987, Churkin had helped to arrange Trump’s first visit to Moscow.

MARCH 2, 2017: Russian Behind Ukraine Meeting Dies

Alex Oronov, 69, a Ukrainian émigré businessman in New York, dies. “The cause of his death remains unknown,” USA Today reports in May. He reportedly had organized the January 2017 meeting among Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, and Ukrainian parliament member Andrey Artemenko at the Manhattan Loews Regency Hotel about a peace plan for Ukraine.

MARCH 21, 2017: Magnitsky’s Lawyer Suffers Severe Injuries

Nikolai Gorokhov, 53, is near death with severe head injuries and remains in a hospital’s intensive care unit. Reportedly, he fell from the fourth floor of his Moscow apartment. Gorokhov is a private Russian lawyer who represents the family of Sergey Magnitsky and has continued work to uncover the tax fraud first identified by Magnitsky. After regaining consciousness, Gorokhov can’t recall what happened to cause his injuries, but he thinks he may have been targeted.

MAY 14, 2017: Peter Smith Found Dead

Ten days after telling The Wall Street Journal about his efforts to obtain Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails during the 2016 election campaign, longtime GOP operative Peter Smith, 81, is found dead in a Rochester, MN hotel room. Around his head is plastic bag attached tightly with black rubber bands. In a note recovered at the scene, Smith apologizes to authorities and states: “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER”; “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017”; “LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION EXPIRING.”

In his September 2016 descriptive material seeking to recruit a team to help obtain Clinton’s emails, Smith had invoked the names of Mike Flynn, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Sam Clovis.

NOV. 1-2, 2017: Mifsud Gives an Interview; Disappears

Joseph Mifsud was George Papadopoulos‘ intermediary to the Kremlin. Mifsud disappears the day after an Italian newspaper publishes his Oct. 31, 2017 interview in which he confirms that he is the unnamed person identified in Papadopoulos’ Oct. 30 guilty plea.

FEB. 18, 2018: Former Russian Troll Farm Employee Arrested

Hours after granting interviews to Western journalists, a self-confessed “troll” who formerly worked at Russia’s Internet Research Agency — which special counsel Mueller had indicted two days earlier for 2016 election interference — is arrested in St. Petersburg for allegedly making a false phone call about a bomb planted in a nearby village.

APR. 11, 2018: Trump Architect Drops Out of Sight

In an attempt to follow up on an Apr. 6, 2018 article by McClatchy highlighting special counsel Mueller’s interest in Trump Organization business deals in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Georgia, a CNBC reporter reaches out to John Fotiadis, an architect involved in some of Trump’s major foreign projects in that region. Eight hours later, Fotiadis announces on Twitter that he is closing his firm; a few days after that, he closes his Twitter account; by the end of the week, all of the content from his website, including his portfolio, has been removed.

JUL. 11, 2018: Misfud is Still Missing

Joseph Misfud is scheduled to appear in a Salerno, Italy court, but he doesn’t show up. As of October 2018, he has yet to resurface.

Others have suggested that this list of suspicious deaths and disappearances relating to Trump, Putin, and the 2016 election may not be exhaustive. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but still….

Here’s a complete list of this week’s update to the Trump-Russia Timeline (including a new name filter and pop-up bubble for Peter Smith):

LABOR DAY WEEKEND 2016: Peter Smith Builds Team to Find Clinton Emails (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 11, 2016: GOP Operative Solicits Donors to Fund Acquisition of Clinton Emails

MAY 14, 2017: Peter Smith Found Dead (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 26, 2018: Trump Blames China for Election Interference

OCT. 1, 2018: Comey Rejects Senate Judiciary Committee Request to Testify Privately, Offers to Testify Publicly

OCT. 1, 2018: Manafort Meeting with Mueller

OCT. 1, 2018: Credico Will Invoke 5thAmendment

OCT. 3, 2018: Kremlin Lawyer Dies in Helicopter Crash

OCT. 4, 2018: Pence Echoes Trump in Blaming China for Election Interference; Democrats Want Proof


Last week, the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog — the Office of Inspector General — issued two reports confirming the worst fears about Trump’s family separation policy. Watch this two-minute video — and weep:

Kids in Cages

As Jacob Soboroff explains, one of the OIG reports looks at the big picture, documenting the lies that the Trump administration has told in an attempt to cover up the severity of the tragedy it created.

For example, by law, “unaccompanied” migrant children should be placed in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours, except in “exceptional circumstances.” The OIG report found that migrant children were routinely held longer at Border Patrol facilities. Many were held in metal cages designed only for short-term detention. More than 800 children were held for longer than the three day limit at Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso sectors. One child was detained for 25 days.

Deterring Asylum-Seekers

There’s more. As NPR reports, under the “zero tolerance” policy, the Trump administration encouraged migrants to present themselves at official ports of entry to seek asylum in the US. But at the same time, the OIG report found, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was limiting the number of asylum-seekers it would admit through those ports under a practice known as metering.

More Trump lies

NPR continues, “The watchdog report describes a chaotic process where agencies had difficulty sharing information with each other, or with distraught parents who were trying to locate their children.

“The lack of integration between electronic record systems at CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and HHS made it harder to identify and track parents and children, according to the report.

“On June 23rd, DHS announced that it had ‘a central database’ that allowed DHS and HHS to share information about the locations of migrant parents and children. But the OIG report found ‘no evidence that such database exists.'”

Unpleasant Surprise for DHS

The second OIG report describes the surprise inspection of a large, privately-owned detention facility in May. It found “serious issues…that pose significant health and safety risks” at the facility, including nooses made out of sheets in detainee cells. The OIG report highlights at least seven attempted suicides at the facility. Detainees did not have timely access to medical or dental care.

This is happening in America.

Right now.

On November 6, voters will either begin the process of retrieving the nation’s soul or allow it to continue languishing in Trumpworld.




Pause on that number: 148 days.

That’s how long more than 100 kids and their families have now endured the immediate impact of Trump’s family separation policy.

Kids still separated from their families:

As of Sept. 27: 136 — 3 under age five

Of those, separated because the US government deported their parents without them:

As of Sept. 27:   96 — 2 are under five

How much of the gradual improvement in the numbers results from kids aging out of the key statistics by celebrating their 18th (or 5th) birthdays in captivity? The government isn’t saying.

How much residual damage will the original group of almost 3,000 kids suffer for the rest of their lives? The government has no idea. But psychologists agree it’s a lot.

The Tip of a Bigger Iceberg

Trump’s family separation policy is part of larger approach that gets uglier by the day, especially as it relates to kids. From The New York Times on Sept. 30:

“In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in South Texas.

“Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases.

“But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.

“These midnight voyages are playing out across the country, as the federal government struggles to find room for more than 13,000 detained migrant children — the largest population ever — whose numbers have increased more than fivefold since last year.”

In The Dead of Night?

In an Oct. 1 follow-up article, the Times explains why these moves are occurring when the rest of the country sleeps:

“To avoid escape attempts… The children are told of the move only a few hours prior so that they do not have time to formulate an escape plan.”

The Times poses more questions with tragic answers:

“The shelters that are traditionally used to detain unaccompanied minors are overflowing.”

“The shelters are licensed and monitored by state child welfare agencies that impose requirements on staff hiring and training, as well as education and safety. Children in shelters receive regular schooling and are required to have access to lawyers who help develop their claims for asylum or other forms of legal immigration status.

“Conversely, the tent city is considered an “emergency shelter” and is thus unregulated, except for a loose set of guidelines crafted by the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees it. The guidelines do not require schooling, so children are given workbooks but are not obligated to fill them out. Access to legal services at the tent city is also limited.”

“More than 13,000 migrant children are currently detained — the highest number yet and a fivefold increase since last year. That is mostly because fewer children are being released to live with sponsors than ever before. Sponsors — usually relatives or family friends — tend to be undocumented immigrants, and policies introduced by the Trump administration have made it easier for immigration authorities to find and arrest potential sponsors who come forward to claim a child. As a result, some potential sponsors have stopped coming forward out of fear. Those who come forward anyway are having to wait longer because of added red tape.”

“The latest estimates from Congress suggest that it costs about $750 a day to house a child in the tent city — about three times as much as the cost of a single placement in a shelter — even though conditions there are comparatively austere.”

Savvy businessman, that Trump.

One of the darkest chapters in American history continues to play out in plain sight, but sometimes the worst acts are occurring in the dead of night.


Brett Kavanaugh dominated the news, but when media attention returns to Trump-Russia, some of last week’s events could loom pretty large in that story, especially those relating to Erik Prince and Roger Stone. Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, click on their names, and see for yourself.

Here’s a list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

AROUND JUNE 23, 2016: Russian-American With Ties to Kremlin-Linked Officials Begins Making Donations to Trump Campaign

JAN. 11, 2017: Prince Meets With Putin Associate in the Seychelles (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 12, 2017: House Threatens to Subpoena Stone (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 30, 2017: Stone Says Credico Was WikiLeaks Intermediary, Privately Offers to Help Credico

SEPT. 25, 2018: Trump Cites Lindsey Graham

SEPT. 25, 2018: House Republicans Plan to Subpoena McCabe Memos; Seek Testimony From Comey, Lynch, Yates, Papadopoulos

SEPT. 27, 2018: House Judiciary Committee Subpoenas More FBI Documents

SEPT. 28, 2018: Simpson Refuses House Interview Request; Gets Subpoena

SEPT. 28, 2018: House Votes to Release Some Transcripts