Controversial Trump judicial nominee used to be a ghost hunter and has a cult following for his horror novels

Brett Talley

  • Brett Talley was nominated by President Donald Trump for a lifetime federal district judgeship in Alabama.
  • He was rated as “not qualified” by the American Bar Association.
  • Talley is a former ghost hunter who gained a cult following with his paranormal writings.

The 36-year-old lawyer nominated by President Donald Trump for a lifetime federal district judgeship who had never tried a case, was deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, and failed to disclose that he is married to a top White House lawyer also has a history as a ghost hunter, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

Brett Talley, nominated by Trump to an Alabama vacancy, wrote on his questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was part of the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group from 2009 to 2010. The group, according to its website, searches for truth “of the paranormal existence.”

Talley has also built up a “cult following” as a horror writer, having written multiple books about paranormal activities.

“I find it hilarious that no one is writing about his horror writing. He has a cult following.” Stuart Stevens, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, told The Daily Beast. “I have to say I wasn’t really aware he was a lawyer as my dealings with him were as a writer on campaign. He’s an interesting, smart guy. But so is Stephen King.”

Some of the books he’s authored include “Haunted Tuscaloosa,” “Haunted Alabama Black Belt,” and “The Reborn.”

Talley has come under fire following his approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on a party-line vote.

In his disclosure form, Talley failed to disclose his marriage to Ann Donaldson, chief of staff to White House counsel Donald McGahn. Asked to list any family members who were “likely to present potential conflicts of interest,” Talley didn’t mention his wife.

Donaldson was recently interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about detailed notes she kept on her conversations with McGahn, which included discussions the two had about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, The New York Times Times reported.

Mueller’s team is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey. Mueller was appointed as special counsel after Trump fired Comey earlier this year. The probe into possible obstruction of justice is a part of Mueller’s wider investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Talley, a Harvard Law School graduate who serves as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, has also come under criticism from Democrats for never having tried a case, receiving the rare “not qualified” American Bar Association rating, and writing comments online such as “Hillary Rotten Clinton” from his now-private Twitter account.

The White House has pushed back on the “not qualified” label.

“Mr. Talley served as deputy solicitor general for the state of Alabama, currently serves in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy and was recommended by Alabama’s US senators,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement to The Times. “He is more than qualified to serve in the federal judiciary.”

Talley, one of just a small handful of judicial nominees to get the “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association since 1989, could be confirmed by the full Senate as soon as this week.

SEE ALSO: A Trump judicial nominee didn’t disclose that he is married to a White House lawyer

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Morning Docket: 11.14.17

* Jeff Sessions is considering a special counsel to probe the Clinton Foundation. This seems like an unforced error. Sure it generates some negative buzz about Democrats, but doesn’t it also handcuff the administration from firing Mueller or pardoning anyone Mueller charges? [Huffington Post]

* Law schools are offering more animal law courses and clinics which doesn’t grossly exceed demand at all. [Texas Lawyer]

* Brett Talley, the unqualified ghost hunter seeking to become the apotheosis of Trump’s judicial nomination strategy forgot to mention that his wife is a White House attorney on his conflict disclosure. That’s cool, it’s not like the executive branch ever has a stake in litigation. [The Hill]

* Does the hard drinking culture of law firms contribute to sexual harassment? No, if you’re a drunk scumbag that means you were probably a scumbag to begin with. Don’t blame the good people at Jack Daniel’s for it. [Law.com]

* The jurors in the trial of Senator Menendez are deadlocked, but have to trudge forward anyway… for now. This all just pushes off the point where he’s acquitted because McDonnell made public corruption legal. [ABC News]

* Roy Moore was banned from a mall for targeting teen girls. I presume this fact will drive his support among evangelicals even higher! [NY Daily News]

* Not one, but two lawyers are in the race to become the next president of U.S. soccer. [American Lawyer]

* Justice Kennedy is going to be the swing vote in Masterpiece Cakeshop… so how do the lawyers tailor their arguments to him. [Empirical SCOTUS]

Donald Trump Jr. released his conversation with Wikileaks — but it might not prove his innocence

Donald Trump Donald Trump Jr.

  • Donald Trump Jr. tweeted an apparently incomplete record of his conversations with Wikileaks.
  • Wikileaks, which experts suspect coordinates with Russia, suggested some destabilizing things to Trump Jr., but the president’s son rarely replied.
  • Some circumstantial evidence suggests that the Trump campaign was following Wikileaks’ advice.

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Monday night what he claimed was the entirety of his communications to Wikileaks, an anti-secrecy website that published wave after wave of damning information on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump Jr. alleges that he only responded to Wikileaks three times, as the agency repeatedly goaded him to push their hacked and leaked information, and to challenge the results of the election if they lose.

Trump Jr.’s release of the “entire chain of messages” comes after The Atlantic obtained and published the messages.

Throughout the 2016 election, Wikileaks consistently published leaked and hacked emails from the Clinton campaign, but spared the Trump campaign.

President Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that he loved Wikileaks, and would often discuss the leaked information.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, the investigator tasked with looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — which is suspected to coordinate with Wikileaks — has scrutinized Trump Jr.’s contact with Russian agents in the past.

Trump Jr. also failed to disclose all his meetings with Russian-linked figures, and has since defended his actions as opposition research.

In the released messages posted by Trump Jr., Wikileaks appears to be pressing him for access into the campaign and to push its publications. Trump Jr. seems to show little interest and replies only three times.

But the correspondence is incomplete, and doesn’t match the full depth of the messages as reported by the Atlantic — suggesting it’s possible he could have responded other times on another platform, for example.

When Wikileaks wrote Trump Jr. to “strongly suggest” the Trump campaign push a trove of leaked documents from the Clinton campaign, although Trump Jr. did not reply, Trump tweeted the link just 15 minutes later.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump Jr. made senior Trump campaign staff, including Kushner and Bannon, aware that he was in touch with WikiLeaks

DON’T MISS: Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election — here’s how it all went down

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These Lawyers Here Are Being Dumb As All Hell — See Also

NO, FLORIDA STATE LAW STUDENTS, THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS: Normally, I’d be on the side of adult law students complaining about a “dry” campus meant to thwart underage drinking. Universities need not reduce everything to the level of stupid kids. But this response from one Florida State law student is the dumbest excuse to drink. Staci explains that you don’t need alcohol on campus to improve your U.S. News rankings.

THIS PARTNER DEFENSE OF ALLEGED PEDOPHILE ROY MOORE IS JUST DISGUSTING: Granted, there’s no “good” defense for multiple, well-sourced accusations that you groped a 14-year-old girl when you were in your 30s, but this “women are gold-diggers” defense is pretty bad. Kathryn explains here.

SPEAKING OF MOORE, I BET HE’S NOT ACTUALLY GOING TO SUE THE WASHINGTON POST: It would be stupid for him to do so. He’s just saying he will because that’s what you want to hear.

“JUST SAY NO” IS ALSO A STUPID LEGAL DEFENSE: Jeff Sessions’s reason for being against medical marijuana comes down to a stupid, discredited slogan. This 12-year-old girl might put a stop to it, once and for all. I explain her lawsuit here.

DESPITE ALL OF THESE STUPID LAWYERS: Lawyers are incredibly useful. Joe explains the scientific evidence here.

A Trump judicial nominee didn’t disclose that he is married to a White House lawyer

Brett Talley

  • One of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees failed to disclose that he is married to a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office.
  • That nominee, Brett Talley, was asked on a disclosure form whether he had any family members who could pose a conflict of interest.
  • Talley is nominated to an Alabama district court.
  • He is one of a handful of Trump’s nominees to be rated as “not qualified” by the American Bar Association.

A 36-year-old lawyer whom President Donald Trump nominated for a lifetime federal district judgeship and was deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association failed to disclose that he is married to a top White House lawyer when asked to disclose conflicts of interest, The New York Times reported Monday.

Brett Talley, nominated by Trump to an Alabama vacancy, failed to disclose his marriage to Ann Donaldson, a senior lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office, on public congressional documents. Donaldson is chief of staff to White House counsel Donald McGahn. Asked to list any family members who were “likely to present potential conflicts of interest,” Talley didn’t mention his wife.

Donaldson was recently interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about detailed notes she kept on her conversations with McGahn, which included discussions the two had about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, The Times reported. Mueller’s team is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey. Mueller was appointed as special counsel after Trump fired Comey earlier this year. The probe into possible obstruction of justice is a part of Mueller’s wider investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Talley, one of just a small handful of judicial nominees to get the “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association since 1989, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on a party-line vote and could be confirmed by the full Senate as soon as this week.

‘Talley has betrayed his obligation to be open and transparent with the Senate and American people’

In a statement following The Times story, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said Talley’s failure to disclose the marriage was a betrayal to the American people.

“I’ve already stated my opposition to Brett Talley’s nomination to be a federal judge in Alabama,” she said. “He’s wholly unqualified for this lifetime position. But by failing to disclose that his wife is one of President Trump’s lawyers, Talley has betrayed his obligation to be open and transparent with the Senate and American people.”

Talley is one of Trump’s most controversial nominees. A Harvard Law School graduate who serves as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, he has come under criticism from Democrats for never having tried a case, receiving the rare “not qualified” ABA rating, and writing comments online such as, “Hillary Rotten Clinton” from his now-private Twitter account.

The White House has pushed back on the “not qualified” label.

“Mr. Talley served as deputy solicitor general for the state of Alabama, currently serves in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy and was recommended by Alabama’s US senators,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement to The Times. “He is more than qualified to serve in the federal judiciary.”

Talley is the fourth of Trump’s judicial nominees to receive a “not qualified” rating from the ABA — the second to receive the rating unanimously. Nearly 8% of Trump’s nominees screened by the ABA have received the “not qualified” label, a much higher rate than the judicial nominees of past presidents, such as Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Trump has, somewhat under the radar, moved to reshape the federal judiciary at lightning speed. His rapid pace of nominations and confirmations to the federal bench highlight an area in which Trump has worked to secure an early legacy. The president was faced with an extraordinary number of vacancies on both district and circuit courts after Obama’s term. In September, Trump hit 65 combined nominations between appeals courts, district courts, the US Tax Court, and the US Court of Federal Claims.

SEE ALSO: McConnell just got a bunch of Trump’s judicial nominees confirmed in one week

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