As chief counsel of the Whistleblower Anti-Bullying Resource Network (WARN), I have been asked on several occasions to render an opinion on the recent indictment of former president Donald Trump by Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg. In particular, the queries fall along two lines of inquiry:
1) Is former Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, a whistleblower in the conventional sense?
2) Does WARN support the indictment of Mr. Trump?
As to the first question, in my expert opinion Mr. Cohen is not a whistleblower in the conventional sense as recognized under the law. Whistleblowers are truthtellers who, acting out of a sense of moral duty to safeguard the public, expose internal corruption and threats to public wellbeing. Both from the public record and from his own admissions in televised interviews, Mr. Cohen is a convicted felon and a perjurer, namely stemming from roles he played in the furtherance of unlawful conduct during his association with former president Trump.
While other experts may opine differently, I do not view Michael Cohen as someone who would be afforded whistleblower protection under the law. However, I do view him as someone who recognizes his past mistakes and who is seeking redemption by doing what he now feels is the right thing to do.
I do not judge Mr. Cohen, as we all make mistakes in life – even legally egregious ones. I admire anyone who has been thrown in life, but who gets back in the proverbial saddle and seeks an ethical course correction.
Regarding the second question, WARN supports the indictment of former president Donald Trump, and applauds the courage of Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg. In a civilized society, the standard must be that no man or woman, regardless of wealth, entitlement or political status, functions above the law. But this must be more than a national platitude. It must be a national principle – one that we are willing to uphold despite our discomfort.
I do not comment here on the innocence or guilt of Mr. Trump, in the New York matter or potentially other criminal matters to come. That determination is appropriately left to jurors and the courts. For now, Mr. Trump is afforded the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It leaves me with a sense of pride and gratitude that we still live in a country where even the most powerful among us can be humbled before the law. No amount of bullying or intimidation can prevent the wheels of justice from turning.
Our democracy is far from perfect. Yet it sure beats the alternative – a dictatorship.
Shenandoah Titus (Berkeley Law, ’23), is the Founder and Chief Counsel of the Whistleblower Anti-Bullying Resource Network (WARN). He is an attorney licensed in the District of Columbia, Court of Appeals.