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According to The New York Times, the Justice Department is now moving to question former Vice President Mike Pence as part of the criminal investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — a move that a week after Pence, who was the subject of a pressure campaign by Trump allies to throw out electoral votes in states carried by Joe Biden, flatly refused to cooperate with House investigators in their own parallel investigation.

One of Pence's — or Trump's only potential defenses against him testifying to federal investigators is to claim executive privilege over the conversations he had in the White House. But, as former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said on Wednesday's edition of MSNBC's "The Beat," there's a key problem with that: he already wrote a book discussing at least some of the information.

"I think we had a preview because of the book that Michael Pence has written," said anchor Katie Phang. "And I think he's pretty much home run spoken to the public. The New York Times reports, 'Complicating the situation is whether Mr. Trump would invoke executive privilege to stop him ... or to limit Pence's testimony, a step that he's taken with limited success so far with other former officials.' What's the bottom line, could executive privilege stop Mike Pence from voluntarily testifying?"

"It's not going to work," said Mariotti. "Well established in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, that executive privilege does not trump the need of criminal prosecutors to get testimony via a grand jury subpoena as long as they can't get the information elsewhere ... no one knows what happened in those conversations between Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence, other than Mr. Pence. And Mike Pence was present during conversations about what Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman were saying and doing, their plans and their proposals. And we know they're within the DOJ's crosshairs, as well."

"A quick question, the fact that Mike Pence has written a book and put information within it about conversations, interactions he had vis-a-vis January 6th, does that help the DOJ in any way to boost legal arguments to make sure that they can get Pence to testify?" asked Phang.

"I think our viewers know you are a lawyer," said Mariotti. "That's a smart question ... the answer is absolutely. Because that means also there is a waiver of privilege. Even to the extent there was privilege or wasn't here, you know, that will be overcome by the waiver."

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    Trump foe Michael Avenatti sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing millions from clients

    Lawyer Michael Avenatti speaks to the media after he walks out of federal court in New York, New York, U.S., March 25, 2019.Carlo Allegri | Reuters

    Michael Avenatti, the brash lawyer who gained notoriety for legal actions involving former President Donald Trump, was sentenced Monday in California to 14 years in prison for stealing about $7.6 million from clients, as well as for tax fraud.

    The 51-year-old Avenatti "has done great evil for which he must answer," Santa Ana federal Judge James Selna said in imposing punishment on the disgraced attorney for swindling law clients who included a paraplegic with mental health problems.

    Selna ordered Avenatti's stiff prison term to run consecutive to the five years behind bars he previously received in separate criminal cases in Manhattan federal court for ripping porn star Stormy Daniels out of $297,500 in book deal money, and for a brazen extortion effort against athletic apparel giant Nike.

    The judge also ordered Avenatti to pay more than $10.8 million in restitution to four clients and to the Internal Revenue Service.

    Avenatti, who already was in prison for one of the prior cases, pleaded guilty in June to four counts of wire fraud and one count of trying to obstruct the administration of the federal tax code.

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    The tax charge related him to trying to interfere with the IRS's effort to collect more than $3 million owed by Avenatti's coffee business for payroll taxes.

    While details of Avenatti's scams on the client victims differed from each other, "the general pattern was the same," prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.

    Avenatti "would lie about the true terms of the settlement agreement he had negotiated for the client, conceal the settlement payments that the counterparty had made, secretly take and spend the settlement proceeds that belonged to the client," prosecutors wrote.

    He then would "lull the client into not complaining or investigating further by providing small 'advances' on the supposedly yet-to-be paid funds," the memo said.

    Avenatti first came to widespread public attention in 2018, during Trump's presidency, while representing Daniels in connection with her having been paid $130,000 in hush money by Trump's personal lawyer before the 2016 election in exchange for keeping quiet about a sexual tryst she said they had.

    Trump denies that he cheated on his wife Melania with the adult film actress.

    For months in 2018, Avenatti was a ubiquitous presence on television news shows, where he delighted in verbally skewering the president and Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen.

    Avenatti briefly contemplated launching a campaign for the presidency, but dropped that idea weeks after he was arrested by Los Angeles police after an accusation of domestic violence by an actress with whom he had been living. The LA City Attorney later declined to lodge charges in that case.

    United States Attorney Martin Estrada of the Central District of California blasted Avenatti in a statement Monday that called him "a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy."

    "In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests," Estrada said.

    "He stole millions of dollars from his clients – all to finance his extravagant lifestyle that included a private jet and race cars," the top prosecutor said. "As a result of his illegal acts, he has lost his right to practice law in California, and now he will serve a richly deserved prison sentence."


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