18 February 2019
Both Leung Chun-ying (left) and Donald Trump are obsessed with their rights and oblivious to their obligations. Photos: Bloomberg, Xinhua
Both Leung Chun-ying (left) and Donald Trump are obsessed with their rights and oblivious to their obligations. Photos: Bloomberg, Xinhua

Here Be Monsters

I am gravely troubled that people are prepared to countenance the fact that both Donald Trump and Leung Chun-ying have nothing but contempt for the people they govern.

Consider first Trump and what for want of a better description I will label “the Russian connection”.

The US machinery of government became concerned that Russia had covertly sought to influence the 2016 presidential election and that Trump’s campaign had been complicit in this.

Sufficient concern arose to warrant a congressional investigation and, more important, an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Anxieties were fleshed out when the acting Attorney-General Sally Yates disclosed, during the confirmation process, that Trump’s appointed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had lied to the Vice President about his contacts with Russian officials.

Trump then fired Sally Yates.

During his confirmation proceedings, the Attorney-General Jeff Sessions stated unequivocally that during the election campaign he had had no communications with the Russians.

It then transpired that he had met the Russian ambassador – widely believed to be Russia’s top spy in the United States – twice, whereupon he said, “I never met with any Russian official to discuss issues of the campaign.”

No matter that he picked his words carefully, manifestly he lied about those meetings. To quash the consequent furor, he recused himself from any part of the investigation into the Russian connection.

Objective observers may well have expected him, as the senior “lawyer in the administration” to have resigned or, in any reputable organization, to have been fired like General Michael Flynn.

In my experience, soldiers are usually more expendable than lawyers.

It is unacceptable for any lawyer, particularly a nation’s leading lawyer, to fail to adhere to objective ethical professional standards. How much integrity does he have left?

On the 9th of May, the day before meeting the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and its ambassador Sergei Kislyak, Trump fired James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mere coincidence?

The White House propaganda machine claimed that Comey was fired on the basis of an assessment by Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein – passed to Trump by Sessions – and had nothing to do with the investigation into the Russian connection.

Then in an interview with NBC on May 11, Trump declared that he had decided to fire Comey regardless of any assessment and that the real reason he fired him from the FBI was because of the bureau’s investigation into links between Trump’s 2016 campaign associates and Russia.

When spoiled brats get mad, they throw their toys out of the pram but if you are the President of the United States and your Attorney-General is investigating possible wrongdoing by your staff, you simply fire the investigator.

Or, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said with splendid ambiguity when asked about Comey’s firing, Trump acted “within his competence”.

We expect this sort of behavior from a Mafia boss removing an investigating magistrate, but the President of the United States?

Once Tovarich Trump had bid farewell to his Russian guests Lavrov and Kislyak after the meeting to which only Tass, the official Russian press agency, was admitted, he was ready to welcome another leader cast in the same mould: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

All of which brings me to another fine upstanding leader with a propensity for fixing the odds.

A select Legco committee was formed in November 2016 to look into the propriety of a HK$50 million payment made to CY Leung – before he was elected chief executive – by UGL when they bought Leung’s insolvent property company DTZ.

Apparently, one member of this committee, Holden Chow Ho-ding, a solicitor by profession, insisted on amending the committee’s terms of reference.

Only after this had been done was it discovered that these amendments were set out in an email actually emanating from the Chief Executive’s Office.

Seemingly CY could not trust Chow to handle the amendments but chose to channel them through him in toto.

Chow refused to talk about the changes, claiming that the content of a closed-door meeting were subject to confidentiality.

However, CY Leung boldly asserted: “As the subject of investigation, I have the complete right to raise my views with the committee.”

Then in a Trumpian echo, he complained about the leak.

But surely, if CY believed he had such a right, he would have done so openly by contacting the Secretariat rather than surreptitiously having his views introduced into the committee’s terms of reference as though they were the proposals of a committee member?

Coincidentally, Trump used virtually the same words to justify passing intelligence to the Russians: “I have the absolute right…”

Both men are obsessed with their rights and oblivious to their obligations.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions about the propriety of the behavior of Jeff Sessions and Holden Chow, but increasingly I am in sympathy with Dick in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, when he says to Jack Cade: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

One of the most important pieces of advice I was given as a young barrister is that “We are not mouthpieces for our clients. You are a barrister, not a ventriloquist’s doll.”

At least, Charlie McArthy and Archie Andrews were funny.

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Queen's Counsel

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