Friday, May 19, 2017

Cruising the Web

Somehow I can't get excited about Joe Lieberman to be the new FBI chief. CNN is reporting that he's the leading candidate to replace James Comey. I've always liked Lieberman and I think he's an honorable man. But he's a 75-year old man with no prosecutorial experience, no experience with the FBI or the Justice Department. Since he left the Senate, he's been working at the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP which has done business for Trump including charges of sexual harassment. There's no indication that Lieberman has done law work for Trump, but it's still a connection that Trump doesn't need as a complication. There are better choices out there. I just don't think picking a politician is the solution even though Lieberman is a Democrat, or a lapsed Democrat. The party that nominated him enthusiastically for vice president in 2000 is quite different from the Democratic Party today. Trump shouldn't expect Democrats to be thrilled about such a nomination.

Quin Hillyer writes to explain why Lieberman would be a bad choice.
Second, the nature of the job itself is not that of a mere CEO type in the way that some of the lesser cabinet posts are. This is a job for a person not just broadly familiar with, but extremely well versed in, the tools of law-enforcement investigations, the technical interplay of various federal agencies, and the granular details of patient inquiry. Lieberman, despite his long government résumé, has not a single day of federal law-enforcement experience. If he were named director, he would be the first person ever to hold that post without prior Justice Department experience. He just does not have the requisite base of knowledge that the Bureau’s chief should have....

Fourth, Lieberman clearly is being considered as an answer for immediate crisis of sorts, with thoughts of who can inspire widespread political acceptance for the current circumstances — but what is needed is for somebody to be chosen without regard to the Russia-related investigation or for today’s headlines, but instead chosen for aptitude with the broad range of FBI responsibilities over the long haul. Appointment of Lieberman may achieve short-term political reassurance, but only at the expense of a more explicitly qualified leader intent on institutional-operational competence, stability, and progress.
I agree.

Politico reports
that quite a few Senate Democrats reject Lieberman as the new FBI director.
Some Senate Democrats hold a grudge against Lieberman for his rightward turn and opposition to some of President Barack Obama's agenda late in his Senate career. Others say even though they respect Lieberman, the job of FBI director should not go to a former politician. And all Democratic senators interviewed for this story said the former Connecticut senator lacks the kind of experience needed for the post.
The reasons that Democrats don't like him is why I like him - he opposed Obama's awful nuclear deal with Iran. That showed good judgment that rose above partisan loyalties. However, it does nothing to demonstrate that he can manage a large bureaucracy and supervise all the many investigations that the FBI is involved in. Maybe his name was a trial balloon and the reaction the possible nomination is getting will persuade Trump to pick someone else, but I've seen no indication that Trump pays attention to others' opinions.

Now we're learning that the Trump team knew that he was under federal investigation for being a paid lobbyist for Turkey without having reported that connection. Yet Trump chose him anyway.
Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.
Streiff at RedState notes the mistake in that NYT story. A lot of this story had already been reported and Streiff notes the timeline that wasn't in the NYT.
To accurately date these stories, Mike Flynn was appointed as national security adviser on November 17, so from the CNN story, we know the White House knew of Flynn’s Foreign Agents Registration Act problem before that date. So Flynn’s Turkish lobbying was known to be known to the Trump transition team two months ago....

Either the headline is false or the previous reporting by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, is false as Flynn was named national security adviser nearly two weeks before he was informed that Justice was examining his FARA problem.
Allahpundit adds,
Trump didn’t name him NSA knowing that he was under investigation; even Flynn didn’t know when he accepted the position. But the fact remains that they let him stick around through the inauguration and into February, and maybe would have let him linger even longer than that if natsec people hadn’t started leaking to WaPo about Flynn potentially having been compromised by his sanctions chat with the Russian ambassador. The loyalty here runs weirdly deep.
Loyalty is all well and good, but the Flynn connection has caused so many of Trump's current problems. At some point, he needed to cut the cord.

Now we're hearing reports that Flynn and Trump are still in communication.
Not only did he remain loyal to President Trump; he indicated that he and the president were still in communication. “I just got a message from the president to stay strong,” Flynn said after the meal was over, according to two sources who are close to Flynn and are familiar with the conversation, which took place on April 25.
According to anonymous leakers, the White House lawyers are warning Trump about the dangers of talking with Flynn because it could seem to be witness tampering.

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Alan Dershowitz is another lawyer who isn't convinced that, if Trump asked Comey to let the Flynn investigation go, the President obstructed justice.
Additionally, constitutional issues regarding the power of the President to direct the FBI would only be raised if the facts established that anyone other than the President — a lay citizen — would be guilty of obstruction of justice in a comparable situation. That conclusion might well depend on what, precisely, the President asked the FBI director to do.

If he simply asked the director to consider going easy on the fired national security adviser because “he’s a good guy,” that would not amount to a charge of obstruction of justice if the request were made by an ordinary citizen.

But this request came from the President — the only person who has the power to fire the person whom he is asking to “let this go” with regard to a White House staffer. Moreover, the President himself may have been a subject of the FBI investigation — though he claims Comey told him he was not — and so the request may have been self-serving.

Accordingly, the fact that the request came from the President is a double- edged sword....

On balance, the obstruction case against President Trump is not strong, as a matter of law. But impeachment is more a matter of politics than law. And the political reality is that Republicans control both houses of Congress. So impeachment is unlikely, at least at this point.
While some eager bomb-throwers on the left are already calling for impeachment, a lot of party leaders are not so eager. They seem to be willing to let the investigations play out before they jump to a conclusion. What an extraordinary idea. Even Nancy Pelosi is calling for Democrats to "curb their enthusiasm" about the idea of impeachment.

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Seth Lipsky derides the "left's ridiculous double standard on spilling secrets." The contrast to their reaction to Trump having supposedly leaked intelligence to the Russians and their prior reactions to leaks about intelligence when Bush was president is stark.
What a contrast to, say, 2006. That’s when the Gray Lady thumbed its nose for news at President George W. Bush’s pleadings that the paper refrain from disclosing how the government, in its hunt for terrorists, was mining data of the Swift banking consortium.

The Bush administration had begged the Times not to proceed. Yet it did so. President Bush called it “disgraceful,” adding that the “fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.” Treasury said it would hamper the pursuit of terrorists.

Such a hullabaloo arose from long-suffering Times readers that the paper’s executive editor, then Bill Keller, issued a 1,400-word “personal response.” In it, he suggested that if conservative bloggers were so worried they should stop calling attention to it.

Keller acknowledged that others might have come out differently than the Times did. But, he declared, “nobody should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current Administration, or without fully weighing the issues.”

Goodness. Who in the world could have imagined the Times acting out of animus to the George W. Bush administration?

Then there’s the case of The Washington Post. Three years ago, it won the Pulitzer Gold Medal for what it called “a series of stories that exposed the National Security Agency’s massive global surveillance programs.”

It had based its articles on what it called “classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who has fled to exile in Russia.” The Post quoted its lead reporter, Barton Gellman, as saying he was “relieved that we didn’t screw it up.”
Lipsky points to a post by Marc Thiessen listing times when the media has joyfully "published “disastrous” stories which damaged US national security and exposed the involvement of US partners." It's quite a long list. For example,
Where was the outrage when The New York Times exposed the US government’s cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program, including the fact that Obama personally ordered cyberattacks on the Iranian nuclear program using a computer virus called Stuxnet? The Times cited as sources “members of the President’s national security team who were in the [Situation Room]” and even quoted the president asking during a top secret meeting: “Should we shut this thing down?” Only Obama’s most trusted national security advisers would have been present when he uttered those words. One of those advisors shared highly classified intelligence with the Times.

The Stuxnet leak exposed intelligence sources and methods, including the top secret codename for the program (“Olympic Games”) and the involvement of a US ally, Israel. At one point in the Times story, a source says the Israelis were responsible for an error in the code which allowed it to replicate itself all around the world. The Times directly quotes one of the president’s briefers telling him, “We think there was a modification done by the Israelis,” adding that, “Mr. Obama, according to officials in the room, asked a series of questions, fearful that the code could do damage outside the plant. The answers came back in hedged terms. Mr. Biden fumed. ‘It’s got to be the Israelis,’ he said. ‘They went too far.’”

Where was the concern for the exposure this intelligence or the involvement of our liaison partner? The damage this leak did — both to the operation and the trust between our two countries — is incalculable.
And remember when the media identified the Pakistani doctor who helped track down bin Laden. He is in a Pakistani prison today.
Did his exposure by Obama officials bragging about the president’s accomplishment have a chilling effect on intelligence cooperation? You bet.
Another example involved the Obama administration for leaking information involving a double agent that British intelligence had recruited who exposed a new underwear bomb plot in Yemen. That leak certainly angered British intelligence. There are quite a few more leaks from the Obama administration that endangered our intelligence gathering.
These are just a few examples. The list of leaks and liaison partners exposed during the Obama years goes on and on.

None of this excuses Trump’s accidentally sharing top-secret intelligence with Russian officials. But it takes chutzpah for the media to express outrage over his apparently inadvertent disclosure of classified information – or to feign concern over the effect his actions might have on cooperation by our intelligence partners in the fight against terror – when they regularly published often intentional leaks from Obama administration that exposed sources and methods and endangered our national security.

Trump may have stumbled badly in his meeting with the Russians, but he has a long way to go before he does the kind of damage that President Obama and his team of intelligence sieves did – with the help of The New York Times and other news outlets now crowing over his error.

Tom Rogan calls for a strong reaction to Turkish protection forces (TPPD) for President Erdogan who attacked anti-Erdogan protesters during his visit to Washington, D.C. We can't just accept foreign security forces assaulting peaceful protesters in our nation's capital.
Still, in this latest incident — a premeditated assault on the U.S. constitutional right to peaceful protest — the TPPD has crossed a line. It, and the Turkish government more broadly, must face consequences for their actions. For a start, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson needs to show public anger. Outdoing yesterday’s placid semi-condemnation from the State Department, Tillerson should summon the Turkish ambassador and call out Turkey’s breach of U.S. law. Tillerson should also — and specifically — note the TPPD’s ludicrous hypocrisy. On its website, the TPPD takes care to outline “human rights” and diplomatic-communications training as key priorities. I’m not joking.

Second, the U.S. should ban the TPPD officers who were involved from entering the United States. Their faces can be cross-referenced with their visit credentials in order to identify them. Ramazan Bal, the TPPD’s commanding officer, should be included in their number. Bal was head of ministerial security when Erdogan was prime minister, before following him to the presidential palace. He clearly retains Erdogan’s trust and confidence. Yet the sustained misconduct by Bal’s officers suggests that he either is totally incompetent or is directing these acts. Erdogan will whine. Let him.

Third, the U.S. government should suspend all training exercises with Turkish protection agencies. Seeking their unparalleled facilities and expertise, foreign governments frequently send protection teams to train with U.S. government agencies. For example, according to Turkish media, the TPPD’s attached counter-assault team (which is responsible for repelling attacks) was trained by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

The key here is the pursuit of broader strategic effect. Enacted quickly and unapologetically, each of these actions would prove to Erdogan that America is no longer willing to tolerate his antics. Erdogan must understand that his anger, for example, over President Trump’s decision to arm Kurdish forces in Syria is ill-directed against U.S. citizens.

Turkey is an important U.S. ally, but Erdogan is not America’s overlord. The TPPD and its master must be corralled.
It would be shameful if we don't have a strong reaction to such an abuse of our nation's freedoms right there in Washington, D.C.

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Jason Whitlock whose opinions are often controversial, has a good explanation of why NFL teams are hesitant to hire Colin Kaepernick. And it's not due to his views, but his supporters.
In reality, the 29-year-old has struggled to find work because his supporters inflated the risk of signing him, and his skills don’t compensate for the uncertainty he brings. An owner, general manager or coach runs the risk of being publicly vilified as racist depending on how his team uses the mixed-race quarterback.

The same risk does not exist if an NFL decision maker mishandles rookies like Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson, or veterans such as Blaine Gabbert and Geno Smith. A coach knows he can bench or cut any NFL quarterback, except Mr. Kaepernick, without having his personal integrity questioned. This explains why former Kaepernick backup Mr. Gabbert has already signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Critics of the Gabbert acquisition can question Arizona head coach Bruce Arians’s football acumen without politics becoming an issue. Mr. Gabbert is in that way an ideal backup: somewhere between invisible and boring.
And the comparison that comes to mind is a very different athlete, Tim Tebow.
Former quarterback Tim Tebow’s rabid, irrational supporters undermined his NFL opportunities in much the same fashion as Mr. Kaepernick’s. In 2011 he started 11 games for the Denver Broncos and led them to a come-from-behind playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In celebration of big plays and touchdowns, Mr. Tebow knelt in prayer and became a polarizing religious symbol. He was also a below-average passer. The Broncos, and several other teams, discarded the fervent Christian when it became clear his production didn’t justify the controversy associated with his presence.

Mr. Kaepernick’s kneeling is an even riskier proposition. The social-justice warrior has cultivated media alliances far more aggressively than the pious Mr. Tebow. Mr. Kaepernick is also closely aligned with Black Lives Matter media activists. No NFL owner, executive or coach—regardless of race—wants his football decisions second-guessed in the tendentious way BLM activists Monday-morning-quarterback police officers.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cruising the Web

It sounds like every likes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's decision to ask former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the Justice Department investigation of Russia's role in the election and whether or not there are any connections to the Trump campaign.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein announced the decision after a week of rising pressure on the Justice Department to ensure the probe remains independent of the White House.

"My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that prosecution is warranted," Rosenstein said. "I have made no such determination."

But Rosenstein said that “based on the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

He said a special counsel is necessary in order for the “American people to have full confidence in the outcome.”

....The order from Rosenstein, which takes effect immediately, gives Mueller authority to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” along with “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Mueller also will have full authority to prosecute any federal crimes arising from the investigation, Rosenstein’s order says.
It seems that Rosenstein made this decision before informing the White House. Good for him. Mark Halperin gives the establishment point of view.
So what do the Democrats do now that they got their wish? Will they be the dogs who finally caught the car? I also wonder if Trump will be questioned under oath. That ought to be fun.

Allahpundit thinks that this could be good news for Trump if he is truly innocent of what some are accusing him of.
It’s good news for Trump too — if he’s telling the truth about having had nothing to do with Russia during the campaign. Democrats won’t be able to second-guess Obama’s own FBI chief if he gives Trump a clean .bill of legal health.
If Trump isn't telling the truth or there were any direct connections between Trump and Russia...well, then he'll deserve all that will rain down upon him.

We've learned to be wary of special counsels after having seen overboard investigations in the past. The WSJ expresses the concerns that many have about special counsels.
The problem with special counsels, as we’ve learned time and again, is that they are by definition all but politically unaccountable. While technically Mr. Rosenstein could fire Mr. Mueller if he goes too far, the manner of his appointment and the subject he’s investigating make him de facto untouchable even if he becomes an abusive Javert like Patrick Fitzgerald during the George W. Bush Administration.

What the country really needs is a full accounting of how the Russians tried to influence the election and whether any Americans assisted them. That is fundamentally a counterintelligence investigation, but Mr. Mueller will be under pressure to bring criminal indictments of some kind to justify his existence. He’ll also no doubt bring on young attorneys who will savor the opportunity to make their reputation on such a high-profile investigation.

Mr. Mueller has experience in counterintelligence and at 72 years old has nothing to prove. But he is also a long-time Washington player close to the FBI whose director was recently fired, and he is highly attuned to the political winds. As they say in Washington, lawyer up.

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Andrew McCarthy reminds us
of the precedent that President Obama set regarding a president obstructing an ongoing investigation.
On April 10, 2016, President Obama publicly stated that Hillary Clinton had shown “carelessness” in using a private e-mail server to handle classified information, but he insisted that she had not intended to endanger national security (which is not an element of the relevant criminal statute). The president acknowledged that classified information had been transmitted via Secretary Clinton’s server, but he suggested that, in the greater scheme of things, its importance had been vastly overstated.

On July 5, 2016, FBI director James Comey publicly stated that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in using a private email server to handle classified information, but he insisted that she had not intended to endanger national security (which is not an element of the relevant criminal statute). The director acknowledged that classified information had been transmitted via Secretary Clinton’s server, but he suggested that, in the greater scheme of things, it was just a small percentage of the emails involved.

Case dismissed.

Could there be more striking parallels? A cynic might say that Obama had clearly signaled to the FBI and the Justice Department that he did not want Mrs. Clinton to be charged with a crime, and that, with this not-so-subtle pressure in the air, the president’s subordinates dropped the case — exactly what Obama wanted, relying precisely on Obama’s stated rationale.

Yet the media yawned.
James Freeman adds in this other example.
This wasn’t the only instance in which President Obama pronounced his personal verdict while a federal investigation was in process. While law enforcement officials were still investigating IRS targeting of Mr. Obama’s philosophical opponents, he told Fox News that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” and that IRS employees had made “bone-headed decisions.” In other words, the President was telling the public and everyone in his employ that all of the IRS staff involved were good guys and gals who had simply made mistakes. More than a year later, the feds closed the investigation without charges.
McCarthy concludes,
Context is critical, and we don’t have it. All we know is that Trump hoped the criminal investigation would be dropped — but again, did not order it to be dropped — and vouched for Flynn’s character. That may have been inappropriate under the circumstances, but it was not corrupt. Comey surely found it awkward, but he clearly did not perceive it as obstruction. The former director is a highly experienced and meritoriously decorated former prosecutor and investigator. He knows what obstruction of justice is. And the Jim Comey I’ve known for 30 years would not stand for political interference in law enforcement. If he had understood Trump’s remarks as a directive or, worse, a threat, he would have resigned.

It is not enough to say that he did not resign. Unlike the investigation of Mrs. Clinton, the investigation of Flynn has continued. Plus, Comey does not appear to have indicated to his subordinates, to his Justice Department superiors, or to Congress that he felt threatened. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and Comey’s former deputy (now acting director) Andrew McCabe have not intimated, even vaguely, that their investigative activities have been hampered. Again, the investigation is proceeding apace.

There is no question that obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense. But media hyperventilating notwithstanding, the basis for claiming at this point that President Trump obstructed justice is not there . . . unless you also think President Obama obstructed justice last April.
Nick Short links to this testimony from Comey on May 3 when he was under oath.
HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?

COMEY: In theory yes.

HIRONO: Has it happened?

COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that -- without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don't see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I'm talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience.
It doesn't sound as if he felt that he had been influenced by the Department of Justice to stop any investigation. Maybe he was thinking of Loretta Lynch and the Clinton server investigation, but it also was an opportunity to speak up if he thought he had been pressured by Trump or anyone in the White House to slow down his investigations of Russia or Mike Flynn. Allahpundit thinks that Rosenstein is demonstrating that he is mostly concerned with the credibility of the DOJ.
And in fact, in tonight’s letter announcing Mueller’s appointment, Rosenstein argued that “the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command” and that a special counsel “is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome.” This may not be a matter of revenge on Trump for making him a patsy in the Comey firing, in other words, so much as the act of someone who really does worry about the DOJ’s credibility. That’s the common thread between his Comey memo and tonight’s news.

Jonathan Turley explains that, while Trump's reported comment to Comey about hoping he could finish up the Flynn investigation was very inappropriate, it wasn't illegal. Thus, talk of impeachment is completely overblown.
A good place to start would be with the federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 1503. The criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo. There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case. That leaves the omnibus provision on attempts to interfere with the “due administration of justice.”

However, that still leaves the need to show that the effort was to influence “corruptly” when Trump could say that he did little but express concern for a longtime associate. The term “corruptly” is actually defined differently under the various obstruction provisions, but it often involves a showing that someone acted “with the intent to secure an unlawful benefit for oneself or another." Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily seeking an unlawful benefit for him.

Then there is the question of corruptly influencing what? There is no indication of a grand jury proceeding at the time of the Valentine's Day meeting between Trump and Comey. Obstruction cases generally are built around judicial proceedings — not Oval Office meetings.
There are questions about Comey's behavior that he will have to answer.
The account suggests that Comey was so concerned about the conversation that he wrote a memorandum for record. But that would suggest that Comey thought the president was trying to influence the investigation but then said nothing to the Justice Department or to his investigation team. The report says that, while Comey may have told a couple of colleagues at the FBI, he did not tell the investigation team “so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.”

Why? If he thought the president was trying to derail the investigation, that would seem relevant to the scope of the investigation. It is like a bank president seeking to close a fraud investigation, but the contact in the FBI decided not to tell bank investigators. One explanation would be that Comey did not view Trump as a potential target of the Flynn investigation, and thus did not view the uncomfortable meeting as relevant to the investigation team (and Trump has maintained that Comey told him three times that he was not a target). However, that would make the case even weaker for allegations that Trump was trying to protect himself or his inner circle by seeking closure for Flynn.

It is highly concerning that Trump has described how Comey actively campaigned to keep his job during this period. As usual, Trump has created the most problematic record for judging his own actions. If Comey was pleading for his job as suggested by Trump, the impropriety of the alleged statement in the Oval Office would be exponentially increased.
Turley discusses Flynn's supposed crimes in a way that I haven't seen before.
There is still no compelling evidence of an actual crime at the heart of the Russian investigation. Flynn is facing allegations of basic reporting or disclosure violations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) which is rarely actually prosecuted. Indeed, there have been only seven prosecutions under FARA since 1966, when the law was revised.

The investigation of Flynn has not produced any reported evidence implicating Trump. A FARA violation is a relatively minor federal violation for a president if that is the scope of the FBI investigation.
There might be a whole lot that the investigation has found on Flynn that hasn't been leaked yet, but somehow I don't have confidence in a leak-free investigation. Perhaps this is where Mueller's appointment could be important. Also, we'll get Comey's testimony. Turley points out how Trump's loquaciousness on everything related to this investigation will come back to bite him.
There is still no compelling evidence of an actual crime at the heart of the Russian investigation. Flynn is facing allegations of basic reporting or disclosure violations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) which is rarely actually prosecuted. Indeed, there have been only seven prosecutions under FARA since 1966, when the law was revised.

The investigation of Flynn has not produced any reported evidence implicating Trump. A FARA violation is a relatively minor federal violation for a president if that is the scope of the FBI investigation.
So let's have the Congressional and Mueller investigation and just tone down all the calls for impeachment or criminal acts. What is inappropriate is not necessarily criminal or impeachable.

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So why are New Yorkers celebrating a terrorist, a member of a group responsible for a bombing that killed four people.
Oscar Lopez-Rivera was released from house arrest in Puerto Rico today, and next month he will be returning to New York City, where his terrorist group bombed innocent people, to be honored in the Puerto Rican Day parade. His sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in the final days of his administration, and now the Puerto Rican “nationalist” is a free man.

Lopez-Rivera was convicted for weapons trafficking and conspiracy to overthrow the government. He helped the socialist revolutionary group FALN, of which he was a member, obtain weapons and carry out attacks such as the bombing of Fraunces Tavern in downtown Manhattan, which killed four.

Joe Connor, whose father was killed in the Fraunces Tavern bombing when Joe was nine, told NPR, “I would love to ask people who support his release and say, If not a terrorist, what has Oscar Lopez done to help the Puerto Rican people?”
Good question. And San Francisco and Chicago also see this guy as a hero.
In addition to his appearance in the city where FALN racked up its greatest body count, Lopez-Rivera has been booked to appear in San Francisco and Chicago, where he will have a streetway named in his honor.
Hmmmm. What do these three cities have in common?

Kyle Smith points out that Democrats who are calling for impeachment of Trump should be happier with a President Pence. You might think that Pence would be much preferable to them than Trump whom they so despise, but think again.
If Trump leaves office prematurely for any reason, President Pence will immediately be denounced as far worse. In fact, it would happen before he even took office. In fact it’s already happening. That this is true is testament to the fundamentally unprincipled nature of the Left. Whatever looks like a winning strategy on Thursday is what matters, even if it nullifies everything you said you believed on Monday.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen did some preliminary construction work on what will become the new party line if it appears Pence is likely to replace Trump in office. In his absurd May 15 take — “Trump doesn’t embody what’s wrong with Washington. Pence does.” — Cohen blasts Pence for being a “bobblehead” who nods too much when standing near Trump at press conferences, for publicly stating things that Trump told him, and for having failed to quit being Trump’s running mate while Trump said rude things. In other words, Pence is worse than Trump for being in Trump’s proximity while Trump misbehaves. By that standard every hack and flack who went on TV to defend Bill Clinton in 1998 is worse than Clinton, including the person who blamed the true reports about his misconduct on the lies of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

John Oliver, the spirit animal of so much left-wing punditry, said on his post-election show that “Trump is not normal. . . . He’s a human, ‘What is wrong with this picture?’” He added, “But that is when you remember Mike f***ing Pence, who might be even worse — because he looks like he’s from the 1950s, but he thinks like he’s from the 1650s.” To Oliver, Trump is a “racist” “Klan-backed, misogynist Internet troll,” but Pence might be worse because he looks funny — or rather, because he doesn’t look funny.
THe Democrats might think that Trump is the worst thing that has ever happened to our country's politics, but they don't want a "normal Republican." They don't want any Republican.
“Normal Republican,” though, the thing the Left has openly wished for all these months, reverts to being an oxymoron should Pence come within sight of the presidency. His promotion would make progressives reach for the old playbook: Attack as a dangerous theocrat who hates women, minorities, and gays. No matter that the evidence for any of this is thin (unlike, say, the evidence for Trump’s volatility or unfitness). Opposition to abortion, or even opposition to government funds being directed to the nation’s leading abortion provider, will be recast as posing a supreme danger to “women’s health.” Disagreeing that we need a federal bathroom policy will be recast as “hate.” It was completely unacceptable even to “normalize” the man who earned 306 electoral votes on November 8. But Pence will be called even more abnormal because he deflects questions about evolution as beyond his pay grade.

Because Pence is a man of faith, the ludicrous attempt to tie the secular, non-moralizing Trump to the neo-Puritan misogynist dystopia imagined in the new TV series The Handmaid’s Tale will be recharged, only this time at 10,000 volts. Pence will be labeled an extremist for being part of the American Christian majority. We’ll be told that Pence’s misogyny is even more outlandish than Trump’s because he declines to have boozy one-on-one dinners with women other than his wife. We’ll hear lies about how Pence wants to electrocute gays to convert them to heterosexuality, or at very least that Pence hates gay Americans.
By the way, I haven't understood all these people comparing Gilead of The Handmaid's Tale to Trump's America. How is anything in this country like the Dystopia of Margaret Atwood's novel? Feminists should be pointing out how close Gilead is to Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations, an institution so admired by leftists, just put Saudi Arabia on the U.N. Women's Rights Commission. Yet we're not seeing women's marches in solidarity with the women of Saudi Arabia.

Ah, another example of the MSM making a big deal about a nothingburger of a story and misleading readers with their supposed breaking story. They tried to portray Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as saying that Putin was paying Donald Trump and California Republican Dana Rohrabacher. The actual transcript indicates that everyone at this meeting took McCarthy's words as a joke.
McCarthy: There’s…there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and
Trump…[laughter]…swear to God.

Ryan: This is an off the record…[laughter]…NO LEAKS…[laughter]…alright?!


Ryan: This is how we know we’re a real family here.
Now who could look at that transcript and think that it was anything other than an attempt at humor? Washington journalists. THe Post tried to portray Paul Ryan's spokesman as lying about this conversation not happening until they told him that they had a recording of the event. That sounds ominous, right? Well Brendan Buck, the spokesman, claims that the question that was originally put to him was different from the actual words that were spoken. If you were asked that question, would you remember the joke that was made or think that you were being asked about a serious statement by the House Majority Leader stating that he thought Putin was paying off Trump. This is a made-up story that the Post seems to have ginned up out of nothing in order to spread more gasoline on the fire. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cruising the Web

Geez, when it rains, it pours. These are vertiginous times.

THe New York Times is reporting on a memo that then-FBI Director James Comey wrote to himself after a meeting alone with James Comey saying that President Trump spoke of Mike Flynn and the investigation into Flynn's affairs.
President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The White House is denying this story. It might actually be helpful for Trump to have tapes of this conversation. But maybe the tapes wouldn't help him. Or the Trump people can argue that "I hope you can let this go" is not exactly an executive order. If this is such an impeachable offense, why did Comey just let it go with only a memo to himself?

Given that this is perhaps the most damaging story so far of all the leaked stories about Trump's presidency since it involves possible obstruction of justice, Congress needs to subpoena the Comey memos and bring him in to testify under oath. The New York Times reports that Comey shared his memo with senior FBI officials.
After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.

Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.
Why not inform Congress or at least the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee about it. If they thought he was really trying to influence the investigation, why not report it? Or if Comey really thought he was being pressured about a current investigation, why not resign if he wasn't going to make this public?

Though I bet that we're going to get leak after leak from these memos that Comey wrote after meetings with Trump.

And then there is this detail.
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
Oh, geez. Does Trump know anything about the First Amendment rights of the press?

Allahpundit comments,
t is nothing short of amazing that Trump would pull the trapdoor on this guy knowing that Comey had this sort of dirt on him. Either (a) this story is untrue, (b) Trump didn’t realize that leaning on him about Flynn was obstruction of justice, or (c) he did realize it but had a political death wish, or thought maybe the director of the FBI would play ball with him. Whatever the answer, if Democrats controlled the House right now there’s no doubt that subpoenas would be drafted this evening and articles of impeachment prepared, pending Comey’s confirmation that this happened. As it is, the GOP’s going to have no choice but to subpoena him themselves. If Comey and the other witnesses say the Times story is true, what then?
I can well believe that Trump had no idea that it was improper to talk to Comey about possibly ending the Flynn administration.

If you thought we were hearing a lot of calls for impeachment before, just wait. And you can bet that Democrats in the midterm elections will be demanding that Republican incumbents where they stand on impeachment. Of course, I bet a whole lot of Republicans on the Hill would secretly prefer a President Pence, but they have to worry about how their base would react. Congressional Republicans seemed to have been hiding from the media last night.

How soon before Trump starts saying that he has to "go back to work for the American people."

Of course, it's not clear that that one sentence to Comey is truly obstruction of justice. Ann Althouse writes,
I'd like to know more about the basis for saying "An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations." I'm guessing that's a reference to the admissibility of the evidence as an exception to the hearsay rule (803(6)). The weight to be given the evidence depends on all of the circumstances. By the way, it's double hearsay, since we're asked not only to believe what Comey wrote but the unnamed individuals who told the NYT about the memo. The NYT has not seen a copy of the memo.

But let's assume the memo exists and says what you read quoted in the post title. How bad is it to say Flynn is a "good guy" and to express "hope" about the outcome? The headline has a pretty aggressive paraphrase of the quote. It reads: "Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation."

The asking is at most only implicit in what is a declarative statement: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go." That's just Trump revealing what he hopes for. There's no question at all, let alone any pressure or threat. And "see your way clear" is a delicate phrase. That's not saying do it my way. Go your way. And if your path is clear and it gets you to the outcome I hope for, then I will get what I want, but I'm assuming you will go where you see it clear.

Gregg Jarrett points out this fact about the law.
Under the law, Comey is required to immediately inform the Department of Justice of any attempt to obstruct justice by any person, even the President of the United States. Failure to do so would result in criminal charges against Comey. (18 USC 4 and 28 USC 1361) He would also, upon sufficient proof, lose his license to practice law.

So, if Comey believed Trump attempted to obstruct justice, did he comply with the law by reporting it to the DOJ? If not, it calls into question whether the events occurred as the Times reported it.

Obstruction requires what’s called “specific intent” to interfere with a criminal case. If Comey concluded, however, that Trump’s language was vague, ambiguous or elliptical, then he has no duty under the law to report it because it does not rise to the level of specific intent. Thus, no crime.

There is no evidence Comey ever alerted officials at the Justice Department, as he is duty-bound to do. Surely if he had, that incriminating information would have made its way to the public either by an indictment or, more likely, an investigation that could hardly be kept confidential in the intervening months.

Comey’s memo is being treated as a “smoking gun” only because the media and Democrats, likely prompted by Comey himself, are now peddling it that way.

Comey will soon testify before Congress about this and other matters. His memo will likely be produced pursuant to a subpoena. The words and the context will matter.

But by writing a memo, Comey has put himself in a box. If he now accuses the President of obstruction, he places himself in legal jeopardy for failing to promptly and properly report it. If he says it was merely an uncomfortable conversation, he clears the president of wrongdoing and sullies his own image as a guy who attempted to smear the man who fired him.

Either way, James Comey comes out a loser. No matter. The media will hail him a hero.
I'm not sure that these legalisms matter in a political environment. The media have already branded this obstruction of justice so that's how it will be portrayed and what Republicans will have to respond to. And, as David French outlines, putting the stories together does present a suspicious-looking timeline.
Here is the alleged chain of events: First, Trump asked Comey to drop an investigation of a close former associate and a former senior official in his administration. Second, Comey refused. Third, weeks later Trump fired Comey. Fourth, Trump then misled the American people regarding the reason for the dismissal. Each prong is important, but it’s worth noting that the fourth prong — Trump’s deception regarding the reason for Comey’s termination — is particularly problematic in context. Deception is classic evidence of malign intent.

If true, this is a serious abuse of power, and a Republican Congress would certainly impeach a Democrat if the roles were reversed.
So the Senate and House will subpoena the memo and Comey will testify and we'll see how the story all holds up.
There is no good outcome here. Either there is now compelling evidence that the president committed a serious abuse of power, or the nation’s leading press outlets are dupes for a vindictive, misleading story. Either outcome violates the public trust in vital American institutions. Either outcome results in a degree of political chaos. If the memo is real and as damaging as the Times claims, the chaos is likely greater, but don’t underestimate the cultural and political damage if our nation’s most prestigious press outlets run a story of this magnitude based on a malicious fiction. It’s time for facts and documents, not anonymity and allegations. It’s time for the truth.

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The WSJ explains how the heart of all these stories is the President's credibility.
This eruption shows why a President’s credibility is so important. If people don’t believe Mr. Trump’s words or trust his judgment, they won’t give him the benefit of the doubt or be responsive if he asks for support. Last week the White House spent two days attributing Mr. Comey’s firing to a Justice Department recommendation, only for Mr. Trump to insist in a TV interview that the pink slip came “regardless of recommendation.”

News broke late Tuesday of Mr. Comey’s contemporaneous notes that Mr. Trump asked him in February to “let this go,” referring to the FBI probe of axed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The White House denied that account of the conversation, but that would be more credible if its previous statements were more reliable.
There is little that can change unless Trump changes and he has not shown much ability to rise above his own weaknesses.
Mr. Trump is considering a White House shakeup, including cleaning out many of his top aides, but the White House always reflects the President’s governing style. If Mr. Trump can’t discipline himself, then no Jim Baker ex machina will make much difference.

Mr. Trump needs to appreciate how close he is to losing the Republicans he needs to pass the agenda that will determine if he is successful. Weeks of pointless melodrama and undisciplined comments have depleted public and Capitol Hill attention from health care and tax reform, and exhaustion is setting in. America holds elections every two years, and Mr. Trump’s policy allies in Congress will drift away if he looks like a liability.

Millions of Americans recognized Mr. Trump’s flaws but decided he was a risk worth taking. They assumed, or at least hoped, that he’d rise to the occasion and the demands of the job. If he cannot, he’ll betray their hopes as his Presidency sinks before his eyes.
And the GOP electoral hopes will sink along with him. No wonder the Democrats are strongly peddling the worst interpretations of all these stories.

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Hmmmm. Sean Davis reminds us of this Obama executive order.
Just a month before the 2016 election, President Barack Obama signed a policy directive ordering the U.S. intelligence community to share sensitive U.S. intelligence with Cuba’s communist government, despite the fact that one of the top U.S. intelligence official had branded Cuba as one of America’s biggest espionage threats. The presidential policy directive, which was issued as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to normalize U.S. relations with the Castro regime, required the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to “exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts.”

“The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) will support broader United States Government efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, with Intelligence Community elements working to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts,” the Obama directive stated.

The Obama administration put some flesh on the bones of the October 2016 directive by signing a January 2017 law enforcement agreement with Cuba officially committing the U.S. to sharing sensitive intelligence with the island nation’s communist regime.

“The memorandum signed Monday commits the U.S. and Cuba to sharing information, carrying out joint investigations and possibly stationing law-enforcement officials in each other’s countries,” the Associated Press (AP) reported just days before Obama left office. The AP report characterized the agreement as a “pledge to share intelligence with Cuban state security.”

USA Today noted that Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, was physically present at the signing ceremony for the U.S.-Cuba intelligence-sharing agreement on January 16, 2017.

While the Obama administration’s plan to share U.S. intelligence with Cuban spies was immediately opposed by a handful of Republican members of Congress, the intel sharing agreement received scant attention from most mainstream U.S. media sources.....

Several lawmakers noted at the time that the intelligence-sharing deal with Cuba could result in the communist regime sending U.S. intelligence to Iran.

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, testified to Congress just months before Obama inked his deal with Cuba that the Castro regime represented one of the top global espionage threats against the U.S.

“Targeting and collection of US political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated,” Clapper said in prepared remarks before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February of 2016. “Russia and China pose the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale.”
And then there was this Obama administration action to make classified information public in order to punish Israel.
In a development that has largely been missed by mainstream media, the Pentagon early last month quietly declassified a Department of Defense top-secret document detailing Israel's nuclear program, a highly covert topic that Israel has never formally announced to avoid a regional nuclear arms race, and which the US until now has respected by remaining silent.

But by publishing the declassified document from 1987, the US reportedly breached the silent agreement to keep quiet on Israel's nuclear powers for the first time ever, detailing the nuclear program in great depth.

The timing of the revelation is highly suspect, given that it came as tensions spiraled out of control between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama ahead of Netanyahu's March 3 address in Congress, in which he warned against the dangers of Iran's nuclear program and how the deal being formed on that program leaves the Islamic regime with nuclear breakout capabilities.

Another highly suspicious aspect of the document is that while the Pentagon saw fit to declassify sections on Israel's sensitive nuclear program, it kept sections on Italy, France, West Germany and other NATO countries classified, with those sections blocked out in the document.
But wait, there's more from the Obama administration making classified information public for its own purposes.
Issrael is fuming with the White House for confirming that it was the Israeli Air Force that struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia on Wednesday, hitting weaponry that was set to be transferred to Hezbollah.

Israel has not acknowledged carrying out the strike, one of half a dozen such attacks widely ascribed to Israel in recent months, but an Obama administration official told CNN on Thursday that Israeli warplanes had indeed attacked the Syrian base, and that the target was “missiles and related equipment” set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel’s Channel 10 TV on Friday night quoted Israeli officials branding the American leak as “scandalous.” For Israel’s ally to be acting in this way was “unthinkable,” the officials were quoted as saying.

A second TV report, on Israel’s Channel 2, said the leak “came directly from the White House,” and noted that “this is not the first time” that the administration has compromised Israel by leaking information on such Israeli Air Force raids on Syrian targets.

It said some previous leaks were believed to have come from the Pentagon, and that consideration had been given at one point to establishing a panel to investigate the sources.

Channel 2’s military analyst, Roni Daniel, said the Obama administration’s behavior in leaking the information was unfathomable.

Daniel noted that by keeping silent on whether it carried out such attacks, Israel was maintaining plausible deniability, so that Syria’s President Bashar Assad did not feel pressured to respond to the attacks.

But the US leaks “are pushing Assad closer to the point where he can’t swallow these attacks, and will respond.” This in turn would inevitably draw further Israeli action, Daniel posited, and added bitterly: “Then perhaps the US will clap its hands because it will have started a very major flare-up.” (h/t Sean Davis

So is the difference that Obama did shared information with Cuba deliberately and on a much broader basis and, if you follow the Washington Post story, Trump did it inadvertently?

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James Freeman comments on National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster's press briefing about what Trump may have said in the meeting with the Russians.
At his Tuesday appearance in the White House briefing room, Gen. McMaster called Mr. Trump’s discussion “wholly appropriate” and consistent with the normal sharing of information on terror threats that occurs in high-level meetings with representatives of foreign nations. He said he was not concerned by Mr. Trump’s disclosures and had not contacted any foreign governments about them.

The anonymous sources quoted by the Post, on the other hand, appear to have very deep concerns, and the Post says that some of them even know what was said at the meeting. But many of the story’s harshest critiques of the President come from people who were not only not at the meeting, but are no longer in government.
These former officials are really concerned about Trump sharing such details with the Russians.
Now why are such subjects sensitive enough to require anonymity but not sensitive enough to avoid discussing with a Washington Post reporter? We normally think of current government employees needing to remain anonymous while leaking data to the press in order to keep their jobs, but it’s not immediately clear why all the former officials also deserve anonymity in this case.

It’s possible that the sources in this story understand that people not named Clinton may be punished if they are caught mishandling sensitive information they obtained while they were in government. But one would think that a former official could publicly opine that the President is recklessly sharing information without disclosing any particular details of intelligence or the way it is collected. This raises the possibility that the sensitivity problem relates to a source’s current and future employment rather than previous government service.

Not every organization enjoys having its employees publicly accuse the President of endangering national security. And even people without an institutional affiliation understand they run the risk of offending clients when they publicly stand behind a controversial idea. But of course the grant of immunity by a reporter denies readers the opportunity to evaluate sources for themselves and consider their possible agendas.

Readers can’t tell whether the former officials quoted by the Post are retired or work for defense contractors or think tanks or political operations—or perhaps at firms that have nothing to do with government.

But readers are able to evaluate H.R. McMaster. He has spent a highly distinguished career defending the United States. And he was at the meeting. And he’s on the record.

With this whole story, it does indeed seem that the media revealed more information than Trump might have done.
Monday’s stories on what Trump told his Russian guests noted that he’d given details that might help them figure out how Washington had gotten the intel.

But The New York Times reported Tuesday that Israel was the source.

And then ABC disclosed even more sensitive specifics: An Israeli spy inside ISIS had uncovered the active plot to bring down a US-bound jet with a laptop bomb able to evade airport security.

This info is said to have been provided on condition that Washington not reveal who came up with the goods. And we’d like to hope that the leaks to the Times and ABC are disinformation to obscure the true source.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster insists Trump didn’t even know where it came from.

So why did the Times and ABC feel compelled to publicly disclose more details? Maybe the Russians hadn’t figured it out — yet now the whole world knows.

ABC went live with info that, by its own admission, places the life of the Israeli spy “at risk.” So ISIS knows now — thanks more to the US media than to the president.
And those anonymous leakers are the ones that put this information out there. How is saying that it was Israel helpful?

With all this in mind, it's helpful that Mollie Hemingway provides a list of how to read media reports chock full of anonymous leaks on the Trump administration.
-In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.

-Don’t trust anonymous sources. If democracy dies in darkness, anonymity is not exactly transparent or accountable. Unless someone is willing to to put his or her name with a leak, be on guard. Pay attention to how well the reporters characterize the motivations of the anonymous leaker. All leakers have motivation.

Does the paper seem to have a grasp on how the motivation affects the veracity of the leak?

-If someone is leaking national security information in, order to support the claim of a national security violation, be on guard.

-If someone is claiming a serious national security crisis but not willing to go public with the claim and resign in protest of same, be on guard.

-Compare sources willing to put their name and reputation on the line.

-Big anti-Trump news brings out the fakers.

-Pay attention to the language that the media uses. Is a story about something unimportant being written in such a way as to make it seem more important?

-Beware confirmation bias. Everyone has the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. Be on guard that you don’t accept critical or exonerating evidence to match your political preferences.

-Pay attention to how quickly and fully editors and reporters correct stories based on false information from anonymous sources. If they don’t correct at all, it’s an indication of a lack of respect.
I have a feeling that we will have need of this list for at least the next three a three-quarters years. Unfortunately, we're at the point nowadays when so many people feel that they can't trust either the media or the Trump administration.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cruising the Web

David Harsanyi argues that Democrats' concerns about checks and balances would be much more credible if they had had similar concerns when Obama's use of executive power.
Fact is, we’ve had (at least) two norm-busting presidents with authoritarian impulses in a row. Both believe in ruling with a pen and a personality, disregarding process whenever it suits their political purposes. One was a thoughtful-sounding, charismatic force, and a talented fibber; a virtuoso at erecting strawmen and offering false choices. He pushed his party farther to the Left than it has ever been. The other is a clumsy and transparent fibber, an incompetent novice, pushing his party into whatever ideologically untethered position is catching his fancy at the moment. Only one of these men, however, was given a free pass by most people in the institutional media because his progressive ideological outlook pleases their sensibilities.

You don’t trust Donald Trump to name an FBI director, even though it’s within his purview to do so? Well, I don’t trust Barack Obama to enter into faux treaties with a bunch of nations without Senate approval or to unilaterally legalize millions of people without Congress. I understand that you find those unilateral decisions morally comforting, but if process and norms matter they should always matter. (An example of the opposite would be an ACLU lawyer who argues that Trump’s immigration order might have been constitutional had Hillary signed it. This undermines trust.)

While there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around, Democrats’ newfound adoration of checks and balances simply isn’t credible. And once that trust has been eroded, it’s difficult to regain it. Most Americans aren’t impressed by procedure. So why would they surrender power when they’re certain you will abuse it again four years from now?

Speaking of the hypocrisy of the Democrats, this is an amusing story, except for the individuals involved.
After championing the $15 minimum wage in their party platform, Democrats are facing a class-action lawsuit over failure to pay overtime. Field workers in various states are suing the DNC and state Democratic parties on the grounds that their 80-90 hour work weeks in the heat of the campaign qualify them for overtime payment, rather than their agreed upon salary of $2,500-$3,000 per month.

Field workers are plentiful and cheap, so Democratic operatives are naturally arguing that the plaintiffs don’t have a case because the supply of inexpensive labor allowed the party to pay them so little. “The number of young people who want to work on campaigns is infinite,” Democratic consultant Neil Oxman said.
Really? Is that an excuse for employers to pay workers less if there are lots of replacement workers out there who are willing to work for low pay.
If a multitude of people are willing to work at what Democrats call a “starvation wage,” then it makes sense for the DNC to pay them just that. (Whether their motives are “love” for Democratic candidates or connections and resume enhancement is another topic.) However, attorney Justin Swidler, who is bringing the case, called that move “obscene.”
So the DNC is balking on paying its employees overtime all the while they were paying some DNC executives bonuses over $300,000.
These field workers’ “love” for Hillary Clinton may be cold comfort while they’re waiting for their lawsuit to make its way through the courts, but the executives who just got six-figure bonuses are probably seeing the grieving process get much easier.

And labor leaders are not immune from their own style of hypocrisy. The AFL-CIO are criticizing the average pay for CEOs at the S&P 500 companies as earning $13.1 million and the contrast to what average workers earn making a “CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 347 to 1.” Bu Austin Yack points out, that if we look at all CEOs, the facts look a bit different.
But the AFL-CIO report neglected to include the average salary for all CEOs in the U.S. in 2016, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $194,350. These same union leaders who criticize the salaries of CEOs earned on average $252,370 in 2016 — nearly $60,000 more than their private-sector counterparts.

The Center for Union Facts, the union watchdog that unveiled the average presidential salary from nearly 200 unions, found that some union leaders are earning lucrative salaries north of $700,000.

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John Soloman summarizes the stories that the media got totally wrong last week in their reporting on Comey, Trump, and the Russia investigation. He points out how the media have elided two stories and succeeded in confusing people.
CNN went live with an exclusive the night Comey was fired, reporting that grand jury subpoenas were issued to associates of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn seeking business records in the Russia case.

But with one slight turn of hand, CNN’s legitimate scoop was crafted to suggest there had been some correlation to Comey’s firing.

“CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey,” the network reported.

I was at a lunch counter at a Baltimore restaurant 48 hours later when some of the customers got into a conversation about Comey’s firing. To a number, each had seen or heard the CNN report and each was left with the impression that Comey was probably fired because he had asked for the grand jury subpoenas and was “getting closer to Trump.”

I chimed in, explaining the grand jury subpoenas were issued a week or more before Comey’s firing and that they were approved by the Justice Department and its U.S. Attorney in eastern Virginia, Dana Boente, because the FBI can’t issue subpoenas on its own.

Boente was appointed by Barack Obama and trusted enough by Trump to temporarily be named acting attorney general earlier this year, I added.

I also explained that Comey had told Congress that Trump is not even a target of the Russia probe, something confirmed by Republicans and Democrats alike.

After those explanations, nearly everyone at the counter had a far different perception about the relevance of CNN’s report.

“So Trump’s Justice Department or its prosecutor could have said no and blocked the probe but didn’t?” one patron, an avowed Democrat, asked rhetorically. “That’s way different than what I thought.”

No one would doubt that the subpoenas were a legitimate story. But its juxtaposition to Comey’s firing - whether intentional or not -- clearly had an impact on the public that doesn’t understand the intricacies of the justice system.
I would guess that that was a feature, not a bug of the media's coverage.

Jazz Shaw remembers when the media and Democrats used to call the Republicans "the Party of No."
I’m old enough to remember when the Republicans were in the minority in Congress and the Democrats held the White House as well. At that time, the GOP was popularly referred to as the Party of No, and some outlets like the Huffington Post were not only applying that tag to them, but calling for the party to be abolished as a result of it. My, what a difference eight years can make, eh? The worm has turned and now the Democrats are on the less enviable side of the equation. But the key difference now is that being the Party of No is suddenly cool. And the leader of that movement is none other than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Now Schumer is saying the Democrats should block any FBI Director nominee until there is a special counsel appointed to investigate collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
In terms of whether or not there should be a special counsel to head up an investigation, an inquiry by the Judiciary Committee or if we should simply leave it in the hands of the FBI, that’s a valid question for debate. If we take off our partisan hats for a bit we can probably find at least some merit in all of those ideas. But there’s one point where I would hope no rational person could disagree: the FBI needs to have a Director in place. You may not be wild about the choice and some Senators may even want to shoot down the first nominee and ask for another selection. But the process needs to move forward under the regular rules of order.

If the Senate Minority Leader wants to take a stand and hold that position vacant unless he gets something else which is only tangentially related first, he’s going beyond simple obstruction. He’s holding the system hostage and it’s being done for partisan political purposes. But should we really be surprised? Schumer staked out this territory early on. He’s been attacking nearly all of President Trump’s agenda since the inauguration, with the only exceptions being when he thought he could get Trump to sign on to something the rest of the Republicans would hate. (Such as health care.) When Trump gave a widely applauded speech at the end of February laying out a dizzying array of proposals which crossed party lines, Schumer couldn’t think of a single thing he would agree with.

The Democrats are now 100% the Party of No. This would almost be amusing if it weren’t for the “about face” the media has done in suddenly determining that obstructionism is patriotic and in the nation’s best interest.

President Obama got a big paycheck to speak on the Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan but as Julie Kelly notes, he contradicted himself within his own speech. First he talked about how climate change is endangering food production and leading to food shortages that will get far worse as climate change continues.” And this will lead to more global problems: “We’ve already seen shrinking yields and spiking food prices that in some cases are leading to political instability.” Of course this is not true.
But for most of the world outside, say, Venezuela or North Korea, this is simply not the case. Yields continue to rise in every major crop. High food prices, scarcity, and hunger are almost always the result of failed government and economic systems, not the methane emissions of cows.
But why bother with facts when there is fear-mongering to be done. However, Kelly notes the internal contradictions in his speech.
And yet Obama seemed unsure of his own message. For at the same time, he added, producing food is also a major cause of climate change: “Food production is the second-leading driver of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions . . . and if we don’t change course, the World Bank predicts that by 2050, agriculture and land use change may account for as much as 70 percent of global GHG emissions.” In short, we aren’t making enough food because of climate change . . . but making all this food is causing climate change.

Obama also seemed to contradict himself on the effectiveness of the Paris climate accord. Although he repeatedly defended it, he acknowledged that “even if every country somehow puts the brakes on the emissions that exist today, climate change would still have an impact on our world for years to come.” Then again, he said, “if we act boldly and swiftly . . . in favor of the air that our young people will breathe,” then “it won’t be too late.” Act boldly now so our kids can live their dreams . . . in a world that still has climate change....

Some people, even in the administration, might be looking for a convincing case about why we should remain in the Paris climate pact, but the former president didn’t make it in Milan. Instead, Obama’s comments were yet another example of the kind of meandering, vague, and contradictory collection of hypothetical scenarios that the climate tribe loves to peddle.

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As far as the story from the Washington Post that Trump leaked code-word level information in his meeting with the Russians in the Oval Office, who knows? I do know that we have leaks from anonymous sources who given that that some are described as former officials indicating that they were probably Obama officials versus the three people who were in the room with Trump, National Security Advisor HR McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Senior Adviser for policy, Dina Powell, who all deny the story. So we have people, especially General McMaster who is widely respected, saying it didn't happen. We have leakers giving out what Trump is supposed to have said in that room, boasting
“I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” Trump said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.
Well, who would know that? The Russians and the three other American officials in the room. If you discount that McMaster, Tillerson, and Powell were the ones leaking, doesn't that leave us with the Russians being the ones doing the leak?

However, as Jonah Goldberg writes, it is actually plausible that it did happen. And that is scary.
I don’t know if the Washington Post story is accurate, but I do think it’s entirely plausible. Put aside whether the story is properly sourced and all that. When you heard the news, did you think it could be true?

If your answer is yes, think about that for a moment. That right there is a problem.

No, I don’t think for a moment that Trump deliberately divulged to the Russians classified information at an event covered by Russian media (but not American media) the day after he fired the FBI director for not doing more to end the investigation of his campaign’s alleged involvement with the Russians. That’s “resistance” paranoia stuff.

But the idea that Trump — with his irrepressible need to boast to the point of narcissistic incontinence combined with his lackadaisical approach to the nuts-and-bolts demands of the job — somehow just let something slip is utterly and completely believable. It was apparently believable to various members of his own administration.

What’s harder to believe, however, is the idea that H. R. McMaster lied tonight. McMaster is a heroic figure with credibility and integrity to burn. But if you put aside McMaster’s reputation and just listen to what he said, his statement tonight was pretty thin. He denied things not alleged in the Washington Post story “as reported” and then, after 60 seconds, walked away without taking a single question.

The folks insisting that McMaster’s statement settles the issue should wrestle with a few questions:

Why not take any questions?

Why not address the details of the story?

Why deny things not alleged?

Why did intelligence officials urge the Post to withhold key details if this is “fake news”?

....I have a lot of faith in and respect for McMaster. But it’s worth recalling that just last week, the White House insisted that the president fired James Comey on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general. The vice president repeatedly said as much. Within 24 hours that storyline was discredited. Within days, the president himself threw the vice president and his communications team under the bus in his interview with Lester Holt. Donald Trump’s track record of screwing people who vouch for him is truly impressive. So is his ability to put honorable people in no-win situations.

You’d think that people would at least be somewhat chastened by this fact and take a wait and see, or even trust-but-verify, approach.

In other words, I get why you don’t trust the Washington Post. I don’t get why you trust the Trump administration.
I can't get past the idea that we have leakers calling the Washington Post to give out this story and gave them the details of what Trump was supposed to have said to the Russians including the key component - the name of the city from which we got this information. So they called the press to report Trump for leaking and then leaked that same information to the media. In other words, they so wanted to give out a story to make Trump look bad that they themselves leaked the highest priority classified information.

But Goldberg is correct, it's possible to doubt the Washington Post and also doubt President Trump. And that's a troubling place to be.

Allahpundit also
has his doubts.
No excerpt can do the full story justice, right down to details about Trump sometimes ignoring the short summaries his briefers prepare for him before he talks to foreign leaders. (“Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not?” wondered one former intel official. “That’s what worries me.”) Trump fans on Twitter are pointing to a quote in the piece from H.R. McMaster that seems at first blush to deny the story, but doesn’t really: “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.” Right, but WaPo didn’t claim that Trump had revealed sources. They claimed that he had revealed a key detail about location that Russian intelligence could use to try to figure out how the U.S. partner who detected the ISIS aviation threat knows what it knows. McMaster’s statement sounds like a non-denial denial. “Russia could identify our sources or techniques” based on the information Trump gave them, said one senior U.S. official.

Democrats have taken to retweeting these old bon mots from last July, after Comey’s press conference about Hillary’s email carelessness
If it's true, how to people in the national security team contain Trump if, as people are leaking to the media say, he continually ignores the importance of keeping classified information secret?
If you’re a U.S. natsec professional, how do you prevent this from happening again? Start withholding information from the president? There’s no way to stop him from blurting out classified info in the course of conversation once the conversation’s begun. The only way is to keep it from him in the first place. Although the fact that this incredibly embarrassing mishap has been leaked may be their way of trying to shame Trump into preparing more diligently for meetings going forward and being far more careful about what he says. (Especially since he’s leaving on his first foreign trip as president soon.) In the end, maybe the only way to get through to him is with bad press.

Ponder this.

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This is rather despicable behavior by a U.S. Congressman.
There are congressmen you can hit and some that you just can't criticize. With deep pockets and deeper connections, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., is the latter. Unfortunately for Saily Avelenda, nobody told her until it was too late.

Formerly a full-time legal counsel at a local bank and a part-time political activist, Avelenda became involved with a protest group after the election, pushing her congressman to hold town halls. That civic engagement ultimately ended up with her resigning her job.

Frelinghuysen sent a fundraising form letter in March to a board member of Lakeland Bank in New Jersey. Standard fare for Republican form letters, it warned about forces conspiring "to put a stop to an agenda of limited government, economic growth and stronger national security." But this copy of the mailer was notable because of a small blue asterisk and short note at the end.

"P.S. One of the ringleaders works in your bank!", Frelinghuysen scrawled at the bottom in blue ink, setting in motion a series of events that ended with Avelenda's resignation.

Though Avelenda wasn't fired, after her boss came into her office with the letter and a news article quoting her, it became clear she couldn't work at the local bank anymore. "Needless to say," she told WNYC, "that did cause some issues at work that were difficult to overcome."
She didn't have to resign, but a Congressman shouldn't be singling out an individual if it's true that all she did was call for him to hold town hall meetings. It might be unpleasant to head to those town halls and be abused by constituents, but that's part of their jobs. Conservatives were happy when Democrats faced hostile town hall meetings over Obamacare; they should be willing to explain themselves to their constituents. I agree that outside protesters can be screened out of the meetings, but if people live in the district, those people should be free to question and hear from their representative. Frelinghuysen could learn from the example of his fellow New Jersey GOP representative, Tom MacArthur, who faced hostile questioning for close to five hours in a town hall. It seems that people were very angry and some were filled with misconceptions such as the no debunked idea that the GOP AHCA classified rape as a pre-existing condition. It must have been a brutal experience for MacArthur, but he should also get kudos for staying there and answering all those question one after another. That's what I would like from my representative. The more that congressmen can do that, the better the opportunity they have to get their message out there. Sure the media will concentrate on how hostile the group was, but I hope other constituents of MacArthur read that story and thought, "Geez, it was pretty stand-up of him to stay there for almost five hours and stand up for himself.

NYU Law School professor Richard Epstein writes in Vox to explain why the reaction to Comey's firing has been so overblown.
There are of course many reasons why one might oppose Trump’s decision to fire Comey, but none of them remotely deserve the hyperbolic responses that Comey’s termination has elicited. There are two sides to every story, and in this case the other side has, at least for the moment, the better of the argument.
He goes on to praise the Rosenstein memo explaining why Comey deserved to be fired. There were so many reasons to criticize Comey's conduct of the investigation of Clinton from the very beginning. These are some of the details that I'd forgotten from even before his July, 2016 public statement.
But, if anything, he understated the case against Comey. First, Comey treated the initial investigation of Hillary Clinton back in March 2015 with kid gloves. There were the inexcusable decisions to grant immunities to key Clinton backers without first serving them with a subpoena that would have allowed the FBI to extract a quid pro quo for any immunity that thereafter might be granted. Second, the FBI allowed Clinton’s key aide Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff, to act as her legal counsel, even though she herself was a legitimate target of investigation who could have faced charges. And they did not conduct any of the ambush interviews that are commonly given in cases where criminal prosecution is warranted. The obvious inference is that Comey was kowtowing to his superiors in the Obama White House.
He then goes on to explain why it is not enough to say that the FBI was conducting an investigation touching on the President and so Comey could not be fired by Trump.
It requires contortions to convert an action that has independent justification into one that prompts talk of obstruction of justice and impeachment. In effect, one difficulty with that extravagant assertion is that it makes Comey de facto immovable from office so long as he continues to conduct this investigation. That cannot be the proper analysis because Comey has many other administrative responsibilities, including maintaining morale inside the office. No one should be able to guarantee his term in office by conducting a nonstop investigation of the president....

Nor is there anything to the claim that Trump has acted as a despot. Despots remove people in order to take over all the organs of government themselves. Cassidy seems to think the president has it within his power to appoint a successor to Comey entirely on his own, when the position requires confirmation by the Senate.
Of course, it will depend on whom Trump nominates, but one thing the outrage has achieved is to forestall any sort of political nomination such as CHris Christie. If Trump were to be so misguided as to nominate a political crony, it is likely he would lose at least three GOP votes on confirmation. Epstein's conclusion is about where I come down on all this. I think the President could fire Comey, but the timing was poor and the execution of the whole action was stupidly done with Trump's various statements and tweets exacerbated the damage.
At present, therefore, the near-hysterical charges against Trump on the underlying claims of impropriety are not supported. Given the mercurial state of affairs, the critics in Washington should hold their fire until they have something more concrete to go on. The great tragedy is that too many voices are so rigidly and irretrievably anti-Trump — so opposed to him on every aspect of domestic policy and foreign policy — that it clouds their judgment.

My view is somewhat different. I think that Trump à la carte is the only way to look at him: horrible on some issues, and sound on others. In this case, it is too soon to reach a definitive verdict, but here is my tentative conclusion about this current controversy: Where there is no smoke, there is no fire. Let the smoke appear, and we can and should reevaluate. But that time has not yet come.

In addition to misleading Congress and the public about the Iran deal, some former Obama officials are working to forestall new sanctions on Iran.
The congressional push coincides with the launch of an organization backed by former Obama officials, with Secretary of State John Kerry at the fore, many of whom are vocal opponents of the sanctions legislation. The group, Diplomacy Works, aims to "promote, protect, and preserve" the nuclear deal by informing and influencing lawmakers, experts, and others, according to a statement on its website....

Another long-time Middle East expert closely involved in the fight against the deal said the officials are mobilizing to ensure that lawmakers do not impose additional pressure on Iran.

"The same people who promised that the nuclear deal would enable Congress to push back against Iran—literally the very same people—are now mobilizing to prevent any pressure against Iran over its threats to us and our allies," the adviser told TWS.

This is what happens when young people are encouraged to search out opportunities to complain and assume victim status. Now we have students complaining that wood paneling in a university building is inappropriate because “minority students felt marginalized by quiet, imposing masculine paneling.” Huh? Does that make sense in anyone's mind? In you are intimidated by wood paneling and see it as too masculine, you need to take a sip from a big, tall "Get over yourself" latte.