House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes next plans to investigate the role former CIA Director John Brennan and other Obama intelligence officials played in promoting the salacious and unverified Steele dossier on Donald Trump — including whether Brennan perjured himself in public testimony about it.
In his May 2017 testimony before the intelligence panel, Brennan emphatically denied the dossier factored into the intelligence community’s publicly released conclusion last year that Russia meddled in the 2016 election “to help Trump’s chances of victory.”
Brennan also swore that he did not know who commissioned the anti-Trump research document, even though senior national security and counterintelligence officials at the Justice Department and FBI knew the previous year that the dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Last week, Nunes (R-Calif.) released a declassified memo exposing surveillance “abuses” by the Obama DOJ and FBI in their investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia. It said the agencies relied heavily on the uncorroborated dossier to take out a warrant to secretly surveil a Trump adviser in the heat of the 2016 presidential election, even though they were aware the underlying “intelligence” supporting the wiretap order was political opposition research funded by Clinton allies — a material fact they concealed from FISA court judges in four separate applications. –Paul Sperry at Real Clear Investigations
The investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not the only major investigation in progress.
There are now three major Congressional probes of the Obama-era FBI, Department of Justice, and intelligence agencies. They are slowly peeling away layers of political bias, unequal application of the law, and, perhaps even felonies by senior officials who may have leaked classified documents, obstructed justice, and violated Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure.
These Congressional probes are not mere diversions, as Democrats charge. They have serious, legitimate intentions and raise troubling questions.
Why did former FBI Director James Comey and his team pre-judge and soft-soap the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unsecured private server and her classified emails?
Why did they decide to clear her before completing key interviews with Mrs. Clinton and her aides?
Why did DOJ grant immunity so freely to obtain evidence that could have been easily subpoenaed by a grand jury?
Why did the government itself then destroy that evidence, so no one could do a real investigation later?
For that matter, why didn’t they convene a grand jury in the first place, as Mueller did almost immediately?
What involvement did the FBI counter-intelligence division have with the FusionGPS, Christopher Steele “Russian dossier,” financed by the Clinton campaign?
Was the dossier used, in part, to obtain a warrant to spy on Trump associates and, if so, was the FISA court completely informed about the dossier’s financing, provenance, and lack of verification?
And what the hell happened to months of text messages among key anti-Trump investigators at the FBI and DOJ?
VERY important questions. The public deserves answers.
That’s why these investigations are at least as important as Mueller’s, and for the same reason. They are both about honest elections and the rule of law, applied equally to insiders and outsiders, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
It’s about whether our most powerful government agencies are worthy of our trust. If we have lost sight of those values, we’ve lost our Constitutional bearings.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats
How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.
◆ Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign
The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.
The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.
◆ Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders
Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.
A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.
The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.
While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.
The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News
Comment: National news media have not reported this news.
◆ Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets
Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):
In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times
Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.
I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.
The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.
The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.
◆Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here(Reuters)
Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.
Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.
All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.
Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].
Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:
If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”
Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.
Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes? This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.
Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).
I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.
I just read the comment of a Democratic friend who is shocked, shocked that Pres. Trump’s tax proposals will increase the US budget deficit.
Factually, he’s right. So say all the static projections I’ve seen.
But, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.
My comment: US debt is a serious issue, but the political sparring is utterly hypocritical. It’s not just my Democratic friend. The Republicans are filling the air with their own false platitudes.
Under Pres. Obama, US government debt doubled. We were not in a recession, as measured by economists, though we were coming out of a scary one. During the Obama presidency, the economy was growing, albeit slowly.
While Pres. Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi were busy blowing up the budget, the Dems had only praise for “government investments” and “the stimulus effect.” As for the spiraling national debt, they were deaf, dumb, and blind. But they sure played a mean pinball.
Here is the data from the (truly) non-partisan Center for a Responsibility Federal Budget, which does not lay all the blame on Pres. Obama.
Not only were the totals substantially higher, they were substantially higher as a percentage of US GDP.
The Sky Is Falling . . . or not
At the time, Republicans strenuously complained, “The sky is falling.”
Now, the shoe is on the other foot–and it is the other party complaining.
And the rebuttals are coming from Republicans, not Democrats.
It is the “party of fiscal responsibility” that is downplaying the impact of the tax cuts on national debt.
Their main claim: “It’s all about growth.”
The Democrats, who have never met a deficit they didn’t like, are complaining, “The sky is falling.”
Democratic Complaints about Republican Deficits
The Democrats’ complaints center on two issues.
First, the plan is Republican and the government is controlled by Republicans, not their own party. In this Congress, with this President, the Democrats’ attitude echoes Groucho Marx’s song, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”
Second, the deficit will be caused by the government taking less money from citizens rather than the Democrats’ preferred way of running deficits: excess government spending.
Both sides richly deserve the Claude Rains Medal for hypocrisy.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Biggest story of the week is just under the radar: China’s Xi is consolidating his power to become most powerful leader since Mao
Comment: This week’s Party Congress, held every five years, is the moment when Xi will try to push aside many of the constraints installed after Mao to prevent one-man rule. He has already done a lot of that, installing his people in the military and using the anti-corruption campaign to remove adversaries (and leave political friends and family untouched).
By the end of the week, we’ll know if Xi has succeeded since some rule-breaking will be obvious by then (particularly waiving a rule that would require his political enforcer to retire because of age).
The FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.
Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill. –John Solomon and Alison Spann in The Hill
◆Austria’s new leader: very young (31), very opposed to floods of new immigrants(x)
Under Mr. Kurz, the staid, traditionally conservative People’s Party was refashioned into a social-media-savvy political movement that attracted hundreds of thousands of new supporters in a campaign focused on limiting immigration and strengthening the country’s social welfare system.
Kurz will need to form a coalition government.
The most likely coalition partner appeared to be the nationalist, populist Freedom Party, which initial results showed winning 27.1 percent of the vote. The party complained during the election campaign that Mr. Kurz had stolen its playbook, seizing on issues like limits to immigration and the threat posed to Austrian identity by Islam.–New York Times
Comment: Kim Jong Un’s desire for a deliverable nuclear arsenal is comprehensible as a defense for his regime. These kinds of threats are not comprehensible–or are badly misjudged. Presumably, they are trying to move the US off any military option. But Kim’s statements do highlight the very real danger of accident or inadvertent escalation.
◆Trump and McConnell show unity . . . at least for now
Comment: It is all tactical, and it’s all about the tax reform bill, which is essential politically for Republicans on the Hill.
They will also look for other areas to notch some wins, including judicial nominees, which have moved far too slowly through the Senate, as conservatives see it. Democrats have used every delaying tactic on the nominees and Republicans have let them get away with it.
Overall, a very strong report across multiple economic sectors, despite the hurricanes.
The retail sales report is closely watched because it provides an early read on consumer activity each month. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the economy.
U.S. economic growth likely slowed in the July-September quarter as the hurricanes shut down thousands of businesses, people were forced to miss work, and power was cut to millions of homes. Analysts forecast that the economy expanded at a 2% annual pace in the third quarter, down from a 3% gain in the April-June quarter.
Yet the economy is expected to rebound in the final three months of the year as rebuilding and repair work accelerates. –USA Today
Comment: Very good news, indeed. To keep it going, especially as interest rates rise and the job market gets tighter, the administration needs to keep reducing regulations and get a tax cut through Congress.
◆Trump refuses to certify the Iran Nuclear Deal, saying it is not in America’s best interests
He made a strong speech, which included an itemized list of Iran’s lethal attacks on Americans and its sponsorship of terror throughout the Middle East.
The hardest immediate blow to Iran was Trump’s decision to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. That’s important because the Revolutionary Guard is the regime’s enforcer and controls a huge chuck of the country’s economy.
Next up: Congress has to determine whether to impose sanctions on Iran.
If it does, then the US effectively withdraws from the multilateral “Joint Agreement.” But who knows what Congress will do, especially with Trump’s latest personal foe, Bob Corker, as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?
As expected, the other signatories to the agreement didn’t like Trump’s decision.
◆Trump hits Obamacare with a double whammy, ending subsidies to private insurers and urging competition across state lines
Without subsidies, the insurers will likely stop providing policies to lower-middle-class consumers. The poorest are not affected because they are on Medicaid. The better off are not affected if they have employer healthcare plans.
Whether insurers can operate across state lines will depend on whether state regulators allow it. Right now, they don’t.
Comment: The pace is extremely slow. Trump has been slow to put forward nominees in some areas. The Democrats have opposed everything, tooth and nail. And the Republicans have refused to change any rules to speed things along, giving free rein to the Democrats’ delaying tactics. Since many establishment Republicans oppose Trump, the delays may be just fine with them.
But rank-and-file Republicans and many donors are not happy. They especially want to see judicial nominees moved along expeditiously.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Leaks that Pres. Trump plans to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal
That action doesn’t kill the multilateral deal, but it does begin a process that could.
When Trump makes his formal decision about Iran’s behavior, as he is required to do periodically by law, the Congress will then have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions.
Comment: The issue is complicated because (1) the agreement is multilateral and most other signatories want to stay in, (2) Obama front-loaded nearly all the benefits for Iran, among the most incompetent negotiating moves ever, and (3) the agreement does not limit Iran’s deadly, malevolent action in other areas, including missile tests (another major shortcoming).
Obama, Susan Rice, and John Kerry thought that Iran’s financial windfall would make them a more responsible actor.
That magical thinking is best captured by a Yiddish phrase:
Comment: The Mississippi Gulf Coast has no protection, but New Orleans has wetlands to the south, which ought to afford some protection. Unfortunately, those wetlands–and the protection they afford–have shrunk dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to canals cut for pipelines and ships. The water moving through those cuts has changed the local ecology and harmed the wetlands.
◆Harvey Weinstein, film mogul and, according to interviews in the NYT, perpetrator of serial sexual harassment against actresses and employees
The New York Times broke the story as an exclusive, with vivid details and on-the-record accusations (link here).
Now, all the other news outlets are on the case.
BuzzFeed reports that Weinstein, a major player in national Democratic politics, is relying on key Clinton and Obama aides to cope with the fallout. (link here)
Normally, Gloria Allred appears as a plaintiff’s lawyer in the harassment cases, beginning with a huge press conference.
But that doesn’t happen when the allegations are against a major Democrat. Actually, Gloria’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, is involved–working for Weinstein and, she says, trying to educate him that “times have changed.”
Allred offered a half-hearted comment, saying she “would have declined” because she never represents people accused of harassment, only alleged victims. She offered no criticism of Mr. Weinstein.
Comment: Expect gloating and finger pointing from Republicans, who are happy to gain a moment’s relief from their own scandal, an anti-abortion Congressman who is resigning after texts surfaced, urging his mistress to terminate her pregnancy.
Comment: Because passing a law would take time, many are urging the ATF to change its regulatory interpretation. That’s passing the buck–and evading what should be a Congressional and Presidential responsibility. We’ve gotten so used to passing everything by Presidential decree or bureaucratic regulations, even Republican congressmen want to avoid the normal, constitutional process for changing our laws.
Even when Democrats were in the majority, he accomplished almost nothing, they say.
Comment: His prospective Republicans opponents were shocked, shock, and appalled. “Indiana needs….”
Literature: Kuzuo Ishiguro, author of “Remains of the Day”
Chemistry: 3 scientists who improved images of molecules
Physics: 3 scientists who detected gravitational waves, confirming a prediction of Einstein’s
Medicine: 3 scientists who discovered the genes regulating the body’s biological clock
One of the winners in Medicine, Jeffrey Hall (emeritus, Brandeis) said that he collaborated with a Brandeis colleague, Michael Roshbash, because they shared common interests in “sports, rock and roll, beautiful substances and stuff.” He quit science ten years ago, he said at the time, because his grant funding ran out, the grant-review process was corrupt and biased, and he was fed up with academia. (story here)
Comment: Looks like he was proven right about the bias.
The Peace Prize will be given Friday. If they can find an innocent child or a do-gooder organization, fine. Otherwise, they should remember that they gave one to Arafat. They might want to think about what’s happening in Myanmar, either, since the country is headed by another Peace Prize winner and is now driving Rohingya Muslims out of the country.
The gunman also rented rooms overlooking other outdoor music festivals, including one in Chicago, but did not occupy those rooms.
Comment: If he fired only twice at the fuel tanks, then they were not a major target. Still, the fact that one bullet penetrated the tanks and could have caused a conflagration is deeply disturbing.
We don’t know if the fact that the gunman did not attack the other venues he scouted indicates only his methodical preparation or something about his motivation to attack one kind of concert-goer and not another. For example, one concert had rap-music stars so an attack would have immediately focused on racist motives. Perhaps he did not want such speculation. In any event, we simply don’t know the answers yet and may never know them.
Mia Bloom, a prominent scholar working on terrorism, makes two important points. First, the girlfriend’s cooperation indicates she was never part of the conspiracy; in cases where the girlfriends did know, they refused to cooperate. Second, she sees no evidence of ISIS involvement at this point, only wannabe credit.
Comment: I know Prof. Bloom and take her judgments very seriously.
Bump stocks are off-the-shelf kits to convert semi-automatic weapons, which can be purchased legally, into fully-automatic weapons, which cannot.
Twelve of the rifles the gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting had in his 32nd-floor hotel room were each modified with a “bump stock,” an attachment that enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster.
The device replaces a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. It frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires. The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger. –NYT
Illegal: A machine-gun (fully-automatic)
Legal: Bump stock to convert semi- into machine-gun
Hence, you can legally (and easily) create a weapon that is illegal to purchase
Why are bump-stocks legal? Because the ATF rules that bump stocks were legal under current law. The ruling came during the Obama Administration so it was not the result of White House pressure.
Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is leading a Congressional effort to make sales of bump-stocks illegal. His effort has bipartisan support–even pro-gun Congressmen say they are willing to have a discussion. We don’t yet know the depth of that support. (Washington Post article here.)
Comment: And she picked a really tough interviewer, as you can see.
Carmen Yulin Cruz has decided her political future is better by “going big” in her fight with Trump. It will build support for her on the island, at least initially, and divert attention from her own inept performance.
Anybody–anybody at all–think Trump will quietly ignore this?
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Why Trump fired Tom Price and what it means, going forward
Comment: He was only appointed because he was the most knowledgeable Republican Congressman on healthcare.
So, he was a good choice as point man to repeal and replace Obamacare with a new bill. When that didn’t succeed, he was expendable.
We’ll never know if he would have survived another year or two if he had simply behaved himself. But he didn’t.
Flying private jets on the public dime is justifiable if and only if the trips are vital to the senior official’s time and the private plane saves a lot of otherwise wasted time.
Flying them in other cases and asking the public to pay is simply an unjustified perk and a perfect example of the Washington Swamp. Trump was right to fire Price for that reason alone.
Comment #2: Trump’s cabinet is not the first to misuse these privileges. I’m impressed that Chief of Staff John Kelly learned from this mess and immediately set up new procedures, requiring Cabinet officials to go through his office whenever they want to fly private jets at government expense.
With a lot of details about their publicly-stated falsehoods, plus plenty on Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and others.
Rarely has an intelligence apparatus engaged in systematic lying—and chronic deceit about its lying—both during and even after its tenure. Yet the Obama Administration’s four top security and intelligence officials time and again engaged in untruth, as if peddling lies was part of their job descriptions.
So far none have been held accountable. –Victor Davis Hanson
Comment: Kaepernick started something big politically when he knelt. That brings scrutiny–and he has not fared well under that microscope.
Comment #2: Cuba really needed American recognition when Obama handed it to them. As usual, he got nothing in return, not even the return of convicted US criminals who were given asylum by Castro’s government.
Hat Tip to
◆ Tom Eliafor the Kaepernick story
◆ Clarice Feldman for the Victor Davis Hanson op-ed