My latest at Real Clear Politics (link here)
Here’s a synopsis:
My latest at Real Clear Politics (link here)
Here’s a synopsis:
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Roy Moore abandoned by national Republicans as more women accuse him
Comment: With such a thin margin in the Senate, Republicans need the Alabama seat to pass legislation (not that they have done so, yet), but individual office holders cannot afford to back him. And they are absolutely right, ethically, to back away from this sleazebag.
Unfortunately for Republicans, Moore owes them nothing, so they have no leverage to force him out of the race.
Trump and his Press Secretary will have to answer the question, an awkward prospect.
A write-in candidacy might win, but it’s a long shot.
The New York Sun notes the precedent of the Adam Clayton Powell case, where the House refused to seat the long-time congressman in 1966 because of corruption. He took the case to the Supreme Court and won. In other words, Congress can remove people from office after giving them hearings but cannot refuse to seat them.
That would mean immediate and nasty hearings to unseat Moore, with the prospect of further public humiliation. When he contemplates that, he might decide to back out. If he does, the Governor would probably postpone the election–over strenuous Democratic objections and lawsuits.
◆ AG Sessions testifies before Congress on Russia, Clintons, Roy Moore (New York Times)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, showed selective recall on the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts.
Mr. Sessions said he had “no reason to doubt these women” who have accused the man who wants his old Senate seat, Roy S. Moore, of seeking sexual or romantic favors from them as teenagers. –New York Times
Comment: There seems to be enough smoke here to warrant a serious investigation. If so, then it should be conducted by a Special Counsel, not the DOJ for several reasons. The most important, by far, is this:
Any investigation of political opponents by law enforcement carries the heavy burden of perceived unfairness. Supporters of the opposing party (or candidate) will fear that the state’s power to investigate and punish is being used to crush opposition. That should never happen in a democracy. Even if the investigation is fair, it must be perceived as fair.
While Sessions and other political appointees could–and would–say that the task has been delegated to “career professionals,” they would have to sign off on any recommendations to charge. Again, their opponents could not be confident the process was fair and impartial.
Bottom line: Appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Uranium One, the Clinton Foundation, and the botched FBI investigation of the Clinton email server, including James Comey and Loretta Lynch’s roles.
Story #1: Huge stories about the Russian dossier and its Kremlin sources, all financed by the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee, with all the senior people denying any knowledge. The publications are normally friendly to Democrats so they cannot trash them as political opponents. Nor has the story been denied, at least not anymore. The Clinton people and their lawyer lied about it for a year. Now they are simply silent.
Story #2: Huge stories about Russian bribery and corruption surrounding the purchase of a US company, Uranium One, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. While the purchase was being attempted (and USG approval sought), Bill received large speaking fees from the Russians. Later, board members of the purchasing company gave the Clinton Foundation $140 million. Most (all?) were first-time donors.
The FBI not only kept their criminal investigation of Russian malfeasance in this purchase under wraps, they put a key inside witness under a multi-year gag order. Once the story of the gag order broke this week, pressure build for its removal amid a new Congressional investigation.
ON ALL THESE MAJOR ISSUES INVOLVING THE CLINTONS, TOTAL SILENCE FROM BILL AND HILLARY.
I assume the Clintons are now working out carefully-crafted and slippery statements with a team of lawyers. They will release a written statement once they have done so.
Don’t expect any interviews with them on Sunday Talk Shows.
Their silence during this story is striking. Frankly, given the accusations of corruption, illegality, deceit, and pay-to-play that have followed them for years, they should have clear standard operating procedures for denying everything.
The FBI and DOJ finally gave a partial release from non-disclosure to the eyewitness to the bribery and corruption associated with the Uranium One transaction. It was inexcusable that the gag order had lasted for years, with no clear law-enforcement purpose at this time.
The Trump White House apparently communicated to DOJ that they thought the witness should be allowed to speak to Congressional investigators. (Refusing that would have set up a constitutional question.)
CNN’s take, repeated multiple times during the day: This is all Trump efforts to divert attention from his possible collusion with the Russians.
Impressive to see a news organization so committed to its political spin that it actually opposes disclosure and testimony. Until now, I had never seen it.
The revelation that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the “Russian dossier” from Fusion GPS is a bombshell.
Fusion fought tenaciously to avoid any disclosures about who paid for the document and which sources they used.
They are still fighting to prevent any examination of bank records that would show others, besides the Clintons and DNC, who might have paid them for this work.
(Side note: Democrats say that a “Republican donor” hired Fusion GPS before the Democrats did. Perhaps. But there is no actual evidence so far that any Republican donor actually did hire them. Whether he did or not, the alleged anti-Trump, Republican donor was only seeking ordinary opposition research. He had bowed out once Trump’s nomination was certain, so he was not involved in the Russian dossier scandal. Only the Clintons and DNC were involved in hiring foreign nationals and seeking information from insiders in a hostile foreign power for use in an American political campaign.
When asked who paid them and other questions last week by Congress, Fusion GPS executives pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. That is their right. But we are not jurors in a courtroom; we can draw our own conclusions. Mine is that the executives believe they have real criminal exposure.
Not only do we know the Clinton Campaign and their allies paid for the dossier, we know they lied about doing so. That includes outright lies from the lawyer who served as the Clintons’ cutout for payments to Fusion GPS. (The Clinton campaign hired a lawyer to commission the dossier so their purchase could be hidden behind attorney-client privilege and so they could hide all the payments to Fusion GPS under the misleading–and possibly illegal–line item FEC disclosure of “legal services.” At the very least, their behavior is sleazy and deceptive. What else is new?)
Here’s how NYT reporters responded after learning they had been lied to.
But lies are only the beginning.
What is most troubling is how the Fusion GPS oppo research became a vehicle for Russian interference in US political and judicial processes.
We know Fusion GPS hired a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, to compile the dossier. Steele, who once headed the Russia desk at MI6, got his information from shadowy sources in Moscow, who gave him information allegedly compiled by Russian police and intel agencies.
There is a strong possibility those sources and their information were part of the Kremlin’s ongoing disinformation campaign, designed to interfere in the US election. The fact that Steele came a-calling was a golden opportunity to insert this information into the heart of the US political system. As it turned out, it was also inserted into the US criminal justice system when the dossier was shared with the FBI.
Of course, we know the Kremlin meddled in the US campaign. It is likely (though not certain) that some of the false information in the Steele/Russia dossier was part of that effort.
After Fusion GPS completed the dossier, they gave it to the Democrats who paid for it, presumably through the middleman lawyer who served as a cutout. Then, somehow, the dossier makes its way to the CIA and FBI.
At James Comey’s FBI, the dossier prompts a full-scale investigation. Apparently, the FBI also considered working with Steele–and paying him–to get more information from Moscow. (It’s really too bad the US doesn’t have some sort of government agency to get this kind of secret information in foreign countries.)
There is still a lot we don’t know. But we can reasonably conclude that opposition research using foreign nationals, secretly financed by a political party, and almost-certainly buttressed with disinformation from a hostile foreign power was introduced into a US election campaign and used as justification for a federal investigation of US citizens.
It is not clear if any FISA warrants were based on this dossier or if it prompted the Obama administration to do its wholesale unmasking of US citizens. We hardly know anything about the FBI’s role because it has stonewalled Congressional investigators, who have sought key documents for over two months without any response.
We do know that, after Trump was inaugurated, the intel agencies asked to give him a special briefing on the dossier. Using that briefing as a news hook, one of the agencies then immediately (and illegally) leaked information about the dossier to the press, yet another disturbing development in this saga.
This whole episode reveals the darkest underbelly of American politics and foreign interference in it. It is potentially a huge scandal–and one that involves the very agencies that normally investigate such scandals.
It has a rich vein of irony, too. The Clintons and the Democrats have insisted, rightly, that all Russian meddling in our elections be investigated. They have claimed, without proof, that the Russians not only meddled, they collaborated with Donald Trump. Now, it turns out it was the Clinton campaign that was the major conduit for Russian influence–a tale worthy of Wile E. Coyote.
It is essential that Congress investigate all aspects of this issue, which involves the FBI and CIA as well as the Clintons and the DNC.
It merits a criminal investigation, too, as does the tsunami of corruption and coverup surrounding the Uranium One deal (which directly involves the Holder DOJ and Mueller FBI, as well Sec. Clinton).
Attorney General Sessions should appoint a Special Counsel.
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).
◆ No Cigar for the Drug Czar: Nominee Tom Marino Withdraws after news reports he weakened an anti-opioid bill (Washington Post)
The Washington Post/CBS 60 Minutes piece showed he not only weakened the bill, his office was very close to big pharma companies with interest in the legislation.
Comment: The swift move by Trump was inevitable after the report, given Trump’s focus on the Washington Swamp and the importance of opioid issues to the country and especially to his base.
Before the deal was approved
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)
NYT headline: Austria Shifts Right as Refashioned Conservatives Win. Socialists finished third, slightly behind nationalist-populist “Freedom Party”
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.
Hat Tip to
◆ Clarice Feldman for the FBI-Russia story
◆ Clinton Foundation decides to keep Harvey’s money (Washington Times)
It’s all about helping women, don’t ya know.
Comment: The Clinton Foundation consulted its moral conscience, found it missing in action, and went with the money.
Who’s gonna administer it?
According to a flurry of texts, the frontrunner is Anthony Weiner.
To call this move “tone deaf” is an understatement