• Hillary isn’t quite sure why, but no candidates have sought her campaign advice for 2020 (really)

    Hillary spoke with Hugh Hewitt on his radio show (transcript link here):

    Hewitt: How many 2020 candidates have been asking you for help already? . . .

    Clinton: (laughing) Well, I have to say that my message to anybody who is thinking about 2020 is stay focused on 2018. I think it is, it is too soon to start worrying about 2020. . . .

    Hewitt: Who has, has anyone been to see you, yet? …

    Clinton: Nobody’s actually been to see me. I see Democrats all the time, and nobody has said “Hey, I’m going to run,” or “I’m thinking about running, give me advice now,” because it is too soon.

    There you have it. Nobody is seeking her campaign advice because it is just too soon.

    All those great ideas about flying over Wisconsin and Michigan, and nobody to grab them. Odd.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, November 14: All Sleaze Edition

    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

    Sessions floats prospect of a Special Counsel to Investigate Uranium One, Clinton Foundation (Washington Post)

    The New York Times reports the same thing.

    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.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, November 8

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Democrats win big in off-year elections. The most important: a surprisingly large victory in the Virginia Governor’s race

    Comment: NJ returning to a Democratic governor is not surprising. In Virginia, which is shifting from purple to a blue state because of the DC suburbs, the surprise is not Ralph Northam’s win but his 9-point margin over a good Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie.

    Northam’s margin tells me Democrats are motivated, even after a divisive primary. Hillary won Virginia by 5 points. Down-ballot Democrats are also doing very well.

    President Trump’s begins his biggest stop: Beijing

    There are three major issues on the table: North Korea, China’s expansion in the South China Sea, and China’s asymmetrical trade relations with the US.

    Comment: More on this stop as news emerges.

    Texas Mass Killing: “Botched Air Force handling of Texas shooter’s criminal history may be ‘systemic’ issue” (Fox News)

    The 2015 Department of Defense Inspector General report analyzed a sample of 1,102 convictions, including felonies, handled in the military court system and found the Navy, Air Force and Marines failed to send criminal history or fingerprint data to the FBI in about 30 percent of them. –Fox News

    Ratcheting up the financial sanctions on Chinese banks doing business with North Korea (Reuters)

    Senate Finance Committee votes unanimously on these sanctions, just as Pres. Trump lands in Beijing.

    The U.S. Senate Banking Committee unanimously backed new sanctions targeting Chinese banks that do business with North Korea on Tuesday, just before President Donald Trump visits Beijing for the first time since taking office….

    Washington so far has largely held off on imposing new sanctions against Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea, given fears of retaliation by Beijing and possibly far-reaching effects on the world economy.–Reuters

    ◆ Curiouser and Curiouser: Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr also met with FusionGPS before and after the Trump Tower meeting (Fox News)

    The story about Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson and Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, comes from one of our best investigative reporters, Catherine Herridge.

    The co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm behind the unverified Trump dossier, met with a Russian lawyer before and after a key meeting she had last year with Trump’s son, Fox News has learned. The contacts shed new light on how closely tied the firm was to Russian interests, at a time when it was financing research to discredit then-candidate Donald Trump….

    Simpson and Fusion GPS were hired by BakerHostetler, which represented Russian firm Prevezon through Veselnitskaya. –Catherine Herridge for Fox News

    Comment: So, Fusion GPS was simultaneously working for this Russian firm and the Clinton campaign. That could be an innocent coincidence . . . or it could lead to some “synergies.”  So far, Fusion GPS has taken the 5th before Congressional investigative committees and fiercely resisted subpoenas for any records of their financial transactions.

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . . ”

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, November 6

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Trump in Asia: What Matters about the Trip (a comment)

    The trip has three main goals, all important but in tension with each other

    • Contain or eliminate North Korean nuclear threat to US and US allies (depends on China’s cooperation)
    • Reduce China’s trade surplus with US, ideally by opening China’s domestic market to US exports
    • Deter an expanding Chinese threat in South China Sea (reinforce America’s partnership with nations surrounding China)

    Trump is also likely to meet with Putin, with North Korea, Syria, and Iran as major topics

     Texas church shooting: A crazed, well-armed guy furious with his former in-laws, who worshipped at the church he attacked

    That’s the report from local news outlets in the San Antonio area (KSAT in San Antonio)

    Comment: Some commentators will stress his beliefs (“he was an atheist”). That is not what drove him. Anger and crazed impulsiveness, not ideology, are the drivers here.

     Mueller Leaking: NBC reports he has enough evidence to charge Mike Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser

    Special ZipDialog commentary here

    Another college attack on free-speech: Vassar students smear Wm. Jacobson (of Legal Insurrection blog) because he supports free speech (USA Today)

    Comment: Vassar, like so many small, elite colleges, is suffused with hard-left ideology.

    They should call these schools “Illiberal Arts Colleges.”

    Chicago nearing 600 homicides, most since 2003 (Chicago Tribune)

    How bad is it? The city has instituted a new program to show people how to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: N

    Investigators suspect US journalists were paid to spread materials from the Clinton/FusionGPS/Russian Dossier (Washington Times)

    In U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Fusion GPS, the dossier’s financier via the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign money, is fighting a House committee chairman’s bid to find out if the opposition research firm paid journalists.

    In U.S. District Court in Florida, a self-described dossier victim wants a judge to order the news website BuzzFeed, which published the dossier in full, to disclose who gave it to them. –Washington Times

    Comment: Fusion GPS is fighting so tenacious to prevent any disclosures of their receipts and expenditures, you can’t help but think they might have something to hide.

    Pleading the 5th Amendment before Congress was also a hint.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tim Favero for the Vassar, William Jacobson story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, November 3

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Bowe Bergdahl, Army deserter held by Taliban, avoids prison sentence (Washington Post)

    Comment: This outcome is shocking. US soldiers died looking for this creep. Others were injured. Lots of resources devoted to finding a soldier who voluntarily abandoned his post and planned for weeks to do so.

    Pres. Trump immediately weighed in, via Twitter. My guess is that Trump’s position will be very popular on this issue. He’s implicitly daring the Democrats to come out on the other side, as many of them did (to their cost) on the NFL kneeling.

    More good economic news: Unemployment down to 4.1%, the lowest rate since 2000.

    Less good: Wage growth slow (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Best news of all: Strong Productivity Growth. (CNBC)

    Comments: Productivity growth is crucial. It is the underlying source of real wage growth.

    The biggest problem for the economy now is the misfit between the skilled jobs available and the unskilled workers who are unemployed.

    Tax Bill, next phase: We will find new details (none good, otherwise they wouldn’t be hidden), and gored oxen will come out to save themselves

    Example of hidden details:

    House Republicans claim the tax plan they introduced Thursday keeps the top individual rate unchanged at 39.6 percent—the level at which it’s been capped for much of the past quarter-century. But a little-noticed provision effectively creates a new band in which income is taxed at over 45 percent.

    Thanks to a quirky proposed surcharge, Americans who earn more than $1 million in taxable income would trigger an extra 6 percent tax on the next $200,000 they earn—a complicated change that effectively creates a new, unannounced tax bracket of 45.6 percent. –Politico

    Example of gored oxen:  Republican Tax Proposal Gets Failing Grade From Higher-Ed Groups (Chronicle of Higher Education)

    The House tax-reform proposal released today would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education and under secretary of education in the Obama administration, in a written statement.

    In broad terms, the bill would eliminate or consolidate a number of tax deductions meant to offset the costs of higher education for individuals and companies, including the Lifetime Learning Credit, which provides a tax deduction of up to $2,000 for tuition, a credit for student-loan interest, and a $5,250 corporate deduction for education-assistance plans. –Chronicle of Higher Education

    Comment: There is also tremendous pushback on the limitations on deducting state and local taxes, led by Republicans in high-tax states.

    These issues will be fought out over the next month, first in House committee, then on the floor in both chambers, then in reconciliation.

     Spain issues arrest warrant for Catalonia’s leader, who has fled the country (BBC)

    ◆ Mainstream media ignore bombshell, documented revelation that Hillary and DNC rigged primaries

    All three major TV news networks completely skip the story (Fox News)

    NYT: nothing

    Comment: It’s not surprising that most Democratic politicians are silent. But the story is a significant one, and it’s omission by mainstream outlets is bias, pure and simple.

     Pressure builds on AG Jeff Sessions, accused of false or misleading statements to Congress. The issue: what he knew Trump campaign officials’ contacts with Russia 

    The Atlantic magazine calls it: “Jeff Sessions’ Selective Memory

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Robert Pahre for the Chronicle of Higher Education story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, November 2

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Republicans roll out their tax plan. Here are the key provisions

    I lay out all the key provisions in a separate post at ZipDialog.

    The basics from The Wall Street Journal:

    Business:

    • Rates permanently drop from 35% to 20%, with lots of other changes in deductibility
    • One-time tax of 12% to repatriate overseas profits, returning them to US

    Individuals:

    • Reduces seven individual income tax brackets to four at 12%, 25%, 35% and 39.6%.
    • Top tax bracket set for married couples earning $1,000,000.
    • Bottom tax bracket extends up to $90,000 for couples.
    • No change to top tax rates on capital gains and dividend income.
    • No change to 401(k) rules
    • Nearly doubles individual standard deduction to $24,400 for married couples.
    • New limit on home mortgage-interest deduction at loans up to $500,000, down from $1,000,000, but existing loans would be grandfathered.
    • Keeps estate-tax. Sets exemption at $5.6 million per person and $11.2 million per married couple. Repeals the tax in 2024.
    • Repeals the alternative minimum tax
    • No deduction for state taxes.
    • Keeps deduction for local taxes up to $10,000

    Comment: Now the pushing and shoving begins. The Democrats yell, “Hurts the poor.” The Republicans yell, “Grows the economy for everyone.”

    Democrats will also say it inflates the deficit. They said nothing when Pres. Obama did the same thing.

     Houston Astros win the World Series

    Here’s the wonderful front page of the Houston Chronicle:

    Comment: Great series between two outstanding teams.

    Seven Democratic Senators introduce legislation to slow the revolving door between regulators and Big Pharma (Washington Post)

    No Republicans have signed on, so far.

    Comment: This goes to the essence of the Swamp.

     Rigged Nomination Process: Clinton and DNC, says former Dem. chair Donna Brazile (Politico).

    Brazile, who took over as temporary DNC chair from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, saw documents in which Hillary Clinton’s campaign loaned money to the DNC in exchange for essentially fully control of the party apparatus a year before she was officially nominated.

    Comment: Bernie Sanders and his supporters had claimed the process was rigged. Brazile’s new book say they were right.

    Neither Clinton nor Wasserman Schultz has commented.

    If you are still shocked by this kind of corruption, you haven’t been paying attention.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, October 30

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Today’s legal developments: Separate post at ZipDialog

    • Paul Manafort indicted by Special Counsel Mueller
    • Low-level figure in Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleads guilty to making false statement about Russian contacts

    Tony Podesta, top Democratic lobbyist, resigns from his self-named firm amid Mueller investigations (Politico)

    [Tony] Podesta has long been a larger than life figure on K Street, growing his business from a boutique firm into a massive lobbying and public relations operation. He is well known for his flashy dressing, vast art collection, generous campaign donations across all levels of Democratic politics and, of course, for his brother John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. –Politico

    Experts say Manafort charges under foreign-agents law could spell trouble for Mike Flynn, Tony Podesta (Washington Examiner)

    The main allegation is that Manafort was working for a Kremlin-backed group in Ukraine.

    Two key points here:

    1. FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, has been used for criminal indictments less than 10 times since 1966
      • I believe there has only been one conviction
    2. So, its use by Mueller against Manafort should frighten Flynn, Podesta, and other lobbyists

     

     

     John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz told Senate Intel they didn’t know of dossier funding: report (The Hill)

    The interviews took place before it was disclosed that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC had paid for the research. It is against the law to make false statements to Congress. –The Hill

    Comment: They’ve gone full Sgt. Schultz. They know nothing.

    And, of course, Hillary has gone mute.

    By the way, her Democratic Party frenemy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren uses a different test pattern when she goes silent:

    House of Cards collapses: Netflix cancels series after this year’s production is completed amid sex charges against star Kevin Spacey (Daily Mail)

    This comes after ‘Rent’ star Anthony Rapp gave an interview claiming that a then-26-year-old Spacey tried to sexually assault him when he was 14 in 1986

    Spacey responded to that allegation with a rambling statement in which he said he did not recall the incident, apologized to Rapp and then came out as gay.

    ‘I am sorry that Kevin only saw fit to acknowledge his truth when he though it would serve him — just as his denial served him for so many years,’ said Zachary Quinto. –Daily Mail

     

    Comment: There are two separate issues here.

    One is despicable, if Spacey actually did what he is accused of, namely sexual assaults, especially against children.

    The other is openly gay actors attacking Spacey for not coming out earlier as gay. That is a completely distinct issue. They want to build support for open declaration of their sexual orientation. On the other hand, he has a personal right to privacy.

    The privacy versus openness issue is interesting and debatable.

    The sexual assault allegation are not. They should be investigated for criminal activity. Spacey gave a non-denial apology, saying he didn’t remember, might have been drunk, etc. (I would note that, if he did indeed proposition youngsters, there may well be other instances, which can be investigated.)

    Those who say “we all knew” were morally (if not legally) complicit if they knew about assault allegations.

    Coming out as gay at a moment when he is being accused seems like throwing dust in the air, trying to obscure the truly serious allegation.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Democrats Go Full Sgt. Schultz: DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz say they knew nothing about payments to Fusion GPS for Russian Dossier

    Here’s The Hill’s story, reported by Jonathan Easley.

    And here’s the key point.

    Current and past leaders of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) say they had no knowledge that the national party was helping to fund a dossier compiled by a British spy that contained scandalous accusations about President Trump.

    The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC paid millions to the law firm Perkins Coie, where Democratic lawyer Marc Elias worked with the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to construct the memo, which was compiled by British spy Christopher Steele. –The Hill

    Since that story posted, John Podesta also denied knowledge. (CNN) He headed Hillary’s campaign.

    Comment: They pinned the meter.

    Their scrambling shows they know how toxic the story is for them personally, as well as for their institution.

    What we don’t know is whether they will tell the same tale under oath, whether there are documents (including Hillary’s missing emails) that would shed light on the purchase of scurrilous information from Kremlin agents, done through three cut-outs (the law firm, which paid Fusion GPS, which then subcontracted with Glenn Steele), with Hillary’s campaign covering up the money trail.

    On Federal election disclosure forms, they simply said it was payment for “legal services.”

    Another crucial point: since the FBI itself was the recipient of the document and may have used it in their own investigation, as well as for search warrants, the FBI and DOJ themselves have conflicts of interest and cannot investigate this. Nor (IMO) can Mueller, since his close personal ties to Comey and his staff’s financial support for Hillary’s campaign constitute obvious conflicts of interest.

    This, my friends, is a fecal hurricane, Cat 3 and expected to rise.

  • Why the Clinton financing of the Fusion GPS Report is so deeply troubling . . . and why they have lied about 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.

    Meanwhile, DNC leaders are invoking the Sgt. Schultz defense, saying they didn’t know about the payments to Fusion GPS.)

    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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Russia’s Role in the Steele Dossier

    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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Comey’s 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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Boomerang

    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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦