• FBI Search Dog On the Prowl and Pointing Toward . . .

    The Chicago Tribune‘s wonderful editorial cartoonist, Scott Stantis, has often penned negative drawings about Pres. Trump.

    He has not been especially critical of the Trump investigations… until now.

    His balanced stance makes his devastating take on the FBI’s unraveling mess all the more meaningful.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/stantis/

  • A balanced analysis of Mueller and his team by a leading conservative

    Amid strenuous conservative criticism of the Mueller team (the best of it by Trey Gowdy and Tucker Carlson), and equally strenuous pushback from progressives (led by Adam Schiff), Andrew McCarthy offers a serious analysis of what should–and shouldn’t–concern the public about the investigation’s fairness.

    McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor with considerable experience. His stance is conservative but not doctrinaire, and his analysis is not a prosecutor’s case against Mueller.

    The op-ed was published in the Washington Post (link here).

    Key excerpts:

    Is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III running an impartial investigation?

    That this is a fair question to ask is itself troubling.

    In Mueller’s case, there are various grounds for worry. Mueller’s investigation was triggered when former FBI director James B. Comey, no fan of the president who dismissed him, leaked a memo of a meeting with President Trump. Comey admitted hoping this revelation would lead to appointment of a special counsel….

    Furthermore, the investigative team Mueller has assembled includes Democratic donors and supporters, including one lawyer who represented the Clinton Foundation and one who represented a subject in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. This month, moreover, it came to light that two members of the team, who had also worked on the Clinton email investigation, were having an extramarital affair and exchanged text messages expressing partisan political views — favoring Clinton and depicting Trump as “loathsome.”

    Worse, in one August 2016 text, one of them, FBI agent Peter Strzok, asserted that the FBI “can’t take that risk” that Trump could be elected, equating some unspecified action against this seemingly unlikely possibility to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.” Dismayingly, this text, which crosses the line between political banter and tainted law enforcement, refers to a meeting in the office of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, then (and now) the bureau’s No. 2 official.

    McCarthy praises Mueller for his results (which “so far appear free of political taint”) and for removing Strzok from the investigation. He is not alarmed that Mueller’s staff has strong political views, but is concerned about Andrew Weissman for a specific reason.

    A gifted career Justice Department lawyer, Weissmann sent former acting attorney general Sally Yates an effusive email shortly after Yates was fired for insubordinately defying Trump on enforcement of the so-called travel ban. The obstruction aspect of Mueller’s investigation calls for an objective evaluation of how much independence law-enforcement officials have from the chief executive. Weissmann’s lauding of Yates suggests he is not objective on this point.

    McCarthy’s conclusion: Remove Weissman to ensure the public perception of fairness.

  • Thoughts on US Embassy Move to Jerusalem

    • Since Jerusalem is actually Israel’s capital and since it will continue to be so in any putative peace settlement, I don’t see how this blocks such a settlement.
      • The US Consulate–and future Embassy–are in WEST Jerusalem. Everyone (except people who believe in Israel’s annihilation) understand that West Jerusalem will be part of Israel forever. No voluntary peace settlement will change that.
      • There was no American statement that the embassy move prevents some part of Jerusalem from being a Palestinian capital, too.
    • I don’t like hecklers’ vetoes on campus and I don’t like rioters’ vetoes elsewhere. That threat was used to try and block the move. It failed. Good.
    • The Palestinians have not exactly proven themselves partners for peace since Oslo.
      • Until now, the US had not made them pay any price for their truculence.
      • Now, it has.
    • The only way there will ever being peace, IMO, is if Israel thinks it is absolutely secure against Palestinian threats and has firm US backing against such threats.
      • Obama’s strategy made the opposite assumption. It made US support for Israel and other allies more problematic, more contingent on following US directions, and, of course, more hectoring. US friends in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and across the region understood and adjusted–against the US.
      • Trump has fundamentally reversed that policy, not only in Israel but in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.
    • The only way many other Arab states will back off their rejectionist, maximalist demands to eliminate Israel is for them to be utterly convinced it is impossible and costly to continue.
      • Fundamentally, only Israeli military strength can convince them Israel will not be eliminated.
      • US support, including the moving of the embassy, shows that Israel cannot be completely isolated diplomatically. (Again, Obama’s moves against Israel raised question marks about diplomatic isolation.)
      • What will change the cost of Arab/Muslim/European opposition to Israel?  Two calculations:
        1. Fear of Iran, for states in the Middle East. They will edge toward alliance with other anti-Iranian states, of which Israel is the most powerful, the most technically sophisticated, and the most capable in its intelligence services.
        2. Desire for trade with a growing, sophisticated, and technologically-innovative economy.  It is called “start-up nation” for a reason. (The GDP per capita of once-poor Israel is now equal to Italy and about 20-30% below the wealthier European states. It is about 3.5x higher than Turkey, 7x higher than Iran, 10x higher than Jordan on a per capita basis.)
    • There are two fundamental obstacles to peace on the Palestinian side.
      1. They don’t have stable governance.
        • Even if they promised peace, the government might be upended and a new government reverse course.
        • Knowing that, even political moderates in the West Bank are fearful of suggesting deeper cooperation. They wouldn’t win and might well be killed.
      2. The Palestinian political class has never accepted the basic idea of a Jewish state in the region.
        • The Palestinians’ own rejection of Israel encourages that of Muslims across the region. Not that they need much encouragement.
        • That’s true of both people in the West Bank and Gaza and of their leaders.
        • The level of anti-Semitism in their schoolbooks, propaganda, and casual statements is breathtaking. . . and disgusting. One compelling piece of evidence: they actually pay monthly pensions to families of terrorists who kill Jews. The money comes from Western donors.
    • The rejectionist front against Israel now has two regional leaders: Iran, which has expanded across the region, and Turkey, which has become increasingly Islamist under Erdogan.
      • Again, Obama’s policies made these problems worse. In the case of Iran, so did Bush’s take down of Saddam Hussein without ensuring a replacement regime.
    • As with so many Trump policies, the movement of the US embassy represents a change based on a simple calculus: what we tried in the past did not work. Let’s try something different.
      • In this case, I think he’s correct.
      • There will be a short-term price to pay. But the long-run effect will be Muslim recognition that Israel cannot be exterminated (at least, by anything less than an Iranian nuclear attack). That may cause some of them to accept the reality and move on.
    • US domestic politics: Jews: most Jews follow the same path of college-educated, socially liberal Americans.
      • They are appalled by Trump personally and think his behavior in office is unbecoming. But there is a deeper shift beneath the surface.
      • The Democratic Party is increasingly anti-Israel, the Republicans pro-Israel.
        • That is leading to stronger Jewish backing for Republicans, especially among more observant Jews. There used to be almost no Jewish Republicans. Now, there are plenty.
        • Among other Jews, the Republicans association with social conservatism is a major obstacle to realignment. So is the widening distance between US Jews and Israel.
    • US domestic politics: Evangelicals. No group has supported Israel more steadfastly–or been a stronger support for Republicans. They will love this move.
    • Europe’s fecklessness on Israel is on full display, not that anyone doubted it. It fears its own unassimilated Muslim population and assumes its antagonism to Israel will win friends in the Arab/Muslim world.
      • When historians look back at the long arc at the century beginning in 1930, they will see that Europe has traded a well-integrated Jewish minority, which Hitler exterminated, for a poorly-integrated and growing Muslim minority. The Jews accepted the basic tenets of liberal democracy. Significant elements of the Muslim minority do not.
      • Anti-Semitism in Europe is a serious problem. It combines four groups: Muslims, left-wing intellectuals, traditional anti-Semites (both upper-class and religious conservatives), and right-wing nationalists. (The movement in the US contains the first two but the last two are different. Country-club anti-Semites are a much smaller group today, and the vast majority of nationalist/patriot Americans are actually pro-Israel. Except for the fringes, they don’t have the fascist, anti-Semitic slant of Europe’s right-wing movements.)
    • Effects beyond the region: North Korea. By keeping a prominent campaign promise, Pres. Trump has made his other promises and threats more credible. That will have some effect as Beijing thinks about Trump’s threats to deal with North Korea
    • For people who say “all this sets back the peace process,” the short answer is “what peace process?

  • Memo to Trump: Fire your lawyer. He’s clueless when he says the President cannot obstruct justice

    When your lawyer says, “The President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer,” (Axios), here’s a quick tip:

    Fire him immediately. Maybe sooner.

    Your personal lawyer, John Dowd, is wrong thrice over.

    First, he’s wrong about the law (say I, as a non-lawyer). The sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in a county, but that doesn’t mean he can legally tear up his parking tickets. The point is that the law should apply equally. It should apply equally to citizens, regardless of race, creed, and so on. And it should apply to government officials as much as it applies to the rest of us.

    Second, he’s wrong about the politics, as the ghost of Archibald Cox will remind you. When the public and their elected representatives think the President is obstructing justice, they will seriously consider the remedy offered by the Constitution.

    Third, even if Dowd thinks the president cannot obstruct, he is wrong to say it out loud. The blowback will be fierce. See item #2.

    In the meantime, I’d check to see if Dowd is working for FusionGPS or the Podesta Group.

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, November 20

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

    Merkel’s Troubles–and Germany’s After her narrow election win, she cannot form a coalition government. Prefers new election (Deutsche Welle, in English)

    The coalition problem was that she needed support from the leftist Greens and pro-market Free Democrats.

    She couldn’t find common ground between them.

    Comment: Her larger problem is that she’s past her “sell-by” date and has a tin-ear for ordinary Germans’ disgust with open borders, which have led to millions of immigrants and serious problems with unassimilated Muslim populations.

     Charles Manson dead at 83. Remembering his victims: Rich, famous, fringe, and random (Los Angeles Times)

    Comment: Unspeakable evil–with the power to persuade others to join his malign fantasy.

    US designates North Korea as state sponsor of terrorism (Politico)

    Iran, Sudan, and Syria are already on the list. It had been placed on the list in 1988 and removed by George W. Bush in 2008 as a carrot during failed nuclear negotiations.

    “This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime.

    Should have happened years ago. –Pres. Trump (quote at Reuters, link here)

    Comment: The big question remains: Will China adhere to US-imposed sanctions or call our bluff by cheating on them?

     Sen. Franken: Second woman accuses of “inappropriate touching” (New York Times)

    He won’t resign, says his hometown paper, the Star-Tribune.

     Roy Moore: Obstinate denials despite mounting evidence, stays in the race

    Comment: His refusal to withdraw leaves Senate Republicans in a world of hurt.

    Meanwhile, Moore received support at a press conference, featuring women who have worked with him.

    Unfortunately, all these women have the same drawback. They are adults.

     

     

  • 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 Tuesday, November 7

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

    ◆ Trump in South Korea: What’s on the agenda? 

    Comment: Mostly North Korea but also some trade issues. The goal is to get South Korea’s leftist president to side more closely with the US, less with China.

    A separate ZipDialog post, with more analysis, is here.

    Texas Church Massacre: what we know

    From police reports, three basic facts are emerging:

    • The shooter was angry, uncontrolled, and mentally unstable
    • Several different bureaucracies knew about the problems–the US military, a mental institution from which he escaped, and local officials who knew about violence and cruelty
    • The bureaucracies did not inform each other, so none had a full picture of the lethal danger he posed.
      • Some of this information might have blocked gun purchases

    Comment: As we learned after 9/11, you can’t connect the dots if bureaucracies don’t share information. In the 9/11 case, the failure was the predictable consequence of laws blocking such sharing between the FBI (focused on domestic crime prosecution) and the CIA/NSA (focused on foreign issues, not crime, and prohibited from domestic spying). Terrorists exploited those “stovepipes” by moving across borders.

    In the Texas case, it was simply the military’s failure to enter info in shared databases. In the case of the shooter’s escape from a mental hospital, we don’t know why that information was not entered into shared databases, where it could have blocked gun purchases.

    Even if the information is available, there is so much of it that local law enforcement may not be able to sort through it and use it effectively.

     Very tight governor’s race in today’s Virginia election:

    UPDATE: Democrat Wins

    The state has been trending Democratic for some years, fueled by population growth in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia.

    Hillary won the state by 5 points and Trump’s unpopularity in North Virginia is why he didn’t campaign for the Republican, the first Presidential no-show in half a century.

    That’s why the Democrat tried to make it a “national” election while the Republican tried to make it “local.”

    Beyond the usual impact on policy, the winner will influence Virginia’s redistricting after the 2020 Census.

    Harvey Weinstein: Two developments

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  • Trump in South Korea: What Does the US Want?

    ◆ What’s on Trump’s Agenda in Seoul? 

    Comment: Mostly North Korea but also some trade issues.

    For the US and its strong ally, Japan, the problem is South Korea’s leftist president, Moon Jae-In.

    He was soft on North Korea before the election, a long-held, principled position. He has been somewhat firmer since then because of Kim’s provocations.

    The main problem, though, is that he wants much closer relations with Beijing and is willing to back away from the US to get that. Beijing is concerned about US anti-missile defense in South Korea and would be very concerned if the US returned nuclear weapons to the peninsula. South Korea’s Moon has essentially caved to Beijing’s demands.

    China’s leaders will be taking the measure of Trump’s clout during his visit to Seoul. If he can get real strategic, security cooperation from Moon, China will be more inclined to cooperate with Trump’s initiatives. If not, not.

    Xi and his advisers were doubtless pleased by Trump’s offer to negotiate with North Korea. So was Moon. But Trump, unlike Obama, believes in negotiating from a position of strength, not making “feel good” concessions without reciprocity. He won’t do anything that hints he is taking harsher actions off the table.

    The key, then: The visit to Seoul is mostly about Beijing, and all the stops are about Pyongyang.

     

     

     

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