• Trump Campaign worker, Carter Page, Won’t Talk to Senate Intel Committee

    Politico reports that Page will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

    He was a low-level aide in the Trump Campaign and never met the boss. He did, however, have connections with Russia, though he has repeatedly denied he did their bidding.

    A former naval-officer-turned-energy consultant, Page came under fire last year after reports emerged that he had met with high-level associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2016. While Page denied those meetings occurred, the Trump campaign distanced itself from the adviser not long after, with former officials saying that Page and Trump had never met. –Politico

    Comment:  It is unclear if his refusal is related to the Mueller investigation, but it could well be. Page, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort are all in the crosshairs, according to media reports.

    Anybody facing potential indictments would be advised by lawyers not to say anything.

    Page is a small fish. Presumably, Mueller’s team would want information from him, but it is not clear if he has any or knows about others approached by the Russians.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, September 19

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

    ◆ Trump’s campaign manager wiretapped. That’s a big deal.

    The story was broken by CNN: Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman, starting in 2014 and continuing, off an on, until this year. The tap, authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), would include periods when he was known to speak with Donald Trump. (Manafort also owned an apartment in Trump Tower; that might be relevant because Trump spoke of wiretaps in Trump Tower.)

    There is increasingly strong public speculation that Manafort will be indicted by Robert Mueller’s office.

    At this point, we do not know who the FISA warrant(s) targeted.

    Comment: At this point, we simply don’t know enough about this surveillance. (In fact, the information released to CNN was almost certainly a felony violation of secret proceedings.)

    • Anti-Trump people think the fact that a federal judge would authorize surveillance on such a senior figure in the Trump campaign suggests something very bad was afoot and that collaboration with the Russians may have been Manafort’s aim (if not necessarily that of others in the campaign).
    • Pro-Trump people think this information vindicates his repeated claims that he was wiretapped.
    • And, of course, a lot of people, myself included, want to know more before they reach a conclusion.

    I think a lot of people will agree with Dan Drezner (a centrist and no friend of Trump’s):

    Trump at the UN: Very tough talk. Threatens to “totally destroy” North Korea, calls Kim “rocket man,” and labels Iran a “rogue nation” (New York Times)

    He included terms he had seldom used recently: “radical Islamic terrorism.”

    The full speech is available here on YouTube.

    Comment: Trump’s speech was an unusually blunt, full-throated defense of America’s interests, as opposed to globalism, and included particularly sharp and detailed attacks on Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

    Critical responses to the speech line up as expected.

    More censorship calls on campus, this time because a professor wrote a scholarly article called “The Case for Colonialism” 

    The article, by Prof. Bruce Gilley of Portland State, was published in a peer-reviewed journal that is very anti-colonial, which presumably thought the piece was serious, well-researched, and would spark scholarly debate. The basic argument does not deny the evils of colonialism but says they must be balanced against the benefits and that anti-colonialism has itself carried high costs.

    Recently, Gilley publicly resigned from the American Political Science Association for its ideological bias.

    Here’s the report at Legal Insurrection.

    Comment: Given the political climate on today’s campuses, especially those on the coasts, what Gilley’s article sparked was not discussion but calls for him to be fired, censured, and tarred-and-feathered.

    Will the End of Syria’s civil war spell disaster in Europe as battle-hardened terrorist fighters return? (BESA Center)

    Mordechai Kedar says “yes” and adds that Iran has now effectively taken over Syria, strengthened Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and given a free hand to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

    Comment: Iran’s expansion across the region was facilitated by the Obama administration and will cause death and destruction for years to come.

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  • Fusion GPS: Oppo Research Group that Produced anti-Trump “Russian Dossier” is Stonewalling Investigators

    The company that commissioned the unverified Trump-Russia dossier is stonewalling Senate investigators (Fox News)

    That company, Fusion GPS and its head, Glenn R. Simpson, have no attorney-client privilege for the dossier.

    Nevertheless, they are effectively refusing to cooperate with Congressional investigators, who have requested relevant documents.

    What Fusion GPS gave them instead was thousands of blank pages and publicly-available news clips.

    Fusion GPS is at the center of the Trump-Russia Collusion Story

    Fusion GPS received unverified materials (some now discredited) from former British spy, Christopher Steele. British court documents show that the materials were exchanged via encrypted communications.

    If the dossier was just bad opposition research, it would be par for the course in politics and not worth much investigation.

    But the dossier, with its nasty, unverified, and salacious (but false) charges against Trump, turned out to be very consequential.

    It was this unverified dossier that then-FBI chief James Comey relied upon to launch his own agency’s investigation and later leaked to the press to force a Special Counsel investigation.

    Very consequential, indeed.

    The best reporters on these intelligence issues, Fox’s Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, say this:

    In March, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to Simpson asking if Steele – who compiled the raw, unverified intelligence – was simultaneously paid by Simpson’s firm Fusion GPS for his work and the FBI for the investigation of then-candidate Trump and his associates.

    Separately, the House Intelligence Committee has issued subpoenas to the FBI for records on the FBI’s relationship with Steele, Fox News is told. –Herridge, Browne, and Cyd Upson for Fox News

    Who Is Behind the Dossier? Who Paid for It?

    Where Did the Unverified Information Originate?

    One very credible Congressional witness, Bill Browder (high on Putin’s enemies list), has publicly testified that Fusion GPS and its founder, Glenn Simpson, were behind stories meant to discredit Browder and smear his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.

    According to Browder, Simpson was peddling these smears to various media. One of Simpson’s allegations: Magnitsky, who was killed in Russia, was an underworld figure. Western sources think the Kremlin was behind the killing. The implication is that Fusion GPS was trying to clear Putin of a political murder.

    The Magnitsky Act and Fusion GPS

    The lawyer’s assassination is particularly important because the latest US sanctions against Russia are named for attorney: the Magnitsky Act.

    Repealing that act is one of Putin’s highest priorities, and Fusion GPS’s actions further that goal.

    You will remember that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskya, who met with Trump campaign officials in June 2016 was mainly interested in repealing the Magnitsky Act.

    Interestingly, Simpson’s spokesman at Fusion GPS was a special adviser to then-AG Eric Holder, so the firm is not just “lawyered up,” it has hired people with connections to senior Democrats.

    Comment:

    Simpson’s goal is to delay, delay, delay and hope the Senate gets tired of the investigation.

    It won’t.

    If he doesn’t produce documents and testify, they will charge him with contempt.

    When Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch ran the DOJ, they simply ignored the Congressional findings of contempt.

    Sessions’ DOJ will take them before a judge for enforcement.

    Knowing that, and knowing that testifying about his secret dealings and sources of funding could ruin his lucrative business, Glenn Simpson is trying rope-a-dope delaying tactics.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 6

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

    ◆ Hurricane Irma, with 185 mph winds, predicted to turn due north.

    Forecasts show it moving up Florida’s heavily-populated East Coast.

    Evacuations expected soon

    The company that commissioned the unverified Trump-Russia dossier is stonewalling Senate investigators (Fox News)

    The company, Fusion GPS, has no attorney-client privilege but it is simply giving the committee thousands of blank pages.

    Comment: Delay, delay, delay and hope the Senate gets tired of the investigation. It won’t. They will threatened contempt, which Sessions’ DOJ, unlike Holder’s, will take to court.

    Trump’s 6-month pause on DACA expiration leaves everything in Congress’ hands (Washington Post)

    The Democrats are united, so far. The Republicans are split, naturally.

    Comment: Don’t know if the D’s will stick together if funding the wall is part of the ultimate deal.

    Don’t know if the Congress can act on this at all.

    If they don’t, it will be a problem for Pres. Trump to simply extend DACA because the original act by Pres. Obama won’t pass constitutional muster (as Obama himself noted for years before he actually did it).

    Trump sides with D’s on debt ceiling, throwing R plans into chaos (Washington Post)

    Wants three-month extension plus Harvey relief, agreeing with Schumer and Pelosi, just as Ryan was panning the idea.

    US now knows the name of North Korea’s top military scientist, heading Kim’s programs (Washington Post)

    Comment: That doesn’t matter unless they have a way to “neutralize” him. Meanwhile, he’ll be living underground.

    How local housing restrictions strangle the US economy. Op-ed in the NYT, of all places

    If you live in a coastal city like New York, Boston or San Francisco, you know that the cost of housing has skyrocketed. This housing crisis did not happen by chance: Increasingly restrictive land-use regulations in the last half-century contributed to it.

    But what appears to be several local housing crises is actually a much more alarming national crisis: Land-use restrictions are a significant drag on economic growth in the United States. –Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti, op-ed in the NYT

    Comment: So obvious, even the NYT editorial page noticed, perhaps because New York City is one of the worst cities for housing restrictions.

    Uncertain if they will ever discover which political party controls all those cities with heavy restrictions.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for September 2

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

    ◆ Melania Trump–to her great credit–wore high heels to Texas today. 

    Comment: I normally would not comment on such trivia. But the haters in Manhattan, Cambridge, and San Francisco and their fellow travelers in the media made it a big deal on Melania’s trip earlier this week.

    It was their behavior, not her’s, that was disgusting.

    By wearing high heels today instead of sneaker, she effectively gave the finger to the haters. This from the NY Post:

    Btw, you might not remember that the media said nothing about Michelle Obama’s shoes or outfit during the Hurricane Sandy relief.

    Know why?

    She didn’t bother to visit.

    ◆ Corrupt justice? Comey wrote his “no charges against Hillary and friends” memo long before the FBI interviewed all the key witnesses

    He will wriggle out of any legal trouble. He told Congress he did not make a decision until after the interviews. That now seems like perjury. But he will claim that the memo was merely a draft.

    Equally damning was his decision to let two people who demanded immunity in the investigation sit in on Hillary’s interview. No prosecutors ever do that.

    Comment: This whole thing stinks.

    California prosecutor, leading a murder trial against a gang, beaten unconscious “Buckets of blood” from her (CBS Los Angeles)

    No robbery. No sexual assault. Just a beating.

    Comment: Sounds like a message.

     Good News in Higher Ed: Turns out parents and students shy away from colleges that cave to far-left demonstrators. Mizzou and Evergreen State pay the price. (Fox News)

     

    The University of Missouri had to temporarily close seven dormitories – renting them out for special events, such as homecoming games – and planned to cut 400 jobs. –Fox News

    Bad news: The level of political correctness has reach ridiculous levels: Students at the Univ of Minnesota vote down remembrance of 9/11 out of fear it would “incite racism” and “offend Muslim students” (Minneapolis Star Tribune) 

    Comment: The refusal of students to attend schools without robust free speech is the best sanction of all.

    Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of administrators like the loss of revenue.

    Meanwhile, the locust-plague of social justice warriors continues on many campuses, shutting down free speech, often with help from the university administration.

    Judge Richard Posner retires from senior status. Most important judge in US not on Supreme Court (Chicago Tribune)

    Posner [age 78] said in a statement he has written more than 3,300 opinions in his time on the bench and is “proud to have promoted a pragmatic approach to judging.” He said he spent his career applying his view that “judicial opinions should be easy to understand and that judges should focus on the right and wrong in every case.”

    Posner’s biting and often brilliant written opinions as well as his unrelenting questioning from the bench have made him an icon of the court for years.

    Known as a conservative at the time of his appointment, Posner’s views skewed more libertarian through the years, and he often came down in favor of more liberal issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: I have known Judge Posner for many years, as a neighbor and a colleague. And, man oh man, do the lawyers who appear before him tell stories bout his razor-sharp tongue on the bench and his penetrating questions.

    In every generation, there are one or two judges not on SCOTUS who have enormous impact because of their clear thinking and writing. Judge Posner was the one of his generation. His academic impact was equally vast since he helped forge the entire field of “law and economics” (essentially the application of microeconomic logic to a wide range of legal issues).

     

     

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  • Quick tip: Normally, the Neo-Nazis are NOT the Third Rail of American Politics

    How can you managed to turn a simple matter–morally and politically–into a day-after-day controversy and ultimately a political firestorm?

    Good heavens, man, condemning the neo-Nazis and KKK when they instigate the event and cause a death: not a hard call.

    When the anarchists or some other group lead the chaos, then condemn them.

    But not now.

    When progressives go too far–demanding the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson be excised from history and honored status–condemn them when they do. (The chances they will go too far? Very high.)

    But not now.

    Act like the President of the whole country.

    Now.

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    Is there anybody in the West Wing saying, “At least that got the Russia investigation off the front page”?

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, August 10

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

    ◆ How serious is the North Korean crisis?
    Answer: Deadly serious
    My column on the crisis appears today in Real Clear Politics (link here).

    Washington Post headline: “Trump’s threat to North Korea contrasts with calm reassurances of other administration officials” (Washington Post)

    Comment: No. It’s “good cop, bad cop.”

    Trump and SecDef Mattis issue threats.

    Meanwhile, Sec. of State Tillerson holds out hope for negotiations.

    Although these differences could be seen as inconsistency or disarray, the more likely explanation is that the administration is holding out a hope for negotiations as the outcome of military threats.

    Deportation orders up 30% under Trump (Fox News)

    The president has vowed to speed deportations and cut down on the growing backlog of cases. He issued an executive order in January calling for a national crackdown.

    After Trump issued the order, the Justice Department dispatched dozens of immigration judges to detention centers across the country and hired an additional 54 judges. The agency said it has continued to hire more immigration judges each month. –Fox News

    Related story: Newspaper in El Salvador helpfully explains which 18 states illegal immigrants should avoid because “police agencies [in those states] are able to enforce immigration law.” (Daily Caller)

    Manafort’s home is not his castle. FBI conducts pre-dawn raid (New York Times)

    Why such an aggressive move against a white-collar suspect who is already cooperating? The NYT offers some ideas:

    The search is a sign that the investigation into Mr. Manafort has broadened, and is the most significant public step investigators have taken since the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was appointed in May. Investigators are expected to deploy a wide array of similar measures — including interviews and subpoenas — in the coming months as they move forward with the intensifying inquiry. . . .

    Legal experts said that Mr. Mueller might be trying to send a message to Mr. Manafort about the severity of the investigation, and to pressure him into cooperating. –New York Times

    How nasty are the Cubans? Well, they planted sonic devices around the homes of US diplomats, causing them hearing losses (Miami Herald)

    The use of sonic devices to intentionally harm diplomats would be unprecedented. –Miami Herald

    This began in 2016, shortly after President Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry opened relations with Cuba and proclaimed a new day in bilateral relations.

    Comment: These physical attacks on US personnel were known to the Obama administration, though the specific causes were not known.

    Pioneering type 1 diabetes therapy, using immunotherapy, is safe (BBC)

    The disease is caused by the body destroying cells in the pancreas that control blood sugar levels. The immunotherapy – tested on 27 people in the UK – also showed signs of slowing the disease, but this needs confirming in larger trials. Experts said the advance could one day free people from daily injections.

    Patients given the therapy did not need to increase their dose of insulin during the trial. However, it is too soon to say this therapy stops type 1 diabetes and larger clinical trials will be needed. And further types of immunotherapy that should deliver an even stronger reaction are already underway.–BBC

    Comment: Promising but larger studies needed. Note that it slows the progression of the disease; it does not reverse it.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, August 5

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

    Special Counsel Mueller’s office ask White House for docs on Mike Flynn; doing a full investigation of Flynn’s financial dealings, especially those with Turkey (New York Times)

    Taking money from Turkey or any foreign government is not illegal. But failing to register as a foreign agent is a felony, and trying to hide the source of the money by routing it through a private company or some other entity, and then paying kickbacks to the middleman, could lead to numerous criminal charges, including fraud.

    Prosecutors have also asked during interviews about Mr. Flynn’s speaking engagements for Russian companies, for which he was paid more than $65,000 in 2015, and about his company’s clients — including work it may have done with the Japanese government. –New York Times

    Comment: Besides Flynn’s vulnerability, the thing to note here is that Mueller’s office appears to be illegally leaking confidential investigation materials to the NYT.

    Venezuela’s march toward complete dictatorship continues (New York Times)

    Hugo Chavez’s successors are rewriting the Constitution to give themselves total power.

    Predictably, the economy is collapsing, people are trying to flee, etc.

    Comment: Sean Penn had no comment.

    US proposes even tougher UN sanctions against North Korea (Channel NewsAsia)

    Vote expected Saturday in UN Security Council after a month of negotiations with China. It will be the 7th set of UN sanctions on North Korea.

    The [proposed] measures that include a ban on exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, as well as seafood by the cash-starved state. . . .

    The draft text would also prevent North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad, prohibit all new joint ventures and ban new investment in the current joint companies. –Channel NewsAsia

    The proposal would also blacklist the regime’s Foreign Trade Bank but would not prohibit shipments of oil to North Korea.

    Comment: The EU, Japan, and South Korea have supported US efforts.

    My guess: These sanctions will not stop Kim’s pursuit of nuclear-tipped ICBMs.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan “casts doubt on Pres. Trump’s plan to cut legal immigration” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

    To quote Ryan:

    With baby boomers leaving the workforce, we’re still going to have labor shortages in certain areas and that is where a well-reformed legal immigration system should be able to make up the difference. –Paul Ryan interview with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Comment: ZipDialog has noted that the proposal to cut the number of legal immigrants is separable from the proposed new point system, focusing on higher skills and English language. Big business does not want the total numbers cut, and Ryan’s comments suggest those concerns have resonance.

    Nissan workers in Mississippi overwhelmingly reject high-profile unionization bid from United Autoworkers (New York Times)

    In a test of labor’s ability to expand its reach in the South, workers at a Nissan plant in Mississippi have overwhelmingly rejected a bid to unionize.

    Out of roughly 3,500 employees at the Canton-based plant who voted Thursday and Friday, more than 60 percent opposed the union. It was an emphatic coda to a years-long organizing effort underwritten by the United Automobile Workers, which has been repeatedly frustrated in its efforts to organize major auto plants in the region. –New York Times

    Experienced workers make $26 hour there, well above average wages in the state. Detroit wages are a few dollars higher. Nissan’s contributions to employees’ retirement accounts are similar to those of Michigan automakers, according to the NYT.

    Comment: The majority of plant workers are black, and the UAW had contributed heavily to civil-rights organizations as part of the organizing effort.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, August 4

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

    ◆ EXCELLENT ECONOMIC NEWS: Surging jobs in July means that the US has now regained all the jobs lost in the recession. Wages rose 2.5% last year. Unemployment remains 4.3% Dow-Jones above 22k for the first time ever (Washington Post)

    Comment: Now, to get more healthy people back into the labor force.

     

     ◆ After latest leaks of private Presidential phone calls to foreign leaders, AG Jeff Sessions announces more measure to find and punish the perps (Fox News)

    Based on the leaked documents, The Washington Post reported new details Thursday about Trump’s tense phone calls in late January with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In the former, Trump reportedly told the Mexican leader to stop publicly saying his government would not pay for a border wall.

    The newspaper said the transcripts had notes indicating they had been classified by the chief of staff on the National Security Council. The Post said it obtained full transcripts, which were “produced by White House staff” and based on records kept by White House note-takers. –Fox News

    Comment: My guess: holdover staff from the last administration or people who have just been fired.

    Special Counsel Mueller empanels Grand Jury in Washington (The Hill)

    They already had one in Virginia, so this is really not new, just a more convenient location for Mueller’s office, which now has 16 full-time prosecutors.

    Comment: It means the investigation is

    • Clearly a criminal one, not limited to counter-intelligence
    • Not limited to Mike Flynn, who was the subject of the Virginia panel
    • Likely to last many more months

    Who should be worried? Anybody in Trump’s circle who has extensive business dealings with Russia or Russian-sponsored entities and, of course, anybody who lies to Federal agents. Lying to the media is not a crime, but a pattern of lying could indicate intent to cover up and prompt further inquiry.

    West Virginia’s Democratic Governor announces switch to GOP at Trump rally (Charleston WVa Gazette-Mail)

    West Virginia, once reliably Democratic, has voted for Republicans in each presidential race since 2000, and dramatically last year. Four of the state’s five Congressional seats have flipped to Republican.

    The most important elected Democrat in the state is now centrist Joe Manchin, who said he will remain a Democrat.

    Comment: Democrats now control only 15 governorships and the fewest state legislatures in the party’s history.

    Sticking with Bernie and Nancy is not going to help, but the ineptitude of the current Congress will.

    Israel: PM Netanyahu’s top aide agrees to testify against him in a bribery, fraud investigation (Bloomberg)

    Comment: Likely outcome: Netanyahu indicted.

    It’s grim when top officials are suspected of corruption, but it is good news when an independent judiciary can investigate them, as they do in constitutional democracies . . . and nowhere else.

    Chief of Staff John Kelly emerges as key supporter of National Security Council Adviser McMaster in White House in-fighting (Politico)

    Comment: Yes, it helps that they are both former generals. But the main point is that they are both experienced at high-level Washington bureaucratic politics.

    McMaster has been cleaning house in his operation, putting his own people in place.

    The problems: McMaster has a violent temper, often on display in staff meetings, and is frequently pitted against Steve Bannon, who is an important link to Pres. Trump’s populist constituency–and who would be harder on the Trump Administration outside the tent than inside.

    Fragile economy limits Putin (Reuters)

    And US sanctions weak him further.

    Comment: ZipDialog has made this point repeatedly. Most news commentary has overlooked it.

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Michael Lipson for the Grand Jury story