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.
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
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.
◆ Mainstream media ignore bombshell, documented revelation that Hillary and DNC rigged primaries
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
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.
The IRS has fought this transparency for years, ever since Lois Lerner denied any wrongdoing.
Eventually, they did admit wrongdoing but still refused to say who was involved.
That secrecy meant it was impossible to depose the people involved and see how far up the food chain this scandal went.
“We’re thrilled the judge has taken this step and it feels good to have it recognized that they need to be held to account,” True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht told Fox News on Monday. “What happened to me was very personal—my name was thrown around the IRS, and the names of the people involved need to be known. What they did was criminal.”
The targeting scandal drew much attention in 2013 when the IRS, headed at the time by Lois Lerner, admitted it was applying extra scrutiny to conservative groups applying for nonprofit status. –Fox News
The agency has until mid-October to complete its internal search to uncover everyone involved.
Chris Farrell, director of investigations at Judicial Watch, one of the litigants, praised the judge and attacked the IRS:
“This [IRS targeting] was creepy, chilling stuff,” Farrell told Fox News. “Judge Walton has accomplished more with one ruling than all of the rest of the federal government—all three branches—over the last six years.” –Fox News
Comment: It is understandable that the Obama Administration would try to delay this and prevent disclosure. The targeting advanced their policy goals, and the coverup only helped them. We still don’t know if any of their political people were involved in this weaponization of the IRS.
But it is beyond belief that the Trump/Sessions DOJ was still fighting for the IRS and against the Tea Party groups in this case. WHY?
Are they just incompetent? Or are they letting lower-level people run this for their own political agenda.
Since the IRS is under Treasury, why doesn’t Mnuchin’s Treasury Department demand that all these records be produced?
This scandal began in the Obama Administration. Their coverup is understandable.
Not understandable: the Trump Administration doing nothing positive, despite its promise to drain the swamp.
You can think Jeff Sessions did a good job today or not, but this is flatly misleading as a characterization of the hearing.
Both points are true. He was silent on talks with Trump. He did deny collusion with Russia.
The first is news. The second is “I don’t beat my wife.” There was zero evidence of collusion, not only in the hearing but in months of Democrats’ frantic efforts to produce it, including several months when Obama controlled all the intel agencies, which were looking for it.
The main point is that even the Democrats have given up on collusion (the Post didn’t get the memo).
The story now is somehow “obstruction of justice.”
The switched the target as quickly as a magician. No evidence on the obstruction charge, either, and no underlying crime to obstruct. (It is quite possible Manafort, Flynn, and others committed violations, but those are personal, not a part of the campaign.)
A balanced headline for the hearing would be:
Sessions defends reputation against “lies”
Denies other meetings with Russians
Refuses to comment on talks with President
Sad to see the Washington Post, which lay comatose during the Holder and Lynch years, finally find an AG they can hate, investigate, and spin.
For my take on the hearings, see this post: The Sessions hearings in a Nutshell (link here)
What did Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee amount to?
Fairly little except for Sessions’ effective defense of his own reputation and conduct of his office.
My take aways
I watched the entire hearing. Here’s my unvarnished take.
There are two areas to keep the Democrats, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post busy attacking.
So far, the Democrats have found nothing on their main allegation: that Trump won the election unfairly, and is therefore an illegitimate president, because he and the Russians worked together to throw the election. It’s important to remember that the Obama Administration controlled the CIA, NSA, DOJ, and FBI for two and half months after the election and didn’t find anything then.
There is evidence of attempted Russian interference in the election., but the Democrats on the Intel Committee today showed themselves utterly uninterested in that today, despite major breaking news about Russia’s attempted hacks of US state election systems. Virtually no questions on that because it didn’t lead back to Trump.
Having failed (so far) to find significant evidence of collusion, the Democrats’ “get Trump” strategy has morphed into vague claims about obstruction of justice.
Again, no evidence of that so far, either.
Worse for them, there is no underlying crime whose investigation could be obstructed.
Today’s hearing was really about political resistance and personal destruction, not serious investigation.
If there is serious investigation, it is far more likely to come from Robert Mueller’s operation, which is now gearing up.
Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Reports that Trump is considering firing Mueller as Special Counsel (New York Times)
The comments came from a Trump friend, Christopher Ruddy, but the White House would not confirm them.
His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise.
“Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement hours later. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”
Allies of the president cast doubt on the idea that Mr. Trump would take such a drastic step, and White House officials said Mr. Ruddy had not met directly with the president while he was there.
Comment: Firing Mueller is within the President’s authority, but it would set off fireworks since they would appear that Trump could not withstand an investigation.
Mueller, however, has done himself no favors by hiring major Democratic donors for his staff. His friendship with Comey is also a problem and should be reason enough for him to recuse himself from that portion of the investigation.
Ex-FBI Director James Comey has privately told members of Congress that he had a frosty exchange with Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch last year when he confronted her about possible political interference in the Hillary Clinton email investigation after showing Lynch a sensitive document she was unaware the FBI possessed, according to sources who were directly briefed on the matter. –Circa
Comment: Sure looks like Lynch was in the tank for Clinton.
◆ AG Jeff Sessions will testify publicly before the Senate Intel Committee Tuesday (Washington Post)
The Democrats are in attack mode.
Democrats plan to ask about his contacts during the 2016 campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, which the attorney general failed to disclose fully during his confirmation hearing.
They also want him to explain his role in the firing of Comey, despite the attorney general’s recusal in March from the Russia investigation after revelations about his meetings with Kislyak. –Washington Post
Comment: The Democrats have made incendiary assertions about Sessions having improper meetings with the Russians and lying about them.
But so far, there is simply no evidence of anything wrong. That’s what the hearings will be about.
The drone crashed on its way home.
Comment: All this effort to spy, so little effort to feed and clothe the tyrannized population.
Comment: Parties of the right and left have collapsed. Now, Macron is in a position to move a major reform agenda.
Israel has approved a request by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cut by roughly a third the electricity it provides to the Gaza Strip.
The move is aimed at undermining the Islamic militant group Hamas, which has controlled Gaza for the last decade.
But the decision reached Sunday by Israel’s security Cabinet is stoking concern that it could trigger a humanitarian crisis among Gaza’s 2 million Palestinians and a new round of fighting between Hamas and Israel.
In a statement on Monday afternoon responding to news of the Israeli decision, Hamas said that power cuts are “dangerous” and would lead to an “explosion.” –Los Angles Times
Comment: Hamas is under considerable pressure, given the Muslim Brotherhood loss of power in Egypt, the sanctions on Qatar, and increasing resistance from international donors, who are themselves under pressure for funding terrorism indirectly.
Although Israel is no friend of the Palestinian Authority, they know Hamas is much worse.
What was in the brew Comey stirred up and served to the world on Thursday?
There was some red meat for both Democrats and Republicans. So you can expect them to emphasize different things.
The Washington Post thinks the big news is Comey’s statement that “Trump lied” about the reasons for Comey’s firing since he, Comey was doing a great job and the FBI was not demoralized, as the president said. That was Trump’s lie, said Comey.
That is a headline grabbing statement. But it is not what’s important.
Remember, there are ultimately two big legal issues:
There is one big political issue: Can the Democrats damage the Trump Administration?
A weakened and vulnerable President will increase the Democrats’ chances of winning the House in 2018.
Turning to Comey’s testimony. . . he
◆ Confirmed that Trump has never been the subject of an FBI investigation and said he told that to Trump several times (as Trump claimed)
◆ Effectively stirred up the Russia issue again without offering anything substantive
“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired, in some way, to change — or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”
Comey’s testimony threatened to deepen the legal and political crisis engulfing the White House, which has struggled to respond to growing questions about the president’s conduct. -Washington Post (link here)
◆ Said Trump did not try to slow or stop the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 US election
Comey declined to say whether he thought the president had obstructed justice, saying that was a determination to be made by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
In response to Comey’s testimony, Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, released a statement saying the president “never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.” –Washington Post
◆ Reaffirmed the leaks of “people familiar with Comey’s thinking” that Trump had privately told him he “hoped” Comey would be able to conclude the Flynn investigation and clear Flynn. But he did not order him to end the investigation.
◆ Confirmed that, in one disputed conversation, Trump asked AG Sessions to leave the room.
◆ But–and this is crucial–Comey changed his mind after being fired: now Trump was “directing” him to end the investigation of Flynn
◆ Admitted that he had orchestrated leaks of his private conversations, as FBI director, with the President.
◆ Claimed his leaks were done for an explicitly political reason: to get a special counsel appointed. An extraordinary admission
◆ Admitted that Attorney General Loretta Lynch (in Obama’s final years) ordered him not to call an ongoing criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails what it was: “an investigation.” She told him to call it only a “matter.”
◆ Matthew Continetti writes a fascinating opinion column in the Washington Free Beacon, entitled:
The logic is this:
It now looks like the most consequential Tweet of his presidency to date came a few days after he fired James Comey as FBI director. At 8:26 a.m. on Friday, May 12, Trump wrote: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
That tweet, Comey told the Senate, prompted the now-private citizen to instruct a friend, Columbia Law professor Daniel Richman, to share with the New York Times the contents of contemporaneous memos he had written describing his interactions with the president. The article, published a week to the day Comey was fired, revealed that the president had asked the FBI director to end the criminal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Why did Comey have Richman call the Times? Because, he told the Senate, he hoped that the disclosure of the memo would prompt the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and possible collusion with associates of the president’s campaign. That is exactly what happened May 17, the day after the Times piece, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named as counsel former FBI director Robert Mueller. –Continetti in the Washington Free Beacon