Posted tagged ‘Democrats and Trump’

Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps

July 21, 2017

Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, July 21, 2017

Trump has certainly become a diabolic figure for many (though his popularity among Republicans remains above 80 percent). This hatred has blinded many to the implications of pulling up the roots of our criminal laws “to get after the Donald.” In particular, they should consider the cost to free speech and the political process if they hand the government the power to criminalize some of this conduct.

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip President Erdogan this week pledged to “chop off the heads” of some of the thousands of Turks arrested as supporting the failed coup last year, including political opponents. That is precisely why the Framers, and later courts, have narrowly defined this crime and why relatively few treason cases have been brought and even fewer have succeeded in this country.

As satisfying as it may be to “get after the Donald” or his progeny, the engorged criminal code that would be left would then be handed to the next president. That president would then have a less obstructed range for the investigation of opponents and critics. If that day should come, we must ask ourselves how we will “stand upright in the wind that would blow.” As More noted, it is a question worth asking not for Trump’s sake, but for our own.

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Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on how critics of Donald Trump have been calling for radical extensions or interpretations of criminal provisions against core figures. The implications for such interpretations of crimes like treason need to be considered by critics.

“So now you’d give the devil benefit of the law!” Those were the words of William Roper in one of the most riveting scenes from “A Man For All Seasons.

He was chastising his father-in-law, Sir Thomas More, for elevating the law above morality. Roper, who was himself a lawyer and member of Parliament, was the face of resolve — and relativism — in the law. When More asked if Roper would “cut a great road through the law to get after the devil,” Roper proudly declared that he would “cut down every law in England to do that.”

After the 50th anniversary of the classic movie, we seem to be living in the “Age of Roper” — and rage. There is a constant drumbeat in the news as experts declare prima facie cases for indictment and impeachment against President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner. Trump has been denounced as threatening free speech, the free press, and even the democratic process.

However, the push for criminal charges could well create the very dangers that critics associate with Trump. Few have considered the implications of broadening the scope of the criminal code and handing the government wider discretion in criminalizing speech and associations. Once you declare someone to be the devil, there is no cost too great to combat him or his spawn.

Trump has certainly become a diabolic figure for many (though his popularity among Republicans remains above 80 percent). This hatred has blinded many to the implications of pulling up the roots of our criminal laws “to get after the Donald.” In particular, they should consider the cost to free speech and the political process if they hand the government the power to criminalize some of this conduct.

Treason

In the chorus of criminal charges following the disclosure of the Russia meeting, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was not to be outdone. Where others were arguing election fraud, Kaine declared that the case has moved to a potential treason charge. Likewise, Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, has said that, while rarely charged without a declaration of war, “the dictionary definition” of treason and the “common understanding” is “a betrayal of one’s country, and in particular, the helping of a foreign adversary against one’s own country.”

Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman declared the emails to be “almost a smoking cannon” and added that “there’s almost no question this is treason.” Even if there is a reluctance to bring a direct treason charge, Painter insists that “we just use other statutes because most of what is treason would have violated another statute anyway.”

Article III of the Constitution defines this crime as consisting “only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” With neither a declaration of war nor an act of levying of war, such a charge is both absurd and dangerous. Many countries like China routinely charge communications with foreign organizations to be treason.

Indeed, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip President Erdogan this week pledged to “chop off the heads” of some of the thousands of Turks arrested as supporting the failed coup last year, including political opponents. That is precisely why the Framers, and later courts, have narrowly defined this crime and why relatively few treason cases have been brought and even fewer have succeeded in this country.

Espionage

Some lawmakers, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have suggested that if the Russians were hacking or spying on the Democrats, Trump Jr. and others participated in the crime of espionage. Like treason, the effort to construe this meeting as espionage would rip the crime from its statutory roots. There is no evidence that Trump Jr. gave any sensitive information to Russian officials or sought to hurt U.S. national security. If this were espionage, a host of campaigns and citizens could be investigated as traitors or spies for using information from a foreign source.

Conspiracy

Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin has declared the Trump Jr. emails to be “a shocking admission of a criminal conspiracy.” However, the crime itself requires a showing that Trump Jr. sought to “conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States.”

MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler identified the crime as “conspiring with the U.S.’ sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy,” and declared it is now clear that “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime.” The suggestion that acquiring opposition research is an effort to “defraud” an election would, again, criminalize a host of political speech and associations.

It would allow the government to call campaigns into grand juries to answer for discussions of how they obtained information or who they consulted. We live in a global marketplace of ideas and exchanges. The line between information given as part of political speech and information given to defraud could vanish… with a great deal of our political discourse.

Obstruction

I have previously discussed how the firing of former FBI Director James Comey has prompted many to declare a prima facie case of obstruction. Like many others, Akerman declared the matter resolved, saying, “Our president is guilty of obstruction of justice for endeavoring to obstruct an FBI investigation.”

However, an obstruction charge is based on obstructing a grand jury or other pending proceeding. FBI investigations are not generally considered a pending proceeding and case law has rejected such claims. Moreover, it would allow the government to broaden the element of trying to “corruptly” influence to an extent never reached in any prior case.

Under such an ambiguous standard, prosecutors could charge people willy nilly for a host of interactions with witnesses or documents in the earliest stages of an investigation. Prosecutors could force pleas or testimony under constant threats of obstruction charges. That is why courts have narrowed the language of obstruction.

Election fraud

The same chilling results would occur if, as a host of experts have declared, the receiving information from any foreigner would violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. The law makes it illegal to “solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation… of money or other thing of value” from a foreign national in connection with a federal election. Experts have declared the law as all but satisfied as a basis to charge Trump’s son.

Nick Akerman, a former Watergate assistant special prosecutor, declared, “It’s illegal campaign contributions. It would be conspiring to commit campaign violations.”   Likewise, Ryan Goodman, a former Defense Department special counsel, has declared, “There is now a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements of the law.”

Of course, no court has ever reached such a conclusion and hopefully would never do so. If the receipt of opposition research from a foreigner is now equivalent to receiving illegal campaign funds, the law would extend to foreign academics, public interest groups, nongovernment organizations, and journalists supplying information to a campaign.

An environmental group might have given Hillary Clinton’s campaign a dossier on Trump’s business practices. All of those interactions could be investigated and prosecuted — sweeping a wide array of political speech into the criminal code. If successful, these experts and advocates would hand the next administration the ability to harass and pursue political opponents and groups.

During the Obama administration, Democrats tossed aside the principles of separation of powers and supported President Obama’s use of unilateral authority to circumvent Congress. The Democrats acted as if Obama would be our last president in abandoning core constitutional principles. Trump is now enjoying the very unilateral powers that the Democrats so unwisely embraced.

Trump will not be our last president — just as Obama was not. These laws will be left to the next president to use in the same broad fashion against others. Democrats have simply replaced blind loyalty under Obama with blind rage under Trump.

In the movie scene with Roper, More cautions those who too willingly discard or twist laws to achieve desired ends, saying, “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

More shows the recklessness of Roper’s resolve — the dangerous tendency to make the law bend to your will in the name of a higher cause like Roper’s desire “to get after the devil.”

As satisfying as it may be to “get after the Donald” or his progeny, the engorged criminal code that would be left would then be handed to the next president. That president would then have a less obstructed range for the investigation of opponents and critics. If that day should come, we must ask ourselves how we will “stand upright in the wind that would blow.” As More noted, it is a question worth asking not for Trump’s sake, but for our own.

The Russian Collusion Story: The Acme of Fake News

July 16, 2017

The Russian Collusion Story: The Acme of Fake News, American ThinkerClarice Feldman, July 16, 2017

Richard Fernandez is one of the most brilliant authors on the Internet. This week he wrote:

Conventional wisdom posits the chief challenges facing the post-Cold War World are Global Warming and the decline of international institutions. But maybe that assurance is a species of Fake News. Suppose the most pressing problems in the next decade is finding new energy supplies to 1) keep the price of oil low enough to contain Russia (and Islamism); and 2) adapting to a disruptive information revolution no one can seem to control. Who will hand you that unconventional wisdom unless you come to it yourself.

He’s right, as I explain, but the significance of his observation is this: which of the two candidates — Hillary or Trump — was more likely to tap into America’s huge energy resources to contain both Russia and the Islamists? And when you answer that as you must — Trump — you can dismiss all the folderol about Donald J. Trump Jr’s, 15 minute meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer as evidence of “collusion” with Russia.  As I further explain, the non-stop media promotion of some nefarious scheme between Russia and Trump does not pass even the most cursory forensic examination, proving once again in the age of fake news, you cannot remain a passive consumer of news. You have to bring to each story the good sense and diligence with which you handle your most important personal affairs.

A. Russia and Environmental Groups

As Fernandez explained:

The oil crash collapsed the ruble and forced a 27% reduction in the Kremlin’s military budget in 2016.  With oil prices set to stay flat the Russians have to keep drilling and investing simply to stay level as the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies notes.  The Kremlin doesn’t make any real spending money until world oil price gets above levels before the great oil crash of 2014, which may not happen any time soon.[snip] You would think this a Eureka moment: to contain oil prices is to contain Russia (and Islamism). But cheap fossil fuels are not everyone’s cup of tea.  “Drill, baby, drill” is not popular on the left.  Even though liberals understand the power of cheap energy — one of Hillary’s supposedly hacked emails even alleged anti-fracking and environmental causes were a Russian plot to depress oil production — to advocate it is bad progressive politics. This probably led the Saudis to Hillary’s camp in 2016. “According to Bob McNally, president of consulting firm Rapidan Group, countries in the oil-producing Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, are hoping for Hillary Clinton to become president.”

If you’re looking for collusion with Russia, it is not to be found in the Trump Tower meeting.  Paul Mirengoff of Powerline details the Russian efforts through environmental groups — at best Stalin’s “useful idiots” — to tamp down US energy production.

 Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee, tells James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal:

If you connect the dots, it is clear that Russia is funding U.S. environmental groups in an effort to suppress our domestic oil and gas industry, specifically hydraulic fracking. They have established an elaborate scheme that funnels money through shell companies in Bermuda. This scheme may violate federal law and certainly distorts the U.S. energy market. The American people deserve to know the truth and I am confident Secretary Mnuchin will investigate the allegations.

To help Sec. Mnuchin conduct such an investigation, Rep. Smith, along with Energy Subcommittee Chairman Randy Weber, sent him a letter. They noted:

According to the former Secretary General of NATO, “Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called nongovernmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain dependence on imported Russian gas.” Other officials have indicated the same scheme is unfolding in the U.S.

Reps. Smith and Weber add that, according to public sources including a 2014 report from Republican staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “entities connected to the Russian government are using a shell company registered in Bermuda, Klein Ltd. (Klein), to funnel tens of millions of dollars to a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) private foundation,” which supports various environmental groups. Klein denies this allegation.

Regardless of the conduit for the money, the allegation of funneling appears to be substantial. Indeed, says Freeman, it appears to have been noted by none other than Hillary Clinton:

If a document posted last year on WikiLeaks is to be believed, Clinton campaign staff summarized in an email attachment Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the subject during a private speech:

Clinton Talked About “Phony Environmental Groups” Funded By The Russians To Stand Against Pipelines And Fracking. “We were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media. We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you, and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.” [Remarks at tinePublic, 6/18/14]

Freeman suggests that Mnuchin commence his investigation by speaking with Mrs. Clinton, who “obviously knows the terrain.” He also thinks John Podesta would be a useful source.

Podesta is invested in and acts for a “green energy company backed by the Russian government.”

B. The Media Has lost all Credibility, Serving as the semi-official newsroom for the Democratic Party

Just as Fernandez detailed the rise of Samizdat in Russia as the official press was uniformly distrusted, the growth on alternate media in the U.S. is disrupting the old news models .

Our trust hierarchies have collapsed. As with Soviet Russia, the “official” media sources are now distrusted as purveyors “fake news”.  To fill the gap a peer-to-peer grapevine, similar to the “friends and family”, a samizdat is emerging to pick up the slack. Sonya Mann at Inc uses a startup to illustrate the growing division of society into trust groups. “Pax Dickinson wants to fund the revolution. Not a blood-in-the-streets revolution, but one where hardcore right-wingers can economically secede from the parts of society they vehemently dislike. “We need parallel everything. I do not want to ever have to spend a single dollar at a non-movement business.

Nothing so illustrates why the media has  deservedly lost all credibility than it’s unending, overdone effort to fit any action on the part of the President or those around him into a narrative of Russia somehow colluding with him to defeat Hillary. This week’s take was the short meeting his son held with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower last summer.

The clearest summary of the facts surrounding the meeting with Trump’s son last summer is to be found in The American Spectator.  Scott McKay writes:

[Natalia] Veselnitskaya’s  [The Russian lawyer’s] presence in the United States alone ought to be the source of suspicion that not only is the Trump-Russian collusion narrative suspect in this case but that the real inquiry ought to be into whether the encounter was a small part of a larger attempt to trap the Trump campaign.

The Russian lawyer wasn’t even supposed to be here. She had been denied a visa for entry into the United States in late 2015, but given a rather extraordinary “parole” by the federal government to assist preparation for a client subject to asset forfeiture by the Justice Department. That was in January. The client was Prevezon Holdings, a Russian company suspected of having been paid some portion of $230 million stolen by Russian mobsters. When Sergey Magnitsky a Russian lawyer representing a company that had been the victim of the theft, reported it to authorities in Moscow he was promptly jailed and beaten to death. The American response to this atrocity was the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned several individuals connected to human rights abuses. The Russian government retaliated by preventing American adoptions of Russian children.

But in June, she was permitted to fly back to the U.S., have the meeting with Trump Junior  —  at Trump Tower, no less  —  and then end up in the front row for a congressional hearing involving testimony from a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, then turning up at a D.C. showing of a documentary film on the negative effects of the Magnitsky Act, and later appearing at a dinner involving Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former Rep. Ron Dellums (D-CA) who is now a lobbyist for the Russians. The repeal of that legislation is a priority item for the Russians and a personal project of Veselnitskaya’s; it, rather than any Clinton dirt, was reportedly the primary subject brought forth at the meeting with Donald Trump Jr.

All of this without a visa! Not to mention Veselnitskaya didn’t file a FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) document before acting as a lobbyist for a foreign entity, as required by law. Neither, apparently, did Dellums. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a fascinating letterTuesday to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking them to please find out what in the hell Veselnitskaya was doing in this country last June.

And further, it turns out Veselnitskaya was connected to Fusion GPS, the Democrat opposition research firm which employed a former British spy who used Russian contacts to produce the infamous and debunked Pee Pee Dossier smearing Trump. Veselnitskaya hired Fusion GPS head Glenn Simpson to work on behalf of Prevezon, the company she was allowed into the country to represent, in its efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act. Fusion then hired Christopher Steele, the British spy who drew on Russian sources to produce that dossier, and made him available for private briefings on the dossier with left-leaning media sources such as Mother Jones, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Yahoo! News, the New Yorkerand CNN in September.

Naturally, John McCain is involved  —  if that fact should produce his resignation, all of this will have been worth it.

By the way, there is Veselnitskaya’s social media account, which is decidedly more aligned with the Fusion GPS side of this equation than the Trump side.

And the meeting came about largely due to hyped-up promises made by a publicist for a Russian pop star who was connected to the Trump family from the Miss Universe pageant having been held in Moscow in 2013  —  promises which don’t appear to have been fulfilled. If this whole thing doesn’t look like an old-fashioned dangle to you, then you haven’t watched enough spy movies.

If timelines are interesting to you, there is this  —  reportedly, the Obama administration sought permission to electronically monitor Trump Tower in early June, and the FISA court would not grant it. But in October, that warrant was given. [snip]

And once that meeting  —  which on its surface was a waste of everyone’s time  —  was had, the Obama administration now had something to sell to the FISA court to get that warrant  —  from which they snagged Mike Flynn and gave the Democrat party and the media a mechanism to shroud the Trump administration in what can best be described as a rather dubious scandal. Remember how Hillary Clinton was accusing Trump of being a Putin’s puppet at the October 19 debate?

C. Donald J Trump’s son had every reason to believe that there was evidence of Hillary’s collusion with Russia

If this seems farfetched, consider this Veselnitskaya  was barred from entry to the US until Loretta Lynch granted her an excedptional “immigration parole” to appear in a judicial proceeding; a federal judge considered — but we can find no ruling — her motion  on January 6, 2016,to extend her stay by a week, and then  with no explanation of how this occurred, she was back in the US on June of that year  where she met with Donald J Trump Jr and attended as a front row guest a Congressional hearing on the Magnitsky act which imposed sanctions on Russia.

To add a dash of extra color to the story the media reported that with the lawyer was a “former Russian counter intelligence officer”, Rinat Akhmetshin.  He denies this.

“I am an American citizen since 2009 who pays taxes, earned his citizenship after living here since 1994, and swore an oath of loyalty to the United States of America,”

Kayleigh McEnany in The Hill characterized this as a “conspiracy theory desperately in earch of evidence”.

Bill Clinton had given a $500,000 speech in Russia.  Clinton had given her approval in handing one-fifth of U.S. uranium to Russia, after which her foundation received $2.35 million from the Russian-controlled company.  Suspiciously, Clinton did not disclose the transaction.

Likewise, Clinton campaign chief John Podesta sat on the board of a company that received $35 million from the Russian government alongside fellow board members Anatoly Chubais, a senior Russian official, and Ruben Vardanyan, an oligarch.

Given this context, why wouldn’t Trump Jr. be open to taking a meeting that offered evidence of incriminating Clinton dealings with Russia, particularly when most of the media refused to look into Clinton’s question-raising actions?[snip] We likewise know that several foreign countries known for their human rights violations  —  like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Brunei, and Algeria  —  donated millions to the Clinton foundation, and yet few publications construed their “support” in a negative way.

Taken together, the micro story of Donald Trump Jr. seeking opposition research  —  much like Clinton allies did in their dealings with the Ukrainian government  —  does nothing in the way of proving the macro allegation that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia in hacking the DNC and releasing Clinton’s illegally obtained emails.

The American people see through this leftist-purveyed Russia conspiracy theory.  That’s why a full 56 percent want Congress and the media to focus on real issues, not Russia.  If the left continues to concoct Russian collusion evidence, they can fully expect for the 2018 congressional elections to look a lot like the special elections in Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Georgia  —  Republican victory.  Voters dismiss the salacious in favor of solutions, and as of now, the left have nothing besides an evidence-free smear campaign.

In any event, isn’t it curious that those who claim to consider a meeting to listen to opposition research, bought hook line and sinker the ridiculous-on-its-face Dossier concted by GPS against Trump, a far more likely piece of Russian intel disinformation? Or why they ignore DNC officials meeting with Ukrainian government officials for dirt on then Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Politico detailed the many ways the Ukrainians worked to help Hillary beat Trump.  As you might guess, they indicated these efforts were “far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.” Covering with the word “alleged” a smear without any evidence but for the mutterings of Crowdstrike, a private outfit which was the only investigation the DNC allowed , a misstep by the Comey FBI which let this pass.

In any event, Legal commentators on both sides of the aisle have confirmed there was nothing illegal about the meeting.   I suppose we can’t expect much more of a press corps so stupid it mistakes the Star Spangled Banner for France’s La Marseillaise, and Bastille Day for the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. entry in WW I.

You’ll just have to work harder in the face of such ignorance and bias to find out what you need to know.

Trump vs. the Deep State

June 19, 2017

Trump vs. the Deep State, PJ MediaRoger Kimball, June 18, 2017

President Donald Trump speaks in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida, on June 15, 2017, about re-instituting some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba and U.S. business dealings with entities tied to the Cuban military and intelligence services. (Photo by JL) (Sipa via AP Images)

The sociology of the Trump presidency—and the anti-Trump “resistance”—is an unwritten chapter in recent American history.  As I say, I suspect it will have to be filed chiefly under “Snobbery, examples of,” but that’s as may be.  This much I am convinced of: 1. Those who identify the “administrative state” (the “deep state,” etc.) as our chief political problem today are correct; 2. Donald Trump really is trying to unravel (“deconstruct,” “drain”)  Leviathan; 3. The right-leaning anti-Trump campaign is so virulent because, even if unwittingly, it is itself part of the overweening bureaucrat dispensation that is the enemy of freedom; 4. Trump will survive to the extent that he is able to follow the example of his hero Andrew Jackson and challenge his challengers by pushing through his agenda undistracted from the yapping of the PC chihuahuas.

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With his typical panache, Frank Buckley asks the central political question of our time and hints at an answer with an original suggestion for remediation. The question is what to do about the “administrative state,” a.k.a., the regulatory state, the “deep state,” that Leviathan that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, has said he came to Washington to “deconstruct.”

As Buckley points out, that laudable goal is hedged around with difficulties, partly because the meddling class has built up such a formidably complex hive of extra-constitutional rules and regulations, partly because the populace has been supine for so long that strategies for effective rejoinder seem utopian at best.  What, really, can one do about the proliferation of “guidance,” of the statute-like interference in the conduct of business or, indeed, of everyday life?

The Kafkaesque bureaucracy stymies ordinary people at every turn as it pursues its two overriding goals: the perfection of a “progressive,” i.e., socialist agenda and—just as important—the consolidation of its own power and perquisites.

What to do? The courts can only do so much without themselves falling prey to the molasses-like blandishments of the administrative state. Effective responses seem to be few and far between.

One model, Buckley notes, was provided by Andrew Jackson who, disgusted by the encroaching sclerosis and corruption of the bureaucracy he inherited, instituted a “spoils system.” He fired 10 percent of the federal workforce and replaced it with people of his own choosing. “Was that so bad?” Buckley asks, indulging in what Latinists refer to as a “Num” question: one expecting the answer no.  As Buckley notes, even so partisan a liberal as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., lulled perhaps by the historical distance of Jackson from our own time, thought that it was a positive development that  helped to restore the people’s faith in government.

Donald Trump has himself said that he would like to cut the federal workforce by 10 percent and has outlined many other cost-saving and, more to the point, bureaucracy-cutting measures. Why are these efforts, many of which have already begun to bear fruit, not universally applauded, at least among conservatives?

I do not know the answer to that question.  But it is certainly the case that Trump’s efforts are not universally applauded among conservatives.  Buckley quotes a curious tweet emitted by my friend Bill Kristol, former editor of The Weekly Standard and a paid-up member of the ever Never Trump brigade: “obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

What I find so curious about this tweet is the phrase “Trump state.”  What is it?  What horror does Bill envision that would lead him to prefer what Donald Trump has on offer to the “deep state”?

Ever since Trump was nominated, I suspected that he was going to govern as a far more conventional figure than some of his campaign rhetoric might have suggested. And so it has turned out to be. Sure, he continues to broadcast eyebrow-raising tweets and make provocative statements, but look at what he has actually done:

  • Nominated, and had confirmed, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme court.
  • Nominated a score of federal judges whose impeccable conservative credentials should be balm to conservatives like Bill Kristol.
  • Issued many executive orders and other initiatives to pare back onerous and counterproductive regulations.
  • Changed the rules of engagement in hot spots like Syria and Afghanistan so that commanders on the ground, not Washington weenies, make decisions about appropriate military responses.
  • Outlined an ambitious tax plan that would slash taxes across the board.
  • Worked diligently to unravel the monstrosity of Obamacare.
  • Undertaken on his first foreign trip a robust articulation of his “America First,” anti-terrorist policy, all while demonstrating what progress in the Middle East might look like by flying, for the first time, directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel.
  • Made it possible for entrepreneurs to exploit America’s enormous energy-producing potential by scraping the prohibitions on coal mining, opening up the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, etc. etc.
  • Reduced illegal immigration by more than 70 percent just by being president.
  • Released a budget that makes meaningful cuts in federal programs.
  • Etc., etc., etc.,

Now, Bill Kristol knows all of this.  So why does he speak of the “Trump state”? How does it differ from the “normal democratic and constitutional politics” he says he prefers?

I suspect, but do know know for sure, that the issue is largely aesthetic—what in an earlier time might have been called “snobbery.”  Bill does not like where Donald Trump hails from. I don’t means Queens, NY, but rather the unschooled precincts of the spirit that people without the right credentials inhabit by definition.  There are objective correlatives—a certain taste in ties, in victuals, even in feminine pulchritude—but it all boils down to a matter of style in the most comprehensive sense.  Bill Kristol, scion of one of the most accomplished conservative intellectual couples of the last century, has it. Donald Trump does not. Bill is Harvard, not just because he went there, but because of the intellectual manners, the habitus, he internalized.

The sociology of the Trump presidency—and the anti-Trump “resistance”—is an unwritten chapter in recent American  history.  As I say, I suspect it will have to be filed chiefly under “Snobbery, examples of,” but that’s as may be.  This much I am convinced of: 1. Those who identify the “administrative state” (the “deep state,” etc.) as our chief political problem today are correct; 2. Donald Trump really is trying to unravel (“deconstruct,” “drain”)  Leviathan; 3. The right-leaning anti-Trump campaign is so virulent because, even if unwittingly, it is itself part of the overweening bureaucrat dispensation that is the enemy of freedom; 4. Trump will survive to the extent that he is able to follow the example of his hero Andrew Jackson and challenge his challengers by pushing through his agenda undistracted from the yapping of the PC chihuahuas.

Trump was the real target

June 15, 2017

Trump was the real target, Israel National News, Jack Engelhard, June 15, 2017

I say Republican lawmakers owe us an explanation. Explain, please, why you allow yourselves to be led by the nose by the party that lost?

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So it has come to this —

No Republican is safe, whether it’s Jeff Sessions in the Senate on Tuesday, or Congressional Republicans at a baseball practice in Virginia on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s shooting, from a gunman identified as a Bernie Sanders supporter, hit and wounded House (GOP) Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others.

They were sent to the hospital. Scalise’s condition is apparently most serious, but all are hopefully expected to recover. But will the republic, seeing how the Democrats are on a tear; them and all leftists who call themselves the Resistance. That means resistance to President Trump.

The gunman (now dead from the heroic actions of the police) wanted to know whose team were playing ball there in Alexandria.

Told they were Republicans, he opened fire. 

Trump is the real target.

That’s who they’re really trying to bag, if by Red Scare innuendos in Congress or by mockery that plainly hints at the wishful thinking of a Trump assassination.

From Stephen Colbert’s rant, to Kathy Griffin’s head-on-a stick, to Shakespeare in the Park substituting Trump for the bludgeoning of Caesar, we know what they’re thinking…and we can only guess who they may be influencing.

There are any number of nut cases out there who get the general idea.

Those of us who watched Tuesday’s Senate hearing that featured Attorney General Jeff Sessions could only wonder when this will stop – this fixation on Russia.

Apparently it won’t stop any time soon. Sen. Mark Warner (D. Virginia) opened by demanding that Sessions make himself available for many more investigations still to come – as if Sessions has no day job, and as if branding Trump and all of Trump’s people no better than Russian spies will preoccupy Democrats from now until forever.

Have they no other business?

Do they ever listen to themselves talk, these Democrats, their desperation through nitpicking, to find something, anything that will stick?

Are they aware of their hysteria?

Who won this election anyway? Why are the Republicans, who did win, on the hot heat? You’d think it would be the other way round.

As for me, I thought a GOP sweep of the White House and Congress would send Hillary Clinton running for the hills.

She, not Sessions, would be begging for mercy. Or was it Sessions who was guilty of “extreme carelessness with classified material?’

Was it Sessions who destroyed evidence, even using a hammer to beat to death 30,000 e-mails?

No, all that was Hillary Clinton, aided by Huma Abedin and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Why are they sleeping safe and snug while Sessions sweats his way through another day at the Inquisition, pleading for his job and his reputation, already in tatters as Democrats thrill to their success at character assassination en route to Trump.

People say Sessions was “feisty” at Tuesday’s Senate witch-hunt. I say he was lame.

I say he was lame from the moment he recused himself from the Russia probe…and still lame for not bringing charges against Hillary et al.

I say Republican lawmakers owe us an explanation. Explain, please, why you allow yourselves to be led by the nose by the party that lost?

Baseball Shooter a Big Wake-Up Call for the Left

June 14, 2017

Baseball Shooter a Big Wake-Up Call for the Left, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, June 14, 2017

(This can’t be correct. The Lamebrain Media keep telling us that Trump is the source of all hatred and violence. — DM)

It couldn’t be more obvious that highly-disturbed individuals such as the deranged gunman using baseball-playing Republican congressmen for target practice on Wednesday can come from all political, ethnic, racial and religious categories; nevertheless, it’s high time for some introspection from the left.  This should be a wake up call for them.  Indeed, for the sake of our country, it had better be.

This man came from the extreme end of Trump Derangement Syndrome, but he didn’t emerge entirely by himself.  He came from a petri dish that are all submerged in, nurturing hate as never before in most of our lifetimes.

We need look no further than yesterday’s grilling of Jeff Sessions by the Senate Intelligence Committee.  This investigation is putatively about Russian interference in our election, but we learn nothing about that.  Not a thing.  In fact, it’s barely mentioned.  The entire event is used as a means to “get Trump” and/or his associates.  Senators like Heinrich ooze hate, obviously playing to a likeminded crowd.  It is indeed a “witch hunt” and any reader of The Crucible knows where that leads.

Meanwhile, just this past weekend, here in Los Angeles we had our annual Gay Pride celebration.  But it didn’t seem to about pride at all, only about unremitting attacks on our president (and by implication anyone Republican), as if everyone in the streets would have been delighted to see a replay of Kathy Griffin’s nauseating decapitation or the denouement of the current Shakespeare-in-the-Park production where a Trump/Caesar is beheaded nightly (Ironically, Trump was on record for gay marriage long before Clinton or Obama, but facts mean nothing to the pussy-hatted.)

And then there were the wild accusations of anti-Semitism when nearly half of Trump’s family is Jewish and – as it turned out – of the few such incidents that occurred since his inauguration none were committed by his supporters. In fact, they all came from the left.  This was, of course, barely reported.  It didn’t fit the narrative of hate.

And this is to omit the most horrifying examples of all – the absolutely despicable behavior toward conservatives on our campuses.  It’s like the return of the Brown Shirts.

Sense a pattern?

I used to be on the left and remember well the incantations of “by any means necessary” or the “ends justify the means.”  No, they don’t. The means become the ends.

Robespierre is alive and well in 2017 USA.

This pathetic character in Alexandria is, now was, the left’s ungoverned id.  By any means necessary – that’s for sure. They will undoubtedly try to shove him under the rug as quickly as possible, just one more aberrant individual to be forgotten, just one obscure Bernie volunteer gone bad. Sanders did his best to separate himself within minutes of the revelation.  Yes, it’s undoubtedly true that this was just one rotten apple, but it’s also true that only five years ago Bernie was recommending Venezuela  – now ground zero for starvation, kidnapping and murder – as a path for us to emulate.

Something has gone wrong here — deeply wrong.

Congressional Hearings and Witch-Hunts

June 13, 2017

Congressional Hearings and Witch-Hunts, Front Page MagazineBruce Thornton, June 13, 2017

America’s longest running soap opera is not General Hospital. It’s the Congressional Hearing, usually a venue for pontificating, show-boating, histrionics, preening for the cameras, insulting political enemies, and accomplishing little of value. Meanwhile the real work of the Republic either gets neglected or proceeds in silence at a glacial pace.

James Comey was the star of last week’s latest episode of the eternal DC soap. The one-time FBI director stayed true to his character, preening morally, striking Boy Scout poses, indulging faux-folksy interjections like “Lordy,” pretending to be sober and judicious, but all the while revealing the instincts of a bureaucratic cartel sicaria. He was obviously thirsting for revenge against the hated DC outsider and “liar” who unceremoniously fired him, so much so that he admitted to cowardice on multiple occasions, from failing to immediately confront Trump over his supposed sinister “direction” (Comey’s translation of Trump’s “hope”) that Mike Flynn get let off the hook; to his groveling obedience to AG Loretta Lynch’s politicized, justice-obstructing order to call the investigation into Hillary Clinton a “matter.” He displayed a brazen arrogance in admitting to leaking a memo, written in his professional capacity, to the New York Times through a cut-out, perhaps one of numerous other leaks emanating from this self-proclaimed pillar of professional rectitude even before he was fired.

So we got a few more details about a man we already knew was a publicity hound and power -hungry operator. But that portrait was painted back in July of last year, when Comey publicly laid out the predicates for an indictment of Hillary Clinton, then usurped the authority of the AG to let Hillary (and Loretta “Tarmac” Lynch) off the hook based on a legally irrelevant consideration of “intent.” The only thing interesting last week was watching how far Comey would debase himself to square the many duplicitous circles he had spun over the last few years.

Great fun for political junkies, but what useful purpose will be served by that spectacle? The media are happy, since they get free programming and more chum for their talking heads. They’re celebrating the 19 million viewers who supposedly tuned in, though that sum represents a little more than 10% of registered voters. Normal citizens were working their jobs and tending to their lives. From their perspective, the drama inside the Beltway cocoon is bureaucratic white noise. If they think about it at all, it’s to wonder whether the guilty leakers will be hunted down and punished, or just be “investigated” for months and months and then, like Hillary, given a pass. And Hillary is just one of numerous miscreants that need exposing and punishing for their corruption of the public trust in order to serve their political preferences or careerist ambitions.

Don’t hold your breath. More likely we’ll see a repeat of the 2003 Valery Plame inquisition, that ginned-up crisis about the illegal “exposure” of an alleged “covert” CIA agent. By the time it was all finished, Comey’s buddy Patrick Fitzgerald who, despite knowing the true identity of the leaker, like some low-rent Javert for three years hounded White House staffers until Lewis “Scooter” Libby was questionably convicted of four crimes. So fat chance the biggest offender of all, Hillary Clinton, will ever answer for putting national security at risk and treating the State Department like an ATM. Some small-fry staffers might get caught in the net, but the whales will just swim right through.

What’s really maddening, though, is that we’re into the second year of Trump’s critics still being infuriated by his style, even as they ignore or downplay the much grosser offenses of numerous Democrats. Much of the whole “Russia collusion” fantasy has been generated by Trump’s refusal to abide by the media and establishment-created protocols presidents are supposed to follow. Republican Trump critics are just as bad, still not figuring out that their fealty to exalted “protocols” and good taste are just what energized ordinary citizens, those folks grown sick of bipartisan elites who seemed to have more in common with each other than with the people they’re supposed to represent.

So, for example, we hear once again from the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan––who seems bent on spending the rest of her career playing Margaret Dumont to Trump’s Groucho Marx––whining about Trump’s asking Comey for “loyalty.” “Presidents don’t lean on FBI chiefs in this way,” Noonan sniffed. “It is at odds with traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols.” Really? Sez who? LBJ probably applied worse pressure than that before lunch every day. And few presidents “leaned on” J. Edgar Hoover only because the G-man had some pretty thick files on them.

As for “traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols,” where do they come from? Andrew Jackson? Political decorum and comity are good things, but in democratic politics they usually serve as gate-keepers separating the elites from their clients. They also are camouflage for disguising collusion or incompetence or inaction. They’re just the air-freshener for the political sausage factory. What matters is getting the sausage made.

But the only rule-book that matters is the Constitution. And it says a president can fire any executive employee, including the head of the FBI, any way he wants and for any reason he sees fit. The FBI is a federal agency, not a separate arm of the government, answerable to the Chief Executive, who, unlike Comey or Lynch, is directly answerable to the sovereign people. If they’re unhappy with the president’s tweets or brashness or actions, they’ll let him and his party know at the ballot box.

And that’s what’s objectionable about these opera-buffa “hearings.” The media and politicians are obsessing over superficial issues of presidential style, progressive fake news, and he-said-he-said squabbles, while the real work that needs to get done is being neglected. And Obama left behind some huge messes that Trump promised to clean up. We don’t need “hearings” about Russian interference in the election. That’s a dog-bites-man story. Just shoot the dog by increasing cyber-security, and stop talking about it. We don’t need hearings about alleged “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign. Just shut up, investigate, and if necessary charge, prosecute, and convict the guilty. Ditto with the federal agencies leaking like a colander, the only substantive story in the Trump-and-Comey puppet show.

All of us need to get focused and hold the politicians’ feet to the fire and to make them deliver the changes necessary for restoring economic growth, reforming our broken health-care system, and straightening out our Kafkaesque tax code. These are hard problems with harder solutions, but they won’t get fixed if Congress is off mugging for television cameras or taking the whole month of August off.

Many Congressmen assure us that they are hard at work below the media’s radar. I hope that’s true, because if the Republicans and Trump fail to deliver on his promises with substantial change, we might see in our country a reprise of what just happened in England’s snap election, where a hard-left buffoon perhaps fatally wounded the Tories’ government. Trump promised to win so much the people will get sick of winning. He’d better make it happen, or else the people who put him in office will get sick of him. And our own country has plenty of hard-left buffoons itching to take his place.

History, Precedent and Comey Statement Show that Trump Did Not Obstruct Justice

June 8, 2017

History, Precedent and Comey Statement Show that Trump Did Not Obstruct Justice, Gatestone InstituteAlan M. Dershowitz, June 8, 2017

Comey has also acknowledged that the president had the constitutional authority to fire him for any or no cause. President Donald Trump also had the constitutional authority to order Comey to end the investigation of Flynn. He could have pardoned Flynn, as Bush pardoned Weinberger, thus ending the Flynn investigation, as Bush ended the Iran-Contra investigation. What Trump could not do is what Nixon did: direct his aides to lie to the FBI, or commit other independent crimes. There is no evidence that Trump did that.

*************************

The statement may provide political ammunition to Trump opponents, but unless they are willing to stretch James Comey’s words and take Trump’s out of context, and unless they are prepared to abandon important constitutional principles and civil liberties that protect us all, they should not be searching for ways to expand already elastic criminal statutes and shrink enduring constitutional safeguards in a dangerous and futile effort to criminalize political disagreements.

The first casualty of partisan efforts to “get” a political opponent — whether Republicans going after Clinton or Democrats going after Trump — is often civil liberties. All Americans who care about the Constitution and civil liberties must join together to protest efforts to expand existing criminal law to get political opponents.

Today it is Trump. Yesterday it was Clinton. Tomorrow it could be you.

In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger and five other individuals who had been indicted or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra arms deal. The special prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, was furious, accusing Bush of stifling his ongoing investigation and suggesting that he may have done it to prevent Weinberger or the others from pointing the finger of blame at Bush himself. The New York Times also reported that the investigation might have pointed to Bush himself.

This is what Walsh said:

“The Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed with the pardon of Caspar Weinberger. We will make a full report on our findings to Congress and the public describing the details and extent of this cover-up.”

Yet President Bush was neither charged with obstruction of justice nor impeached. Nor have other presidents who interfered with ongoing investigations or prosecutions been charged with obstruction.

It is true that among the impeachment charges levelled against President Nixon was one for obstructing justice, but Nixon committed the independent crime of instructing his aides to lie to the FBI, which is a violation of section 1001 of the federal criminal code.

It is against the background of this history and precedent that the statement of former FBI Director James must be considered. Comey himself acknowledged that,

“throughout history, some presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.”

Comey has also acknowledged that the president had the constitutional authority to fire him for any or no cause. President Donald Trump also had the constitutional authority to order Comey to end the investigation of Flynn. He could have pardoned Flynn, as Bush pardoned Weinberger, thus ending the Flynn investigation, as Bush ended the Iran-Contra investigation. What Trump could not do is what Nixon did: direct his aides to lie to the FBI, or commit other independent crimes. There is no evidence that Trump did that.

With these factors in mind, let’s turn to the Comey statement.

Former FBI Director James Comey’s written statement, which was released in advance of his Thursday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, does not provide evidence that President Trump committed obstruction of justice or any other crime. Indeed it strongly suggests that even under the broadest reasonable definition of obstruction, no such crime was committed.

The crucial conversation occurred in the Oval Office on February 14 between the President and the then director. According to Comey’s contemporaneous memo, the president expressed his opinion that General Flynn “is a good guy.” Comey replied: “He is a good guy.”

The President said the following: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this thing go.”

Comey understood that to be a reference only to the Flynn investigation and not “the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to the campaign.”

Comey had already told the President that “we were not investigating him personally.”

Comey understood “the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.”

Comey did not say he would “let this go,” and indeed he did not grant the president’s request to do so. Nor did Comey report this conversation to the attorney general or any other prosecutor. He was troubled by what he regarded as a breach of recent traditions of FBI independence from the White House, though he recognized that “throughout history, some presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from the Department of Justice, they should try to hold the Department close.”

That is an understatement.

Throughout American history — from Adams to Jefferson to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Kennedy to Obama — presidents have directed (not merely requested) the Justice Department to investigate, prosecute (or not prosecute) specific individuals or categories of individuals.

It is only recently that the tradition of an independent Justice Department and FBI has emerged. But traditions, even salutary ones, cannot form the basis of a criminal charge. It would be far better if our constitution provided for prosecutors who were not part of the executive branch, which is under the direction of the president.

In Great Britain, Israel and other democracies that respect the rule of law, the Director of Public Prosecution or the Attorney General are law enforcement officials who, by law, are independent of the Prime Minister.

But our constitution makes the Attorney General both the chief prosecutor and the chief political adviser to the president on matters of justice and law enforcement.

The president can, as a matter of constitutional law, direct the Attorney General, and his subordinate, the Director of the FBI, tell them what to do, whom to prosecute and whom not to prosecute. Indeed, the president has the constitutional authority to stop the investigation of any person by simply pardoning that person.

Assume, for argument’s sake, that the President had said the following to Comey: “You are no longer authorized to investigate Flynn because I have decided to pardon him.” Would that exercise of the president’s constitutional power to pardon constitute a criminal obstruction of justice? Of course not. Presidents do that all the time.

The first President Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, his Secretary of Defense, in the middle of an investigation that could have incriminated Bush. That was not an obstruction and neither would a pardon of Flynn have been a crime. A president cannot be charged with a crime for properly exercising his constitutional authority

For the same reason, President Trump cannot be charged with obstruction for firing Comey, as he had the constitutional authority to do.

The Comey statement suggests that one reason the President fired him was because of his refusal or failure to publicly announce that the FBI was not investigating Trump personally. Trump “repeatedly” told Comey to “get that fact out,” and he did not.

If that is true, it is certainly not an obstruction of justice.

Nor is it an obstruction of justice to ask for loyalty from the director of the FBI, who responded “you will get that (‘honest loyalty’) from me.”

Comey understood that he and the President may have understood that vague phrase — “honest loyalty” — differently. But no reasonable interpretation of those ambiguous words would give rise to a crime. 
 Many Trump opponents were hoping that the Comey statement would provide smoking guns.

It has not.

Instead it has weakened an already weak case for obstruction of justice.

The statement may provide political ammunition to Trump opponents, but unless they are willing to stretch Comey’s words and take Trump’s out of context, and unless they are prepared to abandon important constitutional principles and civil liberties that protect us all, they should not be searching for ways to expand already elastic criminal statutes and shrink enduring constitutional safeguards in a dangerous and futile effort to criminalize political disagreements.

The first casualty of partisan efforts to “get” a political opponent — whether Republicans going after Clinton or Democrats going after Trump — is often civil liberties. All Americans who care about the Constitution and civil liberties must join together to protest efforts to expand existing criminal law to get political opponents.

Today it is Trump. Yesterday it was Clinton. Tomorrow it could be you.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 3: Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on the FBI on Capitol Hill May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)