Friday, June 29, 2018

Congrats, Trump voters. You’ve been vindicated.

Congrats, Trump voters. You’ve been vindicated.
Marc A. Thiessen, American Enterprise Institute

For those conservatives who voted for Donald Trump because of the Supreme Court, congratulations: You’ve been vindicated.

Had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, she would have replaced the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia with a liberal jurist — giving the Supreme Court a left-wing activist majority for a generation. Because Trump won, Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed to replace Scalia, securing the court’s 5-to-4 conservative majority.

This week, the dividends of that appointment for conservatives were apparent in two landmark conservative rulings. In National Institute of Family Life Advocates v. Becerra, the high court ruled that the state of California cannot force crisis pregnancy centers to advertise access to abortion to their clients, in violation of the owners’ conscience. And in Janus v. AFSCME, the court ruled that public workers cannot be forced pay union dues to support public policies with which they fundamentally disagree. These were critical 5-to-4 rulings that buttressed the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans.

Trump was able to preserve the status quo before Scalia’s passing. But now, with the news that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is retiring, Trump has a chance to do something much bigger: He can not only preserve but also expand the court’s conservative majority. If he replaces Kennedy — a swing vote who often joined the court’s liberal bloc on important matters — with a reliable conservative in the mold of Scalia and Gorsuch, the president may have transformed the court for a generation.

To do this, Trump will have to break the mold of his Republican predecessors. Over the past three decades, presidents from his party have picked seven justices, and several have turned out to be disappointments to conservatives. President Ronald Reagan picked three justices (Sandra Day O’Connor, Scalia and Kennedy), but only one, Scalia, was a consistent conservative. President George H.W. Bush picked one solid conservative (Clarence Thomas) and one (David Souter) who was not. George W. Bush did better, appointing two conservatives, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John G. Roberts Jr. But even Roberts disappointed conservatives when he cast the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act in a stroke of judicial activism. If Trump picks not one, but two reliable conservative justices, he will secure the best record of Supreme Court appointments by any modern Republican president.

Liberals understand exactly what is at stake. That means whomever Trump picks will face a barrage of attacks unprecedented even by the standards of past confirmation brawls. But thanks to the Democrats’ imprudent decisions to break precedent and change Senate rules to confirm lifetime appointments to the federal circuit court under President Barack Obama, and then to filibuster Gorsuch, Senate Republicans need only a simple majority to confirm Trump’s choice. So long as Republican senators stick together, Trump’s nominee will be confirmed.

Already some Democrats are protesting that the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court justice during a midterm election year. Sorry, the Senate confirmed Obama appointee Elena Kagan in August 2010, just before the midterm elections — and did so with a bipartisan 63-to-37 vote. Democrats are grasping at straws because the timing couldn’t be worse for them as they seek to gain control of the Senate in November. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has announced that the confirmation vote will take place in the fall, which would put Kennedy’s replacement on the bench when the court’s new term begins on the first Monday in October. Pity the Democratic senators such as Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who are running for reelection in states Trump won by double digits. Their political survival depends on being perceived as centrists, and they will now have to spend months campaigning while caught in the crossfire of a liberal-conservative battle royal over a Trump-nominated Supreme Court justice. Vote yes, and their liberal base will be apoplectic; vote no, and their pro-Trump constituents could revolt.

For all these reasons, Trump’s appointee is likely to be confirmed. If that happens, Trump will have led one of the most consequential conservative presidencies in modern American history. Not only is Trump expanding the conservative Supreme Court majority, he is also moving at record pace to fill the federal appeals courts with young conservative judges who will preside for decades. Imagine if it were Clinton making all these appointments. The consequences for human life, religious liberty, the Second Amendment and limited government would have been disastrous.

Instead, the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is in President Trump’s hands. So, to all the conservatives who cast their ballots in 2016 for just this moment — you did the right thing.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Today's Neo-fascists states

Today's Neo-fascists States
Mike Walker, Col USMC (ret)

I argue that fascism-nationalist socialism has proven far more resilient than ever imagined.

It is no stretch of the imagination to say that today at least a dozen countries or more are what can best be described as neo-fascist.

Why is that so hard to grasp? 

A better question is: How can anyone in America or the United Kingdom or Australia grasp the concept at all?

The English-speaking world never came to grips with the true political reality (and danger) of fascism-nationalist socialism. 

When it “flowered” in the first half of the 20th century, we English-speakers never evolved beyond a one-dimensional Second World War caricature and subsequently were so consumed by the Cold War that we never adequately reflected on why and how it rose to power during the interwar years.

Several generations later, we still see it as little more than wartime propaganda – a cartoon scene of warmonger dictators, silly uniformed followers making odd arm gestures and racist killers of Jews.

We yet are in denial that it was embraced seriously in Europe, Asia and South America by tens of millions and none, save Germany, resorted to the horrific insanity of genocide – but all gripped bloody tyranny ever firmly.

And therein lies not just the rub, but also the peril.

Until we discard our simplistic "racist vision" we will never be safe.

In the aftermath of the horror of The Great War, absolute or even quasi-absolute monarchies were discarded with relief. 

Absurdly, liberal free market liberal democracies were dismissed as failing states soon to be relegated to the dustbin of history.

The two utopian illusions that emerged from the ashes were communism and fascism-nationalist socialism. For the indulgent intelligentsia, that was the future.

Fascism emerged as a dreadfully appealing dream of a society built upon beneficial and classless socialism that put the workers first and governed by a single party in control of a powerful centralized state that defined and enforced collective national unity and conformity.

Fascism-nationalist socialism enticingly offered a comforting state-sponsored cocoon immersed in Orwellian "goodthink."

Once you wash away the terrors of the Second World War and look objectively at the interwar era, you see how fascism-nationalist socialism gained favor...and why it still appeals.

More chillingly, you see that the collapse of communism in the 1990s did not auger in a new era – one of inevitable evolution towards democratic free-market liberalism.

Instead we entered a twisted return to the 1920s absent communism with two competing visions: Neo-fascism (without the racism and genocide) versus Liberal Democracy.

Unfortunately, even I would not outwardly label these countries as fascist or neo-fascist because the of the 20th century stigma...but nonetheless, they are neo-fascist in everything but name.

That explains Venezuela, Nicaragua, Erdogan’s Turkey, Putin’s Russia, Angola, Nepal, and a number of others.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Gavin Newsom Embodies California Liberalism

Gavin Newsom Embodies California Liberalism
Jim Geraghty, Nationalreview

The man likely to be the Golden State’s next governor is a poster child for Democrats’ poor leadership of the ‘left coast.’

Gavin Newsom — the former San Francisco mayor, current lieutenant governor, and likely next governor of California — embodies Golden State liberalism: the perfect appearance, the bear-hug embrace of identity politics, the celebration of Silicon Valley moguls tempered by hand-wringing about income inequality, the grandiose, fanciful plans for building the state into a modern utopia.

This is no accident. For better or for worse, Newsom has already done a lot to shape modern California. As San Francisco’s mayor from 2004 to 2011, he pushed the outer boundary of Democratic party politics leftward. His first gubernatorial-campaign ad reminded viewers that he issued same-sex marriage licenses way back in 2004, in calculated defiance of state law. As mayor, he banned plastic bags, the use of Styrofoam in restaurants’ takeout containers, and sales of cigarettes in convenience stores, pharmacies, grocery stories, and big-box stores. He signed laws mandating composting and requiring retailers to display the radiation levels of the cellphones they sold. He gave 400 city employees the authority to write citations for littering. He proposed, but never succeeded in passing, a surcharge on all drinks with high-fructose corn syrup.

Since taking over as lieutenant governor in 2011, Newsom hasn’t had a ton of governing responsibility. In 2012 and 2013, he found the time to host a weekly show on Al Gore’s old Current TV. The Los Angeles Times’ limp endorsement of Newsom in 2014 is unintentionally hilarious: “Being lieutenant governor mostly serves as a perch for gubernatorial candidates-in-waiting. Nevertheless, voters are asked every four years to choose among the aspirants, so here goes . . .”

With little to do in his day job, for the past few years Newsom put his energies into promoting state initiatives. In 2016, he supported and the state adopted Proposition 47, which made just about any crime involving less than $950 — shoplifting, grand theft, forgery, fraud, receiving stolen property or writing bad checks — a misdemeanor for sentencing instead of a felony. Also that year he proposed Proposition 63, prohibiting the possession of large-capacity gun magazines and requiring certain individuals to pass a background check in order to purchase ammunition. The measure passed, but in June 2017, a federal judge issued an injunction, saying that it probably violates the U.S. Constitution. (California’s attorney general is appealing the injunction.)

Yet as Newsom and his like-minded allies unleashed a cornucopia of bans and restrictions and mandates from San Francisco and Sacramento, quite a few Californians started falling out of love with the state. More Americans are leaving California than joining it, concluding that the cost of living, taxes, regulation, traffic, and other problems are just too unbearable, despite the gorgeous coastlines and weather and everything else that once made the Golden State so golden. The state has the highest poverty rate in the country after accounting for its stratospheric cost of living, and the second-highest housing costs, behind only Hawaii.

All of this is probably something of an abstraction to Newsom. His has been a life of privilege that would get a typical Republican office-seeker torn to shreds. His grandfather, William Newsom, was close friends with Pat Brown, the governor of California from 1959 to 1967 and the father of current governor Jerry Brown. His father, also named William, attended St. Ignatius prep school with oil heir Gordon Getty. In 1975, Jerry Brown picked the younger William Newsom to be a state judge. He remained a close, trusted friend to the Getty family, and when young Gavin Newsom had entrepreneurial dreams, the Gettys were happy to invest. In 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle found that “Getty, or trusts and firms he controls, is lead investor on 10 of Newsom’s 11 businesses.”

Newsom likes to describe himself as a small-business owner with “a strong bias for entrepreneurs, a strong bias for those putting themselves on the line and taking risks.” One wonders just how risky a business venture can be when the Getty family and their fortune is so consistently ready to help out.

Curiously, none of Newsom’s political rivals have been able to play the “entitled” or “elite” card against him. “It may take future social scientists to explain why current California voters were so willing to give this guy a pass on all the things we know about him. . . . The 50-year-old lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco is the living embodiment of privilege, and people seem to be OK with that,” Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton recently marveled.

If the adjective “Kennedy-esque” comes to mind, you’re not the first to make the comparison. In August 2004, Harper’s Bazaar did a gushing profile of Newsom and his wife at the time, Fox News Channel personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, headlined, “The New Kennedys.” That would prove awkward when Newsom and Guilfoyle divorced in 2005 and when, two years later, the public learned that Newsom had had a romantic relationship in mid-2005 with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of his then-campaign manager and former deputy chief of staff, Alex Tourk.

Even in the long and shameless history of politicians caught in salacious sex scandals, an affair with the wife of one of your longest-serving and most loyal staffers and friends stands out. As state assemblyman Travis Allen put it during a May gubernatorial debate, “If you can’t trust Gavin with his best friend’s wife, how can you trust him with your state?” It says something about Newsom’s personal life that his brief relationship with 19-year-old model and restaurant hostess Brittanie Mountz in 2006 — when the mayor was 39 — is one of his less controversial pairings.

The ties to privilege and the messy personal life could be more easily dismissed if Newsom had built a record as an effective leader. But while he was busy talking up ideas like installing giant, electricity-generating turbines underwater near the Golden Gate Bridge and announcing a new advertising campaign that assured illegal immigrants the city would not report them to federal authorities, the city government didn’t do much to fix residents’ actual problems.

Census data from 2010 revealed that even though the city’s population grew by 4 percent in the previous decade, the number of children in the city declined by 5 percent, making San Francisco the city with the fewest kids per capita in the country. The New York Times shared tales of parents fleeing neighborhoods with pot clubs and illegal drug use.

Before and during Newsom’s first term as mayor, the city government paid to have juvenile illegal immigrants, including drug dealers, flown back to their countries of origin, rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities. The city police expressed doubts that the dealers were juveniles as they claimed, and the local U.S. attorney described himself as “flabbergasted” that city taxpayers were picking up the tab for the flights. Newsom said he was unaware of the city’s policy until the media reported on it in his second term. He implemented a policy referring undocumented youths arrested for felonies to the feds. But he also denounced federal immigration raids and offered city ID cards for any resident, regardless of immigration status.

For what it’s worth, in today’s California Democratic party, turning over juvenile illegal immigrants arrested for felonies to federal authorities is the controversial position. During the primary, a spokesman for Newsom’s top rival, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, fumed, “Gavin Newsom must wake up every morning and look in the mirror at a man who made the decision to deport children in the face of political pressure.”

In 2004, Newsom audaciously pledged to end chronic homelessness in his city within ten years. A decade later, the San Francisco Chronicle completed a thorough analysis and concluded that despite $1.5 billion spent on moving 19,500 homeless people off city streets, “the homeless population hasn’t budged.” New homeless appeared as fast as the city could remove the previous ones.

“Plenty of San Franciscans didn’t see their daily lives improved. The streets are still dirty and potholed, panhandlers are still out in force, and Muni frustrations still abound,” the Chronicle concluded in 2010, as Newsom prepared to move to the lieutenant governor’s office.

Last month, Michael Shellenberger, president of an environmental-activist group based in Berkeley, argued that California’s self-professed progressivism wasn’t generating much actual progress for its residents. Outside the well-known enclaves of luxury, homeless tent cities are springing up across the state. Wealthy progressives in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles defend the residential status quo, rather than create denser, lower-cost housing. Public-school performance among minority students is declining. High sales taxes and electricity rates add to the squeeze on low-income Californians. All of these problems have worsened under Governor Brown and a solidly Democratic state legislature.

Newsom’s record offers little reason to think that he would deviate much from that alarming status quo if he won the top job in Sacramento. But he would offer one indisputable, immediately noticeable difference from Brown: No one ever gushes about the current governor’s hair.

JIM GERAGHTY — Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent of National Review. @jimgeraghty

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Truth about Separating Kids

The Truth about Separating Kids
Rich Lowery, National Review

Some economic migrants are using children as chits, but the problem is fixable — if Congress acts.

The latest furor over Trump immigration policy involves the separation of children from parents at the border.

As usual, the outrage obscures more than it illuminates, so it’s worth walking through what’s happening here.

For the longest time, illegal immigration was driven by single males from Mexico. Over the last decade, the flow has shifted to women, children, and family units from Central America. This poses challenges we haven’t confronted before and has made what once were relatively minor wrinkles in the law loom very large.

The Trump administration isn’t changing the rules that pertain to separating an adult from the child. Those remain the same. Separation happens only if officials find that the adult is falsely claiming to be the child’s parent, or is a threat to the child, or is put into criminal proceedings.

It’s the last that is operative here. The past practice had been to give a free pass to an adult who is part of a family unit. The new Trump policy is to prosecute all adults. The idea is to send a signal that we are serious about our laws and to create a deterrent against re-entry. (Illegal entry is a misdemeanor, illegal re-entry a felony.)

When a migrant is prosecuted for illegal entry, he or she is taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals. In no circumstance anywhere in the U.S. do the marshals care for the children of people they take into custody. The child is taken into the custody of HHS, who cares for them at temporary shelters.

The criminal proceedings are exceptionally short, assuming there is no aggravating factor such as a prior illegal entity or another crime. The migrants generally plead guilty, and they are then sentenced to time served, typically all in the same day, although practices vary along the border. After this, they are returned to the custody of ICE.

If the adult then wants to go home, in keeping with the expedited order of removal that is issued as a matter of course, it’s relatively simple. The adult should be reunited quickly with his or her child, and the family returned home as a unit. In this scenario, there’s only a very brief separation.

Where it becomes much more of an issue is if the adult files an asylum claim. In that scenario, the adults are almost certainly going to be detained longer than the government is allowed to hold their children.

That’s because of something called the Flores Consent Decree from 1997. It says that unaccompanied children can be held only 20 days. A ruling by the Ninth Circuit extended this 20-day limit to children who come as part of family units. So even if we want to hold a family unit together, we are forbidden from doing so.

The clock ticking on the time the government can hold a child will almost always run out before an asylum claim is settled. The migrant is allowed ten days to seek an attorney, and there may be continuances or other complications.

This creates the choice of either releasing the adults and children together into the country pending the ajudication of the asylum claim, or holding the adults and releasing the children. If the adult is held, HHS places the child with a responsible party in the U.S., ideally a relative (migrants are likely to have family and friends here).

Even if Flores didn’t exist, the government would be very constrained in how many family units it can accommodate. ICE has only about 3,000 family spaces in shelters. It is also limited in its overall space at the border, which is overwhelmed by the ongoing influx. This means that — whatever the Trump administration would prefer to do — many adults are still swiftly released.

Why try to hold adults at all? First of all, if an asylum-seeker is detained, it means that the claim goes through the process much more quickly, a couple of months or less rather than years. Second, if an adult is released while the claim is pending, the chances of ever finding that person again once he or she is in the country are dicey, to say the least. It is tantamount to allowing the migrant to live here, no matter what the merits of the case.

A few points about all this:

1) Family units can go home quickly. The option that both honors our laws and keeps family units together is a swift return home after prosecution. But immigrant advocates hate it because they want the migrants to stay in the United States. How you view this question will depend a lot on how you view the motivation of the migrants (and how seriously you take our laws and our border).

2) There’s a better way to claim asylum. Every indication is that the migrant flow to the United States is discretionary. It nearly dried up at the beginning of the Trump administration when migrants believed that they had no chance of getting into the United States. Now, it is going in earnest again because the message got out that, despite the rhetoric, the policy at the border hasn’t changed. This strongly suggests that the flow overwhelmingly consists of economic migrants who would prefer to live in the United States, rather than victims of persecution in their home country who have no option but to get out.

Even if a migrant does have a credible fear of persecution, there is a legitimate way to pursue that claim, and it does not involve entering the United States illegally. First, such people should make their asylum claim in the first country where they feel safe, i.e., Mexico or some other country they are traversing to get here. Second, if for some reason they are threatened everywhere but the United States, they should show up at a port of entry and make their claim there rather than crossing the border illegally.

3) There is a significant moral cost to not enforcing the border. There is obviously a moral cost to separating a parent from a child and almost everyone would prefer not to do it. But, under current policy and with the current resources, the only practical alternative is letting family units who show up at the border live in the country for the duration. Not only does this make a mockery of our laws, it creates an incentive for people to keep bringing children with them.

Needless to say, children should not be making this journey that is fraught with peril. But there is now a premium on bringing children because of how we have handled these cases. They are considered chits.

In April, the New York Times reported:
Some migrants have admitted they brought their children not only to remove them from danger in such places as Central America and Africa, but because they believed it would cause the authorities to release them from custody sooner. 
Others have admitted to posing falsely with children who are not their own, and Border Patrol officials say that such instances of fraud are increasing.
According to, it is “common to have parents entrust their children to a smuggler as a favor or for profit.”

If someone is determined to come here illegally, the decent and safest thing would be to leave the child at home with a relative and send money back home. Because we favor family units over single adults, we are creating an incentive to do the opposite and use children to cut deals with smugglers.

4) Congress can fix this. Congress can change the rules so the Flores consent decree will no longer apply, and it can appropriate more money for family shelters at the border. This is an obvious thing to do that would eliminate the tension between enforcing our laws and keeping family units together. The Trump administration is throwing as many resources as it can at the border to expedite the process, and it desperately wants the Flores consent decree reversed. Despite some mixed messages, if the administration had its druthers, family units would be kept together and their cases settled quickly.

The missing piece here is Congress, but little outrage will be directed at it, and probably nothing will be done. And so our perverse system will remain in place and the crisis at the border will rumble on.

RICH LOWRY — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email:  @richlowry

Monday, June 04, 2018

Yes, the FBI Was Investigating the Trump Campaign When It Spied

Yes, the FBI Was Investigating the Trump Campaign When It Spied
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

Trey Gowdy and Marco Rubio evidently paid little attention to testimony before their own committees on how Obama officials made the Trump campaign the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.

Well, well, well. The bipartisan Beltway establishment has apparently had its fill of this “Trump colluded with Russia” narrative — the same narrative the same establishment has lustily peddled for nearly two years. The Obama administration recklessly chose to deploy the government’s awesome counterintelligence powers to investigate — and, more to the point, to smear — its political opposition as a Kremlin confederate. Now that this ploy has blown up on the Justice Department and the FBI, these agencies — the ones that went out of their way, and outside their guidelines, to announce to the world that the Trump campaign was under investigation — want you to know the president and his campaign were not investigated at all, no siree.

What could possibly have made you imagine such a thing?
And so, to douse the controversy with cold water, dutifully stepping forward in fine bipartisan fettle are the Obama administration’s top intelligence official and two influential Capitol Hill Republicans who evidently pay little attention to major testimony before their own committees.

Former National Intelligence director James Clapper was first to the scene of the blaze. Clapper concedes that, well, yes, the FBI did run an informant — “spy” is such an icky word — at Trump campaign officials; but you must understand that this was merely to investigate Russia. Cross his heart, it had nothing to do with the Trump campaign. No, no, no. Indeed, they only used an informant because — bet you didn’t know this — doing so is the most benign, least intrusive mode of conducting an investigation.

Me? I’m thinking the tens of thousands of convicts serving lengthy sentences due to the penetration of their schemes by informants would beg to differ. (Mr. Gambino, I assure you, this was just for you own good . . .) In any event, I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine the Democrats’ response if, say, the Bush administration had run a covert intelligence operative against Obama 2008 campaign officials, including the campaign’s co-chairman. I’m sure David Axelrod, Chuck Schumer, the New York Times, and Rachel Maddow would chirp that “all is forgiven” once they heard Republicans punctiliously parse the nuances between investigating campaign officials versus the campaign proper; between “spies,” “informants,” and other government-directed covert operatives.


Senator Rubio
Then there are Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), General Clapper’s fellow fire extinguishers.

Rubio is a member in good standing of that Washington pillar, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has had about as much interest in scrutinizing the highly irregular actions of intelligence and law-enforcement officials in the Clinton and Russia probes as Gowdy’s Benghazi committee had in revisiting Republican ardor for Obama’s unprovoked war on Moammar Qaddafi. (That would be: roughly zero interest.)

Rubio told ABC News that he has seen “no evidence” that the FBI was gathering information about the Trump campaign. Rather, agents “were investigating individuals with a history of links to Russia that were concerning.” The senator elaborated that “when individuals like that are in the orbit of a major political campaign in America, the FBI, who is in charge of counterintelligence investigations, should look at people like that.”

Gee, senator, when you were carefully perusing the evidence of what the FBI was doing, did you ever sneak a peek at what the FBI said it was doing?

May I suggest, for example, the stunning public testimony by then-director James Comey on March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee — perhaps Representative Gowdy, who sits on that committee, could lend you the transcript, since he appears not to be using it. Just so we’re clear, this is not an obscure scrap of evidence buried within volumes of testimony. It is the testimony that launched the Mueller probe, and that sets (or, better, fails to set) the parameters of that probe — a flaw the nation has been discussing for a year.

Comey’s House testimony was breathtaking, not just because it confirmed the existence of a classified counterintelligence investigation, but because of what the bureau’s then-director said about the Trump campaign (my italics):

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. . . .

That is an unambiguous declaration that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. That is why, for nearly two years, Washington has been entranced by the specter of “Trump collusion with Russia,” not “Papadopoulos collusion with Russia.” A campaign, of course, is an entity that acts through the individuals associated with it. But Comey went to extraordinary lengths to announce that the FBI was not merely zeroing in on individuals of varying ranks in the campaign; the main question was whether the Trump campaign itself — the entity — had “coordinated” in Russia’s espionage operation.

Representative Gowdy
Gowdy’s fire truck pulled into Fox News Tuesday night for an interview by Martha MacCallum. An able lawyer, the congressman is suddenly on a mission to protect the Justice Department and the FBI from further criticism. So, when Ms. MacCallum posed the question about the FBI spying on the Trump campaign, Gowdy deftly changed the subject: Rather than address the campaign, he repeatedly insisted that Donald Trump personally was never the “target” of the FBI’s investigation. The only “target,” Gowdy maintains, was Russia.

This is a dodge on at least two levels.

First, to repeat, the question raised by the FBI’s use of an informant is whether the bureau was investigating the Trump campaign. We’ll come momentarily to the closely connected question of whether Trump can be airbrushed out of his own campaign — I suspect the impossibility of this feat is why Gowdy is resistant to discussing the Trump campaign at all.

It is a diversion for Gowdy to prattle on about how Trump himself was not a “target” of the Russia investigation. As we’ve repeatedly observed (and as Gowdy acknowledged in the interview), the Trump-Russia probe is a counterintelligence investigation. An accomplished prosecutor, Gowdy well knows that “target” is a term of art in criminal investigations, denoting a suspect who is likely to be indicted. The term is inapposite to counterintelligence investigations, which are not about building criminal cases but about divining and thwarting the provocative schemes of hostile foreign powers. In that sense, and in no other, the foreign power at issue — here, Russia — is always the “target” of a counterintelligence probe; but it is never a “target” in the technical criminal-investigation sense in which Gowdy used the term . . . unless you think we are going to indict a country.

Moreover, even if we stick to the criminal-investigation sense of “target,” Gowdy knows it is misleading to emphasize that Trump is not one. Just a few short weeks ago, Gowdy was heard pooh-poohing as “meaningless” media reporting that Trump had been advised he was not a “target” of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe (which is the current iteration of the Russia investigation). As the congressman quite correctly pointed out, if Trump is a subject of the investigation — another criminal-law term of art, denoting a person whose conduct is under scrutiny, but who may or may not be indicted — it should be of little comfort that he is not a “target”; depending on how the evidence shakes out, a subject can become a target in the blink of an eye.

So, apart from the fact that Gowdy is dodging the question about whether the Trump campaign was being investigated, his digression about “targets” is gibberish. Since the Obama administration was using its counterintelligence powers (FISA surveillance, national-security letters, unmasking identities in intelligence reporting, all bolstered by the use of at least one covert informant), the political-spying issue boils down to whether the Trump campaign was being monitored. Whether Trump himself was apt to be indicted, and whether threats posed by Russia were the FBI’s focus, are beside the point; in a counterintelligence case, an indictment is never the objective, and a foreign power is always the focus.

Withholding Information from Trump
Second, if Gowdy has been paying attention, he must know that, precisely because the Trump campaign was under investigation, top FBI officials had qualms of conscience over Comey’s plan to give Trump a misleading assurance that he personally was not under investigation. If this has slipped Gowdy mind, perhaps Rubio could lend him the transcript of Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee — in particular, a section Rubio seems not to remember, either.

A little background. On January 6, 2017, Comey, Clapper, CIA director John Brennan, and NSA chief Michael Rogers visited President-elect Trump in New York to brief him on the Russia investigation. Just one day earlier, at the White House, Comey and then–acting attorney general Sally Yates had met with the political leadership of the Obama administration — President Obama, Vice President Biden, and national-security adviser Susan Rice — to discuss withholding information about the Russia investigation from the incoming Trump administration.

Ms. Rice put this sleight-of-hand a bit more delicately in her CYA memo-to-file about the Oval Office meeting (written two weeks after the fact, as Rice was leaving her office minutes after Trump’s inauguration):

President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia. [Emphasis added.]

It is easy to understand why Obama officials needed to discuss withholding information from Trump. They knew that the Trump campaign — not just some individuals tangentially connected to the campaign — was the subject of an ongoing FBI counterintelligence probe. Indeed, we now know that Obama’s Justice Department had already commenced FISA surveillance on Trump campaign figures, and that it was preparing to return to the FISA court to seek renewal of the surveillance warrants. We also know that at least one informant was still deployed. And we know that the FBI withheld information about the investigation from the congressional “Gang of Eight” during quarterly briefings from July 2106 through early March 2017. (See Comey testimony March 20, 2017, questioning by Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.).) Director Comey said Congress’s most trusted leaders were not apprised of the investigation because “it was a matter of such sensitivity.” Putting aside that the need to alert Congress to sensitive matters is exactly why there is a Gang of Eight, the palpable reason why the matter was deemed too “sensitive” for disclosure was that it involved the incumbent administration’s investigation of the opposition campaign.

Clearly, the Obama officials did not want Trump to know the full scope of their investigation of his campaign. But just as important, they wanted the investigation — an “insurance policy” that promised to hamstring Trump’s presidency — to continue.

Clearly, the Obama officials did not want Trump to know the full scope of their investigation of his campaign.

So, how to accomplish these objectives? Plainly, the plan called for Comey to put the new president at ease by telling him he was not a suspect. This would not have been a credible assurance if Comey had informed Trump that his campaign had been under investigation for months, suspected of coordinating in Russia’s cyber-espionage operation. So, information would be withheld. The intelligence chiefs would tell Trump only about Russia’s espionage, not about the Trump campaign’s suspected “coordination” with the Kremlin. Then, Comey would apprise Trump about only a sliver of the Steele dossier — just the lurid story about peeing prostitutes, not the dossier’s principal allegations of a traitorous Trump-Russia conspiracy.

As I’ve previously recounted, this did not sit well with everyone at the FBI. Shortly before he met with Trump, Comey consulted his top FBI advisers about the plan to tell Trump he was not a suspect. There was an objection from one of Comey’s top advisers — we don’t know which one. Comey recounted this disagreement for the Senate Intelligence Committee (my italics):

One of the members of the leadership team had a view that, although it was technically true [that] we did not have a counterintelligence file case open on then-President-elect Trump[,] . . . because we’re looking at the potential . . . coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was . . . President-elect Trump’s campaign, this person’s view was, inevitably, [Trump’s] behavior, [Trump’s] conduct will fall within the scope of that work.

Representative Gowdy and Senator Rubio might want to read that testimony over a few times.

They might note that Comey did not talk about “potential coordination between Carter Page or Paul Manafort and Russia.” The director was unambiguous: The FBI was investigating “potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.” With due respect to Gowdy, the FBI did not regard Russia as the “target”; to the contrary, Comey said the focus of the investigation was whether Donald Trump’s campaign had coordinated in Russia’s election interference. And perspicaciously, Comey’s unidentified adviser connected the dots: Because (a) the FBI’s investigation was about the campaign, and (b) the campaign was Trump’s campaign, it was necessarily true that (c) Trump’s own conduct was under FBI scrutiny.

Director Comey’s reliance on the trivial administrative fact that the FBI had not written Trump’s name on the investigative file did not change the reality that Trump, manifestly, was a subject of the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation. If Trump were not a subject of the investigation, there would be no conceivable justification for Special Counsel Mueller to be pushing to interview the president of the United States. If Trump were not a subject of the investigation, Trump’s political opponents would not have spent the last 18 months accusing him of obstruction and demanding that Mueller be permitted to finish his work.

In the interview with Ms. MacCallum, Representative Gowdy further confused matters by stressing Trump’s observation, in a phone conversation with Comey on March 30, 2017, that it would be good to find out if underlings in his campaign had done anything wrong. This, according to Gowdy, means Trump should be pleased, rather than outraged, by what the FBI did: By steering an informant at three campaign officials, we’re to believe that the bureau was doing exactly what Trump suggested.
Gowdy’s argument assumes something that is simply not true: namely, that the Trump campaign was not under investigation.

Such a specious argument. So disappointing to hear it from someone who clearly knows better.

First, the informant reportedly began approaching campaign officials in July 2016. It was nine months later, well after the election, when President Trump told Comey that if would be good if the FBI uncovered any wrongdoing by his “satellites.” Trump was not endorsing spying during the campaign; the campaign was long over. The president was saying that it would be worth continuing the FBI’s Russia investigation in order to root out any thus-far-undiscovered wrongdoing — but only if the FBI informed the public that Trump was not a suspect (an announcement Comey declined to make).

Second, Gowdy’s argument assumes something that is simply not true: namely, that the Trump campaign was not under investigation. As we’ve seen, Comey testified multiple times that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for possible coordination with Russia. The bureau was not, as Gowdy suggests, merely investigating a few campaign officials for suspicious contacts with Russia unrelated to the campaign.

The Steele Dossier and FISA Surveillance
That brings us to a final point. In support of the neon-flashing fact that the Trump campaign was under investigation when the Obama administration ran an informant at it, there is much more than former Director Comey’s testimony.

Probes conducted by both the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee have established that the Obama Justice Department and the FBI used the Steele dossier to obtain FISA-court warrants against Carter Page. The dossier, a Clinton-campaign opposition-research project (a fact withheld from the FISA court), was essential to the required probable-cause showing; the FBI’s former deputy director, Andrew McCabe, testified that without the dossier there would have been no warrant.

So . . . what did the dossier say? The lion’s share of it — the part Director Comey omitted from his briefing of Trump — alleged that the Trump campaign was conspiring with the Kremlin to corrupt the election, including by hacking and publicizing Democratic-party emails.

We also know, thanks to more testimony by Director Comey, that dossier information was presented to the FISA court because the Justice Department and the FBI found former British spy Christopher Steele to be reliable (even if they could not corroborate Steele’s unidentified Russian sources). That is, the FBI and Justice Department believed Steele’s claim that the Trump campaign was willfully complicit in Russia’s treachery.

It is a major investigative step to seek surveillance warrants from the FISA court. Unlike using an informant, for which no court authorization is necessary, applications for FISA surveillance require approvals at the highest levels of the Justice Department and the FBI. After going through that elaborate process, the Obama Justice Department and the FBI presented to the court the dossier’s allegations that the Trump campaign was coordinating with Russia to undermine the 2016 election.

If that was their position under oath before a secret United States court, why would anyone conceivably believe that it was not their position when they ran an informant at members of the campaign they were investigating?

To be sure, no sensible person argues that the FBI should refrain from investigating individuals suspected of acting as clandestine agents of a hostile foreign power. The question is: How should such an investigation proceed in a democratic republic whose norms forbid an incumbent administration, in the absence of strong evidence of egregious misconduct, from directing its counterintelligence and law-enforcement powers against its political opposition?

That norm was flouted by the Justice Department and the FBI, under the direction of the Obama administration’s senior political leadership. Representative Gowdy, Senator Rubio, and General Clapper maintain that the Justice Department and the FBI were just doing what we should expect them to do, and that we should applaud them. But this claim is based on the easily refuted fiction that the Justice Department and FBI were not investigating the Trump campaign. The claim also ignores the stubborn fact that, if all the Obama administration had been trying to do was check out a few bad apples with suspicious Russia ties, this could easily have been done by alerting the Trump campaign and asking for its help.

Instead, Obama officials made the Trump campaign the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.

ANDREW C. MCCARTHY — Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review. @andrewcmccarthy

Friday, June 01, 2018

Italy’s Establishment Runs Out of Trick

Populist asked to form new government, Giuseppe Conte. Sound familiar?

Italy’s Establishment Runs Out of Trick
Christopher Caldwell, Weekly Standard

A political establishment of long standing always suffers from a kind of mental illness. No matter how unambiguously it is repudiated or how joyously it is driven from office, its members will continue to remember the episode as accidental, temporary, and unjust. This week in Italy such arrogance nearly provoked a financial panic and an international crisis. In elections in March, two parties relatively new to the national scene had blown away all their establishment rivals and taken a majority of the seats in the national assembly. Because one of them, the League, was a nationalist party of the sort associated with France’s Marine Le Pen, while the other, the Five Star Movement (M5S), was founded by a madcap comedian, observers snickered at how entertaining it would be to watch these two collections of losers try to cobble together a coalition.

They wound up doing fine, though, because they have one big thing in common. They both hate the multinational European Union, which has hamstrung most of the continent’s economies and stripped its member states of much of their sovereignty. By May, the parties were ready to roll, with a broad coalition agreement and a full team of cabinet members. But at that point Italy’s mostly ceremonial president, Sergio Mattarella, stepped in. He blocked the appointment of economics minister Paolo Savona, on the grounds that Savona had long been skeptical about the common European currency, the euro.

The vast majority of Italians are skeptical about the euro, too, of course. Their skepticism is part of what brought M5S and the League to power in the first place. But confronted with an assertion of official authority, politicians and the public have tended to roll over. Yes, the establishment did run up too much debt in the past—about $2.7 trillion, as it happens. But that means one false move could spell catastrophe! There was a lot of warning about “lo spread,” as the obsessively charted difference between German and Italian bond rates is called. President Mattarella asked Carlo Cottarelli, a longtime employee of the despised International Monetary Fund, to lead a technocratic government, hopefully until 2019.

But this time was different. The two new anti-establishment leaders did not fall into line. They called the Cottarelli appointment a scam. Matteo Salvini of the League called for fresh elections in the fall. Luigi Di Maio of M5S called for nationwide demonstrations on June 2 and the impeachment of Mattarella. Strange that Savona’s opposition to the euro was a disqualification to serve in government, Di Maio said, since, to judge from governments past, being a liar or a thief was not. So much of the country rallied behind Di Maio and Salvini that not even the pro-euro Democratic party (PD), chased out of office over the winter, dared to back Cottarelli.

On Monday, May 28, there was the beginning of a run on Italy’s bonds. The market was more nervous about the “responsible” Cottarelli than it had been about the “irresponsible” Salvini and Di Maio. The reason is not far to seek. Once Salvini and Di Maio’s majority had been denied the right to form a government on the grounds that one of its ministers was a europhobe, the impending election appeared to be a referendum on the common European currency. It would be like Brexit: Exitaly was the snappy portmanteau making the rounds. And it would be a rout: On one side, a majority growing more popular by the day, plus the principle of Italian self-rule and national self-respect. On the other side, the European bureaucrats who had messed up Italy’s economy and turned the country into a vassal of Germany, plus Mattarella’s autocracy. Mattarella now had to reopen negotiations at all costs.

This meant dealing with Di Maio. Both he and Salvini have been called “populist,” but really they have different preoccupations. Di Maio is anti-corruption. Salvini is pro-sovereignty. Up till now, the two have been evenly matched. Di Maio’s M5S is twice as big as Salvini’s League, but it is not as big as the center-right bloc (which contains two other parties) that Salvini commands. The present spat over Europe favored Salvini. He was rising in the polls while Di Maio stagnated. Salvini was thus content to wait for elections in the fall; Di Maio needed to act soon.

As we went to press, the situation was approaching resolution. Giuseppe Conte, the candidate for prime minister whom Salvini and Di Maio preferred, will take his post as originally planned. Savona will become the minister for European affairs. The negotiation will have taken 88 days, longer than it has taken to form any postwar Italian government, but not so long as recent coalition negotiations in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The problem is not that parties have been getting more obstreperous but that Europe is getting harder to govern

is a national correspondent at The Weekly Standard

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Why Trump is Winning.

Why Trump is Winning.

Very interesting theory on Trump's Success

The mayor of Livermore California explains Trump’s popularity and success.   This is perhaps the best explanation for Trump's popularity ....

Marshall Kamena is a registered Democrat and was elected mayor of Livermore, CA.. He ran on the democratic ticket as he knew a Bay Area city would never vote for a Republican. He is as conservative as they come. He wrote the following:

Trump’s 'lack of decorum, dignity, and statesmanship' By Marshall Kamena, Mayor of Livermore, CA.

My Leftist friends (as well as many ardent #NeverTrumpers) constantly ask me if I’m not bothered by Donald Trump’s lack of decorum. They ask if I don’t think his tweets are “beneath the dignity of the office.”

Here’s my answer: We Right-thinking people have tried dignity. There could not have been a man of more quiet dignity than George W. Bush as he suffered the outrageous lies and politically motivated hatreds that undermined his presidency.

We tried statesmanship.

Could there be another human being on this earth who so desperately prized “collegiality” as John McCain?

We tried propriety – has there been a nicer human being ever than Mitt Romney?

And the results were always the same. This is because, while we were playing by the rules of dignity, collegiality and propriety, the Left has been, for the past 60 years, engaged in a knife fight where the only rules are those of Saul Alinsky and the Chicago mob.

I don’t find anything “dignified,” “collegial” or “proper” about Barack Obama’s lying about what went down on the streets of Ferguson in order to ramp up racial hatreds because racial hatreds serve the Democratic Party.

I don’t see anything “dignified” in lying about the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi and imprisoning an innocent filmmaker to cover your tracks.

I don’t see anything “statesman-like” in weaponizing the IRS to be used to destroy your political opponents and any dissent.

Yes, Obama was “articulate” and “polished” but in no way was he in the least bit “dignified,” “collegial” or “proper.”

The Left has been engaged in a war against America since the rise of the Children of the ‘60s. To them, it has been an all-out war where nothing is held sacred and nothing is seen as beyond the pale.. It has been a war they’ve fought with violence, the threat of violence, demagoguery and lies from day one – the violent take-over of the universities – till today.

The problem is that, through these years, the Left has been the only side fighting this war. While the Left has been taking a knife to anyone who stands in their way, the Right has continued to act with dignity, collegiality and propriety.

With Donald Trump, this all has come to an end. Donald Trump is America ’s first wartime president in the Culture War.

During wartime, things like “dignity” and “collegiality” simply aren’t the most essential qualities one looks for in their warriors. Ulysses Grant was a drunk whose behavior in peacetime might well have seen him drummed out of the Army for conduct unbecoming.

Had Abraham Lincoln applied the peacetime rules of propriety and booted Grant, the Democrats might well still be holding their slaves today.

Lincoln rightly recognized that, “I cannot spare this man. He fights.”

General George Patton was a vulgar-talking.. In peacetime, this might have seen him stripped of rank. But, had Franklin Roosevelt applied the normal rules of decorum then, Hitler and the Socialists would barely be five decades into their thousand-year Reich.

Trump is fighting. And what’s particularly delicious is that, like Patton standing over the battlefield as his tanks obliterated Rommel’s, he’s shouting, “You magnificent bastards, I read your book!”

That is just the icing on the cake, but it’s wonderful to see that not only is Trump fighting, he’s defeating the Left using their own tactics. That book is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals – a book so essential to the Liberals’ war against America that it is and was the playbook for the entire Obama administration and the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis.

It is a book of such pure evil, that, just as the rest of us would dedicate our book to those we most love or those to whom we are most indebted, Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer.

Trump’s tweets may seem rash and unconsidered but, in reality, he is doing exactly what Alinsky suggested his followers do. First, instead of going after “the fake media” — and they are so fake that they have literally gotten every single significant story of the past 60 years not just wrong, but diametrically opposed to the truth, from the Tet Offensive to Benghazi, to what really happened on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri — Trump isolated CNN.. He made it personal.

Then, just as Alinsky suggests, he employs ridicule which Alinsky described as “the most powerful weapon of all.”... Most importantly, Trump’s tweets have put CNN in an untenable and unwinnable position. ... They need to respond.

This leaves them with only two choices. They can either “go high” (as Hillary would disingenuously declare of herself and the fake news would disingenuously report as the truth) and begin to honestly and accurately report the news or they can double-down on their usual tactics and hope to defeat Trump with twice their usual hysteria and demagoguery. The problem for CNN (et al.) with the former is that, if they were to start honestly reporting the news, that would be the end of the Democratic Party they serve. It is nothing but the incessant use of fake news (read: propaganda) that keeps the Left alive.

Imagine, for example, if CNN had honestly and accurately reported then-candidate Barack Obama’s close ties to foreign terrorists (Rashid Khalidi), domestic terrorists (William Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn), the mafia (Tony Rezko) or the true evils of his spiritual mentor, Jeremiah Wright’s church.

Imagine if they had honestly and accurately conveyed the evils of the Obama administration’s weaponizing of the IRS to be used against their political opponents or his running of guns to the Mexican cartels or the truth about the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the Obama administration’s cover-up.

So, to my friends on the Left — and the #NeverTrumpers as well — do I wish we lived in a time when our president could be “collegial” and “dignified” and “proper”? Of course I do.

These aren’t those times. This is war. And it’s a war that the Left has been fighting without opposition for the past 50 years.

So, say anything you want about this president - I get it - he can be vulgar, he can be crude, he can be undignified at times. I don’t care. I can’t spare this man. He fights for America!

Please pass this on...over and over, and again and again...