Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cruising the Web

If any of this story is true, it is truly explosive stuff.   Indeed, if any of this is true, we could be facing a constitutional crisis in the first weeks of a new administration.
Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump....

One reason the nation's intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington, multiple sources tell CNN.

These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. This synopsis was not an official part of the report from the intelligence community case about Russian hacks, but some officials said it augmented the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton's candidacy and help Trump's, several officials with knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials....

The raw memos on which the synopsis is based were prepared by the former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm. His investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.
If there were indeed contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, that would be extremely damaging. And if there was any evidence of an exchange of money, that could be a killer to his presidency. And it seems that, if the Russians have such information, our intelligence community also has it. I find it hard to believe that anyone, even Trump and his associates, could be so reckless.  There are also some rather disgusting sexual allegations about Trump's behavior when he was in Moscow.  The Russians, and the Soviets before that, were well known for such spy efforts, what they call kompromat, to gather embarrassing stories on prominent people so they can blackmail them later.  Anyone dealing with the Russian government should know this.  I mean, it's been the plot of dozens of books and movies.  Whether there is any truth to that part of the story, expect lots of yucky jokes that you don't want to have to explain to children.  I thought we were over that with Bill Clinton.

Maybe Trump might want to tone down his slamming of American intelligence leaders. The WSJ has more details and it sounds terrible for the Trump campaign if they are true.
Among the allegations, contained in a set of confidential memos written by the former official, are that Mr. Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, met with Kremlin officials and discussed how to arrange cash payments to hackers working under Moscow’s direction against the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. The FBI has found no evidence that he traveled to the Czech Republic, where the meeting allegedly took place in August of last year, officials said.

Mr. Cohen, in an interview, denied any such meeting. He said in an interview Tuesday evening that he had never been contacted by the FBI or any other U.S. agency on these issues. He said Mr. Trump has also not contacted him about them. Mr. Cohen said he previously knew about the allegations because he had been contacted about them by journalists.

The former official who compiled the dossier works for a private investigations company and was hired by both Republicans and Democrats​ to investigate Mr. Trump, according to one official close to the matter. His reports have circulated for months among law enforcement and intelligence agencies as well as congressional offices and news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal. While U.S. agencies have been unable to verify the allegations, the former official who produced the report has a long and respected track record among intelligence officials. The Journal hasn’t been able to verify the allegations.

The memos have been the subject of intense interest, despite the difficulty that officials have had corroborating the allegations, which also include claims that Russian officials have evidence of Mr. Trump engaged in sexual acts with prostitutes and have held the information in reserve as potential blackmail.
And now BuzzFeed has the full document and has posted it. They acknowledge that there are some problems with the document.
The document was prepared for political opponents of Trump by a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent. It is not just unconfirmed: It includes some clear errors. The report misspells the name of one company, “Alpha Group,” throughout. It is Alfa Group. The report says the settlement of Barvikha, outside Moscow, is “reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates.” It is not reserved for anyone, and it is also populated by the very wealthy.
Those don't seem such egregious errors. The allegation is that the Kremlin has been "cultivating and supporting" Trump for at least five years. That's playing the long game. I don't think anyone in the U.S. has been taking Trump seriously for five years.

Lawfareblog has some thoughtful comments on the story. They acknowledge that we don't know if these are true allegations.
Second, while unproven, the allegations are being taken quite seriously. The President and President-elect do not get briefed on material that the intelligence community does not believe to be at least of some credibility. The individual who generated them is apparently a person whose work intelligence professionals take seriously. And at a personal level, we can attest that we have had a lot of conversations with a lot of different people about the material in this document. While nobody has confirmed any of the allegations, both inside government and in the press, it is clear to us that they are the subject of serious attention.
Several senators including John McCain and Ron Wyden seemed to know of the document.  I wonder how we know now that McCain gave information on this document to Comey in December.  Where did that leak come from?

  Lawfareblog notes the specificity of the information.
Fourth, it is significant that the document contains highly specific allegations, many of which are the kind of facts it should be possible to prove or disprove. This is a document about meetings that either took place or did not take place, stays in hotels that either happened or didn’t, travel that either happened or did not happen. It should be possible to know whether at least some of these allegations are true or false.
And Lawfareblog points out that this isn't even an intelligence leak. When I first read the story in CNN I thought that it was intriguing timing that it all came out just after members of Congress from both parties had just been briefed.  However, I hadn't realized that this story has been floating around since before the election, specifically Mother Jones' David Corn and Newsweek. If the information was gathered for political opponents of Trump, they're the ones who had it and most likely leaked it.  It would be interesting to know who those opponents are.     Lawfareblog concludes,
Finally, fifth, it is important to emphasize that this is not a case of the intelligence community leaking sensitive information about an investigative subject out of revenge or any other improper motive. This type of information, referencing sensitive sources and methods and the identities of U.S. persons, is typically treated by the intelligence community with the utmost care. And this material, in fact, does not come from the intelligence community; it comes, rather, from private intelligence documents put together by a company. It is actually not even classified.

All of which is to say to everyone: slow down, and take a deep breath. We shouldn’t assume either that this is simply a “fake news” episode directed at discrediting Trump or that the dam has now broken and the truth is coming out at last. We don’t know what the reality is here, and the better part of valor is not to get ahead ahead of the facts—a matter on which, incidentally, the press deserves a lot of credit.
I'm actually amazed that, other than some rumors, this was kept quiet leading up to the election.

Jonah Goldberg comments on Lawfareblog's point about how specific this information is.
5.a) I think the above is important for two reasons. First it highlights why Buzzfeed’s decision to publish the report is going to be second-guessed by a lot of people and may bring legal action. There are a lot of facts that could have been corroborated before publication.

5.b) If Trump can disprove some/any of the specific allegations in the report, it will likely do more to inoculate him than cripple him. If he can’t disprove any of the specific allegations, his presidency will be wounded, perhaps more mortally.
For example, The Atlanticc reports this rebuttal of one of the claims from Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen.
The document also makes specific claims about contacts between people working for Trump and Russian officials. It alleges that Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump, was central to “the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership,” and that he met secretly with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.

Reached by telephone on Tuesday night, Cohen denied the dossier’s allegations.

The story is “totally fake, totally inaccurate,” Cohen said.

“I’m telling you emphatically that I’ve not been to Prague, I’ve never been to Czech [Republic], I’ve not been to Russia,” Cohen said. “The story is completely inaccurate, it is fake news meant to malign Mr. Trump.”

Cohen said that during the time the report places him in Prague, he was actually with his son visiting USC and meeting with the baseball coach. Cohen said that he was in Los Angeles from the 23rd through the 29th of August, and that the rest of the month he was in New York. He said that his only trip to an EU country over the summer had been a vacation to Italy in July.

Cohen also tweeted a photo of his passport: “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.” Trump retweeted Cohen’s tweet.
If our intelligence agencies have been working on this for a while, have they been able to corroborate that Trump stayed in the hotel room that he is supposed to have stayed in or met with the people he's accused of meeting with? The Guardian is reporting that the FBI actually tried to get a warrant over the summer.
The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.
If this is true, why did it take several months to narrow down the warrant request?  Does the fact that they couldn't get a warrant sooner and that the story was kept mostly under wraps until now indicate that the BuzzFeed document is a lot less substantial than it appears?  Who knows?

Hmmm, if true, this makes Trump's seemingly inexplicable constant support for Putin quite a bit more explicable.  Instead of the Manchurian candidate, we have the Moscow candidate.

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John Podhoretz comments on the decision by BuzzFeed to publish this document.
There is literally no evidence on offer in these memos or from BuzzFeed that any single sentence in these documents is factual or true. What’s more, we know most major news organizations in America had seen them and despite their well-known institutional antipathy toward Trump, had chosen not to publish them or even make reference to them after efforts to substantiate their charges had failed.

BuzzFeed tells us that “the document was prepared for political opponents of Trump by a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent.” Indeed, the memos are designed to read as though they were cables sent from the field to the home office. And they should set off the bull detector of every rational person who reads them.

I’ve been a newspaper and magazine editor for 31 years, and like many in my profession, have had occasion over the course of four decades to work with people linked to intelligence agencies both domestic and foreign when they are retailing stories injurious to one or another politician or cause.

In my experience, there is no source of whom you need to be more skeptical, and whose information you need to verify to the letter before you can even begin to think of publishing it, than an “intelligence” source.

The telling indicator is that every factoid such a source produces is given equal weight with every other one. Chances are some percentage of those factoids is actual fact, but it could be 10 percent or it could be 90 or any number in between.

Since the person retailing the factoids has an agenda, as BuzzFeed acknowledges here, he has at the very least a bias toward believing every piece of anti-Trump detail he puts down on paper—and at worst a desire to throw every single rumor he can collect (or generate out of his own fevered imaginings) at the wall to see which ones might stick.

At a moment when journalists are up in arms about “fake news,” what BuzzFeed has done here is take fake news to a new level. Its editor, Ben Smith, acknowledges “there is serious reason to doubt the allegations.” In other words, there is almost certainly fake news inside these memos, and it might all be fake, or some parts of it might be true but buried so deeply under falsity that it would be impossible to separate it out.

“Publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017,” Smith writes. This is an amazing thing to say, because if you think it through, it means publishing open libels and slanders is the job of reporters in 2017.

“Fake news will become more sophisticated, and fake, ambiguous, and spun-up stories will spread widely,” warned an important American editor at the end of December 2016. His name: Ben Smith. His publication: BuzzFeed.

David French adds regarding BuzzFeed's self-righteous claims about why they publised this document,
This is ridiculous. How can “Americans make up their own minds” when they have no ability to fact-check the allegations? The public knows nothing about the sources, nothing about the underlying claims, and has no means of discovering the truth. Buzzfeed admits that “there is serious reason to doubt the allegations.” It’s been using its journalistic resources trying to verify the claims for “weeks” and hasn’t been able to. But “Americans” can somehow do what Buzzfeed can’t? This isn’t transparency; it’s malice....

We don’t know if any of the claims are true. The intelligence community is at least taking them seriously enough to brief Trump. Oh, and “multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings” are leaking like a sieve to CNN.

This is all disturbing. From the leaks, to the Buzzfeed document dump, to the substance of the allegations themselves. Are there “officials” who hate Trump so much that they’re willing to leak information that they know will lead to widespread public fear that the president-elect is compromised by a hostile foreign power? If so, that’s extraordinary. Or, just as extraordinary, are there officials who are so concerned by Trump’s potential ties to Russia that they’re willing to risk a public firestorm to jump-start an investigation? And yes, there are members of the media who hate Trump so much that they’re willing to print the wildest possible rumors, repeat them across the web, and then mock him relentlessly based on claims that can likely never be properly investigated, much less proven.

This takes place against the backdrop of conduct and rhetoric that was already deeply problematic. Russia’s disruption efforts were intolerable. Trump’s oddly consistent defenses of Putin and Russia were troubling. His remarks about NATO have been alarming. The list could go on. In other words, the situation was already volatile — because of Russia’s actions and Trump’s words. I have the same question as Jonah: “Why is admiration for Putin and his government the only issue Trump has never wavered, equivocated, or flip-flopped on?

The situation is crying out for an investigation — into the substance of the claims and the leaks to the press. The American people need to know what Russia is doing, what our president-elect or his team have done (if anything), and whether members of our own government are breaking the law to try to delegitimize Trump.

To add to BuzzFeed's irresponsibility,

Politico reports
on all the news organizations that spent months trying to track down the allegations in this memo and couldn't do so.
ABOUT THAT MEMO… Yes, the memo that CNN reported on and the memo that BuzzFeed later posted is salacious. The information is also mostly unverifiable. Many news organizations -- including POLITICO -- heard these allegations a few months back. We couldn’t get anywhere on them. Neither could the NYT, which wrote last night that “The Times has checked on a number of the details included in the memos but has been unable to substantiate them.” The Post said, “Dossiers compiled by the former British intelligence official have been circulating in Washington for months. Several news organizations, including The Washington Post, have been attempting to confirm many of the specific allegations without success.” More than half a dozen reporters were involved in POLITICO’s attempts to confirm some of the information, and we got nowhere.
Add in David Corn, no Trump apologist, to the list of people who investigated and couldn't confirm the report.

So we have lots of reporters and intelligence officials spending months trying to track down these allegations and they don't seem to have had any success. All we have is the story that intelligence leaders briefed Trump on what was being said. But that won't be how people interpret this story. Now that BuzzFeed has put it out there, it will be a permanent part of the bloodstream. And BuzzFeed thinks that we, the public, are able to make up our own minds about what all these people have spent months investigating and can't make up their minds that they have enough substance to publish or even, reportedly, get a FISA warrant.

That's journalistic ethics in the age of Trump.

Eric Wemple of the Washington Post, again - no Trump apologist, also is chastising BuzzFeed.
Americans can only “make up their own minds” if they build their own intelligence agencies, with a heavy concentration of operatives in Russia and Eastern Europe. CNN pointedly declined to drop the document’s details on the public: “At this point, CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.”

....i[I] is unverified — meaning that it requires further investigation. BuzzFeed has started that process and pledges to continue pursuing it. So why post the documents now?

The NYT had a long profile on Jeff Sessions as he faced his confirmation hearing yesterday. And it is about as fair a profile as Sessions could have hoped for. They portray him as a principled conservative who hasn't been co-opted by powerful interests in his state. Yes, he is a rock-ribbed conservative whose views on many issues appall liberals, but the article also fairly explains his positions. I can understand why liberals are deeply opposed to him and why conservatives have rallied behind him.

Senator Cory Booker is going to go against senatorial precedent by testifying against Sessions. Because a former mayor of Newark knows all about Sessions' record and the Democrats can't find anyone else more authoritative to testify against Sessions. Sure. This is clearly a move by Booker to solidify the support of liberal groups as he prepares to run in 2020 for his party's presidential nomination. He wants to be the next Barack Obama and is setting himself up for a Booker/Trump election clash.Timothy Carney contrasts the two senators as a clash of a "Wall Street-backed corporatist vs. a populist."
The top recipient of money from the financial sector was Sen. Cory Booker, who pocketed $4.5 million from financial executives and PACs. Within that sector, Booker dominated among cash from real estate developers (almost 50 percent more than the Senate runner-up). He also dominated in Wall Street money.

This may clash with Booker's man-of-the-people self-image, but it didn't surprise anyone who followed his career....

Jeff Sessions, on the other hand, is an economic populist. He was a co-sponsor of the Brown-Vitter bill to break up the big banks. In opposing more low-skilled immigration, Sessions said of his opponents, "They read the Wall Street Journal in the morning, see wages going up, and they think that's bad."

Behind closed-doors in GOP conference meetings, sources tell me that Sessions shows distrust, even mockery, for the Wall Street titans who have bankrolled Booker's rapid rise....

So today, when Sen. Booker testifies against Sen. Sessions' nomination as attorney general, keep this in mind. The Booker vs. Sessions fight this week won't be about immigration, breaking up the big banks, or bailing out the big banks. But as you watch these two men square off, keep in the back of your mind that it's one of Wall Street's favorite senators attacking one of Wall Street's least favorite. It's a corporatist versus a populist.
It sounds as the anticipated confrontations at Sessions' hearing didn't end up amounting to much. Byron York writes,
But the epic showdown just didn't happen. The Democratic questioners were sluggish and without focus; with one exception, their questions lacked the sting of an opposition party that really wants to bring down a nominee. And the protesters — well, they just didn't bring their A game.

During breaks, the people who helped Sessions get ready for the confirmation noted that there had not been any questions Sessions had not anticipated or prepared for. That preparation showed. Yes, on the one hand, Democrats weren't sharp. But on the other hand, Sessions smoothly handled questions that might have tripped up a less prepared nominee.

Sessions himself made the most news when he volunteered that as attorney general he would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigation of Hillary Clinton, should one occur. He was an open partisan and often campaigned for Donald Trump, Sessions told the committee, and "I do believe that would place my objectivity in question." Therefore, "the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself in anything involving Secretary Clinton."
Quite a change from the politicization of the Justice Department under Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. Given that Ted Cruz took time to commend the Democrats for their questions should be an indication that they didn't go all out to attack him.
Why did the showdown not live up to billing? There were various theories. Some thought that because the Democratic senators knew Sessions as a colleague — indeed, many had co-sponsored bills with Sessions or asked him for ordinary favors in the past — they just didn't have the instinct to go for the jugular. Another theory suggested that since Republicans unanimously support Sessions, Democrats knew going in that there was no way they could stop him, and therefore didn't have much heart for the fight. Another was that Sessions was so well prepared that he disarmed some would-be attackers. Whatever the reason, the much-anticipated big challenge to Sessions fell flat.
There will be more questions of panels of supporters and opponents of Sessions, but it was clear that they Democrats didn't have enough to convince Republicans to oppose him. Given that Susan Collins came out with strong support for Jeff Sessions, it now seems clear that the GOP will have the 52 votes they will need to confirm him. Thank you, Harry Reid.

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Oh, yuck. This is just idiotic.
President-elect Donald Trump has tapped a Kennedy – and a vaccine skeptic – to run a new commission on the safety of vaccines.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. revealed his new role after a meeting at Trump Tower on Tuesday.

He said Trump had asked him to head a commission on 'vaccine safety and scientific integrity' and that he had agreed to do so.
Both Trump and Kennedy have have raised suspicions about vaccines despite their overwhelming support among scientists and physicians as a way to prevent the spread of deadly diseases that can infect infants and other children when the pool of protected people is diminished.
Just what we need - more skepticism, now with an official imprimatur, cast on perfectly fine vaccines.

The Women's March on Washington is already facing conflicts among races.
Many thousands of women are expected to converge on the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington the day after Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. Jennifer Willis no longer plans to be one of them.

Ms. Willis, a 50-year-old wedding minister from South Carolina, had looked forward to taking her daughters to the march. Then she read a post on the Facebook page for the march that made her feel unwelcome because she is white.

The post, written by a black activist from Brooklyn who is a march volunteer, advised “white allies” to listen more and talk less. It also chided those who, it said, were only now waking up to racism because of the election.

“You don’t just get to join because now you’re scared, too,” read the post. “I was born scared.”

Stung by the tone, Ms. Willis canceled her trip.

“This is a women’s march,” she said. “We’re supposed to be allies in equal pay, marriage, adoption. Why is it now about, ‘White women don’t understand black women’?”

....In Louisiana, the first state coordinator gave up her volunteer role in part because there were no minority women in leadership positions at that time.

“I got a lot of flak locally when I stepped down, from white women who said that I’m alienating a lot of white women,” said Candice Huber, a bookstore owner in New Orleans, who is white. “They said, ‘Why do you have to be so divisive?’”

In some ways, the discord is by design. Even as they are working to ensure a smooth and unified march next week, the national organizers said they made a deliberate decision to highlight the plight of minority and undocumented immigrant women and provoke uncomfortable discussions about race....

In response, a New Jersey woman wrote: “I’m starting to feel not very welcome in this endeavor.”

A debate then ensued about whether white women were just now experiencing what minority women experience daily, or were having a hard time yielding control. A young white woman from Baltimore wrote with bitterness that white women who might have been victims of rape and abuse were being “asked to check their privilege,” a catchphrase that refers to people acknowledging their advantages, but which even some liberal women find unduly confrontational.
Do we now need to have quotas for protest marches? Nothing expresses unity like arguing over which women have more of a right to demonstrate against Trump. Noah Rothman writes about this contretemps.
The racial divisions within the liberal movement extend beyond this organizational activity. The Times details how prospective marchers were consumed by a debate over whether white women who are also rape victims are as deserving of sympathy as are victimized women of color due to the perceived “privilege” afforded members of the majority race. March organizer Linda Sarsour described how women could be united in the fight for equal pay, but white women should understand they continue to earn more than their black and Latina counterparts.

Obviously, this kind of racial advantage-seeking creates moiety where none previously existed. It unnecessarily robs this movement of cohesion and, thus, efficacy. If Trump is the unique threat liberals claim him to be—one so mortal that it’s a fight they have equated themselves to anti-Nazi resistance efforts—it stands to reason that the left’s perpetual grievance-measuring contest could be put on hiatus for the time being. It would seem that is asking too much.

This kind of fractious identity-based stratification is not a phenomenon on the decline, either. A generation of liberals raised on identity politics is only now coming of age. Its response to Trump’s election should give well-intentioned liberals like Mark Lilla heart palpitations....

This is not the stuff that makes for a broad-based political movement, but that is not the point. The left allowed itself to be consumed by the myth that a racially diversifying America would provide liberals with an enduring majority. In embracing this fiction, the far left’s most committed identitarians have erected a noxious racial hierarchy. Members of the identity-first left don’t seem to see how their obsession with hereditary traits has stolen from them personal agency and collective political potency. Perhaps they haven’t noticed it yet. They will soon enough.

This reminds me of the 1913 Women's Suffrage March on the eve of Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. There was a conflict then about having black women marching with the white women and eventually they segregated the marchers.

Michael Barone points out
the hypocrisy of the Washington Post about speedy confirmations of presidential appointees.
I draw two conclusions from the juxtaposition of these two stories. One is that there is a single general message that the Post wanted to deliver, or inadvertently delivered: The Senate should speed up approval of Democratic presidential appointees and slow down approval of Republican presidential appointees. That's a lesson in line with the Post's general operating procedure since Martin Baron became executive editor in December 2012.

The second lesson is one that the vetting process for presidential appointees has become ridiculously protracted. The effort to keep the occasional bad apple out of the barrel has resulted in keeping a much higher number of entirely acceptable apples out — and has left an uncomfortably large amount of empty space in the barrel. As Doug Wilson notes, the Senate does use its prerogative of granting or denying confirmation as a means of affecting public policy, as the framers of the Constitution undoubtedly expected when it first granted the Senate that prerogative. So be it. But the framers certainly didn't anticipate that nominees would have to be subjected to the paperwork requirements they are subjected to today — and which surely cause more harm than they are worth. Which leads me to propound a general rule: All attempts to make processes fail-safe make them sure to fail.

The contrast between how Eric Holder was treated by Republicans and how Democrats are treating Jeff Sessions is quite marked. Republicans had definite reasons to question the appointment of Eric Holder to the Justice Department.
Holder played a role in President Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, which the outgoing president granted on his final day in office. Before becoming a Democrat later that year, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania raised issues about Holder’s role in the controversial 1993 federal siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

Republicans also raised questions about Holder’s role in Clinton granting clemency to 16 members of a Puerto Rican militant nationalist group in 1999. Specter further criticized Holder for ignoring the advice of career Justice Department prosecutors to appoint an independent counsel in 1997 to investigate alleged Democratic violations of campaign finance laws.

Issues also surfaced about Holder’s time in private practice at the prestigious Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, which represented terrorism suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. Holder has said the government should close Guantanamo.
Despite all this, Senator Leahy pused for a speedy confirmation and they got it, as well as Republican votes.
The Judiciary Committee voted 17-2 on Jan. 28 to confirm Holder. Only Republicans Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and then-Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma voted “no.” The full Senate confirmed Holder with a bipartisan 75-21 on Feb. 2, with Sessions and Specter voting for him both times.
I bet that there are quite a few Republican senators who regret their vote for Eric Holder.

Those people worried about Trump's son-in-law taking an unpaid advisory position in his administration can thank Hillary Clinton for setting that precedent.
In 1967, then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an anti-nepotism bill into law that was widely seen as a reaction to his disapproval of the appointment of Robert Kennedy in John F. Kennedy’s previous administration. The law became an issue once again in 1993 when two federal appeals court judges in Washington, D.C., ruled that the law did not apply to White House staff.

At the time, then President Bill Clinton had appointed his wife, Hillary, to lead health care reform efforts in his administration.
“We doubt that Congress intended to include the White House or the Executive Office of the President” in the statute, D.C. Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman wrote in the decision with Judge Stephen Williams. “So, for example, a President would be barred from appointing his brother as Attorney General, but perhaps not as a White House special assistant.” The judges added that the statute may only bar related individuals from paid positions in government.

Now experts say that ruling may bolster the Trump administration’s position that Kushner’s appointment, which according to the transition team will be an unpaid job, is above board.

Mike Allen posts the cabinet choices that Hillary Clinton had, apparently, already chosen in advance of the election. Gosh, I'm just broken up on missing out on Secretary of State John Podesta. And is it any surprise that she was thinking of keeping Loretta Lynch as Attorney General?

How typical of the Obama administration to lie to the American people about the Iran deal. And how typical that it is the Iranian government who are outing those deceptions.
The Obama administration has paid Iran more than $10 billion in gold, cash, and other assets since 2013, according to Iranian officials, who disclosed that the White House has been intentionally deflating the total amount paid to the Islamic Republic.

Senior Iranian officials late last week confirmed reports that the total amount of money paid to Iran over the past four years is in excess of $10 billion, a figure that runs counter to official estimates provided by the White House.

The latest disclosure by Iran, which comports with previous claims about the Obama administration obfuscating details about its cash transfers to Iran—including a $1.7 billion cash payment included in a ransom to free Americans—sheds further light on the White House’s back room dealings to bolster Iran’s economy and preserve the Iran nuclear agreement.

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How tasteful. An MTV writer was not pleased to see Senator Sessions with his granddaughter sitting on his lap because she is clearly Asian. Apparently, some granddaughters are unacceptable as props and should be ridiculed as toys that are picked up at Toys R Us. As if other politicians haven't had their grandchildren present to witness their key moments. I remember Nancy Pelosi bringing up her grandchildren when she got sworn in as Speaker. Were they props or are Republican mixed-race grandchildren reprehensible? Of course, liberal hosts have a habit of ridiculing such mixed-race children if their relatives are Republican. Remember MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry and other panelists laughing at Mitt Romney's black baby grandson. I guess only Angelina Jolie and Mia Farrow can adopt mixed-race children.

Apparently, it is now a sign of sexism for Ryan Gosling to thank his partner, Eva Mendes, in his acceptance speech for winning a Golden Globe. A writer in the Independent is upset that Eva Mendes was staying home with their first baby and pregnant with the second while taking care of her brother who is stricken with cancer because Mendes' choice "plays into structural inequality women face in the workplace."
Gosling's speech runs uncomfortably close to the old adage "behind every great man is a great woman". No, she's not behind you: she's standing right next to you, and maybe you should tell the audience next time that you’ll be home to help out more.
So men can't win either way because there are always feminists out there to criticize them no matter what they do or say. And the choice that a wealthy woman makes in her own own life is not a personal life but a subject for a feminist rant.