Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cruising the Web

It sounds like every likes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's decision to ask former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the Justice Department investigation of Russia's role in the election and whether or not there are any connections to the Trump campaign.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein announced the decision after a week of rising pressure on the Justice Department to ensure the probe remains independent of the White House.

"My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that prosecution is warranted," Rosenstein said. "I have made no such determination."

But Rosenstein said that “based on the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

He said a special counsel is necessary in order for the “American people to have full confidence in the outcome.”

....The order from Rosenstein, which takes effect immediately, gives Mueller authority to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” along with “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Mueller also will have full authority to prosecute any federal crimes arising from the investigation, Rosenstein’s order says.
It seems that Rosenstein made this decision before informing the White House. Good for him. Mark Halperin gives the establishment point of view.
So what do the Democrats do now that they got their wish? Will they be the dogs who finally caught the car? I also wonder if Trump will be questioned under oath. That ought to be fun.

Allahpundit thinks that this could be good news for Trump if he is truly innocent of what some are accusing him of.
It’s good news for Trump too — if he’s telling the truth about having had nothing to do with Russia during the campaign. Democrats won’t be able to second-guess Obama’s own FBI chief if he gives Trump a clean .bill of legal health.
If Trump isn't telling the truth or there were any direct connections between Trump and Russia...well, then he'll deserve all that will rain down upon him.

We've learned to be wary of special counsels after having seen overboard investigations in the past. The WSJ expresses the concerns that many have about special counsels.
The problem with special counsels, as we’ve learned time and again, is that they are by definition all but politically unaccountable. While technically Mr. Rosenstein could fire Mr. Mueller if he goes too far, the manner of his appointment and the subject he’s investigating make him de facto untouchable even if he becomes an abusive Javert like Patrick Fitzgerald during the George W. Bush Administration.

What the country really needs is a full accounting of how the Russians tried to influence the election and whether any Americans assisted them. That is fundamentally a counterintelligence investigation, but Mr. Mueller will be under pressure to bring criminal indictments of some kind to justify his existence. He’ll also no doubt bring on young attorneys who will savor the opportunity to make their reputation on such a high-profile investigation.

Mr. Mueller has experience in counterintelligence and at 72 years old has nothing to prove. But he is also a long-time Washington player close to the FBI whose director was recently fired, and he is highly attuned to the political winds. As they say in Washington, lawyer up.

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Andrew McCarthy reminds us
of the precedent that President Obama set regarding a president obstructing an ongoing investigation.
On April 10, 2016, President Obama publicly stated that Hillary Clinton had shown “carelessness” in using a private e-mail server to handle classified information, but he insisted that she had not intended to endanger national security (which is not an element of the relevant criminal statute). The president acknowledged that classified information had been transmitted via Secretary Clinton’s server, but he suggested that, in the greater scheme of things, its importance had been vastly overstated.

On July 5, 2016, FBI director James Comey publicly stated that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in using a private email server to handle classified information, but he insisted that she had not intended to endanger national security (which is not an element of the relevant criminal statute). The director acknowledged that classified information had been transmitted via Secretary Clinton’s server, but he suggested that, in the greater scheme of things, it was just a small percentage of the emails involved.

Case dismissed.

Could there be more striking parallels? A cynic might say that Obama had clearly signaled to the FBI and the Justice Department that he did not want Mrs. Clinton to be charged with a crime, and that, with this not-so-subtle pressure in the air, the president’s subordinates dropped the case — exactly what Obama wanted, relying precisely on Obama’s stated rationale.

Yet the media yawned.
James Freeman adds in this other example.
This wasn’t the only instance in which President Obama pronounced his personal verdict while a federal investigation was in process. While law enforcement officials were still investigating IRS targeting of Mr. Obama’s philosophical opponents, he told Fox News that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” and that IRS employees had made “bone-headed decisions.” In other words, the President was telling the public and everyone in his employ that all of the IRS staff involved were good guys and gals who had simply made mistakes. More than a year later, the feds closed the investigation without charges.
McCarthy concludes,
Context is critical, and we don’t have it. All we know is that Trump hoped the criminal investigation would be dropped — but again, did not order it to be dropped — and vouched for Flynn’s character. That may have been inappropriate under the circumstances, but it was not corrupt. Comey surely found it awkward, but he clearly did not perceive it as obstruction. The former director is a highly experienced and meritoriously decorated former prosecutor and investigator. He knows what obstruction of justice is. And the Jim Comey I’ve known for 30 years would not stand for political interference in law enforcement. If he had understood Trump’s remarks as a directive or, worse, a threat, he would have resigned.

It is not enough to say that he did not resign. Unlike the investigation of Mrs. Clinton, the investigation of Flynn has continued. Plus, Comey does not appear to have indicated to his subordinates, to his Justice Department superiors, or to Congress that he felt threatened. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and Comey’s former deputy (now acting director) Andrew McCabe have not intimated, even vaguely, that their investigative activities have been hampered. Again, the investigation is proceeding apace.

There is no question that obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense. But media hyperventilating notwithstanding, the basis for claiming at this point that President Trump obstructed justice is not there . . . unless you also think President Obama obstructed justice last April.
Nick Short links to this testimony from Comey on May 3 when he was under oath.
HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?

COMEY: In theory yes.

HIRONO: Has it happened?

COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that -- without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don't see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I'm talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience.
It doesn't sound as if he felt that he had been influenced by the Department of Justice to stop any investigation. Maybe he was thinking of Loretta Lynch and the Clinton server investigation, but it also was an opportunity to speak up if he thought he had been pressured by Trump or anyone in the White House to slow down his investigations of Russia or Mike Flynn. Allahpundit thinks that Rosenstein is demonstrating that he is mostly concerned with the credibility of the DOJ.
And in fact, in tonight’s letter announcing Mueller’s appointment, Rosenstein argued that “the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command” and that a special counsel “is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome.” This may not be a matter of revenge on Trump for making him a patsy in the Comey firing, in other words, so much as the act of someone who really does worry about the DOJ’s credibility. That’s the common thread between his Comey memo and tonight’s news.

Jonathan Turley explains that, while Trump's reported comment to Comey about hoping he could finish up the Flynn investigation was very inappropriate, it wasn't illegal. Thus, talk of impeachment is completely overblown.
A good place to start would be with the federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 1503. The criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo. There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case. That leaves the omnibus provision on attempts to interfere with the “due administration of justice.”

However, that still leaves the need to show that the effort was to influence “corruptly” when Trump could say that he did little but express concern for a longtime associate. The term “corruptly” is actually defined differently under the various obstruction provisions, but it often involves a showing that someone acted “with the intent to secure an unlawful benefit for oneself or another." Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily seeking an unlawful benefit for him.

Then there is the question of corruptly influencing what? There is no indication of a grand jury proceeding at the time of the Valentine's Day meeting between Trump and Comey. Obstruction cases generally are built around judicial proceedings — not Oval Office meetings.
There are questions about Comey's behavior that he will have to answer.
The account suggests that Comey was so concerned about the conversation that he wrote a memorandum for record. But that would suggest that Comey thought the president was trying to influence the investigation but then said nothing to the Justice Department or to his investigation team. The report says that, while Comey may have told a couple of colleagues at the FBI, he did not tell the investigation team “so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.”

Why? If he thought the president was trying to derail the investigation, that would seem relevant to the scope of the investigation. It is like a bank president seeking to close a fraud investigation, but the contact in the FBI decided not to tell bank investigators. One explanation would be that Comey did not view Trump as a potential target of the Flynn investigation, and thus did not view the uncomfortable meeting as relevant to the investigation team (and Trump has maintained that Comey told him three times that he was not a target). However, that would make the case even weaker for allegations that Trump was trying to protect himself or his inner circle by seeking closure for Flynn.

It is highly concerning that Trump has described how Comey actively campaigned to keep his job during this period. As usual, Trump has created the most problematic record for judging his own actions. If Comey was pleading for his job as suggested by Trump, the impropriety of the alleged statement in the Oval Office would be exponentially increased.
Turley discusses Flynn's supposed crimes in a way that I haven't seen before.
There is still no compelling evidence of an actual crime at the heart of the Russian investigation. Flynn is facing allegations of basic reporting or disclosure violations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) which is rarely actually prosecuted. Indeed, there have been only seven prosecutions under FARA since 1966, when the law was revised.

The investigation of Flynn has not produced any reported evidence implicating Trump. A FARA violation is a relatively minor federal violation for a president if that is the scope of the FBI investigation.
There might be a whole lot that the investigation has found on Flynn that hasn't been leaked yet, but somehow I don't have confidence in a leak-free investigation. Perhaps this is where Mueller's appointment could be important. Also, we'll get Comey's testimony. Turley points out how Trump's loquaciousness on everything related to this investigation will come back to bite him.
There is still no compelling evidence of an actual crime at the heart of the Russian investigation. Flynn is facing allegations of basic reporting or disclosure violations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) which is rarely actually prosecuted. Indeed, there have been only seven prosecutions under FARA since 1966, when the law was revised.

The investigation of Flynn has not produced any reported evidence implicating Trump. A FARA violation is a relatively minor federal violation for a president if that is the scope of the FBI investigation.
So let's have the Congressional and Mueller investigation and just tone down all the calls for impeachment or criminal acts. What is inappropriate is not necessarily criminal or impeachable.

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So why are New Yorkers celebrating a terrorist, a member of a group responsible for a bombing that killed four people.
Oscar Lopez-Rivera was released from house arrest in Puerto Rico today, and next month he will be returning to New York City, where his terrorist group bombed innocent people, to be honored in the Puerto Rican Day parade. His sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in the final days of his administration, and now the Puerto Rican “nationalist” is a free man.

Lopez-Rivera was convicted for weapons trafficking and conspiracy to overthrow the government. He helped the socialist revolutionary group FALN, of which he was a member, obtain weapons and carry out attacks such as the bombing of Fraunces Tavern in downtown Manhattan, which killed four.

Joe Connor, whose father was killed in the Fraunces Tavern bombing when Joe was nine, told NPR, “I would love to ask people who support his release and say, If not a terrorist, what has Oscar Lopez done to help the Puerto Rican people?”
Good question. And San Francisco and Chicago also see this guy as a hero.
In addition to his appearance in the city where FALN racked up its greatest body count, Lopez-Rivera has been booked to appear in San Francisco and Chicago, where he will have a streetway named in his honor.
Hmmmm. What do these three cities have in common?

Kyle Smith points out that Democrats who are calling for impeachment of Trump should be happier with a President Pence. You might think that Pence would be much preferable to them than Trump whom they so despise, but think again.
If Trump leaves office prematurely for any reason, President Pence will immediately be denounced as far worse. In fact, it would happen before he even took office. In fact it’s already happening. That this is true is testament to the fundamentally unprincipled nature of the Left. Whatever looks like a winning strategy on Thursday is what matters, even if it nullifies everything you said you believed on Monday.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen did some preliminary construction work on what will become the new party line if it appears Pence is likely to replace Trump in office. In his absurd May 15 take — “Trump doesn’t embody what’s wrong with Washington. Pence does.” — Cohen blasts Pence for being a “bobblehead” who nods too much when standing near Trump at press conferences, for publicly stating things that Trump told him, and for having failed to quit being Trump’s running mate while Trump said rude things. In other words, Pence is worse than Trump for being in Trump’s proximity while Trump misbehaves. By that standard every hack and flack who went on TV to defend Bill Clinton in 1998 is worse than Clinton, including the person who blamed the true reports about his misconduct on the lies of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

John Oliver, the spirit animal of so much left-wing punditry, said on his post-election show that “Trump is not normal. . . . He’s a human, ‘What is wrong with this picture?’” He added, “But that is when you remember Mike f***ing Pence, who might be even worse — because he looks like he’s from the 1950s, but he thinks like he’s from the 1650s.” To Oliver, Trump is a “racist” “Klan-backed, misogynist Internet troll,” but Pence might be worse because he looks funny — or rather, because he doesn’t look funny.
THe Democrats might think that Trump is the worst thing that has ever happened to our country's politics, but they don't want a "normal Republican." They don't want any Republican.
“Normal Republican,” though, the thing the Left has openly wished for all these months, reverts to being an oxymoron should Pence come within sight of the presidency. His promotion would make progressives reach for the old playbook: Attack as a dangerous theocrat who hates women, minorities, and gays. No matter that the evidence for any of this is thin (unlike, say, the evidence for Trump’s volatility or unfitness). Opposition to abortion, or even opposition to government funds being directed to the nation’s leading abortion provider, will be recast as posing a supreme danger to “women’s health.” Disagreeing that we need a federal bathroom policy will be recast as “hate.” It was completely unacceptable even to “normalize” the man who earned 306 electoral votes on November 8. But Pence will be called even more abnormal because he deflects questions about evolution as beyond his pay grade.

Because Pence is a man of faith, the ludicrous attempt to tie the secular, non-moralizing Trump to the neo-Puritan misogynist dystopia imagined in the new TV series The Handmaid’s Tale will be recharged, only this time at 10,000 volts. Pence will be labeled an extremist for being part of the American Christian majority. We’ll be told that Pence’s misogyny is even more outlandish than Trump’s because he declines to have boozy one-on-one dinners with women other than his wife. We’ll hear lies about how Pence wants to electrocute gays to convert them to heterosexuality, or at very least that Pence hates gay Americans.
By the way, I haven't understood all these people comparing Gilead of The Handmaid's Tale to Trump's America. How is anything in this country like the Dystopia of Margaret Atwood's novel? Feminists should be pointing out how close Gilead is to Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations, an institution so admired by leftists, just put Saudi Arabia on the U.N. Women's Rights Commission. Yet we're not seeing women's marches in solidarity with the women of Saudi Arabia.

Ah, another example of the MSM making a big deal about a nothingburger of a story and misleading readers with their supposed breaking story. They tried to portray Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as saying that Putin was paying Donald Trump and California Republican Dana Rohrabacher. The actual transcript indicates that everyone at this meeting took McCarthy's words as a joke.
McCarthy: There’s…there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and
Trump…[laughter]…swear to God.

Ryan: This is an off the record…[laughter]…NO LEAKS…[laughter]…alright?!


Ryan: This is how we know we’re a real family here.
Now who could look at that transcript and think that it was anything other than an attempt at humor? Washington journalists. THe Post tried to portray Paul Ryan's spokesman as lying about this conversation not happening until they told him that they had a recording of the event. That sounds ominous, right? Well Brendan Buck, the spokesman, claims that the question that was originally put to him was different from the actual words that were spoken. If you were asked that question, would you remember the joke that was made or think that you were being asked about a serious statement by the House Majority Leader stating that he thought Putin was paying off Trump. This is a made-up story that the Post seems to have ginned up out of nothing in order to spread more gasoline on the fire. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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