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.
http://observer.com/2017/05/the-handmaids-tale-saudi-arabia-oppression-of-women/
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?!

[Laughter]

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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18 comments:

trigger warning said...

Inconvenient Truth:

"A new global analysis of the distribution of forests and woodlands has “found” 467 million hectares of previously unreported forest – an area equivalent to 60% of the size of Australia.
The discovery increases the known amount of global forest cover by around 9%, and will significantly boost estimates of how much carbon is stored in plants worldwide."
--- The Conversation

Aswad Al-Goreza (aka Perfesser Gasbag), call the SettledScience.org office.

tfhr said...

Aswad Al-Goreza...isn't that the same guy that sold his TV network to an Arab owned media corporation headquartered in the petro-kingdom of Qatar?

I don't own a TV network but I've been to Qatar. I've flown on Qatar Airways - it's a great airline when it comes to service and comfort and it is the way to go if you need to travel to Doha direct from DC - but I'd still rather have the luxury of a private charter like Aswad Al-Goreza takes when travelling the world to warn the unwashed about global warming.

trigger warning said...

tfhr: Aswad is an hombre muy importante. You are a péon pequeña, born to serve. Private jets are not for you. It is the Sendero Progresivo, formerly known as Sendero Luminoso.

tfhr said...

And here I thought the sendero to hell was paved with good intentions and talking points....

Speaking of talking points, where is Chelsea with today's bucket?

mardony said...

I'm hearing Betsy whistling "You Really Got a Hold On Me," that old Smokey Robinson and the Miracles hit. It's just whistling past the graveyard of the GOP's exposure of coverup, incompetence, and denial, but desperately holding tight to bad analogies like President Obama's interference in the FBI's investigations of Hillary's email server and the IRS nothingburger thingee.

Regarding the naming of Mueller, listen to this whistling: "It’s good news for Trump too — if he’s telling the truth about having had nothing to do with Russia during the campaign." Now that's one serious desperation hold, hoping Trump tells the truth (like he always does).

As John Dean told us weeks ago, "It's only going to get worse". It's time to give up your hold and get on the right side of history, if you are at all able. Otherwise, pray for the Miracles.

mardony said...

Trump tweet today

"With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!"
10:07 AM · May 18, 2017

This really makes you wonder.

tfhr said...

Mardony,

Would you recognize truth? I have to ask considering your undying support to Hillary, her husband, the perjurer-in-chief, and her predecessor, the man that brought you the weaponizing of the IRS, the Fast and Furious weaponizing of drug cartels through the "Justice" Department, and a little thing called ObamaCare, where you could keep your doctor, if you liked your doctor.

It's wonderful that you suddenly have taken an interest in the truth. I wonder if you'll ever have any use for it on your side of the aisle?I hope this assignment of Mueller gives the broadest possible scope for investigating US government dealings with foreign powers and businesses, don't you?

tfhr said...

Mardony,

You're wondering about a Trump tweet? That's new. Why do you think there was never a special prosecutor or special counsel assigned? Why do you think Holder or Lynch declined to recuse themselves when their respective Justice Departments were involved in Fast and Furious and the Snakes on a Plane meeting between Hillary's husband and the AG herself?

mardony said...

tfhr ~

You're wedded to the past -- warped, dejected, and melancholy and holding tight to your Clinton fantasies -- pretending the present isn't here. Try playing John Mayer's "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" for some reality. These lyrics are a tell about you and Twigger, your chucklehead wingnut bud.

"We're goin' down
And you can see it too
We're goin' down
And you know that we're doomed…"

tfhr said...

I'm imagining you singing that song to me, Mardony. I'm envisioning something confused and ambiguous along the lines of a Tiny Tim performance. To top it off, your ukulele is missing some strings.

[Side bar: Are you a man or a woman today?]

Not sure you see who is really wedded to the past here: You're still so butt hurt over Hillary's crash and burn election - you so bought into the mantra of the media that today is pronouncing the President's impending demise - that you have to ignore the reasons why she failed so miserably so you can attack Trump! Furthermore, you seem to be emotionally incapable of letting go of her long enough to even start the process of moving on, so she persists as the key player, if not the only player, in your political future!

As far as I can see the historically failed and corrupt Hillary is still the candidate that most of the hard core party apparatchiks look to lead the Democrats. Her past is her prologue and the party's. Her fundamentally dishonest nature - along with her husband - has made corruption a common thread on the left. With that in mind, especially as the Mueller begins to expand his investigation, you might want to consider the meaning of William Faulkner's words:

"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

mardony said...

tfhr ~

Oy vey, the countless times you've herein perseverated, "If you want your doctor, you can keep your doctor", oblivious to your own tedious repetition. You're just a font of unoriginal drivel.

Whinging and whimpering, you whinge that Obamacare is a "scam" but whimper openly that you suffered through rounds of chemotherapy, even though taxpayer dollars helped get you through it. And, of course you richly deserved those bucks paid by a govt.-run non-scam, all those drugs, and that hospital care because you're special, unlike the millions covered by Obamacare.

I don't know if you're man or woman, but certainly not much of either.

tfhr said...

mardony,

You're channeling mark today, aren't you? Not feeling so pretty this afternoon?

Since your "appearance" here following Hillary's famous face plant, I've not made any mention of my chemo and radiation, now have I? How would you know about that and where is your reference point for how it was paid for and why?

You kind of gave yourself away when you got upset, didn't you?!

mardony said...

tfhr ~

Remember, I'm a career journalist with plenty of sources. Be worried.

tfhr said...

On repeating "unoriginal drivel", you can call Obama's words whatever you like, including "drivel" but you cannot deny these ones in particular were nothing more than the cynical lies of a man that felt you were unworthy of a truthful disclosure that ObamaCare was only meant to destroy private insurance to pave the way for government health care - like the VA - while forcing millions of Americans off of plans they liked.

tfhr said...

Mardony,

I have plenty of "anonymous" sources, just like you.

trigger warning said...

"Remember, I'm a career journalist with plenty of sources..."

You're a liar. Source that.

mardony said...

Trigger ~

"Geriatric Skinhead Wannabe". That's the planned engraving on the Strom Thurmond spittoon, should you win it, and you are currently the hands-on leader. The award is given for shameless and contemptible race-baiting in public. It honors your squalid species of odium generis humani.

You urned it.

tfhr said...

Mardony,

You're anger and frustration has gone from creeping (emphasis) into your comments to flooding into the thread under your name like a levee has burst. Perhaps you should join mark in some soul searching. I figure that between the "two of you" something should turn up - no matter how wretched.

Since your 5:52 comment will almost certainly be your last utterance here based on your usual patterns of abandoning your failed efforts and moving to the next thread, I just want to say that ending on a note where you accuse trigger of race-baiting is a lot like the pot calling the kettle a Democrat.