Friday, May 19, 2017

Cruising the Web

Somehow I can't get excited about Joe Lieberman to be the new FBI chief. CNN is reporting that he's the leading candidate to replace James Comey. I've always liked Lieberman and I think he's an honorable man. But he's a 75-year old man with no prosecutorial experience, no experience with the FBI or the Justice Department. Since he left the Senate, he's been working at the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP which has done business for Trump including charges of sexual harassment. There's no indication that Lieberman has done law work for Trump, but it's still a connection that Trump doesn't need as a complication. There are better choices out there. I just don't think picking a politician is the solution even though Lieberman is a Democrat, or a lapsed Democrat. The party that nominated him enthusiastically for vice president in 2000 is quite different from the Democratic Party today. Trump shouldn't expect Democrats to be thrilled about such a nomination.

Quin Hillyer writes to explain why Lieberman would be a bad choice.
Second, the nature of the job itself is not that of a mere CEO type in the way that some of the lesser cabinet posts are. This is a job for a person not just broadly familiar with, but extremely well versed in, the tools of law-enforcement investigations, the technical interplay of various federal agencies, and the granular details of patient inquiry. Lieberman, despite his long government résumé, has not a single day of federal law-enforcement experience. If he were named director, he would be the first person ever to hold that post without prior Justice Department experience. He just does not have the requisite base of knowledge that the Bureau’s chief should have....

Fourth, Lieberman clearly is being considered as an answer for immediate crisis of sorts, with thoughts of who can inspire widespread political acceptance for the current circumstances — but what is needed is for somebody to be chosen without regard to the Russia-related investigation or for today’s headlines, but instead chosen for aptitude with the broad range of FBI responsibilities over the long haul. Appointment of Lieberman may achieve short-term political reassurance, but only at the expense of a more explicitly qualified leader intent on institutional-operational competence, stability, and progress.
I agree.

Politico reports
that quite a few Senate Democrats reject Lieberman as the new FBI director.
Some Senate Democrats hold a grudge against Lieberman for his rightward turn and opposition to some of President Barack Obama's agenda late in his Senate career. Others say even though they respect Lieberman, the job of FBI director should not go to a former politician. And all Democratic senators interviewed for this story said the former Connecticut senator lacks the kind of experience needed for the post.
The reasons that Democrats don't like him is why I like him - he opposed Obama's awful nuclear deal with Iran. That showed good judgment that rose above partisan loyalties. However, it does nothing to demonstrate that he can manage a large bureaucracy and supervise all the many investigations that the FBI is involved in. Maybe his name was a trial balloon and the reaction the possible nomination is getting will persuade Trump to pick someone else, but I've seen no indication that Trump pays attention to others' opinions.

Now we're learning that the Trump team knew that he was under federal investigation for being a paid lobbyist for Turkey without having reported that connection. Yet Trump chose him anyway.
Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.
Streiff at RedState notes the mistake in that NYT story. A lot of this story had already been reported and Streiff notes the timeline that wasn't in the NYT.
To accurately date these stories, Mike Flynn was appointed as national security adviser on November 17, so from the CNN story, we know the White House knew of Flynn’s Foreign Agents Registration Act problem before that date. So Flynn’s Turkish lobbying was known to be known to the Trump transition team two months ago....

Either the headline is false or the previous reporting by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, is false as Flynn was named national security adviser nearly two weeks before he was informed that Justice was examining his FARA problem.
Allahpundit adds,
Trump didn’t name him NSA knowing that he was under investigation; even Flynn didn’t know when he accepted the position. But the fact remains that they let him stick around through the inauguration and into February, and maybe would have let him linger even longer than that if natsec people hadn’t started leaking to WaPo about Flynn potentially having been compromised by his sanctions chat with the Russian ambassador. The loyalty here runs weirdly deep.
Loyalty is all well and good, but the Flynn connection has caused so many of Trump's current problems. At some point, he needed to cut the cord.

Now we're hearing reports that Flynn and Trump are still in communication.
Not only did he remain loyal to President Trump; he indicated that he and the president were still in communication. “I just got a message from the president to stay strong,” Flynn said after the meal was over, according to two sources who are close to Flynn and are familiar with the conversation, which took place on April 25.
According to anonymous leakers, the White House lawyers are warning Trump about the dangers of talking with Flynn because it could seem to be witness tampering.

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Alan Dershowitz is another lawyer who isn't convinced that, if Trump asked Comey to let the Flynn investigation go, the President obstructed justice.
Additionally, constitutional issues regarding the power of the President to direct the FBI would only be raised if the facts established that anyone other than the President — a lay citizen — would be guilty of obstruction of justice in a comparable situation. That conclusion might well depend on what, precisely, the President asked the FBI director to do.

If he simply asked the director to consider going easy on the fired national security adviser because “he’s a good guy,” that would not amount to a charge of obstruction of justice if the request were made by an ordinary citizen.

But this request came from the President — the only person who has the power to fire the person whom he is asking to “let this go” with regard to a White House staffer. Moreover, the President himself may have been a subject of the FBI investigation — though he claims Comey told him he was not — and so the request may have been self-serving.

Accordingly, the fact that the request came from the President is a double- edged sword....

On balance, the obstruction case against President Trump is not strong, as a matter of law. But impeachment is more a matter of politics than law. And the political reality is that Republicans control both houses of Congress. So impeachment is unlikely, at least at this point.
While some eager bomb-throwers on the left are already calling for impeachment, a lot of party leaders are not so eager. They seem to be willing to let the investigations play out before they jump to a conclusion. What an extraordinary idea. Even Nancy Pelosi is calling for Democrats to "curb their enthusiasm" about the idea of impeachment.

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Seth Lipsky derides the "left's ridiculous double standard on spilling secrets." The contrast to their reaction to Trump having supposedly leaked intelligence to the Russians and their prior reactions to leaks about intelligence when Bush was president is stark.
What a contrast to, say, 2006. That’s when the Gray Lady thumbed its nose for news at President George W. Bush’s pleadings that the paper refrain from disclosing how the government, in its hunt for terrorists, was mining data of the Swift banking consortium.

The Bush administration had begged the Times not to proceed. Yet it did so. President Bush called it “disgraceful,” adding that the “fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.” Treasury said it would hamper the pursuit of terrorists.

Such a hullabaloo arose from long-suffering Times readers that the paper’s executive editor, then Bill Keller, issued a 1,400-word “personal response.” In it, he suggested that if conservative bloggers were so worried they should stop calling attention to it.

Keller acknowledged that others might have come out differently than the Times did. But, he declared, “nobody should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current Administration, or without fully weighing the issues.”

Goodness. Who in the world could have imagined the Times acting out of animus to the George W. Bush administration?

Then there’s the case of The Washington Post. Three years ago, it won the Pulitzer Gold Medal for what it called “a series of stories that exposed the National Security Agency’s massive global surveillance programs.”

It had based its articles on what it called “classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who has fled to exile in Russia.” The Post quoted its lead reporter, Barton Gellman, as saying he was “relieved that we didn’t screw it up.”
Lipsky points to a post by Marc Thiessen listing times when the media has joyfully "published “disastrous” stories which damaged US national security and exposed the involvement of US partners." It's quite a long list. For example,
Where was the outrage when The New York Times exposed the US government’s cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program, including the fact that Obama personally ordered cyberattacks on the Iranian nuclear program using a computer virus called Stuxnet? The Times cited as sources “members of the President’s national security team who were in the [Situation Room]” and even quoted the president asking during a top secret meeting: “Should we shut this thing down?” Only Obama’s most trusted national security advisers would have been present when he uttered those words. One of those advisors shared highly classified intelligence with the Times.

The Stuxnet leak exposed intelligence sources and methods, including the top secret codename for the program (“Olympic Games”) and the involvement of a US ally, Israel. At one point in the Times story, a source says the Israelis were responsible for an error in the code which allowed it to replicate itself all around the world. The Times directly quotes one of the president’s briefers telling him, “We think there was a modification done by the Israelis,” adding that, “Mr. Obama, according to officials in the room, asked a series of questions, fearful that the code could do damage outside the plant. The answers came back in hedged terms. Mr. Biden fumed. ‘It’s got to be the Israelis,’ he said. ‘They went too far.’”

Where was the concern for the exposure this intelligence or the involvement of our liaison partner? The damage this leak did — both to the operation and the trust between our two countries — is incalculable.
And remember when the media identified the Pakistani doctor who helped track down bin Laden. He is in a Pakistani prison today.
Did his exposure by Obama officials bragging about the president’s accomplishment have a chilling effect on intelligence cooperation? You bet.
Another example involved the Obama administration for leaking information involving a double agent that British intelligence had recruited who exposed a new underwear bomb plot in Yemen. That leak certainly angered British intelligence. There are quite a few more leaks from the Obama administration that endangered our intelligence gathering.
These are just a few examples. The list of leaks and liaison partners exposed during the Obama years goes on and on.

None of this excuses Trump’s accidentally sharing top-secret intelligence with Russian officials. But it takes chutzpah for the media to express outrage over his apparently inadvertent disclosure of classified information – or to feign concern over the effect his actions might have on cooperation by our intelligence partners in the fight against terror – when they regularly published often intentional leaks from Obama administration that exposed sources and methods and endangered our national security.

Trump may have stumbled badly in his meeting with the Russians, but he has a long way to go before he does the kind of damage that President Obama and his team of intelligence sieves did – with the help of The New York Times and other news outlets now crowing over his error.

Tom Rogan calls for a strong reaction to Turkish protection forces (TPPD) for President Erdogan who attacked anti-Erdogan protesters during his visit to Washington, D.C. We can't just accept foreign security forces assaulting peaceful protesters in our nation's capital.
Still, in this latest incident — a premeditated assault on the U.S. constitutional right to peaceful protest — the TPPD has crossed a line. It, and the Turkish government more broadly, must face consequences for their actions. For a start, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson needs to show public anger. Outdoing yesterday’s placid semi-condemnation from the State Department, Tillerson should summon the Turkish ambassador and call out Turkey’s breach of U.S. law. Tillerson should also — and specifically — note the TPPD’s ludicrous hypocrisy. On its website, the TPPD takes care to outline “human rights” and diplomatic-communications training as key priorities. I’m not joking.

Second, the U.S. should ban the TPPD officers who were involved from entering the United States. Their faces can be cross-referenced with their visit credentials in order to identify them. Ramazan Bal, the TPPD’s commanding officer, should be included in their number. Bal was head of ministerial security when Erdogan was prime minister, before following him to the presidential palace. He clearly retains Erdogan’s trust and confidence. Yet the sustained misconduct by Bal’s officers suggests that he either is totally incompetent or is directing these acts. Erdogan will whine. Let him.

Third, the U.S. government should suspend all training exercises with Turkish protection agencies. Seeking their unparalleled facilities and expertise, foreign governments frequently send protection teams to train with U.S. government agencies. For example, according to Turkish media, the TPPD’s attached counter-assault team (which is responsible for repelling attacks) was trained by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

The key here is the pursuit of broader strategic effect. Enacted quickly and unapologetically, each of these actions would prove to Erdogan that America is no longer willing to tolerate his antics. Erdogan must understand that his anger, for example, over President Trump’s decision to arm Kurdish forces in Syria is ill-directed against U.S. citizens.

Turkey is an important U.S. ally, but Erdogan is not America’s overlord. The TPPD and its master must be corralled.
It would be shameful if we don't have a strong reaction to such an abuse of our nation's freedoms right there in Washington, D.C.

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Jason Whitlock whose opinions are often controversial, has a good explanation of why NFL teams are hesitant to hire Colin Kaepernick. And it's not due to his views, but his supporters.
In reality, the 29-year-old has struggled to find work because his supporters inflated the risk of signing him, and his skills don’t compensate for the uncertainty he brings. An owner, general manager or coach runs the risk of being publicly vilified as racist depending on how his team uses the mixed-race quarterback.

The same risk does not exist if an NFL decision maker mishandles rookies like Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson, or veterans such as Blaine Gabbert and Geno Smith. A coach knows he can bench or cut any NFL quarterback, except Mr. Kaepernick, without having his personal integrity questioned. This explains why former Kaepernick backup Mr. Gabbert has already signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Critics of the Gabbert acquisition can question Arizona head coach Bruce Arians’s football acumen without politics becoming an issue. Mr. Gabbert is in that way an ideal backup: somewhere between invisible and boring.
And the comparison that comes to mind is a very different athlete, Tim Tebow.
Former quarterback Tim Tebow’s rabid, irrational supporters undermined his NFL opportunities in much the same fashion as Mr. Kaepernick’s. In 2011 he started 11 games for the Denver Broncos and led them to a come-from-behind playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In celebration of big plays and touchdowns, Mr. Tebow knelt in prayer and became a polarizing religious symbol. He was also a below-average passer. The Broncos, and several other teams, discarded the fervent Christian when it became clear his production didn’t justify the controversy associated with his presence.

Mr. Kaepernick’s kneeling is an even riskier proposition. The social-justice warrior has cultivated media alliances far more aggressively than the pious Mr. Tebow. Mr. Kaepernick is also closely aligned with Black Lives Matter media activists. No NFL owner, executive or coach—regardless of race—wants his football decisions second-guessed in the tendentious way BLM activists Monday-morning-quarterback police officers.