Monday, April 30, 2018

Cruising the Web

Who knows if Ronny Jackson was the right person to fix the mess at the VA. I might have preferred someone with a history of going into an organization and achieving success in changing the culture and rooting out fundamental problems. It seems that Trump nominated him without any input from his advisers and without any vetting. Typical. Maybe he just liked how Jackson handled the press conference on Trump's health and his defense of the President's mental status. But he did Jackson no favors by nominating him without vetting so, at least, the White House would be prepared to defend accusations against him. So they were caught flatfooted by Senator Jon Tester's public accusations against Jackson. However, nothing defends Tester's conduct. He went on TV and publicized anonymous accusations. With all these ugly accusations against Jackson's behavior such as getting routinely drunk while on duty, the Secret Service didn't have any record of this and Jackson got very positive reviews from both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It does seem that there would have been some concern over having a guy who regularly drunk while on duty be the physician designated to take care of presidents. And now it seems that the White House has no records of these allegations.
The White House said Friday that internal records raise doubt about some of the most serious allegations leveled against White House doctor Ronny Jackson in his failed bid to become the next secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Jackson withdrew his nomination Thursday after allegations by current and former colleagues raised questions about his prescribing practices and leadership ability, including accusations of drunkenness on the job. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s office collected the allegations, which included a claim that Jackson “got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle” at a Secret Service going-away party.

The records, including police reports, show Jackson was in three minor vehicle incidents in government vehicles during the last five years, but none involved the use of alcohol and he was not found to be at fault. In one case, a side-view mirror was clipped by a passing truck. In another incident an enraged driver in Montgomery County, Maryland, allegedly punched out Jackson’s window during a morning drive to Camp David.

The White House medical unit that Jackson ran successfully passed regular controlled substance audits, according to the records for the last three years. The reviews did recommend improvements to the medical unit’s handling of controlled substances, but did not find misconduct.

The Associated Press reviewed the documents Friday. They were the result of an internal White House review of allegations raised against Jackson during his brief confirmation process. The White House says the records, covering recent years, disprove the allegations.

But Tester’s office has not specified the time frame during which the alleged misconduct occurred. Tester spokeswoman Marnee Banks said the office would not comment until it knew more about the White House records.

Separately, the Secret Service said it has no evidence to support an allegation that its personnel intervened to prevent Jackson from disturbing former President Barack Obama during a foreign trip in 2015.

In a statement dated Thursday, the Secret Service said it had conducted a “thorough review” of internal documents related to Obama’s foreign trips in 2015 and interviewed people who were present. The agency said it has found “no information that would indicate the allegation is accurate” and no record of any incident involving Jackson.

CNN had reported allegations that Jackson drunkenly banged on the hotel room door of a female employee and that Secret Service personnel intervened out of concern that he would wake Obama.
Both sides could have handled this better. Trump could have waited a few days before nominating Jackson so that he could be vetted and Jon Tester could have delivered his objections in private and asked the Secret Service and White House about such records. As James Hasson points out, these were allegations that were not difficult to check out.
If Tester’s only motivation was to determine the content of Jackson’s character so his fellow senators could make an informed decision, why didn’t he confirm the accuracy of the charge with the Secret Service before he blasted it into the newsfeeds and nightly broadcasts of millions of Americans?

It would have been even easier for Tester to confirm the accusation that Jackson “got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle.” Government agencies are inefficient creatures, but an event like a destroyed or severely damaged vehicle inevitably leaves a clear paper trail. Tester apparently did not bother to check the paperwork before he accused a two-star admiral of driving under the influence and destroying government property, however. Why? Perhaps some “facts” are too useful to check. A search of the government’s database of all accident reports unsurprisingly returned no evidence of Tester’s accusation.

Some of Tester’s other claims similarly fizzled out. The Montana Senator accused Jackson of loosely prescribing prescription drugs, but a five minute review of the specifics of the accusation (a task that apparently required four minutes and thirty seconds more than Tester could spare) reveals that the drugs in question were the sleep aid Ambien and the alertness drug Provigil, prescribed to the White House staff and Secret Service. The use of these medications is not uncommon on foreign trips, where delegations often cross several time zones and must deplane from eighteen-hour flights ready to engage in all of the hoopla of a Presidential visit, beginning with ceremonies on the tarmac. In fact, multiple senators noted that this accusation by itself would have been unlikely to derail Jackson’s nominations — partly because because many senators rely on those prescriptions themselves during foreign trips.
Hasson, an army veteran of Afghanistan, also points out that the Inspector General investigation that Tester referred to would have been more an evaluation of the climate in general rather than a specific complaint against Jackson. Instead it was a report about the animosity between Jackson and another unidentified member of the leadership in that office. And we have the reports of several Obama people talking about what a great guy Jackson is. They liked him as the President's physician, but objected to him as the head of the VA. And they might have had legitimate concerns about his experience not preparing him to administer such a large bureaucracy.

So Jackson ends up having his reputation tarnished. There will forever be doubts about his conduct. But Jon Tester should have to pay a price for his eagerness to tarnish a man's reputation based on anonymous reports. Tester is facing a tough reelection campaign in Montana. Back in March, he was behind double digits to the Republican in the race and Trump had a 58% approval in his state. Maybe Tester has given up hope of winning reelection and just decided to go full #Resistance against Trump's nominee. Or perhaps he thought he could pose as the heroic knight protecting veterans against a bad nominee. Hasson comments,
Senator Tester’s motivation for leading the crusade against Admiral Jackson is not difficult to divine: he is up for reelection in a state that Trump carried by twenty points, Jackson is already a weak nominee (more on that in a minute), and a public fight for better leadership at the VA plays well in a red state. Nuking Jackson’s confirmation on the launch pad by (supposedly) exposing serious misconduct would allow Tester to remind Montana voters that he really cares about veterans, a point he would be sure to hammer all summer and fall. But he appears to have recklessly overplayed his hand. In his haste to reveal Admiral Jackson’s character, Jon Tester revealed his own.

Perhaps—despite the total lack of evidence and the blanket denials from multiple government agencies— some of Tester’s allegations are true, but even if that turns out to be the case, it doesn’t save Tester. He clearly failed to conduct due diligence on the veracity of his allegations before he attacked the integrity of an Admiral in the United States Navy in front of millions of people and used the credibility of the United States Senate to back it up. He showed poor judgment and scant concern for a decent man’s reputation.

Ari Fleischer knows how the media would cover Tester's behavior if the party affiliations had been reversed.

I have no idea if Tom Brokaw is guilty of sexually harassing NBC war correspondent Linda Vester, but the response of his female colleagues is rather interesting. The accusations are from over 20 years ago. She claims to have told contemporaries at the time which is often the crucial supporting bit of evidence. I'm not fond of these accusations several decades later when no real investigation can be made and he can't defend himself. However, we've been told over and over that women don't lie about allegations of sexual assault and we should believe them. Yet 65 women in the TV industry have signed a letter of support for Tom Brokaw attesting to his character and decency. What happened to always believing the woman? Would all these women have supported Clarence Thomas when his female co-workers supported him against Anita Hill's accusations? What about young men on college campuses where they're being denied due process in allegations of sexual misconduct under the theory that victims of such misconduct react differently than victims of other crimes? I guess it all depends if you're one of the favored few.

That same bit of favoritism has been on display now with MSNBC host Joy Reid who has been exposed by Mediate for comments she made years ao on her personal blog a decade ago.that read today as homophobic. Her response was to claim that she didn't write those posts and that her former blog was hacked to make her look homophobic.
n an exclusive statement to Mediaite, the MSNBC host claims these posts from The Reid Report — which include defending homophobia, gay jokes, and the outright mocking of gay people and homosexuality — were somehow put in by an “external party” that “manipulated material from my now-defunct blog.”

While Reid apologized in December for writing homophobic content on a blog she ran long before her days as an icon of the #Resistance movement, she claims these new posts opposing gay marriage and cringing “at the sight of two men kissing” were part of a “fabricated” outside effort to paint her as “offensive and hateful.”

These anti-gay articles from The Reid Report, a site that pre-dated Reid’s former MSNBC show of the same name, were originally shared on Twitter by user Jamie_Maz who found them using the Wayback Machine — an Internet archiving service that takes periodic screenshots of popular web pages to preserve them.

While the amateur sleuth provided Mediaite with legitimate links to all of the posts they tweeted screenshots of, neither the actual defunct site nor its archived pages are currently accessible, as their Wayback Machine links mysteriously disappeared in December after Mediaite‘s initial story on Reid’s homophobic comments about Florida Congressman Charlie Crist was published. The Wayback Machine did not respond to an inquiry regarding the removal of Reid’s blog.
So she denied that she wrote these posts though she admitted and apologized from the gay insults she wrote about Charlie Crist. And she made up this fantasy that someone had hacked her site that has been defunct for years so that it would appear on the Wayback Machine. And this imaginary hacker was quite busy because there were quite a few of these jokes about gays and approving comments of others who had made anti-gay remarks and arguments against gay marriage. She has even complained to the FBI about the hacking.

But the evidence seems to be against her.
MSNBC host Joy Reid claims that recently unearthed homophobic articles attributed to her are fakes. And she says a cybersecurity consultant has proof that her old blog has been hacked.

But that consultant, Jonathan Nichols, had trouble producing the promised evidence. And what he did produce failed to withstand scrutiny, according to a Daily Beast analysis. Blog posts that Nichols claimed do not appear on the Internet Archive are, in fact, there. The indicators of hacked posts don’t bear out....

Reid—a Daily Beast columnist—did not apologize this time around. Instead, she released a statement saying that “In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog… to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.”

On Wednesday evening, Reid’s attorney announced that the FBI had opened an investigation into “potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts, including personal email and blog accounts, belonging to Joy-Ann Reid.”
The Daily Beast, for whom Reid
is a columnist goes through the mistakes made by her supposed cybersecurity specialist who claimed that her site was hacked.
If there was a hack, it would have taken place years ago. The Internet Archive’s records show the disputed posts were mirrored by the Wayback Machine no later than 2009, and many of them were archived much earlier, some within hours of appearing on Reid’s blog. Reichmann explored the possibility last year that the posts were crafted more recently, and that someone inserted them into the Internet Archive with false dates. Reichmann contacted the nonprofit in December to “demand that you provide us with the information needed to determine how the fraudulent posts came to be included in the archived posts.”

But at least one of the entries was contemporaneously referenced on a completely different website. A Feb. 6, 2007 post containing the line “most straight guys (and women) do react with winces at the sight of two men kissing on the lips” drew a comment on the Democratic Underground forum the same day: “Oh, Reidblog... why, why why…”

Today Nichols says Reid and her team no longer believe the archive was hacked, and the Internet Archive has denied any such manipulation could have occurred. “We found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions,” an archiver for the site said in a statement.
Her story now that the hacking excuse has disappeared is that someone was, over and over again, posting in her name on her blog and she never noticed it.

Isn't it a crime to make a false report to the FBI?

But now she has given a pseudo apology on her MSNBC show.
“I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me,” Reid said. “But I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and I have written in the past, why some people don’t believe me. I have not exempt from being cruel or hurtful to the very people I want to advocate for. I own that. I get it. And for that I am truly, truly sorry.”

Reid added:

I can only say that the person I am now is not the person I was then. I like to think I’ve gotten better as a person over time — that I’m still growing. That I’m not the same person I was 10, or five, or even one year ago. And I know that my goal is to try to be a better person, and a better ally [to the LGBTQ community].

Now, the reality is I have to own the things that I have written and tweeted and said. And I’m hoping out of all of this there’s an opportunity to talk about the ways in which hurtful speak does imperil marginalized communities.
So she's apologizing even though she is still denying that she wrote those things. That's quite a convenient apology. I didn't do it, but I'm sorry that you think I did. And she's getting all sorts of kudos on Twitter for her courage in apologizing for what she's denying. Eh, I'm just not buying the supposed courage she has shown. For example,

Mark Tapscott reminds us of how Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder tried to limit the power
of inspectors general to expose corruption within government agencies. This is crucial now as we await the DOJ Inspector General's report on how the Hillary Clinton investigation and Russian collusion scandals were handled. Most of that occurred during the Obama administration.
Horowitz is among the most respected and effective IGs ever appointed, but former President Barack Obama, who nominated him in 2011, may consider that decision among the most regrettable from his eight years in the White House.

Here’s why: The Inspectors General Act of 1978 authorizes the IGs and their investigators and auditors to obtain and examine any official document necessary to carrying out their responsibilities in fighting waste, fraud and corruption in government. Presidents appoint IGs — but those IGs report to Congress, making them an important component of congressional oversight of the executive branch.

But a few months before Horowitz was sworn into the job in 2012, Eric Holder, Obama’s attorney general and previously deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, gutted the IG act provision that mandates their access to all necessary documents. Holder acted at the behest of then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and others at the bureau.

Holder — who would subsequently be held in contempt by Congress for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents in the “Fast and Furious” scandal — thus forced Horowitz to request in writing any documents he sought from the bureau.

There then ensued a three-year struggle in Congress and the media that culminated in Obama having no choice but to sign the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016, which removed all doubt about the IG’s access.

During the three years between Holder's blatant subversion of the 1978 Inspectors General Act and passage of the 2016 law, James Comey succeeded Mueller as FBI chief. He continued, however, to wall off Horowitz's access to documents essential to doing his job until the new law was passed.

Horowitz has been investigating the FBI's conduct in its investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private server and email system to conduct official business as America's chief diplomat. He's also probing the bureau's investigation of allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and elements linked to the Russian government.

In the course of those two investigations, Horowitz has obtained and reviewed an estimated 1.2 million documents. There is an old saying in Washington that "things that go around have a way of coming back around."
Yes, that was Eric Holder of the "most transparent administration in history." barring the person charged with investigating corruption from having access to documents that would expose whatever the Obama administration wanted to hide. And this guy is even thinking that he should run for president. Sheesh.

I know that we're supposed to focus all our outrage on violations on campaign finance reform at Michael Cohen's paying off of Stormy Daniels, but if we stretch our minds to open up for more than one violation, this story about how Hillary Clinton and the DNC laundered $84 million in clear violation of campaign finance laws would seem to be worthy of attention. Margot Cleveland explains what is alleged to have happened. The Clinton campaign held fundraisers in which donors would contribute the maximum allowed to a candidate, a state party committee, and to the national party. If you include 50 state committees, this could be over $400,000, but the law says that these donations must then be distributed to the designated recipients. The Hillary campaign or DNC would be breaking the law if they kept that money for itself. Dan Backer, a campaign-finance lawyer, is the attorney for a lawsuit that was filed last week in a DC district court about this alleged DNC-Clinton conspiracy.
During the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and participating state Democratic committees established the Hillary Victory Fund (HVF) as a joint fundraising committee to accept contributions from large donors, some exceeding $400,000. So far, so good. To comply with campaign finance law, the HVF needed to transfer the donations to the specified recipients, whether the Clinton campaign, down-ticket Democrats, the DNC, or state committees.

FEC records, however, show several large contributions reported as received by the HVF and the same amount on the same day (or occasionally the following day) recorded as received by the DNC from a state Democratic committee, but without the state Democratic committee ever reporting the contribution.

For instance, the HVF reported transferring $19,500 to the Mississippi Democratic Party on November 2, 2015, and the Democratic National Committee reported receiving $19,500 from the Mississippi Democratic Party on November 2, 2015. But the Mississippi Democratic Party never recorded the receipt or the disbursement of the $19,500, and without the Mississippi Democratic Party controlling the funds, the HVF’s contribution to the DNC violated campaign finance law.

Over a 13-month period, FEC records show some 30 separate occasions when the HVF transferred contributions totaling more than $10 million to the DNC without any corresponding record of the receipt or disbursement from the state parties, thus illegally leap-frogging the state Democratic parties.

On the other hand, of the contributions state parties reported as received from the HVF, 99 percent wound up at the DNC. They were transferred immediately or within a day or two, raising questions of whether the state Democratic committees truly exercised control over the money—something necessary under campaign finance law to allow a later-legal transfer to the DNC.

Again, the evidence is damning. According to Politico, “[w]hile state party officials were made aware that Clinton’s campaign would control the movement of the funds between participating committees, one operative who has relationships with multiple state parties said that some of their officials have complained that they weren’t notified of the transfers into and out of their accounts until after the fact.”
This is illegal according to the 2014 Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, as the Court specifically outlined. However, the FEC declined to do anything about the complaint because they have only four members, two from each party. But they need four commissioners to agree to investigate a complaint. The Democrats haven't named their replacement nominee so the Commission is having trouble agreeing to do anything. However, there is an option when the FEC fails to act; a complainant can then file in federal court.
Placing the matter in Backer’s hands, as an advocate for his client the Committee to Defend the President, in a federal court, and with the tools of discovery—including the ability to subpoena bank accounts, DNC communications, and question party officials and bundlers—promises to shine more sunlight on the Clinton and DNC shennanigans than the FEC’s behind-closed-doors consideration and investigation. Also, the Clintons and party officials should not be the only ones concerned: Every big-time donor in on the scheme and acting with the requisite intent faces criminal prosecution, as well.

Yet even with the overwhelming evidence of tsunami-level campaign-finance criminality—more than $84 million—the media instead chases the cloud cast over President Trump because of the $130,000 payment his attorney, Michael Cohen, made to Stormy Daniels, and claims that payment constituted an illegal campaign contribution. One wonders what it will take to break through the mainstream media blackout. Maybe a few pointed unpresidential tweets from our commander-in-chief?
Ugh. Is that what it takes these days to get the media to pay attention to an allegation of major criminality against the campaign finance laws by Democrats - a tweet from Trump? If that is what it takes, we'll continue to have the Bully Pulpit operated by tweet.

I couldn't find it in myself to get all that excited about Michelle Wolf's routine at the White House Correspondent's Dinner. Yes, she made a few ugly jokes about Sarah Huckabee Sanders including her personal appearance in a way that would have been beyond the pale if it were directed at the appearance of a Democratic press secretary. But the whole event has been descending into crudity for years. We're a long way from the outrage over a few jokes that Don Imus made in front of the Clintons in 1996. Remember how horrified everyone connected with the dinner seemed to be that the shock jock made jokes about Hillary Clinton's legal problems as well as other jokes about several people in the room. But the WHCA Dinner has been descending into crude and cruel jokes since then, especially when the GOP holds the White House. Does anyone expect anything different? The fact that the media get together to congratulate themselves on their support for the First Amendment and the noble job they do, but can't have just a straight awards ceremony, but must invite some sort of comedian leads to this situation.

I'd place myself a bit more on the outrage-a-meter if Donald Trump weren't infamous for some of the truly ugly things he's said about women who criticized or opposed him. Remember his comments on the looks of Megyn Kelly, Rosie O'Donnell, or Carly Fiorina. Trump supporters didn't mind those comments all that much, so it's hard to get on board with their outrage over what was said by Wolf at the WHCD.

Here are some proposals for the WHCA should do for next year.

If they feel the need for a comic, here's another prediction.