Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category


How stupid do they think we are? Just like Jim Comey's "exoneration" of Hillary Clinton, the FBI Inspector General's report overflows with findings of criminality and then proclaims that there's nothing to see here. What's the deal? Why bother documenting over 500 pages of damning evidence just to withhold judgement?

"[W]e did not have confidence that Strzok's decision was free from bias." Delicately put. After reading some of the violently anti-Trump effusions the two exchanged, you might find your confidence that their behavior was "free from bias" shaken as well. Try this:
Page: "[Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!"

Strzok: "No. No he won't. We'll stop it."

This shocking exchange has rightly been front and center in the cataract of commentary that has been disgorged about the IG report over the last few days. It is just one of the scores of examples of what Andrew McCarthy crisply described as the "ceaseless stream of anti-Trump bile" adduced in the report--adduced, and then half swept under the rug in a forest of anodyne verbiage.

"We'll stop it."

Who is "we"? Not Peter Strzok and Lisa Page as individuals. It's the collective or institutional "we": "We, that is the FBI, will stop Donald Trump from becoming president of the United States."

Even more egregious, that damning exchange was redacted from earlier transcripts provided to Congress. Why? Because revealing it endangers national security? Um, no. It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots here.

Listen up government employees: the American people respect your service to our country, but you're not our masters. You work for us. You're free to vote for anyone you want, but you must not use your public offices to undermine democracy.


Sharyl Attkisson has a brilliant recasting of the "Russia investigation" as if it were an attempted bank robbery and the government decided to investigate the bank instead of the robbers, and then didn't even bother to prevent the robbery.

Once upon a time, the FBI said some thugs planned to rob a bank in town. Thugs are always looking to rob banks. They try all the time. But at this particular time, the FBI was hyper-focused on potential bank robberies in this particular town.

The best way to prevent the robbery -- which is the goal, after all -- would be for the FBI to alert all the banks in town. "Be on high alert for suspicious activity," the FBI could tell the banks. "Report anything suspicious to us. We don't want you to get robbed."

Instead, in this fractured fairytale, the FBI followed an oddly less effective, more time-consuming, costlier approach. It focused on just one bank. And, strangely, it picked the bank that was least likely to be robbed because nobody thought it would ever get elected president -- excuse me, I mean, because it had almost no cash on hand. (Why would robbers want to rob the bank with no cash?)

Just go read the whole thing.


Why does our political class have such an obsession with style? "Never Trump" Republicans loathe the president primarily because he offends their aesthetic sensibilities, and now Justice Neil Gorsuch's critics are condemning him for his style as well.

Gorsuch quickly antagonized his colleagues on the bench, reportedly skipping a justices-only meeting Chief Justice John Roberts had asked him to attend and then dominating oral arguments in the first case he heard, about a workplace-discrimination claim. He later dissented in the case, lecturing the majority for overstepping its bounds. "If a statute needs repair, there is a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It's called legislation," he wrote. "Congress already wrote a perfectly good law. I would follow it." In cases since, he has come across as "awkward," "condescending," and "tone-deaf," in the words of NPR's Nina Totenberg, and has prompted Court watchers to comb his opinions for egregiously gassy prose -- then launch them into Twitter orbit with the hashtag #GorsuchStyle.

"That style stuff is what has infuriated people on the left more so than anything else," says Ian Samuel, who teaches at Harvard Law School and co-hosts the influential Supreme Court podcast First Mondays. "He's not any more conservative than Justice Alito, for example, but attracts a disproportionate amount of hate.

Is this appeal to stylistic sensibilities growing more common because it garners more agreement from the target audience? Perhaps more people dislike Trump's style than dislike his policies, and more people dislike Gorsuch's style than dislike his rulings?

I don't think the fixation on style over substance does America any good.


FBI leakers admit to spying on Trump campaign 100 days before the election. The purpose of the leaks to to cover-their-butts in advance of the Inspector General report.

It's been nearly 24 hours since it has been revealed to the world that President Barack Obama's Justice Department conducted a counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign. The investigation began 100 days before the presidential election and was executed with all the traditional tools of spy trade-craft including informants (spies) and electronic surveillance (wire tapping.)

These stunning revelations were memorialized in the bible of the Mainstream Media: It was written in the Gospel According to the New York Times.

Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says it's "a good thing" that Obama was spying on his political opponent.

Clapper admitted the FBI "may have had someone who was talking to them in the campaign," referring to President Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. He explained away the possibility of an FBI informant spying on the campaign as the bureau was trying to find out "what the Russians were doing to try to substantiate themselves in the campaign or influence or leverage it."

Obama's Director of National Intelligence then went on to say, "So, if there was someone that was observing that sort of thing, that's a good thing."

Mollie Hemingway dissects the NYT article based on the leaks.

This is a stunning admission for those Americans worried that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies might use their powers to surveil, leak against, and target Americans simply for their political views or affiliations. As Sean Davis wrote, "The most amazing aspect about this article is how blasé it is about the fact that the Obama admin was actively spying on four affiliates of a rival political campaign weeks before an election."

The story says the FBI was worried that if it came out they were spying on Trump campaign it would "only reinforce his claims that the election was being rigged against him." It is easy to understand how learning that the FBI was spying on one's presidential campaign might reinforce claims of election-rigging.


Muller's indictment of Russian conspirators appears to be backfiring.

Against all expectations, in April, lawyers for one of the Russian corporate defendants, Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, entered their appearances in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They followed up by serving extensive discovery requests on Team Mueller seeking full disclosure of the government's case and investigation including sensitive national security and intelligence information.

This type of discovery is called "graymail" (as distinguished from blackmail) in which the government is faced with having to disclose closely guarded state secrets in order to proceed with the prosecution. The alternative is to drop the charges.

Given that the maximum penalty against Concord is an uncollectable $500,000 fine or equally uncollectable compensation to anyone damaged by the alleged conspiracy, the choice is all the more bitter for Team Mueller. Should they litigate the discovery requests? If they lose and are faced with having to disclose sensitive intelligence information about the case and their investigation, should they withdraw the indictment against Concord? And, if they drop the charges, are they prepared for the resulting public mockery and howls of derision?

Andrew C. McCarthy has more on the topic of judicial hardship for Mueller. Seems like it's past time to wrap up this investigation.


Last month I wrote about government Democrats scrambling to hire Andrew McCabe after he was fired from the FBI for-cause, and I warned them that they might regret embracing the former acting FBI director after his perfidy became more widely known. Obviously I was right.

Comey has declared that McCabe is simply not telling the truth when he said that Comey knew of his leaking information to the media. Indeed, he said that he ordered the investigation into finding the culprit. McCabe's lawyer Michael Bromwich has insisted that people should not buy Comey's "white knight" account and that he is offering a false narrative.In the meantime, McCabe is lashing out at this accusers, including the career officials of the Inspector General's office who took the unprecedented step of calling for the former acting FBI Director to be fired. Bromwich says that McCabe will now sue the Trump administration for defamation and wrongful termination. Good luck with that. The Office of Professional Responsibility and the Inspector General's office is composed of career officials who decided that McCabe should be fired. The IG found that McCabe leaked the information for his own personal interest and not the public interest. That hardly seems like a compelling basis for either wrongful termination or defamation unless Bromwich knows some major fact that that is not public.

In the meantime, after raising over $500,000 on GoFundMe (a campaign that I criticized as being premature), Bromwich has announced that he is going back for more donations. The last campaign ended just before the IG disclosed that McCabe lied not once but four times -- and before Comey himself effectively called McCabe a liar. Indeed, Comey is invested in showing McCabe is a liar since he previously testified under oath that he never leaked or approved a leak as director.

I defended James Comey almost a year ago, but that was clearly a mistake considering the motivations he has explained in his book.

We must have the worst political class in American history.

Former deep-stater Jack Goldsmith describes how the intelligence community is damaging American and itself by flailing wildly against President Trump. Before I even begin the quote, it's worth mentioning that there is so far no public evidence that anyone in the Trump campaign or administration illegally conspired with Russia.

Even if it turns out that Flynn and others close to Trump were in the bag for the Russians, many people will for a long time view the anti-Trump leaks as political abuse of intelligence to harm political enemies.

This perception will be deepened by the Trump administration's relentless and often false attacks on the integrity of the intelligence community, including its false suggestion that the original collection that incidentally captured Flynn's communications, as opposed to the leaks of such information, was illegitimate.

The Flynn and related leaks didn't just violate the law - they violated a core commitment the intelligence community made in after the era of Hoover not to politicize, or appear to politicize, the use of surveillance tools or the fruits of their use.

Can it Happen Here? review: urgent studies in rise of authoritarian America
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The whole intelligence collection system - which has an importance that far transcends its undoubtedly large importance in this discrete context - is vulnerable here for the simple reason that the intermixture of politics with intelligence collection is the intelligence system's Achilles' heel.

However bad you think Trump is, he manages to bring out even worse from his opponents.


As civilization gets more complex, we should expect to see a proliferation of unintended consequences. The human mind simply can't foresee the consequences for its actions, and most of the time unintended consequences are bad. Wariness of unintended consequences should be a strong motivation for limited, simplified government.

... the problem facing the U.S. was that deaths from so-called semi-synthetic opioids, such as oxycodone (the drug in OxyContin) and hydrocodone, ballooned to more than 10,000 in 2010 -- up from fewer than 3,000 a decade before, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The part of the plan to get addicts off OxyContin worked reasonably well, at least initially. Many addicts no longer abused the reformulated medication.

But it didn't necessarily result in a happily-ever-after scenario.

Instead, the junkies quickly switched to heroin, according to the NBER research.

"The reformulation did not generate a reduction in combined heroin and opioid mortality -- each prevented opioid death was replaced with a heroin death," states an April-dated paper titled "How the Reformulation of Oxycontin Ignited the Heroin Epidemic."

"We attribute the recent quadrupling of heroin death rates to the August 2010 reformulation of an oft-abused prescription opioid, OxyContin," continues the report, authored by William Evans and Ethan Lieber, both from the University of Notre Dame, and Patrick Power from Boston University.

Good intentions aren't enough, and something doing nothing is the best course of action.


This is one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

Knives have been essential tools since our Stone Age ancestors banged rocks together to sharpen them. Somehow Boy and Girl Scouts have managed to carry knives for a century without stabbing anyone.

Maybe London's problem isn't knives, but people who want to stab each other.



Why disarm everyone except the people you don't trust?


Democrats are lining up to hire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe after he was fired two days before he became eligible to collect his federal pension. He claims he did nothing wrong, but Democrats would be smart to wait for the inspector general's report before offering McCabe a job. There's no hurry: he can get earn his maximum pension with two more days of work, even if he has to wait a bit.

More Democratic lawmakers are coming forward with offers to hire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe after he was fired Friday, just two days before he was eligible for his pension.

Democratic Reps. Seth Moulton (Mass.), Jamie Raskin (Md.) and Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.) have all made job offers on Twitter. The lawmakers are extending the offers in an attempt to help McCabe to qualify for his benefits.

"Would be happy to consider this," Moulton said of hiring McCabe. "The Sixth District of MA would benefit from the wisdom and talent of such an experienced public servant."

This must poll well for Democrats, but the FBI should take dishonesty from its employees very seriously.

"I was encouraged and hopeful," said Humphries, 53, in an exclusive interview with the Tampa Bay Times, reacting to the news that former FBI director Andrew McCabe had been fired.

A day earlier, both men left the FBI after 21-year careers.

Humphries retired, a short while after serving a 60-day unpaid suspension for previously speaking to the Times without permission.

McCabe, fired after the Justice Department rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend, is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between FBI officials and a journalist.

Humphries said McCabe's firing was good for the organization because it is important for top officials to be held accountable for the same transgressions agents like him are. The McCabe firing is fitting, Humphries says, for a man accused of lack of candor about media contacts whose office launched an investigation into him talking to a newspaper.

"Every employee of the FBI voluntarily swears to observe the bureau's strict standards of conduct, especially in terms of candor and ethics," said Humphries. "When we fall short of that, we can expect appropriate sanctions. Yesterday's firing of the former deputy director demonstrates that those sanctions are meted out uniformly, regardless of rank or position."

The inspector general's report isn't public yet, so anyone who hires McCabe now might be stepping into quicksand.


I'm not a Trump booster and have no responsibility to promote or defend him, but Matt Latimer's article about how "Trump is winning" because of luck is pretty hilarious.

Donald Trump is on track to win reelection to the presidency of the United States.

Yes, despite Russiagate, despite shitholegate and despite whatever gate he blunders through next. Despite approval ratings that would make Nixon weep. Despite his mind-numbing political misjudgments--defending accused pedophiles, for example--and the endless, unnecessary daily drama. Trump is winning. It is actually happening, people. And if there are those who want to stop it--and there are, of course, millions--they need to know what they are up against. It's a lot more than they overconfidently think.

First, consider the fact that Trump is simply lucky.

Then Latimer lists off a bunch of Trump's accomplishments and "accomplishments", completely missing the fact that they're due in large part to Trump's bombast, not in spite of it. He concludes:

Yep. Trump is a helluva lucky guy. And that just might give us six more years.

At some point don't you have to concede that your victorious opponent is just better than you?


... writes Andrew C. McCarthy for the millionth time. He's my favorite legal commentator on the never-ending Russia imbroglio.

Trump has intervened unhelpfully in a number of cases, as I've pointed out. Of course, we should disapprove of this. A president should not intercede in pending criminal investigations -- I'd prefer if he never did it, and he certainly shouldn't make a habit of it. It would be better if the president hewed to that norm and custom. It would have been better if Trump had not pled on Michael Flynn's behalf to FBI director James Comey -- just as it would have been better if Obama had not publicly announced in April 2016 that he did not believe Mrs. Clinton should be indicted. But the fact that it would be preferable for a president to refrain from signaling how he wants an investigation to turn out does not mean such signaling is tantamount to a criminal obstruction felony. The authority that FBI agents and prosecutors exercise when they weigh in on the merits of an investigation or prosecution is the president's power. There is no power that the president's subordinates may exercise but that he may not, regardless of what norms and customs counsel against it.

McCarthy points out (again) that President Trump can only be checked-and-balanced by Congress and the courts, not by any kind of legal action. The problem for Democrats is that impeaching the president requires political power that they don't have, so they strain for a law enforcement option that simply doesn't exist.

They prefer to imagine Special Counsel Robert Mueller cobbling together a magic-bullet obstruction charge that might knock their nemesis out of office. It is not going to happen.


California is offering to split the federal tax savings with local corporations, but it's hard to see why that's a good deal unless your business needs to be in California.

Trump's plan reduced the federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, which Republican and business leaders hailed as an incentive for a surge of capital investment and job growth. But Democrats denounced the change as a giveaway to the wealthy that would grow the national debt and require future cuts to welfare programs such as Medicaid.

The proposal from McCarty and Ting creates a new tax for businesses in California, which already has a state corporate tax rate of 8.84 percent. Companies with annual net income of more than $1 million in California would pay an additional surcharge of 7 percent, or half their savings from the recent federal tax cut.

If approved by two-thirds of the Legislature, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22 would go before the voters for final consideration. Proponents estimate it would raise between $15 billion and $17 billion a year, which would be directed toward funding for education, college affordability initiatives, child care and preschool slots, taxpayer rebates and an expansion of California's Earned Income Tax Credit.

The $15 - $17 billion estimate is a static analysis that doesn't take into account the likelihood that some businesses will reduce their footprint in California, or just leave. Reducing the federal rate means that a company doesn't have to leave the country to benefit, it only has to leave California.


President Trump decried immigration from "shithole countries". (Funny, my fingers keep typing "shithold" and I have to backspace a lot.) Obviously, I condemn what President Trump said.

Other details of the plan had emerged in recent days. Senators plan to effectively nix the visa lottery and reallocating those visas to a separate program being terminated by the Trump administration aiding immigrants from countries facing natural disasters or civil strife. Countries affected so far by Trump's ending of Temporary Protected Status include El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan.

It was when Trump was being briefed on those provisions that he asked why the United States was admitting immigrants from "shithole countries," according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

Trump has denied using that language, but not the sentiment. Who knows. It seems that only the President and a few senators were present, but I'm sure their flunkies were around also.

My prediction is that within a week polling will show that a majority of Americans agree with Trump's sentiment.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the memo that instructed federal prosecutors not to enforce federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal under state law. Republicans and Democrats are both upset.

Sessions' move infuriated Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who said he's placing a hold on Justice Department nominees and will try to push legislation to protect marijuana sales in states where they are legal.

Colorado's senior senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, also slammed Sessions' move.

"In rescinding the Cole memo, the Attorney General failed to listen to Colorado, and will create unnecessary chaos and confusion," he said on Twitter.

Maybe President Trump will take this opportunity to pass marijuana legalization through Congress. It seems like legalization would be an easy law to pass, and would be broadly popular.


"Eat, drink, and be merry" -- tomorrow is the other party's problem.

It's hard to remember that just a couple of decades ago, our government did do something about the deficit, other than make it worse. First under George H.W. Bush, and then under Bill Clinton, Congress and the president worked together to pass major deficit-reduction bills that actually tried to put the finances of the country on a reasonably stable long-term footing. These bills were not very popular; the first may have cost Bush re-election. But they were what responsible government looks like.

Nowadays, with our entitlements crisis much closer, both parties seem to have chosen the slogan "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!" Entitlements costing more than we take in in tax revenue? Obviously, we need to make them even bigger! Taxes too low to cover all our spending commitments? Cut taxes! The idea seems to be that if you can push through your pet programs now, by the time the reckoning comes, they'll be too popular to touch, and the other guys will have to find some way to pay for all your goodies.

How's the new meritocracy working out? We have the worst governing class in American history. Maybe we're stuck in a local maxima that we can't escape without a significant jolt to the system.


Rich Lowry writes that Trump has a string of successes in his first year as president.

Republicans have tried, on and off, to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling since the 1980s. The effort has always engendered intense opposition and always been abandoned. A provision for drilling in ANWR is included in the Republican tax bill almost as an afterthought.

Republicans took a constitutional fight against ObamaCare's individual mandate to the Supreme Court in 2012, and lost. They targeted it in their ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill earlier this year, and lost. They tried again with a last-ditch "skinny repeal" bill, and lost yet again. Repeal of the individual mandate is also included in the Republican tax bill.

As the year ends, President Trump is compiling a solid record of accomplishment. Much of it is unilateral, dependent on extensive executive actions rolling back President Barack Obama's regulations, impressive judicial appointments and the successful fight against ISIS overseas. The tax bill is the significant legislative achievement that heretofore has been missing.

Say what you will about his personal flaws, but Trump has delivered the most success for conservatives of any president in a long, long time.


I guess Obama loyalists have finally decided to throw Hillary Clinton under the bus. Interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile writes that the DNC rigged the nomination for Clinton and against Bernie Sanders.

"Hello, senator. I've completed my review of the DNC and I did find the cancer," I said. "But I will not kill the patient."

I discussed the fundraising agreement that each of the candidates had signed. Bernie was familiar with it, but he and his staff ignored it. They had their own way of raising money through small donations. I described how Hillary's campaign had taken it another step.

I told Bernie I had found Hillary's Joint Fundraising Agreement. I explained that the cancer was that she had exerted this control of the party long before she became its nominee. Had I known this, I never would have accepted the interim chair position, but here we were with only weeks before the election.

Lots more detail in they story. But yep: rigged. It's very possible that Sanders would have won the nomination otherwise.


Shoes continue to drop as a result of the "Russia investigation", whatever that actually means these days. It seems like Trump was the only person not colluding with Russia. From my perspective, the Russia angle (whatever it may be) is minor compared to the vast number of shady conspiracies that are emerging in the wake of the elites' slow defenestration from Washington.

Sometime in October 2016 -- that is, at the height of the presidential campaign -- Christopher Steele, the foreign agent hired by Fusion GPS to compile the Trump dossier, approached the FBI with information he had gleaned during the project. According to a February report in the Washington Post, Steele "reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work."

It was an astonishing turn: the nation's top federal law enforcement agency agreeing to fund an ongoing opposition research project being conducted by one of the candidates in the midst of a presidential election.

Everyone in D.C. believed that "business as usual" would continue forever, whether Democrat or Republican won the presidency. No one counted on an erratic populist winning and overturning the applecart. Trump is certainly flawed, but I for one am glad to see some positive results from the chaos.

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