Too many coincidences

Victor Davis Hanson does a good job today summarizing what to date has been a slow but steady drip of information indicating Special Counsel Robert Mueller grossly stacked the deck in terms of staffing his investigation of the Trump team’s activity during last year’s election.  Excerpt:

By now there are simply too many coincidental conflicts of interest and too much improper investigatory behavior to continue to give the Mueller investigation the benefit of doubt. Each is a light straw; together, they now have broken the back of the probe’s reputation.

In inexplicable fashion, Mueller seems to have made almost no effort to select attorneys from outside Washington, from diverse private law firms across the country, who were without personal involvement with the Clinton machine, and who were politically astute or disinterested enough to keep their politics to themselves.

It seems readily apparent from what has been revealed that the investigation is the logical culmination of the Obama administration’s partisan weaponization of government.  Much as the IRS illegally discriminated against Tea Party-affiliated organizations, there is evidence the FBI and other agencies improperly surveilled U.S. citizens during an election, selectively leaking information upon which to base an investigation.  The many media misfires in recent days is further indication this investigation is a conclusion looking for evidence, rather than the other way around.  Ironically (and most likely deliberately), much clearer evidence of mishandling classified information, and improper quid pro quos between Russia and the Clinton Foundation are completely free from any official scrutiny.

Such politicizing of governmental institutions to overturn or thwart the result of a presidential election is a grave and present danger to the health of what’s left of our representative government.  It has further polarized a heavily divided electorate.  Those who support the administration see a partisan witch hunt.  Those who oppose him readily grab onto whatever “bombshells” are illegally leaked to the press from within the investigation in an attempt to further delegitimize Trump and his team–even though many of those “bombshells” quickly turn out to be less than meets the eye.

As Hanson notes, the existence of special counsels is already a poor reflection on the ability of representative government to reach just and fair conclusions in some circumstances.  If that safety valve is itself compromised (which seems highly likely in this case), what options for resolution of the issues are left — short of social unrest and violence?

Our political class continues to lead us down a very dangerous road.

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The depth of the swamp

A few items for your reading attention today, each of which illustrate how deeply the rot goes in our current system:

1)Just How Corrupt is the FBI?”

At least three members of the Russia probe: Robert Mueller himself, attorney Andrew Weissmann and Agent Peter Strzok all have very clear conflicts of interest in this matter and/or histories of abuse of power.  One of the latest examples:

As reported by Fox News, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok changed Director Comey’s earlier draft of the announcement that exonerated Ms. Clinton. He switched it from “grossly negligent,” which is the language in the criminal statute pertaining to the mishandling of classified material, to simply “extremely careless,” essentially getting Ms. Clinton out of criminal jeopardy. Agent Strzok also interviewed Ms. Clinton without recording the session after Mr. Comey was apparently planning to exonerate her. He was fired by Mueller presumably when Mr. Strzok’s anti-Trump emails to a fellow FBI colleague, lawyer, and lover, Lisa Page, came to his attention. Are we having fun yet? It only gets better…

2) Obama’s email involvement tanked the Clinton investigation

I noticed it when this first became public more than a year ago, but perhaps unsurprisingly very little attention has been focused on it: President Obama sent and received emails with Hillary Clinton via the insecure private server over which she demonstrably conducted classified business.  Obama did so using a pseudonym, which seems to indicate he knew this system was likely not on the up and up.

Bottom line: no conviction of Clinton and Huma Abedin for willful mishandling national security information could have been obtained without implicating the president himself.  This likely explains why the Clinton “investigation” and subsequent Russia probe were assigned to some of the most partisan members of what should be a politically neutral FBI.

3) Andrew Weissmann, as noted in some of the links above, heaped praise on then-Attorney General Sally Yates, who early in the Trump administration publicly refused to defend the administration’s new travel restrictions intended to enhance border security. (Trump rightfully fired her.)  Weissmann is now one of Robert Mueller’s senior advisors on the “Russia probe.”  (But I’m sure he’s objective…)  Additionally, it’s been learned that while the courts correctly ruled Trump had the authority to appoint the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a number of employees at said agency consider themselves “resistors,” taking the childish name “Dumbledore’s Army.”  Their intent, it seems, is to thwart the new leadership any way they can.  Were I Mick Mulvaney, I would try to identify every employee who considered themselves part of this group — and fire them immediately.

The entrenched bureaucracy is determined there will be no deep and lasting changes under Trump.  How that struggle goes will define his presidency.  The stakes? Powerline’s John Hinderaker put it best:

The most powerful branch of today’s government is the Fourth: the permanent federal bureaucracy that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. The Trump administration can best be viewed, perhaps, as a struggle to the death between American voters and the federal employees who are paid to serve them.

 

Swamps, RINOs and Trump

Many in the press hope they see a big story developing: a Republican “civil war” between those aligned with the president or Steve Bannon and the “establishment” GOP.  But as one outlet has already realized, the momentum is with the president:

Traditional Republicans fancying the cracks in their party as an opening to primary President Trump in 2020 need to deal with one inconvenient fact: Republican voters aren’t interested.

The brawl for dominance in the Republican Party is certainly remarkable. Former President George W. Bush; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; the chairmen of two top Senate committees; and now Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; all have sharply rebuked Trump, questioning his fitness, integrity, and moral authority.

But their resistance, though hardly isolated, is missing one crucial element: a significant measure of enthusiasm from Republican voters. That’s a weak foundation from which to pursue a challenge to the renomination of a sitting president.

Why is Trump’s base willing to overlook his unorthodox presidential behavior? Here the article nails it:

…where Trump’s Republican opposition sees a dangerous political provocateur, the GOP base sees a fighter who is defending them and their values — against the cultural oppression of the liberal elites in New York and Hollywood and against a political establishment in Washington that bends the rules for everyone but them.

Trump’s coalition includes true conservatives (as opposed to the think-tank faux conservatives in D.C.) and blue-collar Democrats who are tired of seeing everything and everyone put ahead of the needs of honest Americans.  The “have you no decency” outrage from the GOP establishment is easily ignored when one remembers how often they have failed to keep their promises to the voters (Obamacare repeal?  Immigration enforcement?  Tax and regulation relief?).  The problem with most Republican members of Congress is they are “Republican In Name Only (RINO).”  The Tea Party movement was a “civil” attempt to protest this repeated betrayal, and the bi-factional ruling party attacked it — the Republicans by painting it unfairly as racist, and the Democrats by illegally unleashing the IRS and other government agencies on the various groups.  In the latter case, no accountability has been forthcoming against Lois Lerner and her helpers, either.

Is it any wonder a large part of the voting population now wants to burn the establishment to the ground?

Not only has the administration outlasted the Democrats’ frantic efforts to delegitimize it, the shoe is rapidly moving to the other foot as:

These stories are far more important than the manufactured distraction over presidential condolence calls to Gold Star families. Those who care about America should not allow the topic du jour to “move on” from them.

The real fight now is not over the survival of the Trump administration (even the NYT admits “he’s not going anywhere“). It’s over whether he will have a more cooperative Congress to deal with after 2018.  Steve Bannon is rallying insurgent candidates* across the country, and even sitting Senators are reading the tea leaves (finally).  The election of Trump represented a bursting point of extreme voter dissatisfaction with business as usual.  “Civil” didn’t get voters anywhere, so they went with the bull in the china shop. Whether that voter anger and focus can be maintained through the next election cycle is the question of the decade.  If it is, the Trump victory in 2016 will be seen not as a fluke, but as a pivotal moment in American politics when the Swamp was finally confronted head on.

* While Bannon rallies Republican insurgents with name recognition, there are also complete outsiders like Tony Monetti in Missouri, who is challenging established Republican candidates in the primary to run against vulnerable Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.  Be sure to pay attention to ALL the candidates in the races for which you can vote.

A greater tragedy

In no way is this post meant to take way from the fact nearly 60 people died, hundreds more were injured, and thousands subjected to terror in Las Vegas Sunday night.  But after reading and watching this, I realized there is a much greater loss we’ve sustained as a nation:

FBI special agent Aaron Rouse said at a press conference Wednesday that the FBI has leads in the investigation of the Las Vegas shooting “all across the United States and all across the world.” …

“This is about informing on an investigation, this is about resolving an investigation, so specifics regarding any individual contact cannot be answered. You need us, you trust us, and the way we have that trust is by using good discretion about what we share.”

At that point I realized: “I DON’T trust the FBI.”  Or the Justice Department.  Or the Department of Homeland Security.  Not at all.  Not anymore.  And I’m certain I’m far from alone.

Isn’t it odd our investigators insisted within 12 hours of the attack that despite the terror organization’s repeated claims, the gunman had no connection to ISIS — but after more than several months and more than 100 witnesses testifying, the Senate Intelligence Committee is still clinging desperately to the idea the Trump campaign colluded with Russia somehow?  How can they be so sure in either case, unless it’s a predetermined outcome?  Isn’t it odd the FBI can remain tight-lipped about investigating Las Vegas, but leaks like a sieve when it comes to investigating a sitting president?  Isn’t it odd that last year the former Director of the FBI, James Comey, could read off what was in essence an indictment of Hillary Clinton and her team’s use of an unauthorized email server, and yet claim there was no need to press charges?  Isn’t it odd that despite conclusive evidence the IRS illegally discriminated against conservative political groups that former IRS official Lois Lerner won’t face any penalties?  Isn’t it odd that a man who boasted to employees on Capitol Hill about his ability to get people “worked over” in Pakistan was allowed to remain in charge of the Democratic National Committee’s information technology support? (And isn’t it odd how supportive–even threatening–the former DNC chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has been of Awan, considering he was in a position to know a lot of unpleasant secrets?)

It’s sad that in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history I have no confidence our government will level with the public about what happened.  It’s sad that I believe the most sincere participation by concerned citizens in our process of governing is unlikely to produce the desired changes, because of the action of unknown, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who thwart any attempt to “drain the swamp.”

What’s saddest is that being patriotic may soon mean choosing between country and government.  That’s what happens when the latter forfeits the public’s trust.

 

Reality check

Though the sources conflict, there is a general sense among historians that ancient Rome did, indeed, have a practice of keeping the subject of their triumphal processions humble.  While being praised and celebrated by the citizens of of the city, a returning conqueror is said to have been subjected to the presence of either a close associate or an assigned slave, who continually whispered into his ear something along the lines of “remember, you are mortal.”

Regardless how the actual practice occurred, this is an imminently practical idea for any nation that desires the rule of law, and not of men.

One of the largest criticisms during the rise of Donald Trump has been that it seems dangerously close to a cult of personality.  It’s no secret many people voted for him despite of his character traits, not because of them, believing (correctly, in my humble opinion) he was still a better alternative than Her Hillariness.  There is always a danger in such a scenario that people become too willing to overlook faults and flaws in “their” candidate.

Yesterday’s runoff election in Alabama should be taken as an encouraging sign that Trump does not quite enjoy such unquestioning support:

Former judge Roy Moore won the Republican nomination on Tuesday evening in the Alabama special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, defeating the Trump-endorsed former state attorney general Luther Strange.

A strong argument can be made that endorsement by Senate GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did more to damage Strange than Trump’s did to help him.  In the eyes of many (including me), McConnell personifies much of what is wrong with today’s mendacious GOP “leadership.”  That he would strongly advocate (and send significant resources) to Strange after only working with him in an interim capacity of a few months indicates he’d taken the candidate’s measure and decided he fit right in with the business-as-usual crowd.

That is not what the electorate, at least in Alabama and other comparable places, wants. The GOP has demonstrated they are not serious about fulfilling years-long promises to repeal Obamacare, secure the border, protect the American economy or simply put America first.  So it should surprise nobody their conservative base has had enough. That Trump endorsed Strange seems to indicate he was trying to work with McConnell, possibly in hopes of getting the Obamacare repeal or some other agenda item moving forward.  If so, the recent second failure to get a healthcare repeal bill to his desk demonstrates the value of such an effort.  This should be a lesson to the president: the Congressional GOP leadership is less interested in cooperating than they are in co-opting him and his supporters, as they did with the Tea Party.  During the final runoff debate, Strange’s main selling point seemed to be his repetition of the mantra that “Trump picked me.”  That this was unsuccessful is a reassurance the president does not command blind loyalty.

Having been burned too many times by their promises, a large portion of the GOP’s base is now looking to clean house in the party rather than mend fences.  Some — like Tennessee Senator Bob Corker — appear to see the insurgent writing on the wall (Corker announced he will not seek reelection in 2018).  Here’s hoping a number of others–especially John McCain–get the message as well.  ALL of them, not just Trump, need to be reminded that they are mortal.  And since none of them are indispensable to the effort to restore America, they can–and should–be held accountable for failure to support that effort, particularly when the GOP controls the House, Senate, Presidency and most State governorships and legislatures.

Mr. Trump is far from certain to be reelected in 2020.  Yesterday’s special election results should serve fair notice he was sent to D.C. to accomplish specific things.  His next turn at the polls will hinge on whether he does, in fact, accomplish them.

  • Build the wall.  Deport those here illegally.  Period.
  • Return jobs and investment to the U.S. by voiding the globalist drain of disadvantageous trade agreements and corporatist tax policies on our economy
  • Restore American credibility by consistently acting in the best interest of the U.S. in our foreign and military policy.

It’s not rocket science, Mr. President.  Your move.

Land of infinite “second” chances

Last month, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General released a report about the Infernal Internal Revenue Agency.  That Agency, as you will recall, has been shown to have discriminated against conservative organizations trying to obtain certain tax statuses.  Nearly five years after the first revelation of this, there has been NO accountability.  Lois Lerner is gone, but was not penalized in any way for the wrongdoing on her watch (she was allowed to take full retirement).

Now the IG reveals the Agency rehired 200 (that’s “two hundred“) former employees who had either been terminated for cause or left while under substantiated investigation of wrongdoing.  That included four who were fired for “willful failure to properly file their Federal tax returns.”

To be fair to the IRS (…yeah, right…), they’re only following the example of the Veteran’s Administration, whose Human Resources department shuffles failing or criminal employees from post to post rather than letting them go.  (Yes, I know the VA now touts having fired 500+ employees recently… but the list shows these are mostly lower-level employees and a handful of physicians, not the highly paid failing leadership.)

THIS is the “swamp” many people elected Trump to “drain.”  THIS is why people have no faith in their government anymore.  Congress is bad enough, but the various Minions of MordorTM are like an infection you can’t cure.  In fact, much like an infection they seem to become more resistant every time there’s an attempt to fight them.

This permeates the whole of government.  As a supervisor I saw this first hand, as it took me over a year to discipline an employee who was unqualified to be in their position in the first place (and who made no effort whatsoever to become so).  There needs to be a wholesale overhaul of the Civil Service; one that ensures government “service” doesn’t become a lifetime gravy train regardless of performance (or misconduct).

I guess the Republican Congress could get around to that after finally fulfilling their pledge of many years to repeal Obamacare.  But that, of course, now has to wait until they’ve raised the debt ceiling (yet again). Oh, and a new fiscal year starts October 1st, but there’s no budget in place yet (status normal).  Then there’s the promise of trying for tax reform…   You get the picture: accountability isn’t very high on the list.

It never is…

A slow-motion coup

Pat Buchannan’s column today looks at how government officials are breaking the law to “leak” sensitive information in order to damage the Trump administration, and asks the question — where does this all lead:

Before Trump departed D.C., The Washington Post ran transcripts of his phone conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.
Even Obama administration veterans were stunned.
So, it is time to ask: If this city brings Trump down, will the rest of America rejoice?…

Our media preen and posture as the defenders of democracy, devoted to truth, who provide us round-the-clock protection from tyranny. But half the nation already sees the media as a propaganda arm of a liberal establishment that the people have rejected time and again.

Consider the (Washington) Post’s publication of the transcripts of Trump’s calls with Mexico’s president and Australia’s prime minister.  The Post was letting itself be used by a leaker engaged in disloyal and possibly criminal misconduct. Yet the Post agreed to provide confidentiality and to hide the Trump-hater’s identity…

…there is a far larger story here, of which this Post piece is but an exhibit. It is the story of a concerted campaign, in which the anti-Trump media publish leaks, even criminal leaks, out of the FBI, CIA, NSA and NSC, to bring down a president whom the Beltway media and their deep-state collaborators both despise and wish to destroy...

The Justice Department is now running down the leaks, and the ACLU’s Ben Wizner is apoplectic: “Every American should be concerned about the Trump administration’s threat to step up its efforts against whistleblowers and journalists. A crackdown on leaks is a crackdown on the free press and on democracy.”

That’s one way to put it. Another is that some of these “whistleblowers” are political criminals who reject the verdict of the American electorate in 2016 and are out to overturn it. And the aforementioned “journalists” are their enablers and collaborators.

Read the entire piece hereNot every leak qualifies as “whistleblowing.”  In fact, I’d say that most leaking in D.C. is done out of political motivation of some sort.  True whistleblowing is the release of information a government, business or organization is holding back simply because it reveals wrongdoing.  The classic case of this is, of course, the Pentagon Papers.  The Supreme Court upheld the publishing of the papers because they clearly showed the Johnson administration had lied multiple times to the American people about the progress (or lack thereof) in Vietnam, and because revealing the contents posed no direct national security risk (only a political risk!).  When such a concerted effort is being made to conceal the truth, going outside the system as a whistleblower can be justified.  There are, of course, many other examples of people who took great personal risk to expose wrongdoing.

But that’s not what’s happening today.  Nobody is claiming the release of presidential telephone transcripts reveals devious doings and attempted cover-up.  In fact, most of the “leaks” are more like the National Enquirer’s gossip-mongering (“you won’t BELIEVE what Steve Bannon and H.R. McMaster said to each other today!”).  It’s a scattershot rumor mill enabled by spineless weasels who put their vanity as an “unnamed source” to a reporter above their duty to the country.  The ACLU has it all wrong here.  Cracking down on leaks doesn’t threaten whistleblowing — it protects it from abuse.  Protecting whistleblowing means bestowing that status only on courageous individuals who see clear, unaddressed wrongdoing in a failing system and literally blow the public whistle on it.

Speaking of failing systems, that now seems to include our entire crony-infested government bureaucracy.  The public has a right to know a great many things, but their are legitimate reasons for the government to protect certain types of information.  Those who abuse that trust need to go to jail, period (including Her Hillariness and Huma Abedin, among many others).

The corporate press is also a failing system.  The Washington Post’s new motto is that “Democracy dies in darkness.”  Fair enough.  It can also be murdered in broad daylight by irresponsible officials working with reporters who simply want to delegitimize the last election because it didn’t go their way.

Because once the government is seen as completely and hopelessly illegitimate, it’s only a matter of time before the true “Resistance” begins. THAT’S where the road we’re on seems to be headed.