January 14, 2019

Russia Investigation

Early last week, court documents revealed that “President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was accused by federal prosecutors of lying about sharing polling data related to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign with a business partner with alleged ties to Russian intelligence.” Reuters

On Friday, the New York Times revealed that after FBI Director James Comey’s firing, the FBI opened an inquiry “to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.” New York Times

On Saturday, Trump was asked by Fox News host Jeanine Pirro if he has now or ever worked for Russia. He responded, “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked. I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written. And if you read the article, you’d see that they found absolutely nothing.” Fox News Channel

See past issues

From the Left

The left thinks these are further indications that the Mueller investigation is of paramount importance.

“Whether or not the FBI found hard evidence to justify their concerns, the notion that there was enough suspicion to launch a counterintelligence operation on a sitting US president is as astonishing as it is unsettling.”

Adam Goldman, one of the reporters who broke the story, commented that “this was a lawfully predicated investigation. And my understanding was that the people involved understood the gravity of it and knew they would have to answer for it someday, when Congress conducted oversight… The people who do this kind of work are not fools and know it will become public, just like the Carter Page FISA application became public.”
The New Yorker

According to a former FBI agent, “the bureau would have had to possess strong evidence that Trump posed a national security threat to meet the threshold for opening such an investigation. But the more important question now is not how or why the case was opened, but whether it was ever closed…

“If the counterintelligence case against the president was eventually closed because it found that Trump did not pose a threat to U.S. national security, Trump should welcome Mueller’s report reaching Congress. This conclusion would stop the speculation about Trump’s relationship with Russia… But if it wasn’t, and the threat to national security is ongoing, then informing Congress of the nature of the threat is paramount.”
Washington Post

According to former FBI General Counsel James Baker, “to the extent that firing Comey was the result of a decision to shut down the investigation… that would frustrate the FBI’s ability to ascertain what the Russians and their confederates had done. In other words, ‘not only would it be an issue about obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security.’”
Lawfare Blog

“Trumpism is a godsend to Putin and a nightmare for governments in his sights—including Trump’s. The U.S. commander-in-chief is out of sync with his own administration, not to mention the government as a whole. Note his stubborn yearning to lift sanctions on Putin’s pet oligarchs… We don’t need news reports to tell us that Trump is giving Putin what he wants.”

Regarding Manafort, “we don’t yet know how [Manafort’s] data was used by Russian agents, if at all. But polling information could have been extremely useful in targeting illicit social media campaigns and other political activities in the most effective way… this is potentially the most concrete evidence to date of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russians.”
Washington Post

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right is disturbed by the idea that unelected bureaucrats appear to have made a unilateral decision to investigate the President.

From the Right

The right is disturbed by the idea that unelected bureaucrats appear to have made a unilateral decision to investigate the President.

Who authorized the FBI to launch acounterintelligence investigation of the president of the United States?... Did someone at the FBI, be it McCabe or someone else, go roguein opening the probe into Trump without clearing it with their superiors first? Or did Rosenstein play a role here and that’s being kept quiet right now while he tries to hang on at the DOJ until Mueller wraps up his investigation?...

“The thought of the Justice Department’s investigative arm opening a file on the president on their own initiative because they found his charm offensive towards Russia too insistent for their tastes is alarming in the extreme.”
Hot Air

“In an orderly world, they might have gone to Vice President Mike Pence and briefed him. Pence, after all, was a member of the U.S. House and governor of Indiana before he was vice president. There is no taint of any scandal involving anything Pence has ever done… they could have briefed the leaders of the Judiciary and the Intelligence committees in the House and Senate

“Leaking this report to The New York Times rather than submitting it to the Congress is just one more example of the willingness of Justice Department officials to violate the rules and undermine the rule of law in favor of the rule of power.”
Fox News

Many are skeptical of the events cited to justify the investigation. “That Trump wanted it on the record that he wasn’t a subject of the Russia investigation isn’t evidence that he was working on behalf of the Russians. Any president who was operating under the cloud of collusion claims would want it known that he wasn’t a subject of the investigation into collusion…

“If Trump were a Russian agent, why would he admit that the firing was about Russia when Rod Rosenstein was offering a different justification — Comey’s handling of the Clinton email matter? I doubt this approach to espionage is part of the Russia spy handbook.”
Power Line Blog

“The New York Times story doesn't suggest to me that Trump was working for the Russians.  It suggests to me that the FBI chose to believe the worst about the man who fired their boss and proceeded accordingly.”

Regarding Manafort, it’s worth noting that “Manafort was working for Ukrainian oligarchs [not Russian government officials]… Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016. Trump wasn’t paying Manafort, which should have been a clear warning sign. Manafort was free to Trump for the same reason Facebook is free to you: You are not the customer; you’re the product…Paul Manafort is no friend [of Trump].”
Washington Examiner

“Trump should be overjoyed. Tariffs are taxes paid by Americans on the things Americans buy. The only way China can be paying any of them is if something else, something extra, then happens — like the yuan dropping. This makes all imports into China more expensive for Chinese citizens. That's China paying for Trump's tariffs when the yuan falls. Without this happening, only Americans pay. With the yuan dropping, China pays as well. This is the claim Trump has been making all along, that China's really paying those trade taxes — now they are… Imposing significant export tariffs on a country should mean the value of that currency falls. This is what is happening. Why is Trump complaining about it?
Tim Worstall, Washington Examiner

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

Outside Hong Kong, the silence Is deafening… Some protesters in Hong Kong today are adopting the British Union Jack flag, the American flag and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as symbols, yet that doesn’t seem to have stirred our collective imaginations… Americans are preoccupied with fighting each other over political correctness, gun violence, Trump and the Democratic candidates for president. To be sure, those issues deserve plenty of attention. But they are soaking up far too much emotional energy, distracting attention from the all-important struggles for liberty around the world…

“It’s 2019, and the land of the American Revolution, a country whose presidents gave stirring speeches about liberty and freedom in Berlin during the Cold War, remains in a complacent slumber. It really is time to Make America Great Again — if only we could remember what that means.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

On the bright side...

Chocolate is better than cough syrup for curing your cough, doctor reveals.

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