January 14, 2019

Russia Investigation

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

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.”
ThinkProgress

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.”
Politico

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

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

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.”
Twitter

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

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

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

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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

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