May 15, 2019

Who Investigates the Investigators?

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!

“Attorney General William Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign was ‘lawful and appropriate,’ according to a person familiar with the issue. Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct the inquiry.” AP News

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is “close to concluding [his] inquiry into steps the FBI took in its probe of Trump campaign associates and Russia beginning in 2016.” Wall Street Journal

See past issues

From the Left

The left believes that the appointment of Durham is politically motivated, and the investigation into the Trump campaign was justified.

“The Trump officials making [contacts with Russians] included his son, his son-in-law, his campaign chairman, his personal lawyer, his future national security adviser, and his future attorney general, among others. We can argue about how you might define ‘collusion’ and whether what happened constituted a conspiracy. But from the standpoint of counterintelligence investigators looking for a fire, there was smoke billowing from every window in Trump Tower

“By all accounts, the investigators proceeded with unusual care, deeply concerned about what Russia was doing, but just as deeply concerned that their investigation might affect the outcome of the election if its existence became public. Which is why they successfully kept it secret until after the election was over, a fact that is utterly incompatible with the Republicans’ theory that there was a sinister conspiracy within the Justice Department that was bent on destroying Donald Trump.”
Paul Waldman, Washington Post

“Trump supporters point to the fact that the Steele Dossier — a largely unconfirmed report on early Russian efforts to influence Trump which had been funded in part by the Clinton campaign — was cited in a footnote in the formal FISA application. This argument ignores a few key details. The FISA application clearly disclosed that the Steele Dossier had received funding from those ‘likely looking for information to discredit’ the Trump campaign — and the surveillance on Page was renewed multiple times, including by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee… Moreover, Russian spies had previously attempted to recruit Page outright… There’s no indication partisan concerns played any role in the surveillance.”
Casey Michel, ThinkProgress

“The most charitable interpretation of Barr’s behavior in defense of Trump is that he believes strongly in a ‘unitary executive,’ where the president can order any investigation he wants. But in his quest to protect the presidency, Barr is damaging our national security. His complicity in Trump’s efforts to disparage the FBI will make it more difficult for agents to do their jobs and could discourage investigations of those in power.”
Barbara McQuade, Daily Beast

“Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference detailed at least 140 contacts between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russian nationals, WikiLeaks or their associates… Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, said on Tuesday that the F.B.I. confirmed with him that Russian hackers had managed in 2016 to infiltrate two county voter databases in the state… So once the Trump administration is done investigating the investigators,it should turn its attention to ensuring the sanctity and security of the nation’s ballot boxes.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“The main question about the strike isn’t moral or even legal—it’s strategic. Soleimani was a supremely powerful leader of a state apparatus, with his own cult of personality, but he was not a terror kingpin. His death doesn’t decapitate anything. He had the blood of tens of thousands of people—overwhelmingly fellow Muslims—on his hands, but he was only the agent of a government policy that preceded him and will continue without him…The only reason to kill Soleimani is to enter a new war that the United States can win… [Yet] No one seems to have thought past the action itself…

“What would [a] war [with Iran] look like? How will Iran fight it? How will the U.S. respond? What credible allies will we have, after Trump’s trashing of the nuclear deal thoroughly alienated Europe? Who will believe any intelligence about Iran’s actions and intentions from an administration that can’t function without telling lies?…What is our war aim, and how can it be aligned with Trump’s obvious desire to be rid of any entanglement in the region? What will happen if Jerusalem becomes a target and Israel enters the conflict? What will the American people accept by way of sacrifice, when nothing has prepared them for this? There’s no sign that anyone in power, least of all the president, has even asked these questions, let alone knows how to answer them.”
George Packer, The Atlantic

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

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 praises Durham, and hopes he uncovers any misconduct involving the investigation into the Trump campaign.

From the Right

The right praises Durham, and hopes he uncovers any misconduct involving the investigation into the Trump campaign.

“As a U.S. Attorney, Mr. Durham will have the power to convene a grand jury and subpoena people outside the government. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been looking into some of the same questions, but he lacks similar power. Mr. Durham can also pick up any criminal referrals from Mr. Horowitz’s looming report… Appointing someone of [Dunham’s] standing and experience is important to getting to the truth about the FBI counterintelligence probe of Trump campaign officials, the FBI’s apparent misleading of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get a warrant against Trump adviser Carter Page, and other seeming abuses.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Durham isn’t a prosecutor one sends on a fishing expedition. He’s the prosecutor one sends when there’s a likelihood of finding actionable items to prosecute… Republicans in Congress have repeatedly called for an appointment of a special counsel, during and after the Mueller investigation, to look into the FBI’s actions… It’s possible that Barr wants to head off more specific calls for a special counsel before they have a chance to erupt. If so, then Durham’s new assignment is a smart decision.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“Democrats could have a difficult time in attacking Durham. Confirmed as U.S. attorney in February 2018 by a voice vote in the Senate, he had gained praise from Democrats when Trump nominated him. Among these admirers were two of Trump’s biggest critics, Connecticut’s two Democratic senators—Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy. The two men had recommended Durham to serve as U.S. attorney.”
Fred Lucas, The Daily Signal

Dated But Relevant: “Opening an investigation of the opposition political party is not like opening an investigation of a Mafia family or a suspected drug conspiracy. An investigation of a political campaign should not be opened unless there is significant evidence of wrongdoing. Even if there is such evidence, that does not mean anything goes. Using informants to spy on a campaign or its operatives is extremely intrusive and has a high potential for abuse. It should not be done based on a few disturbing connections between campaign surrogates and foreign powers. There should be hard evidence of ongoing, corrupt activities or plotting…

“[Moreover] in an investigation of the incumbent administration’s political opposition, it should be too obvious to need mentioning that, if the campaign of the incumbent administration’s party has had a role in generating or supplying information to the FBI, that fact must be disclosed to the court with complete transparency… There needs to be a thorough inquiry. We need answers. The attorney general is right to press for them.”
Andrew McCarthy, Fox News

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“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

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

Daycare bound: Dog runs away from home to be with friends.
NBC New York

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