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

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

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

“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...

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

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