Federal Judge: To Hell with Trump! Long Live Barack Obama’s DACA Program!

A third federal judge has ruled that President Trump is not allowed to terminate Barack Obama’s illegal DACA program. This is not the first time a judge has done this, so I’ll quote myself from one of the previous times:

This decision is outrageous. Immigration is Congress’s business. Obama overstepped his authority in issuing a blanket amnesty to a group of people under the guise of prosecutorial discretion. Trump had every right to undo that decision and return the issue to Congress, where it belongs.

. . . .

I hope that this order is swiftly appealed and reversed. It’s a naked power grab by the courts and has no basis in law.

But this decision is worse than the previous ones. Until yesterday, judges had simply ordered that Homeland Security process renewal applications from who had already applied. But this ruling is different:

But the ruling by Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush, is far more expansive: If the government does not come up with a better explanation within 90 days, he will rescind the government memo that terminated the program and require Homeland Security to enroll new applicants, as well. Thousands could be eligible to apply.

The judge has put his absurd decision on hold for that 90-day period.

Here’s the centerpiece of the “reasoning” offered by the court:

The Court further concludes that, under the APA, DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful. Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program.

This is nonsense. Obama’s proffered justification for undermining Congressional legislation in the area of immigration was that he was making a resource allocation decision in enforcement, which is an executive function. Decisions like this mean that one president’s decision about how to allocate resources binds the hands of all future presidents, who are not allowed to make different decisions unless they can explain to a judge’s satisfaction why the previous decisions were illegal.

Even if you accept the resource allocation justification (and I don’t), it makes no sense to say that all future presidents are bound by a previous president’s resource allocation. Obama’s not the President anymore. Donald Trump is, and he’s the one who gets to decide how to allocate the resources available in his administration.

I can’t wait for the Supreme Court to overrule this and decisions like it.

P.S. Today is the day that the Supreme Court hears arguments on Trump’s travel ban. I’ll do my best to offer analysis later today or tomorrow.

P.P.S. This has nothing to do with the subject matter of this post, but if you haven’t read Kira Davis’s post on the tragic and infuriating Alfie Evans case out of the U.K., read it now. I was going to write a post about that myself, but realized that I’d never be able to write anything as effective as her piece. So instead of writing my own piece, I’m promoting hers, and recommending that everyone read it. It’s that good.

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GOP Running Against Hillary in 2018

As Trump fans and NeverTrumpers head into the midterms, what can bring them together? The GOP is banking on the power of the Other: Hillary Clinton. Fox News:

Hillary Clinton won’t go away.

So conservatives are giving her a seat at the table.

Clinton is starring in the Republican Party’s 2018 midterm strategy. With no Democrat to attack in the White House for the first time in nearly a decade, Republicans are betting big that the ghost of Clinton will serve them well in 2018.

Even if she avoids the spotlight moving forward, the Republican Party plans to evoke her early and often in key congressional races, particularly in regions Trump won, which feature most of the midterm season’s competitive races.

. . . .

“We’re going to make them own her,” Republican National Committee spokesman Rick Gorka said.

With control of Congress up for grabs this fall, the GOP’s most powerful players are preparing to spend big on plans to feature Clinton as a central villain in attack ads against vulnerable Democrats nationwide.

The power of the Other is one reliable way to make enemies work together. Think about it: what kind of event would it take to get Russia, China, and the U.S. to cooperate? One possibility comes to mind: an invasion of our planet by green, scaly, multi-tentacled Martians with oozing pustules and sixteen roach-like legs.

And if you wanted to elect one of those pus-filled Martian vermin to nationwide office? Simple: present it as a binary choice between the repulsive purulent alien and Hillary Clinton.

I don’t blame the GOP. If you have someone on the other side so bad she can make normal people vote for Donald Trump, why not exploit that forever? Especially when, as the Fox News article notes, she won’t go away. New York Times:

In her first public appearance since James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, began his book tour, Hillary Clinton made only a glancing reference to him in a speech on Sunday night and instead focused most of her attacks on President Trump, once again likening him to authoritarians.

Mrs. Clinton gave the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture at PEN America’s World Voices Festival in New York City. She spoke at length about threats to journalists around the world before turning her attention to domestic matters. She criticized Mr. Trump, not so subtly comparing him to authoritarian leaders who had suppressed journalism in their countries.

“Today, we have a president who seems to reject the role of a free press in our democracy,” she said. “Although obsessed with his own press coverage, he evaluates it based not on whether it provides knowledge or understanding, but solely on whether the daily coverage helps him and hurts his opponents.”

Even correct things sound stupid and wrong coming out of her mouth. If she’s going to keep putting herself in the spotlight, why wouldn’t the GOP take advantage of that, and make her the villain of their story?

It’s better than, say, running on the GOP record of policy successes. (You can picture me rolling my eyes as I type that.)

(They told me if I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, the next President would explode the budget and keep ObamaCare. And they were right!)

Will Trump voters realize that Hillary won’t be in office regardless of whether they vote for some milquetoast GOP backbencher? Sure, some will. But the propaganda will work on others. That’s why they’re using it.

We get the government we deserve. And man, are we undeserving.

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The Conspiracy Theories About Comey’s Dossier Briefing Are Absurd

The latest conspiracy theories about Trump and the pee tape really are ridiculous. Jonathan Chait has an excellent piece in New York Magazine debunking those conspiracy theories with surgical precision. If you are the sort that cannot distinguish facts and logic from the person offering them, stop reading now. You’ve already heard all you need to know. If facts and logic matter to you, read on.

Hemingway’s conspiracy theory is that Comey’s informing Trump about the dossier was an operation intended to give CNN a news hook to report on it. Chait dismantles this nonsense in a few sentences, pointing out that plenty of news hooks already existed:

If you read the CNN report on the dossier that Hemingway describes, though, literally the first sentence describes the fact that President Obama was briefed on the dossier before Trump was told about it: “Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.” And then, if you go a few paragraphs down in the CNN story, you learn that the dossier’s allegations were also “mentioned in classified briefings for congressional leaders last year.”

So CNN knew Congress had been briefed on the dossier in 2017. And it also knew Obama had been briefed on the dossier. Hemingway’s theory is that CNN would not have reported either of these facts without the additional revelation that Trump had also been briefed on the dossier.

I have an extremely hard time believing CNN would refuse to run a story revealing for the first time that there was a dossier of explosive allegations against the president-elect that had been shared with both Congress and the president of the United States, because they needed the additional information that the president-elect had also been briefed in order to run it.

York’s conspiracy theory starts with Hemingway’s silly premise and makes it even sillier. He claims that when Trump demanded loyalty from Comey, he was really saying, in essence: “Please don’t blackmail me.” Chait is able to dismantle this nonsense in a couple of paragraphs:

This analysis obviously omits a massive amount of context: Trump asking Comey specifically to let off Michael Flynn (who, at the time, was the only official known to be under investigation for his Russian ties); Trump’s months and months of attempting to control multiple aspects of the Department of Justice, including demands that it investigate his opponents; and indeed Trump’s long-standing belief that the Department of Justice has always been and always should be a weapon to protect the president’s interests. To believe Trump’s demand for “loyalty” was anything other than an insistence that the FBI protect his interests requires ignoring everything Trump’s said and done about this subject for his entire career.

What’s more, if it’s true, as York says, that Trump’s demand for loyalty was merely merely an innocuous request that Comey not leak anything hostile to him, why didn’t Trump say this himself? Indeed, why has he spent a year denying he ever said this at all? As soon as Comey reported having been asked for loyalty in 2017, the White House insisted no such words were ever uttered. As recently as this week, Trump has been claiming, “I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty.” York has produced an alibi on Trump’s behalf that Trump never thought to use himself over all these months.

Chait concludes by asking: what if Comey had hidden the existence of the pee tape from Trump, and he had been blindsided by it later. Would these people have praised Comey for that?

Of course not. He’s damned either way, according to the analysis of mindless partisans.

Hemingway’s premise is ridiculous. York’s is even worse. Chait destroys them both. Before the era of Trump, the previous three sentences, in that order, would not be something I would ever expect to write. But much has changed in the Bizarro world in which we live.

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Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 85

It is the fourth Sunday of Easter. The title of today’s cantata is “Ich bin ein guter Hirt” (I am a Good Shepherd).

Today’s Gospel reading is John 10:11-18:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

The text of today’s cantata is available here and complements the Gospel reading well:

I am a Good Shepherd; a good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep.

Jesus is a good shepherd;
for He has already given His life
for His sheep,
so that no one will steal them from Him.
Jesus is a good shepherd.

Happy listening!

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James Comey and the Iron Law of Bureaucracy

…in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people. First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. … Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. … The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

— Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy

James Comey’s new book doesn’t show him to be a political partisan. It shows him to be a shining example of Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy: a man who cared more about the reputation of the institution he headed than he cared about the principles of justice for which it stands.

Why read this review? After all, there have been many reviews of, and articles about, James Comey’s new book. You may be tired of the topic. Based on what I’ve read, I am too. Because all we hear is he said about Donald Trump, because Donald Trump means eyeballs and clicks. We hear nonsensical conspiracy theories from those out to smear him at all costs (“HE WAS BLACKMAILING DONALD TRUMP!!!1!”), or uncritical praise from those looking to hold him up as a hero of the “Resistance.” It’s partisan noise.

I have something different to say because I don’t fall into one of these two categories. I’m just a normal person with a demanding day job, who didn’t get an advance copy and took three days to read it. So if you’re interested in a non-partisan’s take, read on.

I’m someone who agrees with Comey that Donald Trump is morally unfit for office. I tend to like Comey and (for the most part) find the universal disdain for him and his book befuddling. But this post constitutes a harsh criticism of Comey, because it’s the thing that has most bothered me about him — and it’s the part of the book that I found most jarring. It’s his inexplicable decision to let Hillary Clinton off the hook. And to my way of thinking, Comey just keeps digging that hole deeper in his book. To me, nothing demonstrates his elevation of the FBI’s reputation over equal justice under the law like his mishandling of the Hillary investigation.

While I can’t take the time and space to revisit the entirety of the Hillary email investigation, I think it’s worth spending some time on the central issue — in particular because a lot of inaccurate things have been written about it.

Comey in his book makes it clear that the central issue, for him, was Hillary’s “intent” in setting up a private system for communication concerning job-related information, including classified information:

Our investigation required us to answer two questions. The first question was whether classified documents were moved outside of classified systems or whether classified topics were discussed outside of a classified system. If so, the second question was what the subject of the investigation was thinking when she mishandled that classified information.

. . . .

In Secretary Clinton’s case, the answer to the first question—was classified information mishandled?—was obviously “yes.” In all, there were thirty-six email chains that discussed topics that were classified as “Secret” at the time. Eight times in those thousands of email exchanges across four years, Clinton and her team talked about topics designated as “Top Secret,” sometimes cryptically, sometimes obviously. They didn’t send each other classified documents, but that didn’t matter. Even though the people involved in the emails all had appropriate clearances and a need to know, anyone who had ever been granted a security clearance should have known that talking about top-secret information on an unclassified system was a breach of rules governing classified materials. Although just a small slice of Clinton’s emails, those exchanges on top-secret topics were, by all appearances, improper. Put another way, there were thirty-six email chains about topics that could cause “serious” damage to national security and eight that could be expected to cause “exceptionally grave” damage to the security of the United States if released. The heart of the case, then, was the second question: What was she thinking when she did this? Was it sloppy or was there criminal intent? Could we prove that she knew she was doing something she shouldn’t be doing?

Here’s the thing: that’s not the way the statute reads. The relevant statute is 18 U.S.C. § 793(f):

(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Comey admits that the information was removed from its proper place of custody. So her state of mind was indeed the only issue. But Comey misdescribes the required state of mind under the law. The issue is not whether she was “sloppy” (meaning no filing) or whether she had “criminal intent” (meaning a filing). The issue is whether she acted “through gross negligence…or having knowledge” (meaning a filing) or not (meaning no filing).

And, damningly, we know that the FBI itself initially considered her actions to be grossly negligent, but FBI agent Peter Strzok changed the wording to “extremely careless” in an apparent attempt to obscure the similarity between their view of her actions and the statutory language. And Comey went along with it:

Her actions in regard to her emails seemed really sloppy to us, more than ordinary carelessness. At one point the draft used the term “grossly negligent,” and also explained that in this case those words should not be interpreted the way a hundred-year-old criminal statute used the term. One part of that 1917 law made it a felony if a person “through gross negligence permits [classified material] to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed.”

The history of that provision strongly indicated that Congress in 1917 meant the statute to apply only to conduct that was very close to willful—that is, driven by bad intent—and members of Congress who voted for it back then were very concerned that they not make merely careless behavior a felony. I was told that the Department of Justice had only charged one person under this statute since 1917—a corrupt FBI agent whose conduct was far worse than gross negligence—and no one had ever been convicted under it. This context strongly reinforced my sense that the statute simply did not apply in the Clinton email case and made use of the term “grossly negligent” inappropriate and potentially confusing, given the old statute. So I directed our team to consider other terms that more accurately captured her behavior. After looking at multiple drafts, I settled on “extremely careless” as the best way to describe the conduct.

If Comey had been trying to damage the reputation of the FBI, I can think of few ways better than to describe a presidential candidate’s actions in a manner that directly tracks with the language of a criminal statute, and then authorizing a change in that language for the express purpose of making it read differently from the language of the statute.

Comey makes matters worse by claiming that one of the few regrets he has about the handling of the investigation is using the phrase “extremely careless.” Why? Because it sounds so much like “grossly negligent” — meaning it made Hillary sound guilty.

Hindsight is always helpful, and if I had to do it over again, I would do some things differently. . . . More important, I would have tried to find a better way to describe Secretary Clinton’s conduct than “extremely careless.” Republicans jumped on the old statute making it a felony to handle classified information in a “grossly negligent” way — a statute that Justice would never use in this case. But my use of “extremely careless” naturally sounded to many ears like the statutory language -– ‘grossly negligent’ –- even though thoughtful lawyers could see why it wasn’t the same.

What other language could he have used that would have both accurately described Clinton’s conduct — but would not have made her conduct sound like it fit within the statute? Comey offers no alternative, and the plain truth is, there is none. Because, no matter how you word it, Clinton’s behavior was grossly negligent. Use any phrase you like. It doesn’t change the facts.

And some “thoughtful” lawyers think Comey rewrote the statute. Andrew C. McCarthy made the case very effectively in a piece titled FBI Rewrites Federal Law to Let Hillary Off the Hook. Quote:

In essence, in order to give Mrs. Clinton a pass, the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require. The added intent element, moreover, makes no sense: The point of having a statute that criminalizes gross negligence is to underscore that government officials have a special obligation to safeguard national defense secrets; when they fail to carry out that obligation due to gross negligence, they are guilty of serious wrongdoing. The lack of intent to harm our country is irrelevant. People never intend the bad things that happen due to gross negligence.

By the way, Comey is just wrong that only one person had been charged with gross negligence in handling classified information since 1917. Andrew C. McCarthy has shown that the gross negligence standard has been used in military prosecutions. And in Fortune Magazine, Roger Parloff discusses two such cases of people being charged in the past on a gross negligence theory:

United States v. Rickie L. Roller: In 1989, a Marine Corps sergeant was working in a secured area where he habitually, and lawfully, placed classified material in his desk. After some nasty run-ins with his superior, he was transferred. On his last day, packing his office, he threw a bunch of personal effects from his desk into a gym bag including, as it happens, several classified documents, some of which were Top Secret. A few weeks later, he discovered the classified materials. Fearing reprimand, he hid them in his garage. He planned, he later testified, to destroy them when he got to his next duty station. When he did move to the new location, however, the professional movers helping him came across the classified documents. They notified the authorities. After a search, the remaining documents were found. Roller was sentenced to five years, which was commuted to 10 months confinement.

United States v. Arthur E. Gonzalez: In February 1979, an Air Force staff sergeant took a trip to visit an oil worker friend in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. When he arrived, he discovered that he’d inadvertently intermingled two Top Secret messages with some personal mail he’d taken. He put the documents in a desk drawer in his friend’s room, intending to pick them up when he returned to his squadron. When he departed on February 25, however, he forgot the documents, leaving them in the desk. Gonzalez’s friend shared the room with another oil worker, with each occupying it on alternate weeks. In early March, the other oil worker discovered the documents, gave it to his oil company supervisor, who gave it to the Air Force authorities. Gonzalez was sentenced to five months confinement, which was commuted to 43 days.

Parloff claims: “Neither case closely resembles Clinton’s situation. In each instance, the perpetrator at some point realized that classified materials had been removed from a secure location and taken to an insecure one, and then failed to act promptly to report or fix the problem. The FBI researchers seemed to believe that Clinton and her colleagues never came to such a realization, even if they should have.” This is laughable on several levels. How could Clinton possibly think that the material on a private server is a “secure” location? Not even Comey tries to make this argument. As we have seen, Comey acknowledges that classified information was mishandled, and that “anyone who had ever been granted a security clearance should have known that talking about top-secret information on an unclassified system was a breach of rules governing classified materials.”

Even if intent were the standard, there was evidence to support it. In previous accounts, Comey always tried to distinguish other cases by pointing to attempts by those defendants to cover up what they had done, such as lying to investigators or taking other actions showing a guilty conscience. But there was evidence that Hillary knew she wasn’t supposed to do what she was doing, and there was evidence that she wasn’t truthful — all evidence Comey doesn’t discuss in his book.

For example, the Washington Post has reported: “A note sent to all State Department employees on Clinton’s behalf warned them against the risks of using personal email addresses for official business.” Clinton claimed not to remember this, but when you’re warning people not to engage in a particular pattern of behavior while engaged in that pattern of behavior yourself, it tends to support a notion that you know that what you are doing is wrong.

And Clinton said some laughable things during her FBI interview. I’ll cite one howler as an example: As NBC News reported on September 3, 2016:

Clinton also told FBI investigators that she wasn’t sure what the “c” meant next to paragraphs in one email that was used to designate confidential information.

This is laughable. But don’t take my word for it. Here is an excerpt from a contemporaneous podcast called Rational Security. The people on the podcast are Brookings Institute types. They’re not really big Hillary Clinton fans, but they are absolutely disdainful of Donald Trump, one and all. So when you hear this opinion, you know you’re not hearing from Trump partisans. Start listening beginning at 28:51, where Shane Harris, a Washington Post reporter, discusses Hillary’s answer that the “c” was possibly just one in a series:

SHANE HARRIS: For instance, there was a moment in the 302 that revealed that she was asked, she was shown an email that had the C, the letter C, next to it, indicating a classified, you know, passage, and they said “Well what did,” essentially “What did you think that this meant?”

SUSAN HENNESSEY: Indicating a confidential passage —

SHANE HARRIS: Confidential, right, confidential goes under the heading of classified, yes, confidential in that case, and she said, “Well, I don’t know. It could have been like C as in a sequence. A, B, C.” That is absolutely ridiculous, and at a press conference she would have been — I mean there would have been cackles in the audience when she said that. You could have followed up on it. You could say: “How in the world could you think that? How could you stand here and think we would believe that you, as the Secretary of State, thought that stood for like the letter C as in Part 3?”

But if you read Comey’s book, it’s clear that he didn’t make these decisions for partisan reasons, as much as partisans would like to claim that. He had no love for Hillary Clinton. He had a love for the FBI as an institution, and he spends pages and pages praising the institution and talking about how he was trying to protect it. It’s clear that the paramount thing in his mind was the organization. And it got to the point where protecting the organization outweighed the simple task of justice: deciding whether one person’s conduct had violated a statute.

Here’s what I said about all this in July 2016:

One rule for the little guy, another for the Important People.

I’m still confused about how deliberately setting up a private system for communication, including routinely sending and receiving classified information up to and including top secret information, is not “intent” to move that information from its proper place of custody. I’m also baffled as to when gross negligence was written out of the statute, or how “extremely careless” is different from being grossly negligent.

Ultimately, Comey’s inaction is the criminal referral analogue to John Roberts’s decision upholding ObamaCare. Someone with a reputation as a good guy had a failure of nerve when it mattered most, and elevated their judgment about the practical consequences to their institution over the rule of law. Weak people act differently when their actions are the subject of intense public scrutiny. They cave, and find ways to rationalize actions that minimize criticism rather than vindicate principles.

I think a central question in any job interview should be: when have you ever taken a large risk or sacrificed something for a principle?

But then, people like that don’t tend to rise to the top.

I now think that assessment is little unfair when used to describe Comey’s entire career. I do think there are times he stuck his neck out for principle. He can be a bit santimonious about that. But he still did it — something I can’t imagine, say, Donald Trump doing.

But as to the Hillary email investigation, I still feel the same way as I did in July 2016. At the risk of patting myself on the back, I think I hit the nail on the head in particular with the phrase about how Roberts and Comey both “elevated their judgment about the practical consequences to their institution over the rule of law.”

And what is most maddening about Comey’s book is the way that he portrays himself as the guy who rises about politics — which he arguably did — while being completely blind to the way that he failed to rise above an excessive concern for the reputation of his institution. Comey, like Roberts before him, worried so much about what people would say about the institution he headed that he failed to set aside all outside concerns and judge the case on its own merits.

But these men are hardly unique in doing so. As much as they rationalize their actions with easily rebutted attempts at reasoning, they are ultimately putting the organization first, and the principles of the organization second.

And that’s so common that there’s a Law to describe it. An Iron Law.

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Funded by Republicans, Planned Parenthood Joins Effort to Spend $30 Million on Midterms

Heckuva job, Republicans! Planned Parenthood is spending some of that sweet sweet omnibus money given to them by Republicans…to defeat Republicans. Roll Call:

A coalition of liberal organizations that includes the political arm of Planned Parenthood rolled out a $30 million program Monday to mobilize “infrequent voters” to cast ballots for progressive candidates in the midterm elections.

Infrequent voters include people of color, women and young people, the coalition says in a joint news release.

The initiative will target voters in Michigan, Florida, and Nevada.

The omnibus bill, written by lobbyists under the supervision of staffers employed by Republican Paul Ryan and Republican Mitch McConnell, and signed by Republican President Donald J. Trump, funded Planned Parenthood to the tune of over $500 million dollars:

The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill was seen as the prime opportunity to strike at Planned Parenthood, which received $543.7 million from taxpayers last year, about 40 percent of its $1.46 billion revenue stream. Republicans, however, did not include the defunding measure in the final bill, as negotiations over a proposed border wall and federal funding for a New York City tunnel took center stage.

So Republicans pass a bill that gives this abortion mill $500 million, and the abortionists take a chunk of that money and use it to defeat Republicans in the midterms. Then they use another chunk to kill babies.

Oh, sorry. That money is strictly prohibited from being used for such purposes! Why, the political arm of Planned Parenthood is totally separate!!!1!


What they actually do is use the $500 million to put towards activities x, y, and z — and then take $500 million that they would otherwise spend on x, y, and z, and spend that money on things like defeating Republicans and killing babies. Which is totally different.

I did make one mistake, though. I said in the headline that Republicans had funded all of this. That’s not entirely accurate. Republicans appropriated the money. But they didn’t fund pro-Democrat election efforts and baby-killing.

It’s actually funded by YOU: the taxpayer.

Aren’t you happy Republicans are running the government?

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James Comey: I No Longer Consider Myself a Republican

Welcome to the club, buddy. What took you so long?

James Comey declared on Wednesday that he is no longer a Republican, stating in an interview with “the Republican party has left me.”

In an interview on ABC News podcast Start Here, the former FBI director, who used to consider himself a Republican, was asked whether he still saw himself as a member of the Grand Old Party.

“No,” Comey replied. “The Republican party has left me, and many others.”

. . . .

“I see the Republican Party, as near as I can tell, reflects now entirely Donald Trump’s values,” Comey continued. “It doesn’t reflect values at all. It’s transactional, it’s ego-driven, it’s in service to his ego. And it’s, I think, consoling itself that we’re going to achieve important policy goals — a tax cut or something.”

He’s not wrong. Donald Trump has laughably changed positions on everything under the sun, including matters that are serious (like the propriety of bombing Syria without Congressional authorization) and others that are more trivial (like whether the President of the United States should spend a lot of time playing golf).

And Republicans are just fine with hypocrisy this rank.

It’s true that Donald Trump does have one deniable positive characteristic that will never change — albeit a characteristic that he shares with every person on the planet save one. He is not Hillary Clinton. And for many people, that’s good enough to be OK with him being in office, and I understand that.

That’s a little different from saying that we have to back him up every time he lies or says something crazy. You don’t have to go on nationwide TV and embarrass yourelf by pretending you never heard the man lie, as Jim Jordan did with Anderson Cooper.

You don’t have to pretend that it’s a media conspiracy to label Trump as a kook and unfit for office if you were saying the same thing yourself a year ago:

This stuff is just embarrassing. But it’s the Republican party now.

I have purchased Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty with the audiobook add-on read by Comey. It’s interesting to see how his actual words in context contrast with the way he is portrayed. Comey is commonly portrayed as sanctimonious, apparently because he believes in principles in the era of Trump, where principles are not cool. But he doesn’t sound particularly sanctimonious to me in his book, at least so far. In his introduction, Comey says:

All people have flaws and I have many. Some of mine, as you’ll discover in this book, are that I can be stubborn, prideful, overconfident and driven by ego. I’ve struggled with those my whole life. . . .I know I can be wrong, even when I am certain I am right.

When is the last time you heard self-reflection and self-criticism like that from Donald Trump?

Comey is also pilloried for having made comments about Trump’s personal appearance. He defends himself by saying he includes details to bring the reader into the picture and make the reader feel like he or she is there. Again, this makes sense. Look at his description of FBI veteran Greg Brower: “Greg was a fifty-three-year-old Nevadan with salt-and-pepper hair.” OMIGOD WHY DID HE HAVE TO SAY THE GUY HAD SALT IN HIS HAIR? IS HE CALLING THE GUY OLD?!?!?! No, he’s just describing someone. Calm down.

As I have said many times, I think Comey mishandled the Hillary investigation. I’ll be very curious to see how he justifies some of his decisions. But he just doesn’t seem like a bad guy to me. If anyone is prideful and has a big ego, it’s Donald Trump. And the Republican party seems fine with him.

If you’re fine with Trump’s ego, I don’t really want to hear your whining about Comey’s. All you’re doing is confirming Comey’s description of Republicans as lemmings following Trump off the cliff. Comey and I have gotten out of the marching line. Join us. We have pie.

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CNN’s Brian Stelter Has a Lot of Nerve Getting Snotty About Sean Hannity’s Conflict of Interest

Brian Stelter of CNN is getting huffy about yesterday’s revelation that Sean Hannity may have used President Trump’s personal lawyer for legal advice without telling viewers. And Brian Stelter of CNN wants you to know that he is deeply disturbed by this unethical lack of disclosure:

While his off-air relationships might be just a logical extension of Hannity’s on-air cheerleading for Trump, it still came as a surprise, immediately raising questions about both Hannity and Fox.

By any standards of any normal newsroom, the Cohen-Hannity relationship is a glaring conflict of interest.

Fox is not a normal newsroom. And Hannity’s viewers are not typical news viewers — people who watch almost any other show would likely feel lied to when they learned something like this had not been disclosed to them, but Hannity’s want him to have this kind of relationship with Trumpworld.

This comes from Brian Stelter.


You see the problem? If not, let me sum it up in two words:

Corey Lewandowski.

In June 2016, after Lewandowski left the Trump campaign, he was hired by CNN to be a political commentator. Here’s what one Brian Stelter from CNN said at the time:

There are also swirling questions about whether Lewandowski is still bound to Trump somehow.

Like other Trump employees, he signed a non-disclosure agreement that ensures he will not share confidential information.

The agreement likely included a “non-disparagement clause,” impeding his ability to criticize Trump publicly.

On Thursday night, in his first appearance as a CNN commentator, anchor Erin Burnett asked about the existence of such a clause, and Lewandowski declined to answer directly.

Meaning, of course, that he had one. Does this mean that Brian Stelter opposed the hire? Judge for yourself by reading the last line of his piece:

Adding Lewandowski is another way to ensure ideological diversity on the air. His perspective might be uniquely valuable given that he was Trump’s right hand man up until this week.

LOL. Cue the eternal cry of the hypocritical leftist: But that’s different!

But it got worse. In September, ABC News reported that Lewandowski was still receiving payments from the Trump campaign, even as he gave commentary about Trump on CNN:

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign paid former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s company $20,000 in consulting fees in August, campaign filings show.

Lewandowski was fired as Trump’s campaign manager on June 20 . . . Days after the firing, CNN hired Lewandowski as an on-air political commentator, a position he holds currently.

Trump’s campaign finance filing shows a $20,000 payment made to Lewandowski’s company, Green Monster Consulting, LLC, on August 11 for the purpose of “strategy consulting.”

Did CNN immediately fire Lewandowski? No, CNN did not. Indeed, Lewandowski stayed on until days before the election, ultimately resigning in November. As one Brian Stelter from CNN reported:

Lewandowski brought unique first-hand experience running a historic presidential campaign. But some viewers — and even some CNN staffers — felt Lewandowski never should have been hired at all.

Lewandowski was bound by a non-disclosure agreement that impeded his ability to criticize Trump publicly. He also received severance payments from the campaign.

CNN President Jeff Zucker stood by the decision to hire Lewandowski, pointing out that it was critical to have ideological diversity on the airwaves.

Which sounds a lot like Stelter’s own quote (already noted above), when Lewandowski was hired: “Adding Lewandowski is another way to ensure ideological diversity on the air.”

You know what you did not see from Stelter? A passage like this one, in which I take Stelter’s commentary about Hannity and rewrite it for the Lewandowski situation:

While his off-air relationship with Cohen might be just a logical extension of Lewandowski’s on-air cheerleading for Trump, it still came as a surprise, immediately raising questions about both Lewandowski and CNN.

By any standards of any normal newsroom, the Trump campaign’s payments to (and non-disparagement clause with) Lewandowski relationship constitute a glaring conflict of interest.

CNN is not a normal newsroom. And Lewandowski’s fans are not typical news viewers — people who watch almost any other show would likely feel lied to when they learned something like this had not been disclosed to them, but Lewandowski’s fans want him to have this kind of relationship with Trumpworld.

You did not see anything like that in any of Brian Stelter’s pieces. You did not see him calling Lewandowski’s arrangement a “glaring conflict of interest.” You did not see him claiming that CNN is not a normal newsroom. Instead, you saw him praising the Lewandowski hire.

What do you know? He has a different standard for Fox News than he has for his own employer!

Which is to be expected. Just don’t expect us to take your moral preening seriously, Brian Stelter. You guys are hardly the angels you’re trying to appear to be. And we all know it.

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Lanny Davis’s Bogus Attack on James Comey

I’ll put my cards on the table: I don’t hate James Comey the way the rest of the world — right and left — appears to. I thought he came across in George Snuffleupagus’s* interview as reasonable, self-reflective, and honest.

In the last 24-48 hours, Comey has been attacked by people on both sides of the aisle. I have even seen conservatives holding up Loretta Lynch (!) as an example of integrity, and seemingly taking sides with her over Comey regarding the nature of their personal conversations and their respective handling of the Hillary Clinton matter. Why anyone would side with Lynch over Comey is a mystery to me, other than that Comey is the designated Trump punching bag of the moment.

There’s one attack that I read that intrigued me — and having investigated it, I have found it to be bogus. I figured I’d share those findings with you.

The attack comes from Lanny Davis, in a piece titled Admit it, James Comey: You’ve been lying all along. Davis complains (as most Clintonites do) that Comey messed up by sending Congress a letter just 11 days before the 2016 election, informing Congress that the Hillary Clinton email investigation had been reopened because of emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Davis says that Comey’s stated reason for sending this letter is false:

Comey has repeatedly claimed that he was “obligated” to write his speculative letter because of a promise he had made to Congress to do so if “anything new” came up after his July 5, 2016, press conference announcing a new prosecutable case could be brought against Clinton.

However, I established beyond any doubt in my book published in February 2018, “The Unmaking of the Presidency 2016,” that Comey’s claim was — and remains — false.

In fact, Comey only promised Congress in September 2016 that if anything new came up on the emails issue that might cause the FBI to reconsider its non-prosecution decision, he would “take a look” — not that he would make a public disclosure to Congress before doing so.

Davis actually goes so far as to claim that it is a “lie” for Comey to claim that he had promised to inform Congress:

When I wrote my book, I avoided using the word “lie” about Comey falsely using the word “obligation” to Congress, given my extreme reluctance to ever use the “lie” word unless I am certain there is a knowing, willful, intentional misstatement of the truth.

Well, James Comey has had plenty of time to go back to check his testimony before Congress to see what he actually said as he begins his book tour and, among other things, tries to justify his October 28 letter.

Yet, in the already released excerpts of the TV interview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday night, Comey intends to repeat the same knowing falsehood that he was “obligated” to send his letter to Congress because he promised to do so.

There is some sleight of hand here. Davis makes it sound like the issue is whether Comey really promised to inform Congress, or whether the promise was merely to “look at” any new evidence that might come up. And if you look at the September 2016 testimony that Davis cites, the answer to that question is, as Davis claims, that Comey merely promised to “look at” the information:

Mr. SMITH: My first question is this: Would you reopen the Clinton investigation if you discovered new information that was both relevant and substantial?

Mr. COMEY: It is hard for me to answer in the abstract. We would certainly look at any new and substantial information.

So Comey is lying, right?

No. Here’s where the sleight of hand comes in. Because Davis is not telling the truth about what Comey’s stated justification was. I can find no evidence that Davis’s claim — that Comey justified having sent the letter to Congress because of a “promise” he had made to Congress to inform them — is true.

Instead, the justification Comey offered was that he had a choice: between revealing the reopening of the investigation, and concealing it. And he worried that concealing it would damage the FBI as an institution. This is what he has consistently said, in multiple places.

Let’s start with the interview with Snuffleupagus, parts of which were broadcast last night. I’m going to include a very, very long passage, so that nobody can accuse me of leaving anything out. Here is the passage from the transcript of the full unedited interview with Stephanopoulos in which Comey addresses the same issue. Comey explains the decision as a dilemma between speaking (telling Congress about the reopening of the investigation) and concealing (saying nothing). See if you can find the part where Comey says he sent the letter because he had “promised” to update Congress. Hint: it’s not there:

And then the question for me now is, “So what do we do now?” Remember the– the standard is, the norm is, “If you can avoid it, you take no action that might have an impact on an election.” And I’m sitting there, on the morning of October 27th, and I can’t see a door that’s labeled, “No action here.” I can only see two doors, and they’re both actions. One says, “Speak,” the other says, “Conceal”–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, no. You– you c– you could you f– try to find out first whether or not they were indeed relevant. Whether they– there was evidence there of a crime.

JAMES COMEY: Well, maybe. And maybe another director might have done that. My view is that would be a potentially deeply irresponsible and dangerous thing to do, to gamble– remember, the team is telling you, “We cannot evaluate this material before the election.”

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But we don’t know what’s in it?

JAMES COMEY: Well, we know there are hundreds of thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails there, including Blackberry emails. And so there is reason to believe that this is evidence in our case, and may change the result. And so maybe what you do is gamble and say, “I’ll be quiet about it,” but that comes back to my doors.

That’s an affirmative act of concealment, right? Because I’ve told Congress and the American people– the whole point of July 5th was transparency. “Look, American people, what we’ve done. We did it carefully, we did it well. There’s no there there.

You can take that to the bank. You can rely on the FBI. We’re done. Everybody can get on with their lives.” It’s October 27th, that’s not true anymore, in potentially a huge way. So you could speak about it, or you could not speak about it. But the not speaking about it is an action.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Senior Justice officials weren’t convinced that you actually had an obligation to tell Congress that at that time. What was their argument, what was your response?

JAMES COMEY: Their argument was that it was not consistent with our policy, and that we don’t normally comment on investigations, all of which I agree with. And that they would advise against it. Actually never spoke to me about it personally. I had my chief of staff call over to the leadership’s chief of s– staffs of th– the attorney general and the deputy and say, “The director thinks that is between speaking and concealing.

Speaking is really bad; concealing is catastrophic. If you conceal the fact that you have restarted the Hillary Clinton email investigation, not in some silly way but in a very, very important way that may lead to a different conclusion, what will happen to the institutions of justice when that comes out?

Especially, given the world we’re operating in, when Hillary Clinton’s elected president? She’ll be an illegitimate president, but these organizations will never recover from that. You hid from the American people something you knew gave the lie to what you told them in Congress repeatedly. And so the director thinks that we have to speak. And he would be happy to talk to you about it. Let him know.”

There is a lot more, as Comey and Snuffleupagus discuss the issue for a long, long, long time. If you want to keep reading, I have put the rest of this part of the interview on a page here. There is nothing in it about a “promise” to update Congress, as Davis claims. That was not the issue. The issue, in Comey’s mind, was to speak or to conceal.

This is consistent with other times when Comey has discussed the issue. Take his testimony from May 2017:

I faced a choice. And I’ve lived my entire career by the tradition that if you can possibly avoid it, you avoid any action in the run-up to an election that might have an impact. Whether it’s a dogcatcher election or president of the United States, but I sat there that morning and I could not see a door labeled no action here.

I could see two doors and they were both actions. One was labeled speak, the other was labeled conceal. Because here’s how I thought about it, I’m not trying to talk you into this, but I want you to know my thinking. Having repeatedly told this Congress, we are done and there’s nothing there, there’s no case there, there’s no case there, to restart in a hugely significant way, potentially finding the emails that would reflect on her intent from the beginning and not speak about it would require an active concealment, in my view.

And so I stared at speak and conceal. Speak would be really bad. There’s an election in 11 days, Lordy, that would be really bad. Concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the FBI, but well beyond. And honestly, as between really bad and catastrophic, I said to my team we got to walk into the world of really bad. I’ve got to tell Congress that we’re restarting this, not in some frivolous way, in a hugely significant way.

And the team also told me, we cannot finish this work before the election. And then they worked night after night after night, and they found thousands of new emails, they found classified information on Anthony Weiner. Somehow, her emails are being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information, by her assistant, Huma Abedin. And so they found thousands of new emails and then called me the Saturday night before the election and said thanks to the wizardry of our technology, we’ve only had to personally read 6,000. We think we can finish tomorrow morning, Sunday.

And so I met with them and they said we found a lot of new stuff. We did not find anything that changes our view of her intent. So we’re in the same place we were in July. It hasn’t changed our view and I asked them lots of questions and I said okay, if that’s where you are, then I also have to tell Congress that we’re done. Look, this is terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election. But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.

Everybody who disagrees with me has to come back to October 28 with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do. Would you speak or would you conceal? And I could be wrong, but we honestly made a decision between those two choices that even in hindsight — and this has been one of the world’s most painful experiences — I would make the same decision.

I would not conceal that, on October 28, from the Congress.

Finally, Comey wrote a letter to his troops, explaining the decision. Here is the relevant paragraph, explaining why he wrote the letter to Congress:

Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.

Again, there is nothing there about a promise to Congress. Comey is just saying that, having testified about it to Congress, he believed it would be misleading if the investigation were reopened and he said nothing.

I won’t call Lanny Davis a liar. But from all available evidence, the claim he makes about Comey’s proffered justification is false.

You’ll have to find other reasons to criticize Comey. This dog won’t hunt.


*That’s what I’ve always called him.

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Like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, I Dissent on Syrian Air Strikes

Ted Cruz, September 9, 2013 on proposed air strikes by President Obama: Why I’ll vote no on Syria strike.

First, Assad’s actions, however deplorable, are not a direct threat to U.S. national security. Many bad actors on the world stage have, tragically, oppressed and killed their citizens, even using chemical weapons to do so. Unilaterally avenging humanitarian disaster, however, is well outside the traditional scope of U.S. military action.

Second, just because Assad is a murderous thug does not mean that the rebels opposing him are necessarily better. As of May, seven of the nine major rebel groups appeared to have significant ties to Islamists, some of whom may have links to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Their presence and power have only increased, according to media reports. We should never give weapons to people who hate us, and the United States should not support or arm al-Qaeda terrorists.

Third, the potential for escalation is immense. Syria is in the midst of a sectarian civil war, born of centuries-old animosities. We have no clear ally in this ­Sunni-Shiite conflict, and any “limited” and “proportional” strike could quickly get out of control, imperiling our allies and forcing us into the civil war.

The president and his secretary of state have repeatedly said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons violates an “international norm.” They insist it is critical that we send a “message” to Assad that his behavior is unacceptable. But it is not the job of U.S. troops to police international norms or to send messages. Our men and women in uniform have signed up to defend America.

That was Ted Cruz from 2013. I agreed with his reasoning then and I still agree with it now.

Donald Trump, September 7, 2013:

And August 30, 2013:

Trump was right then, and his reasoning is still true.

The first time Trump did this, Andrew C. McCarthy said:

I was with McCarthy then and I am with them now:

Because nothing is different now.

The Constitution says Congress must declare war. The President may conduct the war that Congress has declared, and can also act in response to sudden attacks.

Syria has not attacked us. Congress has not declared war. Strikes like these are an act of war. If someone did it to us, we would see it that way.

There is no constitutional basis for these attacks. Trump should not be doing this.

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