Category Archives: Law

Foreign Influence and Double Standards

WSJ 10/2/2019

Washington is in an impeachment frenzy, which is a dangerous moment for facts and context. A classic example is the political and media overreaction to Monday’s stories concerning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr and impeachment.

Mr. Pompeo’s alleged misdeed is that he was among those listening to Mr. Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. But why shouldn’t a Secretary of State be on a call to the new President of an important country? U.S. foreign policy is the secretary’s job. As far as we know, Mr. Pompeo isn’t responsible for Mr. Trump’s decision to mention Joe Biden in that conversation. This is not impeachable behavior, or even impeachment news.

As for Mr. Barr, he is supposedly implicated because he asked Mr. Trump to ask Prime Minister Scott Morrison for Australia’s cooperation with the Justice Department probe of illegal foreign influence in the 2016 election. Mr. Barr and prosecutors have also sought the cooperation of other foreign governments.

We certainly hope they have. Everyone has known for some time that Justice is investigating what happened in 2016, and Justice made that public last week in a statement when the transcript of Mr. Trump’s Ukraine phone call was released.

“A Department of Justice team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election,” the statement said. “While the Attorney General has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.” Some media scoop.

Australia’s cooperation is important because it relates to the role that Alexander Downer, former Australian foreign minister, played in tipping off U.S. intelligence about Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’s comments about Russia in July 2016. This relates to how the FBI came to rely on Russian misinformation to open a counterintelligence probe into the Trump 2016 campaign.

The press is portraying Monday’s news as a plot to “discredit” former special counsel Robert Mueller. But the Mueller probe is over. The former special counsel chose not to investigate the Russian origin story and he never publicly explained his reasons. Yet there are many unanswered questions that deserve investigation because laws may have been broken. It is routine for U.S. prosecutors to seek help from foreign counterparts in such cases.

Note the double standard at work here. Democrats and most of the press corps want to impeach Mr. Trump for inviting foreign help to investigate Joe Biden and his son’s role in Ukraine. But at the same time they want everyone to forget that the Clinton campaign in 2016 paid for foreign dirt that the FBI used to justify a secret surveillance warrant against the Trump campaign.

That is what Mr. Barr has asked Mr. Durham to investigate, and the U.S. Attorney has a reputation for being thorough and fair. He may find there was no illegality involved. But investigating this is a public service because half of America now wonders if James Comey’s FBI took sides in a presidential election based on foreign propaganda ginned up by the opponents of Donald Trump.

This attack on Mr. Barr looks like a pre-emptive warning to steer him and Mr. Durham off the case, or to discredit anything they might conclude or prosecute. “Democrats’ worst fears about William Barr are proving correct,” says the headline on a news article by the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake that is a textbook example of partisan framing.

We hope the prosecutors won’t be deterred. When Washington is in impeachment heat, it pays to be skeptical and look for the other half of the story.

via Foreign Influence and Double Standards – WSJ.

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Where are the authorities?

Seems reminiscent of police ignoring racial violence during the 20th century [in America].

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‘No hate! No fear!” chanted the left-wing crowd as they marched downtown Saturday. I walked to the front of the line to record the protesters with my new GoPro camera when I was suddenly slammed on the back of my head with something hard. Dazed and still hearing faint chants of “no hate,” I was then punched and kicked by perhaps a dozen masked people in black. At an Antifa event meant to resist “fascist violence,” I—a gay journalist of color—was beaten so badly that I was hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage. Since last year, I have been targeted by Antifa and its allies for my critical coverage of their violent extremism. I’ve reported those incidents to the Portland Police Bureau, and in some cases I’ve identified suspects, but there were no arrests. The mainstream media describe Antifa as “antifascist,” but in fact it is a far-left paramilitary-style movement of anarchists and communists agitating for a revolution.

Antifa is known for wearing black and concealing faces with masks to commit crimes under the protection of group anonymity. The Homeland Security Department has described some of Antifa’s activities as “domestic terrorist violence,” but Portland recently voted to withdraw from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, citing concerns the Federal Bureau of Investigation targeted left-wing activists.

On June 29, Antifa organized a milkshake-themed counterprotest against two small right-wing groups. The event was inspired by the new practice—a British import—of throwing milkshakes on conservative or right-wing figures. Vox.com’s Carlos Maza encouraged such assaults in a May tweet: “Milkshake them all. Humiliate them at every turn. Make them dread public organizing.”

Earlier that day, I left my house wearing a helmet, but I took it off after catching a glimpse of my reflection. I didn’t want to look like a combatant. I wore goggles instead, knowing Antifa activists often target bystanders with bear spray, as happened to me on May Day.

As soon as I arrived at the staging area in a downtown park, masked protesters began to follow me. One person openly carried a metal bat. In a July 2 news release, the Portland police reported that officers had observed “participants in the crowd who concealed and brandished weapons, including collapsible batons, projectiles, and firearms.” At various points I was threatened, cursed at, and blocked from walking around. I ignored them. Police watched from a distance and did nothing.

Later, a masked person approached me from behind, dumped the contents of a cup on my head, and ran away. The paper cup had an Antifa logo on it and was handed out at a “shake station” in the park. I immediately reported the incident to police. Officers told me they would not approach the suspect, who was still in sight, because that might “incite” the crowd.

This is a refrain I hear every time Antifa harasses or attacks me with a Portland police eyewitness present. Policing in the city has become so feckless that neighboring county deputies are withdrawing or reducing their support for the Portland police.

Minutes later, another “shake” was hurled at my face. It splashed under my goggles and went into an eye, which stung and obstructed my vision. Again, I reported this to police, who demurred.

Now in the hundreds, the crowd proceeded to march. They shut down traffic and blocked the roads. At one point, the crowd walked in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center, which houses the Sheriff’s Office, the central police precinct and courtrooms. Though I didn’t see police, I assumed they were close. I was wrong.

That was when I walked toward the front of the march, where I was set upon by a mob, some wearing fiberglass- hardened gloves as well as masks. They pummeled me in the face and the back of the head until I let go of my camera, which somebody snatched. I raised my arms in surrender, but the mob took that as a signal to become more aggressive. Next rained a hail of milkshakes, eggs, rocks, silly string and possibly pepper spray. The mob hollered and laughed as I stumbled away.

My eyes stung and my face burned. Blood ran down my neck from a ripped earlobe. I later learned the police tweeted they’d “received information that some of the milkshakes thrown today during the demonstration contained quick-drying cement” (though there was no indication the ones that hit me did). I made my way to the courthouse before I lost my balance and sat down. A group of SWAT medics told me I’d have to walk back to the police precinct— toward the protesters—to get medical help, so I did. Later, at the hospital, I was diagnosed with a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain, and admitted for observation. I spent more than 30 hours in the hospital and am told I may suffer memory loss for up to six months.

Despite being surrounded by institutions of the rule of law that day, what I experienced was violent anarchy and lawlessness. Portland calls itself a “sanctuary city,” but it’s nothing of the sort for a law-abiding journalist.

Mr. Ngo is an editor at Quillette.

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Subpoena the spies

WSJ 4/18/2019

‘I think spying did occur,’  Attorney General William P. Barr told a Senate subcommittee last Wednesday. He was speaking about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as the resulting special-counsel investigation.

I can tell Mr. Barr what I know from experience. There’s nothing to “think” about: The spying happened, and it happened to me. The real question is why it happened. What drove U.S. intelligence organizations during the Obama administration to use unvetted information and inconclusive spy operations against the Republican nominee and his staff?

During my time as an adviser to the Trump campaign, federal intelligence and law-enforcement organizations used operatives to contact me in person and by email on multiple occasions. Their goal? To discuss rumored coordination efforts with Russia and extract evidence of a collusion crime. “Operatives” is a euphemistic term for these men. Spies is a more fitting label. One is Stefan Halper, a professor at the University of Cambridge who runs intelligence seminars and has ties to the Central Intelligence Agency. The Washington Post named him as the FBI informant who approached at least three members of the Trump campaign. Then there’s Alexander Downer, who had the lofty title of Australian high commissioner to the U.K. and was an adviser to the British private intelligence firm Hakluyt & Co. Finally there’s Joseph Mifsud, who taught at Rome’s Link Campus University, where many faculty members have ties to intelligence agencies.

These men spied on me. As spies, they hid behind the cloak of their public personas while trying to ferret out information about the campaign and Moscow, and prod me into corroborating their bad intelligence. Major newspapers have confirmed that Mr. Halper reported to the FBI and Mr. Downer reported to Australian intelligence. Mr. Mifsud’s handlers remain unidentified.

I have spent two years thinking about my bizarre interactions with these spooks. If Mr. Barr really wants to understand what happened, he needs to examine them and their motives. If he does, he will likely find three men and their government backers acting in concert to inflict damage on a U.S. presidential candidate whose views apparently scared the hell out of them.

What might have motivated these spying efforts? On the British side, Mr. Trump was a vocal proponent of Brexit, which was opposed by most of the British political establishment. Similarly, Mr. Trump had spoken out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that Australian politicians support.

In the U.S., Obama appointees James Comey at the FBI and John Brennan at the CIA were deeply rattled by Mr. Trump’s rhetoric about restoring relations with Russia. They were also hoodwinked by poorly sourced, unvetted reports from overseas, including the Steele dossier. Their agencies stitched together the reports to create the collusion narrative and open the investigation.

Mr. Barr may not be able to find a smoking gun that definitively proves Obama loyalists plotted to use specious allegations to wound a Republican candidate for president. But he won’t have to look very hard to confirm the existence of spy operations. Subpoenas for the spies who approached me would go a long way.

Mr. Barr could also investigate whether those operations crossed the bold line that separates a serious, apolitical investigation from paranoid prosecutorial overreach. The intelligence agencies and the spies they employed devised a conspiracy to create the appearance of a conspiracy.

I look forward to the attorney general’s findings.

Mr. Papadopoulos is a former foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign and author of “Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump.”

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The FBI Panic

This should have never happened, and should never happen again. !!!!

If you are not concerned, you are not thinking.

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The American people have largely taken the disruptive Trump Presidency in stride, going about their lives and expressing their approval or not the constitutional way—at the ballot box. The same can’t be said for many of the country’s panicked elites, as we are learning anew about the Federal Bureau of Investigation as former deputy director Andrew McCabe hawks a new memoir.

Mr. McCabe now says that, after Mr. Trump fired FBI director Jim Comey in May 2017, Mr. McCabe and senior Justice Department officials “discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could be brought together to remove the President of the United States under the 25th Amendment.” That’s according to Scott Pelley’s account of his interview with Mr. McCabe aired Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

In the interview, Mr. McCabe says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein raised the 25th Amendment scenario “and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort.” Mr. McCabe says he didn’t contribute much but seems to excuse the conversation because “it was an unbelievably stressful time.”

Mr. McCabe was fired last year for lying to FBI investigators, so it’s hard to know how much to believe. He’s also tried to qualify the interview after excerpts were disclosed, with a spokesperson saying that while Mr. McCabe “participated in a discussion that included a comment by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein regarding the 25th Amendment,” he did not participate in any “extended discussions” about removing Mr. Trump.

Mr. Rosenstein says he wasn’t in a “position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment” but doesn’t deny the discussion.

This is extraordinary, and as far as we know unprecedented. A President exercises his constitutional prerogative to fire the FBI director, and Mr. Comey’s associates immediately talked about deposing him in what would amount to a coup?

The 25th Amendment was passed after JFK’s assassination to allow for a transfer of power when a President is “unable” to discharge his duties. It is intended to be used only after demonstrated evidence of impairment that is witnessed by those closest to the Commander in Chief. It doesn’t exist to settle political differences, or to let scheming bureaucrats imagine they are saving the country from someone they fear is a Manchurian candidate. The constitutional process for that is impeachment.

Yet it’s not far-fetched to think that Messrs. McCabe and Rosenstein considered a 25th Amendment coup because the idea was also widely discussed in elite media circles at the time. The Comey firing so flustered so many that they were willing to consider nullifying an election five months into the Presidency.

“The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump,” declared one May 2017 headline in the New York Times. The thought seemed too silly to write about at the time, but apparently we underestimated the lack of faith in American democracy and institutions among the political and media class. This elite panic was a bigger threat to constitutional norms than anything Mr. Trump is known to have done.

The McCabe account also fits with what else we know about the FBI during the Comey era. Mr. Comey saw fit to start a counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign based on thin evidence of Russian contacts. His agents then used an opposition-research document financed by the Clinton campaign to justify a warrant to spy on a Trump adviser.

In July 2016 Mr. Comey violated Justice rules to exonerate Hillary Clinton on his own authority in the email probe. Then to protect himself against second-guessing from Congress after the election, he intervened again in violation of department rules to reopen the Clinton probe 11 days before Election Day. This intervention may have done more to elect Mr. Trump than anything else in the final weeks of the campaign, as Nate Silver and other analysts have argued.

After his firing, Mr. Comey arranged a media leak that prompted Mr. Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate Trump-Russia campaign ties. Twenty-one months later we are still waiting for evidence of collusion, as the Mueller probe rolls on seemingly without end. Mr. Trump’s enemies still claim he is a Russian agent while millions of his supporters think there is a “deep-state” conspiracy against him. This is all corrosive to public trust in American democracy.

The Senate last week confirmed William Barr as Attorney General, and he has no more urgent task than restoring some of that public trust. He could start by explaining to the public, in a major speech, where the FBI went so badly wrong and what he will do to make sure it never happens again.

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