Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’

Did Trump Actually Want RyanCare to Pass?

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Yesterday House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the ObamaCare “repeal” bill from consideration. This was not surprising, in that the Republican base hated the bill even more than Democrats did, mainly because it was an awful bill. Voters elected Republicans who promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, not embrace and extend it.

Let’s face it: A firm grasp of health care policy specifics and a deep understand of the many nuances of federalism are not among Trump’s demonstrated virtues. But he would have had to be very tone-deaf indeed not to notice the discord RyanCare engendered in the Republican ranks.

The media is spinning this as a terrible defeat for President Trump, because of course they are, and because he publicly supported the bill. And Trump did give every indications that he would have signed the bill or proclaimed it both a win and a campaign promised fulfilled had it passed. But I didn’t see the sort of push and focus from Trump indicating that this very major piece of legislation was even his top priority thus far, much less the make-or-break bill of his presidency.

Read this phone interview Trump had with Robert Costa of the Washington Post just hours after the bill was pulled.

efore I could ask a question, Trump plunged into his explanation of the politics of deciding to call off a vote on a bill he had been touting.

The Democrats, he said, were to blame.

“We couldn’t get one Democratic vote, and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy, so we pulled it,” Trump said.

Trump said he would not put the bill on the floor in the coming weeks. He is willing to wait and watch the current law continue and, in his view, encounter problems. And he believes that Democrats will eventually want to work with him on some kind of legislative fix to Obamacare, although he did not say when that would be.

“As you know, I’ve been saying for years that the best thing is to let Obamacare explode and then go make a deal with the Democrats and have one unified deal. And they will come to us; we won’t have to come to them,” he said. “After Obamacare explodes.”

“The beauty,” Trump continued, “is that they own Obamacare. So when it explodes, they come to us, and we make one beautiful deal for the people.

Spin? Sure. But it does sound like he already has his talking points warmed up and ready to go. Democrats killed the bill. Not one of them was willing to vote for it. ObamaCare’s failures are (still) on their head. Someday soon Democrats will come to us begging for a deal

Maybe passing RyanCare was actually Trump’s plan A. But maybe having it fail, and sticking the failure on Democrats (rather than the House Freedom Caucus) was always a very close plan B.

As Scott Adams has noted time and again, Trump appears to view almost everything through a persuading and deal-making lens. RyanCare wasn’t a failure, it was just an opening bid in a much longer negotiation. (Ann Althouse has similar thoughts.)

The question then becomes: Does the next ObamaCare repeal effort actually end ObamaCare and moves us back toward federalism, or does Trump cut a deal with Democrats to try to pass some sort of move to even more socialized medicine? The later seems unlikely, since a Republican-controlled House and Senate would never pass it and Democrats hate President Trump far too much on an irrationally visceral level to work with him. (Which is ironic, given that he seemed the most liberal Republican candidate when he joined the field in Presidential field in 2015).

For mainstream media pundits spinning this as a crippling loss for Trump: I tend to doubt it. A bill that wasn’t passed in March 2017 isn’t going to be much on the minds of voters in November 2018. Now Trump need not worry about fracturing Republicans over a flawed ObamaCare bill and can move on to other priorities.

ObamaCare Repeal: The Dam Breaks

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

After a couple of weeks of President Trump and GOP House leadership insisting “Nope, this is it! Kiss this pig or it’s nothing!” and conservatives replying “Die in a fire!” it looks like the GOP establishment has finally gotten the message.

First came this news from Senator Mike Lee:

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on Wednesday that the Senate parliamentarian has told him that it may be possible for Republicans to push harder on repealing Obamacare’s regulations than the current House bill, which contradicts the assertion by House leadership that the legislation goes after Obamacare as aggressively as possible under Senate rules.

“What I understood her to be saying is that there’s no reason why an Obamacare repeal bill necessarily could not have provisions repealing the health insurance regulations.”

Now Speaker Paul Ryan, the pig’s primary pimp, has relented as well:

In a last-minute bid to woo conservatives ahead of a high-stakes vote on Thursday on repealing and replacing Obamacare, House leaders are considering gutting more Obamacare regulations.

The news comes as President Trump and White House officials are in talks with House conservatives over changes that can win over holdouts and secure enough votes to move the bill to the Senate.

Among the many arguments conservatives have made against the House healthcare bill, one of the most significant is that it leaves too many costly regulations in place and thus fails to address long-standing criticisms of Obamacare — that it limits choices and drives premiums higher than they otherwise would be.
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Previously, House leaders have argued that the regulations could not be nixed, because doing so would blow up the bill in the Senate, where Republicans will have to pass the measure under restrictive rules to enable it to clear with a simple majority.

But a House leadership aide told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that Republicans received new information from the Senate, indicating that axing the regulations would not automatically doom the bill from being considered on an expedited basis.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office is now more open to nixing the regulations, known as “essential health benefits.” Under Obamacare, all insurance policies must include ten categories of benefits, such as maternity care and preventive coverage, that make policies more comprehensive but also make it costlier for individuals who would prefer cheaper plans with fewer benefits.

You know what would be a great bill? One that completely repealed ObamaCare. You know, the way every Republican House and Senate member running for election since 2010 has promised.

The Trump Administration can also gut Obamacare without any help from congress:

Within the bill there are 2,500 references to “the Secretary”. 700 times the Secretary “shall” do something, 200 times the Secretary “may” do something, and 139 occasions when the “Secretary determines” what should be done.

These “shall” and “may” determinations cover things like what type of insurance coverage Americans are required to have, how insurance networks and exchanges are organized, how grant money is doled out, what the “essential health benefits” that every insurance policy must cover are.

Suppose the new Secretary determines that Americans “shall” only be required to have catastrophic insurance? Or no insurance at all? What if the “essential health benefits” are left to the discretion of the purchaser of the insurance policy? What if the Secretary “determines” that there will be no insurance mandates or penalties? Or that insurance “may” be sold across state lines?

The Secretary also has discretion over “pilot programs” and “demonstration projects” for controlling costs. These include wellness plans, information technology, quality measures, and national payment for Medicaid. Perhaps throw in tort reform and a rollback of many of the many more onerous regulations strangling the medical profession. The Secretary “may” implement these reforms.

In reality, the Secretary has the statutory power to infect Obamacare with the cancer of repeal and replace, metastasizing into so many aspects of the law that what emerges is a shadow of the original bill. Repeal and replace from within.

The downside to this approach is that any future Democratic administration could restore all the Obamacare nightmare taxes and regulations at will.

Still, there’s no reason Republicans can’t pursue a two-track approach: Gut it administratively while also working on a full legislative repeal.

Both approaches are far superior to the original “embrace and extend” ObamaCare bill Republican leadership originally tried to cram down representative’s throats….

LinkSwarm for March 17, 2017

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Insert your own Irish-related drinking joke here.

  • President Trump’s approval ratings rise.
  • Did Obama use a British intelligence agency to spy on Trump? (Maybe not.)
  • Did the Obama Administration use Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac as a slush fund to pay for ObamaCare?
  • Senate Democrats are paralized what do to over Neil Gorsuch. Everyone agrees Gorsuch is extremely qualified, but the leftwing nutroots are threatening to primary any Democrat who votes to confirm him. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Finally: “A House panel held a hearing on possibly splitting the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday morning.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • In talking about the House GOP’s pathetic ObamaCare replacement, Stephen Green hits the nail on the head: “Congress is warped because the American electorate has yet to accept that other people’s money does eventually run out — and that we are all the other people.” That’s why we need someone committed to reform in the White House, and Greece and Venezuela’s examples fresh in the public’s eye…
  • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey: “What we reject is immigration without assimilation.” (Hat tip: Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit.)
  • ICE arrests 248 illegal aliens, most in the sanctuary city of Philadelphia. “20 had a conviction and/or pending charges or 48 percent (88 of those arrested had criminal convictions and 32 of those arrested have pending criminal charges). In addition, 50 had been previously removed from the United States and subsequently illegally re-entered.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Meanwhile, in Australia: “Teacher quits after primary school students threaten to behead her.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • “Iraqi government forces besieged Islamic State militants around Mosul’s Old City on Thursday, edging closer to the historic mosque from where the group’s leader declared a caliphate nearly three years ago.”
  • Former Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich says that one of his phonecalls was wiretapped. “If a member of Congress can have his phone tapped, this can happen to anybody.”
  • Ten Senate Democrats are vulnerable in 2018. They’re prime targets for takedowns in the midterm elections. But the process starts now, not then…In order of vulnerability (most to least), the target list features: 1) Joe Donnelly-IN; 2) Bill Nelson-FL; 3) Sherrod Brown-OH; 4) Claire McCaskill-MO; 5) Heidi Heitkamp-ND; 6) Tammy Baldwin-WI; 7) Jon Tester-MN; 8) Joe Manchin-WV; 9) Debbie Stabenow-MI; 10) Bob Casey, Jr.-PA.” Agree with the list, but not the order, since Heitkamp hails from a state Trump won by 36 points. But seeing Stupak bloc flip-flopper Donnelly go down at last would be extremely satisfying…
  • Breakdown of 2016 Presidential race demographics. Least likely to vote for Trump: Black single women. Most likely to vote for Trump: Mormons. Usual poll caveats apply. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Remember convicted felon Brett Kimberlin? There’s always some Kimberlin news floating around the blogsphere, usually in relation to his latest ludicrous lawsuit getting laughed out of court. But this week he made the news for being involved in selling hoax documents designed to bring down Donald Trump. “The entire set of documents appear to have been forged as part of an elaborate scam.” So, like most Kimberlin escapades, the story ends in embarrassing failure. (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • Cenk Uygur: Why the Democratic Party is useless. 1. As with all these critiques of the Democratic Party from the left, it’s right about the party being a corrupt institution for entrenched interests and wrong about America being gung ho for socialism. 2. Boy, that “not being polite” stuff sure helped Democrats recall Scott Walker! 3. “Cenk Uygur” sounds like a dark, forbidding fortress at the edge of Mordor.
  • Holland is the canary in the European coalmine of radical Islamization. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Speaking of Holland, Geert Wilders placed second in Dutch elections, which falls short of a serious challenge to the Islamophillic and Eurocentric establishment.
  • Dear Sen. McCain: (Sigh).
  • Rand Paul fires back: “He makes a really, really strong case for term limits. I think maybe he’s past his prime. I think maybe he’s gotten a little bit unhinged.”
  • Germany wants to fine companies for not censoring fast enough. What do you want to bet that objections to the rousing success of their Muslim immigration policy are first on the list of things to be censored?
  • Camille Paglia has a new book out, and offers up an interview where she talks about modern feminism (against), southern women (for), working class men (for), Michel Foucault (against), and pornography (for).
  • Soros Fellow Flees Country While Wife Arrested For Welfare Scam.” It seems that earning $1.5 million a year at the Washington, D.C., offices of Mayer Brown LLP just wasn’t enough for Fidelis Agbapuruonwu… (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Three #BlackLivesMatter protestors arrested for beating up a homeless man.
  • Man gets a C when he should have gotten an A for a school assignment. So he did what any of us would have done: Successfully amends the Constitution. (Hat tip: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett’s Twitter feed.)
  • Dwight has some Austin-related memoes from the police beat.
  • “Coming up next on Most ShockingMormon Justice!”
  • King King burns.
  • He divided them again!
  • Schumer steals again. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Singer Kelly Clarkson is selling her Tennessee mansion. I like how it’s half typical rich-person mansion, and half Bass Pro Shop…
  • LinkSwarm for March 10, 2017

    Friday, March 10th, 2017

    Welcome to Friday! (And welcome Instapundit readers coming in off Stephen Green’s link to yesterday’s border security roundup.)

    First up: Liberalism’s continued idée fixe on the “Russians hacked the election” fantasy.

  • If Trump had actually been in the pay of the Russians, Wayne Barrett, who worked the Trump beat for the Village Voice for 40 years, would have known about it. “Wayne Barrett had this file for 40 years, and if neither he nor the reporters he trained got this story, it’s not a story.”
  • Even some liberals are now seeing the Russian fantasy as a dangerous distraction that helps Trump.
  • Lefty Glenn Greenwald agrees:

    This obsession with Russia conspiracy tales is poisoning all aspects of U.S. political discourse and weakening any chance for resisting Trump’s actual abuses and excesses. Those who wake up every day to hype the latest episode of this Russia/Trump spy drama tell themselves that they’re bravely undermining and subverting Trump, but they’re doing exactly the opposite.

    This crazed conspiracy mongering is further discrediting U.S. media outlets, making Washington seem even more distant from and irrelevant to the lives of millions of Americans, degrading discourse to the lowliest Trumpian circus level on which he thrives, and is misdirecting huge portions of opposition energy and thought into an exciting but fictitious spy novel – all of which directly redounds to Trump’s benefit.

    Snip.

    Above all else, it’s because it’s an offensive assault on reason. This kind of deranged discourse is an attack on basic journalistic integrity, on any minimal obligation to ensure that one’s claims are based in evidence rather than desire, fantasy, and herd-enforced delusions. And it’s emanating from the most established and mainstream precincts of U.S. political and media elites, who have processed the severe disorientation and loss of position they feel from Trump’s shock election not by doing the work to patiently formulate cogent, effective strategies against him, but rather by desperately latching onto online “dot-connecting” charlatans and spewing the most unhinged Birther-level conspiracies that require a complete abandonment of basic principles of rationality and skepticism.

  • The timidness of the House GOP ObamaCare repeal plan shows that liberalism has already won.
  • Liberals threaten to primary Democratic senators who vote for cloture on Neil Gorsuch. I’m sure there’s no way that supergenius plan could possibly backfire on them…
  • Speaking of Gorsuch, “the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary voted unanimously to rate Neil Gorsuch as “well qualified” to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” the highest rating possible. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Nate Silver at 538: “There Really Was A Liberal Media Bubble.” Silver comes to many of the same conclusions about MSM blinders that conservatives have been making for years. A few samples:
    • “Much of The New York Times’s coverage, for instance, implied that Clinton’s odds were close to 100 percent.”

    • “In a country where educational attainment is an increasingly important predictor of cultural and political behavior, some 92 percent of journalists have college degrees. A degree didn’t used to be a de facto prerequisite7 for a reporting job; just 70 percent of journalists had college degrees in 1982 and only 58 percent did in 1971.”
    • “The political diversity of journalists is not very strong, either. As of 2013, only 7 percent of them identified as Republicans.”
    • “All things considered, then, the conditions of political journalism are poor for crowd wisdom and ripe for groupthink.”
  • The headline is “Battle for Manbij shows Syria’s civil war is almost over – and it looks like Bashar Assad has won.” And that’s part of it. But there’s a lot of information on just how complex the Syrian-Iraqi battlespace is:

    Winners and losers are emerging in what may be the final phase of the Syrian civil war as anti-Isis forces prepare for an attack aimed at capturing Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian fighters say they have seized part of the road south of Raqqa, cutting Isis off from its other territory further east.

    Isis is confronting an array of enemies approaching Raqqa, but these are divided, with competing agendas and ambitions. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main fighting force is the Syrian Kurdish Popular Mobilisation Units (YPG), backed by the devastating firepower of the US-led air coalition, are now getting close to Raqqa and are likely to receive additional US support. The US currently has 500 Special Operations troops in north-east Syria and may move in American-operated heavy artillery to reinforce the attack on Raqqa.

    This is bad news for Turkey, whose military foray into northern Syria called Operation Euphrates Shield began last August, as it is being squeezed from all sides. In particular, an elaborate political and military chess game is being played around the town of Manbij, captured by the SDF last year, with the aim of excluding Turkey, which had declared it to be its next target. The Turkish priority in Syria is to contain and if possible reduce or eliminate the power of Syrian Kurds whom Ankara sees as supporting the Kurdish insurrection in Turkey.

  • “The U.S. military is sending an additional 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait from which they could be called upon to back up coalition forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” So instead of following Obama’s strategy of losing slowly and expensively, President Trump’s goal appears to be to crush the Islamic State entirely.
  • “Marine Le Pen: ‘France Isn’t Burkinis on the Beach, France is Brigitte Bardot.'” France is a lot of things, but they could certainly do worse than Brigitte Bardot…

    (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)

  • 40% of households in Philadelphia can’t pay their water bill.” Remind me again which party runs Philadelphia… (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • School restages Trump-Clinton debates, but with a woman playing Trump and a man playing Hillary. Result: Hillary loses even more badly than before. “It seems to me that Hillary’s gender actually covered up her flaws, such as inauthenticity, scriptedness, recitations of pablum, and fake-smiling, while, when she was played by a male actor, those flaws were suddenly very visible to the people who think of themselves as ‘gender-woke’ but maybe should just think of themselves as gender partisans.”
  • Orrin Hatch reneges on retirement promise. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Social Justice Syndrome: “Rising Tide of Personality Disorders Among Millennials.”
  • “100 of the 544 Women’s March partners received a total of $246,637,217 from [George] Soros between 2000 and 2014. Soros gave more than $1 million to 36 of those partners, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, MoveOn.org, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.” (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • Washington Examiner writer finds the perfect place to visit on the “Day Without Women”: Hooters. I guess that’s an excuse to break out this classic:

    (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • Charles Murray on what it was like to be in the middle of a violent crowd trying to assault him.
  • Lawsuit of man wrongly expelled from Amherst for a “rape” that consisted of him receiving a blowjob while he was passed out can move forward after a judge’s ruling.
  • “Defense contracting firm owners Jeffrey Harrington and Michael Mayer, and employee sisters Kimberlee Hewitt and Natalee Hewitt, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in California to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and file false claims for using their companies — Veteran Logistics, Inc., Industrial Xchange, Inc., and Boston Laser Technology, Inc. — to sell the government $45 million worth of mostly incorrect and overpriced products.” As far as I can tell, this naval contracting scandal is unrelated to the Fat Leonard naval contracting scandal. Did the Navy just forget to hire auditors?
  • What’s a little rape to Democrats if there are pipelines to be protested?
  • Lynne Stewart, the radical lawyer and convicted felon who represented murderous anti-American scumbags pro bono, has died.
  • Another day, another fake hate crime exposed.
  • CNN’s new frontier in tastelessness: Cannibalism. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Speaking of CNN: “CNN cuts feed on guest after he cites jihad terror cases involving ‘refugees.'”
  • “Trump Immigration Order Requires Govt Report on ‘Honor Killings‘ by Foreign Nationals.”
  • Don’t believe everything you read about the CIA Vault7 leak. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Radio Shack to close another 187 stores. In other news, Radio Shack still has stores to close. I also ask your forgiveness in advance when I rerun this joke next year. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • In prison, mackerel can be exchanged for goods and services.
  • Brings an entire new meaning to the phrase “Got wood?”
  • Japanese man dies after being crushed under six tons of pornography. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Note that I now have a Gab account in addition to my Twitter account.
  • Scenes From Securing the Border

    Thursday, March 9th, 2017

    What happens when you actually start enforcing the law? Oddly enough, lawbreaking goes down.

    The same is true of enforcing laws for border control and immigration.

    There’s been a lot of news on the border control and immigration front, starting with President Trump issuing a revised executive order banning travelers from terrorism-exporting nations. This version is more narrowly tailored, excludes Iraq, and spells out that it does not apply to existing visa and green card holders.

    Daniel R. DePetris at the National Interest thinks the new Executive Order is much improved. “Overall, the second version of the ‘Presidential Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ is far and away a better product than the first. It’s more detailed, comprehensive and bureaucratically vetted than the original.”

    Other border control news:

  • Illegal alien border crossings were way down during President Trump’s first month in office. “In January, 31,575 individuals were taken into custody between ports of entry on the southwest border. That contrasts with an average of more than 45,000 for each of the previous three months, according to a CPB report released Monday.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • And that trend appears to be continuing. “The Homeland Security Department said Wednesday night that people caught crossing the border illegally had plummeted from 31,578 in January to 18,762 in February.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Half of all border crossing apprehensions were in the Rio Grande region. The question is whether most illegal alien border crossings occurred there, or where it is an artifact of increased Texas Department of Public Safety border enforcement there.
  • But there are significant declines in illegal alien crossings there as well, as indicated by the closing of a temporary holding facility.
  • Enforcement is starting with over a million illegal aliens who already have removal orders filed against them.
  • The New York Times is shocked, shocked that illegal aliens who are here illegally are being deported because they’re here illegally.
  • Likewise, the illegal aliens themselves are “panicking” over the possibility of being deported. Let’s let Professor Rock break down how people may avoid this fate:

  • Further: If you’re already breaking the law, maybe you shouldn’t appear at a pro-illegal alien press conference and tell people how you’re breaking the law, or you might get deported.
  • The crackdown has led to what conservatives have said would happen all along: self-deportation. “Trump talks tough about a crack down on illegals and a step up of deportations. ICE goes out, does a few raids and deports a few illegals and the dolts in the press publicize it everywhere, wholly unaware that they have become unwitting allies of Trump. Illegals witness the hysteria in the press and decide to turn tail and run.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • It seems that a lot of sanctuary cities that loudly proclaimed they were going to defy President Trump over border enforcement are backing down. “Miami-Dade county rescinds ‘sanctuary’ status over Trump’s threat to withhold federal funds.”
  • Although increased enforcement is attracting all the attention, another big part of President Trump’s immigration reform is selecting immigrants based on skill rather than family preferences.
  • Day laborers support President Trump’s crackdown on illegal aliens. Even some of the illegal aliens:

    Pacheco supports Trump even though he’s one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who could be deported. “Trump for me is a good president,” he says. “He has to fix things here. There’s a lot of drugs being sold around here. A lot of people sell drugs. And they hide within the workers. They even come here, or hide other places around here. They hide among us.”

    (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

  • As promised at his joint address, President Trump has created Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement, an office to serve U.S. victims of illegal alien crime.
  • Illegal alien arrested for chopping off his own mother’s head. “Oliver Funes-Machado, 18, is originally from Honduras and is accused of repeatedly stabbing his 35-year-old mother in their Zebulon home Monday. He allegedly beheaded her and then walked outside, holding her head in one hand and the knife in the other as he waited for Franklin County deputies to arrive. He was the one who called 911.” No word on whether he was one of Obama’s “Dreamers” or not… (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Finally, a weird little story from earlier this week: Washington Post Employee Arrested On Charges Of Impersonating ICE Agent. Remember: No matter how much you may want to help, impersonating a federal officer is a felony. Here’s Professor Rock with that handy tip again:

    Advice so nice it bears repeating twice…

  • Trying to Make Sense of #Obamagate Wiretapping

    Monday, March 6th, 2017

    The latest controversy began, as so many seem to, with a President Trump tweet:

    My first thought was “Eh, Trump’s talking out his ass.” Which happens from time to time.

    But then further reports came in, and the Obama Administration talking points started to take the form of “Ah, well, actually, here, have this carefully worded denial that dances around the main issue.”

    Here’s Andrew McCarthy in National Review (hardly the most Trump-friendly outlet on the right) dissecting the non-denial denials about what actually happened:

    To summarize, reporting indicates that, prior to June 2016, the Obama Justice Department and FBI considered a criminal investigation of Trump associates, and perhaps Trump himself, based on concerns about connections to Russian financial institutions. Preliminary poking around indicated that there was nothing criminal involved. Rather than shut the case down, though, the Obama Justice Department converted it into a national-security investigation under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA allows the government, if it gets court permission, to conduct electronic surveillance (which could include wiretapping, monitoring of e-mail, and the like) against those it alleges are “agents of a foreign power.” FISA applications and the evidence garnered from them are classified – i.e., we would not know about any of this unless someone had leaked classified information to the media, a felony.

    In June, the Obama Justice Department submitted an application that apparently “named” Trump in addition to some of his associates. As I have stressed, it is unclear whether “named” in this context indicates that Trump himself was cited as a person the Justice Department was alleging was a Russian agent whom it wanted to surveil. It could instead mean that Trump’s name was merely mentioned in an application that sought to conduct surveillance on other alleged Russian agents. President Trump’s tweets on Saturday claimed that “President Obama . . . tapp[ed] my phones[,]” which makes it more likely that Trump was targeted for surveillance, rather than merely mentioned in the application.

    In any event, the FISA court reportedly turned down the Obama Justice Department’s request, which is notable: The FISA court is notoriously solicitous of government requests to conduct national-security surveillance (although, as I’ve noted over the years, the claim by many that it is a rubber-stamp is overblown).

    Not taking no for an answer, the Obama Justice Department evidently returned to the FISA court in October 2016, the critical final weeks of the presidential campaign. This time, the Justice Department submitted a narrowly tailored application that did not mention Trump. The court apparently granted it, authorizing surveillance of some Trump associates. It is unknown whether that surveillance is still underway, but the New York Times has identified – again, based on illegal leaks of classified information – at least three of its targets: Paul Manafort (the former Trump campaign chairman who was ousted in August), and two others whose connection to the Trump campaign was loose at best, Manafort’s former political-consulting business partner Roger Stone, and investor Carter Page. The Times report (from mid-January) includes a lot of heavy breathing about potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia; but it ultimately concedes that the government’s FISA investigation may have nothing to do with Trump, the campaign, or alleged Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election by hacking e-mail accounts.

    Trump’s tweets on Saturday prompted some interesting “denials” from the Obama camp. These can be summarized in the statement put out by Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis:

    A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.

    This seems disingenuous on several levels.

    First, as Obama officials well know, under the FISA process, it is technically the FISA court that “orders” surveillance. And by statute, it is the Justice Department, not the White House, that represents the government in proceedings before the FISA court. So, the issue is not whether Obama or some member of his White House staff “ordered” surveillance of Trump and his associates. The issues are (a) whether the Obama Justice Department sought such surveillance authorization from the FISA court, and (b) whether, if the Justice Department did that, the White House was aware of or complicit in the decision to do so. Personally, given the explosive and controversial nature of the surveillance request we are talking about – an application to wiretap the presidential candidate of the opposition party, and some of his associates, during the heat of the presidential campaign, based on the allegation that the candidate and his associates were acting as Russian agents – it seems to me that there is less than zero chance that could have happened without consultation between the Justice Department and the White House.

    Second, the business about never ordering surveillance against American citizens is nonsense. Obama had American citizens killed in drone operations. Obviously, that was not done in the U.S. or through the FISA process; it was done overseas, under the president’s commander-in-chief and statutory authority during wartime. But the notion that Obama would never have an American subject to surveillance is absurd.

    Third, that brings us to a related point: FISA national-security investigations are not like criminal investigations. They are more like covert intelligence operations – which presidents personally sign off on. The intention is not to build a criminal case; it is to gather information about what foreign powers are up, particularly on U.S. soil. One of the points in FISA proceedings’ being classified is that they remain secret – the idea is not to prejudice an American citizen with publication of the fact that he has been subjected to surveillance even though he is not alleged to have engaged in criminal wrongdoing.

    Snip.

    To be clear, there does not seem to be any evidence, at least that I know of, to suggest that any surveillance or requests to conduct surveillance against then-candidate Donald Trump was done outside the FISA process.

    Nevertheless, whether done inside or outside the FISA process, it would be a scandal of Watergate dimension if a presidential administration sought to conduct, or did conduct, national-security surveillance against the presidential candidate of the opposition party. Unless there was some powerful evidence that the candidate was actually acting as an agent of a foreign power, such activity would amount to a pretextual use of national-security power for political purposes. That is the kind of abuse that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation in lieu of impeachment.

    Moreover, it cannot be glossed over that, at the very time it appears the Obama Justice Department was seeking to surveil Trump and/or his associates on the pretext that they were Russian agents, the Obama Justice Department was also actively undermining and ultimately closing without charges the criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton despite significant evidence of felony misconduct that threatened national security.

    This appears to be extraordinary, politically motivated abuse of presidential power.

    So as far as I can tell:

    1. The Obama Administration attempted to conduct wireless wiretapping involving Donald Trump, and was rejected by the FISA court,

    2. The Obama Administration sought, and was granted, a FISA application to conduct wireless wiretapping involving Donald Trump associates in the final month of a heated Presidential campaign, and
    3. This information was illegally leaked to the press.

    That’s not a nothingburger.

    The question at this point is not “Was a felony committed?”, it’s “How bad a felony was committed, who ordered it, and for what reason?”

    More extensive discussing of the legal issues involved here.

    LinkSwarm for March 3, 2017

    Friday, March 3rd, 2017

    Welcome to another Friday LinkSwarm! (On a personal note, if you know of any technical writing positions here in the Austin area, please let me know.)

  • U.S. troops in Iraq finally get to enjoy sane rules of engagement. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • George Soros-funded group is providing scripts for those “spontaneous” town hall protests. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • For many Democrats, President Trump’s joint address was the first time they actual heard and saw him unfiltered. “He just crushed the Drive-By [Media] last night. He just crushed them. He just blew up every narrative they’ve established on the guy. And they don’t even realize it.”
  • “As one might imagine given the Democrats’ breathtaking electoral collapse, there is basically nothing but bad news for Democrats across the board. The data showed that the voting patterns of key demographic groups shifted dramatically downward from 2008 through 2016.” More: “Contrary to the emerging Democratic majority thesis, there does not seem to be any demographic category with which Democrats are progressively improving.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Maine: Want to work for a living? Welfare recipient: Nah! Maine: Well then, I guess you won’t be needing these food stamps.
  • Man arrested for making threats to Jewish groups is a Bernie Bro and former reporter for The Intercept. Bonus 1: His Twitter page calls capitalists “bloodsuckers.” Gee, that rhetoric seems familiar somehow… Bonus 2: This is hot on the heels of another Intercept writer poo-pooing the idea that Democrats might be targeting Jews.
  • “The Congressional Review Act of 1996 is a ‘sleeper statute’ (aka, a secret weapon) in that its practical application took 20 years to enter the realm of viable possibility. The CRA allows Congress to overturn executive regulations by a simple majority—and this is the moment it’s been waiting for.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • TBS guy at CPAC asks DA Tech Guy to help him make fake news.(Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • No. Just no. And how come SMONE ELSE isn’t running away with the race?
  • “Trump Was Right: Large Amounts of Actionable Intelligence Found in Yemen Raid.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Leading French Presidential candidate Francois Fillon investigated for paying his own family “€1m ($1.05m) of public money for allegedly fake jobs.”
  • Geert Wilders’ party is poised to win the most votes in Dutch elections March 15. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Members of an elite Baltimore Police Department squad charged with getting guns off the streets gets hit with federal racketeering charges and held for trial without bail. More: “In one case, four of the officers are alleged to have stolen $200,000 from a safe and bags and a watch valued at $4,000. In July 2016, three officers conspired to impersonate a federal officer in order to steal $20,000 in cash.” (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Apple Board Member Al Gore makes $29 million in profit selling Apple stock.
  • Authenticity is bunk. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Help me Watergate, you’re my only hope!

    The NYT and the Washington Post have a motivation to ally with the Democratic Party in its last-ditch effort to Watergatize Trump after Trump’s endless criticisms of them. And this anti-Trump approach may get them a spike in readership, even as it repels some readers like me.

    I’m missing the sense that I’m getting the normal news. It seems unfair and shoddy not to cover the President the way you’d cover any President. What looks like an effort to stigmatize Trump as not normal has — to my eyes — made the media abnormal.

    Snip.

    The more seemingly normal Trump becomes — as with his speech to Congress the other day — the more the anti-Trump approach of the news media feels like a hackish alliance with the Democratic Party in its sad, negative, backward-looking effort to disrupt the President the people elected.

  • Have any of my friends lost a gun transiting Austin Bergstrom Airport? If so, a baggage handler may have stole your gun to trade for pot.

    Austin police have charged Matthew Bartlett, 21, and Catronn Hewitt, 36, with felony possession of marijuana, police said in a news release.

    Ja’Quan Johnson, 25, was charged with federal charges in connection with the thefts. Johnson is a contract baggage handler at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and is believed to have been behind the thefts, according to police and the Justice Department.

    Buying pot? Likely misdemeanor charge. But stealing guns from airport luggage is likely an interstate federal gun trafficking felony. Also: Our airport security is in the best of hands!

  • Houston Chronicle to move its call center from the Philippines to Dallas. 1. Who thought it was a good idea to move it to the Philippines in the first place? 2. “The move will result in 130 new jobs for Texas.” Why does the Chronicle need 130 people in its call center? 3. Dallas? Really? Because it’s evidently impossible to locate a call center in the 4th largest city in America…
  • SEC charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton dismissed. A state felony trail is pending, but given that the state charges are based on the same issue as the SEC case just dismissed, chances of a conviction would appear to be very slim. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Trump Derangement Syndrome in La La Land.
  • How was I to know/She was with the Russians too?

  • Speaking of which:

  • Indeed, “Russia!” is now the go-to move for the media the same way a bad video game player will just use the same button combination over and over again:

  • More CNN fakery:

  • Happiest stinkiest place in the world. (Hat tip: Director Blue.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio flew eyebrow artist 7,500 miles to do his brows for the Oscars. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Insecure Mongo DB run by toy company hit with ransomware.
  • Ever wanted Mickey Spillane’ typewriter or his World War II uniform? Now’s your chance. I already put in a bid on Spillane’s concealed gun permit…
  • Hillary Backer Dan Grilo Gets Himself Fired

    Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

    No one should have expected Democrats to like Trump’s speech, but even I didn’t expect the irrational ire expressed over Trump’s tribute to Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens and his widow. After all, tributes to fallen American soldiers have long been a staple for state of the union/joint addresses for Presidents of both parties.

    But one particular Tweeter, a former Hillary Clinton campaign volunteer and “Principle” of the Liberty Advisor Group named Dan Grilo, took it even farther:

    After receiving a tweetstorm of criticism, Grilo seemed to realize just how badly he had screwed up. First he set his Twitter account to private, then deleted it altogether. But by then the damage had been done.

    Oddly enough, Mr. Grilo’s employer didn’t take kindly to his criticism of a SEAL’s widow:

    Last night during President Trump’s speech, a Liberty Advisor Group employee sent out an offensive and inappropriate tweet regarding the Gold Star family that was being rightly honored before Congress and the Nation. The personal views of this individual do not represent Liberty and we vigorously disavow them.

    Although the message and subsequent apologies were sent from an individual’s personal account, and bore no connection to his work with Liberty, his comments were inconsistent with the Company’s values and the unyielding respect it has for the members of our Nation’s Armed Forces. Regardless of whether the comments in the tweet were intended to cause the hurt and anger that they ultimately generated, they were unacceptable to us, and the individual who issued the tweet is no longer affiliated with Liberty.

    Liberty’s culture places a high value on the men and women of America’s military who fight to defend us and our families. We honor them. We want to express our sincere condolences to Mrs. Owens. We also apologize to all those who have served this nation, including those Liberty employees who have themselves served, and anyone else who was offended by these comments.

    All in all, it was the biggest self-inflicted career wound for a snide Democrat since one Adam Smith got himself fired for harassing a Chick-Fil-A worker.

    The moral of our story: Don’t do that.

    Etched in Eternity: Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens

    Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

    Easily the most emotional part of President Trump’s joint address to congress was his tribute to fallen Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the first solider who died under President Trump’s watch, with his widow Carryn Owens in the audience.

    Ryan died as he lived — a warrior, a hero, battling against terrorism, and securing our nation. I just spoke to our great General Mattis just now who reconfirmed that, and I quote, Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy. Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you.

    Following the tribute was a full two minutes of standing ovation for Owens and his widow everyone in attendance (with the notable exception of several prominent Democrats, including former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and newly-elected DNC Vice Chair Rep. Keith Ellison).

    It was clearly the emotional highlight of President Trump’s speech, and arguable of any joint address/state of the union address in recent memory. And Trump’s gentle quip “I think he just broke a record” was a masterful way to bring the moment to a satisfying denouement and continue the speech.

    Here’s an overview of Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens’ career serving his country:

    Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens

    Died Jan. 29, 2017 Supporting U.S. Central Command operations
    36, of Peoria, Illinois; assigned to a special warfare unit based on the U.S. East Coast; died of wounds sustained in a raid against al-Qaida.

    The Department of Defense today has identified Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens as the first American war casualty of the President Donald Trump era.

    Owens, 36, of Peoria, Ill., died Jan.29 of wounds received during a raid conducted in Yemen. Three other service members were wounded in the raid.

    Nava Special Warfare Command confirmed Owens was assigned to an “East Coast-based Special Warfare unit.” While multiple news outlets are reporting the unit as Seal Team Six, the Navy would not confirm.

    An estimated 14 al-Qaida terrorists were killed during the raid, according to a release by the U.S. Central Command.

    “Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump said in a White House press release on Jan. 29. “My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member.

    A fifth service member was injured when “a U.S. military aircraft assisting in the operation experienced a hard landing at a nearby location,” according to the CENTCOM release.

    That aircraft was unable to fly after the landing and was intentionally destroyed.

    Owens enlisted in the Navy in Aug. 24, 1998. After initially training as a cryptologic technician (communications), he served his initial tour of duty at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland, before attending basic and advanced SEAL training in Coronado, California, completing training in December 2002.

    His first tour as a SEAL was at a West Coast unit, followed by three consecutive East Coast unit tours. He was on his fifth team tour when he was killed. He’d been with that unit just over two years.

    He was selected for chief petty officer in 2009.

    Along with his SEAL Trident and Basic Parachutist wings, he is qualified to wear the following awards:

    Navy/Marine Corps Medal
    Bronze Star w/Combat “V” (2 awards)
    Bronze Star
    Joint Service Commendation Medal w/Combat “V” (2 awards)
    Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2 awards)
    Joint Service Achievement Medal
    Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (3 awards)
    Combat Action Ribbon
    Joint Meritorious Unit Award (2 awards)
    Good Conduct Medal (6 awards)
    Presidential Unit Citation (3 awards)
    National Defense Service Medal
    Afghanistan Campaign Medal
    Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
    Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
    Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (8 awards)

    The Navy doesn’t hand out Navy/Marine Corps Medals or Bronze Stars (with or without the Combat V) to just anyone. Senior Chief Owens was clearly an American hero, which makes it all the more inexplicable that prominent Democrats would fail to stand for the ovation to him and his widow.

    Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus at CPAC

    Sunday, February 26th, 2017

    Considered including this in Friday’s LinkSwarm, but decided this panel with Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus at CPAC was important enough for a separate post.

    A few points:

  • As previously reported, there’s none of the discord here between Bannon and Priebus that the mainstream media likes to ascribe to them. I’ve seen panels where the panelists were barely hiding their animosity with other panelists, and there’s none of that on display.
  • As for President Trump’s cabinet being the best cabinet in the history of cabinets: George Washington’s first cabinet included Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, so no.
  • “The greatest public speaker in those large arenas since William Jennings Bryant.” Untrue. Martin Luther King, Jr. takes that crown, unless Bannon meant campaign speeches given in Presidential campaigns. There John F. Kennedy was a better speaker, but his venues tended to be smaller.
  • Priebus’ pick for biggest priority of the first 30 days of the Trump Administration: “Neil Gorsuch.”
  • Priebus’ pick for second and third biggest priorities: deregulation and immigration.
  • Bannon’s picks for same: Nations security/sovereignty, “economic nationalism,” and “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Suck it, Jacques Derrida!
  • I’m not sold on “fair trade” and economic nationalism, or how the Trump Administration will keep them from becoming protectionism and crony capitalism. Given their embrace of the Export-Import Bank, the answer appears to be “they won’t.” But it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that their vision of more bilateral trade deals can pan out better for American economic interest than the dog’s breakfast of Trans-Pacific Partnership would have. It’s “the devil’s in the details” question, and there are so many, many devils…
  • Bannon: “The rule of law is going to exist when you talk about sovereignty and you talk about immigration.”
  • The Trump Administration is clearly the most serious about deregulation of the economy since Reagan, and maybe the most serious ever.
  • Bannon: “If you think they [the mainstream media] is going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day it is going to be a fight.”
  • Bannon and Priebus use close synonyms to describe each other: “dogged” and “indefatigable.”
  • Watch the whole thing.

    (Hat tip: Ann Althouse.)