Category Archives: USA

So, Justin, nice little country you got there….

Trump, Trudeau, trade, Mexico“Canada will start negotiations shortly. I’ll be calling the Prime Minister very soon. And we’ll start negotiation, and if they’d like to negotiate fairly, we’ll do that. You know, they have tariffs of almost 300 percent on some of our dairy products, and we can’t have that. We’re not going to stand for that.

I think with Canada, frankly, the easiest thing we can do is to tariff their cars coming in. It’s a tremendous amount of money and it’s a very simple negotiation. It could end in one day and we take in a lot of money the following day.” President Trump in phone call with President of Mexico announcing bilateral trade deal

The orange bully, poopy head is being mean to our mighty Prime Minister and his trade negotiators. Basically the US, having been insulted by our PM and getting thoroughly fed up with the gender equality/climate change/social justice pretensions of the Great White North, cut a deal with the Mexicans. Sunset clause and all.

Now, Trump may call Justin – assuming Justin is in the office – and he may be willing to do a bilateral trade deal, but there is no particular reason the US needs a deal. And they certainly don’t need one with big dairy tariffs and gender equality.

See the big stick? Yup, auto tariffs. Which is to say the end of Ontario’s economy.

Now, our brilliant Prime Minister and his advisers are pretty convinced that the path to their next majority lies in running against Trump. Because Canadians hate Trump and they line up to demonstrate their patriotism by supporting Justin when he stands up to the orange ogre.

Here’s the thing: Trump and his people don’t care.

Justin’s tough guy stance has reduced Canada to the status of ankle biter among nations. We used to box above our weight internationally – or at least we told ourselves we did. Trump is a realist. He doesn’t need Canada. And he certainly doesn’t need a dim, virtue signalling Canadian Prime Minister to tell him about climate change and indigenous people.

So, realistically, it may be a while before the Prime Ministerial phone rings.

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State of Play

After the Manafort verdicts and the Cohen plea deal, if you were watching MSM, you could be forgiven for thinking that Trump would be packing his bags and getting ready to resign rather than be impeached. Forgiven but still more than a little wrong.

What has actually happened is that one former associate has been convicted on eight out of 18 counts of assorted financial irregularities a decade ago. No Russia, no Trump. But the Cohen plea deal is much more interesting. Essentially Cohen, as part of the allocution leading to the guilty plea, said that he was directed to make payments which would influence the outcome of the election and that this constituted a campaign finance law violation and therefore the person giving him the direction also violated the law.

Cue the Democrats and the MSM. Trump committed a crime, Trump conspired, Trump is not a legitimate President, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee should not be considered because Trump is only in the White House because he committed a crime…and so on. The theme of the day yesterday and I expect pretty much all this week is that Cohen admitted to criminal behaviour and therefore Trump is a criminal for telling him to commit the crime.

When it comes to Trump the MSM is willing to seize on any reed, no matter how slender, to come up with something, anything, to do him down.

Paying off the floozies, or settling lawsuits or paying out subcontractors is pretty normal course business. But wait, this was not billionaire Trump doing it, it was candidate Trump so that’s different…its a reportable campaign contribution and he didn’t report it. Probably not. Watching relatively sane people discuss the question, a reportable campaign contribution is a payment made to, exclusively, further the campaign. Buying a new suit may enhance a candidate’s appearance and therefore contribute to his campaign, but it is also just a normal course transaction and therefore unlikely to be found to be a reportable campaign contribution. And you can go a long way into those woods if you really start looking at the law going to reportable campaign contributions.

The fact that Michael Cohen, in his allocution, said it was a contribution designed to further the Trump campaign is immaterial, particularly as an allocution is only evidence as against the person making it. Cohen’s – or more precisely, the SDNY Assistant DA’s – characterization of the law is not actually the law and, because this will not be going to trial, is not in any sense a finding of law.

It also contradicts Cohen’s prior versions of his story. Plus, it is the statement of a man who has a prosecutorial gun to his head in the form of a sentencing recommendation on the other charges which are, pretty clearly, actual violations of the law.

From Trump’s perspective, Manafort and Cohen are now off the board. It is possible that one or both of them, faced with decades in prison, will “remember” some form of “collusion with the Russians” but, unless they have really solid evidence, those memories are unlikely to gain much purchase. Manafort is already fading from the headlines simply because nothing he was convicted of has anything to do with Trump. Cohen will have a slightly longer half-life if only because his lawyer is an old-time Clintonista and is more than willing to suggest that Cohen has the real dirt on Trump.

But the excitement of bringing these two rascals to court is going to fade fast. Meanwhile, the Dems are hollering for “Impeachment”. It is not very clear that failing to report a possible campaign contribution quite clears the bar of “high crime and misdemeanour”; but no matter, the Democrats want a chance to impeach the Orange Menace.

For the next two months, Trump will be on the road campaigning for Republican Congressional candidates. He’ll stage rallies, tweet his “full and total endorsement”, brag, goose the economy, invite people to the White House and push his band of deplorables to get out the vote. The Republican vote. The Mueller investigation will grind on but it is increasingly irrelevant simply because it has not managed to come up with any actual links between the Trumpsters and the evil Russians.

However, the Mueller investigation is not the only politically significant investigation in operation. The Congressional investigation into the activities of the FBI and the DOJ with respect to the Hillary emails, the DNC hack, the surveillance of the Trump campaign, the Steele dossier and its use to obtain FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign, the improper unmasking of American persons by Obama administration officials, the complicity of MSM in the partisan leaks of the FBI and the general corruption of the FBI/DOJ under Obama is coming to a boil. Unlike the Mueller investigation or the trial of Manafort or the plea of Cohen, Trump holds all the cards in the corruption scandal because he can declassify the documents, texts and emails which document what is almost certain to be the largest, most insidious, scandal ever to hit American politics.

Right now this scandal is missing two things: a convenient, memorable, nickname like “Watergate” and an insider whistleblower who can simplify and connect the dots. I suspect both things will be supplied around the second to third week of September. Real crimes committed by senior government officials all of whom supported, well, Hillary. The Democrats won’t stand a chance.

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Trump having more fun

Oh my gracious. Donald Trump suggests that the issues between the US and Russia might have something to do with both countries.

Chorus: Treason!

Then the man notes that Putin denies he interferred with US elections (which he so did) and that Trump is willing to pay attention to the denial and disregard the “Intelligence Community’s” assessment (based on a non-examination of DNC servers conducted by a non-governmental entity so, well, totally true).

Chorus: Double Dog TREASON!!!

And so on.

It is well past time for Trump to release every single document, unredacted, going to the origins of the “Intelligence Community’s” political investigation of the Trump campaign. The originating communications, the FISA applications, the internal communcations in the DOJ and the FBI as well as the documents held by the “Intelligence Community”.

The sources and methods have all, largely, been leaked. There are no secrets here except how the IC and the FBI and the DOJ behaved poorly (and likely illegally) in their efforts to “get” Trump.

Chorus: Double Dog Treason!!! with a Stinky Finger!

And it is time for Trump to tell Sessions to tell Rosenstein to tell Mueller he has until September 1 to provide evidence of a crime directly related to the 2016 election or he’s fired. No more funding and we want all your documents too.

Chorus: Obstruction and Treason and Impeachment!!!

And Trump should invite Putin and Xi to Mar Largo for a few days of golf. Just for shits and giggles. No press, no press conferences, just a few guys having a bit of guy time together.

Chorus: Impossible! Sexist, Racist, Treason, Death to America – ooopps- like Death to the Dictators!

So giddy up Donald…the swamp is not going to drain itself and the MSM are running so fast that they will turn to butter. Like little African American Sambo’s tiger.

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Endgame

Donald Trump, US politicsAt the beginning of last week, before the State of the Union and before the release of the Nunes memo, the Democrats could still hold out hope that, somehow the not very Presidential Trump would be taken out either by a rather vigorous reading of the 25th Amendment or by Special Counsel Mueller finally finding proof of Russian collusion and then proof that President Trump covered up that collusion in a manner which would attract an indictment for obstruction of justice. These were pretty implausible to begin with, but after a brilliant performance at the SOTU and the confirmation that the FBI/DOJ played silly buggers with the FISA process I think it is safe to say Trump will be serving out his term.

Which is not to say that the FBI/DOJ follies will now be buried. Quite the opposite. The Nunes memo raises more questions than it answers. And other Committees of both the House and the Senate are investigating the FBI/DOJ as well as the State Department. The behaviour of the top echelons of the FBI/DOJ revealed in the Nunes memo and factually uncontradicted suggests that there was a pattern of partisan behaviour which should never exist in a police force or a Department of State responsible for prosecuting the law. And that pattern of behaviour goes well beyond the (Trump) Russian collusion fable. In the first instance, it raises the question of the Clinton Russian collusion. After all, the DNC and the Clinton campaign financed the efforts of a foreign national to obtain information from, well, Russians to compromise an American Presidential candidate. Those Russian individuals were closely tied to the Russian state. And the Clinton campaign and DNC made it their business to push the dossier into the hands of the FBI/DOJ. How all that happened and how to prevent it from happening again is an obvious matter of national interest.

Then we have the emerging, and very queer tale, of the Clinton emails on the Weiner computer and the bizarre spectacle of FBI Director Comey announcing, ten days before the election, that the Clinton email investigation was being re-opened. It appears that now “retired” Assistant FBI Director McCabe had known about the Clinton emails for a month before it occurred to him to tell the Director that there might be a tiny problem. Comey must have been furious but realized that he had no choice but to re-open the investigation. Particularly as FBI agents in New York, as well as NYPD personnel, were aware of the emails. This might appear to be small potatoes however many political observers suggest that the re-opening of the investigation re-enforced the doubts many people had about Clinton and caused more than a few to stay home rather than vote for the likely criminal Clinton. It may not have added any votes to the Trump tally, but Comey’s announcement certainly took a few away from Mrs. Clinton. Figuring out how that happened and trying to make sure it does not happen again is another, obvious matter of national interest.

We are looking forward to the Inspector General’s Report on the Department of Justice which is likely to focus on the overall behaviour of the department with respect to the Clinton emails and, perhaps, with the decisions surrounding the investigation of the IRS targeting of conservative groups. While the Nunes memo has been attacked as “partisan”, the IG’s report will not be vulnerable to such attack. It should be very interesting and should open up many avenues for Congressional Investigation.

My own view is that the “original sin” of the FBI/DOJ was the decision to ignore the clear wording of the law and find that there was a requirement for “intent” in the law regarding the handling of classified materials. This novel interpretation – apparently worked out by the FBI before it had actually done interviews with the principals involved in the Clinton email disaster – of the law allowed Mrs. Clinton and her people to avoid prosecution. In hindsight that corrupted the FBI in a profound way. The FBI should not interpret the law in any case, that is the DOJ’s responsibility. (The recusal of Mrs. Lynch after her tete a tete with Hilly’s husband needs to be looked into as well.) But if the FBI is stuck interpreting the law it needs to stick to the letter of the law rather than inventing requirements which the law does not contain. While it might have been shocking to see Mrs. Clinton charged it would have been less shocking than seeing the Director of the FBI contort the plain words of a law he is pledged to uphold. (I note that had Clinton and her aides been charged the matter would likely have been pled down to a misdemeanor level and life would carry on. Even with a guilty plea to a minor charge, Hilly would have been in better shape to explain her conduct to an electorate which would likely have forgiven it.)

Digging down to that “original sin” and the circumstances which surrounded will take some time. Time which will only be available if the Republicans can manage to hold at least the Senate and, ideally, the House. In the fevered imaginations of Democratic partisans, the Democratic party will win the House in November and begin impeachment proceedings as soon as a new House of Representatives has been seated. Which is why the SOTU speech and Trump’s overall performance is so important.

To get to the bottom of the Obama administration’s corruption of the justice system in the United States there needs to be a Republican House and Senate. Otherwise, the committees will be chaired by Democrats and all this will be swept thoroughly under the carpet. And for the Republicans to win they need a leader for their party. For better or worse, Trump is that leader and how he does and how he perceived to be doing is critically important. While Trump will never be treated fairly by the American mainstream media, he seems willing to end-run that media. Events like the SOTU give Trump the opportunity to be the President for all Americans. It also gives him the opportunity to underline what a partisan, sour and rather nasty bunch the Democrats actually are. He has nine months to close the sale with the American people. The Democratic Party is broke and in a state of civil war as the “woke” shoot up the “business Democrats” and Mrs. Clinton remains like a bad smell. The Trump tax cuts are about to kick in and the Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting 5.5% growth in Q1. American companies are bringing home their offshore billions and showing willing to hire Americans. The Democrats have locked their ankle to the DACA anchor and are seen as putting America last when it comes to immigration. And so on.

To win, Trump and the Republicans do not have to be brilliant, they simply have to be less stupid than the Democrats. Fortunately for Trump this is not difficult.

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Memo

While we await the next sock to drop – and where is Sophie – the American political world is fixated on a 4 page memo which summarizes nefarious deeds by the FBI, DOJ and Lord knows who else. Who will be named? What did they do? Apparently, Trump is cool with releasing the memo with few, if any, redactions. The Democrats are calling for Chairman Nunes head because…well, stuff. The FBI is saying it leaves stuff out. The DOJ is claiming release would be reckless.

To be honest I am not expecting much. A bit of confirmation that the “dirty dossier” figured in FISA applications. Possibly a little more information on how the fix was put in to prevent Hilly from being charged. But that will be about it factually.

Which is not really the point. The point is that the Obama administration politicized the DOJ and the FBI. Once that is out with a bit of evidence to back it up, the wheels begin falling off both the Obama administration and the Hillary campaign. Which would not matter much in a normal transition; but the Trump transition was being undermined from the get go. How it was done and who did it matters a lot.

The memo is the first piece of a multi-piece operation. It will, I suspect, give grounds for the appointment of a special counsel to examine the conduct of the FBI and the DOJ vis a vis the Trump transition and the Hillary email decisions. It may not be enough. Enough will likely come with the report of the DOJ Inspector General who is looking into the behavior and the adherence to standards and norms of the DOJ and the FBI in these matters. The memo is a partisan document, the Inspector General’s report is deeply non-partisan.

My argument for voting for Trump – who I did not like going into the election and remain skeptical about now – was always that Hillary was a criminal surrounded by people who were either criminals or indifferent to the law. Trump, foolishly in my view, said he would not charge Hillary. However, as the facts emerge, I suspect it will be out of his hands.

The memo is going to bare certain facts. In themselves, they will be damning but they will also provide the base for further investigation. Those investigations will, gradually, reveal the full extent of the corruption which permeated the Obama White House and the Clintons in all their guises.

For the moment, the memo is knocking down FBI people like nine pins; but they are just the froth on the sewage. The bigger players, Lynch, Powers, Rice, Huma and a host of others need to be exposed, criminally charged and either pled out or sent to jail. The pleas will be interesting. Huma is a dead woman walking because she absolutely knew about the email traffic to Hilly’s “unauthorized” (and, hence, illegal) server. The other ladies unmasked or had quiet chats with Hilly’s husband when her plane happened to meet his.

This will all take a while but if Trump #freesthememo the first step will have been taken.

 

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Won’t take “Yes” for an answer

Last week we had the hilariously abortive two and a half day government shut down when the Democrats refused to fund the government unless their immigration demands were met. That went well. The Democrats caved in record time and, in the process, pretty much destroyed the “shutdown” as leverage.

Then Trump floats a comprehensive immigration/Dreamer/wall/visa lottery/chain migration package.

The nationalist right went crazy. 1.8 million Dreamers, 15 million related family, villagers…Froth, foam…Betrayal. Never going to vote for Trump again and so on.

But the reaction of the Democrats, particularly their base, was brilliant. “The burning cross,” was mild. Faucahantus is livid tweeting “By ending DACA, @realdonaldtrump subjected 800k Dreamers to deportation. Now he wants to hold them hostage to Steven Miller’s anti-immigrant wish list. It’s insulting.” And so on.

Both reactions were entirely predictable.

From the Democratic side of the table, the deal Trump offered is never going to be acceptable because the Democratic base sees immigration as a must “win” piece of the “resistance”. Winning on the Dreamers while conceding on the wall, etc. is essentially out of the question because it would give the hated Trump something he might want. So long as wall/chain/visa lottery we included the Democrats will support no Trump proposal.

Which Trump knew going in.

What Trump also knows, but which the Democratic base has not taken on, is that the Dreamers turn to pumpkins when the Obama executive program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expires in early March. Trump didn’t renew the program so, as it required an Executive Order to be renewed, it is dead. Deportations will not follow immediately, but they will most certainly be on the horizon unless Congress can enact some sort of legislation. (Which, Trump says, is exactly what Congress should do rather than relying on a continuing, likely unconstitutional,  bit of Presidential legislation by pen.)

If DACA ends there is very little downside for Trump and minimal downside for the majority of GOP Representatives and Senators. Illegal immigration is not particularly popular in the US. But if DACA ends and is not replaced with legislation the Democratic base will go nuts. Unfortunately for the base, the legislative proposal floated by Trump is far and away the best offer he is going to make. His base is already furious that he has gone this far and while Chamber of Commerce Republicans and GOPe types are in favour of more permissive immigration solutions, Trump Nation is not.

DACA supporters are very likely to go over the top in the next few weeks bringing home the idea that these are not the sort of people America wants to bend over backward to accommodate.  The Kamala Harris/Elizabeth Warren wing of the party will grow shriller and loonier as the days pass. Chuck Schumer might try for another government shutdown but the politics of that are unattractive after the previous failure.

All of which Trump and his people know.

So what happens? Schumer has no choice but to turn down a very generous deal. Then, “tick tock”. The deadline approaches. Mitch McConnell makes good his pledge to let a bill “legalizing” the current DACA regime reach the floor of the Senate for a vote. That bill, I suspect, will be much less generous than the current offer and it will certainly have the wall/visa lottery/chain migration provisions baked in. And then? Well then the genius Democrats will vote against it and, with no time left on the legislative clock, the Dreamers will lose their, always provisional, status.

Trump will have maneuvered the Democrats into voting against legislation which their core constituency desperately wants. DACA will die, but it will die at the hands of the Democratic Party.

At that point, Trump can dictate his terms. He does not have to deport every dreamer the day after DACA dies; in fact, there is pending litigation which will prevent deportation for months if not years. But now Trump can cheese slice immigration reform. He can work with the Republican majority to create legislation which will provide routes to citizenship and he can work with that majority to fund the wall, eliminate chain migration and kill the visa lottery. There is no legislative necessity for more than a simple majority on any of these measures except and unless the Dems decide to filibuster. Tough to filibuster a bill that lets, say, 400,000 or so of the registered Dreamers in provided that they meet fairly strict criteria.

It has taken Trump a while to figure out the game in Washington. Lots of errors and missteps along the way. But The Donald seems to be a quick study and he certainly knows how to drive wedges between Democrats. As the economy continues to improve and as the Mueller investigation descends into farce for want of any actual evidence of any actual crime, Trump is building political capital. He is beginning to understand how to deploy that capital. As he gets better at the job my bet is that his approval ratings will rise. If he breaches 50%, because the media have created such low expectations, he is going to be seen as a serious and effective President.

And then the indictment of Clinton cronies will begin. Do you think Huma will sing? I do.

Can’t wait.

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What the US needs right now

Beverly McLaughlin, the swamp, Mueller, Comely, Donald Trump, Mark Steyn is soooooo mean. He is pointing out that the “independent counsel” and his minions are not independent at all.

“My sweetly naïve understanding of an “independent counsel” is that he should be “independent”. For example, even in the presently desiccated condition of the Commonwealth, it’s generally understood that, when you’ve got a problem and you want someone independent to investigate it, “independent” means outsider.” mark steyn (go read the whole thing, tons of fun)

The Daily Caller is just one of the outlets bringing out the fact that the Mueller investigation is very deep in the swamp:

“A series of new revelations about the FBI under James Comey has provided more evidence that partisan agents may have abused their agency positions for political purposes during the Hillary Clinton email investigation and 2016 presidential campaign.

Top FBI agent Peter Strzok, the public now knows, was removed from the Mueller investigation after a Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (IG) investigation revealed damning text messages between Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page.” daily caller

The American mess is deep and sordid and, frankly, needs to be cleaned up. But by who?

The fact is that virtually any special counsel appointed by the DOJ will be tainted one way or another. And so, apparently, will investigators drawn from the FBI. It is a mess but it also needs to be resolved.

So, a friendly suggestion from Canada.

Our deeply respected, longest serving, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is retiring at the end of the year. Beverly McLaughlin, while I disagree with some of her opinions, is tough, fair-minded and very, very, smart. By the nature of her position, she is “read in” on intelligence and security cleared.  She’ll be bombarded with job offers but, if asked nicely, might be willing to lead an investigation into the whole ball of wax which the 2016 American election created. Russians, Hilly’s server and how it was dealt with by the FBI, Lynch on the tarmac with Bill, Mueller, Comely: the whole thing.

But Bev is not enough. Sending a small detachment of the RCMP – white collar and intelligence – with her, with really serious investigative powers, would get the whole mess cleared up in six months. (The scarlet tunics would be optional but would make great tv as they raided offices and homes of the swamp creatures.) McLaughlin would not proffer charges, rather she would write a report and recommend such charges as arise.

Better still, the Chief Justice and the Horsemen would be paid for – independently – by the Canadian government with a bill to be presented to our American cousins at the end of the investigation.

Sometimes the mess is so big you need an independent professional to clean it up. This is one of those times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No there there

The mighty Mueller and his gunsels have rooted and dug and investigated and produced indictments: for doubtful business dealings predating Manafort’s involvement with the Trump campaign.

The dummy brigade is going nuts with our own Warren “Lying Jackal” Kinsella announcing, “And there can be no doubt, now, that Trump’s campaign was effectively run out of the Kremlin.”

As there is nothing at all in the indictment of Manafort and Gates which relates to the Trump campaign Warren and his ilk are forced to rely on the boiler plate “Conspiracy Against the United States of America”. As it is this “United States of America” which is proffering the charges and this same entity in its guise of the Department of Justice and Department of the Treasury whom Manafort is alleged to have defrauded, it is difficult to imagine how else Mueller would have framed the charges.

But, dummy chorus aside, is there anything in the indictment which puts the finger on Trump? On a quick reading I would say there isn’t. It may not have been the smartest thing in the world to hire a guy with Manafort’s connections to doubtful dictators and assorted oligarchs; but against that is balanced the fact that as Trump became aware of those links he first demoted and then fired Manafort.

Maybe these charges are part of a clever leverage scheme to get Manafort, facing an eternity in Federal Prison and the forfeiture of any assets the Feds can trace, to sing. Right out of G-man 101. That is, at best, a maybe. The fact the charges were brought at all suggests that whatever Manafort knew was not enough to avoid liability for his alleged sins. He has, after all, been interviewed by the Special Prosecutors’ office on several occasions and that would have been the time to cut a deal. That these charges have been proffered suggests no deal was done. Now there is, of course, still time for “all of this to go away” if Manafort has something interesting on Trump. But why would he have held it back? I doubt he thought Mueller was just joking around in those earlier meetings.

All of which leads me to suspect that Manafort does not, in fact, have “it” where “it” is the smoking gun of Trump/Russia collusion. And I also suspect that Manafort has a pretty good defence worked out. (And he may be backstopped by the promise of a pardon but I would doubt it; no reason for Trump to pardon a guy on stuff he did a decade ago unless that guy had the real, live, smoking gun.)

Trump, correctly in my view, is taking the position that nothing in the Manafort/Gates indictment has anything to do with Trump or his campaign.Which leaves the partisan ankle biters at CNN with nothing much more than the guilty plea of a campaign volunteer named Papadopoulos. What was he guilty of? Lying to the FBI regarding dates upon which he, apparently on his own initiative,  had conversations with various Russians. Not a great moment for the Trump world but also a very long way from proving collusion. And, with the guilty plea in place, assuming that Papadopoulos had anything to tell, chances are pretty good he’s told it.

Mueller has been on the job for months. He has a team of prosecutors and agents who have looked at every element of the Trump campaign. They have come up with some pretty routine alleged tax evasion and a guy lying to the FBI about the dates of meetings and conversations with Russians. Is Mueller saving “the good stuff” for Christmas? Is he hoping that Trump will suddenly begin to conspire to “cover up” and render himself vunerable? Hard to say but, at a guess, this wimpy set of charges about business activities predating Manafort’s involvement with the Trump campaign are pretty much the best Mueller has. That could change, but he will have to do much better than this to provide impeachment ammunition. Much better.

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A Plenary Power

A conversation:

Aide: They are charging Mr. X with obstruction of justice.

The President: What did he do?

Aide: He had a conversation with a Russian. Then he lied about it to a guy who turned out to be your Veep.

The President: The dirty dog. Tell him to plead guilty and I’ll pardon him that day.

Aide: But you can’t do that.

The President: Just watch me.

Aide: But that might be obstruction of justice right there.

The President: Counsel, what’s a plenary power?

White House Counsel (shaking slightly): It is an absolute, unqualified, power.

The President: And is that the Pardon Power I have per ” Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution which states that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment“. I looked it up on Wiki.

White House Counsel: Well, in a manner of speaking, Sir.

The President: Good to know. And Counsel, would you tell Mueller that any more chickenshit charges are going to be pardoned. And do that with a public letter. He’s going to have to do way better than this to get something to stick. And how are you coming on the “dirty” dossier to the FISA Court and the FBI dropping the Uranium One investigation about Bill and Hilly. I don’t want to waste my time dealing with chickenshit when there are real crimes to look into.

Aide: Thank you Mr. President.

 

 

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Bannon 1, Flake 0, GOPe -5

Steve BannonJeff Flake is pretty much the poster boy for country club Republicanism. Responsible, moderate, no boat rocking, no deplorables and certainly never Trump.

“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, devoted to free trade, pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party” Jeff Flake

It is not entirely clear when traditional conservatives became “pro-immigration” but it is clear that conservatives in general, if they favour immigration at all, are pro “legal” immigration. As to limited government and free markets, Flake has been in Washington since 2001. Has the government been limited? Have markets become freer? As to free trade, neither W nor Obama nor the Congress of the United States has been very interested in trade.

Flake’s retirement in the face of the fact he was 15 to 20 points behind in the Republican primary suggests that Steve Bannon’s strategy of playing a bit of hardball with RINOs is working. Bannon’s agenda, which interestingly includes “legal” immigration in place of illegal, a genuine reduction in the scope of government and a recognition that unlimited “free trade” with countries which pay a tenth of American wages may not be such a good deal, is resonating amongst Republican and even independent voters. A couple of decades of economic stagnation in which poor people, black and white, stayed poor and their ranks were swelled by other people falling out of the middle class, suggests the consensus elite positions on these sorts of issues may not be working so terribly well.

Bannon was smart enough to realize that an America First agenda spoke to the needs of the American people in a way the elite solutions had long since failed to do. Bannon was also smart enough to realize that the crooked timber of Trump was strong enough to push these ideas into the civic forum. MAGA is a silly slogan but it touched people who were, in fact, better off twenty years ago before they were given the blessing of GOPe and Obama.

The Bannonite insurgency in the Republican Party rests on the simple premise that if things are not working you try to change them. Obamacare was ill-conceived at the go and relied upon illegal appropriations from the President to work at all. All Trump had to do was stop making those appropriations and, Obamacare will, slowly and likely painfully, collapse. Now, I don’t think the Republicans have any particularly good replacement for Obamacare; but its collapse will at least mean that the GOPe will not be able to vote with the Democrats to keep the Rube Goldberg structure on life support. Same story with the “Dreamers”. Simply by refusing to extend Obama’s Executive Orders for non-enforcement, the problem is kicked back to Congress where it belongs.

I don’t think Trump has been a very good President but simply by refusing to extend decisions made in the Obama era, he is reducing the harm done. For fans of limited government, as Flake professes to be, reducing Executive overreach and pushing law making to the legislative branch of the government is a very good start indeed.

Bannon recognized that voters on the right were fed up with voting for Republican canidates only to have them turn into Democrats in drag when they hit Washington. The very idea of primarying fine old GOPe canidates proves pretty conclusively that Bannon is far too rude to be admitted to any decent country club. And, as he racks up the wins, he will also increase his power in the Republican Party.

If we assume, along with the increasingly deranged media, that Trump is, at best, an entirely hollow man without a policy thought to bless himself with and with no time for the Republican Party, the defenders of the GOPe status quo are people like Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. These are not popular men nor do they have much unity of purpose save staying in office or collecting fat consulting fees. These are the great minds who brought a disgusted American People “Jeb!”.

For Bannon, wind at his back, crushing this outdated, policy free, cabal is the work of a single primary season. Two down, six, well five because Cruz gets a bye, Senators to go, a number of flakey Representatives as well. Bannon is on a roll and it is not obvious what will stop him from reforming the Republican Party into an America First, populist machine.

(And I note that the Democratic party is in even worse shape with little in the way of vision or leadership and a bunch of “woke” kids convinced that what the party needs is 24/7 identity politics with a healthy dose of really incoherent socialism to reduce the bugbear of “inequality” and promote the panecea of “diversity”. That, and Hilly and Bubba are very much in the frame for accepting Uranium One payments which look, well, rather like Russian bribes.)

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