Friday, June 29, 2018
Trump's Courage Shows as House GOP Takes on Rosenstein, Sessions on Immigration, McCain Disappoints Again, and Union Non-member Dues as Free Speech Is Just Plain Ridiculous
IT HEATS UP IN CONGRESS -- AND THEN, "JUST PLAIN RIDICULOUS." We cannot help but feel that the younger Republican conservatives in Congress are feeling empowered by President Trump's direct approach to politics. • • • ROSENSTEIN AND WRAY TESTIFY. FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were on Capitol Hill Thursday publicly testifying to House Republicans over the FBI and DOJ’s mishandling of Hillary’s email investigation and Spygate. • Representative Trey Gowdy took on Justice Department investigators for prolonging their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in what was a confrontational House Judiciary Committee hearing, led by chairman Bob Goodlatte, Thursday. Gowdy, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, told FBI Director Wray and DAG Rosenstein to immediately present any evidence of wrongdoing by members of the Trump campaign and conclude their probe : “We’ve seen the bias, we need to see the evidence. If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury. If you have evidence that this President acted inappropriately, present it to the American people....Whatever you got, finish it the hell up....There’s an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied. I think right now all of us are being denied. Right now this country is being torn apart.” • We have wondered at the public comments of Gowdy over the past few months, seeming to side with the DOJ and FBI, no matter their bias or inappropriate behavior. This was the old Gowdy, feisty and acting every bit the federal prosecutor. Thursday's hearing was the culmination of a long public battle pitting congressional Republicans exposing wrongdoing in the FBI’s conduct of the Russia investigation against the Justice Department that has steadfastly defended its propriety in oveseeing the investigation and the FBI's impartiality. Gowdy came back on Thursday, and he was joined by fellow House Republicans in demanding that the Justice Department be more forthcoming, not only in telling Congress and America what if anything it has against President Trump, but also in responding to document requests by Congress • Rosenstein, ever the impersonal bureaucrat who refused to answer some questions, tried to put out the fire by insisting that investigators are struggling to comply with the high volume of document requests and denied that they were intentionally withholding any evidence of bias. Rosenstein told Gowdy : “As with most things in Washington, the real work is not done on television and it is not all done by me. Trump administration officials are meeting and talking to your staffs every day to accommodate requests and produce relevant information to this committee, other committees, and several Senate committees.” It was a smug reply given with a laugh, and showed Rosenstein's lack of respect for Congress's oversight function. • Representative Jim Jordan was not buying Rosenstein's explanation or his demeanor. Jordan slammed Rosenstein and reminded him the House was voting to pass a resolution giving him “seven days to get his act together.” Jordan, an Ohio Republican, in an extraordinary and bittert exchange moments before the House voted on a measure aimed squarely at Rosenstein, attacked him for "withholding information from Congress.” A stone-faced Rosenstein flatly denied those accusations, as Jordan repeatedly interrupted his responses, saying : "I think in a few minutes the House of Representatives is going to go on record saying you have not complied with requests from a separate and equal branch of government, that you haven’t complied with subpoenas, and you've got seven days to get your act together. And I don’t know why you won’t give us what we’ve asked for.” Rosenstein replied : “Sir, I certainly hope that your colleagues are not under that impression. It is not accurate, sir — " Jordan interrupted : "It is accurate. We have caught you hiding information — " Rosenstein answered : "Your use of this to attack me personally is deeply wrong." • • • DEMOCRATS DEFENDED ROSENSTEIN AND THE RUSSIA PROBE. Rosenstein was defended by Democrat Committee member Ted Lieu of California. Lieu attacked his Republican colleagues for holding a "stupid" emergency hearing centered on the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server : “Let me start by saying it is ridiculous and stupid we are having an emergency hearing into an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016. But since Republicans control the agenda, let’s at least try to have this stupid hearing be based on the facts and the central fact from this [inspector general] investigation is that no personal views of any FBI or DOJ employee affected the integrity of the investigation." Rosenstein seemed to agree with Lieu, saying that he is unaware of any conflicts of interest that would disqualify special counsel Robert Mueller for leading the federal investigation into Russian interference. • Judiciary Committee Democrats also demanded that the GOP majority release the transcript of FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok’s 11-hour testimony that took place Wednesday behind closed-doors, accusing their Republican colleagues of taking Strzok's words out of context. It happened when Lieu interrupted Representative John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican, in his questioning after Ratcliffe noted what Strzok had said during his Wednesday testimony as it related to Mueller’s Russia probe : “Point of order, Mr. Chairman. If you want to talk about his testimony like this, release the transcript.” Chairman Goodlatte said “That is not a valid point of order.” Ratcliffe then continued his line of questioning, only to be interrupted again by other Democrats on the panel. “I assume it is a valid point of order to object to quoting or characterizing his statements in a confidential setting,” said ranking Democrat Judiciary Committee member Jerrold Nadler of New York : "We were under the impression, Mr. Chairman, that these transcripts were not to be quoted." Lieu agreed, asking Goodlatte to “release the transcript. The American people deserve to hear Peter Strzok’s testimony under oath. Do not hide his testimony.” Goodlatte again answered : “The transcript will be released to the American people in the appropriate time, but the gentleman can use it for the purpose of his questioning to the witness in this hearing.” • Just hours earlier, President Trump tweeted that Mueller should “list his conflicts of interest.” Another California Democrat, Representative Eric Swalwell, asked Rosenstein : “Does Bob Mueller have any conflicts of interest?” Rosenstein replied : “If there were any conflicts of interest that were brought to our attention, I would discuss it with Mr. Mueller and then there could be review within the department if there were a credible allegation of a conflict of interest. I am not aware of any disqualifying conflict of interest.” The continuing allegations about Mueller’s conflict of interest center on his longstanding friendship with James Comey, with whom he worked at the FBI, a friendship that many say represents a conflict that should disqualify him from the probe. President Trump's tweet on Thursday included this : "And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H? How many people will be sent to jail and...persecuted on old and/or totally unrelated charges (there was no collusion and there was no obstruction of the no collusion)...And what is going on in the FBI & DOJ with Crooked Hillary, the DNC and all of the lies? A disgraceful situation!” • • • OTHER REPUBLICANS GRILLED WRAY AND ROSENSTEIN. Gowdy and Jordan were not alone in grilling Wray and Rosenstein. Representative Darrell Issa, a California Repuiblican who is retiring, asked Wray whether or not he would investigate former FBI Director James Comey to determine whether he leaked a Justice Department inspector general report to a news outlet in advance of its release -- Bloomberg and other outlets reported on excerpts of the report before it was formally released -- and Issa also accused Comey of likely violating a nondisclosure agreement he signed to receive an advanced copy of the report, suggesting the former FBI director leaked its contents. Issa said : “He violated the nondisclosure agreement in that he contacted a news source more than four hours beforehand, because it was published four hours before it was released, probably 24 to 48 hours in advance, will you agree to look into whether or not he violated that [agreement]?” But, FBI Director Wray declined to comment on whether he would open such a probe. Issa replied : “So you’re not going to say whether he’s above the law for what he did?” Wray answered : “I do not think there’s anyone on this planet who is above the law.” • Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who is one of the Justice Department's fiercest critics, repeatedly asked Rosenstein questions centering on whether federal officials began collecting intelligence on the Trump campaign and Russia before launching its investigation in July 2016, noting that this date is given in the Democrat members' minority memo as the beginning of the FBI counterintelligence investigation. Gaetz asked : “Did any investigative activity regarding the Trump campaign and Russia occur before July 31, 2016?” Rosenstein replied : “Congressman, as you know, we are dealing with the Intelligence Committee on that issue and Chairman [Devin] Nunes met with Director Wray and me. I received the same briefing that he received so I do not know any additional information beyond what he knows about that and I’m not able to produce any information beyond what the FBI has told me.” Gaetz also asked whether Rosenstein knew of any payments to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign before the FBI launched its probe. Rosenstein said : “No, but keep in mind I wasn’t there. I only know the information we’ve obtained from the FBI records.” Rosenstein responded similarly when Gaetz asked if he knew about government efforts to contact Roger Stone, a close associate to the President, and Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo before July 31, 2016. Rosenstein answered : “I don’t have any personal knowledge, congressman, but I know we are eeking to respond to Chairman Nunes’s request;” adding that they will let Nunes know if they find any credible evidence of such. • On the touchy subject of whether Rosenstein should recuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe, GOP Representative Ron DeSantis of Florida suggested that Rosenstein should do so, pointing to the fact the deputy attorney general himself wrote the memo to President Trump recommending former FBI Director James Comey be fired. DeSantis said : “They talk about the Mueller investigation. It’s really the Rosenstein investigation. You appointed Mueller. You’re supervising Mueller, and it’s supposedly about collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia and obstruction of justice. But you wrote the memo saying that Comey should be fired and you signed the FISA extension for Carter Page. So, my question is to you, it seems like you should be recused from this more so than Jeff Sessions just because you were involved in making decisions affecting both prongs of this investigatiion. Why haven’t you done that?” Rosenstein responded he would recuse himself if “it were appropriate” : “Congressman, I can assure you that if it were appropriate for me to recuse, I would be more than happy to do so. But, it’s my responsibility to do it.” DeSantis then emphasized that Mueller is said to be investigating potential obstruction of justice by the President in the Comey firing. While press reports have indicated that special counsel Mueller is looking into possible obstruction of justice, officials have not spoken publicly about the lines of inquiry in the probe. Rosenstein said : “I am not commenting on what is under investigation by the Mueller probe and to the best of my knowledge, neither is Mr. Mueller.” Rosenstein said. • Republicans have fiercely criticized the FBI and DOJ in recent months, accusing them of slow-walking document production to House committees conducting parallel investigations into FBI and Justice Department decisionmaking during the 2016 presidential race. FBI Director Wray said : “In just the past week, for example, we’ve had approximately 100 employees working day and night dedicated to this project through the weekend to collect, review, process and produce thousands of additional pages.” Rosenstein used his opening remarks to defend the Justice Department’s document production to Congress, saying that the FBI has been making “unprecedented disclosures” to congressional committees under the Trump administration. Rosenstein stressed that he had heard concerns from lawmakers about the speed and scope of document production by the FBI related to the inspector general’s investigation, leading him to task a US attorney from Chicago with overseeing the process, which he said “seems to be working very well.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said document production by the Department of Justice has “improved considerably” -- citing the work of US Attorney John Lausch, Chicago's top federal prosecutor, tapped by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April to oversee the matter. But, Goodlatte said that he “recently learned” that the Justice Department determined “emails between prosecutors working the Clinton case” did not fall under a subpoena he issued requesting all documents provided to the inspector general -- something he called “unacceptable. We are not receiving and have not received potentially enlightening communications between prosecutors themselves, between prosecutors and DOJ management including former Attorney General Lynch, or even communications between DOJ officials and those with the Obama White House,” Goodlatte said. • • • WHAT NEXT? House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte concluded the hearing by thanking Rosenstein and Wray for their testimony but noted the committee's still outstanding questions related to its oversight investigation of the FBI’s activities leading up to the 2016 election. While Goodlatte “commended” both Wray and Rosenstein for working to improve the FBI’s document production to Congress, he nevertheless reiterated the committee’s need for documents underlying the Justice Department inspector general report, saying : “We will communicate with you further beyond right here to work on that.” Goodlatte also emphasized that Republican lawmakers have “no intention” of interfering with the substance of Mueller’s investigation. And, as predicted by Jim Jordan, Thursday's hearing concluded with the passage of a non-binding resolution demanding that the Justice Department comply with House committee subpoenas for documents related to the FBI surveillance of Trump campaign officials, including classified Trump-Russia documents, or face impeachment or contempt. • That is a session that reflects the newfound courage of the Republican majority in the House to do its federal agency oversight job aggressively and skillfully. Just one more Trump blessing for America. • • • SESSIONS SPEAKS OUT ABOUT IMMIGRATION. We lament the mainstream media’s manufactured crisis surrounding illegal alien children being separated from their parents. It is all part of the effort of ProgDems and their prppagansist media to manipulate events with Fake news, hoping to destroy President Trump. Attorney General Jeff Sessions realizes this only too well and he fought back in a speech before the National Association of School Resource Officers conference. Sessions defended the administration’s handling of illegal aliens crossing the border with children and attacked the idea that the administration’s policy was immoral and unjustified by listing the dangers and costs of not enforcing federal immigration laws. Sessions declared the real scandal was the Central American parents who “recklessly” placed their children in the hands of smugglers to illegally enter the United States. AND, he revealed what these unaccompanied illegal aliens cost tax payers per year, telling his audience : "You may not know, our government spends enormous sums of money every year to protect and care for unaccompanied alien children who were recklessly sent to the United States by their family members. A billion dollars a year." AG Sessions also explained the real threat an invasion of illegal aliens pose, stating that MS-13 gang members can use the flood of illegal alien children to infiltrate America : "Some are brought to help replenish the gang and they are terrorizing immigrant schools from Los Angeles to Louisville to Long Island to Boston. Jeff Sessions blamed the Obama administration for not prosecuting adults crossing the border with children for this explosion, stating that from 2013 to 2017, the number of illegal aliens caught entering the country with children exploded from 13,000 to 74,000. The Attorney General stated : "If we fail to porsecute these adults for illegal entry -- as many of our ciritics want us to do -- that would be a disservice to the people of this country. It would also be an insult to those who come here legally, waiting their turn lawfully." • Jeff Sessions is simply saying what Americans know -- the influx of illegal immigrants works against the rule of law, it encourages criminality, and it undercuts the lawful US immigration process. • • • NO END TO JOHN McCAIN'S PERFIDY. American Thinker's Monica Showalter revealed last Friday that : "Senator John McCain, not too long after seeking conservative and Republican votes in his failed 2008 bid for the presidency, went right after those same conservative voters without telling them, by egging on the IRS to ruin them. It's the sort of political back-stabbing that defies belief, taking an active role in destroying the Tea Party, which was an authentic grassroots movement of local groups calling for smaller government....Judicial Watch has found McCain's central role right there in the documents : 'Judicial Watch today released newly obtained internal IRS documents, including material revealing that Senator John McCain's former staff director and chief counsel on the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee, Henry Kerner, urged top IRS officials, including then-director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner, to 'audit so many that it becomes financially ruinous.'....The explosive exchange was contained in notes taken by IRS employees at an April 30, 2013, meeting between Kerner, Lerner, and other high-ranking IRS officials. Just ten days following the meeting, former IRS director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS had a policy of improperly and deliberately delaying applications for tax-exempt status from conservative non-profit groups. Lerner and other IRS officials met with select top staffers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a 'marathon' meeting to discuss concerns raised by both Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) that the IRS was not reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. Senator McCain had been the chief sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act and called the Citizens United decision, which overturned portions of the Act, one of the 'worst decisions I have ever seen.' In the full notes of an April 30 meeting, McCain's high-ranking staffer Kerner recommends harassing non-profit groups until they are unable to continue operating. Kerner tells Lerner, Steve Miller, then chief of staff to IRS commissioner, Nikole Flax, and other IRS officials, 'Maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous.' In response, Lerner responded that 'it is her job to oversee it all.' " • Showalter said that before she learned this, she had had the impression that some conservatives' negative view of McCain was overblown, and he was far more good than bad. But, she said : "I was wrong. The Obama administration's scheme to repress the Tea Party is a big reason why the Obama administration went downhill in the minds of many voters. Not only was Lerner not punished for clearly illegal targeting of political dissidents, surely one of the blackest marks on the Obama record, but she was also allowed to get away with it, from taking the Fifth in Congress to the whitewashed official report finding no wrongdoing to illegally deleting and 'losing' emails (some that were found were profoundly hostile to conservatives) to being allowed to retire comfortably at her Beltway suburbs mansion with a six-figure pension. That was the price she paid for persecuting dissidents, in exactly the same way crummy, sleazy, slimy third-world dictatorships do. She got away with it. But only because she had help -- in, of all people, John McCain, that famous champion of dissidents in hellholes across the Third World. What a hypocrite." • Showalter noted that when he was confronted with these rumors in 2104, McCain lied that none of it was true : "Here is his 2014 denial : 'A recent press release by Judicial Watch sparked a series of online reports falsely claiming that my office was somehow involved in the IRS's targeting of conservative groups -- reports that are demonstrably untrue and totally contradicted by my all of my actions over the past several years on this issue. These reports ignore the fact that I released a 37-page dissenting report last September refuting the Democrats' Majority Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) report claiming the IRS showed no bias against conservative groups. Media coverage at the time noted that I was in total disagreement with Senate Democrats on the issue of whether the IRS targeted conservative groups (see The Associated Press article below headlined 'Competing views on IRS treatment of tea party').' " Showalter asks, "What's he going to do now, claim he never met his top aide, Henry Kerner? In the records, McCain's man Kerner said he wanted them ruined." • It is hard to see a fellow Republican fall so far. John McCain is engaged in his last fight now, but his efforts, including this tea party vendetta, to sabotage Donald Trump have stained his record forever. • • • AND -- IT'S SUMMER SATURDAY - SO LET'S DO "JUST PLAIN RIDICULOUS." • Overwhelming the ridiculosity list this week is the howling coming from Democrats, their mainstream media and union leaders that somehow the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling that public sector unions may not collect mandatory fees from non-members has put the First Amendment, the Constitution and the future of the Republic itself in jeopardy. Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion that states that state government workers -- whether they join the union or not -- cannot be forced to pay so-called "fair share" fees to support collective bargaining and other union activities. The conservative majority said a union's contract negotiations over pay and benefits were inextricably linked with its broader political activities, and concluded workers had a limited constitutional right not to underwrite such "speech." Justice Alito wrote : "This procedure violates the First Amendment and cannot continue. Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.” The majority overturned the Supreme Court's four-decade old precedent dealing with so-called "agency" fees, allowing states to require public employees to pay money supporting collective bargaining and other union activities. The key plaintiff was Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee, who pays about $550 annually to the powerful public-sector union known as AFSCME. While not a member of the union, he is required under state law to hand over a weekly portion of his paycheck -- which he says is a violation of his constitutional rights. Janus told Fox News: "I work for Health and Family Services, and I'm forced to pay money to a union that then supports political causes that I don't agree with." Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissent for the Court’s four liberals, saying : “Almost all economic and regulatory policy affects or touches speech. So the majority’s road runs long. And at every stop are black-robed rulers overriding citizens’ choices. The First Amendment was meant for better things. It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance -- including over the role of public-sector unions.” THAT, with all due respect, Justice Kagan, is ridiculosity run wild. Protecting "democratic governance" begins with protecting free speech. Forcing employees to pay up for political or other causes that they do not support just because a union happens to represent some of their fellow employees is a flaming violation of freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. Denying that constitutional verity is -- well, it is JUST PLAIN RIDICULOUS. • Have a great weekend --watch those football World Cup matches to see who gets through the knockout stage and on to the quarter-finals. See you on Monday.