Category Archives: Politics

A Conspiracy of Dunces | RealClearPolitics

Just before Christmas, a story broke that seemed too strange — and too hypocritical — to be true. As Democratic Party elders were trying to stifle loutish impeachment threats by fanatical House freshmen, it was revealed that Democratic operatives had used cyber fraud to manipulate the 2017 Alabama Senate race.

It’s hard to know precisely who masterminded the plot because the perpetrators have lawyered up and are pointing fingers at one another. But according to the New York Times and subsequent reporting in The Washington Post, the culprits in the self-styled “Project Birmingham” used the same tactics employed by Russian disinformation specialists that lie at the heart of the 2016 U.S. presidential election controversy.

Those tactics included a phony Facebook page, “Alabama Conservative Politics,” intended to divert votes from GOP nominee Roy Moore to a Republican write-in candidate. It entailed a “false flag” effort suggesting that automated Russian bots were supporting Moore on Twitter. The tactics worked. Seven weeks before the election, the Montgomery Advertiser published a piece headlined “Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin.” Other news outlets followed suit, further tarnishing a candidate reeling under sexual misconduct allegations. 

Did this effort cost Moore the election, which he narrowly lost to Doug Jones? Did dirty tricks deprive Republicans of a supposedly safe seat at a time when control the U.S. Senate was up for grabs? Some observers are skeptical. “Roy Moore is so well known in Alabama that people had very settled opinions about whether they wanted him as their senator before the race even started,” University of Alabama political scientist Joseph L. Smith told reporters.

That sounds right, but the same could be said of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Even Democrats who claim the 2016 election was stolen from them would concede that almost everyone had “settled opinions” about these two nominees before Russian troll farms began spewing their garbage during the 2016 general election. But the truly stunning hypocrisy is that Project Birmingham, which included a former Google engineer who worked on the 2012 Obama presidential campaign and for the Obama administration, faithfully emulated the tactics of the Russian troll farms dubbed “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear,” which are under the auspices of Russia’s intelligence services and military.

In other words, Democrats who played games in Alabama did more than erode their party’s moral high ground. In consciously mimicking the enemy, they also put the spotlight on special prosecutor Robert Mueller and his investigation.

Last February, a grand jury impaneled to hear Mueller’s evidence indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for their 2016 activities. The special prosecutor followed this up with July indictments of 12 Russian military officers for hacking, a serious crime. But it’s the February 2018 indictments that are more problematic for Democrats.

Those 13 Russian trolls were indicted on conspiracy charges. But what laws did they conspire to break? Federal election statutes prohibiting campaign contributions, maybe? Abusing their travel visas, perhaps, as none of the Russians who visited the U.S. told U.S. Customs what they were up to? Those are misdemeanors, and it’s not what the government charged them with anyway. They were indicted for conspiring “to defraud the United States.”

It’s not a crime to post political comments under an online alias. It’s not a criminal offense in this country to spew inaccurate information on social media — or tell outright lies about candidates for public office If it were, the U.S. would need a hundred more prisons, at least one of them for politicians and campaign consultants.

Mueller’s theory of the case became clear on June 15, when Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben argued in court against a motion by Concord, one of the indicted Russian corporations, to dismiss the charges. The special counsel, Concord argued, targeted it “for a contrived crime not specifically defined in any statute, without notice and under a standard known only to the special counsel.”

“We do not need to prove a criminal violation of the underlying statute,” Dreeben told U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich in response.

If you find that standard alarmingly elastic, you’re not alone. “The federal government does lots of things, more and more every year, and many things private parties do can get in the government’s way,” former Justice Department lawyer Jack Townsend told Weekly Standard writer Eric Felten, one of the few journalists who explored the implications of Muller’s indictment. “It can’t be that each such action is automatically a felony.”

Yet, Dreeben was speaking the truth. “Conspiracy to defraud,” known as a “Klein conspiracy,” comes from a complex 1950s tax case in which the defendants and their accountants went to extraordinary lengths to hide income – they opened no fewer than 17 offshore companies, among other strategies – consistently thwarting the Internal Revenue Service until federal prosecutors secured a conviction on a single conspiracy count. As legal scholars Ben Wittes and Emma Kohse point out, the doctrine is even older than that. It comes from a 1910 Supreme Court ruling that USDA officials who falsified crop reports could be convicted of conspiracy “for impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government.”

Fourteen years later, in a decision written by Chief Justice William Howard Taft, the high court went further, ruling that conspiring to defraud the United States “also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.”

Such language gives Bob Mueller a lot of leeway. How did the Russians “defraud” the United States? Not merely by technical violations of campaign finance laws, but by running a big con on the American people — impersonating Americans and pitting us against each other. In one instance, Russian trolls pretending to be both anti-Islam and pro-Islam were told to demonstrate at the same Houston location at the same time, apparently in hopes of fomenting violence.

This certainly seems a fraud on the United States. But what are we to make of the real American, a registered Democrat, no less, who posted stories in 2016 from the “Denver Guardian,” with extravagant slanders against Hillary Clinton: She pocketed millions of dollars from the Afghanistan War; an FBI agent investigating her emails was found dead – that kind of thing. Vicious stuff, all of it invented. (There is no Denver Guardian, for starters.) The perpetrator apparently did it for money. Should he be prosecuted for conspiring to defraud the country? If so, then what about the utterly specious 2012 ads run by the Obama campaign blaming Mitt Romney for the death of a steelworker’s wife? 

That was a form of fraud. It was most definitely a conspiracy – mapped out by Obama’s top campaign aides. I’m not saying federal prosecutors should start parsing campaign rhetoric looking for criminal intent. That would be insane, not to mention unconstitutional. Nor do the Democratic Party computer nerds who fooled around in the Alabama sandbox want any attention from the special prosecutor. But here’s Mueller’s dilemma: If he indicts Russians who targeted Democrats while giving a pass to Americans who used the exact same fraudulent means to harm Republicans, then his investigation no longer looks like it’s about the sanctity of the U.S. election process. It looks like it’s about getting Donald Trump.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

Trump says no amnesty for ‘Dreamers,’ signals support in broader deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Sunday his proposed immigration deal to end a 30-day partial government shutdown would not lead to amnesty for “Dreamers,” but appeared to signal support for amnesty as part of a broader immigration agreement.

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks on border security and the partial shutdown of the U.S. government in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

In a morning Twitter storm, Trump also said he would not seek the removal of millions of illegal aliens living in the United States, while bashing House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for turning down his offer on Saturday.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3-year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else,” Trump said on Twitter.

“Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!”

The Dreamers, which refers to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA was put in place under former President Barack Obama. The Trump administration said in September 2017 it would rescind DACA but it remains in effect under court order.

Trump did not make clear what he was referring to regarding the 11 million people mentioned in his tweet. About 12 million people are living in the United States illegally, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates.

Trump appeared to be responding to conservative critics who accused him of proposing amnesty and reneging on a campaign promise, which could alienate his right-wing base.

About one-quarter of the U.S. government shut down on Dec. 22 over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the border with Mexico, which Democrats have refused to consider. Some 800,000 federal workers have been ordered to stay home or work without pay during the shutdown.

The shutdown has caused widespread disruptions.

About 70,000 Internal Revenue Service employees, or about 88 percent of the workforce, had been furloughed. The National Park Service, under the umbrella of the Interior Department, is operating with a skeleton staff.

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis and Census Bureau is not publishing a batch of closely watched economic data, including figures on gross domestic product and new home sales.

Funding for food aid for low-income Americans, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will continue in February, but the outlook for March was uncertain if there was no end to the shutdown.

(FACTBOX-Impact on the U.S. government during shutdown:)

The Transportation Security Administration on Sunday reported an 8 percent national rate of unscheduled absences on Saturday, compared with 3 percent a year ago. More than 50,000 TSA officers are working without pay,

Some airports experienced longer wait times at security checkpoints, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport closed one of its checkpoints due to excessive absences.

‘STARTING POINT’

On Sunday, a day after Trump’s DACA proposal, there appeared to be signs of movement, even as Democrats insisted the government should reopen before proceeding with talks over border security.

“What the president proposed yesterday – increasing border security, looking at TPS, looking at the Dreamers – I’ll use that as a starting point. But you’ve got to start by reopening the government,” U.S. Senator Mark Warner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) refers to another class of immigrants – nationals from designated countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster, or other strife.

Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said reopening the government ahead of border security negotiations was important for preventing future shutdowns.

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“If the president can arbitrarily shut down the government now, he will do it time and again,” Warner said.

Warner also said Congress should approve pay for federal workers affected by the shutdown before they miss another paycheck this week.

“Let’s at least pay them on Thursday, so they don’t have to go through more angst,” Warner said.

Reporting by David Morgan in Washington; Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

Tucker Carlson: When Did Democrats Become The Party Of Bill Kristol And Other Discredited Neocon Hacks? | Video

Tucker Carlson delivered a monologue Tuesday night on how no one is allowed to question NATO because the ruling class likes things the way they are and they don’t like being challenged.



CARL BERNSTEIN: The evidence suggests, indeed, Trump is, has been a pawn of the Russians.

Frightful stuff. We’ll have their full argument in just a bit. As we told you last night, the FBI has suspected this for some time. The bureau opened a criminal investigation into the president more than a year ago, on the grounds that no loyal American would fire a leader as impressive as FBI director James Comey. Putin must have ordered it. The Washington Post concurred. As one of the paper’s columnists noted, Trump has also quote, “endorsed populism.” That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Populism. It has the stink of Russia all over it. Smells like vodka and day-old herring.

So people in Washington have had their suspicions for years. But now we know for sure. In a stunning New York Times piece today, current and former Administration officials, speaking of course from behind the protective veil of anonymity, because honestly you don’t know what the KGB or whatever it’s called these days is capable of doing, divulged that, on multiple occasions over the course of last year, President Trump privately floated the idea of pulling the United States out of NATO. Let that sink in. Leaving NATO.

This is a huge story. Or it would have been huge in 1983, when the Soviet Union still existed and it was still clear what the point of NATO was. NATO, you’ll remember, was created to keep the Soviets from invading Western Europe. NATO did a good job at that, all the way until the day the Soviet Union collapsed, in the summer of 1991. Almost 28 years ago. Vladimir Putin runs Russia now. He does not plan to invade Western Europe. He can’t. So why do we still have NATO? Nobody really knows. In Washington you’re definitely not allowed to ask. That’s a shame because it would be an interesting conversation. Remaining in NATO comes with significant obligations. In the 1990s, our leaders decided it would be a good idea to promise countries like Latvia and Estonia that we’d use nuclear weapons to protect them if they ever had a problem with Russia. Why did we do that? Who knows? The details are lost to history. The point is, we did. How do we feel about that now? Are you ready to launch a nuclear war over Latvia? What do you think of sending your kids to defend the territorial integrity of Estonia? Our foreign policy establishment thinks it’s well worth it. In fact, under the current rules of our membership in NATO, we would have no choice. You might not have known that. All of this might merit a national debate of some sort. At some point. When we’re ready. 28 years in.

But no. The left isn’t into national debates anymore. They’re into screaming, threats, criminal investigations, and other forms of coercion. They like the ways things are in this country. They’re benefitting hugely. They don’t like being challenged. They consider asking difficult questions a criminal act. Just this morning, Preet Bharara, the most famous former federal prosecutor in America, explained this on Twitter. Quote: “If true, Trump should immediately and publicly state his apparent wish to withdraw from NATO so he can be promptly impeached, convicted, and removed from office.” Unquote.

In other words, talking about leaving NATO isn’t simply unwise. It’s an impeachable offense. Lots of famous and powerful people in Washington think this. Watch:

SOT: JAMES CLAPPER: Withdrawing from NATO—even discussing withdrawing from NATO—would be disastrous for the security of the United States.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think that act would be so destructive to our country (edit) it would be a ground for some profound effort by our part, whether it’s impeachment or the 25th Amendment. He can’t do that to this country. And I don’t believe that he can do it without Senate ratification.

The 25th Amendment. According to a sitting member of Congress, rethinking NATO isn’t just treasonous and criminal, though it is. It’s prima facie evidence of insanity. You’re not fit to govern if you say that. You probably shouldn’t drive a car.

Amazing. Whatever happened to the Democratic Party? When did the anti-war people become florid neocons? When did it become the party of Bill Kristol and Max Boot and every other discredited hack still trying to replicate the Iraq disaster around the world? Who knows? But it is now. Ask Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard is a Democratic member of Congress who’s running for President. On most questions she’s a conventional liberal. She represents Hawaii after all. But on the question of Syria she’s skeptical. Gabbard isn’t eager to overthrow the Assad government. She worries about what might come next, and what might happen to the Christians and other religious minorities who live there. For this position she’s being denounced by the left as a monster. This morning, the Daily Beast tried to link her to David Duke. Literally. The dumb people on tv are mad too. Watch:

KEILAR: She went, in 2017, Gloria — this is going to be another issue — to visit with Bashar al Assad in Syria. This trip has already come back to bite her. When she takes on President Trump over his coziness with dictators, people will say, hello, you went to Syria to meet with a dictator.

BORGER: And she was criticized by Democrats at the time.

KEILAR: She did apologize.

BORGER: She did, but how many apologies can you make for bad judgment? She was criticized. Democrats continue to criticize her. She didn’t do it with anybody’s permission. And I think meeting with a brutal dictator like Assad, particularly given current affairs right now, particularly given a president who, as you point out, has been criticized for cozying up to dictators. I think she will not only be criticized within the Democratic Party, but I think it makes her a less effective candidate. She can’t position herself against Trump about meeting with dictators when, in fact, she’s done it herself. So, you know, I think she has — she’s going to have some problems.

That’s the new standard in Washington, just so you know. You’re not allowed to meet with foreign dictators. It’s immoral. It might be treason. Unless it’s Xi Jinping of china. Yes, the Chinese murder their political opponents and put Muslims in concentration camps. But it’s not a huge deal. Former California governor Jerry Brown met with Xi two years ago, and praised him as a leader in the fight against global climate change, even though China is by far the world’s biggest polluter. But whatever. He may be a dictator, but he’s a progressive dictator. And the left is definitely for those. They’re role models actually.

Trump proposes wall-for-DACA in bid to end shutdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump proposed an immigration deal on Saturday in a bid to end a 29-day partial government shutdown, including temporary protections for “Dreamers” and other immigrants, but Democrats immediately dismissed it.

Insisting on his demand for $5.7 billion to fund a U.S.-Mexico border barrier as part of any bill to fully reopen the government, Trump sought to pile pressure on Democrats by appealing to immigrants they have tried to help.

In a speech from the White House, Trump offered three years of protections for young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” as well as for holders of temporary protected status (TPS), another class of immigrants.

Decrying what he called a “badly broken” U.S. immigration system, Trump said, “I am here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis along the southern border.”

But the protections he proposed fell far short of the path to citizenship for Dreamers that Democrats and some Republicans in Congress have been urging for years.

In a statement after Trump’s speech, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called the plan a “bold solution to reopen the government, secure the border, and take bipartisan steps toward addressing current immigration issues.”

A spokesman for McConnell said he would seek Senate passage of the proposal next week.

Democrats insisted talks on border security occur only after the government is reopened. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, “It was the president who singled-handedly took away DACA and TPS protections in the first place. Offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking.”

Even before Trump spoke, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said his offer as reported in advance was “unacceptable,” did not “represent a good-faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives,” and was unlikely to gain the votes needed to pass the House or the Senate.

About a quarter of the U.S. government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22, as funding has expired for reasons mostly unrelated to the border or immigration.

WORK WITH NO PAY

Some 800,000 federal workers have been staying home on furlough or working without pay.

Trump has refused to consider legislation needed to fully reopen the government unless it includes $5.7 billion to help pay for a border wall or other barrier, which he says is needed to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs.

The full cost of such a barrier could eventually top $24 billion, according to some government estimates.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks on border security and the partial shutdown of the U.S. government from the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Trump also asked Congress for $782 million to hire an additional 2,750 border agents, law enforcement officers and staff, and another $563 million to hire 75 new immigration judge teams to reduce a backlog in immigration courts.

The Dreamers, mostly young Latinos, are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects certain people who illegally entered the United States as children. It provides about 700,000 immigrants with work permits, but no path to citizenship.

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Trump’s proposal for the Dreamers and border humanitarian assistance was based on conversations with rank-and-file Democrats.

He said Trump hopes millions of Americans will pressure Democrats to go along with the deal. Pence said conservatives should not worry that Trump is providing amnesty to Dreamers, saying, “This is not an amnesty.”

“We hope once people get past the initial statements and initial reaction, when they really look at this legislation, when it comes to the floor of the Senate, they’ll see it as an effort by the president to take ideas from both parties,” said Pence.

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said declaring a national emergency on the border to fund a wall without congressional approval remained an option but was not Trump’s preferred solution.

“Can the Democrats separate themselves from the extreme left and work out a compromise on border security? I think a lot of members want to do that,” Mulvaney said.

Former President Barack Obama put DACA in place in 2012 through an executive order. Most of his fellow Democrats since then have sought more lasting protection for the Dreamers. The Trump administration said in September 2017 it would rescind DACA, but it remains in effect under court order.

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Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is given to nationals from designated countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster, or other strife. TPS holders are permitted to work and live in the United States for limited times.

The Trump administration has shown a deep skepticism toward the TPS program and has moved to revoke the special status for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and other nations.

Polls showed Americans increasingly blame Trump for the shutdown, the 19th since the mid-1970s. Most past shutdowns have been brief. The current one has had no impact on three-quarters of the government, including the Department of Defense, which has secure funding.

Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Pete Schrodeder; Editing by Leslie Adler, David Gregorio and Daniel Wallis

Fact-Free Politics | RealClearPolitics

In this era when there has been more information available to more people than at any time in the past, it is also true that there has been more misinformation from more different sources than ever. We are not talking about differences of opinion or inadequate verification, but about statements and catchwords in utter defiance of facts.

Among the most popular current catchwords are “climate change deniers.” Stop and think. Have you ever — even once in your entire life — seen, heard or read even one human being who denied that climates change?

It is hard even to imagine how any minimally knowledgeable person could deny that climates change, when there are fossils of marine creatures in the Sahara Desert. Obviously there has been quite a climate change there.

The next time someone talks about “climate change deniers,” ask them to name one — and tell you just where specifically you can find their words, declaring that climates do not change. You can bet the rent money that they cannot tell you.

Why all this talk about these mythical creatures called “climate change deniers”? Because there are some meteorologists and other scientists who refuse to join the stampede toward drastic economic changes to prevent what others say will be catastrophic levels of “global warming.”

There are scientists on both sides of that issue. Presumably the issue could be debated on the basis of evidence and analysis. But this has become a political crusade, and political issues tend to be settled by political means, of which demonizing the opposition with catchwords is one.

It is much the same story on economic issues. Any proposal to reduce income tax rates is sure to bring out claims that these are “tax cuts for the rich,” based on the “trickle-down theory” that reducing the taxes collected from the rich will cause some of their wealth to “trickle down” to people with lower incomes.

Here, yet again, all you need to do is think back over your own life, and ask yourself if you have ever — even once in your entire life — seen, heard or read a single human being who advocated this “trickle-down theory.

Certainly none of the innumerable fellow economists I have encountered in my 88 years ever advocated any such theory. Nor am I aware of anyone else, in any other walk of life, who has done so.

Yet there are ringing denunciations of the “trickle-down theory” in books, articles, and in politics and the media. That theory has been denounced as far away as India.

The next time someone talks about the “trickle-down” theory, ask them to tell you where specifically you can find the writings, videos or any other evidence of someone advocating that theory. You may get some very clever and creative evasions of your question, but no actual answer.

One of the best-selling history textbooks did name Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon as having said in the 1920s that letting the rich pay less taxes would allow their wealth to “trickle down” to others. It was one of the very rare examples that actually named a name.

Unfortunately, what this widely used history textbook attributed to Andrew Mellon was the direct opposite of what he actually said. In Mellon’s own book, “Taxation,” he said that wealthy people were not paying enough tax revenue to the government, because they put their money into tax-exempt securities.

Mellon called it “incredible” that tax laws allowed someone making a million dollars a year to pay not a cent in taxes, and an “almost grotesque” consequence that people of more modest incomes had to make up the shortfall.

He understood, however, that higher tax rates did not automatically mean higher tax revenues. So when the tax law changes that he advocated cut tax rates, the income tax revenues actually hit a record high at that time. Moreover, the rich paid more tax revenue and a much higher percentage of all income tax revenues than before.

Issues in both economics and science can get complicated. But when one side of those issues has to resort to demonstrably false catchwords, that should give us a clue.

COPYRIGHT 2019 CREATORS.COM

Trump to offer shutdown-ending immigration deal, still wants wall money: source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will propose a deal on Saturday meant to end a 29-day partial government shutdown, offering a compromise with Democrats on immigration but sticking to his demand for funding for a border wall, a source familiar with his plan said.

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One to travel to Dover Air Force Base to attend dignified transfer ceremonies for the remains of four U.S. military members and citizens killed during a recent attack in Syria as he departs from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

In a speech to be delivered from the White House, Trump will continue to demand $5.7 billion in wall funding, but also offer backing for legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” as well as temporary protected status (TPS) holders, the source said, confirming a report by Axios.

Vice President Mike Pence, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, have been instrumental in crafting the deal, the source said.

Trump is to make the announcement in a 4 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) speech.

The source said Trump does not plan to declare a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border, a step he threatened to take earlier in his struggle with Congress over the shutdown triggered by his wall-funding ultimatum.

Declaration of an emergency would allow Trump to bypass Congress to pay for a border wall, although such a step would likely prompt a legal challenge over constitutional powers from congressional Democrats.

Trump is under pressure to end the shutdown with Americans increasingly blaming him for refusing to sign spending bills that would provide paychecks for 800,000 federal workers who have been idled or working without pay for nearly a month, the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn on Saturday he has no personal feud with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top U.S. Democrat. She and other Democrats oppose the wall, calling it too expensive, ineffective and immoral.

“Whether it’s personal or not, it’s not personal for me,” Trump said. “She’s under total control of the radical left. I think that’s a very bad thing for her. I think it’s a very bad thing for the Democrats.”

Trump also said he was concerned about a new wave of immigrants moving north through Mexico toward the U.S. border.

“I’m disappointed that Mexico is not stopping them. I mean, Mexico seems unfortunately powerless to stop them,” he said. “If we had a wall, we wouldn’t have a problem.”

The “Dreamers,” who are mostly Latin American, are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program protects certain people who illegally entered the country as children, providing about 700,000 immigrants with work permits, but no path to citizenship.

Former Democratic President Barack Obama put DACA in place in 2012 through an executive order. The Trump administration announced in September 2017 it would rescind DACA, but the policy remains in effect under a court order.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is given to nationals from designated countries affected by armed conflict or natural disaster. TPS holders are permitted to work and live in the U.S. for limited times.

The Trump administration has shown a deep skepticism toward the temporary protected status program and has moved to revoke the special status afforded to thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and other nations.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler

The Problem With Fact Checking Whether ISIS Is ‘Defeated’

Today a PolitiFact fact check caught my eye: “Mike Pence wrong that ISIS has been defeated.” Assigned a rating of “Mostly False” by the site, the assessment reminds us that as much as 20 percent of ratings by some fact checkers are actually “opinion checks” based on interpretation rather than indisputable fact.

The controversy over Pence’s remarks stems from a speech he gave earlier this week in which he said, “The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated” and that the U.S. would now “hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners.”

Pence’s speech explicitly noted that “defeat” of ISIS would still entail a continued war against the insurgency.

Two years ago, CNN touted, “ISIS defeated in Raqqa” as “major military operations” came to an end, despite “pockets of resistance” remaining. Iraq was declared “fully liberated” from ISIS, with the organization “defeated” in the country. ISIS was “in retreat” and “on the run” and U.S. efforts to “defeat the terror group on the battlefield” were seeing “significant … victories.”

At the same time, CNN took pains to argue that the credit was former President Obama’s, not President Trump’s. As the Syrian conflict has increasingly become Trump’s war, the outlet’s stance seems to have changed, running the headline this week “Fact Check: Has ISIS been defeated?”

Just what does it mean to “defeat” a terror organization?

The term “defeat” has specific military meaning. The U.S. Army’s Field Manual 3-09 defines “defeat” as when “an enemy force has temporarily or permanently lost the physical means or the will to fight” and is embodied by “mass surrenders, abandonment of positions, equipment and supplies, or retrograde operations.”

Such a definition would certainly fit ISIS’s loss of its caliphate and its degradation from a quasi-nation-state back into a traditional federated terror organization. Indeed, the Atlantic Council has previously used the term “territorial defeat” to describe the U.S. focus in Syria and said that such “defeat” would still leave an “insurgency” on the ground.

The Council on Foreign Relations similarly clarified the “military defeat” of ISIS would still leave an insurgency that could effect and inspire attacks. The Center for Strategic and International Studies offered that “defeating’ ISIL in [Iraq and Syria] is at best likely to defeat its ability to hold any territory” and that “new forms of terrorism will emerge even if ISIL is formally disbanded.” Even the 2003 United States National Strategy for Combating Terrorism clarifies that “victory against terrorism will not occur as a single, defining moment,” but rather a point “where the threat of terrorist attacks does not define our daily lives.”

Each of these definitions of “defeat” would appear to support Pence’s claim that ISIS had been “defeated” and that post-defeat there would still be a powerful insurgency left to fight.

Indeed, the very question of what it means to entirely eradicate a terror or hate organization is fiercely debated. Such groups pose unique challenges in that even after their formal structure has been eliminated, their remnants can still inspire others from afar to commit violence. Three-quarters of a century after the Nazis were “defeated” there are many thousands of neo-Nazis who commit acts of violence in their name. In the case of ISIS, its mastery of social media means it will likely continue to inspire terror acts long after its leadership has been neutralized.

How then did PolitiFact come to its conclusion that Pence’s statement was “Mostly False”?

PolitiFact arrived at its rating exclusively through interviews with seven “experts who study terrorism and foreign policy.”

Rather than adhering to Pence’s literal statement that “defeat” of ISIS will still leave a vibrant and militant insurgency behind, the seven individuals redefined his use of the word “defeat” to mean the absolute elimination of all traces of ISIS.

This redefinition of the vice president’s words from their literal form into a straw-man argument is a common, but unfortunate, tactic adopted by fact checkers, which undermines their credibility.

Putting this all together, few would argue that ISIS no longer poses any threat. The vice president did not actually claim this and was quite explicit that there is still a vibrant insurgency remaining. Fact checkers including PolitiFact and FactCheck.org reached their verdicts by redefining Pence’s words into an argument he did not actually make.

PolitiFact notes that “in the world of speechmaking and political rhetoric, there is license for hyperbole” and that it does not review statements that are not “rooted in a fact that is verifiable.” One could easily argue Pence’s use of the word “defeat” strongly comports with the Army’s military definition and thus was a “True” statement. There is also considerable room to view it as a succinct political sound bite for a complicated story and thus not eligible for fact checking under PoltiFact’s standards.

In the end, when a fact-checking verdict relies exclusively on the opinions of a hand-picked group of experts regarding a claim that was not actually made, it raises the question once again of why we place so much power in the hands of so few with no oversight.

RealClear Media Fellow Kalev Leetaru is a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security. His past roles include fellow in residence at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.

U.S. special counsel disputes report Trump told lawyer to lie

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Friday disputed key elements of a media report that President Donald Trump directed his former lawyer to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal, raising questions about a story that has dominated U.S. news coverage for the past 24 hours.

BuzzFeed News reported late on Thursday that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer who is slated to go to prison for lying to Congress and other crimes, told investigators working for Mueller that Trump had instructed him to lie about efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow while he was running for president.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, said in the special counsel’s first comment on a media report since its probe started 20 months ago.

While Carr did not directly address whether there was evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, he disputed portions of the story about how BuzzFeed corroborated the explosive allegations against Trump.

Citing information from two federal law enforcement officials, BuzzFeed said Cohen told the special counsel that after the 2016 presidential election Trump instructed him to tell Congress that negotiations over the Moscow project had ended earlier than they had in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

Carr’s statement also appeared to dispute BuzzFeed’s assertion that the special counsel learned about Trump’s directive from interviews with employees of the Trump Organization, emails, text messages and other documents.

BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said in a statement: “We stand by the reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”

After the BuzzFeed report was published on Thursday night, investigators in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives said they planned to investigate the allegations, while some Democrats described the report as a game-changer that, if true, could be grounds for impeaching the president.

Earlier on Friday, the White House said the story was false. “Look, that’s absolutely ridiculous,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said Mueller’s decision to comment highlighted the significance of the allegations made in the BuzzFeed article and the attention it was getting in the media and among lawmakers.

“They are making a public comment to tell everyone to calm down,” Weinstein said. “He doesn’t want people to think his silence is confirming the truthfulness of the report.”

Trump said on Twitter that Cohen was lying to get less prison time. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement that any suggestion that Trump told Cohen to lie is “categorically false.”

Representatives for the Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment on the BuzzFeed report.

Cohen, who once said he was so loyal to Trump that he would “take a bullet” for him, is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence in March after pleading guilty to charges including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

If Trump did tell Cohen to lie, that would constitute criminal activity, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat. He added that he would look into the matter.

“Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime,” Nadler said on Twitter.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the allegation that Trump may have directed Cohen to lie under oath “is among the most serious to date.”

“We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true,” Schiff, also a Democrat, said on Twitter.

Some Senate Intelligence Committee investigators hope to ask Cohen about the BuzzFeed report when he testifies behind closed doors in February, a committee source told Reuters. He also will face questions about it in testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7.

Yet Mueller’s move to push back on the BuzzFeed report could give some lawmakers pause, while also giving ammunition to allies of Trump in their efforts to criticize the media and in their calls for Mueller to complete his probe.

“Today’s development only underscores the need for the special counsel to wrap this investigation up immediately,” Republican Representative Mark Meadows said on Twittter. “The constant secrecy and breathless speculation helps no one.”

“SEISMIC EVENT”

Legal experts said the allegation, if true, exposed Trump to a new level of risk in an investigation that has already resulted in convictions of or guilty pleas from four former campaign aides, including ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

If true, “it’s a seismic event,” Andy Wright, an associate White House counsel under former Democratic President Barack Obama, told Reuters.

Cohen, his left arm in a sling, did not comment as he entered his apartment building in New York on Friday. His adviser, Lanny Davis, also declined to comment to Reuters, and his lawyer, Guy Petrillo, did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump denounced Cohen as a “rat” after he began cooperating with investigators while Cohen, whose duties included making payoffs to two women who said they had affairs with Trump, said on Thursday he regretted giving “my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.”

Directing or encouraging someone to lie under oath is a crime known as subornation of perjury. The report also raises questions about obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

William Barr, Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, said at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that a president would be committing obstruction if he directed a subordinate to lie under oath. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

While the Justice Department has previously concluded that a sitting president cannot be charged while in office, such an allegation, if found true, could fuel impeachment proceedings in Congress.

Trump repeatedly has denied collusion with Russia and slammed Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.” Russia also has rejected U.S. intelligence findings that Moscow interfered in U.S. politics in the 2016 election in an effort to boost Trump.

Trump said during the presidential campaign that he had no ties or business dealings with Russia.

Democrats, who took over the U.S. House of Representatives this month, have generally been cautious regarding any talk of impeachment to remove Trump from office although some rank-and-file members have pushed for such a resolution.

Impeachment proceedings would face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Trump’s fellow Republicans have a majority.

A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump’s onetime personal attorney, Michael Cohen and U.S. President Donald Trump from outside federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018 and in the White House in Washington, U.S., July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson, Leah Millis/File Photos

BuzzFeed also reported that Cohen regularly updated Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and his daughter Ivanka Trump, who is now a top White House adviser, about the Moscow project.

A spokesman for Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Ivanka Trump, said she was minimally involved in the development. Trump Jr., who has also testified previously before Congress, in a Twitter post called the BuzzFeed report “fake news.”

After Mueller’s statement disputing the report, Trump Jr. called out the media and Schiff in a series of Twitter posts. “Hey Adam, turns out it was Full of Schiff!” he wrote.

Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Nathan Layne, Mark Hosenball, Steve Holland, Andy Sullivan and David Alexander; Writing by Andy Sullivan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates

What School Choice Advocates Want Wis. Governor to See

Tony Evers, the new governor in Wisconsin, has made no secret of his hostility to school choice. When Wisconsin expanded the private voucher program statewide in 2012, he called it “morally wrong.” And during the 2018 campaign he said he’d like to phase out the Milwaukee voucher program, the oldest such program in the country that serves 28,000 students. The new tone from Madison gives school choice advocates some cause for concern.

For critics like Evers, no amount of research is going to convince him that school choice is good. School choice advocates have to make the case to the families and the communities that stand to benefit the most from a voucher program. That case is often made around academic achievement, cost, safety, and opportunity for low-income families. But advocates should incorporate innovation and practical knowledge when touting the merits of school choice.

Consider the newly formed Free Enterprise Academy at Milwaukee Lutheran High School that will be taking steps to incorporate the principles of free markets, entrepreneurship and financial literacy into the existing curriculum and creating new courses and programming around those concepts at the school.  The goal is to create graduates who are more than literate about their basic finances — who can use the tools of free enterprise and free markets to increase their incomes, grow wealth, create businesses and a legacy far beyond an existence of living paycheck to paycheck, both for themselves and for our Milwaukee community.

Four years ago, Milwaukee Lutheran made the conscious decision to invest in the children taking advantage of the Milwaukee School Choice Program, Milwaukee’s voucher program.  As a result, of an approximate student body of 800 children, the clear majority are inner-city, economically disadvantaged, black children.  Not all, but most, of these students have received little or no proper education in economics, finance, or entrepreneurship.  The mission of the Free Enterprise Academy is a real opportunity to change the culture of inner-city Milwaukee from within, because when these children learn how to handle their money and begin to create economic prosperity and wealth, it will create stability and a rejection of the perpetually downward-spiraling culture that now drowns our black communities in chaos, poverty and violence.

By educating students about the history of free-market systems, how they work, and how those tools have and can be used to create wealth and prosperity, The Free Enterprise Academy is offering students something they cannot get elsewhere.  The students get hands-on experiences and connections in partnership with Milwaukee’s education and business communities to provide tangible skills and demonstrate that their future really is in their own hands.  They will learn that capitalism is not the pejorative it is perceived as today, but rather a force for good.

This is not about indoctrination, nor should it be.  Students at the Free Enterprise Academy will be challenged to think critically about the subject matter and encouraged to challenge and put their instruction to the test.  Indeed, a business professional or entrepreneur won’t survive if they cannot think on their feet, adapt to changing landscapes and think into the future, sometimes all at the same time.  The students won’t be able to do this if all that is asked of them is to parrot information.  That would be a failure.

Parents understand the importance of this program.  They know the transformational opportunity being bestowed on their children and the chance to do better than what the future held before.  These parents want their children to learn, to be independent, to be successful — they want their children to leap off their shoulders into a world where they can provide for themselves everything they could ever need or think to have. 

This is what we have to sell. This is about more than school. It’s about hope and opportunity. The value of the education is not just in good grades, but in good citizens and good leaders. When that is evident and understood in our communities, only then will school choice find itself safe from the winds of politics.

Collin Roth is a policy analyst at Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

Shannon Whitworth is the director of the Free Enterprise Academy at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.

Anti-abortion activists hold 46th annual March for Life in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Anti-abortion activists gathered in Washington on Friday for the 46th March for Life, which will end in a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court to protest the ruling that effectively legalized abortion nationwide more than four decades ago.

The event is the largest annual gathering in the United States of opponents of the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which found that certain state laws outlawing abortion were an unconstitutional violation of a woman’s right to privacy.

President Donald Trump last year addressed the rally via a video link, decrying the nation’s “permissive” abortion laws.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices he believed would overturn Roe. He has since appointed two justices to the court – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – cementing the court’s 6-3 conservative-leaning majority.

Since the heated Senate confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh, the court has steered clear of some cases on volatile social issues involving abortion.

Speakers at this year’s rally include Congressman Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, and Congressman Chris Smith, a Republican, along with Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator.

March for Life organizers said the ongoing partial government shutdown, caused by a political standoff over funding for Trump’s desired expansion of barriers on the U.S.-Mexican border, would not affect their march.

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at a March for Life dinner on Friday.

Additional reporting and writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot