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July 2017

Mueller’s Investigation Must Be Limited and Accountable By Andrew C. McCarthy|

How much goalpost moving should be tolerable in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation?https://amgreatness.com/2017/07/19/muellers-investigation-must-limited-accountable/

Remember, we started with an allegation that the Trump campaign may have been complicit in the Putin regime’s “cyber-espionage”—i.e., the hacking our intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian government operatives carried out against email accounts tied to Democrats. The investigation took a more serious turn last week, when it was revealed that Trump campaign officials met in June 2016 with a suspected emissary of the Putin regime. Yet, there is currently no basis to believe that meeting had anything to do with hacking. So, while the meeting warrants investigation, the original allegation is no closer to being proved.

Of course, it is certainly possible for a political campaign and a foreign government to engage jointly in unsavory behavior that does not rise to the level of crime. The less objectionable the behavior, however, the further afield we would be from the egregious allegation that prompted the investigation in the first place. Unless one is a rank partisan whose goal is to damage the president (rather than hold him accountable for actual, significant wrongdoing), this should be a matter of concern. Investigations are debilitating. They erode an administration’s ability to govern.

The investigation is a moving target because of its slippery vocabulary. It has been discussed and analyzed through the prism of “collusion” and “counterintelligence.”

When we think of an “investigation,” the connotation is a criminal proceeding—crimes, penal law, grand juries, subpoenas, warrants, arrests … prosecution. In that thicket, the terms “collusion” and “counterintelligence” are outliers. The former is a vague term that blurs the legally salient lines between mere association and conspiracy—that is, the difference between innocence and guilt. The latter is an unnecessary term: a counterintelligence investigation is an information-gathering exercise designed to divine the intentions of foreign powers to the extent they bear on American interests; a criminal investigation, by contrast, is an evidence-gathering exercise designed to build a prosecutable case that a specified person has committed a suspected penal-law offense.

The Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016, between Trump campaign figures and suspected Russian agents illustrates our difficulty.

In the criminal law, our sights are trained on conspiracy, which makes things easy. A conspiracy is an agreement to commit a violation of law. If Smith and Jones have a meeting, it is of no concern to the police unless the meeting is for the purpose of, say, arranging a heroin shipment or robbing a bank. It is the criminal offense that is the objective of the meeting, and nothing else, that makes the meeting relevant.

To speak in terms of collusion rather than conspiracy—as the Russia investigation coverage often does—only confuses matters. Contrary to what you may have heard from sundry “strategists” and “analysts,” collusion is neither a crime nor a term that has a legally consequential meaning. The word has a pejorative feel, especially in the last seven months. But literally, all it means is “concerted activity.” That could be criminal or noncriminal, sinister or benign.

University of Chicago Professor: Infanticide Is Morally Acceptable But when ‘progress’ equals murder, we should question his logic. By Jeff Cimmino

Jerry Coyne, a professor in the department of ecology and human evolution at the University of Chicago, recently posted a defense of killing disabled infants on his Why Evolution Is True blog:

If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?

His argument, which is riddled with flaws and mistaken assumptions, begins with a claim commonly found in the works of pro-infanticide philosophers:

After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death, aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgments (and if there’s severe mental disability, would never develop such faculties). It makes little sense to keep alive a suffering child who is doomed to die or suffer life in a vegetative or horribly painful state.

In short, lack of sentience and reason boosts the moral acceptability of killing deformed and handicapped infants. This reasoning makes sense only in a “throwaway culture,” which presumes that it’s right to discard the weakest and most vulnerable simply because they don’t meet an arbitrarily imposed marker of when life is worth saving.

It is the logic of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: eliminate any responsibility to care for the suffering by trying to remove all suffering. The problem, however, is that killing is a poor means of reducing pain and suffering. It fosters a culture that undermines the value of life. And this isn’t merely words on a page. In the Netherlands, for example, some patients have been euthanized because they were “tired of living,” as the Washington Post reported in a recent story on assisted suicide. Promoting death is a recipe for more suffering and loss, not less.

Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, and Patrick Lee, a professor of philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville, have pointed out, in “The Wrong of Abortion,” additional problems with this argument:

This argument is based on a false premise. It implicitly identifies the human person with a consciousness which inhabits (or is somehow associated with) and uses a body; the truth, however, is that we human persons are particular kinds of physical organisms. . . . We are not consciousnesses that possess or inhabit bodies. Rather, we are living bodily entities.

George and Lee continue by arguing that “it makes no sense to say that the human organism came to be at one point but the person — you or I — came to be at some later point,” because “to have destroyed the human organism that you are or I am even at an early stage of our lives would have been to have killed you or me.” Coyne’s primary claim, that lack of sentience or rational faculties significantly bolsters the case for killing disabled newborns, is flawed.

Coyne later tries to put a positive spin on his argument by asserting that changing views about euthanasia are “the result of a tide of increasing morality in our world, a tide described and explained by Steve Pinker in his superb book The Better Angels of Our Nature.”

U.K. University to Replace Portraits of Its Founding Fathers because They’re White It’s common sense that the people who gave a school the ability to be a school deserve to be recognized for that in the most prominent of ways. By Katherine Timpf

King’s College in London has announced that it will replace some of the portraits of its founding fathers from its main entrance because they are “white,” and that that might be “intimidating” to people who are not white.

The portraits will be replaced with those of “BME [black and ethnic minority] scholars,”according to a article in the Telegraph. All portraits of the school’s former deans will also be taken down from the main area and hung in other locations.

The replacement is being implemented by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience. The Institute’s dean of education, Patrick Leman, announced the changes, explaining that the old entrance was “alienating” because it was full of “busts of 1920s bearded men.”

According to the Telegraph, the “bearded men” represented in the busts that Leman is referring to are “believed to be” the British psychiatrist Dr. Henry Maudsley and neurologist Sir Frederick Mott — and the Institute “owes its existence” to these two people.

Yep. According to the Telegraph, there would be no Institute without a donation from Maudsley and 1896 course plans from Mott, and yet, they somehow still may not deserve to be honored in the main hall because they just so happen to be white dudes.

Now, to be fair, the Telegraph is reporting that only “some” of the King’s College founders are being replaced, so it isn’t absolutely certain that these two busts will be among the ones to go — although the fact that Leman brought them up specifically, and the fact that the Telegraph interviewed a descendant of Mott certainly does suggest that they will be, and that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

The Curious Case of Natalia Veselnitskaya Obama-administration officials arranged for her entry — for reasons that have nothing to do with Trump Jr. or the presidential campaign. By Andrew C. McCarthy

She is relentlessly described as a “Russian lawyer” in media reporting. It should not escape our notice, then, that Natalia Veselnitskaya is not an American lawyer. She is not admitted to practice law in the United States.

So why was she admitted into the United States when she was not qualified to do the job that was the rationale for her admission?

We’ll get to that. To cut to the chase, however, it had nothing to do with the Trump campaign.

Veselnitskaya’s arrival at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, after being heralded in Donald Trump Jr.’s e-mails as a Putin-regime emissary bearing dirt on Hillary Clinton, is the first concrete indication of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Collusion in what remains to be seen, there still being no evidence of the collusion scenario initially alleged: Trump’s complicity in Russia’s “cyberespionage” — the hacking by which Putin attempted to influence the 2016 election (and succeeded in paralyzing the U.S. government in the election’s aftermath).

This being politics, the Trump camp has attempted to deflect attention from the Trump Tower meeting by pointing out that it was the Obama administration that enabled Veselnitskaya’s admission into the country. At a press conference in Paris last week, President Trump himself claimed that Veselnitskaya’s entry had been “approved by Attorney General [Loretta] Lynch.”

Of course, the question of why Obama-administration officials permitted Veselnitskaya to enter is likely to be of less consequence than what Veselnitskaya did once she got here. But it is important. Obviously, the Trump camp is intimating that the June 9 meeting was a set-up and that the Obama administration may have been in on it.

I happen to think there is a good chance the Trump campaign was being played. If so, though, the playing was done by Vladimir Putin.

Veselnitskaya probably should not have been allowed into the country, though that is one of those criticisms conveniently offered in 20-20 hindsight. Either way, the Justice Department had nothing to do with Veselnitskaya’s meeting with the Trump campaign. It is unlikely that top Obama officials knew about it, either, much less that they consciously facilitated it.

I suspect the Justice Department — specifically, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan — reluctantly green-lighted Veselnitskaya’s entry to appease the court in a hotly disputed case with significant foreign-relations ramifications. Prosecutors may have been wrong to do this — it’s a judgment call — but it was clearly unrelated to the Trump Tower meeting, which happened months later under a different visa authorization.

In 2013, the Justice Department filed an asset-forfeiture lawsuit that was sensitive because it focused on Russian corruption. It arose out of a $230 million fraud orchestrated by the Putin regime, and involved the detention, torture, and murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian investigator who exposed the scheme. (I will have more to say about the case in a subsequent column.) At the center of the case was Veselnitskaya’s client, Denis Katsyv.

He is the son of Pyotr Katsyv, a powerful Putin crony — similar to Aras Agalarov, the billionaire Russian real-estate magnate who, according to Trump Jr.’s e-mails, arranged Veselnitskaya’s Trump Tower meeting. Pyotr Katsyv was a powerful transportation minister for many years, and he is now vice president of the regime-owned national railroad system. As related in this useful New York Times profile of Veselnitskaya, her rise in Russia owes to the ties she forged with Katsyv. I do not buy the Kremlin’s claim that Putin had never heard of Veselnitskaya prior to the Trump Jr. controversy, but his chum Katsyv appears to be her patron in any event.

Denis Katsyv owns a Cyprus-based investment company called Prevezon Holdings Ltd. The company was the main defendant in the Justice Department’s lawsuit, in conjunction with which Justice froze about $14 million in property. Katsyv was not a defendant personally (asset-forfeiture cases technically target the asset, not its owner). But the case was highly significant to him and to Russia.

An international litigation can be tricky because our government and its courts often lack jurisdiction to compel the testimony of critical foreign witnesses. In order to get the cooperation necessary to move the case along, accommodations must be made, especially when the foreign government involved is not being helpful. In this instance, Russia was downright hostile.

It was important to the Prevezon case that Denis Katsyv be deposed in New York. Trying to do it in Moscow was out of the question, since lawyers, investigators, and witnesses in probes of Russian activities have a habit of ending up imprisoned, defenestrated, or dead there. Evidently, Katsyv was willing to be deposed and otherwise cooperate, or at least feign cooperation. If he was going to do that, though, he had a condition: He wanted the assistance of his Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in addition to the top-flight American law firm, BakerHostetler, that was formally representing his company in the case.

In 2015, Veselnitskaya attempted to get a visa to come to the United States. The State Department denied her, and it is not farfetched to believe that one factor in the denial was a suspicion that she is a Putin-regime operative. Subsequently, however, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan arranged for Veselnitskaya to be admitted through a rarely used immigration-law provision that allows aliens to be “paroled in” if they will perform some service of extraordinary benefit to our country.

It appears that this was done under pressure from the court. Indeed, according to a Daily Beast report, the Justice Department was even directed to reimburse Veselnitskaya’s expenses. The parole lasted just three months, from October 2015 through early January 2016 — meaning that the Justice Department parole had nothing to do with the Veselnitskaya–Trump Jr. meeting six months after the parole ended.

Readers know I am no Loretta Lynch fan, but Trump-camp suggestions that the then–attorney general had a meaningful role in Veselnitskaya’s entry are off base. The timeline does not work. Plus, while unusual, similar immigration complications do come up from time to time, and district U.S. attorneys’ offices generally resolve them without the personal involvement of the attorney general (even though the trial prosecutors may invoke “the attorney general,” “the Justice Department,” or “the United States” in exercising their legal authority).

Should the U.S. attorney’s office have made this accommodation for Katsyv and Veselnitskaya? Probably not.

By her own account, Veselnitskaya is not admitted to practice law in the United States. In a January 2015 declaration filed in the asset-forfeiture case, she claimed to have graduated from the Moscow State Legal Academy in 1998, and then to have worked as a regime prosecutor for a few years before moving “into private practice,” a laughable term as applied to Russia, where Putin’s circle of oligarchs runs the private sector . . . and the country.

Veselnitskaya purports to have extensive experience in Russian criminal, corporate, and property law. In the declaration, however, she did not even pretend to familiarity with American law, much less with the complexities of federal money-laundering and asset-forfeiture litigation. She did not attend an American law school. She is not a member of any state bar, let alone the bar of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She would not have been eligible to appear in court as counsel for Prevezon Holdings, the Katsyv company in the case. And Prevezon, as already noted, was more than adequately represented by the BakerHostetler law firm.

Moreover, as we’ve also seen, the parole provision is supposed to be reserved for aliens whose presence will be beneficial to our country. Whatever positive effect Veselnitskaya may have portended for moving the case along was outweighed by the facts that (a) she was not qualified to perform the function that was the rationale for her admission; (b) there was reason to believe she was an agent of a hostile government that obstructed the investigation that led to the case; and (c) she was the spearhead of a Kremlin-backed lobbying campaign against the Magnitsky Act — the human-rights provision Congress enacted in response to Russia’s imprisonment, torture, and murder of Sergei Magnitsky.

When Veselnitskaya’s parole ended in January 2016, the U.S. attorney’s office refused to extend it. In explaining this position to the court, prosecutors recounted that she and others in Katsyv’s defense team had run up $50,000 in expenses in connection with his deposition. Veselnitskaya did not even attend the deposition, though she did bill U.S. taxpayers nearly $2,000 for a two-night stay at the Plaza the weekend after the deposition was concluded.

Media, Tell the Truth: The Women’s March and Black Lives Matter Embrace Terrorists After all, you’d surely let us know if a conservative group with comparable clout did the same. By David French

Let’s begin with a thought experiment. Imagine if one of America’s largest and most-respected pro-life organizations tweeted birthday greetings to Robert Dear, the terrorist who attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015. Imagine the reaction if an allegedly mainstream conservative organization said “happy birthday” to Dylann Roof, the white-supremacist murderer who slaughtered nine innocent people in Charleston.

How would the media respond? What would the tweets reveal about the character and intentions of the people running the organization? Should well-meaning Americans continue to support groups that applaud violent, vicious terrorists?

The answers are obvious. Of course the media would and should absolutely roast any conservative group that applauded “pro-life” or white-supremacist violence. Of course well-meaning Americans should shun and withdraw support for groups that celebrate terrorists. And of course support for terrorists would reveal a moral corruption at the heart of even the most popular organizations.

Unless, however, those groups are on the left, their leaders are progressive radicals, and the terrorists they applaud are cop-killers. Then, the media ignores the outrage, elevates the outrageous, and maintains the charade that key elements of the progressive #Resistance represent nothing more than a spontaneous, reasonable, and virtuous response to a dangerous and authoritarian president.

Doubt me? Consider the reverence reserved for the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter.

Mainstream media coverage of both organizations has been fawning, and their leaders have been subject to heroic profiles. As a result, millions of well-intentioned, reasonable liberals have been duped into supporting and elevating both groups, which do things like this:

Happy birthday to the revolutionary #AssataShakur! Today’s #SignOfResistance, in Assata’s honor, is by @Meloniousfunk. pic.twitter.com/V66au1dRnl
— Women’s March (@womensmarch) July 16, 2017

Yes, that’s an official Women’s March tweet delivering birthday greetings to one of the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists. Shakur (born Joanne Chesimard) is a convicted cop-killer who now lives in Cuba after escaping an American prison. Here’s the FBI summary of her crimes:

Joanne Chesimard is wanted for escaping from prison in Clinton, New Jersey, while serving a life sentence for murder. On May 2, 1973, Chesimard, who was part of a revolutionary extremist organization known as the Black Liberation Army, and two accomplices were stopped for a motor vehicle violation on the New Jersey Turnpike by two troopers with the New Jersey State Police. At the time, Chesimard was wanted for her involvement in several felonies, including bank robbery. Chesimard and her accomplices opened fire on the troopers. One trooper was wounded and the other was shot and killed execution-style at point-blank range. Chesimard fled the scene, but was subsequently apprehended. One of her accomplices was killed in the shoot-out and the other was also apprehended and remains in jail.

Judging Poland’s Democracy Protesters do what the EU can’t and force their leaders to U-turn.

Good news from Poland: Democracy lives despite an uproar over the judiciary. That’s something to note for critics who see a threat to European values in the current ruckus in Warsaw.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has embroiled itself in efforts to rein in judges since winning 2015’s election. Its latest gambit is to try to fire all the Supreme Court justices, giving the Justice Minister authority to rehire its favorites. PiS also last week passed a law giving Parliament final say over membership of the National Judiciary Council (KRS), the independent body that nominates judges.

PiS says unaccountable judges thwart the will of voters by nixing laws passed by Parliament—including PiS initiatives the last time the party held power from 2005 to 2007. That’s debatable, but it doesn’t help that the departing Civic Platform leadership in 2015 tried to rush a series of lame-duck appointments to the Supreme Court, handing PiS an early opportunity to stir public frustration with the judiciary.

Such debates are as old as the hills—judicial power, appointments and tenure preoccupied America’s Founders—and some perspective would help. Foreign activists and the European Commission in Brussels fret that PiS is a threat to democracy. They’re right that the proposals are heavy-handed. Yet there’s no perfect method for balancing judicial independence and democratic sovereignty. Brussels doesn’t have a democratic mandate to impose its view, which leans more toward judicial independence than democratic oversight.

More important are the protests from thousands of Poles in Warsaw telling their government that PiS’s court plans don’t represent the balance those voters want. The uproar has caused President Andrzej Duda, a former PiS politician whose office is usually ceremonial, to threaten to veto the Judiciary Council law.

Mr. Duda’s proposed compromise would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority to approve nominations to the commission, depriving PiS of its ability to stack the body with the simple majority it won in 2015 with less than 38% of the vote. Now Parliament, and voters, will decide.

It’s hard to find examples in history of independent judiciaries thwarting determined tyrants. What matters more is resistance from citizens demanding democratic rights. By that standard, this week’s peaceful protests—which led to Mr. Duda’s U-turn—show Polish democracy is resisting PiS’s overreach.

‘Dunkirk’ Review: Finding Humanity in Calamity Christopher Nolan revisits the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from a French beach during World War By Joe Morgenstern

In “Dunkirk,” an astonishing evocation of a crucial event during the first year of World War II, Christopher Nolan has created something new in the annals of war films—an intimate epic. The scale is immense, and all the more so in the IMAX format that shows the action to best advantage. The density of detail is breathtaking; it’s as if the camera can barely keep up with what’s happening inside and outside the frame. Yet the central concern is steadfastly human. Whether we’re watching a huge Allied army encircled by Nazi forces on a beach in France or tracking the progress of their would-be rescuers, the drama turns on individuals and their feelings—of terror, excruciating vulnerability and fragile hope that they will make it back home, only 26 miles across the English Channel.

What the film excludes is historical context. It is not, and wasn’t meant to be, an explanation of the circumstances that led, in the spring of 1940, to the entrapment of some 400,000 British, French, Belgian and Canadian troops, including what Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army.” Instead, “Dunkirk,” which Mr. Nolan directed from his own screenplay, is a fictionalized, impressionistic account of a calamity that culminated in a near-miracle, although many lives were lost in the process—the rescue of 338,000 of those soldiers by shallow-draft naval vessels plus a large civilian flotilla of fishing boats and yachts.

With sparse dialogue, a minimum of digital simulations and an emphasis on spectacular images, the production follows, among others, a young British enlisted man, Fionn Whitehead’s Tommy, from the moment he emerges from the streets of Dunkirk to join vast throngs of other men, most of them young and all of them frightened, on the sands of what was formerly a vacation resort. They have no more idea than he does what’s in store for them. All they know is that they’re totally vulnerable to German tanks and planes, and unlikely to survive. (The cast includes Harry Styles, of One Direction, making his acting debut.)“Dunkirk” is hardly the first film to depict the mad chaos of modern war. The champion in that category remains “Apocalypse Now,” with “Black Hawk Down” and “Saving Private Ryan” as strong contenders. Still, Mr. Nolan has spoken of his own list of influences being topped by “The Wages of Fear,” Henri-Georges Clouzot’s peerless thriller, made in 1953, about desperate men in South America driving nitroglycerin-laden trucks over primitive roads. What’s the common denominator? Existential terror, for sure, an awareness that one’s life may be snuffed out at any moment, but also classic suspense. CONTINUE AT SITE

Run, Kamala, Run George Neumayr

It would be fun to watch her get demolished by Trump in 2020.

Finding a pol as (or more) obnoxious than Barbara Boxer is no easy feat, but Golden State voters managed to perform it by selecting Kamala Harris as her replacement. Harris is a left-wing dingbat of singular rudeness. A deluded Boxer thought of herself as kittenish and charming; Harris conceives of herself as more of a clawing feline — the relentless prosecutor who is going to bring the conservative dogs of Washington to heel. Except she is too vapid and dim to pull the role off.

My favorite moment from her absurd harangue of General Kelly earlier this year came when she demanded to know why he was subjecting immigration officers and local officials to a “Hobbesian choice.” She meant Hobson’s choice. Kelly was too nice to point out her sub-literate gibbering, but he did object to her lack of basic manners. She interrupted him repeatedly and finally he told her to knock it off (as have even John McCain and Richard Burr). That, of course, has occasioned feminist whining from Harris about a culture of mansplaining and double standards.

Barack Obama once got on the wrong side of her feminist fan club after he noted her striking good looks. He duly apologized for the infraction. The press, hinting at this secret to her success, calls her a “fresh face” in prospective presidential politics, by which it means a pretty one. It is hard to imagine reporters listening with bated breath to her pronouncements about this or that “Hobbesian choice” if she possessed the looks of, say, Barbara Mikulski.

Were it not for her fanatical support for abortion and all things culturally degenerate, NOW and NARAL would see Harris as an annoying and unworthy rival to Elizabeth Warren. A nubile Harris, after all, slept her way to the middle of California politics after she had an affair with a pol thirty-some years her senior, Willie Brown. An open crook with a Cosbyesque marriage to a long-suffering wife, Brown had no problem arranging lucrative state jobs for Harris after they trysted. The legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen called Kamala Harris Brown’s “steady.”

These days Harris furrows her brows over Trump’s “public corruption.” But Willie Brown, to paraphrase Oscar Levant, knew her before she was a virgin. She got at least two public jobs after serving as his mistress, according to the California press. It is safe to say that MSNBC-style fretting over “emoluments” didn’t figure into their pillow talk.

The growing chatter among Dems about her as a potential 2020 candidate is yet another illustration of the party’s lack of seriousness. At a time when it should be downplaying its image as an out-of-touch bi-coastal party, it deepens that image by pushing one more San Francisco radical forward. Who knows, maybe Harris can run with Pelosi.

According to press reports, Harris wowed supporters of Hillary’s at a recent fundraiser in the Hamptons. What a compelling look for a defeated party — a San Francisco kook feted by routed East Coast plutocrats impressed by her stern questioning of General Mattis over the plight of transgender soldiers. That should work well in the Rust Belt and the South.

Even Mark Penn, Hillary’s former strategist, is wincing at the party’s direction. He recently wrote that the party can’t recover if it stays on this far-left course. He proposes that the party adopt a more measured, less intolerant liberalism. But his plea is falling on deaf ears. The party is in no mood for any Sister Souljah moments. It remains the party of MoveOn.org, evident in the gushing over Harris for having raised money for it off her classless antics against Sessions and company.

In 1984, Reagan crushed the “San Francisco Democrats,” as his foreign policy advisor Jeane Kirkpatrick called them. Trump, in his re-election bid, would do the same, should Harris somehow rise to the top in the primaries. He would probably find that even more fun than beating “Pocahontas.”

Has President Trump’s ‘Fake News’ Criticism Made a Shambles of CNN? Turmoil at the network could spell the end for CEO Jeff Zucker.by Sarah Ellison

After relentless attacks from Trump and his allies, a series of journalistic problems, and in the shadow of a possible merger, the network’s C.E.O., Jeff Zucker, is feeling the heat. “I think there’s a real chance that Zucker is being forced out,” said one employee. “That’s going to blow up this organization like nothing in the history of CNN.”

CNN regularly welcomes members of the Donald Trump White House to appear on New Day, its morning show. When the administration sent word last Monday evening that White House adviser Sebastian Gorka was available the following morning to discuss the retaking of Mosul from ISIS, CNN producers readied the script. New Day co-anchor Alisyn Camerota handled the interview, and spent the first portion of the conversation on the scheduled topic. But when the discussion inevitably turned to Donald Trump Jr.’s recently revealed “I love it” e-mail to the Russian attorney, Gorka had his opening to change the topic. He made CNN, and its coverage of the Russia investigation, the story. Gorka scoffed at Camerota, deriding “the amount of time you spend in desperation on a topic that has plummeted you to 13th place in viewership ranking across America.”

“More people watch Nick at Night cartoons than CNN today,” Gorka continued, before suggesting that his appearance was revenge for a long, contentious interview the previous day between Camerota’s co-host Chris Cuomo and Kellyanne Conway. “They called us to offer that he come on the show,” Camerota told me, regarding her interaction with Gorka. “Why do they do that if he doesn’t think anyone watches us and that we don’t practice good journalism? It makes no sense.” The tactic nevertheless played very well with its most important audience. “Did you see Gorka?,” Trump reportedly told his advisers. “So great, I mean really, truly great.” It’s a tactic that CNN’s own anchors have grown accustomed to. “When the light goes on, to me, it’s like hearing the bell sound the beginning of a round,” Cuomo told me later. “When the show starts, it is ding ding ding, who is coming at me and with what kind of weapon today? Is it a personal insult? Is it questioning our reporting? Is it a false narrative? Is it whataboutism?”

This is the strange theater of Donald Trump’s battle with the media, often making for riveting television, and fantastic for ratings, but operating on multiple levels. It’s more than just theater, however, and CNN is at the center of it. The president has targeted the network more vocally than even The New York Times and The Washington Post, the outlets that have delivered the most harmful journalistic blows to his administration. Partly, this is because, with CNN, it’s personal. The network’s president Jeff Zucker greenlit the Apprentice back when he was running NBC, and the two were friendly before they found themselves as bitter adversaries after the election.

And for Zucker and CNN, the circus is already having dangerous consequences. Despite all his flaws and unpreparedness for office, Trump is good at one thing: throwing people off their game. His war with the media has kept him afloat politically while he and his family have been dogged by increasingly damaging information about their connections to Russia. As the Republicans’ latest stab at a health-care bill falters, and the Trump administration fails to rack up a single significant legislative achievement, the president has thrown much of his public commentary into trashing CNN. He rewards surrogates, such as Gorka and Conway, who denigrate CNN on its own airways, even as the network pays other Trump surrogates, such as Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany, to defend the administration’s talking points. “He’s gone full war with the media, no doubt about that,” said one editor with close ties to the White House. “It is full-on full-scale warfare with CNN.”

The struggle is coming at a time when there are backstage pressures. Zucker’s bosses at Time Warner are now preparing to merge into telecom behemoth AT&T, a deal that requires regulatory approval from the Department of Justice, and a deal Trump has said he doesn’t like.

For both Zucker and CNN, the pressure is distorting. “We may look back in five years and find that CNN was fundamentally changed because of Trump,” one CNN employee told me. “Maybe it will turn out that Trump changed the brand” through his battle with the network. “We think we’re the middle. What if there is no middle anymore?” (A CNN executive told me that the network has conducted extensive research on its brand, which has “found zero diminution in the brand as a result of the attacks on us.”)

Pavlich: Clinton’s Russia dirt By Katie Pavlich

In light of Donald Trump Jr.’s changing story about meeting with a Russian “crown prosecutor” promising to give him damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, many Democrat strategists and their liberal counterparts on Capitol Hill are once again overreacting. In the past week alone we’ve heard calls for treason charges, and one Democrat in the House has introduced an article of impeachment.

Because of the hysterical reaction, lets take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Were Trump campaign officials the only ones engaging in questionable behavior regarding Russia? Hardly. The Clintons are in the same category.
First, lets start with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in hostile countries around the world. After all, she repeatedly bragged about the miles she traveled on the campaign trail.

While FBI investigators say there is no evidence hackers infiltrated the server, they also admit good hackers could have gotten in, taken important information and left without a trail. Further, because Clinton failed to turn over all 13 devices she used to access her private server (after claiming she only used one), the FBI could not conduct a full examination of possible intrusions.

According to an FBI report produced last year, the server was attacked by bad actors multiple times. Foreign spy agencies and enemies of the United States, including Russia, quickly became aware Clinton was using an open, unprotected system and did their best to access it. At one point, the server was attacked 10 times in just two days. When Clinton received emails from aides with details about attacks, she brushed them off and didn’t call for an increase in security on the network. Hackers were notably successful in obtaining emails containing sensitive foreign policy discussions between Clinton and her political allies such as Sidney Blumenthal.

When Clinton traveled to Russia, known for its hackers and cyber warfare against the United States and other democracies, she didn’t bother to tap into the government-protected email system provided by the State Department. Instead, she continued to communicate through her personal, home-brewed and unsecured server. Essentially, she left classified U.S. secrets wide open for access.