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August 2017

Report: H.R. McMaster Believes Susan Rice Did Nothing Wrong in Unmasking Requests by CHARLIE SPIERING

President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has reportedly concluded that former Obama official Susan Rice did nothing wrong by unmasking the identities of Trump transition officials in conversations with Russian officials.

Two United States intelligence officials told Bloomberg’s Eli Lake that McMaster has concluded that Rice did nothing wrong.

That assertion is at odds with Trump’s thinking, as he repeatedly raised the Rice story during speeches and media interviews.

“I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story,” Trump said in an interview with the New York Times, suggesting that it was possible that she may have committed a crime.

On April 12, Trump used the story to defend his accusations that the Obama administration was spying and leaking on his transition team in an interview with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo.
“When you look at Susan Rice and what’s going on and so many people are coming up to me and apologizing now,” Trump said. “They say, ‘You know, you were right when you said that.’”

When Bartiromo told Trump that Rice denied doing anything political, he dismissed it.

“Does anyone really believe that?” he said. “Nobody believes that, even the people that try to protect her in the news media.”House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes continues to investigate the hundreds of unmasking requests from former Obama officials, including those of former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

Could Donald Trump Do Anything to Win the NeverTrumpers? By Roger Kimball

In Federalist 10, James Madison observes:

As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.

Indeed. The ordinary business of life provides a good illustration of what Madison was talking about. And when we come to politics, it’s not just human fallibility that is at issue. There is also the operation of what Madison calls “self-love,” and “the diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate.” It may be that “[t]he protection of these faculties is the first object of government,” as Madison argued, but the diversity of interests means that there will always be a diversity of opinions — i.e., conflict.

These are truisms, I know, and I utter them as a preliminary to mentioning something that puzzles me. Granted, people disagree about many things. Granted, too, that in the realm of politics our own interests propel us to applaud certain courses of action and deprecate others. Still, I have been amazed by the discrepancy of opinions about Donald Trump’s presidency.

It’s not, I hasten to add, the fact of the discrepancy that puzzles me, but its global, all-encompassing quality.

I think I first became fully conscious of this phenomenon in the aftermath of Trump’s inauguration speech. The speech that I heard seemed to be toto genere different from the speech that NeverTrumpers, on the Right as well as on the Left, heard. Writing for the Financial Times, I described the speech as “gracious but plain-speaking.” That did not go down well among the readers of FT.

Writing here at PJM, I listed some of the negative reactions to the speech. Typical was a column in the Chicago Tribune, which described it as “raw, angry and aggrieved,” “pugnacious in tone, pitch black in its color.”

Had we been listening to the same speech? Possibly, but the speech that we heard was different. I quoted a famous bit from The Tempest to illustrate the phenomenon. A few of the shipwrecked men are taking stock of their situation on Prospero’s enchanted island, and it soon becomes clear that the island appears very different to different characters:

ADRIAN: The air breathes upon us here most sweetly.

SEBASTIAN: As if it had lungs and rotten ones.

ANTONIO: Or as ’twere perfumed by a fen.

GONZALO: Here is everything advantageous to life.

ANTONIO: True; save means to live.

SEBASTIAN: Of that there’s none, or little.

GONZALO: How lush and lusty the grass looks! how green!

ANTONIO: The ground indeed is tawny.

SEBASTIAN: With an eye of green in’t.

ANTONIO: He misses not much.

SEBASTIAN: No; he doth but mistake the truth totally.

The question is, of course, who is right, the cheery Gonzalo or his shipmates?

Having once been an active and paid-up member of the anti-Trump brigade, I understand that there are many things to criticize about Donald Trump. I have on several occasions explained why I changed my mind. It boils down to two things: Hillary Clinton on the negative side of the equation, and Trump’s agenda on the positive side.

I think that Clinton would have been a disaster for the country. I would have voted for the Cairn terrier who lives across the street before voting for her. But the more I heard about what Trump wanted to do — about taxes, about immigration, about the U.S. military, about regulation, and about many other things — the more I liked it. CONTINUE AT SITE

Senate Approves Treasury Nominees for Senior Tax and International Affairs Posts Administration choices for department’s financial oversight and general counsel also confirmed By Ian Talley

The U.S. Senate approved several top Treasury officials on Thursday, giving the administration’s tax, regulatory and international financial diplomacy agendas a boost.

Among the five senior Treasury officials given the green light are former Bear-Stearns chief economist David Malpass to represent the U.S. Treasury as its top financial diplomat; David Kautter as assistant secretary for tax policy; and Christopher Campbell, a former Republican Senate Finance Committee staffer, to be assistant secretary for financial institutions.

The Senate also approved Andrew Maloney as Treasury deputy undersecretary for legislative affairs and Brent McIntosh as the department’s general counsel.

Mr. Malpass, as Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, will act as the administration’s key advocate for dealing with sensitive issues such as exchange rates and cross-border rifts over financial regulation, including at the G-7 and G-20.

Mr. Kautter, a veteran accountant and lawyer, will head the team of experts who are helping shape and analyze the details of the tax bill that Republicans want to push through Congress this year. He will also oversee the administration’s efforts to lighten the burden of tax regulations. Earlier this year, Treasury listed eight Obama-era tax regulations it was considering changing or ending. Those include a rule limiting companies from using internal cross-border debt to lower their tax bills.

Mr. Campbell would play a critical role coordinating and advancing the administration’s regulatory agenda, including easing or rolling back provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, as well as its plans for a major rewrite of the U.S. tax code.

A former senior official in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, Mr. Malpass has long been critical of global trade agreements and multilateral financial institutions that represent the backbone of world economic diplomacy.

Former colleagues say that while Mr. Malpass might try to downsize the role that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions play, he will still use Washington’s dominant power within them to advance its interests.

Espousing an “America First” policy platform, the administration is pushing multilateral institutions to operate more efficiently and speak more vocally against imbalances in the global economy, such as those caused by capital controls and currency interventions.

Mr. Malpass will take office at a delicate time for U.S. diplomatic relations, both economic and strategic. The administration’s threats to levy higher tariffs, ignore some World Trade Organization rulings, and focus on what administration officials have called “economic nationalism,” has fueled worries Washington could spark a trade war, including among longtime allies. While Mr. Malpass is considered more of an internationalist than some key administration officials, he too has been sharply critical of many of the international institutions he will now have to engage to leverage U.S. power.

Mr. Malpass faced a relatively smooth nomination through the Senate, though two lawmakers voted against his approval out of the finance committee. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) objected to his views on financial regulations enacted by Congress in the wake of the 2008 crisis while Robert Menendez, (D., N.J.), expressed concerns about his statements in the lead-up to the recession.

Lawsuit Accusing Harvard of Anti-Asian Bias Revives Scrutiny of Affirmative Action Asian students recently asked Harvard for data showing academic performance of enrolled students by ethnicity By Nicole Hong

The Justice Department’s new focus on affirmative action is shining a spotlight on a decades-old debate: whether the benefits of using race in college admissions outweigh the costs.

The question is part of a high-profile lawsuit accusing Harvard University of discriminating against Asian-American applicants.

The federal lawsuit, filed in Boston in 2014, was brought by a nonprofit called Students for Fair Admissions, which alleges that Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-Americans in its admissions practices by limiting the number of Asian students who are admitted and holding them to a higher standard than students of other races. The group claims the school’s practices violate federal civil rights law and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

Members of the nonprofit, which advocates for the elimination of affirmative action, include Asian students who were denied admission to Harvard.

The lawsuit’s allegations formed the basis for a separate complaint against Harvard filed in 2015 by a coalition of 64 Asian-American groups. On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced it would begin an investigation of the complaint, which was filed with the department’s civil rights division and other government agencies.

It’s unclear whether the Justice Department will also seek to intervene in the federal lawsuit against Harvard.

Asian-American groups have been raising concerns about the fairness of Ivy League admission practices since at least 1989.

In this case, lawyers for the plaintiffs say their goal is to reach the Supreme Court and overturn racial preferences in university admissions. As part of the lawsuit, the students are asking the judge to prohibit Harvard from using race as a factor in future undergraduate admissions decisions.

Harvard has defended its policies by pointing to a handful of Supreme Court precedents over the past 40 years that have allowed universities to consider race as a factor in admissions to obtain the benefits of a diverse student body.

Harvard’s admissions process reviews many factors and “considers each applicant as a whole person, consistent with the legal standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said a spokeswoman for the university.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the idea that universities have a compelling interest in assembling a diverse student body because it promotes “cross-racial understanding” and better prepares students for a diverse workforce. In a 2003 ruling involving the University of Michigan Law School, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that classroom discussion is more enlightening with students of different backgrounds, resulting in better learning outcomes.

In the Harvard lawsuit, the plaintiffs are challenging parts of that premise.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in May asked Harvard to turn over data showing the academic performance and academic preparation of enrolled students by ethnicity. The request is part of the plaintiffs’ argument that Harvard’s admission of underrepresented minorities who they say are less academically prepared ends up hurting those students in the long run. Known as the “mismatch theory,” the plaintiffs say underprepared minority students get lower grades and opt out of difficult majors in college, reinforcing damaging stereotypes.

The plaintiffs hope to use any data provided by Harvard on student performance by race to show that affirmative action has a negative effect on certain students after they enroll. Such a finding could undermine the justification for considering race in admissions decisions.

The lawsuit also proposed race-neutral ways for the university to achieve diversity, such as giving more weight to socioeconomic status or eliminating legacy preferences, which primarily help white and wealthy applicants to the detriment of minorities.

Harvard’s response to the request is under seal. A spokesman for WilmerHale, the law firm representing Harvard, declined to comment.

In an brief filed earlier in the case, a group of current and prospective Harvard students said the mismatch theory has been repeatedly disproved. They pointed to research showing that while the selectivity of a school doesn’t increase earnings for students as a whole, it does for black and Latino students. These students achieve higher grades and graduate at higher rates than their peers at less selective schools, the brief said.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs ruled that Harvard wasn’t required to produce academic performance data of enrolled students, but said the court may reconsider the issue at a later time. Judge Burroughs did order the university to turn over comprehensive admissions databases.

She also required four top high schools, including Stuyvesant High School in New York and Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., to respond to subpoenas by the plaintiffs seeking evidence of possible discrimination by Harvard, including depositions of guidance counselors or school officials. CONTINUE AT SITE

Barack and Michelle Obama Buy Their Kalorama Rental for $8.1 Million The Obamas have been living in the 8,200-square-foot home since January By Beckie Strum

Barack and Michelle Obama have snapped up the 1920s brick house they were renting in the posh Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Kalorama for $8.1 million.

The former president and his family plan to spend at least another two-and -a-half-years in the nation’s capital, said Kevin Lewis, spokesman to the Obamas.

“It made sense for them to buy a home rather than continuing to rent,” Mr. Lewis said in an email confirming the purchase.

The Obamas have been living in the 8,200-square-foot home since leaving the White House in January. Mr. Obama, 55, has said in the past that the family intends to stay in Washington, D.C., until their youngest daughter, Sasha, finishes school.

The house was renovated in 2011, includes up to nine bedrooms, eight-and-a-half bathrooms, a finished basement with room for staff, an oversized terrace and formal gardens, according to a former listing with Washington Fine Properties. There’s also a two-car garage plus ample parking for a Secret Service detail in a gated courtyard that can fit eight to 10 cars.

The sellers, Joe Lockhart, Glover Park Group co-founder, and his wife, Giovanna Gray Lockhart, the Washington editor of Glamour, bought the home in 2014 for $5.3 million, according to property records.

Kalorama is a popular spot for D.C. elite. Mr. Obama’s neighbors include top adviser to President Donald Trump Jared Kushner and his wife, Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The Washington Post first reported the sale.

The Scandal That Matters Democratic IT staff who had access to sensitive data stand accused of fraud.By Kimberley A. Strassel

Imran Awan was arrested at Dulles International Airport July 24, while attempting to board a flight to Pakistan. For more than a decade the congressional staffer had worked under top House Democrats, and he had just been accused by the FBI of bank fraud.

It was a dramatic moment in a saga that started in February, when Capitol Police confirmed an investigation into Mr. Awan and his family on separate accusations of government theft. The details are tantalizing: The family all worked for top Democrats, were paid huge sums, and had access to sensitive congressional data, even while having ties to Pakistan.

The media largely has ignored the affair, the ho-hum coverage summed up by a New York Times piece suggesting it may be nothing more than an “overblown Washington story, typical of midsummer.” But even without evidence of espionage or blackmail, this ought to be an enormous scandal.

Because based on what we already know, the Awan story is—at the very least—a tale of massive government incompetence that seemingly allowed a family of accused swindlers to bilk federal taxpayers out of millions and even put national secrets at risk. In a more accountable world, House Democrats would be forced to step down.

Mr. Awan, 37, began working for House Democrats as an IT staffer in 2004. By the next year, he was working for future Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Over time he would add his wife, two brothers, a brother’s wife and a friend to the payroll—and at handsome sums. One brother, Jamal, hired in 2014 reportedly at age 20, was paid $160,000. That’s in line with what a chief of staff makes—about four times the average Capitol Hill staffer. No Democrat appears to have investigated these huge numbers or been asked to account for them.

According to an analysis by the Daily Caller’s Luke Rosiak, who has owned this story, the family has collected $5 million since 2003 and “appeared at one time or another on an estimated 80 House Democrats’ payrolls.” Yet Mr. Rosiak interviewed House staffers who claim most of the family were “ghost” employees and didn’t come to work. Only in government does nobody notice when staffers fail to show up.

The family was plenty busy elsewhere. A litany of court documents accuse them of bankruptcy fraud, life-insurance fraud, tax fraud and extortion. Abid Awan, a brother, ran up more than $1 million in debts on a failed car dealership he somehow operated while supposedly working full time on the Hill. One document ties the family to a loan from a man stripped of his Maryland medical license after false billing. Capitol Police are investigating allegations of procurement fraud and theft. The brothers filed false financial-disclosure forms, with Imran Awan claiming his wife had no income, even as she worked as a fellow House IT staffer. CONTINUE AT SITE

Trump’s Afghan Choice He may repeat Obama’s Iraq blunder by overruling his generals.

The Russia election probe aside, President Trump has so far avoided any major foreign-policy mistakes. But he will commit an Obama -sized blunder if he overrules the advice of his generals who want a modest surge of forces and a new strategy in Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump had by all accounts agreed weeks ago to the Pentagon’s request for an additional 3,000-5,000 troops plus more aggressive use of air power and other assets. But he’s having second thoughts as he indulges his isolationist instincts fanned by aide Stephen Bannon. Mr. Trump’s decision will determine whether he’ll repeat Mr. Obama’s catastrophic 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, and it will echo among allies and adversaries for the rest of his Presidency.

Mr. Trump—like all Americans—is understandably frustrated that the Afghan war still isn’t won after 16 years and 2,400 American lives lost. Barack Obama undermined his own 2009 surge of troops with a fixed exit date, and then tried to time the departure of all U.S. troops to his own White House exit.

This told the Taliban to wait the U.S. out, and the insurgents have since regained much ground they lost during the surge. Mr. Obama recognized his mistake enough to keep 8,400 troops in the country, but he limited their duties mainly to training and pursuing Islamic State enclaves. We’re told there are only about a dozen F-16s in the country, and the Afghan military lacks crucial close-air support during Taliban engagements.

Mr. Trump has given his field commanders more freedom, and they can now pursue Taliban fighters. But the Afghan forces are still losing ground in much of the country and need more support. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s plan would inject U.S. advisers with Afghan battalions to assist on the battlefield.

The U.S. could also deploy some Apache attack helicopters to blunt Taliban advances, and close-air support and air evacuation assistance would give Afghan forces a dose of confidence. They’re certainly willing to fight, having lost 2,531 soldiers through May 8 this year alone, with 4,238 wounded. The U.S. has lost 10 soldiers in Afghanistan this year.

Mr. Mattis also needs a strategy for Pakistan, which provides a refuge for the Taliban and lethal Haqqani network. This may require cross-border U.S. military raids, ideally with Pakistani cooperation, but alone if necessary. Mr. Trump could help by naming an ambassador to Islamabad, and perhaps a special envoy like former General David Petraeus to all of the main regional players.

Mr. Trump is fond of saying around the White House that Afghanistan is “the graveyard of empires,” which might be relevant if the U.S. were running an empire. The U.S. is there at the request of a legitimate elected government and a population that doesn’t like the Taliban. A Trump troop mini-surge would be a crucial political signal to the Afghan government and regional players that we aren’t bugging out.


In China The Cultural Revolution, that took place from 1966 until 1976 had a stated goal : to purge capitalism and traditional culture from Chinese society. They instituted brutal labor re-education camps.

In America anxious seniors are now worried about SAT scores, interviews and essays that have to demonstrate their passions for justice and human rights and a green planet and diversity. The chief question they ask is not about the price of tuition and room and board or the required courses. They want to know if they will be happy.

In late summer of 2018 they will take their trunks with their Che Guevara T shirts, torn designer jeans and grungy sneakers and ingrained ignorance off to campus. And once settled into their cushy dorms, their re-education will commence.

Unless they major only in science, they will learn to despise capitalism, national cultural norms, shed all gender pronouns and identity, atone for their privileges by joining all the inviting “anti” groups that rail, riot and demand recognition, avoid reading old white authors, approach every aggression and barbarism with moral relativity, read alt-history, especially about the Middle East and Palestine.

All this for an average of $50,000 a year…..rsk
P.S. They will also learn that Mao Zedong of the aforementioned re-education labor camps was a progressive.

Rights are Rights, and Military Service Isn’t One The progressive theory of rights has blurred the lines between privilege, opportunity, discrimination, and rights. By Philip H. DeVoe

When Donald Trump announced his plan to ban transgendered people from military service, #TransRightsAreHumanRights quickly began trending on Twitter. While tweets including the hashtag ranged from support for the LGBT community to attacks on Trump, they all carried with them the assumption that trans — and all — people have a “right” to serve in the military. Whether you support President Trump’s policy or not, Americans must reconsider the claim that everyone has a right to military service.

The political theory of the social compact — under which the Founders built America — says natural rights, i.e., true rights, are synonymous with personhood and belong to you simply because you exist. In a word, they are unalienable.

That military service is alienable, through restrictions on membership necessary for our military to fulfill its purpose, automatically rules it out as a right. In other words, the military blocking a 16-year-old’s ability to enlist does not divorce him from or even endanger his personhood. Children under the age of 17 or the mentally and physically disabled, for example, are excluded because their lack of mental maturity or physical capacity threatens combat readiness and effectiveness.

The justifying condition of exclusion for the sake of the group’s ability to perform and survive as a whole classifies military service as an opportunity, at most. Thus, should the Department of Defense and the president determine that 16-year-olds are fit for effective combat service, they wouldn’t be granting a right but opening an opportunity.

That being the case, when the Obama administration’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, and defense secretary, Leon Panetta, opened more than 14,000 military positions to women, they did so based on new qualifications of combat readiness not on women having an inherent “right” to service:

We are fully committed to removing as many barriers as possible to joining, advancing, and succeeding in the U.S. Armed Forces. Success in our military based solely on ability, qualifications, and performance is consistent with our values and enhances military readiness.

When Ashton Carter, Obama’s fourth defense secretary and the only one without military service, opened all military positions to women, he did so for the same reason:

Lt. Gen. McMaster Removes Respected Mid-East Adviser From NSC Jim-Kouri

During a week that witnessed the departure of several prominent members of President Donald Trump’s White House staff, his current National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, removed former U.S. Army Col. Derek Harvey, the top Middle East advisor on the National Security Council (NSC), from his post.

The Trump White House openly confirmed the decision, but stopped short of explaining the circumstances behind the firing of yet another staff member who worked under Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn who was canned after he allegedly lied to the Vice President.

In fact, critics of McMaster claim his goal is to remove any of the holdovers from Flynn’s days at NSC.

The McMaster and Harvey date their relationship back to their time in the Army serving in Iraq. Both men were reputed to have been loyal followers of retired Gen. David Petraeus, but they’ve also had some disputes while serving in the Trump administration.

For example, Harvey was known for being a “hawk” on Iran and had been pushing proposals to expand the U.S. military mission in Syria to go after Iranian proxy forces more aggressively. But other national security voices such as Defense Secretary James Mattis pushed back on such proposals, as did McMaster.

Harvey was selected for his NSC post by Gen. Flynn. After Trump sadly had to let Flynn go in February, some of Flynn’s loyalists left with him. However, Harvey and several others remained in their jobs.

According to Harvey’s personal bio, he’s a retired Army colonel who was credited with recognizing — before anyone spoke about it — that the Bush43 administration had a full-blown insurgency on its hands in Iraq following the swift U.S. invasion in 2003, the ouster of Saddam Hussein, and the disbanding of the Iraqi military forces.

In May, Bloomberg Radio reported that Harvey had come up with memo that described what he called “Obama holdovers” at the NSC whom he suspected were leaking to the anti-Trump news media. When chief strategist Stephen Bannon and President Trump urged McMaster to fire them, he simply refused.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA official, said Harvey was handpicked by Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq and later CIA director, to devise the surge strategy for overcoming the insurgency in Iraq and stabilizing that war-torn country.

Several sources have told Conservative Base that the Trump team must purge the “swamp” within the White House since there’s a good chance most of the leaks are emanating from those surrounding Trump and his inner-circle. “Trump has his work cut out for him: he must endure attacks from the Democratic Party, some Republican Party members, most of the denizens of the news industry and even members of the White House staff,” said former military intelligence officer and police commanding officer Michael Snipes.

“Once the ‘right’ people are purged from the White House, Trump can begin draining the swamp in earnest,” Snipes advised.