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NATIONAL NEWS USA

50 STATES AND DC, CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT

Was the Steele Dossier Used to Obtain a FISA Warrant Against Trump’s Campaign? We need to know the answer. By Andrew C. McCarthy

President Trump ought to direct his Justice Department and FBI to provide the House Intelligence Committee with the FISA warrant application — any FISA warrant application — in which they relied on information from the Steele dossier in seeking court permission to spy on the Trump campaign. It may well be that they did not rely on the dossier. It is ridiculous, though, that we are still in the dark about this.

I have long experience with how scrupulously the FBI and Justice Department work in the often controversial foreign-intelligence realm. They care deeply about their honorable reputation with the FISA court, just as the judges of that secret tribunal care deeply about not being perceived as a “rubber-stamp” for the government. I have thus given our agencies the benefit of the doubt here.

While urging that we have disclosure (with all due care to protect intelligence methods and sources), I have presumed that the FBI and DOJ would never fraudulently present the FISA court with fanciful claims attributed to anonymous Russian sources as if they were a refined product of U.S. intelligence collection and analysis. This, after all, is a “dossier” that former FBI director James Comey dismissed as “salacious and unverified” in Senate testimony just six months ago.

When a court is asked for a warrant, the government must provide the judge with a basis to believe the information proffered is credible — by vouching that the source has been reliable in the past, by corroborating the information offered, or both. If Comey adjudged Steele’s information unverified in June 2017, it had to have been unverified ten months earlier. That’s when the FBI and Justice Department obtained a FISA warrant for Carter Page, who had been loosely described as a Trump campaign adviser.

Consequently, I have assumed that the following happened. The FBI already had information that Page was something of an apologist for the Putin regime — although the record, we shall see, is more complex than that. Thus, the FBI and DOJ may have combined that information with some claims mined out of the dossier; but they would not have included Steele’s claims without corroborating them independently. This combination of information, doubtless added to by intelligence not known to us, was crafted into the application presented to the FISA court. This would be the normal, appropriate process.

Disruptive Politics in the Trump Era: Yuval Levin or Victor Davis Hanson? By John Fonte

The crucial question for the American Right today, as it has been for at least 60 years, is: What is the nature of its confrontation with modern liberalism?https://amgreatness.com/2017/12/15/disruptive-politics-in-the-trump-era-yuval-levin-or-victor-davis-hanson/

Is it a policy argument over how to achieve the common goals of liberal democracy? Are we working to expand liberty, equality, and prosperity for all citizens? Do we share the same principles with American liberals but differ with them over policy and how best to implement those principles? Is it really, as Yuval Levin has said, “a coherent debate between left and right forms of liberalism”?

Or is this conflict a much deeper existential struggle over the very nature of the American “regime” itself—its principles, values, institutions, mores, culture, education, citizenship, and “way of life”? Is it, as Victor Davis Hanson has put it, that we are in a “larger existential war for the soul of America”?

I would argue that Hanson is essentially correct: We are in the middle of a “regime” struggle.

Put another way: We are in an argument over the meaning of “the American way of life,” because the weight of opinion on the progressive Left rejects the classic constitutionally based American regime.

Instead, progressives envision a new way of governing in both politics and culture based on an individual’s race, ethnicity, and gender rather than on our common American citizenship.

Progressives don’t really deny this. Recall President Barack Obama, who in 2008 famously (or infamously) announced his administration would be “fundamentally transforming America.” America, as it actually existed at the time, was something Obama viewed as deeply problematic—permeated with “institutional” racism and sexism.

There can be no doubt that Obama understands the ongoing progressive-liberal campaign against conservatives and traditional America as a “regime struggle” (“They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion” and “the arc of history” is trending their way). But somehow, many Americans still want to resist or deny the implications of these words.

The Foundations of Modern Conservatism

Sixty years earlier and across the political spectrum, the founding fathers of modern American conservatism in the mid-1950s at National Review also envisioned, not the give-and-take of bread and butter politics, but an existential conflict over the regime, i.e., over the “American way of life.”

In the premier issue of National Review, William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote that liberals “run just about everything….Radical conservatives in this country [among whose numbers he included himself and the NR editors]…when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by the Liberals, they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those on the well-fed Right.”

This sounds familiar.

Sessions: FBI ‘Functioning at a High Level All Over the Country’ By Bridget Johnson (???!!)

ERIC HOLDER REDUX?????RSK

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today that “fairness and justice” should be applied to personnel matters when enforcing “the highest standards of behavior” at the FBI.

Special counsel Robert Mueller removed FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page from his team in July after the Justice Department’s inspector general discovered numerous text messages exchanged between the pair, who were engaged in an extramarital affair, that made disparaging remarks about President Trump, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and former Democratic Party presidential contenders Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“The decision to remove Mr. Strzok off that case was made by Director Mueller, based upon the circumstances known to him,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee this week. “…I’ve discussed this general issue with Director Mueller on several occasion. He understands the importance of ensuring that there’s no bias reflected in the conduct of the investigation.”

Outside the White House today, Trump said that “it’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI, but we’re going to rebuild the FBI and it’ll be bigger and better than ever.”

At a Justice Department press conference today, Sessions said his team “will not be reluctant to admit error” and “will never fail to monitor our people and we’re going to insist on the highest standards of behavior.”CONTINUE AT SITE

A Tax Reform for Growth The GOP bill will spur investment and make the U.S. more competitive.

House and Senate conferees signed their tax agreement on Friday, and the bill that seems headed for passage next week is—Minor Miracle Dept.—better than what either body first passed. The bill’s corporate reform is far superior to its muddled rewrite of the individual code, but on balance this is the most pro-growth tax policy in decades.

The bill’s biggest achievement is reforming at long last the self-destructive U.S. corporate tax code. The top U.S. rate of 35%—highest in the developed world—will fall to 21% on Jan. 1. Cash currently held overseas will be taxed at a 15.5% one-time “deemed” repatriation rate, and America will move to a territorial system that allows money to be taxed where it is earned. The bill includes rules to prevent companies from concealing taxable income, especially on intangible assets such as intellectual property. And it sweeps away billions of dollars worth of industry-specific loopholes that misallocate capital.

All of this will go a long way to restoring American competitiveness that has eroded over several administrations. Even Barack Obama acknowledged this problem, though he declined to do anything lest some large business end up with a tax cut.

The same economists who presided over the weakest recovery since World War II now say none of this is needed with the economy finally growing at 3%. But the faster growth never materialized when they were in power, and this expansion has been notable for slow business investment and weak productivity growth.

This GOP tax reform—including five years of 100% immediate business expensing—is aimed directly at that weakness to keep the expansion going even as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates. This isn’t a demand-side “sugar high.” These business tax changes are supply-side reforms that will increase the economy’s productive capacity.

Reducing the cost of capital should raise business investment and invite a capital inflow to the U.S. More investment means more hiring and more productive workers, which is what increases wages. Especially with a tight labor market, the share of income that goes to workers should increase. After eight years of trying to redistribute income through higher taxes and more subsidies, why not try a return to growth economics?

Mueller, FBI face crisis in public confidence By Mark Penn,

Sixty-three percent of polled voters believe that the FBI has been resisting providing information to Congress on the Clinton and Trump investigations. This is a remarkable finding for an agency whose new head said a few days ago that the agency was in fine shape. No, it isn’t.

Fifty-four percent say special counsel Robert Mueller has conflicts of interest that prevent him from doing an unbiased job, also according to this month’s Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll. So, given this finding, the silence from the special counsel on the subject has become downright deafening.

These are significant findings about an operation that was supposed to bring more objectivity and less partisanship to the Trump-Russia investigation. Clearly these numbers indicate that there is a crisis in public confidence in both the FBI and Mueller. What makes these findings important is that, with Trump’s approval rating at 41 percent, these results include large numbers of voters who don’t like Trump yet who now agree that these investigations have veered off course.

After this poll was conducted, we learned that rogue agent Peter Strzok and his paramour, Lisa Page, both high-ranking members of the Mueller task force, discussed during the campaign how, in case Trump won, that they were developing, along with deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, what Strzok called an “insurance policy.” I can’t even imagine how badly these new facts will poll next month.

Our polling in November showed that 61 percent say the funding of the salacious GPS Fusion document should be investigated. Fifty-eight percent say that if Hillary Clinton and the Democrats funded the work, it could not be used by law enforcement. While this seems obvious to the public, Congress has not been able to get the answer to the question of just how this dossier was used and whether the FBI then paid some of the cost to legitimize it. Even greater numbers — 65 percent — said there needs to be an investigation of the Uranium One deal that netted the Clinton Foundation $140 million in foreign-based contributions that went undisclosed.

Consider the consequences of #BelieveAllWomen: It won’t turn out well for women. by Megan McArdle

First there was Harvey Weinstein, whose appalling behavior toward women was so amply documented by the New York Times and the New Yorker. The dominoes began to fall. And soon they reached into my own industry.

It wasn’t just Bill O’Reilly. Now the cascading accusations were reaching deep into the heart of the mainstream media. Charlie Rose … Matt Lauer … Mark Halperin … even liberal outlets like NPR and the New Republic were not spared. For that matter, not even the New Yorker and the New York Times were spared: At the Times, star political reporter Glenn Thrush is under investigation, and the New Yorker has just fired its star political reporter, Ryan Lizza, over “improper sexual conduct.”

Some of these cases were clearly and inexcusably abusive – the actions egregious and the corroborating accounts damning.

Others, however, were less clear. Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic seems to have been accused mostly of making young women who were not his subordinates uncomfortable through risqué comments and the occasional clumsy pass. Thrush apparently is accused of hitting on younger women who work in his industry, and occasionally at his outlet, though he had no managerial power over them. And Lizza is accused of … what? We don’t know.

Of Gays and Wedding Cakes Sifting through the arguments. Bruce Bawer

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case known as Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., and Jack C. Phillips v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Charlie Craig, and David Mullins. Phillips is the Lakewood, Colorado, baker who, citing religious reasons, refused in 2012 to make a wedding cake for Craig and Mullins, a same-sex couple.

So far, Craig and Mullins have been winning. When they took their case to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, it ruled that when a baker refuses to sell a wedding cake to a couple because they’re gay, it amounts to an illegal refusal of service by a public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation. Phillips, an evangelical Christian, took the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which in 2015 unanimously affirmed the commission’s ruling. This June, after the Colorado Supreme Court chose not to review the case, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear it, apparently because of one detail of Phillip’s defense: he said that his refusal was not an act of discrimination – he would’ve been glad to bake, say, a birthday cake for the couple – but he didn’t want to bake a wedding cake for them, because that would have felt to him like an implicit endorsement of something he found morally objectionable.

The most commonly heard argument for Phillips is that the First Amendment, by guaranteeing his freedom of religion, also guarantees his right to turn down any job that would involve him in an activity that is at odds with his religious beliefs. This argument doesn’t work for me, because my first reaction to it is to picture a devout Muslim doctor presented with the case of a gay or Jew or Muslim apostate who’s on the verge of death and whose life he, the doctor, is in a position to save. Let’s say the doctor, aware that Islam commands him to kill such people, not save them, allows the patient to die. Does he have First Amendment religious protections on his side?

Twenty-one years ago I edited an influential book of essays entitled Beyond Queer: Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy, which sought to stake out alternatives to the lockstep far-left positions on various subjects – marriage, religion, family, etc. – that dominated the gay-rights movement at the time. Many of the conservatives, moderates, libertarians, and classical liberals who contributed to Beyond Queer were early proponents of same-sex marriage at a time when the queer left regarded the very idea as a vile capitulation to straight, conservative values. Only later, when they realized that most gays wanted the right to marry, did the gay left change its tune. Now it’s the same gay left, which once despised gay marriage, that is out gunning for those, like Jack Phillips, who have moral misgivings about it.

Several of my old BQ confrères have weighed in on the cake case. They’re split. BQ contributor Dale Carpenter, who teaches law at SMU, has joined with Eugene Volokh (a heterosexual UCLA prof whom I know only by reputation) in writing a brief supporting Craig and Mullins. While acknowledging that a “freelance writer cannot be punished for refusing to write press releases for the Church of Scientology” and “a photographer…should not be punished for choosing not to create photographs celebrating a same-sex wedding,” Carpenter and Volokh distinguish between these actions and cake-making. Writing a press release, they contend, is a speech act; making a cake is not. “A chef, however brilliant, cannot claim a Free Speech clause right not to serve certain people at his restaurant, even if his dishes look stunning,” they write. “The same is true for bakers.”

Yes, Investigate the Investigators By The Editors

The Department of Justice and the FBI are developing a credibility problem. The last two weeks have brought a blizzard of revelations about the anti-Trump political predilections of top FBI officials and prosecutors in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, perhaps none more eye-popping than a just-revealed text from Peter Strzok, a top FBI intelligence agent.

In August 2016, Strzok, who played a lead-investigator role in the Hillary Clinton–emails investigation, flatly stated that the FBI could not “take that risk,” referring to the possibility that Donald Trump might be elected president. He made the statement in a message to Lisa Page, a bureau lawyer with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Strzok referred to an alternative FBI “path” regarding Trump’s “unlikely” election that Page had proposed during a meeting they’d attended in “Andy’s office” — meaning deputy director Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s number-two official, second only to then-director James Comey.

While more context is necessary to understand the meaning of the text and what transpired in the meeting in McCabe’s office, the message raises the possibility that top bureau officials were infecting investigations with their personal political views. This would be a concern in any circumstance, but especially in this one. The FBI’s Clinton-email and Trump-Russia investigations have been extremely fraught politically — with the latter morphing into Mueller’s Russia probe, which conceivably could result in an impeachment referral.

Around the time of Strzok’s message, the FBI and the Obama Justice Department had come into possession of the anti-Trump “dossier” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. The dossier was opposition research commissioned by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, through their lawyers. They had retained a research company, Fusion GPS, which hired Steele, who evidently paid Russian sources for what appears to be dodgy information.

What if Jeff Sessions is not asleep, but instead playing possum? By Brian C. Joondeph

Conventional wisdom is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asleep at the wheel – from recusing himself unnecessarily from the Trump-Russia collusion investigation to doing nothing about the politicization and weaponization of the Department of Justice. He also gave free rein to his deputy A.G., Rod Rosenstein, who is in turn allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller unlimited time, money, and jurisdiction to investigate President Trump’s entire life.

Last summer, Trump expressed disappointment in Sessions, calling him “beleaguered,” wondering why Sessions wasn’t looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails and true election chicanery. Rudy Giuliani was floated as a possible replacement. Was Trump truly upset, or was this a calculated head fake?

In a recent blog posting, American Thinker editor Thomas Lifson, referencing Sundance from Conservative Treehouse, made the case that the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General is where the real action is taking place. Here was an explanation why Rosenstein gave evasive answers in recent congressional testimony and a suggestion that the OIG is laying out a case, slowly and methodically, with selective information release, before bringing the hammer down on the leakers and corruptocrats in the FBI and DOJ.

I want to take this a step farther, perhaps answering the question of where Jeff Sessions is and whether he is asleep, or just playing possum. Perhaps I can explain why he is acting not as a Trumpian pit bull, but instead like Mister Rogers ready for his afternoon nap.

Jeff Sessions is a political appointee, appointed by President Trump. The president, as we all know, is despised by Democrats, many establishment Republicans, and the media. Any actions Trump or Sessions take will be viewed through the lens of obstruction of justice. Firing Mueller or Rosenstein or shutting down the investigation would allow eager Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans to tut-tut over threats to the Constitution and to initiate impeachment proceedings.

The FBI’s Ship of Fools By Roger L Simon

Of the many astonishing revelations now emerging from the Russia investigation, not enough has been made of the fact that — that Zelig of the FBI who mysteriously appeared at every controversial moment — was second in command for counterintelligence.

That’s right, counterintelligence — that activity “designed to prevent or thwart spying, intelligence gathering, and sabotage by an enemy or other foreign entity.”

And yet that same Mr. Strzok was conducting a clandestine extra-marital affair with an FBI colleague over thousands of text messages that could be and likely were (more of that in a moment) intercepted by those same foreign intelligence agencies — or were, at the very least, recklessly exposed to them.

Now you don’t have to be James Jesus Angleton or even have read a novel by John le Carré to know one of the most important vulnerabilities in the intel world is just such dangerous liaisons, frequently used for blackmail of all sorts.

Yet, our second in command in counterintelligence conducted his in full digital view of anyone and did so replete with idiotically extreme comments about the president of the United States that would make our Peter a prime candidate for blackmail.

How exactly do you spell D-O-O-F-U-S?

Or, come to think of it, didn’t someone else do something just that dumb? Oh, yes, the very Mrs. Clinton who moved the entire email correspondence of the secretary of State onto a homebrew server stashed in a bathroom.

No wonder Strzok went easy on her and on her buddies Cheryl and Huma. It wasn’t just the extreme bias they all shared, it was the extreme cyber-stupidity they also shared. How could he call them “grossly negligent” when he was so “grossly negligent” himself? (He was also “grossly negligent” with his wife, but that’s another matter. Someone should get a good interview with her. She might have an interesting story to tell at this point.)

Which leads me back to the seemingly banal adverb likely or, more precisely, “reasonably likely.”

Newly released documents obtained by Fox News reveal that then-FBI Director James Comey’s draft statement on the Hillary Clinton email probe was edited numerous times before his public announcement, in ways that seemed to water down the bureau’s findings considerably. CONTINUE AT SITE