Patterico's Pontifications

4/24/2019

Trump Not Too Excited About Preventing Future Russian Interference

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:06 am



The Mueller report paints a picture of a President who repeatedly engaged in actions that would keep the average person from getting a security clearance. He wanted to win, and he was fine with accepting Russia’s help.

Well, it’s not the first time Putin has interfered and it won’t be the last. All 2016 represented was the first time that a candidacy openly welcomed that interference.

What implications does this have going forward? A story in the New York Times answers that question.

In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.

President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.

Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

It’s not just that these issues are kept under his level, though. The administration is doing little as a whole, and in places is actually weakening protections. The story notes that John Bolton “eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator at the White House last year.” Yeah, because cybersecurity is pretty much a small threat, and getting smaller all the time, amirite? Also:

Ms. Nielsen grew so frustrated with White House reluctance to convene top-level officials to come up with a governmentwide strategy that she twice pulled together her own meetings of cabinet secretaries and agency heads. They included top Justice Department, F.B.I. and intelligence officials to chart a path forward, many of whom later periodically issued public warnings about indicators that Russia was both looking for new ways to interfere and experimenting with techniques in Ukraine and Europe.

One senior official described homeland security officials as adamant that the United States government needed to significantly step up its efforts to urge the American public and companies to block foreign influence campaigns. But the department was stymied by the White House’s refusal to discuss it, the official said.

Trump’s refusal to act on interference, and his positive weakening of protections against cyber interference, makes perfect sense — not from the perspective of national security, of course, but from the perspective of amoral hardball politics. If Trump welcomed Putin’s interference as a citizen candidate — and he did — why wouldn’t he again welcome it as the incumbent? And many of his superfans — including people at this very blog — will cheer him on. Yes, there are Republicans who are so happy that Trump won and Hillary lost, that they positively applaud Vladimir Putin’s actions interfering with the election. To quote one particularly cynical Trump superfan who posts here: “if it was Russian interference which provided the tipping point which kept Hillary Clinton a private citizen, we owe Vladimir Putin a debt of gratitude which can never be fully repaid.”

Anything to keep Trump in power (within reason, for now). Whatever it takes. It’s a hardball world, and as that same commenter says: “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” (He thinks this sentiment is OK, apparently, because Joe Montana said it about the Patriots.)

After all, if we don’t cheat, lie, accept the help of murderous dictators with alacrity and glee, and break the law, then we won’t get to keep appointing judges who will help us, um, maintain the rule of law.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

4/23/2019

Reasons to Question the Belief That Illegal Immigrants Are Less Criminal Than Citizens

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:30 pm



We often hear that illegals commit fewer crimes per capita. Our betters in the media tell us this all the time. The issue is relevant to the immigration question in general, and specifically to Trump’s dopey proposal to send illegals to sanctuary cities (which I have argued endangers the public because the criminal part of that population is more likely to evade deportation). I thought it would be worth devoting a post to questioning some of the flawed reasoning underpinning this claim.

Before I start, let me point out that none of the arguments I advance below depends upon a bigoted view of Mexicans or Central Americans as inferior or naturally prone to crime — views that I do not hold. If you’re among the subset of Trumpists who subscribes to that view, or if you’re a leftist looking for a way to call a conservative racist, move on. You’ll find nothing here to support your nasty preconceptions.

A 2017 Heritage article says:

According to a recent Associated Press article, “multiple studies have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born U.S. citizens.” But the issue isn’t non-citizens who are in this country legally, and who must abide by the law to avoid having their visas revoked or their application for citizenship refused. The real issue is the crimes committed by illegal aliens. And in that context, the claim is quite misleading, because the “multiple studies” on crimes committed by “immigrants” — including a 2014 study by a professor from the University of Massachusetts, which is the only one cited in the article — combine the crime rates of both citizens and non-citizens, legal and illegal.

That isn’t the only problem with the study. Instead of using official crime data, it uses “self-reported criminal offending and country of birth information.” For obvious reasons, there is little incentive for anyone, let alone criminal aliens, to self-report “delinquent and criminal involvement.” When it comes to self-reporting criminal activity, some respondents will, no doubt, exaggerate. Others will flat out lie. Furthermore, many respondents will likely not disclose if they are a non-citizen out of fear of discovery and deportation.

(Incidentally, Cato, a libertarian outfit of the stripe that prefers open borders to make the businessmen happy, argues that illegals commit less crime but admits that much of the applicable research “combines legal and illegal immigrants to calculate a crime rate for all immigrants.”)

The Heritage piece goes on to cite some “disturbing actual data on crimes committed by criminal aliens” that tends to undercut the conventional wisdom. First, we learn that a GAO report revealed that “criminal aliens (both legal and illegal) make up 27 percent of all federal prisoners” despite making up only about “nine percent of the nation’s adult population.” That certainly seems inconsistent with the claims that they commit fewer crimes than natives. Indeed, the Heritage piece adds: “One 2001 study that does take country of origin and geographic concentration factors into account found that Mexican immigrants ‘commit between 3.5 and 5 times as many crimes as the average native.’”

And if you think this is a small problem, think again. Another GAO report set forth some of the statistics of the total numbers of crimes we are looking at — crimes committed by people who, under our law, don’t belong here in the first place. This GAO report

looked at the criminal histories of 55,322 aliens that “entered the country illegally and were still illegally in the country at the time of their incarceration in federal or state prison or local jail during fiscal year 2003.” Those 55,322 illegal aliens had been arrested 459,614 times, an average of 8.3 arrests per illegal alien, and had committed almost 700,000 criminal offenses, an average of roughly 12.7 offenses per illegal alien.

Out of all of the arrests, 12 percent were for violent crimes such as murder, robbery, assault and sex-related crimes; 15 percent were for burglary, larceny, theft and property damage; 24 percent were for drug offenses; and the remaining offenses were for DUI, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, weapons, immigration, and obstruction of justice.

That is a lot of unnecessary crime.

Now, for some of my own analysis. To the extent that there remain any valid statistics or studies out there that do show illegal immigrants commit less crime — and perhaps there are — I believe that is a simple function of the fact that we have the ability to deport repeat offenders. Let me go through the logic.

First of all, much crime is committed by repeat offenders. Assume we have two hypothetical groups, A (citizens) and B (illegals). Assume for the same of argument that both groups are composed of the same mix of people with the same characteristics, including the same tendency towards criminality. (As we will see later, the groups are different demographically in terms of age and gender, but for now we are going to assume they are the same.) Also assume that all criminal offenders from group A (citizens) who are sent to jail or prison are returned to the streets once released from custody. Further assume that most criminal offenders from group B (illegals) who are sent to jail or prison are sent out of the country once their sentences are served.

Over a period of years, who will commit fewer crimes in the country: group A (citizens) or group B (illegals)? Likely, in our hypothetical, both will commit equal numbers of crimes overall in the world at large, since we have described the groups as being roughly equal in terms of their tendency to commit crime, for purposes of this (counterfactual) hypothetical. But group B, the group of illegals, will be committing fewer crimes in this country, since they are deported after committing their first crime that gets them incarcerated.

So when you measure the statistics of crimes committed by group A (citizens) and group B (illegals), it will appear that group B is safer overall.

But this is true only as long as you maintain the status quo, and refuse to grant legal status to illegals, and continue to deport them when they commit crimes — at least, as long as sanctuary city and sanctuary state policies are repealed or outlawed, and the machinery of deporting criminals works efficiently. As long as we can deport criminals, there will be a mechanism that tends make the illegals appear less criminal than they are innately.

But the second you start to use that “fact” to justify legalizing illegals and treating them as citizens — because hey, they commit fewer crimes than citizens! they are more desirable! — then the statistics will soon equalize again. Because once you make the illegals into citizens, you will no longer be able to deport the criminals once they get to jail.

As far as I know, any argument that says “illegals commit fewer crimes” fails to take this differential into account.

Further complicating the picture is that the demographics, in terms of gender and age, are actually quite different between citizens and illegals. National Affairs reports that illegal immigrants tend to be younger and more male:

However long they have been here, the undocumented are strikingly young. Pew reports that the median age of undocumented adults is 36.2, compared to 46.1 for legal-immigrant adults and 46.5 for native-born American adults. These numbers reflect the fact that the many risks associated with illegal status — travel through dangerous terrain, larcenous smugglers, unscrupulous employers — are more easily negotiated by the young, and particularly by young men. This is one reason why men significantly outnumber women among the illegal-immigrant population: Of the undocumented immigrants over the age of 18 currently residing in the U.S., there are approximately 5.8 million males, compared to 4.2 million females.

The age and gender profiles of the undocumented translate into a large cohort of young, unattached males — with no spouses, partners, or children, at least in this country. According to Pew, nearly half of illegal-immigrant men are “unpartnered adults without children,” while fewer than one-fifth of illegal-immigrant women are.

Most people are aware that young men commit more crimes on average than people who are not young men. So, given the higher prevalence of young men in the illegal immigrant population, you don’t have to conclude that there is anything bad or inferior about Latinos to conclude that they are more likely to commit crimes.

So I’m not convinced that the folks coming here illegally from Mexico and Central America are innately predisposed to commit less crime than citizens. There are some statistics going either way, and their large demographic cohort of young males tends to support the statistics that suggest they commit more crime. To the extent that the statistics or studies favor the proposition that they commit fewer crimes, some part of that is a function of the fact that they remain illegal and that we retain the ability to deport them after they commit crimes.

That is not an argument that we should legalize them. Moreover, it makes sanctuary city policies especially dangerous — because if the population contains more criminals, it’s that much more important for immigration officials to have access to them in custodial facilities and immediately after they are released.

Trump’s dopey proposed policy makes more illegals subject to these policies, not fewer. And the mayors of the sanctuary cities aren’t deterred. Many of them say they welcome more illegals to their cities.

So to the extent you’re relying on the notion that illegals commit less crime to support (or oppose) Trump’s policy, there’s good reason to question that assumption.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

4/22/2019

Is Revealing Truth Important No Matter Where the Truth Comes From?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:28 am



It depends! Just ask the Trumpists.

  • Trumpists: it’s fine that the Russians hacked Democrats’ emails because it revealed truth. Revealing truth is always good no matter how the truth gets out. Free Julian Assange!
  • Also Trumpists: A bunch of embarrassing information was released on Trump in the Mueller report to just to hurt him. The people who started the Russia investigation need to go to jail.

The Mueller report is like a Rorschach inkblot. Both sides read it and think someone should go to jail. Trumpists think the people who should be jailed are the investigators. Non-Trumpists think the people who should be jailed are the people who engaged in the criminal behavior described in the report.

But I don’t see how you praise the fact that information was released through hacking, and decry information being released through the proper operation of law enforcement.

The main benefit I see of Trump being President is good judges. But good judges are important only because the rule of law is important. Meanwhile Trump is eroding and attacking the rule of law in any way possible when it comes to anything having to do with him.

The trade-off is not worth it.

UPDATE: In case you think I’m making up the stuff about Trumpists saying the people who started the investigation should go to jail:

Remember, too, that Glenn Reynolds said last year that people from the FBI should go to jail for considering an obstruction investigation. You know, for things like Trump telling the FBI director to stop investigating his crony. The FBI should go to jail. For that.

Like I say, it’s a Rorschach test. Me, I think that attitude is batshit insane. But I hear it all over the place.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

4/21/2019

Sunday Music: Bach’s Easter Oratorio BWV 249

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:26 am



Happy Easter! Today’s Bach piece is his Easter Oratorio.

Today’s Gospel reading is John 20:1-18:

The Empty Tomb

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

Come, hurry and run, you speedy feet,
reach the cavern which conceals Jesus!
Laugter and merriment
accompanies our hearts,
since our Savior is risen again.

. . . .

He is risen from the dead!
We encountered an angel
who gave us these tidings.

. . . .

We are delighted
that our Jesus lives again,
and our hearts,
which first dissolved and floated in grief,
forget the pain
and imagine songs of joy;
for our Savior lives again.

It is a day of delight. May we all put aside our differences today and be joyful.

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

4/20/2019

Did Mueller Refer Trump for Impeachment?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:23 pm



Remember that I said four days before the Mueller report came out:

I doubt Mueller has made any express “referral” of any of this to Congress, but there will likely be some subtle reference to the notion that the fact that no prosecutions were brought should not preclude Congress from evaluating the material in its oversight capacity. It’s hard for me to imagine the absence of any statement like that, given that Mueller so pointedly refused to exonerate Trump on obstruction. Why make a point of that lack of exoneration if the matter is not to be taken up by Congress in some way?

I was mocked for this by some here, but this was my specific prediction. Indeed, in a comment written ten days before the report came out, I hypothesized as to how such a comment might read:

I’d be surprised if Mueller explicitly referred something to Congress and Barr didn’t mention it — but it’s not impossible. And I would not be at all surprised if Mueller said something like: “This report does not conclude, one way or another, whether the extensive evidence of obstruction of justice laid out above reaches a level that justifies prosecution. Such a pronouncement involves difficult issues of law and fact that the undersigned believes may be more appropriately resolved by Congress. Given that Congress is a co-equal branch with an oversight role that can include sanctions as provided by the Constitution, the undersigned believes that the evidence described above is more appropriately reviewed by Congress to determine whether that body believes that obstruction has occurred — and, if so, what (if any) sanction is appropriate for that obstruction.”

Here is what the report says about impeachment, in relevant part:

The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has issued an opinion finding that “the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions” in violation of “the constitutional separation of powers.”1 [Footnote 1 reads as follows: A Sitting President’s Amenability to Indictment and Criminal Prosecution, 24 Op. O.L.C. 222, 222, 260 (2000) (OLC Op.).] Given the role of the Special Counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the Special Counsel regulations, see 28 U.S.C. § 515; 28 C.F.R. § 600.7(a), this Office accepted OLC’s legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction. And apart from OLC’s constitutional view, we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.2 [Footnote 2 reads as follows: See U .S. CONST. Art. I § 2, cl. 5; § 3, cl. 6; cf. OLC Op. at 257-258 (discussing relationship between impeachment and criminal prosecution of a sitting President).]

All bold emphasis is mine.

Omitting all the citations and other legal throat-clearing, Mueller is saying: I accepted the OLC opinion that a sitting President cannot be indicted in part because doing so would “potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct” — constitutional processes that include impeachment.

Mueller also took special care to note that, in his view, Congress’s obstruction laws can validly apply to official presidential actions without overstepping Congress’s Article I role or unconstitutionally impinging on the President’s Article II powers:

[W]hen the President’s official actions come into conflict with the prohibitions in the obstruction statutes, any constitutional tension is reconciled through separation-of-powers analysis…. Applying the Court’s framework for analysis, we concluded that Congress can validly regulate the President’s exercise of official duties to prohibit actions motivated by a corrupt intent to obstruct justice. The limited effect on presidential power that results from that restriction would not impermissibly undermine the President’s ability to perform his Article II functions.

(Some journalists have read this incorrectly as saying Congress can criminalize Trump’s behavior specifically, but it’s actually just a general analysis of Congress’s constitutional authority to pass laws that arguably invade the president’s constitutional powers.)

Is any of the above language an explicit impeachment referral? That’s debatable, but I would not waste any energy arguing that it is.

Is it a declaration that Congress is a co-equal branch with an oversight role that can include sanctions as provided by the Constitution, which include impeachment? (In other words, precisely what I predicted?) You bet it is.

Always trust content from Patterico.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

4/18/2019

The Mueller Report: Preliminary Reaction to the Reporting

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:36 pm



I have not read the report. I’ve been working today. I’ve seen some of the discussion about it and seen some quotes from it that seem worth commentary, but until I read it (and who knows when that will be) this is all tentative.

Basic takeaway: if Trump managed not to obstruct justice, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. He tried and tried, but could not get his underlings to monkey with the system as he wanted them to.

As for “collusion”: stop using that word. Mueller did not analyze “collusion.” He found that the investigation did not establish a conspiracy with Russia to interfere with the election. Continued use of the term collusion (given its abuse by both sides, as documented below) serves to obscure rather than enlighten.

Now, the detail:

First, on obstruction: this is just a damning passage:

Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations. The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony. Viewing the acts collectively can help to illuminate their significance. For example, the President’s direction to McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed was followed almost immediately by his direction to Lewandowski to tell the Attorney General to limit the scope of the Russia investigation to prospective election-interference only — a temporal connection that suggests that both acts were taken with a related purpose with respect to the investigation.

The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. Comey did not end the investigation of Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order. Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the President’s message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so. Consistent with that pattern, the evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction charges against the President’s aides and associates beyond those already filed.

By the way, when I first discussed the story about Trump ordering McGahn to fire Mueller, commenters mocked the story. I won’t embarrass anyone by name, but check out the comments to my post about it. I’m just saying: when you defend Trump and attack Big Media, you are choosing one of two unreliable narrators. If you defend either narrator with too much gusto and not enough introspection, you could end up looking foolish. Seriously, read the comments to that thread.

On collusion:

I hate to break it to you, but the Mueller report did not find “no collusion.” It found that the investigation failed to establish a “conspiracy” with Russian electoral interference. Period.

There was no collusion finding. At all. No collusion finding.

In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.” In so doing, the Office recognized that the word “collud[e]” was used in communications with the Acting Attorney General confirming certain aspects of the investigation’s scope and that the term has frequently been invoked in public reporting about the investigation. But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. For those reasons, the Office’s focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal law. In connection with that analysis, we addressed the factual question whether members of the Trump Campaign “coordinat[ed]”-a term that appears in the appointment order-with Russian election interference activities. Like collusion, “coordination ” does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We understood coordination to require an agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests. We applied the term coordination in that sense when stating in the report that the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

I’ve seen dopey analysis of this all day. At the gym, I saw a CNN chyron saying “no collusion.” Nope! The report made no such finding. Similarly, I saw a widely cited former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, tweet about Mueller’s “conclusion regarding ‘collusion'” and claim that Mueller “interpreted [collusion] to require an ‘agreement … with the Russian government on election interference.’”

This is entirely wrong, as shown by simply reading the very passage Mariotti quotes. Mueller made no “conclusion regarding ‘collusion'” because (as just explained) Mueller explicitly disclaimed any attempt to analyze the term “collusion” because it has no place in the relevant federal statutes.

Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, all of a sudden you have both sides gaslighting the other side and moving the goalposts all over the place.

On the right, many folks seem to be saying that literally everyone on Earth has been using the term “collusion” to refer to a criminal conspiracy, and to claim otherwise is just gaslighting and goalpost-shifting, and so: Mueller found no collusion! To those who say that literally everyone said collusion necessarily referred only to criminal activity, I respond: did I dream Rudy Giuliani saying “Collusion is not a crime”? No:

Did I dream Donald Trump tweeting: “Collusion is not a crime?” No:

But the left is doing the same kind of gaslighting and goalpost-shifting. To the extent that folks on the left are claiming “we never said the term collusion referred to criminal activity” they are also full of it, because plenty did. Here is Seth Waxman’s pinned tweet:

Waxman Collusion

And here’s PolitiFact claiming that Trump was factually wrong when he said: “Collusion is not a crime.”

PolitiFact Collusion

As my now pinned tweet says:

It’s the first tweet I have ever pinned to my Twitter profile.

My real concern is not a partisan bickering over the meaning of a term that is not used in the law in the relevant context. It’s that a) the Mueller report clearly says that Mueller did not make a ruling on “collusion” but the Attorney General of the United States this morning repeatedly falsely said that Mueller had:

Indeed, as the report states, “[t]he investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.” Put another way, the Special Counsel found no “collusion” by any Americans in the IRA’s illegal activity.

. . . .

But again, the Special Counsel’s report did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations. In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign “collusion” with the Russian government’s hacking.

. . . .

So that is the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.

After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the Special Counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation.

. . . .

Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.

I cannot begin to reconcile these statements with the crystal clear language of Bob Mueller: In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.”

I think Barr’s comments here were disgracefully political, and wholly inaccurate and misleading. Barr repeatedly said that Mueller ruled out “collusion” — something that Mueller said he did not analyze at all.

These comments seriously undercut Barr’s credibility in my eyes — as did his refusal to summarize and/or quote Mueller on obstruction (a topic highly unfavorable to Trump) while saying “no collusion” over and over.

More if and when I read this thing. Don’t hold your breath.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Mueller Report Appetizer

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:42 am



[guest post by Dana]

Our host will be posting his thoughts on the Mueller report this evening. In the meantime, here’s something for you to chew on. Or chew up:

Untitled

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

4/17/2019

Judea Pearl Renounces NYU Alumnus Award After Anti-Israel Group Is Honored

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:36 pm



[guest post by Dana]

New York University’s Students for Justice in Palestine organization will be honored with the President’s Service Award tonight in New York. The group posted the announcement on their Facebook page last week:

We are thrilled to announce that we have been selected to receive a presidential service award at NYU. Despite the pushback we have received from our institution, we agree that we have made ‘significant contributions to the university community in the areas of learning, leadership, and quality of student life.’ Anyway, New York University, divest from Israeli apartheid. Xoxo.”

Vigorously opposing the the selection of SJP for the award is Judea Pearl, noted alumnus and father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl:

Turing Award winner Judea Pearl has renounced his status as a distinguished alumnus of New York University, following the school’s decision to award its Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter — which orchestrated an ongoing boycott of Zionist student clubs — for “extraordinary and positive impact on the University community.”

Pearl, who graduated with a doctoral degree from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering in 1965, was granted a Distinguished Alumnus Award by the Polytechnic Alumni Association during a campus lecture in 2013 and is currently a chancellor’s professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also leads a foundation named after his late son, journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by Islamic terrorists in 2002 while on assignment in Pakistan.

Pearl explained why he is protesting the selection of SJP:

“In the past five years, SJP has resorted to intimidation tactics that have made me, my colleagues and my students unwelcome and unsafe on our own campus,” Pearl wrote in a letter to NYU President Andrew Hamilton. “The decision to confer an award on SJP, renders other NYU awards empty of content, and suspect of reckless selection process.”

Pearl attempted to discuss his concerns with university officials, but given the condescending response, it’s clear his complaints fell on deaf ears:

Pearl stated that his efforts to engage with university officials over these concerns “have been met with platitudes about ‘free speech’ despite the fact that the US State Department now includes, in its definition of discrimination, intimidation based on race, religion and ethnicity.”

“Mr. President, I have been in academia for close to 50 years, and I know the difference between free speech and campus norms,” he continued. “Entrusted with the mandate of maintaining a climate of learning and mutual respect, your office should distance itself from the SJP selection and explain to the campus why such distancing is necessary. In the absence of a corrective action by your office the academic standing of this university is begging for other voices to call out the Orwellian character of (SJP’s) award.”

Pearl tweeted:

How can you tell when your university administrators are embarrassed by their own words? When they start lecturing you on “free speech” — the ultimate blanket for inaction or lack of courage…

From university spokesman John Beckman:

The President’s Service Award is annually granted to more than 50 extra-curricular clubs and 100 individuals, which are selected by a group of student affairs staff members and a student representative.

“While many in our university community disagree with the SJP, we will continue to defend the rights of our students and others to express their opposing views,” the official asserted.

As a reminder, here is an example of how members of SJP made an “extraordinary and positive impact on the University community, including achievements within schools and departments, the University at large, local neighborhoods, and NYU’s presence in the world.”:

Upon learning that SJP would be honored with a Presidential Service Award, NYU student organization Realize Israel posted this statement on their Facebook page [in full]:

It has come to our attention that on April 4th, NYU Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) announced that they had been selected to receive the NYU President’s Service Award. We are outraged that the University would award an organization that has spent the last several years making Jewish and pro-Israel students feel unwelcome and unsafe on campus.

The NYU President’s Service Award is given to individual students or student organizations that have had “an extraordinary and positive impact on the University community” and that promotes “learning, leadership, and quality of student life at New York University.” SJP’s actions toward our community reflect none of these values.

Over the past year, SJP has led a boycott of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations by 50+ NYU “student groups.” Members of SJP defaced Israel’s flag and physically assaulted pro-Israel students for openly celebrating their identities, and members of SJP brought forward not one, but two one-sided and factually inaccurate anti-Israel resolutions to the Student Government Assembly through a non-transparent, unbalanced, and undemocratic process.

By presenting the NYU President’s Award to SJP, not only is our university condoning violence and discrimination against members of the NYU community, but it is declaring that this type of behavior represents the ethos of our university.

We are conducting an investigation to determine who selected SJP to receive this award and are committed to dialogue with those who made this decision so that they understand the severity of the situation and the repercussions of their actions on the NYU community.

We also believe it is high time that the administration put an end to this endless cycle of intimidation, and we plan to voice our concerns about the systemic anti-Semitism perpetuated by anti-Israel activism that is plaguing our campus.

Coincidentally, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace activists were co-hosting an event at NYU featuringBDS Movement co-founder Omar Barghouti , but Barghouti found himself denied entry to the U.S. today. Contrary to protests that “this is only the latest in a series of attempts to suppress Palestinian voices,” the reason for not allowing Barghouti into the U.S. seems pretty darn reasonable:

In 2007, Barghouti founded, and runs to this day, a Ramallah-based umbrella group called the BDS National Committee that serves as the leading group organizing and promoting BDS outside the United States. The reason Barghouti was barred from entering the U.S. is not because he advocates BDS or Israel’s destruction. There is no speech issue here at all.

The reason he was barred is because the group Barghouti runs includes five U.S.-designated terrorist organizations in its membership: Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and the Popular Front – General Command.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Democrats: Always Generous with Someone Else’s Money

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:13 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The Democrat candidates who plan to seek the Presidency next year are releasing their tax returns (along with the requisite calls for the current White House occupant to do the same), and once again we can delight in the fact that so many progressives who think that helping the poor is the sine qua non of being a decent human being somehow don’t see the need to open up their own wallets to help. Here’s a round up of some of the notable characters.

Even the lefties at the NY Times and LA Times are snarking that the Senator Bernard Sanders’s tax returns show that he has pushed himself into the one-percent since his 2016 Presidential run. So you might assume that a self-proclaimed democratic socialist would purposely overpay his taxes in order to comport with his personally held beliefs, or at the very least he would send lots of dollars to charitable causes. But you would be wrong. Sen. and Mrs. Sanders declared $36,300 in charitable giving against their $1.31 million in income in 2017, which is a ho-hum 2.77%. This might be acceptable for a working family with a mortgage and children, but it seems pretty weak for a couple who supplements his Senate and book income with $52k per year in Social Security benefits.

That said, in comparison to some of the other Democrat candidates, Senator Sanders is a veritable Carnegie. Progressive stalwart Kamala Harris, who has a colorful history of collecting income from different sources, has released 15 years of her taxes dating back to her time as a San Francisco prosecutor, and it turns out that for some years — including her years as California’s Attorney General (annual compensation of approximately $150,000) — she reported zero in charitable contributions. Now that she is married to a well-compensated corporate lawyer and filing jointly, she reports annual joint income in the $2 million range, yet only claims average charitable giving between 1% and 3% of the couple’s annual income.

Elizabeth Warren had the good sense to just post her last eleven tax returns on her campaign website and let us dumb bloggers plow through them for nuggets. This past year, 2018, the Senator and her law professor husband reported $50,128 in giving on $786,266 of taxable income, for a much more impressive 6.4% than we have seen from her competitors. Compare that however with 2009, before Elizabeth Warren had appeared on the national scene, when the couple gave $24,442 on a combined taxable income of $890,993, for a more Sanders-esque 2.74%. It seems that the Warren-Mann household had the good sense to bump up their charitable giving percentage once she became an icon of anti-capitalist thought, but overall it appears that a quarter donation on every ten-dollar bill is closer to their level of generosity. I guess somebody’s got to pay for all of that Michelob Ultra.

Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar have both released their tax returns and like Senator Warren have helpfully posted them to their respective campaign websites. Sen. and Mr. Gillibrand in their 2013 return (I picked that year because it was the farthest year from her next election, so she wouldn’t have had political incentive to be a heavy donor that year) report $2,750 given to charity on $310,605 taxable income (0.88%) which they magnanimously bumped up to 1.75% on their 2018 return, now that the Senator wants to be President. Sen. Klobuchar and her husband John Bessler fall in the Warren-Sanders levels of giving, with reported gifts of $6,325 on $251,823 (a 2.51% ratio) back in 2013, followed up with $6,602 on $300,848 (2.19%) this last tax year.

Presumptive entree Joe Biden has not yet released his tax returns, but he has a pretty pitiful history of charitable giving from his pre-VP days. I imagine he has since seen the error of his ways and now gives whatever the political consultants advise him is the minimum to retain proper decorum, but I submit to you that those years prior to his inclusion on the Obama ticket are highly indicative of his charitable proclivities. In his miserdom, Biden joins his fellow blowhard Senator turned VP Al Gore, who embarrassed himself with a meager donation just a few short years before he would seek to replace his boss in our nation’s highest office.

Funnest of all is this year’s Democrat teenybopper crush, Robert F. O’Rourke of El Paso. A scion of white privilege, son of a judge and son-in-law to a wealthy developer, Mr. O’Rourke and his wife netted a healthy 2017 income of $370,412 yet reported only $1,166 in charitable giving, which comes out to less than one penny donated on every three dollars earned. But hey, got to save up to fund those month-long personal discovery journeys in the Southwest desert, right? The former Congressman now claims that he has donated much more than what he reported on his tax forms, and that he would reach out to the charities he has supported in order to see if they retained records that he can then provide. You can expect to hear back from him about this somewhere around the fourth of Never.

– JVW

4/15/2019

Developing Story: Fire Ravages Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; Spire Collapses [Updated]

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:55 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Sad news to begin Holy Week in Western Christendom.

The famed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France was engulfed in flames on Monday leading to the collapse of the structure’s main spire. The intense flames leaped out from two of its bell towers minutes before the spire collapsed, and later spread to one of the cathedral’s iconic rectangular towers.

A church spokesman told French media that all of Notre Dame cathedral’s frame is burning after the spire collapsed.

“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told local outlets.

[. . .]

The deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Gregoire, told BFMTV that the cathedral has suffered “colossal damages.”

Paris emergency services said they were trying to salvage the artwork stored in the cathedral.

At least there does not yet appear to be any deaths attributed to the blaze. It’s very sad to see an elegant and historic church damaged so horribly. Not to push the point too far, but the burning building unfortunately stands as a metaphor for the Church in modern Europe.

Here’s the cathedral seen in better days, taken from a visit I made nearly six years ago. The spire has now collapsed, and apparently the roof is in danger.

Notre Dame

I sincerely hope the French people have the will to rebuild this beautiful structure.

UPDATE: The parish priest from my boyhood passes along this poignant Tweet.

UPDATE II: Heartbreaking. It’s confirmed that the three iconic stained glass windows, the West Rose (dating from AD 1225), the North Rose, and the South Rose (both dating from AD 1250), have exploded in the fire.

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: This CNN story says that the rose windows have all survived contrary to previous reports. The organ supposed survived as well. What a relief.

– JVW

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