Patterico's Pontifications

10/11/2017

TRUMP THUGGERY: Trump Takes a Page from the Left, Threatens NBC License

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

As Susan Wright noted earlier, NBC reported this morning that Donald Trump “wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal” — a ludicrous request that appears to be what prompted Rex Tillerson to call Trump a “moron.” In typical authoritarian style, Trump is responding by denying the story . . . and also by threatening NBC’s broadcast license:

I believe the NBC story because Trump is a) a liar and b) a f*cking moron. But that’s not the point.

The point is that we should all come together — all of us, every single one of us — to oppose this sort of anti-speech thuggery.

The left has a long and rich history of using the power of government regulation to threaten speech they don’t like, with threats to broadcast licenses being a particular favorite of the thugs. I documented just a few of the examples in a post from 2010:

Whether it’s Democrats’ threatening to pull Fox News’s broadcast license because they don’t like the content; or Harry Reid & Co. writing a mafia-style letter threatening ABC’s broadcast license over “The Path to 9/11″; or the DNC threatening Sinclair Broadcasting’s broadcast license over an anti-Kerry documentary; or Obama’s thugs threatening networks’ broadcast licenses over criticism from the NRA; or, most recently, Kathleen Sebelius suggesting that insurance companies had better not claim they’re raising rates because of ObamaCare, or they may find themselves regulated out of existence . . . based on these examples and many more, the public has a special need to fear Democrats’ bringing down the hammer when they engage in free speech.

Now this is officially going to become a position of the “right” as well. As least the idiot portion of the right — a group too large for comfort. And don’t kid yourself. With all the “fake news” caterwauling we constantly hear, Trump’s latest suggestion is sure to appeal to the dimwits who make up a part of Trump’s base. These would be the same authoritarian and reactionary types who shrug at Trump’s praise for Putin and Duterte, and applaud his calls to “open up the libel laws.” The Trumpers will laugh and clap wildly . . . while the anti-anti-Trumpers — the would-be “intellectuals” of the populist movement — will also laugh and clap wildly . . . but will then also say “come on, Trump is not being serious, but he has a point, doesn’t he? Plus we need to use the tactics of the left against them!”

Neither Trumper nor anti-anti-Trumper will spend a single solitary moment denouncing the thuggery on full display here. And Americans will look from Trumper to anti-anti-Trumper, and from anti-anti-Trumper to Trumper — but already it will be impossible to say which is which.

I’ve been documenting and railing about these sort of abuses for the greater part of my adult life. Until now, I have never seen it happen on the right. If it did, I missed it. I used to think of this sort of threat as an exclusively leftist tactic. And it is. But now it will be cheered by the right, because Trump.

There are few things I hate more than seeing the power of the government used to threaten or squelch speech. That behavior has been characteristic of every murderous authoritarian regime in modern history, and any politician taking even a step down that road should greatly concern every American citizen.

If you are defending this because it’s Trump, I have nothing in common with you. You are part of the problem.

To the rest of you: join me in denouncing this. I don’t care if the left denounces it too (as they inevitably will). The Trumpers and the anti-anti-Trumpers don’t understand this, but what’s right is right . . . even if the left happens to agree!

If you don’t understand that, then you’re letting the left dictate your belief system. You’re a sheep, and you deserve to be led to the metaphorical slaughter.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

10/10/2017

Frankly, It Would Be Surprising If This Wasn’t Happening In California

Filed under: General — Dana @ 3:34 pm

[guest post by Dana]

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval, California’s Democratic state Sen. Scott Weiner’s recent bills put the Golden State’s nuttery on full display. As if we needed more proof.

First:

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Friday that lowers from a felony to a misdemeanor the crime of knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection.

The measure also applies to those who give blood without telling the blood bank that they are HIV-positive.

Modern medicine allows those with HIV to live longer lives and nearly eliminates the possibility of transmission, according to state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), authors of the bill.

“Today California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals,” Wiener said in a statement. “HIV should be treated like all other serious infectious diseases, and that’s what SB 239 does.”

Opponents to the bill expressed their concerns:

Republican lawmakers including Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine voted against the bill, arguing it puts the public at risk.

“I’m of the mind that if you purposefully inflict another with a disease that alters their lifestyle the rest of their life, puts them on a regimen of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” Anderson said during the floor debate. “It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this.”

Weiner is also defending his bill that would “allow for penalties of up to one year in jail for health care workers who “willfully and repeatedly” use the “wrong” pronouns to refer to a senior transgender patient“:

Weiner has also dismissed concerns about religious freedom regarding the criminal punishments for health care workers who don’t use transgender pronouns.

“Everyone is entitled to their religious view,” he said. “But when you enter the public space, when you are running an institution, you are in a workplace, you are in a civil setting, and you have to follow the law.”

Opponents to this bill also expressed their concerns:

“How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others?” Greg Burt of the California Family Council testified in July.

“This is not tolerance. This is not love. This is not mutual respect. True tolerance tolerates people with different views. We need to treat each other with respect, but respect is a two-way street. It is not respectful to threaten people with punishment for having sincerely held beliefs that differ from your own.”

Misgendering gets a person jail time, but knowingly exposing individuals to HIV in the Golden State isn’t that big of a deal.

It’s downright funny to read the transcript of Ronald Reagan’s taped announcement on his candidacy for California Governor from 1966. What a distant memory.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Fashion Designer Defends Harvey Weinstein, Blames Victims

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:01 am

[guest post by Dana]

Yet another example of women gutting other women. During a red carpet interview, fashion designer Donna Karan of DKNY was asked about the accusations being levied against Harvey Weinstein. She proceeded to shockingly suggest that the women claiming to have been victimized by the fat, filthy hands of Weinstein, were asking for it:

‘I think we have to look at ourselves. Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. Certainly in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it’s been a hard time for women.

‘To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?

‘And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?’

She then went on to express that she believes both Weinstein, and his wife, fashion designer Georgina Chapman are “wonderful” people.

I’m guessing Karan hadn’t yet read the account of a temporary front-desk assistant named Emily Nestor who intentionally “dressed very frumpy” to meet Weinstein at a morning coffee meeting, and nonetheless faced “textbook sexual harassment” from the relentless predator. With that, it didn’t take any effort at all to find examples of Karan’s designer gowns made for specific clients with an eye to present that very overt sensuality and sexuality which she blames for Weinstein’s intimidating, inappropriate, and illegal behavior.

Karan2

Karan

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Trump Continues War Of Words With Corker On Twitter

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:30 am

You already know the background. Trump had a Twitter Tirade over the weekend at Bob Corker, in which Trump unleashed a typically fictional narrative about how Corker had unsuccessfully sought his endorsement. Corker replied with a tweet comparing the White House to an adult day care. Corker followed up with an interview with the New York Times in which Corker said Trump is making reckless threats that could lead us on a path to World War III. No Alpha Male President is going to take that lying down! And, we get the inevitable dopey “counterpunch” this morning on (where else?) Twitter:

For what it’s worth, like Trump’s previous tweets about Corker, this one is from Trump’s own personal fantasyland. Not only did Corker make a explicit reference (documented in the transcript) to the fact that the conversation was on the record, but the reporter says Corker also had his own aides taping it as well:

My question, what letter does the apostrophe in Liddle’ represent?

Anyway. An anxious public has only one question for Corker:

A BRIEF BUT RELEVANT DIGRESSION: Susan Wright mentioned it earlier, but I have to come back to it. Trump, still butthurt over the report that Rex Tillerson called him a f*cking moron, had this to say:

I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.

Oh, I already know who’s gonna win that one. Only a person with a stratospheric IQ would make sure that particular story stayed in the news as long as possible!

BACK TO THE STORY: But anyway, getting back to the Corker tweet, let’s make this our IQ question of the day:

You are President of the United States and a member of the Republican Party. Your party has 52 votes in the Senate, and several senators who are not reliable votes for the party’s proposals. Do you alienate yet another Republican Senator over personal pique? a) Yes b) No

You know who I bet knows the answer to that one, is Rex Tillerson.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

10/9/2017

GOP Politicians Fritter Away Their Time Talking About ObamaCare When There is a (Culture) War Going On

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:19 pm

While our President and Vice President are focused like lasers on the real issues facing our country (the NFL), some GOP Congress members are wasting their time talking about ObamaCare and how it will never get repealed:

For the first time, rank-and-file Republicans are acknowledging Obamacare may never be repealed.

After multiple failures to repeal the law, the White House and many GOP lawmakers are publicly promising to try again in early 2018. But privately, both House and Senate Republicans acknowledge they may never be able to deliver on their seven-year vow to scrap the law.

“Personally, I don’t” see it, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said. “I just don’t know how you can reconcile a bill you’ve taken two whiffs at already and couldn’t get the votes.”

Some sound almost resigned to the new reality. “I’d say it’s 50-50,” Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said of the prospect the law will remain in place.

Yes, it’s pathetic that these people can’t get anything done. But why are these people talking about repealing ObamaCare to begin with?

I don’t care about health care, Phil Roe. Where are you on taking a knee during the national anthem? Enough talk about leaving a socialist monstrosity in place, Kevin Cramer. Would you have had the testicular fortitude to spend $250,000 of taxpayer money to walk out of a football game after 10 minutes?

I’m sick and tired of Donald Trump and Mike Pence being the only ones to focus on the real issues. Where are our Congressmen on the culture war? I won’t be satisfied until every Republican member of Congress stages a pricey protest at an NFL game. Think of how effective (and expensive) it would be to have every congressional Republican show up at the next 49ers game and then feign surprise as the 49ers take a knee? Why, the gains to be made in the fight against the left are limitless!

Enough yapping about ObamaCare. I want my bread and circuses and I want it now.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Let’s Debate Something Really Important – College Football Rankings

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:58 pm

[guest post by JVW]

I find the college football polls at this time of the year to be mostly worthless. What are we supposed to be evaluating? Is it which teams have beaten other teams thus far? Is it which teams have consistently played the best so far? Which teams have the best opportunity for success in the remainder of their season due to a favorable schedule? Which teams seem to be playing at a level that suggests they will be strong for the rest of the season? There are plenty of way evaluate the Top 25 teams, and there does not appear to be any consensus as to what criteria are to be used by voter. While the two major polls, one by AP sportswriters and one by college coaches, tend to be similar, there are often some slight differences here and there. Here are the most recent polls, released last night:

Football Rankings 10-9

Now right away I see some things here that I don’t like. Oklahoma beat Ohio State by two touchdowns in Columbus on September 9, yet somehow the Buckeyes are ranked three slots higher in the AP poll and four slots higher by the coaches. Michigan State beat Michigan in Ann Arbor just two nights ago, yet Sparty is inexplicably four behind the Wolverines in AP and six behind according to the coaches. Teams that are undefeated seem to me to have been given short-shrift in many cases, and too much attention has been paid to a team’s reputation rather than its actual accomplishments.

So I set out to do my own rankings. I have tried to follow one major rule: a team cannot be ranked higher than another team who has already beaten them this season and has the same number of losses. A few other self-imposed rules have come into play, and I’ll explain them as we go through. So without further ado, here is JVW’s Top 25 NCAA BCS Football Teams for the Week of October 9:

1. Clemson (6-0 record)
The Tigers are the defending national champion, having beaten Alabama in last year’s BCS title game, so until they are vanquished I will keep them at the top, even though several key players from last year’s squad have graduated.

2. Alabama (6-0)
3. Washington (6-0)
4. Penn State (6-0)
5. Georgia (6-0)
6. Washington State (6-0)
7. TCU (5-0)
8. Wisconsin (5-0)
9. Miami (4-0)
For the undefeated major conference teams, I am sorting them according to the number of victories, mostly because the more games you have left to play, the more opportunities you have to lose. Going by wins penalizes for now a team like Miami, who had their September 16 game with Florida State postponed by Hurricane Irma. I’m not completely sold on Penn State just yet: they have a bye this weekend then their next three games are home against Michigan and on the road against Ohio State and Michigan State. We’ll see where they stand at the end of this month. Georgia has a very favorable schedule ahead, with Auburn being the only currently-ranked team they will face.

10. Auburn (5-1), lost to #1 Clemson
11. Virginia Tech (5-1), lost to #1 Clemson
12. Notre Dame (5-1), lost to #5 Georgia
13. USC (5-1), lost to #6 Washington State
14. Oklahoma State (4-1), lost to #7 TCU
The one-loss teams who have lost to undefeated Top Ten teams come next, and they are ranked in order of the teams who beat them. Auburn played Clemson closer on the road than Virginia Tech did at home.

15. San Diego State (6-0), biggest win vs. #25 Stanford
16. South Florida (5-0), biggest win at unranked Illinois
17. Navy (5-0), biggest win at unranked Florida Atlantic
18. Central Florida (4-0), biggest win at unranked Maryland
Here I got back to the undefeated teams from the mid-major conferences. As with the major conference, they are ranked mostly by number of victories. Poor UCF has had two games cancelled by Harvey and Irma. UCF, USF, and Navy all play in the American Athletic Conference, so at best only one of them will finish undefeated. Navy plays at Notre Dame on November 18.

19. Michigan State (4-1), lost to #12 Notre Dame
20. Texas Tech (4-1), lost to #14 Oklahoma State
21. Michigan (4-1), lost to #19 Michigan State
22. Oklahoma (4-1), lost to unranked Iowa State
23. Ohio State (5-1), lost to #22 Oklahoma
Now we go back to major conference teams who have lost to someone outside of the Top Ten. So clearly it’s Ohio State who really gets hammered by my rules. The Buckeyes drop from eighth and ninth in the glamor polls all the way down to twenty-third in my poll by virtue of having lost to Oklahoma who then lost to an unranked team. Naturally, if either OSU or OU runs the table from here they will bounce back into the Top 10, probably even the Top 5. But for now, here they sit.

24. West Virginia (3-2), lost to #7 TCU and #11 Virginia Tech
25. Stanford (4-2), lost to #13 USC and #14 San Diego State
Even though the Cardinal have one more win than the Mountaineers, I give WVU the nod because they lost to the better teams.

The teams who just missed out on my Top 25 are Utah (4-1) who lost to #25 Stanford, North Carolina State (5-1) who lost to unranked two-loss South Carolina, Georgia Tech (3-1) who lost to unranked two-loss Tennessee, and Louisville (4-2) who lost to #1 Clemson and unranked NC State.

So that’s where I have it as of today. Let me know where you disagree and make predictions on how you think it will all shake out in the end.

– JVW

What Pop Song Is Based on This Bach Chorale?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:17 am

I was listening to highlights from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion last night as I worked on a memorandum for work (you’re welcome, taxpayers) and was reminded of something I thought I’d share.

Listen to the first 33 seconds of this Bach chorale (which was later adapted for the St. Matthew Passion) and see if it reminds you of anything:

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well, it turns out that a well-known pop song was based on this very chorale.

Which one?

The answer lies beneath the fold.

(more…)

10/8/2017

Pence Walkout Was a Cynical, Expensive, Pre-Planned Stunt

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:00 pm

Susan Wright noted earlier that Mike Pence walked out of the Colts/49ers game, ostensibly because he was offended that the 49ers decided to “take a knee” during the national anthem.

Here’s the thing: he knew this was going to happen. The press was told to remain in the parking lot, and not even to bother coming in — as Pence would be leaving early.

Pence knew the 49ers would take a knee. Look at the timing. Trump made his incendiary “get that son of a b*tch off the field” remarks on September 22. The 49ers’ next game was October 1, and the 49ers very visibly took a knee during that game against the Cardinals:

The next game after that was today. And guess what? Press reports had already made it clear that the 49ers were going to continue their protests. It is well known: “The 49ers have been among the most visible protesters in the league.” Consider this interview with Eric Reid, in which he indicated that he planned to continue doing this:

Q: Will you protest throughout the season?

“I do plan on that, yes.”

Q: You talked to the 49ers PR staff but not the coach. What plans do you have in talking to the organization about it?

A: “Well I had a talk with Jed (York, the 49ers CEO) last year and he told me how he felt about the situation, that he believes it’s my right to do so and he wasn’t going to say anything to make me feel I need to stop doing it. I think that’s awesome that he just has a good heart and allows me to do it.”

And Trump said in a tweet that he ordered Pence to leave the game if anyone took a knee:

Which, as I just demonstrated, it was already clear was going to happen.

This was nothing more than a stunt. A premeditated and incredibly cynical stunt. I was going to call it a “cheap stunt” — but that would be wildly inaccurate, because it actually cost the taxpayers quite a lot of money. Consider: Pence had just been in Las Vegas, and his next stop was Los Angeles, a short plane flight west — but he instead flew all the back to Indianapolis for this photo op, taking his entourage and his security detail with him. The streets doubtless had to be blocked off for his motorcade. I’m quite sure special security precautions were taken for the Vice President of the United States. And all along, he planned to engage in a tawdry, pre-planned sham performance — with all the expense that entails — just to get people embroiled in a cynical culture war.

I agree with Ed Krayewski at Reason:

Pence certainly knew the history of the 49ers in the protests, or should have. . . . But had he simply chosen not to attend, he couldn’t have put on this show. That required giving money to the organization he claims he’s boycotting.

But Pence’s move isn’t about a genuinely-held belief. It’s a rank political stunt at the expense of taxpayers, and reveals the self-masturbatory nature of much of what government officials do.

Pence dragged Secret Service out to Lucas Stadium, only to throw a hissy fit and walk out.

I would add only: that was the plan all along.

Look: I personally disagree with the concept “taking a knee” during the national anthem. I always — always — stand up tall, put my hand on my heart, and sing. Not because some politician tells me to, but because I love my country. I set that example for my children. I don’t like these protests.

But I’m not going to sit for lectures about respecting our soldiers from Donald “I like people who weren’t captured” Trump or his pathetic toady Mike Pence. And I’m not going to let myself be hoodwinked by their horsesh*t antics. They planned this, they knew it would happen, and it is a manipulative, self-absorbed con job.

Just how stupid do you think we are?

If they want to pull something like this as a sort of campaign stunt, let them pay for it with campaign money. Don’t bill the taxpayers for this. This is why people hate government.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Harvey Weinstein Fired

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:02 pm

For cruelty to potted plants.

Dan McLaughlin:

Heh.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Andrew C. McCarthy: Hmmm, Maybe There Could Be Something to This Russia Investigation After All

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:00 pm

Yesterday, Andrew C. McCarthy of National Review published a piece about Trump and Russia titled Collusion and the Trump Dossier. The piece represents a fairly marked shift in his opinions regarding the legitimacy of Robert Mueller’s probe — and the potential validity of the allegations of the infamous Trump dossier compiled by British ex-spook Christopher Steele.

McCarthy focuses on FBI and DoJ stonewalling of the Congressional investigation into Russia, to suggest that maybe there is something to some of the allegations contained in the dossier after all. The deck headline sums up McCarthy’s new position: “If the Trump dossier is a tissue of lies, why are the Justice Department and FBI, now controlled by Trump appointees, concealing information about it?” Here’s how the piece opens:

It is an article of faith among the president’s most ardent supporters: The Trump dossier is a completely discredited piece of garbage. Hence, its relevance is limited to one matter and one matter alone: The dossier’s suspected use by the Obama administration (specifically, the Justice Department and the FBI) as a pretext to spy on the opposition party’s presidential campaign — a ruse that included cribbing the dossier’s sensational allegations in secret court applications for wiretap warrants.

It appears that this Trumpist tenet is going to be tested. The dossier that did so much to fuel the collusion controversy is assuming center stage once more.

This is quite a shift in McCarthy’s attitude about the investigation in general, and the dossier in particular.

On March 3, 2017, McCarthy wrote a piece titled A Special Prosecutor . . . For What? The deck headline pronounced: “There is no crime to probe in the matter of the Trump campaign’s contact with Russians.” The piece opened by declaring — with no ifs, ands, or buts — that there was absolutely nothing to investigate regarding Trump and Russia:

So, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself. Great!

Just one question: From what?

. . . .

[T]here is no crime here except the ones committed by Russian intelligence.

In June of this year, McCarthy’s tone on the investigation as a whole was, if anything, more decisively contemptuous. The entire narrative underlying the investigation was, McCarthy proclaimed, a fraud:

The “collusion” narrative was a fraud, plain and simple. We know that now. Hopefully, it won’t take another six months to grasp a second plain and simple truth: Collusion’s successor, the “obstruction” narrative, is a perversion.

In his June piece, McCarthy claimed that Trump has done nothing to obstruct or interfere with the Russia investigation:

But neither did Trump care enough about the Russia investigation to obstruct it. What he cared about, obsessively, was the false suggestion that he was complicit in whatever the Kremlin had done. . . . The Russia investigation, to the extent it seeks to understand and guard against Putin’s treachery, is a search for the truth. Trump has not interfered with it; indeed, Comey’s testimony indicates that he encouraged it — acknowledging it would be good to find out if his “satellites” had done something wrong.

But yesterday, McCarthy provided a very different view of the level of cooperation shown by the Trump administration — at least when it comes to the investigation by Congress. Now, McCarthy says, it appears that they are “thwarting Congress’s efforts” and “impeding Congressional probes.” The reason? Maybe, McCarthy says, the reason is that certain claims in the famous dossier have been substantiated:

As we’ve previously noted, Mueller is clearly squeezing Manafort. The investigation seeks any information Manafort has regarding a cooperative venture between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime: Russian assistance in the campaign in exchange for Trump policy concessions on Russia. Mueller obviously sees it as his task to determine whether such a venture (a) truly did exist, (b) was spearheaded by Manafort, and (c) was known to Trump. Patently, if Mueller’s investigators are talking (or at least have talked) to Steele, that turns up the heat on Manafort. That brings us to the second reason to focus on the dossier — the one I find most disturbing. The FBI and Justice Department are thwarting Congress’s efforts to get to the bottom of it.

. . . . [I]f the Trump Dossier really is a completely discredited piece of garbage, who on earth has a greater incentive than Trump to expose it? Why are the Trump Justice Department and FBI impeding congressional probes? If the information is false, you would think they couldn’t shovel it out fast enough.

But what if the information — or at least some of it — were true? Under those circumstances, the White House would make a political calculation: Trump would be better served by simply continuing to complain about a purported witch-hunt and politicized abuses of surveillance authority; there would be too much downside risk in directing the Justice Department and FBI to disclose all relevant information to Congress forthwith.

If at least some of the dossier’s more important allegations had been corroborated, we would also expect the Justice Department and the FBI to refuse to cooperate with anyone other than Mueller. That would not be due to corruption — quite the opposite. It would owe to the ongoing investigation: Disclosing what the FBI has done to corroborate Steele would expose to danger (particularly of Russian retaliation) the witnesses who have provided information.

In other words, if some of the dossier had been substantiated by investigators, things would look . . . just like they look at the moment.

The talk about the possibility that the famous dossier could have some truth to it is quite a switch in position. Remember in March, when McCarthy thought that the dossier about Donald Trump was entirely “goofy and discredited”?

Ironically, the overblown controversy surrounding Sessions this week was caused primarily by his haste to deny, forcefully, that he had any participation, as a Trump campaign surrogate, in communications with the Russian government regarding the 2016 election. This was the upshot of his response to a loaded question from Democratic senator Al Franken, who was relying on salacious allegations in a goofy and discredited dossier compiled for Trump opponents. Several media outlets had had access to the dossier for months but had not published it, despite their loathing of Trump, because its outlandish claims could not be substantiated. In any event, Sessions, like Flynn, made the error of mis-describing his contacts with the Russian ambassador. That is unfortunate, but there was nothing remotely criminal or inappropriate about the contacts themselves.

So the dossier was “goofy and discredited” in its entirety, with “outlandish claims” that “could not be substantiated.” That position — that the dossier is “a completely discredited piece of garbage” — is now described in McCarthy’s latest piece (as we saw above) as a “Trumpist tenet” that is going to be tested.

Indeed, McCarthy spends a lot of time in his latest piece arguing that there might me something to the allegations of the dossier:

Something is not right here. If we’re ever going to figure it out, the dossier is the roadmap.

So, is the article of faith true? If the Trump dossier is just a tissue of lies, why are the Justice Department and FBI, now controlled by Trump appointees, concealing information about it rather than anxiously volunteering disclosure? If I had to bet on it, I’d wager that the dossier is like many reports compiled by investigative bodies whose motives are dubious and whose sources are of varying levels of credibility — similar to what you get after investigations by politicized congressional committees, law-enforcement agents who are less than first-rate, or private detectives who, lacking subpoena power, often rely on multiple hearsay. That is, I think the dossier will turn out to be a mixed bag of the true, the false, and the shades of gray in between.

That’s a pretty far cry from “goofy and discredited.” And McCarthy goes on:

Prior to his dossier work, Steele seems to have enjoyed a good reputation with the American intelligence and law-enforcement agents with whom he had worked. Some of his dossier information appears to come from well-placed sources; some of it is second- and third-hand, and speculative at that. On the face of things, most of Steele’s sources are anonymous, another reason his claims have been given the back of the hand by Trump supporters. But from an investigator’s standpoint, the sources are identifiable: If Steele cooperated with the FBI (and in some instances, even if he didn’t), the Bureau could pretty easily figure out who the sources are, follow the leads, and determine whether the dossier is a complete fabrication.

The FBI plainly did not dismiss the dossier out of hand. If it used some of the dossier’s information in a FISA-court surveillance application, that would only be problematic if agents failed to verify that particular information before seeking the warrant. That would be highly irregular. For now, we don’t know what happened.

There are hundreds of claims in the dossier. Some of them seem outlandish — so much so that, at Forbes, Russia expert Paul Roderick Gregory debunks the dossier emphatically. Nonetheless, to my knowledge, the only claim that has been discredited with persuasive force is the assertion that Trump’s long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, had secret meetings in Prague with Russian officials. Cohen denies having ever been to Prague, and he maintains that his passport shows no visits there — a claim that wouldn’t necessarily discount travel to the Czech Republic but could have been refuted easily if false. If the Bureau concluded that the dossier’s claim about Cohen is wrong, one could infer that the inaccuracy is reflective of Steele’s overall reporting — in which case, Trump and his associates have nothing to be concerned about.

On the other hand, it could be that some of the dossier’s information is wrong but some is accurate. On that score, Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand has been carefully comparing allegations in the dossier with actual events and has found a good deal of alignment. The factual corroboration is circumstantial — no smoking-gun proof of campaign collusion between Trump associates and Putin’s regime. Much of it is nonetheless disturbing — plainly in the category of suspicious activity investigators would deem worthy of investigation.

All we really ever heard about this dossier before was “It said Trump peed on a bed! It is ridiculous!” And, to be honest, that particular salacious detail did seem ridiculous. And still does. But these days, McCarthy is loath to call even those allegations “discredited” — preferring the term “unsubstantiated”:

Most of the press coverage about the dossier has focused on salacious sexual allegations about Trump. These are usually dismissed by the Trump camp as completely discredited. In reality, we can say only that they are unsubstantiated. That’s saliently different.

But it’s not just the Trump camp that has described the dossier as “discredited.” As I already noted, McCarthy himself described the entire dossier as “goofy and discredited” in March. That characterization is also “saliently different” from McCarthy’s description of the dossier today. I’m not really sure which claims McCarthy suddenly finds non-goofy and non-discredited — but if you compare the tone of McCarthy October 2017 with that of McCarthy March or June 2017 . . . well, it’s quite a different take on events, isn’t it? McCarthy ends his latest piece with this:

None of this would prove collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. It does suggest, however, that there were good reasons to conduct an investigation.

That, too, is a far cry from the March and June claims of the entire investigation being premised on a fraud.

I am not accusing McCarthy of hypocrisy, mind you. I do think he was far too dismissive of the investigation right out of the gate — when nobody really knew all the facts, but partisans pretended to know them anyway — but his latest opinions are based on changed circumstances: in particular, the stonewalling by DoJ and the FBI.

I note the change in attitude because I consider McCarthy both very smart, and also someone who is reluctant to leap anti-Trump conclusions out of animus towards the President. He’s also well connected, and a former federal prosecutor of no small degree of skill and renown, who understands how this stuff works.

The fact that he is starting to wonder whether there is more fire behind all this smoke — while it doesn’t prove anything — is interesting, and worthy of note.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

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