10 Thoughts on the President and the ‘S—hole Countries’

Here are 10 thoughts on the president’s alleged use of the word “s—hole” in describing Haiti, a Central American country, and African countries:

1. There are few filters between President Donald Trump’s mind and mouth. That is his appeal and his weakness. It is very common that a person’s strengths are also weaknesses. I wish Trump’s tweets and comments were as forthright—as un-P.C.—as they are now but stated in a sophisticated way. I also wish that cheesecake were not fattening. But just as cheesecake comes with sugar, Trump comes with unsophisticated rhetoric. People are packages, not a la carte menus.

2. As a rule, a president of the United States should not label countries, let alone continents, “s—holes.” I don’t know what word the president actually used, but had he used the word “dysfunctional” instead of “s—hole,” that actually might have been a service to the people of many of these countries. I have been to 20 African countries. Corruption is Africa’s greatest single problem. That’s why those who truly care about Africans, many of whom are terrific people, need to honestly describe the moral state of many or most African countries.

What benefit is it to honest, hardworking Africans or Latin Americans or others to deny the endemic corruption of these societies? As Guatemalan columnist Claudia Nunez wrote on Trump in the Guatemalan newspaper Siglio 21:

The epithets he uses to describe certain groups are unfortunate and exemplify the decadence of the current political scene. But he has also said things that are true, for example, that it is we citizens of migration countries who have accommodated ourselves to the need to export people, as we have calmly allowed excessive levels of corruption to grow for decades.

3. Though many wonderful immigrants come from the world’s worst places, there is some connection between the moral state of an immigrant’s country and the immigrant’s contribution to America. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, 73 percent of households headed by Central American and Mexican immigrants use one or more welfare programs, as do 51 percent of Caribbean immigrants and 48 percent of African immigrants. Contrast that with 32 percent of East Asians and 26 percent of Europeans.

4. The press’s constant description of Trump as a racist, a white supremacist, a fascist, and an anti-Semite has been a big lie. It is meant to hurt the president, but it mostly damages the country and the media. To cite the most often provided “evidence” for the president’s racism, the president never said or implied that the neo-Nazis at the infamous Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations were “fine people.” The “fine people” he referred to were the pro- and anti-statue removal demonstrators.

5. Why are the left’s repeated descriptions of America as “systemically racist” not the moral equivalent of the word “s—hole”? The left’s descriptions of America and its white majority are at least as offensive, less true, and not made in private or semi-private conversations but in the open (in most college classes, for example).

6. The poor choice of language notwithstanding, can any countries be legitimately described as “s—holes”? As Ben Shapiro, a never-Trumper, wrote, “The argument that Trump is wrong to call some countries s—holes comes down to nicety, not truth—which is why Rich Lowry of National Review took Joan Walsh of CNN to the woodshed over whether she’d rather live in Haiti or Norway.” Walsh refused to respond, giving the specious response that she hasn’t been to either country.

7. That the president allows himself to speak openly to Democrats—whose overriding ambition is to undo his election—is testament to his self-confidence, if not his hubris. And his naiveté.

8. What people say in private is neither my business nor my concern. That’s why I wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal in the 1990s defending Hillary Clinton against charges of anti-Semitism for allegedly directing expletive-filled anti-Jewish comments in private against a Jewish campaign official she felt was responsible for Bill Clinton’s lost congressional race. Former President Harry Truman’s private use of the word “kike” was also mentioned.

In the Age of Non-Wisdom in which we live, many well-educated people (and, therefore, often the least wise among us) think private speech reveals all you need to know about someone. But in truth, private speech may reveal nothing about people. If everything you or I said in private were revealed to the world, we could all be made to look awful.

9. The Washington Post reports that the president also said he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries. That would seem to invalidate the racism charge. Had he just met with the prime minister of Singapore, as he had with the prime minister of Norway, he may well have said we need more immigrants from Singapore. As the never-Trump editors of National Review editorialized, “What he was almost certainly trying to get at, in his typically confused way, is that we’d be better off with immigrants with higher skills.”

10. The left has lost all credibility in using the term “racist.” The University of California lists as an example of a “microaggression” the statement “There is only one race, the human race.” The left labels anyone who opposes race-based quotas, or all-black college dorms, or the Black Lives Matter movement “racist.” And it labeled Trump’s Warsaw-speech call to preserve Western civilization a call to preserve white supremacy. On race the left has cried wolf so often that if real wolves ever show up, few will believe it.

The post 10 Thoughts on the President and the ‘S—hole Countries’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

There Are 633 Key Administration Positions. Trump Hasn’t Appointed Nominees for 252 of Them.

As of Jan. 12, Trump hasn’t nominated people to fill key positions at the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, State Department, and other bureaucracies, some of which he had stressed a desire to make major changes in. In many cases, that means career government employees from the Obama administration are filling the mid-level positions on an interim basis.

Trump has no nominee for 252 of the 633 key positions requiring Senate confirmation, according to the Partnership for Public Service, which tracks presidential appointments. That’s well behind every predecessor going back to at least President George H.W. Bush, each of whom had the bulk of nominees confirmed by this point in their administration, according to the organization.

The Senate, where the Democratic minority has held up many nominees, has confirmed 241 Trump nominees, while another 136 nominations are pending.

“President Trump has yet to fill key political policy and management jobs across the government, ranging from the IRS, to the Census Bureau and the Drug Enforcement Administration, to important diplomatic positions such as the ambassador to South Korea,” Max Stier, CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, told The Daily Signal in a statement.

“This administration is about to enter the second quarter of the game, and many crucial players are either in the locker room or waiting to be recruited,” Stier continued. “The absence of these political appointees certainly could handicap the president’s ability to provide effective services to the American people.”

In December, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to a question about the lack of appointments.

Look, we’ve been focused on filling positions as quickly as possible. But at the same time, the president has said before he doesn’t think that every single position in the government needs to be filled. He’s going to cut back on some of those positions. We’ve been focused on some of the top priority places and we’re going to continue filling out individuals. But, we’ve also seen a massive slowdown and obstruction by the Democrats. Hopefully, they’ll continue to push our people through, particularly in individuals that were held up, whether it’s in the judiciary or something that falls under the national defense profile.

Trump nominated 559 overall positions, with 301 confirmations. As of Jan. 12, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated 658 and had 452 confirmations. President George W. Bush had 493 confirmations out of 741 nominees as of Jan. 12, 2002. President Bill Clinton had 471 confirmations out of 633 nominees as of Jan. 12, 1994. President George H.W. Bush had 405 confirmations out of 478 nominations.

The Partnership for Public Service’s tracker counts of Trump appointees are a subset of a broader set related to Trump’s historic counts. The numbers vary since some presidents had more open positions, while some had more holdovers. The tracker includes announcements, but historical and comparative numbers only include positions submitted to the Senate. Both measures exclude judiciary or holdover positions.

The only way to control the federal bureaucracy filled with career government employees is to name political appointees to set policy, said Robert Moffitt, senior fellow of domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.

“It’s a complete disaster,” Moffitt told The Daily Signal. “If you are going to drain the swamp, you need the people to do it. You either control the federal bureaucracy or the federal bureaucracy controls you.”

Looking at the positions with no nominee, Moffit noted how many directly affect the president’s policy agenda. Trump hasn’t appointed a new IRS commissioner since the controversial John Koskinen’s term expired last November. Further, Trump could appoint nine spots to the IRS Oversight Board, which is an internal watchdog of the tax collection agency, but the posts are still vacant.

Trump has not named an assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, which could tie in with his jobs agenda, Moffit noted. Meanwhile, as Trump talks about addressing the opioid crisis, there is no nominee for either the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration or a director of National Drug Control Policy.

A president risks giving up some of his leadership by not filling political positions, said Martha Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project.

“Trump has as one of his goals from the campaign the reduction of the size of government, so, for him, cutting back on the number of people there are in the campaign is a positive, no matter what those positions are,” Kumar told The Daily Signal.

“You need people in positions at the top of departments and agencies because career people are going to follow the lead of the politicals,” Kumar said. “That’s why you want to have the political positions filled and why you want to have them filled early so that you can make the most use you have in office of that four years. You don’t want to wait and start leading a department or agency two years in.”

The post There Are 633 Key Administration Positions. Trump Hasn’t Appointed Nominees for 252 of Them. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Must-See Moments: Is the Media Making Much Ado About Nothing?

The Daily Signal’s Facebook Live show “Top 10” features the top news stories of the week—many of which go misreported by the mainstream media and some aren’t reported at all.

This week, the media fixated over President Donald Trump’s comments about Haiti—but are they making much ado about nothing?

And a story that went largely underreported: Activists are protesting Gov. Greg Abbott’s presence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Arlington, Texas. Watch the full video above.

The post Must-See Moments: Is the Media Making Much Ado About Nothing? appeared first on The Daily Signal.

The Wall Is Not Enough. Here’s How to Solve Illegal Immigration.

President Donald Trump held talks with leaders of both political parties on Tuesday to discuss a major agenda item for this year: immigration.

This issue, specifically illegal immigration, is one that Trump has devoted great energy to since the early days of his campaign. And it’s one conservatives must make a top priority this year.

We’ve made some important strides in this area. 2017 saw border crossings fall to their lowest level since 1971, thanks to the Trump administration’s policies. But there are still hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants trying to cross into the U.S.

There are also hundreds of thousands of visitors to the U.S. who continue overstay their visas. So it’s worth considering, at the outset of 2018, how to solve this problem.

For a lot of people, border security is what first comes to mind—often embodied by Trump’s appeal for building a “wall.” This focus on border security is a valid priority.

It’s clear that the U.S. can make improvements at its borders to stop additional illegal immigration. These include adding physical barriers where they would be effective, improved technology to monitor the border, and ensuring that we have appropriately equipped border patrol agents watching our border.

This holistic approach of combining barriers, technology, and people is the cost-effective way to secure the border. Build “the wall” is not enough.

Congress and the administration could build a large wall on a mountain in the middle of a desert in New Mexico, but that would not be the best use of limited security dollars. The mountainous terrain already acts as a natural wall that prevents border crossing.

Furthermore, a wall in a remote desert would barely slow down illegal immigrants. It would only take them a few minutes to get over the wall, but after that it would take them hours to reach the nearest town or road—the proverbial speedbump in the desert.

Instead, our tax money would be better spent on technology or additional agents would could respond to and detect illegal crossings.

This is what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, and many of the pro-enforcement policy community thinks is the best way to secure our border.

But let’s step back. Is better border security even the main way to stop illegal immigration?

It is certainly a piece of puzzle. The more important piece, however, is the enforcement of U.S. immigration law within the country.

Once an illegal immigrant is picked up at the border, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and immigration courts must actually remove the illegal immigrant. Border security is only as good as the enforcement that backs it up.

Furthermore, border security does nothing to help stop visa overstays. Only interior enforcement can do that.

So while border security helps us catch some illegal immigrants, robust enforcement across our nation helps us catch and remove them, thus helping to deter all illegal immigration.

Already, the president and members of Congress are considering changes to our immigration policy. If they truly want to stop illegal immigration, some good places to start would be: expanding the number of ICE officers, pushing back on sanctuary cities, expediting deportations, and increasing the efficiency and number of immigration courts.

These measures, coupled with improved and cost-effective border security, would go a long way to solving our illegal immigration problem. It’s hard to imagine a better resolution for 2018.

The post The Wall Is Not Enough. Here’s How to Solve Illegal Immigration. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Here’s the History of the 25th Amendment

After failing to gather any real momentum to impeach President Donald Trump, some Democrats are now floating the idea of using the 25th Amendment to oust him.

This little-known constitutional amendment serves as an escape-hatch measure for removing the president if he is incapacitated. It is quite different from impeachment.

Impeachment is the method that the Founders set up to prosecute cases of presidential criminality. It requires members of Congress to bring specific charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

But absent these charges, some of Trump’s detractors are now embracing other methods to overthrow him.

>>> The Right Side of History: Here’s What You Need to Know About the Impeachment Debate

Anti-Trump commentators and the few Democrats now suggesting use of the 25th Amendment have suggested that the president is mentally unstable.

“The judgment [about the president’s mental state] is not mine to make,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said to reporters after proposing a commission to examine Trump’s mental health, according to Politico.

“The judgment constitutionally is to be made by the vice president and the Cabinet, or the vice president and a new body. We have an institutional responsibility to set that body up.”

Pulling out the 25th Amendment is the logical next step for those who have been looking for a way to depose Trump since he entered office, though it’s a serious departure from the intent of those who passed the amendment.

Democrats have trotted out psychologists on Capitol Hill to prove that Trump is unstable and should be removed from office.

This alone seriously flirts with violating the “Goldwater Rule,” which prevents psychologists from offering a “professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

The American Psychiatric Association created this rule after Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater successfully sued a magazine that had published a survey of psychologists deeming him unfit for office.

The survey was misleading, clearly partisan, and damaged the reputation of psychologists as a profession. Moreover, the idea of removing a president based on the whims of an elite group of supposedly neutral neutral psychologists is an affront to democracy.

This is not to say the 25th Amendment doesn’t serve a valuable purpose. If a president suffers a disability that would make him unable to perform his duties, this tool is an emergency stopgap to solve the problem.

It was never conceived of as a partisan tool to depose a hated president.

‘We Stumbled Along’

Perhaps been the most obvious case where the 25th Amendment was needed occurred a generation before it was actually passed.

On Sept. 25, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a collapse and a massive stroke while campaigning in Colorado for the U.S. to enter the League of Nations.

The League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations, had been Wilson’s pet project, and despite warnings from doctors he had pushed himself to the limit on its behalf.

After the stroke, Wilson went blind in one eye, was paralyzed on the left side, and lay unconscious. While he eventually awoke from the coma, he was never the same. For the most part, he was a barely-functioning invalid.

Incredibly, Wilson’s wife practically ran the White House for the two remaining years of his term, only leaving the most serious acts of policy and politics to her husband, which by that point he was barely able to perform.

“This is the worst instance of presidential disability we’ve ever had,” said historian John Milton Cooper. “We stumbled along [for eighteen months] … without a fully functioning president.”

Few around the country even knew that the West Wing was in such bad shape, as both the press corps and the White House carefully kept the truth of the president’s condition from coming out.

Wilson even considered running for what would then be an unprecedented third term, but Democratic Party leaders carefully selected a compromise candidate who would run instead.

While Wilson’s Cabinet and the Washington political establishment were wary about forcing the president out of office, many fretted about what could be done if a president couldn’t perform his duties in an emergency.

The debate went more or less dormant for half a century until the assassination of a president forced the nation to seriously reconsider legal ways of replacing—either temporarily or permanently—a president for health-related reasons.

A Re-Evaluation

While health scares for President Dwight Eisenhower led to some informal agreements about transmitting the duties of the president in a time of crisis, nothing was enacted until the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The line of succession had been laid out by the Presidential Succession Act, but some began a push to clearly define these ambiguous rules in the Constitution while also addressing what could be done if the president was alive but experiencing a sudden health crisis.

The idea of being without a functioning president, particularly in the rapid-response world of instant communication and the Cold War, concerned Americans in a way that it hadn’t in earlier times.

“In an age of nuclear weaponry—and now, global terrorism—America can ill afford to be leaderless for long, or to have unclear rules about who is in charge,” wrote constitutional scholars Akhil Reed Amar and Vikram David Amar.

“The 25th Amendment, proposed and ratified after JFK’s assassination, fills many of the gaps left open by the Founders.

>>> Read the Heritage Guide to the Constitution’s Explanation of the 25th Amendment

The 25th Amendment, enacted in 1967, set up a clear line of succession in case the president or vice president died, and included the section that some anti-Trumpers are now looking to: the method for removing, or putting a pause on, the official powers of a debilitated president.

The crucial Section 4 states:

Whenever the vice president and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as acting president.

Congress then has 21 days to determine if the president is able to continue performing his duties and can remove him from office with a two-thirds vote in both houses.

Since its passage, the 25th Amendment has been used several times, but never for the purpose of removing the president from office.

Some have alleged that officials wanted to remove President Ronald Reagan from office using the 25th Amendment after his attempted assassination—but those allegations have been debunked.

The amendment has only been used to temporarily transfer power from presidents to vice presidents during medical operations that would leave them incapable of responding to an urgent crisis.

Reagan himself did invoke Section 3 of the amendment on himself during a routine medical procedure in 1985, in which Vice President George H.W. Bush assumed the powers of the presidency for several hours.

And President George W. Bush also used the law to transfer power to Vice President Dick Cheney during a couple of operations, again for only a few hours.

Dangerous Precedent

While some are now itching to use Section 4 of the 25th Amendment on Trump, many have urged caution or outright blasted the move as nothing but naked partisanship.

The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway suggested that this overheated effort to boot the president with the 25th Amendment is akin to a “coup.”

“Talk of mental health and a 25th Amendment removal, ‘by force if necessary,’ is talk of a coup,” Hemingway wrote. “Responsible parties should consider how this is perceived by the part of the electorate they rarely speak to and cease.

Harvard Law School professor emeritus and lifelong Democrat, Alan Dershowitz, also denounced the movement as “dangerous” and a “fool’s errand.”

“Now that they couldn’t criminalize political differences, they’re trying to psychiatrize political differences,” Dershowitz said on Fox News.

Right now, this push is little more than creative fanfiction, since impeachment would require a majority vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove the president, while the 25th Amendment would require a two-thirds vote in both houses.

Yet this won’t stop left-wing activists from trying to wield this amendment as a weapon against the Trump presidency.

At least they’re arguing from the Constitution. If only they cared for its intent.

The post Here’s the History of the 25th Amendment appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Must-See Moments: Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Withering Response to the Media

The Daily Signal’s Facebook Live show “Top 10” features the top news stories of the week— many of which went misreported by the mainstream media and some weren’t reported at all.

This week, the media has fixated over author Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury”—but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had a withering response to the media. “Every question, basically, that I’ve been asked has to do with that. It’s not like I came out here and read excerpts from the book,” Sanders says.

And a story that went largely underreported: Oregonians have to pump their own gas and they’re not happy about it. Watch our first episode of 2018 above.

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Group That Tried to Sue Trump Over ‘Emoluments’ Clause Just Got Booted Out of Court

A federal judge recently dismissed the first of three lawsuits against President Donald Trump that claim it’s unconstitutional for a president to own and profit from a business while in office.

Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York authored the opinion, filed Dec. 21, giving a win to Trump. But more generally, the opinion defends the principle that people cannot sue politicians in order to settle political debates in court, instead of in the legislature or at the ballot box.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued Trump last January, claiming that his extensive business interests constitute ongoing violations of the Constitution’s foreign and domestic emoluments clauses.

Those provisions serve to keep certain federal officials from taking compensation from foreign state actors, Congress, or the states, in exchange for favorable official treatment.

The domestic emoluments clause (Art. II, § 1, cl. 7) explicitly refers to the president and his salary. But the foreign emoluments clause (Art. I, § 9, cl. 8) does not, and several legal scholars (particularly National University of Ireland Maynooth Law lecturer Seth Barrett Tillman) have persuasively argued that it does not even apply to the president, or reach fair market value transactions, such as an ambassador paying the going rate for a room at the Trump Hotel.

While the government conceded only “[f]or purposes of this motion” that the foreign emoluments clause binds the president, the court did not ultimately decide whether there was any merit to the plaintiffs’ novel and far-reaching legal theories.

Daniels, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, dismissed the lawsuit because the plaintiffs lacked standing—a constitutional requirement that a plaintiff demonstrate that whoever they are suing has caused them some actual, concrete injury that the court can remedy.

As many legal scholars and journalists have, Daniels rejected plaintiffs’ theory that they had standing to sue the president because their lawyers—ethics experts and law professors—have been “forced” (although their activities have been entirely voluntary) to spend time and resources investigating Trump’s business interests, rather than devoting time to other pursuits.

They sought a declaration by the court that Trump’s business profits are unconstitutional, along with an order for him to divest himself entirely from his business interests.

Had the lawsuit proceeded, the district court would have invited future lawsuits filed merely to recover the costs of litigation that was filed because of political disagreements.

As Daniels wrote, “Under [the plaintiffs’] unbounded definition of standing, for example, a news organization could sue the president by alleging that one or more of his statements forced it to divert resources away from a different story it might have pursued. Surely, something more is required.”

Perhaps recognizing the weakness of its own standing claim, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had teamed up with hospitality and restaurant workers in New York and Washington, D.C., who claimed that they could sue the president because it is unconstitutional for them to have to compete with his various restaurants and hotels, which allegedly were being patronized by people seeking to curry favor with Trump.

Daniels described that claim as “wholly speculative” and unlikely to be resolved by any court order. People may visit Trump’s hotels and restaurants for any number of reasons, the judge wrote, “including service, quality, location, price, and other factors related to individual preference.”

He continued, “[T]here is no remedy this court can fashion to level the playing field for plaintiffs as it relates to overall competition.”

But even if there were, Daniels wrote, it is for Congress, and not the court, to consent or not to the president’s business arrangements.

In Baker v. Carr (1962), the Supreme Court ruled that, although the plaintiff in that case had presented a justiciable issue, courts may be barred from hearing cases that present a political question.

The court’s six-factor analysis asked in part whether the text of the Constitution commits the issue in question to another branch of government, and whether another branch of government must first reach some discrete policy determination before a court can resolve the issue.

The foreign emoluments clause provides that:

… no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Daniels found that because the text gives Congress the power to consent to a federal official’s receipt of “any present” or “emolument” from any “foreign state,” the issue is “committed exclusively to Congress … .”

“If Congress determines that an infringement has occurred,” he continued, “it is up to Congress to decide whether to challenge or acquiesce to [Trump’s] conduct.”

The question now is, will Congress take up the emoluments issue?

It doesn’t have to. After all, by receiving profits from domestic and foreign business interests, Trump is merely following well-established precedent set by previous presidents, from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson selling farm goods abroad to Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy selling their books around the world.

Still, plaintiffs’ lawyers have said that they will appeal the December ruling.

And the two other emoluments lawsuits against Trump present slightly different facts in different courts, so a different outcome is, at least theoretically, possible, although unlikely.

Last June, two state-level attorneys general—Brian E. Frosh, D-Md., and Karl A. Racine, D-D.C.—sued the president in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Two days later, nearly 200 Democratic representatives and senators sued the president in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Andy Grewal, a University of Iowa College of Law professor who has written extensively on the emoluments issues, has described the House and Senate Democrats’ lawsuit as “the absolute weakest,” stating that “disgruntled legislators cannot sue the president in this way.”

The attorneys general, however, raise several novel theories for why they should be able to sue the president, including an argument that, similar to the restaurant workers’ claim, it is unlawful for enterprises owned or funded by the state to have to compete with businesses that the president owns.

Even if a court decides that one or both of these parties has standing and agrees to hear the case, Daniels’ conclusion that Congress must act before a court can rule on the emoluments issues would apply.

Still, some in Congress have consistently attacked Trump’s extensive business interests since Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sought to make them grounds for impeachment after Trump’s election.

With nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress suing Trump and one unsuccessful attempt, initiated by Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, to impeach him, the issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

For now, Daniels has provided a well-reasoned opinion that should influence how the two other district courts view this effort to pull the courts and the Constitution into a political fight.

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Podcast: Worried About FBI, Dossier, 2 Conservative Lawmakers Suggest Sessions Should Go

On today’s podcast, we discuss how Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, suggested in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner today it might be time for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, due to his inability to stop leaks to the media as well as the FBI’s lack of cooperation with a congressional investigation of the dossier. And The Heritage Foundation’s Jim Phillips joins us to discuss whether this time the protests in Iran can overthrow the current regime. Plus: the latest on President Donald Trump’s fight against an upcoming book about his administration, and Sessions’ move that’s concerning marijuana advocates.

The post Podcast: Worried About FBI, Dossier, 2 Conservative Lawmakers Suggest Sessions Should Go appeared first on The Daily Signal.

The Media Is Upset About Trump’s ‘Nuclear Button’ Wars. Why We Should Ignore Them.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump both claim to have big red nuclear buttons.

Who cares? We shouldn’t.

In his New Year’s address, Rocket Man reportedly announced he had a “red button” on his desk and he was ready to use it.

Trump tweeted back, saying that his button is much bigger.

The tweets themselves are actually not worthy of all the histrionic reporting and punditry that followed.

First, Trump doesn’t have a nuclear release button on his desk. In all likelihood, Kim doesn’t either. In both cases, the release and employment of nuclear weapons is not nearly as cavalier as the tweeting or the hysterical pundits suggest.

We are coming up on the anniversary of the premier of Dr. Strangelove. Maybe they have all seen the movie one too many times.

Second, we already know Kim has a nuclear capability. We also know his nuclear arsenal at present is not capable of doing what he claimed in the speech. Kim lies a lot. No news there.

Third, Kim’s threat was actually defensive in nature. He said he would use his nuclear arms—if attacked. That is not a new policy. Further, the likelihood of U.S. preventative military action is near zero.

Fourth, the U.S. has a much, much, much bigger and more capable arsenal than North Korea. That’s not news. The administration has frequently stated a retaliatory policy that if North Korea fired a nuclear weapon at us or our allies, we would fire a bunch back. That’s not news.

So other than the colorful metaphors, what’s new here? Nothing.

Critics fret that the taunting rhetoric could lead to miscalculation and war. Their evidence for that is less than zero.

North Korea has engaged in fiery rhetoric for decades. There is virtually little correlation between what they scream and what they actually do. Sometimes they line up. Often they don’t.

Likewise, Trump has given to Kim as good as he gets on social media. There is no evidence the rhetoric per se has heightened tensions.

Indeed, there is scant likelihood that we are inevitably marching toward war. South Korea in fact just announced that North Korea has reopened the border hotline.

What has heightened tensions is North Korea’s increasing demonstration of an expanding nuclear capability. The U.S. needs a strong and consistent strategy for that, working in concert with Japan and South Korea.

That’s all that matters. The rhetorical war does not.

The Chicken Littles are starting 2018 just like they ended 2017: by obsessively focusing on the rhetorical war of words without context, and without considering the actual interests and polices of the actors involved.

That’s why the track record of journalists and analysts who focused almost exclusively on the president’s tweets, off-hand comments, campaign speeches, and statements (some of which were reported anonymously and are therefore less reliable) was pretty dismal.

The U.S. did not abandon NATO. Trump did not hand Europe over to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He did not abandon Taiwan. And he did not do any of the things that some said he would do—basing their assessments on presidential rhetoric and little more.

Sure, words matter. But in matters of statecraft, rhetoric matters in the context of action.

It might be understandable that some obsessed about the tweets a year ago, when the administration had little policy and not much of a track record. But now it’s a year later. The administration has lots of policy on the books, including a new National Security Strategy.

The administration has also had a year of practicing foreign policy, which so far looks more conventional overall than either of the last two presidents. What’s the excuse now for going nuclear over every tweet?

While pundits and journalists choose to be distracted by every tweet, that doesn’t mean we have to. Let’s make a resolution in 2018 to be reasonable.

Maybe you hate the president. Maybe you hate the tweeting. But if you want to analyze what actual U.S. policies are, try being reasonable.

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Special Counsel and Russia Probe Seen Likely to Carry On

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and possible collusion with President Donald Trump’s campaign, could fracture in multiple directions during 2018 and take its toll on both men.

“There is no upside for firing Mueller. He has not laid a glove on Trump,” @AndrewCMcCarthy says.

For Trump, a prolonged probe could mean a slew of unwelcome headlines, but Mueller still faces withering scrutiny for staffing his investigation with lawyers and FBI agents who demonstrated a political bias.

The special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign has been “constitutionally deficient” because of lack of oversight, said Tom Fitton, president of the government watchdog group Judicial Watch.

“The special counsel is operating like the king of the Justice Department. There is no check on him whatsoever,” Fitton told The Daily Signal.

Trump has said he won’t fire Mueller.

But, Fitton said, “Politics aside, Mueller’s investigation has been irredeemably compromised.”

Among the questions raised by those on the special counsel’s team:

—Mueller had to remove an FBI agent, Peter Strzok, from the investigation after electronic text messages emerged showing Strzok calling in 2016 for an “insurance policy” in case Trump were elected.

Strzok led the probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official business as secretary of state. The agent recommended that then-FBI Director James Comey change his statement about Clinton’s habitual use of the server from the legally weighted “grossly negligent” to the more broad “extremely careless” in describing her conduct. Trump fired Comey in May.

—Justice Department lawyer Andrew Weissman, before joining the Mueller team probing the Russia matter, praised former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for defying a Trump order to enforce his restrictions on travel from terrorism-prone countries. Weissman remains on the team.

—Nine of the 15 publicly identified lawyers on the Mueller team are Democrat donors, giving a total of $62,043 to Democrat candidates (compared with other team lawyers giving $2,750 to Republican candidates). Of these, three gave a total of $18,100 to Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns.

—One lawyer on the Mueller team, Jennie Rhee, defended the Clinton Foundation charity and also represented Hillary Clinton in the email case. Another, Aaron Zebley, represented a Clinton aide who managed the email server.

—Judicial Watch recently filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to find out whether Mueller communicated with his fellow former FBI director, Comey, before his Senate testimony in June following a report the two had “closely coordinated” on the testimony. Comey admitted during that testimony that he leaked information in hopes of spurring appointment of a special counsel.

“Mueller’s goal is the prosecution of the president of the United States,” Fitton told The Daily Signal. “If he can’t get President Trump, he wants to get his family, and if he can’t get his family, he wants to get his aides.”

Scorecard

The probe has produced some results so far.

Mueller’s team secured indictments against Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager for several months, and Manafort associate Rick Gates on money laundering and other charges. Both men pleaded not guilty.

Mueller also reached plea deals with Michael Flynn, a former Trump campaign aide who resigned after only weeks as national security adviser, and with George Papadopoulos, a low-level foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign. Both admitted to lying to investigators.

Much of the criticism of Mueller seems political, said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, one of the watchdog groups that supports a new law to protect Mueller and future special counsels.

“A lot of Republicans stood behind special counsel Mueller’s investigation when he was named,” Amey told The Daily Signal. “Now that the investigation is going on and some of the counts are against people formerly associated with the Trump campaign or administration, they are afraid it will affect the administration and maybe trickle down to them during the midterms.”

Amey said he believes Mueller’s team should be subject to oversight just as any government entity is. But, he said, the removal of Strzok, the FBI agent, shows the team has addressed staffing controversies.

“There are certainly questions that could be raised about the scope of Mueller’s work and his prosecutorial team,” Amey said. “That can be resolved through proper oversight by the Justice Department and from Congress to ensure it stays on course.”

Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment for this report.

‘No Upside’

During Dec. 13 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, told lawmakers he saw no good cause to fire him.

“I’m not aware of any impropriety, I’m not aware of any violation of rules,” Rosenstein said at one point.

None of the charges so far has produced evidence to back up Democrats’ allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians.

The Washington Post reported last month that the special counsel’s probe could last another year. Trump already has said multiple times that he has no plans to fire Mueller, and told the New York Times in an interview last week that he expects the special counsel will treat him fairly.

The president likely won’t sack Mueller given his experience after his firing of Comey, which led to the special counsel probe, said Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and frequent legal commentator.

“There is no upside for firing Mueller. He has not laid a glove on Trump. Everytime Mueller does something, Trump says, ‘See, nothing about collusion,’” McCarthy told The Daily Signal, adding:

The investigation has made it harder for Trump to govern and it has pissed him off. But his biggest problem came when he fired Comey, which led to the Mueller investigation. Firing Mueller would be like firing Comey times three.

Still, four government watchdog groups–Issue One, Open the Government, Project on Government Oversight, and the Sunlight Foundation–last month signed a letter urging Congress to support a bill called the Special Counsel Integrity Act that would make it more difficult to fire a special counsel.

Obstruction Case?

The move comes as Republicans in Congress continue to criticize Mueller.

“I believe he is a person of integrity, even if he has made obvious mistakes with staffing. He doesn’t seem to be reaching for the stars without evidence,” said McCarthy, who has been critical of the special counsel’s Russia probe. He added:

Staff alone doesn’t discredit the investigation. He has guilty pleas. He needs to get control of staff. If someone appears to have a political ax to grind, fire them. He’s got 17 lawyers, and he doesn’t need 17.

The charges thus far seem to show Mueller wants to build a case of obstruction of justice, possibly around other administration or campaign officials, McCarthy said.

“If the case is collusion, which would be conspiracy to commit espionage, he wouldn’t be indicting people for lying to the FBI,” McCarthy said. “If you’re trying to build a case, you don’t use as your witnesses convicted liars.”

Others see a much stronger case against the integrity of Mueller’s probe.

“As more time passes, the more Mueller’s credibility is reduced,” Peter Flaherty, president of the National Legal Policy Center, a government watchdog group, told The Daily Signal. “The legal case to fire or relieve Mueller is strong. The question is the optics. It might be best to leave him there, since ultimately he will come up with little.”

Flaherty said he believes the Russia investigation is in place to shield the FBI from exposure in using the discredited “Steele dossier,” an anti-Trump document funded by the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, to justify the probe of Trump associates.

“Mueller can rescue his credibility by expanding the investigation to Clinton and the genesis of the dossier,” Flaherty said, adding:

The problem with that is that the FBI was involved. The Mueller investigation from the beginning was never to find Russian interference in the election. It always was and continues to be a rear-guard move by former and current FBI officials.

Feeding the Beast

Some Republicans in Congress have called for a second special counsel to look into the roots of the so-called dossier and if it is the basis for the Trump-Russia allegations. But Flaherty said a new investigator isn’t needed, and that Mueller should be able to handle the matter.

“It involves Russian interference in the election,” Flaherty said. “It wouldn’t require an expanded mandate, because it’s clearly in the realm of election influence.”

Recent news reports suggest it actually was boasting to an Australian diplomat by Papadopoulos, the low-level Trump campaign adviser, about the content of Clinton emails that led to the FBI investigation.

Fitton, of Judicial Watch, said he doesn’t buy this idea because it is the product of government leaks.

“It’s another leak of classified information and an attempt to steer attention away from the dossier story,” Fitton said.

McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor from New York, also wrote a recent National Review piece that cast skepticism on what seems to be an evolving narrative about Russian collusion.

The endgame for the special counsel is whether there is an impeachable offense, McCarthy told The Daily Signal.

“I have to think Mueller is experienced enough to know he can’t indict a president, so that leaves impeachment,” McCarthy said. “I’m not saying Mueller wants an impeachment. He might see his job as gathering information and leaving it to Congress to decide what to do with it.”

It is almost 20 years since a report by independent counsel Kenneth Starr led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the House of Representatives in December 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. The Senate ultimately acquitted Clinton, who had high public approval numbers, and Starr and Republican lawmakers, besieged by criticism, lost the public relations battle.

Controversies aside, Mueller’s prosecutorial background means he likely will avoid Starr’s PR problems, McCarthy predicts.

“Ken Starr was a brilliant legal mind, but he wasn’t a prosecutor. He was an appellate lawyer. Mueller knows how to feed the beast in terms of the media, getting charges out there,” McCarthy said. “Starr went underground for eight months, gathering evidence and preparing a report while the Democrats attacked his case. Mueller has brought three sets of charges. There will be trial dates, discovery, and a continuous flow of news.”

Fitton noted another fundamental distinction between Starr and Mueller.

“The difference is that Starr was investigating actual crimes. Mueller was tasked with investigating Donald Trump and finding a crime,” he said.

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