PowerLine -> Mueller impanels Washington, D.C. grand jury

Powerline John Hinderaker at HoaxAndChange

PowerLine -> Mueller impanels Washington, D.C. grand jury

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Daily Digest

  • Mueller impanels Washington, D.C. grand jury
  • Associated Press Smears Stephen Miller
  • McMaster purges pro-Israel, anti-Iran deal Trump loyalists
  • Take Us to Your Leader
  • Liberalism Backfires Again, Chapter 14,279
Mueller impanels Washington, D.C. grand jury

Posted: 03 Aug 2017 02:24 PM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington, D.C. A grand jury has already been impaneled in Virginia to investigate Michael Flynn and his work in the private sector on behalf of foreign interests. The new grand jury apparently will focus on Russia and the 2016 election and, quite possibly, on claims of obstruction of justice.

The existence of the D.C. grand jury is a sure sign that Mueller pressing hard. As one expert told the Journal:

This doesn’t mean [Mueller] is going to bring charges, but it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if it were winding down.

It didn’t require the impaneling of the new grand jury to tell us this, though. We already knew it from the way Mueller has staffed this case — excessively and with plenty of Hillary-supporting Democrats.

Indeed, the Journal also reports that Mueller recently added Greg Andres, a top partner in a big New York law firm, to his team. Andres is a former top Justice Department official who also oversaw the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn. No one believes he would leave his law firm to participate in a low-level, short-lived investigation.

The impaneling of the new grand jury means that Mueller’s team will be subpoenaing records and taking testimony from witnesses. This process likely will tip off Trump’s legal team where the investigation is headed and whether it has taken on what the president views as the characteristics of a witch hunt. Trump will then be in a better position to decide whether to fire Mueller.

For example, Trump told the New York Times that if Mueller looks at his finances and those of his family “unrelated to Russia” this would cross a “red line.” If the grand jury probe goes in this direction, Trump will be sorely tempted to cut it off.

I will be sorely tempted not to blame him.

For now, the Trump administration is saying politically correct things. Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said “the White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly [and]. . .is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”

This could change on a dime, as anyone who has been following the Trump presidency, even casually, knows.


Associated Press Smears Stephen Miller

Posted: 03 Aug 2017 01:55 PM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

Yesterday’s dustup between presidential aide Stephen Miller and CNN’s Jim Acosta, which Scott wrote about here, has turned into one of the silliest kerfuffles in memory. (Video is at the link, a transcript of yesterday’s press briefing is here.) The idea that a poem somehow stands in the way of reforming our immigration system (the salient features of which, by the way, date only to 1965) is absurd. Yet the controversy continues.

Associated Press reporter Hillel Italie has stepped into the breach by smearing Miller in just about the most contemptible way possible. Italie’s article is headlined, “Miller comments on Lazarus poem echo far-right opinions.”

When senior White House aide Stephen Miller disputed the significance of Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty, he wasn’t stating a new opinion.

Members of the far-right community, including such white supremacists as David Duke and Richard Spencer, have harshly criticized the poem and even used anti-Semitic language.

This is the lowest form of argument. You like cabbage? Hitler liked cabbage too!Apparently, you can’t point out that a poem has nothing to do with immigration law without being just the same as David Duke.

“It’s offensive that such a beautiful, inspiring statue was ever associated with ugliness, weakness, and deformity,” Spencer tweeted in January, referring to such words by Lazarus as “wretched refuse.”

“The claim that America was to welcome ‘the wretched refuse of your teeming shore’ is a Jewish demand upon America, and not the original intention of the Statue of Liberty,” Duke wrote in 2012, noting that Lazarus was Jewish.

But of course, Stephen Miller didn’t say anything of the sort.

Lazarus’ words about the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” have since been widely absorbed into American culture and helped make the statue synonymous with welcoming people from abroad.

Yeah, fine. But we still need an immigration policy, and the one that Congress adopted in 1965 was lousy and needs to be changed.

I wish I could say that Hillel’s smear is unworthy of the Associated Press, but the unfortunate reality is that smearing President Trump and members of his administration is the AP’s main project these days. Actual news reporting falls far down the priority list.


McMaster purges pro-Israel, anti-Iran deal Trump loyalists

Posted: 03 Aug 2017 01:00 PM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has fired three staff members in recent weeks. The three are Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence; Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East adviser; and Rich Higgins, director of strategic planning. All three were aligned with Steve Bannon.

Michael Warren of the Weekly Standard discusses the purge here. Glenn Thrush and Peter Baker of the New York Times discuss it here.

Neither the Standard nor the Times reports on any ideological content to purge. Both treat it as a power struggle between McMaster and Steve Bannon, with the Times throwing in a Michael Flynn angle.

Is there an ideological component to the purge? There appears to be.

To get at the question, we should start by asking how many Obama holdovers McMaster has sacked. If, as I understand to be the case, there has been no purge of Obama holdovers, this would suggest that McMaster is comfortable with Obama-era national security policy, or at least more comfortable with it than he is with the national security policy President Trump campaigned on.

There are strong indications that this is so. Specifically, it may be that McMaster’s views on Israel and Iran are more in line with Obama’s than with Trump’s.

Caroline Glick makes this argument. She writes:

The Israel angle on McMaster’s purge of Trump loyalists from the National Security Council is that all of these people are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal, positions that Trump holds.

I think this is indisputable.

Glick continues:

McMaster in contrast is deeply hostile to Israel. . .According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.

Many of you will remember that a few days before Trump’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers were blindsided when the Americans suddenly told them that no Israeli official was allowed to accompany Trump to the Western Wall. What hasn’t been reported is that it was McMaster who pressured Trump to agree not to let Netanyahu accompany him to the Western Wall. . . .

And even that. . .wasn’t sufficient for McMaster. He pressured Trump to cancel his visit to the Wall and only visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial — ala the Islamists who insist that the only reason Israel exists is European guilt over the Holocaust.

If any of this is true, it is deeply disturbing.

Who does McMaster favor over the pro-Israel loyalists he has canned? According to Glick::

[McMaster] fires all of Trump’s loyalists and replaces them with Trump’s opponents, like Kris Bauman, an Israel hater and Hamas supporter who McMaster hired to work on the Israel-Palestinian desk. He allows anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Iran Obama people like Robert Malley to walk around the NSC and tell people what to do and think. He has left Ben Rhodes’ and Valerie Jarrett’s people in place.

If true, this is distressing.

What about Iran? Glick notes that McMaster supports the nuclear deal and refuses to publish the side deals Obama signed with the Iranians and then hid from the public.

By contrast, the three officials McMaster fired do not support the nuclear deal. And, as noted, they are pro-Israel.

Glick isn’t the only one who sees a strong ideological component to the purge.Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reports that Iran was the central, though hardly the only, area of policy clash between McMaster and those he has purged (Kredo also says McMaster will be firing more Trump loyalists in the coming weeks). He writes:

NSC officials such as Cohen-Watnick, Harvey, and others had been making the case that Trump should scrap the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal over increasingly aggressive Iranian ballistic missile activity and mounting evidence Tehran is breaching the accord. McMaster, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top Obama-era State Department officials who worked on the deal, have aggressively urged maintaining it.

“That’s why they took [Harvey] out,” explained one source, referring to Harvey, who is said to have constructed a comprehensive plan on how to scrap the nuclear deal.

Another source described the Trump administration’s Iran policy as “completely gutted” in the aftermath of these firings.

If this is true, then McMaster should be sacked. I suspect, however, that with John Kelly ensconced as Trump’s chief of staff, McMaster is safe for a while.

Democrats like Rep. Barbara Lee are far off base when they complain about the role of generals in the Trump administration. Generally speaking, the U.S. military is a politically correct institution and its thinking is not sharply at odds with that of the Washington foreign policy establishment. Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised if former generals like McMaster, and to a lesser degree Kelly and Mattis, are moderating forces in the Trump administration.

Moderating voices shouldn’t be excluded from the administration. Some of Trump’s campaign positions can do with being moderated.

However, when the moderating voices largely parrot the Obama administration’s line on Israel and Iran, we have a big problem.


Take Us to Your Leader

Posted: 03 Aug 2017 11:54 AM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

Is this not the perfect job for Al Gore? After all, shouldn’t we have a big green man on hand to greet little green men?

NASA is hiring a ‘planetary protection officer’ to guard us against alien life — and vice versa

There’s a vacancy at NASA, and it may have one of the greatest job titles ever conceived: planetary protection officer.

It pays well, between $124,000 and $187,000 annually. You get to work with really smart people as part of the three- to five-year appointment but don’t have to manage anyone. And your work could stave off an alien invasion of Earth or, more important, protect other planets from us. . .

So how does the one-person Planetary Protection Office fit in with NASA’s broader objectives?

The job announcement is rather dense. But Catharine Conley, the NASA scientist who has been in this role for three years, has spoken candidly about its scope and responsibilities, telling Scientific American in 2014 that her focus is to ensure that the agency’s activity complies with a 50-year-old international treaty that set standards for preventing biological contamination outside of Earth and safeguarding the planet’s biosphere from any alien life.

And if they are hostile aliens, wouldn’t have to deal with Al Gore be plenty of deterrent against wanting to take over the planet?


Liberalism Backfires Again, Chapter 14,279

Posted: 03 Aug 2017 09:36 AM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

One thing that is reliable about liberal policy ideas is that they will generate unintended consequences and perverse results, 95 out of 100 times. So, of course, one might have predicted that the move to “ban the box” asking about criminal convictions on employment application forms would result in increased racial discrimination. And now we have the social science to back up this common sense perception.

From the Quarterly Journal of Economics:

Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Racial Discrimination: A Field Experiment

Amanda Agan, Sonja Starr


“Ban-the-Box” (BTB) policies restrict employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories on job applications and are often presented as a means of reducing unemployment among black men, who disproportionately have criminal records. However, withholding information about criminal records could risk encouraging racial discrimination: employers may make assumptions about criminality based on the applicant’s race. To investigate BTB’s effects, we sent approximately 15,000 online job applications on behalf of fictitious young male applicants to employers in New Jersey and New York City before and after the adoption of BTB policies. These applications varied whether the applicant had a distinctly black or distinctly white name and the felony conviction status of the applicant. We confirm that criminal records are a major barrier to employment: employers that asked about criminal records were 63% more likely to call applicants with no record. However, our results support the concern that BTB policies encourage racial discrimination: the black-white gap in callbacks grew dramatically at companies that removed the box after the policy went into effect. Before BTB, white applicants to employers with the box received 7% more callbacks than similar black applicants, but BTB increased this gap to 43%. We believe that the best interpretation of these results is that employers are relying on exaggerated impressions of real-world racial differences in felony conviction rates.

Charles Murray commented on Twitter: “Any policy analyst who would not instantly predict this unintended outcome should find a new career track.”

I’ll just add that I’m sure that this can all be fixed if we just increase the minimum wage to $25 an hour.


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