PowerLine -> Bob Mueller’s one significant scalp on the wall – Did Michael Flynn Actually Do Anything Wrong? – Leniency legislation is back

Powerline John Hinderaker at HoaxAndChange

PowerLine -> Bob Mueller’s one significant scalp on the wall – Did Michael Flynn Actually Do Anything Wrong? – Leniency legislation is back

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Daily Digest

  • Did Michael Flynn Actually Do Anything Wrong?
  • Leniency legislation is back
  • A green thought in a green shade
  • The Power Line Show, Ep. 56: The Missing Linker?
  • Terry Teachout recommends
Did Michael Flynn Actually Do Anything Wrong?

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 04:48 PM PST

(John Hinderaker)Special prosecutor counsel Bob Mueller has one significant scalp on the wall: that of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to one count of lying to the FBI and has yet to be sentenced. But, in a brilliant column, Byron York reviews the sequence of events as we have tortuously come to know them. Based on what we now know (or think we know), it is highly doubtful whether Flynn did anything wrong at all.

It is a given that there was nothing wrong with Flynn’s talking to the Russian ambassador, or discussing sanctions with him. As the incoming National Security Advisor, Flynn had many such conversations with foreign diplomats. Sanctions were a perfectly legitimate topic for them to talk about, as Stephen Hadley said:

So even if Flynn discussed the hot issue of U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak, that was OK. “I don’t have a problem with that,” former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley said in February 2017. “I don’t see what would be wrong if [Flynn] simply said, look, don’t retaliate, doesn’t make sense, it hurts my country, it makes it harder for us as an incoming administration to reconsider Russia policy, which is something we said we’d do. So just hold your fire and let us have a shot at this.”

And, as Byron notes, the FBI said that it found no wrongdoing in Flynn’s conversations with Ambassador Kislyak.

So, what is the problem? Why on Earth would Flynn lie to the FBI? Maybe he didn’t:

[FBI Director James] Comey went to Capitol Hill in March to brief lawmakers privately. That is when he told them that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe Flynn had lied, or that any inaccuracies in Flynn’s answers were intentional. And that is when some lawmakers got the impression that Flynn would not be charged with any crime pertaining to the January 24 interview.

So what changed? The answer apparently has a lot to do with Sally Yates, the disgraced former Acting Attorney General, an Obama holdover who later was fired for insubordination. Yates promoted the far-fetched theory that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act and therefore might be subject to blackmail by the Russians. Of course, while that theory might provide a flimsy motive for lying to the FBI, it wouldn’t prove that Flynn intentionally said anything that was untrue.

Why would Flynn plead guilty to a single count if he was innocent? That seems like a logical question to those who have never had the full might of the federal government directed against us. Our friend Howard Root could explain what it feels like to have the inexhaustible resources of the federal government committed to putting you in prison, as a political pawn. Flynn has said that he was nearly broke as a result of having to pay lawyers to defend him against the special prosecutor’s counsel’s vendetta, an entirely plausible claim. With the Trump administration taking a hands-off approach–theoretically proper but entirely unhelpful, if you are Michael Flynn–it isn’t hard to see why he might plead guilty to something he didn’t do.

As with so many issues that are swirling around Washington, D.C., the answer, in my opinion, is more disclosure. As I wrote here, I want to see the transcript of the interview that Flynn gave to Peter Strzok and another FBI agent. I think I could pretty quickly determine whether there was ever a strong claim that Flynn lied.

Finally, I wasn’t kidding when I described York’s column as brilliant. It is a terrific guide to a convoluted bit of history. I recommend that you read it all.


Leniency legislation is back

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 03:55 PM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)Two years ago at this time, a bipartisan coalition of Senators was pushing legislation that would have slashed mandatory minimum sentences for many federal drug crimes. Such a bill had cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wisely declined to bring it up for a vote in the Senate because his caucus was divided on the merits.

Now, Team Leniency is trying again. The same bill that died two years ago is before the Judiciary Committee.

It will breeze through that body. Three of the legislation’s main opponents two years ago — Jeff Sessions, David Perdue, and David Vitter — are no longer on the committee (Sessions and Vitter are no longer in the Senate). Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ted Cruz remain and are likely to oppose the bill again, and Sen. Ben Sasse, a new member of the committee, might join them. But the committee will approve the leniency legislation, most likely with only three dissenters.

What happens then? I hope McConnell will make the same calculation he made two years ago under similar circumstances. However, Team Leniency, which includes the Majority Whip (Sen. Cornyn) and the Judiciary Committee chairman (Sen. Grassley), will push hard for a vote.

Meanwhile, many potential opponents of the legislation are focused on other matters, most notably immigration reform. The opposition troops have not yet been rallied.

On the plus side, though, Sen. Tom Cotton, who along with Jeff Sessions led the charge against leniency legislation two years ago, has his eye on this ball, notwithstanding his key role in the immigration battle.

The biggest difference between now and two years ago is, of course, that Donald Trump is president, not Barack Obama. The second biggest difference, for purposes of the sentencing reform debate, flows from the first — Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General.

Sessions still vigorously oppose reducing the mandatory minimums. His view is shared, I think, by President Trump. I’ve heard that the White House might make its opposition known publicly this week.

If Trump is against the leniency bill, it would be especially pointless for McConnell to bring it to a vote. Why split the GOP members and force them to vote on highly controversial legislation when the president doesn’t want the bill and likely would veto it?

My main purpose in writing this post is to call attention to the push for leniency legislation — to rally the troops. As for the merits of the bill, there are three main reasons why I oppose it.

First, the current mandatory minimums have been instrumental in the dramatic decrease in violent crime the U.S. has enjoyed since they were instituted. Why change a system that has been so effective in reducing violent crime?

Second, the leniency legislation would apply retroactively, Thus, thousands of prisoners could petition to be released even though they haven’t completed their legally imposed sentences. Given the high recidivism rate for federal drug offenders — around 70 percent — the legislation is guaranteed to yield more crime, and not just by those released early but also by those sentenced to less time under the bill.

Third, the leniency legislation grants judges too much discretion in sentencing. We know from the high-crime era before mandatory minimums that liberal judges will abuse that discretion to go soft on serious offenders. With a raft of new Obama-appointed judges, this error will likely produce the same sort of damage we lived through during that era.

A new development also militates against the legislation — former president Obama’s massive “jail break” in the form of clemency grants to more than a thousand federal drug offenders. If there were a small number of drug felons whose sentence was too harsh, surely the problem has been remedied, and then some, unless Obama left of few of these sympathetic offenders in jail so backers of leniency legislation could use their stories in the debate.

Thus, there’s no excuse for letting current felons out early. Indeed, given the availability of the clemency tool, the interests of justice do not justify lowering the mandatory minimums going forward, either.

As I said, the leniency bill is a done deal in committee. What counts now is how President Trump and Majority Leader McConnell respond.

I’m cautiously optimistic that the legislation will again die on the vine, but we shouldn’t simply assume that it will. We need to watch this one closely.


A green thought in a green shade

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 03:40 PM PST

(Scott Johnson)I await Roger Kimball’s commentary on the official portraits of President and Mrs. Obama unveiled today for display in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Speaking as a layman, I can say that I find Obama’s portrait unflattering and unaesthetic, so perhaps it fits in some sense. I can also say that it put me in mind of Andrew Marvell’s great metaphysical poem “The Garden,” which I have not thought about for nearly 50 years. The unveiling event seemed to be a return to the ubiquitous world of identity politics, which I would like to be able to forget for 50 years. That world, I am afraid, is too much with us — permanently.

Today, @BarackObama and @MichelleObama became the first presidential couple to be painted by African American artists for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. https://t.co/gKAZ47b2Ohpic.twitter.com/mM3LGxFgxO

— The Obama Foundation (@ObamaFoundation) February 12, 2018


The Power Line Show, Ep. 56: The Missing Linker?

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 03:14 PM PST

(Steven Hayward)Is it possible to be a liberal but not be a “Progressive”? A lot of people think that there’s little or no difference between a liberal and a Progressive, but that may be partly because liberalism so lost its way that “Progressivism” made a comeback. After all, even Hillary Clinton herself, back around 2007 or so, declared that she was not a liberal—rather, she said: “I am a Progressive.”

I sat down a few days ago with Damon Linker, author, and columnist for The Week, to talk about this and also why he defected from the right to become whatever mushy thing he is today. I’ve played out several arguments with Linker here on Power Line, but he’s a genuinely pleasant person, often critical in his column of what passes for liberalism today (for example, see “How Liberals Lost Their Mind on Immigration”), on top of which I think we need to make common cause with liberals against the Progressive left when we can. So herewith the Power Line Show, episode 56, which you can listen to or download here, or at the host site over at Ricochet. As always, we like to recommend that you subscribe to Power Line in iTunes (and leave a 5-star review, please!), as it will help us build up the show.



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Terry Teachout recommends

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 02:10 PM PST

(Scott Johnson)Yesterday on Twitter Terry Teachout — my favorite critic, of theater for the Wall Street Journal and at large for Commentary — commented on The Third Man, the compelling 1949 film. If you are a fan of the film, you will undoubtedly recall that it was written by Graham Greene and features a chilling star turn by Orson Welles. Terry touted the film as a scrupulous study in moral complexity. It is all that and more.

Thinking that he had just watched it on TCM as part of TCM’s annual 31 Days of Oscar, I asked what other blasts from the past he would recommend. He graciously responded with a list of his favorite underappreciated films coming up in the 31 days lineup in the order that they will play on the channel. I thought some readers might appreciate this as a public service announcement.

Here are ten favorites of mine (listed in the order that they’ll be shown on @tcm) that tend not to pop up on best-of lists:

Here Comes Mrs. Jordan
The Naked Spur
One Way Passage
I Remember Mama
The Westerner
Theodora Goes Wild
Lust for Life
Anatomy of a Murder

— Terry Teachout (@terryteachout) February 12, 2018

BONUS: In a follow-up tweet Terry added for what it is worth (to me, a lot) that Dodsworth is also one of David Mamet’s two favorite films. The other of Mamet’s favorites is The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.


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