Monday, March 27, 2017

Gov. Moonbeam to Trump: Act Christian

California’s Governor Moonbeam has called upon President Trump to do the “Christian thing” and halt the deportation of illegal immigrants. According to the Daily Wire, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Cal.) went on to call the president “Mr. Religious Fellow” and said, “I  thought we had to treat the least of these as we would treat the Lord. So I hope he would reconnect with some of his conservative evangelicals and they’ll tell him that these are human beings and they’re children of God, they should be treated that way.”

A common trope among liberals is to suddenly get religion when it suits their policy views. In recent weeks, Democrats have also attacked the proposed Trump budget as “immoral” because it cuts federal funding for programs for the poor and the arts.

Gov. Brown is himself a lapsed Catholic who doesn’t “want it to be understood that I’m ready to underwrite” the “whole train of [Catholic] doctrines and beliefs” notes the Sacramento Bee. Many Christians would consider Brown, who studied Zen Buddhism in Japan and India under a former Jesuit priest who blended Christianity with Buddhism, to be an apostate.

When considering Brown’s view of what is “Christian,” it must be noted that Brown’s policies as governor of California were hostile to Catholics and Christians who oppose abortion. Brown’s administration changed state policy to require that health insurance companies pay for elective abortions, a decision that the president of the Catholic League told the Mercury News was in “direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Brown also signed a California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers to refer patients to abortion clinics.

The Bible refers to the life of unborn babies in the womb as a creation of God (Psalm 139:13-16). “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) is a core verse of the Ten Commandments.

While it can be galling when liberals hold conservative Christians to Biblical standards, it is not inappropriate. If Christians profess to adhere to a higher moral standard, it is fair game for the left to call them out when their actions fail to live up to their words.

The bigger problem is when non-Christians read policy prescriptions into the Bible that are not there. One of the largest myths from the religious left is that the Bible commands us to create a government welfare state to help “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46). A closer examination of the Biblical text reveals an individual commandment to help the sick and the poor. There is no option to have the government fund charity through tax dollars.

The leftist argument also assumes that government programs actually help the poor. Many studies have shown the destructive effects of government entitlements on the poor with unintended consequences from undermining personal responsibility to increased out-of-wedlock births and reducing upward mobility out of poverty. Second Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,’ is conveniently ignored by the big government Christians.

What of Jerry Brown’s contention that illegal immigration should be allowed to continue because it is the “Christian” thing to do? Jesus’s admonition to “render unto Caesar” (Matthew 20:21) and Paul’s advice to “obey the laws” (Romans 13:5) argue that Christians should not abet people in breaking the law except in the extreme case that man’s law contradicts God’s law (Isaiah 10:1-2, Acts 5:29).

Brown’s position on abortion contradicts the Biblical commandment not to murder, but the immigration system, thought broken and badly in need of reform, does not require Christians of conscience to break God’s law. Christian health care workers in California who are being compelled to aid in the murder of unborn babies have a better case for civil disobedience than federal immigration officers.

If Gov. Brown believes that the immigration system is unjust, as a majority of Americans do, he should work to change it, not tell people to ignore it. And while he’s at it, he should change California’s abortion policies to reduce the killings of unborn babies. It would be the Christian thing to do. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump pivots towards Democrats after health bill disaster

The White House issued a warning to Republicans yesterday. In the wake of the failure of the president’s health care reform bill, the Trump Administration signaled that it is willing to reach out to Democrats to advance its agenda if it can’t win support from the various Republican factions.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus underscored the potential shift in strategy on “Fox News Sunday” (quoted in the Wall Street Journal). “This president is not going to be a partisan president,” Priebus said. “I think it's time for our folks to come together, and I also think it's time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well.”

When asked if President Trump would move on from health care reform and allow the implosion of Obamacare to run its course as he threatened in a tweet, Politico notes that Priebus answered, “I don't think the president is closing the door on anything.”

“It's more or less a warning shot that we are willing to talk to anyone. We always have been,” he said in Time. “I think more so now than ever, it's time for both parties to come together and get to real reforms in this country.”

Since the decision to remove the AHCA bill from consideration on Friday, President Trump has alternately blamed the Democrats, blamed the House Freedom Caucus and reached out to Democrats.

The Washington Times reports that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was receptive to Trump’s overtures. “We Democrats, provided our Republican colleagues drop [repeal and replace] and stop undermining the ACA, are willing to work with our Republican friends — as long as they say no more repeal,” Mr. Schumer said. Schumer added in Time that, “if he changes, he could have a different presidency.”

With Republicans holding 52 seats in the Senate, virtually all reform legislation is subject to Democrat filibusters. A minimum of eight Democrats must cross over to kill the filibuster and allow a vote on any individual bill.

The Resurgent speculated in January that President Trump might forge a bipartisan coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans on a number of issues where the president’s platform is at odds with traditional Republican principles. During the campaign, Mr. Trump said that he wouldn’t mind being a “free agent” in his dealings with Congress.

The price for dealing with the Democrats on health care would be giving up the full repeal of Obamacare. Republicans currently don’t have enough votes for repeal, but many, including those in the House Freedom Caucus, would refuse to vote for anything less. The price of bringing Democrats on board other items in the Republican agenda, from tax reform to immigration, is likely to be just as unpalatable. The more the president moves to the left to appeal to Democrats, the more Republicans he will lose. The question is whether he can find a workable majority in the middle.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Where does Obamacare repeal go from here?

The American Health Care Act is dead… at least for now. Next week House conservatives may wake up to the fact that they sided with Democrats to kill a bill that repealed a large part of the Affordable Care Act and defunded Planned Parenthood.  Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the failure of the AHCA is that no better or more realistic alternative for repealing and replacing Obamacare has been offered by the party’s dissidents.

The fundamental problem faced by the GOP is a mathematical one. The Affordable Care Act was passed with 60 Democrat votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster. It was then amended by a reconciliation bill that only required a simple majority. In 2010, Democrats had 60 seats in the Senate. Today, the Republicans have 52 and five of those are not reliable for a clean repeal. The numbers are just not there for a clean repeal so where does the Republican repeal and replace effort go from here?

Perhaps nowhere. If President Trump stands by his ultimatum that if the AHCA failed that he would bypass Obamacare and move on to other issues, the repeal effort may be dead in the water for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, while President Trump may not be committed to a repeal of Obamacare, many other Republicans are. However, without the bully pulpit of the presidency backing them, repeal is even more difficult than before.

Republicans face two giant hurdles in their quest to repeal and replace Obamacare. The first is finding a consensus between moderate and conservative Republicans on health policy. The differences range from what to do about the Medicaid expansion to how to treat tax credits for health insurance premiums to defunding Planned Parenthood (Susan Collins, I’m glaring in your direction.) The second problem is finding 60 votes to defeat the Democrat filibuster that is certain to come with any repeal or reform legislation other than a budget reconciliation.

The death of the AHCA does nothing to bridge the gap between the Freedom Caucus and Republican moderates. Like the AHCA, any future bill will have to try to appeal to both wings of the party and, as a result, will probably be reviled by both sides.

Given that the Republicans have only 52 votes available, there are only three viable strategies for repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The Nuclear Option. Republicans can change Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster. The problem is that they still fall short of 51 votes due to probable defections by Susan Collins and the Medicaid Four. Without 51 votes, eliminating the filibuster is pointless and counterproductive. There is a good chance that Republicans will decide to eliminate the filibuster to ram other bills through, but this strategy seems unlikely to help them on Obamacare.

Stall and wait for 60 Senate votes. The Democrats forced the ACA through with a supermajority of 60 votes. Likewise, the GOP could force a repeal if they had 60 votes. The last time that Republicans held a 60-seat majority was the 61st Congress from 1909 through 1911.

Nevertheless, this is not as unlikely as it sounds. There is a chance for a big GOP win in the Senate in 2018 because 10 Democrat seats in red states are vulnerable to Republican challengers.

The downside is that the 2018 elections are almost two years away and a lot can happen. President Trump is not popular and Republican voters are seething at the way the health care bill was handled. Republicans have blown easy Senate races many times before. A big Republican win in 2018 is probably made less likely if the health insurance system implodes on President Trump’s watch.

Compromise. In today’s political environment, compromise is often seen as a dirty word. Nevertheless, it will be necessary to pass repeal and replace legislation any time soon. Not only will Republicans have to compromise among themselves, something the Freedom Caucus has been largely unwilling to do thus far, they will also have to compromise with Democrats. This is likely to be as unappealing as it sounds.

Democrats hold the key to reforming the health care system. Even if large parts of Obamacare can be repealed through reconciliation, much of the health care reform on the Republican agenda will have to pass a Democrat filibuster. With a minimum of eight Democrat votes needed, Republicans will have to learn give-and-take or resign themselves to at least two years of gridlock.

The failure to repeal Obamacare is not about a lack of will among most Republicans. It is about a lack of Republican votes in Congress, even though they hold a slim majority. If Republicans really want to rid the country of Obamacare, they must go beyond “just say ‘no’” to find a realistic legislative pathway to repeal. This will most likely involve compromising on an imperfect bill that can garner a majority.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Obamacare Was Passed - And Why It Can't Be Repealed By Reconciliation

A common question since President Trump took office is why Republicans can’t simply repeal the entire Affordable Care Act with a budget reconciliation. The Democrats passed it that way, the argument goes, so why should Republicans have to worry about filibusters, cloture votes and the arcane rules of the Senate when they try to repeal Obamacare?

The most obvious reason is that with the four Republican Senators who are holding out to preserve the Medicaid expansion, Republicans don’t even have a simple majority that would vote for a clean repeal. The Medicaid Four, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, vowed to oppose any repeal and replace bill that did not allow a phase out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

A more technical reason is that Obamacare was not passed with a budget reconciliation. Not exactly anyway.

At the beginning of the 111th Congress in 2009, Democrats held 58 seats in the Senate. The wave election of 2008 had given them a majority that was just short of filibuster proof. Then the Democrats got two lucky – or at least underhanded – breaks. First, in what is often considered to be a stolen election, Al Franken unseated Republican Norm Coleman in a hotly contested recount. Second, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) switched his party affiliation to Democrat in April 2009. Suddenly, the Democrats had the 60 votes necessary to stop a Republican filibuster in its tracks.

Specter’s defection set the stage for the Senate to pass the Affordable Care Act. On December 23, 2009, the Senate voted to end debate on the bill. The next day, Christmas Eve, the Senate passed the bill in a strict party line vote with every Republican voting “no.” The bill then went to the House of Representatives.

The next month, the Democrats faced a setback when Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) died suddenly. In a special election widely interpreted to be a referendum on the health care bill, Scott Brown defeated the heavily favored Democrat candidate and broke the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority.

What saved the Democrats was the fact that the House and Senate had negotiated most of their differences prior to the introduction of the bill into the Senate. To win over the final few House Democrats, the Democrat leadership urged them to pass the Senate bill with no changes and then pass a second bill via the reconciliation process. If the Senate bill was passed without changes, it would avoid going to conference and being subjected to a second Republican filibuster attempt before a final vote. The reconciliation bill, although its content would be restricted to tax, spending and debt limit legislation by Senate rules, would also not be subject to a filibuster.

After President Obama signed an Executive Order that purported to ensure that federal funds would not be used for abortion, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and the last few Democrat holdouts signed onto the bill. The promise not to fund abortion was broken almost immediately.

The Affordable Care Act was passed by the House without amendment on March 21, 2010 and went directly to the president’s desk. The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 was passed by both Houses of Congress on March 25, 2010. President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23 and the Health Care Reconciliation Act on March 30.

The bottom line is that Obamacare passed with two bills. One was a reconciliation bill and one was not. The largest part of Obamacare legislation was passed in a normal bill that Republicans did not have the numbers to filibuster. The Republicans cannot pass a clean repeal because they do not have the votes to stop the Democrat filibuster that would be certain to come.

But what about the 2015 repeal bill that was vetoed by President Obama? How could this bill repeal the entirety of Obamacare and get past the Democrat filibuster to the president’s desk if it was limited to the Senate rules on budget reconciliations?

The answer is that the bill, HR 3762, which was assigned the unwieldy name “To provide for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016,” was not a clean repeal of Obamacare any more than the AHCA was. The 2015 bill, like the AHCA, begins with the statement that the Affordable Care Act is amended, not repealed.

A House Republican fact page about HR 3762 also doesn’t make the claim that the bill would have repealed Obamacare in full. The bill summary on the page says, “HR 3762 repeals the health exchange subsidies and the Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), repeals the ‘Obamacare slush fund,’ eliminates federal funding for Planned Parenthood, repeals the individual and employer mandate penalties, and repeals the medical device and ‘Cadillac’ tax, among other provisions.” If you doubt this, you can read the text of the bill for yourself here.

HR 3762 might have been a better bill than the AHCA, but the Republican position in Congress was also better in 2015. Republicans held 54 Senate seats and 246 House seats in the 115th Congress. In the squeaker election of 2016, President Trump’s short coattails reduced those numbers to 52 Senate seats and 241 House seats. There is still a GOP majority in both houses, but a slimmer one with less margin for defections on votes.

HR 3762 passed the Senate by a 52-47 vote. Two Republicans voted against the measure, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine. Mark Kirk lost his reelection bid in 2016, but Susan Collins remains in the Senate as a prospective “no” vote on the AHCA.

The Medicaid Four were all in the Senate in 2015 and all voted for HR 3762. These four Senators switched their positions on the Medicaid expansion and made it necessary to present a weaker bill to Congress. It is ultimately these four Senators, along with Susan Collins, who should be held responsible for the failure of the GOP to repeal Obamacare because, without their votes, not even a reconciliation bill can pass, let alone a cloture vote on a clean repeal bill.

The failure of the Republicans to pass a clean repeal bill is not due to a lack of will on most members of the party. It is due to math. Democrats used the extremely rare and temporary 60 vote majority to force Obamacare through Congress with no Republican support. The current Republican position is much weaker than that of the Democrats in 2010.

If it is the fault of “RINOs” in Congress, it must be noted that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is not the RINO to blame. Ryan and other Republican leaders worked to provide the strongest bill possible given the electoral realities of their caucus.

The blame lies with a handful of Republican Senators who are holding up the drive for a strong bill to replace Obamacare. Their names are Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Cory Gardner (Col.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelly Moore Capito (W. V.) and Susan Collins (Maine).

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Which is worse: Failure or passage of the GOP health bill?

As the American Health Care Act heads toward an uncertain future in the House, there is speculation that Republicans might be better off if the bill is killed quickly in its first vote. With many members of the Freedom Caucus lining up against the bill, Margot Sanger-Katz and Nate Cohn, who respectively cover healthcare and elections for the New York Times opined on which was worse for the GOP, having the bill fail or having it pass.

 “I think there are two big forces behind the progress of this bill,” Cohn said. “One is that no one wants to be responsible for its failure. So I agree that if the House passes something, there will be a lot more pressure for the Senate to figure something out. They might not be able to do it, but they might really try.”

“Two is that the speed is good for the Republicans,” he continued. “It has a better chance of passing if they move quickly, before public opinion turns against it. It’s better for the Republicans if it fails quickly, because they can move on to other things.”

“I think the Republicans are in a tough spot either way, but I think they’re better off if the bill fails,” Cohn continued. “They’ll get bad press, but voters have fairly short memories and I think the Republicans will move on. They’ll still be able to blame problems on Obamacare, even if it will be less credible. If they pass this plan, I have no idea how they intend to defend it. And I think hurting vulnerable Americans would go against the core of Trump’s appeal to the decisive Obama-Trump vote in the Midwest and Northeast, with little benefit. I think the best position for a lot of Republican members is to vote for the bill, but hope it fails. On the other hand, if the bill passes, it will be nice to be among the Republicans who voted against it.”

If the bill does manage to pass the House, it won’t pass the Senate as written. “The Senate has more of a moderate problem than the House, it appears,” said Sanger-Katz. “There are two senators — Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins — who don’t like that the bill defunds Planned Parenthood. There are a few senators from states that expanded Medicaid who are worried about changes to that program. There are also some concerns about the generosity of tax credits, particularly for older Americans.”

If the bill is amended to win the votes of Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Collins (R-Maine), it will face increasing opposition from Senators on the right such as Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Still, the best chance for repeal and replace seems to be to pass versions of the bill in both houses and work to improve it in the conference committee that irons out the differences.

The biggest problem for Republicans is the lack of a clear direction if the AHCA fails. “My sense is that there’s just no policy consensus about health care among Republicans,” Sanger-Katz said. “I think they would need that kind of vision and consensus to get something ready in advance.”

Finding a consensus is easier said than done. Many of the problems with the current bill result from trying to find a consensus where there is none. Conservatives want a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act which is not mathematically possible in the current Congress without Democrat defections. Moderates want to protect citizens of their states that rely on the Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The resulting standoff makes it unlikely that enough Republicans can be satisfied to pass any bill without compromise from both sides.

The current bill is the result of an “effort to write this bill, in a hurry, with a jumble of provisions, [that] seems to suggest that they are just trying to find something that can pass, as opposed to articulating a clear policy vision for what they want health care to look like in this country,” Sanger-Katz said.

If the current compromise bill, written to get something passed, cannot pass, what is the future of the Republican repeal and replace effort? Amending it to satisfy members of the Freedom Caucus would probably spur moderates to vote “no” and vice versa. If the bill dies, there is no clear path forward.

Failure of the current bill might have the effect of moving healthcare reform to the left. If conservatives cannot be brought on board, President Trump may tack to the left and craft a bill that could pass with a coalition of moderates from both parties.

Failing to repeal Obamacare won’t be good for Republicans. Neither is passing a bill that leaves much of Obamacare intact. Finding a bill that can pass will require walking a tightrope that leaves the GOP vulnerable to attacks from both the left and the right.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

Elmo Gets Fired in Liberal Video Attacking Trump Budget

A new parody video from purports to show what might happen behind the scenes at PBS and the Children’s Television Workshop due to President Trump’s proposed budget. Most of the claims made by the video are off target. Nevertheless, the parody does expose the liberal mindset on the arts, jobs, healthcare and government funding.

In the sketch, Elmo is being laid off because, as his boss says, “the Trump Administration is cutting all arts and education funding from the new congressional budget.” There is truth to this statement. The Trump budget calls for elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Defunding the federal subsidies of the arts would not kill art, Sesame Street or PBS, however. PBS funding was an issue in the 2012 election when Mitt Romney said, “I love Big Bird… but I’m not going to keep on spending money on things that we have to borrow money from China to pay for.”

At the time, PBS CEO Paula Kerger discussed PBS funding on “The Fix.” “Communities treasure their public stations, and it’s individual philanthropy in those communities that actually makes public television work,” Kerger said. “We get about 15 percent — that’s one-five percent — of our funding, in aggregate, from the federal government. That actually goes to our stations, not to me, and that really enables public broadcasting to be seen in communities that may not have the economic means to sustain it. States like Alaska for example, where 50 percent of the funding to maintain that infrastructure comes from the federal government.”

That’s right. Eighty-five percent of PBS funding comes from sources other than the federal government. According to recent figures from Fortune, the federal government spends only $450 million on PBS and NPR combined. That amount could be easily made up by corporate donations, especially if corporations could improve their bottom lines in other ways, for instance a cut in the corporate tax rate.

The threat of firing Elmo was even too outlandish for the Huffington Post. The liberal site pointed out a recent tweet by Sesame Street that confirms that the show does not receive any funding from PBS or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

So how does Sesame Street get its funding? It is already funded by an (evil?) corporation. Since 2015, HBO has financed the classic children’s show. The partnership with HBO still allows PBS to broadcast Sesame Street episodes at no charge and even allows the show to produce more episodes than while it was funded by PBS. HBO’s partnership with Sesame Street is an example of free markets at work.

Elmo also worries about his insurance and pre-existing conditions in the video. This reflects the liberal belief that jobs are vehicles to provide workers with insurance, a core tenet of Obamacare.

In reality, jobs exist to provide economic benefits to the employer. If a job is not producing benefits for the person or company paying the worker’s salary, then the job is not sustainable. A company cannot pay more in salaries and benefits than it earns in revenues. Jobs that are not producing wealth (or aiding others in producing wealth) should probably be cut for the good of the company.

This is why Obamacare and increases in minimum wage adversely affect the job market. By making it more expensive to hire workers, the workers must produce more to justify their employment. All too often the result is fewer jobs, especially for unskilled, entry level workers.

“Elmo, you’re going to land on your feet,” the boss says. “Don’t worry.”

We know this is true. Elmo is a celebrity who could easily find a job on another children’s show. Elmo could make a lucrative deal licensing himself for toys and other merchandise. Who can forget the Tickle Me Elmo craze of 1996?

If PBS has a product that people want to buy, then it will survive. Elmo and Sesame Street will thrive in the private marketplace. It’s the shows that no one wants to watch -or pay for - that should be worried.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Nunes Statement Does Not Confirm Trump Tweets

Comments made today by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R- Calif.) are being construed by many on the right to confirm President Trump’s tweets alleging that the Obama Administration wiretapped the Trump Tower during the campaign. In reality, Chairman Nunes’s statement falls short of substantiating Trump’s claims, but does allege misbehavior by the intelligence community.

“I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored,” Nunes said in Politico. “It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the president-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.”

Nunes described the surveillance as “incidental collection,” which Politico notes “can occur when a person inside the United States communicates with a foreign target of U.S. surveillance. In such cases, the identities of U.S. citizens are supposed to be kept secret — but can be ‘unmasked’ by intelligence officials under certain circumstances.”

Nunes’ statement does not seem to be a revelation. The story that Trump aides were under investigation for their ties to Russia broke before the election. The evidence of Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak came from FBI surveillance of the Russian official. This would fall under the category of “incidental collection.”

Nothing in Chairman Nunes statement indicates that there was any surveillance targeted at Mr. Trump or the Trump Tower. In fact, Nunes reiterated that he had no evidence that any surveillance was conducted in the Trump Tower.

Nunes identified four concerns about the new information. First, that information was “incidentally collected” about members of the Trump transition team. Second, details about members of the transition team “with little or no intelligence value” were widely disseminated in intelligence circles. Third, additional members of the transition were “unmasked” by the surveillance. Finally, Nunes said, “None of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or the Trump team.”

Nunes said that the Intelligence Committee planned to investigate further to determine who was aware of the intelligence collection, why it was not reported to Congress, who requested the additional unmasking, whether there was any direction to focus on the Trump team and whether any laws were broken.

“Investigators are not supposed to ‘brief’ the folks being investigated,” retorted Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged that members of the Trump campaign were under investigation for their ties to Russia, but, at the same time, said that he had “no information” to substantiate Trump’s wiretap claim. Comey also noted that “no individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone.”

If Nunes had actually confirmed that President-elect Trump had been under surveillance, then Director Comey would have necessarily been lying. If Comey lied to Congress, especially on an issue in which he conflicted with President Trump, the president would have no choice but to fire him. The fact that Comey has not been dismissed is proof of the lack of evidence for Trump’s claim.

While President Trump told Fox News that he felt “vindicated” by Chairman Nunes’s statement, as commander-in-chief, Trump would have both the access and the authority to present evidence to substantiate his wiretapping claim if any such evidence existed. Numerous Republicans have urged the president to back up his claim with evidence, but nothing has been forthcoming.

Last week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer even attempted to soften the president’s accusations by saying on CNN, “The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.” Spicer also said that Trump’s tweets referred to the Obama Administration as a whole rather than the former president individually, even though one tweet called Obama a “Bad (or sick) guy!” [The exclamation is present in the original tweet].

The entire brouhaha over the wiretapping tweet has followed the classic pattern that starts with Donald Trump making an outlandish claim. When asked to withdraw or back up his statement, Trump typically doubles down without providing evidence. At that point, pundits start twisting facts as well as the president’s words to make each match the other.

At this point, there are numerous loose ends to tie up. The FBI investigation of Russian meddling and links to Team Trump is still underway. The House investigation of intelligence dissemination of Team Trump is just getting started. There are many unknowns but one thing seems certain: Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower. 

Originally published on The Resurgent