Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Why Justin Amash Is Right About Impeachment


Justin Amash has generated quite a stir with his comments about President Trump having committed impeachable offenses. Most Republicans and many conservatives are distancing themselves from his tweets, but I believe that Amash hit the nail on the head.

If you’ve read the Mueller report, or even if you read about only the most reported-upon sections of it, you know that Mueller’s team did not find “nothing.” While Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy with the Russians, he did find numerous undisclosed contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign as well as a pattern of deception about those contacts. Even more alarming, Mueller found that the president did attempt to obstruct justice. Mueller’s pointed note that Trump could not be exonerated should be translated to read that the president obstructed justice but could not be prosecuted under DOJ policy.

From all this, what the president and his supporters have gleaned is “no collusion, no obstruction.” In reality, the findings against Trump are much more serious. Despite “no collusion,” the president showed himself to be dishonest with the American people about his dealings with a foreign power in his attempt to cover up negotiations for a Moscow Trump Tower that were ongoing during the campaign. The president has demonstrated a habit of attempting to cover up anything potentially embarrassing such as the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya in the New York Trump Tower as well as defying legal requests from Congress for his tax information. While the lies weren’t illegal because the president did not lie under oath (as some of his staffers did), it underscores the fact that Donald Trump is fundamentally dishonest and cannot be trusted by the American people.

What was illegal were the president’s attempts to undermine the Russia investigation. Some, such as Ben Shapiro, say that the law requires either successful obstruction or an underlying crime to be criminal. There are many others on the right, including Judge Andrew Napolitano and former prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who disagree. In fact, hundreds of federal prosecutors say that Trump would have been indicted if he had not been president.

In his tweet thread, Amash, who is himself an attorney points out that there were underlying crimes uncovered by the Mueller investigation but that obstruction of justice does not require the investigation to have found a crime.

As Amash points out, the president could not have known for certain what Mueller’s team would find. It was entirely possible that some members of the campaign could have been Russian agents without Trump’s knowledge. It is also possible – because it actually happened – that Mueller’s investigation would uncover other crimes.

Add to Mueller’s findings the president’s attempt to undermine the will of the voters and Congress by declaring a national emergency. David French explained in February why Trump’s national emergency violated existing law, calling it “contemptuous of the rule of law.” This is a far cry from the party that attacked President Obama’s circumvention of Congress on DACA and that spent years pointing out that the House, not the president, held the purse strings of government.

We are left with no criminal conspiracy and no prosecutable obstruction because the DOJ has a policy against indicting a sitting president. That’s quite a difference from “no collusion, no obstruction.” Unconstitutional abuses of power add to the mix. There obviously was wrongdoing by the president that deserves some sort of penalty. The options on the table are for the DOJ to amend its policy, to indict Trump after he leaves office, impeachment, or a congressional vote of censure.

Amash is also correct that the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” do not require the commission of a crime. The Constitutional Rights Foundation points out that the original meaning of the phrase, as the framers would have understood it, included both criminal acts as well as noncriminal offenses with the “common denominator… that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.”

In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton wrote that impeachable offenses are “those offences [sic] which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Donald Trump’s actions fall under the categories of abuse of power, even if one does not acknowledge that they were criminal on their face. In the best case scenario, the president directed his subordinates to undermine a federal investigation. This is a clear breach of the public trust.

The most palatable option for Republicans should be a censure vote. It would acknowledge that the president acted improperly and hopefully restrain him in the future. Unfortunately, loyalty to Trump is now a litmus test in the GOP. Republican congressmen cannot vote for censure without incurring the wrath of both the party’s base and the president.

With most Republicans unwilling to follow Amash’s lead, most GOP officials are stuck with the additional option of whistling the tune “no collusion, no obstruction” as they tiptoe past the graveyard and pretend nothing is wrong. The problem with following this option is that the media and Democrats are holding up Trump’s misbehavior for voters everywhere to see. I’ll wager that presidential ads next year will quote the Mueller report verbatim. Polls show that Mueller is more trusted than Trump even after two years of vicious Republican attacks and that Mueller’s findings changed few minds about Trump.

If Republicans choose to ignore Donald Trump’s misdeeds out of either misguided loyalty to the president or an affinity for his policy, then it will be up to voters to hold both the president and the Republican Party accountable. Ideally, Republican voters would oust Trump in the primary, but if not, it appears that general election voters will be up to the job.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, May 17, 2019

Abortion Clinics To Alabama: Drop Dead




Alabama had three abortion clinics prior to this week’s passage of a new law that essentially banned the practice. Now the state has… three abortion clinics. The law doesn’t go into effect for six months, but the Alabama abortionists say that even then they have no plans to close their doors.

“We've been through this fight over and over again,” Dalton Johnson, owner of Alabama's Women's Center in Huntsville told AL.com. “Our main goal is to keep the women apprised that we will be challenging it in court.”

At Johnson’s abortion clinic, two doctors perform about 2,000 abortions annually. Alabama’s Women’s Center is the only abortion clinic in the state that performs abortions up to the state’s previous limit of 20 weeks. As a result, the center sees women from across Alabama as well as surrounding states. After the law takes effect, performing abortions illegally will be a Class A felony punishable by between 10 and 99 years in prison.

“We don't see any interruption in any kind of service whatsoever,” agreed an employee of Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery.

The abortion providers are gambling that the courts will issue an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect on schedule. An employee at the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa said, “If the law goes into effect . . . we're not criminals; we would not be able to stay open, but until it's all resolved, we will be here.”

The ACLU has already announced plans to file a lawsuit to prevent the law from going into force. Rebecca Seung-Bickley told AL.com, “This will never go into effect, as long as ACLU is in litigation.”

Indeed, the purpose of the Alabama law seems to be to troll for legal challenges in order to send a test case to the Supreme Court. After the appointment of two new justices by President Trump, pro-life legislators believe that the time may be right to launch a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Rep. Terri Collins, the Republican member of Alabama’s House of Representatives who sponsored the bill, told the Washington Post, “This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection. I have prayed my way through this bill. This is the way we get where we want to get eventually.”

Incidentally, Collins, the author of the bill, is a woman.

Whether the Court reviews the Alabama abortion ban or not, it is likely that an abortion case will be reviewed over the next few years. Several states have recently enacted heartbeat bills that prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Other states are considering similar legislation. All are likely to be challenged by pro-abortion activist groups.

The best-case scenario for the pro-life movement would be for the Court to take at least one of the pending abortion cases and strike down Roe in its entirety. This would send the abortion battle back to the states. Some states, such as New York, would enact very liberal abortion policies while others, such as Alabama, would ban the practice.

A more likely outcome is that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh take a more incremental approach. The narrow constitutionalist majority will likely agree that Roe was a bad decision but will be reluctant to toss it out abruptly after almost 50 years. We can expect the Court to allow states more latitude in restricting and regulating abortion but still stop short of allowing a full ban.

In either case, the abortion battle is far from over. In one case, statehouses will become the new battlefield while, in the other, the focus will continue to be on the Supreme Court. The new abortion laws are merely one more skirmish in a long war.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trade War Gets Real As Walmart Increases Prices



In the latest sign that the trade is starting to affect the greater economy, Walmart has announced that President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods will lead to increased prices at the giant retail chain.

“We're going to continue to do everything we can to keep prices low. That's who we are. However, increased tariffs will lead to increased prices, we believe, for our customers,” CNN reported that Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs told reporters on a conference call discussing earnings for the first quarter of 2019.

Biggs did not say which products would be subject to the price increases, but President Trump’s most recent round of tariffs, which applied a 25 percent import tax to $200 billion of Chinese goods, affects a wide range of products that are purchased by a large number of Americans. Per CNN, Walmart imports about 26 percent of its merchandise from China and with a Walmart store within 10 miles of 90 percent of Americans, the vast majority of the country will be paying more for consumer goods.

Walmart’s announcement undercuts the president’s claim that China is paying the tariff taxes. Instead, Chinese manufacturers have largely kept their old pricing structure and American importers have paid the tax. Importers pass the tax along to retailers like Walmart, who are now passing it along to their customers.

The Walmart price increases will hit a core segment of the Trump coalition. Walmart is known for its blue-collar clientele and the fact that its stores are often the only option for many items in rural areas. It is these blue-collar, rural voters who have formed the most stable part of Trump’s base as support for Republicans among most other demographics has declined since 2014.

Depending on the length of the trade war and whether more tariffs are applied in coming months, Trump may find that his rural base fracturing. Already farmers, who are among the hardest hit from the trade war, are showing their discontent with the policies that have closed off Chinese markets for American agricultural products.

“We’re in a free fall out here in agriculture. We've seen a 30 percent decrease in prices of soybeans, and this isn't all about soybeans,” Christopher Gibbs, an Ohio farmer said on CNN. “With the geopolitical turmoil that the president has thrown into the mix over the last year, the markets just don't have anywhere to go.”

Now, with Walmart and other retailers raising prices to pass along Trump’s tariff tax to their customers, farmers and other exporters are being squeezed from both sides. They are earning less as foreign markets find cheaper, untaxed alternatives to American goods and they are paying more due to price increases.

As we’ve reported previously, Morning Consult tracks presidential approval across the 50 states. Polling this year shows Trump underwater across the Rust Belt and with a net approval of fewer than five points in many typically Republican farm states such as Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, and Texas. Unless the president gets a deal to resolve the trade war with China soon, we may find out how low he can go.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 16, 2019

No Abortion Restriction Is Reasonable Enough For Pro-Choicers


Much of the debate on the new anti-abortion laws in Georgia and Alabama has centered on Alabama’s lack of an exception for rape and incest victims. While the Georgia law does contain such an exception, some pro-abortion advocates argue that it is not broad enough. After watching the abortion debate over the past 30 years or so, I can say without reservation that no matter what exceptions the authors of the bill had carved out, it would not be enough for the pro-abortion lobby.

Since I first became aware that abortion was legal, a mind-blowing revelation to an elementary school student, I’ve followed the debate and legal wrangling that has been involved with probing the limits of Roe v. Wade. In that time, I cannot recall a single example of any restriction on abortion, no matter how trivial or rational, that has not been opposed by the abortion special interest groups.

Among the first challenges to Roe were attempts to require that minors get the permission of their parents before having an abortion. Pro-choice groups, often led by Planned Parenthood, fought these common sense restrictions, but, beginning in 1979 with Bellotti v. Baird, the Supreme Court began to allow these laws that protected parental rights if they included an exception that allowed pregnant minors to get approval from a judge instead of their parents. This was affirmed in Planned Parenthood of Kansas City v. Ashcroft (1983) and Planned Parenthood of S.E. Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992).

The original Roe v. Wade ruling essentially prohibited restrictions on abortion in the first trimester and required that laws covering the second trimester be focused on the health of the mother, per Pew Research. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in the decision that the state has an interest in protecting “potential life” in the third trimester and could ban abortions at that point as long as exceptions were made for the life and health of the mother. These guidelines were later overhauled by Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

Despite the original decision that allowed some regulation of abortion, decades later pro-abortion activists were fighting restrictions on partial-birth abortion, a barbaric procedure in which the abortionist dilated “the woman's cervix, then pulling the fetus through it feet first until only the head remained inside. Using scissors or another sharp instrument, the head was then punctured, and the skull compressed, so it, too, could fit through the dilated cervix.” The abortion community fought attempts to ban partial birth abortion, technically called a “D&X,” dilation and extraction, despite the fact that there seems to be no medical necessity for the procedure, which NPR notes, was developed “to perform second-trimester abortions without an overnight hospital stay, because local hospitals did not permit most abortions after 18 weeks.”

As technology has improved, the pro-abortion community has resisted attempts to require that abortion clinics inform women about the choice for abortion. Several states require that mothers be presented with an ultrasound image of their baby before the make the choice for an abortion. Again, the advocates for women’s rights fought to keep women from seeing the scientific evidence that the child within them is a living human being.

The pro-choice community also fought to prevent health and sanitary standards for outpatient surgery centers from being applied to abortion clinics. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that required that abortionists have admitting privileges at a local hospital and that abortion clinics meet the same health and sanitary standards as an outpatient surgical center.

The Texas law was passed after a woman died in Kermit Gosnell’s Philadephia abortion clinic. Philadelphia’s NBC-10 reported that Karnamaya Mongar, 41, died after experiencing severe pain at the clinic. It took an hour for an ambulance to arrive to take Mongar to the hospital and firefighters had to cut bolts off the clinic’s emergency door to extricate her. Gosnell was convicted of manslaughter in the case in addition to three counts of murdering infants that were born alive. He was also accused of allowing extremely unsanitary conditions in the clinic and hiring unqualified workers who he then allowed to perform abortions unsupervised.

In about 30 years, I can’t recall a single instance where pro-abortion groups voluntarily submitted to even the most reasonable of abortion restrictions. Even the NRA has occasionally bowed to pressure for more gun controls as it did earlier this year when President Trump ordered bump stocks to be banned, but the abortion advocates seem to have never given an inch. We can reasonably conclude that if the new laws allowed unrestricted abortion access to victims of rape and incest that the pro-abortion crowd would find something else to complain about.

The truth is that the debate about rape and incest exceptions is a red herring. The Guttmacher Institute found that only one percent of abortions were due to rape and less than half a percent were due to incest. The vast majority of abortions are elective procedures that are performed as a method of birth control. It is these hundreds of thousands of abortions annually that the pro-abortion acitvists are fighting to protect.

Rape and incest victims will not be without options under the new laws. Heartbeat bills and even the Alabama law do not outlaw morning-after pills. There are also charities that provide transportation for mothers to areas where abortion is legal and clinics still operate. In Georgia, the law specifically provides an exception up to 20 weeks for women are willing to file a police report alleging rape or incest.

The fight over abortion and protecting the lives of pre-born humans is not over and won’t be for a long time, regardless of what courts decide about the current crop of laws. There is little doubt, however, that whatever laws are passed to limit the killing of babies, the pro-abortion groups will be there to oppose them, whatever they are. For pro-choice groups, it’s all about unrestricted access.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Brace Yourself: More Abortion Laws Are Coming


It has been a bad week for abortion proponents and it just keeps getting worse. After Georgia passed its heartbeat bill last week, Alabama followed with an even more restrictive bill that was signed into law on Wednesday. Now it seems that more states are poised to follow in passing bills that severely limit abortions within their borders.

The Associated Press reports that the Missouri Senate approved a bill by a 24-10 vote that would ban abortions after eight weeks. The bill contains exceptions for medical emergencies but not for cases of rape or incest. The bill must now be approved by the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, before it can be signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson, also a Republican.

Another state, Louisiana, is also considering a heartbeat bill that would ban abortions on unborn babies old enough to have a detectable heartbeat. The Louisiana bill contains exceptions to prevent the mother’s death, if there is “a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” or if the pregnancy is deemed “medically futile,” but also omits exceptions for rape and incest per the AP. The bill has been approved by House and Senate committees but has not yet been voted on by either chamber.

While much of the recent abortion debate is centered on the lack of exceptions for rape and incest, the Guttmacher Institute found that abortions are rarely performed for those reasons. In a large study that ranged from 1987 through 2004, only one percent of abortions were due to rape and less than half a percent were due to incest.

In addition to Georgia and Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio have also passed new laws aimed at reducing the number of abortions. The laws are designed to test the Supreme Court’s adherence to the Roe v. Wade precedent in the wake of the addition of two new Trump-appointed justices, Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. It is likely that the Court will strike down portions of the laws, if not rule them entirely unconstitutional, but a ruling would let legislators know how far they can go in regulating abortion in their states.

Regardless of the uproar, the laws have strong support among Republicans who control the state legislatures in these states. With the failure of the national GOP to defund Planned Parenthood and two new friendly justices on the Supreme Court, pro-life advocates hope that the tide may finally be about to turn.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, May 13, 2019

Democrats: Trump Wants To Be Impeached




Why haven’t Democrats begun impeachment hearings against President Trump after the special counsel could not exonerate the president on charges of obstruction of justice? The answer that many Democrats are giving is that they think that Donald Trump wants to be impeached.

“The President is almost self-impeaching because he is, every day, demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress' legitimate role to subpoena,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday to CNN. Yet despite Trump raising the stakes, Pelosi still resists launching a formal House impeachment effort. The speaker has stated on several occasions that she does not support impeachment and that seems unchanged, but why?

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff answered that question Sunday on ABC News, saying, “Part of our reluctance is we are already a bitterly divided country and an impeachment process will divide us further. He [Trump] certainly seems to be trying and maybe this is his perverse way of dividing us more ... He thinks that's to his political advantage, but it's certainly not to the country's advantage.”

Why would impeachment be to Trump’s political advantage? The most obvious answer would be to shore up his base as the trade war heats up and core parts of the Trump coalition feel more and more economic pressure. A Morning Consult poll from early May showing state-by-state approval of the president found that Trump’s approval was underwater all across the vital Rust Belt as well as soft in many traditionally Republican farm states. President Trump has a net approval of fewer than five points in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, and Texas. Impeachment hearings might cause Republicans in these states to circle the wagons and defend Trump from the Democrats just as they rallied in support of Brett Kavanaugh last year.

Impeachment would also lend credence to Trump’s claims that the Mueller investigation was part of a coup attempt aimed at removing him from office. The president may hope that he could spin an impeachment attempt as the preordained conclusion to a corrupt investigation. This might not sway independents, but it would help to stoke support from Republicans.

Both Trump and the Democrats might also be looking back at the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998. CNN polling in December 1998 found that Clinton’s approval jumped 10 points after his impeachment by House Republicans while approval of the GOP fell by 10 points. Gallup reported that Clinton received a record-high approval rating at 73 percent after his impeachment. Donald Trump, a longtime friend of Bill Clinton, likely remembers how impeachment backfired on the GOP and hopes to repeat history.

Both Trump and the Democrats can also read polls and the data shows that most Americans do not favor impeachment. A Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll from early May that, while 56 percent of Democrats supported impeachment, 65 percent of the total were opposed to the idea. More recently, Reuters/Ipsos poll found more support for impeachment but still only a minority of 45 percent. The president may hope to goad Democrats into following an unpopular strategy that would become the major issue of the 2020 campaign.

Finally, Trump is probably willing to take the embarrassment of impeachment in the House because he understands that it would be meaningless. Democrats lack the votes to remove him from office in the Senate where Republicans retain a majority. The president may well be willing to go down in history as one of the few presidents to be impeached if he could turn the tables on Democrats by remaining in office and possibly rallying voters to give him a second term.

It is most likely the last reason that prevents Nancy Pelosi from giving the go-ahead to the impeachment effort. The risk that Trump’s impeachment would have a Clintonian effect on the president’s reelection effort is one that she is unwilling to take unless the president goes so far that even Republicans abandon him in large numbers.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Trade War Escalates As China Responds With New Tariffs



The Trump Administration implemented a new 25 percent tax on $200 billion of Chinese imports last Friday. This morning the Chinese responded with their own salvo of additional trade taxes that will be applied to American-made goods. The Chinese government announced that it would increase tariffs on more than 5,000 US-imports effective June 1. The tax on American goods will rise from 5-10 percent to between 20 and 25 percent.

CNBC reported that many of the new duties attack US agricultural products, which have proven especially vulnerable to the trade war. Despite a $12 billion bailout last year, farm incomes fell by $11.8 billion in the first quarter of 2019. The drop was steep enough to sap national figures on personal income growth even though farmers make up only two percent of the nation’s workers. The effects of the trade war on farmers may be contributing to the softness of Trump’s approval in many red states where agriculture makes up a large part of the economy.

President Trump responded to the Chinese announcement with a tweet that warned, “China will be hurt very badly if you don’t make a deal because companies will be forced to leave China for other countries.”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1127888569543077888

Contrary to the president’s statement, the new US taxes on Chinese goods will ultimately be paid by American consumers and will not make Chinese goods more expensive elsewhere. Likewise, the Chinese retaliatory tariffs on American goods will apply only to American goods imported to China. The trade war will affect on trade with other countries except that prices will rise due to decreased competition.

Prior to last week, US officials sounded confident on the progress of trade talks with China, but there were hints that the picture was not as rosy as it was depicted. In March, President Trump signaled his resistance to lifting the tariffs, saying, “We’re not talking about removing them, we’re talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time, because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China that China lives by the deal because they’ve had a lot of problems living by certain deals.” At the time, The Resurgent pointed out that a deal would be difficult if the tariffs were not removed.

Similarly, US demands that China change its laws have been met with resistance. The South China Morning Post reported earlier this month that China wanted to provide verbal assurances and small concessions on issues such as government subsidies, intellectual property rights, and technology transfers, but the US was standing firm.

Now China says that it will not agree to Trump’s demands. “At no time will China forfeit the country’s respect, and no one should expect China to swallow bitter fruit that harms its core interests,” said a commentary in Communist Party newspaper. “If they weren’t being seriously provoked, the Chinese people would not favor any trade war. However, once the country is strategically coerced, nothing is unbearable for China in order to safeguard its sovereignty and dignity as well as the long-term development rights of the Chinese people.”

Over the weekend, White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow also contradicted President Trump’s claims that the tariffs would be paid by China. Speaking to Fox News, Kudlow agreed with host Chris Wallace’s statement that China “may suffer consequences, but it’s U.S. consumers and businesses who pay.” Kudlow added that “both sides will suffer.”

Indeed, the pain may spread beyond American farmers to become more widespread under the current round of tariffs. A report by Trade Partnership Worldwide found that the taxes on trade have offset the gains from the tax reform. Goldman Sachs noted that consumer prices have risen sharply since President Trump implemented his policy of tariffs last year. The increasing cost of taxes on trade means that The trade war is costing American consumers money, both directly through higher taxes and indirectly through higher costs resulting from less competitive markets.  

As the trade war continues to escalate, it will become harder for both President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to back down and reach an agreement. As both sides suffer the effects of the trade war, President Trump may find it that the economic pain makes his reelection campaign difficult.

Originally published on The Resurgent