Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Trump To Withdraw From Paris Climate Agreement

After weeks of seeming indecision, there are now reports that President Trump has made up his mind on whether to withdraw from the global climate treaty. The president has put off a decision on whether the US should reject the agreement for several weeks, but CNN, citing two US officials, reports that an announcement that the US will withdraw from the treaty will be made this week.

“I'm hearing from a lot of people both ways,” Trump said, but added that an announcement would be made “very soon.”

The United States “joined” the Paris agreement on September 3, 2016, but the Senate never formally ratified the treaty. White House advisor to Barack Obama, Brian Deese, told the Washington Times that the pact was an “executive agreement” that did not require ratification by the Senate.

“That’s a process that is quite well-established in our existing legal system and in the context of international agreements and international arrangements,” Mr. Deese said in August 2016. “There is a category of them that are treaties that require advice and consent from the Senate, but there’s a broad category of executive agreements where the executive can enter into those agreements without that advice and consent.”

USA Today notes that currently only two nations out of 197 are not party to the climate treaty. Syria and Nicaragua are the other two nations that do not honor the treaty. 147 countries have formally ratified the agreement. The agreement requires countries to make “nationally determined contributions” and “strive to formulate and communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.”

Donald Trump has long been skeptical of the claim that climate change presents a danger to the world. In 2012, Trump tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Trump later called the tweet a joke. During the campaign, Trump promised to cancel US participation in the climate agreement.

CNN did caution that the decision on the Paris agreement was not final and that the president was still hearing from advocates on both sides of the issue. In April, Trump made a dramatic reversal on withdrawing the US from NAFTA after signaling his intent to leave the trade pact.

The Paris agreement is unpopular among Republicans with 56 percent favoring withdrawal according to a recent POLITICO/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll. Sixty-two percent of the public as a whole supports remaining a party to the agreement.

With a campaign promise on the line and a majority of his base in favor of leaving the pact, the course for Trump, the climate skeptic, seems obvious. Why he’s drawing out the decision-making process is the real covfefe.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Debt ceiling battle heats up again

Think that confrontations over the debt ceiling left town with the Obama? You might want to think again.

“I urge you to raise the debt limit before you leave for the summer” [on July 28], Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday according to the Wall Street Journal. Mnuchin said that he prefers a clean increase without conditions.

In response, the House Freedom Caucus released a statement opposing a clean increase. “The U.S. federal government is drowning in debt, yet continues to spend into oblivion on the backs of future taxpayers,” the statement said. “We have an obligation to the American people to tackle Washington’s out of control spending and put in place measures to get our country on the right fiscal course.”

The Freedom Caucus adopted a three-fold position on the issue. First, they categorically oppose a clean increase. Second, the group agrees that the debt ceiling should be address by Congress before it recesses for the summer. Finally, the statement demands “that any increase of the debt ceiling be paired with policy that addresses Washington’s unsustainable spending by cutting where necessary, capping where able, and working to balance in the near future.”

The government reached the debt ceiling imposed by Congress in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using cash conservation methods to keep the government operating. The shuffling of funds is a temporary solution that typically is only viable for a few months.

Previous estimates indicated that congressional action on the debt limit would need to be taken by late September or early October. Earlier this week, budget director Mick Mulvaney told Politico that the date might come sooner than expected.

“My understanding that the [tax] receipts, currently, are coming in slower than expected and you may soon hear from [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin about a change in the date,” Mulvaney said before the House Budget Committee.

The US national debt currently stands at $19.9 trillion. The House Freedom Caucus and other Republicans fought the Obama Administration on the debt ceiling several times during the past eight years. In exchange for increasing the debt limit, the GOP was able to win some concessions on spending from Obama and the Democrats. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Manchester bombing shows danger of homegrown terror

The terrorist bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester has intruded on the discussion of walls and travel bans in the United States. The unpleasant truth about terrorists is that it is too late to keep them out. They are already here.

The Manchester bomber was reported to be Salman Abedi, 22. According to The Telegraph, Abedi was born in Manchester to parents who immigrated from Libya. He was a British citizen who was educated locally in British schools and had only become radicalized recently.

The problem is the same in the United States. Many of the terrorist attacks carried out against Americans over the past few years were committed by American citizens. One of the first instances of homegrown terrorism was the 2009 Fort Hood massacre in which Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, a native of Virginia, murdered 13 people and wounded 32 others. Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernadino terrorists, was a natural born US citizen. His wife was a Pakistani national who had entered the country legally. Omar Mateen, the terrorist who attacked Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, was born in California. Many other terrorist attacks were also carried out by self-radicalized Muslims who were native-born US citizens.

A common denominator in many attacks is that the terrorist was the son of immigrant parents, but this is not true in all cases. For example, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who shot up a army recruiting office in Little Rock in 2009, was born Carlos Bledsoe to a family of Tennessee Baptists. Likewise, Zale Thompson, who attacked NYPD officers with a hatchet in 2014, was a convert to Islam.

Building a border wall or enforcing a travel ban will not protect Americans from terrorists who are also Americans. In the age of the internet, sermons of radical clerics like Anwar al-Awlaki and terrorist propaganda from groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda are easily accessible online. Potential terrorists can become indoctrinated and plan attacks from the comfort of their own homes without training or direction from group leaders in the Middle East.

If citizenship is an “unreliable” indicator of terrorism, as a Department of Homeland Security report said last February, how can authorities identify and stop terrorists without simply waiting for them to strike? Security forces have several good options at their disposal to find and stop terrorists before they have a chance to kill.

First, jihadi websites provide a means for radical preachers and recruiters to cross borders easily. They should be monitored and/or shut down. Terrorist websites that attempt to incite terrorism or show propaganda videos of terrorist killings should be fair game for cyberattacks to take them offline. When jihadi websites are up and running, valuable intelligence might be gained if counterterrorism officials can determine who they are talking to. When prospective terrorists in the United States can be identified, they can be singled out for additional scrutiny.

There are valid civil liberty concerns about government surveillance, but constitutional freedoms don’t apply to foreign nationals broadcasting messages from outside the United States. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech don’t include the right to incite violence.

It is also necessary to develop a network of friendly Muslims to report radicals who use American mosques as recruiting centers. Some radical mosques have been hotbeds of terrorism in both Europe and the United States. For example, Fort Hood terrorist, Nidal Hasan had attended the same mosque in Falls Church, Va. as two of the September 11 hijackers. The imam was Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born al Qaeda spokesman, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Religious freedom should be respected, but a balance needs to be struck between tolerance for Muslims and disregarding dangerous and violent teachings.

Rather than a travel ban, authorities should closely monitor people who travel to terrorist hotspots. For example, the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston Marathon bombers, traveled to Dagestan, a Russian republic riddled with Islamic terrorism, but the FBI and counterterror agents never pieced together the available information to identify the men as a threat. Dagestan, formerly called Chechnya, is not on the list of countries subject to the travel ban. As American citizens, the Tsarnaevs would not have been prevented from reentering the US even if it had been.

An additional method for preventing terrorism is the use of sting operations. FBI stings, in which agents play the role of terror group handlers for prospective terrorists, have led to numerous arrests in recent years. The targets of the stings are often homegrown, lone wolf radicals whose posts on social media have caused concern. Some critics argue that the stings are entrapment, but the tactic is an important one for rooting out radicals who might otherwise be invisible until too late.

Finally, the immigration system should be reformed to tackle the problem of people who enter the country legally and then overstay their visa. Far more illegal immigrants overstay their visas than cross the Mexican border. According to the Department of Homeland Security, hundreds of thousands of visitors to the US stay illegally and there is currently no effective system to track and deport them. No one knows how many might be radicals.

The face of Islamic terrorism has changed since September 11. Attacks by foreign operatives who infiltrate into a country to carry out hijackings or bombings is increasingly rare due to heightened security at airports and borders. The next step is to address the threat of US citizens who have joined the radicals. Finding and stopping homegrown radicals is difficult, but it isn’t impossible.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Young voters are deserting the GOP in droves

Young voters have never been a strong demographic for the Republican Party. The group was one of the core areas of support for Barack Obama and conventional wisdom has held for years that young voters trend liberal and then become more conservative as they get older. A recent study from Pew Research disputes the conventional wisdom and has alarming news for the GOP.

The Pew study included several surveys of voters of all ages over a 15-month period from December 2015 through March 2017. The survey found that about one in ten voters from both parties switched parties at some point during the 2016 election season. The numbers were similar for all age groups across party lines with one exception.

Almost half (44 percent) of Republicans aged 18-29 left the party at some point during the campaign. About half (21 percent) of these young Republicans returned by March, but 23 percent still identified or leaned Democrat two months into the Trump presidency.

“What makes these figures even more striking is the stability of nearly every other age group within both parties,” Republican pollster Kristin Soltis Anderson writes in the Washington Examiner. “On the Democratic side, roughly three-quarters of their voters stuck with the Democratic Party through and through – including those younger voters who supposedly felt so disillusioned with the Democratic Party over the treatment of Bernie Sanders.”

The leftward movement of young Republicans was partially offset in 2016 by the rightward movement of older voters. About a quarter of Baby Boomer Democrats left the party with 14 percent still identifying as Republican in March 2017.

“These voters no doubt played a large role in the success of Trump in states and counties with many ‘Reagan Democrats’ who were drawn to the GOP with Trump's message,” Anderson says.

Nevertheless, Anderson sees long-term problems for the GOP. “The half of young Republicans who wobbled or left the party altogether were die-hard enough to be on board with the GOP all the way through the moment that Trump sat well atop the primary polls,” she says. Young Republicans who deserted the party to Barack Obama, because of the government shutdown or due to the party’s early embrace of Trump were already gone by December 2015 when the survey started.

Current trends suggest that young voters are also not becoming more conservative as they get older. Anderson pointed out in a separate column that both Generation X and Millennial voters are moving more to the left as they age.

“The Boomers got more conservative, Gen X got a little more Democratic, and over the last 10 years, the millennials got more liberal,” Anderson says. “It's not just that Democrats have held a consistent advantage over the GOP with this generation (and they have – by massive margins), it's that the proportion calling themselves liberal Democrats has increased substantially since the 2012 election.”

Demographic trends are not written in stone. The shift of young voters to the left is not foreordained for upcoming elections, but business-as-usual conservative politics will not win the group to the Republican Party. It will likely require an earthshaking event or a politician with a special connection to younger voters.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Infowars claims to have White House press passes

 Infowars says it is going mainstream, at least as far as the White House press pool is concerned.

The conspiracy site founded by talk show conspiracy monger Alex Jones is claiming that it has been issued White House press credentials. Infowars says, “In an epic blow to the mainstream media’s control of the narrative, Infowars has officially received White House Press Credentials that will allow Washington Bureau Chief Jerome Corsi to attend White House press briefings.”

Infowars Washington bureau chief Jerome Corsi backed up the claim with a tweet that pictured him in the White House press briefing room. In the tweet, Corsi said, “We have WH PRESS CREDENTIALS. I'm in WH May 22, 2017” [emphasis his].

Both Infowars and Corsi are associated with conspiracy theories and fake news. Infowars has promoted conspiracy theories about numerous topics including the Sandy Hook school massacre and the September 11 attacks. The site was also a prime instigator of the Jade Helm hysteria in 2015 in which fake news sites convinced thousands of residents of Texas that President Obama and the US military were about to declare martial law.

The Russian conspiracy to interfere with the election and help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton seems to the be the only conspiracy that Infowars has not embraced. On several occasions, the site has published articles purporting to debunk the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians as well as claims that the WikiLeaks email dumps cost Hillary the election.

Jerome Corsi, the fake news site’s new Washington bureau chief, is a good fit for Infowars. In addition to contributing to Infowars, Corsi has also been a writer at World Net Daily, another well-known fringe site. Corsi has also embraced many conspiracy theories over the years, including September 11 conspiracies and the belief that George W. Bush was about to unite the US, Mexico and Canada in a North American Union. Corsi is best known for his advocacy of the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not a natural born US citizen.

Other journalists disputed the Infowars claim that they were granted full press access. Trey Yingst of One America News tweeted that Corsi’s pass was a “day pass White House credential, not a permanent press pass” and noted “High school students can apply for day passes.” Mike Warren of the Weekly Standard tweeted a similar claim.

Corsi claimed in a subsequent tweet that the mainstream media was “insane.” Corsi stands by the claim that Infowars has full press credentials, saying, “WH issues weekly credentials for 3 months to start.”

Even though the Trump Administration has previously issued press credentials to the Gateway Pundit, another conspiracy site, it would be surprising if Infowars were be granted full White House press access. Infowars is one of several sites known to be under investigation by the FBI as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the election. McClatchy News reported in March that the FBI’s counterintelligence division was examining the role of Russian operatives who blitzed social media with pro-Trump stories from sites such as Infowars, Breitbart, RT and Sputnik News.

Infowars reports are as real as professional wrestling. Earlier this year, Alex Jones’s attorney in a custody dispute denied in court that Jones believed the stories that he promoted on his website and broadcasts. “He’s playing a character,” attorney Randall Wilhite said of Jones in the Austin American-Statesman. “He is a performance artist.”

The claim by Infowars and Corsi that the site has received press credentials seems to exaggerated. As Business Insider reports, the temporary pass was even issued on a day in which the president was out of the country and Sean Spicer was not giving a briefing. In essence, the story is just another piece of Jones’s “performance art.”

President Trump also has a history of promoting conspiracies. The president pushed the Obama birth certificate conspiracy for years. Trump has also endorsed conspiracy theories about vaccines, September 11 and even claimed that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. With a history as a reality television star, Trump may have been acting as a performance artist as well. At this point, it does not seem that Trump is willing to go as far as normalizing Infowars, however. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Kim Dotcom Claims He Knew Seth Rich

Accused software pirate and internet entrepreneur, Kim Dotcom, has released a statement claiming that he communicated with murdered DNC staffer, Seth Rich. Dotcom posted the statement on his website.  

According to Dotcom’s account, he met Rich online, when a person with the handle, “Panda,” contacted him about starting a US branch of Dotcom’s Internet Party in 2014. Dotcom claims that Panda was actually Seth Rich, but does not explain how he learned Panda’s identity. Dotcom does not say if he ever met Panda or Rich in person.

Dotcom said that the referred to what he had learned from Panda when discussed WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, in a 2015 interview with Bloomberg (shorter clip here). When asked about a tweet in which he said that he would be “Hillary’s worst nightmare in 2016,” Dotcom answered, “Well, I have to say it’s probably more Julian. But I’m aware of some of the things that are going to be roadblocks for her.” When pressed, Dotcom denied that he knew specifically what Assange had planned.

In the statement, Dotcom declined to give further details, saying “my full statement should be provided to the authorities and I am prepared to do that so that there can be a full investigation.” Dotcom asked for “a guarantee from Special Counsel Mueller, on behalf of the United States, of safe passage from New Zealand to the United States and back” if he is required to come to the US to present his evidence. Dotcom is currently fighting extradition from New Zealand to the US, where he faces charges of money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud.

The family of Seth Rich rejected Dotcom’s claims and pointed out that he had provided no evidence to substantiate his claims. “The Rich family is tired of having to respond to accusations,” a spokesman for the family said in a statement. “The burden of proof is on Mr. Dotcom to either prove he has evidence or face the consequences of damaging Seth’s good name and creating more emotional hardship on a grieving family. The family is not going to entertain his ridiculous, manipulative and completely non-credible statements.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

True facts about Seth Rich
It has been less than a year since the murder of Seth Rich. In that short time, the story of his murder has taken on a life of its own. Like the murder of John F. Kennedy, it has already difficult to separate fact from fiction in the tragic case of Seth Rich.

Seth Conrad Rich was a 27-year-old native of Omaha, Nebraska who worked for the Democratic National Committee as the Voter Expansion Data Director. His job there entailed working on a computer applicationto help voters find their local polling place.

On the morning of Sunday, July 10, 2016, Rich was walking home in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. At 4:19 a.m., police patrolling the area heard gunshots and used Sharp Spotter, a system that uses acoustics to determine to direction of shots, to locate the scene of the attack.

Multiple sources say that Rich was still alive when police arrived at the scene, which was only a block from his house. He had multiple gunshot wounds and there were signs of a struggle. Early reports, such as this one from a local CBS affiliate, state that Rich was alive and conscious when he was taken to the hospital where he died a few hours later. Police have never revealed whether he was able to provide information about his killer.

Other early reports do support the claim that none of Rich’s personal items seemed to be missing. The local NBC affiliate quoted Rich’s mother, Mary, who said, “There had been a struggle. His hands were bruised, his knees are bruised, his face is bruised, and yet he had two shots to his back, and yet they never took anything. They took his life for literally no reason. They didn't finish robbing him, they just took his life.” Rich’s father, Joel, also confirmed to the Washington Post that nothing was taken.

The New York Daily News reported on July 11 that police had said that there was no indication of robbery, but that attempted robbery had not been ruled out as a motive for the attack. Joel Rich said that he believed that Seth had attempted to fight off his attacker before he was killed.

Many of the sources also point out the high crime rate in the neighborhood where Rich was killed. NBC’s Channel Four pointed out that robberies using guns were up 12 percent in the Metro Police Fifth District and that seven people had already been killed there in addition to Rich that year. The New York Daily News noted that armed robberies had doubled in Bloomingdale over the previous year.

Almost two weeks after Rich’s murder, on July 22, the first dump of Democrat emails from WikiLeaks was posted. Even as the emails were posted, there was immediate speculation that the source of the emails was of Russian origin. The date range of the first DNC hack was from January 2015 through May 2016, about two months before Rich’s murder. A second trove emails stolen from John Podesta was dumped by WikiLeaks beginning on October 7, 2016, three months after Rich’s death.

The conspiracy theories seemed to have started within days of the murder. On July 13, a conspiracy site called cited a Kremlin intelligence report that said that Rich was preparing to meet with FBI agents in order to testify against Hillary Clinton. The story reports that the FBI agents were really a “hit team” that was then “captured yesterday after a running gun battle with US federal police forces just blocks from the White House.” There were no reports of captured hit men or “running gun battles” in other sources.

The WikiLeaks angle to the story came several weeks later. WikiLeaks founder and accused rapist, Julian Assange, appeared on Dutch television on August 9, almost a month after the murder, and hinted that Rich was the source of the pilfered emails, although he never expressly stated any connection with Rich.

The same day, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s murderer. The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police had previously offered a $25,000 reward. Other individuals, including Rich’s brother, have offered additional rewards.

On May 15, 2017, a private detective named Rod Wheeler told a local television news reporter that he had evidence that Rich had contacted WikiLeaks before his death. Two days later, Wheeler retracted his claims. NBC News reported that Ed Butowsky, a Dallas businessman and Breitbart contributor, hired Wheeler to investigate the murder on behalf of the Rich family. Butowsky initially denied being connected to Wheeler, but eventually admitted his involvement to CNN. A spokesman for the family said that Wheeler had showed them no evidence to support the allegations that Seth had contacted WikiLeaks.

Police also told the Washington Post that Rich’s computer and email had been examined and that there was no evidence that he was connected to WikiLeaks. A former law enforcement official with knowledge of Rich’s laptop told NBC News, “It never contained any e-mails related to WikiLeaks, and the FBI never had it.”

Still, the rumors keep coming. The Russian embassy tweeted on May 19 that Rich was the “WikiLeaks informer” and accused the US media of ignoring the truth about his murder. At about the same time, Kim Dotcom, a European hacker fighting extradition to the US from New Zealand on money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud charges, claimed to have known Seth Rich as the WikiLeaks source.

District of Columbia Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donohue recently told NBC’s local affiliate that Rich’s murder was still under investigation, but that there was no truth the WikiLeaks rumors. “This is a robbery that ended tragically. That’s bad enough for our city, and I think it is irresponsible to conflate this into something that doesn’t connect to anything that the detectives have found," Donahue said. "No WikiLeaks connection.”

If Rich’s murder is still unsolved, the mystery of the DNC hacking is not. In January 2017, the Director of National Intelligence released an unclassified version of a report detailing the unanimous assessment of the American intelligence community that the Russian government was behind the cyberattack. The assessment echoed the findings of CrowdStrike, a private cybersecurity firm retained by the DNC.

In the case of John Podesta’s emails, investigators have identified a fraudulent email that urged Podesta to click a link and change his password. Podesta did so and compromised his email password as a result. This sort of breach is known as “phishing.”

Time reported in January that the CIA had even identified the individual Russian officials who had passed the stolen emails to WikiLeaks. The report said that the information followed a “circuitous route” to WikiLeaks so that Assange could plausibly deny Russian involvement.

At this point, there are a few basic problems with the conspiracy theory that Seth Rich was the source for the stolen Democratic Party emails. First, Rich was murdered before WikiLeaks published the emails. Second, the DNC’s internal investigation pointed to the Russians, not an internal leaker, as the source of the breach. Third, US counterintelligence has identified the real perpetrators of the theft, the Russian government. Most importantly, there is not a shred of evidence that ties Rich to WikiLeaks other than unsubstantiated innuendo. There is not even evidence that Rich had access to the emails that ended up the hands of WikiLeaks.

Conversely, it would be logical for the Russians and WikiLeaks to implicate the conveniently dead Rich in the leak to distract attention from the real culprits. Intelligence agencies agreed that the Russian covert operation that interfered with the election seemed to be partly to sow chaos and partly to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Even with Trump in the White House, Vladimir Putin seems to relish causing chaos and doubt about the US government.

Rich’s family, who have the most to gain in seeing their son’s killers brought to justice, reject the conspiracy claims. Rather than embracing the conspiracy, the family released a statement that called upon the conspiracy theorists to stop defaming their son’s reputation and distracting attention from the real killers. “We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth's murderers,” the statement said.

“It's sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda,” a spokesman for the family told Business Insider. “I think there is a special place in hell for people like that.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Republicans and the problem of moral relativism

During the presidential campaign, a major theme of Donald Trump’s campaign was the corruption and bad judgment of Hillary Clinton. Trump frequently referred to “Crooked Hillary” and promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington, D.C. Trump’s supporters were enraged by the lies and crony capitalism emanating from Foggy Bottom and thrilled to the promises of reform.

Then came the last two weeks.

The president summarily fired the director of the FBI, admitted on national television that the firing was at least partly due to the Russia investigation, and then was alleged to have told visiting Russian diplomats that Director Comey was a “nut job” and that getting rid of him relieved “great pressure.” On top of that, government sources charged that President Trump relayed classified information on an “ad hoc” basis.

Suddenly everything seemed to change with even casual supporters of the president. The battle cry changed from “drain the swamp” to “Hillary was worse.” In other words, the pro-Trump argument has shifted from the claim that he is a reformer who can clean up Washington to the claim that his actions are not any worse than the actions of the woman he called “Crooked Hillary” or President Obama. Talk about lowering the bar.

The pro-Trump right isn’t the only faction that has shifted. The anti-Trump left has also flip-flopped on a number of issues from resetting relations with Russia to whether James Comey should be fired. In fact, it has been both amusing and disheartening to watch my pro-Trump friends and liberal friends shift 180 degrees in their political views.

This really isn’t new. Liberal dogma often shifts with the changing winds of who is in office. As a case in point, consider their support for Bill Clinton’s war against the Serbs and attacks against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Democrat Party became anti-war after many of its members voted to authorize George W. Bush to use military force and against Saddam and then became pro-war again when President Obama decided to hesitantly intervene in Libya.

It isn’t new for Trump Republicans either. It was only under Donald Trump that Republicans came to support tariffs over free trade, increased infrastructure spending, a childcare entitlement, universal healthcare, and higher taxes. The party of the Trump Republicans supports Donald Trump when he calls for the US to end nation building and put America first, but also applauds when he launches a symbolic, ineffective, one off strike on Syria and then moves on to other issues. The double standard of Trump supporters, especially those who professed to be Christian, was readily apparent in the campaign as well.

When Democrats shift with the prevailing winds on issues, conservatives like to call them “hypocrites.” When the shifting party is one that claims to be Christian and moral, another phrase applies as well: “moral relativism.”

Moral relativism is essentially situational ethics. Rather than believing that something is objectively right or wrong, regardless of the circumstances, moral relativists believe that an act, such as firing a subordinate who is doggedly pursuing an investigation, for example, can be right or wrong depending on the circumstances. Or depending on does it.

At one point, President Trump himself openly took this line of defense, exclaiming on Twitter, “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!” As a parent, I hear this tweet in my children’s voices as they whine, “He/she didn’t get in trouble when she did it!”

Does anybody really think that Republicans would not throw a screaming hissy fit if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had fired James Comey as he was investigating Hillary’s private server? If a Democrat had referenced “the email thing” in the firing, most conservatives would be calling for his or her impeachment… if not their heads. There are a myriad of other instances, such as considering halting press briefings or jailing reporters that Trump supporters either justify or dismiss out of hand.

How about if a Democrat president had revealed classified information to the Russians? Before you answer, think back to how some conservatives accused Hillary of treason for discussing nuclear response times in one of the presidential debates.

A pro-Trump friend recently posted the video of President Obama telling Putin lackey Dmitry Medvedev, “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” The same friend is totally unconcerned about the myriad of links to Russia and Putin surrounding the Trump campaign.

The Trump supporters seem to discount anything negative about the president as “fake news” even when the Trump Administration openly acknowledges the truthfulness of the information. Michael Flynn admitted to lying about communicating with the Russians and was fired for it. President Trump acknowledged in tweets that he gave information to the Russians. Sean Spicer did not dispute New York Times claims that Trump told the Russians that Comey was a “nut job” whose investigation put “great pressure” on him. The fake news label used by the president gives his supporters the excuse they need to rationalize or deny his bizarre behavior.

In moral terms, it is like the excuse that you gave your parents that [insert forbidden behavior here] is okay because “everyone else is doing it.” Your mother probably answered that with the quip, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”

If Hillary and Obama are corrupt, does that mean it’s okay if Trump is corrupt too? Do we want a corrupt Republican or do we want something better? If you’re a Republican who excuses Trump and argues against holding him accountable, then you don’t want to drain the swamp. You just want to fill it with snakes of a different stripe.

In Christian terms, right and wrong are objective, not subjective. That applies to politics as well. If it is wrong for Barack Obama to fire the FBI director to impede an investigation (and it is, just so there is no question), then it is equally wrong for President Trump to do so. If national security is harmed by Hillary Clinton leaking classified information to the Russians, then the same standard applies to Donald Trump. If it is wrong for Hillary and Obama to insult their political opponents, then ditto for President Trump.

When the Republican defense of Donald Trump is “Hillary did it too,” they have already lost the argument for reform. At this point, the argument is merely a partisan squabble over whose corrupt politician should be at the national helm.

At some point, many Republicans will realize that Trump’s behavior is too outlandish, too corrupt for them to support. Meanwhile, a majority of conservative activists, many of them professing Christians, who spent the last eight years talking about the need to stand up for principles, are now twisting themselves into knots trying to justify the words and actions of a man whose words and actions are totally inconsistent. The Trump partisans seem to be standing up for a person, rather than principle.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Trump called Comey a 'Nut Job'

It wouldn’t be Friday afternoon without a new bombshell from the Trump Administration. The latest installment in the continuing saga of President Trump is that he allegedly told the Russian delegation in the White House last week that former FBI Director James Comey was a “nut job” and that his firing had relieved the “great” pressure from the Russia investigation.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump reportedly told the Russians per the New York Times, adding, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Trump also reportedly told the visiting Russians, “I’m not under investigation.”

The comments were attributed them to a “White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments [and] was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting.” The story adds that “one [American] official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.”

The Times story reports that Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not dispute the account. “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Spicer said in a written statement. “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”

The meeting with the Russians occurred the day after the firing of Comey was announced. It is the same meeting in which Trump reportedly gave the visiting Russians classified information. It is not clear whether the comments were made before or after the president discussed the classified material.

An additional US official cited in the article described Trump’s comments as a negotiating tactic. According to the Times, “The idea… was to create a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of [Russian Foreign Minister] Mr. Lavrov — on Syria, Ukraine and other issues — by saying that Russian meddling in last year’s election had created enormous political problems for Mr. Trump.”

The Trump Administration has not been consistent about the rationale for Comey’s firing. At various times, the president has suggested that Comey was fired based on the recommendation of Justice Department officials and that Mr. Trump made the decision and had asked for the recommendations himself. At one point, Trump cited the “Russia thing” to NBC News as part of his justification for the firing.

In related news, the Twitter forecast is for an impending tweetstorm tomorrow morning.  

Originally published on The Resurgent

What (Or Who) Is Bugging House Republicans?

President Trump has hinted that there are “tapes” of his conversations with James Comey, but the Oval Office apparently isn’t the only place in Washington that is bugged. Earlier this week, the Washington Post published an account of a June 2016 meeting of the House Republican leadership in which Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Cal.) joked about Donald Trump being on the Russian payroll. Now House leaders are concerned that there might be more revelations from past closed door sessions.

Axios reports that Republicans are scrambling to determine the source of the leak even as they wait for the next shoe to drop. “The unknown is frustrating,” said one GOP aide.

The Post story notes that the conversation occurred on the day after news broke that Russians were responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. The conversation reportedly took place shortly after McCarthy and Speaker Ryan had met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, who had discussed Putin’s tactic of “financing people in our governments to undo our governments” and using “very sophisticated” propaganda throughout Europe.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher (R-Cal.) and Trump,” McCarthy joked. “Swear to God.” McCarthy also speculated that the hack of the DNC was to steal Democrat opposition research on Donald Trump.

The Post reports that the remark drew laughs before Speaker Paul Ryan interjected, “This is off the record,” and admonished those present, “No leaks…. This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

Rohrabacher, like Trump, has a reputation as a defender of the President Vladimir Putin and the current Russian regime. In November 2016, Politico profiled Rohrabacher as “Putin’s favorite congressman.”

Adam Entous, the author of the Post story, says that the article was based on both a written transcript and “a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post.” If Entous’s claims of a recording are accurate, it is possible that either someone at the meeting was recording the conversation or that a bug had been planted in the room.

There are two prime suspects for the source of the recording. One is that a bug was planted by a member of the Ukrainian delegation. The “Kiev, Ukraine” dateline of the Post story lends some credence to this possibility, but the Axios sources within the GOP say that it is unlikely since security teams regularly sweep the capitol for bugs and, to their knowledge, none has been found.

A more likely possibility, the sources say, is that the meeting was recorded by Evan McMullin, a leadership aide last June who became an independent presidential candidate. Jonathan Swan, author of the Axios story, says that his sources say that the Post denied that McMullin was the leaker and that there is no evidence that he was responsible. If McMullin was the leaker, it is unclear why he would wait to use the tapes now rather than during his presidential campaign.

Regardless of where the recording originated, Republican leaders are concerned about what leaks may come next. If the leaker was McMullin, he attended many private meetings and would have had the opportunity to record reams of sensitive information. If the bug is still active, it could be used to undermine GOP legislative strategies.

Leaks have become commonplace in Washington over the past few years. From the Russian leaks of Democratic emails to disaffected staffers leaking embarrassing information about Donald Trump to the president’s own leak of classified information to the Russians, it seems that no one in Washington can be counted on to keep a secret. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, May 19, 2017

Trump Administration to propose balancing budget

The complete proposed budget for Donald Trump’s first fiscal year will not be released until next week, but advance word is that the president will propose a plan to balance the federal budget within 10 years. The budget will reportedly ask for cuts in federal entitlement programs in conjunction with an overhaul of the tax and regulatory system.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the plan will not include cuts to the two largest drivers of future spending, Medicare and Social Security, but will ask for trillions of dollars in cuts to discretionary spending such as education, housing, environment programs and foreign aid as well as nondiscretionary spending in programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and federal employee-benefit programs.

The budget will also include budget increases that were announced in the budget blueprint released in March. One of the largest increases in funding would go to the military, which was slated for an additional $54 billion to be split between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. There is also likely to be additional infrastructure spending, a new entitlement for paid parental leave and border security measures.

The Journal notes that the budget does not include the details of the tax reform, but is likely to estimate the Republican tax reform as revenue neutral. Rate cuts would be offset by the elimination of tax breaks so that a Congressional Budget Office estimate would show no loss of revenue.

Balancing the budget will require growth as well as spending cuts. “The way we balanced the budget in the 1990s is we had spending restraint and GDP growth caught up—government revenues caught up, as the GDP growth came in,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said. “That’s what we’re trying to get back to.”

White House estimates of growth are much more optimistic than CBO estimates. The White House estimates three percent growth by 2021 while the CBO forecasts a 1.9 percent growth rate. Economists polled by the Journal estimate growth at 2.3 percent if Mr. Trump’s policies are enacted.

Conflicts over the growth rate may make it hard for the Trump Administration to find support among budget hawks for its spending increases. “I am extremely pessimistic that you can show a balanced budget unless you’re going to make the mother of all ‘rosy scenario’ type assumptions,” said William Hoagland, a former Republican budget aide who is now senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The spending cuts are also certain to draw fire from Democrats. Expect much weeping, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the proposed slashing of funds for safety net programs. Some moderate Republicans are also likely to object, making it extremely unlikely that the full measure of the cuts will become law.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said as much on Thursday, claiming, “It is an ideological document, not a document that will ever be utilized.”

The budget is slated to be released next Tuesday, while President Trump is touring Europe and the Middle East. Given Mr. Trump’s problems over the past two weeks, that may increase Republican chances of getting the budget passed. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

House may have to vote on health care bill again

If you are wondering why the Senate hasn’t started working on the American Health Care Act two weeks after the House passed the bill, you aren’t alone. Bloomberg reports that the measure is stalled with the House leadership after being approved by a four-vote margin earlier this month.

According to Bloomberg, the holdup is a series of last minute amendments that were made before the vote in order to garner more support. The late changes have not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office and Republican leaders are waiting for the CBO numbers before sending the bill to the Senate.

If the CBO numbers don’t show at least $2 billion reduction in the deficit, it would doom the bill in the Senate because it would not qualify for the budget reconciliation process that avoids a Democrat filibuster. The GOP would be forced to start the process again with a new budget resolution in the House. Before the changes, the bill was projected to save about $150 billion over 10 years.

“We’ve got to wait for the CBO score to prove that you meet the reconciliation test,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oreg.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

A Republican aide told Business Insider that Republicans expected positive results from the CBO, but were waiting for the report to be sure. “Based on the previous two scores, we believe we'll hit our target deficit reduction number but we're holding out of an abundance of caution,” the aide said.

If the House has to vote on the bill again, passage would not be a slam dunk. In the first vote, 20 Republicans joined every House Democrat in voting against the bill. The current version of the bill was specifically crafted to gain enough support from disparate Republican factions to pass. If the bill has to be changed to satisfy budget reconciliation requirements, the fragile balancing act may be upset and changes may cost too many Republican votes to pass the bill a second time.

The CBO report is expected next week. 

No, Comey didn't contradict Trump memo in congressional testimony

A popular quote going around the internet these days shows then-FBI Director James Comey testifying before Congress on May 3. During the testimony, Comey stated, “It’s not happened in my experience” as part of his answer to a question about political pressure on the FBI. Pro-Trump circles have taken this statement to mean that the as-yet-unseen Comey memo, in which Comey allegedly claims that the president asked him to halt the investigation of Michael Flynn, is fraudulent.

Not so fast.

It seems to have been blogger Sooper Mexican who first noted that the quote was taken out of context. The explanation of why the answer to a question by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) does not contradict the content of the memo is a simple one when the entire exchange is read.

HIRONO: So, if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?

COMEY: In theory, yes.

HIRONO: Has it happened?

COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that — without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don’t see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.

Comey’s answer referred to a question about the attorney general and officials at the Department of Justice, not the president. Comey seems to have simply answered the question as asked and not volunteered information. This seems to show a measure of loyalty to the president.

Comey’s statement that political interference would be a “big deal” provides justification for writing a memo about Trump’s alleged request. The president’s request would have been a big deal and Comey would have felt the need to document it, whether for his own protection or as evidence in a possible future investigation.

When Comey testifies before Congress, as he undoubtedly will, about the memo and his conversation with President Trump, Republicans will have a chance to ask him directly whether the president tried to interfere with the Russia investigation. Until then, his previous testimony does not contradict his statements in the memo. For now at least, the myth that Comey is talking out of both sides of his mouth is busted.

Come on, guys and gals of the internet! Taking quotes out of context to make someone look bad is a tactic that conservatives would typically expect of the leftist media. Check your facts and context before making claims about what someone said.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Can the GOP save itself?

In retrospect, the GOP was in trouble as soon as Donald Trump became the frontrunner in the Republican primary. The outsider with no government experience knocked the party on its ear, dispatching with relative ease 16 experienced, longtime party members who many Trump supporters denounced as “RINOs.”

In fact, it was Trump who was the RINO. Trump was a Republican in name only who had frequently changed parties and who didn’t share many of the Republican Party’s core tenets such as free trade, a commitment to cut government spending and to shrink government. Trump ran a nationalist, anti-establishment campaign that focused on immigration, a hot button issue that had historically split the GOP down the middle. Nevertheless, as Trump became the inevitable nominee, Republicans mostly embraced him as “better than Hillary.”

From the moment that Trump won the nomination, the party was in trouble. Even though a large minority argued that Trump was both unelectable and unfit, after he won the primary there was no real chance to find a better candidate. Never Trumpers were proven wrong on the charge of electability, but Trump is proving them right about his fitness to govern.

Once Trump won the nomination, denying it to him would have split the party between the Trump base, many of whom may not have been Republicans before 2016, and, for lack of a better term, the party establishment. Hillary would have cruised to the White House, a price that was too much to pay for many Republicans.

Four months into the Trump Administration, the new president has been rocked by one scandal after another, many of his own making. Trump’s positive, lasting accomplishments, excluding Executive Orders, so far number about one: Neil Gorsuch.

As the scandals get more serious, such as possible obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation and jeopardizing national security by haphazardly sharing classified information, more Republicans will soon be looking to extricate themselves from their marriage of convenience to Donald Trump. The question is whether they can do so without destroying their party.

The choice that Republicans now face is similar to the one that they faced at the Republican convention. If they reject Trump’s antics and try to rein him in, which will possibly lead to pressuring him to resign or impeachment, then Trump’s loyal base will declare war on the party. With the country almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, the loss of a significant number of Republicans would mean that Democrats would cruise to easy victories. On the other hand, if Republicans continue to back an increasingly outlandish Donald Trump, then they will alienate themselves from traditional Republican voters as well as a large part of the country.

At this point, either option splits the GOP and leaves the country in control of the Democrats. The big question is for how long. If Republicans choose to be “dead enders” and stick with Trump to the bitter end, they may find support from the Trumpian right, but probably not far beyond that. The longer Republicans persist in attempting to defend the indefensible, the more ludicrous they will look and the more trust they will lose from the voting public.

On the other hand, a quicker return to the traditional conservative principles of the Republican Party may help to salvage the reputation of the party and its elected officials. This does not mean that Republicans need to be anti-Trump, but they do need to hold him accountable to the same standards that they would hold a Democrat.

The GOP would not have turned a blind eye to the firing of the FBI director by Hillary to stop the email investigation. It wouldn’t have ignored Barack Obama revealing classified information to the Russians. Barrages of insults and attacking the press as the “enemy of the people” are not traditional Republican principles. For that matter, neither is threatening trade wars, building expensive and ineffective walls or lavishing praise on dictators

It is unlikely, but not impossible, that Trump can change enough to salvage his presidency. The Trump coalition that eked out a victory by 77,000 votes in three swing states is almost certainly history. With Trump’s razor thin margin of victory concentrated in normally blue states, it would not take much to make his election a feat that could not be repeated. Trump’s erratic behavior and the continuing dribble of stories about links with Russia ensure that the scandals will not go away.

Republicans should cut their losses. Trump’s plummeting approval ratings and increasing number of scandals threatens not only the legislative agenda for the current Congress, but Republican majorities in the 2018 elections and beyond. As Trump’s negatives, which were always high, continue to mount, the best strategy might be for Republicans to distance themselves from the president. While most Republicans in Washington have more-or-less stood by the commander-in-chief so far, the dam may be about to burst.

At this point, it isn’t so much a question of if Trump will be brought down, but who he will take with him. Republicans in Congress should consider whether their allegiance is to an outsider who became president or the values of the voters who sent them to Washington. Are you Trumpians or Republicans?

The Democrats may have gotten a break in losing the election. The two candidates were the most unpopular and unqualified ever presented by the parties to the nation. Republicans “won” and now have to live with the consequences of their victory… and the compromise of party principles that it required.

Can the Republican Party be saved? That is uncertain, but conservatives are not going away. If the Republican Party folds, then conservatives will reorganize under another banner to fight another day. And hopefully they will learn from the folly of electing Donald Trump.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Putin Defends Trump On Secret Sharing Scandal

President Vladimir Putin of Russia is coming to the aid of President Trump in the controversy over Trump’s sharing of classified information with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister last week. Putin says that he can prove that President Trump did not do anything wrong.

On Wednesday, speaking at a press conference in Sochi, Russia, Putin denied that Trump had shared secrets with the Russian delegation. “I spoke to him [Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] today,” a smiling Putin said in Reuters. “I'll be forced to issue him with a reprimand because he did not share these secrets with us. Not with me, nor with representatives of Russia's intelligence services. It was very bad of him.”

Putin also offered to hand over a Russian transcript of the meeting as evidence to support the American president. According to Kremlin officials, the Russians made a written transcript of the meeting, but did not make an audio recording.

Putin also took the opportunity to criticize the opposition to President Trump as “political schizophrenia.” The “schizophrenia” is a result of what the US intelligence community said was interference in the US presidential election by Russia on behalf of Donald Trump.

“What surprises me is that they are shaking up the domestic political situation using anti-Russian slogans,” Putin continued. “Either they don't understand the damage they're doing to their own country, in which case they are simply stupid, or they understand everything, in which case they are dangerous and corrupt.”

Even though President Putin denies that Trump shared classified information, President Trump himself seemed to admit to the breach. In two tweets on Tuesday, the president said, “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining… to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” Administration denials do not answer the accusation by the Washington Post that Trump shared information that was so closely held that it was not even given to US allies.

Putin is obviously enjoying the chaos in America immensely.

A Russian goal during the election was to destabilize American democracy and faith in government. Putin seems to be continuing along those lines by stirring the pot with his comments. His offer of a written transcript should not be taken seriously and any transcript he provided would not be reliable.

There is a better solution, however. In a May 12 tweet, President Trump alluded to “tapes” that may exist of his conversations with FBI Director Comey. Since then, former associates have come forward to say that Trump frequently recorded conversations.

An easy solution would be for President Trump to turn over any recordings of the meeting with the Russians to Congress. Let the bipartisan House Intelligence Committee listen to the conversation and determine if the president’s comments were out of line or jeopardized national security.

And, by the way, it would probably be a good idea to turn over the Comey tapes to the House Judiciary Committee as well.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why Does Russia Keep Popping Up in the Trump Administration?

There is an old saying that says where there is smoke, there is fire. These days, if Russia was smoke, the Trump Administration would be a four-alarm blaze. The question is why Russia is a recurring subject within the Trump Administration.

The rumors of Russian influence within the Trump Administration go back as far as Trump’s announcement of his candidacy. Rumors surfaced quickly about Trump’s longstanding business ties to Russia and The Hill noted that the Kremlin had funded nationalist opposition groups in several countries, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, which recently came close to winning the presidency.

Several of Trump’s former advisors were linked to Russia and Vladimir Putin. First to go was Paul Manafort, Trump’s first campaign manager. Manafort was a political consultant for Ukrainian dictator and Putin ally, Viktor Yanukovych, for 10 years until he was toppled by a revolution in 2014. Trump fired Manafort in August 2016.

Carter Page was a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. Page was forced to take a leave of absence from the Trump campaign after allegations that he met with Russian officials on a trip to Moscow. Page was apparently the target of FBI surveillance for his links to Russia.

Roger Stone, another Trump campaign aide, claimed to have communicated with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and may have had foreknowledge of the WikiLeaks dump of Podesta emails in October 2016. WikiLeaks is widely believed to be a Russian front organization. Stone claims that he resigned from the Trump campaign, while Trump says he was fired.

Michael Flynn survived the campaign to become National Security Advisor. Unfortunately, shortly after Trump took office, Flynn was forced to resign for lying about contacts that he had with the Russian ambassador.

Amid the rumors of Trump campaign officials’ links to Russia, candidate Trump called upon Russia to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Hillary Clinton’s server. When Trump made the statement, it was common knowledge that Russian fingerprints were all over the first hack of the Democratic National Committee a month earlier. The hack of John Podesta’s email account has also been traced to Russia.

After the election, when briefed on the evidence for Russian interference in the election, President-elect Trump finally admitted that “Russian entities” were responsible for the hacking in January, a conclusion that most other observers had long since reached. Even then, he denied that the interference was aimed at helping his campaign.  

While there is so far no smoking gun that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians on the hacking and election tampering, Lawfare Blog notes that “cooperation [between the Trump campaign and Russian hackers] was an open and public feature of the campaign. It included open encouragement of the Russians to hack Democratic targets; denial that they had done so; encouragement of WikiLeaks, which was publicly known to be effectively a publishing arm of the Russian operation, in publishing the fruits of the hacks; and publicly trumpeting the contents of stolen emails.”

Writing for Just Security, Julian Sanchez argues that secret contacts between the campaign and the Putin government were not needed. “Russia’s efforts on Trump’s behalf were, for the most part, pretty open, even if Trump affected not to notice them,” he says. “Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin—grounded in an affection that long predates his political career—was public, as was his gleeful exploitation of the fruits of hacks against his opponents and encouragement of more of the same, as was his attempt to exculpate Russia long after the intelligence community had reached consensus about their responsibility, as was his use on the campaign trail of stories pushed out by Russian state media.  Trump could see they were helping him, they could see he appreciated it and was reciprocating. What, exactly, would have been the marginal benefit of some further secret communication making this happy symbiosis a matter of explicit agreement?  Collusion would have been redundant.”

At this point, it is Trump himself keeping the Russia scandal alive. After the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt, “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won'.” This shocking statement confirmed charges by the critics that the firing was at least partly due to Comey’s handling of the investigation of Russia’s election interference and contacts with the Trump campaign.

When President Trump defended rather than denied his sharing of classified material with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, it was simply the latest in a long line of contacts between the two organizations. Like many of the other contacts, Trump’s sharing of classified material was probably legal, but ethically questionable and almost certainly unwise.

Why does Russia keep popping up in the Trump Administration? Because Donald Trump encouraged the Russian interference in the campaign and – knowingly or unknowingly – hired a plethora of pro-Putin advisors. The president’s clumsy attempts to deflect the investigation into the campaign’s Russia ties and ensure that the subject won’t go away anytime soon.

Originally published on The Resurgent