Thursday, July 27, 2017

Poll: The GOP Is Now the Party of Trump

President Trump is drawing criticism from all sides these days. His erratic behavior, frequent tweeting and personal attacks against Attorney General Jeff Sessions have drawn criticism from even staunch Trump supporters. A new poll shows that one group is still standing by the president: Republican voters.
The new poll by Rasmussen found that Republicans support Trump over Republican members of Congress by a margin of almost three to one. When asked whether their views more closely relate to the president or congressional Republicans, 33 percent aligned with President Trump compared to 12 percent who support the congressional Republican caucus.
The finding comes amid polling that shows that most Americans disapprove of President Trump by double-digit margins. An analysis of past presidential polling by FiveThirtyEight found that Trump is more unpopular than almost any president since the dawn of modern polling in 1945. The sole competitor is Gerald Ford, whose popularity plummeted after he pardoned Richard Nixon, who resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
Overall, likely voters remain sharply divided. The poll found that a total of 45 percent of respondents identified with Republicans, either in Congress or the White House, while 44 percent identified with Democrats. This is well within the three percent margin of error for the poll. Twelve percent were undecided on which party they favored.
The findings support past polls that indicated that, in spite of his missteps and lack of accomplishment, President Trump’s base is holding firm. Even though he is hemorrhaging support among moderates and independents, he remains popular among members of the Republican Party, more popular, in fact, than longtime members of the GOP.
The polling presents the disturbing picture of a party divided against itself. The evenly divided electorate means that Republicans must unite to fend off Democrat challenges in 2018, but as the president becomes even more polarizing, party unity is likely to become even more elusive. Rumors that Trump may back primary challenges to Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) may further deepen the schism.
It remains to be seen whether Trump’s behavior can go far enough to alienate the Republican base. For now at least, the Grand Old Party is effectively the Party of Trump.
Originally published on The Resurgent

'Pissed' Sessions Refuses to Resign

Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to have lost favor with President Trump, but even embattled by friendly fire, Sessions seems to have no intention of going anywhere. Although he has faced withering attacks by the president, Sessions has the support of many conservatives and cabinet members.

The Washington Post reports that Jody Hunt, Sessions’ chief of staff, recently told Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, that Sessions had no intention of stepping down. Hunt reportedly said that Sessions “plans to move forward with his agenda in the department and he has no plans for resigning.”

With Sessions firmly in place, the question becomes whether President Trump is angry enough to fire Sessions himself. When reporters asked this question of Trump, he answered, “We’ll see what happens,” the same phrase he used prior to firing FBI Director James Comey.

Trump’s problems with Sessions stem from the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from matters dealing with Russia’s meddling in the US presidential elections. Sessions made the decision to recuse himself in March after it was revealed that he did not disclose two meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“I’m disappointed in the attorney general,” Trump said. “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office and I would have picked somebody else. It’s a bad thing not just for the president, but also for the presidency. I think it’s unfair to the presidency.”

Trump also criticized other areas of Sessions’ performance in a series of tweets. The president accused Ukrainians of working to help Hillary’s campaign and asked why Sessions was not investigating the Ukrainian meddling. He also accused Sessions of being weak on Hillary’s crimes and leakers.

It is unprecedented for a sitting president to attack a sitting cabinet member so harshly.

The Post reports that senior aides are encouraging the president to sit down with Sessions so that the two can work out their differences. So far, these efforts have been fruitless.

As the attacks go on, it will become harder to repair the damage between the president and the nation’s top lawyer. Even though Sessions is digging in his heels, his allies say that he is angry with how the president is treating him.

“Sessions is totally pissed off about it,” said a Sessions ally in the Daily Beast. “It’s beyond insane. It’s cruel and it’s insane and it’s stupid.”

Originally published by The Resurgent

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

FBI Seizes Democrat Computer Equipment – But Not The Ones You Are Thinking Of

The FBI has seized hard drives in connection with an investigation into the former information technology administrator of former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D-Fl.). The hard drives in question are not the ones that you are thinking of. The hardware in question is apparently unconnected to the Russian hack of the DNC.

The Daily Caller reports that hard drives belonging to Imran Awan, a Pakistani IT worker for Wasserman Schulz since 2005, were found by the new tenants of a rental home formerly occupied by Awan. The new tenants, a Marine veteran married to a Navy officer, thought the equipment looked suspicious and called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. According to the renter, the trove contained “wireless routers, hard drives that look like they tried to destroy, laptops, [and] a lot of brand new expensive toner.”

“It was in the garage. They recycled cabinets and lined them along the walls. They left in a huge hurry,” the Marine said. “It looks like government-issued equipment. We turned that stuff over.”

The FBI an Capitol Police arrived later to confiscate the equipment and interview the couple.

Imram Awan, together with two brothers, their wives and two other friends also worked for several House Democrats. The Daily Caller reports that the group was paid more than $4 million by Democrats since 2009. The Awans and their colleagues were fired by House Democrats last March amid an investigation into theft of computer equipment and committing illegal violations of the House IT network.

Whatever is on the computer equipment, Awan is apparently desperate to get them back. The Marine renter reported that Awan, who is his landlord, threatened to sue the couple to get the items back. He says that Awan also refused to have mail forwarded to his new address.

The investigation of the Awans is still unfolding, but it may cause problems some congressional Democrats as well. In May, Wasserman Schulz demanded the return of a laptop believed to belong to Awan. The Daily Caller reported at the time that Wasserman Schulz claimed that the laptop belonged to her and asserted congressional privilege. Police have not examined the laptop, citing the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause, but they also did not return it. Wasserman Schulz is currently in negotiations to provide police with access to the data on the computer.

An FBI spokesman said, “FBI does not have anything to provide on this and I will still have to refer you to [Capitol Police] for any public comment.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Impending Train Wreck Between Trump and Mueller

There is the sense of an impending train wreck between President Trump and independent counsel Robert Mueller. You know it’s coming, you know it’s going to be ugly, but you just can’t look away.

After rumors swirled a few weeks ago that President Trump was considering firing Mueller, things quieted down. Over the last week, the tension once again seems to be mounting with Trump’s criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and the news that Mueller’s investigation is expanding to examine Trump’s business dealings with Russians going back as far as 2008.

In response, the Trump Administration seems to be once again considering the possibility of firing the special counsel, a move that many Republicans argue would be destructive to the already-embattled Trump Administration.

“Congress must make it very clear: Bye-bye Mueller, bye-bye Trump. Otherwise bye-bye Congress 2018. Americans are fed up!” tweeted Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) agreed. “It would be a mistake to fire Bob Mueller,” Rubio said in The Hill.

The New York Times reported that Team Trump is investigating the investigators with an eye toward building a case for firing Mueller or simply discrediting his probe. President Trump told the Times that he was aware that some of Mueller’s investigators had conflicts of interest and that he would make this information available “at some point.” Members of Mueller’s team have come under criticism already for their contributions to Democrats.

There are also reports that the Trump Administration is exploring the use of pardons to stymie the Mueller investigation. The Washington Post reported that the president had asked legal advisors about his presidential power to pardon aides and family members who might be snared by Mueller’s net. The president even asked whether he could pardon himself.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’” said one unnamed advisor, who said that the president’s questions were merely expressing curiosity about the extent of his constitutional powers.

President Trump has been fiercely protective of his privacy as it relates to his business dealings and personal finances. During the campaign, after initially promising to release his tax returns, he became the first president in decades to keep his tax records private.

The Trump Administration has resisted the Russia investigation every step of the way, with Trump denying for months that Russia had even attempted to affect the election. The stonewalling has contributed to continual drip of revelations about contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians. Although it isn’t clear if any laws were broken, the cover-up and lack of cooperation and openness from the Trump Administration makes it seem as if the president has something to hide.

The Administration’s efforts to keep its connections with Russia concealed and Mueller’s directive to bring them into the open set the stage for a confrontation between the two. If Trump is set on preserving his privacy and protecting members of his staff from possible prosecution, then sooner or later he will have to take action against Mueller. The resulting kerfuffle is likely to make the firing of James Comey seem tame by comparison.

Read the full story on The Resurgent

Man Arrested For Threatening To Kill Ted Cruz

It may be something that happens frequently to many celebrities and political figures, but it is still illegal. Death threats are treated very seriously by law enforcement, especially when directed at a sitting US Senator. A San Antonio man is learning this hard truth after threatening to kill Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

James Amos Headley allegedly told Cruz in a voicemail on July 11, “Pretty soon you’re gonna be runnin for your life, just hope your family is not with ya because I’m not gonna insult them, I’m gonna kill them, right after I shoot you right in front of them.” The San Antonio News-Express reports that Headley also allegedly sent threatening emails to Cruz.

Federal agents traced the messages to Headley, a Marine veteran who neighbors say who was friendly, but generally kept to himself. “He’s close to being an invalid,” said neighbor Mike Hall of Headley, who is recovering from a stroke.

What was the motive for Headley’s threats? What could make him angry enough to threaten to kill not only a sitting US Senator, but his entire family as well?

Headley admitted that, after mowing the lawn, he came inside and became upset as he watched the news. The criminal complaint affidavit, which identifies Cruz only by his initials, says, “Defendant told agents he was upset with T.C.’s position on different policies and decided to call and leave a message demonstrating an intent to impede and intimidate a U.S. official.”

Was the issue “fake news” reporting that demonized President Trump and Republicans? Is Headley a rare Texas liberal, upset with Senator Cruz’s conservative policy stances? Actually no. The Express-News says that it has confirmed through multiple sources that Headley is a supporter of President Donald Trump and was upset with Cruz’s resistance to the president’s policies.

Headley acknowledged to police that he kept a Beretta pistol in his house, but neighbor Mike Hall says he never saw him with the gun. There is no indication that Headley was plotting to carry out his threats.

Headley’s case is a reminder that words have meaning. Threatening words spoken in anger, even over the internet, can have lifechanging consequences. In Headley’s case, the consequences may be as long as 10 years in prison.

Read the full story on The Resurgent

Monday, July 17, 2017

Secret Service Did Not Vet Russians at Trump Jr. Meeting

The Secret Service is denying a claim by Jay Sekulow, a prominent member of the Trump legal team, that nothing “nefarious” could have happened at the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya, described to Trump as a Russian government lawyer with information damaging to Hillary Clinton. Sekulow claimed that the Secret Service would have prevented misbehavior and would have even prevented the Trumps from meeting with unsavory characters.

Reuters reports that Sekulow, who is also Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said on “This Week” on ABC News, “Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in. The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.”

In an emailed response to Sekulow’s query, also quoted by Reuters, Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman said, “Donald Trump, Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June, 2016. Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time.”

Additionally, the Secret Service does not screen meeting participants for honesty or “nefarious” purposes. The role of the Secret Service is limited to providing physical protection for their protectees.

It is not the job of the Secret Service to prevent protectees from making bad decisions. This concept is illustrated by reports that Malia Obama smoked marijuana while under Secret Service protection. The Bush twins also reportedly got into trouble while under Secret Service protection. A 2009 book detailed the girls’ wild side that included buying alcohol with a fake ID and a bar fight that eventually required the Secret Service to intervene.  

Questions have been raised about the role of participants at the meeting, as well as the purpose of the meeting itself. Donald Trump, Jr. initially claimed the meeting was about child adoption policy, but then released the email chain showing that the topic was to be Hillary Clinton and assistance that the Russian government could provide to the Trump campaign.

The principal in the meeting was Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer described as representing the Russian government of Vladimir Putin. Veselnitskaya denies working for the Kremlin and seems to have been a lobbyist who met with both Democrats and Republicans.

Last week, NBC News reported that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist who served as a counterintelligence officer in the Russian military, was also present at the meeting. Akhmetsin, who holds dual US-Russian citizenship, denies having current ties to Russian intelligence.

In musing about the responsibility of the Secret Service to protect adult children of the president from unsavory characters, Sekulow broke a cardinal rule of the trial lawyer profession: Never ask a question unless you know the answer. Sekulow is a respected conservative attorney who really should have known better.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monkey Business in Federal Court

Naruto (Currently Public Domain)
Federal courtrooms are commonly accused of monkey business, particularly where the Ninth Circuit is concerned. That was certainly the case this week when a three-judge panel heard the case of an Indonesian macaque named Naruto.

The simian, aided by human attorneys from PETA, was attempting to sue photographer David Slater for copyright infringement. It seems that the humanoid fur-baby allegedly grabbed Slater’s camera on a trip to Indonesia in 2011 and took a hundreds of pictures including several striking selfies.

Without bothering to ask Naruto’s permission, Slater published the picture in a book after retrieving his camera. The monkey poo hit the fan when the pictures were posted to Wikimedia in a move that Slater said violates the copyright on his work and is costing him a fortune in royalties.

Slater says that he did most of the work, setting up the camera equipment and framing the shots. “You could look at it like this: The monkey was my assistant,” Slater told the BBC. “And therefore I was the artist behind the image and I had my assistant press the button. This needs to be tested in a court of law.”

The US Copyright Office saw things differently. In 2014, the agency clarified its guidelines on the issue, saying that works created by nonhumans are not subject to copyright. “Photograph taken by a monkey” is specifically listed as an example. Nevertheless, Slater continues to claim the copyright and has considered suing Wikimedia.

David Schwarz, a PETA lawyer, argued that Slater’s actions constituted copyright infringement and filed suit on behalf of Naruto in 2015 per the LA Times.  Exhibiting an obvious case of human privilege, judges seemed skeptical of the PETA argument that Naruto had suffered an injury due to Slater’s shameless appropriation of the monkey’s artistic efforts. At one point, Judge Carlos Bea suggested that the case should be dismissed and, in a throwback to the Scopes Trial, asked Schwarz to cite any Supreme Court precedent that held that “man and monkey are the same.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to uphold the earlier decision in favor of Slater and against PETA. “It is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement,” said Angela Dunning, Slater’s attorney. “Naruto can’t benefit financially from his work. He is a monkey.” PETA is “not even sure they have the right monkey,” she added.

A British newspaper argued, “Hey, hey, it’s the monkey’s,” but Slater may have the last laugh. Another of his attorneys, Andrew Dhuey, said that PETA should be forced to pay legal fees for the nearly broke photographer.

“Monkey see, monkey sue will not do in federal court,” Dhuey argued.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cruz-Lee Provision Is Reportedly In New Health Bill Draft

As Republicans scramble to find enough Senate votes to keep their health care reform effort alive, there are reports that the most current draft of the bill will contain a provision written by Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that is popular with conservatives. Axios cites three sources familiar with the bill who say that the proposal of the two conservatives to allow a liberalization of health policy requirements is part of the bill at least for the time being.

Under the Consumer Freedom Protection option, health insurance companies that sell policies that are compliant with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act will be allowed to sell noncompliant policies as well. The ability to buy noncompliant policies should help consumers find lower cost health insurance.

The ACA mandates “essential health benefits” that must be included in health insurance policies. These requirements often include coverages that consumers may not want, need or can afford. The requirement to provide these coverages in all plans drives up costs and puts insurance out of reach for many consumers.

Critics of the provision say that healthy consumers will choose the lower cost noncompliant plans while those who are sick will likely buy the more expensive compliant plans. They argue that this will contribute to the death cycle of Obamacare and raise the cost of insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. These costs would be passed along to the federal government through insurance subsidies.

Over the past few months, the GOP reform effort has been losing support from both the center and the right. Republican moderates oppose the bill because of its phase out of the Medicaid expansion while conservatives argue that the bill does not go far enough in repealing and replacing Obamacare. Inclusion of the Cruz-Lee provision may have the effect of winning back the votes of some members of the conservative wing of the party.

The Axios report also gives several other details about the current version of the bill. The new version increases the amount of money for states to stabilize their health markets and cover pre-existing condition to more than $170 billion. It also keeps two of the Obamacare tax increases on wealthy families. Other new provisions allow consumers to pay insurance premiums with money from health savings accounts that receives favorable tax treatment and allow people receiving ACA insurance subsidies to buy lower cost insurance policies that provide only catastrophic coverage.

The laws of supply and demand dictate that as prices fall, demand will increase as more people can afford the product. As the price of health insurance decreases, more people will decide that insurance protection is worth the cost.

Republicans had planned to vote on the bill before the Independence Day recess, but delayed the vote due to opposition from Republican senators. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he hopes to bring the bill to a vote next week

Read the full story on The Resurgent

Amelia Earhart Photo Debunked, But History Channel May Have Debunked Global Warming Concern

The History Channel special on Amelia Earhart this week fell flat with respect to finding the fate of the famed aviatrix, but, in addition to discrediting The History Channel, the special may have also helped debunk a major concern of climate change alarmists. The evidence for the survival of Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan was largely based on photograph. Ironically, it is a History Channel photograph that, if accurate, causes problems for the climate change crowd.

The “lost evidence” for Earhart’s survival consisted of a photograph that showed people who resembled Earhart and Noonan on a dock on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The History Channel’s assumption, based on the resemblance of the people in the photo to Noonan and Earhart, was that the pair had survived their last flight and were taken prisoner by the Japanese and later executed.

In a post on July 9, Japanese military history blogger Kota Yamano challenged the History Channel claim. Yamano said that an internet search for the picture revealed that it was taken too early to be Earhart and Noonan. The picture was originally published in a travelogue, “The Ocean's ‘Lifeline’: The Condition of Our South Seas,” in 1935, two years before the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan.

“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” Yamano said in an interview with The Guardian. “I was really happy when I saw it. I find it strange that the documentary makers didn’t confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That’s the first thing they should have done.”

There were other problems with The History Channel theory as well. The Daily Beast points out that when Charles Lindbergh made an emergency landing in Japan in 1931, he was given a hero’s welcome. The Daily Beast also cites a Japanese book from 1982 that detailed the story of a crewman on the Japanese navy ship in the picture. According to the testimony of Japanese veterans, the Japanese navy was instructed to join the search and rescue effort for Earhart. The ship’s log contains no mention of Earhart or Noonan.

Earhart and Noonan disappeared on July 2, 1937. At that time, relations between the US and Japan were still good. The attack on Pearl Harbor was four years away. Even though fighting in the Pacific predated America’s entry into World War II, the region was still largely peaceful at the time. Japan’s war with China began five days after Earhart’s disappearance with a battle between Japanese and Chinese forces at Marco Polo bridge in Beijing. At the time, Earhart disappeared, the Japanese had not motive to keep her rescue a secret.

The theory that Earhart went off course on her way to Howland Island and wound up crash landing in the Marshall Islands also strained credulity. The Marshall Islands are 1,000 miles away from Earhart’s intended target. To end up there, Earhart and Noonan would have had to fly to the vicinity of Howland Island, realize that they were lost, and then, low on fuel and disoriented in bad weather, fly past numerous other islands for another thousand miles.

On the other hand, Steve Milloy of Junk Science claims that a graphic used in The History Channel’s documentary undermines the argument for rising sea levels due to climate change. The graphic shows Mili Atoll, an island in the Marshall Islands, with markings that say “area between blue lines was shore in 1937.” The blue lines on the photo show a forested area in 2017. If the History Channel photo is accurate, Mili Atoll has grown since 1937 instead of getting smaller due to rising seas.

The History Channel documentary does point out that coral islands can change shape over time. A 2015 report by New Scientist found that, even if sea levels rise, many islands are rising faster.

If the History Channel expose’ was truly a bust on the scale of Gerado’s unveiling of Al Capone’s vault, what really happened to Earhart and Noonan? Sometimes the simplest and most obvious explanation is also the correct one. The pair were using primitive navigation methods to Howland Island, a small, isolated speck of land. The Pacific is a very big ocean and Earhart and Noonan are most likely at the bottom of it.

Read the full article on The Resurgent

Comparing Timeline to Emails Creates a Big Problem for Trump

The text of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails detailing the meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya is troubling enough, but the way the emails fit into the overall timeline of the presidential campaign and the unfolding Russia scandal are even more problematic for the Trump Administration. The emails, released by Donald Trump, Jr., provide confirmation that members of the Trump campaign were open to accepting “Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump” and actions taken by the Trump campaign may indicate that Donald Trump himself was aware of the offer and intended to use the Russian government’s intelligence information.

The email chain began on June 3, 2016, about a week after Donald Trump had officially secured a majority of Republican delegates to become the presumptive nominee. At this point, the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the theft of the emails was not public knowledge.

On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Donald Trump announced, “I am going to give a major speech on… probably Monday of next week [June13] and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons and I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”

The next day, June 8, the @DCLeaks_ Twitter account posted the first links to stolen emails on the DC Leaks website. The DC Leaks website and Facebook accounts apparently debuted the same day.

On Thursday, June 9, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, “The [sic] Russian government attorney” referred to in the emails, in New York’s Trump Tower.

On Sunday, June 12, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on British television that more leaked emails relating to the Clinton campaign would be coming out soon.

Donald Trump did not make his promised “very interesting” speech on June 13, but on June 14, the Washington Post broke the news that hackers had penetrated the DNC network and “gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.” The report, which identified the culprits as “Russian government hackers” even at that early date, also said that “the intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic.” The Post also reported the hackers had targeted Republicans as well. Trump’s speeches from that week did not contain any new and notable information about Hillary.  

The next day, June 15, a hacker calling himself “Guccifer 2.0” contacted The Smoking Gun to claim credit for the hack of the Democratic National Committee. Guccifer 2.0  claimed to be a Romanian, but is widely suspected to be a creation of Russian intelligence.

On June 18, the Washington Post reported that the Trump campaign had removed a pledge to provide weapons to the Ukrainian forces fighting the Putin-backed invasion of their country. The report says that the changes were made “last week,” which would mean the platform changes immediately followed the meeting of Trump’s campaign advisors with Veselnitskaya.

On June 27, the first stolen DNC emails were published on the DC Leaks website.

A month later, on July 22, WikiLeaks released a second batch of DNC emails. The FBI announced that it was opening an investigation into the hack shortly after.

It was at this point that Donald Trump publicly asked Russia for help in finding the emails that were deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server. “I will tell you this,” Trump said on July 27 at a press conference, “Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

A few months later, just before the final release of stolen emails by WikiLeaks, Roger Stone, a Trump advisor, seemed to hint that something big was coming. “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel,” Stone tweeted on August 21. In the week before the final email dump on Oct. 7, Stone posted three tweets hinting that something was coming according to Business Insider, including one on Oct. 3 that read “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon.”

While Donald Trump, Jr. claims that nothing of substance emerged from the meeting with the Russian lawyer, his response to the emails and the subsequent actions of the Trump campaign clearly show an intent to use information obtained from a foreign government to discredit a political rival. Such coordination is possibly illegal and certainly unethical.

While there is currently no paper trail that leads directly to Donald Trump, Sr., Trump’s speech on June 7 suggests that he was aware that something was in the wind. Additionally, his July 27 appeal to Russia looks starkly different in view of the revelation that the Russian government had offered its assistance to his campaign a month before.  

In addition to the fact that none of the Trump advisors disclosed the meeting and that Donald Trump, Jr. initially lied about what was discussed, the emails create another problem for the Trump Administration.  The timing of the meeting and the platform change raise the possibility of a quid pro quo with the Russians. The fact that the Trump campaign changed the Republican Party platform in a way that benefitted the Russian government immediately after the Russians offered dirt on Hillary is something that will be difficult to explain away. It is also a decision that can likely be traced to Donald Trump himself.

Although the Donald Trump, Jr. emails are not a smoking gun to prove that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, but they are close to it. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Republican Senators Say Health Bill is Dead

John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other Republican senators are saying what everybody seems to already know about the Republican repeal/reform-and-replace effort. After eight years of campaigning to repeal Obamacare, it increasingly seems that the Republican effort is about to die within sight of its goal.

“I think my view is it's probably going to be dead,” McCain said on “Face The Nation,” adding, “but I am- I've been wrong.”

McCain said that if the current bill fails, Republicans should try again with a bill that aims to win some Democrat votes. “Introduce a bill,” McCain said. “Say to the Democrats, ‘Here's a bill.’ It doesn't mean they control it. It means they can have amendments considered. And even when they lose, then they're part of the process. That's what democracy is supposed to be all about.”

The close margins in the Senate, 52 Republicans to 48 Democrats, mean that, unless some Democrats cross the aisle to vote for the Republican bill, the GOP can only lose two votes and still be able to pass the bill. The GOP health plan has come under fire from moderates like Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) as well as from conservatives like Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) agreed with McCain’s assessment on “Fox News Sunday.” “Clearly, the draft plan is dead,” Cassidy said, “but we don't know what's in the serious rewrite” of the bill.

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) admitted the bleak future of the bill. McConnell said that, while he isn’t giving up on repeal, Republicans may need to work with Democrats on a short-term fix for Obamacare.

President Trump and other Republicans from Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) to Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have called upon congressional Republicans to simply repeal Obamacare if they cannot agree on a replacement. A repeal bill would face the additional hurdle of a cloture vote that would require 60 votes for passage.

Sasse suggests a new version of the 2015 Obamacare reconciliation bill. Unless Collins, Murkowski and other GOP holdouts on the Medicaid expansion reverse themselves, this bill would also fall short of even a simple majority.

Without a change of heart from either the Republican moderate or conservative wing, the effort to repeal or reform Obamacare seems to be reaching a dead end. While the future of health insurance in America is uncertain, it is certain that the Republican base would view a failure to repeal Obamacare as the betrayal of a core promise.

The failure to reform Obamacare while they have the opportunity, the single most visible goal of the Republican Party for most of the past decade, could rip the party apart. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Trump Presses Reset Button on Russia

A notable moment for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was her presentation of a “reset” button to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in 2009. In February 2017, President Trump rightly criticized Clinton for the reset, which came the year after Vladimir Putin had invaded the country of Georgia and seized two of the nation’s provinces, although his criticism seemed to concentrate more on style than substance.

“Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember, with the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks?” Trump said in the Washington Examiner. “[Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] looked at her like, ‘what the hell is she doing with that cheap plastic button?’”

Now, eight years later, President Trump is attempting his own reset with Russia. Less than a year after Putin’s hackers attempted to influence the American presidential election and succeeded in penetrating voter databases in at least 39 states, Donald Trump appears to be ready to forgive and forget.

After a rousingly strong speech in Poland in  which he criticized the Russian president for “destabilizing” Europe and the Middle East, two days later Trump seemed to make a 180 degree turn after a private meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany.

The two men seemed to hit it off in Hamburg. An hour into the 30-minute meeting, First Lady Melania Trump was sent in to get the two billionaire world leaders to break it up. Despite the First Lady’s efforts, the men talked for another hour and 15 minutes before moving along to the next items on their respective schedules.

When President Trump emerged from his conversation with Putin, he was far less critical of Russia than he had been a few days earlier. Immediately after the meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a press conference that, with respect to Syria, “by and large, our objectives are exactly the same” as Russia, despite the fact that Trump has just called Russia’s influence “destabilizing.” Russia intervened to support the Assad regime while the US position is still that “there will be a transition away from the Assad family.”

With respect to Russian interference in the American presidential election, Tillerson said, “The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past.”

“The two leaders agreed, though, that this is a substantial hindrance in the ability of us to move the Russian-U.S. relationship forward,” Tillerson continued, “and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of non-interference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries. So, more work to be done on that regard.”

The work must have been quick and productive because today President Trump said, “It is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia.” Shockingly, the president even said that he and Putin “discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit,” a move that Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said was “akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit.’”

Trump’s statements translate to an “aw, shucks, I just can’t stay mad at you” moment in which he proposes to put the proverbial fox on guard duty at the henhouse. In addition to meddling with the 2016 elections, Russia is the state actor that is widely suspected of cyberattacks on US energy companies that were apparently occurring even as the men talked in Hamburg.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are not the only US officials that have fallen prey to the Putin’s apparently considerable charm and personal magnetism. In 2001, George W. Bush famously described the man he nicknamed “Pootie-Poot” as “very straightforward and trustworthy.”

Barack Obama seemed to be more honest with Putin than with his own constituents. In March 2012, President Obama told then-Russian President and Putin lackey Dmitri Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” after the US election that year. A few months later, Obama pooh-poohed Mitt Romney’s statement that Russia was a “geopolitical foe.” In a presidential debate, Obama poked fun at Romney saying, “The 1980’s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”

Putin played them all for fools.

George W. Bush closed out his presidency with the Russian invasion of Georgia, a US ally. Five years after Hillary Clinton’s reset and two years after Obama claimed the Cold War was over, Russia annexed Crimea, a territory of the Ukraine, and then launched into a shooting war with Ukraine itself. Obama’s administration ended with Russia meddling in the core institution of American democracy, the presidential election.

The previous resets with Putin’s Russia have been disappointments. Vladimir Putin will undoubtedly take advantage of President Trump’s naiveté as well. The Russian president has shown himself to be a man who sees an outstretched hand as a sign of weakness and who responds only to strength.

“A productive conversation would be one where President Trump clearly communicates to Putin that the US won’t be quick to offer concessions, but to the contrary, that Trump is going to be a tough negotiator, one who Putin feels is committed to protecting American interests and values, and someone who he will back his talk with action, not just as a one-off, but on a consistent basis,” Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, advised in Business Insider before the meeting.

Unfortunately, the conciliatory Trump, not the tough negotiator, is the man who met with Putin. Trump didn’t bring a cheap, plastic reset button, but he may as well have.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, July 7, 2017

Pediatrician: Transgender Treatments Are 'Child Abuse'

The movement to normalize transgender medical treatments for children has seemingly come out of nowhere. In the course of a few short years, cases of gender-confused children, some in kindergarten, seeking medical treatment to alter their sexual characteristics have become commonplace. Today, at least one pediatrician is speaking out to call the practice “child abuse.”

In an op-ed for the Daily Signal, Dr. Michelle Cretella writes that the treatments advocated by many in the “transgender affirming movement” can cause severe damage to children and “constitute nothing less than institutionalized child abuse.”

“Today’s institutions that promote transition affirmation,” Cretella says, “are pushing children to impersonate the opposite sex, sending many of them down the path of puberty blockers, sterilization, the removal of healthy body parts, and untold psychological damage.”

Michelle Cretella is no stranger to controversy and criticism from the left. A graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in 1994, she practiced pediatric medicine for 15 years before becoming president of the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) in 2015, a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center labels “an anti-LGBT hate group.”

Cretella attacks the sacred cows of the gay rights movement with science and logic. She points out that scientific studies of identical twins prove that gay and transgender identities are not a product of genetics since in 72 percent of cases of a transgender twin, the other twin’s sexual orientation is different. If sexual orientation were purely genetic, correlation would be 100 percent in identical twins.

She also points out that gender identity is very malleable in young children. Cretella cites the American Psychological Association’s Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology which acknowledges that 75 to 95 percent of children eventually come to accept their biological gender. In most cases, puberty is the cure for a confused gender identity.

Unfortunately, a new trend is preventing many sufferers of gender dysphoria, the new medical term for the problem, from going through puberty. A treatment that is becoming more common is the prescription of puberty blockers. Cretella writes that there have been no studies that prove these drugs are safe for the treatment of gender dysphoria. She writes that a new study of the treatments shows “evidence for decreased bone mineralization, meaning an increased risk of bone fractures as young adults, potential increased risk of obesity and testicular cancer in boys, and an unknown impact upon psychological and cognitive development.”

Perhaps even more disturbing, Cretella points out that there is not a single case in the scientific literature of transgender children choosing to discontinue the puberty blockers. “The only study to date to have followed pre-pubertal children who were socially affirmed and placed on blockers at a young age found that 100 percent of them claimed a transgender identity and chose cross-sex hormones,” says Cretella. Cross-sex hormones are associated with health risks including cardiac disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes, diabetes, and cancers.

“There is an obvious self-fulfilling effect in helping children impersonate the opposite sex both biologically and socially,” writes Cretella. “This is far from benign, since taking puberty blockers at age 12 or younger, followed by cross-sex hormones, sterilizes a child.”

Cretella also debunks the liberal claims that therapies affirming gender identities will result in fewer suicides of transgender children. “Adults who undergo sex reassignment—even in Sweden, which is among the most LGBT-affirming countries—have a suicide rate nearly 20 times greater than that of the general population,” Cretella says.

The fundamental problem is that the transgender politics have outstripped medical studies and laws. The controversy over bathroom policies shows how difficult it can be to enact laws that restrict perceived transgender rights. Restrictions on the ability to administer puberty-blocking drugs to children or even commit children to gender-reassignment surgery would be no different. In the end, it will be the children who suffer.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Austin Petersen Will Run As Republican Against Claire McCaskill

(Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia)
Libertarians have better luck running for office under the banner of the Republican Party than the Libertarian Party. Since the founding of the Libertarian Party in 1972, no Libertarian candidate has ever won a major election. Some Libertarians, such as Ron Paul, have achieved greater success by becoming Republicans to take advantage of the GOP’s larger base and organization. This probably explains Austin Petersen’s announcement that he intends to run for the US Senate in Missouri as a Republican.
Republican congresswoman Ann Wagner had been expected to run against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in 2018. Wager announced over the weekend that she planned to focus on her family and home district.
Petersen announced his run in an op-ed for the Kansas City Star on Independence Day. He is a native of Peculiar, Missouri who was runner up to Gary Johnson for the 2016 Libertarian nomination for president.
As a libertarian Republican, Petersen would be a thorn in the side of party leaders if he wins. His announcement criticizes the new Republican establishment as well as liberals like McCaskill. “Since President Donald Trump’s unexpected victory last November and Republicans’ triumphant return to congressional majority, Washington has returned to business as usual,” Petersen said. “After running on repeated promises of minimizing government and ending federal micromanagement of American lives, Republicans have shown themselves unable to pass any substantive reforms.”
At this point, Petersen is the only declared candidate for the Republican nomination.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

God Save America

Independence Day is a time of celebration. As most Americans know, the day marks the nation’s birthday. July 4, 1776 was the date of the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States. As such, July 4 marks the anniversary of a momentous day in world history and is definitely a day worth celebrating.

It is also appropriate for the Fourth of July to be a day of introspection. Are we upholding the trust of the Founding Fathers? Are we really on the road to making America great again?

In his inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington wrote, “The propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.” Can we honestly say our nation is not disregarding these “eternal rules of order and right?”

Today both sides of the political spectrum seem to prize disorder and crass behavior. In contrast to George Washington, who, according to legend, uttered the famous phrase, “I cannot tell a lie,” political leaders of both parties now seem incapable of telling the truth. Over the past few decades, our politics has become a satire of itself in which outlandish behavior and immature antics rule the day.

Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote, “The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.” But 200 years later, only about half of Americans attend church. Even in red, Bible Belt states with churches located on every corner, most people are not in the pews on Sunday morning.

While most Americans still believe in God, many mistrust organized religion and are ignorant of religious doctrines. As a result, Bible verses are easily taken of context to justify anything and everything. Spirituality has become “cafeteria-style” for many Americans: a little of this and a little of that, regardless of historical evidence, context and doctrine.

The lack of religious understanding has led to many problems in American society. These range from high crime rates to a breakdown in the work ethic to a sharp increase in out-of-wedlock births. These factors and more contribute to out-of-control entitlement spending and a skyrocketing national debt. A vicious cycle of entitlements and broken families is breaking federal and state treasuries.

To an extent that seems greater than almost any point in our history, with the exception of the War Between the States, Americans are so at odd with each other that partisans of each side can scarcely speak to each other. In many cases, it seems that right and left barely speak the same language.

“Compromise” has become a dirty word as both the right and left insist “My way or the highway.” Elements of both the right and left, from California to Texas, are ready to call the Union quits and go their separate ways.

America is in trouble. And our decline is beyond our capacity as mere mortals to reverse. Political leaders can’t make America great again. Neither are top-down economic policies the solution for a cultural decay that began with a national rejection of the God who made us great to begin with. We need to realize the spiritual dimension of America’s problems and recognize that spiritual problems cannot be solved by political policies.

Like the ancient state of Israel, America was created to fill a role in the world. With God’s blessings came prosperity and power. It became easy to assume, however, that America’s greatness was due to America itself. Success caused many in Israel and America to turn away from the true source of their greatness. The result is that greatness is being lost.

Tocqueville also wrote, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” Freedom requires that people be responsible for themselves and that they have the morals to maintain peace and justice without the presence of a police state. It is difficult to establish an objective morality without an objective God.

If we truly want to make America great again, look away from Washington and the White House. Don’t focus on the political parties and their platforms. Don’t expect salvation from political leaders.

America’s salvation can only come from the Divine Providence that made her great in the first place. Focus on God, spreading the Gospel and doing God’s will in your community. Pray for national revival and America can be made great again from ground up.

As we sing “God bless America” this Independence Day, we should also acknowledge our individual and national sins and implore from our knees, “God save America.” Only he can.

Originally published on The Resurgent

America's Patriotic Songs Praise God

The past few decades have seen a great debate about the separation of church and state. Christian symbols and references to God are often purged from history books and the public landscape on the grounds that the First Amendment prohibition on a state religion mandated a secular nation.  The claim that America was established apart from God and religion is easily debunked when we read the words of Founders, but all we have to do is sing patriotic songs to see how inextricably the idea of divine providence is to American freedom.

The two most obvious songs that link God and country are Irving Berlin’s “God bless America” and Lee Greenwood’s “God bless the USA.” Both songs are recent additions to the American patriotic anthology. Berlin wrote “God bless America” in 1938 and originally included an introduction that foreshadowed the looming world war. “God bless the USA” was released in 1984, but achieved classic status in 1991 with America’s victory in the Persian Gulf War. These two recent songs are far from the only songs that link America to divine providence, however.

Although “Yankee Doodle” is remembered today as the anthem of the Revolutionary War, “Chester” was a song that rivaled “Yankee Doodle” in popularity at the time. Originally composed as a hymn in 1770 by William Billings, an associate of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, the original lyrics were revised in 1778 and the song became a popular marching song for Continental soldiers:
Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And Slav’ry clank her galling chains;
We fear them not, we trust in God—
New England’s God forever reigns.

The song specifically credited God with leading the Continental Army to victory over the British:
When God inspired us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forced,
Their ships were shattered in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our coast.

Another early patriotic song that often served as an unofficial national anthem was “My Country Tis of Thee.” This song combines the melody of the English national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” with words written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. The fourth verse pays homage to God as the author of liberty and asks for his protection:

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” may be the most theological of the American patriotic songs. The lyrics were written in 1861 by Julia Ward Howe while the music was borrowed by “John Brown’s Body,” which in turn came from a Methodist hymn, “Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us?" by William Steffe. From the opening line of “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” every stanza carries overt references the Christian God, but the fourth verse is particularly religious:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Even the “Star Spangled Banner,” which officially became the national anthem in 1931, has religious references. The story of the “Star Spangled Banner” is well known. The lyrics were penned by Francis Scott Key as he watched the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry from the deck of a British warship in 1814. Key’s words were set to the music of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a British drinking song composed in 1775.

The fourth verse of the “Star Spangled Banner,” like several other patriotic songs, credits God with saving the United States. It also contains the origin of “In God we trust,” the official motto of the United States since 1956.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The “lost” verse of the “Star Spangled Banner” became an internet sensation in 2010 with an impromptu performance by a former Marine named Louis at a Tea Party rally in Douglasville, Ga. Louis’ rendition of the fourth verse was posted on You Tube and eventually generated more than 11 million views. (You might even catch a glimpse of the author of this article who was in attendance that day standing by the blue tent).

These patriotic songs take their cue from the father of the country himself, George Washington. In his inaugural address in 1789, Washington gave credit for American independence to God, saying, “No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States.” Washington also warned future generations, “the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”

Regardless of your views on church and state separation, when you sing patriotic songs this Independence Day you will be praising God. That follows the tradition that goes back to the earliest days of our Republic.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, July 3, 2017

Bernie Sanders Wants to Turn Medicaid into National Single-payer

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) thinks the Republican health care plan is going to fail, but he has a plan. The sometimes-Democrat from The Green Mountain State announced that after the presumed defeat of the Republican bill, he intends to introduce legislation to make “Medicare for All” the national health care system of the United States.

“We are going to introduce it literally as soon as we’re through with this debate. I don’t want to confuse the two issues,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Sanders said that the initial phase of his plan would lower Medicaid eligibility to age 55, but would ultimately expand to cover all Americans. “Longer term, we need a Medicare for all,” Sanders said.

Sanders has been talking about universal Medicaid for years. The further expansion of Medicaid was a plank of Mr. Sanders presidential platform in 2016. Details of the plan are still available on Last March, after the Republican bill failed its initial vote in the House, Sanders raised the prospect of introducing his Medicaid plan to the Republican-controlled Congress.

“President Trump, come on board. Let's work together,” Sanders said in Politico at the time. “Let's end the absurdity of Americans paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”

Sanders claims that his plan would save the typical middle class family more than $5,000 in annual health care costs. In reality, the plan would shift costs from insurance premiums to private companies to healthcare taxes paid to the government. Families would pay a 2.2 percent tax and employers would pay a 6.2 percent payroll tax for the health insurance. The increase in payroll taxes would likely translate into lower wages.

The Sanders plan contains a long list of other taxes that would be increased to pay for his healthcare plan as well. These include increases in the income tax, the dividend tax, the capital gains tax and the estate tax. He would also limit deductions for households earning more than $250,000 per year.

What would Americans get for their money? The Sanders plan does not go into detail about what the expanded Medicaid would cover or out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and coinsurance, but there are well-known problems with Medicare. The government only reimburses doctors for part of their costs in treating patients. Under the current system, states pay for Medicaid services and then the federal government reimburses the state for a percentage of its Medicaid costs. Forbes notes that Medicaid pays less than private insurers at the same time that Medicaid patients take more time than other patients. Increased paperwork and delays in payment mean that many doctors limit access for Medicaid patients or don’t see them at all. estimates that only about 70 percent of the nation’s doctors participate in Medicaid.    

Despite Sanders’ claims that expanding Medicaid would save money, the plan merely shifts the burden of paying for healthcare to the states and the federal government. Already, Medicaid is the second largest budget item for most states, only coming in behind education spending.

When states face budget crunches, a common response is to cut reimbursement rates. These cuts can cause increase in wait times for treatment, lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients or even cause some providers that rely heavily on Medicaid funds to go out of business.

With Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, the Sanders plan for national Medicaid will be dead-on-arrival when he submits the bill. However, if Republicans fail to reform the health insurance system, the threat of single-payer from leftists like Bernie Sanders will not go away.

Originally published on The Resurgent