Wednesday, October 31, 2018

McSally "Getting Ass Kicked' In Arizona

Once thought to be a favorite, Republican Martha McSally is slipping in the polls in Arizona. The conservative vying for Jeff Flake’s Senate seat blames her decline on her 2017 vote to repeal Obamacare.

In an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio show quoted by Raw Story, McSally said, “Well, Sean, I did vote to repeal and replace Obamacare on that House bill — I’m getting my ass kicked for it right now because it’s being misconstrued by the Democrats. They’re trying to, you know, invoke fear in people who have family members or loved ones with pre-existing conditions.”

McSally told the Arizona Republic that Democrats were assassinating her character because of her vote even though many people with pre-existing conditions are not covered by Obamacare plans due to their cost.

“Now what we have is people right now, under Obamacare, with pre-existing conditions who have no health insurance,” she said, adding that people didn’t want the “crappy insurance” created by the Affordable Care Act.

Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, Republicans have made repealing the health insurance law a priority. Public opinion was against the law for years but shifted when Republicans launched several abortive attempts to repeal and replace it last year. Current polling shows that Americans now approve of the law by an average of nine points. Democrat claims that Republicans would eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions was a major reason for the shift.

While polling remains close in the race, momentum seems to have moved towards Democrat Kirsten Sinema in recent weeks even though Arizona typically trends Republican. Sinema was also faced with an embarrassing video a few weeks ago in which she ridiculed Arizona voters.

The Real Clear Politics average gives Sinema a lead of less than one point, but recent polls favor the Democrat by larger margins. The last poll, released yesterday, showed Sinema with a six-point lead that is outside the margin of error. The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato still rate the race as a tossup, but FiveThirtyEight has moved the Arizona to the “lean Democrat” category, pegging McSally’s chances of winning at 38 percent.

McSally, a former Air Force fighter pilot who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt in combat in Afghanistan, has served as a Republican congressman from Arizona since 2015. She has been a strong ally of Donald Trump, voting with the president more than 97 percent of the time.

Arizona seems to be the best chance for Democrats to pick up Republican Senate seat, but, if Sinema pulls off the win, it may only be to preserve the current balance of power in the Senate. Flipping Flake’s seat would only offset the projected Republican victory over Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota. With Democrats on the defense in most other close Senate races, it seems increasingly likely that the blue wave won’t reach the Senate, even if Arizona goes blue. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Conspiracy Activists Accused Of Framing Mueller For Rape

The special counsel investigation headed by Robert Mueller referred new allegations to the FBI for investigation yesterday. These new allegations don’t involve Russian meddling in American elections, however. Instead, they relate to an attempt by conservative activists to frame Mr. Mueller for sexual assault.

The story began when the Gateway Pundit reported that “Robert Mueller was accused by a very credible witness of rape.” The story, which has since been removed, alleged that Mueller raped a woman in the St. Regis Hotel in New York in 2010.

The story quickly collapsed when two women claimed that they had been offered money in exchange for accusing Mueller of sexual misconduct. Lorraine Parsons, in an email obtained by The Atlantic, described how a man with a British accent from a company called Surefire Intelligence had contacted her because she worked as a paralegal for Mueller in 1974. Parsons said that the man told her he had been hired by “some sort of politics guy in Washington named Jack Burkman.” Burkman is a talk show host and lobbyist best known for pushing conspiracy theories about the murder of Seth Rich.

Burkman tweeted at noon on Tuesday, “On Thursday, November 1, at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn at noon, we will reveal the first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's sex assault victims. I applaud the courage and dignity and grace and strength of my client.”

Parson’s email describing the plot to defame Mueller was sent to numerous journalists. In it, she described how the man who contacted her “said (and I will never forget exactly what it was) ‘I want you to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller, and I want you to sign a sworn affidavit to that effect.’”

In exchange for her testimony, she wrote, the man “offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 if I would do” it.  She added, “He knew exactly how much credit card debt I had, right down to the dollar, which sort of freaked me out.”

The trail to Surefire Intelligence showed that the company was incorporated in Delaware only a few weeks ago per The Atlantic. The records for the company’s website domain registry led to another activist, Jacob Wohl. Wohl’s email was listed as a contact and a telephone number on the Surefire website belonged to Wohl’s mother.

Wohl is an avid Trump supporter and former hedge fund manager. He was accused of cheating clients of his fund as well as using pictures of women without permission on his website. More recently, Wohl has operated a conspiracy website, The Washington Reporter.

At midday on Oct. 30, Wohl teased the upcoming release of the Mueller story, tweeting, “Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!”

Interestingly, Jane Mayer of the New Yorker pointed out on Twitter that Wohl and Matthew Cohen, the founder of Surefire Intelligence, bear a striking resemblance to one another. In fact, the two appear to be the same person.

If that weren’t enough, a second woman has also come forward to claim that Surefire approached her about her “encounters with Robert Mueller.” Jennifer Taub, a Vermont Law School professor, says that the company offered to pay her for information about Mueller. Taub, who says that she has never met or had contact with Mueller but has acted as a legal expert about the Mueller investigation for news organizations, promptly forwarded the email from Surefire to the special counsel office. Taub discussed the solicitation in a phone call with MSNBC.

To its credit, the Gateway Pundit has removed the allegations about Mueller from its website. A message at the link where the story was posted says, “We took the documents down and we are currently investigating these accusations. There are also very serious allegations against Jacob Wohl. We are also looking into this.” The site also notes, “There is still a press conference scheduled for Thursday at noon in Washington DC.”

Both Burkman and Wohl deny the allegations against them. Burkman tweeted,“The allegations of paying a woman are false.  The left is trying to defend Mueller against sex assault allegations so they attack me in desperation.” Burkman also tweeted, “The woman to whom we allegedly offered payment--Lorraine Parsons--does not exist.”

In a series of tweets, Wohl said the media was “accusing me of offering to pay accusers with ZERO PROOF and ZERO EVIDENCE!” He also claimed that “this ‘woman’ who claims she was offered payment is actually just an invention of the MSM aimed at discrediting the actual accuser (who is VERY credible).”

Wohl and Burkman both claim that their press conference will go ahead as scheduled on Thursday. It should be interesting to see if they follow through with their plans and who, if anyone, shows up to accuse Mueller with them.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The 'Trump Bump' In Political Violence

In the wake of a string of political violence that includes attempted mail bombings and what is believed to be the worst attack on Jews in US history, many are charging that President Trump is responsible for the uptick in violence. President Trump obviously never instructed his supporters to bomb or shoot his political opponents so the question is how much responsibility the president bears for the recent violence. The answer, if we are honest with ourselves, has to be “some.”

This isn’t to say that Donald Trump is legally responsible for the actions of overzealous political supporters. There is a well-established legal test to determine whether someone has incited violence. The Brandenburg test created by the Supreme Court holds that incitement requires “producing imminent lawless action.” Even hate speech is protected by the First Amendment.

What is legal is not always responsible, ethical or smart. This is especially true when the speaker is the president of the United States and wields a “bully pulpit” that addresses millions of supporters. While the president has not called for his supporters to directly confront his critics (at least not since the campaign), he has contributed to the atmosphere of anger and distrust that permeates American politics.

Over the past few months, a pattern has begun to emerge. That pattern consists of people on the right side of the political spectrum launching attacks on people and organizations that President Trump has demonized. In Pittsburgh, the murders were not only directed at the synagogue’s worshippers because they were Jews, but also because they were thought to be pro-immigration.

The murderer wrote on Gab, a social media site frequented by the alt-right, that Jewish efforts to help refugees were “sugar-coated evil.” One of the last posts made by the shooter referenced the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS, saying, “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

Although the killer claims that he did not vote for President Trump, who he called a “globalist,” there are similarities in the anti-immigrant postings between the two men. President Trump tweeted last June, “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country.”

The Pittsburgh murderer used the same militant terminology for illegal immigrants. Six days before his killing spree he wrote, “I have noticed a change in people saying 'illegals' that now say 'invaders.' I like this.”

The shooter’s concern that “my people” would be “slaughtered” hearkens back to the President Trump’s claims that illegals are violent criminals and the Administration’s decision to emphasize murders committed by illegal immigrants. Despite these claims, there is no statistical evidence for a violent crime wave by illegal immigrants.

Similarly, President Trump’s rhetoric on the news media can be linked to attacks and threats in the real world. On numerous occasions, Trump has called the media “the enemy of the American People.” The idea that the media is an enemy has led to action by his supporters on at least two occasions.

The Florida mail bomber dubbed the “MAGA Bomber,” is now infamous for sending bombs to CNN and Democrats, who President Trump and other Republicans have likened to an “angry mob.” Less well known is the case of another Trump supporter who was arrested in August for threatening to kill employees of the Boston Globe. The man used the familiar phrase “enemy of the people” in his threats and accused the paper of “treasonous and seditious acts” after it asked papers around the country to share its op-ed criticizing Trump’s rhetorical attacks on the press.

It should be clear by now that words matter and when the president tells his supporters that the media is the enemy and that migrants are invaders, some of those supporters take him seriously. If enemies and invaders are trying to destroy America while you are trying to “Make America Great Again,” the logical next step for some listeners will be to destroy those enemies before they can destroy America.

President Trump doesn’t even seem to believe all of his own rhetoric. After pledging to “lock her up,” Trump declined to have the Justice Department investigate Hillary for a myriad of alleged crimes from murder to aiding the Russians in the election and selling out America’s uranium supply. Less than a month after the 2016 election, Trump said that she had suffered enough.

This isn’t to say that Donald Trump is the only offender. There are many on both sides of the political spectrum who make comments that are just as bad – or worse – as what President Trump says. The difference is that they are not the president, who is supposed to be the leader of all of the American people as well as the person responsible for upholding the rule of law. Additionally, few have a following as large as President Trump or one that inspires such quasi-religious devotion.

With great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has not shown himself to be capable of handling that responsibility. The failed MAGA Bomber had not yet even faded from the headlines when the president tweeted this morning that “The Fake News Media” is the “true Enemy of the People.”

The man who threatened Globe employees, the MAGA Bomber, and the synagogue mass murderer made their own individual choices to kill and threaten their fellow Americans. Donald Trump didn’t tell them to do what they did, but neither is the president entirely blameless. Trump was elected president amid a fear that Democrats and immigrants are violent criminals who are destroying the country. He has made a conscious decision to continue with the heated rhetoric in order to urge the base toward the polls in yet another most-important-election-of-our-lifetime.

There is no sign that either President Trump or the Democrats have any plans to ease up on the divisive words that that are intended to pit Americans against each other. If the country longed for an uniter after the divisive Obama presidency, it is clear that Donald Trump, who brings more of the same identity politics, is not that man.

As tensions rise, there will be more bloodshed. Radicals from both the right and left will feed on the dire warnings from their respective tribes and take matters into their own hands. Politicians on both sides bear a moral, if not legal, responsibility for the violence.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Why Trump's Birthright Order Would Be Blatantly Unconstitutional

Less than 10 years ago, Barack Obama wanted to change the law by Executive Order. Conservatives were rightly outraged when then-President Obama changed immigration law after saying more than 20 times that he didn’t have the authority to do so. Fast forward to 2018 when President Trump proposes to amend the Constitution by Executive Order. If there are any constitutionalists left in the Republican Party they should be similarly outraged by Trump’s proposed executive action, which is unconstitutional on its face.

The idea of birthright citizenship has become unpopular with many on the right due to the number of “anchor babies,” children born in the US to noncitizens. Under US law, these American-born children are native-born American citizens with all the rights and privileges that citizenship entails regardless of whether their parents are legal immigrants to the US or not.

Birthright citizenship, also referred to as “jus soli,” or “right of the soil,” has been US law and tradition since the ratification of the 14th amendment in 1868. The amendment states in part, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The proposed text of Trump’s Executive Order has not been released, but the president told Axios that he planned to release the order despite the fact that most legal scholars say that a new constitutional amendment would be needed to change the 14th amendment, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't,” Trump said.

“It's in the process,” Trump added. “It'll happen ... with an executive order.”

Trump’s strategy is likely to order a new interpretation of the phrase, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” For several years, some conservatives have argued that illegal immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States because they are in the country illegally.

The Supreme Court has upheld the birthright citizenship clause of the 14th amendment. In 1898, the Court ruled in US v. Wong Kim Ark that the son of Chinese immigrants who had been born in the United States was a US citizen based on a plain language reading of the amendment.

“To hold that the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution excludes from citizenship the children, born in the United States, of citizens or subjects of other countries would be to deny citizenship to thousands of persons of English, Scotch, Irish, German, or other European parentage who have always been considered and treated as citizens of the United States,” the decision said. “Whatever considerations, in the absence of a controlling provision of the Constitution, might influence the legislative or the executive branch of the Government to decline to admit persons of the Chinese race to the status of citizens of the United States, there are none that can constrain or permit the judiciary to refuse to give full effect to the peremptory and explicit language of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The glimmer of hope that the anti-birthright citizenship faction sees comes from the fact that the Supreme Court has never addressed whether the 14th amendment applies to illegal immigrants. At the time of Wong Kim Ark, there were few restrictions on immigration other than the Chinese Exclusion Acts. The Immigration and Nationality Act that established immigration and citizenship laws as we know them today was not passed until 1952.

Even though the Supreme Court has not directly addressed the question of birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants, the argument made by those on the right, and presumably by President Trump as well, that illegals are not under the jurisdiction of the United States is nonsensical on its face. This can be proved easily with a simple thought experiment.

Can illegal aliens be arrested and prosecuted for breaking US laws?

Of course, they can. Illegal immigrants can be and have been prosecuted for murder, theft, fraud, illegally entering the country and many other offenses. Illegal immigrants can be prosecuted for breaking any US law. They are therefore under the jurisdiction of the United States by definition.

So, why did the framers of the 14th amendment include the jurisdiction clause? The answer is that they wanted to exclude certain people such as foreign diplomats and soldiers of invading armies from birthright citizenship. Diplomats have immunity from US laws and invading soldiers would be subject to the laws of their country and the rules of their army. Until the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, members of Indian tribes were also excluded from birthright citizenship under the theory that they were citizens of independent Indian nations.

If the illogical nature of the anti-birthright citizenship argument weren’t enough, there is also Supreme Court precedent on who is under US jurisdiction. In 1982, Texas officials argued that illegal immigrants were not subject to the jurisdiction of the state and that education funding could be withheld from illegal immigrant children. In Plyler v. Doe, the majority ruled against Texas’ interpretation of the law, saying, “Use of the phrase ‘within its jurisdiction’ confirms the understanding that the Fourteenth Amendment's protection extends to anyone, citizen or stranger, who is subject to the laws of a State, and reaches into every corner of a State's territory.”

President Trump’s proposed Executive Order is an ill-considered Hail Mary intended to bypass Congress and have the Supreme Court issue a friendly ruling. The scheme capriciously ignores the plain language of the Constitution as well as Supreme Court precedent. This strategy is typically used by the left and is unbecoming of a party that purports to support the rule of law.

Using a re-interpretation of the Constitution that depends on twisting the meaning of the words would set a dangerous precedent. The left has already bandied about the idea of interpreting the Second Amendment in a way that would read “arms” as “guns.” Under this interpretation, ammunition could be taxed and regulated out of existence while not infringing on the right to keep and bear then-worthless arms.  

If Republicans want to reverse the birthright citizenship policy -  and there is a strong case to make that they should – the Constitution gives them the tools to do so. Embedded within the founding document are the steps to change it. These same steps were followed by the framers of the 14th amendment. Trump-era Republicans don’t get a pass on adhering to the Constitution. Some, such as Lindsey Graham who has announced plans to introduce a bill to amend the Constitution, realize this.

Some proponents of the redefinition of “jurisdiction” argue that President Trump is playing 4D chess by kicking the issue to the courts. In reality, Trump is setting his base up for a humiliating and demoralizing defeat. The timing of the announcement is likely meant to stoke his base’s excitement prior to the midterms as well as discourage the migrant caravans, but the result is more likely to enshrine birthright citizenship with a clearly defined Supreme Court ruling. When Trump’s order is ultimately struck down, it will further deepen the national divide.

Ironically, when – not if – the president’s Executive Order is challenged and gets its hearing at the Supreme Court, President Trump’s own appointees may be instrumental in overturning his abuse of executive authority. A good constitutionalist justice owes his allegiance to the law as it is written, not to the president who appointed him.  

Allowing a president to arbitrarily redefine the Constitution is not smart policy and it certainly is not conservative. The reaction of conservatives and Republicans to President Trump’s proposed abuse of power will say a lot about what principles now guide the GOP.  

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, October 29, 2018

Hillary In 2020? Fuhgeddaboutit

Hillary Clinton won’t go away. The Democratic loser from 2016 hinted over the weekend at the possibility that she would run again in 2020 saying that she would think about it after the midterms.

In an interview on Friday, Kate Swisher of asked Clinton whether she wanted to run for president again.

“No,” Clinton answered. “I’d like to be president.”

After discussing her qualifications, Clinton added, “I’m not even going to think about, until we get through this Nov. 6 election, about what comes after that.”

Let me take a moment to interject that Hillary should think about running again. She should think about it right now and she should decide against it. If she was a viable candidate for 2020, she would be being interviewed by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or Washington Post, not a tech website.

Mrs. Clinton has the distinction of being the worst major party candidate in modern American political history. She won that distinction by losing to the second-worst candidate. Her utter lack of charisma, charm, and endurance paired with her checkered history and polarizing political past to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Her lackluster campaign relied on Donald Trump’s unpopularity and ultimately handed the Republican an Electoral College victory when she lost several reliably blue states.

Has anyone forgotten how Hillary failed to campaign in the Rust Belt states and instead focused on swing states that she did not need to win? Do potential supporters recall that she went more than nine months in the middle of the campaign without a press conference? Do you recall how her health was an issue after she fainted at a September 11 event? Who doesn’t remember how, by embracing a candidate with a shady past and history of judgment so bad that it could be illegal and negligent, Democrats set themselves up for an October surprise from James Comey that ultimately tilted the election in Donald Trump’s favor? If Democrats remember any of this, why would they ever consider re-nominating Hillary Clinton?

The evidence says that most Democrats wouldn’t. Over the summer, Rasmussen found that 73 percent of Democrats want a fresh face in 2020. Far from the #ReadyForHillary masses in 2014, Hillary didn’t even place in a CNN poll of Democrat choices for their 2020 standard bearer. Mrs. Clinton’s supporters, if there are any, are found among the two percent of Democrats who prefer “someone else.”

Hillary had her shot and she blew it with a choke of historic proportions. If Democrats want to win in 2020, they would be well advised to find a candidate who has something more to offer than female genitalia and the belief that she is destined to be president for no other apparent reason than that she wants to be. In the Trump era, many Democrats may have gone crazy, but I’ll wager that they aren’t stupid enough to roll the dice on Hillary Part Two.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, October 26, 2018

Mattis Orders Troops To Border

In a move that should calm nerves north of the border, Defense Secretary James Mattis is planning to order as many as 800 soldiers to the Mexican border in advance of a large migrant caravan moving up from Honduras. The announcement of the deployment was in anticipation of a Request For Assistance (RFA) from the Department of Homeland Security.

CNN reports that the troops are not expected to come into contact with the migrants but are being deployed to assist civil authorities. The active-duty soldiers are expected to provide fencing, wall materials, and technical support to the Border Patrol and Customs and will join about 2,100 National Guard troops deployed to the border last spring.

President Trump has said on Twitter that the migrant caravan constitutes a “national emergy” [sic] and has called on the military to stop the caravan. A previous caravan last spring stopped short of the US border [DT1] in Tijuana where the few migrants who completed the journey waited to apply for asylum in accordance with US law.

Federal law prohibits the routine use of the national military for domestic law enforcement purposes under the Posse Comitatus Act. The 1878 law specifically applies to the army, but the National Guard is under state control. Civil Disturbance Statutes do permit the president to use the military to suppress rebellions, insurrections, domestic violence or unlawful conspiracies.

At present, the caravan is still near the extreme southern tip of Mexico, more than a thousand miles away from the US border. CNN reports the group averages about 20-30 miles per day, traveling mostly on foot, but sometimes hitching rides on passing vehicles.  At the current rate, the group is still more than a month away from the US border.

Originally published on The Resurgent

New Jersey Senate Race Moves To Tossup

Republicans got another breath of fresh air today when the Cook Political Report moved the New Jersey Senate race to tossup status. Senator Bob Menendez, the Democrat incumbent, has been saddled with ethics problems that give the Republicans a chance to flip his seat in this dark blue state.

Sen. Menendez had been charged with granting political favors in exchange for donations. He was acquitted on some charges last January after a jury failed to reach a verdict on the 18 counts against him last year. The Justice Department declined to retry Menendez on the other counts and dropped the charges. After his acquittal, the Senate Ethics Committee admonished Menendez in April for accepting gifts without proper approval. Despite his legal problems, Menendez won the Democratic primary with 62 percent of the vote.

Menendez began the race with a 20-point advantage over Bob Hugin, a healthcare CEO, but the Republican challenger has closed the race to single digits. The most recent public poll, posted on Oct. 24, gave Menendez a five-point lead. Menendez leads in the Real Clear Politics average by 7.7 points.

Other forecasters have not followed Cook’s lead in moving the race toward the Republicans. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball still rates New Jersey as “likely Democrat” and FiveThirtyEight’s forecasting model makes Menendez a heavy favorite with a 90 percent chance of winning and an estimated vote share of 53 percent.

Even if Menendez ultimately holds onto his seat, the tightening race means that Democrats will have to pour more money and effort into retaining a seat that should have been secure. That means that fewer resources will be directed toward the tossup for races for Republican seats that Democrats need to win in order to build a Senate majority.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Mail Bombs Are Just Another Example Of Increasing Political Violence From Both Sides

The big news this week has been the pipe bombs mailed to a number of left-leaning political figures and media outlets. Although none of the bombs has detonated or led to injuries or deaths, the attacks come at a time when tensions are already running high. There is little doubt that the string of attempted bombings will further stoke tempers in an already precarious situation.

President Trump denounced the attacks in a speech at a rally in Wisconsin. “No nation can succeed that tolerates violence or the threat of violence as a method of political intimidation, coercion, or control,” the president said. “No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains, which is done often,” the president continued. “It’s done all the time. “

Trump then turned his attention to one of his favorite targets, which was also a target of the bomber, saying, “The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories.

Thus far, political leaders have been quick to denounce political violence from the opposing team but slow to critique their own side. In fact, even though radicals on both sides have carried out attacks on the other, few on each side seem to acknowledge or remember acts perpetrated by their own side. If you have friends on both sides of the political spectrum, as I do, you’ll see posts from both sides claiming that the other side is perpetrating all the violence while theirs is as pure as the driven snow.

Even though no suspect has been arrested in the mail bombings, many on both sides seem to have made up their minds already as to the motive of the perpetrator. Since the targets of the bombs are all people who have been rhetorically attacked by President Trump, it’s reasonable to assume that the bomber is a Trump supporter.

On the other hand, with no supporting evidence at all, some on the right are beginning to make the argument that the bombs are a false flag operation (to use Alex Jones’ favorite phrase) to make Trump supporters look bad. Similarly, in the wake of the Charlottesville car attack, some on the right falsely claimed that James Alex Fields, Jr. was a “radical leftist” and Clinton supporter.

Let’s set the record straight. Both sides have violent extremists and both sides are increasingly violent. James Fields was a white supremacist. James Hodgkinson, who attempted to kill Steve Scalise and other Republican senators, was a liberal Bernie Sanders volunteer. Right-wing activists launched an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge and staged an armed resistance to the arrest of Cliven Bundy. Leftist Antifa radicals have rioted in numerous cities. Leftists have used the threat of violence to deny conservatives such as Ben Shapiro the right to speak. President Trump threatened riots if he was denied the Republican nomination. A Trump supporter threatened to shoot Boston Globe reporters because the newspaper was an “enemy of the people.” Liberals have taken to confronting conservative politicians and media figures in restaurants. Right-wingers did the same thing to Nancy Pelosi.

In this age of mass media directed to different niches, the two sides are increasingly separated into camps that have little contact with the other. A recent conservative meme series refers to liberal supporters as NPCs, nonplayer characters, that are faceless, generic subhumans that don’t think for themselves. The left seems to think the same of the right, frequently referring to the president’s supporters as “Trumpbots.” It shouldn’t be surprising that as both sides dehumanize the other, the potential for violence increases.

Leaders of both sides need to come together for a bipartisan statement that rejects the increasing political violence. This needs to be done with no caveats. Republicans and Democrats should both tone down their rhetoric and instruct their supporters to make their voices heard at the ballot box, not in the streets.

If the leaders won’t take this action, it is up to the American people to reject violence. Don’t condone and excuse violent rhetoric or behavior just because it comes from your team. One way to address the problem is to shame people who take part in this sort of behavior. The second Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was smaller than the first, in part because neo-Nazis from the first rally were publicly identified and shamed online. Perhaps a similar strategy could be used against Antifa and the Proud Boys.

Reject hatred and violent rhetoric online. The anonymous and isolated nature of social media makes extremism thrive. Unlike and unfollow radical accounts and pages. Report users who violate the terms of service and community standards. Point out the hypocrisy of supporting your own side’s violence while condemning the other.

Both sides claim to want to take their country back, but I suspect that the people who really want their country back are the exhausted middle who are tired of the constant crises and outrage-of-the-day from both sides. It is these moderate and independent Americans who decide elections and they can make a difference by rejecting those who condone violence. These are people who can hold America together while politicians and activists try to rip it apart.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Twelve Republican Governorships Are Vulnerable in Midterms

Much has been said this year about the congressional elections and who will control the House and Senate next year. Gubernatorial elections have received scant attention, but the impact of 2018 on state governments will have lasting implications.

With a new census coming in 2020, governors and state legislators elected this year will control the redrawing of congressional districts that follows. Additionally, controlling the governor’s mansion may give provide an edge in the upcoming presidential election. Governors also typically have the power to appoint replacements when a senator resigns or dies. Losing a governorship would make it more risky for President Trump to appoint sitting senators. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is 85, warned this week that if Democrat Fred Hubbell wins in November that his Senate seat might go to a Democrat.

One reason that the Democrats face such long odds against winning a Senate majority is the fact that they are defending far more seats than the Republicans. When it comes to governors, however, the situation is reversed. Thirty-five states are holding gubernatorial elections this year and 26 of them are being defended by Republicans. Three of these races, Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico, are trending Democrat while nine states are considered tossups.

In contrast, only two of the nine Democrat governorships up for election, Connecticut and Oregon, are considered tossups. Alaska, where independent Bill Walker recently suspended his re-election campaign, appears to be the sole race in which a Republican pickup is likely.

Tossup races for open seats in Georgia and Florida have gotten the most attention, but sitting Republican governors in Wisconsin and Iowa are in trouble as well. Five other Republican open seats in Kansas, Maine, Nevada, Ohio and South Dakota are also considered tossups.

Much of the current Republican problem stems from the GOP’s success in the Obama years. Even though Obama was personally successful at winning elections, his coattails did not extend to other Democrats. The Democratic Party lost 23 governorships and control of more than 30 state legislatures during Obama’s tenure. Now, in a weak Republican year, those gains are at risk.

Here are the hot gubernatorial races to watch:

Alaska – Republican Mike Dunleavy is leading former Democrat Senator Mark Begich after the current governor, independent Bill Walker, withdrew from the race.
Connecticut – Incumbent Democrat Ned Lamont’s lead has been cut to single digits in this dark blue state.

Florida – Democrat Andrew Gillum holds a small but consistent lead over Republican Ron DeSantis in this closely watched race. A recent CNN poll had Gillum up by double-digits.

Georgia – In a scenario similar to Florida, Republican Brian Kemp holds a tiny lead in polling over Democrat Stacy Abrams. The race is statistically a dead heat.

Iowa – Democrat Fred Hubbell is leading Republican incumbent Kim Reynolds in a close race.

Kansas – There are no polls since early September, but Republican Kris Korbach was up by a single point in three of the last four polls.

Maine – Democrat Janet Mills led by eight points in the single recent poll.

Nevada – Republican Adam Laxalt and Democrat Steve Sisolak are locked in another dead heat race.

Ohio – Richard Cordray, the Democrat who formerly led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, led Republican Mike DeWine by six points in the only poll from October.

Oregon – Democratic incumbent Kate Brown holds a single-digit lead over Republican Knute Buehler.

South Dakota – Republican Kristi Noem is favored over Democrat Billie Sutton, but there is no public polling in the race.

Wisconsin – Republican Gov. Scott Walker has been trailing Democrat Tony Evers in the polls but may be recovering. Walker led by a single point in the most recent poll.   

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Migrant Caravan Is Not An Invasion

 As you may have heard, there is a caravan of several thousand migrant workers en route from Honduras to the United States. Judging from the hysteria, you might be forgiven for thinking that this caravan is a group of Mongol warriors headed by Genghis Khan or a horde of zombies rather than a collection of people looking for asylum and employment in America. Nevertheless, the panic quickly reached heights of fear not seen since the Great Jade Helm Scare of 2015.

Some Americans are so upset about the migrant march that they are ready to take drastic measures. On Twitter, President Trump called the caravan “a National Emergy” [sic]. Some, such as Michael Moates, have said that the response should be to “shoot on site” [sic]. On social media, many armchair pundits agreed that lethal force was warranted.

Stop it, America. Take a deep breath and relax.

If you’re concerned about the caravan, here are a few facts to make you feel better. At noon on October 21, a USA Today story placed the caravan in the city of Ciudad Hidalgo in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. This is a border city. That is, it is a city on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. That’s a whole country away from the US.

In fact, Ciudad Hidalgo is 1,250 miles from Laredo, Texas. Per Google Maps, the distance between the two cities is a 27-hour drive. But wait, as they say, there’s more!

The majority of the migrants are not driving or riding public transportation. They are on foot. The estimated walking time to the US border is 409 hours. That works out to just over 17 days. Of course, no one is going to walk 24 hours per day. Assuming that the migrants walk 12 hours each day, it would take more than a month, 34 days, to make the journey. Based on these calculations, we can expect the caravan to reach the US border sometime around Thanksgiving. The majority of the group probably won’t even make the full journey as people drop out and are detained along the way. There is ample time to prepare to receive the ones that do.

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the same thing happened six months ago and there was a similar hysteria. A smaller caravan was stopped in Mexico City last April. About 50 members of the spring caravan made it to the US border at Tijuana where Reuters reported that most were turned away by customs authorities, saying that the border station was too overwhelmed to process asylum-seekers. Eleven people were arrested for crossing the border illegally.

If the caravan does happen to reach the US border, there is still no reason to panic. Border Patrol agents are there to stop them and it isn’t as if thousands of people who are being featured on the news are going to sneak up on anyone. There is plenty of time to shift manpower and resources toward where the caravan is heading. The simplest solution is just to keep the group on the Mexican side of the border as Border Patrol and Customs agents did last spring.

This is not an invading army, as some right-wing sources, would have you believe. This is a group of refugees fleeing San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most violent cities in the world. Drug violence, gang wars, and political repression make leaving Honduras to pursue the American dream attractive for many honest people.

There is no evidence that the group plans to rush the border en masse to start carrying out terrorist attacks or looting American cities. Their intention seems to be to come to the US to apply for political asylum. But, even if they did sneak across the border into the US, it would probably be to pick crops or do yard work. The evidence shows that Illegal immigrants have a lower crime rate than native-born Americans.

The irony is that the US is facing a shortage of labor. The US is currently considered to be at full employment and jobs are going unfilled because there aren’t enough workers. This applies to both skilled and unskilled labor. In a perfect world, the American need for labor would be matched with the immigrants’ need to work and a solution would be found to satisfy everyone.

This is the real world, however, and the migrants are just political pawns to be used by both sides. On the one hand, the organizers of the caravan are goading desperate people into marching thousands of miles, against the advice of their national leaders, when they know that they will be turned back at the US border. On the other hand, President Trump and right-wing organizations are using news of the caravan to stoke fears of an immigrant invasion and rally the base to vote in November.

The migrant caravan is real, but the threat that it represents is greatly overstated. There is little reason to fear and no reason to at all to start shooting innocent people, many of them women and children, who only want a better life in America.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, October 22, 2018

Control of Congress Looks Like A Split Decision

It looks increasingly as though the outcome of the midterm elections will be a split decision. While Democrats are still heavily favored to win control of the House of Representatives, their chances of winning control of the Senate have diminished. In fact, there is a possibility that Republicans could make some small gains in the upper house.

In the House, the news continues to be gloomy for Republicans. As of this writing, FiveThirtyEight’s forecasting model shows an 86 percent chance that Democrats will win a House majority. The simulations that power the model predict that Democrats will gain between 20 and 62 seats. On average, the Democrats gain about 40 seats, which is far greater than the 22 seats required for a majority. FiveThirtyEight’s website contains a district-by-district forecast of the outcome of the election.

The situation is reversed in the Senate. The forecasters at FiveThirtyEight show a 78 percent chance that Republicans will retain control of the Senate, which is great news for the GOP. Keeping a Senate majority means that Republicans will be able to continue approving judicial appointments and have an edge in ratifying the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico. FiveThirtyEight's simulations show that, on average, the GOP will see a net gain of 0.3 seats in the Senate. Since Senate seats aren’t distributed in fractions, the most likely outcome is either that the status quo is preserved or that Republicans pick up one new seat.

Control of Senate will most likely come down to nine seats that are considered tossups. Five of these seats are held by Democrats, which puts them at a disadvantage for winning a majority right out of the gate. While some of the tossup Senate races are in perennial swing states, several revolve around vulnerable Democrat incumbents in red states. Further bad news for Democrats is that at least one of these seats are likely to be flipped by Republicans.

The Senate races have been impacted by the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, which resulted in at least a temporary bump for Republicans. Democrats have been helped by a large fundraising advantage for most of this election cycle.

“Why is it as close as it is when [Trump] won by 19? Clearly, the other side has dominated on resources,” Missouri Republican candidate Mike Braun said in Politico. Braun complained that Republicans had been outspent by “3-, 4-, 5-to-1” margins by Democratic groups earlier in the race.

“We've been behind the 8-ball, and now it's more on parity, and so the message is getting out,” Braun added.

Here is a state-by-state breakdown of the tossups:

In Arizona, Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema are locked in a dead heat despite the recent embarrassing revelations about Sinema’s disdain for her state. Jeff Flake’s Republican seat could easily go to either party and is the best chance for a Democrat pickup.

In Florida, Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson is defending his seat against Rick Scott. Polling has been close, but a recent CNN poll showed a surge toward Nelson giving him a slight edge after a barrage of advertising over the past few months. Currently, Nelson is favored to hold his seat.

Indiana is another case of a Democrat incumbent, Joe Donelly, in a tight race. While the race is still considered a tossup, Donnelly holds a small lead over Mike Braun, his Republican opponent.

In Missouri, another Midwest Democrat, Claire McCaskill, is attempting to fend off Josh Hawley. Polling is very tight and the race is statistically in a dead heat.

In Montana, yet another Democrat incumbent, Jon Testor, is battling a strong challenge from Matt Rosendale. There isn’t a lot of polling in Montana, but Testor has consistently held a small lead. The odds are good that he will retain the seat.

Nevada is a state where the situation is reversed. Republican Dean Heller was initially a Trump critic, but he reversed himself enough to win President Trump’s endorsement in the primary.  Now Heller holds a small lead over Democrat Jacky Rosen with the latest poll showing Heller up by seven points. This poll may be an anomaly, but Heller looks likely to retain his seat.

North Dakota is looking worse and worse for the Democrats. The last two polls show Republican Kevin Cramer with a double-digit lead over incumbent Heidi Heitkamp. A moderate Democrat in a red state, Heitkamp, who was already in a tight race, suffered in the polls for her vote against Brett Kavanaugh. North Dakota is looking more and more like a Republican pickup.

In Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen have been locked in a tight race for Bob Corker’s Republican seat. In recent polling, Blackburn seems to have opened up a lead. At this point, Republicans are favored to keep this seat.

Finally, Ted Cruz’s Texas seat has been considered a tossup. Although the polling is tight between Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, it seems certain that Texas voters will send Cruz back to Washington.

At this point, it seems likely that the current Senate balance will be preserved or that Republicans will see a net gain of one seat when the electoral smoke clears. Several very close races for Democrat seats could easily add to Republican gains. Any extra Senate votes for confirming judges would make a reasonable consolation prize for losing control of the House.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Dems Make Gains In New Florida Poll

A new poll of Florida voters released over the weekend shows a possible shift toward the Democrats in the last weeks before the election. The poll shows that both gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and incumbent Senator Bill Nelson now hold leads over their Republican opponents outside the margin of error. In Gillum’s case, the poll shows a double-digit lead.

The poll by CNN and SSRS shows that Democrat Senator Bill Nelson is starting to open up a lead over former governor Rick Scott. The new poll shows that Nelson leads among likely voters by 50-45 percent with a 4.2 percent margin of error. Only three percent of voters remain undecided.

In the gubernatorial race, Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, leads Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis by 12 points among likely voters. Gillum currently holds a 54-42 lead with four percent undecided.

Both races are still considered tossups and polling has been extremely close until the CNN poll was released. Although most polling had favored the Democratic candidates, the polling gaps were well within the margin of error. Rick Scott led by 1.4 points in one recent poll by St. Pete Polls. DeSantis trailed Gillum by 1.1 points in the same poll.

The shift in preferences indicated by the CNN poll has two possible explanations. The poll could be an outlier that is inaccurate. The polling sample is the smallest of recent polls and may not accurately reflect the electorate. The other possibility is that the Democrats are opening up a real lead in both races.

The race in Florida has been the subject of intense interest from around the country. Heavy hitters from both parties have campaigned for their respective standard bearers. Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Cory Booker are among those who have traveled to the Sunshine State. Hurricane Michael also ravaged the Florida panhandle. The storm’s effect on the election as well as on pre-election polling is uncertain. Gillum and DeSantis met in a debate on Sunday that may also impact the race.

In the case of Bill Nelson, the upsurge in poll numbers may be part of the candidate’s strategy. For much of the summer, Rick Scott waged an ad war against Nelson. In August, the Nelson campaign launched a $42 million ad campaign that was scheduled to run through Election Day. The campaign may be beginning to reap results.

Given its current status as an outlier, the CNN poll should be considered skeptically. With two weeks left before the election, subsequent polling will either confirm that the race is breaking towards the Democrats or refute the CNN poll.

Although both races are considered tossups, both Democrats have held consistent leads in the majority of the polling and should be considered frontrunners, if only slightly.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Elizabeth Warren Leads Trump in 2020 Polling

Elizabeth Warren recently destroyed her reputation and, along with it, her chances of becoming president in 2020. At least, that is what the current narrative says. The Massachusetts Democrat’s embarrassingly fact-free claim of Native American heritage made her the laughingstock of the internet and, many assume, ended her 2020 presidential campaign before it began.

But what does the data say?

Rasmussen just released a poll showing a head-to-head matchup against President Trump. Surprisingly, Warren has the support of 46 percent of the likely voters polled while the president garnered support from only 44 percent. The margin of error is three percent making the race a statistical tie.

Before polling critics jump on the poll as fake news, I’ll point out that Rasmussen is a pollster that is friendly to Mr. Trump. Rasmussen presidential approval polling has consistently shown Trump at higher levels than other pollsters. In past weeks, Trump has reached 50 percent approval in Rasmussen’s polling while the polling average never topped 42 percent. Most recently, Rasmussen showed Trump approval at 47 percent. By way of comparison, Rasmussen pegged Warren’s approval at 41 percent.

Men and women among the 1,000 likely voters had similar views of Warren, but she benefitted from a gender gap. Women favored Warren while men favored Trump. Warren also was the overwhelming choice of black voters. Voters were more likely to choose Trump as their age increased. Both candidates won large majorities of voters from their own party, but Warren leads with unaffiliated voters by 53 to 36 percent.

The poll is not written in stone and many things can change between now and 2020, but the results underscore the difficulty that Donald Trump will face in his reelection campaign. If a candidate who has had as much bad press as Elizabeth Warren can poll ahead of the president, albeit in a statistical tie, it indicates that the president will have a tough fight with a more capable candidate.

Warren is not even the top choice of Trump opponents. Only 14 percent of Democrats and 11 percent of all voters think Warren is the best nominee to face Trump. Three-quarters of Democrats think the party needs to nominate a new face in 2020.

Earlier this week, CNN polling showed that former vice president Joe Biden leads Democrat preferences for 2020 at 33 percent. He is followed by Vermont Senator and 2016 candidate Bernie Sanders in a distant second and California Senator Kamala Harris. Elizabeth Warren placed fourth with single-digit support.  

The danger for Trump and Republicans is that the president’s popularity within the GOP will induce an echo chamber effect that will lead to overconfidence. Donald Trump is overwhelmingly popular among Republicans, but his approval outside the party is not good. He beat long odds in 2016 to become president but a more effective candidate than Hillary Clinton will lead to another tough race.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Treasury Leaker Arrested

Federal prosecutors say a high-ranking Treasury Department official has been arrested in connection with information leaked to a reporter. The information being passed along to an unnamed reporter contained details of suspicious activity reported by banks about Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, suspected Russian spy Maria Butina and the Russian embassy.

Law enforcement officials say that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 40, a senior advisor at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been arrested and charged with leaking confidential banking records. The Washington Post reports that Edwards, who lives near Richmond, was arrested with a flash drive that “appear to contain thousands of SARs (Suspicious Activity Reports), along with other highly sensitive material relating to Russia, Iran and the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” per the complaint.

The flash drive reportedly contained photos of as many as 24,000 SARs that were arranged into folders. The majority of the reports were in a folder named, “Debacle-Operation-CF.” Subfolders were assigned names such as “Debacle/Emails/Asshat.” The complaint notes drily that “Edwards is not known to be involved in any official FinCEN project or task bearing these file titles or code names.”

Suspicious Activity Reports are filed by banks when they spot transactions that could be illegal. The reports “are not public documents, and it is an independent federal crime to disclose them outside of one’s official duties,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. Banks filed about 2 million SARs in 2017.

Edwards denied wrongdoing when initially questioned by the FBI and then claimed that the documents were related to a whistleblower case that she had filed. When presented with digital evidence that the FBI had obtained from her phone that included hundreds of text messages with a reporter, she confessed that “on numerous occasions, she accessed SARs on her computer, photographed them, and sent the photographs to Reporter-1” using an encrypted phone app. The reporter was not identified or arrested but has been traced by media outlets to BuzzFeed.

The Post also reports that an associate director of FinCEN who is Edwards’ has also been investigated by the FBI. The boss, identified a co-conspirator in the complaint, has not yet been arrested or charged.

Edwards is being charged with one count of unauthorized disclosures of SARs and one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A Treasury spokesman said that Edwards has been placed on administrative leave.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. called Edwards’ actions a breach of the public trust.  “In her position, Edwards was entrusted with sensitive government information,” he said.   “Edwards violated that trust when she made several unauthorized disclosures to the media.  Today's action demonstrates that those who fail to protect the integrity of government information will be rightfully held accountable for their behavior.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Mitch McConnell Is Right About Social Security

Truth is something that we are not used to hearing in the current political climate so it can come as a bit of a shock when a politician blurts out a harsh dose of reality. That was the case yesterday when Mitch McConnell confronted the American people with the bitter fact that the deficit is too large and the only way to cut it is by slashing the sacred cows of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem, McConnell told Bloomberg. “It’s a bipartisan problem. Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

While it is not solely a Republican problem, the GOP has done little in the way of deficit reduction recently. This week the Treasury Department revealed that the deficit grew to $779 billion, its highest level since shortly after the Tea Party revolution. After trimming budgets during the Obama Administration, the Republican Congress enacted tax reform that stimulated the economy but slashed corporate tax revenues. At the same time, spending increased due to a larger military budget as well as increased interest payments on the national debt and increased Social Security spending.

The four percent increase in Social Security spending represents a major part of America’s debt problem. While it is tempting to blame foreign aid, military waste, welfare or a number of other programs for America’s mounting debt, the big three entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) together make up a whopping 46 percent of the federal budget per the CBO. The biggest of the big three is Social Security at 23 percent of federal spending.

The entitlement problem is so big that it really doesn’t matter how much cutting we do in other parts of the budget if we don’t reform entitlements. For example, the entire defense budget is only 14 percent of federal spending. The sum total of all foreign aid is only 1.2 percent of the federal budget.

The entitlement programs are at a crisis stage. The Social Security trustee report predicts that in only four years Social Security will begin to pay out more than it takes in. If nothing is done, only 16 years from now in 2034 the Social Security trust fund will be bankrupt.

While McConnell’s truth-telling is a rare act of political courage, it is unlikely that Social Security and other entitlements will be reformed soon. The majority leader’s timing in his truth-telling is less than opportune. Midterm elections are only three weeks away and the Democrats undoubtedly have a pushing-granny-off-the-cliff ad ready to go, just waiting to insert the name of anyone who touches the third rail of American politics.

The truth is that not even conservative voters really want to reform Social Security. Many conservatives have bought into the lie that the Social Security tax that comes out of their paychecks is a contribution that goes into their account. In reality, involuntary Social Security “contributions” go into a trust fund, per the Social Security Administration, from which benefits are paid from the trust fund and the excess “must be invested, on a daily basis, in securities guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the Federal government.” This is another way of saying that the Social Security benefits are paid from current contributions. Any funds left over are loaned to the federal government, which must pay them back with interest.

The plan of using current Social Security taxes to pay current retirees worked well at first. But the architects of Social Security did not foresee the Baby Boom. Now, as Baby Boomers retire in droves, fewer workers are being asked to support more and more retirees. There are only two options to save Social Security: Cut benefits or increase taxes.

Voters seem to be of two minds about Social Security. On one hand, many believe that Social Security is a socialist Ponzi scheme, redistributing wealth from workers to retirees. Nevertheless, the voters also become militant at the very suggestion that benefits might be cut and that they could lose some of their “contributions.”

Even though there is no individual account containing their Social Security savings, American workers have been promised that their taxes will go to fund their retirement. It would be unconscionable for the government to break this promise to those in or near retirement. That is why Republican plans to reform the entitlements would preserve the status quo for retirees and older workers while giving younger workers the option to take part in a plan that has a better chance of being there when they retire.

Mitch McConnell gets credit for facing the tough problem that is America’s entitlement crisis. The majority leader realizes that the deficit crisis cannot be solved without reforming the sacred cow entitlement programs. Unfortunately, admitting that there is a problem is not the same as being able to solve it.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Stormy Daniels' Suit Dropped Like Discarded Stripper Outfit

In a metaphorically appropriate ruling yesterday, porn star Stormy Daniels saw her legal suit hit the floor like a discarded stripper’s costume. A federal judge not only dismissed Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against Trump, but he is also requiring the adult actress and one-time alleged Trump paramour to pay the president’s legal fees in the case.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had filed suit against the president after he tweeted last April that Daniels’ story about being intimidated by an unknown assailant was a “con job.” Prior to the 2016 election, Daniels had threatened to go public about her sexual exploits with the married Mr. Trump and later claimed that Team Trump had sent the man to silence her.

Federal District Judge James Otero wrote in his decision dismissing the case that “the tweet in question constitutes 'rhetorical hyperbole' normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States. The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.” The decision also stipulates that Daniels must pay the president’s legal fees in the case.

In a statement to CNN, Trump lawyer Charles Harder gloated, “No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer, Mr. Avenatti, can truthfully characterize today's ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels.” Harder said that the attorney fees owed by Daniels would be determined later.

A second lawsuit between Daniels and the president is still pending and is not affected by yesterday’s ruling. The second case involves both President Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen and stems from the $130,000 payment that Trump made to Daniels as part of their nondisclosure agreement. The second suit alleges that the NDA is not valid because Trump did not personally sign the contract.

On Twitter, Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti blasted the statement by Harder and called the NDA lawsuit “the main case… due to its allegations of conduct that constitutes a federal crime.” Avenatti said that Trump would owe Daniels “attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with the NDA case that will far exceed any fees or costs awarded in the defamation action.”

Legal scholar Eugene Volokh examined the NDA last March after Daniels filed suit and attempted to clear the murky waters of the agreement. Per Volokh, the law may not require Trump’s signature to make the agreement valid, but there are other issues that may invalidate the contract including the fact that since Trump is now president restraining the speech of an individual may represent a violation of the First Amendment.

But Trump’s legal team may have rendered the NDA lawsuit moot. Last month, Trump agreed not to enforce the NDA or sue Daniels for violating its terms. That leaves the possibility that Daniels and Avenatti may pursue the case in hopes of pinning campaign finance violations on Donald Trump or of winning legal fees in the case.  Michael Cohen has already pled guilty to campaign finance violations related to the payoff to Daniels.

For now, Team Trump can celebrate its “total victory” and some vindication in the weeks ahead of the midterm elections. The second lawsuit and Mr. Avenatti’s presidential aspirations will be put to the test later.

Originally published on The Resurgent