Monday, September 30, 2019

Fact Vs. Fiction In The Whistleblower Scandal

The Republican response to the Ukraine scandal has been to attack the credibility of the whistleblower. This is pretty tricky since the whistleblower’s identity is not yet known. This hasn’t stopped a flood of speculation and misinformation about the complaint.

To start with, there is speculation that the whistleblower is a partisan Democrat. A Republican congressional source told Erick Erickson last week that the complaint was “written by someone who does not like the President” but also that “regardless, the whistleblower is credible.”

That the whistleblower is not a fan of Trump should be obvious. It is unlikely that a committed Trump supporter would have filed a complaint about the president’s activities. Anyone moved to file the complaint would not be a Trump fan by definition, although it’s possible that the whistleblower didn’t start out as a Trump critic. He or she might have been a Trump supporter at one time but then been disillusioned by the president’s activities.

Other Trump defenders have argued that the whistleblower complaint was too professional and detailed to have been put together by one person. Again, this is possible since the whistleblower cites a number of other US officials in the complaint. It is not outside the scope of possibility that that more than one person may have collaborated on the complaint, but this does not undermine its credibility. The whistleblower openly acknowledges that his information came from other people in the Administration.

A third argument is that first-hand information should be required for whistleblower complaints and that hearsay was not allowed in the past. Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute pointed out in a tweet thread that these claims are false, noting that “nothing in the relevant statute (ICWPA [Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act]) or directives (PPD-19, ICD-120) has ever required that protected whistleblower disclosures contain ‘firsthand’ information.”

Much has been made of a Federalist article alleging that the whistleblower reporting form was changed just prior to the submission of the complaint to allow secondhand information. In reality, secondhand information was always allowed but firsthand information could file a complaint directly with the IG.

The old form stated, “In order to find an urgent concern ‘credible,’ the IC IG must be in possession of reliable firsthand information. The IC IG cannot transmit information via the ICWPA based on an employee’s secondhand knowledge of wrongdoing.”  

As Sanchez points out, this does not mean that secondhand complaints are not allowed but that they must be verified prior to being passed up the chain of command. In his letter to Acting DNI Joseph Maguire, Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, said that the “complaint relating to the urgent concern ‘appears credible.’” The letter further stated that even “arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate… did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern ‘appears credible” particularly given the other information the ICIG obtained during its preliminary review.”

In the days since the existence of the complaint was made public, even President Trump and Rudy Giuliani have corroborated some of the allegations. The most damaging allegation, that the president pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden’s connections to the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor, has been confirmed by both President Trump and Mr. Giuliani as well as the transcript of the telephone call between the two presidents.

While on the subject of Biden, there is no evidence that the former vice president did anything wrong. As Erickson wrote last week, Biden “was not in Ukraine making his own threat nor did he have the power to make a threat of withholding a billion dollars in foreign aid. Instead, Biden was operating under the power of and with the permission of the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”

An additional point of concern among Trump’s defenders is that the intelligence community is out to get Donald Trump. As part of the Deep State, they argue, the nation’s intelligence agencies are rife with fifth columnists who will stop at nothing to get Donald Trump. The problem with this argument is that government officials take their oaths to defend the Constitution, not the president. If the president breaks the law then they have a duty to call him out.

And the president apparently did break the law. In a tweet from June, long before the whistleblower scandal broke, Ellen Weintraub, chair of the Federal Election Commission, released a statement that said, “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a US election.” Damaging information about a candidate that the president may well face in the general election is definitely of high value.

“I would not have thought that I needed to say this,” Weintraub said.

In another tweet thread on Friday, Weintraub, who is a Democrat, said that she published a ““Draft Interpretive Rule Concerning Prohibited Activities Involving Foreign Nationals" on the FEC website. Weintraub claimed that “GOP FEC Commissioner Caroline Hunter took the altogether unprecedented step of objecting to its being added to the [weekly FEC] Digest and blocked publication of the whole Digest as a result.”

Finally, the Reagan Battalion on Twitter published a letter that Democratic Senators Robert Menendez, Dick Durbin, and Patrick Leahy sent to Ukrainian General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko in May 2018. The letter asks Lutsenko to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The allegation is that “asking the Ukrainian government to assist in investigating Trump” is “is exactly what Democrats are accusing Trump of doing.” The obvious difference is that Mueller was a federal law enforcement official charged by the Department of Justice with investigating Russian interference in the election while Donald Trump asked the Ukrainians to cooperate with an off-the-books investigation by his personal attorney.

In any event, the law is an objective standard. Saying “what about the Democrats,” would not excuse President Trump’s behavior even if it was an exactly reciprocal action. At best, it would show that both sides were corrupt, but, as your parents probably told you, two wrongs don’t make a right. To put it another way, you can’t get out of a speeding ticket by saying everyone else was driving just as fast.

The bottom line is that the attacks on the whistleblower have not undermined the underlying facts of the case. There is no evidence that the procedures or forms were changed to allow the whistleblower to come forward. Instead what we find is that the whistleblower went to great lengths to comply with applicable laws and present a well-documented case through appropriate channels, rather than leaking to the media. This is exactly what someone who learned that illegal activity was taking place should have done.

The key point for the coming weeks is not whether the whistleblower had an axe to grind or was part of an organized effort. The focus should be on whether the whistleblower’s allegations were factual or not. So far, several parts of the whistleblower account, which has already been found credible by the inspector general, have already been verified by other sources. Perhaps that’s why the Trump Administration is attempting to steer the discussion away from the facts.  

Originally published on the Resurgent

Friday, September 27, 2019

Are The Libertarians Ready For Primetime?

There’s a Far Side cartoon that depicts an airliner in distress. There is a gash in the side of the fuselage, the plane is trailing smoke and flames, the pilot is slumped over and incapacitated, and passengers are panicking. There is also a poodle at the controls.

“Suddenly, amidst all the confusion,” the caption reads, “ Fifi seized the controls and saved the day.”

Our current political chaos reminded me of that cartoon. Donald Trump’s political career is almost certainly over, whether he and the Republicans want to admit it or not. New polling shows that the public is evenly split over whether Trump should be impeached even though only about a third of voters are aware of the details of the whistleblower scandal. Even before the scandal broke, more than half of voters planned to vote against Trump next year. Neither of these numbers is likely to improve.

If Republicans are imploding, the Democrats are not without problems. As Erick Erickson pointed out this morning, even though there is no evidence that Joe Biden acted corruptly, the Democratic frontrunner is tainted by the accusations.

“The only way for them to get a clear message against Trump is to ditch Biden and polling suggests they are starting to realize it,” Erickson said. “Biden has to go if they want to beat Trump now and, ironically, Biden was the Democrat who came across as most reasonable and therefore most likely to beat Trump.”

If Biden is deep-sixed, Elizabeth Warren is the heir apparent, but that may be even worse for Democrats. Many of theDemocratic Wall Street supporters are already warning that they won’t back a Warren candidacy.

"You're in a box because you're a Democrat and you're thinking, 'I want to help the party, but she's going to hurt me, so I'm going to help President Trump,'" an anonymous senior private equity executive told CNBC.

Lest Republicans get too cocky, even with all her negatives Warren is still polling better than Donald Trump. By Election Day, Trump might have closed the gap, but it is at least equally probable that Warren will have expanded her lead. Trump really is that unpopular.

Erickson suggests that the final race will be between Warren and Mike Pence, but, assuming that Donald Trump drops out of the race, which is by no means assured, it may still not solve the Republican problem. The new Politico poll puts Pence’s approval even lower than Trump’s. (The poll didn’t ask about Warren.)

The stage is being set for a replay of 2016 in which Donald Trump faces off against a lackluster liberal. However, this time Trump is even more unpopular than before, having spent the last three years alienating a large swath of voters. More to the point, it will be another year in which voters are put off by both major party candidates.

As with the cartoon, our national aircraft is in distress. It is damaged by division, losing fuel through the trade war, and, as I wrote back in March, in a graveyard spiral in which we think we are flying straight and level but are actually careening out of control towards the ground.

Who will leap to the controls to save the day? Where is our Fifi?

2020 could be the big break that the Libertarians have been waiting for. No, seriously. I know that the Libertarians have a reputation as a fringe party that is filled with nuts, but they may be our best hope to avoid a Warren presidency.

Despite Warren’s unpopularity, the fact that 52 percent of voters have vowed to oppose Trump will be a very difficult reality to overcome. It will require Donald Trump to change, but the only way that he seems to be capable of changing is for the worse. As I predicted back in December, without Kelly and Mattis to restrain him, Trump is increasingly unhinged and out-of-control. In the past, he has had a floor of support but I suspect that as the details of the Ukraine scandal continue to emerge, the president’s approval will find a way into the basement. Even so, confident that polls are “fake news” and that he can pull off a second upset, Trump is unlikely to resign for the good of the country or the party.

Enter the Libertarians. The Libertarian Party is a nationally known party that already has an infrastructure and ballot access in all 50 states. All they need is a sane candidate and media attention.

Sure, the Libertarians blew a similar chance in 2016, but it wasn’t apparent at the time how bad a choice Gary Johnson would be. A former Republican governor of New Mexico, Johnson looked good on paper. However, Johnson blew his chance to be taken seriously with his “Aleppo moment.” This is your brain on marijuana. Nevermind that most Americans didn’t know what Aleppo was either. A presidential candidate should.

So, the Libertarians remain a party in search of a viable candidate. The logical answer is Justin Amash.

Amash, you may recall is the formerly Republican congressman who favored impeaching Donald Trump before it was cool. Amash is where many Americans are at this point: Disgusted by both the blind loyalty to Donald Trump displayed by the Republicans and the radical leftism of the Democrats. He is well-spoken, experienced, principled, and, most importantly, not a nut. Amash could be the #NoneOfTheAbove candidate of 2020.

But wouldn’t a third party candidate just be a spoiler, you ask. Quite possibly, but it is also possible that 2020 could represent a perfect storm for the two major parties. A partisan system that renominates a man as unqualified and unsuited for office as Donald Trump and someone as hostile to the values of most Americans as Elizabeth Warren is broken and ripe for a challenge.

It may be that the biggest obstacle to Amash would be the Libertarians themselves. It’s hard to take a party seriously when a candidate for party strips onstage at the convention as one Libertarian did in 2016. On the other hand, after three years of Donald Trump, even a convention striptease doesn’t seem as dysfunctional as it did then.

I honestly don’t know if the Libertarians are ready for primetime, but I’m pretty sure that 2020 is going to be the best chance that they will get. If they can’t beat a badly damaged Trump and Fauxcahontas, they may as well close down their offices and admit that it was never anything more than an excuse to have a party and get high.

If the Libertarians want to be a real political party, it’s now or never. Even though it sounds about as likely as Fifi saving the day, the Libertarian Party may be our best shot.

Paging Justin Amash.
Originally published on The Resurgent

New Poll Shows Public Evenly Split On Impeachment

A new poll shows significant movement in voter attitudes on impeachment as the Ukraine whistleblower scandal unfolds. Despite previous polls showing heavy opposition to impeachment, the new survey shows that voters are now evenly split on whether impeachment proceedings should be initiated against President Trump.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll found that voters were split 43-43 on impeachment with another 13 percent undecided. Politico notes that this reflects an increase of seven points among those who favor impeachment and a decline of six points among opponents from the last poll. The rise in pro-impeachment sentiment was present across the political spectrum.

“As more information has emerged about whistleblower allegations against President Trump, support for impeachment proceedings has grown to its highest point since the beginning of the summer,” said Morning Consult vice president Tyler Sinclair. “This week’s news cycle had a significant impact on Republicans and independents, giving credibility to Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Up from 5 percent last week, 10 percent of Republicans now support beginning impeachment proceedings, while support among independents has reached 39 percent.”

Seventy-nine percent of Democrats were in favor of impeachment.

The new was conducted between September 24-September 26. This was a week after the Washington Post initially broke the story of the whistleblower complaint on September 18 and two days after House Democrats began an impeachment inquiry on September 24. The previous poll was completed on Sunday, September 22, meaning that the large shift in public opinion took place in less than a week. A 13-point shift in four days is a seismic event in polling terms.

Among the voters who favored impeachment, 59 percent cited their main reason for doing so as the belief that “President Trump committed an impeachable offense, such as treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Another 37 percent agreed with the statement, “President Trump has proven he is unfit to serve and should be removed from office, regardless of whether he committed an impeachable offense or not.” The belief that President Trump had committed an impeachable offense increased to 66 percent when the scandal was described.

There is also evidence that the news may get worse for Republicans. Only 32 percent of respondents said that they had heard “a lot” about the unfolding scandal. As more voters become aware of the incident, the public sentiment for impeachment could well continue to rise.

Although the poll surveyed 1,640 registered voters, giving it a margin of error of only two percentage points, it should be viewed cautiously. Polls that show large changes in public opinion over a short time span should be treated skeptically until other polls confirm their results. It is too early to tell whether the new survey is an outlier or a true reflection of a rapid change in public sentiment, but it is extremely likely that the news of the president’s phone call with the Ukrainian president and subsequent alleged attempts to conceal his actions have changed some minds on impeachment.

If public opinion is swinging rapidly based on the new revelations then it drastically changes the political calculus of impeachment. Where many Republicans assumed that impeachment would help the president politically, the opposite may be true given the widespread opinion that Trump’s actions were wrong. Events are still unfolding rapidly, however, and no one can say where they will lead.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Why Impeachment Is Justified

The transcript of President Trump’s telephone with Ukrainian President Zelensky is out, but the fallout continues. As expected, the call is damning enough to keep the Trump critics on the offensive but vague enough for Trump supporters to explain the president’s actions away. In my view, which does not represent the other writers here or The Resurgent itself, the transcript combined with other evidence against President Trump easily justifies impeachment despite the defenses offered by Republicans.

Defenders of the president make several mistakes in rejecting the impeachment option, the first of which is to claim that impeachment requires an underlying crime. As I’ve pointed out before, impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. Even though the constitutional basis for impeachment includes “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the original intent of the phrase did not preclude impeaching officials for abuses of office that were not criminal in nature.

At the micro end of the scale, the president’s supporters deny that the phone call transcript is enough to warrant impeachment. I believe that they are wrong. While there is no explicit quid pro quo, there is an implicit one, especially in the context of the fact that President Trump had suspended aid to Ukraine the week before. Trump laments that the relationship with Ukraine is not “reciprocal” and Zalensky responds that he wants to cooperate and buy more Javelin anti-tank missiles. President Trump then says that he wants a “favor” from Zalensky. The favor turns out to include investigating Crowdstrike, the US cybersecurity company that investigated the 2016 DNC hack, as well as Joe Biden’s role in dismissing Ukraine’s former top prosecutor.

Trump’s defenders set the bar impossibly high. The only thing that would convince some people is an explicit, Godfather-esque statement in which Trump tells Zalensky, “I’m about to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” Nevertheless, the implication is clear: Play ball and you get your aid and the Javelins.

Trump’s defenders also tend to take each piece of evidence against him individually rather than looking at the big picture. In truth, the revelations of the Mueller report, in which Trump staffers testified under oath that the president ordered them to take action to impede or shut down a federal investigation, detailed an impeachable abuse of power. Mueller explained that the president couldn’t be indicted because of Justice Department policy, but any one of us who acted similarly would likely be sent to jail. Just ask Mike Flynn or George Papadopoulos.

But wait, as they say, there’s more. We also have the president’s decision to declare a national emergency to bypass the will of the people as expressed through their representatives to Congress. This is an egregious affront to the Constitution’s system of checks and balances and, if not corrected, will establish a precedent to be further abused by future presidents. Yesterday, in a vote that included 11 Republicans, the Senate voted to end the national emergency farce, but opponents lack the numbers to override an almost certain veto.

Further, the Trump Administration has habitually refused to respond to congressional oversight, again setting a precedent that will be followed and expanded by future presidents. Like Obama before him, Trump refuses to respond to congressional subpoenas for both documents and testimony. It was the refusal to provide the whistleblower complaint to Congress, not the contents of the telephone call, that spurred Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry.

An additional error on the part of Republicans is using the wrong yardsticks to measure President Trump. Frequent defenses are that he’s an outsider and doesn’t know any better or that the Democrats acted similarly. Both are damning. If the president is so ignorant that he can’t understand the law and ethics when his advisors explain it, then he should not be leading the country. Likewise, if an Administration whose stated goal was to “drain the swamp” is looking to swamp denizens for moral guidance, it has lost its way.

An objective measure rather than a subjective one is much better for the country. Ask the simple question, should any president use his office and taxpayer-funded foreign aid to influence a foreign country to investigate a political rival? Should the president use his office to block an investigation into his campaign? If you view the rule of law and the Constitution objectively, the answer has to be no.

To check whether you are viewing the situation objectively, simply imagine that Obama did the same things that Trump is accused of doing. Republican heads would be exploding rather than offering rationalizations. That’s the next error: Tribalism. Republicans defend Trump, not only because they like his policy and his style, but because he is leader of their tribe. This is simply a different strain of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

The bottom line here is that there is an abundant record of abuses of office by President Trump. Some would justify impeachment on their own, but taken as a whole, they provide a strong argument that the president should be removed from office. He is simply is not trustworthy with the power that he has been granted.

In fact, the case against Trump is much stronger than the cases against the two previously impeached presidents. Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury, an offense that even many Republicans felt could have been handled by censure, and Andrew Johnson was impeached for appointing a replacement cabinet official without congressional consent. Quinn Hillyer makes a detailed comparison of other incidents where impeachment was considered in the Washington Examiner. Trump’s case is stronger than any of them. As Erick Erickson pointed out, the case is likely to become stronger when the whistleblower complaint drops.

Trump’s abuses of power, encroachment on congressional authority, and failure to accept congressional oversight have essentially left Congress no choice but to impeach or accept a diminished role. While I cannot say for sure that impeachment is politically wise or good for the country, it is clearly justified by President Trump’s actions. If impeachment is not justified for President Trump, it may as well be written out of the Constitution. Especially for a party that claims to favor the rule of law and the Constitution, an elected official should be held to a higher standard, not graded on a curve.  

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Biden Gets Breather As Whistleblower Scandal Deepens

The growing scandal over President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky isn’t going away. New revelations are emerging at a rapid clip and, while that isn’t good news for the president, at least for the moment it seems to be good news for Joe Biden.

After months of gaffes and serving as a target for the other Democratic candidates, Biden is currently enjoying a breather as his fellow Democratic hopefuls focus on the news du jour of President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Even though Biden is central to the Ukraine story, the attention may help him more than it hurts him by drawing attention away from other Democrats.

"Every candidate wants to be attacked by the president," Democratic strategist Ian Russell told Axios. "You want this to be a 2-person race...If you're able to get a press cycle or two of you going mano-a-mano against Trump, that's absolutely a good thing for Biden."

The Real Clear Politics average shows Biden ticking up markedly over the past week. In the average of polls, Biden is now at 30 percent and holds a double-digit lead over Elizabeth Warren, his nearest challenger.

Although President Trump is accusing Biden of corruption in his own dealings with Ukraine during the Obama Administration, there is so far no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president. Biden also stands to gain if, after all of the accusations from Trump, nothing untoward is unearthed about Biden’s actions. Trump’s accusations center on Biden’s efforts to fire the top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016.

At the time, Biden’s son, Hunter, was a board member of Burisma, an energy company founded by an ally of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin dictator of Ukraine who was deposed in February 2014. Biden served on the board from April 2014 through April 2019. Republicans say that Joe Biden intervened to protect his son from investigation by Shokin, who had previously investigated Burisma’s owner.

There are several problems with this theory, however. While Vice President Biden’s did create the appearance of conflict-of-interest due to Hunter’s business dealings, the Associated Press points out that the idea to fire Shokin was not Biden’s and Ukraine has denied that either Hunter Biden or Burisma were under investigation at the time of Shokin’s dismissal. Further, the Obama Administration and other Western governments, as well as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, wanted Shokin gone because he was considered too soft on corruption, not because he was too tenacious.

Even before the current scandal erupted, the new Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, denied that the Bidens were under investigation or had committed any crimes. Lutsenko told Bloomberg in May that Shokin submitted his own resignation and that the Burisma investigation was already dormant by the time he left.

“There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against [Burisma owner] Zlochevsky,” Vitaliy Kasko, a former official in the prosecutor general’s office, told Bloomberg. “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.”

There are problems with the timeline as well. Joe Biden made his trip to Ukraine in March 2016, but Shokin had resigned a month earlier in February per the Kyiv Post. Shokin seems to have resumed work at some point and was formally dismissed by the Ukrainian parliament on March 29.

In other developments on the scandal, President Trump admitted to withholding nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine shortly before the president had his phone call with Ukrainian president Zelensky. The White House said that the aid was delayed to concerns about corruption. The money was ultimately released in mid-August.

Separately, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed that he was asked by the State Department to make his own trip to meet Ukrainian leaders. Giuliani met Andriy Yermak in Madrid in August 2019 and urged him to investigate the Bidens. Giuliani also claimed that a $3 million payment Hunter Biden received for serving on the board of Burisma was “money laundering.”

Giuliani also told Fox Business that “I can't tell you if it's 100%” that President Trump didn’t threaten to cut off aid to Ukraine. He added “there’s no quid pro quo” that would justify impeachment.

While the mounting scandal means that Joe Biden’s relationship with Ukraine will be closely scrutinized, the former vice president has so far benefitted from the attacks by the Trump Administration while Trump’s reputation has been further sullied and impeachment is once again on the table. It is far too early to tell whether either side will score a knockout punch with new information that seems to be breaking almost hourly. The one certainty is that the Ukraine scandal will not go away quickly and both Trump and Biden are going to remain in the spotlight.
Originally published in The Resurgent

Pelosi Considers Impeachment Over Ukraine

After resisting for almost a year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may finally be ready to look seriously at impeachment of President Trump. Pelosi has long been a voice of reason among Democrats on the subject of impeachment, saying as recently as July that the House should move slowly on taking the constitutional action against the president. With the White House stonewalling the recent report on whistleblower accusations against Trump, however, Pelosi may be starting to lean the other way.  

Axios reports that Pelosi sent a letter to lawmakers over the weekend that warned that if the Administration continues to block Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire from turning over the whistleblower complaint, Democrats may escalate their legal efforts against Trump.

"If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation," Pelosi said in the letter.

While Pelosi did not specifically mention impeachment, it is likely that the “whole new stage of investigation” refers to the constitutional remedy that available to Congress.

Separately, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has also resisted endorsing impeachment, also said that Democrats may be getting close to impeachment. On CNN's "State of the Union," Schiff told Jake Tapper, "The president is pushing us down this road and if in particular — after having sought foreign assistance and welcomed foreign assistant in the last presidential campaign as a candidate, he is now doing the same thing again but now using the power of the presidency — then he may force us to go down this road. I've spoken with a number of colleagues over the last week and this seems different in kind and we may very well have crossed the Rubicon here."

While all the facts are not in the whistleblower incident, the original meaning of the Constitution’s phrase, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” does not require proof of a criminal act. As the Constitutional Rights Foundation points out, under the English law where the Framers took the phrase, examples of high crimes and misdemeanors included officials who were “accused of offenses as varied as misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not prosecuting cases, not spending money allocated by Parliament, promoting themselves ahead of more deserving candidates, threatening a grand jury, disobeying an order from Parliament, arresting a man to keep him from running for Parliament, losing a ship by neglecting to moor it, helping ‘suppress petitions to the King to call a Parliament,’ granting warrants without cause, and bribery.”

“Some of these charges were crimes,” the group’s explanation continues, “Others were not. The one common denominator in all these accusations was that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.”

As the Washington Post explains, federal law requires the Intelligence Community Inspector General to forward valid complaints to the Director of National Intelligence, who then has seven days to forward it to congressional oversight committees. In this case, Acting DNI Maguire did not forward the complaint to Congress or respond to congressional subpoenas, claiming, it was not valid because it involved  “conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and did not relate to any ‘intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the DNI.’”

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Administration officials are saying “the call didn’t mention a provision of U.S. aid to Ukraine” and sources “don’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid pro quo for his cooperation on any investigation.”

The bottom line is that Congress does not have all the facts about the whistleblower complaint and the Administration is trying to see that they don’t get all the facts. After the Administration’s previous shading of facts to make itself look good, Congress, the media and the public can be forgiven for not taking the Administration’s denials at face value.

I’ve long held that Trump’s previous abuses of power justified impeachment and there seems to be widespread agreement that, if the president tied aid to Ukraine to forcing an investigation that would benefit him politically, it would be an impeachable offense. Even refusing to be held accountable to Congress would be impeachable under original intent, which is based on abuse of office. The problem for Democrats is that impeachment would founder in the Senate where Republicans would be almost certain to acquit the president.

The easiest way out for Donald Trump is to release the whistleblower complaint and transcripts of the calls associated with it. It’s possible, however, that the president wants to generate an impeachment investigation, believing that it will help him in next year’s election. Schiff said in May that Democrats believed that Trump wanted to be impeached.

Whether impeachment would benefit President Trump politically is debatable, but it would definitely not be good for the country. If the president is truly as innocent as he claims, the Trump Administration should have no problem releasing the complaint and associated evidence to prove his case.

If they refuse to do this, the inspector general could release the whistleblower complaint directly to Congress but it’s possible that he could be prosecuted for doing so. Further, the whistleblower himself could come forward, either publicly or anonymously. If he or she is seriously concerned about what he knows, then the need to inform Congress should outweigh the risks.

If the Trump Administration continues to stonewall, information will continue to leak out slowly, perhaps well into the 2020 election season. There is an old aphorism in politics that the coverup is often worse than the crime. That was the case with the Russia investigation and it may well be the case here.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Beto Stagnant In Polls After ‘Hell Yeah’ Moment

It has been a week since Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke vowed, “Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47” in the Democratic primary debate in Houston. There has now been enough time for several polls to show trends from debate performances and it isn’t looking good for Beto.

Looking at the Real Clear Politics average, Beto was sitting at 2.8 percent on September 12, the day of the debate. The most recent average shows him at 2.7 percent, statistically unchanged from before his big moment.

In polling the week before the debate, O’Rourke had ranged as high as five percent and as low as one percent. In the week since the debate, he has surged to four percent and sank as low as one percent.

For all the hoopla and angst over his plan to confiscate guns from law-abiding Americans, Beto sits almost exactly at the same spot in the polls. There are a couple of things that we can take from this. The most important is that it takes more than a swearing and taking a hard line on guns to get Democratic votes. Even though most Democrats support the gun “buyback” idea, they aren’t flocking to Beto because of it. Democratic voters seem to think that there are more important factors than “wokeness” on guns.

Beto’s failure to launch also underscores the divide within the Democratic Party. The majority of the Democratic Party is made up of far-left progressives, but there is a sizable contingent of moderates. I estimate that moderates make up about a third of the party. The 25 percent of the party that opposes Beto’s “buyback” is roughly equivalent to the roughly 30 percent that support moderate candidates like Biden, Klobuchar, and Yang.

The Democrats would be much better off focusing on issues like background checks and red flag laws than controversial issues like gun confiscations. Multiple polls show that background checks and red flag laws are supported by more than 70 percent of Americans while opinion is split on “assault weapons” bans and mandatory “buybacks.”

Beto’s carefully staged moment of passion was his last-gasp attempt to pull himself out of the polling cellar, but it failed. O’Rourke’s campaign is going nowhere and has little hope of catching on. With a large campaign war chest, he can stay in the race for the foreseeable future but you can stick a fork in him. He’s done.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

‘Get Real:’ Leading Democrats Know Kavanaugh Impeachment Is Pipe Dream

If further evidence of a schism between the woke base of the Democratic Party and its leadership class, the move to impeach Justice Brett Kavanaugh should provide it. A fresh allegation of sexual impropriety over the weekend stoked the fires of impeachment among activists but realists quickly dismiss the movement.

The new allegation is from a third party who said he saw Kavanaugh’s friends push his penis into a female Yale student’s hands during a drunken party. Max Stier, the man who claimed to witness the incident, has not come forward publicly and the New York Times story on the incident was corrected to point out that the woman at the center of the allegation does not remember the incident and declined to be interviewed. There also seem to be no other corroborating witnesses or evidence.

In summary, the allegation is like the other allegations against Kavanaugh in that none of them can be supported by objective evidence. If this information had been brought forward in the confirmation hearings, it would not have changed anything and it is not sufficient to justify impeachment. None of this matters to the chattering class, but the people who would have to carry out the impeachment know better.

“Get real,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday.

“We’ve got to get beyond this ‘impeachment is the answer to every problem.’ It’s not realistic,” Durbin told Politico. “If that’s how we are identified in Congress, as the impeachment Congress, we run the risk that people will feel we’re ignoring the issues that mean a lot to them as families.”

Squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) has said that she will introduce an impeachment resolution that would allow House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Kavanaugh should be impeached, arguing, “Kavanaugh’s confirmation process set a dangerous precedent. We must demand justice for survivors and hold Kavanaugh accountable for his actions.”

Let me help her answer that question. He shouldn’t.

Per the Constitution, “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” If we look back to the original intent of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors,” it is much more broad than the criminal definition often assumed today. As the Constitutional Rights Foundation points out:

The convention adopted “high crimes and misdemeanors” with little discussion. Most of the framers knew the phrase well. Since 1386, the English parliament had used “high crimes and misdemeanors” as one of the grounds to impeach officials of the crown. Officials accused of “high crimes and misdemeanors” were accused of offenses as varied as misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not prosecuting cases, not spending money allocated by Parliament, promoting themselves ahead of more deserving candidates, threatening a grand jury, disobeying an order from Parliament, arresting a man to keep him from running for Parliament, losing a ship by neglecting to moor it, helping “suppress petitions to the King to call a Parliament,” granting warrants without cause, and bribery. Some of these charges were crimes. Others were not. The one common denominator in all these accusations was that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.

There is no evidence that any of these apply to Brett Kavanaugh, especially since he took his seat on the Supreme Court last year. This is key because the House Judiciary Committee determined in 1873 that impeachment “should only be applied to high crimes and misdemeanors committed while in office and which alone affect the officer in discharge of his duties.”

At this point, there is far more cause to impeach Donald Trump than Brett Kavanaugh. The Mueller report’s revelations of Trump’s attempts to interfere with an ongoing investigation and the president’s use of national emergencies to circumvent the will of the people expressed through Congress would arguably fall under the abuse of office category of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The ultimate problem with impeaching both Kavanaugh and Trump is the Republican Congress. As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pointed out, “Mitch McConnell would block any impeachment. So that’s a moot point.”

Impeachment of either man would be pointless because Democrats are not even close to the required two-thirds of members present in the Senate. An impeachment vote in the House would only serve to fortify the Republican base for the upcoming election.

An article in Vox that judges can be removed without impeachment faces similar problems. The argument, based on a paper that predates the Kavanaugh controversy by law professors Saikrishna Prakash and Steven D. Smith, is that judges who fail to exhibit “good behavior” can be removed by the “judicial process.”  

Again, the problem is that Kavanaugh has not committed “misbehavior” while in office. Further, the Department of Justice and Supreme Court are controlled by Republicans and constitutionalists respectively. Neither is likely to allow a court proceeding that would remove Kavanaugh.

There is a good argument that the bar for impeachment is too high, especially given our stalemated Congress and current tribal partisan nature, but the procedure is laid out by the Constitution and will not be changed any time soon, again thanks to our stalemated Congress. The rank-and-file members of Congress and presidential candidates who are pushing impeachment of the two men are either strategically challenged or are doing so to gain publicity for themselves at the expense of their party.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Bad Week For Legal Immigration

Republicans have long claimed to support legal immigration, even as they pursue a hardline against illegal immigrants. I’ve written before how that has not been necessarily true of the Trump Administration, which has introduced a number of policies aimed at curbing legal immigration. This week yielded more bad news for proponents of legal immigration.

The first bit of bad news was the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Trump Administration’s rule blocking asylum-seekers from asking for asylum in the United States if they pass through a third country and don’t ask for asylum there first. The Court did not rule on the merits of the case but struck down an injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that prevented the government from enforcing the policy while the case was being heard.

From the perspective of proponents of legal immigration, the new policy is a bad one for several reasons. The law is aimed primarily at Central American refugees who pass through Mexico in order to ask for asylum in the US. Applying for asylum is legal under US law so the policy is clearly intended to discourage legal immigration by making it more difficult and requiring these refugees to seek asylum in Mexico.

For many reasons, Mexico is not an attractive place for asylum-seekers. Our neighbor to the South is itself a poverty-stricken nation that is plagued by drug violence. It is unlikely that Mexico can accommodate a large influx of refugees. The fact that Mexico itself is the source of many migrants to the US says a lot about the country’s ability to accept refugees.

On the other side, Republicans claim that immigrants are abusing the asylum law by asking for asylum because they are seeking economic opportunity rather than because they are part of a persecuted group. Data from the National Immigration Forum shows that in 2016, the most recent year for which complete data was available, immigration courts granted approval to asylum-seekers in 28 percent of cases. Interestingly, the largest source of asylum-seekers is China, a country that will not be affected by the new policy since most Chinese immigrants can fly directly to the US from their homeland.

The ultimate question before the Court should not be whether the Trump Administration’s policy is wise or humanitarian but whether the president has the legal authority to change US immigration law. Does the law passed by Congress grant the president the leeway to unilaterally make such a significant change? In barring the government from enforcing the rule, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar wrote that the policy “is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws.” It is likely that the Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide that question, but, for now at least, the Trump Administration has another tool for turning back Central American refugees.

The second blow to legal immigration was President Trump’s decision to deny citizens of the Bahamas temporary protected status in the wake of the devastation to their country left by Hurricane Dorian. The storm left at least 50 people dead and about 2,500 are missing. An estimated 70,000 more are homeless.

Temporary protected status would allow Bahamians to temporarily live and work in the United States while their country recovers, but Reuters reported on Wednesday that the program, which currently includes about 300,000 people from 10 different countries affected by natural disasters and wars, would not be extended to hurricane refugees. Per Axios, a TPS designation would affect only those Bahamians in the US at the time of the designation, an estimated 1,500 people. Officials from Florida had requested TPS status to allow Bahamian refugees to live with families in that state earlier this week.

“The Bahamians impacted by Hurricane Dorian are facing a humanitarian crisis, and the American government, international partners and private organizations continue to support them with aid and services. At this time, we do not plan to invoke Temporary Protected Status for those currently in the United States,” a White House official said.

There seems to be no leeway in accepting Bahamian refugees. Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan of U.S. Customs and Border Protection initially said, “We will accept anyone on humanitarian reasons that needs to come here” and that, “If your life is in jeopardy and you're in the Bahamas and you want to get to the United States, you're going to be allowed to come to the United States, whether you have travel documents or not.”

But President Trump overruled Morgan on Monday, telling reporters, “We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation. The Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there. I don't want to allow people that weren't supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members, and some very, very bad drug dealers. So, we're going to be very strong on that.”

“Bahamians must be in possession of a valid, unexpired passport or a Bahamian Travel Document listing nationality as Bahamian. Bahamians arriving to the United States by vessel must be in possession of a valid passport AND valid travel visa,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Monday. “Travelers who would otherwise qualify for the Visa Waiver Program and who travel by air from a CBP Preclearance facility in Freeport or Nassau may not need a U.S. visitor's visa.” The DHS statement also contradicts Morgan.

It is understandable to want immigrants to come to the US legally, but it is not understandable to insist that people obey the law and then make the law almost impossible to follow. “I want tremendous numbers of people to come in,” Donald Trump said in 2015 as he promised a “big beautiful door in the wall,” but, since becoming president, the door to legal immigration has been pushed further closed by Trump’s policies.

If Republicans really want to encourage legal immigration, the process should be made easier, not more difficult. If not, they should be honest about it.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Iran Just Knocked Out Half Of Saudi Arabia’s Oil Production

Drone attacks have temporarily destroyed half of Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity. Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the two attacks which left Saudi oil facilities in flames and knocked out production of 5.7 million barrels of oil and natural gas per day. The loss of production is equivalent to five percent of the world’s oil capacity.

Per CNN, Houthis said that they attacked two facilities of Aramco, the Saudi state-owned oil company, at  Abqaiq and Khurais. The attacks reportedly involved 10 drones and left the oil facilities in flames. The Saudis said that the fires were under control. It is not known how long oil production will be affected by the attacks.

Oil prices will probably rise when markets open next week. "Abqaiq is perhaps the most critical facility in the world for oil supply. Oil prices will jump on this attack," Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said in a statement.

"Sanctioned Iran supplies are another source of potential additional oil," Bordoff said. "But [US President Donald] Trump has already shown he is willing to pursue a maximum pressure campaign even when oil prices spike. If anything, the risk of tit-for-tat regional escalation that pushes oil prices even higher has gone up significantly."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed the attacks on Iran in a tweet, saying, “Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.  There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

While Pompeo did not cite evidence that Iran was behind the attacks, Iran has long used the Houthis as a proxy in their cold war with the Saudis. The cold war turned hot in 2015 when Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of the government in the Yemeni civil war. The Houthi rebels, who are predominantly Shia Muslims, are backed by Iran and were in danger of taking over the country which borders Saudi Arabia at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudis, who are Sunni Muslims, led a multinational coalition to aid the Yemeni government. At the time, the Saudis predicted that the fighting would only last a few months, but the war is still ongoing four years later.

The new unrest in the Middle East could affect the US in a couple of ways. First, the blow to global oil supplies is likely to drive up oil prices. Uncertainty about the future of Middle East oil production could also cause prices to go higher. With signs that the US and global economies are already slowing, higher energy costs could further slow growth.

If the attacks can be firmly linked to Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US may reciprocate with reprisals. In June, President Trump approved and then canceled an attack on Iran after the Iranians attacked several ships in the Persian Gulf.

There seem to be few options for a response to the attack. Iran seems determined to cause a confrontation. Their past behavior indicates that if the Saudis and the US do not take action then the Iranians will ratchet up their aggressive behavior.

After President Trump’s abortive attack and recent revelations that he may be considering extending a $15 billion credit line to Iran if the nation comes back into compliance with President Obama’s nuclear deal, which President Trump canceled in 2018, the Iranians almost certainly view Trump as a weak and indecisive leader and are seeking to find out how far they can push him. Since the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, Iran has had little love for Americans and Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal was like a slap in the face.

The attack on Saudi oil production is one of those stories that is easy to overlook amid concerns about whether Beto O’Rourke’s threat to confiscate AR-15s and the culture wars about gender and abortion, but it may ultimately be of much greater importance than most topics being discussed. The event could impact the US and the world in much the same way as Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of a small Middle Eastern country that most Americans had never heard of.

President Trump does not want war with Iran. The president is essentially an isolationist who wants to bring American soldiers home rather than dispatching them to a new front. War with Iran, if it did not reach a rapid and successful conclusion, would also complicate President Trump’s reelection campaign. The problem for Trump is that the Iranians sense that he does not want war and realize that this gives them an opportunity to run amok.

Taking military action against Iran runs the risk of igniting the Middle East in a regional war that could end up as another Iraq or Afghanistan. Not taking action is also risky, however. If Iran is allowed to act with impunity, the rogue nation will only be encouraged to continue its aggression.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Deficit Tops $1 Trillion

It has become a trope among many on both sides whenever a big news story breaks to ask, “What are they not wanting us to pay attention to?” I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I will admit that today’s firing of National Security Advisor John Bolton overshadows what is, in reality, a much more pressing issue. As both sides react to Bolton’s ouster and even people who, as recently as yesterday were critics of the mustachioed advisor, weigh in on how his departure is a bad sign for the president, what many people are missing is the news that the federal budget deficit just exceeded $1 trillion.

In a report released on September 9, the Congressional Budget Office noted that the deficit for the first eleven months of the 2019 fiscal year was $1.067 trillion, which was $168 billion more than for the same period in 2018.

The historic deficit occurred as both revenues and spending increased over last year. Per the CBO, “revenues were $102 billion higher and outlays were $271 billion higher” than the first eleven months of 2018. Expenditures increased by seven percent, a larger rate than the three percent increase in total revenues, which accounts for the larger deficit.

I’d like to say that the lack of an outcry from Republicans is surprising, but it wouldn’t be true. At this point, it is no longer shocking that fiscal hawks from the Freedom Caucus and elsewhere are silent on the issue of Trumpian spending. Even Mark Sanford, the newest Republican challenger who is running on a platform of fiscal conservatism, was didn’t mark the occasion.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the last year that the US ran a trillion-dollar deficit was 2012 when the red ink totaled $1.076 trillion in the wake of the Great Recession. Given that President Trump’s deficit this year is already at $1.067 trillion, it seems likely that Mr. Trump will exceed Obama’s spending level by the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

What makes the current budget deficit even worse is that President Obama’s spending was justified as a response to the 2008 financial crisis. I don’t believe in Keynesian stimulus spending but at least there was a crisis to blame back then. The current spending levels are in a relatively stable economy. With no crisis to avert, neither side is offering any pretense that the deficit will ever be under control.

Both sides like to talk about the various crises that America faces, but neither wants to face the difficult choices that will be required to solve our budget crisis. It is easier to attack AOC and the squad than to talk about the reality that entitlements are bankrupting our country. As commenters illustrate whenever I point out that Social Security and Medicare are both entitlements, even conservative voters are loathe to talk about cutting the programs that are driving us bankrupt.

Here’s the truth: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety-net programs make up 61 percent of the federal budget while interest on the debt adds another seven percent.

More truth is that Social Security and Medicare are entitlements, not savings accounts. Your payroll tax dollars that are euphemistically called “contributions” do not go into an account with your name on it. They go to pay current recipients. The Social Security trust fund is expected to be exhausted by 2032 and Medicare will be bankrupt by 2026.

Yet another difficult truth is that we could all foreign aid and trim wasteful spending until the sacred cows come home and we would still have a debt crisis. Entitlements are the problem and Social Security is the largest entitlement in the federal budget.

The YUGE national debt is the root of many of our problems. The Fed must keep interest rates low, punishing savers and investors, because higher rates will mean even more federal debt and a higher deficit. We are vulnerable to China because they hold much of debt and can dump it, causing a financial crisis, if we give them too many problems. The need to make payments on debt and interest crowd out many other things that we could be spending money on (although let’s be honest, not having money doesn’t stop the government from spending). The deficit also crowds out private borrowing and leads to higher taxes.

Maybe Rush Limbaugh was right when he said a few months ago that “all this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.” It sure looks that way.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, September 6, 2019

August Jobs Report Yields Disappointing Numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the monthly jobs report for August and the hiring numbers for last month are further evidence that the economy is slowing.
In raw numbers, the BLS reported that the economy added 130,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. The report notes that 25,000 of the new jobs were temporary census workers hired by the federal government.
Job creation in August was short of expectations and below average for the current year. Economists had predicted a gain of about 158,000 jobs. The August numbers, especially when the temporary census jobs are subtracted, was the worst month for job creation since last February.
Job creation was offset by the loss of 11,000 jobs in retail and 5,000 jobs in the mining industry. There was little change in construction, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and leisure and hospitality, industries in which the report notes “job growth in these industries has moderated thus far in 2019 compared with 2018.” Some of the job loss in retail could be attributed to the rise of internet retailers such as Amazon.
In the same report, the BLS revised down the job creation numbers from June and July. In June, businesses created 15,000 fewer jobs than previously reported while July numbers were downgraded by 5,000.
The stock market reacted to report by pulling back a surge that resulted from the news that the US and China will resume trade talks next month. As of this writing, the Dow is up about 82 points for the day.
The primary change in the economy over the last year has been the escalation of the trade war with China. As reported last week in The Resurgent, manufacturing output has decreased to its lowest point since 2009, putting the manufacturing sector in a recession already. This is largely due to decreased demand.
Despite the manufacturing slowdown and declining jobs in retail, consumer confidence remains relatively high. Confidence is above 2016 levels, but it has fallen sharply since the onset of the trade war last year. The addition of President Trump’s new tariffs, with one round of taxes on consumer goods effective Sept. 1 and another due in December, may further erode confidence.
“Household consumption right now is propping up the U.S. economy,” Joe Brusuelas, chief economist for the audit and consulting firm RSM, told NPR. “We’ll see if the uncertainty tax that’s been placed on the economy by trade policy begins to adversely influence consumer attitudes.”
The Wall Street Journal points out that, while the contraction in manufacturing due to the trade war is problematic, the bigger concern is the services sector that includes retail. If hiring slows enough to raise the unemployment rate, consumers could slow their spending and the economy could slow further as a result. Trade uncertainty and the possibility that businesses could slow their investments is yet another threat.
President Trump has pressed the Fed to decrease interest rates and the August jobs report will likely support the need for an interest rate cut, but a lower interest rate is not the answer to what ails the economy. It is the trade war that has led to what seems to be a global manufacturing slowdown and things are likely to continue to get worse until the trade uncertainty is resolved.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Right To Open Carry Requires Responsibility

Like many people, I was disappointed in Walmart’s decision to stop carrying certain types of ammunition and ask customers to refrain from open carry of guns in their stores. The decision is undoubtedly linked to the mass murder in an El Paso Walmart that left 22 people dead on August 3, but I think that it also has a lot to do with people like Dmitriy Andreychenko.

For those of you who don’t remember, Mr. Andreychenko entered a Springfield, Missouri Walmart on August 8, 2019, carrying a rifle, a pistol, more than 100 rounds of ammunition and wearing body armor. Rather than opening fire, he took videos of himself and panicked customers with a cell phone while he pushed a shopping cart around the store. Ironically, Andreychenko was held at gunpoint by an off-duty firefighter, a good guy with a gun, when he attempted to leave.

Andreychenko later told police, “I wanted to know if Walmart honored the Second Amendment.”

Even though Missouri is an open carry state, he is still in serious trouble. Andreychenko was arrested and is currently awaiting trial for making a terrorist threat in the second degree, a charge that carries a jail term of up to four years and a fine of up to $10,000.

“Missouri protects the right of people to open carry a firearm, but that does not allow an individual to act in a reckless and criminal manner endangering other citizens,” Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press, who likened the act of walking into Walmart carrying a loaded rifle while wearing body armor to “falsely shouting fire in a theater causing a panic.”

"His intent was not to cause peace or comfort," Lieutenant Mike Lucas of the Springfield Police Department told KYTV. "He's lucky he's alive still, to be honest."

Both Andreychenko’s wife and sister told investigators that he had asked them to film his visit to Walmart and both told him that it was a bad idea. Their testimony is now being used as proof that Andreychenko’s intent was to cause a disturbance.

While open carry is a right in many states, rights come with responsibilities. Andreychenko’s actions were clearly irresponsible, but what about other open carry activists who stage public demonstrations? I’ve seen many pictures floating around the internet of heavily armed open-carry activists doing things like ordering food at restaurants with AR-15s or AK-47s slung across their shoulders. In my opinion, this is a very bad idea.

There is a right way and a wrong way to open carry and making a public spectacle of yourself is the wrong way. In this age of frequent active shooter incidents, gun owners should be conscious that a great many members of the public are very nervous about guns. If voters get freaked out by people in the grocery store who look like refugees from “The Walking Dead” or a Wild West cowboy, it will likely not end well for gun owners. Open carry laws can be repealed just as easy as they were passed. Probably easier.

In open carry states, it is still somewhat unusual to see someone with a gun on their hip. I lived in Texas when open carry became law there and now live in Georgia, another open carry state. In both places, I can go months without seeing anyone exercising the right to open carry. Even then, weapons have been exclusively small pistols that are not very noticeable. This is the correct way to open carry, a way that doesn’t spark fear from other shoppers.

Personally, I favor concealed carry over open carry for a couple of reasons. First, you can’t set off an anti-gun backlash if people don’t know that you are carrying a gun. Second, I don’t want bad guys to know that I am armed until I am ready for them to know.

If you want to open carry a gun, you have a responsibility to get training on how to do so safely, regardless of whether your state requires it. When you carry a gun in the open, you make yourself a target. If a criminal sees your gun, he may decide to shoot you rather than take the risk that you will shoot him. Proper training will teach you how to draw your gun quickly and shoot with accuracy in a high-stress situation.

Further, open carry also makes you a target for someone to take your gun and use it against you. Preventing theft of your gun requires good situational awareness and training in gun-retention techniques. If you think it can’t happen to you, consider that about 10 percent of police officers who are killed by gunshots are killed with their own guns.

You should also become familiar with the laws governing how and where you carry a gun. Some places are off-limits for carrying a weapon and some state define how you can legally carry. For instance, public buildings are frequently off-limits and you may be required to use a holster rather than simply putting a pistol in your pocket.

I support the right to carry and I believe that allowing good guys to arm themselves is a reasonable idea. A study by the Rand Corporation last year found that the effect of shall-issue carry laws on violent crime was inconclusive, but giving people the right to decide for themselves on whether they need to be armed for protection is a good thing.  

Guns are a valuable protective resource but if the pro-gun community doesn’t take some action to rein in people like Dmitriy Andreychenko, the right to carry a gun could be easily lost. The fear of heavily armed people in public is a reasonable fear in a time when large numbers of innocent people are being gunned down. Gun owners should not abuse the right to carry and, if they choose to exercise it, should get training and practice on a regular basis.

Originally posted on The Resurgent