The Public Reckoning Over Russiagate Will Not Be Televised

The opening scene of the Big Reveal of Robert Mueller’s special counsel report went pretty much according to type: Conservatives “pounced,” the left “pushed back,” and the media turned to each other for comfort and reassurance that everything was going to be alright.

Amidst the misty-eyed cable news anchors and the hastily arranged panels of pundits carrying out a series of televised group therapy sessions, a theme began to take shape—a soothing, healing crystal in the form of an incantation of hope and deliverance: This can’t be the end. There’s got to be more. This isn’t the end. There’s going to be more. Say it with me: This can’t be the end. There’s got to be…

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow got the ball rolling with her traditional stream-of-consciousness opening, rhetorically cursing the gods of sitting-president indictment norms and promising (pleading for?) more, much more, to come from the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Rep. Adam Schiff, and Rep. Gerald Nadler. CNN threw together a panel of its Russia collusion all-stars, all of whom, like Maddow, played principal roles in bringing the Russia collusion “slam dunk” into our living rooms and embedding the notion of a treasonous president into the national psyche.

They made no mention of the provenance of those great expectations as they were being dashed, ironically, in the same studios from whence they arose, but chose instead to focus on the future. Their message? “It was never really that important to prove that the leader of our country was a compromised asset of the Kremlin. That was just something we liked to talk about while we waited for the serious charges to be brought, like inflating his assets for insurance purposes and paying off a porn star.”

In a rare fit of journalistic pique, Anderson Cooper attempted to ask one of his guests if all of this talk about the Nadler and Schiff investigations didn’t support the notion that the left was simply moving the goal posts from “Just wait until the Mueller report comes out” to “Just wait until the Nadler and Schiff reports come out.” He didn’t get a straight answer.

Nor will we. There will be no public mea culpa from the media for two years of feverishly biased hyping of unfounded allegations that the president of the United States is engaged in treason and actively operating as an agent of the Russian Federation. Nor will we hear any indications of regret from the current and former Democratic politicians and intelligence community officials who initiated, distributed, and sustained those allegations through leaks, on-air commentary, or both.

What we will hear is more of what we heard Friday night. We will hear that Donald Trump brought this upon himself by acting so blasted suspiciously. How could we possibly have ignored those angry tweets and attempts to “undermine the investigation”? What else were we supposed to think?

They’ll fail to acknowledge that an innocent man knows on day one that no evidence will be uncovered. If that innocent man is the president of the United States, the charge is treason, and the investigation is about to enter its third year, one would expect that innocent man to have a fairly dynamic opinion as to the legitimacy of the investigation. Add that common behavioral expectation to Trump’s turbo-charged behavioral pattern, and you’ve got yourself two years of angry tweets.

We will hear a lot about the accessibility of the information in the Mueller report. Will we all be able to read enough of it to be comfortable with the prosecutorial decisions made, and the underlying investigatory details that informed those decisions? Everyone asking that question knows the answer is “Yes,” yet they’ll keep asking because they need a grievance to supplant, and deflect attention from, the failure of the treason narrative.

The idea is to demand a level of access and transparency that is impossible to attain — since here will always be limitations on the release of classified sources and methods, or legitimately privileged information — then create a hypothetical scenario wherein the redaction or withholding of such material is an injustice worthy of protest and suspicion. Presto: you’ve guaranteed a grievance you can unleash like a squirrel running across a highway when you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to respond to the factual reality of the Mueller conclusions.

We will hear of the vast array of additional investigations involving the president, information that will be presented to us as if these investigations were all predicated on substantive evidence of probable cause of a crime. Considering their role as emotional crutches for the same Democratic politicians and media who fell so deeply for the treason narrative, it’s a good bet that these investigations will proceed without the level of critical scrutiny one would expect a journalist to focus on something like, say, the Steele dossier. Mueller may have been the one they loved, but Nadler, Schiff, and the SDNY will become the ones they’re with.

What we won’t hear is an apology, or an introspective review of the mistakes and professional lapses that brought us all to this point. There will be a reckoning, but that reckoning won’t be televised.

Instead, the reckoning will take place in the hearts and minds of the millions of Americans outside the Acela corridor who’ve been watching this slow-motion train wreck of a self-absorbed, hopelessly biased legacy media beclowning themselves in pursuit of the admiration and legitimacy of their peers, and of the Democratic politicians with whom they share secrets, lies, and tactics in furtherance of their mutual ideological objectives.

The reckoning will come in the form of an enlightened audience and electorate, whose questions and doubts about the motives and agenda of the media have been fused by this experience over the last two years into a fundamental and abiding distrust of their political reporting, their use of anonymous sources, and their empty promises of unbiased reporting.

That audience saw through the attempts of Reps. Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Ted Lieu to represent innuendo as evidence, all the while silently urging the journalists hosting them to simply ask them a pertinent follow-up question. They saw through the hyperbolic ranting of Sen. Richard Blumenthal, for whom no rumor was beyond elevation to direct evidence of treason and the imminent decline of democracy as we know it. They noticed that the journalists doing the interviews didn’t seem to have it in them to challenge the slanderous, unsubstantiated allegations of their regular guests. And they knew why.

It is no secret that the most accurate reporting on the Trump-Russia saga has come from either conservative-leaning publications or from non-traditional, non-legacy media. These news and opinion outlets have picked up where the traditional media has left off, and consumers, who simply want to be able to trust what they read, have found them to be a reliable option for their news. The traditional media would do well to pay attention to these people.

As much as I’d like to close with a quick word of advice for the media, for the Democratic politicians who pushed the treason narrative, and for the Comeys, Brennans, and Clappers, et al. who engineered this debacle, I honestly have no advice to give. It’s over. There is no recovery from this.

The reckoning may not be televised, but it will be this: You will no longer be believed.

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Author: Jason Beale

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4 Things To Look For In Robert Mueller’s Russian Collusion Report

Washington DC is atwitter with the news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller III has submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr. If the report does anything short of fully exonerating the president of colluding with the Russians, Americans will have every reason to be outraged at the abuse of the office of special counsel for corrupt and political ends.

The damage has been incalculable. Let’s walk through a few grievances that Americans have with Mueller.

1. Inability to Recover from a Terrible Start

Was the Mueller probe about investigating a crime or a means of exacting political revenge? One clue is that the regulations guarding against the former were not observed.

28 CFR § 600.1 provides the grounds for appointing a special counsel. The original purpose is supposed to be a “criminal investigation” that presents a “conflict of interest for the Department.” Former attorney general Jeff Sessions, a Donald Trump nominee, was pushed aside on a spurious conflict-of-interest theory in favor of the even more-conflicted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein granted the special counsel sweeping authority to pursue any “links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” If that wasn’t broad enough, Rosenstein added jurisdiction over “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Thus, the initial appointment memo gave the special counsel license to investigate anyone connected to the Trump campaign over anything that “may arise” from the investigation. In other words, “here’s a list of people involved in the Trump campaign—go find something on them.”

This is also a violation of 28 CFR § 600.4, which provides that the special counsel is supposed to be appointed with a “specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated.” The “other matters that may arise” jurisdiction is not supposed to be granted in advance. Under 28 CFR § 600.4(b), the special counsel is supposed to consult with the attorney general, who will determine whether to include the additional matters or refer them to the regular prosecutors with jurisdiction.

Thus, for example, the Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn prosecutions should not have been included in the original mandate and should have required a determination that a local U.S. attorney would be conflicted from accepting or declining those cases. In reality, the special counsel used those prosecutions in an unsuccessful bid to coerce witnesses to turn on the president.

Under 28 CFR § 600.3, Rosenstein was supposed to name “a lawyer with a reputation for integrity and impartial decisionmaking…selected from outside the United States Government.” Mueller was, at the time of his appointment, technically outside the federal government only just barely. Trump had just rejected Mueller to fill the very same vacancy created by Trump firing former FBI director James Comey.

Mueller also had a prior relationship with both Rosenstein and later Mueller probe lawyer Andrew Weissmann. Weissmann had already been involved in the investigation so long that he received some of the very first briefings from Bruce Ohr with the early drafts of Christopher Steele’s dossier.

Weissmann’s prominent role in the investigation before and after the appointment of Mueller is definitely a violation of the spirit of the regulation and has destroyed any sense that the real investigators were “impartial.” There are many reasons to question the impartiality of the Mueller team, as I show here.

2. Key Items that Should Be Inside the Report

According to Barr’s letter to Congress, the report is a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions [Mueller] has reached.” Thus, the report should only be expected to identify the cases accepted and declined. The report should only contain a response to the original mandate—whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government.

Since the Mueller investigation leaked so much, we can say with some confidence that the answer to that question is “no.” The prosecutions of the Russian hacking cases have been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania (for some reason), and the Mueller report should not comment upon that prosecution beyond the public indictment.

The cases involving Manafort, George Papadopolous, Flynn, and Richard Gates have all resulted in convictions with statements of offenses that should speak for themselves. None of those cases prove or disprove the original mandate. Arguably, the special counsel should have given all of those cases to the main Department of Justice to accept or decline instead of making more “get Trump” notches on their gun belt.

The report should say little of those cases. And the report should not contain damning innuendo against targets who were not charged.

3. Explanation about Why the Report Took so Long

In the recent third season of “Billions,” the story depicts a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York opening a bogus investigation into his boss in order to entice interference and obstruction. The plan almost works, until the boss figures it out and fires the U.S. attorney. This seems uncannily like what could have happened in real life with the Russia hoax.

Remember, we’re supposed to believe that our president was a puppet of the president of Russia. If so, why did it take Mueller two years to report back to the American people on that? Shouldn’t this have been a national emergency?

Author Lee Smith quoted one congressional source who said, “It’s not an investigation, it’s leverage,” referring to the Washington DC trick of protecting one’s job by investigating one’s boss. The simple answer is that Mueller has never really believed the dossier but that the entire special counsel was a trap to entice the president into over-reacting.

The report had better have a good explanation for dragging America through two years of investigation. If it is an exoneration, I’ll look carefully for a valid explanation for Mueller waiting this long to admit to as much.

4. What About Fusion GPS?

Although not in his direct mandate, one cannot escape the fact that this entire special counsel effort began with a dossier procured by Hillary Clinton to defeat and (later) inflict revenge on Trump. It is very bad thing for a democratic republic that a candidate can lose an election but then hamstring her opponent’s ability to govern with some political opposition research.

This is the first election in American history in which we very nearly did not have a peaceful transfer of power. This cannot happen again, and if it does, it will be worse next time.

While I applaud the termination of the special counsel political revenge squad, this will not be the end of this issue. The Department of Justice needs some serious reform or it will simply become more emboldened and more out-of-control in future elections.

The irony out of all of this is that Vladimir Putin got his start taking over Russia using some of the same techniques used against Trump.

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Author: Adam Mill

Trump’s Bully Pit

Washington

During a week when President Donald Trump should have been beating his chest nonstop to celebrate the strong U.S. economy, he instead chose to flog his enemies, dead and alive, on Twitter and on camera.

On Wednesday, Trump bashed the late Sen. John McCain, a war hero and Vietnam POW, in front of Ohio supporters who did not appear to see the dead man bashing as just clean fun. “I never liked him much,” Trump offered, flaunting his conviction that people actually care whom he does and does not like.

On the same day, he dismissed George Conway, the lawyer husband of key adviser Kellyanne Conway, and referred to him as “Mr. Kellyanne” — like that’s a bad thing.

Conway has not been blameless in the exchanges. On Twitter, Conway has questioned the mental health of his wife’s boss. Other Conway tweets have framed Trump as “beneath contempt,” and a habitual liar “who disgraces his office, and all around him, especially those who shamelessly defend him.”

Rather than back off to give the Conway family a respite, Trump and company have responded with the claim that George Conway is jealous of his wife’s high profile in the West Wing.

Conway is a sad example of the reality of Trump world. In order to hit Trump where he lives, you have to become Trump and embrace his superhuman ability to never let go of a grudge, even after you’ve won. Your need to feed your resentment must be so strong that, like Trump, you don’t care whom you hurt, including your spouse and valued colleagues.

George Conway shows what happens to Trump haters as they morph into Trump imitators — to fight in Trump’s ring, you risk a Pyrrhic victory of the soul.

Meanwhile, in the East Room Thursday afternoon, Trump held an event to promote free speech on campus. I doubt that the executive order he signed will make much of a difference substantively, but the symbolism was undeniable. An American president put academia on notice that administrators have to accommodate the free speech rights of conservative students and end the far-left’s near monopoly on political discourse on campus — or face consequences.

To be in the room was to see Trump at his best — letting institutions understand that they are accountable to forces outside their cocktail circuit and assuring everyday Americans that they have a seat at his table. He mostly stuck to the script on the teleprompter.

Another plus: The event was not all about Trump.

That version of Trump is the reason many conservative voters stand behind the president.

Voters also have the advantage of not being elected Republican officials who not only have to defend Trump, but also must support his policies even if they don’t like them and even though they know that Trump could prod them to walk a plank which Trump himself might pull out from under them at any moment.

That’s what happened in December — resulting in the longest government shutdown in history — after Trump walked away from a budget deal his team had signaled he would support.

Look at Trump’s ginned up national emergency. Yes, there is a crisis at the border, but a more focused White House would have found a smarter way to fund border security without walking Congress to the breach. This time, 12 Republicans voted against the scheme.

According to news reports, some GOP senators approached Trump about cutting a deal to check an arguable act of executive overreach and help them save face. But Trump isn’t interested in helping his allies save face.

Trump’s my-way-or-the-highway posture worked in the GOP primary and his first two years in office. The Trump base loves Trump for it, and they love how well his stubborn posture has brought others to their knees. It’s like tonic for a GOP voter base that has seen countless conservatives cave rather than argue.

Over time, Trump’s knee-jerk counterpunching seems like the flip side of that coin. Voters too often see a man who can’t stop jutting his jaw and can’t exercise simple acts of kindness to protect those around him. His autopilot is on rant, and it’s getting old. President Trump has turned his bully pulpit into a bully pit.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

COPYRIGHT 2019 CREATORS.COM

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Author: Debra J. Saunders

To Search Through Millions of License Plates, Police Should Get a Warrant

Earlier this week, EFF filed a brief in one of the first cases to consider whether the use of automated license plate reader (ALPR) technology implicates the Fourth Amendment. Our amicus brief, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Yang, argues that when a U.S. Postal Service inspector used a commercial ALPR database to locate a suspected mail thief, it was a Fourth Amendment search that required a warrant.

ALPRs are high-speed, computer-controlled camera systems. Some models can photograph up to 1,800 license plates every minute, and every week, law enforcement agencies across the country use these cameras to collect data on millions of license plates. The plate numbers, together with location, date, and time information, are uploaded to a central server, and made instantly available to other agencies. The data include photographs of the vehicle, and sometimes of its drivers and passengers. ALPRs are typically attached to vehicles, such as police cars, or can be mounted on street poles, highway overpasses, or mobile trailers.

One leading commercial database operated by DRN advertises that it contains 6.5 billion plates. DRN is owned by the same company as Vigilant Solutions, and according to testimony from a Vigilant executive in the Yang case, the Vigilant LEARN database used by the Postal Service to locate the defendant includes all of DRN’s records as well as a wealth of data available only to law enforcement agencies.

If police want to search through ALPR data, we believe they should get a warrant.

In recent years, EFF, the ACLU, and others have called attention to ALPR’s invasive tracking capabilities and its proliferation across the country. We won a major victory when the California Supreme Court agreed with us that the public has a right to know how police use this technology. Starting with Yang, we will be arguing that government use of ALPRs is a search that implicates the Fourth Amendment, and it should require a warrant in routine investigations.

ALPRs scan every car, regardless of whether the individual driver is suspected of criminal activity. Similar to cell site location information (CSLI) or GPS tracking, ALPR records can paint a picture of where a vehicle and its occupants have traveled—including sensitive and private places like our homes, doctors’ offices, and places of worship. Commercial vendors operate vast databases of ALPR records, and sell database access to not just law enforcement agencies, but private businesses like repo services and insurance companies. Government employees are frequently able to access records generated by cameras mounted on both private and law enforcement vehicles, giving them access to a vast array of location data. That’s why government use of ALPR could lead to invasive tracking, and necessitates safeguards, such as a warrant requirement.

The legal arguments against warrantless ALPR searches are even stronger after a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court last June. The Court’s ruling in United States v. Carpenter involved police tracking a suspect using location data obtained from his cellular provider, but much of its reasoning applies to ALPRs as well. For example, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that because nearly everyone uses a cell phone, the government’s tracking ability “runs against everyone,” and “[o]nly the few without cell phones could escape this tireless and absolute surveillance.” ALPR data collection is similarly indiscriminate; anyone who drives on public streets is likely to be tracked and logged in a database available to police.

Roberts also pointed to law enforcement’s ability to retrieve CSLI from years in the past, creating a virtual surveillance time machine which “gives police access to a category of information otherwise unknowable.” ALPR databases, too, facilitate retrospective searches of cars whose drivers were not under suspicion at the time they were photographed by an ALPR camera. As we wrote in our amicus brief in Yang, “The confluence of these factors—detailed location data collection about a vast swath of the American population allowing retrospective searches—is why technologies like ALPRs violate expectations of privacy under the Fourth Amendment.”

We’ll watch to see what the Ninth Circuit does in Yang, and we’ll be making similar arguments in other ALPR cases soon.

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Author: Andrew Crocker