Trump White House

President Trump Defends Tough Rhetoric Against Democrats

In his first presidential town hall of 2020, President Trump said that he will continue his tough rhetoric against his Democratic opponents as he goes into the re-election campaign, according to The Hill.

In the Fox News town hall, moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, Trump said that “the country is far more united than people think,” largely due to the successful economy. “But,” President Trump declared, “when they hit us we have to hit back,” adding that “I wouldn’t be sitting up here if I turned my cheek.”

He put the burden on his opponents to improve their own rhetoric first, saying that “politicians have to be able to be civil. If they’re not, you have to fight back.” President Trump pointed to the most recent example of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) threatening President Trump’s Supreme Court justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, calling it “real intimidation,” and that “if a Republican did what Schumer did, they’d be in jail right now.”

America • Deep State • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Post • Russia • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

Don’t Let Mueller Fool You

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday gave a performance in front of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees that Fox News anchor Chris Wallace described as a “disaster for Democrats.” 

Mueller, who was appointed by the Justice Department in 2017 to investigate whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign “colluded” with Russia to rig the 2016 election, appeared nonplussed by his surroundings. His responses to members’ questions posed to him were laconic, to say the least. After a little more than two years of a seemingly unforgiving and endless investigation, Mueller’s appearance was a total flop.

The Democrats have responded to Mueller’s lackluster showing either by quietly admitting it was an unmitigated disaster for their party heading into what will be another contentious presidential election year, or by insisting, as Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) continues to do without evidence, that it proved everything the Left has been saying about Trump’s perfidy. 

Republicans mainly have agreed that Mueller was an embarrassment; a doddering old man who was well beyond his prime. Rush Limbaugh has maintained for months that Mueller was merely a figurehead for the investigation into Trump; that he was uninvolved with the day-to-day operations of the insidious, politically-charged investigation. 

Instead, Mueller’s presence as the namesake of the investigation into President Trump and his 2016 campaign allowed for true partisans to run amok—and to do so while still hiding in the murky shadows of the swamp. 

Don’t be fooled. 

Robert Mueller Is Not a Sad Sack

Mueller knew exactly what he was doing. Yes, he appeared much as Muhammad Ali did against Trevor Berbick in 1981: a sad remnant of a once-dominant fighter who was ultimately crushed by his own frailties. Yet, unlike Ali in that fight against Berbick, Mueller has no known or discernible physical or mental ailment that would reduce his talents. 

What Americans saw Wednesday was an act by Mueller to deflect attention away from the fact that his investigation was never going to “prove” any “collusion.” The entire thing was a grotesque act of political theater designed to give the anti-Trump forces of the establishment the boost they needed going into 2020. 

Mueller also wanted to protect critical intelligence sources from deeper public scrutiny, meaning that those responsible for initiating the absurd investigation into Trump will not be punished for their wrongdoing and, further, that these same people will be free to attempt similar shenanigans in the future. That’s right. The deep state will live to fight another day. Now that their attempt to defeat Trump through investigations and false accusations has faltered, Mueller would rather be viewed as a hapless hack than as the corrupt top cop he is. 

At the end of June, the House Democrats issued a subpoena demanding that Mueller appear before the House to answer questions related to the Russia investigation. Shortly before Mueller’s appearance, Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer sent a letter to Mueller reminding him that his testimony, “must stay within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege.” Mueller did exactly as he was instructed by the Department of Justice. 

This was not the act of an ignoramus, rather it was the mark of a truly deceptive personality.

Mueller has been a career federal prosecutor. He has been involved in some of the biggest, high-stakes investigations both as a prosecutor and, later, as the second-longest-serving FBI director in history. Mueller has survived endless controversies, whether it be engaging in a massive cover-up after the FBI engaged in heinous informant abuse, or botching the 2001 anthrax terror attack investigation. 

After each controversy, Mueller maintained his good standing in “polite” society. 

The Greatest Ego Trip Ever

Mueller, I believe, accepted the role as special counsel investigating claims of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence because his ego would not allow him to pass up the chance. Not only did Mueller personally and politically dislike Trump (being a “Republican,” as we know, does not preclude NeverTrumpism), but as a career federal prosecutor, Mueller could not help but to envision himself the man to take down this much-maligned president. 

Pride goes before a fall, though, and Mueller has suffered through the greatest ego deflation of any public figure in recent memory. Touted as the purest of the pure; proclaimed to be the most respected man in Washington; portrayed as being too smart and tough for Trump to handle, Mueller has been stymied at every turn—and had minimal effect on Trump. 

The world did not witness the public nervous breakdown of a once-powerful member of the elite in that hearing. Instead, we saw the shiftiest move an inside operator could make in these tough circumstances. Mueller played dumb; he allowed himself to be the center of a partisan feeding frenzy, while ominously insisting that the president was neither guilty nor innocent—a sort of legal purgatory, awaiting final judgement. 

And who will be the arbiter of that final judgement? 

Mueller slyly showed us his devious hand: the president would be subject to an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. He would not be investigated for “conspiracy” to rig the 2016 election. Instead, Trump would be subject to an investigation into purported corrupt practices that occurred during his tenure as head of the Trump Organization. This investigation would begin the moment Trump leaves office, provided he loses in 2020, and it would be Mueller’s last laugh. 

Whether or not this come-from-behind-winds investigation can be more successful than the current spate of inquiries into President Trump is another matter, and not an especially important one for Mueller’s purposes. What Mueller appearance showed was the long-game that our wretched elite are playing. The Right can joke among themselves that Mueller broke down today and laugh at his embarrassing display. Yet, what most in the Right-wing media don’t get is that Mueller and his ilk are not playing for laughs and they don’t worry about the embarrassment. They are playing for keeps. 

Straining Credulity

Ask yourself: do you really believe a former FBI director would be unaware of the fact that virtually all of the people working for his investigation team were not only rank partisans who hated Donald Trump, but who also were active supporters of Hillary Clinton? Is it probable that Mueller is fine with his eponymous investigation turning up a royal goose egg for all to see?  

Come on. 

Mueller was shining everyone on today and that’s why all of us should be upset and why Trump and his supporters should continue to be on guard. These corrupt elites are only just getting started—especially the more obvious it becomes that they will not defeat Trump in a fair election.

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Photo credit:  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Administrative State • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • Trump White House

Hell No! We Won’t Go (to Kansas City)!

On Thursday, a gaggle of civil servants protested the proposed relocation of a couple of Agriculture Department bureaus from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City, Missouri by boldly turning their backs on a speech delivered by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Perdue announced that the Economic Research Service, which provides research and statistical analysis for lawmakers, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which allocates federal research funding, would be moving most of their personnel and operations by the end of September.

These employees have had a year either to make peace or make plans, but instead, they decided to wait until the final announcement to purse their lips, cross their arms, and stare off into space.

Clearly, the USDA has been violating child labor laws by hiring toddlers. Watch CNN’s reporting of the incident:

The long-haired guy in the middle is holding his breath until he matches his shirt color, and the man in the plaid shirt to his right looks like he’s auditioning for the Actor’s Studio. The bald fellow to the left doesn’t look entirely committed to the cause.

You would think Perdue is exiling these people to a remote outpost in Greenland. It may come as a surprise for these protesters to discover that, according to the latest U.S. Census figures, literally millions of people voluntarily live in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The place has NFL football, major and minor league baseball, and plenty of museums only slightly inferior to the Smithsonian that Washingtonians only visit when relatives are in town anyway.

We all know Washington, D.C. has grown into a world-class city in the past few decades, driven by a massive infusion of federal dollars (particularly during the Obama administration, when the D.C.-Northern Virginia region became one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in America). It’s almost always unpleasant to be told that to keep your job you have to move, but one can see that it might be particularly unpleasant for those used to such neighborhood amenities.

But if they really knew what was good for them, they’d jump at the chance. Yes, the General Schedule pay scale in Kansas City is about 10 percent lower than in D.C., but the cost of living is about 25 percent less, and according to Zillow, housing prices are 75 percent lower than the national average. Given the run-up in D.C. housing prices since 2012, many of these people would  be able to buy new homes in cash. (Then again, maybe having the invading overlords live in the best houses in town may just feed the resentment. Whether that’s a feature or a bug depends on your point of view.)

In fact, the proposed relocation of federal agencies to the Western and Midwestern United States is one of the most innovative things to come out of the Trump Administration. They hope that bureaucracies, if they must exist, will do a better job if they are located among the people they regulate, rather than within the Beltway bubble.

In the case of the ERS and NIFA, they’ll be moving to within a couple hundred miles of six major land-grant universities that graduate plenty of students well-qualified for these positions. Surprisingly, many of them would rather stay in the Midwest than move to the nation’s capital.

In the run-up to Perdue’s announcement last week, congressional Democrats orchestrated some hearings, bringing in farmers and researchers who claimed that the move would make things more difficult rather than easier. They argued, inter alia, that travel would be more difficult from Indiana to Kansas City than to D.C., and that the move would make it hard to coordinate with other government agencies working on related subjects.

Both of those are beside the point. It’s not necessarily how easy it is for a farmer to get to D.C. that matters; very few will make that trip. It’s how easy it is for the bureaucrats to get to the farmers, and in Kansas City, they’ll be only a few minutes’ drive from the fruited plain itself. In this case, going native isn’t an unpleasant byproduct, it’s the point. In those interagency meetings, maybe one of those agencies will see itself as representing the farmers and ranchers whose lives the government is trying to run.

Despite all the claims of loss of efficiency and having to move to a place with decent barbecue and jazz, it’s hard to escape the belief that what they’re really afraid of is a loss of status, which is Washington’s real currency. I lived in the Beltway region for 25 years, and the best movie to understand the place is a 1996 French offering, “Ridicule,” about Versailles.

Instead, they’ll be moving to a place where people don’t open conversations with GS-level butt-sniffing.

If all this sounds condescending to D.C. bureaucrats, they should try to imagine how far-away bureaucrats sound to the rest of us.

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Donald Trump • Post • Trump White House

Kentucky Fried Bureaucrats: ‘Take Them to Kansas City!’

Once more, life imitates art. And when politics is involved, the genre is usually comedy. This week’s aped art was legendary producer Samuel L. Bronkowitz’s cinematic masterpiece, “Kentucky Fried Movie.”

In one unsettling scene of human cruelty, two henchmen drag a captured CIA agent in front of the villain, Dr. Klahn. Defiant, the CIA agent manages to lift his head: “You don’t scare me, you [epithet].” Klahn studies his face before unleashing a sly smile and pronouncing the agent’s fate: “Take him to Detroit!”

Wailing “No! No, not Detroit! No! No, please! Anything but that!” the hysterical CIA agent is hauled off to my hometown.

Detroiters like me in the 1970s understood that joke at the time, as the rest of the country wasn’t particularly fond of vacationing in “America’s Murder Capital.” Yet such notoriety still chafed. We were proud of our Motor City then, and remain so today.

Thus, it was with no little empathy this Detroiter watched how Kansas City just had its “Kentucky Fried Movie” moment.

Per The Hill, members of the American Federation of Government Employees stood at a meeting and turned their backs to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Why? Because the secretary, like Dr. Klahn, sought to torture these bureaucrats by relocating them . . . to Kansas City.

Specifically, “Perdue announced Thursday that two of the Department of Agriculture’s research agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will be relocated to be closer to major farming regions, according to Politico.”

Why is this proposed exile on Main Street so galling to these civil servants? Unlike Detroit in the 1970s, Kansas City is not America’s murder capitol. The cost of living is certainly lower in Kansas City than in the tony environs of Washington, D.C. Indeed, one would think these federal employees’ work would actually benefit from a closer proximity to the farmers who pay their salaries and whose improved general welfare is the reason those USDA gigs exist.

Oh, and there’s the minor detail that the prospective relocation could save taxpayers upwards of $20 million per year.

It sounds like a smart decision, if one forgets we live in the era of Orange Man Bad: “Specifically, some ERS staff have expressed suspicions the relocation is an attempt to shrink the agency and weaken its ability to conduct research that does not align with the Trump administration’s policy agenda.”

On behalf of the bureaucrats (they unionized after the relocation announcement), the AFGE argued their new members weren’t given advance notice of the proposed move. They claim they only learned about it through the media, even though Perdue reportedly promised them advance notice.

Per news reports, agreeing with the union’s position are U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), who contend the relocation process “lacked transparency”; and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), co-sponsor of a bill to block the relocation, who said a USDA inspector general review “examining the viability of this relocation is not complete.”

Doubtless, at some point Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will warn these bureaucrats “I’ve seen evidence” that once Trump exiles them to Kansas City, then he will cut a deal with Putin to exile them to a Siberian gulag. (Hey, Pathfinder Schiff has successfully peddled sillier conspiracy theories for the regressive Left’s consumption.)

As for the other side of the aisle, not surprisingly the four Republican U.S. Senators representing Kansas and Missouri support the relocation.

As the matter now stands, according to the AFGE, the affected bureaucrats “are expected to receive relocation letters Thursday and will be given 30 days to make a decision.”

Regardless of the relocation’s ultimate resolution, the decision to turn their backs to their purported boss further evinces to the citizenry the truth of Sir Winston Churchill’s prescient quip: “After a time, civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil.”

Photo Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images

2016 Election • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Trump White House

Why Are Democrats Obstructing Justice?

It was a shocking acknowledgment from a fierce (and profane) Russian collusion propagandist.

“The Democrats have a clock ticking,” warned CNN analyst Phil Mudd on Tuesday. “If they can’t get things underway before the Department of Justice says, ‘here’s our report on how the [Trump campaign] investigation was initiated, they’re in trouble because the Department of Justice is gonna say, ‘when this thing got started, about the Trump campaign, it was pretty ugly.’ And then we’re off to the races.”

As if that revelation wasn’t enough to panic CNN host Don Lemon, Mudd continued. “I’m going to bet a paycheck when [dossier author Christopher] Steele gets in front of investigators and they say, how can you confirm to us that the information you acquired in that dossier is true, that he is not going to be able to answer.”

Here, Mudd admits two things: One, the attempt by House Democrats to harass Bill Barr over the Mueller report and threaten the attorney general with contempt charges are diversions from the real scandal—the corrupt origin of the Trump campaign probe largely based on a garbage political document. (Calls for impeachment also are a smokescreen intended to distract the attention of the American people.)

And two, the results of the investigation into how James Comey’s FBI launched and handled his agency’s counterintelligence probe into alleged Russian election “collusion” will not be pretty. In fact, it will be ugly.

This is why Democrats and the news media (I know, I repeat myself) want to delay the investigation and discredit Barr. Since his confirmation in February, Barr has publicly expressed his alarm at how the Obama administration weaponized powerful surveillance tools, along with other methods, to target political foes.

Barr last month appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to take on this task after numerous delays and empty promises from Barr’s predecessor; this is welcome news as Trump’s base is eager for action.

Barr compared former FBI Director James Comey and his top officers to the Praetorian Guard in an interview last week.

“I just think it has to be carefully looked at because the use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign to me is unprecedented and it’s a serious red line that’s been crossed,” Barr told CBS News reporter Jan Crawford.

In what can only be described as legitimate obstruction of justice, unlike the vague allegations against Donald Trump in the Mueller report, Democrats are frustrating Barr’s investigative efforts with a number of procedural maneuvers coupled with public ad hominem attacks against the attorney general.

Panicked over a White House directive that would permit the declassification of key documents related to the FBI probe, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) encouraged top intelligence officials to quit rather than submit to Trump’s request.

“If it gets to a point they are asked to do things that are unlawful or jeopardize the men and women that work within the I.C., they should speak out,” Schiff told the New York Times on May 30, referring to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel. “And, if necessary, follow the example of Secretary Mattis.” (Trump’s former defense secretary resigned in 2018 amid a dispute over troop levels in Syria.)

Schiff, who for more than two years assured Congress and the American public that solid evidence of Russian collusion existed, then made a series of demands in a May 31 letter to the head of each intelligence agency, including the FBI and NSA.

Exceeding his congressional oversight boundaries, Schiff instructed the chiefs to notify his committee prior to any declassification move and provide in-person briefings to disclose which documents have been flagged for declassification.

“The President and Attorney General have engaged in a public campaign to further a conspiracy theory about the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” Schiff wrote.

Schiff continues to call Barr “the second most dangerous man in the country” and unfit for office.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee which still is investigating Russian collusion and recently subpoenaed Donald Trump, Jr., is really on a rampage against Barr. Warner wants Barr to resign or be impeached by House Democrats; he told intelligence community chiefs he will “have their back” if they intend to thwart Trump’s declassification orders, and also warned that their actions could endanger the lives of confidential sources and “damage relations with foreign intelligence agencies.”

”Mr. Barr has very little credibility with me and I think the vast majority of not just Democrats but many Americans because he time and again is not acting as our attorney general but as a personal advocate for Donald Trump,” Warner said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.

(Important to remember that the security chief of Warner’s committee, James Wolfe was caught leaking classified documents to his journo-girlfriend in 2017 to smear Trump associates and convicted of lying to federal investigators about it.)  

Barr also has been attacked by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted that Barr’s investigation into the investigators is “the height of irresponsibility and politically interferes with both the DOJ/the Intelligence Community. This is a dangerous precedent.”

It’s bad enough that Democrats who are guilty of lying to the American public about Russian collusion for more than two years now want to block Barr’s investigation, but the targets of the inquiry also are speaking out. Comey accused Barr of “echoing conspiracy theories.”

Comey, who said he has no idea where Barr got the idea that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign even though Comey signed a warrant to ask a secret court in October 2016 to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page, also accused Barr of acting dishonorably.

“I think he has lost most of his reputation with the way he’s conducted himself,” Comey told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last month.

Comey’s former deputy Andrew McCabe is hitting the cable news circuit, insisting that the Mueller report vindicates the FBI. McCabe recently claimed that Barr “misrepresented” the Mueller report in his four-page summary. (When he served as acting attorney general after Comey was fired, McCabe opened another investigation to determine whether President Trump was a Russian agent.)

Former CIA Director John Brennan, also a potential subject of Barr’s investigation, is doing his part to discredit the attorney general. Brennan laughed off Barr’s characterization of spying and told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that he’s been “very disappointed in Attorney General Barr. I had higher expectations of him. He [acts] more like a personal lawyer for Donald Trump rather than the attorney general.”

So, for two years, we were told that any criticism of Robert Mueller met the legal threshold for obstruction of justice. The commentariat class insisted that any harsh tweet, comment, or facial expression by Trump about Mueller or his team was intended to thwart his investigation. Even a casual conversation allegedly documented by Comey about former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is contained in volume two of the Mueller report as possible evidence of obstruction of justice by the president.

But now Democratic lawmakers are openly smearing the attorney general and no one objects?

The very subjects of a criminal investigation into abuse of power, illegally leaking classified information, misleading a federal court, and violating the rights of private citizens are permitted to publicly denigrate the man in charge of the investigation, and that’s not obstruction of justice? Imagine if Republican lawmakers had made the same comments about Robert Mueller: the outrage would have been nonstop.

Let’s hope Barr—or John Durham—gets the last word.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Russia • Trump White House

How the Mueller Report Covers for Clinton and the Conspirators

On April 10, Attorney General William Barr got to the heart of the Russia collusion hoax in a delicate and understated manner.

“Well, I guess—I think spying did occur, yes,” he told a congressional panel. “I think spying did occur. . . . The question was whether it was adequately predicated.”

The term “spying” is actually a euphemism for what really happened. In reality, starting an investigation to create suspicion and a fountain of leaks to frame political opponents to win an election is just the kind of thing Putin did in Russia to subvert what little democracy started to take root after the fall of the old Soviet government. In a way, framing somebody for treason is worse than treason because of the damage it does to the rule of law.

There are two competing narratives for the “predicate” for spying on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign: (1) The Papadopoulos pretext and, (2) the obvious truth. If you want to know why the Left is melting down over Barr’s “spying” comments, it’s very simple: the real “predicate” for spying on Trump is a phony intelligence report commissioned by Hillary Clinton to win an election.

But that’s not the story we’ve been fed.

The lie would be completely irrelevant except that the truth is so much more relevant. The Trump-Russia collusion hoax did not begin with a May 2016 conversation between Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Australian diplomat and staunch Clinton ally Alexander Downer. In fact, it began with Hillary Clinton’s successful campaign dirty trick: she paid a subcontractor to draft and promote a smear disguised as intelligence to trigger an FBI investigation of her political opponent. It’s that simple. The get-Trump crowd backed into the Papadopoulos story as a pretext.

Similarly, the Mueller report pushes the Papadopoulos pretext: “Papadopoulos had suggested to a representative of that foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.” It further told readers, “In late April 2016, Papadopoulos was told by London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, immediately after Mifsud ‘s return from a trip to Moscow, that the Russian government had obtained ‘dirt’ on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. One week later, on May 6, 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to candidate Clinton.”

The Mueller report completely glosses over several important questions in order to prop up the Papadopoulos pretext. First, it should be remembered that the emails the Russians supposedly hacked were from the DNC and Podesta, not Clinton. Papadopoulos made this point in his testimony before the House, “My recollection is that he said the Hillary Clinton emails. Not DNC, not Podesta, nothing like that.” Second, the FBI appears to have tried to plant its own evidence to justify starting the investigation.

John Solomon revealed this stunning revelation: weeks before the FBI supposedly opened an investigation into the Trump campaign for collusion, Stephen Halper, believed to be operating as an FBI informant, approached Papadopoulos with this line, “Oh, it’s great that Russia is helping you and your campaign, right George?” Solomon goes on to report that the FBI withheld Papadopoulos’s response from the FISA court, an emphatic denial, “I have no idea what the hell you are talking about…And I have nothing to do with that, so stop bothering me about it.”  Solomon’s source confirmed that the FBI obtained the transcript of the Halper/Papadopoulos conversation but nevertheless withheld the exculpatory part from the FISA court in the request to spy on the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos also told Solomon that Halper had with him an attractive female companion who implied that she would have sex with Papadopoulos if he would confirm Halper’s theory.

Solomon went on to report, “’The truth is, the Papadopoulos predicate went into reversal, but rather than shut down the probe at that point, the bureau turned to other leads like Steele and Page without giving the court a full picture,’ one source said.”

Sequencing what happened in chronological order proves a useful tool for debunking the Papadopoulos pretext and other myths. That is how I disproved the conspiracy theory that Roger Stone had advance knowledge of a Wikileaks release. It was just a couple of big talkers guessing (incorrectly) about information that was already in the press. As another example, you’ve heard that Donald Trump joking about Russia releasing emails prompted the Russians to do just that. Trump made that joke on July 27, 2016. But Assange began releasing the DNC emails on July 22, 2017—five days earlier.

The FBI opened its counterintelligence probe against Trump on July 31, 2016—before it interviewed Downer about Papadopoulos. By then, the FBI had already begun receiving pieces of the Clinton-procured “dossier.” That dossier formed the basis for the all-important Carter Page surveillance. It’s ridiculous to argue that the dossier Clinton commissioned did not spark the FBI investigation. The Clinton team hired a trusted FBI informant (Christopher Steele) to prepare dummy intelligence reports which successfully triggered the FBI to launch an investigation into Trump.

Although there are literally thousands of moving parts and players in the Trump/Russia hoax, I have prepared a simple timeline below which clearly establishes what I just asserted.

March 1, 2016: Super Tuesday in the Republican Primary. Donald Trump establishes a delegate lead sufficient to make him the favorite for the nomination.

March 6, 2016: Papadopoulos is asked to join the Trump campaign as an adviser on foreign policy issues.

March 16, 2016: Wikileaks launches a searchable database of Clinton emails obtained legally through a FOIA request.

March 22, 2016: The Washington Post announces Papadopoulos is a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.

March of 2016: Papadopoulos met “the Professor” in Italy in mid-March 2016.

April of 2016: The Observer reports, “Panama Papers Reveal Clinton’s Kremlin Connections.” The article recounts how the Panama papers tie the Podesta group to Russian money laundering operations. This very possibly is the “dirt” to which Mifsud referred 19 days later in the conversation with Papadopoulos. Perkins Coie retained Fusion GPS to begin working on the Trump/Russia project. Also in this same timeframe, Perkins Coie hired CrowdStrike, the firm that concluded Russia hacked the DNC servers. On April 26, “the Professor” (likely Mifsud) boasted to Papadopoulos that Moscow was in possession of juicy “dirt” on Hillary.” Mifsud reportedly introduced Papadopoulos via email to Ivan Timofeev, who works for a think tank close to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mifsud would later insist he had no contacts with the Russian Government itself, only a few academic figures, Timofeev being one such figure.

May 10, 2016: Papadopoulos had drinks with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in Kensington Wine Rooms. Downer is a staunch Clinton ally. Downer was accompanied by a companion, Erika Thompson, who Papadopoulos later claimed was a member of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. Papadopoulos said the Russians might use some damaging material they had on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos is not alleged to have mentioned emails.

June 3, 2016: Donald Trump Jr. is approached by Rob Goldstone to set up what is now known as the infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting in which two Fusion GPS-associated Russians (Rinat Akhmetshin and Natalia Veselnitskaya) would meet with Donald Trump Jr. Fusion GPS claims it was a coincidence that it met with one of these Russians before and after the Trump Tower meeting. Fusion GPS also exchanged emails with the other Russian. Fusion GPS even supplied the materials and handouts for the meeting in question.

June 12, 2016: Julian Assange, of Wikileaks, announces plans to release a new batch of Clinton emails.

June 15, 2016: Crowdstrike publishes, “Bears in the Midst,” claiming to have evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC server. The claim remains in dispute to this day.

July 5, 2016: Steele went to his London office to meet with an FBI agent with whom he had an existing relationship to provide some of the early reports that would later form the dossier. This is also the day that Comey exonerates Clinton so the FBI can pivot to investigate Trump.

July 11 or 12, 2016: Halper unsuccessfully attempts to get Papadopoulos to say that the Trump campaign is working with Russia.

July 22, 2016: Wikileaks begins releasing emails from the Democratic National Committee.

July 27, 2016: Donald Trump jokes that Russia should release emails Clinton deliberately destroyed. He’s referring to the emails from her private server, not the DNC emails.

July 31, 2016: According to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence minority report, the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.

August 2, 2016: FBI agents summarize an interview with Downer in which he recounts the May meeting with Papadopoulos.

February 2017: Mifsud meets with FBI to give his account of the Papadopoulos interactions.

November 1, 2017: Mifsud gives an interview to an Italian news agency. He claims the following: “I strongly deny any discussion of mine about secrets concerning Hillary Clinton. I swear it on my daughter. I don’t know anyone belonging to the Russian government: the only Russian I know is Ivan Timofeev, director of the think tank “Russian International affairs council.”

The Mueller team’s transparent attempt to distract from Clinton’s role in the origination of the Russia hoax reminds us that Jeannie Rhee, Clinton’s former attorney, worked on the Papadopoulos case for the Special Counsel. If the Mueller team is successful in convincing America that the hoax began as some kind of accident or miscommunication, it will have succeeded in derailing the assignment of accountability to law enforcement officials who played an indispensable role in Clinton’s political operation.

It feels like these dirty tricks are getting bigger and bolder. In 2018, the Democrats reprised the Russia hoax by using a sophisticated tech company to frame the Russians for interfering in the election for the open Alabama Senate seat. Was that the first time Democrats framed the Russians for election interference? Maybe not. The sheer scale and success of the Trump/Russia collusion hoax leads one to wonder whether we are entering a new normal in American politics in which law enforcement will make common cause with political allies to take down their opponents. Actually, the Justice Department’s interference in politics is nothing new (see here, here, and here).. It just gets bolder and bolder as our public servants inch closer to becoming our masters. The only question is whether it’s already too late to restore Constitutional control over the Justice Department. Because if we don’t, we will eventually have an American Putin.

Photo credit:  Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

America • China • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Post • Trade • Trump White House

China vs. A Liberal World Order

For six decades after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Great Britain was able to underwrite a liberal world order based on freedom of navigation and free trade. The unification of Germany in the early 1870s threatened this system. Although Great Britain was willing to accommodate Germany, Germany did not wish to be accommodated. Instead, it followed a mercantilist trade policy and sought to challenge Great Britain at sea.

The resulting tensions arising from Germany’s trade policies and its decision to build a navy capable of challenging the Royal Navy set the world on the path to the Great War of 1914.

One must always be careful with historical analogies, but there are some striking similarities between the British-German relationship in the latter 19th century and the United States-Chinese relationship today.

Since the end of World War II, the United States, like Great Britain in the 19th century, has underwritten a liberal world order, seeking to accommodate any countries willing to follow the rules of international cooperation. For historical and cultural reasons, the Peoples’ Republic of China, like Germany before it, has rejected accommodation. Instead, China has used its Belt-Road Initiative to extend its economic and political influence over the Asian continent. Especially worrisome has been its attempt to dominate the South China Sea.

Read the rest at the Providence Journal.

America • American Conservatism • Democrats • Donald Trump • Political Parties • Post • The Left • the Presidency • Trump White House

How Trump Masterfully Frames the Ilhan Omar Debate

Donald Trump is the best thing to happen to the American Right in a good long while. The second-best thing to happen to the American Right is Ilhan Omar.

If Omar had been elected to Congress under previous Republican administrations, she would stand as yet another example of how Democrats’ hypocrisy regularly flies under the radar as it is dismissed by the mainstream media and Democratic leadership without a second thought.

But in the age of President Trump, the freshman from Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District has proven just how effective Republicans can be if they hold their rivals’ feet to the fire over their own bigotry—with the added bonus of forcing the media to talk about it.

Where Republicans Failed

Omar should have been cause for immediate concern the moment she won the nomination to succeed departing congressman and Democratic National Committee deputy chairman Keith Ellison. It was a monumental feat to see a girlfriend-beater, a supporter of Antifa, and a friend of Louis Farrakhan upstaged by his successor in the hate department, but Omar managed to pull it off.

The Somali-born Muslim has been as open as possible about her own anti-Semitism, dating back to a (now-deleted) tweet in 2012 in which she declared that Israel had “hypnotized the world,” and she hoped that Allah would “open the world’s eyes” to the “evil” of Israel.

And who can forget the suggestion that Omar may have married her brother in order to manipulate the American immigration system and gain citizenship; a move that would have made Caligula blush.

And yet even as Omar won her election and was sworn in on the Koran, Republicans in Congress instead chose to focus all their energy on what they do best: attacking one of their own. Rather than go after the real anti-Semite, House Republicans caved to media pressure over veteran Representative Steve King (R-Iowa). King appeared to endorse white nationalism in an interview with the New York Times.

King explained himself later on the House floor. He charged the Times with deliberately taking his words out of context, changing the punctuation to give his words a different meaning. It didn’t matter. Republican leadership could not abandon him fast enough. They worked overtime to bow down to the media and the Left, passed a meaningless resolution basically calling King the devil, and stripped him of all his committee assignments.

And while the media and the GOP engorged themselves in the feeding frenzy over King’s comments, Omar sailed right into Congress, hijab and all.

Where Trump Succeeded

But then, after another round of anti-Semitic comments accusing members of Congress of being paid off by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Omar made a grave mistake that differed from the ones she made in her previous vile comments: She dared to make such a public statement in the age of President Trump.

Trump responded swiftly, not bothering to wade into the mess of semantics and second-guessing. Instead, Trump simply declared that Omar should be removed from her committee assignments and resigned. By doing this, he skipped right over the pointless question of whether her comments were anti-Semitic and turned it into “She’s clearly anti-Semitic; the question is what should be done with her?”

And that’s exactly what happened. For the next month, the national coverage of the story was not focused on whether or not Omar was guilty; it was focused on the deep internal divides that her comments had generated, and the response from both sides in the Democratic Party’s civil war. A similarly pointless resolution was passed condemning anti-Semitism was amended many times over to remove mentions of Omar’s name. Of course, it had to include examples of other forms of bigotry and was largely seen as insincere. Some even turned to the question of whether or not Democrats should support Israel in the first place. The debate also drew clear lines between the Democratic presidential candidates, with some supporting Omar and others criticizing her. Similar divides emerged in the House Democratic caucus.

And just like that, Trump had turned the media narrative away from the oft-repeated lie that Republicans are “the party of Hitler,” and instead forced that same media to discuss the ways in which Democrats are plagued with anti-Semitism.

Exposing Evil

But even after manipulating the news cycle and the national debate surrounding Omar and the Democrats for an entire month, Trump still isn’t finished with the most vile member of Congress. As public opinion shifted further against Omar and manifested in massive protests outside her appearance at an event with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Omar proceeded happily to throw fuel on herself even as she was already burning. Discussing alleged “Islamophobia” in America, she described 9/11 in a terrifyingly casual and dismissive tone—as “some people did something.”

The backlash was swift enough on its own, but then the New York Post issued a blistering cover story, including an image depicting the second plane crash into the World Trade Center, with Omar’s quote as a caption followed by “Here’s your ‘something.’ 2,977 people dead by terrorism.”

It wasn’t long before the divides emerged again, as the helpless Omar ran for cover behind her much louder and more social media-savvy friend, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The socialist poster child immediately responded by calling the Post’s cover “horrifying [and] hateful,” before launching into several absurd tangents in a shoddy effort to defend Omar’s comments; among them were the laughably hollow claim that Omar’s prior co-sponsoring of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (yet another largely symbolic move) somehow excused her comments, a false equivocation claiming that the GOP’s refusal to support socialized healthcare is somehow as bad as neglecting 9/11 families and survivors, and even the perpetuation of the idiotic conspiracy theory that right-wing extremism is on the rise in America (hint: it’s not).

President Trump once again seized this golden opportunity to get ahead of the media and frame the debate himself, posting a gut-wrenching video on Twitter that contrasted Omar’s comments with the horrifying images and sounds of that fateful day.

And once again the floodgates of internal Democratic division were opened, as there was no shortage of prominent Democrats—from the 2020 field to the halls of Congress—who rushed to the defense of someone who literally downplayed the severity of 9/11, just to score political points against Trump. The trap was set, and many a gullible quarry were caught.

All Politics is Local

Trump’s handling of every single stupid comment that Omar makes is twofold. On the national scene, he is shining a spotlight on her bigotry and anti-Americanism in order to keep the Democrats on defense, as they are forced time and again to answer for the vile rhetoric of their most radical member of Congress. This already is a lose-lose for them: They either condemn her and anger their growing far-left base, or they begrudgingly excuse her and lose moderate voters as they expose their true colors.

But his strategy is also effective at the local level too, primarily because of the fact that his target in this latest battle is in the House of Representatives, and thus from a small portion of a larger state. That state, of course, is Minnesota; a state that Trump only narrowly lost in 2016, coming closer to winning it than any Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

As one look at the state’s electoral map will tell you, the vast geographic majority of the state is dominated by rural counties, populated by farmers and other working-class voters, AKA Trump Country. And yet these days, Minnesota is only ever in the news not because of the conditions of the working class or the benefits that Trump’s protectionism have brought about for its population, but because of the stupidity of Ilhan Omar making the state as a whole look bad. There is arguably no greater tactic for really firing up the Trump base in this crucial Rust Belt state going into 2020, with 10 electoral votes at stake.

The importance of local politics as a result of Omar’s latest slurs may even provide the long sought-after silver bullet that could finally take down Ocasio-Cortez, who is the true political threat from the socialist wing of the Left.

Previous Republican efforts to criticize her over such trivial matters as her “three chambers of Congress” gaffe have been remarkably ineffective, and understandably so. But Ocasio-Cortez has made the very grave mistake of focusing more on her own national profile than on representing her own district. Just ask Eric Cantor (R-Va.), or even Ocasio-Cortez’s predecessor Joe Crowley (R-N.Y.), how that worked out.

It goes without saying that New Yorkers can be quite nativist when it comes to their city’s identity being attacked by outsiders; just see the response to Ted Cruz’s “New York values” comments against Trump during the 2016 Republican primaries. And there is no greater subject that can possibly tug at the heartstrings of New Yorkers more than the wounds of 9/11.

And yet here we are, for the first time ever, seeing a member of New York’s congressional delegation unapologetically agreeing with someone who said that 9/11 essentially wasn’t that bad. Ocasio-Cortez, for all her boasting about being “a poor girl from the Bronx” (not really), has proven eager to eschew her supposedly beloved identity as a New Yorker in favor of defending a member of her “squad,” morality and reality be damned. Her potential opponents in 2020, both in the primary and the general election, could not ask for a greater gift with which to really whip up voters into an anti-AOC frenzy.

Trump Takes More Pawns

It is all too clear that in the post-Mueller era of this presidency, President Trump has truly been unchained and is finally free to go entirely on offense against his political opponents, without having to worry about defending himself against a bogus investigation.

As such, we are now frequently treated to the Trump we saw on the campaign trail, uninhibited by conspiracy theories of collusion and with multiple targets around him all ripe for a sniping. The master persuader is back and ready to start framing the latest national debates on his terms, and whether or not Democrats are ready to admit it, this is a battle for which they are not prepared in the slightest.

Whether it’s the latest garbage spewed by Ilhan Omar, or the Democrats’ blindingly fast 180-degree turn on sanctuary cities, Trump is once again ready and able to prove that he will outsmart the Democrats at every political maneuver, taking out their chess pieces one by one as they scramble wildly around the board.

And as the 2020 presidential election draws closer and these battles have a clear impact on the crop of Democratic candidates vying for the nomination, their continued displays of hypocrisy, radicalism, and obnoxiously insincere self-righteousness will further drive moderate voters away from them while also firing up Trump’s base. The subsequent results will leave the Democrats even more humiliated than they were two years ago.

Photo credit:  Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Deep State • Donald Trump • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Russia • the Presidency • Trump White House

The Mueller Dud

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The release on Sunday afternoon of Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report confirmed what everyone with a few brain cells and common sense knew two years ago: there was no collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government. While the charge was ludicrous on its face, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report has now removed all doubt surrounding it.

The shame of it is that the Mueller investigation—driven by hyperpartisanship and using the power of the legal and justice system to litigate political and policy differences by those who refused to accept the 2016 election results—spent $35 million, employed 19 attorneys, 40 FBI agents and staff, issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed more than 500 search warrants, got 230 orders for communications records, and made 13 requests to foreign governments, and interviewed roughly 500 witnesses to prove there was no collusion.

While some on the Left have tried to spin all of this and say the last two years of investigations were never really about collusion, that of course would be a lie: this was always about the hazy concept of collusion, that our duly elected president somehow conspired with a foreign power to win the White House, that he was potentially a puppet or stooge for Russian President Vladimir Putin. While preposterous on its face, many in the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, and the Leftdriven by absolute derangementfervently believed it was real.

Consider how absurd that is for just a moment.  

Now those who have perpetuated this hoax are confronting reality: there never was any evidence of collusion because it was always a fairytale, and no matter how hard you try, no matter if a team of partisan lawyers equipped with the awesome power of the special counsel spends tens of millions of dollars, you can’t turn a fairytale into facts.

Exposing the Corruption in the Deep State

So now Mueller—who many of his fans said would do exactly what it appears he has done: a professional job—returns to private practice or retirement, no doubt with Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) camping out on his front lawn screaming in frustration. Leaving aside the enjoyment of watching Schiff and the entire Democratic Party’s presidential posse’s heads explode on national television, consider how appallingly stupid this entire exercise has been: the fact that a team of deeply partisan hacks, given incredible powers, couldn’t even come up with one piece of evidence regarding collusion, much less a series of events which is actually what is needed to prove collusion.

Now, after nearly two years of an investigation spun up by a fake dossier and corrupt members of the deep state like John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe and others, and put on steroids by the various bureaus of propaganda still masquerading as news organizations, the attempt to take out the duly elected president has failed. Completely and utterly failed.

While the Mueller investigation was built on a foundation of lies and constituted an appalling use of our legal and justice system to litigate policy differences, it did have a silver lining: it showed how corrupt the Justice Department and FBI were under Obama. It showed the process of obtaining warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is in dire need of reform. It showed that we have a bifurcated legal system and that equal application of the law is a farce. It showed that beyond a shadow of a doubt we have many in the mainstream media who aren’t reporters or journalists; they’re just political operatives masquerading as such. We’ve seen the media annihilate whatever reputation it had left because of their loathing of Trump.

The Damage Done to the Republic

It cannot be understated that all of this all took place in an attempt to push  Trump out of office, a childish but deeply damaging exercise. The Left put on full display its idiocy: even if the House of Representatives were to impeach Trump, he would never be removed by the Senate. And even if he were removed, in the one in a trillion chance, Mike Pence would become president of the United States and pardon Trump.

But as is usual with immature children, nothing is terribly logical. It’s all emotional, in the moment, with no forethought about what comes next—no consideration to the damage being done in the moment and the future implications of what it means for us as a society.

The attempt to nullify the 2016 election results, described by some as a silent coup, has had a destabilizing effect on our constitutional republic. As all of this terrible charade comes to an end, those guilty of pushing this conspiracy theory think they’re going to walk away scot free.

A word to them: your attempted arson of our republic must have consequences. Your attempt to take out a sitting president of the United States should end your careers.

The Manu Rajus and Natasha Bertrands and Ken Dilanians of the world, the mouthpieces of Fusion GPS CEO Glenn Simpson’s substance inspired delusions, don’t get to keep pretending they have any journalistic reputations. Every time they write or open their mouths, they should be dismissed out of hand as conspiracy theorists and political hacks. The same goes for the Chris Matthews and Stephanie Ruhles and a gaggle of other CNN and MSNBC hosts. Sorry, you don’t get to simply say, “Oopsies!” and not be shamed for your stupidity and or expect to be treated with any seriousness or respect. You were played for fools and should be treated as you demonstrated yourselves, in fact, to be.

But more importantly, those like John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, men entrusted with great power and responsibility, should be investigated. You cannot use the awesome powers of the surveillance state to take out a president of the United States and walk away as though this was all a great misunderstanding. It was not a misunderstanding. It was intentional. It was systematic and it was evil. They must be fully and thoroughly investigated, and, face prison time if appropriate.

Finally, if there is to be a real return to the rule of law, and a belief in the equal application of the law, the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server must be reopened. There was no real investigation, merely the sham of one. There must also be an investigation into the Clinton Foundation as to whether it was nothing but a charity fraud. It appears, from a multitude of information, that the foundation was really nothing but a vehicle for influence peddling. People go to jail for charity fraud and a former secretary of state is not above the law.

If we are to return to something resembling normal life, the American people deserve a full and complete accounting on all of this, from the FISA applications to the original memo that laid out the scope of the Mueller investigation and the justification for it—if any. They must also be shown that while many have played fast and loose with power and the truth and the law, there are consequences for such actions. The future happiness of our republic depends on it.

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America • Center for American Greatness • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • North Korea • Post • statesmanship • the Presidency • Trump White House

Trump Lost Nothing in Hanoi

When Donald J. Trump took office in January 2017, the outgoing Obama Administration national security team cautioned Trump’s transition team that North Korea was a significant nuclear threat. Obama White House officials explained how North Korea’s leaders had built up their nascent nuclear arsenal. Since at least 2013, the Obama Administration knew about the rising threat of a potentially nuclear-armed North Korea and did nothing.

It was not a matter of ignorance; it was a matter of indifference on the part of former President Barack Obama and his national security team. Obama—the man who the media claimed was the smartest of all of America’s presidents—likely had no idea how to mitigate the North Korean threat and therefore didn’t even try.

How’s that for leadership?

Tag, You’re It, Donald Trump!
Two years into Trump’s presidency, the world seemed poised for nuclear war in a way that it hadn’t since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yes, the combined forces of the United States, South Korea, Japan, and any other ally inevitably would have overcome North Korea’s military in combat. But, the cost would have been great—particularly to South Korea and the Americans stationed there.

Such a war also would have forced the United States to lead yet another regime change mission, this time in Pyongyang. And it is likely that such a war ultimately would have placed the United States in direct contention both with China and Russia. The Chinese in particular view North Korea as a client state. .

As tensions escalated in 2017, the media argued that President Trump was too slow to engage in diplomacy; that his “my button is bigger than your button” rhetoric toward Kim Jong-un was outrageous. After months of mounting hostilities between the two leaders, Trump switched gears and met with Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

During that historic summit the two sides had a chance to look each other in the eyes to see if they could do business.

It was a Nixon-goes-to-China or a Reagan-meets-Gorbachev moment: no one in the American elite believed that it could have happened.

But President Trump made it happen.

The president got Kim to acquiesce to our continuing demands for a slowdown in his nuclear weapons tests and his ballistic missile tests. Since that time, the world has enjoyed nearly two years of peace and quiet from North Korea. Meanwhile, Kim returned the remains of multiple American servicemen who had died on the battlefield in North Korea more than 60 years ago. More historic reckonings happened over the course of 2018, this time between North Korea and their American-backed rivals in democratic South Korea.

Diplomacy Is Messy—War Is Worse
Trump’s summit in Hanoi this week was a more muted affair—mostly because the Western press opted instead to follow along with the fictitious melodrama playing out with Michael Cohen hearings on Capitol Hill.

Talk of greater opening and contact between North Korea and the United States continued but the Western media complained that Trump was moving too fast toward diplomacy with Kim. Some people will never be pleased.

Despite his rhetoric, Kim appears uninterested in abandoning his nuclear program. The entire point of the Trump-Kim summits was not to put a temporary hold on North Korea’s inexorable march toward nuclear weapons capability. Rather, the goal was to get North Korea to abandon those nukes completely. But they do not call North Korea the “Hermit Kingdom” for nothing. And, diplomacy is a piecemeal and oftentimes convoluted process.

Despite this, the Trump and Kim interactions before the press made clear that there still exists some level of understanding between the two leaders. During the first day of events, both President Trump and Kim Jong-un had a five-minute televised sit-down before the press. In the last five seconds of the video, one of the American reporters began shouting questions to Trump (who did not respond). At that moment, Kim started chuckling to himself and gave a sympathetic glance to the president who returned with a nod of understanding. That was one of the most honest—and human—interactions I’ve ever seen between Kim Jong-un and another leader. No level of personal understanding between leaders will overcome fundamental ideological disagreements or conflicts of national interest. But they are essential to the understanding that makes negotiation possible.

That the second summit between the American and North Korean leadership was not as successful as the meeting in Singapore is something that was probably to be expected. This is high-stakes diplomacy. That Kim Jong-un did not cry, “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of nuclear war when President Trump decided to cut his losses and leave the summit early is also telling. It means that Kim wants to make a deal, and still believes he can get one.

Does Kim Risk Peace or Court War? It’s Now Fully Up to Him
Whether Kim Jong-un will be able or willing to abandon his desire for nuclear arms in order to get this deal is another matter entirely.

Once it becomes clear to Kim that the president is not going to acquiesce to North Korean demands the way that former President Obama gave into Iranian demands in 2015, North Korea will have to reassess. If they refuse and persist in their ambition to acquire a nuclear arsenal, Pyongyang will precipitate a conflict the likes of which Kim and his regime will not survive—and regime survival, at this point, is essential for Kim. In fact, it is likely the desire for regime survival that belies North Korea’s continued quest for nuclear arms. He needs to be made to see that this is not the way to achieve that goal.

Peace may be dangerous for Kim, but war will destroy him. Because of Trump’s decision to terminate the Hanoi summit prematurely, he now leaves Kim in a bind, having to choose between risking peace or courting war.

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America • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Post • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Media • the Presidency • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Jumping the Shark with Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen testified in Congress Wednesday. And boy was it rough.

Cohen prostrated himself in front of the House Oversight Committee and begged for forgiveness from the Democrats and the media. He even put on that special look—the look that a teenage boy puts on when he gets caught doing something wrong—to go along with the “I-know-better-now-and-I-will-never-do-it-again” line. It was pathetic.

But Cohen was smart enough to know that his doleful tone, “sincerely-repenting” expression, and crestfallen demeanor did not, by themselves, carry the water. So, he brought along some meager evidentiary “gifts” in the form of salacious anecdotes and some “irrefutable” documents.

His “gifts” included three years of Trump’s financial statements and two media hit pieces suggesting Trump exaggerates his net worth, a magazine clipping about a Trump portrait being sold at an auction, a bunch of checks to Cohen and a bank statement, and a letter he wrote to various educational institutions to threaten legal action if they released Trump’s grades or test scores.

Democrats and the media surely will continue pushing the narrative that Cohen’s scant documents somehow prove something. They don’t.

He produced two $35,000 checks that he claims were reimbursements for the Stormy Daniels’ payment. He produced no evidence that these checks were in fact for that payment.

He produced a bank statement showing an advance from a home equity line of credit for $131,000 that he claims offers proof that Trump indicated that he would reimburse him. He produced no evidence that Trump actually gave any such indication.

He produced three financial statements from three separate years with differing estimates of Trump’s net worth that he claims show that Trump manipulated his financial statements. He produced no evidence that these statements were in fact doctored.

He produced a letter, which he wrote to Fordham University, advising the university that it was illegal to release a third party’s educational records without the third party’s consent, that he claims shows that…shows that…Trump is a hypocrite? Well…if hypocrisy were a crime, Congress would have far more troubles than the president.

And he produced several news articles and tweets that he claimed…well, it’s not entire clear what he was claiming those particular submissions were supposed to prove.

In other words, he produced no positive proof that Trump is a conman, a cheat, or that he knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.

At best, he provided some evidence that Trump has, at least once, been hypocritical. But even that would be a stretch.

Though Cohen’s “evidence” may be made to fit his narrative, it does not corroborate his narrative, and it certainly doesn’t add any compelling new information. The only thing that adds anything new is his testimony, in the form of his opening statement and answers to questions. And when we’re dealing with a witness who is about to go to prison, in part for lying to Congress, there are many reasons to take everything he says with a grain of salt.

But this hearing was never intended to change anyone’s mind anyway.

Few Trump supporters care about the Stormy Daniels payoff, Trump’s hardball business practices, or his supposed interactions with WikiLeaks. They will view this hearing as yet another show trial in the ongoing witch hunt, meant to distract from Trump’s continued economic successes and promising diplomatic work. And they will view Michael Cohen as a disloyal opportunist whose prior independent crimes made him a perfect target for Mueller to squeeze.

And most Trump opponents already believed Trump was a racist conman, long before Michael Cohen ever testified. They view each additional piece of evidence, no matter how weak, as yet another nail in the coffin of inevitable impeachment. They will view this hearing as yet another demonstration of the treachery of Trump and the disingenuousness of those who support him. And they will view Michael Cohen as a flawed man but one who finally took responsibility and did the right thing.

It’s dizzying to consider the widening gap between what the average Democrat and Republican believes today. It’s a gap so wide that it is nearly impossible to bridge it with any type of reasonable, objective conversation. And though Chairman Cummings and Ranking Member Jordan were able to keep a thin veneer of civility covering the proceedings, the obvious animosity and complete lack of understanding between the two sides was palpable.

Much like the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings, the focus and thrust of the questioning from each side was completely different.

Democrats went to great lengths to try to drag further salacious stories out of Cohen, at one point asking him if he knew of any occasion in which Trump paid for a medical procedure for a woman outside of his family (Cohen’s answer was no). Their entire goal was to continue to cast aspersions on Trump, his family, his companies, his campaign, and ultimately his presidency.

Republicans—confined to the minority and opposed to having the hearing in the first place—systematically made the case that Cohen was not a credible witness, had every incentive to paint Trump in a negative light, and was certainly not the bumbling but useful idiot he painted himself out to be. They kept painting Cohen into a smaller and smaller corner.

Don’t be surprised if we find real smoking gun evidence that Cohen perjured himself in response to a Republican’s question.

But did anyone expect anything different? Did anyone really expect that Michael Cohen would testify before Congress and suddenly the scales would be lifted from everyone’s eyes and they’d see Trump as an evil, dangerous, megalomaniac? Finally the “bombshell” hit its target?

Democrats, if nothing else, are unwavering optimists. They have had so many misfiring silver bullets, they could get an endorsement from the National Werewolf League.

Think of every time that the Democrats and the mainstream media have told us, “this is it, this is the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency. As soon as [fill in the name] testifies/is indicted/releases a book/is interviewed, it will be over for Trump.”

Well, if they really believed that Michael Cohen was going to be the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency, then it’s probably the beginning of the end of the beginning of the end. They’ve put up a valiant, if slimy, fight. But when you’re taking moral advice and testimony at face value from Michael Cohen, you know you’ve jumped the shark.

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Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Post • Republicans • the Presidency • Trump White House

A Plum Post for a Prominent Trump Foe

On Friday, following the dramatic arrest of a prominent Trump supporter on charges of lying to Congress, President Trump gave one of the nation’s most sensitive national security and diplomatic posts to another controversial figure who already had been convicted of lying to Congress.

Has the NeverTrump Republican echo chamber gone berserk over this irresponsible appointment?

Have Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio taken to the Senate floor to speak out against the president’s defiance of honesty in government? Have they demanded hearings and a confirmation vote?

Has House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that Trump’s action is so egregious it might call for an article of impeachment?

Has Bill Kristol’s “Republicans for the Rule of Law” launched an ad blitz to protest Trump hiring an amoral convict?

Not at all. Turns out, the appointee is one of the president’s worst enemies, a man forcefully opposed to almost all of Trump’s policies and campaign promises, a man who repeatedly has said Trump is morally unfit for his office. He is Elliott Abrams, the 71-year-old éminence grise of the NeverTrump movement.

Abrams is the pre-eminent prophet and practitioner of hyper-interventionist approaches to destabilize or overthrow governments—of foes and friends alike—that do not pass his democracy-is-the-end-all-and-be-all litmus test. His closest friends and associates, from whom his political positions are indistinguishable, include some of President Trump’s most rabid enemies, false-flag “conservatives” Bill Kristol and Max Boot.

Abrams, who had served in the Reagan State Department, faced multiple felony charges for lying to Congress and defying U.S. law in his role as a mastermind of the Iran-Contra debacle. Abrams’ dishonesty almost destroyed Ronald Reagan’s presidency and put Reagan in jeopardy of impeachment. Abrams was allowed to plead guilty to two reduced charges and later was pardoned by George H.W. Bush, who feared impeachment because of his own role in Iran-Contra.

After having expressed antagonism towards nation-building during the 2000 campaign, newly elected President George W. Bush appointed Abrams as deputy national security adviser, where Abrams’ role was essentially nation builder-in-chief.

Abrams was even more consequential as nation-wrecker. He was one of the principal architects of the invasion of Iraq. He is an inveterate advocate of “regime change” against countries whose policies he doesn’t like. He has a track record in attempting to overthrow foreign governments both by covert action and outright military invasion.

At the beginning of the Trump administration, foreign policy establishment types lobbied clueless Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to accept the convicted criminal Abrams as deputy head of the department—the person running all day-to-day affairs at State. Trump, who would have had to sign off on the nomination, rejected Abrams when he learned of Abrams’ background. The truth about Abrams, while not by any means a secret, came to Trump’s attention from Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Paul, who held a deciding vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would block Abrams if he were nominated.

Abrams already knew then what Trump took nearly a year to discover, that Tillerson was hopelessly unprepared to serve as the nation’s chief diplomat and indeed was, as Trump colorfully put it, “dumb as a rock.”

Nothing about Abrams, the NeverTrumper who believes Trump cannot govern effectively without him, has changed since then.

Following his rejection by Trump, Abrams wrote a sour-grapes article for Politico, disparaging the president, along with Vice President Pence and Abrams’ erstwhile patron Tillerson, for not having international human rights policies identical to Abrams’ own views.

Abrams has been outspoken against sensitive Trump international policies right up to the moment of his surprise appointment. He is unapologetic about his role in masterminding the Iraq war. He has opposed Trump concerning American troops in Syria and America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. As recently as January 14, 2019, he published a withering attack on Trump’s Middle East policies and diplomacy.

As events in Venezuela last week reached a crisis with rival claimants to the nation’s presidency, Abrams suddenly appeared deus ex machina at the side of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said in a news conference that Abrams was appointed, “effective immediately” as special envoy to deal with resolution of the situation in Venezuela in a way that supposedly would advance U.S. interests.

Immediately? An appointee to a sensitive post needs a background investigation and security clearance. These investigations can take months. If he indeed has a valid clearance, that means his appointment was decided long ago.

Abrams’ special envoy post will be far more powerful than that of an ordinary ambassador or assistant secretary of state—offices that require Senate confirmation. Should the Senate acquiesce in letting Abrams work without Senate confirmation?

What is Pompeo thinking? Has Pompeo read Abrams’ anti-Trump articles? In particular, has he read Abrams’ January 14 anti-Trump article that mocks Pompeo with a hugely unflattering photo of the secretary of state?

What is going on?

Abrams is a close friend and constant collaborator of Bill Kristol and Max Boot, both of whom are waging campaigns to impeach Trump or deny him re-election. There are no—repeat, no—policy differences between Abrams, Kristol, and Boot.

If the appointment is supposed to be a sharp move to “hug your friends close and your enemies closer,” then the test of its efficacy would be that Kristol, Boot, Jonah Goldberg, David French et. al., would halt their anti-Trump campaigns. One would think that if the Abrams appointment is one side of a shrewdly calculated transaction, then silencing Team Kristol would be a necessary condition.

So far there are no signs of this.

What did Trump know about the new Abrams appointment, and when did he know it?

Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Intelligence Community • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • the Presidency • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

James Wolfe: The Liar No One Is Talking About

In a recent court filing, the defendant’s attorneys begged for mercy. The offender—once a high-level government official assigned with protecting national security secrets—had pleaded guilty to one charge of making a false statement to the FBI in 2017.

Citing his modest upbringing, community involvement, and decorated military service, the defendant’s lawyers asked the judge only to impose a sentence of probation rather than jail time.

“This case has garnered a significant amount of media attention,” the attorneys wrote, “and plainly sends a message to the public that lying to federal agents—even when those lies were denials animated by a desire to conceal a personal failing—has profound consequences.”

The appeal was supported by letters written by powerful people, including top lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who attested to the man’s overall decency, claiming he had already suffered enough and how his “conduct is contradicted sharply by the character of the man that his family and community and country relied upon and loved and respected.”

No, that entreaty was not about Lt. General Michael Flynn; it was on behalf of James Wolfe, the former security chief for the Senate Intelligence Committee who was caught not just lying to FBI officials but illegally leaking classified information to journalists, including his 20-something girlfriend. Wolfe’s misconduct was far more egregious—and damaging—than the process crime committed by Flynn.

Late Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Wolfe to two months in jail for one count of lying to the FBI; the prosecution had asked for 24 months. After a tearful apology to the judge, Wolfe essentially escaped with a slap on the wrist. Outrageous.

Wolfe, 58, was a key player in the leaking strategy employed by anti-Trump bureaucrats to seed bogus Trump-Russia collusion stories in the news media during the administration’s early months. Entrusted with safekeeping the committee’s most secret documents, Wolfe was caught passing off the information to four reporters. One of the journalists, Ali Watkins, was at least 30 years his junior; their three-year affair began when she was a college intern working for a Washington, D.C. news organization.

During their affair, according to the government’s sentencing memo, Wolfe and Watkins “exchanged tens of thousands of telephone calls and electronic messages. Also . . . .[Watkins] published dozens of news articles on national security matters that contained sensitive information related to the [committee]” In one text intercepted by the FBI, Wolfe commended Watkins for her meteoric rise from college press intern to New York Times reporter in less than four years. (Her sex-for-scoops strategy worked like a charm, as I wrote after her story went public.)

When confronted by the FBI about the affair and the disclosure of classified information to the other reporters, Wolfe repeatedly lied both during a personal interview and on a questionnaire. The investigation into Wolfe’s activities was so critical and risky that “the FBI’s executive leadership took the extraordinary step of limiting its notification to two individuals—the Chair and Vice Chair of the [committee]. Had this delicate balance not been achieved, this situation could easily have resulted in the possible disruption of information flow—an untenable degradation of national security oversight.”

Sounds a little bit more consequential than a phone conversation about Russian sanctions, right?

But here is the real injustice: While it was clear by both the original indictment and the sentencing memo that Wolfe was responsible for disclosing details about the FISA warrant on Trump campaign aide Carter Page, he was not charged with that crime—a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The investigation into Wolfe began after the Washington Post published an explosive story in April 2017 confirming that the FBI had obtained a FISA order right before the election to spy on Page.

“There was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia,” the Post reported. “This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump associate was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.” The information was given to the reporters “on the condition of anonymity because [the sources] were not authorized to discuss details of a counterintelligence probe.”

Wolfe lied to the FBI when he denied having any contact with three Post reporters: The sentencing memo confirms Wolfe spoke to Ellen Nakashima several times between late 2015 and mid-2017.

Prosecutors also note that Wolfe “received, maintained and managed” Page’s top-secret FISA application. On the same day it was transported to the Senate Intelligence Committee—March 17, 2017—he exchanged 82 text messages with Watkins and had a lengthy phone conversation with her.

The length of the FISA application? Eight-two pages.

While Watkins wrote a separate piece for Buzzfeed on April 3, 2017, quoting a “U.S. intelligence official” that also contained private information about Page, which Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Devlin Barrett would report in the Washington Post a week later. Barrett wrote another piece in June 2017 revealing the FBI had questioned Page.

Page’s FISA warrant was renewed three times; he has never been charged with a crime. But Page—a Naval Academy graduate and global energy financier—has suffered tremendous personal and professional damage because of the illegal leaks by Wolfe and others.

“This has been a long, torturous road, but I think the truth will start to come out a little bit,” he told me last summer.

Yes, the truth is coming out, and it’s a nasty, ugly truth. If you reside in the protected class of Washington bureaucrats who break the law, betray your public duty and attempt to destroy innocent Americans by wielding unchecked power, you will get away with it. You will have a letter of commendation written on your behalf by U.S. senators, including Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). You will avoid being charged with a felony, even though your conduct presented serious national security risks. You successfully will evade nonstop media coverage by sympathetic journalists while they instead obsess about a lesser crime committed by an ally of the president they despise.

This isn’t the swamp. It’s the gutter.

Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Post • Trump White House

The ‘Trump Doctrine’ Is the Future of Conservative Foreign Policy

For the past two years we have seen the emergence of a coherent Trump doctrine in both words and deeds.

Weekend Long Read

There is a remarkable consistency throughout all of President Trump’s speeches, formal documents (such as the National Security Strategy) and actions of the administration.

To understand the Trump doctrine, we must begin with candidate Trump’s first major speech on foreign policy on April 27, 2016 (thus even before the Indiana primary) to the Center for the National Interest at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

All the elements of the Trump doctrine are revealed in this maiden speech. This includes reversing military decline (“We will spend what we need to rebuild our military”); an emphasis on economic strength and “technological superiority” in geo-political competition; confronting the threats from China, North Korea, Iran and radical Islam; opposing nation-building; reversing Obama’s ambivalence with strong support for Israel; ending illegal immigration; and “strengthening and promoting Western Civilization.” Finally, the candidate rejected the “false flag of globalism” and declared, “The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony.”

These core elements were expanded upon in different speeches to the United Nations, the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), in Warsaw, and elsewhere. In articulating his concept of sovereignty, Trump posited democratic sovereignty or popular sovereignty in the sense of self-government. He makes the moral argument that ultimate political authority resides in the people of a nation, not in transnational global elites nor in the always “evolving” notions of international (essentially transnational) law.

Trump notes, however, that sovereign nations have core duties to “respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.” Thus, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela violate the sovereign duties of nation-states.

In Warsaw, President Trump presented a much broader conception of Western Civilization than the framework one often hears from secular elites in the European Union. Trump’s vision of the West encompasses not simply Brussels, Berlin, and Washington D.C. but Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem. It includes Christianity and Judaism, as well as the Enlightenment and modernity. It is not the Enlightenment only, but the Enlightenment plus.

Presidential rhetoric is reinforced by the actions of the administration in directly confronting China, Iran, and Russia; in withdrawing from the climate accord, the Iran deal, and the proposed withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INFT) because of Russian cheating. Trump Administration actions also include withdrawing previous cooperation with the International Criminal Court; moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; increasing military funding; and promoting energy independence and closer relations with the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe through the “Three Seas Initiative.”

For the most part, the Trump doctrine is deeply rooted in the historical traditions of American foreign policy. Its emphasis on national interests, strong military and naval power, reciprocity in trade, and the primacy of American sovereignty, were hallmarks of the foreign policy vision of statesmen such as Washington, Hamilton, Clay, Webster, and Lincoln.

Claremont Review of Books editor Charles Kesler declares that Trump’s policies (including foreign policy) are very much in the tradition of the historical Republican party from Lincoln to the New Deal. Trump’s words and actions on the necessity of America’s economic strength, on a reciprocal trade policy with its focus on American workers, on our nation’s manufacturing base, and on the central role of American business in both creating good jobs and in providing a strong material base for national security—echoed the rhetoric and policies of Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, the early Theodore Roosevelt, and Calvin Coolidge; and even to some extent, Ronald Reagan.

What About Trumpism After Trump?
In his April 2016 campaign speech, Trump said his goal is “to establish a foreign policy that will endure for generations.” Whether his influence is long-lasting in conservative foreign policy circles depends upon future circumstances. What will be the shape of the global chessboard as we look 10 or 15 years ahead?

To get a clearer picture, I will examine the following themes: (1) future global challenges to core American interests and values; (2) the shadow of domestic partisan politics and increasing polarization within the American body politic; (3) the conservative interaction with the foreign policy of American liberals; and (4) the internal philosophical and political debate among American conservatives (elites and voters) over what exactly is to be “conserved.”

As the National Security Strategy (NSS) statement declares, the United States is entering a period of increased geopolitical (and in the case of China, also geo-economic) competition with revisionist nation-states, specifically China, Russia, and Iran. There is widespread agreement among conservative elites (and many liberals concur) that China is the most serious competitor (politically and economically) to American national interests and will remain so far into the future.

Besides the geopolitical and geo-economic challenges from revisionist nation-states and the threat of terrorism from radical Islamists in both Iran and the Sunni world—there is, and always has been, global ideological competition. At the broadest level there is the perennial conflict between constitutional democracy and various forms of authoritarianism, including oligarchy, dictatorial one-party rule, and militant jihadism.

The War of Ideas Within the Democratic World
That said, the “war of ideas” goes much deeper. Within the democratic world itself there is a deep division over where ultimate authority (that is to say, sovereignty) resides. Is it with sovereign democratic nation-states or is it with evolving transnational and supranational institutions and rules of global governance (for example, new concepts of customary international law) that nation-states have either delegated authority to or permitted (sometimes encouraged) to expand?

To put it bluntly, there is an argument within the democratic family over the single most important question in politics: who should rule?

American conservatives embrace our democratic sovereignty and the U.S. Constitution as the highest political authority for Americans. Others, including allies such as Germany and many nation-states in the European Union, as well as a considerable number of American progressives, tout the transnational institutions of global governance and the evolving concepts of international law as the final arbiters of legitimate authority above the sovereignty of any nation-state.

This global ideological conflict over core values between what we might call “sovereigntists” and “post-sovereigntists” or, as President Trump puts it, between “patriotism” and “globalism” is perennial. It will continue well into the future and no doubt intensify in the decades to come. It will intensify because “globalism” (what I have labeled “transnational progressivism”) is not a chimera, an apparition, or the moniker for a conspiracy theory. On the contrary, transnational progressivism (globalism for short) is a real actor in world politics complete with a workable ideology, a strongly situated material-social base among global elites, and in some areas, the backing of nation-states.

Globalists dominate major international institutions, including the leadership of the United Nations, the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, the International Court of Justice, international NGOs (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc.), the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, CEOs of global corporations, major universities throughout the West, and even organizations such as the American Bar Association which actively promotes the “global rule of law.” Most significantly, globalist ideology is predominate in some European nation-states including the Angela Merkel’s Germany and Emmanuel Macron’s France.

Some label the globalists as the “Davoise.” John Bolton has referred to them as the “High Minded.” In any case, it is clear to most Americans on the Right today (and it will be even clearer in the future) that the worldview advocated by the transnational progressives is diametrically opposed to the interests and principles of those who want to “conserve” our constitutional democracy and way of life. Future political conflict between American conservatives and transnational progressives is inevitable.

Liberal Foreign Policy Becomes More Transnational Progressive
What is the role of our domestic politics and the actions of American liberals in the future of conservative foreign policy? For several reasons, it appears that political polarization at home will increase. American liberals and conservatives increasingly get their news from the parallel television universes of either CNN-MSNBC or Fox News. Further with the “Big Sort” they are physically dividing themselves geographically in more homogenous blue and red enclaves across the country.

Liberal foreign policy has changed from even Bill Clinton’s presidency let alone the days of JFK and LBJ. What traditionally has been called liberal internationalism is steadily morphing into transnational progressivism. A comparison of President Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2016 with President Trump’s UNGA speeches of 2017 and 2018 is revealing. Whereas Trump emphasized sovereignty, Obama focused on global “integration,” which he mentioned at least eight times in his final U.N. speech.

Even more significantly, at the U.N. in 2016, Obama outlined a post-sovereigntist vision that was the mirror opposite of Trump’s worldview. Obama told the General Assembly, “We’ve bound our power to international laws and institutions.” He declared that the “promise” of the United Nations could only be realized “if powerful nations like my own accept constraints . . . . I am convinced that in the long run, giving up freedom of action—not our ability to protect ourselves . . . but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term—enhances our security.”

Obama filled key positions in his foreign policy apparatus with people with strong post-sovereigntist, pro-global governance leanings, such as Anne Marie Slaughter and Harold Koh. Slaughter, who headed the State Department’s office of policy planning, wrote as an academic that nation-states should cede sovereign authority to supranational institutions in cases requiring “global solutions to global problems,” such as the International Criminal Court. In this way, Slaughter argued, global governance networks “can perform many of the functions of a world government—legislation, administration, and adjudication—without the form.” Therefore, a “world order out of horizontal and vertical networks could create a genuine global rule of law . . . .”

Harold Koh was the Obama State Department’s legal adviser, the official who interpreted international law for the U.S. government. As former dean of Yale Law School, Koh is a leading advocate of what he labeled the “transnational legal process.” Koh explains: “Transnational legal process encompasses the interactions of public and private actors─nation states, corporations, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations─in a variety of forums, to make, interpret, enforce, and ultimately internalize rules of international law” in “the domestic law of even resistant nation-states.”  

Obama’s U.N. speech and the writings of Slaughter and Koh are worth remembering because they are prototypes of transnational progressive arguments that conservative foreign policy specialists will encounter more and more in the future. In the formulation of liberal foreign policy, past is prologue, as progressives envision a enlarged role for transnational legalism that goes well beyond what conservatives consider the checks and balances of American constitutional democracy.

Global progressives are quite open in their support for decreased national sovereignty (and, thus, by definition, diminished democratic self-government) and increased transnational authority. One of the leading academic advocates of global governance, Professor G. John Ikenberry, writes: “The liberal international project foresees a future where there will be a fuller realization of universal rights and standards of justice, and the obligations and commitments of national governments will need to be adjusted accordingly. International authority—in the form of courts and collective governance mechanisms—will be expanded . . . and a rule-based order will intensify.”

Ikenberry asks, “how do they [nation-states] reconcile the international liberal vision of increasing authority lodged above the nation-state—where there is a sharing and pooling of sovereignty—with domestic liberal democracy built on popular sovereignty?” He admits “This is the unsolved problem in the liberal international project.”

Ikenberry’s answer appears indirectly buried in several footnotes citing essays authored by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, and leading to other sources. The core argument is that liberal democracies cannot be relied upon because they disregard the interests of foreign citizens (Keohane specifically mentions the United States and Israel as examples). Given what they perceive as the “limitations” of democratic sovereignty, these transnational progressive theorists posit that the legitimacy of global governance institutions comes from the knowledge and expertise of what they call “external epistemic communities” and “external epistemic actors” (presumed experts on international law, human rights, the environment, gender equity, and the like.)

Domestic and Foreign Policy Will Blur
The future will likely see a great divide between liberal and conservative worldviews on foreign policy and national sovereignty. Despite pious pronouncements from all sides, partisanship will play an outsized role in foreign policy. And just as domestic partisan politics will not “stop at the water’s edge,” neither will the on-going culture war over issues of identity politics, religion, secularism, family, free speech, demographics, abortion, gay rights, immigration, migration, and national and civilizational identity.

We already have a name for this phenomenon. The Germans call it Weltinnenpolitik or “global domestic politics.” Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Germany’s leading philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, have analyzed and advocated global domestic politics since the turn of the century. In a similar vein, former British and EU diplomat Robert Cooper noted that the postmodern states of the EU actively intervene in the domestic affairs of democratic nation-states, including regulations for “beer and sausages.”

In the United States, global domestic politics first began in earnest in the 1990s. Transnationalist NGOs including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and others worked with U.N. “rapporteurs” in the United States and at the U.N. Durban Conference to excoriate American domestic policy on race and gender as severe “violations of international human rights.”

During the Yugoslav wars and the post-9/11 Global War on Terror these same NGOs waged continuous “lawfare” against American military and counterterrorist operations. They charged American leaders with “war crimes,” collaborated with foreign elites, and attempted to manipulate international law for the purpose of disrupting American foreign policy.  

From 2009-2016, the tables were turned, as the Obama Administration launched its own version of global domestic politics. Now, the U.S. government was working with transnationalist NGOs (and particularly with the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations) actively to promote progressive social policy, particularly on issues of gender, abortion, LGBT, and identity politics throughout the world.

Not surprisingly, the aggressive policy (e.g., flying the LGBT rainbow flag at U.S. embassies) elicited traditionalist push-back. For example, when Obama’s State Department with Soros’s help began pressuring newly democratic Central and Eastern European countries to endorse LGBT and radical feminist agendas, conservative democrats in places like Slovakia began to envision (falsely, to be sure) their former oppressor, Russia, as an upholder of “family values” and a counterweight to leftist American bullying.

For years, both conservative and liberal foreign policy elites have lauded a “liberal global order” of interlocking international institutions such as NATO and the International Monetary Fund created by the United States as a bulwark of the free world in the global struggle against Communism.

In recent years, the liberal global order (heralded by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher) is slowly, almost imperceptibly, becoming the “progressive global order.” This shift started with the new Obama-Merkel emphasis on global social progressive (and regulatory social democratic) norms replacing the previous Reagan-Thatcher focus on political freedom and democratic capitalism. The once nearly unanimous positive view of the “liberal global order” will likely change with conservative resistance to both social engineering and statist overreach, and, thus, as the entire “liberal global order” concept itself, instead of reflecting the conventional wisdom, becomes “contested.”

What Do Conservative Foreign Policy Elites Want to Conserve?
The emerging Trump doctrine I described at the outset appears to be a pretty good fit for American conservatives as they face the world politics of the future. This future specifically will include twin challenges (one hard power and one soft power) first, from revisionist nation-states that want to undermine American power globally, and second, from Western and American transnationalists who seek to constrain our nation’s democratic sovereignty because they have a fundamentally different answer than conservatives to the vital question of who should govern.

One of the reasons the Trump doctrine fits foreign policy conservatism is that it is philosophically, psychologically and politically “conservative” in the sense that it seeks to “conserve” something realistic (our military superiority, our manufacturing base) and idealistic (our sovereignty and way of life.) This is in sharp contrast to President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address that proclaimed in utopian Wilsonian rhetoric that the policy of the United States encompassed “the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” As a practical matter, Trump’s “Principled Realism” appears to have stronger support among conservative voters than Bush’s “freedom agenda.”

We could contrast the conservative foreign policy universe that permits latitude for both the national and the international with the liberal foreign policy continuum that runs from the international to the transnational to the supranational.

Does anyone doubt that the next Democratic administration will be increasingly transnationalist, just as Obama was more transnationalist than Bill Clinton, and Clinton was more transnationalist than Jimmy Carter, and Carter was more transnationalist than Lyndon Johnson? Further, does anyone doubt that the Democratic push towards more transnationalism will trigger a conservative reaction along patriotic sovereigntist lines?

For several decades, a fierce intellectual battle has been waged beneath the surface of our foreign policy debates between American sovereigntists and transnationalists. In the 1990s, American transnationalist NGOs worked with foreign governments to undermine the U.S. government positions at U.N. conferences that created the Landmines treaty and the International Criminal Court. In September 2000, John Bolton warned Americans to take the forces promoting global governance seriously as a threat to American sovereignty. In 2003, law professor Peter Spiro in an important essay in Foreign Affairs analyzed the “New Sovereigntists.”

In 2009, conservatives rallied to oppose the nomination of transnationalist Harold Koh as the State Department’s legal advisor. In 2012, retiring Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) gave a series of speeches outlining the transnationalist challenge to American sovereignty. Also in 2012, John Ikenberry and Daniel Deudney in a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) paper, complained that “liberal internationalism” was “increasingly under attack . . . by neoconservatives and new sovereigntists who directly challenge its goals and policies.”

President Trump, to his credit, has, for the first time, thrust the issue of American democratic sovereignty versus transnational governance (“patriotism versus globalism”) directly into the public policy arena. This means conservatives will likely do what liberals have done for years, which is to take the issue of global governance seriously. As conservatives, they will realize that the globalist project is a direct challenge to American constitutional democracy. In the future, conservatives should view world politics through bifocal lenses.

Ultimately, conservatives need to recognize they have two sets of global competitors, the hard competitors of geopolitics and geo-economics and soft competitors—the transnational progressives, the globalists, the post-sovereigntists, whatever one wants to call them. These soft competitors also challenge all that American conservatives hold dear.

Let us posit that American conservatives want to “conserve” the American nation, our constitutional framework, our self-government, our free enterprise economic system, our Judeo-Christian-moderate Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment cultural heritage, and our way of life. The Trump doctrine’s emphasis on American sovereign self-government, military and economic strength, cultural-religious tradition, and the promotion of Western Civilization, along with its recognition of the real threats hard and soft to our democratic republic, should ensure its continuing influence in foreign policy circles (both conservative and non-conservative) well into the future.

A version of this essay first appeared in the Texas National Security Review on November 30, 2018.

Photo credit:  Mikhail MetzelTASS via Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Elections • Foreign Policy • Immigration • Post • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Media • the Presidency • Trump White House

Does ‘Make X Great Again’ Ever Happen in History?

The short answer: Sometimes.

Here’s one example. By 527 A.D., the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople seemed fated to collapse like the West had a near century prior. The Persian Sassanids were gobbling up Byzantine lands in the east. Almost all of old Rome west of Greece had already been lost.

A growing and unsustainable administrative state exercised near control of Constantinople. Christianity was splintering into irrelevant factionalism. The law was a selective mess.

Justinian was certainly an unlikely emperor: an outsider of peasant stock from the northern frontier, an Eastern Latin rather than Greek speaker (and likely the last native Latin-speaking emperor), who would marry an infamous but shrewd courtesan, Theodora.

Yet in some 38 years of sometimes brutal rule, Justinian through the leadership of his brilliant generals, Belisarius and Narses, stabilized the eastern borders. He reclaimed for eastern Rome North Africa, Sicily, much of Italy, and some of Spain, often through small, well-organized armies and prudent alliances. He reformed the bureaucracy, systematized Roman law (Codex Justinianus), and built the magnificent Christian cathedral of Hagia Sophia—the largest church in the world for a thousand years.

Justinian might have done even far more had not a devastating three-year epidemic of bubonic plague spiked and wiped out a quarter of the empire’s population. The millions of losses created a permanent manpower shortage that left the Byzantines vulnerable to relentless Gothic enemies in Western Europe—and ultimately, a century and a half later, the conquests of new Islamic armies in the Middle East and North Africa.

The outsider Justinian’s agendas were those of many past reformers and restorers: apply the law equally and rationally, control government finances, restore the value of the currency, unite and inspire the population with iconic buildings and new infrastructure, reform and enhance religious practice, and offer predictable and steady rule.

Out of a Rut
History is replete with leaders who wish to perpetuate the status quo and to manage supposed permanent decline, but less frequently witnesses a few successful “great again” reformers of various stripes and agendas, both elected and the more ruthless (e.g., Pericles, Alexander, Augustus, Constantine, Charlemagne, Elizabeth, Catherine the Great, Joseph II, Lincoln, Churchill).

In our own time, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are the most notable restorers. Both came into power at a time when the English-speaking West was considered near spent.

A much talked about “crisis of confidence” and “malaise” had led to general British and American depression about the costs of containing global communism. No one seemed to know what to do about the economy—given stubborn stagflation, low growth, high unemployment and inflation, and a rising “misery” index.

Oil shortages and rising prices were proof of “peak” oil in a dependent West—and permanent reliance on corrupt Middle-East petrodollar kingdoms. Radical Islam and Middle East terrorism were on the rise. But then so were ascendant “Tiger” economies in Asia that seemed in perpetuity would make cars, steel and just plain stuff better and cheaper than in Detroit or Manchester. The cultural residue of the Sixties made any call for reformation and renewal seem quaint and hokey.

The United States would no doubt follow Britain’s postwar trajectory. Declinism—supposedly due to moral nihilism, debt, spiritual emptiness, permanent energy shortages, Cold War militarism, laziness, statism, corruption—was thematic in think tanks and current in-the-know books.

Popular culture and politics offered no avenue of optimism. Remember the age of polyester, platform shoes, bell bottoms, falsetto disco, “Mork and Mindy,” Watergate, Chevettes, Gremlins, Pacers, and Pintos—and choppers leaving the roof of the Saigon embassy, oil boycotts and gas lines, the Yom Kippur War, the Munich Olympics, and hostages in Iran.

After the end of the roaring 1960s and late 1970s, both Thatcher and Reagan were written off as near kooks, advocating strong defense, renewed nationalism, optimism, traditionalism, limited government, lower taxes, smaller government, and free-market deregulation—as pathways to a new muscular Britain and renewed superpower United States.

The results of their revolutions were the collapse of global communism, the eventual restoration of Anglo-American international finance, recalibrated American entrepreneurism, and energy renaissances. Certainly the United States today in terms of technology, defense, agriculture, fossil fuel production, and higher education towers over its competitors in ways that would have seemed impossible in the 1970s.

The idea of a Trump economic restoration in 2015-2016 seemed equally absurd. Larry Summers had assured us that annualized 3 percent GDP growth was the stuff of “fantasies.” He predicted instead a recession at 18 months of the Trump term, while Paul Krugman insisted on a market collapse in early 2017 with dubious chances of recovery.

We could never “drill our way out” of an energy crisis—so Obama had insisted and wrote off the very idea of a manufacturing rebound as some myth requiring a “magic wand.” Massive illegal immigration was a permanent fact of life, as was the new demography and identity politics. We were apparently to live with the Iran Deal and though not spoken, an eventual nuclear Iran. Nuclear missiles pointed at the West Coast from North Korea required “strategic patience.”

“Lead from behind” diplomacy relied on an international consensus of the sort illustrated by the Paris Accord and permanent refugee status of the Palestinians—as well as avoidance of disruptive moves likes leveraging NATO partners to meet their promised contributions, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, considering taboo tariffs to trim China’s huge surpluses and its assumption that its ascendance to global hegemony was a matter of when, not if.

Dilemmas of Restoration
Trump had lots of assets and advantages in seeking to restore U.S. power and prosperity. American research universities dominate global education. American frackers had produced more natural gas and oil than ever thought possible. Agriculture had never been more productive, and the United States had unused leverage and economic clout to recalibrate trade deals and alliances in a more symmetrical fashion.

The dilemma of Trump’s restoration was similar to that of many radical reformers: being an abject outsider meant he was beholden to few insiders and was largely immune from stifling and ossifying establishment groupthink. Yet his pariah status also ensured little inside help, lots of status quo deep state venom, and a learning curve required to rein in the chariot of a huge and dangerous bureaucracy.

No one knows how this latest historical effort to make great again a perceived ailing state will play out. On the plus side, Trump has sought to restore traditional jurisprudence through impressive judicial nominations. He has praised rather than lectured business and helped to free the animal spirits of capitalism. Trump cut rather than raised taxes, deregulated rather than stymied entrepreneurialism, and expanded energy leasing on federal lands and green-lighted pipeline construction.  His current foreign policy team of Bolton, Mattis, and Pompeo is impressive and seeks to restore U.S. deterrence that will bring far more stability to the world than mushy lead from behind subordination. A possible Chinese agreement to cut their trade surpluses and play by international trading rules, and a North Korean guarantee of denuclearization would be the most significant foreign policy developments since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Where has Trump’s MAGA agenda stalled?

A Republican majority House and Senate squandered a rare chance for radical change between 2017-2018 by failing to repeal and reform Obamacare, failing to build a border wall, failing to pass an immigration law that would secure the border and ensure only meritocratic, legal, diverse and measured immigration, and failing to stop out of control spending and debt by addressing unsustainable entitlements.

Trump and the Republican Party also have underestimated the effects of radical changes and protocols in voting laws, such as voter harvesting in California that has made Election Day totals largely irrelevant. Trump has neither chipped away at the 90-percent negative coverage of the media nor yet made it irrelevant.

Trump’s rare winning efforts at humor and self-deprecation (“I never had a glass of alcohol. I never had alcohol, for whatever reason. Can you imagine if I had? What a mess I would be. I would be the world’s worst.”), and real empathy (our miners, our vets, our farmers) become overshadowed by “horseface” and “Schitt” tweets that turn off once won-over squishy suburbanites.

Inept Justice Department decisions led to the venomous Mueller investigation that ignored real wrongdoing as it chased a Trump collusion unicorn. In some sense, if Trump’s election as the first president without either political or military experience was unprecedented, equally unparalleled was a 90 percent hostile media, coup-like attempts to abort a presidency through absurd resorts to the Logan Act, Emoluments Clause, the 25th Amendment, lawsuits, impeachment writs, and non-stop celebrity talk of assassination, and death and destruction to the Trump family. Almost any other man Trump’s age would long ago have collapsed under the stress and venom.

Trump’s Uncertain Fate
The future of Trump’s solid two years of achievement is uncertain. The more his economic policies and foreign affairs bring results, the more the hatred of him grows, both inside and outside his own party.

So Trump’s three signature long-term agendas hang in the balance—checking China’s often ruthless rise to global commercial and eventual military supremacy, growing an economy that includes preeminent American manufacturing, energy production, and industrial output, and ending the idea of a bicoastal elite adjudicating politics and culture for a supposedly backward and declining traditional interior.

No one knows quite how to fathom Trump’s paradox. His extraordinary powers of resilience and retaliation stave off the constant assaults from progressives and the media, and such defiance inspires a red-state America. Yet so far Trump’s caustic retorts also stymie winning over enough swing and minority voters to achieve a 51 percent ruling majority to ensure his ideas of restored greatness.

For now, Trump’s fate may be in the hands of others—as it was in 2016 when what put him over the top was wide scale repugnance at the thought of a corrupt President Clinton and all that her victory would entail. The final take-over of the Democratic Party by progressive extremists might well empower Trump to reelection.

Yet it is a scary idea that the fate of making America great again might hinge on the nihilism of the Democratic Party.

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Administrative State • America • Donald Trump • Post • The Culture • Trump White House

The Science-Based Community and E-Cigarettes

Government agencies populated with scientists people are pleased to call “experts” are often thought to be above the ordinary give-and-take of politics and, especially, immune to the clarion calls of activists and pressure of public opinion. Scientific experts, or “the science-based community,” is supposed to be driven by data and evidence, not the naked pressure of agenda driven interests. As we will see in the case of the Food and Drug Administration’s relationship to e-cigarette regulation, these assumptions about the impartiality of scientists don’t always hold water.

The FDA is readying a new action plan to be announced soon concerning e-cigarettes. Nobody knows what the agency will do. But it really shouldn’t be so complicated.

E-cigarettes are not entirely safe and they should not be used by kids.

At the same time, combustible cigarettes are around 95 percent more dangerous than e-cigarettes. Many adults who have not been able to quit smoking using other methods have now completely quit with the help of a wide variety of these far-less harmful non-combustible alternatives.

The FDA must finally formulate sensible, science-based policies to achieve two key goals:

1) Enforce existing rules that ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

2) Support adult smokers who attempt to quit with e-cigarettes, as recommended by the American Cancer Society.

The FDA says that because of “news reports,” public opinion, and data about youth use that the agency hasn’t released, it is threatening to take draconian steps to make e-cigarettes less appealing and harder to get for adult smokers. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the agency plans to remove e-cigarette pods and flavored e-cigarettes from most outlets until a manufacturer applies for and receives approval for each product. The agency is also warning that it may ban sales everywhere except in vape shops.

This posture represents a dramatic and surprising reversal from July 2017, when the agency announced a new “comprehensive regulatory plan” for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, which embraced the idea of tobacco harm reduction.

Commissioner Scott Gottleib, M.D., stated that the plan required “demonstrating a greater awareness that nicotine—while highly addictive—is delivered through products that represent a continuum of risk and is most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes.” In other words, we should be more concerned about the smoke delivery system than we are about nicotine itself.

As part of that plan, the FDA extended the application deadline in order to give the agency time to first issue “foundational rules to make the product review process more efficient, predictable, and transparent for manufacturers.” Although the FDA has failed to establish those rules, it is now threatening to undo the extension by fiat.

Commissioner Gottlieb spoke clearly last year, explaining that, “Unless we change course, 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use.” As the FDA has stated, cigarette smoking is by far the leading cause of tobacco-related disease.

Gottlieb continued, “Envisioning a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources, needs to be the cornerstone of our efforts—and we believe it’s vital that we pursue this common ground.”

But in the last two months, under intense pressure from activists, the FDA has abandoned that common ground. Instead, it is pitting the proper goal of preventing youth use against the other proper goal of helping adult smokers quit. These goals are not and cannot be seen as mutually exclusive.

The news reports and the public opinion the FDA is largely relying upon to justify this about-face have been generated by pressure groups who want non-medicinal nicotine products off the market entirely.

Sound science isn’t an obstacle for those hell-bent on removing e-cigarettes from the market. Consider the latest creepy video from a group known as “The Truth,” featuring puppets, which at once seems to target kids, journalists, and politicians alike. The text under the video states that vaping “…MAKES YOU 4X MORE LIKELY TO START SMOKING CIGARETTES.”

Actually, the latest study, by Rand, concludes otherwise: “EC use among youth is prospectively associated with progression toward greater cigarette use.” Are kids who engage in risky behaviors such as vaping also more likely to start smoking? Absolutely. Does vaping “make” or cause youth to start smoking? That’s not what the evidence says.

The Truth knows better than to confuse association with causation…at least accidentally.

Can’t we agree that kids absolutely shouldn’t use e-cigarettes without intentionally misleading kids by exaggerating the risks? Meanwhile, reporters were the real puppets, repeating unsupported assertions without scrutiny. This, in turn, has led to distorted public opinion. And as the FDA now concedes, that opinion contributed to its threatened reversal on e-cigarettes.

But it’s not too late. In its new plan, the FDA should implement this rational common ground by taking the following three steps:

1) Focus on the bad actors. The FDA should act swiftly and forcefully, as it has the authority to do, against any retailer caught selling an e-cigarette to a minor. In an October 31st announcement, the agency properly acknowledged it must do more, including preventing youth access through social sources.

2) The FDA must work constructively with the industry it regulates. Reports indicate it has begun doing so, to prevent youth initiation, while at the same time permitting recreational nicotine products not only to remain on the market but to be developed to appeal to adult smokers. To do so, it should announce long-promised product standards which would allow the private sector to develop and then market lower-risk nicotine products to attract even more adult smokers. Those standards should distinguish between sweet flavors which adults also enjoy and the marketing of those flavors. There’s no need, for example, to label sweet flavored e-cigarettes “gummy bear.”

3) Make good on the promise to change misconceptions about nicotine, which, while addictive, is not the major cause of tobacco-related disease. Everyone should have a right to accurate information about the risks of vaping, including the risks as compared to smoking, as Public Health England has done with much success.

What should FDA not do?

1) Remove e-cigarettes from any outlet, such as convenience stores and gas stations, where adults regularly purchase the e-cigarettes that made them non-smokers. Vape shops offer valuable quit-smoking advice and are generally among the most responsible vendors. But convenience stores are, well, convenient. Quitting is hard enough as it is. We should want lower-risk products to be available to adult smokers in the same places they have been buying their cigarettes for decades.

Further, collective punishment of entire classes of retailers punishes the responsible vendors who are necessary to implement widespread harm reduction.

2) Allow either side to erode common ground. Just as the FDA shouldn’t be lenient with those who sell or give e-cigarettes to kids, it shouldn’t allow false assertions about the risks of e-cigarettes to stand unchallenged. Misleading statements influence policy-making, even if only by distorting public opinion. Worse, campaigns which exaggerate the risks of e-cigarettes harm public health by giving adult smokers all they need not to try quitting: another excuse.

3) Fall prey to the notion that the FDA has in its power the ability prevent every last youth from every trying an e-cigarette. Commissioner Gottlieb said in September: “It’s now clear to me, that in closing the on-ramp to kids, we’re going to have to narrow the off-ramp for adults who want to migrate off combustible tobacco and onto e-cigs.”

Completely preventing youth from experimenting with risky products is impossible. It was impossible in the days of prohibition and it is even more impossible today. Products which appeal to youth also appeal to adult smokers. And products which don’t appeal to youth, won’t appeal to many adult smokers. This is why stores like Walgreens are permitted to offer fruit flavored nicotine gum, even without a prescription. Kids generally don’t buy it. Neither do most smokers.

Design appeal, a variety of flavors, and availability are all necessary components to effectively implement tobacco harm reduction for adult smokers. What’s not necessary is allowing kids to buy or use them.

When giving the FDA authority to regulate recreational lower-risk nicotine products, Congress believed the FDA could be sophisticated enough to at once prevent youth use while helping adults quit smoking. Sadly, to date, the FDA has accomplished little on either front. These failures don’t justify a misplaced “crackdown” on e-cigarettes and responsible sellers. They require an intensive focus on stopping the bad actors.

If the FDA doesn’t get it right— this month—President Trump should ask Gottlieb, in an exit interview, why the agency couldn’t achieve a central promise of the Trump presidency: improve our lives not with more regulation, but with less of it, wisely implemented.

This could very well be another case where the common sense instincts of an elected politician trump the scientific instincts of scientists trying to apply them within a political context. Scientific and political expertise, after all, is not the same thing.  

Photo credit: John Keeble/Getty Images

America • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Greatness Agenda • Political Parties • Post • the Presidency • Trump White House

Trump Just Guaranteed Pelosi Will Be the Next Speaker

Wednesday morning, basking in the shade of the red wall he helped build to hold back the vaunted “blue wave,” President Trump tweeted:

Virtually everyone, including the president’s former press secretary, Sean Spicer, thought Trump was being sarcastic. Spicer himself, appearing on Fox News that same day, called it an “epic troll.”

For those who aren’t quite up on internet slang, “trolling” is defined as putting a “deliberately provocative message” up on the web “with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”

An “epic troll” would represent the height of the art.

Now there is no doubt that this president can troll with the best of them.

But in this case, he was being serious. How do I know? First of all, because he said so at his actually epic 90-minute long press conference later that day.

This news was largely drowned out by the equally epic rant of CNN “journalist” Jim Acosta, which ended with an undignified scuffling over control of the microphone with a young White House intern.

But what the president said couldn’t have been clearer: “I think she deserves it. She’s fought long and hard, she’s a very capable person, and you have other people shooting at her trying to take over the speakership.”

Trump went on to reveal that in his conversation with Pelosi that morning, he had put this offer on the table: “I said, if it’s appropriate, I said if we can, if she has a problem I think I could very easily supply her the necessary votes.”

“That’s not said in any way other than I really believe she deserves that position,” the president added. “I also think that Nancy Pelosi and I can work together and get a lot of things done, along with Mitch [McConnell] and everybody else that we have to work with.”

Why would the president want pro-abortion, anti-wall, ultra-liberal San Fran Nan as speaker of the House? Because, as bad as she is, anyone who replaces her would be much, much worse.

Think about it. If you were President Trump, would you prefer to have somebody like Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) as speaker?. Schiff has already vowed to continue the “Russian collusion” farce at least until the next presidential election, if not until the end of time.

Or perhaps you would prefer other leading Democrats, such as Jerry Nadler, who will take over the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. Nadler just announced to everyone on the Acela Express that he plans to devote all of his time to presiding over impeachment hearings.  

Add to this a bevy of younger, even more radically-minded members who are just as eager to make sure that one of their own will take the top spot. Some 60 members of Pelosi’s  caucus have already publicly indicated that they would prefer someone else as speaker. At 78, the San Francisco Democrat was facing the political fight of her life. Now, thanks to President Trump’s timely intervention, she won’t have to.

Pelosi now can go to the progressives and say, in all truthfulness, that Trump has offered to help put together a bipartisan effort to give her the speakership. “If you desert me,” she might say,  “he will herd enough Republicans across the aisle to more than make up the votes that you take away.”

This sobering thought will concentrate their minds—perhaps for the first time—and the planned rebellion will dissolve overnight. They will realize that abandoning their party would reduce their rump group of radicals to irrelevance. There will be a lot of subvocal grumbling on the part of those who fantasized about burning Washington to the ground in order to destroy Trump. But in the end, her fellow Democrats will unanimously re-elect her as speaker. Not a single Republican vote would be needed.

Pelosi in turn would owe Trump a great debt of gratitude. And whether you are a politician like Nancy Pelosi, or a businessman like Donald Trump, you know that all such debts will one day be called in.

As an added bonus for the president, Pelosi just happens to be one of the most despised politicians in America today. In fact, her approval rating is only about half of the president’s own. That means Trump would not only have considerable leverage in private negotiations, he also would have the perfect foil for the public policy clashes that inevitably occur. It’s a win-win—for him.

The man is a strategic genius.

If the angry mob that is the left-wing media ever stopped to think about Trump’s actions, instead of foaming at the mouth over some of his word choices, they would realize this.

I’m pretty sure that Nancy Pelosi does.

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Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Post • Trump White House

A New Lady for the United Nations

As the position of ambassador to the United Nations is about to be vacant, from the retirement of the well-regarded Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, and the president is considering alternatives, I wish to throw someone’s hat in the ring.

It is sometimes hard to believe, but the embassy to the United Nations has at times been a serious position. The first American ambassador to the United Nations, Edward Stettinius, retired as secretary of state to take the position. In 1945, it was widely seen as a forum for coordinating the post-war activities of the cooperating victorious allies in World War II: The United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, France, and China.

France was included because British prime minister Winston Churchill saw that France, as well as former enemies Germany and Italy, though all defeated, would have to be resurrected, France as a major ally, to avoid a vacuum in Western Europe to be exploited by Stalin’s USSR. China was included as a permanent member of the Security Council because President Franklin D. Roosevelt foresaw that it would pull itself together and become a great power, as it had been at intervals in its long history. Both these decisions were justified by subsequent events, as Charles de Gaulle and Mao Tse-tung led their nations back to important positions in the world.

Of course, Stalin tore up his Yalta Conference commitments to a free and democratic liberated Eastern Europe and instead, with the occupying Red Army, brought forth a part of the world that would be known as the Iron Curtain: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria. Before he did so, it was expected that the five co-founders of the U.N. would concert on all matters of security interest and assert themselves in this apparently collegial atmosphere.

The countries in the General Assembly would only have one vote each, (despite Stalin’s assertion that “The Soviet Union has not endured 10,000 casualties a day for four years to have a voice in the counsels of the world equal to Albania’s”). Ukraine and Belarus, constituent republics of the USSR, each had a vote, and it was assumed that the British Commonwealth countries and the Latin American republics, would generally be in step with the British and Americans. The same assumption was made in respect of the former French territories in Africa, when they were granted independence in 1959, and that these facts would assure the Security Council powers control of the machinery of the United Nations.

In the same measure that great power control of world affairs were presumed to be consigned to the victorious powers, with appearances of equality of national influences, this formula had been devised by Roosevelt to complete the defeat of the isolationists who had so bedeviled American foreign policy-making under Woodrow Wilson and between the wars.

Among the ambassadors the United States has sent to the United Nations since Stettinius were future president George H. W. Bush, future secretary of state Madeleine Albright, twice candidate for president Adlai Stevenson, vice presidential candidate Henry Cabot Lodge, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, future national security advisor John Bolton, and eminent office holders George Ball, Pat Moynihan, William Scranton, Andrew Young, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Vernon Walters, Richard Holbrooke, John Negroponte, and Zalmay Khalilzad. The position has been a cabinet level one since incoming President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 chose in this way to recognize the services of Henry Cabot Lodge, who had been one of Eisenhower’s most effective political supporters, but had lost his place in the U.S. Senate to 36-year-old John F. Kennedy in the election that year.

Gradually, of course, the United Nations has become a great disappointment.

First the USSR launched the Cold War and the purpose of collegializing allied post-war policy evaporated. Scores of under-developed countries were elected as decades passed and the organizations and agencies operated by the United Nations became largely infested with dishonest and incompetent people and the debates became a collective primal scream therapy for a great many contemptible national regimes. The former docility of once very suggestible smaller states also largely disintegrated.

But the hope has never entirely died that, as poverty declines and great power relations, while sometimes abrasive, do not threaten the world with nuclear war, something useful may yet arise from this odd organization. For all it’s failings, and the exasperation of successive U.S. presidents (Richard Nixon once mused about “throwing them all into the East River”), the United Nations might yet become a useful and effective forum.

With that laborious prologue, I suggest that the next U.S. ambassador should be Ann Coulter. Her political views, unlike Ambassador Haley’s, have long been supportive of Trump, and although the president has overlooked some of Haley’s previous jibes at him when he was a candidate (she supported Marco Rubio for the nomination), Coulter would have a lot more preemptive sympathy in the White House.

The United Nations is largely a debating chamber, and this is a field where Coulter has been very accomplished for many years. She is accustomed to being vastly outnumbered by mocking opponents of her unapologetic conservative views and would not be fazed in the slightest by the opposition of most of the 193 other countries in the United Nations. (It must be said that Haley has fought her corner very effectively also, though she does not have Coulter’s flare and oratorical virtuosity.)

It would be a joy, and very entertaining as well, to see Ann Coulter disposing of America’s critics in her magnificently flamboyant and witty manner, as she tosses her long blond hair, and in a patrician voice that recalls, though it is more sonorous, the principal author of the widely ignored United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt.

I always thought it was regrettable (and told him so) that William F. Buckley did not accept President Reagan’s offer of the embassy to the United Kingdom, as he would have dazzled the British. Ann Coulter would do the same to the preposterous congeries of the world’s representatives at the United Nations. The office seeks the lady.

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Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • Economy • Post • the Presidency • Trump White House

Trump Is a Patriot, Not a Nationalist-Populist

Ever since Donald Trump ascended to the presidency, confused members of the media have been trying to come to grips with their inability to understand him by dubbing him  a “populist,” a “nationalist,” or some combination of the two. This has triggered a debate throughout American society. People are conditioned to view these two terms as things associated with negative forces throughout American history. Nationalism, as it is understood by the vast majority of people in academia today, is something rooted in ethnic and religious discrimination. Populism, a term that even the Founding Fathers feared (referring to it as a “mobocracy”), usually means the tyranny of the majority.

Like many others, I am also guilty of having used the “nationalist-populist” terminology over the last two years. Certainly, the Trump movement—like the Tea Party movement that preceded it—is based on popular notions of government. But, the nationalism espoused by this movement is neither ethnic nor religious. Instead, it is a civic and economic nationalism. In other words, it is pragmatic and patriotic.

When one analyzes the outcomes of Trump’s policies, it is clear that “nationalism” and “populism” don’t quite describe them. Very technically, Trump is not popular. He neither won the popular vote in 2016 nor has his approval rating topped 40 percent. What’s more, he is not a racist leading a racialist charge against minority communities. If that were actually true, then the massive gains made by minority communities in the United States since Trump became president would seem to work against the Trump agenda. Instead, Trump lauds their achievements and explicitly wishes for more.

Think about it: Trump did not campaign under the banner of cutting America’s various welfare programs (though, they are certainly in need of reform). He merely said that, if elected, he’d manage these programs better. Trump explicitly ran on a campaign platform of intensifying government spending through an expensive (though much-needed) infrastructure plan. Trump also ran against Republican Party orthodoxy on trade. All of these things, while unpopular with “true conservatives,” were immensely popular with enough voters across the country to give Trump the boost he needed to win the 2016 election.

President Trump’s stances on immigration are also less rooted on racialist assumptions and more based on economic need and political pragmatism, as well as concern for the citizens and immigrants who already live here. While Trump has advocated for curbing all immigration into the United States, this places the president in good company. After all, Calvin Coolidge placed a moratorium on immigration into the United States which lasted until former Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) bamboozled his fellow elected leaders into embracing an immigration “reform” plan that created the current mess in U.S. immigration policy.

Trump supports severe curbs on all forms of immigration into the United States because the present system is depressing wages, swamping an already-overburdened welfare system, and causing massive political dislocations—to say nothing of security concerns, in the form of increases in illicit narcotics and gang-related violence. Trump wants a more serious commitment to merit-based legal immigration focusing on national need. This is a sensible policy. In fact, this policy is similar to what Canada—America’s social democratic neighbor to the north—presently enjoys. If it’s not radical for globalist Canada, why is it radical, nationalist-populism for the United States?

When Trump campaigned, he vowed to adhere to an “America First” principle of governance. As president, he has chided his fellow world leaders to stick to their own national interests and he will do the same with his. While everyone has been frantically trying to come up with the correct political science jargon for understanding Trump’s philosophy, it was hiding right in plain sight. He told us. It’s America First. How is this controversial? How is this un-American? Why must such a controversial term, like “nationalist-populism” be used (except to denigrate Trump’s legitimacy)?

Trump believes exactly as most Americans do on the critical issues of our day. He wants the best for the United States, partisan ideology be damned. Let’s start calling Trump what he is: a patriot.

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2016 Election • America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Post • the Presidency • Trump White House

Trump’s Triumph at the U.N.

President Trump’s speech at the United Nations on Tuesday is one of the greatest political speeches ever delivered in peacetime.

Maybe you are like those members of the audience seated in the General Assembly who tittered when the president began his speech noting that, “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

The bureaucrats shifting upon their glutei maximi upon the plush receptacles provided by the custodians of the United Nations may have found the president’s frank statement risible. But their hilarity detracts not one iota from the truth of his observation.

What President Trump said was not braggadocio. It was the unvarnished truth.

What Were They Laughing About Again?
In less than two years, the United States has added some $10 trillion in wealth to its economy. Four million new jobs have been created, and unemployment has plummeted to historic lows. Consumer confidence has soared, while tax reform has put more money in the pockets of average Americans and turbocharged American businesses.

Meanwhile, the President’s attention to the United States military has reversed the decay orchestrated by the Obama Administration, upping military spending to $700 billion this year, $716 billion next year. In short, “the United States is stronger, safer, and a richer country than it was when I assumed office less than two years ago.”

Giggle away, ye bureaucrats, giggle away.

So it is with the president’s speech. Barack Obama is reputed to be an impressive orator. But he never gave a speech that, in substance, could hold a candle to President Trump’s speeches at Warsaw, at Riyadh, before the joint session of Congress last year, or indeed his “rocket man” speech at the United Nations. And this topped them all for forcefulness, clarity, and wisdom.

The forcefulness and clarity, I believe, are acknowledged by everyone, even the president’s opponents. Emblematic passages include his description of ISIS “bloodthirsty killers,” his characterization of Iran as a “brutal regime,” the “world’s leading sponsor of terrorism,” whose leaders “sow chaos, death, and destruction” and “plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.” All this is patently true, but one is not supposed to utter such things on the floor of the General Assembly.

This is not the usual language of diplomacy. It is the frank argot of truth: a tongue rarely heard in the echo-chambers of the United Nations with its squadrons of translators who translate clichés from one language into another swiftly, accurately, and inconsequentially. How refreshing—though admittedly, how startling it must have been to hear someone deliver an entire speech without lying.

Sovereignty Is Key
But I spoke of “wisdom,” too. Again, you may think that the conjunction of the name “Trump” and the virtue of wisdom is odd. But think about it. What, in the end, was this speech about? It was an elaboration of Trump’s chief foreign policy idea, “principled realism.”

“Realism” connotes an accurate and unsentimental appreciation of the metabolism of power. The “principles” in question involve an affirmation of who we are as a people, which turns on our affirmation of national sovereignty.

The president’s articulation of this simple, yet deep, idea is what lifted his speech out of the realm of pedestrian blather and marked it for the history books.

No one who has listened to President Trump talk about his “America First” agenda will have been surprised when he said, “America will always act in [its] national interest,” or “We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy,” or “Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”

President Trump has made those points before, though perhaps not always so bluntly.

What was new was his meditation on the importance of sovereignty.

He was right, and in the halls of the United Nations, nearly unique, in pointing out that “responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from other, new forms of coercion and domination.” More can be said—and I trust will be said—about those novel forms of coercion and domination. For now, however, we should pay attention to these key phrases in the president’s speech.

On moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and our moving our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. The aim of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is “advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts,” to wit, the fact that Israel is a sovereign state and, as such, has the right to determine where its capital city should be.

On the immediate implications of a policy of “principled realism,” which means that “we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again. This is true not only in matters of peace, but in matters of prosperity.”

Translation of that last bit: “free trade” is a great desideratum, but trade that is not fair is not free. Henceforth, those who wish to trade with the United States, the world’s largest economy, must abide by the principle that “trade must be fair and reciprocal.”

The Long-Term Solution to the Migration Crisis
Let me touch briefly on one additional theme, migration (which subsumes immigration). “Uncontrolled migration,” President Trump observed, is a direct threat to national sovereignty and hence will not be countenanced by the United States. How stinging to the ears of the assembled bureaucrats must his words have been. “Migration should not be governed by an international body unaccountable to our own citizens.” Quite right, and worth the price of admission.

The president was also right that, “Ultimately, the only long-term solution to the migration crisis is to help people build more hopeful futures in their home countries. Make their countries great again.”

For those with ears to hear, this speech reminds one why—improbable though it may have seemed—Donald Trump is shaping up to be not just a good but a great president. Few people, least of all me, would have predicted it. But so it is. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the American people like the free, open, unapologetic taste of American success.

We are the richest, most generous country on earth. But we are not, despite the efforts of transnational progressives like Barack Obama, the world’s patsy. Donald Trump understands this. That is why he was elected. It is also why he will go down as one of the most extraordinary leaders this blessed country has ever been vouchsafed.

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