What Are Your Election Forecasts?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
Not a day passes without some political commentator providing an opinion about the congressional elections in November or the presidential election in 2020. So, if so many others are offering their expert prognostication, why shouldn’t I?
Here it goes. Regarding the fall of 2018 and what the House or Senate will look like after the votes are counted, I don’t know. And as to what will happen when President Trump seeks reelection or decides to step down, I don’t know that either.
Most of the pundits were embarrassingly wrong regarding the results in 2016 – both for the White House and for Congress. Currently, they are concluding that large numbers of voters – not only Democrats but also a healthy number of Republicans who don’t like Donald Trump’s performance to date – will elect a Democrat challenger. These are the commentators and professional polls who were certain that Hillary Clinton would drub Donald Trump in 2016. For them, the result was a huge blow that should have kept them quiet for the future.
Here’s what I do know. In the 2000 presidential race, Al Gore was eventually determined to be the loser only when Florida’s 25 electoral votes were awarded to George W. Bush. In that state, 97,488 voted for Ralph Nader. Had Nader not been on the ballot as a candidate of a minor party, most choosing him would surely have opted for Gore. With the result that Gore would have won the White House, not Bush. The possibilities that something like this could happen in 2020 are increasingly real.
In 2020, no matter who the Democrats chose as their candidate to oust Trump, our nation’s growing Progressive movement is likely to field a candidate under some banner other than Democrat. If the chosen Democrat candidate isn’t a Sanders-style Progressive, large numbers of these socialists will either stay home and not vote or turn to some other far-left candidate. Keep in mind that in 2000, there were a total of 16 candidates for president (all were not on the ballot in every state) plus write-ins.
It is quite likely Progressives will field a candidate. If this happens, the Democratic Party will likely suffer the same type defeat – in several states – that Gore suffered in Florida in 2000 because he didn’t get the Nader votes needed to win that state.
For the 2018 congressional races, the 435 House seats are held by 239 Republicans and 191 Democrats (there are a few independents and vacancies). Should the Republicans lose 22 House seats, they would lose their leadership in that body. If they lose two Senate seats, their leadership of that body would also revert to the Democrats.
Establishment favoring pundits expect that Donald Trump’s unpopularity will cause Republican losses in both Houses of Congress. But they overlook the huge unpopularity of California Democrat Nancy Pelosi. The Democratic Party’s leader in the House can be a significant drag on Democrat candidates from coast to coast. Republicans defending their seat against Democrats Party candidates need only tell voters that a vote for their opponent amounts to a vote to put Pelosi back in the hugely powerful Speaker position.
And Trump’s popularity has been rising – helped along by suggestions that he win the Nobel Peace Prize for getting the leaders of the two Koreas to talk instead of use nuclear weapons.
Any pundit who doesn’t factor in the above considerations will likely be as embarrassed in 2018 and 2020 as most were in 2016.
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
There are approximately 150 federal district and appeals court vacancies in the nation. Although President Trump has appointed and gained Senate approval for more than two dozen justices, the number of vacancies has risen. A few weeks ago, Mr. Trump made note of the many holes in the judicial branch while promising speedy action to deal with the problem.
In mid-March, Mr. Trump discussed his opportunity to reshape U.S. courts when he told a gathering of Ohio supporters of his intention to make good appointments. “We’re going all out,” he said. He described his opportunity to fill many vacant federal judicial posts as a “gift from heaven [that is] world-changing, country-changing, USA-changing.”
Especially needing attention are vacancies that have arisen in the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Notorious for its damaging leftist rulings, the Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over nine states: Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and California. Numerous Ninth Circuit rulings have bedeviled not only the nine states where this court holds sway but the entire nation has been affected. One of this court’s leading leftists, Judge Stephen Reinhardt, passed away on March 29. His vacant seat and seven more vacancies in the 29-member Ninth Circuit, present Mr. Trump with a golden opportunity to move the nation’s most activist and leftist court toward a more conservative and constitutional stance.
Nominating federal judges is, of course, only the first of two steps to have a new judge seated. The Senate must approve a nominee. In the past, senators could block a nomination via a filibuster that would take 60 votes to overcome – a difficult hurdle. But, during the Obama administration, the Senate weakened and effectively killed the filibuster process. Now only a majority will be needed to gain approval.
The Senate has also cancelled a process known as “blue slip” blockage of a judicial nominee. It allowed a senator to block approval of an appointee who resides in his or her state. A simple placing of a nominee’s name on a “blue slip” and presenting it to the Judiciary Committee Chairman was sufficient to kill nomination. But current Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has announced that he will not honor the use of this practice by any senator who might wish to block approval of a particular nominee. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had already stated her intention to issue a blue slip for any Trump nominee she finds objectionable. But the Grassley move will likely terminate permanently the issuance of the infamous blue slips.
Prospects for Mr. Trump to dramatically alter the stance of the notoriously leftist Ninth Circuit and other federal courts have raised concerns among California liberals. Dean Erwin Chemerinsky who leads the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law considered deceased Justice Reinhardt his ideological equal. He now sees future setbacks for liberal judicial dominance, especially in the Ninth Circuit. Chemerinsky has stated, “With a Republican Senate and no possibility of a filibuster, [Donald Trump] can have whoever he wants on the circuit court.” He expects a “dramatic change in the Ninth Circuit.”
President Trump has an opportunity to markedly improve adherence to the rule of law throughout the nation. He should be encouraged by many Americans to do so.
Swamp Critter Chosen by Trump
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
Donald Trump loves catchy phrases. Most Americans have heard him insist on the need to “Make America Great Again.” How to attain such a worthy goal doesn’t require a painstaking search. A return to what made our country great in the first place is all that’s necessary. That means strict adherence to the still standing U.S. Constitution.
The document governing the nation’s affairs since 1789 created strong brakes on government power and meddling. Decades of drifting away from the Constitution has led to an array of both domestic and foreign problems. Still, the Constitution is the blueprint that made our country the envy of the world. Sad to say, however, reliance on the venerable document hasn’t been the primary focus on the current president’s agenda, or that of his numerous predecessors.
More recently, Mr. Trump has decided that “Drain the Swamp” is a better crowd pleaser. To most Americans, the “swamp” consists of those who don’t have America’s best interest at heart. The president has taken a few steps toward lessening the effect of the swamp denizens, but they’re still around and more needs to be done to lessen their influence.
One who most would consider part of the “swamp” is John Bolton. But this man has just been tapped by Mr. Trump to be our nation’s newest national security adviser. It’s troubling as Bolton is the direct opposite of Mr. Trump’s early claim to be a non-interventionist.
Described by many as an experienced diplomat who served our nation as Ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton should be known as a neoconservative war monger anxious to force the rest of the world to bend to America’s will. His bellicose urgings kept him from gaining senate approval for the UN post given him by President George W. Bush. When the Senate turned thumbs down on that appointment, Bush waited until that body was no longer in session to award Bolton what is termed a “recess” appointment, a tainted award if ever there was one. Numerous senators from both political parties were wary of the man and he couldn’t win Senate confirmation so Bush gave it to him in a legal but underhanded way.
John Bolton has long been a member of the sovereignty-despising Council on Foreign Relations. It would be difficult to find anyone more committed to unnecessary war. He partnered in wanting a second war against Iraq after the lightning quick removal of Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait in 2001. As a member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) dreamed up by neocons Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Perle, and Armitage, he joined with his PNAC internationalists to have Iraq invaded again. After the first President Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, these bellicose internationalists tried to get President Clinton to attack Iraq. But Bill had other concerns to deal with and other ideas about how to create the New World Order.
After Clinton’s eight years in office, Bolton called on President George W. Bush to wage preemptive war against Iran. He has lately insisted that our nation should conduct cyber warfare against Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and any other nation accused of this new form of warfare.
The Constitution isn’t being relied upon by the Trump administration. If it were guiding the President and his policymakers, America’s troops would be brought home from endless wars such as those in Afghanistan and Syria. There would be widespread closing down of U.S. military presence in the 130 nations where American troop contingents are currently posted.
But expecting John Bolton as the president’s national security adviser to change Washington’s reigning militarism is unrealistic. John Bolton should be scorned, not elevated to a very sensitive post.
Understanding Donald Trump
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
For about ten months in the early days of the Trump-for-President campaign, Sam Nunberg was one of the real estate Mogul’s campaign advisers. Before the November 2016 election however, the candidate and Nunberg had a falling out, not over anything in the political realm but over Trump’s charge that his adviser had violated a confidentiality pledge.
Nunberg hasn’t completely disavowed the positive attitude he had about the man who became president. But he does render an opinion about Mr. Trump when asked for one. After the recent flurry of negotiations over the new spending budget, a writer for the New York Times sought him out for perspective about his former boss’s modus operandi. Here’s what Nunberg offered:
The misconception is that the president does not know what he does not know. In my experience, the reality is that the president knows what he does not know and does not think he needs to know it. He’s a C.E.O. The tiny details are for his staff.
That says a lot about the man who now occupies the White House’s Oval Office. He’s not interested in the details. For him, the goal is to make a deal, not to fret over the minutiae. Unfortunately, one of the details within the latest budget deal is its increase in the already enormous national debt.
The deal produced some outspoken dissenters among GOP House members who form the hardline Freedom Caucus. Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said, “The swamp won and the American taxpayer lost.” He added, “This is the second largest spending increase in a decade. It is not what we said we would do and we’re going to have to fight harder to get things back on track.”
Fellow Caucus member Mark Meadows (R-S.C.) criticized his GOP leaders while terming their complicity an example “caving in.” He repeated what his Ohio colleague had stated about the GOP leadership caving, the swamp winning, and the American taxpayer losing. Freedom Caucus members were always willing to steer funds to the military. But adding to the already record-setting $20.5 trillion national debt is something they surely did not want.
Making America great again has long been Donald Trump’s slogan. A respected high-level Trump employee now in retirement did his very best to suggest the way to accomplish the goal contained in the “great again” slogan. At Trump headquarters in New York City, he passed along a suggested follow-up to explain in simple terms how America could indeed be made great again. His suggestion, short and easily understood by anyone, stated, “America became great not because of what government did, but because of what government was prevented from doing by the Constitution.”
You never heard Donald Trump say that either because it never got to him or because he didn’t want to tie himself to its wisdom. Maybe he doesn’t agree with its good sense. Maybe it’s because he never thought he needed what it said to win the election. Maybe he doesn’t know much about the Constitution that he and every member of Congress swears to uphold. Or maybe it’s one of those pesky “details” left for staff members to fret over. The many underlings know that they dare not cross the line by suggesting that the current president of the United States has adopted spending habits worthy of his political opponents.
Whatever the case, the weight of huge indebtedness has grown larger for the American people, including the nations young people who have had no opportunity to disapprove its enormity or the many unconstitutional programs responsible for its growing burden. The debt is not one of those “tiny details” mentioned by Sam Nunberg. It’s a problem that could America its very existence as an independent nation.
National Debt Missing from Trump’s SOTU
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
I dutifully watched Donald Trump deliver his State of the Union speech on January 30. The president did a fine job expressing his thoughts about what his leadership had accomplished during his first year, and what he would like to accomplish in the immediate future.
I liked all the introductions of heroes large and small. The female helicopter pilot who rescued many, the Forest Service officer whose bravery saved lives, and Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) whose successful recovery from being shot at a baseball field last year was very good news. There were more of these special introductions of remarkable individuals, and each was a good break in what can be termed a tedious bit of oratorical excess.
During another departure from governmental matters, Mr. Trump dwelled briefly on the conduct of good Americans when saluting the flag, and when they “stand for the National Anthem.” Without doubt, he used the opportunity to condemn – without naming any – professional football players who have made a habit of kneeling rather than standing during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” What he said was welcomed by supporters but it didn’t address the nation’s biggest problem.
What is that “biggest problem?” I found the speech terribly disappointing in that the President chose to ignore the enormous national debt, now at $20.6 trillion. He avoided the topic while announcing his intention to spend additional billions for infrastructure, the military, the fight against opioids, continued foreign aid, and more. He delighted in noting that his prodding led Congress to approve a new tax measure that would have the government’s receipts shrink by $1.5 trillion. Where the government’s funds will come from to make up this shortfall, and previously accumulated indebtedness, wasn’t mentioned.
Six years ago, Admiral Mike Mullen who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff summarized this very real problem as it existed six years ago. He stated: “A nation with our current levels of unsustainable debt cannot hope to sustain for very long its superiority from a military perspective, or its influence in world affairs.” Correct! But that was six years ago and the problem has only worsened.
It would be easy to produce a list of scary figures about the debt currently endangering our nation’s very existence. I’ll present only one: U.S. debt held by foreign countries totals $6.4 trillion, one trillion of which is held by Comunist China. Does the United States still possess any clout to deal with China’s clear intention to expand its influence worldwide? Our leaders can pontificate all they want about military might, but reckless spending has produced a situation where China holds more cards in the potentially deadly game of international politics.
The Democrats chose Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) to offer a rebuttal to President Trump’s speech. In effect, Kennedy told his audience, including large numbers of television viewers, that he would spend even more federal dollars. And he, too, never mentioned the threat posed by indebtedness. As for working together with members of the “other party,” he mentioned a sign held up by one of the marchers cheering the Democratic agenda. It said, “Build a wall and my generation will tear it down.” So much for working together with Republicans. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies remarked, about the Trump speech, “The Democrats are going to be even less disposed to do anything the President suggests, even if it’s in their interest.”
The share of the enormous debt per American is $63,000; per each American family $170,000. Our nation’s partners in crime, the Federal Reserve and the federal government, allow more dollars to be created out of thin air. Those freshly made dollars derive their worth by stealing the value of all existing dollars. That why prices go up for food, rent, fuel, and everything else. Not only is debt robbing our nation’s ability to act in its own interests; it is subjecting all Americans to domination by our central government.
Ignoring the consequences of national indebtedness isn’t good leadership. Refusing to tell the American people they are being victimized by it is unconscionable.
DACA and DREAMERS Affecting Immigration
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
Relocating from one country to another is not a right. Any country has inherent power to establish an immigration policy that squares with the interest and culture of its citizens. Without such power, no country can continue to exist.
In the United States as far back as 1924, a duly enacted Immigration Act established a “national origins quota” system to deal with immigration into our country. If ten percent of the existing population were Italian, said the Act, then ten percent of the total number of immigrants seeking entry could be from Italy. So, too, would the number of Irish, German, Polish, etc. conform to the percentage of the population already legally resident in America.
This same system of determining who might be eligible for legal entry in the United States then became the basis of the Immigration Act of 1952 written by Senator McCarran (D-Nev.) and Representative Walter (D-Penna.). Passed overwhelmingly by Congress, the Act was immediately vetoed by President Truman. It went back to Congress where the veto was speedily overridden with great support from Democrats. It was replaced in 1966 by an immigration law crafted by Senator Ted Kenned that completely reversed the existing McCarran-Walter policy. Kennedy and other liberal Democrats had discovered that they could swell the rolls of future Democrat voters via immigration.
No longer would maintaining the culture of the nation be a prime consideration. Newer legal immigration policy, not tied to the existing national origins of the American people, have opened the gates to people who have little or no knowledge of America’s governmental system. Most don’t even want to know about it. Overwhelmingly, they ignorantly prefer the socialism championed by the Democratic Party – and also by renegade Republicans who should be known as neoconservatives.
After 1966 as a result of the Kennedy immigration measure, amnesty for illegal immigrants became policy. Several million were soon welcomed via amnesty when President Reagan signed a Democrat-favoring measure in the 1980s. Mr. Reagan insisted that his granting residency to several million who came here illegally wouldn’t be duplicated. But it has been more than duplicated by other Democrat/neoconservative legislation. More millions of illegals have been amnestied after the Reagan cave-in.
In 2012, even while acknowledging that he had no power to do so, President Obama created a program providing temporary amnesty for huge numbers of young people who had entered America illegally. Called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama action granted legal status to 800,000 young people. They were converted from illegal to legal for a period lasting two years (and were able to seek an extension after those two years). They also received assurance that they wouldn’t be hunted down for possible deportation, and they were declared eligible for a work permit. In addition, they were permitted to bring family members into our country in what has been termed “chain migration.”
In many ways, DACA replaces the so-called DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). First introduced in the Senate in 2001, and reintroduced several times in subsequent years, it has never been approved by Congress. DACA has never won congressional approval either. But DACA gained legitimacy via Barack Obama’s totally unconstitutional executive order in June 2012. President Trump has countered with his own executive order rescinding DACA but his order keeps all of DACA in place for six months.
Liberals of both political parties, expecting that most DACA beneficiaries and DREAMERS will vote Democratic, are noisily cheering for keeping DACA alive and for passage of the DREAM Act. Columnist Michelle Malkin, a native-born American whose parents are legal immigrants from the Philippines, disagrees emphatically with demands from the many leftists cheering for congressional approval of what she terms “a self-perpetuating political marketing machine.”
Liberal clergymen and politicians are now crusading for DACA and the Dream Act to become official law. They insist doing so is the ”compassionate” route to follow. They forget that laws were broken by illegal entrants. If nothing is done to uphold law, more laws will be broken.
“There is no such thing as a deserving DREAMER,” says Malkin. She adds, “They broke our nation’s law to get here and should never be rewarded with a sure path to citizenship.” If that sensible attitude doesn’t prevail, we can expect more, not fewer, illegals entering America.
Trump Vs. A Media “Rock Star”
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
It seems as though our nation’s left-leaning mass media will find grist for their anti-Trump crusade no matter what the President or his top aides say or do. If the President assured someone that the sun would rise in the East tomorrow morning, some media star would cite the ravings of a confirmed anti-Trump crusader insisting Donald Trump has no love for the West.
Four American soldiers were recently slain in Africa’s Niger. While performing their mission to train local military personnel, they were ambushed and never had a chance. Most likely, they were targeted because they were Americans.
President Trump sought advice about what to say in the calls he would make to the members of the grieving families. He turned to someone who knew from first-hand experience how to handle such a tragic responsibility: Retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, his Chief of Staff. A few years earlier while Kelly was still serving on active duty, his close friend General Joseph Dunford had delivered to him the awful news that his son had been killed while serving in Afghanistan.
Dunford brought the terrible news to General Kelly, and Kelly recalled that message when asked by the President what he could say to a devastated family member in a telephone call. Referring to the death of young Lieutenant Robert Kelly who died in Afghanistan, that message to the lieutenant’s father stated:
He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war and when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on earth, his friends.
That’s precisely what President Trump copied and said to each of the families of the four men who died in Niger. We know this because Chief of Staff Kelly told a news conference first about Mr. Trump’s inquiry to him and then about the President’s subsequent calls to the families. The President did his duty but a member of Congress from Florida sought to gain some publicity for herself by attacking Mr. Trump. After overhearing the President’s call to the wife of one of the slain soldiers, Representative Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) characterized the president’s message as insensitive, especially the portion that Kelly himself had once received – and accepted. He said to Sergeant La David Johnson’s widow that her husband had died “doing exactly what he wanted to do” by serving honorably in Niger.
John Kelly said he was “stunned” by Representative Wilson’s comments. She has reveled in the amount of publicity she has received when she should have been ignored. She now claims to be the equivalent of a “Rock Star,” and delights in the fact that Chief of Staff Kelly has criticized her attack on the President. When Kelly responded to her outburst and likened her remarks to the noise emanating from an “empty barrel,” she played the race card, calling his response a “racist term.” That should have been laughed at, but even though it is a gross absurdity, it gained wide coverage.
Congresswoman Wilson’s record demonstrates that she’s no friend of those who wear the uniform. She has repeatedly voted against measures that would help veterans and their families. One of her votes saw her oppose a measure designed to ensure that families of some slain soldiers would receive death benefits. Yet she gets treated like a “Rock Star” by the same media that delights on finding fault with everything – good or bad – coming from the White House.
In his remarks about this incident, Chief of Staff Kelly recalled that important national attitudes have changed from his youth. His list included: “women were sacred; the dignity of life was sacred; religion seems to be gone as well.“ Most Americans agree that such changes have occurred. It appears that Mr. Kelly was targeting the mass media, the powerful force within our nation that has played a sinister role in altering basic American standards. It is the same mass media that rarely says anything complimentary about President Trump but delights in making a “Rock Star” out of a despicable publicity seeker who happens to be a member of Congress.
Sanctuary Cities, an Invitation for Criminals
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
On July 1, 2015, 32-year-old Kathryn “Kate” Steinle died from a bullet wound in her back. She had been enjoying a pleasant stroll with her father along one of the piers in San Francisco’s Embarcadero district. The bullet killing her came from a gun used by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez who claimed he was aiming at sea lions. One of the bullets he fired ricocheted off the pavement and struck Steinle. She died two hours later.
An illegal immigrant from Mexico, Lopez-Sanchez had previously been deported from the U.S. five times. Loose control of the Mexico-U.S. border certainly invited his return for a sixth time. But something else figured into the tragedy that claimed a completely innocent victim. Lopez-Sanchez was in San Francisco because the city had declared itself a “sanctuary city,” one where cooperation with federal immigration laws has been declared practically null.
Once a city declares itself a “sanctuary” for immigrants, local policy prohibits police or city employees from questioning detainees about their immigration status, or even cooperating with federal immigration authorities in dealing with illegal entrants. Sanchez-Lopez was a known drug dealer who had been convicted three times in the state of Washington of felony heroin possession. He had amassed seven felony convictions total, but was still free to roam the country after his latest illegal entry. Deported to Mexico time after time, his return had become a certainty. And the gun he fired when Kate Steinle died had been stolen from a federal agent’s parked auto four days earlier. Not what anyone should call a good candidate for citizenship!
The killing of Kate Steinle and the entire matter of sanctuary cities became an issue in the 2016 presidential race. GOP candidate Donald Trump mentioned Lopez-Sanchez as an example of the need to deport foreign nationals living illegally in the U.S. At first, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton relied on the same term she used when questions were raised about her cavalier use of unsecured computers to conduct sensitive U.S. business. She said San Francisco had made a “mistake” in not deporting someone the federal government strongly felt should be sent back to Mexico. Clinton loves that word. Exactly one day later, the Clinton campaign effectively reversed what she had stated, claiming that Mrs. Clinton “believes sanctuary cities can help further public safety.” Choose which of those two positions you wish.
But what about sanctuary cities themselves? In effect, they constitute a thumbing of the nose at legitimate laws designed to thwart unlawful immigration. If the entire nation adopted sanctuary policy, there would soon be no nation, because, as history has shown, a nation without control of its borders soon ceases to be independent.
Arguments favoring the sanctuary declaration like to point to a seemingly related policy known as nullification, the refusal of a city or state to obey a law they claim has no legal basis. But there is a huge difference in these two ways of dealing with laws one doesn’t like. Sanctuary cities – sometimes even counties – choose to ignore federal mandates while still accepting federal aid of various kinds. Nullifiers are willing to accept the consequence of losing federal aid because of their refusal to abide by a mandate they find onerous, even abusive of higher law.
The death of Kate Steinle raised national awareness about declaring sanctuary city status. Their very existence indicates a breakdown in the essential rule of law that is the hallmark of any free country. But there has been minor reversal regarding their use. There should be consequences wherever sanctuary cities have been proclaimed. Imposing them would be one small way of honoring the memory of Kate Steinle. Doing so would also help keep our nation free and independent.
Rod Rosenstein’s Unwanted Prominence
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
From a long and distinguished career in Maryland where he was never known as a national figure, the nation’s second highest law enforcement official has suddenly risen to high prominence.
Rod Rosenstein served as a U.S. attorney in Maryland under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Selected to be second-in-command at the Justice Department by Trump appointee Jeff Sessions, Rosenstein found himself catapulted into unwanted attention when President Trump asked him for a letter providing his opinion of James Comey’s performance as Director of the FBI. His response, forthrightly criticizing the now-deposed head of the FBI, contains important perspective about Mr. Trump’s sudden decision to oust the FBI leader.
Rosenstein’s letter stated rather bluntly that Comey’s handling of the Bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s careless transmissions of sensitive email had compromised the Bureau’s “reputation and credibility.” It was wrong and without precedent for the FBI Director to announce his personal conclusion after the investigation and to further claim that “the case should be closed without prosecution.” What the FBI Director should have said, claimed Rosenstein, was that “the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors.” It was only their job either to proceed or close down the case.
Additional damaging perspective from the Deputy Attorney General stated that Comey “ignored another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.” He then termed as a serious mistake Comey’s late October letter to Congress announcing discovery of even more transmissions of classified material on the former Secretary of State’s unsecured computer. Comey sent a letter to Congress about this new discovery less than two weeks before Election Day 2016. Hillary Clinton has claimed that the letter and publicity about it cost her the election. “Silence,” said Rosenstein in his letter, would not have been concealment; it would have been following “long-standing policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information.”
In short, claimed Rosenstein, it was not Comey’s role to publicly state that Mrs. Clinton had been “extremely careless.” And the FBI leader violated long-standing FBI policy to refrain from issuing conclusions about a matter under investigation.
During his career, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has always been known as a completely apolitical public servant. He neither knew nor wanted to know whether individuals he dealt with were conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. When directed by a President – his ultimate superior – to produce a letter citing his opinion of Comey’s performance, he did so. That the letter became President Trump’s ammunition in his decision to oust the FBI Director was not Rosenstein’s intention.
A completely separate question now remains. Was the firing of James Comey, whom Mr. Trump had previously praised for his competence, done to deflect attention away from the ongoing investigation of possible Russian influence in the 2016 presidential contest? Mr. Trump’s extremely brief letter firing James Comey contained the seemingly extraneous assertion: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation….” That comment in the middle of the letter ousting James Comey may have done exactly what it was intended not to do: add fuel to the fire about possible Russian collusion in the election. That matter is no longer on the front pages or dominating news broadcasts.
We can only hope that time will tell either that there is nothing to the rumors about Russian meddling or that there is plenty of fire that had already generated a considerable amount of smoke, maybe even enough to bring a sitting President down.
The President and NATO
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
During his campaign for president, Donald Trump frequently employed the word “obsolete” to register his negativity about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After he won the election and was only a few days away from inauguration, he repeated his dour opinion on January 16, 2017, with “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one, it was obsolete because it was designed many, many years ago.”
Now that he is President, he has reversed his view on NATO. On April 12, 2017, he declared, “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.” But there has been no alteration within NATO during the past year. Mr. Trump had just met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House. The NATO chieftain, who has never considered the alliance obsolete, smiled broadly at the Trump reversal.
Born in 1949, NATO cited Article 51 of the UN Charter for its authorization to exist. The official NATO Handbook (1995 edition) contains the text of the pact’s Preface and 14 short articles. That NATO is a UN stepchild is clearly spelled out in Article 1 stating, “The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations….” Explanatory text appearing in the NATO Handbook clearly states that the pact was “Created within the framework of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”
Because the pact is a treaty, Senate ratification had to be gained. Then-Secretary of State Dean Acheson, one of its most determined champions, stated during a March 1949 speech that NATO “is designed to fit precisely into the framework of the United Nations … The United States government and the governments with which we are associated in the treaty are convinced that it is essential measure for strengthening the United Nations.” There was no hiding the fact that NATO was designed to be a UN stepchild.
In short order, twelve nations from Western Europe and North America signed on as founding members. The pact’s Article 5 states “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” That provision encouraged 13 senators to refuse their support, not nearly enough to block U.S. entry into the alliance. So NATO began and the American people were left with an impression created by the media and NATO supporters that its entire purpose was to prevent any additional Soviet expansion westward.
The UN/NATO combination then proceeded to assure that America would never again win a war. Consider: the Korean War became stalemate and NATO’s hand was in it from the beginning. The Vietnam War, fought under a NATO clone called SEATO, ended in defeat for the U.S. The wars in which Americans were fighting and dying were now being fought without the constitutional requirement for a congressional declaration of war. Highly questionable NATO forays into Bosnia and Somalia followed. Authorization for the war in Iraq came directly from the UN. And the U.S. is now 14 years into a NATO-authorized struggle in Afghanistan. NATO now has 27 member nations.
NATO has never been “obsolete.” It has greatly aided its UN sponsor in the gobbling up of more aspects of national sovereignty. So, Mr. Trump was wrong when he said NATO had become a useless alliance because it was “obsolete.” And he is additionally wrong to give it his newly created approval. What he should do is work to have the U.S. withdraw from both of these entangling alliances. The millions who voted for him would surely cheer such moves. And America would cease to be the world’s policeman, an assignment nowhere found in the U.S. Constitution to which the President and many other federal officials swore a solemn oath to uphold.