Links for 12-11-2017

  • Andrew McCarthy asks whether Robert Mueller can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia conducted a cyber espionage operation intended to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. If he can’t, Mueller can’t prove the Trump campaign colluded in that operation.

    The government, the media, and most of the public accept the premise that Russia interfered in the election. But not because this assertion has been proved in court. Instead, it is based on an intelligence judgment by three agencies, the FBI, CIA and NSA, announced under the auspices of a fourth, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

    All four agencies were run by Obama appointees. The Obama administration had a history of politicizing intelligence to serve administration narratives, and the intelligence judgment in question cannot be divorced from politics because it was announced just as Obama’s party was fashioning a narrative that Russian espionage had stolen the election from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, it is not my purpose here to make a partisan argument. The point is to consider the nature of intelligence judgments — to contrast them with courtroom findings. This dichotomy does depend on which party is running the executive branch.

    The objective of a criminal investigation is a prosecution, not a national-security judgment. In a prosecution, each essential element of the offense charged must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It is virtually certain that Mueller could never establish, to this exacting standard of proof, that Russia is guilty of cyberespionage — at least in the absence of an accomplice witness involved in the hacking, which he apparently does not have despite the government’s 18 months of investigative effort.

  • A Department of Justice official who was demoted for concealing his meetings with Fusion GPS — the opposition research company behind the Trump dossier — had even closer ties to the company than previously known. It turns out Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 presidential campaign, although we don’t know exactly what her responsibilities were.

    Until Dec. 6, when Fox News began making inquiries about him, Bruce Ohr held two titles at DOJ. He was, and remains, director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force; but his other job was far more senior. Mr. Ohr held the rank of associate deputy attorney general, a post that gave him an office four doors down from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The day before Fox News reported that Mr. Ohr held his secret meetings last year with the founder of Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson, and with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier, the Justice Department stripped Ohr of his deputy title and ousted him from his fourth floor office at the building that DOJ insiders call “Main Justice.”

    Initially, DOJ officials provided no explanation for Ohr’s demotion. Later, they said his wearing of two hats was “unusual”; still later, they confirmed Ohr had withheld his contacts with the Fusion GPS men from superiors.

  • In the past week, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, ABC, The New York Times, and CNN all published false anti-Trump stories:

    Forget your routine bias, these were four bombshells disseminated to millions of Americans by breathless anchors, pundits and analysts, feeding frenzied expectations that have now been internalized as indisputable truths by many. All four pieces, incidentally, are useless without the central faulty claim. Yet, there they sit. And these are only four of dozens of other stories that have fizzled over the year.

    Later:

    The fact that many political journalists (not all) are hopelessly biased is one thing (social media has made this fact inarguable), but if they become a proxy of operatives who peddle falsehoods, they will soon lose all credibility with a big swath of the country. They will only have themselves to blame.

  • John Daniel Davidson visited Alabama and interviewed people to learn why they (still) support Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. If the Democrats had nominated a pro-life candidate (are there any pro-life Democrats left?), they would have had a much better chance of winning this election.

  • An immigrant from Bangladesh who was inspired by ISIS attempted a suicide bombing in New York City. He injured himself and three other people. He entered the U.S. on a chain migration visa.

  • The Secret Service settled a five year old lawsuit with a whistleblower after the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General determined that the Secret Service retaliated against him for complaining about a superior’s alleged misconduct.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to convince EU foreign ministers to follow Donald Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but didn’t get anywhere. Meanwhile Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps digging deeper holes, saying, “ The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands… With their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed.”

  • I haven’t linked to a story like this recently, but Turkey continues to bomb northern Iraq on a near-weekly basis. The Turks claim the latest strike killed 29 PKK members.

  • Vladimir Putin visited Syria and said an unspecified number of Russian troops are withdrawing from Syria now that ISIS has been defeated.

  • The Associated Press published the backstory of “Mosul Eye,” a blogger/historian who anonymously documented life under ISIS in Mosul.

  • A Chinese diplomat threatened to invade Taiwan if a U.S. Navy ship ever visits the island.

  • Josh Robin writes for The Washington Post that Washington, D.C. is waking up to “the huge scope and scale of Chinese Communist Party influence operations inside the United States, which permeate American institutions of all kinds.”

  • The Department of Justice says it has no plans to deport Guo Wengui, who is wanted by the Chinese government:

    Since earlier this year, China's government has engaged in a wide-ranging influence operation, including the use of cyber attacks on American institutions, in a bid to force the United States to repatriate Guo to China.

    The effort has included the use of American business leaders with interests in China to lobby President Trump to return the dissident.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reviewed the case and determined Guo will not be forcibly returned, the senior official told reporters during a briefing at the White House.

    Later:

    Guo, who now lives in New York City, has become an outspoken critic of China's government and a pro-democracy advocate who has charged that senior leaders are engaged in corrupt financial and other activities. He has labeled the ruling Communist Party of China a "kleptocracy" and warned that China's government is working to subvert the United States.

Links for 12-7-2017

Links for 12-1-2017

Links for 11-27-2017

Links for 11-2-2017

  • The Department of Justice is contemplating whether to charge at least six Russian government officials in the Democratic National Committee computer hacking case.

  • Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) won’t run for re-election.

  • The Senate approved 27 Trump nominees today, including 16 ambassadors.

  • The Trump administration imposed punitive duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports.

  • Four Democratic election workers in Philadelphia were charged with crimes, including “intimidating voters, casting bogus ballots, and falsely certifying the results in their polling place.”

    Perhaps the most flagrant incident (at least among the ones we know of) involved a pair of husband and wife Republican voters who both cast their ballots for the GOP candidate. One of the votes was registered properly while the other was replaced with a write-in ballot with the name of the Democrat filled in, effectively nullifying the vote for their household.

  • Michael Brendan Dougherty writes that we’re on the slippery slope to shunning the Founders:

    Previously, civil-rights activists such as King reconciled white America’s devotion to the nation’s founding and their own ambition to living as equals under the law by casting the Declaration and other artifacts of the Founding as a “promissory note” whose liberties need to be justly extended to all human beings in America. And many today say that we can honor the Founders because, unlike the the Confederates, the principles they enshrined in our Founding documents could be used against the injustice of slavery and white supremacy.

    It is my contention that this way of honoring the Founders will soon begin to seem dishonest to liberals. It will be seen as a concession to a recalcitrant prejudice and a political reality that is rapidly disappearing, the same way civil unions for same-sex couples are now seen.

    It is easy to imagine a writer who grew up reading Ta-Nehisi Coates on “the First White President” looking back at Bouie’s assertion that we have statues to Jefferson on account of his authorship of the Declaration of Independence with a jaundiced eye. That future man of letters will observe that the Declaration’s invocations of liberty and its pretensions of universalism were merely Whig propaganda against a King. He will assert that Jefferson did not actually believe that all men were so endowed by their creator. He will hasten to add that as America achieved the political sovereignty, Jefferson became more convinced of white supremacy, more secure in the view that white liberty could be guaranteed only through black bondage. Many reading this argument will conclude that by raising statues to Jefferson we are crediting him only for his hypocrisy, a privilege only white racists and slavers get in America. They will conclude, in other words, that America has spent centuries sanctifying its foundational hypocrisy. Land of the Free, home of the enslaved.

  • Gavin Williamson is the U.K.’s new Defense Secretary.

  • More than 180,000 people, most of them Kurds, have been displaced as a result of the fighting between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army and its Shiite militia allies.

  • Iraq’s central government wants control of Kurdistan’s oil exports.

  • A Spanish judge ordered that nine leaders of Catalonia’s secessionist government be held in custody pending a trial.

Links for 11-1-2017

  • The suspect in the New York City terrorist attack, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, is from Uzbekistan, and he came to the U.S. via the “Diversity Visa Program.” The Department of Homeland Security questioned Saipov in 2015, but didn’t formally investigate him. And there’s this: “Saipov’s social media activity showed that he actively sought and engaged with radical Islamic propaganda and sympathized with ISIS.” Saipov used America’s chain migration policy to bring another 23 people into the country.

  • Mark Steyn wrote a tremendous column on the New York City terrorist attack that ends with this:

    So now eight grieving families and dozens more who’ll be living with horrific injuries for the rest of their lives are told by Cuomo and De Blasio and the rest of the gutless political class behind their security details that there’s nothing to do except to get used to it.

    I don’t want to get used to it – and I reiterate my minimum demand of western politicians that I last made after the London Bridge attacks: How many more corpses need to pile up on our streets before you guys decide to stop importing more of it?

    If your congressman or senator says that’s not on his agenda, what he means is he’s willing to sacrifice you and your loved ones in the suicide lottery of diversity.

  • A U.S. Navy report detailed a long list of mistakes made by the crews of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain prior to their collisions with other ships. This part is interesting:

    In the early morning hours of June 17, the Fitzgerald was traveling at a speed of 20 knots about 50 miles south of Tokyo Bay when it began to sail past commercial vessels. Contrary to his standing order, [Cmdr. Bryce] Benson was not notified on multiple occasions when the Fitzgerald came within three nautical miles of several of those ships.

    At one point the Fitzgerald crossed the bow of one of those ships at a distance of 650 yards.

  • The CIA released some of the material they obtained when U.S. Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan:

    The Abbottabad repository confirms that bin Laden was anything but retired when US forces knocked down his door. He was not a mere figurehead. During the final months of his life, Osama bin Laden was communicating with subordinates around the globe. Recovered memos discuss the various committees and lieutenants who helped bin Laden manage his sprawling empire of terror.

    In fact, al Qaeda’s network was a great deal more cohesive than was widely suspected in May 2011. Groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Shabaab (in Somalia) regularly sought and received the al Qaeda master’s direction. Other organizations, such as the Pakistani Taliban, are featured throughout the documents as well. And al Qaeda continued to maintain a significant footprint inside Afghanistan, relocating personnel to the country in 2010 and fighting alongside the Taliban.

  • A group of lawmakers accused the Trump administration of illegally arming and funding the Iranian-backed militias that are fighting alongside the Iraqi army. There are photos circulating of militia members driving American M1A1 tanks.

  • U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Schultz died in a crash at a Nevada testing range back in September. The Air Force refused to specify what plane he was flying, which led to speculation that he was testing something new. It now appears he was flying a Russian Su–27 as part of an aggressor squadron that helps American pilots train against foreign aircraft. The Air Force is now considering whether to contract out these aggressor planes and their pilots to a private company; the contract could be worth billions of dollars.

  • The Salt Lake City nurse who was arrested for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient settled her lawsuit against the city for $500,000.

  • A Chechen woman who fought for Ukraine in its battle with Russia, Amina Okueva, was assassinated in an ambush on the outskirts of Kyiv. Okueva’s husband was injured in the attack. Back in June there was another assassination attempt against the two of them, that time by a Russian citizen posing as a journalist for Le Monde who came to interview them.

  • U.K. Defense Minister Michael Fallon resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment.

  • The Iraqi government threatened to restart military operations against the Kurds.

Links for 10-31-2017