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Updated: 15 hours 4 min ago

Portland man who assaulted women on public transit finally banned for life

18 hours 18 min ago

A Portland homeless man named Jared Walter was given the nickname the “TriMet Barber” for repeatedly assaulting women on public transportation, often cutting their hair or putting “bodily fluids” in their hair. Today, Walter was banned for life from riding buses and trains in the Portland area. From Oregon Live:

Jared Walter, a 32-year-old man convicted, implicated and charged in dozens of instances of cutting, masturbating into or gluing women’s hair on public transit during the past decade, was banned from TriMet for life on Thursday.

Walter is in jail and charged with two more cases of sexual abuse on TriMet light rail trains, stemming from a March 20 incident…

In September 2017, TriMet’s board approved an ordinance giving the agency’s top officials the ability to issue life-long bans or other more extensive exclusions. That action was taken in response to Walter’s continued crimes on TriMet trains and buses…

But that harsh exclusion policy couldn’t be retroactive, and TriMet couldn’t act to ban one of its most notorious riders until Walter reoffended.

Walter has been arrested 18 different times for lewd acts and assault on public transportation since 2009. So it’s not much of a surprise that Walter did re-offend. In March, Melanie Zaldivar got on a bus in the middle of the day to head to work. Walter got on a few stops later and sat directly behind her as she chatted on her phone. When she realized he was very close, she scooted up to move away:

“So I scoot up a little, and I’m sketched out, but there are a lot of people on the MAX, so I think nothing can really happen. Or that’s what I thought,” Zaldivar said.

But she says she was wrong, and says he made a move.

“Two minutes later, I feel his hand on my thigh and in my pocket,” Zaldivar said…

“Even now I’m shaken up talking about it. I was in shock; it was broad daylight; there were a bunch of other people around me,” Zaldivar said.

Walter was convicted in 2017 for cutting women’s hair and putting bodily fluids on women while riding TriMet.

To say this is disgusting doesn’t begin to do it justice. Walter has been in and out of jail dozens of times and been banned from riding city buses multiple times. Finally, they changed the rules so he could be banned for life instead of for the previous maximum of six months. But why did it take so long? Why didn’t they change the rules after the first 4-5 times he was arrested for something like this? Would it take this long for authorities to do something in any other city?

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Gallup: Number of Americans who are members of a church is in steep decline, at 80-year low

18 hours 58 min ago

It’s an 80-year low only because that’s when the subject first began being polled. In reality today’s percentage of church members is almost certainly the lowest in American history.

This may help explain why a Catholic priest’s mention of “the body of Christ” this week somehow ended up being translated by the New York Times into “a statue of Jesus.” They probably had no frame of reference.

That’s some graph. Normally with data related to matters of religious belief you’d expect to see a gradual slope downward, possibly starting in the 1960s. Not here. Church membership is cruising along steadily for 60 years — and then, in 1998 or so, something happens. Twenty years later, the share of church members across the population is down 20 points. At that rate you’d expect Americans to have completely given up membership in churches by 2070 or so.

Causation is complicated, Gallup notes: “A sharp increase in the proportion of the population with no religious affiliation, a decline in church membership among those who do have a religious preference, and low levels of church membership among millennials are all contributing to the accelerating trend.” Churches are losing members in part because religions are losing members — but even people who do belong to a particular faith are less likely to belong to a particular church. What gives?

My theory for any ominous social trend that began in the late 1990s is that it must be the farking Internet, which seems goofy at first blush here but less so upon reflection. The Internet may have no direct bearing on religious devotion but it does bear directly on people’s ability to replace real-world communities with virtual ones. If you’re satisfying your need to belong by participating in some online group, you may feel less need to join civic organizations, starting with your local church. Civic groups have also been experiencing membership decline for years, most dramatically and probably not coincidentally among younger adults — the sort of people more likely to spend longer hours on the Internet.

That is, it’s not necessarily a decline in religious belief that’s driving the decline in church membership, although no doubt that’s contributing. It’s the decline in real-world community of all sorts. How much of a coincidence can it be that loneliness in teenagers rose 50 percent between 2012 and 2017 as smartphones proliferated and social media became even more ubiquitous? Online communities don’t provide the same sense of meaningful companionship as real ones do, but they’re much easier to join and participate in. The bad supplants the good.

One potential flaw in my theory is that America’s “social capital” began dropping long before 1998. Robert Putnam famously diagnosed the problem in 1995 in “Bowling Alone.” Per Gallup’s numbers, churches were surprisingly resilient in retaining members even as other civic groups were apparently hemorrhaging them. But the flaw isn’t irreconcilable with the Internet theory of causation: It may be that Americans who had already severed ties with more secular groups like Kiwanis required a stronger cultural jolt to sever a bond as thick as religious community. The Internet ended up providing it. And now church membership is catching up to declining membership everywhere else.

Some demographic data for you. The first column shows the percentage of church members in each group from 1998-2000 and the second column shows the percentage from 2016-18. The third column shows the change between the two:

Obviously the Internet doesn’t explain everything. If it did, there wouldn’t be a single-digit decline among Republicans versus a 23-point decline(!) among Democrats, to the point where church members are now a minority of the party. Religiosity matters here.

Speaking of which, although men and women have each seen double-digit declines in church membership, the effect is more severe among men. Just 47 percent now count themselves as church members, i.e. a clear majority of an entire gender no longer belongs to a local religious community. And men are more likely to be Republican than women are, remember. If being right-wing were more closely tied to religious faith, we shouldn’t see numbers like these. What we’re getting here is a hint of a Trumpier, less Christian GOP. It makes sense that the president, at least at the time of his candidacy in 2015, wasn’t a member of a church either.

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Report: Trump telling aides, “Keep an eye on Fox News”

19 hours 38 min ago

Why does he need aides to keep an eye on it? Judging from his Twitter feed, he watches it like 14 hours a day.

Plus, doesn’t the 9 p.m. guy basically work for him? If he wants to know what’s going on behind the scenes at FNC, he should ask his shadow chief of staff during their nightly phone call.

If he was suspicious of disloyalty at Fox before, though, imagine his reaction when he finds out what Chris Wallace said this morning.

“Keep an eye on it,” Trump started telling aides [last month], according to two people with direct knowledge of his directive, in conversations about what was going on behind-the-scenes at Fox, and if there was any cause for concern for even the slightest positive coverage of any Democrat…

[P]rivately, President Trump had been raising these questions of institutional loyalty, on-and-off, since at least the middle of last year. Several people who’ve heard him do this view it as more of a gutcheck than a loss of faith, and as yet another indication that Trump can interpret even the smallest deviations as a slight or a betrayal.

He’s taken to asking fans to keep an eye on it too, triggered by Bernie Sanders’s ratings success on FNC a few night ago:

Many Trump Fans & Signs were outside of the @FoxNews Studio last night in the now thriving (Thank you President Trump) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with Crazy Bernie Sanders. Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters. What’s with @FoxNews?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019

He keeps nudging his supporters to complain about Fox but hasn’t directly threatened the network — yet. Sometimes he’ll grouse on Twitter about Shep or one of the other daytime anchors, sometimes he’ll go to bat for one of his cronies there whom he thinks the network has punished unfairly for having crossed a line. But he hasn’t deployed his nuclear weapon, encouraging fans to boycott the network until it turns even Trumpier in its sensibilities than it is now. Lord knows he could hurt FNC if he wanted to:

“President Trump’s criticism of Fox News is a clear and present danger for the network,” said Andy Hemming, former rapid response director for the Trump White House. “The president knows Fox News viewers are far more loyal to him than the network, meaning he can push those supporters to more overtly friendly outlets like One America News Network or Newsmax with just a couple of tweets and some extra access. It also goes without saying that the financial implications for these networks are massive.”

Totally true, although there’s some risk for Trump too in taking on Fox. It may be that Fox viewers are so set in their viewing habits that they actually wouldn’t turn the channel, even for a right-wing alternative like OANN, at Trump’s urging. He might end up boosting the audience’s sense of dissatisfaction with Fox but not actually cost them much in ratings, which would make him look weak by suggesting he has less influence over his own base than everyone suspects. The other risk is that Trump declaring war on Fox would encourage Fox to declare war on him, or at least the news side of the network. His base is waaaaaaaay bigger than Fox’s is — he got 63 million votes three years ago whereas Fox averages around 2.4 million viewers a day, and of course Fox hosts like Megyn Kelly were hard on Trump in the 2016 primaries with basically no damage done to the candidate at all. But not having FNC as a dependable ally on TV every day would leave him without any allies in the top tier of cable news networks.

OANN is licking its chops over a potential Trump/Fox split, viewing it as a priceless opportunity to finally seize some market share from FNC. They happily touted Trump’s “What’s with Fox News?” tweet on their website a few days ago. And they’ve spent the past three years trying to out-Fox Fox by being even more slavishly loyal to Trump than FNC has, sporadically showing annoyance with POTUS when he fails to notice:

President Trump recently gave a speech, thanking his supporters in the media. Not a single mention of One America News — one of his GREATEST supporters…@OANN calls bullshit…

— One America News (@OANN) March 29, 2019

OANN later deleted that tweet but it seems to have had the desired effect: This morning Trump encouraged his Twitter followers to watch Bill Barr’s press conference on Fox News — or on OANN. I bet that didn’t go unnoticed at FNC either. Just the president reminding management that he’s willing and able to promote the competition if they continue to displease him.

But for the time being, he’s happy to keep promoting Fox:

It was a really great day for America! A special evening tonight on @TuckerCarlson, @seanhannity & @IngrahamAngle Will be very interesting!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2019

And so now we wait to see what Fox will do about the town halls it seems to be planning with Democratic candidates. They did so well with Bernie’s hour on Monday night that they’re hungry for more. Amy Klobuchar has already been booked and Pete Buttigieg signing on seems inevitable. If Trump tweets something like, “Sad to see non-fake news network Fox promoting open-borders pro-crime Democrats! OANN never does this!”, what will Fox do? Scale back its ambitions for other town halls with Dems or forge ahead and call his bluff, believing that not even Trump’s love can make OANN into a serious cable competitor?

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Boom! The collusion conspiracy theory has been obliterated by the Mueller report

20 hours 17 min ago

Politics sometimes makes for strange bedfellows and that’s certainly the case here. Glenn Greenwald made a career out of trashing conservatives (including some at this site) but he’s been very skeptical of the Russia collusion story. That’s not because he thinks highly of President Trump but because he generally believes people are too quick to believe the worst about Russia. That’s one more area where I don’t agree with Greenwald but there’s no denying his criticism of the media’s fixation on collusion has been pretty solid. Today the Intercept published a piece saying the collusion conspiracy has been obliterated by the Mueller report:

The two-pronged conspiracy theory that has dominated U.S. political discourse for almost three years – that (1) Trump, his family and his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, and (2) Trump is beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin — was not merely rejected today by the final report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It was obliterated: in an undeniable and definitive manner…

…consider Mueller’s discussion of efforts by George Papadopoulos, Joseph Misfud and and “two Russian nationals” whereby they tried “to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian officials” to talk about how the two sides could work together to disseminate information about Hillary Clinton. As Mueller puts it: “No meeting took place.”

Several of the media’s most breathless and hyped “bombshells” were dismissed completely by Mueller. Regarding various Trump officials’ 2016 meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Mueller said they were “brief, public and nonsubstantive.” Concerning the much-hyped change to GOP platform regarding Ukraine, Mueller wrote that the “evidence does not establish that one campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican platform was undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia,” and further noted that such a change was consistent with Trump’s publicly stated foreign policy view (one shared by Obama) to avoid provoking gratuitous conflict with the Kremlin over arming Ukrainians. Mueller also characterized a widely hyped “meeting” between then-Senator Jeff Sessions and Kislyak as one that did not “include any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.”

There’s more but the gist is the same: A lot of the alleged bombshells turned out to be duds. Greenwald points out that after all of this, “not a single American…was charged or indicted on the core question” of collusion. And he concludes that is the real “Boom” in this long media fixation:

These facts are fatal to the conspiracy theorists who have drowned U.S. discourse for almost three years with a dangerous and distracting fixation on a fictitious espionage thriller involved unhinged claims of sexual and financial blackmail, nefarious infiltration of the U.S. Government by familiar foreign villains, and election cheating that empowered an illegitimate President. They got the exact prosecutor and investigation that they wanted, yet he could not establish that any of this happened and, in many cases, established that it did not.

Greenwald reminds us that just a few weeks ago that former CIA Director John Brennan was breezily predicting a slew of final indictments for conspiracy (on MSNBC of course):

John Brennan has a lot to answer for—going before the American public for months, cloaked with CIA authority and openly suggesting he’s got secret info, and repeatedly turning in performances like this.

— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) March 25, 2019

To paraphrase Mary Katharine Ham (who I wrote about earlier), Democrats and the media set the bar at collusion/conspiracy. It wasn’t there. That’s the bottom line we should be focused on after two years of flogging this claim.

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Hoyer: Let’s face it, impeachment is “not worthwhile” after Mueller report

20 hours 58 min ago

Very true — and very inflammatory, at least with the Democratic activist base. After Robert Mueller’s special counsel report made it very clear that the Russia-collusion hypothesis about the 2016 election had no basis in fact, #2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer told CNN it’s time to look to 2020 instead of impeachment. Trying to eject Donald Trump “is not worthwhile at this point,” Hoyer told Dana Bash:

“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told @DanaBashCNN .

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) April 18, 2019

Bash added this significant context to Hoyer’s remarks, emphasis mine:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, told CNN there is nothing he has seen so far in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that would change the House leadership strategy to avoid impeachment proceedings.

Remember that House Democratic leadership had tried steering away from impeachment almost since the start of the congressional session. Pelosi discounted the idea almost immediately after taking back the gavel so often that The Hill noted “plenty of signalsin February of Pelosi’s opposition to the idea. A couple of weeks after that, Pelosi used almost exactly the same language as Hoyer did today, five weeks ago, again emphasis mine:

Post: There have been increasing calls, including from some of your members, for impeachment of the president.

Pelosi: I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.

Following that, other members of her caucus publicly supported that position, including — surprisingly — Adam Schiff. That was mainly on the basis that the Senate wouldn’t remove Trump so it made no sense to push impeachment rather than any principled stand about negating an election. Hoyer pointedly noted that the impeach-at-any-cost caucus was surpassingly small, and by the end of last month Democrats were trying to pretend that they’d never backed impeachment in the first place.

So one might think that reinforcing last month’s strategy message would be a no-brainer on the day that Robert Mueller’s report emphasized that no collusion took place and refused to make a stand on obstruction. Speaking of no-brainers, however …

NADLER on impeachment: "That's one possibility… it's too early to reach those conclusions."

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 18, 2019

Nadler was never quite on board with the no-impeachment strategy, of course. At the same time that House Democratic leadership was pulling its Orwellian “who us?” act, Nadler was reminding everyone that impeachment covered a “broader picture” than just crimes. Even here, though, Nadler’s just paying lip service to impeachment, telling reporter it is “one possibility, there are others.”

Unfortunately for Democrats, their own hyperbole undermined any real momentum toward impeachment among voters, almost certainly fatally so. Having promised collusion would be proven, the Mueller report is a massive letdown. Without collusion, the 2016 is legitimate, and if the 2016 election was legitimate, then there’s no reason to remove Trump, especially 18 months before an election.

Even before Mueller’s report went public, Democrats were behind the public-opinion curve, Philip Klein noted earlier today. Now that it’s out, they can’t possibly move opinion in favor of an overwhelming consensus for impeachment:

Impeaching Trump, whether or not it’s favored by the Democratic base, is not particularly popular with the general public. A CNN poll taken last month found support for impeachment was down to 36%. The ideal scenario for Democrats was that Mueller found some shocking bombshell that was unequivocal about Trump engaging in crimes. In that case, it would be easier to move public opinion, and they’d be able to rally their party around impeachment while forcing Republicans to choose between loyalty to Trump and disregarding the will of the voters. Now, that isn’t the case at all.

Knowing this, Democrats now are much more likely to try keep up the specter of investigation as long as possible rather than go for impeachment. This was already signaled in Democrats’ early reaction to the Mueller report and their focus on the redactions rather than arguing out of the gate that it makes a strong case for impeachment, which no doubt would have been the immediate message had the report been more obviously damning. …

So, right now, it appears that Democrats are going to use every opportunity, through testimony, hearings, document requests, and follow up requests, to keep alive the story without going through the process of impeachment.

Even that strategy has an exhaustion point. Voters had begun tiring of the investigation when the relatively trusty and non-partisan Robert Mueller was running it. Once Nadler, Schiff, and others (Elijah Cummings) start becoming the face of it, it will transform very quickly into nothing more than yet another partisan scab-picking exercise of the kind that most voters outside of activist bases intensely dislike. That might end up poisoning the presidential-primary well; it will certainly play into Trump’s complaints about “the swamp” and “witch hunts.”

Democrats and the media will keep the story alive for a few more weeks. After that, if they’re smart, they’ll let the start of the 2020 primary debates eclipse Russiagate for good.

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Herman Cain to Senate GOP: No, I won’t withdraw from consideration for a Fed seat

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 23:21

A growing headache for McConnell and maybe for Trump too. Actual headline from the Daily Beast this evening:

I think when Trump first floated Cain’s name for a Fed slot, he expected Senate Republicans would go along without a fuss. And why not? That’s what they almost always do, especially with presidential nominations. In fact, they just got done nuking a Senate rule that required 30 hours of debate for certain nominees, replacing it with one that requires two hours instead. It seemed like they were building a conveyor belt to streamline confirmation of Trump’s picks for key vacancies.

And then suddenly there were four Republicans hinting that Herman Cain’s appointment to the Federal Reserve was dead on arrival.

When Trump was asked whether that opposition would lead him to yank Cain’s nomination, he dodged. He didn’t strongly rebuke the idea but he hasn’t made any moves to throw Cain under the bus either. Instead he left the matter up to Cain, saying that it would be for the nominee to decide whether he wanted to withdraw. But that was risky: What if Cain refused? That would put McConnell and his caucus back on the hot seat in having to potentially embarrass the president by rejecting his nominee. But it would put Trump on the hot seat too by leaving him effectively powerless to yank Cain’s nomination now in the name of avoiding embarrassment. The whole reason populists like Trump is that he’s willing to fightfightfight the establishment; if Cain is willing to fight on against Mr. Establishment Mitch McConnell, how could Trump possibly stand in his way?

A confirmation hearing may be inevitable, then, with Democrats destined to air Cain’s #MeToo dirty laundry extensively and Trump-skeptical Republicans like Mitt Romney destined to scoff at his political independence from the president.

Cain, a former pizza executive and 2012 GOP presidential candidate, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Wednesday that he is “very committed” to sticking to his potential nomination, saying, “I happen to believe that you need some new voices on the Federal Reserve.”…

Cain stood firm, telling the Journal on Wednesday: “I don’t quit because of negative criticism. I don’t quit because of negative attacks. And I don’t quit because several senators have expressed reservations about my qualifications.”

“What Kudlow was doing was giving me an out, and I appreciate that, but I don’t want an out,” Cain said. “You know that the president is a fighter, and Kudlow is a fighter. They might be getting a lot of blowback from some folks, I don’t know. But I don’t think they’re getting uncomfortable with it.”

He fights! And he’s being smart about broadcasting his commitment to seeing this through. Cain knows that the more public he is about wanting to battle for the seat, the more support for his nomination will grow among the grassroots right and the harder it’ll be for Trump to bow to McConnell’s wishes by yanking the nomination. For example, Cain has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today arguing that the Fed already has enough academics. What it needs, he says, is people who have firsthand business experience with markets who’ll know how to interpret the monetary signals they’re emitting:

The Fed still operates on the “professor standard,” enshrined with Bill Clinton’s nominations of pure academics. Their textbooks say strong economic growth, particularly strong wage growth, causes inflation, which Fed policy should temper. Both the Bush and Obama administrations perpetuated the professor standard, and both presided over income stagnation…

We need new voices at the Fed that understand stable money and know how to interpret important market signals—and that means breaking the professor standard. Monocultures tend to be fragile, but is the Fed so closed off that it can’t handle challenges to its models or the assumptions that feed them? So fragile it can’t consider that the economy is driven by production, not consumption, and that the dollar’s commodity value is important to the real investment that fuels production? I hope not.

Do you want more Ivory Tower eggheads on the Fed or do you want hardnosed business people who actually know what they’re talking about? Which sort of person should the Trump revolution bring to power? He’s making it awfully hard on the White House to cut him loose with arguments like that. And yet:

SCOOP: Trump Administration officials pressed @BankingGOP on @THEHermanCain, @StephenMoore for Fed board; officials found little support for Cain some support for Moore for Fed board; officials concede both nominations in jeopardy amid lack of support more now @FoxBusiness

— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) April 18, 2019

Not just Cain but Trump’s other nominee, Stephen Moore, is at risk. I’ve been thinking that the Senate GOP might try to split the baby in this case, rejecting Cain but confirming Moore as a sop to the White House. But that’s politically dicey too. Unless Republicans make a big show of the #MeToo concerns about Cain in voting him down, it’ll be hard to argue that he’s meaningfully less qualified for the position than Moore is. Remember that Cain was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City years ago. Confirming Moore, a white candidate, but not Cain under those circumstances is … bad optics, shall we say. And given how badly Cain seems to want the seat, he might notice those optics and call attention to them.

Here he is on Fox Business, again playing to a Trump-friendly audience by vowing to fight for the seat. If I were a nominee for a Fed spot and one of the knocks against me was that I was too much of a crony for the president to be trusted with that role, I probably would have declined the invitation here to defend Trump on an unrelated, politically supercharged matter like Russiagate.

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Mary Katharine Ham: The media is dragging the collusion goalposts

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 22:41

I was watching CNN this morning after the Barr press conference and there was a clear interest and focus on the issue of obstruction. Two different reporters were brought on to read excerpts from the obstruction section of the report. Less was said about collusion which seemed odd given that it has been the focus of substantial attention for two years.

Absent from the roundtable this morning was Mary Katharine Ham who might have provided a little balance. But she did appear on the network later in the day and pointed out the way in which the media’s focus had suddenly shifted.

“Look, I hope nobody missed leg day because carrying these goal posts are going to be very heavy if you want to do it for the next 18 months,” Ham said. She continued, “Because the idea coalescing, the idea of collusion which everyone…used for two years as a shorthand for a conspiracy in a large, criminal sense—the idea that we did not use that for that and that that conclusion does not matter and that therefore it’s somehow improper to point out that there was no collusion as we meant it for the last two years I think is an operation in gaslighting.

“There was no collusion. It is good news. It’s great news he wasn’t a foreign asset and that he’s the duly elected president.”

Ham went on to say that on the question of obstruction Trump displayed “bad judgment and often lies.” She added that she was grateful that people around the president had helped to restrain some of his worst impulses. However, she reiterated that the bar for this scandal wasn’t set at bad judgment and lies it was about collusion/conspiracy with Russia, an offense that could rise to the level of treason. The remaining question, Ham said, was how far Congress wanted to pursue an obstruction charge, “that ultimately did not obstruct the investigation.”

To sum this up, the media ran with a very serious allegation for two years about collusion. Now that we’ve got a pretty clear conclusion after a lengthy investigation that no criminal conspiracy existed they are suddenly dropping that to talk about obstruction. But obstruction of what underlying crime? None. And despite Trump’s apparent interest in firing Mueller, what was actually obstructed? As Ham put it, “[Mueller] got access to what he wanted. We have an answer in this report and I think it’s important to take that answer.”

It’s good that at least one person on CNN is saying it.

Video: God bless @MKHammer. She tore into media colleagues and liberals for pushing collusion for two years and now still trying to bury Trump -> "I hope nobody missed leg day b/c carrying these goal posts are going to be very heavy if you want to do it for the next 18 months."

— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) April 18, 2019

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Yuma becomes first border city to declare state of emergency due to migrant releases

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 22:01

The number of illegal immigrants detained at the Southern border and then released in border cities has risen to the point that Yuma, Arizona became the first city to declare a state of emergency Tuesday. Mayor Douglas Nicholls delivered that message during a press conference. The U.S. Border Patrol has been releasing migrants to Yuma’s shelter system for the last few weeks.

“There’s an imminent threat of having too many migrant releases into our community, and it’s above our capacity as a community to sustain,” Nicholls said as he announced the measure Tuesday.

The Border Patrol has released more than 11,000 migrant family members at nongovernmental shelters or bus stations along the border since March 19, when it began the practice of releasing noncriminal families directly from custody with notices to appear in court “as a last resort” as apprehensions spiked.

Mayor Nicholls, a Republican elected to the office in 2014, said he hopes that by declaring a state of emergency more border cities will follow his lead and then the cities can band together for more federal aid. Yuma is a city with a population of about 100,000. Their shelters and facilities are at capacity. Yuma is not a sanctuary city and there are no sanctuary cities in Arizona.

Purpose of the emergency declaration is to request resources to prevent humanitarian crisis. Full statement:

— City of Yuma (@cityofyuma) April 17, 2019

The mayor said that U.S. Border Patrol agents have released 1,300 migrants in Yuma in the past three weeks. The only shelter in the city is a former Salvation Army store with a capacity of 200. The city has no way of accommodating shelter for them. He’s concerned about the safety of his city’s citizens and of the migrants, too.

“I had to do something to change the discussion and to change the posture, to get more resources or get the situation resolved in one manner or another,” he said.

Without help from the federal government, Mr. Nicholls said he worried that there could be a “catastrophic situation” with migrants left to wander the desert city with no help as summer temperatures start to rise. The high temperature for Friday is predicted to be 100 degrees.

The process of declaring a state of emergency is that a governor requests the declaration of the president. So, in this case, Mayor Nicholls will send his declaration to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Ducey said he’ll review the declaration once he receives it. However, it isn’t looking very hopeful for Mayor Nicholls. Ducey said he thinks it is the responsibility of Congress to handle the immigration crisis, not the White House.

Border cities are desperate for help. The Border Patrol has no ability to continue to hold migrants at the border because their shelters are full. Democrats raised a stink over a makeshift shelter under a bridge in El Paso that provided shelter in tents so it was shut down. There is no sign of relief in sight. The caravans from Central America continue to travel to the U.S. border and the policy of catch and release is once again in effect.

Meanwhile, border cities like Yuma are left to cope with a situation caused by no fault of their own. Mayor Nicholls points out that larger cities use non-profit networks to cope with the influx of those needing shelter and provisions.

Federal immigration authorities have said they are working with local nonprofit agencies to house and care for migrants after their release and before the move on to the interior of the country. Shelters in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have been frequently full for months, with newly arriving migrants immediately replacing those departing.

Mayor Nicholls made the first move to ask for emergency aid. It’s a reasonable request. Even if Congress acted overnight (it won’t) the situation will be with us for the near future. Something has to be done to help border cities and towns. Setting free those asking for asylum or being detained for illegally entering the country with the requirement of appearing in court at a later date has failed.

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Sekulow: “If they had an obstruction case, they would have made it”

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 21:21

That’s what William Barr said, but it’s not really what Robert Mueller said. Jay Sekulow, Donald Trump’s lead personal attorney, lays out what the debate over obstruction will look like over the next few weeks, few months, few years … basically forever. If Trump didn’t act even within his own authority over an investigation that proved no core crime, how can he have obstructed?

From now on, we will all be either Team Sekulow or Team Stephanopoulos:

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow responds on @ABC News to the release of Mueller report. Watch the full exchange:

— ABC News (@ABC) April 18, 2019

One way in which Trump ended up not obstructing, Mueller wrote, was in his aides’ refusal to follow through on his orders. Page 370:

The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. Corney did not end the investigation of Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order. Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the President’s message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so. Consistent with that pattern, the evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction charges against the President’s aides and associates beyond those already filed.

So which is it? Do we consider the attempts at obstruction evidence of potentially criminal behavior? Or does the fact that Mueller never got impeded, except by individuals who lied to investigators and subsequently prosecuted for it, let Trump off the hook?

The response to that question depends on whether one supports Trump or opposes him. Thanks to the end result of the Mueller probe, it’s not a legal question any longer.  It is now a political question, including whether Congress decides to take up impeachment on the basis of this report. That seems highly unlikely, however, because of the implosion of the Russia-collusion myth, which likely has derailed impeachment forever. Democrats raised expectations too high on that count, especially Adam Schiff. Without any evidence that Trump corrupted the election, voters won’t want Congress to overturn it through impeachment. That almost certainly will include even less-committed voters in between the two poles.

And this from my friend John Hinderaker is a point worth considering:

One of the Democrats’ basic problems is that “attempting” to obstruct the investigation doesn’t make a lot of sense. If Trump had really wanted to obstruct the investigation, he could simply have terminated it. And Mueller acknowledges that the administration fully cooperated with the investigation in every way. So the “attempts to obstruct” come down to Trump expressing outrage at the fact that a baseless, partisan investigation was hampering his administration. Arguably Trump should have brought the Mueller farce to an end, but he didn’t.

That’s a reasonable conclusion … if one’s intending to be reasonable. Put it another way: if Trump really wanted to obstruct the investigation, he wouldn’t have tried pushing his aides into doing it for him. He would have done it himself. Especially when it became clear that even his closest aides and advisors knew better than to try it.

Anyway, all of that is moot now. Even the nitty-gritty on obstruction isn’t likely to change minds on Trump, at least not among partisans. He’s a bully? No kidding. He runs off at the mouth when angry and issues threats? Trump has poor impulse control and borderline narcissism? No kidding. Voters already know that Trump’s a crude hardball fighter. It’s why his base loves him, and these “episodes” won’t convince them to rethink that passion.

The collapse of the Russia-collusion hypothesis will exhaust voters with this whole business. Democrats will mine the report for derogatory information to prepare for the 2020 election cycle, but after a few weeks even those will get consigned to the storage attic of politics. Apart from Robert Mueller’s eventual testimony, when interest will spike again, everyone else outside of the media-Beltway bubble will want to return their focus to policy issues. Today’s big bang will be next year’s last flicker, whether it should be or not.

Update: Realized I’d left out “He would have done it himself” in the paragraph after the excerpt from John Hinderaker. I’ve (belatedly) fixed that.

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Barney Frank: Buttigieg wouldn’t be getting all of this attention if he wasn’t gay

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 20:41

He’s right, and the attention to which he refers isn’t the unflattering kind. He explicitly says that Buttigieg’s trailblazing status as an openly gay presidential candidate has been an asset to him (at least so far) — which feels vaguely scandalous coming from Frank. Normally among the left it’s acceptable to acknowledge progress in growing public acceptance of minority groups but to admit that minority status might be an advantage supposedly risks breeding complacency. The bottom line of every social-justice argument is “there’s much more work to be done.” Listening to Barney chatter about how being gay is momentarily helping someone in the race to become leader of the free world, that argument is a harder sell.

“If he were straight, I don’t think he’d be getting the attention that he’s getting,” Frank told host Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Wednesday. But Frank added, that when Buttigieg “gets the attention, he is so talented and good at this and solid that he makes the most of it.”…

Frank called Buttigieg’s progress “both a sign that the prejudice is diminishing and it is an opportunity further to diminish the prejudice by giving him this platform.”…

“People don’t get heckled if nobody thinks they’re a threat,” Frank told Matthews about the protesters. “The fact that these bigoted lunatics start acting out in public, it’s a sign of their desperation.”

Democratic voters are still getting to know Buttigieg but his favorablility so far has been overwhelmingly positive, on the order of 50/5. If his orientation becomes a problem for him in the primary, it won’t be because voters sour on him or on the fact that he’s gay. It’ll come from their anxiety that an openly gay candidate just can’t prevail in a general election, especially against a candidate like Trump whose image relies so heavily on machismo. Remember this poll from deep-blue California last week?

Those numbers can change, of course. I’m sure there were polls in 2007 that showed Democrats highly skeptical that the country was ready for the first black president; a year later Obama won the most votes of any candidate in American history, a record that still stands. Buttigieg has something in common with Obama, namely, that his personal style contrasts sharply with the nastiest stereotypes thrown at people like him. Bigots will tell you that blacks are stupid, promiscuous, and aggressive; Obama was a Harvard-trained law professor, devoted family man, and so chill that people compared him to Mr. Spock. They’ll tell you that gays are effeminate, flamboyant, immoral, and extremely promiscuous; Buttigieg is a veteran, low-key in a classic midwestern way, a practicing Christian, and married to another man. Some progressives would claim that he’s not “gay enough” just as some of Obama’s “woker” critics on the left grumbled that his sense of black identity wasn’t as developed as it should be (he lost his first run for Congress in Chicago to former Black Panther Bobby Rush partly for that reason, in fact) but it’s their shared ability to turn stereotypes about the groups to which they belong on their heads that makes iffy voters more comfortable with them.

As for Frank’s point about gayness being an asset, I had the thought last night that we haven’t had a truly “traditional” presidential election in the United States in more than 20 years. The 1996 election, I’d say, was “traditional” notwithstanding Perot’s formidable third-party presence. We had a traditional campaign in 2000 but the results of the election itself were, er, untraditional. The 2004 election was untraditional because it was largely a referendum on Bush’s response to 9/11 and his decision to invade Iraq. 2008 and 2012 brought us the first black president and 2016 brought us the first woman nominee versus a celebrity real-estate developer turned game-show host. Whether there’s an actual “trend” in all that and/or whether it’s a byproduct of the country’s population becoming more diverse — of course we’ll have fewer white and male nominees over time — is a question left to smarter cultural critics than me. But it may be that some Democrats have effectively decided that their nominating process should itself be a vessel of social justice by elevating members of previously marginalized groups to fully mainstream status, in which case yeah, Buttigieg’s orientation would definitely be an asset next year. We’ve had a black nominee (and president), we’ve had a woman nominee, logically lefties would next want to signal that being gay also shouldn’t be seen as a political disability.

Here’s Frank. The clip is worth watching for two reasons, one Chris Matthews’s weird pronunciation of Buttigieg’s last name (he says Boo-DED-itch instead of BOOT-edge-edge) and the other Frank’s story of Joe Biden getting nuzzle-y in classic Biden fashion with … Frank’s husband.

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Student activists tried to get Camille Paglia fired, her university said no

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 20:01

Camille Paglia is an outspoken critic of modern feminism and some of the far-left trends that have taken hold on many college campuses of late so it’s probably not surprising that she would eventually become the target of student activists caught up in those same trends. A group of students at University of the Arts, where Paglia has been on the faculty since the 1980s, launched a protest aimed at getting her fired or, if that wasn’t possible, de-platforming her. From the Philly Inquirer:

“I had a concern that she would be able to speak, and her fans were allowed onto our campus, into our main classroom building, where there will be trans individuals and sexual-assault survivors,” said Joseph McAndrew, a UArts student who organized the protest. “We’re giving a space for her following to come into our safe space that we pay to be in.”…

McAndrew, a UArts junior who is nonbinary and has been sexually assaulted, organized the protest at Paglia’s lecture Tuesday evening — titled “Ambiguous Images: Sexual Duality and Sexual Multiplicity in Western Art” — after trying for about two weeks to get it moved off campus…

McAndrew and [senior Sheridan] Merrick said about 100 protesters sat in a lobby at Terra Hall, 211 S. Broad St., Tuesday holding signs ahead of the talk. Then, some of those protesting filed in to listen. About 30 minutes into the lecture, McAndrew said, a building fire alarm went off, prompting an evacuation and moving the protest outside, where demonstrators chanted, “Trans lives matter! We believe survivors!”

There’s a video of the protest inside Paglia’s lecture. This clip is queued up to a few seconds before the fire alarm goes off. As you’ll see, that’s also when the protesters began shouting and shut down the lecture.

After the protest, one of the student activists started a petition which demanded that Paglia be fired. “Camille Paglia has been teaching at UArts for many years, and has only become more controversial over time,” the petition states. It continues, “In recent interviews she has blatantly mocked survivors of sexual assault and the #MeToo movement, and in classes and interviews has mocked and degraded transgender individuals.” The petition includes a link to this video clip as proof:

As a result of these and other statements, the petition demands that Paglia be fired and replaced by “a queer person of color.” If that’s found to be impossible because of her tenure, the activists want someone else hired to teach Paglia’s classes so students aren’t exposed to any dangerous opinions. In addition, the petition demands Paglia stop being given platforms to speak and sell books on campus. In short, Paglia must be silenced as much as possible.

In response to these demands, the school’s president, David Yager wrote a letter defending the right to free speech. And I have to say, this is pretty good:

Unfortunately, as a society we are living in a time of sharp divisions—of opinions, perspectives and beliefs—and that has led to decreased civility, increased anger and a “new normal” of offense given and taken. Across our nation it is all too common that opinions expressed that differ from another’s—especially those that are controversial—can spark passion and even outrage, often resulting in calls to suppress that speech.

That simply cannot be allowed to happen. I firmly believe that limiting the range of voices in society erodes our democracy. Universities, moreover, are at the heart of the revolutionary notion of free expression: promoting the free exchange of ideas is part of the core reason for their existence. That open interchange of opinions and beliefs includes all members of the UArts community: faculty, students and staff, in and out of the classroom. We are dedicated to fostering a climate conducive to respectful intellectual debate that empowers and equips our students to meet the challenges they will face in their futures.

I believe this resolve holds even greater importance at an art school. Artists over the centuries have suffered censorship, and even persecution, for the expression of their beliefs through their work. My answer is simple: not now, not at UArts.

The University of the Arts is committed to the exercise of free speech and academic freedom, to addressing difficult or controversial issues and ideas through civil discussion, with respect for those who hold opinions different from our own. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ 1927 advice still holds true today: that the remedy for messages we disagree with or dislike is more speech and not enforced silence.

Paglia praised Yager’s response and described the protest as a “publicity stunt.”

In an email, Paglia said Yager’s “eloquent statement affirming academic freedom was a landmark in contemporary education.” She said she hopes “it will be a turning point in how American colleges and universities deal with their rampant problem of compulsory ideological conformity.”

She described the protest and petition as “a publicity stunt without academic merit or import” and wrote that “the people involved evidently do not read books (I’ve written eight) but get their information from garbled social media.”

So add this to the list of attempts by far-left students to silence professors who threaten their safe space by speaking. Fortunately, this one has a relatively happy ending. It really makes a difference to have someone in charge who understands the concept of free speech and academic freedom. Imagine how differently things might have gone at Evergreen State College if President George Bridges had issued a statement like the one above instead of acceding to all of the students’ demands.

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Today’s hot topics: Mueller report, collusion falls short, obstruction distort, Bob Kraft’s last resort, and more!

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 19:41

Today on The Ed Morrissey Show (4 pm ET), we have another great lineup for the news of the day! The show will be streamed on Hot Air’s Facebook page and embedded here and on the show page for those who are not on Facebook.

Join us as we welcome:

  • Duane “Generalissimo” Patterson brings us up to date on the week’s top stories and gives us a preview of tomorrow’s Hugh Hewitt show. Duane and I will discuss all of today’s hot stories, which right now consists of the Mueller report and … well, that’s pretty much it for the hour.
  • At the top of the next hour, Jazz Shaw will join us to discuss the Robert Kraft charges and how the New England Patriots owner is aiming at a happy ending. Another one, that is.

The Ed Morrissey Show and its dynamic chatroom can be seen on the permanent TEMS page. Be sure to join us, and don’t forget to keep up with the debate on my Facebook page, too!

How can Republicans and conservatives keep winning after 2016? Find out in GOING REDpublished in April from Crown Forum!

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Swalwell: Barr has to resign after Mueller report and today’s presser

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 19:21

One might be tempted to say that Rep. Eric Swalwell went nuclear on Attorney General William Barr today, but he usually reserves that for gun owners. Appearing on MSNBC after the release of the Robert Mueller report, the Democratic presidential hopeful told Nicolle Wallace that Mueller proved that Donald Trump was a “double digit obstructor.” However, Swalwell’s main target was Barr for his press conference this morning, demanding the AG’s resignation.

“You can be the attorney general of the United States and represent all of us, or you can represent Donald Trump,” Swalwell told Wallace. “You can’t do both.”

.@ericswalwell calls on AG Barr to resign…

…presumably because Barr just exposed that Swallwell has been pushing conspiracy theories non-stop for the last two years

— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) April 18, 2019

“Second, Nicolle, the investigation lays out that the Trump team, the president himself, lied and obstructed in ways that impaired in a material fashion the investigation,” Swalwell continued. “So just because you may bury the evidence deep enough that we can’t find everything you did, we have recourse in the United States, which is obstruction of justice.”

“And this president is a double-digit obstructor, according to the Mueller report, in the number of ways he sought to obstruct justice,” he added.

“Which leads me, Nicolle, to Attorney General Barr,” Swalwell said. “You can be the attorney general of the United States and represent all of us, or you can represent Donald Trump. You can’t do both. And because Attorney General Barr wants to represent Donald Trump, I think he should resign.”

“You’re calling for the attorney general’s resignation today after what you saw?” Wallace asked.

“Yes, he’s lost the credibility of the American people, he is not recused from an investigation where he should be refused, he’s embedded deeply into the Trump team, and that affects the credibility that the attorney general must have,” Swalwell replied.

Take Swalwell’s call for reality checks with more than a few grains of salt. Less than a month ago, Swalwell was still claiming that Trump was a “Russian agent,” a conclusion that Mueller debunked in his report and which was mainly a fringe conspiracy theory all along anyway. Just the fact that he’s campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in this cycle suggests that Swalwell has a reality problem himself.

Needless to say, Barr won’t resign simply because Swalwell’s unhappy with his credibility. That’s not to argue that Barr won’t have problems with that on Capitol Hill after this morning’s performance, though. He would have been better advised to wait until after the report came out, and perhaps not to sing laments about the extraordinary circumstances Trump faced in his first two years in office as pushback to Mueller’s obstruction findings. Swalwell won’t be the last Democrat to call on Barr to hit the road.

However, it seems doubtful that it will become a trend, at least in any serious way. With the Mueller probe complete, there aren’t any more potential points of conflict of interest. The issue of being “Trump’s attorney” will be moot. Congress can take up where Mueller left off if they want, a process that has nothing to do with the Department of Justice.

Barr might suit Democrats better where he is — for two main reasons. First, Barr will have to come to Capitol Hill to testify on matters on a regular basis. That will provide Democrats with a handy punching bag and easy opportunities for media coverage. Barr will forever be the man who passed on Mueller’s obstruction tee-up in their eyes, and a handy scapegoat when House Democrats decide to pass on impeachment.

More importantly, though, Republicans have a 53-vote majority in the Senate and no filibuster on presidential appointments. Which would they rather have as AG — a well-prepared punching bag, or someone closer to Trump and his own temperament? Regardless of how the Mueller affair ended, Barr was about as good as Democrats were going to get as AG.

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Double whammy: Time magazine names both Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford to most influential list

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 18:41

There is a little something for everyone on this year’s Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list. As I skimmed through the list I was struck by the inclusion of both Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. They are in different categories but both are recognized. Flashbacks to the hideous Senate confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh’s nomination quickly surfaced.

In case you aren’t familiar with this annual exercise, Time magazine puts out a list of 100 most influential people it deems worthy of recognition. There are five categories separating out those honored. The first category is Pioneers and at the top of the list is actress Sandra Oh, followed by lots of others with whom I am not familiar. I noticed Chrissy Teigen, the Trump deranged model/cookbook author and Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker.

The second category is Artists and that is led by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Also in this category is actress Glenn Close and DIY stars Joanna and Chip Gaines. In category number three, Leaders, Nancy Pelosi lands at the top. Also on this list (the one in which I recognized the most names) are Kavanaugh, President Trump, AOC, Mitch McConnell, Xi Jinping, Benjamin Netanyahu, William Barr, Robert Mueller, and Pope Francis.

Category number four is for the Icons. Taylor Swift is at the top of this one followed by Michelle Obama and Christine Blasey Ford. The fifth category is the Titans. LeBron James is first in this one followed by familiar names like Mark Zuckerberg, Tiger Woods, and Oprah’s best friend/journalist Gayle King.

So, as you can see, it’s quite a mixed bag of famous and not so famous names. I have to think some Hollywood egos are bruised with the naming of Dr. Blasey Ford as the icon of the #MeToo movement instead of one of the actresses who spearheaded the movement. Plus, the original #MeToo stories unified public opinion against the abusers while Blasey Ford’s testimony to the Senate Judicial Committee was divisive and politically motivated. There is such a strong division in opinions between liberal women and conservative women over her unsubstantiated claims against Kavanaugh. As a side note, I’ll point to this week’s episode of Bravo network’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Actress Lisa Rinna went on a rant during a dinner in a restaurant against Kavanaugh (the episode was filmed during the time of the Senate hearings) while Camille Grammar (ex-wife of actor Kelsey Grammar) spoke against Christine Blasey Ford. That set off a firestorm with other women chiming in against Camille. This kind of conversation still happens today. An actress speaking with a conservative voice in Beverly Hills is not something seen every day.

Justice Kavanaugh was written about by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He describes Kavanaugh as “one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees in modern history.” He referenced Kavanaugh’s conduct during the Senate hearings.

But when unhinged partisanship and special interests sought to distract the Senate from considering those qualifications, we saw other facets of Justice Kavanaugh’s character shine forth as well. The country saw his resilience and commitment to public service. We saw his loyal devotion to family and friends. We saw his undeterred reverence for the law, for precedents and for our nation’s highest traditions.

Presidential candidate and Democrat Senator Kamala Harris, a member of the Senate Judicial Committee wrote about Christine Blasey Ford. Harris writes that Blasey Ford’s story “shook Washington and the country.” It’s hard to argue with that statement. Then she goes on to compliment Blasey Ford in a rather generic way.

Christine Blasey Ford’s ambition wasn’t to become a household name or make it onto this list. She had a good life and a successful career—and risked everything to send a warning in a moment of grave consequence.

At her core, she is a teacher. And through her courage, she forced the country to reckon with an issue that has too often been ignored and kept in the dark.

Dr. Blasey Ford may not have set her sights on fame or recognition but she did intend to come forward to derail a Supreme Court nomination because of her own partisan political views. That is not behavior to be rewarded. Remember that Sen. Kamala Harris questioned Brett Kavanaugh and implied she had evidence that he spoke to someone at the law firm linked to President Trump about the Mueller investigation.

The two-day drama started near the end of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s session Wednesday when California Sen. Kamala Harris asked whether Kavanaugh had been talking with someone with a law firm linked to President Trump about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign. The founder of the firm, Marc Kasowitz, briefly helped represent Trump in the probe and is still the president’s attorney in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former contestant on his reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”

She provided no such evidence of this charge. It was drama manufactured for the television cameras covering the hearing and it was a deliberate act to smear Kavanaugh. Her performance was shameful.

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Fox’s Chris Wallace: My, but Barr sounded like Trump’s personal attorney this morning

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 18:01

“I suspect that Democrats’ heads on Capitol Hill were exploding,” Fox’ Chris Wallace quipped after watching William Barr’s press conference this morning. And for good reason, Wallace explained. At times, especially on obstruction of justice, Barr sounded more like counsel for the defense than the Attorney General:

Here's the video of Chris Wallace on Fox: "The Attorney General seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, for the counselor for the president, rather than the Attorney General … I suspect that Democrats' heads on Capitol Hill were exploding."

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 18, 2019

Wallace was reacting to this part of Barr’s presser:

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

Most of this is pretty straightforward, at least up to the point where Barr starts talking about Trump’s “unprecedented situation.” The rest of this sounds more like argument rather than evidence. Prosecutors are compelled to operate in search of truth rather than as partisans, but this sounds at least like bending over backwards to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. And, despite Wallace’s critics on line, that part does not necessarily act as a description of what Mueller found, but of the conclusions Barr and Rod Rosenstein reached.

That certainly gives an impression of something less than an disinterested approach. Now that the report has been released and we can read Mueller’s arguments on obstruction, that will reinforce accusations from Barr’s critics of this presser. Even before the presser, Democratic heads were exploding. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a demand that the special counsel testify before Congress to restore it again after William Barr’s pre-release press conference gave him an opportunity to “spin the report.”

Of course, they released this statement before seeing the report themselves:

In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr’s handing of the report release has created a “crisis of confidence” and said having Mueller testify was the “only way to begin restoring public trust.”

“Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” they said.

“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth,” they said.

So if Barr’s presser before the release was spin, what does that make this pre-presser press release? The rinse cycle?

This is as ill-advised as Barr’s press conference. Pelosi and Schumer could have waited to see what the report said first and then issued a more grounded complaint. Instead, they’re doing exactly what they accuse Barr of doing — spinning for the sake of spinning. They could have written this press release at any time since Barr’s summary letter went out, just as Barr could have held his press conference at any time since then as well, and both should have waited until after the report release.

Not that it makes much difference anyway. House Judiciary chair Jerrold Nadler wasn’t going to let Mueller off the hook, and likely neither will Lindsey Graham in the Senate counterpart. Mueller will get invited to testify to both committees (and probably the House and Senate intel committees too), even if the invitation has to get a little more formal in the guise of a subpoena. Pelosi and Schumer just want to pretend that the demand will come as a result of Barr’s presser today when Nadler has been hinting at such a demand for weeks.

Nadler made it official today. But … May 23rd?

It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings. We are now requesting Mueller to appear before @HouseJudiciary as soon as possible.

— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) April 18, 2019

JUST IN via @RebeccaRKaplan: House Judiciary Committee Chairman @RepJerryNadler asks Robert Mueller to testify to his panel by May 23.

— Ed O'Keefe (@edokeefe) April 18, 2019

I guess that the public trust can wait five weeks. It won’t take a subpoena, though; Mueller will testify willingly. But anyone who thinks they’ll get substantially more out of him than what’s in the report is fooling themselves. Mueller’s too much of a pro at handling Capitol Hill.

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Hardball: Feds now investigating Lori Loughlin’s daughter in college admissions scandal

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 17:31

It’s unclear whether the daughter in question is YouTube star Olivia Jade or her older sister Bella. But if the feds are willing to try to squeeze a guilty plea out of Ma and Pa Giannulli by threatening one daughter, presumably they’re willing to threaten the other eventually as well.

Which means now’s the moment for Loughlin to put those acting chops to use, call a presser, and unleash a teary made-for-TV “you can do what you want to me but leave my girls alone, you monsters” attack on the feds. Public support will skyrocket overnight.

Who knows? President Trump might even see it and shoot her a pardon, one television star to another. If anyone would appreciate a well-executed public tantrum about being persecuted by the DOJ, it’s him.

Multiple sources tell that one of the actress’ daughters received a target letter from federal prosecutors in Massachusetts earlier this month regarding the Operation Varsity Blues investigation…

‘It is a not-so-veiled threat,’ said one source who has seen the letter.

‘[The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts] is making it pretty clear that they have evidence that very strongly suggests she knew of the illegal plot.’

The sources spoke with only knew about one of the daughters getting a letter, the tone of which was described as ‘ominous.’

“It is clear that some students are going to be charged,” the Daily Mail’s source added, claiming that they know of five other students who’ve received “letters of intent” from the feds and all five happen to be children of parents who’ve been charged but refused to plead guilty. It’s a leverage play by the Justice Department and probably an effective one: A source tells People magazine that Loughlin is understandably “very afraid that her daughters will have to testify. That will traumatize them even more.” If the prospect of her children being forced to be witnesses in her own trial is weighing on her, imagine what the prospect of them being charged will do.

Although the fact that at least one of them has received a letter of intent means that daughter could and would plead the Fifth rather than testify, right? The feds are after mom and dad, not her. If it came down to it, she could presumably extract immunity from prosecutors in return for her testimony against Loughlin and her father. Which brings us back to the great unsolved mystery: Why didn’t Loughlin take the original plea deal the feds offered and spare her and her kids this ordeal? Did she really think the U.S. Attorney would back down when she refused to plead guilty knowing that many other defendants were watching, waiting to see how the feds would react? If they had offered her a sweeter deal in response, every remaining suspect in the case would have started threatening to go to trial as well.

The Giannulli girls (via their allies) are fighting back in the media, insisting they “didn’t realize the extreme” lengths to which their parents went to get them into USC and that they supposedly thought the $500,000 paid to officials at USC was actually donated for “scholarships” for the crew team. I’ll defer to legal eagles on how much they needed to know about the bribe in order to be criminally implicated; according to Entertainment Tonight’s source, they were at least aware that their parents were in contact with someone who could help them get into USC. Maybe they thought their mother and father were handling this the way rich parents normally do, making a gift to a university forthrightly in the expectation that the admissions office would bear it in mind when their children applied to the school.

A lingering question: Between Loughlin and her husband Mossimo, who’s the real mastermind of this plot? Presumably one of them was more gung ho than the other. “Everyone feels bad for her,” said a source to Us Weekly of Loughlin. “They think the situation was something concocted by her husband,” adding that her friends have never been big fans of his. It seems hard to believe Giannulli’s the ringleader, though, considering that when he was younger he pretended to go to USC and used the “tuition money” his parents gave him to build his (very successful) business. You would think in that case he would have been receptive to OIivia Jade’s plea to skip college and focus on her lucrative social-media “influencer” career instead. If it worked out for him, why not for her?

People’s sources say cherchez la femme:

“Lori was always very impressed when she met a parent who got their child into a prestigious school,” a family source tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

“USC became Lori’s obsession,” the family source says about Loughlin, who is at the center of the nationwide college admissions scandal. “This was the school she wanted her girls to attend.”…

“For most people that they socialize with, schools are very important. It’s very much a status thing,” says the family source. “Parents brag about their children’s schools all the time. So many of the schools are almost impossible to get into.”…

“They are wealthy and successful, live in a gorgeous Bel Air mansion and their daughters are beautiful. But they are also surrounded by families who are even wealthier,” says the family source. “Although it’s hard to understand, these are the families Lori was trying to keep up with.”

Giannulli’s going to end up doing hard time because being crazy rich, famous, and beautiful wasn’t enough for mom. Loughlin should add that to her teary press conference spiel, lip quavering: “If wanting everything for your children is a crime, let me be guilty.”

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Washington Post again connects Ben Shapiro to alt-right racist Richard Spencer

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 17:01

Tuesday, the Washington Post published a piece by Talia Lavin which said that Ben Shapiro had “evoked the specter of a war between Islam and the West” with his tweets about the fire that engulfed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The very next sentence of Lavin’s piece connected that to racist alt-right figure Richard Spencer. It seems one tendentious connection between Shapiro and Spencer wasn’t enough for the Post. Wednesday, the paper published another piece which made the same connection using similar language:

Ben Shapiro, an influential American right-wing pundit with a huge following on social media, lamented “a magnificent monument to Western civilization collapsing” and then followed up with tweets that insisted upon the “Judeo-Christian heritage” embodied by Notre Dame and the duty of all to refamiliarize “ourselves with the philosophy and religious principles that built it.” Critics quickly noted the brutal treatment meted out on French Jews for centuries while the cathedral stood. Others suggested Shapiro’s invocation of “Judeo-Christian” values were in this instance simply a euphemism for “white.”

Richard Spencer, an American neofascist credited with coining the term “alt-right” for the online ecosystem of far-right voices in the West, spoke more plainly. He tweeted his hope that the fire consuming Notre Dame would “spur the White man into action — to sieze [sic] power in his countries, in Europe, in the world” and, if so, the blaze “will have served a glorious purpose and we will one day bless this catastrophe.”

The piece doesn’t identify Shapiro’s critics. One of them was Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. I’m not sure who suggested “Judeo-Christian” was a euphemism for “white.” In any case, the way the next sentence is written creates a connection between Shapiro and Richard Spencer. Without the descriptive clause, it reads: “Richard Spencer…spoke more plainly.” The suggestion being that Spencer, the alt-right racist, is merely spelling out what Shapiro was saying obliquely.

Shapiro pointed out that he’s written a bestselling book on this topic so there’s no reason to try to divine hidden meaning from his tweets:

This sort of dishonesty is supremely tiresome.

— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 18, 2019

Also, he’s not a fan of Richard Spencer:

If you read my book, you will find these characterizations of Richard Spencer: "racist cretin" (p. xxii) and "execrable" (p. 208). Clearly I'm a devotee of his ideology. Dumbassery of the highest order, here, @washingtonpost.

— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 18, 2019

Just last month the Economist labeled Shapiro “the alt-right sage without the rage.”  After it was pointed out to them by Shapiro and others (including CNN’s Oliver Darcy) that this was a ridiculous description, the Economist changed the headline and the story to remove “alt-right” from the description.

Now the Post has raised the same comparison by suggesting, twice in one week, that Shapiro is dog-whistling for the alt-right. In fact, the alt-right hates Shapiro, in part because he’s Jewish and in part because he clearly doesn’t like them (and has said so many times). Here’s Shapiro talking about the Economist story about 2 1/2 weeks ago. Why does this nonsense keep cropping up? Because the left-wing partisans in the media want it to be true. This is media hackery at its finest:

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The media sprinted to support Mayor Pete… and ran over Beto in the process

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 16:31

Hey, do you remember all of the excitement over Betomania? It was all the rage for at least a week or so back in January or early February. Karen Townsend pondered the question a little while back, asking whatever happened to all the Beto excitement. At the time, she proposed that O’Rourke might run into some trouble making the transition from flavor of the week to a “regular” candidate needing to flesh out his proposals and stand out from the rest of the field. I’m sure that’s part of what we’re seeing, but this week Jack Shafer, writing at Politico, has identified another factor that may explain the missing candidate mystery. Beto’s earned media almost entirely dried up after most of the press found a new savior to fall in love with… Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The Buttigieg boom has also benefited from the stumbles of our previous political shooting star, Beto O’Rourke. Was it only weeks ago that the press began swooning for O’Rourke like a drunken conventioneer, writing about him with the same frequency it does for Buttigieg today? The things that once seemed so appealing about O’Rourke to the press—the generalities, the platitudes, the offhanded charisma, the rolled-up sleeves—seem off-putting now. The clearest sign of the press corps’ O’Rourke infatuation was its routine reference to him by his first name in its stories—something it has moved on to doing with Buttigieg. Such shameful and transparent familiarity.

Having stripped the Kennedyesque Texan of his novelty, the press corps has dumped him for the Kennedyesque Hoosier like a speed-dater on the rebound from a Tinder relationship gone bad. Its transition to Buttigieg has been seamless, finding in him another candidate who speaks complete sentences, who likes the camera almost as much as it likes him, who subscribes to the usual Democratic articles of faith and scans like a lost episode of The West Wing.

A bit harsh, perhaps, but it certainly has the ring of truth to it. The town hall hosts at CNN and MSNBC have been shopping around for the ideal anti-Trump weapon and not doing much to hide those efforts. Beto initially filled the bill because of his high TV Q-score and his nearly successful effort to unseat one of the conservatives they despise the most… Ted Cruz. But the longer O’Rourke spent on his back roads journey to find himself (and America, I guess), the less grist he was delivering for the media mill. It was only a matter of time before his fans in the press moved on if a better opportunity presented itself.

Enter Mayor Pete. He came across as another ready for prime time face with an inspirational story. And unlike Beto, he was ready to give interviews to anyone, anywhere, any time, about anything. There were endless quotes available and heartwarming stories from his tenure as Mayor of South Bend. Sure, it would have been better if he’d been a minority or a woman, but at least he’s a married gay man, right? (That was another problem with Beto, by the way. Straight, white male. They’re just the worst.)

The amount of earned media showered on Buttigieg is rapidly eclipsing the love the press corps dumped on O’Rourke and it’s paying off for him in a big way. His fundraising numbers for the first quarter were impressive, if not record-setting. The latest national poll has him slipping ahead of Beto, though not by much (yet). If he manages to keep up with this pace and doesn’t shoot himself in the foot along the way he’ll be an actual contender.

But contender for what? The way things look right now, the eventual whittling down of the Democratic field will have to start some point later this year. (Probably after the Iowa straw poll.) There’s a good chance that we’re heading for a three-way race. It will likely come down to Joe Biden (assuming he gets in), Bernie Sanders and the person who is neither Sanders nor Biden. Beto is one of many hopefuls trying to land that third slot, and it will have to be somebody with more progressive bona fides than Creepy Uncle Joe, but not full-on, crazy pants socialist like Bernie.

Wouldn’t it be odd if the final three standing at the end were all white men? I’m not sure what that might say about the dawning of the age of intersectionality. But there’s still one threat hanging over Mayor Pete’s future. What if the press finds a new flavor of the week they like even better? Politics can be a cruel sport at times.

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Here it is: The Mueller report, collusion, and “ten episodes” of obstruction; Update: “I’m f***ed”

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 16:01

The long wait is over. An hour ago, the special counsel’s office and the Department of Justice released the lightly redacted final report from Robert Mueller on the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, as well as potential obstruction of justice afterward. And while it’s largely as advertised in William Barr’s summary letter, the report offers plenty of open spaces to debate Donald Trump’s behavior, especially on the latter issue.

Let’s start with the executive summary on obstruction, an issue which has eclipsed the Russia-collusion hypothesis as the biggest issue with Trump’s opponents. As Barr noted in his summary, Mueller’s report explicitly states that they did not ‘exonerate’ Trump on this point. Based on the description of their approach, it sounds as though they think Trump could have been indicted. They made the decision early on not to approach obstruction as a chargeable crime, not just because of the DoJ’s longstanding policy on indicting sitting presidents, but also because of the damage it would do to governance. However, they pointedly determined that they could not clear Trump either:

That sounds like a reference to Trump’s refusal to meet personally with investigators and clear up questions about his “intent.” It also explains why Barr went to such lengths to address that in the presser earlier today. Barr knew this was coming.

What were the “ten episodes” of potential obstruction that Barr referenced? They appear to be more like categories, as some of these encompass multiple actions, and there are more than ten:

  • The [Trump] campaign’s response to reports about Russian support for Trump
  • Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn
  • The President’s reaction to the continuing Russia investigation
  • The President’s termination of Comey
  • The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him
  • Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation
  • Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence
  • Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation
  • Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed
  • Conduct toward Flynn, Manafort, [redacted]
  • Conduct involving Michael Cohen
  • Overarching factual issues

I’d guess that the [redacted] name is Roger Stone, the main figure similarly situated in an indictment who hasn’t pleaded out. There are other possibilities, but Stone’s the only one who comes to mind that has been the subject of public statements by Trump. In summing up the section with the categories, Mueller acknowledges that some of these actions fall well within the purview of the president, and that many of them took place in public. Doing things in public view, however, doesn’t make them any less criminal as obstruction, Mueller points out, although it might show that they weren’t intended as such.

Mueller then reaches a rather grim conclusion, at least for the White House:

If the judgment is “informed by the totality of the evidence,” the clear implication is that Mueller believed that Trump intended to obstruct the investigation. Expect Democrats to seize on that paragraph as they start subpoenaing everyone mentioned in the categories of potentially obstructive actions.

As for not issuing a grand-jury subpoena for Trump’s testimony, the Mueller report argues that they didn’t need it to reach that conclusion:

That is very pointedly not an exoneration. It explains why Barr described the conclusions he and Rod Rosenstein reached as “disagreeing” with Mueller on obstruction.

The executive summary on Russia-collusion is more straightforward. Barr’s description in his summary letter hits it pretty much on the head. Mueller found no evidence of any Americans colluding with Russian intelligence to interfere in the election, including campaign officials and workers. Mueller found evidence of a number of Russian intel efforts to penetrate the campaign, but they came to nothing — although that sounds more like good fortune, as it’s not clear the campaign was aware of those efforts.

On the issue of the Carter Page FISA warrant, however, Mueller seems satisfied that sufficient predicate existed for surveillance:

Later in the report, Mueller’s team writes that Page sold himself to the Trump campaign based on those contacts in Russia:

If that’s the case, then the FISA warrant may well have been sufficiently predicated, especially with the other activity that emerged well before the Christopher Steele dossier.

We’ll have more as we all work through the details. Thus far, the bottom line appears to be that Russia-collusion was indeed a myth, although not without any factual basis — but there are more than a few details on obstruction which will dog the White House over the next several weeks. And when Robert Mueller testifies to Congress on obstruction, Trump and his 2020 campaign should be worried about what the special counsel will have to say.

Update: This might still be true in an electoral sense:

From the Mueller report: When President Trump learned Mueller was appointed as special counsel, Trump “slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f—ed.’”

— CNN (@CNN) April 18, 2019

Our Twitchy colleague Grep P adds in a bit of context:

Later on in the report, the President reportedly said, “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.” This makes it pretty clear that President Trump didn’t mean this would end his presidency, as in he’d be forced to leave office but instead meant it would hamper his ability to get things accomplished as President.

True, but it’s still not clear that it won’t yet work out that way. This isn’t a good look either:

President Trump told his White House lawyer to remove special counsel Robert Mueller. He refused.

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 18, 2019

The best that can be said here is that Trump didn’t follow through and therefore didn’t obstruct anything. That was Barr’s argument this morning. I suspect it won’t be Mueller’s argument when he testifies in congressional hearings.

Update: In reading through the details, what comes through most clearly is the problems Trump creates for himself when venting, both publicly and privately. Consider this episode with Newsmax’ Christopher Ruddy:

On Monday, June 12, 2017, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of the President’s, met at the White House with Priebus and Bannon. Ruddy recalled that they told him the President was strongly considering firing the Special Counsel and that he would do so precipitously, without vetting the decision through Administration officials. Ruddy asked Priebus if Ruddy could talk publicly about the discussion they had about the Special Counsel, and Priebus said he could. Priebus told Ruddy he hoped another blow up like the one that followed the termination of Corney did not happen. Later that day, Ruddy stated in a televised interview that the President was “considering perhaps terminating the Special Counsel” based on purported conflicts of interest. Ruddy later told another news outlet that “Trump is definitely considering” terminating the Special Counsel and “it’s not something that’s being dismissed.” Ruddy’s comments led to extensive coverage in the media that the President was considering firing the Special Counsel.

White House officials were unhappy with that press coverage and Ruddy heard from friends that the President was upset with him. On June 13, 2017, Sanders asked the President for guidance on how to respond to press inquiries about the possible firing of the Special Counsel. The President dictated an answer, which Sanders delivered, saying that ” [w]hile the president has every right to” fire the Special Counsel, “he has no intention to do so.”

Venting is not obstruction, of course. However, this episode does seem to be a modern — if much less lethal — retelling of the Thomas Becket-Henry II “will no one rid me of this turbulent priest” episode.

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Coulter: Sure, I’d vote for Bernie Sanders if he went back to his original position about protecting the border

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:21

However much of a full-spectrum conservative she may have been in the past, it’s been clear for awhile that she’s now a single-issue voter:

I don't care if @realDonaldTrump wants to perform abortions in White House after this immigration policy paper.

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 16, 2015

Here she is with Margaret Hoover affirming that fact in the starkest way:

Ann Coulter feeling the Bern? The conservative commentator says Sanders has supported immigration policies that could earn him her vote, adding she’d be willing to overlook “the rest of the socialist stuff.”

— Firing Line with Margaret Hoover (@FiringLineShow) April 17, 2019

She’s not joking, but one way to dismiss the seriousness of her point is to shrug and say that Bernie’s not going back to his “strong borders” views of 10 years ago under any circumstances and Coulter knows it. She’s specifically offering a what-if which she and everyone else understands won’t come to pass, on the order of “I’ll vote for Obama once he becomes a Republican.” Even Bernie doesn’t have enough progressive goodwill stockpiled to survive a Democratic primary in 2019 if he shifted towards border hawkishness. This is a party, after all, that treats racial and ethnic identity as no less important than class identity. Sanders arguing that we need to keep poor Latinos out to protect the wages of poor Americans just won’t hack it. If nothing else, it reeks of nationalism — and since when do ambitious socialists draw the limits of the cause at national borders?

Here’s the thing about Bernie, though, which may keep Coulter interested in him for the next year or so: He’s clearly uncomfortable with the extent of the left’s craving for open borders. He’s willing to bow to them by adopting a more permissive attitude towards illegal immigration but he makes noise regularly to signal his misgivings. Ten days ago he warned lefties that fully open borders would attract poor people to the U.S. from all over the world, which is sort of the point to advocates of the idea. Bernie won’t go there, though. We can only take so many, he insisted, a terrifying reminder that the country’s most prominent supporter of Medicare for All is more serious about the limits of national resources than his own base is. He signaled his skepticism of open borders again at that Fox News town hall a few nights ago:

“We have a problem at the border, a serious problem … We need the proper legal processes at the border so that these issues can be adjudicated to determine whether or not people or should be entitled to asylum,” Sanders said April 15.

When asked where the migrants could be kept prior to their asylum hearings, Sanders responded by saying, “What about building proper facilities for them right now? That can be done right on the border.”

The government needs more immigration judges to quickly process asylum claims by migrants, Sanders said. “You’re coming into the country? Are you really fleeing violence or is it another reason?’ You need to have many, many more judges to expedite the process,” Sanders stated.

The Ocasio-Cortez left doesn’t want people turned away just because their claims of persecution back home are bogus. They want them admitted essentially as a matter of right, because they’re seeking a better life. Bernie’s sterner answer at the town hall was noticed by border hawk Mickey Kaus, who tweeted about it approvingly and was then retweeted by Coulter, further evidence that she’s intrigued by his maneuvers on immigration. It would be some ideological journey for her to go from stalwart Mitt Romney fan to Chris Christie enthusiast to “In Trump We Trust” author to ridealong on Bernie Sanders’s socialist revolution in the span of less than a decade.

Tell me this. Among the various arguments made by righties against illegal immigration — cultural, economic, political — one that turns up in almost every critique of comprehensive immigration reform is electoral, namely, the fear that millions of illegals will vote Democratic once they’re granted citizenship. “They come from statist systems. Give them a ballot in the U.S. and they’ll opt for statism here too, especially with Democrats promising them the sun, moon, and stars in benefits to win their votes. We’ll end up with socialism.” Now here’s Coulter claiming that the alleged nightmare scenario, socialism, is actually … just fine as a trade-off so long as it means keeping low-skilled Mexicans out. What’s left of the electoral argument against amnesty?

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