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Wiretaps, Media, Judicial Skullduggery: Trump’s Week

Sunday, March 19, 2017 9:51
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By Clarice Feldman /

While the Democrats have abandoned the counterfactual claim that the Russians interfered with the election to help President Trump into office, Trump’s claim that U.S. officials surveilled him still has legs.

Eli Lake reports

On March 1, the New York Times reported that in the final days and weeks of the Obama administration, White House officials rushed to preserve and distribute intelligence on connections between Russia and Trump’s associates throughout the government. In practice this meant that raw intelligence was processed into analytical reports and classified at a relatively low level. “As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it,” according to the Times.

Did this raw intelligence include Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador? Depending on what Schiff and Nunes turn up, this could be a real scandal, particularly if the names of other Trump associates picked up in incidental surveillance were unmasked and distributed widely within the government.

This would mean that the Obama administration had effectively short-circuited the FISA process by checking to see if Trump associates were picked up incidentally on existing surveillance, and then disseminating the take widely within the intelligence bureaucracy. That’s not the same as ordering — without court oversight — a targeted wiretap on Trump Tower. But it’s pretty serious, nonetheless.

The American Spectator’s report adds credence to the claim:

It was, however, a multi-agency investigation into Trump-Russia ties, according to the leaks to Heat Street and the BBC. So it is entirely possible that both Comey and Brennan were investigating Trump simultaneously, with the FBI seeking warrants or using “traditional investigative techniques” (as Circa News put it) and Brennan using less traditional ones.

But at the very least we know that Christopher Steele and John Brennan, along with the British spies, journalists, and pols to whom they were leaking, were desperately trying to tip the election to Hillary.

What a perversely appropriate duo for this appalling fiasco: Steele, a “confirmed socialist” before he entered MI6, according to the British press, and Brennan, a supporter of the American Communist Party during the Cold War (by his own admission), before entering the CIA. The details of their mischief are still coming into focus, but when they do the “relationship” between the two countries will look less special than sour. 

How effective and thorough the Congressional hearings will be is anyone’s guess — to date, by their very nature, and given the Democrats’ certain efforts to muddy the waters, they may not get to the bottom of this, but the president is confident the truth will out and soon.

The judicial shenanigans respecting his travel moratorium on entry from six of the dozens of majority Moslem countries has exposed the fuzzy thinking and judicial autocracy of some courts, and though there been some setbacks, it speeds ahead. Washington State Judge Robart has refused to issue another injunction since the executive order was revised. Five judges of the Ninth Circuit blasted the Court’s refusal to vacate the original – now mooted — Robart order.

Hawaii, a state which takes in no refugees from these countries, was the site of yet another judicial overreach.

This will surely be appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and if these five judges have anything to do with it, the Hawaii court will get a similar scathing reversal as Robart’s did. 

The Executive Order of January 27, 2017, suspending the entry of certain aliens, was authorized by statute, and presidents have frequently exercised that authority through executive orders and presidential well within the powers of the presidency, and “[t]he wisdom of the policy choices made by [the President] is not a matter for our consideration.” Sale v. Haitian Ctrs. Council, Inc., 509 U.S. 155, 165 (1993). “The exclusion of aliens is a fundamental act of sovereignty.” United States ex rel. Knauff v. Shaughnessy, 338 U.S. 537, 542 (1950); see also Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U.S. 21, 32 (1982). Congress has the principal power to control the nation’s borders, a power that follows naturally from its power “[t]o establish an uniform rule of Naturalization,” U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 4, and from its authority to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations,” id. art. I, § 8, cl. 3, and to “declare War,” id. art. I, § 8, cl. 11. See Am. Ins. Ass’n v. Garamendi, 539 U.S. 396, 414 (2003); Harisiades v. Shaughnessy, 342 U.S. 580, 588–89 (1952) (“[A]ny policy toward aliens is vitally and intricately interwoven with contemporaneous policies in regard to the conduct of foreign relations [and] the war power….”). The president likewise has some constitutional claim to regulate the entry of aliens into the United States. “Although the source of the President’s power to act in foreign affairs does not enjoy any textual detail, the historical gloss on the ‘executive Power’ vested in Article II of the Constitution has recognized the President’s ‘vast share of responsibility for the conduct of our foreign relations.’” Garamendi, 539 U.S. at 414 (quoting Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 610–11 (1952) (Frankfurter, J., concurring)). The foreign policy powers of the presidency derive from the President’s role as “Commander in Chief,” U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 1, his right to “receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers,” id. art. II, § 3, and his general duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” id. See Garamendi, 539 U.S. at 414. The “power of exclusion of aliens is also inherent in the executive.” Knauff, 338 U.S. at 543.

In the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, Congress exercised its authority to prescribe the terms on which aliens may be admitted to the United States, the conditions on which they may remain within our borders, and the requirements for becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. 8 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq. Congress also delegated authority to the President to suspend the entry of “any class of aliens” as he deems appropriate:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. ]

In Maryland, another judge has issued an injunction, once again confusing its authority on such matters and ignoring the Constitution and relevant statures on presidential authority in such matters. This judge has a long history of behaving as a Democratic operative and was confirmed only when then-senator Reid suspended the filibuster for judicial nominees. His order has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In the meantime, deportation proceedings are being speeded up, the influx at the southern border is down to a trickle, and Congress and the president can consider other options as well — including stripping federal courts of jurisdiction over immigration.

But while these matters have drawn the most attention, there are considerable other matters on Trump’s plate,

Conrad Black details them:

It seems finally to be penetrating the minds of his more perfervid enemies that Trump will serve his term, and the hope for a quick destruction of his presidency by inciting the country, through their nasty parrots in the media, to believe that it had inadvertently, and through shabby manipulation of the electoral system with the collusion of the Kremlin, had foisted upon it government by Frankenstein, isn’t making it. Given all that has happened, the hysteria over the migrant order, the whole farrago of Russian nonsense, and this de-escalation has been another heavy defeat for Trump’s enemies. He has been facing a media that is 90 percent hostile and invents more news than it fairly reports.


…it has been a baptism by fire and defamation that have failed.


Now, at last, Trump will have to perform. The Ryan health-care bill cannot be the final product and Trump has hinted at that. Rand Paul has called for repeal before there is agreement on a replacement, a matrix for health-care disaster and political suicide. The increased competition among insurance companies should pass, and the tax credits are fine as long as the need is real and they are claimed only when needed. But better health care for those not covered by public or private plans and of modest or insufficient means is going to be costly, and probably cannot be passed off entirely to the states with top-ups of Medicaid. Presumably, the president will demonstrate his capacity as a negotiator.


The president apparently believes that there is more political upside in non-coercion and lower cost and greater competition than there is downside in less-predictable care for the lowest economic rung. This is a hardball game and he is a hardball president. With health care and the budget and the tax plan coming on its heels and related to it, we will see how well Donald Trump understands the art of the political deal, and whether the Democrats can go on pretending they are watching the destiny of Humpty Dumpty, or not. Trump has won every round so far. Finally, he will have his chance to make history, change the country, and reverse the decline of America. It’s showtime.

In the meantime, despite considerable judicial and congressional interference, he does keep moving forward. This week, the G-20 revised its rules to meet his demands on free trade.  

The president has proposed budget cuts which are largely designed to cut out wasteful programs and unneeded agencies. And the opposition — with rice bowls to fill and cohorts needing jobs play on the emotions of voters with unsubstantiated claims that ignore the facts.

And in some cases (like reduction in TIGER grants) the opposition includes some Republicans, like Senators Susan Collins and Mike Johnson:

In case you weren’t aware, TIGER grants are of a fairly recent vintage. They first appeared in the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act of 2009 — the $890 billion stimulus loaded with one-time expenditures that somehow turned into sacrosanct spending. The program has doled out around $5.1 billion since that time.


Most transportation projects are funded through a combination of federal, state, and local tax dollars and fees. Trump’s infrastructure proposal, which is still in the works, would potentially add hundreds of millions of dollars in private financing to the mix.

Anyone wishing to delve into the grim particulars of why this particular half-billion-a-year discretionary grant program is at once ineffective and perfectly dispensable may find enlightenment in a 2012 report by the libertarian Reason Foundation. There the interested reader will learn all about the program’s “vague metrics,” “inconsistent modal funding,” and “poor documentation,” as well as how — surprise, surprise — “Democratic congressional districts receive more funding than Republican congressional districts.”

The grants also fund local and regional projects that have no obvious national impact. Which sounds an awful lot like “earmarks” by another name. Except instead of legislators tucking special projects into appropriations bills they no longer pass, political appointees in the federal transportation bureaucracy exercise “discretion” to pick winning projects.

Nobody should expect President Trump’s first spending proposal to survive intact and unamended. But nobody can seriously contend that every program is essential, every agency budget is lean, every federal employee is indispensable, or that the disappearance of any them would cause irreparable harm to the republic.

Bear in mind, the TIGER grant program is a $500 million line item in a $18 billion department budget. And prominent Republicans want to go to the wall to save it.

Big Bird will not starve if the federal funds to PBS are cut In the first place – it now airs on HBO, and in second place, it is rich.

Can Big Bird Survive Trump?” Yes, Big Bird can, because Big Bird is Big Business! Big Bird makes money! Investor’s Business Daily reports:

Last year, Sesame Workshop had $121.6 million in revenues. Of that, $49.6 million came in distribution fees and royalties and $36.6 million in licensing of toys, games, clothing, food, and such. In 2014, only 4% of its revenue came from government grants.

Despite being a taxpayer-supported nonprofit, however, Sesame Workshop pays its top executives fabulously well.

Nor will seniors perish if the minor aid to Meals on Wheels from the Community Block Grants is cut: 

From Thursday’s conversation in the press, it was easy to assume that block grant programs — CDBG and similar block grants for community services and social services — are the main source of federal funding for Meals on Wheels. Not so. Instead, as the national site explains, the major source of federal funding for the programs, accounting for 35 percent of overall local budgets, comes through the Sixties-era Older Americans Act. (Local programs also obtain support from state and county governments, private donors, and so on.) 

Ignore the media and judicial chaff. Keep your eyes on the ball, because the president is doing that and winning. 

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