31 October 2019

Ukrainegate -- More Democratic Party Comedy

Being an anti-war and anti-oligarch combat veteran of the Vietnam War, I am very far from being a Donald Trump fan. (Faced with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Trump in 2016, my disgust with both of them led me to vote for the anti-war Jill Stein.) But the current Democratic Party drive for Trump's impeachment definitely has me chuckling at the Democrats, a lot.

Let's review the context before we dive into impeachment and the specifics of the Democrats' charge of criminal misbehavior by Trump:

During the 2016 election season, a scandal broke in 2015 when a flood of Democratic National Committee ("DNC") emails were published by Wikileaks. The DNC was supposedly the victim of Russian hackers. The nation learned from the emails that Hillary Clinton had bought DNC's election apparatus, lock, stock, and barrel, and had tweaked its procedures to disadvantage her strongest primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton responded to those facts by shrieking "Russia! Russia! Russia!" until Russian hackers became the story instead of the mayhem the Clinton Campaign had inflicted on the electoral process.

Then the news broke that Clinton had been illegally using a private email server for classified State Department business when she was Secretary of State. The FBI investigated, then its Director announced no charges would be filed because they couldn't prove Clinton was aware of the illegality. Never mind that she had been briefed on the issue when she came aboard the State Department. Clinton kept up her refrain of "Russia! Russia! Russia!"


Finally, An Election


Then, Lord love a duck! We finally had an election. As Jay Leno quipped, "If God had wanted us to vote he would have sent us candidates." Democrats and independents stayed home in droves and Trump took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation's capitol. Which speaks volumes about just how badly Hillary Clinton was perceived as a candidate and campaigner. No one can accuse the Democrats of having picked a sure winner for Auction 2016.

But having lost, Clinton continued shrieking anew "Russia! Russia! Russia!" as an excuse for her having lost the election. Recently discharged Clinton loyalists from the FBI and Intelligence Community dutifully joined her "Russia! Russia! Russia!"chorus. And notwithstanding her election loss, Clinton continued to lead the War Party in its public bellicosity against Russia, for example, branding Trump as "Putin's puppet."

Having blown the 2016 election by sheer incompetence in picking Hillary Clinton as their candidate and because of the party's abuse of the party apparatus by the Clinton campaign, the Democratic elites faced a pitched battle to retain control of the party, led by progressive Democrats. The Democratic elites barely staved off that challenge to their "leadership," while Clinton and her allies in the Deep State continued to shriek "Russia! Russia! Russia!" at the top of their collective lungs, but now in aid of efforts to impeach Trump.

When the Party was sued by Bernie Sanders supporters for being so undemocratic, the Party successfully defended the case based on the vicious but correct basis that there was no requirement that it handle its own affairs in a democratic manner. Lesson learned: no law requires the Democratic Party to behave democratically and it does not.


Russiagate Was a Hoax


The Democratic elites, joined by high officials of the Deep State, inflicted on the people of this nation *years* of the Russiagate hoax. The Trump presidency would go down in flames of impeachment because of "Russia! Russia! Russia!" That we were promised for two years by the Democrat-leaning media, egged on by our Democratic elites. All great issues facing our nation were shoved aside in Congress during that time. Millions of Americans who didn't believe in checking the facts for themselves joined in screaming "Russia! Russia! Russia!" (Indeed, many still persist.)

But eventually, those who wouldn't believe it until they saw some proof had their reticence and reputations rewarded. Special Counsel Robert Mueller pronounced that there was no evidence of unlawful Trump collusion with Russia. About the same time, a federal judge tossed the Democratic elites' civil lawsuit against Trump attempting to hold him liable in damages for the harm inflicted by those emails allegedly stolen at his request by, you guessed it: Russia! Russia! Russia!

We already had lots of clues that Russiagate was likely a hoax. Example 1: precisely zero evidence supporting the existence of Trump collusion with Russia was ever brought forth, raising the reasonable suspicion that there was no such evidence. Example 2: by 2017, a longstanding ad hoc group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, reported on their forensic examination of the DNC emails published by Wikileaks, concluding that they had been leaked by an insider rather than hacked because the speed at which they were copied was not possible over the Internet at the time but matched the download speed to a USB thumb drive. Notwithstanding, Mueller never contacted VIPS to investigate their report.

Then in July, 2019, the popcorn ran dangerously low when a federal judge castigated Robert Mueller's prosecution team and then-Attorney General William P. Barr for publicly linking the Russian government to one of the Russian defendants Mueller had charged with sowing dissent among the U.S. electorate.
In short, the Court concludes that the government violated Rule 57.7 by making or authorizing the release of public statements that linked the defendants’ alleged activities to the Russian government and provided an opinion about the defendants’ guilt and the evidence against them.
By that point, the credibility of the Democratic elites and Democrat-leaning media had seen far better days. One might have expected an effort to regain it beginning with a retraction and an apology. But no. The Daily Kos still headlines "Moscow Mitch" and Hillary Clinton is still screaming "Russia! Russia! Russia!" (although she at least found someone new to scream it at).


Now, Ukrainegate


And the same less-than-useful idiots who brought us Russiagate now inflict Ukrainegate upon us in a new bid to impeach Trump based on a telephone call in which Trump asked the Ukraine President to initiate an investigation of Democratic candidate Joe Biden's involvement in that country's politics. So far, there seems to be even less meat on the Ukrainegate plate than there was on Russiagate.

The close similarity of what Trump is accused of to what Joe Biden actually bragged about — coupled with his son's trading on Biden's reputation as a board member of Ukraine's largest natural gas company — may yet take Biden out of the running for the Democratic candidacy. New allegations of Biden misconduct in regard to Ukraine continue to burble up. Indeed, there is a credible theory that Ukrainegate is actually a play by Democratic elites to take Biden out of the Democratic race, before Trump could attack on him during the general election season.


Impeachment


So finally we can talk about the Democrats' impeachment charge within the broader context. The wild card factor in the impeachment process is that impeachment no longer requires that Trump have committed bribery, treason, or a high crime or misdemeanor as the Constitution states ("The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors"). History teaches that all it takes for impeachment is a simple majority vote in the House of Representatives. (Impeachment is like an indictment; only actual conviction by a supermajority in the Senate can remove Trump from office.) An impeachment can not be overturned by a court, so all it takes is a majority vote, no matter how flimsy the excuse.

Thus, it might not matter whether Trump is actually guilty of the crime Democrats have charged him with. But it is certainly not a slam-dunk case were it to be decided by a criminal court instead. So let us take a quick look at the federal campaign finance law Trump is accused of violating.
Federal law prohibits a foreign national from directly or indirectly making a “contribution or donation of money or other thing of value” in connection with a U.S. election, and prohibits a person from soliciting, accepting or receiving such a contribution or donation from a foreign national. Federal law defines “contribution” to include “any gift … of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” And the FEC by regulation defines “solicit” to mean “to ask, request, or recommend, explicitly or implicitly, that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value.”
Paul Ryan, The “Quid” is a Crime: No Need to Prove “Pro Quo” in Ukrainegate, Just Security (23 September 2019), https://www.justsecurity.org/66277/the-quid-is-a-crime-no-need-to-prove-pro-quo-in-ukrainegate/ (italics added) (pro-impeachment).

Precisely what does "anything of value" mean? Does that include solicitation of dirt on a political rival from a foreign national, as charged against Trump in regard to his request that Ukraine's President initiate an investigation of Democratic candidate Joe Biden and son's activities in Ukraine while Biden was Vice President?

We might gain some perspective from the fact that Trump is not the only one who does that kind of thing.


Et Tu, Democrats?


In May, we learned that during the 2016 election madness, the DNC had dispatched an operative to solicit dirt on Republican candidate Trump's campaign from the Ukraine's Embassy; she "later tried to arrange for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to comment on Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort’s Russian ties on a U.S. visit during the 2016 campaign." Now that sounds a lot like a request for a foreign government to interfere in the U.S. election but, never mind, the question is whether she was soliciting "anything of value."

And the real biggie on the "anything of value" issue has to be the 2016 Clinton Campaign's hire of the former British MI6 Head of Russian Desk Christopher Steele to come up with dirt on Trump. His infamous "Steele dossier," almost none of which could be confirmed by investigating reporters, was not published until after the election, but the relevant fact here is that it was solicited and obtained from a foreign national by the Clinton Campaign for use of its political dirt against Trump in the election. Some of that dirt was allegedly obtained from a Ukraine parliamentarian. Is that "anything of value" and if not, in what relevant respect does it differ from what Trump requested from Ukraine's President? Does the fact that Clinton Campaign paid for the information make it "anything of value?"


The Bottom Line


So should a few Democrats be buying tickets for a fast exit to a country that has no extradition treaty with the U.S.?

Not because of those incidents and the campaign finance law, in my studied opinion. Here's the dispositive question: Does "anything of value" mean “anything worth money” or does it also include information? I strongly favor the “anything worth money” interpretation. One can look through the voluminous definitions in the campaign finance law and see specific examples of "anything of value" given, e.g., contributing campaign fund-raising dinners if they cost more than a dollar value set by the law. But all of the definitions are concerned with financial impact, not political impact, which is what one might expect from a campaign *finance* law. The law is about money and campaign contributions that are worth money.

There’s also the problem that once you unleash “anything of value” from its financial mooring then where’s the outer limit on the definition? Is it unlawful to request a recipe from a foreign national to use in preparing that campaign fund-raising dinner? It’s still information for an election purpose, after all. Please, spare us all from such tortured logic.

The notion that “anything of value” in the campaign finance law includes any information that might help get a candidate elected (or defeated) is just plain stupid. As is the Democrats’ impeachment campaign based on the theory that "anything of value" includes dirt on a political opponent. Except that doesn't matter if they win the vote on impeachment.

There is scant hope that Democratic elites will change their minds, drop Ukrainegate, and put climate change, our crumbling infrastructure, and other truly important issues on the Congressional agenda. Those millions of overtrusting and deluded souls who screamed "Russia! Russia! Russia!" for years will scream "Ukraine! Ukraine! Ukraine!" between now and Auction 2020. (At least they will learn to pronounce a second word.) Like I said, impeachment is a political question. There is no requirement that its advocates stick to the truth, like what the law actually means.

But the real hilarity comes from the fact that there are plenty of real crimes/impeachable offenses Trump committed, like multiple ongoing violations of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause. Leave it to the Democratic elites to cook up a fake crime instead. Now we can watch the mainstream Democrat-leaning media fall in line. So much for journalism professional standards.

Those with sufficient maturity to demand evidence before falling in line should stay on guard. We're entering election season and based on historical evidence and sampling of current mainstream media content, the weather forecast is for months of massive storms of more bullshit moving in from both the Democratic and Republican branches of the War Party.


Addendum


From Moon of Alabama:
In 1998 the U.S. and the Ukraine signed a Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (pdf). It came into force in February 2001. Article I defines the wide scope of assistance:
1. The Contracting States shall provide mutual assistance, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, in connection with the investigation, prosecution, and prevention of offenses, and in proceedings related to criminal matters. … 2. Assistance shall include: (a) taking the testimony or statements of persons; (b) providing documents, records, and other items; (c) locating or identifying persons or items; (d) serving documents; (e) transferring persons in custody for testimony or other purposes; (f) executing searches and seizures; (g) assisting in proceedings related to immobilization and forfeiture of assets, restitution, and collection of fines; and (h) any other form of assistance not prohibited by the laws of the Requested State.

3. Assistance shall be provided without regard to whether the conduct that is the subject of the investigation, prosecution, or proceeding in the Requesting State would constitute an offense under the laws of the Requested State.
When Trump asked the current Ukrainian President Zelensky to help with an investigation into the above matters he acted well within the law and within the framework of the treaty. It was certainly not illegitimate to do that.

But when mainstream media deny that Biden's interference in Ukraine's prosecutor office is suspect, or claim that the Ukraine did not interfere in the U.S. elections, they make it look as if Trump did something crazy or illegal. He does plenty of that but not in this case. To use it a basis of an 'impeachment inquiry' is political bullshit.
Related:

John Solomon, As Russia Collusion Fades, Ukrainian Plot to Help Clinton Emerges

John Solomon, Debunking Some of the Ukraine Scandal Myths about Biden and Election Interference

25 July 2018

Policy on Prosecuting Terrorists

"We will vigorously prosecute anyone who provides, or even attempts to provide, support to terrorists," United States Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a press release issued by the Department of Justice. Link
Umm ... Does that include members of the Central Intelligence Agency?

05 May 2018

Another John Kerry Howler

“Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the [Mideast] region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines — international boundaries — in other countries,” [U.S. Secretary of State  John] Kerry told PBS NewsHour.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/kerry-warns-iran/

He says, as the U.S. sends takfiri mercenaries into Syria to topple that nation's government.

18 April 2018

Putting a Torturer in Charge of the CIA?

Gina Haspel was nominated to head the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is scheduled to question Ms. Haspel next week and is expected to recommend her confirmation to that post shortly thereafter. Here is the email I sent to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today:

Dear Sen. Merkley,

I write to express my unwavering opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel as Director of Central Intelligence. To have a Director so publicly associated with torture can only tarnish the reputation of our government and intensify distrust and fear of our nation throughout the world.

14 April 2018

More Presidential Hypocrisy

The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed, in the long run, by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.
— Donald J. Trump [1]

21 October 2017

Time to Admit Failure in Afghanistan

... And for a number of years, we did very well. Education, health services, democratic institutions, women’s rights, their arrival on the scene of Afghanistan – because of the support of the Afghan people and because of the support of all the countries present here, primarily, the big powers, Russia, China, Iran and so on. I was taken to the United States on a US plane. I was brought to Moscow, Mr President, on a Russian plane. Your government may have not told you. I came here on a Russian plane. I went to China on a Chinese plane. The Indians provided the same facilities. It was this massive international cooperation with the United States and its allies that made a success.
But soon, we began to get troubles. Extremism arrived again, violence erupted again, terrorism arrived again. And the US did not pay attention to where it was coming from. It began bombing Afghan villages, it began killing Afghan people, it began putting Afghan people in prisons. And the more they did the more we had extremism.
Today, I am one of the greatest critics of the US policy in Afghanistan. Not because I am anti-Western, I am a very Western person. My education is Western, my ideas are Western. I am very democratic in my inner instincts. And I love their culture. But I am against the US policy because it is not succeeding. It is causing us immense trouble and the rise of extremism and radicalism and terrorism. I am against the US policy because on their watch, under their total control of the Afghan air space, the Afghan intelligence and the Afghan military, of all that they have, that super power, there is Daesh in Afghanistan. How come Daesh emerged in Afghanistan 14–15 years after the US presence in Afghanistan with that mass of resources and money and expenditure? Why is the world not as cooperative with America in Afghanistan today as it was before? How come Russia now has doubts about the intentions of the US in Afghanistan or the result of its work in Afghanistan? How come China does not view it the same way? How come Iran has immense difficulty with the way things are conducted in Afghanistan?
Therefore, as an Afghan in the middle of this great game, I propose to our ally, the United States, the following: we will all succeed if you tell us that you have failed. We would understand. Russia would understand, China would understand. Iran, Pakistan, everybody would understand. India would understand. We have our Indian friends there. We see all signs of failure there, but if you do not tell us you failed, what is this, a game?
Hamid Karzai, former President of Afghanistan