Sunday, September 29, 2019

Don't Deny Coercion. Defend It.

Sunday was a good day for the Democrats. Let's concede that. Every major television network devotes an hour of their Sunday morning programming to their political shows, and today, all anybody was talking about was the Ukraine conversation. The Democratic Party sent a message today through their MSM allies that the president is corrupt, and he should be impeached. If the only political news you ever got came from Sunday morning TV, you probably think so too. There were a few token voices of reason like Hugh Hewitt and Rich Lowry, but for the most part, the opposing side of the debate did not get an invitation to the party. And don't get me started on Rudy Giuliani! 

It is axiomatic in military strategy terms that if you are going to engage in warfare, you should do what you can to choose the ground upon which you will do battle. The Republicans have failed to heed that advice. There are too many poor souls in the Republican Party who are trying to deny that Trump offered Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky a quid pro quo. It's true that it was not explicitly stated in the conversation, but it can be reasonably argued that it was implied. As the Democrats are quick to point out, when you are a helpless supplicant like Ukraine and your potential protector asks you for a favor, you would be foolish indeed to ignore the wider implications of that request. The existence of that quid pro quo is deniable I suppose; maybe even legitimately so. But why pitch your tent on such shaky ground? President Trump was engaged in diplomacy, and nothing in diplomacy is free. Everything is a quid pro quo. President Trump was engaged in some arm twisting. It was gentle and polite arm twisting perhaps, but arm twisting nevertheless. 

President Trump wanted some favors. In diplomacy, favors are defined as things I want you to do for me for which I will do something in return. President Trump asked for two favors in particular, and you could argue about the relative importance of each favor. In order of precedence, the first favor, and perhaps therefore the most important, was help in the investigation into the origins of the Russia collusion scandal. The Obama Justice Department and Intelligence Community spied on the Trump campaign in 2016. There are credible allegations that some of the Steele Dossier material upon which that spying was predicated came from Ukrainian sources. President Trump believes that the Dossier was a hoax; a political dirty trick. The president wants an investigation, and he has a right to expect Ukraine to assist Attorney General Barr in completing that investigation. 

The second favor is a bit more problematic. (Thank you Captain Obvious!) The president asked Ukraine to look into the Bidens. Again, choose your ground for battle. The optics of that request are terrible. Don't deny that. Defend it! Yes, it is bad optics for the president to request a foreign country to investigate a political rival. You know what else has terrible optics? Hunter Biden accepting $600,000 a year from a foreign company to perform a job for which his only qualification is his last name. How about them optics? I've heard critics of the president point out that if it was really corruption that concerned Mr. Trump, then Ukraine is apparently the only place on earth where the president is bothered by corruption. That may be true, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes this president does the right thing by accident. American politics are conducted as a form of Kabuki theater in which an elected Republican defender of the president can't say that the president did the right thing by accident, but I can say it. Devin Nunes or Jim Jordan may have to pretend that the president's motivations were saintly and insightful, but I don't have to pretend that. And to claim that the actions of Joe and Hunter Biden in Ukraine are beyond scrutiny because of Joe's presidential candidacy is like giving a Get Out of Jail Free Card to any politician under suspicion of corruption. Just run for office and you're untouchable. The president did the right thing for the wrong reasons. There! That wasn't so hard, was it? Trump was looking for a little extra help in the 2020 race. He wasn't looking for money. He wasn't looking for Facebook ads. And there is absolutely no indication that he was looking for investigators in Ukraine to lie, no matter what kind of parody Adam Schiff can conjure up as he beclowns himself. Trump was looking for information. Information does not have a nationality. There is no such thing as American information or Ukrainian information. Since 2016, Democrats have attempted to stigmatize foreign sourced information as somehow tainted or illegitimate. Personally, I think that as long as it is the truth, information is always welcome no matter where it comes from. I felt the same way about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting, the Democrats' squawking about campaign finance and “thing of value” not withstanding. Information is like speech. To stifle information is to stifle free speech. At the end of the day, the president was pursuing information. Were the optics bad? Yes. But did that situation cry out for an investigation? Oh hell yes! The president may have done the crime, metaphorically speaking, but he shouldn't do the time. The proposed punishment is pure politics. If the voters disagree, well that's what we have elections for. 

 But what about Trump's withholding of aid? Surely that cannot be defended. Of course it can. We do not know, and we should not presume, that the president intended to withhold that military aid indefinitely. I don't think I am na├»ve to believe it was merely a bargaining position; quickly abandoned once the president got what he wanted, and never intended to be kept in place even if the president's requests had been refused. And who are the Democrats to bemoan a slight delay in the release of this lethal aid? The Obama administration flat out denied lethal aid to Ukraine all together. 

Well what about the attempt to cover up the conversation? What were they trying to hide? As is clear from the Democrats' reaction to this conversation, it is obvious that due to the optics of President Trump's request, this conversation had the potential to be spun to the president's disadvantage. White House staff apparently recognized that, even if the president did not. And a little extra context is important here. This is the same White House which may still employ the author of that September 5, 2018 NY Times op-ed “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” Remember that several other conversations between President Trump and other heads of state have been leaked to the press with the purpose of embarrassing the president. Under the circumstances, the fact that the record of this conversation was placed on a highly classified server is of little concern to me. 

 Finally, a word about the Democrats' desperate attempt to subvert the results of the 2016 election. There is mounting evidence that this latest “scandal” was a coordinated effort between “resistance' elements inside the White House, inside the Intelligence Community, and in the Congress, to sabotage this president. At the risk of inviting accusations of being a conspiracy theorist, I'd go so far as to suggest that the pending release of DOJ IG Michael Horowitz' report and the ongoing Barr/Durham “investigation of the investigators” may have played a role in the timing of this whistleblower's complaint. 

Today was a bad day for the president. The Dems scored some unanswered points this morning. But tomorrow is another day. I'm hopeful that Team Trump still has a few special plays up its sleeve.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Trial of Bijan Rafiekian

  The following is a compilation of articles about the trial of Flynn business partner Bijan Rafiekian.  It was due to Flynn's anticipated testimony/cooperation at this trial that his sentencing in his own matter of lying to the FBI has been repeatedly delayed.


Recently, the government suddenly changed course and announced they would not be calling Flynn as a witness following his refusal to state that he knowingly filed a false FARA document. 


Subsequent to that refusal, the government also reversed course on their position that Flynn was not a co conspirator in the Rafiekian trial, now maintaining that he wss a co conspirator.  If they could support this claim in court, it would allow them to present hearsay evidence from Flynn against Rafiekian that they otherwise not be able to present.


My focus on this case has more to do with what effect it will have on sentencing in the lying to the FBI case.  Flynn wa still willing to cooperate/testify, but not willing to admit knowingly falsifying the FARA. 

Michael Flynn Attorney Suggests Special Counsel Withheld Key Information From His Defense

Michael Flynn’s new attorney Sidney Powell suggested the special counsel may not have produced classified information relevant to Flynn’s case. Powell intends to obtain it.



Defense straddles strategies as trial opens for Flynn business partner


LAWYERSPOTTING: Among the onlookers at opening statements in Flynn business partner Kian's trial today: Flynn attorney Powell, Flynn prosecutor Van Grack, and US Atty for EDVA Terwilliger

Flynn’s ex-lawyer takes witness stand for the prosecution


It's not every day a defense attorney gets called to testify for the prosecution, but it happened today to Gen. Mike Flynn's ex-lawyer, Rob Kelner. The cross-examination produced some friction. More here:

Flynn juggled Trump campaign role with foreign lobbying, jurors told

His foreign lobbying role has been central to the case against Bijan Rafiekian, a former business partner.

At trial today of Gen. Mike Flynn's business partner, a retired FBI agent recalled this blunt response to the defendant's plan to avoid registering as a foreign agent: 'I wouldn't f--- around with that.'

PAY TO PLAY? We knew that while sending over $500,000 to Flynn during the campaign, his Turkish client was complaining to a Flynn aide that Trump wasn't being supportive enough. In court today, we found out Flynn heard those pleas directly

Judge withholds ruling on acquitting Flynn partner

Bijan Rafiekian is on trial for acting as an unregistered agent for Turkey during his work for Flynn Intel Group, a consulting firm.

NEW: Prosecutors narrowly escaped a judge-ordered acquittal today for Flynn business partner charged with foreign-agent crimes following Mueller probe. Looks like judge will let jury deliberate in case, while not ruling out tossing it--or part of it--later

After completing his testimony at trial of Flynn biz partner Bijan Kian on foreign-agent charges, lobbyist
did something unusual for a prosecution witness: gave the defendant a firm, enthusiastic handshake in front of the jury

Latest Development In Flynn Case Proves Special Counsel Was A Cover For Taking Down Trump


His former lawyer’s latest testimony establishes two facts, both of which benefit Michael Flynn and both of which the media has missed.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Trump vs "The Squad": We're at an Inflection Point

 We're watching realignments taking place on both sides of the political spectrum.  For several months now,  the Democrats have been engaged in a food fight between Speaker Pelosi, and an outspoken "squad" of freshman Congresswomen who are determined to transform their party overnight into an openly socialist, no borders, anti-semitic, and pro al Qaida party.

And judging by statements from the Democratic presidential candidates, the so called "squad" is meeting with some success.  The rhetoric has gotten so heated that Pelosi was accused by those same members of being biased against women of color.  That epithet, the dreaded race card, is usually reserved for Republican opponents.  Remember the good old days when we used to think that Nancy was the radical face of her party?.  Yeah...good times!  Anyway...

 The Republicans have been doing some realignment of their own, thanks largely to the overwhelming persona of one Donald J Trump.  In contrast to the volatility of Democratic politics in recent days, most of the fireworks on the Republican side took place in the run-up to the 2016 election.  That's not to say that things in Republican circles have gone completely dark since Trump's election, but the fight for the heart and soul of the Republican party has been taking place on a more intellectual plane, largely unnoticed by the mainstream press.  Most conservative thinkers have grudgingly acquiesced to Trump's ownership of the party, but a compact nucleus of staunch Never Trumpers still persist in their opposition to the president.  Unlike the Democrat's recent conflagration, the Republican's debates have been more restrained.

Sohrab Ahmari used to write for conservative Commentary Magazine.  As a regular listener to the Commentary Podcast, I am familiar with his thinking.  He is not blind to Trump's manifest flaws, but he has come to terms with the man, and like many conservatives, he accepts Trump on a transactional basis.  He's the president.  We'll support him when he's working towards shared goals.  He has recently moved on to become the Opinion Editor for the New York Post.

David French writes for the National Review, another of my go to publications.  He's a principled conservative and remains solidly Never Trump to this day.  Sohrab is a Catholic.  David is an evangelical Christian.  Both men's politics are strongly influenced by their faith.  At the end of May, Sohrab published an essay on the First Things website entitled Against David Frenchism  where he makes the case for full throated support for Trump despite his flaws.  To do any less is just ceding territory to a relentless opposition who will exploit any advantage to mercilessly pursue their cultural agendas.  A couple of excerpts from Ahmari's piece illustrate his thinking.

With a kind of animal instinct, Trump understood what was missing from mainstream (more or less French-ian) conservatism....

French’s response to these developments on the right has been predictable: He has spent two years promoting the now-discredited Russian “collusion” theory; moralizing and pretending we don’t face enemies who seek our personal destruction (just ask Justice Kavanaugh); and haranguing his fellow evangelical Protestants for supporting Trump, as if they were the only American voting bloc ever forced to compromise. As an activist, French has benefited from the Trump GOP’s ascendance, but he has kept his hands clean, his soul untainted.

 Then there is this:

Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.  

Ahmari has clearly staked out his position.  We're at war.  We can't afford to play by the enemies rules.  Rules which they have no intention of observing themselves.  If any nation should recognize the hazards of rules of engagement that are too circumscribed, it is the United States.  As you can imagine, there has been pushback from French and his supporters.  This back and forth has continued over the past six or seven weeks.  It's largely a Twitter phenomenon and has remained under the radar of the mainstream press.  But it is the rare politically active conservative who isn't familiar with the debate and who doesn't have an opinion on the matter.

If the vigor of this dialogue was on the ebb, recent events are likely to re-ignite the debate.  The president recently posted a series of Tweets where he challenged the aforementioned squad of Congresswomen.  If they didn't like America, they should leave .

  • So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly......
    8:27 AM · Jul 14, 2019 · 
    Replying to
    ....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how.... is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

    Democrats and the press were howling about the so called racist Tweets.  Trump was criticized for apparently not realizing that three of the four women in question were in fact born in the United States.   Republicans were criticized for being too slow and not enthusiastic enough in their condemnation of the president.  Trump, for his part doubled down in a Rose Garden press conference two days later.

    The squad responded that same evening with a press conference of their own where notably, Rep. Ilhan Omar refused to disavow al Qaida.

    I think we witnessed a watershed moment with those dueling press conferences.  An inflection point.  The president has never been shy about what he believes.  It's kind of his trademark.  But yesterday was a significant departure from the norm; even for him.  The president declared war yesterday, and "the Squad" answered back in kind.  Clausewitz famously said, "War is the continuation of politics by other means."  And make no mistake.  We're at war.  That's why the Sohrab Ahmari-David French debate is so timely now.  It's time for conservatives, Republicans, libertarians, and independents to make a choice.  The Democratic agenda as put forward by these Congresswomen and the Democratic presidential candidates (who's leading who?) represents an existential threat to the America that was.  I don't know anybody who doesn't have a few ideas about how to make America better, but do we really want "the Squad" driving that bus?  Venezuela of the North is what they want because, as they'll likely tell you, socialism has only failed everywhere it's ever been tried because there wasn't enough of it.  They have an agenda, and there doesn't seem to be any lack of commitment on their part. Trump has gone all in on the presumption that voters will despise what the Democrats have become more than they despise him.  I'm not so sure he's right.  Trump never asked me if I was willing to bet it all and roll the dice, but that's where we stand.  No turning back now.  Will we support him or will we insist, as Ahmari suggests David French does, "on keeping our hands clean, and our souls untainted?"  It's time to choose.  I feel like a passenger in a car where the driver has decided to engage in a high speed game of chicken.  No one asked me if I wanted to play, but I'm stuck in the passenger seat, and it's too late to get out.  It's high risk, and we're all in this together.  There's no turning back.

    I'm reminded of a scene from The Hunt for Red October when Fred Thompson's character says, "This business will get out of control. It'll get out of control, and we'll be lucky to live through it!"  It's time to buckle up.  Trump just told the more timid members of his party to step up or step out! It's no time for faintheartedness.  He needs a wartime consigliere.