Friday, January 17, 2020
BY MATT MARGOLIS | PJ Media
Biden speaks at the Council of Foreign Relations, January 2018 (Screenshot via YouTube)
On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled that Trump violated the law by temporarily withholding aid to Ukraine. But, if the Trump administration broke the law, then Joe Biden (and the Obama administration) broke the law, too.
Remember that $1 billion loan to Ukraine in 2014 that has come under scrutiny since Democrats started their whole impeachment nonsense? Remember how in January 2018, Biden spoke at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting in Washington, D.C., during which he bragged about how he threatened to withhold that $1 billion loan to Ukraine unless they fired the prosecutor who was investigating Burisma Holdings, the gas company his son Hunter was sitting on the board of, and making over $80,000 a month doing so?
In case anyone forgot, here’s what Biden said about that loan:
And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.
So they said they had — they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to — or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said — I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.
According to the GAO, the Trump administration violated the law because the funds that were temporarily withheld were appropriated by Congress, and therefore the executive branch has no authority to place further conditions on that appropriation.
Biden argued that his actions were above board because he was carrying out the “official policy” of the Obama administration to root out corruption in Ukraine. “It was a fully transparent policy carried out in front of the whole world and fully, fully embraced by the international community of democracies,” he claimed.
Here’s the problem with that defense: like the military aid at issue with Trump and Ukraine, the $1 billion loan to Ukraine was also appropriated by Congress. The loan was part of a bill that was passed in March 2014, with a 399 to 19 vote in the House and a 98 to 2 vote in the Senate. By the GAO’s own reasoning with regard to the aid withheld by the Trump administration, the withholding of aid by Biden on behalf of the Obama administrations also broke the law.
Let’s not forget that Biden’s threat succeeded in getting the desired result. According to Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor who was investigating Burisma, Biden's pressure was responsible for him getting fired. Shokin also said that Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko told him not to investigate Burisma because it was not in the best interests of the Bidens. None of the conditions Trump is alleged to have put on President Zelensky were ever met before the aid was ultimately released because Ukrainian officials never even knew the aid was being held back by the Trump administration.
So, will all those who are crying foul about the latest GAO ruling demand Biden be held accountable?
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama's Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
By Cortney O'Brien | Townhall.Com
Source: AP Photo/Tony Dejak
President Trump signed Phase One of his trade deal with China on Wednesday, heralding it as a measure that will bring about "a sea change in international trade."
"We never had a deal" with China before that serves American interests, Trump said at the White House signing ceremony. But he said he didn't blame China that, he blamed his predecessors.
The deal requires China, in part, to “greatly expand” the products it buys from America, more than $200 billion over the next two years, Trump explained. Beijing is expected to increase orders of soybeans, pork and other U.S. farm products by $32 billion, manufactured goods by about $80 billion, energy products by $50 billion and of services by about $35 billion, the Wall Street Journal explains in its breakdown. China also agreed to give U.S. companies greater access to its financial services sector.
Republicans are eagerly on board, noting that Phase One will "level the playing field."
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He read a statement from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also spoke positively of the agreement.
The trade deal "shows that our two countries have the ability to act on the ability of equality and mutual respect," it read.
But, Trump noted that this phase of the deal does not remove U.S. tariffs on China. That, he said, will hopefully come in time. Phase Two will be started "as soon as" Phase One kicks in and he'll agree to remove the tariffs if that chapter is a success.
Trump signed the trade agreement a few hours after Democrats announced the managers who will be leading the Senate impeachment trial against him.
BY TYLER O'NEIL | PJ Media
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led Democrats in approving a measure to finally forward the articles of impeachment passed on December 18 over to the Senate for a trial. Pelosi had held up the articles after insisting that Trump needed to be impeached as soon as possible because he posed an imminent threat to the 2020 election. Democrats also approved seven impeachment managers, headed by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
"We are here today to cross a very important threshold in American history," Pelosi said before the mostly partisan vote (228-193). She recalled her long opposition to impeachment and then blamed Trump for forcing her hand. "He crossed a threshold. He gave us no choice."
Yet the speaker's own actions suggest she did indeed have a choice. Contrary to her protestations that Trump needed to be removed as soon as possible, Pelosi delayed the process by refusing to hand over the articles of impeachment once the House had voted on them. She claimed that since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would coordinate with White House counsel — as Senate Democrats did during Clinton's impeachment — the Senate trial would not be fair.
That claim proved particularly rich, given the underhanded manner in which Democrats prosecuted the impeachment hearings. The push began with a "whistleblower" inside the CIA who coordinated with Schiff's office in crafting his report! For some reason, Democrats took at face value former Vice President Joe Biden's assertions that his son Hunter had done no wrong in getting a lucrative job at a notoriously corrupt Ukrainian gas company while Biden was the Obama point person on Ukraine.
Democrats insisted that Trump had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate potential corruption only as a political tactic against Joe Biden, rather than in an attempt to get to the bottom of what seems at the very least a conflict of interest. Pelosi tried to turn a policy dispute into an impeachable offense, and Democrats seized on a situation that is difficult to explain to an average voter.
Worse, when the White House raised a routine executive privilege defense to some congressional subpoenas, House Democrats decided not to wait and challenge the matter in court but rather to add another article of impeachment for "obstruction of Congress."
For these and other reasons, McConnell condemned the impeachment as an exercise in partisan rage. "House Democrats want to create new rules for this president because they feel uniquely enraged," he argued. "This is by far the thinnest basis for any House-passed presidential impeachment in American history." He condemned it as "the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history."
After Pelosi refused to deliver the articles to the Senate, McConnell repeatedly called her bluff, and Pelosi finally caved last Friday after Republicans introduced a measure enabling the Senate to nullify an impeachment passed by the House if the speaker did not forward the articles to the upper chamber.
Indeed, this measure makes a great deal of sense, since Pelosi had effectively pocket-vetoed her own impeachment.
Rather than prioritizing the impeachment after the New Year, the House speaker rushed a toothless War Powers Resolution to condemn Trump's decision to kill Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.
In addition to Schiff, Pelosi named House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) as impeachment managers, to argue the case in the Senate.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was the lone Democrat voting against sending the articles on to the Senate. He had voted against impeachment and he also joined Republicans in signing a letter to the Supreme Court, urging a reconsideration on abortion cases such as Roe v. Wade (1973).
The trial is set to begin next week.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
Even CNN Admits: 'Pelosi Gambled and Lost on Impeachment Delay'
BY MICHAEL VAN DER GALIEN | PJ Media
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
When the Democrat Speaker of the House of Representatives (and I use the word "representatives" very broadly here. God knows they're more about representing themselves and their own interests than the voters in their districts) has lost CNN, you know she has messed up. Tremendously. Epicly.
In a new piece for CNN.com, Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza explains to his readers -- 99% of them progressive Democrats, of course -- that Speaker Pelosi has truly botched her impeachment gambit. Her announcement that she'd send the impeachment articles to the Senate this week, Cillizza writes, "amounts to a stark concession that her plan to delay that action for nearly a month failed."
"Pelosi's goal was simple: To try to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's hand. Pelosi wanted to use her possession of the articles of impeachment to yield promises and/or compromises from McConnell -- most notably on the issue of witnesses being allowed to be called in the Senate trial," he continues.
However, there was one minor problem: "Except that McConnell wasn't playing ball."
"The leverage she imagined she possessed to get McConnell to accede to her wishes didn't exist," the CNN editor continues. "McConnell was perfectly happy waiting while Pelosi held on to the articles of impeachment, probably believing rightly that these sorts of delaying tactics would look like just more Washington funny business to the average person."
Pelosi's mistake, he concludes, basically boils down to her underestimating "the extent to which the Senate, by its very nature, resists being told what to do in any way, shape or form." The Senate, he goes on to write, "has never liked being told what to do by the House," regardless of which power is in power. "Each body views itself as an independent fiefdom, governed by its own rules and codes of conduct. The idea of one chamber telling the other what to do is simply anathema -- no matter which party is in charge of each."
When Pelosi refused to send over the articles of impeachment, progressives everywhere -- but especially in the old, corporatist and radical leftist Media Cartel -- hailed her for being a master strategist. Oh yes, she was showing Mitch McConnell how it was done. Pelosi was Girlboss. Awesome. Fantastic. Majestic. She was the new and improved Sun Tzu.
Only there was one issue with that talking point: Pelosi is, as Mark Levin frequently explains on his radio show, a horrible strategist. She may not be stupid as such -- I highly doubt anyone with an IQ of, say, 65 would become Speaker of the House -- but an Intellectual Heavyweight she is not.
Everybody could see that McConnell can do whatever he pleases. The House doesn't dictate to the Senate how it should approach an impeachment trial. And if the House refuses to send over impeachment articles, well, guess what, the Senate can simply dismiss the impeachment altogether and inform the House that it's game over. Or the Senate can just wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait... until the end of time. After all, as long as there is no trial, the president remains firmly in the driver's seat.
Clearly, Pelosi made such a mess out of it that even CNN is now forced to admit that, well, she failed. Miserably.
The good news? It seems likely that Pelosi will remain the Democrats' leader in Congress for quite a while to come. If that isn't good news for President Trump, I don't know what is.
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Tuesday, January 14, 2020
By John Merline | Issues & Insights
Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department had wound down a Hillary Clinton-related inquiry after finding “nothing of consequence.” That set off a series of Hosannas from the allegedly non-partisan press, which seems to notice quid pro quos only when they involve a Republican.
A quick review of the flagrantly corrupt dealings of the Clinton Foundation is in order.
When Hillary took the job of secretary of state under President Barack Obama, she promised that the foundation wouldn’t accept foreign donations. It took in money from at least seven foreign governments.
Documents showed that 85 of the 154 private interests who met with Clinton at the State Department had donated money to the foundation.
Emails unearthed by Judicial Watch showed that Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin – who worked for both the State Department and the foundation – gave “special expedited access to the secretary of state” for those who gave $25,000 to $10 million.
Peter Schweizer’s book “Clinton Cash” exposed other unsavory entanglements between the foundation, government policy, and the Clintons’ pocketbooks.
As the late great columnist Charles Krauthammer put it, the foundation was “a massive family enterprise disguised as a charity” that was intended to help restore the Clintons to power.
All the evidence you need that the Clinton Foundation was a corrupt enterprise is contained in the nearby chart, which shows grants and contributions each year, along with relevant developments in Hillary Clinton’s career.
Donations hit $134 million in 2010, the year after she became secretary of state. They stayed close to that level through 2016. The moment Clinton lost the election, donations cratered. They went from $217 million in 2016 to $26 million in 2017. Just months after Clinton’s loss, the foundation fired 22 staffers and shuttered the Clinton Global Initiative part of the foundation.
As soon as political access to the Clintons became worthless, so did the foundation.
The fact that Obama’s highly politicized Justice Department and the partisan mainstream press didn’t aggressively investigate the foundation on public corruption grounds is hardly surprising.
When Trump took office, he pushed the Justice Department to see why the probe of the foundation went nowhere.
The Washington Post described it as nothing more than an attempt to “mollify conservatives clamoring for more investigations of Hillary Clinton” about “vague corruption allegations” involving the Clinton Foundation.
Vague? There wasn’t anything vague about it. Compared with the accusations against Trump, the corruption is crystal clear.
What is vague, however, is what the Post was reporting. While it says that the inquiry by U.S. Attorney John Huber found nothing to pursue, it adds, without explanation, that “the assignment has not formally ended and no official notice has been sent to the Justice Department or to lawmakers.”
Then, buried deep in the story, the Post reports that Huber’s inquiry was limited by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to determining “whether any matters not currently under investigation warrants the opening of an investigation, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources or further investigation, and whether any matters would merit the appointment of a special counsel.”
The fact that Huber apparently decided that neither a new investigation nor a special counsel was needed, and that Justice didn’t require additional resources for matters “currently under investigation” hardly amounts to a vindication of Clinton.
Nor should it. Can anyone look at that chart and honestly say that the foundation was nothing more than an influence-peddling machine? Does anyone believe that the Clintons weren’t aware of this? Does anyone want to argue that this isn’t a textbook case of public corruption?
Well, yes. Reporters do.
Immediately after the Post story ran, we saw headlines such as:
“Surprise, Surprise: The DOJ’s Hillary Clinton Investigation Has Been a Bust,” and “Clinton investigation was baseless from beginning,” and “Another vindication for Clinton as probe reportedly hits dead end.”
The mainstream press has become a less reliable dispenser of facts and arbiter of truth than the public relations department of the Democratic National Committee.
IN OTHER NEWS
BOOKER QUITS THE RACE
By PAUL MIRENGOFF | POWERLINE
Cory Booker has just announced that he is dropping out of the presidential race. He explained:
I got in this race to win, and I’ve always said I wouldn’t continue if there was no longer a path to victory. Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington.
With Booker and Kamala Harris out, the only remaining African-American is Deval Patrick. His campaign is so hopeless that some readers might not know he is running. Very few Americans do.
Race mongers may be unhappy about the lack of African-American candidates, but black Democrats probably aren’t. Their candidate is Joe Biden, with Bernie Sanders as the second choice.
I never expected Booker to be the nominee, but I thought he’d make a stronger showing than he did. He’s an impressive speaker and, more than anyone else in the field, seemed like an heir to Barack Obama.
This wasn’t just a matter of race, although that certainly was part of it. Obama was a member of a state champion high school basketball team and a president of the Harvard Law Review. Booker played football for Stanford and was a Rhodes scholar.
Obama was a local activist in Chicago. Booker was an activist in Newark, and became that city’s mayor.
Both served in the Senate. Both have real presence on the stage. Both can weave a compelling yarn.
So why didn’t Booker gain traction? I’m not sure.
I have heard left-wing Democrats complain about his ties to Wall Street. Maybe that was a factor.
Booker is also less adept than Obama at faking sincerity. His trademark hand over heart doesn’t get the job done. If anything, it seems like a “tell.”
Perhaps there is a sense of “been there, done that” when it comes to Obama.
However, I have to think that if Booker had fit the Obama bill better than he did, he would easily be in the mix for the nomination.
Booker can now devote his full attention to the Senate trial of President Trump. That’s unfortunate because Booker will undoubtedly use that stage to grandstand and distort.
Indeed, unless we’re lucky, he will invent. Booker excels at that.
Monday, January 13, 2020
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Sunday, January 12, 2020
By Sara Nathan
The US $14 million waterfront mansion in North Saanich on Victoria Island in Canada was the perfect stronghold for Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle to plot an abdication.
As bunkers go, Meghan’s is as luxe as it gets.
There’s a battle-ready stone turret, of course, in the $14 million Vancouver mansion where the Duchess this week will wait out the tense Megxit negotiations across the pond.
Built of gray boulders and ringed by evergreens, a crystal blue bay, and new, six-foot security fencing, the mansion had been a perfect stronghold for plotting an abdication — as Meghan and Prince Harry did over a six-week Christmas vacation there with baby Archie.
Called “Mille Fleurs,” the estate is now the perfect fallout shelter for Meghan as Prince Harry meets Monday in Britain with his roiled royal family.
The emergency peace talks will take place at the Queen’s Sandringham estate. Meghan is expected to join in what the British press is calling the “Sandringham Summit” — but by telephone.
It will be the first family meeting since the couple’s bombshell announcement last week that they intend to step down as “senior” royals, become financially independent, and split their time between the UK and “North America.”
The summit agenda is a long one, and mostly involving money and duty, the Sunday Times of London revealed.
Among the items for discussion is how much “official” royal work the two will continue to do in the UK and abroad on behalf of the family.
They’ll decide if the two will keep their “HRH” titles, the Times said.
The two have so far held on to the potentially marketable titles, even signing last week’s announcement as “Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess Of Sussex with baby Archie.WireImage
They’ll also discuss how much money they can expect to receive from the Queen and from Harry’s father, Prince Charles, who reportedly funds 95 percent of the couple’s expenses, with taxpayers footing the remaining 5 percent.
They’ll also discuss what commercial deals the couple might be free to strike, the Sunday Times reported.
Then there’s security. Will the pricey armed protection squads that currently guard the couple and their eight-month-old son be maintained at their current levels? Will they be downgraded to cheaper officers toting only Tasers?
Whatever is decided, it better be quick. The Queen, 93, has put her sensibly shod foot down and demanded Prince Harry and Meghan Markle strike a Megxit deal with the palace within 72 hours, meaning by Tuesday, the UK’s Sun reported.
Prince Harry won’t leave until they do, the paper reported.
Meanwhile, Meghan has no plane ticket back to London — she’d taken a budget, $175 one-way a one-way flight back to Canada and the baby after just three days with Harry in the UK last week, fooling the paparazzi, who’d expected she’d be on a private jet, the Daily Mail reported.
She has no royal duties on her schedule, and she’s even flown her dogs to Canada.
It’s unclear if she’ll even be able to gain British citizenship, a process with a strict three-year residency requirement. Meghan has dug in on the North America side of things.
It was at the picturesque mansion, in the flickering glow of chandeliers and roaring fireplaces, that she and her Prince ripped up the royal rule book and hatched “Megxit” — a move that has turned the monarchy upside down and drawn the wrath of the public and the royal family.
The Sussexes had spurned the mandatory December family retreat at Sandringham in favor of huddling up with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, and a coterie of the duchess’ old friends — including “Suits” actress Abigail Spencer and fashion stylist Jessica Mulroney, the daughter-in-law of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Canada had already become an adopted homeland for the Duchess while she filmed seven seasons of the cable legal drama “Suits” in Toronto.
So she turned to her childhood pal, actress Katharine McPhee, whose music-producer husband, David Foster, hooked the royals up with Mille Fleurs, rumored to be owned by a Russian billionaire.
The 10,000-square-foot home, complete with a game room, media room and pizza oven, would make a cozy base camp while Meghan, 38, and Harry, 35, finalized their decision to go rogue.
Initial reports from palace sources had that the Queen was furious that the Sussexes made their announcement despite her express instructions that they wait until a thorough plan is ironed out.
Charles and Prince William were reportedly “incandescent with rage.”
Now, though, reports are that Charles is worried Harry is continuing to struggle with the mental-health issues that arose with the 1997 death of his mother, Princess Diana.
And William is despondent over the broken bond with his brother, the Sunday Times of London reported.
“I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that any more; we’re separate entities,” he told a friend.
If Britons have their way, there’ll be a hard Megxit — with 54 percent of respondents to a Daily Mail poll saying the pair should be stripped of their royal titles.
Nearly 80 percent say the couple should get no support from either the royals — Charles reportedly funds 95 percent of the couple’s expenses — or taxpayers, who pay the remaining 5 percent.
But Meghan and her prince will never be paupers. Both are solid millionaires in their own right, according to Business Insider.
Harry’s $25 million personal fortune is comprised of an inheritance from Diana, and an annual allowance from his father. Meghan, who pocketed $40,000 per episode while filming “Suits,” is worth around $5 million.
Still, the two have signaled that they want to start earning.
Meghan MarklePOOL/AFP via Getty
Meghan began dipping her toes back into an acting career before the Canada holiday, recording an undisclosed voice-over role for Disney.
Royals can’t accept payments, so Disney instead made a donation to a pet charity of the couple, Elephants Without Borders.
The story of Sarah, the Duchess of York, serves as a cautionary tale, said Patrick Jephson, Princess Diana’s former chief of staff.
Sarah Ferguson, a k a Fergie, made a killing in the US following her dramatic 1996 divorce from Prince Andrew, in which she kept the right to call herself “Duchess.”
She was the face of Weight Watchers, endorsed Avon and Wedgewood, and put her name to a number of books. But following money woes and seemingly no shortage of scandal, she’s become a bit of a joke.
Said Jephson: “There is a blurred line between celebrity and royalty, and royal people cross it at their peril.”
Meanwhile, they have already trademarked a slew of products — including clothing, stationery and possibly their own magazine — with the “Sussex Royal” brand.
If Harry and Meghan are willing to give up their royal titles once and for all, the sky is the limit for their earning potential.
British branding expert Mark Borkowski told The Post they could each expect to snag at least half a million dollars per talk, and could sign a production deal with an outlet like Netflix or Apple for their own documentary channel.
“With the kind of work that Meghan and Harry want to do, they have to be free from palace protocol and politics,” he said. “You can’t speak out properly with the palace breathing down your neck.”
Jephson told The Post Meghan and Harry have worked hard to “maintain a growing US network of friends and advisers.”
The couple are said to have taken guidance from Barack and Michelle Obama, who have their own multimillion-dollar production deal with Netflix.
They have also had advice from other American power figures including Hillary Clinton, who made a recent visit to Harry and Meghan’s home, Frogmore Cottage, on the grounds of Windsor Castle — which has just undergone a $3.1 million renovation at taxpayer expense, and which the couple reportedly intend to keep.
Harry is equally responsible for this week’s announcement, an insider told The Post, despite blame being pointed at his wife.
“They made this decision together. This was not Meghan deciding for the both of them,” the insider added. “She’s been vilified for the most minute actions — from making avocado toast to her British Vogue ‘Changemakers’ cover. Show me one person who could withstand this.
“Harry is a man who loves his wife, his child and their family they’re creating together. These are two people eager for a fresh start.”
Additional reporting by Sara Dorn, Jon Levine and Laura Italiano.