Friday, March 23, 2018

Think Obama Administration Wasn't Corrupt? Think Again


Obama Scandal: Former President Obama and his political supporters have repeatedly stated that his administration was scandal-free, unlike administrations before and after. "We're probably the first administration in modern history that hasn't had a major scandal in the White House," Obama himself said. A new book puts the lie to that statement.

Never mind that the left-leaning big media basically ignored major scandals during the Obama years, ranging from the IRS targeting scandal and the VA's deadly waiting lists for veterans to Hillary Clinton's illegal use of an unsecured, hackable home-brew server for her official duties as secretary of state and the Fast and Furious gunwalking program.

These and others were epic scandals that the media simply ignored or downplayed.

The media have contrasted Obama's supposed honesty and forthrightness with President Trump's supposed venality and political unscrupulousness, as embodied in the year-and-a-half long Russia-Trump scandal investigation that shows few signs of letting up.

But now comes Peter Schweizer's new book, "Secret Empires: How Our Politicians Hide Corruption and Enrich Their Families and Friends," which shows that the Obama administration and its cronies were up to their necks in questionable business deals and may even have intentionally distorted public policy to accommodate their own profit-making.

The book claims "Obama and his administration would deem industries either destructive to the environment or exploitative for the financial and professional gain of his freines, including industries such as coal mining, offshore drilling, cash advance companies, and for-profit colleges.  wrote Katelyn Caralle of the Washington Examiner.

Schweizer's book, based on extensive research, says that Obama acted to regulate certain industries in such a way that it lowered the value of some of the companies, wrote Katelyn Caralle of the Washington Examiner. These actions let two family friends to profit handsomely on deals through their own investment firm.

Here's how it worked: Obama buddies Marty Nesbitt and Harreld Kirkpatrick III formed a private equity investment firm called Vistria, right around the time Obama was re-elected in 2012.

Nothing wrong with that, except, as Schweizer notes in his book, "A curious pattern began to emerge. Obama and his administration would attack industries with government power, which led to substantially lower valuations for these companies. Nesbitt and Vistria, or others close to Obama, could then acquire those assets for pennies on the dollar."

As an example, Schweizer cites the case of for-profit higher education schools like University of Phoenix, ITT Technical Institute, and DeVry University. In 2013, Obama blamed the schools for taking advantage of students by saddling them with massive amounts of student debt, ruining their credit and making a profit on it. He ordered the Federal Trade Commission to go after them.

In the case of the University of Phoenix, its parent Apollo Education Group was suspended after a Federal Trade Commission investigation in 2015. The following year, three companies, including Vistria, swooped in to buy what remained of Apollo at a price 90% below its share price before the investigation.

As Vistria's education investment portfolio bulged, a number of Obama Education Department officials, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, ended up taking high-level jobs with Vistria.

That's just one example. There are others.

Schweizer noted in his book, for instance, that both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry were deeply involved in trade and security talks with China even as that country began its aggressive campaign to expand its military and physical presence in the South China Sea.

Contrary to standard diplomatic practice, however, both played "good cop," not seriously confronting China on its misbehavior.

Remember, Biden and Kerry were close friends from their years spent together in the Senate. So there was little surprise when Biden's son, Hunter, and Kerry's stepson, Christopher Heinz, one of the heirs to the Heinz ketchup fortune, went into business together in 2009.

They created a number of equity and real estate investment firms allied to Rosemont Capital, "the alternative investment fund of the Heinz Family Office."
So far so good. Except, "Over the next seven years, as both Joe Biden and John Kerry negotiated sensitive and high-stakes deals with foreign governments, Rosemont entities secured a series of exclusive deals with those same foreign governments."

In December of 2013, for instance, Biden traveled to China for talks. He brought Hunter Biden along. While there, the senior Biden soft-pedaled China's clear aggression, and played up the bilateral trade partnership. Ten days after the trip concluded, China's central bank, the Bank of China, set up a $1 billion investment joint venture called Bohai Harvest RST. For the record, the "RS" referred to Biden's son's firm, Rosemont Seneca.

But months later, in July 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to China, also for talks. Kerry talked little of China's clear aggression, but did conspicuously note that "China and the United States represent the greatest economic alliance trading partnership in the history of humankind."

He should know. In the ensuing months, Chinese government-linked firms took major stakes in several of the firms owned or controlled by Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz, and provided them with massive funding totaling billions of dollars. Nor is this the only scandal involving John Kerry.

And this just scratches the surface. The book is a catalog, a virtual roadmap, to the way corrupt business gets done in Washington — and why Americans are smart to question why their representative go to Washington as paupers, and return as millionaires.

We can only hope that as Biden or Kerry gears up for a challenge to Trump in the 2020 presidential contest, they will receive the same relentless scrutiny that a Republican with the same record of venality would get. But we won't hold our breath.



Trump Hits China For Stealing U.S. Intellectual Property

By Katie Pavlich | Townhall

President Trump signed another round of tariffs at the White House Thursday afternoon, this time targeting Chinese intellectual property theft.

Citing a threat to American innovation, the administration  "will propose for public comment adding 25 percent additional tariffs on certain products that are supported by China’s unfair industrial policy" with "sectors subject to the proposed tariffs will include aerospace, information communication technology, and machinery."

"We're doing things for this country that should've been done for many, many years," Trump said before a brief signing ceremony. "We have a tremendous intellectual property theft going on, which likewise is hundreds of billions of dollars and that's on a yearly basis."

"It [China] is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world," he continued. "This has been long in the making. We've lost, over a fairly short period of time, 60,000 factories in our country, six million jobs at least. Gone."
"The era of economic surrender is over," Vice President Mike Pence added.
Trump also addressed NAFTA, which he has repeatedly threatened to walk away from unless Mexico and Canada can come up with a better deal for the United States.

"NAFTA's been a very bad deal for the United States," Trump said.


Wait, What? Andrew McCabe Launched an FBI Investigation Into Attorney General Sessions Because Dems Asked Him To?

By Katie Pavlich | Townhall

It's been less than a week since former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions after a recommendation for termination from the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility.

The drama surrounding the lawful and justified firing hasn't stopped since and late Wednesday night, ABC News dropped a bombshell story alleging Sessions was under FBI investigation last year for perjury. The man leading the charge? Andrew McCabe.

Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBI official Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a "lack of candor," McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

One source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that.

Last year, several top Republican and Democratic lawmakers were informed of the probe during a closed-door briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and McCabe, ABC News was told.

According to the report, the investigation came after Democrat Senators requested the FBI look into contacts Sessions had with the Russians during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign and the White House transition between November 2016 and January 2017.

According to the sources, McCabe authorized the criminal inquiry after a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter in March 2017 to the FBI urging agents to investigate "all contacts" Sessions may have had with Russians, and "whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred."


As Mollie Hemingway notes over at The Federalist, this story was likely leaked to ABC by team McCabe or McCabe himself in an effort to undermine Sessions in the wake of his firing. That strategy is backfiring and instead bolsters accusations the FBI is highly politicized and allowing Democrat Senators, with whom they agree, to drive criminal investigations.


John Bolton: The Wisdom of This Choice Is Made Clear in the Panic of Liberals

By Mark Davis |Towhall

Photo: John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and Trump's new National Security Adviser

With one presidential decision, America gained one of its boldest National Security Advisers, and lost one of its best cable news guests.

Roughly an hour after John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., was named as the replacement for the outgoing adviser H.R. McMaster, he appeared on Fox News with “The Story” host Martha MacCallum, who was loaded with great questions for a man known for his blunt assessments of the world scene and sharp views on the policies that best serve America.

She learned quickly that the new position changes everything for Bolton.

Amid stories of inner-circle discord over President Trump’s praise for freshly re-elected Russian President Vladmir Putin, she had to wonder if Bolton would speak disapprovingly of the congratulatory words that have alarmed so many, despite Barack Obama having done the same six years ago.

The adviser-designate made clear that his years of writing and speaking about countless issues have left a record he is proud of, but that his job now is to subjugate his views to the president’s. He did let on that the whole flap struck him as overblown: “I don’t consider it a significant point… I’ve said congratulations to a lot of people, foreign diplomats and officials, it’s a matter of being polite...It’s a matter of courtesy more than anything.”

Having gleaned a sliver of an answer on one issue, MacCallum plowed forward, seeking newsworthy specifics on how Bolton’s strong views might inform the advice he gave the president. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell you what advice I would give him,” he replied.

Would he continue to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, creating conflict with Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has shown more tolerance for it? Does he expect his views on that, or anything else, to create conflict among the Trump national security team? Should we keep the military option on the table with regard to North Korea? Is meeting with Kim Jong-un a good idea?

“Same question, same answer,” he replied. Always with a smile, Trump’s newest team member made clear his thoughts and analysis were no longer for the benefit of the general public, but for his new boss.

He did intimate that he would not be shy in that setting: “If the government can’t have a free interchange of ideas among the president’s advisers, the president is not well served.” 

He also shared a story revealing that if his opinion did not prevail, he would always maintain awareness of his role, as implementer of presidential will.

Harry Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, he recalled, would often describe why they got along so well: “Neither one of us ever forgot who was president.”

Then, a story from his own service: If, as an Assistant Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush, some idea of his was simply not holding sway, James Baker would remind him: “The guy who got elected doesn’t want to do it.”

So as John Bolton the spirited commentator fades from view, I take comfort in the knowledge that if his views and passions will no longer be heard by me, they will surely be heard by the president during what should be a chapter that leads to even clearer evidence that this is an administration serious about the threats of a dangerous world.

There is something else Bolton is serious about, the one area he was not hesitant in addressing—leaks, of the sort that enabled the absurd Putin congratulation uproar to become a brushfire.

“I was outraged by it,” he told MacCallum, “It recalled earlier in the administration when somebody was leaking transcripts of the president’s conversations with foreign leaders. It’s completely unacceptable; you cannot conduct diplomacy, you cannot expect other foreign leaders to be candid and open in their conversations with the president if some Munchkin in the executive branch decides they’re going to leak the talking points or the transcript or any other aspect of it.”

Now there’s the John Bolton we know.

America will now come to know him with greater familiarity in his service to the nation and the administration, which will hopefully last longer than the tenure of his two predecessors.

There is healthy evidence of the wisdom of this choice in the panic of liberals who convulsed the moment it was announced. But there is also a part of the Trump base that might be uneasy, the voters who viewed him as unlikely to entangle America in further extended deployments in various hot spots.

Make no mistake, Bolton believes in the American military as a force for good around the world. He will never share the Trump view that going to war in Iraq was a mistake. But if he is to be taken at his word, he knows that he is not “the guy who got elected.” There is no evidence that his hawkish nature contains some strong urge toward new, large troop deployments anywhere.

But he shares the Trump view that the Iran nuclear deal is a disaster, and that North Korea should know every day that a military option is always on the table to address his missile adventures. That strong position, both men would say, has contributed to better North Korean behavior of late, and even the prospect of a Trump/Kim meeting.

Ronald Reagan famously said that no war in his lifetime ever started because America was too strong. 

If that is instructive, war is in fact less likely with a president unafraid to give voice to such strength, and a National Security Adviser willing to inform it.