Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the allegations that Attorney General Bill Barr is now somehow “implicated” in the Ukraine controversy because he spoke with counterparts in England, Italy, and Australia about assisting in the investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham. If those calls were truly about the Durham investigation, it would be entirely proper for Barr to ask for such assistance. I have always maintained that the Congress has a legitimate interest in investigating the Ukraine controversy. However, the chorus of recriminations on the Barr matter reveal the hype triggering much of the hypoxia.
Here is the column:
With all of the breathless headlines of the last two weeks, it is astonishing that the entire city of Washington is not swooning from hypoxia. Much of the media have blasted out the news that Attorney General William Barr is “implicated” in the Ukraine scandal, after sources said he pressed leaders in Australia, Italy and England to supply evidence about the origins of the Russia investigation. Esquire Magazine was a tad more descriptive, proclaiming Barr was now “far up s–t creek” because of his calls.
Yet not only is there a valid reason for such calls, but they could indicate that the creek could become a storm of sorts for Democrats over the coming weeks. The calls made by Barr were reportedly linked to the ongoing investigation by United States Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia investigation. It is not uncommon for an attorney general, or even a president, to ask foreign leaders to assist with ongoing investigations. Such calls can shortcut bureaucratic red tape, particularly if the evidence is held, as in this case, by national security or justice officials. A call to request assistance for the Durham investigation would “implicate” Barr in nothing other than an official investigation.
I supported the appointment of a special counsel after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. I also supported an investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation. The country is divided on the merits of both with legitimate concerns raised on each side. With the start of a House impeachment inquiry, it is more important than ever to have transparency along with a review of both investigations.
Moreover, Durham could answer some disturbing aspects of the origins of the Russia investigation, including the mysterious role of Professor Joseph Mifsud. Efforts by Durham to gain cooperation from Australia, England, and Italy likely concern figures such as Misfud. The professor seemed eager and focused in revealing that there were “thousands of emails” in the hands of the Russians in conspicuously opportunistic meetings with key figures.
An academic from Malta, Mifsud has long been tied to Russian interests and appears at critical moments throughout the Russia investigation. He met with former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos in both Rome and London. In one of those meetings, he referenced the existence of hacked emails.
We have never established the real facts or loyalties of Mifsud. Some have suggested that he may have been a Western asset working for American, British, or Italian intelligence services. Fueling that speculation was the fact that the special counsel report indicates Mifsud lied repeatedly to investigators on sensitive national security issues. While Robert Mueller charged others for minor discrepancies in the stories that they told investigators, Mifsud somehow escaped any such charge.
Information on Mifsud would be found in countries like Australia, England, and Italy, as would be information on the work of former British spy Christopher Steele. The Clinton campaign paid him and an American opposition research firm a large sum of money to seek dirt on Trump, including Russian and other foreign sources. Such information is not easily shaken loose without a high level prompt from someone like Barr.
However, many of the very same figures in Congress and in the media who previously called for full disclosure of every aspect of the Russia investigation are now criticizing the effort to gather evidence in the Durham investigation. It appears the public “right to know” does not extend that far. The reason is that a key report by Durham likely would come at a most importune time in advance of the 2020 election.
Democrats already are moving to impeach Trump on the Ukraine matter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have told fellow Democrats to focus on Ukraine instead of on Russia conspiracy or obstruction, which led to more than two years of investigation. One reason for this is that Trump would be able to call his own witnesses during a Senate trial, particularly with a Republican majority dictating the rules. If the Russia investigation winds up as part of an impeachment trial, then Trump would be able to use these reports and earlier disclosures to place the conduct of the Obama administration under the spotlight before the public.
Trump would have plenty to work with in such a trial. The original focus was on his campaign aide Carter Page, who ultimately was not indicted on any crime. Mueller could not find a single crime by George Papadopoulos other than a marginal false statement that led to a whole 12 days in jail. Mueller ultimately found that no Trump official knowingly dealt with Russian hackers or trolls. If Durham finds irregularities and improper conduct in the Russia investigation, it will reinforce the claim by Trump that his campaign was improperly targeted by hostile FBI officials.
Even worse is there could be a one two punch coming on the Russia investigation. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is said to be close to releasing his report on the secret surveillance targeting Trump officials. The report is expected to be both comprehensive and damaging for many involved in the start of that investigation. Durham and Horowitz will not be easily dismissed. Both are widely respected and are working with career investigators. If either finds improper conduct, it could reinforce the position of Republicans and moderate Democrats in voting against the impeachment or removal of Trump, who strongly maintains that the Obama administration not only improperly targeted his campaign for investigation but proved lax in investigating allegations against Democrats ranging from Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden.
Convicting a president in an impeachment trial requires evidence and clarity. Even if Democrats only proceed on the Ukraine call, Trump will be able to claim that he sought evidence tied to the Russia investigation to assist Horowitz and Durham in their own investigations. He will be able to call witnesses like Hunter Biden on his business dealings in Ukraine while his father handed out more than a billion dollars in aid.
It is doubtful that Democrats could resist references to the Russia investigation in an impeachment trial, which would trip the wire for Trump to bring in countervailing evidence from the Horowitz or Durham reports. Esquire Magazine could right about the nature of this river, but while it may lead to many things, clarity is not likely one of them.
Back in the old days, it was understood that reporters were supposed to hunt down stories and seek out hidden truths. There was even a name for it. A good reporter was said to have a nose for news.
So what happened? How did we reach the point where journalists presented with a major scandal — an almost self-evident abuse of power — just yawn and turn away?
Obviously, I am not talking about President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. That topic, along with the “whistleblower” complaint filed about it, has turned reporters into hornets hit with a smoke bomb. They instantly flew into an involuntary frenzy and chased after Trump and his supporters with stingers at the ready. We were assured that Trump had used the powers of the presidency to “gather dirt” on his political opponent (Joe Biden) and threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine until prosecutors there had manufactured evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son Hunter, who for no doubt entirely innocent reasons was drawing hefty paychecks from a Ukrainian energy company.
The mad cry of “Impeachment!” was shouted in celebratory tones throughout the hallowed halls of D.C. The narrative came together seamlessly within hours, as suddenly the Democrats in Congress and the information gatekeepers in the news media informed us with one voice that this was bad for President Trump. Very bad.
It was almost as though the facts didn’t matter. They certainly didn’t matter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced an “impeachment inquiry” before having read either the whistleblower complaint or the actual transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky. Nor did they matter to news anchors, editors and reporters, who somehow all magically became experts on political corruption in the Ukraine, Hunter Biden’s corporate history, and impeachment itself.
Remarkably, the public confession of former Vice President (and soon-to-be former 2020 Democratic front-runner) Joe Biden that he had applied pressure to the former Ukrainian president in order to get a prosecutor fired attracted zero interest from the lethargic newshounds at CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Nor did the fact that the actual call between Trump and Zelensky revealed no quid pro quo, no pressure, no demand from Trump other than what you would expect from any president — that the laws be faithfully executed.
Instead of expressing curiosity about why the Bidens had been the subject of a criminal investigation in Ukraine, reporters fell into lockstep with the Democrats’ impeachment narrative. Everywhere you turned for the last two weeks, whenever a reporter was talking about Biden at all, it was to talk about how he was being maligned by Trump, that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing, that the claim that he had gotten a prosecutor fired to protect his son was a “debunked conspiracy theory.”
When you asked who cleared Biden, you got no answer except the news media themselves. When you asked who debunked the claim that Biden had pressured the Ukrainian president to fire the prosecutor by threatening to withhold aid, you got no response except that other European countries also wanted the prosecutor fired (as if that proved anything). When the president stymied the impeachment narrative by releasing the transcript compiled by national security officials who listened in on the offending phone call, which proved that the whistleblower was actually blowing smoke, the media circled the wagons. The Washington Post created its own conspiracy theory that up to two-thirds of the call between Trump and Zelensky had mysteriously been elided into non-existence. I debunked that far-left conspiracy theory myself, but hardly any mainstream reporter seems interested in looking at the facts.
From ABC News: “Trump is referring to unfounded allegations that as vice president, Biden tried to protect his son by stopping an investigation into the Ukrainian company that his son worked for.”
From NBC News: “There is no evidence either Biden did anything wrong.”
You can find the same dubious claims on channel after channel, but let’s not let supposedly pro-Trump Fox News off the hook. Ed Henry, in an exchange with commentator Mark Levin about the call with the Ukrainian president, asked, “You’re OK with one president asking another president to dig up dirt on a candidate?”
When challenged by Levin for asking a dishonest question, Henry claimed, “That’s a quote from the transcript, sir.”
Actually, it’s not, but maybe Henry was relying on a transcript of the “fake call” that Rep. Adam Schiff used to punk the president during a congressional hearing about the whistleblower. It’s like a grade-school game of Telephone, where you start with a perfectly innocent conversation between two world leaders talking about political corruption and send it through three levels of hearsay, anonymous sources, and biased reporters, and you wind up at “There are naked pictures of Trump in Vladimir Putin’s safe.” Say what?
If you need irrefutable evidence of the curious lack of curiosity in the mainstream media, you need look no further than Peter Schweizer, the author of “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.” Chapter 4 of that book is titled succinctly “Bidens in Ukraine.”
Schweizer recently sat for an hour-long interview with Levin on “Life, Liberty & Levin,” where he talked about the extensive evidence of corruption against the Bidens. If you want a real whistleblower, Schweizer is your man.
As vice president, Joe Biden had oversight of U.S. relations with just two countries for the Obama administration — Ukraine and China. As we now know, Hunter Biden had lucrative contracts with companies in both of those countries, but let’s just focus on Ukraine and the energy company named Burisma that hired the younger Biden as a consultant, adviser and board member.
“What’s important … to note,” Schweizer told Levin, “is that Hunter Biden has no background in energy, he has no background in Ukraine. He’s being hired to help them with regulatory compliance. I don’t know how he’s going to help them with that, but that’s really not the reason he was hired.”
He was being paid $83,000 a month by Burisma, which Schweizer says is “probably the most corrupt company in Ukraine” and was founded by an oligarch with funds stolen from the Ukrainian government. The rest of the story, as told by Schweizer:
“The point is that Hunter Biden joined forces with a very corrupt oligarch, got a big payday, and he got a payday that he didn’t deserve … because he wasn’t selling his expertise. He had none, and the key question here that no one seems to want to ask in the media is, ‘What was he being paid for?’ He wasn’t being paid for his expertise. What was he being paid for, and what were the Ukrainians expecting to get in return? And I think when you overlay the financial payments with the fact that Joe Biden is point person on Obama administration policy to Ukraine, was steering billions of dollars of Western money to Ukraine, it becomes crystal clear exactly why they were paying him money. They wanted access and they wanted to influence Joe Biden. And Joe Biden’s been around a long time and he had to know exactly why his son was being paid this money.”
Sadly, the Washington press corps has displayed no such awareness. Far be it from them to show the slightest curiosity in the published and unchallenged assertions by Schweizer that our former vice president was a corrupt manipulator who enabled his son to enrich himself and then helped him evade prosecution.
It is important to note that “Secret Empires” was published in March 2018, a year and a half ago. Yet as Levin elicited from Schweizer, the author has not been contacted by a single Democrat chairman in the House to testify, nor by a single Republican chairman in the Senate. The media is no more curious.
“When my book came out, it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list,” said Schweizer. “I got no contact whatsoever from the mainstream media. They don’t want to hear any of it. Part of it is there is a caste system in Washington, D.C., that they protect. Now, I think one of the reasons that there is so much animosity towards Trump … is that he represents a massive disruption to the business model of Washington, D.C., which is you come in, you juice in your family, you juice in your friends, you serve in public service, you come out rich and when you leave office you cash in even further. … [Trump] represents a threat and a challenge to that, and they don’t like it.”
The voters who elected Trump had better wake up before it is too late. The idea was to “Drain the Swamp,” not to protect the swamp critters. As Schweizer concludes, “If it’s not possible to investigate Joe Biden now, then it’s never possible to investigate him.”
We might add: If it’s not possible for the corrupt news media to do their job now, then when will they? Don’t hold your breath.
The function of an Inspector General (IG) in the federal government is to detect waste, mismanagement, fraud, abuse, and even criminality. Each federal department or agency has an IG. But not all IGs are created equal. Some are fair minded watch-dogs who protect the taxpayer and follow the law in a nonpartisan way. But some are not. NASA’s Inspector General, Paul Martin, has repeatedly proven himself to be a defender of cronyism and a partisan hack.
Congressional leaders passed along whistleblower information to Martin that NASA had employed a Chinese spy and that Obama NASA appointees sought to circumvent the rules prohibiting the hiring of foreign nationals at NASA. Martin was angry with congressional leaders for revealing the spy problem, not with NASA officials for breaching our national security. He did nothing. Within days, the FBI arrested the Chinese spy, Bo Jiang, at the airport as he was fleeing to China on a one-way ticket with a treasure trove of sensitive information. Sadly, this was not the spy’s first data dump. But Martin wasn’t interested in investigating.
Martin isn’t just soft on spying at NASA. He has not protected the taxpayer, or rooted out waste or fraud. For example, NASA employees objected to the special treatment given SpaceX and provided evidence of favoritism, bid-rigging, and a long list of unethical and illegal actions. The entire process was subverted to benefit SpaceX, while the taxpayer was fleeced and competitors locked out. Long before the process was completed, top NASA officials were directing staff to give the award to SpaceX. In other words, the process was backwards — “Fire! Aim! Ready!” Continue reading
By Richard M. Ebeling • Foundation for Economic Education
In August of 1993, I was invited to participate in a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania on “Liberty and Private Business.” This was less than two years after the formal disappearance of the Soviet Union as a political entity on the map of the world.
During our time there, my wife and I were offered the opportunity to be given a tour of the building that had served as the headquarters of the local KGB, the infamous Soviet secret police. Our guide was a man who had been a prisoner in its walls in the late 1950s. The most nightmarish part of the tour was the basement containing the prison cells and the interrogation rooms.
Going Through Hell at the Hands of the KGB
As we reached the bottom Continue reading
By Margot Cleveland • The Federalist
The media has focused almost exclusively on the conclusion of the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe, which found bias did not impact the probe, as well as the lack of any newly announced indictments or criminal referrals. The goal of course being to downplay the negative findings of the report.
At the same time, the press gave, at most, passing mention to the statement Attorney General Jeff Sessions simultaneously released. But his statement and the findings of the report make one thing clear: This isn’t over.
Here’s why. Throughout the 568-page report, the IG highlighted several areas meriting additional investigation. And Sessions said the report “reveals a number of significant errors by the senior leadership of the Department of Justice and the FBI during the previous administration,” and stressed “this is not the end of the process.” Continue reading
Few individuals would take comfort in Wall Street spearheading an investigation into its own misuse of bailout funds or Congress self-investigating itself for political corruption. Why then do so many tech enthusiasts look the other way each time Elon Musk unapologetically takes part in similar grotesque conflicts-of-interest?
At the end of last month, a Tesla Model X self-driving car crashed, causing a fatality and prompting an investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board. Given how his company’s stock price recently plummeted due to its high debt, numerous vehicle recalls, and credit downgrade, Musk had clear reason to privately seek prompt closure of this report. But instead of letting this critical investigation run its course, the Tesla CEO irresponsibly acted on impulse and short-circuited the NTSB’s incomplete analysis. Continue reading
By Mona Charen • National Review
When 450 students arrived at Anacostia High School in the District of Columbia’s southeast neighborhood on April 4, they found that few of the sinks or toilets were functioning and the cafeteria was flooded. They were advised by the Department of General Services to use the facilities at a middle school two blocks away until repairs could be completed.
Exasperated teachers organized an impromptu, hour-long walkout to protest, which is why this particular dysfunction made the news. A casual reader might note the plumbing fiasco and chalk it up to neglect of poor students and poor neighborhoods. That is the interpretation urged by D.C. Council member Trayon White, Sr. who attended the walkout and declared that, “The students and teachers need support from the leaders of the city because of the constant neglect happening at Anacostia.”
But it’s far from so simple. The District of Columbia has one of the worst-performing public-school systems in the country. It is also one of the most generously funded. Anacostia High School itself received a $63 million renovation in 2013. According to the Department of General Services website, the project included “Full modernization and renovation of the existing high school using an adaptive re-use approach. Continue reading
By Margot Cleveland • The Federalist
For six years, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has fought for the release of documents related to Operation Fast and Furious — the botched gun-running sting that put nearly 2,000 firearms into the hands of criminals and Mexican drug cartels members, including the semi-automatic rifle used to kill Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed Wednesday to release the requested documents and to “conduct a new search” of government databases and to provide previously withheld responsive documents or to “certify the completeness of the preceding production.” The Trump Administration’s promise to redo the search of government files likely sought to assuage the House Oversight Committee, which said during litigation with the Obama administration that it did not have “sufficient trust” in the Department of Justice to take the agency’s word it had complied.
“The Department of Justice under my watch is committed to transparency and the rule of law,” Sessions said in a statement announcing the DOJ’s conditional settlement agreement with the House Oversight Committee. “This settlement agreement is an important step to make sure that the public finally receives all the facts related to Operation Fast and Furious.” Continue reading
By James Robbins • USA Today
The American people are being forced to confront a fundamental political question that was first asked centuries ago by the Roman satirist Juvenal: Who shall guard the guardians? What to do when the tools meant to protect the people are used to harm them? The memo released Friday by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is the first step in answering that question.
The memo’s central indictment is that top Obama administration officials knowingly and willfully used unverified information paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign, some of which came from Russian intelligence, in a secret court document to justify a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. This corrupt process was later the basis for a campaign to sabotage the incoming Trump administration and to fuel a witch hunt against the president.
According to the memo, high-ranking FBI officials repeatedly sought, received and renewed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to engage in surveillance of members of the Trump campaign during the election. These officials, including then-Director James Comey and recently removed Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, justified the warrant requests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in part with information generated by Christopher Steele, who was working on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the firm Fusion GPS. Steele’s main contact at the Justice Department was Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, whose wife was also employed by Fusion GPS as a Russia expert working on anti-Trump opposition research.
By Susan Crabtree • Washington Free Beacon
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), who often rails against income inequality and calls on the wealthy to pay its “fair share” in taxes, took pains in late December to try to preserve tax breaks for two of her multi-million-dollar homes one last time before the new tax law kicked in.
Largely thanks to her husband Paul, a real-estate and venture-capital investor, Pelosi is the wealthiest woman in Congress with a net worth of more than $100 million and the seventh wealthiest member overall, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In fact, assets and cash disclosed in her 2016 financial-disclosure statement places Pelosi in the top one-tenth of the 1 percent of Americans.
Pelosi’s annual property tax bill alone on three luxury homes last year—$137,000—is more than twice the 2016 U.S. median household income of $59,039, which the U.S. Census reported last fall.
Like most taxpayers, she also apparently wants to keep as much of her money as U.S. tax law allows, though she did not mention those plans during the contentious months-long debate on the GOP tax bill last fall or how it would impact her personally.
At the time, Pelosi accused Republicans and President Trump of hiking taxes on the middle-class while Continue reading
by Ethan Barton • The Daily Caller
Former President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign advertising agency received nearly $60 million in federal contracts after he took office, according to an analysis by The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group.
The gravy train for the Washington, D.C.-based agency, GMMB, hasn’t slowed since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the analysis found. The liberal Democratic communications powerhouse was awarded nearly $15 million in a new contract in June, after Trump entered the Oval Office.
GMMB received a total of $58.4 million in federal contracts from 2009 to 2017, according to USASpending, which tracks federal spending through contracts, grants, loans and other forms. GMMB’s annual revenue is an estimated $32.6 million, according to D&B Hoovers, a private business research and rating firm. Continue reading
by Natalie Johnson • Washington Free Beacon
The Clinton Foundation is closing down its New York City-based Clinton Global Initiative office amid drops in foreign donations following Hillary Clinton’s election night loss.
The foundation filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice with the New York Department of Labor on Thursday announcing it would lay off 22 employees as part of a “discontinuation of the Clinton Global Initiative,” the New York Observer reported.
The WARN Act requires employers to notify workers 60 days “in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.” Continue reading
By Stephen Dinan • The Washington Times
Hillary Clinton admitted under oath that she doesn’t recall asking anyone for permission to use a secret server and email account during her time in the State Department, contradicting previous public pronouncements that she had received approval.
Mrs. Clinton said she didn’t recall seeing a 2011 warning about increased hacking attempts on senior department officials’ private accounts and that she didn’t actually write another warning that was sent under her name.
“Secretary Clinton states that she does not recall being advised, cautioned, or warned during her tenure as Secretary of State about hacking or attempted hacking of her clintonemail.com e-mail account or the server that hosted her clintonemail.com account,” she said in sworn testimony dated Monday and filed in federal court Thursday. Continue reading
by Natalie Johnson • Washington Free Beacon
A billionaire Clinton Foundation donor was denied entry into the United States last year for suspected links to terrorism, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
Gilbert Chagoury, who contributed millions to the Clinton Foundation and gave $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009, was barred entry into the U.S. because of his connection to a Lebanese organization allied with Hezbollah, a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization.
A 2013 FBI intelligence report said Chagoury donated funds to Michel Aoun, a Lebanese Christian politician whose party has been part of a decade-long political coalition with Hezbollah. A source told the FBI that Aoun was “facilitating fundraising for Hezbollah” and had transferred Chagoury’s donation to the terrorist group. Continue reading