The man generally considered the most powerful and possibly the most corrupt politician in Illinois abruptly resigned his seat in the state legislature Thursday after being denied another term as Speaker of the State House of Representatives.
Michael (Mike) Madigan, who for years has ruled the Illinois Democratic Party and political machine with an iron hand said he would give up at the end of February the seat he’d held for half a century as concerns mounted over what the Chicago Tribune called “a sprawling federal corruption probe” into events in which it has been suggested Madigan may have been involved.
The scandal that eventually brought the powerful Democratic leader down erupted after federal prosecutors said leaders of Commonwealth Edison had bribed Madigan associates in exchange for help from his political organization passing legislation deemed favorable to its interests. One of those most closely involved in the scheme was former state representative and ComEd lobbyist Michael McCain, whom the Tribune described as being “One of Madigan’s closest confidants.”
Madigan has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the scheme. Nonetheless, it is the straw that broke the camel’s back of a career that saw him looming large over every aspect of Illinois politics. More than a handful of his Democratic colleagues cited the scandal as the reason they could not vote to give him another term as Speaker.
“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois,” Madigan said in a statement. “I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interests of the people of Illinois.”
His speakership, which began in 1983, lasted nearly 40 years and is one of the longest on record anywhere in the United States. Before his colleagues declined to re-elect him, the closest he ever came to losing his grip on power came in 1994 when, as part of the Contract of America election the Republicans won control of the Illinois Legislature for a single term.
His replacement as Speaker, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, is seen as a Madigan loyalist who, in a statement thanked him for his “sincere and meaningful contributions to our state.”
“Under him, we’ve had strong, sustained Democratic leadership in Springfield,” Welch said, referring to the legalization of same-sex marriage, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, and the abolition of the death penalty, which began in earnest under former GOP Gov. George Ryan.
“Now we must build on that with a new generation of leadership focused on racial and gender equity in all dimensions, improving government transparency, and leading with the kind of conviction, compassion, and cooperation expected by our constituents,” Welch continued.
Big labor leaders whose alliances with Madigan were the source of his power also complemented the outgoing Speaker. Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter called him a “steadfast, dedicated, and courageous champion of workers and their families in Illinois for a generation,” the Sun-Times reported.
Despite his resignation, Madigan remains a significant player in Illinois politics – at least for the time being. He spawned a political dynasty that includes his adopted daughter Lisa, the Illinois Attorney General from 2003 to 2019. He will remain chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and will continue to be the Democratic Committeeman for Chicago’s 13th Ward which, according to published reports, gives him an outsized role in picking his successor.
The federal probe into state corruption and any possible role Madigan may have played in it is expected to continue.
This past year was one of the most tumultuous in memory. Widespread economic collapse, social and societal upheaval, violent riots, an acrimonious election cycle, and a worldwide pandemic are just a few of the major sources of upheaval.
These sorts of massive disruptions to the norm create opportunities for change and improvement. Some use those opportunities productively to work for solutions that fix real problems and improve lives. But sadly, many use these disruptions to cynically advance their own agenda while feigning concern for the plight of others. Unfortunately, organized labor falls into this latter group.
In a time when so many Americans desperately want a job and a way to fund the hopes, dreams and aspirations of their family, too many union leaders are slamming the door shut on the very people they claim to serve. To make matters worse, too many union leaders are also padding their own pockets and working to advance their own power and influence at the expense of their members.
Here are a few recent examples. Dennis Williams, the former president of United Auto Workers (UAW), pled guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union. And this scandal was preceded by his successor at the UAW, Gary Jones, admitting that he helped steal more than a million dollars from union workers. That’s a bad trend line!
James W. Cahill, a powerful and politically well-connected union leader, was indicted on racketeering and fraud charges. Federal prosecutors allege that he and others accepted bribes to aid companies that had hired nonunion labor. So the charges include accepting under the table money to work against your own members. But we are supposed to believe that the union is working to help union workers.
Chuck Stiles, the Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division, has allegedly been taking large annual payouts of $65,000 for a “phantom job” on top of his $150,000 annual salary. These allegationsdon’t come from some union-hating critic, they come from an active member of the Teamsters Union. On top of that, there are allegations that Stiles’s son has also received a difficult-to-explain $10,000 payout from union funds.
This sort of double self-dealing, if true, is very troubling and it raises the question — are these unions really representing their members or are they simply pretending to, and then enriching themselves while carrying on the charade.
The cynicism doesn’t end with corrupt payments or self-dealing. For example, Stiles has decided to try to leverage the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to increase support for the struggling labor movement. Yet the labor movement has not historically been the friend of racial minorities. And Stiles has no history of supporting minority candidates or causes. Interestingly, a public photo of Stiles in blackface has also recently emerged. So the idea that Stiles has some deep commitment to helping blacks or other minorities is a little hard to swallow. It is a fair question to ask — how serious and how sincere is this newfound interest in minorities and their economic welfare?
More than five million manufacturing jobs disappeared from the American economy between 1999 and 2011. The exodus of good paying jobs continued through 2016. China was the single biggest factor. This massive jobs exodus harmed working-class blacks, yet BLM has been silent on China and refused to support policies that would reverse our economic losses to the Communist Country. Instead, they’ve focused on odd conspiracy theories about obesity and diabetes in the black community — as if that has been more consequential to black employment and poverty than jobs being exported abroad.
Given all that has transpired, when BLM and unions claim to be teaming up to protect and promote the interests of working-class blacks, a huge dose of realism is needed. Who actually benefits when unions “team up” with BLM but they both refuse to actually do what is needed to promote good paying manufacturing and other skilled labor jobs? It won’t be minority workers.
Someone who claims they support workers, must point to how they’ve helped make real improvements in the lives of workers — more jobs, higher wages, etc. This is not the track record of unions or BLM in the past two decades. They have done a good job of enriching themselves and raising money and obtaining political power for themselves. But where is the evidence that they have done anything for the average American worker — black or white? And why haven’t they supported policies that have actually worked and benefited American workers — and particularly minority workers?
These questions answer themselves. Both unions and BLM do more posturing than actual good, and they are teaming up hoping to hide this inescapable truth so that they can continue to prosper while feigning concern for those they claim to represent.
The Hon. Richard Neal
U.S. House of Representatives
2309 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC. 20515
Dr. Mr. Chairman,
Your recent comments about the need to investigate criminal wrongdoing by public officials and the importance of transparency to American government have not gone unnoticed.
As you know, allegations of just such wrongdoing and the lack of transparency have arisen over the last two months based on emails found on a personal computer belonging to Hunter Biden — the son of Vice President Joseph Biden — a computer whose authenticity has been established by the FBI.
As you also know, public record has established beyond doubt that vice President Biden repeatedly took his son on official trips to foreign nations and that soon after such trips his son’s companies we’re receiving millions in contracts from government related entities in those nations. Additionally, it is also public record that when one of those companies came under investigation for corrupt practices by a foreign government vice president Biden intervened and forced that government to shut down the corruption probe and fire the prosecutor by threatening to deny the country and its people US foreign aid. This, as you know, is indisputable since Vice President Biden openly boasted on camera about his effectiveness in getting the corruption prosecutor fired.
Now, however, graver questions have arisen about the suspect activities of the vice president and his son. Disclosure of the emails from Hunter Biden’s computer show him speaking openly about paying out money to the rest of the family including his father who was apparently referred to — and these are just two examples— as “the big guy” or someone entitled to his ten percent.
Already, of course, Vice President Biden has a serious credibility problem on this issue, having said flatly that he never discussed such business matters with his son. Evidence from the computer emails as well as testimony from one of his son’s former business colleagues who attended meetings with Vice President Biden show his emphatic denial is now one of the boldest falsehoods ever told an American public life.
In any case, we hope that you would welcome the chance to assist Vice President Biden in laying to rest any allegations that he was using his office and official travel to influence foreign governments or entities to benefit his son’s businesses. And to answer this question: Was any of that income received by Vice President Biden or other family members?
Thus, we hope that in view of your strong demand for transparency and disclosure you will endorse our suggestion that your committee ask for vice President Biden’s bank records and those of the rest of his family over the period of his vice presidency and immediately thereafter. In this way he can put to rest any allegations including concerns about how he acquired his extensive personal wealth and his large estate.
If members of the committee from both sides as well as their legal counsel could be permitted to examine the records and then report to the Congress this would do much to clear the air. Moreover, if you took this initiative as a member of the Democratic House leadership this would do much to show that your interest in full disclosure and investigating corruption extends to members of your own party.
As you know, when these allegations arose during the presidential campaign, media organizations – some of whom still claim they are serious news organizations – rushed to protect Vice President Joe Biden who was their chosen candidate by imposing a news blackout on this information.
But that won’t last now – the public is going to want to know the truth. This is your chance to serve the cause of integrity and transparency in public office as you’ve talked so much about the past few years.
The American people have a right to this information and we are hopeful that you and the Vice President will see the advantage of the full disclosure suggested by our proposal before demands for a special counsel become deafening.
Frontiers of Freedom
Americans for Limited Government
Institute for Liberty
American Business Defense Council
cc: Rep. Kevin Brady
Rep. Lloyd Doggett
Rep. Devin Nunes
Rep. Bill Pascrell
Rep. Mike Kelly
Rep. Mike Thompson
Rep. Adrian Smith
Rep. John Larson
Rep. Tom Reed
Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Rep. Vern Buchanan
Rep. Danny Davis
Rep. Jackie Walorski
<< CLICK HERE TO SEE FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM’S PRESS RELEASE >>
THE PUBLIC WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT A “NEWS BLACKOUT” ON LAPTOP EVIDENCE IMPOSED BY MEDIA FOR THEIR “CHOSEN CANDIDATE” IN 2020 ELECTION.
“ONE OF THE BOLDEST FALSEHOODS EVER TOLD IN AMERICAN PUBLIC LIFE” SAYS LETTER ABOUT BIDEN’S EMPHATIC DENIAL OF DISCUSSION OF BUSINESS MATTERS WITH SON, citing evidence from laptop emails and testimony from Hunter Biden business colleague who attended meetings with Joe Biden present.
IN ADDITION TO CHINA AND MOSCOW PAYMENTS TO HUNTER BIDEN, BIDEN FAMILY BANK RECORDS MAY SHED LIGHT ON JOE BIDEN’S INTERVENTION IN UKRAINE TO SHUT DOWN CORRUPTION PROBE INTO SON’S COMPANY BY DENYING US FOREIGN AID TO GOVERNMENT AND UKRAINIAN PEOPLE .
It is “indisputable” that Biden misused foreign aid since he “openly boasted on camera about his effectiveness in getting the corruption prosecutor fired.”
Letter says Ways and Means Committee Chairman and House Democrats now have a chance “to show that your interest in full disclosure and investigating corruption extends to members of your own party.”
Washington DC – A coalition of conservative leaders are demanding that House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal and other House Democrats who have been trying to obtain President Trump’s tax returns to ask Vice President Biden for bank records during the period of his Vice Presidency and immediately thereafter. The group says such records could help lay to rest concerns that he used his office and official travel for personal benefit and explain emails by his son referring to payments to Biden and other members of the family.
One of the signers of the letter, George Landrith, President of Frontiers of Freedom, said “We think Chairman Neal and Vice President Biden should welcome the chance to clear the air. Our letter speaks for itself and we hope Members of Congress join in our demand for a full and honest review.”
The signers of the letter include:
George Landrith – President, Frontiers of Freedom
Richard Manning – President, Americans for Limited Government
Andrew Langer – President, Institute for Liberty
Seton Motley – President, Less Government
Horace Cooper – Co-Chairman, Project 21
Saul Anuzis – President, 60 Plus
Dick Patten – President – American Business Defense Council
For more info contact: Ruth Holmberg via e-mail or 703-246-0110, ext. 1306.
<< CLICK HERE TO READ THE COALITION LETTER
REFERENCED IN THIS PRESS RELEASE >>
# # #
The British author Joanne Rowling of the fantasy series Harry Potter has introduced the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Azbakan. These hooded humanoid characters have been depicted in the movies as skeletal figures with the ability to fly unconstrained by the laws of physics. They are the prison guards of Azbakan whose task is to create utter hopelessness and even suicidal self-hatred by the inmates. Their destructive energy can be spread like a virus through the air and also by invisible, yet direct contacts with humans. Arabella Figg, a character in OP8 describes them thus: “Everything went cold….and I felt…as though all happiness had gone from the world…and I remembered….dreadful things.”
Viktor Orban’s Hungary is Joanne Rowlings’s Azbakan and the metastasizing fatal cancerous tumor gnawing on the body politic of NATO and the European Union. He and his very small circle of co-conspirators, better defined as his accomplices in setting up and running his criminal enterprise, are the Dementors of the Hungarian people.
Since his party FIDESZ has been brought back to power by a two thirds majority in the Parliament in 2010, and have been kept in power through a new and taylor made constitution as well as election frauds in 2014 and 2018, Viktor Orban has had a deliberate plan to kill every aspect of Hungary’s fledgling democracy. His diabolical legal and extra legal schemes of demoralization of the population have been designed to reduce the entire nation to profligate imbecility. His so-called “illiberal democracy” has stripped the citizens of their chance to vote out his government by free elections devoid of voter fraud, ballot stuffing, and the forced inclusion of ethnic Hungarians in the local and national elections from the neighboring countries.
His and his accomplices shameful corruption has impoverished Hungary and has kept the bulk of the nation as near to abject poverty as seemed appropriate for a modicum of societal tranquility. Politically, Viktor Orban has pursued a host of tactical opportunities that has aimed at propping up his autocracy. His means have included every conceivable move, including cozying up to dictators from the east, such as the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Russia, Valdimir Putin, and a colorful assortment of really nasty authoritarians from the former Soviet Union. Domestically, the tactics that Viktor Orban has employed have been drastic. He and his accomplices have ruined the health industry and destroyed almost the entire educational system. As a result, most of the experienced physicians and qualified nurses have left Hungary, and teachers have lost their jobs in the thousands. Thus, the difference between the general condition of Hungary now and the days before 1990, is one of degree, the latter state might have been better than the former.
Yet, no economic decline or financial troubles appear to rattle the consciousness of Hungary’s Dementors. As in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Viktor Orban and his accomplices possess no soul and know no mercy. Stealing and embezzlement are continuing unabated. His boyhood body from his home village Lorinc Meszaros and his son in law Istvan Tiborcz have become billionaires. Clearly, they are Viktor Orban’s premier Strohmen. His previous financial guru Lajos Simicska fell out of favor years ago, because he became too powerful and knew too much about Viktor Orban’s and his accomplices’s shenanigans. For his alleged and actual sins, Simicska was destroyed as a businessman and completely ruined financially.
A lot already has been written about Hungary’s new emergency legislation due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to giving unlimited powers to Viktor Orban both in scope and duration, the legislation eliminates every vestige of democracy, freedom, independence, and individuality. Again, as in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Hungarians have been relegated to zombie existence. This condition will not change until Viktor Orban and his criminal gang continue to possess absolute powers.
Adding insult to injury, the European Union has never taken decisive actions against Hungary. However, if Brussels does not intervene, Viktor Orban will continue to weaken the cohesion of the organization. The founding values of the European Union are at stake. More importantly, he is not entirely alone. The states of the former Soviet bloc, with few exceptions, are as corrupt, if not even more, than Viktor Orban’s Hungary.
The United States of America has not fared better against Hungary than the European Union. The current administration has sent to Budapest an amateur whose understanding of Hungary is near zero. His only dubious accomplishment is that he has made a fool of himself by becoming the lapdog of Viktor Orban. In this manner, the White House and the State Department have been deprived of objective and unbiased information about the situation in Hungary. Clearly, Viktor Orban represents a very serious threat to NATO as well as the European Union. The time is running out for corrective actions. The Hungarian people are getting more and more desperate. The possibility of a bloody upheaval against VIktor Orban’s autocracy is real. To prevent it should be high priority for Brussels and for Washington too.
The first House Judiciary hearing featured three professors in favor of Trump impeachment, one against. The three anti-Trump witnesses elaborated their definitions of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and all came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump was guilty as charged of the three principal charges advocated by the House Intelligence Committee report on its “investigation”, namely, bribery, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power.
Jonathan Turley, the lone expert opposed to impeachment, advocated caution and against proceeding with the current case because it has no solid evidentiary basis and no bipartisan consensus of wrongdoing – hallmarks of the previous two modern cases of impeachment. As expected, the questioning was conducted along partisan lines.
My own analysis of the testimony is as follows: while the definitions of impeachable offenses and the historical context offered by the pro-impeachment scholars were impressive, their facile acceptance of the hearsay testimony provided by the witnesses in the Intel Committee was alarmingly biased. There was no appreciation of the due process violations or the lack of any first-hand testimony to the President’s alleged behavior.
The argument that the President’s refusal to allow administration officials who had such knowledge to testify in the one-sided Committee setting constitutes obstruction of justice and, by implication, an admission of guilt is a meaningless and circular argument.
As Turley pointed out, conflicts between the two branches of government – in this case the extent of Executive Privilege – are traditionally settled by the third branch of government, the Courts. The Democrats’ reason for not pursuing this course is that it would take too long – so what’s the hurry? The coming election, of course. Another circular argument. Turley’s underlying argument, that this entire episode is the product of rage rather than reason, could not be more accurate.
If there is no direct evidence of the President’s intentions available, that leaves the transcript of the conversation with the Ukrainian President as the chief exhibit. That conversation does indeed contain the American President’s request of the Ukrainian President that he look into the Biden affair of 2014. The issue therefore is how to understand the context of that request.
Given the fact that the military funding for Ukraine had been held up by the administration pending the outcome of their elections, the Dems are claiming that Trump’s “request” was in fact a threat to continue that delay unless the Ukrainian agreed to initiate the Biden investigation. It has been established that the President Zelensky was not aware of this delay at the time of the call. Nor did such an investigation ever take place. And the grant was authorized and took place less than two months later.
The fact that several lower level diplomats didn’t agree with this tactic and were not informed about its goals –and further made up their own unflattering rationale to explain it — does not constitute evidence.
The alternative context for President Trump’s request is that he was aware of the substantial opposition of the previous Ukrainian government toward his election and the involvement of Ukrainian technology in the whole Hillary Clinton episode of the missing 30,000 emails. He apparently felt that this new reform government could possibly uncover some useful information about that issue. The Biden affair was widely reported at the time (2014) and apparently connected to the corruption of the previous Ukrainian government in Trump’s mind.
This interpretation seems more consistent with known facts than the State Department’s “presumption”. However, a fair and balanced investigation might prove otherwise, as Professor Turley asserted. Unfortunately, the Dems don’t have time for that.
Stay tuned while this sad story continues to unfold.
Column: How wealth and cronyism transformed American democracy
Ironies pile up. Both participants in the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky are outsiders whose fame catapulted them to high office. Foreign policy experts assumed their similar profile would promote goodwill and understanding. That was incorrect. This star-crossed encounter has damaged the careers of both men. It also has thrown light on the nature of their societies.
Reality TV star Trump leveraged social media and anti-establishment politics into a takeover of the Republican Party. In his television show Servant of the People, comedian and filmmaker Zelensky portrayed a high school teacher whose rant against the political class goes viral and becomes the basis for a successful presidential campaign. Servant of the People debuted in 2015 and proved disturbingly prescient. In a double case of life imitating art, both Trump and Zelensky wound up portraying versions of Zelensky’s character Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko in real life.
What is real life? These days it is hard to tell. The impeachment drama commingles fact and fantasy, ineptitude and insinuation, in a plot that may be more familiar to Ukrainian audiences than to American ones. The opening scene of Servant of the People takes place on a balcony in Kiev overlooking the Maidan. Three oligarchs discuss the forthcoming elections and the rival candidates they support. At the end of the day, the trio concludes, all that matters is they maintain control of the political process. That’s not how it works out.
The show is a comedy. And there are certainly humorous aspects to the present situation. But, if you watch Servant of the People on Netflix today, the parallels between its storyline and contemporary politics are glaring and serious. The fictional conversation described above could have taken place in certain quarters of the United States in 2015, in London in 2016, in Kiev in 2019. It cannot be a good thing that American democracy has taken on some of the characteristics of the Ukrainian version.
In a sense it is fitting that a former province of the Soviet Union beset by corruption, cronyism, and war has become the crux of Democratic efforts to impeach Donald Trump. This beleaguered country is not only a crossroads between West and East, Europe and Eurasia, NATO and Russia. It is also a field from which America’s bipartisan elite has reaped considerable bounties in contracts and directorships, in consulting and lobbying. What has been happening in Ukraine for decades is emblematic of the self-dealing and self-seeking that has exhausted voting publics and inspired populists across the world. Unexpectedly, Trump’s relation to Ukraine threatens the viability of the movements it helped create.
Just as Trump needn’t have broken any laws for the Democrats to impeach him, Hunter Biden needn’t have violated any statute to symbolize the cronyism of America’s political class. It takes the willing suspension of disbelief to argue that politics had nothing to do with the appointment of the son of the vice president to the well-compensated board of an oil and gas giant two months after he was kicked out of the U.S. Navy for cocaine abuse.
And it requires unblinking partisanship to deny that both Republicans and Democrats, from Paul Manafort to Greg Craig, from BGR Group to the defunct Podesta Group, have profited from connections to Ukraine’s various governments and officials. “If you want me to leave the U.S. on Monday 6/16 and return on Friday 6/20,” Democrat Tad Devine wroteRepublican Rick Gates in reference to a Ukraine job in 2014, “that would be 5 days at $10G/day for $50,000.00. You would need to make the travel arrangements, and transfer the $50G before the trip.” That’s top dollar for someone who once consulted a socialist.
For decades, the economies that emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet Empire have been playgrounds for American political professionals to deploy their tricks of the trade, their skills at campaign management and public relations, in lucrative arrangements. Perhaps we should have expected these politicos might return home with pieces of post-Soviet political culture in their carry-ons: love of intrigue, of information operations conducted in digital and social media, of conspiracy theories, of national populism and of socialism, of high-dollar payouts made against the backdrop of gray-zone conflict between authoritarian and democratic states. The vocabulary of American politics has appropriated Russian terminology: maskirovka and kompromat, nomenklatura and czar.
This influence is manifest in the conduct of impeachment so far. Anonymous whistleblowers from within the intelligence services trigger investigations of the president. The speaker of the House announces an impeachment inquiry but does not call the roll. The quasi-official status of the investigation allows the Democratic majority to minimize Republican involvement. Hearings are secret. Selective leaks to media drive the impeachment narrative and consolidate partisan support for the president’s removal. To speak of narratives rather than evidence is to acknowledge our postmodern condition, where interpretations are more powerful than facts.
From Varsity Blues to Jeffrey Epstein, from China and the NBA to Ukraine and Hunter Biden, Americans are taking a crash course on the ways in which powerful people manipulate the system for personal advantage and globalization merges political cultures as well as economies. What has been uncovered as impeachment rolls on does nothing to spur confidence in the integrity of our system. America is exceptional, but our elites are not. Today we are all Ukrainians.
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