By Kyle Smith • National Review
The First Amendment has never been stronger. Yet freedom of speech is under dire threat. Both of these things can be true, and both are.
The kinds of corporations that frequently proclaim their dedication to the First Amendment — and are quick to denounce President Trump’s taunts of the media — are doing something Trump has not done and will not do: muzzling writers. Publishers are presenting authors with contracts containing clauses that essentially say, “We will cut you loose should a Twitter mob come after you.” It’s a revolting, shameful trend.
As Judith Shulevitz writes in the New York Times, Condé Nast, publisher of The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and many other magazines, recently started burying in its standard writers’ contracts a landmine. If the company should unilaterally rule that the writer has become “the subject of public disrepute, contempt, complaints or scandals,” the publisher can void the contract. Shulevitz mislabels such stipulations “morality clauses.” To paraphrase Mae West, morality has nothing to do with it. “Cowardice clauses” would be nearer the mark. Continue reading
By Alex Griswold • Washington Free Beacon
In a rare move, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard rebuked Democrats–including a fellow Hawaii Democrat, Sen. Mazie Hirono–for questioning a judicial nominee about his membership in Catholic organizations.
Nebraska attorney and former attorney general candidate Brian Buescher was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve on the state’s U.S. District Court. In written questions, Hirono questioned the Catholic lawyer about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization with over two million members that upholds Church teachings on social issues.
“I do not recall if I was aware whether the Knights of Columbus had taken a position on the abortion issue when I joined at the age of eighteen,” Buescher answered at one point. Continue reading
Twelve conservative leaders, including former Attorney General Ed Meese, CHQ Editor George Rasley, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Representative Bob McEwen and Tea Party Patriots Action Honorary Chairman Jenny Beth Martin are in favor of Congress passing the MERIT Act during the lame duck session.
The group, led by Americans for Limited Government, issued the following statement urging the GOP not to Drain the swampwaste their final weeks in the majority:
“The December spending bill is the last chance for the 115th Congress to do something to limit the size and scope of government. After disappointing decisions to significantly increase government spending levels over the past two years, it is imperative that Congress pass language which expedites the prompt and appropriate firing of federal employees who are either incompetent or don’t perform their assigned duties. Continue reading
By Elizabeth Harrington • Washington Free Beacon
The special counsel investigation into the 2016 election has cost taxpayers over $25 million and counting.
Robert Mueller’s office released its latest expenditures spanning from April 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2018, finding the special counsel racked up over $8.4 million in five months.
The statement of expenditures reveals Mueller and his team of lawyers cost over $4.5 million for salaries and rent, and an additional $3.9 million in resources from the Department of Justice.
Personnel compensation and benefits cost taxpayers $2,886,270, including $1 million for special counsel office employees, and $1.9 million for Department of Justice employees who have been detailed to the investigation. Continue reading
By Jeremy Carl • The Federalist
Less than two weeks ago, President Trump signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement intended to be the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has attacked for decades. The White House says the agreement will “better serve the interests of American workers and businesses” and “includes the strongest digital trade … provisions of any United States trade agreement.”
Unfortunately, an obscure article in one provision of the agreement only serves the interests of the largest tech monopolies by granting them special privilege to censor conservatives. Congress should demand the removal or amendment of this article before giving consent to confirm section 230.
How did this happen? Big Tech lobbyists orchestrated the quiet insertion of a seemingly innocuous provision (Article 19.17) into the deal that is based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Continue reading
By Elad Hakim • The Federalist
If they charge President Trump for paying women to not publish scandalous claims, would prosecutors then be compelled to pursue members of Congress who have also made such payoffs?
Michael Cohen was sentenced to 36 months in prison on Wednesday for various crimes the Robert Mueller investigation found he had committed. As CNN recently reported, prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office alleged he admitted to paying off two women (hush money) and that he did so in coordination with and at the direction of President Trump, thereby violating one or more campaign finance laws.
On the day of Cohen’s sentencing, the Gateway Pundit reported that prosecutors for the Southern District of New York announced that they had reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media, Inc., the company that paid $150,000 to one of the women. Continue reading
by Bradley A. Smith • National Review
Donald Trump’s wayward counsel, Michael Cohen, was sentenced today as part of a plea bargain with the government. As part of that settlement, Cohen has admitted to criminal violations of federal campaign-finance law and has implicated President Trump in those violations. The press is ablaze with headlines trumpeting the president’s possible involvement in two felony campaign-finance violations. The source of these violations are Mr. Cohen’s arranging — allegedly at Trump’s direction — hush-money payments to women alleging long-ago affairs with the 2016 presidential candidate.
The Federal Election Campaign Act holds that an “expenditure” is any “purchase, payment, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money, or anything of value, for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” According to Cohen and the U.S. Attorney, the hush-money payments were, it appears, made in the hopes of preventing information from becoming public before the election, and hence were “for the purpose of influencing” the election. This means that, at a minimum, they had to be reported to the Federal Election Commission; further, if they were authorized by Mr. Trump, they would become, in the law’s parlance, “coordinated expenditures,” subject to limits on the amounts that could be spent. Since the lawful contribution limit is much lower than the payments made, and the payments were not reported, this looks like an open and shut case, right? Continue reading
by Haris Alic • Washington Free Beacon
Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has yet to take the speaker’s gavel of the U.S. House of Representatives, but Democrats are already laboring to make it easier to dismantle the achievements of the Trump presidency.
The incoming chairman of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.), confirmed to colleagues on Wednesday that he would not honor the three-fifths supermajority requirement to raise income taxes, as reported by the Washington Post.
McGovern’s decision overturns a rule implemented under outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) that mandated a three-fifths majority approve any proposed hike to the income tax.
The change comes after a standoff between Pelosi and her moderate allies in the Democratic conference, such as incoming Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (Mass.), and younger, more progressive members like Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.). Continue reading
By James Altschul • The Federalist
After two days of public outcry, Twitter has reinstated the account of conservative commentator Jesse Kelly. Contradicting their initial message to Kelly, which notified him that his account had been “permanently suspended” and “[would] not be restored,” a Twitter spokesperson stated on Tuesday that Kelly’s account had instead been “temporarily suspended for violating the Twitter rules.” Precisely which rules Kelly violated were not specified.
Given the opacity of the process, we can only speculate on what caused Twitter to reverse course, but a good bet would be the threat of governmental reprisal hinted at by tweets from Sen. Ben Sasse and Senator-elect Josh Hawley.
While Sasse merely commented that “The trend of de-platforming and shutting down speech is a bad precedent for our free speech society,” Hawley was more explicit, writing, “The new Congress needs to investigate…Twitter is exempt from liability as a ‘publisher’ because it is allegedly ‘a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.’ That does not appear to be accurate.” Continue reading
By Victor Davis Hanson • American Greatness
Donald Trump on occasion can talk recklessly. He is certainly trying to “fundamentally transform” the United States in exactly the opposite direction from which Barack Obama promised to do the same sort of massive recalibration. According to polls (such as they are), half the country fears Trump. The media despises him. Yet Trump poses no threat to the U.S. Constitution. Those who since 2016 have tried to destroy his candidacy and then his presidency most certainly do.
When, and if, we ever lose our freedoms, it will not likely be due to a boisterous Donald Trump, damning “fake news” at popular rallies, or even by being greeted with jarring “lock her up” chants—Trump, whom the popular culture loves to hate and whose every gesture and, indeed, every inch of his body, is now analyzed, critiqued, caricatured, and damned on the national news.
In general, free societies more often become unfree with a whimper, not a bang—and usually due to self-righteous pious movements that always claim the higher moral ground, and justify their extreme means by their self-sacrificing struggle for supposedly noble ends of social justice, equality, and fairness. Continue reading
by Jim Geraghty • National Review
Republicans lost a bunch of races on Tuesday that they wanted to win. Since Tuesday night, I haven’t seen any riots. I haven’t seen any violent protests, like the ones that have plagued Portland this year. I haven’t seen any Democratic candidates hung in effigy, the way Marsha Blackburn was in Tennessee earlier this month. I’m sure the “Proud Boys” will pop up again in some form, but they’ve been quiet since the NYPD announced arrest warrants for nine of them after that mid-October brawl.
Democrats, progressives, and liberals won a lot of the races that they wanted to win. And what happened? Did they celebrate with glee and good cheer? Did they relax? Did their anger and rage over the 2016 election dissipate and give way to relief and a more optimistic outlook for the future?
No, apparently some of them just got angrier and more explicit in their threats: Continue reading
By George Will • National Review
If this week has proven anything, it’s that we can always go lower.
When John Keats said that autumn is the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness,” he did not anticipate this American autumn. It resembles the gorier Shakespearean plays in which swords are brandished, people are poisoned and stabbed, almost everyone behaves badly, and those who do not are thinking: Things cannot continue like this. Actually, they probably will because this is the first law of contemporary politics: There is no such thing as rock bottom.
On Monday, some hysterics in hot pursuit of the often heralded but never reached “constitutional crisis,” galloped off on the basis of rumors about speculations concerning hypotheses, all because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to the White House, perhaps — there was a frisson of anticipation — to be fired. He was not. On Thursday, however, Rosenstein is expected to speak with the president, presumably because of last week’s report that in May 2017, Rosenstein spoke, in the presence of other senior Justice Department officials, about possibly wearing a wire to surreptitiously record the president, presumably to facilitate invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him. Continue reading
By Ilya Feoktistov • The Federalist
Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, a group of public school history teachers in the posh Boston suburb of Newton pledged to reject the “call for objectivity” in the classroom, bully conservative students for their beliefs, and serve as “liberal propagandist[s]” for the cause of social justice.
This informal pact was made in an exchange of emails among history teachers at Newton North High School, part of a very rich but academically mediocre public school district with an annual budget of $200 million, a median home price of almost half a million, and a median household income of more than $120,000. Read the entire email exchange here.
I obtained the emails under a Massachusetts public records law after one of those teachers arranged, earlier this year, for an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel organization to show Palestinian propaganda films at Newton North. This stunt earned the Newton Public Schools district a rebuke from the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League and from Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council. But, as the teachers’ emails reveal, Jew-hatred is not the only specter haunting the history department at Newton North.
The Teachers Conspire to Hide Extreme Prejudice Continue reading
By Mollie Hemingway • The Federalist
On Saturday night, heavily redacted copies of the FBI’s application to wiretap Trump campaign affiliate Carter Page were released. The portion of the 412-page document that was not redacted supported the claims of Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), as well as those made by the majority of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The senators and the representatives had issued reports alleging that the FBI used an unverified Clinton campaign document to secure a wiretap against an American citizen, that the application for the wiretap used circular reporting and lacked verification for its central claims, and that it made materially false claims related to the source’s credibility.
President Trump tweeted triumphantly and hyperbolically about what the documents showed regarding the FBI’s behavior toward his campaign. Whatever you think about Trump’s reaction to the release of the FISA application, the media reaction to the story was disingenuous and even more hyperbolic than the president’s tweets. After a year of continuous and alarming revelations, the media are still more interested in proving the Trump campaign treasonously colluded with Russia than wrestling with the fact that the FBI spied on a presidential campaign, and used dubious partisan political research to justify their surveillance. Continue reading