DISPATCHES FROM THE MEMORY HOLE: Why a Liberal Reporter Saved a Ton of Headlines from Liberal Media Outlets Concerning the Electoral College .
He won’t go along with their efforts to deny the legitimacy of his election. Can you blame him?
President Trump is, as ever, fortunate in his enemies. Whatever one thinks of what he said in Helsinki, the overreaction is helping him plow through yet another media meltdown. Cries of “treason,” charges that the president is a Russian “asset,” and insistence that remarks at a press conference constitute impeachable offenses fire up the Democratic base. To everyone else, they seem unhinged.
Worth a listen or two. There’s also a transcript.
LARRY P. ARNN: Yeah. Well, so the report– I’ve been reading the report this morning. And of course, it’s a federal government document, and so it’s a massive blather. And I might even just read you one paragraph so that you can see how hard it is to– because it doesn’t want to say anything clear, right?
So I will say one thing clear. The FBI puts itself forward as a symbol of neutrality, that these are professionals, and that they’re law enforcement people, and that they’re neutral. And there’s no thinking in the making of the Constitution of the United States that any large class of people would ever be regarded that way, because people have interests. Indeed, the heart of the Constitution, of the arrangements according to James Madison, is that it aligns the interest of the man with the duty of the place. In that man, ambition is used to offset ambition.
So the point is, there are these smoking guns. There are at least four of them, four different people whose guns are smoking, caught smoking, where they are obviously partisans in the politics of the day. And they’re on the left. And the worst of them even says that we are going to stop Donald Trump becoming president of the United States.
Now, the point there is that that means that this force, too, requires to be controlled. It can’t just be unfettered. And then I’ll go on to to say whether it is or not in my opinion. But remember also that this is really tough, because in the middle of a presidential campaign, they’re going– and since presidential campaigns last about two years in their most public active phase, and since these investigations take months, any investigation of a presidential campaign is going to run up against an election. And they’re very sensitive to that in the FBI, very sensitive about their own– what– their reputation.
And the FBI report, this inspector general’s report, is sensitive that way too. So on the second page of the executive summary, I’ll just read– if it’s OK with you– I’ll just read a few sentences. “There were clearly tensions and disagreements in a number of important areas between Midyear”– that’s the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s servers– “agents and prosecutors. We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative decisions we reviewed.”
So “directly affected.” That’s an interesting phrase.
HUGH HEWITT: Would you make a note? Because I want to come back to that, because it’s contradicted eight pages later. But go ahead.
LARRY P. ARNN: That’s right. Now, next– and what I’m showing you is this summary at the beginning, it just shows. So now, the next paragraph right after “directly affected” sentence, begins “nonetheless.” That’s a conjunction, right?
HUGH HEWITT: Yes.
LARRY P. ARNN: What that means is whatever’s going to come after that is some kind of a disagreement with the previous sentence.
HUGH HEWITT: Yes.
LARRY P. ARNN: “Nonetheless, these messages cast a cloud over the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation.” Now the next sentence, another conjunction. “But”–
“Our review did not find evidence to connect the political views.” So you see, I like to call this square dancing language.
HUGH HEWITT: Yes. And may I give you the better one?
LARRY P. ARNN: Yeah, go ahead.
HUGH HEWITT: OK, this is on the Roman numeral page IX, the first full paragraph. “In assessing the decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related” investigation– which is the server– “discovered on the Weiner laptop, we were particularly concerned about text messages sent by Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions they made were impacted by bias or improper consideration. Most of the text messages raising such questions pertained to the Russia investigation, and the implication in some of these text messages, particularly Strzok’s August 8 text message (‘we’ll stop’ candidate Trump from being elected), was that Strzok might be willing to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects. Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over the following up” of the server– the Midyear-related investigation lead– “discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”
In other words, Dr. Arnn, they said it’s free from bias. But then they just said, we don’t have confidence that it was free from bias. It is Orwellian.
Yes, Madam Secretary, your emails.
In fact, the overlooked bombshell of the report is the inspector general’s confirmation that classified information contained in Clinton’s emails was in fact compromised by foreign intelligence services, and that Clinton had recklessly emailed President Barack Obama using her unsecured personal email from the territory of a hostile foreign adversary.
Before the report was released, we knew from Comey’s July 2016 statement that Clinton’s private emails included “seven e-mail chains [which] concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received.” We also knew that the FBI “also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail.” Comey further declared, “We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account.” And he speculated that, given how “extremely careless” Clinton had been, it was “possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.”
Well, it turns out, the FBI knew with certainty at the time that hostile actors had in fact gained access to classified information via Clinton’s emails. According to the inspector general, a special review of the Clinton email investigation in 2017 by the Office to the FBI’s Inspection Division (INSD) found that, before Comey’s 2016 statement, “the FBI . . . successfully determined classified information was improperly stored and transmitted on Clinton’s email server, and classified information was compromised by unauthorized individuals, to include foreign governments or intelligence services, via cyber intrusion or other means”
The initial draft of Comey’s 2016 statement said it was “reasonably likely” that hostile actors had gained access to Clinton’s private email account. Moreover, the inspector general quotes FBI agent Peter Strzok as commenting on that “It is more accurate to say we know foreign actors obtained access to some of her emails (including at least one Secret one) via compromises of the private email accounts of some of her staffers”. These facts were inexplicably left out of the final statement.
Reason enough not to let her anywhere near the levers of power.
I know this is ancient history, but — I’m sorry — I just can’t let it go. When historians write the definitive, sordid histories of the 2016 election, the FBI, Hillary, emails, Russia, and Trump, there has to be a collection of chapters making the case that Hillary should have faced a jury of her peers.
The IG report on the Hillary email investigation contains the most thoughtful and thorough explanation of the FBI’s decision to recommend against prosecuting Hillary. At the risk of oversimplifying a long and complex discussion, the IG time and again noted that (among other things) the FBI focused on the apparent lack of intent to violate the law and the lack of a clear precedent for initiating a prosecution under similar facts. It also describes how the FBI wrestled with the definition of “gross negligence” — concluding that the term encompassed conduct “so gross as to almost suggest deliberate intention” or “something that falls just short of being willful.”
After reading the analysis, I just flat-out don’t buy that Hillary’s conduct — and her senior team’s conduct — didn’t meet that standard. The key reason for my skepticism is the nature of the classified information sent and received. Remember, as Comey outlined in his infamous July 5, 2016 statement, Hillary sent and received information that was classified at extraordinarily high levels…
If that annoys you, try wading through 568 pages of this stuff, particularly on the central issue of the investigators’ anti-Trump bias. The report acknowledges that contempt for Trump was pervasive among several of the top FBI and DOJ officials making decisions about the investigation. So this deep-seated bias must have affected the decision-making, right? Well, the report concludes, who really knows?
Not in so many words, of course. The trick here is the premise the IG establishes from the start: It’s not my job to draw firm conclusions about why things happened the way they did. In fact, it’s not even my job to determine whether investigative decisions were right or wrong. The cop-out is that we are dealing here with “discretionary” calls; therefore, the IG rationalizes, the investigators must be given very broad latitude. Consequently, the IG says his job is not to determine whether any particular decision was correct; just whether, on some otherworldly scale of reasonableness, the decision was defensible. And he makes that determination by looking at every decision in isolation.
But is that the way we evaluate decisions in the real world?
In every criminal trial, the defense lawyer tries to sow reasonable doubt by depicting every allegation, every factual transaction, as if it stood alone. In a drug case, if the defendant was photographed delivering a brown paper bag on Wednesday, the lawyer argues, “Well, we don’t have X-ray vision, how do we really know there was heroin in the bag?” The jurors are urged that when they consider what happened Wednesday, there is only Wednesday; they must put out of their minds that text from Tuesday, when the defendant told his girlfriend, “I always deliver the ‘product’ in paper bags.”
Fortunately, the judge ends up explaining to the jury that, down here on Planet Earth, common sense applies. In our everyday lives, we don’t look at related events in isolation; we view them in conjunction because they read on each other. Let’s say on Monday I confide to my friend that I can’t stand Bob, and on Tuesday I tell Bob I can’t join him for dinner because I have other plans. It may or may not be true that I have other plans, but common sense tells you my disdain for Bob has factored into the decision — even if I don’t announce that fact to Bob.
The professionally written and admirably researched IG report is in some sense a hall of mirrors, with all sorts of reflections that are contorted and warped, and into which all parties claim to see reality.
Often the euphemistic conclusions are not supported by the data produced. The only constant to Obama-era FBI and DOJ behavior is the universal assumption that Hillary Clinton would be president, and what might be assumed as improper or illegal conduct in the present, would likely in the future be excused or rewarded.
On the question of “bias,” the report exhaustively catalogues communications in which government investigators and attorneys systematically deprecate Trump, and the Trump voter, and in explicit terms boast about stopping him.
Apparently the IG can conclude that there is not actionable bias (although at times admitting he could not rule it out), because he did not find something such as “documentary” memos or texts outlining explicit behaviors, or some fantasy such as an admission that “the Trump voter is a POS who smells and therefore that fact is going to unprofessionally guide my investigations” — as if bias and prejudice are ever in professional life so clumsily documented in a formal, self-incriminating manner.
Comey’s FBI is the mirror image of Mueller’s special-counsel investigation: Both have the same objective to subvert Trump, but the means to achieve such a shared end are flipped, given the different circumstances.
On the one hand, Comey and his FBI ignore likely perjury and the misleading testimonies of Clinton staffers. For purposes of exoneration, they struggle to invent new linguistic interpretations of existing statutes. They ignore what is likely obstruction of justice of the attorney general modulating her investigations of the email scandal after meeting stealthily with Bill Clinton, the spouse of the suspect currently under investigation. They deliberately mask the fact that the president of the United States has communicated with his secretary of state over an illegal server and then has likely lied about his ignorance of such a fact. Comey himself admits that political considerations warp the course of his investigation of the email scandal.
In dire contrast, for Mueller, even perceived incomplete or inaccurate testimony is immediately leveraged as possible perjury for dirt on superiors. Supposed bribes and influence peddling are never reduced to mere “gifts.” When there is no evidence of collusion, every imaginable personal sin of the past is dredged up, again to flip a witness with threats of exorbitant legal costs and exposure to jail. The Andrew McCabe standard of conflict of interest (there is supposedly no technical law against one’s spouse receiving $700,000 in campaign help from a political machine allied to a candidate that one has just been investigating) does not apply to Flynn et al. but is redefined as “collusion.”
And in the final analysis, the FBI may have accidentally helped to defeat Hillary Clinton.
The IG report is complicated, telling a convoluted story of bad-faith bias, good-faith mistakes, and cascading challenges as each new error creates ever-larger dilemmas. But while the story is complex, the lesson is simple. There are reasons why agents and attorneys should go “by the book.” Apply the law to the facts, follow policies and procedures, and let the chips fall where they may. If you put your thumb on the scales, you’ll often unleash forces you can’t control. Just ask Strzok and Page. They aimed at Trump, but they hit Clinton.
The IG Report ignores that the Clinton investigation was completely and irreparably compromised by agents whose biases went to the heart of the case. The IG Report is a strange beast. To begin with, it’s a rather ironic companion piece to Comey’s July 5, 2016 press conference. Back then, Comey laid out facts that ought…
I. “We are patronized by our inferiors”
….We are patronized by our inferiors. During the campaign Hillary Clinton and the Democrats did not just reveal themselves as elitists who are out of touch with the circumstances of many of their compatriots , and proud of it; who have contempt for half the country , and are willing to say so publicly; and who are willing, in fact, to say anything to gain and keep power. They revealed themselves as fools….
II. “Who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes?”
….Sixty-five years ago, Swarthmore psychologist Solomon Asch conducted his famous experiments, gathering groups of students together for what he said was research into visual perception. In fact, he wanted to study “a disagreement between a group and one individual member about a clear and simple issue of fact.” He brought students together in groups, all but one of whom were his confederates. He showed the group a card with a line on it, and then a card with three lines—one the same length as the original, the others clearly shorter or longer. He asked the students, in sequence, which line matched the original in length. He started with his confederates, who agreed with one another. For the first few trials, their answers were correct. But then the confederates began agreeing on incorrect answers. In more than a third of the subsequent trials, the subject, who answered last, conformed to the rest of the group, giving a plainly wrong answer. “Who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes?” Seventy-five percent of the subjects went with the majority on at least some trials. Only twenty-five percent resisted the pull of erroneous agreement completely….
….How often have we encountered statements like these over the past eight years? “Islam is a religion of peace.” “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” “Obamacare will bring down the cost of health insurance.” “The economy is in great shape.” “Raising the minimum wage doesn’t cost jobs; it creates them.” “Iran can be trusted not to develop nuclear weapons.” “America is stronger and more respected today than it was eight years ago.” These are not only false, but obviously false. The Quran repeatedly calls for violence against unbelievers. Since December 2015, 68 Americans have died from terror attacks on U.S. soil. More than 200 have been wounded. Obamacare has increased costs while decreasing patient choice, exactly as its critics predicted; no system that increases demand for services while doing nothing to increase supply can lower costs. Obama has overseen the weakest economic recovery in decades. The percentage of working-age Americans employed is at its lowest rate since the late 1970s. Minimum wage increases raise the cost of employing people, which leads to fewer jobs. Finally, Iran is already violating the nuclear agreement, according to German intelligence, and Russia, China, Iran, and other adversaries treat America with contempt.….
III. The end of “phone and a pen” policy making
This election presented Americans with a clear choice: someone who agrees with the political philosophy of the nation’s founders, or someone who utterly rejects it. The United States was founded on the political philosophy of John Locke, adapted by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other founders. According to that “bottom-up” political theory, people have natural rights to life, liberty, and property. Government gets its power from the people; it is legitimate only with the consent of the governed. Its mission is to promote the general welfare by providing a framework for ordered liberty, a framework within which people can exercise their freedoms and pursue happiness. That is Donald Trump’s vision of government. …
Hillary Clinton’s “top-down” progressive vision, stemming ultimately from Rousseau, is incompatible with that Lockean foundation. It envisions a very different role for government. In her view, it is up to the government—in practice, the Supreme Court—to determine what rights people have. There are no natural rights, rights independent of government, inherent in us as human beings in Rousseau’s vision. Rights are creatures of government.
As such, rights can be limited or rejected if they conflict with government goals. Clinton’s platform sought to restrict freedom of speech, for example, by making it illegal to criticize political candidates during election campaigns. That is what the Citizens United decision was about: whether the government could prevent Hillary, the Movie from being shown….
IV. Donald Trump: the supporting partner
….The Asch experiments point to a key and under-appreciated reason for Trump’s success. Only twenty-five percent of Asch’s subjects resisted peer pressure consistently throughout the experiment. Seventy-five percent were at least sometimes willing to betray their lying eyes. But the rate of such betrayal fell dramatically if even one other person answered correctly. As Asch put it, “The presence of a supporting partner depleted the majority of much of its power” (1955, 34). My thesis is simple: Throughout 2016, Donald Trump played the role of that supporting partner….
V. “A Basket Of Deplorables”
….Asch did not study what happens if the confederates mock the subject or the subject’s partner, if there is one. But it is not difficult to hypothesize the result. The emotional reactions the experiment generates would probably be intensified. Those afflicted with self-doubt would likely experience even greater self-doubt. Those with negative feelings toward the herd would likely have even more negative feelings toward them. Affection toward a partner would likely be intensified as well.
That, I maintain, is precisely what the Clinton campaign and the media did during the 2016 campaign. Hillary herself attacked half of Trump’s supporters as “a basket of deplorables,” as “irredeemable.” The other half she seemed to consider pathetic. The insult quickly became a badge of honor among Trump supporters, who began posting “Deplorable Me” and “Les Deplorables” memes on social media. It drove some who had been lukewarm about Trump’s candidacy to become eager supporters, and seemed to quiet objections from so-called “NeverTrumpers”.
Attacks on the candidate himself had much the same effect. Trump’s supporters saw the incessant accusations of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, etc., as Asch’s subjects might have seen insults hurled at a truth-telling partner. The accusations did not push Trump’s supporters away from him; for the most part, they pushed them further toward him.
There are two key components to understanding the mechanism by which accusations of this sort strengthened the Trump campaign. The first is that most of the accusations themselves were unjustified. Pushing them made Clinton and her surrogates appear to be both knaves and fools. The second is that Trump’s supporters saw that what was generating the attacks was not Trump’s deviation from their opinions but his agreement with them. In short, they saw the accusations as essentially leveled at them. As the Democrats now know first hand, or at least should know, calling someone names is not generally an effective way of getting them to vote for you….
VI. Why I Voted For Trump
I voted for Donald Trump partly because I share his political philosophy (which I view as akin to that of the British Whigs); partly because I share his view of the current state of American society and the international order; and partly because I see the American political system as teetering on the edge of a cliff. A Clinton victory, I believe, would have ended the American republic. Obama set out to transform the United States of America. He has done so by transferring power away from the people, and away from Congress, to the courts and to the executive branch. He won a few legislative victories, but has mostly ruled by decree, by executive order and especially by the rule-making of executive branch agencies. Clinton promised to continue the trend. She would have ruled more or less as a monarch with little Congressional limit to her power. The Constitution would have been a dead letter. She would have been able to impose her own moral vision on the entire country. That vision, moreover, rests on a narrative with limited correspondence to reality. And she would have removed the checks and balances of the American system designed to keep narratives and reality in line with each other….