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Trump lashes ‘obstruction of justice’ claims

US President Trump lashes obstruction of justice claims pointing out that no crime has so far been identified the prosecution or investigation of which he is supposed to have obstructed.

Alexander Mercouris

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US President Donald Trump has lashed out in against allegations circulating today that he is now under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for obstruction of justice.

Not for the first time President Trump is absolutely right.  As I have repeatedly pointed out, 10 months of investigation have discovered no evidence of collusion between anyone in Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia, and following former FBI Director Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee it is now known that the US intelligence services accept that Russian meddling in the US election – if it even took place – had no effect on the outcome of the election and that President Trump himself is not under investigation for colluding during the election with the Russians.

In light of all this, in any rational world everyone should see that there is no substance to this scandal, leading to this pointless investigation being closed down.

However, as has been very obvious for a very long time, the real purpose of those people driving this scandal is not to uncover collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Apart from a few paranoid people I doubt by now that anyone in authority any longer believes that such collusion took place.

Instead the purpose behind the scandal is (1) to embarrass Donald Trump and ideally engineer his removal from office; and (2) to prevent any move towards a rapprochement between the US and Russia, even though that is the policy Donald Trump advocated in the election, and which he won the election on.

To that end – since there is a limit to how far an investigation into claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians can be taken when there is no substance behind them – the focus has now shifted to the only very marginally more substantive issue of obstruction of justice.

I say “only very marginally more substantive issue of obstruction of justice”, because as I have said though President Trump’s conversations with Comey were extremely unwise, they do not amount to an obstruction of justice.

That is not just my view. Here is what Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University has to say about this issue

The desire for some indictable or impeachable offense by President Trump has distorted the legal analysis to an alarming degree. Analysts seem far too thrilled by the possibility of a crime by Trump. The legal fact is that Comey’s testimony does not establish a prima facie — or even a strong — case for obstruction.

It is certainly true that if Trump made these comments, his conduct is wildly inappropriate. However, talking like Tony Soprano does not make you Tony Soprano. Trump is not the first president to express dissatisfaction with an investigation by the Justice Department. Former president Bill Clinton made clear his own dissatisfaction with the investigations of his administration under then-Attorney General Janet Reno. It is no surprise that Trump wanted to see these investigations end. Indeed, he had a virtual hashtag to that effect.

The crime of obstruction of justice has not been defined as broadly as suggested by commentators. While there are a couple of courts with more expansive interpretations, the crime is generally linked to obstructing a pending proceeding as opposed to an investigation. Most courts have rejected the application of obstruction provisions to mere investigations. The manual used by federal prosecutors makes that same distinction. Even if a prosecutor was able to extend the definition of obstruction, there would remain the need to show that Trump sought to “corruptly” influence the investigation. Trump telling Comey that Michael Flynn is “a good guy,” and that he hoped Comey would let the matter drop is hardly a “cancer,” let alone a crime, growing on the presidency.

Flynn had just resigned the day before Trump allegedly asked Comey whether he could now drop the investigation of Flynn. Trump had been told by Comey that he is not under investigation (three alleged confirmations by Comey that are equally inappropriate). Trump could say he felt Flynn had suffered enough. For a defense lawyer, a charge of obstruction on these facts would be a target-rich environment.

 In the end, a prosecutor should never seek to indict a president absent a lead-pipe cinch of a case. This is no lead-pipe cinch. Of course, there is also the problem of actually indicting a sitting president if there was a crime and evidence to fit it. Many academics believe that a sitting president cannot be indicted. It remains an open question. After all, judges have faced indictment before impeachments. Yet, the president remains the head of the executive branch handling such prosecutions.

The proper course is for a president to be impeached and removed before any prosecution. It is no gift to a president. Impeachments are not subject to the rules of evidence or even the criminal code. Presidents can face a much broader array of evidentiary demands with far less protection under due process rules. A president can also be impeached for acts that are not technically crimes. Abuse of office is a classic example. However, analogies to Watergate show little understanding of those articles of impeachment. The first article against President Nixon was an obstruction allegation, but it was expressly linked to actual and serious crimes, including the criminal break-in at the Watergate. The article specifically listed an array of personal actions taken by Nixon and his subordinates to procure false statements, obstruct investigators, and “to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.”

Ironically, those who want a criminal charge on this record are committing the very offense that they accuse Trump of committing: disregarding the law to achieve their desired goal. It would be a highly dangerous interpretation to allow obstruction charges at this stage. If prosecutors can charge people at the investigation stage of cases, a wide array of comments or conduct could be criminalized. It is quite common to have such issues arise early in criminal cases. Courts have limited the crime precisely to avoid this type of open-ended crime where prosecutors could threaten potential witnesses with charges unless they cooperated.

We do not indict or impeach people for being boorish or clueless … or simply being Donald Trump.

To which I would add a point which ought to be obvious, and which I have made repeatedly, and which President Trump alludes to in his latest tweet, which is that for any obstruction of justice charge to stick there has to be some evidence of the actual existence of a crime the prosecution or investigation of which is being obstructed.

No such crime has been identified in the Russiagate case – almost certainly because no such crime was ever committed – whilst in the case of the Flynn investigation – which is the one that President Trump is actually being accused of obstructing – 6 months after the investigation was launched and 4 months after President Trump’s now famous conversation with Comey no charges have been brought against Flynn even though the whole case against Flynn stems from a single telephone conversation he had with Russian ambassador Kislyak of which a complete transcript exists.

As it happens I am far from sure that Special Counsel Mueller actually is investigating President Trump for obstruction of justice.  The Washington Post article that launched this claim looks to me to be based on a deduction that Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice because Mueller’s investigators intend to interview Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett.

It seems to me that these are people whom Mueller would want interviewed anyway as part of the original Russiagate investigation, and I think it is going too far to assume that simply because his investigators are going to interview them that means Mueller’s investigation has been expanded to look into allegations of obstruction of justice.

The Washington Post story is sourced to our old friends “five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly”.

Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee made it clear that information provided by these sort of anonymous sources is not always reliable (to put it mildly) and that he disputes a now notorious New York Times article, which appeared on 14th February 2017 (the same day incidentally that Trump had his now famous conversation with Comey in which they supposedly discussed Flynn).  That article was also sourced to our old friends the anonymous sources (“four current and former American officials”) and contained the sensational claim that

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election

Interestingly but unsurprisingly, despite Comey saying publicly and on oath that he disputes the New York Times story, the New York Times continues to stand by the story, preferring what it says it was told by its anonymous sources to what Comey says publicly on oath.

President Trump has tweeted his doubts about whether some of these anonymous sources actually exist and have not simply been made up, and frankly I am starting to have my doubts as well.  The episodes of the latest Washington Post story and of the New York Times article of 14th February 2017 reinforces those doubts

If Special Counsel Mueller really is investigating the President for obstruction of justice then the President ultimately has no one to blame but himself.  His meetings with Comey were as I have repeatedly said extraordinarily unwise, and though there is no legal case for obstruction of justice on the known facts (which I am sure are all the facts there are) there is at least an appearance of impopriety which Mueller may feel he has no choice but to look into.

Having said this, in the absence of any actual legal case for obstruction of justice I cannot imagine that Mueller’s investigation will in the end do the President any real harm.  Ultimately it may even be in the President’s interests to have Mueller look into this issue.  If Mueller exonerates the President fully of this charge – as on the facts he is bound to do – then it is impossible to see how any impeachment based on this charge can get off the ground.

In the meantime the President is showing wisdom by having his officials in the White House refer questions about this matter to Marc Kasowitz, his lawyer.  I hope he continues to exercise the same restraint in what is now a legal case.

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New Zealand enacts new weapons ban just six days after massacre

The American left is sure to pick this up and start screaming for an “assault weapons ban” because this supports their agenda so well.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Reuters reported on Thursday, March 21 that the Prime Minister of New Zealand enacted a sweeping change, banning weapons of the type that were used in the massacre of at least fifty Muslims, who were gunned down on livestream while in Friday prayer services in Christchurch last week. We quote from the Reuters piece below, with added emphasis:

New Zealand will ban military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in its worst mass shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.

In the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, Ardern labeled the attack as terrorism and said New Zealand’s gun laws would change.

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Ardern told a news conference.

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.”

Ardern said she expected the new laws to be in place by April 11 and a buy-back scheme costing up to NZ$200 million ($138 million) would be established for banned weapons.

All military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles would be banned, along with parts used to convert weapons into MSSAs and all high-capacity magazines.

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were killed.

Ardern said that similar to Australia, the law would allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers for pest control and animal welfare.

“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride.”

This is undoubtedly going to be real red meat (or perhaps real vegetables) for the anti-gun lobby in the United States. This is because New Zealand strongly resembled the US in terms of firearm rights and the penetration of numbers of guns in the populace of this remote island nation. Reuters continues, with statements that would probably surprise, even horrify some gun owners in the States, but which are doubtlessly useful for the application of pressure on such individuals:

New Zealand, a country of fewer than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5 million firearms, about 13,500 of them MSSA-type weapons.

Most farmers own guns while hunting of deer, pigs and goats is popular. Gun clubs and shooting ranges dot the country.

That has created a powerful lobby that has thwarted previous attempts to tighten gun laws.

Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supported the new laws.

“This will not be popular among some of our members but … we believe this is the only practicable solution,” a group spokesman, Miles Anderson, said in a statement.

The main opposition National Party, which draws strong support in rural areas, said it also supported the ban.

The changes exclude two general classes of firearms commonly used for hunting, pest control and stock management on farms.

“I have a military style weapon. But to be fair, I don’t really use it, I don’t really need it,” said Noel Womersley, who slaughters cpoliticalattle for small farmers around Christchurch.

“So I’m quite happy to hand mine over.”

To be absolutely fair, the attack on the mosques was an awful event, made the worse by the shooter’s deliberate attempts to politicize various aspects of what he was doing and what he “stood for” as an attack ostensibly against US President Donald Trump, some seven thousand miles away in the United States.

The immediate reaction of the people interviewed, some among them related or friends with the victims of the massacre, was to embrace the weapons reform laws:

Nada Tawfeek, who buried her father-in-law killed in the attacks, Hussein Moustafa, on Thursday, welcomed the ban.

“It’s a great reaction. I think other countries need to learn from her [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern],” Tawfeek said.

Mohammed Faqih, a member of the Islamic clergy who flew in from California and attended the funerals for some victims on Thursday, said he was “extremely grateful” for the gun ban.

“I wish our leaders in the States would follow on her footsteps and do the same thing,” he said.

One can expect there to be quite the outcry among American liberals about gun control, especially if anything remotely resembling this event takes place or is thwarted in coming days in the US.

It may seem very cold and cruel to focus on the political angle of this story rather than the human tragedy that it is. However, in this situation we have seen signs that the most vile form of human tragedy has actually taken place – the murder of dozens of innocent people for a mere political point. Indeed this thought has been noted and vilified already, as Mr. R.X. Dentith, writing for the New Zealand website Spinoff here quoted:

American paleo-conservative Rush Limbaugh was one of the first to note: “There’s an ongoing theory that the shooter himself may, in fact, be a leftist who writes the manifesto and then goes out and performs the deed purposely to smear his political enemies, knowing he’s going to get shot in the process. You know you just can’t – you can’t immediately discount this. The left is this insane, they are this crazy. And then if that’s exactly what the guy is trying to do then he’s hit a home run, because right there on Fox News: ‘Shooter is an admitted white nationalist who hates immigrants.’”

…[P]eople like Limbaugh… can’t stomach the idea the terrorist action in Otautahi might be motivated by the kind of rhetoric Limbaugh helps disseminate – tend to think there is a culture war going on, and they are on the losing side.

This war has many names, and the enemy is easily identified: it is the battle against Cultural Marxism; the fight against Toxic Feminism; the resistance to Identity Politics; and the fear of the Great Replacement, the thesis at the heart of the terrorist’s own manifesto.

The Great Replacement thesis posits that the majority white European countries are being “invaded” by non-white, non-European peoples. Not just that, but due to declining birth rates in the West, this “invasion” constitutes a wholesale replacement of the white population over time.

Mr. Dentith tries further to knock down this notion of the Great Replacement. However, he misses a much more basic point.

Someone who goes and takes human lives and broadcasts them for any reason is not a mere political operative. The person who does this is a very sick, deranged human being indeed. Evil is certainly appropriately used here.

However, evil is often quite cunning, and despite the intellectual arguments about the reality or non-reality of any particular manifesto statement, in this case, the killer played the media with infernal intelligence, and they took the bait. It is possible that Prime Minister Ardern also took the bait, in this most awful of bad situations, and to give her credit, she took swift actions to try to “correct” what was wrong.

But the problem here was not the type of weapons used. The problem is the fact that they were used by a person who thought these fifty people’s lives were worth nothing more than a bit of policy change. One of the worst examples of human evil in recent times, this incident shouts to the world that there is a problem, but the problem remains unsolved, even though many people will hand over their firearms out of a genuine wish for compassion to those lost and the hope that somehow this action will prevent a future incident.

But the logic of this emotional reaction is nil. And what is worse is that the American Left knows this, but does not care. The movers and shakers of liberalism will likely milk the actions of sincerely horrified New Zealanders for all they are worth to try at affecting change in American constitutional rights.

And the innocent dead will not rest in peace, because the real problem has not even been examined.

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Upstart Populist Party Shocks In Dutch Election Upset, 2 Days After Utrecht Attack

International reports have described the FvD as receiving “a surge of last-minute support” in the days following the Utrecht attack.

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Via Zerohedge…


Dutch voters have sent shock waves through Europe at the polls on Wednesday in the wake of Monday’s deadly Utrecht terror shooting, in which a now detained 37-year old Turkish man went on a terrifying tram killing spree which left three dead and three injured.

Euroskeptic party, Forum for Democracy (FvD), has emerged victorious in key provincial elections this week, paving the way to making it one of the two largest groups in the Dutch Senate, and representing growing Dutch frustration with the recent unprecedented refugee influx in Europe.

Newcomer Forum for Democracy party is led by 36-year-old Thierry Baudet, who is a critic of the EU and of the Netherlands’ immigration policies, via EPA

International reports have described the FvD as receiving “a surge of last-minute support” in the days following the Utrecht attack, which investigators have since described as having a “terror motive” based on a letter found in shooter Gokmen Tanis’ possession.

Forum for Democracy party leader Thierry Baudet had immediately placed ultimate blame  for the incident on the government’s “lax immigration policies” and provocatively stated a day before the elections (referencing his political rival)

If people want more deadly shootings like the one in Utrecht, then they have to vote for the VVD.

Baudet, riding a wave of renewed Euroskeptic sentiment, and whose party also wants to see more military spending, green initiatives, and an easing on income tax while greatly restricting the borders, said in the aftermath of Wednesday’s vote: “The voters in the Netherlands have spread their wings and shown their true power.”

Referencing the Utrecht attack and other deadly terror incidents on European soil, he added: “We have been called to the front because we have to. Because the country needs us.”

Three were killed and several injured in Monday’s Dutch tram terror attack, which raised the country’s emergency threat level to five as it was unfolding, its highest level.

Interestingly, the 36-year old Baudet and his party continued campaigning down to the last moments even as others stopped in the wake of Monday’s attack which rocked the Netherlands. According to Al Jazeera:

Following the lead of US President Donald Trump, Baudet opposes immigration and emphasises “Dutch first” cultural and economic themes. He opposes the euro and thinks the Netherlands should leave the European Union.

Baudet had continued campaigning when other parties stopped after Monday’s attack in Utrecht, in which a gunman shot three people dead on a tram. The populist leader blamed the incident on the government’s lax immigration policies.

The FvD is now set to take 12 seats in the upper house of parliament, which is equal to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD Party, a scenario before this week considered unlikely according to many observers.

The FvD slightly outscoring the VVD means Rutte’s government has lost its majority for the 75-seat Senate ahead of upcoming May elections.

In a post-election speech on Wednesday, Baudet described further that what’s now being described in international media as “an upstart populist party [that has] shocked the Dutch political establishment” as punishing the arrogance of elites.

In his pro-Western civilization themed remarks, Baudet added, “We are standing in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilization in the world.”

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Will The Trump White House finally punish Facebook for censorship?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 113.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at US President Trump’s tweet where he has said that he would be “looking into” a report that his social media chief, Dan Scavino Jr. has been censored by Facebook.

Are we finally about to see the Trump White House move to punish social media outlets for their blatant and bias censorship of alternative narratives that dare to stray from globalist neo-liberal and radical left ideology?

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“Conservatives face a tough fight as Big Tech’s censorship expands”, authored by Donald Trump Jr., via The Hill…

As Big Tech’s censorship of conservatives becomes ever more flagrant and overt, the old arguments about protecting the sanctity of the modern public square are now invalid. Our right to freely engage in public discourse through speech is under sustained attack, necessitating a vigorous defense against the major social media and internet platforms.

From “shadowbans” on Facebook and Twitter, to demonetization of YouTube videos, to pulled ads for Republican candidates at the critical junctures of election campaigns, the list of violations against the online practices and speech of conservatives is long.

I certainly had my suspicions confirmed when Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, “accidentally” censored a post I made regarding the Jussie Smollett hoax, which consequently led to me hearing from hundreds of my followers about how they’ve been having problems seeing, liking or being able to interact with my posts. Many of them even claimed that they’ve had to repeatedly refollow me, as Instagram keeps unfollowing me on their accounts.

While nothing about Big Tech’s censorship of conservatives truly surprises me anymore, it’s still chilling to see the proof for yourself. If it can happen to me, the son of the president, with millions of followers on social media, just think about how bad it must be for conservatives with smaller followings and those who don’t have the soapbox or media reach to push back when they’re being targeted?

Thanks to a brave Facebook whistleblower who approached James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, we now know that Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant developed algorithms to “deboost” certain content, limiting its distribution and appearance in news feeds. As you probably guessed, this stealth censorship was specifically aimed at conservatives.

Facebook appears to have deliberately tailored its algorithm to recognize the syntax and style popular among conservatives in order to “deboost” that content. “Mainstream media,” “SJW” (Social Justice Warrior) and “red pill” — all terms that conservatives often use to express themselves — were listed as red flags, according to the former Facebook insider.

Facebook engineers even cited BlazeTV host Lauren Chen’s video criticizing the social justice movement as an example of the kind of “red pills” that users just aren’t allowed to drop anymore. Mainstream conservative content was strangled in real time, yet fringe leftists such as the Young Turks enjoy free rein on the social media platform.

Despite the occasional brave gesture, politicians have been far too sluggish in recognizing the extent of the problem. But the Republican Party and the conservative movement are becoming more vigilant against the suppression of our speech, as we saw at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Silicon Valley lobbyists have splashed millions of dollars all over the Washington swamp to play on conservatives’ innate faith in the free-market system and respect for private property. Even as Big Tech companies work to exclude us from the town square of the 21st century, they’ve been able to rely on misguided conservatives to carry water for them with irrelevant pedantry about whether the First Amendment applies in cases of social media censorship.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been making a name for himself as a Republican prepared to stand up to Big Tech malfeasance since his time as Missouri’s attorney general. He delivered a tour de force interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel in front of the CPAC crowd, one that provided a clear-eyed assessment of the ongoing affront to the freedoms of conservative speech and expression.

Hawley demolished the absurd notion that “conservative principles” preclude taking action to ensure free debate online simply because Big Tech firms — the most powerful corporations in the world — are private companies.

Hawley pointed out that Big Tech companies already enjoy “sweetheart deals” under current regulations that make their malfeasance a matter of public concern. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, for instance, allows them to avoid liability for the content that users post to their platforms. To address this problem, Hawley proposed adding a viewpoint neutrality requirement for platforms that benefit from Section 230’s protections, which were originally enacted to protect the internet as “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”

“Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves,” Hawley declared. “They should not be able to discriminate against conservatives. They should not be able to tell us we need to sit down and shut up!”

It’s high time other conservative politicians started heeding Hawley’s warnings, because the logical endpoint of Big Tech’s free rein is far more troubling than conservative meme warriors losing their Twitter accounts. As we’re already starting to see, what starts with social media censorship can quickly lead to banishment from such fundamental services as transportation, online payments and banking.

Left unchecked, Big Tech and liberal activists could construct a private “social credit” system — not unlike what the communists have nightmarishly implemented in China — that excludes outspoken conservatives from wide swaths of American life simply because their political views differ from those of tech executives.

There is no conservative principle that even remotely suggests we are obligated to adopt a laissez-faire attitude while the richest companies on earth abuse the power we give them to put a thumb on the scale for our political enemies.

If anything, our love of the free market dictates that we must do whatever is necessary to ensure that the free marketplace of ideas remains open to all.

Donald Trump Jr. is executive vice president at The Trump Organization.

 

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