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Revealed: The time Amy Klobuchar ate a salad with a comb and made an aide clean it

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 23:41

A Twitter pal reading this asks a good question. Did she make him clean the comb before she started eating or only afterward? Because, gross.

Senator Amy Klobuchar was hungry, forkless and losing patience.

An aide, joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008, had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight.

What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode.

Then she handed the comb to her staff member with a directive: Clean it.

Hopefully a napkin was okay and he didn’t have to clean it with his mouth or something. There’s no telling how far a boss might go once he or she gets a taste for demeaning the help as pure sport.

This NYT piece is at least the fourth splashy expose of Klobuchar’s weird office behavior. HuffPost has done two and BuzzFeed has done one. Common themes:

1. Objections run the gamut from Klobuchar whining too often about how little she thought of her staff’s work to more ominous reports of her throwing things and insisting that they do chores, like washing dishes.

2. Not all of her former staffers say she’s a monster. Some back up her claims that she’s “demanding” but not overly abusive, even apologetic when she says something insulting.

3. Others are adamant that she’s not so much demanding as “dehumanizing.” And they insist they’re not grading her on a curve because she’s a woman. Klobuchar’s not domineering by “female standards” or whatever. She’s domineering. A noteworthy sentence: “Saving potentially damaging emails from Ms. Klobuchar became something of a last-day ritual, the aides said, in case they ever needed evidence of her conduct for their own reputational protection.” You’re probably past the “bossy” stage if your underlings are treating communications from you as potential evidence.

Basically, experiences with her vary, although they don’t seem to vary beyond the parameters of “not quite as bad as everyone says” and “even worse than you’ve heard.” Is that apt to be a liability for her in the primary? Nah, I doubt it, at least not unless and until we find out that she physically abused someone or went ever further than the comb episode in gratuitously humiliating an aide. This might raise a few eyebrows, though:

I know we're all focusing on the comb/salad anecdote, but this in the NYT story on how Amy Klobuchar handled parental leave for her staff…

— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) February 22, 2019

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez decided recently that her calls for better wages for Americans needed to start in her own office so she set a new policy in which no staffer who works for her will be paid less than $52,000 annually. If that starts a trend among 2020 contenders — and AOC is very much a trendsetter among presidential wannabes — it might get progressives to start paying closer attention to how Klobuchar treats her own employees. Throwing binders might not disqualify her in their eyes, but cheaping out on parental leave could be a knottier problem.

I’ve made this point myself in a separate post but it’s worth amplifying Olivia Nuzzi’s tweet here:

Correct. If there’s a sexist double standard at work in the stories of Klobuchar abusing her staff, it’s a double standard that works in her favor. A story about a male senator erupting in rage to the point where he started throwing things would be treated as reason to believe he needs psychiatric treatment, not some vaguely charming vignette about how “Senator K doesn’t take sh*t from anyone!” The comb story is a nice illustration. As told, it’s more amusing than sinister: Lookit the “nice” unpretentious lady from Minnesota going full diva with her aides. Imagine it with Ted Cruz, though, and it’s suddenly new evidence to progressives that he’s a Major Ass**** on a power trip and should probably be evaluated by someone for it. Klobuchar’s getting a pass here because she’s a woman.

The post Revealed: The time Amy Klobuchar ate a salad with a comb and made an aide clean it appeared first on Hot Air.

“Advocate” editor: Can we really trust the pro-Trump Chicago PD on Jussie Smollett’s guilt?

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 23:01

Via the Free Beacon. I’m not going to blindly vouch for any police force, especially this one, especially when they may have already jumped the gun on one piece of evidence in this case.

But the suggestion at the beginning of this clip that Chicago cops moved quickly to declare the alleged attack on Smollett racist and homophobic because they had ulterior motives beggars belief. Zach Stafford’s theory is that police rushed to do that because they suspected a hoax from the beginning and wanted to maximize the sense of betrayal when the truth eventually came out. Normally they’re more cautious in hate-crime cases, he claims. Is … this what he’s referring to, though? Because all this does is relay what Smollett told them happened:

Chicago Police Department just sent out this statement re:
Jussie Smollett

— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 29, 2019

That’s an accurate reflection of what Smollett says happened. “They called me a f—-, they called me a n—-,” he later told ABC. What were the cops supposed to say?

If Stafford’s right that Chicago PD was suspiciously more credulous about this attack early on than they normally are, there’s an obvious reason that has nothing to do with wanting to set him up for a big fall later: He’s a celebrity. There was a thousand times more public attention to this “assault” than there’d be to a hate crime committed against an average person. Chicago cops probably strained to amplify Smollett’s account not because they had some devious plan to maximize the drama before revealing his fraud but because they knew that the media and progressive activists like Stafford were watching them like hawks to make sure they treated the case with the gravity it deserved. If they had betrayed any early skepticism of Smollett’s story, however well-founded, they would have been torched. So instead they took it at face value and threw a ton of resources into finding his attackers, and … they’re getting torched here anyway.

Anything’s possible in terms of police incompetence. It is within the realm of foreseeable outcomes to this sh*tshow that Chicago police screwed up the whole case and Smollett is in fact the innocent victim he claims to be. But knowing that they’re under a woke microscope, with newspapers and Hollywood scrutinizing their every move, I’m guessing police were extra careful in making sure their case against Smollett is airtight. The alternative, that they rushed to accuse a real victim of a hoax, would haunt the department for decades. Exit question: It’s not like any other celebrity defendant has ever walked free amid a media feeding frenzy despite seeming guilty as sin due to shoddy work by the police and D.A., right?

Via Fox News: Watch as an MSNBC guest suggests the Chicago police are framing Jussie Smollett, and Kasie Hunt moves on as if that’s totally normal

— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 22, 2019

The post “Advocate” editor: Can we really trust the pro-Trump Chicago PD on Jussie Smollett’s guilt? appeared first on Hot Air.

Professor: Hate crime hoaxes are more common than people think

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 22:21

Wilfred Reilly is an associate professor at Kentucky State University where he teaches political science. Reilly has a piece at USA Today which is based on a forthcoming book he is writing on hoax hate crimes. His conclusion is that these crimes happen far more often than people think:

Doing research for a book, Hate Crime Hoax, I was able to easily put together a data set of 409 confirmed hate hoaxes. An overlapping but substantially different list of 348 hoaxes exists at, and researcher Laird Wilcox put together another list of at least 300 in his still-contemporary book Crying Wolf. To put these numbers in context, a little over 7,000 hate crimes were reported by the FBI in 2017 and perhaps 8-10% of these are widely reported enough to catch the eye of a national researcher…

In college campus hate hoax cases (Kean College, U-Chicago), the individuals responsible almost invariably say that they staged incidents to call attention to real incidents of racist violence on campus. Certainly, the media giants that leap to publicize hate crime stories later revealed to be fakes, and the organizations that line up to defend their “victims” — the Southern Poverty Law Center, Black Lives Matter, CAIR — think that they are providing a public service by fighting bigotry.

However, hate crime hoaxers are “calling attention to a problem” that is a very small part of total crimes.

It’s worth noting that the number of hate crimes is not a figure that represents uniform national reporting. According to the FBI: “Agencies that participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program in 2017 represented more than 300 million inhabitants, or 94.1 percent of the nation’s population, and their jurisdictions covered 49 states and the District of Columbia.” So it’s most of the country but not quite all of it. So it’s at least arguable that these crimes are still underreported.

Still, the total number of violent crimes in the U.S. in 2017 was 1,247,321 (that doesn’t include 7,694,086 property crimes). So in the scheme of things 7,100 hate crimes is not a huge number, which is obviously a good thing.

It would be interesting to know what span of time the 409 cases Prof. Reilly identified covers. The most interesting part of this piece is the suggestion that only about 10% of reported hate crimes generate much news. I wonder if the high-profile cases, i.e. ones that become national stories, are somewhat more likely to be hoaxes than some of the others that don’t make the news. You can kind of see how that would make sense. A hoax crime, like the Smollett case now appears to be, is tailor-made to make a splash with the media. As Megan McArdle said the other day, Smollett’s story appeared theatrical, almost cinematic, from the start. The noose, the bleach, the ranting about “MAGA country” was a perfect story for attracting anti-Trump eyeballs. That, combined with Smollett’s celebrity, made it much more likely it would become national news.

Reilly’s book comes out next week. I’m sure this opinion piece was meant to generate interest and for me, it worked. I’d like to hear more.

The post Professor: Hate crime hoaxes are more common than people think appeared first on Hot Air.

Barkley slam-dunks Smollett: Why didn’t you just look up Liam Neeson?

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 21:41

Kamala Harris may be “sad, frustrated, and disappointed” by Jussie Smollett, but NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley finds the alleged hoax hilarious — for its incompetence. “America, let me just tell you something,” Barkley intoned during an NBA halftime on TNT, “do not commit crimes with checks.” Barkley had his partners on the set in stitches during this two-minute riff, which included this piece of advice  to Smollett from Barkley: The next time you want to stage a hate crime, go “up in Liam Neeson’s neighborhood.”


It started with the host of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” asking which of their panelists’ predictions about the rest of the season had no chance of coming true. Before anyone else could get a word in, Charles Barkley offered a reply that had nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with the arrest of actor Jussie Smollett over allegations that he hired two Nigerian men to stage a racist attack on him.

“Two black guys beating a black guy up,” Barkley said late Thursday, sending co-host Shaquille O’Neal into a wheezing laugh that had him banging the desk. The baffled host, Ernie Johnson, could only shake his head and muster, “I can’t believe you, Chuck.”

Not everyone on the set was laughing, however:

As Barkley was still giggling from the joke, a member from the production staff could be heard yelling something at him, perhaps in an effort to end talk of a sensitive story that remains raw for those who initially backed Smollett. Some online suggested that the person off-camera yelled, “Stop!

Charles Barkley doesn’t respond well to people telling him to stop talking. That won’t keep people from trying, including Esquire’s Justin Kirkland, who wanted him to stop too:

If you want an unfiltered opinion, just ask NBA legend Charles Barkley. If you don’t want an unfiltered opinion, then make sure that he is completely out of the room, because during Thursday night’s NBA Halftime Show on TNT, Barkley came out of left field to roast Jussie Smollett on the alleged staging on his own hate crime. In a word, it’s brutal. In a few more? It’s random, weird, and will make you uncomfortable. …

In a way, it’s the most predictable way to punctuate a week of disastrous news from the Smollett case. In a timeline of accounts that only seemed to drive the case further into the ground, Barkely happily picked up the shovel to dig in a little further.

Er, no, Smollett and the celebrities who used his hoax to beat up on their own bêtes noires did all the digging. Barkley’s just pointing out the holes and laughing. He’s one of the least politically correct celebrities in the business, known for his blunt style and sense of humor. Who cares if this “remains raw for those who initially backed Smollett”? Perhaps they should have exercised better judgment at that time rather than clucking tongues at Barkley last night for poking fun at what has been a ridiculous spectacle for a while. As Barkley demonstrates with his Neeson reference, he has an even-handed approach to ridicule.

I don’t usually patrol the late-night television shows, but it’s worth asking: Was Barkley the first late-night “comic” to skewer Jussie Smollett other than Trevor Noah at roughly the same time? I’d bet the answer is yes, and I’d further bet that they’ll be the only two for a while. I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised with examples preceding Sir Charles and Noah, but … I’m not holding my breath.

The post Barkley slam-dunks Smollett: Why didn’t you just look up Liam Neeson? appeared first on Hot Air.

NY prosecutors preparing to charge Paul Manafort — just in case Trump pardons him

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 21:01

Isn’t this an inadvertent inducement to Trump to issue a pardon? If Manafort walks free forever thanks to a pardon despite having been duly convicted in federal court, that’s entirely on Trump. POTUS may think twice before assuming a political liability of that magnitude.

Whereas if Trump knows that New York is planning to pounce, sure, why not pardon him? It’s not like Manafort’s getting off scot-free. The Manhattan D.A. is waiting in the wings. Trump would merely be signaling his belief that Mueller’s investigation is tainted, not that Manafort should be able to act with impunity in all matters just because he’s a former Trump employee.

And if, perchance, the Supreme Court should step in and decide that Manafort can’t be prosecuted by New York state prosecutors because his federal conviction triggered the Double Jeopardy Clause? Well, that’s not POTUS’s fault either. Take it up with the egghead justices if you don’t like it.

Prosecutors in [Manhattan DA Cyrus] Vance’s office began investigating Manafort in 2017, months before Mueller charged him with conspiracy, failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts and failure to register as an agent of a foreign country, activities stemming from his earlier work for Ukraine. Mueller’s team followed up with more charges of bank fraud, filing false tax returns and failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts in early 2018.

At the state level, Vance is preparing an array of criminal charges. While their full extent isn’t clear, they would include evasion of New York taxes and violations of state laws requiring companies to keep accurate books and records, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the investigation is confidential…

Vance’s office has identified several areas where it believes Manafort can be charged with state offenses without triggering double jeopardy protections.

For example, New York law allows defendants who have already been convicted of evading federal taxes to be charged with the same conduct as it applies to state taxes. As a part-time resident of New York, Manafort has some exposure.

When they say that Vance is “preparing” charges, they don’t mean he’s spitballing ideas with his deputies in a conference room. They’re already before a grand jury, per the Times: “The panel is expected to wrap up its work in the coming weeks, several of the people said, and prosecutors likely will ask the grand jurors to vote on charges shortly thereafter.” This is an “in case of pardon emergency, break glass” indictment, it seems. And the timing couldn’t be better. Logically, if anything’s going to set Trump off and get him to start handing out clemency in Russiagate, it’s the conclusion of Mueller’s probe — which may come next week. Vance is getting ready, just in case.

And he might have had help from Mueller. Reports of the special counsel coordinating with state prosecutors stretch back to the early months of the investigation. Mueller’s always understood that Trump might undo the federal convictions he obtains and that that might spill over to the state level via the Double Jeopardy Clause by barring prosecutions for the same crimes under state law. I wonder if we’ll find out eventually that Mueller deliberately didn’t charge defendants like Manafort with some crimes that overlap with state offenses in their home jurisdictions, hoping/expecting to preserve those offenses for local prosecutors just in case Trump blew up the federal case with a pardon. If Mueller thought he could nail Manafort on a variety of other charges, why risk “spoiling” charges that could be filed in New York by indicting Manafort on the federal versions of those crimes too?

Democrats in New York have been trying for months to get the state legislature to close the double jeopardy “loophole” there, which *might* bar state prosecutions in the event of a presidential pardon. Even though the president technically only has power to grant clemency for federal crimes, trying Manafort on the state equivalent of those federal crimes would mean he’d be facing a jury twice for the same basic offenses. Double jeopardy! I’ve never understood the logic of that argument, though, honestly. The prohibition on double jeopardy exists to prevent the state from retrying you after you’ve been acquitted. We don’t want to give the government do-overs on trying to put people behind bars; otherwise they might retry you forever until they find a jury willing to convict. Manafort, though, hasn’t been acquitted. He was convicted. A pardon would merely mean that the president had substituted his judgment for the jury’s judgment after the fact. Why should a sovereign state like New York be barred from seeking a conviction where probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed just because one officer in a different level of government thinks his crony should go free? It’s absurd. Double jeopardy shouldn’t be used to bind states by federal acts of clemency.

The post NY prosecutors preparing to charge Paul Manafort — just in case Trump pardons him appeared first on Hot Air.

Venezuelan security forces open fire on protesters demanding food (Update: Internet shut off)

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 20:21

The NY Times reports that tensions along Venezuela’s border have escalated to the point that government security forces opened fire on protesters, killing at least two people. The battle between the government and protesters is over food. The U.S. and other countries have sent aid to the border. Juan Guaidó has said he wants to get that food aid across the border and into the hands of starving people but Nicolas Maduro’s has ordered his security forces to block the border crossings and reportedly threatened truck drivers about bringing the food across the border.

Venezuelan opposition leaders and their allies in Brazil were scrambling on Friday to find trucks and drivers to transport 500 kits of food and medicine that they hope to get across the border on Saturday.

María Teresa Belandria, an opposition leader who serves as Mr. Guaidó’s envoy to Brazil, said in an interview that some of the drivers that they hoped to enlist for the plan had been held back by the armed forces in Venezuela. Others, who are already in Brazil, have been threatened by allies of Mr. Maduro with arrest, she said.

“It’s been very hard to line up the trucks,” said Ms. Belandria. “We’re coming up with a contingency plan.”

Things came to a head early this morning when a group of Venezuelans attempted to block the path of Maduro’s forces as they were headed to the border with Brazil. The security forces were there to block the flow of food aid:

At least two civilians were killed and more than a dozen wounded in the confrontation with security forces in the Gran Sabana area, along Venezuela’s southeast border with Brazil, according to Américo de Grazia, an opposition lawmaker from the state of Bolívar. The Gran Sabana area is inhabited by the Pemón, an indigenous community…

Ricardo Delgado, a Pemón leader, said the tensions that led to the confrontation began in the predawn hours when a convoy from the Army and the National Guard attempted to reach a checkpoint on the border to help protect it. A group of indigenous protesters blocked their passage, because they want the aid to come in.

Mr. Delgado said he told convoy officers that they could not pass, and they left. But hours later, he said, the convoy returned, this time shooting at the indigenous group blocking the streets.

Maduro has said he’s refusing the food aid because Venezuelans are not “beggars.” According to the Times, the protesters seen in this video are singing, “They are killing us with hunger.”

#22Feb #Venezuela #SantaElenaDeUairén #GranSabana #Frontera #GNB #AyudaHumanitaria

— Natxel De Jesús (@NJMS13) February 22, 2019

And here’s an image of two of the people shot by security forces:

Picture of 2 of the Pemones tribesmen shot by the Venezuelan army in Gran Sabana this morning,they were transferred to hospital in Santa Elena de Uairén but due to a lack of supplies they will reportedly be taken across the border into Brazil to a hospital in Boa Vista#Venezuela

— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 22, 2019

Notice these men had to be taken to hospitals in Brazil. Today, Maduro posted this absurd propaganda video with text that reads, “We are making every effort to make the national public health system not stop and rise to the highest level in the world. A human effort that is only possible with the Bolivarian Revolution. Love with Love is paid!”

Estamos haciendo todos los esfuerzos para que el Sistema Público Nacional de Salud no se detenga y se eleve al más alto nivel en el mundo. Un esfuerzo humano que solo es posible con la Revolución Bolivariana. ¡Amor con Amor se paga!

— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) February 22, 2019

In reality, CNN reported back in 2016 that children were dying in Venezuelan hospitals from a lack of medical supplies. The AP reported about a 3-year-old girl who spent two months in a disgusting hospital overrun with roaches and wild dogs after she scraped her knee. The shortages of food and medicine are so severe that millions of Venezuelans have already fled the country and millions more have struggled to survive what has been called “the Maduro diet.”

Despite this, there are still a number of wealthy socialists demanding that the U.S. stop interfering in Venezuela. Just yesterday, socialist Bernie Sanders who never met a left-wing dictator he didn’t like, refused to call Maduro a dictator.

Today, just across the border with Colombia, a benefit concert is taking place. The concert was arranged by billionaire Richard Branson in an attempt to put a spotlight on the Venezuelan crisis. From the AP:

A benefit concert on the Colombian border with Venezuela has kicked off with an artist singing a song about her personal struggles as a migrant.

Strumming her ukulele, Reymar Perdomo on Friday sang “I Left,” which has become the unofficial anthem of Venezuelans fleeing their country’s economic and political crisis.

Near where the concert is taking place, the U.S. has already delivered 200 tons of food aid. The question now is whether Juan Guaidó can get that across the border or if Maduro’s troops will succeed in forcing people to continue starving for the good of the Bolivarian Revolution. At some point soon, the rank and file police and soldiers are going to have to say enough is enough and defy their commanders.

Update: Apparently Venezuela has cut off “the entire internet” to prevent people from watching the concert.

#Breaking: Just in – #Venezuela has cut off the entire internet access from the outside world and cable TV services for preventing to be able to watch the #VenezuelaAidLive concert in #Colombia right now!

— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) February 22, 2019

Confirmation from @netblocks that Venezuelan authorities are blocking internet access to YouTube, Bing and Google to coincide with the #VenezuelaAidLive concert #Venezuela #22Feb

— In Venezuela (@invenezuelablog) February 22, 2019

The post Venezuelan security forces open fire on protesters demanding food (Update: Internet shut off) appeared first on Hot Air.

It’s on … again: North Carolina orders new election, overturns Harris’ win

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 19:51

Republican Mark Harris will not go to Congress soon — and perhaps not at all. After admitting that testimony he gave the state board of elections was “incorrect,” the putative 9th CD winner in November’s midterms threw in the towel and called for a new election. After four days of testimony regarding election fraud in two counties, including from Harris’ son, the board unanimously agreed:

North Carolina orders new House election after 'tainted' vote via @ReutersTV

— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 22, 2019

After a stunning reversal by Republican Mark Harris, North Carolina election officials Thursday unanimously ordered a new election in the 9th Congressional District, which has gained national attention as the last unresolved House race for the 2018 election.

The state elections board’s vote came after four days of testimony about what the board’s staff called “a coordinated, unlawful, and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme” in Bladen and Robeson counties. And it came less than an hour after a startling announcement by Harris, who had been fighting to have his apparent victory certified.

“I believe a new election should be called,” Harris told the board, citing testimony he’d heard during the week. “It’s become clear to me the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.“

The pressure of the investigation took its toll on Harris. He had been hospitalized for an infection and apparently suffered two strokes, which Harris said interfered with his ability to recall events that transpired last year. His son John dramatically took the stand to reluctantly tell the election board that he’d warned his father not to get involved with Leslie McCrae Dowless, whose GOTV operation had been rumored to rely on fraud in the past. The e-mails the son sent to Harris had been a “bombshell” in the hearings, and Harris himself had wept as his son testified.

Freedman, Harris’ attorney, said his son’s testimony was a “tipping point” for Harris.

“The tipping point was his son told him, tried to warn him years ago about trusting too much. His son is now telling him this is tainted. His son is now telling him from the witness stand, it’s time for bipartisan support,” Freedman said. “He decided maybe he should listen to his son.”

At that point, Harris threw in the towel:

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Republicans did get one piece of good news in the decision. Initially, Democrats wanted a rerun of the general election, pitting a politically damaged Harris against the Democrat who narrowly lost the election, Dan McCready. The state legislature in December passed a law mandating completely new elections starting from the primaries under these circumstances, which is what the board ordered yesterday. That will allow Republicans an opportunity to choose a different candidate, and it’s not even clear that Harris will attempt another run at the seat anyway. Given the health issues he’s facing, his family might insist on a quiet retirement from public life.

McCready’s legal team may challenge the order to force a runoff against Harris:

Thursday afternoon the state board of elections issued a press release saying “The State Board will set dates for new primary (and second primary, if necessary) and general elections at a subsequent meeting.”

Last December, the General Assembly passed a law mandating a new primary in the 9th Congressional District if the board of elections called for a new race.

Primary races typically fall under the guidelines of federal elections law so it is unclear whether North Carolina actually has the ability to call for a new primary or if there will be a legal challenge. Thursday, Dan McCready’s attorney Marc Elias declined to say whether they would challenge the new law requiring a primary.

If not, then perhaps the NC GOP can convince former incumbent Robert Pittenger to enter the primary. He had warned the party about Dowless’ activities in the past, and it appears that Pittenger might have been Dowless’ first victim in the 2016 cycle. That would give Republicans in the district at least some small claim for sympathy in a special election. It may not be much, but …

The post It’s on … again: North Carolina orders new election, overturns Harris’ win appeared first on Hot Air.

Today’s hot topics on Relevant Radio®: Vatican summit, Truth and Beauty, Little Sisters update, Muthana lawsuit, movie madness, and more!

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 19:41

Once again, I get to step outside the box and guest host the Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio® from 3-6 ET today! The Catholic talk-radio network is heard nationwide on the air, as well as online and through their free mobile app that plays live and podcast shows.

Today’s Relevant Radio® show includes:

  • What is the latest from the Vatican summit on sexual abuse scandals? Veteran Vaticanista and Wall Street Journal reporter Francis X. Rocca joins us from Rome to discuss developments, and also look at the complicated nature of the problem in Poland.
  • How can we promote truth and beauty in the Catholic Church in the modern age? Relevant Radio®’s Rome correspondent Ashley Noronha and her husband John discuss their new Truth and Beauty Project and how we can participate in it. Can we find the next digital Michelangelo?
  • This year the Little Sisters of the Poor celebrate their 150th anniversary. Sisters Carolyn Martin and Ann Marguerite will talk about their work in Chicago, their surprising notoriety in the national debate on health care, and how we can support them in their mission.
  • Should the US allow a former ISIS bride and terrorist to return home — even if she’s not technically a US citizen? Charles “Cully” Stimson from the Heritage Foundation will help us understand the legal issues involved in the dispute over Hoda Muthana’s citizenship, and what the best course of action might be.
  • The Oscars will take place on Sunday. What’s the latest news and gossip, and how will going without a host turn out? We’ll ask Christian Toto of Hollywood in Toto these questions and take a peek at how Hollywood is handling the Jussie Smollett case.
  • And more to come … stay tuned!

We may add more before the show starts today, plus we will have the chaplet of Divine Mercy in the second hour. We will also take your calls at 1-888-914-9149You can also listen on the Relevant Radio app no matter where you are in the world, so download it now. I’ll look forward to talking with you!

The post Today’s hot topics on Relevant Radio®: Vatican summit, Truth and Beauty, Little Sisters update, Muthana lawsuit, movie madness, and more! appeared first on Hot Air.

TMZ: FBI sources tapping brakes on Chicago PD’s claims regarding Smollett threat letter

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 19:01

Did Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson get out a little ahead of his skis in his press conference yesterday? The police gathered an impressive amount of evidence in their investigation, as documented in the bond proffer presented at Jussie Smollett’s arraignment yesterday. The local case is strong enough to impress Don Lemon and get him thinking that police might not be framing Smollett.

But what about the feds? Johnson asserted in the presser that Smollett had manufactured an earlier threat letter mailed to Empire‘s production offices, which contained a white powder identified later as crushed ibuprofen. Johnson said that the FBI had picked up that part of the investigation, but the proffer also stated as fact that the letter was a Smollett production:

Chicago police chief says Jussie Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack "because he was dissatisfied with his salary."

— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 21, 2019

Today, however, TMZ reports that the FBI has not yet reached that conclusion. They are still examining the letter and the envelope, as well as cut-up magazines seized by police in a search warrant in the apartment of the Osundairo brothers. The brothers themselves have not yet admitted to participating in the letter, however, and that may mean that Johnson’s conclusion was premature, at the least:

Federal law enforcement sources tell us they’re still investigating the letter and have drawn no conclusions. Both federal and state law enforcement sources say the operating theory was that the 2 brothers — Abel and Ola Osundairo — may have mailed the letter because, when cops raided their apartment and seized magazines, there were pages missing.

We’re told authorities are trying to determine if the pages have the lettering found in the letter. They’re also checking the postage stamp against the stamps found in the brothers’ apartment. As we reported, the brothers deny sending the letter.

Obviously, if the brothers sent the letter, it comes back to Jussie — because they would have done it at his behest — but as one federal law enforcement source tells TMZ, “I think he [Johnson] went too far. We’re not there yet.”

The two brothers don’t have any criminal liability on the hoax attack, which itself was not a crime. Smollett filed the false police report, not the Osundairos. However, if they participated in sending the threat letter, they do have potential exposure to felony federal prosecution under the same statutes that would apply to Smollett. The Prosecutors might cut them a deal to testify if they took part in that hoax, but until they cooperate on that (assuming, of course, that there’s any crime on which to cooperate), they may have trouble making that stick to Smollett.

Yesterday at Law & Crime, Matt Naham sounded skeptical that the feds would bother prosecuting Smollett at all over the letter:

Jussie Smollett is already in deep trouble, but could he also have opened himself up to federal charges? Many on social media seem to think so, but is this a realistic expectation? We explain. …

A second accusation has left observers wondering if the current charge could be the least of Smollett’s problems. Police said that Smollett sent himself a racist and homophobic letter while on the set of Empire. They also alleged that Smollett was upset about his salary. … Previous reporting from CBS 2 Chicago linked the letter to the larger alleged scheme and indicated that it was, indeed, mailed. …

This raised the question of whether Smollett could face federal charges. … What does fraud mean? Take it away, 18 U.S.C § 1341.

It’s possible, I suppose, that feds could make a case for mail fraud, but that’s not what they’re likely try. Why do all that work to prove the mens rea for fraud when federal statutes already carry five-year penalties for sending threats via the mail, and hoaxes as well? The relevant statutes in this instance don’t include 18 USC 1341, but 18 USC 876 and 18 USC 1038. There’s no need to make a complicated case on motive when dealing with threats and hoaxes; prosecutors only need to prove that the accused sent them via the mail or was part of a conspiracy to do so.

First, though, they have to get enough evidence to file those charges. They’re not there yet, TMZ’s sources say, but they wouldn’t be bothering to investigate this further if they had no plans to prosecute it later.

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Portland listening session turns into extremist ‘sh*tshow’ as activists demand police force be disbanded

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 18:21

Last week a Portland police lieutenant named Jeff Niiya was accused of colluding with right-wing protest group Patriot Prayer after a string of his texts were released to the public. Lt. Niiya’s job is to coordinate with protest groups coming to the city and the texts show him doing just that, i.e. chatting with Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson about the group’s intentions and planned movements. As I noted last week, Lt. Niiya has previously been in close contact with a member of Antifa who became an outcast when other members of the group learned she’d be talking with police.

But the texts with Patriot Prayer were seen as something far more sinister by the far-left denizens of Portland. That included left-wing city commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty who declared the texts were proof police were in “collusion with right-wing extremists.” Portland’s Mayor, Ted Wheeler, called for an investigation saying, “It is imperative for law enforcement to remain objective and professional, and in my opinion, these text messages appear to cross several boundaries.” Portland’s Police Chief Danielle Outlaw agreed to investigate the texts to see if they showed anything improper. Yesterday, the Oregonian reported that it was Mayor Wheeler’s office that was asking for and receiving information about Patriot Prayer’s location and plans from Lt. Niiya:

The Mayor’s Office has relied on a Portland police lieutenant to keep tabs on right-wing protest leader Joey Gibson, sometimes texting him at all hours to ask about Gibson’s whereabouts or plans.

It’s the same lieutenant, Jeff Niiya, who has come under fire in the last week from Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city officials…

“Certainly the mayor’s initial comments gave the impression that he was unaware of the communications between Niiya and Gibson,’’ said Lt. Craig Morgan, president of the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association. “These texts show that not only was his top aide aware of the conversations, but he was requesting specific information about Patriot Prayer and Gibson as situations developed.’’

Despite the fact that it was the Mayor’s own office requesting the information Lt. Niiya was gathering on Patriot Prayer, the investigation prompted by Niiya’s texts remains ongoing. As part of that process, Police Chief Outlaw scheduled a listening session to hear the community’s concerns Thursday night. Reporter Andy Ngo, who attended the meeting, says it quickly became a “sh*tshow” and a “circus of identity politics and hysteria.”

An elderly woman said she doesn’t think streets in Portland should be shut down by activists. Audience tells her to sit down and holds signs up saying “lies.”

— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) February 22, 2019

This is a sh-t show. Activists are calling for @PortlandPolice to be disbanded. It is a circus of identity politics & hysteria.

— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) February 22, 2019

Audience woman is calling for white supremacists to be jailed, for city to work with Antifa & It’s Going Down, and to leave homeless people alone in the city. #Portland

— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) February 22, 2019

Woman speaking says she was offended that they didn’t acknowledge this was Chinook land in the beginning. #Portland

— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) February 22, 2019

Haley Adams, a right-wing Jewish #HimToo activist in #Portland shouted at the panel for allowing crowd to mistreat the few conservative citizens from the public who spoke. The mob surrounds her & shouts "NAZI SCUM." She is then kicked out of the @PortlandPolice town hall event.

— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) February 22, 2019

Portland Police had extremely limited presence at the town hall. That was a mistake. Antifa masked up outside & was harassing & following the conservatives who were leaving. There was around 25 of them outside in the dark & no police in sight when I went outside after event.

— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) February 22, 2019

By their own admission, the mob wants the @PortlandPolice to be disbanded. They are rather candid about this goal. Further, they have no qualms about wanting to use the state to imprison & prosecute their political opponents while allowing themselves to do whatever with impunity.

— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) February 22, 2019

It’s not hard to imagine why Antifa anarchists like the idea of a city without a police force. That’s pretty much what they got last August when Mayor Ted Wheeler allowed an Occupy ICE camp full of vile extremists to grow and fester. Protestesters became so violent that ICE officers called 911 for help but Mayor Wheeler ordered the police not to respond. When the same mob turned on a woman running a food cart and burned it down, the police never responded. In the end, it was Police Chief Danielle Outlaw who demanded the Mayor allow her to clear out the camp. Naturally, the protesters left behind loads of garbage for the city to clean up.

At this point, Chief Outlaw seems to be one of the few city officials with any sense. Hopefully, she won’t buckle under the pressure from extremists to condemn Lt. Niiya.

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Florida police accuse Patriots owner Robert Kraft of soliciting a prostitute; Update: Kraft denies; Update: Another big name?

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 17:41

Did he pay with a check?

Forgive me for snickering at the misfortune of another. Remember, I’m a Jets fan. This is as close as I’ll ever get to an exciting day in sports.

Kraft is worth something on the order of $6 billion, by the way. Even at the age of 77, how is this guy having trouble getting laid?

Video: Police in Jupiter, Florida announce the charges against @Patriots owner Robert Kraft of soliciting prostitution as part of a wider human trafficking sting operation

— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) February 22, 2019

It’s amusing to think of a fabulously wealthy, successful mogul publicly embarrassed over something as grubby as this — until you read a little further about the case and realize why cops were so interested in this particular “massage parlor.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft being charged with soliciting prostitution related to what FL police say is a massage parlor where women – who were told they were coming to US for legit jobs – were in fact held as virtual prisoners/sex workers.

— Chris Jansing (@ChrisJansing) February 22, 2019

It’s a suspected sex trafficking ring, according to TMZ. Even Homeland Security was involved. The local sheriff hinted as to why in today’s presser:

As for the human trafficking case in Martin County, Snyder described the operation as an 8-month, multi-agency investigation. “The tentacles of this go from here to New York to China, in Florida from here to Orange County,” Snyder said.

Snyder stressed the case is bigger than what was disclosed Tuesday.

“I think it’s very safe to say without any hyperbole that this is the tip of the iceberg,” Snyder said.

Twenty-five men in all are being charged. There’s “video evidence” against all of them obtained by police as part of the sting, according to the chief of Jupiter PD, and not just video of them entering and exiting the building. Allegedly Kraft is on tape engaged in “a sex act.” “The Patriots aren’t the only ones who can videotape their targets without their knowledge,” says Josh Jordan.

The important question now: Can this be used somehow to get Tom Brady banned from the NFL? Stand by for updates.

Update: Kraft did nothing illegal, a spokesperson says: “In a statement, a spokesperson for Kraft said they ‘categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.'” Are they suggesting he was given a freebie? Or that the report of a sex act caught on tape is wrong?

Update: Did anyone happen to see this on ESPN?

Adam Schefter said on ESPN that Kraft isn’t the most famous person — there’s someone else whose name hasn’t surfaced yet who’s better known than Kraft.

“I’m also told that Robert Kraft is not the biggest name involved down there in South Florida,” Schefter said.

The post Florida police accuse Patriots owner Robert Kraft of soliciting a prostitute; Update: Kraft denies; Update: Another big name? appeared first on Hot Air.

Breaking, kinda: House schedules Tuesday vote on Dems’ How Dare You Use The Authority We Surrendered 43 Years Ago bill

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 17:01

Lots of “breaking news” updates popped up from the media this morning on Twitter about a development we all saw coming for a week. Nancy Pelosi scheduled a vote on congressional disapproval of Donald Trump’s emergency declaration for Tuesday. Politico, NPR, ABC, and even the Women’s March all attached “breaking” tags to the news.

At least Bloomberg’s Nancy Ognanovich only prefaced it with a more accurate “NEWS.” Pelosi laid out the order of business on the bill, and concluded her call with reporters by declaring that Trump can’t act as though he’s “above the law”:

NEWS: #Pelosi says the resolution aimed at blocking #Trump #emergency move will go to House #Rules on Monday night and will be on the floor Tuesday. The House will vote on matter Tuesday, she says. `The president is not above the law in any way,' #Speaker tells reporters.

— Nancy Ognanovich (@NOgnanovich) February 22, 2019

“Above the law”? That’s not the problem here, and Pelosi knows it. The issue here is that Trump acted within the law Congress passed in 1976, the National Emergencies Act, that gave presidents the authority to do exactly what Trump has done here. Part of that law allows Congress to revoke the declaration by passing a bill to do so, which as most media outlets state will likely sail through the House, at the very least on a party-line vote. It might even pass the Senate, too:

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), who authored the one-page resolution, said he had gathered at least 226 co-sponsors for his measure — more than enough to guarantee House passage. But only one Republican, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, has joined the bill so far. …

While House passage is all but assured, it is unclear whether a disapproval resolution can pass the Senate, where Republicans enjoy a 53-to-47 majority. Only one Senate Republican publicly offered support for a disapproval measure, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), though several other GOP senators have signaled discomfort with Trump’s declaration.

Pelosi and other Democrats have tied to couch their arguments against the emergency declaration in constitutional and institutional terms, arguing that Congress cannot stand idly by while a president usurps the legislative branch’s powers — hoping to win over conservatives who have been critical of the expansive use of executive powers in the federal government.

“We have a separation of powers in our country,” Pelosi said. “We battled against a monarchy; we did not intend to establish one in our country.”

Not to be too harsh, but that’s horsecrap. Not only did Congress clearly intend to pass this buck to the president, they have not once in 43 years ever bothered to follow up on emergency decrees, nor to limit the power they hand to presidents. I covered that in my column at The Week and have noted it multiple times here this week, but it’s worth making the argument again briefly:

Until now, Congress not only hasn’t objected to the use the NEA for purposes that could easily have been addressed under normal conditions — such as applying sanctions in Belarus in 2006 — it hasn’t had much interest in using its authority to close out emergencies and restore its own standing. …

Of the 59 national emergencies declared by presidents since 1979, more than half remain in effect today. The still-extant “emergencies” include:

  • Regulation of the Anchorage and Movement of Vessels with respect to Cuba (1997)
  • Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to the Development of Iranian Petroleum Resources (1995)
  • Blocking Sudanese Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Sudan (1997)
  • Blocking Property of Persons Who Threaten International Stabilization Efforts in the Western Balkans (2001)

In all, we were living in 31 concurrent states of emergency even before this latest declaration. Of the 28 emergencies no longer in effect, not a single one was revoked by an act of Congress. Successive Congresses have been content to let presidents decide when to surrender their increased authority … or let them keep it. Why? Because members of Congress find it easier to punt this responsibility to the executive branch than roll up their own sleeves to deal with mainly mundane issues.

The NEA is an abomination that should never have passed in the first place. Congress should have taken an interest in it long before now by demanding an end to the 31 emergencies still in place. They’re only interested now because Trump and his attorneys read the law carefully and discovered the authoritarianism Congress fully authorized within it.

By the way, this bill is doomed anyway. Being a bill, even a privileged resolution that avoids the filibuster and must get a Senate vote, it’s subject to a presidential veto. Good luck storming that castle, The Hill warns Pelosi, and don’t even count on it getting that far:

Across the Capitol, the dynamics are different. Senators represent entire states, not smaller districts gerrymandered into partisan enclaves. And there’s plenty of pressure on some GOP senators to support the disapproval resolution when it’s sent over by the House.

The Hill identified 10 GOP senators who could break with Trump on the issue, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Mitt Romney (Utah).

But it’s far from clear the measure stopping Trump’s emergency declaration will clear the Senate.

So far, the only Republican in Congress vowing to join Democrats is centrist Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. She is expected to face a tough reelection in 2020 and has said she both supports a lawsuit challenging the president’s action and will vote for the Democratic-led resolution.

The disapproval resolution is deemed “privileged” under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which both guarantees a vote in the Senate and precludes opponents from blocking it with a filibuster. That means Senate Democrats, who are expected to stand together, will need to win support from at least three additional Republicans to send the resolution to Trump, who has vowed a swift veto. Neither chamber is expected to reach the two-thirds majority threshold to override a veto.

If Pelosi’s serious about congressional prerogative, then she should lead an effort to repeal or greatly restrict the NEA from this point forward. If she doesn’t, it will demonstrate that Pelosi’s not worried about presidents being “above the law” … only those presidents she dislikes.

The post Breaking, kinda: House schedules Tuesday vote on Dems’ How Dare You Use The Authority We Surrendered 43 Years Ago bill appeared first on Hot Air.

“Empire” drops Smollett from rest of season amid reports that some cast members want him fired

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 16:21

I am not prepared for the possibility that this tool might face meaningful consequences for perpetrating a hoax that confirmed left-wing suspicions about the right a little too well.

Since when does America 2019 do accountability, especially on grounds of being Overly Woke?

BREAKING: Jussie Smollett’s character, Jamal, on #empire written out of the final two episodes. @cbschicago

— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 22, 2019

“So, that’s a no on the raise then?” asks Drew McCoy.

If you believe TMZ, some (but not all) of the cast and crew want him gone. The “Why was Roseanne fired when Smollett gets to come back?” takes might soon need to be revisited:

We’re told many of the “Empire” actors are “f**king furious” and feel if FOX honchos don’t fire Jussie, he should quit on his own … because he doesn’t deserve a spot on the hit show.

The feelings of animosity stem from the fact everyone on set had Jussie’s back after the “attack,” but in light of the new evidence police have laid out … many of them feel hurt and embarrassed.

We’re told almost everyone on set is worried about how Smollett’s damaged the show’s reputation … and could continue to do so if he remains part of the cast.

Yeah, he has two big problems apart from the legal jeopardy he’s in. One is the fact that he reportedly doubled down on his innocence instead of copping to the whole thing and begging for mercy. He’s put his friends and colleagues in a difficult position now: They can be forgiven for having given him the benefit of the doubt initially but now they face a no-win choice in either turning on him and pissing off some fans of the show or standing by him and looking like chumps as the case plays out. Now’s the moment when he should be helping them climb down off the ledge he put them on. Instead he’s sawing it off.

The other problem is his alleged motive, that he wanted a raise from the producers. “What’s the logic there? You get your ass beat and then you go to your boss and go, ‘Hey, I need another million dollars, I need to buy some band-aids?’” asked Trevor Noah last night. I think the logic was “Once I’m a notable victim, a living symbol of the threats blacks and gays face, I’ll be that much more famous and sympathetic and that much more valuable to the show.” The smart play would have been for Smollett to ‘fess up to the hoax but adamantly dispute the purported reason for it, insisting that he allowed his zeal for raising awareness about hate crimes against gays and black to lead him to do something foolish. Caring Too Much™ would have earned him the forgiveness of many critics. Greed will not.

Here’s Don Lemon, who’s been in contact with Smollett regularly since the “attack,” offering him advice on national television: Repent. Denial will only make everything worse. Will a man who chose to pay for a fake hate crime with a personal check have the good sense to take that advice? Stay tuned.

CNN's Don Lemon tells his friend Jussie Smollett, if you're guilty, "confess, throw yourself on the mercy of the court, and of the people, and then see where that leads."

— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 22, 2019

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Withdrawing the withdrawal? US to leave hundreds of troops in Syria indefinitely

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 15:41

Two months after Donald Trump declared victory in Syria and announced a total troop withdrawal, the White House has quietly retreated on both. Yesterday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that “a small peacekeeping group” would remain in Syria, which could mean two hundred or more troops. The shift followed a rebuke from European allies on a request that they fill in the vacuum after our departure:

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public, said that the 200 would be “split down the middle” between Syrian Kurdish-controlled areas in the northeast of the country, and the Tanf garrison in southeast Syria. The official said the total might rise slightly.

The decision was a partial reversal of President Trump’s order, announced in December, that all 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria would leave, since their mission to destroy the Islamic State caliphate, in his view, had been achieved. Complete withdrawal was expected by the end of April.

Defense officials, lawmakers and some White House aides have expressed concern that tens of thousands of militant fighters remained scattered throughout Syria and Iraq. France and Britain, which also have troops in Syria, rebuffed a U.S. request to leave forces there to continue operations against militant remnants and to patrol a “safe zone” along Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey unless some U.S. troops remained.

Appearing on Fox & Friends this morning, Sanders explained that Donald Trump has concerns that an outright withdrawal could destabilize the region. Two hundred troops is a “rough estimate,” the White House press secretary states, but that the recalculation was intended to ensure the safety and security of our allies. “At the end of the day, the president wants to bring our troops home,” Sanders says, “and he’s working towards that.”

This switch actually means Trump isn’t entirely working toward that, but he has good reason to rethink his December declaration. His own commander in the theater publicly disputed the claim that ISIS has been defeated as a national-security threat, and estimates of their fighter ranks run from the mid-four figures to the low-five figures. Most of their leadership remains intact, if on the run at the moment. That reality apparently began to sink into the White House over the last week or so, which led to the request to our British and French allies to stick around while we bugged out. Their response was both quick and entirely understandable:

Allies have “unanimously” told the United States that they “won’t stay if you pull out,” a senior administration official said. France and Britain are the only other countries with troops on the ground in the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State.

Along with the United States, they have provided training, supplies, logistics and intelligence for the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-dominated group that has done most of the fighting. U.S., French and British ­forces also operate heavy artillery and conduct the airstrikes that have been decisive against the militants.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last week that he was mystified by Trump’s policy. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that “there is no prospect of British forces replacing the Americans” in Syria.

European refusal to stay unless President Trump reverses at least part of his troop withdrawal order is one of several factors that U.S. military officials, lawmakers and senior administration officials have said should make Trump think again.

The big question now will be whether the “peacekeeping” force will be a large enough commitment to keep the UK and France in place. It certainly won’t be large enough for any effective “peacekeeping” mission, not in fractured and fraught Syria. Sanders’ ambiguity on the size of the force has to be intentional, giving Trump the ability to scale it up to the level needed to ensure against a complete collapse of the anti-ISIS effort.

Here’s the F&F segment with Sanders, in which she also comments on Jussie Smollett’s alleged hoax. Her oh-so-brief comments on Syria come sandwiched between discussions about Robert Mueller and Michael Cohen. You might have to make sure you don’t blink in order to keep from missing them. Sanders tells the panel that Trump tweeted his disdain for Smollett because Democrats had initially embraced him as a way to “attack and come after this president … The president is pushing back.”

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Kamala Harris’ Smollett statement: “Sad, frustrated, and disappointed,” but don’t forget hate crimes are “on the rise”

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 15:01

Senator Kamala Harris, one of many Democrats running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, released a statement about the latest developments in the Jussie Smollett case. Her response is just about what is to be expected from the left, especially those running for president. That’s too bad because her statement falls short of being worthy of being taken seriously. This is the woman who was Attorney General of California and before that, District Attorney in San Francisco.

Harris devotes a whopping one sentence to express her sadness, frustration, and disappointment in Smollett. Then she delivers a single sentence to say that diverting police resources is wrong and that hoaxes make it more difficult for real victims to come forward. That’s it. The rest of her windy statement is in full social justice warrior voice about hate crimes.

Like most of you, I've seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I'm sad, frustrated, and disappointed.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 21, 2019

A sentence that was missing from Senator Harris’ statement was pointed out by veteran journalist Debra J. Saunders who asks, “Aren’t you also angry at Smollett for making a false accusation?” in her Twitter response. That is a perfectly legitimate question. Most Americans watching the story play out are just angry listening to the timeline and details as presented by the Chicago Police Superintendent Thursday morning and then by a prosecutor Thursday afternoon at the courthouse. It paints Smollett as a sociopath willing to let two Nigerian men take the fall for a hoax he concocted because he wanted a bigger paycheck. As Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass wrote, two dozen detectives were assigned to the Smollett case. That number is high, Kass contends, but it is due to the fact that politicians (mostly Democrats) fell for the hoax hook, line, and sinker, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Even so, the city is numb to physical violence on the street. And numb to the emotional violence exerted by the political class.

But two dozen detectives for Smollett just doesn’t seem right. Make no mistake. I’m not blaming the detectives or the Chicago Police Department.

They work for a politician. His name is Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who famously announced a few years ago that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

And when Smollett told his amazing story, about being a black gay man attacked by racist Trump supporters on one of the coldest nights of the year, the media was all over it. National politicians were all over it.

They bought it without question.

Smollett knew he was making his story a political one because he made a point of including the MAGA narrative about his attack and he told Robin Roberts on ABC’s early morning show that “I come really, really hard at 45. I come really, really hard at his administration.” His Twitter feed verifies his claim. He wasn’t so brave, though, after his story began to unravel – he deleted some of the ugliest tweets. How about Senator Harris saying that Smollett owes Trump supporters an apology for painting them all as racist, homophobic, and violent people? Why didn’t her statement include dismissing violence no matter what the other person’s political views are?

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, another Democrat in the 2020 race, tweeted that Smollett needs to apologize to “the American people” and needs “to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” There was no mention of any apologies needed from Senator Harris’ statement. Nothing to see here, just move along. At least she did say that Smollett should be prosecuted.

If he is guilty, Jussie needs to not only apologize to the American people, he needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law to send a strong message to any potential future "hoaxers."

— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) February 22, 2019

Of the announced Democratic candidates, Harris and Gabbard are the only ones to tweet about today’s Smollett case updates, as I write this Thursday night. This is hardly a show of courage from the left, much less support for law enforcement. It’s to be expected, though, since the Democrats are so heavily beholden to identity politics. They’ve chosen to remain silent instead of taking a position like a leader is expected to do. After being played by Smollett, who knew they’d all offer support and not even consider he was lying, now they are all stuck out on a limb.

Instead of working hard and putting in the time to warrant a raise in salary, Smollett chose to play a victim in a really badly scripted drama. His anti-Trump friends on the left were only too happy to be a supportive audience.

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ISIS bride’s father sues Trump administration to restore terrorist’s passport

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 14:21

Is Hoda Muthana a US citizen, and does the Trump administration have to allow the ISIS bride and Twitter terrorist to return? Muthana’s father has filed a lawsuit to force the administration to restore her passport, but it turns out that the Trump administration didn’t cancel it. That action was taken three years ago:

The father of an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State in Syria filed suit against the Trump administration Thursday in an effort to allow her return to the United States.

Ahmed Ali Muthana argues in the suit filed in federal court in Washington that his 24-year-old daughter, Hoda Muthana, is an American citizen by birth and should be allowed to come back to the U.S. with her toddler son. …

The Obama administration initially determined she was not a citizen and notified her family that it was revoking her passport in January 2016.

So they’ve had three years’ notice that Muthana would not be allowed to re-enter the US. She came to the attention of the Obama administration after Muthana joined ISIS, but also when she started using Twitter in 2015 to urge Muslims in the US to conduct murders, drive-by shootings, and mayhem. Counterterrorism officials must have reviewed her record at that time and discovered the error in assuming her citizenship.

Perhaps it’s understandable that the family didn’t take immediate action to challenge the revocation of her passport at that time. What was the point if Muthana planned to stay in ISIS? Three years later, the “caliphate” she blithely chose to support along with its aims of destroying America has collapsed, and suddenly Muthana wants a do-over. Now her family wants to bring her home, which is understandable from their point of view, but a little late nonetheless in defending Muthana’s status.

Muthana’s family can count on the media to provide sympathetic coverage, especially if they paint this as an action by Donald Trump and his administration. That strategy is already off to a good start with ABC News’ gauzy interview of Muthana and the focus on ISIS brides in general as victims adrift in a chaotic collapse. This bizarre headline from Agence France-Presse gives a pretty good flavor of the approach most media outlets have given this issue.

As a shy, studious teenager in Alabama, Hoda Muthana rarely made waves. After her abrupt transformation into a fiery supporter of Islamic State extremists, she is under the scanner of the top levels of the US government

— AFP news agency (@AFP) February 22, 2019

What’s the point of AFP’s headline? It must be news to AFP that the US government takes an interest when its residents join terrorist groups and urge the mass murder of Americans. Why frame it with the lead-in of Hoda Muthana being “a shy, studious teenager,” as if that has anything to do with the crimes she committed? Muthana was 19 when she slipped out of the US to join ISIS and 20 when she began fomenting terror on social media. Nor is any of this “sudden.” Muthana has been on the counterterrorism radar since 2015, and her attempt to re-enter the US should be getting attention at high levels, especially with the high-level media strategy her family has employed to get her back in the US.

Still, the lawsuit may not be without merit, as Allahpundit noted yesterday, media spin or no.  If the Obama administration got it wrong in 2016, she’ll have to be allowed to return. Andrew McCarthy has a good suggestion as to how to solve the whole mess — have the Department of Justice indict her now, and see just how keen the family is to press the matter:

As the secretary put it in his statement, “Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States.”

This conclusion is disputed by Muthana’s family and allies, and they may have a case. I would strongly urge the Justice Department to file an indictment against Muthana for treason, material support to terrorism, and any other readily provable offenses. She is less likely to press the issues of citizenship and right to enter if she understands that she faces prosecution and, very likely, lengthy imprisonment if she succeeds in coming here. …

If the president and the secretary do not want Muthana to try to come back to the United States, the best strategy is to have the Justice Department indict her on serious felony charges. She may seek another alternative if she knows the risk of coming back here is decades of imprisonment. Of course, Muthana may decide to come anyway. After all, (a) she might see life in an American prison as better than her other alternatives, and (b) if she is an American citizen, there is a good argument that her young son is a citizen, too — he’d have a more promising chance of survival and a decent life here than in Syria (or wherever else in that godforsaken region they could end up).

There is an element of fairness in this as well. The government has taken a prosecutorial interest in Muthana for four years. If the DoJ plans to indict her, that’s something that should be known before she travels back into their jurisdiction. At the very least, it would provide an informed choice … and might save everyone a lot of time and money in court.

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Rep. Eric Swalwell takes a pass on coffee at Trump Tower, hilarity ensues

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 13:41

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tried to own President Trump while walking past Trump Tower in New York but it quickly backfired. Walking in the snow, Swalwell played a brave #Resistance kind of guy in search of coffee and stopped on the street to take a selfie while declaring he wasn’t going into Trump Tower for coffee. Social media pounced.

It’s snowing in #NewYork. I need coffee. The closest cafe is inside Trump Tower. This is me walking to an alternative.

— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) February 20, 2019

The guy is in Manhattan. There are a bazillion coffee shops open for him to purchase a cup of coffee. He just thought it was cool to make the point that he wasn’t going to go to the nearest one if you believe his claim, that was in Trump Tower. Because, Trump, or something. The guy literally beclowned himself just because he was triggered by the sight of the name Trump. Boy, oh, boy. We have some beauties in Congress.

“Swalwell later froze to death as slowly he came to the realization that most of NYC’s cafes are run by a rival presidential candidate,” one user wrote, referring to former Starbucks CEO and independent presidential candidate Howard Schultz.

Only a Californian would demand accolades for walking a block in the snow

— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) February 20, 2019

Nate Silver even provided a map for the out-of-towner.

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 20, 2019

And this response. Did I mention Swalwell got over 25,000 responses to his silly selfie?

How Swalwell thinks he looks vs. how he actually looks.

— Doug Powers (@ThePowersThatBe) February 20, 2019

Swalwell is about to jump into the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, you see. He’s not exactly a household name but he’s hoping to boost his profile by being a Trump critic and he’s frequently a guest on Fox News shows. He is especially firmly committed to the Russia collusion narrative.

In his roles on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, Swalwell has become a leading antagonist of the Trump administration on alleged collusion between the campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. The former county prosecutor makes frequent appearances on cable news to discuss the subject.

Wait. There’s a recent tweet for that, too. Eric is concerned that Trump will end the Mueller investigation before its work is done. Trump has stated over and over again that he will not stop the investigation but, never mind. Now he’s added the bonus threat of “there will be hell to pay” if it happens.

If #Mueller says he’s done and was allowed to follow the evidence, then let’s see the report. America will welcome it. But if he’s been forced to stop investigating, there will be hell to pay. We’re not powerless anymore.

— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) February 20, 2019

What exactly does that mean, anyway? What does a back bencher in the House think he could do to bring “hell” upon the President of the United States?

So, off ot Iowa it is. Swalwell is 38 years old and ready to be President. He claims Iowa as his state of birth and is back there this weekend. He even helped a woman out who was having car trouble in the snow. He just happened to be traveling with a camera crew in tow.

The Californian told the Register Thursday that the incident occurred in Des Moines, near Fleur Drive. Swalwell said he was headed through Des Moines to Iowa City when his team spotted the woman having trouble with her vehicle, so they stopped to help out.

Swalwell, who was born in Sac City, Iowa, said the moment reminded him of a time when he, his mom and his little brother got stuck in the Iowa snow and had to wait for help to come.

“It was a very Iowa experience for me,” he said.

After helping others push the woman’s car from the snow, the video shows Swalwell saying what appears to be, “I’m Eric Swalwell. I’m running for president.”

He said he was introducing himself and explaining to the woman why he had a camera crew with him.

“(We were) making her feel better that our camera crew was not there to catch her at a time in distress,” he said.

What a guy, huh? So, will he use the foootage in the Iowa snow in his presidential bid announcement video? He says he’s still pondering a run. He and his wife, who works full-time, have to figure out logistics on caring for their two sons.He’s been to Iowa at least 16 times since 2017, though, so there’s that.

I think he’ll run. Why not? There’s still room on the debate stage.

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Smollett to Empire castmates: No really, I’m totally innocent

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 13:01

Credit Jussie Smollett with this much — he really knows how to read lines written for him. The man accused of staging a hate-crime hoax went from posting bail directly to the studio to shoot scenes for Empire. His castmates expected an explanation, but CNN reports that all they got was a soliloquy penned by Mark Geragos et al:

When Jussie Smollett called the cast and crew of the television show “Empire” together Thursday night, they were expecting the actor to come clean about what really happened, a person at the meeting told CNN.

Smollett did apologize to his coworkers for any embarrassment they might have felt since the story began.

But then, to the shock and dismay of the person who attended the meeting, Smollett stuck to his story of innocence. For the most part, the source said, he paraphrased what was in the statement that his attorney put out that afternoon, blaming the legal system and the media for his woes.

Ah yes, the defense team statement. That did indeed sound mighty combative for a defense team whose client might be better advised looking for a deal before this escalates much further. His attorneys declared Smollett a “young man of impeccable character and integrity,” and ripped law enforcement for a “spectacle” yesterday:

Jussie Smollett’s legal team issues this statement…

— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 22, 2019

“A young man of impeccable character and integrity”? Smollett got convicted in 2007 of not only driving under the influence, but also trying to avoid getting a record by falsely identifying himself. This is a young man who has a track record of telling police falsehoods already. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but that line is going to get some laughs in court if Smollett’s attorneys trot that one out.

Turnabout is fair play, perhaps. Law enforcement spent an hour publicly ripping Smollett for the “spectacle” that he staged for two weeks over an allegedly fake hate crime. In that sense, the attorney’s statement is an improvement — assuming that Smollett plans to keep his mouth shut from now on. His attorneys might be following Smollett’s wishes to stay on offense publicly, but they have to be warning Smollett about any further public statements on his own.

Will Smollett take that advice? It sounds as though he’s ready to double down on his claim, which is what an innocent man would do, of course. Prosecutors have to prove this in court, although the police presentation at the bond hearing certainly looks impressive. Click the photos to read through the entire proffer, and note that police have a witness that will testify that she heard nothing amiss when Smollett and his two friends congregated at the time of the alleged attack:

“Jussie Smollet’s bond proffer” — via @samjcharles

— Nick Monroe (@nickmon1112) February 21, 2019

The decision to attack law enforcement may have its own costs. A class-4 felony might not bring any prison time if the person convicted demonstrates some remorse and admits to his crime. If Smollett fights this and loses, prosecutors will want him to spend time behind bars; the police certainly will at this point. It also might incentivize federal prosecutors to press forward on charges of sending a threat and a hoax via the US mail if they can tie the letter back to Smollett, as the police alleged yesterday.

A tearful admission along with some excuse might have made all this go away quietly. If Smollett wants to go to war, he will likely live to regret it.

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Vandals deface statue of General Lee. No, not that General Lee.

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 03:01

The motive here is still unknown but the curator of the William C. Lee Airborne Museum has a compelling theory. Given that Confederate memorials have been defaced or torn down recently in the greater Raleigh-Durham area, where the museum is located, and in light of the fact that most Americans are abject ignoramuses about their country’s basic history, it seems likely that someone thought this General Lee was that General Lee and decided to torch a statue of him to protest racism.

And so, between this and the Jussie Smollett saga, we have a recurring theme on the homepage today: Woke and stupid are a woeful combination.

When you take a look at the statue of Gen. William C. Lee and compare it to a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, it’s obvious the two are completely dissimilar and look completely different.

“Complete different generation, complete different war, complete different everything,” Mr. Johnson said. “Everything is different.”

Mr. Johnson said the last name alone — the only thing the two men share — has spurred questions in the past about kinship between the two, something which does not exist.

“People have asked if they’re kin and we tell them they’re not kin that we know of,” Mr. Johnson said. “There’s been no other concerns about the Confederate general versus the World War II general that we know of at all.”

I don’t know, maybe it’s not a case of mistaken identity. Raleigh-Durham is a college region; there must be no shortage of locals who hate the troops.

I kid. Well, no, not really.

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Obama speechwriter: How are Dems going to pass the Green New Deal if they won’t nuke the filibuster once and for all?

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 01:41

Good question, and he’s not speaking hypothetically. Various Senate Democrats, from Dick Durbin to Tim Kaine to presidential candidate Cory Booker, have spoken disapprovingly of jettisoning the 60-vote requirement to pass legislation in the upper chamber. (A notable exception is Elizabeth Warren.) The most surprising filibuster fan, though, is Bernie Sanders. How does the guy with the most radically left-wing economic agenda of any presidential hopeful propose to get his state takeover of the health-insurance industry passed with the filibuster intact? Philip Klein wonders:

“No, I’m not crazy about getting rid of the filibuster,” Sanders replied. He went on to say, “the problem is, people often talk about the lack of comity, but the real issue is you have a system in Washington that is dominated by wealthy campaign contributors.”…

Sanders … has been openly fantasizing about a revolution for decades, and yet he’s somehow attached to this procedural requirement?

One wonders if the experience of the Trump presidency, while in one sense has made Democrats feel less beholden to norms, has in the other sense made them reluctant to remove institutional barriers that could be used by a future Republican president. After all, Democrats have seen how former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s nuking of the filibuster for nominations has allowed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to confirm a flood of Trump judges with relative ease, including two Supreme Court justices.

That’s one theory, that Bernie and the Dems are so traumatized from watching the GOP use Reid’s precedent to punch through Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that they’re reluctant to do any further procedural tinkering. I don’t follow the logic there, though: Nuking the legislative filibuster would be the final bit of tinkering that either party could do with the rule. Why wouldn’t Dems do it in the name of advancing their agenda, knowing that there can’t be a new Republican reprisal in the future similar to the Gorsuch/Kavanaugh comeuppance?

Another theory is Jon Favreau’s theory below, that some Democrats aren’t as committed to Medicare for all and the Green New Deal as they claim and are hoping that having the filibuster in place might free them from the responsibility of having to follow through on their plans. “Whoops, sorry — can’t do single-payer after all. The damned filibuster won’t allow it.” Does anyone seriously believe that’s Bernie Sanders’s attitude, though? If he gets elected as America’s first outright socialist president, he’s going to follow through. Rarely will a new president have a mandate as clear as President Bernie will have if he wins.

My theory is that he’s just flat-out lying. Why rock the boat any more than he needs to right now by imagining getting rid of the filibuster, especially when there’s at least a (very small) chance that Trump will win in 2020 and Republicans will take back the House? Every bit of rhetoric Democrats devote to nuking the filibuster can and will be used by the Republican base to try to convince McConnell to nuke it in 2021, clearing the way for broad Republican legislative gains in Trump’s second term. (“Bernie would have done it if he’d won! He said so!”) If Sanders wins the presidency and Democrats take back the Senate, he can then duly declare that he’s reconsidered and now supports eliminating the filibuster in the name of advancing The People’s Agenda or whatever. No sense in jumping that gun at a moment when the GOP might benefit from it potentially.

The real drama here isn’t whether Dem 2020 candidates do or don’t secretly want to nuke the filibuster, it’s whether they can find 50 votes to do it if they win a Senate majority next fall. Remember, the majority leader can’t change the rules by whim; he needs a majority of the Senate to ratify a rule change. Democrats will probably need to net at least four seats in 2020 to get to 50, a heavy lift that’s doable but difficult enough that they’re probably unlikely to gain much more than four. Meaning, whether there’s enough support to overturn the filibuster may come down to Joe Manchin. Would Manchin do it? What about some of the more liberal skeptics of ending the filibuster, like Durbin or Kaine or Mark Warner or whoever? It may take two election cycles for Democrats to be in position to go nuclear.

Or not. Trump has given them plenty of political cover to do it once they have the numbers. Why wouldn’t they? It’s farcical to think of them whiffing on passing their pet programs next time just because they can’t get to 60.

“If they want to pass the Green New Deal and Medicare for All but they also want to keep the filibuster in place, they’re not being honest with the voters.” – @jonfavs talks about the filibuster and 2020 Democratic candidates.

— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) February 21, 2019

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