OIG Purview Expands

A fascinating question about current events is what the people who opposed President Trump, from all sides of the political aisle, were really working against. Maybe it’s a question of historic importance.

We probably won’t know the answer to that question in full until we see what the president’s priorities really have been. If, for instance, he threatened to punish evildoers in positions of power, those steps might have been cloaked in secrecy for a time.

But one gets the sense that people who opposed Trump had a very good idea what he threatened.

And we may have seen, among people who were previously in a bad spot, that their circumstances would improve under President Trump, because he did take steps against bad actors who once wielded power. There may have been a liberation of those once captive, so to speak.

Today’s news from the Justice Department Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, may be another milestone toward punishment, or liberation, depending on one’s point of view:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 28, 2018
DOJ OIG Announces Initiation of Review

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today that, in response to requests from the Attorney General and Members of Congress, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will initiate a review that will examine the Justice Department’s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) compliance with legal requirements, and with applicable DOJ and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person. As part of this examination, the OIG also will review information that was known to the DOJ and the FBI at the time the applications were filed from or about an alleged FBI confidential source. Additionally, the OIG will review the DOJ’s and FBI’s relationship and communications with the alleged source as they relate to the FISC applications.

If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.

This could turn out to be a nothingburger or, for Trump’s opponents, the beginning of a new nightmare. Hypothetically, if there are people who were employed in the federal government over the past few years whose activities were not always on the up-and-up, that last sentence would be an attention-getter.

Full Text: House Intelligence Committee Memo On FISA Abuses

February 2, 2018: Below is the full text of the memo on abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, reformatted for easier Web reading.

For the complete original memo please download from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Web site.

In releasing the memo, Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said: “The Committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people, not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another. It is my hope that the Committee’s actions will shine a light on this alarming series of events so we can make reforms that allow the American people to have full faith and confidence in their governing institutions.”

FULL MEMO TEXT BELOW


UNCLASSIFIED
Declassified by order of the President February 2, 2018

January 18, 2018

To: HPSCI Majority Members
From: HPSCI Majority Staff
Subject: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Purpose

This memorandum provides Members an update on significant facts relating to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle. Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.

Investigation Update

On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a U.S. citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.

The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. §1805(d)(1)), a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the FISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Then-DAG Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.

Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the FISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard— particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the FISC’s rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA

PROPERTY OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

1) The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

2) The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News—and several other outlets—in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington D.C. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations—an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Com. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September—before the Page application was submitted to

UNCLASSIFIED

PROPERTY OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

the FISC in October—but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.

b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling—maintaining confidentiality—and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.

3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files—but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.

a) During this same time period, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.

4) According to the head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its “infancy” at the time of the initial Page FISA application. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Yet, in early January 2017, Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a summary of the Steele dossier, even though it was—according to his June 2017 testimony—“salacious and unverified.” While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations. Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.

UNCLASSIFIED

PROPERTY OF THE Ü.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

5) The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok. Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated. The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.

UNCLASSIFIED

PROPERTY OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Evan McMullin Seems Unhappy With FISA Memo Plan

Always one of the odder presences on the Internet is Evan McMullin, former candidate for president, self-proclaimed point man for building the U.S. alliance with al Qaeda, rabid opponent of Donald Trump and, oddest of all, adopted favorite son of many anti-Trump “conservatives” and Republicans, to their everlasting shame.

mcmullin house intel committee
Strong charges against House Intelligence Committee by Evan McMullin

Lately, McMullin has been on a Twitter tear over the upcoming possible release of the FISA overview memo from the House Intelligence Committee.

One has to wonder why, of all the things to get worked up about, McMullin is dedicating so much energy to this bit of proposed transparency for the American people. At first glance it does not seem like a likely hill for McMullin to die on.


As someone long employed by the federal government, who has painted himself as having at least a veneer of ethics, the revelation of supposedly ongoing corruption within an important agency would seem like something McMullin would support releasing. If McMullin himself was not part of the corruption, why would he have a dog in the fight over exposing it?

I think the answer requires first a look at why different groups oppose President Trump so viciously.

Democrats, obviously, must oppose the president, and the more likable Trump becomes among voters, the more intensely Democrats will oppose him. This is more like physics than psychology, and not a very interesting topic to discuss.

Republican opposition is a little more complicated. As noted in an earlier post, my personal opinion is that some opponents of President Trump consider him a monster for intending to fulfill Republican campaign promises of the past several decades.

Republicans make promises that seem only meant to win votes from the rubes within their coalition, and never intended to become public policy. If Planned Parenthood were defunded, for instance, then what reason would “pro-life” organizations have to exist? And related are the candidates and their consultants whose aim is to get into office and get some of that sweet, sweet money and power, while not alienating the mostly liberal financial entities that help fund campaigns. No, what these types of politicos and issue organizations seem to need most are voters dumb enough to vote for their candidates year after year, and send them money, but also a government that will never enact their positions.

Trump appeared poised to deliver on all the promises, which made him a mortal threat to the “conservative” fundraising and consultancy communities.

But where does this leave Evan McMullin? He does not seem to be an actual tool of the Democratic Party, and whatever “conservatives” are in his circle of friends would also not seem to hold any sway such that McMullin would now become a loud voice against exposing corruption. “Pro-corruption” is, after all, a risky public position to take if one wishes to maintain respectability.

It is a mystery for now, and perhaps a mystery that will be solved when and if the memo is released by the House Intelligence Committee.

But let’s assume, and I think it is a valid assumption, that Evan McMullin is not literally named in the FISA memo.

One of the factors about the FISA memo that does not get a lot of attention is that in itself, the document deals with the surface of an alleged criminal enterprise. The document is purported to address illegal surveillance by a lot of people who should have been doing nothing of the sort, people whose job was actually to guard against such crimes. That, in itself, is a big deal, the kind of deal that leads to potential long prison sentences. But that is not really what the memo is about.

Bear in mind, the reason for the alleged surveillance of candidate Trump and then President Trump and all of the artifices built around the fake court filings (such as the Mueller investigation) appear to have been aimed at first keeping Donald Trump out of the White House, and second at destroying his presidency.

And the purpose behind these shorter-term goals is what should really be of interest to the American people, because it may shed light on the layer of activity that Evan McMullin seems to wish badly to keep hidden from public view, and from history, and from the American judicial system.

What were they so worried about President Trump’s administration uncovering?

McMullin al Qaeda
McMullin: “My role in the CIA was to go out & convince Al Qaeda operatives to instead work with us.”

From this standpoint, the FISA memo is just the key to the first little gate to a sprawling enterprise. All the memo may do is allow us to see an edifice that up until now has only been rumored to exist at all. Exploring it will be a much more important effort, of far greater impact than this first outline of the surface crimes. Exploring the actual meat of the criminality will be a long-term project. And who knows that that will uncover.

I can only guess. One hint may lie in the fact that in nine months the Trump Administration defeated ISIS with the same military that for some reason made almost zero headway for years, almost as though the U.S. was not trying to defeat ISIS at all. Almost as though before Trump the U.S. was enabling ISIS. What a weird thought that is.

But for now, here are some nuggets from the very insightful investigative reporting at Last Refuge.

kinzinger-mcmullin
Long before anyone heard about Evan McMullin running for president, he was in Turkey with the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates (click image for full story at Last Refuge)
Kinzinger McCain McMullin
Republicans Adam Kinzinger and John McCain and Independent Evan McMullin

Be sure to watch the short video of Tulsi Gabbard discussing her visit to Syria.

Why is the United States and its allies supporting these terrorist groups who are destroying Syria, when it was al Qaeda who attacked the United State on 9/11, not Syria.

For more background, when you have time for a long read, check out the original Benghazi Brief which I think will eventually become a key part of the known history of ISIS. If not for Donald Trump, that story likely would have remained buried in a military intelligence blog. Just like, as some allege, if not for Donald Trump the United States would still be supporting ISIS.

Could public knowledge of the U.S. role with ISIS be one of Evan McMullin’s fears? Hard to say, but we can be pretty sure that opening up the entire ISIS story for a fresh re-telling and reexamination might provide a valuable lesson for Americans. This is a story the Trump Administration should allow to be told.

Pentagon Papers Senator: “Constitutional Responsibility” Requires Congress Release FISA Memo

Comey lawyer up
It’s getting hot in Washington DC today.

A document summarizing activities of the Obama administration which allegedly included proffering false information to a federal court in order to obtain clearance to use data collected from illegal surveillance of President Trump was cleared for release last night by the House Intelligence Committee.

Former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel, who entered the then-classified “Pentagon Papers” into the Congressional Record in 1971, says that House Republicans should not shrink from releasing the document, called the “FISA memo” after the court where the Obama Department of Justice submitted the allegedly fabricated evidence.

According to Gravel:

Republicans on the committee would demonstrate “the height of cowardice” if they abandon efforts to release the memo after voting to do so Monday evening.

Gravel said lawmakers should be willing to unilaterally release classified documents if they feel it’s in the public interest, as he did with the secret Vietnam War study.

“The criteria for releasing anything is this: Is this something the people should know? If the Republicans feel this should be made public for the benefit of their constituents, fine, release it. The Democrats should do the same. But there is no argument to be made this stuff is secret and it’s too important for the people to know,” Gravel said after the committee voted along party lines for release….

“All this brouhaha between the executive and the legislative is ridiculous. It’s all because these people don’t understand their responsibility under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause,” Gravel said. “There is no legal risk on their part for releasing information they feel the public should know. No risk. Period.”

Read the full story at The Washington Examiner.

Manichaeism Part Deux: Finding Allies

Picking up from the last post, let’s explore the hypothetical, fixing-the-corrupt-status-quo scenario a little further.

We realize that at certain levels, or certain extents, evil cannot be tolerated. Like a rotten fish in the refrigerator, it has to be removed, possibly amid a much broader cleaning operation. If you don’t do the hard thing and get it out of there and scrub down all the stuff that has absorbed the stink, you would need a new fridge. As it stands, you may have to pull out a drawer and clean that thing with bleach or even just toss it, if the bad fish had been sitting in there for too long.

You’re also going to need agreement of everyone who uses it to prepare for some disruption. Access may be limited briefly. Other items will probably be swept up in the process. Some of those familiar presences will disappear. Your chocolate syrup? Sorry, it absorbed the fish smell. Ten other condiments also went to the trash. Every perishable item not hermetically sealed, also, is gone.

On the scale of a government afflicted by rot, the cleanup would not be possible alone but would require certain critical people to help. A few underlings likely would be better off just leaving quietly rather than exposing themselves to the risk of whistleblowing, if they suspected their superiors were part of the problem. In certain parts of government, I hear, whistleblowing is hazardous to one’s health. No, prospective white knights would need big time allies. In particular, they would need an ally right at the top, ideally.

Then they would need to sell that hypothetical white hat/white knight ally on the righteousness of the cause. They would need to first find someone who could be swayed with the “argument from righteousness” and then they would need to lay out that argument for them. If the enemy were evil, the evil would need to be laid bare by those who knew, to try to get the ally to join in.

If the truth were terrible enough, some people likely would rather not know, because to know and to do nothing would be devastating for one’s conscience, yet to know and act would require resolve that few people could muster in today’s world where the highest good is often just to go along and allow everyone to enjoy themselves.

That person would need to be informed of the enormity of the task in advance, in order to brace themselves and their loved ones for what was to come. A long-term dive into the alligator swamp is probably nobody’s first life choice. That prospective white knight ally at the top might need to be someone from so far outside that while being clean, they would also be isolated—coming into a world where nobody usually does very well in isolation. Who would voluntarily submit themselves to that?

What if there were even a history of sorts, of people trying to clean up the evil within the institutions and then getting devoured by the alligators as thanks for their trouble? Who would say, “Sure, I’d like to give that a go!”

No, getting someone to come in and help clean the rot from government would be extremely difficult, and not only because the government tends to provide the means of self-perpetuation for those who want to keep their posts, even those who must be elected. Politics allows for the rewarding of friends. The hypothetical white knight would need to have certain personal qualities and an understanding of the political system.

And, at some point, that person would need to be able to look around and see where their own possible allies might later be found. Allies would be hard to come by and valuable once vetted. The allies would themselves need intelligence enough to see through the blizzard of misinformation that surely would be emitted by the evil factions to discredit anyone trying to expose all the wrong that had been done. Such allies would need to be fearless, actually, because they would be drawn into a fight that many of their predecessors, men and women of renown, had shrunk from.

Watching the allies come on board would be one of the more interesting aspects of the entire long series of events.

Judging A Hypothetical Misguided Opponent

One of the problems with Manichaeism is it gives too much room to evil.

In case you’ve forgotten your history of theology, the Manichaens believed that Good and Evil are equal supernatural forces, that we are under one type of god who is a good, loving god, and another who is bad and mean. Throughout history lots of instances of this sort of theology have popped up because it comes naturally to us to see the world in this way.

But evil brings with it a certain compulsion, an affront, that must be dealt with. Evil at every moment wants to deliver pain and misery and death and damnation, a complex of threats that make life very dark. If the bad force is as strong as the forces of good, then the forces of good aren’t good for much, now are they? It’s pretty hard to look on the bright side of life when the dark side cannot be vanquished, and in fact one might have to say life itself would be mainly dark as long as that equilibrium holds.

Born in the Middle East where Christianity and then Islam came to dominate, Manichaeism has been supplanted, for the most part, by religions that give much more primacy to good. This is not surprising because, instinctively, people don’t want to tolerate evil. Ultimately, they want to see evil done away with. For life to really have meaning, people need to believe good will prevail because evil is a menacing force, a lion seeking whom to devour. We are hard-wired to discern and root out threats.

When you have a box of oranges with one moldy orange, you would not want to rest easy knowing most of the box is ok, because mold spreads. What you have, in fact, is a moldy box of oranges which had better be cleaned out or the whole lot will be ruined.

A better analogy might be if you have a house and only a tiny corner of the basement is burning. You don’t have a house that is largely flame-free. You have a house on fire.

Now, let’s say you have a government that contains a significant amount of corruption, and by significant I mean in important places, carried by top people, and known by many other people. It is widespread, and the places it is rooted are the very seats of power meant to protect from corruption. The orange-cleaning crew have mold on their rags. The fire fighters have torches instead of extinguishers.

Fixing the problem government can’t be done with a few terminations, some personnel tweaks. A major part of the government would need to be dismantled—like a box of oranges that had to be emptied and scattered and re-gathered slowly and carefully to ensure none of the rot made it back in.

Let’s also say this corruption scenario was in place for a long time, multiple years, maybe multiple decades. It would actually be the status quo.

And going back to our lesson on Manichaeism, we know that an institution so beset by evil could not be thought of as “mainly good.” It would be integrally, ontologically darkened. The half-corrupt government is simply a corrupt government.

Your status quo, then, would be evil.

Going one step further with our hypothetical situation, let’s suppose there are parties interested in cleaning up that corruption, facing off against parties seeking to preserve the status quo and prevent any cleanup. How would we judge those opposing sides?

Well, the forces of good are the forces of good: they want to clean up the corruption, so judging them is easy. What’s hard is knowing what to think about the others.

If the champions of the status quo know they are battling for the forces of evil, then likely we’d just label them evil as well, and the judgment would be cut and dried, good versus evil. If the status quo team were ignorant, though, the question is more difficult. Are people who battle to keep corruption in place excused if it turns out they were unaware of the problems?

Personally, I think the misguided ones would be let off the hook, eventually. Some people aren’t inclined to change the status quo out of principle. Some don’t have the imagination to perceive evil when its presence is familiar.

But of course this is only a thought experiment: To really judge, we’d have to see a real-life situation unfold similar to that described above, and we’d have to weigh the actual costs of the status quo and the manner in which the battle was fought.

Republicans Opposing Trump are a Bit of a Mystery

Why have some Republicans fought so much harder against the Trump presidency and Trump legislative agenda than they ever did against Obama? It’s especially the case among Republicans in Congress, and as noted on this blog before, I think it’s also the case among certain GOP factions here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Normally, when your candidate loses a primary, you hate the victor and his supporters for a modest period of time but then everyone makes up and moves on to the general election. I’m not a Democrat, but I get the impression that’s what the Democrats usually do. It’s an intelligent approach, obviously, in fulfilling the mission of the party, which is to get its candidates into public office.

Some Republicans REALLY did not pull together after Donald Trump won over Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and the others, which is weird, because Republican office holders have often been terrible and every Republican knows it. Those who suggested Trump was likely to be not “conservative” enough were either ignorant or liars, because the party had not had such a person in the White House or as the nominee for a very long time.

The last couple Republican presidents left legacies that departed substantially from whatever “conservative” platform the Republican Party and the presidential campaign foisted on unwary voters to get the putzes elected.

Actually, the last couple Republican presidents’ legacies are worse than unkept promises because all that stuff that “conservative” think tanks and thousands of Republican political campaigns have been saying are so critically important, as reasons to vote for the Republican du jour, all the terrible changes to American society and government that this or that Republican was going to prevent, got worse under the Republican presidents named Bush.

Were the Bushes better than Clinton or Obama? Probably, but not by a lot. Here’s how you can tell that: you don’t see many people writing stories contrasting the Bush presidencies with the Obama or Clinton presidencies.

You don’t see a lot of infographics or memes put out by “conservatives” recalling the glorious eras of the Bushes. That’s because there is very little to feel proud about from those periods, I believe.

Thus we have to wonder, for any Republican with any knowledge of history, what is the problem with Trump? After his first year in office, we now know, he’s come a lot closer to accomplishing what the “conservatives” have been promising than any other recent president. If not for opposition by Republicans in Congress, Trump would have accomplished much more of what Republicans promise every time an election comes around.

It’s not my purpose to get into a detailed public policy discussion at this time, but any Republican with a knowledge of history knows exactly what I am referring to. The short answer is that when it comes to the “conservative” principles that candidates and consultants have been bloviating about for the past 25 years, President Trump doesn’t look too bad compared to nearly all other Republican office holders.

Unless the logic is that the past two Republican presidents get a pass for almost total failure, but Donald Trump will suddenly be held to the very highest standard of “conservative” wish lists or be deemed an enemy of the people, there seems to be some disconnect. There seems to be some major inconsistency from the “conservative” elites, almost to the point that one wonders if they are worth listening to, on any subject, ever again.

The thought that “conservative” leaders could be anything less than exemplars of integrity is inconceivable to me, so I will leave that dilemma for now and go back to the original question of: Why the Trump hate?

One of many bizarre examples will suffice. Speaking of Republican presidents: George W. Bush did not make a single public comment about anything that Barack Obama did during the latter’s presidency. Maybe I missed a statement or two, but I think I’m right in saying that Bush never said a word as Obama spent years verbally trashing the Bush presidency and, policy-wise, being rather non-conservative, adding over $9 trillion to our debt, and even using the federal machinery in ways that some consider unethical. Does George W. Bush not care about our grandchildren? But Bush never found much to criticize in Obama — or Bill Clinton, in fact.

How is it, then, that Bush finds the motivation to come out of his respectful shell and criticize Donald Trump so relatively mercilessly? There’s a topic that, seriously, someone could write a book about, knowing what we know now.

We know that Trump is divisive. He is more divisive for American political and media experts than Godzilla was for urban neighborhoods in Japan. In the end the Japanese loved Godzilla, as I think in one of the later films it was revealed he was fed GMO fish as a child and once he transitioned to soy-based foods he mellowed considerably. But there will be no soy for Donald Trump. And the rationale for political opposition seems to transcend all the normal triggers, such as public policy.

Republicans seem to have finally gotten a president who is willing to sign into law all the “conservative” agenda items that “conservative” Republicans have been shilling with for two or three decades, and it’s almost like these Republican elites are petrified that they could be allowed to deliver on marketing messages. Why, it’s almost as though all those campaign messages and fundraising letters were untrue, and actually depended on the promises not being fulfilled in order to continue to scare ignorant voters and donors in the future.

But now comes Trump, looming over the skyline, threatening to trample and destroy the City of Promises by delivering on Republican promises. He’s a monster.

That’s one reason, then, for the Trump hate.

Another reason, which is purely speculative on my part, but I am grasping for straws here, is that maybe there have been activities that people in Washington D.C. are not proud of, and that Trump threatens to expose. Maybe some people knew even before Trump was elected that he would not “play ball” and that’s why they went on the warpath against him, and now that he is in office, are worried about what he might do.

Who knows. But one thing I do know is that if Republicans had the political intelligence of their Democratic Party counterparts, the GOP might accomplish all the things it has promised for so long. That thought must keep some of them awake at night.

Jimmy Carter and the Inspector General Act of 1978

When did we get the U.S. inspector general offices as watchdogs within our federal agencies, and what is the purpose?


President Jimmy Carter signed the Inspector General Act into law on October 12, 1978, to address “fraud and mismanagement and embarrassment to the Government” at a time when we had advisory commissions and offices for public integrity within various departments, but over time a bipartisan consensus was reached that we needed a more formal approach to problems of incompetence, waste, corruption, and other illegal activity.

At the bill signing ceremony, President Carter explained:

It establishes 12 Inspectors General who will be within the agencies involved, the 12 major agencies. They will be appointed by me. They will be confirmed by the Senate. They will come under the Hatch Act to prevent any politicization of the functions. They will make their reports to the Attorney General if law violations are involved. They’ll make frequent, periodic reports to the head of the agency. They’ll make reports to the Congress. When they make a report directly to the Congress, the head of the agency cannot modify that report in any way. The head of the agency can append comments. These Inspectors General will be responsible for auditing, and they will be responsible for investigating any allegations of fraud or mismanagement.

In addition, there is a provision in the bill that protects whistleblowers. If someone comes from within the agency, meets with the Inspector General, reports something that’s a violation of the law or an example of gross mismanagement or waste, the Inspector General has the authority to protect the identity of that person, if that person so requests, to make sure that there is no punishment inflicted on that person who brings attention to the public of mismanagement or fraud…..

You can read the full text of the original legislation here, and following is the purpose statement:

Purpose and establishment of Offices of Inspector General; departments and agencies involved
In order to create independent and objective units—
(1) to conduct and supervise audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations of the establishments listed in section 12(2);
(2) to provide leadership and coordination and recommend policies for activities designed (A) to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of, and (B) to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in, such programs and operations; and
(3) to provide a means for keeping the head of the establishment and the Congress fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies relating to the administration of such programs and operations and the necessity for and progress of corrective action;

Congressional Investigations: Not What They Used To Be

The U.S. Congress has done a fair amount of “investigating” in recent years and very little has come of the investigations. Some people wonder why, during Republican control of one or both houses of Congress, this “check” on the other branches of government has done so little to uncover instances of illegal or unethical behavior and punish or refer such behavior for prosecution.

In fictional works, or in true stories of olden times, Congress conducts meaningful investigations, and that’s where a Jack Bauer or Jack Ryan go to spill the beans.

3 branches of government
But today, the role of Congress has evolved, as shown in the above infographic.

I’ve heard rumors that House and Senate “hearings” are public displays that Congress has no intention of allowing to proceed to any form of punishment, but are held merely to satisfy quaint notions of rule of law until the next season of The Bachelor begins — but such cynical ideas are impossible to accept.

What I do know is that people often have the wrong impression of the modern role of Congress, and therefore have unrealistic expectations when there are cases of apparent malfeasance by members of Congress, or within some federal agency or the White House itself. People may have seen too many movies, where the congressional hearing is the grand inquisitor; where the whistleblower or rogue spy in days of yore could start the wheels of American justice turning.

This is why hearings in the House or Senate are less like a courtroom and more like a weak homeowners’ association design review board. If someone gets called to a hearing, they can refuse to talk or just laugh at the panel — “I’m keeping my green garage door” or “so what if I broke a few laws” — and then it’s over and presumably they all go out for drinks.

The checks and balances role once filled by Congress is now conducted by Tom Fitton and Judicial Watch, but you probably already knew that.

What Changed in 2017 Allowing Sex Crime Victims to Speak Out?

The current spate of delayed high-profile sex crime allegations has to be one of the oddest phenomena in modern American history. Why in 2017 are these accusations, many of which seem credible, suddenly coming forth?

Sexual harassment has been considered taboo in the workplace for decades. Pedophilia has not had mainstream proponents for a long time and in recent memory seems to rank with other capital crimes in the minds of most Americans. And it isn’t as though we have suddenly found rape distasteful.

Yet these three crimes appear to have been committed on a large scale at the highest levels of American culture, among our political class and the entertainment elites whom we allow to form a lot of our popular attitudes, for years. For many, many years.

The duration of this unreported criminality is what really boggles the mind. Out here in the non-elite world, there seems to be quite a social prohibition against sexual misconduct.

Granted, there is a gray area with sex crime, and offenders are often not prosecuted or, if brought to justice, not convicted. Historically, people tend to get away with it at a higher rate than many crimes because of the nuances related to the offense. Sexual contact can be a normal human behavior in some instances, but not in others, which makes it different from robbery or assault or murder. Surprisingly often, prosecutors will not even bring charges. But all that is a discussion for another day.

What’s not a gray area in 2017 is that we now know literally hundreds of people have considered themselves victims of criminal sexual behavior and have desired to bring an accusation to the attention of apparently proper authorities, but were not listened to, or were threatened to keep quiet, or were punished into keeping quiet.

Why all of the alleged incidents could have been buried is not itself a huge mystery. People with money or influence accused of a crime probably have various means available to shut up their accusers. At the top echelons of Hollywood or Washington DC, where much of this criminality is supposed to have taken place, such power to silence victims would not be surprising.

But the weird thing is: some big change has taken place in America in 2017 that has opened a floodgate of victims suddenly overcoming the fears and powers-that-be that previously had them silenced.

Why do they now feel able to speak out? Certainly, the powers-that-be were all still in power when this series of bombshells began to explode a few months back. If people had money or influence in 2016 and before, they still had it this year, one would assume. Was there some larger controlling authority, some sinister force, in their minds at least, that no longer frightens them into silence?

These seem to be questions worth considering, as we reflect on a year that unfolded sort of chaotically but may be looked back upon as transformative when the history is written years from now.

Virginia Republican Loss Reveals Miscalculation

Here is a follow-up to the last post, about the rebuke Virginia Republicans suffered at the polls at the November 7, 2017 elections. My criticism might seem presumptuous without backing up the argument.

And yes, the Republicans were “rebuked” in the elections in the same sense that the rats that attempted to move into our yard were rebuked when I electrocuted them and threw their carcasses in the trash bin from whence they were hauled to the landfill.

I will note that there are likely much bigger stories in America right now than the GOP’s epic stomping in the Commonwealth. One gets the feeling events are afoot that could eclipse Virginia politics, but more on that below.

The reason I made the Republicans sound silly is because they seem to be operating with a concept of the Virginia electorate that defies common sense and basic arithmetic. As best as I can figure, the Virginia Republicans’ electoral calculation goes like this:

1). Subtract Democrat Party voters
2). Subtract supporters of President Trump
3). ??
4). VICTORY!

For the November 7 elections, step #3 was apparently “Be as boring as an old shoe.” That, we now know, was not a winning answer.

As noted last time, the Virginia GOP “expert” contingent have apparently decided that one cliff dive was not enough so they are preparing the party to take another plummet next year. To understand the mindset, it’s worth noting how they got to step #2 above.

Following the November 7 catastrophe, Republicans and conservatives from across the country weighed in in comments to the many news and social media stories. A familiar refrain was to the effect that “you have never seen such a hive of scum and villainy” as the Virginia Republican Party.

This is because Virginia Republicans have made a name for themselves as leaders in opposing President Trump. It began during the Republican National Convention last summer when Virginia Republicans were center stage trying to get delegates who had committed to Donald Trump “freed” to vote for other candidates. Since then, Virginians have apparently cemented that impression. I don’t know exactly how, but I would guess that Congresswoman Barbara Comstock has had something to do with it. Comstock rarely makes news for doing anything, but has managed to make quite a bit of news criticizing the current president — and doing so about 20 times more frequently than she criticized the last one.

Also, perhaps, politicos around the nation follow what their peers in Virginia are saying and writing. I’d estimate that 90 percent of Virginia GOP elected officials and party leadership are anti-Trump, shown both through explicit condemnation and also in more subtle ways, using their leadership position to paint the picture for lesser Republicans that “top people hate Trump.” I read a bit of news and follow some of the people on social media, and that is my impression at least.

Of course, what that says to Virginians who support President Trump is: “We consider you to be an idiot.”

It is not too much of a stretch to think that many erstwhile Republican voters would have gotten that message and had their voting ardor tamped down.

Not all of Virginia’s GOP candidates are as notoriously anti-Trump as Barbara Comstock, of course. But one odd thing you could definitely see during the past campaign period is that practically no Republican candidate even mentioned President Trump, at all. That seemed strange, especially considering that Republican also control both houses of Congress. There might be some relevance, one might presume, between the local and the national under such conditions.

But following the election, a dominant theme I saw among Republican experts was that the candidates did not sufficiently distance themselves from Donald Trump. In other words, with regard to step #2 above, future Republican candidates need to be more forceful in driving away those Trump supporters.

My personal opinion is that this might not be such a great idea, but I will reserve judgment until I see what the 2018 candidates propose for step #3.

Actually, if I had to guess, I’d say the Virginia Republicans plan to buff up some talking points from an address to Parliament circa 1903, emphasizing duty, love of country, and wool, prefaced with a quote from Ronald Reagan, and concluding by damning Donald Trump to Hell. If you think I’m joking, you don’t know Virginia’s self-styled Republican leadership.

But let’s not dwell on an imploding political party. To the point made at the top about Virginia GOP devastation not being the most important issue in America today, it is interesting to look back on how previous “big stories” can so thoroughly be eclipsed by bigger events. Back in 2001, I recall the biggest controversies in the news in this area were the disappearance of Chandra Levy and the Chinese military pilots who were flying too close to American military jets. There was also some matter with a U.S. jet that ended up landing in China and the Chinese would not let the American crew leave and also (I think) held onto the plane. These stories were a pretty big deal.

Then, September 11, 2001 happened, and all of those stories fell out of the news, and the national consciousness, for years. I bet almost nobody in the country has the slightest idea what happened with that American jet, and it’s likely that nobody outside of DC knows what the upshot of the Chandra Levy case was when it finally got reported on again 8 or 10 years later.

Here in November 2017, there seems to be a lot of world-changing activity on the horizon. Some of it, I think, might not only dominate the national news, but might even transform how we perceive the political stage right down to the local level here in Virginia. And maybe by next year the Virginia Republicans will have learned a way out of their rather hopeless-looking electoral equation.

Virginia Republicans Chart New Course

There was an election this week and GOP candidates throughout the commonwealth of Virginia got clobbered.

It’s not really too interesting because Virginia was easily won by Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, Virginia has had solely Democrat senators for many years, and every statewide office was held by a Democrat already. Republicans losing elections is what you would bet on, if you were a betting person.

What is interesting are two things: First, Democrats won a bunch of seats in the House of Delegates that they were not considered likely to win. So, bully for the Democrats. Who knows what all these Republican candidates did or didn’t do, but unless they wanted to lose, they sure did the wrong things.

Second, having driven over a cliff, Virginia Republican “thought leaders” woke up the next morning, shook themselves off, and then gamely began shouting about their road maps to the next cliff, at which the party’s next group of candidates can be expected to arrive roughly one year from now.

It’s funny because they’re proud.

I put leaders in quotes because in Virginia, the people on the Republican side who talk the most about politics, being genetically incapable of shutting up no matter how wrong they are proven to be, need to be insulated from normal people.

The quotation marks are for your protection, not theirs.

FirewallNOVA is a state of mind

Someone once said to me: “You know, back in my day we didn’t have PHP, and we didn’t need databases behind the scenes. All we needed was a hammer, some flint, and a text editor.”

I said: “Tell me more, Grandpa.”

But those were the last words he ever spoke to me.

But I think if my old grandfather had ever deigned to speak to me again, he probably would have told me about long nights hunched over a keyboard, copying and pasting text and code, and spinning fresh ideas onto that spartan framework. Uploading each new page via FTP. Having to quickly revise and re-upload if he forgot to change a date from one copy-and-paste job to the next. And occasionally having to edit manually dozens or even hundreds of pages every time a new element needed to be propagated across the entire site.

Isn’t it sad, here in 2017, how we’ve lost that hands-on craftsmanship, that personal approach to the Web?

Well here at FirewallNOVA, we say “Enough.” Enough with the impersonal, automated publishing. Enough with the page design. Enough with all the “software.”

The Web is a place for writing. Why do we need software to publish? When a man goes fishing in his rowboat in the canal, does he need to bring the Army Corp of Engineers along for the ride? Hell, no.

So in that spirit, and with the added factor that we don’t see an immediate way forward for our erstwhile mission of covering certain segments of politics and culture yet are not quite ready to delete the entire WordPress thingmajig, we are going to quietly transition to a different format and a different mission.

It will be simpler, yes. It will be plainer. It may remind you of days spent sitting around the dinner table with no television or any other noise in the house at all.

And it will probably – nay, very likely – load FAST, even on your phone or your seven-year-old’s seven-year-old tablet.

I bet the page will load so fast you get whiplash just by visiting. Whoa.

In concluding this first new portal to the new-old FirewallNOVA, let us say as an old man of old-time radio used to say:

“Good day.”