No New Special Counsel

Why not, then, appoint another special counsel to squeeze the squeezers? Why not turn the tables?

.. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made a foundational error in appointing Robert Mueller to be special counsel to investigate . . . well . . . um . . . come to think of it, that was the error: The investigation has no parameters, and thus no limitations.

Investigations conducted by prosecutors are supposed to be rooted in known crimes — or, at the very least, articulable suspicion that known crimes have occurred.

those crimes must form the basis for two salient findings:

(1) that the Justice Department has a conflict of interest so severe that it cannot conduct the investigation in the normal manner, and

(2) that it is necessary to appoint, from outside the Justice Department, a quasi-independent prosecutor.

..  This special prosecutor is to be given a grant of investigative jurisdiction limited to the crimes that the Justice Department is too conflicted to investigate — and no other crimes, unless the special counsel explicitly requests, and the Justice Department grants, an expansion of jurisdiction.

.. Because counterintelligence is not lawyer work, and because the objective of counterintelligence is to gather information about a foreign power, not to build a criminal case against a suspect, prosecutors are not ordinarily assigned to counterintelligence investigations.

.. In the Mueller appointment, then, counterintelligence is camouflage for something that should never happen: a special counsel unleashed to hunt for crimes to prosecute despite the absence of known crimes warranting appointment of a special prosecutor.

.. is looking into whether Jared Kushner’s financial woes influenced Trump-administration policy towards Qatar.

.. Where I part company with them is not over whether we need an investigation; it is over whether that investigation should be done by a special counsel.

.. The patent flaw in the Goodlatte-Gowdy proposal is the same one that plagued Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller: There is no triggering crime.

.. Investigative Excesses Are Usually Not Crimes
It is very bad for investigators to exhibit bias, to allow bias to taint their exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion, to depart from Justice Department guidelines, and to provide unverified information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court). But none of these things is a crime – at least, not obviously so.

.. There is no criminal statute addressing bias on the part of agents and prosecutors. We all have biases. It would not be possible to have bias-free investigators.

.. But if deviations from guidelines were to become a basis for legal action, including criminal prosecution, one of two things would happen: The guidelines would be repealed, or they would be rewritten in a broadly permissive manner, endorsing investigative behavior that might be justifiable in exigent circumstances but would be grossly inappropriate the rest of the time.

..  If police and prosecutors came to believe enforcement errors would lead to prosecutions or civil lawsuits against them, they would refrain from taking any but the most uncontroversial enforcement actions. In another context, Heather Mac Donald has written compellingly about this phenomenon as “the Ferguson effect.” To discourage policing is to erode the rule of law, imperiling societal peace and prosperity.

.. If there was a good-faith basis for the FBI and Justice Department to investigate possible Trump–Russia ties of a corrupt nature, it would be very difficult to prove that investigators broke the law in conducting their investigation

.. Candidate Trump made alarmingly ingratiating statements about Vladimir Putin

.. Trump brought Manafort and Gates into his campaign at a very high level. They had notorious ties to Kremlin-backed Ukrainians. Those ties are not speculation; they are established fact. Moreover, Trump publicly identified Carter Page, an obscure Kremlin apologist, as one of his campaign’s handful of foreign-policy advisers. Simultaneously, the FBI was alerted that the Russians might be in possession of thousands of hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton, and might have made a point of communicating this claim to George Papadopoulos, another of the few identified Trump foreign-policy advisers.

.. Then the bureau was approached by Christopher Steele. Far from being unknown to the FBI, this former British spy was a proven asset, having provided information that helped the bureau crack the FIFA soccer case

.. Steele alleged that Trump was involved in a corrupt conspiracy with Russia, in which Manafort, the point man, was using Page as an intermediary. Because of his prior work with the bureau, Steele would not have been ignored by the FBI, regardless of the Clinton campaign’s sponsorship of his work

.. given the preexisting reasons for concern: Trump’s pro-Putin rhetoric; the backgrounds of Manafort, Gates, and Page; and the report about possible Russian involvement in hacked Democratic emails.

.. It would not be credible to claim that the Trump-Russia investigation was fabricated out of whole cloth. Even stipulating that the top FBI/DOJ hierarchy was biased against Trump, and thus too quick to credit sensational allegations of Trump wrongdoing, there were good-faith reasons for concern about ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian regime. These reasons do not prove that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails; that Carter Page was a Russian agent; that Manafort and Gates were choreographing a Trump–Russia conspiracy; or that Trump’s Russia rhetoric was anything more than a political novice’s effort to do what American administrations have been doing for decades — seek better relations with Moscow.

.. Goodlatte and Gowdy are also right to suggest (as I believe they have) that the contemplated investigation should scrutinize the handling of the Clinton-emails probe

.. The special counsel is a pernicious institution that operates outside the procedures and discipline of a normal U.S. attorney’s office — where the merits of every case must be weighed against those of every other in the competition for limited investigative and prosecutorial resources.

.. Attorney General Sessions should assign a U.S. attorney from outside Washington to conduct a probe of how the Clinton-emails and Trump-Russia investigations were handled by the Justice Department and FBI. A good model would be John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut just confirmed by the Senate.

.. the Bush administration was cut no slack by Fitzgerald, then a career prosecutor who is remembered for conducting a hyper-aggressive probe.

.. Mueller is effectively independent only because Rosenstein has chosen to be passive

.. Mueller reports to Rosenstein, who could assert more active supervision.

.. There is no reason that Attorney General Sessions cannot structure a probe that can be credibly conducted by the Justice Department’s standard investigative arrangement

The Edges of Reason

If you actually experienced these worlds, and contrasted them with the normal world of high-minded liberal secularism, it was the charismatic-religious and “health food” regions

  • where people were the most personally empirical,
  • least inclined to meekly submit to authority, and
  • most determined to reason independently and keep trying things until they worked.

That’s because those worlds’ inhabitants were a self-selected population who had either experienced something transformative or suffered something debilitating and been told by the official consensus, “We have no answers for you yet.”

.. If you refuse any non-F.D.A.-blessed treatment for chronic illness because there’s no controlled study proving that it works, or have a religious experience and pre-emptively dismiss it as an illusion without seeing what happens if you pray, you may be many things, but you are not really much of an empiricist.

.. Which is why in many instances the interests that Pinker dismisses as irrational hugger-mugger, everything from astrology to spiritualism, have tended to strengthen during periods of real scientific ferment.

.. It’s not that there is some quantum of unreason that needs an outlet when reason’s power grows. Rather, it’s that when people and societies are genuinely curious they are very reasonably curious about everything

.. Which is why if Pinker and others are genuinely worried about a waning appreciation of the inquiring scientific spirit, they should consider the possibility that some of their own smug secular certainties might be part of the problem — that they might, indeed, be stifling the more comprehensive kind of curiosity upon which the scientific enterprise ultimately depends.

Two Camps Assert They Each Have Control Over CFPB

White House budget chief and an Obama-era official both claim rights to lead the regulator

Some experts say there is little incentive for Mr. Trump to quickly nominate a permanent director. Rather, by allowing Mr. Mulvaney a year or longer to serve as a caretaker at the CFPB, the president could ensure several years of Republican control of the agency because directors serve five-year terms once they are confirmed.

 ..  To allow the CFPB to work quickly, lawmakers designed the bureau to be independent, stating that its single director could only be dismissed by the president for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office” and insulating its budget from congressional oversight.
..  Republican lawmakers and the financial industry have long said the agency’s rules and supervisory and enforcement activities have increased compliance costs and reduced credit availability for vulnerable consumers the bureau was created to protect. 

.. The pushback has been particularly strong from industries that had previously been regulated lightly, such as so-called payday and auto lending.

.. Republicans have proposed curbs to the CFPB’s power, giving Congress control of its budget and narrowing the scope of its regulatory powers that would leave it primarily an enforcement agency.

.. Mr Mulvaney, a former Republican House member from South Carolina, once called the CFPB a “sad, sick joke” and has called for an overhaul of the agency, including curtailing its budget. Other possible actions include delaying the enactment of a recently issued rule on high-interest small consumer loans known as payday lending, amending a 2013 mortgage rule that tightened underwriting standards and reassessing pending lawsuits against companies such as student-loan servicer Navient Corp.

Dear Trump Voters: You’re a Bunch of Idiots

On CNN in 2015, I said: “If Hillary Clinton paid somebody to try to destroy the Republican brand, they would do exactly what Donald Trump has done.”

.. In May 2016, I warned: “Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cannot destroy the conservative brand. Donald Trump can. Donald Trump can redefine what it means to be a Republican and what it means to be in a conservative. In a way, Trump is more dangerous to conservatism than Obama and Hillary because he is posing as a conservative.”

.. Trump has had six months to learn the job, improve, and advance a conservative agenda. He’s 0-for-3. What is more, if even his new chief of staff Gen. John Kelly cannot fix this mess—and it is now incredibly clear that even he cannot perform miracles!—it won’t be fixed. At some point, it’s time to pull the plug. That time is now.

What exactly do I mean by “pull the plug”? These three things
  1. As former McConnell chief of staff Josh Homes suggests, Republicans should “reassert an identity without Donald Trump.” What this means to me is that Republican politicians should pursue their own agenda, independent of concern about Trump’s plans or legacy. In other words, act as if he doesn’t exist—as if he’s irrelevant.
  2. All good-thinking conservatives should now commit to supporting a viable and serious primary challenge to Donald Trump in the GOP primary. This should not be a perfunctory exercise, but rather, a full-throated attempt to replace him as the nominee. Further, where you stand on this should be considered a defining moment. Personally, I would nominate Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska as the kind of person conservatives should back.
  3. It’s time to quit making excuses for Trump apologists and enablers. Although I always try to be civil to everyone, those who defend the indefensible do not deserve our respect. Further, aside from chief of staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster—people we should be begging to stay on duty—anyone who continues to serve Donald Trump’s political agenda (and here, I would also grant a waiver for serious professionals working for, say, Health and Human Services) have cast their lot.