Journal 11/01/2016 (a.m.)

    • Within hours of the death of Vince Foster in July 1993, chief White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum removed documents, some of them concerning the Whitewater Development Corporation, from Foster’s office and gave them to Maggie Williams, Chief of Staff to the First Lady. According to the New York Times, Williams placed the documents in a safe in the White House for five days before turning them over to their personal lawyer.
    • How could a major party grant a guy like Donald Trump a puncher’s chance at the presidency? This fiasco of an outcome—landing Trump one step from the White House—might have been avoided with a simple change to the GOP’s nomination process. Don’t blame Trump’s ascent on economic anxiety, or racism, or the media. Blame it on the way we hold elections.
    • Though he was beloved by a certain swath of voters, the fact is Trump left most Republicans cold. He won a smaller percentage of GOP primary votes than any of the party’s three previous champions. He holds the record as the GOP nominee with the most votes cast against him. Trump succeeded, especially early on, by commanding small pluralities within a very large field. There was a desperate thirst for a more traditional nominee, but the “establishment lane” candidates ate into each other’s support, divvying up the pool of votes from the sane folks who were disgusted by Trump.
    • Consider: Why were those primary voters forced to choose only one candidate from the overflowing platter of 16 or so GOP hopefuls? Why not make it a buffet? A ballot that insists you choose just one option doesn’t let you convey much information about your feelings and intentions. Your vote for Ted Cruz in the New Hampshire primary might have meant that you adored Ted Cruz; or it might have meant you could barely stand Cruz but you thought he was the guy with the best chance to derail the horrifying Trump Train.
    • Given the wide range of things a vote can mean, shouldn’t we find a better way to let people signal what they actually intend on their ballots?
    • Approval voting is particularly useful when a large field of candidates includes some “clones.” Clone candidates—competitors who aren’t sharply differentiated—often split votes and harm each other, even though they seek to advance similar viewpoints. Let’s imagine the GOP had used approval voting: Instead of agonizing over whether Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, or John Kasich was the best mainstream candidate to foil Trump and push the establishment agenda, a GOP voter could have checked the boxes next to all three.
    • A lot of smart people are thinking about better ways to vote. You can go down a deep rabbit hole where terms like “Condorcet cycle“ and “Borda count“ get tossed around with ease, warring factions debate which voting method is best, and Nobel Prizes are won for doing the math. But primaries are controlled by the parties, and elected politicians have little motivation to change the structure that got them elected.
    • A strict code of vengeance seems to be a point of pride for Trump, who has touted his philosophy on numerous occasions.
    • The same month, Trump told a radio host that the Bible verse that’s influenced him most is “an eye for an eye.”
    • “They laugh at our face, and they’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re taking the health of our country,” Trump said in explaining his affection for the passage. “We have to be firm and have to be very strong. And we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you.”
    • Am I not allowed to respond?” he asked after being criticized for feuding with a Gold Star family that denounced his proposed ban on Muslims.
    • At the second presidential debate, in St. Louis, millions of viewers waited to hear how Trump would respond to the newly released 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which he boasted of grabbing women’s genitals.

                     

      When asked whether his comments constituted sexual assault, the candidate briefly apologized and dismissed the remarks as “locker room talk.” But then his answer took an abrupt turn for the bloody.

    • You know, when we have a world where you have ISIS chopping off heads, where you have them, frankly, drowning people in steel cages, where you have wars and horrible, horrible sights all over and you have so many bad things happening, this is like medieval times,” Trump said. “We haven’t seen anything like this.”
    • It’s notable, however, that some of the most prominent figures on both sides of those Bush-era arguments are now among Trump’s fiercest critics.

                     

      “On issue after issue, Trump lacks a fundamental humanity in his approach to people that is absolutely startling,” said Alberto Mora, the former top Navy lawyer who led efforts to oppose practices like waterboarding within the Bush administration. “His support of torture is of a piece with his innate cruelty.”

                     

      John Yoo, author of the so-called “torture memos” that provided legal footing for enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding, condemned Trump using equally strong language, even comparing him to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

                     

      “He’s the classic demagogue described well in the Federalist Papers that our system is designed to stop,” Yoo said.

    • Clinton called the move an “unprecedented” departure from FBI policy, and on Sunday, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid scolded Comey for potentially breaking the law.

                     

      “Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be clear intent to aid one political party over another,” the letter says. “I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act.”

                     

      The act bars government officials from using their authority to influence elections.

                     

      Reid also accused Comey of shielding Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump from scrutiny over his connections to Russia, saying “it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination” between Trump and his advisers and the Russian government.

    • If Hillary Clinton wins, the cycle of scandals, lies, investigations and coverups will continue unabated for the next four years.
    • Until recently, Democrats were praising FBI Director James Comey as a “great man” and a “wonderful and tough career public servant . . . with the highest standards of integrity” after he recommended against prosecuting Clinton. Today, they have seamlessly transitioned to attacking him as a partisan hack for informing Congress that the FBI had uncovered emails potentially germane to their Clinton probe — on a computer they had seized in a separate investigation of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner (for allegedly sexting with a 15-year-old girl — you can’t make this stuff up).

      The email scandal is not going away. House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said this weekend, “We will clearly investigate all of the information that we have as it relates to classified information being put on networks where Russians, Chinese, other bad actors could get ahold of the information.” If classified information is found on any of the 650,000 emails on Weiner’s computer, it will give these congressional inquiries a whole new life — as well it should.

    • Then the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that, according to sources, the Obama Justice Department limited efforts by FBI agents to investigate whether the Clinton State Department gave special access and favors to Clinton Foundation donors. Congress will certainly investigate whether there was improper interference in those FBI efforts. And there will almost certainly be investigations into ABC News’ recent revelations that State Department officials gave special treatment to Clinton Foundation donors after the Haiti quake, asking for them to be identified as “FOBs” (friends of Bill Clinton) or “WJC VIPs” (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs) while sending others to a government website.
    • “I doubt it will have much effect, and even if it has some, it won’t be enough to change the outcome of the presidential race,” says Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. “Clinton email stories are hardly new. Most everyone has already formed an opinion about the matter.”
    • David Axelrod,<!–  –> a top strategist for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaigns, says it’s probably too late for such an event to prove decisive. He adds, though: “But the truth is, no one knows the true impact, and we probably won’t until we can look at polls and early vote data at the middle of the week.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Journal 10/31/2016 (p.m.)

    • So what happened? We may never know the full story, but the best guess is that Mr. Comey, like many others — media organizations, would-be nonpartisan advocacy groups, and more — let himself be bullied by the usual suspects. Working the refs — screaming about bias and unfair treatment, no matter how favorable the treatment actually is — has been a consistent, long-term political strategy on the right. And the reason it keeps happening is because it so often works.
    • Part of this effectiveness comes through false equivalence: news organizations, afraid of being attacked for bias, give evenhanded treatment to lies and truth. Way back in 2000 I suggested that if a Republican candidate said that the earth was flat, headlines would read, “Views differ on shape of planet.” That still happens.

      The desire to get right-wing critics off one’s back may also explain why the news media keep falling for fake scandals. There’s a straight line from the Whitewater investigation — which ran for seven years, was endlessly hyped in the press, but never found any wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons — to the catastrophically bad coverage of the Clinton Foundation a couple of months ago.

    • I’ve been watching pressure build on universities to hire more conservatives. Never mind the way climate denial, attacks on the theory of evolution, and all that may have pushed academics out of the G.O.P. The fact that relatively few conservatives teach, say, physics, is supposed to be grossly unfair. And you know some schools will start hiring less qualified people in response.
    • Mr. Comey was subjected to a constant barrage of demands that he prosecute her for … something. He should simply have said no. Instead, even while announcing back in July that no charges would be filed, he editorialized about her conduct — a wholly inappropriate thing to do, but probably an attempt to appease the right.

      It didn’t work, of course. They just demanded more. And it looks as if he tried to buy them off by throwing them a bone just a few days before the election.

    • The moral of the story is that appeasing the modern American right is a losing proposition. Nothing you do convinces them that you’re being fair, because fairness has nothing to do with it. The right long ago ran out of good ideas that can be sold on their own merits, so the goal now is to remove merit from the picture.
    • Abedin claims to be unaware of the cache of messages came as a U.S. official revealed that the FBI obtained a warrant to examine the emails in greater detail.
    • Who would have thought that the final leg of this election cycle would be dominated by crowing about violating vaginas and by probes into penis pictures?

      But even that frame is problematic because it creates an equivalency that doesn’t exist. One scandal is about a man boasting of predation and the other is about a woman weary of people’s prying. These are fundamentally different flaws, one being clearly about a pattern of assault and the other about a pattern of ill-fated insularity.

      And yet an utterly irresponsible media, thirsty for a scoop and ignoring the consequences of its scope, has egged on a public with a scandal lust, aiding and abetting Republicans in turning an email mistake into a colossal crime.

      Far from the faux election rigging that Donald Trump has been harping on for weeks, this election isn’t in danger of being stolen by Hillary Clinton, but in danger of being stolen from her.

    • Investigators found 650,000 emails on a laptop that they believe was used by former Rep. Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Huma Abedin, a close Clinton aide, and underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.
    • It will take weeks, at a minimum, to determine whether those messages are work-related from the time Ms. Abedin served with Mrs. Clinton at the State Department; how many are duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI; and whether they include either classified information or important new evidence in the Clinton email probe.
    • Officials had to await a court order to begin reviewing the emails—which they received over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter—because they were uncovered in an unrelated probe of Mr. Weiner.
    • The new investigative effort, disclosed by FBI Director James Comey on Friday, shows a bureau at times in sharp internal disagreement over matters related to the Clintons, and how to handle those matters fairly and carefully in the middle of a national election campaign.
    • New details show that senior law-enforcement officials repeatedly voiced skepticism of the strength of the evidence in a bureau investigation of the Clinton Foundation, sought to condense what was at times a sprawling cross-country effort, and, according to some people familiar with the matter, told agents to limit their pursuit of the case.
    • Some investigators grew frustrated, viewing FBI leadership as uninterested in probing the charity, these people said. Others involved disagreed sharply, defending FBI bosses and saying Mr. McCabe in particular was caught between an increasingly acrimonious fight for control between the Justice Department and FBI agents pursuing the Clinton Foundation case.
    • It isn’t unusual for field agents to favor a more aggressive approach than supervisors and prosecutors think is merited. But the internal debates about the Clinton Foundation show the high stakes when such disagreements occur surrounding someone who is running for president.
    • The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received $467,500 in campaign funds in late 2015 from the political-action committee of Virginia Gov. <!–  –> Terry McAuliffe,<!–  –> a longtime ally of the Clintons and, until he was elected governor in November 2013, a Clinton Foundation board member.
    • In February of this year, Mr. McCabe ascended from the No. 3 position at the FBI to the deputy director post. When he assumed that role, officials say, he started overseeing the probe into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server for government work when she was secretary of state.

      FBI officials have said Mr. McCabe had no role in the Clinton email probe until he became deputy director, and by then his wife’s campaign was over.

    • Early this year, four FBI field offices—New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Little Rock, Ark.—were collecting information about the Clinton Foundation to see if there was evidence of financial crimes or influence-peddling, according to people familiar with the matter.
    • In February, FBI officials made a presentation to the Justice Department, according to these people. By all accounts, the meeting didn’t go well.

      Some said that is because the FBI didn’t present compelling evidence to justify more aggressive pursuit of the Clinton Foundation, and that the career anticorruption prosecutors in the room simply believed it wasn’t a very strong case. Others said that from the start, the Justice Department officials were stern, icy and dismissive of the case.

      “That was one of the weirdest meetings I’ve ever been to,” one participant told others afterward, according to people familiar with the matter.

      Anticorruption prosecutors at the Justice Department told the FBI at the meeting they wouldn’t authorize more aggressive investigative techniques, such as subpoenas, formal witness interviews, or grand-jury activity. But the FBI officials believed they were well within their authority to pursue the leads and methods already under way, these people said.

    • According to a person familiar with the probes, on Aug. 12, a senior Justice Department official called Mr. McCabe to voice his displeasure at finding that New York FBI agents were still openly pursuing the Clinton Foundation probe during the election season. Mr. McCabe said agents still had the authority to pursue the issue as long as they didn’t use overt methods requiring Justice Department approvals.

      The Justice Department official was “very pissed off,” according to one person close to Mr. McCabe, and pressed him to explain why the FBI was still chasing a matter the department considered dormant. Others said the Justice Department was simply trying to make sure FBI agents were following longstanding policy not to make overt investigative moves that could be seen as trying to influence an election. Those rules discourage investigators from making any such moves before a primary or general election, and, at a minimum, checking with anticorruption prosecutors before doing so.

      “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” Mr. McCabe asked, according to people familiar with the conversation. After a pause, the official replied, “Of course not,” these people said.

      For Mr. McCabe’s defenders, the exchange showed how he was stuck between an FBI office eager to pour more resources into a case and Justice Department prosecutors who didn’t think much of the case, one person said.

    • Others further down the FBI chain of command, however, said agents were given a much starker instruction on the case: “Stand down.” When agents questioned why they weren’t allowed to take more aggressive steps, they said they were told the order had come from the deputy director—Mr. McCabe.

      Others familiar with the matter deny Mr. McCabe or any other senior FBI official gave such a stand-down instruction.

    • In September, agents on the foundation case asked to see the emails contained on nongovernment laptops that had been searched as part of the Clinton email case, but that request was rejected by prosecutors at the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn. Those emails were given to the FBI based on grants of partial immunity and limited-use agreements, meaning agents could only use them for the purpose of investigating possible mishandling of classified information.

      Some FBI agents were dissatisfied with that answer, and asked for permission to make a similar request to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. McCabe, these people said, told them no and added that they couldn’t “go prosecutor-shopping.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Journal 10/28/2016 (a.m.)

    • A 2011 memo made public Wednesday by Wikileaks revealed new details of how former President Bill Clinton made tens of millions of dollars for himself and his wife, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, through an opaque, ethically messy amalgam of philanthropic, business and personal activities.
    • No evidence has been found to support allegations of a quid pro quo of official acts by Hillary Clinton as senator or Secretary of State in exchange for the money received by the Clintons or the Clinton Foundation. However the messiness and opacity of the relationship between Clinton’s personal, business and philanthropic undertakings detailed in the memo raises new questions about Bill Clinton’s activity.
    • Donald Trump is denying the accounts of at least a dozen women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. But the lawsuit-loving businessman is no longer committed to suing them.

      “Let’s not waste any more time. These stories were fabricated. They’re total lies,” Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos

    • Mr. Band also noted how some of those donors he had cultivated were paying Mr. Clinton privately to make speeches or to do other work. One such donor, Laureate International Universities, a for-profit education company based in Baltimore, was paying Mr. Clinton $3.5 million annually “to provide advice” and serve as its honorary chairman, Mr. Band wrote.

      In another email, Mr. Band wrote that Mr. Clinton had even received gifts from some donors.

      The tensions came to a head when Chelsea Clinton helped enlist an outside law firm to audit the Clinton Foundation’s practices. Some interviewees told the audit team that the donors “may have an expectation of quid pro quo benefits in return for gift.” The audit suggested the foundation “ensure that all donors are properly vetted and that no inappropriate quid pro quos are offered to donors in return for contributions.”

      The advice proved prescient as Mrs. Clinton faced intense scrutiny about whether donors to the Clinton Foundation had received special access to her State Department or other rewards. In August, the foundation said it would no longer accept foreign donations should Mrs. Clinton win the White House.

      Mrs. Clinton has dismissed criticism of the charity as politically motivated. A spokesman for the Clinton campaign, Glen Caplin, declined to verify the authenticity of the emails, but said the hack was part of the Russian government’s efforts to use cyberattacks to influence the election in favor of the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Journal 10/27/2016 (a.m.)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.