IN TODAY’S EDITION
- Will wasteful earmarks return? Some Republicans, Trump included, wouldn’t mind.
- Kamala Harris is on the Demo 2020 shortlist, and she’s headed to a powerful Senate spot.
- Cliven Bundy and Co. rejoice as federal misconduct spares them punishment.
- Public school students have more religious liberty than they think.
- North Korea’s real Olympic gambit is about prestige.
- Plus our Daily Features: Top Headlines, Memes, Cartoons, Columnists and Short Cuts.
“The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys.” —Thomas Jefferson (1808)
By Thomas Gallatin
Reminiscent of a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, like men drawn to the power of the One Ring, Republicans are actively contemplating a return to that corrupting practice of pork-barrel spending known as “earmarks.” It was merely seven years ago that a GOP-controlled House finally banned the practice conservatives had long loathed. But now, Republicans are justifying the practice by highlighting how much good they could do.
Even President Donald Trump floated the idea, saying on Tuesday, “I hear so much about earmarks and how there was a great friendliness [among lawmakers] when you had earmarks. Of course, they had other problems, but maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks. One thing it did is it brought everybody together.” Of course for Trump, who is more populist than fiscal conservative, he’s looking at eliminating roadblocks to his bigger agenda. His pragmatic instinct is to make deals in order to get that agenda done, and greasing the skids with earmarks makes deals easier.
But for congressional Republicans, the consequences of reversing course on such a politically potent issue could be significant, especially in what is sure to be hotly contested election year. As Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, warned, “The last time the Republicans ran a congressional earmark factory, they lost control of Congress. In 2006, when the Democrats took Congress, the No. 1 issue according to voters was pork and corruption. … It was a political disaster.” Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) pointedly noted, “We just had a political revolution launched against the swamp [across] the political spectrum all the way from Bernie to Trump voters. I don’t think any of those folks along that entire spectrum would be in favor of earmarks.”
Indeed, you don’t drain the swamp by feeding the swamp creatures.
The reason Republicans are even suggesting a return to earmarks is the fact that it can be an effective incentive for encouraging compromise and garnering votes from across the aisle. Essentially, it’s a legal way to buy votes, but the consequences are overspending, the creation of super-incumbents, bigger government and greater opportunity for waste and corruption. Like Frodo, Republicans need to drop talk of earmarks into Mt. Doom and be done with it forever.
By Jordan Candler
There are two new Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and neither one shares an affinity for the Rule of Law. This week Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker joined the committee, which “handles judicial nominations and appointments to the Justice Department,” The Washington Post explains. But it’s Kamala Harris in particular who should most alarm originalists. For example:
Harris spent six years as California’s attorney general, a position she utilized to crack down on gun ownership. She oversaw Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2013 firearms proscription in which $24 million was set aside for the purpose of impounding guns. According to a Los Angeles Times report at the time, state officials’ justification for doing so was “to clear the backlog of weapons known to be in the hands of about 20,000 people who acquired them legally [emphasis added]. They were later disqualified because of criminal convictions, restraining orders or serious mental illness.”
She also advocated for additional firearm restrictions, writes Reason’s Brian Doherty: “As attorney general, Harris tried to ensure that people couldn’t get carry permits for weapons in California merely for reasons as petty, to her mind, as that they felt they needed one. She has fought in court to ensure that only police officials should be able to decide whether a citizen can defend himself outside his home.”
Harris prefers to use emotional upheaval to advocate policy prescriptions. In reference to the Sandy Hook massacre, she stated: “They should have closed the chambers of Congress, on the House and the Senate side, and said, ‘All you members go in there, only you, and spread out the autopsy photos of those babies,’ and require them to look at those photographs. And then vote your conscience.”
And according to Doherty, “Harris is so uncomfortable with the Second Amendment she’s willing to jab at the First Amendment while hobbling it, as shown by her support as California’s attorney general for a state law restricting how handgun sellers can advertise. She so delights in pettily bedeviling gun owners that her department in California tried to enforce restrictions on how many guns could be purchased per month by those who hold certain special collectors’ licenses even though both the letter of the law and previous practice said they were exempt, and stuck to her lack of principle on the issue until she got sued over it in 2014.”
The role of the Senate Judiciary Committee should be to recommend nominees who abide by the Rule of Law regardless of their personal whims. Harris is completely the opposite — she will support nominees who abuse their roles just like she did in California. Her name is being highlighted as a possible candidate for the 2020 presidential election (as is Booker’s). The only thing that could be worse than elevating her to the Judiciary Committee would be putting her in the nation’s highest office.
Record GOP exodus from Congress (NPR)
Trump administration opens door to let states impose Medicaid work requirements (The Washington Post)
Administration will extend sanctions relief for Iran (Associated Press)
Trump signs law to give Border Patrol better tools to stop smuggling of fentanyl (The Washington Times)
Immigration agents target 7-Eleven stores in nationwide sweep (The Washington Post)
IRS paid $20 million to collect $6.7 million in tax debts (The Fiscal Times)
NYC mayor to sue “Big Oil” for causing Hurricane Sandy or something (Hot Air)
Trump puts federal libel law on 2018 agenda, escalating complaints against media (USA Today)
U.S. prison population drops for third year in a row (The Washington Free Beacon)
Policy: A ludicrous ruling that Trump can’t end DACA (National Review)
Policy: Keeping fossil fuels underground makes no sense (U.S. News & World Report)
For more of today’s news, visit Patriot Headline Report.
By Arnold Ahlert
In a stunning development further underscoring the corruption that exists at the highest levels of the federal government, U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro threw out felony conspiracy and weapons charges against rancher Cliven Bundy, sons Ammon and Ryan, and co-defendant Ryan Payne. “The government’s conduct in this case was indeed outrageous,” Navarro explained. “There has been flagrant misconduct, substantial prejudice and no lesser remedy is sufficient.”
How outrageous? Navarro dismissed the case “with prejudice” — meaning the government cannot try the case again on the same charges. And in a 30-minute explanation, the Barack Obama-appointed jurist ripped the conduct of the prosecutors and the FBI. She blasted the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office for willful violations of due process that included several misrepresentations to both defense attorneys and the court that showed “a reckless disregard for the constitutional obligation to seek and provide evidence.”
She was also troubled by the prosecutors’ “failure to look beyond the FBI file,” which she characterized as an “intentional abdication of its responsibility,” and wondered aloud how the FBI itself “inexplicably placed” or “perhaps hid” a tactical operations log referring to the presence of snipers outside Bundy’s home on a “thumb drive inside a vehicle for three years.”
Navarro also blasted prosecutors’ assertions that they weren’t aware such documents could help the defendants as “grossly shocking.” “The government was well aware of theories of self-defense, provocation and intimidation,” Navarro stated. “Here the prosecution has minimized the extent of prosecutorial misconduct.”
The seeds for Monday’s decision were sown on Dec. 20, when Navarro declared a mistrial in the case, citing six specific pieces of “potentially exculpatory” evidence the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office failed to disclose. They included records and maps of government surveillance; the presence of government snipers; FBI logs about pre-standoff ranch activity; reports about misconduct committed by Bureau of Land Management agents; and law-enforcement assessments going back to 2012 stating the Bundys posed no threat.
All six items were favorable to the defense and could have changed the outcome of the trial. Withholding them violated the Brady Rule, named after the 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, where the Court’s majority ruled that failure to disclose such evidence violates a defendant’s right to due process. Navarro made it clear she agreed, despite former Acting Nevada U.S. Attorney and lead prosecutor Steven Myhre’s insistence no malfeasance was involved. “Failure to turn over such evidence violates due process,” she stated last month. “A fair trial at this point is impossible.”
It gets worse. Navarro’s ruling didn’t take into account an 18-page memo written by Special Agent and lead investigator Larry Wooten alleging that “prosecutors in the Bundy ranch standoff trial covered up misconduct by law-enforcement agents who engaged in ‘likely policy, ethical and legal violations,’” Arizona Republic reported. Wooten claimed he “routinely observed … a widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct” by government agents involved in the armed standoff between them and Bundy occurring 2014.
That standoff was largely precipitated by Bundy himself. It involved a dispute about grazing rights between Bundy and the federal government. The government rightly claimed Bundy owed public land use fees for decades of grazing his cattle on government land beginning in 1993, but Bundy refused to pay a sum that, between charges and fines, exceeded $1 million. He also ignored three court orders obtained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 1998, 1999 and 2013 requiring him to move his cattle off the disputed land.
In 2014, BLM agents working with the FBI attempted to impound Bundy’s cattle, and an armed standoff between the government and the defendants, who were backed by dozens of armed followers and militiamen, ensued. After a week, Bundy called it off, but he and the other defendants were charged with several offenses.
Thus, Bundy is no “hero.” Nonetheless, the incident highlighted Constitution-based questions that remain unanswered regarding the federal government’s right to claim vast swaths of territory in several states. In Bundy’s case, since the federal government owns 80% of Nevada, he would have been hard-pressed to graze his cattle anywhere else.
Moreover, some of the behavior demonstrated by BLM agents cannot be ignored. In addition to the aforementioned comments, Wooten’s report reveals they called Bundy and his supporters “deplorables,” “rednecks” and “idiots,” and demonstrated clear prejudice toward “the defendants, their supporters, and Mormons,” while implementing “the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale, and militaristic trespass cattle impound possible.”
The charges against the men also hinted at persecution rather than prosecution. Aside from obstruction, conspiracy, extortion and weapons charges, the government sought “five counts of criminal forfeiture which upon conviction would require forfeiture of property derived from the proceeds of the crimes totaling at least $3 million, as well as the firearms and ammunition possessed and used on April 12, 2014.”
In short, the government wanted to take almost everything the Bundys owned.
Even the conspiracy charges were iffy. Bundy sought help from his supporters because he claimed FBI snipers had surrounded his house. (And that’s never happened before?) “Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim in prior trials involving the standoff but newly-released documents confirm that snipers were in place prior to the Bundy’s call for help,” reveals columnist James Board.
And it wasn’t just the Bundys who were targeted. As The Intercept exposed last May, undercover FBI agents spent eight months in five states posing as filmmakers trying to build criminal cases against the rancher and many of his supporters.
Nineteen men were ultimately charged with multiple felony counts. The first trial took place last February. A mistrial was declared after jurors were deadlocked on most of the charges against six defendants, with two being found guilty of weapons and obstruction violations. When the other four were retried, two were acquitted on all charges, and the other two on most charges, and the jury again deadlocked on the remaining charges. Six other participants took plea deals.
The remaining trial, which includes two more Bundy brothers, David and Melvin, is slated to begin in Nevada next month. Ryan Bundy hopes the judge will set all the remaining defendants free. “The government has acted wrongly from the get-go,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Environmentalists, many of whom would like ranchers completely removed from government land, were furious with the decision. “These federal agencies have been patient and cautious to a fault in their prosecution of the Bundys and their accomplices,” wrote Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, an environmental conservation organization. “It’s long past time to stop playing games with the prosecution of federal crimes, and instead lay all the facts on the table and let the judicial system work.”
The ones “playing games” were government officials, and the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility opened an investigation in December that will scrutinize the efforts of Myhre and two veteran Assistant U.S. attorneys, Daniel Schiess and Nadia Ahmed.
Unfortunately, in a reality that reeks of privilege, penalties for prosecutorial misconduct, even conduct as egregious as this, range from a reprimand to a suspension. In a better nation, there would be a better remedy — as in prosecuting the prosecutors.
For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.
For more of today’s top cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.
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MORE ANALYSIS FROM THE PATRIOT POST
- Religious Liberty in Public Schools: You’re More Free Than You Thought — Louisiana sets out some important First Amendment guidelines for students.
- North Korea’s Real Olympic Goal — Kim is angling to ease economic sanctions without losing face, all while feeding national pride.
BEST OF RIGHT OPINION
- Gary Bauer: A Brilliant Performance
- Terence Jeffrey: Pelosi’s ‘Immoral, Ineffective and Expensive’ Argument
- Larry Elder: Where’s Hollywood’s Apology for Donating to the Clintons?
- Cal Thomas: Oprah: The Latest ‘Messiah’?
- Ed Feulner: Some Cold Facts
For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.
OPINION IN BRIEF
Terence Jeffrey: “A wall is neither moral nor immoral any more than a baseball bat is moral or immoral. What matters is the purpose for which it is used. If Bryce Harper uses a bat to fairly hit a home run, that is a perfectly moral act. If another batter takes the same bat and deliberately hits an umpire over the head, that is an immoral act. If yet another batter, in a moment of unfettered rage, throws the bat into the stands — thus injuring a child watching the game — that is an immoral act. The Berlin Wall, which imprisoned people in a tyranny, was used by a Communist regime to immorally deprive people of their God-given rights. Walls constructed by the U.S. government at our Mexican border would aim at achieving a goal even Pelosi’s Democratic Party now claims to favor: securing that border. This is a just cause.”
Insight: “Dogma demand authority, rather than intelligent thought, as the source of opinion; it requires persecution of heretics and hostility to unbelievers; it asks of its disciples that they should inhibit natural kindness in favor of systematic hatred.” —Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Broken clock… “Oprah is beyond doubt a magnificent orator. But the idea of a reality show star running against a talk show host is troublingly dystopian. We don’t want to create a world where dedicated public service careers become undesirable and impractical in the face of raw celebrity.” —Seth MacFarlane
Braying Jackass: “I’m Proud We Published the Trump-Russia Dossier.” —BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith in The New York Times
Facepalm: “Russian meddling in our elections is a clear and present danger. Fact. Unbelievably no one taking action to prevent harm. Whatever you think of possible Trump involvement all must demand that White House and Congress act to strengthen our electoral systems against the threat — NOW.” —Eric Holder (“Whoever was president in 2016 sure blew it.” —Ben Shapiro)
D'oh! “The Empire State Building is shining green tonight because it’s time to put our planet first. #DivestNY” —Mayor Bill de Blasio (“Shouldn’t they have just…um…turned the lights off instead?” —Eric Holthaus)
Alpha Jackass: “It was fascinating to watch ‘The Post.’ That story took place nearly 50 years ago, but there are many parallels with today obviously. … Today the world is suffering from the real Donald Trump. … This f—ing idiot is the president. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes — the guy is a f—ing fool. … Our government today, with the propping [up] of our baby-in-chief — the jerkoff-in-chief, I call him — has put the press under siege, trying to discredit it through outrageous attacks and lies.” —Robert De Niro
And last… “2008: VOTE FOR THE NOVICE BECAUSE HE GAVE A GOOD SPEECH! 2016: I just don’t understand how this could have happened, putting our nation in the hands of someone so inexperienced is an existential threat. 2020: VOTE FOR THE NOVICE BECAUSE SHE GAVE A GOOD SPEECH!” —Twitter satirist @hale_razor
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Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Nate Jackson, Managing Editor
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