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Mid-Day Digest

Jul. 24, 2019

THE FOUNDATION

“The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.” —Noah Webster (1788)

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IN TODAY’S EDITION

IN BRIEF

It’s Mueller Time … Again

Special Counsel Robert Mueller opened his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee this morning by reiterating what he asserted at his post-report press conference in May: “I do not intend to summarize or describe the results of our work in a different way in the course of my testimony today. As I said on May 29, the [448-page] report is my testimony. And I will stay within that text. And as I stated in May, I also will not comment on the actions of the attorney general or of Congress. I was appointed as a prosecutor, and I intend to adhere to that role and to the [Justice] Department’s standards that govern it.”

Mueller had initially insisted he would not testify before Congress, but he eventually reached a deal to do so. He would have been better off not showing up today, because it’s been a slow-motion train wreck.

According to The Federalist’s Sean Davis, “I’m not sure anyone could have done more to discredit Mueller’s report and investigation than Mueller is doing right now. He can’t answer simple questions about his own investigation, fumbles answers about his own report, and seems utterly befuddled by what’s happening.” Specifically, Mueller said he wasn’t familiar with Fusion GPS or Glenn Simpson, its founder, despite Fusion being the firm that produced the phony Christopher Steele dossier — funded by Hillary Clinton and the DNC — that got the whole collusion hoax off the ground. Mueller said in his opening statement that he would not discuss “the so-called ‘Steele dossier’” because it was “the subject of ongoing review” by the FBI and “it’s outside my purview,” but the appearance of being stumped by basic questions is nonetheless troubling.

Davis also observes, “Mueller just said his deputy, who was the personal attorney for the Hillary Clinton aide who smashed her Blackberries, was in charge of ‘day-to-day oversight’ of Mueller’s investigation. What exactly was Mueller doing?” For two years and $35 million, we might add. Furthermore, the fact that Clinton’s people were the ones composing Mueller’s team exposed it from the beginning as a partisan witch hunt. That those hunters still found no witches is even more telling.

Fox News’s Brit Hume notes, “Mueller stumbles badly on whether ‘collusion’ is a synonym for ‘conspiracy’ in Russian election interference. He says no, only to have his report quoted back to him saying the words are synonymous. He then says he’ll go with what the report says.” Maybe Mueller should have reviewed his own report prior to coming to Capitol Hill.

Democrats, of course, moved the goal posts to “obstruction of justice” — as in alleging that Trump committed it against Mueller’s investigation. Mueller has always been as ambiguous as possible about this. His report specifically did not exonerate Trump, and today he said simply “Yes” when asked if the president could be charged with obstruction after leaving office.

But he also could not provide a single other instance in which the subject of an investigation had to prove his innocence. “Can you give me an example other than Donald Trump where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated because their innocence was not conclusively determined?” asked Rep. John Ratcliffe. “I cannot,” Mueller answered, “but this is a unique situation.” Ratcliffe fired back, “It doesn’t exist.” That’s because “the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence.”

Mueller still must testify before the House Intelligence Committee this afternoon, so stay tuned for more thrilling excitement from the never-ending story.

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DOJ Opens Antitrust Probe of Big Tech

On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that it is opening an antitrust probe into America’s biggest tech companies. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who heads the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, explained that the broad and sweeping investigation would seek to determine whether tech giants have engaged in monopolistic practices that have “reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.” This latest DOJ probe is now the second investigation launched by the government into Big Tech, as the Federal Trade Commission is currently conducting a smaller investigation into potential abuses by Facebook and Amazon.

Back in January, Attorney General William Barr expressed concerns over Big Tech’s rapid growth when he told lawmakers, “I don’t think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers. You can win that place in the marketplace without violating the antitrust laws, but I want to find out more about that dynamic.” It now appears that Barr is seeking to answer these questions.

Criticism of Big Tech has become a uniquely bipartisan issue in this era of heightened partisanship. However, the reasoning behind that criticism is not uniform. Conservatives accuse Big Tech of free-speech infringement specifically related to the censorship practices against conservative social-media figures. Leftists like anti-corporate socialist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), on the other hand, call for tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google to be broken up simply for being too big.

News of the DOJ’s new antitrust probe sent shares of the four top tech companies down, as Apple, Alphabet Inc. (Google’s and YouTube’s parent company), Amazon, and Facebook combined to lose an estimated $33 billion in premarket trading Wednesday morning. As Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives observed, this investigation is a “shot across the bow.”

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ON OUR WEBSITE TODAY

BEST OF RIGHT OPINION

For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.

TOP NEWS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

ESPER CONFIRMED: “The Senate voted to confirm President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Defense, Mark Esper. The Senate overwhelmingly voted 90-8 to confirm him. … The Pentagon has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since December, when former Secretary James Mattis stepped down following Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.” (CBS News)

ISRAEL BOYCOTT REPUDIATED: “The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution Tuesday opposing an international effort to boycott Israel as Democrats try to tamp down increasingly heated political rhetoric over differences with the longtime U.S. ally. The resolution passed on a vote of 398-17. Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., were among the 16 Democrats who voted against the resolution.” (Fox News)

TRUMP’S RETURN FIRE: “President Donald Trump on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining his state tax returns through a newly passed New York law. The president’s lawyers said the state law was nothing more than an effort to get information about his personal finances to embarrass him politically.” (NBC News)

SANDERS FLAK: “Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign has been hit with an unfair labor practice complaint alleging illegal employee interrogation and retaliation against staffers. The July 19 complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, filed by an unnamed individual in Indiana, was posted to the agency’s website late July 22. It comes as tense negotiations between the Sanders campaign and the union representing staffers recently boiled over publicly.” (Bloomberg Law)

OMAR FLAK: “Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a complaint with the House of Representatives’ ethics office asking for an investigation into possible crimes committed by Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. The possible crimes include ‘perjury, immigration fraud, marriage fraud, state and federal tax fraud, and federal student loan fraud,’ according to the complaint filed Tuesday by Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton.” (The Daily Caller News Foundation)

9/11 VICTIM FUND: “The Senate gave final legislative approval Tuesday to a bill ensuring that a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money. The 97-2 vote sends the bill to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.” (Associated Press)

STUDENT-LOAN HANDOUT: “Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday released details about her plan to cancel approximately $640 million in student loan debt for millions of Americans. First unveiled in April, the Student Loan Debt Relief Act … would cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for every household with a gross income less than $100,000, roughly 42 million Americans, or about three out of four borrowers.” (Fox News)

BIDEN PANDERS: “Former vice president Joe Biden on Tuesday released a sweeping plan to reform the U.S. criminal-justice system, in an effort to quiet criticisms of his role in tightening crime laws decades ago as a senator, which critics say contributed to mass incarceration,” reports National Review. “Biden’s plan involves reducing incarceration, eliminating race-, gender-, and income-based disparities in the justice system, and refocusing the system on ‘redemption and rehabilitation.’” Or, as Reason puts it, “Joe Biden’s New Criminal Justice Platform Calls for Eliminating Harsh Policies Sponsored by Joe Biden.”

IMMIGRATION: “After hitting a new high last month, mentions of immigration as the most important problem facing the U.S. increased further to 27% in July. Since Gallup began regularly recording mentions of the issue in 1993, immigration has been cited by an average of 6% of Americans, though it has been higher in recent years.” (Gallup)

‘THE SQUAD’ WHO? “Though many Americans have never heard of [Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib], a CBS News poll released this week shows that those who are familiar with them don’t tend to view them favorably. Ocasio-Cortez has the highest favorable rating at 23%, followed by Omar at 19%, Tlaib at 18% and Pressley at 17%.” (USA Today)

MORE BARK THAN BITE: “More than 2,000 migrants who were in the United States illegally were targeted in widely publicized raids that unfolded across the country last week. But figures the government provided to The New York Times on Monday show that just 35 people were detained in the operation.” (The New York Times)

MEXICO HOMICIDE RECORD: “Mexico set a new record for homicides in the first half of the year as the number of murders grew by 5.3% compared to the same period of 2018, fueled partly by cartel and gang violence in several states. Mexico saw 3,080 killings in June, an increase of over 8% from the same month a year ago, according to official figures. The country of almost 125 million now sees as many as 100 killings per day nationwide. The 17,608 killings in the first half of 2019 is the most since comparable records began being kept in 1997, including the peak year of Mexico’s drug war in 2011.” (Associated Press)

POLICY: Libra rising: The risk of a new international shadow bank (American Enterprise Institute)

POLICY: Empowering America’s small businesses to confront China (Marco Rubio)

HUMOR: Sanders campaign raises pay to $700 per hour by laying off everyone except Bernie (The Babylon Bee)

For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.

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OPINION IN BRIEF

Marc A. Thiessen: “Every dollar [the Bernie Sanders] campaign spends on higher pay and free stuff for campaign workers is a dollar not spent on campaign ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. And if his campaign can’t get those ads on the air, then Sanders will lose — and his entire team will lose their jobs, their benefits and their chances of a cushy White House job. Then they won’t ever get access to the United States treasury and the chance to really spend other people’s money. So, we should all be grateful to the UFCW Local 400 for pulling more Sanders campaign money off the airwaves and into the pockets of Sanders’s field workers, while limiting the hours they can work to spread his socialist message. They’ve done the country a great service.”

SHORT CUTS

Observations: “Congress’s budget process under both parties is broken. It makes no tradeoffs, lies to the public, and enforces no accountability.” —The Wall Street Journal

For the record: “Securing the border is the first principle that we all have when we talk about the immigration issue. While we need to address the issue of immigration and the challenge we have of undocumented people in our country, we certainly don’t want any more coming in.” —Nancy Pelosi, 2008

Friendly fire: “For any presidential candidate to raise their hand and say that they want to be for eliminating private health insurance, that is a losing message in 2020, and I would encourage them to rethink their positions.” —Democrat Rep. Anthony Brindisi

Friendly fire II: “If the Democrats don’t silence the Squad, the shrieking socialist snowflake sisters will send Trump back to the White House for another four years.” —Piers Morgan

Friendly fire III: “Kamala Harris is not qualified to serve as commander-in-chief, and I can say this from a personal perspective as a soldier. She’s got no background or experience in foreign policy, and she lacks the temperament that is necessary for a commander-in-chief.” —Rep. and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard

Non Compos Mentis: “No one should fear receiving medical care because they are undocumented. We must ensure that all people in our country have access to reproductive health care.” —Rep. Ilhan Omar

Spread the wealth! “That’s what we do with our public dollars. We give it back to the people — the people that earned it.” —Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Alpha Jackass: “Yes, President Trump is a racist. What we saw in North Carolina last week was almost an impromptu Nuremberg rally, inciting hatred and … violence against people based on the color of their skin, based on their religion, based on their difference from the majority of Americans.” —Beto O'Rourke

And last… “Lots of buzz on Capitol Hill today. Not sure why. I hear someone is testifying about a report that we already have, regarding Russian collusion that never happened.” —Rep. Dan Crenshaw

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TODAY’S MEME

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.

TODAY’S CARTOON

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