July 31, 2017: Hell Breaking Loose| Democrats’ Hidden Scandal | Priebus Theories | Korea Blame Game
Happy Monday. So just how worried are conservative commentators that the Trump presidency will come crumbling down and embarrass them all? We noticed that several were stretching for the language or analogies that might describe just how terrible the situation is: The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan complained that Trump was “weak and sniveling” and, as the headline said, a “Woody Allen without the humor.” RedState called the White House "the ninth circle of hell.” And National Review compared the new communications director Anthony Scaramucci to the profane, testosterone-driven maniac salesman played by Alec Baldwin in the David Mamet movie “Glengarry Glen Ross.” What a week!
1. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and The Hidden Scandal
While the rest of the country is obsessed with the White House implosion, the Red Media has spent the past week furiously trying to convince anyone who would listen that there was a more important scandal: namely, one involving Imran Awan, a former information technology aide to the Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He was arrested last Monday for bank fraud as he was trying to return to Pakistan. (FYI: Awan has pleaded not guilty and although he was employed by Wasserman Schultz until recently, he has been banned from access to the House IT system for months.)
As the Red Media sees the scandal, it has three parts. First, according to National Review, it is a possible security breach:
As you let all that sink in, consider this: Awan and his family cabal of fraudsters had access for years to the e-mails and other electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. It turns out they were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment — including hard drives that Awan & Co. smashed to bits of bytes before making tracks.
Secondly, according to The Daily Caller, it proves the stupidity of Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chair, who apparently not only did not recognize the security threat, but continued to pay the aide long after she should have been suspect:
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz seemingly planned to pay cyber-probe suspect and IT aide Imran Awan even while he was living in Pakistan, if the FBI hadn’t stopped him from leaving the U.S. Monday. Public statements and congressional payroll records suggest she also appears to have known that his wife, a fellow IT staffer, left the country for good months ago — while she was also a criminal suspect.
And last but not least, according to The Blaze, the old double standard on what’s news rears its head again:
Newsbusters reports that the major three news networks — ABC, NBC and CBS — which most Americans tune into to consume news, have largely ignored the story. However, Newsbusters notes that CBS’s show, “This Morning,” did cover the story last Wednesday, but for only 37 seconds. And when CBS reported on the story, it cited a Politico report instead of the Daily Caller, which has led in news media in the Awan story.
2. A Priebus-Kelly Theory
Now about that implosion. While the Left saw a White House in chaos following Priebus’s ousting, some on the Right had their own theories. Dana Perino of Fox’s “The Five” suggested on Saturday that there was a method to the madness of replacing Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly: It was a way for Trump to move Jeff Sessions out of the Attorney General’s office. Said Perino:
I think that this was all set up for a few weeks because the president has been so upset about Jeff Sessions and his recusal in the Russia investigation. The Republicans and conservatives that came to Jeff Sessions’ defense this week all said, ‘But he’s doing the best on the issue we care about most, and that is immigration.’”
... “Well, where can Jeff Sessions do even more on immigration? As the Secretary of Homeland Security. So I think what they’re going to try to do is move Sessions over to DHS, and then how can conservatives complain? And then you have a new AG … who can fire [Robert] Mueller.”
Meanwhile, also making headlines from “The Five” on the Priebus issue was the panelist Kimberly Guilfoyle. The Right was very proud to reshare the New York Times report that Guilfoyle told the president that Priebus was “a leaker” and a “problem” at a private Wednesday evening dinner with fellow Fox News host Sean Hannity.
3. Applause for John Kelly
So, what of John Kelly? The new chief of staff got mostly unanimous praise across the board.
Wrote Laurie Kellman in Real Clear Politics:
Kelly's experience as Homeland Security secretary and a veteran of three tours in Iraq - along with a sobering family tragedy - suggests he'll be a loyal manager for Trump when he starts the job Monday.
John Kelly, a true patriot, takes the job as WH COS, even though it means working for someone wildly his inferior in character and ability.
WHITE HOUSE STAFF: Have you ever seen "A Few Good Men?" Let's just say John Kelly will demand loyalty. Don't make him order a code red.
What We’re Watching:
And yet, while all seem to agree that Kelly has the chops, it doesn’t mean they think his job will be easy. Writes RedState, in a piece headlined: “As John Kelly Enters The Ninth Circle Of Hell, What Does It Mean And What Happens Next?”:
Kelly is, like Priebus, an outsider going into what is essentially a small, family-run business. His advantages are that Trump respects him, that he’s survived worse working environments, he’s not allied with the RNC and therefore possibly disloyal, he has been a chief of staff of large organizations. On the other side of the ledger, he doesn’t have a power base in the White House. I can’t imagine him and Bannon being buddies. Likewise, I suspect that Scaramucci knows that Kelly knows that he’s a poseur and he already resents Kelly. Right now, the White House is confirming that Scaramucci and the communications operation still report directly to Trump. Will Kelly accept that in the long run? He might because the colossal f***-ups are going to be with communications and if Kelly isn’t putting fires out there he can focus on other things…
4. On North Korea: Blame Bill and Jimmy.
Last night, just as relations with North Korea seemed to be at a turning point (with Fox running with the headline, “US, allies prepared to use 'overwhelming force' in North Korea, general says”), Infowars was quick to release a video that put all the blame for the situation on the Clintons instead of the current administration. Said Jones in the video:
“It makes me so angry to see the Clintons calling Trump a traitor… when it was the Clintons in the mid 1990s who transferred… the entire system for long-range ICBMs.”
This is not a new argument from the Right -- and it tends resurface whenever North Korea tests us. For example, back in March, LifeZette also claimed that Bill Clinton was to blame for a nuclear North Korea.
On Oct. 18, 1994, Clinton approved a plan to arrange more than $4 billion in energy aid to North Korea over the course of a decade, in return for a commitment from the country’s Communist leadership to freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program, according to The New York Times.
The “complex” deal was to de-escalate the situation on the Korean peninsula, where the two Korean nations never negotiated a peace treaty after the Korean War ended in armistice in 1953…
The drawing-in never happened. North Korea has become more isolated and dangerous. And after years of furtive activity in North Korea, attempts to placate the Communist state seem to have only encouraged it’s dangerous leaders.
And a New York Post editorial from January 2016 expressed the same sentiment following North Korea’s boast that it had detonated its first hydrogen bomb:
For all this, thank Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. North Korea couldn’t have done it without their gullibility.
As tensions escalate, we anticipate seeing even more finger-pointing.
5. Russia Collusion Against Trump?
Remember the infamous very juicy dossier, alleging Trump ties to Russia, thatBuzzfeed published in January? Well, Fox, The Daily Caller, and The Weekly Standard, were all over the Senate Judiciary Committee testimony last week from a British-American businessman, Bill Browder.
Browder claimed that the research firm behind the dossier, Fusion GPS, received money indirectly from a Russian government official as part of an effort to undermine the Magnitsky Act. (The law is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer, once employed by Browder who was jailed and died in prison after investigating a tax fraud scheme in Moscow. The Act sanctions Russian nationals and officials for human rights abuses.).
The Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel argued that the testimony raised the question of whether Russian operatives could have purposefully misled the author of the dossier, the former British MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele, into publishing false allegations of Trump’s Russia ties for the purpose of sowing discord into American politics. She wrote:
“If the Russian intention was to sow chaos in the American political system, few things could have been more effective than that dossier, which ramped up an FBI investigation and sparked congressional probes and a special counsel, deeply wounding the president… This is all to Mr. Putin’s benefit, and the question is whether Russia engineered it.”
6. What We’re Reading: Scary Story
There is a lot of great journalism out there and occasionally we like to point it out. Our nomination for scariest story of the week goes to Michael Lewis’s Vanity Fair profile of the Department of Energy under Trump. Lewis shows that when it comes to issues that aren’t directly in their political interests, Trump appointees are indifferent and, worse, plain incompetent.
This is pretty scary in the case of the Department of Energy, where, among many other dangerous scenarios, unattended leaks from aging nuclear weapons threaten the water supply of the Pacific Northwest. (Secretary Rick Perry was pretty upset by the devastating account of his incompetence and his team found one error, which it fed to The Daily Caller. The website then published an article accusing Lewis of writing fake news.)
Usually, it is Democrats complaining about partisan redistricting, but these days Republicans are beginning to worry they are being targeted back. In The Washington Examiner, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, complained that George Soros, the Red Media’s favorite evil billionaire, is trying to mess with his state.