Newt Gingrich appeared on Fox News Bill O’Reilly show and made some excellent points such as if FISA didn’t grant wiretap who did on General Flynn.
Newt Gingrich appeared on Fox News Bill O’Reilly show and made some excellent points such as if FISA didn’t grant wiretap who did on General Flynn.
Guest post by Joe Hoft
In his first tweet President Trump tweeted:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
He next tweeted:
Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!
Next the President tweeted:
I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
The final for four tweets concerning the wire tapping:
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
This is now being referred to as Obamagate!
It is not unfounded that former President Obama would wire tap President Trump during the election process. This is because he has done this before. Here is a list of individuals who were wire tapped by the Obama Administration.
WikiLeaks released the following list on February 23rd (see link here) of Obama Administration wire taps:
* The US National Security Agency bugged a private climate change strategy meeting; between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin;
* Obama bugged Chief of Staff of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for long term interception targetting his Swiss phone;
* Obama singled out the Director of the Rules Division of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Johann Human, and targetted his Swiss phone for long term interception;
* Obama stole sensitive Italian diplomatic cables detailing how Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to help patch up his relationship with US President Barack Obama, who was refusing to talk to Netanyahu;
* Obama intercepted top EU and Japanese trade ministers discussing their secret strategy and red lines to stop the US “extort[ing]” them at the WTO Doha arounds (the talks subsequently collapsed);
* Obama explicitly targeted five other top EU economic officials for long term interception, including their French, Austrian and Belgium phone numbers;
* Obama explicitly targetted the phones of Italy’s ambassador to NATO and other top Italian officials for long term interception; and
* Obama intercepted details of a critical private meeting between then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Merkel and Berluscon, where the latter was told the Italian banking system was ready to “pop like a cork”.
In addition to the above list we also know now that Obama wire tapped various individuals in the US media that were reporting information not flattering to the Obama Administration. It is widely known that Obama’s Justice Department targeted journalists with wiretaps in 2013:
* In 2013 the liberal Washington Post expressed outrage after the revelation that the Justice Department had investigated the newsgathering activities of a Fox News reporter as a potential crime in a probe of classified leaks. The reporter, Fox News’ James Rosen and his family, were part of an investigation into government officials anonymously leaking information to journalists. Rosen was not charged but his movements and actions were tracked.
* Also in 2013, members of the Associated Press were also a target of the surveillance. The ultra liberal New Yorker even noted that “In moderate and liberal circles, at least, the phone-records scandal, partly because it involves the dear old A.P. and partly because it raises anew the specter of Big Brother, may well present the most serious threat to Obama’s reputation.”
* Reporter Sharyl Attkisson said in 2014 that her personal computer and CBS laptop were hacked after she began filing stories about Benghazi that were unflattering to the Obama administration. A source who checked her laptop said the hacker used spyware “proprietary to a government agency,” according to an article in the New York Post.
Update – WikiLeaks tweeted overnight that the Obama Administration spied on their journalists as well:
By John Hayward
“The allegations that Trump raises are allegations that derive directly from what the newspapers have reported – the Guardian, BBC, Heat Street, the New York Times, the Washington Post, where they all talk about there being an interagency panel of people who were involved in an investigation, who purportedly requested and obtained various means of intercepting phone calls,” Barnes explained.
“So there have been competing stories, and on Sunday, they got even more complicated, as both Clapper and Comey denied any knowledge of any wiretapping presence,” he continued. “Their denials went a little further than Obama’s himself, where all he said was that he himself didn’t personally order something – which was a rather absurd cop-out because the president doesn’t directly order things of that nature. His surrogates or delegates do.”
“The issue goes right to: why, at any time, was anybody’s phone calls being intercepted that were on the Trump team, that are American citizens?” he said. “The various news stories that are out, including one by Andrew McCarthy, who recounts them for the National Review, there’s just no legal grounds for any of that surveillance to be taking place. There’s no legal grounds for any of those calls to be intercepted.”
“The original pretext was that FISA warrants were obtained in October for some limited capacity of Trump surrogates,” Barnes recalled. “The problem is FISA’s a very limited law, especially if you are talking about U.S. citizens. If you’re talking about foreigners, then the breadth of the law is very broad, and the president can, in fact, intercept and surveil foreign activities at a much wider degree because of a limited application of the Fourth Amendment – although the Ninth Circuit doesn’t seem to understand the limits of the Constitution as to foreigners, but that’s another story.”
“The issue he raises is critical and essential, and it’s been ever since these stories started leaking out,” he said of McCarthy’s writing. “Aside from the criminality of the leaks, it was that this is information that never should have been gathered in the first place. What FISA requires is that if you’re going to intercept a call where an American is on the line at any level, then what you have to do is you have to go through certain protocols, and you have to establish basically probable cause that the person is involved in criminal conduct of some sort. Just the fact that I, as a U.S. citizen, am talking to a foreigner does not allow magically the Fourth Amendment to disappear as to my right to privacy.”
“And yet, purportedly, that’s what effectively took place here because here you had Sally Yates discussing a transcript of a call that involved former NSA assistant Michael Flynn, and that’s information that never should have been in her possession or custody,” he observed.
“Just because one of the people on the phone call may have been not a U.S. citizen, that’s no legal grounds to intercept an American’s communications. Another way to think of it is, sometimes you’ll see in the movies where the guy is sitting in a van, and he’s listening in on a phone conversation on a wiretap, and the person he’s listening to shifts to some personal conversation, maybe of an intimate nature, that has nothing to do with the criminal investigation going on. You’ll see him turn off the recording device and put down his headphones,” he explained.
“If it happens that the manner and method of interception was something that you couldn’t physically do that, then what you’re supposed to do is to scrub the information and delete it from the record. In fact, an ex-CIA officer wrote an article for American Conservative documenting that that was always the protocol and procedure, whenever they were involved in an intelligence-gathering investigation. Yet apparently here, according to published reports, what they actually did is they went and they not only kept the information, didn’t scrub it or delete it, they deliberately went back and saved it, and then shared it with a bunch of other people who had no authority to ever look at it,” said Barnes.
“FISA is very particular about this,” he noted. “It requires protection of any innocent American’s information that ever may be gathered through this process. You have to not only scrub it and delete it; you cannot disseminate it to people. You can’t identify the individual that’s being sourced in the investigation. And the failure to follow FISA’s strict procedures is actually a crime. FISA section 1809 of Title 50 makes it a criminal penalty to either gather the information outside of FISA’s procedures or to disseminate it outside of FISA’s procedures.”
“So President Trump is correct that it appears that’s what took place here, based on published reports, headlines in the New York Times that use the words ‘intercepted calls’ involving Trump advisers who are American citizens. It raises very serious issues, and he’s absolutely right to raise them,” Barnes said.
SiriusXM host Alex Marlow noted that President Obama’s denial of Trump’s wiretapping accusation was “thin.”
“It clearly leads to many more questions than it answers,” Marlow said.
“Oh, absolutely,” Barnes agreed. “There’s different parts of it that are problematic. The first thing is that if he was being serious about a denial, you simply issue a two-sentence statement. You say, ‘I am not aware of any wiretapping that took place on Mr. Trump or his campaign, and I would not have supported such a wiretap had it occurred.’ He could have been very broad. It’s interesting that Comey and Clapper were much more specific and particular than Obama was.”
“The second aspect where there were some ludicrous claims included therein, such as the White House never engaging in electronic surveillance of a United States citizen,” he continued. “Well, as Andrew McCarthy and other attorneys have pointed out, and other people familiar with the national security operation have pointed out, Obama drone-bombed American citizens in various foreign locations around the world while he was president, including one in Yemen quite prominently. There’s no way you can actually do that without some form of surveillance on the individuals. It’s not like you had a global map tattooed on the wall, and you took a dart and threw it at the map, and said, ‘Oh, okay, we’ll drone-bomb there.’”
“The fact that he didn’t deny the existence of the wiretap, did not deny his awareness of it, did not deny his approval of it, and then made clearly materially false or misleading statements about his engagement and involvement with surveillance of American citizens – and this coming on top of Clapper committing perjury previously before Congress that led to Ed Snowden becoming Ed Snowden…I mean, Ed Snowden probably never becomes Ed Snowden if Clapper doesn’t commit perjury, and then, Obama’s reaction to Clapper’s perjury was to promote him, rather than to demote him, about spying on American citizens,” said Barnes.
After playing a recording of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper flatly denying the existence of any FISA court order relating to Trump Tower, Marlow asked, “Do we care what this guy says? He’s a known liar.”
“I think that is problematic about Clapper in particular. He’d be the least likely guy you would want to put up as a credible source for the administration,” Barnes replied. “But what he really also did at the same time was that he gutted the sort of defense that Obama could have had. Because here you have these stories that come out about intercepted calls, and Clapper goes on TV and says there’s actually no legal grounds for any intercepted calls to be taking place, at least not through the FISA authority, which is exactly what was being cited as the reason it was done.”
“Actually, Clapper’s answer raises even more questions. Either (a) Clapper’s lying, which is always possible, or (b) Clapper is being truthful, which means all these intercepted calls were done entirely illegally and off the books, or (c) it was done through the Department of Justice in some entirely different manner that would put Obama right in the middle of it,” he said. “In other words, if it wasn’t done as some sort of national security matter, but was simply done in some sort of disguised investigation that was a politically motivated means of monitoring your adversaries,” Barnes elaborated. “So he ended up opening more Pandora’s Box than he closed it.”
Marlow played an excerpt from an interview given by former Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in which he essentially said President Trump’s accusation that President Obama directly ordered surveillance on Trump Tower might be “incorrect” in the details, but Trump was “right” to believe a surveillance operation could have been in progress.
Barnes said Mukasey did “accurately relay what has been reported to the press, which is this request for a FISA warrant in the summer that was rejected because it put Trump’s name in the warrant request.”
“To give you an idea of how rare that is, if that did occur, is that the last 35,000-plus requests for the FISA court to issue a warrant, it’s only been denied 12 prior times, to public knowledge,” he noted.
“According to the published reports, they went back in October and simply left Trump’s name off of it, slightly limited it, and got it,” he said of the FISA request in question. “Now, Clapper’s statement completely denies that ever occurred in terms of October, in terms of ever getting any FISA warrant on anybody connected to, in his own words, the Trump campaign. So there’s a major discrepancy present.”
“Secondly, the one area where he doesn’t quite correctly describe the situation: there is some misleading information out there that the government can just tap the phones of anyone involved who’s working on any level on behalf of a foreign government, by any means. Well, if that had been the case, everybody at the Clinton Foundation should have been tapped permanently,” Barnes said. “Putting that aside, the actual law requires that they not only be, quote, ‘an agent of a foreign power,’ but if they’re a United States person, there has to be evidence that they’re engaged in criminal activities of a particular kind.”
“So they couldn’t just wiretap Michael Flynn, for example, or listen in on his conversations, even if the person on the other line is not a United States person. They have to have evidence that he was engaged in criminal conduct. That is what was problematic, as soon as the Flynn story broke, was there was no grounds for them to have ever recorded him, kept the recording, or shared the recording. FISA law specifically prohibited it under those set of circumstances,” he explained.
“That’s the illegal aspect of what’s going on. It’s not just the political motivation that would be impermissible or inappropriate because it would be First Amendment punitive use, misuse of the search warrant authority. But it actually violates what warrant authority they could ever obtain in the first place, under both the First and Fourth Amendments, and under the FISA law itself,” he said.
Barnes said the reported request from FBI Director James Comey for the Justice Department to refute Trump’s wiretapping accusation was “an interesting set of statements.”
“There were three different interpretations of Comey and Clapper combined coming out and saying that,” he suggested. “One interpretation was that they were not being fully forthcoming and that it was a message to their underlings that they were not going to be the ones to take the fall if any such activity took place, and that those underlings could take Hillary-style actions in terms of whatever evidence may remain of that.”
“One little-noted story last week was that Trump put out a requirement that everybody connected to the story keep all information,” he noted. “He did this before he did his tweets, but his motivation may have been to actually prove and document this illicit activity took place.”
“The second interpretation of what Clapper and Comey did is that they were both kept in the dark – that you had a sort of a rogue operation of people, including Sally Yates at the Department of Justice, who circumvented both Comey and Clapper in order to engage in this sort of illicit personal surveillance,” he continued.
“I’ve been on the opposite side of Sally Yates in cases where she was at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta,” Barnes revealed. “If you were going to pick an unethical, corrupt prosecutor, she’d be at the top of the list. She tried to help railroad a family there, in a case I dealt with over ten years.”
“The third possibility is that this was just unlawful surveillance,” he concluded. “I’ve had a lot of cases like that, especially under the Obama administration. It became too frequent and too regular that you had agents that were just doing illegal surveillance, without ever notifying their supervisors, without ever obtaining judicial authority, without ever doing it legally at all. And so you may have had an operation that was a true Deep State kind of operation, that was just doing unlawful surveillance.”
“There’s too much information, like some of the criticism of President Trump. Well, people should be critical then of the New York Times because it was their story that said there was intercepted calls of multiple members of Donald Trump’s campaign. That was, I think, the story that ran on Valentine’s Day, actually. It was in the very first sentence of the story. So either the New York Times was purely fake news or somebody in the government is lying about what they were up to,” Barnes summarized.
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By Joel Pollak
The spotlight is now on President Barack Obama and his administration’s alleged surveillance of the Trump campaign, as well as his aides’ reported efforts to spread damaging information about Trump throughout government agencies to facilitate later investigations and, possibly, leaks to the media.
On Sunday morning, the White House released a statement indicating that the president would ask the congressional committees investigating Russian hacking theories to add the question of “whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
Media outlets continued to repeat that the story was based on “no evidence,” though the evidence was plain.
President Donald Trump originally tweeted about the alleged surveillance — which radio host Mark Levin called a “silent coup” by Obama staffers keen to undermine the new administration — on Saturday. Levin’s claims, reported at Breitbart News early Friday, were in turn based on information largely from mainstream outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. Heat Street was one non-mainstream source, but the BBC also reported similar information in January. So, too, did the UK Guardian, which is a mainstream source (albeit with a decidedly left-wing slant, hardly favorable to Trump).
All day Saturday, former Obama staffers tried to put out the fires. A spokesperson for President Obama responded — and Obama aide Valerie Jarrett tweeted:
A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.
As Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle noted, however, it was a “non-denial denial.” It is worth examining the statement in detail.
- “A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice.”
Note that this sentence does not dispute any of the key factual allegations at issue: that the DOJ approached the FISA court for permission to spy on Trump aides; that surveillance, once granted, continued after no evidence was found of wrongdoing; that the Obama administration relaxed National Security Agency rules to facilitate the dissemination of evidence through the government; and that Obama staffers allegedly did so, the better to leak damaging (and partial) information to the media.
In addition, there is reason to doubt the claim that the White House never “interfered”: the New York Times reported in January that “intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.”
Moreover, the first part of the sentence raises doubts about Lewis’s entire statement. Lewis could simply have said: “No White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the DOJ.” That would have been a clear denial. Instead, he referred to a “cardinal rule” that supposedly existed.
All that does is create deniability for the rest of the White House in the event that evidence turns up that someone was, in fact, involved with a Department of Justice probe. (No doubt Obama will be outraged to find out if someone broke the “cardinal rule,” and will claim to have found out through the media, rather than directly.) The Obama communications operation is notoriously careful with the way denials are worded.
“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.”
This is a meaningless denial, since the FISA court deals with communications with foreigners, with U.S. citizens potentially swept up in the investigation. It would have been possible for the DOJ to approach the FISA court with a request to monitor foreign entities allegedly communicating with the Trump campaign, using those intercepts as a way to monitor the Trump campaign itself. According to news reports cited by Andrew McCarthy, that could have been precisely what happened.
And, again, this sentence does not deny that someone in the Obama administration may have ordered such surveillance.
“Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
What we have here is a blanket denial crafted to protect President Barack Obama himself, but allowing him to admit later — once the facts emerge — that his administration was, in fact, up to something. In addition, the Democrats have been adept at constructing elaborate chains of communication to create plausible deniability for higher-ups. That is how the “bird-dogging” scheme — through which left-wing activists instigated violence at Donald Trump’s rallies — was arranged for the Clinton campaign. (The organizer behind that scheme visited Obama’s White House 340 times, meeting Obama himself 45 times.)
As the New York Times — supposedly the paper of record — recently reported, there is “no evidence” that the “Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.” But there is ample evidence that the outgoing Obama administration could have used intelligence agencies to carry out a political agenda against Trump. The media, as Mark Levin pointed out again on Sunday’s Fox and Friends, simply refuse to report their own earlier reports.
Even without Trump’s more sensational accusations of wiretapping, it is, so far, undisputed that there have been many leaks of classified information to damage Trump, and that the Obama administration took steps that could have made such leaks more likely. (Charles Krauthammer — who is skeptical of “deep state” theories — called this the “Revenge of the Losers” on Friday.) Those are serious allegations that the former administration is likely going to have to explain to Congress.
But if the Obama administration did order surveillance of the Trump campaign during the election; and if Obama or any other White House officials knew about it (or created a “plausible deniability” scheme to allow such surveillance while preventing themselves from knowing about it directly); then there is an even bigger problem.
It would then seem that the “Russia hacking” story was concocted not just to explain away an embarrassing election defeat, but to cover up the real scandal.
By Pamela Geller
They couldn’t give a fig. Under President Obama’s incoherent foreign policy and crippling rules of engagement, the death toll and number of injured US soldiers spiked to levels not seen seen since the Vietnam War. The enemedia never spoke about it — ever. But if you recall, all through the Bush years, the enmedia gave daily death counts (even if no deaths had occurred). Under Obama, it as if these heroes never existed — now we are supposed to believe they care about one soldier? If they cared about the military, they would not have allowed Obama to rout it. Worse, Obama banned the media from covering the return to the United States of the bodies of 22 Navy SEALs and eight other service members.
The enemedia said nothing. And yet the difference between the casualty rates under Bush versus Obama is staggering. But the enemedia insisted: nothing to see here, folks. Of the over 20,000 US soldiers wounded in the Afghan war, over 90% were under Obama. Where are their stories? Did the NY Times and Washington Post write up articles on whether their deaths and injuries were producing something they deemed worthwhile?
William “Ryan” Owen is a hero. He died fighting in defense of the freedom we hold so dear. He died doing what soldiers do. This sacrifice is something the Democrat extremists, the enemedia jackals and the left-wingers will never understand. On the country, they hate it. Hatred of the good for being the good.
We never saw any coverage of the army of dead and wounded under President Obama. But now, finally, the enemedia and the left-wing extremists have found them useful. Exploit their deaths to smear and destroy President Trump.
Aaron Blake over at the Washington Post is hand-wringing and finger-wagging about Owen’s death. Where are WaPo’s 20K plus articles on the previously dead of injured under Obama?
New York Times: Special Operations Troops Top Casualty List as U.S. Relies More on Elite Forces (with this photo)
New York Times: Raid in Yemen: Risky From the Start and Costly in the End
NY Magazine: U.S. Military Sources Claim Trump Approved Yemen Strike Without Enough Preparation (the plan was a long time in the making. …. under Obama. But NY Magazine doesn’t see fit to include that factoid)
(Click here to learn more about this eye-opening story, courtesy of the LA Times.)
Robert Gehl reports that a Canadian family who were kidnapped while hiking through Afghanistan have been shown in another video release by the terrorists.
The video also shows two young children seated next to American Caitlan Colean and Joshua Boyle, presumably their boys, born during captivity. Coleman was seven months pregnant at the time of their capture.
“We understand both sides hate us and are content to leave us and our two surviving children in these problems,” Coleman says in the video, as reported by Reuters. “But we can only ask and pray that somebody will recognize the atrocities these men carry out against us as so-called retaliation in their ingratitude and hypocrisy.”
“My children have seen their mother defiled,” she added ominously, as the children sat in Boyle’s lap. Also ominous: she referred to the boys as her “surviving children,” providing a hint that some have already died.
“They want money, power, friends. You must give them these things before progress can be made,” she said of her captors in the Haqqani Network, a notorious hostage-taking criminal gang allied with the Taliban. Reuters explains that the “friends” she referred to are three senior Haqqani members held by the Afghan government.
The UK Daily Mail adds that Boyle said his captors are “frightened by the idea of further execution” of Taliban and Haqqani prisoners by the government in Kabul.
“Because of their fear they are willing to kill us, willing to kill women, to kill children, to kill whomever, in order to get these policies reversed or take revenge,” Boyle said in the video.
Coleman then buttressed her husband’s remarks by pleading, “I ask if my government can do anything to change the policies of the Afghan government to stop their policy of executing men before these men start executing their prisoners.”
At another point in the video, she more explicitly states that the Haqqanis will “retaliate against our family,” “do us harm,” and “punish us” if their demands are not met.
“We have waited since 2012 for somebody to understand our problems. We can only ask and pray that somebody will recognize the atrocities these men carry out against us as so-called retaliation in their ingratitude and hypocrisy,” Coleman said, evidently reading from a script, as the UK Guardian notes.
Coleman pleads with Barack Obama: “Please don’t become the next Jimmy Carter. Just give the offenders something so they and you can save face, so we can leave the region permanently.”
As the Daily Mail notes, Coleman is wearing a burka in the video, with the veil pulled back to expose her face. Boyle is described as “pale and tired.” Coleman was forced to wear a burka in previous hostage videos, while her mother also donned a Muslim headscarf in a video appeal for her daughter’s release sent by the family to Taliban leaders last year.
Taliban officials confirmed the authenticity of the video, which they said was recorded several months ago. (Coleman specifically states it is December 3rd at the beginning of the tape, but that might not be accurate.) It was delivered to U.S. and Canadian authorities, as well as uploaded to YouTube for public display on Monday night after one of the Haqqani prisoners was sentenced to death.
According to the Daily Mail, the Canadian government almost had a deal for Boyle’s release in place, but he refused to leave Coleman and the children. The New York Times speculates efforts to secure the couple’s release were harmed by the U.S. drone-strike killing of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in May.
“Certainly when Americans are taken captive, this becomes an immediate priority for us. We are paying extraordinarily close attention to that. We always do. I won’t get into too many details with that. But I am satisfied that we are doing everything we can at this juncture to understand who took them and try to bring them back,” said U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of Central Command, at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday.
“We are deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of Joshua Boyle, Caitlan Coleman and their young children and call for their unconditional release,” said Canadian Department of Global Affairs spokesman Michael O’Shaughnessy.
The Guardian notes that the U.S. State Department “did not respond to a request for comment.”
As for why a man and his pregnant wife would be backpacking through Afghanistan in 2012, the Daily Mail quotes some relatives describing them as “well-intentioned but naive adventure seekers.” They had already trekked through Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan before arriving in Afghanistan.
By Alfred S. Regnery
There are another 120 vacant federal judgeships and, of course, the Neil Gorsuch nomination to the Supreme Court. Each requires Senate approval.
White House staff is busily choosing and vetting candidates for the rest of the positions, and there undoubtedly will be many nominations sent to the Senate for confirmation in the next several weeks.
And where is the Senate now? On vacation.
We hear a lot of talk that Harry Reid gave away the store when he exercised the nuclear option, and that Republicans have the 51 votes needed to get the Trump team confirmed. That may be, but with the way Majority Leader Mitch McConnell runs the Senate, Democrats can—and probably will—make it impossible to confirm more than a handful of nominees.
The problem isn’t the votes. Republicans have those. The problem is time—floor time.
As a senior Senate staffer told me this week: “Regardless of how many votes it takes to confirm or approve anything in the Senate, if Democrats want to force the issue, they can require a minimum of 30 hours to debate any nomination or any bill. Let that sink in. 549 vacancies, at 30 hours each, equals 686 days. If you subtract weekends, and add a nice vacation every few months, you are looking at never finishing this job throughout the entirety of Donald Trump’s first term. And this assumes they are in session around the clock and do no other legislative business, which is also impossible.”
Under Senate rules, when debate is cut off, senators are entitled to another 30 hours of debate. Since the Senate is rarely in session for more than 25 to 30 hours a week, Democrats can tie things up indefinitely.
So you would think the Senate would be working long hours, forcing Democrats to talk until exhausted, so the President’s team gets confirmed, right?
Wrong. After doing virtually no work during most of January, and working at a leisurely pace in February, the Senate just left town for a 10-day recess. That means they went home to campaign—after being on the job for about six weeks. As my friend said: “The Democrats are shutting down the Senate’s business, and Mitch McConnell’s answer is to give everyone a big vacation. The message to Democrats is: keep up the great work, we have no intention of fighting back.”
The result? The government will be run by bureaucrats, Obama holdovers and temporary “acting” trump appointees. Neil Gorsuch won’t get confirmed for weeks and weeks, and other judicial vacancies will remain vacant. Not to mention letting President Trump’s program simply die on the vine—the crucial business of repealing Obamacare, tax reform, passing budgets and appropriations, and the rest of the things Donald Trump and taxpayers so badly need.
So what is to be done?
I spoke with a long-time staff member from the Senate Judiciary Committee (who must remain anonymous if he wants to keep his job), who told me that Republicans’ only remedy is to force Democrats to debate until they wear themselves out. Schedule Senate floor debates to go all day and night, on weekends and holidays until Democrats cry uncle.
“Is McConnell likely to do that?” I asked. Not a chance, said my friend.
“Are any Republican Senators demanding that they fight back?” I asked.
Not a one, I was told.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington told the New York Times this week that [Democrats] “have to resist [Trump] every way and everywhere, every time we can… By undermining Mr. Trump across the board, Democrats hope to split Republicans away from a president of their own party.”
Unless Mitch McConnell gets down to business and gets the Senate back to work, he may help Democrats do exactly that.
Alfred S. Regnery serves as the Chairman of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.