AFTER RUSSIA COLLUSION HOAX, WE NEED REAL FISA REFORM NOW TO PREVENT SPYING ON POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS

By ROBERT ROMANO

By far the biggest takeaway from the failure of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to establish that there was any coordination or conspiracy with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election by President Donald Trump, his campaign or any American is that we need immediate and swift reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court system that was weaponized against a political campaign to investigate a crime that was never committed.

The FISA warrants taken out against the Trump campaign that began in Oct. 2016 relied upon the dossier full of phony allegations by former British spy Christopher Steele that was paid for by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign. It gave the government access to campaign emails, phone calls, text messages and other communications.

This was the same dossier that was briefed to then-President-elect Donald Trump in Jan. 2017 by former FBI Director James Comey, who later told Congress that it was “salacious and unverified” and then was used again when the warrants were renewed.

The dossier alleged that President Trump was a bought and paid for Russian agent, that former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page while on a trip to Moscow where he delivered a commencement address at the New Economic School in July 2016 was involved in a conspiracy with Russia to hack the DNC and put the emails on Wikileaks at the direction of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort,  and that then-Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague afterward to meet with Russian agents and mop up the fallout of the supposed operation. Steele said that the hacks had happened with “the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.”

In addition, in the Page FISA warrant, but not the Steele dossier, former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos is also named. We now know from the Mueller report that officially the origin of the collusion investigation was into Papadopoulos after he allegedly told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton after he was told by Joseph Mifsud that the Russians had emails from Clinton’s private server.

But after Mueller’s exhaustive investigation and the publication of the Special Counsel’s final report to the Attorney General, the charges could not be proven. Per Mueller, “the Office did not find evidence likely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Campaign officials such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page acted as agents of the Russian government — or at its direction, control or request — during the relevant time period.” As for Cohen, per Mueller, “Cohen had never traveled to Prague…”

To wit, Mueller stated, “the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.”

Steele had his own doubts, including that the information he gathered might have been Russian disinformation. In court testimony, Steele said “all material contained this risk” of being disinformation. Further, Steele didn’t go to Russia himself, and was said to have relied on a network to relay information, stating that the allegations needed to be “further corroborated and verified.”

Steele said his sources were Russian, but they were not named: Source A was a “former top Russian intelligence officer”; Source B was a “senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure”; Source C was a “senior Russian financial official”; Source D was a “close associate of Trump” (golden showers source); Source E was an “ethnic Russian close associate” of Trump (golden showers source); Source F was a “female staffer of the hotel”; and source G was a “senior Kremlin official”.

Now, the New York Times’ Scott Shane, Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg reported on April 20 that in Jan. 2017 the FBI interviewed one of the main sources for the dossier and came away with “misgivings about its reliability [that] arose not long after the document became public” in Jan. 2017.

Per the Times report: “By January 2017, F.B.I. agents had tracked down and interviewed one of Mr. Steele’s main sources, a Russian speaker from a former Soviet republic who had spent time in the West, according to a Justice Department document and three people familiar with the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. After questioning him about where he’d gotten his information, they suspected he might have added his own interpretations to reports passed on by his sources, one of the people said. For the F.B.I., that made it harder to decide what to trust.”

The FBI appeared to discount the possibility of the dossier being Russian disinformation, per the Times report: “F.B.I. agents considered whether Russia had polluted the stream of intelligence, but did not give it much credence, according to the former official.”

Making matters worse, the FISA court was aware all along that the intelligence was not eye-witness or first-hand information but utilized what amounted to hearsay. The FISA judge who approved the application knew it was second-hand or third-hand information because the Justice Department said so, saying that Steele had “sub-source(s)” indicating that there could have been one or many such go-betweens for the information.

According to the FISA warrant applications by the Justice Department, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by Judicial Watch, “Source #1 [Steele] tasked his sub-source(s) to collect the requisite information. After Source #1 received information from the sub-source(s), described herein, Source #1 provided the information to the identified U.S. who had hired Source #1 and to the FBI.”

Also, the FBI may have left out exculpatory information about Page from its application, which would be a violation of Woods procedures by the agency. According to RealClearInvestigations’ Paul Sperry, “The FBI omitted from its application to spy on Carter Page the fact that Russian spies had dismissed the former Trump campaign adviser as unreliable — or as one put it, an ‘idiot’ — and therefore unworthy of recruiting, according to congressional sources who have seen the unredacted document.”

But, wait, it gets better. Per Mueller, the Justice Department was not certain Page was really a Russian agent when it filed the application, it just thought there was a “fair probability” he was. That’s why they needed the surveillance, you see. Just to make sure. According to the Mueller report, “On four occasions, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) issued warrants based on a finding of probable cause to believe that Page was an agent of a foreign power. 50 U.S.C. §§ 1801(b), 1805(a)(2)(A). The FISC’s probable-cause finding was based on a different (and lower) standard than the one governing the Office’s decision whether to bring charges against Page, which is whether admissible evidence would likely be sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Page acted as an agent of the Russian Federation during the period at issue. Cf United States v. Cardoza, 713 F.3d 656, 660 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (explaining that probable cause requires only ‘a fair probability,’ and not ‘certainty, or proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or proof by a preponderance of the evidence’).”

So, in this case, “fair probability” is Steele being hired by the DNC and Clinton to validate the conspiracy theory that Trump and his campaign were full of Russian agents, citing Russian agents as sources. It could not be fully verified, even by Steele.

And the application was granted. Four times.

It has been suggested, including by Steele himself, that the information he provided could have been Russian disinformation that the FBI then acted on. That is, that Russian President Vladimir Putin simultaneously hacked the DNC and then wanted the FBI to know he did, and he wanted them to think that Trump helped, too, so that they’d go after him and to sow chaos.

If true, that would debunk the “Russia wanted to help Trump” intelligence assessmentof Jan. 2017. Then, Trump would have been the target of the election interference, too, and the FBI and Justice Department were unwitting pawns.

On the other hand, it could have been the Steele report came with a predetermined outcome paid for by the Clinton campaign and DNC, to suit a narrative that Trump was a Russian agent. After being embarrassed, we cannot discount the possibility that those who pulled the Russia collusion hoax may be willing to say anything at this point so the American people don’t figure out this whole thing was a set-up from day one.

It’s like the dog ate my homework.

“Putin made me do it.”

Either way, Attorney General William Barr needs to get to the bottom of it. Were Steele’s sources working for Russia, or towards some other end? This is an area where we really need facts, not speculation.

When the federal government went to the FISA court to spy on a political campaign, in this case the opposition in the 2016 election, the Trump campaign, and American citizens, accusing them of being Russian agents and tearing the entire country in half in the process, it knowingly did so with “salacious and unverified” information from unnamed sub-sources, carried the investigation over into the new administration, had then-FBI Director James Comey lie to the new President about the extent of the investigation and then carried on a nearly two-year special counsel investigation when Trump fired Comey, only to find out it was all a false alarm.

Barr is right, there was spying on the Trump campaign by the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, and it was to investigate a crime, conspiracy with Russia to interfere in the elections, that was never committed. To prevent this from ever happening again, we need a complete review of the FISA court process and real reforms by Congress that guarantee that when an American citizen is put under surveillance, the government can only submit evidence that the judge can verify. How can this be prevented from happening again?

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.  You can read more of his articles at www.dailytorch.com. 

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THE MUELLER REPORT VIDICATES TRUMP WITH NO CONSPIRACY WITH RUSSIA, SO WHY WAS THE COLLUSION PROBE EVER PURSUED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

By ROBERT ROMANO

The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections by hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and John Podesta emails and putting them on Wikileaks, and whether the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow in that endeavor, is over.

And it turns out that what President Donald Trump said all along, that there was no collusion with Russia by his campaign, was true. He was innocent after all.

According to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report to the Attorney General, “the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.”

Not on the hacking, not on disseminating the emails, none of it. Nobody in the Trump campaign or any American had a thing to do with the interference operation.

Which, by the way, is not news at all. Nor should it be to anyone who has been paying attention to the indictments Mueller was filing and to public statements particularly by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The appointment of Mueller as special counsel by Rosenstein on May 17, 2017 was to investigate, mainly, “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections” and “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” according to Rosenstein.

On July 13, 2018, when Russian intelligence officers were indicted by Mueller of hacking the DNC and Podesta emails and putting them on Wikileaks, although at times the Russians were allegedly in contact with Americans, Rosenstein had flatly noted, “There is no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.” Rosenstein added, “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime,” nor was there any indication the hacks had altered any votes or the outcome of the election.

Which raises the question, when did Mueller figure out there was no conspiracy by Trump, his campaign or any Americans for that matter with Russia? At least since July 2018, if not sooner. If so, why didn’t the investigation end right then and there?

Furthermore, if there was no conspiracy by Trump or any American with Russia to interfere with the election, then why was the Justice Department investigating it so publicly in the first place? What made it so sure there was a conspiracy?

This is where the Mueller report falls very short. We now know, based on the disclosure to Judicial Watch via the Freedom of Information Act that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants taken out against the Trump campaign starting in October 2016 relied on the dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Steele had alleged that not only had Russia hacked the Democrats and put the emails on Wikileaks, which was already public knowledge since June 2016, but that Trump and his campaign helped with “full knowledge and support” of the operation. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, as well as campaign advisor Carter Page when he traveled to Moscow in July 2016, were both named by Steele as the key intermediaries to the Kremlin. Steele said then-Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague in the summer of 2016 to meet with Russian agents to mop up the fallout of the supposed operation.

Now we know based on the Mueller report that it was all false. The report stated, “In particular, the Office did not find evidence likely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Campaign officials such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page acted as agents of the Russian government — or at its direction, control or request — during the relevant time period.”

Manafort was brought up on unrelated tax and bank fraud charges. Cohen has his own set of problems, but being a Russian agent is not one of them. Per the Mueller report, “Cohen had never traveled to Prague…” And so, he very well could not have been there meeting with Russian intelligence officials. By the way, we knew that as early as Jan. 2017 when Buzzfeed published the dossier.

As for Page, he was never charged with anything. A footnote justifying the issuance of the FISA warrants against him stated, “On four occasions, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) issued warrants based on a finding of probable cause to believe that Page was an agent of a foreign power. 50 U.S.C. §§ 1801(b), 1805(a)(2)(A). The FISC’s probable-cause finding was based on a different (and lower) standard than the one governing the Office’s decision whether to bring charges against Page, which is whether admissible evidence would likely be sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Page acted as an agent of the Russian Federation during the period at issue. Cf United States v. Cardoza, 713 F.3d 656, 660 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (explaining that probable cause requires only ‘a fair probability,’ and not ‘certainty, or proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or proof by a preponderance of the evidence’).”

Perhaps it was a “fair probability” in Oct. 2016, but now it is a zero probability.

To the extent that Mueller references the FISA warrants and the Cohen trip to Prague that never happened, he was thus examining some of the core allegations of the Steele dossier that were used to obtain the FISA warrants. The Steele dossier is mentioned again later by Mueller, but mostly in the context of former FBI Director James Comey briefing it to then-President-elect Trump in Jan. 2017, it being published by Buzzfeed and then the President’s reactions to the allegations contained therein.

But the Mueller report makes no effort to corroborate the Steele dossier or to vindicate its sources.  Steele said they were Russian, but they are not named: Source A was a “former top Russian intelligence officer”; Source B was a “senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure”; Source C was a “senior Russian financial official”; Source D was a “close associate of Trump” (golden showers source); Source E was an “ethnic Russian close associate” of Trump (golden showers source); Source F was a “female staffer of the hotel”; and source G was a “senior Kremlin official”.

If Steele was telling the truth, that these Russian government sources had passed this information along to him, who was working for the DNC and Clinton campaign, which Mueller then discovered was not true, then it should have been considered by Mueller that it was potential Russian disinformation and another effort to interfere in the election. Yet, there is not a single mention of this potential in the Mueller report, despite the fact that Steele himself had concluded it was possible in court testimony, stating “all material contained this risk” of being disinformation.

Further, Steele didn’t go to Russia himself, and was said to have relied on a network to relay information, stating that the allegations needed to be “further corroborated and verified.”

So, the possibilities appear to be that Steele’s sources were Russian disinformation intended to create chaos in the U.S., and Mueller did not bother to include that in his report about Russian interference in the elections, despite the fact that the Justice Department acted on those allegations when going in for FISA surveillance of the Trump campaign. Or, the allegations were fabrications, which were acted upon by the Justice Department, and Mueller did not bother to examine it in his report.

Either way — neither really speaks well to the Justice Department — Attorney General William Barr needs to get to the bottom of it. Who were Steele’s sources?

And then there’s Papadopoulos. He was convicted of lying to investigators after he was promised Hillary Clinton private server emails by Joseph Mifsud in 2016, supposedly by Russia. But Papadopoulos now alleges in his new book, “Deep State Target,” that the meetings he participated in were set up, not by Russian intelligence, but Western intelligence agencies to create the appearance that he was coordinating with Russia. In a Wall Street Journal oped published on April 18, Papadopoulos names Stefan Halper as an FBI informant, as well as Australian diplomat Alexander Downer and Mifsud, as all being individuals who spied on him to hurt the Trump campaign as a part of this plot.

The Mueller report identifies Papadopoulos as being the origin of the Russia collusion investigation by the FBI. Per Mueller: “On May 6, 2016, 10 days after that meeting with Mifsud, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton… The foreign government conveyed this information to the U.S. government on July 26, 2016, a few days after WikiLeaks’s release of Clinton-related emails. The FBI opened its investigation of potential coordination between Russia and the Trump Campaign a few days later based on the information.”

But Papadopoulos says he was encouraged to meet Mifsud in the first place. On Twitter on March 30, he wrote, “a woman in London, who was the FBI’s legal attaché in the U.K. … encouraged me to meet Joseph Mifsud in Rome in March 2016…”

So, if Papadopoulos was the genesis of this investigation because he spoke about his meeting with Mifsud to Downer, but the Mifsud meeting was a sting operation against him, then the investigation had to start before he spoke to Downer. Papadopoulos says he believes Downer was recording him. How did he know to do that? Barr needs to look into this.

In the process, the Attorney General can determine if the investigation began much earlier than that. U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), ranking member on the U.S. House Select Committee on Intelligence already stated in March that the official origin story is false, “It all stems from the fact that we know that this investigation started long before the end of July [2016]… We are quite confident that this investigation started long before they told us that it did.”

Meaning, the Mueller report may not be the final word on this matter after all. Was the Justice Department looking at former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn? Like Trump who openly campaigned on Flynn’s idea, Flynn was in favor of more cooperation with Moscow in counter-terrorism specifically. It was no mystery. He spoke about it at the Russia Today event in Dec. 2015.

Because of that, Flynn appeared in the Steele dossier because of his appearance at the event. Steele wrote in Aug. 2016: “Kremlin engaging with several high profile U.S. players, including… former DIA Director Michael Flynn… and funding their recent visits to Moscow.”

But it was a public event. You can see for yourself Flynn being interviewed at the event by a journalist.

Flynn also reportedly briefed the Defense Department both before and after the event and had his security clearance reupped in April 2016 after the fact. But what if Flynn’s Moscow trip caught the eye of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigators? What if the Logan Act investigation began in late 2015, not 2016?

What Flynn spoke about was the potential for U.S.-Russian cooperation to defeat Islamic State, focusing on “mutual interests” and restoring “strategic stability” to the Middle East. Flynn was selling the idea that there was a common enemy in Islamic State and more broadly radical Islam, a proposal candidate Trump would adopt in 2016.

Flynn stated, “This back and forth, and I do appreciate it… and I respect it, because we have to have this debate, we absolutely have to have this debate, and we have to have it now. And we can’t—the United States—and I’m speaking as a really a private citizen—the United States can’t sit there and go, Russia, you’re bad, and Russia can’t sit there and say, the U.S., you’re bad. What we have to do, like we have done in the past, and I could go into a couple of historical examples where Europe would not be the Europe that it is today, thriving, had it not been for Russia and the United States working together 75 years ago, and in other places [is] where we have worked together. So, this idea of us not being able to work together is a misnomer, and I think we have to step back and we have to say, okay, what are the common interests, and then, what are the common goals that we want to achieve, and those goals I believe the number one goal is to… eliminate the cancerous idea that exists inside of the Islamic religion, we must do that.”

Flynn called on Arab leaders to work with the U.S. and Russia toward that end, and added, “the second common goal is to then, to keep some level of stability in the Middle East that creates a new set of economic conditions, to deal with these… frankly, theses 15-to-35-year-old young men that exist…” So, in Flynn’s perspective, the destabilizing wars of regime change in the Middle East, of which the U.S. is a major actor, have created the conditions favorable to groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Flynn was critical of the U.S. and Russia: “Stop being like two bullies in a playground. Quit acting immature… with each other and know that I have… a disagreement with you, you have a disagreement with me. You know, this is a funny marriage between Russia and the United States, but it’s a marriage… whether we like it or not. And, that marriage is very, very rocky right now, and what we don’t need is we don’t need that marriage to break up. We’ve had our break ups in the past, but we need to… look at this, I mean, I’m deadly serious about this, because I know this enemy… and I think there’s some in this country that know this enemy from having dealt with it in Chechnya and Dagestan and other places. This is a very, very deadly enemy.”

Flynn wanted a new ally in the fight against terrorism: “My wish and my hope is that we figure out a way strategically to work together, I think that that’s the way ahead. Whether or not we work together 20 years from now, I don’t know, but I know if we don’t work together right now, the potential for going to a larger conflict against each other or the potential for this enemy to do far more damage than they already have is very, very real.”

When Flynn came into the Trump campaign, this plan was adopted by Trump, who campaigned to the American people about the strategy. After Nov. 2016, Trump named him National Security Advisor to accomplish this. The goal was to make in-roads and make it easier to isolate terrorist groups in the region and also Iran. That’s probably why Flynn told Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak not to overreact to the Obama sanctions in Dec. 2016, because he was getting ready to implement the strategy. The Trump team wanted to defuse tensions with Russia.

But so what? If you propose détente with Russia, now you’re “pro-Russia”? That’s the treason?

Was Henry Kissinger pro-Russia, too, who was the architects of many summits with Moscow? What about Reagan, who signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and negotiated the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)? Are the military tasked to the deconfliction channels in Syria to keep us out of war with Russia suspect, too? When did promoting peace become treason?

I suppose you can disagree with the diplomatic approach that was proposed but those are policy disagreements and clearly Presidents have the power and indeed the responsibility to engage in diplomacy. In the post-World War II era, the President’s biggest job is to prevent World War III. Trump is no different.

We should not be using the FBI via the Russia collusion investigation to go after presidential campaigns and then administrations to undermine a President whose policies they disagree with. That’s what happened here. And it is hard to imagine that the investigation would have continued into 2017, complete with the FISA warrants, if it had not been for the Steele dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC.

You had a FISA investigation based principally on Steele’s charges, which despite the most highly technological surveillance system in the world, after Mueller, could not be corroborated and appears to have been a politically motivated dirty trick all along. That was much, much worse and we can say that with certainty now since Mueller concluded there was in fact no conspiracy or coordination by Trump with Russia to interfere in the elections, hack the DNC and Podesta or anything else. Those were false charges.

Should the FBI drop everything and wreck the country every time a political campaign accuses their opponents of being foreign agents if the campaign simply pays enough money to a former intelligence officer to make the trumped up allegations?

What you had were pro-détente figures in the campaign who thought, based on the experience of past administrations, that a deal could be made with Russia, and Flynn was leading the foreign policy end of that. Page thought Trump could help bring an end to this new Cold War and was critical of U.S. sanctions. Manafort came later, and then the reason appears to have been specific to his experience in winning the Republican convention but it is possible his past work in Ukraine might have been seen as an additional asset to the campaign but when the story broke about his relationships there it became a liability and he was promptly let go, bringing in Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon to run the campaign.

What began as a policy disagreement and turned into a witch hunt for a crime that was not committed has torn the country in half, undermined trust in the nation’s national security apparatus, intelligence agencies and the FBI that appears to have its own agenda and apparently acts against its opponents if and when deemed necessary and which has done far more to interfere in U.S. politics than anything Russia was accused of, and undermined trust in the President for the other half of the country that was falsely led to believe that he was a Russian agent.

The fact is, the FBI appears to have spent far more time and energy investigating Trump than the Russian hacks on the DNC server, which it never even bothered to take possession of. That is not to excuse Russian actions in the election. Mueller’s indictment seems pretty clear on the hacking side of things. After it came out last year, it at least provided a comprehensive account of what may have happened. Wikileaks said Russia was not their source but since 2016 they have not bothered to disclose any new information. If they had something to prove otherwise, you would think it would have come out by now.  We are left simply with the charges by Mueller, Crowdstrike and the DNC that Russia was behind it all that have remained largely unchallenged. And if Wikileaks is not going to defend itself, that might be the final word on that matter.

As for why Julian Assange was not charged with publishing the DNC emails, in Mueller’s indictment of the Russian intelligence officers, quite simply, there was never an allegation that he had helped with the hacking, whereas in the Chelsea Manning case, that is precisely the allegation. Assange is being charged with hacking classified information with Manning, not publishing it.

And if not even Assange is getting prosecuted for the DNC and Podesta email hacks or coordinating with Russia, then why would anyone in the Trump campaign?

Sadly, we’ll be feeling the impacts of this for years if not decades. Hack or no hack, now the INF Treaty is kaput. START could be next. We are in a new nuclear arms race with Russia which is very dangerous and might have been avoided had we just listened to Flynn’s advice in the first place. I suppose we’ll never know.

We also still don’t know how that’s going to turn out. History will be the judge. Hopefully, there is still an opportunity to defuse this brewing conflict with Russia, and for President Trump to repair the damage to relations that has been caused. Even with the hacks and Wikileaks, we still have nuclear security issues to contend with globally which are really more important. We’re not going to start World War III over emails getting published.

Fortunately, the investigation into Trump is over. For about three years, the Justice Department and U.S. intelligence agencies pursued a theory of a crime, conspiracy by Trump with Russia to interfere in the elections, which was never committed. It really was fake news. Now, it’s time for the investigation of the investigation. Stay tuned.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.  You can read more of his articles at www.dailytorch.com. 

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IS T.V. GOING BLACK?

By TEMPLE LI

If you are tired of hearing that America is a racist society, just watch the T.V. commercials and shows on the major networks.  Reparations be damned.  Apparently, a substantial percentage of American consumers who are buying the advertised products on TV must be Black yet Blacks only make up about 13% of the American population!  It appears that is what advertisers at least seen to believe based on the racial make-up of their commercials and shows they sponsor.

If you think you are seeing more and more Blacks, less and less Whites, Hispanics and Asians and more interracial marriages between African Americans and Whites, you are not alone.  Just google the question:  “Why so many Blacks on TV?”  A series of blogs, reports and articles will appear showing that you are not the only person asking this or similar questions.

In 2000, the authors of the book, “The Black Image in the White Minds: Media and Race In America,” took a sample of 1,620 ads on ABC, NBC and Fox, which showed African Americans appeared in 32% of the ads.   They have not done a follow-up study; nor is one easily found, but some people are conducting their own surveys.” In a 2017 article in “journal-isms”, an 80-year old White retiree from Arizona was reported as noticing the proliferation of Blacks on TV, particiularly in commercials.  According to his count, “nearly 50% of the folks in commercials are African Americans.”

Whatever the reason–fear of perceived racism; political correctness; belief that diversity is what appeals to American consumers–companies and entertainment  have increased the number of Blacks–singly, as families and  also interracial white and black marriages–in their T.V. commercials and shows.

This, however, does not seem to mirror reality.  Whether it’s 32% or closer to 50% of Blacks in T.V., it is disproportionate to the percentage of Blacks—approximately 13%– in the American population In spite of the numerous happy African American families on T.V., 70% (according to Don Lemon, CNN) of black children are born to single mothers.

The fixation with interracial marriages between Whites and Blacks is particularly interesting.  In 2017, Pew Research Center published key facts about race and marriage. “Asian and Hispanic newlyweds are far more likely than Black or White newlyweds to marry someone of a different race or ethnicity.”  Pew reported the percentage of interracial marriages breaks out as follows: 12% of white men and 10% of white women and 24% of black men and 12% of black women  marry someone of a different race or ethnicity;  whereas 38% Asian men and 54% Asian women and 26% Hispanic men and 28% Hispanic females are in interracial marriages.

Diversity is great, but it can backfire if it is not balanced. Hispanics comprise the largest minority group at 18% and they, along with Asian Americans, are basically ignored in TV commercials and shows. Contrary to the belief of some—“ALL LIVES MATTER !”

Temple Li is the news editor for Empire State News, where she frequently authors her own editorials (just because she feels like it). She graduated at the top of her class at a mediocre college, infuriating her professors with her conservative wit and sultry charm. Empire State News allows Ms. Li to make a living, and to have a platform to tell people what she thinks. What could be better than that?

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WHO’S LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER?

By TEMPLE LI

Afraid of who in the government is looking at your information?  You should be.

The recent events with Richard Neal, Chairman of the House of Representatives Tax Writing Committee, requesting six years of Trump’s tax returns and Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the  House Judiciary Committee ,demanding to see the unredacted Mueller report highlights just how easy members of Congress may be able to obtain and leak information—it could be yours!

Imagine your personal information in the hands of a bartender-turned-politician from New York’s 14th congressional district who was voted into office because of a low turnout and the laziness of the then incumbent and tweets like a bird in heat.  Or worse, an anti-Semite who refers to “9/11” as “someone doing something,” eerily reflective of Iran who claimed the Holocaust never happened.

Scary as well is Maxine Waters, Chairman of the Financial Services Committee.  During a recent congressional hearing of top Bank CEO’s, she seemed not to know that banks had stopped handling student loans since 2010 when the government took over.  Yet, she’s been serving since 1991 and this is her 15th term in the House.  DAH!

Are these really the kind of people we want to trust with governing our country and to grant them access to the country’s most top secrets, as well as our own personal information?

When you are electing individuals into office, or more importantly, when you fail to go out and vote for the right people to represent you in Congress, you are left with a group of individuals who serve their own self-interest, or subscribe to ideologies which you had no idea they espoused.

Shame on all of us by ignoring our civic duties or rubber stamping candidates whose  agenda we spend less time probing then we would a melon we’re buying in the supermarket.

Temple Li is the news editor for Empire State News, where she frequently authors her own editorials (just because she feels like it). She graduated at the top of her class at a mediocre college, infuriating her professors with her conservative wit and sultry charm. Empire State News allows Ms. Li to make a living, and to have a platform to tell people what she thinks. What could be better than that?

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TRUMP EMBRACES 5G REVOLUTION BY FREEING UP WIRELESS SPECTRUM, REMOVING REGULATORY BARRIERS AND BOOSTING RURAL BROADBAND

By ROBERT ROMANO

President Donald Trump is committed to winning the race to 5G wireless technology that will transform the U.S. and global economies in ways that have only been dreamed of in the past. Smart cities, driverless cars and trucks, factories run by robots and so many other wonders, all possible because of the next generation of wireless technology.

“The race to 5G is a race America must win and it’s a race, frankly, that our great companies are now involved in — we’ve given them the incentive they need — it’s a race we that we will win,” Trump declared at an April 12 speech, vowing that “we cannot allow any other country to outcompete the United States in this powerful industry of the future.”

The best part is, all the government has to do is get out of the way.

“In the United States our approach is private sector driven and private sector led. The government doesn’t have to spend lots of money,” Trump said, noting that industry would be investing $275 billion in 5G technology.

Accenture has estimated that 5G will create 3 million new jobs in the U.S. and boost the economy by more than $500 billion.

To help get the network up to speed — quite literally, as 5G will be about 100 times faster than existing 4G networks — Trump outlined his plan to free up “as much spectrum as possible.”

“We’re going to free it up, so they can get out there and get it done,” Trump stated.  Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Dec. 10 will be auctioning off 3,400 megahertz in three different spectrum bands. This will be a huge opportunity for 5G leaders like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile to expand their networks.

According to an FCC fact sheet, “Since November 2018, the FCC has auctioned 1,550 megahertz of spectrum to be used by commercial wireless providers for 5G connectivity.  The third 5G spectrum auction will be the largest in American history; the FCC will be selling 3,400 megahertz in three different spectrum bands at one time.”

One area that can help it along even faster would be in approving the Sprint-T-Mobile merger, which would enable each company to share their respective 600 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum across the low and medium bands. While T-Mobile’s low band spectrum will help bring the network nationwide and particularly to rural areas, Sprint’s medium spectrum will give it the network capacity it needs to function in big cities and densely populated suburbs. This would put both companies on a sounder footing to compete with Verizon and AT&T, and create more competition in the 5G arena, which will reduce prices.

In prepared remarks, FCC chairman Ajit Pai outlined further efforts being made, including by deploying fiberoptics: “we’ve taken action to encourage the deployment of optical fiber.  That’s because 5G isn’t just about wireless.  We’ll also need strong fiber networks to carry traffic once it goes from the air to the ground.  We’ve done a lot to make that happen, including ending heavy-handed regulations imposed by the prior Administration.  Here too, we’re getting results.  Last year, fiber was deployed to more new locations than in any year before.”

In addition, Pai outlined efforts to create more access to rural broadband, stating, “the FCC aims to create a new $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund at the FCC [over 10 years].  This money will extend high-speed broadband to up to four million homes and small businesses in rural America.”

Taken together, it is a sound strategy to bringing a true 5G network nationwide.

It’s exactly the boost the U.S. economy needs to stay ahead in the 21st century. 5G will not only make America great again, it will make it greater than it’s ever been.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.  You can read more of his articles at www.dailytorch.com. 

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CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY BILL ON CONSUMER LOANS WILL ONLY END UP HURTING THE POOR

By RICHARD MANNING

President Trump has made unprecedented strides in undoing stifling and harmful regulations in an effort to remove the government’s chokehold on consumers and small businesses. Those efforts are bearing fruit in the strong economy we are experiencing today.

Despite they  Administration’s successes in this area, however, state legislatures around the country are working overtime to block Trump’s antiregulatory agenda. One such effort is happening in my home state of California and concerns the regulation of consumer short-term loans.

Short-term loans are intended to help consumers in a time of need to cover unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or medical emergency. Although some critics say these loans are a bad deal for borrowers, the reality is that millions of consumers use them, often as a necessary means of last resort because they are in a financial bind. This includes those who are financially underserved in our communities, either because they don’t have the credit history to open a traditional bank account or they have a low credit score.

Shortly before he left his post, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray announced new regulations governing these types of loans. Cordray’s rule would have been devastating to our economy, potentially cutting off millions of Americans from access to credit options.

However, thanks to the leadership of Cordray’s successors, Mick Mulvaney and now the Bureau’s permanent director, Kathy Kraninger, the rule has been re-opened for consideration to ensure that the opinions and voices of all stakeholders are carefully considered.

Which brings us back to California.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was one of 25 attorneys general who signed a recent comment letter opposing a delay in the implementation of Cordray’s rule. And in February, Democratic Assembly members Monique Limón and Tim Grayson introduced legislation, AB 539, which would place an interest rate cap of 36% on consumer loans ranging anywhere from $2,500-$10,000. The rationale, according to Grayson, is that “Californians deserve real access to capital, not exploitative loans that trap them in perpetual payments and compounding debt.”

While I’m sure the bill’s authors have good intentions, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem.

AB 539 would seriously impede consumers’ ability to access credit, especially in a time of great need. This includes Californians who are either homeless, on the precipice of homelessness or working to get off the streets. The Golden State is home to 134,000 homeless people and many of them not surprisingly are working.

First, AB 539 will make it harder for lenders of short-term, small dollar loans to issue them because placing an arbitrary rate cap on these loans fails to acknowledge the basic economics of the lending business. While it is easy to dismiss these lenders as “predatory,” the reality is these loans are high-risk and unsecured because many borrowers have either damaged credit or no credit history at all. Absent a formal banking relationship, consumers who rely on them are left with very few lending options that are safe and secure. As Daniel Press of the Competitive Enterprise Institute noted in a 2018 paper, “if consumers cannot access lawful forms of credit, they will be forced to either default on other loans or pursue illegal or unregulated loan sources, perhaps even loan sharks.”

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AND GOVERNMENT PATERNALISM

By TEMPLE LI

WE ARE A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS!  All of us are descended from someone who came from someplace else.  This is the argument that you hear time and again from the Dems who are doing nothing about the disaster looming on our southern border and are advocating open borders and an influx of illegal immigrants.

However, there are some major flaws in their rationale.  It is true that for most of us, with the exception of Native Americans, we are descendants from Europeans, Asians, and Africans who came here either as early American settlers; or later, as slaves, indentured servants–particularly the Irish and Chinese–or other poor immigrants from other countries .   When these ancestors arrived on the American continent, they were pioneers that settled the land despite numerous hardships; toiled in the fields of the south as slaves or paid for their transportation to the New World by working as servants for the settlers that came before them.  Once slavery was outlawed, there was no government for either former slaves, indentured servants or other new immigrants to provide for them and, like the original settlers, they relied on their own resilience and hard work to make their fortune.

Fast forward to the twentieth century, 1933, the election of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt as President and the implementation of the New Deal.  The programs and projects, including the WPA, CCC, TVA, which comprised the New Dea,l were designed to restore jobs to the many Americans who had suffered as a result of the Great Depression, principally by providing funding for public projects and subsidies to farmers.  This, along with the passing of the Social Security Act in 1935, was the beginning of government paternalism, changing the relationship between the Federal government and its citizens.

World War II intervened and was followed by unprecedented prosperity in the 50’s.  But, in 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican, expanded the Social Security Act to include the disabled and their dependents.  On July 30, 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat, signed a bill, creating Medicare and Medicaid, the beginning of the end of “rugged individualism” which had created the America of our ancestors, ensued.  Government paternalism had firmly taken root.

What is paternalism?  It can be defined as “the system, principle, or practice of managing or governing individuals, businesses, nations, etc. in the manner of a father dealing benevolently and often, intrusively, with his children.”

Our immigrant ancestors did not expect or receive government benefits such as medical care through community health centers and hospitals mandated to provide charitable care, free education for their children and other government sponsored assistance programs paid for by U.S. citizens’ taxpayer dollars. Yet this is the “benevolence” which Dems seem to want to bestow upon illegal immigrants; while other individuals wait their turn through the legitimate immigration process.  So what makes these illegal immigrants special?  They are the perfect victims for those who espouse government paternalism as a policy and seek to control those who are vulnerable under it.

History does repeat itself.  In the Old South, prior to the Civil War, paternalism was a concept used as a justification for slavery, with the owners portrayed as the protectors of their slaves.  Sound familiar?

Temple Li is the news editor for Empire State News, where she frequently authors her own editorials (just because she feels like it). She graduated at the top of her class at a mediocre college, infuriating her professors with her conservative wit and sultry charm. Empire State News allows Ms. Li to make a living, and to have a platform to tell people what she thinks. What could be better than that?

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HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? CBS’S SUNDAY MORNING SHOW

By TEMPLE LI

CBS’s Sunday Morning Show for 22 years was hosted by Charles Osgood, and before him, Charles Kuralt and presented a series of vignettes related to history, art science, literature, travel and entertainment.  It introduced you to little known events that you might want to add to your bucket list such as the Firefly Show in the Smokey Mountains in June and the World Ice Art Championship in March.

Unfortunately, after Charles Osgood’s retirement, with the hiring of Jane Pauley, entertainment represented mainly by Hollywood seemed to overtake the other categories, with politics being added to the mix.  This is not surprising since Ms. Pauley is currently married to Doonesbury cartoonist, Gary Trudeau, who was quoted in THE WASHINGTON POST as saying “If Trump wins, I’ll miss civilization as we know it.”  The family shows that many of us were excited to watch every Sunday has turned into just another source of Democrat propaganda.

The show, which has been going steadily downhill, hit an all-time low when the Kathy Griffin interview aired on its March 31 show.  Ms. Griffin is a risqué, uncouth comedian whose career went in the toilet after she posed for a picture holding what appeared to be the head of President Trump, dripping with blood.  She thought this was funny.  Fortunately, there was enough outrage at this in the country, forcing performances to be cancelled, which included her CNN annual New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper.

So why it was necessary for CBS Sunday Morning to provide Ms. Griffin with a bully pulpit and what is the moral to this story that Jane wants her viewers to take away from the interview?  Is it that no matter how obnoxious or crude you may be you too can land back on your feet?  Ms. Griffin apparently has had some success in remaking her career in Europe.  BUT WHO REALLY CARES?

Kathy Griffin, Jussie Smollett, Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin—enough already! And enough of CBS Sunday Morning—at least for me.

Temple Li is the news editor for Empire State News, where she frequently authors her own editorials (just because she feels like it). She graduated at the top of her class at a mediocre college, infuriating her professors with her conservative wit and sultry charm. Empire State News allows Ms. Li to make a living, and to have a platform to tell people what she thinks. What could be better than that?

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JOBS REPORT SIGNALS STEADY ECONOMY IN FIRST QUARTER

By RICK MANNING

Why was I eagerly anticipating at the Labor Department job report for March?

Job reports are boring and they are usually more of a trailing indicator of the nation’s economic direction as the last thing that employers do is lay off employees when heading into tougher times.  However, two factors made the April 5 report different.

First, the February establishment report showed what could have been a trend setting flattening of the number of jobs created with a meager 20,000 reached after acceleration into the 300,000s the previous two months.  Second, the nation’s GDP for 2018 Fourth Quarter was downgraded to a middling 2.2 percent annualized growth rate.

So, the question that I was hoping to at least partially answer was whether the overall economy was slowing, bogged down by the federal government borrowing binge and the lack of available skilled labor to fill the jobs to keep the economic train chugging along.

After looking at the report, wage data, inflation, and weekly unemployment insurance filings, it appears that the concerns brewing from the slow February were overblown.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that our national economy created 196,000 new jobs in March, with 182,000 of those in the private sector.  Since Donald Trump took office, there are 5.91 million more people employed and 1.77 million fewer Americans unemployed.  The unemployment insurance claims report released on April 4, for the previous week, reached a 50 year low at a seasonally adjusted 202,000. To put that into perspective, there just slightly under twice as many people in the labor force today than in 1969, yet the unemployment claims are the same as when we had just watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.

Wages continue to rise and a March report by the White House’s Council on Economic Advisors notes that the wage increases are disproportionately finding their way to the lowest wage earners, while white collar worker wages are relatively stagnant.  This reverses a multiple decade long trend at least temporarily. Meanwhile inflation remains tame at a meager 1.5 percent over the past twelve months.

If the April 9th release of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover report continues to show that the number of jobs open in February remained relatively steady from January at around 7.5 million, it will provide further affirmation that the economy remains strong and steady.

While there are reasons to be concerned about the economy – lower Gross Domestic Product growth than needed, the ongoing deficit spending splurge which absorbs capital that could be used for new factory and labor force training investments designed to increase productivity and future profit.

However, with all of the challenges facing our nation, it appears that fears about the economy can be put aside for another month as America is going to work and a vast majority of the new jobs created are being filled by employees who previously were on the labor force sidelines.

All things considered, that is what making America great again looks like.  More and more people reaching for the American dream, striving to make their individual lives better and as a result, in aggregate making our overall economy better.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.  You can read more of his articles at www.dailytorch.com. 

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450 MILES OF WALL BY END OF 2020, ARMY CORPS REPORTS TO PRESIDENT TRUMP

By ROBERT ROMANO

“Around Dec. 2020, the total amount of money we will have put in the ground in the last couple of years will be about 450 miles. That’s probably about $8 billion, in total about 33 projects.”

That was Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, giving President Donald Trump a report at Calexico, Calif. on how much new wall would be constructed by the end of 2020.

Semonite broke down the figures: That’s 82 miles as of right now mainly from renovating existing fencing, another 97 miles by the end of this year, and then another 277 miles the year after that. That includes the new 30-foot steel slats.

That’s actually pretty impressive given what a hard time President Trump had the first two years working with Congress, which itself was not unsubstantial, but simply not enough to get the job done. Plus getting it approved was like pulling teeth. That funding included $1.6 billion from 2018 for replacing existing fencing with new steel barriers and $1.375 billion in 2019 for more steel barriers that came after the partial government shutdown earlier this year.

In addition, with the President’s national emergency declaration, which withstood a Congressional Democrat attempt to overturn, according to the White House, freed up $6.7 billion including, “[a]bout $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund… Up to $2.5 billion under the Department of Defense funds transferred for Support for Counterdrug Activities (Title 10 United States Code, section 284)… [and u]p to $3.6 billion reallocated from Department of Defense military construction projects under the President’s declaration of a national emergency (Title 10 United States Code, section 2808)…”

And it could not be going up a moment too soon, with apprehensions on the border trending upward potentially to 100,000 in March, the highest in a decade, plus tens of thousands of ounces of heroin, tens of thousands of pounds of cocaine and millions of pounds of marijuana continuing to pour over the border. And that’s just what the Border Patrol seizes. The real number is much greater than that.

It’s really an exercise of leadership. Think President Trump was looking for a bump in the polls by declaring the national emergency? Think again. On its own, declaring the emergency fared poorly in some of the polls that were taken in the aftermath, with majorities opposed. But Trump did it anyway because he thought it was the right thing to do to keep America safe.

That is, if federal courts will allow him enforce the law. Trump’s emergency declaration and fiscal reprogramming of military construction funds are now making the rounds before judges and probably ultimately the Supreme Court.

Somebody has to start taking border security seriously and so far that is President Trump. It’s about time.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.  You can read more of his articles at www.dailytorch.com. 

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