The United States Senate Is about to Get a Whole Lot More Respectable

Why? Because Harry Reid–the worst Senate majority leader in history–is retiring. I imagine that there are people who will miss him, but they shouldn’t; Reid’s corruption (I’ve only cited a couple of cases here) and the incredibly nasty way he behaved towards political opponents–including the adoption of McCarthyite tactics–brought shame and disrepute upon the United States Senate. Add to all of this Reid’s gaffes, and you can plainly see–unless you are blinded by partisanship–why the Senate and American politics are better off without him.

In discussing Reid and the reasons for his retirement, let’s all make sure that we understand that he is leaving because he is afraid that he will lose the next election, and doesn’t want to suffer the ignominy of defeat. If Reid believed that he could win in 2016, he would run. His decision to retire is an indicator of cowardice, and as bullies are cowards, it ought to surprise no one that Reid doesn’t have the guts to stand and fight for re-election.

Charles C.W. Cooke gives Reid a proper sendoff. And here, we are reminded that Reid is simultaneously an awful human being and one whose gray matter is–at best–in tatters.

Good riddance indeed.

Don’t Look Now, but Hillary Clinton’s E-Mail Scandal Just Got a Whole Lot Worse

I know, I know. You didn’t think it was possible for Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal to get any worse. And yet, here we are:

Hillary Clinton wiped “clean” the private server housing emails from her tenure as secretary of state, the chairman of the House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi said Friday.

“While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, said in a statement.

Clinton was under a subpoena order from the panel for all documents related to the 2012 attacks on the American compound there. But David Kendall, an attorney for Clinton, said the 900 pages of emails previously provided to the panel cover its request.

Kendall also informed the committee that Clinton’s emails from her time at the State Department have been permanently erased.

Gowdy said that Clinton’s response to the subpoena means he and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will now contemplate new legal actions against Clinton.

“After seeking and receiving a two week extension from the Committee, Secretary Clinton failed to provide a single new document to the subpoena issued by the Committee and refused to provide her private server to the Inspector General for the State Department or any other independent arbiter for analysis,” Gowdy said.

[. . .]

In a letter provided to the committee, Kendall said Clinton would not be turning over the server to a third-party for review and that the emails no longer exist on the private server located in her New York home.


After [Clinton’s] representatives determined which emails were government-related and which were private, a setting on the account was changed to retain only emails sent in the previous 60 days, her lawyer, David Kendall, said. He said the setting was altered after she gave the records to the government.

How convenient. Can you say “spoliation of evidence”? I knew you could.

This is utterly appalling behavior. The shamelessness and the brazen nature of this latest attempt to thwart a move towards government transparency is nothing short of shocking and breathtaking. It’s also behavior that should disqualify anyone from being considered for the presidency of the United States. It is now perfectly all right–and has been for some time–for civilized people to laugh out of their ZIP codes anyone and everyone who suggests that Hillary Clinton would be a good president.

Clinton Scandal Watch (A Continuing Series)

I’m waiting for Hillary Clinton to realize that she and many of those who hang around her are too ethically compromised to be allowed near the White House, and to withdraw from presidential consideration as a consequence. Until that happens, I guess that I and others will have to keep emphasizing the point that Hillary Clinton has no business being president of the United States.

I have written previously about David Metcalfe, who in the past, was responsible for FOIA implementation at the Department of Justice. Here is more regarding his concerns about Clinton’s e-mail practices:

. . . the soft-spoken academic who resembles Santa Claus maintains he’s not looking to derail Clinton’s anticipated 2016 bid. To the contrary, he says. Metcalfe notes he is a registered Democrat and will vote for the former first lady if she runs for the White House. That makes his criticism even more damaging.

While Democrats are largely rallying behind Clinton, Republicans have seized on the email uproar. And the matter isn’t going away anytime soon: The State Department has said it is reviewing the issue, congressional committees have launched probes and The Associated Press has filed a lawsuit.

[. . .]

Metcalfe isn’t a public figure, but he is a respected expert who has been asked to address legal groups, government agencies and Congress.

[. . .]

On C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” show, he said, “Based upon my first-hand involvement in a number of things during the Clinton administration, I have absolutely no doubt that Secretary Clinton well knows the operation of the Freedom of Information Act and knows what, frankly, what she was doing.”

In an interview with The Hill, Metcalfe disputed Clinton’s assertions that she didn’t do anything wrong with her email communications: “There was indeed much wrong with what happened.

“There’s no doubt in my mind and in the minds, frankly, of people at the National Archives and Records Administration, what she did was contrary to the Federal Records Act,” he added.

Be sure to watch the video associated with the link. And remember: Metcalfe is a Democrat who says that he will vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee; this is no Republican practitioner of political dark arts. But he is deeply disturbed by her conduct, and well he should be.

And then, there is the putative First Brother:

Drive down the rutted dirt road a couple of miles to the guardhouse, then hike 15 minutes up to the overgrown hilltop, and there it is: a piece of 3 1/2 -inch-wide PVC pipe sticking out of the ground.

This is what, at least for the time being, a gold mine looks like.

It also has become a potentially problematic issue for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she considers a second presidential run, after it was revealed this month that in 2013, one of her brothers was added to the advisory board of the company that owns the mine.

Tony Rodham’s involvement with the mine, which has become a source of controversy in Haiti because of concern about potential environmental damage and the belief that the project will primarily benefit foreign investors, was first revealed in publicity about an upcoming book on the Clintons by author Peter Schweizer.

In interviews with The Washington Post, both Rodham and the chief executive of Delaware-based VCS Mining said they were introduced at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative — an offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that critics have long alleged invites a blurring of its charitable mission with the business interests of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their corporate donors.

[. . .]

All sides deny that the Clintons had any role in Rodham’s appointment to the VCS advisory board.

Yeah, right. Can you say “racket”? I knew you could. More on the putative First Brother:

As a congressional committee prepares to ask questions about a scathing report on political favoritism in a federal visa program, one of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s brothers, Tony Rodham, remained mum Wednesday about accusations that an investment firm he runs pressured a Homeland Security official to speed up action on their business requests.

Meanwhile, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.), who was also a focus of the inspector general report, issued a statement through a spokesman that didn’t dispute the basic facts the Department of Homeland Security watchdog found. Instead, the governor’s team said he was simply pressing the agency to speed up slow decisions on complex petitions related to the arrangements designed to allow foreigners to win green cards by investing in U.S. business ventures.

[. . .]

The report describes McAuliffe as intervening repeatedly with then-U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas to press for approval of various petitions pending for Gulf Coast Funds Management, which is run by Rodham. The calls took place before McAuliffe became governor and appeared intended to benefit an electric car firm tied to the veteran Democratic operative and fundraiser, GreenTech Automotive.

While Mayorkas denied any impropriety, he offered colorful descriptions of McAuliffe’s lobbying.

“I recall that over the course of many months I received several voice messages from Mr. McAuliffe complaining about USCIS’s handling of the GC/GTA case. The messages were caustic. I remember in particular one voice message that I played for [redacted], as it was laced with expletives at a high volume,” Mayorkas said in a written statement to investigators.

McAuliffe, of course, is a longtime Clinton crony. Are we really supposed to believe that he wasn’t working to stack the deck for the brother-in-law of his longtime political patron, the 42nd president of the United States? Are we really supposed to believe that he wasn’t trying to do a favor for his other political patron, the lady who aspires to be the 45th president of the United States? And are we really supposed to believe that these activities were above board?

Of course, to be fair to Tony Rodham, he’s hardly the only family member benefiting from associations with the Clintons:

Since marrying Chelsea Clinton five years ago, Marc Mezvinsky, a money manager, appears to have settled into his life as Bill and Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law. He has regularly appeared at charitable events, once introducing the former president at the Clinton Foundation’s celebrity poker tournament by dryly saying, “You may have heard of my father-in-law.” And at the recent N.B.A. All-Star Game, Mr. Mezvinsky took a seat next to Mr. Clinton and his partner in charitable endeavors, Dikembe Mutombo, the former basketball star.

Beyond the glamour, being part of the Clinton family has provided Mr. Mezvinsky with another perk: access to wealthy investors with ties to the Clintons.

When Mr. Mezvinsky and his partners began raising money in 2011 for a new hedge fund firm, Eaglevale Partners, a number of investors in the firm were longtime supporters of the Clintons, according to interviews and financial documents reviewed by The New York Times. Tens of millions of dollars raised by Eaglevale can be attributed to investors with some relationship or link to the Clintons.

So, there are a bunch of people buying access to the putative next president of the United States by giving money to her son-in-law. And we’re not supposed to have a problem with this?

Remember: If the Clintons make it back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, you are going to hear a lot more of these stories. You will hear them for four years. You may hear them for eight. And while the country examines and chews over the many ethical shortcomings of the Clintons and their hangers-on, the country’s problems and priorities will go unaddressed because the putative next president of the United States will not be able to address them from anything resembling a position of moral authority. She is simply too compromised to do so.

So why elect her president?

Ha, Ha, Ha. Funny.

Apparently, secret homebrew e-mail accounts that can be hacked, a server in your own house–where it is vulnerable to all manner of dangers–and the frustration of efforts to make the government transparent are supposed to be real knee-slappers:

Hillary Clinton opened her speech to a room full of political reporters by acknowledging an awkward, if obvious, fact: she’s not known for being media-friendly. But Monday night, she also pledged to make a change.

“I am well aware that some of you may be a little surprised to see me here tonight,” she said. “My relationship with the press has been at times, shall we say, complicated.”

The former secretary of State spoke at the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting ceremony, and her address was part olive branch—and part not-so-subtle suggestions about the need for “serious” and “substantive” journalism going forward.

“I am all about new beginnings: a new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new email account,” she quipped, “Why not a new relationship with the press? So here goes. No more secrecy. No more zone of privacy.” (She then joked that ceremony attendees could find non-disclosure agreements under their chairs.)

Following the nearly 20-minute speech, she did not take questions.

Presumably, we are expected to find this charming.

Foreign Policy Question of the Day

Why don’t we talk about the chaos in Libya as much as we talk about the chaos in Iraq?

This time it was the guards from an Austrian-run gas facility in Libya’s Saharan southwest. They were shown beheaded in a series of images posted to social media on March 8. A few weeks earlier it had been 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian labourers, their throats slit, some murmuring prayers as they were slaughtered in the central coastal city of Sirte. A month before that it had been the storming of the five-star Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli in which nine were killed, including US and French nationals.

The message was clear: not only had the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the group known as Isis , expanded its network to lawless, warring Libya, it has managed to spread tentacles throughout the vast oil-rich desert nation.

“What else needs to happen to create alarm?” asks a senior official of the Italian government, among the countries most anxious about the emergence of Isis at the heart of its former colony. “All the signs are converging. We have to avoid what happened in Syria. We did not understand the dramatic nature of the problem and we woke up with the tables turned.”

The emergence of Isis has waylaid what was already a shaky western consensus on how to end the complicated Libyan civil war and further marred the 2011 toppling of Muammer Gaddafi, once a signature achievement for the British, French and US administrations. The severity of the problem — as well as domestic political constraints — has left a sense of powerlessness and drift that is only starting to be challenged. Libya is back on the agenda of world leaders. An EU summit on Thursday will discuss events in the country.

More here (subscription required). Could the reluctance to talk about the chaos in Libya have something to do with the fact that said chaos was caused by a war launched by a Democratic president? Writing for myself, I’m pretty sure that if George W. Bush–or any other Republican–had ousted Muammar Qaddafi, the news programs would have been flooded any and every zone on the planet–and some zones off-planet–in talking about how Libya had become Hell on Earth.

Anti-Semitism on Full Display in London


A drunken mob of more than 20 thugs shouted “kill the Jews” as they stormed into a north London synagogue while young worshippers celebrated the end of the sabbath.

The anti-Semitic abuse was hurled by the group of men and women as they first beat up a young man outside before chasing him inside, breaking windows and attacking others.

Part of the chaotic incident in Stamford Hill was captured on video before the intruders were beaten back as the worshippers grabbed chairs to protect themselves.

Scotland Yard said six people – four men and two women – were later arrested on suspicion of public order offences and assault.

We are told a little later in the story that “synagogue elders . . . are convinced the attack was not religiously motivated and was merely a typical example of anti-social behaviour.” Strangely enough, of course, this “anti-social behaviour” did not involve attacks on churches or mosques or shopping centers or schools–though if it did, no one should feel better about things. It involved an attack on a synagogue, and shouts of “kill the Jews.” All of this sure seems anti-Semitic to me.

Just as a reminder, we were told in the past that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.” Are we still supposed to take that nonsensical claim seriously?

Quote of the Day

This study investigated the antipoverty efficacy of minimum wage policies.  Proponents of these policies contend that employment impacts are negligible and suggest that consumers pay for higher labor costs through imperceptible increases in goods prices.  Adopting this empirical scenario, the analysis demonstrates that an increase in the national minimum wage produces a value-added tax effect on consumer prices that is more regressive than a typical state sales tax and allocates benefits as higher earnings nearly evenly across the income distribution.  These income-transfer outcomes sharply contradict portraying an increase in the minimum wage as an antipoverty initiative.

Thomas MaCurdy. (Via Tyler Cowen.) May we please switch our attention away from the minimum wage and towards the Earned Income Tax Credit now?

We Are Not Event Close to Done with the Hillary Clinton Saga

The latest news bulletins:

  • The National Archives now want the State Department to explain how Hillary Clinton’s e-mails ended up on a private server, instead of being collected by the United States government. It sounds as though the people from the National Archives are concerned that there might have been shenanigans afoot. Imagine that.
  • Even Democrats want an e-mail probe. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, “nearly half of Democratic respondents – 46 percent – agreed there should be an independent review of all of Clinton’s emails to ensure she turned over everything that is work-related.” Additionally, “[t]here was also sizable support among Democrats for the Republican-controlled congressional committee’s effort to require Clinton to testify about the emails.” And most ominously, “[s]upport for Clinton’s candidacy has dropped about 15 percentage points since mid-February among Democrats, with as few as 45 percent saying they would support her in the last week.”
  • Back when she was appointed secretary of state, “Hillary Clinton promised Barack Obama, the president-elect, there would be no mystery about who was giving money to her family’s globe-circling charities.” As part of the promise, the Clinton Foundation was supposed to disclose annually the names of donors. That practice stopped as early as 2010. This is “transparency”? And incidentally, why didn’t the Obama administration object loudly–or even quietly–when the publications stopped?
  • The latest Democratic line is to try to promote equivalence between Clinton and Jeb Bush on the e-mail issue. To that end, James Carville recently claimed that “Jeb Bush has released 10 percent of his emails . . . He had a private email server. He destroyed his emails.” In fact, “[i]t is completely inaccurate to say that Bush only revealed 275,000 or 280,000 emails out of a total of 3 million. A more accurate reading would be that he revealed about half of the emails sent to his private account, and the rest were already available to the press, although some might be held back if they were strictly personal in nature.” So much, then, for attempts to smear Bush, whose e-mail practice were utterly non-objectionable, and positively exemplary, when compared to Clinton’s.

The Latest in the Clinton E-mail Controversy


  • Hillary Clinton has a long history of frustrating efforts to promote government transparency. Read the whole thing, but here is a highlight: Remember the commodity trading, in which she somehow made $100,000 “from an initial investment of $1,000 in a matter of months for a return of almost 10,000 percent”? Clinton “threatened a campaign lawyer who had access to the [investment] material with retribution if she released the data: ‘You’ll never work in Democratic politics again,’ the lawyer, Loretta Lynch, says Clinton told her.” Charming. And this purveyor of mafia boss tactics wants to be president of the United States?
  • Remember when I wrote about Daniel Metcalfe, the former head of the Office of Information and Privacy at the Department of Justice for thirty years? Sure you do. Metcalfe says that he would vote for Clinton if she becomes the Democratic presidential nominee–he appears to be a loyal Democrat–but he utterly ridicules Clinton’s claims and defense regarding her e-mails.
  • Charles Krauthammer piles on. And he has been given every right and reason to.
  • There is a form that State Department officials are supposed to sign, stating that they have surrendered all official records upon leaving the State Department. There is no evidence that Hillary Clinton signed it. No one appears to know the reason for this omission, and no, stating “well, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice didn’t sign the form either” don’t quite suffice as explanations.
  • Maybe the reason Clinton is not campaigning in primary and caucus states is that she doesn’t want to be subjected to still more questions about her e-mail practices, and the glaring inconsistencies in her story. Sometimes, the simplest explanations are the best ones.

George Shultz on How to Deal with Climate Change

It is nice to see that more Republicans have accepted the reality of climate change, and are calling for action. Add George Shultz’s name to the list of those who believe that something has to be done. After showing what the current climate trends are, and showing why they should alarm us, Shultz–who along with Henry Kissinger and James Baker can lay claim to being the best secretary of state in my lifetime–tells us how Ronald Reagan would deal with the climate change issue:

I am also impressed by an experience I had in the mid-1980s. Many scientists thought the ozone layer was shrinking. There were doubters, but everyone agreed that if it happened, the result would be a catastrophe. Under these circumstances, President Ronald Reagan thought it best not to argue too much with the doubters but include them in the provision of an insurance policy. With the very real potential for serious harm, U.S. industry turned on its entrepreneurial juices, and the Du Pont companydeveloped a set of replacements for the chemicals implicated in the problem along a reasonable time frame and at a reasonable cost. It came up with something that could be done then — not some aspirational plan for 2050. Action is better than aspiration. As matters turned out, the action worked and became the basis for the Montreal Protocol, widely regarded as the world’s most successful environmental treaty. In retrospect, the scientists who were worried were right, and the Montreal Protocol came along in the nick of time. Reagan called it a “magnificent achievement.

We all know there are those who have doubts about the problems presented by climate change. But if these doubters are wrong, the evidence is clear that the consequences, while varied, will be mostly bad, some catastrophic. So why don’t we follow Reagan’s example and take out an insurance policy?

First, let’s have significant and sustained support for energy research and development. More of that is going on right now than in any previous period. The costs to the federal budget are small — little more than a rounding error — and a serious government effort would attract private capital from investors who want to know what’s new and want to contribute. These efforts are producing results. For example, we can now produce electricity from the wind and the sun at close to the same price we pay for electricity from other sources, and we may soon know how to do cost-effective large-scale storage of electricity, thus greatly reducing the intermittency problems of solar and wind and producing a hedge against the great vulnerability of our power grid.

Second, let’s level the playing field for competing sources of energy so that costs imposed on the community are borne by the sources of energy that create them, most particularly carbon dioxide. A carbon tax, starting small and escalating to a significant level on a legislated schedule, would do the trick. I would make it revenue-neutral, returning all net funds generated to the taxpayers so that no fiscal drag results and the revenue would not be available for politicians to spend on pet projects.

[. . .]

So that is my proposal. Before you get mugged by reality, take out an insurance policy. It’s the Reagan way.

Well put.

Recent Nonsense from the Camp of the Putative Next President of the United States

Look, I really don’t want to make my blog into Clinton E-mail Central, but there really cannot be enough emphasis on this story, or on the fact that Hillary Clinton has no business being the next president of the United States, and her camp has no business having any proximity whatsoever to political power. Let us examine the latest reasons why:

  • James Carville admits that Clinton deleted her e-mails because she wanted to frustrate congressional review and oversight of those e-mails. For the words “congressional review and oversight,” Carville uses the name “Louie Gohmert,” but of course, Congress does have 534 other members in addition to Louie Gohmert, and it is disingenuous to believe–or pretend to believe–otherwise.

  • Maureen Dowd is generally an awful columnist, but occasionally, she gets things right–like in this column:

  • SINCE open letters to secretive and duplicitous regimes are in fashion, we would like to post an Open Letter to the Leaders of the Clinton Republic of Chappaqua:

    It has come to our attention while observing your machinations during your attempted restoration that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our democracy: The importance of preserving historical records and the ill-advised gluttony of an American feminist icon wallowing in regressive Middle Eastern states’ payola.

    [. . .]

    If you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, are willing to cite your mother’s funeral to get sympathy for ill-advisedly deleting 30,000 emails, it just makes us want to sigh: O.K., just take it. If you want it that bad, go ahead and be president and leave us in peace. (Or war, if you have your hawkish way.) You’re still idling on the runway, but we’re already jet-lagged. It’s all so drearily familiar that I know we’re only moments away from James Carville writing a column in David Brock’s Media Matters, headlined, “In Private, Hillary’s Really a Hoot.”

    When you grin and call out to your supporters, like at the Emily’s List anniversary gala, “Don’t you someday want to see a woman president of the United States of America?” the answer is: Yes, it would be thrilling.

    But therein lies the rub.

    What is the trade-off that will be exacted by the Chappaqua Republic for that yearned-for moment? When the Rogue State of Bill began demonizing Monica Lewinsky as a troubled stalker, you knew you could count on the complicity of feminists and Democratic women in Congress. Bill’s female cabinet members and feminist supporters had no choice but to accept the unappetizing quid pro quo: The Clintons would give women progressive public policies as long as the women didn’t assail Bill for his regressive private behavior with women.

    Now you, Hillary, are following the same disheartening “We’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse” pattern. You started the “Guernica” press conference defending your indefensible droit du seigneur over your State Department emails by referring to women’s rights and denouncing the letter to Iran from Republican senators as “out of step with the best traditions of American leadership.”

    None of what you said made any sense. Keeping a single account mingling business and personal with your own server wasn’t about “convenience.” It was about expedience. You became judge and jury on what’s relevant because you didn’t want to leave digital fingerprints for others to retrace. You could have had Huma carry two devices if you really couldn’t hoist an extra few ounces. You insisted on piggybacking on Bill’s server, even though his aides were worried about hackers, because you were gaming the system for 2016. (Or even 2012.)

  • The headline says it all: “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Thorough’ Email Review Was a Keyword Search.” And frankly, that’s frightening:

  • Per observations by Time magazine and the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, the dodgy justification Hillary Clinton gave this week for conducting official business on a personal email account might be even dodgier than it first appeared.

    At her Tuesday press conference, Clinton said her team had employed a “thorough process” to identify “all my emails that could possibly be work-related” so they could be handed over to the State Department. Time notes that the explanation of this process (given in a document subsequently released by Clinton’s staff) doesnt make it sound all that thorough:

    First, the lawyers searched all emails with a “.gov” email address in any address field, which yielded 27,500 emails—more than 90% of the total correspondence ultimately provided to State.

    Next they searched for the first and last names of more than 100 State Department and other U.S. government officials … Then they sorted and checked for “misspellings or other idiosyncrasies” to locate documents the search might have missed.

    Finally, they performed a search for specific keywords, including “Benghazi” and “Libya.” It is not clear how many such terms were used as filters.

    So instead of actually reading all the emails to determine which were germane—which might sound like a lot of work but is actually something that junior legal employees are quite used to doing, as they’ll tell you on the one night a week they don’t sleep, using a sports coat as a pillow, behind a filing cabinet at the office—the Clinton team did an automated search for certain words and threw away everything else. (Clinton has said emails that weren’t work-related were deleted.) This means, for example, that messages to top aides who also didn’t use State Department accounts wouldn’t have come up unless they also involved one of the keywords. And as Friedersdorf points out (and as anyone who has ever sent an email about a complicated subject realizes), humans don’t always communicate by using full proper nouns:

    [. . .]

    It was only in December 2014—and only after a request from the State Department—that Clinton submitted her dubiously compiled file of work-related emails for archiving.

  • Just in case we haven’t reiterated this enough, no one should believe anything Clinton had to say in her recent disaster of a press conference:

  • Hillary Clinton’s defenders say she’s sufficiently explained why she set up a do-it-yourself home email system when she was secretary of state, insist there’s nothing to see here, and it’s time to move on.

    You know who disagrees?

    The senior-most freedom-of-information official in the executive branch of the United States government for over a quarter-century, whose job it was to help four administrations — including the Clinton White House — interpret the Freedom of Information Act, offer advice, and testify before Congress on their behalf.

    Daniel Metcalfe doesn’t buy her explanation. In fact, he calls it laughable.

    “What she did was contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the law,” says Metcalfe, the founding director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy, which advised the rest of the administration on how to comply with the law. Metcalfe ran the office from 1981 to 2007.

    “There is no doubt that the scheme she established was a blatant circumvention of the Freedom of Information Act, atop the Federal Records Act.”

    Metcalfe says he doesn’t have any partisan axe to grind. He’s a registered Democrat, though steadfastly non-partisan. He says he was embarrassed to work for George W. Bush and his attorney general, and left government for American University, where he now teaches government information law and policy.

  • Clinton claimed in her recent disaster of a press conference that “the ‘vast majority’ of emails were sent to other State Department employees and therefore automatically archived.” However, “State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday told reporters that it wasn’t until last month that the State Department started automatically archiving emails — and it’s only being done for senior staff.” The automatic archiving is supposed to be applied “to all employee mailboxes by the end of 2016.” Yet another way in which the Clintons have worked to undermine transparency.

  • Apparently, the Obama White House is concerned that all of this signals a return to Clintonian craziness. They have a right to be concerned; in any just world, Clinton’s political ambitions will and should suffer as a result of her ham-handed attempt to keep her communications hidden from the rest of us, and seeing as how Clinton remains the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination–showing the weakness of the Democratic field in general–the Democratic party will suffer for all of this. (Of course, a fair point can be made that the longer this scandal persists, the more Clinton will undermine her case for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the more 2016 will resemble 2008.)

  • Most people–even politicians–communicate by being relatively straightforward with others. Not the Clintons. Do we really want to spend the next four–and possibly eight–years parsing every word these people have to say?

  • Obstructionists

    I write this blog post to condemn and denounce a faction of Congress that seems bound and determined to prevent the passage and implementation of a host of Obama administration policy initiatives. It seems like on a regular basis, this particular faction–which of course is substantially represented in Congress–tries to throw a plethora of monkey wrenches into just about any Obama administration proposal. Frankly, the whole thing is unseemly and appalling; doesn’t this group of representatives and senators have anything better to do than to reflexively oppose the president and his policies?

    The faction I am condemning and denouncing is, of course, the congressional Democratic caucus:

    Congressional Republicans may be singularly focused on unraveling President Obama’s executive orders and actions, but when it comes to what is left of his viable policy agenda on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama’s biggest problems are now often with Democrats.

    The administration’s most pressing goal, expansive trade legislation, is adamantly opposed by scores of Democrats in the House and Senate even as most Republicans support it. Mr. Obama’s formal request for congressional authorization to fight the Islamic State is deeply imperiled, in no small measure because Senate Democrats find it wanting.

    The president’s dismissal of the role of Congress in approving any nuclear agreement with Iran was facing a potential veto override before Republicans scrambled the political dynamic by sending a letter directly to the Iranian leadership. But if international negotiators reach an accord this month, Democrats’ concerns are all but certain to roar back.

    Efforts to change a national security program that sweeps up Americans’ phone call data and other records have also stalled over disagreements with Democrats, even though both parties seek changes to the program.

    My goodness, what’s next? Claims from the Democrats that the president is not a natural-born citizen of the United States?

    Quote of the Day

    As a rule, these are words no politician wants to be speaking in the days leading up to the launch of a major campaign:

    “What I did was to direct, you know, my counsel to conduct a thorough investigation …”

    “I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by.”

    “They were personal and private, about matters that I believed were in the scope of my personal privacy.”

    As a rule, a candidate wants to take flight on outstretched wings of hope, not scramble in the dirt on the crabbed limbs of legal compliance. Every day spent saying “Trust me, my lawyer’s O.K. with it” is a bad day–and worse if she appears to be reading from lawyer-vetted notes.

    As a rule, these would be dire, perhaps fatal, markers of a campaign crashing on takeoff. But in this case the politician was Hillary Clinton, whose carefully laid plans to unveil her latest presidential bid hit turbulence on March 10 as she fumbled her way through an awkward press conference in a corridor at the U.N. At issue: Clinton’s decision to ignore White House guidance as Secretary of State and instead conduct government business through a private email account hosted on her family’s personal server.

    The Clintons play by their own set of rules. And in this case, the former Secretary of State explained, those rules bless her decision to erase some 30,000 emails from the family server despite knowing that the emails had become a subject of intense interest to congressional investigators. These were merely “private personal emails,” Clinton averred, “emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.” After she finished taking questions, Clinton’s staff disclosed that no one actually read through those 30,000-odd documents before she “chose not to keep” them.

    David von Drehle (emphasis mine). No one who inspires the writing of these words has any business whatsoever being president of the United States.

    Hillary Clinton’s Political Pain Hasn’t Ended

    To wit . . .

    Rather than be transparent, completely honest, and accountable, Clinton doubled down on the 1990s. She refused to turn over her emails stored on a secret service in violation of federal regulations. She defended contributions to her family’s charity from foreign nations that discriminate against women and support terrorism, a brazen contradiction to her public profile.

    • Jennifer Rubin on why yesterday’s press conference went horribly. I sense an emerging consensus; how about you?
    • This is just devastating.

    Of course, other than the existence of all of these withering critiques and sharp explanations as to how Clinton continues to mislead us, everything is going just fine for the putative next president of the United States. She lives in the best of all possible political worlds, and everything is going precisely as planned.

    Social Media: Not the Place to Go for Sober-Headed Legal Analysis

    There has been a lot of debate about the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to the Iranian regime regarding the negotiations over nuclear energy use–likely for weapons–by Iran. I happen to think that sending the letter was a bad idea; foreign policy has been found to be the province of the executive branch, with a few exceptions, and I generally don’t like it when people of either party freelance in opposition to any White House when it comes to foreign policy–even if I disapprove of the White House’s foreign policy.

    But while it is one thing to disapprove of the letter, it is another thing to sign on to two of the sillier claims that have polluted social media over the past day or so. Those claims are as follows:

    1. By sending out the letter, Republican senators “committed treason.”
    2. By sending out the letter, Republican senators committed a Logan Act violation.

    Let’s take this nonsense in turn.

    First, the treason claim. Art. III, Sec. 3 of the Constitution of the United States defines treason as follows:

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

    The Republican senators are not “levying war” against the United States. Also, they are not “adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” Thus: No treason. This is a remarkably easy call, but you wouldn’t know it from reading all of the self-proclaimed lawyers pontificating on Facebook and Twitter.

    Now, the Logan Act claim. First of all, the claim is defeated by the Speech or Debate Clause, which can be found in Art. I, Sec. 6, and which states the following in pertinent part:

    The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

    “But Pejman,” I hear you cry, “the letter doesn’t constitute ‘speech or debate in either House’!” Well, actually, it likely does, my fine-feathered friends. I give you Gravel v. United States, in which the Supreme Court stated that a written communication may be considered protected by the Speech or Debate Clause if it is:

    an integral part of the deliberative and communicative processes by which Members participate in committee and House proceedings with respect to the consideration and passage or rejection of proposed legislation or with respect to other matters which the Constitution places within the jurisdiction of either House.

    Senators will likely be able to claim that the letter to Iran relates to “the consideration and passage or rejection of proposed legislation” in the event that any nuclear deal with Iran is presented as a treaty, or in the event that enabling legislation is needed to pass any executive agreement. Certainly, as foreign policy oversight–including, but not limited to advice and consent given to treaties–is placed in the Senate, the senators will also be able to claim that the letter relates to “other matters which the Constitution places within the jurisdiction of either House.”

    Even if the Speech or Debate Clause were not found to apply, the Logan Act would likely not be found to have been violated in this case. As Steve Vladeck points out, the legal justification for a violation of the Logan Act is just not there.

    So much, then, for the absurd contention that 47 Republican senators are going to prison, or might be convicted of the capital crime of treason. Let’s note a few other things in addition:

    1. A whole bunch of non-Republicans chortled when the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, allegedly schooled the 47 Republican senators on international law. In fact, Zarif didn’t know what he was talking about.
    2. As we continue to peruse Jack Goldsmith’s excellent post, note that back when Joe Biden was a senator, he demanded that a nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia be approved via the treaty process. Now, we are supposed to believe that treaties are bad, and that executive agreements are the way to go. Why? Because the president is a Democrat and the Senate is controlled by Republicans. What a shock.
    3. Let’s remember all of the times when Republican presidents had their foreign policy positions undermined by Democratic freelancers. They include (a) the “Dear Commandante” letter to Daniel Ortega (see also this);(b) Nancy Pelosi visiting Syria; (c) Jimmy Carter writing to leaders of other governments on the Security Council in order to frustrate attempts by the George H.W. Bush administration to obtain a resolution authorizing the use of force to liberate Kuwait from Iraq; and (d) Edward Kennedy asking the Soviets to help Democrats defeat Ronald Reagan in 1984(!) in exchange for Kennedy “lend[ing]” the Soviets “a hand” in dealing with Reagan. None of the people yelling and screaming about treason and Logan Act violations over the past day or so ever said one word about these attempts to undermine White House prerogatives when it comes to foreign policy. Wonder why?

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