Good Friday Morning! Robert Mueller dropped indictments this week in what will go down as one of the most astonishing moments in US history. A sitting President’s former Campaign Manager and advisor, that manager’s protege, and a foreign policy advisor were all indicted by a special counsel for conspiracy against the United States and multiple other charges. Strip all notions of this being Donald Trump away and merely look at the fact that the current sitting President’s staff is under investigation for a conspiracy AGAINST their country. These are historic times. I’ll break down the indictments below.
I’ll touch briefly on the terror bombing in NYC and Trump’s new choice for the head of the Federal Reserve. Links follow. This week was written on the road in sunny Florida! It’s nice and warm here, as opposed to the cold snap anywhere north of here.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
Nothing is ever set in politics, especially elections and campaigns. Parties can fall out of favor and surge back in short time. However, political parties can hurt themselves through self-inflicted wounds. Right now, Democrats are focused on alienating swaths of Americans and driving more people into the Republican Party. I walk through some of that here and why it could doom Democrats to irrelevance unless they find a way to broaden their appeal. Doubling down on the current course is a losing strategy.
Mueller Indicts: Three dominos fall, what comes next?
As I mentioned in the intro, it’s hard to understate what Special Counsel Robert Mueller did by indicting Paul Manafot, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos. All three served on then-candidate Trump’s campaign in various capacities. Manafort is the big fish of the group, but, legally speaking, George Papadopoulos’s indictment is both the most significant and most important.
Contrary to claims, the indictments do not “vindicate” Trump, or prove that Manafort wasn’t a part of collusion. While Manafort and Gates’s indictments don’t deal with the issue of collusion, Papadopoulos’s does. It’s a convoluted tale, but the gist of it is this:
- George Papadopoulos was hired onto the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016 as a foreign policy advisor.
- As part of his role, he formed contacts with certain Russians to bring information on Clinton’s emails to the Trump campaign.
- The most damning part is an email chain mentioned in the indictment, the NYT notes:
- In March 2016, George Papadopoulos sent an email to seven campaign officials, including Mr. Manafort and the campaign manager at the time, Corey Lewandowski, saying that Russian leadership wanted to meet with the Trump team. Mr. Manafort forwarded that email to Mr. Gates with a note saying: “We need someone to communicate that D.T. is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”
- The low-level staffer could be someone like Papadopoulos or Gates.
- Because Manafort and Gates are connected to Papadopoulos’s Russian connections and potentially ordering him to get the emails from them (combined with Manafort and Gates’s long history in dealing under the table with Russians), that brings all the indictments front and center on the collusion question. Mueller is using the tax issues and foreign agent registration to keep Manafort and Gates nailed to the wall while he searches for more evidence.
None of this is to say Donald Trump is guilty of anything, but three of his campaign hires are guilty. And for a person who claims to hire the best people, Trump’s campaign hires look like some of the worst in Presidential history.
Where it gets even more interesting is that Papadopoulos is described in his indictment as a “proactive cooperator” with Mueller’s team. In turn for pleading guilty to lesser charges, Mueller was able to flip Papadopoulos into an active mole in Trump/Manafort circle. Legally speaking, it means that Mueller’s team could have put a wire on Papadopoulos when he talked to any member of Trump’s campaign.
In other words, we don’t know what Mueller’s team dug up with Papadopulous’s help. But with Papdopulous’s help, Mueller managed to rope Manafort and Gates in, which helped dig up their entire back past with Putin-puppet governments in Ukraine. And because Mueller was able to nail Manafort like that, it’s also roped in a long time Democratic donor Tony Podesta, whose firmed engaged in similar activities as Manafort in Ukraine.
As Eli Lake put it this week, it appears both campaigns tried to collude with the Russians, the Clinton campaign was just smoother about it.
I maintain the stance I wrote last week: Let the investigation continue and uproot everyone involved. This is what draining a swamp looks like, and it needs to continue.
New York Terrorist Attack
Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbekistan native, drove a vehicle down a bike-pedestrian path killing eight and wounding thirteen others. Saipov was inspired by ISIS and followed the directions from one of ISIS’s many terrorist how-to guides.
It’s the latest in what is becoming an all-too-familiar pattern: Attacks on a soft-target where police and intelligence fail to pick-up anything, the scramble by authorities to figure out what happened, and a retrenchment by political partisans into familiar narratives/tropes (extreme vetting vs. don’t hate Muslims).
One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected was because he was willing to call events like this what they are: a terrorist attack. The previous administration struggled even to acknowledge the threat, preferring gun debates.
But merely acknowledging the threat isn’t enough, you have to empower the intelligence and federal assets necessary to deter soft-target terrorism. It’s impossible to stop unknown evil from attacking altogether, but we can enable our national defense to stop threats before they happen.
Jerome Powell – The Next Federal Reserve Chair
Current Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s term ends in February of 2018, and Donald Trump’s named successor, Jerome Powell is essential to note. There are multiple economic obstacles in the years ahead that the next Fed Chair will have to navigate.
- Charting a course on raising interest rates back to normal levels. The current Fed has tended to take Yellen’s dovish stance on slowly raising rates. Powell will help shape those rates.
- Unwinding the Fed’s $4.5 trillion portfolio built up during the numerous QE stimulus packages.
- Setting US monetary policy for the next recession/pullback
One of the main reasons Trump chose Powell is because he’s seen as a change from Yellen with regards to regulatory oversight. A recent speech in October highlights this well:
Regulations require banks “to hold larger amounts of high-quality liquid assets so that they can safely meet their potential liquidity needs,” said Powell, who has long backed the Fed’s tough approach to safeguarding the financial system in the wake of the 2007-2009 crisis.
“There is certainly a role for regulation, but regulation should always take into account the impact that it has on markets, a balance that must be constantly weighed,” he added. “More regulation is not the best answer to every problem.”
Powell’s balanced comments could be seen as an outline of his potential approach to running the U.S. central bank.
Powell’s positions dovetail with Trump’s policy stance of reducing regulatory burdens, especially regulations similar to Dodd-Frank. This is important because former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers has researched the effect and admitted that banks and the financial system are no more safe under statutory regimes like Dodd-Frank than they were before.
Powell’s beliefs match similar to Summers newfound realism. Smaller banks would find him easier to deal with after the extensive focus on big banks. For Republicans, there’s a lot to like about Trump’s selection of Powell. There’s also a big job ahead for the next Fed Chair, and hopefully, Powell fits those shoes.
Must read links of the week
Lawsplainer: The Manafort/Gates Indictment – Ken White
Lawsplainer: The George Papadopoulos Guilty Plea – Ken White
Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC: When I was asked to run the Democratic Party after the Russians hacked our emails, I stumbled onto a shocking truth about the Clinton campaign. – Donna Brazile, Politico Magazine
John Boehner Unchained: The former House speaker feels liberated—but he’s also seething about what happened to his party. – Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine
Actor Anthony Rapp: Kevin Spacey Made A Sexual Advance Toward Me When I Was 14 – Adam Vary, Buzzfeed
Did Hillary’s rigging at the DNC push Biden out of the race? – John Podhoretz, The New York Post
Faith of Our Founders: The Role of Religion in America’s Founding – Mark David Hall, The Imaginative Conservative
Satire piece of the week
VATICAN CITY—The Roman Catholic Church is celebrating Reformation Day in style, by offering thousands of hot deals on indulgences for the forgiveness of the temporal punishments for sin in purgatory.
A crazed-looking Pope Francis ran an infomercial throughout the day Tuesday, marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation by offering hourly lightning deals on high-quality, official indulgences granted by the Roman Catholic Church.
Thanks for reading!