Good Friday Morning! It was a remarkable week for the legal community. Three large indictments dropped. First, Michael Avenatti got indicted on 36 different counts by federal prosecutors. According to reports, that includes: “Ten counts of wire fraud, ten counts of willful failure to file tax returns, eight counts of willful failure to collect and pay employee payroll taxes, aggravated identity theft, bank fraud and false testimony under oath in bankruptcy.” And we know with him, the feds claim they have VIDEO.
Then, former Obama and Clinton White House General Counsel Greg Craig got indicted in a case related to Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe for lying to federal investigators over his lobbying efforts on behalf of pro-Russian segments in Ukraine. According to WSJ: “Mr. Craig, a senior legal adviser for two Democratic presidents, was charged with making false statements in connection with work he did with Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chief, for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice.”
But without question, the most significant arrest/indictment of the week was the former head of Wikileaks, Russian agent of influence, Julian Assange. He holed himself up in an Ecuadorian embassy in the UK and has been there since 2012. I’ll go into more of this story below, and links follow.
Outside indictments, Attorney General Barr testified before Congress and said we’d get the Mueller report soon (I’d guess either this Friday or next), and that the DOJ was looking into allegations the Trump campaign got spied upon by US agencies. I’ll also touch briefly on the spying allegations below. As for the Barr summary/Mueller report testimony versus Democrats moaning about it, nothing matters on that front until the actual Mueller report gets released, anything prior is political posturing.
Two notes before jumping into the sections below:
First, it’s worth noting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won re-election and will become the longest serving PM in Israel’s history. That election guarantees Israel will maintain a hard, and correct stance against Hamas and Hezbollah, and that Israel will continue working with other Arab countries in the region to push back against Iran. The American left hated the result, but as far as US/Israeli foreign policy goes, it was an excellent result.
Second, Bernie Sanders is drawing attacks from the progressive segment of the party. ThinkProgress and far-left loon Neera Taden and her Center for American Progress launched an attack ad against Bernie. The caption/hit: “Throughout his long political career, Sen. Bernie Sanders has condemned the vast influence that the richest Americans have in the U.S. political system. Now, after reaping in royalties from book sales, Sanders has become a millionaire. How has his rhetoric changed since his financial success?” The Democratic Civil War is officially on now if Bernie can get attacked. Grab your popcorn.
Where you can find me this week
Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter. You can also go to their Facebook page. You can join Ricochet here. And I do recommend their ever-growing network of podcasts, which you can find on all popular podcast platforms. They have a show for every topic you can imagine, and the list continues to grow.
Vox asked the question, “Hindsight 2070: We asked 15 experts, ‘What do we do now that will be considered unthinkable in 50 years?'” The best answer dealt with the progressive notion of there being a right side to history. Time has no moral bent, it merely is, and if we want to progress in the world, we have to agree with Martin Luther King Jr., put our hands to the plow, and work hard.
There’s a baseball statistic that’s helpful when assessing political scandals, WAR. And if you’re using that stat on Joe Biden, you have to answer the question: is Joe Biden a strong enough Presidential contender to outrun the rest of the field?
Julian Assange gets captured — FINALLY
After nine years of being a thorn to the United States and seven years holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom, western authorities finally arrested and indicted Julian Assange. WSJ reports:
In the U.S. indictment, prosecutors alleged that in March 2010, Mr. Assange conspired to help former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning break into a U.S. Defense Department computer system by trying to help her crack a password.
At a court hearing in London, District Judge Michael Snow found Mr. Assange guilty of separate charges of skipping bail related to a since-closed Swedish investigation into rape allegations against him. Judge Snow only briefly addressed the U.S. charges, which will be handled in a separate proceeding. The U.S. has until June 12 to make its case for extradition.
On Thursday morning after Ecuador had withdrawn asylum protection, British police entered the embassy, arrested Mr. Assange for breaching bail conditions on the Swedish sexual-assault case, and brought him out to a police van. Once he arrived at the police station, they rearrested him on an extradition request from U.S. authorities.
The Justice Department has long struggled with how to proceed against Mr. Assange, given the parallels between Mr. Assange’s antisecrecy work and that of the press, which is generally protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the indictment, prosecutors appear to have narrowly tailored the case against Mr. Assange to his alleged effort to crack a password stored in a Defense Department file that Ms. Manning provided to him. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. A grand jury in Virginia is still investigating Mr. Assange, and he could be charged with additional crimes.
The last paragraph sets the parameters for the complex legal battle ahead. Assange and his legal team will try to paint him as something akin to a journalist. Somewhat telling, journalists are actively defending Assange after he was arrested, decrying the arrest as a threat against press freedom. Fortunately, I think the prosecutors tailored the charges narrowly enough to get around the first amendment concerns.
Sean Hannity, who knew better, pumped Assange up during the 2016 election and even offered to let Assange host Hannity’s show. Hannity has since deleted all references of Assange from his twitter feed. The great whitewashing started the moment Assange got arrested. Donald Trump agreed with many of the stupid things Hannity was saying too.
Here’s the thing about Assange: he’s not a journalist, he’s the definition of a Russian stooge. He either knowingly or unknowingly became an agent of influence for Russian intelligence services. If he could have fled to Russia like Edward Snowden, he would have done precisely that.
And you don’t have to take my word for it. Take Mike Pompeo, who two years ago said:
CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday slammed WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, calling him a “narcissist” and a “coward” who makes “common cause with dictators.” Donald Trump’s pick to run the agency called WikiLeaks a “a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
If you don’t like a Republican take, let’s try the other side. Here’s Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner:
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) blasted Julian Assange on Thursday after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested in London, casting him as an ally in Russia’s efforts to influence politics in the U.S. and Europe.
“Julian Assange has long professed high ideals and moral superiority. Unfortunately, whatever his intentions when he started WikiLeaks, what he’s really become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to undermine the West and a dedicated accomplice in efforts to undermine American security,” Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
“It is my hope that the British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves,” Warner said, while praising the Ecuadorian government for withdrawing Assange’s asylum.
None of this is new. The Obama administration knew this when the Manning and Snowden leaks happened and Assange’s role in those events. What’s even more disturbing in this entire affair is that the Assange indictment focuses on what happened during the Bradley/Chelsea Manning leaks — Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence before leaving office.
Democrats defended that decision at the time, claiming Manning’s leaks didn’t threaten US security (false). As David French noted:
His co-conspirator, Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning, wasn’t a “whistleblower” — and neither was Assange. Manning didn’t carefully extract evidence of alleged wrongdoing from classified files and go to the press (a defensible, though still illegal, act). He just dumped hundreds of thousands of pages of classified files into Assange’s hands, and Assange posted them, en masse, on the Internet.
Any jihadist or enemy with Internet access could read the documents and not just learn about the identities of American allies on the ground (placing them at immediate, mortal risk) but also gain extraordinary insight into American military tactics and plans — including learning exactly how effective (or ineffective) their own weapons and tactics were.
That wasn’t “threatening” to the Obama administration. We should also note that the Obama administration had early and ample notice that the Russians were interfering with the 2016 election and did nothing.
When it comes to national security and defending America, many Democrats and too many US journalists have sided with enemies of the country. Assange, Snowden, and Manning are no heroes and deserve full prosecution. But yet they’ve all been celebrated, by useful idiots on both sides of the aisle.
It’s a sickening display, but I’m glad prosecutors finally get a shot at nailing Assange down. Hopefully, we never have to deal with his smug face ever again.
Barr, Trump, and spying
The one interesting point from Barr’s testimony was the segment where he discussed investigations into spying on the Trump campaign. Bloomberg news reports:
Attorney General William Barr said that he’s starting his own inquiry into counterintelligence decisions that may have amounted to political “spying,” including actions taken during the probe of the Trump campaign in 2016.
“I think spying did occur,” Barr told a Senate Appropriations panel on Wednesday. “But the question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated.” He added: “I need to explore that.”
Eli Lake had the best take on this front, especially this section (the whole thing is worth your time):
Barr is correct on both counts — that there was snooping on the Trump campaign, and that the question of whether it was justified deserves further scrutiny. What also deserves scrutiny is how an ongoing intelligence investigation into that campaign became public.
As far as the spying is concerned, none of this should be a surprise. It has already been reported, for example, that in the summer and fall of 2016 the FBI sent an informant to meet with three Trump advisers and report back. The bureau also received a warrant in October 2016 to eavesdrop on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser (notably, the warrant allowed the FBI to read Page’s past texts, emails and phone logs). The head of the U.K.’s signal intelligence agency briefed former CIA director John Brennan that fall on intercepts that showed communications between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
And just because special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the spies and FBI officers probing those claims violated any laws. What’s more, many of these kinds of investigations are predicated on suspicion that a U.S. person has been targeted by a foreign power — even if that individual did not knowingly engage in espionage.
The abuse of power here is what happened after Trump won the election. This is when the investigations themselves and other kinds of surveillance were disclosed to the press. Details about incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition leaked. So did the FBI’s probe of Trump associates and their contacts with Russia, along with the existence of the surveillance warrant on Page himself.
The only thing I’d add to this is that we know that Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were bad apples in this entire investigation, and the FBI OIG report slammed them for outrageous actions. James Baker found their texts alarming.
So much like the Mueller investigation into Trump and his associates, I have no problem with AG Barr pushing investigations into the FBI, DOJ, and the issues of leaks. As I wrote a few weeks back on the Mueller investigation, it was clear the media didn’t have anyone on Mueller’s team, but it was also clear the intelligence community spent two years leaking non-stop hits on Trump. All of that is worth investigating.
Links of the week
Julian Assange Was a Window into America’s Polarized Soul – David French, National Review
MAGA Grift Goes Global: The Mueller report might not be all about Russia. Here’s a guide to how defense contractors, right-wing think tankers, and a brain pill guru refused to let a Middle East crisis go to waste. – Christian Vanderbrouk, The Bulwark
Ilhan Omar’s outrageous writeoff of 9/11’s horrors – Post-Editorial Board, The New York Post
 The WikiLeaks War on America: The strange political coloration of Julian Assange – Johnathan Foreman, Commentary Magazine
The Former Pope Speaks, Candidly and Acidly, On Abuse: Benedict’s intervention in this debate is both powerful and sad. – Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review
The Deadbeat Billionaire: The Inside Story Of How West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice Ducks Taxes And Slow-Pays His Bills – Christopher Helman, Forbes
Twitter Isn’t Reality, Polling Edition: The latest round of polling underscores that the conversation on social media and cable news doesn’t reflect American public opinion. – Josh Kraushaar, National Journal
Evaluating the 2020 Democratic Primary Field – Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics
It Turns Out that Sexual Liberation Isn’t All that Liberating – David French, National Review
Conservatives, Resist the Tribal Temptation: American ideals are open to all. Embracing the left’s racial essentialism is a serious mistake. – Bobby Jindal, The Wall Street Journal
The Best Year of Our Lives: Twenty years later, we still haven’t partied like we did in 1999. – Ross Douthat, The New York Times
Acceptable Bigotries: Progressives attack Joe Biden for having followed customs and mores of that foreign country that is the past. – Jonah Goldberg, National Review
The Folly of the Mueller Investigation: A hysteria without a cause; a report without a point – Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review
Why Charles Krauthammer Matters – Matthew Continetti, National Review
“You Got Your High School Diploma?”: What happens when you put a classroom on wheels and park it in the poorest neighborhoods of San Francisco? – Elizabeth Weil, The California Sunday Magazine
How America’s College-Closure Crisis Leaves Families Devastated: When colleges shut down, people get hurt – Michael Vasquez and Dan Bauman, The Chronicle for Higher Education
Inside Nxivm, the ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment – Vanessa Grigoriadis, New York Times Magazine
Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels: For decades, the world of romantic fiction has been divided by a heated debate about racism and diversity. Is there any hope of a happy ending? – Lois Beckett, The Guardian
Satire piece of the week
NABOO—Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has come under fire after giving a speech to a crowd of Gungan supporters on the planet of Naboo. Critics claim Ocasio-Cortez clearly shifted her speaking style to try to emulate the Gungans’ speech patterns, changing her speech to sound exactly like that of Jar Jar Binks.
“Meesa Ocasio-Cortez. Meesa gonna seize the means of production big-big,” she said as the Gungan crowd cheered. “Meesa your humble servant who’s in charge.” The congresswoman unveiled a plan to save Naboo, one which would coincidentally require giving her all the power and money. “Yousa planet gonna die big, icky icky goo goo if yousa don’t change your habits.” She pointed out that the ecosystem of the planet’s core was already changing, and the giant monsters which live down there will likely die within 12 Coruscant solar cycles.
“Yousa all gonna do whatever I say now, okeeday?” she added.
Thanks for reading!