Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America enjoy watching liberals freak out over the possibility of an independent presidential bid by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is much more closely aligned with Democrats than Republicans. A Notre Dame graduate, Alexandra also shares her insights into the presidential campaign of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and why his message could resonate with Midwest voters. And they roll their eyes as CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny says the Mueller indictments have Hillary Clinton once again thinking about running in 2020.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America actually find amusement in Hillary Clinton’s craven pronouncement that Democrats will return to civility if they take back one or both chambers of Congress. They also shudder as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who survived the congressional baseball shooting and a violent attack from his neighbor, predicts the intense confrontations will ultimately lead to a political assassination. And they get a kick out of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg becoming a Democrat again in anticipation of a 2020 presidential bid.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats announced a joint effort Friday, designed to track down and prosecute whoever is leaking classified information to the media, and former federal prosecutor Victoria Toensing says this problem can be addressed by putting the media on notice, limiting the number of people who see key documents and rooting out Obama holdovers from the National Security Council staff.
Toensing also urged caution before jumping to conclusions over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s assembling of a grand jury into the Russia, probe but she fears serious mission creep is afoot and wonders why there still isn’t a grand jury investigating Hillary Clinton over her email scandal or examining the actions of the Clinton Foundation.
The issue of leaks jumped to the forefront again this week, after the Washington Post published classified transcripts of President Trump’s conversations with other world leaders during the first days of his administration.
Toensing says there is clear-cut criminal activity involved.
“It is absolutely prosecutable. It is a leak of classified information. What the Washington Post is doing is effecting President Trump’s ability to do his job, because the Washington Post is absolutely committed to bringing down this presidency,” said Toensing.
“You know ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness,’ their new label, their new motto? Well, democracy dies in fake news in publishing classified information, which provides no news value. What did we learn in the publishing of that transcript? Nothing,” said Toensing.
Toensing says the most important thing to come out of the Sessions-Coats press conference is the warning that journalists will get subpoenaed if necessary to expose those responsible for the leaks. She says they don’t need to be prosecuted to assist an investigation.
“They don’t have to go that far. They can subpoena them and bring them before the grand jury, remember? Patrick Fitzgerald did that in the Scooter Libby-Valerie Plame situation and there hadn’t even been a crime there we all know,” said Toensing, referring to the investigation into the alleged leaking of the identity of a covert CIA operative.
No one was ever charged for the leak, which came from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Libby was charged with perjury and making false statements.
While bracing for cries of suppressing the free press, Toensing says using reporters to track down leakers is a far cry from how former Attorney General Eric Holder treated the media during the Obama administration.
“They went after 20 [Associated Press] reporters. There was hardly a peep. AP peeped a little but there was not any massive outcry in the press,” said Toensing. “They subpoenaed their phone records from Verizon. AP didn’t even have notice that these subpoenas had taken place,” said Toensing.
“Eric Holder’s people went after James Rosen from Fox News an called him a co-conspirator, a criminal, and he was a flight risk. Look what the Obama administration did without much of a murmur,” said Toensing.
But while that debate plays out, how can the Trump administration zero in those responsible for leaking classified information? Toensing says it starts with tightening the inner circle.
“The Post also said these are notes from staff people and that they are routinely shared with a number of people. I think that ‘routinely shared” has got to stop. They’re going to have to limit the number of people who get these kinds of documents,” said Toensing.
Toensing also urges a detailed numbering system for all classified documents, so that investigators can zero in on what seems to be getting leaked to the media. She says some reporters may go to jail rather than give up their sources, but the government needs to start applying pressure.
“I think the message has to go out there. I think they have to start intimidating some of these people who have just been blatant in providing and publishing classified information,” said Toensing.
She is also frustrated by reports than many staff from the Obama National Security Council are still working there.
“That’s the president’s fault. The president has been told, I know, whom to get rid of. He hasn’t done so and he only has himself to blame,” said Toensing.
But Toensing is also increasingly leery of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster given some of his recent decisions.
“He’s gotten rid of some very excellent NSC staff who seem to be more conservative, like hardliners against Iran, which I thought was a good idea. Evidently, McMaster doesn’t and he’s gotten rid of them,” said Toensing, who is also fuming over McMaster choosing to allow Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice to keep her national security clearance.
“That concerns me. If Susan Rice is talking, she’s lying. That has been her modus operandi throughout the whole Obama administration from Benghazi to Sgt. (Bowe) Bergdahl,” said Toensing. “I have not seen her take on any major issue that she did not provide false statements. So why he stuck up for her I have no idea.”
When it comes to the revelation that Mueller has convened a grand jury over the Russia probe, Toensing is less concerned at least for now. She says a leak may not even be responsible for this news.
“That could or could not be a leak because you could have a witness called before the grand jury or someone who was asked to provide documents who provided that information, and that is not a crime,” said Toensing.
But Toensing is bothered by some aspects, including how the Mueller investigation appears to be delving into areas far afield from the the original focus of the probe. She says the Justice Department should have avoided that problem at the outset.
“It should have been circumscribed by (Deputy Attorney General) Rod Rosenstein. He should have said, ‘For the purpose of investigating Russian collusion only.’ And if investigating only Russian collusion you come across a crime, well then that can be prosecuted. But expanding this to business dealings before Donald Trump even thought about running for president is certainly mission creep,” said Toensing.
Some Trump defenders are alarmed to see several top ranking FBI officials on the apparent witness list for the grand jury, asserting that they are allies of ousted FBI Director James Comey and thus unfair to the president.
“When I was a federal prosecutor, I would bring in federal agents all the time because they’re doing the investigation. We don’t know whether they’d be fact witnesses, which would be one thing, or whether they are coming in because they have done X,Y, and Z and they need to tell the grand jury about their investigation,” said Toensing.
Toensing says assembling a grand jury may be an appropriate move in this case, but she is still puzzled over the FBI’s failure to have one looking into the Hillary Clinton email scandal and for its unusual habit of offering immunity to key figures in exchange for documents.
She says it’s still a good time for a grand jury to look at all questionable activities by the Clintons.
“They should do so now because the foundation has not been examined. There are a lot of new emails now, acquired by Judicial Watch, showing that there was lots of play-for-play back and forth, (such as) million dollars coming in, can you get my friend an ambassadorship,” said Toensing.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are once again relieved that Hillary Clinton is not president after she once again blames everyone and everything but herself for losing to Donald Trump. They are also puzzled as a flurry of lobbying in favor of the climate deal takes place after Turmp supposedly decided to withdraw from it. And they react to former Vice President Joe Biden starting a new Super PAC and fueling speculation that he may run for president in 2020 in a primary that could feature many elderly Democrats.
While the media and politicians from both parties look for deeper reasons for President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, a former Justice Department official says the decision was long overdue and needed for obvious reasons.
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing says she and others in the the justice and law enforcement community urged Trump to dismiss Comey from day one.
“It just came too late, 109 days too late. Those of us in the swamp knew who the alligators were in the swamp, and we all tried to warn the White House and they didn’t listen to us,” said Toensing, who also served as a federal prosecutor.
And why did they implore Trump to fire him?
“Comey was a narcissist. It was all about Comey and he delighted in wanting to bring down powerful people if they were Republicans,” said Comey.
Toensing also points to how Comey, during his days as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, tapped his close friend, Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the alleged exposing of a covert CIA operative.
That probe resulted in a criminal conviction for Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney. But that’s not who Fitzgerald really wanted.
“Throughout that investigation, Scooter’s lawyer was told consistently by the Fitzgerald people, ‘If you give up Dick Cheney, this will all go away.’ They were trying to bring down Dick Cheney, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Comey was talking with Fitzgerald while he was doing this,” said Toensing, who represents Libby in his quest for a presidential pardon.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration released its rationale for the Comey firing, focusing on his public announcement that no charges should be filed against Hillary Clinton in the wake of the FBI probe into her use of a private, unsecured server through which she sent and received classified information while she served as Secretary of State.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein accused Comey of usurping the authority of the attorney general in making such a pronouncement and for exposing Clinton’s misdeeds when he was effectively closing the investigation.
But Toensing says Comey made far more mistakes, starting with his repeated misstating of the statute in question. Comey insisted that intent to break the law was required to bring charges, while gross negligence is the standard laid out in federal law. She also savaged Comey for refusing to impanel a grand jury to probe Clinton and for allowing the same attorney to represent multiple witnesses in the case.
“That’s called a conflict of interest, because that lawyer can get all of her clients together and they can all read from the same music. You never do that,” said Toensing.
Toensing is also dismissing the intense reaction from Democrats, who she says are now appalled after calling for Comey’s head for months. She says the idea that Trump fired Comey because of the ongoing Russia investigation is ridiculous and so are any comparisons to Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.”
“In Watergate, there was a crime. There was a burglary. There was a break-in. What’s the crime here? What’s the crime? Do we have a crime? No, there’s no crime,” said Toensing, noting that Russian involvement in U.S. elections is nothing new.
“That’s been going on since Richard Nixon. Why is it all of a sudden an issue this time, just because Hillary lost? If Hillary had won, there would not be any inquiry into whatever the Russians did regarding this election process,” said Toensing.
Toensing is also upset with congressional Republicans, both for not doing more at recent hearings to point out that Russian interference in elections is not the same as collusion with the Trump campaign. She also says the past 24 hours show Democrats are far better at messaging than the GOP.
Finally, Toensing believes former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would be an ideal successor to Comey at the FBI and is someone who has worked for Republicans and Democrats.
“He is a lifetime career cop. That’s what we need at the FBI now to gain confidence,” said Toensing.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America enjoy watching Hillary Clinton remain immersed in her state of denial, as Hillary takes responsibility for losing to Donald Trump but seems to blame everyone else. They also react to Pres. Trump tweeting about nuking the legislative filibuster and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying it’s not going to happen. And they ‘re almost speechless as the Democrat running for Congress in Montana invites skeptics of the liberal line on climate change to go into their garages and start their cars.
David French of National Review and Greg Corombos welcome Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and reflect on the election year gamble that paid off for the GOP, while David points out Democrats would have done the same thing if the roles were reversed. They also recoil at the pair of terrorist church bombings in Egypt, apparently carried out by ISIS. And they get a kick out of Hillary Clinton having a long list of reasons she lost in 2016, but doesn’t blame herself at all.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America get the popcorn ready as the Hillary and Sanders Democrats feud over the future of the party. They also rip the media for overblowing Donald Trump’s statement on NATO being obsolete but also scold Trump for stoking some of the confusion. And they unload on the radical leftists Project Veritas caught trying to ruin an inaugural ball with stink bombs and triggering the sprinklers.
One of America’s top political analysts says he and just about every other expert were wrong about the 2016 elections, noting Donald Trump is unlike any of his predecessors and his win promises to gut much of the Obama legacy.
Dr. Larry Sabato runs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, where he teaches political science. He also heads up Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which predicts presidential, Senate, House, and gubernatorial races. In more than 40 years of tracking presidential races, has he ever seen a campaign like this one?
“Never, and no one in my field has,” said Sabato. “I’ve talked to a number of historians and people who focus on politics and political history. Everyone agrees that this election stands out in all of American history. Whether you liked the result or didn’t like the result, it’s just different,” said Sabato.
He says the Trump’s background is one of many things that distinguish him from previous presidents.
“Donald Trump is the only president-to-be who has not served in any political office or military office. He is an outsider complete and total. He’s the richest president by far. There’s just so many categories that make him unusual,” said Sabato.
When 2016 dawned, Trump was the front-runner for the Republican nomination, and other than an opening loss in Iowa, was the clear favorite throughout the chase for 1,237 delegates. Sabato says Trump benefited from a crowded GOP field.
“During the competitive part of the primary…Trump only received about 38 percent of the vote. Sixty-two percent of Republicans voted for other candidates. The problem (for the other candidates) was there was so many of them. So 38 percent was more than enough to win the nomination,” said Sabato.
All the supposed experts declared that Trump’s style, persona, and policy positions couldn’t possible win him the general election, but again Trump proved them all wrong. Sabato says it’s always hard for a party to win three consecutive terms in the White House. He says the only exception in modern history is the transition from Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush..
Another big factor that Sabato says was overlooked was a massive enthusiasm gap between supporters of Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“The turnouts in small town America, in rural America among the blue collar workers and white working class were enormous. It was just enormous, whereas Clinton was unable to excite even solid Democratic groups like millennials and African-American voters,” said Sabato.
He points out that Clinton won those groups handily but their turnout numbers were way down compared with 2012.
Sabato also notes that the media became fixated on Trump’s negatives and failed to pay attention to Clinton’s unpopularity.
“Hillary Clinton was more unacceptable than we realized. Yes, we knew she had high negatives. That was obscured by the fact that Trump had even higher negatives so we didn’t focus on her negatives. But it turned out her negatives unenthused the Democratic base, to a much greater degree in the end, than Trump’s negatives unenthused the Republican base,” said Sabato.
While Democrats offer excuses for Clinton’s defeat such as the influence of the Russians and the FBI to the existence of the Electoral College, Sabato says the real answers cut much closer to home.
“Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to talk about her inability to generate a large turnout among Democratic groups. She doesn’t want to talk about her inability to attract the white working class that got Bill Clinton elected in good part in 1992 and 1996. She never had a message that reached them,” said Sabato.
“Her slogan, although technically it was ‘Stronger Together’ whatever that means, was really ‘It’s My Turn. It’s My Turn.’ Well, people rarely elect a candidate because it’s their turn. They want to know what’s in it for them,” said Sabato.
But Clinton was not the only loser on election night. Sabato says President Obama took one on the chin as well.
“It hurts him a great deal. Why did he campaign so hard for a woman who gave him such trouble in 2008 and very nearly won the nomination instead of him?” asked Sabato. “He understood, just as Ronald Reagan understood, that if you don’t get a successor of your party elected to succeed you, much of what you’ve done is going to be reversed rather quickly and probably easily.”
For Sabato, 2016 leaves him with two major takeaways about the state of American politics. First, he says we need to pay more attention to who the most motivated voters are.
“A constituency that is ignored and feels angry or abused is going to turn out in larger numbers. It may be African-Americans for Barack Obama in 2008 or it may be white working class, rural or small town voters for Donald Trump in 2016. Always ask yourself, where’s the energy in the electorate,” said Sabato.
However, for all the big wins Republicans enjoyed in 2016, they still have some demographic problems.
“Republicans still have some of the basic problems they had before Trump was elected. They still don’t appeal to many minorities. They still don’t appeal to millennials. They have to get a larger share of more groups in the electorate if they are to win not just the electoral vote but the popular vote in future elections,” said Sabato.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer the Italian police for taking out the Berlin terrorist, the Australian authorities for foiling a Christmas Day terrorist attack and those responsible for peacefully ending a hijacking in Malta. They also get a kick out of Harry Reid calling the DNC worthless and Joe Biden concluding that Hillary Clinton never figured out why she was running. And they applaud Donald Trump for getting Egypt to scrap a UN resolution condemning Israel after hearing the Obama administration might not oppose it.