Johnson’s short course on Iran

In the January 21 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on our ongoing negotiations with Iran, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared as the principal witness. Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen also appeared in his last time around before he assumes responsibilities as CIA deputy director.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson questioned Blinken and Cohen over seven and a half minutes toward the end of the hearing. In the preface to his questions, Senator Johnson provides a short course on the problematic concessions on which our negotiations with Iran are founded (video below). Senator Johnson also demonstrates the false assumptions — I won’t call it wishful thinking, because Blinken doesn’t even appear to believe what he’s saying — on which the negotiations are allegedly predicated. The video below makes a good companion to the video of Senator Rubio from the hearing posted here yesterday.

The Hatch hemorrhage

Live blogging yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing on the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general, Paul noted that Senator Hatch expressed his hopes that he would be able to vote to confirm Lynch. “I hope he won’t,” Paul added, “but after hearing his questioning, I fear he will.”

Last night Senator Hatch’s press secretary sent us a message including a video (below) of Senator Hatch’s questioning of Lynch. The press secretary wrote to point out that Senator Hatch’s questions focused on “several important issues, including Lynch’s commitment to the rule of law, immigration, executive overreach, tech and intellectual property, the criminal justice system, child pornography, victim restitution and civil rights issues.”

Senator Hatch deems the following to be the “highlights,” with timestamps added by the press secretary for our convenience:

Lynch pledged to follow the rule of law and act independently of the White House, defending laws as passed by Congress without regard to personal views or biases. She specifically pledged to “take that independence very seriously” (3:20).

Senator Hatch was able to get firm commitments from Ms. Lynch to work with Congress on the LEADs Act, protecting data stored abroad (6:30) and the Defend Trade Secrets Act (7:31), two major priorities of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force.

Ms. Lynch also committed to work with Senator Hatch on the Amy and Vicky Act to help victims of child pornography and abuse gain restitution (8:40).

Here is the video with which you can see these highlights with your own eyes.

We are living through a constitutional crisis of the first order, with the executive branch revising and rewriting and ignoring the law of the land as it sees fit, not only with respect to illegal immigration, but also with respect to Obamacare and other matters. Senator Hatch has seemed to understand. As the press secretary points out, Senator Hatch has previously stated his desire for a new attorney general “committed to putting the rule of law before partisan politics[,]” presumably because we don’t have one now. Indeed, we have an attorney general who has served as the administration’s protector in scandals such as Fast & Furious and the IRS abuses, to take two prominent examples that deeply implicate the rule of law.

That Senator Hatch finds the “assurances” stated above to be “highlights” — the sort of “highlights” that presage a vote for confirmation — is newsworthy, if not shocking, but I’ll go with shocking as well.

UPDATE: Via Twitter (below), I see that Senator Hatch has announced his strong support for Lynch’s appointment. At least we read the tea leaves correctly.

Behind the White House’s defense of the Taliban

As Scott discusses in the post immediately below, the Obama administration today claimed that the Taliban is an “armed insurrection” — you know, kind of like George Washington’s Continental Army — not a terrorist group. It is therefore materially different, spokesperson Eric Schultz argued, from ISIS. Thus, it is okay for the U.S. to swap prisoners with the Taliban (see Bergdahl, Bowe), but not okay to make concessions to ISIS in exchange for prisoners.

I suppose we should count ourselves lucky that Schultz didn’t call the Taliban — which routinely butchers innocent civilians through car bombs and the like — “agrarian reformers.”

The administration’s characterization of the Taliban is more than just an attempt to wriggle out of the moral difficulty inherent in the Bergdahl swap. It reveals, I think, the administration’s true view of the Taliban — as, for that matter, the swap did.

As I wrote at the time of the swap, Obama wants to make deals with the Taliban. It’s probably no stretch to say that, for him, the Taliban is to Afghanistan what Iran is to much of the Middle East — a force on the rise with which he hopes to make a grand bargain that will end war and bring stability.

Obama himself has more than hinted at this. In touting the Bergdahl deal, Obama expressed his hope that it would “open the door for broader discussions. . .about the future of [Afghanistan] by building confidence” with the Taliban.

Obama can’t very well gain the confidence of the Taliban if he describes the outfit as “terrorist” and compares it to ISIS. Hence, his spokesman’s valiant defense of the butchers who facilitated 9/11.

When Obama’s spokesman calls the Taliban an “armed insurrection” — thereby attempting to confer legitimacy on this outfit — what he really means is “peace partner.”

Scott is right, the Obama administration is more than just a clown show. It “falls into the killer clown horror genre.”

Not Islamic either

The Obama administration degenerates rapidly into a clown show. It may be a clown show that falls into the killer clown horror genre, but still it’s some kind of a clown show.

In the latest installment of the clown show, White House spokesman Eric Schultz distinguishes the Taliban — not a terrorist group, but rather an “armed insurgency” — from ISIS — not an “armed insurgency,” but rather a terrorist group. Daniel Halper explains: “The verbal jiujitsu from the White House was its way of arguing that the Bowe Bergdahl swap for members of the Taliban was okay since it didn’t involve negotiating with a terrorist group.”

As for the verbal jiujitsu, don’t try this at home. You might hurt yourself. Well, you might hurt yourself watching the video too.

Loretta Lynch Must Not Be Confirmed [Updated]

The President’s duty under the Constitution is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The Attorney General is the President’s chief agent in that regard. With respect to immigration, the laws of the United States set forth the manner in which immigrants may lawfully enter and remain within the United States. Numerous persons are here in violation of those laws. The laws of the United States further provide that no employer may hire a person who is present in the United States illegally. The Attorney General’s duty is to execute and enforce those laws.

In today’s confirmation hearing, Senator Jeff Sessions asked nominee Loretta Lynch who has more right to a job, an American citizen or legal immigrant, or a person who is here illegally. Lynch’s answer is stunning:

Lynch’s answer amounts to a repudiation of her prospective duties as Attorney General.

Paul described Lynch’s exchange with Sessions this morning. Following the colloquy in the video, this is how Paul described the testimony:

What if an employer prefers to hire an American citizen over an illegal immigrant granted a work permit under executive amnesty? Would Lynch take action against the employer for discrimination?

It’s a great question, and Lynch totally ducks it. She looks forward to obtaining Sen. Sessions’ views on the subject after she’s studied it more.

So Lynch won’t rule out suing employers who prefer hiring Americans to hiring people who came here illegally. That pretty much rules such suits in.

This of course stands the law on its head. Federal law says that employers can’t hire illegal immigrants, Lynch says she may take the position that employers must hire illegal immigrants. Again, this is simply a repudiation of her duties should she be confirmed.

This is a transcript of a portion of Sessions’ questioning of Lynch:

On April 24th of 2013, Attorney General Holder said this — and I’m raising this fundamentally because I think there’s a lot of confusion about the — how we should think about immigration in America, what are duties and what our responsibilities are.

He said this, quote, “Creating a pathway to earn citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in our country is essential. The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented by creating a mechanism for them to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows transcends the issue of immigration status. This is a matter of civil and human rights.”

So let me ask you, do you believe that a person who enters the country unlawfully, that has perhaps used false documents or otherwise entered here, has a civil right to citizenship?

Well, Senator, I’m not familiar with the context of those comments. I certainly think that you do touch upon the difficult issue of how do we handle the undocumented — undocumented immigrants who come to our country. I believe for the life that we offer, I believe because of the values that we espouse…

I don’t want to interrupt you, but just the question is, do you agree with that statement about it’s a matter of civil rights, and citizenship, and work authority, right to work in America, for someone who enters the country unlawfully? That’s a civil right?

Senator, I haven’t studied the issue enough to come to a legal conclusion on that. I certainly think that people who come to this country in a variety of ways can rehabilitate themselves and apply, but that would have to be something that would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

I’d just like to hear you answer that. Is it a civil right for a person who enters the country unlawfully, who would like to work and like to be a citizen, to demand that, contrary to the laws of the United States? And when Congress doesn’t pass it, is that a right that they’re entitled to demand?

So I don’t think — I think that citizenship is a privilege. Certainly, it’s a right for those of us born here. I think it’s a privilege that has to be earned. And within the panoply of civil rights that are recognized by our jurisprudence now, I don’t see one that you — as such that you are describing.

I certainly agree. I’m a little surprised it took you that long. But the attorney general’s statement was breathtaking to me. ***
Let me ask you this: In the workplace of America today when we have a high number of unemployed, we’ve had declining wages for many years, we have the lowest of Americans working, who has more right to a job in this country? A lawful immigrant who’s here, a green-card holder or a citizen, or a person who entered the country unlawfully?

Well, Senator, I believe that the right and the obligation to work is one that’s shared by everyone in this country regardless of how they came here. And certainly, if someone here, regardless of status, I would prefer that they be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace.
Well, just let me wrap up by asking this: Are you — if — if a person comes here and is given a lawful right under the president’s executive amnesty to have Social Security and a work authorization card, what if somebody prefers to hire an American citizen first? Would you take action against them?

Do you understand this to mean that those who are given executive amnesty are entitled as much as anybody else in America to compete for a job in America?

Well, I don’t believe that it would give anyone any greater access to the workforce, and certainly an employer would be looking at the issues of citizenship in making those determinations.

Would you take action against an employer who says, “No, I prefer to hire someone that came to the country lawfully rather than someone given executive amnesty by the president”? Would Department of Justice take action against them?

With respect to the — the provision about temporary deferral, I did not read it as providing a legal amnesty, that is, that permanent status there, but a temporary deferral.

With respect to whether or not those individuals would be able to seek redress for employment discrimination, if — if that is the purpose of your question, again, I haven’t studied that legal issue.

I certainly think you raised an important point and would look forward to discussing it with you and using — and relying upon your thoughts and experience as we consider that point.

Lynch testified that she finds the Holder DoJ’s opinion that Barack Obama’s executive amnesty is legal to be “reasonable.” So, again, she is prepared to rubber stamp executive action that is in direct contradiction to the laws of the United States. If federal law prohibits employers from hiring illegal aliens, the executive branch cannot issue permits that purport to nullify the effect of the statute and make such employment legal. This is not a subtle or difficult point.

There are many reasons to be skeptical of Loretta Lynch and to suspect that as Attorney General, she would be another Eric Holder, turning the Department of Justice into a political arm of the White House. But there is no need to speculate: by her words, she has proclaimed her intention to subvert rather than to uphold the laws of the United States. She must not be confirmed as Attorney General.

UPDATE: Later in today’s hearing, Lynch came out foursquare behind President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional attempt to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws by giving work permits to people who can’t legally work:

Sessions: I have to have a clear answer to this question: Ms. Lynch, do you believe the executive action announced by President Obama on November 20th is legal and Constitutional? Yes or no?

Lynch: As I’ve read the opinion, I do believe it is, Senator.

That clinches it. We cannot have another Attorney General who will sign off on blatant constitutional violations. Shortly after this exchange, Sessions announced that he will vote against Lynch’s confirmation.

Whatever Happened to Peak Oil?

So we’re not hearing much about “peak oil” these days.  Probably because IT WAS WRONG.  But shouldn’t gloat.  Instead, let me direct your attention to another snappy five-minute video just out from the Pacific Research Institute’s “History’s Hysteria” series that was taped well before the current oil glut got into full swing.  You’ll recognize a familiar face. (more…)

Live-blogging the Lynch hearing — afternoon edition, starring Ted Cruz

Loretta Lynch did a superb job of testifying this morning. She artfully ducked the few tough questions directed to her, while somehow managing to sound like the most accommodating nominee ever. Only Sen. Sessions laid a glove on her, in my opinion.

The afternoon session will begin soon. I think I’ll present my live-blogging of this one in chronological order rather than reverse chronological order, as I did this morning.

1:42 Ted Cruz is up. Attorneys general have a long history of standing up to the president, Cruz says. But Eric Holder hasn’t upheld that tradition.

How would Lynch’s tenure differ from Holder’s, Cruz asks?

She regurgitates Cruz’s statement about the need for the AG to act in a fair way. How will she differ from Holder? She “will be Loretta Lynch.” It’s a perfectly tautological and vacuous answer.

She then reverts to her mantra — she looks forward to talking with Cruz about his concerns. Sure, she does.

1:46 Cruz turns specifically to immigration. Does Lynch agree with the OLC opinion affirming the legality of the executive amnesty? She says she doesn’t see amnesty being upheld in that opinion. She sees prioritization of prosecution resources, and finds it “reasonable.”

Cruz points out that the OLC operates as the official opinion of the DOJ. So does she agree with the analysis and would it have been her analysis?

Lynch won’t say. She filibusters, presumably hoping to run down the clock on Cruz.

Cruz quotes Obama’s 2011 statement that he can’t override Congress on immigration. Does Lynch agree with what Obama said then? Lynch ducks. She doesn’t know the context, she says.

As U.S. attorney, did Lynch ever carve out a class of offenders that she wouldn’t prosecute. Lynch hems and haws, but basically agrees that she never did.

1:52 Al Franken is now taking his turn. In keeping with his status as class clown, his first question is “how was lunch.” Lynch says it was great.

Everything seems to be great from Lynch’s perspective. She is proving to be the Ernie Banks of confirmation witnesses. It’s a beautiful day in the friendly confines of the Capitol. Let’s play two.

1:56 Franken claims that our prisons contain many people who shouldn’t be there, but should be in “mental health court” instead. Lynch doesn’t dispute this claim. She seems on board with, and indeed enthusiastic about, Franken’s quest to blur the lines of criminality through the wonders of therapy.

If this were a movie, I would say “this is where I came in.” Franken’s BS was all the rage when I studied criminal law in the early 1970s. It was only when such nonsense went out of fashion that we began to make headway in reducing crime.

2:02 It’s Jeff Flake’s turn. Can’t say I’m expecting much worthwhile from him.

Lynch assures Flake that her commitment to securing the border is firm. We can all sleep better at night now.

Flake is pressing Lynch about failure to carry through on an effective border control program in Yuma, Arizona (“Operation Streamline”). Is she committed to the program? Lynch says she’s committed to talking with Flake about his concerns.

It’s a beautiful day in the friendly confines…

2:13 Sen. Blumenthal is on the clock. I should get paid double for listening to this segment.

He commends Lynch for her “forthright and erudite” testimony. Lynch is doing a masterful job, but forthright and erudite she has not been.

Blumenthal thanks Lynch for her sympathy for veterans who commit crimes. He does so as the father of a vet who has served in a combat theater, and he lists all the veterans in Lynch’s family.

But wait! Didn’t Blumenthal himself serve in Vietnam? That’s what he once claimed, but it was a lie.

2:23 Sen. Vitter is up. He was an early skeptic of Lynch and criticized her for not answering his questions when they met in the office.

Lynch told Vitter she would get back to him. But yesterday he received a letter from her stiffing him on his questions. Accordingly, we should be very skeptical of her claim that she will discuss substantive issues with Republican Senators.

Lynch seems like Ernie Banks now, but I suspect that, as Attorney General, she’ll turn out more like her namesake, Marshawn.

Vitter insists that the executive amnesty, by granting work permits, goes beyond simple removal and prosecution issues. In other words, as Sen. Lee pointed out, it is more than an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Lynch filibusters.

Vitter, like Cruz, asks Lynch whether she agrees with the OLC opinion on amnesty. Again, she finds it “reasonable” but won’t answer the question of whether it’s correct.

There is no reason why Lynch shouldn’t answer this question. This isn’t a Supreme Court nominees declining to discuss a case he or she might have to decide. If these hearings are to have any meaning, the penalty for non-responsiveness on a key issue like this one should be a vote not to confirm.

Vitter asks for the statutory basis for having the decisions on deportation made by DHS when the statute says its to be made by DoJ. Lynch won’t answer.

Vitter turns to mandatory minimums. They are in the statute, so why shouldn’t they be enforced whether we agree with them or not? Lynch cites limited resources and the need to prioritize.

But, as Vitter says, this makes the mandatory minimums non-mandatory and allows bureaucrats to override Congress.

This is the defining characteristic of Holder’s lawless reign at DoJ. And in no instance today has Lynch shown any discomfort with it. Indeed, as just occurred in response to Vitter, she has embraced it.

How many Republican Senators will accept this lawlessness by voting to confirm Lynch? The answer, it appears, is more than enough to confirm Lynch.

Vitter won’t be among them. He’s probably been the second toughest questioner so far (behind only Ted Cruz).

2:37 Sen. Coons is now asking questions. Nothing but softballs questions and hackneyed answers so far.

Guess what. Lynch looks forward to talking with Senators about issues related to the Patriot Act.

Coons asserts that the criminal justice system is broken because blacks disproportionately are incarcerated — a non sequitur if ever there was one.

Lynch doesn’t question Coons’ assertion. We can assume that she will follow Eric Holder’s model and take a race-conscious approach to criminal justice. She likely will be a good General in the war on standards.

2:46 Sen. David Perdue is asking questions now. It’s the first time I’ve seen him in action.

He’s asking about a very interesting case, that of a Francois Holloway, a repeat carjacker who was convicted and lawfully sentenced under the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. Judge John Gleason, who has been described as a “defense lawyer in a robe,” made it his crusade years later to obtain leniency for Holloway, whom he had sentenced.

He sought Lynch’s help, asking her to permit Gleeson to reopen the matter to review, and presumably reduce, the sentence. To Lynch’s credit, she originally declined, but a year later changed her position. Perdue wants to know why.

Lynch responds that Holloway got a much tougher sentence than the guy who masterminded the crime (but that’s because Holloway rejected a plea deal). She also says she consulted with the victims before agreeing to Gleeson’s request. And she looked at the case under current DoJ standards which, Lynch says, are more favorable to Holloway.

I’m not sure that anything in this answer explains why she changed her mind. It sounds to me like Lynch simply caved to pressure from a judge that, as a prosecutor, she might have to deal with.

Bill Otis has written about the Holloway case. I will probably take a look at this matter in light of Lynch’s answer to Sen. Perdue’s question.

2:55 The Committee is in recess because there are no Senators present who haven’t questioned Lynch in the first round (only Sen. Tillis hasn’t had a turn, but he’s not present). The next round will begin soon, but I’m going to conclude my live-blogging for the day.

Unlike Ernie Banks, I’m not willing to “play two.’