President Donald J. Trump has signed an executive order that demands that colleges and universities adhere to free speech requirements, or they risk losing their federal funding.
“The president strongly supports free speech,” a senior administration official told reporters during a briefing before the signing of the order.
“American institutions of higher education should support open intellectually engaging debate, which is critical to creating the next generation of successful leaders and thinkers.”
During the signing ceremony, Trump said, “We’re here to take historic action to defend American students and American values. They’ve been under siege.”
He added, “Under the guise of speech codes, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans like those here today.”
Trump Fulfils on Promise He Made to Conservatives
According to Fox News, a senior administration official said the order directs 12 grant-making agencies to use their authority in coordination with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure institutions that receive federal research or education grants promote free speech and free inquiry. White House officials have said it will apply to more than $35 billion in grants.
Public universities seeking funding would have to certify they comply with the First Amendment, which already applies to them. Private universities, which have more flexibility in limiting speech, would need to commit to their own institutional rules.
“Even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and the First Amendment,” Trump said.
The executive order is fulfilling on a promise to issue such a directive Trump made at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last month, where he said he would require colleges and universities to support free speech in exchange for federal research dollars. At CPAC, the president brought Hayden Williams to the stage with him, a conservative activist who was physically attacked while working a recruitment table on campus at the University of California-Berkeley. The video quickly went viral, with conservatives using it as evidence of how colleges have been stifling conservative views on campus.
“He took a punch for all of us,” Trump said of Williams. “And we could never allow that to happen. And here is, in closing with Hayden, here’s the good news. He’s going to be a wealthy young man.”
Finally, he referred to Hayden in promising to issue the just signed EO, “If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak,” Trump said. “Free speech. If they don’t, it will be costly. That will be signed soon.”
Conservatives have lauded the executive order. Talk show host Dennis Prager, who appears in an upcoming documentary called “No Safe Spaces,” said Thursday, “It’s tragic that in the one country that was founded on liberty–the country that enshrined freedom of speech in its foundational document–this executive order has become necessary. But, thanks to the left, it has. If President Trump can put a stop to the intolerance of non-leftist viewpoints on college campuses and help steer the country in the right direction, there just might be hope.”
President Trump has just revealed that he believes that the Mueller report should be made public. Which indicates that the president is confident that the investigation will wrap up without finding any clear evidence of collusion between his 2016 campaign and the Russian government.
Trump made that statement while speaking to the media as he was headed for Ohio. While he said he felt the results of the Mueller probe should be made public, the president continued to tear into the investigation into Russian intervention in the 2016 election by calling it “ridiculous” and that it was being conducted by a “nobody.” However, he said he wants to see its findings nonetheless.
According to Fox News, Trump’s comments come less than a week after the House passed a resolution to encourage Attorney General William Barr to release the report’s findings to both Congress and the country amid fears that information about the investigation would not be made public. The resolution enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support and passed in a floor vote 420-0, with only four Republicans voting present.
Following that resolution, Trump sent out an angry tweet, calling the Mueller investigation “illegal” and that “Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win.”
Mueller Investigation Close to Concluding
Many believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is very close to concluding and that his report is imminent. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, as well as the White House, are planning for any number of outcomes.
The latest signal that the investigation could be coming to a close is the expected departure of top prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who led the charge on the case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. As of this week, Manafort will face 81 months in prison.
Trump’s apparent change of heart on making the results of the investigation public, send a pretty clear signal that the report will indicate what he has been saying all along, that there is no clear evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and his 2016 campaign. According to anonymous White House sources, Trump and his advisers are already considering how to use those possible findings in the president’s favor for the 2020 race.
In any case, and no matter what the report holds, it is still ultimately up to newly appointed attorney general, William Barr to decide what if any part of the findings are made public.
According to a new poll released on March 18, half of Americans share President Trump’s view that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation is a “witch hunt.”
The USA Today/Suffolk University survey found that 50 percent of those questioned agree that the probe is a politically motivated “witch hunt,” while 47 percent disagree. Another 3 percent said they were undecided.
In his usual style, President Trump responded to the results of the poll on Twitter, saying, “Wow! A Suffolk/USA Today Poll, just out, states, ‘50% of Americans AGREE that Robert Mueller’s investigation is a Witch Hunt.’ @MSNBC Very few think it is legit! We will soon find out?”
What About Impeachment?
In the same poll, when asked if the Democratic-controlled House should seriously consider impeachment of Trump, 62 percent said no, 28 percent said yes and 10 percent were undecided.
According to the New York Post, David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center, said the poll shows that Trump has successfully persuaded Americans to adopt his view of Mueller’s investigation.
“Even among people who said they had ‘some’ trust in the Mueller investigation, half agreed with President Trump’s ‘witch hunt’ allegation,” Paleologos said.
As usual, there was a significant partisan divide, with 86 percent of Republicans agreeing Trump is the victim of a “witch hunt,” but only 14 percent of Democrats.
Among independents, the figure was 54 percent.
Will Americans Trust the Results of the Mueller Probe?
Questioned about whether they thought Mueller’s probe would be fair and accurate, 55 percent of voters said they have “a lot” or “some” trust in the investigation and 36 percent said they have “little or no trust.”
But 82 percent agreed that it is “very” or “somewhat important” that the Justice Department release Mueller’s final report to the public.
According to the Post, Americans were also torn about the investigations of the president launched in the House by Democrats after they won a majority in the November midterm elections.
While 49 percent said Democrats were “doing the right thing,” 46 percent said they were “going to far.”
While Vice President, Joe Biden, has yet to “officially” join the race, President Trump has already tossed a few choice words at his would be opponent. President Trump called Biden “another low I.Q. individual,” when the former Veep accidentally admitted in a speech that he was planning on entering the Democratic presidential race.
Among a bunch of other scathing tweets Trump put out recently, the president said, “Joe Biden got tongue tied over the weekend when he was unable to properly deliver a very simple line about his decision to run for President. Get used to it, another low I.Q. individual!” form
Joe’s most recent gaffe occurred when he was speaking at a Delaware Democratic Party fundraiser. Biden defended his political stance against critics who say he would be a moderate if he ran among the current crop of Democratic candidates, by saying, “I’m told I get criticized by the new left,” Biden said. “I have the most progressive record for anybody running.”
After the crowd cheered, Biden quickly corrected himself, and said, “I didn’t mean…, I mean, of anyone who would run. Of anybody who would run,” he said.
Biden’s a Loser Who Trump Would Love to Run Against
Despite seemingly blundering into announcing his candidacy, Biden has yet to officially enter the race for the Democratic nomination. However, in the past, Trump has described Biden as his “dream” opponent for 2020. During an interview in July, Trump was asked to weigh in on who his Democratic opponent will be.
“Well, I dream about Biden. That’s a dream,” Trump said. “Look, Joe Biden ran three times. He never got more than 1 percent, and President Obama took him out of the garbage heap, and everybody was shocked that he did. I’d love to have it be Biden.”
John Dowd, a former defense attorney for President Trump, has accused the judge in the Paul Manafort case of “hysterical overreach.” Speaking to the conservative outlet, the Washington Times, Dowd said, “What a travesty. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed with a prime objective of finding collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.”
Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was convicted of crooked business dealings and tax fraud, neither of which had anything whatsoever to do with Russia. However, that did not stop US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, from expressing her frustration at defense attorney Kevin Downing for making that point, when he said that while convicted and sentenced, there was “no collusion” found between Manafort and the Russians.
“The ‘no collusion’ refrain that runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand,” Judge Jackson said, according to Vox.com. “The ‘no collusion’ mantra is simply a non-sequitur.”
Dowd, however, would disagree, arguing that the Mueller team repeatedly implied that Manafort was linked to Moscow misdeeds by alleging that his office manager in Ukraine, Constantin Kilimnik, was with Russian intelligence.
Hysterical Overreach in Manafort Sentencing
In lambasting Judge Berman, Dowd went on to say that Mueller never presented evidence to prove the link, but the news media copiously repeated the charge that Kilimnik was a Russian operative. On the other hand, Mr. Downing argued that Mr. Kilimnik was a State Department asset in Kiev.
“Of course it was about collusion,” Mr. Dowd said. “Special counsel said it was while hiding the fact that Kilimnik was an asset of our State Department, and claiming a Russian connection. That was the fraud. The sentence was the cruel product of hysterical overreach and exaggerated self-justification for the terrible waste of time and energy. The media mob rules!”
According to the Associated Press, Manafort’s Defense attorney, Kevin Dowling, who made the “no collusion” statement, also blasted Judge Berman after she handed down her sentence.
“I think the judge showed that she is incredibly hostile toward Mr. Manafort and exhibited a level of callousness that I’ve not seen in a white-collar case in over 15 years of practice.”
Enough turncoat Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues the other day in voting to block President Trump’s border emergency declaration. While President Trump probably had two choice words for those who voted against him, he replied simply with one – tweeting “VETO” after the vote. This will be the first veto of his presidency.
The White House said Trump likely would issue the veto on March 15.
According to Fox News, the measure passed 59-41 as a dozen Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the resolution, despite White House efforts to keep the GOP united on the issue of border security. Those GOP members who backed the resolution cited concerns about the expansion of presidential powers.
Not surprisingly one of those Republican’s was Mitt Romney. “I’m going to be voting in favor of the resolution of disapproval,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters ahead of the vote. “This is a constitutional question, it’s a question of the balance of power that is core to our constitution.”
“This is not about the president or border security, in fact, I support border security, I support a barrier,” he said.
Other Republicans Who Parted With Trump on Border Security
In the run-up to the vote, the Trump administration was urging the GOP not to vote against the president. Speaking on “Fox and Friends” Vice President Mike Pence said, “A vote against the president’s national emergency declaration is a vote to deny the humanitarian and security crisis that’s happening at our southern border. So we’re urging every member of the Senate set politics aside to recognize that we have a crisis.”
However, given the results of the vote, clearly there were those who did not get the message. You could add these names to the growing list of RINOs who do not support the president, and remember them when it comes time for primary challenges. The other Republicans who voted to oppose the declaration were Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; and Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., had said he would oppose the declaration but reversed course on the Senate floor, saying that he was “sympathetic” to Trump’s push to deal with the crisis at the border.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., before the vote, said he “takes his hat off” to Republicans voting with Democrats, while accusing Trump of “going around Congress” with the declaration.
“This is a momentous day,” he said, declaring that the balance of power was shifting back toward Congress.
It is all pointless political theater in any case, as the measure heads next to Trump’s desk, having previously passed the House. However, Trump plans to veto, and it’s unlikely the House and Senate could muster the required two-thirds majority to override his first use of his veto powers.
The controversy over the sentencing of Paul Manafort has raised the perennial problem in the dishing out of justice – how to make the system fairer and more uniform.
Most justice is meted out locally. The cultural and political standards of specific communities can differ widely – and create both the appearance and reality of unfairness. We saw this in the extreme during the days of slavery and southern segregation when Democrat judges imposed the harshest sentences on Negroes just because they were.
Racial inequities are still found in our judicial system. It is most often found in the larger cities where, again, Democrats impose more convictions and longer sentences on black offenders. That is why more than 80 percent of prisoners who have received what appears to be excessive sentences are from the major cities where de facto racism and segregation still hold sway.
The cliché “three-time loser” rose out of an early practice of putting an offender behind bars for life after committing a third major felony.
Since a review of sentencing across America reveals far different levels of punishment for comparable crimes. One person guilty of second-degree murder may spend 30 years in prison while another may be out in a matter of months. We often hear that “if you commit the crime, you do the time.” That is a wonderful sentiment but does not apply to real life.
Efforts to drive out these inconsistencies – which, on the surface, seems like a good idea – has led to a number of rules and “guidelines.” One way to make the process less arbitrary are laws that required “mandatory sentencing” for certain crimes. This had two unanticipated untoward outcomes. It put a lot of people behind bars for a long time even when mitigating circumstances should have reduced the penalty. This was one of the factors that led to the overcrowding of our prisons – and disproportionately with minority offenders.
There was also the problem of letting criminals walk. When faced with a Draconian sentence for an offender who may not have deserved the mandatory long sentence, judges and juries would simply refuse to convict. The time was deemed too much for the crime.
Mandatory sentencing was replaced with broad guidelines. These were not mandatory ranges but simply recommendations to the judge. A commission was established to formulate the guidelines. It was made up of judges, prosecutors and others from the legal profession.
Unfortunately, these are people who have a propensity to convict and incarcerate for a relatively long time – and that is what they recommended. This is borne out by the fact that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Think about that. We put more citizens in jail (716 per 100,000) than any nation on earth – more than Russia (316 per 100k) and more than China (118 per 100k).
Looking at it another way, the countries with the largest populations have far fewer in prison in real numbers. India, with a population of 1.3 billion people, has approximately 420,000 prisoners and China, with a 1.4 billion population has 1,650,000 prisoners. The United States, with a population of 325 million – less than one-fourth the population of India and China — has 2,121,600 of our countrymen and women in jail. With approximately 4.4 percent of the world population, America has 22 percent of the prisoners. These statistics alone show that we are sending too many people to jail and for too long a time.
Justice cannot be handed out on a broad scale. Each case is different. Each defendant is different. Each crime is different. And above all, each jury and each judge is different. It is impossible to judge cases from a distance.
The Manafort case is a case-in-point. Judge T.S. Ellis was correct in stating that the federal guidelines were excess – because they always are. It is the reason that Ellis was able to include in his sentencing a few similar cases in which defendants got much shorter sentences – and in some cases no jail time at all. Ellis was correct in considering Manafort’s age, health and positive contributions.
For all its problems and inequities – and the potential of corrupt judges – sentencing is best left up to the presiding judge. Meting out justice in a just society is a human process. If it was even possible to make it purely an objective process, we could replace judges with computers.
So, there ‘tis.
It would seem that one of the most pressing questions of the day is whether President Trump can be re-elected in 2020. Presidential candidate-in-waiting Joe Biden suggests that if the Democrats overplay their hand – especially the impeachment card – Trump could get re-elected. Former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan has recently indicated that it is possible Trump could lose the 2020 election.
Yes, folks. It’s True. It is possible Trump could be re-elected or he could be defeated. It is also POSSIBLE that trump could be impeached and removed from office, decide not to run again or suffer a fatal heart attack. The absurdity of the Biden/Ryan insightful conjecturing did not stop all the press panels of parroting pundits to wax less-than-eloquently on one possibility or the other.
Scores of hours of air time by the nets (the media type, not the Brooklyn basketball team) and yards of column inches by the written word newsies have been expended on analyzing, conjecturing, hypothecating, and bloviating on the subject – but to what benefit? At the end of every expressed opinion is the same obvious fact – maybe two facts. First, is that Trump could be re-elected, or he could be defeated.
The second fact – and the one that demonstrates the futility of such political nihilism – is that none of those offering up their opinions have the slightest idea what will happen in 2020. At this early stage, predictive punditry is far beyond the limits of fact-based rationality.
Are we really going to have to endure some 20 months of debates over the possible re-election or defeat of Trump?
Perhaps we should create a graphic in the spirit of the Atomic Doomsday Clock that would provide a daily assessment of Trump’s 2020 chances – with the needle fluctuating between zero and 100 percent. We could even tie the movement of the needle to a national poll on that specific question rather than the opinions of a bunch of pundits with preconceived desires and biases. That might actually give us a slightly better reading of reality – although slightly better does not mean good or accurate. Just a little less absurd.
So … after taking in all the predictions advanced by politicians, political consultants, the news media and various and sundry others who pop up on my television screen, I have come to one inescapable conclusion. Trump will either be re-elected in 2020 – or not.
So, there ‘tis.
One day after New York Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed two banks for records related to four of Trump’s real estate projects and his failed bid to buy the Buffalo Bills, the president has fired back with a scathing tweet branding New York State and its Governor, Andrew Cuomo, “proud members of the group of PRESIDENTIAL HARASSERS.”
The new probe by the New York State Attorney General’s office appears to be civil and not criminal, however, the new requests add to Trump’s legal headaches from federal, state and congressional probes into his administration, campaign and businesses.
Not surprisingly, James and Cuomo are both Democrats.
Legitimate Investigation, or Witch Hunt
A person familiar with the matter says that Letitia James’ subpoenas have asked for loan applications, mortgages and other Trump financial records. The person, who gave this information to the Associated Press, wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The move came after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress last month that the president inflated his wealth in financial statements when trying to obtain funding.
Trump went on to say that in light of such “harassment,” it is “no wonder people are fleeing the state in record numbers.”
President Trump ended his response to Cuomo and James by declaring, “The Witch Hunt continues!” He’s used similar language to criticize the various ongoing investigations into his rise from businessman to president.
Cuomo Responds to Trump
Gov. Andrew Cuomo fired back at Trump’s accusations. Speaking to a gathering in Nassau County, Cuomo responded to what he called the president’s “conspiracy theory” that new State Attorney General Letitia James was personally instructed by his office to start an investigation of the president’s assets.
“The Attorney General of the State of New York is independently elected, I don’t control the Attorney General. She runs separately, Attorney General James, very qualified, great Attorney General. But he blamed me,” Cuomo said. He added that Trump is factually inaccurate in claiming in that tweet that people are leaving New York in “record numbers.”
The governor concluded his remarks on the president by pledging to “fight” Trump’s signature tax cuts “to the death.”
Interesting choice of words from a politician who supports infanticide. In January, Cuomo signed the so-called “Reproductive Health Act,” which allows a mother to abort a child practically up until the moment of birth.
When you look at the congressional calendar for 2019, it is difficult not to have mixed feelings. It all depends on whether you subscribe the Founders’ concept of a part-time legislature composed of people from all walks of life or the more modern notion of a full-time legislature composed mostly of lawyers as political professionals.
The one thing that can be factually determined is that our national legislature does not like to hang around Washington too often. According to the 2019 Legislative Calendar, the Republican-led Senate will be in session for 158 days of the year.
The Democrat-led House has reduced their time in Washington to 122 days. This seems surprising since the newly empowered Democrats have been bragging about all the legislative work they have to accomplish – not to mention all those investigations of President Trump.
The Senate will be open for business with 25, five-day work weeks throughout the year. The House will have only one five-day work week for the entire year. The House will have a one-week recess every month, except for April and December, when they will have a two-week recess and June when they will actually be in session for four weeks.
Now get this. The House Democrat leadership says they are “offsetting” that four-week work month in June by extending the August recess from July 27 to September 8. They actually say July 29 to September 6 because they do not count the two weekend days at both ends. In fact, they recess on July 26 and return to work on September 9. There are no sessions for the House in August while the Senate puts in two days at the beginning before joining the House in recess for the remainder of the month.
And do not expect the House members to put in any overtime on the days they are in session. According to the Democrat calendar, there will no longer be any “late-night” votes – except for spending bills. That makes sense when you consider how Democrats love to spend taxpayer money. God forbid that they should go past the clock on matters like immigration reform, healthcare, justice reform or any of the myriad of other issues that impact the lives of we the people.
There is another dirty little secret in the schedule. So that legislators do not have to show up on the first day of a session – and can catch early flights on the last day — the first-day session will not begin until 6:30 p.m. and no votes will be scheduled after 3:00 p.m. on the last day of the session. And since they say that there will be no … none … zero … late-night sessions, you can safely consider the first day and the last day as merely another day of recess. That adds another 60-plus days of recess even as the official schedule shows the members in session – doing the work of the people.
According to Maryland Democrat and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the reduced time in Washington is out of deference to all the new members of Congress. Personally, I do not get it. Is Hoyer suggesting that the newbies are too fragile to handle the pressure of actual governing? In announcing the reduced schedule, Hoyer said:
“As we welcome a large class of new members, many with young families, next year’s schedule is focused on balancing time in Washington with time for Members to conduct work in their districts and spend time with their families.”
Work in their districts? Time with their families? Hoyer seems to have forgotten the most important activities when these legislators are back home – campaigning and fundraising. Because of the strict rules on campaign activities and raising money – which is not allowed on government property — it is very difficult to perform those activities from their offices in the Capitol Hill compound.
Of course, the members of Congress will tell you that being in the district or the home state is part of the job – and indeed it is. But we might be better off if they had jobs other than politics – as the Founders envisioned. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a congressman say that when he got back to the district, he had to ploy the back-forty or a congresswoman say she had to run her greeting card shop?
Of course, there is that theory that the less time our representatives are in Washington, the better. We have to keep on mind that essentially they perform only two functions – spend our money and restrict our freedoms. There is a reason that the Founders drafted a Constitution that protects our liberties from … an oppressive federal government.
So, there ‘tis