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The Comey hearing: More smoke, wrong fire

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About a month ago, National Review editor Rich Lowry called Trump “a human smoke-making machine . . . incapable of a little deftness.”  The headline of his opinion piece in Politico characterized the entire Trump-focused wing of the investigation into Russian election interference as “a scandal about smoke.”

When they saw all the Trump-fueled smoke, said Lowry, the Democrats wanted “to make fire.”  And when Comey suddenly decided he wanted to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee, many on the Left christened this the Great Fire-Making Moment.

The narrative almost wrote itself.  Comey had been director of the FBI; Trump had fired him due to the Russia investigation; Trump had perhaps pressured Comey to let the investigation of Michael Flynn go.  Surely on June 8, the smoke would roll back to reveal a giant conflagration – Comey would accuse Trump of obstruction, let slip that Trump was part of a giant Russian conspiracy, reveal something, anything impeachable.  Doctor visits were canceled, watch parties were scheduled, and cable news networks broke out their countdown clocks.

What are those who pushed that narrative left with now?

Well, Comey did confirm that the leak of his memos was accurate, that Trump told him he “hoped” the Flynn investigation would be dropped because Flynn was, in Trump’s estimation, a “good guy.”  Comey said that due to Trump’s “imperceptible body language,” he took this as a direction to stop the investigation.

But Trump said the very same thing about Flynn to the press, if you recall.  And whatever Comey’s “feelings” about whether Trump meant what he said as a direction, it’s a stretch to use Comey’s feelings as the sole basis of obstruction.  To my knowledge, an “I hope” statement has never been used as the sole basis for an obstruction charge.

Comey went on to reveal that the president had made false public statements, didn’t seem to be that concerned about Russian election interference, had directly asked for his loyalty, and had fired him because of his handling of the Russia investigation.

None of that information was new.  More smoke; no fire.  Collective yawns all around.

Instead, the Comey hearing turned a flamethrower on the charred remains of the Clinton email investigation.  Comey revealed that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had asked him to refer to the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email server as a “matter” rather than an “investigation.”  Perhaps not so coincidentally, this is the rhetoric the Clinton campaign was using at the same time.

What’s that?  Evidence of Lynch’s DOJ colluding with the Democratic Party?  Will wonders never cease.

It’s astonishing to me that Comey chose not to investigate Loretta Lynch in relation to the Clinton email imbroglio after his encounter with her, especially given Lynch’s well-documented meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac in Arizona.  Lynch’s alleged interference in the Clinton investigation must not have had as much “intent” as that alleged in the Trump investigation, I suppose.

Comey’s hearing boiled down to a long, drawn-out attempt by Comey to justify his actions in the Clinton and Trump investigations by slant. It really didn’t work.

Nothing said at the Comey hearing changed my opinion that Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation and the Russia election investigation both bordered on incompetence.  Frankly, that’s the only justification Trump needed for his firing, though that’s not the one he gave.  As Mr. Lowry said almost a month ago, Trump reliably produces smoke, but even after today’s circus, I see no accompanying fire.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Bryan Woodsmall

    June 9, 2017 at 9:36 am

    This is an interesting piece, and you make some good points.

    However, if there is “no fire” in the Trump smoke, then why is the info about Lynch’s alleged interference, which you say had “as much ‘intent’ as that alleged in the Trump investigation” tantamount to a “flamethrower”?

    The “intent” is “as much”, yet with one it is only smoke, and with the other it is a flamethrower. I don’t get that.

    I enjoyed the article. It was informative and thought provoking. But elevating the revelations about Lynch as being more damning than the info about Trump seems like partisan spin to me. In fact, both are bad. Some of the info about Lynch is new. That is one difference. Also, Lynch tried to give the appearance of being above the fray, while Trump doesn’t really try to hide his dishonesty and lack of principles. But if Trump’s problems are just smoke, then so are Lynch’s.

    • Connor Mighell

      June 9, 2017 at 9:45 am

      Hi, Bryan. Thanks for your comment. The sentence about “intent” which left you so bewildered was meant as a joke. When Comey announced that he wasn’t going to recommend charges against Clinton in the email scandal. Comey justified his actions by saying he found no evidence Clinton intended to do anything illegal. However, the crime Clinton allegedly committed does not require proof of intent to establish guilt. My statement about Lynch’s intent was meant as a joke about Comey’s ability to treat intent as consequential in cases when it isn’t. Once again, thanks for reading.

  2. Bryan Woodsmall

    June 9, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Ok, I see that I missed the joke, and I missed the word “not” which I now understand as sarcasm that seems more to suggest that Lynch’s interference was perhaps worse than Trump’s, rather than suggest equivalence.

    At any rate, your point was NOT to say they were of similar seriousness, so my bad.

    Still, while I agree that the revelation that Lynch asked Comey to use the word “matter” instead of “investigation” is a big deal, I don’t see it as a “flamethrower” vs. just “smoke” from the Trump situation. For one thing, asking the FBI to assist with spin doesn’t constitute interference in the investigation itself. It is totally improper for sure, especially since it is the same word the Clinton administration was using, but it still doesn’t amount to actually interfering with the investigation.

    Your point about Comey treating intent as consequential when it isn’t is well taken. It kind of seemed like he was trying to thread a needle with a legal and logical explanation for his decision. I don’t know the law well enough to know whether he succeeded. However, in my opinion his actions were very beneficial to the Republican candidate (I’m not saying it was intentional). Had he indicted Clinton, I think she would have been replaced as the Democratic nominee. The new nominee would have had a headwind due to not being chosen by the normal process, but probably would have been a MUCH better candidate than Hillary Clinton. By not indicting her he took away the Dems need to replace her, and by being very critical of her he helped her opponent. So it was a win-win for Trump. And then he disclosed very late in the race that more emails had come to light, and needed to be looked at. I won’t argue either way whether that tipped the election, but it was helpful to Trump in a close race.

    I am not knowledgeable enough to assess Comey’s competence or lack thereof, but I think Trump supporters should be grateful for the way he handled the Clinton investigation.

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Democrats

Mapping the Senate in the midst of midterm elections

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Mapping the Senate in the midst of midterm elections

There’s never a stoppage of talk about a Blue Wave in politics. The midterm elections are the rallying beacon for the left. Ever since Democrats acknowledged Trump would assume the Whitehouse, winning the 2018 elections has been a top priority and a great source of rhetoric. In history, there are numerous occasions where the party in power loses midterm elections, leading to all sorts of political havoc. But this doesn’t happen every time. In 2010, Obama lost the House, stopping much of his agenda in its tracks from a legislative point of view. But is Trump doomed to the same fate? In the House, the answer is less certain. The vast amount of open seats gives measure to unpredictability. The Senate, on the other hand holds the power of impeachment and should Democrats really want Trump removed, they would need control.

Current Senate: 51 Republicans, 49 Democrats

North Dakota

The first seat that the Democrats will likely lose is North Dakota. The GOP had nearly twice as many votes than the Democrats in the primary. Heidi Heitkamp won a high turnout election in 2012 by a slim margin of 1%. She needs to build upon that to survive, but can she against a very formidable opponent? Kevin Cramer was also elected to Congress that same year. He won with 12248 more votes than Heitkamp received in a victorious election for the Democrats. In North Dakota, the congressional district is at-large meaning the Senate race and the Congressional race is virtually the same in that the candidate must have statewide appeal in order to win. Cramer has proven his appeal to voters achieving 233980 votes in 2016, 72643 more votes than Heitkamp received. Cramer has the same race, but a different opponent. It is likeliest that North Dakota turns red out of every blue seat. The math just doesn’t look good for the Democrats. On top of that, Heitkamp voted against confirming Kavanaugh, a move that signaled concession.

West Virginia

Joe Manchin has toted a moderate stance, but West Virginia is becoming more Conservative. Joe Manchin, on the other hand is attached to the ever left moving Democratic party. Patrick Morrisey doesn’t seem to have the same post-primary momentum that his counterparts in Trump voting states have had. This can be attributed to Joe Manchin’s likability and his ability to make moves that pander to his voters. His lone Democrat vote for Kavanaugh was a populist move, both cowardly and brave at the same time. It may, in fact, save his campaign. On the flip side, the left may snub Manchin seeing very little difference between the two. This race is a tossup.

Wisconsin

The Primary Election yielded the strongest candidate for the GOP’s chances in November, in stark contrast to Indiana. Leah Vurkmir already has the backing of the well organized Wisconsin GOP, the same GOP that successfully campaigned for Scott Walker during his recall election. This same level of organization already found favor with the more conservative Vurkmir who handily crushed her primary against despite what polling had to say. She’s got game and doesn’t have major scandals holding her down. The Democrats neglected Wisconsin in 2016. So the Republicans better have capitalized off of Hillary’s idle hands. Vurkmir is a great test for the prowess of the GOP in Wisconsin. She makes this race a tossup.

Arizona

This race began with a lot more promise. However, the emergence of Martha McSally does not bode well for Republicans. She is one of the most left leaning Senate candidates among Republicans, and she doesn’t have the military background that John McCain won with, though she is a veteran herself. It’s very likely that many Republicans snub their noses at this obvious RINO of a candidate. The Democrats on the other hand are nominating a candidate who actually supported Kate’s Law, so were dealing with a Joe Manchin level of Democrat rather than a Claire McCaskill. It doesn’t quite energize any bases to have two similar candidates. However Krysten Sinema’s true colors are coming out. Despite a seemingly moderate time in Congress, she is being revealed as far left. She has made statements bashing her own state and the country. As a result, McSally may be pulling ahead. But still this race is a tossup.

Florida

In 2016, the Republicans used the more likable Marco Rubio to maintain the Senate seat. They look to employ the same strategy with Governor Rick Scott. Rick Scott knows how to outperform polling which is what Republicans need in such a time as this. He is capable of winning statewide elections and faces a three term Senator. The GOP can’t run with anything less than a complete professional level campaigner. The Florida GOP is also more organized, similar to Wisconsin. The GOP knows how to win the state and is in the process of solidifying Florida as a red state. Most experts have this race as a tossup, which is why I give the edge to Rick Scott.

Texas

Social media is gunning for Cruz’s seat. Unreliable polls have this race as close. But can the guy who thinks that kneeling for the anthem is patriotic really win a state like Texas? I doubt it. But Ted Cruz will have to work for his reelection, which he will probably enjoy doing. Trump will come to Cruz’s assistance later in the campaign to solidify Trump voters with Cruz. I think Beto’s chances are hyped but losing by single digits are in the realm of likelihood. Ted Cruz will win, especially with Abbott running for reelection.

Indiana

Joe Donnelly won in 2012 due to facing a weak candidate Mike Braun came out of one of the worst Senate primaries of the GOP. Should he win, it would be achievement of the Indiana GOP to carry such a poor candidate to victory. But Trump won Indiana by 20 points. This is a hard race for Donnelly to win, yet Donnelly isn’t the most left Democrat. He is closer to a Manchin than Feinstein, but that might change with his no vote on Kavanaugh. This unpopular move is hard to justify in a state that swung for Trump so heavily. The Indiana GOP should be glad he voted no. Donnelly sabotaging his own chances is way more likely than Braun running a sealed campaign. This race is a tossup.

New Jersey

Bob Menendez may have survived charges related to his corruption, but is one of the most unpopular Senators in the country. Powerful allies have turned on him. Because of his meteoric unpopularity, this race can be considered a tough one. Still New Jersey is heavy on the leftism and Conservatism is little known there. Bob Hugin is no Conservative but will give Menendez a good run if nothing else. Its hard to imagine Republicans stealing a seat in the New Jersey, but its also hard to vote for blatant corruption even if you are a pussy hat wearing soy boy. I think Hugin will lose by a only a slim margin.

Ohio

Jim Renacci was a terrible candidate from the beginning despite easily winning his primary. Trump’s team handpicked him, and he has done nothing to capitalize off this endorsement. Since the primary he has had terrible poll numbers, but the bigger problem is his lack of advertising. The Blaze reports on his lack of ads:

Brown, evidently understanding the seriousness of the challenge from Renacci after Trump won Ohio in 2016, has spent freely on television and radio ads — roughly 25 times more than Renacci has in the time since the May primary.

Brown has spent $12.5 million since May, compared to only $481,000 from Renacci (which paid for ads that ran in June statewide). In 2012, Josh Mandel spent $12 million on broadcast ads in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Brown.

State Republicans can’t figure out what Renacci’s strategy is by spending so little on ads.

Still if Renacci was good for one thing it’s the actions that inspired headlines like this Republican Jim Renacci Defends Decision To Fly On Strip Club Owner’s Private Plane To Meet Religious Leaders. Sherrod Brown saw the red wave and acted accordingly.

Montana

Jon Tester is another Democrat Senator holding a seat where Trump won bigly in 2016. However, like Indiana, this race seems to be a race to the bottom. Jon Tester is an underperformer but Matt Rosendale is seen as a carpetbagger. Rosendale is having some trouble campaigning, so it seems. Perhaps Tester voting against Kavanaugh and Gorsuch will give Rosendale an edge, like Braun in Indiana. Other factors in this race include a potential Libertarian spoiler candidate. This race is a tossup, but perhaps a debate between the candidates will change the tide.

Nevada

This is the second most likely seat to flip blue. Dean Heller is the only Republican up for reelection in a state carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Dean Heller is looking for a Kavanaugh bump in what looks like a dead heat of a race. His challenger, Jacky Rosen, is also looking for a Kavanaugh bump. She is the Left’s best potential reinforcement in the Senate. Along with Kavanaugh, Rosen is hedging a bet on Obamacare to sink Heller. It’s a risky strategy, but ultimately this race will be a referendum on these two issues. The California pollution is a major disadvantage for the Republicans in Nevada, rendering their incumbent in a tossup.

Missouri

Claire McCaskill is another unpopular Democrat Senator. Her opponent, Josh Hawley is the darling of the Missouri GOP. This race had major implications from the beginning thus invited a large field of candidates for the primary. Josh Hawley is a likable candidate who won’t make a legitimate rape comment that gave McCaskill the seat in the first place. He even avoided campaigning with a controversial pastor. He doesn’t want people to not like him, thus he waited a long time within his campaign to clearly articulate his positions. Josh Hawley is the Missouri Marco Rubio and should carry the GOP across the finish line. There is a lot of money riding on this election. Other factors in this race may be the confusion with the lawsuit surrounding Missouri’s voter ID law. This race is a tossup on paper, but Hawley will likely take it.

Tennessee

Can the Democrats take this seat away from Republicans? Yes? Tennessee is the third of three seats that have a possibility of flipping blue as part of the Blue Wave? The only problem for leftist is that Phil Bredesen isn’t all that leftist and a victory in this race is not an indication that the country is embracing socialist or anticapitalist policies. Rather Phil Bredesen is perhaps a political unicorn: fiscally conservative and socially moderate. Paige rogers write this much prior to him winning his primary.

Under his tenure, the fiscally conservative Bredesen understood and respected Tennesseans’ preference for low taxes over “government goodies” and did not attempt to force more taxes down our throats. Tennessee also requires a balanced budget, which basically means that the state can’t spend more than it takes in. In a 2011 exit interview, he remarked, “As long as you’re willing to tell people there are certain things you can’t do — you can’t have Massachusetts services and Tennessee taxes … [then there’s an understanding] that Tennessee’s future lies more in being a low-tax state and accepting the level of services that implies.” And so, under the taxation-restrictive environment of Tennessee, he made the most of what he had to work with.

The threat to the GOP is real. Bredesen has even stated that he would have voted for Kavanaugh. Meanwhile, the overrated pop star Taylor Swift is shelling out for him calling Marsha Blackburn, a woman, bad for women. Tennessee is a red state, and Trump supports Marsha Blackburn. Bredesen is playing the Joe Manchin card, but Project Veritas released a video implicating his moderate act as a lie. These are critical advantages. But this race is close. This race is a tossup.

Michigan

John James is a fantastic candidate on paper and a savvy campaigner, but that was in the primary. He will need a lot more than that if he wants to flip a union heavy state. Michigan went for Trump but that was very telling of how bad Hillary Clinton was rather than how popular the Republicans are. If the Republicans win in Michigan, then the Red Wave would be catastrophic. This race is winnable. Tom Rogan describes this race as one to watch.

And it’s clear the Stabenow campaign is growing increasingly concerned. Their focus has shifted away from broad appeals to Michigan voters and toward a narrative that the Republican Party wants to penalize Americans with pre-existing health conditions. It’s a basic fear strategy, devoid of factual foundation, but one they hope will be enough to shut down James’ lead.

And with Kid Rock due to campaign for James next week, the Democrats want to blunt James’ rise before he can catalyze it. James finished very strongly in his primary, after trailing his main GOP opponent for most of the race, and he’d like to pull off a similar feat next month.

Perhaps a Kavanaugh bump paired with some solid campaign ground game will deliver the upset. Just maybe he might do it. But for now, this is a blue seat.

Before Election Day Republicans 42 Democrats 23


I considered this map very liberal (not Left) with its use of tossups. At a glance, the GOP already secures 49 seats, two fewer seats than what they currently hold. A Democratic majority would require the Democrats to win all 9 toss up races along with securing the competitive races that aren’t tossup. The Democrats max out at 51, maybe 52 if they drum up some rape allegations on Ted Cruz; it’s approaching that time in the race if they are going to do that. In contrast the Republicans max out at 59, all of the tossups and a W in both New Jersey and Michigan.

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Democrats

Democrats scream foul about factual ad against Bob Menendez

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Democrats scream foul about factual ad against Bob Menendez

The New Jersey Senate race is the second-most watched in the nation next to Beto O’Rourke’s failing bid to unseat Ted Cruz in Texas. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is in big trouble despite being an incumbent in a far-left state.

His federal corruption charges in 2015 should have been enough to force him to resign or to primary him out, but shady political moves by the Democratic Party in New Jersey prevented that from happening. This opened the way for businessman Bob Hugin to do what few Republicans have been able to do in recent years – win a Senate seat in a deep blue state.

An ad posted by the Hugin campaign depicts factual aspects of hypocrisy Senator Menendez has engaged in while in office. There are no wild accusations or manipulations of the truth in the ad. It simply tells the story how it happened, but Democrats are screaming foul. They believe that the nature of the ad in itself is unfair, not because it isn’t factual but because Menendez’ actions and words have been so outrageous that the Democratic Party wants them expunged from the public consciousness.

A hung jury is the only reason Menendez isn’t in jail right now. That’s saying a lot because it indicates a likelihood of guilt but an inability to sway partisan leftists on the jury. That alone should be enough to make everyone in New Jersey question their Senator and the system that kept him on the streets and in his Senate seat.

They can correct that mistake now.

If Menendez wins in New Jersey, it will bring shame to a leftist state that puts party over honesty, accountability, virtue, effectiveness, and common sense. This man needs to be ejected faster than any other in DC. Bob Hugin is the only right answer.

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Democrats

Project Veritas stings Claire McCaskill, but also exposes a sad truth about American politics

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Project Veritas stings Claire McCaskill but also exposes a sad truth about American politics

Project Veritas, the undercover journalists who bring us a steady flow of videos revealing leftist hypocrisies and scandals, was able to get some good dirt on Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. She’s all in for just about every bit of gun control legislation that can make it to the floor, a stance that won’t sit well in right-leaning Missouri.

But there’s something else revealed in this and past videos by Project Veritas. There are things that certain politicians simply cannot say which promotes the atmosphere of lies and subterfuge that plague our nation’s capital. She’s a “moderate” Democrat when speaking to her constituents, a play that’s necessary in a red state. The same is true for blue state Republicans who can’t come out and say they want to ban abortions or other right-wing priorities because the general sentiment in these states oppose those views.

What we’ve seen is that the youthful, energetic, passionate people who make up the campaign staff and volunteers are often much further to the left than the candidates they support. The same is almost certainly true for Republican campaign staff and volunteers who are likely more conservative than their candidate. What does this really tell us?

Most politicians must cater to the middle while they’re driven by the ideological fringe. This creates a contradiction that cannot be reconciled in today’s two-party political atmosphere.

Is there a solution? Yes. We’ll discuss that after the election. In the meantime, we’ll support the push to keep majorities for Republicans in the House and Senate.

If there’s a red state Democrat that deserves to be moved out of office, it’s Claire McCaskill. The question is whether Missourians will see McCaskill as the centrist she wants them to see or the far-left activists she really is.

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