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Category: International Relations

Another Swing, Another Miss Part III

Another Swing, Another Miss Part III

This is third part of a posting, Another Swing, Another Miss, that I initially put up on Oct. 2. Part II appeared on Oct. 4 and, ostensibly, this will be the final installment in the series. If the points made in these postings aren’t clear to you by the time you’ve gotten through this third part, we’re both wasting our time.

In the first part I predicted that the Democrats’ latest attempt to pin something, anything, on President Trump would fail, as did all their previous times at bat against him. In that part I promised to explain what “there” there is in the Ukraine imbroglio, the latest incarnation of the Dems’ attempt to undo the results of the 2016 election – a “there” not with Trump, but with former VP and current presidential contender Joe Biden. I kept that promise in the second part and then went on to say there is a much bigger “there” in which Biden and his son Hunter are involved.. Now, in this part, I will explain that biggest “there” of all, which involves China.

If you haven’t read the first two parts in the series yet you should now, and then go on to read this part. All this will make much more sense to you if you understand what leads up to it.

A Profitable Family Outing on Air Force Two

On Dec. 4, 2013, then-Vice President Joe Biden, son Hunter Biden, and Finnegan Biden, Hunter’s daughter and Joe’s granddaughter, stepped off of Air Force Two into the chill winter air of Beijing. They were greeted by children bearing flowers before being whisked off to meetings with top Chinese leaders. With the trappings of a family outing – all, of course, on the U.S. taxpayer’s nickel – the Bidens had arrived on what turned out to be not just a high-profile state visit, but a most lucrative few days for Hunter.

Hunter, Joe, and Finnegan Biden tour Hutong Alley during December 2013 visit to Beijing. What back alley deals did Hunter make during the visit? Photo by Andy Wong – pool/Getty Images. Used under Fair Use.

Ten days after the visit, during which Hunter Biden’s meetings with high-ranking Chinese officials went largely unreported, Rosemont Seneca Partners, the hedge fund in which the younger Biden is a principal, concluded a deal, initially valued at $1 billion but later expanded to exceed $2 billion, in which Bohai Capital, a subsidiary of the Chinese government-owned Bank of China, agreed to invest in Rosemont Seneca. Together, they formed a new entity called Bohai Harvest RST.

Remember in Part II of this series I asked you to remember the name “Bohai”? Well, there you have it: Bohai – the name of the innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea – represents the Chinese government’s investment in the private fund headed by the son of the then-VP of the United States. The other principal in the fund was Christopher Heinz, the stepson of then Secretary of State John Kerry. Together Bohai Capital and Rosemont Seneca formed Bohai Harvest RST (BHR). The RS stands for Rosemont Seneca and the T stands for the Thornton Group, headed by James Bulger, the nephew of notorious Massachusetts gangster Whitey Bulger. James Bulger’s father, younger brother of Whitey, Billy Bulger, longtime leader of the Massachusetts state senate and ally of John Kerry, serves on the board of the Thornton Group.

So, what you have is the Chinese government making a major investment in a fund headed by the sons of some of America’s most connected officials. While Chris Heinz later denied any involvement with the Chinese deal or with Bohai Harvest RST, Hunter Biden’s role in the fund and the deal has been well documented, largely through the work of investigative author Peter Schweizer. The body of Schweizer’s work has been widely quoted and recognized for its in-depth quality and accuracy, most prominently including his previous book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How Foreign Governments and Businesses Made Bill and Hillary Rich. Now some sources, like Politifact, reported that Bohai’s investment in the fund was much less than originally envisaged, topping at “just” $425 million. But that number comes directly from Hunter Biden’s attorney, George Mesires. It is challenged by another investigative reporter, John Solomon, who says that the BHR web site showed Bohai’s investment in the BHR venture at more than $2 billion, before the fund suddenly took down the site as the Biden controversy emerged recently. So much for the “fact checking” done in this case. But we risk getting lost in the weeds. The point is, a deal worth a significant sum of money coming from the government of one of America’s prime competitors went to the son of the Vice President of the U.S. on the heels of a high-level state visit.

The Chinese venture also comes into play in the Ukraine story since, as we noted in Part II of this series, Burisma Holdings paid a reported $3.4 million to a company named Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC. When you have money behind you, you can cast a very wide net, unhindered by oceans or national boundaries.

One might consider that, just as Hunter Biden had no experience with Ukraine or the energy sector when he made his lucrative deal with Burisma, he had no experience with China (other than a couple of visits preceding the Dec. 2013 trip to meet with top Chinese financial executives) or investment banking when he struck the even more lucrative deal with the Bank of China in formation of BHR. Keep in mind as well the point I made in Part II, that it’s not just impropriety that is the issue, but even the appearance of impropriety that public officials should avoid, an imperative seemingly lost on Joe Biden.

Now here is a little quiz for you: If you think this China deal was completely coincidental and not indicative of Hunter Biden’s leverage of his father’s position and influence, as some members of Congress and of the mass media would have you believe, I’d ask that you rate yourself on a scale of 0-10, where “0” equates to “I am hopelessly naive,” “5” equates to “I am profoundly dense and incapable of connecting the dots,” and “10” equates to “I am a staunch Democratic stalwart and believe only Trump and Republicans can do anything wrong.”

Not Just Some Gaffe: “You Know, They’re Not Bad Folks, Folks”

As questionable as the ethics of Joe Biden might be in allowing his son to leverage his position as VP in the deals Hunter Biden engineered in China and Ukraine, it’s important to consider how his son’s financial pursuits appear to have influenced the senior Biden’s view of global realities, particularly in regard to China. This is particularly critical given Biden’s bid to fill the highest office in the land.

In May of this year, Biden made a statement at a campaign stop in Iowa that boggles the mind of anyone even remotely familiar with the strategic threat China poses to the U.S. and, in fact, the world.

China is going to eat our lunch?” rhetorically asked the former VP and man that would be president. “Come on, man. They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the east, I mean in the west. They can’t figure out how they are going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.”

It’s a bit ironic that Biden refers to corruption in China, but even that mention is embedded in the bigger muddle represented by those six sentences. And lest you write this off as just another of Biden’s gaffes, consider that, a couple weeks later at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Biden doubled down on his earlier remarks.

What are we doing? We’re walking around with our heads down, ‘Woe is me,’ ” Biden told the crowd gathered to hear him. “No other nation can catch us, including China. I got criticized for saying that. I’ve spent as much time with Xi Jinping as any world leader has.”

Joe Biden, right, shares the stage with John Kerry, in front of the flag of Singapore. Photo by AP. Used under Fair Use.

There might be some element of truth in that last claim, but the time Biden spent with China’s president certainly didn’t seem to provide him with any clarification of Xi’s intents or those of the country he heads. Criticism of Biden’s comments came from across the political spectrum, ranging from former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Bernie Sanders, one of Biden’s competitors for the top office.

I’ll stick with the language in our national security strategy and our national defense strategy, which identifies China as a strategic competitor,” said Randall Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia. And FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that China “ . . . in many ways represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counterintelligence threat we face.”

Even Trump, who regularly is accused by his detractors of not being fully conversant with global geopolitics, chimed in with the obvious: “For somebody to be so naive, and say China’s not a problem — if Biden actually said that, that’s a very dumb statement.” Indeed.

The issue of Chinese investment in Hunter Biden’s equity group becomes a problem for the U.S. when one looks at some of the investments made by Bohai Harvest RST. These include investment in a technology the Chinese government can use to surveil and repress its Muslim minority, as well as in an automotive firm, mining companies, and various technology ventures. Just one of those investments was the $600 million acquisition of Henniges Automotive, an American automotive supplier developing dual-use technologies with military applications, which was headquartered in Michigan. BHR took a 49 percent stake in the venture, with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a Chinese state-run military contractor, acquiring the majority and controlling interest in the company.

But c’mon, folks! Why should Americans be concerned about transfer of these kinds of technologies to the Chinese? You know, they’re not bad folks! And why would a $2 billion-plus deal to his son’s benefit color the senior Biden’s view of the Chinese? I mean, Hunter’s other antics and failings (I’m being exceptionally kind not to call them misdeeds – this piece is well worth reading if you want to learn more about those) haven’t affected Joe’s support of his younger son. Why should anything else do that? And after all, the administration Joe Biden was part of didn’t see any problem in delivering $400 million in cold hard cash to the murderous regime in Tehran. So what’s to see here, folks?

Go along to get along might be Biden’s motto. Money makes the world go ’round, doesn’t it?

Pelosi’s Invention

So now, getting back to where all this started, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff want to Impeach Donald Trump for wanting to look into Joe Biden’s role in his son’s profitable business dealings in Ukraine and China. In any sane world this would appear to be beyond the bounds of reason, much less decency. But this isn’t a sane world. Rather, it’s the whack-o and thoroughly corrupt world of U.S. partisan politics.

Actually, while Schiff, who has his own questionable Ukraine connections, has been annointed head of the “impeach Trump” bunch in the House (keep in mind that impeachment usually falls to the House Judiciary Committee, headed by the incompetent Jerry Nadler, not the Intelligence Committee), Speaker Pelosi has held back from actually calling for impeachment. Her solution is to create what she calls an “impeachment inquiry.” Keep in mind that there is no Constitutional provision for anything called an “impeachment inquiry.” Nor is there any law that provides for such a thing. The whole concept is Pelosi’s invention. Ostensibly this is her way of bowing to pressure from within her caucus and to keep up harassment of the President, of continuing to throw whatever accusations, no matter how specious or lacking in basis, at him, all of which will be dutifully reported by the sycophantic mass media, while avoiding putting the whole matter to a vote.

It’s obvious to Pelosi that, lacking anything of real substance, even if the House votes to impeach Trump, there is absolutely zero chance that the Republican-controlled Senate would convict him and remove him from office, especially given polls that show little public support for impeachment. Such an outcome would represent a political embarrassment to Pelosi and a potential disaster to the Democrats, and one that would come in an election year that could not just doom the Dems’ hope to re-take the White House but even their chances of retaining control of the House. It also helps detract from the utter lack of anything of substance coming out of the Democratic-controlled House, leading to public approval ratings of Congress at and below an abysmal 19 percent level. Thus, we have this so-called “impeachment inquiry.”

Joe and Hunter Biden at Georgetown-Duke basketball game with the senior Biden’s boss, Barack Obama. Photo by Nick Wass/AP. Used under Fair Use.

In the midst of the ongoing firefight I think it would be naive not to expect the power-hungry Hillary Clinton from trying to exploit the whole morass and climb back on to the wagon she hopes will lead to her nomination as the Democratic candidate in 2020 and, ultimately, the presidency, which she sees as her birthright. Never mind how this might play out with voters. This is a matter of Hillary’s imperial, even divine, vision she has for her place in history. She already has been making her presence known after relative silence over the past three years. Again, the reality that whether it benefits Hillary or not, the current brouhaha will blow back on Joe Biden is not lost on Pelosi. As I earlier postulated, I think Pelosi and other influential Dems have realized that Biden can’t beat Trump and so are trying to knock him out of the race. It will be interesting to see what is thrown at him by his fellow contenders at the next Democractic Presidential Debate on October 15.

Meanwhile, wrongdoing by Hillary, other Dems, including those highly placed in the Obama administration, as well as by those within the FBI and the intelligence community, are under investigation by Attorney General Bob Barr and federal prosecutor John Durham. It’s entirely possible that Pelosi and Schiff are pushing things forward so they can beat Barr to the punch. And Barr and Durham’s punch looks like it could be devastating to the Dems.

Of course lots of things might change in the coming weeks and months. Little is a given in politics, all the less so in the overwrought atmosphere presently prevailing. But all things being equal, this is how things look at this juncture, and thus my prediction that, for all the hoopla, the current wailing and gnashing of teeth will equate to one more swing and one more miss for the Dems as they flail about in their attempt to bring down the duly elected President of the United States.

Set your alarm for Nov. 3, 2020, and stay tuned to this space meanwhile, if you can bear to watch as more of this pathetic drama plays out.

Featured image: Joe, Finnegan, and Hunter Biden deplane from Air Force Two in Beijing. Photo by Telegraph.co.uk. Used under Fair Use.

Another Swing, Another Miss Part II

Another Swing, Another Miss Part II

This is a continuation of a posting, Another Swing, Another Miss, that I put up on Oct. 2. If you haven’t read it yet you should now, and then go on to read this part. What follows here will make much more sense to you if you understand what leads up to it.

In the first part I promised to explain what “there” there is where Joe Biden is concerned in the Ukraine imbroglio which certain members of Congress are attempting to pin on President Trump. I will explain the Ukraine “there” in this segment, which serves as a preface to what, in my estimation, is a far greater “there” where Biden and his son Hunter are involved: China.

Now, let’s look at where the Ukriane “there” that is, is. And it lies with the Bidens, Joe and Hunter, and Hunter’s associates, including the stepson of former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry. Reverting back to the senior Biden’s braggadocio about his threat to the Ukrainians, with which I began Part I, Biden claims it was the consensus of the U.S. government that the prosecutor that was the object of his threat, Viktor Shokin, was corrupt and had to go. But recent investigations by reporter John Solomon found that Shokin has sworn to a European court, under oath and penalty of perjury, that he was in fact investigating Burisma Holdings, the energy exploration and production company that had taken Hunter Biden onto its board.

In his statement to the court, Shokin said, “The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors. On several occasions President Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the case against Burisma and consider the possibility of winding down the investigative actions in respect of this company but I refused to close this investigation.”

Consider that Hunter Biden had no experience either in the energy sector or in Ukraine, and yet he was brought on as a board member and hired as a consultant and paid up to $50,000 a month for this “expertise,” with much larger sums going to his private equity firm. This came within weeks’ of his father being named by Barack Obama as U.S. “point man” to the Ukraine. Even The New York Times reported in December 2015 that Burisma and its oligarch-billionaire founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, were under investigation by the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s office. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Plausible Deniability?

Joe and son Hunter Biden, right, play golf with Burisma board member Devon Archer, far left, in August 2014. Used under Fair Use.

It’s a general principle that liars often trip themselves up because they can’t get their stories straight. While Joe Biden insisted he had no knowledge of this son’s business dealings and never discussed them with his son, Hunter said he did discuss them with his father – albeit only once, according to Hunter. And then, lo and belold, Fox News political commentator Tucker Carlson this past week revealed an August 2014 photo of the senior Biden golfing with son Hunter and fellow Burisma board member and Hunter business associate Devon Archer. Archer had joined the Burisma board in April 2014, with Hunter Biden coming aboard the Burisma board the following month. Ever hear of “plausible deniability”? Apparently that’s what the senior Biden was hoping for until the plausibility of his denial got blown.

But wait! It gets better!

Hunter Biden and the stepson of then Secretary of State John Kerry, Christopher Heinz, had formed Rosemont Seneca Partners, a $2.4 billion private equity firm, with Archer, a former college roommate of Heinz, who was the managing partner. The New York Times has reported that, after adding Archer and Biden to its board, Burisma paid $3.4 million to a company known as Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC (remember that last name, “Bohai,” which forms the basis for the bulk of the Biden iceberg). Apparently one of the three business associates, at least, saw the potential conflict of interest in this arrangement. Shortly after Biden and Archer’s association with Burisma was announced, Heinz, who had been a major fundraiser for his stepfather, sent an email to two of Kerry’s top aides at the State Department insisting he had no involvement with the Burisma deal. The conservative think tank Citizens United obtained a copy of the email through a FOI request.

“This email raises a lot of questions,” Citizens United President David Bossie said to the Washington Examiner. “Why would Chris Heinz distance himself from Hunter Biden’s decision to join Burisma’s board in an email to John Kerry’s senior staff at the State Department? It’s time for Joe Biden to answer questions about his family’s business in the Ukraine and what his own role was in those dealings.”

Added Bossie, “These are questions that congressional oversight committees should be demanding answers to.” Should be, but so far haven’t, choosing instead to pursue Trump.

Archer would subsequently resign from Rosemont Seneca and Burisma when he was arrested by federal agents in May 2016 on charges of defrauding a Native American tribe. A federal judge later overturned Archer’s conviction on the charges, citing insufficient evidence. But meanwhile, part of the investigation of Burisma being conducted by Prosecutor Shokin, whom the senior Biden managed to have fired, involved looking into the role the company played in the loss of $1.8 billion of the $3 billion in aid the U.S. provided to the Ukraine under the Obama Administration. And any responsible member of Congress, or any citizen, really, would question that the President of the United States would want this matter investigated? Really?

Joe Biden reminding former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko that Poroshenko was paying for lunch, at the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington in March 2016. Former SecState John Kerry, left, looks on. It was more than a lunch that Biden’s son managed to take out of Ukraine. Photo by Jonathan Ernst, Reuters. Used under Fair Use.

The official rules governing State Department employees require not just the avoidance of impropriety, but even the appearance of impropriety in their dealings. I wonder how much the former Vice President thought about the appearance, much less the substance, of what was going on as he dragged son Hunter along on his official coattails. As a Foreign Service officer, I used to have misgivings when someone or other would offer to buy me lunch. I’d usually reciprocate the gesture, anyway, and it would have taken a lot more than a bowl of pasta or a plate of grilled fish to influence me in execution of my duties to look after the interests of the U.S. taxpayer. But I guess not having a well placed daddy, as Hunter Biden did, might have deprived me of entrée into opportunities much more lucrative than a lunch.

We’re not even getting into the role that Ukraine played in the Hillary Clinton campaign and its attempt at smearing candidate Trump in the 2016 campaign. Or the Ukraine connections of House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, so intent on skewering and bringing down Trump using the President’s conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which we dealt with in the Oct. 2 posting, as pretext. Or what John Brennan, CIA Director under Obama, was doing in Ukraine, traveling under a false passport in April 2014. All that may have to wait for other days and other postings.

The intricately interwoven net of connections and corruption involving highly placed members of the Democratic Party that come together in Ukraine defies any ability to diagram it. You, gentle reader, may wonder why the second poorest country in Europe should figure so highly in U.S. politics. It is more than that Ukraine is a surrogate in the West’s antagonism with Putin’s Russia. What is more salient is that the country is one of the world’s most corrupt. Transparency International gives Ukraine a rating of 32 points out of a perfect score of 100, ranking it as the 120th most corrupt country out of 180 ranked. Corruption is endemic in the former Soviet republic, which The Guardian rates as “the most corrupt nation in Europe.” What better place to pursue corrupt schemes than where the ground has already been prepared and sown?

Now you may recall how I asked you, higher in this piece, to remember the name “Bohai,” as in Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC, the company in which Hunter Biden is a principal and which was paid $3.4 million by Burisma Holdings. That is the link to an even bigger “there” there for the Biden father-son duo than the Ukraine deal, and it leads us to a much bigger actor on the world stage: China. Stay tuned for Part III along the trail as we go from Kyiv to Beijing and the biggest payday yet for the younger Biden.

Another Swing, Another Miss

Another Swing, Another Miss

Good old Uncle Joe. The former VP and would-be President just couldn’t help blowing his own horn. Touting what he felt was an accomplishment, he bragged to the Council on Foreign Relations in January 2018 how he got a prosecutor in the Ukraine fired by threatening to withhold a billion dollars in U.S. loan guarantees.

I said, nah, I’m not going to – or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president,” Biden told the Council. “The president said—I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.”

Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden. Photo by Associated Press. Used under Fair Use.

If you sense a quid pro quo or a threat reminiscent of one made by a common thug contained in Biden’s words, you can be excused for being perceptive. Apparently Biden didn’t see any issue in putting the muscle, using U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance as leverage, on the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor that just happened to be investigating the company which had hired his son, Hunter, as a board member and highly paid consultant. The other attendees at the CFR meeting laughed. The mainstream media looked the other way. All was well in Biden’s self-created world, until this past week when an unnamed “whistleblower” came forward to accuse President Donald Trump of improperly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to, as it has been termed, dig up dirt on Biden. And that brought the whole Hunter Biden question to the fore and what role his father, as Vice President, had in paving the way to extremely lucrative contracts for Hunter and his partners in both Ukraine and China, along with a video of Joe Biden telling his story to the Council on Foreign Relations.

That whistleblower report was enough to cause the gnashing of teeth and the rending of garments among Democrats in Congress, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after months of resisting calls to impeach the President originating within her caucus, suddenly declared there would be an “impeachment inquiry” of the President. Whatever that means. One can almost feel the frustration among the hapless Dems in the House. The idea of Trump being in the White House is, to them, like holding up a ball of garlic to a vampire. Three years later, they still can’t accept that their candidate lost the election to Trump. It makes them apoplectic on a daily basis. And, most frustrating of all, everything they have tried to block Trump has turned out to be a swing and a miss:

In between the Dems tried to take out Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Another swing and a miss. They even tried smearing Kavanagh again recently, and that attempt missed even more widely than the first. You’d think with all these strikes, the Dems would accept the out and retire from the field. But not this bunch. It seems that there is a fear shared by some, but clearly expressed by Texas Rep. Al Green on MSNBC, who said, “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.”

It can’t be any more clear than that: If nothing else succeeds in thwarting the will of the American people, then the Dems in Congress will use their power to impeach the President. It’s increasingly clear that this has been an attempt at a silent (and at times, not so silent) coup. Of course, there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm among voters for impeachment, and the effort is bound to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate. Yet another swing and a miss? That’s my bet.

It doesn’t bode well for the Dems that $5 million poured into Republican coffers in the 24 hours following Pelosi’s announcement, swelling to $15 million in a few days, mostly from small donors and coming from all 50 states. This came a week after the RNC announced it had raised $23 million in August.

A Shadow Motive?

Former SecState Hillary Clinton and ex-Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko: Building the Ukraine connection. Photo by Agence France-Presse. Used under Fair Use.

I don’t mean to sound like a cynic, but for all her faults, Pelosi is a political animal. It’s implausible that she would raise the Ukraine issue over Trump without realizing that there is likely going to be blow-back onto Joe Biden, so far the front runner in the polls in the crowded field of Democratic presidential contenders. It’s my suspicion – and that’s all it is at this point – that Pelosi and others highly placed in the DNC realize that Joe Biden can’t beat Trump, so this is a two-sided gambit: Discredit Trump as much as you can, even if you can’t impeach him, and meanwhile knock Biden out of the race and open the door to another Dem candidate. Who might that candidate be? The obvious choice is Elizabeth Warren. But in politics, it’s not only the obvious, but the hidden, that matters. There might be another candidate hanging in the wings, just waiting to be called back on stage: Hillary Clinton.

Before you scoff at that, consider how Hillary Clinton is driven by power. She was humiliated in 2016 and in 2008, kept from what she sees as her destiny, the Presidency. And there are millions of voters who think they were deprived of having their candidate elected. Additionally, Clinton has not been silent on Trump’s Ukraine call, tweeting that Trump “has betrayed our country,” and then vacuously declaring that her words weren’t “a political statement – it’s a harsh reality, and we must act. He is a clear and present danger to the things that keep us strong and free. I support impeachment.” This shameless display of chutzpah coming from the very woman who has her own Ukraine connection and who violated the law and the trust of her position by using a private, unsecured server to transact official business while she was Secretary of State, and who has yet to be prosecuted for the “clear and present danger” her actions put the country in. She risks becoming the Democratic Harold Stassen of our age – vying with Joe Biden himself for the honor – but that might not be enough to dissuade her.

Where the “There” That is “There” Is

There is a “there” to all this, but it doesn’t lie with Trump’s telephone conversation with Zelensky. Along with lacking any obvious quid pro quo, such as Biden’s threat to former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Trump was completely within his right as President to discuss and ask for investigation of possible violations of both U.S. and Ukraine law. If you haven’t already, you should read the transcript of the conversation at issue which the White House released. It stands in stark contrast to Biden’s account of how he threatened Ukraine’s leaders and how House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff fraudulently parodied Trump’s conversation.

As a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, I can comment directly on a few aspects of this whole dust-up. First, a President absolutely has the right to ask a foreign leader or government to take some action or other. How could he not? This is done all the time, and always has been. It is part of the President’s responsibility to pursue U.S. interests and to influence the actions and directions taken by other governments. He would be remiss if he doesn’t do this.

Second, if a President reasonably believes that certain actions violate U.S. law (corruption being one of them), again, he has an obligation to act on these beliefs. Article II Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the President “take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Does it matter that suspected illegal activity be that of an ordinary citizen or a former Vice President and candidate for the Presidency? I would argue the duty is the same in both cases, but the importance of the duty is greater in the latter case.

Third, the U.S. and the Ukraine have a Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. The U.S. has these treaties with numerous countries, including Australia, Italy, and the UK, countries to which Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham have reached out as part of their investigation into wrong-doing that led up to the Trump-Russia investigation. Again, the President is completely within the rights and duties of his office in acting under those treaties, as is the DOJ.

Trump on base as Schiff and Pelosi take another swing. Montage by westernjournal.com. Used under Fair Use.

Something else strikes me about the release of the transcript of the Trump call with Zelensky. If you look at the original document, you’ll see that all of the text of the call was classified at the “S/NF” (Secret/NoForn – No Foreign) level. This is a relatively high level of classification, and it would be justified by the discussion of other foreign leaders, such as Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France, during the call. I think this indicates the kind of highly sensitive issues the President and other world leaders discuss, and which normally are held in confidence. I fully understand why the White House declassified and released this transcript — with Zelensky’s concurrence — and I think it in part is intended to show how people in Congress, especially Schiff and Pelosi, are willing to put national security at risk in pursuit of their own political agenda.

Additionally, it has been alleged that the White House tried to conceal the transcript, but in fact for some time all White House communications have been put on a highly secure server to dissuade the kind of leaking that had become commonplace among opponents to this Administration. According to knowledgeable former White House aides, no special treatment was afforded this transcript, and the readiness of the President to declassify and release it puts the lie to the allegation. Probably Schiff and the Dems never expected Trump to release the transcript, but he did, exposing them to the fresh air they abhor.

Meanwhile, there is debate about what the alleged whistleblower actually witnessed first-hand and how much was reported to him or her by others. The extent to which the allegations made by a whistleblower are credible and can be documented determine the viability of a whistleblower’s status and claims and even whether whistleblower legal protections extend to the party. Some who have read the actual complaint have said they believe it was prepared by attorneys working with the whistleblower, or possibly by Congressional staffers, perhaps in Schiff’s office. There even are growing indications that the complaint originated with Schiff. While this remains to be documented, it would not be the first time this sort of thing was done by the Democrats, such as in preparation of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations in the Kavanaugh matter.

As all this political theater is going on, you might be wondering whether there are any other issues that Congress might be concerning itself with. Issues like healthcare, immigration, the national debt, funding the government, infrastructure, gun regulation, trade, taxation, and a myriad of other pressing matters. While the Dems in Congress fritter away their time futilely trying to push Trump from the office to which he was duly elected, the country drifts. One wonders why we even pay members of Congress for their time, since they do nothing observably productive. This is undoubtedly a message Pelosi has gotten from voters given her blather about all the issues the Congress will take up in the press conference she and Schiff gave today. She has as much credibility in her assertions in that area as she and Schiff have in their pursuit of Trump. Pelosi is not likely to give the President anything he can point to as an accomplishment, the country be damned.

Next I am going to look at where the actual “there” is in all this, and that “there” lies with the former VP and his son, among others. This all gets so convoluted and detailed that it merits its own posting – more than one book actually has been written about it – so stay tuned for Part II in this sordid tale, which will follow later this week.

The Singapore Summit: Cautious Hope, But All Bets Are Off

The Singapore Summit: Cautious Hope, But All Bets Are Off

By the time this piece is posted we’ll be minutes away from the historic face-to-face meeting in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. As I’ve said in my previous posting on the question of what to do about North Korea, it’s a fool’s bet to try to predict outcomes. It takes either more hubris than I am willing to muster or more in-depth knowledge than I am willing to claim to predict with any degree of confidence what is going to come out of this summit.

I will claim a few good calls, though. While many were deriding the President’s rhetoric as risking provoking Kim into pulling the trigger and attacking (fill in the blank: South Korea, Guam, Japan, the U.S., the dark side of the moon), I saw it as one bully using the language the other bully might understand. And that’s pretty much how it shaped up. That exchange of nah-nah-na-yah-nah was actually pretty productive and through it Trump told Kim he wasn’t going to be pushed around or sweet talked, as previous presidents had been.

It undoubtedly also took persuasion by the DPRK’s few allies, most notably China, to encourage Kim to consider a new tack in relations with the U.S. and, by extension, South Korea. And one can’t discount the flair and pageantry and the positive PR value of the two Koreas joining together for the Soeul Olympics.

None of this is to say that Kim and Trump will become bosom buddies and that North Korea will abandon its nuclear program or the weapons it already has. Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is that there will be an agreement and framework reached for advancing a process, most likely a lengthy and contentious process, that could eventually lead to some sort of normalization in relations between the U.S., the DPRK, South Korea, and other countries in the region. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo already has said that he is prepared to brief the leaders of the region’s countries on the summit, a kind of preparation for next steps.

There has been one troublesome development in the past few hours, which is Kim’s announcement that he plans on leaving Singapore later today, cutting short his stay. I’ve not only seen this tactic before, but was the victim of if when it was used on me in a key negotiation I had been engaged in. What I fear is that the North Korean leader will discuss most of the key issues with Trump, and then bow out with the most important and crucial issue left untouched. As an experienced negotiator, I trust the President will see through this ruse, but I can’t help but think this is Kim’s plan.

I don’t think it would be any surprise if either Trump or Kim, or both, walk out of the summit. One thinks back to the 1986 Rejkjavik Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, when talks collapsed, but the framework was laid for what eventually led to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and the then Soviet Union. And one wishes that Barack Obama and John Kerry had been more willing to walk out on the Iranians rather than agreeing to the weak nuclear treaty that President Trump recently pulled the U.S. out of.

Well, it’s almost show time in Singapore, so get your beer and snacks, pull up a seat, and get ready to watch the festivities.