Are U.S. spies staging a “soft coup” against the Trump administration?

6357759479_0d038eded2_oPresident Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn lost his job because someone leaked records from his phone being monitored, recording him telling the Russian ambassador that sanctions against his country would be eased.  Such phone intercepts are the work of U.S. intelligence agencies or possibly the FBI.  They are top secret.  It’s a crime to release bugging transcripts.  Nevertheless, someone in the intelligence bureaucracy gave them to a reporter.  Something similar evidently happened with the President of the United States, no less, with the leak of phone conversations between Donald Trump and world leaders, such as the embarrassing account of his spat with the Prime Minister of Australia.

Evidently, our national intelligence agency–or at least some individuals that work for it–are working to undermine our elected president and his administration.

Whatever you think of Donald Trump, this is dangerous.  At least two reports have come out on the subject, excerpted and linked after the jump.  Eli Lake calls what happened to Michael Flynn a “political assassination.”  He says that while the FBI might have been tapping his phone as part of the larger investigation of the Russian connection with Trump’s administration, Flynn was planning to reform the intelligence bureaucracy, which would be a motive for trying to get rid of him.  Damon Linker, who opposes both Trump and Flynn, nevertheless is highly concerned about the usurpation of an elected government by our shadowy spy world, accusing it of trying to stage a “soft coup” that is a threat to our democracy. [Read more…]

Trump’s labor secretary pick withdraws

Andrew_Puzder_by_Gage_Skidmore_(cropped)President Trump’s pick for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew, after several Republicans in the Senate said they would not vote for him, making his confirmation impossible.  This is Trump’s first setback in putting his cabinet together.

Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which operates the fast food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.

Though a Trump defeat, Puzder’s failure to get confirmed can be seen as a victory for Trump’s ideas.  Puzder has a history of hiring illegal immigrants, both in his company and in his personal house-keeping.  He has been an advocate for increased immigration and had been a supporter of the “Gang of Eight” style immigration reform with its amnesty provisions.   As labor secretary, he would not seem to embody the interests of the American workers who have been casualties of globalism and who put Trump in office.  See this for a conservative case against his confirmation.

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Run it like a business?

business-1137397_640President Trump is reported to be understandably frustrated that the government can’t be run like a business.  In his company, Trump could simply given an order and his underlings would do it.  But as president, he gives an order but he has to contend with the courts, Congress, semi-independent agencies such as the Pentagon, a vast bureaucracy, and state governments, each with its own complicated workings.

I’ve listened to a pastor explain how he is trying to run his church like a business.  He is the CEO, he explained.  His members are his employees.  He said he doesn’t do hospital visitations or evangelism calls.  That is the work of his members/employees.

I do think the government and churches can learn some things from businesses.  For example, you need to balance the budget, be efficient, give good service, etc.  But the very nature of these institutions prevents them from being interchangeable in the way they operate.  [Read more…]

Is the Russian military testing Trump?

640px-MiG-29_fuselageA Russian spy ship was spotted Tuesday sailing just off the U.S. east coast.  Also on Tuesday, the administration confirmed that Russia had deployed ground-based cruise missiles in violation of a 1987 treaty.  Last Friday, four Russian jets buzzed an American ship in the Black Sea.

Such provocations sound like Vladimir Putin is testing our new president, who created the impression when Iran was doing this sort of thing that he would not tolerate it.  Putin tested Obama like this all the time, drawing conclusions about his weakness.

It will be interesting to see what President Trump does.

It has been alleged that the Russians helped Trump get elected.  Trump has floated the idea of eliminating the sanctions against Russia for invading the Ukraine and annexing the Crimea.  But Trump’s new secretary of state and secretary of defense have talked tough about keeping the sanctions.  And being overly cozy with the Russian ambassador is what got national security advisor Michael Flynn fired.

Why do you think Putin would throw his weight around like this?

If Trump ignores these incidents, he might look weak, or even in thrall to Putin.  If Trump reacts, he needs to be measured and must not over-react, qualities that have not been his strong suit.

At any rate, this may be President Trump’s first foreign relations test.

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Trump’s national security advisor resigns

Michael_T_FlynnMichael Flynn, President Trump’s national security advisor, has resigned.  He was caught negotiating with the Russian ambassador over sanctions before taking office.  It is illegal for a private citizen to do so.  Flynn also lied to Vice-President Pence about it.

The pressure for him to leave evidently came from Trump himself.

Embattled White House national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned Monday night, two sources tell CNN.

His departure came just after reports surfaced the Justice Department warned the Trump administration last month that Flynn misled administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. [Read more…]

Appeals court rejects Trump’s immigration ban

SeaTac_Airport_protest_against_immigration_ban_02 (1)The lower court that blocked President Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven terrorist-plagued countries was upheld by an appeals court.  Next stop, more than likely:  the Supreme Court.

I understand that lots of people are pro-immigration and feel compassion for refugees from some of these dangerous countries.  But I’m curious about the legal reasoning.  As I understand it, the executive branch has the statutory authority to regulate immigration, including excluding citizens of nations on the basis of national interest.  And I can’t see how this ban is discriminatory.  This isn’t the ban on Muslims that Trump proposed during the campaign.  Most of the world’s Muslims can come in, just not those from the seven countries with a history of terrorism.

But Trump is thwarted, which makes him angry.  And, as is his custom, he responds to criticism by “hitting back,” slamming the “so-called judge” that delivered the initial decision, which does not help his case with the judicial branch.  Even his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was bothered by that.

UPDATE:  Here is the statue in U.S. law, which was not even referenced in the judges’ ruling:

“Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

According to this analysis, the judges’ ruling focused on two issues:  (1) the administration’s contention that the executive order was “unreviewable” by a court, which was predictably rejected; (2) that the president’s campaign statement about not allowing Muslims into the country invalidated what would otherwise be a lawful order. (That makes no sense whatsoever!)

UPDATE:  Trump now says he will not at the present time take the case to the Supreme Court.  He will pursue it in lower courts.  And he may rewrite the order so that it passes legal muster.

Photo:  SeaTac Airport protest against immigration ban by Dennis Bratland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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