Waking Up the American Dream

The American Dream has awakened from its slumber. Last Friday the US Bureau of Economic Analysis relased it’s quarterly report on Gross Domestic Product. The US economy grew at a quarterly rate of 4.1 percent in the period of April through June of 2018. The United States is on track to hit economic growth that it hasn’t seen in over a decade.

Much of the credit for this growth goes to President Trump. His aggressive cuts in the stranglehold of federal regulations along with the tax cuts passed by Congress just before last Christmas were the wakeup calls for the American dream.

Money held by American companies with overseas operations was not coming back to the United States because of the high tax penalties associated with bringing the money back. Now that money is starting to come back. It is being invested here in America and it is creating jobs.

Unemployment has plumeted to 3.8 percent. This is the lowest unemployment percentage in 18 years. African-American unemployment is at historic low levels.

This is significant because, even though the Democrat party does not want to believe it, there were a lot of African-Americans who voted for Trump because of the hope of jobs in the private sector. Eight years of Barack Obama and nearly half a century of Democrat class warfare have proven to be empty rhetoric.

Trump asked, “What do you have to lose?” Many took his offer. Now they see real results. The so called “spokesmen” who continue to spew class warfare and play the race card represent a continually shrinking percentage of the African-American voters who buy in to the blame game.

For the first time ever, job openings exceed the number of people seeking work. Small business optimism is up. Manufacturing optimism is up. Over 95 percent of manufacturers in a quartery outlook survey said that they have a positive outloook.

How did this radical shift take place? President Trump took an aggressive, common sense, approach to freeing the private sector and especially the average American. For too long, Washington operated in a vacum that was filled by lobbyists and politicians who swallowed the lure of money and prestige.

A thirst for position and influence may have started as a desire to better serve the people back home. Over time; however, the focus shifted from the people who elected them to the people they met with, dined with, and listened to every day inside the beltway. 

Money is the addictive drug of influence peddlers in DC. President Trump does not need it and will not take it.

He also broke the mold by refusing to cower before the Democrats in Congress. He proved that they were more bark than bite. I am cautiously optimistic that Republicans in Congress will finally do the same.

The American dream has been awakened from its slumber. Now the American people must stay alert and keep the dream growing. We cannot afford to hit the snooze button.

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The OIG Report – Part 1

This commentary is a little longer than my average comments. I read the entire OIG report, all 500 plus pages, on the Clinton E-Mail investigation. My commentary on this just won’t fit in 500 words or less.

In his conclusion the OIG used a phrase of six critical words: “The damage caused by these employees’…”

A few powerful players at the top level polluted the entire investigation. The OIG was ultra cautious in concluding that he did not find “documentary or testimonial evidence” that there was political bias.

My conclusion after reading the full report is that political bias saturated this investigation like gravy on biscuits. This is not to cast a wide net over all of the FBI and DOJ personnel.

I want to share my observations of a few aspects of the report.

Director James Comey

With regard to political bias, I am willing to give Director Comey the benefit of the doubt. In his testimony and the testimony of others, it appears that Director Comey’s ultimate concern was the reputation of the FBI.

His problem was not political bias per se. His problem was (and still appears to be) a hyper-inflated sense that he is the only one in the universe who can determine what is “right.”

In July of 2016 when I watched Comey’s press conference, my first thought was, “Why is he making this announcement and not a US Attorney?” Comey’s decision to go on his own was pure and simple insubordination.

On page 245, the OIG report made a key point. “In our criminal justice system, the investigative and prosecutive functions are intentionally kept separate as a check on the government’s power to bring criminal charges.”

Comey willfully, knowingly, intentionally, tossed the checks and balances out the window. He made himself the chief arbiter of a decision that was never his to make.

In October, days before the election, Comey again made a decision to publicly re-open the Clinton e-mail investigation. In this case, DOJ was aware of his intention to notify Congress and requested that he not at that time. Again, Comey acted as if he alone had the integrity to make the “right” decision.

After President Trump fired Comey, he once again displayed his insubordination. He retained an official FBI work product after his termination of employment, and gave it to a college professor who had no business even knowing the document existed. The professor then leaked the document to the news media as a conduit for Comey.

Comey felt that his action was justified. It was not justified. It violated FBI policy, if not the law.

The FBI Director is part of the Executive Branch and as such is accountable to and subordinate to the Attorney General and the President. While Comey proclaimed his independence from outside meddling, in reality he was acting as a benevolent dictator. He should have been fired in July of 2016.

Peter Strzok and Lisa Page

The two lovebirds got a lot of attention over their text messages. Both held high positions of influence in the investigation. Incredulously, one of them, Peter Strzok is still employed by the FBI.

On July 31, 2016 Strzok sent a text to Page about the opening of the Russia investigation. He expressed his excitement to be on the investigation.

“And ____ this feels momentous. Because this matters. The other one did, too, but that was to ensure we didn’t ___ something up. This matters because this MATTERS. So super glad to be on this voyage with you.”

The most publicized exchange was on August 8, 2016:

Page: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
Strzok: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”

Strzok was not talking about organizing political activities to get out the vote for Hillary and assure her victory. He held a powerful role in an investigation of the Trump campaign. Based on his July 31 e-mail he appeared to believe at that time that the investigation would somehow stop Trump.

His belief is evident in a text one week later, on August 15, when Strzok wrote to Page:

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40….”

On May 17, 2017, Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel. On May 18, Strzok wrote to Page,

“For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business. I unleashed it with MYE [the Clinton E-Mail Investigation]. Now I need to fix it and finish it.”

Strzok also wrote about his career path. “Who gives a ___, one more A[ssistant] D[irector]…[versus] [a]n investigation leading to impeachment?”

On May 22, Strzok wrote another message to Page about her career path as part of the Special Counsel’s team: “This is yours. Plus, leaving a S[pecial] C[ounsel] (having been an SC) resulting in an impeachment as an attorney is VERY different than leaving as an investigator….”

These text messages reveal more than just a bias. In his role, Strzok had at his disposal assets from the intelligence community, the law enforcement community, and the Department of Justice.

Peter Strzok was texting about stopping a candidate in the American electoral process. Then he was texting about removing the duly elected President of the United States.

Every FBI agent takes an oath of office that begins with these words, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” Peter Strzok, in particular, needs to look into the mirror because his text messages reveal him to a domestic enemy of the United States Constitution. It is a travesty that Strzok is still employed by the FBI. The new Director needs to clean house, or he needs to go the way of James Comey.

I have a lot more to write on this report. Watch for my next Note from Don Cole with more on the OIG report.

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Pardon – Returning to the Constitutional Intent

President Trump raised eyebrows with recent pardons and reprieves. He needled his opponents by stating that the President even has the power to pardon himself if he wanted. He went on to say that in his case there was no need because he had done nothing wrong.

President Trump Signing Pardon (https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/politics/trump-pardons-boxer-jack-johnson)Two recent pardons are noteworthy. One was the posthumous pardon of Jack Johnson, former World Heavyweight Champion boxer. Johnson, an African American, was convicted in 1913 of a federal crime for taking his white girlfriend across state lines.

There was no question that the motivation for prosecution was simply because he was dating a white woman. Johnson served 10 months in prison. He died in 1946.

Johnson’s great great niece, Linda Haywood, asked President George W. Bush to grant a posthumous pardon. It never happened.

She had great hopes for a pardon during the Obama administration. She even had the support of Congress.

President Obama refused to act on the basis of a recommendation from the Justice Department. A Justice Department spokesman wrote that is is the “department’s position that the limited resources which are available to process requests for president clemency—now being submitted in record numbers—are best dedicated to requests submitted by persons who can truly benefit from a grant of the request.”

President Trump learned of the case of Jack Johnson, not from Justice Department lawyers, but from Sylvester Stallone. When the President looked into the case, he saw that this was wrong.

He righted the wrong. Contrary to the view of career lawyers in the Justice Department, Jack Johnson’s family and our nation truly benefited from the grant of this request.

Photo of Alice Johnson (Courtesy of Can-Do)President Trump’s other noteworthy use of his pardon authority was to commute the life sentence of a non-violent drug offender, Alice Johnson. She had served 21 years on conspiracy to possess cocaine and attempted possession of cocaine.

As in the case of Jack Johnson, this was not the first time a request had been made to the Office of the President. Three request were made during the Obama administration. Justice Department lawyers denied her petition. President Obama left it up to the Justice Department and never acted on the request.

Also, as in the case of Jack Johnson, it was not the Justice Department that brought the matter to the President’s attention. It was Kim Kardashian. When the President called for the record and examined the case, he gave Alice Johnson her freedom.

The power of the President to issue pardons is found in Article II of the Constitution. The President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

The power to pardon is the least limited power granted to the President in the Constitution. Impeachment is the only exception. That is because impeachment is a power granted to the legislative branch in Article I.

President Trump’s direct action on granting pardons and reprieves is a return to the original intent of the framers of the Constitution. Over the years, the power to grant pardons and reprieves gradually became a defacto power of unelected career employees in the Justice Department.

Justice Department lawyers do not have the power to grant a pardon, but for all practical purposes, they decided, made recommendations to the President, and the President signed the papers. President Trump put an end to that practice.

There were probably more than a few lawyers wringing their hands with angst. After all, this President had never spent a day in law school. How could he possibly be qualified to make such decisions? The answer is simple. He is qualified because the Constitution says so.

A pardon changes the status of the one receiving the pardon. In 1867, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field wrote that the effect of a Presidential pardon on an individual, “makes him, as it were, a new man… so that in the eye of the law the offender is as innocent as if he had never committed the offence.”

The philisophical basis of the power to pardon is also the foundation of the Christian faith. In II Corinthians 5:17, Paul wrote, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” These words may have been in Justice Field’s mind when he wrote “makes him, as it were, a new man..”

In the case of Jack Johnson, President Trump righted a wrong that was over a century old. In the case of Alice Johnson, he showed compassion and grace to give her a second chance. I am glad to see President Trump putting the Constitutional human element back into pardons and reprieves.

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Unfettered Power

“Unfettered power.” Two words from the bench of Federal District Court Judge T. S. Ellis III that sum up the judge’s line of questioning in the investigation of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and his team.

I read the 48 page transcript of the hearing before Judge Ellis. Most of the hearing consisted of Judge Ellis pointedly questioning the special prosecutor’s attorney about the origin of the case brought before him and the motivation of the special counsel regarding the indictment of Paul Manafort.

The judge opened the hearing by making a distinction between the government and the special counsel. “Let me ask the government — or not the government — the special counsel a few questions..” From that point, the remainder of the conversation was between the judge and the special counsel.

Judge Ellis focused on the question of why the special counsel was prosecuting Manafort at this time. The US Attorney had investigated Manafort as far back as 2005 with no indictment. Mueller’s team took that old investigation and pressed charges. The judge’s questioning boiled down to “why” and “why now?”

He could see no connection between the investigations of 2005 and the special counsel’s actions today. He noted that the special counsel was appointed to investigate links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

The investigations and indictment of Manafort related to events well before the 2016 Presidential campaign. Judge Ellis noted, “I don’t see what relation this indictment has with anything the special prosecutor is authorized to investigate.”

Judge Ellis got right to the point by stating that the special counsel did not really care about the alleged bank fraud by Paul Manafort. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That’s what you’re really interested in.”

The special counsel struggled to answer the judge’s question in a straight forward manner. At one point he defended the special counsel’s using the files from the 2005 investigation by implying that the special counsel was not really bound by the scope of the order appointing the special counsel.

It was at that point that Judge Ellis sternly lectured the special counsel:

THE COURT: What we don’t want in this country is we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. We don’t want federal judges with unfettered power. We don’t want elected officials with unfettered power. We don’t want anybody, including the President of the United States, nobody to have unfettered power. So it’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me that the special prosecutor has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants…. American people feel pretty strongly about no one having unfettered power.

In the course of Judge Ellis’s questioning, he noted that a memo from Acting Attorney General Rosenstein was 75% blacked out. He wanted to know why he did not have a full copy.

The special counsel explained that the only paragraphs pertinent were the ones that were given to the judge. Judge Ellis responded, “I’ll be the judge of whether it relates to the others…. I’ll be the judge of whether it has anything to do with Mr. Manafort.”

Judge Ellis wrapped up the hearing with a requirement that the special counsel provide him a means to read the full unredacted memos. He also told the special counsel that he (Judge Ellis) was exercising uncharacteristic restraint on his part not to require special counsel to provide additional information on the decision making process involved.

Unfettered power sums up the attitudes and actions exhibited by the special counsel. For the first time, outside of the President and members of Congress, the special counsel encountered someone who threw the penalty flag. At one point in his remarks, Judge Ellis incredulously exclaimed, “Come on, man!”

The American people have been of the “Come on, man!” mindset for months. It is well past time for someone to exercise oversight and end the unfettered power of the special counsel by setting a deadline for Robert Mueller to issue a final report.

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President Trump Played the Hand He Was Dealt

I have seen many posts and commentaries critical of the President for signing the Omnibus spending bill into law. I do not think that there was anything more that he could gain by vetoing the bill.

His top priority was to rebuild our nation’s military after nearly a decade of neglect. This bill took a big step in that direction.

Other initiatives such as building the wall, defunding Planned Parenthood, and reforms in the Veteran’s Administration were passed over by Congress. It is neither reasonable nor realistic to believe that Congress would have improved any of these other initiatives.

Republicans control both the House and Senate. It does not appear that they put up much of a fight in the bill that they gave the President. If they did not have his back at the beginning, he certainly could not expect them to have his back to support a veto.

It took a fork lift to deliver the 2200 page bill to the President. When it arrived at the Whitehouse, he looked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. All he could see were taxi cabs and Uber cars with members of Congress scrambling to get to the airport.

Congress is supposed to pass a budget and the President sign it before October 1 of each year. When they do not have their act together in time, they merely pass a short term extension.

For this year they extended through December 8, then December 22, then January 19, then February 8, then March 23. I count five times they kicked the can down the road. There is no evidence that anything substantive took place during those temporary extensions.

Here is the real ugly truth. The 2200 pages were churned out by lobbyists and congressional staffers who then packaged it up for a handful of elected members of Congress.

Those few members, from both parties, then push it out to the rest of the members giving little or no time for debate, much less time to read it. This is all under a cloud of imminent disaster if it is not passed by the deadline – which by then is literally hours away.

Georgia Senator David Perdue is on a lonely crusade to change the budget process. Along the way he has built support for his ideas. Congress even established a joint study committee to consider changes in the budget process.

We are now 6 months away from the next budget being due. Maybe I should more correctly say that we are six months away from the next season of kick the can.

Republicans in Congress need to stand up for the agenda on which they have been running and getting elected. Fund the wall, defund Planned Parenthood, and reduce the size of government.

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The State of the Union

I look forward to hearing President Trump’s State of the Union Message tomorrow evening. We will hear him focus on how we have advanced as a nation in the past year.

The last President was going around the world apologizing to other nations for America. Contrast that to President Trump who is unapologetically proud of America. The differences are as stark as the dense darkness in the depths of Mammoth Cave to high noon in the Sahara desert.

From his first visit to Saudi Arabia where he confronted Muslim terrorism in its own back yard to Warsaw where he boldly proclaimed Western Judeao-Christian values that are the foundation for freedom.

Just last week in Lavos, he promoted America First and clearly explained that America First does not mean America alone.  He made economics simple by pointing out that a strong American economy is good for the whole world.

The stock market hits new records highs on a weekly basis. When it passed 25,000, President Trump said it looks like 30,000 is our next goal.

I expect him to talk about his plan for investment in infrastructure. He will discuss his plan for Immigration.  He offered a proposal to the Democrats for the Dreamers that is bi-partisan.

He stood firm when Democrats shut down the government to allow some illegal immigrants to stay. His proposal now doubles the number of illegal immigrants who would be allowed to stay and have a path to become citizens.

The mainstream media has focused on matters that don’t matter to the average American. It has become nauseatingly comical. President Trump will address the things that do matter.  It is not just talk. It is action and millions of Americans are seeing it now, even in their own paychecks.

This will be an important address. I will be watching. I hope that you will too.

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Shoehorning to Shutdown

Congress failed to send a bill to the President to continue funding the government. As a result, President Trump directed an orderly shut down process to begin at midnight, January 19, 2018.

Senate rules allow a minority of Senators to block action on a bill. Republicans hold a slim 51 to 49 majority in the Senate. When Democrats filibuster (which they did) Republicans need at least 9 Democrat votes to allow a vote on the bill.

Five Democrats voted to proceed with voting along with 45 Republicans. Five Republicans including McConnell voted NO on the motion to proceed. McConnell voted NO so that he could move to reconsider.

I watched the Senate proceedings. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell spoke with clear common sense about the failure of the Senate to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government.

There was very little controversy over the content of the resolution. McConnell noted that the shutdown was 100% avoidable and pointedly said, “Democrats chose to filibuster a non-controversial funding bill that contains nothing, not a thing, that they do not support.”

That raises a rather obvious question. What is the problem? The problem is that Democrats decided to insert a completely separate issue into the resolution. McConnell put it best, “There is only one reason we ended up here; the shoehorning of illegal immigration into this debate.”

Cut through all the hype and it comes down to one simple issue. Democrats put the interests of illegal immigrants above the interests of Americans.

The issue they shoehorned into this debate has nothing to do with funding the government. Republicans in the Senate should stand together and refuse to yield to this blatant extortion.

The American people clearly see Schumer’s priorities.They see where they stand in relation to illegal immigrants.

Senator McConnell is to be commended for his leadership thus far. Schumer’s Shutdown does not just put Americans in the back of the bus. Schumer’s Shutdown kicks Americans under the bus.

Democrat Senators need to make the wise decision to put America first. Put an end to this hypocritical smokescreen charade and let the Senate vote on the Continuing Resolution.

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Repeal and Let It Fail

After numerous efforts to replace Obamacare failed, President Trump stated that he is fine with letting it implode under its own weight, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has stated that he is bringing a vote to the floor on the same bill to repeal Obamacare that passed the Senate in 2015. It would have an effective date two years away.

Three Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine said they oppose McConnell’s proposal. Of those three, only Collins voted against the 2015 repeal plan. Continue reading

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Charlie Gard and President Trump’s Speech in Warsaw

Eleven month old, Charlie Gard, has been granted what is the equivalent of a stay of execution. The Great Ormand Street Hospital had requested and won the right to keep Charlie in its custody and remove his life support.

According to a story in the Daily Mail, seven international experts presented evidence that the baby has a much higher chance of survival than originally thought. Based on the evidence, the hospital requested a new hearing in the High Court. Continue reading

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Finish Your Chores Before You Play

The mini drama plays out every day in thousands of households around the world.  “Mom, can I go to the mall, play, see my friends, watch a movie?  You fill in the blank.  Mother responds, “Sure, but first clean up your room.”

Five or ten minutes later, “Mom, can I go now, my friends are waiting?”  This time the Mother’s response is in the form of a question. “Have you cleaned up your room?”  The answer comes back, “I’m almost done.”  The mother patiently replies, “Finish cleaning up your room.” Continue reading

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