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Eric Braverman, Missing Former Clinton Foundation CEO, Sighted — Kind Of

The Silicon Valley Business Journal reported today that former Clinton Foundation CEO Eric Braverman will be joining the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Group, a left-wing philanthropic organization. As I covered previously, no one has been able to get in touch with Braverman since October, when an email released from Wikileaks revealed that John Podesta had named him as a mole within the foundation.

Eric and Wendy Schmidt provided a statement to the paper, which said in part, “As we look to increase our impact, Eric Braverman’s insight into growing solutions that work and his experience with leaders in government, philanthropy, and business will be central to our efforts.” Wendy also tweeted a welcome to Braverman announcing the hire.

Braverman did not respond to her over Twitter. He still has not tweeted since October.

Eric Schmidt is a former CEO of Google, where he came under fire for illegally conspiring with Apple, Intel, and Adobe to refuse to hire each others’ tech engineers in order to avert a salary war. Employees filed a class-action lawsuit and were awarded $415 million, to be paid by the four companies. Last year, Schmidt invested in Groundwork, an organization that worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, spending $500,000 as of May 2016. Schmidt is considered the 100th wealthiest person in the world, and through his organization contributes millions of dollars to environmental causes.

If He’s Not Missing, Where Is He?

Based on this announcement, it appears likely that Braverman is not missing or in hiding. But based on the fact that he has yet to respond publicly, speculation continues that he’s been told by someone — like the FBI — not to make any public statements or speak to anyone in the press or on social media.

One possible reason is that he might be a witness in any charges brought against the Clintons, their foundation, or its employees. This would be true especially if he was the source of the Wikileaked documents that so embarrassed the Clintons, as Wikileaks’ Julian Assange has hinted.

There’s another possible explanation for his long silence: is he staying silent to embarrass conservatives investigating his disappearance? Some of the sites covering his absence have made sloppy claims that discredited them, such as claiming he’d never shown up for his teaching position at Yale when he’s been teaching there for a couple years.

The class Braverman teaches at Yale resumes on January 27. If he shows up. (For more from the author of “Eric Braverman, Missing Former Clinton Foundation CEO, Sighted — Kind Of” please click HERE)

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The $20 Trillion Question Republicans MUST Answer

Obama’s parting gift to this country is a transformed society with $20 trillion in debt. The big question is what will Republicans do differently to curb the growth of the debt?

Given recent news about GOP plans on health care and infrastructure, there are no signs things will improve. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office has released a new “fiscal health” study, which portends disturbing trends for our fiscal stability.

The gross federal debt now stands at $19.94 trillion — roughly $9.3 trillion more than it was when Obama took office. It took from our nation’s founding until 2008 (including most of the profligate Bush presidency) to accrue the first $9.3 trillion in debt. The public’s share of the debt is now $14.4 trillion, an $8.1 trillion increase since 2009.

Yes, Obama more than doubled the public share of the debt during his presidency!

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The gross federal debt, which includes intra-governmental debt comprised primarily of obligations for Social Security, federal pensions, and military pensions, is now 107 percent of the size of our economy and will forever grow larger than our GDP. When Obama was inaugurated, the gross debt was just 74 percent of GDP. If we look at just the public share of the debt, the numbers are even starker. In January 2009, the public share of the debt was just 44 percent of GDP; now it stands at 77.4 percent.

To make matters worse, the GAO published a report amplifying what we all already know: The current fiscal crisis will place “the federal government on an unsustainable long-term fiscal path.” Here are some other key takeaways from the report:

The federal government made $144 billion in improper payments during 2016. Errors in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit collectively accounted for 78 percent of the overpayments.

If health care spending is not reined in, the public share of the debt (now at 77 percent) will reach 106 percent in 15 years and surpass the all-time high during the peak of WWII.

One of the reasons the debt has not already engulfed this country in a fiscal calamity is because of the artificially low interest rates servicing increased debt on the cheap. But a return to historically average interest rates, in conjunction with the growing size of the debt itself, will self-perpetuate interest on the debt as the fastest growing expenditure. It will more than quadruple from just 1.4 percent of the economy today to 6.2 percent in 30 years. The longer we wait, therefore, to address the debt crisis, the steeper the punishment will be when the tab comes due. At present, we pay $273 billion in interest payments. That number will rise to $1.4 trillion in 2045 (adjusted for inflation).

Spending on federal health care programs will double from roughly $1 trillion to $2 trillion (adjusted for inflation) by 2045.

These are not merely abstract numbers on a balance sheet that only affect the budget of the federal government. Aside from the fact that taxpayers will ultimately bear the cost of this debt, the crushing debt and misallocation of resources is already hurting the family budget. As the report observes, “high levels of national debt may contribute to higher interest rates leading to lower investment and a smaller capital stock to assist economic growth.”

As we head into an era of GOP dominance, we must pose the $20 trillion question: Where is the party of fiscal conservatism?

Rather than discussing ways to make existing health care entitlements more free market-oriented to lower costs, Republicans are concocting a new massive health care entitlement built on top of crushing regulations that will force taxpayers to subsidize health care at the highest price possible.

This GAO report demonstrates the additional folly of pursuing Obamacare 2.0 instead of the free market. The gross cost of Medicare already outpaces military spending, and the combined federal and state price tag for Medicaid will soon overtake the defense budget. According to the CMS Actuary, in just six years, annual Medicaid expenditures will total $835 billion compared with the $687 billion projected cost of base military spending in 2023. The simple reality is that there is no way to forestall the financial collapse without dealing with health care spending.

Why can’t Republicans just speak the truth of how socialist health care is bankrupting the private and public sectors and pin the blame where it rightfully belongs? Why are they being defensive about the need to legitimize Obamacare with a commensurate “replacement?”

While the media focus on the inaugural attire of the Trump family this weekend, conservatives should begin demanding answers from Trump and Republicans to the $20 trillion question. (For more from the author of “The $20 Trillion Question Republicans MUST Answer” please click HERE)

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Trump’s Choice for EPA Chief Wants to Partner with, Not Punish, States

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency explained how he would make cooperating with the states a priority of the department during a Wednesday hearing on Capitol Hill.

Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, stressed “cooperative federalism” would be his guiding philosophy in running the EPA, meaning he wants the often controversial agency to work with states.

“Cooperative federalism is at the heart of many of the environmental statutes that have been passed by this body,” Pruitt told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “The reason for that is that it’s the states, many times, that have the resources, the expertise, and understanding what the unique challenges are for the environment in improving our water and our air.”

As his state’s attorney general, Pruitt led more than a dozen lawsuits against the EPA—which he defended as not being opposed to environmental regulations, but opposing legal overreach by the agency.

“We need a partnership, a true partnership, between the EPA performing its role, along with the states in performing theirs,” Pruitt said. “If we had that partnership as opposed to punishment, as opposed to uncertainty and duress that we currently see in the marketplace, I think we’ll have better air, better water quality as a result.”

Democrats on the Senate committee criticized Pruitt for suing to block certain EPA regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said his state has “bad air days” when people are informed to stay inside because of out-of-state smokestacks that pollute the air.

“Because those smokestacks are out of state we need EPA to protect us and I see nothing in your record that would give a mom taking her child to the hospital for an asthma attack any comfort that you would take the slightest interest in her,” Whitehouse said. “Your passion for devolving power down to states doesn’t help us because our state regulators can’t do anything about any of those problems. They all come from out-of-state sources.”

Pruitt said he wanted the EPA to adhere to its statutory authority from Congress.

I believe there are air quality issues and water quality issues that cross state lines that the jurisdiction of the EPA, its involvement in protecting our air quality and improving our nation’s waters is extremely important. The EPA has served a very valuable role historically. After all, it was Republicans who created the EPA under an executive order in the 1970s and this body has passed many pieces of legislation since the 1970s to focus on improving our air and improving our water quality.

In response to a question from Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Pruitt asserted, “I do not believe that climate change is a hoax.”

Pruitt, in his opening remarks, said the debate about the degree of human impact on climate change is open for dialogue.

“We should encourage open and civil discourse. One such issue where discourse is absent involves climate change,” Pruitt said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., accused Pruitt of only being worried about financial costs of regulations.

“I need you to care about human health and really believe that the cost when people are dying is far higher than it is to the cost of that polluter to clean up the air,” Gillibrand said.

However, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, talked about what a threat the EPA can be to American citizens.

“What I hear without fail at these town halls is that folks are frustrated with the EPA and the gotcha mentality that is stemmed from the agency,” Ernst said. “My constituents tell me that the EPA is out to get them rather than work with them. There is a huge lack of trust between my constituents and the EPA.”

Pruitt responded it does not have to be this way.

“This paradigm that we live within today that if you’re pro-energy, you’re anti-environment or if you’re pro-environment, you’re anti-energy is a false narrative,” Pruitt said. “We can do better than that. In fact, this country has shown for decades that we can grow our economy and be a good steward of our air, land, and water.” (For more from the author of “Trump’s Choice for EPA Chief Wants to Partner with, Not Punish, States” please click HERE)

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Amid Republican Criticism, Obama Defends Chelsea Manning Commutation

President Barack Obama used his final press conference to defend his decision to commute the sentence of former Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning.

“Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence, so the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished—I don’t think [that person] would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served,” Obama said.

In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking over 700,000 confidential military documents to WikiLeaks.

Republicans in Congress, however, are raising an outcry.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the decision “outrageous” and said that Obama’s decision could set a pattern for future decisions.

“Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” Ryan said. “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a statement Wednesday that Obama’s action of shortening Manning’s sentence is an “act of disrespect” to the military.

“Manning is a traitor who handed military and state secrets to WikiLeaks, putting our troops in danger,” Tillis said. “President Obama’s commutation of Manning’s sentence is the ultimate act of disrespect to our troops, our intelligence community, and our allies.”

Obama argued that Manning’s sentence was “very disproportional.”

“It has been my view that given she went to trial; that due process was carried out; that she took responsibility for her crime; that the sentence that she received was very disproportional—disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received; and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made sense to commute and not pardon her sentence,” Obama said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that he is not surprised by Obama’s action on Manning.

“It is a sad, yet perhaps fitting commentary on President Obama’s failed national security policies that he would commute the sentence of an individual that endangered the lives of American troops, diplomats, and intelligence sources by leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive government documents to WikiLeaks, a virulently anti-American organization that was a tool of Russia’s recent interference in our elections,” the Arizona Republican said in a statement Tuesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also had harsh words for Obama’s decision.

“It is shameful that President Obama is siding with lawbreakers and the ACLU against the men and women who work every day to defend our nation and safeguard U.S. government secrets,” Rubio said. (For more from the author of “Amid Republican Criticism, Obama Defends Chelsea Manning Commutation” please click HERE)

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Trump Inauguration Protesters Dishonor Long-Held Principle

More than any other political act, the orderly transfer of power from one administration to another at a presidential inauguration demonstrates convincingly that we are a nation of laws and not of men.

Even with the closest of outcomes and the losing side’s understandable disappointment—and even anger—victor and vanquished normally pledge to work together for the common good.

Unfortunately, a coalition of left-wing radicals has now pledged to do all that it can to disrupt Donald Trump’s inauguration, including blocking streets and perhaps bridges, preventing people from assembling along the parade route, spreading false “news” about the ceremony’s participants and their remarks, and pledging a “permanent opposition” to the Trump presidency.

One newspaper referred to the left’s “post-election frenzy of fundraising, war rooms, protests and social media hysteria.”

This radical left has ignored the example set by past presidential losers such as former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who after suffering defeat demonstrated their respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.

In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Gore by a little more than half a million votes (out of 101.4 million cast) but won the electoral vote by the slimmest of margins—271 to 266, one vote more than the 270 needed.

Gore could have refused to accept the Supreme Court’s decision putting a stop to ballot counting in Florida, but instead, he said that “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

Gore quoted Stephen Douglas’ comments to Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.” With his concession remarks, Gore provided an example of high statesmanship rather than low partisanship.

A little more than two months ago, Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by nearly 3 million votes out of 129 million cast, but won the electoral vote decisively by 306 to 232 votes.

Many Clinton supporters remain in deep denial, lending their support to the disaffected and the disgruntled who have promised to protest at the inauguration of Trump.

To her credit, Clinton has not encouraged the protests, but has rather stood by what she said at her concession speech on election night: “I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.”

Endeavoring to put politics behind her, Clinton said that “we owe [Trump] an open mind and a chance to lead” and acknowledged the importance of “the peaceful transfer of power.”

We do not know what Trump, ever unpredictable, will say in his speech after he has taken the oath of office to become our 45th president. But we have reason to believe that his inaugural address will be, at least in part, Reaganesque—optimistic and confident.

Speaking of Ronald Reagan, I think (as I wrote in National Affairs) that 2017 resembles 1981 in several significant ways.

Republicans have accumulated a vast backlog of conservative ideas over the past eight years that were blocked by President Barack Obama and are now available to Trump.

Similarly, The Heritage Foundation’s 1980 “Mandate for Leadership” contained a mountain of conservative policy reforms going back decades that helped Reagan move the federal government in a conservative direction.

Even so, Heritage has now offered the Trump administration a similarly comprehensive blueprint for conservative policies in every federal department and agency.

These include repeal of Obamacare and the creation of a free-market health care program; the repeal of Dodd-Frank and the shutting down of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; restoration of the work requirements for federal welfare; a flat tax rate on personal income; a commitment to traditional marriage; and the strengthening of our armed forces so that they are second to none.

The 2016 election returns have given conservatives a golden opportunity. The conservative agenda has proven solutions to many of the problems that led so many Americans—more than 61 million—to vote for the change that Trump promised.

It is now up to conservatives to convince policymakers from the White House to the statehouses to pursue the right path, to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and those we love. (For more from the author of “Trump Inauguration Protesters Dishonor Long-Held Principle'” please click HERE)

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CIA Unveils New Rules for Collecting Information on Americans

The Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday unveiled revised rules for collecting, analyzing and storing information on American citizens, updating the rules for the information age and publishing them in full for the first time.

The guidelines are designed “in a manner that protects the privacy and civil rights of the American people,” CIA General Counsel Caroline Krass told a briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The new rules were released amid continued public discomfort over the government’s surveillance powers, an issue that gained prominence following revelations in 2013 by former government contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collected the communications data of millions of ordinary Americans.

The guidelines were published two days before President elect-Donald Trump is sworn into office and may be changed by the new administration. Trump has said he favors stronger government surveillance powers, including the monitoring of “certain” mosques in the United States.

The CIA is largely barred from collecting information inside the United States or on U.S. citizens. But a 1980s presidential order provided for discrete exceptions governed by procedures approved by the CIA director and the attorney general. (Read more from “CIA Unveils New Rules for Collecting Information on Americans” HERE)

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CBO Confirms Fake Repeal of Obamacare Would Increase Premiums

What happens when Republicans pursue a half-baked repeal of Obamacare and sell it to the public as full repeal of Obamacare? Premiums go up because of the core Obamacare provisions left behind, yet that increase will be blamed on the false pretense that Obamacare was indeed repealed.

Earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a budgetary and economic score of the presumptive GOP plan to “replace” Obamacare. CBO concluded that not only will premiums fail to decrease, but will increase by 20-25% and 27 million more people would be uninsured. The Left is using this as proof that repeal of Obamacare is a net negative. In fact, this CBO score explicitly states that full repeal of Obamacare would decrease premiums, but only chose to score the GOP’s half-baked repeal, which retains Obamacare itself while repealing only the funding mechanisms.
Now Republicans have a PR nightmare of their own making and feel pressure to “replace” Obamacare in order to plug the hole — a hole that only exists because they are in fact not repealing what is qualitatively 80% of Obamacare.

What is Obamacare?

Obamacare is not the individual mandate or the subsidies. Those are the [insufficient] funding mechanisms to cover the cost of the law. What is the law? A hodgepodge of rules and regulations that result in insurance companies being unable to offer actuarially solvent plans. Between guaranteed issue, community rating, mandated benefits, mandated networks providers, intractably limiting actuarial value requirements, and enrollment and contractual flexibility for individuals to drop coverage until they get sick, insurance has become completely insolvent. These regulations have not just driven up costs, but have destroyed the market by taking the concept of “insurance” out of insurance.

CBO scores GOP’s fake definition of Obamacare

The prospective Obamacare “repeal” law scored by CBO does not repeal any of these elements. Instead, it repeals the requirement to purchase health care and the subsidies along with the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Thus, the outcome, as we predicted, is quite obvious. Prices remain high, there is no choice or competition in the marketplace, yet the funding mechanism is cut off. This creates a phenomenon of adverse selection and increased premiums. Think about it: if the costly regulations remain in place but you take away the penalty to buy insurance why would someone like me — whose annual health costs have tripled as a result of Obamacare — bother purchasing insurance?

CBO directly addresses this point:

The ACA’s changes to the rules governing the nongroup health insurance market [regulations, such as guaranteed issue and community rating] work in conjunction with the mandates and the subsidies to increase participation in the market and encourage enrollment among people of different ages and health statuses. But eliminating the penalty for not having health insurance would reduce enrollment and raise premiums in the nongroup market. Eliminating subsidies for insurance purchased through the market-places would have the same effects because it would result in a large price increase for many people. Not only would enrollment decline, but the people who would be most likely to remain enrolled would tend to be less healthy (and therefore more willing to pay higher premiums).

Leaving the ACA’s market reforms [euphemism for insurance regs] in place would limit insurers’ ability to use strategies that were common before the ACA was enacted. For example, insurers would not be able to vary premiums to reflect an individual’s health care costs or offer health insurance plans that exclude coverage of preexisting conditions, plans that do not cover certain types of benefits (such as maternity care), or plans with very high deductibles or very low actuarial value (plans paying a very low share of costs for covered services). [clarification and emphasis mine]

Obviously, CBO always overestimates the coverage issue and underestimates the cost of liberal policies. But in a general sense, CBO actually agrees with our analysis that the panoply of regulations is what has made health insurance insolvent. When CBO says repeal of Obamacare will result in higher, not lower, premiums and will exacerbate the complete death spiral of insurance, it is working with the assumption the GOP has presented to them — that they are not repealing the insurance regulations.

Imagine injecting a patient with a painful disease in one arm while injecting them with morphine in the other arm. The only way to stop the morphine (subsidies, individual mandate) is to get rid of the self-immolating injections (debilitating insurance regulations). The answer, first and foremost, is to stop injecting the patient with the disease.

Tearing down the Berlin Wall of regulations would both lower costs and increase number of insured

Repealing the insurance mandates will do more than just lower the cost of coverage. More people would be covered by a positive momentum of lowering costs and fostering choice and competition in the marketplace. CBO recognizes that the “number of people without health insurance would be smaller if, in addition to the changes in H.R. 3762, the insurance market reforms mentioned above were also repealed.” [emphasis added]

Now imagine if in addition to repealing the Obamacare-era regulations, we rolled back other anti-market forces, made insurance a national market (which encourages states to reduce their respective regulations), got rid of the anti-trust exemption, create equal tax treatment for individual insurance purchasers, and expanded HSAs? Prices would diminish, competition would rise, and more individuals would feel incentivized to purchase one of the many tailor-made and cheaper plans they can actually afford.

The dumbest policy and dumbest messaging

Yet instead of committing to full repeal of the insurance regulations in the bill, Republicans responded to the CBO defensively by saying they will have a replacement plan:

Once again, this is akin to saying I’ll take away the morphine but find a suitable replacement. How about taking away the disease itself — the insurance regulations — which were not scored by the CBO, as the report itself said? Then you won’t need a “replacement” plan, other than instituting further free market reforms that we needed long before Obamacare.

Republicans have managed to successfully paint themselves with the liabilities of Obamacare … under the banner of repealing Obamacare.

There is only one viable option to repealing Obamacare: REPEAL OBAMACARE. (For more from the author of “CBO Confirms Fake Repeal of Obamacare Would Increase Premiums” please click HERE)

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Obama Isn’t Planning to Be as Silent as Bush in Post-Presidency

President Barack Obama says he appreciated George W. Bush’s silence during his eight years in office. Now, as the current president prepares for life outside the White House, his aides have given mixed messages about just how political Obama will be during the Trump administration.

Obama has said speaking out on policy won’t be his priority after leaving the White House on Friday.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that if a year from now or a year and a half from now or two years from now, there is an issue of such moment, such import, that isn’t just a debate about a particular tax bill or, you know, a particular policy, but goes to some foundational issues about our democracy that I might not weigh in,” Obama said in a December CNN interview with his former adviser, David Axelrod. “You know, I’m still a citizen and that carries with it duties and obligations.”

Upon leaving the White House, Obama will be the first president to remain in the District of Columbia since Woodrow Wilson in 1921. The first family is remaining in the District until their 15-year-old daughter, Sasha, graduates high school.

Obama will have a new office in the same building that houses the World Wildlife Federation. He has also already started building his post-presidency staff, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday. He hired a chief of staff, Anita Decker Breckenridge, an aide since Obama was an Illinois state legislator in 2003.

Obama White House aides Valerie Jarrett and Jen Psaki told the Tribune that Obama will work to ensure affordable health care access—presumably meaning he will speak out against President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to dismantle Obamacare.

The Tribune also reported that Obama will speak up for Dreamers, the label given to children of illegal immigrants. In June 2012, Obama took executive action to carry out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects illegal immigrants from deportation. Trump opposes the program.

Obama’s involvement in policy battles would be a significant departure from his predecessor. Upon leaving office in 2009, Bush retreated to Texas and out of the spotlight.

Just days after the November election, White House press secretary Josh Earnest invoked Bush’s behavior to indicate Obama might not second guess Trump in public.

“He deeply appreciated how President George W. Bush, after leaving office, gave the new president some running room, gave him a little space, wasn’t backseat driving in public, offering up all kinds of critiques with every single decision that President Obama was making in the earliest days of his presidency,” Earnest told reporters during a White House briefing.

“I’m confident that President George W. Bush didn’t agree with every single decision that President Obama was making,” Earnest added, “but he was extraordinarily respectful of the democratic process. President Obama admired that.”

Bush has consistently steered clear of criticizing Obama or even making many policy pronouncements. Democrat predecessors such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have remained in the spotlight, choosing to speak out on various political issues of interest to them.

“He is already one of the wealthiest presidents in modern history and he will probably make millions more on corporate boards,” author and presidential historian Craig Shirley told The Daily Signal of Obama. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he became secretary-general of the United Nations.”

Shirley, a biographer of Ronald Reagan, said Obama will be similar to Clinton—young in retirement and unable to step out of the spotlight. He doesn’t anticipate Obama having a modest post-presidency like his immediate predecessor.

“He will continue talking. That’s what he knows how to do,” Shirley said of Obama. “He won’t fade away. When Reagan’s eight years were up, he went back to California. When [Dwight] Eisenhower’s eight years were up, he returned to Gettysburg and played golf.”

Reports over the last two years indicated Obama would focus on his presidential library to be built in Chicago, but also on helping black youth through a nonprofit incarnation of the White House initiative known as “My Brother’s Keeper.”

Obama has said he was committed to the goals of the “My Brother’s Keeper” program to boost opportunities for young men of color after leaving office. Shirley suggested this could be an “admirable” nonpolitical issue for Obama—one in which he could become an elder statesman in his post-presidency.

A more political effort would come from his work with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is focused on doing away with gerrymandering. Obama is expected to work with former Attorney General Eric Holder on the initiative. Gerrymandering is the drawing of legislative and congressional districts to help one’s party.

Obama’s involvement is geared toward helping Democrats running for state legislatures win back state houses before the 2020 census and subsequent redistricting.

“The Democrats have lost about 1,000 elective legislative seats since Obama took office,” Shirley said. “For stopping gerrymandering, they’re not going to turn to Obama for guidance.”

During the CNN interview in December, Obama talked about shaping the next generation of leaders.

“With respect to my priorities when I leave, it is to build that next generation of leadership; organizers, journalists, politicians,” Obama said. “I see them in America, I see them around the world, 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds who are just full of talent, full of idealism.”

He continued that a short-term goal would be helping his beleaguered Democrats.

“I think what I can do is not do it myself, but say to those who are still in the game right now look, think about this, think about how you’re organizing that, you know, what are you doing to make sure that young talent is out there in the field being supported,” Obama said. “You know, how are you making sure that your message is reaching everybody and not just those who have already been converted. Identifying really talented staff and organizers who are already out there and encouraging them to get involved.” (For more from the author of “Obama Isn’t Planning to Be as Silent as Bush in Post-Presidency” please click HERE)

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Obama’s Commutation of Manning Sentence Sends a Horrible Message to Service Personnel

Exercising his authority under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, President Barack Obama commuted the court-martial sentence of convicted felon Bradley Manning.

Although there is no dispute that Obama had the legal authority to commute the former Army private first class’s sentence, the president and his advisors had to know that any relief granted to Manning would be terribly controversial, and for good reason.

Commuting Manning’s sentence sends a horrible message to everyone who serves in the U.S. military, emboldens those who seek to harm the United States, and disheartens countless Americans—in and out of uniform.

It is important to remember the facts of the case. This was not a whodunit. This was not a case where motive excused his behavior, as some Manning supporters argue.

This is a case about an Army private first class who, while stationed abroad, having access to top secret and other classified material, decided to steal that material and give it to Wikileaks, knowing full well that Wikileaks would publish the material for the world to see.

There is no dispute as to the facts of the case, as in some instances of presidential pardons. After Manning was caught, he was sent to a general (felony) court-martial. After consulting with his able defense attorneys, he decided to plead guilty.

In military guilty pleas, the accused must describe for the military trial judge facts sufficient to convince the judge, beyond a reasonable doubt, as to each and every element in each crime. The accused discusses these facts with the judge while under oath, and those discussions last a long time.

This case was no different.

According to the facts developed in the case, and discussed at the court-martial, between November 2009 and May 2010, Manning was deployed overseas, and during that deployment, had access to secret and top secret data. He had a duty not to disclose the data to any unauthorized person.

Nevertheless, he downloaded 400,000 classified files from the Iraq war, some 91,000 files from the Afghan war, around 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables (emails), sensitive and classified U.S. airstrike videos, and classified documents and files from Guantanamo Bay, including classified assessments of Guantanamo terrorist detainees.

Manning placed that material on a SD-type card, and took it. He gave that highly classified and sensitive material to Wikileaks, knowing full well that they would (1) publish the material and (2) that the material could and likely would fall into the hands of our enemies.

The Army charged Manning with, among other things, aiding the enemy—a crime that under certain circumstances could result in the death penalty.

Eventually, Manning decided to plead guilty instead of contesting the charges against him. The maximum possible sentence to those charges to which he pleaded guilty was 136 years. In other words, it would have been lawful for the trial judge to sentence Manning to 136 years.

At the sentencing hearing, the government presented evidence in aggravation of his crimes. Army Brigadier General Robert A. Carr, a top Pentagon intelligence official, testified that Manning’s disclosures “affected our ability to do our mission,” and endangered U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management, testified that Manning’s actions sent the State Department into crisis and prompted a costly effort to assess the damage that the leaks had done.

He asserted, “I believe my colleagues abroad are still feeling [the results of the leak].”

Major General Michael Nagata, the deputy commander of the U.S. defense attaché in Pakistan, testified that Manning’s actions had a strong negative effect on the mission of the Office of Defense Representative in Pakistan.

Colonel Denise Lind, the military trial judge, sentenced Manning to 35 years and a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army. Manning filed his appeal in May 2016, which is now moot given the president’s commutation.

To some, Manning was a whistleblower who deserved of a pardon, or at least a sentence commutation. Indeed, one of the videos he gave to Wikileaks showed U.S. military personnel in Iraq engaged in a deeply troubling, if not illegal, shooting incident.

But there was so much more to Manning’s crimes than exposing that killing.

By downloading hundreds of thousands of secret documents about some of the most sensitive information related to the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, by disgorging highly sensitive diplomatic emails for the world to see, and recklessly exposing top secret files of terrorist detainees we held at Guantanamo, Manning betrayed his oath to his country, armed our enemies with information that they could only dream about acquiring, and forced our government to expend untold hours and money to minimize the damage inflicted by his criminal conduct.

Those who applaud the commutation also argue that the sentence Manning had received was “excessive and disproportionate.”

Yet it is difficult to imagine, much less point to, another case of a U.S. military member who singlehandedly stole the volume of classified information to an unauthorized source (Wilileaks), or one that caused the multi-layered damage to U.S. military security and diplomatic harmony that Manning caused by doing what he did.

Manning’s defenders argue that his mental health as a “vulnerable person” should act as a mitigating circumstance with respect to his sentence. But that argument was presented, in full, to Judge Lind before she sentenced Manning.

Under the law, military trial judges are required to take into account all aggravating and mitigating evidence before sentencing the accused. Thus, Manning already received the benefit of his gender identity issues when he was sentenced in the first place.

The “mercy” that some argue for was actually granted by the trial judge: She didn’t sentence Manning to the 50 or 100 or 136 years he could have served.

And everyone in the military justice system knows that a 35-year sentence of confinement, assuming good behavior while in custody, in reality will result in less than 10 years of confinement. Manning was set to be released in the coming year or so anyway.

Finally, it bears mentioning that U.S. military members across the globe carry out their duties, for the most part, with honor and fidelity. Many have access to secret and top secret material. Some have access to Special Access Program information—the most highly classified material our government possesses.

They guard this information with their lives, and for good reason. They know that if they violated their oaths by stealing this information and providing it to our enemies, American lives and national security would be in grave danger.

By commuting Manning’s richly deserved sentence, Obama is sending a horrible message to dedicated U.S. public servants, in and out of uniform, that honoring their responsibility to keep national security secrets from the public eye isn’t all that important.

This is a slap in their face. (For more from the author of “Obama’s Commutation of Manning Sentence Sends a Horrible Message to Service Personnel” please click HERE)

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Journalist Who Exposed CIA’s Media Control, Conspiracy with Banks, Found Dead at 56

Dr Udo Ulfkotte, the former German newspaper editor whose bestselling book exposed how the CIA controls German media, has been found dead. He was 56.

Ulfkotte was an editor at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the largest newspapers in Germany, when he published Bought Journalists, the bestselling book that cost him his job and perhaps his life.

German media, who were banned from reporting on his work in recent years, are reporting he died of “heart failure”.

Acknowledging that his life was under threat, Ulfkotte explained that he was in a better position than most journalists to expose the truth because he didn’t have any children who could be threatened.

Speaking to the Russian newspaper Russian Insider, Ulkfotte said: “When I told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Ulfkotte’s newspaper) that I would publish the book, their lawyers sent me a letter threatening with all legal consequences if I would publish any names or secrets – but I don’t mind. You see, I don’t have children to take care of.“

His fears for a war in Europe, lead him to his decision to tell the truth about corporate media being controlled by intelligence services on behalf of the financial class.

(Read more from “Journalist Who Exposed CIA’s Media Control, Conspiracy with Banks, Found Dead at 56” HERE)

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