Tag Archives: clinton

Trump’s Latest Plan to Undo Obama’s Legacy May Be Illegal

Mother Jones

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Sixteen presidents have cemented their legacies by designating new public lands and national monuments, a power granted to them under the 1906 Antiquities Act. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, wants to go in the opposite direction: If he actually follows through on his threat to reverse any monuments created by Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, he’d be the first commander-in-chief to revoke a monument designated by a predecessor. He’d also be stretching the legal authority of his office beyond what Congress ever granted.

Trump’s latest executive order, which he’ll sign at the Interior on Wednesday, directs the department to review 24 monument designations dating back to January 1996. The oldest monument under review is the 1996 Grand Staircase-Escalante monument; the most recent is Bears Ears, a twin rock formation that was President Obama’s last designation. (Both are southern Utah monuments criticized by local and state officials who oppose federal land control and want to keep the areas open for mining, logging, and grazing.) Everything in between, including Obama’s record 554 million acres of land and ocean set aside, will be up for review until August 24, 120 days from when Trump signs the executive order. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will then recommend legislative or executive changes to monument designations. Trump’s next actions could include shrinking them or revoking their designation entirely.

While Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are expected to top Trump’s list, environmentalists don’t think the review will stop there. “An attack on one monument is an attack on all of them,” says Dan Hartinger, the Wilderness Society’s deputy director for Parks and Public Lands Defense.

But as Zinke, a self-described Teddy Roosevelt conservationist, admitted on a White House press call on Tuesday night, it’s “untested whether the president can do that.”

That’s because no president has even tried to revoke a national monument since 1938, when President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to reverse Calvin Coolidge’s designation of the Castle Pinckney National Monument in South Carolina. The attorney general at the time, however, decided that the Act “does not authorize the President to abolish national monuments after they have been established.” In the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Congress again affirmed that only it had the power to revoke or modify national monuments, says Mark Squillace, a University of Colorado Law professor and expert on the Antiquities Act.

Some presidents have managed to shrink monuments. Woodrow Wilson, for example, shrunk Washington State’s Mt. Olympus National Monument to open up more than 300,000 acres to logging, but he didn’t face lawsuits over the decision as Trump almost certainly will.

Congress has the power to reverse these monuments and has done so in the past, but Republicans in favor of the idea may be wary of the political backlash they would face with such a move. When Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) attempted to introduce legislation transferring 3 million acres of federal lands to states, he drew so much criticism from constituents he back-tracked.

For months, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has lobbied the White House to use executive action to reverse Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears monument. The Trump administration and Bishop claim that monuments cost local communities jobs by limiting grazing acreage and logging—though proponents argue that tourism and recreation resulting from the monument declaration have also boosted jobs.

Trump’s executive order isn’t breaking any laws yet—but as he continues down the path to reverse public lands decisions from the Obama and Clinton administrations, environmentalists are already counting on challenging him in court, says the Wilderness Society’s Hartinger. “By reversing protections on a single monument you leave open the question if any of them are permanent.”

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Trump’s Latest Plan to Undo Obama’s Legacy May Be Illegal

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How Bad Was Hillary Clinton’s Campaign?

Mother Jones

A couple of hours ago I tweeted this:

Shattered tells us in loving detail about every mistake the Clinton campaign made, but every losing campaign gets that treatment. Her campaign also did a lot of things right. My horseback guess is that when you put it all together, she was about average as a candidate and her campaign was about average as a campaign.

But that got me curious: how do Clinton and her campaign compare to past elections? There’s no way to measure this directly, but you can get an idea by comparing actual election outcomes to the predictions of a good fundamental model. So I hauled out Alan Abramowitz’s model, which has a good track record, and looked at how winning candidates performed compared to the baseline of what the model predicted for them. Here it is:

According to this, Hillary Clinton did way better than any winning candidate of the past three decades, outperforming her baseline by 2.4 percent. Without the Comey effect, she would have outperformed her baseline by a truly epic amount.

Now, was this because she ran a good campaign, or because she had an unusually bad opponent? There’s no way to tell, of course. Donald Trump was certainly a bad candidate, but then again, no one thinks that Dole or Gore or Kerry or McCain were terrific candidates either.

Bottom line: we don’t have any way of knowing for sure, and this is an inherently subjective question. But the evidence of the Abramowitz model certainly doesn’t suggest that Hillary Clinton ran an unusually poor campaign or that she was an unusually poor candidate. Maybe she was, but aside from cherry-picked anecdotes and free-floating Hillary animus, there’s not really a lot to support this view.

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How Bad Was Hillary Clinton’s Campaign?

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James Comey Wasn’t a Partisan Hack. He Was Worse.

Mother Jones

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By coincidence, right after my Comey post yesterday morning the New York Times published a long tick-tock about how and why Comey did what he did. It doesn’t address the question of whether Comey tipped the election, it just provides an insider account of what was going through Comey’s head as he made decisions during campaign season.

It makes for depressing reading. The reporters conclude pretty strongly that Comey wasn’t motivated by any conscious partisan motives. But even if that’s true, there were pretty clearly partisan and personal influences at work. Apologies in advance for the length of this post, but putting all six of the following excerpts together in a single narrative is the only way to show what really happened. The story begins two years ago when the FBI opened its probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails:

On July 10, 2015, the F.B.I. opened a criminal investigation, code-named “Midyear,” into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information….Everyone agreed that Mr. Comey should not reveal details about the Clinton investigation. But attorney general Loretta Lynch told him to be even more circumspect: Do not even call it an investigation, she said, according to three people who attended the meeting. Call it a “matter.”

….It was a by-the-book decision. But Mr. Comey and other F.B.I. officials regarded it as disingenuous in an investigation that was so widely known. And Mr. Comey was concerned that a Democratic attorney general was asking him to be misleading and line up his talking points with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, according to people who spoke with him afterward.

This seems to have been the starting point. Even when Justice Department officials were making straightforward, “by-the-book” decisions, Comey was paranoid that they were acting to protect a Democrat—something that obviously might invite Republican attack if he went along. This belief continued to grow, and led to much of what happened later, when the investigation was wrapping up:

Early last year, F.B.I. agents received a batch of hacked documents, and one caught their attention. The document, which has been described as both a memo and an email, was written by a Democratic operative who expressed confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far, according to several former officials familiar with the document.

Read one way, it was standard Washington political chatter. Read another way, it suggested that a political operative might have insight into Ms. Lynch’s thinking.

Normally, when the F.B.I. recommends closing a case, the Justice Department agrees and nobody says anything….The document complicated that calculation, according to officials. If Ms. Lynch announced that the case was closed, and Russia leaked the document, Mr. Comey believed it would raise doubts about the independence of the investigation.

This email wasn’t related to Lynch or her office in any way. It was just gossip from a third party. But instead of ignoring it, Comey worried that it might leak and hurt his own reputation. This also motivated his decision, when the investigation was over, to hold an unusual press conference which damaged Clinton seriously even though he cleared her of wrongdoing:

Standing in front of two American flags and two royal-blue F.B.I. flags, he read from a script….“Any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position” should have known better, Mr. Comey said. He called her “extremely careless.” The criticism was so blistering that it sounded as if he were recommending criminal charges. Only in the final two minutes did Mr. Comey say that “no charges are appropriate in this case.”

….By scolding Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Comey was speaking not only to voters but to his own agents. While they agreed that Mrs. Clinton should not face charges, many viewed her conduct as inexcusable. Mr. Comey’s remarks made clear that the F.B.I. did not approve.

Former agents and others close to Mr. Comey acknowledge that his reproach was also intended to insulate the F.B.I. from Republican criticism that it was too lenient toward a Democrat.

Again, Comey had failed to play it straight. Even though the decision to exonerate Clinton “was not even a close call,” as he later said, he tore into Clinton in order to protect himself from criticism—both from Republicans and from his own agents. This is especially damning given the subsequent evidence that Comey’s criticism of Clinton was wildly overstated. The same dynamic played out in reverse a couple of months later over the FBI investigation into Donald Trump and Russian interference in the election:

Mr. Comey and other senior administration officials met twice in the White House Situation Room in early October to again discuss a public statement about Russian meddling….At their second meeting, Mr. Comey argued that it would look too political for the F.B.I. to comment so close to the election, according to several people in attendance. Officials in the room felt whiplashed. Two months earlier, Mr. Comey had been willing to put his name on a newspaper article; now he was refusing to sign on to an official assessment of the intelligence community.

And it played out yet again in September, when agents discovered some Clinton emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Michael Steinbach, a former FBI agent who worked closely with Comey, explained what went through Comey’s mind:

Agents felt they had two options: Tell Congress about the search, which everyone acknowledged would create a political furor, or keep it quiet, which followed policy and tradition but carried its own risk, especially if the F.B.I. found new evidence in the emails.

….Conservative news outlets had already branded Mr. Comey a Clinton toady. That same week, the cover of National Review featured a story on “James Comey’s Dereliction,” and a cartoon of a hapless Mr. Comey shrugging as Mrs. Clinton smashed her laptop with a sledgehammer.

Congressional Republicans were preparing for years of hearings during a Clinton presidency. If Mr. Comey became the subject of those hearings, F.B.I. officials feared, it would hobble the agency and harm its reputation. “I don’t think the organization would have survived that,” Mr. Steinbach said.

Once again, the primary concern was protecting Comey and the FBI. Republicans had made it clear that their retribution against anyone who helped Clinton would be relentless, and that clearly had an impact on Comey. Steinbach’s suggestion that Republican vengeance would have destroyed the FBI is clearly nuts, but Comey was taking no chances. He didn’t want the grief.

Even after it was all over, Comey’s partisan influences continued to work on him:

Officials and others close to him also acknowledge that Mr. Comey has been changed by the tumultuous year.

Early on Saturday, March 4, the president accused Mr. Obama on Twitter of illegally wiretapping Trump Tower in Manhattan. Mr. Comey believed the government should forcefully denounce that claim. But this time he took a different approach. He asked the Justice Department to correct the record. When officials there refused, Mr. Comey followed orders and said nothing publicly.

Daniel Richman, a longtime friend of Comey’s, said this represented “a consistent pattern of someone trying to act with independence and integrity, but within established channels.”

The evidence does indeed show consistent behavior, but of a different kind. At every step of the way, Comey demonstrated either his fear of crossing Republicans or his concern over protecting his own reputation from Republican attack. It was the perfect intersection of a Republican Party that had developed a reputation for conducting relentlessly vicious smear campaigns and a Republican FBI director who didn’t have the fortitude to stand up to it. Comey may genuinely believe that his decisions along the way were nonpartisan, but the evidence pretty strongly suggests otherwise.

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James Comey Wasn’t a Partisan Hack. He Was Worse.

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Bernie Sanders Is the Most Popular Politician in the Country, Poll Says

Mother Jones

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According to a new poll, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America. The Harvard-Harris survey, published first in The Hill, found almost 60 percent of Americans view the Vermont senator favorably.

Among certain demographics, the progressive politician’s ratings are even higher: 80 percent of Democratic voters, 73 percent of registered black voters, and 68 percent of registered Hispanic voters view Sanders favorably.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also scored positively, with 38 percent approving of the liberal icon and only 32 percent disapproving.

This isn’t a marked change from prior polling. In late 2016, Sanders was also viewed as the lawmaker with the highest favorability ratings, earning approval from more than 50 percent of the electorate.

The least popular political figure in America? Look to the White House, but not the Oval Office—though Donald Trump is 7 points underwater, 44/51. His beleaguered chief strategist, Steve Bannon, came in dead last in the survey. Only 16 percent give the former Breitbart publisher a thumbs-up, while a full 45 percent offer the opposite.

“In losing to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders has floated above today’s partisan politics while Bannon has, rightly or wrongly, taken the blame for the administration’s failures,” poll co-director Mark Penn from Harvard-Harris told The Hill. “Sanders is an asset to the Democrats while Bannon is a liability to the administration.”

Read the full findings of the poll here.

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Bernie Sanders Is the Most Popular Politician in the Country, Poll Says

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DeVos Pick to Head Civil Rights Office Once Said She Faced Discrimination for Being White

Mother Jones

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This story originally appeared on ProPublica.

As an undergraduate studying calculus at Stanford University in the mid-1990s, Candice Jackson “gravitated” toward a section of the class that provided students with extra help on challenging problems, she wrote in a student publication. Then she learned that the section was reserved for minority students.

“I am especially disappointed that the University encourages these and other discriminatory programs,” she wrote in the Stanford Review. “We need to allow each person to define his or her own achievements instead of assuming competence or incompetence based on race.”

Although her limited background in civil rights law makes it difficult to infer her positions on specific issues, Jackson’s writings during and after college suggest she’s likely to steer one of the Education Department’s most important—and controversial—branches in a different direction than her predecessors. A longtime anti-Clinton activist and an outspoken conservative-turned-libertarian, she has denounced feminism and race-based preferences. She’s also written favorably about, and helped edit a book by, an economist who decried both compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Jackson’s inexperience, along with speculation that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will roll back civil rights enforcement, lead some observers to wonder whether Jackson, like several other Trump administration appointees, lacks sympathy for the traditional mission of the office she’s been chosen to lead.

Her appointment “doesn’t leave me with a feeling of confidence with where the administration might be going,” said Theodore Shaw, director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law, who led Barack Obama’s transition team for civil rights at the Department of Justice.

“I hope that she’s not going to be an adversary to the civil rights community and I hope that the administration is going to enforce civil rights laws and represent the best interests of those who are affected by civil rights issues.”

On Wednesday, DeVos formally announced Jackson’s position as deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights, a role that does not require Senate confirmation. The 39-year-old attorney will act as assistant secretary in charge of the office until that position is filled. DeVos has not yet selected a nominee, who would have to receive Senate confirmation. As acting head, Jackson is in charge of about 550 full-time department staffers, who are responsible for investigating thousands of civil rights complaints each year.

Jackson referred ProPublica’s interview request to the U.S. Department of Education, which did not respond to our request. Neither Jackson nor the department responded to ProPublica’s emailed questions.

Jackson takes over an office that has been responsible for protecting students from racial, gender, disability and age discrimination for decades. Under the Obama administration, the office increased its caseload. It emphasized to colleges that they could give preferences to minorities and women to achieve diversity, and advised them to be more aggressive in investigating allegations of rape and sexual harassment on campus. Some of the guidance from the office provoked controversy, particularly among Republicans who have long called for the office to be scaled back.

Jackson grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where her parents operate two medical practices, specializing in family and aesthetic medicine. Her father, Dr. Rick Jackson, also ran unsuccessfully for Congress and is a country music singer under the name Ricky Lee Jackson. Jackson’s brothers have acting and music careers as well. Jackson and her mother have helped provide “business and legal” management for her father and brothers, according to a biography on her website from 2016.

In 2009, Jackson co-wrote a Christian country song with her father and brother, called “Freedom, Family and Faith.” The lyrics had an anti-government tinge: “Some politician wants our liberty/ They say just trust me, we’re all family/ I’ve got a family and hey, it’s not you/ Don’t need Big Brother to see us through.”

While in college, Jackson joined the Stanford Review as a junior, after transferring to the university in 1996 from a community college in Los Angeles. When she arrived, according to a Review article she wrote during her senior year, she was “eager to carry the message of freedom to Stanford through the only conservative publication on campus.”

Eric Jackson, no relation, who is Candice’s friend, former classmate and book publisher, said the conservative perspective of the Stanford Review often went against the status quo on campus. It took “courage,” he said, to write for the publication, which was co-founded in 1987 by PayPal billionaire and Donald Trump adviser Peter Thiel. “A number of us got death threats,” he recalled.

One topic of heated debate on campus was affirmative action, which California banned in public institutions, such as universities, in 1996. The prohibition did not affect private universities, like Stanford, which could continue to employ preferential policies both in admissions and in special programs designed to assist minority students in college-level math and science courses.

During her senior year, Candice Jackson penned her objections in an op-ed, contending the university “promotes racial discrimination” with its practices.

“As with most liberal solutions to a problem, giving special assistance to minority students is a band-aid solution to a deep problem,” she wrote. “No one, least of all the minority student, is well served by receiving special treatment based on race or ethnicity.”

Jackson was far from the only critic of such minority-only programs. In 2003, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened up similar programs to all races.

In another article Jackson penned for the Review during her senior year, entitled “How I Survived Stanford Without Entering the Women’s Center,” she condemned feminism on campus.

“In today’s society, women have the same opportunities as men to advance their careers, raise families, and pursue their personal goals,” she wrote. “College women who insist on banding together by gender to fight for their rights are moving backwards, not forwards.”

In the article, she encouraged women to choose conservatism over feminism. “I think many women are instinctively conservative, but are guided into the folds of feminism before discovering the conservative community,” she wrote.

She concluded, “the real women’s issues are conservative ones.”

Her former Stanford Review colleague, Eric Jackson, told ProPublica that her college writings are nearly 20 years old and that it’s important to understand the context of her commentary. “The feminist culture she was critiquing was different than what happens today,” he said. Jackson, he added, is “very pro-woman.”

After Stanford, Jackson “exchanged conservatism for libertarianism,” she later wrote. She did a summer fellowship at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a free-market think tank in Auburn, Alabama, according to an institute publication. The institute was reportedly founded with money raised by former congressman and 1988 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Ron Paul, and is a leading hub of contemporary libertarian scholars.

While at the Institute, Jackson provided editorial assistance on a book of collected essays by the institute’s co-founder, economic historian Murray N. Rothbard. A charismatic figure who devoted his life to ideas, Rothbard died a few years before Jackson’s fellowship. Mark Thornton, an economist and a senior fellow at the Mises Institute who vaguely recalled Jackson but did not specifically remember her role at the center, said that her editorial assistance may have involved proofreading.

Rothbard’s 1999 book, “Education: Free and Compulsory,” advocated for a voluntary education system, denouncing government-mandated schooling. Currently, all U.S. states require students to attend school until they are at least 16 years old.

“To force these children to be exposed to schooling, as the State does almost everywhere, is a criminal offense to their natures,” wrote Rothbard. “In any case, the instruction has almost no effect on these children, many of whose hours of life are simply wasted because of the State’s decree.”

This was not Jackson’s only connection to Rothbard’s work. She also wrote two papers analyzing his theories. One essay compared his philosophy to that of libertarian novelist Ayn Rand. In the other, she wrote that his 1982 book, “The Ethics of Liberty,” “shines as a monumental achievement, meeting Rothbard’s goal of setting forth ‘a positive ethical system … to establish the case for individual liberty.'”

In other essays, published on a former colleague’s website, Rothbard called the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “monstrous,” and lambasted one provision of it, which prohibited employment discrimination, as “a horrendous invasion of the property rights of the employer.”

Rothbard was “about as fringe as you could be and still be a tenured professor,” said Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University, who met him twice.

If someone was a follower of Rothbard, Caplan told ProPublica, “instead of thinking of discrimination as a rampant problem, they would say the free market would take care of it.”

Jackson has often collaborated on articles with William Anderson, an associate scholar at the Mises Institute and a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland. Their work has appeared in the publication Reason and on the website of Llewellyn Rockwell, a co-founder and chairman of the Mises Institute.

Anderson, who told ProPublica that he has known Jackson for years, said that she would likely approach her position at the Education Department from “the standpoint of individual rights and due process.”

After graduating from Pepperdine University’s School of Law in 2002, Jackson also worked for Judicial Watch, a conservative legal advocacy group, for nearly two years as a litigation counsel, according to her LinkedIn page.

In the past few years, she has operated her own law firm. According to a recent biography on her website, her practice specialized in “business, entertainment, and litigation matters,” for a range of clients, “from restaurants to medical clinics, and from authors and musicians to filmmakers and record labels.”

In 2005, Jackson wrote a book on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Clinton, titled “Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine.” She gained national attention last October after she arranged for several of Bill Clinton’s accusers to attend a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Jackson sat with the women in the front of the audience. A few days before the debate, Jackson established Their Lives Foundation. In registration documents, she described two of its purposes as “giving public voice to victims of women who abuse positions of power” and “advocating for and against candidates for political office.”

Less than a week after the debate, Jackson posted on Facebook that her foundation “supports all victims of power abusers,” but labeled Trump’s accusers “fake victims.” Since the initial announcement of her Education Department role, her Facebook page has been taken offline.

Research assistance provided by Vivian Lam.

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DeVos Pick to Head Civil Rights Office Once Said She Faced Discrimination for Being White

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