Ben Weingarten

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Tag: Congress

Andrew C. McCarthy on Russiagate, Clinton-Trump Investigation Double Standards, Mueller’s Mandate, DOJ-FBI-CIA Politicization (Part II)

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My Guest

Andrew C. McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, contributing editor of National Review and author most recently of essential books on the threat of Islamic supremacism including Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the JihadThe Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America and Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.

In Part II of my in-depth interview with Andy, we discussed Russiagate, the pervasive unethical and at times lawless behavior of law enforcement and the intelligence community with respect to Donald Trump and Russia versus Hillary Clinton and her e-mail server, the apparently limitless mandate of Robert Mueller’s special counsel, obstruction of justice and much more.

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Omri Ceren on the Obama Admin’s Obfuscation of Congress on #Iransom

The Israel Project’s Omri Ceren chronicles the various efforts of members of Congress to receive details on the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion settlement payment to Iran stemming from a failed 1979 weapons deal:

Jan 21Rep. Pompeo sent a letter to the State Department with six questions about the payment and the possibility it was a ransom [b]:

The timing and details of the U.S. cash transfer of $1.7 billion to Iran indicates it might be a ransom payment… What is the relationship between the $1.7 billion payment and the release of the hostages?… Did the $400 million claim or the $1.3 billion interest payment ever come up… in conversations with the Iranians about the release of American hostages?… What is the source of the funding for the $1.3 billion interest payment… is it taxpayer-funded?

Feb 3Rep. Royce sent a letter to the State Department with ten questions about the payment and the possibility it was a ransom [c]:

An explanation of any steps taken by the Obama Administration to make clear that this settlement was not linked to the release of American hostages… An explanation of why the timing of financial settlement coincided with the release of five innocent Americans held hostage by Iran… An explanation of why the Committee was not consulted on such a consequential matter.

Feb through the middle of MarchThe State Department declined to respond to the Royce and Pompeo letters until mid-March. Then they sent each lawmaker a separate response letter, neither of which addressed the ransom questions. Instead the response letters confirmed the payment was made out of an original Trust Fund linked to the arms deal and a taxpayer-funded Judgment Fund. Both response letters had identical language saying further details could not be provided in an unclassified setting [d][e]:

It would not be in the interest of the United States to discuss further details of the settlement of these claims in an unclassified letter due to the ongoing litigation at the Tribunal. However, we would be prepared to provide a closed briefing on such issues if it would be useful to you.

May 25Pompeo and Sen. Cornyn filed legislation requiring a report on whether the $1.7 billion was a ransom [f]:

The President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that includes… whether or not Federal funds, including the $1,700,000,000 payment… were paid to Iran, directly or indirectly, to effect the release of– (i) the members of the United States Navy who were detained…; or (ii) other United States citizens, including Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, and Matthew Trevithick, the release of whom was announced on January 16, 2016.

June 1Royce send a follow-up letter to his previous one, noting that the State Department had not addressed questions about whether the payment had been a ransom, and again asking for details. The administration has still not responded to his letter [g]:

[T]he Department’s reply largely failed to answer my requests… I sought an explanation of why the timing of this financial settlement coincided with both… the nuclear agreement and the release of five innocent Americans held hostage by Iran… However, the Department’s reply not only failed to provide this information, it did not even mention the nuclear agreement or the release of innocent Americans.

June 23Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Vargas sent a letter to the GAO requesting a review of the status of the Trust Fund money. The letter included past reports going back to 1979 casting doubt on the administration’s public claims [h]:

A July 25, 1979, GAO report, Financial and Legal Implications of Iran’s Cancellation of Arms Purchase Agreements (FGMSD-79-47) states… the total Iranian equity in the FMS program may not be determined for years; however, the Department of Defense (DOD) estimated at the time that $80 million would remain in the Iran FMS Trust Fund… GAO provided additional details of the ongoing process of resolving trust fund issues in January 1980, but again noted that total equity in the fund would not be determinable for years.

July 14Sens. Lankford and Fischer floated legislation to force the administration to provide information about how transfers like the $1.7 billion were and would be conducted [i]:

If a payment under this section is made to a foreign state… the Secretary of the Treasury shall make available to the public… (A) A description of the method of payment. (B) A description of the currency denominations used for the payment. (C) The name and location of each financial institution owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by a foreign state or an agent of a foreign state through which the payment passed or from which the payment was withdrawn…

[b] http://pompeo.house.gov/uploadedfiles/1-21-16_pompeo_to_state_re_1.7b_to_iran.pdf
[c] https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/files/02.03.16%20-%20DOS%2C%20Secretary%2C%20John%20F%20Kerry%2C%20Concerns%20re%20%241.7%20Billion%20Payout%20to%20Iran.pdf
[d] https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/03.17.16-DOS-Response-Concerns-re-1.7-Billion-Payout-to-Iran.pdf
[e] http://pompeo.house.gov/uploadedfiles/3-23-16_ransom_iran_kerry_reply.pdf
[f] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114s2984is/pdf/BILLS-114s2984is.pdf
[g] https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/06.01.16-DOS-Follow-up-on-1.7-billion-Payment-to-Iran.pdf
[h] http://ros-lehtinen.house.gov/sites/ros-lehtinen.house.gov/files/06.23.16%20-%20Ros-Lehtinen%2C%20Vargas%20GAO%20Request%20Letter%20-%20Iran%20FMS%20Trust%20Fund.pdf
[i] http://www.fischer.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/7af255f2-50b7-48fa-aef9-5c56fba8980b/lankford-fischer-judgment-fund-bill.pdf

A Response to Jim Geraghty on Republicans’ Willingness to Prevent the Iran Deal (or Lack Thereof)

National Review’s Jim Geraghty asks an essential question in a recent edition of his Morning Jolt that every member of Congress — not just Republicans — should have to answer: “[W]hat are you willing to do to prevent a mushroom cloud either in the Middle East or closer to home?”

As it pertains to members of the GOP, the proof is in the pudding: The party will prove pusillanimous — unwilling to exhaust every avenue to block an Iran deal disastrous for the entire West.

How do we know this?

Sen. Bob Corker’s Iran legislation in and of itself was a complete and utter abdication of Senatorial prerogative, and perhaps the crowning act of Failure Theater of this Republican Congress.

For a refresher, as Geraghty’s colleague Andrew C. McCarthy noted in April:

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Obama Makes the Worst Trade in US History: Israel for Iran

On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, a despicable and disastrous betrayal has become clear: President Barack Obama has traded Israel for Iran.

In the annals of the history of American foreign policy filled with pages of willful blindness, amorality and often State Department-led folly, there are few things more substantively and symbolically egregious than this fundamental transformation.

Consider the two nations of which we are speaking: One is the largest state sponsor of terror in the world, run by genocidal jihadist theocrats who in their Twelver Shiite theology seek to bring on the apocalypse by destroying the cradle of world civilization. The other is a bastion of liberty, plurality, dynamism, creativity and innovation, despite being surrounded by myriad hostile regimes.

In a sane world, it would be unthinkable, unconscionable, and un-American for us to turn on the state of Israel – the front line of Western civilization against barbarians who seek to take us, and who are fast taking themselves, back to the seventh century.

But then we are in year seven of the Obama presidency, an “Alice in Wonderland” world in which the seemingly perverse has become the norm, all in the name of regressive progressivism.

While Americans focus on the seen of beheadings or the destruction of ancient artifacts by Islamic State in high definition, that shock our collective conscience, the unseen is that Iran is quietly becoming the hegemon in the Middle East – and perhaps in the eyes of President Obama, America’s top ally in the region.

The easing of sanctions allowing billions of dollars of wealth to flow to a tottering economy and allowing the continued enrichment of uranium – will provide legitimacy to a terrorist regime and show the world that – like Neville Chamberlain’s England – America has chosen to appease evil rather than confront it.

Meanwhile, as DEBKA asserted in a recent memo, Iran has concurrently been “taking up forward positions in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where they are busy fashioning a Shiite Crescent that encircles Sunni Arab states as well as Israel.”

(Image Source: DEBKA)

(Image Source: DEBKA)

America under this president has consciously chosen to stand by all the while. As Tony Badran wrote in a stunning analysis at NOW [emphasis mine]:

In one of Obama’s several letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he reportedly presented finalizing the deal on the nuclear program as the gateway to a broader regional partnership, especially against Sunni extremist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS).

This partnership is central to Obama’s broader objective of extricating the U.S. from the Middle East and leaving in place a new security structure, of which Iran is a principal pillar. His tacit policy from Baghdad to Beirut has been to partner with Iranian-backed forces as the boots on the ground in the campaign against Sunni extremists. In Iraq and Lebanon especially, the U.S. partnership with Iranian assets and Iran-dominated state institutions has created a de facto condominium between the U.S. and Iran. 

Lest we conclude the spread of Iran’s tentacles throughout the Levant primarily endangers Sunni jihadists, the title of a recent paper from MEMRI spells out the real casualty: “From The Mediterranean to the Golan, Iran Builds Active Front And Direct Military Presence On Israel’s Border To Deter Israel And Further Ideology Of Eliminating The Zionist Regime.”

MEMRI quotes from a columnist for the Lebanese Al-Akhbar paper:

Continue reading at TheBlaze…

The Painful Lessons of Thad’s Triumph: The Implications of Cochran’s Win are Far More Consequential Than Those of Cantor’s Loss

Thad Cochran’s triumph over Chris McDaniel in Tuesday’s run-off election in Mississippi was perhaps the most demoralizing of all the primary losses of conservative upstarts versus establishment incumbents this election cycle — both in the closeness of the race and the legal but dubious way in which it was determined by Democrats.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., addresses supporters and volunteers at his runoff election victory party Tuesday, June 24, 2014, at the Mississippi Children's Museum in Jackson, Miss. Cochran defeated state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, in a primary runoff for the GOP nomination for senate. (Image Source: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., addresses supporters and volunteers at his runoff election victory party Tuesday, June 24, 2014, at the Mississippi Children’s Museum in Jackson, Miss. Cochran defeated state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, in a primary runoff for the GOP nomination for senate. (Image Source: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Unfortunately, I fear that the lessons of Cochran’s victory are far more consequential than those of Dave Brat’s remarkable win over now ex-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia.

The overarching lessons that conservatives should take away from what happened in Mississippi are threefold:

  • Never ever underestimate the power of the GOP establishment, and the number of chits that a politician who has held a seat for 36 years can call in. During such time, Cochran accumulated an infinite amount of political capital that he cashed in on Tuesday, earned by raising millions of dollars and campaigning for colleagues over the years, while loading up bill after bill with pork.
  • The first rule of politics is “win.” Those who comprise the establishment will do everything legally possible to retain power. Such politicians will take advantage of voting rules, parliamentary procedures and any other loopholes they can to gain an edge. In elections, when it comes to below-the-belt tactics, these folks will use people one or two or three degrees removed from them do their bidding so as to maintain plausible deniability and a veneer of dignity. This would explain, for example, the horrifically offensive, anonymously produced campaign literature that reportedly went out in the heavily black, heavily Democratic voting precincts that carried Thad Cochran to victory. For those who are ideologically pure, who do not have a similar party machine and who disavow such unsavory tactics to win, electoral success is made that much harder. They will keep their souls, and others will win elections, to the detriment of the country.

Continue reading at TheBlaze…

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