The ‘year of the badass woman’ holds a message GOP needs to hear

Now that the final results of the midterm elections are in, with a diverse class of incoming lawmakers preparing to take their seats, some observers are calling 2018 “the year of the badass woman,” to differentiate it from 1992, the first “year of the woman,” when a record 47 women were elected to the House … Continue reading “The ‘year of the badass woman’ holds a message GOP needs to hear”

Now that the final results of the midterm elections are in, with a diverse class of incoming lawmakers preparing to take their seats, some observers are calling 2018 “the year of the badass woman,” to differentiate it from 1992, the first “year of the woman,” when a record 47 women were elected to the House of Representatives.

Compared to 1992, 2018 does look pretty badass. There will now be 126 women in Congress, a new high that includes 105 Democrats and 19 Republicans. And many of the elected women are pretty badass as individuals. They include Army and Air Force veterans, a military pilot, a former CIA agent, and a former CIA analyst.

    But this year could just as appropriately be called the year of the Democratic woman — and this should give Republicans pause heading toward 2020. The facts are stark: At all levels of government, many more women ran as Democrats than as Republicans. And female Democrats won nearly half the seats they contested, while Republican women won fewer than a quarter.These results largely reflect the partisan gender gap that has characterized American politics for several decades, with women favoring Democrats much more strongly than men. Indeed, that gender gap has been the subject of much news coverage, and it is a real problem for the GOP. But what should really worry Republicans is the growing convergence between men and women in their support for gender equality and willingness to penalize politicians who tolerate sexist views.Read More

      JUST WATCHED

      MAGIC WALL: Republican Party shrinking under Trump

      ReplayMore Videos …

      MUST WATCH

      MAGIC WALL: Republican Party shrinking under Trump 09:09Since 1977, the General Social Survey has tracked attitudes toward women in politics, mothers in the workforce and gender arrangements in the home. In 2016, the last year for which we have data, support for gender equality reached its highest level ever. By 2016, three-quarters of all Americans agreed that women are as capable in politics as men and that working mothers could have relationships with their children that were as secure and warm as those of stay-at-home moms. Two-thirds rejected the idea that men should be the primary breadwinners and women the primary parents. And here is a key point: The difference between men and women on these questions hit an all-time low — largely, sociologist David Cotter notes, because men had been “catching up with women’s egalitarian attitudes.” Back in 2016, though, many voters prioritized issues other than support for women’s equality, like military spending, immigration, government regulation, religion, free trade and tariffs. A study by Tufts University political scientist Brian Schaffner found that in the 2016 election, voters’ approval or disapproval of sexist statements had little predictive power on whether they voted for a Republican House candidate.This November, however, was different: After two years of the #MeToo Movement, energetic efforts of activists to shine a spotlight on sexist attitudes and policies, and the often dismissive response of the Republican Party leadership, priorities shifted. This time, Schaffner found, “less-sexist voters punished Republican House candidates in a way they did not in 2016.”How to reverse the shrinking number of GOP women in CongressUnlike in 2016, both men and women moved away from support for Republican candidates. The gender gap still had a huge impact on the election outcome because women moved faster and further than men. Overall, 59% of American women cast their ballots for Democrats while only 40% voted for Republicans, an unprecedented margin of 19 percentage points and nearly twice the margin by which women favored Democrats in 2016. White college-educated women increased their vote margin for Democrats by 13 points, but this time, white working-class women without a college degree increased their support for Democrats by an equal amount, and they constituted a larger percentage of voters. What’s more, this time men also moved away from the Republican Party, even though they started much closer to it and therefore didn’t get as far. In 2016, men had preferred Trump to Clinton by 12 percentage points. This November they preferred Republicans by only 4 points, a threefold decrease. It's not the 'Year of the Woman.' It's the 'Year of the Women'True, white men without a college degree remained strongly Republican, but their support for the GOP also weakened significantly. In Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Missouri, the Republican margins of victory among white men without a college degree were at least 20 points lower this year than in 2016. The Republicans’ lock on rural areas also became more precarious, especially among younger voters. The party’s victory margin among those 18 to 29 in rural areas was 25 points lower in 2018 than in 2016. The age gap may become more critical than the gender gap in future elections. It already seems increasingly unfavorable to politicians who embrace racism or sexism. Thirty-one percent of eligible young people aged 18 to 29 cast ballots in the midterms, compared with just 21% in 2014. And they voted for Democrats by a whopping 35-point margin, compared with a 14-point margin in the 2016 House races. Nancy Pelosi's burnt orange coat wraps a fiery meeting

        The highest level of support for Democrats was among the youngest voters, those 18 to 24. Sixty-eight percent of them voted Democrat, compared with 66% of 25-to-29-year-olds.If you think millennials are making it perilous for politicians to promote sexism and racism, just wait until what the Pew Research Center calls the “post-millennial” generation, now 6 to 21 years old, comes of age.

My word of the year is freedom

“Justice,” “toxic” and “misinformation”: These are the 2018 “words of the year,” according to Merriam-Webster, the Oxford Dictionary and Dictionary.com, respectively. What do these words say about the state of our culture? They certainly tell a story about the state of public consciousness. To put it another way (and to use all the top words in one sentence): Many people want justice from the damages wrought by toxic leaders and their misinformation campaigns.

These annual “awards” are based largely on the number of lookups, which in turn reflects the prominence of certain terms in the news, in social media and in educational curricula. It’s no surprise that of two of three top words (toxic and misinformation) are negative terms. During this past year, investigative journalists, citizen whistleblowers, prosecutors, advocacy groups and others have revealed a world of abuses of power, cover-ups, intents to deceive and corrupt leadership that extends from the White House to federal agencies to giant media companies to corporations and universities. The #MeToo movement, sharpened by the outcry against the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, has also prompted many discussions of “toxic masculinity” in the public sphere. Why 'justice' prevailed in 2018, according to Merriam-WebsterInterest in words such as justice and misinformation reflect this new awareness and critique of the workings of power. It has contributed to a shift in public mood also manifested in activism and historic levels of participation in midterm elections that brought unprecedented numbers of women into office. As Merriam-Webster said in a statement explaining its choice, “The concept of justice was at the center of many of our national debates in the past year: racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, economic justice.”

    Justice, a word that was seemingly a neutral or positive for many, has taken a hit in 2018, though. Merriam-Webster’s definition of justice includes “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair” and “conformity to truth, fact, or reason.” Yet there can be no consensus on the definition of justice when the meaning and status of “truth, fact, or reason” is contested, thanks to President Donald Trump’s attempts to convince Americans that what they see with their own eyes is not true and the truths they read are really “fake news.”

      JUST WATCHED

      Oxford Dictionaries’ 2018 word of the year is …

      ReplayMore Videos …

      MUST WATCH

      Oxford Dictionaries’ 2018 word of the year is … 01:10What, indeed, is justice in 2018, when Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, a former US attorney, associate attorney general and a mayor who championed “broken windows” policing against those accused of petty crimes, states that even if the President did obstruct justice, violate campaign finance laws and conspire with Russia to influence the 2016 elections, they were not “big crimes” since “nobody got killed, nobody got robbed. …” It’s not surprising in this environment that Merriam-Webster saw searches for the meaning of justice surge 74% from 2017 to 2018. Read More

        Tracking word usage and popularity among millions may be the job of linguists, but individuals, too, can benefit from knowing how their favored words change from year to year. Tools such as @tweetcloudbot, which can give users a word cloud of their most-used terms, can enlighten Twitter users on the subject. Some of my 2018 results were not unexpected, given my areas of expertise — “authoritarian,” “media,” “Putin,” “leader,” and, of course, “Trump” — but I was also pleased to see my word cloud displaying “thank” so prominently. For more opinion…

        Sign up for our new newsletter.

        Join us on Twitter and Facebook

        We may feel bruised from 2018’s political battles, but we can still feel gratitude that we are still very much a democracy with full liberty of expression. In the repressive states of the leaders Trump admires, using the wrong words can land you in prison. In America, we have the freedom — my own word of the year — to write and say what we think.

Flynn mystery: Sometimes the quiet one has the most to say

When Michael Flynn goes into federal court on Tuesday to be sentenced, there will be little suspense but much mystery. It is all but certain that Judge Emmet Sullivan will not sentence Flynn to prison. But weighty questions — about Flynn’s motivation for lying to the FBI and his usefulness as a cooperating witness to special counsel Robert Mueller — will hang over the proceeding.

First, though, why is it highly unlikely that Flynn will serve time? Flynn was convicted of one count of lying to the FBI for falsely denying that, during the Trump transition in December 2016, he asked Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to refrain from escalating a battle over sanctions that President Barack Obama had imposed in response to Russian election interference. While Flynn lied about an unusually serious subject, the federal sentencing guidelines nonetheless recommend a sentence of zero to six months imprisonment. It is extremely rare for a first-time, nonviolent offender in that range, like Flynn, to be sentenced to any time.

    In addition to the lenient sentencing guideline, Flynn’s attorneys argue in their sentencing memo for a no-jail sentence based primarily on Flynn’s lifetime of military service, his acceptance of responsibility for his crime, and his “timely and substantial assistance” to Mueller. [Disclosure: I once worked for the law firm that now represents Flynn]. More importantly, Mueller in his sentencing memo fully vouched for Flynn, joining in the request for no time and noting Flynn’s “particularly valuable” cooperation. Mueller is putting the puzzle pieces together on TrumpWhile the outcome is not much in doubt, two bigger-picture questions remain. First: Why did Flynn lie to the FBI? Flynn’s lawyers conspicuously dodge this issue in his sentencing memo. Of all people, Flynn — a decorated military veteran, an accomplished intelligence officer and President Donald Trump’s short-lived national security adviser — should have understood that lying to the FBI would put himself in peril and might compromise the broader national interest.Indeed, Flynn lied to the FBI about an exceptionally weighty issue. When he spoke with Kislyak during the presidential transition, Flynn sent an implicit but clear message to Russia: Stand down on Obama’s sanctions for now, and we will take care of you when we take office in a few weeks. That statement itself is consequential as a foreign policy matter, and to lie about it to the FBI suggests Flynn was trying to protect somebody — perhaps himself, perhaps Trump. If I was in Mueller’s shoes, this would have been the first question I asked Flynn during the cooperation process: Why did you lie, and whom were you trying to protect? The answer could go to Mueller’s core mandate to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.Read MoreFlynn memo reveals part one of Mueller's Rosetta StoneThe second lingering question goes to Flynn’s cooperation: How much information did Flynn give Mueller, and how important is that information to the larger investigation? Flynn’s cooperation remains largely a mystery. Mueller’s sentencing memo was rife with black ink blotting out the specifics of Flynn’s cooperation.

      But Mueller dropped intriguing hints. Mueller noted that he and other prosecutors met with Flynn 19 times — an enormous quantity for any cooperator, in my experience. Mueller also disclosed that Flynn has cooperated on “several ongoing investigations,” including the core “investigation concerning any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the [Trump] campaign.” And Mueller stated that Flynn provided “long-term and firsthand insight” — meaning Flynn was actually in the room when the crimes were committed.For more opinion…

      Sign up for our new newsletter.

      Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      It may be easy to lose track of Flynn, given the recent swirl of dramatic court appearances and explosive revelations around Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and others. Flynn, seemingly intentionally, has created minimal drama for Mueller and has kept a low profile since his arrest. But sometimes, in the long term, the quiet one has the most to say.

What we should learn from Pete Davidson’s Instagram post

On Saturday, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson posted a message to his Instagram account suggesting he was suicidal. “I really don’t want to be on this earth anymore,” he wrote. The troubling message prompted a “wellness check” from the New York Police Department, who met with Davidson in person.

Davidson’s Instagram account has since been deleted, but it wasn’t the first time the 25-year-old comic has used social media to comment about having depressing thoughts. Davidson, who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, has spoken openly about his struggles with mental health and with bullying, especially as it related to his short-lived relationship with pop star Ariana Grande.

    Being in the spotlight likely exacerbates Davidson’s sadness and anxiety, as there is more pressure to meet particular expectations or behave in a certain way. At the same time, though, when he does cry out for help — as his Instagram post did — fans will immediately take notice and respond.But it’s not just celebrities using social media to ask for help — regular folks are, too. So what happens if someone you know issues a call for help, or something that sounds like it? Suicide is preventable: Here's how to stop itFirst and foremost, reach out, even if you’re not entirely sure of their message’s intent. A simple, “Are you okay? I’m around to talk if you need” can let the person know they are not alone — and invite them to call on you as a resource if needed. Many suicidal people won’t reach out on their own. Read MoreBut while you’re here to help, don’t make it sound as if you’re here to fix their problems. You can’t. You can, however, let them know you’re thinking of them and that you take their struggles seriously. Above all, most suicidal people want someone to trust and someone to care. If the person responds and says that they’re not okay, don’t be afraid to ask explicitly and without judgement or panic, “are you feeling suicidal?” If they say yes, try to be with them in person — and if you can’t be, contact a family member or friend who can. You can also encourage them to contact their therapist, if they have one, or a suicide prevention hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. (Facebook also offers a help page specifically geared toward helping people who encounter threats of suicide on the platform.) Talking and sharing are key to suicide preventionCritically, when talking with a friend who may be suicidal, listen more than you talk. Don’t interrogate them or, even more tempting, try to make them feel better by sharing struggles of your own. This risks making the conversation seem all about you. Plus, even if you’ve had suicidal thoughts of your own, you may not know how they feel in this moment. Instead, let them know you’re not here to offer opinions or objections, but rather to provide a safe space for them to share those thoughts. Listen to the feelings behind the facts and then offer to help them explore ways they might deal with their problems. More often than not, suicidal people do not want advice or to be told that “everything will be okay.” But you can offer reassurance that you understand their struggles and will be available for them as needed. And, lastly, especially in the holiday season, realize that not all warnings may be as blatant as Davidson’s. Frequent social media posts that are dark in nature or extremely revealing about a traumatic life event can also be a red flag. And there’s no such thing as “just” a cry for help. For more opinion…

    Sign up for our new newsletter.

    Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      Any message expressing suicidal thoughts or curiosities is a legitimate request for assistance, and in many cases can be a matter of life or death. How will you know if they really mean it? There’s only one way to find out: Give them a call, shoot them a text, reach out however you can. Right now.

Why your internet choices just got narrower

Microsoft recently gave up on developing its own browser technology, opting to use Google’s instead. News coverage focused on how Microsoft was waving the “white flag” to Google after losing a popularity contest, but some stories also noted how Microsoft’s action might lead to a better browsing experience for consumers on Windows.

Mitchell BakerAll of that misses the main point: by adopting the Chromium project, the open-source browsing technology that underpins Google’s Chrome, in the development of Edge, Microsoft is giving Google even more control of online life — more ability to single-handedly decide what possibilities are available to each one of us — with major implications for consumer choice and competition.

    Choosing a browser can have serious benefits for the consumer. It is like a user’s agent — it represents you online, as you make your way around the internet. Browsers are powered by engines: Google’s Chrome has Blink, my company Mozilla’s Firefox has Gecko and, until last week, Microsoft built Edge on its own browser engine, EdgeHTML. Browser engines are incredibly important, with functions that go well beyond what we think of as “browsing.” They determine core capabilities, such as which content consumers can see, how secure consumers are when we watch content, and how much control consumers have over what websites and services see and do with our information. They are a cornerstone of the internet’s infrastructure.Online hate is a deadly threat. When will tech companies finally take it seriously?From a social, civic and individual empowerment perspective, ceding further control of fundamental online infrastructure to a single company is terrible. And this news comes at a time when our society is grappling with broader issues of consolidation, monopoly and potential antitrust actions in both tech and the broader economy. This is why Mozilla exists. We do not compete with Google because it’s a good business opportunity. We compete with Google because the health and benefits of the internet depend on competition and choice. It depends on consumers being able to decide we want something better and to take action. Read MoreRecent studies estimate that since the 1990s, market concentration in the United States has increased in 75% of industries. And 2018 was no exception. In fact, this year is on pace to break previous consolidation records. Globally, the first three quarters of 2018 saw mergers and acquisition deals valued at $3.3 trillion, the largest number since people started keeping track almost 40 years ago. Amazon bought Whole Foods, CVS bought Aetna, and the AT&T-Time Warner merger is making its way through the courts.Consolidation is also rife in the tech sector. Amazon now has around 50% of all e-commerce spending. As consumers cut the cord to cable companies, Netflix has signed up 89% of people who stream video-on-demand. And Google already owns 92% of the internet search market share. European regulators concerned about this kind of consolidation recently leveled a $5 billion fine on Google for anti-competitive bundling of Chrome and search apps to Android. Even in this environment, it’s easy to miss the massively anti-competitive nature of Microsoft giving up on EdgeHTML. If Mozilla disappeared tomorrow, Google would have near monopoly control of how all of us experience web content on Windows and Android, a massive combined market share. The answer to social media's woes isn't regulation but opennessWill Microsoft’s decision make it harder for Mozilla’s own browser Firefox to prosper? It might. Making Google more powerful is risky on many fronts, including to our potential revenue. Google determines so much of consumer content experience, as well as the business model for many businesses online, from publishers to browsers like Mozilla Firefox to retailers seeking customers generally. And in the odd way of technology, part of the answer depends on what the web developers who code services and websites do. If one technology has enough market share, then it becomes easier for web developers to decide not to worry if their services and sites work with anything else. That’s exactly what it was like in the early 2000s, before Firefox, when Microsoft had a near-monopoly status with its Internet Explorer browser. The consumer experience began to deteriorate. Within a few years, consumers were trapped in an abusive, insecure and malware-laden system. Mozilla became an independent, non-profit, 501(c) (3) organization to build a competitive browser as a public-benefit open source project. My role as Mozilla’s co-founder, leader and, later, CEO and chair, has always been to ensure Mozilla focused on creating an internet experience that was better for consumers.It took Firefox, an alternative produced by a mission-driven organization, to give consumers a better option. And we could go back there again, if we’re not careful.

      I call on web developers not to go down the path of monopoly. For more opinion…

      Sign up for our new newsletter.

      Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      The overall trend is toward digital monopolization, and the new control Google just gained should serve as a rallying cry for us all. It is time to fight to keep the internet from becoming just a handful of companies that control just about everything.

The worst kept secret in Washington

Eight years after congressional leaders banned earmarks in an effort to cut spending and improve trust in government, the incoming House majority leader is suggesting that the new Congress is likely to bring the old practice back.

Douglas Farrar It’s the worst kept secret in Washington that most members of Congress love earmarks — which enable members to direct federal spending to projects in their home districts. On December 11, incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that some form of earmarks are coming back, and that he expected bipartisan support in the House and Senate to bring them back. The change is long overdue.

    Earmarks are a vital incentive to encourage lawmakers to support legislation. Party and committee leadership can say to lawmakers who are wavering on supporting a bill, “what priority in your district can I help you with in order to get your support for my proposal?” They are a carrot in a Congress that has tried for the last eight years to work with only sticks. They’re even more critical to bring back during this moment of intense partisan disagreement.Read More

      JUST WATCHED

      Trump floats bringing back earmarks

      ReplayMore Videos …

      MUST WATCH

      Trump floats bringing back earmarks 01:23Most members of Congress don’t just think earmarks are a good idea because they love getting money for their home districts. It’s because they understand that the Constitution vests the power to spend money with Congress — and who would know what projects are important in a district better than its elected representative? It’s also because they understand that without earmarks, the system just doesn’t work. The last eight years provide plenty of evidence. Earmarks act like money in the economy of Congress. You can trade it, you can bargain with it and you can use it to get people to work together.It has been a long time since earmarks have been around, and many of the current and new members of Congress have never requested one before. So it’s useful to remember what they actually are. A Congressional earmark is a provision in legislation put in at the request of a single lawmaker directing a specific amount of money to a specific entity or state, locality or congressional district. An example would be a lawmaker from Kentucky putting language into a bill that directed a federal agency to spend $1.3 million on fixing the roof of a school in Louisville. When John Boehner and Mitch McConnell banned earmarks in 2011, they thought it would help reduce spending and improve trust in government. For starters, the idea that an earmark ban would reduce spending to any meaningful degree is wrong. Earmarks have historically accounted for less than $20 billion a year, which would be about 2% of discretionary spending last fiscal year, according to The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan fiscal advocacy group. If you include non-discretionary spending, they account for less than half a percent of total government spending. In the years since the earmark ban, federal deficits have ballooned along with the overall debt. Trust in government hasn’t gone up either. The biggest opponents of earmarks often decried them as wasteful and emblematic of a Washington full of profligate and irresponsible spenders of taxpayer money. But removing earmarks from the system has not increased American trust in Congress. Forty-six percent of Americans said in a recent Gallup poll that they had very little confidence in Congress, up from 44% when the earmark ban first went into effect. So if banning earmarks didn’t reduce spending and didn’t increase trust in Congress as an institution, what did the ban produce? Gridlock and total inaction. Congress has not exactly been a fine-tuned machine lately; in both divided governments and unified Republican legislatures, lawmakers have barely been able to pass even the most basic pieces of legislative business — from the debt ceiling increase to the yearly appropriations bills. Republicans even found it impossible to pass a health care reform bill, despite total control of Congress and the White House, and years of campaigning on that very promise. With a return of earmarks, President Trump and Democrats in Congress might be able to work out a big infrastructure law that has a reasonable chance of passing and would create jobs and make the commutes of millions of Americans safer and faster.National debt is about to roar back to life as a pressing issue There are challenges to earmarks. Some lawmakers and conservative media platforms will always hate earmarks, and many national publications will give negative coverage to the earmark process by default. The posterchild for earmark opponents is the Gravina Island access project in Alaska, better known as, “the bridge to nowhere.” This project became infamous thanks to a $223 million earmark secured by Rep. Don Young for a project to connect a city of 8,000 people in Alaska to the region’s international airport, located on Gravina Island (population: 50 people). Opponents of earmarks used this as an example of the problems with the practice by claiming the bridge was being built for the fifty people living on Gravina Island. It irks some taxpayers that the government is spending millions of dollars on behalf of fifty people, but what about 8,050 people? It was the judgment of Congressman Young that this was a good thing for his district. Voters and lawmakers can, and should, debate whether expenditures on any given project are worth it, but spending via earmark is not inherently corrupt. There have been truly corrupt earmarks, but those are very rare and the result of illegal activity. A good example of this was when Rep. Duke Cunningham accepted cash bribes for directing federal contracts via earmarks to military contractors. Lawmakers who accept bribes should be prosecuted, and those earmarks should be stripped out of legislation, which is exactly what happened to Rep. Cunningham. For more opinion…

      Sign up for our new newsletter.

      Join us on Twitter and Facebook

        Majority Leader Hoyer and the Democrats in the house can mitigate both the perception of corruption — and rare instances of actual corruption — in earmarks by creating a transparent and fair system that gives taxpayers a full account of all congressional earmarks, and allows for a fair vetting process that weeds out any that don’t pass the giggle test.Earmarks are a bad word for making good things happen. They represent an insignificant amount of federal spending, they grease the legislative pipeline in Congress, they provide funding to many important projects, and they are a part of a constitutionally important role for the Congress. Lawmakers need incentives to work together now more than ever. Our politics has gone off the deep end and there is very little incentive for collaboration. But we still have many problems that call out for public policy solutions. Give lawmakers the tool to make laws. Bring back earmarks.

Prosecutors’ best move: Charge Trump and seal the indictment

Last week the nation witnessed a courtroom spectacle that included the president’s former personal lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, groveling for mercy at a sentencing hearing while his daughter watched, a crutch at her side. Future historians might view the maudlin scene as the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.

Paul CallanThe circumstances surrounding Cohen’s guilty pleas suggest that special counsel Robert Mueller and Southern District of New York federal prosecutors believe Cohen and Trump broke the law in paying hush money to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels. The clear purpose was to protect the president’s reputation as a political candidate.

    It is even possible that the president already has been indicted by a federal grand jury in a secret, sealed indictment that will be revealed only when he leaves the presidency. Of course, this is necessarily speculative, as prosecutors seal indictments to keep them secret. Prosecutors generally use sealed indictments in three situations. The first is when they fear a suspect, upon hearing of his indictment, might destroy evidence before his arrest. The second is when they fear the suspect might flee. Neither of those applies to Trump. Even though he has the use of two well-equipped planes (Air Force One & Trump Force One), he is unlikely to flee the US and has no place to hide. But the third reason could be a factor: when the statute of limitations might expire before the suspect can be arraigned on the indictment. Flynn mystery: Sometimes the quiet one has the most to sayMueller and the New York Southern District prosecutors are bound by a Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president. Read MoreEven if the president does not run for reelection, the five-year statute of limitations might expire on presidential criminal activities that reach back to 2015 by the time he leaves office. That could include planning the “catch and kill’ operation used on McDougal. These timing details are known only by prosecutors and those under investigation.The issuance and sealing of the indictment would “toll” the statute from expiring. The issuance of the indictment stops the clock, and the sealing may prevent evidence destruction or witness tampering until the case can be tried. A viable prosecution would be possible even if circumstances such as the president’s reelection in 2020 prevent a prosecution until 2025. Trump's dream world is turning into a hellscapeIt is also possible that a new Trump-designated attorney general could shut down Mueller’s investigation. The safe Mueller/Southern District of New York move is to indict Trump now and seal the indictment pending the president’s departure from office. The details of Cohen’s guilty pleas in August and November, as well as the sentencing proceedings last week, show that Cohen and his highly reputable attorney, former federal prosecutor Guy Petrillo, know something important. They believe that prosecutors have the evidence to prove that Cohen committed a felony violation of US election laws in orchestrating the payments to McDougal and Clifford. Federal Judge William Pauley could not have accepted the plea unless he too believed a federal felony was committed. This was no “simple private transaction,” as the president asserted. Trump is legally permitted to make unlimited campaign contributions on his own behalf. But these must be promptly reported under federal law. The government’s sentencing recommendations in connection with Cohen’s August plea reveal that the president was aware of the payments, probably even attending a meeting with Cohen and David Pecker, chairman of AMI (the National Enquirer’s corporate owner), to discuss silencing scandalous reports about potential candidate Trump. He clearly intended to hide rather than report the expenditures. This was not an oversight but the act of a co-conspirator in the commission of the felony.Sorry, President Trump, collusion IS a crimeIt is logical that the government has negotiated a non-prosecution agreement with AMI and with Pecker himself (“Chairman1”), as the sentencing documents show him to be a key witness to corroborate Cohen. Cohen also has tapes of the president affirming his desire to pay off McDougal.Later Trump Organization documents and Rudy Guiliani affirm that Cohen was reimbursed for the payments under the guise of legal fees. The evidence clearly demonstrates that Cohen used shell corporations and the Trump Organization to hide the president’s role in the whole sordid matter. For more opinion…

    Sign up for our new newsletter.

    Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      This makes the president a criminal co-conspirator in the commission of a federal felony, and that’s an impeachable offense. The case is strong, and the smart move by Mueller and New York federal prosecutors is to indict and seal, and then finish the Russia probe. Given Cohen’s statements about the president’s pre-election relationship with the Russians, that too looks increasingly problematic for Trump.Finally, filing an indictment in New York would lock in a prosecutor’s dream jurisdiction for trial. What better venue could a prosecutor have to try Trump than the Southern District in New York City, where the public is heavily Democratic and likely to view him as Public Enemy No. 1?

America’s leaders make it too easy for spies to snoop on us

Every week, I offer a glimpse of the kind of intelligence assessments that are likely to come across the desk of the President of the United States, modeled on the President’s Daily Briefing, or PDB, which the director of national intelligence prepares for the President almost daily.

With a new year around the corner, let’s all resolve to play a little harder to get.As we look toward 2019, the intelligence community’s work identifying and ranking worldwide threats — from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to human health and economic growth — helps policymakers identify where to allocate resources.

    Last year’s Worldwide Threat Assessment devoted a significant amount of attention to the risk posed by foreign intelligence services seeking to infiltrate our government, collect national security or proprietary information and sow distrust through influence operations. Sam VinogradCounterintelligence (CI) operations are nothing new, but we’re currently making it too easy for foreign agents to assess our intentions, penetrate key organizations and manipulate decisions to suit their own needs — which are often inimical to our own.Read MoreForeign intelligence services have different reasons for deploying counterintelligence tools against us — China is often motivated by a competitive desire to gain a commercial and military edge over the United States, while Russia’s operatives are often deployed to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order. But they probably all share the view that their jobs have gotten significantly easier these last two years.Going into the new year, any assessment of how to mitigate counterintelligence risks should focus on some key lessons:You didn’t win a popularity contest: Foreign intelligence agents want to penetrate our decision-making apparatus so that they can get good information on what our next moves may be and influence our decisions. That means that anyone with access and influence is a prime target for foreign agents. Members of campaigns, government employees, powerful lobbying organizations like the NRA, or executives with friends in high places are ideal recruitment targets. It’s no coincidence Americans become popular with foreigners when they join a campaign or accept high-profile jobs. Their phones start ringing because foreign intelligence services are hoping they have the inexperience, lack of judgment or ill intent that will make them susceptible to manipulation by skilled counterintelligence agents. Details of Maria Butina's cooperation quickly removed from court websiteIn other words, it’s not an accident that the Russians contacted so many campaign, transition team and administration officials. And it’s also not an accident that Maria Butina cozied up to high-profile GOP figures and the NRA. The more power you have, the more popular you are — even if it means attracting the wrong crowd. In light of several successful CI operations coming to light, brushing up on how to report foreign contacts may be a good New Year’s resolution. Government employees are supposed to conduct foreign engagement through official channels and on official devices and to report any other contact to their security contacts. Campaign and private sector officials should go to law enforcement if there’s any sense that they’re being targeted as a CI target.Play hard to get: Assessing intentions is a key part of any good spy game. Foreign intelligence services have historically had to work very hard to get information on presidential pressure points and what influences executive thought processes. This painstakingly collected intelligence probably served as a blueprint for enemies as they consider the ways to manipulate a president to make decisions that benefit their interests. Trump's dream world is turning into a hellscapeIt’s a whole different ball game today. In the age of social media, the more content that a president or any other senior officials put into the public sphere, the easier it is for foreign agents to glean useful information on how to push their buttons. Pavlovian Twitter responses to negative media coverage, for example, or perpetuating conspiracy theories make the process ripe for exploitation via influence operations and direct communications.Playing hard to get is what’s best for our country. Keeping tweets, tirades and other public engagements focused on policy would make it harder for foreign agents to manipulate important assets through influence operations and to get a leg up. We don’t have the same kind of insights into other leaders’ trigger words. Vladimir Putin doesn’t wear his heart on his Twitter sleeve.The lying game: Lying to the FBI and to Congress isn’t just illegal, it’s also a gift to foreign intelligence services. Anything that a foreign government knows about an American with access and influence (that the US government doesn’t know) is a potential opportunity for bribery. Lies are foreign agents’ kryptonite, especially if exposing those lies could put an American in legal jeopardy with law enforcement. Foreign agents can threaten to expose those lies unless their target cooperates with their requests.Honesty is the surest way to stay out of jail and to avoid becoming an asset for foreign intelligence. The truth may hurt, but it will help our national security.We’re also assessing evolving developments on the following issues: Arresting Huawei exec is a case of spectacularly bad timingAbusive Behavior: The failure to punish China for its ongoing human rights abuses against religious minorities means that they’re still at it. New reporting that China has detained 100 Christians follows other assessments that they are persecuting thousands of Muslim Uighurs, which could trigger US sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act. But because we haven’t punished China for their human rights abuses, it’s unlikely they’ll stop what they’re doing anytime soon. However, actively pursuing Global Magnitsky Act investigations and sanctioning those involved in these abuses is a first step toward deterring more abuse. Phone a friend: The outlook for the UN-brokered ceasefire between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels in Yemen is tenuous, especially with the news of ongoing fighting and allegations of truce abuse already coming out. If the ceasefire breaks down, millions of Yemenis will continue to suffer from severe food and medicine shortages, not to mention continued violence. The close relationship between the White House and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could prove helpful this week. Urging the Saudis to maintain the ceasefire, with additional pressure from Congress, could be an important message for the Crown Prince to hear.

      Making (some) amends: Against a backdrop of ongoing violence and the death of another American service member, Afghan, Pakistani, and Chinese officials met in Kabul this weekend to discuss ongoing cooperation. The United States was not included in this tripartite meeting. For more opinion…

      Sign up for our new newsletter.

      Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      The decision to cut off more US foreign assistance to Pakistan as a means to pressure Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan into helping end the nearly two-decades-long conflict in Afghanistan has yet to bear fruit. But sending the top US Envoy to Islamabad and publicly acknowledging our request for assistance could help smooth things over. However, without a promise to resume US funding, it’s unlikely that Khan will keep the US informed about his efforts — or his real intentions.

US and China feud. Canada pays the price

It must have been one of the most humiliating moments in the life of the so-called “Princess of Huawei” when Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant, on December 1 at Vancouver International Airport.

Canadian agents detained Meng at the request of the US, which claims Huawei, through the use of the Hong Kong company Skycom Tech, dodged sanctions on Iran. After 10 days in a corrections center and an unusually long bail hearing, Meng is under house arrest in Vancouver on $10 million Canadian bail ($7.5 million US). She faces extradition to the US, as well as a possible 30-year prison sentence if found guilty of defrauding banks to circumvent American sanctions.Michael BociurkiwCanada chose to abide by the rules when it arrested Meng. But it easily could have looked the other way and allowed the CFO to slip through Vancouver on her way from Hong Kong to Mexico. Instead, Canada chose to abide by a “rules-based international order,” and for that it is paying a hefty price.

    Arresting Meng is no small matter — imagine if China detained Apple CEO Tim Cook. Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer after Samsung, is the poster child for China’s commercial might, and Meng is the daughter of the company’s founder Ren Zhengfei.Canada simply may have honored a routine extradition warrant, but it finds itself in an unenviable tug of war between the US and China amid a trade war between the two superpowers. Canada reportedly reached a “new level of frustration” with US President Donald Trump after he expressed a willingness to politicize Meng’s case and use it as a bargaining chip to protect his country’s economic and national security interests. Ottawa is also bearing the brunt of Meng’s arrest after China detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation. Trump sets 'terrible precedent' by crossing red line on Huawei caseRead MoreThe consequences for Canada could be painful. The situation threatens to turn into yet another long-term foreign policy disaster for the relatively young and inexperienced government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It is still bruising from Saudi Arabia’s harsh retaliation after Canada criticized its human rights record in August.To make matters worse, the imbroglio comes when the Trudeau government is trying to rev up trade and investment with China, partially to benefit from Beijing’s deteriorating economic relationship with the US.Before Meng was even released Tuesday, Chinese officials detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who is also an adviser for the International Crisis Group. Michael Spavor, a Canadian writer and businessman who founded an organization that promotes trips to North Korea, was also detained Monday. China’s Foreign Ministry said the two cases are being handled separately. Canadians should be asking why China is picking on Canada when it should be directing retaliation at the US, which initiated the legal proceedings against Meng. And it might just get worse from here. China is Canada’s second-biggest trading partner after the US. With two-way trade clocking in at almost $73 billion Canadian in the first nine months of 2018, the potential for Beijing to harm the Canadian economy is huge. Arresting Huawei exec is a case of spectacularly bad timingVictoria Pelletier, an executive at IBM Global Services, told me, “This has put us in a terrible position…The next steps are going to be very, very important. We need to separate the politics around the legal extradition requirements we are bound by and the highly political situation around trade that may have a significant impact on the Canadian economy.”Commercial activity has already been impacted, with British Columbia — the province with the most to lose from cooling ties with China — announcing on Sunday the government will suspend a planned trade mission to the country. If Beijing continues to punish Canada, one option is to suspend talks for its free trade agreement with China, especially if it continues to detain Canadians. “We’ve got to make clear that there [are] going to be costs to this kind of lawless behavior,” said Canadian columnist Andrew Coyne.Canada also can side with most of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence countries (which include the US and Australia) and finally decide whether Huawei should be given access to Canada’s 5G network. For more opinion…

    Sign up for our new newsletter.

    Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      Finally, resentment is growing toward China over everything from its aggressive actions in the South China Sea to mounting unease surrounding its aggressive Belt and Road Initiative. Canada should diversify its trade and investment portfolio with other Southeast Asian nations — and in the process lessen dependence on China. And seeking sage counsel from elder statesmen such as Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has no qualms about standing up to China, could up Canada’s tactical game.Whatever the outcome of the current foreign policy dispute, the US has poked the Chinese dragon, and Canada stands to be burned badly in the process.

Judge’s breathtaking Obamacare opinion is a bomb dropped on America’s health care system

Late on Friday, a federal district judge in Texas, Reed O’Connor, dropped a bomb on the Affordable Care Act, and indeed on the entire American health care system.

Timothy JostHis ruling, in Texas v. U.S., was a victory for the 20 Republican state attorneys general and governors who had brought the case in February, asking the court to block operation of the health care law. They based their attack on the law’s requirement that people either buy health insurance or pay a penalty, which opponents of the law have long called an unconstitutional mandate.

    In a landmark decision in 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the law by declaring that mandate was actually a tax, which Congress had the authority to impose. But when Congress reduced the tax to zero last year, the plaintiffs argued that now — without its individual-responsibility enforcement mechanism — the entire Affordable Care Act was suddenly unconstitutional.Judge O’Connor agreed. He said further that the law and its mandate could not be separated, and with this key part missing, the whole law should collapse, like a pillar of blocks in the game Jenga. The scope of Judge O’Connor’s judgment is breathtaking. The ACA contains ten titles and hundreds of individual provisions governing every corner of our health care system. The invalidation of the ACA, if upheld on appeal, would affect virtually every American. Read More

      JUST WATCHED

      The history of Obamacare

      ReplayMore Videos …

      MUST WATCH

      The history of Obamacare 02:09Of course, millions of individuals who purchase their insurance directly from insurers or through the marketplaces would lose the ACA’s preexisting condition protections. Older Americans and women could again be discriminated against as well. Millions of individuals and families covered through the ACA’s Medicaid expansions would lose coverage — even in states that have recently passed referenda to expand coverage — but other Medicaid beneficiaries would lose benefits conferred by the ACA as well. Medicare beneficiaries would lose preventive-services coverage and could see the “donut hole” reopen, imposing higher drug costs. Indeed, the order may invalidate current ACA regulations governing Medicare payments, throwing the Medicare program into chaos. Most Americans, who have coverage through their employer, would lose their right to preventive services and coverage of children to age 26 and see lifetime and annual dollar limits of coverage reappear. ACA reforms to the Indian Health Service or provisions for FDA approval of generic biologic drugs would disappear. Fraud and abuse protections included in the ACA would no longer be effective. In deciding to wreak this destruction on the American health care system, Judge O’Connor arrogated to himself authority that rightly belongs with Congress. A Republican Congress spent most of 2017 debating to what extent it wanted to repeal the ACA. In the end, it only changed one small provision: reducing the shared responsibility tax to $0.

        JUST WATCHED

        Obamacare’s ‘essential benefits’ explained

        ReplayMore Videos …

        MUST WATCH

        Obamacare’s ‘essential benefits’ explained 01:21Judge O’Connor believes that in doing so, Congress pulled a grenade pin, exploding the entire law. But numerous Republicans, both during the debate on the vote on the tax law and since, have made it clear that was not what they did. Judge O’Connor points to the “findings” from the original ACA itself to claim that the mandate was “essential” to various provisions of the law, but those findings were included to bolster arguments that the mandate was constitutional as a legal requirement and were not intended to make the rest of the law dependent on the mandate. Republicans in Congress repeatedly tried and failed to repeal the ACA. It is not up to an unelected judge to do it himself.So, what does Judge O’Connor’s judgment mean? He specifically did not enter an order blocking the operation of the law, so it remains in effect. O’Connor only found two individuals had standing to challenge the law, so arguably the ruling only applies to them. Nancy Pelosi's burnt orange coat wraps a fiery meetingAnother judge is considering a case brought by Maryland to uphold the ACA, so we may get dueling judgments. An earlier appellate court decision, involving a number of the states in this case, invalidated the individual mandate but held the entire remainder of the ACA to be valid. Any noncompliance with the law may be challenged in other courts.

          California will appeal Judge O’Connor’s decision and the Trump administration may appeal parts of it as well. It will likely be reversed on appeal and may never get to the Supreme Court. It is simply the opinion of one district court judge. But it will surely cause chaos and confusion throughout the health care system, as the federal government’s lawyer predicted at oral arguments. No doubt that is what Judge O’Connor wanted.