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Bill Clinton's Sock Drawer, Russians ARE funding our politics, and COVID fraud ignored by Congress
The final days of August are supposed to be slow, sleepy, and uneventful. Hardly. Here are important stories you won't find in our leading media outlets.
Several posts caught my eye this morning, starting with John Solomon at justthenews.com. Solomon reminds us of a long-forgotten lawsuit over audio tapes famously kept in then-President Clinton’s sock drawer. It has relevance to the FBI's dubious and ill-advised fishing expedition at Mar-a-Lago:
When it comes to the National Archives, history has a funny way of repeating itself. And legal experts say a decade-old case over audio tapes that Bill Clinton once kept in his sock drawer may have significant impact over the FBI search of Melania Trump's closet and Donald Trump's personal office.
The case in question is titled Judicial Watch v. National Archives and Records Administration and it involved an effort by the conservative watchdog to compel the Archives to forcibly seize hours of audio recordings that Clinton made during his presidency with historian Taylor Branch.
For pop culture, the case is most memorable for the revelation that the 42nd president for a time stored the audio tapes in his sock drawer at the White House. The tapes became the focal point of a 2009 book that Branch wrote.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington D.C. ultimately rejected Judicial Watch's suit by concluding there was no provision in the Presidential Records Act to force the National Archives to seize records from a former president.
But Jackson's ruling — along with the Justice Department's arguments that preceded it — made some other sweeping declarations that have more direct relevance to the FBI's decision to seize handwritten notes and files Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago. The most relevant is that a president's discretion on what are personal vs. official records is far-reaching and solely his, as is his ability to declassify or destroy records at will.
"Under the statutory scheme established by the PRA, the decision to segregate personal materials from Presidential records is made by the President, during the President's term and in his sole discretion," Jackson wrote in her March 2012 decision, which was never appealed.
"Since the President is completely entrusted with the management and even the disposal of Presidential records during his time in office, it would be difficult for this Court to conclude that Congress intended that he would have less authority to do what he pleases with what he considers to be his personal records," she added.
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Jonathan Turley compares congressional Democrats hiring 87,000 new IRS agents to collect $200 billion in new taxes while $160 billion in Covid payment fraud is left up to about 500 investigators:
The addition of 87,000 new IRS agents has been celebrated by many as a way to capture billions in revenue to pay for the new bill on climate change and other programs. The claim is that increasing audits of people making over $400,000 will capture additional billions in revenue. That math has been challenged as wildly overestimated unless these new agents turn (as expected) to middle income taxpayers. The respected Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has also directly contradicted claims made by President Biden and the sponsors on increasing the tax burden for middle income families. What is interesting, however, are reports that the government believes that as much as $160 billion in Covid relief fraud exists and the government does not have the personnel or ability to recover most of those funds (or to prosecute most of the culprits). A fraction of those 87,000 new IRS agents would transform this effort, but documenting and prosecuting Covid relief fraud does not seem as much of a priority in Washington.Years ago, I debated one of the top advisers to Sen. Elizabeth Warren on her tax proposals, including a wealth tax. In the middle of the debate, the professor revealed that Warren and the Democrats wanted to radically increase the IRS to pursue wealthy Americans for more tax revenue through extensive audits. He spoke of adding billions in new money and thousands of new agents. It was another sweeping claim that wealthy were not paying enough and that there was a virtually limitless amount of money to pay for new programs.
They have now made good on that pledge with an $80 billion increase in the IRS budget — an increase that also must pay for itself in addition to covering the cost of new programs.
Many have noted that the numbers do not add up. While Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter ordering that the new agents should not be used to audit people making less than 400k, it is hard to see where the required $204 billion will come from. Some estimates put an audit increase of 30 times would still fall short of the $35.3 billion sought in 2031.
However, there is as much as $160 billion in alleged fraud of Covid checks. The government simply sent out billions with little review or confirmation during the pandemic. Now, the New York Times reports that a relatively small number of investigators is overwhelmed by the numbers and unlikely to pursue most of this money: “There are currently 500 people working on pandemic-fraud cases across the offices of 21 inspectors general, plus investigators from the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.”
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Erick Erickson, with an assist from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, unearths a federal indictment from Florida that alleges Russia’s funding of American political groups, but not who you may think:
Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, the media has breathlessly reported Russia influenced the election. Democrats have insisted Russia stole the election. Many have claimed the Russians worked through conservative groups to get Trump into office. Now, an unsealed indictment suggests the Russians are funding American political groups. It just so happens that the groups are left-leaning.
The unsealed federal indictment is from Florida. It alleges a Russian named Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov has been funding political groups in the United States on behalf of the Russians. According to the indictment, Ionov had the groups "publish pro-Russian propaganda, as well as other information designed to cause dissention in the United States and to promote secessionist ideologies.”
Given the media’s fury about Trump and Russia, you might be surprised to learn about this indictment. The Atlanta Journal Constitution (“AJC”) covered the indictment because one of the groups involved is in Georgia. Understanding the groups involved explains why you have not heard a lot about it on various news outlets or the front-pages of Trump obsessed newspapers.
One of the groups is called the Black Hammer Party. Described by the AJC as a radical group, the Black Hammer Party advocates murdering police officers and believes a violent overthrow of the United States is necessary. In 2020, the Black Hammer Party claimed it had an alliance with the Proud Boys over the 2020 election and a shared belief it was stolen.
As the AJC reports it, “According to the indictment, Ionov, who lives in Moscow, paid for members of the Black Hammer Party to travel to San Francisco in March to protest Facebook’s censorship of posts supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The influence went so far as to direct Black Hammer members on the designs of signs for the protest.”
Another group involved is the Uhuru Movement, which is a socialist group in Tampa, FL. That group has agitated against capitalism, claiming capitalism has been parasitic to Africa. It is tied to the African People’s Socialist Party.
It turns out, if the indictment is to be believed, that the Russians really have been funding American political protestors just like the media said. The only problem is that the groups being funded are black nationalist, socialist movements, not Trump supporters. To be sure, it is only a matter of time before we find out the Russians have funded rightwing extremists and environmentalists too. The KGB, in the eighties, funded environmentalists and anti-nuke peace protestors throughout the West. The tactic is nothing new.
The bigger story here is that after years of the media telling us this was happening, the indictment has not been a national story. Undoubtedly, had the indictment revealed a direct connection from the Russians to the Proud Boys or some clearly Trump affiliated group, we would never hear the end of it. But like shootings in Chicago, if it involves non-white actors, the media prefers not to make eye contact with it. It is, in fact, not just a political double standard but a racial one as well.
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