July 13, 2020

Sup Court Rules 7-2 with Trump and Religious Groups, Against Obamacare

Little Sisters of the Poor ‘vindicated’ by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration acted within its authority when it expanded exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement for employers to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception — in a victory for Little Sisters of the Poor, the Catholic group that has been at the center of the national debate over the mandate.

The court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Trump administration and the Catholic charity that cares for the elderly in two related disputes against Pennsylvania, which sued over the validity of a rule from the Trump administration that allowed religious-affiliated groups and some for-profit companies to opt-out of providing contraception coverage to employees.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled that the Trump administration’s challenged rulemaking was aboveboard, and hailed the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Little Sisters of the Poor Religious Group Wins Right to Abstain from Pushing Birth Control

“For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother,” Thomas wrote. “But for the past seven years, they — like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision — have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

He added: “We hold today that the Departments had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption. We further hold that the rules promulgating these exemptions are free from procedural defects.”

Little Sisters of the Poor Sister Constance Veit told Shannon Bream on “Fox News @ Night” earlier this year that following the ACA mandate was “unthinkable.”

“We dedicate our lives to this because we believe in the dignity of every human life at every stage of life from conception until natural death,” Veit said. “So, we’ve devoted our lives — by religious vows — to caring for the elderly. And, we literally are by their bedside holding their hand as they pass on to eternal life. So, it’s unthinkable for us, on the one way, to be holding the hand of the dying elderly, and on the other hand, to possibly be facilitating the taking of innocent unborn life.”

The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of religious organizations in an employment discrimination case Wednesday. And last week it came down with a ruling that states could not ban religious schools from receiving money from state-funded scholarship programs that are available to non-religious private schools.

Lower court rulings had gone against the administration, with a nationwide injunction putting the exemptions on hold. But the Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday amounts to a huge win for religious conservatives who have been battling the ACA’s contraceptive mandate for years.

“It is outrageous that the Obama administration forced a group of nuns to violate their religious beliefs in the first place,” Judicial Crisis Network Vice President and Senior Counsel Frank Scaturro tweeted. “The Court’s decision today upholding that exemption is a victory for freedom of religion and conscience—for the Little Sisters and for everyone. Let’s be thankful that the Little Sisters’ ordeal in court has finally ended.”

Thomas was joined in his judgment by all the justices except for Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday. Ginsburg raised alarms in her dissent that the ruling could put women’s health at risk.

“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” she wrote. “Destructive of the Women’s Health Amendment, this Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets.”

There were two concurring opinions, one written by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, and another written by Justice Elena Kagan and joined by Justice Stephen Breyer.

In her opinion, Kagan said that she believed the Trump administration had the authority to make the religious exemption to the contraceptive mandate, but that she is suspicious about whether the administration fulfilled “administrative law’s demand for reasoned decisionmaking.”

Kagan argues that Pennsylvania could further challenge the religious exemption as “arbitrary and capricious” in lower courts following Wednesday’s ruling — something that the lower courts did not previously rule on because they had decided that the rule was outside of the administration’s authority.

Alito’s concurrence, on the other hand, argues that Thomas’ ruling did not go far enough and that the court should have ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) requires the religious exemption.

“We now send these cases back to the lower courts, where the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey are all but certain to pursue their argument that the current rule is flawed on yet another ground, namely, that it is arbitrary and capricious and thus violates the APA,” Alito wrote.

He added: “If RFRA requires this exemption, the Departments did not act in an arbitrary and capricious manner in granting it. And in my judgment, RFRA compels an exemption for the Little Sisters and any other employer with a similar objection to what has been called the accommodation to the contraceptive mandate.”

Liberal groups were incensed by the Wednesday decision, which they said was essentially a license to discriminate.

“This is a shameful decision from the Supreme Court,” Bridgitte Amiri, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said. “Religious liberty is a fundamental right, but it does not grant a license to discriminate. Denying employees and students coverage for birth control will limit their ability to decide whether and when to have a family and make other decisions about their futures. And it will exacerbate existing inequalities, falling hardest on people with the fewest resources and people of color.”

Amiri noted that the religious exemption is just that — an exemption. And most employers will still have to provide birth control in their health care plans under the ACA.

But pro-life groups nonetheless carried the day, and Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, credited President Trump.

“Today is a major victory for President Trump, who has courageously fought to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor from the Obama-Biden HHS abortifacient mandate,” she said. “We commend President Trump for standing strong for the Little Sisters of the Poor – his record stands in stark contrast to that of Joe Biden, who helped launch this assault as Obama’s Vice President nearly a decade ago.”

The justices this fall will hear a broader challenge to Obamacare, and requests by the current administration and some red-leaning states to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act. It is a move opposed by the Democratic-led House and a coalition of other states.

By Tyler Olson, Ronn Blitzer, Shannon Bream. Fox News’ Bill Mears and Julia Musto contributed to this report.


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Independence Day: What We Declared on July 4th

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    -For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    -For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    -For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    -For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    -For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    -For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring -Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    -For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    -For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Climate Activist Michael Shellenberger Aplogizes for Decades of Lies

On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare

Climate activist Michael Shellenberger at Ted Talks

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. 

I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30. 

But as an energy expert asked by Congress to provide objective expert testimony, and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report, I feel an obligation to apologize for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public.

Here are some facts few people know:

  • Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction” 
  • The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
  • Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
  • Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
  • The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
  • The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
  • Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have been declining in Britain, Germany, and France since the mid-1970s 
  • Netherlands became rich not poor while adapting to life below sea level
  • We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
  • Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
  • Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
  • Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism. 

In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies. 

Some people will, when they read this imagine that I’m some right-wing anti-environmentalist. I’m not. At 17, I lived in Nicaragua to show solidarity with the Sandinista socialist revolution. At 23 I raised money for Guatemalan women’s cooperatives. In my early 20s I lived in the semi-Amazon doing research with small farmers fighting land invasions. At 26 I helped expose poor conditions at Nike factories in Asia. 

The author Michael Shellenberger in Maranhão, Brazil, 1995

I became an environmentalist at 16 when I threw a fundraiser for Rainforest Action Network. At 27 I helped save the last unprotected ancient redwoods in California. In my 30s I advocated renewables and successfully helped persuade the Obama administration to invest $90 billion into them. Over the last few years I helped save enough nuclear plants from being replaced by fossil fuels to prevent a sharp increase in emissions 

But until last year, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly that’s because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an “existential” threat to human civilization, and called it a “crisis.” 

But mostly I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.

I even stood by as people in the White House and many in the news media tried to destroy the reputation and career of an outstanding scientist, good man, and friend of mine, Roger Pielke, Jr., a lifelong progressive Democrat and environmentalist who testified in favor of carbon regulations. Why did they do that? Because his research proves natural disasters aren’t getting worse. 

But then, last year, things spiraled out of control. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said “The world is going to end in twelve years if we don’t address climate change.” Britain’s most high-profile environmental group claimed “Climate Change Kills Children.” 

The world’s most influential green journalist, Bill McKibben, called climate change the “greatest challenge humans have ever faced” and said it would “wipe out civilizations.” 

Mainstream journalists reported, repeatedly, that the Amazon was “the lungs of the world,” and that deforestation was like a nuclear bomb going off.

As a result, half of the people surveyed around the world last year said they thought climate change would make humanity extinct. And in January, one out of five British children told pollsters they were having nightmares about climate change.

Whether or not you have children you must see how wrong this is. I admit I may be sensitive because I have a teenage daughter. After we talked about the science she was reassured. But her friends are deeply misinformed and thus, understandably, frightened. 

I thus decided I had to speak out. I knew that writing a few articles wouldn’t be enough. I needed a book to properly lay out all of the evidence. 

 And so my formal apology for our fear-mongering comes in the form of my new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. 

It is based on two decades of research and three decades of environmental activism. At 400 pages, with 100 of them endnotes, Apocalypse Never covers climate change, deforestation, plastic waste, species extinction, industrialization, meat, nuclear energy, and renewables.

Some highlights from the book:

  • Factories and modern farming are the keys to human liberation and environmental progress 
  • The most important thing for saving the environment is producing more food, particularly meat, on less land 
  • The most important thing for reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is moving from wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to uranium 
  • 100% renewables would require increasing the land used for energy from today’s 0.5% to 50% 
  • We should want cities, farms, and power plants to have higher, not lower, power densities
  • Vegetarianism reduces one’s emissions by less than 4%
  • Greenpeace didn’t save the whales, switching from whale oil to petroleum and palm oil did
  • “Free-range” beef would require 20 times more land and produce 300% more emissions
  • Greenpeace dogmatism worsened forest fragmentation of the Amazon
  • The colonialist approach to gorilla conservation in the Congo produced a backlash that may have resulted in the killing of 250 elephants

Why were we all so misled?

In the final three chapters of Apocalypse Never I expose the financial, political, and ideological motivations. Environmental groups have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests. Groups motivated by anti-humanist beliefs forced the World Bank to stop trying to end poverty and instead make poverty “sustainable.” And status anxiety, depression, and hostility to modern civilization are behind much of the alarmism

Once you realize just how badly misinformed we have been, often by people with plainly unsavory or unhealthy motivations, it is hard not to feel duped. 

Will Apocalypse Never make any difference? There are certainly reasons to doubt it. 

The news media have been making apocalyptic pronouncements about climate change since the late 1980s, and do not seem disposed to stop. 

The ideology behind environmental alarmsim — Malthusianism — has been repeatedly debunked for 200 years and yet is more powerful than ever.

But there are also reasons to believe that environmental alarmism will, if not come to an end, have diminishing cultural power. 

The coronavirus pandemic is an actual crisis that puts the climate “crisis” into perspective. Even if you think we have overreacted, Covid-19 has killed nearly 500,000 people and shattered economies around the globe.

Scientific institutions including WHO and IPCC have undermined their credibility through the repeated politicization of science. Their future existence and relevance depends on new leadership and serious reform.

Facts still matter, and social media is allowing for a wider range of new and independent voices to outcompete alarmist environmental journalists at legacy publications. 

Nations are reverting openly to self-interest and away from Malthusianism and neoliberalism, which is good for nuclear and bad for renewables.

The evidence is overwhelming that our high-energy civilization is better for people and nature than the low-energy civilization that climate alarmists would return us to. 

The invitations from IPCC and Congress are signs of a growing openness to new thinking about climate change and the environment. Another one has been to the response to my book from climate scientists, conservationists, and environmental scholars. “Apocalypse Never is an extremely important book,” writes Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb. “This may be the most important book on the environment ever written,” says one of the fathers of modern climate science Tom Wigley.

“We environmentalists condemn those with antithetical views of being ignorant of science and susceptible to confirmation bias,” wrote the former head of The Nature Conservancy, Steve McCormick. “But too often we are guilty of the same.  Shellenberger offers ‘tough love:’ a challenge to entrenched orthodoxies and rigid, self-defeating mindsets.  Apocalypse Never serves up occasionally stinging, but always well-crafted, evidence-based points of view that will help develop the ‘mental muscle’ we need to envision and design not only a hopeful, but an attainable, future.”

That is all I hoped for in writing it. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ll agree that it’s perhaps not as strange as it seems that a lifelong environmentalist, progressive, and climate activist felt the need to speak out against the alarmism. 

I further hope that you’ll accept my apology.

By Michael Shellenberger, author of Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. 


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Supreme Court Orders Taxpayer Funding for Religious Schools

Significant win for the school choice movement 

US Supreme Court strikes down state ban on taxpayer funding for religious schools

The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a ban on taxpayer funding for religious schools, in a narrow but significant win for the school choice movement.

In the 5-4 ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court essentially backed a Montana tax-credit scholarship program that gave residents up to a $150 credit for donating to private scholarship organizations, helping students pay for their choice of private schools. The state’s revenue department made a rule banning those tax-credit scholarships from going to religious schools before the state’s supreme court later struck down the entire program.

“A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” Roberts wrote in the court’s opinion.

Under the program, a family receiving a scholarship originally could use it at any “qualified education provider,” which the court’s opinion noted means “any private school that meets certain accreditation, testing, and safety requirements.” The Montana Department of Revenue, citing the state constitution, then changed the definition of “qualified education provider” to exclude those “owned or controlled in whole or in part by any church, religious sect, or denomination.”

That decision, which the state attorney general disagreed with, was based on a “no-aid” clause in the state’s constitution, which bars the state from giving aid to schools “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”

Parents of children attending a religious private school sued, and a lower court ruled in their favor, holding that the tax credits did not violate the state constitution because they were not appropriations made to religious institutions. The state supreme court overruled that decision and ordered the entire program to be scrapped.

“I feel that we’re being excluded simply because we are people of religious background, or because our children want to go to a religious school,” Kendra Espinoza, a lead plaintiff in the case, said after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in January. “We’re here to stand up for our rights as people of faith to have the same opportunities that a secular schoolchild would have.”

Roberts noted that the Montana scholarship program in no way violated the U.S. Constitution, noting that the Supreme Court has “repeatedly held that the Establishment Clause is not offended when religious observers and organizations benefit from neutral government programs.” The chief justice pointed out that neither side in the case disputed this.

What was at issue in the case is the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause — which applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment — which forbids laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion. Roberts said that the Montana Supreme Court erred when they failed to recognize that the state constitution’s “no-aid” clause violated the First Amendment.

“When the Court was called upon to apply a state law no-aid provision to exclude religious schools from the program, it was obligated by the Federal Constitution to reject the invitation,” Roberts wrote.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that there was no constitutional violation because the program ended up being shut down entirely, leaving families from all schools in the same position. Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued in her own dissent that the Montana state court decision was based on state law having nothing to do with the Free Exercise Clause. Roberts rejected those arguments because “[t]he program was eliminated by a court, and not based on some innocuous principle of state law.”

In a third dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer — joined by Justice Elena Kagan — argued that while Montana’s aid program’s inclusion of religious schools may not have been forbidden by the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, it was not required by the Free Exercise Clause as Roberts’ claimed it was.

Tuesday’s ruling is a victory for school choice proponents and some conservative religious groups who had challenged the provision in court. Montana’s program was similar to many across the U.S., and other states have proposed tax-credit scholarship programs but not passed them due to confusion about their legality.

Roberts once again served as the swing vote in a 5-4 decision. This time, he joined his fellow justices in the conservative wing of the court. On Monday, Republicans railed against him for siding with the liberal contingent in a 5-4 case that struck down a Louisiana law that place restrictions on abortions by requiring that those who perform the procedures have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. He was also the deciding vote in a recent ruling against the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind DACA.

By Ronn Blitzer, Bill Mears, Shannon Bream Tyler Olson contributed to this report. 


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SCOTUS Hands Trump Win on Deportation Powers

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday for the Trump administration in a key immigration case, determining that a federal law limiting an asylum applicant’s ability to appeal a determination that he lacked a credible fear of persecution from his home country does not violate the Constitution.

The ruling means the administration can deport some people seeking asylum without allowing them to make their case to a federal judge. The 7-2 ruling applies to those who fail their initial asylum screenings, making them eligible for quick deportation.

In a decision in the case of Dept. of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam, the court ruled that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) – which prevents judicial review of the credible fear determination – does not violate the Constitution’s Suspension Clause, which protects habeas corpus privileges that allow courts to determine if a person should be released due to unlawful detention.

“In this case, however, respondent did not ask to be released. Instead, he sought entirely different relief: vacatur of his ‘removal order’ and ‘an order directing [the Department] to provide him with a new . . . opportunity to apply for asylum and other relief from removal,’” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion, ruling “that relief falls outside the scope of the common-law habeas writ.”

Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a Sri Lankan national, had crossed the southern U.S. border without documentation in January 2017, was apprehended within 25 yards of the border, and detained for expedited removal. According to court documents, he said he was afraid of returning to Sri Lanka because he had once been abducted and beaten by a group of men, but did not know who they were or why they attacked him. At the time, he said that he did not fear persecution due to his political beliefs, race, or any other protected characteristics.

As a result, an asylum officer determined that he did not have the requisite “credible” fear of persecution. A supervisor agreed and signed off on a removal order, which was then affirmed by an immigration judge who had heard additional testimony. This led to Thuraissigiam filing a habeas corpus petition for unlawful detention, which a federal District Court denied. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision, ruling that the law was unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court reversed this with Thursday’s ruling.

Alito’s opinion also shot down the argument that the IIRIRA violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, citing an 1892 decision that ruled that for “foreigners who have never been naturalized, nor acquired any domicil or residence within the United States, nor even been admitted into the country pursuant to law,” decisions of administrative or executive officers exercising powers granted by Congress amount to due process.

The Supreme Court ruled that someone in Thuraissigiam’s position – being apprehended within 25 yards of the border – should be treated the same as someone who was taken into custody at the time they attempted to enter the country, and therefore the 1892 decision applies.

The Trump administration is seeking to expand authority so that people detained anywhere in the U.S. and up to two years after they got here could be quickly deported. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court threw out a trial judge’s ruling that had blocked the expanded policy. Other legal issues remain to be resolved in the case.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor — joined by Justice Elena Kagan — argued that the ruling “deprives [asylum seekers] of any means to ensure the integrity of an expedited removal order, an order which, the Court has just held, is not subject to any meaningful judicial oversight as to its substance.”

“Today’s decision handcuffs the Judiciary’s ability to perform its constitutional duty to safeguard individual liberty and dismantles a critical component of the separation of powers,” Sotomayor continued.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with the majority’s ruling, but in a concurring opinion authored by Breyer, they made clear they believe the ruling only applies in this particular case.

“I agree that enforcing those limits in this particular case does not violate the Suspension Clause’s constitutional command,” Breyer wrote. “But we need not, and should not, go further.”

Taking a broader approach, Breyer said, “may raise a host of difficult questions in the immigration context,” questioning what could happen in a case habeas corpus is denied where a person is detained after living in the U.S. for years, or if someone claims to be a naturalized citizen.

“I would therefore avoid making statements about the Suspension Clause that sweep beyond the principles needed to decide this case,” Breyer wrote, “let alone come to conclusions about the Due Process Clause, a distinct constitutional provision that is not directly at issue here.”

By Ronn Blitzer | The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Fed Appeals Court Orders Flynn Case Dismissal

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered a lower court to allow the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to be dismissed, as requested by the Justice Department — likely ending the years-long legal saga stemming from the Russia investigation.

The abrupt ending came in a 2-1 ruling and order from judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

READ: COURT’S OPINION ORDERING FLYNN CASE DISMISSAL

This was the result of an appeal from Flynn’s lawyers asking for a so-called writ of mandamus — essentially an order telling a government official to carry out a certain duty — directing District Judge Emmet Sullivan to approve the DOJ’s motion to dismiss.

Sullivan did not immediately grant that motion and instead sought to hold hearings on the matter, angering Flynn allies.

The unusual move from Sullivan to keep the case alive despite prosecutors’ wishes was preceded by an unusual move from the DOJ itself to drop the charges against Flynn even after he had pleaded guilty — saying the FBI interview that led to his charge of lying to investigators about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador had no “legitimate investigative basis.”

It’s unclear whether Sullivan could try to appeal to the full appeals court or even to the Supreme Court in order to keep the case alive. The next step otherwise would likely be for Sullivan to comply.

Wednesday’s court order was direct, ordering “that Flynn’s petition for a writ of mandamus be granted in part; the District Court is directed to grant the government’s … motion to dismiss; and the District Court’s order appointing an amicus is hereby vacated as moot, in accordance with the opinion of the court filed herein this date.”

President Trump cheered the decision Wednesday morning, tweeting: “Great! Appeals Court Upholds Justice Departments Request To Drop Criminal Case Against General Michael Flynn!”

A senior DOJ official told Fox News the department is “pleased” by the appeals court decision in the Flynn case.

The accompanying decision essentially backed federal prosecutors in their move to drop the case.

”In this case, the district court’s actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the Executive Branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power. The contemplated proceedings would likely require the Executive to reveal the internal deliberative process behind its exercise of prosecutorial discretion, interfering with the Article II charging authority,” Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee, wrote in the decision.

Judge Robert Wilkins, dissenting, wrote: “It is a great irony that, in finding the District Court to have exceeded its jurisdiction, this Court so grievously oversteps its own. This appears to be the first time that we have issued a writ of mandamus to compel a district court to rule in a particular manner on a motion without first giving the lower court a reasonable opportunity to issue its own ruling.”

Of the DOJ’s move to abandon the case, he added, “This is no mere about-face; it is more akin to turning around an aircraft carrier.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have slammed the DOJ decision and cited it as an example of the department becoming politicized under Attorney General Bill Barr.

The Justice Department last month made the stunning move to drop its case against Flynn “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information,” as the department put it.

DOJ officials said they concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis,” while arguing that Flynn’s statements were not “material, even if untrue.”

The motion to dismiss came after unsealed FBI notes revealed that there had been a question regarding what the purpose of Flynn’s interview was: whether the aim was to find out the truth or to get him to lie and thus subject him to being prosecuted or fired. Flynn ended up facing charges and being terminated from his role as national security adviser.

The handwritten notes – which the FBI’s former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap penned after a meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe – showed officials discussing the fateful January 2017 interview in advance. They apparently discussed various options, including getting Flynn “to admit to breaking the Logan Act” when he spoke to former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition period.

“What is our goal?” one of the notes read. “Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

Another note read, “If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ + have them decide.” The memo appeared to weigh the pros and cons of pursuing those different paths, while cautioning: “If we’re seen as playing games, WH [White House] will be furious.”

Aside from swiftly being ensnared in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in the fallout from that interview, Flynn was fired from his prominent post as national security adviser in February 2017. The resignation came as he was accused of misleading Vice President Pence and other senior White House officials about his communications with Kislyak.

Flynn’s communications with Kislyak in December 2016 had been picked up in wiretapped discussions, apparently unbeknownst to him. The FBI agents in January 2017 questioned him on the communications and later used his answers to form the basis for the false-statement charge and his guilty plea.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe made transcripts of those wiretapped calls between Flynn and Kislyak public earlier this month.

Fox News’ Tyler Olson, Bill Mears and Jake Gibson contributed to this report. Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSingman.

Biden Says ‘You ain’t black’ If You Don’t Vote for Him

Biden says ‘you ain’t black’ if torn between him and Trump, in dustup with Charlamagne tha God

Joe Biden faced a swift backlash on Friday for suggesting during a contentious radio interview with host Charlamagne tha God that those having a hard time “figuring out” whether to support him or President Trump “ain’t black.”

The dustup occurred 17 minutes into the former vice president’s interview on “The Breakfast Club” – a nationally broadcast morning talk show popular with black listeners – when a Biden aide tried to end the interview, prompting the host to charge, “You can’t do that to black media.”

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee stressed that his wife had an upcoming engagement, and suggested he would have to go whether dealing with “white media” or “black media.”

“Uh, oh … I’m in trouble,” he joked as he referred to making his wife late. Biden and his wife Jill Biden share the same studio in the basement of their home in Wilmington, Del.

After Charlamagne tha God, who is black, then asked Biden to come back on the program again and the former vice president agreed, the host added, “It’s a long way to November. We’ve got more questions.”

That’s when Biden dove into a rapid-fire defense of his record with the black community.

“I tell you if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Biden meant to refer only to the host or to the black community as a whole.

Charlamagne tha God responded that “it has nothing to do with Trump. It has to do with the fact that I want something for my community.”

Biden fired back, “Take a look at my record. I extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. I have a record that is second to none. The NAACP’s endorsed me every time I’ve run. Take a look at the record.”

After the friction, the interview – which was pre-taped on Thursday – ended on a mutually positive note with Biden again agreeing that he “will come back.”

But the “You ain’t black” moment reverberated on social media, with the host retweeting a variety of listeners complaining about it. Biden “should never say to a black man ‘You aint black’ under ANY circumstances,” one wrote.

“The Breakfast Club” put the question to listeners on whether they agree with Biden:

President Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, quickly highlighted the clip, tweeting, “This is disgusting.”

Trump senior adviser Katrina Pierson called the remarks “racist and dehumanizing,” saying Biden believes black voters are “incapable of being independent or free thinking.”

She added: “He truly believes that he, a 77-year-old white man, should dictate how Black people should behave. Biden has a history of racial condescension and today he once again proved what a growing number of Black Americans and I have always known: Joe Biden does not deserve our votes.”

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh spotlighted a quote from Kanye West, a prominent African-American supporter of the president, saying, “I will not be told who I’m gonna vote on because of my color.”

But Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders defended the comments, stressing Biden’s record with the black community and saying: “The comments made at the end of the Breakfast Club interview were in jest, but let’s be clear about what the VP was saying: he was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump’s any day. Period.”

Pierson, in a Trump campaign conference call with reporters, fired back that Biden’s comment “wasn’t in jest. He was serious.”

And Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — the only black GOP senator and a supporter of the president — said “I won’t even dignify that with a response” when asked about Sanders’ comment that Biden was joking.

Pierson, when asked by Fox News if Trump had ever been a guest on “The Breakfast Club” or if there were now plans to have the president do an interview on the program, said “the president has not been on The Breakfast Club, I’m not sure that he’s been invited.” She added that “I’m not opposed to it you know, I think it’s a place that we should go.”

Biden has enjoyed widespread support among black voters, not just in general election polls – Fox News polling shows black voters favor Biden over Trump by 76-12 percent – but during the primary battle. His victory in the South Carolina primary, boosted by black voters’ support, helped revive his then-struggling campaign and catapult him toward a dominating performance on Super Tuesday.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time a 2020 contender has questioned the party affiliation of a particular race or religion. Last year, President Trump faced a backlash for saying American Jews who support Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

He was pointing to anyone supporting Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both critics of Israel.

Fox News’ Madeleine Rivera and Judson Berger contributed to this report. 

By Brooke Singman. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSingman.


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House Intel Transcripts Prove Obama Officials Had No Evidence of Trump-Russia Collusion

Should Schiff step down from House Intelligence Committee after release of Russia docs?
Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff is reportedly in ‘panic mode’ as House transcripts appear to contradict claims on collusion evidence in the Russia probe; Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe and former D.C. Democrat Party Chair Scott Bolden debate.

Newly released transcripts of interviews from the House Intelligence Committee’s long-running Russia investigation reveal top Obama officials acknowledged that they knew of no “empirical evidence” of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, despite their concerns and suspicions.

Fox News first reported Wednesday night that the transcripts would show this. The officials’ responses align with the results of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation—which found no evidence of criminal coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016, while not reaching a determination on obstruction of justice.

The transcripts, which were released by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., revealed top Obama officials were questioned over whether they had or had seen evidence of such collusion, coordination or conspiracy — the issue that drove the FBI’s initial case and later the special counsel probe.

“I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified in 2017. “That’s not to say that there weren’t concerns about the evidence we were seeing, anecdotal evidence. … But I do not recall any instance where I had direct evidence.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, according to the transcript of her interview, was asked about the same issue. Power replied: “I am not in possession of anything—I am not in possession and didn’t read or absorb information that came from out of the intelligence community.”

When asked again, she said:  “I am not.”Video

Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice was asked the same question.

“To the best of my recollection, there wasn’t anything smoking, but there were some things that gave me pause,” she said, according to her transcribed interview, in response to whether she had any evidence of conspiracy. “I don’t recall intelligence that I would consider evidence to that effect that I saw…conspiracy prior to my departure.”

When asked whether she had any evidence of “coordination,” Rice replied: “I don’t recall any intelligence or evidence to that effect.”

When asked about collusion, Rice replied: “Same answer.”

Former Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes was asked the same question during his House Intelligence interview.

“I wouldn’t have received any information on any criminal or counterintelligence investigations into what the Trump campaign was doing, so I would not have seen that information,” Rhodes said.

When pressed again, he said: “I saw indications of potential coordination, but I did not see, you know, the specific evidence of the actions of the Trump campaign.”

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch also said that she did “not recall that being briefed up to me.”

“I can’t say that it existed or not,” Lynch said, referring to evidence of collusion, conspiracy or coordination.

Meanwhile, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was not asked that specific question but rather questions about the accuracy and legitimacy of the unverified anti-Trump dossier compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Video

McCabe was asked during his interview in 2017 what was the most “damning or important piece of evidence in the dossier that” he “now knows is true.”

McCabe replied: “We have not been able to prove the accuracy of all the information.”

“You don’t know if it’s true or not?” a House investigator asked, to which McCabe replied: “That’s correct.”

Schiff released the files — approved in late 2018 for release by the committee — after facing pressure earlier this week from Republicans to do so. Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell then notified Schiff that the redaction and declassification process was complete, and that the records were ready to be made public.

“At the bipartisan request of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Intelligence Community reviewed all transcripts for classification and made appropriate redactions. HPSCI voted unanimously in 2018 to publicly release these transcripts, and it is long past time that these are released,” Grenell said in a statement Thursday.

Schiff, though, faulted the White House for the delay, accusing them of dragging their feet on the classification review.

And even as officials in those interviews said they didn’t have hard evidence of collusion, conspiracy or coordination, Schiff pointed to a variety of examples he described as “ample evidence of the corrupt interactions” between Trump associates and Russia.

For instance, he cited how Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., infamously accepted an offer of supposed Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton.

He also pointed to then-candidate Trump saying in 2016, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” This referred to then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Schiff said in a statement: “The transcripts released today richly detail evidence of the Trump campaign’s efforts to invite, make use of, and cover up Russia’s help in the 2016 presidential election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller identified in his report similar, and even more extensive, evidence of improper links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government. A bipartisan Senate investigation also found that Russia sought to help the candidacy of Donald Trump in 2016.”

He also cited how former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried to “undermine U.S. sanctions on Russia” in his transition-period conversations with Russia’s ambassador. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those talks; however, the Justice Department on Thursday moved to drop the case entirely, saying the FBI interview had no legitimate basis.

Meanwhile, Schiff accused Republicans of using the committee interviews to simply “press President Trump’s false narrative of ‘no collusion, no obstruction,’” despite intelligence findings that Russia sought to meddle in the election to boost Trump.

Yet Republicans told Fox News the transcripts still show the collusion claims could not be supported.

“The transcripts show a total lack of evidence, despite Schiff personally going out saying he had more than circumstantial evidence that there was collusion,” one source involved in House Russia investigations told Fox News.

Mueller, similarly, at the conclusion of his nearly two-year-long investigation, said he and his team found no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, but did not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice, which Attorney General Bill Barr ultimately decided not to pursue.

By Brooke Singman. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSingman.


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BOMBSHELL – Biden Accuser Blasts Liberal Media for Ignoring Sex Assault Claim – Proof Surfaces

Leftist Media Ignoring Biden Aid who Claims He Sexually Assaulted Her

Biden accuser Tara Reade ‘lost total respect’ for CNN’s Anderson Cooper for not asking former VP about assault claim

The woman who has accused Joe Biden of a sexual assault in the early 1990s says she’s disappointed that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper failed to ask the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee about the allegation when he had the chance — not once, but twice.

Tara Reade, a former staffer for then-Sen. Biden, told her story about the former vice president over a month ago with progressive podcast host Katie Halper. Since then, Biden has done nearly a dozen TV interviews with news anchors including NBC News’ Chuck Todd, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, and twice with Cooper — all of whom failed to ask Biden about her public claim.

“I think it’s shocking that this much time has passed and that he is an actual nominee for president and they’re not asking the questions,” Reade told Fox News. “He’s been on ‘Anderson Cooper’ at least twice where he was not asked.”

“I guess my question is, if this were Donald Trump, would they treat it the same way? If this were Brett Kavanaugh, did they treat it the same way?” Reade said. “In other words, it’s politics and political agenda playing a role in objective reporting and asking the question.”

During the Brent Kavanaugh hearings, Biden was all about the #MeToo movement, and women’s allegations against men being taken very seriously. Now, he, and the press are ignoring very credible accusations that he sexually assaulted a female aid.

Reade believes that the news anchors who have interviewed Biden “don’t want to ask him” about her assault allegation.

“There are two things happening at once. [Biden] is not making himself accessible to be asked the question. And when he does make himself accessible, they are not asking, those anchors. And so that tells there may be a political agenda behind that and that’s gross. … I’m a survivor and I would like the question asked.”

Reade said her opinions of some journalists and media outlets have shifted in recent weeks based on their coverage of her claim.

“I really would look to [Cooper] for answers and I would never do that again. I’ve lost total respect,” Reade said, adding that “as a civilian,” it’s difficult to know “what news source to trust” since shows like Cooper’s have a “blatant bias.”

On Friday evening, a clip from 1993 surfaced showing an anonymous California resident phoning in to CNN’s “Larry King Live” asking the TV host and his panel about “problems” her daughter had with a “prominent senator.”

Tara Reade’s mother (a Democrat and Women’s Rights Activist) calls “Larry King Live” in 1993 to ask what her daughter can do after being sexually assaulted by a powerful senator.

Reade confirmed to Fox News that the woman heard in the clip was her late mother, Jeanette Altimus.

CNN waited until Saturday afternoon to issue a report on its website and briefly mentioned on-air, which was the first time the network has addressed the Biden assault claim since Reade came forward in March.

Reade’s story first resurfaced in an article in The Intercept on March 24. Halper then interviewed Reade, who said that in 1993, a more senior member of Biden’s staff asked her to bring the then-senator his gym bag near the U.S. Capitol building, which led to the encounter in question.

“He greeted me, he remembered my name, and then we were alone. It was the strangest thing,” Reade told Halper. “There was no like, exchange really. He just had me up against the wall.”

Reade said that she was wearing “a business skirt,” but “wasn’t wearing stockings — it was a hot day.”

She continued: “His hands were on me and underneath my clothes, and he went down my skirt and then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers and he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying some things to me.”

Reade claimed Biden first asked if she wanted “to go somewhere else.”

“I pulled away, he got finished doing what he was doing,” Reade said. “He said: ‘Come on, man. I heard you liked me.’”

Reade said she tried to share her story last year, but nobody listened to her. Earlier this month, she filed a criminal complaint against Biden with police in Washington, D.C.

Fox News reached out to the Biden campaign on Friday for comment. The campaign referred Fox News to a statement earlier this month from Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield that said: “What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”

“Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women,” Bedingfield said. “He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard – and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press.”

CNN did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Joseph A. Wulfsohn is a media reporter for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @JosephWulfsohn.


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Sources: Coronavirus Outbreak Originated in Wuhan China Lab

Sources believe Coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan lab as part of China’s efforts to compete with US

There is increasing confidence that the COVID-19 outbreak likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory, though not as a bioweapon but as part of China’s attempt to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details of early actions by China’s government and seen relevant materials tell Fox News.

This may be the “costliest government cover-up of all time,” one of the sources said.

The sources believe the initial transmission of the virus – a naturally occurring strain that was being studied there – was bat-to-human and that “patient zero” worked at the laboratory, then went into the population in Wuhan.

The “increasing confidence” comes from classified and open-source documents and evidence, the sources said. Fox News has requested to see the evidence directly. Sources emphasized — as is often the case with intelligence — that it’s not definitive and should not be characterized as such. Some inside the administration and the intelligence and epidemiological communities are more skeptical, and the investigation is continuing.

What all of the sources agree about is the extensive cover-up of data and information about COVID-19 orchestrated by the Chinese government.

Asked by Fox News’ John Roberts about the reporting, President Trump remarked at Wednesday’s coronavirus press briefing, “More and more we’re hearing the story…we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation.”

Documents detail early efforts by doctors at the lab and early efforts at containment. The Wuhan wet market initially identified as a possible point of origin never sold bats, and the sources tell Fox News that blaming the wet market was an effort by China to deflect blame from the laboratory, along with the country’s propaganda efforts targeting the U.S. and Italy.

U.S. Embassy officials warned in January 2018 about inadequate safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab and passed on information about scientists conducting risky research on coronavirus from bats, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

In this Tuesday, March 10, 2020, photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping talks by video with patients and medical workers at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province. (Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP)

Responding to the report, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday afternoon: “It should be no surprise to you that we have taken a keen interest in that and we’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that. I would just say at this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural, but we don’t know for certain.”

“Even today, I see them withholding information and I think we need to do more to continue to press them to share,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday, referring to China. Esper added that he wouldn’t speak to “intelligence reporting,” but that “most people believe it began naturally — it was organic, if you will. I think in due course, once we get through the pandemic we’re in right now, there’ll be time to look back and really ascertain what happened and make sure we have a better understanding so we can prevent this in the future.”

Sources point to the structure of the virus, in saying the genome mapping specifically shows it was not genetically altered.

Speaking to “The Story” Wednesday evening, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarked: “What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There is still lots to learn. You should know that the United States government is working diligently to figure it out.”

Concerning the State Department cables warning about the Wuhan laboratory, Pompeo said the installation “contained highly contagious materials — we knew that, we knew that they were working on this program, many countries have programs like this. In countries that are open and transparent, they have the ability to control them and keep them safe, and they allow outside observers in to make sure all the processes and procedures are right. I only wish that that had happened in this place.”

On Thursday, China’s foreign ministry pushed back on the suspicion that the virus escaped from the facility, by citing statements from the World Health Organization that there is no evidence the coronavirus came from a laboratory.

Americans were originally helping train the Chinese in a program called PREVENT well before the Chinese started working on this virus. The French government helped the Chinese set up the Wuhan lab.

China “100 percent” suppressed data and changed data, the sources tell Fox News. Samples were destroyed, contaminated areas scrubbed, some early reports erased, and academic articles stifled. 

There were doctors and journalists who were “disappeared” warning of the spread of the virus and its contagious nature and human to human transmission. China moved quickly to shut down travel domestically from Wuhan to the rest of China, but did not stop international flights from Wuhan.

Additionally, the sources tell Fox News the World Health Organization (WHO) was complicit from the beginning in helping China cover its tracks. 

Commuters wear face masks to protect against the spread of new coronavirus as they walk through a subway station in Beijing, Thursday, April 9, 2020. China’s National Health Commission on Thursday reported dozens of new COVID-19 cases, including most of which it says are imported infections in recent arrivals from abroad and two “native” cases in the southern province of Guangdong. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Trump announced at the White House coronavirus news briefing in the Rose Garden on Tuesday that the United States will immediately halt all funding for the WHO, saying it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.” The United States is the WHO’s largest single donor, and the State Department had previously planned to provide the agency $893 million in the current two-year funding period.

Senior administrations separately tell Fox News the rollout of the president’s “blueprint for reopening the U.S. economy” will happen Thursday afternoon, first for governors and then briefed to the press.

Meanwhile, Trump’s own handling of the crisis has come into focus. On January 24, for example, Trump tweeted in praise of China’s “transparency” on coronavirus.

Though they were not speaking for the president, the sources ventured an explanation, saying it was diplomatic talk to make the Chinese “feel good”. while the investigation was ongoing, with trade and other talks happening simultaneously.

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began traveling through for Lunar New Year celebrations.

President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20. But by that time, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press and expert estimates based on retrospective infection data.

“This is tremendous,” said Zuo-Feng Zhang, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If they took action six days earlier, there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient. We might have avoided the collapse of Wuhan’s medical system.”

By Bret Baier, Gregg Re | Fox News Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Socialist Sanders is OUT, Suspends Presidential Campaign

Sanders suspends presidential campaign, rendering Biden presumptive Democratic nominee

Bernie Sanders suspends 2020 presidential campaign
Sen. Bernie Sanders announces he is suspending his campaign for the Democrat presidential nomination on a staff conference call.

Bernie Sanders has suspended his Democratic presidential campaign — all but handing the nomination to former Vice President Joe Biden.

The senator from Vermont initially announced the decision during an all-staff conference call Wednesday morning, and followed up with a formal livestreamed address to supporters shortly before noon.

Citing Biden’s lead of over 300 convention delegates, Sanders declared: “The path toward victory is virtually impossible.”

He continued: “I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful. … I do not make this decision lightly.”

In a curious moment, though, Sanders said that Biden “will be the nominee,” yet went on to stress the importance of continuing to win delegates for his own campaign so he’ll be able to exert “influence” on the party platform.

Calling it a “difficult and painful decision,” Sanders stressed that “while this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not.”

More than any other Democratic campaign, Sanders’ candidacy indeed represented a movement — a populist, liberal, grassroots army of young people and others drawn to his democratic socialist beliefs, which he brought from the fringes to the mainstream of the party.

Biden, in a statement, said he and his supporters “changed the dialogue.”

He said: “But more than any one issue or set of issues, I want to commend Bernie for being a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America. It’s voices like Bernie’s that refuse to allow us to just accept what is — that refuse to accept we can’t change what’s wrong in our nation — that refuse to accept the health and well-being of our fellow citizens and our planet isn’t our responsibility too. Bernie gets a lot of credit for his passionate advocacy for the issues he cares about. But he doesn’t get enough credit for being a voice that forces us all to take a hard look in the mirror and ask if we’ve done enough.”

On Twitter, Biden praised him for creating a movement.

“I know Bernie well. He’s a good man, a great leader, and one of the most powerful voices for change in our country. And it’s hard to sum up his contributions to our politics in one, single tweet. So I won’t try to,” Biden tweeted.

“To Bernie and Jane, as friends, from Jill and me: You haven’t just run a political campaign; you’ve created a movement. And make no mistake about it, we believe it’s a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That’s a good thing for our nation and our future.”

For a time, Sanders almost looked poised to clinch the nomination, as he and a handful of others emerged in early 2020 as the last candidates standing from a once-massive field of primary contenders.

Sanders won New Hampshire’s primary and scored a landslide victory in the Nevada caucuses in late in February, as he surged to front-runner status in the nomination race.

The populist lawmaker, however, then suffered a string of major primary defeats in his second straight presidential bid.

Biden steadily amassed a near-insurmountable delegate lead, following decisive victories in South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday as well as subsequent contests — before coronavirus measures forced most primaries on the calendar to be delayed.

But until now, Sanders had refused to back out of the race, instead pressing Biden to embrace progressive policy positions. Sanders’ lingering presence in the race had agitated Biden allies, concerned he would continue to make it difficult for Biden to fully focus on a general election battle against President Trump.

Biden, however, was already moving ahead, planning to consider running mates and even downplaying the possibility of any future debates with Sanders as part of the primary process.

The most recent primary was held Tuesday in Wisconsin, though most others are postponed. Results in that race are not expected for another week, though Biden was thought to have the clear advantage there.

Sanders was considered the longest of long-shots when he launched his first White House bid in the spring of 2015. But after nearly defeating Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses and then crushing the former secretary of state in the New Hampshire primary, he battled the eventual nominee throughout the primary calendar.

He made an uneasy peace with Clinton in the summer of 2016, but many of his progressive and younger supporters never embraced the Democratic nominee. The lack of unity was a contributing factor in helping Donald Trump upset Clinton.

There are deep concerns among Democrats of a repeat of the 2016 lack of unity. Biden has praised Sanders in recent weeks and has said he would not pressure the senator to drop out of the race.

Biden has also embraced some progressive proposals, such as bankruptcy reform and free college tuition at public colleges and universities — policies that Sanders had pushed. But he has not embraced “Medicare-for-all,” Sanders’ signature policy that has many supporters among congressional Democrats.

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire. 


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This Easter Season, Let Us Remember

The New Testament of the Bible contains the story of the life of Jesus Christ. Within its pages is recounted how He was crucified on Friday, and his body was hastily removed from the cross and placed into a tomb hewn into the rock, with very little time to appropriately prepare the body for final burial before the Jewish Sabbath started at sunset.

It was early Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene and other women disciples arrived at the tomb to see the sepulcher and prepare His body. Suddenly there was a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.

The angel said to the women, “Fear not: for I know that you seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is arisen. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” He then instructed her to go and tell Jesus’ disciples that He was risen from the dead and that He would go before them to Galilee; and there they would see Him.

The others ran to tell the Apostles what they had seen and heard, but Mary stood at the door of the sepulcher weeping. As she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher, and saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain.

They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

empty-tomb

She said, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

And when she had spoken she turned back, and saw Jesus standing, but knew not that it was Him. He spoke to her and said, “Woman, why are you crying? Whom do you seek?”

She, supposing him to be the gardener, said, “Sir, if you have borne him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus looked upon her with compassion, and said, “Mary.”

Suddenly recognizing His voice, she turned herself and said to him, “Rabboni,” which is to say, Master.

Mary ran to him and embraced him, but Jesus said to her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’”

What is the significance of this story nearly 2,000 years later? Each of us must decide its implications and importance for ourselves, and apply its lessons in our own lives as we interpret the message for ourselves. John, the Apostle who recorded this version of the incident gives us his own explanation of why he recorded it: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through his name.”

Let us remember Him this Easter.


James Thompson is a Christian author, political commentator and ghostwriter.


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Doctors: COVID-19 Patients go from ‘Very Ill’ to ‘Symptom-Free’ in 8 to 12 Hours using Hydroxychloroquine

A doctor in Los Angeles is reporting remarkable success in treating COVID-19 patients with a combination of zinc and the Trump-touted anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Dr. Anthony Cardillo, an ER specialist and the CEO of Mend Urgent Care, has been prescribing the combination of drugs to patients experiencing severe symptoms of the disease after contracting the novel coronavirus.

“Every patient I’ve prescribed it to has been very, very ill and within 8 to 12 hours, they were basically symptom-free,” Cardillo said in an interview Sunday with KABC-TV. “So, clinically I am seeing a resolution.”

He added that combining the drug with zinc has been the key to the success. The hydroxychloroquine, he said, “opens the zinc channel” allowing the zinc to enter the cell, which then “blocks the replication of cellular machinery.”

Cardillo was careful to note that the drug should only be prescribed for patients who are extremely sick and in urgent need so as to not blow through the limited supply of the drug, which is used to treat other illnesses, as well.

“We have to be cautious and mindful that we don’t prescribe it for patients who have COVID who are well,” he said. “It should be reserved for people who are really sick, in the hospital or at home very sick, who need that medication. Otherwise we’re going to blow through our supply for patients that take it regularly for other disease processes.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 late last month after three separate studies showed the pair of anti-malaria drugs to be a potentially promising remedy against the infectious disease.

President Trump has been optimistic about hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy against the virus despite warnings from some health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci who sits on the White House coronavirus task force, that evidence of its effectiveness is anecdotal.

Trump called the drug a possible “game-changer” at a White House press briefing on March 19, arguing that prescribing the drug is worth a try since it is considered generally safe to use. However, the FDA advises against taking any form of the drug unless it has been prescribed by a doctor.

By Phil Shiver


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Maddow Called Trump’s Claim About Navy Medical Ships ‘Nonsense.’ Wrong Again

Last week, Rachel Maddow called Trump’s claim that Navy medical ships would be ready in a week ‘nonsense.’ The USNS Comfort arrived in NYC this morning.

Just over one week ago, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow called President Trump’s claim that two U.S. Navy medical ships would soon be operational “nonsense.” By Monday morning, both ships had arrived at their destinations in Los Angeles and New York City.

“There is no sign that the Navy hospital ships that the President made such a big deal of — the Comfort and the Mercy — there’s no sign that they’ll be anywhere on-site helping out anywhere in the country for weeks yet,” Maddow said during a March 20 broadcast of her show.

“The president said when he announced that those ships would be put into action against the COVID-19 epidemic. He said one of those ships would be operational in New York harbor by next week. That’s nonsense. It will not be there next week,” she claimed.

But on Monday morning, the USNS Comfort arrived in New York Harbor as crowds awaited, along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D).

The ship houses roughly 1,000 beds and a dozen operating rooms and will be used to ease the strain that the virus outbreak has put on the city’s hospital system. Patients who have not contracted the virus but who urgently need care will be treated aboard the ship.

At its send-off from Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday, President Trump called the ship “a 70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York” amid the nation’s war with “an invisible enemy.”

In a news conference at its arrival in the city, Gov. Cuomo said the ship will act as a “relief valve for hospitals that are struggling now, that are over capacity all over this city.”

Mayor de Blasio called the ship’s entrance “absolutely extraordinary” and “inspiring.”

Actor Hugh Jackman captured the triumphant arrival on video and made sure to thank everyone involved in getting the ship ready to go.

“Wow, look at this — this is history. To all the doctors, all the nurses, and everyone involved with the Navy, thank you, thank you, thank you — you guys are amazing,” Jackman said.

Last Friday, the USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles and by Monday it was already treating patients, the Department of Defense reported.

By Phil Shiver


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5 Major Paradigm Shifts The Wuhan Flu Crisis Has Revealed Americans Need

Our first priority amid coronavirus must be neutralizing immediate threats to health and safety, but the disruption also provides a chance to engage in national reflection.

Crises have a way of revealing critical, unspoken truths. If we can recognize these truths, we can emerge from such crises significantly stronger. While America’s first priority in the wake of the Wuhan coronavirus crisis must be neutralizing immediate threats to the health and safety of our people, the disruption of our lives also provides an opportunity to engage in national reflection.

If we do so, amid the pandemic hysteria, several critical signals emerge. Acknowledging those signals today and internalizing them tomorrow can help us prevent, or be better positioned to handle, such Black Swan shocks to our system in the years ahead.

1. Communist China Is a Global Menace

When the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic arose and began spreading, for weeks the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to cover it up, with deadly consequences for the world. When communist China was blamed, it not only refused to take responsibility, but slandered America for pointing the finger, to the point of calling the United States culpable as part of a disinformation campaign.

The CCP even threatened, via a state-backed publication, to cut off essential medical supplies should Americans continue speaking openly and honestly about the CCP’s role in creating the crisis. Then the CCP cynically tried to act as a savior for the crisis it created.

Every day this pandemic persists, and long after it is neutralized, we must remember the CCP bears by far the greatest responsibility of any party for this pandemic. If the CCP is not made to pay in a meaningful sense for the global catastrophe it caused, it will continue to act with impunity in its quest for hegemony, guaranteed.

This pandemic should represent the most tangible sign yet for all of America that we must decouple from communist China in every strategically significant sector. We cannot put our survival in the hands of a hostile adversary.

2. Coronavirus Starkly Illustrates Globalism’s Downsides

The Chinese coronavirus pandemic should serve as a figurative punch in the mouth to the Davoisie class. This pandemic spread as a result of human-to-human transmission beginning in a far-flung province in central China. As it metastasized, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations-based agency on which governments around the world rely, parroted the Chinese Communist Party’s chosen narratives, including that the Wuhan virus could not be passed from one human to another, and that it was “racist” to refer to the virus by its place of origin.

The chief praiser of China’s response, and propagator of its favored messages, was WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He won that position with Chinese backing and collaborated with China as Ethiopia’s health minister.

As the pandemic spread to the United States and criticism of the CCP grew, China again threatened to leverage its dominant position in the production of essential medical supplies to cut off Americans from vital equipment. It signaled that either we tow the CCP line or people will die.

This series of events perfectly illustrates the downsides to the globalist agenda of open borders, global political institutions, and global economic integration at all costs. It perfectly illustrates the merits of an America First, nationalist agenda, including a focus on border control, national sovereignty, and eschewing of global institutions, as well as an economic independence combined with truly free, fair, and reciprocal trade. Does anyone believe America would have been hit as hard by coronavirus if China were not so deeply integrated into our architecture?

3. We Must Establish Principles for Dealing with Crises

As a society, we must create some agreed-upon principles for dealing with a pandemic or analogous crisis. One of the most astounding aspects of the response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic has been the willingness of our leaders to call for societal shutdown based on shoddy data and flawed source models. Those leaders have definitively damaged our economy, stretched the limits of constitutional governmental power, and threatened to inflame and endanger civil society by forcing people to comply with draconian lockdowns while releasing criminals into the streets and ceasing policing — all on the basis of hypotheticals.

One need not be a medical doctor to understand the “garbage in, garbage out” issues inherent to projections in which the underlying data sets are incomplete, inconsistent, suffer from selection bias and correlation-versus-causation issues, or are just plain dubious — as in the case of data from China.

It is not surprising that politicians would err to the extreme side in seeking to avoid a public health catastrophe. But can a society long function by cutting off its nose to spite its face? And what kind of precedent is being set in the process? Going forward, it is incumbent upon our leaders to articulate and codify at minimum a general set of broadly agreed-upon principles for dealing with such crises.

4. The GOP Needs a Real Response for Democrats’ Games

For Democrats, politics trumps all else, and Republicans must have a response. In case the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process or the more than three years of anti-constitutional and unconstitutional resistance to President Donald Trump did not make it crystal clear, the Democrats’ brazen gambit to use the coronavirus crisis to impose their radical agenda on the country by holding hostage emergency relief legislation should have removed all doubt about their singular desire for power.

Simply put, for Democrats, the ends justify any and all means. The fact that Republicans were so blindsided and befuddled by this in the coronavirus context indicates the GOP still lacks an understanding of the nature of their political adversary.

Democrats will shamelessly use crises to cram their policies down our throats. Do Republicans have any answer to this? Do they understand that Democrats will seek to make any and all of their favored temporary measures that pass in coronavirus-tied legislation permanent after the crisis subsides? Have Republicans formulated a counter-response not only for that possibility, but for their own policies that cut in the opposite direction? Where is the GOP counter-agenda?

5. We Need to Get Our Fiscal House in Order

While a society-wide shutdown certainly represents the most extreme kind of financial shock, nevertheless, the devastating impact of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic accentuates the problem of our largely debt-based economy in both the public and private spheres.

At the governmental level, the fact that we are likely to completely blow out budgets that were already so bloated as to ensure interest payments on the national debt would soon swamp all spending besides entitlements shows the extent of our profligacy and misplaced confidence we can debt-finance the U.S. government forever. There appears to be zero national will to deal with runaway spending and the runaway deficits and debt it creates.

But the reality is that in the next major crisis, we will be in an even worse financial position. What will happen if multitrillion-dollar relief bills are simply not tenable at that point?

Everyone knows U.S. government spending is unsustainable. But the fact that no one is prepared to make the case to the public that we are better off making difficult financial trade-offs now to stop calamity later — while we are doing this precise thing in dealing with the pandemic — leads to the question: Are we simply comfortable as a nation guaranteeing future financial calamity? Should the cost and extent of this crisis not cause us to revisit this issue?

We find an analogous issue in the private sector. While the bailouts from the federal government fundamentally differ from those during the financial crisis — in this instance, government has effectively killed businesses — that in a humming system so few businesses could withstand such a shock indicates the problems again with our debt-based economy and short-term orientation.

There is likely little will among businesses, their shareholders, and their stakeholders to be more prudent, keeping substantial cash in reserve, and ensuring they can survive if their operations withstand a tremendous hit and capital markets are closed to them. But perhaps the Wuhan coronavirus should serve as a wakeup call that there ought to be. Prudence is as important for government and businesses as it is for households.

It is paramount that the American people get healthy and that our country gets back to the business of business. But we must not simply gloss over the truths this crisis has revealed. Recognizing them and incorporating them into future policies will ensure the long-term vitality of our country.


Ben Weingarten is a Federalist senior contributor, senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, and fellow at the Claremont Institute. He was selected as a 2019 Robert Novak Journalism fellow of the Fund for American Studies, under which he is currently working on a book on U.S.-China policy. You can find his work at benweingarten.com, and follow him on Twitter @bhweingarten.


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Trump’s DOJ Indicts Venezuelan Pres Maduro on Drug Charges

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, center, and first lady Cilia Flores, wave to supporters as they leave the National Pantheon after attending a ceremony to commemorate an 1800’s independence battle, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (AP)

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday unsealed a searing criminal indictment against Venezuelan socialist leader Nicolas Maduro and several “co-conspirators,” accusing them of an array of narcotics and trafficking-related crimes, including efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States.

At a press conference on Thursday morning, Department of Justice officials announced a slew of charges pertaining to Maduro’s conspiracy to commit narco-terrorism – which carries a minimum of 50 years behind bars. The DOJ underscored that while he is currently in Venezuela, the 57-year-old is known to travel outside and is now offering a $15 million reward for information that will lead to his capture.

The DOJ, emphasizing that the latest round of indictments are the result of many years of investigation, charged a number of high-ranking “co-conspirators” and offered $10 million rewards for information leading to their capture.

The department also accused the country’s Chief Justice of money laundering and bribery, which resulted in thousands of Venezuelans to lose their jobs and livelihoods, and Venezuela’s military head of further drug-trafficking violations.

According to U.S. officials, Venezuela has long allowed Colombians connected with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials, “FARC,” to utilize its airspace to fly cocaine north through Central America and into North America.

Moreover, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman claimed that the illicit cooperation between the Colombians and Venezuelans had been in place for over 20 years, and represented a deliberate endeavor by Maduro and his regime to “flood the United States with cocaine.”

The announcement of the charges followed months of pressure by President Trump’s administration on Maduro’s regime, which the United States considers illegitimate following an election not deemed satisfactory by many world powers.

While the United States and more than 100 other countries no longer recognize Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela – instead throwing their support behind opposition figure Juan Guiado – coupled with a laundry list of economic sanctions, Maduro has maintained his position at the helm in the capital Caracas, overseeing the socialist regime and commanding the security forces.

The indictment of a functioning head of state is highly unusual and is bound to ratchet up tensions between Washington and Caracas. However, the U.S. has long accused Maduro and his government of human rights abuses, torture, corruption, and paving the way for cartels, terrorist groups and traffickers to exploit the oil-swathed nation, once the wealthiest in Latin America.

By Hollie McKay


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It’s Time: Western Lands Must Be Returned to States

Although the federal government’s retention of Utah State lands is an extremely important and timely issue, let me be the first to admit that if we get too deep into the details and minutia of the legalities involved, eyes can easily begin to gloss over. In fact, all technical legal issues can have that effect on us—and I am no exception. The incalculable hours I’ve spent digging through piles of research that backs one legislative opinion or another cannot be esteemed as ‘golden.’ Yet, on this particular subject—the federal government’s failure to release the State lands temporarily ceded to it during the Western States’ admission to the Union—there is too much at stake to simply roll over and count it as a lesson learned at the hands of the neighborhood bully.

As we illustrated earlier, just a quick glance at the Federal Public Land Surface and Subsurface map on the back cover of this book tells a story of gross imbalance. All of that white area in the eastern two-thirds of the country is land that was restored to those States as Congress was obliged to do in its State Enabling Act Trust Compacts with those states. The State Enabling Act trust Compacts with the Western States, where you see all of that red land, retained by the federal government to this day, were exactly the same as those with the Eastern two-thirds of the States. So what is the difference in the way Congress fulfilled its obligations under the Enabling Acts between the Eastern States and the Western States?

ANSWER: The attitude of the federal government toward the States as the federal government grew and drew power to itself at the expense of the States.

This statement is easily proved by a look at the historical and legislative record. Those to the left on the political spectrum began to take power in the federal government, leaving an imbalance in Congress’ approach to its duties under the Constitution. Around the time the Western States had been admitted to the Union, and Congress was obliged under the State Enabling Act Trust Compacts to reincorporate their ceded lands to the States, as it had already done for the Eastern States, Congress simply decided to retain its own control over all of those lands, using them for members’ own political and social engineering purposes.

Today, when I attend debates about returning the Western States’ land to them, the opposition I encounter is still made up of the same kinds of people and organizations: ‘progressives’ who tell us how much better bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. can manage our land than we can; green extremists who want to keep humans off of as much land as possible; and anti-capitalists who incessantly fight to prevent us from extracting oil, gas, minerals and timber from the lands. We all realize that each of these groups to the left on the political spectrum has its political and social agenda, but their policies have an abhorrent effect on the balance of power between local people and federal bureaucracies, the balance of human harmony with nature, and the balance between using our natural resources to provide work and capital for our citizens and leaving our lands completely untouched. There is no balance, when extremist stances are given priority.

Don’t let my generalization of the types of people who oppose the Western States on this issue give you the wrong idea about me and my personal background. I grew up in a very conservation oriented family and hold strong conservation values. My father was a Forest Ranger for his entire career, spending 30 years in the U.S. Forest Service, obtaining his Master’s Degree in Range Management and devoting his professional life to the preservation of the Western forestlands. From the time I could walk I spent many of my days and years by his side, walking through the woods and scrub, learning firsthand about the ecology of our Western States and how we are stewards of nature. I learned all about the delicate balance between living with nature, and over-exploiting it to the point of destruction. I also watched as my father’s hopes and aspirations for the Western lands and wildlife were dashed on the rocks of federal mismanagement and incompetence at bureaucratic levels. The federal government’s simplistic, unenlightened, centralized, one-size-fits-all top-down bureaucratic policies allowed the bark beetle to devastate Utah’s forests. Due to the imbalance that has occurred between the federal government bureaucracies and the states, the federal government’s policies and incompetence have destroyed wildlife, forests and hundreds of thousands of acres of land, culminating in the closing of parks and recreation areas, and the abandonment of feral horse herds and other animals, and the locking out of millions of acres of land, and so on.

On Equal Footing

What’s wrong with the federal government retaining most of the land contained within the Western States? Under the Constitution, every new State was to be “admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States.” The Doctrine of Equal Footing is based on Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which says:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

Additionally, since the admission of Tennessee in 1796, Congress has included in each State’s act of admission a clause providing that the State enters the Union “on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever.”

The doctrine of equal footing originated in the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which specifically addressed the issue of lands within the States. First, Article II is the equivalent of Articles IX and X of our current Bill of Rights:

ARTICLE II—“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

By this Article, the States jealously guarded their independent sovereignty. There was no intent to give up to a central “union” any more power of jurisdiction than was thought absolutely necessary. (STATEHOOD, 23)

ARTICLE IX—“. . . no State shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.”

Could it be any clearer? Under these Articles, no “forests,” for example, could be created within any State by the confederacy of States under the pretense of “national benefit,” nor could any national exigency be cited as justification for occupation of any land within any State without the consent of the affected State. (Ibid.)

At a debate on the subject, an opponent of States’ Land Rights will simply point to the Enabling Act clause where the State cedes its lands to the federal government, and tell you that’s the end of the discussion. I hear it from them every time. The problem with that argument is that nearly all State Enabling Compacts contain that same language, including the Eastern States, and a quick glance at the Federal Lands map on the back cover informs us that the transfer of lands to the federal government was only temporary, as a tool to clear all possible claims against the title of the land, to be followed by the release of those lands back to the States, or to private landholders who would then pay property taxes to the States.

George Washington wrote, “It rests with the states to determine the extent of territory over which the federal will exercise sovereign jurisdiction.” (The Writings of George Washington, 1745-1799, John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor, vol 32) Under the Enclave Clause, the federal government may indeed offer to purchase land from the various States for its own purposes, and if the State Legislature and Executive agree to the purchase, the federal government may establish a military base or other facility on that land. That land so purchased comes under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and Congress is given authority under the Constitution to deal with that land as it sees fit. Lands temporarily ceded to Congress as part of a State’s admission, however, never fall under the general Congressional authorizations under the Constitution, except to the extent that Congress must “dispose” of the lands as provided under the “trust” created by the Enabling Act Compact.

Breaking Trust

A trust is a legal device used to temporarily deposit property into the hands of a third party, who is charged with faithfully disposing of the property of the trust according to the written instructions of the person or entity establishing the trust. If you put your home title, stocks and bonds into a trust that will produce income for your children for the next 30 years, then be liquidated and the proceeds dispersed equally to your grandchildren, the trustee MUST do what you have instructed, or be found on the wrong end of a serious criminal statute. That is how trusts work—and because they are backed up by law, the “trust” aspect rarely comes into question—‘trust’ could be used interchangeably with ‘must.’ The trustee simply MUST follow the terms of the trust, or there are serious legal consequences, in which case the replacement trustee MUST fulfill the terms of the trust when the original trustee has been relieved of duties.

When the United States was first setting up its method of converting territories and other western lands into States, the Congress adopted the Resolution of October 10, 1780, thus committing itself to certain actions with respect to any lands that might be ceded to it by the various States:

(1) “Resolved, That the unappropriated lands that may be ceded or relinquished to the United States, by any particular states, pursuant to the recommendation of Congress of the 6 day of September last, shall be granted and disposed of for the common benefit of all the United States that shall be members of the federal union, (2) and be settled and formed into distinct republican states, (3) which shall become members of the federal union, and have the same rights of sovereignty, freedom and independence, as the other states: that each state which shall be so formed shall contain a suitable extent of territory, not less than one hundred nor more than one hundred and fifty miles square, or as near thereto as circumstances will admit: and that upon such cession being made by any State and approved and accepted by Congress, (4) the United States shall guaranty the remaining territory of the said States respectively. . . . (5) That the said lands shall be granted and settled at such times and under such regulations as shall hereafter be agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled, or any nine or more of them . . . .

This was the first ironclad commitment of Congress to dispose of the lands ceded to it for the creation of future states. It is unambiguous that a) all land so ceded to the U.S. would be “disposed of” by Congress, and that 2) each future State created out of this ceded land would “have the same rights of sovereignty, freedom and independence, as the other states.”

Therefore, all land being deposited into trust in the hands of the Congress was expected to be disposed of in the creation of new States, and Congress extinguishing the federal title therein, and each new State entering on an equal footing with the earlier States. In 1833, the Congress attempted to modify its duties under these trusts by passing The Land Bill. President Jackson vetoed the bill, and chastised Congress for attempting to usurp authority it did not possess, and abrogate its trustee duties to the States. President Jackson wrote:

These solemn compacts, invited by Congress in a resolution declaring the purposes to which the proceeds of these public lands should be applied, originating before the Constitution, and forming the basis on which it was made, bound the United States to a particular course of policy in relation to them by ties as strong as can be invented to secure the faith of nations.

In other words, President Jackson was telling Congress that it had no authority under the Constitution to abrogate its obligations arising under these Trust Compacts it had created to entice the People of States and Territories to cede land for the purposes of admission as States into the Union. President Jackson further explained:

The Constitution . . . did not delegate to Congress the power to abrogate these compacts, on the contrary, by declaring that nothing in it “shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United Sates, or of any particular State,” it virtually provides that these compacts, and the rights they secure, shall remain untouched by the Legislative power which shall make all “needful rules and regulations” for carrying them into effect. All beyond this would seem to be an assumption of undelegated power.

I invite everyone to read the entire text of President Jackson’s Land Bill Veto Message, of December 4, 1833, because it so thoroughly explains the issues involved in the federal government’s duties over temporarily ceded lands to the federal government. The entire text can be found online.

By the time the State of Utah was admitted into the Union in 1896, the specific language of its 1894 Enabling Act had been used and recycled for decades to admit several other states, including Ohio in 1802, Louisiana in 1811, Mississippi in 1817, Alabama in 1819, Michigan in 1836, Arkansas in 1836, Wisconsin in 1846, Minnesota in 1847, and California in 1850. Each Enabling Act Trust Compact required the proposed State to relinquish and “forever disclaim” all right and title to its land in favor of the United States, followed then by the duty of Congress to “dispose” of or “extinguish” its temporary title in that land as part of its trusteeship. Following is the exact Utah Enabling Act language:

Second. That the people inhabiting said proposed State to agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof; and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes; and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States, . . . [Relevant portions of the Utah Enabling Act are attached in the back of this work as Appendix A]

Again referring to the Federal Lands map, we can see that the Congress indeed fulfilled the terms of the Trust Compacts with all of those States in the eastern two-thirds of the country, including all of the states admitted in the Nineteenth Century enumerated above. The only exceptions are the Western States.

On January 4, 1896, President Cleveland executed the proclamation designating Utah as a State, on an equal footing with the other States of the Union.

Shortly thereafter, we began to see a change in the attitude of Congress regarding the lands temporarily ceded in Enabling Acts at the time of admission. In 1905, the National Forest Service was created by combining the General Land Office (the agency created for the purpose of disposing of the ‘public’ land) and the Division of Forestry. Federal agencies, e.g. the Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation, were then established for the purposes of managing vast tracts of “federal land” and western water resources. Land disposal policies began to be replaced with policies that retained the public lands in federal ownership. In a short span of time, some 234 million acres of ‘federal’ land, or nearly an eighth of the entire United States, were withdrawn from private entry. (Report of Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, H.B. 148, p. 16.)

Utah patiently awaited the actions of the Congress, to fulfill its Constitutional trust mandate and extinguish its temporary possession of the land in Utah. By 1915 it was becoming apparent that the Democratically controlled Congress and Woodrow Wilson’s White House were dragging their feet on many issues of States’ rights, as well as minority rights, and the Utah Legislature proposed a Joint Memorial to the President and both houses of Congress, politely requesting that they execute their Constitutional duties and extinguish the government’s temporary title to Utah’s land. The letter first pointed out the requirements placed upon the federal government and the benefits to the earlier states of fulfilling those requirements:

Rejoicing in the growth and development, the power and prestige of the older states of the union, and recognizing that their advancement was made possible through the beneficent operation of a wise and most generous public land policy on the part of the government, the people of Utah view with alarm and apprehension the national tendency toward the curtailment of the former liberal policies in handling the public domain and disposing of the natural resources, as evidenced in the vast land withdrawals and the pending legislation, calculated to make our coal, our mineral and our water power resources chattels for government exploitation through a system of leasing.

The letter then made a gracious petition to release the land to the State of Utah so that it could enjoy the same benefits of all previous States:

In harmony with the spirit and letter of the land grants to the National government, in perpetuation of a policy that has done more to promote the general welfare than any other policy in our national life, and in conformity with the terms of our Enabling Act, we, the members of the Legislature of the State of Utah, memorialize the President and the Congress of the United States for the speedy return of the former liberal National attitude toward the public domain, and we call attention to the fact that the burden of State and local government in Utah is borne by the taxation of less than one-third the lands of the State, which alone is vested in private or corporate ownership, and we hereby earnestly urge a policy that will afford an opportunity to settle our lands and make use of our resources on terms of equality with the older states, to the benefit and upbuilding of the State and to the strength of the nation.

Of course, those who had seized power in Washington, D.C. had no intention of honoring the terms of the Trust Compact with Utah, or any other Western State. The petition was ignored, and the federal government began tying up major blocks of Western lands by designating new national parks, then wilderness areas, while selling leases for some minerals and oil on the land. In the case of Utah, those leases netted the State only 46 percent of the revenues that the Eastern States were receiving for their gas, mineral, timber and oil leases, and the number of leases allowed by the federal bureaucrats on Utah land were highly restricted.

Separate, But Equal?

There was a time when the federal government made a tepid attempt to make a partial transference of some desert surface land within the State of Utah, but the Democratic Governor at the time, George Dern, went to Congress and told them that their policies and proposal were wholly inadequate. In February of 1932, Dern appeared before the U.S. House Committee on the Public Lands to testify regarding legislation that proposed “to grant vacant, unreserved, unappropriated, nonmineral lands to accepting States.” The legislation would allow the States a 10 year period to determine whether to accept or reject the transfer of these unproductive surface lands, leaving the valuable minerals, gas and oil reserved to the federal government’s use. The Democrat excoriated the federal government for treating Utah and other Western States like adolescents, and told them that Utah did not want the lands on the proposed basis with “everything else taken out that is worth anything at all, so that we will have nothing but the skin of a squeezed lemon.” Good for him!

Since that time things have only gotten much worse for the Western States, and the federal government has dug in its heels, refusing to extinguish its temporary title in our State lands as required by the State Enabling Act Trust Compacts and the Constitution. In the 1960s and 1970s, environmental groups increasingly objected to aspects of federal management of public lands in the West and challenged the financial support extended to Western States and local governments by the federal government and the use of public lands for traditional activities such as grazing, mining, oil and gas exploration and production and timber harvesting. Environmentalists were joined by some eastern state representatives in Congress who sought to protect eastern industry from the threat of growing Western economies and those favoring federal budget cuts. (Ibid. p. 20)

In other words, Eastern States liberal members of the U.S. House and Senate were purposefully limiting Western States’ political power by limiting their access to their own in-state resources—keeping them poor and powerless.

The environmentalists also began to challenge federal support for water and transportation projects. They further called for legislation for the protection and conservation of “public resources.” In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed. The National Historic Preservation Act followed in 1966. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the National Trails System Act were enacted in 1968. The Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969, the Wild and Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act in1971 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973 provided for protections to certain endangered species and the promulgation of new regulations (CFR) with which to comply. (Ibid. p. 20-21)

The National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), enacted in 1969, required the study of environmental impacts resulting from federal actions and the receipt and consideration of public comment on any and all such actions. These legislative enactments culminated with the enactment by Congress of the Federal Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, the National Forest Management Act of 1976 of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976 (“FLPMA”). (Ibid. p. 21)

For those public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Congress’ FLPMA formally terminated the historic federal public lands policy of disposing of those lands pursuant to the Enabling Act Trust Compacts, in favor of a new formal federal land retention policy dictating that “the public lands be retained in Federal ownership.” The response of the Western States to the passage of FLPMA was a developing antagonism to federal actions, further fueled by the growing view of the federal government that Western needs had shifted away from traditional public land uses (farming, residential, harvesting, etc.), to purely recreation and environmental activities. (Ibid.)

Although Western States’ members of Congress have made various attempts to get the federal government to reverse its unilateral abandonment of its duty to divest itself of our Western lands, it has been to no avail. The federal courts have merely rubber-stamped Congress’ ability to extinguish title when it decides, not based on the precedents set in returning Eastern States’ land, and the expectations of the parties at the time of admission and creation of the Trust Compacts. So the clock ticks, and nothing is happening, and Utah and the other Western States suffer as a result.

Second-Class Citizens

Suffer, you ask? How do these states suffer? As we reviewed briefly above, the States in the Eastern two-thirds of the country utilize over 95 percent of their lands, collecting property taxes on privately owned lands and receiving 100 percent of the income from mineral, timber, gas and oil leases. This enables them to finance their public schools, among other things. Since Utah became a State she has continually struggled to fund public education. In fact, our state comes in dead last in the nation for per pupil educational funding. Our per pupil funding is $5,978 compared with the national average of $10,608, which averages in the other Western States, most of which are likewise strangled for funding for the same reason as Utah. States that enjoy the benefit of having received an extinguishment of federal title to their lands have much, much higher per pupil spending. New York, for instance, enjoys $19,552 per pupil spending. (States Spending the Most (and Least) on Education, Thomas C. Frohlich, 24/7 Wall Street, June 3, 2014)

Not only was Utah promised at the time of statehood—both expressly in its Enabling Act and impliedly by the historical federal policy of honoring its duty to dispose of the trust lands—that its lands would be returned to it or sold so Utah could collect property taxes on the land, the Utah Enabling Act specifically provided,

“That five per centum of the proceeds of the sales of public lands lying within said state, which shall be sold by the United States subsequent to the admission of said State into the Union . . . shall be paid to the said State, to be used as a permanent fund, the interest of which only shall be expended for the support of the common schools within said State.” (Section 9)

The land that the federal government was to dispose of by sale (“shall” according to the specific Enabling Act language) was to result in an educational trust fund, funded with 5 percent of the proceeds of the sales as the principle. Of course, as the federal government failed to follow up on its duties as the trustee of the temporarily ceded lands, no money for the educational trust fund was forthcoming, further damaging the children of the State of Utah.

As a result, the federal government came up with various revenue sharing schemes, payments in lieu of taxes (PILT), etc., amounting to a type of welfare handout system for those Western States relegated to the back of the federal bus, which only partially funds Utah’s educational system and county governments. The funds were considered less than half of what was needed in 1950, and there have been few annual, inflation, or cost-of-living increases in the fund since that time. In fact, PILT payments were removed from the main federal budget recently, and eventually attached to a Farm Bill and used as a negotiation pawn. Surely, no one can deny that Utah and most of the other Western States are treated as second-class citizens of the Union as a result of the federal failure to dispose of their lands as required.

Utah’s H.B. 148

To address the inequity of the federal government’s failure to extinguish title to two-thirds of the lands in the State of Utah, we in the Utah House of Representatives drafted House Bill 148, titled “Transfer of Public Lands Act” (TPLA), which I cosponsored with several other members of the House, and fully supported. The bill was passed by the State House and Senate, and signed by the governor, becoming law on March 23, 2012. The law sets out Utah’s demand that federal title in its land be extinguished pursuant to the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Enabling Act entered into by the State and the federal government at the time of Utah’s admission.

Of course, the TPLA proposes that all federally owned and managed parklands be permanently ceded to the federal government as National Parks. It also sets up a formal systematic transfer scheme, so that the transfers of land to the State are organized and the Utah State departments charged with relevant duties can adequately anticipate and meet the tasks. The TPLA also establishes the Utah Public Lands Commission to manage the multiple use and the sustainable yield of Utah’s abundant natural resources.

By receiving control of Utah’s lands, the State could solve all of its fiscal problems, especially the school funding problem, and greatly relieve the federal government of much of its burden with respect to managing Utah’s land. The federal departments and agencies charged with managing the State’s land, resources and wildlife find themselves constantly embroiled in horrendously costly litigation, which eats up most of their appropriated budgets—money that is not going toward managing the land and wildlife. This litigation is being churned out by the ream by the same groups we scrutinized earlier—environmentalists, anti-capitalists, and similar special interest groups who try to keep the land from being developed or even used by citizens, and who are opposed to using any natural resources like timber, minerals, oil or gas.

The fact that the federal government manages all of the Western States’ lands makes it an easy one-stop target for groups bent on getting their way through the filing of prolific litigation. If each of the States managed its own land, a special interest group would have to file 12 or 13 separate lawsuits per issue, at least one in each state court—possibly one in each affected county in every state. The cost of frivolous litigation would thereby switch to the special interest groups, greatly limiting the amount of damage they can do. As things stand, they simply file one lawsuit against the controlling federal agency, with the knowledge that federal agencies will cease all activity regarding the subject land until the litigated issues are finally resolved in the federal court system. Of course, federal courts are choked with this kind of litigation, and special interest groups know that each lawsuit will tie up the affected lands for several years, if not decades.

In other words, the very act of filing frivolous litigation nets the special interest groups what they seek, without the necessity of winning the litigation on the merits. The longer they string their frivolous cases along, the more they ‘win.’

If the control of these State lands was restored to the States, the financial burden of litigation would be placed on the special interest groups, who must battle their frivolous cases in state courts, with judges and jurors who are very close to the issues involved. The States’ costs of litigation would be much less than the federal government is paying because of the deterrence effect of placing the burdens of litigation where they belong—on the special interest groups.

Utah, like most of the affected Western States, is in a much better position to manage its resources than federal bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. The Bureaucratic method of top-down, one-size-fits-all management is destroying our lands and natural resources. What works in one area, does not necessarily work in another, but federal employees are restricted by the centralized regulations that have been promulgated by the truckload (CFR). If ever there were a clear example of why centralized government distanced from the problems of local people should be minimized, the management of Utah’s resources and wildlife is a perfect example. Employees of the various federal agencies tasked with managing Utah’s lands and resources have their hands tied not only by centralized, ineffective rules and regulations, but by constant budget shortfalls. The problem is not that the federal government does not allocate enough money, but that burgeoning federal bureaucracies and litigation costs rob the actual working employees of necessary personnel and resources.

As of this writing, our federal government is $18 trillion in debt, and 40 cents of every dollar it spends is borrowed, adding to the national debt every moment of every day and night. By the end of the current administration’s current term (December 2016), the national debt will be in excess of $20 trillion. Every day when Americans go to work, the first $1.4 billion they earn must go directly to the federal government just to pay the ‘interest’ on its debt. The federal government is so mismanaged that its continuation at its current pace is unsustainable. It WILL be crushed under its own bloated weight. It is not a question of if, but only when. The lands and resources of the State of Utah contain value in the trillions of dollars—one of our House members estimates minerals on federally retained lands in our state, Colorado and Wyoming at over $150 trillion, with a full one-third being located in Utah. See e.g., Knowledge and Courage: What the West Needs to Take Back Our Public Lands, Ken Ivory, Cascade Commentary. Those resources are being mismanaged and drained by the same government that is destroying our national economy and enslaving our children and their children with current overspending and debt. We do not need the federal government’s ‘help’ any longer in managing our own lands and resources.

States east of Colorado, which appropriately received a federal extinguishment of title in their lands, have resources and opportunities far beyond the reach of Utah and most similarly restricted Western States. We look around the country at states like North Dakota, where financial resources are abundant and educational spending has skyrocketed because they are free to utilize their land and natural resources, without the corruption and mismanagement that accompany federal management—of anything. The TPLA calls for a halt of the federal government’s mismanagement of Utah’s land and resources, and I want to continue working with Western States’ Governors and Legislative leaders until we obtain the lands and resources that are mandated by law and the Constitution to be released to us. The resources that are tied up and mismanaged by federal bureaucrats in the Western States are key to sparking local economies, and providing many billions of dollars in annual revenue to Washington, D.C.

Beyond just the financial reasons to return Western lands to the States, Americans have a very tangible health and environmental reason to do it sooner than later. Because the federal agencies are incapable of managing our forests, not only are we losing them to blight and wildfires, but millions of tons of carbon pollution are being pumped into our atmosphere when catastrophic fires annually light up the West. Where are the environmentalists when that happens? They’re driving their SUVs to protest rallies and ignoring the herculean damage to our lands and air quality created by their own policies.

Utah’s feral horse herds are likewise suffering under federal care. The wild horse problem in western Utah in Delta and Beaver Counties is devastating. The horses are neglected and wild, tearing up grazing land, and destroying livelihoods of local ranchers. The horses are starving to death, dying of disease. It is a horrific, inhumane mess, and those poor animals are suffering, because the feds have no budget to care for them.

In stark contrast, the State of Utah, as many other Western States, has done an exemplary job caring for its portions of the State’s forestlands and wildlife. Our deer, elk and bison populations have thrived under our care, and our state parks are second-to-none.

You may recall that the federal government has demonstrated that caring for our land and wildlife is less than a priority in its eyes. During the federal government impasse in 2013, the feds closed the national parks, to score political PR points in a budgetary saber-rattling contest, costing local businesses millions of dollars. We in State Government leadership reopened those parks with our own state funds—something the federal bureaucrats were unable to do.

The current administration has been legislating by executive fiat, and threatens to permanently tie up millions of acres of Western lands with the stroke of a pen, as other recent pro-centralized government administrations have done. All of this, of course, to further a political agenda—not to benefit the People of the Western States or the lands temporarily ceded to the federal government in State Enabling Act Trust Compacts.

Utah has been the model of excellence in utilizing what few resources we have available for responsible development as a State to provide for the care and welfare of our citizens, including our children. The fact that we have the least (approximately half) of the national average per pupil funding for children’s education, does not put us at the bottom of educational results. In fact, Utah’s children perform somewhere around the middle in most standard categories. Imagine what we could do with a normal per pupil spending budget—or a budget like an older State such as New York—nearly four times our per pupil budget. Utah currently ranks high in such areas as its high school graduation rate and parental employment, income and education levels. For example, last year Utah ranked 11th in the nation for children with at least one parent with a postsecondary degree, 1st in the nation for having the smallest difference in per pupil spending between the highest and lowest spending school districts, and 12th in the nation for its high school graduation rate. These results flow from our dedication to our State and its citizens, and our ability to roll up our sleeves and get a job done despite the obstacles placed before us by the federal government.

Utah’s TPLA is a comprehensive law that puts into place a sweeping mechanism for the State to receive the land that is still being held in trust by the U.S. Congress, and to transfer the management of the State’s lands and resources to local experts who have been educated, trained and prepared for the duties of self-management. I am hopeful that as American citizens become fed up with the disregard of States’ Rights and its incessant draw of power from the States to Washington, D.C., cooler heads will prevail and a more mainstream Congress (ideologically balanced) will execute its mandates under the Constitution and the State Enabling Act Trust Compacts and finally “dispose” of the State lands it is still holding in trust for the States, inuring to the benefit of the People of Utah, the Western States, and the entire nation.

By James Thompson. James holds a doctoral degree, and is a political commentator and professional ghostwriter.


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Unfortunately, It’s time for a National ID

WERE YOU AWARE THAT MOST NATIONS HAVE A NATIONAL ID?

It’s true. For a quick lesson in how many countries issue a National ID for their citizens, do a Google search for “national id” and click on images. Hundreds of nations issue ID cards for their citizens, to differentiate them from non-citizens and ensure that national benefits and rights are extended to their citizens, and that they are not removed as non-citizens.

For all of us civil libertarians, who abhor ‘Big Brother’ tracking our every move and knowing what we are doing in our private life, the thought of a National ID card has been a very sore subject for decades. We have simply rejected any mention of it at every turn.

Yet, we live in a nation where liberals create problems, then create solutions to those problems, which create bigger problems — perpetuating the escalating cycle of government intrusion and bureaucratic expansion.

Because we are overrun with non-citizens who seek American citizen rights and privileges — like voting, welfare benefits, employment, etc. — and because the left has been pushing so hard to make those rights and privileges available to non-citizens, we must seriously consider the reality that we must now provide all Americans with federal government issued identification. Those who hold the ID are extended the rights and privileges of US citizens, and those who do not hold it are not. It’s really that simple.

Of course, those who are in favor of open borders and who have a desire to dilute the status of US citizenship will hate the idea. They will decry a National ID as being exclusive, discriminatory, and limiting. They will tell us that there will be a few citizens who have difficulty obtaining a National ID, and therefore, no one should have it (like a Voter ID card, for example).

We are at the point that we can make a National ID card that is nearly impossible to replicate. A biometric database (fingerprint or retina scan) can quickly identify anyone who is asked to produce his ID, but left it in his other wallet.

Again, critics will argue that those who are unable to obtain a Nation ID will be discriminated against, and illegal aliens will be deported. Of course, every nation on the earth defines its borders and only allows certain people within its borders (try to visit Canada or Sweden without their permission, and you’ll see how archaic America has become), and America should be no different. To those who fear that illegals will be discovered through this process, all I can say is — you’re right. That is exactly what will happen.


By James Thompson. James holds a doctoral degree, and is a political commentator and professional ghostwriter.


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Presiding Bishopric: LDS Church Spends Nearly $1 Billion Annually On Humanitarian Efforts

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nears $1 billion a year in fast-growing humanitarian, welfare spending

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doubled its humanitarian spending over the past five years and now annually provides nearly $1 billion in combined humanitarian and welfare aid, the church’s Presiding Bishopric said this week in a rare interview.

But the church’s work and missions cannot be reduced to its humanitarian spending and charity efforts, said Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé and his counselors, Bishop Dean M. Davies and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell. Those represent just one function of a sprawling global faith that funds 30,000 congregations, more than 200 temples and educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of students while also providing food, clothing and shelter for hundreds of thousands of people a year.

“It’s no surprise we are talking about billions of dollars,” Bishop Caussé said. “Nobody should be surprised, given the number of members, millions of members, 16 million members in so many countries. This is a church that has become quite large, and so there’s a large budget, and we are grateful for that because that’s an opportunity to expand the reach of all the good that the church can do around the world.”

The bishopric gave a unique look at the breadth and depth of the financial dealings of the global faith in a sit-down interview with the Deseret News and Church News two weeks after the bishopric spoke to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) answering critics’ charges that the church is amassing wealth.

To the contrary, church leaders said it is fulfilling its mission to care for the poor, spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world, strengthen the spiritual foundation of its members and live the principles of self-reliance it teaches to all.

The church’s investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors, reportedly has grown to $100 billion, a figure claimed by the brother of a former worker at Ensign Peak. The members of the bishopric said they were aware that those reports drew both praise from some about the way church leaders are managing what they and members consider sacred donations as well as criticism and questions about what the church is doing with such a large amount of money.

They did not confirm whether that amount was accurate, but they said they expect leaner economic times will come in the future and also acknowledged that the church’s needs and expenditures are accelerating as the faith grows around the world. They also rejected the notion they are hoarding money for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Instead, they said, they are making prudent, diverse investments to protect against economic downturns and prepare for the future.

What follows is a look at the faith’s holdings through the eyes of the men tasked with receiving and distributing donations to the church.

‘We won’t have to stop’

Bishop Caussé said the size of the fund is a proper backstop for the church’s full breadth and depth of operation.

Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé
Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé

“Most of the growth, I have to say, is because we are right now in the longest period of prosperity in the United States that has ever been recorded, and this is creating that surge of financial markets,” he said. “We are just beneficiaries of it.”

In 2008, the credit crisis and related stock market plunge reportedly obliterated 21% of the value of Ensign Peak’s holdings, according to a document produced by the former employee’s brother. The Ensign Peak fund reportedly has more than doubled in the subsequent, ongoing economic upswing.

The bishopric did not confirm those reports, but did say the church froze budgets and hiring during the crisis. The only budget item that increased in that period was humanitarian and welfare spending, because church leaders knew more people would need help. “Most of the growth, I have to say, is because we are right now in the longest period of prosperity in the United States that has ever been recorded, and this is creating that surge of financial markets. We are just beneficiaries of it.” — Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé

“There will be future downturns,” Bishop Waddell said.How extensive, how dramatic we don’t know. But one of the comments we made to the Journal was that if that were to happen, because of the reserves being carefully watched over, protected and wisely handled, we won’t have to stop missionary work, we won’t have to stop maintaining buildings and building temples, we won’t have to stop humanitarian and welfare work, we won’t have to stop education work. What the journalist (wrote) was that we won’t have to stop missionary work, period. Well, there’s more than that.”

The Presiding Bishopric said a large reserve is necessary, specifically citing as reasons the church’s expansion into countries in which congregations are not self-sustaining, the construction of 50 more temples and the growing cost of providing educational opportunities for more and more students. The church is educating 880,500 students through its seminary and institutes program, universities and Pathway program.

FILE – BYU students participate in a campus devotional with Elder David A. Bednar in the Marriott Center on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018.

They said tithing and fast offerings are spiritual principles that benefit church members, shared more details about the church’s farms and educational expenses and described its humanitarian donations as precision-guided aid.

“It is a church,” Bishop Caussé said. “It’s not a financial institution … and because it is a church, the funds that are managed within the church are contributed by the members of the church and are really sacred. We really consider those funds as belonging to the Lord.

“It’s difficult to understand the church,” he added. “If you look at it as a financial institution, you will never understand it. You have to look at it as an organization of consecrated followers of Jesus Christ. This is what it is, with a mission assigned by the Lord.”

Humanitarian and welfare spending

The three bishops challenged some of what they’ve seen in previous reports.

“The people who say we’re not doing our part, that is just not true,” Bishop Waddell said. “We’re talking close to $1 billion in that welfare/humanitarian area on an annual basis. Yes, we are using our resources to bless the poor and the needy as well as all of the other responsibilities we have as a church.”

The figure includes all humanitarian and welfare expenditures, including fast offering aid.

The budget for humanitarian work “has gone up dramatically,” Bishop Waddell said.

Warehouse workers load supplies as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints send aid to China in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Respirator masks, protective googles and protective suits were sent.
Warehouse workers load supplies as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sends aid to China in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.

In fact, Bishop Caussé added, humanitarian expenditures have doubled in the past five years.

“And we believe they are going to increase fast,” he said.

Increases in humanitarian and welfare spending are driven first by the contributions and volunteerism of church members, the bishops said. The other major factor is how quickly the church can ensure new avenues for precise giving. For example, Latter-day Saint Charities carefully and thoroughly assesses each partner. “The last thing you want to do is just give them money and then you really don’t know where it goes,” Bishop Davies said. “So we have both missionaries and area staff on the ground, feet on the ground, who actually are there, they can see that food’s being distributed, or equipment, or schools are being built as part of our program.”

“We have an obligation to the members of the church who pay their tithes and offerings to make sure that is going to organizations or areas that will actually meet a need,” Bishop Waddell said. “The members of the church have a right to trust that it’s going to be managed and handled well and not just thrown at issues.”

The leaders said the church’s expansion into more countries is increasing its ability and opportunities to help others.

“As the church has been established in many more countries, we develop local relationships with nongovernmental organizations and governments, and as we develop those types of relationships, we become aware of more and more needs,” Bishop Caussé said. “In the past our humanitarian reach was done mostly either directly or through our partnerships with global organizations” the church trusts to ensure donations are effective. “We’re going to see more and more partnerships with local organizations, because we are there and we are present and we know the people.”

50 temples under construction

While humanitarian spending is increasing, so are all the other costs associated with operating the church.

“The (financial) needs of the church are increasing and accelerating,” Bishop Caussé said. For example, “There are 50 temples that have been announced that are either under construction or in preparation for construction right now, 50. That’s huge.”

The church has 167 operating temples, which come with operational and maintenance costs.

Provo City Center Temple dedication Sunday, March 20, 2016.
FILE – The Provo City Center Temple, which was built after a fire destroyed the Provo Tabernacle, is seen in March 2016.

Among the other missions of the church is missionary work, which includes funding 399 missions and the travel and health care expenses of 67,695 missionaries.

Education is another massive expenditure that must be backstopped. Bishop Caussé said the church’s five universities and colleges, which educate 90,000 students, operate at a cost of $1.5 billion a year paid for by tuition and tithing.

Previous statements by leaders show that tithing subsidizes well over half of the cost. That allows many students to graduate with little to no debt. Brigham Young University ranks No. 1 on the latest Forbes list of best value colleges.

Universities are only a portion of the church’s education costs. It pays for a Seminary and Institutes program that provides religious education to more than 800,000 teens and college students around the world. The effort includes 50,000 teachers, Bishop Caussé said.

The church operates 27 wheat storage facilities and funds nine refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. It also operates more than 100 bishops’ storehouses full of food and commodities to help church members around the world.

Family history work is growing and the church allocates resources to obtain records and produce searchable records, Bishop Caussé said. There is urgency, because some of the records are deteriorating.

FILE – Steven Watrous scans a book at the FamilySearch free book scanning booth at the RootsTech conference on Feb. 6, 2016.

All those growing and varied missions of the church are part of what its leaders call preparing for Christ’s Second Coming.

“When we talk about preparing for the Second Coming, that doesn’t mean we’re hoarding money so that we have it when the Second Coming takes place,” Bishop Waddell said. “In preparing for the Second Coming, we’re talking about building temples and providing places of worship and temples where people can receive sacred and exalting ordinances so we can gather Israel, we can do the missionary work in preparation for that day. And so, when we talk about preparing for it, that means all the work that’s going on now.”

That work could be jeopardized by an economic disaster like the Great Depression, he said.

“There will come a time when all of these resources, reserves, will be necessary,” he said. “We don’t know when, we don’t know exactly in what form, but you think of the (Bible story of the) seven fat years and the seven lean years, there’s so many examples in the scriptures that we strive to follow, whether it’s the parable of the talents and not to bury the talent. We saw what the Lord did to that individual. We want to be ready for any contingency.”

Why tithe when there is a surplus?

In the Bible and Latter-day Saint scripture, Jesus Christ commands church members to “pay one-tenth of all their interest annually” as “a standing law forever.” Church members believe scriptural promises that tithing provides spiritual and temporal blessings.

The bishopric said the law of tithing is a principle that works and, in addition to being a commandment, called it an expression of gratitude to the Lord.

“It’s very valid and current in our world,” Bishop Caussé said, “and we see it over generations, how the gospel is blessing families and their lives.”

FILE – The Bishop’s Storehouse at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City in 2016.

Bishop Davies said paying tithing and fast offerings — the value of meals skipped during a 24-hour fast once a month — are spiritual commitments with promised blessings. Fast offering funds first stay within a ward or a branch to help people in the congregation. Excess funds are shared around the church.

He said the leaders of local congregations have the ability to obtain resources needed to help members of the church in their areas and reach out to strengthen others in their communities.

He and the other two bishops said they know it can be difficult for the poorest members to pay tithing, but all church leaders teach that all members should do so. They said no church member has to choose between eating and paying tithing.

Bishop Waddell said some are making an assumption that the church is bleeding the poor by having them pay tithing so it can amass reserves.

“It’s anything but,” he said. “They pay their tithing because it’s a commandment, and they are encouraged to, if they only have enough money to pay tithing or eat, ‘Pay your tithing and we’ll help with food,’ because the blessings that are associated with the payment of tithing will then be theirs, and they won’t go hungry, because we have the ability to assist them now.”

FILE – Volunteers slice and package loaves of bread at the Welfare Square bakery in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, May, 31, 2016.

Bishop Caussé called it an act of faith to pay tithing and receive fast offering aid from other members. There is great concern that members all over the world be treated equally and fairly.

“There’s always the church reaching out to those people, making sure that nobody will be set aside and everybody will benefit from the great blessing it is to be a member of the church,” he said.

Church leaders use tithing funds and fast offerings from established areas of the church to help finance less-established areas, the bishops said.

“In these emerging countries of the church, there is no way that the tithing, although members are very faithful … their tithing cannot cover all the expenditure, so it’s very important that members here in the United States and many other countries where the church has been established for a long time will contribute to it,” Bishop Caussé said. “There’s a great transfer of funds that happens, and it will be more and more in the future as the church develops in those countries.”

Bishop Caussé added, “In the center of everything that we do, is to care for those around us and to love our neighbor. And sometimes our neighbor can be in a faraway country.”

Bishop Davies said the number of church members who pay a full tithing is very close to the number who pay a fast offering.

Ensign Peaks Advisors

The church transfers surplus tithing each year to Ensign Peaks to invest for a rainy day.

“The church practices what it preaches in terms of setting aside and having budgets,” Bishop Davies said. “We never expend more than what we estimate will be coming in terms of tithes and offerings. And also by definition we set aside a certain amount every year in reserve for those times when there will be a need, and there will be a need in the future.”

Ensign Peak invests in a diverse portfolio. Some of the money is invested in U.S. equities, which are stocks and bonds. Previous filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission have shown that Ensign Peaks’ various funds hold stock in companies such as Apple, Home Depot and Alphabet.

But that is just a portion of the reserve fund.

“In addition to the reserves that are invested by Ensign Peak, we have reserves invested in real property and commercial real estate, residential real estate and in agriculture,” Bishop Waddell said. “The church practices what it preaches in terms of setting aside and having budgets.” — Bishop Dean M. Davies

That includes many large ranches and farms, which produce food to feed the hungry as well as provide long-term investment. The church recently bought a 15,000-acre, Dallas-area corn and sorghum farm with 10,000 head of cattle through one of its tax-paying agriculture companies, which include AgReserves Inc. and Farmland Reserve Inc. The property was listed for nearly $50 million, the Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday.

“They are one of the largest cattle ranch operators in the U.S.,” Icon Global founder Bernard Uechtritz told the newspaper.

The church’s ranch holdings are public.

For example, the church owns 670,000 acres of cattle ranches, farms and timberland in Florida. It started Deseret Ranches of Florida in 1950. It shared information about the ranch in a 1975 issue of the Ensign, one of the faith’s magazines, and on its Church Newsroom website in 2016. The Deseret News wrote about the ranches in 2013 and also covered the purchase of the timberland. It is public information that the church plans to develop some of the ranch property over the next 60 years.

The church invests in stocks so it can capture the value in economic boom times. It invests in agriculture, commercial real estate, residential real estate and other financial instruments to hedge against inflation during tougher times.

“The church has an attitude of being very conservative, very prudent,” Bishop Caussé said. “We really look in the long term. It’s not about having your reserves fluctuate all the time but looking into long-term care of those funds so they can be available to the church for accomplishing its mission. For example we have agricultural land that we look at with a 20- to 30-year perspective. It’s about how can we develop in a way that will be safe for the environment, that will be developing the land and the community, providing a great increase for the church or an interest of the church, but also preserving it for generations. That’s something that the church can do with its reserves that most businesses cannot do, because we are church. It’s a different way of reasoning.”

FILE – The Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.

Blessing the receiver and the giver

The church has not released financial reports since 1959, when it ran a deficit. The financial policies it now follows, never spending more than it takes in and setting aside some money in a reserve fund each year, were established in the 1970s, prior to the tenure of any of today’s church leaders. The late church leader President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the philosophy in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, which he called perilous times. “We cannot provide against every contingency,” he said, “but we can provide against many contingencies. Let the present situation remind us that this we should do.”

For the past four decades, media outlets have published newspaper series, magazine cover stories and books about the church’s property, investments and reserves. In the latest example two months ago, a man posted information online that he said contained documents his twin brother took from Ensign Peak before he resigned last year. The man filed a complaint with the IRS alleging the church should be forced to pay taxes on the returns earned by Ensign Peak because it is not spending its funds. The Washington Post later reported that the twins have had a falling out.

Independent tax experts have told multiple publications the IRS is unlikely to act on the man’s complaint because Ensign Peak is integral part of the church, legally known as an integrated auxiliary.

There have been no allegations of leaders enriching themselves, something noted in multiple reports on church finances. The church’s general authorities leave their professional careers to serve as church leaders full time often at significant financial sacrifice.

Bishop Caussé said the church’s work cannot be measured by dollars alone. He called the volunteer work of members an intangible, citing doctors and medical staff who train others and more.

“There are really two objectives of what we do,” he said. “The first one is to bless the receiver, and the other one is to bless the giver, and both are equally important. So, we always look at ‘Who is it that we can help,’ but also, ‘Can we provide enough opportunities for the members of the church to go and to reach out to others?’”

By Tad Walch@Tad_Walch


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Limbaugh: Radio and Political Genius

“I’m one of the luckiest people to be alive”

Rush Limbaugh receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom

His ‘army of one,’ inspiring millions who’d been ignored, changed the political landscape.

Genius is often defined in myriad ways. One trusted criterion is the ability to do something extraordinary in a field where others could not — and doing something that perhaps will never be done again by anyone else.

By that measure, Rush Limbaugh certainly is the genius of talk radio, a genre in which he not merely excelled but that he also singlehandedly reinvented as something entirely different — and entirely more powerful and instrumental in American life — from what was imaginable pre-Limbaugh.

Even stranger still, his ascendance coincided with the presumed nadir of radio itself. It was supposedly a has-been, one-dimensional medium, long overshadowed by television. Even in the late 1980s, radio was about to be sentenced as obsolete in the ascendant cyber age of what would become Internet blogs, podcasts, streaming, and smartphone television.

Stranger still, Limbaugh has prospered through two generations and picked up millions of listeners who were not born when he first went national and who had no idea of why or how he had become a national presence.

He certainly did not capture new listeners by adjusting to the times. While tastes changed and the issues often metamorphosed, he did not. He remained conservative, commonsensical, and skeptical of Washington and those in it, as if he knew all the predictable thousand faces of the timeless progressive project, whose various manifestations reappear to mask a single ancient and predictable essence: the desire of a self-appointed group of elites to expand government in order to regiment the lives of ordinary people, allegedly to achieve greater mandated equality and social justice but more often to satisfy their own narcissistic will to power. It was Limbaugh who most prominently warned that lax immigration enforcement would soon lead to open calls for open borders, that worry about “global warming” would transform into calls to ban the internal combustion engine, and that the logical end of federal takeover of health care would be Medicare for All.

The Left — and many too who would later become the Never Trump Right — thought that Limbaugh’s worst moment finally came after Obama’s 2008 victory, during the post-election euphoria and just days before the January 2009 inauguration. It was a heady time, when the media would go on to declare soon-to-be Nobel laureate President Obama as, variously, a living “god” and “the smartest guy” ever to assume the presidency. His supporters often compared him to iconic wartime presidents such as FDR and Lincoln. Americans had been lectured on Obama’s divinity even as a candidate, and the evidence had ranged from the mundane of Platonically perfect creases in his trousers, to the telepathic ability to prompt spontaneous electrical impulses in the legs of cable television anchors.

In answer to Obama’s promise to fundamentally “transform America,” Limbaugh flat-out said he hoped that the new president would not succeed: “I hope Obama fails.” Outrage followed. Was Limbaugh rooting for the failure of America itself? In fact, he was worrying about how America might survive the first unabashedly progressive president in over 60 years, now empowered by an obsequious media, a House majority, a veto-proof Senate, and Supreme Court picks on the near horizon.

Limbaugh was the first voice to warn that what would soon follow the election was not the agenda that Obama sometimes disingenuously voiced on the campaign trail — Obama’s ruse of occasionally sounding concerned about illegal immigration, gay marriage, the spiraling debt, a rapid pullout from Iraq, and identity politics — but rather a move to the progressive hard-left.

What would ensue instead lined up with Obama’s senatorial voting record, his prior associations with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and Father Pfleger, and his occasional slips on the campaign trail: “I want you to argue with them and get in their face,” “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a knife,” and (in the pre-Netflix, pre–Martha Vineyard estate days), “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” Once elected, Obama was unbound. He lectured the nation about the wages of the West’s sin: the Crusades, America’s prior role in the world, and its own domestic woes. He instructed Americans on when it was the time to profit and when it was not, the point at which people should concede they had made enough money. And he listed the various reasons that he could not, as some anti-constitutional “king,” grant unconstitutional amnesties by fiat — before he went on to do just that.

Prior to Limbaugh’s national prominence, radio talk-show hosts were not shapers of national culture or politics. Even the few local and regional celebrity radio hosts had little power to influence issues of the day. While local talk radio was more conservative than liberal, it was hardly seen as traditional conservatives’ answer to the liberal biases of the major national newspapers, network evening news, and public radio and TV, much less the aristocratic pretensions of the Republican Beltway hierarchy.

So, what was inconceivable in 1988 was not just that any one person could leap from local prominence to national dominance, but that he could empower (rather than replace) his legions of radio subordinates. Far from making them irrelevant, Limbaugh energized talk-radio hosts. Once he became a national force, hundreds of others became far more effective conservative local and regional voices, partly through the art of emulation, partly through scheduling to lead in to or follow Limbaugh’s daily three-hour show, partly in the general renewed public interest in talk radio itself.

Call that coattails, or force multiplication, but in essence, Limbaugh redefined the genre as something more entertaining, more political, and yet more serious — an “army of one” antidote to the New York and Washington media corridor. How strange that after progressives achieved a monopoly in network news, public television and radio, the Internet conglomerates, Hollywood, and network prime-time programing, they sought to emulate Limbaugh by creating their own leftist version of national talk radio, Air America. Millions of dollars, dozens of talk-radio hosts, and Chapter 11 later, the venture collapsed in abject failure.

I wager that more Democrats listened to Limbaugh than to Air America, in the fashion of my late Democratic father, who used to sneak into my office on the farm and listen with me to Rush during the 1991 Gulf War.

How did Limbaugh do it?

No one really knows because few have been able to duplicate his success, despite a number of gifted hosts who have tried. For all the criticism that Limbaugh was crass, over some 25,000 hours of the syndicated Limbaugh show, there were few embarrassments. And in cases where Limbaugh said something he regretted, he later apologized. He certainly could grow animated but seldom shouted and yelled. He talked about having talent “on loan from God” but could turn self-deprecatory and compliment callers for insights that he found original and noteworthy, saying, “I hadn’t thought of that.” He mocked identity politics but at work and in life often surrounded himself with talented people who were not white, and he seemed oblivious to any significance of that fact other than that he’d found friends and employees who were competent and whom he liked. He was a self-made multimillionaire many times over and proud of it, and yet felt and acted more comfortable with those of the Midwestern middle classes with whom he’d grown up.

Perhaps the best clue is that Limbaugh was never just a talk-show host at all. Or rather, he redefined the talk-radio three-hour format into something far more expansive than the critical arts of editorializing and answering impromptu listeners’ calls. In his prime role as unyielding conservative explicator of the daily news without the filters of the Washington and New York commentariat, he combined the jobs of entertainer, stand-up comedian, psychologist, impressionist, satirist, provocateur, therapist, and listener to the nation.

Yet ultimately his audience listened because he differentiated between two worlds. On one hand, he saw, with a skeptic’s eye, the cosmos of progressive and liberal translators who selectively edit the day’s events and massage their supposed importance to Americans, to present the news in line with liberals’ preconceived agendas — under the guise that such reporting was beyond reproach as professional, disinterested, and entirely based in facts. Limbaugh exploded all those pretenses.

But he also saw the other world that was never reported. He did not claim to be a traditional journalist or even an opinion journalist. Instead, he proudly assumed the mantle and collective voice of a conservative Everyman. Or maybe, more dramatically, his listeners saw him as an atoll of traditional sanity in a turbulent sea of postmodern madness. His forte was explaining why nominal conservatives were infected with a fatal virus of wanting to be liked by the “mainstream media” and the cultural elite — and thus often “grew” in office, moving leftward, as if they had become smarter and more sophisticated than those who had voted for them.

People tuned in because they knew in advance that Rush would not weaken or deviate, much less “transcend” them. There would be no faddish Limbaugh who renounced his prior personas and positions. So his listeners were reassured each day that they were not themselves crazy to express doubt about what the nation was told or instructed.

Rush Limbaugh speaks at the 2019 Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Fla., December 21, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)

The New York Times story picked up by their local paper, the NPR segment they heard in the car, and the commentary of the ABC, CBS, or NBC evening news anchors were rarely if at all the whole truth and anything but the truth. Limbaugh reminded them that what was purportedly the news was increasingly the output of a rather narrow slice of cocooned America between Washington, D.C., and New York City, offered up by affluent progressives (the “drive-bys”) who had come to believe that the media’s role was not to report events per se, but to do so in a way that would not only educate the otherwise blinkered American masses but would also improve them morally and make them redeemable spiritually.

Limbaugh did all that, day in and day out, without any sense of monotony or boredom, but with almost adolescent energy and excitement about just talking to America each day. He never dialed it in. And his audience knew it.

Limbaugh himself knew his listeners, not just by class or locale, but through a shared skepticism about the values of coastal America and its inability to show any correlation between proven excellence and an array of letters after one’s name or name-dropping on a résumé. Does anyone think that a professor of journalism, a Washington pundit, a network anchor, a Senate elder, a president, or even a late-night TV host could host 30 hours of the Limbaugh show without losing most of the audience?

He was the Midwestern college drop-out who had bounced around among jobs before he found his natural place. Through that experience, he posed an ancient Euripidean question, “What is wisdom?” The answer was found in many of his targets: academics, editorialists, celebrities, journalists, government functionaries, and politicos whose bromides Limbaugh made ridiculous, and he instructed millions on how and why their ideas made no sense in a real world beyond their enclaves. Rush was hated by the Left supposedly for his politically incorrect -isms and -ologies; in truth, it was because he so often made them look ridiculous.

Limbaugh sounded sane when giddy Stanford grad and Rhodes scholar Rachel Maddow enthused about Robert Mueller’s daily walls-are-closing-in bombshells — much as farmer and Cal Poly graduate Devin Nunes wrote the truth in his House Intelligence Committee majority report while Harvard Law graduate Adam Schiff’s nose grew in his minority-report reply, and in the way that supposedly idiotic wheeler-dealer Donald Trump energized the economy after Ivy League sophisticate Barack Obama said it would require a magic wand.

In response to Rush Limbaugh’s announcement that he has advanced lung cancer, millions voiced sympathy, support — and shock. Last week, millions asked, “What are Rush’s chances?” The correct answer might be, “Not good — if it was anyone but Rush.”

Yet one who can create national talk radio ex nihilo can similarly beat toxic malignancy. His listeners seemed worried not just over Rush’s health but about their own equally ominous future of the day’s events without him.

May that day be far off.

By Victor Davis Hanson, NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump. @vdhanson


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