Reading Is Fundamental – Especially In Politics

As a child of the 70’s and 80’s I have vivid memories of being in school and attending book fairs where we would get to select books, buy them and take them home to add to our libraries. It was an effort associated with the well-known non-profit organization Reading Is Fundamental, the largest advocate for children’s literacy in the world. I am happy to say that it had the desired effect on me. To this day I continue to purchase books regularly, mostly hardcover if I can find them, to which the multitude of stacks around my house can attest. As the organizations name suggests, reading is absolutely fundamental. It allows us to learn and understand complex issues and formulate opinions based on the knowledge we gain.

Since I began studying politics, I have jokingly held the suspicion that many Democratic Representatives are not reading the Bills that they co-sponsor and vote for. If they had, how could they possibly vote for some of the legislation we have seen recently in regard to abortion rights? You can imagine my horror this week when I learned that my suspicion was correct.

Dawn Adams (VA-D) apologized this week to her constituents for co-sponsoring HB 2491 in the Virginia General Assembly that was fortunately defeated by the Republicans. The Bill would have allowed for an abortion to be conducted in the third trimester with only a single physician to certify the abortion. Even if the expecting mother was already in active labor. In the letter she sent out she admitted that she had not read the Repeal Act when she agreed to co-sponsor it. Of her grievous error in judgment Ms. Adams said, “I vaguely remember signing on to this, and I did this in solidarity with my colleague and as a symbolic gesture for a woman’s right to choose.”.

Is that the status quo for co-sponsoring a Bill? Vague recollection and solidarity with others who have already signed? As my father used to say, “If your friends jumped off a bridge – would you?”. Sadly, it appears Ms. Adams did exactly that and jumped to her potential political demise all due to her not taking the time to do the most basic task – reading.

A similar Bill was passed in New York that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law last month. How many people who voted in favor of the Bill that legalized infanticide up to the moment of birth read it? If they did read the Bill, then perhaps the question we should be asking is how could the self-declared party of morality pass such an immoral law?

It reminds me of another example where reading the legislation was not as important as getting it passed. Of course, I am referring to the Affordable Care Act to which then House Minority Leader Sen. Nancy Pelosi (CA-D) said “…we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it…”. Fortunately, it appears now that newly appointed Speaker Pelosi has had a change of heart in that regard.

The Democratic controlled House has proposed new Senate Rules under House Resolution 6 where the legislative text must be made publicly available for a full 72 hours before it is considered in the House. It seems to be common sense, right? Sen. Rand Paul (KY-R) supported a similar rule in 2010 in the Read the Bills Act. So, if Democrats now support it and historically so have Republicans – why is this rule not already in place? For all the talk of common-sense gun laws it seems ironic that we do not have common sense rules allowing time to read proposed legislation?

Questions like this matter and deserve to be answered. They matter as all political questions do. Politics is the legal extension of our morality through the legislation we pass. If we cannot preserve our morality in that way, then what hope is there for the soul of our nation? As Charles Krauthammer wrote in the introduction to his book Things That Matter, “Politics is the moat, the walls, beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns.”.

Perhaps those Representatives responsible for proposing and passing the legislation we have seen over the past few weeks should have read those words. It could be the morality of our nation that is destined to burn should we continue to pass laws such as these.

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New Year, New Congress

It’s New Years Eve 2018 and the government is in its tenth day of a partial shutdown over border security funding.

President Trump is requesting $5 billion in order to build sections of the wall, or fencing depending on who you ask, increased technology and border patrol agents. The Democrats are perfectly willing to give up $1.3 billion for fencing and other border security provisions, but no funding for a wall. Should the president hold true to his word the absence of that noun would render any spending bill to be proposed by Congress this week to be denied upon receipt. The question is if the president is willing to take the risk of denying the Democrats proposal. With that answer comes the answer to how much he is willing to give up in order to fund the government and have it reopen as well.

But why now? Why has it taken two years for the president and Republicans in Congress to finally take a stand on border security and wall funding? After all, building the wall was a staple of the president’s campaign and was a key issue that contributed to him winning the election. The reason is simple – the Republicans and the president have run out of time.

In just two short days the 116th Congress will convene for the first time on January 3rd, 2019 thus propelling President Trump’s administration into a two year “lame duck” session until 2020.  Democratic leaders have already announced a proposal that they are pushing to vote on this coming Thursday to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year save Homeland Security. They will only be funded through February 8th which will include the aforementioned $1.3 billion for fencing but no funding for a wall. The goal of this proposal is to see just how far President Trump is willing to go in his fight for funding a wall.

The irony here is that the Democrats are now opposing what they have already voted for several times in the past. There are multiple videos and news stories from 2006 where Democrats supported the same type of border security measures being discussed today. In fact 23 other Democrats along with then Senator Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. In re-reading the Secure Fence Act of 2006 it seems to echo exactly what President Trump and the Republicans are seeking today. More fencing along the Southern border (I.e. a wall or barrier), more vehicle barriers, checkpoints, lighting, advanced technology like cameras, satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles to reinforce our infrastructure at the border. You can hear Kellyanne Conway state exactly that during a recent CNN interview.

Historically speaking funding border security is not a partisan issue. It never has been. $60 million was allocated according to the DHS in 2009 in the form of grants to fund Operation Stonegarden for border States. That same year there was in excess of $106 million more set aside for Southwest border security measures, again per the DHS website. Time and again both Democrats and Republicans have voted for funding for border security. To take a broader approach if you consider an estimate of $4.4 trillion Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget the $5 billion President Trump is asking for border security is a fraction of 1% of the overall budget. It’s essentially nothing in the grand scheme of things.

So why are the Democrats opposed now?  In a word – politics.  They simply cannot stomach giving the president a win when it comes to one of his key campaign promises.  Even if they claim victory in that whatever is built it is not called a wall in any bill or budget package they vote in favor of.  At the end of the day, they can say President Trump didn’t get his wall and that, it seems, is more important than anything else – even securing our country.

Semantics are the name of the game in Washington D.C. to the detriment and frustration of the American people. With a Democrat controlled House coming into session it can be expect that we will see much more of the same over the next two years. That is if they don’t spend all their time with investigations and repeated attempts to impeach the president. Either way there seems to be little hope for any political wins on the agenda of President Trump in the near future. That is certain.

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A Court of Law VS. The Court of Public Opinion

This is still America.

Though it is not the America I think of when I think of pride, patriotism and love of country.  That America I equate with my Grandfather’s generation and the actions they took during World War II.  It was a simpler time, as they say.  A more honorable time, I say.  A time that I greatly desire to see come again.  We saw glimpses of that same America after 9/11, so I know that America still lives in us somewhere.  And I want to believe we are slowly moving towards it again.  However, there is something missing that we need back if we are to ever truly get back to that America again.

In the America of the past we would act on a matter because it was the right thing to do.  We did not make decisions because they were politically advantageous.  Instead we would look to a higher place.  A place no longer allowed in the schools of our ‘civilized society’ for fear of offense to another.  A place that was our guiding moral principles and where we drew our strength from as a nation.  A place that was such an innate part of our lives throughout our history that our Founding Fathers wove it into our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence as the foundation of our country.  A place we would turn to time and again to serve as our guiding star – our ‘True North’ – when all hope seemed to be lost.

Or at least we used too.

Take for example Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States.  The accusations of Dr. Ford with no supporting evidence or corroborating witnesses would have been thrown out in every court of law in our nation.  But that is not the case in the court of public opinion.  It is there where it matters not what you can prove with facts and evidence.  The accused has no rights above those seeking social justice and not justice.

They cannot defend themselves with facts and logic unless they first acknowledge the accusers’ pain and their right to feel however it is they feel.  Even if those feelings are unfounded and implicate you in a potential criminal act.  In the court of public opinion, it only matters what emotional response you can evoke from the jury and that those emotions mirror those of the accuser for a conviction.  To those seeking social justice, feelings do not care about your facts.  Sorry, Ben Shapiro.

After all, social justice is not the same as justice.  It does not exist in the black and white world of right and wrong.  It lives in the misty grey hues of feelings and emotions that our elders have always cautioned us never to make decisions upon them alone.  And with good reason.

SCOTUS_Equal Justice Under The LawIn a court of law, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  In the court of public opinion, the burden of proof of innocence is now the responsibility of the accused and is much more difficult to quantify.  Any unwillingness on the part of the accused to defend themselves by denying the accusations or attempts to discredit the accuser is viewed as evidence of guilt and not innocence.  You only have to look at the nomination of Kavanaugh and how it has been halted by unfounded accusations to see that truth play out in reality.

America has lost its moral compass.  We are no longer able to see our ‘True North’ through the fog of social justice.  The faith we once had in our religious convictions reflected in the faith we had in each other and as a nation.  Without the principals that once guided our Founding Fathers and subsequently my Grandfather’s generation we have left ourselves with no foundation on which to firmly stand.  It was our faith in God and the teachings of the Bible that gave us a firm and clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong.  It is because of our inability to root ourselves in the belief of something greater than ourselves that we now default to emotional responses to answer some of life’s most difficult questions.  Questions that should only be answered and acted upon with the truth dictating right over wrong.

Norman Doidge wrote the Foreword of Dr. Jordan Peterson’s most recent book 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos.  In that foreword he talks about the complexity of life and how the Bible is essentially a set of rules for us to live by to avoid becoming slaves to our passions.  When left to our own devices we tend to gravitate towards the things that make us feel good instead of what makes us good people.  This is where Doidge makes a point that stuck out to me.  He wrote,

One neat thing about the Bible story is that it doesn’t simply list its rules, as lawyers or legislators or administrators might; it embeds them in a dramatic tale that illustrates why we need them, thereby making them easier to understand.

To me this suggests that faith in God and attempting to live by His example as told by the Bible has less to do with the supernatural implications of religion and simply means that you strive to live by a set of rules that when followed are generally accepted as ‘good’.

It is by no means my position that should you not believe in God that it is impossible for you to be a good person and live a good life.  What I am suggesting is that historically speaking when we as a nation would face adversity, as my Grandfather’s generation did and as did our Founding Fathers, we would look to a higher place for guidance.  In doing so they often clearly saw the right thing to do and would follow that path with an unstoppable conviction.  A conviction founded in the belief that they were doing the right thing for the right reasons in the eyes of God.  To them there was no greater calling or purpose in life and they viewed that responsibility as an honor.

To this very day when you are called to testify in a court of law, you are sworn in and put under oath – your oath – to tell the truth.  You are placed under your oath by raising your right hand, placing your left on the Bible and vowing to tell the truth – so help you God.  We do this because as a nation we were founded on the principles held so dearly by our Founding Fathers that came from their faith in God.  That any oath taken in the name of God is to be viewed as the truth as though you were speaking to Him on your day of judgement.

It’s fascinating to me that despite being under oath in a court of law people often times do not believe the testimony provided.  Yet, in the court of public opinion no such oath is taken but those accusations and charges are taken at face value and treated as ‘gospel’ without any evidence to support them or witnesses testifying to their validity.  The irony is not lost on me, I assure you – but what does that say to you about the state of our society today?

There is a reason why my Grandfather’s generation is referred to as ‘the greatest generation to have lived’.  It’s because they knew right from wrong, saw the injustices in the world and our own country, rolled up their sleeves and got to work correcting them.  America’s past is not without its imperfections – no nation that has ever risen to power is.  But as has been stated by others more intelligent than I, what makes America so great is the fact that we took steps to correct those injustices and acknowledged our faults.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if more people from both sides of the isle did that today?  How do I get that on the docket for the court of public opinion?

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“Common Sense Gun Laws” According To The Left

During political debates/discussions on Twitter and Facebook I have a tendency to befriend those who are on the opposite political spectrum. Especially those who are capable of having a conversation without devolving into name calling and can actually articulate their point of view with intellect and dignity. Recently I have made two new friends who I respect and enjoy discussing issues with. Recently one such new friend on Facebook that I made during a discussion on my cousins page posted a video from “Now This Op-Ed” video on where they discuss what they believe are the dumbest arguments against gun laws.

I watched the video and responded basically saying that we have a constitutional right to defend ourselves with the use of firearms if we so choose. I pointed out the recent shootings in Florida and at the YouTube headquarters were mostly due to law enforcement and the FBI not enforcing existing laws or acting on multiple tips. In the case of the church shooter here in Texas a few months back it was the failure of the Air Force to properly update the NICS database that allowed him to purchase a firearm. My argument is simply that we need to enforce the laws we currently have and our agencies who exist only to protect us need to do a better job.

I then received a quite lengthy response that went over the standard arguments when it comes to gun control discussions.

  • Congress made it illegal for CDC/NIH to study gun violence
  • Gun vs Vehicle debate from the right is ridiculous and not a valid argument
  • The Second Amendment is “antiquated” and was written when muskets were the latest gun technology
  • 20 Veterans die per day by suicide using guns
  • You are morally corrupt if you don’t support “common sense gun control laws” (aka – a gun ban)

PageNotFound_Collage_06 APR 2018To their credit they did included several links to support their argument, but as you can see in the image here – the first three links they gave were “Page Not Found” errors. The remaining links I did my due diligence and read through the articles as to then respond to the points that were made. I did so with an open mind and hoping to find some data that supported their argument and would shed some light on another side of the discussion that I was unaware of.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Below is my unedited response to their Facebook Post. I’m leaving it unedited because there were some snarky comments that we both made and in full disclosure/honesty here – I wanted that to be included. I admit. I’m not perfect and will at times engage in snark as well in my responses. Call me human, I suppose. But I do want to point out that even though we may have strong views and make them with a touch of condescension to each other – I believe I am right in saying on behalf of the person involved here that it is done so in jest, with no malicious intent behind it and not an attempt to belittle or offend the other. You should know the person involved in this conversation is quite literally a scholar on American history and has been politically active their entire lives since high school, so I respect their opinion greatly and am very glad to have met them and am afforded the opportunity to have these types of discussions.

Lastly, I want to clarify a few points before you read my response.

First of all, the local and Federal law enforcement agencies are tasked with an unimaginably difficult task when it comes to enforcing gun laws and protecting citizens. My comments are in no way an attack on them or a indication of my lack of respect or support for them. I assure you it is quite the opposite. I have great respect for those who literally put on a gun everyday to go to work and put their lives on the line for people they don’t even know. I have friends and former classmates who are officers, detectives and Texas State Troopers and am grateful to them all for their dedication and the work they do.

Second, the veteran suicide rate mentioned below is appalling. It is a reflection of our failure to provide them with the resources and programs needed for those fortunate enough to return home from combat after defending our nation. Many of these men and women volunteered at the age of 18 and wrote a blank check payable to the United States for up to and including their lives in order to defend our citizens, our Constitution and our way of life. They are hero’s who deserve the best care we as a nation have to offer and they are not receiving it. That is a shame that we as a nation need to address immediately.

With that said – I submit to you my original, unedited response below. I have not received a response to it yet and it has been just over 24hrs since I posted it, but it was their birthday yesterday so I am certain they will respond in due time once the festivities have subsided.

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In good faith I tried to read the articles you linked starting at the top on down. The WSJ, Politico and NYT links (the first three) are all “No Page Found” – so can’t address those.

However, you claim that it is illegal for the CDC/NIH to research gun violence is not true.

The CDCs ability to study gun violence was limited in 1996 by an amendment that simply stated it cannot collect data to advocate for gun control. That was it. President Obama signed an order in 2013 directing the CDC to resume research but they only have done so in a limited fashion. President Trump’s new HHS Secretary Alez Azar is advocating for the research to continue and move forward as well – so the premise that it is illegal for the CDC or NIH to study gun violence is, again – not true.

To your point about SUV’s/vehicles – I used that point because vehicles are an active threat the moment you begin driving. That hunk of steel is moving forward at a velocity most often greater than 40mph, which can be lethal to a pedestrian if you do not control it. My firearm secured to my hip in its concealed carry holster is not an active threat to anyone. I would have to draw and aim my weapon for it to be an active threat. So there in lies the validity of the argument as far as I am concerned. My opinion though, feel free to disagree.

The Second Amendment guarantees me the right to defend myself with the use of a firearm if I choose too. It’s that simple. There is no exceptional status here at play.

I love how passive aggressive your writing is when you say “Justice Stevens is among a minority of informed Americans who want to repeal the 2nd amendment”.

It would seem based on your argument preceding that sentence that you are not educated in firearms nor the history of them, and obviously Justice Stevens is not either if that is his stance regarding it being written in the time of muskets being the most advanced weaponry in existence.

The argument that it was written when Muskets that took +6 seconds to reload and were the most advanced weapons at the time is not true.

The Belton Flintlock could fire up to 20 rounds in a matter of seconds. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belton_flintlock) George Washington originally commissioned 100 of these rifles, though the government never purchased them.

The Girandoni air rifle was designed in 1779 and was used on it’s use of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It had a 20 round gravity fed magazine and the weapon could fire accurately up to 125yds at a high rate of fire (approx. 30 seconds to fire 20 rounds). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girandoni_air_rifle).

There is also the Puckle Gun that was made about 60yrs before the Revolutionary War that was essentially a gatlin style gun. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puckle_gun)

The founding fathers who wrote the Second Amendment were well aware of advances being made in firearms in their own time and had no misconceptions that firearm technology would continue to advance. Yet, they put no limitation on the definition of firearm – for that very reason. So the people could have the most recent and modern technologically advanced firearms available so as to never be at a disadvantage.

The argument you give regarding a gun in your home not making you more safe is, from what I read of your links, mostly opinion mixed with some facts. Truth is it is relative to the owner and for them to decide. I certainly feel better knowing I am no longer at a disadvantage should someone with a firearm break into my home. The trouble I have with the articles you linked is that I haven’t found the data sets they used in their research. As I am sure you are aware the “definition” as to what constitutes a “mass shooting” is not clearly defined and those seeking to prove a point often skew the data. The FBI standard to define a mass shooting is +4 deaths. Yet CNN and other news sources have touted evidence in the past that the data they used was +6 in order to show that the gun ban in the 90’s had a positive impact and decreased the number of gun massacres – which is based on skewed data to support their claim. (you can see the graphic in this Washington Post article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/its-time-to-bring…/… )

In regards to the death rate of the US vets, you said it yourself – they are suicides. So is that a condemnation of firearms or the lack of support, care and available resources that those men and women have earned by serving our country that we are failing to provide? The children statistic I could not find anything on, so would like to see your information on that if you can link it, please.

Lastly, read what I wrote on my website last week – especially the part at the bottom where the FBI statistics come into play regarding murders by firearms and incidents deferred or prevented by law abiding citizens who used their firearms. You’ll see that incidents deterred or prevented outnumber those killed by 5 to 1 margin.

https://statecraftobserver.com/…/john-paul-stevens-and…/

We have rational gun safety laws in existence today. Again, I say we need to enforce them and ensure the agencies responsible for enforcing them do their jobs and have the ability to do their jobs.

Biden The Bully?

At a University of Miami event for college Democrats, Joe Biden made reference (again) to taking President Donald Trump to task and beating him up for his “locker room talk” circa the Access Hollywood released video/audio with Billy Bush.

But only if they were back in high school.

Does that make it okay?

I seem to recall President Trump catching a lot of flack over what the Democrats viewed as advocating for violence against those with opposing political views at his campaign rallies.  The cries were loud enough to warrant a SNOPES.COM “fact check” of the issue.  You can read that article here.

SPOILER ALERT:  They said it’s “TRUE

I encourage you to read the article if you have the time.  If you do you will see that then candidate Trump was not blatantly calling for violence just for the sake of violence.  In all cases it was a response to a Democratic protester who started assaulting those in attendance of the Trump rallies.  The comments typically were made while he was pausing his speech in order to allow security to subdue and remove the violent “protesters”.  In the instance where then candidate Trump said he would punch the assailant it was in response to someone who tried to rush the stage at him and the Secret Service had to subdue and remove them as well.

I had this very discussion on Twitter back on 07 MAR 2018.  You can see a graphic that I made that captures the conversation if you click here.  I pretty much make the same argument as I just did above, but those involved in the discussion went on to claim criminality in the statements.  Their argument is that assault is against the law and those who advocate for it should suffer the penalties as if they conducted the actions themselves.

Hmmm…I wonder if they feel the same about Joe Biden’s comments?  I’ll be sure to tag them in this post and hopefully they will respond.

It seems that the liberal media beacon CNN seems to disagree with them, however – as you can see in the segment below.

Chris Cilliza referred Joe Biden’s comments as nothing more than “bravado”.  Then he goes on to say:

“…that there is absolutely a strain of thought in the Democratic Party that you have to stand up to the bully.”

He then continues on and finally comes to the point I actually agree with.  That being that there was absolutely nothing that Joe Biden could have said at that event that the Democratic base would disagree with.  There is nothing “too negative” about President Trump for the Democratic base.  His belief is that the Democratic Party as a whole didn’t stand up to the bully (i.e. President Trump) enough and that is how he won the presidency.  Forget the fact that you had an awful candidate in Hillary Clinton.  That had nothing to do with it evidently.

According to what Cilliza says in this piece, the Democrats lost because they didn’t stand up to the bully.

So why is it okay for Democrats to “stand up to the bully” and advocate violence in this manner, but it is somehow not okay for then candidate Trump to do the same and stand up to the “protestors” who were attempting to assault him and who were actually assaulting those people who attended his rallies?

It is yet again another frustrating example of what is okay for one side is not okay for the other side and is viewed as a moral sin against humanity.  An evil that we must smite at all costs. I’m certain we will see some form of this moral virtue signaling as we move closer to the 2018 mid-term elections.  I don’t see any other solid political ground they are making their campaigns on other than the “Anti-Trump” platform – so why not?

The Democratic Party simply does not understand that by doing this they are losing their supposed moral high ground.  It may even lead to them losing something more tangible in the mid-terms, though – as in seats in the House and Senate.

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McCabe Fired Days Before Retirement By AG Sessions

This is the story I was watching off and on this week.  As it drew closer and closer to Friday with no indication one way or the other what Attorney General Sessions would decide, I assumed that no news meant McCabe likely would retire and get his pension.  There would likely be some grumbling by Republicans, but other than that it would fade out of the news cycle relatively quickly.

I’m happy to say I was wrong.

I understand the optics here are not great because of the past years tensions between AG Sessions and President Trump.  That ultimately should have held no bearing on the decision and based on the decision made – it didn’t.  Of course the President will be satisfied with the decision, but that wasn’t the point.  The right thing to do in this situation was to follow the facts and evidence provided by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz along with considering the recommendation of Office of Professional Responsibility.   Whatever side of the aisle you claim your allegiance to, this was the right thing for AG Sessions to do.

The key thing to remember is that the IG, Michael E. Horowitz, is an Obama Era Administration official.  Additionally the recommendation to fire McCabe came from the OPR – not the OIG.  The head of the OIG is another Obama Era appointee Robin Ashton.  These are not appointees by President Trump that the Democrats can claim are proving their loyalty in order to dismiss the recommendations.  It also makes it difficult to float the idea that this is part of a proposed war against the FBI, law enforcement and intelligence professionals as McCabe would lead you to believe in his statement.

Unfortunately the OIG report has not been made public yet, so it is impossible to know for certain what evidence they have to support the firing.  But there was obviously enough evidence in both reports to support McCabes dismissal.  The statement by AG Sessions indicated the reason for firing McCabe was for making “unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.“.  The OPR appears to concur with this assessment in their disciplinary proposal by saying “all FBI employees know that lacking candor under oath results in dismissal and that our integrity is our brand.”

The fact that the recommendation from the OPR after reading the OIG report was to fire McCabe, one can assume there is a strong case for serious wrongdoing – if not serious legal repercussions.

Democrats are quick to point out the alleged success to date of the Muller investigation by touting the guilty pleas of lying to the FBI by George Papadopolous and Michael Flynn, so I would struggle to understand how they could disagree with holding Andrew McCabe to the same standards.  I would also like to hear them explain why they would not trust the OIG or OPR in their assessment of disciplinary actions given who gave their appointments.

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Photo Credit:  Photo by: Alex Brandon
FILE – In this June 7, 2017 file photo, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)