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Sunday, August 1, 2021
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Andrew C. McCarthy


When ‘Terrorists’ Aren’t Terrorists: The Danger of Twisting Words to Suit Our Politics

Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges testifies during the opening hearing of the U.S. House (Select) Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2021. (Jim Bourg/Pool/Reuters) The Capitol-riot probe offers only the latest instance — civil discourse is dying because we’ve given up seeking objective truth. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T here are some truths we grasp innately. Others are just truths about words — things that are true because of the way we define them. Let nature take its course, and a pack of dogs will sort itself into the dominant and submissive roles. But a private is not the lowest-ranking soldier by nature. He is subordinate by definition — we’ve defined private as the lowest rank. This distinction is common in the law. In fact, in the criminal law, the distinction touches on the nature of evil itself. We draw a categorical line between malum in se and malum prohibitum, …

COVID-19 Exposes a Crisis of Representative Government

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris receive an update on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as they visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga., March 19, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters) The CDC is issuing the guidance that presumes to run our lives. But no one elected the CDC to anything. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE F or a time back in the aughts, our big national debate centered on who should run national-security policy in wartime. The who question is about accountability, without which our constitutional system cannot function. The legitimacy of a democratic republic for a free, self-determining people ultimately depends on a transparent line: decisionmakers who answer to the people whose lives are impacted by those decisions. The system was fraying then, but it is disintegrating now. That is a crisis. Not merely a COVID-19 crisis, but a crisis of representative government itself. At the turn of the century, in the years after the 9/11 attacks, …

Cuomo Still Faces a DOJ Investigation — but the Real Action Is the State AG’s Probe

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks from the One World Trade Center Tower in New York City, June 15, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters) Don’t hold your breath waiting for Biden appointees to charge the governor. Well, Friday news dumps are back. Last Friday, besides dropping cases on suspected Chinese spies, the Biden Justice Department quietly indicated, in a letter to some congressional Republicans, that it would not proceed with a civil-rights investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of COVID-19 patients in public nursing homes. New York was not the only state affected by this announcement. There are at least three other states that were under scrutiny. According to Yahoo News, the civil-rights investigations involving Michigan and Pennsylvania have also been closed; the probe of New Jersey’s handling of patients at two nursing homes remains open. There is some confusion about what this means. That’s not surprising. Although there are multiple federal and state investigations of Cuomo’s administration, there have been no formal civil lawsuits or criminal charges filed, so we’ve been relying from the start on press reporting that is often based on anonymous sources. That is why I tried to sort out what the state of play appeared to be back in February . . . and there have been new developments since then, such as the inquiries into special COVID-testing treatment for Cuomo family members and cronies; Cuomo’s book; and Cuomo’s manipulation of a state medical report. In any event, the decision to drop the civil-rights investigation does not mean the Justice Department is no longer examining Cuomo’s handling of the nursing homes. The investigation that has been aborted was a civil inquiry run mainly by DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, which has jurisdiction over enforcement of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). It does not look like that investigation got much past the preliminary stage. Relatedly, it appears that there was also an angle being looked at by DOJ’s Civil Division (which is different from the Civil Rights Division). It involved, not the treatment of persons covered by CRIPA, but the question of whether there was False Claims Act liability based on the suspected provision by the state to the feds of false information about nursing-home COVID cases. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db7fdc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db7fdc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db7fdc { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db7fdc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db8301 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db8301 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db8301 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db8301 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db844f .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db844f .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db844f { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db844f .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db856b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db856b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db856b { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ff3c6db856b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Both of those threads were civil in nature. That is, if the Justice Department had proceeded with a full-blown investigation and eventually decided to take legal action, that action would have been in the form of a civil lawsuit against the state or some component of the state government. Besides that, however, there has reportedly also been a criminal investigation, focused mainly on the question of whether the Cuomo administration made false statements to the federal government, obstructed a federal investigation, or engaged in any kind of actionable fraud. That investigation is being run by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY — the federal prosecutor for matters arising in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island), which is working in conjunction with the FBI. This criminal investigation is separate from the investigation of potential civil liability under CRIPA and the False Claims Act. Importantly, DOJ’s announcement on Friday affects only the latter. There is no indication that the EDNY/FBI criminal investigation has been dropped. That said, let’s be realistic. My own intuition is that pigs will fly before the Biden administration takes any action against the Cuomo administration — and, indeed, that the chance of a civil suit was marginally better than that of any criminal indictment. The criminal investigation was opened months ago by Seth DuCharme, then the Trump-appointed acting U.S. attorney for EDNY. DuCharme has since gone back to private practice. In mid March, the Biden Justice Department announced that Mark J. Lesko had been appointed as the EDNY’s acting U.S. attorney. The administration soon decided to make Lesko head of DOJ’s National Security Division; thus, on June 21, a new acting U.S. attorney was sworn in, Jacquelyn Kasulis. I would not hold my breath waiting for Biden appointees to charge Cuomo or the governor’s subordinates. As I’ve maintained from the start, if any meaningful action is going to be taken, it will be by New York state authorities — and, specifically, by Attorney General Letitia James. (The state assembly’s “impeachment investigation” is a sham.) People around the country don’t always get this, but what really matters these days in New York (where the Republican Party barely has a pulse) is not the partisan Republican–Democratic divide, but the internecine rivalry between the Democrats’ mainstream and its woke progressives. The latter would be delighted to oust Cuomo, and James is said to be weighing a run for his job. In fact, two Saturdays ago (July 17), Cuomo was grilled behind closed doors by the outside investigators James appointed to investigate the sexual-harassment allegations made against him by several women. That doesn’t mean anything will necessarily happen. Cuomo remains a very powerful figure in the Empire State. Significantly, he has appointed or supported many of the state’s judges — the judiciary would obviously be a big factor if legal action were taken against the governor. Bottom line: The Justice Department’s Friday announcement does not end all federal investigation of Governor Cuomo. But it is highly unlikely (to say the least) that the EDNY investigation will result in any charges. The real action is in the state — and, specifically, in AG James’s probe.

Whitmer-Kidnap Case Enters ‘Entrapment’ Phase

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a news conference after thirteen people, including seven men associated with the Wolverine Watchmen militia group, were arrested for alleged plots to take Whitmer hostage and attack the state capitol building, in Lansing, Mich., October 8, 2020. (Michigan Governor's office/Handout via Reuters) But do the Wolverine Watchmen militia members have a valid claim? NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W  hat would it take to entice you to commit a mass-murder attack? I wouldn’t have bet on it, but I did actually get to pose that question once. It was about 25 years ago, speaking to the jury at the end of the Blind Sheikh trial. I’d first gotten involved in the investigation nearly three years earlier, a few weeks after the World Trade Center was bombed in February 1993 … but well before we would finally arrest jihadists in flagrante delicto, mixing explosives in a Queens safehouse — explosives they were planning to detonate in the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, …

Pelosi’s Capitol-Riot-Probe Power Play Saves Republicans from Themselves

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters) The House speaker has given GOP lawmakers legitimate cause to boycott a process in which they were poised to embarrass themselves defending President Trump. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE D emocrats will live to regret House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperious rejection of two zealously pro-Trump Republican picks to serve on the select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot. Pelosi is saving Republicans from themselves. As I’ve argued, it is not in the GOP’s interest to be perceived to be defending President Trump’s actions in connection with the riot. That is exactly the position in which Republicans were prepared to put themselves, though, because Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy continues to curry favor with Trump. After high-tailing it to Bedminster, N.J., for consultations at the former president’s summer digs, McCarthy announced the selection …

University of Indiana’s Vaccine Mandate Upheld by Federal Court

Emergency Room Physician Steven Roumpf MD receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at Indiana University Health, Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Ind., December 16, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters) The judge ruled that the students’ right to refuse vaccination is not fundamental. A federal court has effectively green-lighted the University of Indiana’s mandate that students be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend classes in person and participate in campus life. Judge Damon R. Leichty, a Trump appointee to the district court (in the Northern District of Indiana), denied an injunction sought by several students who object to the vaccine mandate. In a thorough 101-page ruling dated Sunday, Judge Leichty acknowledged that the university — a public institution that receives hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding and whose board of trustees is established by state law — is a public institution. Ergo, it is legally deemed an arm of the state, whose actions must conform to constitutional limits, including those imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The core questions in the case are thus whether there is a federal right to bodily integrity and medical privacy that includes refusing to submit to vaccination, and if so, what level of scrutiny must a state satisfy in order to impose a vaccination requirement despite this right. The court concluded that there is a substantive due-process right to refuse. Nevertheless, while the right is important, it is not fundamental. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f53179bb8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f53179bb8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f53179bb8 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f53179bb8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f53179eff .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f53179eff .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f53179eff { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f53179eff .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f5317a061 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f5317a061 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f5317a061 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f5317a061 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f5317a191 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f5317a191 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f5317a191 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f5f5317a191 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } This is a crucial distinction. Fundamental rights may be infringed only if the state can satisfy “strict scrutiny” analysis — a demanding test that calls for the state to show that it has a compelling interest in regulating and that the mandate it has ordered is the least restrictive alternative capable of vindicating that interest. By contrast, rights not deemed fundamental are assessed under the much more forgiving “rational basis” review — in which the state simply has to show that it has a legitimate interest in regulating and that its mandate is rationally related to achieving that legitimate objective. In finding that the university had a wide berth to require vaccinations, Judge Leichty relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s 1905 decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which upheld a smallpox-vaccine mandate (under which those who refused to comply were fined $5 — about $140 in today’s dollars), finding that states have a critical interest in protecting the public from potentially deadly infectious diseases. While observing that Jacobson was decided before the Court developed its tiered review standards based on whether a right is considered fundamental, the judge observed that, in the ensuing decades, Jacobson has been relied on several times by higher courts, including the Supreme Court, to justify vaccine requirements and other public-health mandates. Leichty conceded that a number of prominent jurists, including Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, have suggested that too much weight has been given to Jacobson and cautioned that it should not be considered the last word on state power to infringe on individual rights. As if to prove this very point, the Supreme Court late last year ruled, in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, that New York’s severe coronavirus restrictions on attendance at religious services violated the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause. The state had rationalized its restrictions as necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19. Nevertheless, Judge Leichty distinguished Cuomo from Jacobson because, as the Court explained in the former, free exercise is unquestionably a fundamental right, and therefore New York had a higher burden (which it failed to meet) to justify restrictions and, importantly, to refrain from discriminating against religious institutions by imposing burdens more onerous than it imposes on commercial and other activities. In deciding Cuomo, the Court did not overrule Jacobson. Leichty thus reasoned that the two precedents can coexist because they apply to different situations, implicating different rights. Given that Jacobson is still the law with respect to the narrow situation it addresses — namely, a vaccination requirement to halt the spread of an infectious disease (albeit one considerably more deadly than COVID-19) — Leichty, as a lower-court judge, was bound to follow it. The court, moreover, noted that the university’s mandate prescribes exceptions based on religious objections and medical issues, as well as exempting students who attend classes remotely rather than on campus. The Indiana mandate thus defers to the religious-liberty interest that was violated in Cuomo. The South Bend Tribune reports that the students’ attorney is preparing to appeal. It is a high bar to obtain reversal of the denial of a preliminary injunction. The students would have to show that they are ultimately likely to succeed on the merits of the question, that they will sustain irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction, and that the balance between the public interest and the harms they allege weighs in their favor. This seems unlikely.

The Sinister Plot That Wasn’t: About That Hunter Biden Report

Hunter Biden attends his father Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Reuters) It would have been misconduct for the Justice Department to politicize the 2020 investigation. Has everyone noticed that it’s mid-July? It’s been over eight months since November 3. Over eight months during which Justice Department norms have not even remotely posed any impediment to the taking of public investigative steps — such as issuing subpoenas, executing search warrants, filing indictments, and making arrests — that could have the effect of influencing the outcome of an election. And yet, Hunter Biden, the president’s nettlesome son, has not been charged with a crime. There has been reporting that his lawyers have been advised that federal prosecutors are investigating potential tax charges. That was old news even when stories about it broke back in December. The fact that there have been liens on various Hunter Biden properties because of tax delinquencies has been known for years (see this report by NR’s Zachary Evans). Still, though an investigation led by the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware has been ongoing for close to two years (if not longer), no charges have been filed. I would thus avoid taking too seriously the seething in Trump World over a new Politico report that David Weiss, Delaware’s Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, decided last summer that his investigators should refrain from taking steps that would have drawn attention to their ongoing criminal investigation of Hunter — which Politico’s sources say is focused on possible tax crimes, though that has not been confirmed by government officials. (See our Caroline Downey’s report here.) Even if Weiss had greenlighted grand-jury subpoenas and search warrants as the Biden–Trump presidential race was heading for the stretch run, there is no reason to believe that Hunter would have been charged at that time. If there had been a case that was close to being ready for indictment last summer, we would have seen an indictment sometime in the last eight-plus months — which includes nearly three months during which the Trump administration still ran the Justice Department. I hesitate to invoke the so-called 60-day rule, because there isn’t one. As I’ve pointed out, there is, instead, a loose norm that, during the weeks right before an election, the Justice Department should, when practicable, avoid actions that could be perceived as interference in the democratic process. For the most part, the informal guidance is ill-conceived (which is why it’s never been a formal, hard-and-fast rule). It is always wrong for prosecutors to factor in politics when making enforcement decisions: Delaying action that would be taken in an ordinary case is just as wrong as taking rash action that could unfairly suggest guilt. Within reason, the best course is to investigate without worrying about the political calendar and let the chips fall where they may. When, as in Hunter Biden’s case, an investigation is ongoing but charges have not been brought, the only conceivable abuse of power would be a failure, out of political calculation, to file charges that should have been brought based on the state of the evidence and that would have been brought in an ordinary case. There is no reason to believe that happened in the 60 or so days prior to Election Day. If there had been a readily prosecutable case against Hunter between, say, August and November 2020, then Weiss would have indicted him at some point in the last nine months. Trump supporters are not really complaining about the failure to file a Hunter Biden indictment (though they’d love to see one). Their complaint is about the Justice Department’s supposed failure to publicize the Hunter Biden investigation in order to boost the Trump campaign in mid to late 2020. But the Justice Department is not supposed to be in the publicity-generating business. Its guidelines do not permit commentary about uncharged persons. That’s why it routinely refuses to confirm or deny the existence of investigations, even when the fact that a probe is under way is obvious. When we talk about DOJ taking “public” investigative actions, we are not saying that law-enforcement officials are intentionally publicizing their probes. Even when issuing subpoenas or executing search warrants, investigators are still not permitted to engage in media commentary about investigations in which no charges have been publicly filed. When we refer to subpoenas and warrants as “public” investigative steps, we are simply acknowledging that, unavoidably, such measures undermine investigative secrecy. There is no stopping private citizens (and their lawyers) from telling the press that they’ve received subpoenas or that their premises have been searched. That is why investigators customarily delay using those techniques until they’ve exhausted what can be accomplished under the radar (e.g., by using informants, undercover agents, wiretaps, or public-records checks). But even when “public” investigative measures are employed, the Justice Department must still avoid public commentary. We call it “leaking” when government officials talk to the press about ongoing probes (usually anonymously) because they’re not authorized to do that. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a280 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a280 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a280 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a280 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a51e .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a51e .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a51e { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a51e .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a683 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a683 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a683 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a683 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a788 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a788 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a788 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f32d7a6a788 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Trump apologists would have something to complain about if the Justice Department had a ripe Hunter Biden case that should have been charged but held off to avoid influencing the election. Their real gripe, however, boils down to this: Prosecutors should have taken actions that might have gotten the media talking about Biden family corruption. That is a specious complaint. It’s also a naïve one: The fact is, it did become publicly known before the election that there was a Hunter Biden investigation. The media-Democrat complex ignored it anyway. The issue here is biased press coverage, not law enforcement. The Justice Department is not permitted to publicize investigations solely for the political benefit of the party in power. On that score, remember the Democrats’ 2016 complaint. They were furious (and remain livid when the subject comes up) because the Justice Department, through the FBI’s then-director Jim Comey, publicized damning evidence from the Clinton emails investigation yet simultaneously kept the fact of the Trump-Russia investigation under wraps. To be sure, Democrats have selective memory about this. The Clinton emails caper resulted in a criminal investigation; the existence of such probes is legally deemed sensitive but not classified. It was inescapably public because it was referred to the Justice Department by the U.S. Intelligence Community’s inspector general, the FBI took public investigative steps, Comey was asked about the probe at oversight hearings, and Mrs. Clinton was asked about it by the media. The Trump-Russia “collusion” suspicions resulted in a counterintelligence investigation, and such probes are classified. Furthermore, the collusion bunk was largely a fabrication of the Clinton campaign, and the fact that it was being investigated was publicized by Democratic and intelligence sources — the CIA’s then-director John Brennan briefed it to the Senate’s then–minority leader Harry Reid, who publicized it via a letter to Comey; the Clinton campaign’s chief Trump-Russia fabulist, former British spy Christopher Steele, briefed the investigation to the media, which dutifully identified Steele as an anonymous “intelligence” source in the course of explaining that “U.S. intelligence officials” were investigating; and the Clinton campaign trumpeted these “revelations.” For present purposes, though, the point is that the Justice Department and FBI properly kept the counterintelligence investigation involving Trump quiet — indeed, unidentified “law enforcement officials” responded to the intelligence leaks by leaking, to the contrary, that the FBI had found no proof of Trump-Russia connections. By contrast, the Trump camp cheered when Comey was fired, in part based on a Justice Department finding that, in the Clinton investigation, he had violated protocols against speaking publicly about an investigation of a person who had not been charged with a crime. They cheered again when this finding was emphatically reaffirmed by DOJ’s inspector general. Moreover, as I explained in a recent column, it is highly likely that Trump would not have been (very narrowly) elected in 2016 if this misconduct had not occurred. Yet the current Trump complaint is that Justice Department officials failed to broadcast the fact that they were conducting a Hunter Biden investigation. You can’t have it both ways. Publicizing the investigation would have violated ethical and due-process rules that Republicans habitually claim to revere. It would have damaged any chance of ultimate prosecution (if there is a prosecutable case, which remains unclear). And it would not have helped Trump because there’s no reason to believe the media — which was zealously suppressing the New York Post’s reporting about explosive information on Hunter’s computer hard drives — would have given the matter much attention. I observed in the run-up to the election that the Trump campaign’s problem on this score was its own political malpractice, not a lack of enforcement action by the Justice Department and FBI. Tax cases can be very complex, especially when the subject has gotten expert legal advice; they take a long time to develop. Corruption cases are hard for prosecutors to make, in part because politicians write the laws under which politically connected people are investigated, and in part because of Supreme Court jurisprudence. If investigations involve foreign streams of payments, the evidence takes a long time to obtain, and often it cannot be acquired because hostile regimes do not cooperate with American investigators (particularly if they are complicit in the corruption being probed). More to the point, while it is deeply unsavory and should be politically disqualifying, there are many instances in which it is not a crime for family members to cash in on the influence of powerful politicians. There are too many nod-and-wink ways to pull it off without running afoul of the penal laws. Recall, furthermore, that Joe Biden was not in political office (though he was obviously preparing to run for president) when some of the worst Biden family influence-peddling occurred (albeit not all of it — Hunter taxied on Air Force 2 to cut some of his lucrative foreign deals, and there is increasing evidence that Joe Biden, while vice president, had meetings with several of Hunter’s business collaborators). The argument Trump needed to make in the 2020 campaign was a simple political one: It seems that whenever President Obama gave Vice President Biden a point-man role in steering U.S. foreign policy respecting some problematic regime — e.g., Ukraine, China, or Russia — people tied to the regime suddenly decided it was in their interest to pay Hunter Biden goo-gobs of money. That is fetid political corruption, regardless of whether it is legally actionable corruption. By bleating over the purported failure of the Justice Department to make arrests, rather than relentlessly making the straightforward argument that Biden monetized his political influence, Trump and his campaign shot themselves in the foot — making it seem as though the Bidens’ patent self-dealing should be deemed insignificant unless someone got indicted over it. In any event, as Politico’s aforementioned profile of U.S. attorney David Weiss explains, he is a Trump appointee. Concededly, it is unlikely he would have been appointed absent the concurrence of the state’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Tom Carper and Chris Coons, who are close to President Biden. That, however, is typical appointment politics; it doesn’t make Weiss a Democrat or a closet Biden supporter. To the contrary, Weiss was a high-ranking federal prosecutor in Delaware during the Bush 43 administration, and he has a long history of investigating operatives of both major parties for political corruption. This includes a probe of Joe Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign, in which a Biden bundler was convicted. If there were a sinister plot to shield Hunter Biden from prosecution, Weiss could simply have shut down the investigation. Instead, press reporting indicates that the investigation is proceeding, and that Hunter’s lawyers were advised earlier this year that he could be charged. The matter bears close attention for obvious reasons. But there is no reason to believe that there was a ripe, prosecutable case against Hunter Biden in 2020 that was suppressed by the Trump Justice Department and the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney who was running the investigation.

The Latest ‘Stolen Election’ Stunt’s Lesson: Move On from Trump — or Lose

Then-Attorney General William Barr arrives to testify on Capitol Hill, April 9, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters) A new spat between Bill Barr and a former U.S. attorney is yet more proof that relitigating 2020 will only drag the GOP down. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE O n Thursday, I had a column on the homepage about House minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s dithering over whether Republicans will participate in the House select-committee investigation of the January 6 Capitol riot. The problem, at root, is the vexing one we’ve explored a number of times before, most notably in connection with the House GOP caucus’s ouster of Liz Cheney from her leadership post: What to do about Donald Trump’s influence? Another iteration of the infighting and dysfunction stemming from that influence was this week’s brouhaha caused by the former president’s false claim that Bill McSwain, the former U.S. attorney Trump …

Kevin McCarthy Must Stop Stalling on the January 6 Committee

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) delivers remarks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 23, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters) The House minority leader’s inaction deprives Republicans of a say in the Capitol-riot probe — and may harm their chances of retaking Congress in 2022. The House select committee appointed to investigate the January 6 Capitol riot has scheduled its first hearing for July 27 — twelve days from now. As yet, befuddled minority leader Kevin McCarthy has not even announced whether Republicans will participate, let alone who will fill the committee’s five GOP slots. It’s time for McCarthy to make a move. Speaker Pelosi has already filled the Democrats’ eight-member allotment with seven of her most effective partisans, along with Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican whose vigorous condemnation of President Trump’s catalyzing role in the riot, coupled with her urging the party to break with Trump, resulted in her being removed — with McCarthy’s support — from her leadership position in the House GOP caucus. It is ridiculous for McCarthy to consider sitting this out. Convening a select committee is a completely legitimate exercise of Congress’s power to investigate a forcible attack . . . on Congress. It was all well and good for the minority leader and other Republicans (including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell) to oppose a 9/11-style commission of unelected, supposedly objective experts; conducting such an investigation is Congress’s job — not a job to be farmed out to a blue-ribbon panel. But it remains a job worth doing: The Capitol riot clearly warrants a congressional probe. Is it going to be a largely partisan exercise? Of course it is, Representative Cheney’s suggestions to the contrary notwithstanding. Apart from Cheney, the committee will include Representatives Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D., Md.), who were the chief prosecutors in the first and second Trump impeachment efforts. In addition to Schiff, Pelosi has made sure to add two other members of the California caucus over which she exercises major influence, Zoe Lofgren and Peter Aguilar. The select committee, which will be chaired by Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.), who also chairs the Homeland Security Committee that led the failed push for a Jan. 6 Commission, will also include Stephanie Murphy (D., Fla.) and Elaine Luria (D. Va.). Plainly, Democrats envision the committee as a golden opportunity to advance their racialized political narrative that the “insurrection” was fomented by white supremacists, who pose a terrorist threat to the nation that is even more perilous than that posed by jihadism. In this telling, the “white supremacists” are Trump supporters and other Republicans who are animated by such conservative concerns as free speech, property rights, Second Amendment rights, religious liberty, and limited government — the fundamentals of American society that progressives regard as indelibly racist and systemically oppressive. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e17fb8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e17fb8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e17fb8 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e17fb8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e18211 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e18211 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e18211 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e18211 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e183a6 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e183a6 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e183a6 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e183a6 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e18507 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e18507 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e18507 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60f0591e18507 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } That is politics. It doesn’t make the select-committee investigation illegitimate. Nor is the committee a purely partisan exercise just because its creation has put McCarthy in an uncomfortable position. Naturally, he frets about the outsized influence that Trump’s devoted base currently has on GOP politics. He could have distanced himself and congressional Republicans from Trump after January 6, as Cheney urged. Yet instead, he embraced the former president. In fact, NBC News reports that today, McCarthy is making the pilgrimage to Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., digs to consult the former president on how to handle the January 6 committee. He is not alone among national Republicans in continuing to play courtier. Many of these Republicans are not actually enamored of Trump; they’re merely betting that their political survival depends on appeasing his avid supporters. Whatever you think of this approach, it was never going to be cost-free. Now comes a high-profile inquiry that will, as it must, focus on the role played by the then-president of the United States in instigating a demonstration that was specifically intended to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence and congressional Republicans to derail a constitutionally mandated electoral-vote-counting session. The demonstration, at which Trump gave a demagogic speech, foreseeably deteriorated into a riot — which went on longer than it should have because the then-commander-in-chief declined to use his authority and influence to put a stop to it. McCarthy has tried to avoid the wrath of the Trumpists. But if Republicans are seen as defending the indefensible, they court the wrath of most of the country — and risk blowing the eminently winnable 2022 midterm elections, and thus losing the chance to retake the House and put the brakes on the Biden administration’s ruinous agenda. Hiding under his desk is not a solution. McCarthy needs to appoint five solid Republicans to this committee. They do not need to be, and should not act as if they are, Trump’s defense lawyers. They should cooperate in getting to the bottom of how the riot came about, and whether anything needs to be done legislatively to minimize the chances of a similar debacle happening in the future. There are, furthermore, significant matters that need to be pressed and that undercut the Democrats’ political narrative. The claims that the riot was a full-blown insurrection on a par with a terrorist mass-murder attack, or that white supremacism is the most perilous “violent extremist” threat facing the country, are sheer nonsense. The prosecutions underway (there was another significant guilty plea yesterday, of a notable rioter who is looking at about five years’ imprisonment) illustrate that what happened on January 6, while worthy of condemnation, was nothing like a terrorist attack. On the other hand, there was far more death and destruction — including attacks on government buildings — during the months of rioting led by radical leftists following George Floyd’s death in May 2020. Why the selective Democratic outrage about January 6? Why are Democrat-dominated states and cities dropping charges against those rioters? Put aside that the Democrats’ insistence on viewing the Capitol riot (and everything else in life) through the prism of racism is not borne out by the facts; the question is: Why should Democratic claims about the supposed white-supremacist peril be taken seriously when they refuse to consider the matter in context with other politically motivated violence? If it was so critical to investigate the Capitol riot, why was that not done when Democrats relied on the riot as justification for the unprecedented impeachment of a president who was about to leave office — and who was already out of office when his Senate trial occurred? Why did Democrats insist on alleging that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was killed, at Trump’s instigation, by violent Trump supporters who bashed him over the head with a fire extinguisher? That false claim was not only alluded to in the impeachment article; the Democratic House impeachment managers continued advancing it a month later in their Senate trial brief — even though it was widely known (though not publicly acknowledged) to be untrue, and prosecutors who’d conducted a minimally competent investigation would have discovered that Officer Sicknick died of natural causes (two strokes). Finally, why were the Capitol Police and their partner security forces so utterly undermanned and unprepared? Clearly, the rioters are principally responsible for the mayhem, and secondary culpability belongs to President Trump and others who egged them on. But when a police force is competent and engaged, incendiary situations tend not to explode into riots. Even with a poor plan and response, the security forces were able to clear the Capitol in just a few hours, enabling Congress to reconvene, and the majority of the demonstrators were, at worst, trespassers who did not engage in violence or vandalism. In light of these facts, it is worth asking: Had the security agencies on which Congress expends a fortune made and executed a competent plan, would the riot have occurred? All of these questions are relevant to the select committee’s investigation. Republicans need to press them. But they can’t do that if they are AWOL. Kevin McCarthy should stop whining, stop dithering, and appoint five of his members to join the investigation.

Afghanistan: Exit . . . but No Strategy

U.S. soldiers conduct a joint foot patrol with Canadian and Afghan National Army troops in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in 2009. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters) We’re now seeing the result of fallout from the futile sharia-democracy promotion project, both in Afghanistan and America. This is not the way it’s supposed to work. Not ever . . . but especially not after sacrificing 20 years of effort, losing the lives of 2,300, caring for over 20,000 wounded, and watching a trillion dollars circle down the hopeless Afghan sinkhole. We are down to a provocatively paltry force presence in Afghanistan: Too few troops left even to defend themselves adequately, much less to execute combat operations; yet enough that their withdrawal can be exploited for propaganda purposes, enabling the Taliban and its enduring al-Qaeda ally to make it appear that they are chasing yet another humiliated superpower out of their country. The point should not be to pull our remaining troops out by a symbolic date (and, under circumstances where leaving will be portrayed as a defeat, the Biden administration’s insistence on making that date September 11 is perverse). National security is about facts on the ground. A proper “exit strategy” would thus assess what the remaining national-defense mission is and then deploy the forces necessary to accomplish it, fully withdrawing only when that mission is accomplished — which may mean not withdrawing if a continuing presence and capability are necessary to sustain our security. Understand where I am coming from. I don’t want a single one of our young men and women in Afghanistan one second longer than national security requires. I was in the counterterrorism business, prosecuting jihadists in the justice system, eight years before it dawned on most Washington politicians that there was a nexus between jihadism in Afghanistan and security in the United States. For the better part of two decades, I’ve been a harsh critic of the sharia-democracy project, which had no chance of succeeding but was certain to sap the political will of the American people to support actions that are actually vital to our defense. For years, I have contended that the frustrating impasse at which we now find ourselves is an inevitable function of pretending that the Taliban was a potential solution to our security problem, rather than an incorrigible component of it — one that, like Afghanistan itself, is not worth the effort conquest would take . . . as our British friends and Russian rivals could have told us. All that said, our forces are now being withdrawn despite the lack of a viable strategy to address the challenge that stubbornly remains — the only challenge that justified invading in the first place: How do we ensure that the ruling Afghan regime does not permit its territory to be a launch pad for jihadist attacks on the United States, including our interests, installations, and allies in the region and beyond? Let’s check at the door the “forever wars” claptrap so popular on the Islamist-apologist Left, which sees jihadist rage as a reaction to American policy rather than America’s existence, and the Trumpist Right, which incoherently demands that we annihilate our enemies and retreat from fighting them. And on that last point, can we please remember that we’ve been fighting them in a conflict they started and continue to wage. Iraq was a war of choice. Afghanistan never was. If it’s “forever,” that’s because the aggressor’s will has never been broken. If we leave with no security plan, the war isn’t “over”; the jihadists just retake the platform from which they launched it. Moreover, we have not been in a war in Afghanistan, in any realistic sense, for years. We’ve instead wasted years, precious lives, and resources propping up a corrupt joke of a government and training armed forces that, after two decades, won’t last six months once we’re gone. But let’s not pretend there’s been no upside. It has enabled us to deny jihadists the safe haven from which they carried out a series of atrocities, culminating with an attack on our homeland more lethal than Pearl Harbor. Obviously, the nation-building effort is, and has always been, a fool’s errand; but the counterterrorism mission is, and has always been, vital. The challenge is to throw off the yoke of the former while maintaining what is responsibly necessary to execute the latter. The solution to this quandary, we’re told, is quick-strike counterterrorism assets. But the infuriating reality, after all this time, is that we don’t have them in Afghanistan. We’ve put all our eggs in a single basket-case — the government in Kabul that the Taliban is already sweeping away. To be effective, a quick-strike counterterrorism strategy depends on the acquisition of actionable, on-the-ground intelligence, and the ready availability of assets that can hit what needs hitting. We will soon have neither. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb574841ec .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb574841ec .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb574841ec { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb574841ec .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484523 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484523 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484523 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484523 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484634 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484634 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484634 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484634 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484729 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484729 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484729 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60edb57484729 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } We have had intelligence in Afghanistan because of our troop presence. We are now evacuating in a manner that, in short order, will leave in charge a hostile regime, which will brutalize Afghans believed to have cooperated with the Americans. When we are fully withdrawn, our ability to collect intelligence will be negligible. Even if that were not true, we do not have quick-strike assets. Just a few weeks ago, the top U.S. commander in the region, General Frank McKenzie, candidly told Voice of America that, once the pullout is complete, there will be no American airstrikes to stave off the Taliban takeover. The nearest usable bases are “thousands of kilometers away,” McKenzie explained. Short of a dire emergency, where we have reason to believe an attack on our homeland or interests is imminent, Afghanistan is simply not worth the logistical hurdles of a sustained campaign. Understand: It is on those remote bases that we’ll rely in order to gather intelligence and surveillance and, as McKenzie put it, “keep the pressure up” on terrorists in Afghanistan. To be charitable, that’s farfetched. When forced kicking and screaming to discuss Afghanistan and its imminent takeover by the Taliban, President Biden and administration officials lapse into trendy blather about our “over the horizon” counterterrorism strategy. Notice: They never get around to telling us what that is. To the contrary, McKenzie grimly observed that “it’s a long haul to get forces, aircraft into Afghanistan from over the horizon” — not “impossible,” but “very difficult.” We should not be under any illusions. Al-Qaeda is not just back; it never left. The Taliban refused to abandon its alliance with the jihadist network in 2001, when it could have remained in power by doing so. The two organizations have fought us shoulder to shoulder for 20 years. And here’s some recent history from the Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio, covering the time during which we were deluding ourselves that the alliance could be frayed by some magical diplomacy: Al Qaeda, which was never defeated in Afghanistan, has also played a key role in the Taliban’s success [i.e., in addition to the roles played by Pakistan and Iran]. Al Qaeda has fought alongside the Taliban both before and during the current offensive. But more importantly, it provided the Taliban with military and political advice (including strategy sessions on talks with the U.S.), and helped the Taliban integrate regional jihadist groups to fight under its banner. In the north, Al Qaeda helped the Taliban organize groups such as the now-defunct Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Jamaat Ansarullah, Kataib Imam Bukhari, and the Turkistan Islamic Party to fight in the Taliban’s ranks. In the east and south, groups like the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harakat-ul-Mujahideen have aided the Taliban’s offensive. That is to say, al-Qaeda already has not only sanctuary but operational running room in the increasing swaths of Afghanistan under Taliban control. What the Biden administration (like the Trump and Obama administrations) delusionally assures us is: Don’t worry, because if Afghanistan reverts to a terrorist safe haven after our troops withdraw, we will maintain the quick-strike capacity to destroy those safe havens. But Afghanistan is a terrorist safe haven right now, and we’re leaving, not striking. And our top commander concedes that the mere existence of terrorist sanctuaries, in the absence of intelligence that a massive attack on us is coming, would not be sufficient to warrant the enormous effort military strikes would entail. I have maintained since I started writing about this subject many years ago that the worst fallout of the futile sharia-democracy promotion project was that it would sap the public’s will to take necessary actions in America’s defense. What we’re now seeing is the result. Let’s say we had toppled the Taliban and routed al-Qaeda, then declared the mission accomplished by 2003. Let’s say we had spent the ensuing years building up political and military relationships with Afghanistan’s neighbors rather than taking on the gargantuan, futile enterprise of trying to build Afghanistan into a functioning democracy with Western-style civil-rights protections. No one would now be spouting “forever war” nonsense. The public would have endorsed the maintenance of a small troop presence in and around the country, including any combat operations necessary to deny sanctuary to al-Qaeda and its progeny. Not to “promote regional stability,” as the diplomats like to say; to prevent jihadists from mass-murdering Americans. Alas, we have squandered the political support needed for such a mission. Regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge, no one trusts this government, which forged a nation-building project the public never wanted; spent years telling us the Taliban was not the enemy (indeed, resisted branding the Taliban as a terror sponsor); and spent the last few years telling us we could leave confidently because the Taliban had promised, cross-their-hearts, not to let al-Qaeda operate. Still, the lack of political support for what we need does not change the stubborn fact that we need it. When you leave while the enemy is still committed to attacking you, that doesn’t “end” a war; it is a defeat that only emboldens the enemy, making you more vulnerable. After a trillion dollars and thousands of Americans killed and wounded, all we have to show for 20 years of effort is the naïve hope that another September 11 is not brought about by the same forces that are stronger today than they have been at any time since September 10, 2001.

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