This is a test. Do not remain in your bomb shelter. Please come back to your living room or kitchen and consider this little thought experiment. We are not at war with North Korea. Not yet. Likely never. But here’s a suggestion, one you will find ridiculous. Just remember, it’s a thought experiment.

Punggye-ri is by all appearances, North Korea’s nuclear testing site: a series of tunnels deep inside a mountain range in the NorthEast of the DPRK. There was a dramatic but mostly symbolic shutting down of the site just a few days ago, hours before President Trump pulled out of the Singapore Summit with Kim jong-un. In front of a group of foreign journalists (but without any independent observers with expertise in nuclear testing sites), the North Koreans sealed the entrance to several (perhaps not all) tunnels with a dramatic series of explosions.

But while they blew it up real good, the interior of the tunnels, where the important testing facilities would be located, seem to remain intact. As well, the entrances could fairly easily be re-opened with hundreds of malnourished North Koreans working like slaves (actually working as slaves would be a better description because they would, as usual, be providing essentially slave labor) with pick axes and maybe a bulldozer or two.

But is the interior of those tunnels in working condition? Last fall, Chinese geologists reportedly claimed that a nuclear test in September (claimed to have been a hydrogen bomb by the DPRK) resulted in an earthquake which may very well have rendered the facilities inoperable.

Here’s the thought experiment. What if that event had in fact been sabotage by Special Operations Forces? Either South Korean or American? Or both?

No, this was almost certainly not the case. I get that. But consider this quote from the Cipher Brief by retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel David Maxwell:

There is great focus on North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities, continuing North Korean provocations to gain political and economic concessions, and the potential for a conventional war. But there is little focus on the combined special operations forces of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the U.S., except for occasional rhetoric.

There were a number of ad hoc special operations units led by the U.S. during the Korean War. They went by such names as the UN Partisan Infantry Korea, the 8240th Army Unit, the White Tigers, the Combined Command Reconnaissance Activities Korea, and Joint Advisory Commission Korea. The combined special operations capability today has built on this history and has evolved to a quite capable force, the Combined Unconventional Warfare Task Force, and it will provide critical support to the Commander of the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command (ROK/US CFC).

There are two important points to keep in mind about special operations forces (SOF) in Korea. First is that all the legislated U.S. SOF activities specified in U.S. Code will be conducted during conflict. Although there is focus on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) since the transfer of the counter-WMD mission from U.S. Strategic Command to U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in 2016, there are many more SOF requirements to support the ROK/US CFC.

In other words, Special Ops will have a major role in any possible conflict on the Korean peninsula and both the command structure and the relationship with South Korean Special Ops have been in place for some time now. So the question is:

Are both US and Korean Special Ops already at work in North Korea?

Given how much focus and importance – on a military, diplomatic, economic, as well as trade, level – is placed on the peninsula, it would be absurd to imagine that America and her allies in the region are not already involved in active special operations. Could they have penetrated North Korea’s military? It seems an impossible task. But we can’t absolutely say they haven’t. Rumors of sabotage of some of North Korea’s missile tests floated around the media last year before falling silent. And that’s understandable. A leak of any details of such an operation would result in the torture and death of those involved (as well as many not involved) within the North Korean military.

Could that also be a goal of special ops forces? Induce even greater than normal levels of paranoia on the part of leading military and political figures in the DPRK? Especially Kim jong-un?

Colonel Maxwell is refreshingly direct in what he believes the goals should be: the end of the DPRK and the unification of the Korean peninsula under a liberal (that is democratic) constitution with an economy that is ‘vibrant’ (i.e. based on South Korean policies) and a state that is non-nuclear. Just the sort of laundry list that Kim jong-un fears. And that President Xi in Beijing also fears.

So perhaps the balancing act is to keep at least some of those goals off the table for now and to focus on how to de-nuclearize North Korea while avoiding a war. Special ops may very well have a role to play in that case as well. They may already be at work, even if it wasn’t them but rather the nuclear test itself, that may have rendered the Punggye-ri facilities inoperable last fall.

The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, one could argue, helped give birth to the administrative state, although it would take progressive presidents like Woodrow Wilson and his income tax, and FDR’s government works to really kick start the bureaucratic leviathan. Regardless of when it truly became a force in American political life, the administrative state is now and has been for some time a de facto branch of government. Separate for all intents and purposes, and if perhaps not quite equal, nonetheless often surprisingly powerful.

These past few days, then, have seen some major skirmishes – perhaps even battles – played out between Congress, the Executive and the Administrative State which theoretically and constitutionally should be a subordinate part of the Executive. Oh yes, and the courts too. A play in 3 acts one could say.

  • Act 1 & 2: The Supreme Court has sided with contractually based compulsory and binding arbitration as stated in the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, and ruled against an employee of Epic Systems Corp of Wisconsin in the Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis case. A ruling in favor of collective bargaining rights would have held that the case should have been decided not under the Federal Arbitration Act but rather under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, passed by FDR’s Congress in order to boost union power and collective bargaining rights. It needed an independent agency to administer it’s quasi-judicial functions and so the National Relations Labor Board was born at the same time. The Supreme Court decision means that individual arbitration as enforced by employer contracts supersedes collective bargaining rights. It was a 5-4 split decision with the dissenters apparently bitterly opposed to the majority, and with Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. A blow to the power of quasi-judicial independent agencies like the NRLB.
  • Act 3: On Monday President Trump signed a Congressional resolution that negates an administrative guidance – it didn’t even rise to the level of a regulation – issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It dealt with dealer mark-ups in car loans and apparently was meant to correct what was seen as racial bias on the part of auto dealers when establishing rates for car loans. The industry objected and said the studies (one by the CFPB itself) used dubious methodology. Despite just being guidance the CFPB enforced their guidance with an avalanche of lawsuits to ensure compliance. In Congress, Republicans and some Democrats used the Congressional Review Act from 1996 to vote to repeal the guidance under a simple majority. Here’s what Sylvan Lane wrote in The Hill:

The move caps off an unprecedented use of congressional power, as lawmakers had never before passed such a resolution to revoke informal guidance from a federal agency.

Ok, just a second. Yes, maybe it’s unusual given Congress’ propensity as of late to hand off the details of legislation to independent agencies and to let the courts eventually rule on the matter. But unprecedented? It seems more like a case of Congress returning to it’s original precedent. Debating and passing the nation’s laws, in as much detail as necessary to make the laws function and be understood by voters.

And of course, the Mueller probe is increasingly becoming about how independent the Department of Justice – created by Congress and part of the Executive power and therefore beholden to the White House – really is rather than whether there actually was any collusion with Russia. And also how partisan the FBI – which operates under the jurisdiction of the DOJ – has become.

So, it could be that some 135 years after the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act – which was meant as a way to prevent patronage in government appointments – has found it’s bookend, marking the end of its useful life. Of course, it will live on for years, but at least now it’s usefulness can finally start to be questioned.

So the Gray Lady admits now that the FBI had a government informant – also known as a spy – who met several times with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Here’s the NYTimes on the delicacy of a possible government informant (we still don’t know who) talking to Page and Papadopoulos:

The F.B.I. obtained phone records and other documents using national security letters — a secret type of subpoena — officials said. And at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said. That has become a politically contentious point, with Mr. Trump’s allies questioning whether the F.B.I. was spying on the Trump campaign or trying to entrap campaign officials.

You learn something new every day with the Russia probes and Mueller’s team, don’t you? For us unwashed and enciphered masses, who knew such a thing as a ‘national security letter’ existed? And that it functioned as a sort of secret subpoena? Is this what was used to survey Carter Page? Was a national security letter what was handed to a FISA court? Detailing the contents of the Steele Dossier likely? Or was the national security letter the counterpart to the Steele Dossier? Was the national security letter the document that contained the government informant’s reports?

Deputy AG Rosenstein clamored about how the DOJ wouldn’t be extorted when the Nunes threatened a subpoena to pry information from them on the Mueller probes and the FBI investigation that preceded the probes. Now, as Mollie Hemingway writes at The Federalist:

But far from holding the information close to the vest, the government has repeatedly leaked information about this informant, and even that it was information about an informant that was being sought by Congress. From leaks of personally identifying information to the Washington Post, we’ve learned that this source works with the FBI and CIA, and is a U.S. citizen.

In The New York Times, additional information about a government informant leaked, including that the source met with Papadopoulos and Page to collect information. The information on an alleged source in the Trump campaign is so sensitive they can’t give it to Congress, but they can leak it to friendly press outlets like the Post and Times. It’s an odd posture for the Justice Department to take.

It seems that this in-depth article in the NYTimes has two main functions:

  • To admit that the FBI did indeed spy on Trump’s campaign and to get ahead of the story perhaps before the DOJ’s Inspector General’s report on the FBI probe comes out. As CNN has reported, the IG’s report is now in its final stages.
  • To legitimize the spying by the FBI of the opposition candidate’s aides during a presidential election campaign. Remember, the FBI launched a counter-intelligence investigation against the Trump campaign. It did so shortly after wrapping up a criminal investigation against Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server while Secretary of State. As much as Hillary might still blame Comey for her loss, that soft-balling of her possible crimes was what helped keep her in the race. With Trump they have yet to find evidence of collusion – although they’ve nailed Flynn and Papadopoulos for contradictory testimony. We’ll see if Flynn decides to challenge those charges in court.

But have no fear, the media are still at it suggesting there’s lots more for Mueller to do and find in his probe. There are suddenly quite a few stories on the Trump Tower meeting, somehow suggesting that recycled details about that meeting are hard and fast proof of collusion, or something of that sort. They can’t back down now, especially seeing what’s likely coming in the Inspector General’s report. By mixing and matching bits of evidence that may if anything suggest Trump’s team was set up, they can point to the shadow of a rumor of a possible confluence of interests between Trump and Russia and therefore claim Mueller’s tactics and methods – as well as Comey’s and Brennan’s back in 2016 – are justified.

By the way, isn’t it cute the name they chose for their sting operation? Crossfire Hurricane. It comes from an old song that we Baby Boomers used to dance to way back, sung by some shaggy haired Englishmen (one of them was mostly Welsh actually: Brian Jones). Who came up with that name?? Comey?? An aging Baby Boomer using the lyrics from a Stones song to name a counterintelligence investigation that went looking for criminal evidence and still hasn’t found any. It gets more ridiculous and more worrying every day.

If it had been up to Britain and France, there might never have been a modern state of Israel. The Palestine territory or Mandatory Palestine, as it is now posthumously called, might have winked at the possibility of a Jewish homeland when it was carved out of former Ottoman territory after WW I, but it was only through revolt and then outright civil war that the modern state of Israel was born in 1948. The French had handed TransJordan its independence by then.

Both Jews and Arabs were willing to fight and die and even use terror in the early Arab-Israeli wars. But Palestinians have never recognized Israel nor have ever viewed it as legitimate. So having lost the war some 70 years ago, and their Arab allies like Egypt having lost several wars since, they now use terror and victimhood as weapons in a media campaign to isolate and condemn Israel at every turn possible.

And what better turn than the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem? This is something long promised by more than a few politicians but always withdrawn or ignored or conveniently left to gather dust. Until now. Trump actually has done it, much to the outrage of the foreign policy establishment, who now have the revoking of the Iran Deal, the embassy in Jerusalem, and the talks with North Korea to feed on and to use to attempt to discredit the Trump administration.

And Palestinian victims are of course front and center as the world’s media can point at the violence on the border between Israel and Palestine and say: thou has wrought this O Ye President!

Maybe not so much. That protests would occur was a given, but it seems that wholesale rushing of crowds at and over the fencing separating Israel and the Palestine territories was promoted by Hamas leaders in order to produce an event with as much violence as possible. And it worked. That is, we now have more deaths which can be used to fuel more cannon fodder with rage and send them onto the barricades of barbed wire and metal to provoke and maybe die.

But these are tactics, as bloody as they may be. The strategy is to dismantle Israel as if Israel was an apartheid South Africa. And for any Israeli, how can there be any possibility of peace or any deal between Palestinians and Israelis when the objective is to tear down your state and expel Jewish people from the Holy Land?

Which brings us beyond strategy to questions of faith and of philosophy. Why merely rely on ruffled BBC anchors announcing the latest casualty figures? When you can – like Daniel Seidemann a left-wing activist – say the following:

Jeffress embodies the true significance of moving the embassy to Jerusalem: transforming ‘pro-Israel’ into a wholly owned subsidiary of the ‘end-of-days’ evangelical alt-right.

Seidemann is referring to Roberts Jeffress of the First Baptist megachurch in Dallas, who attended the opening ceremony and who was previously attacked in a tweet by Mitt Romney that claimed:

Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.

Excuse me Mitt, but Christians do in fact believe that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. That’s not an extreme, radical view. It’s the central tenet of the faith. Yes, many don’t say it out loud any more because of lack of faith, or the desire not to offend. As for heresy, Christianity – as well as Judaism and Islam – has been racked and torn by deep divisions since its birth. Mormonism being perhaps merely a latter example. And of course, we’re an odd, heretical revolt that left the Jewish faith some 2,000 years ago, if your perspective is Jewish. So while Jeffress is hardly a model of tolerance, what he says is not as outrageous as Romney makes it out to be. The way Jeffress goes about it is another matter.

It may be that for some Christians, like Jeffress, modern Israel is a metaphor for coming judgement, rather than a key ally and the only real democracy in the region. That is, at least politically, a limiting view and a strategic mistake. But it’s one more ingredient in an impossible situation in an ancient land where 3 religions have long staked their claims. The status quo is violent. Change risks even more violence. This is what Jerusalem has become. And what it has been many times over in the past.

Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearings in the Senate have turned into a sort of show trial on the subject of torture. A very subtle one with less of the histrionics we’ve become accustomed to. And perhaps an unsuccessful show trial, seeing that it seems she may have possibly locked up her confirmation with a calm and composed performance.

But the issue driving the media coverage and the votes against her is all about torture. Or specifically waterboarding. An issue Trump as candidate was delighted to take head on by announcing how he’d love to bring it back.

Senator McCain has of course come out against her nomination. But the headlines about his very carefully worded and generally positive assessment of Haspel’s career are far more dramatic than his principled stance against any CIA Director who will not explicitly and morally condemn torture.

Is McCain right?

That’s actually a set of questions:

  • Does torture work? Work in what way? To inflict horrifying pain? Yes. To gain vital information when time is an overwhelming concern? Evidence suggests perhaps not. But is that evidence conclusive enough for intelligence agencies to strictly forbid any and all interrogation tactics that may cross the line?
  • Is torture morally wrong? There’s a piece in American Conservative by John Kiriakou – the former CIA agent who blew the whistle on the agency’s waterboarding procedures and gained 30 months in prision as a result – that relies on Christian ethics, if you will. Kiriakou writes:

We know from Matthew 18:21-22 “Then came Peter to him and said, ‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?’ Jesus said unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven.’” That’s clear enough for me. But if there’s any doubt, it’s dispelled in Romans 12:14: “Bless them which persecute you; bless and curse not.”

But consider this thought experiment: you are a Christian and are being led to the shores of the Mediterranean – perhaps in Libya perhaps in Syria – by ISIS terrorists who will make you kneel and then will slit your throat and then hold your lifeless head in their hands in a triumphant gesture of evil. But suddenly you have a chance to grab a weapon and fight for your life. If we are to truly take the words of Matthew as literal truth then you would never fight back. You would pray and forgive those terrorists as you kneeled in the sand and submit to them and let them grab your head and slit your throat.

Kirkiakous quotes Dr. Charles Murphy of Liberty University speaking of a theoretical where torturing a terrorist might save an American city from destruction, and how a Christian could never do such a thing because at our judgement before Christ and the Lord we would be found wanting.

I’ll leave it to evangelicals far better versed in the Bible than I am to show how fighting back, sometimes violently, against evil is hardly unChristian. But in Murphy’s theoretical, would dropping bombs on an enemy target that mistakenly kills innocent civilians, including women and children, be fine at judgment time? Would using an RPG against a sniper’s nest located on the roof of a daycare center in Bahgdad be fine at judgement time?

If you take Kirkiakou and Murphy’s (supposed) view to its logical conclusion, then how do you do intelligence? How do you gather information on the ground in hostile and treacherous environments?

  • Finally, is waterboarding torture? If it is, is sleep deprivation torture? Is shining bright lights in a suspect’s eyes torture? Is confining them to a cell in darkness for 24 hours torture? For 12 hours? What is torture? And how do we as a society decide on “what” that torture is to be defined as?

As Senator Rubio insisted on stating for the record at the hearings, if Gina Haspel cannot be confirmed as CIA Director then partisan and politicized chiefs like John Brennan are all we can expect at the agency. No wonder 72 former CIA officials have endorsed Haspel. They, like Senator Rubio, understand what’s at stake.

The Liberal Media Cause the Left’s Incivility towards Conservatives

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Among all the political/cultural double standards that liberals and Leftists get away with, none is greater than the incredible incivility and disrespect they continually show for conservative politicians, celebrities and traditional institutions with whom they disagree. Liberal behavior towards conservatives is so outlandish that it borders on the absurd, yet they are almost never seriously called to account for it or pay a truly lasting penalty for it. If the liberal media cover the offending action at all—which they often don’t—it is done more in a “See? You can’t accuse us of not covering it, now don’t ask us again” fashion than in a serious attempt to hold the offender fully accountable on the public stage.

Michelle Wolf’s recent attack on Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House Correspondents Dinner is a prime example. In a truly vile, shocking, tasteless display, Wolf demeaned Sanders’ appearance and professional competence in an incredibly mean-spirited way. This wasn’t good-natured roasting—it was intended to embarrass and hurt Sanders, to humiliate her in public. There was a little bit of obligatory “tut-tutting” afterwards from the liberal media, but also at least as much rationalization and defending of Wolf. Point is, conservatives simply don’t do this to liberals, nor would the mainstream media let them off the hook if they did.

However, let a conservative make even the slightest cultural misstep or utter the most innocuous of unartful phrases and the liberal media and Leftist punditry pounce with unrestricted vengeance, determined to extract the maximum penalty from the guilty party. There are no explanations allowed, no extenuating circumstances to consider, no context to be evaluated. A misstatement from a conservative is considered to be intentional by the liberal media and immediate, unarguable, permanent guilt is assigned.

A few years ago MSNBC host Martin Bashir made an unbelievably disgusting remark about Sarah Palin, yet suffered no immediate consequences for it. He half-heartedly “apologized” for the remark a day or so later, fully expecting the matter to be done and forgotten. Only when the uproar from conservatives continued did NBC finally fire Bashir. But they certainly had no intention of doing so until faced with the public outcry. Bashir obviously felt fully confident and shielded enough to make the remark in the first place and then felt perfectly comfortable that he’d get away with it. It’s impossible to even contemplate the liberal media hysteria that would ensue if a Fox News host had said the same about Michelle Obama or (apples to apples) Geraldine Ferraro.

When examining the “What if a conservative did/said this about a liberal?” comparison, it’s all too obvious that conservatives are quickly and unconditionally branded as racists, homophobes, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, misogynist, intolerant, unsophisticated and simplistic for saying things that liberals get away with completely.

Can anyone seriously doubt that if some marginal, 3rd-tier actress like Kathy Griffin had held a picture of the severed head of Barack Obama, that that person would not immediately be shunned and held in utter, unsparing contempt by the national media? Yet only after the conservative grass-roots backlash began against Griffin did the major liberal media follow suit, reluctantly, in the days following. CNN took the minimum obligatory action and removed Griffin from hosting an upcoming New Year’s program. Yet within the year, she was back on The View, proudly proclaiming to the delight of the show’s liberal hosts, “I rescind my apology! I take it back!” followed by a classless two-word expletive, the kind never, ever said in public by a high-profile conservative about a liberal president. But not only did she say it, everyone cheered, and no corner criticized her for it.

What is to be made of all this? That there are double standards of decorum and acceptable public discourse for conservatives and liberals is well-known and easy to document. To wit:

  • Global Warming sceptics are not merely wrong, they “should be jailed.”
  • Conservative politicians like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel don’t just hold the wrong views, they are “demons” according to public statements by prominent Democrat Maxine Waters.
  • Conservative guest speakers like Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro are routinely threatened with violence for even daring to show up for their scheduled talk.
  • A NY Times reporter says people who support traditional marriage are unworthy of respect and deserve incivility.
  • A professor from Michigan publishes an op-ed entitled, “It’s OK to Hate Republicans.”

Really? Disagreement isn’t enough—they should be treated badly, hated, even jailed? Don’t debate the issue with facts, throw them in jail if they disagree with you. The national liberal media ignore nearly all of these occurrences. One can only imagine their reaction had a conservative professor published an article titled, “Why Everyone Should Hate Progressives.”

The real take-away is that this kind of intolerant, one-sided, unintellectual hate speech perpetrated by liberals—where arguments are based on empty sentiment rather than a serious, sober discussion of facts—has been legitimized by the national liberal media to such a degree that today’s younger generations have taken the cue that it is acceptable for crass, dismissive emotionalism to replace rational, patient conversation. Today’s media consumers—whether that media is experienced on-line, watched, listened to or read on paper—are being taught in no uncertain terms that it is permissible to attempt to assassinate the character of those with whom you disagree, rather than to engage them in reflective, substantive debate.

Unfortunately, the spillover from this is being felt in all corners of public interactions, from the instantaneous rudeness between customers and service providers, to the lack of respect for traditional institutions, and perhaps most unfortunately, the rapid wearing away of the veneer of courtesy that had always been shown to older Americans by younger Americans.

And it’s predominantly one-sided: Conservatives are not calling Democratic politicians “demons,” they are not physically attacking liberal guest speakers on college campuses, they are not holding photos of the bloody severed heads of their political opposition and they are not suggesting on high-profile news programs that liberal politicians be forced to ingest excrement. The liberal media give this anti-conservative behavior a pass, almost every time. When the liberal media do criticize, it’s in the most minimal obligatory manner, as little as they can get away with. And people take notice, especially younger people. The media are teaching them what is socially-acceptable behavior by the nature and tone of their coverage. They are teaching them the wrong lessons.

Remember that cliché, the “Coarsening of our Culture”? Sure, it’s no mystery. Today’s liberal media have sanctioned it.

The leadership of the FBI and the rest of the intelligence community, as well as at least part of the DOJ redact (i.e. black out key portions of all sorts of documents) anything sensitive in order to serve their own often corrupt interests and not those of America’s national security. The redactions to the House Intelligence Committee’s report served to cover up the fact that the unverified Steele dossier was the basis of FISA court warrant applications. The redactions of Comey’s memos covered up the fact that Comey in his January 2017 meeting with President-elect Trump failed to mention that the report was about a Kremlin connection between Trump’s campaign team and not just about supposed Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room with Trump. And that that January meeting was used as an excuse to give the media the go ahead to talk about and even publish much of the content of the Steele Dossier.

This seems to be the most logical conclusion one can draw, especially after the transcript of Paul Manafort’s trial was leaked to the media. What seems most glaring in the celebrated exchanges between Judge Ellis and Mueller team lawyer Dreeben, is that the Mueller probe is a hybrid beast: sometimes a counterintelligence probe in which criminal presumptions of innocence and burden of proof do not apply; and sometimes a criminal trial in which FBI agents can break down your door at dawn with guns drawn and you and your wife in bed.

Here’s how Judge Ellis puts it:

This was an ongoing investigation. You all got it from the Department of Justice. You’re pursuing it. Now I had speculated about why you’re really interested in it in this case. You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. Well, the government does. You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That’s what you’re really interested in.

As most people had suspected, Muelller’s team was throwing its net wide as possible to get any sort of possible criminal activity – however unrelated to the search for Kremlin-Trump team connections it might be – in order to turn people like Manafort into witnesses against Trump. Did Deputy AG Rosenstein’s 2 letters (from May 17 and especially the second one dated August 2) actually allow them to do this?

Not an easy question to answer because nearly 3/4’s of Rosenstein’s August 2 letter (or memorandum to be more precise) is … you guessed it! Re-dac-ted! Why the heck the redactions? National security concerns, but of course. Here’s Judge Ellis again:

Are you telling me that in this indictment that’s before the court on Mr. Manafort, that I’m going to have to go through CIPA (Classified Information Procedures Act), that there’s going to a Section 4 filing (insider trading) that there will be classified documents, …

Judge Ellis also makes it clear that as a district judge he is not only authorized to look at classified documents but that he has had more than his share of experience with classified information. In the face of the Judge’s clarity on his ability to view classified matter, Mueller team lawyer Dreeben backs down and states that he “hopes” that this will not be the case.

So … it’s classified … as long as we can get away with it? Is that the operating mode for Special Counsel Mueller’s team? Again, the beast is sometimes a classified investigation when they don’t want to share discriminating evidence. And sometimes a criminal investigation when they want to scare the hell out of what they hope will be potential witnesses.

Look, Manafort has been up to his elbows in shady dealings around the globe with unsavory autocrats. But this is about an out of control special prosecutor. Like the way most special prosecutors tend to be or become. And there is someone far less sleazy that also has been almost certainly unfairly charged by Mueller’s team: Mike Flynn. And those redactions in the House report regarding Flynn have Andrew McCarthy – a former DOJ prosecutor whose continuing detailed coverage of the probes is worth checking out at National Review – so furious he’s demanding Trump stop the hell tweeting and shut the probe down.

The prosecutorial process is being hopelessly tarnished. Let’s hope future presidents don’t have to deal with this type of overreach.

Symbolism means a lot in Washington D.C., but so do partisan ideological struggles. Or just partisan prejudices. There has, of course, only been one Catholic President and his presidency ended in November 1963 in Dallas. Why hasn’t there been a Catholic president since then? Newseek’s Kevin Lamarque, back at the beginning of the last presidential campaign in 2015, wrote this:

Part of the reason for the dearth of Catholic nominees may be that the two parties have tended to nominate from the South, which has been growing, and few from the northeast, which is the most Catholic region and has lost population. Lyndon Johnson, Carter, both Bushes and Bill Clinton all hail from southern states. There hasn’t been a president from the northeast since Richard Nixon, and he was a Californian when he was elected to the House, Senate and vice presidency and he only resided in New York for a few years when he was elected president in 1968. If you’re getting most of your nominees from the South, odds are they won’t be Catholic.

Other reasons have been proffered. Abortion is a tricky position for Catholic Democrats. There were moves to excommunicate Kerry for his pro-choice views. Some have cited how the evangelical style of Protestantism, with its public professions of faith, has become widely expected in American politics and more Protestant candidates come out of that tradition.

So, we indeed do now have a president from the Northeast, and not the South, but whose support comes mainly from flyover country – including much of the South and Southwest. And he’s Presbytarian. Jeb Bush was a few months away from dropping out when Lamarque wrote his piece and only Marco Rubio would hang on until the spring of 2016. American culture and politics have changed a great deal since JFK was president, but it still sometimes seems a bit of a tricky proposition to be a Catholic politician in America.

Or House Chaplain.

It’s clear that more than a few GOP House members were unhappy with Patrick Conroy’s performance as Chaplain. But exactly why isn’t being signaled directly, but suggested in comments. North Carolina’s Mark Walker had to resign from a search committee because he suggested the next Chaplain should be married and have adult children. If Pope Francis has his way, that may be coming but one suspects it will be some time, and perhaps never. So understandably Walker was seen to be saying that the next Chaplain should not be Catholic, much to the outrage of Catholic Representatives from both sides of the aisle.

Is it that basic? Is it impatience on the part of evangelical House members (GOP one presumes) at having 2 House Chaplains in a row who are Catholic?

Or did Conroy rock the boat and take from Ceasar what Ceasar feels is rightfully his when his prayer in early November last year, at the time of the GOP tax bill, contained the following words:

As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle.

May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.

Patrick Conroy is the 2nd Catholic House Chaplain, but the first Jesuit one. His appointment by Boehner was controversial, with suggestions he had failed to pursue with sufficient vigor accusations of abuse on the part of a priest in Seattle back in the 80’s. But the real controversy – if in fact his tax prayer is what turned the House GOP against him – might in fact lie within the Catholic church if you will.

Paul Ryan is of course Catholic, but very much a fiscal conservative and a cultural conservative. He doesn’t look askance at Conroy’s vows of celibacy the way Mark Walker does. Rather, Ryan seems to have been angered by Conroy’s left-of-center economic views which some might say are hardly surprising coming from a Jesuit priest.

For those of us who are not Catholic, we can only guess if this is the real reason. But did it have to go so public and whose fault is it? Did Conroy unnecessarily politicize the position of Chaplain whose mission it is to provide counseling and support? Not tax policy.

Sorry. Too late. The House Chaplain is now a painfully symbolic role beyond whatever unifying symbolism it used to have. It will increasingly be about religious identity, whether Controy would have wished for that or not. Conroy’s resignation letter has been rescinded and he will finish out the year at least, and perhaps stay longer. And the next House Chaplain will face nearly as much scrutiny as a nominated Cabinet Secretary.

As Ceasar might have said, once you cross the Rubicon, ain’t no turning back.