The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Is Supporting ISIS Just Another ‘Political Point of View’?

Is Supporting ISIS Just Another ‘Political Point of View’?

The United Kingdom holds its parliamentary elections Thursday, just days after a brutal terror attack near London Bridge that left seven dead, 48 people injured, 21 critically.

If the Labour party wins a majority — most do not expect this to occur — this is the man who would become the new prime minister:

Jeremy Corbyn has argued that people who support Islamic State should not be prosecuted for “expressing a political point of view”.

The Labour leader told MPs that Britain should not make “value judgments” and that holding a view was not in itself “an offence.”

Asked by a Conservative MP if he believed Isis fighters should be subject to special measures when they return to Britain, Mr Corbyn suggested they should not be prosecuted for “expressing a political point of view”.

He said: “I have no support for ISIS whatsoever, and obviously that should apply to someone who has committed crimes, but we should bear in mind that expressing a political point of view is not in itself an offence.

“The commission of a criminal act is clearly a different matter, but expressing a point of view, even an unpalatable one, is sometimes quite important in a democracy.

Of an estimated total of 850 British men and women who have left to go to Iraq and Syria, around 130 are thought to have been killed and nearly 350 have returned to the UK.

Is overthrowing the British government and establishing a caliphate just “a point of view”?

President Trump, Meet the Department of Justice; DOJ, President Trump

This morning, President Trump tweeted several times: “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.” “The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court — & seek much tougher version!” “In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!”

Why is the president fuming about the Department of Justice like it’s some faraway entity? Someone reminded him he gets to make appointments to the DOJ, right?

It’s June 5, and right now there are only three Trump appointees working at DOJ:

Attorney general Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand have been confirmed. Trump has named Noel J. Francisco as his nominee to be Solicitor general, Steven Engel to be his assistant attorney general for the Office of the Legal Counsel, Stephen Elliott Boyd to be assistant attorney general for the Office of Legislative Affair, and Makan Delrahim to be assistant attorney general for the antitrust division. The Senate can be blamed for the slow action on those nominees.

But President Trump still hasn’t even named a nominee for the positions of assistant attorney general for the national-security division, assistant attorney general for the civil division, assistant attorney general for the civil-rights division, assistant attorney general for the criminal division, assistant attorney general for the environment and natural-resources division, assistant attorney general for the justice-programs division, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy, or assistant attorney general for the tax division.

While these positions may not relate directly to litigating the travel ban, Trump still hasn’t named a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, administrator or deputy administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency, or a director of the U.S. Marshals Service.

And, of course, he fired FBI Director Comey. He said we would have a replacement quickly . . .  three weeks ago.

Whenever I make this point, some ill-informed Trump defender insists this is a wise cost-cutting measure. No, those positions don’t go unfilled; they’re just filled by “acting” replacements . . .  who, at this rate, are likely to be acting for quite a while. Those acting replacements may or may not agree with the Trump administration’s perspective; while they’re no doubt professionals, why wouldn’t Trump want his own people in these positions, who understand his priorities?

Trump’s complaining about the courts? There are 131 judicial vacancies in the federal courts. Trump has nominated ten judges so far. Nominating qualified figures to the executive and judicial branch is a key part of governing. Reacting to what’s said about you on Morning Joe isn’t.

By the way, that second travel ban that Trump is complaining about? He signed it! If he thought it was such a terrible idea, Trump should have said so back in March when discussing it with his legal and national-security team, instead of chewing their work out in public two months later.

This is the problem with a president whose decisions can be swayed by whether he talked with Steve Bannon or Ivanka Trump most recently. Trump makes a decision, and then if he decides he doesn’t like the outcome, he blames the person who offered that advice, instead of himself for following that advice.

For the readers who will grumble this is “bashing” President Trump . . .  what am I supposed to say? Pretend this is the way a president and his administration are supposed to work? The president is publicly fuming about the decisions of his own Department of Justice, decisions he signed off on! He’s got a phone. He can call Jeff Sessions anytime he likes. I’m sure they’ll wake him up if the president calls.

Yes, there are a lot of judges with starkly different philosophies who will block an executive order on sketchy grounds. This is the opposite of unprecedented. If you think Trump is the first president who have his desired policy about who to let into the country nullified by decisions by judges, ask President Obama how his executive order about illegal-immigrant children and their parents turned out.

A Leader Has to Help His Team Help Him

Speaking of the extraordinary difficulty of working for this president . . . 

When President Donald Trump addressed NATO leaders during his debut overseas trip little more than a week ago, he surprised and disappointed European allies who hoped — and expected — he would use his speech to explicitly reaffirm America’s commitment to mutual defense of the alliance’s members, a one-for-all, all-for-one provision that looks increasingly urgent as Eastern European members worry about the threat from a resurgent Russia on their borders.

What’s not is that the president also disappointed — and surprised — his own top national security officials by failing to include the language reaffirming the so-called Article 5 provision in his speech. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all supported Trump doing so and had worked in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode. They thought it was, and a White House aide even told The New York Times the day before the line was definitely included.

It was not until the next day, Thursday, May 25, when Trump started talking at an opening ceremony for NATO’s new Brussels headquarters, that the president’s national security team realized their boss had made a decision with major consequences — without consulting or even informing them in advance of the change.

“They had the right speech and it was cleared through McMaster,” said a source briefed by National Security Council officials in the immediate aftermath of the NATO meeting. “As late as that same morning, it was the right one.”

How would you like to be H. R. McMaster at that moment? You make a recommendation, there seems to be a consensus on the national-security team, the president seems to agree . . .   you check and re-check to make sure the decision is going the way you think it should . . .  and then at the last second, without telling you, the president changes his mind and goes in the opposite direction.

ADDENDA: Keep an eye on this; even by the standards of the Middle East, this sounds like a major storm brewing: “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Egypt, severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing the gas-rich nation of supporting regional terrorist groups. The four nations also moved to cut off Qatar’s land, sea and air routes to the outside world.”

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