Weintraub makes everything clear: Since you probably didn't know it last week, Ellen Weintraub is chair of the utterly toothless, strongly Potemkin Federal Election Commission.
How toothless, and how Potemkin, is this ersatz federal agency? Consider this:
Weintraub's term on the FEC expired in 2007! She continues to "serve" because no president has bothered to replace her and because, under terms of federal law, a commissioner continues to serve until such time as she is replaced.
Please understand! The failure to replace Commissioner Weintraub shouldn't be seen as an endorsement of her meritorious service. At present, two seats are vacant on the six-member FEC because no president has bothered to attempt to fill them.
Comically, the terms of all four current commissioners have long since expired. For a background report, click here.
This is a Potemkin agency down to the bone. In fact, no one cares what the FEC does—even when it was at full strength, that had long been virtually nothing—and nobody gives a flying fig about what its dwindling band of aging commissioners might, on occasion, still tweet.
The FEC is the kind of joke which makes some citizens think it's time to ignore the federal government altogether. That said, Commissioner Weintraub made a comical statement this week—a comical statement which had Nicolle Wallace's favorite munchkins and elves quivering with delight.
In what was way the expired commissioner's statement comical? It was comical because she thought she was settling a current question, when she plainly wasn't.
Her statement involved the latest red scare, the one which has the munchkins chattering. Comically but familiarly, the statement by the expired pseudo-commissioner started exactly like this:
Statement by Commissar Weintraub"I would not have thought that I needed to say this," the weary commissar wearily wrote as she tweeted her sacred ruling to the waiting world.
Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office. It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept...
We've shown you the part of Weintraub's statement which has been most widely quoted. The comedy involves Weintraub's apparent belief that she has made the state of play just amazingly clear.
Comically, she hasn't. To start to see why we tell you that, let's examine the full text of her declaration, which she wouldn't have thought she needed to say:
Full statement by Commissar WeintraubYou'll note that the expired commissioner immediately conflated "foreign nationals" (i.e., people who aren't United States citizens) with "foreign governments" (i.e., foreign governments). Just that quickly, her absurdly pompous statement ceased to be "100% clear."
Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office. It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept. Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation, Our Founding Fathers sounded the alarm about "foreign Interference, Intrigue and Influence." They knew that when foreign governments seek to influence American politics, it is always to advance their own interests, not America's. Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong side of a federal investigation. And political campaign that receives an offer of prohibited donations from a foreign source should report that offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In fact, her statement, just that quickly, ceased to be clear at all. But so it goes within the American discourse on a daily basis. (This explains the name we chose for this site in late 1997.)
A "foreign national" is not the same thing as a "foreign government!" But that conflation only begins to explain why the lapsed commissioner's statement is comically unclear.
This is why we say that:
As she makes her weary statement, Weintraub blows right past a basic question—what counts as "anything of value" within the legal frameworks to which she murkily refers?
What constitutes a "thing of value?" In some respects, the answer is perfectly clear.
It's perfectly clear, within the relevant federal laws, that a foreign person (or foreign government) can't give money to a candidate or a campaign. It's also clear that a foreign person or government can't donate material goods of certain obvious kinds.
For example, a foreign national can't donate a jet plane to a campaign, thereby eliminating a major travel expense for the campaign. This is all perfectly clear.
What isn't obvious is the question of how the transfer of information fits into this legal regime. Can a foreign national—a Russkie, a Brit or perhaps a Norwegian—simply tell a candidate something? Or is that prohibited too?
By normal standards, it's somewhat odd to establish laws which make it illegal for tell a person something. Within the context of political campaigns, does federal law say, for example, that a British citizen can't tell an American candidate something which is true about the American's opponent?
Is that what federal law says? If so, then why was it OK for Christopher Steele, a foreign national, to gather information from other foreign nationals and pass it on to entities which were being funded by the Clinton campaign?
We take it as obvious that there was nothing wrong with Steele's attempt to gather information about Candidate Trump. Indeed, it's hard to imagine that liberals would think someone was breaking the law when Steele, a Brit, spoke to Russkies in search of negative information about Trump.
Why in the world would anyone think there was anything wrong with that? Indeed, why wouldn't we want to gain information about the people who are running for high office?
It seems obvious to us that nothing was wrong with Steele's attempt to gather information within the context of the 2016 campaign. But Christopher Steele was a foreign national! In what way is it "100% clear" from the commissar's statement that his conduct was A-OK?
Within the context of our current pseudo-discussions, Weintraub's statement comes close to being the opposite of "100% clear." But the munchkins and elves on Wallace's show all took turns praising Weintraub for her brilliant act of elucidation, failing to see that her statement actually leaves us groping about in the dark.
At issue is a basic question—what sorts of things do we want to avoid in our upcoming election campaign? Putting it a different way, what sorts of behavior by foreign entities might we sensibly want to avoid—even declare illegal?
None of this is clear in any way from the clownish discussions we've seen on cable in the past few days. Wallace is clearly the worst of them all, but Don Lemon is also present with his reliably scattershot pundit gangs. We don't think we've seen a clear discussion of this murky topic yet.
How unclear is the state of the law? How unclear are the actual merits of the various matters at hand? Just consider this:
It isn't clear in the Mueller Report that Mueller and his team felt sure that the Russkie lawyer's transmission of information to Donald Trump Junior constituted a violation of the relevant federal laws.
Was the information she transmitted a "thing of value" under terms of the relevant laws? Below, you see some of what the gumshoes said:
MUELLER REPORT (Vol. I, pages 186-187): There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would constitute a “thing of value” within the meaning of these provisions, but the Office determined that the government would not be likely to obtain and sustain a conviction for two other reasons: first, the Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted “willfully,” i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct; and, second, the government would likely encounter difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation.Wallace's favorite jerk-offs and clowns frequently complain that we rubes haven't read the Mueller Report, as they so infallibly have.
These [legal holdings] would support the view that candidate-related opposition research given to a campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply. A campaign can be assisted not only by the provision of funds, but also by the provision of derogatory information about an opponent. Political campaigns frequently conduct and pay for opposition research. A foreign entity that engaged in such research and provided resulting information to a campaign could exert a greater effect on an election, and a greater tendency to ingratiate the donor to the candidate, than a gift of money or tangible things of value. At the same time, no judicial decision has treated the voluntary provision of uncompensated opposition research or similar information as a thing of value that could amount to a contribution under campaign-finance law. Such an interpretation could have implications beyond the foreign-source ban, see 52 U.S.C. § 30116(a) (imposing monetary limits on campaign contributions), and raise First Amendment questions. Those questions could be especially difficult where the information consisted simply of the recounting of historically accurate facts. It is uncertain how courts would resolve those issues.
We'd direct them to those passages, in which the gumshoes say that the courts might not seek to stop the flow of "historically accurate facts," even under terms of the federal laws Weintraub has comically failed to make clear.
"[N]o judicial decision has treated the voluntary provision of uncompensated opposition research or similar information as a thing of value that could amount to a contribution under campaign-finance law," the Mueller team rather clearly said.
They said that there are "reasonable arguments that the offered information would constitute a 'thing of value' within the meaning of these provisions," but they also said that it isn't clear that these arguments, even though "reasonable," would be sustained by the courts.
Can a foreign citizen give information to a campaign, even the kind that a 6-year-old will rush to describe as "dirt?" Under federal law, is it illegal for a foreign citizen to commit such an act>
Mueller's team didn't seem sure about that. That's because the answer to this central question is anything but clear, even after Commissar Weintraub's pompous, ridiculous statement.
We started this site in 1998 because we couldn't watch another day of this utterly dim-witted blather, even way back then. Today, it's Wallace and Weintraub and favorites and friends and corporate entertainment oh my.
Weintraub thought her comical diktat made things "100% clear." It's clear that Wallace, grinning and laughing, has never had so much fun in her life as she has each afternoon with her favorite collection of yes men.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Future scholars say this ludicrous clowning led on to Mister Trump's War.
Who is Ellen Weintraub? Commissioner Weintraub went to Yale, then to Harvard Law School. This might seem to suggest that she was once much smarter than this.
It might also suggest that she always agreed with whatever her professors, and then her bosses, were saying around her. It may further suggest that 12 years in suspended animation may eventually dull the senses of a Harvard Law School grad.
Cable news is heavily peopled by climbers, agreers and pleasers. To see how bad their culture can get, just watch Wallace's sing-along at 4 PM Eastern each weekday.
Each friend will agree with everyone else. Judging from appearances, these idiots actually like it that way. They don't seem to notice when their pleasing group tales don't seem to make actual sense.