Let’s Hear It for the U.S. Border Patrol!

by Jim Geraghty

Some good news from down on America’s southern border and throughout the country:

The federal government, in the most complete statistical snapshot of immigration enforcement under President Donald Trump, says Border Patrol arrests plunged to a 45-year low while arrests by deportation officers soared.

The Border Patrol made 310,531 arrests during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a decline of 25 percent from 415,816 a year earlier and the lowest level since 1971. Despite the significant decline, arrests increased every month since May — largely families and unaccompanied children.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose officers pick up people for deportation away from the border, made 143,470 arrests, an increase of 25 percent from 114,434 a year earlier. After Trump took office, ICE arrests surged 40 percent from the same period a year earlier. . . 

ICE said “interior removals” — people deported after being arrested away from the border — jumped 25 percent to 81,603 from 65,332 the previous year. They rose 37 percent since Trump’s inauguration compared to the same period a year earlier.

Count the number of times you see the phrase “deporting immigrants” or “rounding up immigrants” from critics of this administration. They really love to drop that key “illegal” label, and speak as if the Scoops from Soylent Green were riding up at the conclusion of citizenship ceremonies and shoveling up everyone and taking them off to some dire fate.

Whether these people are willing to admit it or not, their “deportation is wrong” perspective means they do not believe that there is any needed path to citizenship; they believe that citizenship is a matter of location. In their mentality, once you get across a U.S. border, you’re in.

That’s not the law.

John Conyers, Al Franken, Roy Moore, and the Psychological ‘Permission Slip’

The Republican National Committee, like President Trump, is formally supporting Roy Moore again.

Are Democratic congressmen John Conyers and Senator Al Franken giving Alabama Republican voters psychological “permission” to vote for Roy Moore? Is there a similar effect for other Republican party leaders?

The allegations against Roy Moore are as serious as they can get. There’s a decent amount of circumstantial evidence, and Moore’s initial denials were contradictory and unpersuasive. His current insistence that he never knew or met any of these women, and that anything he signed for them is a forgery, is similarly unconvincing. But there’s that nagging sense that his defeat would mean voters would be signing off on a new standard, that accusations of impropriety are sufficient to end a person’s career. Maybe Moore’s guilty as sin, but what about the next guy? If mere accusation becomes the new, universal standard for removal or disqualification, voters will keep some bad men out of office, but they say see some good men’s reputations and career’s destroyed by false accusations.

And if we argue that Moore’s alleged behavior is worse than Conyers’ . . . well, Conyers is still pretty darn bad:  

Another former staff employee of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, came forward late Monday to publicly accuse the congressman of sexual harassment, saying he once slid his hand up her skirt in church.

Attorney Lisa Bloom, who is representing Marion Brown, the former staffer who first accused Conyers, 88, of sexual harassment, on Monday night made public on Twitter an affidavit from Elisa Grubbs making many of the same accusations.

She said in the affidavit she saw Conyers groping and stroking Brown’s legs and the legs of other women in the office and that she saw Brown shortly after an alleged event in Chicago in 2005 where Brown said Conyers’ propositioned her in a hotel room. In the affidavit, Grubbs said Brown told her, “That SOB just wanted me to have sex with him.”

She also said she was sitting next to him at church on another occasion when he ran his hand under her skirt and said other people saw him do it.

Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed of Southfield, dismissed the new claims, noting that Grubbs is a relative of Brown’s and calling them “another instance of tomfoolery from the mouth of Harvey Weinstein’s attorney.” Bloom previously represented Weinstein, a movie mogul accused of sexual harassment by several women, before resigning in recent months.

Reed added that Grubb’s claims were “unworthy of any further response.”

Conyers has already been accused by at least six women of sexual harassment or other improper behavior, including showing up in his underwear for meetings. In her statement, Grubbs said she was at his home on one occasion when he came out of the bathroom naked.

The allegation is that he groped her in church.

This morning, Conyers is scheduled to hold a press conference discussing his future. Apparently he will refuse to resign:

Mr. Conyers, 88, who last week stepped aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, planned to announce on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election, according to a family member who wants to run for the congressman’s seat.

“He is not resigning,” Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator, said of his great-uncle. “He is going to retire.”

Apparently John Conyers’ behavior had been an open secret for years; as Cokie Roberts said on This Week a few weeks ago, “every female in the press corps knew, don’t get in elevator with him.” We’re left wondering how this could be such an open secret, and why Conyers’ creepy, predatory behavior was never reflected in the coverage of him.

(Conyers was the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee back during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and pulled out all the stops to insist that Clinton’s actions were a private mistake and that Republicans were the true villains in the story. Before the committee vote on impeachment, he declared, “if the American people ever wanted strong evidence that the extremists are still in control of this process, then that is it. It is time to give the American people a holiday gift, to end this sordid tale.” Nobody thought it was relevant that he was harassing his own staff and reporters all along? Of course Conyers wouldn’t give Clinton any grief for seeing his own workforce as a personal harem, he was doing the same thing! And once Bill Clinton escaped any serious consequence . . . what lessons do you think Conyers took from the whole experience?)

If Al Franken stays . . . does Texas Republican representative Blake Farenthold, who used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim, get to stay? He says he’s going to pay back the government.

If Fahrenthold stays, does Nevada Democratic representative Ruben Kihuen stay?

A woman who worked as the finance director for a promising Nevada Democrat is alleging that he repeatedly harassed and made sexual advances toward her during his 2016 congressional campaign — and like many young people on campaigns all over the country, she did not know what to do with her complaint and didn’t feel comfortable bringing it to the campaign’s leadership.

So she quit her job. And he’s now in Congress.

Samantha, whose last name BuzzFeed News is withholding at her request, began working for Rep. Ruben Kihuen early in his campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy in December 2015 and quit by April 2016. Starting in February of that year, Samantha, who was 25 at the time, said Kihuen, who was then 35 and still competing in the primary race, propositioned her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections. On two occasions, she says he touched her thighs without consent.

For what it’s worth, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi called for Kihuen to resign. Notice this is, so far, one accuser who remains unnamed. Is this really the standard Pelosi wants?

Should all the creeps go? Absolutely, Congress would be a better place without them. But once a party decides that one of their guys should be allowed to stay, the other party is not going to enforce its own zero tolerance.

The voters, in Alabama and elsewhere, see this cynical game, where standards of conduct are used as a partisan tool to knock out the other side’s officeholders. And they shrug and refuse to play, and decide they’re not going to worry about any of the allegations.

What I Think I Think About Trump, the Russians, and the FBI

What I think I think . . . 

1. Donald Trump and his senior campaign staff were mostly amateurs with seriously flawed judgment at times (Kellyanne Conway was the rare exception); their 2016 victory has more to do with Hillary Clinton’s epic flaws and arrogant campaign than any innate strategic genius.
2. No, really, one of them fell for the “I’m Putin’s niece” con.
3. Donald Trump has always been strangely naïve and warm towards Russia and Vladimir Putin. This is troubling but hardly unique; recall Hillary Clinton’s “Reset Button,” Obama’s “after my election I have more flexibility” statement and George W. Bush’s assessment of Putin, “I looked the man in the eye, I found him very straightforward and trustworthy.” A lot of American leaders believe that their personal charm, persuasiveness, and reasonability are all that’s needed to improve U.S.-Russian relations.
4. Donald Trump and his campaign would welcome Russian help, but they have just enough common sense to not reach out to the Russians and ask for it. If evidence of this arises, the argument that Trump and the Russians colluded in a criminal manner becomes much more persuasive.
5. Russian intelligence would not want to bet too heavily on the continued cooperation of Donald Trump; he’s far too erratic and has too much history of taking favors and then stiffing his allies like a Manhattan contractor.

Finally . . . it’s getting harder and harder to believe that no one at the highest level of the FBI was playing politics in 2016. As the editors of the Wall Street Journal put it:

The Washington Post and the New York Times reported Saturday that a lead FBI investigator on the Mueller probe, Peter Strzok, was demoted this summer after it was discovered he’d sent anti- Trump texts to a mistress. As troubling, Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department kept this information from House investigators, despite Intelligence Committee subpoenas that would have exposed those texts. They also refused to answer questions about Mr. Strzok’s dismissal and refused to make him available for an interview.

The news about Mr. Strzok leaked only when the Justice Department concluded it couldn’t hold out any longer, and the stories were full of spin that praised Mr. Mueller for acting “swiftly” to remove the agent. Only after these stories ran did Justice agree on Saturday to make Mr. Strzok available to the House.

This is all the more notable because Mr. Strzok was a chief lieutenant to former FBI Director James Comey and played a lead role investigating alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller then gave him a top role in his special-counsel probe. And before all this Mr. Strzok led the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and sat in on the interview she gave to the FBI shortly before Mr. Comey publicly exonerated her in violation of Justice Department practice.

The Journal doesn’t even mention the worst part: “Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey’s earlier draft language describing Clinton’s actions as ‘grossly negligent’ to ‘extremely careless.’” This changed the wording to ensure it didn’t meet the specific statutory language that describes the crime. Put another way, the original draft of Comey’s statement stated she committed a crime.

It’s not surprising that the top leaders at the FBI would have political opinions just like many other Americans. But they’ve got to keep that under wraps and avoid even the appearance of impropriety, bias, partisanship, or having an axe to grind. Indictments get tossed over this sort of thing.

ADDENDA: I’m scheduled to appear on HLN today, around 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

Finally, Sports Illustrated makes some great selections for Sportsmen of the Year: The Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, who raised $37 million for hurricane victims, and the Houston Astros’ José Altuve, who epitomized the team’s unlikely World Series victory, bringing joy to a city that was still recovering from a major disaster.

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty