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The Rushmore Report – Was Trump Right to Fire Jeff Sessions?

We knew it was coming. And less than one day following the midterm elections, the inevitable came to pass. President Donald Trump fired the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions. The first senator to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign and the fourth person the president credited with his victory during his inaugural address had become a liability. He simply had to go. But the question lingers – was Trump right to fire Jeff Sessions?

Yes.

I loved Jeff Sessions as a senator from Alabama. I appreciate his faith, his principles, and the way he has handled diversity from Day 1. He has endured more verbal attacks from his boss than any man should ever have to experience. He has served every day with the class of a southern gentleman. So, let’s rethink it. Was the president really right to fire Jeff Sessions?

Yes.

First, the president has every right to fire anyone in his cabinet without explanation. This is something Democrats don’t understand. Clearly, they did not take the same high school civics classes as the rest of us. They think that they – not the president – should name his cabinet. Shortly after Sessions was hired, the likes of Schumer and Pelosi cried foul. “Sessions must go!” they screamed. Now that he is gone, they cry foul again. This is their circular argument. “President Trump is corrupt for firing the man we demanded that he fire.”

Despite protestations from the Democrats – Sessions’ unexpected supporters – Trump did it. He fired his Attorney General. Was this the right thing to do?

Yes.

Here’s why. Sessions had failed to win the confidence of the president. That was the only reason Trump needed. There are 340 million people living in this country (legally). But only one vote counts when it comes to the longevity of members of the president’s cabinet. The fact that President Trump fired Jeff Sessions is all we really need to know. But still, many ask, was Trump right to fire Jeff Sessions?

Yes.

Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation. He failed to prosecute the Hillary Clinton email crimes. Sessions did not impanel a grand jury to examine the conduct of fired FBI Director James Comey. And he failed to do anything about the illegal surveillance activity of the FBI.

Was President Trump right to fire Jeff Sessions?

Yes.

 

The Rushmore Report – Is Trump to Blame for Mail Bombings and Pittsburgh?

Last week, Americans were terrorized by mad men yet again. Across the nation, about 15 leading Trump critics received bombs by mail – none that reached their intended target nor detonated – at the hands of Cesar Sayoc of Florida. Then, just days later, Robert D. Bowers opened fire at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, taking the lives of 11 worshipers and injuring six others. Immediately, such liberal outlets as MSNBC came out against President Trump, laying the blame for the recent acts firmly at his feet, in light of his “heated rhetoric.” Are they right?

MSNBC host Katy Tur said, “It’s pretty clear when you’re talking about this toxic political environment that it did start with Donald Trump.” She then noted the repeated “lock her up” charges at his rallies, targeting Hillary Clinton.

Tur seems to suffer from acute amnesia.

When James Hodgkinson, a far-left supporter of Bernie Sanders, opened fire on congressional Republicans on a softball field in 2017, was that motivated by President Trump? Was it Trump’s fault that Minnesota Democrat leaders said Republicans should “go to the guillotine”? Was it Trump who harassed Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell while eating dinner with their wives? And was it the President who inspired Democrat Maxine Waters to call for Democrats to keep Republicans out of their places of business or Hillary Clinton to call for an end to civility until Democrats win office or Eric Holder to call for Democrats to “kick Republicans” at every chance?

Writing for Townhall, Matt Vespa said it well. “Don’t lecture me about turning down the rhetoric when you people have become unspooled because Hillary didn’t win an election. Also, Left Wing America, you fired first – with an actual gun – and people were injured, nearly killed. So, spare us your ‘thank God for me’ attitude. It’s nauseating. As for the media, no one trusts you, so quit telling us Trump is to blame for everything.”

The media has a selective memory when it comes to reporting high-pitched political rhetoric.

Should President Trump tone it down a bit? Sure, he should. And recently, he has. But as long as crazy conservatives attack with rhetoric and crazy liberals attack with bullets, let’s not act as though the vitriol that has contaminated the modern political landscape can be laid at the feet of just one man – or one party.

The Rushmore Report – President Trump’s Hilarious Line from ’60 Minutes’ Interview

Sunday night, CBS aired Lesley Stahl’s interview with President Trump on 60 Minutes. As expected, they sparred on issues ranging from immigration to fake media. It was their discussion on the media that led to Trump’s funniest line. He stated, “The thing I’ve really learned is I never knew how dishonest the media was and I really mean it. I’m not saying that as a soundbite. I never knew how dishonest the media was.” When Stahl tried to change the subject, Trump landed his zinger.

Stahl jumped in: “I’m going to change the subject.”

Trump responded, “No. You asked me a question, I’m not finished yet.”

Stahl: “I’m going to run your answer, but I want to move on.”

Trump: “I’m just saying you treat me differently than Obama.”

Stahl: “I disagree, but I don’t want to have that fight with you.”

And then it came . . .

Trump: “Hey, it’s okay, Leslie. It’s okay. In the meantime, I’m president, and you’re not.”

Certainly, one can argue that Trump’s response was not “presidential,” whatever that means these days. But for those who believe that the media has mistreated conservatives for years, Trump’s quip put a smile on their collective faces. For those who believe the media has treated Trump the same as they treated President Obama – it’s unclear what planet they are living on.

Trump deserves credit for going on 60 Minutes. Rarely did President Obama venture far beyond media outlets that praised his administration 24/7. And for those who wish Trump would be less boastful and more presidential (there’s that word again), they will be waiting for awhile.

You might argue that Trump was elected despite the way he treats the press. I disagree. Trump was elected because of the way he treats the press. And that is not likely to change any time soon.

The Rushmore Report – What Happens If Trump Fires Rosenstein?

On Friday, the New York Times reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who oversees Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, brought up the idea of “secretly recording” President Donald Trump last year and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment process for removing the president from office. Rosenstein denied the Times story, calling it “inaccurate and factually incorrect.” Another source or sources have been telling reporters that Rosenstein was joking when he talked about wearing a wire. (The Times has stood by its reporting.)

Trump supporters and right-wing media personalities quickly reacted to the report by calling for Rosenstein’s firing. As with James Comey’s firing last year, the aftermath of Trump removing Rosenstein would be chaotic. The reports Friday raised questions about what would happen at the Department of Justice and with the Mueller investigation if Trump were to make the move.

Who would replace Rosenstein overseeing the Mueller investigation?

Normally, the associate attorney general would step in. But Rachel Brand stepped down from the role in February, leaving the office with a temporary replacement. The most likely answer is that the chain of command would leap over her vacant position and Solicitor General Noel Francisco would take Rosenstein’s place.

What do we know about Francisco?

Like many prominent members of the Trump administration, he has had his share of controversy. Most notably, Francisco has been accused of making misleading arguments  before the Supreme Court about Trump’s travel ban.

But before joining the administration, he was more controversial for his legal work on behalf of conservative causes. He often represented corporations in their fights against regulations, including a coal company involved in a deadly mining disaster. And he argued two prominent cases before the Supreme Court, including a defense of religious organizations’ right to deny employees access to birth control.

He also had worked on George W. Bush’s 2000 Florida recount, and then for Bush’s administration as associate counsel to the president and deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel.

As Jed Shugerman wrote for Slate, Francisco’s background is more political than other career DOJ officials. Mark Joseph Stern called Francisco “competent and qualified” in his assessment of Slate but warned that Francisco displayed some worrying beliefs, including a strong stance on the scope of executive privilege. There’s good reason to believe that if Francisco were to take over Rosenstein’s position, he would be less kind to the Mueller investigation.

Are there any other possible replacements?

Yes. While Francisco would be the natural person to step in per the chain of command, it’s possible Trump could choose instead to replace him with an administration official already confirmed by the Senate under the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. Louis Seidman, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University, told the Washington Post that hypothetically Trump could choose someone like Energy Secretary Rick Perry to fill the role. But, Seidman cautioned, it’s not clear whether the act applies to people who have been fired, rather than someone who resigns or dies in office.

The danger for Trump in choosing this route, Shugerman wrote, is that it would be “such a transparent effort to subvert the rule of law as to be a political liability even within the Republican Party.”

How do we then get a new, permanent deputy attorney general?

Trump will eventually nominate a replacement, and that nominee will have to go through the normal Senate confirmation process.

What exactly is Rosenstein’s role with the Russia investigation anyway?

Rosenstein is, effectively, Robert Mueller’s boss. The task of overseeing the investigation would normally have gone to Jeff Sessions, but in March 2017, after it was revealed the attorney general had failed to disclose conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sessions chose to recuse himself from the investigation, infuriating Trump, who saw the decision as a betrayal.

While Mueller does not have to report to Rosenstein for all regular decisions, he does on occasion have to check in with Rosenstein on the status of the investigation. Rosenstein, then, can make Mueller provide explanations for any of his actions and prevent any steps he considers “inappropriate or unwarranted,” as Yale lecturer and former FBI agent Asha Rangappa wrote in Slate last year.

Rosenstein is also responsible for representing the investigation before Congress. Rosenstein has largely acted as a champion of the investigation and has not challenged Mueller’s approach or tactics in any significant ways.

What would his firing mean for the investigation?

There’s room for debate as to how much damage this could actually do. If the person who steps into Rosenstein’s position feels less charitable toward the investigation, that person can throw up significant roadblocks and even, possibly, shut it down.

As Rangappa noted, the investigation by this point is broad, complex, and to a certain degree decentralized. It will almost certainly carry on regardless of who oversees it, as the FBI is compelled to pursue the leads it has and would have to defend any decision to drop specific lines of investigation. The Russia investigation, therefore, could not simply be killed.

So the investigation is safe?

Mostly, but a particularly hostile overseer of the investigation could hobble it by forcing Mueller to justify every step. Rosenstein’s replacement could override one of Mueller’s decisions—but then the replacement, in turn, would have to justify the override to Congress, with reports for both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. An unethical acting attorney general working against the investigation could also potentially leak Mueller’s plans to the White House in advance.

Possibly the worst threat to the investigation could come from the acting attorney general’s role speaking for the investigation. An acting attorney general keen on discrediting the investigation could, in testifying before Congress, convey a lack of faith in Mueller. That could turn Mueller’s remaining Republican allies in Congress.

About the Author

Molly Olmstead writes for Slate.

The Rushmore Report – Guess Who They Want to Impeach Now? (Other than Trump)

Most Democrats calling for impeachment proceedings have their eyes on President Trump. One lawmaker in Massachusetts has someone else in mind. State Senator Barbara L’Italien, who is running to replace retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas, wants to send Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas packing because of his past “lies” about the sexual assault allegations against him. During his 1991 confirmation hearings, Thomas was accused of making sexual advances against Anita Hill, a woman who had worked for him at two federal agencies. He denied the claims, but L’Italien doesn’t buy it. She is prepared to file the impeachment resolution against Thomas for perjury.

“There is an elephant in the room for Congress in the #MeToo era. Our leaders have to start talking about it. Two of the most powerful men in the country have been credibly accused of sexual crimes and gotten away with it,” L’Italien said. “Laws cracking down on sexual assault have to be signed by a president who multiple women say assaulted them. Regulations to stop sexual harassment can be struck down by a Supreme Court justice who lied under oath to counter allegations of sexual harassment. Why would victims think a government like that is looking out for them?” (Politico)

L’Italien may be the first politician to advocate for Thomas’s impeachment, but she’s not the first person. The Daily Intelligencer’s Jill Abramson wrote a piece entitled, Do You Believe Her Now?, laying out the case for impeaching Thomas based on new evidence.

And given the evidence that’s come out in the years since, it’s also time to raise the possibility of impeachment. Not because he watched porn on his own time, of course. Not because he talked about it with a female colleague — although our understanding of the real workplace harm that kind of sexual harassment does to women has evolved dramatically in the years since, thanks in no small part to those very hearings. Nor is it even because he routinely violated the norms of good workplace behavior, in a way that seemed especially at odds with the elevated office he was seeking. It’s because of the lies he told, repeatedly and under oath, saying he had never talked to Hill about porn or to other women who worked with him about risqué subject matter.

Although L’Italien is focused on Thomas’s supposed indiscretions, she hasn’t completely let Trump off the hook. She has asked for congressional hearings into his alleged sexual misconduct.

About the Author
Cortney O’Brien writes for TownHall.

The Rushmore Report – Why Do Evangelicals Still Support Trump?

First Baptist Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress has defended evangelical Christians who support President Donald Trump, declaring that it has to do with policy and not any alleged moral failings. In an interview on Fox News, following a White House dinner hosted in honor of evangelical supporters, Jeffress explained his support. Jeffress said, “I know a lot of people are still perplexed. Why are Christians so supportive of Donald Trump?”

Jeffress answered his own question: “Well, it’s really not that hard to figure out when you realize he is the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-conservative judiciary in history and that includes either Bush or Ronald Reagan.”

Jeffress was then asked about the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Trump and that he allegedly paid “hush money” to keep stories about his extramarital affairs out of the press. The pastor replied that, even if true, it doesn’t negate his support for Trump’s policies.

“Obviously, we don’t support extramarital affairs, we don’t support hush money payments. But what we do support are these president’s excellent policies,” continued Jeffress, who believes most people are smart enough “to differentiate between the two.”

“I think the left is trying to shame people like myself continuously for supporting this great president. It’s not going to work. We’re not going to turn away from him.”

Jeffress’ comments came after the White House held a dinner attended by approximately 100 evangelical leaders and activists involved in informally advising the administration, including Pastor Jack Graham, Dr. James Dobson, and Pastor Greg Laurie.

Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, told The Christian Post that pastors expressed appreciation for the Trump administration advancing a socially conservative agenda.

While Christians are often called to speak “truth to power,” Graham explained, the leaders in the room felt called to speak “love to power.”

“They were getting up and saying what we appreciate and care about, expressing our faith and our love. It was very similar to a meeting that you would have at a church,” said Graham. “With that many preachers and Christian leaders in the room, we believe the spirit of God was very present. Scripture was shared, verses were given to the president. The truth was delivered and love was delivered.”

Jeffress isn’t the first conservative evangelical leader to suggest that evangelicals’ support for Trump is based on policy rather than personal behavior.

In January, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins explained in an interview with Politico’s “Off Message” podcast that when it came to Trump’s past behavior, such as the failed marriages and alleged affairs, evangelicals have been willing to give him grace.

“Among evangelicals, there is an understanding that we are all fallen and the idea of forgiveness is very prominent,” said Perkins earlier this year, adding, “I think the evangelical community gives him grace for the mistakes that he’s made.”

“We kind of gave him, ‘alright you get a mulligan. You get a do-over.’ This is what he is committed to and as long as he commits to that and continues on that, he will have the support of evangelicals.”

About the Author

Michael Gryboski writes for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report – Tiger Woods Speaks Out on President Trump

Tiger Woods, arguably the preeminent athlete of his generation, is making a comeback. Woods’ record in golf is simply amazing. He is an 11-time player of the year, winner of 79 PGA events, and a 14-time winner of the sport’s major championships. And now, ten years after his last major win, he is climbing the world rankings. But it is what he said after his final round Sunday that is making news. Tiger Woods was asked to comment on President Trump. He obliged. His comments may surprise.

Moments after finishing 14 strokes behind the winner at the Ridgewood Championship Course in New Jersey (losing to someone named Bryson DeChambeau), he gave several interviews, as he does after every round. But in his final interview, rather than answering questions about the state of his game or the Ryder Cup, he was asked about President Trump, immigration policies, and the president’s feud with LeBron James.

Woods was asked by a reporter from the New York Times about his relationship with Trump, with whom he has played golf, and whether that relationship is “professional or personal.”

“Well, I’ve known Donald for a number of years,” he began. “We’ve played golf together. We’ve had dinner together. I’ve known him pre-presidency and obviously during his presidency.”

There was a follow-up rambling question. “Immigrants are threatened by him and his policies while he has gotten himself into sports debates in terms of race with people like LeBraon James. And in regard to the National Anthem, what do you say to people who might find it interesting that you have a friendly relationship with him?”

Woods answered politely and diplomatically. “Well, he’s the President of the United States. You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike his politics or personality, but we all must respect the office.”

To his credit, Tiger had already conducted interviews with SKY Sports, CBS, The Golf Channel, and PGA Tour Radio – after completing 18 holes of golf. His final question was about whether he wanted to comment on race relationships.

Woods said, “No. I’ve just finished 72 holes and I’m hungry.”

He was then escorted to a waiting car which would take him to his private plane. He would soon be on his way back home to Florida.

Woods is to be congratulated for not taking the bait. He seems to have figured out what the NFL is missing. Sports fans want to watch sports. They don’t tune in to watch political protests or to see athletes tear down the leader of our country – no matter who he is.

 

 

The Rushmore Report – The Very Simple Reason Evangelicals Are Sticking with Trump

He has been married three times. He has admitted to multiple affairs. His use of crude language is indisputable. He is not an active church person. Yet, President Donald Trump enjoys record support among Americans known as evangelicals – men and woman devoted to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Christian leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. acclaim him as the greatest friend Christians have ever had in the White House. Last week’s poll by YouGov found that those who self identify as “born again” support the president by a majority of 87-13 percent. Yet, only 45 percent of this group approve of the president’s personal behavior. So what gives? How come Christ followers support President Trump by greater numbers than for Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush? The answer is actually quite simple.

We have President Trump for no more than eight years. But we will have the ramifications of his policies for decades.

It is certainly understandable that many see this as the definition of hypocrisy. Here we have a sitting president who has been tied to an affair with a porn star, and his greatest defenders are evangelical leaders. What could be a greater disconnect than that?

But keep in mind, while Trump only has about a 45 percent approval rating, that trumps the media’s 24 percent trustworthy rating (CBS survey).

The CBS poll found that by an overwhelming majority, people find Trump’s behavior unbecoming of a president. But it also found that most people vote based on policy, not personality – or so they say.

So this is where most evangelicals stand. They would rather have a president with questionable character who delivers lower taxes, stronger defense, secure borders, religious freedom, a growing economy, conservative judges, low inflation, a rising stock market, and more jobs – than a president who is a great Sunday school teacher, but leads the country to a weakened national defense, higher taxes, porous borders, liberal judges, and higher unemployment.

The way evangelicals look at it is that in ten years, we won’t have Trump around. But we will have the result of his policies. And they are willing to put up with some personal issues with which they disagree for the sake of the long term good of the country.

For those who like to see ISIS on the run, North Korea discussing a reduction in its nuclear threat, Russia under economic sanctions, lower taxes, conservative judges, low unemployment, stronger national defense, secure borders, record jobs, and a soaring stock market – evangelicals make a good point.

Evangelicals are sticking with Trump. The reason is quite simple.

The Rushmore Report – African American Pastor Calls Trump a ‘Pro-Black’ President

President Donald Trump met with inner-city pastors from all over the country Wednesday. He listened to each man’s story as the group discussed prison reform, among other issues. Trump stressed the importance of churches in American life. And then prominent pastor Darrell Scott did the unthinkable. The African American pastor raised eyebrows when he praised the president for his support for minority communities. Of course, that has landed Rev. Scott in hot water.

Scott said, “To be honest, this is probably going to be the – and I’m going to say this at this table – the most pro-black president we have had in our lifetime. This president actually wants to prove something to our community, our faith-based community and our ethnic community.”

Scott said of President Obama, “The last president didn’t feel like he had to. He felt like he didn’t have to prove it. He got a pass. But this president is probably going to be more proactive regarding urban revitalization and prison reform than any president in your lifetime.”

Several pastors in attendance faced criticism from within their black communities. John Gray, formerly a pastor under Joel Osteen at Houston’s Lakewood Church, said he understood that the “optics” of the meeting did not look good. But he reasoned that he could do a lot of good “for people who look like me” by attending the meeting.

Another prominent pastor, Van Moody, of Worship Center Christian Church in Birmingham, faced intense scrutiny. He praised Trump for being “compassionate and caring for all people.”

For his part, President Trump concluded the meeting by telling the black pastors that “they will always have a friend in this White House.”

These pastors are to be commended for a) attending the meeting, and b) speaking truth as they see it. The best outcome will not be that a majority of African Americans suddenly embrace President Trump and his policies. The best outcome would be that they simply give him a chance.

In 2008 it was wrong for millions of white Americans to oppose President Obama because he is black. And today, it is just as wrong for millions of black Americans to oppose President Trump just because he is white.

What we need is open dialogue. President Trump was wise to invite the black pastors to the White House, and they were wise to go. But it’s what happens next that will matter most.

The Rushmore Report – President Trump’s Most Risky Move

President Donald J. Trump has said and done a lot of things that have been met with both praise and condemnation. Despite the media’s 90 percent negative coverage of his first 19 months in office, his achievements are hard to ignore – retreat of ISIS, progress in North Korea, significant tax cuts, greater border security, low unemployment, sanctions against Russia, strong judicial appointments, reduction in food stamps, and 4.1 percent economic growth for the most recent quarter. And now, with the midterm elections looming, the Republican Party has much to run on. On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic platform seems to simply be one of opposition and no new ideas. Now, against this political landscape, the president is considering doing something based on principal. But it would be his riskiest move yet.

Trump has announced his willingness to shut down the government if Democrats refuse to give him the necessary funding for the border wall. In his own words, via twitter:

“I would be willing to shut down the government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”

In April, at a campaign rally, the president said, “When we come up again on September 28th, and if we don’t get border security we will have no choice, we will close down the country because we need border security.” He continued, “First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life. This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders. So, for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.”

The risk is clear. Every time there is a government shutdown, the party held responsible loses the national debate. Just ask the Republican leaders during the shutdown of the Obama administration. Or ask Chuck Schumer, in light of the more recent shutdown.

It is inarguable that the party held responsible for the shutdown suffers political loss. And with the midterm election just six weeks after the date on which Trump threatens this shutdown, it is the Republicans who would lose. With a tenuous hold on both houses of Congress, they cannot afford to lose any seats due to the timing of such a shutdown.

Is the president right to fight for the wall? Yes. Throughout the world, there are at least 36 physical border walls, erected to secure the sovereignty and safety of the people. And few, if any, of those 36 countries are considering the removal of their walls. Data concludes that a) any nation has a right to secure her own borders, and b) physical walls help to do that.

But timing, as they say, is everything. One can certainly argue the merits of spending billions of dollars on a wall along our southern border. But to shut down the government over this – six weeks before the midterm elections – would be President Trump’s riskiest move to date.

To be clear, Trump would not actually be shutting down the government himself. It would only happen if Democrats insist on blocking funds for the border wall (which the President was elected to build). But the result would be the same. There would be a shutdown. The president would pay for it in the polls. And Republicans would pay for it in November.