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What Difference at This Point Does the Trump Dossier Make? None.

Trump Dossier from RGBStock

‘Twixt and ‘tween daily news on Russiagate (the investigation into alleged “Russian meddling” in the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump) and Uraniumgate (the investigation into Russian bribes paid to a number of people, quite likely including Hillary Clinton, to smooth US government approvals for buying a good deal of, you guessed it, uranium) comes new information on Dossiergate (the question of who paid a British inteligence operative a trove of dirt on then presidential candidate Donald Trump).

Dossiergate first reared its ugly head during the general election campaign in 2016, then more or less disappeared for more than a year until late October. Now we’ve learned that several organizations paid Christopher Steele to get the goods on Trump. Of the three we know of, one was a Republican newspaper (the Washington Free Beacon, during the GOP primaries) and two were Democratic Party organizations (the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign).

Breathless updates notwithstanding, Dossiergate is what Democrat politico Van Jones got caught calling the Russiagate investigation: “A big nothing burger.”

All political campaigns — or at least all political campaigns worth their salt — do what’s called “opposition research.” They dig as deeply as possible (or as they can afford to) into their opponents’ political, business, and personal lives looking for dirt that can be used to win elections. The better campaigns do opposition research on their own candidates as well, because nobody likes surprises and because politicians lie, even to their friends and supporters.

If this sounds like a bad thing to you, think again. The more you know about the candidates asking for your vote, the better equipped you are to make decisions about how to cast that vote. Does it get ugly? Yes, it does. The truth isn’t always pretty, but it’s the truth and more truth is always better than less truth.

Naturally, you don’t want to just take one candidate’s word that another candidate did something bad. In addition to finding the dirt, the opposition researcher’s job is to substantiate that dirt, giving you real evidence to chew on so that you can be confident in your own conclusions.

I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton, or for that matter of Donald Trump. But she and her campaign staff would have been doing a disservice to the public as well as to themselves if they hadn’t looked for the dirt on Donald Trump, and then aired any dirt they could authenticate. To the extent that democracy works, its fuel is information. And information is opposition research’s finished product.

Dossiergate is not and never has been a scandal per se. However titillating the details, it’s merely been the story of presidential campaigns and candidates doing their jobs.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Sanctuary Cities and DoJ Funding: The Hypocrisy of Jeff Sessions

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrest
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a surprise White House appearance on March 27, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his intent to make America’s cities less safe and more vulnerable to crime unless he gets his way.

He didn’t say it quite like that, of course. In fact, he asserted the opposite, accusing so-called “sanctuary cities” of “mak[ing] our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets” and conditioning future grants from the US Department of Justice’s Office of Justice on certification by the recipient state and local governments that they are not “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the federal government should be handing out money and equipment (especially military equipment) to state and local police departments and court systems in the first place. Such gifts always come with strings attached, as Sessions is demonstrating with this stand. Better to keep local law enforcement locally funded and locally controlled.

That said, Sessions and his department presumably believe that the money in question (recent examples include grants for “Smart Policing,” police body cameras, and sexual assault kits) makes communities safer. That’s why the money gets handed out, at least in theory.

If Sessions does believe that his grants help keep us safe, then he’s essentially threatening to increase the likelihood that you or I will be assaulted, raped, mugged or murdered unless our local, county and state governments bend to his will.

That’s not very nice, Jeff. In fact, it’s the opposite of your job as Attorney General. As is supporting the very idea of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement “detainers.”

I happen to live in a “sanctuary county.” In 2015, Alachua County, Florida Sheriff Sadie Darnell set forth her department’s policy, which seems eminently reasonable: The department will not honor ICE “detainers” unless they’re accompanied by judicial orders or warrants.

Frankly, that should be the bottom line for every law enforcement agency in the country. When it comes to keeping someone in a cage who would otherwise be free to go, “because ICE wants him” isn’t good enough. The US Constitution is clear: “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

If federal law enforcement officers can’t even be bothered to see a judge and get an arrest warrant, they shouldn’t be asking local law enforcement to hold someone for them, nor should Jeff Sessions be threatening the rest of us over it.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION  HISTORY

Peace On Earth, By Whatever Name

Crop of original painting "Anbetung der H...
Crop of Adoration of the Shepherds by Giorgione (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

[Note: Yes, it’s a Christmas column six days before Christmas. Remember, Garrison Center content is submitted to newspapers. Editors don’t wait until Christmas Eve to start putting together their papers’ December 25th editions. This is going out today so that they have plenty of lead time to use it if they’d like to!]

It’s popular in some politicized evangelical Christian circles (that is, among the American “religious right”) to spend every December moaning about a “war on Christmas.” Unless they get to fill the commons with their religious displays — and theirs only — and unless the cup from their preferred coffee vendor refers to their religious holiday — and theirs only — and so on and so forth, they consider themselves beset by the forces of evil.

I’m content to be a practicing Christian. I was brought up with fairly traditional middle American Protestant Christmas celebrations and still enjoy them very much (in recent years I’ve also enjoyed Roman Catholic Christmas Midnight Mass a time or two).

But I don’t see any kind of “war on Christmas” in the preferences of others to celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Festivus or Yule or just “holiday break.” The festival goes back to well before the time of Jesus; his birth story is just the container some of us have chosen to put it in.

This time of year marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the turn toward coming spring. The days begin to get longer instead of shorter.

Peace on Earth, good will toward men. These are laudable aspirations for the time of hope and renewal represented by the December holidays of so many faiths and cultures over the millennia. And as 2016 becomes 2017, they make great New Year resolutions.

Try as we might, humankind has never conquered poverty, sickness, suffering or war. But we should never stop trying.

After nearly 400 years of opportunities to get those things right, the Westphalian nation-state has proven a failure on all counts. In the 20th century, governments murdered somewhere north of 170 million people and kept billions more in varying degrees of servitude, squalor and penury. So far the 21st century has likewise been one of unremitting war, creeping tyranny and ubiquitous kleptocracy.

It’s far too much to hope that the emerging voluntary, decentralized forms of governance powered by technological progress will finally and forever displace the state in 2017. But the writing is on the wall. Government as we know it is going away.

As we close out one year and look to the next, let’s re-dedicate ourselves to replacing the modern nation-state with something better. Something (or, more likely, things) more peaceful, more empowering, less oppressive and less deadly.

Merry Christmas — or whatever you prefer to call it.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION HISTORY