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Merrick Garland dodges questions over allowing for completion of Durham probe

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Judge Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden‘s nominee for attorney general, on Monday said he sees “no reason why” Special Counsel John Durham should stay in his position to continue his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.

On Monday during Garland’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s ranking member, asked Garland about if he would let Durham continue his investigation.

“Will you commit to providing Special Counsel Durham with staff, resources and funds needed to thoroughly complete his investigation?” Grassley asked.

Biden’s pick to head the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) replied, saying that, at the current moment, he does not have “any information about the investigation as I sit here today.”

“I understand that he has been permitted to remain in this position and sitting here today, I have no reason to think that was not the correct decision,” Garland said, adding that he does “have to have an opportunity to talk with” Durham.

“I don’t have any reason, from what I know now, which is really very little, to make any determination on that ground,” Garland continued. “But I have no reason to think he should not remain in place.”

Grassley pointed out that, during former Attorney General William Barr’s confirmation hearing, he stated it was “vitally important” that then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to finish his Trump-Russia probe.

The Iowa Republican asked Garland again, but rather about if he would commit to letting Durham’s report to be made public.

“I am a great believer in transparency. I would, though, have to talk with Durham and understand the nature of what he’s been doing and the nature of his report,” Garland said.

Grassley said he understood that Garland was limited in what he could say regarding the Durham investigation, but was frustrated that the judge didn’t provide a stronger commitment.

“Your [answers] were not quite as explicit as I’d hoped they’d be,” the Iowa senator said. “I think you’ve come close to satisfying me, but maybe not entirely.”

Shortly following the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into now-debunked allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to swing the 2016 election in then-candidate Donald Trump’s favor, Durham’s probe launched in May 2019. Ultimately, Mueller’s yearslong probe yielded no evidence of criminal conspiracy or such collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign.

Back in October last year, Barr appointed Durham as special counsel so that Durham could continue his investigation.

Conservatives have long accused Mueller’s probe of being motivated by political animus, with former President Donald Trump having repeatedly called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

Thus far, Durham’s investigation has resulted in only one criminal charge.

Late last month, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced to one year of probation and 400 hours of community service for altering an email during Mueller’s investigation that was used as grounds for the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Back in August, Clinesmith had pleaded guilty to “one count of making a false statement within both the jurisdiction of the executive branch and judicial branch of the U.S. government, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.”

Significantly, the DOJ used Clinesmith’s allegation as a basis for submitting a third and final application to surveil Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) asked Garland about FISA, as well as about DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on abuses of FISA during the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.

“There were certainly serious problems with respect to the FISA applications for Carter Page,” Garland said, adding that the inspector general had a “substantial” amount of suggestions for how the FISA system “could be fixed and must be fixed.”

Garland stated that, if confirmed by the Senate, he plans to talk with Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray “to make sure these and any other things necessary” with regard to FISA reform “be done.”

“I am always very concerned, and have always been concerned that we be very careful about FISA,” Garland said, referring to it as a “very useful and important” tool for investigations.

As to whether he feels Durham’s probe was legitimate, Garland said: “I don’t know really anything about the investigation.”

“I do think that somebody should look at what happened with respect to those FISAs and I believe the inspector general has done that,” the judge added.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Shanghai: China’s Potemkin Village

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Following a recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has imposed a month-long draconian lockdown on the residents of Shanghai. The CCP has used the outbreak to persecute its own citizens, including through forced evictions and quarantines, and placing alarms on doors to prevent COVID-19 people from leaving their homes. The harsh measures have resulted in food and healthcare shortages and separation of families.

But of course, we wouldn’t know that by reading the CCP-run press readily available in the United States. Instead of presenting the facts, the CCP engages in a comprehensive propaganda campaign that props up Shanghai as a Chinese Potemkin village. The CCP media asserts that China’s actions in Shanghai are benevolent and wise, while Western criticism is a product of malice. Chinese state-run media also insists that the Shanghai lockdown promotes economic stability in China and the world.

Claim 1: China Has the Best Policy for Combating COVID-19

The CCP media portray the Shanghai lockdown as the best and ideal policy. As cited by a XinhuaNet editorial, “China’s dynamic zero-COVID approach” is “the best option to save lives,” according to a “Rwandan researcher and publisher,” “…a miracle for us to learn,” according to a Kenyan scholar, and “a very ideal response,” according to Ethiopia’s National COVID-19 Response Task Force Coordinator. According to CCP media, Chinese citizens have greeted the Shanghai lockdown warmly, even with “[a] mixed sense of intensity, unity and hopefulness,” according to China Daily.

Claim 2: The West Hypocritically Defames China

The CCP press also accuses the West of lying about the Shanghai lockdown, and using COVID policies for nefarious ends. According to XinhuaNet, “Shanghai…has never imposed what Western media described as a ‘lockdown.’” Other CCP editorials actually accuse the West of malice. One Global Times editorial claims that the lockdown “has been deliberately exaggerated by the West.” Another Global Times editorial asserts that the Western approach of “coexisting with the virus” amounts to a way “…to drive out a large number of the vulnerable people with low immunity,” and a form of “cruel social Darwinism.”

Claim 3: China’s COVID Policies Result in an Economic Windfall to China and the World

The CCP also portrays the lockdown as necessary to achieve great economic growth in China and beyond. One Global Times editorial, while conceding that the lockdown amounted to a “sealing-off,” it is “a temporary measure to better resume work and production and to make the economy and society function more effectively. Its effectiveness has been proven.” According to another Global Times editorial, China’s policy is “widely considered to be the best strategy…to both contain the epidemic and ensure stable economic development.”

In an Orwellian fashion, Chinese press claims that China is solving, not causing, the world’s economic problems. According to XinhuaNet, “China has played a decisive role in stabilizing the global economy and resuming the supply chain disrupted by COVID-19.” Citing a Bloomberg article, the same XinhuaNet editorial claims that China “has prevented a huge number of deaths at home and ensured that everything from iPhones and Teslas to fertilizer and car parts continues to flow to the rest of the world.” Chinese citizens, of course, are collateral damage: Ji Qiwei, vice-general manager of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle, stated that “The domestic market may be impacted a little by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, but our export market will continue to see strong growth,” according to China Daily.

While the world continues to suffer economic and human damage as a result of COVID-19, China continues to revise history regarding its role. Through its propaganda in its English publications of Xinhua, China Daily, and Global Times, China seeks to portray itself as a benevolent force in the fight against the virus.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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