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Thursday's HOT MIC

Welcome to HOT MIC, PJ Media's daily liveblog. Join our editors and contributors for news updates and conversation throughout the day, and add your thoughts to the mix in our comments section at the bottom or by clicking on the comment bubbles on individual posts.  Be sure to save this link so you can find HOT MIC every day.

Trump administration is more effective than it appears.

David A. Graham at The Atlantic explains the Trump administration's victories behind the scenes. (Naturally, he disagrees with them.)

Things are going considerably better for the shadow government. With the Trump administration’s chaos sucking up all the attention, it’s been able to move forward on a range of its priorities, which tend to be more focused on regulatory matters anyway. It is remaking the justice system, rewriting environmental rules, overhauling public-lands administration, and greenlighting major infrastructure projects. It is appointing figures who will guarantee the triumph of its ideological vision for decades to come.

The trick here is that the administration and this shadow government are one and the same. Even as the public government sputters, other elements of the Trump administration are quietly remaking the nation’s regulatory landscape, especially on the environment and criminal justice.

Graham quoted Ben Carson's recent comments to The Washington Examiner.

“Let me put it this way,” the secretary of housing and urban development told the Washington Examiner. “I'm glad that Trump is drawing all the fire so I can get stuff done.”

So what are Trump's biggest victories so far? Border security — border crossings have plummeted — along with Neil Gorsuch and lower court appointees. Graham lamented Trump's changes at the EPA — dismantling the Clean Power Plan and the expensive Waters of the U.S. rule — and infrastructure victories like the Keystone XL pipeline.

Trump has also made some modest changes on the way the federal government approaches LGBT issues, and some first steps in deregulating business.

Graham's article warns that Trump's reversals of Obama policy are real, and he presented them as bad things, but for conservatives it is heartening to remember that despite the apparent failures of the attempts to repeal Obamacare and the soap opera of the White House, positive changes have been made, however slight.

Graham noted that Trump's regulation victories represent a "kind of bean-counting and bureaucratic tinkering around the edges," but this is the same complaint that was launched against President Calvin Coolidge, who was the most effective president in American history when it comes to dismantling the abuse of federal government. Trump is no Coolidge — yet — but this reining in of the administrative state is a key conservative priority.

On big government, keep up the trimming work, Mr. President! And please try to pass laws to make your reforms more permanent.

This is absolutely terrifying.

I wrote earlier today about the latest leaks from the White House being very problematic for people on both sides of the aisle.

Now The Daily Beast reports that the Democrats' top guy on the Senate Intelligence Committee isn't amused either:

Congress should investigate the leaking of transcripts of calls between President Donald Trump and world leaders, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said on Thursday. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), called the leak “absolutely” troubling, arguing that it would cause potentially-serious complications to the White House’s ability to conduct foreign policy. “A president of the United States, a governor would tell us they've got to be able to have confidential conversations,” Warner told The Daily Beast in an interview. “And I think it was disgraceful that those [came out].”

The pile-on continued:

Has the unity candle finally been lit?

Benny Johnson trolls Jim Justice — beautifully.

I'm just going to leave this here.

Tired of winning yet?

Just did another Facebook Live. Today's topic: the fact that CNN is probably even worse than President Trump says it is. Enjoy.

Detroit will hold a mayoral primary next week as 8 people will vie for the honor of leading the city.

But in a sign of the times - and eerily apropos - 4 of the candidates are convicted felons.

Half of the eight mayoral hopefuls on Detroit’s primary ballot next week have been convicted of felony crimes involving drugs, assault or weapons, a Detroit News analysis shows.

Three were charged with gun crimes and two for assault with intent to commit murder. Some of the offenses date back decades, the earliest to 1977. The most recent was in 2008.

Political consultant Greg Bowens said there are candidates with past hardships in every election cycle. It’s not something unique to Detroit or the political arena in general, he said.

“Black marks on your record show you have lived a little and have overcome some challenges,” said Bowens, a former press secretary to Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and NAACP activist. “They (candidates) deserve the opportunity to be heard, but they also deserve to have the kind of scrutiny that comes along with trying to get an important elected position.”

Sounds to me like a couple of those guys have lived a lot, not a little. "Assault with intent to commit murder"? Two of them? Are you kidding me?

Of course, they both deny the charges.

In 1977, Pitts was convicted of receiving and concealing a stolen 1977 Oldsmobile. She was sentenced to a year of probation.

A decade later, she was charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder and two firearm offenses in connection with two separate shooting incidents on March 24, 1987, Detroit Recorder’s Court records say.

According to transcripts, Pitts was involved in a shootout with the owner of a collision shop and auto clinic on Greenfield in Detroit in a dispute over a repair bill.

Yippee kai ay m****rf****r. Those city council meetings are going to be very entertaining.

Fellow candidate Danetta L. Simpson has a 1996 felony conviction out of Oakland County for assault with intent to murder.

The 46-year-old former cosmetologist and salon owner has made past bids for state representative, Detroit’s school board and City Council. Her prior interaction with the criminal justice system, she said, has fueled her desire to seek public office. Simpson said she represents a “new spirit” for Detroit.

“I was a wrongfully convicted felon, overcharged for a crime I did not commit,” said Simpson, a mother of four, who contends the witness in the case “lied on me.”

Well, we have a buffoon for president. Why not a convicted thug as a mayor of Detroit?



Whaddya know...

Good news:

Finally, someone in Washington who isn't obsessed with Justin Trudeau.

Interview with Robert George proves Ted Cruz is the real deal.

Robert P. George served as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)'s constitutional law professor and his thesis advisor at Princeton. In an interview with The Atlantic's Caroline Kitchener, George revealed that Ted Cruz, who is often criticized for appearing fake, is the "real deal."

He was someone who was always pushing up against the conventional elites on campus. At institutions like Princeton, there are always a set of orthodoxies. Ted was never shy about expressing opposition to those orthodoxies.

I was also struck by how deeply Ted had thought about the Constitution. Even before I taught him, he had clearly gotten beyond secondary-source accounts of the document. He himself had read it through and studied its history. He was committed to the idea that the Constitution actually means what it says.

On that subject, George actually tried to dissuade Ted Cruz from doing debate, partially because it would make Cruz more mercenary — something he is often accused of being.

I actually tried to discourage Ted from doing debate. Debate is great for sharpening the mind, but I worry that really skilled debaters might internalize the idea that the point of discussion and debate is victory, rather than truth. In debate, if you encounter a compelling counterargument, you just try to find a way around it. But you should argue for truth, not for victory. Really good debaters run the risk of ignoring valid counterarguments, and Ted was a really good debater.

What a fascinating history.