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By: Ilya Somin of Reason

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which would withhold, for two years, federal "economic development" funds to any state and local governments that use eminent domain to take property for private "economic development." The PRPA is a response to the Supreme Court's notorious 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which upheld the condemnation of homes for a private economic development project that eventually failed. The Kelo decision drew widespread public opposition across the political spectrum and resulted in numerous attemtps at legislative reform. The PRPA - co-sponsored by the unlikely coalition of very conservative Republican Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin) and very liberal Democrat Maxine Waters (California) is one such effort.

However, celebration over its passage is premature. This is far from the first time that the PRPA has passed the House. Essentially the same law also got through the House in 2005, 2012, and 2014. Each time, it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. And each time it nonetheless ended up failing in the Senate without even coming up for a vote. I discuss this history in a bit more detail in Chapter 5 of The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain, my book about the Kelo case and its aftermath. The same thing could easily happen this year, especially since the Senate has lots of other issues on its plate, and will soon be facing a midterm election, which is likely to take many members away from Washington to go on the campaign trail. Moreover, eminent domain reform is not getting as much public attention today as in the years soon after Kelo. The passage of the PRPA this year attracted considerably less media attention than the previous times it got through the House. That may make it easier for the Senate to bury it, should they be inclined to do so (as was the case in previous years).

Even if the PRPA does pass the Senate, there is a chance it could be vetoed by President Trump, who has a history of eminent domain abuse, and is a longstanding defender of the Kelo decision and economic development takings. But if the Senate majority is as lopsided as that in the House, his veto could well be overriden. In that scenario, Trump could well decide that a political fight over a veto is not worth the trouble.

When and if PRPA becomes law, it would probably have only a modest impact. As discussed in my book (pp. 160-61), it affects only a fairly narrow range of federal grants, and has some loopholes that clever jurisdictions could exploit. That said, a modest impact would still be an improvement over the status quo, and the bill would at least save some federal funds that would otherwise go to misbehaving state and local governments. The best should not be the enemy of the good. For that reason, I hope that this time Congress actually will enact the PRPA. But I am far from confident that will actually happen.

Whatever the fate of the PRPA, many valuable reform laws have passed at the state level since Kelo, and several state supreme courts have ruled that economic development takings are forbidden under their state constitutions. At the same time, much remains to be done to protect property rights in this field, since numerous states have either failed to enact any reform laws, or adopted cosmetic reforms that only pretend to address the problem.

I believe there is a good chance that the Supreme Court will either limit or overrule Kelo sometime in the short to medium term future. Despite Trump's support for the ruling, his first Supreme Court appointee - Neil Gorsuch - is a vehement critic of Kelo (a fact Trump may not have known at the time he decided to appoint him). We do not know whether Trump's latest appointee - Brett Kavanaugh - feels the same way. Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh would replace if confirmed, was a key swing voter in the Court's narrow 5-4 majority in the Kelo case.

When and if the Court does revisit Kelo, it should consider the strong case for overruling it, from the standpoint of both originalism and living constitutionalism. The decision also has serious flaws that cut across conventional methodological disagreements over constitutional theory.

But property rights advocates should not wait for the Supreme Court to solve this problem. Rather, they should continue to work to strengthen protection for property rights on both legislative and judicial fronts. One of the lessons of the Kelo experience (as well as previous previous efforts to strengthen protection for constitutional rights) is that legislative and litigation-based strategies for reform are often mutually reinforcing, rather than mutually exclusive.

UPDATE: In the original version of this post, I accidentally stated that the PRPA passed the House in 2007, as well as 2005, 2012, and 2014. In reality, it failed to do so that year. It passed out of committee, but did not come to a vote of the full House. In the initial version of the post, I accidentally misstated what I had written in the relevant part of my book. I apologize for the error, which has now been corrected.

By: Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner 

FBI official Peter Strzok testified Thursday that he can't recall using his work computer to soften the wording of a statement exonerating Hillary Clinton of mishandling classified information.

Strzok conceded during a joint hearing of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees that metadata indicates his computer made the change, but said he can't remember doing it.

The June 2016 edit changed "grossly negligent," a term that carries legal liability under the Espionage Act, to "extremely careless."

The new wording was uttered by then-FBI Director James Comey in July 2016 when he recommended against charging Clinton with a crime for using a private server to handle classified information while secretary of state.

Strzok, removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation last year after discovery of pro-Clinton and anti-Donald Trump text messages with then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, said someone else recommended the change.

"My recollection, sir, is that somebody within our office of general counsel did, it was one of the attorneys, I don't remember which one," Strzok said. "It was a legal issue that one of the attorneys brought up."

After a meeting, the change was made on Strzok's computer.

"I don't recall specifically when it happened," he testified.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., noted that metadata indicated that Strzok's computer made the change.

"I am aware as well of that metadata," Strzok said. "My recollection is of working on the draft with a group of us in my office because it was the largest office and taking the inputs of probably five or ten different people."

Sensenbrenner asked Strzok to confirm that his computer made the change.

"Based on my subsequent review of that metadata, I believe that to be true," Strzok said.

Strzok said that only he had full access to the computer, but that "my secretary had access to elements of it."

Explaining the decision to soften the wording, he said, "my recollection was that attorneys within the FBI had raised the concern that the use of gross negligence triggered a very specific legal meaning ... particularly [in] one of the mishandling [classified information] statutes."

Sensenbrenner asked, "This change was Hillary's get out of jail free card, right?"

"She received no get out of jail free card, we pursued the facts," Strzok insisted.

"That rates four Pinocchios," Sensenbrenner told him.

Strzok refuted Sensenbrenner's conclusion. He said Comey "ultimately...made the decision to change that wording" following a "legal discussion of the use of that term."

Washington, D.C.—Today, the House unanimously passed Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (WI-05) Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1689).

The bill addresses the controversial Supreme Court decision in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the eminent domain power granted by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. In Kelo, the Court ruled that “economic development” can be justified as a “public use” under the Constitution’s Takings Clause.

To combat this expansion of power, H.R. 1689 would make any state or locality that uses the economic development justification for eminent domain ineligible from receiving federal economic development funds for two years. This creates a major incentive for governments to respect the private property rights of its citizens.

Additionally, the legislation bars the federal government from exercising eminent domain powers for the purposes of economic development.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “This bipartisan legislation restores the individual private property rights guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment. The framers of the Constitution would be horrified by the paradigm created by Kelo:a government free to seize and transfer private property from individuals with fewer resources to private entities with more. I’m grateful to my colleagues for their support of this bill and urge the Senate to immediately send it to the President’s desk.”

Congressman Sensenbrenner offered the follow remarks on the House floor:

 

“Mr. Speaker,

I am pleased that the House is considering H.R. 1689, the Private Property Rights Protection Act. My bill aims to restore the property rights of all Americans that the Supreme Court took away in 2005.

The Founders of our country recognized the importance of an individual’s right to personal property when they drafted the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In Kelo v. the City of New London, the Supreme Court decided that “economic development” could be a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the government could take private property from an owner, in this case Susette Kelo, to help a corporation or private developer, in this case Pfizer.

The now infamous Kelo decision created a massive backlash. As former Justice O’Connor stated, “The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more.  The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.” Even in the 13 years since Kelo, polls show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose property being taken and transferred to another private owner, even if it is for the public economic good. 

The Private Property Rights Protection Act is needed to restore to all Americans the property rights the Supreme Court invalidated. Although several states have since passed legislation to limit their power to eminent domain, and a number of supreme courts have barred the practice under their state constitutions, these laws exist on a varying degree. H.R. 1689 would prohibit state and local governments that receive federal economic development funds from using economic development as a justification for taking property from one person and giving to another private entity. Any state or local government that violates this prohibition will be ineligible to receive federal economic development funds for two years.

The protection of property rights is one of the most important tenets of our government. I am mindful of the long history of eminent domain abuses, particularly in low-income and often predominantly minority neighborhoods, and the need to stop it. I am also mindful of the reasons we should allow the government to take the lead when the way in which the land is being used constitutes an immediate threat to public health and safety. I believe this bill accomplishes both goals.

I urge my colleagues to join me in protecting private property rights for all Americans and limiting the dangerous effects of the Kelo decision on the most vulnerable in society. I reserve the balance of my time.”

Every day, while we all go about our lives, the selfless men and women who serve at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) risk their lives to protect our nation and enforce our laws. They keep our communities safe from drug smugglers, sex traffickers, and dangerous criminal aliens.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at what ICE did in 2017. ICE agents arrested 127,000 criminal aliens and rescued more than 900 children from sexual exploitation. ICE also made our communities safer last year when it seized nearly 1 million pounds of narcotics, including 2,400 pounds of fentanyl and 7,000 pounds of heroin.

Meanwhile, the radical left has turned its ire toward these heroes. Unbelievably, condemning ICE is becoming a litmus test for those in the progressive movement. Recently, a prominent Democratic gubernatorial candidate declared ICE a “terrorist organization.” Members of the House Democratic leadership have called ICE “fascist” and referred to agents, who are just doing their job, as “cowardly.” Another member from our own Wisconsin delegation actually introduced legislation to abolish ICE entirely! Such attacks on this law enforcement community are disgusting and unconscionable, even if the only end game is simply to score cheap political points with the liberal base.

Throughout my career, I have consistently supported the important work ICE agents do. I am pleased to report, this week, I joined my colleagues in showing support for ICE officers. By a vote of 244-35, we passed a resolution of support for the mission of ICE introduced by Congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana, who is a veteran and former police officer.

Sad to say, 133 Democrats refused to cast a real vote on the resolution, voting “present,” likely for fear of alienating their base; and 34 Democrats flat-out opposed the resolution.

I promise to continue my long-standing support of ICE and its agents. It is my hope that those who don’t will reconsider their irresponsible position.

By: Tripp Baltz of Bloomberg BNA

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing as early as next week to consider how states may collect sales and use taxes on remote transactions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking Wayfair ruling.

Lawmakers would likely use the hearing to consider proposals taking aim at reversing South Dakota v. Wayfair and reinstating Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court’s 1992 physical presence threshold for when states could tax remote sales, Karl Nicolas, associate director of the National Tax Department at Ernst & Young LLP in Washington, told Bloomberg Tax July 17.

The June 21 Wayfair ruling tossed out Quill, and now many states are looking to expand their authority over online sales taxation. The majority in the 5-4 ruling suggested strongly that South Dakota’s law would pass constitutional muster; the statute imposes a tax collection threshold at 200 transactions or $100,000 in in-state sales.

The court stopped short of formally declaring South Dakota’s law valid in the absence of Quill, and the South Dakota Supreme Court still has to bless the state’s economic nexus model before it can become effective. It’s expected to do so in mid-August. In the wake of the decision, dozens of states that haven’t already done so are mulling whether to copy South Dakota’s law.

Happening ‘Soon’

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), committee chair, confirmed the hearing will happen. “I think it’s soon,” he said. “Maybe next week.”

Goodlatte said “we’re going to hold the hearing first before we decide anything else,” such as whether the committee would back legislation designed to curb state requirements that out-of-state sellers collect and remit sales and use taxes on remote transactions.

The Wayfair ruling has fueled the circulation of bills in Congress that would reverse Wayfair and codify Quill, Nicolas said. One of them introduced after the Wayfair ruling, the Stop Taxing Our Potential (STOP) Act (S. 3180), was introduced by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)—all of whom are from states that don’t have a statewide sales and use tax. The bill “is specifically targeted to reverse the impacts of Wayfair,” Dave Kuntz, spokesman for Tester, told Bloomberg Tax.

The second bill that has been pending with several others for years, the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 (H.R. 2887) (NRRA), sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)—would codify Quill, among other things.

It’s unclear which of those will be on the table at the Judiciary hearing, but “the committee is tuning-in to the growing chorus of state tax collectors demanding back taxes, interest, and penalties,” Steve DelBianco, president and CEO of NetChoice Inc., told Bloomberg Tax. “There’s enough noise here for Congress to step in and say, stop the music.”

NetChoice, an industry association for e-commerce, has been at the heart of many of the lawsuits designed to stop states’ online sales taxation efforts.

‘Position Clear’

Goodlatte has said he supports the NRRA, and Nicolas said it wouldn’t surprise him if the chairman, an ardent foe of the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 976) and other congressional attempts to allow states to collect taxes on remote sales, backed a House version of S. 3180 as well. “He’s made his position clear,” Nicolas said.

Greg Matson, executive director of the Multistate Tax Commission, told Bloomberg Tax he has heard reports that Goodlatte and others have pointed to confusion in the wake of Wayfair as states sort out how to collect taxes on out-of-state sales.

“The chaos that everyone predicted is not happening,” Matson said. Most states are saying they won’t impose back tax liability retroactively, and many are coalescing around an Oct. 1 start date for licensing of remote vendors to begin collecting and remitting taxes, he said.

“It’s like Y2K all over again,” he said. “Many said it was going to be a disaster, and then at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2000, nothing happened.”

‘Emergency’ Meeting

Matson noted that Wayfair will be a major topic of discussion a the commission’s annual meeting in Boston July 23-26 and that the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board Inc. is planning to hold an “emergency” meeting on Wayfair in Minneapolis July 19-20.

“It’s early, and most states are taking their time,” he said. “You’re seeing states following the Golden Rule: We’re not going to treat your sellers selling into our state any different than you treat our sellers selling into your state.”

But Bruce Ely, a tax attorney and partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Birmingham, Ala., told Bloomberg Tax “chaos” was the right word for the current scene.

“Dates are all over the place” for compliance, he said. “Every state has its own effective date, its own threshold, it’s own theory as to when they should start collecting. They’re all over the board.”

Annual sales thresholds are as high as $250,000 to $500,000 in some states, he said. Some have set an Aug. 31 deadline, others Oct. 1, still others Jan. 1, he said. “There’s no uniformity among the states there.”

Meanwhile, a leading states’ rights advocacy group has recommended that states wait until 2019 to implement economic nexus laws for sales tax collection.

“States should ensure that they are fully prepared” before beginning to enforce their sales tax laws on remote sellers” and should consider waiting until Jan. 1, 2019, “to begin sales tax collection requirements on remote sellers,” the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) said in a list of considerations published in June.

By: John Nichols of Madison.com

Gov. Scott Walker and his cronies have worked hard to tip the balance against competitive elections in Wisconsin — with extreme gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID requirements, schemes to limit early voting, and an assault on the independence and integrity of the former Government Accountability Board.

Walker has emerged as a national leader in the corporate-sponsored push to upend practices and procedures that are designed to make voting easy. This has put the governor and many of his closest allies — including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville — at odds with Wisconsin’s historic commitment to high-turnout elections.

Walker’s approach represents a break with the values of not just his Democratic critics but the Republicans who still believe they are members of “the party of Lincoln.”

It is important to recognize this detail of history as the National Commission for Voter Justice holds its regional hearing in Milwaukee. This commission, on which I am proud to serve as a national co-chair, will take testimony from Wisconsinites when it gathers Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Milwaukee Bar Association office.

While debates over voter suppression have in recent years tended to divide along partisan lines, the National Commission for Voter Justice has sought from its inception last year to get beyond the petty partisanship that so frequently interrupts the progress of an American experiment that must bend always toward democracy. The commission uses the term “voter justice” because it is not just focused on assaults on voting rights but also on the promise of reforms — such as automatic voter registration and voting by mail — that might move every state toward high-turnout elections.

Democrats such as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown get credit these days for having taken the lead on voter empowerment, as do members of the Green and Libertarian parties. Republicans like Walker are justly criticized for seeking to undermine turnout and enthusiasm.

But there have always been — and there still are — Republicans who reject schemes to game the system. Former state Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz broke with the Republican caucus in 2014 on voting rights issues, telling Wisconsin radio hosts Mike Crute and Dominic Salvia: “I am not willing to defend them anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.”

“It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics,” explained Schultz, who did not seek re-election that year. “We should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.”

Schultz has continued to speak out on voting rights issues and he is not alone among Wisconsin Republicans. Walker’s GOP primary challenger this year, Sun Prairie businessman Robert Meyer, said: “We're all stewards of the Great American Experiment and we need to do everything we can to make our government as representative and participative as it can possibly be.”

The official biography of one of Wisconsin’s senior Republicans, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, proudly declares: “Throughout his tenure in Congress, Jim has fought to protect the gains made during the civil rights movement. As Judiciary Committee chairman, he introduced the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. After approximately 20 hearings, the measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. However, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of this law. After, Jim introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, a bipartisan, bicameral modernization of the original 1965 law that ensures Americans’ most sacred right is protected.”

Sensenbrenner continues to advocate for the revitalization of the Voting Rights Act — along with Congressional Black Caucus members such as Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

Sensenbrenner does not have many Republican co-sponsors for his legislation. But he is undaunted. “Ensuring that every eligible voter can cast a ballot without fear, deterrence and prejudice is a basic American right,” he explained several years ago. “I would rather lose my job than suppress votes to keep it.”

Those are the words of an old-school Wisconsin Republican, a member of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Robert M. La Follette and Dwight Eisenhower and the Republican platform writers (such as Wisconsin Congressman Mel Laird) of 50 years ago, who declared: “We must attack the root causes of poverty and eradicate racism, hatred and violence. We must give all citizens the opportunity to influence and shape the events of our time.” To that end, the Republican Party’s 1968 platform announced: “The strengthening of citizen influence on government requires a number of improvements in political areas. For instance, we propose to reform the Electoral College system, establish a nationwide, uniform voting period for presidential elections, and recommend that the states remove unreasonable requirements, residence and otherwise, for voting in presidential elections.”

The Republicans who made those commitments stood on the right side of history. It is tragic that politicians like Scott Walker and Paul Ryan have pulled the party away from its moorings. But their abuses cannot be allowed to define the future of the Republican Party or the United States.

This country must unite, across lines of partisanship and ideology, in support of voting rights, voter justice and the high-turnout elections that are the essential underpinning of government of, by and for the people.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) issued the following statement:

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “The U.S. Intelligence Community is right — Russia tried to meddle in our 2016 elections. Unfortunately, this isn’t unprecedented as Russia has been attempting to interfere with our nation’s elections since the Cold War. What is clear is Vladimir Putin is not our friend and any diplomacy involving Russia must acknowledge that fact. I am confident, however, that the Department of Homeland Security is working diligently to secure our upcoming midterm elections.”

By: Alana Abramson, Nash Jenkins, Abby Vesoulis, and Abigail Simon of TIME

Beneath the partisan posturing and fiery monologues, a House hearing Thursday on FBI agent Peter Strzok’s conduct delved into some key factual questions.

In a hearing jointly conducted by the Oversight and Judiciary committees, Republican lawmakers sharply questioned the embattled agent who oversaw the Hillary Clinton email server investigation as well as the beginning of the investigation into Russian meddling in the election, while Democrats defended him and criticized their GOP colleagues.

It was the first chance that Strzok has had to publicly respond to criticism of his work, both from the Justice Department’s inspector general, who looked into texts that Strzok sent to a colleague he was having an affair with, and from President Donald Trump, who has attempted to use those texts to discredit the Russia investigation.

The hearing became particularly heated at points, with Republicans threatening to hold Strzok in contempt for refusing to answer a question about the ongoing investigation due to FBI policy; Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert criticizing Strzok in starkly personal terms, wondering “how many times did you look innocently into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about” his affair; and Strzok arguing that he sent one controversial text because he was upset by Trump’s “unconscionable and disgusting and cruel” treatment of the parents of fallen soldier Humayun Khan.

But there were also several moments in the hearing in which Strzok and lawmakers discussed substantive questions about the two key investigations into Clinton and Trump.

Here’s a closer look at three moments in the hearing that mattered.

How Clinton’s use of a private server went from ‘negligent’ to ‘careless’

Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner grilled Strzok about how the wording of a statement criticizing Clinton for her use of a private email server was changed before it was issued.

What we know: In July 2016, Strzok, who was leading the F.B.I.’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, rephrased his description of Clinton’s decisions from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless” in a draft of a statement to be issued publicly by James Comey, who then headed the F.B.I.

How Strzok responded: He argued that the revision was introduced by the F.B.I.’s internal legal counsel, who noted that the phrase “gross negligence” carried a specific legal meaning and would carry legal implications.

Key moment: Sensenbrenner asked Strzok to confirm that the revision to the draft was made on Strzok’s computer on June 6; Strzok said he “believe[d] it to be true.”

“Why was the change made?” Sensenbrenner asked.

“My recollection is — and I’m not an attorney — that attorneys within the F.B.I. raised concern that the use of ‘gross negligence’ triggered a very specific legal meaning.”

“Yeah — criminal!” Sensenbrenner said. He then asked if the change was “Hillary’s ‘get out of jail free card.’”

“Absolutely not, sir,” Strzok replied. He then expounded on the F.B.I.’s desire to avoid using a term with specific legal implications.

“With regard to that decision, there was concern within the perspective of a legal definition of that term that people would draw an inference based on that use that it was necessarily talking a specific subset of a statute,” he said.

“That rates four Pinnochios,” Sensenbrenner replied.

Why he was removed from Mueller’s investigation

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy questioned Strzok about his removal from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling, which occurred after the inspector general began looking into his texts.

What we know: Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team last summer after an internal investigation uncovered his text exchanges with Page, which criticized then-candidate Trump. Peter Carr, a spokesperson for the special counsel’s office, said “immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel’s Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation.” Although people speculated about why Strzok was dismissed, Mueller’s team never publicly gave an official reason. Strzok was then abruptly reassigned to a position at the FBI’s human resources division.

How did Strzok respond: Strzok claimed that, to his knowledge, he was removed from the probe for reasons related to public perception — presumably to maintain trust in the integrity of Mueller’s team — rather than any concern about bias on his part.

Key Moment: Gowdy asked Strzok to explain the timing behind his dismissal from the investigation team. “No wonder Bob Mueller kicked you off of the investigation, Agent Strzok. My question is, if you were kicked off when he read the texts, shouldn’t you have been kicked off when you wrote them?”

“No, not at all,” Strzok responded. Gowdy questioned why he was kicked off, and Strzok explained that he was removed “based on the understanding of those texts and the perception that they might create…”

Strzok testified that the meeting was short, somewhere around 15 minutes.

When further questioned by Gowdy, he reiterated that “it is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any bias. That it was done based on the appearance. If you want to represent what you said accurately, I’m happy to answer that question. But I don’t appreciate what was originally said being changed.”

Gowdy responded, “I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok. I don’t appreciate having an FBI Agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.”

What Strzok meant when he said Trump wouldn’t become president

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy questioned Strzok over perhaps the most controversial text that he sent Page, in which he said that Trump would not become president because “we’ll stop it.”

What we know: In the summer of 2016, Page sent a text to Strzok, writing “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded, No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” The inspector general’s report reviewing Clinton’s email investigation found that the texts damaged the FBI’s reputation for impartiality, but ultimately concluded there was no evidence that this affected the investigations.

Speaking publicly about the text during the hearing, Strzok explained that it was sent the night that Trump disparaged Khizr Khan, a Gold Star father who lost his son in Iraq, and that it was “off the cuff” comment sent late at night that he didn’t even recall. He gave an impassioned defense, arguing that his beliefs never impeded the investigation into Russian meddling because his FBI colleagues wouldn’t have allowed it.

Key moment: Strzok gave a long explanation for the text:

“Sir, I think it’s important, when you look at those texts that you understand the context in which they were made and the things that were going on across America.

“In terms of the texts that — we will stop it, you need to understand that that was written late at night, off the cuff, and it was in response to a series of events that included then candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero.

“And my presumption based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be President of the United States.

“It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action, whatsoever, to improperly impact the electoral process for any candidate. So, I — I take great offense and I take great disagreement to your assertion of what that was or wasn’t. As to the 100 million to one, that was clearly a statement made in jest and using hyperbole.

“I, of course, recognize that millions of Americans were likely to vote for candidate Trump. I acknowledge that is absolutely their right. That is what makes our democracy such a vibrant process that it is.

“But to suggest, somehow, that we can parse down the words of shorthand textual conversation like they’re some contract for a car is — is, simply, not consistent with my or most people’s use of text messaging.”

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) announced his co-sponsorship of a resolution supporting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The resolution was introduced by Congressman Clay Higgins (LA-03), a veteran and former law enforcement officer.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “The brave men and women who serve at Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be lauded for their difficult work and supported by all. It is unconscionable that members of the political left continue to denigrate these hard-working individuals who risk their lives to keep us safe and enforce our laws.”

You can read the full text of the resolution here.

By: Ed Morrissey of Hot Air

It took the House of Representatives sixteen months to pass HR 1689, the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which finally happened yesterday by acclamation. It took Congress thirteen years to act on this issue [note: for at least the fourth time — see correction below] after the execrable Kelo v City of New London Supreme Court decision, which held that eminent domain could be used to seize property from one private owner to another in the name of “economic development.” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who authorized the PPRPA, celebrated the belated victory yesterday in a story that no major media outlet covered:

SEE ALSO: Breaking: Pastor Andrew Brunson moved from prison to house arrest in Turkey

Today, the House unanimously passed Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (WI-05) Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1689).

The bill addresses the controversial Supreme Court decision in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the eminent domain power granted by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. In Kelo, the Court ruled that “economic development” can be justified as a “public use” under the Constitution’s Takings Clause.

To combat this expansion of power, H.R. 1689 would make any state or locality that uses the economic development justification for eminent domain ineligible from receiving federal economic development funds for two years. This creates a major incentive for governments to respect the private property rights of its citizens.

Additionally, the legislation bars the federal government from exercising eminent domain powers for the purposes of economic development.

Amazingly, not one major media outlet picked up on this, not even to note that it took thirteen years for Congress to address the issue. It might not have gone far even now had it not been for renewed interest in the case from the recent independent film Little Pink House, starring Catherine Keener as Susette Kelo and Jeanne Tripplehorn and produced by Ted Balaker, formerly of Reason.

It’s tough to understand the indifference. The House vote didn’t have much drama to it, but the issue directly aims at the relationship we have with government and the nature of private property, a core right recognized in the Constitution. Kelo perverted that relationship, putting everyone’s property rights hostage to politicians who want to hand off spoils to bigger entities. The case prompted some states to step in and redefine eminent domain to prevent another New London abuse, but despite four attempts by the House to correct this injustice, the Senate has remained obstinate.

Sensenbrenner’s bill will move to the Senate, but it doesn’t have much time to succeed. The legislative calendar will start backing up very soon with budget bills, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, and potential action to amplify sanctions on Russia and Iran. If the PPRPA doesn’t pass by the end of this year and get signed into law, the House will have to start over from scratch in the next session — where a potential change of leadership might spell an end to those efforts. Those interested in imposing onerous consequences for cities and states taking away private property to hand it off to other private parties need to contact their senators immediately to get action on Sensenbrenner’s bill.

On top of that, there is a question as to whether Donald Trump will actually sign it into law. Trump has declared himself a fan of eminent domain for the purpose of economic development, which isn’t too surprising given the nature of his business empire. The House vote would be strong enough to override a veto, so the Senate vote had better be almost as strong. Trump might not like to see the new limitation put on his desk, but he’d be careful about vetoing it and looking foolish with a successful override.

Little Pink House has just become available on DVD and digital download. Perhaps renewed interest in the film will prompt renewed interest in the Senate’s inaction over the last thirteen years, and push the Senate into immediate action. Let’s hope so, anyway.

Correction, 7/25: Our friends at the Institute for Justice, which represented Susette Kelo, corrected me this morning on a key point:

“On November 3, 2005, widespread condemnation of the Kelo decision led 157 Democrats to join 218 of their Republican colleagues in the House to pass the Private Property Rights Protection Act, by a 376 to 38 vote margin (H.R. 4128, 109th Cong.): http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2005/roll568.xml In subsequent Congresses, the legislation has passed the House by voice vote (in the 112th Congress) and by a vote of 353-65 (in the 113th Congress). The Senate has failed to act at all on it each time.”

The House has done its job repeatedly. It’s time for the Senate to do its job.

I have corrected two other sentences to make clear that the Senate is the obstacle in this process. Thanks to our friends at IJ for the information.