This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 25, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains, and, well, we're feeling those growing pains today. We came really close today, but we came up short. I spoke to the president just a little while ago, and I told him that the best thing I think to do is to pull this bill, and he agreed with that decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
A stunning defeat for President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan Friday as the Republican bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare was pulled from the House floor just moments before a vote was to take place. The dramatic reversal followed a frantic effort to bring members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus along, while not alienating more moderate Republicans, an effort that ultimately failed. What does the defeat mean for President Trump and the GOP agenda?
Let's ask Wall Street Journal deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; editorial board member, Joe Rago; and columnists, Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Bill McGurn.
Joe, why did this fail?
JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, they came very close to getting a majority as recently as Wednesday. Then what happened was you had HFC, House Freedom Caucus, keep upping their demands, keep moving the goalpost in a way that alienated the moderate members.
GIGOT: They tried the get concessions out for their agenda, and that pulled apart the coalition for the bill.
RAGO: Right. You had a fragile balance and it just sort of all unraveled. They said we want to repeal more of ObamaCare's insurance regulations. Now, there's been a running debate in Congress about whether that can get through the Senate and whether it qualifies under Senate procedures, so they were saying let's err on the side of caution. They got a little -- they got a little bit of a concession, but not as much as they wanted, but still couldn't get --
GIGOT: But even the Freedom Caucus, there's, what, 25, 30 of these people, Bill? Some of these people got what they wanted or a good chunk of what they wanted from Trump, and they said, oh, sorry, I want total repeal now.
GIGOT: Will they ever say yes to anything?
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: Right. Did they want a bill or not want a bill?
GIGOT: I think a lot of them didn't want a bill.
MCGURN: Look, the argument is that I hear from a lot of people is this was a bad bill, we want something better. Look, I would like something better. The reality is --
GIGOT: This is called legislation.
MCGURN: -- are we going to get anything? Are we going to get anything? I think the reality is we're going to get nothing right now. I do not see how that is an improvement over what we have, to get nothing. So in the push to get more, we're coming up empty handed.
GIGOT: And what happened, Joe, is because they kept demanding more, the moderates said, look, this is falling apart, I'm not going to vote for this. And ultimately, in the end, everybody started to run away from it.
RAGO: Yeah. You had a pointless fight about insurance coverage for pregnant women or cancer patients or whatever --
GIGOT: Which wouldn't have changed.
RAGO: It was a pointless fight. But you just had a complete stampede away from the bill. If they'd put it on the floor, it would have gotten maybe 100 votes. It was a total collapse.
GIGOT: Here's what I find puzzling. You run against this for four elections, you vote 90 times to repeal ObamaCare. Finally, you get a president who's willing to sign it, and you say, well, I'm not for it after all.
MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: It's really hard to explain, except I will say that this idea of some people in Congress being such purists that they won't accept anything else is old. Ronald Reagan was once criticized for making compromises, and he said, you know, there are those people who think that when you don't get everything you want, you should just jump off a cliff with a flag flying. And then he went on to say, I believe half a loaf is better than none, and this is a Democratic country, and that means you have to make compromises. They should have known better.
GIGOT: So, Dan, the way I see this right now, the -- who would have thought that you have to elect -- Hillary Clinton has to lose in order for ObamaCare to be preserved.
I mean, what we have here is, the Freedom Caucus now, I think they own ObamaCare lock, stock and barrel. They are now the preservers of ObamaCare.
DAN HENNINGER, DEPUTY EDITOR: Yeah. Let's call them the ObamaCare Republicans, you know? There's a legend out there that no Republicans ever voted for ObamaCare. Well, these 25 guys just did.
And Barack Obama's got to be rolling on the floor laughing. He didn't lift a finger, and yet his law is now the law of the land. There's no Plan B. They're not going back to change this. And it does make you -- it does raise the question, as Speaker Ryan was saying, we're having, you know, growing pains here. Growing pains? I mean, some of these people have been in Congress for four years. Any major piece of legislation, whether it was the 1965 Civil Rights Act or the 1986 Tax Reform Act, is a delicate balance among factions. And what these guys did was pull out the props and open a Pandora's box, and it collapsed quickly. That's apolitical.
GIGOT: All right, Kim, is there a Plan B for health care, or is this all she wrote until the next Congress?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: One of the hard problems here, Paul, is that the compromises that we've been talking about that were in this bill are ones that are going to have to be a general framework if you ever want to get 215 or 216 or 217 votes. So, I mean, there'll be discussions about how you start over. This has been the demand of the Freedom Caucus and others, is just do this all from scratch again. But you end up in the same place in the end. If you want to bring together the moderates and conservatives in the caucus, some of these trade-offs are going to have to exist.
GIGOT: Joe, is health care dead for this Congress?
RAGO: Totally dead.
There is no chance. Look, they can't get the votes for the compromise. It was going to have problems in the Senate anyways. There are absolutely no incentives for President Trump to return to this subject because he's seen that there are not the votes for it on Capitol Hill.
GIGOT: What about the Freedom Caucus argument that you can just do repeal only?
MCGURN: Yeah, I don't think they can do it. Look, I agree with Dan up to a point. This Freedom Caucus is responsible for this. I wish there'd been a vote so people would know. It's not only dead, it's dead in the worst way, where there's not accountability.
GIGOT: Oh, there's going to be accountability. We're going to make them accountable, OK?
GIGOT: Mark Meadows is not going to be forgotten at the Wall Street Journal, OK?
MCGURN: Yeah, that's why we need to have votes to make people accountable for what they do. And the thing politicians always want to do is strangle something without a vote.
GIGOT: Well, and the repeal, they didn't have the votes for repeal. That's why they stopped it. Paul Ryan wanted to do a quick repeal and then work on replace but they didn't have the votes for it.
All right, much more to come on the GOP's health care defeat. What the setback means for President Trump's agenda going forward and the future of tax reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think Paul really worked hard. And I would say that we will probably start going very, very strongly for the big tax cuts and tax reform. That'll be next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: The defeat of Paul Ryan's health care bill putting President Donald Trump's legislative agenda in jeopardy as he promised to forge ahead with his tax reform plan.
We're back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, Joe Rago, Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Bill McGurn.
So, Kim, let's start out, how damaged is Speaker Ryan's leadership here in terms of being able to put together a new coalition for anything else?
STRASSEL: Look, it's -- it is a problem in many ways. As we just mentioned, when you spend six years and 90 times promising that you're going to replace something and then you fail before you even get to a vote, that's obviously not a good mark on your record.
Now, that being said, tax reform, there are many people in the Republican conference who always thought it ought to be first because you have a lot more unanimity among Republicans about how it should shake out. And you also even have some potential to get maybe some Democratic backing, a little bit of bipartisan work, especially on things like corporate tax reform. So --
GIGOT: Kim, I'm going to have to disagree with you a bit on that because I think tax reform is going to be harder. Here's why it's going to be harder, because all these special interest groups in Washington are lined up to protect their favorite iron rice bowl, and they are going to fight tooth -- they're just going to really fight to do that. It's going to be very hard to get tax reform, which is one of the hardest things to get through Congress.
STRASSEL: No, I mean, I suppose that that is possible, although there seem to be more willingness on many Republicans' side to get to an ending here, at least more willingness and cohesion on the ideas behind it than there was on health care.
GIGOT: OK, Dan, what about Donald Trump's reputation as the dealmaker, the closer, "The Art of the Deal." Took a hit here?
HENNINGER: Took a hit. He's going to -- you know, he'll be treated brutally as he has been in the press over this. But I think he did everything he could, he and Paul Ryan. He actually negotiated in good faith. He gave a lot to the House Republicans.
HENNINGER: So I don't think he's been damaged so much here.
But they do have a real problem. I mean, just before the bill was pulled, a lot of Republicans in the House were indicating that they were going to vote "no." Most of these were moderate Republicans. 23 of them are up for re-election in two years in districts that were carried by Hillary Clinton. So they're going to be -- the Democrats will be totally energized by what's happened here. And they're going to be under a lot of pressure on the tax bill to try to do the sort of things you were saying, cave in to the special interests, make sure the tax rates aren't too low, that they don't benefit the rich. So I think it's going to be a very heavy lift now.
O'GRADY: I think there's no way that they're going to do the tax reform after this. What they have basically telegraphed to the entire world is that they can't govern. I mean, they're wearing -- these Freedom Caucus people are treating this as a badge of honor, that they refused to budget on this. And, in fact, it's a big disaster for the party. And I think it means they are not capable of what's required --
GIGOT: Any hints of optimism from you gentlemen?
MCGURN: You're looking at me?
O'GRADY: You talking to me?
O'GRADY: I'm a cloud in every silver lining.
Look, I think Donald Trump really has taken a hit. And I agree with Dan that he did everything possible and actually behaved, you know, very well, making compromises and listening to people. But the image of Donald Trump before this was the guy that was written off and was a juggernaut just running over everyone, running over everyone in the primaries, and in the election, and never having -- and now, that's taken a big hit that he is going to win all the time.
The second thing for Republicans, they're going to go into 2018 saying we have the House, the Senate and the Oval Office, and we didn't do anything on health care. I think this is a problem not just because they didn't get the ObamaCare stuff done. The biggest promise of Donald Trump was that a lot of people who were struggling are going to feel my life is getting better, and I think this is a big hit to that.
GIGOT: Well, and that's why I think, Joe, he's got -- the Republicans, as difficult as -- I think Mary is correct -- it's going to have to be -- they have to, at the very least, do a tax cut to help the economy. I think this is going to make tax reform, serious tax reform harder, but I think the tax cut is something they're going to have to do.
RAGO: Yeah. I think you might see a tax relief package, for example, but not the kind of pro-growth, structural change that we really need to get the economy on a better trajectory.
GIGOT: Because that's going to be harder because nobody's going to want to -- this suggests Republican dysfunction. It's going to be harder to make difficult votes. They're going to be more risk averse.
RAGO: And I'm with you. This is one industry. When you get to tax reform, it's all of them.
GIGOT: Yeah. That's exactly right.
What about you, Dan? We don't have a lot of time.
HENNINGER: Yeah, I know.
HENNINGER: I'll find a silver lining, sure. Kevin Brady said right after they pulled the bill, we're going to get that tax reform done by August. Well, maybe they will. They've got a lot of time. They just through health care out the window.
GIGOT: Well, they have to get it done. If they don't, they might as well start turning over the gavel right now to Nancy Pelosi because they'll be running on nothing except saying no.
So we'll leave it at that.
When we come back, Judge Neil Gorsuch faces a three-day grilling on Capitol Hill. So did Democrats lay to glove on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL GORSUCH, U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I have offered no promises on how I'd rule in any case to anyone. And I don't think it's appropriate for a judge to do so no matter who's doing the asking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, faced a three-day grilling on Capitol Hill this week as Democrats tried to pin him down on controversial issues, like abortion, and attempted to paint him as an enemy of the little guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: I'm just looking for something that would indicate that you would give a worker a fair shot.
GORSUCH: I participated in 2,700 opinions over 10 and a half years. And if you want cases where I've ruled for the little guy as well as the big guy, there are plenty of them, Senator.
The bottom line, I think, is that I'd like to convey to you, from the bottom of my heart, is that I'm a fair judge. And, Senator, I can't guarantee more than that, but I can promise you absolutely nothing less.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, announced Thursday he would vote against Gorsuch and urged his fellow Democrats to join him in blocking an up-or-down vote on the nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: After careful deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court. His nomination will have a cloture vote. He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation. My vote will be "no," and I urge my colleagues to do the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: We're back with Dan Henninger, Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Colin Levy; and editorial page features editor, James Taranto.
Colin, you covered this. What -- how do you think Neil Gorsuch did?
COLIN LEVY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I mean, Paul, Neil Gorsuch did exceptionally well during these hearings. There's no question that, from start to finish, he showed himself to be a fair-minded judge. He also really showed a lot of intellectual depth and rigor in his conversations with the Senators. And, you know, I think the clip you played earlier was very informative because this is a situation where when you've ruled in as many cases as he has, of course, there's going to be decisions for the little guy, of course, there's going to be decisions for the big guy. If you follow the law where it leads, which is what we want out of our judges, then you're going to go both ways. And, no question --
GIGOT: Colin, Democrats were looking here, most of them want to find a way, a reason to oppose him. So they were looking for Gorsuch to make a mistake, to maybe say something about a hot-button issue that they could then say, aha, I can vote against you. Did he fall into that trap?
LEVY: No, not at all, Paul. That's the funny part here. The one case they kept coming back to was this case of a trucker who left his truck when it was frozen in the snow, and they kept coming back and saying, you know, you said it was OK that this guy got fired. Judge Gorsuch said, look, I'm not against truckers who are frozen in the snow. The law said he had to be frozen, and I followed the law. I'll be the first to line up in going the other way as soon as the law is changed. So he kept coming back to that theme, saying, Senators, if you don't like what the law is, then you're the ones in the position to change the law. So that was a very strong message as well.
GIGOT: OK, Dan, what about this issue that Schumer, Chuck Schumer kept getting at, which is, oh, he's not going to be independent of Donald Trump. Does that have any carry with you?
HENNINGER: No carry whatsoever. I thought that was actually gratuitous. A pretty insulting thing to say to a judge like Neil Gorsuch, who has proved his independence, as he said, through more than 2,000 rulings.
And I think what we learned here in these hearings, Paul, is just how far left the Democratic Party has gone. It isn't just Neil Gorsuch. I don't think any nominee of a Republican president could pass muster with them unless, of course, it was the second coming of Sonia Sotomayor.
But if you don't agree with them, you're simply not going to be supported by any Democrats. And so the partisanship -- especially with a judge. I mean, anybody would want to appear before Neil Gorsuch if their life were in the balance. If he can't pass muster, it's pretty clear that nobody can.
GIGOT: The tragedy, I think, for American democracy in these hearings, James, is they've become something of a farce. And I don't mean that to discredit Neil Gorsuch. It's just that the Senators are trying to trip him up so they can defeat him. Gorsuch's response, every nominee's response, Democrat, Republican, is, make no mistakes, be very cautious. That's a legacy of the Robert Bork hearing where Bork had a really free-flowing discussion intellectually with them, and the Democrats nailed him for it and defeated him.
JAMES TARANTO, EDITORIAL PAGE FEATURES EDITOR: Yeah. And so what we've seen in Republican Supreme Court nominee hearings since then -- not so much when Democrats are nominating - is, as you say, the Democrats are looking for a reason to oppose them. Really, what they're looking for is a rationalization.
They know that they're going to oppose them. All but a few are certain "no" votes. Dianne Feinstein, when she said, you know, I'm looking for a reason to think you might side with the little guy, no, she's not. Come on. She's looking to make him look foolish so she looks better by voting against him. The people who do the best are the nominees like Gorsuch -- and John Roberts is another example -- who are just cool as a cucumber and put on an air of judiciousness.
GIGOT: Did you learn anything new this week about Gorsuch's jurisprudence, how he thinks about the law?
TARANTO: Not really. I learned that he wants to be a fair judge and that he follows precedent, which, of course, he's obliged to do as a circuit court nominee. I don't know that we want to necessarily learn all that much before they go on the court.
GIGOT: How about you, Colin? Did you learn anything else new about him? I know you have read just about every opinion this fellow has written, certainly as a majority. And I credit you for that, because it's more than I've read, I'll tell you that.
But did you learn anything new?
LEVY: I didn't learn so much new about judge Gorsuch as I really learned that what the Senators are doing here is turning the filibuster into sort of an everyday tool of partisan obstruction. And I think that's what's really going to be interesting here. If they go through with this, if they require the 60 votes for cloture, then it's going to be so easy for Republicans to get rid of it, because with such a mainstream nominee, with someone the American people have seen now for three, four days in front of everyone, there was nothing there. There was nothing to catch him on. So if they're going to use it against him, they'd use it against anyone.
GIGOT: Do you think they have the votes to go ahead and break the filibuster, following the lead that Harry Reid, the precedent that he set for the appellate courts, and change the rules for the Supreme Court?
LEVY: Yes, I do think that they will have the votes. And it's good to remember, you know, Democrats said they would break the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees as well. Harry Reid said he would do it. And also, Hillary Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, said that they would do it for a Supreme Court nominee. So this is, you know, very much following precedent.
GIGOT: Could this be a mistake for the Democrats, to try to use -- to filibuster Gorsuch if the Republicans are so determined to break it?
TARANTO: Yes, I think Harry - sorry -- Chuck Schumer is not thinking strategically here. He's just reacting to his base. We had quotes from John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both of whom are thought to be weak on this question --
-- and both of them said if it's necessary -- you know, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. But McCain said none of us wants to do it, but we're going to confirm Gorsuch.
GIGOT: And if he doesn't -- if they break it this time --
TARANTO: Then it's gone.
GIGOT: Then it's gone.
All right. Still ahead, a new twist in the House Intelligence Committee's Russia probe as the Republican chair says the Trump transition team may have been caught up in post-election surveillance. Do his claims vindicate President Trump's wiretap tweets?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you feel vindicated by Chairman Nunes?
TRUMP: I somewhat do. I must tell you, I somewhat do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIF., CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's recently been confirmed that on numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes igniting a firestorm Wednesday with claims that the communications of President Donald Trump and his associates may have been picked up by intelligence agencies conducting post-election surveillance of foreign targets. That announcement coming just todays after FBI Director James Comey said he had no information to support President Trump's claims that he was wiretapped by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
We're back with Dan Henninger, Joe Rago, Bill McGurn and Kim Strassel.
So, Bill, there are two real things here going on here. There's the investigation into the Russian ties to the Trump campaign that Adam Schiff, the Democratic Intelligence ranking member, talks about. And then there's a story about this wiretapping, listening in, if that's what it was, on Trump people from U.S. government agencies,
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: Right. Right.
GIGOT: Let's break them down first. Go to what Adam Schiff said. Is there more than circumstantial evidence to --
MCGURN: Right, that's --
GIGOT: -- support collusion between the Russians and Trump?
MCGURN: That's what he said this week. He started out Sunday saying there was circumstantial evidence, then later he went on TV and said there's more than circumstantial evidence --
GIGOT: That's an incendiary charge.
MCGURN: It's absolutely an incendiary charge, but he gave no evidence.
MCGURN: He says that the fact that the FBI is looking into it, it means more than circumstantial. But he gave no evidence. What Adam Schiff wants is an independent panel to work like an independent prosecutor and cast a cloud over the Trump administration for the entirety of administration.
GIGOT: Kim, that really does cast a pall over a lot of people who are going to be investigated. You want to be vindicated here if your name's been thrown to the press and nothing happened. How long could this go on?
STRASSEL: Well, it's absolutely appalling, what he's done, too, because it's not only that he didn't offer any evidence, but it's in direct contradiction to the statements of people who are in a position to know, including former Obama director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the former acting CIA director under the Obama administration, and the heads of Intelligence Committees, essentially saying, other ones, the other heads saying that there is no evidence of collusion. But you put this out there, you put it in the public mind, you cloud this up, and you continue what has, so far, been a storyline that is just a whole lot of nothing.
GIGOT: But just, Kim, to follow up, James Comey said -- basically indicated when he appeared before the committee, this is a counterintelligence probe. And those kinds of things aren't necessarily aimed at criminal indictments. They're just -- and they can go on for years.
STRASSEL: They can go on for years, which is why what we should be hoping for is that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are conducting their own investigation --
STRASSEL: -- do so in a timely fashion and then get some conclusions and information out to the public. Even if that means declassifying some materials so that people can see what's really going on.
GIGOT: Dan, let's shift to these Devin Nunes, the Devin Nunes remarks, because if, in fact -- well, we know for a fact that the former National Security adviser, Michael Flynn, his conversations with the Russian ambassador were listened to. If Devin Nunes is right, he said they were legal, but when you listen to somebody when's a foreign agent and incidentally collect conversations from an American, that name is supposed to be in the parlance of the intelligence services "minimized," right? They're supposed to hide the name and not share it. In this case, Mike Flynn's wasn't. How serious is this?
HENNINGER: It's very serious. In the parlance of the law, it's called "unmasking" somebody whose identity was concealed inside those intelligence reports. And in his press conference Friday morning, Chairman Nunes really kind of raised the stakes in this investigation by saying that he was aware that there was not just Mr. Flynn, but others as well, who had been unmasked in these reports. And he wants to know how that happened and who did it. So he is, next week, going to call Director Comey and NSA Director Rogers back to another session, a closed session, to talk about this in private.
As well, he made clear at that press conference, explicitly invited other whistleblowers, other sources in the Intelligence Committee to get in touch with him to talk about this. He said, "We will protect their anonymity." In other words, he knows something's going on beyond what has been reported in the press the past several weeks, and he's going to press the intelligence community to tell him exactly what it is in closed sessions.
GIGOT: And, Joe, there's another element here, which is that we learned through the press -- and hasn't been denied by anybody -- that Barack Obama, when he was president, in his final days, basically changed the rules on who could have access to this kind of raw intelligence. It could be spread more -- far and wide within the government.
RAGO: Right. According to "The New York Times" report, the president feared that his successor would try to destroy evidence or something, so it needed to be spread very widely through non-regular channels. This is, I think, pretty disturbing. I mean, when we had the Edward Snowden debate, it was about spying on Americans. Here you have an administration using the intelligence apparatus to undermine the opposing political party.
GIGOT: Now, Bill, President Trump said this vindicates him on the tweets.
GIGOT: We were critical of him last week, quite, quite hard. Does this vindicate him?
MCGURN: No. It doesn't vindicate his literal statement that President Obama ordered wiretaps, which Chairman Nunes made clear.
MCGURN: But what it does is try to get the real story here. You have Congressman Schiff and you have Congressman Nunes. Congressman Schiff has no evidence that he offers, right? Congressman Nunes has obviously seen some documents and is asking the community for other documents. He says he has real evidence, real papers and so forth that's not just conjecture. And a lot of people don't want that to come out.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you all.
When we come back, a terror attack in central London, just the latest reminder of the wide-reaching threat from ISIS and al-Qaeda and the continuing need for surveillance at home and abroad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Yesterday, an act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy. But today, we meet as normal, as generations have done before us and as future generations will continue to do, to deliver a simple message: We are not afraid. And our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: British Prime Minister Theresa May addressing parliament Thursday one day after a terror attack in central London that left four victims dead, including one American and dozens of others injured. The attacker, identified as 52-year-old British-born citizen, Khalid Masood, drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then attempted to enter parliament, stabbing a police officer before being shot and killed. Wednesday's attack came on the one-year anniversary of the Islamic State assault on the airport and subway station in Brussels, and also follows last year's truck rampages in Nice and Berlin.
Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial page writer, Sohrab Ahmari, joins us now from London.
SOHRAB AHMARI, COLUMNIST & EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER, LONDON BUREAU: Hi, Paul.
GIGOT: OK. So Islamic State has claimed credit for this a day after the attack. Do authorities agree this was Islamic State, at least inspired?
AHMARI: I think that's still something they're still investigating. They've made a number of arrests in Birmingham and elsewhere where Khalid Masood had links. The Islamic State, through its media channel, has claimed responsibility through media channels and said Khalid Masood was a, quote-unquote, "soldier of the caliphate." But that remains to be seen, because the organization has a tendency to do that, where people who are inspired by its message, who are lone-wolf characters, after the fact, when they go out, then the organization takes credit for them. And it really doesn't matter in a way because they had no -- they may never have had any direct contact with the organization and may not have been plugged into the official jihadist networks, but nevertheless, drew inspiration from it and then Islamic State can point to the fact afterwards and feed this to its supporters as a success.
GIGOT: One thing we haven't heard so far is a lot of evidence from his computers or literature he was reading, anything like that, which typically in the United States, with these kinds of attacks, it does come out pretty quickly. We haven't seen that in this one, but we have seen arrests in Birmingham and a couple more on Friday. That suggests this could be a broader network.
AHMARI: It could be. And I think one thing to make note of is the fact is that Khalid Masood himself had a background as a petty criminal. He'd come into contact with law enforcers for other types of non-terror offenses. And the prime minister pointed to out that he had been a "peripheral," quote-unquote, character in other terrorist instances. But wasn't picked up, which recalls the Omar Mateen case in the U.S. --
AHMARI: -- where the authorities suspected something but, ultimately, concluded he wasn't a threat. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the case. And this just goes to show how difficult this new model of terrorism is, where it's these people with petty criminal backgrounds radicalized somehow, and then with just a car and a knife, they can unleash havoc on a major metropolitan area.
GIGOT: And Birmingham is a particular source of concern for British security agencies. Explain why that is.
AHMARI: Well, it's three areas that are -- where most of the British jihadis come from. Right now, there's 3,000 jihadis that the British authorities are looking at. Not all jihadis, but extremist cases, extremists, radicals --
GIGOT: People who are under suspicion.
AHMARI: Exactly. So you have Birmingham and you have east London, and you have a suburb of London called Luton. These are areas where there are pockets of Muslim communities, a vast majority of them perfectly law- abiding, but it's where these radical mosques, radical imams operate, and where most of the foreign fighters, for example, who go off to Syria and Iraq, may originate from these types of neighborhoods. And you see these patterns all across Europe, specific neighborhoods around Brussels, specific suburbs of Paris, where you have typically unassimilated Muslim communities. Doesn't mean all of them are ticking time bombs, but they're these ecosystems that breed jihadism.
GIGOT: One of the things that really interesting, this is the first big attack in Britain since, I think, the subway bombings in 2005, so the British intelligence services, security agencies, have a pretty good record here. And yet, they've been warning now for some weeks that there could be a lot more attacks. Is there any particular reason they've been saying that? Is this partly Syrian related, for example?
AHMARI: Paul, I think this has been something that we should have been alert to in the sense that, as Islamic State is losing territory in Iraq and Syria, that it may attempt to radicalize more people. Now, again, it's not clear in this case whether Khalid Masood was directly radicalized or plugged in. He may not have been. But the fact that these organizations feel squeezed in their terrorist homeland, so to speak, may result in more attacks abroad just for them to be able to say that they're still in the game. I've heard from Middle Eastern security analysts and officials where they say, you know, watch out for -- the next wave might be ISIS 2.0 trying to prove itself, whatever that organization is, being extremely brutal. And then the remnants of ISIS 1.0 just trying to show that it's still in the game by staging brutal attacks.
GIGOT: OK, Sohrab, thanks very much for staying up late for us.
When we come back, opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline promising a long fight ahead as President Trump gives the green light for the $8 billion project.
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TRUMP: It's a great day for American jobs and a historic moment for North America and energy independence.
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TRUMP: Today I am pleased to announce the official approval of the presidential permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long-overdue project with efficiency and with speed.
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GIGOT: That was President Trump on Friday announcing that TransCanada has been given a permit to start construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline, the $8 billion project that had been blocked by the Obama administration.
We're back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Joe Rago.
So, Mary, is this thing finally going to get built. lo these many years?
O'GRADY: I think it will, but the way is not completely clear yet. because the state of Nebraska still has a say in it. They have a Public Service Commission that has to approve the path of the pipeline through the state of Nebraska.
GIGOT: But in terms of the federal barriers, those are now gone.
O'GRADY: They're gone. And, in fact, another bit of good news is that the president has said that they do not have to buy American steel for this. They've already bought a lot of the pipes, and they're sitting there, so --
GIGOT: There sitting, waiting to be laid.
O'GRADY: Yeah, exactly. So he said, OK, they can go ahead with those, too.
GIGOT: All right. What are we talking in magnitude of jobs? You use the figure $8 billion dollars. But what about jobs? And I assume these are pretty good union jobs.
O'GRADY: Yeah, they are good union jobs. There are thousands of them, depending on who you talk to. And, of course, there are direct jobs and there are indirect jobs. The indirect jobs can go up to 100,000. But, you know, critics of the pipeline will say, well, those jobs are only temporary, they're not -- well, for heaven sakes, all construction jobs are temporary.
GIGOT: That's right.
O'GRADY: Unless you work for the federal government making a highway, then that goes on forever.
GIGOT: Right. But every project finishes.
O'GRADY: Yeah, of course. So they're temporary.
But I think the more important thing here really is this rule-of-law issue. You know, TransCanada went in, in good faith, on this project in 2008. There were three environmental impact statements from the State Department that said there was absolutely no impact to the environment. And, you know, they operated all along clearing all the hurdles that were required of them. And for the U.S. government to suddenly pull the rug out from under them the way they did is a very bad message to investors more broadly. I mean, it basically says that we're capable of arbitrary decisions. And that is not what makes for a good economy.
GIGOT: Yeah. The political risk in the United States is much higher than anybody would have imagined. And you can kill a project like this because somebody doesn't like the politics of it.
O'GRADY: Right. And, you know, what really happened here was when the environmental lobbyists descended on President Obama, he, both, you know, felt the pressure, but he also saw an opportunity. And this pipeline was a big fundraiser for Democrats over the period when that battle was going on.
GIGOT: Joe, what does this process tell us about building, the length of this? Tell us about what it takes to build an infrastructure project in the United States now?
RAGO: Well, I mean, it's crazy. You've got a very long process, just the legal part of it. This became a cause celebre for the environmental left. They dragged it out even further by appealing to the president himself. I think there's a certain rough justice in Trump overturning the previous order with an Oval Office ceremony.
GIGOT: What about, Kim, the infrastructure plans that President Trump -- the other plans he has? He's talking about a trillion dollars in public/private financing, but that hasn't been moving fast. Is it going to go anywhere?
STRASSEL: Well, it's been delayed because of other debates, especially over health care. But, look, to get to the importance of just how much Donald Trump cares about this, I think it's important that not only in the opening weeks of his administration did he green light some of these pipelines and tell the State Department to reevaluate Keystone, but, you know, he also had an order to make sure that we try to figure out an expedited way to move infrastructure projects in this country. Because that's been a problem as well, not just a lack of money, but the fact that there's so much uncertainty that nobody is willing to try these big-stakes projects.
GIGOT: Right. That could be --
STRASSEL: So --
GIGOT: Go ahead.
STRASSEL: Congress is moving to this. And this is going to be potentially another big piece of legislation and maybe something that can get some bipartisan cooperation, too. But you've got to get the permitting side and the federal regulatory side sorted out as well.
GIGOT: Without the permitting side, it's a waste of time.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits & Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for our "Hits & Misses" of the week.
Colin, start it off.
LEVY: Paul, this is a hit to Mississippi Governor Phil Brandt, who this week signed a bill to crack down on civil forfeiture, which is the law that law enforcement uses to confiscate property without filing any charges. Under the new law, the law enforcement will have to post the information on a publicly searchable website and get a warrant if they want to keep it. This is something that a lot of states should take on. This is a good start.
MCGURN: Paul, a hit to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In a case that received national attention, the court made a stand for the Oxford comma or serial comma, the last coma in a list of three or more things. In the case, the court allowed the lawsuit by Gary Drivers to go ahead, because there was an ambiguity in the law that could have two different meanings depending on the comma. A serial comma would have clarified what the law meant. Of course, there are cases where a serial comma could confuse. Anyway.
MCGURN: The judges made the point that the third-grade English teachers, all made. If your grammar isn't clear, it could cost you.
TARANTO: A miss to the Internal Revenue Service which claims to have ended the ideological targeting of non-profit organizations. But as the Cause of Action Institute points out, the rule that enabled this targeting is still on the books. It tells agents to investigate any non-profit that might, and I quote, "attract media or congressional attention," which suggests the IRS is more interested in protecting its image than the rights of Americans.
GIGOT: All right.
HENNINGER: Paul, I'm giving a hit to the suburbs, which are those places that urban sophisticates continue to mock. Well, guess what? New estimates out from the Census Bureau say that, for the first time since the 2008 recession, cities are losing population while the suburbs are gaining population. It looks to me like it just proves that a place with a house, a lawn and a two-car garage has a lot more allure than a one-bedroom apartment.
GIGOT: As long as they keep letting us drive.
Thank you, Dan.
And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us @JERonFNC.
That's it for this week show. Thanks to my panel. Thanks to all of you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.
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