Archive for the ‘General Flynn and Russia’ category

History, Precedent and Comey Statement Show that Trump Did Not Obstruct Justice

June 8, 2017

History, Precedent and Comey Statement Show that Trump Did Not Obstruct Justice, Gatestone InstituteAlan M. Dershowitz, June 8, 2017

Comey has also acknowledged that the president had the constitutional authority to fire him for any or no cause. President Donald Trump also had the constitutional authority to order Comey to end the investigation of Flynn. He could have pardoned Flynn, as Bush pardoned Weinberger, thus ending the Flynn investigation, as Bush ended the Iran-Contra investigation. What Trump could not do is what Nixon did: direct his aides to lie to the FBI, or commit other independent crimes. There is no evidence that Trump did that.

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The statement may provide political ammunition to Trump opponents, but unless they are willing to stretch James Comey’s words and take Trump’s out of context, and unless they are prepared to abandon important constitutional principles and civil liberties that protect us all, they should not be searching for ways to expand already elastic criminal statutes and shrink enduring constitutional safeguards in a dangerous and futile effort to criminalize political disagreements.

The first casualty of partisan efforts to “get” a political opponent — whether Republicans going after Clinton or Democrats going after Trump — is often civil liberties. All Americans who care about the Constitution and civil liberties must join together to protest efforts to expand existing criminal law to get political opponents.

Today it is Trump. Yesterday it was Clinton. Tomorrow it could be you.

In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger and five other individuals who had been indicted or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra arms deal. The special prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, was furious, accusing Bush of stifling his ongoing investigation and suggesting that he may have done it to prevent Weinberger or the others from pointing the finger of blame at Bush himself. The New York Times also reported that the investigation might have pointed to Bush himself.

This is what Walsh said:

“The Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed with the pardon of Caspar Weinberger. We will make a full report on our findings to Congress and the public describing the details and extent of this cover-up.”

Yet President Bush was neither charged with obstruction of justice nor impeached. Nor have other presidents who interfered with ongoing investigations or prosecutions been charged with obstruction.

It is true that among the impeachment charges levelled against President Nixon was one for obstructing justice, but Nixon committed the independent crime of instructing his aides to lie to the FBI, which is a violation of section 1001 of the federal criminal code.

It is against the background of this history and precedent that the statement of former FBI Director James must be considered. Comey himself acknowledged that,

“throughout history, some presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.”

Comey has also acknowledged that the president had the constitutional authority to fire him for any or no cause. President Donald Trump also had the constitutional authority to order Comey to end the investigation of Flynn. He could have pardoned Flynn, as Bush pardoned Weinberger, thus ending the Flynn investigation, as Bush ended the Iran-Contra investigation. What Trump could not do is what Nixon did: direct his aides to lie to the FBI, or commit other independent crimes. There is no evidence that Trump did that.

With these factors in mind, let’s turn to the Comey statement.

Former FBI Director James Comey’s written statement, which was released in advance of his Thursday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, does not provide evidence that President Trump committed obstruction of justice or any other crime. Indeed it strongly suggests that even under the broadest reasonable definition of obstruction, no such crime was committed.

The crucial conversation occurred in the Oval Office on February 14 between the President and the then director. According to Comey’s contemporaneous memo, the president expressed his opinion that General Flynn “is a good guy.” Comey replied: “He is a good guy.”

The President said the following: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this thing go.”

Comey understood that to be a reference only to the Flynn investigation and not “the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to the campaign.”

Comey had already told the President that “we were not investigating him personally.”

Comey understood “the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.”

Comey did not say he would “let this go,” and indeed he did not grant the president’s request to do so. Nor did Comey report this conversation to the attorney general or any other prosecutor. He was troubled by what he regarded as a breach of recent traditions of FBI independence from the White House, though he recognized that “throughout history, some presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from the Department of Justice, they should try to hold the Department close.”

That is an understatement.

Throughout American history — from Adams to Jefferson to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Kennedy to Obama — presidents have directed (not merely requested) the Justice Department to investigate, prosecute (or not prosecute) specific individuals or categories of individuals.

It is only recently that the tradition of an independent Justice Department and FBI has emerged. But traditions, even salutary ones, cannot form the basis of a criminal charge. It would be far better if our constitution provided for prosecutors who were not part of the executive branch, which is under the direction of the president.

In Great Britain, Israel and other democracies that respect the rule of law, the Director of Public Prosecution or the Attorney General are law enforcement officials who, by law, are independent of the Prime Minister.

But our constitution makes the Attorney General both the chief prosecutor and the chief political adviser to the president on matters of justice and law enforcement.

The president can, as a matter of constitutional law, direct the Attorney General, and his subordinate, the Director of the FBI, tell them what to do, whom to prosecute and whom not to prosecute. Indeed, the president has the constitutional authority to stop the investigation of any person by simply pardoning that person.

Assume, for argument’s sake, that the President had said the following to Comey: “You are no longer authorized to investigate Flynn because I have decided to pardon him.” Would that exercise of the president’s constitutional power to pardon constitute a criminal obstruction of justice? Of course not. Presidents do that all the time.

The first President Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, his Secretary of Defense, in the middle of an investigation that could have incriminated Bush. That was not an obstruction and neither would a pardon of Flynn have been a crime. A president cannot be charged with a crime for properly exercising his constitutional authority

For the same reason, President Trump cannot be charged with obstruction for firing Comey, as he had the constitutional authority to do.

The Comey statement suggests that one reason the President fired him was because of his refusal or failure to publicly announce that the FBI was not investigating Trump personally. Trump “repeatedly” told Comey to “get that fact out,” and he did not.

If that is true, it is certainly not an obstruction of justice.

Nor is it an obstruction of justice to ask for loyalty from the director of the FBI, who responded “you will get that (‘honest loyalty’) from me.”

Comey understood that he and the President may have understood that vague phrase — “honest loyalty” — differently. But no reasonable interpretation of those ambiguous words would give rise to a crime. 
 Many Trump opponents were hoping that the Comey statement would provide smoking guns.

It has not.

Instead it has weakened an already weak case for obstruction of justice.

The statement may provide political ammunition to Trump opponents, but unless they are willing to stretch Comey’s words and take Trump’s out of context, and unless they are prepared to abandon important constitutional principles and civil liberties that protect us all, they should not be searching for ways to expand already elastic criminal statutes and shrink enduring constitutional safeguards in a dangerous and futile effort to criminalize political disagreements.

The first casualty of partisan efforts to “get” a political opponent — whether Republicans going after Clinton or Democrats going after Trump — is often civil liberties. All Americans who care about the Constitution and civil liberties must join together to protest efforts to expand existing criminal law to get political opponents.

Today it is Trump. Yesterday it was Clinton. Tomorrow it could be you.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 3: Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on the FBI on Capitol Hill May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

 

Russian Hacking and Collusion: Put the Cards on the Table

May 14, 2017

Russian Hacking and Collusion: Put the Cards on the Table, American ThinkerClarice Feldman, May 14, 2017

(As to the appointment of a special prosecutor, please see also, What Crime Would a ‘Special Prosecutor’ Prosecute?  No crime has been found to prosecute.– DM)

The notion that Russia interfered in the election to help Donald Trump was a John Brennan/James Clapper confection created in an unorthodox way, and defied logic, given that Hillary and her associates had far closer connections to Russia than Trump or his associates did. John Merline writes at Investor’s Business Daily:

THE CLINTON FAMILY BUSINESS [snip]

Bill Clinton received half a million dollars in 2010 for a speech he gave in Moscow, paid by a Russian firm, Renaissance Capital, that has ties to Russian intelligence. The Clinton Foundation took money from Russian officials and oligarchs, including Victor Kekselberg, a Putin confidant. The Foundation also received millions of dollars from Uranium One, which was sold to the Russian government in 2010, giving Russia control of 20% of the uranium deposits in the U.S. —  the sale required approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department. What’s more, at least some of these donations weren’t disclosed. “Ian Telfer, the head of the Russian government’s uranium company, Uranium One, made four foreign donations totaling $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all such donors,” the Times has reported.

JOHN PODESTA In March — that is, long after the election was over — it was revealed that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman had failed to disclose the receipt of 75,000 shares of stock from a Kremlin-financed company — Joule Unlimited — for which he served as director from 2010 to 2014, when he joined the Obama White House in 2014. Podesta apparently had a large chunk of the shares transferred to “Leonidio Holdings, a brand-new entity he incorporated only on Dec. 20, 2013, about 10 days before he entered the White House,” according to a news account.

TONY PODESTA Mr. Podesta’s bother, who has close personal and business relations with Mrs. Clinton, was “key lobbyist on behalf of Sberbank, according to Senate lobbying disclosure forms. His firm received more than $24 million in fees in 2016, much of it coming from foreign governments, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics,” a March news story reported. The bank was “seeking to end one of the Obama administration’s economic sanctions against that country.” The report goes on to note that “Podesta’s efforts were a key part of under-the-radar lobbying during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign led mainly by veteran Democratic strategists to remove sanctions against Sberbank and VTB Capital, Russia’s second largest bank.” Mr. Obama imposed the sanctions following the Russian seizure of the Crimean region of Ukraine in 2014.

JOHN BREAUX Forbes magazine reports that Mr. Breaux, a former Senator from Louisiana who cut radio ads for Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign, represents Gazprombank GPB, a subsidiary of Russia’s third largest bank, on “banking laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions.”

THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN In March, Mr. Putin’s spokesman said that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak met with members of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign several times while she was running for president in 2016. Further, the campaign never disclosed the number or nature of these secret meetings.

As the great Sharyl Attkisson reports, 12 prominent public statements by those on both sides of the aisle who reviewed the evidence or been briefed on it confirmed there was no evidence of Russia trying to help Trump in the election or colluding with him:

  • The New York Times (Nov 1, 2016);
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan (Feb, 26, 2017);
  • Former DNI James Clapper , March 5, 2017);
  • Devin Nunes Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017);
  • James Comey, March 20, 2017;
  • Rep. Chris Stewart, House Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017;
  • Rep. Adam Schiff, House Intelligence committee, April 2, 2017);
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate Intelligence Committee, May 3, 2017);
  • Sen. Joe Manchin  Senate Intelligence Committee, May 8, 2017;
  • James Clapper (again) (May 8, 2017);
  • Rep. Maxine Waters, May 9, 2017);
  • President Donald Trump,(May 9, 2017).
  • Senator Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, indicated that his briefing confirmed Dianne Feinstein’s view that the President was not under investigation for colluding with the Russians.

The firing of FBI Director James Comey caught both the media and press off guard. Up until a few hours before the firing, prominent Democrats had been calling for him to resign or be fired and the media had been critical of his performance. There have been many leaks about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn collected from government surveillance and unmasked and read by others, including recently fired acting attorney general and former DNI Clapper (and who knows how many others since that information was shared with others in the government). As the author of the Wall Street Journal’sBest of the Web observes: “Whoever has been leaking classified information, reporters might want to start asking their sources why the leaks never seem to contain any collusion evidence. They might also ask Mr. Schiff what it would take to get him interested in investigating potential abuses by his political allies.

Law professor Jonathan Turley says much the same thing: “No one has yet to explain to me what the core crime that would be investigated with regards to Russian influence,’ Turley said Wednesday evening. “I don’t see the crime, so I don’t see how it’s closing in on Trump.”

“For weeks I’ve questioned the need for special counsel because honestly I still don’t see the underlying crime here. You know, when we talk about the Russian influence and collusion, there’s not any evidence I’ve seen of collusion,” Turley said on Morning Joe today.

The Firing of Comey Was Certainly Justified

Unless you think it makes political and constitutional sense to have an FBI director holding open forever an investigation of his boss with no factual basis, you might understand how ridiculous Comey’s refusal to publicly detail his reasons for so doing. My guess: it’s his arrogation of power and his continuing pattern of posing as an above-it-all public official while engaged in the most partisan pro-Democrat actions.

Apart from his botched handling of the Clinton investigation, here are some examples right now of his blindness to his own flaws:

In 2015, he appointed E.W. Priestap to his Counterintelligence Division. Priestap’s wife, a former FBI agent, contributed $5,000 to Hillary’s 2008 campaign and serves as a campaign consultant. Priestap is not the only FBI official closely linked to the Clintons. Andrew McCabe, Comey’s second in command, also has close ties to the Clintons. His wife received  almost half a million dollars from one of Hillary’s closest associates and pals.

Mr. McAuliffe and other state party leaders recruited Dr. McCabe to run, according to party officials. She lost the election to incumbent Republican Dick Black.

McCabe failed to disclose those contributions in financial disclosure forms as required by law and he’s still there.

But there is much more than the misjudgment of allowing these people to head the investigation, which has run on for months with an ocean of leaks and no evidence.

In this same March 20th hearing Comey stated there was an investigation into intelligence leaks to the media.  However, on May 8th the source of the reports that were eventually leaked to the media, acting AG Sally Yates, said she was never questioned by the FBI.

In the segment of the questioning below Rep. Stefanik begins by asking Director Comey what are the typical protocols, broad standards and procedures for notifying the Director of National Intelligence, the White House and senior congressional leadership (aka the intelligence Gang of Eight), when the FBI has opened a counter-intelligence investigation.[snip]

Director Comey intentionally obfuscates knowledge of the question from Rep Stefanik; using parseltongue verbiage to get himself away from the sunlit timeline.

The counter-intel investigation, by his own admission, began in July 2016. Congress was not notified until March 2017. That’s an eight-month period – Obviously obfuscating the quarterly claim moments earlier.

The uncomfortable aspect to this line of inquiry is Comey’s transparent knowledge of the politicized Office of the DNI James Clapper by President Obama. Clapper was used rather extensively by the Obama Administration as an intelligence shield, a firewall or useful idiot, on several occasions.

Anyone who followed the Obama White House intel policy outcomes will have a lengthy frame of reference for DNI Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan as the two primary political operatives. Clapper lied to congress about collection of metadata. Brennan also admitted investigating, and spying on, the Senate Intelligence Committee as they held oversight responsibility for the CIA itself.

The first and second questions from Stefanik were clear. Comey’s understanding of the questions was clear. However, Comey directly evaded truthful response to the second question. When you watch the video, you can see Comey quickly connecting the dots on where this inquiry was going.

There is only one reasonable explanation for FBI Director James Comey to be launching a counter-intel investigation in July 2016, notifying the White House and Clapper, and keeping it under wraps from congress. Comey was a participant in the intelligence gathering for political purposes — wittingly, or unwittingly.

At the NY Post, Michael Goodwin writes the clearest, most readable account of why Comey had to go.

Comey’s power-grabbing arrogance is why I called him “J. Edgar Comey” two months ago. His willingness to play politics, while insisting he was above it all, smacked of Washington at its worst. He was the keeper of secrets, until they served his purpose.

[snip]

The president didn’t have just one good reason to act. He had a choice among many.

The one he cited, Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server, is rich with irony, given its prominence in the campaign. And the irony doesn’t stop, with Democrats who not so long ago were furious with Comey over the Clinton probe rushing out condemnations of Trump for firing him.

[snip]

Comey’s refusal to accept the department’s conclusion that he made major mistakes are reasonable grounds for dismissal of any employee in any circumstance, not least one who enjoys self-aggrandizing displays of independence.

It is understandable that his bosses, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his recently confirmed deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, lost confidence in Comey. They pushed for his ouster, and the president agreed.

Yet Comey could have been fired for other aspects of the Clinton probe. The failure to empanel a grand jury, the willingness to destroy evidence as part of immunity agreements, the absurd claim that no reasonable prosecutor would take the case — each action and assertion suggested a less-than-thorough probe designed to please his Democratic bosses.

Then there are the leaks of investigations that amounted to a flood of illegal disclosures about the Trump administration. Virtually everything we know about whether anyone in the Trump campaign colluded with Russian meddling in the election comes through leaks.

The names of those supposedly being investigated — Gen. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page — all were made public through leaks. The fact that Sessions himself was wrong to tell the Senate he had not met with the Russian ambassador — we know that because of leaks to the Washington Post.

We know a computer server for Trump Tower was communicating with a Russian bank — because of leaks. Not incidentally, Hillary Clinton jumped on those leaks to insist Trump was guilty of collusion.

Only later did we learn — through leaks–that the FBI determined the server was sending spam.

Yet Comey adamantly insisted to congress that he could not even confirm that he was investigating any or all of these leaks – and that was that.

Kimberley Strassel makes mincemeat of Comey’s claim that he had to act as both investigator and prosecutor because his ostensible boss, then-attorney general Loretta Lynch, had compromised herself with the tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton during the investigation:

Which leads us to Mr. Comey’s most recent and obvious conflict of all — likely a primary reason he was fired: the leaks investigation (or rather non-investigation). So far the only crime that has come to light from this Russia probe is the rampant and felonious leaking of classified information to the press. Mr. Trump and the GOP rightly see this as a major risk to national security. While the National Security Agency has been cooperating with the House Intelligence Committee and allowing lawmakers to review documents that might show the source of the leaks, Mr. Comey’s FBI has resolutely refused to do the same.

Why? The press reports that the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor Carter Page. It’s still unclear exactly under what circumstances the government was listening in on former Trump adviser Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador, but the FBI was likely involved there, too. Meaning Mr. Comey’s agency is a prime possible source of the leaks.

In last week’s Senate hearing, Chairman Chuck Grassley pointed out the obvious: The entire top leadership of the FBI is suspect. “So how,” Mr. Grassley asked, “can the Justice Department guarantee the integrity of the investigations without designating an agency, other than the FBI, to gather the facts and eliminate senior FBI officials as suspects?” Mr. Comey didn’t provide much of an answer.

All this — the Russia probe, the unmasking, the leaks, the fraught question of whether the government was inappropriately monitoring campaigns, the allegations of interference in a presidential campaign — is wrapped together, with Mr. Comey at the center. The White House and House Republicans couldn’t have faith that the FBI would be an honest broker of the truth. Mr. Comey should have realized this, recused himself from ongoing probes, and set up a process to restore trust. He didn’t. So the White House did it for him.

This is Like Watergate, Only With Respect to FBI Leaks, Not Presidential Wrongdoing

The press keeps referring to this as a second Watergate, doubling down on its ignorance and counting on that of the public.

Contrary to the widespread fiction that Woodward and Bernstein revealed Nixon’s wrongdoing through determined slogging and some assistance from an unnamed “Deep Throat”, they got the story from a disgruntled second in command at the FBI, Mark Felt, who handed it to them on a silver platter, instead of honorably turning over what he knew to a grand jury.

In fact, during the 1976 grand jury investigation of Felt’s own “black bag” operation, Assistant Attorney General Stanley Pottinger had learned that Felt was Deep Throat but the secrecy of grand jury proceedings prevented him from disclosing that to anyone.

[snip]

His reason? Probably for appointing someone else, not him, to the directorship of the FBI.

[snip]

In Felt’s case, it is hard to imagine a more monstrous betrayal than his. He reviewed every FBI report on the Watergate investigation and gave it to the reporters almost as soon as it hit his desk. One can only imagine the chaos and paranoia that action caused and how it impacted everything the FBI was working on.

So if this is Watergate, it’s not because this president is trying to cover up any wrongdoing on his part, but rather Comey and others at the FBI are trying to cover up theirs, rather like Mark Felt. The drive to arrogate power to one’s self is a feature of Washington politics, and hardly unknown to the top ranks of the FBI.

The Call from Some Quarters for a Special Prosecutor is Nonsensical

With the lapse of the Independent Prosecutor Statute, the only remaining way to have a special prosecutor is for the attorney general or his designee to appoint one. And only that person can discipline or remove him from office, and can do so only under regulations promulgated by Attorney General Janet Reno, regulations that lack an underlying statutory basis. The person appointed special prosecutor is a prosecutor, not someone designated to expose wrongdoing, and so if he finds some but it is not prosecutable, we’ll never know about it. In other words, it would result in burying information. Since the charges after extensive investigation have obviously proved fruitless, the appointment of a special prosecutor would likely only serve to keep the half-cocked notions of collusion and interference alive.

Writing earlier on the question of appointing a special prosecutor to review the Clinton emails, Andrew McCarthy wisely batted that off. The Constitution has a single means of dealing with official criminality: impeachment.

The aim of people like Senator Durbin that call for such an appointment is to keep the game going: Announce an investigation is ongoing, leak information which may well be false — and then decline to testify about matters because they are “still under investigation’” If the special prosecutor finds nothing, the conspiracy claims will continue. If he goes off the rails, as Patrick Fitzgerald surely did, and is removed, it will still keep going.

As we say in poker, “Game’s up — if you’ve got ’em, show ‘em.’

 

Sally Yates: What Rough Beast

May 14, 2017

Sally Yates: What Rough Beast, Power LineScott Johnson, May 14, 2017

(Please see also, Trump’s “Muslim Ban,” Obamacare and Sally Yates. — DM)

In the heart of her headline making testimony, Yates explained why she had found Flynn subject to blackmail by — who else? — the Russians. Andy McCarthy says it ain’t so in “Sally Yates: Much ado about nothing new.” At RedState Streiff concurs. On the contrary, according to Paul Sherry in the New York Post, “Sally Yates was the real blackmailer.” Sperry cogently concludes: “Yates was no Paul Revere saving the nation from Russian moles. She was a partisan hack trying to save Obama’s liberal legacy.”

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Sally Yates testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this past Monday, but it already feels like ancient history. Yates testified with former DNI James Clapper about events leading to the termination of Michael Flynn as President Trump’s National Security Adviser only days into his job.

At the time of the events in issue Yates served as Acting Attorney General, holding over from the Obama administration until her dismissal by President Trump on January 30. I find her slight southern accent endearing but, like so many Obama administration apparatchiks, Yates is one slippery customer and (to borrow a phrase from the better Yeats) rough beast.

Eli Lake provided an early take on the events leading to Flynn’s firing in “The political assassination of Michael Flynn” Lake’s subhead puts it this way: “Flynn was the appetizer. Trump is the main course.”

In her testimony Yates explained why she refused to defend President Trump’s first immigration executive order (the so-called “travel ban”) in the related judicial proceedings. Not many noticed — certainly no one in the mainstream media noticed — that Yates’s testimony veered from her original explanation. As Jack Goldsmith put it at Lawfare, Yates changed her tune. As I say, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, Yates is one slippery customer. Goldsmith tacitly proves this point to a fare-thee-well.

In the heart of her headline making testimony, Yates explained why she had found Flynn subject to blackmail by — who else? — the Russians. Andy McCarthy says it ain’t so in “Sally Yates: Much ado about nothing new.” At RedState Streiff concurs. On the contrary, according to Paul Sherry in the New York Post, “Sally Yates was the real blackmailer.” Sperry cogently concludes: “Yates was no Paul Revere saving the nation from Russian moles. She was a partisan hack trying to save Obama’s liberal legacy.”

We are inundated with the Democrats’ propaganda and the related misinformation served up by the Democrats’ mainstream media adjunct. The chaos within the Trump information has left it standing unchallenged in the case of Sally Yates, which serves to open a window onto the critical matters on which she has had her hands.

The New McCarthyites

May 11, 2017

The New McCarthyites, PJ MediaMichael Ledeen, May 10, 2017

(I agree that General Flynn should not have been fired. As I noted here, he was making good progress in restoring American-Russian relations to the end that Russia be weaned from Iran in Syria and elsewhere. For example, I cited a DEBKAfile article stating,

Even before his inauguration four weeks ago, he had arranged to reach those goals by means of an understanding with President Vladimir Putin for military and intelligence cooperation in Syria, both for the war on the Islamic State and for the removal of Iran and its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah from that country. [Emphasis added.]

. . . .

The exit of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, the prime mover in the US-Russian détente, sent the Kremlin a negative signal. The Russians began unsheathing their claws when they began to suspect that the US president was being forced back from their understanding. The SSV 175 Viktor Leonov spy ship was ordered to move into position opposite Delaware on the East Coast of America; Su-24 warplanes buzzed the USS Porter destroyer in the Black Sea.

Before these events, Washington and Moscow wre moving briskly towards an understandingdebkafile’s intelligence sources disclose that the Kremlin had sent positive messages to the White House on their joint strategy in Syria, clarifying that Moscow was not locked in on Bashar Assad staying on as president. [Emphasis added.]

They also promised to table at the Geneva conference on Syria taking place later this month a demand for the all “foreign forces” to leave Syria. This would apply first and foremost to the pro-Iranian Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghan militias brought in by Tehran to fight for Assad under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers, as well as Hizballah. [Emphasis added.]

. . . .

What the leak did reveal was that some Washington insiders were determined at all costs to torpedo the evolving understanding between the American and Russian presidents. The first scapegoat was the strategy the two were developing for working together in Syria. [Emphasis added.]

Defending his policy of warming relations with Moscow, Trump protested that “getting along with Russia is not a bad thing.” He even warned there would be a “nuclear holocaust like no other” if relations between the two superpowers were allowed to deteriorate further.

— DM)

UNITED STATES – APRIL 18: Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, prepares to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled “Current and Future Worldwide Threats,” featuring testimony by he and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Watching former acting attorney general Sally Yates and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, sliming away at General Mike Flynn took me back to reminiscences of Wisconsin’s infamous Senator Joe McCarthy and his lists of Communists. He used to brandish sheafs of paper, on which he claimed to have the names of enemy agents operating within the government. We rarely got any real names, but we were assured there were hundreds of them. Finally a brave Massachusetts attorney asked the senator “have you no shame?” — and the air went out of the balloon.

No such brave soul was in action Monday as Yates and Clapper ruminated on the deeds of Mike Flynn, arguably the most creative and effective intelligence officer of his generation. Anyone who knows Flynn well will tell you that he is a rare man, a straight talker who tells his superiors exactly what he thinks, a 3-star general who has often preferred the input of junior officers and/or enlisted men and women to that of senior officers. These habits unsurprisingly annoyed his superiors, who were taken out of the decision-making loop. And, with the success of his methods, Flynn became a pariah to the intelligence establishment, perhaps above all to the CIA.

In short, as so often in life, his very success generated powerful enemies. You can safely assume that several of them first engineered Flynn’s purge as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, then participated eagerly in his elimination as national security adviser.

The testimony of Yates and Clapper comes right out of the intelligence community’s primers, including the preposterous claim that Flynn had made himself super-vulnerable to recruitment by the Russians. How? In the period following his purge from DIA, Flynn had been paid for speeches, including one in Moscow. This is common among retired officials, yet in Flynn’s case it became inflated to a presumed matter of great significance. Maybe even some sort of crime. Maybe even treason. That was the implication of remarks from Yates and Clapper. Yet, when asked for any empirical reason why anyone should believe any of it, they retreated to McCarthy’s methods: sorry, cannot tell you ‘cause it’s classified.

That’s when some committee member was supposed to ask, “Have you no shame?” But none of them was up to it.

McCarthy would have loved it, since the demon of the piece was Russia. But there is at least one difference. McCarthy’s targets could always demand that they be permitted to testify to his committee, to refute charges made there. But Flynn is trapped in the “Scooter Libby trap.” If he were to make an error in his testimony, no matter how trivial, he could be prosecuted for the error. No decent lawyer would advise his client to step forward under such circumstances. Ergo, Flynn is locked in a Catch 22 box. He must stay silent while he’s slandered by his McCarthyite attackers, who have no evidence for their slimy accusations. No matter that the FBI has said it has no basis to move against Flynn, but Yates and Clapper—yes, the same Clapper who spoke falsely to Congress within our memory—ask us to take their word for it.

I’m one of those who believe Mike Flynn to be an extraordinary talent who is being massacred by people still very angry that he showed them up by creating a better intel system in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also believe that President Trump made a big mistake by firing Flynn. Their common enemies concluded, predictably enough, that if they could get Flynn, they could get anyone, from Bannon and Gorka all the way to the Oval Office.

Indeed, the same sort of McCarthyite campaign waged ceaselessly against Flynn is now aimed at Trump himself. There’s still no evidence of collusion between Trump, or his aides, and the Russians. Yet the accusation is omnipresent in the Democrats’ ranks, and among some Republicans.

As one of those, Senator McCain, rightly said, it’s going to continue. I suspect before it dies of exhaustion, we’ll be more than a little nauseous.

Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department for Sally Yates’ Emails While She Served as Trump Acting Attorney General

May 9, 2017

Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department for Sally Yates’ Emails While She Served as Trump Acting Attorney General, Judicial Watch, May 8, 2017

“Between her involvement in the Russian surveillance scandal and her lawless effort to thwart President Trump’s immigration executive order, Sally Yates’ short tenure as the acting Attorney General was remarkably troubling,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Her email traffic might provide a window into how the anti-Trump ‘deep state’ abused the Justice Department.”

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(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for emails of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates from her government account.  The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00832)).

The suit was filed after the Justice Department failed to respond to a February 1, 2017, FOIA request seeking access to her emails between January 21, 2017, and January 31, 2017.

Yates was appointed by President Obama as U.S. Attorney in northern Georgia and was later confirmed as Deputy Attorney General. In January 2017 she became acting Attorney General for President Trump.

Ms. Yates was involved in the controversy concerning Gen. Michael Flynn, allegedly warning the Trump White House in early January about General Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak.  (Judicial Watch is separately suing for records concerning the surveillance and subsequent leaks regarding General Flynn.)

On January 30, Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s January 27 executive order seeking a travel ban from seven Middle Eastern countries.  That same day, President Trump fired her for refusing to defend the action.

“Between her involvement in the Russian surveillance scandal and her lawless effort to thwart President Trump’s immigration executive order, Sally Yates’ short tenure as the acting Attorney General was remarkably troubling,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Her email traffic might provide a window into how the anti-Trump ‘deep state’ abused the Justice Department.”

 

Leon Panetta enters the ‘No Spin Zone’

March 17, 2017

Leon Panetta enters the ‘No Spin Zone’, Fox News via YouTube, March 16, 2017

As the blurb beneath the video states,

Former CIA Director discusses U.S. troops in combat and American surveillance controversies on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked

February 20, 2017

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked, Dan Miller’s Blog, February 20, 2017

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM)

Evidence of political corruption should be.

It has been obvious since the early Republican primaries that most media coverage of a Trump presidency would be adverse and presented out of context. Perhaps a recent editorial at The Week Magazine explains why, albeit inadvertently. Or maybe this cartoon better explains the media view:

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

According to The Week Magazineall leaks are equal. However, we approve of those which fit our politics and disapprove of those which don’t.

Live by the leak, die by the leak. When WikiLeaks was releasing a steady stream of embarrassing emails hacked from Democratic officials during the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and her supporters cried foul, and urged the press not to report their contents. Donald Trump applauded every new revelation, saying the leaks provided voters with important information, and gleefully invited the Russians to find and publish emails she had deleted. “Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn’t it?” Trump exulted. Now that it’s Trump who is being tortured by leaks, he’s complaining they’re illegal and “un-American.” Democrats, meanwhile, are welcoming the torrent like a rainstorm after a long drought. (See Main Stories.) When it comes to leaks, everyone is a hypocrite. “Good” leaks are ones that damage our opponents. “Bad” leaks are those that hurt Our Side. [Emphasis added.]

But let’s set partisanship aside for a moment. Is it always in the public interest for government officials to leak, and for the media to publish leaked material? Crusading journalist Glenn Greenwald—who angered the Obama administration by publishing Edward Snowden’s trove of stolen NSA documents—argues in TheIntercept.com this week that all leaks exposing “wrong-doing” are good ones, regardless of the leaker’s motives. “Leaks are illegal and hated by those in power (and their followers),” Greenwald says, “precisely because political officials want to be able to lie to the public with impunity and without detection.” The implication of this argument, of course, is that governments, politicians, and organizations should not keep any secrets—that when people in power conceal documents, emails, or information that could embarrass them, they are by definition deceiving the public. Radical transparency certainly sounds noble—but I suspect it’s a standard no public official, or indeed most of us, could survive. It’s so much more convenient to have a double standard: Transparency for thee, but not for me.

I disagree. Leaks of unclassified materials demonstrating corruption of the political process by either party are necessary for an effectively functioning democracy. Leaks of highly classified national security information — particularly in the area of foreign policy — endanger our democracy, are crimes and the perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly. When the media sensationalize leaks of the latter type, they are complicit and must be criticized vigorously.

The press has long served as an objective fail-safe to protect the public from the powers-that-be. That objectivity is now absent and the media’s role in our democratic society is in jeopardy. Rather than self-reflect as to how they got off course, the press have opted to label the man who exposed this derailment as un-American.

What’s un-American is the belief that the press should be unaccountable for its actions. What’s un-American is the belief that any attempt to criticize the press should be viewed as heresy. What’s un-American is the belief that the press is akin to a golden calf that compels Americans, presidents included, to worship the press.

Two very different types of leaks

a. DNC and Podesta e-mails:

The DNC and Podesta e-mails were released as written and posted by DNC officials and Podesta for transmission on unsecured servers easily hacked by modestly competent teenage hackers. I have seen no suggestion that the e-mails were classified. The intelligence community opined that Russian agents had done the hacking, but offered no significant proof beyond that the methods used by the hacker(s) were comparable to those used by Russian hackers in the past.

They found no discrepancies between the original e-mails and those posted by WikiLeaks (which denied that Russia had been the source). The e-mail leaks damaged the Clinton campaign because they portrayed, accurately — and in their own words —  dishonest efforts of high-level DNC and Clinton campaign personnel to skew the Democrat primary process in Ms. Clinton’s favor. They did not involve American foreign policy until Obama — who had previously done nothing of significance to halt Russia’s hacking of highly classified information from our intelligence establishment beyond asking, “pretty please, stop” — decided that Russia must be punished for Hillary’s loss of the general election through sanctions and by the expulsion of thirty-five of its diplomats.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had been expected to respond in kind, with the expulsion of US diplomats from its territory.

However, he later said he would not “stoop” to “irresponsible diplomacy”, but rather attempt to repair relations once Donald Trump takes office.

Mr Trump praised the decision as “very smart.”

b. Flynn telephone conversations:

Neither transcripts nor audio recordings of the Flynn telephone conversations were released. Instead, conclusions of the leakers were released. According to House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes,

“I think there is a lot of innuendo out there that the intelligence agencies have a problem with Donald Trump. The rank and file people that are out doing jobs across the world — very difficult places — they don’t pay attention to what is going on in Washington,” the California representative told CBS “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson.

“What we have is we do have people in the last administration, people who are burrowed in, perhaps all throughout the government, who clearly are leaking to the press,” Nunes added. “And it is against the law. Major laws have been broken. If you believe the Washington Post story that said there were nine people who said this, these are nine people who broke the law.” [Emphasis added.]

Nunes said the FBI and other intelligence agencies ought to investigate who has leaked information to the press because so few people in the administration knew these secrets, that it would have had to have been someone at the “highest levels of the Obama administration” who is an acting official until Trump replaces him or her.

Did the leaker(s) try to present the conversations honestly, or to damage President Trump’s efforts to deal with Russia in matters of foreign policy where American and Russian interests coincide? To disrupt America’s badly needed “reset” with Russia which seemed likely to succeed under President Trump after Clinton’s and Obama’s efforts had failed?

resetbutton

Remember the Obama – Romney debate when Romney characterized Russia as America’s greatest geopolitical threat and Obama responded that the cold war was over and that “the 1980’s are calling and want their foreign policy back”?

The position now asserted by the Democrats and the media seems rather like the position that Obama rejected. If the position(s) of the Democrats and the media are now correct and Russia is again our enemy, might it be due to actions which Obama took or failed to take over the past eight years?

It is unfortunate that there has been a resurgence of Democrat (and some Republican) Russophobia when Russia is reassessing her relationship with Iran and America.

On January 22, 2017, the Russian media outlet Pravda.ru published an analysis on Russia-Iran relations. According to the article’s author, Dmitri Nersesov, Iran is becoming a problem for Russian interests. Nersesov also added that Iran wants Russia to choose between Iran and Washington. “Iran wants Russia to recognize that Teheran holds the key to the regulation of the Syrian crisis. Should Russia decide that the real strategy is built on the cooperation between Moscow and Washington, rather than Moscow and Teheran; the Islamic Republic will be extremely disappointed,” Nersesov wrote. [Emphasis added.]

An American – Russian realignment in areas of mutual concern — which as suggested below had seemed to be progressing well until General Flynn ceased to be involved — would be good, not bad. We have many areas of mutual concern, and Iran is one of them. The war in Syria is another. When were Russians last directed to yell Death to America? Or to refer to America as the “Great Satan?”

c. General Flynn, Russia and Iran

General Flynn had, at President Trump’s request, been dealing with Russia concerning the future roles of Iran, Russia and America in the Syria debacle:

Overlaying US President Donald Trump’s extraordinary, hour-long skirmish with reporters Thursday, Feb. 16, was bitter frustration over the domestic obstacles locking him out from his top security and foreign policy goals. [Emphasis added.]

Even before his inauguration four weeks ago, he had arranged to reach those goals by means of an understanding with President Vladimir Putin for military and intelligence cooperation in Syria, both for the war on the Islamic State and for the removal of Iran and its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah from that country. [Emphasis added.]

But his antagonists, including elements of the US intelligence community, were turning his strategy into a blunderbuss for hitting him on the head, with the help of hostile media.

Thursday, in a highly unconventional meeting with the world media, he tried to hit back, and possibly save his strategy.

That won’t be easy. The exit of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, the prime mover in the US-Russian détente, sent the Kremlin a negative signal. The Russians began unsheathing their claws when they began to suspect that the US president was being forced back from their understanding. The SSV 175 Viktor Leonov spy ship was ordered to move into position opposite Delaware on the East Coast of America; Su-24 warplanes buzzed the USS Porter destroyer in the Black Sea.

Before these events, Washington and Moscow wre moving briskly towards an understandingdebkafile’s intelligence sources disclose that the Kremlin had sent positive messages to the White House on their joint strategy in Syria, clarifying that Moscow was not locked in on Bashar Assad staying on as president. [Emphasis added.]

They also promised to table at the Geneva conference on Syria taking place later this month a demand for the all “foreign forces” to leave Syria. This would apply first and foremost to the pro-Iranian Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghan militias brought in by Tehran to fight for Assad under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers, as well as Hizballah. [Emphasis added.]

Deeply troubled by this prospect, Tehran sent Iran’s supreme commander in the Middle East, the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, to Moscow this week to find out what was going on.

Flynn’s departure put the lid on this progress. Then came the damaging leak to the Wall Street Journal, that quoted an “intelligence official” as saying that his agencies hesitated to reveal to the president the “sources and methods” they use to collect information, due to “possible links between Trump associates and Russia.. Those links, he said “could potentially compromise the security of such classified information.”

A first-year student knows that this claim is nonsense, since no agency ever share its sources and methods with any outsider, however high-placed.

What the leak did reveal was that some Washington insiders were determined at all costs to torpedo the evolving understanding between the American and Russian presidents. The first scapegoat was the strategy the two were developing for working together in Syria. [Emphasis added.]

Defending his policy of warming relations with Moscow, Trump protested that “getting along with Russia is not a bad thing.” He even warned there would be a “nuclear holocaust like no other” if relations between the two superpowers were allowed to deteriorate further.

It is too soon to say whether his Russian policy is finally in shreds or can still be repaired. Trump indicated more than once in his press briefing that he would try and get the relations back on track.

Asked how he would react to Russia’s latest provocative moves, he said: “I’m not going to tell you anything about what responses I do. I don’t talk about military responses. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea,” he stressed.

At all events, his administration seems to be at a crossroads between whether to try and salvage the partnership with Russia for Syria, or treat it as a write-off. If the latter, then Trump must decide whether to send American troops to the war-torn country to achieve his goals, or revert to Barack Obama’s policy of military non-intervention in the conflict. [Emphasis added.]

Substantially more is generally involved in matters of foreign policy than is facially apparent or than government officials should discuss publicly, particularly while negotiations with foreign powers are underway. Leaks by held-over members of the intelligence community did much to reveal the opinions of the leakers but little to reveal what General Flynn had been doing, while upsetting the chances of better American – Russian relations in areas of mutual concern.

Conclusions — The Administrative State

The Federal Government has grown far too big for its britches, giving the unelected “administrative state” substantially more authority, and hence power, than is consistent with a properly functioning democracy. As they have been demonstrating in recent months, holdovers from one administration can succeed, at least partially, in paralyzing a new and democratically elected president. Holdovers with political appointee status can generally be fired. Few others who should be can be.

Getting rid of the obstructionist “civil servants” who have become our masters should rank very high on President Trump’s “to do” list and should be accomplished before it’s too late. The task may be difficult but is not impossible. Perhaps some particularly obnoxious Federal agencies (or departments within those agencies) can be relocated to places less congenial than Washington. Inner City Chicago comes to mind. So do otherwise pleasant cities in California, where housing prices are much higher than in the Washington, D.C. area. How many Federal employees faced with the choice of relocating or resigning would choose the latter option?

There are likely other and probably better ways to get rid of the fatheads. President Trump’s administration should devise them.