Posted tagged ‘2016 elections and Russia’

Why is the FBI stonewalling congressional subpoenas on the Fusion GPS ‘Trump Dossier’?

October 7, 2017

Why is the FBI stonewalling congressional subpoenas on the Fusion GPS ‘Trump Dossier’? American ThinkerThomas Lifson, October 7, 2017

[W]hy not use the power of the executive to require the FBI to comply with congressional subpoenas? In fact, why not start playing hardball, and calculate the cost to date of the Meuller inquiry that has produced no hard evidence? The legal team he has assembled is of a standing where $500 an hour is a fair guess of their cost. Multiply that times at least 8 hours a day, times more than 20 attorneys, and we get a meter ticking at the rate of at least 80 thousand dollars a day, probably substantially more if we count non-attorney staff costs.

And remember that as POTUS, Trump can declassify anything that he wants.

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Could the story behind the “Trump dossier” be the Rosetta Stone of Russian manipulation of our electoral process in 2016? There is a strong and justifiable suspicion that the dossier was the critical bit of evidence that persuaded the FISA Court to reverse itself and permit monitoring of American associates of Donald Trump.  The dossier was originally begun as an opposition research project for Republican rivals of Trump, then funded by Democrats, and allegedly, finally funded by the FBI. We already know that some of the wild accusations in it were demonstrably false.

The House Intelligence Committee long has been looking into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and so far has come up with nothing. As in zero specific evidence. This was admitted by no less than Rep. Jackie Spier, a veteran Democrat member of the House of Representatives,

 

It is obviously worth investigating, then, how that dossier came to be created in the first place, and how it was used by various organs of the United States Government, if there is interest in getting to the truth behind Russia’s attempts to affect our elections. Yet, the FBI is refusing to hand over documents that have been subpoenaed by the House.  Kimberly Strassel explains in the Wall Street Journal

Witness how hard the Federal Bureau of Investigation is fighting to avoid divulging any information about the dossier. More than a month ago the House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas to the FBI and the Justice Department, asking for dossier-related documents. Lawmakers were told to go swivel.

A little more than a week ago, the committee’s frustrated chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, took the case all the way to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who finally offered to make an FBI official available for a briefing. But the bureau is still withholding all documents. To date, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Judiciary Committee has not received any paper from the FBI on Russia matters, despite numerous requests, some countersigned by the Democratic ranking member, Dianne Feinstein.

As my friend Mike Nadler, emailed:

It’s hard to believe with a Republican president, House and Senate, that the FBI (with a Director appointed by Trump) is still able to stonewall Congressional investigating committees on information on the dossier.  Why won’t the new FBI Director just order his subordinates to cough up the documents?  Or the Attorney General order him to do it.  No one could claim that ordering release of this would be interfering in any investigation….

Indeed, Strassel avers, “[Senator] Grassley recently announced that Mr. Mueller’s separate inquiry would no longer be considered a legitimate reason for the FBI to withhold information from Congress.”

Ms. Strassel guides our attention toward an intriguing figure:

Increasingly, one name is popping up: Gregory Brower, who leads the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs. Mr. Brower is an odd man for the job. These gigs tend to go to more-junior people, since they involve the drudgery of answering calls from grumpy congressional staffers. Yet Mr. Brower is a former U.S. attorney—a job that requires Senate confirmation—and a former Nevada state senator.

Before his latest role, he was the deputy general counsel of the FBI. In that post he was described as a confidant of former FBI Director James Comey. It was Mr. Comey who installed Mr. Brower in the congressional affairs job, just a few days before President Trump fired the director.

Mr. Brower has been shutting down congressional requests and stonewalling ever since. He has even tried appealing directly to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office to squelch committee demands for documents.

And it looks very much as if a tag team cover-up may be underway, with Special Counsel Robert Mueller taking the key role in keeping inquiring eyes away from the FBI’s role in the Trump dossier’s utility on smearing the man who was to become POTUS:

Reuters reported Wednesday that Mr. Mueller “has taken over FBI inquiries into a former British spy’s dossier” against Mr. Trump. How very convenient. The Mueller team has leaked all manner of details from its probe, even as it had avoided the dossier. But just as Congress is ratcheting up pressure on the FBI, anonymous sources say that it’s out of the bureau’s hands.

Some Republicans might be tempted to cheer news that the special counsel is looking into the dossier. They shouldn’t. A Mueller takeover will make it even harder for Congress to conduct an independent investigation—which may well have been the reason for the move. Mr. Mueller has had months to look into the document, and his lack of curiosity so far speaks volumes. As a friend of Mr. Comey and a former FBI director himself, Mr. Mueller cannot be counted on to examine impartially whether the FBI was duped.

Indeed, there may be evidence of Russian collusion, not with President Trump’s campaign, but with those who seek to discredit him:

Sen. Richard Burr, who leads his chamber’s Intelligence Committee, noted on Wednesday that his dossier investigation has “hit a wall.” Mr. Steele has gone underground. Mr. Simpson won’t hand over relevant documents or say who paid him. The FBI is stiff-arming lawmakers. No one wants to talk about a dossier that Paul Roderick Gregory, a Russia expert at the Hoover Institution, found to read like something “compiled by a Russian, whose command of English is far from perfect and who follows the KGB (now FSB) practice of writing intelligence reports.” No one wants to discuss an array of Russian lawyers, lobbyists and Kremlin officials who may have been involved in its creation.

Mike Nadler’s question remains: why not use the power of the executive to require the FBI to comply with congressional subpoenas? In fact, why not start playing hardball, and calculate the cost to date of the Meuller inquiry that has produced no hard evidence? The legal team he has assembled is of a standing where $500 an hour is a fair guess of their cost. Multiply that times at least 8 hours a day, times more than 20 attorneys, and we get a meter ticking at the rate of at least 80 thousand dollars a day, probably substantially more if we count non-attorney staff costs.

And remember that as POTUS, Trump can declassify anything that he wants.

I hope that the reason Congress and the President are allowing themselves to be stonewalled is a matter of strategy and timing, not a matter of being intimidated.

Senate Intelligence Committee expands Russia investigation

October 5, 2017

Senate Intelligence Committee expands Russia investigation, Fox News via YouTube, October 4, 2017

The blurb beneath the video states,

Judicial Watch director of investigations Chris Farrell discusses the news that the Senate Intelligence Committee will be expanding its investigation into whether Russia colluded to influence the 2016 election.

It Was the Deep State that Colluded with the Russians, not Trump

September 24, 2017

It Was the Deep State that Colluded with the Russians, not Trump, American ThinkerClarice Feldman, September 24, 2017

(Lots of questions that require answers. — DM)

With each leak of his conduct – designed, I suppose, by his team to terrify honest men into lying to redeem the special counsel’s misbegotten efforts — Mueller looks more and more like a petrified enlistee in  the secretive repressive state force — the Stasi — as the wall is coming down and their conduct made public.

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As more and more leaks about the ongoing “Russian collusion” witch hunt by Robert Mueller appear in print, it seems to me that if Russia had been trying to erode our faith in our institutions, the Deep State is accomplishing what Russia failed to do.

The Obama claque’s efforts were initially intended to help Clinton when they thought she would win and no one would know about their crimes. Then they continued the unlawful spying to cover up their role in the worst case of misuse of federal power in our history, to effect the removal or emasculation of the President, and now they are desperate to cover up their illegal actions when all that failed.

A. Where we are today on “Russian collusion”?

Instapundit tweeted the answer succinctly: “The election was hacked!” turns out to mean, “Russia bought some ads on Facebook.”

Facebook is turning over ads presumably purchased by Russians during the campaign. Good — let’s see them. As the article notes:

The announcement that Facebook would share the ads with the Senate and House intelligence committees came after the social network spent two weeks on the defensive. The company faced calls for greater transparency about 470 Russia-linked accounts  — in which fictional people posed as American activists — which were taken down after they had promoted inflammatory messages on divisive issues. Facebook had previously angered congressional staff by showing only a sample of the ads, some of which attacked Hillary Clinton or praised Donald J. Trump.

As Tom Maguire reminds us, it would be unwise to assume this was a one-sided campaign: “Let’s see all the ads and find out whether Russia was winding up both sides. Back in the day it was believed Russia backed anti-fracking groups in Europe. Why not also in the US?”

Best of the Web’s James Freeman thinks that, in any case, the notion that these ads swung the election is ridiculous on its face:

So the spending on fake Russian political ads identified by Facebook amounted to around 1/7,000th of what Mrs. Clinton spent on advertising. And of course these fake ad buys were not material in the context of Facebook’s total advertising revenues, which amounted to nearly $27 billion last year.

Is a $150,000 ad buy even big enough to require sign-off from Mr. Putin? If as some believe, Russian meddling was simply intended to discredit the likely winner, some poor Russian agent may now be headed to Siberia for engineering the election of a U.S. President who seems determined to drive down the price of oil.

Let’s hope Congress gets to the bottom of this. If $150,000 amounts to the entire iceberg, and it still managed to sink the S.S. Clinton, marketing majors will be studying these ads for years to come.

B. Using the Full Force of FISA to spy on a political opponent

Obama has a long history of spying on his opponents and releasing information damaging to them. It’s a lifelong pattern. He got two opponents’ sealed divorce records unsealed in order to use unsubstantiated claims in pleadings by estranged spouses against them. As President, he continued this practice. By way of example, the Obama Administration did that with IRS, collecting information about the activities and donors of conservative and pro-Israel citizen groups while it refused to grant them the tax-exempt status to which they were entitled. The EPA collected private information from farmers and ranchers and released it to environmental groups to help them in their battles against those farmers and ranchers. There’s no reason to suppose that this pattern didn’t carry over to the 2016 election, and plenty of evidence that it did. As Sharyl Attkisson points out, they did it with reporters and Congressmen.

Nobody wants our intel agencies to be used like the Stasi in East Germany; the secret police spying on its own citizens for political purposes. The prospect of our own NSA, CIA and FBI becoming politically weaponized has been shrouded by untruths, accusations and justifications.

You’ll recall DNI Clapper falsely assured Congress in 2013 that the NSA was not collecting “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

Intel agencies secretly monitored conversations of members of Congress while the Obama administration negotiated the Iran nuclear deal.

In 2014, the CIA got caught spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, though CIA Director John Brennan had explicitly denied that.

There were also wiretaps on then-Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in 2011 under Obama. The same happened under President George W. Bush to former Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Calif.).

Journalists have been targeted, too. [snip]

The government subsequently got caught monitoring journalists at Fox News, The Associated Press, and, as I allege in a federal lawsuit, my computers while I worked as an investigative correspondent at CBS News.

As Attkisson reminds us, other Trump associates General Michael Flynn and Carter Page were also under government surveillance. As bad as that was, it was ”discovered [that] multiple Trump “transition officials” were “incidentally” captured during government surveillance of a foreign official. We know this because former Obama adviser Susan Rice reportedly admitted “unmasking,” or asking to know the identities of, the officials. Spying on U.S. citizens is considered so sensitive their names are supposed to be hidden or “masked,” even inside the government, to protect their privacy.”

She also specifically unmasked Steve Bannon, who met in the transition period with a UAE official so it’s altogether possible they were spying on him generallyas well.

If so, that would mean that four Trump associates had been spied on, multiplying the number of conversations with the President these people were listening in on.

Even more “unmasking”– revealing the names of those innocents scooped up in this broad surveillance — about 300 people had their privacy violated when the dyspeptic-looking UN Ambassador Samantha Power was revealed to have made almost one unmasking request a day, rapidly adding to the list as the inauguration approached.

Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was ‘unmasking’ at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016 — and even sought information in the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, multiple sources close to the matter told Fox News.

Two sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said the requests to identify Americans whose names surfaced in foreign intelligence reporting, known as unmasking, exceeded 260 last year. One source indicated this occurred in the final days of the Obama White House.

C. The FISA Court surely was misled in order to get information to surveil and to continue surveilling Trump and his associates.

FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) permits blunderbuss intelligence gathering. It’s not designed to gather information on crimes in general, but only to act as a tool of counterintelligence or counterterrorism. And it certainly would be suspicious if efforts were made to misuse it to conduct domestic political spying. There’s only one legitimate reason to conduct surveillance on a U.S. citizen under FISA — to find out more about the activities of a foreign power or terrorist organization. Since in the process of scooping up so much information, other matters might be revealed, “minimization” procedures are used to mask the identities of those caught up in the sweep who are not involved in such activities.

CNN reported — with some obvious omissions and errors of law — that former FBI director James Comey secured secret FISA orders to wiretap Paul Manafort, who briefly served as Trump’s campaign manager, and that having received nothing from that order, then secured another FISA warrant in 2016 (after Manafort joined the Trump campaign) and continued that surveillance into 2017, after the election.

Further, CNN reported that two attempts were made in the summer of 2016 to obtain a FISA order, both of which were rejected, and an order was issued only after the third try. FISA rarely rejects such requests, so I think it fair to assume the court was suspicious of these requests, which smelled like political, not national security matters. I think it almost a certainty that the final request received the personal imprimatur of Comey (as Director of the FBI) and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

And what, you may ask, was different about the third and ultimately successful third attempt? I suggest it was the phony Steele dossier, which credible reports indicate was partially financed by Comey’s own FBI.

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation took a sharp and notable turn on Tuesday, as news broke that it had subpoenaed the FBI and the Justice Department for information relating to the infamous Trump “Dossier.” That Dossier, whose allegations appear to have been fabricated, was commissioned by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS and then developed by a former British spook named Christopher Steele. [Ed: Sources for the most scurrilous allegations in it were from unnamed sources in Russia, most likely Russian government intelligence agents or liars working on a pay for dirt basis.]

The Washington Post in February reported that Mr. Steele “was familiar” to the FBI, since he’d worked for the bureau before. The newspaper said Mr. Steele had reached out to a “friend” at the FBI about his Trump work as far back as July 2016. The Post even reported that Mr. Steele “reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.”

Who was Mr. Steele’s friend at the FBI? Did the bureau influence the direction of the Trump dossier? Did it give Mr. Steele material support from the start? The timing matters because it could answer the vital question of why the FBI wanted the dossier. Here’s one thought: warrants.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees spying activities, is usually generous in approving warrants, on the presumption law-enforcement agencies are acting in good faith. When a warrant is rejected, though, law enforcement isn’t pleased.

Perhaps the FBI wanted to conduct surveillance on someone connected to a presidential campaign (Carter Page?) but couldn’t hit what was — and ought to be — a supremely high bar for getting such a potentially explosive warrant. A dossier of nefarious allegations might well prove handy in finally convincing the FISA court to sign off. The FBI might have had a real motive to support Mr. Steele’s effort. It might have even justified the unjustifiable: working with a partisan oppo-research firm and a former spook to engineer a Kremlin-planted dossier that has roiled Mr. Trump’s entire presidency.

True Pundit claims that FBI connivance with GPS Fusion to create the dossier was not all it did to secure the final 2016 FISA warrant — it also set up a meeting in Trump Tower and used information gleaned from Britain’s GCHQ in NSA headquarters to unlawfully gather information on U.S. citizens.

From the beginning it was a set up to find dirt on Trump campaign insiders and if possible to topple Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations.

Before and after the 2016 election. And while this operation had many moving parts and alternating players, the mission to unseat Trump never changed. And it remains ongoing.

And none of it was very legal.

[snip]

Six U.S. agencies [the FBI, NSA, CIA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Treasury financial crimes division under DHS, Justice Department]created a stealth task force, spearhead by CIA’s Brennan, to run domestic surveillance on Trump associates and possibly Trump himself.

To feign ignorance and to seemingly operate within U.S. laws, the agencies freelanced the wiretapping of Trump associates to the British spy agency GCHQ.

The decision to insert GCHQ as a back door to eavesdrop was sparked by the denial of two FISA Court warrant applications filed by the FBI to seek wiretaps of Trump associates.

GCHQ did not work from London or the UK. In fact the spy agency worked from NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, MD with direct NSA supervision and guidance to conduct sweeping surveillance on Trump associates.

[snip]

The Justice Department and FBI set up the meeting at Trump Tower between Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner with controversial Russian officials to make Trump’s associates appear compromised.

Following the Trump Tower sit down, GCHQ began digitally wiretapping Manafort, Trump Jr., and Kushner.

After the concocted meeting by the Deep State, the British spy agency could officially justify wiretapping Trump associates as an intelligence front for NSA because the Russian lawyer at the meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was considered an international security risk and prior to the June sit down was not even allowed entry into the United States or the UK, federal sources said.

By using GCHQ, the NSA and its intelligence partners had carved out a loophole to wiretap Trump without a warrant. While it is illegal for U.S. agencies to monitor phones and emails of U.S. citizens inside the United States absent a warrant, it is not illegal for British intelligence to do so. Even if the GCHQ was tapping Trump on U.S. soil at Fort Meade.

The wiretaps, secured through illicit scheming, have been used by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 election, even though the evidence is considered “poisoned fruit.”

Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who spearheaded the Trump Tower meeting with the Trump campaign trio, was previously barred from entering the United Sates due to her alleged connections to the Russian FSB (the modern replacement of the cold-war-era KGB).

Yet mere days before the June meeting, Veselnitskaya was granted a rare visa to enter the United States from Preet Bharara, the then U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York. Bharara could not be reached for comment and did not respond the a Twitter inquiry on the Russian’s visa by True Pundit.

(More on the unusual visa granted to Veselnitskaya here. More on GCHQ operating from NSA headquarters here.)

In July, Bharara’s former associate US Attorney Andrew Goldstein was added to Mueller’s army of largely Clinton backers and contributors to the special counsel’s enormous team.

In sum, the contention by True Pundit is that the government first spied on Trump and then concocted a national security ruse and desperately sought a FISA warrant to cover up the political spying which occurred before the FISA warrant was ever issued.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal also suspect that the dossier was used to obtain the FISA warrant, and, if so, that requires a congressional investigation:

The FISA court sets a high bar for warrants on U.S. citizens, and presumably even higher for wiretapping a presidential campaign. Did Mr. Comey’s FBI marshal the Steele dossier to persuade the court?

All of this is reason for House and Senate investigators to keep exploring how Mr. Comey’s FBI was investigating both presidential campaigns. Russian meddling is a threat to democracy but so was the FBI if it relied on Russian disinformation to eavesdrop on a presidential campaign. The Justice Department and FBI have stonewalled Congressional requests for documents and interviews, citing the “integrity” of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

But Mr. Mueller is not investigating the FBI, and in any event his ties to the bureau and Mr. Comey make him too conflicted for such a job. Congress is charged with providing oversight of law enforcement and the FISA courts, and it has an obligation to investigate their role in 2016. The intelligence committees have subpoena authority and the ability to hold those who don’t cooperate in contempt.

I agree with Daniel Greenfield. Based on what I’ve read and observed, while the initial surveillance was to stop Trump and help Clinton, Obama used FISA to provide a “national security” cover for politically spying on Trump right up to the inauguration. As he notes, the first 2016 application was made the month after Trump obtained the nomination and the second in October, the month before the election.

As the unmasking picked up pace after the election, the reasonable assumption is that its purpose was to undo the results of the election or hamstring the incoming President.

Now Obama and his allies are or should be terrified that the scope of the illegal surveillance is revealing their criminal acts.

This is why I believe Mueller is growing increasingly desperate to find one crime by one person he can force by threat of jail to provide any shred of anything that might be used to justify their illegal espionage. Greenfield’s conclusion is apt: “The left is sitting on the biggest crime committed by a sitting president. The only way to cover it up is to destroy his Republican successor. A turning point in history is here. If Obama goes down, the left will go down with him. If his coup succeeds, then America ends.”

Why do I say that Mueller seems increasingly desperate? How else does one explain a middle-of-the-night pick-lock armed entry (and the search of his bedclothes-garbed wife) into the home of a man who by all accounts had been fully cooperating and turning over all requested documents? How else to explain requesting a court grant such a necessary special warrant on the ground that otherwise documents evincing a purported eleven-year-old crime would suddenly be destroyed? How else to explain the effort by Mueller to find out client information from the Skadden Arps and Akin Gump law firms, materials probably covered by attorney-client privilege? With each leak of his conduct – designed, I suppose, by his team to terrify honest men into lying to redeem the special counsel’s misbegotten efforts — Mueller looks more and more like a petrified enlistee in  the secretive repressive state force — the Stasi — as the wall is coming down and their conduct made public.

CNN throws in the towel on fake Russian news

September 6, 2017

CNN throws in the towel on fake Russian news, American ThinkerMonica Showalter, September 6, 2017

CNN has dismantled its vaunted Trump-colluded-with-the-Russians investigative unit in a wretched concession to reality.  The only thing the unit found was an empty well for stories, surrounded by a crust of fake news.  The whole caper damaged the network’s credibility, and the public just wasn’t buying it anymore.  So the whole unit had to go.

What a shabby end to what the network had put so much stock in in the heady days of trying to oust President Trump just as he had taken office.

The New York Times attributes the unit’s sorry end to confusion in the fact-checking process – which is baloney for anyone who has ever worked in a newsroom – claiming that on one bad story, a lawyer’s concerns were ignored.  That’s not the way it works in most newsrooms – normally, the lawyer has the loudest voice about what goes to press, given the potential for lawsuits, much to the resentment of the reporters.  Well, the CNN editors ignored it and paid for it with their jobs when it came back to bite them.

Another problem the Times mentions but doesn’t dwell on is the issue of single-source reporting – from political partisans.  Of course a single-source report from a political partisan is going to yield a bad result.  This is why reporters are supposed to add value and put out something different from press releases.  Well, CNN opted to go for single sources, which is testimony in the Times’ mind to the pressure the network was under to produce something.

The only reason the people at CNN were unable to produce is that there was no there there.  And that’s the real reason for the unit’s ignominious end.  The news project was not premised on finding the truth, as real journalism is supposed to, but on confirming the left’s deepest rage, resentment, and fear – that the election was stolen from them by the hated Russians.  That was the root of all the fake news that came of the unit, such as claims that certain Trump administration officials were under investigation when they were not and errant reporting about James Comey.

Setting up a unit to confirm an ideological bias from an embittered losing party is no way to get bang for the news buck, which is the cash and resources that go into investigative reporting.  There has to be a there there, and there wasn’t any there there on the Russia story.  There wasn’t even an audience.

Maybe if CNN can learn to curb its ideological biases and refocus on reporting the news without fear or favor, it might just return to what it used to be.  As it is now, its reputation lies in ruins.

 

James Comey, Hillary’s Real Campaign Manager

September 1, 2017

James Comey, Hillary’s Real Campaign Manager, Front Page MagazineMatthew Vadum, September 1, 2017

Of course, critics savaged Trump’s rationale for axing Comey at the time, claiming as the supremely silly Russian collusion conspiracy theory was gaining traction in the media, that the president was obstructing justice to save his own skin.

Exploding in huge, scary fireballs of anger visible from orbit, they ridiculed him, calling him a budding dictator. They claimed he had created a dire constitutional crisis. They demanded his impeachment and imprisonment – or worse.

But once again it appears Trump was right about a media-saturated, manufactured matter of public controversy, one in a series that over the president’s brief time in office has whipped the yet-to-exhausted Left into a frenzy.

Hillary thought she was above the law. Apparently, the new evidence shows Comey thought she was, too.

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The insufferable, morally preening former FBI Director James B. Comey Jr., intentionally gave Hillary Clinton’s campaign a boost last year by deciding to sabotage the email investigation by exonerating the then-candidate before key witnesses had even been interviewed, new evidence suggests.

Citing Comey’s bungling of the Clinton email investigation, President Trump unceremoniously fired him by press release on May 9, three-and-a-half years into his 10-year term. Trump was attacked in the media for not caring about Comey’s presumably hurt feelings. He based his decision on a U.S. Department of Justice memo authored by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein that found Comey had, among other things, usurped then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s authority by taking it upon himself to unilaterally clear Clinton.

Rosenstein excoriated Comey, whose side of the story has long been championed by the media. “I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”

Comey’s endless posturing and palace intrigues damaged the FBI, causing morale to plummet. As a result, “the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice,” Rosenstein asserted. “That is deeply troubling to many Department employees and veterans, legislators and citizens.”

Of course, critics savaged Trump’s rationale for axing Comey at the time, claiming as the supremely silly Russian collusion conspiracy theory was gaining traction in the media, that the president was obstructing justice to save his own skin.

Exploding in huge, scary fireballs of anger visible from orbit, they ridiculed him, calling him a budding dictator. They claimed he had created a dire constitutional crisis. They demanded his impeachment and imprisonment – or worse.

But once again it appears Trump was right about a media-saturated, manufactured matter of public controversy, one in a series that over the president’s brief time in office has whipped the yet-to-exhausted Left into a frenzy.

Upon Comey’s dismissal, Trump said the FBI “is one of our nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement.”

Exactly right.

As Americans are now painfully aware, the congenitally devious Clintons had created a hacker-friendly, slap-dash private email system while she headed the U.S. Department of State to frustrate Freedom of Information Act requesters, shield Hillary’s correspondence from congressional oversight, and steer money to the international cash-for-future-presidential-favors clearinghouse known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The “homebrew” email servers Mrs. Clinton used are at the heart of the scandal over her mishandling of an Islamic terrorist attack in militant-infested Benghazi, Libya on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 that left four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, dead.

Hillary thought she was above the law. Apparently, the new evidence shows Comey thought she was, too.

The case that the handwringing, sanctimonious Comey was thoroughly corrupt, exquisitely marinated in the swamp waters and flesh pools of decadent official Washington, was already fairly solid but with these new revelations it seems even more obvious that he was less top cop than grand inquisitor. He thought of himself as judge and jury, justice be damned. As long as he ended up looking good, all was well, in his eyes.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Judiciary subcommittee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly sent a letter to current FBI Director Chris Wray yesterday about Comey’s conduct as head of the FBI.

“Conclusion first, fact-gathering second—that’s no way to run an investigation,” read the correspondence. “The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy.”

From reading redacted transcripts of interviews conducted last fall with senior aides to Comey – his chief of staff James Rybicki and Trisha Anderson, the FBI’s principal deputy general counsel of national security and cyberlaw – Grassley’s committee discovered that as FBI chief Comey prematurely drafted a letter clearing Clinton of email-related wrongdoing.

The testimony appears to establish that Comey started working on a public statement giving Clinton a clean legal bill of health before the FBI had gotten around to speaking with 17 witnesses in the probe, including Clinton and two of her senior aides, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson. The two senators noted that Comey began working on his exculpatory communique even before Mills and Samuelson brokered what the lawmakers called a “highly unusual” limited immunity deal with the Justice Department that prevented officials from looking into communications between the two aides and Colorado-based Platte River Networks, which oversaw Clinton’s unusual email system after she left Foggy Bottom to run for president.

“According to the unredacted portions of the transcripts, it appears that in April or early May of 2016, Mr. Comey had already decided he would issue a statement exonerating Secretary Clinton,” the letter by Grassley and Graham stated.

That was long before FBI agents finished their work. Mr. Comey even circulated an early draft statement to select members of senior FBI leadership. The outcome of an investigation should not be prejudged while FBI agents are still hard at work trying to gather the facts.

As Daniel Greenfield freshly opined:

There was never any serious possibility that Hillary Clinton would have been indicted. And we know that. But throughout the process, Comey pretended that he was dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. But it was all a show. Comey and his top people knew what the outcome would be ahead of time. They were just going through the motions.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson last night that the new evidence “shows the investigation truly was a sham.”

Fitton added that the FBI also appears to have helped to pay for opposition research against Trump. He was referring to the Russian “piss-gate” dossier published by cat-video website BuzzFeed. “They started paying, it looks like, the expert behind the dodgy dossier … during the campaign.”

“We asked the FBI for documents about any payments they made to the author of the Trump-Russia dossier and they came back to us and they said we can’t even confirm or deny whether any such documents exist.”

The FBI is not being run, Fitton said, by “someone with the interest of the American people [in mind] in terms of getting some transparency about the misconduct of the FBI during the Obama administration as they were working to, really, nail Trump through this really awkward – and let’s put it this way – conspiratorial relationship with the authors of the Trump dossier.”

By now politics junkies don’t need to be reminded it was at an unusual, much-watched presser on July 5, 2016, that Comey acknowledged the massive body of evidence that was accumulating against Clinton and described it at some length. He stipulated that the former secretary of state probably broke the law when she used hacker-friendly private email servers to conduct official business.

But after airing this very dirty laundry, Comey inexplicably gave Clinton a pass. “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

Guided by politics, not the law, Comey pontificated that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified documents but that there was no evidence of criminal intent. He made this statement even though the relevant national security statute does not actually require intent: mishandling intelligence, even inadvertently, is enough to land people with less pull than Hillary has, in hot water.

As former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy wrote at the time, “the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require.”

So, as it turns out, Comey was ripped from his powerful perch in the nick of time.

Some critics say the media-savvy, morally preening Comey presided over a J. Edgar Hoover-like reign of terror while he ran the FBI.

Comey was far more powerful than an FBI director ought to be. When the president fired Comey, Brit Hume observed, “For better or worse, no FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover had taken so large a role in the political life of this country as James Comey.”

Around the same time Tucker Carlson was positively scathing in his assessment of Comey’s tenure. He said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were intimidated by Comey – and for good reason.

Just how powerful was James Comey? Let’s put it this way: He was feared in a way that no appointed bureaucrat should ever be feared in a free society. Time and again elected lawmakers on both sides came on this show and expressed worry and concern about his behavior, but they did so only during commercial breaks with the cameras off. Why? Because they were terrified at the prospect of criticizing him in public. They certainly don’t have that fear of the sitting president of the United States and that tells you everything you need to know about Jim Comey.

That sounds about right.

Was it a Hack or a Leak? (4)

September 1, 2017

Was it a Hack or a Leak? (4), Power LineScott Johnson, September 1, 2017

(Didn’t AG Sessions recuse himself? — DM)

“This entire business with Comey setting in motion the steps to get a special counsel named has not been sufficiently investigated. And this story makes it clear that the FBI was lackluster when it came to investigating the DNC. What is Attorney General Sessions doing?”

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We have followed the argument presented by Patrick Lawrence in the Nation asserting that the alleged Russian hack of the DNC email was rather an inside job. Lawrence explored the findings of the analysis supporting the thesis Democratic National Committee was not hacked by the Russians in July 2016, but rather suffered an insider leak. Lawrence’s article is here; the most recent report with the analysis summarized by Lawrence is here. The analysis has been promoted by dissident former intelligence officials gathered under the umbrella of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Lawrence’s long article in the Nation called for a response of some kind by proponents of the Russia hacking conspiracy theory, but it has been greeted mostly by silence. I am not aware of any analysis directly disputing VIPS.

Since the publication of Lawrence’s long article in the NationThe VIPS analysis has been taken up by Leonid Bershidsky at Bloomberg View and by Danielle Ryan at Salon. The DNC itself responded to Lawrence’s article:

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government hacked the DNC in an attempt to interfere in the election. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is just another conspiracy theory like those pushed by Trump and his administration. It’s unfortunate that The Nation has decided to join the conspiracy theorists to push this narrative.

Ryan rightly commented that the statement “is so lackluster it is almost laughable[.]” Students of logical fallacy may recognize both the argument from authority and the ad hominem in the three-sentence DNC statement. That is pathetic.

Philadelphia attorney George Parry takes up the VIPS analysis in his Philly.com column “Will special counsel Mueller examine the DNC server, source of the great Russiagate caper?” Parry prefaces his account of the VIPS analysis with a useful reminder of the origin story:

Much to the embarrassment of Hillary Clinton, the released [DNC email] files showed that the DNC had secretly collaborated with her campaign to promote her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination over that of Bernie Sanders. Clearly, the Clinton campaign needed to lessen the political damage. Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s public relations chief, said in a Washington Post essay in March that she worked assiduously during the Democratic nominating convention to “get the press to focus on … the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the DNC, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary.”

Thus was laid the cornerstone of the Trump-Russia-collusion conspiracy theory.

Since then, the mainstream media have created a climate of hysteria in which this unsubstantiated theory has been conjured into accepted truth. This has resulted in investigations by Congress and a special counsel into President Trump, his family, and his campaign staff for supposed collusion with the Russians.

But in their frenzied coverage, the media have downplayed the very odd behavior of the DNC, the putative target of the alleged hack. For, when the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI learned of the hacking claim, they asked to examine the server. The DNC refused. Without explanation, it continues to deny law enforcement access to its server.

Why would the purported victim of a crime refuse to cooperate with law enforcement in solving that crime? Is it hiding something? Is it afraid the server’s contents will discredit the Russia-hacking story?

Parry also provides a good summary of the VIPS analysis. A friend comments and concludes with one more good question: “This entire business with Comey setting in motion the steps to get a special counsel named has not been sufficiently investigated. And this story makes it clear that the FBI was lackluster when it came to investigating the DNC. What is Attorney General Sessions doing?”

 

The Rohrabacher-Assange meeting

August 21, 2017

The Rohrabacher-Assange meeting, Washington TimesDavid Keene, August 20, 2017

Smoking Gun Flash Drive Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

The piece resulted in turmoil within the left-wing publication [the Nation] itself with many writers and contributors bitterly suggesting it should never have been printed because the publication has some sort of obligation to only publish material that strengthens rather than weakens the case against the president they despise.

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s recent three-hour meeting with WikiLeaks head Julian Assange as reported earlier this week by The Hill may prove interesting in light of the allegations of several former high-ranking U.S. intelligence analysts that the Democratic National Committee was not hacked by the Russians or anyone else prior to last fall’s presidential election.

Mr. Rohrabacher said little after the meeting other than that Mr. Assange repeated his denial that the materials he obtained and made public did not come from the Russians, but claimed he had more information about what actually happened that he intended to share with President Trump.

The “common wisdom” in Washington circles is that the Russians were responsible for illegally hacking into the DNC computers during the campaign and leaked the emails thus obtained through WikiLeaks, but recent revelations suggest that there is at least a possibility that the “common wisdom” is dead flat wrong. If it is wrong and can be proven, the charges of “collusion” so dear to Mr. Trump’s opponents could collapse.

The Nation magazine earlier this month published a lengthy report on the conclusions of a number of intelligence analysts who have looked at the available evidence and concluded that it would have been physically impossible for the Russians to have done what Mr. Trump’s critics allege.

They maintain that the information that made its way into the public sphere wasn’t hacked at all, but leaked by someone within the DNC itself.

The Nation piece, by Patrick Lawrence titled “A New Report Raises Big Questions about Last Year’s DNC Hack,” claimed that for technical reasons, the data that was supposedly downloaded to a hacker could not have been downloaded in the manner alleged because the underlying data they analyzed showed it was downloaded far faster than would have been possible given the technology available to the supposed hacker at the time.

The only way they believe the data could have been downloaded in the time it was in fact downloaded was if the job was done internally to something like a thumb drive that was later turned over to WikiLeaks.

The piece resulted in turmoil within the left-wing publication itself with many writers and contributors bitterly suggesting it should never have been printed because the publication has some sort of obligation to only publish material that strengthens rather than weakens the case against the president they despise.

Many were particularly upset that the piece was picked up and praised by a number of conservative publications and commentators.

In response to the attacks, Katrina vanden Heuvel, the Nation’s editor and publisher has launched what she is calling a “post publication review” of the article.

It is certainly true that the allegations in the article are both controversial and contested, but it is at least possible that whether the Nation decides to trash its own writer and disavow the conclusions of his article, the analysts quoted in it are right.

The Obama administration, Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump’s enemies take it as fact that the Russians were behind the “hacks” and that they constituted an attempt by Vladimir Putin’s regime to “affect” the outcome of the election and hint openly that it was all done in collusion with the Trump campaign. That, after all, is what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is trying to prove.

They almost as one dismiss evidence to the contrary, relying on the “consensus” view of “seventeen” US intelligence agencies that it was indeed the Russians who did it. The “consensus” view as former Obama Director of Intelligence James Clapper has since admitted was put together by “hand-picked” analysts from three agencies and never underwent the rigorous review one might have expected.

This is, of course, the same James Clapper who had earlier been caught lying to Congress.

When the Nation article first appeared, the Democratic National Committee responded in writing “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government hacked the DNC in an attempt to interfere in the election. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is just another conspiracy theory like those pushed by Trump and his administration.”

When The Hill article reporting on the Rohrabacher/Assange meeting appeared, the DNC was at it again, “We’ll take the word of the U.S. intelligence community over Julian Assange and Putin’s favorite Congressman,” said DNC Deputy Communications Director Adrienne Watson,

There are conspiracies and then there are conspiracies. Julian Assange may have the proof as to who is right and who is fantasizing and if he provided that proof to Mr. Rohrabacher things could get very interesting for all involved and especially for Mr. Clapper and those who have relied on his “consensus view.”