Posted tagged ‘2016 elections and Russia’

Robert Mueller’s mighty tuna shrinks to a goldfish

December 5, 2017

Robert Mueller’s mighty tuna shrinks to a goldfish, Washington Times, December 4, 2017

James Comey. (Associated Press) ** FILE

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Robert Mueller has the heart of a Las Vegas hooker and the guile of a New Orleans stripper. Not to push the metaphor too far, he’s skilled at showing a little skin in a cloud of satin and lace, but never quite comes across with what the customer is paying for.

Mr. Mueller, held up by his fellow Blackstones as a model of lawyerly rectitude, teased everyone last week that after testing his prowess to the limit, he had hooked a mighty tuna. His hallelujah chorus in the media celebrated the hundred-pound monster, but overnight it melted into a two-inch goldfish.

The special prosecutor might yet get the last laugh. He may yet land the promised tuna if there’s actually one out there in the briny deep. So far he’s coming up with nothing but net. The Associated Press, which has never been accused of giving Republicans a break, called the arrest “lots of smoke, but no smoking gun.” The “lots of smoke” looked as the new week began as merely a thin tuft of smoke, or more likely a wisp of fog.

The president’s sharpest detractors, agreed CNBC News, among the most fervent of those detractors, have so far been unable to find evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with, or was even aware of, Russian efforts to swing the 2016 presidential election against Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats figure that since the tuna turned out to be a goldfish, it’s time to resurrect something dead from the recent past. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose Senate seat has been getting a little warm, resurrected a notion discarded earlier that Mr. Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey as director of the FBI. Mr. Comey is best buds with Robert Mueller, who has never given up trying to rehabilitate Mr. Comey from goat to grandee. Only last week Mr. Comey himself took a turn as Bible scholar, attempting to apply a verse from the Book of Amos (5:24) — “But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” — to Mr. Mueller’s search for a crime. A Bible verse in the hands of a novice can be like a child with a gun.

Alan Dershowitz thinks the idea that the president, by sacking Mr. Comey, obstructed justice is nonsense. Mr. Dershowitz, the distinguished law professor at Harvard, warned Mrs. Feinstein and Democrats who are trying to build a case that the president obstructed justice that they’re wasting their time.

“You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire Comey and his constitutional authority to tell the Justice Department who to investigate, who not to investigate. That’s what Thomas Jefferson did, that’s what Lincoln did, that’s what Roosevelt did. We have precedents that clearly establish that.”

The president’s tweets are making trouble for him again. Some Democrats, eager for something, anything, to hang their hats on, argue that Mr. Trump’s tweet on Sunday “suggested” that the president knew former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, and that implies obstruction of justice. Or it might only be that these Democrats inferred that that’s what the president did. They should study the difference. A desperate Democrat might infer a lot of fake stuff. To pursue a president for obstruction would ultimately require that “clearly illegal acts” would have to have been committed.

This is what some of Mr. Trump’s pursuers would call mere technicalities in the law. Destroying Donald Trump is of such transcendent purpose, the goal of every right-thinking American, that anything goes. Ask any never-Trumper. What does the Constitution have to do with it, anyway? Six and seven decades of drinking the poison that the Constitution is only “a living document,” subject to reinterpretation to fit any theory of the law, has done great damage.

The Flynn episode might be the needed tutorial in constitutional law. Lawyer and layman alike can learn something useful. Alan Dershowitz thinks Mr. Trump’s lawyers should learn something, too. Legally speaking, he says, Mr. Flynn was “up for sale,” and his “credibility is worthless” since he has been credibly accused of perjury.

“I think the administration is not aggressive enough with [Mr.] Mueller,” Mr. Dershowitz told Laura Ingraham of Fox News last week. “They should be in court challenging what he has been doing. He is going far beyond any possible scope of his investigation.”

The president’s lawyers could be challenging subpoenas, and who are called as witnesses. An investigation, whether called for or not, should be done with a semblance of fairness or it will invite a generation of vipers to do their evil work. If Donald Trump is half as bad as the Democrats say he is, Robert Mueller does not need a railroad to get to where he’s trying to go.

• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.

Charge Against Flynn is More Evidence that Mueller Has Nothing

December 2, 2017

Charge Against Flynn is More Evidence that Mueller Has Nothing, Power LineJohn Hinderaker, December 1, 2017

News media are breathlessly reporting that Gen. Michael Flynn has agreed to plead guilty to lying to the FBI. You can read the Statement of the Offense here. The false statements alleged by the government seem rather pathetic: 1) Flynn falsely told an FBI agent that he didn’t ask the Russian ambassador to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions” the U.S. had just imposed, and 2) that he didn’t recall the ambassador subsequently telling him that the Russians had moderated their response per his request; 3) Flynn falsely said that he didn’t ask the Russian ambassador to delay or defeat a pending U.N. Security Council resolution, and 4) that the ambassador never subsequently described his country’s response to that request. (Flynn tried, unsuccessfully, to convince several members of the Security Council, including Russia, not to proceed with an anti-Israel resolution. This is to his, and President Trump’s, credit.)

That’s it, after a year of huffing and puffing. Nothing about the election, nothing about the long-awaited “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia. I have no idea why Flynn apparently lied to an FBI agent, assuming that he did. But the communications described in the information are exactly the sorts of contacts that a national security advisor to an incoming president should be having with foreign powers.

In short, the allegations against Flynn suggest that Robert Mueller has nothing significant against President Trump or other members of his administration.

The press, of course, is gleeful. ABC‘s headline blares, “Flynn Prepared To Testify Against Trump, Trump Family, White House Staff.” Really? Testify to what?

ABC’s Brian Ross reports: Michael Flynn promised “full cooperation to the Mueller team” and is prepared to testify that as a candidate, Donald Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians.”

But of course, there is nothing wrong with directing Flynn to make contact with the Russians. ABC says this is contrary to statements that Trump has made, but I don’t know whether that is true or not. It would require considerable research into Trump’s many statements to discern whether he has said that he never directed Flynn to contact any Russian on any subject.

In any event, what is the point? Contacting foreign governments was part of Flynn’s job, and directing Flynn to contact foreign governments was part of Trump’s job.

Andy McCarthy sees the Flynn plea the same way that I do:

Obviously, it was wrong of Flynn to give the FBI false information; he could, after all, have simply refused to speak with the agents in the first place. That said, as I argued early this year, it remains unclear why the Obama Justice Department chose to investigate Flynn. There was nothing wrong with the incoming national-security adviser’s having meetings with foreign counterparts or discussing such matters as the sanctions in those meetings. Plus, if the FBI had FISA recordings of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, there was no need to ask Flynn what the conversations entailed. Flynn, an early backer of Donald Trump and a fierce critic of Obama’s national-security policies, was generally despised by Obama administration officials. Hence, there has always been cynical suspicion that the decision to interview him was driven by the expectation that he would provide the FBI with an account inconsistent with the recorded conversation — i.e., that Flynn was being set up for prosecution on a process crime.

In the information filed against Flynn, what is most important is what is not there–the dog that isn’t barking:

[W]hen a prosecutor has a cooperator who was an accomplice in a major criminal scheme, the cooperator is made to plead guilty to the scheme. This is critical because it proves the existence of the scheme. In his guilty-plea allocution (the part of a plea proceeding in which the defendant admits what he did that makes him guilty), the accomplice explains the scheme and the actions taken by himself and his co-conspirators to carry it out. This goes a long way toward proving the case against all of the subjects of the investigation. That is not happening in Flynn’s situation. Instead, like Papadopoulos, he is being permitted to plead guilty to a mere process crime. A breaking report from ABC News indicates that Flynn is prepared to testify that Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians — initially to lay the groundwork for mutual efforts against ISIS in Syria. That, however, is exactly the sort of thing the incoming national-security adviser is supposed to do in a transition phase between administrations. If it were part of the basis for a “collusion” case arising out of Russia’s election meddling, then Flynn would not be pleading guilty to a process crime — he’d be pleading guilty to an espionage conspiracy.

I suppose it is still possible that Mueller could surprise us, but General Flynn was supposed to be the key witness, and he apparently has little or nothing to say that is newsworthy.

Moves by Michael Flynn’s legal team suggest he may be cooperating with special prosecutor: Report

November 24, 2017

Moves by Michael Flynn’s legal team suggest he may be cooperating with special prosecutor: Report, Washington Times, November 23, 2017

(Please see also, Special Counsel Mueller Probing Kushner’s Role in Blocking Obama’s Betrayal of Israel at UNSC (not satire) and Humor | Turkey pardoned by Trump had multiple contacts with Russian officials. — DM)

In this Feb. 1, 2017, file photo, then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The Times cautioned that the termination of information-sharing isn’t proof that Mr. Flynn either has cut a plea deal with prosecutors or is trying to do so — and presumably cooperating with them as a condition of the deal.

**********************

The legal team of former national security adviser Michael Flynn is reportedly no longer sharing information with attorneys for President Trump, a move that commonly happens when an investigation target starts cooperating with prosecutors.

In its report Thursday, The New York Times cited “four people involved in the case” as saying that Mr. Flynn’s attorneys had “notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss” the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller.

Mr. Mueller is probing the Trump team’s ties to Russian officials and its possible involvement in Kremlin efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Mr. Flynn, who resigned the NSC chief post just a couple months into Mr. Trump’s administration, is widely as the most legally vulnerable Trump insider.

The Times cautioned that the termination of information-sharing isn’t proof that Mr. Flynn either has cut a plea deal with prosecutors or is trying to do so — and presumably cooperating with them as a condition of the deal.

“Defense lawyers frequently share information during investigations, but they must stop when doing so would pose a conflict of interest. It is unethical for lawyers to work together when one client is cooperating with prosecutors and another is still under investigation,” wrote reporters Michael S. Schmidt, Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman.

The Times had no official comment from either the Trump or Flynn legal teams.

Implausible Deniability

October 29, 2017

Implausible Deniability, American ThinkerClarice Feldman, October 29, 2017

The aftermath of the 2016 election has revealed the criminality of the Democrats, the perfidy of the Deep State, the corruption of the press, and the bought and paid for motives of the scribblers in the conservative pundit class. And Trump won despite all that. In many ways it reminds me of a Soviet operation called The Trust. If you missed Reilly — Ace of Spies, Edward Jay Epstein describes how the Soviets created a fake anti-Soviet group called The Trust and used it to nab dissidents plotting to overthrow the regime.

Fusion GPS’ dossier was a replay of a classic Soviet disinformation campaign.

“The Trust was not an anti-Soviet organization, it only imitated one.” In reality, he continued, the Trust was a creature of the Soviet secret police. Its purpose was not to overthrow Communism, but to manipulate real anti-communist organizations into misleading the West.

In much the same way, I believe, Russian agents working for the Clintons and the DNC through Fusion GPS and its hireling Christopher Steele provided fake information in a dossier which the FBI (headed by James Comey) and the Department of Justice (headed by Loretta Lynch ) used to craft an affidavit to obtain a FISA warrant authorizing electronic surveillance on people connected, however tangentially, to the Trump campaign. This, after previous such warrants had — and this is unusual — been turned down by the FISA court. Then-president Obama allowed the surveilled communications to be widely circulated throughout the government, so that the names of the targets caught up in the surveillance and their communications were thus widely available for leaking, and were leaked.

As Byron York noted in a series of tweets, here were some of the dossier’s sources:

1/6 — Looking at dossier itself, sure seems Kremlin-linked Russians were participating in anti-Trump effort…

2/6 — For example, dossier Source A is described as ‘senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure.’

3/6 — Dossier Source B is described as ‘former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin.’

4/6 — Dossier Source C is ‘senior Russian financial official.’

The Trust was funded by émigrés who believed it was legit. And the Russian anti-Trump phony dossier was, we now know, funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, which would have us believe that their lawyer Marc Elias, who received over $9 million for unspecified work, did this without their consent or knowledge.

(Fusion GPS was also funded during the nomination period — and before Fusion GPS and Steele were poking around Russia, by Washington Free Beacon, something that it — like Elias — admitted shortly before a likely court ruling that Fusion’s bank account information had to be provided to congressional investigators.) In any event, their work with Fusion GPS ended with the nomination of Trump. They had nothing to do with the hiring of Fusion GPS and the creation and distribution of the dossier.

The Washington Free Beacon is a right-of-center publication, and certainly has done some fine work in the past, but its links to the anti-Trump crowd of the right is unmistakable. The publication is largely funded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, who strongly supports gay rights and open borders. Among its original board members were Bill Kristol, and both the present editors, Michael Goldfarb (formerly deputy communications director for John McCain) and Matthew Continetti (Kristol’s son-in-law) both worked for the Weekly Standard while Kristol was its editor. Kristol, as you may recall, worked hard to promote others to run against Trump for the nomination. Singer financially supported Marco Rubio for the nomination. His aide, Dan Senor, was a senior advisor to vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan and reportedly retains strong ties to him.

I seriously doubt that any candidate Paul Singer would prefer could ever have won the general election. Singer strongly opposed both Ted Cruz and Trump.

The dossier was a means for the Russians at no cost the them to provide the Democrats with disinformation to be used against Trump.

Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist does the most thorough job of clearing the air on the dossier

Space and copyright limitations keep me from quoting more of it, but here are theten things about the dossier Hemingway thinks you should know:

 “1) Russian officials were sources of key claims in dossier”

“2) No, the Russian dossier was not initially funded by Republicans”

“3) The dossier is chock full of discredited information”

“4) The dossier was used as a basis for wiretaps on American citizens”

5) The FBI also paid for the dossier

…When Trump asked about the FBI payment, many political journalists feigned shock and outrage that he would make such a claim.

They should not have. Their outlets had already reported that the FBI had tried to pay for the dossier and had, in fact, reimbursed expenses for the dossier. We do not know if those expenses include the payments to the Russian officials for salacious stories on Republican nominee for president Trump.

6) Dossier publisher Fusion GPS works with shady outfits”

7) Fusion GPS’ ties to media are problematic

The principals at Fusion GPS are well-connected to mainstream media reporters. They are former journalists themselves, and know how to package stories and provide information to push narratives. They are, in fact, close friends with some of the top reporters who have covered the Russia-Trump collusion story.

Fusion GPS has placed stories with friendly reporters while fighting congressional investigators’ attempts to find out the group’s sources of funding. Fusion GPS leaders have taken the Fifth and fought subpoenas for information about the group’s involvement with Russia.

8) Jim Comey personally briefed Trump on the dossier, shortly before CNN reported it

What really got the ball rolling on last year’s Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, then, was not the dossier itself but the briefing of it by Obama intelligence chiefs to President-elect Trump in January. Former FBI head Jim Comey admitted under oath that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asked him to personally brief President Trump about this dossier. The fact of that meeting was quickly leaked to CNN.

Given the dossier’s many problems, was the entire purpose of the meeting to produce the leak that the meeting happened?

9) Mueller investigation spurred by dossier and illegal leaks from intelligence operatives about Trump.

We know from previous reporting that the dossier of Russia-supplied information or disinformation was used by the FBI to secure a warrant to spy on an American citizen advising an opposing political party’s presidential campaign. We know that this dossier was funded at least in part by the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the FBI. The firm that produced the report was itself funded by Russians.

10) The Steele dossier was a Clinton/DNC-funded operation supported by the FBI and influenced heavily by Russian operatives in the Kremlin The Clinton campaign, the DNC, and the FBI all worked wittingly or unwittingly with Russians to affect the results of the 2016 election. Far from just meeting with a Russian and not getting dirt on a political opponent, these groups wittingly or unwittingly paid Russian operatives for disinformation to harm Trump during the 2016 election and beyond.

Worse, these efforts perverted our justice system by forcing the attorney general to recuse himself for the crime of having served as a surrogate on the Trump campaign, spawning a massive, sprawling, limitless probe over Russia.[/quote]

Fusion GPS was also doing work directly for the Russians, which makes its claims doubly suspect:

You see, the Russian lawyer — often carelessly presented as a “Russian government lawyer” with “close ties to Putin” — Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump, [sic — actually it was Donald Trump, Jr.] also worked recently with a Washington, D.C. “commercial research and strategic intelligence firm” that is also believed to have lobbied against the Magnitsky Act. That firm, which also doubles as an opposition research shop, is called Fusion GPS—famous for producing the Russia dossier distributed under the byline of Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent for hire.[snip]

Yet at the same time that Fusion GPS was fueling a campaign warning against a vast Russia-Trump conspiracy to destroy the integrity of American elections, the company was also working with Russia to influence American policy — by removing the same sanctions that Trump was supposedly going to remove as his quid pro quo for Putin’s help in defeating Hillary.Yet it is rare to read stories about comms shops like Fusion GPS because traditional news organizations are reluctant to bite the hands that feed them. But they are the news behind the news—well known to every D.C. beat reporter as the sources who set the table and provide the sources for their big “scoops.” The ongoing transformation of foundering, profitless news organizations into dueling proxies for partisan comms operatives is bad news for American readers, and for our democracy. But it is having a particularly outsized effect on reporting in the area of foreign policy, where expert opinion is prized—and easily bought—and most reporters and readers are only shallowly informed.

The record clearly belies the Clinton-DNC (Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and John Podesta) claim that they didn’t know about the dossier.

In the first place, it is impossible to believe that they handed over $9 million to their lawyer without restriction or oversight. (Yes, I know the Department of State under then-secretary Clinton cannot account for $6 billion dollars, but this was their money, not ours, and I expect they paid more serious attention to it.) Once the bills are turned over to investigators, we’ll see who signed off on them. And we’ll find out soon whether Fusion was listed as a vendor in campaign-finance filings as the law requires.

Interestingly enough, one of Elias’ partners engaged Crowd Strike, ostensibly to review the claim that the DNC server had been hacked by Russia, and Comey’s FBI accepted their review without ever demanding to examine it themselves.

Daniel Greenfield once again does a fine job of analyzing the use made of the dossier and why Fusion GPS was engaged to dish the dirt.

The DNC, Hillary campaign and Obama Administration used former British intelligence agent Fusion GPS’ Christopher Steele as an interface to create deniability, allowing them, in effect, to launder the dossier and create a pretext for snooping on Trump and publicizing whatever dirt they might dig up on his campaign no matter how incredible the sources and product.

Hiring Fusion GPS and then Steele created two degrees of separation between the dossier and Hillary. A London ex-intel man is a strange choice for opposition research in an American election, but a great choice to create a plausible ‘source’ that appears completely disconnected from American politics. [snip]

The official story is that Steele was a dedicated whistleblower who decided to message an FBI pal for reasons “above party politics” while the Fusion GPS boss was so dedicated that he spent his own money on it after the election. Some figures in the FBI decided to take Steele’s material, offering to pay him for his work and reimbursing some of his expenses. Portions of the dossier were used to justify the FISA eavesdropping on Trump officials and were then rolled into the Mueller investigation. [snip]

But there isn’t supposed to be a link between the Democrats and the eavesdropping.

That’s why Marc Elias, the Clinton campaign and DNC lawyer who hired Fusion GPS, had denied it in the past. It’s why Fusion GPS fought the investigation so desperately. Opposition research isn’t a crime. A conspiracy to eavesdrop on your political opponents however is very much a criminal matter.

A forensic examination of the dirty dossier’s journey shows us that this modern Watergate was a collaborative effort between an outgoing Democrat administration and its expected Dem successor.

Greenfield details how the dossier was used to astroturf and create a demand for an investigation, which ultimately resulted in Sessions’ recusal and the appointment of a special counsel. He reminds us that the Obama administration had done such stuff before, spying on congressional opponents on the Iran Deal. (Recall how that spying was used to tar Congresswoman Jane Harmon); giving money to non-profit organizations to spur the media coverage, whispering tidbits to complaisant media shills, and smuggling billions to Iran. And, as he notes, there was the IRS shutdown of conservative groups (for which they finally apologized this week) and the lies about Libya.

Notably, when they thought the Russia “collusion” fairytale was not gathering enough steam, Steele personally briefed David Corn, the same propagandist who confected the story that Valerie Plame was a covert agent deliberately targeted by the Bush Administration as payback against her husband Joe Wilson.

But even more damning is the fact that Hillary herself started tweeting about the dossier shortly after GPS was hired — even though she claims she knew nothing about it.

The first FISA request was made in June and was turned down. In July Fusion GPS was hired. According to James Comey, the FBI began investigating “collusion” reports in July of 2016, Beginning on August 15, Hillary started tweeting about Trump and Russia. She tweeted again on September 7, September 26, October 7, October 25, October 31. The second request was made in October. It was on October 31 when Corn, now atMother Jones “broke the story of a ‘veteran spy’ who gave the FBI information on Trump’s alleged connections to Russia.” It wasn’t until Buzz Feed published the dossier that we could see how preposterous the story was. Mother Jones was just a small part of the media collaboration in spreading the manure — Slate worked it also, and larger outlets got involved.

Former CIA case officer Lee Smith reveals how shoddy was the dossier:

The dossier was designed to dig up “dirt” on Trump and his associates, but, more to the point, it was clearly intended from the start to do so by manufacturing and nurturing a Russian angle. It sought to discredit Donald Trump and to deceive the public, which suggests that Trump has been right all along regarding something like a conspiracy against him which included the active participation of the FBI and possibly other national security agencies.

The president also comes across as credible vis-à-vis his critics because of what has become evident since the dossier was surfaced. The clearly politically motivated multiple investigations carried out so far in which no rock has been unturned have come up with absolutely nothing, either in the form of criminal charges or in terms of actual collusion with a foreign government. And, one might add, there has been little in the way of evidence to sustain the charge that Russia sought to influence the election and might even have succeeded in doing so. But there is one thing new that we do know now: Russiagate began within the Clinton Campaign headquarters.

Trey Gowdy tweeted: “Did FBI rely on a document that looks like the National Enquirer prepared it?” Looks that way. Andrew McCarthy at National Review tweets “Trump DOJ should declassify & disclose FISA app to show what representations were made to court about source of dossier claims.”

That seems uncontestable.

 

Hillary Unplugged

October 24, 2017

Hillary Unplugged, Power LineSteven Hayward, October 24, 2017

(To be fair, Ms. Clinton may still be suffering from Post Candor Traumatic Syndrome after coming under sniper fire in Bosnia. –DM)

So Hillary was over in Britain a couple weeks back flogging her book, perhaps hoping for a more sympathetic audience. The whole 19 minute video here is excruciating. It is beyond fingernails on the blackboard cringe-inducing. I wouldn’t blame anyone who gouged their eyes out and plugging their ears with cement. The non-stop excuses and rote-recitation of her career resume (does anyone not know by now that she was a senator and secretary of state?) are pathetic at this point.

But best of all is how she thinks the evil Rooskies shot American voters with some kind of mind ray (her account is almost this ludicrous). It is must-see TV. Start at the 6:30 mark (and you can quit around 7:45, so the pain will be short):

Chaser, from one year ago today

I have a hunch that Donald Trump is the only thing she thinks about right now.

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.

************************

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.