Posted tagged ‘General Flynn and Russia’

Deep Meaning of the Mueller Probe

December 2, 2017

Deep Meaning of the Mueller Probe, Power LineScott Johnson, December 2, 2017

Conclusion: “Mueller’s investigation is a semblance of law-enforcement disguising the brute reality that Trump is being punished for winning the election and defying Obama policy.

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The reporters covering developments in the ongoing special counsel investigation conducted by Robert Mueller are so excited by the prospect of President Trump’s removal from office impeachment that they can barely keep their tongues from hanging out of their mouths. They demonstrate what it’s all about even if they don’t have a clue what’s going on.

It is a striking fact that the charge to which Michael Flynn pleaded yesterday involves lying about conversations that were not themselves illegal. Flynn was not charged with any substantive criminal offense under the Logan Act or anything else. Rather, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Andrew McCarthy has distinguished himself among the observers commenting on the case. An experienced former federal prosecutor himself, he knows what he is talking about. He is familiar with the ground rules that are to govern such matters. He reviews them in his weekly NRO column today as he has before, finding once again that Mueller has undertaken an essentially unlimited criminal investigation in the guise of a counterintelligence probe.

None of the ground rules applicable to a special counsel criminal investigation have been followed. Mueller’s investigation partakes of the wrongs committed by special counsels in past cases — wrongs reflected in the Department of Justice Procedures that are to govern these matters, but that have been thrown out the window.

What’s going on? McCarthy draws the inferences:

See, we’re not following the normal rules, in which a prosecutor is assigned only after evidence of an actual crime has emerged. We’re in the wooly realm of counterintelligence, where anything goes. And in the event our aggressive prosecutor can’t find any crimes — which would be no surprise, since the investigation was not triggered by a crime — no matter: The special counsel is encouraged to manufacture crimes through the investigative process. Misleading assertions by non-suspects made to investigators probing non-crimes can be charged as felony false statements.

The end game of the investigation is the removal of Donald Trump from the presidency, either by impeachment (which does not require proof of a court-prosecutable crime) or by publicly discrediting Trump to such a degree that his reelection becomes politically impossible. The latter can be accomplished by projecting the appearance of a cri[min]al investigation (notwithstanding that there is no underlying crime), turning administration officials into suspects, and hopefully generating the false-statement prosecutions that help depict the administration as dishonest and icky.

One more thing:

There is no evidence that Flynn or any other Trump associate was involved in Russia’s election interference. Instead, after being elected on the promise of significant policy shifts from the Obama administration, President-elect Trump directed Flynn, his incoming national-security adviser, to make contact with foreign counterparts, including but not limited to officials from Russia. This is standard operating procedure when administrations change — that’s why they call it a transition.

Conclusion: “Mueller’s investigation is a semblance of law-enforcement disguising the brute reality that Trump is being punished for winning the election and defying Obama policy.

McCarthy’s column expands on his comments immediately following the news of Flynn’s plea yesterday. In addition to his biting analysis, McCarthy frames his column with a (non-satirical) modest proposal about how President Trump might fight fire with fire. If you want to understand what is happening the whole thing is must reading.

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.

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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.

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.