Monday, December 17, 2018

Mueller's "Enterprise" Witchhunt

In past articles on the Russia Hoax I've stressed that the guidelines that govern FBI investigations are the key to understanding the Deep State's assault on the Trump administration. In that regard I have several times referred to the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane case as a sort of "umbrella" investigation, one that subsumes the investigations on given individuals, such as Carter Page. The whole issue of the precise nature of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation has arisen once again, in the context of disgraced former FBI Director James Comey's testimony last week before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). I think it will prove helpful to revisit this topic because, as I hope to show, there are important consequences that flow from this.

What Kind Of Investigation Is Crossfire Hurricane?

Back on March 20, 2017, then FBI Director Comey testified before HPSCI regarding Russian "active measures" during the 2016 election. Chairman Nunes characterized the committee's work as concerned with Russian "active measures" during the 2016 presidential election, but the Democrats stated that it was all about "collusion" between the Trump campaign and "the Russians." In his testimony Comey confirmed for the committee that the FBI's investigation, which we now know as Crossfire Hurricane and which began in late July, 2016, was concerned with "any coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians."

This is important, because in Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Rod Rosenstein's letter of May 17, 2017, in which he appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel (SC), Rosenstein's authorization closely tracks Comey's testimony:

The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump; ...

There are several important bits of information that we need to take special note of in this.

  • First, Mueller is not starting up a new investigation--he's taking over an already existing investigation, the same one that was confirmed by Comey two months earlier. 
  • Second, and very importantly, Mueller's investigation is not authorized as a general investigation into Russian "active measures" (i.e., interference, meddling) in the 2016 campaign but instead is rather narrowly focused on "coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians."

In other words, Rosenstein did not authorize Mueller to investigate coordination between people associated with the Clinton campaign and the Russians--only the Trump campaign.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

UPDATED: Russia Hysteria, False Statements, And The Michael Flynn Affair.

Flynn's Rise

Where to start with the Michael Flynn saga? We could start with Flynn's outspokenness regarding the origins of ISIS that so angered the Obama administration, or perhaps with his interference in Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's jihad against former FBI agent Robyn Gritz, but presidential candidate Donald Trump's revisionist ideas about relations with Russia--and Trump's criticism of the sacred cow of sanctions--perhaps gets to the heart of the matter more quickly.
In late March 2016, steaming toward the Republican nomination ... Donald J. Trump made a lengthy case for giving President Vladimir V. Putin what he wanted most: relief from American-led sanctions for his annexation of Crimea.
... from the start of his campaign in mid-2015, several months before prosecutors say his company began considering a deal in Russia, Mr. Trump departed from the normal Republican hard line about Russia, attacking President Barack Obama’s approach because it alienated a potential partner.
“I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin,” Mr. Trump said soon after announcing his run for the presidency. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”
This kind of talk set off alarm bells in the globalist establishment of the Deep State. Opposition research went into high gear. By July, 2016, the "sources" for ex-MI6 spook Christopher Steele's "dossier" were telling him that it was all a done deal: "the Russians" had done the DNC "hack" and had already entered into a quid pro quo with Trump: Putin would pass the emails to Wikileaks and Wikileaks would serve as a cutout for the release of the emails that would power Trump to the presidency. In exchange for sanctions relief. The Russia Hoax was up and running, and no one in the establishment media or the political establishment in Washington, DC, was questioning the official version of the "hack" nor the provenance of the rumors that began to circulate about Trump and Russia.

Where was Flynn in all this? Flynn was in retirement, having in 2014 been "forced out of the DIA after clashing with superiors over his allegedly chaotic management style and vision for the agency." He and his son started up a consulting firm, in which Flynn displayed a rather promiscuous penchant for changing his views depending on his clients' requirements. He also displayed a cavalier attitude toward reporting requirements regarding his status as a foreign agent under FARA as well as DoD and DoS requirements for retired military officers. Clients included Russian and Turkish entities.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

UPDATED: More On Mueller's Theory Of The Case

In the week since I wrote Crossfire Hurricane: The Theory Of The Case the conservative commentariate has continued to deny that Mueller is investigating any Trump crimes. As I stated earlier, I agree in that overall assessment of the Russia Hoax, but disagree  in this respect, that I believe Team Mueller does have a theory of the case and is continuing to work to find proof for that theory.

As an example of the type of conservative commentary I'm referring to, Paul Mirengoff at Powerline Blog published two blogs, one last night and one this morning, regarding the Mueller "probe": Report: Mueller Pressing Hard on Trump Tower Meeting and Mueller’s theory: Trump defrauded voters. In fact, Mirengoff touches on some central issues that deserve more attention, and which when properly understood reveal the scope and aim of the highly secretive Mueller operation.

A lot of clarity can be gained by looking at the whole Mueller operation in light of the Steele Dossier. The central allegation of the Dossier boils down, quite explicitly, to the simple proposition: Trump entered into a corrupt quid pro quo arrangement with "Russians": a bribery scheme. This is the aspect of the Mueller case theory I examined in the blog that's linked above, the bribery statute: 18 US Code 201(b)(2). The Dossier's version of this general proposition is that, in exchange for the release of DNC emails by the Russians through Wikileaks--"a thing of value," in that the release of emails could lead to Trump's election--Trump agreed to grant sanctions relief to Russia.

But "dirt on Hillary" works just as well as "a thing of value" to be exchanged for sanctions relief, for purposes of the bribery statute.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Crossfire Hurricane: The Theory Of The Case

For those of us who try to follow developments in the Russia Hoax it's easy to get bogged down in the details and lose sight of the big picture: what I call the "theory of the case." Every investigation needs a guiding theory, even a hoax investigation, and a solid grasp of that overall case theory is a big help in coming to grips with the big picture.

To arrive at the overall theory driving the Russia Hoax it's useful to look at two aspects together: first, the Carter Page FISA, and second, Rod Rosenstein's letter authorizing the Special Counsel.

We've all heard the criticism of Rosenstein's authorization letter: it fails, the critics say, to cite a criminal violation, and so the appointment of Mueller as Special Counsel is illegitimate because the regulations governing the appointment of a Special Counsel require that a criminal violation be stated. But like so many things we think we know, this turns out not to be true at all.

For starters, the regulations only state that the Attorney General (or, in our case, the Acting AG) has to "determine[] that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted"--it doesn't state that the actual criminal violation has to be named. I agree that the presumption must be that no investigation should be initiated without some specific criminal statute in view. Moreover, it's natural and fair that the subject of an investigation should know what he's being investigated for, and just as natural that the investigator should like to keep the subject in the dark about as much as possible. What would be a reasonable sounding explanation for refusing to cite a criminal statute? The reason is right there in Rosenstein's letter:
The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017 ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

UPDATED: Trump: Declassification Best Used To Counterpunch

In an interview with the New York Post earlier today, President Trump directly addressed the issue of the best time to declassify Russia Hoax related documents. Recall that back on September 17, 2018, Trump had ordered the declassification of several categories of documents but then, within days, decided to withhold declassification, citing frantic phone calls from "close allies" of the United States, begging him not to declassify the documents:
The documents include Justice officials’ request to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and memos on DOJ official Bruce Ohr’s interactions with Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial dossier that alleged Trump ties with Russia.
Trump initially agreed to declassify the documents, including text messages sent by former FBI officials James Comey, Andrew G. McCabe as well as Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Ohr. Trump allies believe the revelations will show favoritism toward Hillary Clinton and a plot to take down Trump.
Trump then reversed course, citing the need for further review and concern of US allies.
In the interview Trump characterized himself as a "counter-puncher" and stated that his preferred strategy of counter punching would likely lead him to use declassification as a weapon if the Democrats decided to go down the path of harassing his administration, saying: "I’m a counter-puncher and I will hit them so hard they’d never been hit like that.” According to the Post Trump further spelled out exactly what disclosure of those documents would reveal: that the FBI, the Justice Department and the Clinton campaign had conspired to set him up.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Is The Deep State Feeling The Heat?

Bad as it may have been, the worst of the Russia Hoax was not the abuse of the FISA electronic surveillance regime for political purposes. Nor is the worst even the patent involvement of our intelligence agencies--and in particular the FBI and CIA--in electoral politics. No, the worst aspect of the Russia Hoax is that our intelligence agencies, including elements of DoJ and the State Department cooperating with the Clinton campaign, enlisted the intelligence services of foreign powers--first in their effort to defeat the candidacy of Donald Trump and, when that effort failed, turning their efforts to what can only be described as an attempted coup against the elected President of the United States. Shockingly, these later stages of the Russia Hoax have included members of the Legislative Branch who, in the face of clear evidence that the true collusion with foreign powers was that of the Clinton campaign, have worked to delay and to ultimately obstruct Congressional oversight and investigation of the entire Russia Hoax. So reckless was this conspiracy that the players have not hesitated to cynically stir up public hysteria against Russia, a foreign power which, while often hostile to US interests, had no role in colluding with the Trump campaign.

Shortly before the Midterm elections, in the face of determined stonewalling of Congressional oversight by DoJ and the FBI, the President played what has always been his trump (!) card--he ordered the declassification of most of the documents that are central to the Russia Hoax. Led by DAG Rosenstein, the forces of the Deep State were able to delay the release of the documents, but President Trump made it clear that he favors declassification--and sooner, rather than later. Two weeks later, an uneasy stalemate persists. DoJ and Team Mueller have claimed that release of the documents would constitute "obstruction"--a patently bogus claim, but Trump has extracted the resignation of Jeff Sessions and his replacement with Matthew Whitaker as the Acting AG, who also replaces Rosenstein as the supervisor of Team Mueller. The anti-Trump forces are currently attempting to stymie Trump's latest move with attacks on the Whitaker appointment, while declassification hangs fire. And Democrats, newly empowered by their capture of the House, are threatening to tie Trump up with investigations of his finances, on the pretext of the Russia Hoax.

Nevertheless, there is maneuvering going on behind the scenes, and evidence that the Deep State forces of both the US and the UK are feeling Trump's pressure. The Daily Telegraph, in a surprisingly little remarked upon article, informed the world that MI6 is battling Donald Trump to stop him from releasing documents linked to the "Russia probe".

The article itself is an interesting mix of special pleading and disinformation, clearly reflecting the views and interests of the British Deep State. For starters, it's long been clear that the "Russia probe" is really the "Trump probe"--any purported focus on Russia amounts to no more than the hope that, if enough mud (Russia Hoax material) is thrown at the wall (Trump), some of it may stick. For the rest, the article coyly offers a glimpse of what we all know to be true--the British were deeply involved in the Russia Hoax almost from the start--while attempting to maintain deniability with transparent euphemisms. For example, we read that

Monday, November 19, 2018

Fake News, Real News, Hot News

On the Fake News front we have some depressing real news--or, as real as polling gets:

John Hinderaker at Powerline, in The Ultimate Fake News, digs down into a poll run by The Economist/YouGov during the first week of November. The poll asked: Did Russia “tamper with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President?” Hinderaker points out what every sentient human person now knows for fact:
There is no evidence–I repeat, none–that Russia “tampered with vote tallies.” To my knowledge, no one has claimed that Russia tampered with vote tallies. I am not aware of any plausible theory on which a foreign power could tamper with vote tallies. To say that Russia tampered with vote tallies is as credible as asserting that the moon is made of green cheese.

The poll reveals, paraphrasing Hinderaker's summary, that

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

UPDATED: Call For The Dead

As reported by the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross, as recently as 9/7/18 the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was claiming that Joseph Mifsud--the shadowy Maltese professor who appears to have been instrumental in drawing George Papadopoulos into the Russia Hoax--"was missing and may be deceased." Mifsud had variously been reported to have had close ties to Russian intelligence, or to British intelligence, or to other Western intelligence services. It was Mifsud who, according to the FBI interview of Papadopoulos in January, 2017, had introduced Papadopoulos to a woman who falsely claimed to be Vladimir Putin's niece and it was Mifsud who Papadopoulos also said told him that Russia was in possession of thousands of Hillary Clinton's emails (Mifsud has denied all this).

The DNC's claim drew a quick response from Mifsud's longtime friend and lawyer, Stephan Roh. Roh appears to be as shadowy in his connections as is Mifsud. According to Wikipedia,
Roh is a Russian-speaking German lawyer and multimillionaire with close ties to Russia, has worked alongside Mifsud for years. Papadopoulos's wife, who briefly worked for Mifsud, has described Roh as Mifsud's lawyer, best friend, and funder. Roh owns multiple businesses, many headquartered in Moscow or Cyprus; he also co-owns Link University, where Mifsud taught. Roh was detained and questioned by investigators on Robert Mueller's Special Counsel team in October 2017.
Roh told reporters that, while Mifsud has not been seen since November of 2017, the DNC's claim of Mifsud's decease was "nonsense".
I got it from really good sources. They say that he is alive, that he has another identity, and that he is staying somewhere, at a nice place,” Stephan Roh told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Sunday.
“I just this morning got a message, indirectly, that he is alive and that they have provided him with another identity,” added Roh, who did not describe his sources.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Whither The Russia Hoax Witchhunt?

I had barely finished digesting the Midterm election news yesterday morning and begun wondering how the new lay of the land might affect the Russia Hoax, when events began unfolding. President Trump has never been mistaken for someone who dithers when action is called for. He quickly requested and received the resignation of AG Jeff Sessions, then inserted Sessions' Chief of Staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, as Acting AG, pending the naming of a permanent replacement (rumors are already circulating that Janice Rogers Brown is under consideration).

The move had been anticipated since at least August, when key GOP senators gave Trump public backing for the change: Key Republicans Give Trump a Path to Fire Sessions After the Election. As Bloomberg reported, both Lindsay Graham and Chuck Grassley, both of whom had previously opposed firing Sessions, publicly approved removing Sessions and even provided a time frame for action:

The pivotal message on Thursday came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who oscillates between criticizing many of the president’s policies and defending a president who sometimes invites him to go golfing at a Trump-branded resort.
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham told reporters.
But he added that forcing out Sessions before November “would create havoc” with efforts to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as with the midterm elections on Nov. 6 that will determine whether Republicans keep control of Congress. 
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, also changed his position on Thursday, saying in an interview that he’d be able to make time for hearings for a new attorney general after saying in the past that the panel was too busy to tackle that explosive possibility.

Even at this stage, with an Acting AG, the legal landscape appears to have changed drastically. What's more, this drastic change takes effect immediately--while the Republicans still control the House.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Could Papadopoulos Blow The Russia Hoax Wide Open?

On November 2 Dan Bongino conducted a fascinating interview with George Papadopoulos. The most convenient way to digest the interview is at Jeff Carlson's blog, which has a link to the interview on Bongino's radio show as well as a full transcript of the interview. What emerges from the interview is, in my view, convincing evidence that Papadopoulos was, in Chuck Ross's words, the target of an "FBI sting." Actually, that characterization doesn't even go far enough. What seems clear at this point is that the FBI--representing the US Government and as an agency of the Department of Justice--targeted Papadopoulos and attempted to manipulate him into appearing to be a vehicle for Russian influence in the Trump campaign. The FBI had no reason to believe that Papadopoulos had any connections to Russian officials before they targeted him. The fact is, Papadopoulos' academic background and previous experience was in what could be broadly termed "Eastern Mediterranean" politics--Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel. Moreover, in his published writings he actually evinced a degree of hostility to Russian influence in that region. When the FBI's attempt at framing Papadopoulos in this manner predictably fell flat, Papadopoulos was indicted on trumped up "false statements to the FBI" charges stemming from a harmless misstatement--not a lie.

The entire interview is well worth listening to--to capture Papadopoulos' personality--and also worth reading closely for the details that emerge. Chuck Ross's digest is also useful as a summary. Bongino's tone is remarkable. He's well prepared for the interview and, as he goes into the details of how Papadopoulos was groomed to be a fall guy in the FBI's war against Trump, his tone is incredulous to the point of hilarity at times--the FBI's setup is that transparent. Bongino has difficulty throughout in restraining himself from exclaiming at Papadopoulos' only too obvious naivete. For his part, Papadopoulos is naturally reluctant to portray himself as a complete dupe, but even he at a certain point ends up quoting his wife, who exclaimed to him:

"What on earth are you pleading guilty for, when this guy [Mifsud] is obviously setting you up?"

Rather than attempt an exhaustive analysis of the many intriguing threads of information that can be found in the interview, what I'd like to focus on are two particular themes in Papadopoulos' narrative: 1) That he was the subject of a FISA, and 2) that his conversations with FBI intelligence assets such as Halper, Downer, and Mifsud were "recorded".

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Is It Time For The Courts To Get Involved In The Russia Hoax?

Back in February of 2018 Hugh Hewitt, law professor and pundit, conducted a fascinating interview on his radio program with Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. As it happens, that interview serves very nicely as an introduction to a development that hasn't received much attention, coming as it does in the leadup to the Midterm elections. That development was reported by John Solomon in The Hill: Silence of 'the lambs': The deafening quietude of the FISA court and John Roberts. Let's begin with the Hewitt/Nunes interview.

Hewitt and Nunes revealed themselves to be very much aware of not only the legal aspects of the Russia Hoax, specifically regarding the Carter Page FISA, but also of the Constitutional aspects. This is entirely understandable, given that all three Constitutional branches of the US Government were either involved in the approval of the Carter Page FISA or are now involved in getting to the bottom of the Russia Hoax--in which the FISA aspects present the most danger of criminal liability.

As the interview progressed, Hewitt raised the very possibility that Solomon now refers to: that of interviewing Chief Justice John Roberts, who appoints the FISA Court (FISC) judges. Hewitt clearly believes that the Judicial Branch has a lot at stake in the Russia Hoax and therefore considers that it would be a good idea for Congress to approach the Courts. The exchange begins with a discussion of the Separation of Powers issues involved in Congress seeking to interview the Chief Justice, but it then moves to the issue that's at the heart of criminality in the Russia Hoax: the apparent effort by the FBI and DoJ to disguise from the FISC the true origins of the material that came to be known as the Steele Dossier. The FBI's subterfuge was embodied in a footnote to the FISA application, and Hewitt gives it as his opinion that the footnote constitutes a "material omission. He also cites the opinion of a Federal judge to that effect as well. Here's the exchange:

Sunday, October 28, 2018

UPDATES: The Spy In The Trump Campaign

Sundance at Conservative Tree House has a fascinating blog up tonight. He begins from a tweet by George Papadopoulos:

While I cannot disclose the information publicly, it’s a fact that both me and congress know who the SPY within the campaign was. Congress will likely include it in a report later on. Eyes were everywhere during 2016.

Sundance posits that the source was the former US Representative from Michigan, Mike Rogers--not to be confused, as we'll see, with former NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. Rogers, the former US Rep., was a Special Agent for the FBI in Chicago from 1989 - 1994 (I didn't know him, but recall hearing the office buzz when Rogers resigned to go into politics). More to the point, after leaving the House in 2014, having served as Chairman of the Permanent Select Committe on Intelligence, Rogers joined the Trump campaign in 2016 as national security adviser. Sundance points out Rogers' dodgy role in the Benghazi whitewash and then asks: "So how did Decepticon Rogers come to be an advisor to the Trump campaign?" Unfortunately, he offers no views on that.

Rogers was abruptly terminated within days after the election--much to the dismay of the Washington DC establishment. For example, in the Washington Post David Ignatius reported the dismissal in telling terms:

Just how far the new administration may depart from long-standing U.S. national-security policies was demonstrated by Rogers’s own departure.
You could imagine the jaws dropping Tuesday across the intelligence community when people heard the news of Rogers’s ouster. ... the intelligence agencies literally don’t know what to expect next.

Sundance himself ties Rogers' dismissal to the well known visit of Admiral Mike Rogers to Trump Tower a few days after the election, which led to the move of the Trump transition team headquarters from Trump Tower to a Trump golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. However, once again, sundance offers no further details.

The question, then, becomes: What would the NSA Director have to do with a human source inside the Trump campaign? Wouldn't that be the purview of the FBI? Would the NSA Director even know of the existence, much less the identity, of such a source? And even supposing that Admiral Rogers disclosed the existence and identity of a human source inside the Trump campaign, why would that necessitate a removal of the Trump transition team from Manhattan to rural New Jersey? Wouldn't removal of the source from the transition team solve the problem, without the need for a disruptive move?