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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Is It Possible To Be Guilty Without Violating The Law?

In the comments section to Did James Baker Really Skate? Mike Sylwester (h/t) and I had an interesting discussion regarding the Mueller/Weissman theory of prosecution for "conspiracy to defraud the government." To the best of my knowledge this theory has never been tested on appeal: defendants in the cases in which this theory has been used have--again to the best of my knowledge--pled guilty to other charges. Now, it appears that this theory is about to be put to the test in Mueller's "Russian bot case" against Concord Management and Consulting in the Southern District of New York. Judge Dabney Friedrich has issued a three-page order in which she requires that the Government answer her questions about their theory of prosecution. The judge's doubts about this theory of "conspiracy to defraud the government" can be read in the full order here. However, the gist of the problem and of the judge's objection to the Government's theory (in slightly, but only slightly, simplified form) is as follows.

According to the Government, Concord engaged in various social media activities related to US politics but failed to register as an agent of a foreign power under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). However, the judge points out that in previous hearings the Government has also maintained that to make its case it will not have to prove that Concord actually violated any regulatory law (such as FARA) but only that Concord engaged in "deceptive acts" that "interfered with the regulatory functions" of the government "in a way that precluded [the government] from ascertaining whether those substantive statutes were violated." In other words, the Government is maintaining that it needn't prove that Concord actually was acting as an agent of a foreign power, but that it was "deceptive"--and thus engaged in a conspiracy--because they didn't register with the government so that the government could make that determination.

Judge Friedrich's objection to this theory thus comes down to this: how can a failure to register be "deceptive" if the Government is unable to show a duty to register in the first place? To which I say, Good question!

The real explanation to all this is one that, unlike the Mueller/Weissman theory, won't make your head hurt. The explanation is that Mueller/Weissman never imagined that the Russian defendants would hire competent US attorneys and contest the bogus case. They thought this prosecution would be a freebee.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Did James Baker Really Skate?

There's been a fair amount of comment and outrage over the revelation by DoJ's OIG yesterday that a "senior FBI official" 1) accepted tickets to a sports event from a journalist, 2) lied under oath about it to the OIG (he first maintained that he had paid for the tickets, then admitted 5 days later that he hadn't), 3) but then was able to avoid criminal prosecution when prosecution was declined, although he subsequently "retired." In a legal environment in which the supposed crime of "lying to the FBI" has become for prosecutors that-than-which-nothing-more-heinous-can-be-conceived, this certainly smells at first whiff of swampy dealings.

And who am I to say that that's not exactly what's going on? On the other hand, there is another quite plausible possibility.

Everyone seems to agree that the "senior FBI official" in question is James A. Baker, former General Counsel to the FBI, whose more recent excellent adventures in the criminal justice system have been chronicled here: James Baker Identifies Another Source Behind the FISA Application and It's James Baker's Turn To Throw Rosenstein Under A Bus. It seems clear that the the threat of prosecution for making false statements to the government (18 USC 1001) was a major part of the legal leverage that was exerted on Baker to get him talking to OIG, Congress, and prosecutors. He apparently sang in bell like tones to Congress and is also said to be cooperating against his former good friend, James Comey. He has also been identified as "Mr. FISA" in the FBI, the top lawyer in the FBI who vetted the Carter Page FISA.

All that being the case, until I learn otherwise I'm going to assume that Baker is facing additional criminal jeopardy involving fraudulent filings with the FISA court and other aspects of the Russia Hoax. That means that he has not evaded prosecution entirely, but only for a relatively minor part of his exposure. I expect that he will continue his cooperation, and that will be the proof that he still faces possible prosecution. Further, given the seriousness of his misconduct I will be sorely disappointed if Baker is not required to plead guilty to some significant criminal charge. If that should happen--if he really does skate in the end--count me among the first who will charge: corruption.

Let me add that, in my opionion, Baker is positioned to be an extremely important witness for the Government if prosecutions occur in the future. As General Counsel to the FBI he was, basically, Comey's lawyer for official purposes. As such he would also have cooperated closely with many top officials at DoJ who have been implicated in the Russia Hoax: among others whose names come to mind I would count Bruce Ohr, David Laufman, John Carlin, Sally Yates, and Mary McCord. It goes without saying--but I'll say it anyway--that he would also have been privy to most of the Russia Hoax and NeverTrump machinations at the FBI itself. For that reason, and for reasons similar to those I outlined in Whose Afraid of Lisa Page? Baker's cooperation and testimony is a game changer when it comes to swamp draining at the FBI and DoJ.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Russia Hoax As Contingency Plan

Remember, back in August, 2016, when Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were obsessively texting one another? One exchange went something like, well, exactly like this:

"[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!" Page texted Strzok.
"No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it," Strzok responded.

Fast forward a couple of years and here we are in October, 2018, just about two years after Trump's electoral triumph, and for reasons best known to themselves Ben Rhodes and Jen Psaki have decided to reveal to NYMag that the Russia Hoax was a key part of the Obama Administration's--and presumably the Clinton campaign's--contingency plan to, well, steal an election: Obama Had a Secret Plan in Case Trump Rejected 2016 Election Results. We're all adults--right?--so there's no need to quibble over the meaning of words like "results." Here's what Rhodes and Psaki are saying:


The Obama White House plan, according to interviews with Rhodes and Jen Psaki, Obama’s communications director, called for congressional Republicans, former presidents, and former Cabinet-level officials including Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, to try and forestall a political crisis by validating the election result. In the event that Trump tried to dispute a Clinton victory, they would affirm the result as well as the conclusions reached by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian interference in the election sought to favor Trump, and not Clinton. Some Republicans were already aware of Russian interference from intelligence briefings given to leaders from both parties during the chaotic months before the election. “We wanted to handle the Russia information in a way that was as bipartisan as possible,” Rhodes said. 
The existence of the postelection plan has not been previously reported. A July 2017 op-ed by Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, refers to Obama directing his staff to “prepare possible responses” to claims of Russian interference in the election.
Psaki said the plan was one of a larger set of “red-teaming” conversations to address how the White House should respond to postelection scenarios that did not have any historical precedent. “There was recognition that we had a Democratic president who was quite popular but also divisive for a portion of the population,” she said. “For them, just having him say the election was legitimate was not going to be enough. We didn’t spend a lot of time theorizing about the worst thing that could happen — this isn’t a science-fiction movie. It was more about the country being incredibly divided and Trump’s supporters being angry. Would there be protesting? I don’t want to say violence, because we didn’t talk about that as I recall.”

A lot of internet blog commenters have been belly aching about Trump putting a hold on his declassification order in the runup to the midterm elections, but this seems just as good--real red meat for the GOP base. Why Rhodes and Psaki thought it was a good idea to feed the GOP base like this is anyone's guess. I realize NYMag doesn't cater to that base, but Fox alertly picked this story up. But back to 2016 ...

Of course, the Obama and Clinton camps never foresaw--or so they claim--Trump winning the election. They feared a squeaker, a cliff hanger. Or, two years on, that's their story. So let's try a thought experiment of sorts. By dispensing with some of the coded language or doublespeak we come up with this more succinct version of what Rhodes and Psaki are saying:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Trump, Declassification, Leverage

I think interested observers are now in a position to put the whole Russia Hoax in some sort of global perspective--quite literally, as we'll see, in important respects. Recent posts by bloggers who write from widely varying perspectives give us the ability to discern the current state of play.

Let's start with the domestic front of the Russia Hoax. Sundance at Conservative Tree House has an excellent post up: President Trump and DAG Rod Rosenstein – “No Collusion”, No Immediate Worries … The overall theme is one that's dear to sundance's heart: leverage. The state of play is this. Congressional investigation has progressed to the point that it's clear beyond cavil that the entire Russia narrative is, in fact, a hoax and a fraud--both on the American people in general but also on our legal system. Which is to say, that real criminal liability exists for the key players who developed the plot against Trump. John Solomon summarizes what Congress has discovered in succinct fashion:


There is now a concrete storyline backed by irrefutable evidence: The FBI allowed itself to take political opposition research created by one party to defeat another in an election, treated it like actionable intelligence, presented it to the court as substantiated, and then used it to justify spying on an adviser for the campaign of that party's duly chosen nominee for president in the final days of a presidential election.
And when, nine months later, the FBI could not prove the allegation of collusion between Trump and Russia, unverified evidence was leaked to the media to try to sustain public support for a continued investigation.

But sundance spells out very specifically where the greatest risk--and therefore the greatest leverage--lies:


Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein created the special counsel under fraudulent pretense.  That origination material (Ohr 302’s, FISA pages, origination EC, and Page/Strzok messages) is now a risk to the Deputy AG.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

UPDATED: It's James Baker's Turn To Throw Rosenstein Under A Bus

Not long ago I did a blog with the title: Dems Throw Wray And Rosenstein Under The BusJohn Solomon is now reporting that, according to James Baker in his recent House testimony, that business about Rosenstein maybe wearing a wire against Trump was no joke--or at least not from the perspective of the FBI--Former FBI lawyer: Plot to record, remove Trump not a joke:

Baker told lawmakers he wasn’t in the meeting that McCabe had with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in which the subject came up. But he did have firsthand conversations with McCabe and the FBI lawyer assigned to McCabe, Lisa Page, about the issue.
“As far as Baker was concerned, this was a real plan being discussed,” said a source directly familiar with the congressional investigation. “It was no laughing matter for the FBI.”

Solomon is properly circumspect about what might be behind Baker's statements--after all, this could be simple truth-telling, or it could be payback for Rosenstein's cooperation with Trump in recent weeks? It remains possible, even likely, that Rosenstein wanted nothing to do with McCabe's idea of recording President Trump and seeking to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, no matter what his personal views on Trump. On the other hand, the FBI leadership--knowing what their criminal jeopardy was should Trump become aware of their shenanigans during the 2016 election--doubtless saw this as a life and death matter. For them. It wouldn't be for Rosenstein, although Rosenstein went on to create his own problems for himself--appointing the Special Counsel, approving the final FISA, all on fraudulent grounds. Solomon rightly stresses the extraordinary implications of all this:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

UPDATED: James Baker Identifies Another Source Behind the FISA Application

It's been known for some time that James Baker, the former General Counsel of the FBI, has been cooperating with investigators. As General Counsel Baker was essentially former Director James Comey's legal adviser, just as Lisa Page filled that function for former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Today, while the rest of the country remained focused on the Kavanaugh nomination, Baker testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, pursuant to a confidentiality agreement that was reached with Baker and his attorneys. In general terms Baker responded to questions about the origin of the Russia Hoax operation--apparently terming the handling of the investigation "abnormal" and influenced by the political views of those handling it--as well as about the sourcing of the FISA application.

The most important aspect of Baker's testimony today, which Rep. Jim Jordan characterized as "pretty explosive", appears to have been the new information that Baker provided about the sourcing for the FISA application. To this point it has been assumed that the probable cause for the FISA application largely rested on the so-called Steele "dossier"--both Comey and McCabe have confirmed that. However, today Baker told Congress that there was another source as well. Per Fox News:

Thursday, September 27, 2018

What Are Our 'Allies' Afraid Of?

We've all read by now that President Trump's recent declassification order regarding key documents in the Russia Hoax led not only to mad scrambling in the hallways of DoJ and the FBI, but also to frantic phone calls from "close allies" of the United States, begging Trump not to declassify those documents. Which naturally leads to the question, What are those "allies" (the UK and Australia) so afraid of? Once again I want to point to Jeff Carlson's excellent work at The UK and Australia Have Reason to be Concerned About Declassification. Carlson goes into great detail, but for our purposes I'll focus simply on the UK and the role of GCHQ--their counterpart of our NSA.

The role of GCHQ is an aspect of the Russia Hoax that I've alluded to to one degree or another in at least four separate blogs. Let's review those references quickly:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Why Were FBI/DoJ Texts Ever Redacted?

I'll keep this brief, because the in depth version can be read at Jeff Carlson' excellent blog: Why Did the DOJ Redact Text Messages Sent by FBI Employees Strzok and Page.

We've all heard the whining from FBI/DoJ that releasing the unredacted texting of Comey, McCabe, Stzok, Page and the rest of the Russia Hoax gang would pose a risk to national security by exposing sources and methods or other classified information. Carlson convincingly demonstrates that that's all hogwash.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Really? Rosenstein Wanted To Wear A Wire Against Trump?

That's pretty wild--the Deputy Attorney General offering to "wear a wire" against the President of the United States--and yet that's what the NYT is reporting, and they wouldn't publish fake news, would they? And they say he proposed this line of action because he was upset over the firing of James Comey. Clearly he hadn't been paying any attention at all to what Comey and the FBI had been up to for the past year or two--if anyone deserved firing, Comey deserved it richly. Interestingly, Rosenstein doesn't actually deny the story, instead he called it "inaccurate" and "factually incorrect." As opposed to "totally untrue" or "fake news." So we're probably safe in assuming that something like this really did transpire, and leave Rosenstein and the NYT to quibble over the details.

But what's the point in all this? I believe that, following so closely on the letter of the infamous Sub-Gang of Four "requesting" Rosenstein and FBI Director Wray (as well as DNI Coats) to clear any declassifications with them before disclosing any of the material to the President, this story is designed to place even more pressure on Rosenstein--as the person most centrally involved in and in control of the declassification process. As I elaborated in Dems Throw Wray And Rosenstein Under The Bus:
In effect the "request" by the Gang of Eight Democrats amounts to a demand that Wray and Rosenstein openly choose sides. In place of the "slow walk" strategy of documentary release that has so frustrated Congressional Republicans, Wray and Rosenstein are being "requested" to openly side with the minority party by defying a Presidential order. There is a carrot and a stick attached to this request. The stick, of course, is that if the much ballyhooed "Blue Wave" makes landfall in the US and Wray and Rosenstein haven't cooperated with the current minority, then the full fury of the new Democrat majority would be unleashed against them. The carrot is the fact that neither Wray nor Rosenstein are in good graces with President Trump. Presumably that new Democrat majority would protect Wray and Rosenstein from an enraged President Trump--if they've cooperated. By revealing publicly the fact that Wray and Rosenstein may have been colluding with the Democrats in an attempt to thwart what President Trump sees as a "crowning achievement" of his presidency--cleaning up the corruption of the FBI--the Democrats are clearly attempting to muscle Wray and Rosenstein into open opposition to Trump. They have shown their gratitude to them by placing them directly in the path of a bus named Donald J. Trump.
This new story will certainly increase the pressure on Rosenstein. After all, it has to increase the likelihood that Trump will fire Rosenstein after the midterm election. Rosenstein would therefore have a choice: stick with Trump and get fired, or side with the Dems by attempting to thwart the declassification order--and gain the everlasting gratitude of Democrats. Which might last for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

UPDATED: Dems Throw Wray And Rosenstein Under The Bus

Make no mistake about it--that's exactly what happened yesterday when the four Democrat members of the Congressional Gang of Eight sent their letter to the three Executive Branch officials who will be primarily responsible for acting on President Trump's declassification order regarding documents related to the Russia Hoax.

In the letter Senators Chuck Schumer and Mark Warner and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff "request" DNI Dan Coats, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, and FBI Director Christopher Wray to provide them "an immediate briefing ... prior to any disclosure of the affected material ... to anyone at the White House." Note the essential outrageousness of the "request." The reasoning behind the "request" is based on the assertion that the Special Counsel investigation (i.e., the Russia Hoax) "implicates the President's own campaign and associates." In effect, the claim is that once a Special Counsel is appointed a President is no longer President--at least not for matters related to the Special Counsel's investigation--which we all know can be virtually unlimited. In other words, the Special Counsel act abrogates the US Constitution with its system of checks and balances: agencies of the Executive Branch that report to the President under the US Constitution should now report to Congress!

Key to this reasoning, however, is the assertion in the letter that these three officials--Coats, Rosenstein, and Wray--have already given verbal assurances that such information would not be provided to the White House:
One June 27, 2018, we wrote again to memorialize the verbal assurance you provided us that DoJ and FBI would not provide the White House or any of the President's attorneys with access to sensitive information briefed to a small group of designated Members.
That the letter may not actually accurately reflect the "verbal assurances" can be seen from DNI Coats' later (7/12/18) written response in which he agreed that "sources and methods" must be protected. That goes without saying, of course, but who thinks that sources and methods are what are really at issue in this declassification? The terms of the order itself expressly exclude large sections of the Carter Page FISA order--precisely those sections which reference sources and methods (for full details see Andy McCarthy's Reading the FISA Redactions). In any event, as McCarthy also makes abundantly clear, the redacting of the previously released FISA order leave precious little to the imagination--except, perhaps, for those who are deficient in that respect.

What's really at issue here is the release--unredacted--of texts relevant to the Russia Hoax that were sent by two fired former FBI officials: former Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andy McCabe. Anyone who thinks that Comey and McCabe spent their time texting about sources and methods simply hasn't thought this through. Clearly the Democrats are in a state of near panic, and that suggests that they know that Comey and McCabe were probably texting regarding matters relevant to the Russia Hoax, and those texts were going to members of Congress and/or officials in the Executive Branch--and to the virulently anti-Trump media.

By sending this letter--even if it may not accurately reflect the nature of the "verbal assurances"--the Democrats have definitively thrown at least Wray and Rosenstein under the bus. Of course this is a measure of the Democrats' increasing desperation regarding the Midterm elections, but it also may be a shrewd attempt to place Wray and Rosenstein in a real bind.

In effect the "request" by the Gang of Eight Democrats amounts to a demand that Wray and Rosenstein openly choose sides. In place of the "slow walk" strategy of documentary release that has so frustrated Congressional Republicans, Wray and Rosenstein are being "requested" to openly side with the minority party by defying a Presidential order. There is a carrot and a stick attached to this request. The stick, of course, is that if the much ballyhooed "Blue Wave" makes landfall in the US and Wray and Rosenstein haven't cooperated with the current minority, then the full fury of the new Democrat majority would be unleashed against them. The carrot is the fact that neither Wray nor Rosenstein are in good graces with President Trump. Presumably that new Democrat majority would protect Wray and Rosenstein from an enraged President Trump--if they've cooperated. By revealing publicly the fact that Wray and Rosenstein may have been colluding with the Democrats in an attempt to thwart what President Trump sees as a "crowning achievement" of his presidency--cleaning up the corruption of the FBI--the Democrats are clearly attempting to muscle Wray and Rosenstein into open opposition to Trump. They have shown their gratitude to them by placing them directly in the path of a bus named Donald J. Trump.

The alternative for Wray and Rosenstein is to take their oaths of office seriously (yes, I know that sounds hopelessly old fashioned) and do their duty--perhaps also in the hopes that this will impress the President in their favor. Adding weight to this consideration may be the fact that the "slow walk" strategy--let alone open defiance--may prove difficult to maintain even in the short term of the runup to the Midterm elections. Wray and Rosenstein would be placed in the position of stonewalling a Republican majority that now has the backing of a Presidential order--and that Republican majority will be just as eager for the pre-election release of those documents as the Democrats are desperate to prevent their release. If the Republicans hold their majority in the face of betrayal by Wray and Rosenstein, the hapless duo could expect no mercy.

We may expect to learn what their choice will be in the near future. However, before closing I do want to point out that this dilemma that Wray and Rosenstein face is one that is very much of their own making. In particular, there is the matter of appointment of a Special Counsel in the first place. In Who's Afraid of Lisa Page I noted:
John Solomon, in his brilliant article (One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American), has shown that Strzok's texts actually demonstrate FBI bias at the very inception of the Special Counsel investigation. In a series of texts dated 5/19/17 (two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel) Strzok stated to Page: "you and I both know ... there's no big there there." Page, in testimony to the House that followed on that of Strzok, has confirmed that the sense of this text referred to the allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. In fact, the texts show that Strzok explicitly viewed the Special Counsel investigation not as an investigation into criminal wrongdoing--as required by the Special Counsel statute--but as "an investigation leading to impeachment." In other words, he viewed the Mueller "probe" as an essentially political use of the Special Counsel statute to rid the Washington establishment of a president they didn't want.
Solomon has recently followed these thoughts up with a direct quote from Page's testimony: Lisa Page bombshell: FBI couldn’t prove Trump-Russia collusion before Mueller appointment. In his article Solomon quotes Page as testifying regarding any element of truth in the whole Russia Hoax:
“It’s a reflection of us still not knowing,” ...
and
Page opined further, acknowledging “it still existed in the scope of possibility that there would be literally nothing” to connect Trump and Russia, no matter what Mueller or the FBI did.
“As far as May of 2017, we still couldn’t answer the question,” she said at another point.

"May of 2017." What she's actually saying is: as of the appointment of the Special Counsel!

Solomon follows this up with the very pointed observation:
It might take a few seconds for the enormity of Page’s statements to sink in.
In what Page stated, she was, in effect, not going beyond what others had already said, including Comey and McCabe. But that leads inexorably to the question that Solomon poses:
If there was no concrete evidence of collusion, why did we need a special prosecutor? 
Page’s comments also mean FBI and Justice officials likely leaked a barrage of media stories just before and after Mueller’s appointment that made the evidence of collusion look far stronger than the frontline investigators knew it to be. Text messages show contacts between key FBI and DOJ players and the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times during the ramp-up to Mueller’s probe. 
And that means the news media — perhaps longing to find a new Watergate, to revive sagging fortunes — were far too willing to be manipulated by players in a case that began as a political opposition research project funded by Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and led by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who despised Trump.

Indeed--why did we need a Special Counsel? Why did we need the DoJ questioning the very legitimacy of a new administration, based on a transparent hoax, cooked up by a sleazy oppo research firm for the losing candidate? Did that serve the country, has it served the country? One asks oneself, with whom did Rosenstein sit down and seriously discuss such a momentous decision? Did he challenge those advancing the idea, cross examine them as would befit an experienced attorney? Did he question the reliability of the supposed sources? "Enormity" is the word Solomon uses, and it's well chosen.

This is the background to the increasing desperation of Democrats, and to the remarkable letter from their Gang of Eight members. The stakes in this are enormous for the country. We are in the midst of a true constitutional crisis. The Democrats are playing for keeps, with every weapon at their disposal, but they're up against one of the most remarkable and cunning politicians--against all the odds--that this country as every seen.

UPDATE: sundance at Conflicting Reports Over DOJ and FBI “Classification” and “Redaction Removal”… has provided a useful breakdown and analysis of the various categories of documents affected by Trump's declassification order. First he provides the breakdown, into four broad categories, quoting the order itself:

1) “pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page.”

(2) “all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation.”

(3) “all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.”

(4) “publicly release of all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr”.

Like me (see above), he sees most of this as relatively unproblematic. Certainly little that would be newsworthy will come out of the unredacting of the FISA application (#1). And also like me he sees the unredacting and release of the texts (#4) as the 'political "biggie"'.

Where I disagree, albeit cautiously and speculatively, is with regard to the other two categories.. I speculate that the Ohr debriefings of Steele (#2) could provide a record of tittle tattle (Steele seems to have had a taste for that) that could prove uncomfortably revealing regarding the involvement of the British intelligence services in US politics at the behest of our own intelligence services. Those documents might also shed light on any contacts Steele may have had with our State Department or the CIA. All that could be explosive.

I also disagree regarding the FD-302s that were "prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications (#3). Given that the FISA applications were largely based on the Steele "dossier" I wouldn't expect them to be particularly revealing. To the extent that sources--Halper, Mifsud, Downer--would be revealed, it's hard to see what legitimate objections could be raised, since they've already been burned. Are there other sources that we don't know of at this point? Possible, but I've seen no indications of that.

Finally, to repeat what I observed above, the Presidential Order gives Congress far more leverage than they have previously had. I believe that there is enough time before the midterm elections to use that leverage. The result should be that delay will no longer be an option--only resignation, and that would be self defeating since the "acting" replacements would surely comply immediately.

Prognosis: Trump emerges once again triumphant from this exercise in political judo.

FURTHER UPDATE: I just listened to Sara Carter explaining that the FBI kept "two sets of books" on the Russia Hoax. She says revelation of this will expose "an abuse of power the likes of which this country has never seen before." Yeah, that sounds about right. The President's declassification order, of course, covers ALL sets of books. Uh oh! Carter also rightly notes, as I have, that the existence of the Presidential Order drastically changes the power equation between the Deep State and Congress. At this point, ALL Republicans have a strong political interest in getting this stuff out ASAP, and with the declassification order in place they have all the leverage they need.

YIKES--ANOTHER UPDATE! Scott Johnson, Dems sweat declassification, asks, "Hey, what about Coats?" He's referring to the absence of Coats' name from my subject line.

Perhaps I could have been a bit clearer. I had two reasons for not including Coats:

1. Coats is a bit of a special case in this declassification schema. His only real involvement has to do with the FISA application (the other docs are more or less agency specific property--whereas FISA falls within a much broader regulatory scheme). As I pointed out, Andy McCarthy did a great job of demonstrating that, despite the redactions, the release of the FISA apps already accomplished leaves little or nothing to the imagination. As a result Coats has no skin in the game, probably couldn't care less what anyone says.

2. Coats, in his written response to the Sub-Gang of Four, actually quoted by them, cleverly deflects their assertions by blandly stating that he agrees that sensitive sources and methods should be protected. Everyone knows that that's not at all what's at stake here--what's at stake is politically sensitive information that is not at all protected by the the sources/methods exception. The declassification order expressly exempts  from the FISA declassification those pages that contain the sources/methods information (McCarthy explains that particularly well). As for the rest of the docs, the likelihood that there are any sources/methods problems are slim to none--and very easily dealt with.

As a result, Coats--perhaps showing that he learned a thing or two in his time as a Senator--has IMO removed himself from jeopardy. Rosenstein and Wray? Uh, not so much.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Now He Tells Us

09/18/2018
Chuck Ross | Reporter

Please note: "Shreds" is used metaphorically, not literally. And the former employee waited until after Manafort's guilty plea to share this. How convenient--but not for Manafort.

Nevertheless:

Graham Stack, a freelance journalist hired by Fusion GPS, says the opposition research firm was “almost completely wrong” about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Stack says Fusion GPS provided most of the research cited by the media that suggested Manafort was a Kremlin stooge.
Stack says he “shares the blame” for pushing the research, which he now says is part of a false narrative.

And all this Russia Hoax was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

UPDATED: The Central Scandal of the Russia Hoax--and Our Constitutional Crisis

Scott Johnson at Powerline, The Biggest Scandal, offers some comments regarding two recent articles by Andy McCarthy. I certainly am in total agreement with Johnson's assessment that this whole Russia Hoax constitutes "the biggest scandal in American political history." Part of the scandal beyond the actions of the Obama Administration and officials at the DoJ/FBI/CIA/State--and including not only political appointees but also career professionals--is the complicity of the press and its continued silence. That complicity extends beyond biased reporting to complicity in the FISA process itself through the FBI's leak process and then reuse of the leaked material, laundered through the press, as "probable cause" for the FISA against Carter Page.

What I'd like to do here is to expand a bit on a point that McCarthy makes in the first article, "Reading the FISA Redactions." The entire article is well worth a careful study for anyone who wants to understand what's going on with all the talk about the FISA application and, especially, the renewal applications. I have to say, I take my hat off to McCarthy--he goes through the applications step by step, demonstrating that, for all the redacting that was done, the bottom line is readily apparent: The FBI had precious little in the way of "probable cause" to offer the FISA Court (FISC), and yet their warrant was approved--and thrice renewed! This never fails to amaze me every time the subject comes up.

McCarthy gets to the heart of the matter--the first of many important points he makes--right up front:

Page has never been charged with any crime, much less with espionage. That is a salient fact because to get a FISA warrant on an American citizen, the FBI is required to show that the citizen’s activities on behalf of a foreign power violate federal criminal law. The FBI and Justice Department went to the FISA court four times over nine months, from October 2016 through June 2017, claiming to have grounds that Page was involved in heinous clandestine activity. Why isn’t he in handcuffs?

I believe it is because they never had a case.
All they appear to have had were the 2013 attempt by Russian spies to recruit Page as an asset, and the Steele dossier.

Now here's what I want to make clear. The original FISA order, when the target is a US Person (USPER) such as Carter Page, lasts for 90 days. A FISA order can be renewed, but the renewal is NOT granted on an "if at first you don't succeed, try try again" basis. To get an extension on a FISA--and let me say here that I completely agree with McCarthy that the initial FISA was pure BS--the FBI has to either:

1) make a reasonable showing that it is making progress in its investigation as a result of its use of FISA, i.e., it is moving forward with additional evidence gained through FISA that tends to confirm the presentation of the case that was made in the initial application, or

2) in the absence of such progress, the FBI must make a reasonable showing that the extension is likely to produce progress.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

UPDATED: Why Andrew Weissmann?

This past Tuesday, August 27th, Bruce Ohr, the demoted former Associate Deputy Attorney General testified before the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees. Among the newsworthy items that have emerged, a few stand out. One of course is that his wife Nellie began working for Glenn Simpson's opposition research outfit, Fusion GPS, back in 2015--adding fuel to the speculation that she was involved as an FBI contractor in illegally mining NSA databases for information on GOP presidential candidates. Another item, which Chuck Ross highlighted at The Daily Caller, was that Ohr kept a number of FBI and DoJ colleagues "in the loop" regarding his highly irregular contacts with Christopher Steele, the "former" MI6 spook. Specifically:

Sources familiar with Ohr’s testimony before the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Ohr informed Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page about his interactions with Steele and Simpson. He also informed Justice Department prosecutor Andrew Weissmann about his dossier-related work.
Weissmann is now serving as right-hand man to Robert Mueller at the special counsel’s office.

It seems to me that the question that needs to be asked is: Why Andrew Weissmann? Why was Ohr keeping Weissmann, who was at the time head of DoJ's Criminal Fraud Section, in the loop on what to all appearances was a Counterintelligence investigation? If Ohr kept Weissmann in the loop out of friendship, that still breaks the first rule of conspiratorial operations: need to know. Unless ... Weissmann was contributing or could potentially contribute something of value to the conspiracy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

UPDATED: Bergoglio and the Press

Since the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report regarding sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy the Catholic world has been in turmoil. That turmoil only intensified--exponentially--when retired Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released what amounted to an affidavit accusing senior Catholic hierarchs of knowingly covering up and even enabling the abuse. Viganò's focused special focus was on the retired Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick: a prelate of vast influence in the American church, a reputed "kingmaker," one man fund raising juggernaut, close adviser to Pope Francis, and mentor to such progressive luminaries as cardinals Wuerl, Cupich, and Tobin--all among Francis' anointed. As if that weren't enough, Viganò called on Francis himself to resign for his knowing complicity in the coverup of McCarrick's crimes.

Viganò's release of his testimony was timed to coincide for maximum effect with Francis's controversial trip to Dublin--already a public relations disaster due to lack of attendance. That disaster was compounded when Francis issued his non-denial statement in response to press questions about the Viganò testimony: "I will not say a single word ..." followed by a tacit appeal to the press to basically ignore it all.

Ordinarily that type of stonewalling by a super high profile public figure would be met with a storm of protest and accusation in the media. Just such a storm did in fact ensue, but mainly in the world of Catholic blogging and tweeting. The mainstream media, on the other hand, seemed strangely (or maybe not) indifferent.

Where to begin? In the past Catholic sex scandals involving the clergy have been widely characterized as pedophilia. Knowledge that this characterization was, in fact, inaccurate, that the problem was overwhelmingly one of homosexual priests preying upon adolescents and young men, had been carefully kept in the background. With this fresh outbreak of scandal, however, the Catholic blogosphere, fueled by Viganò's testimony regarding McCarrick's abuse of seminarians, quickly galvanized around the accusation of a powerful "lavender mafia" of homosexual prelates dominating the post Vatican II Church.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

UPDATED: Regarding the Cohen Plea Deal

Lots will be said in the coming days about the Michael Cohen plea deal, in which--against all the evidence--Cohen claims to have committed a crime in coordination with Donald Trump. The plea deal was engineered by a non-trial lawyer: Clinton consigliere Lanny Davis. To understand what's going on here I can do no better than recommend the latest article by another (former) Clinton insider, pollster Mark Penn: Cohen's plea deal is prosecutor's attempt to set up Trump. Here are two excerpt that speak volumes about the Establishment and about the entire Mueller operation:

Contrast what is going on here with the treatment of the millions of dollars paid to a Democratic law firm which, in turn, paid out money to political research firm Fusion GPS and British ex-spy Christopher Steele without listing them on any campaign expenditure form — despite crystal-clear laws and regulations that the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds must be listed. This rule was even tightened recently. There is no question that hiring spies to do oppo research in Russia is a campaign expenditure, and yet, no prosecutorial raids have been sprung on the law firm, Fusion GPS or Steele. Reason: It does not “get” Trump.
...
These investigations, essentially based on an opposition-funded dossier, were never anything other than an attempt to push into a corner as many Trump aides and family members as possible and shake them down until they could get close enough to Trump to try to take him down. That’s why so many of his aides, lawyers, and actions in the campaign and in the White House have undergone hour-by-hour scrutiny to find anything that could be colored into a crime, leaving far behind the original Russia-collusion theory as the fake pretext it was. Paying for nondisclosure agreements for perfectly legal activities is not a crime, not a campaign contribution as commonly understood or ruled upon by the FEC — and squeezing guilty pleas out of vulnerable witnesses does not change those facts.

UPDATES:

Some things you just really can't make up. Lanny Davis, the Clinton consigliere leading the latest charge to overturn the election of Donald Trump--the alleged Putin puppet--is himself the registered foreign agent for Dmytro Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the US government. Further, Davis is also saying that 13 of the dossier claims about Michael Cohen are "false" and that Cohen "has never been to Prague in his life." (via Daily Caller)

And Jeff Carlson at themarketswork.com has pulled up an February 17, 2012 article in The Guardian, Obama, Facebook and the Power of Friendship: the 2012 Data Election. The article describes what appears to be an "in kind" campaign contribution from Facebook to the Obama Campaign:

Facebook is also being seen as a source of invaluable data on voters. The re-election team, Obama for America, will be inviting its supporters to log on to the campaign website via Facebook, thus allowing the campaign to access their personal data and add it to the central data store – the largest, most detailed and potentially most powerful in the history of political campaigns. If 2008 was all about social media, 2012 is destined to become the "data election".

As Carlson points out:

At the time, this news was greeted with glowing acclaim over the sophistication of Obama’s digital campaign. Obama’s Election Team apparently had full access to Facebook’s data. Republicans did not.
Yes, that really does look like an "in kind" campaign contribution, unlike the Trump hush money. Would anyone like to guesstimate the value of Facebook's in kind contribution? Or when a prosecutor will be looking into this?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Just How Reliable Is Christopher Steele?

PLEASE NOTE: In what follows I adopt a narrow focus. I focus closely on the FBI's claims for Christopher Steele's reliability, rather than on the reliability of what was contained in the "dossier"--which all FBI officials who have spoken on the matter have characterized as "unverified."

The famous "Dossier" on Donald Trump--supposedly compiled by British ex-MI6 spook Christopher Steele acting as a contractor for Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS, themselves contractors for the Hillary Clinton Campaign--"salacious and unverified" though it might have been, was "crucial" to the FBI's efforts to obtain the original FISA on Carter Page as well as the three renewals of that FISA. That the "dossier" was "salacious and unverified" we have on the authority of disgraced former FBI Director James Comey, and that it was "crucial" to the Carter Page FISA is attested by the equally disgraced former Deputy Director and later Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe.

In the Carter Page FISA application the FBI presents material from the "dossier" without referencing it as an actual document. Rather, it presents material from the "dossier" as reporting provided by Christopher Steele as "Source #1." The concealing of source identities is usual in FISA applications. To make up for this secrecy in the interests of security, at least in theory, the FBI provides characterizations of their sources as well as specific facts that vouch for the reliability of the sources in question, to provide the FISC judge with a factual basis upon which to assess the case for granting a FISA order.

Since we know the person who is supposed to have been behind the Carter Page FISA application, it seems reasonable to inquire: just how reliable was Christopher Steele? After all, if verification of the dossier was still "in its infancy"--i.e., it basically hadn't been verified at all--at the time the FISA application was submitted to the FISC, according to the FBI's top Counterintelligence official, Bill Priestap, then it would follow that the reliability of the material presented in the application would stand or fall with the reliability of the source. So, what does the FBI say in the application about Steele's reliability as a source?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Rudy's Shot Across Mueller's Bow



On Monday, 8/5/17, during an appearance on the Sean Hannity Show, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes put the world on notice to pay close attention to disgraced Department of Justice attorney Bruce Ohr, formerly the #4 in the DoJ chain of command, reporting to Sally Yates: “Bruce Ohr is going to become more and more important in this investigation ..." Since then, thanks to the reporting of John Solomon, Byron York, and Sara Carter, we've had a glimpse of a few emails in an extensive e-correspondence between Ohr and the British ex-spook and "dossier" author, Christopher Steele. Included in those emails are tantalizing references to telephone calls and face to face meetings, the contents of which we can only guess at.

Now, President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in an appearance on the Sean Hannity Show, has fired a clear warning shot across the bow of Special Prosecutor (SC) Robert Mueller. Giuliani warned that Mueller's case against the President

"isn’t going to fizzle. It's going to blow up on them. ... there's a lot more to what they [the Mueller team] did that nobody knows about yet. A lot more to the obstruction of justice, to the collusion, to the fake dossier." And Giuliani added: "... when this plays out over the next year or two, it's not going to be about President Trump. ... It’s going to be about all the things they [the Mueller team] did." ... It’s a different kind of Watergate. It’s on the side of the investigator."

With Paul Sperry stating that President Trump is about to begin declassifying some key documents, we may soon have a better picture of what's been going on in the Mueller "probe." But we may already be getting a preview, based on the handful of Steele/Ohr emails that we've already seen. Let's focus on some of those emails beginning immediately before the appointment of Mueller as Special Counsel, on 5/17/17. (In what follows, I've preserved the original spelling and punctuation as they appear in the emails.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What The Carter Page Case Tells Us About The Flaws In FISA

Since the release this past Saturday of the (highly redacted) FISA application that targeted Carter Page, with the subsequent three renewal applications, there has been no lack of analysis of the unredacted details (Mark Penn's analysis is, for my money, one of the most cogent). In what follows I intend to take more of a "big picture" approach, as well as focusing on issues that haven't received a great deal of attention but may in the future.

One aspect of the application that came as no surprise to all who have followed this FISAGATE affair is that the role of the "dossier"--the collaborative effort produced by the British ex-spook Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS (Glenn Simpson, Nellie Ohr, and possibly others), and the Hillary campaign--is everywhere apparent. While the central role of the dossier comes as no surprise--after all, Andrew McCabe, the FBI's disgraced former Deputy Director and (during the Comey - Wray interregnum) Acting Director testified to the House that the dossier was "crucial" to the FISA--the overall audacity exhibited in the application is breathtaking.

The dossier itself is in the nature of a Big Lie--sensational, lacking in documented sourcing, utterly unverified and unverifiable. To present the contents of such a document (really a collection of memos) to any court as fact is audacious enough in itself. However, the authors of the application took two remarkable steps to support the Big Lie of the dossier.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Who's Afraid of Lisa Page?


In his testimony before the House, embattled former FBI Counterintelligence official Peter Strzok maintained that, contrary to all logical inference, any statements in text messages between himself and FBI attorney Lisa Page that appeared to exhibit bias against Donald Trump could never have affected his investigative actions. However, John Solomon, in his brilliant article (One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American), has shown that Strzok's texts actually demonstrate FBI bias at the very inception of the Special Counsel investigation. In a series of texts dated 5/19/17 (two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel) Strzok stated to Page: "you and I both know ... there's no big there there." Page, in testimony to the House that followed on that of Strzok, has confirmed that the sense of this text referred to the allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. In fact, the texts show that Strzok explicitly viewed the Special Counsel investigation not as an investigation into criminal wrongdoing--as required by the Special Counsel statute--but as "an investigation leading to impeachment." In other words, he viewed the Mueller "probe" as an essentially political use of the Special Counsel statute to rid the Washington establishment of a president they didn't want. A goal he was heartily in favor of. This abuse of the Special Counsel statute constitutes, as Solomon points out, "political bias in action."

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Is It Time To Rethink Some Things?

The Obamagate "community" is buzzing this morning over newly unredacted Strzok/Page texts that have been made public through the Senate. One of the texts features Strzok asking

"Did you get all our OCONUS lures approved?"

In the original public release "lures" was redacted. It has now been unredacted.

Translation: "OCONUS" = Outside the Continental US; "lures" = sting op, trap.

So, this means that Strzok was seeking authorization for informants of one sort or another--or possibly undercover (UC) agents--to approach a target OCONUS.

Now here's the kicker: this text was from 12/31/15! The FBI was already targeting someone close to Trump way back then! Since this is months before Papadopoulos and Page got near the Trump campaign, the betting is that it was Michael Flynn they were targeting. Which makes sense, because we know that the Obama Administration had it in for Flynn from his days with Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), when he wrote a paper blaming the US for the rise of ISIS.

Once again, the question arises: Was there a case opened on Flynn at that time, to provide an administrative basis for these types of investigative techniques? What kind of an investigation was this: Assessment, Preliminary Investigation, Full Investigation? Could there have been a FISA on Flynn at any time? Does this speculation have any bearing on what we know about Sally Yates and the framing of Flynn in January, 2017:

On January 27, 2017, at Mr. McGahn’s request, Ms. Yates and Mr. McGahn had another meeting. Importantly, DOJ leadership declined to confirm to the White House that Lt. Gen. Flynn was under any type of investigation. According to Mr. McGahn’s memo:
During the meeting, McGahn sought clarification regarding Yates’s prior statements regarding Flynn’s contact with Ambassador Kislyak. Among the issues discussed was whether dismissal of Flynn by the President would compromise any ongoing investigations. Yates was unwilling to confirm or deny that there was an ongoing investigation but did indicate that the DOJ would not object to the White House taking action against Flynn. (Emphasis added.) (NYT, 6/2/18)

This makes sense. DoJ and the FBI would be very reluctant, seven days after President Trump had been inaugurated, to let Trump know that they'd been investigating Flynn for up to two years (or longer!) without warning him that there was a problem. Just as James Comey and Loretta Lynch later decided not to alert to supposedly problematic Russian connections among his Foreign Policy advisers--but to continue investigating.

You have to assume that IG Horowitz knows the answers to some of my questions.

ADDENDUM: And now we learn that Another Trump Campaign Aide Was Invited to Cambridge Event Where 'Spygate' Started. That was Stephen Miller, who wasn't just "another campaign aide"--he was a key campaign aide. Was one of the "lures" directed at Miller?

MORE: Regarding the "OCONUS lures," in an appearance on Laura Ingraham's show yesterday former Ass't Director of Counterintelligence for the FBI, Kevin Brock stated:

"If the FBI opened a Source or tasked a Source to gather information particulary from a US person, before opening a formal investigation, then that would be a violation of the guidelines."

That's a true statement, but it seems highly unlikely that the plotters at the FBI were wildly disregarding all guidelines. I'm convinced that they would have gone to great lengths to maintain the appearance that they were following "the book" (per President Obama's admonition as memorialized in Susan Rice's email-to-self). The very high degree of likelihood that the FBI had AT LEAST one case open that related to the Trump campaign as early as this text (December, 2015) is apparent from the fact that Strzok's text speaks of seeking approval for the "lures" and Page's response text reads:

"No, it's just implicated a much bigger policy issue ..."

Seeking of approval from higher ups, raising of multiple policy issues--it all speaks to following the rules that apply only when a case has been opened. If no case had been opened, then there would be no point in seeking approval for anything.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Guide To Spygate, Informants, FISA

What follows is a reworked version of So, What's A "Threat To National Security"? which contains a difference in emphasis.


Kim Strassel raised an interesting question, Friday, in her regular weekly column--The Curious Case of Mr. Downer: His story about the Papadopoulos meeting calls the FBI’s into question. Alexander Downer was the Australian ambassador to the UK in 2016. As the title indicates, Strassel finds the FBI's claim that their probe of the Trump campaign was based on Downer's contact with George Papadopoulos to be ... less than credible. Strassel concludes by raising some very pointed questions:

For months we’ve been told the FBI acted because it was alarmed that Mr. Papadopoulos knew about those hacked Democratic emails in May, before they became public in June. But according to the tipster himself, Mr. Papadopoulos said nothing about emails. The FBI instead received a report that a far-removed campaign adviser, over drinks, said the Russians had something that might be “damaging” to Hillary. Did this vague statement justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?

Unlikely. Which leads us back to what did inspire the FBI to act, and when? The Papadopoulos pretext is getting thinner.

Indeed--since when does ​"something that might be 'damaging' to Hillary ... justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?"

The fact is, there is an answer to Strassel's question, and I think we'll find--in fact, recent talking points floated by James Clapper and others point in this direction--that the justification will rely on provisions of the Attorney General Guidelines. To understand ​and evaluate ​this​ defense​, however, and to avoid the pitfalls of speculating with a firm grasp of the controlling guidelines and statutes, we'll need to explore the nature of FBI investigations, because the type of investigation controls, to some extent, the type of investigative techniques that are authorized. All this is set out in detail in the Attorney General Guidelines For Domestic FBI Operations (AGG) and the FBI Domestic Investigations And Operations Guide (DIOG).

Basically, there are three types of FBI investigations that involve opening a​n investigative​ case file: 1) Assessments, 2) Preliminary Investigations, and 3) Full Investigations. The latter two are grouped as "Predicated Investigations" because, unlike in the case of an Assessent, an agent will need to present some degree of factual predication before he can open one of these types of investigation. The type of investigation that is opened will depend upon the factual situation, and if additional facts are developed in the course of the investigation the type of investigation may be upgraded.

As far as investigative techniques go, the Assessment ​serves as a baseline--any technique that can be used in an Assessment can ​also ​be used in a Preliminary or Full ​I​nvestigation. For our purposes, the important point is that the use of existing informants (Confidential Human Sources/CHS) or the recruitment of new informants is authorized for ALL three types of investigations. There has been some confusion recently regarding the use of informants before a "formal" case has been opened. The confusion arises because Assessments are sometimes confused with​ the​ informal initial checking of investigative leads conducted to determine whether or not to open an investigative case file. That type of informal checking can only be conducted using public information, not through the use of informants.

Friday, June 1, 2018

So, What's A "Threat To National Security"?

Kim Strassel raised an interesting question in her column today--The Curious Case of Mr. Downer: His story about the Papadopoulos meeting calls the FBI’s into question. As the title indicates, Strassel finds the FBI's claim that their probe of the Trump campaign was based on Downer's contact with George Papadopoulos to be ... less than credible. And she closes with these observations:

For months we’ve been told the FBI acted because it was alarmed that Mr. Papadopoulos knew about those hacked Democratic emails in May, before they became public in June. But according to the tipster himself, Mr. Papadopoulos said nothing about emails. The FBI instead received a report that a far-removed campaign adviser, over drinks, said the Russians had something that might be “damaging” to Hillary. Did this vague statement justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?
Unlikely. Which leads us back to what did inspire the FBI to act, and when? The Papadopoulos pretext is getting thinner.

Indeed--since when does ​"something that might be 'damaging' to Hillary ... justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?"

As I wrote in an email this morning, I think we'll find--in fact, recent talking points floated by James Clapper and others point in this direction--that the justification for launching a counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign on the basis of "something damaging to Hillary" will rely on provisions of the Attorney General Guidelines. Bear with me for a moment, because this will lead back to Strassel's question.

Those AG Guidelines, which govern FBI investigations, allow the FBI to open a "predicated investigation" in the following circumstance:

"A predicated investigation relating to a federal crime or threat to the national security may be conducted as a preliminary investigation or a full investigation."

The Guidelines then expand a bit on the distinction between Preliminary and Full Investigations, but for our purposes the important distinction is simply that FISA coverage is available for Full Investigations, but not for Preliminary Investigations.

If you accept the argument that a presidential campaign that seeks "dirt" on its opponent from a hostile foreign power (Russia) is engaged in conduct that arguably constitutes activity that is a "threat to the national security," and if you further accept that the FBI's claims regarding the credibility of its Papadopoulos narrative, then you'll likely agree with Trey Gowdy's notion that the FBI was acting quite properly. Or, to be very specific, you'll likely agree that a Preliminary Investigation was warranted, since the Guidelines allow for a Preliminary Investigation to be "initiated on the basis of information or an allegation" of a "threat to the national security." "Information or an allegation" is a fairly low bar.

Virtually all commentary that I've read focuses on the initiation of an FBI Full Investigation on July 31, 2016. Commentators who have constructed timelines of events--an excellent idea, in and of itself--then argue that the use of informants or "spies" against the Trump campaign prior to July 31, 2016--for which there is considerable evidence--violated the AG Guidelines.

While it's possible that the FBI willfully violated the Guidelines it seems unlikely--bureaucracies don't often operate in such a reckless fashion. Moreover, this view ignores an important possibility, namely, that before the Full Investigation was initiated (July 31, 2016) there may have been a Preliminary Investigation. This approach--use of a Preliminary Investigation as a prior stage before going for a Full Investigation--fits better with the usual careful bureaucratic approach. It also, intriguingly, dovetails with President Obama's reported admonition to "do it by the book" (see below).

Sunday, May 20, 2018

UPDATED: Crossfire Hurricane: The How and Why

We're getting to the point in Obamagate where it's possible to begin to gather some of the disparate threads together. Yes, there's still plenty to uncover, but a lot of the picture is slowly emerging--and the process is gathering momentum as the Deep State begins to switch over to damage control mode. That aspect has become apparent with the revelation of Stefan Halper as a key operative for the FBI, the revelation of the codename for the FBI Full Investigation as "Crossfire Hurricane," and the floating of the desperately absurd new narrative: We weren't spying on Trump--we wanted to protect him!

To understand what Crossfire Hurricane was all about, it helps to begin with the realization that it was not the FBI's first choice--in the big picture it amounts to a fall back option that was more or less forced on the FBI by circumstances beyond their control.

Make no mistake about it--the FBI was all in with the effort to enable a Democrat presidential handoff from Obama to Clinton. In modern political campaigns, intelligence and data in digital form is essential to success, and that's where the FBI came in. Running informants, such as Halper, against the GOP wasn't going to guarantee a Clinton victory--not in and of itself. However, access to bulk amounts of sensitive inside data could play a significant role. And the FBI had that access, in the form of access to raw NSA data, which means just about all digital communications in the world. Remember Nellie Ohr? The former CIA contractor and former employee of Fusion GPS? She became a ham radio operator during the 2016 campaign, so I guess she understood what it takes to fly under the Deep State radar.

Now, the FBI wasn't about to do something totally stupid, like mine the NSA for data and ship boatloads of it over to the DNC or some other intermediary to the Clinton campaign. Not as an institution. No, the smart way to do this would be to hire non-government contractors--we'll call them Fusion GPS and Crowdstrike--to provide the FBI with "analytical assistance." As if the FBI didn't have an army of analysts already. And then give these contractors total access to NSA data without telling NSA, who would have thought that only FBI employees were combing through their data. You can read the gory details in Jeff Carlson's excellent article: The FBI’s Outside Contractors, DNC Servers & Crowdstrike.

The beauty of this approach was that it totally bypassed legal controls. There was no need to falsify things in writing, no need to make stuff up to open a Full (Counterintelligence) Investigation (FI) on a US Person (USPER), and then lie to the FISC to get FISA coverage on the USPER. No need to have to regularly renew the FISA and lie all over again to the FISC each time. Of course, it wasn't as if the FISC was doing much besides rubber stamping FISA applications but, hey, who needs the bother? And besides, better safe than sorry. Because, in the unlikely event that the FBI would be questioned about this arrangement, they could just play dumb: Gosh, we didn't know the contractors were looking at all that stuff! How do you prove criminal intent?

So this cute arrangement was humming along, working like a charm. For how long? That's hard to say, but we know that it was in operation no later than December of 2015. And the way that came to light was that in the Spring of 2016 the unlikely event actually occurred: Admiral Mike Rogers, head of NSA, learned of irregularities in FBI accessing of NSA data and did an audit of the activity. That audit covered the period beginning from December 2015, and it discovered that fully 85% of the queries failed to comply with what are called "minimization procedures" (procedures designed to shield the identities of persons who fell within certain criteria--like, USPERs who had no connection to intelligence or terrorist activities). Then, as if Rogers learning about this weren't bad enough, Rogers went and blew a whistle--to the FISC itself--and put a stop to it all. That was in April, 2016, just as it was becoming obvious that Trump was going to be the GOP candidate for President.