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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: